Title: Arrangements
Author: Donna
Written: August 1999
Rating: PG
Category: MSR
Spoilers: Herrenvolk
Keywords: MSR, angst
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter,10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended

Summary: Mulder's family is all gone now, isn't it?

 


She tried twice to cut off the alarm before she realized it was the phone. She managed to scoop up the receiver. "Hello?"

"Can I come over?" He sounded terrible. It wiped sleep from her mind completely.

"Of course. Mulder, what's wrong? Where are you?"

"I'm almost there." The connection went dead.

She rose immediately from the bed. What time was it? She reached for her watch - only 11:30. No wonder she'd had such a hard time waking. She'd only been asleep about twenty minutes. That meant Mulder probably hadn't been home an hour. He'd dropped her off from the airport, the plane had been delayed and he hadn't wanted her to take a cab. She usually refused such gallantry but she'd been exhausted from the trip and, though she was loath to admit it, occasionally enjoyed the coddling.

So what had happened? He'd gotten home and what? His voice had been flat, dead sounding. She slipped on her robe, should she make coffee?

Before she could make the decision she heard his knock on the door. He hadn't been exaggerating when he said he was almost there.

She hurried to the door and after a quick peek through the peephole flung the door open. He looked as bad as he had sounded, and he'd obviously been crying.

"Mulder." Her hand automatically went out to him. Without a word he pulled her toward him and wrapped his arms around her. He was trying not to cry again, holding on to her for all he was worth.

She let him cling to her until he eased up himself. He still hadn't spoken at all. He didn't release her, but did pull back. "Mulder, sit down. Come on over here." He sank onto her sofa. She wasn't sure he'd ever rise again. "Can you talk to me Mulder? What's wrong?"

He took a deep breath, tightening his grip on her hand. "There was a message on my machine, a doctor, on the Vineyard. My mother had another stroke."

"Oh Mulder," she breathed, "I'll get dressed, we can be there in a couple of hours."

"There's no hurry. Not this time."

She absorbed this in silence. She was gone, his mother had died. She recognized his devastation; she'd felt it herself when her father died. Without any hesitation her arms went around him, her head against his chest. His tears were back and he didn't struggle against them this time. When she sat up he finally spoke.

"They're all gone Scully. My whole family's gone. I didn't think at my age I'd feel like an orphan. I'm alone."

"Mulder, you are not alone. I'm glad you came here."

"I didn't. . . there was no where else I wanted to be." She smiled sadly. "I need to head on up to the Vineyard."

"Not tonight Mulder. There's nothing you can do tonight. We can go up first thing tomorrow."

"We?"

"Of course I'm going with you Mulder."

"Thanks." It was barely a whisper.

She wasn't sure he got any sleep, but she got him to stretch out on the sofa and close his eyes for awhile. At least he seemed to be resting. She tiptoed out and started the coffee before jumping in the shower.

He was having a cup when she emerged. "I left you plenty of hot water, go on." He nodded and rose from the table. He was moving slowly, she knew his mind was elsewhere, but he still squeezed her hand as he passed her. Just making contact, assuring himself she was really there.

She drove to the funeral home, the same one that had handled the arrangements for his father just a few years ago. She wanted to spare him the formal identification but of course he wouldn't allow that, though he did seem to appreciate her presence.

Back at the house he allowed her to choose a dress for his mother to wear and the other things that the funeral director requested. While she gathered everything he wandered aimlessly around the house, occasionally stopping to handle a picture or a figurine.

"I'll take this over, Mulder. Why don't you wait here?"

She was startled by the look of fright that flitted across his face, but it was gone so quickly she wasn't sure. "Do you want to go with me?"

"No, uh no. I'll. . . I can start cleaning up here."

"Mulder, let me help you with that. Why don't you try to rest? I know you didn't sleep much last night." He gave her a sad smile and nodded.

She brushed her hand to his cheek and left, knowing she needed to get back to him as soon as possible.

Since there was no family to wait for it was agreed to hold a private graveside service the next day. He had insisted on private, fearing that Cancer Man would appear. The obituary hadn't even been printed and wouldn't be until after the service. Scully called a few of his mother's friends for him, but that was the extent of the guest list. He couldn't handle much more anyway.


He stood like statue at the gravesite; his only movement the occasional pressure he applied to her hand as he gripped it. She wasn't sure he heard anything that the rabbi said but he managed to respond to the few mourners that came and spoke to him when the service was completed.

