Title: Annual Growth
Author: Norma
Category: MSR
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: All the way up to Will's birth and beyond
Distribution: Sure, just let me know where so I can get excited about it.
Disclaimer: Not mine Feedback: Of course, good or bad, to NormaDesm1@aol.com. I save it all forever.

Summary: How do you resume an old relationship when so much has changed? A psuedo-sequel to Resuming.


<I won.>

After seven years of almost continuous pick-up lines, I thought that I might be able to think of something better suited for the occasion.

Really, after I made love to Scully for the first time, or she made love to me, my thoughts were much worthier of such an event. Honey-I'm-Home, Martha meets Emeril, I-picked-up-our-dry-cleaning kind of thoughts were the post-coital variety. Logical at those times, I am not. It was a couple hours afterwards, however, that those two words crossed my mind. I won. Skinner didn't win, Pendrall didn't win, and Tattoo Boy didn't win. I did. I got Scully.

And no, I don't want a trophy, although that is what I am making her sound like. I don't regard her as a trophy, but more like <my> prize. Something that I have been longing for and trying to earn for seven years. Scully's heart mandated the long haul.

I moved slowly. My partner, to my friend, to my best friend, to my touchstone. I sneaked a kiss on New Year's, tested the waters.

"The world didn't end." "No, it didn't."

The waters were warm.

I took her out on a date where I actually picked her up, drove her to a restaurant that didn't have a counter, and paid with a Visa that said Fox Mulder, not FBI. She wore a dress, and I wore a sport coat. We saw ourselves in the restaurant's mirror and laughed.

"If Skinner were here now, we would have to have a drink with him just to maintain the yuppie facade," Scully said, grinning at my impression of a WASP at the bar.

After those first few months when coffee began tasting better in the morning, and the sky became more blue, we attempted on countless occasions to make our own baby. Just to reinforce the IVF, go the extra-mile type of thing.

We even got to the point where we were reading in bed together. Albeit, I was reading the _Lone_Gunmen_ while Scully read her medical journals. And although I didn't have to endure meeting the parent, I did have to try and explain to her mother why I was answering her phone early on a Saturday morning. Scully brought me to Sunday brunch at her mom's the next day to smooth relations over, and I got extra points with Mrs. Scully when I pulled out both women's chairs at the breakfast table before we dug into our eggs benedict.

I started to secretly admire at townhomes in Old Towne and other peoples' dogs. I envisioned Scully and I each having our own office in our new house, and one of those bathrooms with two sinks side by side. The secret of Fox Mulder: despite the genius brain, give me a dog and nifty interior design attributes, and I am a happy man.

The abduction, however, messed up my plans a little.

Now all I want is my old life back. Complete with my old nuclear family fantasies and wonder at the unknown. It would probably take a little more than two sinks and a Golden to make me happy at this point, though.

I used to, in a truly perverse way, envy Scully for being abducted. She did it. It was like when I was 16 and my best friend lost his virginity. Even though I knew it was morally wrong to wish for such a thing, after that all I wanted was to miraculously discover a girl who would be as accommodating as John's girl was.

I don't wonder at the world unknown anymore. I know about it. It hurts, and like my tumble on the beach with Mary Lauren at 17, I wish it hadn't happened that way. I got what I had always secretly wanted, and now I have to deal with the consequences.


I hear Will's cries from the bedroom: Scully must be getting him dressed. I yell something about torturing him, and Scully just points out the practicality of not toting a naked child around.

I eagerly show up to hold him, thinking that Scully might want a break, but she turns from me with conviction and picks up the diaper sack. I don't know what I did wrong, but I still have one card I can play: our lunch is ready.

And this isn't just any lunch that I snatch off the counter. One sandwich has her favorite tomato-basil spread, there is a bottle of her favorite herbal tea in the cooler, and I even packed wet-naps for Will's messes. I might have come back from the dead weak and debilitated, but give me a couple weeks and I am picking up this fatherhood thing just fine.

I love my son. I wish I could put a deeper spin or a more worthy emotion into that, but the very basic truth is that I love Will. I will do anything for him, or for his mom. All I have to do is convince Scully of this truth.

"I'll drive to your mom's?" I ask nonchalantly, as if I feel this confident in every aspect of our lives. Scully shoots me a look that I read as "some things never change."

