Lights from the Christmas tree cast a pale glow about the living room as Scully padded over to the TV in sock feet, turning it off before glancing at the sleeping forms on the couch. From the moment he arrived back into their lives, William had taken a liking to Dagoo, and he now slept soundly on the couch, with one arm curled around the dog. Scully walked over to where they lay, scratching Dagoo behind the ears as she grabbed her mug from the side table. “You comfy?” she mused, perching on the arm of the couch as she watched the two sleep.
Earlier in the evening, they’d eaten dinner around the table before retiring to the living room to watch movies. Since seeing the latest Star Wars film in theaters over Christmas, Mulder had taken to showing the rest of them in “proper order” to William, and so they’d spent New Year’s weekend huddled on the couch watching them. William confessed that he’d seen them before, back in Wyoming, but Scully hazarded a guess that those viewings hadn’t also consisted of commentary and sidebar conversations about what played out on screen. If William minded the way Mulder had leaned over informing their son about how the way something happened couldn’t possibly be real, or how many times they’d had to shoot a particular scene, he didn’t let it show.
Around the time The Force Awakens showed Rey being left on Jakku, she stood up somewhat awkwardly, saying she was going to change out the laundry and then clean the kitchen. Now, as she watched William’s eyes flutter behind closed lids, Scully couldn’t help but revel in how fortunate she’d been--how much they all had been. She raised the mug to her lips, making a face at the hot chocolate that had grown cold long before, and settled it back on her lap. School was starting back up in the morning, and with a quick glance at the clock she knew she should wake him up for bed, but the desire to enjoy the moment longer was tempting.
“What are you thinking?” Mulder asked, resting his hands on her shoulders and giving them a squeeze.
She sighed contentedly at the feeling of him pressing his lips to her neck. “Nothing concrete. Just…”
“Everything, I get it,” he replied, pulling her close to his chest with one arm. Over her head, he watched William’s still form and cleared his throat. “It’s why you left the room earlier, isn’t it?”
She wanted to tell him otherwise, but she knew it was of no use. “Will coming back into our lives is one of the greatest things that’s ever happened. Despite the circumstances that brought it about. But sometimes, I can’t help wondering if it’s safe to keep him here. If it’s right.”
He couldn’t see her face, but if he could, Mulder was almost certain there would be tears in her eyes. After everything they’d been through in the last year, that fact wouldn’t be a surprise. “I’m just as concerned as you, Scully. The best thing we can do for him now is to work as hard as we possibly can to keep him safe. To protect the best thing that’s ever happened to either of us.”
Scully craned her neck to look up at him, surprised at the emotion laced through his voice. It wasn’t that Mulder’s concern for William was a shock, far from it to say the least, but it warmed her heart anytime they talked regarding the connection the three of them shared. She swiveled back towards William and brought her hand up to weave her fingers through his. “Did you ever imagine we’d have something so normal?”
“I dreamt about it,” Mulder murmured, his lips brushing the shell of her ear. He’d told her about some of the dreams, both the nightmares of William or her being abducted and also the more pleasant ones like them enjoying time together, and it occurred to him not for the first time that the dreams had become less frequent since they’d gotten William back. He wasn’t sure if they’d ever completely go away, but getting to see and touch them both as evidence they were both there and very much real made it all worth it. He tapped her shoulder and waited until she looked back up at him to lower his face to hers. “But this is better.”
“In the interest of full disclosure, I feel like I should tell you guys that I’m awake,” William said, keeping his eyes closed a few moments longer, stretching out his legs and rolling onto his back. His movements had jostled Dagoo, causing him to jump from the couch and shuffle dejectedly to the Christmas tree a few feet away, making an ornament fall to the floor in his efforts to nestle on the floor underneath it.
Scully pushed herself up and knelt down to pick the ornament up. “We probably should’ve taken the decorations down this weekend,” she said as she stood up, pausing to adjust another ornament higher up on the tree.
“You don’t want to wait until Three Kings Day? I figured you’d want to stick with tradition,” Mulder replied.
“Mulder, when have we ever done anything traditionally?” she asked before sitting on the cushion next to William. She reached over and tucked the tag from his shirt back inside the collar and smoothed the hair over his brow before sighing sleepily. “It’s getting late. Why don’t you get a shower in before bed?”
William gestured to the clock with a groan. “It’s only 9:30.”
“And tomorrow’s your first day back to school. You want to be ready, don’t you?” she asked.
“Don’t remind me,” he grumbled, but the annoyance it his voice was partially an act. While the transition had been rough at first--he’d had to do double work to get up to speed with other students in his grade--the studying had been easy for the most part and he’d actually come out ahead. “Okay, fine. But I have to stay up a little bit tonight still. I didn’t finish reading Animal Farm yet, and I have to be ready to discuss it tomorrow,” he said, steeling himself for the argument about being responsible with his studies he thought would come.
“As long as you’re halfway through, chances are you’re probably farther ahead than most of the other kids, Will,” Mulder said as William stood to walk past them. He didn’t have to look at Scully to know the expression that was likely on her face. He cleared his throat, kicking his toe out to straighten the corner of the area rug. “But maybe stick to the suggested reading schedule next time.”
William looked between them, somewhat surprised that there wasn’t more to it. He shrugged, shoving one hand into the pocket of his jeans before giving Scully a hug with his free arm. As he repeated the action with Mulder the thought crossed his mind that most kids his age didn’t hug their parents before bed, but he knew their situation was different. He thought maybe it should feel strange, but was glad that it didn’t. “Alright. Well, good night. See you in the morning.”
“Hey, Will?” Scully called as he neared the stairs. “Don’t stay up too late, okay? And if you do some of your reading, keep the light on. I don’t want you straining your eyes.”
“Okay, mom. I will,” he said, mock rolling his eyes before going upstairs.
Mulder waited until William was out of sight to move closer to Scully’s side. He tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear, twirling the end of it between his fingers. “Do you want to go to bed?”
“We both have to work tomorrow, you know that,” Scully replied, raising an eyebrow and daring him to argue.
He let the strand of hair go, holding up his hands defensively. “Hey, I’m aware of that. Although technically, as my doctor, you could give me the day off.”
She smiled, shaking her head as she stood, gesturing for him to do the same. “Like Skinner would believe that,” she said, grabbing his hand and heading for the stairs. “Come on, Mulder. Let’s go.”