Title: Christmas Time is Here Again
Summary: Takes place after Where the Heart Lies. Mulder and Scully celebrate Christmas but of course, the holiday can't go exactly as planned.
Fox Mulder tugged at the offending black bow tie around his neck, wondering why people insisted that something so ridiculous was absolutely necessary for formal attire. In his opinion, the bow tie was far from formal. It was demeaning, demoralizing, effeminate, absolutely, incredibly-
His thoughts were cut off as his partner, Dana Scully walked into the room. She had only recently finished her shower; her hair was still swept up in an untidy bun on her head, covered by a towel. She held one of their daughters, Samantha, against her shoulder, having just finished feeding her. Mulder turned from the mirror, ignoring his bow tie for the time being as he reached for Samantha. "Shirt," Scully reminded him, and he quickly picked up a nearby burping cloth and draped it over his shoulder before relieving Scully of the baby. She gave him a grateful smile and crossed the room to the closet, still rubbing her hair dry.
Mulder turned his attention to his daughter, tickling her with his free hand. She giggled and babbled something before shoving her fist in her mouth to chew on. Taking this as a hint, Mulder left the room, intending to retrieve one of the teething rings from the refrigerator downstairs. As he passed the nursery, he heard the unmistakable cries of his Samantha's twin, Melissa, and he quickly entered the room to take care of the second baby. A quick check told Mulder that she was not in need of a diaper change, and he knew Scully had fed her not long before. Likely, she was simply in pain. Since the babies had begun cutting teeth three weeks before, they had become unusually fussy.
Picking up Melissa in his free arm, Mulder was struck by how much bigger the babies had grown. Although he could still carry them both with ease, he could now easily feel their weight in his arms. When they were first born, they were both light, and he remembered barely noticing their presence in his arms. But they had more than doubled their birth weight, and they seemed to be growing more every day.
When Mulder reached the kitchen, he used his foot to open the door of the refrigerator, an art he had perfected after six months with the twins. He had grown accustomed to having one or both of his hands full as he went about his daily tasks, and he had adapted to this new challenge as well as he could. He shifted both babies to one arm so that he could search through the fridge with one hand, eventually producing two brightly colored rings. Samantha immediately reached for them, and Mulder allowed her to grab one from his hands before handing the other to Melissa. Though the second baby was not as eager as her sister, she still took the offered teething ring and shoved it in her mouth.
Mulder returned to the bedroom with both babies now sucking happily on the teething rings. When he first saw Scully standing in front of the mirror, he stopped in his tracks. She was wearing a new dress that she had bought specifically for this occasion, a dress she had refused to allow Mulder to see, claiming that she wanted him to be surprised. Well, he certainly was surprised. Actually, surprised did not quite do his current feelings justice. He was completely and utterly floored.
The dress was made of red satin, and it hung to the floor. It was strapless, leaving the milky white skin of her shoulders exposed. The dress hugged her body nicely, and Mulder noted that she had regained her pre-pregnancy figure—with a few pleasant additions, including her slightly curvier hips and her larger breasts. Mulder honestly would not have cared if she had never completely attained her slim frame again, but losing her pregnancy weight seemed to matter greatly to her, and she had been working hard to achieve this goal. And as Mulder admired the dress, he had to admit that her hard work had certainly paid off.
"Maybe we should stay in tonight," he remarked, his voice husky. She spun around to face him, her hands still reaching behind her as she attempted to zip up the dress. "Here. Let me." Mulder carefully laid the babies on a quilt in the corner of the room, watching them out of the corner of his eye as he approached Scully. She turned and held her hair up to allow him to grasp the zipper and pull it slowly upward. As he completed this task, his fingers brushed lightly against the smooth skin of her back, and he could not resist leaning forward and pressing a kiss to the back of her neck.
"Mulder, I need to finish getting ready," she protested weakly.
"Mmm." His tongue traced small circles on her skin.
Scully inclined her head to one side and noticed that Samantha had pushed herself up onto her hands and knees and was eagerly crawling toward her parents, angry at being left out. "Mulder, you need to get your daughter."
"Fine." Mulder reluctantly pulled away. "I don't see why we have to attend this stupid thing anyway."
"Skinner told us we have to. He wants us to socialize with other agents."
"I don't think any other agents want to socialize with me."
"It won't be that bad, Mulder. We'll go, stay two or three hours, and then leave."
Mulder considered for a moment. "Only if I get to take that dress off of you when we get home," he told her.
"If you behave, I'll consider it."
"You drive a hard bargain, G-woman." By this time, Samantha had reached his feet, and he bent down to pick her up, lifting her so that he could place a raspberry on her stomach. She giggled gleefully. Spinning her around, Mulder made airplane noises, causing her to laugh even louder until Melissa also pushed herself onto her hands and knees, curious about what her sister found so exciting. Mulder picked his second daughter up and carried the two downstairs as Scully finished her make-up and hair.
When Scully joined Mulder in the living room, she found that her mother, who was babysitting for the night, was already there. Maggie Scully was sitting with Melissa on her lap, chatting amicably with Mulder who held Samantha. Both adults turned to look at Scully as she walked in, and Samantha followed her gaze. Immediately, her small, chubby arms went out to her mother and she let forth a burst of babbling, including the syllables, "Mamamama." Scully smiled at this. Samantha had been forming those particular syllables for around a week now, and she seemed to know instinctively that the title should be directed at Scully. Scully had never thought a sound could be as sweet as that particular appellation, as garbled as it was, emanating from her daughter's mouth.
Melissa had been a bit slower to speak than her sister, but Scully supposed this was only natural; she was always the quieter and shyer of the two. Although Melissa was finally at the point where she was trying to form syllables, she had not quite mastered the ones necessary to form "Mama" or even "Dada." But Scully was not worried; she knew all babies developed at their own pace. She was content simply to have two healthy daughters.
Scully took Samantha from Mulder, noticing a large wet spot on the shoulder not covered by the cloth. Seeing the direction of her gaze, Mulder hastened to assure her, "It's only drool."
"You should still go change your shirt."
He shrugged off her suggestion. "I've had worse on my shirt from these two. Besides, we need to get going."
"Why are you in such a hurry to get going?"
"I figure the sooner we get there, the sooner we'll be able to leave."
"Okay." Scully turned to her mother. "You know how to reach us if you need anything. They both just ate, and they should be going to sleep soon."
"Don't worry, Dana, I can handle it," Maggie assured her daughter. "You two just go and have fun." Mulder snorted at this before leading Scully to the car with a gentle hand at the small of her back.
It was difficult to find a parking space; Mulder spent nearly five minutes driving up the ramps in the parking deck before Scully spotted an open space. "Why is it that more people are here for a party than for work?" Mulder questioned as he exited the car. He started to move around to the passenger's side to open Scully's door for her, but she had already stepped out of the car.
"It's a mystery," Scully told him, closing her door. He locked the car, and they began to walk together toward the elevator which would take them into the building. A couple other people boarded at a lower level of the parking garage; one of them, a man around Mulder's age, nodded at the two FBI agents. Neither Mulder nor Scully recognized his companion, a woman at least ten years his junior who was wearing a dress that showed more skin than Mulder would have thought appropriate for a formal ball. Mulder's first thought was that she looked like someone the agent had hired off the streets; he smiled to himself at this thought, and Scully shot him a questioning look. He quickly plastered a neutral expression on his face, but she continued to watch him closely for the remainder of the elevator ride.
