This time, Mulder died on a Wednesday. It was warm for April and she'd been wearing a light cotton sweater with three-quarter sleeves. It was new, something she'd bought on an impulse after having brunch with her mother the week before. She'd been complaining about Scully's job again, dropping hints about how harsh she looked, all black and white, all suits and shells. When Scully got home from the morgue, she'd peeled the sweater off and threw it in the trash. Yellow never was her color.
The usual people attended the service. The ones she knew like Skinner and the Gunmen, and the ones she didn't know, like the old white men in dark suits that always showed up to linger at the edges of the crowd with their pinched faces and wrinkled fingers, their doom and their conspiracy. She used to remember each of his funerals as a distinct marker in their history: the date, the time, the flowers, the weather. She used to stand next to Mrs. Mulder and cast her eyes to the ground and grieve. Sometimes his mother would pass her the flag from his coffin. Sometimes it would rain.
This funeral was like all the others, simply a variation on a theme. There were a few differences, things that only interested her. Frohike wasn't drunk, but Byers was. Skinner read the eulogy and for once said only good things. At graveside someone had an asthma attack. The funeral home was so new the rooms still smelled like paint and carpet glue. It was, of course, closed casket. This time there wasn't enough left to stitch back together. They could have buried him in a shoebox like a dead hamster and still had room to spare.
Now, like anyone who has been alive for a certain amount of time, she has begun to conflate similar events in her mind. She can no longer remember if it was for her thirty-fourth or thirty-fifth birthday that Mulder took her out to dinner. She has lost track of the number of times she has stood beside his body and wept. She has already forgotten his plot number. Each time, they bury him somewhere new, as if hoping this time he'll like his final resting place and choose to stay there, as if hoping it'll make it harder for him to find his way home, to claw his way out of the ground they've set him in and walk among the living again.
In his desk drawer, Mulder has an envelope to be opened in the event of his death. The first time, she sliced it apart with his brass letter opener. The second she used her thumb. She just leaves it open now, the third and fourth times, the fifth, the same envelope, its ragged slit gaping, its corners bent, edges worn soft, its contents nothing but an elaborate joke, an unpleasant piece of fiction. He will never die. He will only die when she does, and she's been told several times now that day will never come.
She goes to visit him in his ground. The mound of earth covering his coffin is wet. He's not under there, but maybe he's under a different patch of dirt, in a hole no one will ever find, under earth no one will ever disturb. She stands on his grave, a lapsed mourner, a non-believer. Death is a fraud.
She leaves a bag of sunflower seeds to mark his empty bed. She's lost more than Mulder to this charade. She used to cry when she did this.