June 24, 1998
Scully is bent over the sink in her black skirt and ivory bra, applying a coat of mascara in the bathroom mirror. Mulder lingers behind her, leaning into the door frame and munching on a buttered English muffin. He’s missing a tie, but other than that, is fully dressed for work. She hates it when he watches her put her makeup on. Some things just aren’t meant for an audience.
She also hates it when he beats her into the shower in the morning because it means he’ll be ready before she is and will have nothing better to do than stand around, making conversation with her while she contorts herself into a pair of pantyhose or applies her antiperspirant. Which is certainly going to get tested today – damn, it’s hot already.
“What the hell is wrong with the air conditioning in this apartment anyway, Mulder?” Her mascara wand falls onto the vanity and leaves a black smudge that she wipes off with the back of her hand. “Didn’t you call the super the other day?”
Mulder nods and munches. “I did. It’s hot, Scully. It’s been in the nineties for a week now. He said the units are old.”
“With the rent we pay?” She arches her brows. “They can afford to replace them.” Pushing past him into the bedroom, she heads for the closet. “I’m starting to agree with Emily – let’s move to New England. I think I’d rather have six months of snow.”
He shakes his head. “You wouldn’t. Trust me.”
Their closet is packed and Scully fights with hangers. “I want our new house to have enormous closets. Obscenely large.”
“We’ve looked at sixteen houses, Scully. You just need to pick one.”
“The one on Marigold Street had decent-sized closets.”
“Which one was that again?”
“The one with the detached garage and the sun room.”
“But you didn’t like the yard,” she points out.
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it. It’s just small. No room to get a good pick-up game going, that’s all.”
“Well, I’m sure there are parks nearby.”
“I guess,” he says. “What about the one close to the elementary school? On Academy Street. That has a big yard and it’s closer to work.”
“Did you even look at the kitchen? I think Carter was in office the last time those appliances were updated. And don’t even get me started on the cupboards.” She shudders.
“So we remodel the kitchen.”
“Well, they’d have to come down then. It’s overpriced.”
“It has four bedrooms,” he says, quietly.
Her breath catches a little. Not now, she thinks. Let’s not do this now or I’ll never make it through the day. She doesn’t turn around.
“It’s okay. I just don’t want to get my hopes up.”
The back of his fingers run once down her bare arm. “I know.”
Plucking two blouses from the bar of the closet, she holds them up in front of her and wiggles them.
“That one,” Mulder recommends, pointing to the sheerer of the two.
“Fine,” she sighs, returning the other to the closet. “I’m not wearing a jacket, I’ll melt.”
“It’s Friday.” He shrugs. “Casual.”
“Mulder, the Bureau doesn’t do casual Fridays.”
“It’s eighty degrees at 7 am, Scully. I’m not wearing a tie; they can bite me.”
She smirks at him, buttoning her blouse. “Can I?”
He looks her up and down with a playful smolder. “Don’t start what you can’t finish, Agent Scully.”
“Oh I can finish it.” She checks the clock again. “But we’d be late. Speaking of late, can you brush Emily’s teeth and get her dressed?”
“Sure,” he replies, looking a little regretful at having to abandon the flirting right before it got interesting.
He lumbers off, leaving her to puzzle over her shoe inventory alone.
So far, they’ve managed to keep things from getting out of hand at work, not without significant effort however. As it turns out, the privacy of a basement office can be both a blessing and a curse. Most days, they’re the only two who even set foot down there. She happens to harbor a secret fantasy about kneeling behind Mulder’s desk while he’s seated in his chair, just to see if she can do a little something about his work-related tension. The thought of him watching the door with his hands in her hair as she finishes him makes her face feel hot. Perhaps today will be the day.
Foregoing the stockings, she slides into a pair of black sling backs and heads for the coffee pot, making a pass by Emily’s room first to check on the progress there.
“I want to wear the blue shirt,” declares Emily, standing next to her unmade bed in a pair of denim shorts.
“Blue shirt it is,” replies Mulder, grabbing it off the hanger.
“The blue one with the butterflies.”
Mulder does a one-eighty and heads back to the closet. “Butterflies it is.”
