Subject: New! The Barbecue Series 8: The Bells Are Ringing
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 1999
Category: Story, MSR, Mild MulderTorture, MulderAngst, BillyAngst and TaraAngst
Rating: PG-13 for some language.
Spoilers: Let's just say through season 5, to be safe.
Summary: Mulder and Scully spend some time at Maggie's home while the Big Brother and his family visit. It's really not always about Mulder
Disclaimer: The names you recognize belong to 10/13 productions and Chris Carter. I'm just borrowing them. I won't keep them. At the end of the story you can have `em back, I swear, (unless you *want* to give `em to me.) All other characters belong to me, and if Mr. Carter wants to borrow them, all he needs to do is ask. <grin>
Introduction: It picks up in the Barbecue Series Universe and directly follows the incidents of # 7, so you might want to read it prior to this one
Yoo-hoo, Vickie Moseley!?!! Yoo-hoo! Thanks for this one too, my friend. <BG>
The Barbecue Series 8: The Bells are Ringing by Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)
She snuggled back into me, and I wrapped my good arm around her to welcome her. Mom had thrown a cover over us really, really early this morning, like three-thirty in the morning, early. I don't think she was 'checking up' on us as much as she was checking _on_ us to make sure we were warm enough downstairs.
You see, Scully and I are pretty sure Mom is aware of our living arrangement. I keep the apartment in Arlington for, well at one time it was for show, but to tell the truth, I'm not sure why the hell I'm keeping it at this point. I mean, I've basically cleaned out my closet and have moved in with Scully, lock, stock, and barrel. We share everything now in her apartment. The kitchen, the food bill, the telephone and electricity bills, the bed.
Ah, yes, the bed.
It's funny, ever since we'd gone to that bed and breakfast; the one where I broke out in Chickenpox, well, let's just say we broke out of our little conundrum with regards to our sexual relationship too. We share a lot of each other now in our bedroom.
But, we're spending a few days at Mom's house, since the eldest Scully sibling is in town for a few days over the Presidential weekend. Tara and Matty are here too, so we've taken a couple of personal days in order to spend some quality time with Bill and his family. And I'm being a very big boy about it. No, really. I haven't thought of any evil, cruel methods to dispose of Bill for a whole hour.
Well, I shouldn't say that. He actually hasn't been that bad. Really. I mean he's only made what, two, three, unnecessary wisecracks about the bandage on my arm? He keeps asking me if I'm a closet pyromaniac. God, the man has no idea how off base he is on that one. Of course we've only been together, in the same room, for less than four hours, so how much trouble could we have gotten into with one another?
Don't answer that.
But anyway, as I was saying, Scully and I figure Mom is aware of our sleeping arrangements, but what we do in our apartment is our business. We know, though, she's uncomfortable about us sharing the same bedroom in her house. Well, hell, her house, her rules; I can't and won't ever argue with Mrs. Scully's right to her own moral convictions. So, we stow our gear in our designated rooms, and then we meet downstairs on the family room couch, cuddle, and go to sleep.
Invariably, Mom sneaks down to throw an afghan or some such cover on top of us so we don't freeze in the lowered temperatures of the usually unused room during the night. For some reason she doesn't mind us sleeping on the couch. I guess she figures we're less likely to go at it like little bunnies on the couch. Of course, it's a good thing she waited till three-thirty. Don't even want to imagine what she would have thought if she'd dropped in on us at two- thirty.
So now, I figure it's about six-thirty, maybe even seven o'clock in the morning. I hear Mom upstairs with Matty; her laughter makes her sound so young. I know where my Scully gets her giggles from, that's for sure. I'm just about to close my eyes to catch a few more zzz's with my gal, when I hear a scream that's loud enough to wake the dead.
"MOM! MOM! DANA!"
Scully is up like a ball shot from a cannon. She knocks into my arm a bit which causes me to see a few stars, but frankly, the first thing I want to do is find my gun, because by the sound of those screams, there has got to be a murderer upstairs.
I follow Scully upstairs; I'm amazed at how much ground those beautiful, but very short, little legs cover. I'm climbing the steps two at a time, and I'm barely keeping up.
We run smack dab into Mom, who has the same frantic expression on her face. She's got Matty in her hands and he looks as though he's ready to burst into tears. I hear Scully ask breathlessly, "Where is he?"
"His room," Mom replies in kind.
At that, Scully practically runs toward the back room. Bill Scully, I now realize, must have a helluva set of lungs on him, 'cause for us to have been able to hear him all the way downstairs as clearly as we did __. Shit, something must really be wrong.
Mom, who's still carrying Matty, and I follow Scully into Bill's old room. He's pacing by the bed, on which Tara is still sitting. Only her face is bent down into her hands and, oh damn, the woman is crying. No, check that. She's sobbing. What the hell happened in here?
"Bill, what's wrong? Tara, sweetheart?" Mom calls out. I see she really wants to go over to them, but she doesn't want to bring Matty any closer to the fray until she knows what the hell is going on. I reach out my arms to the child and say, "C'mon big guy. Time to come to Uncle Mulder."
Luckily, for some reason I still haven't figured out, Bill Scully's son adores me. I'm not bragging. He really does adore me. Of course the fact that I've kind of grown a little fond of the little bugger myself, well, we won't go into that. Suffice it to say, Matty comes right to me, which frees up a very grateful Maggie Scully to go to her son and daughter-in-law.
"Bill, please, you have to tell us what's wrong," Maggie pleads.
"Look _, at _, her _," he stammers. "Just _, look _, at _, her."
