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Somewhere A Clock is Ticking

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The doctor entered the room looking efficient yet instantly friendly. She was in the standard white coat and was holding a clipboard that presumably contained all manner of charts and analysis of Will’s treatment. Mulder knew there was going to be a new doctor taking over the lead of Will’s care – they had come in specifically today to meet with them. And for Will to be poked and prodded by yet another medical professional no doubt.

Though on first glance this new doctor was the furthest thing away from her predecessor the old, fusty Doctor Evans. She was much younger, much more vibrant, and much, much more attractive.

“Okay, you must be William?” The doctor asked, addressing Will who was sitting up on the bed. Mulder sat up a little straighter in his chair – her voice, Jesus, her voice.

“Will.” Will corrected quietly.

“Will. I’m Doctor Scully or Dana if you prefer to call me that.” She held out her hand to Will and he shook it. “It’s very nice to meet you.”  

Mulder looked over at his son and tried to conceal a smile at the wonder that was painted on Will’s face. Will couldn’t stop looking at Doctor Scully and really he couldn’t blame him. She was disarmingly beautiful. Mulder knew his thought process was bordering on the inappropriate but it had been so long since had thought about anything other than Will and the cancer that it was quite pleasant to realise he was still capable of other thought processes.

“And you must be Mr. Mulder?” She turned to face him and then, after glancing down at her clipboard, corrected herself: “I’m sorry – Professor Mulder.”

“Just Mulder is fine.” She gave him a strange look.

“He doesn’t like his first name so he makes everyone call him by his last name – Mulder.” Will suddenly piped up. Mulder looked at him in surprise. Usually getting Will to say anything at all during a hospital appointment was as difficult as drawing blood from a stone.

“And why doesn’t he like his first name?” Doctor Scully asked as turned back towards Will, talking about him as if he weren’t in the room. The look that she and Will shared was full of conspiracy and he had the instant feeling he was going to like her. She was already interacting with Will more than Doctor Evans ever had.

“He says it’s silly but I don’t think it is.”

“Well now I have to hear it!” She exclaimed. Will glanced at Mulder to make sure he wasn’t about to commit a betrayal but Mulder smiled and nodded. He’d happily fall on his sword for his son in any way he could. He spotted Doctor Scully clocking the look between him and Will, her own smile growing at their silent exchange.

“Fox.” Will stated proudly.

“Well… it’s certainly unusual I’ll give him that.” She turned and smiled at Mulder and he could swear he actually felt his stomach clench. Get your head in the game Mulder. “But I agree with you Will, I don’t think it’s silly either.”

“See?!” Will asked of him. He chuckled. His beautiful little boy.

“And what do you think he should call me? Dana?”

“No.” Will decided instantly. “He should call you Scully, just Scully, so it’s fair.” Scully’s eyebrows rose.

“Standing up for equality. A man after my own heart.” He could tell Will was slightly bemused but it didn’t stop him looking at her as if she had just hung the moon. Scully turned toward Mulder once again and offered him her hand. “Scully.”

“Mulder.” He replied, shaking it.

“Okay Will, how are you feeling today?” She asked conversationally. Mulder saw his son’s mood sour a little at the change of topic. But it was only a little and that was something – the tone Scully had chosen had gone a long way.

“Okay.” He answered at once. It was an improvement on the incredibly moody I’m fine that Doctor Evans had always got. “A little bit tired.” Will conceded after a moment’s silence.

“Okay. So, I need to just give you a quick once over if that’s okay with you? And then I will release you back into the wild while I talk to your Dad – Mulder, not Fox.” Her little joke went even further and Will nodded his agreement.

Mulder followed Scully into her office. They’d left Will quite happily catching up with some of his friends in the ward dayroom. As he walked behind her Mulder couldn’t help but notice the way Scully’s long red hair stood out against the white of her coat as it trailed down her back. It made his mind wander to other white things it would also stand out against like his bedroom pillows for example. He cleared his throat in an attempt to also clear his head. His thoughts were fast moving past slightly inappropriate to full on lecherous.

“Please.” Scully said, indicating to one of the chairs opposite her desk as she closed the door behind them. She sat on her side of the desk facing him. “So I suppose the first thing I should do is apologise.” Mulder frowned. “I know it must be jarring to have had one doctor in charge of Will’s treatment all this time and now suddenly to get a new one.”

“What happened to Doctor Evans, if I may ask?” He couldn’t say that he was sorry for the swap but he was genuinely curious. It had all seemed very sudden and Evans was a good few years from retirement.

“He has parted ways with the hospital. There was… a disagreement.” Scully answered cryptically. The look on her face however suggested it was a disagreement she found distasteful at best.

“Oh god, it wasn’t the kids was it?” Her eyes widened and she shook her head at once.

“No. No, there’s no evidence to suggest that. Think more in the realms of the young med students.”

It was Mulder’s turn to widen his eyes in surprise. Surely she was not supposed to have told him that. The hospital must have had a more palatable company line. Evans though, shit. He suddenly felt validated for never really liking the guy.

“You didn’t hear that from me.” He motioned the crossing of his hear and she smiled at him. “Anyway, I’ve looked over Will’s file and I think I’m up-to-date with everything. You guys have been through the ringer.” She said with genuine understanding.

“Yeah, I guess so.” He answered quietly. The ringer? The last few months had been hell on earth and it didn’t look like there was to be any let up in the near future.

“You’ve had two rounds of chemotherapy so far?”

“Yeah. And a go of radiotherapy in between.”

“And the next round of chemo is scheduled to start the week after next.”

“If you think there’s a point.” The words had left his mouth before he could stop them, each letter laced with bitterness. He saw Scully was taken aback by the bluntness of his question but she recovered quickly. “It’s just the treatments have made him so, so sick and there’s absolutely no evidence that they’re doing anything at all to help him. I don’t want to keep putting him through that if…” His voice broke off abruptly as the emotion rose in him at the idea his words were hedging around.

Scully continued to watch him intently but she did not interrupt. When it was clear she was not going to respond until he finished his thought he forced himself to take a deep breath and continued:

“I just don’t want to keep alive longer so he can suffer longer. If it’s all going to end up the same way anyway.”

He was amazed he was able to finish the sentence. They were the hardest words he had ever said. And this was the first time he had ever said them. He had tried to discuss it with Doctor Evans but he had always been shot down before he got very far. Now that the truth of his thinking was laid out bare in front of him he found it utterly terrifying. His entire body was shaking and he was fighting the strongest of urges to flee; to run, to cry, to scream into the oblivion.

“I understand what you are saying.” Scully said slowly. And when he looked up he saw that she was waiting for him to do so, so that he would see the honesty of her statement. “We have only just met but I plan to start this relationship the way I intend to continue it – by being entirely honest with you even if that is painful to hear.”

“Please…” Mulder gestured for her to continue. He needed the truth. No matter how soul destroying it might be, he needed to know the truth.

“Will’s cancer is rare and it’s fairly aggressive. I know you guys have been through it already but the truth is you’ve got a long way to go. This may need to get worse, a lot worse if Will stands a chance of getting better. We need to fight the aggression of the cancer with aggression of our own which means we keep hitting it with more rounds of chemo, as much as Will can take. And then we wait to see what effect it has. I promise you as soon as we are able to accurately tell if the treatment is being effective we will run the tests and move forward from there.”

Again Mulder could see nothing but honesty and integrity in her eyes. She was telling him the truth, she was going to do everything she could to fight this and he needed to do the same. For the first time in months he felt as if he had someone he could truly trust. Inexplicably he just knew – they were in this together.

“Thank you.” He replied quietly, unable to express anything else. Scully nodded in acknowledgment.

