Chapter 1: Prolog
As a boy, girls were tripping all over themselves to get him to pay attention to them. He could have any girl he wanted, except one, the one that was taken away when he was twelve.
He went to college, he started to notice the effect he had on women. None of them really knew him and he found it baffling, why him, could they not see how flawed he was? He tried to make it work, but sooner or later his interest faded, his humor turned bitter and he left. He didn’t care, they didn’t know him anyway. One day he met someone special, a pixie-like redhead with a brain so sharp she put him in his place, a challenging, frustratingly brilliant flame of a being, she burned so bright that the pain was exquisite. He fell hard, he fell and never got up again. She did not want him, too erratic, too set in her insecurities to accept his way of loving, to believe he would never hold her back, he just wanted to be there, warm his troubled soul by the fire of her heart. She did not want him around.
They went on their separate ways. She became a doctor, he an FBI agent. Time passed, a phone call for birthday, no more no less, the gust of wind keeping the ambers warm for one day.
She got married, had kids. He got married, had kids. He settled for a little happiness he could have, giving the love she didn’t want to the kids the other woman gave him. She was nice, warm and good, and ready to compromise. She accepted the dark corners of his mind to which she would never have access in exchange for warmth, kindness and love of their children. For quite some time, the thought she could live with it, but as the silence between them stretched, coexistence replaced even the little friendship they shared. His mind kept wandering to the one that got away. She was there, in the shotgun of his heart, when he poured his first coffee, when he had his one drink each night, when he laid not quite satisfied next to his still-wife. He woke up 15 years into his marriage and realized he settled for a lie. The relationship fell apart.
She left husband number two. Moved back to DC. The world turned a full circle.
They bumped into each other on the street in front of a book store, kissed hello, got coffee, talked for hours. She warmed his heart the way only true love knew how. He didn’t laugh like this in years. They ended up in bed, it felt new and perfect as if they did it for the first time and simultaneously every night since the day they met. He told her he loved her, again and again, she smiled never saying it back. He closed his eyes shutting the thought out, stay in the moment, feel now, think later. Was she using him? Maybe. Was he weak. Some might say that. Did she love him? In a way. Could he live like this? He decided to take what she was willing to give.
“I hope you know what you’re doing” Emily crossed her arms over her chest, a gesture he knew so perfectly well, that he wondered if girls had a secret course at school to perfect that stance.
“What am I doing” he asked, his keys clinked against the bowl on the console, his fifteen year old conscience boring a hole through his back.
“Letting her in” her tone was dry, stating a fact, but softened seeing the warning in his eyes “too close, too fast”
“You don’t have to worry about me” he sighed, shrugging out of his coat, stirring last echoes of whiskey and her perfume, that filled his head over last hours.
“I can’t help it, dad” she hung her head low, pushing the rolled up cuff of her pj pants down with her toes.
Mulder couldn’t watch her sadness and hold on to the spark of light inside himself, he went to the girl and drew her close.
“Em, this time it’ll be different” hugging her tight until she relaxed, he kissed the top of her head “did you guys eat?”
“Pizza, we saved you some” she let go and turned to go back to her room “‘night dad”
Fishing his crumpled tie from the jacket pocket, Mulder glanced into the living room, seeing two over-sized feet dangling from the armrest of the leather couch. Danny fell asleep with the game’s recap turned low on the tv. The boy was only twelve, yet already took up most of the couch, the picture filling his father with guilt for passing on bad sleeping habits. Sitting on the coffee table he jostled the kid lightly.
“Danny, time for bed, buddy” though inarticulate, the grunt that came from somewhere between the pillows was clearly a protest. “I know it’s Saturday tomorrow, go to bed”
The boy sat up, disheveled and pouting, trying to rub some life into his cheek.
“How’s the game” Mulder asked, moving to sit next to his son.
“Knicks lost” disappointment drawn out in sleepy syllables.
“Damn” he sighed and toed off his shoes, as the boy gathered himself up.
“There’s always the next game, right?” Danny spoke looking away, testing the line like all teenagers, though Mulder wasn’t quite sure if he knew what he just said. Before he could decide, he was gone leaving a mumbled goodnight in his wake.
Mulder stared mindlessly at the tv, watching commercials with happy families, passing the sauce over a gold Christmas turkey. He closed his eyes and imagined the faces for those he loved most, happy like that.
She picked up her cellphone from the nightstand and fluffed the pillow behind her back. Dial tone filling her ear, 3 rings, 4...
"Hi mom" the boy on the other end sounded too awake for the time of night.
"Hi Will, what time is it?" her smile grew instantly as the boy started to make screeching noises on the other side.
"Sorry, I didn't hear that last one" he laughed and a familiar squeak of a rotating stool gave him away.
"Leave the telescope alone, Will, the stars won't disappear overnight"
"But the sky is so clear tonight and it's new moon" the boy was great at finding excuses, always managing to get his way somehow. He had his grandmother wrapped around his little finger.
"I'm going to call grandma to have the toys locked up if you don't go to bed right now"
"Fine" resignation mixed with teasing.
"You want to know about your new room?"
"You found something?" the kid's mood changed instantly, she could imagine his ears going up, the dog on his bed probably opened one eye.
"Yes, two bedroom apartment, fifth floor, huge windows" she could feel the boy's excitement rise with each word she spoke "but I'm afraid you won't like the light pollution"
"As long as it's not worse than Boston"
Will told her about his day and she laughed at his stories about school and baking cookies with grandma.
She still couldn't believe how good he was with her decision to move. When she was his age, moving with her family every few years filled her with dread, leaving the few friends she made, going through process of being the new girl again and again. Will was excited from the moment she laid out the options in front of him. He cringed at other cities, too far, too crowded, too bright, some of his arguments irrational, but as she said Washington D.C. his blue green eyes lit up. Some inexplicable force pulled him here. They made the decision together and he couldn't wait to get moving ever since.
She bid the boy good night, and hung up, staring out the hotel window at the falling snow, large white petals dancing in the yellow light. Her thoughts drifted back to a night like this, little over eleven years ago. She could smell him still, her body singing with the memory. His hands and lips, shape beneath her fingertips, no one ever felt this perfect and finally, she was ready to accept it.
The only question was, will Mulder accept her, once he finds out about her green-eyed little secret.
Emily had no illusions about her father being celibate. She saw the looks other moms gave him when he came to pick her up from judo practice, or the way women turned to stare after him at the store when he took her grocery shopping. Every few months there were nights he didn't come home, usually following a tough case he didn't want to talk about. Sometimes, when she had really bad luck, she happened to hear messages from strange women on the answering machine, but things usually quieted down quickly after that.
She was watching this cycle for three years now, but it was the first time he met her eyes totally calm, not a trace of guilt or shame she always saw when he came back from a night out. He smelled faintly of alcohol and woman's perfume and he didn't try to hide it. She wasn't sure what to think about that.
Neither Emily nor Danny liked the way their mother moved on, only months after they finalized the divorce, as if she couldn't get away from dad far enough, fast enough. Taking after her father, Emily watched her with sharp eyes, her fluttering eyelashes, pink lip gloss, brand new tight jeans and jackets. It seemed like their mother turned into a different person overnight. So when she gave them the choice between following her and her new boyfriend to the west coast or staying with their father and their old life, they bid her farewell at the airport, tears shed for the woman she was, as dad waited patiently a few steps behind. They visited for summer and Christmas, except this year, because mom and Alex they were going to the Bahamas from Christmas to New Year's.
With the shower turned off, the house grew quiet. Soft click of dad's bedroom door was the last thing she heard before she drifted off.
What is that growling was Mulder's first thought when he woke up the next morning, consciousness still tangled in sheets and sweet dreams of red flames and silky smooth skin. He realized it was his phone just in time to catch it, before it hit the floor.
"Mulder" he mumbled, throat dry and a little sore.
"Mulder, it's me" his name on her lips first thing in the morning felt like an extension of the dream he was having.
"Good morning" he sighed sinking back into the sheets, broad smile, eyes closed, trying to think she was there in person. Her soft laugh at his tone only adding color to the vision. He could see her with his mind's eye, sheets kicked back, tray on the bed, hot coffee in a china cup.
"Did I wake you?"
"You can wake me anytime you like" one arm pillowing his head, he listened to her keeping the image in sight, adding details, she wears his white shirt, cuffs folded up, only two buttons done.
"I just wanted to tell you, that I made my decision" Mulder's heart jumped expectantly "We're taking the place"
If his smile was bigger, he'd probably need stitches, and he didn't try to hide it "Need help moving?"
"Let me get back to you about that, once I sign the papers at work"
"Okay" the very thought of them sharing a zip-code filled him with ridiculous joy "Is there a chance I will see you today?"
"I'm afraid not, I want to wrap things up and go home to pack" his face fell and she somehow sensed that
"I know you're pouting" she laughed turning the pout back into a smile. Years apart couldn't turn off their radar.
"No I'm not" he almost lied and sat up, seeing the snow thick outside his window "Have you seen the snow?"
"I did, we'll have a white Christmas"
"Think you'll make it back that fast?"
"I have a few days of vacation left so we should be right on time"
"I'll make sure the snow sticks around"
"That would be nice, but right now I got another call and I've gotta run"
"Call me if you need anything"
"I will, bye"
Mulder chuckled at her quick retreat and got up to get ready for his morning run before breakfast.
Mulder being half-Jewish half-atheist didn't care much about Christmas for most of his life, but ever since he had kids December became his favorite month. He hated the traffic and crowds at the store like any other sane human, but loved the lights, the colors and the giddy excitement in his children's eyes. This was going to be their first Christmas without their mom, and he was expected to make them happen, from scratch.
The tree, gifts, lights, ornaments, candy and such, he got that covered. The turkey, cooking, that was a little more of a problem. He was recruited to do shopping, run last minutes errands, but once the actual cooking was done, he was ushered from the kitchen, or worse Diane did everything at night once everyone went to bed. That was her thing, she locked herself in the kitchen and cooked a week's worth of meals, then came back to bed, when he was already fast asleep. Her hands used to smell like chopped vegetables, the scent of food trailing after her. At first he loved it just as he loved her cooking, the home-like feeling it evoked, but as time went by and they grew apart it became something of a pet peeve. Now he was staring at a blank page, unsure where to even start with the grocery list, fully aware that his kids depended on him to rise up to the challenge.
Emily went out to see a friend, Danny had guitar practice, both of them wouldn't be back for another hour and dinner was already made. He had nowhere to hide, and a distinct feeling that if he’d put it off for another day, life would find a way to keep him busy until it was too late.
Mulder was starting to get desperate when the phone buzzed against the kitchen counter, caller ID putting a smile on his face. Answering he drew a smiley face in one corner of the page.
"Hi, it's me" she said automatically.
"You know your name shows up on my screen?" That gave her pause before she chuckled self-consciously.
"I know, force of habit i guess”
"I do it all the time too, don’t worry about it, so Doctor Scully, what's up?"
"Is that what shows up on your screen?” Mulder could almost see her raised eyebrow “Doctor Scully?"
