“The only benefit of our estrangement, Scully, was the absence of visits from brother Bill,” Mulder sighed, leaning his arms against the wall of the porch.
Scully laughed. “You guys bonded last time, remember? Over football.”
“Yeah, until I found out he was a Cowboys fan.”
It wasn’t often that her brother and his wife dropped in on their little home. It was truly a surprise when her mother died; until her heart attack she’d been a very active woman, who loved traveling to see her grandchild in the city she (mostly) raised her own children in. Scully would tag along, sometimes bringing Mulder with her after he’d been made a free man, but most often she went alone.
After Maggie’s death, it made more sense for Bill Jr. and Tara to come to them in Virginia. Their son was off at basic training and Bill Jr. had finally retired the year before. Their mother was here, their father, Melissa. It was as much as a family reunion as she could hope for. She had letters from Matthew at training, and even Charlie was beginning to open up to the idea of communicating. There was peace, a feeling of unity, their family falling back together after pushing each other away.
That very much included Mulder. She watched him, folded over the top of the wall and staring at the grass. They’d taken turns mowing it the day before. There was a touch of sunburn lining the top of his neck, the backs of his arms. She stepped up to him, leaning into his side.
He slung his arm over her shoulders, gazing down the driveway, lost in thought.
“What are you thinking?” Scully asked. She was trapped in the honeymoon stage with this man once again. This was their third attempt at cohabitation, and she was determined to make it last.
“I would’ve done very well in an Easter egg hunt,” he said.
“You’re quick,” Scully supplied. “You have long legs and a knack for finding what’s been hidden.”
Mulder sighed and shook his head. “But what I can’t figure out is how the bunnies lay the eggs.”
She rolled her eyes, and together they waited for the cab to pull up the long, winding driveway. It would be a long, winding weekend.
Bill Jr. was stiff and slow to respond when Scully pulled him in for a tight hug, and barely acknowledged Mulder as he stalked up the stairs to put their luggage away in the spare guest room.
Tara, cheery as ever and bright as a fresh spring meadow, just rolled her eyes and smiled. “You know how he gets,” she said.
Scully knew very well how he got , but still she went on the defense. She was too old to walk on eggshells for her brother or any other man. Mulder caught her before she could chase after Bill, soothing her with a gentle hand on her back.
“Let him get settled, okay?”
He calmed her again after an uncomfortable, silent dinner, uncorking another bottle of wine long after Tara and Bill had gone to bed.
“I understand him,” he said, pouring her a large glass. She scoffed, gulping down almost half her portion and shaking her head. “No, I’m serious. He’s bored, Scully. Sick of retirement. He served for over thirty years and now what -- he’s just supposed to sit on his ass all day at home?”
She could feel herself relenting, whether it was the logic of Mulder’s argument or the warming balm of Merlot.
“I never thought I’d see the day you might have something in common with my brother,” Scully mused, shaking her head.
“Hey, we have you.” He brushed her hair out of her face, eyes soft. It did feel, at times, that Mulder was an entirely different person than what she remembered, and she felt guilty for appreciating it. This person who was typically more considerate of her feelings, of others’ feelings, than the one she’d left behind, was still a bit new to her.
She kissed his jawline and relaxed into the cove of his arms.
When it was time to visit their parents, the Scully’s left Tara and Mulder behind, climbing into Scully’s car with warring expressions of sibling annoyance.
“You’re going too slow for the left lane,” Bill Jr. sighed, tugging at the seatbelt cutting into his neck.
“I’m over the speed limit,” Scully snapped in reply.
But when their shoes crunched over the gravel leading to the lake the tension melted away, if only for the moment. She saw the lines on her brother’s face smooth out into pale stone, serene with longing, with remembered grief.
“I wish I had visited her more often,” he said.
“She understood,” Scully replied, voice rough as the gravel. “She more than understood. She knew what the lifestyle was like, what it required.”
Bill Jr. was quiet for a minute, eyes hard on the sky ahead. “Well that’s done now.”