The other agent and his "date" stepped off the elevator first when the doors slid open. A large Christmas tree adorned the main lobby of the Hoover Building. Mulder stood for a moment, staring at it, before Scully finally asked, "Are we just going to stand here or are we actually going to go to the party?"
"I don't know. I think we should go find an empty office and make out. What do you say? It'd certainly be more interesting than the party."
"Mulder, we're here to socialize."
"That would be socializing."
"Not with other people."
"You want me to make out with other people?"
"Let's just go to the party."
"Did Skinner happen to say how long we have to stay at this stupid thing?"
"At least an hour."
"If I die of boredom, I'd like you to make sure that everyone knows it was his fault." He followed her through the usual metal detectors, nodding at the single security guard who sat to the side. Since only agents and their guests were allowed into the Hoover Building, the metal detectors were turned off. Mulder personally thought they were being a bit too trusting. After all, any guest could be a potential danger. Then again, he was probably being paranoid.
The party was being held in a large room typically employed as a lecture hall for the various seminars the agents were forced to attend. All the chairs had been removed, and Scully immediately noticed that the room was bigger than she had realized. The decorators had obviously attempted to appease everyone with the decorations; Christmas wreaths hung next to cardboard menorahs, and glittering snowflakes dangled from the ceiling. Scully found the amalgamation of decorations a bit tacky, but she had certainly seen worse over the years.
A disk jockey stood in the front of the room playing Christmas music softly through the speakers. None of the agents seemed to be in the mood for dancing, however; most stood to the sides talking to other agents. Scully heard snatches of the conversations closest to her and noticed that most seemed to focus on work. Many of the dates looked rather bored with the whole affair. Scully supposed that the topic of recent investigations might be dull to someone outside the FBI. Even she grew bored of talking about it. When she left work for the day, she preferred to actually leave work. It was Mulder who always insisted on bringing work home with him (though he had become better about leaving work in the office since the babies were born).
Mulder immediately made a beeline for the food table, and Scully followed, reluctant to stand near the door by herself. Soon, Mulder had filled a paper plate with the various snack foods spread neatly across the long, white tables on one side of the room. He offered some of the food to Scully who refused, having eaten dinner less than an hour before. With a shrug, Mulder continued to devour the food by himself.
"Well, if it isn't Mr. and Mrs. Spooky," a voice remarked from behind Scully. Scully turned quickly, squinting at the speaker. They had dimmed the usually harsh fluorescent lights in an attempt to make the room appear less menacing, but this action had left the sides of the room in shadows.
"Agent Halendrum," Mulder greeted shortly between bites. As soon as Mulder said Halendrum's name, Scully managed to make out his features in the dim light.
"What brings you two here?" Halendrum asked. "I don't think I've ever seen either one of you at a Christmas party before."
"I usually have better things to do," Mulder told him half-truthfully. He never had any major plans for Christmas, but Mulder considered anything short of having his teeth pulled better than attending the FBI Christmas party. "Unfortunately, Skinner informed us that we had to attend this year."
"I heard you caught a ghost the other day," Halendrum said mockingly.
"Nope," Mulder answered calmly, refusing to bite. "We've had liver-eating mutants, swamp monsters, giant flukes—sorry, Scully, I know I wasn't supposed to mention that—the swamp thing, and some others. But no ghosts. Maybe next year will be our year." Scully gave Mulder her patented glare at his response, but he continued to eat unfazed. Halendrum, on the other hand, seemed slightly taken-aback.
"Well, enjoy. . . whatever it is you do," he told them before slipping away.
As soon as he disappeared behind a group of people, Mulder turned to Scully. "How long-" he began.
"Four minutes," she answered.
"Sorry. I can't make time speed up."
"If only," Mulder muttered. He finished the last couple bites of food on his plate and tossed it in a nearby garbage can. He and Scully moved away from the table, coming to a stop next to the back wall of the room. A couple passing agents nodded at them in greeting, but no one else made an attempt to talk to them. "So, about that socializing," Mulder said, watching the crowd around him.
"We could try starting a conversation with someone," Scully suggested.
"I've found I'm often better at ending conversations than starting them," Mulder remarked.
"I think you can be sociable for one hour," Scully told him. He quirked an eyebrow, and she amended her statement. "Okay, fifteen minutes. That's a good conversation. Then you can go back to being anti-social."
"That's all I'm asking."
"And what exactly do I get out of this deal?"
"Oh, I'm sure I'll think of something." Her voice was low and suggestive, and Mulder felt his stomach muscles clench. Gritting his teeth, he forced his emotions back under control again. Scully noticed his obvious reaction and smiled. "Come on. That's Greg Thompson over there. He went through the academy with me."
"I don't have the best track record with people who went through the academy with you," Mulder reminded her.
"He's not like Colton," Scully assured him.
"You mean he's not an arrogant bastard? I should hope not."
"See, Mulder, this is why you can't hold a conversation with people."
"I can hold a conversation with people as long as they aren't arrogant bastards."
Sighing, Scully turned and walked toward Thompson. Mulder followed somewhat reluctantly, knowing Scully would chew his head off if he did not at least make an attempt at friendly conversation. Thompson was just finishing a conversation with a couple other agents as they walked up. When he saw Scully, his face broke into a wide smile. "Dana Scully. It's been a long time," he greeted, taking her hand and shaking it warmly. Mulder stepped slightly closer.
"It's good to see you again, Greg," Scully told him, also smiling.
"So you do remember me. I was afraid for a minute there you didn't." Thompson finally released her hand, and Mulder relaxed slightly.
"Of course I remember you. By the way, Greg, this is my partner, Fox Mulder." Scully indicated Mulder who stood just behind her and to her right, so close that his chest was less than an inch from her shoulder.
"Of course, the infamous Spooky Mulder. We meet at last. It's a pleasure." Thompson held out a hand, still smiling broadly. Mulder took the offered hand though his expression seemed closer to a grimace than a smile. "So, I hear a lot of rumors about what goes on in that basement. What are you two up to?" Thompson asked. He looked expectantly at Mulder who still did not open his mouth. After a couple seconds of silence, Scully spoke, explaining some of their more recent cases.
Scully and Thompson dominated the conversation though Scully did manage to draw Mulder into it a couple times. For the entire time they talked, Scully could feel Mulder's anxiety and knew he wanted nothing more than to end the conversation then and there, but she was determined to make him wait out the fifteen minutes. As the conversation was drawing to a close, the music changed from the upbeat strains of "Sleigh Ride" to the more mellow chords of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Thompson's smile grew wider, a feat Scully would not have believed possible until she saw it, and he extended a hand to her. "Would you like to dance?" he asked casually.
Mulder saw the momentary panic flicker across Scully's face as she wracked her brain for a polite way to refuse him. After a second of deliberation, he decided to come to her rescue. "Actually, she promised me the first dance," he told Thompson.
"Really?" Thompson's face showed interest; he obviously hoped that he might be privy to some secret information about the mysterious lives of the two agents.
"Sure. We are partners, after all," Mulder added, watching with a certain perverse pleasure as Thompson's face fell. "So, Scully, what do you say? Will you do me the pleasure of dancing with me?"
