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Birthday Month in the Unremarkable House

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Scully softly wiped Faith’s face, cleaning up the mess of sweet potatoes she had been enjoying for her lunch. Smiling as she grabbed for the polka dotted washcloth with her little hands, Scully stopped her and finished her task. As she did, a car door slammed outside and she raised her eyebrows at the sound. 

“It appears your daddy is home, Miss Faith. Let’s go see where he’s been this warm autumn morning,” Scully said, taking her from her high chair and holding her on her hip, kissing her head as she did. 

Opening the front door, she was met with a warm gust of humid air that was such a stark contrast to the cool air inside the house that she had to momentarily close her eyes at the feeling. The portable air conditioner they bought earlier in the year to help keep the house more comfortable in the heat of summer had certainly been a good investment. Now, walking into the warmth of the outside air after being inside  was more a jolt to the system. The humidity of the day made her feel as though she were stepping through a moist paper towel, her clothes already sticking to her skin. 

Gray clouds hung overhead causing it to be darker than it should be at this time of day. Rain was in the forecast, but so far the clouds had simply gathered and threatened to open up. She heard low thunder as she stepped onto the porch, and knew it would rain eventually, but hopefully not until much later that evening. 

Mulder was standing at the back of the car, struggling to get something out, cursing quietly as he did. Eyebrows raised, Scully waited, wondering what he could possibly have purchased. Knowing him though… the possibilities were endless. Finally, he turned around, and she closed her eyes again at the sight in his hands. 

A bale of hay. Dear God. Shaking her head, she opened her eyes as the hay thudded onto the porch. 

“Well hello, my ladies,” he said, stepping back from the top step and grinning at them. Turning back toward the car, he slid out another bale of hay and dropped it on the step below the first. Going back again, he stopped at the sound of Scully’s voice. 

“Mulder. What in the hell is this?” 

“Language, Miss Scully,” he said with a nod toward Faith. She looked at her, chewing on the soft purple block Scully had grabbed on the way out the door, then looked back at Mulder. He grinned again, and she looked down at the hay. 

“What the hell, Mulder?” she asked again, not caring about swearing in front of her just yet, and he chuckled. “Two bales? One wasn’t enough last year?” He looked down quickly and she knew it was not just the two bales. “How many?” 

He cleared his throat and rubbed at the back of his neck. Looking up at her, he sighed. “Four.” 

Four?” she asked incredulously, Faith making a nearly identical sound to the pitch of Scully’s voice. They both looked at her, and she grinned at them, biting hard on the block. 

“Oh no, it’s starting already. You two are ganging up on me,” he laughed, and Scully shook her head, looking back at him. 

“Four bales?” she asked, in a more measured tone, and that time Faith remained silent. 

“You heard correctly. Four, made in America, bales of hay. All of them picked up and hauled home by yours truly.” He grinned, putting his hands in the back pockets of his jeans and shrugging. She tried to hold back a smile, but could not do it. He was too cute standing there like some faux farmer. 

“Well, four bales it is, apparently. You weren’t gone too long this time. Did you not have to go all over the place for the hay this year?” she asked with a smile. 

“Ah,” he said, putting up a finger. “Last year, I got a late start, being a bit preoccupied with the gigantic-stomached woman who had taken over your body…”

“Gigantic?” 

“Yes, you were quite large. Beautiful, sexy, and desirable, but yes, a gigantic woman. But your breasts… ohhhh.” He shook his head with a smile as he hummed, a far off look in his eyes. “Phew… where was I?” 

“Sleeping on the couch?” she teased. 

“Ha! I don’t think so,” he scoffed. “Anyway, as I had a bit more time this year, I planned ahead. I stopped by that place where they always have the pumpkin patch, but now they’re building the barn, you know the one? Well, I stopped by and talked to a woman named Monika, with a K, as she told me, and made arrangements for an order of four hay bales. She was happy to do it, and today, I went to pick them up. She also helped me pick out other items too.” 

“Oh, I bet she did. Mulder, she saw you coming a mile away,” Scully laughed and shifted Faith to her other hip. “So, what else did she help you pick out?” Putting a finger up again, he opened the back passenger door, reaching in and rummaging around. 

“Your daddy is bat crap crazy, my girl. You need to be ready for it, because that is one thing that will not change about him,” Scully whispered to Faith. “Honey, you being born on Halloween… you have no idea what a treat that was for him.” Kissing her sweet head, she watched Mulder taking out bag after bag. 

Oh yeah, Monika saw him coming for sure. 

“Was there anything left when you loaded up the car?” she teased, rolling her eyes. “How much has this set us back? You have a secret job I don’t know about?” 

“Stop,” he said, setting down a couple of bags and going back for more. Scully sat down on the top step, next to the bale of hay, with Faith in her lap. Adding the next bags to the pile, he smiled at them as he reached in the first bag. 

“Orange and black string lantern lights. Pumpkins and cauldrons. I mean, how could I not get a few boxes?” He stacked four boxes on the hay and took another box from the bag. “These are my favorite though. Look at these.” He turned the box around and she laughed. Inside were two flamingos, one orange, one black, and the name on the box said Spooky Mingos. 

Spooky Mingos, Scully,” he said, excitement pouring out of him. “How perfect are they?” He shook his head as he looked at them, and she whispered again that he was crazy. Faith, however, made no comment, continuing to chew on her block. 

“Why a flamingo though? What does that particular animal have to do with Halloween?” she asked with a frown. 

“Well, I have a theory about that.” He grinned. 

“Of course you do,” she smiled, thunder rolling quietly off in the distance.

“Not everybody cares for the standard pink flamingo, too tacky and garish, as I discovered when testing my foolproof plan to bother the neighbors in The Falls. Remember?” he asked, and she nodded. “Yes, that was tacky enough to annoy them to get the case rolling for us but imagine living beside someone where there are no stuffy rules and you hate the pink flamingos in your neighbors yard. The neighbor setting them out know but don’t give a shiiii... t…” 

“Nice save,” she chortled. 

“Shut up. Anyway, the person putting them out doesn’t care. In fact, they delight in the anger and annoyance their decorum causes their neighbor. So, what better way to turn the knife a little, than with festive little flamingos in orange and black. A neighbor who sees these has to know there will most likely also be Christmas flamingos in the works. So, in essence, it’s a foolproof plan to passively piss off the neighbors who hate the tacky pink flamingos.” He grinned with a quick nod, and she smiled as she slowly nodded with him. 

“Now, if only we had some neighbors to annoy,” she said, looking left and right finding none, smiling wider as she did. 

“Bite your tongue, woman,” he said with a shudder, adding those boxes to the pile of hanging lanterns. “I also got a few small scarecrows, skeletons, and pumpkins on sticks to put around the flowers we planted.” He handed a skeleton to Faith, causing her to drop her block into Scully’s lap. Scully held the bottom of the stick as Faith stared at the skeleton, her eyes wide, her little legs kicking excitedly. 

“Well, I guess it’s safe to say she likes it,” Mulder laughed, as she tried to put it in her mouth but Scully stopped her, dancing the skeleton around instead and making her laugh. 

“There are a few other things in here too. A couple of black cats, a raggedy broom, some bats, spiders and spider webs. We have that scarecrow already and the witches and ghosts to hang up. I think that should be good,” he told her, smiling at Faith as she watched the skeleton flying around and dancing as Scully held onto it. 

“And the large witch,” she said, glancing at him. 

“The witch… Oh. I, uh, I didn’t think we’d put that out this time,” he said nonchalantly, taking black cats out of the bags, not meeting her eyes. 

“Why wouldn’t we? You have all these other things, why not the witch?” she asked, knowing full well what the reason would be. 

“Well, I just uh… I think it would scare Faith and I don’t want to do that to her. It could scar her and ruin her love for Halloween,” he shrugged, still not meeting her eyes. 

“Horse shit,” she said with a smile, and he finally looked at her. 

“Language! What the hell, Scully?” he said, forgetting himself. Laughing, he reached to take Faith from her lap. “Your mama has a dirty mouth. I think she’ll need to be reprimanded for that later.” He raised an eyebrow at her, and she smirked, holding the skeleton in her hand. 

“I don’t think that will go how you plan, if that witch makes an appearance,” she teased, causing him to narrow his eyes at her. “What was it you called it last year, a boner killer?” He gaped at her, looking from her to Faith and back again. 

Shit and boners, Scully?” he asked, covering Faith’s ear as he pressed her against his chest, and shook his head. 

“Oh… not at the same time, I hope,” she teased and he laughed. 

“Can’t say that has ever happened,” he said with relief and lifted Faith up above his head, spinning her around. She laughed as he brought her down and kissed her cheek. “I’m hungry and goddamn it’s hot out here.” 

“Language, Mulder,” she said, raising her eyebrows at him. He shrugged and smiled at her, admitting defeat. 

“How about we leave all this, grab a quick bite, cool down a little, and put this girl down for a nap? Then we can unload and decorate.” 

She agreed and stood up. He handed Faith back to her and turned to close the car doors. Carrying the bags to the porch, he left them there and they went inside to eat to let Faith play for a bit. 

Once they had eaten, everything was cleaned up, and Faith was down for her nap, they went back outside. It was still incredibly warm out but the looming storm had broken up and drifted off into the distance as they started the process of unloading all the bags. They took out the last couple bales of hay and began to decorate. 

They strung up the lights and the extension cords needed to power them up, placing them strategically around the porch. Mulder put the flamingos out in the yard, stuck the stick figures around the garden, and put the black cats on the stairs. The broom rested beside a hay bale and the spiderwebs were placed on the outside walls of the house with many little spiders placed inside. 

Scully disappeared into the shed and found the tote holding the ghosts and witches to hang, including the large witch. She smiled as she carried it to the porch but found Mulder had gone back inside for a moment. Walking back to the shed, she found the large scarecrow and brought it out, sticking it in a bale of hay. 

She stood on the step stool they had brought out and hung the ghosts and witches on the same hooks Mulder had installed and used last year. Thanks to his thoughtfulness, it was a quick job. One for which he was completely absent, and for that, she was thankful. As she finished, she took the large witch out of the tote and set it up, grinning the entire time. 

The screen door opened, and Mulder finally made an appearance. “Jesus Christ!” he shouted as he stepped out and looked to the right and found it standing there. “Why?” 

“Because it’s funny and I enjoy watching you get scared,” she replied honestly, laughing as she plugged it into the extension cord. Turning it on, she waited with a smile and stared at him. “Well, come on, walk over here.” 

“No chance,” he said, standing stock still in the same spot. “I won’t give you the satisfaction.” 

“Oh, come on. It’s not that bad. She only laughs, Mulder. And look, she just wants to show you the potion she’s creating,” she placated him, crossing her arms and smiling. He sighed and shook his head. “Come on. Get it out the way. The first time is always the hardest.” She grinned, and he exhaled loudly, taking three steps toward her. 

Hehehe! 

“GODDAMN IT!” he yelled and jumped as she burst out laughing, the witch now silent. 

“You knew! You knew and you still got scared!” She laughed, doubled over and she heard him sighing. 

“I hate that witch. Hate it!” 

“You bought it!” 

“I am aware!” he shouted, and she grinned at him. “It gives me PTSD. No HPTSD- Halloween PTSD, Scully.” He shook his head and exhaled again. “Flashbacks. Sweet Jesus. My testicles have drawn up into my abdomen. I can feel them there.” He rubbed at his lower abdomen and she laughed again, her head thrown back. 

“Is this what you want? That witch to stick around and reduce me to a ball-less, non-boner man? Is it?” She tried hard not to smile, but she failed and he huffed out a breath. “ Really? Need I remind you that it affects us both?” 

“Well technically, only you. I have my purple friend upstairs and he works out quite nicely,” she teased with a wink and his eyebrows lifted. 

“Oh, it has a gender?” 

“Considering where he goes, I’d say he deserves one,” she smirked and he growled. When she stepped closer to him, he protested, glancing at the witch that was now silent. 

Wrapping her arms around his neck, she kissed him. His arms went around her waist, and she smiled against his mouth before moving to his ear. “He has a gender and a name. I call him Purple Prince, because he’s put in the extra time.”

He pulled back and she grinned as he started to laugh, his eyes closing as he did. Watching him happy made her happy and she loved it. He shook his head and laughed a bit more before smiling and cupping her cheek, stroking with his thumb. 

“I can’t think of a more appropriate name, as he is quite good at getting you soft and wet,” he practically purred, her stomach doing a flip flop. 

“Are you coming onto me? Sure you got the balls for that?” she whispered with a huge grin. 

“Oh oh… you unplug that goddamn witch, and we’ll find out.” She stared at him, seriously debating it, wanting to tease him a bit more when she suddenly remembered a night from years ago.  

On a stakeout, other agents no doubt listening to their conversation, a Prince song had begun to play. Cream, in fact. He had looked over at her, and saw her breathing harder than usual, no way of knowing she was thinking of two nights before when they had been in bed and she had been on top, just as the song was saying. 

But then his eyes had darkened, and she had known he was thinking of it, too. He had put a finger to his lips, his other hand trailing up her thigh, pulling her skirt up as he did. She had stared at him with huge eyes, warning him not to do it, but then his hand had slid between her legs, and she had shifted to give him better access. 

Turning the music up, he had once again put his finger to his lips. He stroked her over her panties and then under, his touch making her crazy. It was so wrong and yet, she had pushed her hips into his hand, the danger of what they were doing arousing her. 

She had come fast, holding her breath and whimpering quietly. She held his hand there, needing a minute. When he had pulled his hand back, he readjusted her panties and skirt, quietly licking his fingers clean. 

“I like this song,” he had said as she exhaled, her body feeling like rubber, her heart racing as she stared into his eyes. 

That memory did the trick. She stepped over and bent down, unplugging the witch. Grabbing his arm, she pulled him inside the house. He closed the door behind them and within minutes, the cool air of the room was causing rising goosebumps on heated and sweaty flesh. 

“This doesn’t mean you won,” she panted, her arms wrapped around him, his mouth at the hollow of her throat. “I will be plugging that witch back in, because it is an absolute riot when it scares you. But God, Mulder, if you only knew where my mind went…” 

“Stakeout. Same place mine went,” he said, kissing her neck. 

“Jesus Christ, I was so…” 

“I know.” 

Quiet for a minute, each of them remembering that night, she smiled as she ran her fingers up and down his back. 

“Well if your mind's made up about this witch,” he said, raising his head and looking into her eyes. “I suppose the gauntlet has been thrown down. My work here is clear. I just need to keep reminding you of sexier times, and I will win. Thus causing you, and by extension her, to lose the power. Pun most definitely intended.”

“Hmmm,” she hummed with a smile, looping her arms around his neck. “As long as Purple Prince doesn’t lose his, I will be just fine.” He tickled her and she gasped before he silenced her mouth with a kiss. He shifted them, keeping them close, their limbs entwined. 

Little red Corvette,” he sang softly into her neck and she laughed. “Baby you're much too fast. Little red Corvette. You need a love that's gonna last.” She snuggled in closer, his low voice both arousing and comforting. He hummed and she sighed, content and happy as his fingers softly caressed her naked flesh. 

“Hey, what do you think about taking a trip somewhere? Like an apple orchard?” he asked. Knowing their bags were as good as packed, she smiled, already picturing walking through leaves, the crisp smell of fall, and the many pictures they would take. 

“Which orchard did you have in mind?” 

Chapter Text

October 10th 

Mulder closed the back of the car down and walked to the driver’s side. Sliding in, he looked at Scully with a grin. 

“Ready?” 

“You’re the driver,” she said cheekily, causing him to chuckle as he turned the key in the ignition. He drove out onto the street and then the highway, heading toward the orchard they had decided on earlier. 

It would be a long drive, but he knew it would be worth it. In fact, he had a few surprises planned for Scully, including where they would be staying for the next few days. 

“So,” she said, looking at him with a smile. He nodded and smiled back, reaching for her hand. She interlaced their fingers together and he felt the ring he put there exactly one month ago. 

Smiling again, he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, glancing in the mirror at Faith as he did. She was shaking her crinkly panda book, making loud noises as she slammed it up and down. 

He could see her looking around, those blue eyes wanting to see everything all at once. Shaking his head, he looked back at Scully, who was looking out her window. His two ladies, his whole heart. He kissed Scully’s hand again, laid them on his knee, and hummed as they continued on their drive. 

About an hour and a half into their drive, they stopped for breakfast at a local diner before continuing on their way. 

“Uhhh, Mulder,” she said, looking at him over an hour later, as they pulled up to a winery. He grinned, and she looked back out the window. “How long have you been planning this?” 

“Welllll…” he drawled and she shook her head with a smile. 

Pulling up to the valet, they got out of the car and two men came to unload the bags and other items they had packed. Walking inside, he watched as Scully look around, taking in the beauty of the room. He grinned as he shifted Faith in his arms and walked to the check in desk. 

“A cottage, Mulder?” she asked softly, shaking her head as they followed the bellhop pushing the luggage cart and looking around the grounds. “This is beautiful. How did you find it?” 

“You know a lot Scully, but I do still need Google sometimes,” he said with a smile, pushing Faith in the stroller. “Think of it as a… honeymoon of sorts. Except, we have a baby with us.” She laughed and looked at him, reaching for his arm. 

“Here we are, the Sunshine Cottage,” the bellhop said, grinning at them as he stopped walking. “If I’m honest, this one is my favorite.” Scully smiled at him as she unlocked the door and stepped inside. 

“Oh, Mulder,” she breathed, and he smiled. 

The room was beautiful with walls painted in a light yellow, and floors of dark hardwood. An area rug of reds and yellows covered a large portion of the floor on which sat a cherry wood coffee table, a couch, and overstuffed leather chairs. A burgundy colored lounge chair sat close to the window. A stone fireplace sat to the right with a bundle of wood waiting to be burned. To the right of the fireplace, sitting diagonally on a low mahogany dresser, was a large television. Throw pillows and blankets sat on the couch and chairs. 

A small dining room table sat next to the couch, a bowl of pine cones in the middle. Barstools sat under a slate gray marble countertop off to the right, leading to a small but full kitchen. Pale yellow and red stone tiles and white cupboards completed the room. 

There were two bedrooms off the living area, a smaller one painted pale green with a large bed. The other was the master bedroom, light gray blue, a high bed with a walnut wood frame. The bathroom had a large corner tub, a glass shower, and double sinks. 

Scully looked at Mulder, shaking her head as they walked back into the living room. “This is so beautiful,” she breathed. He nodded and the bellhop chuckled. 

“Yup. It’s a beautiful room, but you haven’t seen the best feature yet,” he said, motioning for them to follow him out the side door. 

When they walked outside, Scully sighed happily. “Oh wow,” she breathed. 

The dark stained porch was large and had two light yellow chairs sitting on it with a small table between them. The best part, however, was a huge tree growing right through the middle of the porch. A magnolia tree, if Mulder was not mistaken. It was huge and smelled spicy and sweet. 

“This tree has been growing for years, well obviously,” the bellhop chuckled as he looked at the tree. “I love that it goes through like that, and the scent is amazing.” He smiled at them and Mulder tipped him as he said his goodbyes. He walked back inside and then they could hear him pushing the cart away, whistling as he did. 

“Mulder, you had to have had this planned for a while. I saw a bridal party in the lobby. If there is a wedding here, I’m sure it fills up fast. How long?” She stared at him and he sighed. 

“A few months,” he admitted, and she shook her head, a smile slowing stretching across her face. “After Father’s Day.” 

“Oh, is this a bet situation?” she asked, her expression changing. 

“No!” he shouted, and she stared at him, shocked by his outburst. “No,” he said in a quieter tone. “It’s a thank you. For Father’s Day, our wedding, for everything. We didn’t really get away after the wedding and have a proper honeymoon. Now this may not be exactly what you would consider a proper one, what with a little one in tow, and it might be a little tricky to have… alone time, but we seem to manage just fine at home.” He wiggled his eyebrows and she grinned, stepping closer and taking his hands. 