"No, but it has a nice ring to it"
"Not after twelve hour shift in the ER" her sigh carried the weight of two dozens of lives.
"Wasn't today your last day?" He tried to turn the conversation to a happier subject
"Yeah, tomorrow we start packing for real" that at least put a bit of cheer in her tired voice.
"And you move to D.C. next week” he said wanting to confirm and they spoke the last words simultaneously, both bursting out laughing for a minute. He figured she was calling about the package from earlier.
"I talked to the painters, they should be done by Wednesday"
"Thank you, was there any problem with the samples?"
"None, got them this morning, everything's set up, as per your specific instructions, I loved the drawings by the way" he chuckled, remembering the two distinctly different handwritings on the floor plan, marking which color should go where.
"Laugh all you want, but not all of them were mine, Will helped me a lot”
“I figured, from the way only half of it was readable” Scully’s loud protest made him laugh “Can’t wait to finally meet him”
“We’re a package deal” her voice became soft and a little hesitant.
“So am I” he replied, not sure where the note of worry might come from, a silence stretching a few seconds longer than comfortable.
“What are you doing tonight?” she asked.
“Making a list, checking it twice” He hummed making her giggle on the other end of the line “were you naughty or nice, Scully?”
“Depends on who’s asking, you or Santa?”
“Me because I need your help, but there might be a treat for you in there somewhere as well”
“Cryptic as ever” she sighed and opted for straightforward approach “what’s the list for, Mulder?”
“Grocery shopping for Christmas dinner, and I’m cooking, turkey, stuffing, salads, pie, the whole nine yards, it’s going to be a disaster, you should come”
“Mulder, I’m not sure”
He interrupted, ignoring her evasion “I mean it, it won't be much but...”
“My mom already invited us” Mulder knew that her mother lived in D.C. and he should expect her answer, but still his silence screamed disappointment.
“It’s okay, Scully” he tried to hide it but failed miserably “of course you should be with your family, I shouldn't have asked”
“Don't apologize, really, and I'd love to help you if I can” Scully didn’t give up, she might not have met them yet, but she wanted his kids to have a happy Christmas “do you know what you want to make, any family recipes in mind?”
“Yeah, literally” he chuckled a little smug, making her laugh, short but sweet.
“Eidetic memory, I forgot”
“Well, I did not”
His humor back, they have put together a rough menu and a shopping list. And in course of that conversation she agreed to stop by for some pie, at least.
Danny covered his face as a huge tree tried to push it’s way through their apartment door, shedding needles and a spider or two over the floor.
“Are there any park rangers following you?” he closed the door, watching his dad wrestle the tree into the living room.
“I doubled back over my tracks, the tree is safe” Mulder joked, short of breath “Help me with the stand”
Danny slipped past him and kneeling on the floor found the stand then guided the tree stump into it’s hole. Setting the tree upright on the floor, Mulder switched places with the boy, trusting him to keep it from falling as he tightened the screws around the base.
“Oh my God, that tree is huge!” Emily exclaimed walking in.
“But is it standing straight?” He asked and she gave the tree a critical look taking a step back.
“A little to the left” Danny pulled the tree as instructed and she nodded “okay, that should do it”
Having tightened the bolts, Mulder stood up and walked around the tree, looking for the best angle, and finally twisting it a little pushed it closer to it’s usual spot in the corner.
“What do you think?” he asked standing next to his kids by the door “not half bad”
“It’ll do” Danny teased, ducking his head as Mulder ruffled his hair.
“Help me with the lights”
It took all three of them to untangle the devils knot of colorful tiny lights until it stretched from the window all across the room to the door and back.
The ornaments thy hung next came in all shapes and sizes. Some classic round ones, gold and silver and red, some dipped in glitter, some shaped like snowmen and angels. A set of small ornaments shaped like Santa and his reindeer was Emily’s all time favorite, Mulder had his three UFO’s and a little gray man wearing Santa’s hat on one of the top branches, Danny liked the ones that looked like snowflakes. Candy canes and tinsel and anything else they could find inside the boxes found its place on the tree under the soft smile of a gold angel sitting on top of it.
“That was the last one” Danny announced, reaching for the light switch. Mulder knelt on the floor, plugging in the lights ready to be turned on with the main switch on the extension cord. Emily stood next to her brother, finishing the last of the candy cane she kept nibbling on.
“Okay, ready” he looked up, nodding at the boy, who immediately killed the light. The tree exploded in colorful sparks, white and red, green and blue, each ornament catching the light and giving it back reflected many times. The kids whoa-ed and ahhhed and Mulder joined them to admire their work. The tree was really big, but he’d lie if he said it wasn’t the prettiest and happiest tree in years.
Wrapping last of the wine glasses and gently putting it away in a box, Scully sighed and wiped her forehead. She didn’t realize how manny things she accumulated over the years. When she was in college she could make due with two mugs a couple of plates, two pots and a frying pan, now china only filled three boxes weighing what felt like 100 pounds. Glad she wouldn’t be carrying all of it on her back, she taped the box shut and put a warning sticker on each side. Will hasn’t come out of his room for a while so she went to check, if he was packing his toys and books as she asked.
“Will? Is everything alright?” she knocked, then pushed the door open.
The boy sat curled up on the bed, hugging his stuffed gray alien, quickly wiping his eyes. Queequeg beside him, head on Will’s feet, looked like a ginger ball of sadness.
“I’m fine, mom” he tried to sound convincing but a loud sniff betrayed him.
“Sweetie” in three steps she was sitting next to him, arms tight around his slim shoulders, the plush toy squished between them. He didn’t cry, but hugged his mom back.
Scully didn’t ask what’s wrong, the toy was a birthday gift from his best friend Holly, and as much as Will was excited about the move, the thought of leaving his best behind must’ve been weighing on his young heart. In that moment Scully didn’t care about half empty drawers, toys scattered everywhere, a pile of comic books spilled over the floor next to the bed, she held her son, feeling his pain like it was her own.
“I will never see Holly again” he whispered, voicing the worst of fears spinning inside his head.
“You will, when we come visit aunt Missy” she assured him, stroking his back but they both knew it wasn’t much of a consolation.
“She will forget me” he sighed, falling deeper into her arms.
“No, don’t say that. It doesn’t have to be this way” his silence screamed skepticism and she wanted to give him something to hold on to. She stroked his reddish brown hair, carefully weighing her words “I have an old friend, whom I haven’t seen since before you were born”
“So?” the kid sniffed again.
“His name is Mulder” she couldn’t help the slight shake in her voice although the boy didn’t yet realize the significance of that particular part of her past “we met in college and after I graduated, he stayed in D.C. and I moved to Boston”
“With aunt Missy?” the boy quickly connected the new facts with things he knew already.
“Yes, we barely seen each other after that, spoke on the phone once or twice a year” the boy was listening now “So you see, we too were separated and yet, years later, we’re still friends”
“You just say that to make me feel better”
“No” she dropped a fond kiss on the top of his head, smiling at his wounded tone. Ever since Jack left them, he didn’t like to be treated like a kid, feeling he should be strong for her sake “I met him when I was looking for a place for us, and now he’s helping us set it up. I sent him the sketches we made and he talked to the painters so that I or grandma wouldn’t have to be there.”
“Because grandma went to see uncle Charlie in France?”
“Exactly, so you see, distance doesn’t have to mean the end of a friendship, there are ways to stay in touch, phones, letters” Will freed himself from her embrace looking a little better, but kept the stuffed alien near by “you just have to give it a chance”
“I will” he smiled and they both looked around the room.
“You decided which toys you want to keep?” Scully changed the subject and picked up the dog, set him in her lap to scratch behind his ears.
“Books, lego and the telescope, everything else can go”
“Okay, I’m taking Queequeg for a walk, you can order pizza for dinner”
“With whatever I want?” at the mention of pizza Will’s humor was coming back fast.
“As long as there’s pepperoni and mushrooms in there somewhere” she laughed and left, taking the dog with her.
The night was cold and she forgot her gloves, but that didn’t stop her from answering the phone.
“Scully, it’s me” his voice was enough to keep her warm.
“Hi, I got your message” laughter on the other side said that he knew what was coming next “it looks beautiful, but where did you find a tree that big?”
October 13th, 1994
"Bye daddy" Emily's bubbly laugh in his ear was the first ray of sunshine since he woke up.
"Goodnight Emily, kiss your brother for me, alright?" but she already let the phone drop, the beeping sound loud as Mulder hung up.
The day was too long, too harrowing even by his standards. Looking at the crime scene photos made him sick to his stomach, nine victims, each more viciously mutilated than the last. Working in BSU was never a walk in the park, but this case took the crown. Mulder wasn't a dainty flower, he saw things that would give anyone nightmares, but this time, there was no logic in it. The randomness of violence made pattern too elusive to capture. Hopelessness was the enemy of rational thought, and he was slipping into it fast. He had one hell of a birthday.
Dropping the cellphone on the bed, arm covering his eyes, he tried to push away the thoughts that came crashing back. The phone rang again, then again, and again, stubborn piece of plastic. He grabbed it and barked his name without bothering to check who it was.
A deep voice flowed through the ether, bounced from tower to tower to find him and cut through the night.
"Happy birthday to you" he instantly switched gears and let it wash over him, invoking images of hot summer nights and white, pleated dresses "Happy birthday to you" his imagination swapping Marilyn's face for her red hair and freckles.
"Happy birthday dear Mulder" she breathed his name, sweet and sexy, full of promises he knew she wouldn't make or keep, but still loved it "Happy birthday to you"
"Hi" he sighed, eyes closed, keeping the image in mind "I needed that"
"I can hear that" she said reading his tone and matching hers to it "tough case?"
"You have no idea"
"I'm sorry you had a terrible birthday, is there something I can do to help?"
"Just stay on the line" he sighed, grateful even for the sentiment.
"You're not at home, long hours?"
"Out of town, I'm in New York" he rolled over onto his side, pushing some photographs to the floor and out of his sight.
"Well, what'd'ya say, so am I" her surprise and joy warmed his heart, one glance at his watch told him the night was still young "What hotel?" before he finished she started to laugh, the sound infectious somehow.
"What's so funny?" he chuckled.
"Meet me in the lobby in fifteen birthday boy, we'll see what we can do to turn this day around"
They kissed hello, arms around each other for two seconds too long. Her new wedding band didn't stop him nor did she say a word, instead she kissed his cheek once more before letting go.
"Happy birthday" Scully smiled, more comfortable in his space space than most married couples.
"Congratulations" he replied sounding only a little forced, having a few months to get used to the thought of her marrying yet another man, when all he got was a phone call.
"Thank you, and thanks for the toaster" she giggled linking her arm through his, pulling him outside and across the street towards tall windows hidden beneath striped awnings.
The bar wasn't crowded, a jazz band played some lazy number for a barely awake audience. Scully caught a passing waitress and whispered a few words, the girl smiled and nodded leaving them to take their seats in a booth in the far corner. She sat by the window and patted the couch beside her. The waitress came back, took their order, disappeared again.
