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Only One Choice, Part Two

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June 1999

 

The air smells wet and woody, birdsongs trilling in the early morning sun that trickles through a sky light. She stretches, then disentangles her legs from the sheets and stands, walking to the window. 

 

There is a giant soaking tub in the corner of the room, flanked by two windowed walls that afford a sweeping view of the Cascade mountains, green carpeted hillsides meeting with a baby-blue sky. 

 

She can still recall her mother’s face when they told her the wedding would be in Washington State. “But...we don’t even know anyone in Washington, Dana,” she’d said with a bemused expression, lamenting the length of their flights with a nine-month-old in tow. 

 

Her mother’s reaction paled in comparison to Mulder’s excitement when she’d suggested the idea; she would spend their honeymoon relaxing with a book in the tub, and he could spend it traipsing through the woods looking for Sasquatch, or ‘squatchin’ as he called it. They would reunite in the afternoon, hiking, making love, catching up on all the conversations they’d missed while in the trenches of parenting a new baby. Mom would stay at the same resort with Molly so they could see her every day, while having precious nights to themselves; something they haven’t done since she was born. 

 

She turns the tap on the bath, a blast of water thundering into the empty basin. When it’s full nearly to the brim, she disrobes and eases in, breathing deeply to inhale the juniper-scented steam, courtesy of the resort-provided bath salts. Closing her eyes, she thinks back over it all; their chance meeting, how she was drawn to him by a force that seemed to be bigger than them both, the anguish of wanting him but feeling like she owed it to Ethan to stay together. Her eyes snap open, a memory long-buried in the recesses of her mind springing forth like a trebuchet. 

 

The day she met Mulder, she’d been planning to take the day off to go to a book signing for an author she admires. The signing was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict and she almost took the day off anyway, but had a last minute pang of guilt knowing that the workload that week was already heavy and Trudy would struggle to manage it all on her own. So she’d gone in, she’d performed that autopsy that should have been on Trudy’s docket, and she’d filled out the paperwork, and she’d met Mulder. How delicate the balance of the universe that such an insignificant choice completely changed the course of her life. 

 

She suddenly misses him acutely, and a bundle of nerves and excitement flutters in her belly thinking about when she’ll see him next. She’d scoffed at the idea of them spending last night apart; they live together and have a child so the performative chastity seemed to be a bit much. He said it was like a fast, that a little time apart would make it even more special when they saw each other at the ceremony, and she ultimately acquiesced. 

 

“Meet me on a mountain top at 4 o’clock tomorrow?” he’d asked as he backed out of her room, pulling away from the desperate kisses she was planting all over his face. 

 

“Wouldn’t miss it,” she replied with a smile, and they said goodnight. 

 

She smiles again, sinking down until the water slips into her ears. She can’t wait to marry him. 





 

 

He sits up and arches his back, his spine protesting the cramped accommodations. Looking over at Byers and Missy curled up in the king size bed, he regrets his decision to crash on the couch here instead of staying with Scully in their room. Not only because he slept like shit with his legs hanging over the end, but also because work takes him away from his girls so often, he’s an idiot to add another day to it if he doesn’t have to. 

 

He stands, hands on his hips as he twists to stretch his angry muscles, and walks to the window, taking in the dense green hills and valleys that surround them. He smiles, because she could have asked to go to Mexico, or France, or anywhere on the entire Earth and he would have given her what she wanted, but she chose the place she knew he wanted to go. Selfless and giving to a fault, his Scully. Soon to be his wife. 

 

He quietly slips on his running shoes and sneaks out of the room, hitting the hard-packed dirt trail the concierge had told him about. The quiet forest is the perfect place to be alone with his thoughts, nothing but the thud of his feet striking the ground and the twitter of waking birds to distract him. He thinks about his life, about being a child who was lonely and alone, with parents who provided food and shelter but not much more. He thinks about Molly, and how she will never know that kind of pain, that there will never be a day of her life that she is not told how much she is loved. He wonders if his dad ever felt about his mom the way he feels about Scully, and he knows it’s not possible that he did, because if so they would still be together. 

 

He comes to a break in the trees and pauses, breath heaving and lungs burning as he watches a hawk gliding through the valley below, hunting for breakfast. How easily he could have missed this moment, he thinks. Even one small change to the trajectory of his life, and he never would have walked into the autopsy bay that day. If the courier hadn’t been sick, if he hadn’t stopped by Kirkbride’s office when he did. Even further back, if he hadn’t stayed with the bureau with the X files were closed, if Valerie hadn’t been there to encourage him, or if he hadn’t met Valerie one random Tuesday at a record store. The path was long and winding, and it led to her. It led to him on this mountaintop in a sweat-soaked T-shirt, smiling at the thought of his baby daughter, his almost-wife. 

 

He picks up running again, the smile staying on his lips. He’s always felt like he was running away; from his painful past, his regrets, his bad decisions. Now he realizes he’s running towards; his future, a thousand opportunities yet unseen, a kind of happiness he never thought he’d know. He can’t wait for the rest of his life to start. 