“A thank you?” she asked, and he nodded. “Accepted and also extended.” He smiled as he bent his head and kissed her. A knock sounded on the front door and they broke apart, turning toward the sound. 

“Right on time,” he whispered, and she shook her head, smiling once again. 

He pushed the stroller inside and went to answer the door. A young woman was there, a basket in hand. “Mr. Mulder?” He nodded and she handed him the basket with a smile. “Enjoy.” He nodded as she walked away and he closed the door. 

He set the basket down on the leather chair and looked at Scully. “Let’s grab a jacket and take a walk around the grounds. I’ll get the backpack and a blanket and we can have a picnic. There’s wine in the basket.” He raised his eyebrows, and she smiled. 

They loaded up the stroller and set out, walking around the vineyard. There were horses on site and Faith was entranced by them. Mulder took her out of the stroller to let her get closer. She stared, watching them before she reached out and tried to touch. A black horse whinnied and shied away before stepping back and pushing toward her. 

Mulder held her hand and let the horse smell her, speaking calmly to it. She touched his soft nose and then pulled her hand back quickly, looking at Mulder. He smiled at her and she looked back at the horse, her hand down. 

“It’s okay. He’s a nice horse.” Mulder patted the horse’s neck and looked at Faith. She put her hand out again and the horse nuzzled into it as Mulder continued to pat him. “Yeah, see? He’s soft and a good horse.” She smiled as the horse pulled away and they ran to the other side of the pasture. 

Mulder turned around and saw Scully smiling at them, her phone in hand. “Did you get some photos?” 

“Just a few,” she grinned, and he nodded, knowing it would be way more than a few. 

They kept walking, taking in the beauty, until they found a perfect spot for their picnic. Mulder laid the blanket out and they sat down to enjoy some wine, crackers, cheese, and grapes. The basket he had asked for had everything they needed: plates, napkins, and cheese knives. 

They all shared the food, Faith drinking her afternoon breast milk from her hybrid bottle/sippy cup. She lay with her head on Mulder’s arm as he lay on his back with his hands locked behind his head. Closing his eyes, the food and the wine adding to the happiness he felt, he heard Faith humming as she drank and he smiled. Even now, no longer on the actual breast, she made the happy humming sounds as she ate. 

Scully lay with her hand on his chest and her chin on her hand. He opened his eyes to look at her and found her watching Faith. She shook her head slightly, and he moved his right hand to touch her head and stroke her hair. 

“Stay with us,” he whispered and he saw her blink back tears, laying her head down on her hand. It was hard not to think of the “what-ifs” but they were trying every day. “It’s okay, Scully. You know it is.” He felt her nod and she lifted her head, turning to look at him, her eyes wet. He brushed her hair back, and she gave him a small smile. 

Faith finished her milk and dropped her cup down, sitting up and turning over to face Scully. She smiled and laid against Mulder’s side, mirroring Scully’s position. He moved his hand, placing it on her back as she sat still and they stared at each other. Faith laughed and reached for her, starting to climb onto Mulder’s chest. 

Scully sat up and pulled her into her arms, kissing her and whispering how much she loved her. Holding her close, she looked down at Mulder and nodded. “I’m here,” she said quietly, and he rubbed her back as he nodded. 

They went back to the cottage and he plugged in the base of the monitor in the smaller bedroom and the noise machine, set up the portable crib they had brought, and put Faith down for a nap. He closed the door and saw Scully sitting outside on the porch. Picking up the monitor, he stepped outside and sat beside her. Not opening her eyes, she reached for his hand. He took it, rubbing his thumb over the top of it, neither of them speaking, simply enjoying the peace around them. 

Once Faith woke up, they left the winery and drove down by the waterfront. They walked around, heading into little shops and looking around. Fall decorations were up in every one of them, giving Faith much to gaze upon. She squealed and laughed at what she saw, pointing at things she wanted to explore. Mulder pushed her over to see anything she wanted while Scully shopped. 

She found a large ceramic bowl painted in fall colors she said would be perfect for the apples they picked and he agreed. Purchased and carefully wrapped, they walked down to a small local pizza place and ordered a pizza. As they ate, Scully smiled and began taking them down memory lane, recalling little places they had eaten at over the years. Good and bad, they laughed about the places they had visited all over the country. 

As they left, the owner gave Faith a purple balloon and her eyes lit up. Scully tied it to the stroller and Mulder held onto the string as Faith tugged at it, laughing and screaming as she did. He never let her have the balloon, knowing without a doubt that she would bite at it and pop it. 

Leaving, they stopped at a grocery store to buy a few groceries before driving back to the winery. Mulder gave Faith a bath and took her out onto the porch, rocking and singing to her as Scully put the groceries away and unpacked their bags. When he heard Faith yawning, he smiled, knowing she was ready to sleep. He kissed her as he laid her down and walked out of the room, shutting the door. 

“I was going to build a fire, but…” Scully shrugged and he smiled. She had changed into her pajamas; one of his old shirts and a pair of leggings. 

“Tomorrow night,” he said and she nodded, handing him a glass of wine as they sat down on the couch. 

She sighed as she leaned her head on his shoulder. “This is wonderful. Thank you for this, Mulder.” He hummed and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer. 

They sat quietly, drinking their wine, his fingers running softly through her hair. He heard her breathing deeply and he smiled. Drinking the last of his wine, he moved it to his other hand, then took hers from her grasp, drinking the remaining few sips. Feeling her grow heavy, he smiled again. 

Hating to wake her, but knowing she would not want to sleep on the couch, he roused her. She hummed out a moan and stood up clumsily. He guided her into the bedroom, setting the wine glasses on the counter as he did. He took the decorative pillows off the bed and pulled the blankets down as she stood and waited, her eyes closed. 

“Okay, your bed is ready, Your Highness,” he teased and she opened her eyes slightly, climbing onto the bed and laying down. 

“It took you long enough. A little more haste next time, if you please,” she breathed as he covered her and she closed her eyes. 

Laughing, he kissed her cheek. “I’ll work on that,” he whispered. “Be back in a few minutes.” She nodded and hummed. 

He left the room and put their glasses in the sink, checked to see if Scully had placed the bags of frozen breast milk in the fridge to thaw, turned out the lights, and grabbed the monitor. Using the bathroom and putting on pajama bottoms, he slid into bed beside her. 

“You should be cautious,” she breathed sleepily, reaching for him. “This is the queen's chamber. Her husband doesn’t take kindly to squires laying beside her.” He chuckled as she snuggled closer to him, her arm wrapping around his waist and his around her shoulders 

“I’ll keep that in mind, Your Majesty,” he whispered, closing his eyes and kissing her forehead as she sighed. He stroked her hair, her soft breathing lulling him to sleep. 

______________

October 11th 

He woke alone in bed, the sound of laughter and squealing coming from the other room. He closed his eyes and stretched, yawning as he did. Rising from the bed, he used the bathroom and walked into the living area.

Scully was at the table feeding Faith, who sat in their portable high chair which attached to the table. She looked up and smiled at him. 

“There’s coffee,” she said, gesturing with her chin, and he nodded, walking into the kitchen. Taking down a mug, he poured himself some coffee. 

“You want a refill?” he asked and she shook her head. Setting the pot back down, he yawned as he walked to the table. “Morning.” He kissed her head and then Faith’s as he sat down. 

“Dada!” Faith yelled, smashing bananas on the table. 

“Oh, what art is she creating today?” he asked as he took a sip of his coffee. Scully laughed softly and shrugged. He stared at her: her hair up in a messy bun, no makeup, wearing one of his old shirts, and he felt she had never looked more beautiful. 

“What are you staring at?” she asked, grinning at him. He looked around the table and saw nothing she could possibly throw at him. 

“A goddess,” he said quietly, and she stared at him. He watched her and could practically hear her thinking. Then, she surprised him, as she so often did. 

“I’ll allow it,” she said, raising her eyebrows and shrugging, her eyes full of mischief. 

“I thank you kindly,” he teased and she shrugged again. 

“So, considering all the planning you’ve done so far, I’m sure you have something planned for today,” she said, standing up as she handed him the bowl of oatmeal. “I’m going to take a shower and get ready for the day.” She kissed Faith’s head and started to leave the room. 

“There’s a huge tub in there and you’re going to take a shower?” he asked, moving closer to Faith, giving her a bite of oatmeal. 

“That tub is big enough for two,” she said, turning to look at him in a way that extended down into his groin. “You’re busy, and it seems like a waste of water for just me. I’ll wait until you’ve got some time… to take the time.” Raising her eyebrows at him, he shook his head, exhaling out a breath. “If I’m gone too long, just know that Prince and I are working on a duet.” Glancing over her shoulder, he gaped at her. 

“Not just a single?” 

“Depends on how fast and good he is,” she said, closing the door with a chuckle. 

“Your mama…” he said to Faith, giving her another bite. “She thinks she’s so funny.” 

“I am funny!” Scully called through the closed door and he chuckled. 

An hour later, they were packed up and heading to a children’s museum about a half an hour away. Scully kept smiling, happy and beautiful, the thin green sweater she wore highlighting her hair and the blue of her eyes. 

“Good shower?” he teased, and she grinned, shaking her head. Looking at him, she rolled her eyes. 

“Do you think I really brought that with me? The Prince has stayed at home this time. I have all I need right here,” she said, placing her hand high on his inner thigh and sliding it down. He jumped, jerking the steering wheel as he did. She laughed, moving her hand and crossing her arms. 

“Jesus Christ, Scully,” he said, shaking his head. Exhaling, he looked around making sure he had not put anyone in danger. “Yeah, keep those hands locked down, you vixen.” She laughed again and looked at him, her eyes happy. 

_______

The museum was quite busy, excited children running around, laughing and screaming with happiness. Fall decorations were up, smiling jack o’lanterns, happy witches, and grinning ghosts. Faith had huge eyes, looking all around as she took it all in. 

A huge tree sat front and center, stairs wrapping around the outside and inside of it. Ducking down, they walked in and looked at the tree and what was in front of them. Scully pointed to the soft play area and they headed in that direction. 

Mulder set Faith down and she stood for a second looking at the toys in front of her. She took a few steps and then fell to her knees, crawling like lightning over to the different things to play with, both of them chuckling as she did. 

“I’m going to look and see what else there is for her,” he said and Scully nodded. He walked away and went to find out what else the place held, discovering a large room set up with a pretend camping section, a river, a restaurant, vet’s office, grocery store, doctor’s office, and a water play area. He kept going and found a playground on the roof. Smiling, he headed back downstairs to rejoin Scully and Faith. Stopping at the bathroom, he stepped past many children as he tried to get back to the toddler area. 

As he came around the corner, he stopped in his tracks. Faith was walking, actually walking, and Scully was laughing as she followed beside her. Faith would stumble, start to lose her balance and wait before trying it again. Every time she did, Mulder heard Scully encouraging her to keep trying.

He looked at Scully, watching her joy and happiness as she watched Faith. He could see tears in her eyes, but he knew they were happy ones. Realizing his own were wet, he wiped at them, reaching for his phone before he remembered he had left it in the backpack. 

Taking a mental picture, he wished he was a painter and could put brush to canvas, painting the beauty of this moment. Yellow for Scully’s joy, orange for the determination he could see in Faith, blues and greens, happiness and light. Instead, he committed it to memory, locking in the sound of Scully’s laughter, and the grunts and babbling of Faith. 

He walked closer and Scully looked up at him, a huge smile on her face, and he answered with one of his own. He scooped Faith up, causing her to squeal as she grabbed at his shirt. “Oh, my girl,” he whispered, holding her close and reaching for Scully. They stood in a tight embrace before breaking apart. 

A puppet show and story time was next. Faith’s attention was held until it was not, and they moved onto the best thing in the museum. At least, Faith and Mulder felt it was. 

Inside of a plastic case, there was a vacuum tube. Neon pink, green, and orange scarves were laying on the side and the floor. Mulder picked one up and placed it close to the bottom of the vacuum and it was pulled from his hand and out the top, flying in the air. Faith stared at it in wonder and then she began to laugh, clapping her hands. 

For nearly twenty minutes, Mulder fed the scarves into the vacuum tube, and made a whoosh sound as they shot out the top. Faith laughed hysterically as she watched them fly up and come floating down. She toddled over, picking them up where they landed, then handed them to Mulder, laughing as she waited for him to put them in the tube. 

Scully took pictures and videos, laughing as she watched them playing together. He watched her, looking for any signs of sadness. Finding none, he smiled and handed her a scarf, taking her phone from her, and capturing pictures of her playing with Faith. 

Watching them made his heart ache, the beauty of the two of them enough, but knowing the pain that would always lie beneath, made him want to weep. Instead, he focused on the happiness, finding the good in the bad, the light in the dark. 

Driving back to the cottage not long after, she reached for his hand and sighed as he interlaced their fingers, her head turned toward the window. 

The car was quiet but not silent. Scully was not speaking, but her body language was speaking volumes. Something was on her mind, but he remained silent, knowing she would tell him when she was ready. 

With dinner eaten and a nighttime walk around the grounds completed, Scully put Faith down while he built a fire and opened a bottle of wine. She came out of the room, closed the door, and smiled at him as he handed her a glass. 

They sat together, the fire crackling and the heat building. Scully sighed and laid her head on his shoulder, her thoughts now so loud, they were nearly deafening. He took a drink and waited, knowing she was about to tell him something weighing heavily on her mind. 

“I’ve been thinking about going back to work,” she said quietly. He froze, not expecting that to be what she had been thinking about. Waiting again, he knew there was more she wanted to say. “I…” She sighed and took a drink before continuing. “I’ve been thinking about it, not anytime soon, but… I think I’d like to do it.”

“The hospital again?”

“Yes. I definitely did not mean the bureau.” They both chuckled and he thought about her words. “What are you thinking?” She sat up and looked at him, her eyes searching his. He brushed her hair back and smiled as he tucked it behind her ear. 

“A few things,” he said with a small exhale. “What’s brought this on?” 

“A few things,” she echoed softly and he smiled. “First... money. Second… I’m only 55, and I know a lot of people are thinking about retirement at that age, but… I feel like I still have time and expertise left to give.” He nodded and stroked her cheek with his thumb. “But mostly… Mulder, I want Faith to see me working. I want her to see that as a woman, she is important and she can be anything. I want her to have that positive role model and see her mom as… strong and smart and tough. That people listen to her and follow her instructions, because she’s an amazing doctor and a woman.” She stared at him and he slowly nodded, his thumb still stroking her cheek. 

“Okay,” he said quietly. “Okay.” 

“Okay? That’s it?” 

“Of course that’s not it,” he smiled, moving his hand to her hair. “First, we are good for money, you know that. We have had it before and we’ll have it now. We don’t live a lavish lifestyle.” She raised her eyebrows and looked around, causing him to laugh softly. “This weekend aside, you know we don’t. Second… I agree, I think you have more to give and I would like to see you do it. Third…” He shook his head and sighed. “I understand, well, as much as I can as a man. Knowing you, watching you, being your partner for most of my life, Scully, you are… a badass, and I mean that with all my heart.” She laughed and dropped her head to his chest, her shoulders shaking as she snorted. He smiled and kept his hand on her head. 

Raising her head as she stopped laughing, a smile still on her face; she wiped at her eyes and shook her head. He winked and took a drink of his wine. Sitting back, she laid her head on his shoulder, sighing as she did. 

“That’s what I want her to see, Mulder. A badass woman who kicks ass and, I mean this in the kindest possible way, doesn’t take any shit from a man.” 

“I take no offense to that, not with you. Especially as I’ve seen you take men twice your size to task,” he said, leaning his head against hers. “I understand what you’re saying, honey, but I don’t want you to think you have to work for her to see those qualities in you. She will see that whether you work or stay home, because you are you. I understand your desire and I support your decision, but… not yet.” 

“No,” she said, and he could hear her smile. “No, not yet.” 

They sat for a few minutes in silence, each of them thinking about what she had said. He was about to ask her a question when she stood up and drained her glass, setting it on the coffee table. Reaching for his empty glass, she added it to her own, and then put out her hand. Taking it, she helped to pull him to his feet, her hands going to his chest. 

“You take care of what needs to be done out here, I’m going to run a bath.” She stared at him, her eyes full of fire. He inhaled, his pants feeling tighter immediately. Running her nails down his chest, she walked away, swinging her hips seductively. He quickly set about taking care of the nightly routine and also being sure the fire was out. Once he did, he headed toward the bedroom, taking off his shirt and unbuttoning his jeans as he followed the wonderful scent of lavender. 

_________________________

October 12th 

“Mulder. Mulder!” 

“Hmmm… what?” 

“Go get Faith, she’s awake and… hmm… go get her please.” 

“Hmm… okay.” He turned his head and was almost back to sleep when a hand hit his chest. “Yeah… yeah… I’m up.” He groaned as he tossed back the blankets and stood up. Stretching, he yawned and stumbled to the door, intent on going to get Faith, whom he could hear on the monitor, babbling in her bed. 

“Pants.” Scully said tiredly, and he looked down, finding himself completely naked. “Put on some pants, Mulder.” He turned his head and watched her snuggle into his pillow, her naked back appearing above the covers. He reached for a pair of underwear, smiling as he remembered last night. 

The warmth of the water, the surprise of discovering the tub had jets, the bubbles rising as she had straddled him, her scented, naked slippery flesh highly arousing. Her lips had tasted of wine as she had moaned into their kiss. 

The bubbles had been everywhere when ecstasy had been reached and they had the sense to turn off the jets. Laughing, they had dipped repeatedly under the water, coming up covered in thick bubbles from head to toe. He had wiped her face, kissing her laughing mouth. 

Stepping out, they had laughed again as they had slipped and caught each other, drying off the seemingly never ending bubbles. Clean and smelling of lavender, they had fallen into bed, her soft and beautiful body enticing him once again. 

Sliding his underwear on, he walked closer to her and kissed her bare shoulder. He watched her smile as he stepped back, tossing her his shirt from the chair as he started to walk out the door. 

“Ha! As if she hasn’t spent the majority of her life with my naked breasts at her disposal,” she said as she threw the shirt away and smiled, snuggling deeper into the bed. 

“Don’t I know it?” he lamented. “Beautiful torture, seeing that every day.” He heard her chuckle as he walked into the kitchen to get the bottle ready to warm while he went to collect Faith.  

She grinned, standing up in her crib and reaching for him as he opened the door. He picked her up and kissed her warm chubby cheeks. Laying her on the bed, he changed her diaper, blowing on her belly and growling as he kissed her neck and her cheeks. She laughed and shoved her hands in her mouth. 

Pajamas back on, he lifted her up and held her to his chest, her head laid upon it as he rocked her. “Faith Mulder, I love you so much.” She pulled her head back and gave him the sign for milk, squeezing her hand into a fist, and he laughed. “Okay, okay. I know. Food first, love and adoration later. You’re so much like your mama.” 

Stepping into the kitchen, he grabbed the bottle and walked back into their bedroom. Settling her between them, she lay down with them on either side of her as she drank her milk. Scully’s arm lay across Faith’s little belly as she drank. Mulder rubbed her arm and then Faith’s chest, his eyes closed as he smiled. 

Breakfast eaten, showered, and dressed, they headed to the orchard. Mulder smiled as he looked at the outfit Faith wore for their day out. White tights, soft brown boots, and a long sleeved purple onesie under a denim dress with fall leaves and a bushel of different colored apples, the words Sweet as Pie written underneath. 

He looked at Scully in her red sweater and jeans, which always made him feel like drooling, and her comfy boots. They both looked very ready for fall, and he felt almost inadequate in his black turtleneck and jeans. Sighing, he shook it off, happy his ladies looked beautiful and ready for the season. 

They drove to the orchard and waited in the small line to park. Scully looked at him, raising her eyebrows, and he smiled. “Looks like it will be busy today.” 

“Uh huh…” she said with a smile of her own. 

Parking the car, they got out and stood looking at the entrance: the big apple trees on the sign with the name of the orchard and the even larger pumpkin patch sign. Kids ran past their parents, who shouted for them to slow down, muttering under their breath how their parents would have handled that situation. 

