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#84 What would you do if you’ve never met me?


Mulder fidgeted on the couch like a fish out of water. He was surrounded by a sea of receipts, some of which had clearly seen better days. A few of them, he knew, were certainly unreadable by now. Which made all of this even worse.


“Scully, I don’t understand why we have to do this.” Mulder whined.


“Because Skinner asked us to do it.” She reminded him without taking her eyes off the form she was filling out. He listened as her pen flew rapidly over the paper. Unlike him, she was good at these things. Paperwork. The word was as bland as the work itself.


“But it’s not our job, Scully. That’s why the FBI employs accountants.” He picked up one of the receipts with the ink barely visible. Who cared how much they paid for gas in a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere?


“Yes, but Skinner asked us to do it,” Scully snapped and grabbed the piece of paper out of Mulder’s hand, “we’d be done a lot sooner if you actually helped.”


“I don’t know what to do.” Mulder admitted.


“Sort them.” She pointed at the receipts. Her glasses sat low on her nose and Mulder couldn’t help but think of a school teacher. A sexy teacher who might scold him if he didn’t obey. He cleared his throat; this was not a line of thought he should pursue at the moment. Or ever, really.


“All right,” Mulder grumbled, setting to work. The rustling of paper joined her pen-scratching, filling the room with a strange, busy sound and it wasn’t until two hours and half a pizza later that Mulder was convinced this was a new conspiracy. A cheap plot to finally give him the last push over the cliff and right into insanity. Scully was in front of him on the floor, one leg under her. Neatly stacked forms sat next to her proudly staring at him, the procrastinator.


“See how easy it is when we work together?” Scully mused. Her voice sounded accomplished, happy even. She couldn’t really consider this fun, could she?


“I still don’t-”


“See the point, I know Mulder. So you’ve mentioned.” Mulder stared at the back of her head. She’d put her hair up in a messy ponytail and it bobbed up and down slightly whenever she wrote something. It was mesmerizing.


“Mulder, keep working.”


“How do you know I’m not working?” He asked, picking up more receipts.


“It’s too quiet.” Scully turned her head and looked at him.


“What?”


“Nothing,” she chuckled before she concentrated on her side of the work again, “Sometimes I just wonder.”


“About what?” Mulder held up a receipt trying to decipher it. Apparently they’d bought a diet coke and a salad at some point in the recent past. The date was washed away, literally. Mulder remembered taking the piece of paper out of his pants pockets earlier. It was a wonder it had survived at all. He really should get credit for that. Quickly, he crumpled the receipt in his hand. The FBI could open an x-file on what happened to those $5.89.


“Oh, you know - things.”


“Very specific, Scully.”


“Just things in general,” she went on while stapling another few receipts on a form, “our work, all these expenses, you.”


“You wonder about me?” Mulder stopped sifting through the crumpled pieces of paper. He saw her head nod slowly.


“Do you know how many dry-cleaning bills we went through last month?”


“No,” he admitted, “I just handed those bills over to you.” Finally, she turned to him. She took off her glasses and he almost told her to leave them on.


“Twenty, Mulder.”


“Is that… a lot?” Scully sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose.


“It is. Why do you think Skinner wanted us to do this? He wanted us, you actually, to see how much money we spend.”


“But it’s just money,” Mulder threw some of the receipts in the hair and they fell down on them like ugly confetti, “what does it matter?” Scully shook her head, smiling at him. He knew that particular smile well; her ‘Mulder-you’re-crazy’-look is one he got to see often. Oddly enough, he considered it a compliment.


“Come on, let’s finish this.” Just as Scully was about to turn around again, Mulder reached towards her. Carefully, he took a receipt out of her hair.


“Sorry.” He grinned sheepishly at her.


“Scully, if Skinner wanted to teach me the value of money,” Mulder pondered, “then why are you doing most of the work?”


“Because I’m better at it,” Scully answered simply, “and I don’t want to spend all of my weekend doing paperwork.”


“Oh Scully, what would I do without you?” He chuckled.


“Oh yes, what would you do if you’d never met me?” Scully joined in with amusement in her voice.


“Let’s just say I’m glad we’ll never have to find out.” He whispered into her soft hair, feeling her shiver as he put his hand gently on the nape of her neck for a moment. Maybe if they got this over with quickly and he behaved himself, maybe they could have some actual fun this weekend.

Chapter Text

Of course it was Mulder’s fault. They took the first flight out of D.C. in the morning, Mulder’s cheerful remark about early birds and beautiful sunrises Scully’s only side dish to her strong, black coffee. Meanwhile Mulder munched happily on his egg salad and ham sandwich while they waited for boarding. Scully felt sick just looking at the saggy, yellowish bread. Only Mulder could eat something this appalling at 5 a.m. in the morning. 

“You want a bite?” He asked seeing her eye his sandwich. Holding up her hands, Scully declined and Mulder shrugged. She took in her surroundings. Most of the people she saw were airport maintenance. A few people were asleep in corners and spread on chairs like someone had merely forgotten them there. It was sad. Being at the airport on a dark Saturday morning simply was sad, Scully decided. But Mulder had assured her that the sooner they got going, the sooner they could be back. Scully had nodded, reluctantly, since her weekend was ruined anyway. There was no way they were going to solve a case in 24 hours. The case, naturally, was some bogus incident that had Scully rolling her eyes and Mulder jumping in excitement. Still here she was, waiting for the flight to take her to another middle of nowhere place.

“You sure you don’t want to eat anything?” Mulder inquired as he got their things together. With some luck Scully could rest on their flight. Mulder liked to remind her of the fact that she could sleep almost anywhere. Except for planes. 
“I’m not hungry, Mulder.” She grumbled, suppressing a yawn. He gave her shoulder a light squeeze that seemed to be an apology for this early morning madness before his hand slipped to its home on the small of her back as he let her away from the small airport diner. The day was only beginning.

Later, much later, Scully shifted uneasily from foot to foot. Standing in the morgue, she tilted her head from side to side and felt her neck seize up. She cursed Mulder and this case as she tried to massage her neck. When he’d presented her this case yesterday, he hadn’t mentioned all these bodies. Six dead people that needed to be examined – by her. He’d given her one of his puppy dog looks, sticking his bottom lip out in an almost pout and how could she have said no then? She never could. Scully had tried calling him for hours now – apparently the results weren’t all that important after all – hoping he could bring her something to eat. He’d ushered her into the morgue almost immediately upon arrival and Scully hadn’t seen daylight since then. She wasn’t even sure it was still light out. Memories of Chaney, Texas crawled into her mind, but at least back then she’d eaten something. Her stomach was running on empty. Scully sighed heavily; Mulder would have to pay for this – with dinner in an actual restaurant, she decided. One more dead body to go and then she hoped for Mulder that he had a good excuse why he wasn’t answering his phone. Or he’d be unlucky number seven. 

“Have you been here all this time?” Scully stood in the doorway of Mulder’s motel room staring at him, her hands on her hips. She meant business. Mulder, sitting on the bed in the middle of evidence and take-out, threw her a questioning look.

“I left you a message saying I’d be going through some of these things again,” he pointed at the various pictures and notes as if they were shiny toys, “I figured you were too busy to pick up the phone.” Scully felt anger bubble up inside.

“You left me a message? I’ve tried calling you all day, Mulder!”

“No, you haven’t”, he picked up his phone and examined it, “Oh, it’s dead. Sorry, Scully.” He flung it away again. Scully took a deep breath, closed her eyes, waited for Mulder to apologize. Instead he picked up the burger that sat in front of him. It was one of the greasiest things Scully had ever laid her eyes upon – and she wanted it more than anything else in her life. She watched as some of the sauce dripped down Mulder’s jaw on right onto his dress shirt. He cursed under his breath and used his napkin to dap at the stain.

“That won’t work without soap.” Scully noted. 

“Yeah, thanks.” Mulder mumbled as he peeled himself out of his evidence cocoon. Scully listened to the water come on in the bathroom and couldn’t help herself: she attacked the burger. Her eyes closed on their own volition as she bit into the soft bread, tasting the tender meat. She chewed quickly, swallowing large pieces, and felt her stomach rejoice.

“That was mine!” Mulder exclaimed when he returned from the bathroom. His shirt hung upon, revealing a white T-Shirt underneath. Scully stared at him, her cheeks stuffed like a squirrel, and shrugged.

“I’ll buy you a new one, stop pouting.” she told him, taking another bite. Mulder decided to pout anyway. Then his expression changed as he strode over to the bed. Scully watched with big eyes as Mulder lifted a few notes.

“Tada!” He held up a serving of French fries like a trophy. Scully started reaching for them and he held them higher.

“You already got my burger. These are mine.”

“Mulder, do you realize that I cut up six people today? Just for you? I haven’t eaten anything. I haven’t seen the sun once today.” He opened his mouth to remind her that she’d seen it when they landed, but looking at her, he decided he better stay quiet. He offered her a French fry and Scully ate it right out of his hand.

“I’m not going to let you eat all of them,” Mulder emphasized, “You’ll have to share.” Scully nodded.

“I grew up with three siblings, Mulder. I know how to share.” He chuckled.
“I’ll tell your mom on you if you don’t.” Scully threw a fry at him and he pretended to be appalled before he stuffed it into his mouth.

“So Mulder,” Scully began, finishing up her burger and feeling much more like herself, “what’s your theory on all of this?”

“Honestly, I think there’s no case here. We can go home on Monday.”

“Why not tomorrow?” Scully whined.

“No flights. But how about I’ll buy you real dinner? If we’re lucky we might even catch some sunshine.” He grinned at her. 

How could she tell him no, really? 

Chapter Text

Darkness engulfed her with open arms, drowning her in a sea of nothingness. Scully felt her feet give in as her arms shot out trying to reach for something that wasn‘t there.

“Scully!“ She knew that voice. She would know that voice anywhere, anytime. Tinted with fear it reached her ears, but couldn‘t stop her body from failing her.

“It hit her,“ Mulder screeched, “He hit her!“

Scully didn‘t know what ‘it‘ was, or who ‘he‘ was. Maybe ‘it‘ was the thing that was gripping her head violently, squeezing it as if it were an orange.

“Scully! You have to let me through, that‘s my partner.“

Words, so many words, she thought as her vision returned to her hazily first then with exploding colors and pictures.

“Mulder?“ She mumbled knowing that neither he, nor anyone else, could hear her. Her eyes opened again against the blinding pain in her head trying to focus. In the distance, near or far, Scully made out wild gesticulations. Mulder, her mind chimed in again. MulderMulderMulder. Her heart beat in with his name as her tongue burned with it. Why was he not helping her? Scully wondered as she tried to pick herself up from the ground. Her bones and muscles allied against her mind, though, refusing to cooperate.

“I don‘t care about protocol, she needs help.“ MulderMulderMulder, her heart chimed again. She fought against the forces in her head that were trying to overpower her with pain. Then she saw him running towards her; or at least she hoped he was, because her eyes, she thought, could be deceiving her.

“Scully? Can you hear me?“ Scully felt her head lifted up and Mulder‘s large hands holding her. The pain intensified for a moment making her tongue feel too big for her mouth.

“You‘re ok, I promise,“ he assured her cradling her head, “You‘re going to be all right.“ It was only then that she realized that Mulder was talking to himself, telling himself what he hoped would be true. But she believed him. How could she not? So she closed her eyes, let the darkness take her again, knowing that Mulder wouldn‘t let anything happen to her.

 

“Hi.“ Mulder‘s soft smile was the first thing Scully saw when she opened her eyes. She waited for the pain, but there wasn‘t any. Her hand went to her head trying to find any indication to what had happened. All she remembered was the darkness, the blinding pain. She realized she was in a hospital bed, the machines beeping softly, happily next to her.

“Hey.“ Scully tested her voice. Her tongue still felt foreign, but it worked. Somehow she made it work.

“Thirsty?“ He asked and she nodded. Mulder handed her a glass of water and she drank eagerly. The cold water felt wonderful as it trickled down her throat.

“Do you remember anything?“ Mulder took the almost empty glass from her hands.

“Not… really.“ Scully admitted.

“We were chasing a suspect,“ he examined her, waiting for her to remember, but there was nothing, “you corned him and he… he got you. He hit you with a baseball bat.“ Scully thought she‘d seen everything in Mulder‘s face before; anger, disapointment, joy and even love. This expression, though, it was new. It was sharp, dark and edgy. It was anger laced with fear, with loss; a sense of having come to close to something way too real.

“I don‘t- that‘s why my head hurt.“ Scully realized and again her hand touched her head, but there was nothing. No evidence to support any of this. She saw it in his eyes, though, and that was enough confirmation for her for once.

“They gave you the good stuff.“ He wore a smile, but it was a sad one. Usually she was the one in that chair explaining to him what had happened. They were good like that; he screwing up, she taking care of him. This role reversal was too raw, too seldomly tested. Scully wished she could be on the other side. She never had to see her eyes when he was the one laying her in that bed. His eyes, she knew, would haunt her for a while. Had he looked at her like that when she‘d had cancer? Had there been that much raw emotion in his eyes, lines of surrow etched on his face?

“When can I go home?“ That earned her a chuckle and a smile.

“You‘re a doctor, Scully. What do you think?“ Not for at least another day, she figured and sighed.

“Hey, hospitals aren‘t that bad. I already called Skinner and told him we‘d stay a few days longer.“

“We?“

“I‘m not going to leave you here, Scully,“ Mulder was serious suddenly; way too serious, “I let you run after that madman all by yourself and look where it‘s gotten you.“

“Mulder, that‘s my job.“

“Not without backup, it‘s not.“

“Mulder, please. We got him, didn‘t we?“ After a moment, Mulder nodded and Scully closed her eyes. She was in no condition to fight with him and his guilt. Exhaustion captured her and all she wanted to do was close her eyes and sleep some more. They caught the guy, the case was done. So one of them had ended up in a hospital; these things happened.

“Sorry. You should sleep, Scully.“

“Are you going to stay here?“ He just nodded at her. Scully let her eyes fall close again, but before she could fall asleep, she felt Mulder take her hand in his.

“Is this all right?“ His voice seemed so much closer.

“Hm.“ She let him know and squeezed his hand. Right before she finally drifted off, she felt Mulder kiss her hand and put his head next to it on the bed. They both slept.

Chapter Text

Scully could always tell when Mulder was bored. He would start swiveling in his chair, lightly at first and then later, like a madman. She usually ignored that. She‘d spent enough time with him to know that as soon as she acknowledged his behavior, he became a dog with a bone. So whenever Mulder started his chair swiveling, she pretended to not even notice. One of them had to get work done after all. Except that it was only phase one. Phase two had Mulder playing paper basketball; one time she‘d actually caught him crumpling up an expense report. Scully had fished it out later. She preferred phase two most of the time, because in a way it was less distracting. She could pretend that he was working when she heard paper crumbling and him cursing under his breath once in a while. The worst phase, though, was the third. Mulder liked to surprise her from time to time so phase three could either be him throwing pencils at the ceiling or the wall. Or it was the question game. And today of all days, Mulder decided to completely skip phase two and go right for the final plunge.

“Scully?“ His fidgety behavior stopped abruptly and he looked at her from across the desk. Sharing a desk, no matter how spacious, was never ideal. Sharing it with Mulder, though, was pure madness.

“Yes, Mulder?“ She didn‘t look up from her case file.

“Did you know that when hippos are upset, their sweat turns red?“

“I do know that,“ Scully told him and looking at him, she could tell he was disappointed, “do you want me to explain it to you?“

“No.“ He sighed. When he stayed quiet, Scully picked up her pen again.

“Hey Scully?“

“Hm?“

“Did you know that cherophobia is the fear of fun?“

“Thank you for telling me that, Mulder.“

“I think you might have that.“ She could hear his grin before she even saw it.

“Mulder, are you done with work or have you turned into a smartass?“

“You said ass, Scully.“ She wanted to use that word again; without the smart this time. Instead she bit her lip and went back to what she did best: ignoring him.

“You know, Scully,“ She should have known that this was not the end of it, not by a long shot, “if one us is wearing the smartypants around here, I think it‘s you.“

“Excuse me?“

“I  just wanted to give you a few pieces of trivia to loosen the atmosphere.“ Was he actually serious? He could not be serious. He was no longer in his chair, but walking around, pacing. From time to time, he threw her a look to gauge her reaction. Clearly, he could not be serious about this.

“Did you really just call me that?“

“Smartypants? I did not, because if you recall I said you wore them. So I didn‘t actually call you smartypants.“

“Call me that one more time, see what happens.“ Oh, she should not have done that. Scully saw it in his eyes; the gleam, the joy, the challenge. He grinned at her and stopped pacing. Truth be told, she had not meant to be this blunt. Sometimes he just knew exactly which buttons to push (sometimes she‘d much rather have him know which buttons to open – namely those on her blouse).  

“So, uhm, Scully, what do you think? Want to call it a day and get out of here?“ Mulder wasn‘t grinning, not really. He was smiling, yes, but it was a soft smile, almost shy around the edges.

“To go where? Do what?“

“I don‘t know. We could grab a bite to eat and then have fun.“

“Fun?“

“Oh right, sorry, I forgot you were scared of that.“

“You‘re really funny today, Mulder.“

“Just today?“ He picked up her coat and held it out to her. “Come on. The work will still be here in an hour or two.“

“That‘s exactly the point, Mulder.“

“I‘m hungry and you look like you could eat, too.“ He pleaded with her and her stomach, that traitor, grumbled in response.

“Just one hour.“ Scully took her coat out of his hand and he helped her into it.

“Where do you want to go, Smartypants?“ In an instant, Scully threw Mulder against the door. She‘d meant for it to be just a gentle push, but he was so surprised that he stumbled and crashed against it. Scully hoped it hurt just a little bit.

“I told you not to do that. Did you know that a kiss is healthier than a handshake?“ They both stared at each other. Scully had not meant to tell him that. There were thousands of facts in her mind stored away neatly. Except right now that was the only she could think of. She had read it recently over breakfast on a quiet Saturday. Of course it had stuck in her mind like a sticky note.

“We hardly ever shake hands.“ Mulder told her. When had his face come this close to hers? She felt his warm breath against her face and she almost closed her eyes in fear. Or expectation. The less she thought about the why, the better.

“We don‘t.“ She agreed with him. Another traitor, this time her eyes, wandered to his mouth. His beautiful, luscious mouth.

“You think we should?“

“Kiss or shake hands?“ She whispered and his lips were so close all she had to do was open her mouth and take what she craved.

“Right now or in general?“ His words seemed to be spoken right against her lips and she could almost taste him already. His lips were there, within reach, but not quiet there yet. His hands had wandered to her hips, stroking her there in gentle circles.

“Right now, I don‘t care.“ She let him know and captured his lips.

Chapter Text

It’s her “are-you-fucking-kidding-me” voice that makes Mulder pause.

With their recent case load, their work has been neatly split into him doing ground work – or the boring crap, as he likes to call it – and her doing everything else. Which means lots and lots of autopsies. The office is too quiet without her and Mulder has to listen to his own thoughts when really all he wants to do is listen to her voice. So he calls her early in the day asking her if they can do lunch together. Having to actually ask her renders him almost speechless and he’s lucky she’s always been able to understand her. Usually there is no question about any of this; they seem to have an unspoken agreement between them that one of them will just get food for the two of them or one of them decides it’s time for a break and they go out. He’s only done lunch twice this week, thinking he could do it. Nothing to it, really. Clearly he could eat without Scully by his side – or so he thought. The food was bland, the diner too loud and the office too quiet. He should have figured out long ago that Scully was the flavor and spice in his life. 

“No, Kevin, if you didn’t know how to do it, you should have asked.” Mulder needs a short moment to remember Kevin. He’s an intern Scully told him about a while ago and Mulder has seen him once or twice. A young, way too tall blond kid who looks like he should be selling surf boards in California. 

“Now go. I’ll talk to your supervisor,” the door opens and Kevin walks out with his head hanging low. There’s a mop of dirty blond hair covering almost all of his face, “oh, and Kevin?” The boy turns around again, lightly lifting his head, “you better be on time.” Her tone is as clipped as her perfectly manicured nails. Mulder gives the boy a sympathetic smile as he rushes past him. 

“I think you made that kid cry, Scully.” Mulder only half jokes as he joins Scully. She turns to him, attempts a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes, and angrily tugs at her bloody latex gloves.

“Do you need any help?” He asks hoping she’s going to say no. The gloves come off with an angry snap that rivals her face and she dumps them in the trash.

“Why are you here, Mulder?” He considers telling her that she’s not angry at him and that, for once, he’s done nothing wrong. There’s no need for her voice to be this cold and distant. Mulder suddenly regrets feeling sympathetic for Kevin. 

“I’m here to pick you up for lunch, remember?”

“Oh Mulder,” Scully sighs and slumps down on a squeaky chair, “I can’t do lunch. Kevin, he – he completely screwed up some of the autopsy results,” her voices raises to a new level of annoyance, “he doesn’t take this work seriously. He thinks he can just – ugh!” Scully throws her hands in the air and the chair swivels slightly. 

“You’re so cute when you’re upset,” Mulder lets slip and this time he is on the receiving end of her icy glare; he at least has the decency to blush, “I mean I understand, Scully. But he’s a kid. Let him deal with the mess and come to lunch with me. You need to eat.” He is not about to tell her that she looks terrible. And he’s not even talking about her messy ponytail. The bags under her eyes could qualify as handbags. A tired Scully is a brewing storm, a tired and hungry Scully is nothing short of a tornado.

“Don’t even start, Mulder. You’ll have to do lunch by yourself today. I need to go through all of this again.” She rubs her eyes tiredly before she gets up to shuffle over to the autopsy table. He watches in awe as she stretches and tries to loosen her neck. Even in oversized scrubs and with unwashed hairs, she’s as graceful as a goddess. He’d tell her that, too, but he’s afraid she might hurt him.

“Scully, you need a break and you need to eat something.” Mulder’s concern for her well-being is only half the truth; he’s hungry himself and he just can’t stand the chance of sitting alone somewhere again. He’s not about to tell her that either, though.

“I’ll eat a sandwich or something later, Mulder. I just can’t leave now. Go on, have lunch. I’ll call you tonight and maybe we can do lunch tomorrow?” She’s brushing him off, verbally pushing him away and out of her way. Mulder swallows his disappointment and nods.

“Have fun with your dead people.” 

And he leaves.

It’s only when he stands in line for a burger with snickering teenagers in front of him that he decides he is not going to do this. He is not going to listen to Scully and most importantly, he is not going to sit here all by himself. So instead of one burger, he orders two. Mulder goes for the large serving of French fries, because he knows Scully; she’ll tell him how unhealthy and greasy fries are before she steals them from him. He’ll be prepared this time.

Half an hour later he’s back at the morgue. This might not be the best place to share a meal, but they’ve been worse places. No one pays him any attention as he walks the corridors. Scully lifts her head when she sees the door open. 

“We’re not skipping lunch just because Kevin screwed up.” Mulder tells her with determination. He’s waiting for a smile, any sign that she’s even remotely happy to see him back and with food. Scully stares at the bag, then back at Mulder and finally, her face lights up in thankfulness. The gloves come off again quickly and she walks towards him. Without even looking at Mulder, she tears the bag out of his hands and examines it like evidence. She nods in appreciation and Mulder lets out a breath he wasn’t aware of holding.

“Mulder, sometimes your ideas really are brilliant.” Scully muses as she bites into the burger. Mulder does the same and nods wistfully. 

“So, what did Kevin do wrong anyway?”

“It’s more like what didn’t he do wrong.”

“Ouch. Want me to have a talk with him?” Scully giggles, shaking her head in disbelief and taking a fry. She pushes the rest of her burger towards him, indicating that she’s done. Mulder swallows hard; he doesn’t want to leave her and go back to the office.

“You can finish your lunch break here,” she tells him gently and he grins sheepishly, “But only if you leave me a couple of fries.” She leans over and kisses his cheek softly before she turns into his slicing and dicing goddess again. Mulder watches her, finishing the food (he doesn’t touch any of the fries; they’re hers now, just like his heart) and even though they don’t speak a single word, it’s finally no longer too quiet.  

Chapter Text

After five years with Mulder, there weren’t many things that threw Scully off. Taking Mulder to a hospital was nothing out of the ordinary. He’d been shot, he’d been stabbed, he’d been sick with unidentifiable diseases. This, however, was new. It was so pedestrian, really, that Scully had almost missed the signs. Sitting by his bedside now, she took his cool hand in hers. Her thumb gently stroked over every curve, followed every bone and every knuckle. Beautiful hands, she mused. She couldn’t wait for him to wake up and use them again to show her something, explain some theory. Anything. She just wanted him to wake up, period. Waiting, that was one of the things that felt familiar about all of this.  

“Hm?” Mulder tried to open his mouth. His eyes were still closed and Scully felt him squeeze her hand. Finally.

“Mulder? Are you awake?”

“Wh- what ha-?” He opened his eyes, like a baby almost, trying to focus against the bright hospital light. She moved towards him so he could see her better. He gave her a tiny smile that made her heart leap in joy.

“You want to know what happened?” Scully asked gently and he nodded very, very slowly, “Well, Mulder, you’re in the hospital.” He blinked at her, obviously not remembering anything. Probably a good thing, she decided.

“You didn’t feel very well earlier,” she began and he just listened to her, closing his eyes again, “and of course you being you, all you did was take something for the pain.” Scully waited a moment, hoping he would remember by himself. For a moment she thought he had fallen asleep again, but he opened one eye urging her to go on.

“So, I kept asking you if you were all right and you said yes. Obviously, Mulder, you weren’t.” Scully felt the anger bubble up in her again. They could have gone to the hospital so much sooner if only he’d told her. But no, not Mulder. If she was honest, though, she probably would have tried to ignore the signs as well. Two stubborn mules they were; if they kept going like this, they might as well just rent one of the hospital rooms for their various injuries and ailments.

“Mulder, you had appendicitis.” His eyes opened and he struggled to sit up. Scully helped him up and watched as his face turned pale again. Immediately she reached for the bucket the nurse had left. Mulder brushed her off.

“’m fine.” He mumbled. She’d heard that before – and he’d been wrong then, too. So Scully held on to the bucket. 

“Good news is they took your appendix out before it got too bad. You’ll be fine.” Scully smiled at him. Those were the only news that mattered to her. When they’d arrived hours ago, Mulder almost passing out, she’d been so angry with him. If only he’d told her sooner! She’d made a mental note to give him a piece of her mind as soon as he woke up. Looking at him now, she couldn’t even remember being angry. She was just glad to see him blink at her, to see his chest rais and fall with every breath he took. Scully was grateful. Despite all the things that had happened before they arrived here.

“You operate?” Mulder asked her, pointing at her scrubs. Life returned to his exhausted eyes. Scully knew he would fall asleep again very soon anyway and he needed the rest. She would be by his side to make sure he got it. 

“Uhm, no,” She didn’t tell him that they wouldn’t let her into the OR, no matter how many times she told them that she was a medical doctor, “I needed something else to wear.” Scully replied vaguely, staring at her shoes. Not her shoes, not really. A nurse had given them to her after… well, after. 

“Why?” Leave it to Mulder to completely ignore the signs and keep on pestering her. She wanted to have that talk with him when he was fully awake and healthy. 

“It’s not important now, Mulder. You should get some sleep.” Mulder’s hand gently tugged at her wrist.

“Please?”

“There was an… accident,” he examined her with his eyes, scanning her from head to toe, searching for any injuries, “not that kind of accident.” Scully added quickly. She took his hand in hers again. It finally felt warmer, much more like him. 

“You weren’t feeling well,” she pleaded with him, hoping this would be enough for him. Nothing was ever enough for Mulder, though. Nothing but the truth. 

“You got sick.” Suddenly he got it. His eyes grew wide and color rushed into his cheeks.

“Sick? On… you. ’m so sorry, Scully.” Scully vigorously shook her head no. She almost made herself dizzy with it. 

“I’m just glad you’re fine, Mulder. That’s really all that matters.”

“Your clothes.” 

“Not important.” She squeezed his hand tenderly. He closed his eyes for a moment and Scully thought he was finally letting it go. Except a moment later he opened them again and stared intently at her.

“Thank you.”

“For what?” Scully asked.

“Saving me again.”

“Oh Mulder,” Scully sighed, “next time just tell me if you’re not feeling well, all right?”

“I only have one appendix. Well, had.” Smart ass, Scully thought, and smiled anyway.

“Just tell me, all right?” He grinned, too, and nodded. His eyes grew heavy with sleep, finally. Scully decided to get a coffee and maybe freshen up again as soon as he was out of it.

“Hope it wasn’t too bad.” Mulder mumbled, trying to get comfortable in the hospital bed. He hated those, Scully knew that. 

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Scully told him honestly, squeezing his hand one final time, “except for when you vomited on my shoes.” Mulder’s eyes flew open. Oh yeah, they would talk about that as soon as he was feeling better. And she’d make him go shoe shopping with her. That would teach him to be honest with her

Chapter Text

Scully hummed, delightfully out of key, along to Bing Crosby’s singing as she packed her overnight bag. She was so used to doing it (thank you very much, Mulder) that she could do it in next to no time and without thinking about it. This time, however, she was putting more thought into it; for once this had nothing to do with work. As much as Mulder grumbled, Scully had insisted on taking a few days off for Christmas. There weren’t any pressing cases waiting for them and they deserved some holiday cheer. Skinner had agreed readily, nervously adjusting his glasses as if the mere idea of having Mulder out of the office for a few days was a Christmas present all in itself.

A strong knock at the door interrupted her pre-holiday cheer. Checking the time, she knew who it was. No one else came to her apartment at 9 pm. Scully straightened her shirt as she went to open the door.

“Hi.” Mulder said with a boyish grin.

“Hi, what are you – Mulder, you smell like a wet dog.” The strong scent wafted around her and she had to put her hand over her nose. It was sickening.

“Yeah, that’s uhm, one of the reasons I’m here. Can I come in?” Scully wanted to tell him no. She wanted to tell him to go home, take a shower and not talk to her until December 27th, when she came back to work, unless it was to wish her a Merry Christmas. Of course his eyes pleaded with her to let him in. Just to let him explain. So she sighed and opened the door for him. He walked past her, putting her in a foul smelling cloud.

“Mulder, what did you do?” He was about to sit down on her couch and she stopped him. The smell on him was bad enough, she really didn’t need it on her furniture.

“Take off your clothes,” Mulder’s face fell before he recovered quickly, a dirty grin spreading all over his face, “I mean take off your coat.” Scully said with a roll of her eyes. She tugged at the garment and helped him out of it. Her nostrils seemed to have grown accustomed to the smell and it was almost bearable. Still, she took the coat to the bathroom and closed the door. When she returned, Mulder was running one hand through his hair. More of that smell lifted up in the air, polluting it. 

“Tell me what happened.” She demanded.   

“You’re not going to believe it,” he chuckled and cleared his throat when Scully didn’t even smile. Somewhere Bing Crosby was still singing. “I was out looking for a hotel when-”

“Wait, why where you looking for a hotel?”

“My building was evacuated. Something about bad wiring. Anyway, there I was and-”

“You were going to a hotel? For Christmas?” 

“Where else should I have gone?” He looked truly clueless. Here, Scully thought, you should have come here. Instead of saying it, she looked down at her slippers waiting for the moment to pass. It didn’t. Mulder stood there with that weird inexplicable wet dog smell surrounding him not saying a single word.

“Go on, Mulder.” Scully said when she couldn’t listen to the silence anymore. 

“So, I passed this alley and there I saw it.” The way he said ‘it’ told Scully everything she didn’t want to know. She knew that voice too well. It was the voice he called her with in the middle of the night to tell her someone had seen aliens in Ohio. The same voice he greeted her with when she walked into the office on any given morning when he couldn’t wait to present her with the latest monster.

“At first I thought it was a child, which is why I followed it. I thought maybe it was in danger, you know?” He looked at her expectantly so she nodded.  

“When I got closer, the child disappeared. A moment later a dog jumped right in front of me.” 

“So that’s why you…?”

“Not exactly,” Mulder went on, “The dog ran away and I followed it.” Of course, Scully thought. What else would he have done? She tried not to roll her eyes.

“It was dark and the dog, well, he was fast. I tripped and landed in… something.” 

“That’s where the smell is from?” Scully asked disgusted and Mulder nodded. And to think the coat with whatever on it was now in her bathroom. Stinking the place up. 

“Mulder?”

“Hm?”

“What made you change your mind?”

“What?”

“You said you were going to a hotel earlier. That dog, child, whatever only derailed you. What made you change your mind and come here?” 

“It’s Christmas, don’t be mad at me,” he began, his lips curling up into a careful smile.

“I’m not mad, Mulder,” Scully assured him, “I promise.”

“I lost my overnight bag when that – when the dog… when I lost the dog, I also lost my overnight bag.” Scully sighed shaking her head, but couldn’t suppress her smile. 

“How you know I even have anything for you to wear?” She challenged him.

“Because I know I forgot one of my overnight bags in your car a few weeks ago. Somehow you never returned it.” And somehow he always ended up forgetting or losing things. 

“Mulder?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m leaving for my mother’s in the morning.” Scully thought she saw disappointment wash over his face. It quickly faded and he gave her a lopsided grin.

“That’s fine, I can go to a hotel as soon as-”

“No.”

“No?”

“No, you’re not going to a hotel. First, you’re going to take a shower,” he nodded dutifully, “and in the morning you’re coming with me to my mother’s.” Mulder started shaking his head vehemently. 

“I couldn’t do that, Scully. Your family doesn’t want me there.”

“I want you there,” She said taking his hand. She found it was true, too; what was Christmas without Mulder? “And my mother loves you.” 

“Will your brother be there?”

“No, he won’t be.” What Scully didn’t tell him was that Bill might actually show up. Her mother had told her that Bill and Tara were trying to make it this year. She was not about to tell Mulder that and scare him away. She could deal with Bill if he showed up.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Scully. I can go to a hotel or I could stay here, make sure no one breaks into your apartment.”

“Mulder, no. You’re coming with me. Remember last year? When you took me to that haunted mansion? Consider it payback.”

“But you enjoyed it!” Not exactly, she thought. She’d enjoyed everything that came after. The whole ghost thing? She could have done without that. 

“Mulder, come on. Go take a shower before I throw you out.” He trotted off, apparently accepting his fate. 

“Scully, I’ll smell like cinnamon.” He told her, turning to her. How did he even know she was using cinnamon shampoo? She decided not to question it.

“Well, you’ll smell just like Christmas. Now go!” He mumbled something she didn’t catch and finally went to the bathroom. As soon as he was gone, Scully returned to her bedroom, staring at her open suitcase. She turned up Bing Crosby, retrieved Mulder’s overnight bag from her closet and put it next to hers. It looked nice; it looked right. She began to hum again, knowing this would turn out to be a wonderful Christmas.

Chapter Text

Even after all these years, sometimes, moments of domesticity still baffle her. It’s Wednesday, William is at school and Scully’s got the day off. Mulder, as the bestselling author that he’s been for the last two years, can choose when to work anyway. That, too, seems like a dream, an illusion they’re merely fed to stay put. From time to time, she still thinks she should pinch herself, make sure this really is true. It’s been true for six years now; maybe it’s time to believe. 

Whenever Scully is not working at the hospital, she and Mulder use the morning to go grocery shopping together. They used to do it as a family; Scully, Mulder and William. Now that their son has started school, they’re carrying on that tradition. Just the two of them. 

“Does this feel strange to you?” Scully asks as Mulder pushes the cart through the sliding doors. 

“We do this all the time.” His attention is already on the shelf with the new products, Scully realizes. Show Mulder something colorful or shiny and he’s gone – just like their son. 

“Not without Will, we don’t.” Scully checks their grocery list. William used to hold it, grinning up at her whenever he told her the next item on it. Before Will could read, he and Mulder would memorize the list together. By the time they got to the supermarket, even Scully knew it by heart. She never let William know that, though. 

“Ah,” Mulder mumbles, bumping his shoulder against hers playfully, “but we’ve done this without him before.” Have they, really? Scully can’t recall. She’s done millions of things with Mulder; she knows they’ve eaten in shady dirty dinners, hid from super soldiers and nameless enemies with fake hair and even faker names. They have slayed monsters, saved the world, and each other in the process, but have they really ever gone grocery shopping together? Scully gets on tip-toe, reaching for a bag of flour. 

“Better take two.”

“Why?” 

“Will and I need it.” Mulder tells her without further explanation and takes another bag from the shelf. Scully doesn’t comment and stares at her list instead. Her handwriting is barely readable, even to herself. If only she’d brought her glasses. Holding the list closer to her eyes, she thinks she can decipher the word ‘corn’. 

“It’s cereal, actually.” He points at the word and how is he even able to read this? She looks up at him and he shrugs. He’s chewing something and her first instinct is to ask him to open his mouth so she can make sure it’s nothing poisonous. It’s a trait William unfortunately has inherited from his father as well; both of them are constantly chewing and some of it is rather questionable. 
Scully takes the cart from him and wheels it into the next aisle with the cereal. She grabs a box of the one brand she considers at least somewhat healthy and Mulder makes a sound like a strangled squirrel.

“What?”

“Not that one. I hate it.”

“It’s for Will, not you.” 

“Can we get that one, too, please?” Scully gives him a look. “For me.” He adds.

“Fine.” The box lands in the cart. 

Mulder wanders off when Scully is trying to decide if they should switch to a different brand of toothpaste. Is this what normal people worry about? She wonders staring at the large variety. There is one she can’t find and right now it’s the only one she wants. When she and Mulder were taking baby steps from friends to lovers, she occasionally stayed over at his apartment. He’d sleep on the couch, or she did, and only from time to time would they even share the bed. All of that seemed a lifetime ago; for Mulder, she knew, it was a whole life ago. Back then he’d kept a toothbrush for her at his place (and changed it every three months, no matter how often she’d used it). She never asked why and he never said. It was just the way they did things then. The toothpaste, though, and she can almost taste it on her tongue now, a decade later. She wonders if Mulder remembers the name of it; she only realizes now that she’d never paid enough attention to the little details.

“Scully, you have to see this,” Mulder grabs her arm and almost drags her around the corner, “Look at this!” He gently pushes her in front of the rack with toothbrushes. They all have toothbrushes; they bought new ones just a few weeks ago. 

“Mulder, what?”

“Look,” he says with more insistence and points at a strange looking toothbrush.

“What is that?” Scully touches it and it starts making a whooshing sound, startling her. 

“It’s a Star Wars toothbrush.” Mulder is in awe. The thing blinks and whooshes at Scully furiously, almost making her dizzy. Who buys things like that for their children?

“I want one, Scully. One for me and one for Will.” People like Mulder, apparently.

“Mulder, no. It’s a toy, not a toothbrush.” Her objection doesn’t faze him in the slightest. Toy, toothbrush, it doesn’t matter to him. He just wants to have it. They introduced William to Star Wars when he was only three years old. Scully thought it was way too early, but he was struggling with an ear infection and the movies with their explosions of lights and sounds distracted him from the pain. Now they were his favorites.

“Scully, come on. Imagine how much fun Will and I will have brushing our teeth! Look, we can get Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.” 

“You’re seriously like a man-child.” Scully tells him, taking the two toothbrushes out of his hand. He grins before he leans forward and kisses her cheek. 
“We can look for a Princess Leia, too, if you want.” 

“No, thank you. We need toothpaste.” Mulder nods and a moment later returns with a tube in his hand.

“Why that one? That’s not the one we usually use.” He shrugs.

“It reminds me of you. It’s the one I used to buy before we, you know.” Scully feels tears sting in her eyes. What are the odds, she thinks. She puts her hands around his waist, hugging him tightly before leaning up and giving him a quick kiss.

“What’s that for?” Mulder asks with a low chuckle.

“For always paying attention to the little things.”

Chapter Text

If years, decades really, have taught Scully anything, then it’s that a quiet Mulder is never a good sign. They’re at the office, working, and he is not saying a word. He hasn’t said a word in what feels like an hour. Scully checks her watch; it must have been at least 40 minutes. Mulder, she knows, always has something to say. Or if he doesn’t, he at least makes some sort of noise. From her very own, albeit tiny desk she looks over at him. He seems to be engrossed in his work. Maybe this time around she’s the lackluster one down here. 

“What are you doing, Mulder?”

“Working of course, Scully.” There’s no way she can see his computer screen, so she has to believe him. 

“Come here, I’ll show you.” He gets up from his desk chair, waiting for her to take a seat. Scully, a bit hesitantly, makes her way over. As always, there are several blinking at her. She is pretty sure his brain is similarly structured; way too many tabs open all at once. He leans over her and she catches a whiff of his aftershave. It’s the one she always bought for him.  

“This is what I’ve been reading this past hour,” he clicks a few times and pictures of a run-down place start popping up, “It’s really interesting.”

“What is it?” Scully asks, taking the mouse from him to look at the photos more closely. 

“It used to be a sanitarium in the early 1900s. They treated people with tuberculosis and later soldiers that were injured in the war.”

“It’s huge.” Scully says absent-mindedly. The place, in a way, has never aged. No one cared to take down the light bulbs hanging there as if waiting for another patient, another life. Cabinets stand in the corner, rusty at the edges, but otherwise intact.

“Yeah, it was very state of the art back then,” Mulder tells her in a low voice that’s so close to her ear that it tickles her, causing shivers to run down her spine, “It was abandoned during World War II.” Scully clicks on another picture with a hospital bed in the middle of the room. She shivers again; this time it’s because of the atmosphere the photo conveys, not Mulder.

“There’s this story about a ghost,” Mulder goes on and Scully snorts, “this ghost is rumored to have been a patient in the 1920s. He was operated on without any anesthesia and you can still hear his screams when you put your ears on the walls right here.” His right hand lands on hers on the mouse to show her. His skin feels as warm as his voice, Scully thinks, and she’s not sure that she should enjoy this as much as she does.

“People go there because it’s a spooky place,” he chuckles, “but the ghost, he doesn’t like guests. He follows them around and if there’s one he really can’t stand, well…” Mulder trails off.

“Well, what?”

