“The trick to life is having the courage to walk down the path that’s lit up your heart.”
AN UNREMARKABLE HOUSE
FARRS CORNER, VA
One Year Later
The sky has finally tucked the sun in and the moonlight gleaming through the window casts Emily’s grass green eyes in an ethereal glow.
Mulder’s peeking around the door of his daughter’s bedroom, watching her primly fluff her pillows along her headboard the same way her mother does at night, the love he feels for her threatening to overrun him. She’s done that to him from the beginning: capturing his heartstrings and winding them around her little fists, reeling him in.
Having a family has pulled Mulder back from his restless ways. Always burdened by the failures in his past. Always searching. He was floating aimlessly out in the universe before, nothing of importance keeping him in one place. Loving Scully and Emily has set his life back on course. He’s grounded, tethered now.
He is a father. A damn good one.
Mulder smiles and adjusts the framed birth certificate hanging proudly on the wall in front of him. Seeing the updated name of “Emily Margaret Mulder” written out in Scully’s looping scrawl will always thrill him. He insisted on hanging it. Scully called him a softie. He proudly carries the mantle.
Recently, Emily’s nightmares have all but disappeared. Psychologically speaking, Mulder attributes her post-trauma recovery to well-rounded family support and monthly therapy sessions now received from a different therapist who holds no personal conflict of interest. Yet a more selfish and hopeful part of him likes to think it’s his consistent presence in her life that has done her a world of good. As Scully says, he has become their constant in a once uncertain life.
Their constant and his touchstone. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Hop in that bed, potato head,” Mulder sings from the hall.
“But I’m not tired,” Emily protests, her voice soft and sleepy as she twists waves of long cinnamon hair around her pink-painted fingers. Mulder doing tuck-in-time is routine now that they’ve all settled nicely into his role of “work at home dad.”
“Sorry, Em, it’s late.”
“Tell me a story? Just one please, Daddy?” she pleads, doe-eyed and desperate.
His heart nearly bursts no matter how many times she calls him her daddy.
Beaming, Mulder walks in and kneels at her bedside. “Sure, sweetie.”
Emily turns on her side, her fiery hair frizzing against her fuzzy pillow, burying her little body beneath the covers.
“How about Goodnight Moon tonight?” he asks.
“But that’s for babies.” She scrunches her freckled nose. “I’m six now.”
Mulder chuckles, reluctantly accepting his daughter’s rising desire to grow up, even as she snuggles her beloved stuffed fox under her chin and fights the urge to doze.
“Then how about we read it just one last time, okay? For me?”
Emily blinks, considering this. “Hm, okay. But only if I can change the end my way like Mommy lets me. Then I can say goodnight to you too, Daddy.”
He chuckles. Her inclination toward the unconventional is certainly a Mulder trait.
“Yeah,” he says, grabbing the book and splaying it open for her, his heart expanding in his throat. “Even better...”
“Hey,” Scully greets within the veil of darkness. Her pearly smile beckons him to their bed like Polaris.
“You’re still awake, I see.”
She pats his side of the mattress and nods. “Was waiting for you.”
Mulder slips in under the blanket next to his sleepy Scully, instantly feeling her warm hand slide languidly across his chest, palming his happy heart. He knows as well as anyone that merely living under one roof as a family has never guaranteed a happy ending, and yet he and Scully have built one together that seems to have the foundation to last.
For a year now, they’ve been the family they have each always hoped for, and then some. And to think, of all the fantastical things in his world, Mulder has never believed in happily ever after.
“She go down okay?”
He hums, his lips pressed against her forehead. “Down for the count.”
Mulder’s arm slides around her waist with his chest pressing against hers, his nose nuzzling her temple. “God, you smell good,” he whispers.
“Really? Emily always says I smell like bandaids and rubber,” she jokes.
He laughs and she snuggles in closer, cocooned in his arms. He’s grinning, love-drunk for what feels like the hundredth time tonight. “I’ll never get over her calling me Daddy , Scully.”
“I know, Mulder.” She kisses him softly, smiling against his lips while she teasingly unbuttons her silk pajamas. “You’re a wonderful one, you know. I mean it. Really, really wonderful… and I love you more and more every day for it.”
“Thank you, honey.” He hovers over her as his mouth trails across her skin, down through the valley of her bare breasts, tenderly kissing the curves of her belly, her hips. “And I really, really love that you love it.”
“Show me how much,” Scully says through a coy smirk.
Then his tongue touches her where she likes it most and he shows her plenty - twice. As his hands part her thighs and her palms cup his jaw, they make slow, sweet love under the moonlight until the sky cracks open. Bare-chested and boneless, they curl into one another with their pliant limbs knotted together in an endless rope, listening to raindrops pattering against the roof. Their roof of their unremarkable house.
“Night, Mulder,” she slurs, her lush lashes fluttering shut.
Goodnight stars. Goodnight air, he hears in his daughter’s voice .
He sighs and closes his eyes. The ever-growing swell of his wife’s womb rests prominently in the space between them, ripe with another life they’ve made together. Her taut skin swells and rolls like waves from their kicking son as his big sister sleeps soundly across the hall.
Goodnight noises everywhere.