"Come on, Mulder. Let's go home." He nodded, still not releasing her hand and started toward the car. She felt him tense beside her and looked up at him.

Then he had let go of her and was running across the cemetery. "Mulder!" She wasn't dressed for running, what the hell had happened? Was he chasing someone? Had Cancer Man shown up after all? From this distance she couldn't be sure, but it looked like someone had gone into the fringe of trees near the fence.

When she finally caught up with him he had the person cornered against the fence, but was keeping back. His hand was out entreating the person to remain calm. Scully finally took her eyes off of him and looked at the person he had been pursuing.

A child, a little girl. What the hell?

"Mulder?" She put her hand on his arm and he jerked away then realized it was she.

"Scully, look at her!"

"What?" She glanced back at the frightened girl again. Okay, long dark hair, hazel eyes, no more than 8 or 9. . . Oh good grief, was he delusional?

"Mulder, you cannot think. . . "

"Look at her!" He had her arm now, his grip was actually painful. He took a step toward the child and she cringed back away from him.

"Mulder, you're scaring her. Let me talk to her. Stay back." Scully pulled her arm free and took a couple of steps closer to the girl. "Hello. I'm Dana, he didn't mean to scare you. Where's your family."

"I don't know." Scully had to strain to hear her. She took another step closer.

"Are you here alone?" She nodded. "What's your name?"

She looked up frightened. "I'm not supposed to speak to strangers."

"That's a good policy." Scully pulled her badge from her purse; habit had made her stuff it in this morning. Now she was especially glad she had. "I work for the FBI, so I'm kind of a policeman. Why don't we go sit on that bench over there in the shade and maybe I can help you."

The nod was barely perceptible and she waited for Scully to step back before heading in that direction. Mulder followed at a distance, he'd obviously frightened the child.

Scully and the girl sat on the bench, her eyes darting over to Mulder and away. Scully lay a soothing hand on her arm. "We'd like to help you. We can find your family or take you home if you'd like. Please, what's your name."

She took another quick glance at the man that had chased her then back at the woman who was trying to help. "Samantha Mulder."

Scully could feel the explosion of air that left Mulder's lungs and saw him take a step toward them out of the corner of her eye. She held up her hand to stop him, miraculously he obeyed.

"Did you say Samantha Mulder?"

The girl nodded. "My parents are William and Tina Mulder and I live in Chilmark. Can you take me home?"

Now she turned to Mulder for help and instructions. He kept his distance and somehow made his voice steady. "Samantha, how did you get here?"

"I don't know." She wouldn't look at him. "I woke up over there." She pointed to the wooded area they had run through when he had taken off after her.

"You woke up here?" Scully finally spoke again. The girl nodded and her fear seemed to grow.

"I don't know why I'm here in a graveyard. I want my mother, please."

Scully looked over at Mulder again. His eyes were now filled with tears and she could see his hands clenching and unclenching wanting to hold this child in his arms. "Listen, why don't we. . . uh. . . "

"Samantha, may I speak with Scully for just a minute?" At her nod, Scully rose and joined Mulder.

"Mulder, we have to call the authorities. This little girl - "

"This little girl is my sister, Scully, and we're not calling anyone. Let's take her back to the house and talk in private." His voice was low, but she'd never heard him assert himself more forcefully. If he had told her of this encounter, she would have checked him for head injuries again, but she was here.

Rather than argue with him here in front of the child she nodded. "Samantha, we're going to take you to a house near here and use the phone. Don't worry, we're not going to let anything happen to you."

Everyone was quiet on the trip back to Mrs. Mulder's house. Scully drove with Samantha beside her in the front seat, Mulder taking the back. Samantha made no comment about the house; she had never lived here. Mrs. Mulder had bought it after the divorce, however Scully realized that the photographs scattered around the house could not be gathered up and hidden, so she led the girl directly to the kitchen and sat her at the counter.

"I bet you're hungry." At Samantha's nod, Scully began putting together a sandwich for her. She realized the kitchen fascinated the child, staring at first one appliance then another. "Samantha? Is anything wrong?"

"Does someone really rich live here?"

"No Honey. Why do you ask?"

"It's a space age kitchen. I've never seen ice come out of the refrigerator door before."

Scully glanced over at Mulder, seated at the table. He had his eyes closed, shaking his head. "I guess it is kind of new. Here, go ahead and eat."