She went out with Tara to pick up some supplies for Easter dinner, at Tara’s request, leaving Mulder and Bill Jr. behind with much trepidation.
But when they returned, arms full with groceries, the men were standing in the yard and sharing a pair of binoculars pointed at the thatch of trees behind the house.
“Shh,” Mulder said as Scully approached him, pointing ahead. “It’s a rose-breasted grosbeak.”
She took the binoculars from him, got a glimpse of the chubby bird pecking at the sunflower seeds inside the feeder, at it’s fine black feathers and the slit-throat color of its breast. She handed the binoculars to Tara.
“Not too many of them around here,” Scully said.
“Tara, honey, look,” Bill Jr. stood behind his wife and angled her by the waist so she was pointing the binoculars in the right direction. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
After awhile, Bill Jr. frowned. “You sure got a lot of squirrels out here,” he said. “A BB gun might help with that, keep them off of your feeders.”
“Oh, I don’t mind them,” Mulder said. “I’m trying to get one to sit on my shoulder so I can walk around with it, maybe have it tell me stories.”
Bill Jr. didn’t know quite what to say about that. “But then there’s less seed for the birds,” he said.
Mulder looked faintly panicked at the idea of Bill Jr. going around and shooting at all of his squirrels, but Scully was absolutely fascinated to see this image of her brother, who never expressed much appreciation for nature but for what he saw out in the water.
The night before Easter, Tara barked orders at them in the kitchen, every bit the navy wife Maggie Scully had been. The ham was ready to go in the oven before she, Bill, and Dana all went to morning mass, and the side dishes were passable. Mulder was a pretty decent cook when he put his mind to it, and Scully was great at making salads. They made an extra salad for a light dinner before Bill and Tara went to bed early, preparing for an early rise. It would be a long drive to church in the morning. They decided on Maggie’s old church, and that was over an hour’s drive away.
But Mulder and Scully found themselves on the porch, cuddled together on a bench they picked up off the road, listening to the crickets chirp and the breeze rustle the trees in the pitch black dark. Spring was looking to be quite beautiful and quite hot.
She felt lighter than she had the night before, stress floating away like dandelion seed. She looked up at Mulder’s tired face and shadowed jaw. He looked good under the yellow light of the porch lamp. He looked at peace.
“Hey Mulder.” He kept his eyes closed, grunting in acknowledgement. “It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?”
“Sixteen days, but I’m not counting.” He pulled her closer to his chest, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “We were too busy moving your stuff back over here.”
“And then filing the paperwork for that organ theft ring,” she sighed, “that didn’t leave us time for much else.”
“Hmmm.” He stroked a hand down her shoulder, brushed her hair off of it. “What are you suggesting then?”
She surprised him with a hard kiss on the lips, and climbed into his lap with an easy pop of her hips. He moaned and pulled away briefly: “What? Out here?”
“We used to do it all the time,” she gasped, tugging him back in for another kiss.
“But your brother.” It was muffled into her mouth.
“He’s asleep.” Mulder, thank God, stopped arguing at that.
He lifted her shirt, exposing her chest to the wet spring air, and leaned down to suck at her nipples through the white lace. With his hands on the small of her back he pushed her closer to him, forcing her up and out of his lap to align her breasts with his eager mouth.
Mulder smelled like garlic powder when she nuzzled her nose into his scalp. It was odd but she didn’t mind it. When he tore his mouth away from her skin and she kissed him again, he tasted hoppy like the beer he’d been drinking, a little like raspberry vinaigrette.
It was exciting to be with Mulder again on that pull-out couch, his newly sculpted body foreign to her, a breathtakingly dangerous terrain for her to explore. It was a sexy little challenge, remapping out all the places that made him break for her, but now she was eager to get back to where they’d been. She wanted to know him. She wanted to undress him and see exactly what she expected. She craved the familiarity, that feeling of arriving home. It was coming to her in bits and pieces. She rubbed at his pecs underneath his t-shirt, and nipped at his earlobe with tips of her teeth. Underneath her she felt him stir, poking at her inner thigh with a growing urgency.