But some things do change. I returned, and my body changed to a weaker version of my old self. Scully's body changed to a fuller version of her old self, easily carrying all my hopes and dreams in one formerly sterile uterus. And our relationship changed. Old habits die hard, and we resumed our seven-year status as friends. The reading in bed together, the sex, the early morning Starbucks stops, the dinner dates. . .they were all sucked into the void along with my old life. The only liberties I take now are still using her apartment key, and a gentle kiss during the more poignant moments since my return.

"Mulder, could you take the diaper bag and put in the trunk while I get Will strapped in?" Scully's laden shoulder is turned towards me, and I relieve her of the diaper bag. I am allowed to unstrap Will, but Scully is very particular about how in gets <in> the car seat. She has a routine that involves double checking the clasps and making sure the seatbelt has not begun to wear. I have not yet volunteered for the role of strapper-in for fear that I might mess the routine.

I also leave the pediatric visits and other meticulous decisions to Scully. Not that I don't care. For what it is worth, I know that Will's pediatrician is a balding man in his late 60's who graduated from the University of Maryland and got his MD from Hopkins. His name is Dr. Irwin, and he has three children. Gotta love the FBI database.

Mrs. Scully comes running out of the house as we pull up. As she hugs her daughter, I, the dead-beat dad, busy myself with unstrapping Will. As she approaches me, I thrust Will to her, using my son as a human shield of love.

<You'll have to go through your grandson to hurt me, lady.>

I get a pat on the arm in retaliation, a surprisingly soft touch, and a good push towards the party in the backyard. _My_Girl_ is penetrating the Baltimore humidity and reaches Scully and myself as we are about to turn the corner of the house. I want to grab her and impulsively dance and spin her around, but I stop when I make the connection to her hand.

"Being that you are the mother of my child, I was thinking that a little hand-holding wouldn't be too much." I say this nervously, my body is still telling my arm to dance, and, as a result, we end up swinging our hands between us like a pre-teen couple in an after school special.

"No, I guess it wouldn't." Scully wears a small grin and squeezes my hand.

<Only my girl could make me feel this way, my girl, my girl.>


The Fourth of July fireworks scare Will, and Scully and I end up inside main building of the country club trying to calm him down. Or, I perhaps should say, I chased Scully and Will across the ninth hole, and now I stand aimlessly beside them as she does the rock- and-pat move.

And I thought that things were going well. We spent time together at her mother's as two adults while other people cooed over Will. We drove to the local golf course to watch the fireworks on the green. We were sharing a blanket like other families.

Now, I just stand here like a fool while my son cries. "Scully, come on, let me try." I beg nicely, trying to win her over.

"Mulder, I've got this one. You can go back to the blanket and watch the rest if you want." Dismissed like a frosh at the naval academy.

"You know, I can hold my son on occasion, and I even like to do it." I say it quietly, but the effect is the same.

She turns to face me completely, and part of me wishes I didn't say it. Then again, I am not taking it back. "Scully, what happened? We were lovers, <in love> Scully. We wanted a child. I didn't want to get ab-- I wouldn't have left if I had known. I still love you, I love my son. Why won't you let me back in?"

"Mulder, I don't know what you are talking about. I mean, it has barely been six weeks. . ."

"I am not talking about sex. I am talking about why you wouldn't let me pick up Will today, or why you won't let me hold him now. Why I feel afraid to put my own son in his car seat, and why you never tell me when he has a check-up. Why you won't let me come near your unless your guard is down, which, by the way, has only been twice since I have returned. With the way you are acting since I returned, you would think that you were the one abducted again."

I cannot believe I just said all that. Please God, do not let her take Will and move to Canada. Partial custody, at least. Please, let this not blow up in my face. Please, please, please. As I stand here in the foyer of a country club, giving bridge ladies and Sunday golfers enough to talk about for weeks, I can only hope that my old Scully, the one that would argue with me and not dismiss me, would rise to this occasion.

"Show some interest in his dirty diapers, and then I will think about it." Scully is picking up the baby sack and is starting to move towards the door. She pauses and adds, "Mulder, I had to assume that you were not coming home for the majority of my pregnancy. I had to find you left for dead. I had to bury you. So when you came back, instead of the meddling, inquisitive man I love, I find someone who seems less than interested in what is happening with his old girlfriend, and their child. God only knows what happened to you on that ship, because I sure as hell don't. So sue me for testing the waters a little before I put my heart, and my son's, at risk."