"You cut your hair" she smiled, brushing his temple "I like it"
"It's been a while" he didn't try to fight the warmth, but let it push the case and the weariness aside "You love this don't you"
"It does kind of make me laugh" she admitted, withdrawing her hand "me at a conference, same hotel, I'd like to know the odds on that"
"Long, very long" he smiled taking her hand "almost as long as finding a gift I actually like"
"Well then, we're both very lucky tonight" leaning into his side, she laced her fingers through his "who goes first, me or you?"
"You go first" he made himself comfortable, a fraction of an inch to one side and his lips brushed her temple.
"Dad hates my new husband" she admitted.
"Your dad probably never liked any guy you dated. Take me for example" he chuckled "Emily isn't even five yet but I begin to understand why he felt that way."
"Isn't it a little early to worry about that?"
"It changes the perspective you know, today I look at boys and cringe, what if my girl likes a brat like that, was I anything like him when I was his age?" feeling her warm and as comfortable around him as ever soothed him better than anything he might think of as a distraction an hour earlier.
"Mulder, any father would eventually give you his daughter's hand"
"Because any mom would love to have you as a son" she laughed and sat up, kissing his cheek and smiling wide. Only then he noticed the waitress come back with their order and a huge slice of cake, two small forks on the side.
"To long odds" Scully raised her glass, clinking it against his as he joined her toast. They tossed back the shots and before he knew, her lips were on his, burning hotter than scotch, killing brain cells faster than pure ethanol, fast enough to make him chase after her when she pulled back. Realizing what he'd done, head hung low, he laughed at himself, shaking the moment off before looking up.
He met her her smile, expecting warm but sad, but instead saw half a promise, quarter of a challenge, eighth of come on, sixteenth of hope and a few drops of why not.
On the street outside, twinkle lights draped around the trees made the yellowing leaves shine bright against the city night, shimmering with gold as the wind picked up.
They shared the cake, dragging things out, talking about everything and nothing, laughing and drinking until they were, very politely, kicked out.
On their way up, both leaning against the back wall of the elevator, she found his hand, held on when doors opened. He followed.
Scully straddled his lap, knees digging into the mattress, keeping his face in her hands and kissing deeply. Mulder devoured her mouth, each sweep of her tongue matched, as if she was his first and last meal, full lips pressed against hers, breathing loud in his ears. He didn't waste time, large hands firm over the curve of her back, drawing her in without resistance. His shape still familiar despite years that passed, made her give in and relax.
However the silk of her blouse wasn't enough, Mulder made quick work of tugging the hem free. Single draw string that kept the sides in place surrendered to his long fingers and once touching bare skin, he closed his arms around her and held on tight, his kisses slowing, finally convinced she wasn't going anywhere without him.
Hips grinding shamelessly, grip loosened just enough for him to unhook the bra, push it out of the away, squeeze breasts, flick nipples until hard. He remembered what she liked and the thought made her smile, breaking the kiss into smaller parts, letting them breathe, savor the touch.
Short hair felt like silky smooth wires slipping beneath her fingers, when he trailed kisses down her neck, following a path she showed him by leaning back.
Letting go one hand at a time, the featherlight silk fell to the floor, sheer lace not far behind. Mulder finally reached her nipple with the tip of his tongue. One arm around her waist other across her back, she felt herself lifted and swung sideways, yelping as she hit the bed, the cool comforter, the bounce made them laugh.
His shirt gone in one fluid motion that she always loved to watch, they paused, gazing at each other for a silent moment, searching for a reason to stop.
She reached for him the second he leaned in. They hid in each other's arms, as if there was no tomorrow.
Nine months later, she held a secret in her heart and a beautiful green-eyed boy in her arms.
There wasn't much he could say after she dropped a bomb like that. Still he kept it cool, asked how long and when was she due and how she's doing and if she's happy. But there wasn't much he could say beyond polite small talk. He wasn't happy, he wasn't fine, although the hypocrisy wasn't lost on him, father of two by another woman. He wasn't rational, not when it came to her. He was one, big, red, exposed nerve, and life just shoved a taser up his ass. She knew it and didn't stop him when he said goodbye sooner than usual. They both cried for an hour after they hung up.
He went home and helped Emily finish the puzzle she was playing with before dinner, bouncing Danny on his knee. The boy munched on toys and ran a slight fever, but was happy to be a part of the game. Mulder showed him each piece and let the boy guess where it should go, missing every time but laughing anyway. Diane thought it was just another awful case and left them in peace. It wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last.
Mulder was convinced that he didn't have that thing only moms have, that thing that could right all wrongs and made everything better, but if he could take care of himself in college, he could take care of a couple of teenagers. Once it was decided, that the kids would move in with him, he promised himself that under his roof they won't live solely on tv dinners and junk food. He learned to cook something more than pasta and canned soup, they all ate their daily dose of veggies and fruit, went shopping together and shared chores proportionately to their arm's reach and abilities. Lately Emily started helping with the cooking, though her love of salads was disproportionate to their needs. Danny took out the trash each night and didn't have to be reminded to do it anymore. Homework was done, tv was rationed, opinions heard and considered. Sometimes a strong and final no was needed, but those occasions were few and far between, for now at least. If anyone asked, they would unanimously agree that they were fairly happy, and for Mulder, that was something to be proud of.
"Guys, I need to talk to you about something" Mulder began, hoping that the rare pizza dinner wouldn't cloud their brains completely, just softened them a little.
Two pairs of curious eyes and full mouths looked up and he almost chickened out, wiping his plate with pizza crust to buy time. Man up, he berated himself, tell them.
"You know, I've been helping a friend lately" Danny went back to his food, deciding pizza was more important, but Emily raised her eyebrows and smirked knowingly "set up their new apartment, for her and her son, because they're moving here from Boston" words tumbled out in a rush, the need to explain himself overcoming embarrassment.
"She's an old college friend, and she moved there a while ago, and now she's coming back and I'm the only one she stayed in touch with so she kind of has no other friends left around here, just her mother, and I was wondering, if you guys would want to meet her and Will sometime before Christmas" the last part sounded like one word in his ears, leaving deafening silence around the kitchen table.
"Okay" Danny shrugged, unfazed, dipping his crusts in garlic sauce as if nothing happened. Mulder looked at Emily, watching the gears behind blue eyes spinning, connecting the dots she collected over the last few weeks.
"How old is Will?" she asked, sipping her coke.
"He's ten, and probably will go the same school as Danny" that got the boy's attention "Don't worry, you won't have to babysit him or anything, if he's anything like his mom, he'd probably be offended if you tried"
The kid snorted and went back to his crusts. Emily kept silent, the good cop bad cop routine in her blood.
"Emily, she's a good friend of mine, we've known each other forever, I just want you to know that they are not some random people and maybe give them both a chance" the silence stretched for an uncomfortable minute. The girl regarded him carefully but finally her expression softened. "Okay dad"
He tousled her short brown hair affectionately and Emily shook her head giving him half a smile in return and in that moment, Mulder felt like she was the grown up and he the teenager one step closer to getting what he always wanted.
Will got out of the car, leaving the telescope he guarded with his own life all the way from Boston on the back seat, and looked up, wondering which windows were his. Top floor, so much he knew, the neighboring buildings the same hight or lower, perfect. Queequeg was already sniffing around, marking the nearest tree he could find.
"I don't get it" Scully stoped beside them, looking up and down the street, seeing nothing but some parked cars and heaps of swiped away snow, no truck in sight "They should be here by now"
Fishing the phone out of her jacket pocket she dialed a number the movers gave her, sinking feeling growing in the pit of Will's stomach. He had funny feelings sometimes and usually they were right.
"Hi, this is Dana Scully, we've just arrived, can I ask where you guys are?" she listened for a moment then covered her eyes and sighed, then seconds later her head sprang back up.
"Four hours?" she exclaimed, color rising to her cheeks that had nothing to do with the cold "why does it take four hours to change a tire in D.C.?" the man on the other end sounded defensive, speaking quickly.
"Okay, but I expect a solid discount for this mess, call me when you get here"
Hanging up, she looked at the boy, the struggle to stay calm hidden behind a smile. "You heard that? The truck won't be here anytime soon"
"Is everything okay? with our things I mean" Will reeled in the dog's leash.
"We'll see once they get here, but we're insured" saving her strength for later, she put one arm around his shoulders, guiding him up the six steps leading to the front door "in the meantime, let's go see the place"
The ride up was fairly short and Will was getting more excited with each floor.
"This is yours" Scully declared, stoping in front of brown doors at the end of the hall and showing him bright silver key on a plain ring "Do the honors"
Will grinned and unlocked the door, pushing them open into a bright hallway. Dog's paws clicked on wooden floors pulling the boy and his mother inside. The place was warm, smelling faintly of fresh paint and something else, that had no reason to be there. Will went straight through, into the living room and stoped frozen in place. "Mom, come see this!"
She knew the view was nice, but it took only few steps to see, that his wonder came from something else entirely.
In the corner between two windows stood a tree, a Christmas tree, tall and elegant, filling the place with scent of fresh pine. Blueish green and bare, except for a string of warm white lights and a single funny ornament next to a greeting card.
"It's a UFO!" Will laughed looking closer at the silver glass trinket. Scully took the card, knowing exactly who it was from. Mulder's elegant cursive was unmistakable.
Dear Dana and William
Welcome home and Merry Christmas
Mulder, Emily and Daniel
"Is this from your friend?" Will asked as he knelt down to free Queequeg.
"Yes, you like it?" she handed him the card and he read it quickly.
"It's awesome, who's Daniel and Emily?" he asked returning the card and she set it on the window sill next to the tree.
"His kids, Daniel is about your age" she looked at the twinkling lights and smiled "you want to meet them? We could go and say hi, the truck won't be here until after lunch"
"Only if you show me my room first" he dragged her by the sleeve and started to open doors one by one.
Mulder licked his fingers, declaring himself a cherry pie God. Or at least someone related to one, the recipe he got from his cousin came with a DEA seal and was stamped confidential. The second pie cooled on the counter, waiting to be gift-wrapped.
His phone buzzed, then rang, and without looking he knew who it was. He answered, phone held between ear and shoulder as he sliced the pie.
“Hi, it’s me, are you home?”
“Yeah, how’s the move going?”
“That’s the thing, it’s not, can we crash your place for a while?”
“Sure, come on over” the kids looked up from their video game like deer caught in headlights.
“Thanks, I’ll explain everything once we see you”
“Okay” he smiled seeing their wide eyes.
“Wait, you don’t mind if we bring Queequeg?”
“That beast is still alive?” He remembered she had a dog when they were in college but that was ages ago. She huffed out a small laugh.
“No, it’s not the same Queequeg” she assured, surprised he still remembered such details.
“In that case, bring him with you, the old one hated my guts” and that really made her laugh “you have the address”
“Yeah, I’ll see you soon”
Hanging up he took a quick survey of the room, the only thing out of place were Danny and Em, still in their PJ’s.
