THE ELUSIVE SCENT OF LILACS
MSR, UST, Angst, post-Series
SUMMARY: Rarity does tend to enhance the value of that which is
desired, but withheld.
SPOILERS: Is this still required? If yes, then count them mild
for Young at Heart, The Blessing Way, The Beginning,
Requiem, William, Jump the Shark, The Truth and maybe
others. I can't keep track anymore. :)
DISCLAIMER: No infringement meant on anyone or anything. By the
way, Rochester, New York *is* called "Flower City" and
they host a Lilac Festival each May. Respects to
novelist Truman Capote for Breakfast at Tiffany's and
to poet T.S. Eliot for Portrait of a Lady.
AUTHOR NOTES: At conclusion.
Bookcover by Diana Battis
THE ELUSIVE SCENT OF LILACS (1/1)
Hidalgo J. LaRoya Hospital Memoriale
Coyote Creek, New Mexico
The pale, purple blossoms cluster on curved stalks, their
heart-shaped leaves deep green in color. The flowers look
conspicuous on the small hospital bedside table, but Scully likes
lilacs. She told him that, once, a long time ago.
She is sitting, propped against the pillows. Mulder is beside her,
his right arm looped about her shoulders, his left leg braced against
the floor, anchoring their position. She is limp against him,
tousled head nestled below his chin so that he cannot see her
unresponsive face. Her hands lie in her lap and he ensconces one
within his own. He caresses the back of it with his thumb, noting
tendons and muscles that connect tissue and bone, their purposes laid
waste. He regards the skin and its nerve endings and wonders if they
still allow sensation.
William is standing by the window, watching the traffic move below.
Each day they come, father and son, to spend an hour with the woman
that lies unconscious in the bed. The room is softly lit, adorned
with a scattering of personal belongings. A photograph of Mulder and
Will, as a baby, sits in a frame beside the flowers. It will be the
first thing she sees when, or if, she awakens.
Outside, it's raining: spring rain, light and cool, life-giving. The
freshness of the lilacs fills his senses. They are impossible to
obtain in this arid climate, but he has his ways. Odd. He never can
recall the scent until he experiences it again, and remembers...
It was spring then, too. Even in Rochester, New York. Not that he
didn't like Rochester. He neither liked nor disliked it. Point of
fact, he never paid much attention to their surroundings when they
were working a case, except if the locale was pertinent somehow. On
this particular occasion, it wasn't.
They had tied up the loose ends, dealt with appropriate authority
figures and done the local paperwork. And much as he enjoyed working
with Scully, he was ready and anxious to get home. Buckling his seat
belt, he checked the Taurus' mirrors and prepared to back out of the
parking space outside the police precinct.
"I'd like to see the lilacs," Scully announced without warning in a
voice serene, but definite.
He turned his head, bemused. "Lilacs?"
"It's May, Mulder, and we're in Rochester." Puzzlement. "Flower
City?" More puzzlement. "The lilacs are in bloom at Highland Park.
I'd like to go there."
He pursed his mouth, irked by her distinct, albeit polite, charge.
As educated and emancipated as he might be, Mulder had to admit, if
only to himself, that he rather liked the traditional ways he had
observed among the Navajo. The Nation had modernized, but in many
ways, the ancient ways prevailed. Gender roles were often distinct,
yet the contribution of each individual was respected. The Blessing
Way ceremony had given him a new way of viewing the world -- one more
spiritual than scientific, more connected than discrete. Sure,
Scully had her faith and rituals, too; but they never translated into
the job. It frustrated him.
And now, she wanted to sightee? Okay. The last four days had been
nothing more than grueling work, little sleep and the anticipated
"reward" of an overly long flight home. Fine. They *should* blow
off a little steam. Blowing off steam after a case was fine. Reggie
and he would often down a few or catch a game when business was
concluded. He and Diana... did other things. To date, however, he'd
had no such luck on either score with the enigmatic Dr. Scully.
He trusted her more than he ever thought he would, but their
partnership was still a bit of a Chinese finger puzzle -- the more
Scully maintained her separateness, the harder Mulder tried to engage
her attention. Well, he thought, maybe her request was a sign that
things were changing. Maybe she was warming up to him. But lilacs?
He'd fake a migraine if this turned out to be a Home and Garden show.
Actually, he'd *have* a migraine if this turned out to be a Home and
With a simple, "Where to?," he allowed himself be directed downtown
to a municipal car lot. Scully wouldn't allow them to use their
credentials for free parking, but Mulder garnered a small discount
from the very stubborn attendant.