Tara continues to sob into her hands, so it's kind of difficult to determine what has Bill so damned upset. Scully finally walks over to the bed and sits down on it facing Tara.
"Tara? Hey, what is it? Please, tell me what's wrong?"
Tara begns sobbing even louder, and, to be honest, she's starting to scare me a little. I figure if I'm getting scared, maybe Matty is getting slightly petrified. I debate whether to take him out of the room, when finally, Tara raises her head a little bit. We can barely make out her eyes. Something , I'm not sure what, but something doesn't look right to me.
"I __, I__ don't knooow," she wails.
"Dana, just look. Look. At. Her," Bill says through clenched teeth.
"Bill, I am looking at her. She looks very upset, but __."
"__NO! Look at her face. Damn it, Dana, look at her face!" he blurts out.
Dana looks at him incredulously; she can not for the life of her figure out what can possibly make her brother sound so insensitive. Her brother can be a royal pain in the ass sometimes, but if there is one thing I'm sure of, he loves Tara with all his heart. So why they're both acting like a pair of lunatics is beyond me.
"Tara, honey, would you look up at me, please?"
Tara slowly lifts her hands away from her face and raises her head. She's now looking directly at Scully, and I have a pretty good view of what has Bill all upset.
Tara's face is __, well, for lack of a better word, is lopsided. The left half is fine, but the right side of her face is, well, drooping. Ohmigod! I wonder if Tara's had a stroke? She's so young! I can't believe it.
"Tara," I hear Scully say, "I want you to tell me if you are feeling any discomfort. Any at all on either side of your body."
"No, no, I'm fine. It's just my __, my face," she says again in between sobs.
"Okay, well that's good, sweetheart," says Scully in very soothing tones. "It's unlikely you've had a stroke."
Well, I'm thinking 'thank God', but then I wonder if that's the good news, what the hell is the bad?
"What the hell is wrong with her face?" asks Billy angrily. Now, I'm sure he's more anxious than angry, but the fact is I think he's scaring the hell out of Tara, not to mention Matty, who has been way too quiet for a two year old in this situation.
Miraculously, Scully has read my mind on this, and says very quietly, but firmly, "Mom, please take Billy out of here. Now."
Mom looks like she wants to protest, but I know when Scully goes into Doctor mode, and she speaks in just that tone of voice, I sure as hell wouldn't argue with her. Neither does Mom.
"Come, Bill. Let's take Matty and get him some juice." Bill also looks like he's ready to protest, but Mom shows us where her daughter got that tone of voice. "Now, Bill. Your son looks very thirsty."
I hand over the baby, for which I realize I'm very grateful, because my injured arm begins to throb under carrying the baby's weight. I'm about to follow Mom and Bill out when Scully calls out to me and asks me to stay.
I look at Tara to let her know she has the option of kicking me out, but she just sits there and rocks a little back and forth while she continues to cry these rivulets down her cheeks. I can't help but wonder at this point if she's crying because she's worrying about what's wrong with her, or because Bill seems more worried about what's _wrong_ with her than worried _about_ her.
Scully asks me to sit down on the chair right near them. My heart is really aching for Tara right now. Look, I like Tara, but since I'm not too crazy about the guy she married, she's got a strike or two against her by virtue of association. I know it's not her fault, but it's the way I feel. Yet, now, I sit here and listen to her cry and try to catch her breath to get her control back, and I really feel for her.
She must be scared to death, and her stupid ass of a husband starts yelling about what she _looks_ like for crying out loud instead of holding her hand, and telling her everything is fine, and she's going to be fine. I don't even realize I'm doing it, but I reach for Tara's hand and simply hold it with my right hand and gently massage it with my left.
Tara looks at our hands. She looks almost confused. Then she looks up at me, and I swear she looks even more confused. Doesn't that dumb ass husband of hers ever give her unconditional love and support? I really have to wonder if Maggie Scully truly gave birth to this man. He is so unlike the Scullys; and if it weren't for the red hair, I'd swear he was switched at birth.
Scully calls Tara back to look at her. "Tara, I want you to try something, okay?" Tara nods her head. "Lift up your eyebrows."
Tara lifts them, but her right eyebrow does not raise nearly as high. She also seems to be working harder at the right side.
"Okay, good," encourages my Scully. Sometimes I wonder why she chose pathology. She's really a lot better with people than she gives herself credit for. Hell, I've always appreciated her bedside manner when it came to saving my butt.
"Now, I need you to close your eyes." Tara basically winks by shutting her left eye, but the right one barely closes.
"One more thing, Tara, then I'll let you rest. Show me your teeth."
Tara makes a lopsided grimace. The left side shows her teeth clearly, while the right side of her mouth is still almost closed.
"Tara, we need to call Mom's personal physician so he can help you determine a course of treatment, but I'm pretty sure you have something called Bell's Palsy," Scully says to her.
"What is it?" she asks, "and can you fix it?"
I squeeze Tara's hand at this point, because I know she's more concerned about the fixing than the diagnosis. I also have some hope for her.
"My mom had it," I say.
"What?" both women ask simultaneously.
"Yeah. When I was young; Sam was still home."
"I didn't know that," Scully says to me.
I shrug my shoulders. To be honest, I don't think I'd have remembered it if Tara wasn't displaying the same symptoms.
"What was it like?" Tara asks cautiously.
I look at her thoughtfully. I think back to what it was like, and I wonder how honest I should be with her. I don't want to frighten her or dishearten her even before she's officially diagnosed, but I don't want to sugarcoat it either. I decide if it was me, I'd want the truth; I figure Tara deserves no less.
