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Seasons: First

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"Mom, you got the good chocolate chips!" Scully waggled an eyebrow at her mother as she pulled the silver, foil bag of Ghirardelli's chocolates chips from the cabinet.

"I knew you were coming and since you're my favorite child, I thought I'd spoil you," Maggie Scully teased, pulling the recipe out of the tin on the counter.

"Favorite child, we're all your favorites, remember?" Scully snorted, tossing the chips on the counter and reaching up to tug a strand of her mother's dark hair, shot here and there with fine threads of silver. "We are equal opportunity worriers. I say I've put as many gray hairs there as Bill has."

"You'd be surprised with your brother, some of the stories he doesn't want you knowing." Maggie adjusted the glasses on her nose as she read through the cramped writing on the note card, "Do we have vanilla?"

"Sent from Mexico by First Brother Dearest." Scully reached back into the cabinet and pulled out a plastic bottle filled with vanilla scented, brown liquid. "So what sort of shenanigans did Billy get into that he bribes you with Mexican imports? The ones he doesn't want me to know about."

"Oh, Dana, harass your brother about it sometime."

"That would mean I'd have to talk to him." She wrinkled her nose vehemently against the idea. "Ever since Dad died he's been in this horribly paternalistic tear."

"He's your brother. He loves you." It was her standard 'mom' answer, and no matter how true it was, Scully rolled her eyes and busied herself digging under the marble counter tops for her mother's mixing bowls.

"How are he and Tara doing, by the way?"

"Oh, okay. They are trying to get pregnant." Maggie tried to hide the excitement under a cool, detached tone as she reached into the cabinets above for her last cookie making ingredients. "She's on Clomid right now."

"Polycystic ovary syndrome," Scully asked from under the counter, as she pulled out the mixing bowls and ancient mixer that had followed the Scully family from more households than she cared to remember.

"I think so. Anyway, they are giving it a go. I warned them, it might take a while. You know the Piersons down the street?"

The shift in subject didn't bother Scully. "Yeah, go to your church? The eldest boy went to school with Charlie?"

"Well the daughter, the middle one, she got married a few years ago and had the same problem. Took them three years before they finally got results." Maggie shrugged philosophically. "I suppose, looking back on it, your father and I were lucky with you kids. We hardly had to try at all. I turned around and there was another one of you."

"Oh, please, don't tell me any more about you and Dad and how we came about." Scully groaned in mock horror. "We need butter?"

"It's softening on the counter over there." Maggie pointed, laughing at her daughter's discomfort. "Seriously, though, I don't think it ever occurred to us we couldn't have children."

"That's good, because who would have changed the channels for Dad before the advent of the remote control," Scully teased, passing her mother the butter, and leaning against the counter as her mother began processing the wet mixture for the cookie dough. "Anything from Charlie?" Of the two brother's, Charlie was the one she missed the most these days. Sweet, sensitive, jovial Charlie, she needed a laugh and a beer and horrible sibling teasing from him. She hadn't spoken to her only younger sibling since the Christmas holidays six months before.

"Well he calls every night, checking in. He worries since your father passed," Maggie hesitated a little at the mention of her lost, beloved husband, Bill Sr. "He says he'll be back in town sometime in the next few months. He'll take some leave then."

"That's good," Scully nodded, thinking of her two brothers stationed in the Navy, like their father, and how little she got to see of either of them. "Any word from Missy?"

It was a touchy subject, her elder sister. Melissa had taken off a year before with little warning other than a request to Scully to spend a frantic week packing her things in her small apartment to store in their parents' garage, and asking her younger sister to drive her to the airport. The two sisters had spent the week arguing over Melissa's plans to live in an artist commune in California and hadn't spoken to each other sense the acrimonious parting. It bothered Scully more than she cared to admit. She was close to Melissa, her only sister, and it annoyed her that she had abandoned her family like that with nothing more than a fleeting wave and a vague promise to stay in touch. It was the one quality in Missy that bothered her more than anything else about her flighty, crystal-loving, New Age sister. In many ways it was something Missy shared in common with Mulder…beyond the belief in psychic powers and personal auras.

"She's planning on coming home soon," Maggie replied tightly, looking as conflicted as Scully felt on the matter. "I told her of course about your father. She was broken hearted she wasn't here for that."

"Whose fault is that," Scully murmured, not-so-quietly, under her breath.

"Dana, how was she supposed to know? None of us did." Maggie frowned in disapproval at her younger daughter.

"I don't know, Mom, perhaps if she bothered to get a hold of us more than just once every blue moon, she would."