 


 

 

He stands in a clearing near the edge of a cliff, the lush green landscape toeing up against the horizon looking like crooked teeth. Frohike stands beside him in khaki pants and a white linen shirt, a leather folio clasped in his hands. Mulder is also dressed fairly casually, in slacks and a blue Oxford shirt, the sleeves cuffed and the top button undone. 

 

Scully wanted this to be as non-traditional as possible, to make it their own. There is no wedding party, no tuxedo, no flower girl or garter toss. No one will walk her down the aisle, as no one but herself has the ownership to give her away. The guests are small in number; immediate family only, plus the gunmen. Monica and Dahlia are house-sitting back in DC, minding Priscilla as well as the dog, King, that joined the family after the purchase of their house in March. Bucking the idea of arranging guests by whose “side” they are on, they all sit in a small cluster, and Scully will enter from the side. 

 

He looks out and waves at Molly, who is standing on Missy’s lap, holding her hands and bouncing up and down forcefully. She squeals and shouts “dah, dah, dah!” which he chooses to interpret as “Daddy” even though Scully told him it’s just a nonsense syllable and doesn’t mean anything. 

 

Langly gets the signal from Frohike and hits play on a small boom box, piping an instrumental version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” up into the branches of the towering evergreen trees. He expected to feel nervous at this moment, but all he feels is excitement as Maggie scurries out from behind a line of trees and takes her place beside Bill, giving him a smile and a wink. 

 

Scully appears from around the same group of trees and he grins broadly. He’s seen the dress, they picked it out together, but the full effect is stunning. Her hair, now grown well past her shoulder blades, is curled softly and pinned half up, brilliant red tendrils shimmering in the midday sun against her porcelain shoulders. Her dress is full length pearl satin, a slim sheath cut with off the shoulder straps. She is holding a small bouquet of pink peonies in her hands, and holding his eye with a playful smirk. 

 

She arrives beside him and before the music stops, before Frohike has a chance to begin, he steps forward and takes her by the waist, kissing her fully. The guests laugh and he pulls away to see a confused smile on her face. 

 

“I couldn’t wait,” he says simply. 

 

They move through the ceremony, exchanging rings and vowing to love each other forever; promises they’ve already made to each other a hundred times. As they near the part that Scully understands to be the end, Frohike goes off script. 

 

“Mulder has prepared some words of his own, he’ll read them now,” he says, nodding toward his friend. 

 

Scully’s eyebrows lift in a surprised and confused expression. 

 

“Mulder, we didn’t talk about writing our own vows,” she whispers, afraid she’s failed to complete the assignment. 

 

“It’s okay, these are for both of us,” he whispers, and then, taking her hands in his, he reads a passage from her favorite book from memory. 

 

“I have for the first time found what I can truly love; I have found you. You are my sympathy, my better self, my good angel; I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely. A fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”

 

The tear that slips down her cheek is borne only of happiness. She looks into his green eyes and sees contentment and love, and desire. It’s not a spark, what they have, nor an ember. It’s a wildfire, a white-hot torch, an eternal flame that binds them together inseparably. They were forged in fire the moment he laid eyes on her in that autopsy bay, maybe even before. 

 

Frohike concludes, “by the power invested in me by the State of Washington, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride…again.” 

 

He wraps his arms around her waist, lifting her up as he kisses her deeply, a gust of warm summer wind picking up pine needles and tossing them in a mini-tornado that surrounds them both. Molly squeals “dah dah dah!” and claps for her parents.

 

 


 

 

She stands at the mirror, brushing her teeth. Her hair is combed out, her makeup removed, the white dress hanging in the corner of the room with the hem now tinged brown from the dirt that served as their dance floor. 

 

Mulder appears behind her, an arm snaking around the waist of her satin nightgown. She smiles at the sight of his newly ring-adorned hand pressed flat against her belly, then leans forward to rinse. 

 

“Ready for bed?” he asks softly, and she nods. 

 

They slip beneath the cool sheets, curling around one another face-to-face; her leg threaded between his, his arms around her back, foreheads touching. She draws in a big breath and lets it out slowly, contentment settling deep in her bones. 

 

“Do you ever think about all the things that had to happen in exactly the way they did to lead us here?” he asks, and she pulls back a little to look at his face. 

 

“Yes, I was actually just thinking about that earlier,” she says with a curious lilt. 

 

“Makes you wonder, huh, what lives we’d be leading if even just one detail were changed,” he says, tracing his finger along her shoulder blade. 

 

“I don’t think it would have mattered, actually,” she says, and he gives her a quizzical look, silently asking her to elaborate. “I know this will sound a little far-fetched coming from me,” she begins with a self-conscious smile, “but I think it was always going to end up this way. Even if we hadn’t met when we did, we would have crossed paths some other way. Looking back over everything, it just seems like this was meant to be the outcome, even if the path to get here could have gone in a lot of different directions.”

 

He ponders this, remembering a conversation they had over coffee when, against all odds, she reappeared in his life. 

 

“Like there was only one choice, and signs along the way to pay attention to,” he says contemplatively, lifting his hand to brush a lock of hair behind her ear. 

 

“Exactly,” she replies, pressing her lips to his briefly, “it was always going to be you.”


END