“So, Will looked good today. The break from the treatment he’s having at the moment seems to be doing the job. It should make him stronger for the next round. Are there any ongoing problems or side-effects you wanted to talk about today?”

“Err… the nausea is pretty bad. It used to just be directly after the chemo but it stays with him longer and longer after each go.”

“What is he on for that?” As she was talking she started tapping away at her computer. She looked efficient to the point of frighteningly so. Mulder couldn’t tell if he was more intimidated or impressed by her. He rolled off the name of the drug Will had been prescribed. “Hmm…” Scully nodded, still staring at her screen, clearly thinking. “That is the most common thing we would prescribe for a patient of Will’s age. But there are a couple of alternatives we could try. I’ll write you a script for one now, hopefully you’ll get on better with that.” With a few more clicks the new prescription was printed and signed and Scully handed it over to him. “You can have that made up on your way out?”

“Yeah, great. Thanks.”

“And here is my card.” She passed him over the card. “It’s got my direct office number on there. If you have any issues or questions please do call me.”

“That’s great. Thank you.” Mulder repeated. He felt as if he wanted to say it a thousand more times. Perhaps a new doctor was what they all needed. A new perspective, a new drive, and somehow within it he’d found just a little bit of new hope.

“If Will’s Mom would like to meet with me please pass on my details and we can set that up.”

“Will’s Mom is not in the picture.” He answered at once, perhaps a little too harshly. “It’s just me and him.” Scully gave him a look he didn’t quite understand, but he knew it was not the usual one of discomfort or pity.

“What about other family? Grandparents or aunts and uncles?” She asked gently.

“No. Why?” He could not help the defensiveness of his tone but she didn’t appear put off by it.

“Only that I can see Will has a great support system in you. And I hope that you have a support system of your own. You need to look after yourself too – you’re no use to Will if you’re not functioning properly.”

“I know. I’m doing okay.” Mulder answered in a softer voice. Though he wondered how true that was.

“Okay, then my lecture is over.” And then they shared a smile that him feel as if he had known her for years. Scully stood and lead him to the door, opening it before turning back to him and offering him her hand. “Although the circumstances are the furthest thing from ideal, it was a pleasure to meet you, Mulder.” They shook hands and this time he found he enjoyed the feel of the soft yet strong fingers that were gripping his own. The fingers that might just save his little boy.

“Likewise, Scully. Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Scully entered the room and smiled brightly at both Will and Mulder. She looked exactly as she had the last time – professional but friendly, warm but not overfamiliar. Mulder was instantly reminded of two things; one how much he had liked her the last they met, and two just how goddamn attractive he found her.

“Good morning.” She greeted them.

“Morning.” They both echoed. Neither of their responses matched her enthusiasm. The first day of a new round of chemo was not exactly the highlight of the diary. Besides which it was ridiculously early and Will was hard enough to get out of bed at the best of times.

“How are you doing today Will?” Scully asked, her tone remaining light and conversational. Will only shrugged in reply. “It’s early, huh?” He hummed but made no other answer. “Mind if I take a look?” Scully asked as she gestured to the drip in Will’s arm where the treatment was entering his body. Will gestured for her to go ahead.

It was obviously going to be a non-verbal kind of day. He had been the same with the nurses that had prepped him when he came in. Not even the appearance of Scully had brought him out of his mood and Mulder was more than aware of how much his son liked her – he had the unfortunate habit of blushing whenever her name was mentioned. Scully got to work checking over the drip and cannula in Will’s arm. When she was satisfied with this she moved on to giving him a general once over.

“So Will what have you been up to since I last saw you?” She asked him as she worked.

“Erm…” He looked over at Mulder as if he were going to answer the question for him which he absolutely was not. Mulder nodded in encouragement but Will did not look impressed. “Not much. Just school.”

“And how is that?”

“It’s fine.” Will replied, still with little enthusiasm. Mulder could tell Will was trying to work it out – Doctor Evans had never indulged in such small talk.

“You learning anything interesting?”

“The space stuff is pretty cool.” At last there was the tiniest hint of energy in his voice.

“Yeah? You’ve chosen a science subject too – I keep liking you more and more!” Scully looked up from what she was doing and smiled at him. Will frowned for a moment, still trying to figure out what was going on, but then he smiled back. It was the first smile Mulder had seen from him in at least two days. Will was always quiet right before treatment started and Mulder couldn’t blame him; he knew Will was dreading it just as much as he was. “So, hit me with your best space fact.” By now Scully had finished and stood back, waiting for him to answer. Will took no time to think about his reply:

“If you make footprints on the moon they will stay there for a hundred million years!” Will exclaimed with excitement. Scully looked over at Mulder and smiled at him. And damn if she didn’t make him feel better with that one look in the same way she had with Will and their small talk.

“That is pretty cool, I will give you that.” Will’s smile widened. “Do you want to hear my most interesting space fact?” Will nodded eagerly. Mulder could swear it was like a completely different child sitting in front of him. “There is a volcano on Mars that is three times taller than Mount Everest. It’s called the Olympus Mons.”

“I didn’t know that. That is cool!”

“Well maybe something to tell your friends when you go back. Okay, one final question: how has your stomach been since you’ve been on the new medicine?”

“Yeah it’s been okay. Better.” And just like that Will was talking about his health and treatment. She was like the cancer child whisperer. Or maybe just the Will whisperer. Either way Mulder certainly wasn’t complaining. He was in awe of her.

“And does Dad agree?” Scully asked, turning towards him.

“Yeah it’s definitely improved.” Mulder confirmed.

“Good. Two out of two happy customers. And I was rather hoping you’d say that Will…” Scully reached into her pocket and pulled out a packet of skittles. Will’s eyes lit up. The chemo had only just started, he wouldn’t fancy anything to eat in a couple of hours but right then the idea of sweets for breakfast was enough to lift his mood even further. That – and the pretty doctor offering them to him. “Now here’s the thing Will I am rather fond of the green ones, they’re my favourite. Usually I don’t like sharing them but I am going to make an exception for you.”

“Thank you.” Will said as Scully opened the packet and poured some into his open palm. Both Mulder and Scully watched as Will picked through the skittles, eating all of the colours except the green ones. When he was finished he offered the green ones back to Scully.

“You are a true gentlemen Will.” She told him as she popped a green skittle into her mouth. “But you definitely deserve these more than me.” She closed Will’s fingers around the remaining skittles. “Maybe share some with your Dad if you’re feeling generous.” She whispered to him and Will sniggered. “Now be good both of you…”

“We will.” Will assured her.

“Yeah, not really you I’m worried about Will.” She teased as she shot Mulder another look he didn’t quite know what to do with. “I’ll come back and see you before you’re done.” And with that she was gone.

 

 

Mulder was about five seconds from getting thrown out, he knew he was but he just couldn’t stop. Their latest round of chemotherapy had been going okay, as okay as it could ever go, and then Will had picked up the mother of all infections and just like that he had ended up in intensive care. It had all happened so quickly – one minute he had been fine and the next he was literally fighting for his life. And Mulder could not cope with it. He could not cope with it one bit.

No one would tell him anything. He didn’t know what was going on or how they were treating him or exactly how close he was to losing the most precious thing in his life. He felt like he was losing his mind. And he was definitely losing his temper with hospital security in a big way.

“Do not tell me to calm down!” He all but yelled at the large, imposing man blocking the way he wanted to go. “Why is no one listening to me?! Get me Doctor Scully! Get me Scully, now! Can you hear me?!” He was manhandled easily by the bigger man as he wrestled him down the corridor. Mulder was kicking and fighting all the way but he didn’t have much chance of winning and then finally Scully emerged.