Mulder grinned at Scully and reached for her hand. She shifted Faith and grasped it as they walked in and paid the admission. They also rented a high sided wagon, bought an apple box, tickets to ride the train, and for the pony rides. Taking out a blanket from the backpack, Mulder laid it in the wagon so that Scully could set Faith inside. Adding the backpack for an extra barricade, they set off, exploring the area. 

There was a barn to the right and they could hear goats bleating, lambs baaing, and chickens clucking. Deciding to head there after the apple picking, they continued on past the barn and the pumpkin patch. 

There was a hayride that took people out further in the fields, but without discussing it, they decided to walk. The wagon alone would have been an issue, but more than that, he simply wanted to walk with his two favorite people. He glanced over to see Scully smiling as she looked down, her boots crunching through the leaves. 

He looked at Faith, her head tipped back as she gazed at the large trees above her. It was one of those moments where it felt as though they were the only people in the world. Like the first snowfall when everything was silent and it felt as though the world was washed anew and nothing bad could ever happen. 

“What’s going on in that head of yours, Mulder?” Scully asked, smiling at him, her eyes happy. 

“Nothing,” he smiled back, once again adding a mental picture to his ever growing album. She stared at him and nodded, smiled at Faith, and then looked forward. He pulled the wagon, his heart light despite the weight of the cargo inside. 

Finding a group of people around a worker, they heard which apples were ready to be picked and which were not. Rules were expressed and all the children agreed to listen to their parents when they began to pick the fruit. 

As the crowd dispersed, Mulder went the opposite direction as the majority of people, wanting to find a quieter spot. They walked up a slight incline and stopped under a tree, taking a breath. Looking around, and then at one another, they smiled. Mulder took Faith out of the wagon and walked between the trees, telling her where they were and what they were doing there. 

“See this tree?” he asked and pointed up, her head following his finger. “This tree is large now, tall and full of fruit, but it didn’t start out that way. No, not at all. When it began, it was a small seed and could be viewed as insignificant, but, oh my girl, it was not. Inside the little seed was all that was needed to create something amazing.” 

He looked at the orchard, all the trees it held and he shook his head. “Now, to explain this better, I could go with the standard cliche and say it’s how I see you. That you will grow to be someone amazing, but… let’s not be in a rush on that one, eh? I am excited to see who you will be, my love, but take it slow on your old dad. Let’s have adventures and believe in the unbelievable as long as we can.” He rocked her and she babbled, pointing up at the tree.  

“Your mama,” he continued, glancing at Scully. “My love for her started out like a seed… a seed.” He laughed softly, thinking of the thousands of sunflower seeds he had eaten over the years. The look she had given him when she dumped out various cups full of shells from rental cars or motel rooms. “It was a very small love at first, Faith, but it grew bigger every day. She was and is the person I was meant to love, the one I would and have gone to the ends of the earth for. My love for her was small, it was a blip, but... it has become the biggest love I’ve ever felt in my whole life.” He sighed and closed his eyes, thinking of so many things. Standoffs, hospital rooms, angry words shouted at one another, the ache when the other was suffering, elation when love was finally realized and spoken. Yes, it was like a seed, but it was so much more. 

“Hey! I thought we were picking apples.” Scully's voice cut into his thoughts and he turned around. She had her hands on her hips and eyebrows raised. “We being the operative word. What are you two doing over there anyway?” Walking closer to her, he smiled and shook his head. No chance would he tell her what was going through his head. It had a happy ending, but their story was laced with pain and sadness. 

“Nothing.” 

“Nothing, huh?” she smiled and he shook his head again. 

“Nope,” he grinned, the happy pushing out the sad. “Just telling our girl how much I love you.” 

“Gross,” she said with a shake of her head, her smile still on her face. She reached out and grabbed his shirt, pulling him down for a kiss. “I love you, too. Now start picking, buddy.” He smiled and handed Faith to her. She kissed her and then set her in the wagon, giving her an apple to hold onto. 

“How many do we need? The whole basket?” he asked and she shook her head, stopping Faith from dropping the apple out of the wagon. 

“I don’t think we’ll ever eat that many, but I'll leave it up to you. No, Faith.” She stopped her again as he set two apples in the basket. Faith leaned forward and put the one she was holding in the basket and tried to reach for another one. 

“Here,” Mulder said, distracting Faith with a leaf instead. She held it and smiled as she looked at him. He looked at Scully and then began to search for another apple to pick. 

“Oh no.” He heard just as reached to grab one and turned around to see an apple rolling down the hill. “Mulder.” He sighed and ran after the apple, bending to pick it up. “Mulder!” He looked up and saw another one rolling toward him. 

Picking it up, he walked back up the hill to the sound of Scully’s laughter. He put them back and stopped Faith’s little hands from grabbing at the apples again. “Little girl, you best watch yourself,” he said as she stared at him and he tried not to smile. Straightening up, he looked at Scully. “Next time, you’re running down the hill, just so you know.” She grinned and he shook his head. 

He picked a couple more apples before they moved on to find a different variety, needing to double back many times when they realized Faith was tossing them out, as though she were Gretel, leaving herself an apple path. 

"You know, maybe she's actually a genius and she was just making sure we could find our way back," he said, as they picked them up once more. "If we have her path, we won't need to build a tower of bodies or hide from mothmen." He shrugged and Scully shuddered.

"Don't even joke about that, Jesus... " She shook her head with another shudder as she examined the many bruises covering the dropped apples. “At least they’ll still taste good in a pie." She laughed with a shrug and he smiled. 

Finally having the sense to set the backpack in front of the basket to discourage any further calamities, Scully took his hand as they walked back to the entrance of the orchard. It was cooling down, the smell of rain hanging heavy in the air.

"I’m really glad we came here,” she said quietly and he nodded, squeezing her hand. 

“Me, too. What do you say we take some pictures before it starts to rain?” he asked, pointing their joined hands to the left. She nodded and they walked over. 

Ten minutes later, they had taken many  pictures, laughing and exclaiming over each of them. A family walking by had taken a few pictures of the three of them, happy and smiling. 

They paid for the apples they had picked and he took them to the car while she returned the wagon. Entering the barn, they heard the goats again and Faith craned her neck at the sound. Sitting down inside the open area, they pet lambs and goats as they ate the food offered to them. 

The pony ride was a bust. Mulder thought Faith would have loved it, judging by the curiosity she had showed with the horses at the winery. She seemed fine until she was physically placed in the saddle and Scully begin to attach her buckle. Sticking out her lip, her eyes filling with tears, she reached for Scully. Quickly moving the buckle, Scully lifted her and held her close, moving from the paddock. 

Knowing she would not go back, her mind made up, they rode the train, where she stayed in Scully’s arms, wanting a cuddle, rather than showing interest in the train. She fell asleep before they made it back to the station and thankfully stayed that way as they drove back to the cottage. 

She woke up as they arrived, cranky and whiny, not going back down and finish her nap. She was only a little better after she ate, but still clingy and wanting to be held. She attached herself to Scully, who read and played with her as she tried to make her feel better, but to no avail. 

Deciding that a walk and fresh air might do her good, they went out, walking around the pathways. Faith pointed to the horses when she saw them, babbling and looking back at them. Mulder took her from her stroller, walking close to the fence and letting her decide when she was ready.  Hesitantly, she reached for them as Mulder stepped even closer. 

“Ha,” she said, touching its nose. “Ha.” 

“Horse. That’s right. Horse,” Mulder said, smiling widely at her. “Horse.” 

“Ha,” she said again, patting its nose.

“Such a smart girl,” he said, kissing her head, her foul mood disappearing as she smiled, touching the soft horse. He glanced at Scully beside him and she beamed, touching Faith’s back as she did. “See? She’s going to be amazing, Scully.”

________________

“Mulder,” Scully sighed, and he smiled at her in the bathroom mirror. “You’re sure?” 

"I’m sure,” he answered as she ran her fingers through her hair. She looked beautiful, and he had half a mind to cancel the plans and stay in when he heard a knock at the door. She met his eyes in the mirror and he nodded. “I’m sure, Scully.” He kissed her head, adjusted his tie, and walked out to open the door. 

A woman stood on the threshold, smiling as she smoothed back her hair. “Mr. Mulder? Hello, my name is Lisa. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She stuck out her hand and he shook it, smiling at her as he did. 

Scully walked out and even though he had just been standing beside her, she still had the ability to leave him breathless. Her knee length, thin strapped, full skirted black dress and heels was the epitome of who she was; elegance in simplicity. 

Lisa turned to her with a smile. “You must be Ms. Scully. Hello, I’m Lisa.” She put out her hand, and Mulder watched Scully hesitantly take it. “I know this seems odd, but I can assure you, everything will be fine. I’ve worked for the winery for ten years and I’ve watched over many children in that time. You’ve seen my credentials, but I can understand your hesitation.” 

“We’ve never left her with anyone this way,” Scully said apologetically, and Lisa nodded. 

“No need to explain, I do understand. I don’t have children of my own, but I have a cat that, while not the same as a child, I love very much. I would have a hard time leaving him with someone new,” Lisa said kindly, causing Scully to laugh nervously. “I assure you, your little one will be in good hands.” 

Scully stared at her, then looked at Mulder. He heard her questions and worries just as loudly now when she was silent, as when she voiced them earlier. Dinner reservations at the winery and a babysitter for Faith had been scheduled, allowing them to go on their own. He nodded at Scully, and she relaxed her shoulders slightly. 

“She’s down for the night, has been for a little while, so she shouldn’t wake up or give you any trouble,” Scully said, reaching for her lilac colored wrap. “If she does happen to wake up, there is a bottle ready in the fridge; it just needs to be warmed up by the warmer on the counter. She should drink it and go back to sleep, but like I said, she shouldn’t be any trouble.” 

“Scully,” Mulder said quietly, attempting to stop her from beginning to ramble. She sighed with a nod, but did not move. 

“Ms. Scully, she’ll be just fine. You two go have a good evening and I’ll see you in a few hours,” Lisa said in a kind voice. Scully nodded and looked at Mulder, who stepped closer and helped her with her wrap.  

“Thank you, Lisa. We’ll see you soon.” He ushered Scully out the door, a hand on the small of her back as he heard the door lock behind them. 

“Mulder…” 

“I had her name before we got here. I called Skinner and he called a friend who did a background check. We’re more than good.” He smiled and offered her his arm. She stared at him, smiling as his words sunk in, and reached for his arm. 

“Thoroughly vetted, is she?” She laughed softly and he nodded. Sighing, she shook her body, as though letting go of her worries. “Thank you, hon.” He nodded again and they set off. He could smell her perfume and he closed his eyes for a second, thinking of how that scent was hers and hers alone. 

“Not sure if I mentioned it, but you look quite handsome this evening, Mulder,” she said, her heels clicking across the wet pathway. 

He smiled, knowing she had not known about this dinner and wondering why she had needed to pack a nice dress. He had known of course and had packed a pair of black slacks, a dark gray button down shirt, and a black tie. Opting out of a suit jacket, he wore his leather one instead. He was glad of it, as the nights were definitely getting colder. 

“Why thank you. You look stunning as always, Ms. Scully. Are you warm enough?” he asked, knowing that wrap was thin and not exactly suitable for sustaining warmth. 

“For now,” she said, putting her head against his shoulder and pulling the wrap tighter. He hummed, knowing she would most likely be wearing his jacket on the way back. 

They walked into the main hub of the winery and down to the restaurant. Mulder gave their name to the hostess and they were taken downstairs to the cellar where twelve intimate tables were set up, half of which were full. Scully glanced at him and he winked, knowing what she was thinking. 

“Here is your table. There is a coat rack just there, if you wish to hang your things.” She pointed to one by their table. “Enjoy your meal.” Smiling, she walked away. 

He took off his coat and helped Scully with her wrap. Hanging them up, he then pulled out Scully’s chair as she sat down. He took the seat across from her and watched her look around, taking in the beauty of the room: the vast amounts of wine, the candles on shelves as well as the tables, the flowers and elegance of it all. She shook her head, and he smiled. 

“I’ll always keep you guessing,” he said softly with a shrug, and she smiled. 

“Mulder,” she whispered, reaching for his hand. 

The waiter came, telling them of the specials and favorite dishes. They ordered appetizers and their meals, planning to share everything equally. He requested a very expensive bottle of wine and she raised her eyebrows at him. The waiter made a show of opening and then pouring them each a glass before walking away. 

Scully lifted her glass and paused as she brought it to her lips. Raising her eyes to his, she looked around as she leaned forward, and he did the same. “What if I hate it? Or worse, what if this wine ruins all other wines for me? What if the ten dollar bottles don’t cut it anymore?” she whispered with a grimace.  

“Well, then you’ll have to explain to Faith why her college fund has been depleted,” he said. with a shrug of his shoulders. She laughed, and he winked at her. He raised his glass and they clinked them together before taking a drink, finding it to be delicious. 

Their food arrived and, considering the cost of the bottle of wine, they drank every last drop of it before ordering another less expensive one. As the meal progressed, he saw her cheeks pinking up, a sure sign the alcohol was affecting her. Tipsy Scully was making an appearance and he grinned. He loved tipsy Scully. 

Wanting to keep her happiness going, and seeing the second bottle was almost empty, he slid his nearly full glass of wine to her. She picked it up and gave him a look he knew very well. 

As he cleared his throat and sat forward, his empty dish was taken from him and a small cake was set in its place. Five candles were lit and a small group of waitstaff quietly sang Happy Birthday

They walked away and he stared at Scully, her eyes dancing. “How…?” he asked her, thoroughly perplexed. 

“I’ll always keep you guessing,” she said with a wink and a giggle. “Blow out your candles, but make a wish first.” He stared at her, looking at her beautiful smile, and he knew he had all he could ever want. Keeping his eyes on her, he blew out the candles. “What did you wish for?”

“I can’t tell, you know that. Unlike prayer candles, this is a birthday cake,” he said, and she grinned. Then he felt her foot at his shin and her grin changed to a lip bite. His blood began to run south and his eyes widened. “Scully.” He warned and moved his legs from her reach. 

“I’m ready to leave,” she said in a sultry tone that made it difficult for him to swallow. “Let’s see if we can’t get that cake to go.” Her foot found his leg again, going a little higher and he cleared his throat. 

“Behave yourself,” he said through gritted teeth. 

“Make me,” she said, picking up her glass of wine and taking a big drink, slowly licking the remnants of wine off her lips. 

“Dana Scully,” he warned, as just then the waiter walked up, causing a distraction. Her foot moved, though her eyes still held his, telling him she was not done with him yet. 

He paid the bill and they waited as the cake was boxed up. She finished her wine, her cheeks very flushed and her smile very happy. Once the cake was brought to them, he stood and collected their things, putting his coat on and helping her with her wrap before picking up the cake. 

She took his arm and they walked out of the restaurant, through the main lobby, and out the door. She sighed happily as they did, letting go of his arm and lifting hers into the air, spinning around clumsily. 

“Hey now, take it easy, tiny dancer,” he said, stepping closer to her, a smile on his face. 

“Mulder, that was such a wonderful dinner. Thank you for this night out,” she said, turning to him and sighing. “I was hesitant, but this was… perfect.” He smiled and took her hand, not wanting her to fall down. 

“You’re welcome, Scully.” She wrapped her other arm around their joined hands and laid her head on his shoulder. 

“I love you. I love you so much, Mulder,” she said quietly and he grinned. 

“Gross,” he said, bumping her hip and she laughed, relaxing her grip and looking up at him. He smiled at her and let go of her hand to stroke her cheek. “I love you too, Love.” He kissed her softly and then reached for her hand again. 

As they got closer to their cottage, they heard music playing close by. She squeezed his hand and they walked back to the sound of happiness, love, and laughter. 

Unlocking the door, they were greeted with Lisa’s smiling face. She stood from the couch and put the book she was reading in her bag. 

“How was your evening?” she asked kindly. 

“Wonderful,” Scully said with a smile, holding onto Mulder as she slipped off her shoes, and then her wrap. “How was she?” 

“Perfect. Not a peep aside from the sweet sleeping baby sounds,” she said with a soft chuckle. “She was the easiest child I’ve ever cared for.” They all laughed and Lisa walked toward the door as they moved out of her way. 

“I’m happy you had a good evening. There is a wedding tonight; I’m sure you heard the music as you walked back,” she said, her hand on the doorknob, and they nodded. She smiled and nodded toward the back porch. “That porch is one of my favorites, for many reasons, but mainly because it’s great for hearing the music from weddings and parties. Have a good night.” They thanked her and she nodded, walking out and closing the door. 

Scully sighed and smiled, reaching for the doorknob to Faith’s room. “I just need to see her,” she said quietly, answering his unasked question. She walked in the room, and he went into the kitchen, putting away the cake and checking on the milk while he was there. 

He took off his jacket, used the bathroom, loosened his tie, took off his shoes and socks and went to find Scully. Not seeing her in the living room, he saw the back door was slightly open and knew she had gone out onto the porch. 

He joined her, wrapping her in his arms, finding her skin already cool to the touch. Rubbing her arms to warm her up, he heard her sigh. “Have you had a good time on our honeymoon/orchard/ birthday trip?” he asked and she laughed. 

“I absolutely have,” she said and he nodded, starting to slowly sway to the music they could hear from the wedding. She wrapped her arms around his waist and sighed again. “It seems so impossible..."

“What seems impossible?” 

“To be so happy.” 

He sighed, holding her closer as he moved a hand from his waist and held it in his own, dancing them now, not just swaying. “Why does being happy seem impossible?” he asked her softly. 

“I don’t mean anything to do with the past,” she said with another sigh. “I just… being so happy and normal seems almost criminal. It hasn't been us, but I want it to be.” He pulled back and looked at her, and she smiled softly. He nodded and smiled as cheers and applause erupted around them and they both looked in that direction. 

“I think they agree with what we both want. Or maybe they know it's my birthday eve and I haven’t kissed you yet,” he teased and she laughed. Putting her hands on his chest, she gripped his tie and pulled, bringing his lips to hers. 

“You also haven’t opened your gift yet either,” she said against his mouth. “But you can’t do it out here, or we might... no we will get arrested.” He leaned back and stared at her before grabbing her hand, pulling her inside, and closing the door. 

Once in the bedroom, he unzipped her dress and watched it fall to the floor as he nearly fell to his knees. She was wearing the pink and black thing. The very one she had teased him with nearly a year ago when she had been very pregnant and they withheld from sexual activities, hoping against hope for his Halloween baby. God, he had never seen her look more arousing. Well... 

He trailed his fingers over the lace, bows, and the thin straps as he looked into her eyes. “It took a little longer than planned to fit into it again,” she said, her breath quickening as his hands wrapped around her waist, feeling the many hooks of the remembered corset, the one that drove him mad. He popped one open and she whimpered. Another one and she gasped. He kissed her, his tongue grazing hers, as he opened another hook. His birthday gift, wrapped in lace and bows. 

“Jesus Christ, Scully,” he breathed, his lips moving to her neck, as he realized she had been wearing that all through dinner. No wonder she had been so touchy and flirty. 

“Happy birthday, Mulder,” she whispered, pulling him back for another kiss. 

______________________

“I hope the music was loud enough to drown out the incredibly loud noises you were just making,” he panted out as she collapsed on top of him. He could feel her hot breath on his neck and laughed as he pushed her sweaty hair back. 

She was still half dressed, both of them too aroused to get all the hooks undone. The straps were pulled down, her breasts falling out of the bra, and her panties thrown somewhere, but the corset was still around her waist. The hooks held together in the middle, as they were no longer able to wait to have each other. 

Seeing her still halfway dressed, her breasts bouncing as she rode him, was almost too much. He forced himself to wait for her, thinking of anything he could to stave off his release. Her cries of ecstasy climbed higher and higher until she tightened around him and called his name, her nails digging into his chest. He gripped her hips, crying her name as he thrust into her once more, his release following hers. 