Her back pushes the door open, Will bundled against her chest, and I watch her blank face for a signal before she steps back into the darkness.

The door closes, and red, white, and blue bombs go off in the sky, shaking the ground we stand on.


Good God, I love my bed. Whenever I begin to wake up and remember what happened, all I have to do is go back to sleep again in between the comfy sheets Scully bought us. No, no Scully, only sleep. When I wake up, maybe things will be better, and I won't have to think, deal, or worry about this.

Shit, it's not working this time. Maybe because it's 11:35 AM, and my body isn't programmed to sleep more than six hours in between cotton sheets. It's a weekday, so I could always go to the Hoover building and start the process of getting re-instated--now that getting the getting alive again process is over.

I haven't really been back to the FBI since I came home. Sure, I have been in the office a few times, putzed around, met Doggett, but other things have taken precedence lately. Since those two other things walked away from me last night, one of them angry as hell, I might as well see how the rest of my former life is going.

I know that Scully is on some Skinner-arranged plan at the FBI. I think it boils down to showing up to do some autopsies about once a week or so while Mrs. Scully watches Will. She gets a new title to make it official and money to make it worthwhile.

I am sent directly to Skinner's office when I arrive. "Mulder, good to see you again." He shakes my hand, and motions for me to sit down. One chair sits empty next to me, and for five seconds, it is conspicuous. Skinner clears his throat.

"I thought today would be as good of a day as any to start getting reinstated." I look the AD in the eye. He doesn't flinch.

"Mulder, there have been some changes since you left. Things can't go back to how they were." Skinner sits straight in his chair, hands on the armrests, but he can't look at me.

"I've met Doggett, if that's what you mean."

"That's part of it. Among some other changes."

"Bottom line this for me, Sir."

Skinner's back loses the commando pose, and his hands come forward to rest on the desk. He picks up the phone. "Kimberly, is office 314 occupied today?" There is a pause, and then, "No, don't do that, I will go down myself." He hangs up, and says, "Come with me Mulder."

Floor three, formerly filing cabinets, has been remodeled to have a crime lab on one side, and offices adjoining it. He leads us to the corner of the hallway, giving me a clear view into one of the offices. "As you can see, some things have changed in your absence." Skinner says this with deep intonation and leaves a pregnant pause at the end.

Scully sits at a desk with a computer at one end and Will's car seat at the other. She types, and every few minutes she looks over at Will and rocks his seat a little. Her hair looks more red than usual due to the window behind her that overlooks the fountain, and on the door she has a nameplate. I can see the backs some frames on her desk, and I wonder whose pictures are in them. Some plants sit on the windowsill. She doesn't see us standing in the hall, needless to say.

Skinner motions me back into the main hallway before I can comment on Scully's new office. "Get re-instated if you want, put yourself back onto the X-Files if you are so inclined, but think about her. She has someone now that needs her much more than you do, Mulder." He turns back to the elevator. "I am going back to my office now, but you should go down and see your old office."

I look once more around the corner at Scully, and then quietly walk back to the elevator. I feel like I am in some alternate Leave it to Beaver meets A Christmas Carol universe, and my old man/the ghost has just taught me a lesson. The elevator pings the end of that scene, and I enter a new one as I walk into the basement. I assume Doggett is on assignment since the door is closed. My name is gone from the door, Doggett's is on, and so is Reyes. Their names are side by side, not one above the other. Shit, she probably has a desk too.

So this is what Skinner meant when he said that things have changed. I don't have a right to drag Scully all over God's good earth whenever I feel like it anymore. I don't have a department anymore, much less a partner. The life that I came here to kick start today no longer exists. In other words: find a new life, Agent Mulder.


The fireworks over the ocean are beautiful, and for once, calming. This year they don't shake the ground I stand on, but merely reflect off the water. The grand finale ends, and I turn in the sand and go back up to the deck. My house is quiet usually, but after the bangs and sizzles that are associated with fireworks, it seems deathly silent.

I still have 16 papers to grade, and one exam to create. My lecture for tomorrow's summer class at UCLA will be from last semester's Tuesday class, and my notes are ready for the staff meeting afterwards.