“It’s alright Bryan, thank you.” ‘Bryan’ looked sceptical but he let go of Mulder who shrugged off the embrace.

“You need to stop screaming the place down or they’ll kick you out regardless of what I say.” She told him matter-of-factly. She looked so calm and poised – it pissed him off.

“I will stop screaming when someone tells me what the fuck is going on.” He took what he hoped was a menacing step toward her but she didn’t flinch. Mulder didn’t get very far before Bryan got between them and shoved him back.

“What’s going on is that we’re doing everything we can to help Will.” Scully said evenly.

“What does that mean?!” The frustration was overwhelming him. He reached up and pulled at his own hair so hard he felt it lift at the root but the pain did not register. Scully frowned at him, her concern clear but he did not want to see it. “What are you actually doing?” He didn’t give her the chance to respond. As long as he was shouting and accusing he could distract himself enough to not really think about what could happen, what could be happening. “What have you actually been doing? You come in all smiley and chatty and friendly well congratulations he has an A plus crush on you. How is that going to save his life?!!”

His voice had reached a whole new level and there must have been close to two dozen pairs of eyes on him. Bryan remained standing between him and Scully, looking towards her for approval. He was more than eager to get rid of him. There was something flashing in Scully’s eyes that Mulder could not decipher: anger, embarrassment, pity? Perhaps it was all three. Whatever it was it was the first chink in the professional armour she had been so expertly maintaining. Her cheeks suddenly reddened slightly and that was what did it. All of his bravado came crashing down. At once everything began to cave in and he was crying before he even realised it, fat tears rolling down his face. He could not breathe. Scully stepped towards and placed a hand on his arm. A small beacon of solace in his all-consuming despair.

“It won’t.” She told him quietly, only loud enough for him to hear. “What might is the course of antibiotics we have him on combined with the constant monitoring we are doing and enough peace and quiet around here for us all to do our jobs the best we can.” Her words were straight but not unkind, neither was her expression. Mulder bowed his head in shame. “You’re no use to Will if you’ve been thrown out on your ass.”

Scully turned to leave, gesturing for Bryan to do the same. Slowly everyone returned to their business and at last Mulder’s spiralling thoughts began to slow. He slumped down to the floor, exhausted by his outburst and everything he was feeling, and waited. It was all he could do.

Chapter Text

Mulder sat by Will’s beside, watching him intently. They had somehow yet again managed to escape the worst case scenario. They were not completely out of the woods of course but the infection appeared to be finally under control and Will was sleeping peacefully beside him. He was still alive, that was all that mattered for now.

Mulder turned his head towards the door as it opened and saw Scully stepping inside. He was hit with a mixture of guilt and surprise. Guilt for obvious reasons and because he had not really seen her much in the few days since his ugly outburst. And surprise because it was late, the hospital quiet and calm, and he had expected she would have gone home hours ago. He stood as she approached Will’s bedside and then all of his feelings morphed into a singular one: nervousness. Had she come to chew him out? He would certainly deserve it.

She didn’t speak but waved her hand at him gesturing him to sit back down and he did so. She silently began reading a chart at the end of Will’s bed.

“I don’t know what I owe you a bigger dose of… apology or gratitude.” Mulder said. He spoke softly as not to disturb Will.

“You don’t owe me either.” Scully replied, speaking equally as softly.

“That’s not true. You were more than within your right to let them throw me out, you didn’t have to stick up for me – lord knows I didn’t deserve it.”

“You’re going through a lot. I understand that.”

“It’s not an excuse. There is no excuse for taking it out on you, for talking to you the way I did. None. And I’m sorry.”

She replaced the chart to the end of the bed and then turned to look at him. After a moment of studying him she nodded and he knew she had accepted his apology. And then, after another beat, she let out a weary sigh and sat down on a chair on the opposite side of the bed. She seemed to slump down into it with a bone deep kind of tiredness. It was the most informal he had ever seen her look, and the most human.

“Do you know why I decided to do this job?” Scully asked after a few moments.

“The amazing respect you receive from your patients’ parents?” She smiled at him and again he could see that he was truly forgiven. That she had wiped the slate clean and they could continue as if it had never happened. It amazed him. She amazed him.

“A little over ten years ago I was working as a pathologist…”

She suddenly stopped and let out a little chuckle. He realised his face must have been betraying exactly what he’d been thinking. He adjusted it accordingly and huffed out a laugh. She was so alive, so vibrant, so utterly good with people that he couldn’t imagine her surrounded by nothing but all those lifeless bodies.

“I get what you mean.” She said as if she had been reading his thoughts. See – she was good with people. “But I liked the work. I liked helping families to get closure. I liked helping the victims to tell the story of what had happened to them. My life was pretty much going exactly as I had planned and then I got sick. I had an inoperable brain tumour. After a few months of treatment it became an inoperable, incurable brain tumour. So I got my affairs in order and I said some very painful goodbyes and prepared myself for the end. I got pretty close to that end too but at the last minute I qualified for some very new, very experimental treatment that caused my cancer to go into remission.”

“That’s amazing.” He replied, genuinely awestruck. A feeling akin to relief was flooding through his body. No, not relief – hope. If Scully could beat it and come out the other side being as incredible as she was then so could Will.

“It is.” She agreed. “And I’m thankful for it every day. But the treatment left me unable to have children.”

Mulder frowned. When he thought about it he found it very easy to imagine her as a mother. He was instantly sad that the option had been taken away from her not least because picturing her as a mother was creating a peculiar, unknown warmth to spread within him.

“It’s a small price to pay for my life, I know that, but it does mean that I’m unlikely to ever be a mother to my own biological children. So when I was better, out of an unrelenting gratitude to God, or the universe, or science – whatever it was that had saved me, I retrained. I suppose I figured that not only could I help these kids but in some small way I would also get to be a mother too. I’d get to care for them and try my hardest to take away their pain. Because that’s what a mother, a parent, does, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” He agreed, the shake in his voice audible. It was all he’d ever wanted to do for Will. And currently he was, without question, failing.  

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is nothing I want more than for Will to get better, just as I did. But you have to trust me. I promise you I am on your side. Only your side.”

All he could do was nod, scared that if he tried to speak all that he was feeling would come tumbling out. She was right – trusting her was the only option he had. And she’d certainly earnt that trust. It was just that he was so goddamn bad at trusting anyone. The level of intimate detail she had just shared with him was a clear signal that she trusted him and he needed to reciprocate it.

“I will trust you. I do. I just… need to remind myself of that sometimes. I trust you.” He promised though for some reason he could not meet her eye. When he did finally raise his head he found that she was regarding him intently. Once again there was a look in her eyes that he could not decipher. He looked back, unblinking.

“I should get on.” She said suddenly, standing and breaking the moment they had been quietly sharing. “I’ll check on Will first thing in the morning.”

“Okay, thank you.”

As she passed him to leave her hand reached out and rested on his shoulder, she gave it a comforting squeeze and he felt the tingle all the way down to his fingertips.

“Please get as much rest as you can on that cot. Will will wake you if he needs you, you don’t need to keep a vigil all night.” Mulder hummed in a way they both knew meant he probably wouldn’t listen. Scully’s hand lingered on his shoulder for another moment and then she was gone.

 

 

Will brightened as soon as Scully entered the room. He was still very weak but so noticeably better compared to what he was. He was over the worst of it and he would live to fight another day. Mulder could not come close to expressing how relieved he was.

