“What’s gotten into him lately?” her mother asks one bitter afternoon.
They’re at Maggie’s living room window, identical mugs of coffee in hand to ward off the chill as they watch Mulder outside. He’s shoveling the driveway, bundled in the same coat he wore to Alaska their first year together. His progress is slow because it’s still snowing, filling in the neat lines he cuts with his shovel, but he’s as relentless in this as he is in everything else.
“Not that I’m complaining,” Maggie continues. “It’s just unexpected.”
Is it? Scully wants to ask. Is it really? She supposes it could be, to someone who doesn’t know him like she does. This, the shoveling, and the other things. Snaking all the drains in the house. WD-40ing the squeaky bedroom doors. Setting up the new CD changer, a Christmas gift from Bill and Tara, in the living room.
Even the things her mother doesn’t know about, like how he showed up early last Saturday to take Scully’s car for a tire rotation and an oil change. How he insisted she let him assemble her new bookshelf, a Christmas gift from herself, even though she could have built it in half the time. How he’s begun giving her rides to and from work, coming up in the evenings and building her so many fires her hair smells permanently of woodsmoke.
It isn’t unexpected. Or at least, it isn’t surprising. She’d known that when he’d shown up three weeks ago, toolbox she didn’t even know he owned in hand, and said he was there to fix her garbage disposal. He’d broken it further in the end, and that had only made him worse, more dutiful, more attentive.
Because it’s guilt. Simple as that. He’s shoveling her mom’s driveway driveway, fighting Mother Nature herself for clear concrete, out of guilt. Guilt for the daughter Maggie nearly lost and the other one she did. And now, perhaps the final straw, guilt for the granddaughter she never even got to love.
She sees it on his face when he looks at her, in the marshy depths of his eyes. She wanted to yell at him that first day. To scream and cry and throw something. He wasn’t the one who lost a daughter. He wasn’t the one who nearly died.
She’s glad now, watching him slip and slide down the driveway, that she didn’t. It means something, his being here. Trying so hard. Offering himself up for absolution even if it isn’t his fault, not really. It means she isn’t alone.
But her mother doesn’t need to know that. Her mother, who has gone through so much, lost so much. Who seems so content here to sip her coffee and let a strong, kind man clear her walkway.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Scully says at last, leaning down to rest her head on her mom’s shoulder.
Outside, Mulder turns, catches sight of them at the window and waves.
“Maybe it’s his New Year’s resolution.”