“Oh, Mulder. Oh, my God. I… I hope the bride has half as much fun tonight as I just did and that, at some point tonight, she feels as amazing as I do right now. May her marriage be blessed by a well endowed man or one that knows how to use his tongue,” she said, her breathing still ragged. 

“Or both,” he quipped as she moaned. 

“Both… mmm.” She rose up and kissed him before moving and laying beside him. “I have definitely been blessed. Mmm… God, I do so enjoy your body.” He laughed and pulled her close to him, her arm wrapping around him. 

They lay quietly, their breathing slowing and heart rate returning to normal. The wedding music was muffled and low, but they could still hear it. Kissing her head, he sighed, his eyes closed and a big smile on his face. 

“Mulder,” came her soft voice, and he laughed, knowing exactly what she was going to say. 

“You want some of that cake, don’t you?” he asked, knowing her so well. She whined and he laughed again. He kissed her head and moved from her embrace to do her bidding.

Walking into the kitchen naked, he took the cake from the box, debating if he should grab plates or forks, when he heard her shuffling out behind him. Turning around he saw she was topless, having taken off the corset completely. She had put her panties back on and he was aroused at the sight of her standing there that way. 

Checking quickly to be sure the blinds were closed, he breathed a sigh of relief to find they were, not caring if anyone saw him, but not wanting her to be gawked at. 

“We don't need plates,” she said, grabbing forks and heading to the table. He followed with the cake and sat down next to her. She took a big bite and he smiled, wiping the corner of her lip and licking the frosting from his finger. 

“Good birthday so far?” she asked with a grin. 

“Sex, cake with my topless wife, the pink and black thing back in rotation… I mean…” He shrugged with a grin and she laughed, taking another bite, as he did the same. 

“If I keep eating like this and drinking amazing wine, the pink and black thing won’t fit so well for too long.”

“I like how you’re wearing it now.” He shrugged again and she laughed. “And you look beautiful no matter what, Scully.” 

“Well then,” she said with a smile, taking a very large bite. He laughed and shook his head, impossibly happy. 

_______________________

October 13th 

Pulling up to the house, he smiled as he looked at all the decorations that greeted them. Except for that goddamn witch. He was trying to figure out an “accident” for her to suffer from, but had so far come up with nothing that Scully would not see right through. 

She sighed beside him and he looked over at her. “It’s good to be home,” she said with a smile as she unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car. 

She took Faith inside as he unloaded the car and brought everything inside the house. They made some dinner, gave Faith a bath, and put her to bed. Cleaning up, Scully added the apples to the new bowl she had purchased, bruises and all, as the tea kettle warmed on the stove. 

She took her tea onto the porch, grabbing a blanket as she did. He put away the dishes and then took his cup outside to join her. Stopping in the doorway, he paused. 

“Don’t worry, I didn’t plug in the witch,” she said in a teasing tone. “It’s your birthday, I’ll give you a pass tonight.” He sighed dramatically and joined her on the porch swing, covering up with the shared blanket as he pushed the swing lightly. 

They sat, quietly drinking their tea, enjoying the peace of the evening. She sat forward and smiled at him. “Be right back,” she said and kissed him softly, taking her mug and heading inside. He nodded, wondering what she was up to. 

She was gone for a few minutes and came back with a gift in her hands. Smiling, she walked over and handed it to him, taking his mug as she did and setting it on the railing as she sat beside him again. 

“Scully,” he said quietly, and she smiled. 

“Just open it.” 

He smiled at the grey and green alien wrapping paper, ripping it open to find a white rectangular box. Believing it to be a shirt of some kind, he took off the lid and opened the tissue paper, exhaling as he did. 

“Elise sent it to me,” she said quietly, “Until I saw it, I didn’t even realize we don’t have any pictures from the wedding. I don’t necessarily need them, but as soon as I saw that, I realized how wrong I was.” 

“Scully…” he sighed, looking at the picture Elise had taken when they had not been looking and Scully had framed. 

He had an arm around Scully as he held Faith to his chest in her purple panda pajamas. Scully had one arm around his waist and the other on Faith’s back. All of them had their eyes closed, content in their own little world of three. 

“This is perfect, thank you,” he whispered. 

“Mmmm,” she hummed and laid her head on his shoulder. 

Come away with me in the night,” he sang softly, the song that had been playing that night. He lay his head on hers, as they looked at the picture of them together, the swing rocking slowly in the cool October evening. “Come away with… me."  

 

Chapter Text

Skinner stood beside his car as he listened to the gas pump into his car.  Sighing, he shook his head, feeling like an idiot, just as he had for the past couple of weeks. 

"God,” he growled, taking the nozzle out of the car and replacing it. He put the gas cap back on and got into the car, closing the door. He sighed again and shook his head. “Such a goddamn idiot,” he mumbled to himself as he drove out of the gas station and turned left toward Mulder and Dana’s, thinking of the past month. 

As the wedding dinner began to wind down, and Mulder and Dana had left for their night away, Skinner found himself staying and watching Rachel out of the corner of his eye. She was helping Tampa, despite his insistence that she should go enjoy herself and not worry about anything else. She smiled and finally listened, staying and looking at the pictures on the table. 

Taking the opportunity to get closer to her, he walked up and stood by her as he looked at them, smiling at the memories of the past. 

“They look happy,” she said softly, causing him to lift his eyes and glance at her. He nodded and saw her pick up the picture of the three of them wearing alien headbands and smiled. “She’s a beautiful little girl. Those blue eyes are going to break some hearts.” 

“I said something similar when she was born,” he said quietly, remembering how small she had been when he had held her for the first time. 

“Of course, it would be impossible for her to not be beautiful with the two of them as parents,” she laughed as she set the picture down. 

“That’s the damn truth,” he agreed, and she smiled at him as he cleared his throat. “Are you leaving soon?”

“Am I being kicked out?” 

“No, not at all. I… I didn’t mean…” he stumbled and she smiled wider, obviously teasing him. He huffed out a laugh and then looked away, flustered and not sure what to say. 

“Are you leaving?” He looked back at her and shook his head. 

“Not exactly, but soon,” he replied and she nodded. 

“I had-”

“Girl! Are you still cleaning things up?  Oh... no you are not. Hmm, please excuse my very untimely interruption,” Tampa said with a wink at them as he disappeared from the room. 

She laughed nervously and tucked her hair behind her ears as Skinner shook his head and clenched his jaw. He glanced at her quickly, feeling sweaty and anxious. 

“As I was saying, I had a fun time tonight. You’re a good dancer-” she said, causing him to scoff as she smiled. “You are. I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.” He stared at her, and his mouth went dry. “I… I don’t know if you would be interested, but maybe we could get dinner sometime?” 

Cotton seemed to fill his mouth, and he was unable to speak. She raised her eyebrows at him and he nodded, causing her to smile. 

“Great. I’ll give you my number and you can call me when you think of the place you’d like to take me,” she said impishly and he exhaled loudly, immediately embarrassed. She pursed her lips, trying not to laugh. “Did you want to put it into your phone?” 

He reached for his phone before he remembered that he had left it in his car, not wanting to have it disturb the evening. “It’s in the car,” he explained, ready to walk out and get it when she put her hand up and stopped him. He watched her walk into the kitchen and waited for her to come back. 

Glancing at the picture of Mulder, Dana, and Faith, he could not help but wonder what it would be like to have a child of his own. He shook his head, knowing the time for that had passed long ago.

“Here you go,” Rachel said, pulling him from his thoughts as he turned to look at her. She smiled as she handed him a piece of paper with her name and number written on it. He smiled, not only at her information, but at the name personalization at the top. Margaret Scully was printed in bold fancy calligraphy. 

“Where did you find this?” he asked her quietly and she smiled. 

“From a pad of paper in the kitchen,” she answered and he nodded with a sigh. 

Margaret Scully, a woman he had only met a handful of times, but had seen immediately from where Dana had received her drive and determination. Standing in her house, her picture up in remembrance as though watching over them all, and now a piece of her personal stationary; if he believed in signs, he would have been unable to deny there seemed to be many trying to tell him something. 

“So, now you have my number,” she said and he turned, watching her walk across the living room, heading toward the front door. She took her jacket from the coat rack and slipped it on, a smile on her face. “The ball is completely in your court. Goodbye, Walter.” She nodded and walked out the door. 

“Mmm hmm…” Skinner heard and turned to his right. “You’re just going to let her leave?” Tampa asked, crossing his arms and clicking his tongue. 

“I…” 

“Man, you better have at least gotten her number,” Tampa said and walked away shaking his head. 

Leaving a few minutes later, Louise spotted him and bid him goodnight. Once in the car, he sat and stared at Rachel’s number. Taking his phone from the glove box, he wanted to text or call her, but after seeing all of the work messages he had missed during the wedding, he knew tonight would not be the night he would call. Sighing, he drove home in silence dreading the unanswered emails that awaited him. 

For the next several days, work had engulfed him, but her contact information had not strayed far. It was on the dining room table, but he had not entered it into his contacts yet. Instead, he had stared at it every night as he ate tasteless microwaved meals, knowing he should eat something better but lacking the time or motivation to do so. 

As he stared at her number, he could almost hear Maggie Scully sighing with annoyance at his inaction. Here she had laid the groundwork, provided the paper onto which Rachel’s phone number was written, and he was doing nothing. The little he knew of her, he did know Maggie was a quiet force that would not be ignored. 

Until now, it seemed. 

He went to bed on Friday night, angry at himself and determined to call Rachel tomorrow and stop being such a goddamn coward. 

Waiting until a respectable time the next morning, he finally called her and reached her voicemail. Leaving a gruff message, he hung up and felt like shit, fearing she would not call back after hearing the stuttery mess of message he left her. 

After calling her, he went for a run, leaving his phone at home. His mind was distracted throughout, wondering if he was missing her call but instead of stopping he shook his head and ran faster, annoyed and angry at himself. 

There was no call when he came back. Nor was there one after his shower, lunch, a sparring match at the boxing club, before he went to bed, or after his late breakfast the next day. 

Grabbing his keys, he dropped his phone in a bowl by the door as he opened the door to go for another run when the apartment erupted in sound, the phone ringing and vibrating against the bowl. 

He startled and then saw her name on the screen. Reaching for the phone, he thought about letting her leave a voicemail, let her see how it was to wait, but then he grabbed it, needing to hear her voice. 

“Hello?” 

“Hello. I was certain you wouldn’t answer,” she said, and he stood in the doorway, at a loss for words. 

“Why wouldn’t I answer? I called you, remember? Yesterday,” he said pointedly, almost rudely, as he closed the door and locked it, angry again, but also elated. 

"Oh yes, I do remember. You see, if you hadn’t, I wouldn’t be calling you back as I didn’t have your phone number,” she said with a teasing tone. He paused and let her words sink in and then he smiled, walking toward the couch and flopping down. 

"I feel like I need to apologize,” he said. Rachel cleared her throat, but said nothing. Grinning wider, he shook his head. “I’m sorry, I should have called sooner. I could blame it on work, but…”

“You know that’s a shit excuse?” she offered. 

“It is,” he agreed. “I should have called. I had… poor excuses and I… I apologize.” 

“Accepted.”

He grinned as he leaned back and toed off his shoes, no longer wanting or needing to go on that run. He chuckled and heard her answering quiet laugh. 

“I actually was sure I would miss you, not just because of your lack of phoning me sooner, but as it IS the weekend, I figured you would be busy,” she said, and he shook his head. God, he really liked her. 

“I’m not busy.” 

“Oh.” 

“Would… would you like to meet up for coffee? Or lunch?” he asked, suddenly realizing he was holding his breath. 

“Oh, I’m sorry I can’t. Um, I have plans-”

“No. It’s fine.” He closed his eyes and sighed. 

“My mom and I are going on a trip on Tuesday for two weeks. Today we are going to buy the items we need. New clothes, bathing suits, toiletries. She’s actually on her way now, but… I would have loved to have met you for a coffee,” she finished quietly, and he mentally kicked himself for not calling her sooner. Both of them were quiet and then she sighed. 

“I should have called sooner,” he said, surprising himself with expressing his thoughts. 

“Hmmm,” she answered in a manner that suggested that she was most definitely agreeing. “I have a busy day tomorrow and we leave super early on Tuesday, but I’d love to get that coffee or dinner when I get back.” 

“Yeah, that would be fine,” he sighed, wishing it was sooner. 

“Fine?” she teased him again. “Just fine ?” 

“More than fine,” he answered with a smile. 

Hmm. Well, I have to go. My mother just arrived. I’ll call you when I get back. Most likely a day or so after since I’ll be exhausted and need to sleep,” she laughed, and he nodded. 

“A day or two after will be-”

“Fine?” 

He laughed and nodded again. “More than fine,” he said quietly. 

“Good. I’ll talk to you then, Walter.” 

“Goodbye, Rachel.” 

He waited until he heard her hang up before removing the phone from his ear. Standing up, he walked to the kitchen, deciding it was not too early for a drink. 

Standing by the table, he took a long pull of his beer and spotted the paper with Rachel’s number on it. He smiled as he stared at it, hearing the silent throat clearing of Maggie Scully. 

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he said gruffly as he imagined the smirk on her face, shaking his head as he took another drink. 

_________

The two weeks Rachel was gone passed both quickly and slower than any time he had ever experienced. It was an odd feeling, looking forward to someone’s return. He had not had anyone in his life for a long time. Not that she was in his life, he had to keep telling himself, but… 

On the first, he caught himself smiling, trying to stop before anyone noticed. He stopped at the store and bought enough groceries for a week, intent on making actual food from ingredients and not from a previously frozen box. 

A steak and a salad was a good start, and he found himself wondering if Rachel ate meat or if she was a vegetarian, not recalling what she had eaten at the wedding. He hoped it was the former, but he would work with whatever she liked. 

“Haven’t even had dinner yet and I’m making changes,” he grumbled with a smile on his face. Shaking his head, he cleaned up and went to bed, looking forward to the next day. 

__________

“I’m absolutely exhausted,” she yawned when she called the next evening, and he grinned, her voice making him happy. 

“You had a good time though?” he asked. 

“Mmmm. Yeah, it was fun,” she sighed, and he continued smiling. “Jet lag is the worst though. I would love to not feel like I’m walking through a pool filled with sand and snow.” He laughed, and she groaned. 

You should get some sleep. We can always talk later,” he said kindly, and she sighed loudly. 

I wish I didn’t feel so tired, I really wanted to talk to you today. Tonight? I don’t know anymore,” she sighed again, causing him to chuckle. 

I understand, but right now you need to sleep. We can talk tomorrow,” he said and she was quiet. “Rachel? Rachel?” 

Hmm? Oh, I… I…” she breathed, and he laughed softly. 

“Get some sleep. Good night,” he said, and she hummed before he hung up, smiling as he did. 

__________________

*Did you figure out the restaurant you will be treating me to yet?* 

His phone buzzed with a message, and he smiled, looking around as he typed out his answer. 

*I was going to ask last night, but you literally fell asleep on me.* 

*Hey, you fly for almost a day and try not to fall asleep when you’re speaking to someone.*  

He smiled and typed back a response. 

*And I understand, I do. I have a few places in mind, do you have a preference? Are you vegetarian? Partial to a region?* 

He waited, and then a bit longer. Finally he saw her answer and he grinned. She sent a gif of a woman eating a huge steak and underneath she had written:

*Carnivore. And if there is pasta… well…* 

*Wonderful. I will get back to you later.* 

Another gif of John Candy sharpening his knife and fork over a large slab of meat from a movie he had seen but could not place appeared. Laughing, he left his office to find the next person he needed to speak to, thoughts of the perfect restaurant on his mind. 

_____________ 

Saturday evening, he stood in the bathroom double checking his tie before he left to meet Rachel. Nodding at himself in the mirror, he turned off the lights, left the bathroom, and walked out of the apartment. 

He was nervous as he drove to the restaurant, worried now that the night was finally happening. Feeling foolish, he shook it off and continued on, knowing that it would be a good evening. 

He walked into the restaurant, The House, and he went to the hostess desk to let her know that he had arrived. He was a few minutes early and still a bit nervous as he waited for Rachel. 

Ten excruciating minutes later, she walked in and he stood up, watching as she looked around, smiling as she found him. She walked past the people in front of her, saying ‘excuse me’ as she passed them, but her eyes remained on him the entire time. 

Hello,” she said, her blue eyes lighting up. 

“Hi,” he answered, not sure he could say much more at the moment.

Her scent hit him like a wave. It consisted of fresh laundry and something that he could not quite place but wanted to smell forever. She was dressed in a simple navy blue dress, navy flats, and a dark gray cardigan with her dark hair pulled back into a long ponytail. Mixed throughout her dark hair was the aqua blue that had drawn his eye at the wedding. 

She looked absolutely stunning. 

“Sorry, I’m late,” she said, and he shook his head, looking at his watch. 

“You’re right on time. I was a little early,” he said with a smile. 

“Ahh, nervous were you?” Her eyes twinkled, and he laughed. She licked her lips and looked around. “I like this place. It was a good choice. Meat and pasta. You did good.” He nodded and smiled again. 

“I’ll let them know you’re here and we should be able to be seated right away,” he said, and she nodded. 

Walking to the hostess stand, he shook his head, the smile still on his face. The hostess smiled at him and grabbed their menus. He walked back over to Rachel and put his hand on her lower back to lead her to the table. She raised her eyebrows, and he moved his hand.  

“No, it’s okay,” she said quietly. He nodded and put it back as they walked to the table. 

He pulled her chair out for her and she sat down before he sat across from her and put his napkin in his lap. The hostess handed them their menus and said their waiter would be with them soon before she walked away.

“Did you see that person on the way in eating fettuccine? I almost grabbed her plate and kept walking,” she said leaning forward. He laughed and she set her menu down and took off her cardigan, laying it on the chair. 

So, you know what you want then?” he teased and she nodded. 

“I don’t even need to look, I know… oh wait.” She picked up her menu and he heard her sighing and groaning as she read it. “God… it all looks so good. What’s your sharing policy?” She looked up at him, raising her eyebrows. 

Sharing policy?” 

“Yes. For instance, if you ordered mashed potatoes or mmmm… any kind of potatoes, would you have a problem with sharing a few bites or are you a non food sharer?” she asked and he frowned. 

“I’ve never really thought about it before,” he said as she looked down at her menu again, her eyebrows still raised. “If you want potatoes, I’ll share a few bites, if you share the fettuccine.” 

She made a “yes” motion with her fist, not looking up as she perused the menu. He smiled and looked at his, having already decided he would get the red mashed potatoes as part of his meal. 

The waiter walked up and they ordered a drink and she asked for some bread. He left and returned quickly with plates, bread, and a small bowl of butter. 

Please don’t think less of me, but I am very hungry, and I will be eating a large amount of this bread,” she said as she reached for a piece of bread and her knife to add butter to it. “Between the jet lag and playing catch up at work, I’ve missed several meals and I’m starving.” 

“I wouldn’t think less of you,” he smiled. 

Not until I stab you for reaching for a piece,” she said, taking a bit of crunchy sourdough and closing her eyes. 

“It’s a butter knife, I think I’ll be okay,” he smirked as she opened her eyes and raised an eyebrow. He raised his back and took a piece of bread when she was distracted. 

“Brave man,” she said as she slid the butter closer to him, but he waved it away. “Not a bread and butter guy... good to know.” He grinned and took a bite, both of them chewing.

The waiter arrived with their drinks and took their orders: steak and fettuccine for her and steak, red mashed potatoes, and green beans for him. She sighed as he walked away and whispered ‘potatoes’ under her breath, causing him to laugh. 

“So, you didn’t say where you went on your trip,” he said, drinking a sip of his scotch. 

Oh, I suppose I didn’t. We went to Australia.” 

“Oh. Well. That’s nice. Have you been there before?” 

“No,” she said, taking a drink of her red wine. “We try to take an extravagant trip once a year, and this year we chose Australia.” 

“That’s great that you do that,” he said with a nod.

“Thank you, I think so too,” she smiled, reaching for more bread.