It's been one year. I have a house, one room is painted blue. It is near a medical facility, and water. It is far enough from Bill to be bearable, but close enough to entice her to move so she can be close to her family. There is an in-law apartment over the garage, and two offices on the second floor, one still empty. My bathroom has two sinks. I thought I would wait on the dog.

I left her one note when I left DC. "I went to get a life, a productive and healthy one for me, and a good one for you and Will if you want. Give me one year." So, one year ago I left. Part mid-life crisis and part breakdown, I decided California would be a good place to have both. Scully still wasn't speaking to me when I boarded the plane. Not to imply that I made a whole lot of effort to change that. At that point, clean breaks and dramatic re-entries seemed best.

Skinner has been emailed, and Scully has some time that she can take off this week if she wants it, but she doesn't know that yet. The plane tickets are in my briefcase, and my suitcase will be in my car for after the staff meeting. My classes have been cancelled for one week.

I now know what happened to Sam, and I had even been abducted.

<Obsessive interest in aliens: resolved.>

My department had been taken over by, I hated to admit it, competent people.

<Unremitting desire to discover government conspiracy: resolved.>

My partner had achieved some form of a normal life with happiness. She has a child and a normal job.

<Desire to see Scully happy and fulfilled: resolved.>

I was like a car with no gas, a ship without a sail, a dog with no tree in sight. As Skinner took it upon himself to point out, I needed a new life. Teaching has always seems the most obvious thing to do, so I did it. And I do actually enjoy it. I remember my college days well, and it's nice to watch other kids go through it. Some things never change.

I took careful and planned steps to create a life that Scully would want. I bought a house in a good neighborhood with lots of kids, and I got great health insurance. I have a flexible job and a routine life. All that is left is for her to say yes.

Yes, I will see your new life this week. Yes, I will consider moving out here. Yes, I will live out here. Yes, I will marry you. Any of the above would be great, I am taking this one step at a time.

The east coast humidity hits me like a sack of bricks when I step off the plane, reaffirming my choice to move to California. I get a cab to my hotel and call Skinner. "I'm here in DC, how are things?"

"Agent Scully has a light schedule this afternoon, she should be able to leave early." Skinner reports this to me as if I were picking her up to run an errand, not to ask her to change the course of her life.

"Great, thanks Sir." I hang up the phone and take a deep yoga-style breath, compliments of my housekeeper who taught me how to find my inner Chi last Thursday in preparation for the big trip.

My bag at the hotel, I leave for the Hoover building. The tickets are in my wallet, along with pictures of my house and a folded up UCLA newsletter that mentions me as faculty. Scully has always been proof oriented, I haven't really expected her to change.

It's a little late when I arrive, but Skinner said that he would keep her after until I got there. I pass through security easily thanks to my former AD and now partner in crime, and head to floor three. The shiny tiled floors and harsh overhead lighting propel me into intense deja-vu even though I am not in the basement. I remember walking along the corridors to the evidence room, to accounting, to see Skinner, to leave for the day almost two years ago.

Scully's door is open, and I see her going through the motions of getting ready to leave. The car seat is on her desk, Will must have been in with her at the office today. God, it has been a long time since I have seen Will.

"Scully?" I knock on the doorframe.

Her head swivels in surprise. "Mulder, oh my God. I didn't know that you were coming. What are you doing here?" She is still behind her desk staring at me.

I take a step into the room. "Well, I said one year, and here I am." She doesn't say anything, so I continue. "I sort of revamped my life, Scully. It's ready for you and Will now, if you want it. I came to tell you about it."

I still haven't seen Will yet, I would have to get around the desk to do that. Scully still hasn't responded, and I am getting nervous.

"Look, I even have plane tickets in case you want to see it. . .all." I finish lamely, still waiting for a reaction other than shock.

She takes her own yoga breath, and says, "Mulder, where have you been?"

"In California, I have a job." My communication skills: bad. The love of my life is staring at me, and my child has grown a year older and I haven't seen him in a year. Just let me hold him, Scully, please, I think.

"For a year you left? Mulder, I was so worried about you. One note, and then nothing?" She crosses her arms across her chest to emphasize her point.

Shit, not going all too well. "Scully, I needed to do this all the way, not half way. I had nothing Scully. My search, my quest, Sam, it was all over. The X- files weren't even mine when I got back." I could see her thinking about what I said. "Scully, the truth was out there, I found it, and I had to go from there."