Mulder watched Scully behold the Lone Gunmen with something between confusion and intrigue. He supposed they were a strange sight: three misfits stood at the end of Will’s bed, each holding a gift like some strange parody of the three wise men. Once again as if she could read his thoughts Scully eventually said:

“Tell me they brought you something better than frankincense and myrrh Will?” Mulder was not sure if Will fully understood the reference but he smiled at her nonetheless.

“They got me a star projector.” Will said, his voice cracking slightly with the effort of speaking. Mulder’s gut clenched. He is alive, he reminded himself.

“Okay, now that is seriously awesome!” She sounded like she really meant it too. Despite appearing endlessly cool to him, Mulder had a feeling that Scully was actually a bit of a geek. A science geek at the very least. Frohike blushed profusely as she sized the three of them up, nodding her head in approval at their choice of gift. She turned back towards Will. “Shall I put in a good word with the ward sister and see if we can get it set up in here?” Will’s eyes literally lit up at the suggestion.

“That would be amazing! Thank you so much!” He croaked.

“Thank you.” Mulder agreed, smiling at her warmly. He had no idea what they had done to deserve her but he was close to thanking a God he did not believe in for it.

“Only if I can sneak in here and look at it with you?”

“Of course!” Will exclaimed, sounding as excited as his tired voice would let him. Mulder doubted there was anything in the world Will would enjoy more.

“Great.” Scully then turned towards the Gunmen. “Okay guys, can you give us a minute while I check Will over.” All three of them jumped to follow her orders and shuffled out of the room. She gave Mulder an amused look, not doubt entertained by his choice of friends. She started by reading over some charts hanging from the end of the bed and then moved over to Will. “You look amazing Will, you are so strong.” She told him as she started working. Mulder smiled. It was true – compared to a few days ago he couldn’t believe where they were now. “I knew you would beat this infection. You’re a fighter. You’re a superhero.”

“Yeah?” Will asked her. Mulder could see him hanging off of her every word.

“Hell yeah.” She told him with a smile. Mulder thought she was a superhero too.

Chapter Text

It was late by the time Mulder made his way to his car. He was finally heading home for a few hours, in desperate need of a shower and at least some sleep that didn’t happen on a five-foot cot. He knew it was time when Will himself had joined in with the nurses that were urging him to go home. Mulder had left Will sleeping soundly and with any luck he would still be that way when he returned early next morning.

As he neared his car he overheard raised voices coming from a little further down the parking lot. He looked around to see if everything was okay. He didn’t plan to get involved unless it was absolutely necessary – tension ran much higher in hospitals than it did in most other places, arguments were more frequent than some might think. He saw two people standing close together by a car parked a few spaces down from him. He got his keys out ready to get into his car.

“What do you want from me Dana?!” An agitated voice suddenly hissed.

That made him look up again. Now that he was closer he could see that it was in fact Scully. She was standing with one hand on what Mulder assumed was the handle of her own car and the other struggling to get out of the tight grip of her companion. The other man was standing completely in her space, leaning over her in what looked to be an intimidating manner. He looked pissed off. Mulder started walking towards them at once.

“What do you think I want from you? Nothing. I want you to leave me alone.” Scully answered, her voice sounding entirely different than usual.

“We’ve come back into each other’s lives for a reason. You can’t ignore that.”

“It was a coincidence Daniel! And not even a happy one.”

“Hey!” Mulder called out. They both turned to look in his direction. “Are we going for that coffee or what?” To Scully’s credit she didn’t look startled or confused even for a second.

“Yeah, definitely. Let’s go.” She said instantly and forcibly removed her arm from the man’s hold.

“Dana! Dana, wait…” The man called after her as she walked towards Mulder. As soon as she reached him he flung an arm around her shoulder and the man stopped shouting at once.

“It’s so good to see you again…” Mulder continued conversationally as they walked away. As soon as they turned a corner and were out of sight he dropped his arm but Scully didn’t stop walking so he continued on next to her. “Are you okay?” He asked quietly. He chanced a look behind him and it didn’t appear that they had been followed.

“Yeah. Thanks.” Scully replied, also quiet.

“Sorry if I overstepped…”

“No, you didn’t. Thank you for coming over – not everyone would have.” She was being polite but she was clearly uncomfortable. And he couldn’t blame her. Even if she wasn’t angry at him for interrupting there was no denying he had just witnessed a very private exchange.

“So I say we go around the block a couple of times to make sure he’s on his way and then I’ll walk you back to your car.” Scully gave him a little smile and nodded. “Or… we could go and get that cup of coffee… if you wanted?”

She opened her mouth to reject the idea, or so Mulder assumed, but then closed it again. She was trying to come to a decision he realised – it wouldn’t be the most professional move in the world on her part and he got the impression that was important to her. But on the other hand she was probably shook up at what had just happened, anyone would be, and could do with the caffeine and the company.

“Okay.” She said at last.

 

 

Mulder brought over two steaming cups of coffee and placed them on the table where Scully was seated. The hospital had precisely one twenty-four hour café and there were only two other diners in there – a couple of nurses who looked to be just about to start a shift. Mulder sat down in the seat opposite Scully.

“So…” He said after a few moments of silence. “Do you want to talk about it?” He knew he was probably out of line to ask but he was a little worried about her. She had always appeared to him so incredibly strong and capable but more than that, unflappable. Now she looked pale and a little jittery. She was clearly shaken up.

“In no way, no.” She answered quickly. He smiled openly at her response, he hadn’t really expected anything else. “I’m sorry. It’s just that whole thing was embarrassing and totally unprofessional and now I’m having coffee with you which is arguably a questionable decision…” Mulder’s smile grew wider, the near incomprehensible babble was cute. She caught his eye and blushed. Hell everything about her was cute. The corners of her mouth turned up slightly. “Professionally speaking I mean…”

“Hey the way I see it you are not at work right now which means I’m not the parent of one of your patients… I’m just a heroic stranger with a kind face.” She looked up at him in surprise and laughed at the mock seriousness on his face. “Or maybe you need a friend right now and I’m someone that could be your friend… or maybe it would just really help me take my mind off of things if I thought about someone else’s problems for a bit.”

“You’re scarily persuasive you know that?”

“Try telling Will that when I want him to eat some greens.” She smiled warmly at him and his stomach spiked. He was wrong – she wasn’t cute, she was absolutely beautiful and it took his breath away.

“Well he was an ex, which I’m sure was pretty obvious.” It was but he didn’t interrupt. “It was a long time ago… like twenty years ago…”

Mulder’s eyebrows rose in surprise. Twenty years was a long time to hold a torch for an ex but if he was to believe anyone could achieve that kind of devotion he’d believe it of Scully. He was finding from his own experience that she was entirely too easy to fall for. The woman was perfect – even when she wasn’t.

“It was when I was a medical student. He was a surgeon, one of my mentors… and he was married.” Ah, Mulder thought, her discomfort at the unprofessionalism of it all suddenly made a lot more sense to him. Not that he was judging her for it, it was entirely her own business. “I know!” She gave a humourless laugh at herself. “It makes my judgment about Doctor Evans pretty hypocritical, huh?”

“That wasn’t what I was thinking.” He told her honestly.

“No?”

“No. I don’t think it’s hypocritical to pass judgment on an established man in a position of power over his behaviour towards those under that power. Regardless of whether you had also been treated that way by a similar man in a similar position. You were young Scully and you made a mistake, if that’s what it was…”

“That’s not an excuse. I wasn’t a child – I knew the difference between right and wrong. I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway.” She still felt guilty about it, he realised. Twenty years on and she still felt guilty about it. “I kept telling myself it was okay because I loved him. I loved him and he loved me and it was the universe that was keeping us apart, leaving us no choice but to act the way we did. And then when he told me he was going to leave his wife and daughter to be with me I realised I didn’t want him to. My residency ended and I left. I never saw him again until a few weeks ago when we ran into each other. And now I just want him to go away. It’s the past and it should stay there.”