“There have been accidents. Only two months ago a young couple stepped on rotten wood and fell down three stories. Both of them are dead.”

“It’s an old place.” 

“When the police came to inspect the scene, they examined the wood. It wasn’t rotten. It was the ghost, Scully.” He whispers the last part into her ear.

“Mulder, do I have to explain to you once again about ghosts?” It wouldn’t be the first time.

“Look here,” he ignores her, “a woman fell out of this window several years ago. She didn’t jump. Her companion swears she was just lifted up and thrown.”

“Thrown?”

“Scary, huh?”

“Were drugs involved?” Mulder shakes his head no. 

“A few years ago, a man swears the ghost possessed him. He was told to kill his girlfriend, who as the ghost informed him, was cheating on him.”

“Now the ghost can talk? Is his name Casper?”

“You know how he did it?” Mulder’s voice is awfully close and terribly compelling, “by crawling into the man’s ear.” Just as he says it, Scully feels Mulder’s wet finger poke into her ear. She screams and jumps up. Mulder, laughing like a madman, quickly runs off. He stops on the other side of the desk, still grinning. 

“Sorry, Scully, I just - ”

“I don’t want to hear your excuse. You can’t just give me wet-willies!” She opens one of his drawers looking for a tissue. How old was Mulder anyway? Instead of tissues she finds something much better, much more useful. She should probably wonder why Mulder has it in his drawer, but right now, she can’t help but grin. 

“I really am sorry,” his face betrays him, “Scully? What are you hiding?”

“Nothing.” She says innocently and begins to round the desk. She stops right in front of him, her hands behind her back. She enjoys seeing the worried look on his face, the wild movement of his eyes. 

“Show me what’s behind your back.” He says. 

“No.”

“Come on, Scully, I said I’m sorry.” Their office door flies open then, startling Scully, who stands with her back to the door. She throws up her hands in an attempt to reach for her gun, a mere automatism. That’s when Mulder gets his wish: he sees what’s she’s been hiding behind her back. But it’s too late. The small can of glitter flies from her hands and sprinkles them both with tiny golden flakes.

“What the – “Skinner, standing in the door, begins to say, his mouth hanging open. He thought he’d seen it all with these two. Seeing them bathed in glitter, however, is a new thing. And one he could have done without.

"Sir.” Scully clears her throat, trying to get the sticky glitter off of her face and her hair.

“I heard a scream,” Skinner explains in a slow voice, “and I just wanted to see if everything was all right down here.”

“We’re fine.” Mulder answers with a nod. A few flakes fall from his hair in the process.  

“Well… all right. I’ll leave you to it then. You better clean this up.” Skinner points at the mess. He could reprimand them, but for what? He doesn’t even want to know why they have glitter in the office. There are things a man doesn’t need to know. He stares at them for another moment, realizing how much he missed their idiosyncrasies, before he leaves again.

“Glitter, Scully? Really?”

“Why do you have that stuff here anyway?” Mulder stops cleaning himself up and looks at her. He wipes away some of it from her nose; he can’t deny that she looks good in gold, though.

“Wouldn’t you want to know.” He grins and keeps that particularly secret to himself.

Chapter Text

“Daddy? Why are you sleeping on the couch?” Mulder’s eyes pop open and he blinks a few times to get rid of the foggy curtain. William comes into view, first blurry then very clearly. He’s holding his favorite stuffed animal, a faded giraffe, tightly to his chest. His hair is sticking into all directions; Mulder wonders briefly if he should have brushed it before he put his son to bed with wet hair. 

“I must have fallen asleep,” Mulder explains and his voice sounds gravely. He easily picks up his son and plants him on his lap. The boy leans heavily against him, obviously tired himself. “Why are you up again, buddy?”

“Mommy isn’t home.” William’s voice is small as he turns to look at his father. His blue eyes shimmer with unshed tears he refuses to let go. 

“She’s still at work. Remember when she told you earlier?” The boy nods slowly.
“We had fun tonight without mommy, didn’t we?” Again, William nods. But his eyes betray him; he just wants his mother. Mulder can’t really blame him for that. There’s a reason why he’s asleep on the couch and not up in their bedroom. Sleeping in the bed without her, even if he knows that she’ll crawl in at some point during the night, it’s something he tries to prevent. Mulder looks at the small digital clock over on the book shelf: 11.18 pm. 

“She’ll be home soon, buddy. Come on, I’ll take you back to bed.” William’s fingers dig into Mulder’s shoulders painfully; he makes a mental note to cut the kid’s fingernails soon. 

“I wanna wait for mommy.” His soft sobs pull at Mulder’s resolve. He strokes his back gently, like he used to do when he had nightmares. Mulder is certain that he can hear Scully’s voice telling him to take William back to bed anyway. He has preschool tomorrow and he needs his sleep. But as someone who’s missed Scully with every fiber of his being, how can he even begin to convince his son?

“All right,” he feels William sigh against his neck with his tiny mouth slightly open; Mulder knows the boy will be asleep again in no time. “You can wait here with me. Just close your eyes, buddy, and sleep.” Carefully, he lies back down with William on his chest. The boy cuddles close, grabbing Mulder’s T-shirt as if needing something to hold on to. The giraffe falls to the ground, currently unneeded. A minute later, William’s breathing relaxes, deepens. Mulder considers taking him upstairs and into his own bed. But his bones protest, scream for sleep too. So he closes his eyes, just for a moment, just to rest a minute. Before he follows his son into a land of vivid dreams, he drags the woolen blanket from the backrest and covers them both. 

“Mulder?” A gentle, warm sensation on his cheek. His eyes, even more weary than earlier, struggle to open. The first thing he catches is a sense of red; his lips curl up.

“Scully, hey.” His eyes are hardly open, but suddenly he feels surrounded by her presence everywhere. There’s her scent, her touch, just her. 

“Why are you two down here?” 

“Will wanted to wait for you.”

“And you let him?” Her voice is only mildly irritated and definitely amused. 

“We both couldn’t wait to see you again.” She rolls her eyes, but he can see that she’s happy. Her hand is still on his cheek, stroking him gently. The other is on Will’s back. 

“Hm, you both didn’t seem too excited. Given that I had to wake you.”

“We were tired. We’re getting on in age, you know?”

“I know.” Her eyes blink tiredly at him; Mulder can’t see the time from here, but he’s suddenly certain that she stayed longer at the hospital than she’d intended. 

“How was work?”

“Exhausting,” she admits, “I can’t wait to get to bed.” 

“I’ll be right with you.” Scully picks William up carefully, so Mulder can get off the couch. His bones creak and ache and he groans. Scully raises an eyebrow.

“No longer used to sleeping on the couch.” He says reaching for William.

“Mommy?” A small voice then asks. “You’re home!” He clings to her like a small monkey, unwilling to let her go. 

“I am,” Scully tells him with a kiss to his temple, “but it’s time for bed now.” Mulder watches as William nods against his mother’s shoulder. No backtalk when it’s Scully, of course. He watches as she carries him up the stairs. They’re talking in hushed tones, small whispers, with the occasional giggle. Mulder follows them, always a step behind. This is their time now and he doesn’t need to hear their words anyway; he feels the love of them right in his heart, right in his soul. 

Chapter Text

Scully keeps checking her watch while walking a path down from Mulder’s desk to the office door. It’s been ten minutes. How long does it take to make photo copies? It doesn’t take ten minutes, she is sure of that much. The phone starts ringing – again. Scully doesn’t need to pick it up to know that it’s Skinner’s secretary, Kim. She’s been calling for at last twenty minutes and her voice sounds less patient with each and every call. Not knowing that Mulder would stay away this long, Scully had made the mistake of picking up only five minutes ago. 

“The assistant director is waiting, Agent Scully.” 

“We’ll be right up, Kim.” Scully had answered, fully believing it, too. What on earth was Mulder doing anyway? Sighing loudly and cursing under her breath, not that anyone was there to witness it, she checks the watch again. 11 minutes. She should have just gone to make the copies herself.

Her cell phone starts buzzing frantically on Mulder’s desk. For all she knows, it’s Kim trying to mix it up, surprise her, and torture her from a different phone. Just in case though, Scully picks it up. Caller ID informs her it’s Mulder. She quickly looks around; Mulder’s phone isn’t there. She should have tried calling him, she realizes, as she pushes the answer button.

“Mulder, where on earth are you? Skinner is mad enough as it is.”

“Scully…” Mulder croaks out. His voice sounds strangled, as if he’s out of breath, and then he coughs into her ear loudly.

“Mulder, are you all right? Where are you?” Scully is already half out of the office. 

“Copy room. I think I… need help.” 

Mulder is alone in the copy room when Scully enters. She is about to scold him for making them late when she sees that he’s leaning over the printer in a rather strange way.

“Mulder?” 

“Scully!” His body doesn’t move, but one of his arms starts flailing. “I’m stuck.”
“What do you mean you’re stuck?” There’s no need for him to answer when Scully finally reaches Mulder. He mouths a hi at her, the side of his face plastered to the printer. Just like the rest of his upper body.

“My tie.” He croaks out, trying to clear his throat. Now Scully sees it; his blue tie, or at least the part that’s still around his throat, disappears somewhere in the printer. Oh, Mulder, she thinks, trying to figure out how to get him out of this predicament.

“What happened? No, don’t talk.” Scully tells him with her hands everywhere on him, the printer and all around. Her first instinct is to loosen his tie. The thing won’t budge, though. 

“Already tried that.”

“I told you to be quiet.” Her voice tickles his ear and he startles, causing his whole body to spasm. Scully steps away from him then looks at his face. 

“Are you all right?” Mulder just stares at her; whether it’s because she told him not to talk or if it’s because her question really is a moot point, she doesn’t know. She touches his head, pats it as if to tell him it’ll be all right, and checks the printer. 

“I don’t understand how you got stuck here, Mulder.” She mumbles more to herself than to him. She pushes a button that says ‘open’ and nothing happens. Mulder has probably destroyed the thing. It’s state-of-the-art and rather new. Scully still remembers the memo they got months ago informing them how easy and quickly they could print now. Not Mulder, though. She would never let him to do copies ever again. If they didn’t ban him from the copy room altogether for this anyway.

“Toner,” he coughs, “toner empty.” 

“Apparently changing a toner cartridge is more dangerous than I thought.” Scully is ready to use brunt force when finally, she finds a lever. 

Aha!“ The lid opens with a soft pop and Mulder stumbles backwards. His hands are on his throat loosening his tie. Scully is by his side in an instant. He’s breathing heavily, finally getting enough air into his lungs again. His hands are shaking as he fumbles with his tie. Scully stops him, gently, and loosens the tie. She takes it off for him. 

“Thank you.” Mulder sounds as if he’s just run a marathon. 

“We should get you checked out.” Scully leads him away from the printer and out of the copy room. She only remembers Skinner and their meeting once they’re back in their office. And it’s only because he’s leaning against the desk, his arms crossed in front of him, his head seemingly ready to explode. Mulder’s current less than stellar appearance is not helping either.

“Agents, we had a meeting.” 

“Sir, I know, but Agent Mulder had a mishap and-”

“I don’t care,” Skinner looks Mulder up and down. Tie loose, his face red, and Mulder not saying a word. Scully is certain that she doesn’t want to know what their boss is thinking.  She doubts he would believe her if she told him all Mulder wanted to was make copies for their meeting. 

“You have twenty minutes, Agent Mulder, to get, well, whatever. Twenty minutes, agents.” With that Skinner storms out of their office.

“Mulder, come on, sit down a moment.”

“Scully, we have a problem.” 

“Apart from the fact that you sound like you swallowed sandpaper?”

“Yes,” he clears his throat, but nothing seems to help, “my copies, I still need-”

“Mulder, no.”

“But Scully!”

“No. We’ll have to do without it.” Scully pushes a water bottle into his hand and he hands it right back to her.

“Drink the water, Mulder.” 

“I need the copies.” His voice gives in and he coughs violently. He reaches for the water bottle that Scully is still holding towards him. He almost downs the whole bottle and immediately feels better. Not that he would tell her that.

“Put your tie back on,” Mulder looks at her as if she’s crazy, “Just tie it loosely, here,” not trusting him with anything right now, Scully takes it upon herself to knot his tie. “Crouch down a little, Mulder.” He has the audacity to chuckle, but immediately quiets when her hands start working. Scully is careful to make the knot as loosely as possible. Concentrating on her task, she doesn’t even notice how close they are. 

“Tada.” She takes a step back to examine her work. “Is it all right? Too tight?” Scully asks him looking into his eyes. His breathing sounds normal again, and his eyes are no longer blood shot. They might actually make it to Skinner’s meeting after all. Mulder, however, stays quiet and a silent Mulder is never a good sign.

“Mulder? Are you all right? Say something.” Maybe she the knot is too tight, Scully thinks, lifting her hand to adjust it. Mulder catches her wrist in mid-air. 

“It’s fine.” He mumbles and to her greatest surprise, or horror, she really can’t tell, he leans forward and kisses her wrist. 

“Thank you.” The words fall against her fluttering skin and Scully is certain she feels it reverberating through her whole body. She pulls her hand away, smoothes an invisible crease in her skirt, and takes another step backwards.

“We have a meeting to get to,” she reminds him - and herself – “do you feel up for it?” Mulder takes a step forward and their bodies are almost touching. 

“Scully?” He whispers and she feels her breath on her face, way too close to her lips, and for a moment she wonders if this is it; he’s going to kiss her finally. It’s the worst moment, she thinks, and can’t make herself care. Not even a tiny bit.

“Hm?” Her eyes want to drift close in anticipation.

“I think,” his voice is merely a soft touch of breath against her lips now and Scully sighs, “I really think that…” Scully leans forwards, their lips so close to touching, finally; so close that she is certain that she can taste him already, “I really do need those copies.” 

Or maybe not.

Chapter Text

He wonders if he should stop her. 

Scully always stops him from doing something stupid. Or rather, she continuously tries to. Because clearly, rules are there to be broken; or if they’re not broken, then at least they have to be bent. That’s Mulder’s motto, though, and not Scully’s. 

“You want to break in?” His voice is almost high-pitched; there’s no way he can hide his surprise. His ever correct Scully breaking and entering? She’s touching the sturdy fence that’s currently blocking their way. Behind it lays darkness, but if Mulder is quiet, he can hear the gentle sway of water tickled by the soft summer wind.

“Mulder, the kids ran this way,” Scully explains to him in an even voice, “Who knows what they’re planning to do inside.” Mulder is almost completely sure that this is normally his line of reasoning. It’s true that they saw about four teenagers jump the fence and disappear giggling and laughing. It’s also true, though, that this is none of their business. They’re here on a case, or rather they were here on a case, and that’s finished. A couple of teenagers using the town’s outdoor pool is not their problem. And the whole this is a big maybe, because they have no idea what the kids are planning anyway. For all he knows, this is just a short cut to wherever they want to go.

“Scully, let’s just go back to the hotel,” Scully crosses her arms in front of her chest; is this what I look like when she thinks I’m being unreasonable? Mulder can’t help but wonder, “The kids are long gone anyway.”

“Mulder, come on. They’re probably in the pool.” There’s a whiny edge to Scully’s voice that he doesn’t hear very often. It’s usually reserved for when he wakes her in the middle of the night, or during an impromptu nap, or when she hasn’t eaten for hours. He’s never heard it when he’s being logical for a change.

“We can call the police, if you want, and then go back to the hotel.”

“I don’t want to go back to the hotel. The shower is broken.” That’s when Mulder understands. He can’t believe he didn’t see it sooner. Scully couldn’t care less about the wayward teenagers. All she wants is to dive into the pool herself. It’s 10 pm and it’s still 85 degrees out here, wherever they are, and of course Scully wants to cool off. He could tell her that the shower in his room is working fine. 

“You think a broken shower warrants breaking and entering?” 

“We saw people trespassing, Mulder. That justifies us looking at the premises. Not to mention that this town is basically dead. Who would even know?” Scully is taking off her shoes before Mulder can even try to come up with something she would tell him if the roles were reserved. But Scully, as she usually does, gives him the right arguments and who is he to argue with facts? So he watches as she throws one, and then the other high heel over the fence. There’s no going back now anyway, because he knows she won’t leave her shoes behind. Ever.

“Do you need any…help?” Mulder watches hopelessly as Scully starts climbing the fence. 

“Does it look like I need help?” He has to admit that it doesn’t. It’s quite the opposite, actually. She’s almost to the top already, carefully turning over.

“The last time I did this, I was drunk.” She tells him and another moment later she is on the other side, picking up her shoes.

“You’ve done this before?” Mulder tries to climb the fence as gracefully as possible. It looked so easy when Scully did it, after all. He is taller, however, and much heavier. 

“I was young once, Mulder. Come on, hurry up.” He wishes he had known her then. A young Scully, drunk, breaking into some pool with her friends doing god knows what. Where does she hide that person these days? It has to be somewhere under all that polyester. 

“Finally.” Scully huffs when Mulder decides to forego the last bit of climbing and just jumps. At least he lands on his feet. Together they find their way through the bushes and eventually end up on an actual gravel path. 

“Mulder, look.” Scully points to a pool that seems too big for a town this small. Luckily, the teenagers aren’t there. The area is almost pitch-dark, but Scully doesn’t seem to care. He quickly follows her to the edge of the pool and rather than see anything, he hears the rustling of her getting undressed. And then the sound of clothes hitting the ground.

“Scully?”

“Yes, Mulder?” 

“Are you sure about this? I mean skinny dipping?” He looks around nervously. Even if someone were lurking, he wouldn’t be able to see. He could barely see Scully and she was standing right beside him. 

“No skinny dipping. Unless you’re not wearing any underwear.” Scully informs him and the next sound he hears is a gentle splash of water, followed by a happy sigh. 

“Come in, Mulder. The water is perfect.” He thinks that one of them should stay put, and if she’s in the water, that responsibility lies with him. He also thinks the cool water would feel nice on his heated body. Quickly, he takes off his own clothes, safe for his boxers, and lumps them with Scully’s. Before he can change his mind, he jumps in. 

“I can’t believe this,” Mulder mumbles as he’s swimming towards Scully; at least he hopes it’s her. It’s not like he can see all that much. “We actually broke in here to go swimming.”

“The water is wonderful, isn’t it?” Suddenly Scully is by his side, but she doesn’t stay long, keeps swimming. Mulder is not used to this side of her. Not at all.

“How old were you the last time?” Mulder follows her through the water easily.

“I was 15 and I was the youngest. They were mostly Missy’s friends and I just tagged along. We didn’t do much swimming, though.” Scully giggles; another thing he doesn’t get to experience all that often. Mulder thinks he should make this his new quest in life: make Scully giggle. 

“What did you do?” He has a pretty good idea, of course, but he wants her to tell him.

“I can show you if you want.” 

“Show me?” Mulder says slowly, not quite believing her words.

“Sure.” Quicker than he thought possible, she is by his side again. He feels her body press against him, warm and wet, and he wills his lower regions to stay put. At least for another moment. Her hands land on his shoulders to hold herself up. Being this close to her, he can see the playfulness dancing in her eyes. Their faces are so close that they’re sharing the same, chlorine filled air, and if he leans forwards just a tiny bit, he thinks, he could capture her lips. But she said she’d show him so Mulder just waits as patiently as humanly possible with her this close to him. With certain, easily excited parts, of his anatomy very close to parts of her anatomy he would really like to get to know better.

“I had a crush on this guy, Todd, and I hoped he would finally kiss me that night,” Scully tells him, her breath tickling him, testing his resolve, “So I followed him into the water and he put his hands on my shoulders like this and then he-” Mulder closes his eyes, anticipating her move, except that it doesn’t come. Instead her hands push on his shoulders, hard, and suddenly he is dunked under, his arms flailing, his lungs grasping for air. Before he can really panic, though, his head resurfaces and the sound of Scully’s laughter fills his ears.


“I’m sorry, Mulder,” she tells him honestly, holding him up as much as she can, “I just had to do it.”

“I thought-”, but his lungs protest, he coughs and swallows the rest of his words along with some water when Scully’s hands land on his back, gently patting him, “I thought-”

Scully uses his speechlessness to lean forward, finally, and close the gap between them. The kiss is not the hot passionate smooch Mulder expected moments ago. Rather, it’s soft and sweet and a promise.

“This what you thought?” Scully whispers against his lips.

“Sort of.” He mumbles back. 

“Let’s go back to the hotel and make sure you didn’t swallow too much water.”

“Oh, I see, you just wanted to play doctor.” Mulder coughs again, but it’s mostly for show and they both know it. 

“Maybe.” He gets another kiss, just as soft, but a bit more persistent. Yes, Mulder thinks, sometimes rules should definitely be broken.

Chapter Text

Whoever said that women took forever to get ready had obviously never known the likes of Fox Mulder.

Scully glances at her watch, again, ready to storm into his room and drag him out of it no matter how ready – or not – he is. If she were being honest with herself (and she really isn’t in the mood for that), she would know that Mulder taking forever is not the real issue at hand. It’s the combination of the bogus case, the Podunk town and the fact that Skinner is with them, following them like a police dog, every step of the way. 

“Finally.” Scully mumbles when Mulder knocks insistently at her door. 

“Scully, come on.” His audacity to sound impatient with her, as if it were her fault that they’ll be late for the meeting with Skinner, turns up her anger just another notch. She takes a deep breath, closes her eyes for the fragment of a moment, and opens the door.  

“Is that… lipstick on your collar?” It’s the first thing she sees. His collar, or really his whole throat area, is not necessarily the body part she tends to look at first. Her eyes, however, can’t ignore the deep red splotch on his otherwise very clean, very neat white shirt. 

“Oh. I doubt Skinner will notice. Come on.” He takes her hand and almost drags her along with him through the hotel lobby and to the elevator. Scully can only imagine what they look like; Mulder has guilty determination written all over his face while Scully’s own reflection is flushed. No one but her knows it’s angry disappointment, or merely angry confusion. There’s no doubt in her mind that she’s angry. That one’s for sure. She doesn’t have the time to think about any other emotion she might have or not have this moment. There’s lipstick on Mulder’s collar. It’s a deep, dark red bleeding on his shirt. She wants to ask him Who, she wants to ask him Why and really, Mulder? On a case?

Scully is ready to yell at him, to let him know that she’s waited for him to get ready, and that she would have just gone ahead if she’d known that he was with another woman. None of these words leave her mouth. Scully is angry that she even thinks them. She sounds like a jilted lover, a jealous girlfriend, a cheated wife. After all, she is none of these things. Her thoughts, luckily, are interrupted when they finally arrive in the hotel’s very own restaurant. A strange place for a meeting, but since all three of them are staying here, it makes the most sense.

“I was just about to call you.” Skinner puts his cell phone down on the table. There’s no food in front of him, instead there is a glass of water and several folders to be devoured by all three of them. This is not a social call, Scully thinks, as she sits down. 

“Are you all right?” Scully isn’t sure who he directs the question at; sometimes he seems to think of them as a unit, one person with two bodies. 

“We are, Sir.” She answers for both of them and silently prays that Mulder will stop fidgeting next to her. 

“Well, all right then…” Skinner trails off, watching Mulder who just can’t sit still. He looks like a seal out of water. One would think that their boss is used to Mulder’s strange behavior and able to ignore it. Just like Scully does. Today, however, Skinner is not inclined to do so.

“Agent Mulder,” he addresses him directly and for a moment Mulder manages to relax; just like a puppy trying to do right by its owner. Scully fears that, just like with a puppy, it won’t last. “I was hoping you had some insights into the suspect’s motivations.” Mulder nods solemnly.

That’s when Scully sees Skinner tilting his head slightly; oh no, she thinks, please no. Skinner, of course can’t hear her and then there’s a hint of surprise on his face, for just a second, before his eyes stoically settle on hers. She can tell that he wants to ask her about the thing. Join the club, Scully thinks, but Skinner can’t know that she’s just as confused about the lipstick as he is. More so, probably. Especially since he seems to think it’s her lipstick on his collar. 

“You were fifteen minutes late, Agent Mulder,” Skinner starts and Scully wishes she could just disappear, “And you can’t even…” 

“Can’t even what, Sir? I’m sorry we were late, there was something – I had a, uhm, there was something I had to take care of.” Wrong choice of words, Scully thinks, and blushes. Skinner just stares at her, obviously blaming her as much as he blames Mulder.

“I don’t really want to know what you had to take care of, Agent Mulder,” Skinner’s voice sounds like one, big sigh, “I realize a meeting in a hotel restaurant is unorthodox, but you could have at least worn a clean shirt.” 

“Oh.” Mulder says. The same answer he gave Scully earlier. So much for his Skinner won’t notice anyway attitude. She almost grins, but then she remembers that in Skinner’s eyes, it’s her lipstick and she’s just as guilty as Mulder.

“Yes ‘oh’. Please go and put on a clean shirt before we go and interview the witness, Agent Mulder.” 

“Of course, Sir.” Mulder gives her a pleading look and Scully just stares back at him. Is he really expecting her to go with him? Skinner already thinks they’ve been doing things they shouldn’t be doing while on assignment. They’re not even doing things when they’re not on assignment. Somewhere in the back of her mind Scully knows she should tell Skinner all of this. Yet, no words come out. Instead she gets up, too,  and Mulder looks relieved. She follows him to the elevator, still not saying a word. Mulder on the other hand fumbles with his tie, loosening it, and sighs in relief.

“What was that?” Scully finally finds her voice when they’re in the elevator. It just breaks out of her so violently that she almost spits out the words.

“No idea,” Mulder says and clearly, he can’t be that dense, “He seems in a bad mood.” 

“Mulder, are you – “The elevator dings and sounds as angry as Scully feels. Mulder steps out and in a few, long strides Scully doesn’t even try to keep up with, he’s opening the door to his hotel room.

“I’ll only be a minute.” He assures her with a grin before he disappears. Having heard the words before, Scully lets herself into her own, adjoining room, prepared for a long, long wait. 

Not even five minutes later, Scully’s cell phone rings. She fully expects it to be Skinner and she’s mildly surprised when the ID reads Mulder instead. 

“Scully, I need your help.”

“What did you do?” She’s already rushing towards her door.

“Uhm, you better come over here.” 

Scully knocks and enters when she hears Mulder’s mumbled voice. She doesn’t know what she expected, but it wasn’t necessarily this.

“So uh. I noticed you’re kinda naked. Is that intentional or…?” Scully tries hard not to stare at his broad, naked chest. Or his open pants. The whole man looks like an invitation for a nice, hot date in bed.  

“You were supposed to change your shirt, Mulder,” she tells him, looking anywhere but at him. The furniture here sure looks ugly, she thinks, or maybe it’s just the comparison with the beauty that is Mulder. Scully squeezes her eyes shut for a moment, willing the very inappropriate thoughts away. It doesn’t work. The only thing that disappears is the ugly anger she felt earlier.

“I know,” he sighs, “I just don’t have another shirt. This is how the whole thing started in the first place.” There’s a moment of silence, because Scully expects him to elaborate. He always elaborates. On. Every. Little. Thing. Now when there’s something to talk about – Lipstick, Mulder? On your collar? – he keeps his mouth shut.

“What do you mean you don’t have another shirt?” 

“I only packed the one shirt.” The one with the lipstick, she figures. “This one isn’t even mine.” Scully can’t take it anymore and turns around. This isn’t the first time she’s seen him shirtless. Usually it’s because he’s drugged or injured, but apparently, this is a special kind of situation as well. She’s still waiting for an explanation. Mulder, however, rummages around his suitcase like a dog searching for a bone.

“Mulder, how did the lipstick get on your shirt?” It might not be the right question, but it’s the only one she cares about. The one she’s been thinking about ever since she’s seen the evidence on his collar. There’s no woman hidden here in this room and looking around she doesn’t see any tell-tale signs that a woman has even been here. 

“It’s not my shirt.”

“What?” 

Instead of answering her, he storms into the bathroom. When he returns a moment later, he’s holding a soaked through white shirt that’s dripping water onto the soft carpet. 

“That’s my shirt. I was hungry earlier and I remembered the donuts I bought yesterday. I didn’t know they were jelly donuts.” He throws the short back into the bathroom, obviously having given up on it. 

“Then whose shirt is the one with the lipstick?” 

“I stole it from the laundry room.”

“You what?”

“Scully, we were already late for the meeting with Skinner. I didn’t see the lipstick on the collar. It looked clean and so I took it. I would have returned it.” He probably wouldn’t have; not because he was a thief, but Scully is certain he would have simply forgotten about it.

“So now what?” Mulder sits on the bed looking like a lost boy. “You don’t happen to have a shirt for me, do you?” He laughs at his own joke.

“Well…”

“You do?” 

Scully quickly leaves for her own room and comes back with a shirt in hand.

“It’s not your size.” She tells him and hands him the garment. “But it’s clean.” Mulder eyes the small shirt and then he looks at her.

“How is that going to fit me?”

“Just keep your jacket closed at all times and no one will know.” His cell phone starts vibrating on the small bedside table. They both know it has to be Skinner. Changing a shirt shouldn’t take so long. Scully is pretty certain that she knows what’s going through Skinner’s head right now and she blushes just thinking about it.

“Just put it on, Mulder.” He stands and puts it over his head. He groans as he tries to get his arms through the short, tight sleeves. Scully rushes over to help him. Mulder strangling himself with her shirt is the last thing they need right now. Her hands grace his chest as she tries to move down the shirt, but in the end they both have to accept that it won’t go further than his navel.

“You look…” Scully says unable to stifle a laugh. He looks absolutely ridiculous.

“It was your idea.” Mulder complains as he puts on his jacket. He’ll have to go without a tie, of course, but at least he’s fairly decent. 

“You look nice, Mulder.” It’s a lie, of course, but Mulder gives her a grimace that almost qualifies as a smile.

“Don’t you think Skinner will notice I’m not wearing a tie?” 

“Nothing we can do about that now. Come on, he’s waiting and he’s already angry.” He’s angry because he thinks the only reason we’re late is because we were having fun up here, Scully thinks bitterly. She ushers Mulder outside and back into the elevator.

“Your shirt feels nice, Scully.”

“Glad you like it.”

“Can I keep it? I’ll give you one of mine in return if you want. A clean one of course. Or we can share this one. You get it one week then I’ll get it for a week and-”

“Ask me again when we’re home.” Scully interrupts him.

“Oh Agent Scully, are you coming on to me?” His voice is full of bubbly humor.

“Maybe I am.” The elevator dings and Scully strides out like the professional woman she is with Mulder frozen dumbstruck.

“Come on, Mulder. We’re already late.” 

Chapter Text

December 31th
The office’s New Year’s Eve party is well underway when Mulder finally arrives. He sent Scully up hours ago when she refused to go home. Because Dr. Dana Scully was ‘fine’, as Mulder has been told a total of 12 times today. Though if Mulder is honest, he knows he would have waved her off, too, were their roles reserved. After all, it is usually him who suffers this or that injury. When it’s Scully, though, it’s different. For him, anyway. 

She wants him to ignore it when she is in pain, while she watches his every breath when he merely has a scratch. So if she refused to go home nursing her two cracked ribs, thanks to a now caught criminal, then she had to join the office party. That was his final offer. His Scully, a challenging sparkle in her exhausted eyes, simply told him she’d meet him later at the party. 

And here he is. 

Mulder looks around, not recognizing half of these people. Do they all work here? He grabs a red solo cup, pours some diet coke into it and lets his eyes roam the hall to find Scully. While she’s not tall, he can always find her. Most of the time it’s the flame of her hair or the sound of her voice; there’s always something that tells him it’s her. This time, though, it’s none of the usual tell-tale signs that direct him to her. It’s her laugh. The sound itself is uncommon enough, but here, surrounded by all these strangers? Or they’re not strangers to Scully, Mulder thinks as he feels himself pulled towards her. Sometimes he forgets that, unlike him, she likes to be social from time to time. For all he knows, she could be chatting up these people all the time when she’s not with him. The thought makes him take bigger steps.

“Mulder, hi.” There’s something in the way she says his name. He loves to hear her say his name; whether it’s in annoyance, frustration or happiness. Just the way her lips curl around his name is a thing of beauty and his favorite sound in the world. Well, maybe next to her laughter. Or maybe his third; he is certain that if he were to ever hear her moan that this would be his favorite sound. 

“You all right?” Her voice is slightly slurred, he realizes, as his mouth is unable to form even a simple answer. So he just nods. It should be him asking her that question. Standing next to them, another agent chuckles before Mulder can make himself find the right words. He throws the stranger a look that he hopes conveys the right message: fuck off. The agent, however, takes a sip from his cup and looks at Scully.

“So, Dana,” he basically drools, “What are your plans for later? Any New Year’s Eve parties that are better than this one?” Mulder wants to tell him that whatever her plans are, they sure as hell won’t include him. It’s not his decision to make, though. He hopes (he almost prays and wouldn’t Scully just love that?) that her thoughts are along the same line. 

“Hm, I don’t really have any yet.” She turns to look at Mulder as if it were his fault. Maybe it is, he thinks. Mulder can’t imagine Scully wanting to spend the rest of day with him, though. Why would she spend it with him of all people? As much as he wanted to be the down to count down, to hold her in his arms and maybe sneak a kiss, he was fine with being by himself. As long as she didn’t spend the night with Agent Douchebag here. Who is grinning at Mulder right now. 

“So, if I were to ask you to come with me to this great party,” he clears his throat, “you might actually say yes?”

“I’m not feeling all that well.” Scully mumbles. Mulder doubts that this is her actual answer. Why hasn’t he noticed this before? She is leaning against the wall, but it doesn’t look like she’s doing it to be comfortable. It looks like she does it so she won’t fall down. Her hand is around one of those colorful cups and he takes it from her. One sniff and confusion bubbles up inside of him.

“Scully? Did you drink this? You know you’re not supposed to mix your painkillers with alcohol.” Steadying her, Mulder almost misses the other agent standing up straight, suddenly eager to get away.

“No alcohol, Mulder. I said soda. It’s diet coke, I think.” Her slurred voice betrays her words, but Mulder knows Scully would never knowingly mix painkillers and alcohol. 

“Uhm, I’ll call you, Dana. For sure.” Agent Douchebag runs off, stumbles and crashes into a group of other agents. He apologizes quickly before he disappears into the crowd.

“Idiot.” Mulder murmurs, tightening his grip on Scully, who leans against him heavily. He has no idea how much she’s had to drink, but with her size, any amount is most likely too much.

“I’m an idiot?” She pouts at him. Mulder tries, and fails, to recall a moment when he’s seen her do this. It’s the most adorable sight and he wishes he could just look at her like this for another minute or twenty. Take a picture of this. Would it be creepy if he asked her to pout for him some time when she was sober? 

“No, Scully. Not you. That guy, Agent… whatever his name is.”

“Dean. No, Sean! Or something like that. Mulder, what’s his name?”

“I’m sure I couldn’t care less. Come on, I’ll take you home.”

“What will the others think?” She firmly plants her feet on the ground and tries to get away from his tight hold on her.

“Since when do you care what others think, Scully? Let’s just go. No one cares anyway.” To his own surprise, no one is watching them. They’re all engaged in their own lives. Most of them are drunk anyway. Just like Scully. 

“How many of these… sodas did you have, Scully?” He asks her as she reluctantly follows his lead.

“Two. Or three cups? Mulder, I don’t remember!” There’s the pout again. Mulder leads her away from the crowd, because he is certain that Scully doesn’t want to be seen like this by any more co-workers. In the elevator, Scully leans against him, completely trusting him to keep her upright. She hums something completely unrecognizable and Mulder quickly ushers her out as soon as the elevator dings.

“It’s quiet down here.” Scully remarks, standing in the door frame. Her body sways gently as if to a tune only she can hear. That’s when she starts humming again. Mulder sighs, quickly grabs his things, then hers, and locks the office. 

“It’s quiet down here because there’s no one here but us. Come on now. Where are your car keys?”

“I don’t feel like driving, Mulder.” Scully sighs.

“No, you’re not driving. I am. We’ll take my car.”

“You’re gonna leave my car here?” If she could only stop with the pouting. Her luscious lips are a distraction he can’t deal with right now. 

“We can pick it up tomorrow.” He finally tells her, tearing his eyes away from her mouth. 

“I trust you.” Scully tells him with a nod, sighs again, and loops her arm through his. Whether it’s to steady herself or just because she wants to, he can no longer tell. Tipsy Scully definitely likes to touch him. A lot.

“Mulderrrr?” They’re in the garage now and Mulder can’t for the life of him remember where he parked his car. Great. All he wants is to get Scully away from here, into a bed and wait until she’s herself again. He stops walking and she crashes into him. Scully giggles and her hands remain on his arms. 

“Mulder?” She tries again, her head on his back. 

“Yes, Scully?”

“Can I tell you a secret?” Another giggle. Oh oh, Mulder thinks. He should stop this. Ignore her, carry her to the car – wherever it is – and hope that she falls asleep on their way home. And forgets that she ever said this. He doesn’t want her to tell him secrets when she’s like this. 

“Mulderrrrrr.” 

“Scully, let’s find my car and get you home, all right? You can tell me all your secrets when we’re home.” That sound again, her giggle, and he is sure he’s never going to find his car. She’s like a squirrel, constantly moving around him now, making him dizzy. 

“If I find it,” she slurs, “Can I tell you my secret then?”

“Sure.” He answers absent-mindedly. She is not going to find his car in her state if he can’t even find it stone-cold sober.

“There it is!” Luckily, Scully doesn’t try to run. She can barely walk on her high heels and Mulder quickly catches up to her so he can steady her. 

“I can tell my secret now!” 

“Let’s buckle you in first.” With his hand on her back, he manages to make her get into the car. Scully, who is usually the first to put the seatbelt on, just sits there and waits. So Mulder leans over her and fastens the seatbelt himself. Quickly, he gets in on his side and starts the car. The radio comes alive the moment the engine does and it distracts Scully enough to make her forget what she wanted to tell him. 

“I love this song.” She says and starts humming again. Mulder recognizes it; it’s the same song she’s been humming since earlier. He grins; she really can’t carry a tune. The song, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” in her very own rendition could be anything. Before the song ends, Scully’s humming stops. When he turns to her, her head is leaning against the window, and she’s fast asleep. What a relief.

It’s only a nuisance when they finally arrive.

“Scully? Scully, we’re here.” Mulder says softly, touching her cheek. He’d love nothing more than to carry her upstairs, but he knows her ribs must be sore and he doesn’t want to cause her any more pain. She groans, but doesn’t wake.

“Scully, come on. You can sleep in your bed.”

“Not tired.” She mumbles without opening her eyes. 

“All right, I’m going to carry you,” he warns her. Even if her ribs weren’t sore, he knows she would never let him carry her, “I’m not going to let you sleep in the car.” She doesn’t answer at all this time so he gently puts his arms under her knees and around her back. His own back protests as he carefully gets Scully out of the car. He kicks the door shut just as Scully cuddles close to him. 

“Hm, nice.” She whispers into his neck. For a moment he considers asking Scully to reach into his coat pocket and get the keys out. The way her hand is currently stroking his chest, though, he is not sure this is a good idea. Instead he takes out the keys himself and manages not to drop Scully in the process.

“Don’t wanna go to bed yet, Mulder. It’s New Year’s Eve. Gotta see the, you know, ball drop.”

“It’s still early, Scully. I’ll wake you.” 

“Promise?”

“I promise.” Scully nods and slips out of his arms. He stands frozen and waits if she’s able to walk by herself. She takes off her high heels and just leaves them there. Mulder makes a mental note to put them away later. He follows Scully into her bedroom where she slumps down onto her bed. 

“Scully?” No answer.

“Scully? Wouldn’t you be more comfortable if-”

“’m fine, Mul'er. Oh!” Suddenly she sits up and she seems to be swaying. Mulder is by her side in an instant, worried she might be sick. When she sees him there, she gives him a lopsided smile and her eyes drift close again.

“You ok?” He whispers.

“Hm. I just almost forgot, you know. Have to tell you my,” she yaws, “my secret, Mulder.”

“It can wait, Scully, I-”

“No, Mulder. I have to tell you and I have to tell you now before I forget.” Almost reluctantly, he leans closer to her. 

“It’s a good one.” She whispers with her eyes still closed. A smile appears on her lips as if she’s remembering something. Then her eyes open, a bit unfocused, but as blue as ever. They find his and she sighs. 

“My secret… oh, Mulder,” she sighs, “I really, really…” She stops herself and takes his tie in her hand. Gently, she pulls him even closer until their faces are only inches apart.

“Scully, it’s fine. You don’t have to say-”

“Mulder, I really, really hate your ties.” With that, she lets go of the garment and flops back down. Her eyes close and a moment later her breathing deepens.

“That’s really, really not what I thought you’d say.” Mulder mumbles, leaving his partner to sleep it off. 

Chapter Text

“So, I turn around and suddenly my partner has disappeared. Care to explain yourself, Mulder?“ Scully’s muscles protest as she sits beside Mulder, who quickly looks up at her with obvious regret. If he thought she wouldn’t find him hiding here on the roof of her mother’s garage then… well, then he was almost right. She was about to give up five minutes ago when she saw his long legs dangle there as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Who hides on a roof anyway, she wonders. 

“Well, you found me, didn‘t you?“ He sulks. Scully considers pushing him off the roof; it’s not that high anyway and he deserves it for just disappearing without a word. Ditching her at her family’s Easter celebrations is low, even for Mulder’s standards. 

“Mulder, I realize it‘s Easter, but I could have done without looking for you just now. And you‘re not even made of chocolate.“ A tiny grin spreads on his face, but he doesn‘t turn to look at her. His eyes are where they always are; up in the sky, looking for something only he can see. He reaches into his coat pocket and takes out a small chocolate egg, a remnant of the earlier Easter Egg hunt with the whole family, and hands it to her. 

“You should go back inside.“ 

“So should you.“ She is not going back inside without him. 

“Your family doesn‘t want me here, Scully. I shouldn‘t have come.“ Ah, there it is. Ever since her mother invited Mulder to spend Easter with the Scully clan a week ago, he had tried to get out of it. Scully hadn‘t budged; he had promised her mother, unable to say no, and so he was going. And it had all been fine up until two hours ago. Mulder had charmed each and every female member of the family. The men liked him, too, except of course for Bill Jr. Without her brother, Mulder wouldn‘t have run off and they wouldn‘t be sitting here on the garage of all places, freezing their asses off. Of course Mulder doesn’t see it this way. 

