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SAN DIAGO, ll.55 pm

Bill Scully unlocked and opened the door wide to allow the three of them to enter in a joyous, noisy stream. They were laughing, buoyed by excited thoughts of the coming morning. It was Christmas Eve after all. While Tara continued up the stairs to prepare for bed, Bill turned to his mother.

"Itís nice to be back in some quiet. Ray is a great guy, but his taste in music stinks."

In mock reproach, Maggie playfully tapped him on the arm but she had to agree with him nevertheless. ĎDisco Christmasí wasnít her idea of mood music either.

"Want some coffee or something, Mom?" Bill then asked her as he secured and locked the door before standing at her elbow expectantly.

Maggie considered a moment as she hung up her coat but finally shook her head. "I think Iíll turn in. Big day tomorrow."

He smiled broadly. "Itís going to be like old times."

Maggie smiled and hugged him. Sheíd been particularly enjoying the company of the family, even the setting. The Navy base housing had served to comfort her and remind her of how things used to be, of good times past. Her thoughts of her husband Bill and Melissa had been fond ones.

"Just like old times," she echoed.

He kissed her forehead, contented. Nevertheless it was getting quite late and he was feeling tired himself. He let her go and stood her at armís length. "Better check on the fire," he told her quietly, a twinkle in his eye. "Manís work," he went on, mimicking his father and winked. He left her and entered the living room. Maggie headed for the stairs.


Maggie stopped at the sound of his voice and turned to follow him into the other room. Bill had found Dana fast asleep on the couch. They stood a moment then he bent down to touch his sister gently on the shoulder but Maggie took his hand.

"No, leave her," she whispered. "Dana must be exhausted. Let her sleep."

Bill frowned deeply. "Sheís supposed to be on vacation, but she can never really leave it alone, can she? For Godís sake she hasnít been out of hospital long. The workís becoming an obsession, you know? Sheís pushing herself too hard, Mom. Iím worried about her."

"I know." Maggie rubbed his back and he put his arm around her waist to pull her close. "What is she trying to prove?" he asked in a voice that was just a little bit angry. "God knows she doesnít need to prove anything."

"You know how she is," Maggie said cryptically. Bill let it go and looked at Dana with a genuine display of his concern. "Sheíll get cold like that. Iíll get a blanket."

Acknowledging his thoughtfulness, Maggie touched him affectionately on the arm as he passed. When he was gone she moved to the front of the couch. With a motherís empathy of her daughterís fiercely suppressed grief and pain she folded her arms and watched her sleeping. Dana suddenly screwed her face and turned a little, unaware of the watcher. In sleep, she looked so much like her father Maggie decided.

Thoughts surfaced then of the time, a couple of Christmases ago when they had enjoyed dinner together at Danaís apartment. Dana had produced for them a traditional supper complete with all the trimmings that tasted as good as it looked. It had been such a happy time, for them all. One she would always cherish. It was to be their last dinner together. Later that morning Bill had passed away from a sudden and totally unexpected heart attack, and even now Maggie still found the emptiness difficult to deal with.

Bill had been such a huge presence in all their lives. While he shared his affection equally with all his children, Dana had always been his secret favourite. He was so proud of her, yet found it so difficult to tell her so. He wasnít aware of the disappointment it caused her. Despite often months without him when he was away on duty, their times together as a family were wonderful and cohesive, and as a husband she couldnít have wished for better. Yes, Dana was so much like him: loyalÖ proud. But her inherited sense of duty had cost her so much.

Maggie remembered the pain all too well of learning of Danaís disappearance: the long four weeks of not knowing what had happened or why. Then came joy at Danaís sudden reappearance. It, too, was snatched away as just quickly when they were forced to endure the heartache and uncertainty knowing that she was in a coma and likely to die. Somehow Dana had defied the odds and pulled through. She had clawed her way back to reasonable normality only to learn the terrible news the she had terminal cancer. And during this time they had lost Melissa. Brutally murdered. Dana still blamed herself. That bullet had been meant for her she insisted. Melissa had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time. What alarmed Maggie most was the fact that she was right. Some outside force had control over Dana. The must have. They had put that thing in her neck. Now her very life depended on it.

Maggie had seen for herself how her work with the FBI affected her life, the stresses were far beyond normal. It wasnít right, but Dana would never back away, never consider another choice. And then there was Mulder. She was aware Bill regarded him as the villain of the piece, nonetheless Mulder had always been there when needed, had even saved her life - Dana had told her - in confessions that were hushed and sombre and his name always spoken with that special familiarity and fondness she reserved only for him. Maggie suspected he was the hook that kept her so attached. But where was he now, and where did he fit into all this?

Maggie worried for Dana, concerned that this thing with Emily was consuming her. Bill had told her about the adoption plans, but Maggie knew that she would only get hurt. Emily was not Melissaís daughter. She was certain of that, and no test Dana could conduct would convince her otherwise.

Bill returned with a travelling rug and together they covered Dana with it. He dug his hands into his pockets as he joined his motherís side.

"This business with Melissa. Sheís got it all wrong, Mom. Why canít she see that?"

Maggie shook her head. "She believes in what sheís doing. It doesnít matter what we think. Dana deserves our support." She had an idea what Dana was going through. It was all part of the grieving process. She would explain things to Bill later.

However, he couldnít hide his anger. "Mom, Iíve fought a war, been involved in rescue and disaster relief. Iíve seen some pretty harrowing sights, witnessed a lot of bravery, but I donít know anyone with more guts than my baby sister. But how much more do these people think she can take?"

"I worry for her too. Sheís like you, Bill. And your both like your father - a little stubborn. But we canít live her life for her.""She was always so logical and sensible," he said and set his jaw. His eyes blazed. "NowÖ I blame that guy, Mulder. Sheís got her head full of that crap he tells her. I donít know why she defends him."

"Itís obvious, isnít it? Youíve seen how they are with each other."hey exchanged long, knowing looks.

"Well, I hope heís worth her love."

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1998