"It was hard at first. I remember Mom had developed the symptoms in Chilmark, right before our annual summer trek out to Quonochontaug. The doctor had told her there wasn't anything they could do, and she'd have to wait to see if the symptoms abated on their own.
"I remember she cried a lot before we left Chilmark. She refused to leave the house. She made Dad do all of the shopping, and for once he didn't argue with her. I remember Sam and I went with him to make sure he got the right stuff, since he'd never done the food shopping before.
"God," I sigh aloud at these long forgotten memories, "it was so incredibly weird doing the food shopping with my father. I mean, here was this really powerful bigwig who worked for the state department, and he didn't have a clue as to what kind of white bread to buy." I have to smile at this. Hell, I even start to chuckle a little, and then I catch myself when I realize Tara is still waiting for encouragement.
"Well, anyway, by the time we were in Quonochontaug a week or so, Mom got cabin fever and started going out again. Tara, you know what? No one seemed to have noticed, and if they did, they did a really good job of keeping it to themselves. Mom went back to living a little, which was a good thing for us, cause Dad was back in Washington for most of the summer. If Mom hadn't come back out, Sammy and I would have been living on PB&J's all summer." I find myself smiling again at my memories of Sammy at the summer house.
It's so long ago, and yet at the same time, it feels like yesterday. I sense Dana getting up and feel her hand on my shoulder. I guess it's time to take some action.
"Tara, let's go downstairs and call Mom's physician. I'm sure he'll be able to see you this morning. We'll leave a message with his service," Scully cajoles.
I see Tara hesitate. I know what she has to be thinking about. Bill. I remember my mom being scared to death to be around my father, and my father being equally uncomfortable to be around Mom. Mom's condition was the major reason Dad spent so much time in Washington that summer. I remember overhearing neighbors talking about it while I hung out on the beach. They either thought I was deaf, dumb, and blind, or they didn't realize I could hear them so easily, but they just talked and talked about poor Mrs. Mulder who was pretty much abandoned by her husband. Such a pity.
I don't say any of this to Tara. I don't want her to assume anything. I mean, my father was a prick about the whole thing; it doesn't mean Bill Scully will be one too.
Shit. Who the hell am I kidding. Maybe it's something in the name 'William.' Remind me to change my middle name. So, maybe Bill will be an ass in this, but Tara's got someone else to think about.
"Tara, come downstairs with us. Matty needs to see his mom's okay. Believe me, he really needs to," I say. I look at her and wait for her to make eye contact. C'mon, Tara. Make eye contact with me. C'mon_. There. That's my girl. "We'll be with you, kiddo. "C'mon." I extend my hand to her, and she takes it. I breathe a bit easier, as the three of us go downstairs.
Bill's sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee. We walk in, and I ask if there's anymore where that came from. Maggie looks up, sees the three of us walk in, and smiles.
"Of course. Anyone up for breakfast?" she asks.
"In a minute, Mom. I just want to make an appointment for Tara with your doctor, okay? What's the number of his office?"
I listen to the exchange continue between Scully and Mom, but I watch the silent exchange between Tara and Bill.
She looks terrified, he appears totally void of emotion, and it's making me nuts. Why doesn't he get up and put his arms around her and tell her he loves her. What is he waiting for? He must sense me staring at him, because suddenly I feel his eyes piercing right through me. I want to say something, but I honestly don't know what I could say without possibly starting the third world war.
I hear Scully talking on the phone with what sounds like the doctor's service. I guess he'll call back. She hangs up the phone and turns to us.
"The service will beep him and he'll get back to us within the next forty minutes. Apparently he's at the hospital doing rounds," she informs us.
"Dana," Mom interjects, "do you have any idea of what's wrong?"
"I think it may be Bell's Palsy," she replies.
"What is that?" asks Bill in a controlled, but cold tone.
"It's a muscle paralysis that affects the facial nerve. There is no one conclusive reason for the paralysis, but the research indicates it is a result of an inflammation of the nerve."
"How is it treated?" Bill asks without even looking at Tara. I have to wonder why he's being so damned clinical about this when his wife looks as if she's ready to collapse.
"There are different options, Bill, but I think it's best for Tara to discuss them with a doctor who is more familiar with them," Scully responds in a slightly irritated tone. I guess she's wondering why her brother's acting like such a hump too.
"Mulder's mother had it." I look at Tara with my mouth slightly gaped. I wonder why she chooses to bring this up? Why now?
Why with Bill and me in the same room? I know the man is going to now find a way to blame me for Tara's condition. I just know it.
"Figures," Bill mutters aloud.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" I ask angrily now. I can't stand it that he hasn't looked at his wife in all the time we're in the kitchen. And now he has an excuse to go off on me. Damn him. Damn his stupidity.
"Okay, enough," says Mom a little testily. She's looking at me and then at Bill and I don't know if she's angry with me now for yelling back at Bill. I mean, I know the guy's upset, but, damn it, he has no cause to blame me for Tara's condition. I'm really getting sick and tired of being his punching bag.
"Bill, you have no right to even hint Fox has anything to with Tara's condition, and I'll not have you make him feel uncomfortable in my home. Do you understand?" she asks firmly.
Way to go, Mom.
"Yes, Mom," Bill replies with about as much sincerity as a Pickpocket denying the dozen or so wallets in his pocket aren't his.
