Squeals of delight and peals of laughter rang out from the field behind the house. Scully looked out the kitchen window, smiling at the dark figures of her children in the darkness. Melissa was on Jackson’s shoulders, pointing at something in the star-studded sky. Jackson nodded at something she said and ran in a circle as her arms spread away from her, wild cackles trailing after the pair of them.
She continued watching them as he slowed back down to a halt and they both craned their necks up to look at the sky again. Something had caught their attention again, and Jackson seemed to be telling a story of some sort, his hands on his sister’s little knees as her chubby fingers tugged at his messy thatch of hair.
‘She should be in bed,’ a voice murmured in her ear, warm breath tickling her cheek as large hands wrapped around her hips. She leaned back into Mulder with a contented sigh.
‘That’s my line.’
A chuckle rumbled through him, vibrating against her back. ‘I know. I thought I was supposed to be the rule-breaking parent who lets her get away with anything and everything.’
‘I just…’ she shrugs. ‘I didn’t have the heart to tell them to come in. He’s so good with her.’
‘Better than you expected, or better than you hoped?’ She twisted in his arms, pressing a kiss to his jawbone.
‘Sometimes I wonder if this is all real. If we could possibly ever be this lucky. Maybe we’re still trapped in that God-awful hallucinogenic mushroom cave.’
‘Well, nothing seems to be melting yellow yet, so I’d say we’re good.’
‘Can we go there?’
‘To the stars?’
Jackson’s hands moved from her knees to her back, stopping her from slipping as she leaned to look at the sky. ‘One day.’
‘You and me?’
‘You and me, Kiddo. We’ll go all the way to the stars. What about Mom and Dad? Do they get to come, too?’
‘Can we go t’night?’
‘Well, we don’t have a rocket ship to go to the stars in tonight,’ he seemed to think for a moment. ‘Although, maybe if you believe really, really hard we can give it a go?’
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!’
He tickled her sides, making her roar with laughter, before securing his hands more tightly around her. ‘Okay then. Hold on tight. Spaceship Scully-Mulder preparing for launch! We’re cleared for blast off, I need a countdown, Captain Lissie!’
‘No, a countdown, Sillybilly!’ He tickled her again and she squealed. ‘Together then, yeah?’
‘Okay, ready then? Five! Four! Three! Two! One!’
‘Blast off!’ At her yell he started running, adding spins and turns as he orbited the garden.
‘Woah, hit a bit of turbulence there! You buckled in Captain Lissie?’
‘You know, I think we’re going to need some wings if we’re going to get all the way to the stars, Captain. Do you think you can help with that?’ Her arms spread out and shrieked as the wind caught in her hair. ‘Good job, Captain. I think we might make it! How far more do you think we have to go?’
‘Jus’ a little bit! We’re almost there!’
‘We are? Well, you just tell me when to stop, so we don’t crash!’
She giggled, ‘you’d never crash, Jack-Jack. You’re too good!’
You just keep thinking that, Kiddo he thought to himself, sadness threatening to touch at his good mood. She gave a sharp yank on his hair and he took that to mean she had decided they had arrived. He looked up and grinned. ‘What do you think, Lissie?’
Her legs kicked and her hands clenched and unclenched in excitement. ‘They beautiful, Jack-Jack!’
‘Aren’t they just?’ his hands moved back down to her knees, stilling her excitable fidgeting, as they both looked around. ‘One day, I’ll take you there properly, yeah? We’ll run away to the stars, with Mom and Dad. How about that, hey?’ A soft hum of consent as she dropped her chin down to his forehead. ‘You sleepy?’
‘Nope,’ she sighed wearily, stifling a yawn as she slumped over, wrapping her little arms around his chin and pulling at the skin of his cheeks with soft little fingers.
‘Yeah, sure. I believe you,’ he snorted as she yawned again, not even bothering to try and stifle it. ‘You know Mom’s going to kill us. Past your bedtime.’
‘Wha’ ‘bout your be’time?’
‘It’s past my bedtime too. Even Daddy will be cross with us.’
‘Daddy’s never cross,’ she giggled sleepily. ‘Jus’ five more minutes with the stars.’
‘Okay, five more minutes with the stars,’ he lifted her down from her seat on his shoulders and cradled her in his arms, letting her snuggle into him. He’d never really considered having siblings. Thought it would be nice, maybe, to have a brother to play with, when he was younger and first realising he was different from all the other kids at school. But it wasn’t until he had got the job at the diner that he had first ever actually considered it, considered what it would be like. And even then, it was purely hypothetical, and there was very little attachment there. He couldn’t imagine a world where a little kid would mean anything to him. But as he had spent more and more afternoons serving pie to his parents he realised just how much he wanted it, wanted to be a part of this family they were putting together.
So he disappeared again. Went off to fight his own battles, figure out whether it was safe for him, for them. Part of him had wanted, as soon as he left, to go back to them. To meet his little sister. But he didn’t want to hurt them, to risk their lives for his own happiness.
And then, when he decided it was safe, he returned to them, not under the guise of another face, and a different profession, but as himself – no camouflage this time. He had been hesitant of the parents and little sister he had gained at first. Concerned that if he did something wrong, they would kick him out. Scully and Mulder had been cautious around him as well, treading on eggshells, wanting to make him feel welcome but not wanting to overwhelm him. Melissa didn’t seem to care a jot. She would laugh and smile and gurgle at him, and he would pull faces at her and tickle her tummy and her cheeks.