“That is not true, Mulder.“

“Hm.”

“Anyway, Mulder, why are you hiding up here on the roof?” 

“You know, when I was a kid, I always climbed trees and roofs because Samantha couldn’t follow me. Then she did once, fell, and broke her arm,” Mulder chuckles, remembering, “so I stopped. When… after she was taken, I started doing it again. I was hiding from my parents, mostly, and I thought – well, I thought up on the roof I had the best view. I stared at the stars, hoping I’d see her. A sign from her. I never did of course. I haven’t done this in ages. But when I heard you and your brother earlier, my first instinct was to do this.”

“Bill would probably freak if you knew you were up here.” So would her mother, she thinks. 

“I’m sure he’d want me to plummet to death.”

“Maybe. I wouldn’t, though.”

“He’d be angry I made you come up here.”

“You didn’t make me come up here, Mulder. It was my choice. It’s always my choice.” 

“I heard you defend me. Before I came here, I heard you.” 

“Oh.” Scully blushes. She of course remembers every word she said, no, threw at her brother. “Then why did you leave?” 

“I don’t want your pity, Scully.”

“I don’t pity you, Mulder. Didn’t you hear what I told Bill?”

“Oh, I did. You told him that your mother invited me and that I don’t have any family of my own. That’s when I left.”

“Then you only heard half of it, Mulder. Bill asked me why you were here and yes, I told him mom invited you. When he went on about how you should be with your own family, I reminded him that not all families are like ours. You should have stayed and listened to the rest of it.”

“And hear you say what? That you pity me.”

“Mulder, could you please just listen to me for once? I told Bill that you’re my friend and that I wanted – want – you here with me. I told him,” she stops, needs more air which is ridiculous, because out here all they have is air. She feels his eyes on her now and he is waiting for her to continue, “I told him that you are my family and I would hope that you consider me your family, too.”

“He was probably tickled to hear you say that.” And he grins at her. A full blown Mulder grin is always one of the most beautiful things Scully can imagine seeing. He takes her hand into his and looks down at her fingers still clutching the chocolate egg. Mulder takes it from her, unwraps it and offers the egg to her. Scully shakes her head no.

“Open up, Scully. You know you want to.” She rolls her eyes at him, but slowly opens her mouth. Scully feels his fingers brush her lips lightly as he puts the chocolate egg inside. The taste is exquisite; warm and rich and she is not sure it’s just the chocolate. They sit in silence for a moment, but no matter how tasty the chocolate or how nice the feeling of Mulder’s thighs against hers, she is freezing. 

“Mulder, can we please go back inside? It’s cold.” But instead, he scoots closer and puts his arm around her shoulder, gently rubbing her arm. 

“I know we have to go back inside eventually,” he tells her with a sigh, his breath close to her ear, tickling her. “Just five more minutes?” 

“Five more minutes,” Scully agrees, lifting her eyes up to the sky. Living in the city, she sometimes forgets what the night out here looks like. There’s not a cloud in sight, just the moon and the stars shining down on them. “It really is beautiful, isn’t it?” She doesn’t expect him to answer, not really. She thinks he is lost in his own world, in his own images. Whatever he sees up there in between all the stars. 

“It really, really is.” He whispers and suddenly she realizes he is not even looking at the sky; he is only looking at her.

Chapter Text

“Scully, come on. We’re already late as it is.” Mulder knocks on her hotel room, his knuckles almost bruising with the intensity. It’s not like her to make them late. That’s his part. Another moment passes and just as he’s ready to knock again, the door opens. He takes a step back, automatically, upon seeing her. There’s a reddish glow on her face that looks almost as if a child played around with make-up.

“Let’s go.” Her voice sounds weak as she closes the door behind her.

“Uhm, Scully?” Mulder follows her in tiny steps. Usually she walks quickly, her heels clicking rapidly, but not today.

“What?” She snaps, turning to him.

“Are you all right?” No need for sugar-coating, Mulder decides. He’s never seen her like this; her body moving in slow motion as if every step is painful.

“I’m perfectly fine, Mulder.”

“The Sheriff called earlier,” he tells her, for the moment accepting her obvious lie, as they leave the hotel and step outside. Mulder watches her shiver as the warm wind swirls around them, “and there’s been another murder.” He finishes, not really caring. She, apparently, doesn’t either.

“Stop staring at me, Mulder.” She tells him.

“I’m not staring at you. I just informed you what the sheriff said.” Scully turns to him, obviously not having listened. There definitely is an unhealthy glow around her cheeks and her eyes look glassy, almost transparent. No matter what Scully tells him, he knows she’s not fine. At all.

“Something about…” She prompts but he is not going to repeat it.

“Scully, you’re not fine. Are you – are you sick?”

“No.” She replies way too quickly as she crosses her arms in front of her chest defensively. As if having a cold were a sign of weakness.

“Scully, I think you might have a fever.”

“Mulder, I’m a doctor.”

“So am I.” He counters.

“A medical doctor, Mulder. Now let’s go. We’re already late, aren’t we?” He leans over and puts his hand on her forehead; just as he suspected, she is burning up.

“Scully, you’re hot.”

“Thank you, Mulder, but that’s hardly appropriate.”

“Oh, it is. I wasn’t talking about your level of attractiveness, although you are hot,” she rolls her eyes as he clears his throat, “I mean you do have a fever.”

“I’m fine, Mulder. Let’s just go.” He throws up his hands in surrender, opens the car and gets in himself. Neither of them speaks; Mulder is too angry and when he glances over at Scully at a red light, he realizes she has her own reasons to be quiet: she’s asleep. Mulder doesn’t think about it. He turns the car around and drives back to the hotel. Scully doesn’t even stir. Mulder really doesn’t want to wake her (partly because he’ll have to explain himself) so instead of doing so, he opens her car door and attempts to very carefully get her out.

“Mulder? What? Are we there yet?”

“Yes, we are.” He answers stupidly. Scully nods and gets out of the car herself. She takes in her surroundings and then turns to him.

“This is not the sheriff station.”

“No, it’s not. You’re sick, Scully,” she’s about to protest, “and the sheriff told me you were not to come in today.” She closes her mouth, tilts her head slightly,

“When did he tell you this?”

“He called,” Mulder lies, “You were asleep in the car.” Scully eyes him suspiciously, but eventually she gives up.

“All right, Mulder. You win. I’m going to take some Tylenol and sleep for a couple of hours. Then I’m doing my job.” She gives him a hard look, and he almost flinches. Even when she’s sick, she could most likely kick his ass. So he nods, trying to suppress his grin. He’ll have a couple of hours to pamper her (if she lets him) and that’s got to be enough. For now.

Chapter Text

Scully watches Mulder turn off the light in the bathroom, finally, and she considers a suggestive pose just to surprise him. Mulder, however, is quicker than her thoughts and before she knows it, he is under the covers with her.

“Hello.” He breathes against her, leaving wet kisses on her neck and making her chuckle. His mouth leaves her and before she has time to complain, then he’s on all fours over her, eliciting soft laughter from her that turns into a full belly laugh when he starts to growl and purr.

“Mulder, stop that!” Scully swats his bicep and pretending to be wounded, he falls down next her.

“I was going to use my mouth for other things anyway.” He lets his hand sneak under her pajama top, tickling her ribcage, wandering up until he finds her breast. Just as his mouth is about to descend on hers, their bedroom door flies open and five year old Will sprints towards them. Mulder rolls away from Scully as quickly as possible, almost falling off the bed in the process. Luckily, her pajama top falls back into place as soon as his hand is gone.

“D…did you just make that noise?” Uncertain if he can just jump into bed, Will clings to one of the bed posts.

“What noise, honey?” Scully asks him, holding out her hand to him. He takes it and climbs into their bed.

“The noise, mommy. Like… like an animal.” He whispers the last word, afraid that if he says it louder, it might make it real.

“There’s no animal here,” Scully assures her son, running her hand through his tousled hair, “.” Will tilts his head, considers her answer and obviously, doesn’t quite believe her, “Look, there’s nothing here.”

“I heard the noise.” Will tells her in a perfect imitation of his father, who Scully can feel grinning next to her.

“Come on, buddy, we’ll check under the bed and in your room. If there’s nothing, you can go back to sleep. Sound like a plan?” Mulder asks him and Will nods slowly, his expression still doubtful. With a sigh, Mulder rolls out of bed, picks up Will and Scully listens to their combined noises. Mulder is telling his son something she can’t quite make out. His voice is a deep, soothing rumble and Scully finds her own eyes drift shut.

“Hey, Will is asleep.” It’s either ten minutes or ten hours later when Mulder mumbles the words against her neck, picking up exactly where they left off.

“So am I, Mulder.” Scully groans, not even opening her eyes.

“Aw, Scully.” Mulder pouts.

“What was the problem anyway?” Scully shifts so that she’s lying on her side. Mulder immediately draws her closer to him and she smiles, reveling in his warmth.

“Just a bad dream I guess. Are you sure you’re tired?”

“Hm, maybe not that tired.” She admits and plunges her tongue into his mouth, startling him. He recovers quickly, deepening their kiss. His hands begin to roam, take the same liberties they wanted to take earlier. Scully moans into his mouth and then a scream tears through the sizzling mood. They break apart immediately, entangling from each other, and run out of the bedroom and right into Will, who smacks into Mulder’s legs.

“Hey, buddy, what happened?” Mulder picks him up and Scully examines him from head to toe, searching for something; a scratch, a wound, anything. Apart from his soft crying he seems fine, though, and she breathes a sigh of relief.

“You said you’d stay.” Will accuses his father, digging his index finger into his chest.

“I said I’d say until you fell asleep.” Mulder kisses the boy’s temple as Scully strokes his back, hoping to calm him down.

“I woke up again.” Will sobs, burrowing his head in Mulder’s neck.

“Honey, you need to sleep. You’ve got school tomorrow.”

“I can’t sleep, mommy,” he wipes his runny nose against Mulder’s shirt before he looks at Scully, tears still swimming in his bright blue eyes. “What if the Chupcra gets me?”

“The what?” Scully asks, her eyes finding Mulder’s and when a flicker of guilt passes on his face, she gets a faint idea of what all of this is about.

“Daddy told me about the Chupcra. What if he gets me?”

“Did daddy tell you about the Chupacabra?” Will nods. “Honey, the Chupacabra is not real. It’s just a story your daddy shouldn’t have been telling you.”

“No, he’s real. Daddy says he’s real. Right, daddy?”

“Well, you know, Will… he might be real,” Scully clears her throat, “but your mother is right; it’s just a story. You know, like all the other stories I’ve told you.”

“You said they were all real!” Will gasps. Scully watches Mulder squirm, unable to answer their son. If he’s expecting her to help him, he’s definitely out of luck.

“They’re not, Will. They’re all just… stories.”

“Hmpf.” The boy lets go of Mulder’s arms and slides down to the floor.

“If the Chupcra’s not real, I can sleep. I thought he was real!” Will throws his hands in the air, dramatically. He shuffles towards his room and Scully is certain that he’ll be asleep in no time.

“So, Mulder, why did you think it would be a good idea to tell our five year old son about the Chupacabra?”

“He loves hearing about the x-files, Scully,” Mulder assures her, gently steering her towards the bed again, “You should have heard him laughing when I told him about the Flukeman. Didn’t care about Mothmen either. He’s your son, Scully. I don’t know why this story bothered him so much.”

“Next time tell him something from Disney, Mulder.” Scully says, getting under the covers.

“You know, many of those Disney movies are based on actual-”

“Good night, Mulder.”

“Hey Scully, I’m pretty sure that Will will stay in his room now.”

“You missed your chance, Mulder.”

“Should have told him a Disney story.” Mulder mumbles, then sighs and Scully smiles as she feels him settle himself against her. To sleep.

Chapter Text

The front door opens and Mulder strolls in, expertly balancing Will and two grocery bags. Their son is babbling happily, retelling his adventures at the store in his own, still unintelligible words.

“Scully? Some help?” Mulder gasps, one of the bags slowly slipping from his hands and now dangling low. She realizes she’s just been standing there, watching her two men. Quickly, she takes one of the bags from him. He mouths a thank you at her, grinning brightly.

“You’re home early.” William begins kicking his little pudgy legs and holding out his arms.

“One of my classes was cancelled,” Scully takes her son from Mulder and he immediately quiets down, leaning heavily against her. She closes her eyes and buries her nose in his soft, curly hair that smells like baby shampoo and faintly of chocolate chip cookies. Or maybe that’s just his natural scent; Scully smiles against him and she feels Will giggle. “I got home and you weren’t here.” She doesn’t mean to sound so accusatory.

“Sorry, Scully,” Mulder messily kisses her cheek, his hands already unpacking the bags. Scully watches him, holding on to Will, who is playing with her necklace. His fingers are wet and he’s smearing saliva all over her clothes.

“We’re kind of popular at the supermarket and it takes a while to get out of there.” Mulder smirks at Will and their son, as if knowing exactly what his father is talking about, grins back.

“What do you mean you’re popular?” She sounds irritated now; she can hear it in her voice, feels like a nagging wife, and she clears her throat, but the words are already out. Mulder, however, seems unfazed.

“Oh you know.”

“No, Mulder. I don’t know.” Scully tightens her grip on Will, who is getting fussy in her arms. He probably needs a nap, or he’s hungry. Not knowing makes Scully even angrier. She is not part of this daily routine. Ever since she went back to work two months ago, Mulder has taken over here at home. Including taking care of their son. It had seemed right then; it seems right when she’s at work, teaching young, eager FBI agents. Right now, in her own kitchen, holding her baby son, it just seems incredibly wrong.

“The ladies love a guy who’s good with kids,” Mulder’s grin fades as he turns to her, catching her uncertain look, “And Will is so cute. You know.” Scully wills herself not to cry. Will, however, takes the cue from her. It starts out as a soft sob and turns into a full-blown screaming session. Scully sees Mulder take a step towards her and she flees the kitchen.

“It’s all right, baby.” She coos into Will’s ears; she can’t be certain if the boy hears it through his piercing screams. His diaper starts sagging and at least this is something she knows how to take care of.

Scully puts the wailing child on the changing table and quickly discards him of his clothes and his wet diaper. Out of the corner of her eyes, she can see Mulder in the doorway. He’s standing there not saying a single word.

“I can do this, Mulder.” Scully snaps at him. When she finishes Will up, the smile back on his tiny, beautiful face, Mulder is gone.

They find him in the kitchen. Will is no longer fussing; he’s barely keeping his eyes open, clutching at Scully’s blouse.

“It’s time for his nap. Do you want me to put him down?” Mulder informs her while chopping carrots. Scully wants to tell him to be careful; she isn’t in the mood to doctor him. She catches herself just in time realizing that he probably does this all the time. When she’s not here.

“No. No, I’ll do it.” If she doesn’t start crying first, she thinks. Will is heavy against her; he won’t be any problem. He’s different at night, she thinks, gently putting him in his bed. His eyes are closed and she wonders what he dreams about. Trips to the grocery store with his dad, maybe. Does he dream of her? She can only hope.

“Hey?” Mulder’s wraps himself around her from behind and she can’t help but lean against him. He puts his head on her shoulder and there’s that smell again; chocolate chip cookie. Scully smiles and puts her hands over his, laying still there on her stomach.

“Mulder, aren’t you bored?”

“I’m sorry?”

“You’re here every day with Will and I give you these ridiculous grocery lists and I come home and everything is clean, the laundry is done. Will is happy and you… are you bored?”

“Why would I be bored?” He chuckles against her, nuzzling her neck.

“Because you’re usually so, so…”

“So what, Scully?” How is she supposed to think when he’s trailing down kisses along her neck and throat?

“Restless.” She basically moans.

“Hm,” He hums against her, “I admit I didn’t think I’d ever do this, or enjoy any of this. But you know what? Our son is amazing. ”

“I do know that.”

“And he’s already charming all the ladies at the grocery store and the playground. I have to keep an eye on him, you know.”

“I wonder where he gets his charming ways from.” Scully turns in his arms, unable to take anymore of his playful nuzzling. She presses her mouth against his and he willingly opens his lips to hers. Their kiss deepens and neither of them can keep it up; the need for air stronger than their desire for each other.

“We made a great kid, Scully.”

“We did.” She agrees, looking at their peacefully sleeping son. If only she didn’t feel the slight pang of guilt, of fear.

“What is it?” Mulder asks her, tightening his grip on her.

“I just… do you think I’m here enough? You’re meeting ladies at the grocery store and apparently you and Will are popular, if I can believe your words.” The accusatory tone makes an unasked reappearance, but Mulder just holds her tighter.

“Ah, that’s it,” he grins and plants a kiss on her nose, “You know, you can just stay home a while longer. You could come with us, make sure everyone knows where Will and I belong. It’s your decision.”

“I do want to work,” Scully tells him honestly, “I just…”

“Scully, he’s fine. We both are. Look, we can think of ways to make it easier for you. How about we come have lunch with you once or twice a week? Or you could cut back on classes. If that’s what you want. We’ll make it work. All right?” She nods, tears stinging in her eyes.

“Let’s talk about this later,” His lips are back on her, kissing away the few stray tears that escaped her, “Will is asleep and I think we could both use a nap, too.”

“I’m not really tired, Mulder.”

“That’s good,” he tells her, “Cause I’m not really tired either.” And they both grin as he leads them to their bedroom.

Chapter Text

Clearly, they’re drunk. Or drugged.

Skinner watches his two most problematic (yet, somehow most successful) agents standing there in the corner. Standing might even be an exaggeration: Mulder is hunched over, one hand holding his stomach, the other one on Scully’s hip. Which, Skinner duly notes, is just as inappropriate as the rest of it.

They’re giggling.

As long as Skinner has known them (an exhausting seven years), he’s never seen them giggle; they have no reason to. Ever. Still, Mulder is cackling away, the sound so strange - downright spooky - and Scully… well, it suits her. Skinner feels lucky whenever Dana Scully throws a smile at him, even if it’s forced or untrue. This, however, is something different.

They’re still giggling. Like teenagers. Are they aware that they’re at work?

Rumors have persisted about them for years. Skinner can shoot them down, and he does from time to time, but in the end people will talk. Always. Scenes like this won’t help them. Although, if he’s honest, no one seems to care. Except, of course, Skinner himself. Part of him just wants to know what could be so funny. It’s a legitimate question, he figures. They seem completely immersed in themselves and each other. Skinner should say something - but what? Can he reprimand his agents for being actual happy human beings? He should at least send them to their office. Hot anger bubbles up inside of him; he is not their father, damn it!

All he wanted, still wants, is to get a coffee. Kimberly is out today with some family emergency and Skinner has to get his coffee himself. Maybe Mulder and Scully always run around here during working hours when they’re not chasing monsters. He wouldn’t. It would explain the rumors, he thinks. But no. 

They stop - finally! - and Skinner is about to take a step further, towards his coffee. Which, right now, he really needs and deserves. Scully’s soft voice, almost a purr, stops him. Not that she’s talking to him, no, her words are clearly directed at Mulder. 

“Stop being so cute.” Skinner decides he did not just hear this. Or better yet, she never even said it. They can do whatever they want in the privacy of their homes. Or even in their basement office. This here is his floor. So no, he did not hear this. Those words were never said. 

And then it’s back: the giggling. Maybe he’s sleeping, having a nightmare, and he is going to wake up any second. He counts to five and realizes that he is, in fact, not asleep. Mulder and Scully are mushed together in a corner (they can’t believe no one sees them there; they’re not stupid), leaning into each other, making fun of something only they know about.

And Skinner needs his coffee. He needs it right now. Surely, he can ignore this. Like their sometimes ridiculous cases. Or their unexplained absences. Those unreasonable expanses! Snickering agents? A piece of cake.  

So he passes them. They either don’t see him, or they choose to ignore him. He shouldn’t care. He is not their father, but he is closer to salvation, to his coffee, and they’re still giggling. Finally, sometimes inside him explodes. 

Skinner turns around, towering over them, and they both stop immediately. Scully’s face is red; a perfect match to her hair. Mulder looks like a puppy, except Skinner feels like kicking him. His lips quiver; Mulder is not one for relayed gratification. Scully, however, is her usual professional self; her lips now a tight line, her eyes finding Skinner’s.

“Sir.” Her voice is a bit hoarse, he thinks. Skinner stares at them both; Mulder’s hand is still on Scully’s hip and neither makes a move to take it away. They don’t care, Skinner realizes. 

“Enough with the sass!” The words burst out of him before he can stop them. It’s not what he meant to say. Scully’s eyebrows shoot up, while Mulder is suddenly very interested in his shoes. 

“Of course, Sir.” Scully nods at him, her lips set even tighter. Skinner narrows his eyes, just an extra warning for them, and then he just leaves them there. Two steps later and he hears it; they’re not giggling anymore, oh no. They’re laughing. 

Skinner quickly turns, ready to really yell at them this time, but they’re gone. A nameless agent passes him by, greets him with a firm nod. Coffee, Skinner thinks, sighing to himself. Maybe he just needs coffee.

And Mulder and Scully will do desk work for the next week.

See if they still find reasons to laugh then.  

Chapter Text

Deep in the night, they find her. They always find her.

She cowers when they tear and gnaw at her; her skin falling off, her resolve diminishing into darkness. A darkness where she can't even hide. All she can do, all she needs to do is fight. So she struggles, she screams and thrashes around.

Until she finally wakes up.

Panting heavily, her heart racing, pounding, racing, trying to escape her chest. Trying to escape this reality. What is real, she thinks, counting to ten (like she's learned since she's been… back) and feeling her breathing return to normal ever so slowly.

Another nightmare.

Scully needs to remember this. Just a nightmare. None of it is real. She repeats these words, mouths them to herself here in the dark, but they feel hollow. There are no pictures, nothing to cling to or be angry at. Just feelings. And Dana Scully has never been good with handling feelings.

"Scully? You awake?" The knock on her door is soft; so soft she would not have heard it had she been asleep.

"I'm awake." She lets him know, hoping he'll just stroll in. This is the first time they've had adjoining rooms while on a case. Sometimes they're not even on the same floor or in same building complex. Mulder opens the door and strolls in as if it were the middle of the day and not dead night.

"Can't sleep?" Scully asks him before he can say anything else; question why she's awake at this hour. She's seen herself after her nightmares; the tear-streaked face, the pale complexion. It's dark here in the room with the only source of light a sputtering street light outside. He's walking closer to the bed and Scully thinks back to their first case when he let her have his bed while he told her about his sister's abduction. Right now she hopes he doesn't want her to return the favor.

"I haven't been sleeping well." He pulls up a chair and sits close to her bed, but not too close. She can see him better now; shadows playing on his face, his eyes alert and curious. But she keeps quiet. Scully can tell he wants her to admit the same. She flushes with horror thinking he might have heard her scream out from her nightmare. The first few nights her mother had stayed with her and after her Melissa. Both, with teary, pitiful eyes had told her about her night terrors. What are those dreams about? Her sister had wanted to know. Scully had not told her. Could not tell anyone.

"You could watch some TV?" She offers. "I was about to turn it on myself."

"Hm." The chair squeaks as Mulder stretches out his legs, almost touching the bedpost. "Does this happen every night, Scully?" The gentleness in his voice surprises her as much as his question and she startles.

"What do you mean?" Scully wills her voice to be steady, to be strong.

"Scully, come on." He leans forward, his elbows on his knees. His face is still so far away it seems, yet she feels like he's invading her personal space.

"I have nightmares from time to time," she admits, "Everyone has them."

"Not like this."

"Well, not everyone has experienced what I have, Mulder." She doesn't mean to sound so irritated and she almost apologizes. Almost.

"I know that, Scully," his voice is so soft, like a caress and she immediately feels the anger subside again, "I just – maybe you should have taken some more time off."

"No. I want to work. It… it helps."

"Can I help you, too?"

"What?"

"Just… can I stay here? Just for tonight? I'll behave." Mulder promises with a chuckle.

"What do you mean stay here?"

"In this chair. Just… just in case."

"Mulder, you need to sleep. You can't sleep in a chair."

"Watch me." Another chuckle. "Please, Scully." His voice is pleading and she's glad now that it's too dark to see his face. She can hear everything she doesn't want to know in his voice. Her mother told her how much Mulder suffered when she was gone. She's never seen it; has not seen a difference in him in the daylight. Now, though… now she understands.

"All right," she settles back down, facing him. "You can stay." Her voice is barely above a whisper; she can't speak these words loudly, afraid they might sound like defeat. Mulder's even, certain breathing is a peaceful lullaby, rocking her back to sleep.

They're back. Laughing at her in the darkness, their hands reaching for her. Grabbing. Tearing at her arms, scratching her skin.

"Scully, hey, it's all right." The voice is above her, somewhere, and she gasps. The hands, though, they're still there. The darkness keeps its hold on her, tries to drag her down.

"It's all right, you're here. You're here with me. It's Mulder."

If only her eyes would open, she thinks, reaching out her hand. Something tender brushes her cheek, then the other one. Warm. Warm and solid.

"Open your eyes, Scully," the voice is closer, drowns out the darkness and pulls her up, "Look at me. This is real. I'm real."

"Mulder?" She mumbles, her eyes blinking furiously, waking up.

"Yes, it's me." The relief in his voice is palpable and finally her eyes snap fully open. There he is; his face close to hers. So close he's almost blurry.

"Just a nightmare," he assures her; the same words she used to calm herself earlier, "You had a nightmare. It was not real. None of it is real." She can only nod. If she opens her mouth now, even if just to say thank you, the tears will flow. She is not ready. Not ready to let him see him like that.

Without another word, he puts his arms around her tightly, holding her. They're lying there entwined, touching in places they've not dared feel before, breathing in the same air.

"I'll be here." He whispers against her mouth and Scully closes her eyes again. This is real, she reminds herself; he is real and I am.

We are real.

Scully sleeps and this time there's no nightmare.

Chapter Text

"Captain Mulder, what is the situation?" Mulder adjusts the paper made hat on his head as it threatens to slide off. Will, standing beside him on the couch, straightens and points towards the fireplace. Mulder should have cleaned that, he realized. His son, however, has other concerns.

"There's trouble ahead – a vulcan!" Will's voice pipes up and he jumps down on a pillow; neutral land, he'd explained to Mulder earlier.

"A volcano, oh no," Mulder plays along, "What will we do, Captain Mulder?"

"We'll have to face it," his son sighs dramatically, "Look over there, sailor. That's home. We gotta get home." Will now points at the window. The rather dirty window, Mulder realizes, as his son jumps about on their improvised landmarks. They're mostly Scully's precious throw pillows, now all scattered on the floor. At least the floor is clean; Mulder made sure of it. The windows, though… he forgot the windows.

"Sailor, you need to pay attention!" Will reminds Mulder with a small, boyish squeak, "The volcano has… it has…" He's looking at his father now, his eyes pleading. The word he needs is not yet in his already extensive vocabulary.

"It has erupted." Mulder says gently, smiling. Will nods furiously, jumping from pillow to pillow.

"The volcano has erupted," he tries the new word out carefully, as if tasting it, then saves it in his ever expanding mind, "We need to get home, sailor!" Will makes a great jump over two pillows and coughs. For a moment Mulder wonders if he should stop this. This last week Will has battled the flu and though he's been fever free two days now, Scully would probably raise at least one eyebrow at their game. And her pillows and blankets on the floor. Or the tipped over furniture.

"Oh no," Will sighs and Mulder turns to him, alarmed for a moment, "The volcano, sailor. There is lava. You see?" If only he could see what Will imagines. His curious blue eyes are opened wide in amazement; Mulder swears there are shadows of red and orange lava dancing in his son's eyes. Just because Will sees it, believes in it.

"We have to be careful Captain Mulder," he says with determination, playing along. They'll have to put everything back soon – before Scully comes home. "Steer us home." Will tips his head and it almost slides off; like father, like son. Their heads weren't made for hats. He pulls up the sleeves of his navy blazer; a gift from his uncle Bill. It's still too big, but Will insists on wearing it whenever he plays Captain. Once he even wore it while in the bathtub.

The front door opens, startling both Will and Mulder. Scully is early; of all days, she chooses this day to come home early.

"Hey guys, I'm… home." Scully's enthusiasm withers with every syllable. She stands frozen in the doorframe letting in warm air. Her eyes wander about the floor; pillows, blankets, chairs and many, many stuffed animals.

"What…" But she doesn't continue. Her mouth gaps open, like a fish, without any words coming out. She puts a foot forward and Will lets out a high-pitched scream.

"The floor is lava." Mulder tells Scully quickly and their son visibly relaxes as he sees his mother stop; her foot mid-air.

"The floor is what?" She looks at Mulder, obviously confused and looking for answers.

"What do you say, Captain Mulder? Should I go rescue her?" Will watches his mother, tilts his head from side to side, and finally nods solemnly. Expertly, Mulder jumps from pillow to pillow without looking at Scully. He's going to get his ass kicked for this, he knows it.

"Hi." He whispers once he's standing in front of her. He shoots her his most charming smile; the one she once told him she could never resist. There's a first time for everything, he thinks, as her face remains stony. Ouch.

"I'm here to rescue you," he informs her, "Captain's orders, you know." Mulder sees that she's about to say something; most likely that she doesn't need to be rescued or any such thing. So he puts his arms under her knees, quickly, and lifts her into his arms. She squeals and her briefcase slips from her hand.

"Mulder, put me down!" Scully hammers against his chest, but without much zeal, and finally stops altogether. Instead she leans her head against him and giggles.

"No can do, ma'am. I've got my orders."

"Get back here, sailor. We need to go home!" Will is getting impatient, jumping up and down on the couch.  

"Mulder, I'm serious. You're cleaning this mess up all by yourself." Scully whispers against him so that their son, who is currently giving orders to the rest of his crew – the stuffed animals -, can't hear it.

"Look at him, Scully," she turns her head and Mulder watches her as she observes their son. "I'll gladly pick up all the pillows and put them exactly where they were."

"You better. I brought work home."

"You can't work." Scully glances up at him.

"Your briefcase just burnt in the lava."

He gets a well-deserved hit against his chest for that. Still, he grins.

Chapter Text

She leaves the office at least once every hour.

The first few times she did, Mulder looked up from his computer or the file he’d been reading. He checks his watch each time, marks the exact time down on a scrunched up piece of paper. It started at 9.01 a.m. and now at 14.09 p.m., she’s getting up for the sixth time.

“I’m fine, Mulder.” She hissed at him shortly before noon. That was right before she left the office to have lunch. At least so she said. Mulder nodded, trying not to look at her. Her pale complexion haunts him; her beautiful eyes so hollow, almost empty, and he can barely stomach it. So he nodded, staring so intensely at his file before him that it blurred before his eyes. When he finally found it in himself to lift his head, she was already gone.

“Scully…” Mulder begins when she returns five minutes later. His words die on his tongue when he sees her take on a defensive stance. Her jacket isn’t buttoned right; she mixed up two of the buttons. It stops him. It stops everything inside of him, it seems.  

“Are you done with the paperwork?“Scully’s voice sounds raw. As if she’d been crying. As if she’d been sick again and again.  

"Scully, I think you should go home. You’re not feeling well.” One of her eyebrows shoots up; some things irrevocably remain the same, he marvels. Strangely, right this moment, he finds comfort in her inability to accept his help. Well, almost.

“I’m fine, Mulder. How often do I have to tell you? I’m perfectly capable of working.” His eyes dart down to her buttons. He is not going to say anything. Just like he hasn’t commented on her weight loss. The other day he found a small bundle of red hair hidden down in the garbage and instead of asking her about it put even more paper over it. He’s biting his tongue to keep quiet, like she’s buying new, tighter clothes to conceal her withering frame. If they don’t talk about it they can pretend it’s not even happening.

“Fine,” he spits, “If this is how you wanna do this.”

“Do what, Mulder?”

“Nothing, Scully. You’re fine, I get it. And to answer your question: No, I’m not done with the paperwork. I’ve been distracted.”

“Distracted? Are you watching those videos that aren’t yours during work hours, Mulder?” Any other day he might appreciate her attempt to lighten the mood. Today it enrages him, drives him out of his chair. It spins around until it comes to stop when it crashes against the desk. Scully watches him, passively, no emotion crossing her ashen face.

“Can you for once…” Mulder grumbles.

“Can I what?”

“Stop pretending you’re okay! Just talk to me! Just…” he sighs, his voice spent, “Just talk to me, please. You’re not fine. You’re not. Can’t you just admit that for once. It’s me, Scully. It’s me.” His eyes plead with her, implore her.

For the longest time she stands there, unmoving. Her arms are wrapped around herself as if she’s cold. The question is on his tongue and he swallows it. The unspoken words taste like tears.  

“Mulder, I'm… ” Except this time she doesn’t finish the sentence and he turns to her. Her mouth is opened slightly, as if waiting too, and he can’t help but stare at it, at her. Her bottom lip begins to quiver and it breaks his resolve.

“It’s all right, Scully. I’m sorry I pushed, I just-”

“No, you’re right,” when she lifts her head to look at him he sees her eyes and he wills himself to let her talk, to finally talk, and to wait until she’s ready, “I should… maybe I should just…” She makes a gesture with her hand and stares at him, helplessly. She’s never needed him to fill her silences, to lift her up, or kick someone’s ass. She’s stronger than he could ever be. Asking for his help, now or ever, is not what she’s good at. Mulder, however, is. Without her, without her constantly having his back, where would he be? He’s got this, he realizes, he’s got this. He’s got her.

“I’ll take you home, Scully,” he offers gently, taking her coat from the racket. It’s ridiculously tiny; a child could wear this, “Come on.” She lets him help her into the heavy garment. There’s a strangely sweet, dizzying smell about her. She’s been sick. His heart breaks as she leans against him unwillingly, no longer able to stand on her own.

“I don’t want to go home.” She admits in a small voice. “I’ve been thinking about staying at my mom’s. I just… the drive out there is-”

“I’ll take you there.”

“Mulder, no. I can’t ask you to-”

“You’re not asking. I’m offering. Staying with your mom sounds wonderful. She can make you that soup again. What was it?” Steadying her, he gently leads her out of the office. He knows she’s going to fall asleep as soon as he puts her in the car.  

“Carrot soup.” Her voice sounds almost dreamy, the corners of her mouth lifting into a weak smile.

“Carrot soup, right. I’m sure it tastes heavenly.”

“Mulder, you sure you don’t mind driving me? It’s in the middle of the day.” She looks up at him as they wait for the elevator.

“Scully, I’d drive you to Timbuktu if…” They’re staring at each other, words no longer needed or wanted, and she nods. The elevator dings unpleasantly and Mulder puts his hand on the small of her back, ushering her in.

He’d circle the earth – twice – if it meant he could make her feel better. Give her back her health. For now though, he has to settle for driving her to her mother’s. It’s a start.

Chapter Text

One of these days, he is certain, the darkness will engulf him completely, swallow him whole, and forget to spit him out again.

Maybe not today, though.

Mulder stirs as his hand grip the edge of the couch instinctively. His eyes are glued shut, won't open, and he doesn't even try. Bottles tip over somewhere close, cling together furiously, creating a disharmonic melody.

"…should have known." That's a voice he'd always recognize; his hand reaches out, either into the darkness or out of it, to get at Scully. He feels her swirl around and maybe she is picking up his pieces. Or his mess. She must be used to it by now.

His apology, overused, empty and hollow, dies on lips as his stomach comes alive with a roar. For a moment he fears he will be sick all over Scully's expensive carpet. The one he spilt red wine on once before. Sometimes before it all got dark. Before any of this.

"Do you need the bathroom?" He can't answer her. His mouth is too dry and his eyes still refuse to open.

"Mulder, answer me." Her voice is harsh but as not as violent as the shove he gives him. He groans again.

"Should have known." These words again, more shuffling, and the sound of high-heeled steps disappear. Mulder wants to tell her that nothing happened. Just some beer. Just one while he waited for her to come home. Nothing to worry about, Scully. It was two beers, maybe. No more than four, when it got later and she still wasn't home. Mulder attempts to roll to the other side, to explain, but he can no longer tell apart left or right, right or wrong. He picks the wrong side. As always.

His body seems to be in the air longer than the mere seconds it takes to slide over the edge and into the empty bottles. They explode underneath him, pieces tearing into his skin as he lets out a primal scream. His eyes pop open painfully as he swims through the shattered glass. Red splotches appear on his skin, like soft raindrops falling from the sky, making little puddles on her immaculate carpet. Fuck.

"Mulder!" She's heard her voice a million times and in just as many variations. This one used to tug at his insides, intensifying whatever pain he was currently in, because of her raw fear. Right now, he hears it, acknowledges it and no longer feels it.

"Get up," there are tears in her voice, on her cheeks as she pulls at his bloody arms, "You have to get up, Mulder." You are so strong, Scully, he thinks as somehow his body lifts and lands back on the couch. She's panting beside him, or he is, the sounds unbearably loud here, now.

"Why didn't you just... wait here. Wait, Mulder. You hear me? Don't move."

"Yeah." It's a whisper, not more, maybe even just a wish. She is gone again as he waits, just as promised; a promise he can keep, finally. She returns a lifetime later, his eyes burning, trying to stay open. His arms itch and blood gathers under his fingernails as he scratches unconsciously. He stares at it, not understanding. He stopped understanding weeks ago. Or months, maybe. Years?

"Don't touch these wounds, Mulder. I'll clean them, but it'll sting." She works quickly, swiftly. She is a doctor, he reminds himself. She has learned to stitch up people long before she knew me. Should have always been a doctor, his Scully.

"Never had to dress so many wounds before I knew you." She mumbles her eyes on her task. Mulder tries to watch her hands, soft and manicured, but there're moving too fast and make him dizzy.

Her hair is shorter, he notices. One of his hands twitches with the need to touch it. He doesn't remember her telling him about getting a haircut.

"Three weeks ago, Mulder." Her hands continue to clean the wounds and dress them. Is she reading his mind? Maybe this is not real, he thinks; he desperately hopes so.

Tell me what happened, Mulder thinks with his eyes fixated on the crown of her head. Tell me why everything changed, his thoughts demand.

"Mulder..." She sighs, her head lifting as their eyes meet. There is no answer to his question, asked or unasked. There are a million reasons.

She hates him these days, he knows. How could she not? But Mulder remembers, too. Days when against all odds they found a slice of happiness. Sometimes, before the need gets to strong, before his hands start shaking, begging him to reach for the bottle, mocking him how weak he is and always will be, that's when. Her face is in the sun, freckles exploding on her sun kissed skin, her eyes dancing with mischief before she kisses him there on the beach. A decade ago, maybe, or just a dream. Maybe all his good memories are just dreams and hopes. Things to cling to.

"That was the last time we..." Her voice breaks as her hands stop working. They're on his arms, warm and solid. The last time they were happy. Those are the words she can't say, now. The words he tries not to think. The pain they cause too real, too tangible.

"You need help, Mulder. You need to get help. I can't do this anymore. We can't. I do… I don't hate you, of course I don't. I never could." Her hands leave his body, but don't loosen the strong grip on his heart, unseen, but deeply felt. He shivers from the loss of her obvious warmth. The loss of all of her.

"You need to get help. Please."

He is still trying to come up with an answer. She can read his mind now, can't she? He waits for her voice, any kind of answer. His head lifts with effort and she is not there. No trace of her except the lingering scent, his bandaged wounds. The one you can see, anyway.

"Scully?" His voice feels hoarse, raw and underused. No answer. No sound. Nothing.

She is just gone.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Text

 

“Hmm, you smell good, Scully”

“Oh shhh, Mulder.” She coos, cuddling closer to Mulder’s weak, slight frame. Her hand is on his chest, making sure it still raises and falls, raises and falls in a steady rhythm. It hasn’t been steady for a while, she reminds herself; the sad reality constricts her throat as her hand caresses him.

“Hm, but you do. I can’t really… see you…but I can still smell you.” He takes a deep breath, causing Scully’s own to hitch in fear of the inevitable, and then chuckles softly. Soft puffs of air tickle her cheek. His eye sight deteriorated last week and as much as he still smiles about it, Scully knows that he is now almost completely blind. Last night, when she could no longer hold her tears at bay, watching him from the doorway just laying there unmoving, his gaze on hers, that’s when she knew. His eyes were on hers, as always, but they were no longer seeing her. Maybe in memory, or maybe in his dreams; she can only hope.

“Should have done this… more often.” Mulder murmurs against her. His voice is so raw, so weak. She’d tell him to be quiet, but she’s also selfish; before the silence takes him, and buries her, she wants to listen to him like she used to do for the last decades. Soon, way too soon, there will be only silence to listen to.

“You’re right. We didn’t do this nearly enough,” Scully closes her eyes, buries her face in his chest; still raising, still falling. Ever so gently, but still there. Still holding on. He’s always held on, always refused to let go. She’s the same, she knows. When her hand tightens around him, afraid to let go too soon, she feels his ribs poke her; there’s not much left of him, now. The disease eating away at him, continuously. “Do you remember the first time we did this?”

“Hm?”

“Do you remember, Mulder? The first time we cuddled.” Her eyes still closed, Scully wishes herself back; both of them so young, still wary of what had always been between them.

“Tell me, Scully. Please tell me.” His hand is on her back; there’s no pressure, just a reminder that he’s still there. It feels clammy, foreign almost; and Scully presses her eyes shut, to stop the flood of tears, and to keep reality far away. She’s never been one for nostalgia, that’s Mulder’s forte, but now…

“It was after Donnie Pfaster,” she begins with a soft voice, not unlike the gentle words she used once, so long ago, when she told their baby boy about his miracle conception, “After the first time we crossed paths with him. I was shaking so much. You kept your arm around me. Even when the police came to question me, you never once left my side no matter how often I told you I was fine. You knew I wasn’t. You always knew it. There was no way we were going home that night and so we went to a hotel. Remember, Mulder?” He doesn’t answer and Scully goes on, trying to conjure up the moment again, and tries to hang on to it.