“You two, get dressed, we’re gonna have company”
“I thought we're not going anywhere until dinner?" Danny whined but dragged himself up, doing a fairly accurate imitation of a zombie he and Emily just spent an hour slaughtering.
"Come on" Emily pushed him forward, her tone turning into a playful playground mocking "Dad is bringing home his girlfriend"
Mulder in return almost caught her with a kitchen towel. He hoped, it was just the mystery of enigmatic doctor Scully and that once they finally met, her charm would win both of them over.
He straightened the pillows, gathered empty glasses and put on a fresh pot of coffee.
Gravity of the moment hit Scully the moment she stepped out of the car. Heart racing, palms sweating, all sci-fi movie scenarios that Will loved so much playing in her head on fast forward. Universe folding and eating it’s own tail, time space continuum disrupted making both father and son disappear into thin air. Mulder would laugh if he’d know what went through her head right now.
“Fourth floor” she said and Will pushed the button, keeping the dog on a short leash. The elevator climbed, a short ride; slight jolt; the doors slid open, her legs wobbling like Jell-O. Will turned around watching her with curious eyes, his eyes.
“Mom?” Mulder will hate me, he'll know and he'll never forgive me “what's wrong?”
“42” the answer to everything; she managed a smile for his sake and followed, though her heart felt like a frightened little animal. The boy stoped in front of the last door on his left, hand poised over the doorbell, impatient. He pushed the button, there was no going back. She heard a gong, quick footsteps, click of the lock and Mulder, smiling his best smile stepping aside to let them through.
"Hi come on in"
Scully ushered Will ahead, now or never, do or die, come what may, and then without skipping a beat, Mulder was there, one arm around her, kissing her cheek, warm greeting breaking the spell. No lightning strike, no burning swords falling from the sky.
"Hi" she smiled back feeling the confidence coming back "sorry to barge in on you like that"
"Nonsense" they both glanced at Will, who looked puzzled shifting between his usually cool and reserved mother and this stranger he never saw before in his life.
"You must be Will" Mulder smiled and reached out to shake hands, the boy took it smiling shyly. Scully searched his face for any sign of recognition, but he looked away, introducing a pair of teens, both tall and dark haired, both smiling politely, Daniel and Emily. It was all going well, until Queequeg jumped at Danny, tail wagging, tongue lolling, demanding petting, immediately.
Mulder laughed over Scully's exasperated attempts at reining the dog in "Looks like no one is going to be eaten today, let me take your coats"
Will didn't wait, while Danny kept the dog busy he pulled of his puffy jacket and press it into Mulder's waiting hands, joining the kids, pulling him away lightly.
"Don't worry, he doesn't bite" he said to Emily, encouraging her to pet the dog's head.
"Why did you name him Queequeg?" Danny asked letting go. The orange fur ball trailed after Emily into the living room, making the boys follow.
"It's from Moby Dick" Will explained, noticing the paused game "you guys are playing Resident Evil?"
"You wanna play?" Emily asked, sitting on the couch and returning to scratching the dog behind his ears.
"I never tried it before"
"It's easy" Danny assured "I'll show you"
Back in the hallway the grownups looked at each other.
"It won't give him nightmares or anything?" Mulder asked a little concerned helping her shrug out of her coat.
"It's okay, he watched Aliens when he was 8" with her heart calm at last she smiled, turning and standing on tiptoes to steal a proper kiss while the kids weren't watching "Thank you for the tree"
"Welcome home, Starbuck" he whispered against her lips pecking her again before she escaped. He hung the coats and led her inside, hand on the small of her back. Scully took a deep breath and her curiosity woke up.
"What's that smell?" sweet like home and vanilla.
"Cherry pie, I'm trying out a recipe"
"You were serious about the Christmas dinner" she sat at the table, glancing over her shoulder to the couch, where Danny was explaining rules of the game, Will listening intently.
Mulder set a mug of steaming coffee and a slice of pie in front of her "so what happened"
"The truck caught a flat tire"
"What?" he sat down opposite her, outraged just as she was an hour before.
"Yes, and it will take 4 hours to fix it because of some agreement with the insurance company"
"That's ridiculous" Mulder frowned, angry by proxy, watching her attack the pie a little too forcefully, but once she tasted it, she closed her eyes and sighed savoring the taste.
"That's amazing" she praised him, taking another bite.
"I'm glad you like it, that recipe is a class A government secret"
Queequeg, forgotten by the kids came trotting into the kitchen, his nose landing on Mulder's leg under the table.
"What is it fur ball?" He scratched the dog's head and glanced up at Scully "I don't have anything for him to eat"
"That's okay, water's fine" she sipped her coffee and looked around the large living area.
The kids were engrossed in the game, twinkling lights on the tree spread a warm glow against soft gray light of an overcast winter day. The place looked comfortable, leather couch, easy chair and a reading lamp in the corner. A low bookcase overflowing with books and magazines, framed pictures some large prints of colorful galaxies, some smaller pictures looking like family photos.
On the wall closest to her, she saw three pictures. The first one showed Mulder on a beach with Emily on his back, both of them laughing, baby arms wrapped around his neck, the picture of happiness. The other showed Emily and Danny, maybe six and three years old, dressed warm head to toe, tall snowman between them, rocks and twigs for eyes and hair, long dark woolen scarf around his neck, most likely Mulders'. The third caught her by the heart, a little darker then the others, simple candid shot of Mulder holding a sleeping newborn child in his arms framed by gold and purple sunset. His tender expression made her eyes sting with tears, a vision of life that might have been. She had to look away, focusing on him here and now, in the uncharacteristically tidy kitchen. She searched for something to say to distract herself.
"The tree looked smaller in the picture" she tried to joke and Mulder chuckled, still crouching by the dog who greedily lapped water from a shallow bowl.
"Yeah, I kind of went all out this year" he sat back at the table, taking her hand, his voice for her ears only "I still can't believe you're here"
"I'm here" she squeezed his hand, fighting to push away the fear creeping back in.
Unable to stop smiling, he drew small circles over her skin, blatantly staring. She tried to hold his gaze as he sipped his coffee, gaze boring into her over the edge of mug, making her grow more and more uncomfortable, as if they played the blinking game. She chickened out first, gently freeing her hand from his grasp.
"Don't look at me like that" she murmured, returning to the excellent pie.
"Why" he teased "I've got a lot of catching up to do in that department".
"Could you at least, I don't know, spread out the effort a little" she glanced up, and he was still there, still staring, then laughing when she looked away again.
"I don't think so" he meant to sound apologetic but it turned out smug, so he dug into his pie and changed the subject "you like the new place? Did the painters do everything the way you wanted?"
"It looks great, now all we need now is furniture"
"We wanted to come by this evening, bring you some dinner, maybe help a little"
They both watched Emily walk into the kitchen and dig out a box of ice cream from the freezer.
"Is there any pie left?" she asked stoping at the table, grinning, ice cream scoop in hand.
"Plenty" Mulder cut her a solid slice and she added ice cream on the side.
"You want some ice cream too, Mrs. Scully?"
"Yes thank you, and please, call me Dana" she moved her plate closer and Emily dug the spoon into the carton again.
"Guys, you want some pie too?" Mulder called and Danny jumped to his feet, Will following close on his heels.
"YEAAAH" they replied in unison, some universal law forcing the younger boy to follow the older one in everything he does. They chased each other into the kitchen, almost crashing into the table.
Mulder looked up, ready to reprimand, but seeing the boys side by side stopped him in his tracks. He was a trained FBI agent, taught to remember faces, eyes, hair, special features, it was second nature on top of his eidetic memory. And in his professional opinion, the boys could be brothers. Same lips, same eyes, green blue gray hazel whatever you want to call them, chameleon eyes. He noticed because they both wore similar colors, he noticed because he heard it a hundred times before from every girl he met. Boys took their plates and ran back to the living room, a tornado in jeans and green sweatshirts. Emily followed, leaving Mulder stunned into silence.
Scully nibbled on her pie, smiling fondly after them, seemingly oblivious to what had just happened. A moment passed, then another, he sipped his coffee, took a bite of pie. Impossible, he thought, a trick of light, young boys change all the time. It had to be his imagination, a lucid dream of wishful thinking, sugar and endorphin rush from having her back. She smiled at him across the table, sweet and real. It just wasn't possible.
"I don't mean to take up your entire day, we'll manage" Scully patted his hand, and it took him a second to realize she meant the move.
"C'mon, what if there's some furniture to move, or heavy boxes, I want to help" feeling that what he really wanted was to stay close a little longer, she realized that now when she was here, she didn't want to say goodbye just yet either.
"Alright, but I'm buying dinner" he snickered and found her leg under the table, rubbing his foot against her calf and hiding a smile behind the coffee cup. She sat up straight, her pose a subtle reprimand, but it was ruined once her toes brushed his ankle discreetly. He couldn't wait to have a moment alone with her.
Kids loved the pasta for lunch, eating like all teens, exchanging stories with new friends, noisy and happy. Emily nudged Danny under the table, when his story about their vacation on the Vineyard, when they saw a white shark swimming by, close enough to touch, veered too far from the truth and began resembling the script of Jaws. Mulder sat across the table from Scully, both laughing at them. Their eyes meet over the food and noise, both trying to name the thing they felt growing around them.
The movers called somewhere around 4pm and they all went to help.
The large furniture that came on a separate truck was already brought in, boxes were loaded into the elevator and traveled up to their designated rooms. The movers trembled in face of Scully's anger, her cold fury coming back with vengeance the moment she saw them. All involved determined to wrap up the whole operation in the shortest amount of time possible.
Locking the door behind the last one of the movers, she leaned against them and sighed, she felt like it was the longest and at the same time the shortest day of her life.
"It's done" she let Mulder pull her into a hug and made the most of the warm reassurance his arms could provide.
"We should start with the bedrooms, in case you fall apart mid-box" rubbing her back and rocking her gently "I ordered Chinese, it should be here in half an hour or so"
"Thank you" the soft, well worn wool of his sweater felt like home she forgot she had long ago.
"Come on, let's start with your bed, the kids can do Will's room, just give them the sheets, Emily will handle the rest"
As she handed out the bedding and stopped Will from showing off his telescope first, Mulder had boxes pushed out of the way and the mattress back in its' the frame. She found him sprawled across it, arms folded under his head, shoes kicked off, ankles crossed dangling off the edge. Closing the door, careful not to make too much noise, she stepped out of her shoes and crossed the room "Mulder?"
He opened one eye and reached for her hand, yanking at it just enough to tip her over and land on the bed beside him.
"This is one comfortable bed, Doctor Scully" he said quietly, lifting himself on one elbow to look her in the eye.
"We're not doing this now" she warned, but didn't stop him when half of his body covered hers, hand caressing her side seeking skin to touch. Neither did she protest when he leaned down, capturing her lips with a low, satisfied hum. Instead she pulled him closer, fingers twined in his hair, squeezing all she could from the brief moment they had. When their lips parted, they both breathed a little harder then usual.
"I know" he smoothed out her t-shirt but kept his hand on her side "I just couldn't resist"
"I know what you mean" Scully drew him into another kiss, his hand on her breast squeezing enough to make her shiver. This time it was turn to break free.