They headed north through the heart of the business district. It was
ten past noon and reprieved workers flooded the sidewalk in search of
a bite to eat, a friend or lover, or just a break from the day's
routine. Mulder walked at a fast clip, navigating the crowds with
ease. No sense belaboring or prolonging this more than necessary, he
Scully kept pace, close at his elbow. Wind whipped between the
skyscrapers, pushing at their backs. "He was well within his
jurisdiction to charge us full price, Mulder."
"Even if it means a king's ransom for a 10 by 15 slice of asphalt?"
"Whatever happened to your reputation for integrity?"
His surprise made him stop, which turned into a pivot so that he was
walking backwards, his suit jacket rippling behind him, his tie a
brightly colored flag against his white shirt. With two hands, he
pointed to himself. "I've got a reputation for integrity? Since
"Since always, Mulder." Her tone said, 'stop playing dumb.'
He slowed down, flattered by the unsought compliment. Scully matched
stride. "Well, isn't it nice to know that the rumors aren't *all*
about wacko alien hunting, obsessive-compulsive behavior and sexual
prowess." He threw that last one in just to get a reaction. All she
did was chortle and walk past him, leaving him with his mouth open.
The street ended abruptly onto an open intersection. Across the
sunlit boulevard, shaded coolness beckoned as the stone-walled
perimeter of park split open to allow public access. It was larger
than he'd imagined, with one side running the length of Highland
Avenue past seeing. Cheap tee-shirt vendors, street artists and
ramshackle booksellers punctuated the broad, tree-lined sidewalk.
People strolled or roller-bladed past while buses, large and small,
parked curbside to better discharge their cargo of tourists and
As they entered the arboretum proper, a delicate perfume enveloped
them. Fostered by the soft rains of April and the lengthening days
of May, myriad lilac bushes seemed to be everywhere, bursting to
capacity with sprays profound, yearning for sky or hanging heavy
towards earth. Their inimitable fragrance filled his senses, sweet
All at once, he was reminded of Massachusetts and his boyhood.
Lilacs are more common than rare in New England -- lining old roads,
filling stoneware pitchers on kitchen tables, serving as reminder
that baseball was in full swing again. His heart softened at the
Mulder was accustomed to the purple lilac, but here the blossoms grew
in an array of white, pink and lavender, deep purple and false blue.
The cloudless sky above was true blue and the air felt warm on his
face. His senses were attuned to it all. And to Scully.
Like a wildflower among more cultivated blooms, her vibrant color
stood in sharp contrast to the cooler palette around her. She seemed
to delight in the ambience of the place, walking from one shrub to
another, submerging her face into puffy tufts of color to better
breathe in their nearly overpowering redolence. Her cheeks were
ruddy and when she called him over to look at a particularly
beautiful plant, he noted that her eyes matched the sky above.
They wandered idly for an hour before pausing to rest on a wrought
iron bench. Mulder purchased lemon ices from a bicycle vendor, so
fresh they still had pits. Squirrels cavorted up and down the
budding trees and more than a few loving couples were sprawled on
blankets in the sunlit meadow enjoying the spell of spring.
He found himself wishing he were there among with them, without
expenses to justify, without criminals to chase down, without truths
to be sought. With Scully. The image was a pleasant one and he
loitered there in his mind's eye, allowing himself to be lulled,
however brief, by the warmth of the sun, the aroma of the lilacs and
the comforting presence of the woman sitting beside him.
"So," he said at last. "Are you going to tell me?
"About?" she responded without looking at him, then wrapping her lips
around the cold sour sweetness filling a paper squeezee cup. For a
moment he was distracted, but delighted, in watching his staid
partner enjoying herself so thoroughly. When her gaze met his, he
ably recovered by taking a long slurp of his own tangy delight. "I
would have thought you were a rose kind of girl, Scully."
She gave him a small smile, eyes squinting in the sunlight. "Roses
are beautiful, romantic, common."
"Common?" Raised eyebrows accompanied his amused surprise.
"Insofar that you can get them at any florist at any time of year --
"Ahhh," he affirmed with a nod. "And lilacs?"
"Only bloom for a few weeks each year and then they're gone. I never
saw them in California, but we had them in Maryland. I adored the
way they smelled. Missy used to wear lilac perfume, but it wasn't
the same." At the mention of her sister, she grew quiet.
"At least," he said, "You have those memories."
"Memories are *all* we seem to have."
Sentiment resonated in her voice. Once again, he chided himself for
his perceived part in her losses and his inability to make them up to
her in any real way. When she turned to look him, her eyes were dry,
yet he longed to ease the sadness he found there. Reaching out a
hand, he touched her arm.
