"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 32 of 45

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Sep 9, 2020, 4:26:22 PM9/9/20
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"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 32 of 45
E-mail: mrke...@eclipse.net, mrkel...@gmail.com
PG-13 X-File: Myth-arc Disclaimed in Part I
Already sent to Gossamer
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142 Curie Avenue
University City
San Diego, CA
Saturday, June 20, 1998
9:47 pm

The Taurus silent in front of his sister's house, Fox Mulder gripped the steering wheel. "Scully, I don't like the thought of you being out here in this car alone."

She tucked her chin. "Mulder, I'd just be intruding. You and Sandra need to work this out for yourselves. You're family."

He eyed her helplessly. They had been debating this for the entirety of the short trip here.

They turned, in surprise, at a tap on the passenger door window. Sandra's lips were stretched into a one-sided grin. "You called, Fox. I knew you were coming." She opened the door. "Dana, I agree with my brother. Come inside. He and I can speak upstairs in my office while Salazar and Tugs keep you entertained. I have string toys for you to try out on them."

Mulder clucked happily as he rounded the Taurus. "Two against one, Doctor." Nearly hopping with delight, he followed the women up the walk.

Scully was gazing up at Sandra. "Honestly, I'd rather enjoy your garden one last time, but if I tried to sit outside under lights, I'd never hear the end of it." She tossed the tease to the man behind her.

Sandra dropped an arm around her shoulders. "Actually, I'd like to speak with you first, if I may." They were at the door. "Watch for the felines."

"Sheah." Mulder snorted. "Four legs good, two legs bad."

"Salazar!" Sandra was waving him inward as the round ginger face nosed out the door. "We have guests! Go back! Go back!"

The auburn-haired pathologist leaned over, her hand extended. "You adorable little man, you." She was stroking the M without touching the round-tipped ears.

The ginger tabby's rear lowered to the wood as he arched his head, blinking happily.

Sandra snatched up Tuggles, who was marching back and forth in front of the three, his oyster tail waving proudly.

Mulder bent over his partner as the door closed behind them. "Try that on me Scully, and-"

She had the British Shorthair under her right arm. "You'll do all the vehicle requisitions for the rest of the year?"

Sandra pointed up at the second floor. "Girl talk, Fox. Run away, now, while your manliness is intact."

He held up both hands, then bounded up the stairs. "Where's your computer? That'll keep me amused." He waited on the upper landing.

She beamed at Scully, who was settling into the sofa, while still clutching the red tabby. "My Linux box is in the office, last door on your left. The password's 'reynolds' in all lower case."

"Sheash. Way too many brains in this family." He was grinning as he spun.

Sandra claimed the armchair before releasing Tuggles, who joined Salazar, now on the floor, in a thorough inspection of Scully's pant legs, their two noses twitching as they sniffed the hems and seams. "They'll be at this for a while. You two are completely new to them."

Scully was beaming at the felines winding around her ankles. "One of Ahab's sisters has cats. I was the only one who liked to visit her because of them, but they're fascinating." She touched the tip of one white ear with an index finger, then looked over at Sandra. "You wanted to discuss Mulder?"

The professor pulled her chestnut hair back behind her shoulders with one hand. "Dana, please, give me your honest assessment of my brother. I trust your opinion."

The diminutive agent took in a long breath. "On the bad side? Some people would call him Byronic, melancholic. But, he thinks and feels so deeply, he just seems that way. However, on the good side - "

Sandra's dark brows drew together. "I have to know. Do you trust him?"

Scully's smile faded into sincerity as she heard the softest of shuffles down the stairs. {Couldn't stay away, could you, G-man? Well, listen to this.} "With my life, Sandra. On the good side, we have an honest, open exchange of intellects such as I have had with no other human being. We argue about our cases because we have different perspectives, but, it's always been with respect for the other person, and the other person's views. That's rare, especially with men, as you know."

The chestnut-haired professor found herself nodding. "Yeah, I know the types you mean. Tell them the sky is blue, using Rayleigh scattering to explain why. In response, they'll run to the closest window to point out a little haze at one location on the horizon, before they proclaim you completely wrong. Then they'll stalk off, their chests stuck out like they had bagged an alpha lion, just for putting the smart broad, in their minds, back in her place."

