For Reade and Bella, who started the whole discussion. And thanks to Barb, for reading it.
Thanks to my hot-mama beta, Nancy FF.
Me repenteth, said Balin, that ever I came within this country, but I may not turn now again for shame, and what adventure shall fall to me, be it life or death, I will take the adventure that shall come to me.
--Le Morte d'Arthur Book II Chap XVII
Scully was dreaming again, but it was the good dream, not the one about her daughter. In the good dream, she was soaring so high that the earth couldn't be seen through a dense cloud cover. Lightning crackled under her, jagged points fell to earth, but they couldn't hit her, because she was above them. She felt something heavy at her back, pulling her down, but it wasn't enough to stop her as she flew toward the heavens. Then she looked down and saw one large, browny- green eye looking back up at her. A very toothy mouth parted in a grin, and she woke up.
Thursday morning, grey sky. The radio announcer went on listing accidents, and she calculated her time to work with alacrity, having done so every day for five years. She hummed as she dressed, sang a little as she didn't look in the mirror. She never felt a desire to see what she looked like any more. She felt somehow that if she saw herself in the mirror, she'd find out that *that* Scully was the real one, and she was the reflection. Before she'd stopped looking into mirrors, she would stare at them for long moments, putting her hand out toward the glass, knowing that this time the Scully behind the glass would move away and she would disappear. It was a weird feeling, and not at all rational. So Scully stopped looking in mirrors. Sometimes her lipstick was smeared because of it, but that was a small price to pay.
It was funny that the sky was so grey, she mused as she drove to work. The traffic was slow, but not as bad as the announcer had said, so she calculated in her head minute by minute the exact time it would take to pull into the FBI underground parking lot. But it was odd; the sky didn't look likely to clear, which was weird for a day in June in Washington. Usually it got muggy and hot, and the sky was clear enough to take postcard pictures at the Mall. But today, it looked like good day for indoors. Not that she wanted to be at work. Not really. In fact, she had almost thought about calling in. Mulder wouldn't report her; in fact, he'd cover for her until he was blue in the face. Scully'd tested it out before. But she just didn't feel like taking advantage of Mulder today. Maybe she could talk him into taking a walk at lunch, if it wasn't raining.
Something told her that it was going to rain, rain very much indeed, with lightning and thunder and all the fireworks that came with a spectacular storm. And the something was right. Just before she'd pulled into the lot, the first drops of rain had started to fall, and as she walked across the huge lobby floor, she could see the rain going gangbusters outside. Mulder ran in after her; his trench coat was damp and he steamed.
"Scully? Guess what?"
"What?" she said, grinning at him. She felt great for some unknown reason, really great.
"We're caught up on paperwork!"
"Wow! It must be my lucky day!" she rejoined.
"And mine. We have no meetings, no cases. No paperwork, no requisitions, and no one breathing down our necks. Kersh went up to New York for two days."
"What are we going to do?" he asked, shedding his coat. Improbably, he wore a tie of passing soberness. "Order beer and watch the playoffs tape?"
"Heaven forbid, Mulder. They don't pay us to watch football. I say we order coffee and bagels and play a game of Scrabble or something, to start with. And maybe, Boss, we can go home early?"
"I'd go with that as a definite possibility." His browny-green eyes glowed, and his mouth parted in a smile that showed white, even teeth. "Hm . . . point spread on a Scrabble game . . . I betcha five bucks I win."
"Please, Mulder. I know lots of scientific, doctorly words."
"I know lots of psychological words."
"I say I win, and we'll have Danny hold the bets."
By the time they'd finished the game, the rain was coming down even harder. The bagel guy had come in dripping, and Scully had tipped him $10 because she felt bad for making him come out in the rain.
"Ha!" Scully placed her last tile. Mulder stuffed the last of his bagel in his mouth and said something unintelligible.
"Up yours, Mulder. I won fair and square. 'Polyglot' is too a word."
She smiled and pushed away from the board. "Thanks for the game. Aren't you glad you didn't bet more?"