"Okay, time out" he sighed, rolling off of her and onto his back, both of them panting "let's just relax for a minute"
She found his hand, fingers lacing, speaking softly "You have great kids Mulder"
The image of Danny and Will, standing side by side came back, but he hid it away quickly, afraid of saying too much "Will seems like a pretty cool kid too, I'm glad they hit it off from the start"
"So am I" he brought her hand to his lips and sat up, pulling her with him.
"Come on, let's get this done before we get caught"
"I'm starving" she admitted and right on cue, the bell rang.
Mulder and the boys cleared the table, Emily helped look for plates and glasses and some cutlery in various boxes.
They sat down and ate, laughing and talking and by the time they finished the last carton of fried rice, all felt as if they were friends their entire lives.
Emily hooked up the tv and the stereo, and the computer in Will’s room while she was at it.
The boys tried to play horse with Will’s clothes, throwing them into the dresser drawers up until Scully came to see what was all the fuss about and restored order (or spoiled the fun, depending no whom you asked). They were sitting on the floor, messily folding the sweatshirts and hoodies back the way they belonged when a stack of boxes caught her attention. Kneeling by it to read the labels, she groaned and shouted through the open door.
“Mulder! I need you” the innuendo slipping from her lips before she had time to think of the company.
Seeing her dad’s grin when he came in, Emily knew he heard the exact same thing she did. In that moment she realized, what her dad meant, when he said that this time things would be different.
“Took you some time” he quipped and Scully finally realized what she just said, glancing at the kids, the boys didn’t notice, but Emily couldn’t quite hide her smile. It was some time since she saw her dad so playful with anyone.
“They brought the wrong boxes in here” she pointed at the stickers saying ‘books living room’ mixed with 'books bedroom 2’.
“You want them back in the living room?”
“Could you do that for me?” she smiled sweetly and he was already pushing up his sleeves “by the bookcase, if you please, I’ll see what can I do in the kitchen”
“Okay” he knelt and inspected the labels, glancing inside the boxes. Emily shut down the computer, having checked that everything worked fine, ready to move on to something else.
“I can help” she said, following.
“Thank you” Scully gave her a small smile and when she put one arm around her shoulders, Emily realized that she was actually a little taller.
“Who threw sox at me?” Mulder asked as soon as they disappeared around the corner and both women laughed heading for their own pile of half opened boxes.
Emily didn’t have to ask if it was hard to move your whole life someplace new, she had first hand experience. Mulder passed them from time to time, carrying boxes back and forth between rooms, and having done that, decided to help out Danny and Will or they would never go to bed tonight.
Emily unwrapped the plates, glasses and mugs, leaving them on the counter to be put away, either into the dishwasher or one of the kitchen cabinets, working in companionable silence until one item caught Emily’s eye.
“Oh, dad would love this one” she said smiling, holding up a white mug, well used and loved at some point, the edge chipped in one place, the inside a little worn out. The graphic on it showed a boy, sitting on a hovering UFO, a pair of Chuck’s on his feet dangling from the edge, looking down at a red haired girl standing in a beam of light. Scully looked up from the dishwasher rack and smiled, taking the mug from her hands.
“He did, he gave me this, shortly before I moved to Boston” she rinsed the mug and dried it with a dish towel, then examined the image fondly “It survived a lot over the years”
“We have no idea what to get him for Christmas this year” Emily confessed, hoping for some fresh suggestions.
“When we were in college he had this thing, it always caught everyone’s eye” Scully looked at the girl, then over her shoulder to see if Mulder wasn’t around, then leaned in to whisper in her ear.
Some time later, with essentials unpacked and the place looking home enough to sustain life Mulder rounded up the kids and reluctantly they said their goodbyes, taking home a sense of a job well done.
With Will in the shower, Scully let herself relax for a moment. Half eaten piece of pie on the coffee table, sinking into the couch, she sipped tea and admired the tree, trying to remember where had she put the Christmas ornaments and if she should take them out or leave the tree the way it was right now. Twinkling lights filled the room with warm glow, soft shadows hiding boxes and all things that needed to be done tomorrow. If only she could keep Mulder to cuddle with right now.
“Mom?” Will came into the living room, silent as a cat, startling her from a doze.
“What is it sweetie”
“Will Danny and Emily come visit tomorrow?”
“No, I don’t think so"
“Even for a little while?” he whined, trying his best pout.
“Will, Grandma is coming back tomorrow, and we still have a lot to do around here” it sounded true and reasonable, but she couldn’t stop the light sting of regret from not seeing Mulder either.
“Okay” he hung his head, looking as if she canceled Christmas and with a mumbled goodnight went to bed. She knew it was largely a ploy to get her to do what he wanted, but still it made the pain a little sharper. Queequeg got up from his spot by the heater, and came to her, pressing wet nose against her thigh.
“You too?” she asked the dog rhetorically, getting nothing more than a blink from the sad black eyes. She got up and went to kiss the boy goodnight.
On the way home, Emily watched the falling snow through the front passenger’s window.
Getting to know your parent’s friends was a process, but it wasn’t hard to give them the chance her dad asked for earlier. She had nothing against Scully or Will, liked them actually, and she wasn’t a child anymore, not like Danny anyway.
At first it felt a little strange to see someone who not as far as this morning was a complete stranger, behave so comfortably around her dad as if a huge chunk of life had already happened. Which in fact was exactly the case, and from the looks of it, they most likely dated,
She thought she’ll be angry, expecting the woman to be a glitter bomb with no brain to speak of, but she was wrong. She liked her calm smile and clear eyes, she liked that Dana Scully always knew the answer to every question, had a clear plan. Now, seeing dad around her was like seeing him in a new light.
Not so long ago, when he’d come home late from work, physically tired and emotionally exhausted, he’d force a few smiles for their sake and as soon as he’d think they weren’t watching, he’d sink into the couch to stare mindlessly at the tv until he fell asleep. It was happening more often than he’d like to admit.
Yet since he came back from that date, and now she knew it was a date with Scully, he wasn’t as depressed as he used to be. Now, although they were all tired, he smiled and listened to Danny talk about Will’s comic book collection and how many times Will thought he saw a UFO through his telescope. It felt as if something healed inside him, and she knew it was all thanks to Dana Scully.
“Grandma!” Will shouted and jumped in the air, hand waving above the crowd, trying to get Maggie’s attention. She spotted him and waved back, bag trailing behind her like a faithful dog, used to traveling back and forth between her children scattered around the world. Now when she had her favorite daughter and grandson close to home, she would be happy to breathe a little.
“Will” she hugged the boy who flung himself into her arms the moment she stepped through the gate “you’ve grown since last time I saw you”
Scully hugged her mother a little tighter than usual “He did not”
“So good to have you here Dana” she sighed, rubbing her back a little, truly happy to be home, with family.
“It’s good to be back” Scully kissed her mother’s cheek “How’s Charlie?”
“Oh, you know your brother, he has a new boyfriend and is up on cloud number 9 all over again”
“Let’s hope this time it last longer than Valentines” Scully sighed, equal parts fond, concerned and exasperater “This means he’s not coming for Christmas?”
“No, they have a week planned in Provence, from Christmas Eve till New Year’s Day, and he wishes he could be here”
“But he’s not really sorry and we’ll all get lavender scented candles” Scully finished for her, smirking.
“He’s got a wonderful scarf for you too” Maggie hugged her non-nonsense daughter who not-so-secretly had a dozen of scented candles, bath salts and oils in her bathroom “I got it with me, and you’ll get it for Christmas”
“What have you got for me, Grandma?” Will walked backwards through the crowd, somehow managing not to bump into anyone.
“It’s a secret and you’ll have to wait to find out”
“But you told mom!” He argued.
“Because your mother hates surprises”
“It’s not fair” Will turned, playing frustrated, making both of them laugh.
Scully unlocked the door and before she knew Queequeg was dancing around Maggie’s feet. “Sorry about the mess, we’re still unpacking”
“It’s okay, I didn’t expect you to get everything done in one evening”
“We had help” Will chimed in, wrestling with his scarf “from Danny and Emily”
“Who?” Maggie handed Dana her coat and immediately Will pulled her away, ignoring the question and pushing open one of the doors “This is my room, it’s bigger than mom’s”
“Very nice” Maggie praised and hugged him, dropping a kiss on top of his head before moving on to the living room, where she paused a little surprised “You just moved in, but you found the time to put up a Christmas tree?”
“It was a housewarming gift” Scully said brushing past her into the kitchen, to put coffee on “from Mulder”
“Danny’s dad” Will added by way of explanation, unaware that his grandmother knew perfectly well who Mulder was.
“How sweet of him” she smiled, glad that some things didn’t change despite the years that passed “Will, I’ve got something for you in my bag, could you get it for me?”
“Sure” he ran off and Maggie followed her daughter, taking a place at the table.
“So, Will met Fox”
“Yes” Scully stood with her back to the room, filling the pot with fresh water “and his kids, the boys are apparently best friends now”
“Dana” the older woman sighed, concerned but not really surprised.
“Got it” Will came back running and Maggie smiled at him, rummaging through her purse until she found a small box.
“Here you go, that’s from Uncle Charlie”
“A Concorde model!” Will exclaimed and shook the box, making plastic parts rattle before he ran of to his room, already tearing it open.
“What do you say Will?” Scully shouted after him, placing the last of the pie on the table.
“Thank you!” the door slammed behind him and Maggie looked up at her daughter.
“They met” she stated, Scully nodded, reaching for mugs and milk for coffee from the fridge “and?”
“Mulder didn’t say anything” she kept her voice low in case Will came back for something.
“You think he noticed anything?”
“I don’t know” the coffee machine gurgled in the background, Scully hid her face in her hands, the words came out muffled “but you should see them together mom, Will and Danny, they look like two peas in a pod” she sighed letting go of the fear that kept coming back in waves since yesterday.
Peeling one hand free and squeezing it in silent reassurance, Maggie spoke softly “You have to tell him, soon”
“I know” Scully looked up at her mom, the angel who forgave her adultery and loved her son without reservations. Her warm gaze and smile was something Scully could depend on, even more than her own judgment. Glancing at the pie, the older woman’s smiled widened.
“Now I know you don’t usually bake, not to mention the lack of time, don’t tell me this is”
“It’s all Mulder, mom” Scully smiled and cut them each a solid slice. Maggie took a bite and sighed, just like Scully the first time. And no wonder, from all the men in her daughter’s life, boyfriends, even husbands, Mulder was always her number one.
Mulder’s week flew by. Between work and Christmas shopping it consisted mostly of standing in lines and sitting in traffic. Still, by Friday the turkey was waiting in the freezer, the produce for stuffing were bought and chopped. He made the pie on Christmas Eve, the scent putting all three of them in festive mood. What seemed daunting at first turned out to be quite exciting, and he felt more confident about this fancy-ish dinner with his brutally honest kids than about taking them to see their mom in California and facing three awkward days of sunshine and her new man, to whom he was completely indifferent.