Scully held up her palm. "Also, most men consider women's bodies disgusting and dirty, except for their sexual use. Your brother isn't like that." She blew out a frustrated breath as she shook her auburn curls. "I don't mean anything untoward here about the nature of our partnership. He's always been a thoroughgoing gentleman with me at all times, courteous, considerate, protective almost to a fault, while appreciating my independence and self-sufficiency. I trust him completely, both professionally and personally." She paused at the quick intake of breath she heard from the stairwell. {Do you understand I've forgiven you for the parking garage, Mulder?} "What I mean is this, Sandra, I had a hysterectomy a little over two years ago, from injuries suffered on a case. In the past couple of months I went into early menopause. None of that phased Mulder. He was as staunch an advocate with my physicians as anyone could want while I worked through hormone therapy. Most men couldn't handle anything like that, even some spouses. Most importantly, he's been my tireless champion at the Bureau. I can't express my gratitude for his efforts to land me a promotion to Section Head, joint with him." The nearly inaudible rustle on the stairs told her the message had been received.

"But, when we spoke before, you said he had been violent with you once. What was that about?"

Scully tucked her chin. "It came at the end of a case into drug companies using the homeless, all unawares, as test subjects, Sandra. It's not our usual thing, but, we were directed to take it on. We went undercover as homeless ourselves. We were on the streets in November and December. I've never been so cold, even when we've been on cases in the Arctic. There, you expect the weather to be bad, and you prepare for it. But, on the streets of DC, it's worse knowing you're sitting outside an empty heated building in the dark. At the end, we exposed the operation, but not before both of us were injured, Mulder with broken ribs. The Smoker was waiting when we returned home and tried to provoke him. I had to intervene, but he was still angry." She smiled down at Tuggles, who had jumped onto the sofa to sniff her sling. "We worked it out."

The chestnut-haired woman nodded. "Okay. But Jerry told me you argued. Because of me."

The auburn-haired agent sighed. "Sandra, I appreciate your concern. I really do. But, these are the wrong questions to be asking."

The professor was on her feet. "Then, what questions should I be asking, Dana?"

Scully stroked the white tail before she looked up. "Who wants to keep you two apart, and why."

Sandra crossed her arms. "Don't give me conspiracies, Dana. I won't hear it."

After carefully checking around her feet for the round ginger body, the agent rose. "I'm not. I'm giving you truth. When you were taken away as a child, Mulder was treated with operant conditioning by your Father and the Organization so he wouldn't be able to contact you, should he ever find where you are." Her voice grew soft. "Now, you two, you were just children. What harm could either of you do? We were fed information by untrustworthy sources about three years ago that you were taken to make your Father cooperative. But, he was aware of Mulder's conditioning, in fact, as horrible as it is to contemplate, he participated." She stood under Sandra's nose. "I can only conclude one of two things. Either you two saw something as children that you could only understand by working through your memories together, or, if you finally did come together as adults, combining your magnificent intellects, you could do real damage to the Organization."

"But why not just kill us, Dana?" Her hazel eyes hardened. "That would have ended all their problems, wouldn't it?"

Scully's green-blue gaze turned toward the stairs, where she could just see the black tips of her partner's leather dress shoes sticking out past the stairway wall. "Mulder, you might as well come out. I know you've been listening to everything we've been saying."

He shuffled down to the lower landing, sending his partner depthless gratitude in a single glance before turning to his sister. "That's a question we've asked each other multiple times, Scully and I. It would have been easier. But, we've had advocates over the years, Sandra, one in a man who is no longer alive." He touched his sister's back. "He watched me for years, and he took care of you after the Silverbergs were killed."

Scully nodded. "The Smoker may also have had hopes of recruiting one or both of you into the Organization when you became adults."

Sandra turned to her brother. "How?"

His eyes dancing over her face, he stroked her hair. "How what?"

She drew in a shuddering breath. "How have you lived with this all these years, Fox?"

He drew her into his arms, shushing her gently as he rubbed circles on her back. "I had to find you. I had to stay alive long enough to find you. That was all that mattered. For ages." He choked back a sob. "But, I have found you." The hazel canted toward his partner. "With Scully's help. With the help of our Mom and her Mom and Max and so many other people." His grip tightened. "I've found you. I'm not going to lose you again."

Sandra tucked her face against his neck, letting her hair trail over his shoulders as she hugged him in return. "So, what will you do now?"

He stepped back, taking her cheeks between his hands. "Expose the people who took you, who took so many other people who were never found. Seek the truth, whatever it is." He glanced toward the auburn-haired pathologist. "With Scully. With you, if you want to."

She sighed. "I have a life, Fox. I worked hard to get where I am."

He enclosed her in his arms again. "I couldn't be prouder of you, Samndra." His palm moved up and down on her spine. "You have friends who will help keep you safe and sane even if we're on opposite sides of the continent, or the planet. So, I don't have to worry about you." Releasing her, he took a step back. "Quite so much."