Scully joined Mulder at the table, taking his hand. "Samantha, can we talk while you eat?" At her nod, "How old are you?"

"I was eight on November 21st." Mulder confirmed that with a slight nod.

"Do you know your phone number?" She rattled it off and again Mulder nodded. "Honey, do you have any idea how you came to be at the cemetery this morning?"

Samantha's eyes filled with tears. "No. I was home last night."

"Were you alone?"

"No, my brother, Fox, was keeping me. Mom and Dad were next door. Oh!" She clapped her hand over her mouth. Scully rose and hurried to her. "Fox? Where is he? He would never leave me alone! Something's happened to him!" Her voice rose in fear and Scully took her into her arms. Mulder was on his feet but obviously didn't know what to do. He watched as Scully comforted the little girl.

"We'll find your brother. Please don't worry." Scully smoothed her hair and held her. "Let me make some phone calls and I'll be right back."

Samantha sniffled but nodded and reluctantly let go of the grip she had on Scully. Mulder took hold of Scully's hand as she passed by him. "Don't call anyone, Scully." He whispered to her. "Promise me you won't call anyone, not yet."

"I have to." She responded also in a whisper. "She's missing, her family is probably frantic. We have to inform the authorities."

"Scully I am her family, the only family she has left."

"We can't talk about this here." Scully glanced over at the child.

"Check her out Scully. Before we involve anyone else, please you check her out. Prove to me she's not my sister, or that she's not human or whatever. You, Scully. Don't bring anyone else in, promise me!"

She closed her eyes and let her shoulders droop. How could he possibly believe this little girl was the same child taken from him 25 years ago? Because he was Fox Mulder. How could he think anything else?

When she opened her eyes he was right there, his own eyes probing hers. She nodded. "I promise." He released her and she left the room. Samantha eyed him suspiciously, but when he didn't approach her allowed herself to relax a little and finish her sandwich.

Scully returned shortly, her gaze more intent as she looked at the child. "Samantha, there was no answer at that number, so we want you to stay with us for a while longer. Do you mind?" She did look like the photographs, but it wasn't possible.

"I guess not." Again she glanced over at Mulder.

"Please don't worry about, uh, him. He wouldn't hurt you, he only ran because he thought you were in trouble. That's his job, he helps people in trouble. You want another sandwich?"

"No. Could we maybe drive over to my house and see if they're outside and didn't hear the phone?" A pleading note had crept into her voice now.

Scully's heart broke, she was just a little girl, she was scared and lost and. . . God, she couldn't be Samantha. Get a grip Dana; you have to be the one that holds this together. He's wrong, he has to be.

"Maybe in a little while, there are a few things we need to check into right now. Why don't you watch some TV?" Samantha nodded, these were grownups, they knew best.

Scully led her to the den and picked up the remote. If this child had been missing for twenty-five years she wasn't going to know what to do with the thing. Scully turned on the TV and found the Nickelodeon station that her nephews watched. That should be safe enough.

After Scully was sure she was settled, she headed back to the kitchen. Mulder hadn't moved. She slipped into the chair facing him and took his hand.

"Mulder, you've been through a lot. I need you to try to stay calm and think rationally." He didn't look up. "Samantha is only a year younger than me, Mulder. She's not a little girl anymore."

"She had the names right, the address, our old phone number."

"Someone could have taught her those things. She could be a very fine little actress."

"Do you think she's acting Scully?" Rather than answer she took a deep breath. "Neither do I. Her blood is red Scully."

"How do you know that?" She looked startled.

"She scraped her leg running from me. Just a scratch, but you should probably clean it. No green, no toxic fumes. Plain old red blood, Scully. Can you do the DNA testing?"

"Not here, back in DC. . . "

"So we take her there."

"Mulder, we can't take her anywhere without reporting that we have her. Someone will be looking for her." She held up her hand at his look. "She's an eight year old girl Mulder. Someone is responsible for her, someone left her in that cemetery."

"Scully, do the tests."

They both knew she wasn't going to refuse him this. Never this. She sighed, "What are we supposed to tell her? We can't take her to your old house. Someone else lives there. We can't tell her who you are. She's going to end up thinking we kidnapped her."

He gave her a weak smile. "How soon can we know?"

"If we leave early tomorrow I can get the samples to the lab and probably know something by evening if I stay on it."

"What about at the guys? Then you'd have help." After a slight hesitation she nodded. Byers could be a help and they had access to some extraordinary programs. She just wouldn't think about how they had been obtained.