“Him reappearing didn’t make you think about what might have been? If you hadn’t left, if you had ended up together?”

“Strangely, no. If anything it just reinforced that I had made the right decision.”

He could tell that she meant it. It was the second time she had shared highly personal information with him and he suddenly felt the burning need to reciprocate. To show her that her trust in him was not one-sided.

“Do you want tit-for-tat?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Want me to share some of my doomed past love with you?” He smiled at her and she smiled back. He felt the spark that he’d been trying to ignore since he first met her, ignite again. God, she was lovely.

“You don’t have to do that.” Scully said in a way that suggested she would never ask him but she really wouldn’t mind if he did. It was only fair after all.

“I’m sure you noticed the less than calm response I had when you mentioned Will’s mother.”

He swore she actually leant forward in her chair a little. Mulder smiled, he found her endlessly endearing. Just when he thought he had a handle on what kind of person she was she’d surprise him and then he’d have to start all over again.

“We were together for a long time before Will came along, about ten years. We never talked about having kids – I don’t think either of us saw it in our future. But when she got pregnant, although it wasn’t planned, I just felt that it was right. I felt that it was supposed to have happened. I left my job and started looking into teaching, something I could do that was more nine to five to fit around childcare. I guess I just waited for her to feel the same; I kept thinking that she would get used to the idea. But she never did. And then when Will was just shy of eighteen months she left. She took a job in Europe and didn’t look back.”

“You’ve never heard from her since?” Scully asked in clear disbelief.

He could see the look of disgust on her face that she was trying to hide. Somehow it didn’t surprise him – one thing that he knew for sure about Scully was that she was hugely maternal. In fact she’d been more maternal towards Will in the last few weeks than Diana had been in the whole eighteen months she was in his life. He suddenly felt personally upset that Scully couldn’t have children of her own.

“Besides the divorce papers I got in the post about six months after she’d gone, no.”

“Jesus. Poor Will. I mean don’t get me wrong he’s incredible lucky to have you, I mean that but… poor Will. And you…”

“Well I’d say I’m over it but after that reaction in your office I think we both know that would be a lie.” She gave him a little smile but didn’t comment. There wasn’t much you could say to that.

“What did you do before? You said you left your job when Will came along, what were you doing?”

“I was an FBI agent.” He enjoyed the surprise as it registered on her face. He wanted to be just a little elusive to her as she was to him. Most of the time he felt like a caveman dragging his knuckles on the floor as he trailed behind her.

“No way. What division?”

“Behavioural Science Unit at first, as a profiler. And then Violent Crimes… for a long time.” He knew his voice was demonstrating the effect it had had on him. He could tell she wanted to ask more questions about it but she didn’t. Perhaps she thought it was insensitive to do so.

“The Bureau tried to recruit me once. It was right after medical school. They wanted me to become an FBI pathologist and work out of Quantico. Perhaps with a view to becoming a field agent later on.”

Okay she’d beaten him again. She was elusive as hell.

“You weren’t interested?”

“No I was. I was very interested actually.” One thing he knew for sure was that she would have been a formidable agent. A brilliant one.

“So why didn’t you go for it?”

“My father.” For a moment he didn’t think she was going to elaborate but she did. “He had very specific ideas about what he thought I should do with my life and working for the FBI wasn’t one of them. And even though I was almost thirty at the time I still didn’t want to…”

“Disobey him?”

“No. Disappoint him.”

Mulder nodded in understanding. Being a constant disappointment to your parents, if there was ever something he could relate to on a molecular level, it was that. Suddenly Scully’s face changed; she cringed and began to turn bright red.

“Oh god! I totally forgot you were a psychologist!” She exclaimed. He had to admit he was utterly confused at what that had to do with anything. “First I tell you about my failed affair with my older, married teacher and now I’m going on about my complicated, desperate-to-please relationship with my father. I must be screaming daddy issues to you right now!”

Mulder burst out laughing. She eyed him suspiciously. He hadn’t been thinking that at all, though now she mentioned it… But really it had not crossed his mind until then. If she wasn’t at work then he wasn’t either – he was not sitting there psychoanalysing everything she said. He felt he needed to make that clear to her.

“I promise you, you are not. Besides, we’re doing tit-for-tat remember? It doesn’t take a psychology degree or a career in profiling to know that if you’re screaming daddy issues I’m more than screaming abandonment issues.” Scully’s eyebrows hung low on her face.

“Go on.” She prompted him.

“Go on what?”

“Tit-for-tat. We’ve explored my daddy issues, let’s explore your abandonment issues.”

“We already have. I told you about my ex-wife, remember?”

“But there must be more to it than that?” She challenged him. “As a psychologist I’m sure you know that abandonment issues almost always at least start from experiences in childhood. Later experiences stem from that surely? Even unconsciously, you seek out people that are more likely to ultimately abandon you, thus…”

“Alright, alright.” He interrupted, holding up his hands in surrender. She was tenacious, he had to give her that. She was like a dog with a bone when she wanted something. Even that he found attractive. He was truly fucked.

“I suppose my family life had always been a little cold and unloving. My parents were rich New Englanders – the kind that cared much more about how things appeared than how they actually were. And then when I was twelve, my sister, who was eight at the time, went missing. She was kidnapped, abducted, whatever… taken from our home and she was never found. I guess my parents blamed me for…”

“How could they blame you for that?” He was taken aback by the emotion in her voice. Her eyes were wet and she leaned even further forward towards him, looking devastated on his behalf. And that was why he never told this story. It was nothing if not a mood killer.

“My parents were next door at the neighbours when it happened. I was home with Samantha – I was supposed to be watching her.”    

“Mulder you were a child.” She told him seriously. Her voice almost sounded protective, but he must have been mistaken. He was hearing what he wanted to hear.

“If it was bad before Sam went missing, it was nothing compared to afterwards. My parents divorced not long after it happened and then I was shared out between two equally unwelcoming homes. I left as soon as I could – I went to Oxford to study and when I came back the FBI recruited me.”

“Is that why you became an FBI agent? To find answers about your sister?”

“Maybe. But I think understood, even then, that there weren’t answers to be found. It was more that I could try and stop it happening to someone else; to someone else’s sister.”

“I’m so sorry Mulder.” Scully said sincerely and she reached across the table to hold his forearm. He looked down at her fingers, trying to work out if it was bad that she was so much more emotional at hearing the story than he was at telling it. The truth was he had accepted what had happened a long time ago and now the whole thing was almost numb to him.

They were quiet for several moments and then suddenly Scully rose quickly from her chair. Her movements were so hasty they almost upended the table in the process.

“Thank you for the coffee but I really need to get going now.” He was confused and in all honesty a little hurt at her abrupt end to a conversation that had been so deeply personal for both of them.

“Okay, sure.” He tried to sound casual. “I’ll walk you to your car.” He said as he reached to finish his coffee.

“No really that’s fine. Daniel will be long gone by now. See you later.”

And with that she turned and walked away as quickly as she possibly could without breaking into a run. Mulder was left sitting at the table, completely bemused as to what the heck had just happened.    

Chapter Text

Mulder watched Scully as she finished checking Will over. She was smiling and chatting to Will but something was definitely off. It had been ever since they had had coffee together the week before. With any luck Will would be released that day; he was finally well enough to go home which also meant he was well enough to resume his treatment. They were likely to be seeing her again soon. But Mulder was confused as to what was going on and he was uncomfortable to leave things the way they were.

