Zuzu's Petals: Part 2 (2/11)


Zuzu's Petals: Part 2
by PR Chung

The front yard was lit up like-- well it was lit up like a Christmas tree, Scully amusedly thought and grinned broadly as she got out the car and took in the hundreds of white lights wrapped around every tree and over every shrub in front of her mother's house.

"Did you know about all this?" Bill asked his sister, going around the back of the jeep.  

"Oh, God, no," Scully chuckled, "when did she get all this done? It's never been like this before."

Bill laughed and shook his head, opening up the car hatch to get the presents out. "She's going to divert planes from Dulles," he joked and held a box out to Scully.

"It's not that bad."

"Didn't say it was bad," Bill countered good naturedly, hesitating over one of the presents. "Looks like some of your bows are coming off here, Dana."

She checked the reported damage as he handed the box to her. "Nothing too serious, I'll fix it inside."

"Dana!"

Not half in the door and Scully stopped, seeing Maggie making her way through the press of guests congregated in the narrow hallway, with a smile that was eager and alive with warmth and delight. "Oh Dana, you look so pretty."

Scully gave her mother a speculative glance, grinning in spite of her embarrassment. "I'm not wearing a graduation dress or anything," she laughed and looked down at the simple sweater and slacks she'd hurriedly thrown on once she'd run out time doing her hair and makeup.

"I'd think you were beautiful in a potato sack," Maggie insisted, and hugged her daughter tightly.

"Been hitting the eggnog a little early, Mom?" Bill teased, grinning a grin that always came off as a sneer.

Maggie looked up at her towering son, and lazily swatted at his arm. "That's no way to talk to me," she warned him half seriously, then grinned wryly, "even if it is true."

"Mom," Scully chided in a gasp, delightfully surprised by her mother's mischief.

While her mother and Bill took gifts into the living room, Scully lingered in the hall to take her coat off and basked in the sights and sounds, and the wonderful smells surrounding her. There was music coming from the living and the sound of conversations all around her, and rich, happy laughter. The house was brimming with old friends and fresh faces, everyone enjoying themselves. A gorgeous and inviting buffet had been set up in the dining room and an impromptu bar had come together in the kitchen where Scully could see that her brother Charlie was happily playing bartender. Everything was warm and bright, and smelled of tasty food and the nostalgic scent of the Christmas tree that was positioned before the large front window.

