Mulder smiled – he could hear Will singing to himself from the upstairs bathroom as he washed his hands ready for dinner. They were a few weeks on from his complete clean bill of health and Mulder now had a fit, strong and thriving son. Mulder hoped the sheer novelty of that fact would never wear off. Still now, every minute Will got to live a full life seemed like an endless blessing. Things were good.
He was startled slightly by a knock at the door. Mulder was surprised – as Scully had put it the first night she had visited – they lived in the middle of nowhere. They did not often have unexpected visitors, it was a long way to travel on the off chance.
He smiled instantly as he opened the door and saw Scully waiting on the other side. He didn’t think they had made plans for that night but he’d rarely been happier to be wrong.
“Hey,” he greeted her lightly.
“Hi. I’m sorry, I know you weren’t expecting me.” She mumbled in reply and Mulder frowned. She didn’t sound like herself and as he leant closer he saw there were half-dried tear tracks on her face. Concern hit him like a freight train.
“What is it? What’s happened?” He asked as he stepped forward and pulled her into his arms. She came easily, burying her head in his shoulder. He heard a quiet sniffling from there.
“Nothing, it’s nothing.” Which was clearly a ridiculous statement considering she had just turned up unannounced on his doorstep crying. He wasn’t sure he had ever seen her cry before. “I just… I just had a bad day…” Scully explained. A bad day for her most likely involved a sick or dying child. Which meant a bad day for her was a really, really bad day.
“Come on, come inside.” He tried to guide her through the doorway but she resisted.
“No. I don’t want Will to see me like this.” Mulder opened his mouth to argue but she started talking again before he got the chance. “I just wanted to see you. I’ll be okay now. It’s stupid, I know…” He felt his heart swell with an almost overwhelming mixture of pride and fierce protectiveness. She wanted comfort. She had come here for comfort after a shitty day and he was damn well going to give it to her.
“Scully, come on…” He tried again to pull her inside and once again she literally held her ground, refusing to move. Suddenly the door swung open behind them.
“Dana!” Will exclaimed excitedly. He all but pushed Mulder out of the way to hug her.
Will was used to seeing her at their house, not all the time, but on occasion. They were trying to take things slow and they hadn’t told Will anything yet but Mulder was a single, working parent which left them with few options when it came to dating. Most of the time Scully would come to the house, the three of them would hang out and then Will would go to bed and Mulder got to hang out with her in a whole different way.
“Are you okay? You look sad.” Will asked as Scully stroked the back of Will’s head and did her best to look fine.
Mulder realised that she hadn’t just come there to see him, she’d come to see them. Even if consciously she didn’t want Will to see her upset, subconsciously she knew seeing him, seeing both of them, would comfort her. He loved how safe she felt at their house and in their family.
“I’m okay Will. I just had a bad day.”
“I’m sorry.” Will hugged her again. She was lucky to receive just one – Will was going through an I’m-much-too-old-to-hug phase which was upsetting Mulder more than it probably should. Of course Scully was the exception to the rule. She seemed to be the exception in every aspect of their lives, why not that too? “Are you coming in for dinner?”
“I made chilli.” Will stated proudly.
“You made chilli?”
“Uh-huh. Dad helped a bit but it was mainly me.”
“It’s true.” Mulder confirmed. “I’m in charge of breakfasts, he’s in charge of dinners.” His chances of convincing her to stay were much higher if Will was on side.
“I made extra so there’s enough for you too.” That’s my boy.
Scully looked into Will’s eyes and of course being about as good at resisting him as Mulder was himself, she relented and agreed. The three of them went into the house. Mulder served up the dinner while Will laid an extra place at the table. Scully took off her coat and shoes and passed the plates from Mulder at the stove to Will at the table. It was all so absurdly domestic. Then they sat and tucked into some surprisingly good chilli.
“This is really good Will.” Scully praised after a few mouthfuls.
“Thank you… Do you want to talk about your bad day? Dad always says it’s good to talk about it because other people might be able to make you feel better.”
“Thank you Will, you’re already making me feel better.” Scully replied warmly. “I don’t think I want to talk about it right now but if I change my mind I’ll let you know.”
“Or you could stay over. It always makes Dad feel better when you stay over so maybe it’ll work for you too.” Both Mulder and Scully chocked dramatically on their food.
How did Will know that she stayed over sometimes? They had always been careful that she left before he got up and that she took any evidence of their sleepover with her. Mulder gawked helplessly at his son who was continuing to eat his food without a care in the world.
He caught Scully’s eye and saw that her cheeks were turning pink. They had discussed when they should talk to Will about their relationship and Scully had said that it was ultimately his decision. He’d wanted to wait a while, only because it was still so new, and it was the first proper relationship he had had since Diana. Will had never seen him with anyone, it was a big deal.
“Erm… what do you mean bud?” Mulder asked at last. Will looked up and fixed him with a terrifying look that totally reversed their roles of parent and child. He almost felt scolded.
“I mean whenever Dana stays over in your room you’re always really happy the next day. Maybe it will make Dana happy too.”
Whenever. Whenever Dana stays over. So not only had he caught them, he had caught them multiple times, apparently. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Scully squirming in her seat and if it wasn’t happening to him he’d find the whole thing beyond amusing. He couldn’t deny that Scully stayed over without lying to his son and he didn’t want to do that. But he also needed to ascertain how much of the situation Will knew or understood.
“Will, how do you know that Scully stays over in my room sometimes?”
“I’ve seen her leave your room in the morning before you make breakfast.” Will turned toward Scully. “You should stay for the breakfasts – they’re really good.” She smiled at him.
“Do you know why Scully stays in my room sometimes?” Scully’s eyes widened slightly. Well at least this charade might be distracting her from her bad day. Will shrugged casually. “Will…” He knew his son and he knew he was not getting a totally honest answer.
“Well, I guess you’re boyfriend and girlfriend now, right? Boyfriends and girlfriends have sleepovers sometimes.” Will had the air of an intelligent person whose patience was wearing thin having to describe a very simple concept to a couple of dummies.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because you didn’t say anything. I thought you’d tell me when you wanted to.” Both men turned in the direction of Scully as she let out a little laugh. Mulder could understand why. Sometimes talking to Will was like talking to a scarily perceptive adult not a nine-year-old child. He felt like a chastised teenager that had just been found by a grownup making out with his date on the front porch.
“Are you okay with it? If your Dad and I are boyfriend and girlfriend?” Scully asked Will. If she was nervous of his answer she didn’t show it but Mulder was petrified.
“Of course!” Will replied at once. Mulder shared a look with Scully that was full of meaning. The moment felt like a significant one in a whole number of ways Mulder couldn’t even begin to describe. But he knew he would remember it, forever. “Can we finish our food now? It won’t taste as good if it’s cold.” Will stated matter-of-factly.
“Of course.” Mulder parroted.
As the three of them resumed their meals, Mulder reached under the table and took Scully’s free hand. He felt her squeeze his fingers as she smiled at him. His chest seemed to expand endlessly. The last year had been hell on earth but it had got them here and he couldn’t be sorry for that. For the first time ever he had so much love in his life he felt as if he could drown in it. Nearing fifty years on the planet and at last he was contented – he was a man with an unbroken family.