He bought two ugly sweaters in memory of his mother who passed away last summer, and one item each from the kid’s Christmas lists. The softest blanket he could find for Emily and adult sized acoustic guitar for Danny.
The gift he’d grudgingly buy for Diane, was blissfully easy to pick when it came to Scully, although they agreed they wouldn’t exchange gifts. A pair of soft leather gloves and a book of feminist poetry, for Will he found a puzzle, two thousand pieces of night sky with Milky Way in the middle. If the boy was as stubborn as his mother, he won’t be able to resist the challenge.
As Mulder prowled the mall during lunchtime in search for these gifts, his mind kept wandering to a comfortable apartment where a young boy most likely helped his mother unpack shopping bags of her own, pestering her with millions of questions.
He watched Danny and Will reading comic books instead of unpacking and assemble the telescope, dragging him to come see the lights they saw through it, pulling his leg knowing perfectly well that it was a plane approaching landing. He couldn’t believe how similar the boys looked, even acted sometimes. His psychology training spun theories in his gut, memory brought back facts he pushed out of his mind, his brain did the math. Now, deep down in his heart, he had a feeling and a few questions of his own, all he needed was a right moment to ask.
Waking up to a buzzing phone became Mulder’s favorite part of his morning, but on this particular Christmas Sunday, apart from now customary text from Scully wishing him a great day, he woke up to loud sounds of wrapping paper being ripped apart followed by happy gasps and cheers. With a warm smile he gathered himself up and trotted to the living room, changing bed for couch, dropping a kiss on each head on his way, thankful for groans and yucks and you-have-to-do-that-s.
“This had your name on it” Emily pushed a large cylindrical package into his hands.
“You didn’t have to do this” he sighed, happily exasperated.
“You always say that” Danny munched on a candy cane, tuning the guitar as Mulder forced his way though layers of wrapping paper.
“Did you pay the salesgirl to pack it extra tight?”
“Gently! It’s” Emily tried to warn him but he tore through the package and found a foil wrapped roll of glossy paper. Tugging at the last layer, he peeled it off in one long transparent lock of plastic and unrolled the poster, his eyes growing wider with every inch.
“No way!” Mulder exclaimed, the paper rustling through his hands, the UFO and the white letters at the bottom feeding his grin “Who told you about this?”
“Santa” Emilly said innocently, wrapping herself in her new blanket.
“More like Scully” he smiled and leaned over to kiss Emily’s cheek, knowing full well it was her doing. She scooted closer and caught the end, unfolding the image to see it in it’s full glory again.
Bold letter at the bottom shouted 'I want to believe’ into the sky or at whoever lay his eyes on the poster, and it was probably the most essential truth about their father, who never buried his missing sister, who believed in mystic creatures and aliens despite getting into the heads of worst scum of the earth on daily basis. He believed in them, that they could be whoever they wanted, Danny who preferred music over sports, herself the computer geek bored by dolls. Emily watched her father smile, some memory glowing through his eyes and was glad she asked Scully for advice.
The turkey didn’t burn into a black unidentifiable mass, no one sustained any injuries operating a hot frying pan, the cranberry sauce was too sour to eat but other than that, they licked their plates clean.
Scully and Will came, gifts in hands, kisses and hugs and well wishes exchanged. They shared promised pie and the kids disappeared in Emily’s room to watch a movie, leaving the adults on the couch.
“You told Emily about the poster” he whispered, keeping his arm around her, watching her play with a twig of mistletoe he just used as an excuse to kiss her breathless.
“I just told her that you had something like it and where she could find it” she turned to kiss the corner of his mouth sweetly “not that we argued over it, naked between the sheets after the first time we had sex”
“Thank God” he sighed, brushing her lips again “it was a great night, wasn’t it.”
“One of best nights of my life” she snuggled closer, wrapping one arm around his chest. “by the way, my mother sends you her best wishes, ”
“She knows we’re” he paused, looking for the right word.
“Seeing each other?” she supplied, filling the words with much more warmth than they implied “yes, she always liked you.”
“Really? I thought she was so sweet for people in general” he stifled a yawn, the week and the day catching up to him surrounded by her warmth.
“Tired?” Scully asked freeing herself from his embrace, noticing his hooded eyes and sleepy smile, he missed her immediately “why don’t you sit here, while I clean up”
“Leave it, it’s just dishes” he tried to keep her hand in his, but she got up and, cupping his cheek kissed him sweetly one last time.
“Rest for a while, I’ll handle the cleanup” he gave up, simply happy to have her around.
“Maybe I could rest my eyes for a few minutes”
Scully finished loading the dishwasher and went to check up on kids who were awfully quiet for the past 30 minutes. She found all three passed out watching Star Wars, the food induced coma and exciting morning finally winning.
Mulder sank onto his side at some point, burrowing in couch cushions with his arms crossed, hugging himself for warmth, the Navaho blanket forgotten on the armrest. He looked so peaceful, she didn’t have the heart to wake him. Unfolding the blanket, she draped it gently over him and knelt by the couch, keeping one arm around him. His breathing stayed slow and even, the warm glow of the tree making his features look softer, sweeter, drawing her in to brush a kiss over his cheek.
“Admit it Scully” he mumbled quietly “you love playing house with me”
She could feel him smile under her lips. Pushing the throw pillow to the floor he made room for her and she moved to the couch so he could rest his head in her lap. She made herself comfortable and stroked his hair, caressing his cheek and brow, watching his eyes close again and taking the warmth in return.
“Scully?” his voice was barely audible over the low music from the stereo and the wind howling outside the window “is Will ours?”
His question froze her mid-motion, but it was more her surprise than his tone. It wasn’t angry or hurt, it was a tone of someone who knew the answer to his question.
“Yes” she replied, speaking as softly and calmly as he did. There was nowhere to hide from the truth, he beat her to it.
Scully expected to be pushed away, thrown out, banished from his home and arms. Instead he snuggled deeper into her and she felt him relax with a deep sigh. His steady warmth settled in, melting away her fear of this moment and what it might bring. Emboldened by his calm, she risked stroking his hair again and caught a fraction of a smile. Freeing one hand, he pulled her arm beneath the blanket, holding her faintly shaking hand.
“Since when did you know” that was the second most terrifying question she thought he could ask, but when she imagined it, she heard it shouted, saw him pacing angrily, not sprawled on his couch practically asleep in her arms. He caught her completely off guard and the truths spilled out.
“Since the day he was born” she said, eyes cast down to his face as his eyes stayed closed, maintaining the illusion that this was a dream conversation “I held him in my arms, breastfeeding for the first time and I just knew”
“I wish I could be there" his calm was a facade, a single tear rolled from his eye and she brushed it away before it fell.
“You couldn’t, you had your own family" she whispered, fighting tears of her own “and I couldn’t tell you without ripping both our’s and your children’s lives apart” he nodded, understanding, however still working on accepting.
Thumb caressing her bare ring finger hinted at his next question “And the divorce?”
“It’s been coming for a while, we had problems, too much work, fewer things in common” she kept her voice low, this was her confession “He thought that a baby would bring us back together. We tried, but no matter how hard we tried I couldn’t get pregnant. By that time I had my suspicions as to why, but we still went to a specialist, and it turned out I was right, it was him, who couldn’t have kids” Mulder didn’t speak, but kept stroking her hand “also around that time I found out about the other women”
This made him pause, he looked up his eyes wide and angry, not at her but for her.
“He wanted a kid and still slept around?” she nodded, silent tears spilling over.
“Once it was clear that Will couldn’t be his son, everything went up in smoke” it still hurt to think, how love could be taken away in a minute, a love for a innocent child, who did nothing to deserve it, the words that fell in anger; liar, hypocrite, cheat… slut.
“We fought almost constantly, doors slammed, harsh words yelled all the time, the air became unbreathable. Soon he didn’t want to have anything to do with us, and quite frankly, neither did I, nor Will” she risked looking at him but tears blurred her vision “He’s very protective, your son”
“Was that the reason you moved back to D.C.?” he asked and unexpectedly, the words stung. She tried to withdraw her hand, but he held on, firm but gentle.
“I didn’t plan to bump into you that day in front of the book store, just as I haven’t planed the night eleven years ago”
Judgement and rejection tasted bitter, making her mouth dry but she steeled herself, brushing away the tears, ready for confrontation that she knew was inevitable.
The blanket fell away, forgotten as Mulder sat up, swiftly taking her hand in both of his, freezing her in place with his gaze. From the day they met, she knew him sweet and sour, angry and bored, excited, aroused and dejected, but the depth of love he was capable of and showed in that moment still caught her by surprise. This was her Mulder, who still loved her and understood her better than anyone ever had. The fight she gathered melted away in the eyes she loved and he passed on, to their son.
“I believe in many crazy things, crazy unbelievable things that can change people’s lives in one minute” he said cautiously, her left hand still in his, free from jewelry of any kind “But fate? No room for hope, redemption, forgiveness. I’d rather believe we make our own mistakes and choices, that there are many roads to happiness”
“I can’t change the choices I made” her voice shook lightly but she didn’t shy away “the signs I missed along the way”
“We both missed them” he brought her knuckles to his lips then cupped her cheek, calm resolve radiating through his fingertips “but I’m paying attention now. I want you back and I want to be a part of Will’s life, without blowing it to pieces if I can. I want a fresh start for us, and when the time is right”
“We’ll tell him” she finished.
Emotions looking for the easiest way out made them both cry, but for the first time in a long while it were tears of happiness. He leaned forward and she met him half way. The kiss was gentle and sweet, adoring, broken by quiet bursts of laughter. Settling for resting his forehead against hers, lips still brushing of their own volition between amazed sighs of happiness.
“We have a son” Mulder chuckled, thumbs caressing her cheeks, letting the words sink in properly.
“We do” she confirmed, sealing it with a kiss “and he’s perfect”
The smoke burned her lungs, burned her heart out. All the expectations people head, everyone seemed to know what's best for her, father, professors, the smiling priest at mass. Sunday School Dana was all they saw, imagined and wanted. But no one ever asked her what she wants, never gave her the choice, to fail, to feel. Pray, study, go to sleep at 10, be polite.
The smoke burned her lungs, under the bleachers on the edge of campus, like when she was cutting class for the first time. The smoke hid her from the nagging thoughts, the compulsion she was brought up with. Obey? No more.
Clouds gathered over the grounds, it could be the smoke, how poetic was that. The smoke clung to her skin, felt oily, alien, forbidden. Even the taste felt right in it's wrongness, she didn't do this for pleasure, yet the pleasure was there. Freedom she might call it, freedom to misbehave.
The clouds chased each other across the sky, a tumultuous gray, white and blue mass. Even water needed some time to roam, free from the confines of riverbeds and ocean shores.
Wind carried the scent of freshly mowed grass, the sounds of football practice about to start.
Footsteps. Long strides. Unhurried. Confident, yet silent.
It was an art, not to let them know that you know, not to show fright. Show them you're scared and they'll have the upper hand.
"You're in my spot" a dull monotone declared, no emotion to grab a hold on, no hint how to reply.