She looked away from him and leaned forward. "Maybe that's why I
like lilacs. They remind me of her; of the preciousness of life; of
the fleeting nature of every day things; how we should never take
anything for granted, but appreciate the moments of beauty in our
lives as they occur." She paused, then added in a positive tone,
"Like this, today." Her mood was bright again and he wondered how
she kept it all in balance.
"Y'know, I thought you were going to drag me to some frou-frou Ladies
"Heaven forbid." Her mocking tone was accompanied by a small smile.
"Actually, I was picturing little old ladies in purple berets selling
corsages, knick-knacks and homemade jam." She cast him a sideways
glance. "But, this. This -- is -- nice." He sat back, setting out
to finish the icy treat melting in his hand.
"And all the more special because it doesn't happen every day."
"So," he began in a lazy drawl. "You're saying you'd rather have a
singular experience in your life, even if it's infrequent, versus
something more readily had, but less -- satisfying?"
She leaned back at that and looked at him. In the calm, cool,
collected voice he knew so well she said, "Rarity does tend to
enhance the value of that which is desired, but withheld."
His internal radar blipped. He might be the master of
double-entendre, but Scully was the master, or mistress, of the
nonchalant but not-so-innocent statement. His competitive nature and
his hormones were piqued. If philosophical banter was what the lady
wanted, banter was what she'd get. "Withheld?" he queried in a low
"Always?" he persisted, as a point of logic clarification.
"For now," she answered.
Whoa. That was not the answer he was expecting. Was this Dana
Scully flirting? With him? Adrenaline filtered through his system,
infusing him with libidinous warmth. Maybe it was the time of year,
or the sweetness in the air, or the way Scully's mouth made love to a
bit of sugar and ice; but Mulder found himself contemplating very
indecorous thoughts about his very pretty partner.
"In other words," he said with slow deliberation, "Delayed
gratification has its advantages."
"Uh-huh," she cooed before leaning in. He went still. Her eyes held
his and he found it difficult to breathe. She cocked her head and
glanced down at his mouth, which had parted slightly. He leaned in a
tiny bit... then felt something dabbing at his lower lip. Reaching
up, he found a paper serviette being tucked into it.
"Except with things that melt," she stated, then pulled away. She
pitched her empty cup into the mesh basket beside the bench then
leaned forward, gripping the rounded edge. "Don't you think?"
Mulder didn't *know* what to think after that. However, with a
coolness that belied itself, he leaned sideways and murmured into her
ear, "Melting has its own rewards."
Then he stood, adding his trash to hers. Confident she would follow,
he started back down the path towards the car, content for the moment
that *whatever* was emerging between Scully and himself, it would
happen on its own timetable. Well, he could wait. He was very good
Too good at waiting... waiting... waiting...
Full consciousness informs reverie with the soft but insistent beep
of his wristwatch. Half-closed eyes pry open and he finds his face
nuzzled into the top of Scully's head. The arm supporting her has
gone numb, but he doesn't move. For a few precious seconds he can
pretend that she is as she was: strong, independent, loving. His
eyes moisten but he has no tears left to give.
Soon, they'll leave. Will needs dinner and homework time. Mulder
eases down the gaunt body in his arms against the pillows. He
smoothes her hair, red intermingled with streaks of gray, now grown
past her shoulders. He straightens the bedclothes. Pressing his
lips softly against hers he whispers, "I love you."
Standing up, he inhales through his mouth and exhales with some force
as he composes himself. He looks over to the boy who has turned
towards him. "Come say good night to your mother, Will."
Once again, he is struck by the contradictory features of his son's
appearance. William is tall and wiry, thinner than the other boys
his age, with skin baked brown by the desert sun. The carrot top
curls he possessed as a toddler have gone brown, but his eyes still
reveal his connection to the sleeping figure. They are clear and
blue and too somber for a nine-year-old. Saying nothing, he moves to
stand on the opposite side of the bed.
Leaning over the unconscious form, he murmurs, "G'night, Mom," before
kissing her cheek with a sweetness only a boy can offer. Scully's
auburn lashes are still against pale skin. He straightens and
studies the steady rise and fall of the soft blanket covering her,
then lifts his eyes to the machines and monitors that engulf the head
of the bed.
Mulder watches them both. He observes his son's face, overwritten
with compassion, anger and fear. There isn't much he can do to help
but listen whenever Will feels like talking. He observes his wife's
face, too -- so reposed, so serene, so death-like. A shudder grips
him with an involuntary start.