"Good. Now, let's sit down and have some breakfast while we wait for the doctor's office to call," she says while she bangs around a pot and pan. "I'm making scrambled eggs, sausages, and toast. Is that okay with everyone?" she asks, obviously not really expecting an answer as she starts cracking eggs into a big bowl and mixing them.
We all sit there quietly. Matty manages to creep into his mother's lap, and Tara hides her face in her son's shoulder. Bill still hasn't looked at her, but he sure has managed to give me a couple of piercing stares. God, how I want to reach over and just punch the guy out. He knows exactly which of my buttons to push, and he does it every time. But I know I have to maintain my control out of my respect for Mom, and my concern for Tara.
I look over at Scully who seems to finally realize I'm ready to risk arrest for the murder of her brother. She reaches over to me and takes my hand. I feel her squeeze it, and just that simple act calms me. I know I have this wonderful woman in my corner, and I am so grateful for that knowledge. I thank the powers that be for allowing her to be a part of my life; I love her so much.
I can't imagine not reaching over and giving the woman I love support when she most needs it. I don't understand why Bill is essentially ignoring Tara. It hurts to watch this non-interaction. I hurt for Tara.
It reminds me when my father did the same thing to my mom. God, I hurt so much for Mom, not that she had noticed all that much. Mom was always one to be self-absorbed on a good day; when there was a crisis, well, it was a given she wouldn't give Sam or me the time of day. We were expected to fend for ourselves, and we did.
I don't expect this to happen between Tara and Matty. She'd waited way too long for Matty's arrival to ignore him in a time of crisis for herself. It's Bill I'm worried about. I'm afraid he has this crazy idea that his perfect little family isn't so perfect anymore, and he's going to do what my father did. Pretend it's not there.
I look once more at Bill and wonder if he understands Tara needs him more than ever now. All I see, however, is Bill Scully retreating into himself.
And I watch Tara appear to crumble before my eyes.
Mom's doctor is not available today, so Tara sees one of his partners. She's young, in comparison, and Mom isn't too sure about her seeing Tara. She really trusts her own physician, but she doesn't know this new one at all. It looks like we don't have a choice though; hopefully she's up on the latest research for dealing with Bell's Palsy. That's one thing Dr. Keely does confirm; it is Bell's Palsy.
She recommends a wait and see treatment plan, with the exception of a daily dose of steroids to prevent the progression of the palsy and, hopefully, shorten the time span of the weakness. This will continue for the next two weeks and then a reevaluation of the meds will need to be done.
Tara asks if there isn't anything they couldn't do to speed up the actual process of recovery, but the doctor says she doesn't believe in doing anything more invasive than the initial doses of steroids for a condition that will, more than likely, get better spontaneously.
Dr. Keely says if the condition persists for more than six months, and there are extenuating circumstances, such as complications and infections from the paralysis, then they might look into the possibility of surgery. However, Dr. Keely emphasizes that is far into the future, and the likelihood of even having further discussions to that end were low.
The doctor gives her eye drops and a prescription for an eye ointment to be used at bedtime. She also suggests that Tara cover the eye at night to prevent the cornea from drying out, since her lid doesn't close all the way.
She leaves the office looking so drained. I drive while Mom sits in the back with Tara, and Scully sits up front with me.
Bill's at home with Matty. I could kill him right now for doing this to her. I wanted to kill my dad for the same reason. I was too young to do anything about it then; I'm not a little kid anymore.
We get home and Tara goes straight to her room. She complains she is very tired and needs to lay down. No one tries to talk her out of it. She doesn't speak to Bill. I don't blame her. I want to kill him, remember?
"What did the doctor say?" he asks.
"If you had come with us, you wouldn't need to ask that," Scully practically hiss at him.
"Someone needed to stay with Matty," he responds. That's it. I've just about had it with this sorry sonofabitch.
"Bullshit," I throw back at him. "Matty could have come with us; you know that. Jeezes, Bill, what the hell is the matter with you?" I finally say in exasperation.
"Mulder, go to hell. You don't know anything about this. You don't know anything about me or anything, so just go to hell," he growls back.
"Then tell me, Bill. Inform me of what I don't know. Tell me why a supposedly loving husband doesn't go to the doctor with his wife to support her during a medical crisis? Tell me why, Bill?"
Mom and Scully are watching me with their mouths gaping. Matty, thank heavens, had gone down for a nap earlier. Bill is looking like he wants to kill me now. Good. I can claim self-defense.
"Mulder, why don't you mind your own damned business?" Bill demands.
"Because I want to know why I was at the doctor's with your wife instead of you, you God damned shit heal. I want to know why Tara had to hold onto me instead of you? Damn, Bill, what the hell is your problem? Are you that shallow that you can only love your wife if she's not defective?" I practically shout at him.
Of course this produces a rather strong reaction in my friend, Bill. He comes and takes a swing at me. Of course I raise my arm to prevent him from hitting my face. He gets off a good shot.
Guess which arm he gets?
I think I'm going to pass out from the pain, but I don't. I will myself to remain standing, though my pallor must turn a pretty ghostly shade of white. Scully is by my side like bat out of hell. Oh God, this hurts. Oh shit, shit, shit. This really hurts.
But surprisingly, I remain standing. I'll be damned if I give that sonofabitch a reason to think he's winning something at my expense. Scully however realizes I am in deep shit here. My arm is throbbing like crazy, and I think my eyes are beginning to water in response to the pain.
