DISCLAIMER: Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, FOX, and a whole bunch of others I can't remember are the owners of said characters. I'm just playing in their sandbox and making no money from it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I think this is pretty angsty, so if you're depressed or sad or otherwise not in the best mental space, I would strongly suggest skipping this story. Despite the S/R pairing, this is more about the relationship falling apart than anything else, since I sometimes have a hard time believing in a happily-ever-after for these two women. Most of my really angsty stories seem to center on these two, now that I think about it. Hmm. It ends on a positive note, but just barely. It's mainly just me experimenting with form and voice as a way of getting into a character's head.
SPOILERS: the finale, for sure … probably vague ones for most of seasons 8 & 9.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Letting Go
By ocean gazer


You sit on the couch, feet perched on the edge of the coffee table, a big mug of cocoa in your hand. Though it's well past sunset, you've got the curtains open. Not that there's any danger of anyone seeing in to watch you through the window. The only illumination in the living room comes from the flickering of the fire burning on the hearth. It's actually lighter outside. The sky is grey with snow, the flakes falling in a steady stream, the clouds low and heavy with more moisture.

If you were feeling poetic, you'd say it was a mirror of your heart.

Not that the comparison is really all that accurate. You still have more tears inside that have not yet found their way to the surface. But you've pretty much cried yourself out over the last few days. You've finally given yourself over to the tempest of your sorrow, gone through the worst of the storm, and made your way to safer, more stable ground. At least as stable as you can find right now. Still, it's enough for you to grab hold of a lifeline of sorts – your customary optimism, your relentless faith in the future.

You take a healthy swallow of the cocoa, and catch the strong flavor of the Baileys you spiked it with. You find yourself half-cocking your ear to listen for the rustle of Dana moving through the house. When you catch the motion, you shake your head at yourself. Dana's at her mom's again, spending the night. It's been a pattern for the last four months or so. She spends every third or fourth night there, and she insists it's because her mom is older now, frailer, and doesn't like to be alone. Which is certainly true enough. But you know that's not entirely the reason. She goes there to get away from you – to be able to sit in front of her laptop or wait by her cell phone for hours on end, hoping to get a quick note or call from Mulder.

It's been more than a year since she left him and the desert behind, ostensibly to make her life with you. And you know that when she came back, she honestly thought that was what she wanted. That she wanted your stability, your kindness, your solidity, your quietness. But he's still out there, keeping in touch as he can between adventures, excitable and passionate, drawing her in to his latest quests. And she still loves him, and a part of her is still hoping to find a happy future with him, once he can come out of exile and step back into his old life, their old life.

Not that she's told you any of this in so many words. You pieced some of it together from odd little habits and semi-cryptic comments. And then, one day, you confronted her about it – watched her break down and cry for almost the first time since you've known her. You're enough of an empath to know that her pain and confusion were real … are real. She loves you both and wants you both in her life. You know that without doubt. Both of you bring out different things in her, nurture different sides of her.

But still, she's sneaking away to her mom's, where you can't pop in and catch her waiting, where your very presence isn't a painful reminder of her rock and hard place dilemma. Her mom calls you every couple of weeks. She's worried sick about her daughter, about her obsession with her "troublesome" ex-partner – which is why you have such a clear picture of what she's doing. Not that you couldn't have guessed anyhow.

You put down your mug and curl your feet under you on the couch, your gaze straying to the window again. You let your face twist into a half-smile, half-grimace at the memory of all those calls from Mrs. Scully. She's been almost frantic and all you can do is tell her that everything will be ok. You've never made a habit of lying to people, but what else can you possibly say? Your whole world is rocking on its foundations – leaving you doubting all of your normally reliable instincts, vulnerable to the insidious and negative whispers of your over-active imagination. You have no idea if anything will be ok – not for you, not for Dana, not for Mulder.

But you can't say that to the woman who counts you as her daughter-in-law; you can't shove your fears and worries in her face. She has enough of her own. Instead, you offer her what consolation you can, tell her that Dana just has some things she has to work through. Diplomacy … understatement … call it what you will, it's all the same thing. But it's true enough, even if it doesn't quite paint the whole picture.

A crackle from the fireplace pulls your eyes away from the falling snow to concentrate on the sparkle and dance of the flames. You reach out and snag the afghan from the back of the couch, smoothing it over your lap, tucking it around toes that are cold even through your wool socks. You lean forward, bending, your fingers barely able to reach the handle of your mug. You pick it up and take another hearty swallow of the cocoa, noting that the drink itself is starting to get cold, but also noting the way the Baileys still warms you as it slides down your throat. The symbolism of seeking warmth in the cold is not lost on you.

Carefully, you set the mug back down on the coffee table, cautious neither to jostle it and spill the last half of the contents, nor to crack the mug against the table edge. When you realize how careful you're being, you almost manage a smile. Seems like a fitting analogy for your life right now. You feel like you're walking on very thin ice, trying to keep it from shattering.

You probably should be angry, furious – breaking things, screaming at Dana for letting a wall stand between you, cursing at Mulder for still being in the picture, yelling at the top of your lungs about how unfair it all is. You probably should be eagerly casting blame and deliberately holding on to resentment. You probably should be embracing a sense of bitterness about everything in the past few years that has taken your lover away from you. Or maybe you should be going another route – drowning your sorrows in far more alcohol than spiked cocoa, or getting your revenge by cheating on Dana to see if you can hurt her.

But you can't do any of that. It's not you.