"I did promise," Scully said. Mulder smiled and took her hand and led her toward the clear area in the middle of the floor where other couples were already dancing to the soft strains.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
"Thanks for saving me," Scully whispered to Mulder.
"My pleasure," he told her, pulling her closer. Their right hands were still clasped tightly together, and his left hand rested in the middle of her back. Its warm weight sent pleasant shivers down Scully's spine as they revolved slowly in time to the music. Though neither was a great dancer, they managed to avoid stepping on one another's feet, and both were content with this.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
"Oh, how I wish that were true," Mulder remarked as he heard the last line. Scully smiled against his shoulder at this comment. They were dancing so close that she could feel the heat radiating from his body. Her breasts were pressed tightly against his chest, and her arm ran along the back of his neck. Scully knew she should pull away, for their current position was ruining the "just partners" illusion they had been trying desperately to maintain, but she was warm and comfortable and reluctant to change that.
Suddenly, she felt Mulder push her away in a spin that took her completely by surprise. Luckily, she recovered quickly and was able to execute the spin without too much stumbling. Grinning broadly, Mulder pulled her back against him. "What was that about?" Scully questioned.
"Just showing off my moves," Mulder told her. Laughing slightly, she buried her head against his tux again. She had noticed before that he was wearing a different cologne, and now the scent enveloped her. Breathing deeply, she allowed herself to relax against him.
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now
Mulder sang the last verse softly as they swayed gently, still so close together that it was difficult to tell where one began and the other ended. As the final chords played, Scully pulled away from Mulder and noticed that he was wearing a goofy smile that probably mimicked the one on her own face. "I'm really tempted to kiss you right now," he said softly.
"I'm really tempted to let you," Scully told him.
Before they could do anything, however, a voice interrupted them. "So, Dana, can I have that dance now?" Thompson asked. Both turned, startled. Scully wanted to refuse him and continue dancing with Mulder; a glance at Mulder told her that he wanted exactly the same thing. But both knew that they could not dance solely with each other all night; it would raise too many questions. And so they reached a silent agreement that Scully should dance with Thompson.
"That sounds good," Scully told him, taking his hand. Mulder moved to the side, away from the dancers, keeping an eye on Scully and Thompson. He noticed that she kept around half a foot of space between them as they danced and resisted all his attempts to pull her closer. With a small smile, Mulder turned toward the DJ. He had a plan, and he hoped that the DJ would be willing to go along with it.
As the song finished, Scully began trying to come up with a polite way to leave the dance floor. Before she could speak, however, she saw a familiar figure appear behind Thompson. "Mind if I cut in?" Mulder inquired.
Thompson looked as if he wanted to answer in the affirmative, but his politeness won over in the end. "Go right ahead," he said, stepping away from Scully.
Mulder moved closer as the next song began to play. Scully recognized the tune immediately. "Mulder," she began, but her words faded as she watched him step back and extend a hand to her in a move she had seen him use over a year before when they had first danced together. As before, she took the offered hand, allowing him to pull her into his arms. "You requested 'Walking in Memphis'?" Scully inquired as they began to dance.
"It wasn't me. There must be a really big Cher fan here," Mulder remarked with a smile. Scully shook her head, unable to suppress the grin that curved across her face. "Could be Thompson," Mulder continued. "He looks a lot like the last Cher fan I met."
"Mulder, be nice," Scully chided, still smiling.
"I am," Mulder told her, tugging her closer as the chorus began.
They danced for the rest of "Walking in Memphis" and through "Silver Bells" which followed it. As they walked off the dance floor together, Mulder turned to Scully. "How much longer?" he asked.
"Twenty-two minutes," she answered, checking her watch.
"It can't be that long."
"Mulder, just suck it up. You'll survive twenty-two more minutes.
"If you say so."
They spent the next few minutes making small talk with Mulder checking his watch every minute or so until Scully finally hissed at him to stop. Reluctantly, he let his arm fall to his side though Scully could see his eyes stray to the clock in the back of the room periodically. After exactly twenty-two minutes, she felt him elbow her. Knowing Mulder had been as patient as she could reasonably expect him to be, she politely exited the conversation and accompanied him to the far side of the room where they had left their coats. "Now you see why I never go to these things," Mulder grumbled as he helped her into her heavy coat.
"It wasn't so bad," Scully disagreed. "It's nice to have some adult conversation once in awhile."
"So conversation with me isn't adult?"
"I didn't say that. It's just that sometimes we're so focused on work and the girls that we forget to take some time for ourselves."
"Time for myself would be a pick-up game of basketball or going to a movie. It is not attending some ridiculous FBI holiday party."
"Hey, look who's under the mistletoe!" a voice called out suddenly. The people around the two agents quieted, and Mulder suddenly felt that all eyes in the room were on him. His eyes met Scully's, and both simultaneously inclined their heads so that they could see the sprig of green hanging above them.
"That means you have to kiss!" another agent called. A couple others wolf whistled.
"Why do grown men insist on acting like children?" Scully inquired.
"It makes us feel young again," Mulder told her, moving closer.
"Mulder, what are you doing?" Scully questioned.
"You heard the man. I have to kiss you."
"Mulder, if you so much as-" Scully broke off as he leaned forward and pressed his lips briefly to her forehead. It was a gesture he had used many times over the course of their friendship.
"How was that?" Mulder asked.
Before Scully could answer, another agent called out. "Not like that! You need to kiss her for real. Here, I'll show you how it's done." He started to move toward the mistletoe, and Scully strategically moved away from it.
"Come on, Mulder, let's get going," she told him. He made no objections; shrugging on his coat, he followed her out the door.
When they reached their house, they found Maggie sitting on the sofa reading a novel. She turned toward them, her face registering surprise. "I didn't expect you back so early. You could've stayed longer; the girls and I have been fine."
"It wasn't the girls I was worried about," Scully said as she shed her coat and draped it across the back of the sofa. Mulder had already removed his jacket, bow-tie, and cummerbund. Currently, he was working on the top button of his shirt.
"Well, I managed to get them both down about half an hour ago, and I haven't heard a peep out of them since," Maggie told the two.
"Great. Thanks, Mom." Scully's grateful smile quickly turned into a frown as she noticed the bow-tie and cummerbund slide off the back of the couch onto the floor. Mulder appeared not to notice.
Maggie looked between the two and allowed herself a small, private smile before remarking, "I need to get going. I'll see you two at the Christmas party tomorrow night, right?"
"We'll be there, Mom," Scully confirmed.
"Great! Just be there around 5:30. And don't bother bringing anything; we're already going to have too much food as it is."
"Okay, Mom." Scully followed her mother to the door and waved as she left. After shutting and locking the front door, she returned to the living room. Mulder had seated himself in the armchair, his tuxedo shirt now fully unbuttoned. "I'm not picking up after you," Scully remarked, pointing to his clothes.
"I'll get them later," Mulder told her dismissively.
"Come on, Scully, I was good tonight, wasn't I? You promised me a reward."
"You want a reward, huh?" Scully moved closer to him, leaning over slightly so that her eyes were at the same level as his. "I will definitely give you your reward," she continued, her tone low and sultry. Her face moved closer to his so that their lips were only a couple inches apart. Just before he closed the gap, she pulled away. "Right after you pick up your clothes."