Her head drops and she looks at her shoes. I can't see her expression as well now, and I stand there running my hand through my hair, hoping for the best.

"You're right Mulder, your life changed a lot. You came back and things were not the same. But things were not the same in my life either, and I didn't run from you."

"I didn't run from you, this was the only way I could see to get back to you. What was I supposed to do when I got back? Bully my way back into the X-Files, and then be wishing all the while that it was the way it was with you and me? I couldn't ask anything of you, Scully. You had a son, and I had to respect that you had a new life. I just had to figure out how I could make myself fit."

"_We_ had a son, Mulder, not just me." She looks hurt by the slip of my tongue.

"I know he is ours Scully, and if you had any idea how much I want to pick him up right now and see how much he has grown, you wouldn't believe it. If you only knew how I thought of him and you every day. The only thing that got me through this last year was creating a life for us."

I fumble in my wallet for the pictures, the proof that I need right now to make her believe. "Look, his room is blue." I thrust the picture towards her, and continue. "There are a lot of kids in the area, and I am on the beach. I have great health insurance, and there are both private and public schools in the county that he could go to." I take a breath. "I am a professor at UCLA, and there is a great medical research facility right there, too. You could work there."

"Mulder, what are you talking about? You planned everything out assuming that I would move there with you? Up-root my son, and leave my mother?" She is so flustered right now that I can't tell if she is mad or not. I am betting on mad.

"This conversation is moving faster than I anticipated telling you, but no, I do not expect you to agree right now, or ever. Step one: I have three plane tickets to California, and you can take time off this week. I checked." I needed to reel the conversation in. "And, there is an in-law apartment in the house, too."

Scully's eyebrow rose, a classic gesture that told me I made some headway. I did my best to look both sincere and hopeful.

"Mulder, you are not off the hook. To make assumptions about my life now, after you left for my entire pregnancy and then an entire year, is too much to say the least."

"Come on Scully, take a week, go to California with me, consider it a free vacation. No strings attached." The deal wasn't closed yet. "Aren't you at least curious?"

"God Mulder, some things never change." She closes her eyes momentarily, opens them, and says, "Here, hold your son while I get a chance to go to the bathroom." She takes Will from his car seat/rocker and gently hands him to me. One more slight shake of her head and she walks out the door.

He was sleeping up until that moment in his seat, but now sleepy Scully-eyes stare up at me. I can't believe I am finally holding my son. He doesn't sense anything amiss and shuts his eyes halfway. I sit slowly down in her chair, marveling at how easy it feels to hold him again after a year has passed.

"Please let your mother say yes to at least step one." I talk softly to him, noticing that he is almost a toddler now, one whose head comes to rest against my collarbone. His hands and feet already look big, but the rest of him still seems small. His mouth hangs open as he sleeps, just like mine, and he slowly breaths in and out.

Scully reappears, leaning against her doorframe watching the father and son bonding moment. "So what day are these tickets for?"

"Technically, tomorrow, but take as long as you want." I grin. The first battle has been won.

"So, you actually keep this place this neat on your own?" Scully is sitting at the counter looking around intently while I fix us lunch.

"I would like to say that I am a completely changed man, but I actually just recognized that I am a hopeless slob and hired a housekeeper once a week. She does all the basic stuff, and recommends some feng- shui every once in awhile." I finish our sandwiches, and even bring out some animal crackers for Will. I hope she is impressed.

"I assume that the feng-shui is the reason why you have red bows in the corner?"

"That was actually a last minute addition. Two red bows together are good feng-shui for relationships, or so I hear. I figured that I needed all the help I could get."

"Got that right, now pass the diet coke Mr. Homemaker." I do as told, and we sit down for lunch. Will sits in his brand-new highchair next to us, slowly eating the animal crackers.

I resist the urge to present to Scully all the reasons she should stay here. If she wants to know something, she'll ask. Until then, I just hope she picks up on all the little things I have been thinking about for months. Like, has she noticed all the lower cabinets are child proofed? I hope so, those buggers took three hours to do.

"So may I ask what is on the agenda this week, Mulder?" Now that the shock of my appearance and proposal has worn off and she is actually in California, Scully seems to be enjoying mocking me and The Plan.

"I thought I would let you and Will unpack a little, I can show you to your rooms." I put special emphasis on the plural there, don't want to assume too much. "Then we could go to my favorite place for dinner. We could do a variety of other activities while you are here, including the beach or the zoo, but I do want you to see UCLA and where I teach."