“What do you do for a living?” he asked, realizing there was a lot he did not know about her. 

“I’m a therapist,” she said, adding butter to her bread. “I’ve been doing it for almost ten years now, and I love it. And you?” She looked at him and he smiled, while a feeling began to gnaw at him. 

I used to be an FBI agent, until a couple of years ago, Assistant Director. I work for the VA now. The bureau was no longer a place I wanted to be and a change was needed,” he said, his thoughts churning. 

“Is that how you knew Fox and… I can only think of her as Scully, as that’s how I was introduced to her at the wedding dinner,” she asked with a smile. He nodded, as realization began to dawn on him, his stomach feeling uneasy. He stared at her smiling face and he knew how she knew Mulder and Dana, or Mulder at the very least. 

“I was their boss, yes. I’ve known them both for a long time. Separately and together,” he said, the question he wanted to ask burning on his tongue, not wanting to ask it, but knowing he must. 

“I don’t really know Scully, Dana, except for what I’ve seen with my own eyes. But I met Fox a few years ago.” 

“You were his therapist,” he stated, not a question, not even knowing if she could answer that type of question. 

She stared at him and then sighed heavily, looking down at the table. “If I was, would that be a problem for you? Would it be a problem for us ?” 

He stared, not knowing how to answer, thoughts of what Mulder would think or if he would worry there was some conflict of interest. Sighing again, Rachel began to gather her things, her sweater and the keys she had set on the table. 

What-”

Walter, this is not the first time my job has been a problem, but it still doesn’t make it easier,” she said quietly. 

“Rachel…” 

I’m not… I’m not as young as I was when the thought of  ‘might be okay’ was enough to try in a relationship, only to discover it was more like ‘not okay,’” she said, standing up and taking money from her pocket and placing it on the table, which he tried to stop her from doing. “I like you, I really do, but I… I need to be sure that this won’t be something you brush off, only to use as an excuse later.” She put her hand on his shoulder, stopping him from standing up, her eyes sad. “When you’re sure one way or the other…” And then she walked away, her sentence unfinished, leaving him feeling hollow, foolish, and as though he had lost her forever. 

He sat as though frozen in his seat, his stupidity weighing him down. Even if he stopped her now, what would he say? He knew her well enough, without really knowing her at all, to know she would see through an apology, wondering through their meal if it was worth it to stay. 

“Such an asshole,” he said quietly through gritted teeth as their food arrived and the thought of eating any of it made his stomach feel sick. 

Boxing it up, he left the restaurant and drove to a known area where there were homeless people, giving away his much anticipated meal. The happiness on the faces of those who may not have eaten in days was not enough to lift him from his slump. He left them with all the cash he had, but not Rachel’s; it remained in his jacket pocket as he walked back to his car. 

He stewed for a week, his emotions all over the place. He was angry at her for leaving and then sorry for the anger he felt. He yelled at Cara, a soft spoken woman who worked in the office, causing her to leave the room in tears. Before he left, he stood with figurative heart in hand, apologizing to her profusely. She nodded and touched his arm, her eyes seeming to see through him. 

He threw out all the food he had purchased earlier in the week, his desire to take the time and cook gone and his stupidity angering him to eat frozen crap all over again. 

His fingers dialed her number over fifty times in that week, needing to apologize and make it right and to tell her it was not a problem. But it would be a lie and he could not do that to her, not after the shit he had pulled already. 

Knowing what he needed to do, he called Mulder, only to hear they were out of town and would not be available until Monday at the earliest. He could have spoken with him over the phone, but this felt like a face to face conversation. 

Work once again pushed all other thoughts and desires to the side until he could no longer take it, calling Mulder to ask if Thursday night would work for him to come over. He heard Faith laughing in the background as he looked around his own silent home, the place bare and rather sterile. 

“Thursday is great. Dinner?” 

“No, no dinner,” he said quickly, and Mulder hummed an ‘mmm hmmm’ no doubt already profiling him. Old habits die hard. 

The plans were made, and he only needed to get through two more days before he headed over. He needed to deal with it and move on, whatever the outcome. 

Shaking his head, his annoyance at his own stupidity rising, he saw the turnoff for the odd little house they had decided to call home. It was getting dark sooner, the time due to change in the next few weeks. Turning on his high beams, he continued down the road, turning them down as he pulled up the driveway. 

Laughing almost bitterly and shaking his head, he shut off the car as he looked at all the decorations up around the outside of the house. Sighing, he got out of the car and closed the door, walked up the steps, and knocked on the door. 

Mulder opened it, smiling as he gestured for him to come inside. Dana walked up, embraced him and smiled as she stepped back.  

“It’s nice to see you. How are you?” she asked, touching his arm. He nodded and looked around. 

“Where’s Faith?” he asked, hoping he would see her, maybe make her laugh a little. 

“Oh, she’s got a little cold and a slight fever, so she’s had some medicine and went down a little early tonight,” Dana said with a small smile. “We were gone over the weekend, as you know, and I think she may have picked something up while we were away.” 

“She’s okay though?” he asked with concern, as he glanced toward the stairs. 

“Yeah, her mom’s a doctor, I think she’ll be okay,” she said with a wink and a chuckle as he looked back at her. She held his gaze and he knew she saw something in his eyes by the way she tilted her head. He nodded and stepped back, glancing at Mulder. 

He saw him glance at Dana before she nodded and walked into the kitchen. “Would you like a beer? Or something stronger?” she asked, standing by the refrigerator. 

“A beer is fine,” he nodded, taking off his coat and hanging it on the stair railing. 

“I’ll take one too, since you didn’t ask,” Mulder teased, as he sat on the couch. 

“Of course, my sweet darling husband,” she joked, taking two beers out and opening them, handing them to Skinner with an eye roll. He attempted a smile and walked over to hand Mulder his beer. 

He stepped back and looked around the room, suddenly nervous and not sure where to start. He could hear the clock ticking as they all sat in silence, and he knew they were waiting for him to speak. Taking a long drink of his beer, he began to tell them about Rachel, starting with their conversation at the wedding dinner. 

He paced the room back and forth, not looking at either of them, the whole story pouring out, unable to be held back. When he got to Rachel leaving him at the restaurant, he stood with his back to them, the story coming out quietly as his shoulders slumped forward. 

The clock ticked loudly as the room was silent once again. No longer able to stand it, he turned around and looked at them. Mulder was grinning and nodding his head as he sat on the couch. 

“So… I have some thoughts, but I believe that my wife is dying to say something first,” Mulder said, looking over at Dana. She was leaning against the counter, her arms crossed. 

She smirked and shook her head as she looked back at him. “I told you so.” Mulder laughed and nodded, looking back at Skinner. 

“She did, one hundred percent,” he said, still laughing. Skinner huffed and shook his head. 

“Is this funny to you?” he barked out, and Mulder stood up, shaking his head and walking over to him. 

“Not in the slightest, especially as I can see and hear you’re hurting. How about we go sit outside? It’s not too cold out yet.” He glanced at Dana and she nodded at them both, a smile still on her face. He and Mulder went outside, closing the door behind them and sitting down on the porch.

“You’re lucky Scully was feeling kind tonight and unplugged that witch. It gets me every time, the evil hag.” He turned his head and glared at the witch on the porch. Failing to find the humor of it at the moment, Skinner stared straight ahead and sighed. 

“You know, or maybe you didn’t, not entirely,” Mulder said quietly, fiddling with his beer bottle. “Scully and I weren’t together anymore when we started back at the bureau. In fact, we hadn’t seen each other until you contacted her. We texted and emailed… but we were separated, as much as I hate to use that word, especially in regards to us. It was… a rough time, for both of us, but for me…” He shook his head and sighed.

“Mrs. Scully… she stepped in, pulled me up, dusted me off, and helped me in so many ways. But, she couldn’t help with everything and I needed to speak to someone. About the past and the present, especially if I wanted to fix my future.” He smiled at Skinner and laughed softly. “Hell, I should have done it years ago, but I was a stubborn ass and I refused.” 

“I met with a couple therapists and I hated them, maybe I was biased, but honestly they were horrible and I hated their approach.” He shook his head with another sigh. “The third person I met was Rachel and I knew by the time our initial session was over that she was the one I wanted to continue to see. She was unlike anyone I had met.” Skinner scoffed, shaking his head as Mulder chuckled. “She called me out, knocked me on my ass, but was there beside me, her hand out to help me up when I was ready.” 

Skinner sighed heavily, feeling more and more like an asshole. He had fucked up greatly and he was not sure even this discussion would be enough. 

“Skinner,” Mulder sighed. “Walter, I understand your hesitancy, I do. You are intertwined in our lives, have been for years. Not many people have earned our trust, or stuck around the way you have. Yes, we’ve had our… let’s call them moments…” They both laughed and nodded, setting their bottles down. “But, you have always been there for us. Always.” Skinner nodded and kept his eyes downcast. 

“Considering all of that… I understand your feelings, but…” He shook his head and smiled. “If you came here tonight to ask how I feel or if I have any problem with you dating Rachel, or marrying her one day-”

“I didn’t say that, nor would I presume-”

“Just busting your balls,” Mulder laughed. “Although…” He shrugged and smiled. 

Skinner shook his head, looking around and sighing. “I know it was a stupid thing to do. I was a goddamn fool, but I just felt blindsided and I…” He stood up and paced the yard. “I… I don’t know. Christ, Mulder…” He stopped and looked up to find him smiling, raising his eyebrows. “She’s younger than me. A lot younger.” 

“Who cares?” 

“She’s… so different than anyone… anyone I’ve ever known, let alone dated. Dated…” He laughed bitterly, shaking his head. “I haven’t been on a date in years and I fucked it up. Christ.” He scrubbed a hand across his face and paced again. 

Mulder was silent for a few minutes as he watched and waited for him to speak again. “She… she just… I don’t know, Mulder. What is it?”

Mulder shook his head and smiled. “I can’t answer that, as I don’t know myself. She’s… she’s Rachel.” He shrugged and Skinner exhaled. “If you like her, which is undoubtable, then nothing else should matter. Her age, her work, or more importantly her work with me . How long have you been on your own? How long have you lived in that new apartment? Did you just move in, or has it been a long time? It’s truly hard to tell.” Mulder stared at him and Skinner nodded. “You deserve happiness, Skinner.” 

He began to pace again, his anger at himself propelling him forward and keeping him moving. She had looked so beautiful, so happy, and he had acted like an idiot. Stopping, he put his head back and looked up at the night sky, taking a few breaths. 

“Skinner?” He turned and looked at Mulder, his hands clasped between his knees. “You’re a good man. You deserve to be happy, to care about someone. You have always put others first, cared for those who need you, Scully being high on that list. I can’t ever repay you for all you have done for her. She is here because of the sacrifices you made. Nothing I can say or do will ever measure up, but if I can tip the scales a little…” He smiled and nodded. “If you came here looking for my… permission? My support? You have it, one hundred percent.” 

Skinner cleared his throat as he nodded at Mulder and then looked around, needing to brush past this feeling. He took in all the decorations again and Mulder sitting on the porch smiling at him. 

“Jesus, you come out to the boonies and calm the hell down. Where was this guy years ago?” He shook his head, a small smile on his face. 

Mulder laughed and shrugged. “That guy, the old me… he’s like someone I don’t know at times. Full of piss and vinegar. Mad at the world and the way it worked at times, the evil lurking everywhere. It’s still there, you see it everyday, especially now… Jesus Christ. But, you focus on that… you fail to see the good. We can’t ignore the bad, but we can’t dwell within it either,” he said, shaking his head and smiling. 

“Those two women inside… it is impossible to stay in the darkness with the light they bring into my life.” Skinner stared and nodded. “You need someone, Skinner. You deserve someone like Rachel. Scully saw it and she’s right about most things, but don’t tell her I said so.” They both laughed and Skinner nodded. “Call her. Fix the little things before it becomes something bigger.” Again Skinner nodded, coming back to the porch and sitting beside him. He picked up his beer and finished it, both of them quiet. 

The front door creaked open and Dana stepped out, causing them both to turn and look at her. “Everything good?”

Skinner stood up and nodded, bringing his beer bottle with him. “Yeah, it’s good.” He smiled, walking up the stairs, intent on throwing it out on his way inside. 

“I can take it,” she said, reaching for it. 

“Nah, gotta get my jacket anyway,” he explained and she stepped out of the way, allowing him to enter. 

He threw out the bottle, grabbed his jacket, and stepped onto the porch, finding them speaking quietly, arms around one another. Dana laughed softly as she looked up and Mulder shrugged. She shook her head and pulled away from him, looking back at Skinner. 

Stepping over, she embraced him, sighing as she did. When she pulled back, he nodded, letting her know he understood what she was silently saying. 

“You take care of that little girl. Kid can’t be sick on her birthday,” he said gruffly, and she laughed with a nod. He nodded again and stepped over to Mulder, shaking his hand and clapping him on the back. 

“Thank you,” he said quietly and Mulder nodded. Letting go of his hand and starting down the stairs, he turned at the sound of Dana’s voice. 

“About that birthday you mentioned, you said you would be here. I expect that to change to we,” she said with an eyebrow raised. He stared and she raised both eyebrows. 

Nodding with a smile, he waved to them as he walked to the car. Driving away, he looked in the rearview mirror, he saw them again on the porch, his hands cradling her face, a smile on his as he looked at her. 

Shaking his head, he felt better now than he did on his way over, but not completely, and probably would not until he spoke to Rachel and apologized for being such a stupid asshole. 

____________

Friday was a short day for him, caught up on his work; for that week at least. He left, his mind on Rachel and calling her later, when he had an idea. Stopping at the grocery store, he first called Mulder and then texted Dana. 

Grinning at his plan, he got out of the car and went into the store. Grabbing a cart, he began to fill it with items from the list Dana had sent him. As he mentally checked off those he had added, he noticed she had sent another text and he smiled. 

Maggie Scully recipes never fail. 

Buying the items, he went home and began to prepare the things he would need for the evening. A blanket. A basket filled with utensils, napkins, and bottles of water. Once that was finished, he set about making the meal. 

Once it was nearly ready, he took a quick shower, finishing the meal when he was done. Packaging up the food, he grabbed the blanket and basket and walked out the door.

He arrived at Rachel’s office and got out, lifting open the back of the car, and setting down the blanket. He sat and waited, seeing the lights were still on inside the office, hoping he was not making a foolish decision.  

Forty five minutes later, he saw the lights turn off and the door opened. She glanced around, a look of surprise quickly crossing her face as he rose from the car. Sighing, she locked the door and then turned to face him, putting her keys in her pocket and crossing her arms. 

“I made a mistake. A huge one,” he said quietly and she nodded. “I’m sorry doesn’t quite cut it, but I truly am.” He stared, waiting, his heart pounding. 

She stepped a little closer and sighed. “Walter, I need you to be sure, because… I am. If this is just an apology, quite a few days late I might add, then I accept but I…” 

“No, it’s not just an apology, though you’re right that it’s late in coming. I was angry at myself. Angry that I let you leave and that a date I had been very much looking forward to ended the way it did. I was...” 

“I told you it wasn’t the first time it’s happened, but in the past I was able to overlook it, to be happy with what I had, for however long I had it. Now,” she sighed and shook her head. “I’m 43. I don’t have the time or energy for good enough . I deserve more and I won’t settle for less than what I want and deserve.” She stared at him and in that moment, he fell in love with her, as crazy as he knew it would sound to anyone. 

She was strong and determined and that drew him in immediately, but he also knew she was kind and sensitive. He saw it with Mulder at the wedding and most of all with Faith. He saw her holding her, staring at her as she did. The kindness on her face had pulled him to her, eventually getting up the nerve to ask her to dance. She was everything he wanted and had not known he was looking for. 

“I was stupid,” he said quietly and she stared, giving nothing away. “I didn’t know… It won’t be a problem, not for me. I have always pushed my personal life to the side, my work coming first. I didn’t mind, well, not completely.” He gave her a small smile and she sighed. “I don’t want that life anymore. Not since I met you.” 

She looked down and shook her head, crossing her arms tighter. When she looked up, there were tears in her eyes. She blinked them away and sniffled, sighing once more. 

“I’ve done the same, kept myself away from relationships, and I was okay with it. I don’t want that anymore either, but I need you to be completely sure-”

“I am.” 

“Did you… did you speak to him? Is that why?” He nodded and she nodded back. 

“He basically told me I was a goddamn idiot if I let anything stand in my way when it came to you,” he huffed and she exhaled a shaky laugh. 

“He’s a smart man.” 

“He is.” 

She stared, and then slowly began to smile as she walked over to him. 

“You’re sure?” she whispered.“I’ve never been more sure of anything,” he answered and she smiled wider, wiping at her eyes. He cleared his throat and sighed. “We didn’t finish our proper date and I know that this will hardly make up for it, but…” He gestured to the car and she raised her eyebrows, stepping closer to it. Seeing the blanket and basket, she looked at him. 

“An impromptu picnic? Who knew you were such a romantic.” She set her bag down on the curb, leaning it against a pillar, then turned to him, coming even closer. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he quickly wrapped his around her waist. “Thank you.” 

Stepping back, she looked at him and smiled. “Thank you for coming to your senses.” He laughed and nodded, letting her go as she moved back. She slipped off her shoes and sat on the blanket, her legs criss crossed. 

He smiled, reaching for the basket and opening it to take out the food he had prepared for them. Handing her the container, he was glad to feel that it was still warm. As she opened it, the mouth watering aroma of garlic made his stomach rumble, even as her eyes softened at the sight of it. 

“Fettuccine Alfredo,” she said, breathing in as he handed her the utensils. Sitting down beside her with his own serving of fettuccine, he took out his utensils and smiled at her. 

Nervously watching her take the first bite, he waited to eat his own before he saw how she enjoyed it. Her eyebrows shot up and she hummed. 

“Oh my God,” she exhaled and he smiled. “This is freaking amazing and also definitely not from The House. Where did you get it?” She swirled the noodles around her fork, taking another large bite. 

“I… uh … I made it.” 

“What?!” she yelled around the bite of pasta. 

“I did,” he laughed and she chewed it before taking another bite. 

“Oh my God,” she moaned again and he grinned. She rested her head on his shoulder as she chewed and hummed. “Delicious. And you wanted to eat at The House when you can cook food so well?”

“Well, this particular dish I’ve never made before today. But I can cook, I just don’t usually take the time when it’s just me,” he said. 

“Well, we’ll have to see what we can do about that,” she said, taking another bite, and sighing happily, his heart racing at the use of we . “This sauce is perfection. But, of course you can’t go wrong with butter, cheese, and garlic. God, I could eat Alfredo sauce with a spoon and be happy. So damn good.” He laughed and nodded his head; it was very good. 

They ate in silence, her head never leaving his shoulder. She told him about Australia and her mother getting them lost on the way to Uluru. Skinner laughed at the way she told the story with such animation and enthusiasm. 

“I mean it’s a huge rock,”she said, her hand finding his, their food now gone and the containers set aside. She interlocked their fingers as though this was not the first time this had happened. “How do you not know how to find a huge red rock?” She shook her head and he squeezed her hand. 

Quiet again, she sighed as she lifted her head from his shoulder and looked at him. “In case you were wondering, or are taking mental notes… as much as I do enjoy fancy dinners and getting dressed up from time to time, this… this I like even more.” 

He nodded with a smile and she smiled back, her eyes searching. He brought his right hand up to her face, the backs of his fingers caressing her cheek. She sighed and closed her eyes, lightly pushing into his hand. 

“Can I kiss you?” he whispered and she smiled, her eyes remaining closed. 

“That would be fine.” 

“Just fine?” he whispered with a smile, leaning in closer. 

“More than fine,” she whispered back before he pressed his lips to hers, his hand moving to her neck, holding on lightly. 

She tasted of their dinner; delicious. Their kiss deepened slightly, her tongue touching his softly, before she pulled back, out of breath and smiling. 

“Way more than fine,” she breathed, and he kissed her again, her arms sliding around his neck as she leaned back against the side of the car, pulling him with her. 