"Dad?" Will's attention has shifted to him. He hears the worry in
"S'ok." It isn't true, but it suffices.
They move to the doorway together, the tall man's arm encircling the
boy's shoulders. Will leans his head against his father's side as
they pause at the entry and turn back once last time. Mulder
considers the tubes and wires overshadowing the figure on the bed
that has already begun to pull itself into a fetal position. Five
years have come and gone since that fateful day so long ago when Life
as they knew it again changed forever...
After all that they had seen and done, it wasn't alien invasion that
took her from him or a quest for some hollow personal cause. Soon
after their narrow escape from Mount Weather, they resolved to
recover William. Once again, it was the Navajo that assisted them.
With no more than an impassioned note to the Van de Kamps, begging
understanding and compassion, they recovered Will by stealth. Their
refuge was a remote pueblo with the family of Albert Hosteen. There,
they resigned themselves to a life cut off from the world as they
knew it, living in obscurity, sheltered by The People. They were
both protected witnesses and fugitives, an ironic twist of fate
befitting the winding path their life together had known from the
It didn't matter to Mulder in the least. He knew how local law
enforcement *and* the Bureau operated. They stayed well below the
official sensors and far beyond their reach. What mattered was that
they were together -- a family, at last. He would raise his child,
love his wife and honor his protectors for as long as he was able.
Even the haunting knowledge of the final invasion date could not
deter him. They would deal with whatever came along. They always
For a time, they knew something of happiness. But Destiny is a
sedulous tracker and, without warning, Scully was robbed of sentience
by a stray bullet fired in the course of a brash food co-op robbery.
The shooter was apprehended and sent to jail for his crimes, but his
physical detention was nothing compared to the prison Scully endures,
banished to a shadowed land of... what?
Unable to reveal their true identities, Mulder's precautions in
protecting their cover made timely and adequate medical assistance a
dangerous luxury. Scully was placed on life support in a rural New
Mexico hospital without expectation for recovery.
The sum total of the Mulder Family assets, converted to bearer bonds,
had been well-managed under the guidance of John Byers. Money
remained accessible through an anonymous trustee of the estate of one
Emily Luder, an aspect of Frohike's concealment plan. Langley
procured the necessary documentation for the lives of Mr. and Mrs.
George Hale, just in case. It was a complex fail-safe plan devised
after Mulder's resurrection and one they hoped would never be put
The Weather Mountain trial changed everything. From beyond the
grave, it was the Gunmen's friendship and foresight that enabled
Mulder and Scully to "disappear." And it was the Gunmen's shrewd
planning that allowed Mulder to secure a measure of decent care for
Scully without significant risk of exposure or capture. His
gratitude would forever be theirs, but it was a Phyrric victory, at
Scully's heart continues to beat with a strength the doctors never
counted on. Her brain activity is flat, except for inexplicable
Alpha rhythms that spike at regular intervals, but which the doctors
cannot begin to explain. She isn't dead, but she's hardly living.
And so, five years have passed. Five seasons of lilacs. A hundred
readings of Breakfast at Tiffany's. A thousand kisses on her brow...
"Mr. Hale?" Mulder shifts his gaze at the sound of his alias to meet
the wise eyes of Scully's doctor. The man's broad shoulders fill a
rumpled lab coat, a stethoscope slung around his neck. He is a bear
of a man, but with a handsome, kindly countenance that reflects his
"Hey, Doc." Mulder turns to his son. "Say 'hello' to Dr. Naanji,
"Hullo," the boy murmurs, leaning closer into his dad.
The doctor smiles, but gravity lingers in his dark eyes. "I have the
latest scan results."
"No change," Mulder pronounces, saving the man the sad task of
sharing unhappy news. Naanji nods.
"Okay, son. We're going," he says without moving.
"Your wife is lucky to have two people who love her so much," the
"For all the good it does her." His tone is harsher than he intends,
but he aches within and anger makes him stronger.
Naanji is non-judgmental. "I like to think she knows when you and
your son are here."
"I wonder, sometimes." He looks at the slumbering figure, anger
awash in a wave of fatigue and disappointment. "I hope so."
"There are breakthroughs every day. Just recently, a man awoke from
a coma after 19 years. It happens."
"Da-aad, I'm hungry." A hand tugs at his sleeve.
"In a minute, son," he soothes, looking down into Will's blue eyes.
They are so like his mother's.
Naanji places a comforting hand on Mulder's shoulder. "Get some
rest. We'll take good care of her." The night nurse enters and
begins her routine. It's time to go.