Samantha was fascinated by the TV and later by the microwave and VCR. Mulder managed to have her distracted when dates were mentioned. She did eventually quit cringing from him, and he was very careful in his dealings with her. For dinner he ordered her favorite pizza without asking, which earned him his first smile from her.

Since she had no other clothes, Mulder offered one of his t-shirts for her to sleep in. After a shower she came out wearing it and giggling - it came to her knees. Mulder wanted to hug her, just hold her as he'd always disdained as an older brother when she was available. He knew Scully was completely skeptical, but he knew, it was her.

Scully put her to bed, then sat watching TV with Mulder. They didn't talk, both knew what the other believed and there had already been too much emotion for one day. They just sat comfortably beside each other.

He was the first to react when Samantha came back in the room crying. "Samantha, what?" He picked her up in his arms and carried her to the sofa.

"I want my mom or Fox. Why can't you find them?"

"Honey, we're not sure what's going on but tomorrow we'll go to Washington and maybe we can find some answers." Scully smoothed down her hair.

"Washington, DC? My dad works there, did you find him?"

"Not yet. But we should know something very soon. Please try not to worry. Would you like me to sleep with you?" Scully asked.

Samantha glanced over at Mulder and quickly away. "Would he mind?"

"Who?" Scully looked over at Mulder, understanding the question suddenly. "No, Honey, that's no problem."

"Aren't you married?" Scully looked up at Mulder, who had closed his eyes.

"Sweetheart, we work together, we're not married."

"Oh." She said in a small voice. "This isn't your house?"

"No, we're just staying here while we're in town. Come on; let's go back to bed. I'm sure you're tired." Scully stood and took the girl's hand. "Night Mu. . . Good night."

"Night Scully, Samantha. If you need anything. . ." He let his voice trail off. She nodded and headed upstairs.

Everyone was quiet on the way to Washington. Scully tried to start a conversation a couple of times, but there was so much that couldn't be said, not yet. She finally gave up and flipped on the radio. Fortunately she randomly chose an oldies station, so Samantha knew several of the songs and seemed to enjoy it.

They drove directly to the Gunmen's apartment. Scully had Mulder go in first to explain the situation. She wanted, hell she needed to be there for that, but she couldn't leave Samantha alone and the girl still wasn't that comfortable with Mulder.

Mulder returned for them and introduced Samantha to the three men that would be helping them. For the first time Mulder looked safer than the alternatives and she clung to his hand. In spite of her fear, he relished the feeling of her depending on him, looking to him for protection once again. This time he would provide it or die trying.

Scully watched the silent exchange between the two. Already he was hooked; he had his Samantha back, just the way she had been when he lost her. How was she supposed to destroy that? And she would be destroying it, Samantha was not an eight year old little girl, damn it!

Scully and Mulder took Samantha aside and explained to the best of their abilities what they wanted to do. The child was more frightened of the drawing of her blood than anything else, at least that she understood, but she accepted it with more courage that Scully felt she would have at the same age. Taking her fingerprints fascinated her and as she warmed to the trio, did begin responding to their questions and remarks.

When her part was over, Mulder took her to the 'living quarters' if they could be called that, of the apartment. Langley followed and offered up video games to keep her amused. Having never played one, they chose one of the older, less high tech games and she began to get the feel of it. At one point Frohike came in the room and Mulder was delighted that she moved closer to him on the couch.

Lunch had been eaten in front of the TV and dinner ordered before Scully wandered back into the room and sank onto the couch beside them.

"You okay?"

"Tired. Samantha, why don't you go get washed up, whatever these guys ordered for dinner should be here soon." Samantha nodded and headed for the bathroom.

"Scully?"

Scully leaned her head back against the back of the couch, closing her eyes. He didn't dare press, though he wanted to shake her. She was this tired because of him, doing all of this for him.

She took a deep breath and sat up, "Well, Byers and I are convinced she is totally human. You already know the prints match perfectly. According to the DNA," she looked up into his anxious eyes, "yes. I can't explain it, I know it can't be, but. . . "

"She is Samantha." He whispered, glancing over at the door keeping her from view.

"Mulder. . . "

"Scully, look at this." Byers had entered the room without their realizing it. He handed Scully a printout. Mulder leaned over her to read it as she did. It meant nothing to him.

Scully looked up at Byers frowning. "Why?" Byers shrugged.