She leads me over to the couch and makes me lay down. I don't want to. I really want to remain upright so as not to give the asshole any sense of advantage, but she makes me lay down and places my arm on a couch pillow. Oh God! That hurts. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a pill bottle. It's my pain prescription. Most of the pills are still inside the bottle. I hate taking pills and not being in total control of my body and mental faculties.
Granted, there are some who would say I've never been in control of my mental faculties, but that's okay. Right now, I think I'm ready to give up control. I take the pill, while Mom comes in with a glass of water. God bless these Scully women for looking after my ass.
Now, if Bill would just leave my ass alone. I swallow the pill, and I wait for it to take effect. Thankfully, it doesn't take too long to take the edge of the pain away. I look at him with glassy eyes, and whisper, "You God damned idiot." Then, I take my usual course of action when I take pain medication; I pass out.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ End of Part 1/2 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Barbecue Series 8: The Bells are Ringing by Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)
Disclaimers in Part 1
I feel someone is nearby staring at me. I try to open my eyes immediately, but my lids seem to have something against that idea. I groan a little, to let whoever it is watching me know that I am aware of their presence. I try to open them again, and this time my eyes barely open to slits.
"Tara?" I rasp.
"I'm so sorry. Dana told me what happened. Fox, I am so, so sorry he did this to you," she offers in apology.
"You have nothing to be sorry about, Tara."
"But it's my fault he's acting this way," she responds.
I'm now able to open my eyes a little wider and I look at Scully's sister-in- law; my future sister-in-law if I have anything to say about it. She looks so sad. I wish I had some magic words to make her feel less sad, but I know I don't. I just wish there was a way to let her know she needn't take on any extra burdens.
Bill's actions are not her responsibility, no matter what his reasons were. Besides, I guess I did provoke him a little.
"Tara, for some reason, no matter what I say, Bill is going to disagree with me. We all know I am not on his number one hit parade. But, when we got home __, well __, right after you went to nap, I kind of let him know I was annoyed with him." Tara looks as though she wants to argue with me, but I cut her off before she gets a chance to speak.
"Tara, I stuck my nose where it didn't belong. I provoked him, and with him being so upset, well, he vented his anger physically. Unfortunately, my arm was in the way. I shouldn't have said anything to him, Tara. I should have let Scully and Mom handle it," I say contritely.
"Oh, Fox., don't you realize how much a part of this family you are. I would have been disappointed if you hadn't let Bill know how annoyed you were with him. I was so hurt and angry I couldn't even bear to look at him when we got home, but you __. Oh Fox Mulder, no wonder Dana is so in love with you. You so readily and unselfishly take on the role of the knight in shining armor.
"My knight in shining armor. Thank you. Thank you so much," she says and leans down carefully in order to kiss me.
"My pleasure, m'lady," I reply with a smile. Suddenly, we both hear a door slam. Loudly.
Neither one of us has to say anything. Our eyes say it all for us; Bill.
Later that evening, Mom decides it's warm enough, even though it's February, to open the garage doors and fire up the barbecue. Bill gets the charcoal lit and throws on some steaks. Mom waits a little bit and then goes to put on a salmon steak for me. She tells Bill to go sit down and she'll watch the food. I think she does this for me in order to make sure he doesn't overcook it into 'salmon shoe leather'. I love how Mom watches out for me.
We seat ourselves at the dining room table. It's one of the odder configurations. Bill is at the head of the table, and Matty's highchair is to Bill's left. He places it there after Tara sits down. Somehow I end up sitting next to Tara, and Scully sits across from me, next to Matthew's highchair. Mom's chair is at the other head of the table, opposite Bill.
It's obvious to me what Bill is doing. He is now able to divert his attention to Matthew and can avoid looking at Tara. I hope Tara doesn't realize it, but I suspect she is only too aware of the situation.
"Okay, everyone. Food's ready," calls out Mom. At this, there's a bustle of activity as we go into the kitchen to retrieve the rest of the food, such as the salads, the vegetables, the potatoes, and the iced tea. When we finally regroup, we once again seat ourselves in the unusual configuration.
I pick up my fork and reach for the knife, and realize this is not going to be so easy. My arm is still throbbing a bit, but, thankfully the salmon is so tender, I can cut it, however awkwardly, with just my left hand. I try to butter my roll, but I can't seem to manage to cut the roll and butter it without wincing a little.
The next thing I know, the roll is taken out of my hands, and Tara very nonchalantly slices and butters it for me. No bells and whistles go off. She simply saw I was having a little trouble, and she helped me out. I take the roll back with equal calm and take a bite.
I look across at Scully and notice she's involved in Matthew's antics, while Bill has yet to look either Tara's or my way. Mom is still bustling in and out of the kitchen and the garage to bring in the last remnants of the food.
I'm just about to call out to Mom to ask her if she needs some help when I hear a rather exasperated, "Jeezes, Tara, wipe your mouth for God's sake."
I first look at Bill and see he's flushed and noticeably agitated. I then look over at Tara and see her cheeks are an even deeper shade of scarlet. Then I notice why. She's drooling out of the right side of her mouth, and it's obvious to me she's having a really tough time chewing on the steak. I look into her plate and see she's cut the steak into the tiniest of pieces. Matthew eats larger pieces than what she's cut up.
Tara looks every bit as frustrated as she does humiliated. God, I really feel for her. Not one of us had thought chewing would pose a problem.
Well, I figure now it's my turn to return the favor. I simply get up and get another plate. I manage to cut my salmon steak into two pieces with my left hand and slide one of the halves over to the other, clean plate. I simply remove her steak plate and put the salmon dish in its place. Mom removes the plate from the table without comment, and we carry on.