"Free country" she decides to match his casual.
"I'd like to believe that" a short chuckle, this round goes to her, she took a celebratory drag. A young man sat on the ground, looking at the field she faced away from, three feet of space between them their own ballpark.
Long skinny legs, jeans hanging loose more than on any other guy, tall and dark and handsome. Longish, careless tresses framing his face. She wondered about his smile as most did. Mulder (never Fox) was a character and everyone knew him, or his name, or his past. And that he kept to himself and was happy to keep it that way, much to many-a-girl's disappointment.
He didn't look at her, watching the football practice with almost scientific interest.
His indifference towards her felt like a slap on the cheek; he intruded on her moment and didn't back of and so his very presence turned into annoyance.
"Why are you here Scully?" He surprised her by knowing her name, not just her face.
"It's a beautiful day" she replied "why waste it in class"
Another chuckle, their eyes met and her lips twitched, smiling back. 2:0 for her.
"Not like your" he wanted to say more but stoped himself suddenly, back to watching the players run back and forth between white lines painted on grass, one forward two lines back.
"Not like what" she challenged demanding to hear his judgement, prove her right, that he was just like everyone else.
"Not like your boyfriend will come looking for you" he said flatly. News did travel fast. She turned away, back to being annoyed, back to studying the clouds, taking another drag of her cigarette, blowing out smoke as casually as she knew how. She was too old to feel like she's back in high school, those days had passed. But the emotions were there, they didn't change all that much. Graduation didn't flip any switches, the taste of failure... No, not failure, she will never again be defined by any man's approval. Ever.
The clouds floated above them, he kept silent, watching the game. The air grew heavy, clouds became darker, soft gray turning into an angry gray blanket. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
"You did good, ditching him" he said into the void that was her heart. Void the exact weight of her anger, emotional black hole growing inside. Words took a few seconds to register "you deserve better"
"An who are you to judge that" the void reached for him with tentacles of smoke, feeling new flesh to feed upon. Anger tensed, ready to attack.
"He lied to you for a while now" hands in his pockets, ankles crossed, unaffected tone. She lost again, let emotions bubble up.
The silence stretched, he reached out, she felt his gaze free of judgement, the void sniffed his hand. She looked away to the clouds, the warm wind brushing her face as it had bushed the distant treetops. Beyond the field, the domain of nature began, and it was full of untamed sounds, his voice almost drowned in the rustling grass.
"Did he even know how to kiss you right?" She glanced at his face, saw him looking away, his mild expression was a white flag, silk to wrap around her restless heart. The ash fell of the edge almost burning her fingers, the curtain she pulled around herself rustled.
"And what makes you think you know how to do that?" she teased deciding to make a friend, not an enemy.
"I don't" fist lone drops of rain fell on the bleachers above their heads "but if you put out that cigarette, I'm willing to try"
He risked a quick peek, wind blowing a few strands over his face, a smile that was just a shadow of a dimple.
She sent her doubts away with the clouds, breathing in the ozone, the rinsed air and ground turning damp. She still had time to run, from rain, from him, from her freedom. Instead she put out the cigarette in the grass and scooted closer, legs folded next to his thigh.
"Show me" she said, feeling like calling his bluff.
Mulder leaned in before she changed her mind, gently tipping her chin up with one finger, holding her gaze until the last inch between them. Drop of rain touched her lips and she reflexively parted them to lick it away, but found his soft lip instead. Thunder rumbled closer and he opened himself to her, inviting her in, their tongues greeting. It was he who was supposed to kiss her, not she him, but he gave back each swipe and change. Palm cupping her cheek, thumb brushing away raindrops. Was it wind in her ears or their breaths? He dove deeper, emboldened by her confidence and the sky opened above them, the rain warm like summer coming in fast. She took his face in her hands, holding him, drinking from the cup that kept filling up. The storm raged around them, sounds of the football practice lost in the rolling thunder. Thor called their names, breaking them up, lips swollen, cheeks flushed.
"Your place or mine?" she asked, freedom singing in her blood.
"Mine's closer" he said helping her up then shrugged out of his jacket to drape it around them, useless in the downpour but it was the best he could do at the moment "Run?"
The rain kept drumming against the windowsill, their clothes piled together on the floor, his lean runner's body pressed up behind her beneath an odd poster adorning the wall.
"I want to believe?" she read out loud and he replied with soft lips pressed to her shoulder.
“Mom can I go out with Danny?” Will came to the living room, where the grownups were having their boring coffee.
“Where to?” Scully looked over Mulder’s shoulder, Will already had his jacket in hand.
“Just the park” Danny explained coming in after him “we’ll be back before it gets dark” he assured, glancing at his dad, who exchanged quick looks with Will’s mom.
“Okay, but don’t go far” she smiled and the boys ran off.
Mulder kept his eyes fixed on her, listening to the fumbling of shoes, mittens and jackets.
“Bye” they called and the doors clicked shut.
She didn’t have time to blink before he was on her, pulling her down on the couch, head on a throw pillow, lips on hers swallowing her surprised laugh.
Hands pulling at the hem of her sweater, tongue in her mouth. She couldn’t get enough fast enough, leg around his hips, silky smooth hair beneath her fingertips. He squeezed her breast, lace added friction to the experience. He was wonderfully heavy, and he smelled like heaven, the cologne she gave him subtle enough to mix with his warmth, she felt surrounded by him, sucked into him, and yet not powerless. Tugging gently at his hair, freeing her mouth, brushing his lips as he moved south.
“Mulder” sloppy kisses, soft, wet and warm traced a path down her neck, no need to mark her, he did that years ago “what if Emily comes back”
He followed the border between skin and lace with the tips of his fingers then pinched her nipple, squeezing again.
“She’s at Carols', she won’t be back before dinner” the tip of his nose pushed her head up, throat exposed he kissed her again, slower and more gentle, reassuring and adoring “we got time, ladies choice, bed or couch?”
“I want to feel you” she breathed, closing her arms around his shoulders.
“Your wish is my command” feeling him move away, Scully locked her arms and legs around his torso and he lifted her, almost effortlessly.
“You still work out” she praised, smiling and breathing him in again. Racing pulse woke his scent and her memories of summer nights in tents, naked between sleeping bags instead of sheets, times he carried her on his back, when she took a wrong step, sprained her ankle.
“Job requirement” he replied pushing the bedroom door open, and stepping inside he felt her slide to the floor.
Scully walked backwards pulling the navy blue V-neck sweater over her head to reveal sheer black lace, barely hiding pink nipples. Her round hips in a black skirt made his mouth water. She crooked one finger and he almost floated of the ground into her open arms.
She drew him in, painting the roof of his mouth with her tongue, distracting enough to turn them around and push him to sit on the bed. His hands were warm and calm sliding down her back, finding the zipper pull give easily, feeling the thrill growing with every inch. The fabric pooled at her feet and Mulder stopped, surprised by the bare skin where he expected fabric. He broke free and squeezed her ass glancing down, she wore panties alright, but that was far too many letters for the amount of cover they provided. Ready to reveal her surprise, Scully took a step back and twirled.
“You like it?” She asked looking over her shoulder to see him lick his lips at the sight of her hips wrapped in black lace, covering only tops of her buttocks, the curve peeking as if from beneath a curtain. Black thigh-highs and black lace bra made the ensemble look like something out of a magazine he probably kept somewhere near by. She finished the pirouette and gently ran the tips of her fingers along the edge of the cup and down between her breasts. His gaze burned, leaving her flushed wherever if went.
“I saw it one night in a store window and thought about you” bending down to picking up the skirt, legs straight and hair falling over one shoulder, she allowed the gravity to do the teasing for her. One step between his thighs to unbutton his shirt, she let him roam free over her body again.
“I ” he croaked, cleared his throat “I love it” fingertips outlining the edges of fabric. She tugged the shirt out of his pants and he leaned forward, kissing her belly.
"Mulder" a little surprised by his choice at first, she laughed, realizing he was kissing the faint lines of stretch marks, souvenirs from the pregnancy "you're still not over that."
"I'll never be over it" he nipped at her hip and reached for the bra hook "I ignored it before, but now I want to see you"
She let the bra drop to the floor and with arms around her middle he pulled them down, rolling around in sheets, both laughing. She giggled when he closed his mouth around her nipple and sucked, but then he nipped and licked it, and her giggle became a gasp. Trying to push the panties down he stopped her "Can I unwrap my gift?"
"I thought you forgot" he kept kissing her breast, looking at her from under his lashes, tongue laving at the pebbled nipple.
"I know, we ain't got all day" he moved down, caressing her sides, kissing each rib and stretch mark, tip of his nose tickled her abdomen, she sighed, ruffling his hair. Lingering nowhere for too long, kissing every inch of reveled skin, gentle fingers hooked beneath the lace and slowly pulled down her panties.
She lifted herself to her elbows wanting to watch, but his tongue was on her clit and her head fell back. She could feel him smile while making her writhe. He licked the inside of her thigh, letting her gather her thoughts.
"Don't stop" fingers in hair brought him back, two fingers taking over, stroking her from the inside.
"If you want more just ask" he teased surfacing for a breath, she searched for support, one leg hooked over his back as he knelt on the floor by the bed.
"More" she moaned, back arched of the bed, searching for that sweet spot he purposefully avoided and he obliged. Fingers finally pumping hard, tongue pressed to her clit, flicking it and circling, until she squeezed, pulsed in his hands with a clipped gasp "Oh God".
Climbing the bed to rest beside her, hear her panting as he stroked her gently, she looked flushed and dazed, otherworldly beautiful as he licked his fingers.
"I meant kids Scully, if you want more, just say the word" he leaned in and kissed her and the tangy taste of her sex was on his tongue.
"I will" she said pushing him to lie back, palming him over the denim of his jeans "but right now I want you"
Mulder smiled pulling her into his arms.
The park three blocks down shone white. Sun lurked just beyond the clouds when a cold breeze kept the snow from melting down. They raced each other from the door, competitive nature driving them forward, the swept pavement safe, Saturday early afternoon made the street almost empty for them. Everyone was already there, they felt it in their freezing cheeks and misty breaths.
"Come on Will" Danny called, surprised he didn't have to slow down for the kid.
"Right behind you" he laughed, swirling around the old lady who walked into his path, calling a quick apology as he passed.
They ran through green lights, the traffic gods watching over them right up until last crosswalk. Danny caught Will's arm and they waited.
"You think there's gonna be fireworks in the park tonight?" Will asked, catching his breath.
"They always have something going on, but it's not that big like downtown" the light changed and they walked side by side "I bet we'll go see it together"
"You do that every year?"
"No, we're at mom's usually, in California" he shrugged
"You miss it?" the snow crunched beneath their feet on the white path beyond the gate.
"A little, but I don't miss her boyfriend, and how dad would always somehow find a reason to work by now"
"He'd say something like, the bad guys don't do holidays Danny" he kicked a pinecone someone lost, picked it up "then disappear for the day, leaving us with mom and the rat"
"That sucks" Will stayed a few steps behind.
