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William, on His Second Birthday

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His right fist clamped tight around three scraggly dandelions whose heads flopped against his wrist. The other was stuffed with mostly dirt, maybe a pebble. “No hat!” He yelled again, but would not relinquish his treasures in order to tear the thing from his head.

“Yes hat,” Scully said. She set a tray of sandwiches on the picnic table and looked to see that Mulder was following with the drinks. She scooped the baby up and kissed his belly. He threw his head back, shrieking, fists still clenched. “We don’t want your head to get a sunburn,” she told him. Lord knew he still didn’t have enough hair to keep it from burning. She kissed his fat cheek and put him on the ground again, where he ran to throw his arms around Mulder’s left leg.

“Hat,” he told him.

“Yeah, keep your hat on, buddy. Watcha got?”

“Flowers,” William said, lifting the sad trio.

“Those are pretty good. What’s in the other hand?”

William held out his hand, looked at it as if he’d forgotten. He opened to show his palm and a lump mashed, sticky soil rolled off onto the ground. “Dirt.”

Mulder looked at Scully, who shrugged and smiled, lining up cups and plates at the end of the table. The boy was too young for much of a party, but Maggie was coming by, and Frohike, and maybe Monica too. They’d lucked out on no rain for a picnic-style dinner. Scully was weighing down the napkins with a rock when the first tires crunched up the gravel drive.

“You ready for your party?” She asked the boy.

“Par-tee,” he said. “Cake!”

“Heck yeah, cake!” Mulder said. It was his turn to scoop the baby up and settle him on a hip. “After dinner, though. Let’s wash your hands.” He hauled his son up the porch steps and into the house.

It was a fine evening, all told. William wouldn’t eat his peas and Maggie gave him too many presents, but the kid was happy, and his parents were happy, and Scully even remembered to take a handful of photos. Maggie captured one of the three of them, silly and smiling and full on cake in the early evening sun.