"Yes, Mother." Mulder sighed and pushed himself up from the chair. He quickly gathered the discarded clothing, tossing it haphazardly over his arm. Finished with this task, he turned to Scully. Before she had time to react, he had grabbed her around the middle and lifted her off the floor, draping her body over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. Scully let out a loud shriek when she first felt his strong arms lift her, but she quickly quieted, remembering the sleeping babies upstairs. As Mulder carried her toward the staircase, she began hitting his shoulder, demanding to be put down (though in truth she was perfectly happy with her current position). Mulder simply grinned and continued unfazed.
By the time they reached the top of the stairs, Scully was giggling—something she had not done in quite awhile. Mulder had a knack for bringing out the child in everyone around him; Scully had always admired this gift. As he moved toward their bedroom, she felt a piece of fabric hit her arm and realized that the clothes he had picked up were currently sandwiched between his arm and her body. Scully knew they would be horribly wrinkled, but for once she did not care. She was content simply to enjoy the spontaneity of the moment.
When they entered their bedroom, Mulder dumped her on the bed. "Don't move," he instructed, turning away to shut the door. Scully's mind briefly registered him tossing the clothes he was carrying to one side, but another thought quickly replaced it as she also noticed something red in the corner of the room.
Pushing herself up, Scully slid out of bed and padded to the corner of the room. Mulder noticed immediately and moved to stop her. "I thought I told you not to move," he reminded her, his hazel eyes full of mock seriousness.
"Trust me, you'll like this," Scully promised.
"I better." He allowed her to pass, and she quickly retrieved the bright red Santa Claus hat from the corner of the room. Mulder had bought it cheap a couple weeks before, intending to entertain the girls with it and simultaneously annoy Scully by insisting on wearing it for their Christmas photos (in the end, the photo she sent to her family did include Mulder with his goofy headwear). Now, she hoped to put it to better use.
"Look what I found," she announced, holding up the felt object.
"Is this going to get kinky?" Mulder joked.
"If you don't want-"
Mulder interrupted before Scully could finish. "Of course I want. Bring it on."
Scully resisted the temptation to roll her eyes as she walked toward him, stopping with about two feet separating their bodies. "Sit," she instructed, pointing to the edge of the bed. Obediently, Mulder sat. Stepping closer, Scully fitted the hat carefully on his head. Mulder quirked an eyebrow.
"I thought you didn't like this hat," he remembered.
"I've reconsidered. It may have its uses after all," Scully said.
"And what uses would those be?"
"Well, someone has to sit in Santa's lap, right?"
"Santa would definitely appreciate that."
"I thought he might." Scully turned so that she was sitting sideways on Mulder's knee. She wrapped a single arm around his neck to balance herself, and he placed both arms around her waist. "So," Scully began, leaning closer so that her warm breath tickled Mulder's ear. "Have you been a good boy this year?"
"Isn't that my line?" Mulder quipped.
"You know you don't get any presents if you aren't good," Scully continued.
"Trust me, I've been very good. In fact, I plan on showing you just how good shortly." Mulder smirked at her. "Now, what would you like for Christmas."
"Hmm. . ." As Scully pretended to think, she leaned closer, taking the cartilege of his ear between her teeth. Though she usually was not the instigator, she was feeling a bit wild that night. She wanted to do something completely different. She certainly had not heard Mulder complaining about the switch in roles. "A pony might be nice," Scully said, biting gently before running her tongue down his ear. She felt his leg twitch slightly beneath her thigh and smiled inwardly. "Maybe a dollhouse." Now, her tongue was sliding over his jaw. She stopped to place a couple kisses there before continuing to his neck. As her teeth and tongue began to work on the skin she found there, she moved farther back in Mulder's lap, purposely pressing against his rapidly-forming erection.
"Da-ana," Mulder groaned, his arms tightening around her waist. Of course, this merely provided Scully with an opportunity to move farther back against him, wiggling slightly to tease him. Her lips still moved slowly over his neck, exploring every inch of the smooth skin. Mulder's hand fumbled with the back of her dress for a moment, searching for a zipper.
Scully pulled her lips away from his neck for long enough to look at him sternly (or as sternly as she could manage when suppressing a smile). "Now that's not very Santa-like behavior," she chided.
"Well, Santa's a red-blooded male. What did you expect?"
"Maybe some patience."
"Sorry. Already used up my quota of patience for the night."
"Maybe we should continue this some other night then." She started to stand, but his arms locked around her waist, holding her in place.
"I think I might have just enough patience left."
"I thought that might be the case." Scully leaned forward and continued where she left off. With their bodies pressed so tightly together, Scully could feel every twitch of every muscle, and she enjoyed feeling his response to her caresses. It was nice to be running the show, to know that she was in control. And it was also nice to know that she could still have such a profound effect on him with simple kissing.
When she finished with his neck, she placed both her hands on his shoulders and carefully pushed his dress shirt off. As she leaned forward, he captured her lips with his, and the two shared a passionate kiss for a few seconds before Scully finally pulled away. "Patience," she reminded him, tugging his undershirt carefully out of his slacks. He raised his arms above his head to facilitate its removal, and it soon joined the rest of his clothes on the floor. After straightening the Santa hat, which had fallen to one side during the removal of his shirt, Scully continued her languid kissing, moving down from his neck to his upper torso. Unable to sit still while Scully was driving him wild, Mulder moved his hands to her butt, squeezing gently.
By this time, her lips had finished with his torso, and she placed them over his lips. He fell backwards onto the bed, wriggling to move so that his feet were no longer hanging off the bed. This action merely increased the friction between them, and Mulder felt his desire grow exponentially. His hands slid upward, again reaching the zipper of her dress. This time, Scully did not stop him as he pulled it down; in fact, she facilitated its removal by lifting herself up slightly so he could pull it off her body. Once it had been discarded, she moved her hands to the zipper of his pants. His hands had begun to explore the newly-exposed skin of her body, and the feelings rushing through Scully's veins made it difficult for her to concentrate. Eventually, she managed to slip the button from the slit in his slacks and pull the zipper down. He removed his hands from her body long enough to help her push the pants and his shoes off. Scully sat up as she removed the pants, intending to give his legs the same treatment she had given the rest of his body. He tried to stop her, but she pushed his hands away, and he acquiesced almost immediately. She had started running the show, and she intended to finish in the same way.
An hour later, they lay spooned together in the bed, the covers tangled around their sweaty limbs. The night was cold, but their body heat was keeping them plenty warm. Scully moved slightly and felt something scratchy against the bare skin of her upper thigh. Curious, she reached down and found the Santa hat sandwiched between her leg and the sheet. "What is it?" Mulder asked softly. In answer, Scully held up the hat. Mulder let out a loud laugh. "Well, I think it's become my new favorite Christmas gift," he remarked.
"It wasn't really a gift. You bought it."
"It's my new favorite Christmas object then."
"No offense, Mulder, but you don't make a very convincing Santa Claus."
"And why's that? Am I not jolly enough?" He kissed the back of her neck.
"No, I don't think that's it."
"What is it then?"
"I'm not sure. There's just something about you that doesn't seem very Santa-esque."
"It's a word."
"Maybe in your world."
"Shut up Mulder." He responded by pressing numerous kisses to the back of her neck, and she giggled. "Mulder."