Scully watched Bill and her mother arranging gifts under the tree and felt something tug at her insides; it was the guilt of forgetting the gifts for Bill's family. She hoped they wouldn't read tags, at least until Skinner showed up-- And just when was he showing up, she wondered anxiously, edging her eyes toward the front door.

~~~~~~~~~~~ @ ~~~~~~~~~~~

Finding the house hadn't been difficult, Margaret Scully's front yard was a blaze with enough lights to put a strain on the hardiest of power stations-- missing the address would have been an effort-- but finding a place to park had been Skinner's real dilemma.

The street was packed, and every driveway was crowded with no less than four cars; nearly every house on this block had to be having a party. And here he was cruising around with gifts in tow and no parking spaces, like a department store Santa late for work at the mall on Christmas Eve.

Skinner adjusted the brim of his ball cap in frustration as he turned off the block for the second time. Why in the hell was he bothering, he wondered. Double-park, run the damn bag up to the door, sit it on the porch, knock and leave; simple as that.

No, not as simple as that.
Skinner exhaled and propped his arm on the car door. He could be a hard ass, but he didn't need to be a rude ass to boot.

Park and call her-- Call her and drive by, maybe she could just come out to the car--
Skinner gritted his teeth, feeling like a jackass. If dumping the bag on the porch and hauling ass like a coward wasn’t rude enough, then making her run out to the street was even worse.

Before he could make himself feel anymore confounded or lousy about himself, Skinner spied an open parking space. Slowing the car, he ran his tongue against the inside of his bottom teeth while he glared at the parking space, deliberating what he should do; park or drive by? Headlights suddenly swinging into his rearview mirror was incentive enough-- Skinner took the space.

Managing a quick and sloppy parallel parking job, Skinner shut off the motor and watched the other car pass before he called Scully's cell phone. It rang longer than usual, and he was ready to hang up when she answered.

"It's me," he announced, his voice tinged with displeasure for the fact, "I'm down the block from the house. You want to meet me out front?"

Scully didn't say anything for a second, then answered in a whisper, "Sure, I'll be outside waiting."

Skinner ended the call and got out, feeling satisfied with Scully's apparent empathy; he wasn't thrilled about doing this and she was trying to make it as painless as possible. But was it her concern for him, or for herself? Judging by the hush of her voice on the phone, Skinner considered that Scully could be trying to save herself embarrassment by keeping this gift drop a secret, forgetting the gifts of a loved one and their family in the boss' car doesn't exactly ring of thoughtfulness.

Then there was the fact of where she forgot the gifts. Scully's family might start asking questions; curious why she was taking rides with the boss and warning her about those inherently risky office romances.

Skinner shook his head as if to help get rid of the thought. It wasn't like he was handing her a bag of panties she'd left in the back seat, just a bag o'gifts. He glanced dismally at the bag in his hand, "definitely not panties."

Just as she said, Skinner found Scully standing outside her mother's house-- shivering on the front steps. Approaching the porch, he could hear the sounds of a party fully underway from inside and saw through the big picture window the telltale signs of people merrily meandering around inside.

"Where's your coat?" He asked her first thing, then hesitated as she came into full view before him. He was surprised, and suddenly felt like a bum compared to her. She wasn't wearing anything outlandish or extravagant, simple white sweater and dark slacks, but up close now he discovered Scully was wearing a good deal more makeup than he was used to seeing on her, and her hair... well, it was all poofed up.

She looked gorgeous.

"I didn't want to advertise what I was doing," she answered.

"And standing out here to meet me isn't advertising?"

Scully threw a brief glance over her shoulder at the house and shrugged, turning back. "I don't think anyone has missed me yet," she said and made a zuzzing sound as she shivered. "Where did you park?"

"End of the block. Everyone on this street must be having a party tonight," he criticized, glancing toward the street.

Scully followed his gaze, then looked at him, saying "you know I would have come down to the street if you just wanted to stop out front. You didn't have to go to the trouble of parking."

Skinner tightened his mouth, inwardly kicking himself. "No need for you to be running down to the street, making this look like a drug drop."

Scully lifted her brows in half-baked amusement. "What a wonderful holiday sentiment, sir," she mocked a compliment and reached for the bag. "Thanks for doing this for me."

Before Scully could take it, and before Skinner could relinquish the bag, the front door came open. Maggie Scully struck her head out, her eyes darting over the two of them for a concerned and confused instant. "Dana, what are you doing out here?" she asked.

"I have to go," Skinner abruptly said and started to turn.

"Mr. Skinner?" Maggie called him, then, "Walter?"

Reluctance weighed his movements as he turned slowly back and offered a thin smile to the woman. "Yes," he answered. “Hello, Mrs. Scully.”

"How have you been? Dana, didn't mention that you were coming," Maggie chattered with warmth and delighted surprise saturating her voice. "I'm so pleased to see you could make it."

Skinner and Scully exchanged painful glances. He started to speak, but Scully got the first word in, "Mom, he was just leaving," she explained.

Maggie's peaceful expression sank into a frown. "I don't understand."

"I just stopped by to say hello, Mrs. Scully," Skinner noticed Scully's quick contrivance.

"Well, standing out here in the cold to say hello is senseless," she said, disapproving of the scene. "Come inside and have something to eat-- have a drink."

"I can't," Skinner begged off.

"You must," Maggie insisted.

"Mom," Scully scolded her mother gently.

"Really," Skinner shook his head again, pocketing his hands in his jacket. "I'm not dressed for this. I should go--"

"You look fine to me, Walter," Maggie assured him confidently and hooked her arm with his, "Come on, before both of you catch pneumonia out here." She urged him to walk with her, with first a gentle tug and then a more forceful pull.

Looking at Scully for support-- and finding only an apologetic grimace, Skinner finally yielded to her mother's demands.

Entering the house on Maggie Scully's arm, Skinner was greeted with a warmth that was almost too much after being in the chilled night air. He was suddenly eager to remove his parka in spite of his plan to excuse himself quickly, but before he could make a move either way people began to welcome him and introduce themselves. Everyone seemed to want to be acquainted with the man at Maggie's side; any friend of hers was obviously a friend of theirs.

Then, as Skinner was finally removing his parka and hat, Bill Scully ambled down the hall. The oldest Scully offspring eyed the man skeptically at first, then with a flicker of recognition moved in closer. "You're Dana's boss?" he asked.

Skinner seemed leery and Bill broke a broad grin and extended his hand. "Bill Scully, Jr.," he said, as if to jog Skinner's memory. "We met a while back."

Skinner remembered, but neither of the men seemed willing to mention the circumstances under which they had first met. Even though Scully's cancer had gone into full remission-- a miraculous thing in itself, and great cause for celebration, bringing up that challenging time for the family didn't seem proper.

"Walter Skinner," he reintroduced himself, shaking Bill's hand.

Scully looked on, pleasantly surprised by the apparent rapport her brother and Skinner had with one another; it was almost stunning in contrast to that which existed between Bill and Mulder-- or rather, she corrected the thought, didn't exist.

As Scully watched Skinner being drawn deeper into the midst of the party, she started feeling less guilty about him being drawn into a situation he didn't want to be in, and started to feel more like maybe this was something he needed.

~~~~~~~~~~~ @ ~~~~~~~~~~~

To be continued...
Comments welcome at prchung18@gmail.com

Originally posted: Dec.11,2000

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