“I told you again ‘I’m fine, Mulder’ and I expected you to huff, or say anything, but that’s not what you did. You know what you did, Mulder? You took me into your arms. You just held me while I cried. I don’t remember… you always remembered the little details better than I did, Mulder. I’m sure you could tell me exactly what I was wearing, how my face looked, things you and I said that night. I don’t. That’s not what this was about. You let me have the bed, of course, and I told you I didn’t want to be alone. When you held me that night, Mulder, for the very first time… I felt so safe. You always made me feel safe, Mulder. No matter what we were… I was always safe when I was with you. I wish… oh Mulder, I wish you’d remember that night.”

His chest under her face, still now, no longer raising, no longer falling. Still now, like his heart, the memory is all that’s left. Now.

Chapter Text

When Mulder finds himself in the car en route to Mrs. Scully’s house, he is not sure when it happened.

Or how.

But here he is, in the passenger seat, forced to listen to classical music that’s supposed to be calming. That’s what Scully told him 20 minutes ago, anyway. She’s quiet, tapping along on the steering wheel while Mulder keeps trying to come up with something clever to say. Or really anything. He has questions, plenty of them, but he doesn’t ask any of them. Why am I here, Scully? He would like to know. Why do I have to see your brother twice in one day? Mulder grows agitated just thinking about it.

Why did you kiss me earlier, Scully? That’s the one he really wants to know about.

In good old Mulder and Scully fashion, they haven’t talked about it. The kiss. It’s been hours and Scully hasn’t mentioned it once. If he didn’t know better, he’d think it never happened. Just a figment of his vast imagination. He’s imagined kissing Scully a million times over the years. But no; it definitely happened. Her hands were on his thighs, he can almost feel them still, and her lips grazed his oh so softly. Oh yeah. It happened.

“You’re awfully quiet.” Scully says in between songs. As if the music should not be interrupted.

“I thought you wanted me to shut up.”

“That was… earlier.” Mulder thinks he sees her blush.

“Yeah well, I didn’t know when you wanted me to stop.” Mulder cracks open a sunflower seed, realizing how hungry he is. With her kissing him and then convincing him to go with her to her mother’s made him forget everything else. Like having lunch.

“About the time I – never mind.” The kiss, he thinks, suppressing a smile. She certainly shut him up with that.

“You mean the… you know.” Here he is complaining that Scully doesn’t mention their foray into new, more intimate territory and he finds himself shying away as well.  

“It wasn’t fun, Mulder.” Oh.

“I’m sorry, Scully, I didn't… you started it. I just – then why did you ask me to come with you to your mother’s? If I’m no fun.” Mulder sounds bitter; he tries not to, but what can he do? He’s been wanting to kiss Scully for ages and when they finally do, she hates it.

“That’s why,” she tells him, her voice even, her eyes on the road, “You made fun of me. You know I thought you had something important to tell me and you let me believe it, Mulder.” Oh, again. She wasn’t talking about the kiss at all.

“Scully, I’m sorry. Your brother unnerves me,” he sees her nod in agreement, “He said all these things and then when you finally showed up at the office I felt like… I just wanted you to know there was something to come back to. As stupid as it was.”

“An espresso machine in accounting.”

“I realize it wasn’t my brightest moment, Scully, but I had to say something.”

“But do you realize that I hurried through lunch with my brother because I thought something important was going on?”

“I’m sorry, Scully. What else can I say?”

“Next time your exciting news turn out to be about kitchen appliances, tell me right away and don’t make it a secret.”

“In my defense,” Scully shoots him a look and Mulder ignores it, “I never said it was exciting. I didn’t keep it a secret either. So that’s why I’m here? As punishment?”

“Partly,” she admits.

“And?”

“And what?”

“What’s the other reason?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Scully chuckles and Mulder adds it to his long, long list of things they, apparently, don’t talk about.

*

Mulder doesn’t know what he expected, but it’s not this. This is not, as Scully assured him earlier, a small family gathering. This is dozens of people running around Mrs. Scully’s house.

“Oh Dana, you made it!” A woman, who is almost as tall as Mulder, hugs Scully tightly.

“Mom made me promise.” She replies with a soft smile. If only she would smile like this more often.

“And who is this nice young man, Dana?”

“This is Fox Mulder. My partner,” she startles, “my friend,” Scully turns to him, searching for the right word, “my work…” She trails off with a confused hand gesture.

“Oh Fox,” the large woman shakes his hand heartily, a huge grin on her face, “Maggie told us so much about you. She didn’t say you were coming today!”

“Ah yes, I cleared my schedule for this,” Mulder puts on what he hopes is a charming smile, and judging from the woman’s face it works well enough, and sighs, “I wanted to be here.”

“That’s so lovely, Fox. I’m Dana’s aunt, Millicent.” She’s still holding his hand, he realizes. “Now, go say hello to everyone else. I hope I’ll see you around, Fox.” Aunt Millicent winks at him and Mulder blushes. When she’s out of sight, Scully sighs audibly.

“So I’m your work, huh?” Mulder bumps her shoulder playfully.

“Oh shut up, Mulder. You know what I meant.” Scully doesn’t look at him, instead she seems to look for someone else among all these small and not so small heads. There’s a whirlwind of noises and voices surrounding them.

“Do I?” Scully glances up at him, brows furrowed. Her mouth opens to say something when a loud, distinctively male voice chimes:

“Is that Dana?” In a quick movement, Scully grabs Mulder’s coat sleeve and drags him with her right into a room he’s never seen before. It’s dark, it’s small and for the moment, surprisingly quiet. It could be a coat closet, he thinks, as a soft fabric brushes against him.  

“Scully what-” She puts her finger on his lips to quiet him. Not as effective as her earlier mode of shutting him up, but it works. He’s not going to complain that she’s touching him. Her finger is warm, it’s soft, and he just can’t help himself; he kisses it. Scully’s eyes open wide, but she doesn’t take her finger away, and so he kisses it again.

“Oh for fuck’s sake, Mulder.” Her angry whisper shocks him, but even if he knew what to say, he couldn’t. Scully’s lips find his again and this time he makes sure she’s not cutting their kiss short. His arms tighten around her and hold her close. She moans into his open mouth as one of his hands wanders up her spine.

“Why would they – Dana! And Fox!” The door opens and their mouths separate with a loud smack. Their arms still around each other they stare into the faces of Scully’s mother, her brother and man Mulder doesn’t know. Oh well.

“I can never unsee that.” Bill Scully mumbles shaking his head in disbelief.

“Why are you hiding in here?” Maggie Scully, a laugh in her voice, opens the door wider so they can step out. Mulder tries to secretly wipe at his mouth, but the nameless guy watches him intently. As does Bill.

“Bill wanted to introduce you to his Navy friend.” Now it’s Mulder who eyes the other man warily. This is the guy Bill Scully told him about earlier in his office. On his turf. This, he figures, is neutral ground. Not to mention that he just kissed Scully for the second time in one day. That should count for something.

“This is Frank,” the blond stranger waves awkwardly, uncertain if he should shake Scully’s hand, “My friend I told you about earlier.” Bill finishes, his eyes full engaged in a glaring match with his sister. For once Mulder is glad to not be at the receiving end of that death stare.

“And what did I tell you?” Her voice sounds like pure ice.

“I’m just asking you to meet him. You don’t have to marry him.” Bill glances at Mulder, who briefly considers hiding behind Scully or even her mother.

“I’m not interested,” she tells him, “Sorry, Frank.” The man blushes furiously.

“It’s because of him, isn’t it? I mean what you just did…”

“Bill.” His mother’s voice warns him.

“That’s none of your business.”

“He has nothing to offer you, Dana!”

“Bill, leave your sister and Fox alone. Now come on, all of you. We’ve got a house full of people. Behave yourselves.” Mulder watches as Scully raises her eyebrow as if challenging her brother and of course, he bites.

“What is it about him, Dana? He doesn’t love you.”

“Hey,” it’s the last straw and Mulder can no longer keep quiet, “I do love your sister. I love her more than I could ever put into words.”

“Y-you love me?” Out of the corner of his eye Mulder sees Mrs. Scully lead her son and the ominous Frank away. Not that Mulder still cares. His eyes are on Scully, and hers are on him. Right now, in a house full of people, they’re the only two that matter.

“Scully, I am not drunk,” he begins, his voice slightly wavering, “I am not drugged either. I am just me and I am in full capacity of my sanity,” Scully’s eyebrow rises, “as much as is left of it anyway. So let me tell you that yes, I love you. I am in love with you.”

“That’s really nice,” Scully tells him and it’s only now that he notices how close they are once again; like magnets drawn to each, he figures, “Because you know what?”

“What?”

“I love you, too.”

No more words are needed and so he kisses her again and again and again.

Chapter Text

With a force Mulder didn’t expect his 9 month old son to possess, a pea hits him right in the eye.

“Wheeee!” Will exclaims upon his victory, continuing to throw peas at a crouching Mulder who is trying to clean up the mashed potatoes Will hurled at him two minutes ago.

“Will, this really isn’t funny.” His son, perched like a prince in his high chair, giggles loudly, spit bubbles coming out of his mouth. He scratches his tiny head and smears mashed up peas into his reddish hair. At least the colors match, Mulder thinks.

“You know that means a bath after we’re finished here.” Mulder tells him solemnly; as much as the boy loves water, baths are a definite no-go. Will’s answer is to smash his pudgy arms on the table, splattering peas everywhere. His feet kick at the air and Mulder knows he’s about to throw a real tantrum.

“Come on, buddy,” he picks up his son, who quiets immediately, “You know, if it were me, I’d feed you something tastier than this. It’s your mom who insists on the vegetables. She’s right of course, but you know. I get it.” Will offers his father his tiny hand covered in green and yellow goo.

“No thanks, Will.” So instead Will stuffs his fingers into his own mouth, chewing loudly.

“Now you eat it?” The boy just stares at him, his fingers still in his mouth. “We better clean this up before we try and wash you. Your mom might love green, Will, but I don’t think she wants her floor all covered in it. I hope you didn’t get any on the wall.” Carefully, Mulder puts the baby down on the floor, hoping he’ll stay there a moment.

“She’s going to be so mad at you. Well, no, you’re too cute so she’s gonna be mad at me, Will. I hope you’re happy.” Mulder wipes and scratches at the floor, some of the mess already sticking firmly to it. Then he feels small hands on his head, warm and wet, rubbing at his hair.

“Will, what are you doing?” His son giggles and when a half mashed pea rolls off his head, Mulder knows exactly what his son is doing.  

“Eew, don’t do that!” Will’s hands stop immediately upon hearing his mother’s voice. His hands, still now, remain in Mulder’s hair, though. “I know you’re just trying to make your daddy more beautiful, but I think it’s enough now.” Scully tries to put authority into her voice, but Mulder can tell that what she really wants to do is laugh.

“Eek!” Will not so gently pounds on Mulder’s head, splattering more of the greenish mass everywhere, before his fingers become still again. Mulder quickly takes him into his arms and stands.  

“You’re covered in some kind of goo,” Scully tells him evenly, now unable to suppress her smile, “It suits you.”

“Very funny, Scully. Junior here wasn’t impressed with the peas.”

“He never is. He hates peas.”

“You could have told me that before I tried to make him eat them.”

“You managed to make him eat the sweet potatoes, too, and you know how much he hated those.”

“Because they taste like crap.” Mulder nods at his son, who grins at him in return.

“Mulder, language.”

“Sorry. Junior and I need to take a bath. Get the peas off and just so you know, I’ll never feed him peas again.”

“No, I’m going to bathe him,” Scully holds out her arms and Will reaches for her, “You clean up this mess before it gets dry.”

“But Scully, my hair.”

“Your hair will have to wait.” She kisses Will’s cheek and tries to keep his dirty hands off her sweater. She’s not successful and Mulder bites the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling.

“Yeah and what if I can’t get it out? We can always get new floor covering, but this is all the hair I’ve got.” He points to his head.

“How about… I give Will a bath, put him down for his nap and then I’ll help you get the mashed peas off your head and any other place they might have gotten?”

“Is that a promise?”

“If you promise to clean up the floor.”

“Go on, Scully, give Will a bath. I’ve got his covered.”

He can still hear her laugh moments later.

Chapter Text

"Scully, are you angry with me?" Mulder leans against the doorframe, barely holding himself up. His eyes are hooded and Scully wonders, not for the first time this night, why he still able to walk and talk. 

 

"No, Mulder. I already told you that, remember?" He nods slowly, but of course he doesn't remember. This is not the first time he's asked her tonight; it's not even the second or third. She's going to give him another answer once she can be sure he does remember everything that went down tonight.

 

"What are you doing here? I told you to go to bed." Scully winces; she's trying to sound like his partner, his friend, or at least like the medical doctor she is. Right now, she just sounds like his mother. As an answer, she receives another nod.

 

"Then why are you in the kitchen?" When she turns around to him after putting a tea bag into the boiling hot water, he's gone. Finally. Scully searches for a clean spoon in Mulder's drawers and of course there aren't any. She should have taken him to her place instead. Except she'd thought the painkiller cocktail she'd give him would knock him out cold once they arrived here. Mulder, though, had other plans. And lots of them. She's never seen him drink tea, not even when he is sick, but today of all days he wants tea. Her only hope is that the warm drink might finally make him fall asleep.

 

Just as Scully is about to enter Mulder's bedroom, something shatters in the bathroom. She almost lets go of the mug, but manages to put it on his bed stand without incident. She doesn't bother to knock and enters the bathroom.

 

"Mulder? What happened?" At first it's merely the smell. Peppermint. The strong scent brings tears to her eyes and she blinks twice to make them go away. Mulder stands in front of his sink, barefoot, and stares at her.

 

"I don't – Scully?"

 

"Go to bed, Mulder," she sighs, "I'll clean this up."

 

"Can't sleep without brushing my teeth." His voice is slurred and his feet uncertain. Mulder steps right into the puddle of mouth wash he's spilt; the now almost empty bottle still slightly dripping bluish liquid. At least it's a plastic bottle, Scully thinks, as she watches helplessly.

 

"It's fine, Mulder. Just go to bed, all right? I'll clean this up." Swaying, he makes it past her. Scully hopes he won't see the mug on his bedside table. This is chaotic enough; she is not in the mood to tend to possible burns, or even worse, to go back to the ER. They'd spent enough time there tonight.

 

"You spilt that everywhere," Scully sighs when she crouches down to swipe up the mouth wash with a towel; he can deal with laundry once he's back on his feet, "Who has to pick that up? Me.” She mumbles, shaking her head in disbelief.

 

"What?" Of course Mulder didn't listen to her; he's still there in the doorway, his body swaying as if to a music only he can hear, and his eyes are on her.

 

"Mulder, what I did I tell you?" Her patience is beginning to wear thin. Very, very thin. Next time he hurts himself, she decides, she'll leave him at the hospital.

 

"You're angry with me, aren't you? Are you angry with me, Scully?" She wants to yell at him that yes, she is angry. She's furious, actually. Because if only he'd listened to her, none of this would have happened. He wouldn't have run after an alleged suspect all by himself, get tangled up in a fishing net of all things, and then land on his side. Painfully. He might not feel his broken ribs right now, but Scully knows he'll feel them tomorrow. Her anger can wait until then, too.

 

"No, I'm not," she assures him instead, taking a deep breath; she realizes the mistake too late and almost gags on the powerful peppermint smell, "I just want you to go to bed. You need to sleep, Mulder. You'll be in a lot of pain once the painkillers wear off." Some of her words seem to get through to him because he finally trots off. With the bathroom door open, she hears faint rustling sounds as she takes another towel to get rid of the appalling liquid on the floor. She throws both towels into his already full laundry basket, turns off the lights and joins Mulder in his bedroom. Her hands, or really everything, smell like peppermint as she carefully sits down next to him. His eyes pop open again. His exhausted eyes make her smile.

 

"I'm thirsty." Mulder tells her and Scully's smile withers away. She takes the still way too warm mug into her hand and he reaches for it greedily. Not ready for another disaster, she keeps it away from him.

 

"It's still too hot to drink, Mulder." So she does the only thing she can think of at the moment: she purses her lips and blows.

 

"D-Don't do that with your lips." Mulder pleads, his eyes fixated on her.

 

"Do what?"

 

"With your lips. That… thing. Don't."

 

"You don't want me to blow on your tea?" This time it's him who winces and Scully has to keep herself from grinning. "Here, Mulder. Drink some of it and then sleep." He noisily drinks from the mug and hands it back to Scully, who puts it on the nightstand.

 

"Scully?"

 

"Hm?"

 

"You smell minty fresh." His eyes, heavy with sleep, finally fall shut and his lips curl upwards in a small smile.

 

"Well, so do you."

 

"Hmm. We should kiss, you know." Scully stares at him, his eyes still closed, his smile still there.

 

"You should sleep." She whispers, leaning in slightly.

 

"My idea is better." He pouts.

 

"If you remember any of this tomorrow, Mulder, we might try out your idea."

Chapter Text

His fist raised to knock, Mulder pauses a moment, realizing he’s never been here before.

Scully’s apartment.

The first time they were partnered, before they were ever anything else, how long did it take him to come to her place? A week, maybe? Two? He can’t remember. The forgetting, he realized early in his treatment, is a side effect of his medication. Some days he curses it, like he curses so many things. Other days, he accepts silently, almost joyously. When it comes to Scully and their past, though, he doesn’t want to forget even the most insignificant moment.

He knocks, finally. His knuckles tingle as he waits for her to open the door. Gone are the times when they lived in the same place, coming in and going out with a kiss hello or goodbye; gone are the days he has a key to her place. Scully has invited him over, though, for the first time in almost a year so maybe this means they’re making progress. Or she is just tired of constantly driving out to their – now his, as she likes to remind him – house. Either way, he won’t complain. He won’t ask either, though. Mulder is not sure he’s still allowed to ask; their relationship, in whatever form it is, twists anew at every turn and right now he can’t tell where he is, where she is. Where they are. So he stays quiet, masks it with a smile, and he is certain she does the same. He’s learning to take baby steps, do one thing to get to another. The days where he jumped in, no questions asked, no action thought through, those are gone, too.

“Oh hi.” Scully greets him when the door finally opens. She stares him up and down as if she’s been expecting someone else.

“Why are you dressed like that, Mulder?”

“I’m wearing casual clothes.” He explains slowly, looking at her. Of course she’s dressed for the occasion already: tight black running shorts and a very form fitting, short sleeved running top in a deep, dark blue. Mulder tries not to stare, tries not to react, but he’s like a Pavlovian dog when it comes to her. She clears her throat and he swears he hears her amusement. Some things simply never change. His eyes meet hers and the twinkle he sees there lets him think today might be a good day for them.

“Why are you wearing casual clothes, Mulder? You can’t run in jeans.”

“I can run wearing an Armani suit, Scully, so the question is I can’t or you won’t let me?” Just like that her mood shifts; there’s the slightest quiver around her lips that would go undetected by anyone who hasn’t spent the last twenty years observing her, loving her.

“Mulder…”

“I know, I know,” he apologizes, “I just didn’t want to scare away my Uber with my tights.”

“Mulder, you need a car.” She finally opens the door wider and Mulder, albeit hesitantly, steps in. The apartment, he realizes, is not at all what he expected or feared. There is nothing here that screams Scully at him. A few picture frames are up and the book shelf carries a few medical journals, a couple of books. There are no personal trinkets. He sees none of the novels she still claims not to own, the ones that are full of fairytale romances, tropical settings and atrocious writing. Mulder stumbled upon one of her dog-eared paperbacks a couple of days ago when he tried to tidy the place up. Just in case, he tells himself. In case she ever wants to come home.

“That’s why I took this job, Scully. Skinner promised me a car.” She rolls her eyes while massaging oil into her legs. The smell reminds him of lazy Sundays years ago when she, not him, wanted to go running. Just in case, she’d told him. In case of what, he’d wondered even then. Unbeknownst to them it had been the beginning of the end. Yet, the sweet scent fills him with a longing. At least back then they’d been living together, sharing their lives, such as they were.

“If you want to keep said job, Mulder, you need to get back into exercising.” She pats his stomach, which he believes is still firm enough.

“Are you saying I look fat?”

“No,” she continues her pre-run routine with stretches that make Mulder hot for entirely different reasons than exercise, “I’m saying you need to get back into shape. Which is why I’m asking you again: why are you wearing this? Where are your running clothes?”

“Like I told you,” Mulder says, unbuttoning and unzipping his jeans patiently and slowing down even more when he sees Scully watching him intently, “I didn’t want to scare away the driver. I came prepared.” Taking his jeans off all the way reveal his running tights. Scully bought them for him a couple of years ago and he protested, preferring his much looser shorts, but she told him to try it anyway. He’s been wearing the tights ever since.

“They still fit?” Her voice, as well as her eyes, soften, the memory though unspoken seems almost palpable in the small room. Afraid to break the spell and unable to form words anyway, Mulder just nods.

“Well then,” Scully raises her arms into the air, her top riding up and revealing the slightest peek at her stomach. The need to touch her there is almost unbearable and he straightens his own shirt to distract himself and his hands. Scully lowers her arms and the moment is gone, leaving only the lingering sense of longing. “Let’s go?” Her hands are on her hips and she’s staring at him, challenging him. Some things really do never change, he thinks, and nods.

*

They return an hour later with Scully hobbling on her feet and clinging to him. Mulder offered to carry her and upon receiving the eyebrow withdrew his offer and instead put his arms around her. He’s essentially carrying her this way, too, but he knows she lets it count because her feet are still on the ground. Her body is warm, hot even, after their intense run. She tried to outrun him knowing that despite her smaller physique, she is in much better shape. They didn’t speak at all, just ran, and somehow always fell into step with the other. Until they suddenly didn’t.

“I’m fine, Mulder,” she’d told him through gritted teeth, trying to stretch her left leg and keep running. “We can keep going.” She’d said then, her wet, teary eyes betraying the strong resolve in her voice.

“The only place we’re going is your place – and slowly.” She had not protested then, except for when he tried to carry her, and now here they are. Scully lets go of him and he almost reaches out to stop her, not ready to lose the close contact, and wobbles into her bedroom. She doesn’t tell him to follow and Mulder stands there, half in, half out. His eyes wander about, searching for his jeans, so he can leave. Maybe. He doesn’t know what the protocol is in this situation.

“Mulder?” A muffled voice comes from the bedroom. He takes a few steps and stops in the doorway. The room is as sparsely decorated as the living room, maybe even more so. It reminds him of a hotel, not the ones they used to stay in, in a very sterile, very impersonal way.

“Yeah?”

“Could you, uhm… I hate to ask this of you, but…” Scully is sitting on her bed; she’s taken her shoes off, but she is still wearing the rest of her running gear. She looks young and cute and as much as Mulder wants to voice this, his feelings for her, he keeps quiet and waits for her to go on.

“My leg really hurts and… it’s just a kink. I had it before and uhm, the best way to get rid of it is a massage.” She’s unable to meet her eyes so his grin goes unnoticed. He clears his throat and nods. Which of course she doesn’t see either.

“Sure, Scully. Just tell me what to do.” She sends him into the tiny bathroom to get oil. There are several small bottles and Mulder doesn’t want to think about why she even has them. He picks the one that smells like peppermint, knowing she prefers that for her after run routine. At least he hopes this still rings true. By the time he comes back, Scully has taken off her running tights. The sight should not paralyze him like this; it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before, touched before. He used to kiss down her legs, tickling her behind the knee and making her laugh out loud in delight.

“Mulder? What are you doing?” Her question jolts him back to the present time.

“Nothing. I just got the oil.” He joins her on the bed and wonders if he should take off his own clothes. He is positive that he reeks. But his hand lands on her thigh and she moans – loudly. Mulder forgets everything else after that. He uncaps the small, green bottle and pours some of the oil into his hands. He’s done this before, of course. As he puts his hands on her soft skin and starts kneading gently, he can’t help but think of other times they did this. When she moans again, in a way that reminds him of a different situation altogether, he closes his eyes as if in pain only to realize it’s even worse, his mind feeding him unwanted memories. No one, least of all Scully, taught him to navigate this; the remains of their relationship. I need time, she had told him once when she came by the house to pick up a few things, and you need to get better without me here, she’d finished, leaving him again, alone and waiting. No manual to sift through; even if, as Scully would most certainly remind him, he never reads the manual anyway.

“Oh, do that again!” Scully moans and that’s when Mulder stops.

“I can’t do this, Scully.” His hands remain on her leg, warm and firm, oily and soft.

“You’re doing great, Mulder,” she assures him, her face sideways on the pillow, her eyes closed, “Just keep going, please.”

“No, I mean I can’t do this, whatever this is.” One eye opens, then the other as she shifts to look at him. “Why did you even ask me to come here? I can go running at home, you know. You used to do it there, too. It’s a much nicer neighborhood.”

“You’re right,” she sits up with difficulty, “Maybe I wasn’t completely honest when I asked you come here to exercise together.”

“Are you going to make me guess?” Mulder asks when he can’t stand the silence any longer; his therapist implored him to work on his patience, and he has, but right now, he can’t wait when his heart beats faster with a sense of hopeful longing he hasn’t felt in a while.

“Maybe I finally wanted you to see this place,” Scully admits, biting her lower lip; he knows her, reads her easily, and he knows she’s still holding back something, and so he waits, one eyebrow raised, “Do you like this apartment, Mulder?” For a moment he considers lying.

“No. I hate it.” He tells her honestly and she nods.

“I hate it, too,” she admits, her eyes never leaving his, “I miss our house,” she hasn’t called it that in a long, long time, “But I wanted you to see it and well, give you a key. I didn’t mean for my leg to be this bad. This – the massage was not part of my plan.”

“You had a plan?”

“Kind of,” she chuckles, “I thought I’d give you a key so you could consider this your home away from home, too.”

“That’s what this is for you? A home away from home?”

“No,” she takes his hand into hers and stares at his fingers, gently running her own over the back of his hand, “It’s a refuge. I needed one, Mulder. At least for a while. I’m keeping it because… it’s so much closer to work than the house, Mulder.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.” Scully rolls her eyes at him, but then smiles.

“I want us to stay here during the week and then… go home for the weekends.”

“Together? You want us to live here together?”

“Unless you don’t want us-”

“Scully, as long as there’s an us, I want it all.” She grins at him coyly then and lets go of his hand.

“You’ll keep going to therapy, though.” It’s not a question and he nods. “You’ll keep taking your meds.” Another nod follows as a huge grin appears on his face. “We’re not… we still have a long way to go, Mulder.” He wants to take her into his arms, hold her tight and never let go, kiss her and never taste anything else ever again, but he stays put, waits for her.

“You came up with this whole you need to exercise ploy to make me come to your apartment? Scully, you know you could have called.”

“I know,” she tells him, leaning into his space and he can’t wait until they’re ready to take the next step, when this is not just banter but foreplay, “but let’s face it Mulder: you really are out of shape.”

“Says the woman with the leg injury.”

“It’s not an injury, it’s just – why are you grinning like that, Mulder?”

“No reason, Scully. No reason at all.” It’s happiness, he knows, and when she returns his smile he knows she sees it, too.

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

When Skinner informs Mulder that Scully has called in sick, he fears the worst. He makes it through the meeting without hearing the words. Every once in a while he feels Skinner’s eyes on him as if trying to make him pay attention that way. His mind, though, is with Scully.

His first thought, inevitably, is that her cancer is back. She wouldn’t tell him, of course, thinking it was her fight and hers alone. Not to worry, Mulder, I’m fine. I’m just dying, but it’s fine. The pencil in his hand breaks, cracking loudly, drawing attention. Scully made him take pencils to meetings because she couldn’t stand his constant pen clicking when he was bored. And he was always bored. There’s no Scully today, there’s no pen and now there’s no pencil either. Nothing to distract him except the dull voice of an even duller agent about a topic he doesn’t care about. He glances at Skinner, who seems to understand his fidgeting, or maybe has given up on him altogether, and he gives a quick, curd nod and Mulder, as quietly as he can muster, gets up and leaves the room. He doesn’t know if the meeting is over or not. He doesn’t care either way.

There is no way he is going to work without his partner.

He tries calling on his way over. Scully has told him plenty of times not to use his phone while driving. Do you know the statistics of accidents caused by cellphone use, Mulder? He can hear her voice as clear as the music on the radio and he wonders if she knows the statistics of cancerous masses returning, too. She doesn’t answer her phone, another clear sign that something is very, very wrong. Mulder considers using his key right away, but decides against it. Unable to stand still, he knocks loudly. Nothing happens for a long time; two minutes at least. His hand dives into his pocket, searching for his keys, when the door finally opens.

“Scully.” His voice is a mere sound of relief. His first instinct is to take her into his arms, hold her tight, and not let go. Ever, probably.

“Mulder, what are you doing here?” Her own voice sounds raw, sleepy. Everything about her screams exhaustion. From her pale and waxy face to the robe hanging off her carelessly. She’s wearing pajamas underneath, at least.

“You called in sick,” he tells her, feeling out of breath with all the questions lingering on his mind, “I wanted to check up on you. Why did you call Skinner and not me?” She chews on her dry bottom lip, her gaze averted.

“Scully, please, if it’s-” He trails off when her eyes open wide in surprise and she bolts towards the bathroom. Mulder hears the door slam shut and he startles. He enters, uninvited, and follows her and the noises. His own stomach constricts when he hears her be sick behind the bathroom door. Before he enters, he takes a deep breath. He’s been there for her once, he can do it again.

Scully sits on the floor, hugging the toilet. Her head, too heavy for her the rest of her, leans against the bowl. She’s breathing deeply, but she’s not asleep. Mulder wonders if she’s gotten any sleep lately. She was fine yesterday, he reminds himself. At least she seemed fine. He joins her on the cold floor and she startles slightly when he puts his hand on her back.

“Oh Scully,” he whispers, “Have you been to a doctor?”

“It’s the flu, Mulder.” She tells him, her voice weak. Her body shifts and now instead of leaning against the toilet, she is leaning against him. She feels light there and he puts his arm around her, fearing that if he doesn’t hold her up, she might crumble to the ground. She’s the strongest person he has ever known, but right now her body seems to be working against her. He’d give her anything, no questions asked, and so he holds her up with all his might.

“Scully, please, what if-”

“No, Mulder,” Scully turns her head, her blue eyes filled with unshed tears, “It’s the flu.”

“How can you know that? They have to do tests and-” Once again, Mulder doesn’t get to finish his piece, because Scully twirls around quickly and empties her stomach again and again. He puts one hand on her back, hoping to comfort her, and the other on her head to keep her hair away.

“Shhh, it’s all right,” he promises her as she heaves; he doubts he can hear her, but he needs to say these words, even if only to himself, “We’ll get through this.”

“Help me up?” Scully asks him a moment later and he lifts her easily. He wonders if she’d protest if he carried her to the bed. She takes slow steps over to the sink, brushes her teeth and throws water into her face. When she shuffles off without another word, he follows her into the bedroom.

“Scully, let me take you to a doctor. Please.” She shakes her head no as she crawls into bed, burying herself under the covers.

“It’s the flu, Mulder.” She repeats; it sounds like a mantra. He wants to believe her – he always wants to believe, after all – but they’ve been here before. He can’t ignore the signs, as much as he wants to. And that’s all he wants to do. Mulder wants to fill her up with chicken soup, have her tell him it’ll be all right, that it’s nothing to worry about. That’s not how it works, though.

“How can you know that, Scully? What if the- the cancer?”

“Mulder, do you remember my friend Ellen?” He needs a moment to process the question. What is she even talking about? He nods tentatively; the name rings a bell, somewhere.

“I saw her last weekend. Her son, my godson, was sick with the flu. We,” she pauses, waits a moment; Mulder fears another sprint to the bathroom, but she recovers, “we joked about it, actually. Well, the joke is on me. It’s the flu.” She puts more emphasis on the word this time and stares at him intently.

“You shouldn’t be here,” she continues, “I don’t want you to get it, too. It’s not exactly fun.” Scully puts on a smile, tries to giggle, but it turns into a cough. “That’s why I called Skinner. I knew you’d come here. I didn’t want to infect you.”

“That’s very kind of you, Scully, but I couldn’t care less. I’ll stay. Hey, what’s the flu when you’ve been subjected to alien viruses, am I right?” She rolls her eyes, sighs deeply; she must be feeling better, he thinks, if he can annoy her like that. But she’s shivering underneath the covers, violently. Her whole body seems to be jerking.

“What can I do?” He asks. He is woefully unprepared; she’s the doctor, the one who always knows what to do. Mulder is much better as the patient; that’s a role he knows how to play. Scully, however, does not: she shakes her head again and he can tell that it makes her dizzy.

“Just go back to work, Mulder,” she tells him, her teeth chattering, “I’ll be fine.” This time he shakes his head; there’s no way he’s leaving her. Cancer, the flu, or the common cold, he’s here for it all. He takes off his jacket, never having gotten around to it earlier, and approaches the bed. Scully lifts an eyebrow in question and he ignores it. He gets in behind her and draws her to him.

“What are you doing?” There’s a sense of panic in her voice that Mulder decides to ignore, too.

“You’re cold,” he explains to her, “So I’m warming you up.”

“Mulder, you’re going to be sick, too. Not to mention that it’s inappropriate.”

“I don’t care, Scully.”

“I don’t want you to get sick.” But her voice sounds sleepy again and her body relaxes against his. He draws her even closer; he waits to see if she complains and when she doesn’t, he buries his nose in her hair, taking a deep breath. She still smells like herself, like Scully. It doesn’t take long for her own breathing to even out. Mulder stays put, observes her every move, every change in her breathing pattern. She wakes up two hours later, her eyes clearer and less glassy, and just smiles at him. This time when she falls asleep, he does too, but he never once lets go of her.

When Mulder gets the flu one week later, and Scully just gives him the I-told-you-so-look, he doesn’t complain. Or at least he keeps his complains to a minimum.

“It was worth it, Scully. Just to hold you in my arms.”

She rolls her eyes, writes it off as the fever in him talking, but she can’t deny that holding him really does feel nice.

Chapter Text

“Mulder!” Scully’s voice screeches as she watches her partner being shoved into the tiny closet almost hidden in the wall; his broad shoulders bump painfully against the frame before he disappears inside. The door is slammed shut and the faceless man turns to her; she raises her gun, her hands shaking slightly, but she isn’t fast enough. The gun is kicked from her hand, she screams, she bites, and before she knows it the closet door opens again and she is thrown against Mulder.

“I don’t need you Feds getting in my way.” They hear their suspect laugh from the other side before his footsteps are gone. Scully pushes against the door in the pitch black darkness and feels Mulder behind her, much too close, much too warm.

“Let us out of here!” Scully hammers her fists against the wood, kicks it angrily, until Mulder’s hands settle on her shoulders gently squeezing.

“It’s no use,” his voice is soft and his breath tickles her; he is just too damn close and she can’t see anything here. Her hands pause, unclench, and she takes a deep breath. “Save your strength.”

“For what, Mulder? He’s not just going to come back.”

“Skinner knows where we are. They’ll find us. He’ll kick our asses for letting a suspect get away, but he’ll let us out of here.” Mulder assures her with his hands still on her shoulders; Scully knows she’s tense and with him so close, she knows he can tell.

“When, Mulder? How long do we have to be in here?” She can’t keep the quiver out of her voice. Scully leans forward, tries to break contact with Mulder, but there’s just no room. She closes her eyes; this darkness, her own, almost a comfort.

“You know,” Mulder clears his throat behind her and she swears she can just about feel it, “this kind of reminds me of playing seven minutes in heaven.” He chuckles and she definitely feels that, his body seemingly coming even closer, his warmth indiscernible from her own. Scully appreciates his attempt to lighten the mood, but this isn’t a game and it’s far from heaven. More like forever stuck in hell. Stuck being the operative word. She takes a deep, shaky breath.

“I’m sorry, Scully.”

“This isn’t your fault, Mulder.”

“I’m making you uncomfortable. I’d say that’s my fault.” He shifts behind her and for a short moment his body is no longer touching hers. It lasts not even a second before he’s back against her; his chest pressing into her back, his legs aligned with hers. “There’s not much space here. I’m sorry, Scully. I’ll try to uhm, behave. And shut up.”

“Mulder, you’re not the problem.” Her whisper in this dark, quiet closet could have just as well have been a scream. He is silent after that and Scully is convinced she can hear him think. He is going through their files in his mind, searching for any indication why this is so difficult for her; it takes him a while, longer than she thought it would, and she knows exactly when he gets it. His gasp is audible, sounds painful in her ears, and almost immediately his hand is back on her shoulder.

“Duane Barry.” It’s not a question. “He- when you – when he…” Scully nods, hoping to shut him up.

“I’m so sorry, Scully.” His apology is different this time and his hand leaves her shoulder, lands on her back, and gently starts stroking up and down; Scully is uncertain if he’s even aware of what he’s doing. Ever since she’s come back, he’s been invading her personal space, making it his own.  Touching her at every opportunity; just a hand on her shoulder, a lingering touch on her back. It’s as if he’s still not sure she’s really here with him and he needs to make sure it’s her and he can still touch her, feel her under his hands. It bothers her, sometimes, but not now. This, she realizes, is not at all like when Duane Barry kidnapped her, put her in the trunk. Her hands tied up then, unable to scream, to ask for help. She’d yelled for Mulder in her mind repeatedly. This time he is here. She is not alone in the darkness. He is here and he is not going to let anything happen to her. He told her to take time off, to get better and she assured him she was fine. She was. Until now. So she doesn’t try to get away from him any longer, his strength and his warmth. Instead, she leans back against him, hoping he understands her without having to say it, without having to ask him to hold her. For a moment they stand like this; back to chest, otherwise not touching. Then Mulder tentatively puts his arms around her, rests his hands on her stomach, engulfing her completely. His head comes to rest on hers heavily, pleasantly and a sense of safety spreads inside of her.

“Is this all right?”

“It’s more than all right.” Scully lets him know, her gratitude stuck on her tongue, and puts her own hands over his; this time it’s her who needs to make sure he really is there and not just a figment of her imagination.

They don’t move, don’t speak for the longest time. Until they hear voices, frantically searching for them. Mulder’s hands leave her body, but not her, as they both hammer against the door and when it finally opens, the light blinding them momentarily, Skinner helps them out.

“Finally. We got him. He wouldn’t tell us where you were. Are you all right, Agents?” Scully feels Mulder behind her; he is not pressed against her anymore, but he is there, ready to jump in, hold her, keep her safe.

“We’re fine, Sir.” Mulder puts his hand on her back as they leave, at last, but they never speak of what happened while they were trapped inside there ever again.

Chapter Text

He’s been planning it for months.

Long months spent running after shadows, as always, trying to escape ex-girlfriends, not so common, and trying to find a way back to each other. He feels like maybe that’s their thing, after all.

The first it happens it’s messy and unplanned. Born out of pure relief; he’s alive, she’s alive and he’s in his time, with her, giving him The Look and she doesn’t believe a word he’s saying. His I love you is thrown away like the punch her alter-ego directed at his cheek; still burning when he woke up. Just like her ‘oh brother’ stings, just deeper, more profoundly.

So after that he plans. He doesn’t tell her when she asks him if he ever wants to get out of the car. He doesn’t want to and maybe that’s why he jokes, doesn’t say what’s really on his mind. I love you, he thinks, and I want to spend the rest of my life doing this with you. Driving on a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere, chasing answers to questions no one else even thinks about. The rhythmic roll of the tires screeches I love you with every inch traveled. The words never land on his tongue, though, and so he doesn’t tell her.

Mulder whispers I love you to her when she’s forced to share her hotel room and her bed with him in Kroner, Kansas. She’s fast asleep, her even breathing never once missing a beat. A perfect rhythm that he watches silently, guiltily if he’s honest because he knows she hates it, feels embarrassed by it. Watching her then he thinks of later, planning to tell her when the case is over. Look at me, Scully, I don’t want to be like Holman. I can’t make the weather for you, but I can tell you that I love you. He doesn’t, though.

Christmas comes and goes without a single I love you uttered. When Diana strolls into their life, her feelings ever present on her face and her tongue, his plans are crumpled up like a piece of paper, forgotten in his favorite pair of pants. He thinks it still, sometimes, when Scully looks at him, raises her eyebrows and questions his loyalty. I love you, he thinks, but can’t tell her because she wouldn’t believe him anyway. She walks away from him, their shared trust trampled under her heels as she leaves him standing there. He pushes his hands in his pockets, empty, like his mind.

He tells everyone but her that he loves her when they go undercover as a married couple. My wife, who I love. My wife, who I adore. She rolls her eyes, thinking he can’t see it or simply not giving a damn. He at least hopes it’s the first. One night, while on the couch in a strange house, playing a role he hates opposite the woman he loves more than anything else in the world, he decides that it’s time. As soon as this is over, he promises. He’ll tell her. He’ll tell her he loves her and she’ll believe him. He falls asleep before he can have any doubts; when does Scully ever believe the same thing he does?

Months pass and his plans get derailed again. Gun-shot wound to the abdomen and he loses his courage touching her hand, warm and steady. His gratitude of being able to touch her, to see her there is greater than his need to tell her. She wouldn’t believe him anyway, he thinks bitterly, as she tells him she’s fine and to please stop babying her. His courage leaves him again a million times over on a Monday that repeats itself again and again, like a bad, broken record. Like that outcome, maybe it’s just not meant to be.  

The day is perfect. He leaves a message on her answering machine; he knows she needs a reason for everything. A simple I want to spend time with you outside of work and government conspiracies is not going to cut it. A birthday present, either way too late or way too early, might put a smile on her face, lure her out. He can’t stop grinning when she shows up, humors him and lets him hold her. Her hair tickles him, her scent entices him as they stand close, molded together for no other reason than wanting to be. It’s the perfect day. The moment she makes contact, when her eyes watch the ball fly in amazement, just watching, marveling, is there. I love you, I love you, I love you. He wants to scream it into her ears, rather than say it, but instead he just grins against her skin, takes everything he can have. He doesn’t say I love you, again.