"What?" He continued to kiss her, moving to her rather prominent shoulder blade. She giggled even harder, and he responded by increasing the ferocity of his attack.
"I've figured out what it is," Scully eventually announced breathlessly.
"Do tell," Mulder said.
"I think you're just too naughty to be Santa."
"Now that I won't deny." With one deft movement, he flipped her onto her back and moved so that he was lying above her before continuing his ministrations.
Mulder had turned off the alarm since they did not have work the next morning, so Scully did not wake up until after 9:00. It was actually the latest she had slept in a long time, but she blamed it on her and Mulder's activities the previous night. On top of that, the girls had woken up twice during the night, so she felt that she had a right to sleep late.
Turning to the side, she saw that Mulder was conspicuously absent. Blinking sleep out of her eyes, she sat up, giving her body time to fully wake up. When she felt a bit more alert, she pushed herself out of bed and padded to the nursery to check on the girls. As soon as she stepped through the doorway, she noticed the empty cribs. For a brief moment, she panicked before realizing that the girls were likely with Mulder—wherever he was. Comforted by this thought, she walked to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, she found a post-it note explaining that Mulder had gone for a run with the girls and would be back by 9:45. Pouring herself a cup of coffee, Scully sat down at the breakfast table, intending to fully enjoy the few minutes of silence that the absence of the other members of her family brought. As much as she loved Mulder and the girls, it was nice to have some time to herself once in awhile so she could simply sit and think.
The silence was soon shattered by the unusually loud opening of the front door (Scully had no idea how Mulder was able to make so much noise with so simple an action). "Hey Lucy, I'm home!" he called. She heard a scuffling, likely caused by him removing the snow from his shoes. She hoped he would take the shoes themselves off before walking any further into the house.
A few seconds later, he appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, fortunately sans tennis shoes. He was holding both girls, each one bundled in so many layers of clothing that they looked to be twice their normal size. "How was the run, Ricky?" Scully questioned, taking Samantha from his arms.
"Not bad. A bit cold, but I've felt worse." He grinned.
"And usually it was your fault that we ended up there," Scully remarked. She began to carefully peel off the layers around Samantha. Mulder sank into the chair beside her and did the same with Melissa.
"You can't blame me for the fact that aliens and government conspirators like to put their evil plans into effect in remote places like Antarctica."
"But I can blame you for insisting on chasing after every single alien and government conspirator." Having finished taking off all of Samantha's outdoor clothing, Scully began to bounce the baby on her knee.
"Admit it, Scully, you enjoy that, too."
"I'm going to go take a shower. I'll be down in a bit." Scully nodded as he placed Melissa in her bouncer, kissing the baby's head. For good measure, he also placed a kiss on Scully's and Samantha's foreheads before leaving the room.
After a long, leisurely breakfast, they decided to wrap the remainder of their Christmas presents. It took them a few minutes to remember where they had hidden all the gifts, but they eventually managed to extract everything from various nooks and crannies around the house. The next task was remembering where they had left the wrapping paper. After twenty minutes of searching, Mulder finally discovered it propped up in the corner of the nursery behind the door. Neither one knew how it had arrived there, but they decided that sometimes, it was best not to ask questions.
Scully quickly discovered that Mulder had no idea how to wrap a present. His first attempt to wrap a flat box with a couple shirts for her mother ended up producing a package that looked more rounded than squared. Scully tried to help him with the next couple, but he proved to be hopeless, so she finally took all the gifts from him and instructed him to keep the girls occupied while she wrapped.
Around 4:45 that afternoon, Mulder was crouched in his bedroom wearing his black slacks and an undershirt, digging frantically through the closet. He had Melissa cradled in his left arm, and her large blue eyes followed his movements interestedly. "What are you doing, Mulder?" Scully asked, walking over as she fastened her Christmas earrings in place.
"I'm looking for my other black shoe. Have you seen it?" Mulder questioned. In answer, Scully walked a few feet away and pulled it out from behind the dresser. "How did you know?" Mulder inquired, standing.
"It was removed rather hastily last night and kicked in this general direction. Behind the dresser was simply an educated guess."
"Thanks, Scully. What would I do without you?"
"Find your own shoes, probably. Now, get dressed. We should already be on the road." She took Melissa from his arms.
"We'll be fine. Your mother's not that far away."
"You're forgetting about holiday traffic."
"Just give me two minutes."
"Fine. I'll go put Melissa and Sam in their car seats."
In the end, they made it to Maggie's house just after 5:30. For most of the trip, Mulder ranted about holiday drivers and the amount of traffic on the road. His tirade continued as they walked up the driveway to Maggie's house; he only quieted when Scully elbowed him on the front porch before ringing the bell.
Maggie answered the door wearing a bright red sweater with reindeers on it. "Fox, Dana," she greeted warmly, placing an arm around Scully's shoulders to lead her inside. "Come on in. Bill and Tara are in the living room with Matthew. Charlie should be here soon."
"Great." Mulder forced a smile as he followed Scully to the living room. Both agents were immediately accosted by a small red-haired blur. "Aunt Dana! Unca Mulda!" a small voice called as Bill's son, Matthew, wrapped himself around the agents' legs.
"Hi hon," Scully said, crouching down so that she could give Matthew a proper hug. He wrapped his small arms around her, squeezing as much as he could.
"Up," Matthew instructed.
"What do you say?" his mother, Tara, reminded him from across the room.
"Pwease!" Matthew sing-songed. Scully stood, lifting him off the ground. He snuggled against her for a few moments before raising his head and reaching out to Mulder. "Unca Mulda!" he called.
Mulder looked down at the two baby carriers he held. "Sorry, buddy, Uncle Mulder has his hands full right now."
"I can take them if you want," Tara offered.
"I'll help, too," Maggie said. "You greet Matty."
"Okay. Thanks." Mulder passed the carriers to the two women, watching with interest as Tara placed Samantha's on the ground and lifted the baby carefully out, cuddling her to her chest. He saw Tara shoot Bill a look, but Bill was looking determinedly away. Before Mulder had a chance to analyze this behavior further, Matthew again demanded attention, and he turned to the small child.
"Hey, buddy," Mulder greeted, taking Matthew from Scully's arms. "What's new with you lately?"
Immediately, Matthew launched into a story about his neighbor and him. His vocabulary still was not great, and he sometimes resorted to incoherent babble, but Mulder was able to understand most of what happened. Even when he could not understand a single word, Mulder still nodded as if he did. Matthew seemed extremely pleased with his rapt audience, and he followed his first story with another. Samantha's cries interrupted him in the middle of his second story, and he looked up at Mulder curiously. "Why's she cryin'?" he questioned.
"Probably because she needs a diaper change," Mulder guessed.
"Here, Tara, I'll take her," Scully said, holding out her arms. Tara seemed reluctant to give up the baby, but she did extend her arms to pass Samantha to Scully. As Scully cuddled the baby against her chest, Tara gave the two a wistful look. Mulder immediately noticed this and looked to Scully. Scully responded with a look that clearly said, "This is between Bill and Tara. Stay out of it."
"I can help," Mulder offered, starting to stand.
"It's okay. I think I can handle a diaper change by myself," Scully told him. "Just relax and enjoy yourself." Mulder gave her a look that plainly indicated he doubted that he was going to enjoy himself.