"Yeah, the rat's no fun, I like your mom better" he found another lost pinecone, pocketed it with the first one "and dad likes her too. You wanna build a snowman?" he asked without looking back.
"Sure" Will replied "how about now?"
A snowball hit Danny's back and he turned around swiftly, Will burst out laughing.
"I'll get you for that!!" Danny laughed and dropped to his knees, gathering snow in his gloved hands as Will ran, trying to reach the nearest tree to hide behind it, before he could make good on his promise. The snowball whooshed past his ear.
"You can try!" He called back reaching his hideout, preparing for another shot.
"Try not! Do" the last word came on a huff, snowball sent through the air by the best pitcher in his class, hitting the tree, Will fast enough to hide from it.
"Or do not" he finished the line, teasing. Will’s next snowball went sloppy, not even making it halfway across the distance. Danny laughed and threw another one, missing his target by a mile.
Gloves wet, snow flying back and forth, Danny moved closer with every pitch, sneaking up on Will, convinced that he’s safe behind his tree. Six feet between them, he kept quiet, soft snowball ready in hand.
"Danny?" the boy called out, suspicious of the pause between flying missiles.
He moved a little to the side, remembering how Will favored his right.
"Dan?" Will stepped out from behind the tree and fistful of loose snow splashed against his coat, dead center of mass.
"Bullseye!" hands thrown up in celebration as Will theatrically fell on his back, snow pillowing his fall "Sucker!" still laughing, hand reaching to help his friend up Danny instructed "never let your eyes off the enemy"
"Right" Will yanked at his hand making him slip and land right next to him, both of them laughing.
"Can I help?" Will asked looking a little bashful when Danny passed him with an armful of plates.
"Sure" kneeling by the oven Mulder glanced over his shoulder and nodded at the counter "you can take the glasses to the table"
"Okay" the boy smiled and picking up one in each hand, followed his friend. Scully walked into the kitchen, gently brushing his hair as he passed her.
"You raised him well" Mulder whispered getting up, the white apron he wore proclaimed his cooking to be out of this world.
"He was always like this" she smiled breathing in the yeasty scent of home made pizza “he just doesn’t like cleaning his room”
“I wonder where he got that from”
“I’m home” Emily called from the hallway, peeking into the living room.
“Just in time” her dad said with a hint of reprimand.
“Smells good” she smiled and waved “hi Dana”
“Hi” Scully smiled back, warmly and sincerely.
The phone rang and Mulder answered, his grin fading slightly at the voice on the other end.
“Hi Diane” he said trying to sound casual “how’s the vacation going?”
Standing close to him, Scully couldn't help but catch a thing or two, the woman seemed happy to hear him. Her insecurities bubbled like melting cheese.
“That sounds nice, I’ll give you Danny but please make it short, we were just about to eat” he handed the phone to the boy and noticed Scully’s mood slip downward.
“We made a snow man, mom” Danny said to the receiver jammed between his ear and shoulder as he took the last two glasses to the table “no, not Emily, me and Will”
"Hey, what's wrong?" Mulder rubbed her arm gently as she listened to the conversation with one ear, unable to stop herself, drifting away from him.
“Don’t worry” he said, leaning past her for a pair of oven mitts hanging above the stove, arm casually around her “she’s just checking in”
She glanced up and the warmth was still there, in his eyes, his smile.
"I feel like, this is a dream" she sighed, foolishness of her feelings hitting her.
"A very good dream" he supplied, pulling her into his side, fighting the urge to kiss away her doubts.
"Em!" Danny yelled at the top of his lungs, startling everyone.
"No shouting indoors" Mulder scolded. The bathroom door slammed as Emily came in and took the phone her brother offered.
"Hi mom" she knelt by the dog and scratched him behind the ears, getting next to no response because he was busy keeping a watchful eye over everything going on in the kitchen "no, we're staying home, dad is making pizza"
The timer chimed, Queequeg, following Mulder's each step, sat up on high alert, whatever fell of the table was fair game. Mitts on, Mulder opened the door and pulled out the pan, cheese still sizzling, green peppers, pepperoni and mushrooms, as fresh and hot as it gets.
"This looks amazing" Scully's mouth watered.
"Beats waiting for delivery too" he added.
"Mom, I gotta go, say hi to Alex" Emily's hand tightened on the dog's collar as her dad passed them "happy New Year to you too, love you"
"Boys, go wash your hands" Scully said and they both listened, almost tripping over their own feet in haste, as if the food would vanish before they came back.
Pizza in the middle, they took their places, Will next to Danny, Scully opposite Mulder, on each end of the table, Emily between them. Cutting the pie, apron hung over the back of his chair, Mulder glanced around the table at his kids, his love, and the home cooked dinner. Soft pressure on his knee saved him from tearing up, breaking the trance.
"You're here too?" he said to the dog teasingly "Sorry pooch, I don't think there'll be anything left for you this time" finally trusting his voice, he looked up "What are you waiting for?"
Cleaned up plates and happy sighs was all he needed to make it worth his while.
Quarter to midnight, they were walking down the street. The boys insisted on showing off their snowman, Emily walked behind them, hands in her pockets, woolen hat pulled over her ears half-listening half buffering their excitement. Scully with her hand under Mulder's arm soaked up the warmth, his and the moment's, ignoring the cold night. She bid farewell to the last twelve months with little sorrow. She finally felt at home and it was a wonderful feeling to hold on to.
They found the snowman amidst the crowd, holding a spot for them, staring into the night with his pinecone eyes and arms made of twigs pointing to the sky.
People began counting down, gathering loved ones into their arms.
Five people tied together with four bits of DNA, three kids, two adults, maybe one family some day. A flash of light ignited the crowd, rainbow of fire burned in the sky. Mulder hugged Emily kissing her cheek, then Danny and Will, his wonderful boys together in one tight embrace, and finally Scully, his long lost love, the one he waited for. The time felt right to press his lips to hers, in front of their children, the world and the stars above. He waited for the world to explode from all the joy in his heart, but it did not. She stayed in his arms, her back to his front and together they watched the sky burn bright.
The door to Emily's room was closed, she risked a peek into they boys’ bedroom, Danny in his bed, Will sprawled on the air mattress. Sheets tangled, bare feet peeking from under the blankets, both facing the door. If anyone saw them, they wouldn't be able to deny the boys shared a parent. Scully closed the door gently and pushed the last one open.
"Mulder?" It was barely a whisper but he was waiting for her. He pulled back the covers and she climbed in, between the sheets and into his open arms. It was muscle memory, the way their bodies fitted together, a kiss on her neck, shoulder. She shifted to glance behind her and even with eyes useless in the darkness he found her, mouth on hers for a lingering moment.
"The world didn't end" he whispered letting her go.
"No it didn't" she rested her head on the pillow, lacing her fingers through his.
"Happy New Year, Scully" he sighed slipping away, pulling her with him.
"Happy New Year, Mulder" she sank into his embrace, following him into the land of dreams.
Coming back from the bathroom Emily wandered to the living room, saw the pulled out couch empty and went back to bed smiling gently.
“We can’t be late” Scully was running around the apartment looking for car keys that somehow always had to hide when she was in a hurry. A phone call from the hospital asking her to come in early because her new boss was about to be called in to perform some emergency surgery. Will already dressed, finished his breakfast in double time although he didn't want the Christmas break to ever end.
“Mom, come on” he was waiting by the door, shoes tied, teeth brushed, unruly hair combed as best as possible, ready to face the new school “Mom, I can go alone!”
"No honey" she sighed, finding the keys behind the dish she usually left them in, relief palpable as she slipped on her boots "you shouldn’t go alone, it’s your first day too"
"But they called you, you can’t be late" he argued, another round of their usual tug-off war over him being old enough.
"And I won’t" she smiled and pulled the hat over his head "you got your mittens?"
"Mittens, backpack, lunch, everything’s here" he sighed, already picking up Mulder's habits "and I have time."
"No, we don’t, come on!" She smiled a broad smile, pushing him out the door, Queequeg barking one last goodbye.
Having fixed her lipstick in the elevator mirror, Scully found the phone and dialed.
“Hi, it’s me” Will looked up at his mom, watching her relax “I need your help”
The plastic chair in the clinic waiting room creaked as Will kicked his legs mindlessly. He watched the people around, the lady with a crying baby, the old man with a bag of peas against his forehead, a couple of teens the girl's arm in a sling, a folded magazine stabilizing her hand. And then at his mother, the man speaking to her in low voice, leaning in as if she couldn’t hear him otherwise. He didn’t like it, the man looked odd, stood too close, and mom didn’t like it either. He saw her like this with Uncle Bill, when they argued about something and she couldn’t say what she wanted. Mom was mad.
The man put his palm on her arm and she flinched away. Will was ready to get up, go to her but a long dark coat caught his eye, a familiar face smiled from the entrance, spotting him immediately in the crowd and walking swiftly to where he waited.
“Hey buddy, where’s your mom?” Mulder knelt by his chair and looked around the room just like Will had.
“There, with the other doctor” the boy nodded to the nurses reception desk.
Following his gaze Mulder frowned, seeing the exact same things he boy saw, only drawing far more accurate conclusions.
“Come on” he said taking the hat out of Will’s hands and pulling it over his head “Let’s go say goodbye and get you to school, Danny’s waiting in the car”
Putting one hand on the boy’s shoulder, Mulder led him through the crowd, muttering polite excuse me-s and flashing an occasional smile at a stray child. The guy was looming over her, taking advantage of his 6ft 10" but Scully stood her ground, back straight, head held high. Polite smile and a small step back brought her out of the man’s reach, using the moment when an orderly squeezed past them. Mulder wanted to shake the guy’s hand for giving her the chance to save herself, now he just needed to deliver his coup de grace.
Scully turned to scan the crowd and saw them standing five steps from her. He heard her excusing herself for a minute, the man nodded following her hasty retreat curiously.
“Hi” she sighed with a genuine smile “Sorry to spring this on you in the last moment”
“I don’t mind, we’ve been heading that way anyway” he leaned in and brushed a gentle kiss over her cheek.
“Mulder” there was a chuckle in those two whispered syllables, called out on his unusual public display of affection. He looked down at Will, fixing his hat unnecessarily; not risking pushing his luck any further.
“We’ll get going" he said casually, the act that wasn't and act taken down a notch but still going "I’ll call you around lunch with an update”
“Thanks” she knelt and kissed the boy’s forehead “Be good, sit still, listen”
“And say 'excuse me' if you fart” Mulder added, Will snorted she finally laughed.
“I’ll be fine, mom” the boy assured her.
“Danny will keep an eye on him too, no worries”
“No worries” Will parroted taking a step back and Mulder felt the boy’s small hand slip into his. He glanced down and saw a bright smile. The boy was playing the game with him making his heart stumble on pride and skip a beat.
“Okay” he squeezed the small hand with a nod “Let’s go then”
“Can’t be late on your first day” Scully said smiling at them.
‘We won’t” Mulder promised.
They left the hospital clinic, Will holding his father’s hand all the way to the car.