When it happens, finally, on an average Tuesday afternoon, they’re both tired and sticky. Having spent half the day in a rented car without air conditioning, Scully furiously trying to tame her hair and Mulder giving up on his dress shirt desperately and hotly clinging to his back, they decide to stop at a diner. Order me something cold, Mulder, Scully lets him know before she makes her way into the bathroom. He orders a coke and a diet coke with extra ice and waits for her at the car, unwilling to go back in just yet. He absent-mindedly plays with the straw, occasionally taking a sip, reveling in the sweet, cold taste he knows will make him sweat even worse. Then she starts walking towards him. Mulder lifts his head the moment he hears the cheap bell over the door ring. It’s Scully, all right. She’s opened another button on her blouse, still tasteful, still professional, and her face looks flushed, devoid of make-up. Her hair, previously having stuck to her neck, gently flaps against her cheeks now. Scully’s mouth opens as she walks towards him and he thinks she is going to say something. But he wants to say it first. He could tell her about the blazing color of her hair right now, how the late sunlight captures her color perfectly, transforming it into a gentle fire, burning him. Waxing poetry, though, that’s not what she needs. Or wants. 

“Scully, you look…” The words shoot out of his mouth and when she glances at him, her hand reaching for her diet coke, he knows this is the moment. He couldn’t have planned this. This is not how he wants to tell her, and yet this time, he does.

“I love you, Scully. I love you.” He repeats it as if saying it more than once will make her believe it this time. She, however, cups her drink, captures the straw and takes a sip. His heart beats, waits, beats again. Say it again, he thinks, tell her you mean it, his mind demands.

“I know, Mulder,” Scully tells him and her voice is as gentle as the breeze, as soft as the sunlight caught in her hair, “I love you, too. I was just waiting for you to say it again.”

Chapter Text

“Scully, you need to save me.” Holding the phone between neck and shoulder, Scully grins. She stretches her leg in the bathtub to get more comfortable so she can listen to Mulder’s complaints. She’d pity him, certainly, but she’s far too relaxed right now to care. 

“How’s the meeting going?” At least she tries to put some sympathy into her voice.

“I want to stab all of them.” Of course. Mulder and meetings don’t mix well together on a good day. Without her there to distract him, or glare at him sternly, he doesn’t stand a chance.

“Well, don’t get blood on your clothes. We have reservations at eight.”

“Don’t remind me.” Comes his grunted answer. “Do I really have to go, Scully?” Sounding just like a little boy, she thinks, as she puts her hand on her stomach where Mulder junior has just decided to join the party. The baby kicks heartily against her hand.

“Yes, Mulder, you do. You promised me and you promised my mother. You don’t want to break a promise you made to my mother, now do you?” That shuts him up like she thought it would. Scully stretches and her protruding belly causes the water to gently swish around her.

“Scully, where are you?” His voice changes in an instant.

“I’m home. Where else would I be?”

“Where at home are you?”

“Uhm, bathroom.”

“In the tub?”

“Mulder, you’re at work.” There’s some rustling in the background and she thinks she hears a door close. After that it’s eerily quiet.

“I’m all by myself now. So. You’re in the tub, right?”

“Maybe.”

“Come on, Scully. I just suffered through two hours of a meeting and I have ten minutes before I have to go back in that room.”

“What was the meeting about anyway?” Mulder groans in frustration. “Tit for Tat, Mulder.”

“You promise?” Her answer is a low chuckle and she swears she can hear him swallow on his side of the line. Hard.

“Mainly budget cuts,” Mulder begins, his voice a slow, bored drawl, “Marketing had things to say that I don’t remember. But the accountants are pissed. That much I can tell you.”

“Hmm, have you proposed that we share a hotel room again? That would definitely save money.”

“Scully, as you’re well aware you’re currently on maternity leave and I’m on desk duty. The x-files are currently on budget,”

“Really?” She interrupts him.

“Yeah, I was as surprised as you are. It’s – hey, I can tell you all about this later at home. I dimly remember this as a tit for tat situation. I provided the tat, now it’s your turn to give me the tit.”

“Oh, I would Mulder if you were here.” There’s a distinctive sound she’d recognize anywhere: Mulder’s zipper. Apparently they’re really doing this. Her own hand wanders from her belly to touch her oversensitive breast before she slides it further down until her fingers find her curls. It’s uncomfortable with her big stomach, but she’s going to make it work somehow. She sighs deeply and Mulder murmurs a breathless ‘oh yeah’.

“Just keep talking, Scully. What are you doing?”

“Uhmm,” another sigh, another moan as her finger briefly grazes her clit before she cups herself, “I wish you were here, Mulder.” His breath is ragged and she wonders how far along he is already; did he start without her?

“Pretend… pretend it’s my hand.” He tells her in a throaty whisper.

“Oh yeah, your hand, oh Mulder, it’s your fingers dipping inside me now. Do you feel how wet I am for you and – ” She is stopped by a knock. Startled, her hand shoots out of the water, splashing the floor in the process, before she realizes that the sound came through the phone.

“Fuck.” Mulder grumbles and she listens to the sounds of him trying to make himself presentable. There’s another knock, more persistent this time. “Yeah, I’m coming.” Or not, Scully thinks, but decides to keep that to herself.

“There you are.” The voice is muffled, but Scully recognizes it as Skinner’s. “You weren’t going skip the rest of the meeting, were you?”

“No, Sir. I just needed to call Scully.” That seems to remind him that he hasn’t hung up on her yet.

“Uh, Scully, I-”

“You need to get back to the meeting.”

“Yeah. We can finish this… conversation later, right?”

“Of course, Mulder. I can’t wait.” She finishes in what she hopes is a sultry voice. Judging by Mulder’s strangled breath, she’s succeeded.

“I’ll be home as soon as this meeting is over,” he pauses and Scully is certain that Skinner is giving him some sort of look, “Don’t, you know, have dinner without me.” The way he says dinner makes her shiver all over.  

“Of course not, Mulder. We’re having dinner with my mother and my brother, remember? But I think I’m going to have a taste of dessert right now. I’ll leave you some, I promise.” She presses disconnect before Mulder can answer, a huge grin on her face. Scully leans back, closes her eyes, and lets her hand, and mind, wander again.

Chapter Text

“Scully, it’s me, Mulder.” His stare, he realizes, is penetrating and he watches as Scully, not believing one of words he’s just uttered, backs away from him. Her expression is devoid of any friendliness and he’s surprised how much that simple fact hurts.

“Sir, Mr. Fletcher, you called me and now I’m here. So could you please tell me what this is about?” He recognizes this voice; it means business. She never talks to him like this, but of course she doesn’t know it’s him.

“Scully,” they’re interrupted by Fletcher’s wife spewing obscenities; Mulder can’t blame her, really, but Scully takes another step back and he needs to convince her before it’s too late, “you need to believe me.”

“Mr. Fletcher, I don’t have time for silly games like these so if you could just-”

“It’s me, Scully,” frustration seeps into his voice, “I’m Mulder. Fox Mulder, your partner. That other guy, the guy you think is Mulder that’s the real Morris Fletcher.” She blinks, bored, unable to even entertain the idea. Mulder can’t help but wonder how good the other man is at playing him. Maybe he’s a better partner, a better guy altogether.

“Look,” he tries again, taking a deep breath, “Your full name is Dana Katherine Scully. Your badge number is… hell, I don’t know your badge number. Your mother’s name is Margaret. Your brother’s name is Bill Jr. He’s in the Navy and he hates me,” her expression doesn’t change, remains as stoic as ever, so he decides to dig deeper, “lately, for lunch, you’ve been having this six-ounce cup of yogurt, plain yogurt, into which you stir bee pollen because you’re on a bee pollen kick even though I tell you you’re a scientist and you should know better. Or maybe it’s some kind of twisted joke on your behalf reminding me of that moment in the hallway before that bee stung you when we-”

“What did you just say?” Mulder hears the tiny gasp in her voice and his heart beats faster hoping he is getting through to her. Or maybe it’s because this is the first time they’re talking about what happened, or almost happened, in that hallway. Naturally it would occur at a moment like this.

“That moment in the hallway, Scully. How would anyone know about this except you and me?”

“This really isn’t funny. I don’t know how you obtained that information but this is not funny.”

“No, it isn’t. I’m serious, Scully. I wouldn’t make fun of this or that moment, for that matter. I meant what I said. I meant what I was- I wanted to kiss you then. Just like I meant it when I told you I love you after that disaster in the Bermuda triangle.” She steps back further, this time it’s obviously in shock, though. She needs to get a better look at him, he thinks, as her mouth opens in another gasp and her eyes search for any clue that he’s telling the truth. But he still looks like that other guy, he still looks like Morris Fletcher, and he knows Scully. He knows her much too well.

“How do you know these things, Mr. Fletcher?” Her voice takes on a darker edge and her eyes narrow. He sighs; what else can he tell her to finally make her see? His Scully needs scientific proof, something tangible, and he cannot give it to her.

“Scully, something happened out there. I don’t know what, but I need your help to figure it out and to reverse it. Tell me what to say so you’ll believe me.” It’s a plea, it’s him begging, and he searches her eyes for any indication that she’s at least considering it.

“What did you – what did Mulder give me for my birthday in 97?” She raises her eyebrows in an obvious challenge. He bites his lip to keep from grinning and clears his throat.

“An Apollo 11 keychain. Come on, Scully, if you want to quiz me, ask me harder stuff.” This time he can’t stop the grin and it feels like it always feels when he’s looking at her like this, except her face is nothing like what he wants to see. There’s no sparkle in her eyes, no gentleness around her lips, none of the typical signs he’s come to notice when he makes a joke. This is the first time in all this mess that he really misses his life, his own body. He misses the way she looks at him; misses the way she feels comfortable around him. Who is he when the only person who matters in his life doesn’t recognize him? He’s no one. No one he wants to be, anyway.

“This can’t be…” she murmurs. At least this is something he knows and he waits, impatiently, for her to make up her mind. In his favor, if possible. “Well, then…” she lifts her head, her eyes meet his, and it’s not the same way she normally she looks at him, but it’s damn close and he feels relief flood him, “Hello, pot. Apparently, I’m kettle.” Mulder laughs and the sound sounds strange in his ears, and Scully’s too, judging by the looks of it.

“So you believe me.”

“I- I’m not sure, but… Mulder, I mean my- whoever he is – you, or Morris Fletcher, he hasn’t been acting like… well, you.” He wants to take her into his arms, hug her tightly and never let go; he wants to kiss her and never stop. Not as Morris, though.

“We need to find out what happened, Scully. I want to be me again.” She nods and he can tell that she has no idea about what to do. That makes two of them.

“Go and talk to the Gunmen. They might be able to help.” She glances up at him, tears shimmering there, and the need to draw her near is almost unbearable.

“Mulder…” she tries it out and he doesn’t flinch, gives her a smile that he hopes at least reminds her of the real him and urges her to go on, “Mulder, the things you said… about the hallway, about what you said in the hospital-”

“I meant it, Scully. I mean it. When all of this is over… maybe, instead of pretend nothing ever happened, we should have a talk,” she nods tentatively, “you know, talk about the birds and the bees.”

“I’ve had that talk, Mulder.” No hesitation this time.

“Not with me.” He grins and she grants him a smile, a real one, the one he knows. The one that say you might be crazy, but I still kind of like you. Likewise, Scully, he thinks.

They part, they have to, to both investigate what they can in any capacity that they’re able to. When they reverse it, when everything is back to normal and Mulder goes home, he feels like something is nagging him; did he forget something? He wonders as he unlocks the door to his apartment. He should call Scully, ask her if she thinks anything seems wrong, or off, to her. He feels like they have unfinished business about something. Maybe she remembers, he hopes, as he closes the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Mulder tries to think of a clever thing to say to Scully that won’t make her go off at him. Again. So far he has a 100 % success rate of making her angry with him today. He is not sure what’s going on and when he asked her earlier all he got was an I’m-fine-Mulder-shut-up-and-drive speech and a matching expression. He is not going to ask her again.

They have spent plenty hours in cars together of course. There have been silent moments, both comfortable and uncomfortable, screaming matches and even laughter. That must have been a long time ago, Mulder thinks, fumbling with the radio dial. Nothing but fancy static. They’re not even in the middle of nowhere, but technology seems to be on Scully’s side.

“Did you bring the Henderson’s case files with you, Scully?” His voice sounds too loud here in the silence, but at least the question seems innocent enough.

“I’m not your secretary!” Or not.

“I think we should take a break, Scully,” she turns to face him, her eyes icy blue; he’s at a loss and he’s beginning to feel angry, too, “There’s a gas station. I’m just gonna…” But Mulder doesn’t finish his sentence. He doesn’t see a point in it. He slams his door a little harder than necessary and he pretends to forget to ask her if she wants anything. Once inside, Mulder is bombarded with some cheesy pop song about everlasting love. He strolls through the aisles searching for nothing in particular and he blames the song, but he looks outside the window, right into their car. Scully’s head is lowered; she must be staring at her hands. If he didn’t know it better he’d think she was praying. She tugs a strand of hair behind her ear and he wishes he could see her expression. If only she’d talk to him and tell her what was bothering her.

Mulder decides that no matter what he does today, she’ll be angry anyway, so without much thought he grabs packages left and right not even checking what they are.

He has a plan and he thinks it might just work.

*

Scully barely acknowledges him when he returns. He puts his bag of goodies in the trunk, takes out his bag of sunflower seeds, and starts the car. He stays just under the speed limit, his eyes taking in their surroundings. Then, finally, he sees it. Mulder slows the car down and stops on the graveled path. Scully turns to him, her eyes curious, but she remains quiet.

“Come on, Scully. Let’s get out of the car.” He is out before she can utter a reply.

“Where are we?” She asks, eyeing the vast nothingness around them. The wind picks up and messes up her hair.

“Just wait,” Mulder grins, grabbing his bag from the trunk, and locking up, “It’ll be fun.”

“What will be fun, Mulder? Frankly, I’d rather we keep going. I’d like to get home.” There’s an apparent sadness in her voice that gives him pause and almost wipes the grin from his face. But he needs to try this.

“Follow me, Scully. I promise you won’t regret it. If you hate it, I’ll take you home and never mention it again.”

“Mention what, Mulder? There’s nothing here and this is private property.” She points at the weathered, slightly broken ‘no trespassing’ sign right in front of them.

“Oh, just ignore that.” He reaches out his free hand and waits for her to take it.

“Mulder, why can’t we just drive home?”

“We will. Just humor me, all right?”

“Don’t I always?” Scully grumbles, but finally takes his hand. He slows his steps so she can follow him easily.

“How do we get over this fence? Mulder, this really isn’t a good-”

“It’s a perfect idea, Scully,” he tells her and quickly climbs the fence. He opens his arms on the other side, waiting for her. “I’ll catch you.” His grin is huge and for the first time this day, Scully smiles. Well, almost. Her lips twitch before she composes herself. She is over the fence fast than Mulder would have thought possible. She dusts off her pants and starts walking ahead of him.

“So, what is this place anyway, Mulder?”

“It’ll take your breath away.” He can tell she doesn’t believe him and he can’t blame her. From this side it looks plain, boring. Unable to wait any longer, he takes her hand again and drags her up the small hill. When they finally reach the top, he stops, but doesn’t let got off her hand.

“Look, Scully.” Mulder tells her. “Isn’t it beautiful?” He turns to face her, to watch her reaction.

“Mulder… what is this?”

“It’s a lake.”

“I see that, but… how did you even know it was here?”

“I just knew,” She glances up at him, “I drive around a lot, Scully. I know places.” She grants him a small chuckle and accepts his answer.

“It really is beautiful. The water looks so clear.”

“It is. Come on, let’s check it out.”

“Mulder, it’s way too cold!”

“I’m not saying let’s go swimming. Come on, you’ll like it.”

“You keep saying that.” Yet, she follows him. Mulder slumps down on a small strip of sand close to the water. He takes a deep breath, revels in the clear air, and listens to the gentle slosh of the waves.

“Sit down, Scully.”

“On the sand.”

“Yes, on the sand. You’ll wash your clothes anyway, right? So what’s a bit of sand? Sit down. Please.” Mulder lets her think about it and starts unpacking his bag.

“What is all this?” Scully finally sits down next to him and holds up a Snickers bar.

“I thought we could have a picnic.”

“A picnic? Here?”

“Why not here? It’s nice, it’s quiet and we’re close to the water,” he wants to add that he knows how much she loves the water, whether it’s the ocean, a sea or a lake, but decides against it; he’s been wrong about so many things today, “and we’re out of the car.” Mulder silently pleads with her to stay here. He expects her to call him crazy, yell at him again, and demand that he drive her home right now. Instead she opens the bag of Twizzlers and starts nibbling on a string.

“It’s March.” She says between bites.

“So?” Mulder stuffs a Twinkie into his mouth.

“It’s cold.”

“Nah. Just think warm thoughts.”

“I’m sorry, Mulder.” Scully says after a while. He turns to face her, but she’s staring at the water in front of them.

“For what?”

“For today. I know I’ve been a bit…” she looks at him, her cheeks coloring slightly, “a bit difficult today.” Mulder bites his tongue and just nods solemnly.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. Not really.”

“All right.” He hands her the Snickers bar and she mouths a thank you. She breaks it off in the middle and hands the other half back to him.

“Mulder?”

“Hm?”

“How much does it cost to rent you for cuddling purposes?” He glances at her. "I’m cold.”

“Uhm, one hour will cost you one Twizzler.” Scully takes two from the bag and offers them to him. Mulder puts his arm around her drawing her as near as possible. She’s shivering. He should have thought about that, he berates himself. But she cuddles close to him and puts her head on his shoulder. She’s still gripping the Twizzlers and Mulder takes one from her.

“This was a good idea you had, Mulder.”

“I do have good ideas sometimes.” He nods before he leans his head against hers.

“The reason why I’ve been so short with you today is…”

“You don’t have to tell me, Scully. I just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“I know, Mulder. I want to tell you. It’s just… I got a call yesterday from a friend I went to medical school with. She invited me to her wedding. She’s pregnant, too.” Scully chuckles, but it doesn’t sound joyful.

“It reminded me that my life is so much different than hers. So much different from what I thought it would be.”

“You can still have-”

“No, Mulder, that’s not it. It’s complicated,” she sighs deeply and Mulder involuntarily tightens his arms around her, “but I’m exactly where I want to be.”

“You are?” He feels her nod against him. “Then…”

“Why was I so angry?”

“Well… yeah.”

“I’ll tell you about that later. When we’re home.” Her voice softens and she buries her head deeper into his shoulder.

“You want to leave?”

“No, not yet. I’d like to sit here a while with you and not…”

“Think?” He tries; so far he hasn’t been lucky with finishing her thoughts, asking questions.

“Yeah. Let’s not think for a while.”

“I think I can do that.” Mulder tells her and leaves a soft kiss on her temple. He did have the right idea after all.

Chapter Text

“Is daddy’s new job very dangerous?” Will pokes around his soppy cereal as Scully is about to clean her own, now empty plate from the table. They have about twenty minutes before they have to leave for school, for work. Will’s blue eyes are big and wet, staring up at her and so she sits back down next to him; he’s been working up to this question for a while, she can tell. Their son gathers little tidbits here and there, plays with them like other children do with toys, analyzes them as much as possible, before he voices his concerns. He is her son in that respect.

“No, honey. He’ll be sitting at a desk most of the time. You don’t have to worry about him.”

“But…” Will’s spoon clatters against the bowl and splatters some milk on the table. “Daddy doesn’t have to chase bad men and monster?”

“No,” Scully assures him, running a hand through his unruly hair; his lip quivers, but he takes a deep breath and looks up at her, “He’s a consultant, Will. That means he will read a lot and talk to people a lot. That’s all.” At least that’s what Skinner told them when he asked Mulder to return to the FBI. No field work, he promised, and Mulder agreed. No field work. She repeated those words later at night in bed and he kissed her, promising her the same thing she’s telling their son now.

“You and daddy… you used to chase monsters, right?” Currently satisfied with her answers, William eats a spoonful of cereal, his eyes never leaving his mother.

“We did, yes. That was a long time ago, though.”

“I know,” Will nods, “Daddy made up stories about when you worked at the FBI.” He pronounces each letter carefully, reverently. They visited Skinner together twice at the Hoover Building and Will grabbed his parents’ hands, something he felt he was too old these days at almost 8 years old, and didn’t let go once. Mulder showed him their old office in the basement, now merely a storage room, and Will listened, awestruck by all of it.

“He did?” This time Will’s nod is enthusiastic. He grins, revealing several missing teeth.

“Daddy said you once fought a mushroom or something. Oh, and vampires. Mommy, mushrooms can’t fight. Daddy made that up.” Will shakes his head, looking so much like his father and Scully smiles; she needs to have a talk with Mulder about what he’s telling him about the x-files, but at least their son has a mind, a very skeptical one, of his own.

“Your dad likes to tell stories. Are you done with breakfast, Will?” She leaves a kiss on his head and clears the table. They need to hurry, she and William; Mulder, of course, on his first day of work doesn’t start until noon. He’d grinned at her this morning when she woke him up with a kiss, reminding her that he had all the time in the world. She would have had more time herself had she not let him kiss her for a minute. Or ten.  

“Mommy?” The concerned tone in her son’s voice is back. He’s handing her his now empty cereal bowl and she puts it in the dishwasher. Mulder will have to take care of it.

“Yes, baby?”

“He really is working at a desk, right?” Scully picks him up, he’ll soon be too heavy for her, and sits him on the counter.

“I promise you, Will. He’s working at a desk,” he won’t even get a gun, but she is not telling William that, “he’ll be sitting in his chair all day long.” Will giggles.

“He can’t chase monster, you know,” he pauses, checks if his father is anywhere near, “he tripped over his own shoes yesterday, mommy!” Will whispers to her and Scully bites her tongue. She gives him an earnest nod instead.

“He won’t chase anyone, baby. I promise.” Just then the front door opens and Mulder strolls in, sweaty and out of breath.

“Anyone miss me?” He asks, kissing Scully’s cheek and grinning at Will.

“Daddy, you smell bad.”

“Thank you, son.”

“Can you take him upstairs with you? He needs to brush his teeth before we’re leaving.”

“Sure thing. Come on, buddy.” Will jumps off the counter and follows Mulder to the bathroom. Scully takes a damp cloth to clean the table when she hears a dull bang and something that sounds like a squeak.

“We’re all right, mommy,” Will comes sprinting back into the kitchen, “Daddy just fell over his shoes again. I’ll tell him not to worry,” her son assures her, “he’ll only be sitting in a chair all day anyway.”

Her son, indeed.

Chapter Text

“You’re not going to tell me where we’re going, are you?” Scully tries to sound annoyed, angry even, and she fails spectacularly. They’re in the car, where else, and Mulder is driving. He’s grinning that grin; the one that tells her he is planning something crazy, dangerous or stupid. Maybe all of it. He showed up at her apartment an hour ago, his feet shuffling nervously, asking her if she wanted to go for a drive.

“Is it a case?”

“No. I promise it’s not a case.”

She believed him, dressed casually, and now here she is. It’s barely 10 pm and the cold November night reveals bright stars as the moon winks at them. Scully smiles up at the sky through the car window. If she’s honest, she doesn’t care where they’re going for once. She’s got all the time in the world now. Absent-mindedly, she scratches her neck. It itches sometimes, the small wound that covers the chip. She catches Mulder glancing over at her for a moment. There’s a question on his mind, does she feel tired, is she really all right, and she puts all her answers into a contented sigh. Mulder relaxes his fingers on the steering wheel and nods along to an inaudible tune.

They remain silent, comfortably sharing each other’s company without any words; none could do this justice anyway. They’re here together, neither dead, neither of them deadly ill. For once the stars seem to be aligned in their favor. Any words, both seem to fear, might cause a shift in the cosmos, remind them that this too could end soon; too soon.

“Here we are.” Mulder tells her as he navigates the car into a deserted parking lot.

“Where is here, Mulder?” She gets out of the car and follows him. It’s quiet here, wherever they are. Walking a few steps, a huge sign comes into view: The Greatest Carnival In The World! Come in and have your life changed forever! Scully turns to face Mulder, a skeptical look on her face, and he smiles sheepishly.

“I didn’t name it.”

“What are we doing here? It’s closed.”

“Only for the general public.”

“Mulder…” Scully starts warningly and he dangles a key in front of her face.

“We’re not breaking in.”

“Why do you have a key?” Her question goes unanswered as Mulder opens the heavy lock and leads her inside the gate. “It’s dark, Mulder. What are we doing here?” She repeats.

“You’re not really patient, are you Scully?” He chuckles. He disappears into the darkness for a moment and Scully stands there, nervously tugging at her scarf, until she hears a loud click and everything lights up in bright, warm colors.

“Oh.” Escapes her lips as she takes it all in. Small, carefully decorated booths stand there frozen in time, abandoned, while teddy bears grin up at her. Scully can imagine this place in daylight, in the early hours of the evening, when the lights come up and put smiles on children’s faces.

“You like it?” Mulder’s voice is right by her ear; she never even noticed him coming closer. His hand is on her arm, warm and heavy. Scully nods and the movement causes her head to graze his chest. There is no reason to stand this close, she thinks, in this vast space. Yet, she doesn’t move away.

“This is not why we’re here, though. I won’t win a teddy bear for you tonight.” Mulder’s voice is soft, but laced with something rich and deep. It makes Scully shiver and Mulder, thinking she’s cold, draws her in closer.

“Come on,” he whispers, his breath visible in the cold air, mingling with her own, “I want to show you something.” Mulder takes her hand into his and she lets him lead her. 

“Tada.” Mulder stops, but doesn’t let go of her hand. His voice sounds shaky and uncertain. Scully takes a step forward, dragging him with her as neither is ready to let go just yet.

“That’s what I wanted to show you.” The carousel, an old, used beauty, beckons her closer. Scully reaches out one hand tentatively as if a simple touch could break the carousel horses.

“Oh Mulder…” Her hand on the cold surface, Scully feels herself go back in time to when she was a little girl always wanting to go just one more time, please, just one more time. It had never been enough. Every go on the carousel made her squeal, made her want more. She gently pats the plastic horse; they at least haven’t changed in all these years.

“You know when you,” he clears his throat, “when you were in the hospital I wondered what… I thought if it came to,” Mulder takes a deep breath and Scully, without facing him, reaches out her hand and finds his easily like it belongs there, “You were sleeping a lot… a lot more than you used to. I was wondering what I could do to… I didn’t want your last memories to be of that hospital room. I didn’t want you to think of government conspiracies or how all of this was just not… I didn’t want that, Scully.” His chest is against her back now, his hand still holding hers, and she feels warm everywhere he surrounds her.

“I thought what can I do? Where can I take you? And you know what, Scully? I didn’t know.” His last words not more than a whisper against her hair.

“I didn’t know where to take you. Because I never asked you what you liked to do. I began to wonder, Scully… what were you like? I mean before all of the shit we’ve gone through? I didn’t know and I couldn’t ask you. How could I have possibly asked you? I was desperate,” he chuckles against her and puts his arms around her, loosely, just in case, but she puts her hands above his, finally letting go of the carousel horse, “so I asked your mother. I would have asked Bill, but who could know young Dana Scully better than her mother?“ 

Scully’s eyes drift close; she is warm, she feels loved and safe, and his voice richer than any chocolate, softer than any kiss, caresses her cheek, her ear, and her soul.

"She told me that wherever your family went, you always just wanted to go to the carnival. Your brothers made you shoot for prizes because you were better than them, always. Of course neither of them would ever admit that. You never needed anyone to win you a teddy bear, because you could do it yourself, Scully. But your mother said that’s not why you wanted to go there. No, Dana Scully was obsessed with the carousel. You would use all your allowance and when that was spent you’d beg Melissa to lend you money. Just so you could go another time.”

“When she told me this, Scully… I knew this is where I had to take you. I knew you had to be here more time. I wanted to see it, Scully. I needed to…”

“Mulder, I’m not-”

“Yes, I know. I would have been too late, right? With all this crap, with all my personal shit-”

“Mulder, stop, please.” He nods against her, breathes her in, and relaxes.

“I know, I know. But I thought this works, too. To celebrate. You can go as many times as you want, Scully.”

“As many times as I want?”

“Hm.” He softly kisses her cheek. She knows he wants to kiss her somewhere else, make it more, make it feel real, but tonight is not about that. A celebration, he said, and she turns around in his arms. Her smile is blurry, smeared by happy tears that he wipes away carefully, his face a mirror of her own.

“Will you come with me?”

“Someone has to operate this thing.”

“Oh come on, Mulder. Don’t tell me you’ve never chased a carousel horse,” a challenge gleams in her eyes and he nods, gives her a short peck on the lips that Scully is almost sure she imagines, before he lets go of her to turn on the carousel.

“Get ready, Miss Scully. We’re about to start the race.” Scully giggles and mounts one of the plastic horses. She giggles even harder just thinking of Mulder with his long legs and lanky stature attempting to get on one, too. It starts turning, slowly, with a soft squeak before music starts to fill the air, and then there’s Mulder as the carousel picks up speed. He’s laughing, or she is, and he is by her side and they’re both flying.

Chapter Text

You find yourself in an elevator at 2.42 pm surrounded by patients, family members and maybe a nurse or a doctor you don’t know personally. Your eyes don’t see them, your ears don’t hear them. It’s 2.42 pm on a Tuesday and this should mean nothing. To you, right now, it is everything.

You worked a long shift; you don’t remember when you started. Some time before midnight, you think. It doesn’t matter. You didn’t do this on purpose, oh no. None of it. It’s been a week. You’re fine. You’re always fine. This was your decision after all, wasn’t it? You and your logic, sounds his voice deep inside. A dark ring, painfully knocking against your eardrum. You close your eyes and take a deep breath. It’s been a week, but it feels like a lifetime.

The elevator stops with a ding that yanks you back into the current moment. A mother ushers two grinning children inside. One, a young boy, grins at you, and you forget it all for a moment and smile back. He turns away, he’s not yours, he doesn’t know or care about you; you’re all alone here. The smile on your face fades away just like their small, giddy voices. You slaved yourself through pediatrics after giving up your own child; for what, you wonder sometimes, silently, tasting the vile, cursing yourself and him, right before you fall asleep. You treat children, small ones, young ones (and always one that would be his age; there’s always that one kid), scared and brave ones. In the beginning it felt like tearing off a band-aid again, again and again. To make yourself numb. There are scars now, if you know where to look (there’s only one person who knows where to look and he keeps his eyes closed these days), but it no longer stings and burns.

It’s 2.43 pm, just one minute has passed, and the elevator starts to move again. Your stomach drops, reminds you of flying; up and down, down and up so many times. You stopped counting. Once, you’re sure of it, you could have asked him; how many times did we fly together, Mulder? On average? He’d have grinned at you, you can see it in your memory, will it to go away, and he would have given you a number. No way to check it you know it would have been right. It’s been a week, it’s 2.43 pm, and you shouldn’t think of him.

Your mind is spitting out images; you think of the way his hand finds its place on your back whenever you’re walking somewhere. You are reminded of your first kiss, in a hospital no less, both wearing bruises, both happy for a moment, a fraction of time in the new millennium. You think of the way his hands roamed your body every night mapping every inch of you for his eternity. You think of the time you handed him your son and the way his eyes lit up when he held him. The way he looked at you then, always maybe, like you were the elusive truth. You think of his arms surrounding you, teaching you how to play baseball even though you knew exactly how to play (and he didn’t let go when you confessed). The good tips the scale in his favor; none of this is why you’re here one week later with your mind running, stumbling and your stomach somersaulting.

You think of the first time he said I love you. He’d been saying it for years without words, once or twice in jest, drugged and out of his mind. Then, one day, it was real. Your eyes fill with tears. You, the enigmatic Dr. Dana Scully, defender of privacy, keeper of emotions, try to keep them at bay. The first time he said I love you. So sincerely, so full of emotion. You cried then, too, you think and he wiped your tears away with a grin on his face. The memory fades like an old black and white movie and is replaced by the colorful sequel in vivid, blinding color; the last time he said I love you. One week ago you hauled a bag down the stairs full of things you don’t want or need. They’re just things. All you ever craved is etched in the lines on his face. You want the sparkle in his eyes when he tries to make you smile. Feel his warm lips on yours, on your neck, your hand. When you left he watched; his eyes empty, his mouth unmoving. For a man who always wants to believe he can’t see the truth when it stares right back at him. You stopped then, waited. Looked at your watch: 2.43 pm, Tuesday.

“I love you.” He told you then, his voice hollow and strange. You picked up the bag, took a step, and another; each one a bit harder. “I love you.” A hint of desperation as you took the next step. “I love you, Scully.” You were almost at the door. “Please…” A broken plea that would replay again and again in your mind later when you were alone. His hands came to your waist, no pressure, just hovering there, uncertain. “Please don’t leave me. Stay. Just… stay.” You looked at him, this broken man at your feet and your hand itched with the need to reach out into the abyss of his soul to save him from himself. His hand grabbed your jacket (he bought it for you, once), a little pressure now, holding on. “I love you. I love you so much.” His voice broke (when did the rest of him break? You wondered then, you wonder still) and you took his clammy hand, freed your jacket from his clutch. “I know,” you said, willing your tears to wait, to give you this moment of strength, “I’m just waiting for you to love yourself again, too, Mulder.” You left.

“Are you all right, Miss?” The mother of two, one child on each side of her, tilts her head sympathetically.

“I’m fine.” You assure her and nod. You take a deep breath and the moment passes. It’s 2.45 pm and you move on.

Chapter Text

“What is he doing here?” That’s the first thing Bill Scully says, or spits rather, when he opens the door. He doesn’t look at his sister, who he hasn’t seen in months, but only at her partner. The spooky man who is followed by doom and therefore has no right to be here, at his house, with his family; at least that’s how Mulder interprets Bill Scully’s current expression. Mulder tightens his grip on to the plate with the huge cake neatly tucked into too much tinfoil that Scully pushed into his arms moments ago.

“He was invited.” Scully rushes past her brother, leaving Mulder outside in the cold, fending for himself. When she’s angry she can forget him, sometimes. They’re similar in that way. He knows this. Mulder offers the cake like a peace offering. Or something. Bill stares at it. Then back at Mulder. His eyes narrow and for once they’re in agreement: they both wish Mulder wasn’t here.

“No one told me you were invited.” Mulder isn’t surprised.

“I was told you were fine with it.” He replies; he really should have known better. Bill yanks the plate out of his hands, the only outlet for his anger, and leaves the door open so Mulder can enter. He’s not welcome here, that much is clear, but Bill Scully Jr. is not going to let him rot outside. Mulder closes the door quietly behind him, taking a deep breath. He should have said no when Scully asked him to come with her to San Diego. He should have insisted. He had, if he remembers correctly. Until that moment when Maggie Scully herself called him and told him to be there or else.

Right now he thinks or else would have been the better choice.

“Fox!” Maggie Scully downright squeals when he enters the kitchen as discreetly as he can muster. Several heads turn; he recognizes Tara Scully, his very own Scully, and a woman he has never seen before, who looks almost as uncomfortable as he feels.

“Hello Mrs. Scully.” She grabs him and engulfs him in a tight hug.

“I’m glad you came,” she wipes at his cheek, a motherly automatism, “I wasn’t sure.” She adds more quietly glancing at her son, who is busy trying to free the cake from the tinfoil.

“You remember Tara, don’t you?” Bill Scully’s wife offers him a warm smile and a strong handshake.

“Nice to see you again, Fox. Oh, you prefer Mulder, don’t you? Dana always calls you Mulder!” She laughs uncomfortably and blushes deeply.

“I’m fine with either.” He assures her and he is certain he can hear Scully huff.

“And this is my other daughter-in-law, Sandra. She’s Charlie’s wife.” Mulder and Sandra exchange a handshake and a nod that seems to say I’d rather be somewhere else right now.

“Is Charlie here? I’ve never met him before.”

“He’s expected later tonight.” Maggie Scully tells him and he watches Sandra’s expression soften, just thinking about her husband getting here, saving her from the rest of his family. Mulder turns around to look at Scully. She’s leaning against the counter, her arms crossed in front of her. Not even she wants him here. He can’t blame her, not really. They might have the x-files back, might be back together professionally, but the ramifications of the last months are still painfully palpable. Diana, he thinks bitterly, swallowing her name and the thought. Things that were said that shouldn’t have been said. Things done. He stares at her, bites his lip, and she turns away from him, nudging her brother and helping him get the tinfoil off the cake. Mulder is convinced that no one will eat it anyway.

Maggie Scully shoos them all out of the kitchen when it becomes apparent that neither of them is any help. Tara and Sandra are talking about babies; little Matthew is upstairs sleeping. Sandra and Charlie, apparently, are trying. Mulder tries to catch Scully’s attention, but she’s either willfully ignoring him, or truly lost in her own world. He feels anger well up in him. If she really doesn’t want him here then why didn’t she just say so? He is sure she could have come up with an excuse for him. Her brother hates him already, what’s a few more Scullys? He could have taken it.

“Can I talk to you a moment?” Bill Scully’s voice is harsh and it’s way too close for Mulder’s liking. He nods, swallows hard. He follows the other man, wherever they’re going, and now Scully looks at him. Mulder wants to ask her to save him, please, but his mouth is dry, his mind empty. Which is why he doesn’t first notice that Bill Scully is leading him outside. Once there, he towers over him, his hands on his hips, his face dark. He’s going to punch me, Mulder thinks, or worse.

“You’re in love with her.” Of all the things Mulder expected Bill Scully to throw at him this is not it.

“Excuse me?”

“You are, aren’t you? You’re in love with Dana.” It’s not even a question.

“You sure you want to know the answer to that?” Stupid, Mulder. Stupid, stupid. He doesn’t want to make Bill even angrier. He just doesn’t want him to know before he’s had a chance to tell Scully. Well, he has told her. And she didn’t take him seriously. Oh brother, indeed.

“Lie to me then. Make me try to understand why my mother – my own mother – invited you here. If you love her…if you are in love with her… I still couldn’t stand you, but. I saw the way you just looked at her, Mulder.” He used to look at her a million different ways, or so he thought. Depending on the time of day, on her mood, and mostly his. On where they were, or why. On what she was wearing. In the end he realized it wasn’t true. There might still be a million different ways he looks at her now. Except they all mean the same.

“I’m not going to lie to you, Bill,” Mulder begins, “I do love her. I am in love with her. We’re not… we’re not together though, if that’s what you mean. But yes. I’m in love with her. Have been for a long time. She doesn’t feel the same way. Not like… she’s not in the same place. I came here because your mother invited me. If… if Dana doesn’t want me here either, I’ll just leave. I’ll just… leave.” As if on cue, the front door opens and Scully steps out.

“You’re not making him leave, Bill.” She tells her big brother and Mulder knows that tone all too well. It means business. He’s been on the receiving end of it often enough.

“I wasn’t going to make him leave.” Bill mumbles and stomps past Mulder. He stops in front of Dana and for a moment the siblings stare at each other, then suddenly, they’re hugging and grinning. “Glad you could make it, sis.” With that he disappears inside. Scully walks towards Mulder and he watches her, wondering what she’s thinking. But he’s always wondering.

“What makes you think I don’t want you here?” Her voice is soft, as are her eyes.

“I thought… I don’t know, Scully. We haven’t talked much lately, have we?” She shakes her head no, takes a step closer. They’re almost touching. The urge to take her into his arms is almost unbearable.

“But just so you know, I do want you here. I’m glad you’re here.” Her voice is barely above a whisper now and Mulder lowers his head to hers, just to hear her better. He tells himself that’s the only reason, anyway.

“I’m glad to be here, too.”

“You’re not the only person in that place, Mulder.”

“Hm?”

“You said I’m not in the same place you are. But I am, Mulder. I am.” She’s lost him. He stares at her, not understanding a word she’s saying. She watches him, hoping he’ll catch up, which he doesn’t, and takes his face into her hands.

“I’m in love with you, too, Mulder. You’re not the only person in that place.” With that, she puts her lips on his softly, just a test, merely a tease. Her hands remain where they are, her thumbs gently caressing his cheeks.

“You are?” He’s whispering now, too, too scared to say it out loud. She nods, grinning. “Why are you whispering? Wait, no, how do you even know what I said?”

“We could all hear you and Bill,” Scully tells him, still whispering, “the baby monitor.” She points at the colorful monitor sitting there in the grass. “Tara forgot to bring it inside after playing with Matthew. I’m glad she did.”

“Oh, so am I.”

Chapter Text

“How is she?” Mulder yells one last time, his vocal cords burning. Reyes walks towards him, her eyes small and exhausted. Is that a smile he sees there? His heart is beating too fast, his whole body running on adrenaline only.

“She’s inside. She needs to get to the hospital.” She passes him by and he has so many questions. Not for her, he decides. She grazes his arm and he glances at her, half of him already inside, the rest of him unable to wait even a second longer. “Congrats.” Reyes whispers with a quick grin before she leaves him alone. Not for long. A few more steps separate him from Scully and the baby. Mulder doesn’t hesitate, sprints up the few steps.

Inside it’s dark. He hears them rather than he sees them. Mulder slips on something, doesn’t care, and comes to a stop right in front of them huddled together on the bed. He wants to stop time, live in this moment a while longer. Maybe forever.

“Hi.” He is breathless, overwhelmed. His eyes are on Scully. Her face exhausted, sweaty all over. It’s been eight years by her side. Countless memories with her and this expression is nothing he’s ever seen before. To call it happiness would be an understatement, he knows that much. He drinks it in, revels in it. His own lips curl up into a smile as his eyes fill with tears. No sadness to be found here, though, not today.

“Mulder…” Scully’s voice is so hoarse that Mulder feels it in his own lungs. He has to swallow a pang of regret knowing he wasn’t here when it really counted. He wasn’t there to hold her hand or tell her to just breathe.

