Mulder felt a slight twinge of jealousy building in his gut from the first interaction he saw, watching from the sidelines like a cuckold husband. The inklings of an envy he knew he had no right to feel.
"You're so beautiful." He'd said the same words himself many times over in dreams and fantasies, but he'd never actually gotten the nerve to say them so directly to Scully's face.
A smile he really had to work hard for graced her lips instantly. "Thank you. I appreciate that," she beamed, looking at the person who had more balls than he did.
"I think you're the prettiest lady I've ever seen," he explained, lowering his voice to convey the sincerity of his sentiment.
Scully looked over at Mulder, almost embarrassed he was here to witness this and she laughed, that angelic, melodic sound that he wished he could record and play over and over again. "Thank you. That's very nice of you to say."
He's right, Scully.
The interaction had been cut short by Mrs. Grimes walking out of the house they'd just been conducting an interview in and screaming, "Dylan, get back inside now! Agent Scully does not want you bothering her!"
"He's fine, Mrs. Grimes. I promise," Scully called back, holding in a laugh as the six year old scoffed and ran back to his mom, pausing only momentarily to turn back to Scully to blow a kiss at her.
When the boy'd gone back into the house, Scully started to their car parked on the curb, temporarily locking eyes with Mulder only to shrug and smile.
No, he wasn't jealous of a six year old boy. That'd be ridiculous. What he was jealous of was that boy's ability to say what he wished he could say to Scully. That and the fact that he'd never seen such a sweet, endeared smile on her face and part of him was mad he wasn't the one who'd elicited it.
"He's cute," she laughed, sliding into the passenger seat.
"Smart too," he muttered.
They had to visit the house the next day to inform Mr. Grimes about updates on the case. Mulder thought he saw something on the porch, but as they pulled up, he recognized it was Dylan sitting eagerly with a yellow mass in his chubby little fists.
As soon as Scully got out of the car, the kid stood up with a beaming smile and screamed "Day-nuh!" while running down the driveway, his little shoes lighting up with every step.
"Hi, Dylan," Scully greeted in her sweetest voice. Even just hearing her talk like that made a smile break out on his face.
As soon as he was in front of her, he shoved, what Mulder could now identify as, a bouquet of dandelions and other weeds into Scully's face. "I picked these for you!"
"Oh my," Scully exaggeratedly gasped, clearly holding back laughter as to spare the boy's feelings. "Thank you so much."
"I also got you a present," he explained seriously.
"Dylan, you didn't have to do that," she explained, curiosity lacing her tone nonetheless as she wondered what an elementary student could have possibly gotten her.
"But I love you," Dylan exclaimed, as if the words were just so easy to say. He was rummaging around in his pockets and Scully chanced a look at Mulder, who was now standing next to the pair as an onlooker. She mouthed 'awwwh' before turning her attention back to her young admirer.
"Hold out your hand," he instructed before placing something into Scully's palm. When he pulled away, Mulder saw it was a blue, glittery barrette clip that said Barbie Girl on it. He recognized it as a toy from the McDonalds kids' menu from when he'd went there last week. Barbie had a makeover set for the 'girls' toy and there was a collection of Hot Wheels for the 'boys' toy. He couldn't help but wonder if he'd gone through and asked his mom specifically to get a Barbie toy in the hopes he'd see Scully again, ot if there was a sister somewhere in the house who was just down one barrette.
"Dylan, this is beautiful," Scully praised, reveling as if he'd pulled out the blue diamond locket from Titanic.
"Can I put it in your hair?" he asked sweetly. Then, much to Mulder's surprise, Scully let him.
She smiled as he took the clip back along with a chunk of her bangs, not all of them- just one side, and pulled it back, clipping the strands back. "Thank you," Scully smiled before turning to Mulder. "How do I look?" she asked.
He took a moment to look at her, beaming smile on her face as the hair rebelled against the unnatural position - Barbie Girl shining in silver glitter paint at him. She was holding onto one of the boy's little hands and Mulder felt his chest tighten as it always did when he saw Scully interact with children. Something she'd always wanted, but was always a scare occurrence.
"You look stunning," he replied, his voice lacking the same joking quality her's had.
She saw Scully's smile quiver and turn bashful as the little boy vied for her attention again. "Hey! I made you somethin' else!"
"You did?" Scully exclaimed enthusiastically, turning her face back to him. As the kid checked his pockets, Mulder realized for the first time that he was wearing a dress shirt and dress coat. He wanted to look his best for her.
Eventually, Dylan found a folded piece of paper and handed it to Scully. "For me?" she asked, unfolding it.
"Mhm," he nodded vigorously, watching her face intently to see how she'd react to his hard work. Mulder walked behind Scully to get a better view of the image as she unfolded it, and he had to cover a hand over his mouth to stifle a laugh.
He'd drawn himself as Superman, broad chest and ripped muscles, a big D for Dylan on the front of his costume. But what was so amusing was that he was flying and carrying a cute stick figure girl with a triangle for a dress and red squiggles for hair.
"Is that me?" she asked, amusement seeping through her voice.
"It's us! I'm Superman and I'm saving you," he explained.
"Who's that?" Scully asked, pointing towards an angry troll with a tie on at the bottom of the page.
He didn't respond immediately, and when Mulder looked over he made eye contact with the glare of a stern six year old. Oh, so that's how it is? Mulder communicated in his own look. Scully glanced from the boy to Mulder, the same recognition dawning on her before she burst into laughter.