"And I assume that a tour around this wonderful medical facility is also on the schedule?"

"That is completely up to you, although we do pass it on the way to UCLA." My response is light as a feather and as neutral as Switzerland, and I smile smugly at having met her challenge. One plucked eyebrow is raised in return.

Three days later we have been to the beach, built sandcastles, ate snowcones, and grilled on the deck. Scully lets me hold and play with Will more, but I can't help but feeling as each time I do something for him its like a little pop quiz I give my students. Things between us have been okay. We chat, catch up, laugh, but Scully doesn't volunteer much information about how she is feeling. My cards, on the other hand, are on the table. I want her and Will, in any form I can them, and it's no secret that this past year has been one great big effort to do just that.

If nothing else this trip has convinced me that no matter what Scully decides, and no matter how much my heart may be broken as a result, Will is my son, and I want him to know that growing up. Bottom line: one way or another, I will be seeing Will on some sort of regular basis after this trip ends.

"Is today the day we are going to see the infamous UCLA?" Scully sits on my deck drinking coffee in her robe. Please God, let this happen every morning.

"Sure, I need to stop by the office anyway to pick up the minutes from the staff meeting."

I don't point out the medical facility I have in mind for Scully, but she notices it as we drive past. I ignore her comments about the bad landscaping job. Since when have you cared about flowers anyway Scully?

"And here it is, the psych building." I say this with pride, the building is impressive. I led them up to my office, and we sneak past the conference room where the latest in the series of meetings is happening.

"Do you want to check your email?" I ask when we get into my office.

"Once you are done, I want to look around a little." She inspects the books on my shelves, the posters on my walls, the views from my windows, and the pictures on my desk. The old picture of Sam is no longer there, but I do have a picture of her and one of Will, the only one that I have, one either side.

"Where's Sam, Mulder?"

"At home, I don't need to bring her onto this job."

"I didn't mean it to be offensive."

"And it wasn't, I just answered honestly." Scully turns away and looks at the same bookshelf she just admired, and a few moments of awkward silence hang the air.

"Mulder, I don't know if I am a part of your life out here. I am aware that you made it for me and Will, but aren't I like the picture of Samantha? Don't some things need to be left behind so you can move on?"

I don't know what to say to Scully, or how she could even think that. "Don't start looking for ways out of this, if you don't want to be here, just tell me." I can hear people getting out of the meeting, and Will is squirming on my lap.

"I just don't know if Will and myself are going to fit into this life like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle like you expect us to."

I want to tell her that she isn't the last piece, she is the whole picture. And no matter what that picture turns out to be, it won't matter. I want her and Will no matter what. We can paint our own picture together. Before I get a chance, the chair of the department sticks his head in my door.

"Mulder, I didn't know that you were coming in today." He smiles politely at Scully and the squirming child on my lap now climbing up my head.

"Dr. Roth, I would like you to meet Will and his mother, Dana."

"So you two are the people that Mulder alludes to now and again. We always wondered what family he was holding out for." Dr. Roth beckons another colleague over. "Jane, this is Mulder's family, the one we always suspected he had but never really told us about."

Jane smiles eagerly at Scully. "So are you here permanently now? Mulder always said that at the end of the summer he hoped you would be able to be here with him. At all the faculty get togethers he had to explain that you were still back East, and that he hoped it would happen that you would join him soon. So glad to meet you."

"Thanks, you too Jane." Scully smiles nicely at Jane.

"And we hope to see you at the summer picnic. It is a few weeks from today, Labor Day weekend. Here, I don't have the date on me, but take my card and email me if you can come. I know that Mulder probably won't remember something as mundane as a picnic on his own." Dr. Roth shakes Scully's hand and tousled Will's hair in a farewell gesture before he leaves. Will has since moved to the floor and is playing with his truck.

"And you wonder if you will fit into my life out here," I say tonelessly.

"Mulder, I am sorry, I didn't really know. We have been so isolated from everyone these past few days that I just assumed that I was an important afterthought, like an accessory that you buy once everything else is in place."

"Scully, you and Will are everything that is important. The rest," I gesture to the office, "are the afterthoughts."

Scully picks up Will and sets him in her lap. "This is just a lot to think about. I don't even know where we stand together."