“Okay Will I just need to go and sign a couple of forms and then you are officially free.” Will beamed up at her in response. He was more than ready to go home.

“Thank you!” Will replied. Scully smiled at Will and then, deliberately avoiding eye contact with Mulder, she left the room.

“I’ll be back in just a second okay bud?” Mulder said. Will nodded and opened up his book as Mulder slipped from the room.

“Scully, you got a minute?” He called after her. She turned around and offered a somewhat forced smile. She was still stoically refusing to meet his eye.

“What’s up?”

“I was going to ask you that. Are we okay? Ever since we had coffee…”

“That was a mistake. It was completely unprofessional of me and it shouldn’t have happened.” She interrupted and at last she looked directly at him.

The usual warmth he found in her gaze was completely gone – she was the image of detached professionalism. He was taken aback. They had shared some pretty personal things and he’d be lying if he said he didn’t feel a little rejected by her sudden cold shoulder.

“I thought we agreed that since you weren’t at work it was unprofessional.” He tried to keep his tone light but he was met with a blank expression and a stony silence. He sighed and ran an agitated hand over his face.

“I’m Will’s doctor and to do that the best I can I need to be able to maintain a certain level of objectivity…”

“You told me you did this job so you could mother these kids – that doesn’t sound very objective to me.” Mulder snapped.

He was aware that was a low blow but her words had angered him. They had contradicted everything she had told him so far and more importantly they contradicted all of the things she made him feel. There was absolutely nothing objective about it for him. He felt as if he were being broken up with and it hurt. He wanted to hurt her back and by the look on her face he’d succeeded.

“That’s not what I said.”

“Actually that’s exactly what you said.” He replied with petty venom. Her eyes filled with tears and he felt awful but he refused to let that feeling come to the surface. He needed to stay in offensive mode – lashing out at her before she could do the same to him.

“Well that’s not what I meant.” She told him firmly. Her voice was strong despite how vulnerable she looked. In any other situation he would have filed that away as just one more thing he found endlessly impressive about her. “I’m Will’s doctor. I’m not your friend.”

Her metaphorical blow hit its target. He felt winded.

“I get it.” Mulder snapped angrily. “I’m sorry to have taken up so much of your precious time. Don’t let me keep you any longer, Doctor Scully.” He had wanted to sound cold and unaffected but each word was dripping with a bitterness that barely covered the hurt underneath it.

Scully looked at him for a beat longer and then turned and walked away.

 

 

They were sat in Luigi’s, the best – in Will Mulder’s opinion, Italian restaurant in the entire city. Mulder thought it was decidedly average himself. But the fact that Will had enough of an appetite to not only want to eat but to actually suggest a particular place, meant Mulder would have taken him to moon and back if that’s where he’d wanted to go.

The latest round of chemotherapy had ended and the alternative pills Scully had prescribed were working a treat. Mulder hadn’t seen Will this enthused about a meal in months – he was looking at Luigi’s special spaghetti sauce as if it were heaven on a plate. And Mulder was grinning like an idiot over his own dinner at the sight of his son eating with gusto.    

Will was halfway through his incredibly messy meal when he suddenly looked up and said:

“Hey Dad, look it’s Dana.”

Mulder turned and saw that he was right. Across the restaurant Scully and a well-dressed man of about her age were being shown to their table. Somehow he knew at once that she was on a date. Perhaps it was her outfit that gave it away; she looked as if she had made an effort, but at the same time didn’t want it to look as if she had made too much of an effort. The result was that she looked natural but utterly stunning. Her long hair, which he had never seen completely down before, looked so soft he wanted to bury his face in it and her simple dress fit her to perfection, accenting every damn one of her petite curves. He wanted to cry at how beautiful she was.

He also wanted to cry because she was there with someone else and although he had no claim over her he was insanely jealous. He was, he was quickly realising, more than just a little bit in love with her.

And lastly, he wanted to cry because not only was she there with someone else, she was there with someone that thought this was a suitable place to take a date that looked as she did, that was what she was, as if the man had absolutely no idea of what he had. The bastard.

“Can I go over and say hi?” Will asked excitedly, interrupting his spiralling thoughts.   

“No. Eat you spaghetti.” Mulder replied with extreme melancholy.

“After I’m finished can I go over?”

“No.”

“Why not? She’s my friend, I just want to go and say hello.”

“I said no!” Mulder answered in a raised voice and Will’s eyes widened in shock. “She’s not your friend, she’s your doctor.” Mulder finished harshly.

He hardly ever shouted at Will. It was the side-effect of an obsession with being the opposite kind of father to the one he had had. Perhaps there were times when he should have been stricter with Will but this was not one of those times. He had overreacted and hurt Will’s feelings. Will was also a little bit in love with her, in a nine-year-old kind of way, and he was just excited to see her.

“She is my friend.” Will challenged, quiet but fierce. “She’s the only person that doesn’t treat me like I’m sick.”

That left Mulder utterly speechless. It was enough to take all of the fight out of him and he deflated at once, feeling sick with guilt and remorse. The last person he should’ve been taking any of it out on was Will. His stomach churned with undigested lasagne and that same feeling of wanting to cry was stronger than ever.

“I’m sorry kid.” He said genuinely, trying his hardest to keep it together. It wasn’t fair – Will deserved so much better than him. Will shrugged and picked up his fork to twirl more spaghetti around it. “I don’t mean to treat you like you’re sick.”

“It’s okay.” He sound disappointed but not angry. Somehow that was worse. He wanted Will to kick off and shout at him, he deserved it. He didn’t want Will’s quiet acceptance of things that were so unjust. “I mean I am sick and you’d be kind of a bad Dad if you ignored it. I just like that she doesn’t treat me like everyone else does. She doesn’t treat me like I’m different.”

Mulder nodded emphatically trying to show that he understood. And he did, completely. Will’s maturity astounded him sometimes and he was sure he could not be his kid.  

“Are you just grumpy ‘cause Dana is here with someone else and not you?” Mulder looked up in surprise. He assumed Will was pulling his leg but he was looking at him seriously. He had just been read to shit by a nine-year-old.

“Yeah, I am.” He replied honestly.

“Okay.” Will gave him a smile full of pity and he didn’t know if that made him feel better or worse.

Will resumed slurping up his spaghetti with enthusiasm and they spent the rest of their meal in companionable silence. If Will was also grumpy because Scully was there with someone else that wasn’t him he was doing a better job of coping with it then Mulder was. They left the restaurant a little while later without passing by Scully’s table and Will didn’t mention her again. At some point during the journey home Will reached over and silently took Mulder’s hand. He didn’t let go until they arrived home. Mulder made it until Will was in bed and then he cried himself into oblivion.

Chapter Text

Will looked so small lying on the MRI machine getting prepped for his scan. Every time Scully adjusted something on the machine and it gave a little beep Will’s eyes darted nervously to it. He was terrified and there wasn’t a damn thing Mulder could do about it. Scully turned and nodded at Mulder, indicating they were all ready to go.

Mulder stepped forward and stroked Will’s head, giving him what he hoped was a reassuring smile. It was hard – he was feeling just as terrified as Will. This was it, this and the other tests they had done already that day, would determine their fate. When the results came in they would know if the treatment was working. Or if it wasn’t.

“Okay, looks like you’re all set. You’ve got your music all good to go?” Mulder asked referring to the IPod Will was going to listen to to drown out the deafening noise of the machine. Will nodded. “I’m going to be right outside okay? You just press the button if you need anything. Anything at all.”

“Okay.” Will agreed quietly. Mulder placed a shaky kiss to his forehead.