“Mulder, meet our son.” And then he forgets the rest of the world. His eyes stray from hers, a bittersweet goodbye, and find the small bundle in her arms. The baby is quiet, his eyes closed. His lips form a perfect ‘oh’ as if in amazement. Mulder can relate. His hand trembles as he brings it up to the tiny arm that sticks out of the towel the baby is wrapped up in it. The newborn’s skin is the softest thing he’s ever touched. His breath catches as he finds each small finger as they flex. He counts in his head one, two, three, four and five. A perfect hand. The hand closes around his finger and Mulder gasps. He knows it’s normal, just an instinct. Yet, he feels it through his whole body, the flood of love, the connection. This is his child. For most of his life Mulder has been searching, looking for something he couldn’t quite name, couldn’t quite put his finger on. Tonight he’s found it. This is it. His son. His and Scully’s. Their wonder child.

“He’s perfect.” Nothing he says now comes even close to what’s inside of him. Not taking his hand off William, needing to feel him, make sure he’s real, he glances at Scully again. Tears are in her eyes. How often has he seen her like this? Moments in which she, both of them, had to accept a cruel, unfair fate. It all ends tonight. Her tears are not sparked by sadness. They’re full of joy. He catches one with his lips as he kisses her warm, wet cheek. She breathes in, shakily.

“Scully, you are… you are my everything. Both of you.” He touches his forehead to hers, breathes her in, closes his eyes. He knows they have no time, need to get going. But he needs this, they both do. A moment that is just them. He feels his own tears mingle with hers, tastes the saltiness everywhere.

“I’m supposed to be the emotional one here.” Scully says, her voice no more than an amused whisper in between their son’s sleepy breathing.

“No, Scully. You’re the hero here. I’m the mess.” He kisses her nose, both cheeks. Kisses the tears away, the sweat. Perfect, his lips sigh against her skin with each and every kiss.

“But you’re my mess.” They both chuckle and he grazes her mouth, leaves a promise against her lips.

“Let’s get you two out of here.” Reluctantly, Mulder leans away from her. There’s only one way to do this and he knows under normal circumstances Scully would roll her eyes at him if he even alluded to him carrying her out of here. “There’s a helicopter outside,” he says as he slips his arms under her, “to get you and the baby to a hospital.” He watches her arms tighten around the newborn as he picks her up. They’re so light, he thinks as he gets up with the two most precious treasures in his arms. Scully leans her head against his shoulder, exhausted.

“Where are you going?” She mumbles against him as he moves towards the door slowly. He can hear the chopper flapping impatiently. He sees the stark lighting and wonders how he can shield Scully, their son.

“I’m not leaving your side.” He says and steps outside. Mulder doesn’t look right or left, goes straight to the helicopter. Reyes nods at him, smiles. There’s not enough space for all of them. He’s not going to let go. He can’t. If there’s anything to be found here, anything to find out about the boy’s origin, the potential danger of his being, Mulder doesn’t care. He glances at Reyes, but doesn’t know what to say.

“Go, Agent Mulder. Take your family to the hospital. I’ll make sure that…” Reyes makes a grand hand gesture; she, too, doesn’t have the words. She was thrown into this, Mulder realizes, and she came here, no questions asked, and took care of Scully, of the baby.

“Thank you, Monica.” He hopes that she understands what he’s saying. It’s all he can do right now. When Scully and the baby are safe inside the helicopter, he hesitates. Then Scully reaches out her hand to him. He takes it. He sits with his family, watches over them as they’re lifted into the air. He is going to make sure they’re all right. Forever.

Chapter Text

William isn’t a fussy child. Normally he isn’t, anyway. Today, when Scully is already tired from working too much, from not having seen Mulder enough, her son boasts with a restless energy she can barely stand.

“Mommy, ice cream?” William takes her hand and Scully is surprised how warm it is, how sticky. She puts groceries into their shopping cart without even thinking about it. She wishes Mulder was here to take William, or to remind her what they actually need. As if.

“Ice cream?” The boy asks again and tugs at her hand. Why is it so sticky? She wonders again.

“No, William. We need…” Something. There was something they needed.

“Ice cream.” He is as much help in a supermarket as his father. His father who has been working too much, just like her. She looks down at William, who was unwilling to sit in the shopping cart. His shoelaces are frayed, his pants dirty. What a family of hillbillies they’ve become. “Please, mommy.” William adds when she doesn’t answer him.

“I need to think, honey,” Scully says observing the shelves, “I forgot to write a shopping list.”

“Ice cream was on the list.” William sneezes and wipes his nose on the sleeve of his sweater. Laundry, Scully thinks. They need detergent. She turns the shopping cart around and steers it into another aisle. William is by her side humming a song, albeit out of tune.

“I think that’s all we need.” Scully glances at her son who blinks up at her. He draws his lips in as if to stop himself from saying the word again, from asking her one more time. “Let’s go get the ice cream.” William squeals and grabs her hand. She makes a mental note to put the boy in the bathtub the second they get home – and wash his clothes. She sighs. Maybe ice cream really is a good idea.

The cashier takes her time. She is smiling sweetly at the elderly lady in front of them as she pays with uncertain hands. William watches silently, obviously bored and ready to get out of here. He starts kicking the shopping cart and Scully gently touches his shoulder. He sticks out his tongue and rolls his eyes, but at least he stops kicking.

“Hello there, young man.” The cashier greets them when it’s finally their turn. She scans the items quickly and William mouths a silent beep each time. “I have something for you.” William gets on tiptoes and leans over.

“Ice cream?” He asks and Scully, searching for her money, can’t help but chuckle.

“Not ice cream, no. It’s a sticker.” The cashier shows it to him.

“Mommy, it’s a fox!” In his excitement William spits and grabs the sticker. “My dad is a fox!” He lets the cashier know, who glances at Scully.

“Right, mommy? Daddy is a fox.” Scully blushes. Her whole face seems to be on fire as she hands over the money. Someone behind her snickers.

“His father’s name is Fox.” She says and the cashier nods slowly, not believing a single word. William makes up a whole story about his fox sticker as Scully puts the groceries in their car. At least he is happy she thinks as, at long last, she starts the car.

“Good morning, sleepy head.” Scully’s eyes feel heavy, refuse to open. She groans and Mulder, his face right in front of hers, grins.

“Where am I?” Her tongue sticks to the roof of her mouth. Scully yawns and tries to get up. When her arms refuse to cooperate, Mulder helps her. The warm mug he hands her smells like her favorite lavender tea. She smiles at him, realizes she probably looks drunk. She takes a sip and sighs in contentment.

“You fell asleep.”

“What? When? What time is it?” She sets down the mug and moves to get up, but Mulder stops her.

“Just after 6 pm.” William. Laundry. A bath. The groceries. Her mind is firing tasks at her and she can’t remember if she took care of any of it.

“Where’s William?” Panic grips her. If she fell asleep after she put him in the bathtub…

“He’s in his room drawing. Or as he called it ‘making art’.” Mulder’s eyes sparkle and Scully, once again, forgets everything else around her. But only for a moment.

“Mulder, the groceries-”

“Are in their respective places.”

“Laundry. I was-”

“The washing machine is working its magic as we speak.”

“Will needs a bath. He was sticky all over.”

“I told our offspring that as soon as he’s done making art, it’s bathtub time.”

“You did all that while I was asleep?”

“You need to work less, Scully.” She wants to protest, but he puts a finger over her lips. “I’m not trying to sound like a macho man. Do you know what happened to me at work today?” She shakes her head.

“I fell asleep. One moment I was taking notes, the next I was drooling on them. You should have seen Skinner’s face. He told me to go home and get some rest. We can’t go on like this, Scully.” She touches the wrinkles around his eyes, lets her finger trace the contours of his cheek bones. His five o'clock shadow tickles her skin. She finds herself smiling at him. Gone are the days where they stayed up all night going over cases, trying to save the world one monster at a time.

“You’re right,” she kisses the tip of his nose, “we need to figure something out. But not tonight?” He shakes his head, takes his hand in hers and kisses each finger.

“Not tonight, foxy lady.”

“Foxy lady?” She raises an eyebrow.

“You should maybe look in the mirror, Scully.” Mulder grins at her and without taking her eyes off him, she touches her forehead. There’s something sticking to it. She takes it off. It’s the fox sticker the cashier gave to William earlier.

“What in the…”

“Our son is funny, Scully.” Mulder says and she can hear the pride in his voice. She takes the sticker and puts it on his forehead. It fits him, she thinks.

“You’re the fox.”

“Oh, am I?” She nods.

“Then why haven’t you kissed me yet?” A good question, she decides and closes the distance between them.

Chapter Text

She’s told him. If she’s sure of one thing it’s this; she told him her family was visiting this weekend. Yes, she told him. Repeatedly. Yet here he is, his look clueless, his hands buried in his pockets.

“I didn’t know. I’m sorry, Scully.” Sure he is. He did know. She knows he knows and judging by the way he shuffles his feet, he knows that she knows that he knows. So why is she not angry, not really, and smiling at him instead? It might have something to do with the way he worries his lip or the way he’s trying not to grin. She sighs – just for show – and lets him inside.

“So where is everyone?” Mulder asks as he peeks into the kitchen.

“Bill isn’t here, Mulder.”

“That’s not what I asked.” But he relaxes visibly. Scully touches his back; it’s a new thing, this need, this want, to touch him. She’s touched him a million times before with the precision of a doctor, as his partner. Then, a few times less, as his friend. This is even rarer, much newer. Touching him as a lover is recent. So recent in fact that her family doesn’t know yet and as soon as she hears her mother and sister-in-law, her hand falls away.

“Fox!”

“Hello Mrs. Scully and well, Mrs. Scully.” With his charming smile he wins her mother over every time. Tara, too, from the looks of it. Scully would roll her eyes, but she’s a lost cause herself. Only little Matthew is his mother’s arms is blissfully ignorant.

“Dana didn’t tell us you were going to drop in and say hello.” Her mother eyes her curiously and Scully doesn’t look at her, scared she can read everything she doesn’t yet want to confess in her eyes.

“That’s my fault. I completely forgot you were going to be here. I apologize.” Now she really does roll her eyes. “I’ll be leaving again soon. Work, you know.”

“But it’s Saturday.” Tara says bouncing Matthew on her hip.

“It’s not really a 9 to 5 job.” Mulder glances at Scully and she crosses her arms in front of her chest. She hasn’t given him a chance to tell her why he’s here. She is not sure she cares. Knowing Mulder it’s not of the question that he has two plane tickets in his leather jacket, ready to take them to Podunk where the local farmer has discovered murderous, genetically altered mice in his barn. She’s seen the file.

“I’d invite you to spend the day with us,” Scully’s head turns to her mother, her eyes wide, “but it’s only us girls today. Matthew is the only man allowed.” Mulder nods and looks at the boy, who waves his saliva soaked fist at him as if in greeting.

“It’s my own fault. Dana told me you’d be here and I forgot,” he winks at her and she feels warmth spread from her face to her chest, “You go have a lovely day. It was nice to see you again.”

“Mr. Mulder-” Tara begins and he stops her.

“Just Mulder, please.”

“Just Mulder, could you hold Matthew for a moment now that you’re here? Dana was going to lend me one of her sundresses. It might take more than one woman to get me into it. And Matthew likes to- well, you see.” She points at her son, who is once again chewing on his hand, distributing his spit generously.

“Su-sure.” Mulder says, looks at his partner. Scully is surprised how uncertain his hands seem as Tara hands the baby over. Matthew doesn’t mind as long as he has access to his hand.

“Be nice to Mulder, Matty baby.” With that she and her mother disappear. Scully wants to follow them, knows she is supposed to. Her eyes are glued to Mulder and her nephew, though. They’re watching each other now, blinking curiously. Matthew has stopped noshing on his fingers and instead uses one of them to touch Mulder’s cheek.

“Dana.” Her mother calls and sounds as if she’s far away. Mulder regards her as if he wasn’t even aware she was still there.

“We’ll be fine, Scully,” he assures her with a big smile, “If not one of us will scream.” Scully tries to smile, but fails. She turns away, walks towards her bedroom where her mother and Tara are waiting for her. She fishes the sundress out of her closet; she’s never worn it. An impulse buy one day when she was angry with Mulder for always dragging her to the darkest, most dreadful and oftentimes cold as hell places. The cotton feels soft under her fingers and she hands the garment to Tara. Her sister-in-law and her mother chatter happily, but she can’t listen. She finds herself drifting to the open door. Making sure the two women are not paying her any mind, she steps out of the bedroom quietly. Mulder’s back is turned to her. He’s gently moving about, as always unable to be still. Matthew is fascinated by whatever Mulder is showing and telling him. She takes a step forward, an invisible force at work.

“The most important thing to remember is that extraterrestrials are grey and not green. Can you say it? Extraterrestrial?” The boy opens his mouth, jabbers a nonsensical word. “Yeah, that’s it, Matthew. What else can I tell you? How about baseball, hm? Your aunt Dana, you know her, don’t you? She’s the best, I know. I thought she didn’t know about baseball. She even told me so and then what do I find out?” Matthew is so captivated by Mulder and his voice that he even forgets to jam his fist into his mouth. Scully has to chuckle; it’s the first time Mulder has had such an enthralled audience. Someone who doesn’t question his every idea, like she does.

“All lies, Matthew.” Mulder pretends to be enraged and Matthew’s eyes grow wide. “Your aunt Dana, she knows about baseball. She knows it all. Knows how to play it, too. Maybe she’ll teach you if your dad’s sh- if he’s not good at it. I hope I’m still around when you learn to play, buddy.” Matthew touches Mulder’s mouth, probably to understand how so many words can tumble out of there. Mulder kisses the boy’s fingers and he squeals in delight.

“I didn’t know Fox was good with kids.” Scully startles when her mother’s voice tickles her ears. Her hands land on her shoulders, grounding her. Making it impossible to run away.

“I didn’t know either.” She admits, her eyes still on the unlikely pair. As always, Mulder is oblivious to everything else around him. He’s standing at the window now, pointing at things and talking, talking, talking.

“You didn’t?” Her mother sounds surprised and Scully realizes she’s never seen Mulder with a baby before. She remembers him with Emily. The few moments they had in her daughter’s too short life. Of course he’s good with children, she thinks. He’s still one himself. But this. This is as new as their romantic relationship. She’s never seen him like this. She’s never allowed herself to see him like this. Like a father. The thought makes her swallow hard, drives tears to her eyes.

“There are ways, Dana.”

“Hm?”

“For you and Fox to have children.”

“Mom, that’s not-”

“Shhh, I know you two are more than just partners.”

“You do?” She turns to her mother now and she’s smiling. Of course she knew. Her mother always knows. She nods.

“You’re both glowing, honey. I’m happy for you, I really am. You know I love Fox.”

“Gah! Gah! Gah!” Matthew has spotted them, blown their cover. He kicks his tiny legs and points at them. Listening to Mulder is exhausting, Scully understands. Mulder walks over to them and hands the baby to his grandmother. Scully gets a wink from her mother and another moment alone with Mulder.

“Cute kid.” Scully just stares at Mulder. At the smudge of spit on his cheek, at the way his eyes follow Matthew with a smile. “Smells like cookies. Do all babies smell like cookies, Scully?” When he looks at her, she can’t stop herself – and why should she? She grabs his face and kisses him. He gasps into her mouth, surprised, before he kisses her back.

“What was that for?” His voice is breathless as they break away. Scully wipes away the traces of lipstick she left around his mouth. Though she knows she is no longer fooling anyone.

“I just felt like it.” It’s only half the truth and she thinks, as she looks into Mulder’s eyes as they crinkle in a happy smile, that maybe he knows it, too. Now is not the moment to talk about babies. Theirs or anyone else’s. But soon. Maybe.

Chapter Text

Katie strolls into the kitchen, an anxious expression on her face. She’s biting her bottom lip as she stares into the fridge. Mulder is not sure she’s even noticed him here, sitting at the kitchen table.

“You okay, honey?” He can’t help but ask when his daughter just stands there, unmoving. She turns to him, the refrigerator door still open, and her eyes seemingly a million miles away.

“Just thinking.”

“Do you want me to make you something to eat? Are you hungry?” She shakes her head. She’s pale these days, his daughter. Katie spends most her afternoons outside, playing soccer or softball. But lately she’s been home more often, locked up in her room studying. Everything has always come easily to her; she’s never needed much help with homework or with studying. Both Mulder and Scully have asked her if she was all right, if she wanted a tutor, anything. Their daughter assured them she was fine. The exam, the one she’s been studying for diligently, is tomorrow.

“I’m fine, dad,” she says as if reading his mind. Every once in a while Mulder thinks she can do it. That the reason she says she can’t read minds (and Jackson backs her up, each and every time) is because she doesn’t want to do it. A decision he understands and respects. Nevertheless, sometimes she just knows. Feels exactly what someone close to her is thinking.

“Do you want me to help you study?” Another shake of her head. But she glances at him, unsure if that’s her final answer. “I might be able to help.”

“Do you speak French, dad?”

“Hm, a bit. I know a few words.”

“That won’t help me. This oral exam is 50% of my grade. What if I screw it up?” Katie slumps down into a kitchen chair, her head falling onto it with a soft thud. Mulder gets up to close the fridge door. His daughter can’t be bothered with such mundane tasks, not these days anyway. He crouches next to her chair and his knees protest loudly. He’s not getting any younger. His hand lands on her arm and she lifts her head. There are unshed tears in her eyes, angry ones. Mulder’s heart breaks for his little girl. He wishes a tight hug would still work. A funny joke, a silly story that makes her laugh.

“You’ve been studying hard for weeks, honey. You’re going to do great.”

“How do you know?” She wipes her nose against the sleeve of her shirt. Her voice is cracking and sounds unsteady.

“Because I know you,” he says softly, touching her nose, “you’re smart, Katie. You work hard. No matter what happens, your mom and I are so proud of you.”

“But what if I don’t get an A?”

“Then you’ll get a B.” Katie’s eyes grow big, her expression outraged. “Or a C, a D, an F. We’ll love you, no matter what letter of the alphabet you bring home.”

“But…” The first tears fall quietly. She doesn’t sob, makes no noise.

“Hey, you’ll be fine,” Mulder whispers and draws her closer. She buries her face against his shoulder, her hot tears staining his shirt. Katie clings to him and he gently strokes her back. Mulder murmurs words into her hair, just like he used to do when she was a baby, when she refused to sleep, when she woke up from a nightmare.

“Am I still your little genius even if I end up getting a B?” Mulder startles. Jackson gave her that nickname first; most of her nicknames originated with him. He calls her little genius, princess Katie or Kit. He and Scully have adopted the little genius one - how could they not? Their daughter, this perfect young girl, is just that. He kisses her temple and her hair, hopes it still provides comfort as it used to do.

“You’ll always be our little genius. A, B or C. And you know what?” Katie wipes her nose against him one last time, then she looks up at him with her red-rimmed eyes. “I’m going to pick you up from school tomorrow and we’re going to have ice cream. How does that sound?”

“It sounds great, dad.” Katie smiles at him, looks happy finally. If she won’t let him help her study, he can at least do this. At least be there, be her dad.

Chapter Text

“Can you say… dada?” Mulder lifts his daughter into the air and she grins widely as spit rains down on him.

“Mama!” The baby squeals and kicks her feet.

“Oh Katie girl,” Mulder sighs in fake disappointment, “I’m dada. DADA.”

“MAMA,” she says in the exact same voice and starts laughing a full belly laugh. Her tiny body is shaking and she’s full on spitting on him now. Yet all Mulder can do is hold on to his daughter and laugh alongside her.

“You’re doing this on purpose.” His arms give in and he settles the baby on his chest, wiping his face on the sleeve of his shirt. She stares at him with her big, blue eyes in a curious manner. Her mouth opens and moves as if she were trying to say something. All that comes out are spit bubbles and sounds that don’t make much sense yet. But Mulder could listen to it for hours anyway. He brushes a few strands of unruly hair out of her face, tucks it behind her ears.

“Gah, gah. Mama.”

“I know, baby. Your mommy is going to be home soon. I think.” Mulder turns to look at the clock. She should have been home twenty minutes ago.

“Mama,” Katie repeats when she realizes that he is no longer paying attention to her. The tone of her voice has changed; the laughter is gone. She pushes her bottom lip forward as it curls downwards and starts quivering.

“Hey, none of that.” As always, his daughter doesn’t listen to him. She takes a deep, shaky breath and the first few tears fall from her eyes. Mulder quickly wipes them away and smiles at her hoping to lift her spirits. “I know you miss mommy. I do, too. I always miss your mommy when she’s not here. It’s just not the same, is it?” Mulder rubs Katie’s back in circles and the girl puts her head on his chest, breathing deeply, yet quickly.

“Your mommy is the best, Katie. But of course you already know that, don’t you? We’d be lost without her.” Mulder kisses Katie’s hair. It smells like strawberries and vanilla, sweet and perfect. Just like she is. “Let’s tell her how much we love her when she comes home, hm?”

“Mama.” Is Katie’s answer.

“Exactly.”

“What are you two talking about?” Scully’s voice cuts in and as Mulder turns, a hand safe on Katie’s back, she stands there grinning at them. Katie thrashes about, opens and closes her fists trying to get to her mother.

“Just how much we love you,” Mulder says sitting up. Katie climbs up on him, digs her tiny fingers into his shoulders and stands on his thighs to hold out her arms to Scully.

“Mama.” Her tiny voice breaks when she’s finally in her mother’s arms and she clings to Scully, locking her pudgy arms behind her neck and burying her face there.

“Someone missed you.” Mulder gets up, softly kisses Scully’s mouth. She looks up at him, her face fresh and clean. Sometimes he’s convinced she’s aging backwards. “We both missed you.”

“I was gone four hours, Mulder.”

“Four very long hours. Just ask your daughter.”

“Mama,” she says into Scully’s neck, sounds sleepy. Scully holds her tighter, breathes in her addictive baby smell.

“I was trying to teach her to say dada.” Mulder says the last word close to Katie’s ear and it must tickle her. She giggles and hides her face again, closes her eyes. Another minute and she’ll be fast asleep. “So much for all the books saying most kids say dada first.”

“Don’t be sad, Mulder,” Scully sits down on the couch, Katie limp in her arms; she’s getting heavy, their little baby, “Your daughter is just particular.”

“My one in five billion.” He grins and kisses Scully’s nose.

“I thought I was your one in five billion.” She pouts and looks almost exactly like Katie did earlier. Mulder puts his lips on hers, kisses it away even though he knows she doesn’t mean it. She’s chuckling against his mouth and he kisses that away, too.

“The number is outdated anyway. How many people are there now, Scully?”

“7.5 billion, Mulder. You know that.”

“Hm, you and the kids are the only ones that count,” another kiss, “you are my three in 7.5 billion.”

“That’s so romantic, Mulder.”

“I know.” He’s grinning from ear to ear, looking at the love of his life and their daughter, their second miracle. The fact that she’s here with them never gets old, defies all odds. He puts his hand back on her small back, needs to reassure himself that this is real, that this is his life.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Scully says in a soft whisper, knowing exactly where his thoughts have gone. He licks his lips, a nervous tick he’s developed recently and nods. Scully touches her finger to his face. It’s always the same; it’s her very own method to let him know they’re fine. First his nose, his right cheek and then his left. Her finger comes to rest against his lips and he leaves a tiny kiss there against the tip.

“I love you,” he says, his lips barely moving.

“I love you, too.” They’re fine, this is real.

Chapter Text

Mulder has to nudge her several times throughout the day, waking her as gently as he possibly can. She’s been like this since last night. As if wrapping up the case was the last straw, the last thing her body permitted. This morning at breakfast she nursed a strong coffee, nibbled on a toast. Mulder tried to be quiet and watched her with careful eyes, never sure what he’s allowed to comment on, what to ask. After 20 something years together, professionally and less so, this should not be a question. None of this should be difficult. Their working relationship was easy to rekindle; slipping into it was like putting on a well worn leather jacket. The personal side, as always, caused, and still causes, a much greater dilemma.

Their flight is delayed by an hour. While roaming through the airport shops, Scully looks at books, but he doubts she sees anything. Mulder buys a few snacks hoping she’ll ask him to share. He still hasn’t said anything to her; nothing of substance. But he doesn’t need to, not really. Her pale face, ashen even in the soft light, is telling enough. Her movements are sluggish, her eyes subdued. She looks as if she hasn’t slept in days. Mulder is not going to tell her she’s caught a cold, most likely. She’s a medical doctor, after all. Looking at her, he hopes it’s not the flu. Scully is a terrible patient. His lips curl up, a secret smile of remembrance. Mulder hates seeing Scully sick. Loathes it. But it’s the only time she lets him take care of her. The last time is an old faded memory; it’s been years. They haven’t lived with each other in so long. How many times has she been sick without him there to bring her tea, to draw her a bath? Without him knowing she wasn’t well at all? Mulder turns to her, loses himself in her sight. He doesn’t want to be away from her now that he’s had a taste of this again, of being around her all day. Most of all, though, he doesn’t want her to go through anything alone ever again. Even if it’s just the common cold.

Mulder doesn’t voice any of his thoughts. He puts his hand on her back and leads her into the plane. They don’t need to talk about any of this. It’s a given that she gets the window seat. It’s always been like that. She puts the seatbelt on and stares out the window. Mulder in turn stares at her, doubts she notices. Scully is asleep before they even leave the runway. Her head starts out against the window, but she moves around restlessly as Mulder tries to read. He waits, watches as she gravitates towards him. A small sigh slips from her open mouth as her head settles against his shoulder. She feels warm with sleep and maybe more. Mulder doesn’t want to wake her and so he lets her rest, tries not to move at all. His arm hurts to the point of numbness, but it’s worth it. At one point the flight attendant asks him if he or his wife need anything. Mulder glances at Scully, fast asleep against him, her hand on his thigh. His wife. If only. He thanks the young woman, assuring her they’re fine. It’s a timid move, so very uncertain when Mulder puts his own hand over Scully’s. She doesn’t wake, doesn’t even stir. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, too. For the next two hours everything is all right with him and the world; with them.

When Scully wakes up, she looks around as if lost, as if unsure where she is. She is unapologetic about using his shoulder as a pillow. Those days are long gone. Her eyes are transparent, like blue glass marbles.

“We’re back,” Mulder says stupidly, but at least it makes her smile. He helps her out, treats her like a treasure all the way to the car and Scully lets him. She doesn’t say a word, doesn’t complain.

“I’m so tired,” she yawns when she gets comfortable in the passenger seat. It doesn’t take her long to fall back asleep. Mulder throws her a look every now and then. A decision forms in his mind, fractured but certain. He is taking her home.

Dusk sprawls lazily over the blue tinged spring sky as Mulder steers the car towards their house. Scully doesn’t wake as they rumble over the gravel path. He parks the car, kills the engine and she slumbers on. Mulder touches her warm forehead, brushes a stray strand of hair away.

“Scully.” His voice barely above a whisper. “Hey, Scully.” Mulder leans closer, his mouth almost against her ear.

“Hm,” Scully sighs, but doesn’t wake. So Mulder unbuckles his seat belt, hers, too, and gets out. He opens the passenger side and there she is. Her eyes closed, her breathing even. Mulder gently puts his hands under her tiny frame and picks her up. This is too easy and she is too light in his arms. She cuddles against him instinctively as he kicks the door shut.

“This is not where I live.” Scully’s voice tickles the skin on his neck.

“No, I took you home.”

“Mulder…”

“I’m not going to leave you alone like this, Scully.”

“I’m just tired,” she murmurs against him. Mulder struggles with opening the door, but he’s determined not to let go of her. He doubts she’d run away, but he’s not taking any chances. As soon as the door is open and they step inside, she relaxes against him. He wonders what she thinks, how she feels about being back. It’s been a while. He doesn’t stop and walks up the stairs. They squeak noisily as if welcoming Scully back home.

“I can walk, you know,” Scully says with a soft laugh. Her voice is beginning to sound hoarse. Definitely a cold.

“You were fast asleep. I didn’t have the heart to wake you.”

“My knight in shining armor,” she says, a sound between a cough and a laugh, “or my agent in meticulous suit.” Scully laughs again, coughs even more. She’s delirious.

“I’m going to make you some tea,” Mulder promises as he puts her down on the bed, “and find that cough syrup.” She nods and curls up on her side of the bed. This is where she belongs. “Do you need anything else?”

“No… just you. Close by.” Her words disappear into the pillow as she tries to get more comfortable.

“Hey Scully?” The bed dips as Mulder sits down on it, by her hip. He touches her there gently, nudges her. For the last time tonight, he hopes.

“Hm?”

“Don’t panic, but…” Mulder leans down towards her face. He can tell by the warmth that radiates off of her already, but he lets his lips connect with her forehead. It’s something Scully has taught him, ages ago. Back when they were still just partners, nothing more. The first time she did it, he grinned up at her, thinking this was it. But he, too, had been delirious with fever. Just a way to check your temperature, Mulder, she’d said back then. He’s never quite believed it.Scully’s forehead is way too hot, way too feverish.

“I have a fever, Mulder,” Scully says, “could have told you.”

“I prefer to check myself.” He kisses her cheek, just because. “I’m going to get some Aspirin, too, to get it down. Try to sleep, all right?” She doesn’t need to try, she’s halfway there already. He waits until he’s sure she’s asleep and even then he has a hard time of leaving. He gathers the essentials as quickly as he can, wakes Scully briefly so she can take the Aspirin and some cough syrup.

“Don’t leave.” Her raspy voice pleads as he moves to get up. “Please.”

“I wasn’t going to.” Mulder lies down on his side of the bed and watches over her for the rest of the night. If she lets him, he’ll do it for the rest of their lives.

Chapter Text

“Feel hungry yet? You know, you’re eating for two.” Scully puts the doll next to her on the couch as if it were a living, breathing entity. Her finger traces the barely there, frozen smile on the doll one last time, before she faces Mulder again, who looks at her with bright, big eyes. Just having him here is a comfort. It’s what she dreamed about in the months he was missing. It makes her want to reach out, take his hand in hers and never let go. She considers it for a moment and her fingers twitch, almost reach out. In the end her courage leaves her.

“That’s a myth, Mulder. The eating for two.”

“Ah,” he says simply, sounds defeated and almost sad; she wishes she could take her words back. She doesn’t want it to be like this. They swing back and forth between easy banter and irreconcilable misconceptions. She misses the days before it went dark, before he disappeared. How easy it had been in those few months. Now he’s back, but not all of him. A part of him is forever lost, remains in the past untouched by the time lost. All they’ve already been through with her abduction, Ed Jerse and Philadelphia, Diana, this should be easier. It should not be like this. “But you still need to eat for… you,” Mulder tries with a soft smile. He’s trying; they both are.

“You can start without me, Mulder. I’m not really hungry.” He watches her, disappointed. Then he eyes the pizza. She knows he wants to eat. There’s a soft rumble that has to be his stomach. Knowing him, he probably hasn’t eaten at all while she was in the hospital. The baby kicks and Scully gasps.

“Are you all right?” He scoots closer, but doesn’t touch her. Scully nods. His concern brings her courage back and she takes his hand to put it on her belly. His hand is warm and the baby kicks again. Scully feels thankful that he gets to experience it, too. She’s so used to this child by now, by all the new feelings. But Mulder is not. “Quite the kicker you’ve got in there, Scully. Maybe he, or she, wants you to eat.” Without taking her hand off her belly, his eyes plead with her.

“All right. But only a bite or two.” Even though it’s awkward with his hand on her stomach, he leans forward and puts a slice of pizza on one of the plates. Mulder offers it to her and Scully is uncertain what she’s feeling or what she should be feeling. She looks into his eyes for a short moment before she bites into the proffered slice.

“Taste good?” She’s still chewing so she nods. Mulder, instead of taking his own slice, bites into hers. Now that she’s had a taste, she is not sure she wants to share after all. “Hm, not bad,” he agrees. “Remember the last time we had pizza?” Mulder grins at her and she blushes. As if she could forget. It was long after they finished “Caddyshack”, long after tasting and experiencing each other on his couch and in his bed. Scully licks her bottom lip. Yes, she remembers. She just wasn’t sure he did, too. They haven’t talked about before. It’s as if the few months of bliss never happened. No eager giggling and inappropriate touching at work, in public. They’d been like teenagers, reckless and free. Most of all, though, they’d been happy. Scully hugs herself, feels the emptiness she’s come to know so well lately wash over her like a cold shower.

“I’m sorry, Scully,” Mulder says, thinking he’s done something wrong; some things would never change with them, “I didn’t mean to bring up painful memories.”

“Painful?” She says, surprised. “It’s one of my favorites.” A small smile flits over his face. “I just…” How can she tell him that she misses their closeness? She promised him that she’d give him time. Mulder needs to process what’s happened to him, what he’s missed. But she needs him. She needs him so much.

“Mine, too,” he admits sheepishly. “Not just the pizza, but… everything that happened before.” And after, she adds in her mind. They’re both sporting pink cheeks now, remembering. The baby kicks again, harder this time, and Scully winces. “Hey, you really are all right, aren’t you?” There’s concern on his face. He’s only known about the baby for a few weeks and as much as they don’t talk about it, or the implications, Scully knows he cares.

“I’m fine.” Mulder’s eyes turn dark; he is not convinced at all.

“They sent me home, didn’t they?” But her voice loses steam. What if something else were to happen? This time she was lucky, because Mulder was here. What if next time he’s not? Scully’s hand finds his on her stomach. It’s a miracle. Not just the baby under their fingertips, but that he’s here, too. She’s almost afraid to want both, to want it all. Her baby and its father. Is that really too much to ask?

“Can you be honest with me, Scully? Please?”

“I’m scared,” she turns her face to him, wonders if he can see the tears she refuses to shed, “I’ve been scared that something would happen to this… to our baby. I know you need time, Mulder. I know this a lot to take in for you, but would you stay here tonight? Just in case…” Scully can’t even say the word. “Just until I’m asleep,” she adds when Mulder is quiet, his expression unreadable.

“I’ll stay,” he says, his voice just above a whisper, “If you want me to, no, if you’ll let me, I’ll stay here until the baby is born. After, too. I’ll stay here or wherever you want me.” His eyes fill with tears; Scully can almost taste them, taste his emotions on her tongue. “You just have to say the word and I’m not leaving. I can sleep on the couch, or-”

“I want you in my bed, Mulder.” Her words render him speechless; he seems to have stopped breathing even. “I want to feel you close. If that’s all right with you.” Her heart has picked up speed and Scully feels it in her throat. She doesn’t want to pressure him, but now that she’s had a taste of this again, she isn’t sure she can let him go. Even if it’s just for a night.

“It’s more than all right,” Mulder’s voice is a caress she feels everywhere and she lets out a shaky breath, “I want to be close. I want to be close to you and… to you and our baby.” Their nights of sleeping alone are over once again.

Chapter Text

They look, Mulder realizes with a sense of pride, like a normal, average family. They’re nothing but a set of parents and a sulking teenager a few steps behind them, staring into a screen. Sure, if anyone were to look closely, they’d see the hint of a baby bump hiding under Scully’s sweater. They might wonder about their ages; their hair speckled with grey, their eyes conveying all they’ve seen in this long, exhausting life. But no one is paying them any attention. Right here, right now, they’re nothing special, nothing much to look at – and Mulder loves it.

These past few weeks, almost three months, have been nothing but normal and slow. The pregnancy is, against all odds, progressing smoothly and without complications. A few days after it happened (they only refer to the night on the docks as ‘it’, an undefined moment in time, one they keep trying to forget), Jackson showed up at their door. His hands deeply buried in his pockets, he was cold and shivering. His eyes red-rimmed from crying, he looked young and broken. They let him in and then never let him go again. Weeks of good, healthy food and a haircut have transformed the young man, who in many ways is still just a teenager. Mulder turns to him sometimes and he’s no longer the lost boy he stumbled upon that day; their son is found, is home.

“Can we go home now? I’m hungry,” Jackson, looking up from his phone, says. Moments like these make him look so much younger than his years. He brushes an invisible lock of hair off his forehead, once again forgetting that his hair is much shorter now. Jackson looks at Mulder, then at Scully.

“I think we’re done here. Mulder?” He’s just about to answer and say that yes, they can go home now when he gets an idea. Without a word of explanation he walks towards the red box that’s captured his attention.

“Why does he always do that?” Jackson’s groan fades into the distance. Mulder stands in front of the DVDXpress Kiosk and grins. A moment later Scully and their son join him.

“Mulder?"

"Scully, look.” He is well aware that he sounds excited as he points at the touch screen. His finger presses a button and small movie icons begin to dance over the display. “You can rent DVDs”.

“You can also use Netflix like a normal person,” Jackson says while taking out his phone again. He steps away, pretends not to know them while still glancing over every once in a while.

“Remember when there were Blockbuster stores everywhere? You could just walk into one and get the latest movies.”

“I didn’t know you cared so much videos,” she leans closer to him and lowers her voice, “except for all those you claimed weren’t yours.” They grin at each other, chuckle softly. There are still some of these tapes around the house; Mulder is notoriously bad at throwing things away, even vintage porn from the 90s.

“We never did this, Scully.” He swipes along the titles, sees movies he’s never even heard of. How are these things fresh and new? He squints his eyes, tries to recognize something or someone. He should have brought his glasses with him.

“Did what?”

“Rent a movie together."

"I recall movie nights.” Scully’s eyes are soft, her expression warm. He recalls those nights, too. One in particular. A quick glance over at their son, who is immersed in a digital world or maybe even making plans to have a movie night of his own. Netflix and chill, he’d call it. Mulder is thinking more along the lines of VHS and chill, back in the day.

“Think they have Caddyshack?” Mulder chuckles. They have the movie at home, too. The tape is worn, old. When it seemed like the band wouldn’t hold much longer, Mulder caved and bought the DVD. It was a comfort many nights when Scully was living her own life away from him. He’d think of that night while watching by himself in the darkness. He’d think of that one precious night when they watched that movie. Or rather didn’t watch it. “But that’s not… we never rented one together. Like a couple."

"Mulder, we have DVDs at home."

"I know,” he sighs; she doesn’t get it, “but this. We never did this. We never strolled into a Blockbusters holding hands and sneaking kisses in the romance section. We never fought about which movie to get and I never got to give in and let you pick the movie. We never did that. We never really got to be that kind of couple. Normal, you know?” Tears pool in her eyes as she tries to smile, her lips quivering. The hormones. He keeps forgetting that the smallest notions make her emotional these days. Gently, he cups her cheeks and wipes away the two stray tears that do escape.

“There are no more Blockbuster stores, Mulder.” Now is not the time to tell her she’s wrong. He doubts she’d want to travel to Alaska with him just to make this particular dream, this missed opportunity a reality anyway. So he just nods, lets her believe she’s right.

“No, but there’s this.” He points to the red kiosk. Scully’s expression is her famous 'you can’t be serious, Mulder’ look he can’t help but love. He grins sheepishly at her, takes her hand into his. “I know it’s not the same, but… please rent a movie with me tonight, Scully?”

“Mulder, you’re crazy.”

“So you’ve told me a million times. What do you say? It’s Friday night and I think our offspring has other plans.“ Jackson makes noise that’s half groan and half affirmation. "Please say yes, Scully. Please.”

“All right.” Mulder grins before he leans down and kisses her softly.

“Can you guys like not do that in public?” Jackson says looking around nervously. “At least not when I’m around. You’re not seriously going to rent a movie, are you?” When their son says it, the plan does sound crazy. As if that could stop Mulder, though.

“We are. Pick one, Scully.”

“I thought it was about us renting one together.” With a loud sigh, Jackson starts looking through the selection. It goes too fast for Mulder to see anything. It’s a blur of pictures and colors.

“Get this one.”

“The Greatest Showman?” Scully reads.

“You’re going to like it.” Mulder shrugs, wonders briefly how his son would know that. But he doesn’t question it. “It’s like romantic and… stuff.”

“Scully?” She nods and Mulder swipes his credit card. The kiosk beeps and rumbles before it spits out a DVD at them. “Nice,” he says and picks it up, checks it out as if it were a piece of evidence.

“Can we go home now, please?"

"Yes,” Scully answers and takes Mulder’s hand to drag him away from the kiosk. Just in case he decides to get another movie. One is enough. Scully will most likely fall asleep halfway through it. He might, too, if he’s being honest. So one is definitely enough.

“Look, our first rented movie,” he says with pride in his voice, holding the DVD case up for the whole world to see.

“You guys are so weird.” Mulder watches as his son, now in front of them, types a quick text message to his girlfriend. He can’t read it at all, but he catches 'parents’, 'strange’ and 'home’. That’s who they are: strange parents with a peculiar son, a family with a home. The thought makes him happy. He’s still grinning as they make their way to the car. Scully’s hand is in his, everything is fine. It’s normal, average. It’s all he ever wanted.

Chapter Text

Mulder doesn’t let go of Scully, not for one second. She hides her head in his chest when a paramedic approaches them, like a child. He mumbles that she’s a doctor herself and she’s fine, fine, fine, so please, let us go. The paramedic shrugs and walks off. He has no idea what Scully, what both of them, have been through.

Scully leans heavily on him and coordinating their steps proves difficult. But Mulder doesn’t mind. His arm is around her waist, holding her tightly to him. Her own arm sneaks around him, too; from a distance they must look like lovers on a romantic stroll. If only.

They make it to the car before Mulder can’t take it anymore. Something snaps and he gasps. The reality of what has happened, of what could have happened and of what he could have found in this house, hits him full force, like a fist right into his chest.

“Mulder?” It’s Scully’s voice that gives him the final push. Here they are, out of danger for a minute, with Scully still wearing the wounds from her latest encounter with evil. He turns to her, his movements quick and rash. Mulder takes her into his arms, a tight hug that says everything he can’t. But this time, right now, it’s not enough. He loosens his grip and his hands find her face. Scully looks up at him in wonderment, her mouth slightly open. As if she were waiting, as if she knew exactly what was going to happen. It’s almost as if she’s had the same thought at the exact same moment.

Mulder’s thumbs caress her cheeks, gently touch the laceration on her chin.

“Mulder.” This time his name is a whisper, a plea. His thumbs continue their journey, find her lips in a first greeting. It doesn’t last long. Mulder doesn’t think as he replaces his fingers with his own mouth. Their first kiss is gentle, merely a shy hello born out of quiet desperation. It’s the opposite of what he’s feeling. He wants to tear into her, convince her and himself that she’s fine, that she’s here with him, not gone. Again.