After Scully changed Samantha, she sat down on the edge of the bed to nurse. A few seconds after Samantha latched on, Scully heard a knock at the door. "Who is it?" she called.
"It's me," Mulder's voice answered. "Can I come in?"
"Sure." The door opened partway, and he slipped inside before shutting it behind him again.
"It seems they've once again decided to coordinate their feeding times," Mulder remarked, nodding to Melissa who was rooting around his shirt.
"Give her over," Scully told him, holding out her free arm. Mulder passed the baby to Scully before sitting beside her on the bed, watching as his two daughters nursed. "What?" Scully inquired, noticing his gaze.
"I was just thinking about how beautiful you look feeding our daughters." They sat in silence for a moment, their eyes locked on the two babies who were contentedly sucking away, unperturbed by their parents' attention. After a couple minutes, the distant ringing of the doorbell announced the arrival of Charlie and his family. Scully heard the shouts of his two children as they came in, mingled with the voices of other members of her family.
"We should probably get back down there," Scully remarked. "The girls are finished anyway."
"I guess." Still, Mulder did not tear his gaze from his daughters. For another few seconds, they sat there before Scully finally shifted both babies in her arms, holding them out to Mulder. Quickly, he pulled two soft cloths from the diaper bag and draped them over his shoulders before taking his daughters.
"Go on downstairs. I'll be there in a minute," Scully instructed.
"Okay." Mulder pressed a gentle kiss to her lips before standing, bouncing Melissa slightly as he walked out of the room. He had learned pretty quickly that Melissa liked constant movement while Samantha preferred to remain still. As soon as he walked into the living room, two more small figures attached themselves to his legs, nearly knocking him over.
"Uncle Mulder!" Charlie's kids, Brian, seven, and Lily, five, chorused.
"Hey, you two."
"Are those the babies?" Lily questioned. She and Brian had met Melissa and Samantha at Thanksgiving, and she had been unusually fascinated with the infants.
"Yes. This is Melissa, and this is Samantha." Mulder indicated each baby by holding her out slightly.
"They're bigger than before," Brian remarked.
"They have grown," Mulder confirmed.
"Can I hold one?" Lily asked.
"Maybe later," Mulder said.
"Come on you two, leave Uncle Mulder alone. He has his hands full right now," Kaitlin called from across the room. Brian and Lily backed up a bit, allowing Mulder to walk further into the room. He took a seat on the couch, and Brian and Lily immediately claimed the spots beside him.
"Guess what?" Brian said.
"What?" Mulder questioned.
"I can read books all the way through now. By myself."
"Yeah. Want me to show you?"
Immediately, Brian slid down from the couch and approached his mother who pointed to a bag of toys in the corner of the room. In another minute, he came running back to Mulder's side clutching a large, brightly-colored hardback book. "This is One Fish, Two Fish," he announced proudly, pointing to the title. "My Uncle Harry—he's my mom's brother—gave it to me."
"Well, let's hear it," Mulder told him. As Brian started to read, Scully walked into the room. Mulder looked up at her with a smile. She started to walk toward him with her arms extended to take one of the babies, but he shook his head.
"You sure you're okay?"
"We'll be fine," Mulder told her.
"Okay. Just tell me if you want any help." Scully joined Charlie and Kaitlin on the other side of the room, accepting a large bear hug from her brother.
"Uncle Mulder, are you listenin'?" Brian asked.
"Of course," Mulder said, turning back to the small boy.
Matthew soon joined them as Brian continued to read, crawling into Mulder's lap. He leaned back against the one small spot of Mulder's chest that the babies did not occupy, sucking his thumb contentedly as he listened to his cousin. Brian read remarkably well for his age; he only stumbled on a couple words which he quickly learned with Mulder's help. After complimenting Brian on his reading skills, Mulder looked up and noticed that he was the only adult in the room. He was about to stand up to find everyone else when Maggie walked in. "Stay there," Maggie said. "We're just finishing up everything for the party."
Checking his watch, Mulder realized that the party was scheduled to start in fifteen minutes. "Is there anything I can help with?" he offered.
"No. You just keep doing what you're doing. Trust me, entertaining the kids is a huge help." Maggie placed the two trays of food she was holding on the coffee table before leaving the room. With nothing better to do, Mulder suggested that Brian go find another book to read.
Ten minutes later, the ringing of the doorbell announced the arrival of the first guest. Tara bustled into the room, looking slightly frazzled. "Come on, you three," she said, motioning Matthew, Brian, and Lily over. "Let's go say hi to some of grandma's guests."
"Can we finish this book, please?" Brian asked.
"Maybe later. Now come on." Grumbling and complaining, Brian slid off the couch. His younger sister and cousin obediently followed. Tara gave Mulder a tight smile before shepherding the kids out of the room.
"Looks like it's just you two and me now," Mulder remarked, looking down at the two babies in his arms. Samantha was chewing on a teething ring, and Melissa had her current favorite toy—a small stuffed dog. She hit it against her father's hand a couple times. "I know, I know. We need to get out there before your mother comes in here to tell us off." Mulder stood, shifting Melissa so that he could pick up the books that they had been reading. After returning them to the bag of toys, he walked out to the foyer. As he entered, he heard a loud laugh that seemed almost like a cackle. A woman in her late sixties stood beside Scully, her mouth partly opened as she laughed. Her brown hair was streaked with gray, and a number of wrinkles criss-crossed her face, but Mulder still felt that she exuded youthfulness, especially from her familiar blue eyes.
"Mulder, come over here," Scully said, beckoning him. Somewhat apprehensive, Mulder approached the pair. "This is my husband Fox Mulder," Scully said, feeding the older woman the same lie that Maggie had told nearly every family friend. Both Scully and Mulder had objected to the prevarication at first, but they had come to enjoy hearing the title bestowed upon the other one. "Mulder, this is my Aunt Betty."
"Nice to meet you." Mulder shifted both babies to one arm so that he could shake the older woman's hand. Scully carefully took Samantha from his arms, and her aunt's eyes immediately traveled to the baby.
"These must be the twins Maggie has told me so much about."
"Yes, this is Samantha, and that is Melissa," Scully introduced, indicating each baby.
"They're adorable. They definitely have their mother's eyes, but I think they look more like their father in the face." Her eyes flitted back and forth between Mulder and Melissa.
"Betty, why don't you come get something to eat!" Maggie's voice called from the dining room.
"I'll see you in a bit, Dana," Betty promised. "And I expect to be able to hold one of those gorgeous babies."
"Of course," Scully promised with a bright smile. No sooner had Betty walked out of the room than the doorbell rang again, and Mulder and Scully went through a similar routine with another relative.
A few minutes later, Mulder and Scully were standing in the middle of the living room with Scully playing the part of the gracious hostess and Mulder attempting to seem interested in what was going on around him. Tara had taken over answering the door along with Matthew, and Kaitlin and Charlie had Brian and Lily in another corner of the room, talking to other relatives. After another aunt or uncle or cousin walked away with a congratulations on Mulder and Scully's marriage and new parenthood, Mulder leaned over and whispered, "So it seems we're now lying to family as well as friends."
"At this point in time, we don't have much choice." Scully smiled and nodded to a younger man walking toward the food table.
"Old boyfriend?" Mulder questioned.
"Son of an old family friend."