"I know, but for now, just think about moving here. No decisions yet."

I have big plans for tonight, so I don't want Scully to have made up her mind about anything yet. My single neighbor has agreed to watch Will so I can take Scully out to dinner. A real date, reminiscent of pre-abduction. Hopefully, I can give her a better idea of where we stand together.

"Anyway, Scully, if you made a decision now, you would miss out on our big evening out on the town." I give her my best sarcastic leer.

"Right, Mulder, I am sure that as much as I want a wild and crazy evening, Will is going to be up for the same thing."

"Ahhh, but you doubt The Plan yet again. Terry next door, who by the way has raised 5 children and volunteers at her church regularly, is going to watch Will." Scully looks less than convinced. "Really, she is great, and we deserve one night off." I can see all the reasons why this is a bad idea forming in her face, and I continue, "You have come all the way to California, and you are going to not trust me on this? Come on. She is so kind that she makes me food practically on a regular basis."

"Fine, Mulder. But I get to meet this Terry before we leave, and I am keeping my cell phone on all night long, interruptions or not."


"Scullllyyy!" I shout up the stairs. "Terry is here, and we need to go." Our dinner reservations are at 7:30, and we are borderline close to being late. It was a mistake on my part to tell Scully that where we were going was dressy. It meant that I had to drive her downtown and drop her off at the mall so she could find something to wear while Will and I sat on a bench. That set us back a solid hour and a half.

"Okay, I'm coming now." Whatever time we spent in that mall, however, was worth it. As she comes down the stairs, I realize that I have never seen Scully's body after Will was born. Jeans and pantsuits don't reveal the changes that green dress does. Her hips are bigger, but her waist is the same, giving her the sexy look of the starlets in the 1940s. It doesn't occur to me that I should introduce her to Terry, so I stand there like the butler instead.

"Hello, I'm Dana." Scully shakes Terry's hand, and the women bond over the Neanderthal male standing next to them. "You'd think he has never seen me in a dress before." Yes, I admit this is a little immature on my part, but do I detect a little flush in Agent Scully's cheeks as a result of my attentions?

"Mulder gave me your cell phone number and I know where everything for Will is, I think we will be just fine." Terry, twenty years older than Scully, gives her firmest smile, and steers us to the door. "I wouldn't worry, you two just have fun."

I can see Scully start to resist, but I grab her hand and lead her to the car, "Thanks a million Terry. We will see you later."

I decided to not over-do our first date, so I picked someplace simple. We sit on the deck where we have a lovely view of the water. Scully's cell is placed in the center of the table, but she sits back in her chair and swings her sandled foot lightly.

We both have a glass of wine in us when I decide to start the little speech. There are a lot of things that I want to say to her before she makes her decision.

"Scully, I just want you to know how much you coming out here has meant to me. You and Will are number one in my life, and even though I didn't go about making a life for us in the most traditional way, I did the best that I could." Scully is staring down into her wine, so if nothing else, I know that she is listening. "And I am sorry that I left for a year, and that I didn't give you time to adapt to me when I came back instead of the other way around, but I really want this."

I stop, thinking that right about now would be a good chance to evaluate. I have no idea if I am digging myself a grave or winning an election. Scully looks at me with a little smile.

"Mulder, I have given this a lot of thought, and I haven't come to a decision yet. On one hand, my life, my mother, and my job are all on the East Coast. On the other hand, you and your life are here. I can't tell you what I am going to do just yet."

At that moment, her cell phone rings, earning us glares from other deck tables. Scully picks it up and quickly walks to the far end of the deck. When she returns her face is ashen.

"What's wrong with Will?" I demand.

"It's not Will, it's Mom. She has had a heart attack they think. She's at St. Agnes. I have to fly home." Scully is already gathering all her things, and I quickly drop some cash on the table.

As we drive home, Scully doesn't get off her cell phone once. As much as she can gather, Mrs. Scully was home alone when someone tried to break in. She retreated in the bathroom, and tried to throw her weight against the bathroom door when he started to pound on it. She was able to call the police before she had the attack, and it is suspected that years of stress and not exercising built up to that moment.

I buy myself another plane ticket at the airport and go to Maryland with Scully. Hours later, we are in the hospital room with Mrs. Scully, who is conscious, but weak.