"What?" Mulder's whole body was on alert, was Samantha going to vanish again? Go up in smoke? Dematerialize in front of him?

"Her cells Mulder." She looked into his eyes. Well that meant nothing to him, how did she explain this data to him, she didn't understand it herself.

"Yeah?" He glanced again over at the door. Samantha would be returning at any minute.

"Her cells are older than eight years old. Do you remember the news story that came out a few weeks ago about the Dolly clone, the sheep? The clones were older than their biological age. Well, Samantha's are too."

"She's a clone?"

"No, I didn't say that. It's different, though I'd need to show this to an expert in the field. Mulder, her cells are about half the age they should be if this really is Samantha, and her appearance is even less than that. I can't explain it." She rubbed her forehead where a headache had settled.

"They kept her in some kind of stasis, she didn't age physically, not that you could see, but they couldn't completely stop the cell growth."

"Mulder. . . "

"Can you prove to me, scientifically, that that little girl is not my sister." His look was probing her now, demanding answers.

She glanced over at Byers and back. "No. I can't."

"We need to tell her."

"Tell her what Mulder? That she's really 33 years old, that you're the Fox she kept calling for in her sleep last night?" He looked up startled, she hadn't told him that and from the look on her face she wanted desperately to bite it back now. "Mulder, please."

"I can't Scully. I'll think of some way to explain it, at her level. But you said it yourself, soon she's going to think we kidnapped her. I'm all she has now Scully and I need her as much as she needs me." He watched Scully's shoulders slump and reached for her. She pulled slightly away and he let his hand drop.

"Do you guys have any aspirin?" She turned to Byers again and he nodded. She rose from the couch and followed him out of the room. Langley and Frohike quickly followed, leaving Mulder alone to wait for Samantha.

When they returned with the food, Samantha was back at the game and Mulder was watching her. He turned to look at Scully and shook his head slightly. He hadn't talked to her. He couldn't figure out how.

Dinner was easier, Samantha had relaxed enough to laugh at Frohike's dumb jokes and she didn't seem to pick up on the underlying tension.

It was getting late by the time they finished dinner, so the guys refused any help in the clean up and sent them on. The problem was they weren't sure where to go.

Mulder looked over at Scully, with Samantha walking closely beside her. "I guess we'll drop you off, Scully and. . . "

Scully looked up at him startled. He couldn't think she was going to let him take this little girl to his apartment. She'd be scared out of her mind.

"Drop both of us off, Mu - partner."

"You don't have to. . . " But he saw her point immediately, in fact if he admitted it to himself he'd known it all along. Samantha saw him as a better alternative than Langley but alone with him, in his apartment? Talk about thinking she'd been kidnapped.

He pulled into Scully's apartment complex and parked. He walked slightly behind them, not ready to be separated from either of them yet.

"You know, Samantha, we need to get you some clothes. Why don't we plan to go shopping tomorrow?"

"What about all my stuff at home?" Mulder closed his eyes against the pain of that statement. His mother hadn't been able to clean out her clothing and toys. His father had finally gone into the room and jerked everything down, dumping it in boxes and carting it off. Mom had rescued a few items that were special to her. That scene was burned into his memory, the yelling, and the pain. He'd have to go through the house and try to locate those things now.

"Well," Scully glanced at Mulder's face and away again, "we'll just get a few things to tide you over. Why don't you go ahead and get ready for bed. You can sleep in that t-shirt again, can't you?"

She nodded, tired and frustrated. This was taking a lot longer than she had thought it would to find her parents.

Scully showed her the bathroom and bedroom, then retreated with Mulder into the kitchen to talk in private. Samantha changed into the t-shirt and came out looking for them. She heard a quiet ringing coming from the Mulder's coat and walked over to it.

It sounded like a phone, but it was coming from his inside coat pocket. What kind of policeman was he? Did he have a shoe phone too, like Maxwell Smart? She grinned to herself and reached into his coat to pull out the phone. His badge and ID fell out and landed open at her feet.

The phone had stopped ringing, so she bent over to pick up what she had dropped. She was standing, staring at them when Mulder and Scully came into the room. Before either could speak she turned and thrust the ID at them.

"Why do you have my brother's name? Who are you!" Her voice rose and there was a trembling they hadn't heard all day.

Scully stepped toward her, but Mulder put his hand on her arm. "Samantha, please sit here with me a minute and I'll try to explain what's going on. It's complicated."