"I'll bet a date with you against a viewing of 'Sense and Sensibility' that I can win the next one."
"Oh brother, Mulder. You liked 'Sense and Sensibility.' How are you losing out there?"
"The object is to lose?"
"Silly." She smiled at him again and called Danny.
When he picked up, the first thing he asked was, "Did you win?"
He let out a shout of glee, and she enquired as to the reason.
"I had a bet with Perry that you would win. Ha! That's fifty bucks you owe me, " he addressed the mailboy. He said to Scully, "I'll send the money down with Perry, ok? It'll be about 10 minutes, he's just finishing up here." Perry was the eighteen-year-old son of a higher-up, and this was his summer job. He was good for the $50, a nice kid, and sort of gullible too. Obviously.
"He picked Mulder over me? Ha."
"Shhh," admonished Danny. "It turned out well."
Mulder, meanwhile, had tuned the radio to a station that had a reggae marathon. The beat began to rock the walls. Mulder smiled and mock-headbanged.
"We gonna bust down Babylon walls,
prepare the way,
prepare the way for jah people.
Fight down war and crime, fight down war and crime,
Rasta fight down war and crime,
And build up righteousness."
"What the hell is this now?" Scully tried to shout over the
admittedly catchy beat.
"I *know* that. Why are you listening to it?"
"I like it! I felt like a change."
"Mulder - ." she reached over and turned it down just a little, "you're extremely white. You're from Martha's Vineyard. You went to Oxford. You're the anti-Rasta."
He peeked up at her, teasing. "Don't you think I'd look good in one of those hats?"
She burst out laughing at the thought and collapsed in her chair. She tried to talk, but the thought of Mulder in a striped hat, toking and talking about freeing the 'people' made her double over and pound her desk. It didn't help that Mulder started jamming along to the next song, "Exodus" by Bob Marley. When he started singing about 'movement of the people,' she had to hold her stomach. She thought she might lose the bagel, but luckily Perry made his appearance and she composed herself, still giving way to fits of giggles as Mulder finally turned Bob down to an acceptable level.
"What's so funny?" Perry looked kind of aggrieved to be left out of the joke.
"Mulder thinks he's a Rastafarian," giggled Scully. Perry didn't laugh, he just frowned. "What's a Rastafarian?"
"N-never mind." It set her off again, and Mulder had to get the mail from Perry. The kid laid two fives on her desk, congratulated her in a puzzled tone for winning the Scrabble game, and let himself out.
Scully subsided after a couple more minutes. She was curious to see what was in the mail. Usually something interesting came, whether it was badly-spelled hate letters, requests for them to come view something or other, or anonymous newspaper clippings.
"Columbia House . . . invitation to the company picnic . . . ummmm, " he stuffed a slick, pink envelope in his pocket, "oh, and one for you."
"Gimme," she said, piqued. The large, cream-colored envelope was something she rarely saw. Hopefully it didn't contain another invitation to a wedding. She didn't want to attend anyone else's wedding. She grabbed for the envelope and Mulder snatched it away.
"Lelia McKennan. From Chicago. Who is Lelia McKennan?"
Scully paused. She hadn't heard that name in years. Literally. "She's my aunt. My mother's sister. What in the world could she be writing me about?" And she lunged. After a short and violent chase around the desk, Mulder finally relinquished the letter. It was criscrossed with addresses; it looked like it had been sent to her old address in Baltimore and some kind soul had put "Dana Scully, FBI Building, Washington DC" on it. They still remembered her back there. It was postmarked the fifteenth of May.
Mulder peered over her shoulder as she tore it open. "D'you think it's a wedding invitation?" Apparently he knew the envelope too.
"No," said Scully slowly, taking in the strange invitation printed on heavy bond paper, "I think -- I think it's a family reunion."
"Yeah, and it's this Saturday," said Mulder.
"What?" She checked again, and sure enough, the date was 2 days hence. This wasn't good. And that was how she found herself on the phone to her mother not ten minutes later.
"Honey, it was a surprise for me too. Imagine! I haven't seen my sister in over ten years."
"But it's this weekend!"