It could have been hours or days, his concept of time lost as he kissed her, listening to the sounds she made as he did. He wanted to hear more, know her in every possible way, but also came to the realization that they were currently in the back of his car, in front of her place of business. 

Pulling back, both of them breathless, he rested his forehead against hers lightly as he chuckled. She answered with a soft laugh of her own and a hum. 

“To think you almost missed out on this,” she said and he lifted his head, looking at her with a smile, her hands moving to the front of his chest. 

“What a horrible thing that would have been.” 

“Indeed,” she said with a grin and he kissed her once more before sitting up, pulling her along with him. 

“So,” she said, bumping his shoulder and he grinned.

“So…” 

“I should probably get going,” she smiled, standing up and putting on her shoes. Turning around, she stepped between his legs and bent to kiss him, her arms around his neck again. “Gotta leave you wanting more,” she whispered in his ear as she pulled back and stood up. 

“No worry there,” he growled and she grinned, raising her eyebrows. 

Stepping back, he stood up as she picked up her bag and turned to him again. Reaching for his hand, he took it and walked her to her car, unable to wipe the smile off of his face. 

Unlocking the door, she put her bag inside and shut it, turning around again and grabbing the lapels of his coat, pulling him in for another kiss.

Then she was in the car before he realized she had even opened the door, so dazed was he by her kiss. Rolling down her window as she started the car, she smiled and he leaned in for one last kiss.

“Thank you for dinner,” she said quietly when he stepped back, and he smiled with a nod. “You didn’t bring a dessert, but you will next time, right?” She grinned and he licked his lips, thinking her kiss was dessert enough. 

For now. 

“Oh, I brought dessert,” he said, smirking as she laughed and nodded her head. She put the car in gear and he stepped back, allowing her to leave. 

“Goodbye, Walter,” she said and he nodded, watching her drive away. He waited until she was gone before he punched the air in celebration. 

Grinning, he cleaned up their picnic and folded up the blanket. He threw out the water bottles and closed down the back of the car. Smiling as he sat down and turned on the car, he took out his phone and typed out a message. 

Change it to WE. 

Setting his phone beside him, he turned on the heater, letting the car warm up a bit. His phone beeped and he looked down to find a message from Dana. 

Already done. I told you, Maggie Scully recipes never fail. 

See you both in a couple of weeks. 

He grinned, setting his phone down, and driving home to an apartment that would hopefully not be empty and quiet for much longer. 

Chapter Text

“We’ll leave the stroller then, right? Rent a wagon like we did at the orchard?” Mulder asked, as he cleaned out the back of the car, making room for the pumpkins they were setting out to buy. 

“We don’t need it no, not unless you feel like rinsing it down before we come home. I’m sure it will be muddy, being a farm and also with the rain from the other day,” Scully said, as she carried Faith down the stairs, the mid afternoon sun warm, but thankfully not as hot as in recent days. 

“Okay, I’ll put it in the house,” he said, stealing a kiss from each of them as he carried the stroller into the house.

He jumped as the witch scared him on his way out, his fist flying up, as if ready to punch her. Some choice words were heard as he walked down the stairs, including the pain his testicles were in as he wiggled his hips. 

She laughed as she buckled Faith in her car seat, telling she would be passing the witch down to her one day, to use on her own chosen partner. 

“That witch will never last that long,” Mulder scoffed as he got in and buckled his seatbelt. “If it makes it through next week, I’d be surprised. She was looking a little rundown just now.” 

“Just now when she made your balls jump into your abdomen? When you almost punched it because it scared you?” Scully teased as she got in beside him and reached for her seatbelt. “Yeah, she seemed fine.” She smiled as she rolled her eyes and patted his leg while he rubbed at his stomach. She winked at him and they both laughed as they drove away. 

Thirty minutes later, they arrived at the Madison Family Pumpkin Patch. They got out and Scully grabbed the blanket from the back as Mulder unbuckled Faith and slipped the backpack onto his shoulders. Reaching for her hand, they walked through the entryway. 

It was not an overly huge location, but it still had a few fun things to offer. Face painting, bounce houses, a small petting zoo, and pony rides. Mulder led them to the newly built barn and walked inside.

“Oh, I see now how you ended up with everything you brought home,” she said, and he laughed. 

Inside the barn, it had the feel of a country store/gift shop. Pumpkins were everywhere, along with bushels of apples, gourds, and corn. Witches flew around the ceiling as cauldrons sat on high shelves billowing menacingly from the dry ice inside them. Black cats, scarecrows, and skeletons; all the decorations one would associate with Halloween. 

A large group of tables, laden with homemade candles, soaps and lotions, sat in the middle of the room. Scully picked up a candle and breathed in the scent of pumpkin spice. She smiled and knew she would want to look around more before they left. 

“Mr. Mulder!” She heard, and setting the candle down, she turned to see a young blonde woman coming toward them. She wore jeans, an orange and black striped long sleeve shirt under a black t-shirt. On it was a picture of the three witches from Hocus Pocus with the words Squad Goals written underneath in purple and green glittery letters. 

“Monika. It’s nice to see you again,” Mulder said with a smile. 

“Oh my goodness, would you look at this cutie,” Monika said, touching Faith’s leg and smiling at her. “She’s so beautiful.” Faith grinned at her and laughed. 

“Thank you,” Mulder said, smiling at Faith and gesturing to Scully. “My wife and I were wondering where we could rent one of the wagons you have outside?” 

“Oh, yes! I can help you with that, no problem,” Monika said with another smile and turned to lead them toward the register, telling them about the wagons. 

They paid for two, and in one of them, Scully laid out the blanket she had been carrying. Mulder set Faith down on top of it and added the backpack as well. The wagons had higher sides than the one at the orchard. Adding in the weight of the pumpkins, Scully knew they would be safe from any unwanted items being thrown from the wagon. 

Walking out to the field, Mulder pulled the wagon that held Faith and the backpack, and Scully pulled the empty one. The field was full of families and kids calling to each other when they found the perfect pumpkin. Mulder pulled the wagon further along, singing a song he made up about a little girl picking out her first pumpkin and how excited she must be. 

Scully smiled as she listened to him, the wagon bumping along behind her, the smell of earth all around. She remembered going to pumpkin farms when she was younger. Bill always tried to find the biggest and fattest one, onto which he was determined to carve the best face. 

Every year he would boast about all the plans he had and how no one would ever do as well as him. When the time came to carve the pumpkin, he would rush through his work, wanting it to be the best, but also wanting to finish first. Young Dana, however, was patient and took her time. She paid attention to the small details and concentrated on adding them to her pumpkin’s face. As a result, nearly every year, hers was voted the best. 

“Scully?” 

She shook her head and looked up to see Mulder staring at her, his eyebrows raised as he smiled. 

“I’m sorry, what?” 

“Where did you disappear to with that smile on your face?” he asked, tilting his head to the side. 

“I was thinking of how I used to beat Bill nearly every year in our family pumpkin carving contest. He always boasted that he would be the best and I made it my mission to beat him every year. Sometimes I did and others I didn’t, but when I did, it was one of the best feelings,” she said, shrugging with a smile. 

“God, I love you,” he smiled. Letting go of the wagon handle, he walked over and lifted her into his arms and kissed her. She threw her arms around his neck and laughed into his mouth. He set her down and kissed her again. “Kicking ass and going after those twice your size, that’s how I like my Scully.” She laughed and they continued on a little further before stopping and looking around. 

“Here’s good, yeah?” Mulder asked and she nodded. He picked up Faith and kissed her cheek, setting her down in the field of pumpkins. She stood and looked at the one to her right, then looked at Mulder, as he crouched down beside her. “Go on, honey, you can touch it.” 

Scully bent down and smiled, touching the pumpkin to show her it was okay to do it. “See, this one is a little bumpy, but also smooth in spots. Come on, love, come and feel it.” Faith stared at it and then at Scully, who smiled again. Stepping forward, she put her little hand out and touched the pumpkin, patting it as she smiled. 

Scully looked at Mulder and they smiled as Faith then pounded both hands on the pumpkin, shouting loudly as she did. Mulder stood up, kissing the top of Faith’s head, and then turned to look at the pumpkins around them. 

Scully followed Faith as she moved on and toddled between the rows of pumpkins. She heard Mulder behind them, adding the pumpkins he picked to the wagon. She took a deep breath and smiled, watching Faith stop and investigate whatever struck her fancy, her little boots plodding through the dirt. 

She was wearing a new outfit Scully had seen while looking for her birthday party decorations. It was a white long sleeved shirt with pumpkins on it and a brown apron type dress with two small orange jack o’ lantern pockets at the bottom. White tights with pumpkins and her little brown boots completed the outfit. She looked adorable and very much like the Halloween baby she was. 

“So this one is full, and I need to…” Mulder said behind her and then he paused. She turned to look at him, finding him staring at them with a small smile. He walked over, leaving the wagon and keeping his eyes on Faith. “I’m missing it aren’t I?” 

Scully looked at him and shook her head. “We’re good, she’s having fun,” she said, looking at Faith as she picked up a little pumpkin and held it close. She babbled as she looked at it and continued walking around. 

“Look at that, Scully, she found her pumpkin.” He put his arm around her shoulders and sighed. “I’m sorry. I got carried away with wanting to get what we… no, what I needed, and I’m missing this.” 

Faith set her pumpkin down and then squatted down to pick up a rock. Looking at it for a few seconds, she dropped it to pick up the pumpkin again, holding it close. Scully wrapped her arms around Mulder’s waist and rested her head on his chest. 

“She’s so beautiful. We did a good job,” he said and rubbed her back. She laughed and nodded. “Although, it would be hard to not do so, I mean, look at us.” Laughing again, she stepped back and he shrugged with a grin. 

“Let’s slow it down a bit though,” she said and he smiled. “We’re not in a rush and we have nowhere to be.” He nodded and kissed her before walking over to Faith and talking to her about her pumpkin. Taking out her phone, Scully snapped some pictures, smiling as they watched them together. 

Faith handed her pumpkin to Mulder and then stumbled a little, pitching forward. She caught herself before she went down all the way, her hands making contact with the dirt. 

Mulder looked at Scully and she shook her head, not wanting to raise a fuss if Faith did not. She stood up, gaining her balance as she looked at the dirt on her hands before showing them to Mulder. He laughed as he set her little pumpkin down. 

“Faith. Do it like this, honey.” He rubbed his hands together and then brushed them down the shirt he was wearing. 

“Fox Mulder!” Scully laughed. “Don’t teach her to do that.” She stepped over to Faith and helped her brush off her hands. “Your daddy does have a point, just not on the clothes. Well… I don’t care, it’s just clothes.” She wiped Faith’s hands on the upper thigh of her dark jeans, as she shook her head at Mulder. He shrugged with a grin, picking up Faith’s pumpkin and giving it back to her. She started to toddle away and he scooped her up. 

Walking back to the wagons, they picked a few more pumpkins, then distributed them between both wagons. Setting Faith in between a couple larger pumpkins, her smaller one on her lap, they made their way back toward the front, stopping and taking pictures along the way. 

Paying for the pumpkins, they brought them to the car and then returned the wagons to Monika. Looking at all the attractions offered, they opted for the petting zoo only. Stepping inside, Faith immediately gravitated toward the chickens running around. She could never get close enough, as they flapped their wings to run from her when she toddled around them. 

A little goat came close to her and stopped, staring at Faith. She slowed down and stopped, staring at it. Reaching out, she gently touched its back, looking at its face and smiling, as Scully captured it all on video. 

“That is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Mulder said, close to her ear, as they watched the goat and Faith walking around together, inseparable for the duration of time they visited the petting zoo. 

Making one last stop in the barn to buy some candles and homemade soap, they said goodbye to Monika, who gave Faith a pumpkin pinwheel and gushed over her again. Stopping at a diner, they picked up an early dinner and brought it home.

After they ate, they all went outside and brought the pumpkins from the car and placed them on the porch. Moving them to different spots, debating where each one would look best, they created their own mini pumpkin patch. 

As much as she loved them all, Faith was completely taken with her own little pumpkin. She carried it as she walked back and forth across the porch, putting it down as she touched the bales of hay, the witch’s cauldron, the black cats, but always picked it up again before she moved to the next thing. Scully smiled as she sat down to talk to her about the pumpkin. 

“I’m thinking she might not be able to let this go at bedtime,” Scully said to Mulder as Faith climbed in her lap, the pumpkin in her hands. She laid her head on Scully’s shoulder, pointing to her pumpkin as she looked up at her. “Yes, it’s a pumpkin, my love. It’s orange, small, and has a tiny stem. Pumpkin.” 

“Pah,” Faith said, touching it and then looking at her again. “Pah.” 

“That’s right, pah-umpkin. Such a smart girl. You get that from me you know,” she said, as she held her tightly, sighing with happiness. “The obsession with items, well now that’s all your daddy.” She looked up at Mulder as he carried the last pumpkin to the porch and set it down. 

“I’d argue, but it would be pointless,” he said with a smile. 

“It would,” she agreed, as he sat down beside them. 

“What’s this, Faith? What is it?” he asked, pointing to the pumpkin. She stared at it and then at him. He smiled and stroked her face. “What do you have there? A pah-umpkin. Pumpkin.” 

“Pah,” she said happily. 

“Yeah, it’s a pah,” he said, grinning and leaning close to kiss her head. They sat together on the porch, watching the sun fade from the sky and the first stars make their presence known. 

Mulder took Faith and her pumpkin from Scully and said he would take her inside. She nodded, saying she would be in soon, she just wanted a few more minutes. He smiled and kissed her forehead as he stood up and they went inside. 

She sighed as she looked around the porch, at all the decorations and pumpkins that covered it. Smiling, she shook her head at how different it looked and how much she truly did love it. 

Her father was not big on decorations, not overdone anyway, but Halloween was generally just the jack o’ lanterns, with a scarecrow or witch thrown in sometimes. This though, she shook her head again with a smile, this was just the beginning. As Faith got older, she knew it would be more and more decorations. She knew if Faith asked for something, Mulder would have a hard time saying no and would not leave the store without the shiny objects that had gained both of their attention.

Smiling, she closed her eyes, and took a few deep breaths, enjoying the cool evening air. Opening her eyes, she stood up and the witch caught her eye. She laughed softly at the fun she had had with it, but then she heard Faith laughing as Mulder read her a book, speaking in a silly, growly voice. 

Seeing Mulder be the caring and wonderful father she always knew he would be, made her ache with desire. He had that effect on her regardless, but it was different with him as a father, making her crave him even more. She glanced at the door and made sure he was not coming outside, knowing if she hurried, her surprise plan could work. 

Quickly, she unplugged the witch and carried it to the shed, the moon providing enough light to see her way along the driveway. Once in the shed, she turned the light on and found the empty plastic bin set aside for the witch. Opening the lid, she put the witch in, thanking her for the fun and many laughs. She put the lid on and slid the bin back on the shelf. Turning the light off, she hurried to the porch, catching her breath before opening the door. 

Mulder and Faith were on the floor, playing with the wooden puzzles she was most interested in at the moment. Her little pumpkin sat right beside her, and Scully smiled at the sight of it. 

“What’s going on in here?” she asked, as she closed the door behind her. 

“Just playing with our puzzles. Hey, watch this. Faith, where is your pumpkin?” She stopped trying to put the puzzle piece in and looked to her left, touching the pumpkin. 

“Pah,” she said, then put the puzzle piece away. Mulder looked up at Scully and she grinned. She joined them on the floor, playing and laughing for a little while longer. 

Mulder offered to take Faith up to bathe her and put her to bed. Scully agreed, kissing her goodnight, the pumpkin held tightly in her little hands. 

“Mulder, don’t let her trick you into putting that pumpkin in her bed,” she said, knowing full well he would not be able to deny Faith something so small. She raised her eyebrows at him and he shook his head as he walked toward the stairs. 

“You know I can’t promise that, Scully,” he said, as he started up the steps. She laughed and shook her head. Turning around, she cleaned up the puzzles and the other things from the floor. 

She heard the water running upstairs as she cleaned up and she paused, listening. Mulder’s footsteps walked back and forth as he got her ready for the bath, gathering the items he would need. The water shut off and then splashing and screaming was heard and she smiled. Faith loved the water and bath time was always fun for her. Moving once again, she cleaned off the dining room table, washed the few dishes in the sink, and then took out the trash. 

Everything done, she decided to have a glass of wine while she waited for Mulder to come back downstairs and discover the surprise she had for him. Hiding her phone under a napkin, she sat at the table and drank her wine, her desire for him growing. 

Hearing him coming down the stairs, she stood up quickly, double checked her phone was hidden, and turned around, pretending to be busy doing something. 

“Oh hon, would you mind grabbing my phone? I think I left it on the porch,” she asked, keeping her back to him so he did not see her smile. He sighed, mumbling something about girding his loins and she pursed her lips together to keep from laughing. 

The door opened and as he stepped out, she turned around. Grabbing her phone, she stepped into the living room and waited for him to come back, knowing it would not be long. The door swung open and he walked in, his eyes lit up and a huge smile on his face. 

“Oh, look at that,” she said with a grin, showing him the phone in her hand. “My phone was here the whole time. Huh…” Licking her lips, she put it in her back pocket and smiled at him. Closing the door, he walked toward her like a predator stalking its prey, causing her heart rate to increase, knowing what was to come. 

And come again, she thought with a grin as he stood in front of her. 

“Standard collection of a reward?” he asked, the timbre of his voice causing her to shiver. 

“Oh, there is never anything standard about that, Mulder. Not ever,” she said, shaking her head.

“You got that right,” he said, reaching out and hooking his fingers in the belt loops of her jeans. “I thank you for taking away the witch. All of me thanks you.” He pulled her close and she felt his thanks. She smirked and stepped back, grabbing his hand. 

“Oh, you will thank me,” she said and pulled him to the stairs. “A few times.” He laughed and they hurried to the bedroom. 

Clothes were scattered, springs creaked as bodies fell heavily onto the bed, cries and gasps filled the room, before it was silent once more, only heavy breathing heard as they lay entwined together. 

“Thank you,” Mulder whispered, laying heavily on top of her, his head at her breast and arms wrapped around her. 

“Thank you,” she breathed, her own body heavy, humming from the pleasure he brought to it, so many times. She ran her fingers through his hair, up and down his back, her legs wrapped around him, loving the feel of him on her this way. “I should have unplugged that witch long ago.” He laughed and she smiled. 

“I tried to tell you,” he murmured, nuzzling into her. 

“But, it’s just so funny…” she sighed, and he laughed again. She smiled and closed her eyes, happy and content. “Mulder… if I were to get up and go check on Faith, would I find a small pumpkin in her bed?” He stiffened and then relaxed. “Mulder?” 

He began to snore unconvincingly and she put her head back and laughed; his answering chuckle all the answer she needed. 

 

Chapter Text

Mulder lay in bed, midnight fast approaching as he looked up at the ceiling, memories of last year playing in his head like a movie; his worry and fear for both Scully and the baby weighing heavy on him with each contraction. He had tried not to show it, but he knew she had seen his panic face many times that night. 

The room filling with nurses, Elise, and equipment had been overwhelming, but he had kept his focus on Scully, her welfare his only concern. Watching her working so hard to bring their baby into this world had made him love her more than ever. She was amazing and he would never be able to properly express it to her. 

Elise had lain their baby on her chest, and the second miracle person they had created came into this world. The thought of the last time, when he had not been there for that moment, had nearly dropped him to his knees. She was so small. So perfect. He sighed as Scully shifted in the bed beside him. 

“Are you thinking of it, too?” she asked quietly and he chuckled softly. She turned over and wrapped her arm around his waist with a sigh. They were quiet, each with their own thoughts when she shook her head against his shoulder. 

“It’s been a year, Mulder. How is that possible?” He pulled her close and hummed. “Last year I was pushing her out of my body. Goddamn, that hurt like hell. I will never be able to adequately describe to you just how much.” 