Father and son move with silence down the corridor. Mulder presses
the button for the elevator, then glances back towards the room where
his wife lay in repose. The doctor is speaking with the nurse about
something on Scully's chart.
The elevator doors open and Will rushes in, eager as always to be the
one who presses the button marked 'Lobby.' The doors slide closed.
Red digital numbers glow in their display, noting their descent.
Will watches with a fascination found only in children while he
scratches at a bug bite on his arm with earnestness. Before reaching
bottom, he turns his head and looks up at Mulder.
"Can we get hamburgers tonight?"
"Whatever you want, son."
At that, Will does a little jig accompanied by a vehement, "Yess!"
then returns his attention to the readout above the door. Mulder
sighs to himself, but he's relieved at the boy's good spirits. The
quiet time spent with his mother is already being cataloged into the
protected place of his son's young heart. His own is long past such
Beside the car, Mulder looks up to note the window of the room where
he knows she rests. Tomorrow he'll bring some shears and trim her
hair. Making certain his son is buckled in the back seat, he takes
them out of the hospital lot and into evening traffic. The drab
afternoon is growing lighter as clouds give way to open patches of
sky. Mulder is unaware.
They get their take-out dinner and head home. There, Will devours
two cheeseburgers, a large bag of fries and a full-sized chocolate
milkshake. His appetite is growing daily, as is he. He's funny and
smart and awkward as all get-out. His mother would have doted on
Mulder feeds the fish and watches television news. Will does
homework at the kitchen table and Mulder reviews it. They study
history together. Will takes a shower and gets ready for bed.
Mulder stops by his room and finds him sitting atop the blanket, the
same one he kept on his sofa when he lived in Virginia -- a lifetime
ago. He sits at the bottom of the bed.
"You okay, buddy?"
"I guess." The room is dark but for the light that spills across the
covers from the hallway. Together, they sit without words while
Mulder waits for Will to decide if he wants to share.
"Kai says I can't go to Shiprock for the fair. He says I'm not
"And I *know* the dances, Dad. I know the prayers, too -- better
"I know, Will. It's just too risky."
"It's not fair! I can't go *anywhere.*"
"You will. One day."
"Can't I just go along? I can stay with Eric the whole time."
Mulder weighs the risk of William being noticed against his son's
need to grow up. Albert Hosteen's nephew, Eric, has been there for
them from the beginning. He would never endanger the boy. "We'll
see. I'll talk to Eric about it."
"Good." Will's pleasure is evident.
"I *said* we'll see."
A pause, then, "Dad?"
"Do you think it's true? What Dr. Naanji said?" He pronounces the
name with greater accuracy than Mulder ever has.
The man's brow wrinkles, trying to discern which particular piece of
information has been noted for future reference. He's always been
honest with the boy, but he isn't sure he wants to deal with
questions about MRI's right now. "Will--" he begins.
"I think she *does* know when we're there," the boy says with soft
certainty. Mulder nods his agreement, then stands.
"Sleep now," he tells the boy before bending to ruffle his hair and
kiss his forehead.
He's at the door when he hears, "Dad?"
"I hope she wakes up soon."
"'Night, Dad. I love you."
"Love you, too, buddy."
Mulder closes the door and wanders out to the backyard. The sky has
cleared and the stars are out, painting the heavens with milky light.
His thoughts, as always, return to Scully. "Now that lilacs are in
bloom//She has a bowl of lilacs in her room." Portrait of a Lady.
Yes. Why Eliot? Why not? The wasteland existed, especially in his
own broken heart. He imagines his lady in her lonely bed, knowing
his will be just as solitary.
So much technology, so little they can do. He wonders if she knows
where she is. He wonders if he will ever hear her voice again. He
wonders what goes through her mind in the long, unspeakable hours of
unconsciousness. He wonders if she dreams and what they are about.
Most of all, he wonders if she can smell the lilacs.
THE ELUSIVE SCENT OF LILACS (1/1)
AUTHOR'S NOTES REDUX: It does seem like forever, but really... it's
only been a year or so. At any rate, I'm delighted that the muse has
decided to play again. I do hope she stays a while to help me finish
a few other lollygagging stories. My heartfelt thanks also goes to
an incredible bunch of talented women (in alphabetical order, just
like in the movies): Diana Battis, Cameo, Forte, Mish, mountainphile
and Audrey Roget for advice, encouragement and *patience, patience,
patience* through this story's multiple incarnations. Only now do I
realize the muse's purpose in having me wait. I hate it when she
proves she's smarter than me. ;) Keep the faith, fellow philes.
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