"I thought you were just not going, so I didn't mention it. You mean, you just got the invitation today?"
"Are you going?"
"Of course. I wouldn't ever miss seeing my sister. We didn't part on very friendly terms -- she was kind of the wild one -- so I'd like to make that up to her. This must have taken a lot of courage, and I'm honored to attend. Wouldn't you like to come with me?"
"Well -- well, sure," said Scully. "Book me on the same flight as you." She wasn't sure how she felt about this, but family was family, and you never let family down, even if you didn't get along with them. She hung up to see Mulder staring at her.
"I guess I'm going to Chicago this weekend." As she said it, she felt like she'd faded out a little bit, like her head had grown light as a dandelion feather. Mulder blurred in front of her, and the ground seemed to drop beneath her feet. She swayed slightly forward and Mulder caught her arms.
"Scully! What's wrong?"
She shook her head and the room cleared. "I don't know. I guess I am tired or I haven't eaten enough. I just had a little dizzy spell."
His face cleared. "Okay. Well how about you get your coat and we'll brave the rain and go get some lunch."
She smiled at him. "Good enough. But you promised to let me go home early."
"Of course I will."
Mulder was wonderful all the rest of the morning; it made her wonder what was wrong. He was sweet and attentive, and sometimes she caught a wide and pleading look in his eyes. She knew what it was about. But she absolutely was not going to take him to a family reunion. Heaven only knew what would happen at this one.
She had dim memories of the last one, which had taken place when she was eleven. It had been in Romeo, Illinois, and had ended with a screaming match between her grandmother and her father (actually her grandmother had screamed, and her father had mostly stood silent). Her mom had taken her aside later and explained that "Grandma McKennan doesn't think your dad loves me as much as he really does," but Scully knew now that what she meant was, "She thinks I married beneath myself." She also knew that Margaret Scully had loved her husband more than her family, and cleaved to him like it said in the Bible, because Grandma McKennan had died three years later, and Margaret had not gone to the funeral. She had seen her relatives on and off, mostly for ten minutes at a time, as they visited soberly in her mother's parlor. But she had not spoken to cousins and aunts and uncles since that scream- filled day so long ago.
So why now? She didn't know. Maybe her aunt felt mortality tugging at her, and wanted to make amends. Maybe there wouldn't be any screaming matches or drunken speeches filled with barbs and innuendo, but still, she wasn't going to take Mulder to a reunion. No way. No way, Jose. She ignored his pleading looks as best she could and parted from him at 3pm sharp, going home to pack, as her mother's (and hence, her) flight left at 2:30 the next day. They were supposed to stay with her aunt, as they were out-of-towners and much of her extended family was based in the Chicago area.
She wondered abstractly if Bill and Tara were going to be there with their newborn, and if Charles and Malthace were also going to bring their two. She mentally said "yes" to Bill and "maybe, probably not" to Charlie. Tara was a family - mixer, and she loved to show off her baby. Charlie would not remember the extended family, and since he didn't come to immediate family functions, he could hardly be expected to come to something like this. Plus, they were in Korea now. She sighed. She'd sure love to see her two nephews, though. They were utterly adorable and Thace was a good mom, so they were also well behaved. She loved to play Auntie Dana and spoil them to death. Little Matthew was fat and tended to cry in loud, whiny gulps. Not that she didn't love him, too, but Tara was pretty lenient with the kid and seemed to delight in his bad behavior. Well, they'd be there and Charles wouldn't, so she'd better bring a couple new toys for Matthew.
She slept poorly, worrying about what she was going to say to these unknown people, and then went to work feeling run over. Mulder took one look and quit his pleading looks.
"You aren't going to take me, are you?" he said, pouting a little.
"No, I'm not. And no, I won't tell you why. You just stay here and have a really good weekend. Catch a game, go to a movie, take a walk in the park. Promise me you'll have fun."
"Um, sure." He looked downcast, but not *too* downcast, which was sort of suspicious, but she decided to let it go. (Don't push too much, Dana.) Instead she worked companionably with him on a requisition form, then had lunch, and sat around looking through old case files till she stood, bade him goodbye, and betook herself to the airport. She met her mother there, and they got onto the flight.