“I could have lost you,” his lips whisper against her mouth; he has had a first taste and he doesn’t want to let go of it now or ever, “I could have lost you again.” The last word breaks him. As he continues to kiss her, his own tears fall freely, as do hers, and they drink each other in every way possible. “I cannot lose you, Scully. I can’t.”

“You haven’t lost me, Mulder,” her lips promise, “you found me. You found me just in time.” His mouth stays on hers, unmoving, just needing the contact. He’s crying, howling. This is all wrong. He should be comforting her, not the other way around.

“We’re fine, Mulder,” she says, her voice determined, “We’re not lost. We’re here. We’re here.” She kisses his cheek, his eyelids and everywhere she can reach. He nods as words escape him. They put their arms back around each other, holding the other one up, and keep going.

As always.

Chapter Text

No matter what he tries, the crying doesn’t stop. And Mulder has tried it all, he is sure of it. The baby has been fed and her diaper is dry. She has been sung to, she has been told two bedtime stories and she has been rocked back and forth, back and forth.

“Does she hate me, Scully?” He asks, his voice exhausted and serious. Scully, standing in the doorway, looks as tired as he feels; her short, usually impeccable bob is a pure mess and she’s wearing her robe inside out.

“No, Mulder,” she holds out her arms and Mulder hands the crying baby over, “she doesn’t hate you.” Scully tries a different rocking technique that has the same result as his: the crying continues.

“Hey, hey Katie,” Mulder dances around Scully, but his daughter doesn’t look at him, “I am a dancing dad! A dancing dad!” The girl wails, her tiny head red and sweaty. Mulder gives up and slumps down in the rocking chair.

“Have we tried that yet?” Scully asks and hands the girl back to Mulder. He starts gently rocking in the chair, hums a tune automatically. Katie’s tears, however, keep on falling.

“What is it, baby?”

“Mulder, let’s take her back to our bedroom,” the chair squeaks loudly as Mulder looks at Scully; they decided to not let her sleep with them, no matter what. Well, she decided it one night two weeks ago. Or two eons ago. He hasn’t slept much since then. “We all need to sleep.” Scully helps him up and together they make their way to the bedroom. Katie quiets down when she realizes where they’re going. Clever kid, Mulder thinks with a secret smile that he hides in Katie’s soft hair.

As soon as they’re all cuddled up, Katie in the middle, the room falls silent. The last sobs subside and the girl is calm, happy. Mulder puts a hand on her stomach and she giggles.

“Don’t encourage her,” Scully mumbles. Mulder hears a ringing in his ears, thanks to his daughter, and feels like he barely understands her. Katie stares up at him with big eyes. They’re so blue that they’re almost transparent.

“Gah?” The baby says, expectation written on her face.

“I hope that means good night, Katie. Time to sleep.” The girl kicks her little legs in excitement and waves her arms. One of her fists connects with Mulder’s face and he winces. Scully chuckles.

“Ohhhh.” Katie’s mouth opens wide as Mulder rubs his chin. He grins at his daughter to let her knows he’s fine. Scully on the other hand doesn’t seem to be fine. Her whole body is shaking.

“Scully? Are you all right?”

“Wah, wah, wah!” Katie chimes in. Scully doesn’t answer and Mulder touches her shoulder. When she turns to him her face is red and her eyes are watery; she looks like Katie did five minutes ago. But something is different. He is about to ask what the matter is when a loud squeal escapes through her lips. Scully erupts in fits of laughter, the sound heavenly, even if completely unexpected. Mulder watches her in disbelief, his chin throbbing in pain. What is so funny? He wonders, his sleep deprived mind slow in comprehension.

But their daughter doesn’t wonder. She joins right in, her own baby noises loud and genuine. There’s nothing he can do. It starts as a tickle in his throat and moves to his lips, makes them twitch. Soon he is laughing with them, tears streaming down his face. All the exhaustion breaks free, makes room for desperation, for humor, too.

Mulder and Scully are still softly laughing and chuckling, completely out of breath, when they realize that Katie is quiet. She’s fallen asleep, finally. There’s a hint of a smile on her lips; dreaming about mischief, Mulder is certain of that. He and Scully share a smile, their eyes speaking of love and thankfulness before they become heavy, drift close. It doesn’t take long until they’re all asleep, quietly and happily.

Chapter Text

It’s early evening when they get home – hers, tonight – and Mulder barely makes it to the couch before he slumps down face down. He sighs into her pillow and it sounds as if the whole world was sitting on his back, playing bongos. Scully watches him with a frown and takes her time taking her coat and heels off. What a blissful feeling, she thinks with a sigh of her own. It’s obscenely loud and closer to a moan than a sigh. Yet, Mulder’s face remains in the pillow, not even looking at her. Scully walks over to him and gets on her knees so they’re face to face. She runs her hand through his hair and he turns towards her smiling, his eyes closed. This is still new to them; touching for the sole reason of wanting to touch. No looming life and death situation to be found here tonight.

“I hope you don’t intend to sleep out here,” Scully whispers against his lips, punctuates her words with a gentle kiss.

“Hmm, I might. Scully, are we really old?” One of his eyes pop open; he doesn’t just want to hear her opinion, he needs to see it, too. She gets more comfortable on the floor and leans her head against the armrest.

“We’re not teenagers anymore,” she answers wondering if she feels old, “but would you want to be?”

“No,” he says without hesitation.

“Me neither.”

“But…”

“But what?”

“We’re not young anymore. One day we’ll wake up complaining about how everything hurts.”

“Mulder, you complained about a kink in your back just yesterday.”

“I’m kinky, Scully,” he laughs into the pillow. And he thinks he’s old, Scully marvels, chuckling.

“Let’s go to bed,” She says and gets up. Her knees protest briefly; her joints in agreement with the assessment that they’re indeed old.

“That’s my favorite kink, though,” Mulder says, sitting up and grinning at her, “you asking me to go to bed.” Scully considers hitting him with a pillow but decides against it just in case she ends up hurting him for real.

All the magazines and extensive research tell her not to read in bed. They warn her it will mess with her ability to sleep, but before she started sleeping with, and next to, Mulder it’s never been a problem. She doubts scientists were talking about this anyway. Mulder never goes to bed without reading material. A book, a journal or a case file will do. Taking it away from him, Scully fears, would be like asking a child to sleep without their favorite stuffed animal. But once or twice Scully has wondered if she can send him to read in the living room, the kitchen, or the bathroom even, just so she can sleep. Mulder doesn’t read like a normal person. He talks to himself (or her; sometimes she can’t tell) and moves about like a seal on land. She loves him, of course she does. She just loves him a little less when she’s exhausted and he’s restless.

“Mulder.”

“What?” He’s wearing his glasses and they always make Scully forget she’s angry with him. She points to his assemblage of papers. If she cared (she tries not to, not tonight), she’d ask him if he was doing research on gravitational aberrations or the chemical differences in adolescent brains. She knows he can’t let go of their cases as easily as she can.

“I’d like to sleep.”

“Scully, it’s like 8 pm.”

“So? It was a long day.”

“You really are old,” he says, faking shock.

“Oh shut up, Mulder. I’m younger than you and always will be.” He chuckles.

“Makes you wonder what this will be like in 20 years, huh?” Thinking it’s a rhetorical question, Scully doesn’t answer and closes her eyes. Mulder nudges her hip and waits for her to look at him. “Think we’re still doing this in 20 years?”

“Work for the FBI? Solve cases?” She blinks tiredly at him and almost misses the blush on his cheeks.

“No, I mean… this. This us. Think we’re still together like this in 20 years? You bickering about my reading keeping you up and me being silently annoyed the temperature in our bedroom is too high.” Now she’s fully awake again.

“Is that a…”

“No! No. Though… I have thought about it. I have, Scully. Don’t look so surprised. But that’s not- not what I’m asking. Not tonight, anyway,” her eyes grow big, “I was just wondering. I’m going to turn off the lights now. You won.” He doesn’t give her the chance to answer and leans over to switch off the lamp. There’s the rustling of paper and then silence. Scully still hasn’t moved or said a word. The silence stretches on. Mulder is next to her, absolutely still, but awake. This is not at all what she wanted. 20 years from now. She’s never given it a thought. She who used to plan her life five years in advance. What changed? Mulder. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. She can’t imagine her life without him in it anymore. Wherever she’ll be in five years, ten or 20, he will be there as well. The thought doesn’t scare her; it makes her skin tingle. She scoots closer and cuddles into his side. He accepts her there easily and wraps his arm around her.

“I think… we’ll still be bickering and bantering 20 years from now, Mulder.” She’s sure of it.

Chapter Text

William is a gifted child, knows more words than he should, and uses them at all times; especially when he shouldn’t. Today, though, he is quiet. He pokes his finger into his pancake even though he knows he is not supposed to play with his food. But he also knows that Mulder won’t say anything. That’s mommy’s job and mommy isn’t here.

“Do you want another pancake, Will?” Of course Mulder miscalculated and now they have way too many pancakes for just the two of them.

“I miss mommy,” the boy answers, his voice a miserable whine.

“I know, buddy,” Mulder crouches down and looks up at his son, “I miss mommy, too. She’ll be back soon.”

“You said that yesterday. When is soon, daddy? I miss mommy now.” He can’t argue with that.

“Tonight, buddy.” William tilts his head and raises an eyebrow. He looks so cute that Mulder almost smiles.

“When is tonight?”

“Before you go to bed.” Mulder cuts the pancake on William’s plate into small bits hoping that his son will eat some. They will have pancakes for lunch, dinner and probably for the rest of the week.

“Not going to bed before mommy is home.” Will shakes his head so energetically that Mulder gets sick from just watching. He touches his son’s shoulder and the boy stills. His auburn hair sticks in all directions and he grins at Mulder.

“If mommy is late you can stay up until she’s home, I promise. Now let’s eat breakfast and get going. We’re going to be late.” Mulder takes three pancakes off the small tower on the counter and sighs. He packs them into Will’s lunch box and hopes that if Will won’t eat them, he’ll share with his friends. He packs another five for himself and is already fed up with the sweet, doughy smell.

“No school today, daddy,” William exclaims and Mulder turns to him with a befuddled look on his face. At least his son is eating now, chewing loudly.

“What do you mean no school?” He checks the calendar just in case. There’s nothing on there. Only a big fat, red x marking Scully’s return later today. Three days without her and he can’t wait to see her again, touch her, talk to her. Just have her home.

“Not going today,” Will says reaching for another pancake. He pours maple syrup over it and giggles when it drips over the edge of the plate. Mulder automatically reaches for a paper towel and wipes it away. He takes the syrup bottle from Will who has the audacity to pout.

“You’re going to school, William.” The boy shakes his head. A small, sticky finger touches Mulder’s cheek.

“Wanna wait for mommy.”

“The time will pass faster when you’re in school, buddy. You’ll be too busy to miss her.”

“No.”

“Trust me.” Mulder wipes his cheek with a paper towel and it sticks to his cheek making Will laugh. He wets the towel, cleans his cheek, wets another and takes Will’s hand into his to clean them.

“What if mommy comes home early, daddy?” How quickly a child’s mood can change. When Mulder lifts his eyes and looks into his son’s, big and blue like his mother’s, he sees tears shimmering there. His bottom lip starts quivering as he waits for his father to make the world right again. Mulder wants to take the small body into his arms and never let go. He understands missing Scully. Oh, how he understands. When the first tears fall silently, Mulder picks him up and Will clings to him, his sharp nails digging into his neck.

“Mommy told me she’d be home after school. Mommy wouldn’t lie, would she?” Will wipes his whole face against his shirt (he’ll need to change again) before he nods. “So you think you’re ready for school now?”

“No,” Will sighs. “But I will go. Only for you, daddy.”

“Thank you, Will. I appreciate it.”

After school, Will turns into a bouncing ball. Sprinting back from the couch to the front door. He gets on tiptoes to look out the window so he won’t miss his mother arriving. Mulder watches him, amusement playing around his lips. He’s trying to read the latest findings on extraterrestrial occurrences, but can’t concentrate. If he were his son’s age, he would probably run around the apartment, too, unable to contain his excitement.

“Mommy!” The word is more a shriek than anything else. The boy launches himself at Scully as soon as she walks through the door. She catches him easily and lets the bag fall from her hands.

“Hi baby.” Scully is leaving tiny kisses all over Will’s head and the boy laughs. “Anyone miss me?” She kisses her son’s ear and glances over at Mulder.

“Nah. Was nice and quiet, right, Will?”

“No!” Will, still on his mother’s hip, takes her face between his small hands and leans so close that their noses are almost touching. “Daddy is wrong. I missed you, mommy. You were gone forever.”

“It really felt like forever, baby. I missed you, too. Both of you.” Scully kisses his nose. “Can I say hi to daddy, too? Even though he didn’t miss me?” Will takes a deep breath, sighs.

“All right,” he finally says, but refuses to let go of his mother. Mulder understands the feeling. He walks towards the love of his life and their tiny, energetic miracle. He leans over and gently kisses Scully’s lips. “Ew,” Will says, but giggles. Mulder ruffles his hair and kisses his temple. His eyes find Scully’s again and he knows that look. He is certain that his eyes reflect the same longing, the same need to touch each other. He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and can’t tear his eyes away. Three days without her. Will is right; she was gone forever.

“Mommy, daddy made me go to school today.” Scully eyes Mulder, silently asks him what their son is talking about.

“Well, I hope he did. School is important, Will.”

“I want down now.” Mulder chuckles as Will finally lets go of Scully. He taps over to the couch and sprawls out there, his small body taking up more room than Mulder thought possible.

“Hey.” Scully touches his hand and she’s got his full, undivided attention. He looks at her, can’t help but smile and fall in love with her all over again. How can it still be like this? He wonders as her lips twitch into a smile of her own. “I need a shower,” she tells him, her voice soft. He doesn’t catch her meaning right away. But when she doesn’t move and squeezes his hand, he understands.

“Oh.” His voice is higher than it should be. “As much as I want you, Scully, and you can’t believe how much I do, I don’t think the kid is going to cooperate.” They both turn to the couch where Will is leaning over the armrest, grinning at them with baby teeth.

“Daddy taped my favorite show, mommy. So we can watch it together!” Mulder buries his face in her neck to stifle his laugh; he brought this one on himself. They’ve managed three days without each other. They can manage another three hours.

Chapter Text

Years ago he told her he’d never seen her as a mother before. Back then it was the truth. Three years in and she was Scully. His partner, his confident. A friend. A mother? No. All of these things are still true today. Except for the last part. It’s not Theresa’s baby on her lap that changes his mind. His mind was changed before, a while ago. When exactly he can’t recall. Somewhere between that hideous case in Home, Pennsylvania and seeing Scully say goodbye to the daughter she never knew she had, who she would never see grow up. Theresa must have seen what he’s only come to learn; Scully is a mother. There is no hesitation in the other woman when she hands the baby to Scully who takes it with expert hands. Mulder watches in awe, can barely move. He’s seen Scully with children before. Of course he has. Bu he’s never seen her with a baby after the IVF has failed. After making love to her. After telling her to never give up on a miracle.

How blind must he have been back then, he wonders now. To not see it. Had he simply refused to see it? Had he tried to keep his heart away from her? To not see her as a mother but only as a platonic partner in his life quest? Too late now. Much too late. His eyes are glued to Scully and the baby. The tiny human feels safe in her arms, doesn’t cry. Mulder knows what that’s like. Knows exactly what it means to be held by Scully, to feel her soft hands and her strength. The corner of his mouth twitches; this is what he wants. The thought doesn’t surprise him, but the intensity of the emotion does.

When Scully approached him, asked if he would help her with the improbable, if not to say the impossible, he only thought about her. In his mind it was her baby. He was just helping her. Nothing more. As soon as she walked into her apartment, the shattered dream reflected in her tears, he knew he’d been fooling himself. He wanted that baby, too. Mulder didn’t tell her that night or the next. He held her hand, dried her tears and listened to her silence. This was about her. He waited and waited and waited until it was almost too late. Then, a bandage around his head, his brain pleasantly quiet and content, he sat her down, told her. That was the beginning. Not of them, no; they’d been in the making since the first time their hands touched. The beginning of them as a romantic couple. Even know, months later, Mulder marvels at the idea. Watching her now, with the baby on her lap, an aura of happiness around them, he can’t imagine the feeling ever subsiding.

Scully murmurs a silly song to the baby and Mulder is certain he falls in love again, even further. His mouth opens in the attempt to voice it. He wants her to know what he’s feeling. That he wants to stop time, change circumstances and make it happen. He told her not to give up on a miracle and it’s time to make good on his promise. Mulder watches, listens to her hushed voice and for a short moment, no longer than a second, pretends that this is their life. Sitting together in the afternoon with their child. Making silly noises and faces; just being. This is what I want, he thinks. This is what Scully deserves, he knows. All the things that have been taken from her. It’s time to give her something back.

Seven years ago, in the same place, their journey started. He doesn’t want it to end now or ever. What he wants to end, what they both need, is to stop. Scully once asked him if he never wanted to get out of the car. Not then, Scully. Now, though… he wants a new car. A car they can put into the garage next to their house. He wants their 2.5 children and a dog. The baby kicks his legs and squeals; Mulder’s bubble bursts. There’s not going to be a car (except all the expensive, rented ones), no picket fence, no house in the suburbs (but apartment walls that have experienced loneliness and loss). There won’t be 2.5 children. But, and he wants to believe, there can be something more than this.

Scully doesn’t know it yet, but when they threaten to close the x-files this time – and he knows they will – he won’t fight. There is nothing left to find, but everything to lose. The baby squeezes the rubber duck and Mulder leans forward, an unconscious motion. The child turns to him, saliva strings dripping from her mouth. Scully wipes them away, mumbles something Mulder can’t hear. They share a look now, the same longing. I’m going to make this happen for you, his eyes promise. There’s no telling that Scully understands or even guesses his thoughts.

“You want to hold her?” Scully asks as she gently bounces the baby on her knees. But before he can answer, Theresa returns. The moment is cut off and Mulder feels queasy as the baby reaches for her mother. Scully throws him a look and he gives her a smile. He will make it happen, their own miracle. Come what may.

Chapter Text

Scully isn’t sure why she’s here, not really. When she got to work this morning, before Mulder, she found a note on her desk. A small, green letter that leaned against her laptop. She sat down and opened it, expected Mulder to walk in any moment and call it a prank. But he didn’t. When she read the words, beautiful but shy, she couldn’t help but smile. Oh, Mulder. She sighed. They were too old for clandestine Valentine messages like these. Knew each other too long and too well for secret rendezvous. Or did they? Scully folded up the letter that ended with the simple plea to please meet him down at Le Cigare Volant at 8 pm for a Valentine date and put it safely in her pocket. Neither of them mentioned it, just threw each other tiny smiles throughout the day. At the end if it, when he said goodbye and wished her a lovely evening, she decided to show up.

Now here she is, her coat tightly wrapped around her. She’s too early, of course. She lets out a sigh, watches her own breath dance in the cold winter air.

“Hey there.” Scully turns around when she hears Mulder’s voice. He has his hands hidden in his coat and is wearing a big, fat grin. Probably happy that his plan worked.

“Hi.” They stare at each other, neither sure what to do. They’ve never done something like this. They’ve shared meals before, but they’ve never called it a date. Never made much fuss about it. This, Scully thinks, is at least 20 years too late. The thought makes her chuckle.

“What’s so funny? Did you think I wouldn’t show?”

“You invited me here, Mulder. You not showing up didn’t even cross my mind.”

“I didn’t invite you here, Scully.”

“Sure you did.” She searches her bag for the letter and hands it to him. Mulder unfolds it and reads.

“That’s cute, but I didn’t write it. In fact…” he trails off, takes something from his coat; it’s a similar letter, small and green, “I got one from you.”

“I didn’t write you a letter!” She snatches the piece of paper from his hands. The wording is similar, the sentiment the same. Scully stares at Mulder. Who would- the restaurant door opens with a soft squeak.

“Uhm, you guys?”

“William?” Scully and Mulder say in unison. When their son came back into their lives first e-mailing them, then calling and texting them, and finally, visiting them, they called him Jackson. The name felt strange and bitter on Scully’s tongue; a constant reminder of what she’d done. Then one day he asked if he could stay. Just for a few days, a week maybe. Their answer had been a tight hug that almost crushed the boy. ‘Should I have told you first to call me William?’ The boy laughed, sounded like his father, who was crying along with Scully, and let himself be hugged. That was weeks ago. Neither of them questions it, ask him what his plans are. They take it one day at a time, happy that their son is back in their lives.

“I didn’t know how to ask you two to… to have you go on a date.” He runs his hand through his hair, giggles. He asked them once what they were to each other. Neither Mulder nor Scully had an answer. Their relationship a riddle, an enigma. Something that is hard to define in a few easy words.

“You wrote those letters?” After a moment, he nods.

“You’re both so weird. I mean in a good way, but… I just wanted you to have a nice evening together.” He shrugs as if he doesn’t care. But Scully knows her son now; can see that this means a lot to him. He wants this for them. She walks closer to him and takes his hand in hers. She forgets sometimes that he’s no longer a small child. He is tall and lanky, like Mulder, and she has to look up to him.

“Thank you, William.”

“I hope you got a table for three, son,” Mulder says and joins them. He is warm against her back.

“No, I…”

“We’ll make it fit.” The three of them walk into the restaurant, ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family.

Chapter Text

The first time Mulder touches Scully’s pregnant stomach it’s an accident. As much as he can’t pretend that she’s with child, his mind blocks out the challenges this fact provides. They’re in his kitchen. Nothing has changed here except the level of cleanliness. He opens a cupboard to get a glass. His mouth is dry and in desperate need of water. Scully is telling him something; she sputters words he can’t comprehend. He hasn’t told her, doesn’t know how, but he’s happy she’s here. He’s happy to be hearing her voice. The real one and not the one in his dreams. Mulder doesn’t remember much from his abduction except the blinding pain. It feels like a movie, sometimes. Rapid sequences of action exploding in front of his eyes when he does remember. One thing he is certain of, though; has kept like a talisman in the palm of his hand, and that is Scully’s voice. It drowned out the pain then and now. It heals his gaping wounds.

Mulder gulps down two glasses of icy cold water before he leaves the glass in the sink. He stares at it for a moment feeling out of place. This is his apartment, or it should be. It doesn’t feel like it. He feels like a guest here. Just a visitor. Mulder turns around and there she is. They’ve been in this kitchen many times before. Not as often as they’ve been other places, but they’ve been here. This time, though, it’s as though there is not enough space. He bumps against her stomach and gasps. It bounces against him like an inflated balloon. They both stand still, too still. Mulder is looking down at her, at her stomach. He’s never allowed himself to look at it like this. Only out of the corner of his eye, like a guilty pleasure. Now he is confronted with it. He still feels it, a phantom trace against his own stomach.

Before today all he’s dared to do is watch her out of the corner of his eye. It wasn’t a conscious choice; he knows that she knows that he’s thinking about it. The baby. His mind wanders the paths of why, of how and when. The three big questions. He’s asked her once how she’s feeling, a habit. The question tumbled out of his mouth as they were walking towards his apartment. Scully, her face flushed, her body heavy and slow, turned to him, mumbled an I’m fine, Mulder. Just like always. So he keeps the charade up; he keeps swallowing the questions he has like the pills she hands him on a daily basis. Every once in a while his eyes will linger on hers. Everything about her is softer these days. Her eyes, her face. Is her skin softer, too? He wonders what her silky skin would feel like against his own, rough and scarred. Would he even be able to feel it at all?

He can look at her, even pretend that nothing has changed. That he hasn’t been dead for three months. That he hasn’t been gone. That she isn't… that’s something he can’t pretend. Her pregnancy. He is not sure he wants to and so he watches her; out of the corner of his eye. When he allows himself to get lost in the depth of her eyes, a soft greenish blue these days, where hints of terror and pain sometimes shimmer through, he pretends that they’re back where they’ve barely started. Old friends, new lovers. Then, as sure as the sun rising and setting, he will catch a glimpse when she’s in the corner talking to someone else, when she’s going about her daily life; her belly protruding, reminding him. The proof of time passed. Of the fact that life moved on without him. Now he adds another moment, another layer.

“I’m sorry.” Scully says and her voice cuts through him, the pain of her disappointment cutting deeper than metal blades. He knows a thing or two about these, now. But there’s no way to tell her that he’s not sorry. That she of all people should know that sometimes he needs a push into the right direction. She doesn’t move and neither does he. He can’t. He’s caught in this moment now; there is a decision to be made. Who does he want to be as a partner, a man and a… father? He can be the guy who keeps watching her from a distance. His hand twitches. Every nerve in his fingers is tingling with anticipation. Fear, too. But all he has to do is reach out.

Scully told him she’s prayed a lot. Mulder has not. He doesn’t pray; his faith is in the truth. Once, a lifetime ago, Mulder told Scully that the truth was in her. His eyes are on her belly, round with life. This is the truth, he realizes. The only one that matters. His hand trembles as he closes the distance between them. The first sensation is merely the feel of warm cotton under his skin. He presses softly against her and there it is again. Like a balloon that’s stretching against him. His mouth opens in awe but there are no words. He’ll have to learn new words, a new language, to describe any of this. His hand begins to wander, wants to cover every inch of new territory. A second hand joins in and he feels something, a gentle shaking and he looks up into Scully’s face, his hands still firmly planted on her belly.

“Mulder.” His name leaves her lips as a prayer; a happy one, answered. He nods, though he is not sure he understands. “There are so many things I want to tell you. So many things I..” She trails off, tears dripping from her eyes and onto her cheeks. She wipes them away quickly, angrily.

“Don’t hide it.” Mulder takes her hand into his. “Don’t hide it from me. Any of it. I have missed so much already, Scully. I don’t want to miss a single thing.

"I’m just crying, Mulder. You’ve seen me cry before. It’s the hormones, it’s-”

“It’s you. You don’t need to hide your tears from me, Scully. Ever. I can only imagine how many times… when I was…” Mulder swallows. Who dried her tears when he was gone? When he was buried? He swallows again; the bitter bile of time lost, of pain endured. “I’m here now. I’m not planning on going anywhere.” To prove it he puts his hands back on her stomach, fascinated by it. “Is it supposed to feel like a small balloon?”

“More like basketball.” Scully chuckles.

“It feels amazing, Scully.” Mulder tells her with his hands firmly planted on their miracle inside of her and his eyes on hers. “I wish I could have been there for every kick. But I will be now.” His voice is pure determination.

“I was never really without you, Mulder.” And he knows it. He feels it; feels it in the soft kick against his hand. His breath catches; his child. Their child. “Junior here kept me company. Kept me awake at night. Reminded me to eat and take good care of myself.” She smiles at him through her tears; the sun breaking through heavy rain clouds. Looking at her, seeing love, he wonders how he ever could have doubted it; his place in her life, here.

“I’m known to keep you awake at night,” Mulder admits, stroking her belly. The first time may have been an accident, but the next million times he touches her stomach, any part of her, are a decision, a deliberate one. “But I think you’re usually the one to remind me to take care of myself. Not the other way around.”

“Hm, I guess the baby gets some things from me, too, then.” They smile at each other, lost in this moment of blissful peace, of being connected. Tomorrow, even later today, they will be challenged again. They will have to fight for moments like this one. Mulder is ready. He is back. He is going to fight for Scully and their baby. His family. He is done watching from the sidelines.

Chapter Text

Scully knows the moment Mulder’s upper body connects with the concrete. The snap of the bone breaking is swallowed by his yelp and by their surroundings. But her trained ear hears it and even iff she didn’t; his arm tells its own story. Mulder is on the ground, his face distorted with pain and his eyes closed. Scully is by his side in an instant. She knows better than to move him or touch his arm. Mulder’s eyes snap open and he stares at her, panic written on his face in bold letters.

“What happened?” He asks and before he can turn his head and look at his arm, twisted unnaturally and lying there as if it didn’t belong, Scully cups his face. His cheeks are cool to the touch, his slight stubble digging into her skin. She manages a shaky smile; she needs to reassure him.

“You’re fine.” Her voice is just as shaky. She puts pressure on his face when she feels him wanting to move. Scully knows Mulder and she knows he won’t react well to seeing his arm. She is a medical doctor and her whole stomach is in knots. No, she is going to distract him.

“That bad, huh?” Mulder jokes and coughs.

“Where does it hurt?” Scully asks him never once taking her hands off his face. Her eyes search the area. Where is everyone? They need an ambulance. “Mulder?”

“Huh?”

“Where does it hurt?”

“My back,” he says and Scully’s eyes fill with tears; she hasn’t considered any other injuries. They need that ambulance and they need it now, “but you look like I’m dead already.” Mulder has the audacity to grin at her.

“You’re not dead,” she assures him.

“There’s something you’re not telling me.” Again he tries to turn his head and see what she so badly doesn’t want him to see. Scully pulls his face back to her, more firmly.

“Just look at me, Mulder.”

“Agent Scully!” A voice yells and Scully listens to the footsteps sprinting closer. “Oh fuck,” the other agent says and Mulder yelps again; Scully’s grip on him tightens.

“Call an ambulance,” she says, willing her voice to sound commanding yet calm and not as if she were ready to start crying any minute. The agent nods and steps away. Scully half listens to him make the call and she sighs in relief.

“Are you sure I’m not dead, Scully?”

“Positive.”

“Then why are you crying?”

“I’m not,” she protests, but she feels a tear slip out of her eye and land on Mulder’s cheek, “It’s the rain.”

“It’s not raining. If it were I’d ask for sleeping bags.” Another grin; here they are with Mulder on the ground, his arm broken and the possibility of internal injuries dangling over them, and he’s cracking jokes.

“You’re in no condition to use a sleeping bag.”

“Hmmm. I’d just keep one,” he whispers, his voice straining, “keep it for another trip to the forest with you, Scully.” It’s the last thing he says before he passes out.

“Am I dead now?” Scully startles when she hears Mulder’s voice. She quickly gets up from her plastic chair and sits on Mulder’s hospital bed. His eyes are small slits and barely seeing. He looks like a newborn puppy and Scully gently runs her fingers through his hair.

“You’re not dead. You were very, very lucky.” As always, she thinks, but she won’t say it now.

“My arm,” Mulder pouts seeing it at last; it’s been set and now in a cast. “You didn’t want me to see it.”

“You remember?” One of Scully’s hands is on his cheek now. He will need a shave once he gets to go home. She knows how much he hates hospitals, but they’ve all decided to keep him here overnight. Just in case.

“I do,” Mulder croaks out and Scully hands him a cup of water that he downs greedily, “you are sure I’m not dead? I feel like it.”

“You have a concussion and your arm is broken, but that’s it, Mulder. Like I said, you were very lucky.”

“Hmmm.”

“You don’t think so?”

“If I were lucky, Scully… it would have finally rained sleeping bags.”

“There’s always next time, Mulder. Now sleep so I can take you home tomorrow. No more trips to the forest in the near future.” He sighs, but his eyes drift shut. He’ll be asleep again in no time and maybe he won’t remember any of this. She, however, will. Scully keeps her hand on his face, needing to feel him.

“Next time I’ll bring the sleeping bag myself,” Mulder promises, sounding half asleep already.

“Or maybe I’ll bring it,” Scully whispers and kisses his cheek. She’s not sure she wants him to remember the next time he wakes, but she smiles anyway.

Chapter Text

“Dana is that you? And Fox?” Mulder freezes and Scully, his arm around her waist, his hand gripping her hip, gasps. They’re standing there dressed to the nines in the middle of a ballroom surrounded by other agents working undercover and legitimate rich people. And, as it turns out, Mrs. Scully.

“Mom!” Scully’s voice is high-pitched and tentative. A moment later he loses her warmth when she takes the few steps towards her mother. Mulder watches her hug the smaller, very surprised woman. To anyone who doesn’t know Scully this move won’t raise suspicion. But Mulder sees it; the way Scully kisses her mother’s cheek and then whispers something in her ear. Mulder can just about imagine what Scully is saying.

She returns to him and their hips bump. Her arm sneaks around him this time, slowly. Mulder watches Mrs. Scully and wonders what she’s thinking. He himself wants to clarify what the situation is. An undercover mission, Mrs. Scully. That’s all this is. Your daughter and I are not sneaking around, putting on expensive tuxedos and silky, sexy black dresses to attend fundraisers. This is not us, his eyes scream. But Mrs. Scully smiles at him warmly, like she always does.

“You could have told me you and Fox were thinking of coming to the fundraiser, honey,” her voice is unusual loud in Mulder’s ears, but it blends perfectly here in the ballroom; this is something they could not have planned and yet it works so well. He puts his arm around Scully’s shoulder and marvels at her warm, soft skin. She leans into him easily as if they were doing this every day. In a way it’s as if this really was them, in a way, for a moment.

“It must have slipped my mind last week,“ Scully says, sounding normal again without even the hint of nervousness.

"Well, you and Fox are busy.” Mrs. Scully throws him a look and he flinches. He relaxes when Scully carreses his side.

“We sure are. But we’re never too busy for Sunday dinner.”

“You better not be,” Mrs. Scully chastises him, “I’ll see you Sunday, won’t I?” Scully nods. “Now go and mingle. I will do the same.” She takes her daughter’s hand and squeezes it. Then she does the same with Mulder. She joins her own friends and doesn’t look back. Scully lets out a long, deep breath and rest her head against his shoulder.

“That was close,” he breathes into her hair. She smells as fantastic as she looks. Delicious. He catches sight of Skinner at the bar. Their boss adjusts his glasses, a clear sign of confusion. Mulder gives a small nod to let him know they have everything under control. As soon as Skinner diverts his gaze, Mulder nuzzles Scully’s neck.

“What are you doing?” She asks, but she doesn’t sound angry; she’s barely irritated. Who knew Scully was such a good actress?

“You smell so good,” he admits with a sigh, taking in her scent. She gasps when his nose travels along her neck and throat. He dares to leave a small kiss against her collarbone.

“Mulder, we can’t”, she says.

“We’re married.” His lips remain on her skin, mapping it out. This may be the only chance he ever gets. For once it’s expected of him so he goes with it. He just follows his feelings.

“We’re undercover, Mulder,” Scully reminds him, but she leans towards and not away from him. She hmmms and he can’t stop, won’t stop, “we’re not really married. We’re,” she sighs, “just partners.”

“Are we?” When Skinner informed them about this undercover gig (just one night, agents. No big deal), Mulder was painfully reminded of their first time as a married couple. Scully remained stoic, nodded yes and asked for the details. All Mulder wanted was to make a new memory. He could give her one night she would not forget. One he hoped she wouldn’t want to forget.

“Aren’t we?” Scully sounds dreamy and she tilts her head further, inviting him to keep going. It hits him that she might just be doing this to keep up the appearance; they are supposed to be newlyweds.

“I think we’re partners,” he leaves another kiss on her collarbone, his new favorite place, “and we’re friends,” a longer kiss against her neck, right where her pulse is beating furiously, spurring him on, “and I think we could be even more. What do you think?” Mulder lifts his head and sees her, sees so much more than before. Her cheeks are pink and her pupils are dilated. Her eyes keep flickering to his lips. She’s not a good actress, not at all. She just wants what he wants too.

“I want to kiss you, Scully. I want to kiss you so badly.”

“Then why don’t you?” She whispers and her voice is so low he has to strain to hear. Mulder grins as he closes the distance between them, moving in slow motion to give her enough time to change her mind.

“Oh I forgot,” that voice again, as close as before; Mulder and Scully jump apart quickly. “I hope I wasn’t interrupting something?” At least Maggie Scully looks as embarrassed as Mulder feels. He can’t speak for Scully, but the way she combs her fingers through her hair as if there was a mess she needed to fix, he bets she feels the same.

“No, of course not,” Scully says quickly and glances at Mulder.

“No, just… you know.”

“I only meant to tell you that I expect both of you for Sunday dinner. In case that wasn’t clear.” Mulder swallows the need to answer ‘yes, ma'am’ and just nods. Scully links her arm through his and hides her face against her shoulder. “Now have fun.” Mrs. Scully winks at them and disappears before either of them can remind her that this is work, not fun. Except that would be a lie.

“Scully, I’m so-”

“No more interruptions, Mulder,” Scully grabs his neck to drag him down to her and he yelps. Their lips connect the moment Skinner gives them the sign to move in on the suspect. It’s showtime. Mulder yelps again, for different reasons.

“Later, Mulder. We’re going to finish this,” Scully promises as she makes sure her weapon is where it should be. Work first, fun later. He can do that.

Chapter Text

Mulder strolls into his office with a smile on his face and a cup of coffee in each hand. The door is open which means Scully is already here. But she’s not, like he expects, behind the desk. No, Scully is, for whatever reason, standing on a ladder. He stares, blinks.

“Mulder?” She asks and turns to him. He never thought he’d ever have to look up at her. He finds he likes it. He likes it a lot.

“What are you doing there, Scully?” Mulder puts the coffees on the desk. Too bad she’s not wearing a skirt, he thinks, and blushes. He concentrates on whatever she’s doing. Or tries to, anyway. She may not be wearing a skirt, but the sight of her in her tight trousers is not helping either.

“I’m trying to take the Christmas decoration down.” Mulder feels dizzy just watching her. She reaches as far as she possibly can. Of course her blouse rides up and reveals a nice sliver of skin. What a cliché, but Mulder swallows hard. He is not entirely sure any of this is happening. It could be a dream. A very good dream he never wants to wake up from, but definitely not real.

“Why?” He croaks out.

“Because it’s January.“

"So?”

“So? Mulder, it’s January. Christmas is over.”

“Let the janitor take it down, Scully. That’s not your job.” Neither of them put any of it up either. One day they arrived in the morning and the whole office looked as if a Christmas elf had thrown up in it. Dabs of red, gold and silver everywhere. Tinsel and garlands, too. A small, fake Christmas tree on the desk. With tiny, yellow lights and cute ornaments. There was a picture of an angel right next to his I Want To Believe poster that Mulder was ready to tear off the moment he saw it. The only reason it was still there was because Scully said it was cute.

“The janitor is on vacation, Mulder. These decorations have to go now.” The tone in her voice is final. Mulder can’t complain, not really. With Scully up there, she won’t make him do paper work. And the sight is phenomenal. Very much so. He takes a sip from his coffee, watches her with a small, hidden smile. A garland comes down and lands on his head.

“Suits you.” Scully grins down at her partner and then, just as she’s about to turn around again, she misses a step. Her hands reach for the ladder and miss, too. There is no scream for help; just the rattle of the ladder as Scully loses her balance and falls. Mulder lets go of his coffee cup; it lands on the floor, the thud never heard, as the puddle of brown liquid disappears silently under the desk.

It’s a matter of seconds. Maybe even less. But Mulder catches her. Her body falls into his arms as if it had been designed for that single purpose only. Scully gasps and Mulder’s knees wobble under her weight, under his emotions.

“You caught me,” she says sounding out of breath. Mulder can’t blame her. He can’t talk, wonders if he ever knew any words, and just nods. “Thank you."

Neither moves. Scully’s arms are around Mulder’s neck and he’s holding her against his chest. It takes him a moment to realize just how intimate their current position is. Mulder glances at her face. Her eyes are wide open. Shock, he figures. Her mouth is open, too. An invitation. Don’t go there, he tells himself. But his eyes refuse to move away. Just like his hands refuse to let go of her. He feels it in his muscles, in his bones; the weight of her. He can’t let go.

"Mulder?” Her voice is a whisper, a question. Mulder doesn’t know what she’s asking, but he has the answer; he leans down and kisses her. It’s supposed to be a peck, a quick kiss meant to reassure him, and her, that she’s fine. She didn’t fall and injure herself. Except this kiss is not a peck. It’s not a friendly reminder of anything. Her tongue slips past his lips and he can no longer hold her up. But Scully, oh his Scully, she slides down his body, presses against him and doesn’t miss a beat. In the back of his mind, with the last few brain cells that still respond, he wonders if this is a good idea. His lips say yes; as does the rest of his body, and especially certain parts of his anatomy. But. There’s this nagging little word that finds its way through and makes him stop. He pushes at Scully gently and their lips disengage with a small pop. She glances at him with surprise in her eyes. Why did you stop? Her ragged breath seems to be asking.

“We’re at the office.” Mulder licks his lips, stares at hers. They’re glistening.

“You’re right,” Scully says, nods. Mulder yelps; he doesn’t want to be right. He wants her to throw caution to the wind and make out with him some more. He’s got a taste of her now; how is he supposed to go on without kissing her every second of every day?

“Mulder?”

“Hm?”

“I don’t care. Let’s not get caught, all right?” His answer is swallowed as Scully kisses him again, hard, wet and hot. They won’t get caught. He’ll make sure of that.

Chapter Text

Scully hears Mulder’s whiny voice complain from behind the closed door. She rolls her eyes before she puts on a smile. Better not aggravate him even more – especially since he won’t like what she has to say.

“Scully!” he exclaims loudly and sits up too quickly. His roommate, who Scully thinks was just about to take a nap, groans in annoyance. His nurse sighs, mumbles something under her breath, and scribbles on his chart.

“Hey Mulder, how are you feeling?” She already knows. Even if she hadn’t heard him complain outside, she just knows.

“You have to get me out of here, Scully,” he tells her tugging at her sleeve to get her closer to his hospital bed. “They’re trying to kill me.”

“Mr. Mulder,” the nurse interjects and from her tone Scully knows this is not the first time she’s heard or refuted it.

“Did you see the food, Scully?” He points at his bedside table. “Look at it and tell me they’re not at least trying to poison me.” All Scully can do is give the nurse an apologetic smile. At least she has the luxury to walk out of here and not have to deal with Mulder again. Scully on the other hand, she is in this for the long haul. Has been for years.

“Mulder, I know you don’t like hospital food,” she puts her hand on his and he quiets down, “but everyone here has your best interests at heart.” He snorts.

“Scully, they turn off the TV at 10 pm."

"Because you need rest, Mr. Mulder,” the nurse says and Scully wonders if she feels like a broken record yet.

“I can’t rest without the TV,” he says but keeps looking at Scully. She knows what he’s doing. Complain, pout and hope that she’ll check him out – she is a medical doctor after all and it’s not like she hasn’t done so in the past. “Scully, please tell me you’re here to take me home?"