“Would the epidural-” 

“No,” she said firmly. He knew it was still a touchy subject, even though they had not really discussed it. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to snap, especially tonight, I just… I had my reasons and…” 

“Scully, I understand, as I did then, I just didn’t want you to be hurting…” She laughed and shook her head again. 

“I would have had pain regardless, Mulder. The epidural helps, yes, but it doesn’t take it away completely,” she said, moving her hand on his chest and putting her chin on top of it. “I pushed a human out of my vagina, Mulder, it was going to hurt like hell no matter what.” 

“Scully…” he warned, knowing she knew how he felt about the word vagina. She giggled and he tickled her side, making her squirm before she settled once more, and they were quiet for a bit. 

“She was so small,” she whispered and he hummed. 

“She was perfect,” he agreed and she sighed in agreement. “You know, for days after, I could smell the scent of the room on me. My hands, my clothes, even though we were here and I had showered multiple times, I could still smell it. It was very strange.” 

She nodded against his chest and sighed again. “I was so tired, and, God, so emotional. Do you remember that?” He stayed quiet, not sure how to answer that question. She moved her arm and then pinched his side causing him to jump. 

“I do remember, Scully, yes. But, you said it yourself, you’d been through a lot; it was to be expected.” He rubbed her arm as she held him tighter. 

“Those days seem so long ago, and yet like yesterday,” she said quietly and he nodded. “She was like a lump, an adorable lump, but still… She’s so beautiful, smart, and amazing, Mulder. So amazing.” 

“She is,” he agreed, and they both fell silent again. He shook his head and laughed softly, his fingers running across her arm. 

“What?” 

“I was thinking about how this house used to be, even when it was the two of us here; it was too quiet, Scully. Far too quiet. Then it was just me and…” He paused and took a deep breath, her arm tightening around him. “It was even quieter… and empty. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so lonely. But now… there is a soft yellow towel with ducks on it hanging in our bathroom. There’s a container of toys in the corner of the tub, toys and puzzles downstairs, and little clothes mixed in with our laundry. It’s not quiet here anymore, Scully, it’s alive and happy.” She nodded against his chest and he heard her breath catch and knew she was crying. “I was so worried last year. For you and the baby. So many things could have gone wrong, and even with all the positive checkups, I was still worried. But, we have been given such a gift in that little girl. She is everything we should have had and everything we deserve. Especially you, Scully.” 

Turning her face into his chest, he held her close as she cried into his chest. He stroked her hair, remembering the worry he had felt until the moment Faith was placed upon Scully’s chest. As soon as he saw her, the child they had created against all odds, he knew they would be okay. 

His phone beeped with the quiet alarm he had set earlier that evening and he smiled. Letting go of her, he reached for it and silenced the trilling sound, seeing the time: 12:13. Holding her tightly, he closed his eyes and kissed her head. 

“Happy second Mother's Day ,” he whispered, and she cried harder, whispering Happy Father’s Day to him as they held one another close, sharing the pain of the past and hope for the future. 

__________ 

He woke up to hair in his face, tickling his nose. Pulling back, he sniffed and wiped at his face, hearing Scully groan as he did. She moved and he wiped at his nose again. He opened his eyes and saw very early morning sunlight streaming through the windows. 

“Hmm, Mulder,” Scully murmured and he smiled. As he was turning toward her, hoping to sleep a little longer, he heard Faith and he grinned, his plans changing. 

Kissing Scully on the head, he threw the blankets back and got out of bed. He could hear her laughing as he got to the door and he turned around. 

“Bit excited are we?” she asked, as she sat up and smiled at him. 

“It’s her birthday, Scully. It’s Halloween, Scully,” he said and opened the door, her laughter following behind. 

Opening Faith’s door, he stepped inside and saw she was sitting in her crib, holding her pumpkin in her lap. Hearing him, she turned her head and grinned, standing to her feet and reaching for him, her pumpkin forgotten. 

“My girl,” he said happily, and picked her up into his arms. “I know you don’t understand this, but it’s your birthday and it is going to be a fantastic day.” He twirled her around and she laughed. 

“Mama!” she yelled, and he turned to see Scully standing in the doorway, smiling at them. She walked over and took Faith from him, holding her close and telling her happy birthday, kissing her cheeks and sighing as she looked at her. 

“I love you, my sweet girl. Happy birthday. You are everything I could have ever wanted.” She kissed her all over her face, making her giggle, before she handed her back to Mulder. “I’m going to get breakfast ready, you change her and come down.” He nodded and she kissed Faith once more before walking down the stairs. 

He changed her, telling her about what they were going to do that day, and the people who would be over later. “Faith Mulder, you’re in for a fun day.” 

“Pah.” She pointed at the crib and he nodded, grabbing her pumpkin. He hoped Scully’s plan to exchange the real one for the stuffed one they bought would be successful, as hers was beginning to show signs of degrading. 

“I think we may have some tears tonight, but fingers crossed,” he said to himself, carrying them both downstairs, ready to celebrate the day. 

He walked through the living room and stopped in the kitchen, surprised at what Scully had done in the past few minutes. A plastic tablecloth with balloons covering it was on the table. A lone mylar balloon, a golden star, sat in the middle of the table. At Faith’s place sat a white happy birthday plate with confetti and balloons on it. There were cut strawberries waiting to be eaten and he could smell pancakes cooking. Looking at all of it, he grinned as he met her eyes. 

She shrugged and smiled. “I feel as though until she has a say, we don’t need Halloween decorations for everything. It’s her birthday and, yes, Halloween, but…” She shrugged again and he nodded, stepping closer to her. 

“That’s why you’re the smart one, and I’m just the eye candy,” he said, setting the pumpkin down and leaning in for a kiss. 

“Shut up and flip the pancakes,” she said with a smile, kissing him again, then taking Faith and putting her in her chair and pushing the new plate close to her. 

Together they got breakfast on the table: pancakes, strawberries, and applesauce made from apples they picked at the orchard, along with coffee and a combination of milk and breast milk for Faith. She looked at it strangely, but then continued drinking it. 

After they ate, Faith was given her birthday gifts: a couple of new books, puzzles, a stuffed horse and the pumpkin, her other secretly taken from her, hoping to avoid any confusion. 

“Ha,” she said, holding the horse, then setting it down and crawling over to pick up the pumpkin. “Pah.” She held the pumpkin, looking at it confusedly, and then around the room. 

Mulder looked at Scully and they waited, hoping she would be fooled by the impostor pumpkin. Setting it down, she moved to the new puzzles and books, and they breathed a sigh of relief. 

“She’s fine for now, but come nap time,” Scully warned and he nodded, thinking the same thing. 

They played and cleaned up until said nap time and surprisingly, she went down without a problem, taking both the horse and the stuffed pumpkin with her. Mulder smiled and closed her door, stepping into their bedroom. He changed his clothes and walked down the stairs, planning to shower later. 

“Okay, I’m going to go get the stuff for the party. If you think of anything else we need, call me,” he said, kissing her and grabbing his car keys. She nodded as she took out the vacuum. 

Closing the front door, he smiled at the pumpkin on the porch, thinking of last night when they had cut them open and scooped out the insides. Faith had been inquisitive about the seeds and the guts of the pumpkin, but once she had touched them, she had pulled her hands away, not wanting to do it again. 

She had liked all the different faces that were created by the carvings and had stared at them for a long time, touching and marveling at their mouths, eyes, and noses. They had let her explore as long as she wanted and then added candles to them and put them on the porch. Lighting them, they had turned off the porch lights and looked at them from the lawn. Faith had stared and then clapped her hands, excited by them even more when they were lit up from the inside. 

He smiled as he got in the car and looked back at the porch, happy with the decorations and looking forward to the day. Then he drove away, heading out to pick up the food and party items they had ordered. He and Scully were not the type who had a lot of friends, but there would be a small group coming over to celebrate later this afternoon, and he knew they would all enjoy it. 

The car was nearly full when he pulled up to the house almost two hours later. Food, drinks, a cake, table coverings, a couple of plastic buckets, bags of ice, and a present he had ordered as a surprise for Scully. 

Walking into the house, his arms full of party trays, he saw Faith in her chair, eating her lunch, the horse and pumpkin on the table in front of her. 

“My love,” he said, setting the food down and kissing Faith’s head. Turning to Scully, he kissed her cheek and smacked her ass, sidestepping her retaliatory smack, and went to get the other items from the car. 

Once everything was inside, put away, and Faith was occupied, he tugged on Scully’s hand, getting her attention. “I have something for you.” 

“For me?” 

“Mmm-hmm. But you have to find it. It’s somewhere on my body,” he said, with a wiggle of his eyebrows. 

“Mulder…” 

“Come on, you can find it.” He put her hand on his chest. “Just pat me down, Agent Scully.” She smiled and did as he asked, although it was far more intimate than he had ever seen her do it before. 

She ran her hands slowly down his chest and back simultaneously, then down his legs, groped his ass and then knelt in front of him, keeping her eyes on his as she did. 

“Okay, this was a mistake,” he said, pulling her to her feet with a growl, arousal coursing through his veins. She laughed and raised her hands in celebration. “God, seriously woman.” He reached into his jeans pocket, shaking his head and taking out the small box inside. He handed it to her with a look. “You had to have felt that it was there.” 

“Oh I did,” she said, smiling and raising her eyebrows. “But, it’s always good to be thorough.” She held the box in her hands and waited, knowing that his gifts always held a story. 

He glanced at Faith and saw her playing with her blocks and her books. He smiled and looked back at Scully, her eyes shining, head tilted. 

“I wanted to do something for you, for her birthday. Well, for all of us really,” he said and she nodded, a smile on her lips. “You might think it’s goofy, but…” He shrugged and she laughed. 

“Last year we walked around the yard, timing your contractions. We walked a lot, Scully. A lot a lot,” he smiled, and rubbed his hands up and down her arms. “I was so worried, and as I’m not one for prayer, I did what I’ve done many times in the past. As the sun went down and the stars come out, I made a wish.” He stared at her and she smiled, glancing over at Faith before looking back at him. “I made a wish and since then, I’ve thought of that as her star. Our star.” He looked at Faith and then pointed to the lone balloon on the table. “I didn’t know you’d gotten that, but it seems fitting as I got you that.” He pointed to the box in her hands and she looked down, then up at him again. 

“Can I open it now?” 

“Yes.” She smiled and opened the box as he glanced quickly at Faith once more. 

“Oh, Mulder, it’s beautiful.” She sighed and took the thin gold bracelet from the box and held it, staring at the small star set within. He helped her put it on and she looked at it again, then up at him. She pulled him close, kissing him as she stepped back. Holding his face in her hands, she smiled and shook her head. “It’s not silly or goofy, Mulder. I love it, thank you.” He nodded, happy she liked it. 

“Dada.” He heard, as he felt a tug on his pants. Looking down, he saw Faith pulling herself up, and raising her arms. He lifted her up, smiling and kissing her cheeks. “Mama.” Scully smiled as she put her arms around Mulder, the three of them standing in an embrace. Faith yawned and rubbed her eyes, a sure sign another nap was needed. 

“Good, she can go down a bit early and we can finish up with the preparations,” Scully said, taking her and kissing her, then walking over to grab the horse and the pumpkin. “What time did Skinner say he would be here?” 

“1:30. Which it is right now,” he said, looking at his watch, and hearing a car pull up.  “And oh, would you listen to that? It sounds like he’s here. God, he is so punctual it borders on disgusting.” 

“Yes, how awful for someone to arrive at the agreed upon time,” she said, rolling her eyes. 

“Right? You get it.” She shook her head as she walked past him, chuckling as she did. 

“Go help him, I’ll be down in a few minutes.” He nodded and stepped outside, finding Skinner and Rachel standing by the back of the car. Mulder grinned as he walked down the stairs, happy to see them together. 

“Hey,” he said, as he got closer and Skinner turned to him, reaching out to shake his hand. “Rachel, it’s great to see you.” He stepped closer and grasped her hand, not wanting to make her uncomfortable. 

“Thank you,” she said with a grin. “I brought some homemade salsa; should I put it inside?” 

“Yeah go ahead. Scully should be down soon; she’s putting Faith down for a nap.” 

“A nap? Now? What the hell? Every time I come over she’s sleeping,” Skinner grumbled and shook his head. 

“She won’t sleep long and the party doesn’t start until 3-3:30 anyway. Kinda have to work around a baby’s schedule. Trust me, she’s very cute, but not without a nap.” They all laughed and Rachel went inside as they unloaded the long folding tables and chairs Skinner had brought over. 

Mulder watched him as they moved the spooky flamingos and set up the tables and chairs in the grass. Clearing his throat, he raised his eyebrows at Skinner who smiled and nodded. Mulder nodded back and they silently continued their work, Mulder clapping him on the back when he stood closer. 

One table was set up on the porch to hold the food. Mulder also set out a little table and a chair by the porch swing. He had purchased it online for Faith to use eventually, but today it would be used by Raina. Figuring she might be bored at a party with adults and babies, he set out a box of arts and crafts supplies: markers, crayons, paper, coloring books, kid scissors, and glue sticks. He added a clipboard as well to secure her paper and keep it from blowing across the lawn. 

Skinner set out the large plastic buckets and then went inside to get the drinks: beer, water, and soda. Mulder went in to grab the ice and saw Scully and Rachel sitting at the dining room table, chatting and having a cup of tea. 

“Oh, so this is what’s going on in here while we are busy working outside?” he teased, winking at them, and then opening the freezer to grab the ice. 

“Yes, it’s what’s happening,” Scully grinned and he nodded, walking out the door and dumping the ice in the buckets. 

Coming back inside to throw out the empty bags, he found Rachel alone, walking around the living room, her cup of tea in her hand. Throwing out the bags, he came up beside her and smiled as she stared at his I Want To Believe poster. 

“So, do you want to believe?” she asked, gesturing to the poster with a smile. He grinned and nodded. Staring at her, he shook his head. 

“I can’t think of anyone better for him than you,” he said quietly, and she smiled, looking down. 

“Thank you,” she said, looking up at him again. “Whatever you said to him, it helped.” 

“Well, you know I do like to talk,” he shrugged with a grin, and she laughed. He put out his hand and she took it, squeezing it before letting go and sighing. He nodded and turned around, grabbed the large wicker laundry basket by the door, and walked outside.

He took the quilts out of the basket and spread them in the grass. He placed the toys inside the basket, leaving the basket in the middle to weigh down the blankets. Thinking it might not be heavy enough, he turned to find something else and saw Skinner already bringing over two pumpkins. He laid them on opposite corners of the blankets and then brought over two more, doing the same to the other corners. 

“Good thinking,” Mulder said, and Skinner nodded. Glancing at his watch, he saw it was almost 2:15. Looking up, he saw a car pulling up and then Louise stepping out. 

She smiled as he walked over and kissed her cheek in greeting. “Hello, Fox, it’s nice to see you again. I have some things to take inside; could you help me?” He nodded and stepped to the passenger side of the car. Two gift bags were in the back and a collapsible tote holding a wonderful smelling dish and what looked like a lemon pie. 

Pausing before he picked them up, he was hit with the memory of the many times he had done the same when Mrs. Scully had come to visit, checking on him and making sure he was okay. Opening the door of her car, he knew he would always find a delicious meal or a favorite dessert. 

“Are you all right, Fox?” He closed his eyes, hearing her voice, even though he knew it was Louise. 

“Yeah,” he said, a catch in his voice. “Yes, I’m okay.” He blinked back the sudden tears in his eyes, wiping at them quickly, then he leaned in to pick up the gift bags. The food was next and he smiled, the memories washing over him, as he turned around and smiled at her. 

“That’s for later tonight. The pie is one of Maggie’s recipes. She mentioned that you liked her lemon pie and I thought it would be a nice gesture for today. Did I overstep?” She looked concerned and he smiled, kissing her cheek again. 

“Not at all. Thank you, Louise,” he said and she squeezed his forearm. They walked inside and he dropped off the food. He smiled as he watched Scully laughing as she spoke to Rachel. 

He pointed upward, and she nodded and smiled, embracing Louise as she did. Running upstairs, he went into the bathroom and took a quick shower, changing into a fresh pair of jeans and a white t-shirt under a black long sleeved shirt. He fixed his hair, put on socks and shoes, and went downstairs. 

Scully, Louise, and Rachel were laughing and getting the food ready, so he continued outside, not wanting to interrupt. Skinner was sitting on the porch, drinking a beer. Mulder grabbed one from the bucket and opened it as he sat down. Clinking their bottles together, they sat together quietly. 

A car pulled up and they both turned at the sound. Mulder stood, handing his bottle to Skinner and went to greet Elise, Tyler, and Raina. As usual, Raina was a bit shy when she first saw him, sticking to her parents, but keeping her eyes on him. 

“So happy you all could make it. Would you like a drink? There’s beer, soda, water. Scully… Dana is inside getting the food ready,” he said and Elise nodded. 

“Perfect, I have something to make and I’m going to need some people to taste it,” Elise said with a grin, taking a bag out of the car that looked to be full of bottles. He raised his eyebrows at her and she laughed. “This is your first birthday party. This party is specifically for the adults. You made it through the first year: the sleepless nights, the crying, dirty diapers, arguments, and everything in between. You survived. That calls for a drink and I don’t mean water.” He laughed as she walked past him, the bottles clinking as she did. 

Tyler gave Mulder a look and they both laughed. He led him and Raina to the porch, and he accepted the offered beer while Raina looked at all the decorations, and then looked at the little table set up for her and then at Mulder. 

“Could you draw me a Halloween picture?” he asked her, and she nodded happily as she sat down to do it. He smiled at her and then joined Skinner and Tyler on the steps. 

Another car pulled up and Alan and Ryan came up, carrying a small black rocking horse with a pink bow around its neck. Saying hello, they took the horse inside and came out a few minutes later with cups full of a purple drink, no doubt what Elise had needed to make. 

Louise came out with a tray of food and put it on the table. “Fox, Dana was asking for you,” she said with a smile. “She’s upstairs.” He nodded and followed her inside and then headed up the stairs. Outside of Faith’s room, he heard Scully speaking to her and he stood and listened. 

“A year ago, my love. A year ago you came into this world and made your daddy and me so happy. You were born on Halloween, which right now means nothing to you, but your daddy could not be more pleased with that fact. His little spooky girl.” He smiled as she grew quiet. He waited, not wanting to interrupt if she had more to say. “Faith… I prayed for you for years. Prayed and nothing happened for so long. My own faith was tested… so many times, but I always had hope. You were not planned, not even thought of as a possibility, but you are exactly who I waited and prayed for, my sweet girl. I love you so much, Faith Mulder.”

He closed his eyes and heard the creak of the rocking chair as he swallowed down the sudden lump in his throat. Hearing Scully humming, he knew they were no doubt having some extra cuddle time. He quietly pushed the door open and stepped inside, not wanting to disturb them too much. 

Scully looked at him, Faith laying on her shoulder, and she smiled, tears in her eyes. He stared at her, silently asking if she was okay. She nodded and he smiled, bending to kiss her forehead, and rubbed Faith’s back. 

“Nearly everyone is here,” he said quietly and Faith lifted her head at the sound of his voice. She smiled and he took in her sleepy pink cheeks and smiled back. “Do you need to shower? I can get her ready.” 

“Okay. I would like a quick shower.” She handed Faith over and he stood up, holding her close and kissing her head. “Her clothes are on the changing table.” She stood up and he stopped her from leaving with a hand on her shoulder. She nodded with a smile as she looked at him and he knew she was okay. 

“All right, I’ll get her ready and you go shower and change. This party is about to begin.” Scully laughed and walked out of the room, leaving them alone, and staring at one another.“Your mama is amazing, you know that. And she’s absolutely right; you are exactly who we’ve been waiting for, my Squatchy.” She smiled and he kissed her warm cheeks. 

Taking her to the changing table, he undressed her and changed her diaper. He smiled as he looked at the outfit Scully had chosen for her. Like the birthday decorations this morning, it was a compromise type outfit; birthday and Halloween blended together. A black long sleeved onesie with a golden pumpkin, the word one written within it, in black fancy lettering. Black leggings and a little golden skirt of tulle. It was simple, but very cute. 