As they took off, Scully gripped the armrests as usual. She hated flying. Hated being stuck in something with nigh unto a million parts, every one of which could break right then, at 33,000 feet. Her mother, who knew this very well, tried to distract her with a game of War. Margaret won handily, but it took about 45 minutes. By then they were almost there, and Scully dozed off a little. She felt the seat under her become something else, something supple and leathery, and she was still flying, only it was the kind of flight that most people only dream about. She soared again, watching the wings spread out from either side of her feet, watching the sun glint from coppery skin, watching the earth slide like roses under her. Exulting.
Her mother shook her awake and she came back down to earth, literally, as the plane touched its wheels to the runway. "You slept right through that, " smiled Margaret. She looked relieved, because landing was even harder for Scully than taking off. The airport loomed grey before them, and they gathered their bags when the plane stopped, making their slow way towards the terminal. When they exited the gate, Margaret stopped. Scully didn't know what to do, so she stopped too. Were they looking for someone? She didn't know what was going to happen. She was going to suggest that they call Aunt Lelia, when a piercing scream cut through the airport babble, stilling it like a sax with a marshmallow stuffed in the spit valve.
A woman in black was running madly toward them. She was about five years Scully's senior, but she dressed like an 18 year old. Chains and rings adorned her ears and eyebrows, and she wore a broomstick skirt and a very tight, black sequined shirt. She teetered slightly on black, lace-up spike-heeled shoes. This was her aunt Lelia? Scully barely remembered her as someone with a lot of hair who never paid attention to the little kids. She glanced sideways at her mother. Maggie wore a fixed smile on her face, the one that Scully privately thought of as her 'company' smile. She held her arms out and this outlandish creature rushed into them. Her mother's expression softened somewhat as Lelia gushed about how glad she was to see them. And she did look glad, Scully had to give her that -- genuinely delighted to see them.
She finished hugging Maggie and reached out to her. Scully felt horribly awkward about hugging her, but let herself be pulled into an embrace because she couldn't think of how to refuse. Lelia smelled like flowers, and she had a nice hug. Scully smiled at her and said that she was happy to be seeing her relatives after such a long time. Lelia led the way toward the concourse, chattering the whole time.
"Oh, honey, no one's here yet, just you . . . Bill and Tara and darling little Matthew are flying in tomorrow morning, but they're in a hotel. Bill said he didn't want the baby disturbing anyone, can you imagine? Our walls are totally soundproof . . . and of course everyone in the area is coming to the big party tomorrow, and Pat and John are bringing two big vans full of cousins for Dana to meet. . . ." Pat and John were her uncles. They lived in Romeo and Urbana, respectively, and had come once or twice to visit Maggie, especially after her father died. They were nice enough. They each had some older kids and Pat's wife had died a few years ago. Scully hoped her cousins would like her. Dumb, yes, childish, yes, but she wanted to like her cousins, and she wanted them to like her. She collected her suitcase and her mom's duffel bag and followed the two older women to the car.
Lelia drove quickly to a brownstone apartment building and expertly pulled into a parking space that looked way too small for her Saturn. Scully smiled. She kind of liked Lelia. As they made their way inside, she looked around. The place was, well, okay, pretty shabby. Paint peeled from the corners of the hallways, and mold crept its way up to the ceiling. But Lelia's place smelled fine and made an attempt at neatness. The setting sun peered in through checkered curtains, and the windows sparkled. It looked comfy and friendly. Lelia'd told them that she worked for an advertising firm doing freelance stuff and sometimes for Chicago's art magazines. She knew a lot about art and her place was, all in all, pretty tasteful, if not exactly upscale. Scully and Maggie had their own rooms, though Lelia apologized for making Scully sleep on a cot. Maggie got a futon. Scully put her stuff away in the closet and grabbed her wallet. She told the two ladies, who were deep in conversation, that she was going for a walk. Lelia looked up long enough to tell her to be careful.