Scully smiles and continues past the doorway, calling out, “Don’t forget to toss the sunblock in her backpack. She’s with grandma today and they’re setting up at the church bazaar.”
Mulder and Em appear in the kitchen, with backpack and pink sneakers, a few minutes later. The look on Mulder’s face, along with the hairbrush he’s carrying, indicates that her assistance might be needed. “She wants a French braid, Scully. Your turn.”
“Morning, baby,” says Scully, kissing Emily on her tousled hair. “How did you sleep?”
“It’s hot,” replies Emily simply.
“Yeah, it is.” Scully spins Emily around and begins gently brushing her hair. “We can put a fan in your room tonight. That should help.”
A butterscotch kitten weaves in and out of Scully’s legs, mewing. “What’s the matter, Percy, didn’t anyone feed you yet?”
The kitten mews again and jumps onto the table.
“Mulder,” she says, not taking her attention off Emily’s hair.
“Got it.” Mulder scoops Percy with one hand under the cat’s tummy and relocates him to the floor, then pours a pile of cat chow into a ceramic dish. “I think he’s doubled in size since last week, Scully. Is that supposed to happen?”
She smiles. “He’s only four months old. I think he’s going to grow for a while yet.”
“Then we’re gonna need a bigger bag of cat food.”
“Can we go to the beach today?” asks Emily.
“Not today, I’m afraid. Mulder and I have to work and you’ll be with Grandma. But tomorrow’s Saturday. Maybe we can go tomorrow.”
Mulder is opening and closing drawers in the kitchen. “Scully, have you seen my watch?”
“No. Why would it be in a kitchen drawer, Mulder?”
“I don’t know. You put things in weird places.”
“I put things away.” She smiles, patiently. “You should try it sometime.”
“Then I wouldn’t be able to find anything,” he complains.
“You mean like now?”
Mulder makes a silly face at her. “Hey, whose side are you on?” he teases. “She’s gonna make you clean your room next.”
Emily’s smile wilts a little.
“Check the bedroom,” Scully recommends. “I think I saw it on your nightstand.”
Mulder plods off.
Scully separates even sections of Emily’s hair and starts to braid it, tugging gently as she moves along. Emily’s request to go to the beach makes her smile. Mulder has been promising her they’d go just as soon as it’s warm enough, and Emily is going to hold him to it. For the last eight weeks, Emily has been taking swim lessons at the YMCA with Mulder and loving it. Emily seems to have a natural affinity towards water and Scully is curious to see if her daughter has also inherited her love of the sea.
Thinking back over the last three months, she feels nothing short of amazed. Even Emily’s doctors have no explanation for her miraculous recovery. Besides, Mulder, Cooper Reed, Scully’s mom, and herself, no one else knows about the vaccine that was created by Cooper and administered to Emily last March.
The night of Cooper’s phone call, Mulder and Scully checked a very sick Emily out of the hospital against her doctor’s recommendation. After transferring her to Maggie Scully’s house, Cooper arrived just hours later and injected Emily with the serum containing the antibodies procured from Mulder’s blood sample. It was two more anxious days before Emily showed any signs of improvement. They were the hardest two days of Scully’s life.
Cooper remained with them the entire time, all four adults and Emily spread out among the various rooms of the house. Just waiting. And hoping. And in some cases, praying.
On the third night, Emily’s fever broke. By morning, she was eating and taking short walks around the inside of the house. A week later, Emily’s doctor was sitting across from them in an examination room, shaking his head at the blood tests. There was no sign left of the anemia. And simply no medical explanation for the mysterious turnabout. Emily Scully was deemed nothing short of a miracle, a recovery unexplainable by modern medicine.
Three months later, Emily is fever-free. A healthy three and a half year old girl, who goes to day care and is learning to read and loves pancakes and playing hide and seek and getting her fingernails painted. Who cries when she’s overtired and makes a mess in the bathtub and occasionally, although not often, has to sit in time out for making poor choices. In short, she’s just like every other happy, healthy three-year-old. Perhaps a little precocious, and with a streak of her mother’s stubbornness thrown in.