"Thank you, Fox," Tara says quietly.
''Enjoy," I reply softly back. I feel Bill's eyes on me at the moment, but I choose to ignore him. He's not going to humiliate Tara again tonight, and I'll be damned if I'm going to allow him to me feel like dirt.
Bill and Tara end up staying longer than the original week they'd planned on, so Tara could be followed up by Dr. Keely. When she goes to see her, the doctor notes there is no progression of the paralysis, and she reduces the dosage of the steroids. Dr. Keely advises Tara to stick around a few days to make sure she's able to tolerate the reduced dosage. If all goes well, the doctor says she'll clear her for her flight home and then follow up with her San Diego personal physician.
When we leave the office, I see Tara's expression is totally blank. "What's wrong?" I ask, but she doesn't reply. I look at Scully and she simply shrugs her shoulders.
We return home and see Mom is in the kitchen making chocolate chip cookies with Matty. It looks like we should be scraping Matty for the dough instead of the bowl though, as there's as much dough on him as there is in the bowl.
I glance around and immediately pick up on something out of place. "Where is he?" I ask coldly.
"He went out for a little bit. I think he needed to escape for a little while," said Mom evenly. I think she was upset with her eldest, but she didn't want to get the baby or Tara, for that matter, upset.
"Where did he go?" asks Tara.
"I'm not sure, Sweetheart. I think he said he was going to visit a friend," Maggie says.
"Oh Christ. He's going to a bar," Tara says anxiously.
"So what?" Scully says. "You act as if he's never been to a bar before, Tara."
"Oh, he's been to a bar before, Dana. Believe me, he's been to a bar before," Tara cries out in anger.
"I don't understand. What's the big deal about him going to a bar?" Mom asks. "He's a navy seaman, Tara. It's not unusual for naval personnel to go to a bar."
"Unusual? No. Deadly for this naval seaman? Yes." Tara's hands begin to noticeably tremble now. I walk over to her and wrap my left arm around her shoulders.
"Tara, when did he join AA?" I ask to the looks of incredulous pairs of eyes. Mom and Dana are dumbfounded at the notion that Bill Scully is an alcoholic, while on the other hand, Tara is amazed I'd figured out her cryptic retort so quickly. "Tara, my dad was an alcoholic with a capital 'A'."
She starts crying now and leans her face into my shoulder. I don't know what else to do for this poor woman, so I hold her and gently rub small circles of comfort around her shoulder. We all just stand there and allow her to cry. There's obviously been trouble in paradise, but neither Bill nor Tara had confessed to it before now.
I gently urge her into the family room and seat her down on the couch next to me. "It's time to get this off your chest, Tara. What happened," I ask. I feel her try to burrow deeper into my shoulder for a moment or two, and then she lifts her head up.
"It happened before Matty. I mean, even before I'd conceived him. We were both getting so frustrated over my not being able to conceive. I think Bill started blaming me, and I started blaming him. We came to find out there were problems with both of us, but at the time we didn't care about specifics. All we cared about was our inability to attain something we both desperately wanted but couldn't get.
"Bill started going out to bars more often when he was home, which of course didn't help our fertility problem. But I guess he figured avoidance helped to make it more of my problem, not his. I started feeling lonely and rejected. I started going out for drinks after school with my co-workers from school. And then it was just one colleague. John.
"We began going out after school more and more, and then we'd meet for lunch or dinner on the weekends. I didn't consider Bill's feelings at the time, because he'd stopped caring about mine. I hardly saw him, and there was a period of time when I was glad. I was almost grateful he wasn't around, and I thought thank God I didn't get pregnant.
"One day, after school, John brought me home after we'd gone out for an early dinner. I thought Bill was out on maneuvers, but he wasn't. In fact he opened the door when he'd heard the car pull out, just in time to see me giving John a rather passionate kiss in the car." Tara startles when she hears Mom gasp, and, as if she suddenly realizes for the first time her mother-in-law is part of her audience, her eyes well up with tears.
"Nothing more intimate than that kiss ever happened between us, Mom. You have to believe me. But Bill saw us and he became so enraged. To make matters worse, he was drunk. It was five thirty in the evening, and he was drunk. Oh God, how that hurt. He couldn't even come home to me sober at five thirty in the evening. I was no saint, I'll admit it, but damn it, neither was he."
"So what happened?" asks Scully. "You obviously worked it our or Matty wouldn't be here."
"Well, your brother is, if nothing else, Dana, a good Catholic. He insisted on going to the priest for counseling. I told him I'd go on one condition," she begins.
"That he go to Alcoholics Anonymous," I interject.
"Yes. And he's been clean for almost three years, but now__," she hesitates. "I don't know if he's strong enough. He feels so helpless again, like when we were trying to have a baby. Now, it's as if he can't help me all over again, and __, and I guess __." She stops. She doesn't know how to voice her thoughts, but I do.
"And I appear as your knight in shining armor, just like John had, all over again. He had a real problem accepting me before; now it's just pure hatred," I say with a slight shudder.
"No, don't let him taint your kindness. Fox, he's been a pigheaded brute about this whole situation, and he has no right to behave so badly towards you. But _," she again hesitates. This time Scully picks up the slack.
"But he's not as strong as he wants to lead us to believe, and you know in your heart he loves you. He's just being an ass," Scully concludes.
For the first time since we got back from the Doctor's, I see Tara smile. Well, kind of smile; it's still lopsided. But at least I know she's gotten something very important off her chest, and in her own way, has asked for help.