“I love you.” He told him simply, trying not to sound too emotional. He needed to be strong.

“I love you too, Dad.” Will offered him a little smile which was clearly all for his benefit. Mulder moved towards the door and Scully stepped in next to Will.

“Are you comfortable?” She asked him.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“You’ve been amazing today Will.” The day had certainly been a trying one. Mulder couldn’t think of any other way they could have poked and prodded his son. To say Will had been resilient was a huge understatement. Mulder was so, so proud of him and so utterly terrified of the results. “This is the last bit and then you get to go home, okay?”

“Yeah.” Sculled reached over and squeezed his hand. “These tests – they’re going to tell you if I’m getting better or not, aren’t they?” Will asked suddenly.

“Yes. They should give us a pretty good idea.” Will nodded and looked up towards the ceiling.

Mulder could see him shaking all the way from where he stood by the door. He wanted to go over to him and gather him in his arms and then take him the hell away from all of this. Run, just the two of them, and never look back. But he knew this needed to happen. Scully stroked Will’s arm gently, radiating maternal comfort.

“Hey…” She leaned in closer to Will to speak quietly to him. Mulder had to strain to hear her. “I know this is scary – it’s okay to be scared. You are being so brave. I know you can do this.” She told him kindly. Will nodded again and a few tears escaped down his cheeks. Mulder wanted to explode from everything he was feeling.

“I want…” Will stopped abruptly.

“What do you want sweetheart?”

“If I’m not going to get better…” Scully swallowed thickly but nodded for him to continue. “I want you to look after my Dad. I don’t want him to be on his own.”

Mulder felt as if he were going to black out. His beautiful, kind boy, who had every right to be selfish in that moment, was thinking about him. Even with everything that was happening Will was worried about him. The tears fell before he could stop them; fat and heavy down his face. It took all of Mulder’s effort not to make a sound though his shoulders rose and fell rapidly with his silent sobs.

“I’ll look after him. I promise.” Scully vowed. “Are you ready?”

“Yes.” Scully helped Will put in his earphones and then gave his hand one last squeeze before withdrawing.

Mulder, half-blinded by his tears, followed Scully into the control room next door in which they could see Will through a glass window. Mulder wiped furiously at his eyes, trying to get himself under control. And then, before he realised it, he was wrapped in a tight embrace. She had to stretch onto the very tops of her tiptoes to be able to wrap her arms around his neck but she did so determinedly until he was sagging into her arms and gripping at her back. Scully did not say a word but she didn’t let him go either. Instead one of her hands found its way into his hair at the base of his skull and she began to stroke it soothingly. Against the odds it seemed to do the trick. He took a big breath and managed to stop crying. After a few moments Scully released him, giving him a small nod as she moved over to the technician who was standing awkwardly by the controls.

“Okay, let’s do it.” She said in a voice that was both soft and commanding. She pressed a button in front of her. “Here we go Will. Press your button if you need anything.” The machine whirred to life.

When he felt ready Mulder came to stand by her side, watching Will through the window in front of them. Scully reached down and took his hand. She didn’t let go until it was over.  

 

 

Mulder felt as if he were walking a very long plank. Each step was taking him closer to his end, or to the news that would bring about his end. He hadn’t slept at all the night before and he’d drank so much coffee that morning that he felt jittery and skittish. Dangerous. Everything came down to this, to what he would be told in the next few minutes.

Scully must have seen him coming as she opened the door before he had a chance to knock. He searched her face for any clue of what was to come but it remained perfectly impassive. She gestured for him to enter her office.

“Take a seat.” Her voice too betrayed nothing. She was impenetrable. He tried to take a step forward but found that his legs just wouldn’t go. He was stuck to the floor – paralysed in fear.

“I… I don’t think I can.” Scully took a step towards him and placed a hand on his arm. It was only then that he realised his breathing had started to accelerate and he was feeling lightheaded. A full blown panic attack was fast approaching.

“Yes, you can.” She told him calmly.

Scully physically led him into her office and shut the door behind them. She walked with him to the chair and lowered him into it. She sat next to him, not on the other side of the desk as he had been expecting. He didn’t know what to read into that – was that a good or a bad sign?

“Mulder…” Her voice sounded far-off as if he were hearing her through water. He couldn’t focus on her, he couldn’t get out of his spiralling thoughts. This is it. This is it. This is it. “Mulder, look at me.” She reached over and placed a hand on the top of his thigh. It was enough to make him look up and when he did she fixed him with her eyes and he suddenly felt a little more anchored. She spoke slowly and clearly: “It’s good news…”

That was as far as she got before he was sobbing, his head bend over low until he could feel her hand that was still resting on his thigh. Her other hand came up to stroke the back of his head as she had done during the MRI the week before. He was only vaguely aware of it though. She didn’t continue to speak but waited patiently for him to quieten enough for her to be heard. His head was still bend low as she started:

“All of the tests strongly indicate that the treatment is working. The tumour has reduced in size and it hasn’t metastasised. Everything suggests that if we keep doing what we’re doing we can beat it.” He was still crying hard. “Mulder, do you hear me?” He nodded his head furiously as she continued to comfort him.

“Thank you.” He whispered when he finally found his voice. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” He chanted as he raised his head and reached for her arms. His hands moved up as he carried on murmuring his undying gratitude until he was holding her face. And then, on instinct alone, he kissed her. At first his brain was still too fuzzy to comprehend what he was doing and then, in one awful moment, he realised she wasn’t kissing him back. He froze and she pulled away slightly.

“Umm…” Scully faltered, sounding and looking unsure of what to do.

“Shit! I’m sorry!” Mulder exclaimed.

The shock of the moment had brought him out of that drunken, euphoric place he’d just been in in his head. He was instantly mortified at what he had done. He pushed back the chair and stood, trying to put as much space as possible between them in her small office. He pulled at his own hair in frustration and turned his back so he wouldn’t have to look at her. Fuck. He had all but assaulted her. What the hell was he thinking? How could he have behaved like that? His feelings for her had been out of control for a long time and he’d done nothing about it. The panic was rising fast in him once more.

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t… I didn’t mean… god…”

“It’s okay! Mulder, it’s okay.”

He felt her hand on his arm again as she forced him back round to look at her. She looked remarkably okay. She didn’t look scared. But then she had an exceptionally good poker face, he knew that.     

“It’s okay.” She told him again to his face. “And Will is going to be okay.” Despite the situation Mulder huffed out a shaky laugh. Will was going to be okay. He couldn’t even begin to process it. “Would you like me to be with you when you tell him? It’s completely up to you. If you’d rather do it alone…”

“No.” He answered at once. “He’s bound to ask questions I won’t be able to answer. I’d like you to be there.”

“Well let’s hope I can answer them then.” She smiled at him. How was she smiling at him? And then she surprised him even more by pulling him into a close embrace. He held onto her as loosely as he could, feeling overwhelming guilty for touching her at all. 

“Thank you.” Mulder repeated. And despite not feeling it he sounded much calmer than before. “Thank you so much.”  

Chapter Text

It was late, really late, and she should have been home hours ago but she couldn’t bring herself to leave. It had been one long day. They all seemed to feel like long days as of late. Perhaps that was because she stayed later and later finding more work to do so she didn’t have to admit the real reason she wasn’t at home. Sitting at home with nothing to do but think was not good for her. She didn’t want to think about all of the decisions she had made and where they had led her. She didn’t want to think about how lonely she was or how scared she was to change that. She didn’t want to think full stop.  