"Honestly Dana, I am fine. It was not a heart attack or a stroke, just my heart going a little funny as a result of the scare. I am going home in a few days." Mrs. Scully is sitting up in bed, but her head rests on the mound of pillows behind her.

"Mom, the doctor says that your health could be better." Scully firmly shuts her mother's chart. "And I don't think that you should live alone for awhile. Something like this is a warning sign for possible future problems."

Mrs. Scully offers a rebuttal that is quickly cut off by her daughter. "Get some rest, Mom. Mulder, Will, and I are going to get something to eat. We will be back in a little bit." We walk out into the hall, and before we can even get into the elevator, Scully has a list going.

"I will need to get someone to look in on her when I am at work, and we will need a treadmill in the basement of her house. She won't be able to walk outside in the winter here. I will need to start moving some of my stuff up from Virginia, and, shit, register Will for the other preschool." She lets out a sigh and puts her head back against the elevator wall.

"So, I guess that's a no." I speak quietly, not wanting to sound selfish at this moment, but needing to know just the same.

"Mulder, you can't possibly think that now--" She looks at me with disbelief. "My mother needs me, and this just might be the sign I was looking for to help me make the decision."

"Scully, this isn't a sign. This is a coincidence. It would be just as easy to move your mother to California where she could live in the in-law apartment, walk outside year round, and have Terry check in on her. Again, if you don't want to come, just say so."

"Just give me a few days to think, okay?" She steps off the elevator with Will. "I'll drive you back to the airport."

Yeah, that's exactly what I want. To take another long flight to my empty home, while you "think" about what you are going to do. "Sure, whatever."


I still have two days off when I get home, so I busy myself with nothing. I take a couple of jogs, watch some movies, play some basketball. No word from Scully.

Eventually, I have to go back to work. Summer classes are almost over, which is a relief, and soon the normal school year will begin. I finished my last intro class on Friday, and I stopped by the food store to pick up a dessert for the Labor Day picnic, which I don't really want to go to. In fact, I don't want to go at all.

When the day looms in front of me, I wake up with a heavy heart. Just what I want today are about twenty couples talking to each other and making dinner plans while I befriend someone's toddler who doesn't know yet know to ask if I "came alone."

Terry was nice enough to take the cake out of the plastic carton for me and put it on a plate. She stopped by yesterday to drop off the tools I lent her, and when she saw the generic cake, insisted that I put it on a plate at least. I take it out of the refrigerator before I leave and set it on the counter so I don't forget.

There is a knock on the door, and if it's Terry I am about to ask her to come with me so I don't have to show up once again and fend off pitying questions. I throw open the door.

"Neighbor, how would you like to be my date?"

"Forgot about us already Mulder?" A different female voice comes back in response. Scully is standing there with Will, who is eagerly attacking my planter.

"Oh my God, Scully. I didn't mean what I just said, I mean, I want you to be my date, but I thought it was going to be Terry, and just-- what are you doing here?"

"Mulder, I am working on the assumption that you and Terry are not an item. This weekend is the picnic, right? And when have I ever turned down an invitation from one of your superiors?" A fairly large suitcase is behind her, which she rolls in. I follow in disbelief.

"This is a yes, a yes to everything," she says as she leans into kiss me softly. Will is sandwiched between us, and he probably doesn't remember a similar kiss that took place over a year ago.

"And, by the way Mulder," she pulls away and sets Will down just as I am getting over my shock enough to really hold her, "Mom is coming in a week with her stuff and ours, and that is the ugliest cake I have ever seen. Is that what you are taking to the picnic? At least you put in on a real plate." I lean in for another long over-do kiss, but Scully instead grabs Will from the imminent peril of the plant he is going towards, and hands him to me. "Will, keep your dad company while I go and change for the picnic and call Gradmom."

I stand holding my son and watching a woman I know doesn't want, or can't handle, an emotional scene right now go into my bedroom. Tonight, not the least thing on my mind at the moment, I plan to take advantage of the fact that it will be one of the few remaining nights before Mom moves in. And Will is giving me a hearty welcome to parenthood by lunging out of my arms towards the stone floor.

I have won, finally and for real.

The End

Author's Notes: I thought that since Mulder's entire life has changed, getting everything back on track might take something more drastic than just a few reassuring words. The above was my take on it all, and perhaps a way to explain why he won't be around next season. All feedback is responded to, saved, and cherished. NormaDesm1@aol.com

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