Sandra nodded. "Okay." She drew in a deep breath. "Thanks for telling me all this. I need to think, to read, and to work this through. How long are you staying?"

He stared down at black leather before he raised his gaze to hers. "We need to head back to DC tomorrow, Sandie."

The chestnut waves dropped over her face before she flung them back over her shoulders. "At least, we can have dinner together, the three of us?"

Scully smiled at both of them. "Or, just you two. Drop me back at the hotel and I'll be fine."

"No!" Brother and sister responded simultaneously.

Mulder curled his fingers around his partner's waist. "Don't think you're getting rid of us that easily tonight, Doctor."

She arched both brows. "Okay." She tucked her auburn hair behind her ear as she looked over at the professor. "Know any good vegan restaurants?"

Sandra sent her a flash of a grin. "More than you think." She bent to scrub the heads of the two felines. "Be good, Boys, Mom will be back before your second nap." After the three exited, she locked the door, then they headed down to the Taurus.

As they walked, Scully looked up at the chestnut-haired professor. "So, these papers for NSF you're working so hard on, how's that going?"

After a glance over her shoulder, Sandra chuckled at her brother's frown. "You're doing this on purpose, aren't you, Dana?"

Mulder growled playfully as he unlocked the Ford, but he was unable to hide his crooked smile. Being able to spend an uncomplicated evening in the company of his sister and his partner would be more than sufficient compensation for the incomprehensible conversations he knew he would be listening through. He would survive.

--o-0-o--

142 Curie Avenue
University City
San Diego, CA
Sunday, June 21, 1998
9:47 am

Sandra Miller frowned down at the notes spread across her small dining room table. She had outlined all three papers, assembled preliminary figures and references, ending by drawing up the main conclusions of each publication. What remained now was putting words to the text. She had been up since before sunrise on this Mid-Summer's day. Now, she needed a break.

Salazar and Tuggles had settled on the couch after breakfast, both waking occasionally to check her as she worked. Salazar was content to send her a few thumps of his ringed red tail, but the trickster in Tuggles needed more interaction. After vaulting into the center of the papers from the floor, he would let loose with three loud yowls, finishing with an attempt to roll around on her keyboard. He was slinking toward her for a repeat performance, when there were three raps on the front door.

"Sandie?" Jerry Donato peered in through the screen while he waggled his key gleefully. The tinkling set the white cat scurrying back to the cushions.

Barefoot, she padded over as it opened, then closed, behind the black-haired detective. "Jerry!" She hauled him closer with one hand, then, wearing a huge grin, wrapped him in a bear-hug.

A puff of a grunt escaped him, then he embraced her in return. "Hello!" He found himself smiling just as broadly. "So, how was last night?"

She danced in half-circles as they walked back to the table. "I have never been squeezed so much in my life." She leaned toward him. "I had to pass a few along."

He placed both hands on her waist to still her restless motion. "Well, it had been twenty-five years. I know what I would do if you'd been gone that long."

She slipped very close to him, her eyes sparking. "Well, what would you do, Jerry Donato? What would you do on this Day of Days? On Litha?"

A thousand forbidden thoughts ran through his head. "Sandie, I-" He let out a long breath.

Her tapered fingers were stroking his mustache. "What?"

Jerry found it very hard not to give in to what she seemed to be asking, so forced himself to focus on a query. "What do you normally do to commemorate the Solstice?" The words ended with a squeak.

Her not-quite-full lips curved up her left cheek. "Oh, I don't follow any particular rite. I've assembled my own rituals for my purposes. That's part of the faith-search. So?" She waited expectantly, bent until her nose nearly touched his.

He took her left hand, holding the calloused flesh against his lips while he kissed it silently, then repeated the actions on her right, before pressing the palms together between his own. "I have Mid-Summer's day off, for once, and you, Professor Miller, have been up working since the sky was utterly black, I'm sure. I would inquire whether you be willing to take a few hours away from the storied halls of academe to accompany this simple detective for a long walk down by the Marina, where you tell me all about this dinner with your brother, and we share an evening meal on the beach. Then, we come back here to provide aid and comfort to the Masters of the House, who must be attended in the manner to which they are accustomed. Hum?"

Offering him her throatiest chuckle, she tossed her head. "What else are Mid-Summer days for?" She bounded upstairs for her shoes.

Once she was ready, the door closed, the tumblers shifted, then the irregular thuds of their footsteps fell away into silence. When all was stillness, the Lords of the Manor each popped open an eye, lazily washed an ear with a paw, then curled around each other on the cushions, before blinking themselves back to sleep.

--o-0-o--

End – Chermera – Living in Harmony

End – Chermera – Part 32 of 45
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