"What bar does he usually go to when he comes home for a visit?" I ask.
"Mandy's Pub, on Constitution Avenue. Why?" Mom asks.
"It's time to go pay my future brother-in-law a visit," I say. I stop myself for a second. Did I just say that aloud? Holy shit. Well, if Bill didn't have a good excuse for beating the crap out of me before, he sure does now. I look over at Scully who has this wonderfully shocked expression on her face. I can't resist. I walk over to her and say, "We need to talk, don't we?"
When she nods her head mutely, I lean in and give her a kiss on the lips. Not the most sensuous kiss I've ever given, since her mouth is still frozen agape, but it's fine all the same.
I then look at Mom, who just sits there with this Cheshire grin on her face. Oh, I can hear this woman saying over and over in her head, 'I knew it, I knew it!' I smile at her and let her know she can gloat all she wants as long as it means Dana Scully will be in my life forever.
And then I look at Tara. I walk back over to her and embrace her into my arms gently. "I'll find him and bring him home. Just think what a good mood he'll be in since he'll probably have beaten me to a bloody pulp," I say with a smile. I feel her gasp slightly, and then whisper, "Tara, we'll be fine."
I grab my coat again and leave.
He's sitting at the bar with a glass in his hand. I sit down on the stool next to his and motion for the bartender. "Whatever my friend is having," I say.
Bill doesn't look directly at me; he simply stares straight ahead in the mirror behind the bar and keeps tabs on me through it. I wait for my drink before I say anything. I need to know if I'm talking to someone with half a wit about him. I watch the bartender put the glass in front of me. A clear, carbonated drink with a wedge of lime.
Gin and tonic? I take a sip. I sigh. Club soda with lime. Okay, so now I know I'm speaking with a sober lunatic. This is good, I think.
"The doctor said the paralysis hasn't progressed any further. She lowered the dosage on the steroids and suggested Tara stay for a few more days just to make sure she's adjusting to the lower dosage. Then Dr. Keely said she could go home to San Diego and check in with her personal physician." I sit here, and I hope he gives me some kind of reaction, but he doesn't. Not yet.
"Bill, she needs you. Don't be afraid you can't do enough. Just being there for her is all she needs." He turns to stare at me. Well, I certainly got some kind of reaction. I'm wondering how I can protect my arm again before he starts beating the shit out of me.
"Who the hell are you to tell me what my wife needs?" he hisses at me.
"Bill, it's not just your wife. It's anyone. Any one of us," I reply evenly. When he looks at me questioningly, I elaborate. "Look, you think anyone wouldn't be scared of what's happening to Tara? Hell, she's terrified, that's for sure. Dana was scared, and I know Mom was petrified at first for Tara, you, and Matty. I'll be honest, I wasn't as stunned as the rest of you, because I'd lived with someone who had the condition and recovered from it. I knew from experience this was one situation I didn't need to lose it.
"That's not to say I've never lost it, Bill," I confess almost too easily. He looks at me expectantly.
"When your sister was first missing, all those years ago, I was so devastated. I was so frightened, I didn't know where to go or who to turn to. I couldn't go to your Mom all the time. I mean she was having a difficult enough time dealing with the horror of a missing child as it was. I couldn't go to my mother, because she was already dealing with a missing child; she certainly didn't need the burden of a second.
"I simply immersed myself into my work, and then __." I stop. I wonder how wise it is for me to admit to this. Well, it's all about trust, and I guess if I want it from him, I'm going to have to give him mine, God help me. "Well," I continue tentatively, "when an opportunity presented itself for me to release my burdens, so to speak, I did." I wonder what he's thinking now. I wonder when he's going to start pummeling me.
"I didn't know how I was supposed to feel the next morning, but all I knew was I missed your sister more than ever. I was so scared, and I felt so lonely. I felt helpless, and all I wanted to do was find Scully, but I felt thwarted at every point. I swear, there were times I felt like I was castrated. What kind of a man was I if I couldn't not only protect my partner, but I couldn't find her either?" I stop here. I figure that's enough true confessions on my part. If this was going to go anywhere, it was time for Billy Boy to ante up. I didn't have to wait long, thank goodness.
"I'm an alcoholic." He stops and looks at me and waits for my reaction.
"I know. Tara told me."
''Tara told you a lot of things. She likes you, though I haven't quite figured out why," he says.
"I'll tell you why," I say without hesitation.
"Shit, you are full of yourself, aren't you?" he retorts with sarcasm.
"Oh cut it out. What do you think I'm going to say? She likes me for my looks? For my scintillating personality? For my exciting and adventurous profession?" I see Bill's looking at me rather curiously now. I think he actually wonders what I'm going to say. Well, I'll be damned.
"Bill, she likes me because I listen to her. If there's one thing your sister has taught me how to become in the last six years, it's how to be a good listener. That's all Tara wants right now. She needs someone who is willing to listen to her fears and concerns and applaud the minute achievements that will come along in the near future. She wants to know she doesn't have to do this alone, Bill."
I see he's trying to assimilate everything I've just said to him. I think he understands; I would venture to bet he may even agree with me. Then I suddenly see this dark scowl cross his face, as if he suddenly realizes just _who_ is espousing all of these rational ideas.
He looks at me, and rationality suddenly flies out the window.
"Why the hell are you here, Mulder? You want the shit beaten out of you?" he asks very angrily.
"No. I'm not here because I want the shit beaten out of me."
"So why?" he asks earnestly.
"You really don't know, do you?" I reply in surprise, because it suddenly dawns on me Bill Scully doesn't know.