Scully marvels at the unpredictability, yet perfect symmetry of life. The events that transpired to lead them all to this point in time. If she hadn’t been abducted four years ago, Emily would have never existed. If Mulder hadn’t been infected with the alien virus in Russia and then injected with a vaccine, he never would have developed the antibodies that would eventually save Emily’s life.
Securing the rubber band at the bottom of Emily’s finished braid, Scully pats her hips and presses another kiss to her cheek. “All done. Now what would you like for breakfast?”
“Blueberry pancakes,” pronounces Emily.
“Sorry, Sweetie,” Scully says, with an apologetic face. “Not enough time this morning. Pancakes tomorrow. We can do cereal, an English muffin with jam, or…hang on and let me see if there are any frozen waffles left.” Scully opens the freezer and catches the ice cream as it tumbles out.
“I don’t want waffles, Mommy.”
She freezes with the pint of Rocky Road in her hand. The chill from the freezer escapes, swallowing her breath as she exhales. Calmly, Scully straightens the items and then replaces the ice cream. Just as well – they’re out of waffles anyway.
She turns around to find Emily watching her, a cautious look on her face.
“I’m sorry,” Emily whispers.
Scully’s eyes flood and she walks swiftly back to the table. Kneeling, she draws Emily to her in an embrace, pressing her little head to her shoulder. “For what, baby?” Scully swallows a sob. “For what?”
Emily doesn’t respond and Scully continues holding her tightly, her nose pressed to the soft side of Emily’s cheek.
After a minute, Scully pulls back and looks at Emily, who is watching her with a great deal of uncertainty. It occurs to her that Emily is not sure how to interpret her tearful reaction. With a cleansing breath, Scully holds Emily’s hands between her own and smiles reassuringly at her. “It’s perfectly okay if you want to call me that.”
Emily fidgets a little, looking down at her sneakers.
“I would like it very much,” adds Scully, softly. “Okay?”
Emily nods and raises her blue eyes to meet Scully’s.
“Hey Scully, I found it. It was right where you said it-“ Mulder scuffles to a stop while fastening his watch. He looks at them both, curiously. “Everything all right?”
“Yes,” replies Scully, not quite able to take her eyes off Emily’s. “Everything is just fine.”
“You think I’m being too picky, don’t you?” she asks.
Mulder’s oversolicitous smile is her answer. “Of course not, Scully.”
“It’s our house, Mulder,” she says defensively. “It’s probably the single biggest investment we’ll make in our lives and I, for one, don’t want to make it rashly.”
“I couldn’t agree more. I’m just starting to wonder, at what point do we say ‘We’ve seen enough. Let’s just pick one?’”
Scully sighs, relaxing on her back with a folded arm beneath her head. “You think we’re there, don’t you.”
“Of course not, Scully.”
“Stop saying that!”
He laughs and takes her hand. “Look, I want you to have what you want. I’m just not sure it exists,” he reasons, with a patient smile. “In our price range, anyway.”
“Dammit. Why do we have to live in one of the most expensive areas of the country?”
“Because we work here? But hey, I’m willing to be flexible with that too. We could switch careers and start a dude ranch in Montana. I hear real estate’s cheap there.”
She rolls her eyes at him. “Okay, okay, let’s go through the choices again.”
“We could do up a spreadsheet,” he teases and she frowns at him, but he’d bet his paycheck she’s already considered it, maybe even has one hidden somewhere.
“How about,” she starts, “you tell me which three are your favorites and then I’ll do the same and we’ll…I don’t know, negotiate or something.”
“I’ll trade you the two-car garage for the wine cellar?” he jokes. “Like that?”
“What do we need a wine cellar for?”
“I was just making a…it was…nevermind.” He kisses the little wrinkle between her brows.
“Okay,” she says, moving on, “your favorites are Academy Street, Woodpecker, and which other one?”
He scoffs. “Not Woodpecker.”
“I thought you liked that one. It has the finished basement with the media room.”
“Yeah, but I’m not living on Woodpecker Lane, Scully. I don’t care how awesome the man cave is.”
She looks at him, biting back her smile. “Mulder. It’s a word. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Yeah, tell me you’ll be able to keep a straight face every time you tell people where we live.”