She stepped off of him for a minute to undo her fly, stepping out of her jeans and tossing them on the bench beside him. He’d already done the honors of undoing his own pants and pulling himself through the hole of his boxers. She licked her lips, inspiring a groan from her partner, and straddled his hips, taking him inside of her with one smooth slide.
“Jesus.” He gripped at her waist with slippery hands. The heat of the night and their joining bodies left them flushed and sweaty, and the bench creaked underneath them, whining at their abuse of its weathered slats.
It was delicious, the way his cock filled her, the way his hands needed her, the way his tongue never failed at making her feel wanted. This was going to be quick. A brief moment of reconnection after life had once again done everything to keep them apart. When his hand reached down to where they were joined, she felt it coiling in her gut, and her cunt clenched at him in a warning grip. Almost there… almost there…
Mulder shot up, almost knocking her to the ground before thinking better of it. He wrapped his arms around her instead and turned them around, facing away from the man who stood before them, whose face was alternately red and green like a large Christmas wreath.
Scully dreaded getting up in the morning, but she figured it would be even worse to avoid church after what had transpired. She left Mulder tossing and turning the bed beside her and got ready as quietly as she could.
She met them in the dining room, and Tara couldn’t stop herself from cackling. The laughter bubbled over and she tried to catch it in her hand, but failed spectacularly. She apologized so much it only made it worse. All the while Bill Jr. stared solemnly at the ground.
“Bill--” Scully started, but he closed his eyes and shook his head.
“We’re going to mass. You can say what you want to say to God. I’m staying out of it,” Bill Jr. said, which was the most mature thing he’d ever said to her.
The ham was done when they got back to the house, and Mulder reheated all the sides they had made the day before. They had their Easter lunch, and again the silence wasn’t without its tension, but it was more awkward than it was hostile, and by the end of it Bill Jr. seemed to be in a much better mood.
“Hey, Mulder,” he said. Mulder looked up, weary, hoping very much he wouldn’t have to fistfight his brother in law. “You wanna show me those birds again?”
Outside, under the oven of the sun, Mulder handed him a little guidebook and pointed out some birds they should look out for.
“How’d you get into this, anyway?” Bill Jr. asked, adjusting the binoculars to see further into the thick branches. “It seems a little too… down to earth for you, Spooky.”
Mulder laughed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I tried everything when I left the FBI, trying to fill the void having to leave behind my life’s work. I had… a model train for a while, but that got old. I tried cars, but I’m not very handy. Cooking was alright for awhile… but when Dana left…”
“Not really fun for just one person,” Bill Jr. said.
“Right.” Mulder swallowed. “Birdwatching was enjoyable enough. I remembered liking it as an Indian Guide, pointing out birds to… my sister. And it was a challenge. I started a list of what birds I saw, and it felt productive. At least for a little while.”
The binoculars were passed to Mulder. There was nothing to see quite yet. He had a family of cardinals with a nest pretty close to the feeder, nothing special or rare like what they’d seen yesterday, but a good start for the day.
“But it didn’t work,” Bill Jr. said. “It wasn’t enough. You went back to the FBI.” He sounded disgruntled, not at anyone in particular. It wasn’t a judgmental comment. It was purely observational.
“It wasn’t enough,” Mulder replied.
It wasn’t too long before they were arguing, though, old tensions rising to the surface like they always would. It would be unbelievably stupid to think Bill Jr. might ever forgive him for what he did to Scully, and Mulder would always default to condescending to the man, finding him simple, narrow-minded, a knuckle-dragging brute.
“Shut up,” Bill Jr. said. “I think that’s a cardinal.”
“A male,” Mulder said.
Together they watched the cardinal.
“This time around, when I do retire, I think I’ll be okay,” Mulder offered.
“That’s good,” Bill Jr. said, with conviction. And Mulder figured that if Bill Scully Jr. could believe in some kind of happy ending for him, then certainly it had to be true.