"She spent some time with Bill and Tara you know. Last fall. They saw her and let us know at Christmas she was fine."

"It's not the same as calling you," Scully insisted stubbornly as her mother carefully measured and sifted dry ingredients onto a wax paper sheet. "You and Dad had family dinner night once a month, you'd make us all call, come hell or high water. Missy and I would complain and grumble every time, try to find ways out of it, but we were here, all of us."

"And a year later it's only you and me and you are feeling lonely," Maggie asked sagely, her blue eyes blinking at her daughter speculatively.

"I miss them," Scully admittedly sullenly. "Don't tell Bill or Charlie that, but I do. It's so strange." she paused as she remembered the screaming matches she would have with her elder brother, the fistfights she'd have with Charlie and all of the times she'd have to cover for her sister's late nights with boyfriends. "It's strange because when we were growing up I couldn't wait to get out on my own, to get away from them. And now, everything's different - changing."

Everything was different. Her entire world had shifted, all because of one person's decisions to pull her from her safe and sanitized autopsy table and throw her headlong into Fox Mulder's world of aliens, conspiracies, monsters, and ghosts. She had seen things the science she had clung to in her youth couldn't explain fully. She had experienced things she didn't understand. A man she had spent so much time and energy distrusting had died in her arms, his blood spilling over her as he begged her to "trust no one."

"Dana?" Her mother's hand was curled on her shoulder, a worried frown creasing her careworn face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." It was Scully's first line of response, even to her mother who knew better. Maggie only replied by fixing her steady blue gaze on Scully's own until her daughter finally caved in.

"Work has been rough of late," she fibbed, finally turning away to reach for a mixing spoon to fiddle with nervously.

"Having trouble with that partner of yours?" Maggie was always inquisitive about Mulder. Frankly if it had been anyone male, younger than forty-five, and breathing in her daughter's life, she would have been thrilled.

"Not exactly." She realized her mother would ferret out the truth sooner or later. Maggie had over thirty years of experience wheedling such information out of her children. "The division they assigned me to a year ago has been shut down."

Maggie stopped suddenly as she tipped the powdery flower, sugar, and baking powder into her mixing bowl, staring open mouthed at Scully. "Dana…why?"

"It was a small division to begin with," Scully had worked out all of the rational explanations she would give her mother when she inevitably gained the truth out of her. "And solving unsolvable cases doesn't have the sort of high-profile turnover that the other divisions do."

"This doesn't have anything to do with your partner believing in those aliens, does it?" Maggie's shock turned into a deeply, troubled frown.

Scully wanted to say no. But somehow she knew Maggie wouldn't buy it. "Yes."

"Oh, Dana," she sighed heavily, setting down the paper, careful not to spill its contents, and wrapped her arms around her little girl, heedless of the flour on her hands. "I'm sorry. I know how much you had come to enjoy that work."

Surprisingly the tears she hadn't allowed to fall in front of Mulder began to fall, unbidden in her mother's arms. "It's so unfair, Mom. They drove him out. They used me to drive him out." She sniffed loudly as she pulled away, searching for a paper towel to wipe at her eyes. "I was put in place there to tear down his work and to debunk it. Except I didn't! I tried to help him. I thought…" She sniffed, swallowing tears as she dabbed at streaming eyes. "I thought that I was doing the right thing, helping him. And now I feel like somehow I just made it worse?"

"How," Maggie smoothed back her daughter's red hair as she would have when Dana was just a little girl.

"I should have worked harder to legitimize his work. I could have pushed him harder to give concrete evidence, to not give them a reason!" She shrugged helplessly.

"Dana, no offense, but it sounds as if they were determined to close him down before you even set foot in his office." Maggie's cool fingers rested on Scully's cheek. "You tried your best to do what was right."

"Did I?" Scully asked, confused in the face of her mother's reassurance. "Mom, three weeks ago a man died for Mulder's work. I spent the better part of a year distrusting that man because I didn't know who he was or what he wanted. They shot and killed him because he tried to bring to light evidence of government biological experiments of an unknown origin." She felt her mouth tremble again under the weight of mother's suddenly horrified stare.

"He died in my arms, Mom. And I couldn't stop it. I'm a doctor and I couldn't stop it." She sobbed harder as her mother wrapped her arms around her again and allowed her to cry, dampening her mother's cotton blouse with her tears. For a moment, Scully could pretend she was small again and that the worst issue she faced in her world was Bill teasing her for being too short and small to do anything. She could pretend that the bullies outside couldn't touch her in the arms of her mother, that Ahab was still alive and well, and that she could crawl into his lap for comfort and listen to stories about the great white whale. But she wasn't a little girl any longer. Though still shorter than her mother, she was a grown woman, and she pulled away guiltily, more than embarrassed at her breakdown in her mother's kitchen as she busied herself with un-crumpling the now wadded up paper towel.