“Of course I will.”
He stares her down and she finally breaks into a grin. “Okay, fine,” she laughs. “Cross off Woodpecker. What are your other contenders?”
“Waterbridge and ….I guess, Camden. Wait, Humboldt. No,” he shakes his head, “Definitely Camden.”
“Camden is a very busy street, Mulder.”
“Yeah, but it’s pretty big and the price is right.”
“The price is right because it’s a busy street,” she argues.
“Fine. Humboldt then.”
“Humboldt is nice,” she says, unexcitedly.
He waits for it. The but.
“But,” she sighs, heavily, “it doesn’t really have a lot of character. Not much personality.”
He blinks at her. The ‘yes dear’ is just begging to roll off his tongue. “Okay, so which ones do you like?”
“Well,” she starts, taking a deep breath. “Lexington, of course. But it’s at the top of our price bracket and a longer commute. Um, Marigold. And… probably either Academy or Stafford.”
“I thought you hated the kitchen in Academy.”
“I do,” she admits. “But you’re right about the location. It would be nice to be close to schools and if we made an offer below their asking price, we’d have enough money left over to renovate.”
“That’s true,” he agrees. “And it has the extra bedrooms.”
Her eyes retreat and she shifts uncomfortably. He’s immediately sorry he said it. Again. Where’s the nearest wall so he can hit his head against it? Don’t mention the bedrooms, Mulder, don’t mention the bedrooms. As of now, they don’t need extra bedrooms. They may never need extra bedrooms.
“Well, Stafford’s nice too,” he points out, a little too eagerly. “It has that…room thing… off the kitchen for all the…stuff.”
“The pantry,” she says, softly.
There’s a short knock at the door before it opens. They both look up as Doctor Mitchell enters. “Good afternoon, how is everybody?”
Scully smiles anxiously. “Fine, thank you.”
Doctor Mitchell pages through the chart for a moment before laying it aside. “Well,” she says calmly, “are we ready to take a look?”
There’s a hesitation before Scully nods, releasing a nervous breath through her mouth.
The lights are turned down and the doctor reaches for the gel. “Now, it’s still a little early. I don’t want you to get discouraged if we don’t see anything today, okay?”
They both nod. Mulder can feel the anxiety coming off Scully in waves and he holds her hand a little tighter, rubbing his thumb tenderly over hers. It’s going to be all right, Scully, he says to her without a word. We have Em, and she’s healthy and whatever happens, everything is going to be all right.
The ultrasound monitor clicks on and Scully turns her head to look at the ceiling, her breathing slow and measured. In and out, through her open mouth. In and out, like some kind of relaxation exercise.
That’s it, Scully. That’s it. No matter what. You and me.
Mulder bends so his face is right next to hers. He kisses her hand. “I love you, Scully,” he whispers. He doesn’t care if the doctor hears him. He doesn’t care if anyone hears him. She’s all that matters right now.
The room is silent, except for the gentle hum of the machine. Time slows to a crawl. He ignores the thunder of his own heartbeat and concentrates on her. The feel of her hand in his. The fragrance of her moisturizer. The whisper of her hair against his cheek.
Should it be taking this long?
Scully swallows and blinks, her eyes still staring up at some mystical point on the ceiling. A drop of moisture gathers at the outer corner of her eye and threatens to spill. Without thinking, he presses his mouth to the spot and tastes the salt of her tear.
“I’m not getting…hang on,” Doctor Mitchell says, hesitantly.
Mulder closes his eyes.
A door somewhere down the hallway slams.
The muffled sound of a woman’s laugh.
Then more silence.
Finally, “Dana? You might want to take a look at this.”
Scully’s head turns. Her eyes narrow. Then widen.
He feels her fingers press sharply into his palm. She draws a quick, ragged breath.
“What is it?” Mulder asks. It looks like a black screen with white stuff on it.
“Right there,” says Doctor Mitchell. “Do you see?”
Scully nods, her lip trembling.
“See what? What do we see, Scully?”
She squeezes his hand harder.
The edges of her mouth lift.
“We’re going to need those extra bedrooms.”
He swallows and blinks. “How many extra?”
THE END (Phew!)