She took her first steps for him, wobbly legs stumbling over to him as she crashed into his knees, Mulder cursing technology as he tried to record it on his phone and Scully crying as her baby grew up in front of her, reaching milestones she had never seen her son reach.
They became best pals, inseparable. He was her teddy bear, her protector, her entertainer. He was the greatest babysitter, the brother who would sneak her extra ice cream and strawberries when their parents weren’t looking. He told the best stories, because whilst Mommy and Daddy’s stories were fantastical, with Mothmen and rescue trips to Antarctica and ghosts at Christmas, Jackson’s stories seemed so real. He could bring them to life, sketching pictures in her mind.
‘Mamma, Mamma! Jack-Jack pulled the stars down for me!’ She’d sat up in his arms, waving over to their parents stood at the top of the steps to the house.
‘Yeah, we flew all the way up into the sky. Can’t you see them?’
‘I…’ Scully gasped, the unremarkable house behind her and the fields and trees before her dissolving into a glowing nebula. Mulder held her hand, tethering her, being her gravity. Jackson and Mellissa stood grinning at them in the starlight. He let the vision fade, walking over and transferring his sister to their mother’s arms. ‘That was beautiful.’
‘It’s nothing,’ he shrugged, hands slipping into pockets. He knew that it made them uncomfortable when he did it, though they weren’t as obvious about it as his other parents had been. They tried to understand more; maybe their past lives allowed for that, prepared them for him. But they were still scared of it, scared he’d be discovered, taken for tests. He could understand that, abstractly. He could understand that they were just scared of losing him again. But he still resented it, that a fundamental part of him was something that caused them so much grief. ‘I think I’m gonna head to my room, watch a film or something.’
‘Okay. Try and get some sleep tonight, okay?’
Jackson snorted, pressing a kiss to his sister’s forehead and one to his mother’s cheek, clapping his father on the shoulder as he passed. ‘I sleep fine.’
‘Jackson…’ He knew that tone of voice. That exasperated sigh. ‘I can feel it when you don’t sleep. I know when you stay up all night.’ They’d discussed it before. The fact that they were connected. He was a helium balloon tied to her wrist, tugging gently. She could feel him but not see him. It was stronger when one, the other or both was asleep. They never knew exactly what was going on with the other, but they got an impression. And an impression was all Scully needed to know that her son hadn’t been sleeping. He was definitely Mulder’s son. She just hoped Lissie didn’t take after her father, too.
‘Thank you,’ she smiled, nodding at him as he made his way into the house and his bedroom.
‘Teenagers, hey?’ Mulder said with a grin. ‘Did you ever think we’d be saying that about our own kids?’
A sad smile, bittersweet and hopeful all at once, ‘never.’ A glance down at the sleeping babe in her arms. She was so big already. She’d forgotten since Matthew had been a baby how quickly they grow. She was about the same size as Emily had been, maybe slightly taller, gangly legs and long, pianist fingers.
‘You want me to take her?’
‘No, she’s fine. I’ve got her.’
He knew she didn’t want to miss a single day holding her. Lissie would be their last child, and whilst every first was miraculous, it was also tainted with being every last, too. The first time she said Mama, the first time Scully heard one of her babies call for her, was also the last time she’d hear a first word. It hurt him, too, but he knew how deeply each little milestone cut her.
When he’d first spoken to Melissa, a tiny little baby, wrinkled with big, blue, alien eyes, he’d told her that Mommy and Daddy loved her so much, and were so happy to finally meet her. Scully had burst into tears, and whilst he’d figured it was the stress of the day, and the pain and tiredness she was feeling, and the hormones still coursing through her body, it happened again the next time he cooed about her Mommy and Daddy. And the time after, when he murmured that she’d have to put up with Daddy and a bottle because Mommy was real tired. He’d asked her then what was wrong. Things like postnatal depression flashed through his psychologist's brain. He’d tried to analyse her behaviour since the birth, tried to recall all of her interactions with the baby and with him. Emily called me Mommy. Not what he had been expecting. As far as he could recall, Emily hadn’t ever referred to either of them by name.
He was fairly certain that Emily didn’t even know that Scully was her mother.
In a vision, she’d said then, and it all clicked into place. One child died. One was given up. She didn’t want to repeat history. She wanted to keep all the memories of Emily distinct, whether they were real or in her head. She wanted to keep William separate from Melissa. She wanted to remember her children as individuals, and not lost souls.
So, she was Mamma. Or Mom. But never Mommy. Mommy was what Emily called her.
He held the door for her as she carefully manoeuvred to avoid banged elbows and feet, avoid waking the toddler who, given a chance, would stay up all night. He walked behind her up the stairs, hand on the base of her spine. He held her as she turned the light off, tugged her hand to their bedroom and touched his lips to her forehead. ‘You get ready for bed, I’ll go lock up downstairs.’
It was dark in their bedroom as they lay together, the presence of sleep absent. ‘We’re going to have to talk to him about it.’
‘He can’t keep projecting. She’s getting older, what if she tells someone?’
Mulder sighed. ‘Scully, if you heard a three-year-old say that her brother brought down the stars for her, what would you think? People will just assume she’s got an active imagination and that her brother indulges her. And when she gets older, we explain to her. We tell her that she’s not allowed to tell anyone about his powers.’
‘I just worry that’s not going to stop her telling people. When I was little I told my people everything.’
‘So, we cross that bridge when it comes. Just relax, Scully,’ a kiss pressed to her shoulder.
‘And how should I do that?’
‘Oh, I can think of something we could do to help you relax.’
She hummed softly. ‘Show me the stars, Mulder.’