"I'm sorry, Mom," she sighed, chuckling in self-recrimination. "It's just been hard."

"I know," Maggie's words carried a world of understanding. "You're too much like your father, dear. He'd bottle everything up too. It's OK to let it out, to let your guard down, just to cry because the world isn't fair."

"I know it isn't fair," Scully replied in a watery sigh, blowing her nose now plugged with tears. "If it was fair, Fox Mulder would never have lost his sister in the first place. And if he had, he would have found out where she was long ago and he'd never be on this path." It was brutally unjust in her mind that her former partner's life, everything he worked for, everything he wanted was taken away by the whims of a shadowy hand in some hole within the nation's government.

"So what is your partner going to do now?" Maggie asked, her gaze sympathetic as she returned to their cookie dough, as if Scully hadn't just told her that she'd witnessed a murder and had been part of a government conspiracy to hide the truth from the American people.

"Mulder? They have him on some surveillance. I'm sure he's already going stir crazy." A week into there dissolved partnership and she hadn't heard from her former partner, not a word, not a note, not even a late night phone call to check in. She knew Mulder had told her they could no longer communicate openly, but not even reassuring her that all was well seemed to be extreme in her mind. "I haven't spoken to him since they separated us."

"I'm sure he's fine, Dana. He worked for a long time before you arrived as his partner, didn't he?" Maggie carefully poured the rest of the dry ingredients into the mixture, and reached for the ancient, 1970's era electric hand mixer.

"Yeah, he did." Scully chuckled softly. "But no one could get him out of trouble nearly as well as I could."

"You had practice with your sister," Maggie smiled, turning the giant mixer on low to begin the process, not wanting to stir up the fine powder in the air. "Anyone who could hide the number of times Missy was out late with one boyfriend or the other can certainly pull anyone else from the fire."

"You knew about that, huh?" Scully smiled widely despite her swollen face.

"It was hard to miss sneaking up the stairs at night." Maggie chuckled. "Your father let it slide, though. He always trusted your sister to do the right thing in the end. Just like he trusted you."

"Did he?" Scully blinked, the dull pain of her father's loss and her guilt over it resurfacing for the briefest of moments in her already shaky emotional state.

"Your father wasn't happy with your choices, Dana, but he was your father. And he always trusted you knew you were doing the right thing." Maggie glanced up from her mixing to fix her daughter with a pointed look. "And you have been doing the right thing. And I don't think he could have been prouder to hear that despite it all you did what you thought was right."

It was perhaps the best words of praise Scully could have received in those moments and she resisted the urge to break down into a whole fresh set of tears. Instead she moved to the sink to wash her hands and grabbed a spoon from the drying wrack beside it. As her mother mixed, she leaned around her elbow to snag a small spoonful of cookie dough, much to her mother's amused disgruntlement.

"Keep that up, Dana, and we'll have nothing to bake with."

"Who says we have to bake them to eat them?" She licked the batter off the spoon impishly.

Maggie pretended to look thoughtful for a moment. "You have a point there."

"Let's just eat raw cookie dough for dinner."

"I'm your mother, Dana, I won't allow you to eat like that."

"What, it's just you and me. I won't tell the others Mom's letting her guard down." She winked playfully at her mother.

"At least let's eat a salad and cookie dough."

"Salad gets in the way of the chocolate." Scully wrinkled her nose.

Maggie's eyes twinkled as she turned off the mixer, her hands going to her hips. "Keep this up, you'll be the death of me."

"Nah, but I can teach you all of the really bad eating habits I learned off of Mulder."

"Do I even want to know?" Maggie shook her head fearfully.

"I'd tell you what his fridge looked like if he had anything in it."

"That's just men dear, as best as they can tell, fridges are for keeping beer."

Scully laughed, dipping her spoon into the cookie dough again. "You know you really want to have some of this."

Maggie's eyes slid to the chocolate chip bag on the counter, then back to her daughter. "Let's at least add the Ghirardelli chips first?"

"Deal!" Scully grinned gleefully as she reached for the bag. "See, there's a reason I'm your favorite daughter."

"I don't have favorites, Dana," Maggie replied promptly.

That Scully knew, Maggie had no favorites. But for this evening at least she was glad she had her mother, the cookie dough, and a shoulder to cry on all to herself.