Smiling at her when she was dressed, he kissed her again, adding a simple golden headband, sure it would not last too long, but taking a chance it might. 

“Now, let’s go show mama how damn cute you are and then we’ll go downstairs,” he said, picking her up and walking into the bedroom. Scully exclaimed over her as she toddled into the bathroom. 

“My little Halloween baby, you are too cute,” she said, squatting down in her towel to look at her closer. “There are little shoes by the door she can wear. I’ll be down in a few minutes.” 

“Okay, we’ll see you down there. Come on, Faithy, let’s go greet your guests.” He picked her up and they went downstairs. 

All the women exclaimed over her and Louise was the first to reach him, taking her from him. The decibel level of their adulation caused his eyes to widen and feel the need to flee instantly. They crowded around her and his eyes found Faith’s, as wide as his own and staring straight at him. In that second, he felt a connection to her he had never felt before, and he was determined to stay no matter how loudly they gushed over her. 

“Oh, look at your shirt! A little golden pumpkin!” Louise said, touching Faith’s chest. She looked at Louise and then down to the hand touching her.

“Pah!” Faith said and they all fairly squealed. She smiled at them and looked down. “Pah!” He smiled and knew it would be okay to leave, she had blown past her worry, and besides, Scully would be down soon. 

Stepping back outside, he saw Raina drawing at the table, and Skinner, Tyler, Alan, and Ryan talking and laughing about something, and he smiled. Stopping by Raina, he knelt down and admired her drawings, causing her to smile shyly. 

Walking down the stairs, he saw the last car pull up and smiled as he passed by the group of men and went to help unload the car and its passengers. 

As he walked up, Cassidy got out and smiled at him. She had been in the baby yoga class with Scully, and had come out to the house a few times for dinner. She was young and alone, her husband currently deployed overseas, and they had both taken an instant liking to her. 

The first time she was over she had cried through most of her visit. Scully had told him the baby yoga class was emotional, but seeing her crying in their living room, and Scully teary eyed beside her, he had felt very unsure of what to do or how to help. 

Deciding it would be best to give them space, he had taken both babies outside and sat with them on the porch swing, telling them about the stars, constellations, and comets. Both of them had seemed to listen intently, sitting quiet until Scully and Cassidy came to find them. 

After that first visit, no more tears had been shed, and their dinners were much happier. Mulder had enjoyed the company and her little boy was very cute. He was glad they were able to make it to the party today. 

“Sorry I’m a bit late,” Cassidy said with a smile, as he greeted her with an embrace. “Jacob took a longer nap than I anticipated and I didn’t want to wake him.” 

“Of course not, and you’re not late,” he assured her. “I’ll get Jacob and the bags, you head on in, Dana is inside with Faith, or she should be.” 

“Thank you, but I can help. At least let me grab the diaper bag. It always feels heavier than he does,” Cassidy laughed. 

“Okay,” he said, opening up the back door and smiling at Jacob as he took him from his car seat. “Hey, big guy, look at you, you’re growing so fast. Your daddy will be so happy when he sees you.” Turning around, he smiled at Cassidy. “When is Sean coming home?” 

“Two weeks,” she beamed. “I can’t wait to see him. I’ve missed him so much.” 

“I know the feeling,” he said, glancing up and seeing Scully walking outside with Faith and Rachel. He smiled as she looked over and waved at them. Shifting Jacob, he grabbed the gift bags, while Cassidy picked up the diaper bag and closed the door. “We’ll have to figure out an evening to have you both over. I’d like to meet Sean.” She smiled and nodded as they walked across the grass. 

Introductions were made and drinks replenished. The babies were fussed over and played with as they sat and played on the large quilts. The food was brought out and plates were filled, everyone sitting down to eat, laughing as they watched the children play and stories that were shared. 

Raina drifted back and forth between coloring at the porch table and playing with the babies, smiling and touching their faces. She was very gentle and watching her made him smile. He looked at Elise and saw her watching Raina as well, a small smile on her face, her hand subconsciously falling to her stomach. He raised his eyebrows and then felt Scully’s hand on his knee. 

“Stop staring, you’re going to make her uncomfortable,” she whispered, leaning close to him. He looked at her and she nodded slightly, the same secret smile on her face. He grinned and nodded, happy to know Raina would soon be have a sibling to mother; she was a natural. 

Talk soon turned to labor and delivery, and Skinner shook his head, but seeing Rachel’s smile, he crossed his arms and listened. Alan and Ryan told a story of a pregnant woman when they were with Doctors Without Borders. 

“We were out making rounds to check on people, when this kid comes running to us all out of breath,” Alan said, taking a drink of the one Elise had made. “He said his mom was hurt and she was crying a lot. We rushed over and, sweet Jesus, this woman was on a dirt floor, blood everywhere. We almost lost her as she pushed the baby out, and I have never been more scared in my life. Her son was right beside her and the thought that he and the baby would be motherless was like a weight in my chest.” He paused for another drink and no one spoke. “She made it, the baby, too, but it was quite possibly the most traumatic situation I have ever been in.” It was silent, when he stopped and then Skinner shook his head. 

“Jesus Christ, can we vote for not telling that kind of story? I mean it was a good outcome, but goddamn, man.” He scoffed and Alan laughed, shaking his head. 

“Okay, no more endorsements for vasectomies, I promise,” Alan said and they all laughed. 

Safer topics were discussed: feedings, sleep schedules, getting through the first year, and then much to Skinner’s horror; a lively discussion about pooping horror stories. He made to get up and leave, Rachel pulling him back with wide eyes, and they all promised to stop, laughing as they did. 

A toast was made to Mulder and Scully and they all clinked their glasses together. Mulder glanced over at Cassidy and Ryan on the blanket with Jacob and Faith, and he smiled. Scully leaned her head back onto his shoulder, her hand again squeezing his knee, and they both sighed. 

“Since we’re discussing first years and raising our glasses,” Alan said, rising from his chair. Ryan left the blanket to stand beside him, reaching for his hand. “We are in the process of adopting a child.” 

Scully gasped and sat up, clapping her hands. “Oh Alan, Ryan! That’s wonderful!” She stood up and went around the table to hug them both, laughing as she did. “You two will be amazing parents.” 

“Amazing? I don’t know, but we’ll try,” he said, shaking his head with a smile. 

“No, you will both be amazing, and I know it,” she said firmly and he nodded with a laugh, accepting another hug. 

Mulder looked over at Faith with a smile and saw Rachel sitting with her and Cassidy, who was smiling as she looked at Alan. Rachel however, had the same expression on her face as he had seen at the wedding last month. He could not put his finger on it, but then Faith walked close and looked at her, causing Rachel to smile and reach out for her. He watched, but seeing no further expression, he tried to shake off the feeling. 

The food was cleared away and the cake brought out: a vanilla quarter sheet cake with strawberry cream cheese filling and vanilla cream frosting. A happy pumpkin with balloons around it was on the top of the cake. 

Taking Faith from Rachel as she walked over, he laughed at the picture Scully had chosen, putting his arm around her and shaking his head. 

“A compromise cake?” he asked and she nodded with a smile. 

“Pah!” Faith said, pointing at the cake and smiling. “Pah!” 

“A genius. She’s an absolute genius,” Mulder said quietly, as Louise put a black polka dot, number one candle in the cake. Everyone sang as Mulder and Scully held her between them and then blew out the candle, watching her face as they did. She looked between them and then smiled. 

Louise cut the cake and gave the first piece, a very small one, to Faith. Scully pushed her sleeves up, attempting to keep her somewhat clean, as Faith reached to grab at the cake. It was in vain, as she was a mess and so was Mulder, by the time she was finished. Pictures were taken as she reached for Scully with frosting covered hands. Laughing, she took her onto her lap, messy hands and all. They posed for a few pictures, all of them a sticky mess. Wipes appeared from Cassidy and they laughingly cleaned her up, knowing a bath would be needed tonight. 

Clean enough, they helped her open her gifts, laughing and exclaiming over each one. Books, clothes, and stuffed toys- a ghost and a witch. They thanked everyone, Faith chewing on the witch’s hat as they did.

Soon, the sun began to go down. Mulder sat with Scully on the blankets, Faith and Jacob playing with the toys, as the others cleaned up, no matter the protests that it could wait until later. Watching Faith, he smiled at her cake smeared shirt, knowing it was the sign of a good day. Looking at Scully, she met his eyes and smiled. 

“It’s been a really good day,” she said, and he nodded, catching Jacob as he tried to crawl off the blanket. He brought him to his lap and grabbed a block to distract him. 

Cassidy came out and smiled at them as she knelt down. “Thank you for inviting us, today and all the other times as well, you don’t know how much it’s helped me.” She bit her lip, tears in her eyes. “I’m not going to cry tonight, but I just wanted to thank you.” Scully stood up and embraced her when Cassidy did the same. Mulder stood, offering to take Jacob to the car and she nodded, wiping at her eyes. 

He joined Scully after Cassidy drove away, the promise of a dinner with Sean to happen soon. Alan and Ryan were next, telling them they were on the way to a Halloween rave, and needed to change into their costumes. Laughing as they danced away, Scully shook her head, smiling at them as she picked up Faith and Mulder folded the blankets, setting them on the table. 

Elise, Tyler, and Raina came out, and Mulder told them to hold on; he had something for Raina. Grabbing it from inside the house, he brought the pumpkin bucket to her. Inside there were stamps and ink pads, a couple small pads of paper, crayons, stickers, and some candy. She smiled as she looked inside and then hugged him, saying goodbye to change and go trick-or-treating. 

Skinner walked out as Scully went inside, and they loaded the tables and chairs back into his car. “Thank you again for bringing these. You want to join us for dinner? Louise brought some food for us and it’s quite a lot.” 

“Kind of you to ask, but we have dinner plans. Soon though.” Mulder nodded and they finished up, closing the doors. Skinner shook his hand and looked at him. “Thank you.” Knowing he meant more than just for the day, Mulder smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. 

The door opened and everyone came out, Rachel holding Faith as they walked down the stairs. She brought her to Skinner and he lifted her up high, making her scream in delight. Mulder smiled and left her with him as he and Scully walked Louise to her car. 

“Thank you for coming, Louise,” Scully said, hugging her tightly. Mulder could see her face as she did, see the way she closed her eyes, no doubt thinking of her mother the way he had earlier. Pulling back, she smiled, her eyes wet. “Thank you for the dinner as well. It smells delicious and… the pie. I… I thank you.” Louise smiled and patted her cheek, her own eyes wet. 

“Thank you for inviting me. Maggie would be so proud of you two, and my God, would she spoil that little girl.” Louise smiled and they laughed, Scully wiping at her eyes with a nod. 

“She would,” she whispered and Louise embraced her again. She hugged Mulder and then got in the car, waving at them as she drove away. Mulder reached for Scully’s hand as they walked back to Skinner and Rachel. 

Faith was laughing as Skinner made silly faces, her little hands holding his cheeks. Rachel smiled at them and then looked at Scully. She walked over and stood in front of them. 

“Thank you for having me… us… over,” she said with a smile and Scully nodded. “I had a fun time and… Walter told me about speaking to you both, you most of all, Fox, and I… I thank you.” She stared at him and he let go of Scully’s hand to embrace her. 

“You helped me, Rachel. It was the least I could do in return,” he whispered and she hugged him tighter, nodding against his shoulder. Stepping back, she wiped at her eyes and smiled. 

“Okay, we need to get going, we’ve got that reservation,” Skinner said, walking over and handing Faith to Scully with a smile. “Kid’s too cute. It’s really annoying.” He shook his head and they all laughed. They got in the car and Mulder and Scully moved out of the way, letting them drive away, waving as they did. 

“Well, we did it. We made it through the day. Again,” he said and she chuckled softly, nodding her head. They went back inside, the mouth watering aroma of Louise’s meal reheating greeting them as they did. Despite the food and cake he had eaten, his stomach growled loudly and they laughed. 

As the food needed a bit more time to warm, he took Faith upstairs, bathed and changed her, bringing her back down in her pajamas. He set her down on the living room floor and brought her rocking horse over, letting her see it before putting her on it and rocking it slowly. 

She held onto its ears and suddenly it started to sing, its mouth moving as it did. He stared at it as did Faith, and as Scully walked into the room, she paused, listening to the song. 

“Jesus Christ… it sings? Thank you so much, Alan,” she said, rolling her eyes. He laughed and pressed the ear again, watching Faith as she stared at its mouth, touching it as it sang. He laughed again as Scully sighed and went to check on dinner. 

They sat down to eat a few minutes later, talking about the day and how much it meant to have everyone over to celebrate. Faith started to rub her eyes as she was finishing her food, yawning as she did. They smiled and, leaving the dishes on the table, they all went upstairs to put her down for the night. 

Standing close, they swayed together, Faith on his chest, her horse clutched tightly in her hand, the pumpkin in Scully’s. They quietly told her how much they loved her, and in hardly any time, she was asleep, breathing deeply. 

Mulder laid her down and they stared at her as she rolled over onto her stomach and tucked her knees in, her butt sticking up. Laughing softly, Scully covered her and set the pumpkin in her crib, stroking her hair and rubbing her back as she stepped back with a smile. 

Turning out the light, they left the room and closed the door. He pulled Scully to him and held her, letting his silence speak loudly, his happiness and love expressed in his touch. She lifted her head from his chest and looked at him, smiling as she stepped back. 

“I’m aching for a piece of that pie,” she said and he laughed softly with a nod. Walking downstairs, they cleaned up, put away the food, and then she cut a piece of pie for each of them. A cup of tea beside their plates, they sat down to eat it. 

Tears filled her eyes as she took the first bite and he reached for her hand, feeling the lump in his throat again. Taking a bite, he smiled, the lemon pie tasting exactly as Mrs. Scully’s had. Closing his eyes, he imagined her sitting with them, laughing as she was admonished for the amount of gifts she would have brought for Faith. He could picture her smile, the twinkle in her eye, and he took a deep breath. Opening his eyes, he looked at Scully and she gave him a sad smile. 

A knock at the door startled him and he frowned as he turned his head. Looking back at her, he saw a perplexed expression on her face. Rising from the table and walking toward the door, he looked back at her and saw her standing up with a nod, old paranoid habits dying hard. 

Another knock and then a muffled voice called out. 

“It’s Skinner.” 

Exhaling loudly, Mulder continued to the door and opened it. Skinner stood holding a cardboard box in his hands, an odd grin on his face. Mulder looked at him questioningly and then past him, not finding Rachel with him. Not understanding why he was back, nonetheless, he waved him inside.

“Come in,” he said, and then heard a whine and a bark coming from the box. His eyes widening, he looked down at the closed box and then back up. “Oh, Skinner. What have you done?” he whispered, knowing Scully would no doubt have some words for him. 

“I did what your wife asked me to do,” he said with a laugh, stepping past him into the house, the box in his hands. Mulder turned around and looked at Scully, finding a huge smile on her face, her eyebrows raised. 

“What?” he asked, closing the door and walking over to them. “Scully… what?”

Skinner set the box on the table and opened the flaps. Looking inside, Mulder saw a black Labrador puppy with big dark eyes staring at him. It stood up on its back legs, its paws on the side of the box, wagging its tail and whining. 

Reaching in, he picked it up and saw it was wearing an alien bow tie around its neck. He laughed, pulling it close as it wiggled so much he feared he might drop it.

“Hey now,” he said, scrunching his face and laughing harder as the puppy licked his chin. “Someone needs to explain what’s going on.” He looked at Scully and she grinned, reaching out to pet the puppy. 

“I’ll be back,” Skinner said with a grin and he walked out the door. 

“Scully…” 

“One of Skinner’s colleagues, Cara, took in her friend’s dog and her puppies. Her friend was ill and unable to take care of the dog anymore, and certainly not puppies,” she explained. “Skinner mentioned it in passing to me and I thought a dog would be a good birthday gift, for you and Faith.” 

“A toddler and a puppy? Are you mad, woman?” 

“I fear I may be, but Mulder,” she took the puppy and turned it around. “But, look at this face. How could I resist?” He laughed and then looked over her shoulder as Skinner came through the door, his arms full of items. 

A puppy crate was set down, a small bed inside. Two large bags were placed beside it and he stood up, grinning and shaking his head. “That’s all of it, everything should be there. Cara said to thank you once again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a beautiful woman waiting for me at the restaurant and I don’t want to be gone too long.” Scully laughed and stepped close to him kissing his cheek and thanking him for picking up the puppy. He smiled and nodded, patted the puppy, and stepped back. “Good luck, man.” He pointed at Mulder and they all laughed, saying goodbye as he walked out the door, closing it behind him. 

“A puppy, Scully,” he said again, shaking his head. 

“The face, Mulder, look at it,” she said through clenched teeth, squishing it close to her own. “How could I say no?” He laughed and rubbed its head, caressing the silky ears. 

“You don’t have to convince me, Scully. I’ll love having a dog. I tried to get that one years ago and you said it wasn’t a good idea.” 

“Mulder, that was not a dog. I honestly don’t know what that was, but it was not coming into this house,” she said with a shudder and he laughed, taking the puppy back from her. 

"This bow tie is a nice touch,” he said, grinning at her and she winked. “So, what’s this guy’s name? Guy? Girl?” He lifted the puppy and nodded with an eye roll. “Girl, of course she is. I’m surrounded by women. I’m sure the fish upstairs are also female.” She laughed and he smiled again. “So, does she have a name?”  

“No, I thought you would like to bestow that honor upon her.” 

“Hmm, well let’s see.” He held her up and looked into her dark eyes, her ears going back and her body wiggling with excitement as she tried to lick him. “A Halloween puppy, a black Lab… Spooky seems far too cliché, and I just can’t do it.” Scully laughed and he smiled with a wink. Looking at the puppy, he nodded. “I’ve got it; the perfect name. Belladonna and we call her Bella for short. Huh?” He grinned and she cleared her throat. Without answering she stepped back and walked to the bags Skinner had brought inside. 

Searching through them, she found what she was looking for and walked back to him with a green collar in her hand. Putting it around the puppy’s neck, she clipped it closed and turned it so he could see the silver name tag. Written on it was their address, her phone number, and the puppy’s name. 

Belladonna. 

“Oh, now that’s spooky,” he whispered, raising wide eyes to hers. 

“Not so much,” she said with a grin. “Belladonna is used in spells, possibly in dark magic. It’s Halloween, she’s a black female puppy. Knowing you the way I do and how your mind works, it was pretty easy to figure out.” She shrugged and smiled, while he grinned and slowly shook his head. 

“God… is it wrong that that turns me on?” She laughed and pet the puppy’s head. “What would you have done if you were wrong and I chose another name? Did you have a few tags made?” he asked teasingly, setting the puppy down and letting her explore her new home. 

“Wrong? I don’t understand that word.” She smiled and he laughed, kissing her quickly and then walking over to the bags to find a ball or toy to throw around. 

“Come here, Bella,” he called and whistled, sitting on the floor, a bone shaped toy in his hand as Scully sat beside him. Bella looked at them sitting down lower and slipped and slid on the hardwood floor, trying to get to them. She yipped and wiggled, her whole body shaking as she ran over and they laughed at her antics. 

He threw the toy and she ran after it, barking as she did. Scully put her head on his shoulder and sighed. He kissed her head, smiling as Bella brought the toy back, her body wiggling with excitement once again. 

“Is Faith going to love her or what?” he whispered and Scully nodded with a chuckle. “Should I go get her?” 

“Mulder! Absolutely not!” She exclaimed as they laughed and he put his arm around her. 

“Fine. I guess I can wait,” he sighed and she shook her head. “Thank you for this, Scully. She was the perfect choice.” 

“I’m glad you approve, Mulder,” she smirked and he laughed. 

Throwing the toy once more, he felt happier than he ever imagined could be possible. The once quiet and lonely house would now ring with laughter from a sweet Halloween girl, and the barking of her Halloween puppy.