"Actually, Mulder…” He groans and falls back into his bed like a melodramatic actress from the 1940s.

“Scully, I can promise you I will not get better if they keep me here.”

“They just want to run some more tests, Mulder. There were neurological saliences and they want to make sure it’s nothing serious.”

“It isn’t,” he pouts. “They can run their tests and I’ll wait at home for the results."

"You know that’s not how it works.” Scully uses her softest voice, runs her fingers through his hair. The nurse, not particular happy to have Mulder around much longer, leaves them alone.

“I just want to go home, Scully. You know I hate hospitals.”

“I know.” She can’t blame him; despite being a medical doctor, she hates them too. There’s never a happy occasion to visit. It’s either Mulder or herself in peril. Dying sisters and daughters. Death lingers around every bleach-white corner here. She shudders and Mulder stares at her like a lost kicked-at puppy. Part of her wants to lean down and kiss his pout away. How fitting would it be, she thinks, to have their first real kiss here, in a hospital? The thought makes her smile.

“I’m glad my misery amuses you,” Mulder huffs.

“That’s not… I don’t like to see you miserable, Mulder. That’s why I’m here. The doctor said you’ll have to stay another day,” he groans as if in pain, “I know. But if everything checks out, you get to go home tomorrow morning.”

“Tomorrow morning?” Scully nods. “I can… well, there’s nothing I can do, is there?” She shakes her head no and Mulder sighs.

“But if you want,” she clears her throat and he glances at her expectantly, “I can stay here.”

“The whole night?” His voice is full of disbelief. The man who wants to believe and this he can’t quite grasp.

“If you want. Just to entertain you.” Mulder’s roommate coughs and Scully turns to him. “You’ll get your own room, Mr. Michaels.” The man’s eyes grow wide.

“I’m definitely in favor. Say yes, Agent-man. I’ll gladly make room for your wifey.”

“I’m not his wifey, Mr. Michaels."

"Just what it sounds like at night.” Mr Michaels shrugs. Both Scully and Mulder blush.

“So Mulder, what do you say? There’s one condition, though.” Another groan. “You’ll eat something. Not necessarily… that. But something. I’ll find something you like. And you stop harassing the staff. Deal?” Mulder thinks about it a moment and then he nods.

“I want you to stay, Scully."

Chapter Text

Scully can’t be certain, but she is pretty sure that the sole reason Mulder is sulking is because she’s behind the wheel, not him, and she, unlike him, is sticking to the speed limit despite the late hour and deserted road.

He fiddles with the radio button and each time Scully thinks he is content with his choice, he changes the station yet again. She knows that he prefers to drive himself. If she’s honest, most of the time, so does she. Especially at night. She is not doing this to spite him; these are doctor’s orders. Not even hers, no. It’s not her fault that Mulder, while chasing a suspect, managed to get hit by a car. After the suspect was caught, without the help of Mulder or Scully, the two agents made their way to the hospital. The doctor assured them that it was nothing more than a contusion but that Mulder should go easy on his shoulder for a few days. That meant no driving. When Mulder started babbling about how he could still drive, even with one arm, the doctor injected him with a painkiller and Mulder shut up.

But he’s been shutting up ever since. There are times when Scully wishes that Mulder were quiet. Not now, though. She steals little glances at him every now and then here in the car. Something is bothering him and she can’t quite figure out what it is. She is about to ask him if her driving is really that bad when the news come on and Mulder isn’t quick enough to change the station. Today’s date. How has she not realized this any sooner? November 27th. The day Samantha disappeared.

“Mulder, do you want to play a game?” Anything to distract him, she figures. She feels guilty for giving him a hard time today. If only she’s realized it sooner.

“No,” he mumbles and leans his head against the window. He’s finally given up on the radio. The station is playing some old tune that reminds Scully of her childhood but she can’t recall the song’s name. Not that it matters. The only thing that matters right now is cheering up Mulder.

“Do you want to tell me a story? Do you want me to tell you one?”

“Scully, I’m fine.”

“That’s my line, Mulder.”

“I’m borrowing it. You can have it back tomorrow.”

“Mulder, is there anything I can do to cheer you up?” He’s quiet and she quickly glances over at him. His eyes are dark, tired. They look bigger now in his pale, exhausted face. All Scully wants to do is stop the car, take Mulder in her arms and promise him that everything will be all right. That’s not an option, now, and either way it would be a lie.

“Just…” But he trails off. His head falls against the window again with a gentle thud. Scully grips the wheel tightly, thinks. A new song starts on the radio and this time Scully recognizes it.

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone,” Scully sings, her voice shakingly chiming in with the song, filling the car. Out of the corner of her eye she sees Mulder turn to her.

“I can see all obstacles in my way,” she goes on not looking at him.

“Scully?”

“Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind,” if only, she thinks as her fingers tap along to the beat; if she could make Mulder’s dark clouds disappear, fill his sky with sunshine, she’d do it in a heartbeat.

“Are you singing?” Amusement sneaks into his voice and when Scully finally dares to look at him she sees the hint of a smile play at the corners of his mouth. She nods, grins wildly at him. If this is what it takes, she thinks, she can do it.

“Here’s the rainbow I’ve praying for - come on, Mulder, sing with me,” she goes on, sounds terrible, but a moment later, Mulder’s voice, hesitantly at first, joins in.

“It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day,” they croon together and share a smile. When the next song starts, another oldie, Mulder puts his hand on her thigh and sings loudly, screams almost. Scully, smiling herself, joins in.

Chapter Text

The whole room is asleep; there’s no humming from the air conditioning, no ticking clock, no blaring TV set. Only Mulder is awake. The clock reads 10 pm, but his mind says 1 am East Coast time. The three hour time difference between this hotel room in California and home messing with his mind and body. They’re flying home tomorrow; the Peattie case now solved and at rest. Next to him Scully shifts as if reading his thoughts. He half expects her to open her eyes and talk to him about the case, Dr. Wieder or Peattie or really anything at all. But she doesn’t. She’s sleeping on her stomach now, her face turned away from him. Her top has ridden up just a bit, the blanket has slipped down another bit and there’s a sliver of skin winking at him. It makes him smile. He’s not used to this yet; sleeping with Scully. In any way.

Her skin looks soft and he knows he has to touch her, just briefly. He lets his finger travel over her skin and it leaves goose bumps like temporary reminders that he’s been there. He stops at the seam of her top and adjusts it so that her whole back is covered again. He doesn’t want her to wake up cold. But his hand remains there, his exploration not finished. He traces her name on the warm fabric, wonders if she can feel it at all. Before he knows it, his finger writes words he hasn’t uttered in a while; I and love and you. When he’s done, his finger still, he waits if his nightly confession that he briefly painted on cotton and skin has any repercussions. Only when she doesn’t stir or move does he do it again, more confidently. How often does he have to write these words, he wonders, before her skin remembers them forever and ever?

He’s told her before, last year; her “oh brother” haunted him for months. The new year, when he was certain they were ready to take the next step, he wanted to say it again. But it was just another hospital, he was injured again and he was not taking chances. So instead of saying the words, he let his lips do the talking and kissed her. He could have told her later. After all the kissing, after the more than kissing. But there was never the right moment. Teenagers with supernatural powers interfered before Donnie Pfaster crept back into their lives, almost destroying them completely. Little dead girls, losing his sister again and again over a long weekend; the loss of his mother almost an afterthought. Constant reminders of who they are and who they never could be. No matter what, no matter where, their life isn’t some rainbow-filled paradise. They exchange quick kisses over dead bodies. They took one shower together with Mulder extracting tiny splinters of glass from her hair and skin. Scully rocked him to sleep once, both of them crying hot, silent tears. That’s who they are.

So he’s telling her now, in his own, Mulderish way; she is the one to keep him guessing. He has a need to let her know. With the tip of his finger he traces his not so hidden secret on her body. He counts the times and adds a reason in his mind; I love you because… knowing that he’ll sooner fall asleep than run out of whys. But he stops anyway. His hand stills on her back for a moment and his skin tingles. Mulder turns around to lie on his back, his arms behind his head, his eyes on the ceiling. Maybe if he stares long enough he’ll fall asleep out of pure boredom. A rustling next to him before Scully scoots closer, snuggles into his side. She’s sleep-warm, soft and perfect and he can’t help but smile. He doesn’t think she’s awake until he feels her hot breath against the side of his neck.

“I love you too, you know,” she whispers right into his ear, making him shiver.

“I didn’t mean to wake you, Scully,” Mulder replies, stumbling over his words. This is worst thing he could have said, could have done, and yet he’s grinning, his heart soaring. Here she confesses her love for him and he can’t be anything but himself.

“You didn’t wake me,” she promises and kisses the corner of his mouth, the one that keeps twitching in happiness, “I was awake the whole time.”

“You little…,” Mulder chuckles and steals a kiss, a full on against her lips.

“Mulder?” She mumbles.“Can you say again? Say it for real?” Mulder moves his head so that they’re looking at each other. They’re almost too close, their lips still almost touching.

“I love you, Scully,” he breathes against her, finally saying it.

Chapter Text

“Mulder, what is this?” Scully merely stares at the thing that’s half in Mulder’s arms and half standing beside him.

“A teddy bear, Scully. I thought it was obvious,” he says, stroking the stuffed animal’s fur. The baby is on her stomach and holding up her head in concentration. Spit runs from her mouth as she tries to articulate her excitement for her dad’s gift.

“It’s a monstrosity.” Scully picks up the baby and tries to keep her away from the bear that’s easily ten times her size. The animal is almost as tall as she is. It’s a wonder Mulder can hold it up as easily as he does. She should not be surprised though; Mulder has a way of finding things no one else wants.

“Katie loves it.” And to Scully’s greatest horror, Mulder is right. The small girl squirms in her arms. She might be tiny, but she’s strong-willed. She’s a lot like Mulder that way. With the baby in her arms, Scully walks over to him. The bear sits next to Mulder on the couch like a tired dinner guest, grinning scarily. How can her daughter like this thing?

“I bought this for you, baby,” Mulder whispers and leans over to kiss Katie’s soft head. She smiles without looking at him. She only has eyes for the life size brown bear. She grabs its huge nose and squeals in delight.

“Where are we going to put this?” Scully sighs in resignation. Seeing her daughter’s happiness she knows she can’t ask Mulder to take it back. She doubts that whoever sold it to him would want it back anyway. She’s stuck with this thing - what Mulder calls a stuffed animal - in their home. Mulder grins at her not caring one bit.

“It’s not going to fit in her room,” Scully adds before Mulder comes up with a crazy plan. But he nods; he has a different idea and judging by his eyes, she’s not going to like it.

“I thought we could put it in our bedroom,” he says and she believes him for a second until he laughs, making Katie laugh with him. “Just kidding, Scully. He’s perfect for down here, don’t you think? He can greet guests.” Mulder points to the door. Scully doesn’t remind him that they don’t get many visitors anymore and she’d rather not freak out the ones that do come around.

“I’m sure Jackson will love him too,” Mulder says softly and takes Katie out of her arms; he knows their son is her kryptonite. Their baby girl giggles as Mulder tickles her sides and then she’s preoccupied with her new favorite toy again. She examines the big brown eyes, pokes at the plastic. She stuffs a fist into his half opened mouth; it reminds Scully of when she did the same with Daggoo not long ago. Unlike the dog this bear can’t get away from her small hands - he’s perfect.

“Can he stay?” Mulder whispers already knowing the answer. She sees it in his eyes, in the lines around his mouth. As if she could take this away from him or their daughter. Katie attempts to hug the bear and sighs in frustration when her arms won’t go around the thick neck. Scully can see it; the bear right by the door. A hideous thing that she will come to love in time. She knows it. Jackson will be the first to put a hat on the bear. Mulder, not one to be outdone, will dress him in every ridiculous piece of clothing he can find. One day Katie will be old enough to ask them why they even have a bear that’s as tall as she is. But she, too, will love it. The bear is moving in.

“He can stay,” Scully answers and Mulder takes Katie’s hand in his, gives her a baby high five. “But only because Katie loves him so much.”

“Whatever you say, Scully,” Mulder chuckles and gives her a quick kiss. “Do you think he’d look good with one of my old tie?”

And so it begins.

Chapter Text

“Mulder, why, when I walked the dog this morning, did our daughter cry in fear that he might be eaten by a ‘lalligator’? Would you know anything about that?” Scully touches his shoulder in passing as he’s staring into a folder. He lifts his head, his glasses sliding down on his nose. He adjusts them and clears his throat.

“She has an active imagination,” he says, his voice nonchalant.

“Hm, I know that. It just that the story she told me this morning seemed rather familiar. She kept crawling into bushes, Mulder. She wanted to make sure it was safe for Daggoo.” Scully squeezes his shoulder this time, her nails digging into his skin just a little bit. He shrieks.

“What makes you think I told her that story?” Mulder takes off his glasses, and Scully feels a dart of disappointment when they come to rest atop the now closed folder. But she can’t get distracted here. They have a deal: no stories about the x-files during the week and if their daughter manages to convince Mulder to tell her a story (it’s always Mulder, always), then he has to censor it. A lot.

“Mulder…,” she warns.

“Fine. I might have mentioned Queequeg.”

“And?” Her hand is still on his shoulder, a reminder and a warning.

“It’s your fault, Scully,” Mulder says and gets up. Scully is too surprised to keep him there. She watches him fill a glass with orange juice and drown it like a shot of whiskey. He leans against the counter, half smiling at her.

“How is that my fault?” She hasn’t thought about Queequeg in a long time. After she got Daggoo, when work was still at the forefront in their lives, she once or twice remembered him. But even that was years ago.

“Katie found his old dog tag. Seriously Scully, you call me a hoarder! That dog has been dead for decades.”

“That still doesn’t explain how this is my fault, Mulder. I didn’t tell her the story.” Queequeg’s dog tag is one of the few things she’s kept from their old lives. Everything else has burnt or disappeared, forgotten or hidden. It’s nothing she wants to think or talk about now.

“She came to me while you were at work,” Mulder says and has to stop himself from grinning. Scully feels the same; their daughter is clever. Too clever even. She motions for him to go on. “She showed me this old thing and asked me who Queequeg was. I told her about the damn-”

“Mulder.”

“About that fine dog,” Mulder grimaces, but Scully nods at him. “But you know. She wanted to know the whole story.” Katie always wants to know the whole story. There are no shortcuts with her, no excuses. When she was a baby, she would stare at them with an unparalleled patience. Jackson once said that it freaked him out. That was before he got into staring matches with his little sister that lasted for long minutes right until one of them started laughing. Later, as she grew older, she started tugging at clothes, begging with small sounds. These days, not unlike her father, she talks and talks, pleads and demands.

“And you told her.”

“It just slipped out,” Mulder shrugs. He’s grinning again.

“Next time you decide to tell her about a dog being eaten by a ‘lalligator’,” she puts the words in air tags, “you’re on dog walking duty for a month."

"Scully, we only ever had one case where an alligator ate a dog.”

“Make that two months. Starting now.” Scully takes the leash from the hook next to the kitchen and hands it to Mulder. He doesn’t complain and accepts his fate for once. “Go pick up our daughter from school,” she adds in a soft tone. She gets on tiptoes to give him a quick peck on the mouth.

“What do I do if she asks me for another scary story?” Mulder asks as Daggoo pads into the kitchen, waging his tail lazily.

“Tell her about… about… something that doesn’t have dogs in it. No death either, Mulder. I mean it.” He nods dutifully, standing there as if waiting for further instructions. He’s cute like this and she has to kiss him again, despite her current frustrations with him.

“And if you can’t think of anything, just make it up. You have an active imagination too, after all.”

Chapter Text

A fucking Mustang.

Right here in the drive-thru. I try not to roll my eyes and smile as the car approaches and the guy (of course it’s a guy) takes off his sunglasses to smile at me.

“Here’s your order,” I reiterate automatically. Holy shit. The guy looking at me is, and I hate to admit it, hot. A silver fox in a silver Mustang. The guy probably thinks he’s the greatest. Sad is what he is. I give him my best sugary smile anyway; that’s my job. It hurts my cheeks, though, and all I want is for him to leave.

“It’s-”

“I’d like to pay for the car behind me, too,” he interrupts me, his voice rich like dark red wine. It catches me off guard, just like his words. Pay for the next customer? I look through my small window at the black SUV next in line. I think I make out a woman behind the wheel. What kind of creep is Mustang guy?

“How much is it?” He asks me and I check. The customer is king, after all.

“All together… $50.22, sir.” He chuckles, shaking his head slightly in amusement. He hands me $55 and when I reach for his change, he shakes it off.

“Keep it, kid,” he says, putting his sunglasses back on his nose. He’s grinning from ear to ear as if he’s just won the lottery. I catch the reflection of a wedding ring and want to groan. Instead I thank him politely. Days like today I just hate my job.

“Hey? Tell her I think she’s hot.” The guy has the audacity to wink at me and I consider throwing coins against his stupid, expensive Mustang. When the next car pulls up, I put on my best smile again.

“Hello,” I say, my voice robotic. “Here’s your order.”

“Thank you,” she says, leaning out of her seat to take the two bags from me. “How much do I owe you?” I think of Mustang guy and blush, my face taking on the same color as this lady’s hair. She looks nice, kind even.

“Uhm, it was paid for,” I explain in a shaky voice that makes me sound like a child. “The- the car before you paid. He said- he wanted to me to tell you that… that he thinks you’re hot.” We’re both blushing now. I look at her face, all soft angles, big blue eyes and a mouth you just want to kiss. I get Mustang guy; she is hot. This, however, is also so inappropriate. Then she surprises me by chuckling and rolling her eyes. She’s smiling now, a glint in her eyes.

“That’s my husband,” she admits, almost shyly and I see a wedding band on her finger; a matching one to Mustang guy’s. She smiles and I am certain she thinks of him, her husband. I find myself smiling, too; genuinely this time.

“Enjoy your meal,” I say and she drives off.

I wonder what their story is.

Chapter Text

“Honey, I’m home,” Mulder announces as he steps through the door, chuckling at his own joke. He peeks into the living room still wearing his shoes and coat just to see Scully’s expression. She is unfazed, staring at him. He gives her a smile, big and toothy. That at least makes her lips twitch in amusement.

“You’re going to love me,” he says, kicking off his sneakers. Daggoo comes to sniff at him, lazily waging his tail. Mulder scratches him behind the ear and sends him off again. The mutt settles at Scully’s feet in front of the couch keeping watch. “I bought all the good stuff. You want to see?” She nods, her eyes going back and forth between his face and the two bags in his hands.

“Did you buy almond milk?” Scully asks and it sounds like a test. One that he’s going to ace in approximately two seconds. She’s on an almond milk kick lately and while he finds it funny, he doesn’t question it. She could ask him for freshly milked goat milk and he’d find that, too.

“It was on the list,” he says, reaches into the rustling bag and offers her the almond milk as though it was a gift.

“Since when do you use the shopping list?” Mulder shrugs.

“It makes it easier.” She smiles at him warmly and he wants to kiss her, just kiss her.

“I’ve been telling you for years,” Scully says, her voice full of love and pride. He’s been listening.

“I should have trusted your excellent ideas,” he replies and kisses her nose, needing to touch her.

“Now show me the goods, Mulder.”

“Are you coming on to me, Ms. Scully?” She digs her nails into his hand and he yelps silently.

“Show me, Mulder.” He nods and starts unpacking. He hasn’t bought this much junk food in years. Scully is a staunch supporter of the healthy lifestyle and he’s been adapting, slowly, for over a decade. The only times Scully allows junk food are these: when she’s on her period. He doesn’t know what she ate all the times she was alone, without him. Once he got better, when he began to feel alive and himself again, he made sure to take note of it. Years spent side by side have made him a Scully expert. At least when it comes to her menstrual cycle. He’s well versed in it and secretly he loves this; it’s one of the few opportunities where she lets him take care of her.

“Where is the dark chocolate?” Scully complains, pouting and putting the small box of tampons on the coffee table. She hasn’t moved back in; yet, Mulder hopes. He would have bought them in advance if he’d known. From what he can tell, she was surprised herself, but shrugged when he asked her why it was still happening. She gave him statistics on irregular periods before menopause and he nodded along, always fascinated with this part of a woman’s life.

Mulder rummages through his second bag and takes out two bars of expensive, dark chocolate. She grins at him, drools basically, before she claims it for himself.

“Go easy there,” he says, chuckling. But if he’s honest, he doesn’t want her to slow down. Scully would slap him, or do other unmentionable things to him, if she knew how much he enjoys watching her eat. She’s so tiny and swears on her salads. Seeing her eat chocolate, licking her lips and fingers, her eyes half-lidded… it does something to him.

“Mulder, the ice cream!” The container is sweating small drops of condensation that Daggoo is trying to lick off the table and the floor.

“I’ll put it in the freezer,” he promises, stealing a piece of chocolate. Scully throws him a dirty look for that one. She made clear that this is her stash. “Would you at least share the cookies with me?” She stares long and hard at him, her mouth moving softly about. He shouldn’t feel jealous of a piece of chocolate in her mouth, on her tongue, but that’s exactly what’s happening.

“It depends,” she says and her breath smells rich and deep, like the chocolate she’s been eating, and like something he’s craving.

“On what?”

“The wine.”

“I bought it,” he says quickly, feeling like he’s won the jackpot. He already has; if he hadn’t, she wouldn’t be sitting here, leaning into him, letting him love her. “It was on the list.”

“You and the list,” she chuckles. “I know you bought it. But did you buy the right one?” His heart is beating quickly as she takes out the bottle of red wine. She examines it closely like an organ; Mulder feels like it’s his heart.

“What’s the verdict?”

“You earned yourself your cookies,” Scully says and Mulder lets out a deep breath. He doesn’t reach for the sweets, though, and tugs at her sleeve instead. She comes willingly into his arms and he hugs her tightly, putting a hand on her stomach.

“How do you feel?” He kisses her temple.

“The ibuprofen is doing its work,” she answers simply, putting her hand over his.

“Do you need anything else? We’ve got at least three cheesy,” Scully eyebrows him for that comment, “three romantic movies, I mean. We’ve got all the chocolate your heart desires, the right wine and an extra blanket for your adorable feet. Is there anything else you need?”

“You,” she says, kissing his lips softly. “The only other thing I need is you.”

Chapter Text

They’re standing at the door, dressed to the nines. They’re ready to leave. In theory, that is. Neither Mulder nor Scully is ready to leave their baby daughter all alone for the first time. Well, not all alone, not really: Jackson has kindly offered to babysit while they’re going out to have… fun. Or something.

“Guys, I told you. I can do this,” their son says, walking out of the living room with his little baby sister in his arms. He’s watching them with a hint of amusement. Mulder detects a flicker of fear on his son’s face, too, though. Jackson is not worried about babysitting; he’s scared Mulder and Scully don’t trust him.

“We know you can,“ Scully replies and Mulder gently touches her arm, stopping her (and himself) from cuddling their daughter one last time. "It’s just…,” she sighs and turns to Mulder, silently pleading for help.

“We’re pretty paranoid, huh?” Mulder grins at his son who looks bewildered for a second, then nods sheepishly. Katie yawns, otherwise still in her brother’s arms. She is bored with her parents and their antics already. Mulder smiles.

“Come on, Scully.” He tugs on her hand. “Let’s go. It’s not often that the FBI chooses to honor the spookies.” When Skinner called last week with the news that Mulder and Scully would be commemorated for their work on the x-files, Mulder laughed heartily, believing it to be a joke. It wasn’t. The official invitations were in the mail the next day. Mulder didn’t want to go at first (what for anyway?), but Scully convinced him. They are out for good this time. No going back. Not ever. The x-files are closed, the cigarette smoking son of a bitch dead (for real this time) and Mulder has no desire to go back to the past. Not anymore. Scully convinced him to leave with a bang, with the praise they – he – deserve. He’s doing it for her. They can give him a medal, applaud him after calling him crazy after all these years or whisper how he doesn’t deserve this. He no longer cares.

“The sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll be back,” Jackson offers with a slight shrug, reminding them that they still haven’t even left the house.

“We love you, kiddo,” Mulder says and Jackson blushes; he is a grown ass man (his own words) and he is still getting used to being here, to being part of the Mulder-Scully family. But Mulder, soft in his old age (Scully says so), is done with being cautious. He needs his son to know that he loves him. Always has, always will.

“We really do,” Scully adds and Mulder doesn’t try to hold her back this time when she goes to hug their son, Katie between them. Jackson gets a kiss on his cheek, his sister one her forehead. She lets out an adorable baby sneeze, obviously not a fan of her mother’s perfume.

“Please leave before Mulder gets all mushy, too,” Jackson complains, wiping his cheek. His face is still pink and Mulder chuckles.

“We won’t be gone long,” Scully promises.

“We’ll be fine,” Jackson repeats and Mulder can tell he is ready to throw them out of their own house. “Stay as long as you like.”

“Her milk is in the fridge and you know that-”

“I can call you anytime, yeah,” Jackson says, having heard it close to a million times now. “Please just leave? Look, Katie doesn’t even care.” Scully’s face crumbles and Mulder swallows hard before he laughs.

“He’s right, Scully. We should get going. The kids probably have better plans than hanging out with their parents.” She is still reluctant when he opens the door and fresh, crisp air greets them. Mulder puts his arm around her shoulder and gently leads her outside.

“It really will be fine, right?” She asks him on the porch once the door is closed, goose bumps on her arms from the cold.

“Yes, of course,” Mulder assures her and kisses her nose.

“Good.” Scully gives him a smile. “I want to spend the next two to three hours not worrying.” Mulder is surprised and she kisses the expression off his face. “I want to dance, to eat and most of all, I want to bask in our success. With you.”

“You do?” She nods.

“We deserve this, Mulder. You deserve this."

"Without you, I never would have-” Scully puts a finger on his lips.

“Remember what you said to me once? About zombies-”

“Oh, you know what I like, Scully.” She ignores his toothy grin.

“About zombies and how they’re going to eat, drink, dance and then make love. Remember that?” He nods slowly, falling in love all over again with this woman, his wife and mother of his children. The love of his life.

“I can’t believe you remember that,” he says, sounding breathless.

“That’s what I want to do tonight, Mulder. This is our first night out since Katie’s birth. We’ve never really done this, have we? Go out, go on dates. All I want to do tonight is eat, dance, feel alive.”

“Make love?”

“On a first date? We’ll see.” She winks at him and he laughs. She links her arm through his and somehow he thinks they’ve done this before, many, many years ago.

“I love you, Scully."

"I love you, too. Now let’s go before I change my mind.” They turn around in unison to peek through the window one last time. Jackson waves at them, grinning. Of course he’s been watching. He turns Katie, who has a fist stuffed into her mouth, towards them, and lifts her other tiny arm to make her wave as well. Through the window they see their daughter laugh at her brother, who smiles at her proudly.

“They’ll be just fine,” Scully whispers to herself, or to him, but he knows she’s right. As always.

Chapter Text

He’s never seen her look at Mulder like she is right now; she’s glancing at him from a distance, with a gleam of distrust and disappoint in her eyes. Sadness, too. Skinner walks towards her, feeling a strong need to be closer. She looks at him with sad eyes, big and watery.

“I don’t know who to trust anymore.” It’s always been Mulder for her. From the very first moment he met them there was just something between there. All that trust, palpable at times almost. Anger builds inside him and fuels his rage. The need to punish Mulder, to hurt him, for the rest of his life for making Scully feel this way, manifests itself.

“You can always trust me,” Skinner promises, his voice close to breaking. He clears his throat quickly and Scully, bless her, squeezes his arm and gives him a sad smile. He watches her walk off and glance at Mulder. Her look is timid as she passes him. They’ve just got the x-files back, but Skinner wonders when their trust, their unspoken communication, will return. If it will return at all.

“Mulder,” his voice booms and the younger man looks up, “a word.” Scully stops, stares at Skinner, then at Mulder. “Only you, Agent Mulder.” He watches their exhange; not a single word is spoken and yet he feels like he’s intruding. It makes him want to back off after all, leave them to deal with this on their own. Maybe he’s misjudged. And then Scully averts her eyes and turns away. Her heels click as she walks off. No, he realizes, he’s right after all.

Mulder dutifully follows Skinner back into his office. As soon as the door closes he wants to grab him and hurt him. Badly.

“What is it, Sir?” Mulder’s smug look makes it worse. He steps closer to the other agent, dangerously close. Mulder doesn’t back away.

“You’re an idiot.” Confusion flits over Mulder’s face and he swallows. Realization dawns and he looks down at his shoes before he meets Skinner’s eyes again.

“I know.” His admission gives him pause. Then he remembers Scully’s eyes, the way her voice sounded when she said she didn’t know who to trust. His fist balls. He knows he can’t hit Mulder. He knows it, but it doesn’t stop him from wanting it.

“You’re going to make it right. I don’t know how you fucked it up, Mulder, but Scully deserves better.”

“Someone like you?” How easy it would be to just hit him. So very, very easy. His fist clenches and his nails dig into his skin; maybe there’s blood. The stinging feels good, is a relief. He can’t hit Mulder. This is not his fight. Scully isn’t his to defend; she can do that on her own. She loves this man. He’s known it for a while, can’t deny it. He sees it every time she looks at him, touches him, lies for him. Mulder doesn’t deserve her. No one does. But for some reason she loves him anyway and he needs to respect that, respect her.

“You better be careful.” His threat sounds more like a plea. Mulder’s face softens and he nods.

“Is that all?” He asks and Skinner can’t possibly keep him here any longer. He steps back, lets Mulder breathe.

“You’re lucky, you know that?”

“I know.” This time when he says the words, there’s a softness to them. Almost as if he were sorry. Skinner’s muscles relax. He’s never looked at Mulder, tried to see what he sees. He’s been too focused on Scully. This man is in love, too. Oh, these two. He knew what he was in for when he met them. Or so he thought.

“Go, Mulder. Go and…” Skinner makes a hand gesture, but what is there to say? He hopes Mulder will make the right choice, gain back Scully’s trust and stop disappointing her. He could just as well start believing in unicorns. The way Mulder bows his head, colors slightly, gives him hope, though.

Maybe… maybe.

Chapter Text

“Geez, Scully, why are your feet so cold?” Mulder groans, his eyes only half open, and his vision blurry. He sees Scully, or rather a flash of red hair that he thinks must be her, crawl back under the covers. When he thought about waking up next to Scully - and he has thought about it a lot, a lot - he never pictured it like this. It’s so… so… cold.

“Bathroom,” she mumbles into his chest, leaving a kiss there like an apology. “Sorry.”

“Are your feet always this cold?” If they’re going to do this again (he hopes and hopes and maybe even prays that they will), he needs to know what he’s in for.

“It’s winter,” Scully says.

“Have you heard about socks?”

“You’re not wearing socks either.”

“My feet aren’t ice blocks.”

“Mulder?”

“Hmm?” His nose is in her hair, his lips trailing along her temple, peppering kisses wherever they can reach.

“Shut up. We can talk about this in the morning,” she yawns, “or not.”

“What time is it?” He moves to check the time and Scully stops him with a hand on his chest.

“It’s not morning yet,” she says and her voice tells him that he shouldn’t push the matter. He’s never been good at following the rules.

“I just want to know what-” Scully’s head shoots up and Mulder, his vision no longer blurry, closes his mouth. There’s no make up on her face and her eyes, for lack of a better expression, sparkle. He’s never seen her like this. But he knows that if he plays his cards right, he will be in for a repeat performance. Or two. He wants to see those thoroughly kissed lips again (he did that). He wants to feel her gloriously naked body against his again. Wants to feel her all around him. He shivers and not from the cold.

“Go back to sleep,” Scully whispers with a soft smile. Mulder nods, kisses her nose and receives a bright smile in return. He thinks he sees sunlight peek through the blinds, negating Scully’s statement. She, however, cuddles close to him, cold feet and all, without a care in the world. His Scully. She wants to stay in this little bubble they’ve created. At least for a little while longer. He closes his eyes and falls back asleep, smiling.

Chapter Text

They’re huddled close together on the flight home, trying to keep warm. All they have are blankets and each other. If Scully could, she thinks, she’d get even closer to Mulder. She can’t get warm. No matter how hot his skin feels, her own refuses to absorb his heat.

“Scully, relax,” he whispers into her still damp hair. She shivers. Whether it’s from the cold or the shock she can no longer tell. Her fingers dig into Mulder’s back as if she were afraid he might get up and leave her here all alone.

“It’s still a few hours until home,” Mulder explains and she knows this. He knows she knows. “You should try to sleep.”

“S-so s-should you,” she stutters, hating how her teeth keep chattering. As if it would help, as if his pure will could save her, Mulder holds her even closer. She’s thankful but can’t utter the words.

“I’m fine,” he grins at her. Shaky fingers touch the wound on his temple. So many things they need to talk about. So, so many. Where did they take her and why? How did he find her? What happened to him?

“It doesn’t hurt,” he says softly, stopping her train of thought.

“H-h-hospital.” Mulder nods and strokes a strand of hair out of her face.

“They’re taking us to the nearest hospital. They need to check up on you and well, me.” Scully can’t believe that Mulder followed her here, wherever they are. Cold, cold place devoid of everything but snow. And creatures. She shivers as the pictures return to her, however blurry. She’ll ask him about it later. All of it. But he’s still looking at her in that way. As if there was something else he wanted to ask her. She sees it in his eyes and she knows why he’s not asking, not now. Inappropriate. Awful, awful timing. Scully decides that, just this once, she doesn’t care.

“C-can I… can I k-k-kiss you?” she asks, staring at him with wide eyes.

“Scully, I don’t think that’s-”

“Y-y-you don’t w-w-want to.” She nods, embarrassed, and turns away. Mulder, still keeping her close, doesn’t let her.

“Hey,” he touches her chin. His touch makes her skin tingle. How are his fingers so warm? “I want to. Believe me, Scully, I want to. In the hallway- you remember that, don’t you?” She nods and Mulder looks relieved.

“In the hallway, there was nothing I wanted to do more than kiss you. I still want that, Scully. I just-,” he trails off and stares at her. Stares and stares and stares. His eyes move downwards as if in slow motion until they reach her lips.

“Just…,” he mumbles and then his lips are on hers. Her eyes slip shut as she revels in the feeling of his mouth against hers. But her lips refuse to move. Frozen. They’re frozen. As if sensing her frustration, Mulder breaks the kiss but keeps his face close to hers. He’s smiling.

“Just to make sure you believe me. I know you like proof.” He kisses the tip of her nose for emphasis. “I can do better.” She smiles back at him, as well as she can. “I promise,” he adds. There’s not a single doubt in her mind. Not about that, anyway.

The plane rumbles and disturbs their moment. Scully whimpers and Mulder tightens his hold on her.

“S-s-stay c-c-close, plea-please?” Her throat is sore as her voice pleads with him. Mulder, who’s hardly ever quiet, doesn’t need words. He tucks them both in, the blanket under their chins, making sure they’re as close as humanly possible, and holds her. His arms are secure around her and she drifts off, feeling safe.

“Sleep, Scully,” he whispers. She’s almost there, almost asleep, when she hears his voice again. “I can’t wait to kiss you again.”

And she feels exactly the same way.

Chapter Text

For the longest time, they’re quiet, both stewing and marinating in their own misplaced anger. But with every mile traveled, Scully feels her resentment dissipate. The desire to throw Mulder out of the car and leave him there (he could always call Detective White, she thinks) becomes less and less urgent. Looking over at him, she sees his hand under his chin as if deep in thought.

“I’m sorry, Mulder.” One of them has to start apologizing and the way she snapped at Mulder earlier, she knows it has to be her.

“No, I am.”

“But I-”

“What I did was worse. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said all these things,” Mulder says, wincing.

“Are we really fighting about who acted more childish?” Scully asks softly, with a chuckle. “Let’s just forget about it. Deal?”

“Deal.” Mulder’s voice sounds happy. “Before we do though… uhm, there’s something I want you to know.” She doesn’t dare to look over at him and she doesn’t need to. She can hear him fidget in his seat. Her heart is pounding and her tongue sticks to the roof of her mouth. She knows what he’s going to say; what he’s going to confess.

It’s about Detective White. About what she saw, about what they did.

“Mulder, it’s none of my business. You can do whatever,” she pauses, thinking that he can do whatever and whomever he pleases, “whatever you want in your free time.”

“We were working,” he reminds her.

“Neither of us was thinking straight. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve smoked? Years. The last time was years ago and it’s not a pretty memory. I went out with some girlfriends and we were drinking. Let’s just say the morning wasn’t as much fun as the night before. I’ve never felt worse.” Mulder is quiet. Very quiet. She kept talking for one reason only: so he couldn’t. Knowing that Mulder and Detective White had sex is one thing. Hearing it from him, here in the car on their way home, is another.

“So whatever you did, it’s-”

“I didn’t sleep with Detective White,” he interrupts her. “I wanted you to know that.” The moment she caught them in his room, tangled up together, clearly interrupted, is burnt into her mind.

“It’s none of my business,” she says. She’s been repeating it to herself like a mantra since last night. It isn’t. Mulder is allowed to have a private life. He doesn’t owe her an explanation. Bambi, Detective White and who knows who else. Not Dana Scully, though. She’s just a friend, his trusted work partner.

Maybe she’d like another cigarette after all.

“I didn’t even want to,” he mumbles and she wonders if she’s missed part of the conversation. “With everything that’s happened and how I acted-”

“How we acted,” she interjects. She cringes thinking of that bout of jealousy that settled in her stomach every time Mulder and Detective White put their heads together.

“How we acted,” he picks up her words. “I thought you should know. I didn’t want… I wasn’t interested in her that way.”

“You weren’t?” She’s so surprised that the words just slip out.

“Uhm, no. Not in her- not in that way. It was- I was drunk. I usually don’t drink.” She’s not going to remind him that he wasn’t drunk when they arrived in Comity. Or when Detective White’s perfume drove him crazy.

“To be honest, I’m not feeling well.” That makes her turn and quickly check on him with her eyes. He does look awfully pale.

“Do you want me to stop? Do you need anything? Should we get some food?” She hears him chuckle.

“No, I’m fine. I’m glad you’re driving.”

“That’s a first,” she huffs.

“Scully, the reason I always drive is so you can catch up on sleep.”

Oh.

“That’s- Mulder, I fell asleep maybe one time.” Or three.

“I could give you a number and I promise you it’s in the double digits. I’m all for you being in the driver seat.” The lightheartedness in his voice feels comfortable. She smiles.

“Why don’t you try to sleep for a change?”

“Are you sure?” He asks.

“It’s better than you being sick in a rental car. Sleep, Mulder. Doctor’s orders.”

“Yes, Dr. Scully,” he mocks. Silence falls over them again, but this time it’s comfortable.

It’s not until she hears his breathing even out, until knowing he’s asleep, that she allows herself to think about what he said. He wasn’t interested in Detective White. In that way. And why, she wonders, did he want her to know about it so badly?

Quickly glancing over at him, she realizes she has a lot to think about while she’s in the driver’s seat.

Chapter Text

The sterile white of the long-stretched wall closes in on him with every step that he takes. His boots are heavy on his feet and leave a trail of dirt behind. They squeak as he keeps walking, announcing his arrival to anyone who is close. Here, in this deafening silence, no one listens. There’s no one else. Just him and in that room down the hall, the last one, the door slightly ajar, is Scully, waiting.

He failed her. Failed their son, too. Yes, they have a son.

Had.

Before, he thought he’d bring her a gift. Something silly, something small. Something that would make Scully smile, laying there in the hospital bed, holding their rosy-cheeked baby, softly mumbling. Smiling. The picture in his head bursts, splinters like glass and cuts him deep, carving scars on his heart, his soul; a forever incomplete image on his mind. Mulder will never know what this son looked like.

Scully.

He can pity himself all he wants, but this is about her. What she had to go through - is going through. Because he failed her. Their son too. He promised to keep her safe; keep them safe. Well done, Fox. You fucked up, once again. Your fault, yours alone. You failed. You.

And now he’s there; the end of the hallway, the last room.

He knocks softly on the door, the noise startling him. The door pushes open and there she is, in the hospital bed, drowned out by white. She turns to him, her face pale as a ghost’s except for the red in her eyes, the tear streamed lines on her face.

“Mulder,” she croaks and as he rushes over to her he thinks how he’s never heard her voice quite like this. Broken.

As soon as he’s there, she reaches for him. A nail scratches along his neck in her desperate need to connect.

“I lost our baby,” she cries into his chest. He holds her, his hand on her head, keeping her there. Right now, he can’t look at her. Their pain is too raw, too different, to share. “I lost him. They- they came and they-they took him, Mulder. They took him.”

Holding her, clinging to each other, he closes his eyes. He hears his mother. Accusations. They took her! My baby! Now, he’s let it happen again. He wasn’t there. Left Scully, left their son, and now he’s gone. Taken away.

“I lost him.” Her sobs seize her whole body and all he can do is tighten his hold on her. He’s yet to say a word, make his apology. His fault, his fault. The words don’t come. “What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?”

Get him back. Fight. Those are the things he wants to say. He wants to believe in them.

“They’re looking for him.” In his own ears, his voice sounds foreign; not like his own.

“Who? Who is?” She clutches his soaked shirt. Her tears and something else. He looks down, sees the wet spots on her hospital gown and he winces.

“Everyone. Skinner, Doggett…,” he trails off. He should be out there. It should be him. But he doesn’t have the best track record, now does he?

“Mulder, can you ever-” Two fingers on her lips. They’re cracked, dry.

“This is not your fault,” he reminds her. “None of it is. It’s mine. I never should have left you alone. I should have been there. You did nothing wrong, Scully. You didn’t lose our baby. You didn’t.” He only realizes he’s crying when he tastes his tears.

“I want him back,” she whispers as if it were a secret. Hush, hush, don’t let anyone know. Her eyes blue as ice, but not cold, never that, shake him to the core.

“We will get him back, Scully.” He wants to promise. Does she remember his last one? He does. She takes his hand in hers and meets his eyes.

“Let’s go find our son.”