"So that's a yes then."
"That's a we talked a few times when I was younger, but I can't remember his name and will be expected to anyway."
"His name is Jason."
"How the hell do you know that?" Scully finally tore her gaze from the people surrounding her to stare at her partner.
"Your mother introduced him to someone over there, and I happened to overhear."
"So you were eavesdropping."
"Your mother's voice carries. And it's a good thing, too, because here he comes. Now you won't have to be embarrassed about not remembering the name of your old beau whose heart you probably shattered."
"For the last time, he was not-"
"Dana, it's been a long time," Jason said, flashing her a thousand-watt smile.
"Hi, Jason, it's good to see you again." Scully started to hold out her hand to shake his, but he pulled her into a hug before she had the chance. Mulder's eyebrows shot up, but he wisely remained quiet. Jason held on for a few seconds before stepping away. Scully used her free arm to indicate the members of her family as she introduced them. "Jason, this is my husband, Fox Mulder, and my daughters Samantha and Melissa."
"Wow, I didn't realize you'd married. Of course, I've been out of town so much with my job recently that I haven't been able to keep up with anyone from when we were growing up. Now, luckily, I've settled down some."
"So what do you do?" Scully inquired.
"Ah, I'm in the corporate world. And you?"
"I actually work for the FBI."
"Really? I thought you were going to be a doctor."
"So did I."
"And what do you do, Fox?"
Mulder's attention had shifted to Melissa who was grabbing for the toy he held just out of her reach and grinning like a maniac, so he did not respond at first. Scully elbowed him, and he looked up. "Oh, uh. . . I work for the FBI, too."
"So you two met at work then."
"We did," Scully said.
"That's great. I wish I could meet a nice woman at work."
They talked for a few more minutes before another guest came over to say hello to Scully. The rotation continued for another hour before Mulder and Scully finally had a break where they could talk to one another. "I think these two need to go to bed," Mulder remarked, nodding to Melissa who was nuzzling against his shoulder, a clear indicator that she was tired. Samantha was also having difficulty keeping her eyes open.
"I'll take them up," Scully said.
"I'll come with you."
"One of us needs to stay down here to socialize with the guests."
"They know you. Besides, I'm not that great at socializing."
"That's all the more reason for you to practice. Anyway, you need to get to know them better. Especially since we're married now."
"I already know them all. That's your Aunt Harriet in the corner who's married to Paul, the guy standing next to her. They live about an hour from here, but you don't see them much because you're so busy. Then there's Rick over there who really was your ex-boyfriend. And Janet. . ." Mulder continued to recite the names of everyone in the room until he reached a couple who had just walked in the door. "Okay, them I don't know," he admitted. "But there will be plenty of time to meet them when we get back. I just need a short break, okay?"
"Fine," Scully conceded, starting toward the foyer. "You and your photographic memory." Mulder smiled as he followed her.
Ten minutes later, Scully was in the middle of "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night when her mother poked her head in the door. "Hey, honey, would you mind helping me out really quickly?" Maggie asked. Scully looked down at the baby in her arms whose eyes were heavy with sleep.
"Go ahead. I've got them," Mulder said, holding out his free arm. "They're almost gone anyway."
"True. Just call me if you need anything," Scully told him.
"Not to worry. I will." Mulder smiled at her as she followed her mother out of the room. Turning to his daughters, he picked up where Scully had left off in the song.
Twenty minutes later, both babies were asleep, but Mulder was reluctant to leave the peace and quiet of the room for the party below. He really did not like social events. He had never seen a point in attempting to have a conversation with someone you had not seen in over a year and likely would not see again for at least another year. Not to mention having the same conversation with dozens of people who fit that description.
The door opened again, and Mulder turned to see Maggie standing there. "You can't hide out up here forever, Fox," she chided gently.
"I know. I'll be down in a minute," Mulder promised. Maggie looked skeptical, but she left anyway, leaving the door open behind her to remind Mulder of his promise. Mulder watched her go until she disappeared down the stairs. With a sigh, he stood, taking one of the baby monitors from the table. "Don't hesitate to cry if you guys need anything," he told his daughters. Neither gave any sign that she heard him.
Instead of going back to the party, Mulder walked into the kitchen and found it blissfully empty. He heard the low rumble of conversation punctuated by the occasional laughter in the next room, but he felt no desire to join the guests. His mind began to wander, eventually coming to rest on the details of a case that had come across his desk a few days before. Before he could ruminate on the case too much, however, the door to the kitchen opened, and he looked up. Instead of Maggie, the younger Scully woman walked into the room.
"Are you hiding out in here, Mulder?" Scully inquired.
"Like mother, like daughter," Mulder remarked, walking closer to her.
"Your mother just told me off for hiding out upstairs."
"So you came to hide out in the kitchen instead?"
"It seemed like a good place."
"You need to learn how to act in social situations," Scully told him.
"I know how to act. I avoid them."
"Five more minutes, please."
Scully shook her head, but before she could tell him off any further, the strains of a familiar Christmas song reached her ears. "Hmm, no competition this time," Mulder commented, stepping closer to her. "Except for Jason, I guess. But he's not here at the moment." Scully slapped him lightly on the arm, biting her lip to stifle her laughter. "So, Dana Scully, will you dance with me?"
"Of course I will." Scully took his hand, and they began to once more dance slowly to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
Maggie noticed that the dip was running low, so she started toward the kitchen to retrieve the extra. As soon as she opened the door, she saw something she had not expected. Her daughter was held tightly against the tall, lean form of Fox Mulder as the two revolved slowly in time to the music coming from the living room. Maggie knew she should close the door and allow the two some privacy, but she could not help but watch. She had not had much opportunity to watch her daughter and Mulder interact free from their usual inhibitions. In fact, she could not remember the last time she had seen either one as relaxed as they currently were. Both wore smiles, and the lines that usually patterned their faces appeared to have disappeared. Without all their usual worries, they both appeared ten years younger. For that moment, Dana was once again Maggie's little girl.
As Maggie continued to watch, she saw Mulder lean forward and whisper something which made Dana tilt her head back and laugh. Maggie had not seen her daughter's eyes sparkle like that in many years. Dana had always been serious, almost too serious as far as Maggie was concerned. Maggie was grateful that her daughter was intelligent and so focused on school, but she wished that Dana had taken more time for fun when she was younger. Instead, Dana's life had been focused on becoming a doctor and then on becoming an FBI agent and then on proving to everyone else in the bureau that she was a good agent. It was nice that for once, Dana was simply focused on living her life.
Dana responded with a comment of her own that caused Mulder to join in the merriment. Their laughs mingled together, echoing around the kitchen until they were indistinguishable from one another. Maggie half-wished she knew what they had said, but she also knew that whatever it was was private. If Dana and Mulder knew that she was watching them, they would almost certainly break apart immediately. But Maggie wanted them to continue. To an extent, they reminded her of herself and Bill when they were younger and first began dating.
And yet Dana and Mulder were different than Maggie and Bill had been. Maggie could not say exactly why, but she felt it as surely as she felt her love for her children. Perhaps the difference was the intensity that Kaitlin had mentioned to her a couple times. For Dana and Mulder were intense; one only had to look at them to know that they were two people who had fought the world and won—together. They loved each other—Maggie could see that the first time she met Mulder. In fact, they loved each other so fully and completely that Maggie sometimes felt scared for her daughter. Their lives were so inextricably woven together that Maggie knew instinctively that one could not exist without the other.