Well, he hadn't hurt her yet and Scully was here. She sat on the couch and waited, her body language showing her fear. Mulder sat gently beside her and put his hand out though he didn't touch her.

"Do you remember the story of Rip Van Winkle?" She nodded. "Well, I think that's kind of what happened Samantha. You see, I am your brother Fox and I've been looking for you for twenty-five years."

She frowned at him, obviously not believing then glanced over at Scully. She wasn't protesting, in fact she was nodding slightly.

"I've been asleep for twenty-five years?"

"Well, kind of. I can't explain it to you, not yet anyway, but that night you remember as night before last? It was November 27, 1973. It's 1999 now, and I've gotten older, but you haven't. That's what the tests were for today. Scully is a doctor and she's trying to figure out -"

"Where's Mom?" Mulder's shoulders slumped. Scully opened her mouth to respond, but Mulder put his hand on her arm stopping her.

"Samantha, Honey, our Mom. . . she's, she died."

The little girl's eyes grew huge and round. "No. You're lying to me. No! You aren't my brother!"

"Samantha, I am not lying to you. Scully's trying to find out what happened. I'm not going to let anything happen to you. I'm here and I promise to look after you."

"I want my Mom! I don't know who you are! Leave me alone!"

"Samantha please!" He reached for her now, desperately wanting to hold her.

"Samantha." Scully's voice was still calm, or at least sounded that way. "He's telling you the truth, Honey. He is Fox Mulder, he is your brother. He's been looking for you all these years. Let me show you something." She stood and went to her suitcase still sitting near the door. She pulled out a large book and returned to them.

"Do you remember this picture Samantha?"

"Y. . . yes. That's Fox and me at the lake."

"Look through the album Honey."

Samantha looked at them both, then began turning the pages. After a few minutes she looked up at Scully again. "Why no more pictures of me?"

"You vanished, Honey. But can you see your brother growing up? You recognize him, don't you? Keep looking, you'll see him grow into this man. Take your time."

Mulder was watching Scully now. She'd thought to do this? She didn't believe, this flew in the face of everything she did believe, but she'd brought the album. She hadn't even told him, just automatically doing whatever would help him.

Finally Samantha closed the book, but didn't say anything. "Samantha? Do you want to ask me questions? I can't explain what happened to you, but I know you - I knew your favorite pizza, remember? I know your best friend was Kathy Simpson and you had matching bikes." She glanced up at him and quickly away. "You had a crush on George Douglas."

"Fox!" She spoke without thinking, embarrassed.

He grinned, "Sorry, I overheard you tell Kathy that."

"You aren't supposed to listen to my. . . " She stopped confused. "You can't be my brother, you're too old."

"I know." He said sadly, "but now I can watch you grow up and feel young again. Should I tell Scully what you wore on Halloween?"

"No!" She blushed.

"What was it Samantha?" Scully asked, a smile in her voice.

"Let me tell her, then you'll believe me." She hesitated, then slowly nodded. "You were a black cat with a long tail. I kept pulling on it and Mom painted whiskers on your face. I wasn't real nice about having to take you around for trick or treat. I'm sorry, but - "

"You're really my brother?" He nodded and when Samantha looked over at Scully, she nodded as well. "Mom's dead." Tears came to her eyes. This time Mulder didn't hesitate, taking her into his lap. "Dad?" She managed to ask with a trembling voice. Mulder sighed looking over at Scully.

He looked back down at her, shaking his head. At that she buried her face in his chest and sobbed. He held her, rocking her, trying to comfort her until she cried herself to sleep. He had cried with her at times, appreciating Scully's presence, her hand on his arm.

After a while he carried her to Scully's bedroom. Scully was beside him, fixing the bed, just offering her comfort. When the little girl was settled they retreated to the living room.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. "I'm going to raise her Scully. With the DNA, maybe I can convince a judge I'm her father. No one would believe the truth anyway."

"Mulder, you can't - "

"I have to. They aren't taking her away from me again."

Scully didn't pursue the argument. They'd have to discuss this at another time, with less emotion. And, she realized, when she was thinking more clearly herself.


She was tired of this argument but he wouldn't listen. "Mulder, no court is going to award you custody of an eight year old girl. It's not going to happen. You live in a one-bedroom apartment; your job calls for you to travel at the drop of a hat. Mulder. . . " She was so tired of arguing this, and it seemed so damn futile. The powers that be hadn't let her have custody of Emily either, for some of the same reasons she was giving Mulder right now. At least Samantha was healthy, extraordinarily so.