How he ended up alone with the little twerp, he had no idea. Scully was off in the other room, explaining the medical condition of the Grimes' cattle as he was stuck interviewing, or rather participating in a staring contest, with the young boy.
"So, did you notice anything off about Besty the cow before she bit your dad?" he asked, breaking the silence.
"Are you her boyfriend?" the kid asked with a surprising amount of adolescent resentment in his tone.
"Excuse me?" Mulder replied, shifting his weight on the seat uncomfortably.
"Have you kissed her?" the boy asked, his little eyes narrowing. If looks could kill.
Deciding to tease the kid a little, he playfully lilted, "Maybe."
"On the lips?" the boy asked, his eyes growing wide.
"No," Mulder replied, trying to hide his disappointment in favor of indifference.
"Do you hug her?"
"Do you get to play with her hair?"
"Uh, I-I don't know," Mulder stammered, trying to think back to a time where he'd ever even tried.
"I have," the boy stated triumphantly, as if Mulder hadn't been there the other day to witness it.
"Well we hang out together," Mulder replied, unsure why he was competing with this kid as if they were really rivals.
The boy's mouth hung open in a look of pure disappointment and Mulder felt bad for causing it. "Really?" he asked, as if an admission of 'hanging out' was equivalent to marriage.
"Yeah, but, I'm not her boyfriend," Mulder replied, feeling better when the kid perked up. He leaned forward and gestured for the kid to lean in too before whispering, "To be honest, between you and me, I wish I was - but I think she likes people shorter than her," Mulder replied with an exaggerated frown.
The boys eyes widened and he nodded, taking in this information. "How tall is she?" he asked.
"5'3"," Mulder replied immediately.
"The doctor said I'm 3'6"," he whispered as if that was the confirmation he needed to know he was shorter than her.
"That's perfect," Mulder whispered back immediately.
"What are you boys talking about?" Scully asked, walking into the room with a smile on her face.
"Nothing," they replied in unison.
They had to stop by the Grimes residence one more time before they went back to DC. She'd be lying if she said she wasn't going to miss that little boy. It was rare she got to spent time around children, let alone children that were so lively and sweet.
She didn't know what Mulder had said to him the last time they were there, he'd claimed it was 'guy talk' and only smiled at his hidden little secret. Regardless, it touched her seeing them enjoying each other's company - despite the troll drawing incident which she still insisted was cute.
Just as the times before, she'd barely gotten out of the car before she heard "Day-nuh!" being screamed followed by the sound of little rampant footfalls.
She turned around and saw the little munchkin running her way before latching his arms around her waist and squeezing her tightly. "Hi Dylan," she giggled, rubbing a hand over his hair.
"I missed you," he proclaimed, resting his chin on her abdomen to look up at her adoringly.
"I missed you too," she replied honestly.
"I'm glad you came," he responded seriously, taking a step back.
"Oh?" she questioned, surprised at his sudden change in demeanor. She glanced over at Mulder who, again, simply stared at the both of them with a smile on his face.
"Mhm," he nodded. "I wanna ask you something." She watched as he reached into his back pocket and dug out a wrapped Ring Pop, handing it to her gently.
"Is this for me?" she asked as the foil crinkled beneath her touch.
"Will you be my girlfriend?" he blurted out. She felt the corners of her mouth twitch up, but she didn't want to hurt his feelings so she dampened them down.
"What was that?" she repeated, bending down so she was closer to his height.
"I love you and I wanna be your boyfriend. I promise we can hang out and I'll play with your hair some more and I'll kiss you tons and give you lots of hugs," he rambled, barely pausing to take a breath.
Her heart could not have been any fuller than it was in this moment. "Oh Dylan," she laughed lightly, pulling the boy into a hug. She met Mulder's eyes and he looked equally as amused and endeared by the childlike declaration.
She pulled back and saw his eyes were wide in anticipation. Raising a hand up, she stroked his cheek lightly. "Dylan, that sounds amazing, but I'm too old for you."
He shook his head quickly and argued, "Nuh uh! You're like a prettier Ms. Frizzle!"
His logic brought another smile to her face and she informed him, "Dylan, Ms. Frizzle's too old for you too. Besides, you should just enjoy being a kid. Don't worry about dating just yet, okay?"
He nodded softly, despite looking disappointed, but she was just glad he wasn't crying. Leaning in, she placed a soft kiss to his chubby little cheek and rejoiced when she felt the smile and vibrations from a laugh beneath her lips. Pulling back, she saw the prior look was replaced with happiness. "You can keep the Ring Pop though, it's a good flavor," he told her.
"Thank you," she laughed, sliding it into her pocket before easing back up.
"Wait!" he called out, tugging her back down by the hem of her shirt. She shot him a look, but bent back down until her ear was at his lips, curious what was so secretive as he cupped his hands around them.
"Fox told me he like-likes you, he should be your boyfriend," he whispered.
As he said this, she saw the curiosity brimming in Mulder's eyes. She pulled back and met the boy's earnest gaze. "Oh really?" she replied.
The boy nodded fervently, "I mean, that's the next best."
"What did he say?" Mulder asked for the twentieth time since leaving.
Just as she had the previous nineteen times, she shrugged and smiled. "It was a secret, Mulder."
"Ugh, that's not fair," he laughed, the curiosity killing him. He didn't follow up with another line of questioning, instead focusing on enjoying the Ring Pop she'd regifted to him.