As Scully glanced over she saw the envelope on the side of her desk. She had forgotten about it until then – Will had given it to her that morning when he’d come in to say goodbye to everybody. One last round of chemotherapy had done the trick, his cancer had finally gone into remission. He’d hugged her so tightly she thought he might never let her go and she’d had to hold back tears. And Mulder had hugged her too, told her not to be a total stranger and had looked at her just a beat too long. She’d had to hold back tears at that too but for a whole different reason.

With a tired sigh she reached for the letter and opened it. Will had drawn a female superhero complete with cape and boots and had scrawled Super Dana in the corner. She smiled though she found her chest hurt. She turned over the page and read what was written there:

Dear Dana,

Thank you for being the best doctor ever and making my cancer go away. You always said I was a superhero but I think you are too – that’s why I drew this. Your doctor’s coat is a cape in case you can’t tell what it is. I’m not that good at drawing.

I hope we keep being friends.

Will Mulder

P.S. Me and Dad once saw you at Luigi’s eating dinner with a man. I guess he’s your boyfriend. I’m sure he’s real nice and all because you chose him to be your boyfriend so he must be. But my Dad is nicer. He is really good at making breakfast – waffles, pancakes, eggs, anything you want! He is not so good at making dinner but he’s not that bad at it. He watches weird stuff on the TV sometimes but he does make a really good blanket fort to watch it in. And he tells the best stories ever! They are always exciting and spooky and kind of goofy.

He is really good at loving me and I think he’d be really good at loving you as well.

By the time she was finished her eyes and nose were stinging with the effort to hold back the tears. God – this sweet, sweet little boy and his father – they had both affected her so much. Why was she so bothered by this? Why had they, more than any of her other patients, got under her skin so much? She felt so drawn to them both as if she had known them for years. As if she had finally found her place.

She wasn’t an idiot; she’d known how Mulder felt about her long before he had kissed her. She wasn’t completely blind to the way he looked at her. Frankly, it should be illegal to be looked at with that much longing – it did things to her.

And she’d be lying if she said she was confused about the way she felt about him. But she’d done what she always did – she’d hidden behind the perfect veil of her professionalism. Being too close to them affected her medical judgement and she had meant what she’d said to Mulder – she wanted to be the best doctor she could be for Will. What Mulder had told her in the café had moved her too much. Everything that had happened with his sister, his ex-wife and then his son. All she’d wanted to do was wrap him up, both of them up in her arms and never let anything hurt them again. But she couldn’t, not then. Only now Will was better and no longer her patient…

She slammed her hand down on the desk suddenly. Enough was enough. She had made her decision.

 

 

“Hey.” Mulder greeted her as he opened the door.

She could tell he was bewildered that she was there. And she couldn’t blame him. She’d broken a pretty big ethical rule and looked in Will’s file to get their home address and then driven there late at night when she’d only just said goodbye to them that morning. It would be strange if he wasn’t bewildered.

“Are you doing house calls now too?” He teased her lightly. She didn’t know how to respond. Now that she was there all of the resolve and bravery she had felt after reading Will’s letter was evaporating, and fast. Mulder frowned at her lack of response. “Is everything…”

Scully cut him off before she could lose anymore of her nerve. She launched herself into his arms and kissed him deeply. She felt him start in surprise but he responded quickly, wrapping his arms around her back and returning her kiss with equal fervour. All of the misgivings she had had were floating away with each passing second she spent locked in his embrace. This was right. She just knew it. This was right.  

At last she had to pull away in order to breathe and a smile spread itself wide across his red lips.

“…okay?” Mulder finished his question at last.

She smiled back and nodded and kissed him again, granting his tongue access to her mouth at once. He was a good kisser, a really good kisser and a jolt of excitement ran through her. It had been so long since she had felt this way about anyone and that could easily explain why she was feeling it so acutely. Only she knew that wasn’t the case. It was him. She was feeling it so much because it was him.

“You live in the middle of nowhere!” Scully exclaimed as they broke apart again. He laughed openly.

“Yeah, sorry about that. Now you’ve driven all this way you might as well come in.”

He took her by the hand and led her inside. The interior of the house was simply decorated, perhaps it even lacked a certain feminine touch, but it still felt warm and homely. Her own apartment had been feeling that way less and less of late. There were pictures and drawings up on the fridge and kitchen cupboards. Some of them more recent than others, and the older drawings showed colourful stickmen walking in grass and sunshine with sentiments of love for Daddy scrawled on the sides. This was a family home. She imagined the picture Will had drawn her up on the cupboards next to the ones addressed to Mulder. The thought chocked her up.

“It’s nice in here.” She said quietly.

“Thanks. Can I get you a drink or anything?”

“No, I’m good.”

Scully turned to face him. He was looking at her with that same longing that had been driving her slowly mad all these months, but there was a fair amount of trepidation there too. He had no idea what she was thinking or what she had come to say. She kissed him again, holding his face to hers as close as she could get it. She was enjoying being close to him after months of imagining and fantasising about it. His pouty bottom lip felt as wonderful as she had always thought it would. And his wandering fingers were delightfully bold. She wanted to rip his clothes off there and then but there were things she had to tell him first.  

“I think I’m in love with you.” Scully blurted out before she could talk herself out of it. She watched his whole face transform into one of absolute awe. He looked exactly as he had done when she’d told him Will’s cancer had gone into remission – as if he were too joyful to fully comprehend it, as if the news was just too damn good to be true. His face, looking at her like that, was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen.

“Well that’s convenient because I know I’m in love with you.” Mulder replied. And although she hadn’t been expecting a different answer her stomach still exploded in butterflies.

“It’s ridiculous isn’t it? We barely know each other.”

“I don’t know… you know pretty much everything there is to know about me. You’ve seen me at my worst, constantly, for the last few months and somehow you’re still here.” Scully shook her head against the idea that somebody loving him would be shocking. How could they not? She put her arms around him.

“Falling in love with you was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I fought it for far too long.” She said simply.

The openness of that statement was something that would have terrified her in any of her past relationships. But she needed to say it to him. She needed him to understand just how loveable he was – despite all of the experiences he had had so far that suggested otherwise. He was shaking his head at her as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“I feel so drawn to you, to you and Will, it’s as if I’ve known you both forever.”

“Me too. God, me too.” He agreed as he kissed her lightly.

The gentle caress wasn’t enough for her however, and she chased his retreating mouth and kissed him again, deeper and deeper. The minutes that followed were spent in quiet exploration of one another with hungry mouths and curious hands. It had never felt so natural for her, so in sync. No sooner had she imagined how it might feel if he were to kiss or touch her in a particular place then he would actually start to do it as if he could read her mind. It might have been scary had it not felt so unbelievably good, she thought as he latched on to a tendon in her neck.

He started to work the jacket off of her shoulders when he paused and looked at her. She whimpered slightly at the sudden lack of contact. Mulder waited as she slowly dragged her eyes open – he was asking permission, she realised as she looked at him. Scully wanted to laugh but she was too overcome. She was practically putty in his hands, melting completely at every single thing he did and he was asking permission to take off her jacket. She didn’t answer verbally, instead she shrugged up her shoulders to help him get it off.

“Have you thought about this?” She asked him. Her voice was unrecognisable in its husk and Mulder’s pupils were blown wide with desire. Hers must surely match.

“Of course I have.” He all but groaned.  

“What did you think about?” Mulder closed his eyes as if her question had pained him. He looked to be rapidly losing a battle with his own self-control. It excited her.

“Everything.” He grounded out with is eyes still closed. She smiled at his inability to articulate the specifics.

“Show me.” His eyes flew open and they stared at one another. “Show me everything.”

Without a single doubt she knew that he would.    

Chapter Text

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?”

“No, I…”

“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.