"Mmm." said Scully. Not reminding the woman that she was a trained federal agent with a government-issued firearm that was strapped to her at this very moment. No, she was going to treat these people nicely if it killed her. And it just might.
Her walk was completely uneventful, as she'd expected. She liked to take the lay of the land, as it were, before she settled down somewhere. Always good to know the escape routes. That habit had helped her and Mulder in more than one situation. The block was awfully scummy, but there was a nice park about two blocks away with some older kids playing pick-up basketball and throwing around a Frisbee.
She made her way around for about an hour and then wandered back toward the building. As she reached it, she noted the narrowness of the alleyway between Lelia's building and the one next to it. Surely, that violated a fire code. She peered into it, but didn't go in. As she pulled away, a white blur shot out and circled her feet. It barked. Scully's gun was out before she realized that it was a dog. It looked up at her and barked again, and she did a double-take; that wasn't a dog, it was a wolf. A small one, with shorter legs, but a wolf nonetheless. Well, stranger things had happened, and it -- he - - didn't look rabid or angry, just irritated. He fell silent, regarded her with strangely intelligent eyes, and stretched his muzzle toward her hand. She held the back of her hand out toward him, and he sniffed her delicately, cocked his head again, and then walked sedately toward the alley, disappearing into the general Chicago gloom.
She didn't mention it to Lelia, or her mother. She didn't mention anything, in fact; they barely saw her come in, engrossed as they were in a loud discussion of boys from high school. So she just pulled out her book, *The Demon-Haunted World,* and got right to it. Lelia poked her head in a little later and asked if she wanted coffee, but Scully declined. Planes always upset her stomach and she didn't eat for about twelve hours afterward to calm herself down. She read for the rest of the night, and then went to bed. She lay there for a long time, wondering what her cousins would be like. It gave her butterflies. She wasn't used to these people. Would they be dumb? What if they were all farmers? She knew her uncle Pat ran a dairy. John was a lawyer. What did they have in common with her? What if they asked about her job?
She fell asleep, but just barely. The bad dream came that night, but it seemed far away, and she didn't feel the supreme terror that usually came when Emily's body crumbled into sand and black beetles. In time, blackness took her and nothing disturbed her until sunlight came through her window and shone sharply into her eyes. It was 9:17 am.
Bill and Tara arrived at eleven. By the time they were situated, it was noon, and people had started arriving. The party wasn't supposed to start till two, and already the place was pretty packed. It was clear, if cold, and the supper was supposed to happen at the park. Then everyone who was left was going to come back to the house for games and general chatting.
Everyone who came in was inordinately interested in Dana. They were unfailingly nice to her, treating her like someone who'd come back from the dead. Scully noticed that they seemed to have a lot more trouble treating her mother nicely than they did her. She got along with them just fine, and her butterflies stopped threatening to exit her throat. The supper was fun, if simple -- beans, potato salad, the usual family reunion fare -- and everyone seemed politely interested in her job, but no one pried. The little kids wanted to see her gun, and she carefully unloaded it before showing it around and lecturing on gun safety. Her cousin James wanted to try target practice, and insisted loudly that he be given the gun, before his mother hauled him off by the ear. She found herself smiling. And smiling again. They were a nice bunch of people.
With the supper over, most of the grownups adjourned to the apartment, because it was getting pretty chilly. Lelia put on some Celtic music, and some of her more musical relatives did some dancing. They clapped along and the party degenerated into general bedlam. It was very good, thought Scully, that Lelia's walls were soundproof. Otherwise, she'd probably get some people pretty angry.
End part 1. Go to part 2
Notes part 1:
All the Morte d'Arthur is Malory's.
The title is from Madison Cawein's poem, "To One Reading the Morte d'arthure."
The song is called "Jah Rastafari." It's on a reggae album my brother-in-law has. Can't recall the singer's name.
Lelia is an Irish saint. Apparently, in Limerick there is a feast/memorial day for her. See Irish Saints for more info. I figure it's safe enough to name Scully's aunt after a saint. :)
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