"Bill, my family essentially deserted me when I was twelve years old. The day my sister disappeared was the day my family, as I knew it, fell apart. When I met your sister, well, to be honest I didn't think I liked her. I wanted to get into her skirts, but I didn't think I could ever like her. Hell, she wasn't even my type. I was into tall, very tall, leggy women with blond hair and dark brown hair and tits out to the here,'' I demonstrate as I hold my hand out about two feet in front of my chest. "But short, petite, red heads with just average boobs were definitely not my type.
"And then she started to speak to me. Not at me. Not about me. To me. And with me. And my God, how she challenged me, and how she kept me on my toes and made me think, and oh how this short, petite, red head with just average sized boobs suddenly became the most beautiful, erotic, sexy, and desirable person I could ever hope to meet.
"I fell in love with your sister Bill because she sees me as a whole person, and expects me to treat her in the same light. I can do no less for her. And when she was abducted __," I choke a little at this point, but I know I've got Bill's attention so I don't want to stop, " and Mom, your mom, supported me and helped me get through it, well, I finally had a family.
"I wasn't sure at the time if anyone else felt the connection; it didn't matter. I felt it, and for the first time in over twenty years I finally felt a part of a family. When Scully was returned to me, to all of us, I knew I could never live my life fully without her, whether it was just in the capacity of being partners or more intimately. It didn't matter at the time. I was just so thankful she was back." I have to pause here, and I take a sip of the club soda.
I look into the mirror and wonder what he's thinking now. I want him to understand how important Scully is to me. How important her entire family is to me, which includes Tara, Matty, and, oh jeezes, Billy Boy himself.
"You went through it again during the cancer, didn't you?" he asks me.
"If you're talking about going through hell again, yes," I whisper in reply. "I couldn't believe they were going to take her away from me, that they had given her the damned cancer to get to me, and there was nothing I could do to save her."
"But you did save her, didn't you?" he asks with a hint of surprise. It's obvious to me he's never really considered the idea, before now, the chip may have actually been the reason behind the spontaneous remission.
Oh boy. This is the same man Tara said insisted on counseling with a priest because of his Catholic faith. Oh boy.
"I'd like to think I had a part in it, Bill." He smiles at this. I guess it was the right answer. I know it's the only answer for me at this point in time.
"I caught her kissing another man," he says. I know this is very hard for him to admit. I also know he probably realizes I'm aware of his wife's little tryst already.
"I know. Tara told us." I see him nod in the mirror. "You know," I continue, "she loves you very much."
"I know. I just don't know if I can give her what she needs,'' he replies soberly.
"She thinks you can," I respond. "Bill, I'm not a threat, you know. Tara would just as soon throw my shoulder aside for yours any day. Trust yourself, and trust her. She'll heal, Bill, but even if she didn't, would that really change how you feel about her?
"God, Bill! Does her outward appearance really have that much bearing how much you love her?" I ask in exasperation. This was the question that's really bothering me.
"No, of course not. It was never her appearance as my feeling of helplessness at being able to do anything about it," he replies. I want to believe him. I think he wants to believe it. And I figure even if he's not being totally honest with me or himself, at least he's trying to see the big picture. She trusts him to be there for her, and it's up to him to come through for her. For their son. Hell, for himself.
"Then let's go home. Your wife needs you," I say.
"I need her," he whispers. Well, I'll be damned. The asshole really is beginning to see the big picture. Okay. Okay. I stand up and wait for him to follow. When he does, I throw a five on the bar and tell the barkeep thanks.
It was time to go home.
I feel Scully snuggle back in for another hit on the snooze alarm. Neither one of us is particularly ready to return to work, but if we want to keep living in the style we've become accustomed to, such as eating, having a roof over our heads, clothes to cover our naked bodies with __. Oh, and such a lovely naked body I have in my arms right at the moment.
Bill, Tara, and Matthew left the day before yesterday. Things aren't perfect between Bill and Tara, but at least they're talking. Bill talked Tara into returning to the priest for some counseling, and Tara talked Bill into going back to the AA meetings on a more consistent basis. They both need a little more support, and since they don't live close enough for 'Dr. Mulder, psychologist supreme' to counsel them all the time, they figure they need to take what they can get.
Tara's still scared. She knows the Bell's Palsy won't be going away right away. In fact, she's read some horror stories on the internet that told of patients who were living with the symptoms for two and more years. But she's a fighter, and she loves her son and her husband, so she'll do what ever she can do to not let her stop her from living her life.
Bill's scared too. He has this real tough time admitting to being fallible. But he loves his wife and son too much to let his pride get in the way of taking care of his family. Oh, the man can still be a pain in the ass, but we survived one another this time. With any luck, we'll continue to do so.
So, now Mom has her house back to herself, and don't let anyone kid you; the woman was absolutely kicking up her heals as we left. It's nice to have family visit, but it's a helluva lot nicer when they go home to their own beds.
Our own bed. Oh God, this feels too good, and I don't want to ever leave it. I pull Scully even closer to me. I feel so warm and content, when I hear my girl begin to mutter sleepily.
"What did you say, Scully?" I ask.
"Oooohhhh" she says as she stretches in my arms, "I was wondering if it was time for our little talk," she says in this innocent, small voice.
Innocent, my ass. The woman knows exactly of what she speaks, and you know what? I'm damned glad she does.
"Yeah, Scully," I agree as I kiss the top of her head and then gently roll her over so she's facing me, "I think it's time for our little talk."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ End of Part 2/2
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