Sent: Saturday, July 31, 1999 4:17 PM
Title: Necessary Outrage
By: Jessica Harris
Rating: M/Sk, pg
Notes: I didn't *mean* to write a Skinner piece. It just happened, and it's turned out to be kind of a sad one, really. It's my first attempt at the big guy, so let me know what you think...
Feedback: I shamelessly beg. Please please please.
Thanks to Quercus for serving as Skinner consultant <g>. This last draft hasn't been beta'd, though, so all mistakes and infelicities my own.

It's Sunday morning and I'm buttoning my good shirt when I hear Mulder sigh. I look over, and see him frowning at himself in the mirror.

"What's wrong?" I ask him.

"Did I wear this tie to the last funeral?" he says, and I think, christ, when did this become a *fashion* crisis for us?

Sometimes the necessary outrage is difficult to maintain. And that's an outrage in itself, the people we've lost deserve to be remembered through our anger and our zeal. But - what do you do when the crisis doesn't end? What do you do when you've tolerated the intolerable for so long that it becomes mundane? What do you do when you get *used* to it?

I'm a middle-aged man now, and it seems that I've been fighting a war all my life, one way or another. After a while you hardly remember any other way to live. And yet somehow he and I have built a life together in the spaces that it's left us, found time between the skirmishes to watch basketball and do laundry and fuck and fight about the dishes.

It's only occasionally, on stubborn sleepless nights, that I really start to think about it all...

To think about the first comrades I lost, so young and green and dead in the jungle, and how there will be no monuments this time around, no public mourning for our unacknowledged dead...

To think that we're both too young for this, to number more friends among the dead than the living. . .

To wonder which one of us will go first. . .

That's the thing we really don't talk about. He's been exposed to the black oil. I've still got the nanosites in my veins. Oh, we've both been fine so far, but at night, still, I wonder...

We didn't know the man being buried today well, but he and Byers were close, so we're here out of solidarity. The official explanation was a car accident, but we've all learned how to read between the lines. His office was broken into; half his files were missing; he crashed his car in broad daylight on a stretch of road he had no reason to be driving. Another casualty.

Byers looks pale and shell-shocked and miserable, and I know I should feel for him, but the edges of grief grow blunted when you handle it too often, and all I'm feeling today is a kind of sullen relief that it's not me, that I can let my own grief lie a little longer.

"I'm sorry, John," I say to him awkwardly, and he tries to smile, gives a grimace that holds pain and loss and fear and a certain sad resignation. He knows what I'm feeling. We've been here before, and he's felt it himself, that painful, shameful relief. Felt it until it was his turn to grieve. I *am* sorry. But what I suddenly need more than anything else is to touch Mulder's strong still-living form. With sudden anxiety I scan the room for him, and he must see me, or sense it, for suddenly he's at my side and his arm is firm around my waist.

He says something soft that eases the grimace on John's face, and I feel an almost painful uprush of love for him. He can still find the right things to say. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an inarticulate man, and I believe that some things *should* be hard to say. I distrust glibness. But he gets at the heart of things in a way no one else seems to do.

His arm tightens around my waist, and I move closer, rest my hand on the back of his neck. I want this to be over. I want go home and strip this damn funeral suit right off him.

It shocked me at first, the strange aphrodisiac of funerals. When Pendrell died, I took it pretty hard - I had always known that there was danger and corruption around me, but to have the war come right inside the walls of the Bureau made me *feel* it in a whole new way. I remember staring at his coffin as it was lowered into the ground, and then ... the next thing I knew we were home, and I was pushing Mulder up against the wall before the door was even shut, yanking his tie down and his shirt open in one rough gesture. It was only when I saw the program from the service still crumpled in my hand that I realized what I was doing, and I pulled away from him in a sudden spasm of self-disgust.

Gentle hands pulled me back, turned me to look at him. "It's all right, Walter," he said. "I think we both need to prove we're still alive." And prove it we did, in several sweet and urgent ways.

So many funerals. It was a funeral that brought us together in the first place - Max's funeral. I was a little embarrassed to be there at all, still half-blind to what we were really up against, and I stood nervously at the back, watching. Mulder went up to the coffin and touched it wordlessly, and there was such feeling, such sorrow and anger and regret in that simple touch that I -

Well, to be honest, I froze, and forced the thought to the back of my mind, along with all the other thoughts I had forbidden myself over the years. But when he came up to me after the service and said "I could really use a drink - how about you, sir?" I didn't say no.

And it was more than one drink, that night, as he told me the truth about how Max died. And then it was more than one night, as he told me the other truths he had discovered, the consortium and their plans.

And then one night he told me a certain truth about myself, something even *I* had only just begun to admit. And that night I learned the touch of those strong expressive hands on my skin, the taste of his mouth beneath mine. I would never have imagined...

That was years ago now. There was so much intensity in us then, so much love and anger and *urgency*, such drive to fix everything *now*. We did what we could. Are, still, doing what we can. But you can't keep up that pace. Those of us left just keep getting older.

I love him more than anything, and somehow, in the middle of so much death, we've built a life for ourselves. I suppose that's something to be proud of. But at moments like this it all feels so fragile. And at night, I worry. That he will die first. And, more frightening, that I will feel nothing, just this same dull ache. That my grief has all been spent in our years of loss, and that I'll be robbed of that last dignity, the ability to mourn him and the life we've managed to have together.