"It's got to happen. I'm not letting her go to some foster home. She's my family, the only family I have." He was closed off from her, not wanting to hear what she had to say because it was the truth and he knew it.

They were both aware that Samantha had overheard at least some of their discussions about the situation, even though they had tried to keep it from her. They knew she had questioned Mrs. Scully about things when she had kept her. The last thing they wanted to do was make things less stable for the little girl that Scully had grown to love as much as Mulder already did.

Her feelings for the little girl were making things harder for her. She wasn't Emily, but Samantha had slipped into that place that Emily had created in Scully's heart. Damn everything!


"Fox?" Samantha looked away from the TV and up at Mulder.

"Yeah Sweetie." His hand automatically reaching out for her ponytail.

"When are you going to marry Scully?" Scully stopped dead still in the kitchen, deciding immediately not to enter the room after all.

"Huh, Samantha. . . "

"Come on Fox, tell me."

"Samantha, Scully's too good for me. She doesn't want to marry me."

"Did you ask her?" She was becoming more insistent.

"Scully could have any man in the world. What makes you think she'd want to be stuck with me?"

"Do you love her?"

"Yes." No hesitation at all on his part. Scully's eyes widened and she took a step closer to the door.

"Have you ever kissed her?"

"Well, not exactly. Hey, Butt Munch, this really isn't any of your business you know." He drew himself up, trying to regain control of the conversation.

"But it is Fox! Then we can be a family and we won't have to worry about them taking me away from you. Just kiss her and ask her to marry you. She would you know."

"What? Has she said any. . ? "

"I just know Fox." She spoke from the lofty position of preadolescent womanhood.

"Listen - " He turned and spotted Scully who had now moved to a position in the doorway and was watching him, a slight smile on her lips. "How long have you been standing there?"

Samantha turned to look at her, embarrassed and anxious that Scully would be angry with them.

"Long enough."

"I guess I'll go to bed. See you guys tomorrow." Samantha beat a hasty retreat from the room. Mulder felt an almost overwhelming desire to join her.

"Listen Scully, she's uh, she just wants security and. . . "

"I know Mulder, I'm not upset."

"Good, because she didn't mean any harm."

"I know." Scully repeated and sat beside him on the couch. Was that all she was going to say? Had she heard him admit he loved her? Of course, she might have thought he was just saying he loved her like a partner or a sister. That's not what he meant, but maybe she wouldn't be uncomfortable with that. Yeah, that was probably it, since she hadn't thrown him out yet.

"Uh, Scully?"

"Yes?"

"Nothing." Things had been tense between them, they'd fought off and on about how to go about applying for custody and here the very object of their battles had said aloud, in an honest eight year-old way, the perfect solution. One neither of them had dare let completely form in their minds. She moved closer to him on the couch, startling him.

She sighed, not quite looking at him. "Out of the mouths of babes, huh?"

"Scully?"

"Well, it is a solution."

"Yeah." He was watching her closely, "but not one I thought you'd even consider."

"So you have thought about it?"

"I've thought about it, but you heard what I told her."

"That I'm too good for you? Yeah, I heard that. Can't deny it either, but you are an interesting companion, and -"

"Interesting? I'm a hell of a lot more than interesting! I'm fascinating."

"Oh?" She had managed not to smile with her lips but her eyes were sparkling.

"Very and you know I'm an open book when it comes to you."

"Open book, huh? What if I don't like science fiction?"

"You. . . we. . ." He actually sputtered and she couldn't keep herself from enjoying his reaction. "Let's just see if you can find me fascinating." Her eyebrow rose but she didn't draw away when he moved closer to her, much closer, finally allowing his lips to touch hers. Encouraged that at least she hadn't slapped him, he deepened the kiss. When her lips parted and he felt her tongue touch his lips his arms tightened around her, not quite ready to believe this was actually happening.

They were startled out of the kiss by the sound of clapping and turned toward the sound. "See Fox! I told you!" Samantha was grinning from ear to ear.

Mulder grabbed a pillow from the couch and threw it at her. She dodged easily and stuck her tongue out at him. "She's a better kisser than Cindy Slaton, huh?"

"You little sneak!" Scully burst out laughing, making a mental note to ask about this Cindy person. She'd need to know that kind of thing when they were a family, finally.

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