Are you frustrated? Yes. You're frustrated by the silences and the distance between you, by the way you seem to be the only one making an effort to salvage things.

Are you hurt? Yes. It hurts to know that the one thing you want most in this world – Dana – is the one thing outside of your control to have. You can yearn for her as much as you want. But that doesn't mean that – Mulder or no Mulder – you can have her.

And do you feel like it's all unfair? Of course. But then again, no one ever said that life is fair. There will always be things that you want that you cannot have – because you cannot control other people, cannot control outside circumstances. All you can control is your own responses, your own reactions, your own behavior.

You watch the fire dance on the burned-down logs, feeling as though it's soothing something deep inside of you. Not that anything can mend the hurt overnight … you know better than that. Feelings that run so deep take a long time to heal. But you can try – consciously try – to stop focusing on your pain obsessively. You have to try and accept that for all intents and purposes, Dana may well be lost to you. And that it really has nothing to do with Mulder.

It would be easy, oh so easy, to blame it all on him. But the distance between you would still exist, even if the ghost of his presence didn't haunt her life. It just wouldn't be as obvious. She wouldn't have him to overtly devote energy to; instead she'd covertly devote her energy to books and movies and other distractions.

You have to steel yourself for the probability that your relationship is over. She hasn't actually said that to you, or made any definite moves to end things. And you can tell that there's a part of her that really doesn't want it to end. But for your own sanity, your own ability to work through things, you have to prepare yourself for the worst. All that you can do is what you've already done – make your own wants known, do your part to work on your unhelpful behavior patterns and make things right between you … and then try to let go.

Not that it's nearly that easy. You stare hard at a finger of flame, half-laughing at how easy it is to say you'll let go, how hard it is to actually do it. Maybe it's just you, because you think too much. But letting go isn't as simple as taking a single photograph, just pressing down on a button and instantly recording an image. It's a daily journey, a daily process of conscious choice. For you, it's like creating a painting – going from blank canvas to finished artwork only after days of continual brushstrokes, after conscious focus on the details. It may not seem like much, but it does take work. Then again, it's really all you can do now. It's what you have to do now.

You're no wide-eyed little girl. You've been around the block enough to know how this works, to know the next moves are up to her. If you try to force things, you'll only make them worse. Whatever happens, it has to be her choice. You'll try to be supportive and patient through it all – you can't really imagine being anything else. Oh sure, you could go the bitchy route, the angry route. It might make things easier on you in the short-term. But in the long-term, it will simply leave you washed out and bitter, leave you stuck in the past instead of letting you move forward. So you'll take the positive route, the one you've consciously tried to follow throughout your life.

You'll be there for her, as a friend, if nothing else. After all, if you can't have what you really want, then you'll settle for the next best thing – for Dana to have what she really wants. Even if it is Mulder.

You sigh softly and tuck the afghan more tightly around your toes. You're afraid you'd sound like a martyr if you ever verbalized your feelings like that. And that's not at all what you mean. It's just that you're trying to let go, trying not to be selfish.

It's not that you're trying to be a saint and deny your feelings. You know that being aware of your emotions and reactions is important – that if you don't acknowledge them and own them, they'll control you in ways you aren't expecting, that they'll sneak out in ways that are counter-productive. And it's not that you're trying to diminish your own sense of loss, to pretend that everything is just fine. You know that you're not fine, that it's going to take a while for your heart to mend.

It's that you're trying to work your way through it, to accept reality, to realize that you aren't alone in this situation – that you aren't the only one struggling with hurt and loss. Dana's not exactly having an easy time of things herself. In just the few years that you've known her, her life has seemed to be a constant series of broken pieces – her family, her partner, her job, her son. Is it any wonder that she's not sure what to do; that she isn't sure what life she wants?

You sigh again, closing your eyes and tipping your head to rest it on the back of the couch. What it really comes down to is this. You love Dana. And because you love her, you want her to do what's best for her, to find the path that's right for her. It may hurt you in the process, but you'll deal with it. Since you really love her, you can't see how you'd do anything else. All you can do is be there for her, let go, and trust that she really does still love you, if only as a friend, trust that she'll always have a special place in her heart for you.

You lift your head up, open your eyes again. Your gaze wanders back to the window, to the gently falling snow. It's more than time for you to start focusing on the good inherent in the world, on the positive things in your life. It won't completely help drive the sadness away – but it will help stabilize the ground under your feet. It helps to remember that despite the hurt you're dealing with now, there is still good to be found. You have food, shelter, warmth, a job, your health, committed co-workers, caring friends, the beauty of nature, and the freedom to make your life into whatever you want. It's far more than most people in the world have, and you are thankful for your blessings. It's too easy to take those things for granted, to forget about the gifts you have been given, because it's so easy to get caught up in always looking for more.

Still looking out the window, you track a single snowflake as it lands on the window pane and begins to slide down the glass. It is all alone for what seems like a breathless moment, but then another snowflake sticks and slides beside it, then another. All on separate tracks, but moving together. And it reassures you that whatever happens, however things play out between you and Dana and Mulder, you'll do whatever you can to make things ok for all of you. You're sure you can survive the loss of the committed relationship, as long as you can hold on to the friendship, as long as you still have Dana's presence in your life in some way. Sounds Mary Poppins-ish, you know, but it's your truth.

You look away from the glass, up at the soft, grey sky. Earlier it looked stormy, threatening. Now it seems soothing, calming, with its neutral glow and its assurance of more snow. It reminds you that beyond every darkness is the promise of light, that it's always darkest before the dawn.

The End

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