And yet despite their troubles and hardships, Dana and Mulder still found time to enjoy themselves. Maggie came out of her reverie in enough time to see Mulder spin Dana a couple times before pulling her back against him. As their bodies met, Mulder's head descended, and he kissed Scully firmly on their lips. They both stopped moving to the music, instead coming closer together so that they could deepen the kiss. Deciding that she had intruded on their privacy long enough, Maggie left, carefully shutting the door behind her. As she turned, she nearly ran into Tara. "Maggie, I was just coming to tell you that the dip seems to have disappeared though I guess you already knew that." Tara glanced down at the mostly-empty bowl in Maggie's hands.
"I was just going to get more," Maggie said.
"I can get it." Tara started to walk into the kitchen, but Maggie stopped her.
"Don't worry about it. I'll do it." Maggie hoped to give Mulder and Dana at least a minute or so more of privacy.
"It's no big deal. I wanted to get more ice anyway." Tara pushed open the door before Maggie could stop her, and Maggie had no choice but to follow her into the kitchen. Mulder and Scully were still standing in the middle of the kitchen, their lips locked together. Tara looked at them before turning her gaze back to Maggie, question etched into her face. Maggie shrugged. "Hello, you two," Tara greeted.
Mulder and Scully broke apart and looked to their interrupters. "We were just dancing," Scully explained, realizing as she said this that someone had stopped the music. "Do you need any help?"
"No, I think we've got it," Maggie said, smiling slightly. "Why don't you two go back out to the party?"
"Okay, Mom." Scully walked out of the room, trailed by Mulder. Once they were back in the throng of people in the living room, Scully shook her head. "I can't believe I've now been caught twice by my mother."
"Kissing," Mulder reminded her.
"Still what? We were just kissing. No harm ever came from a little kissing."
"But she's my mother."
"You're crazy. I love you, but you're crazy."
A few minutes later, they were engaged in a conversation with one of Maggie's neighbors, a woman in her early thirties who had taken an immediate liking to Mulder who was, as usual, oblivious to her attention. When there was a pause in the conversation, Mulder said, "I'm going to get something to drink. You want anything, Sc- Dana." He had been trying all night to call Scully by her given name to avoid confusion, but the task was proving to be more difficult than he originally imagined it would be.
"Just some water would be great, thanks."
"Okay. I'll be right back." Mulder wove his way through the crowd of people until he reached the table of drinks on the other side. After ladling out some punch for himself, he grabbed a bottle of water and turned back toward Scully. Before he could start through the crowd of people again, he caught sight of her across the room. A man was walking toward her holding two full glasses of wine. As Mulder watched, he tripped over the leg of a table and stumbled, falling in Scully's direction. Instinctively, Mulder shouted, "Scully!" A number of people turned toward him, including, luckily, the Scully whose attention he was hoping to catch. She turned and saw the unsteady man. Immediately, she ducked out of the way, and the crimson liquid spilled instead over the sweater of the flirtatious neighbor.
Instantly, Scully was on her feet again, offering to help the woman clean off her blouse. Mulder returned to her side just as she ushered the woman out of the room to the bathroom. She gave him a glance that he understood to mean "I'll be right back." Nodding, Mulder shrunk back into the corner, hoping to avoid any conversations until she returned.
Scully led the woman, whose name she now knew was Juliette, to the downstairs bathroom. Grabbing a couple paper towels, she wet them and held them out to Juliette before turning to leave. Before she was out the door, however, Juliette's voice stopped her. "I guess your husband saw that coming."
"It seems he did," Scully agreed.
"Why did he call you Scully?"
"Old habits die hard." The woman continued to look puzzled, but Scully simply said, "It's a long story," and left the room. When she walked back into the living room, Mulder's searching eyes found her immediately. Walking over, he placed an arm around her waist and pulled her against her side. "Do me a favor and don't leave me alone out here again, please," he whispered to her.
"I can't promise anything," Scully told him. He gave her a pained look, but they were interrupted by Brian.
"Mommy says we should say goodnight to you now 'cuz we have to go to bed. But she says we'll see you tomorrow for dinner."
"That's right, you will," Scully told her nephew, bending to give him a hug and kiss goodnight. She repeated the gesture with her younger nephew and niece. "Goodnight. Sweet dreams," she told them.
"Don't let the bedbugs bite," Mulder added, also hugging the kids. "Or the mutant cockroaches."
"What's a mutant cockroach?" Lily wondered.
"Don't worry about it." Scully shot Mulder a disapproving look. "Your mother's waiting for you." She pointed to Kaitlin who stood in the doorway. With a last goodnight, the kids ran over to her.
"Something tells me it's going to take awhile to get them to sleep," Mulder remarked, watching as the kids practically bounced out of the room.
"You don't need to help," Scully told him, guessing his intentions. He flashed her a smile before pulling her close again, kissing her temple.
The last guest did not leave until after midnight that night. Since Scully had not fed the babies before putting them to bed, they had awoken about thirty minutes before, and she had left to feed them, refusing to allow Mulder to follow her. He had therefore spent the last thirty minutes of the party doing his best to avoid people which, unfortunately, did not work out well for him. Everyone seemed to go out of his or her way to ensure that he or she spoke to him multiple times before leaving.
Once the door shut behind the final guest, Mulder offered to help Maggie clean up. Maggie tried to wave him off, but he insisted and she finally gave in. As he poured the food back into containers, Tara walked in, stifling a yawn. Maggie, of course, noticed immediately and sent her daughter-in-law to bed. Tara meekly followed her directions, bringing Kaitlin, who seemed similarly exhausted, with her. "Where are Bill and Charlie?" Mulder asked as he placed a clip on the bag of chips and put it into a nearby cabinet.
"I would imagine they're hiding out on the back porch," Maggie said. "They've never been too fond of these things."
"Back porch. Too bad I didn't think of that."
"They've had years to come up with the best ways to avoid these parties. Give it time. You'll learn them, too," Maggie told him. Mulder grinned at her as he began to scrape the dip out of the bowl. For a few minutes, they worked in silence before Maggie finally wiped her hands on a towel and moved toward the back door. "I'm surprised they haven't come back yet. They usually have a pretty good sense of when it's safe to come in. I'm going to go check on them."
"Okay. I'm almost finished putting the food away anyway."
Maggie opened the back door and closed it again almost immediately, turning to Mulder with a smile. "They're both fast asleep."
"Seems everyone's tired tonight."
"It has been a long day. And I bet Charlie's still jetlagged."
"Well, I'll help you clean up here and then head out."
"Nonsense. There's no point in you driving all the way home if you're just coming back for dinner tomorrow."
"Don't worry about it, Maggie, I'll be fine. I've had plenty of practice driving at odd hours of the night."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, you should head on out then. I can finish up here."
"I'm not going to leave you with all this cleaning. It'll go much faster if I help."
Maggie shook her head. "My daughter's a lucky woman, Fox."
Mulder shrugged. "I consider myself lucky that she puts up with me."
"Don't sell yourself short, Fox. You're a much better man than most. You want to dry while I wash?"
"Sure." They moved to the sink, and Maggie began to run hot water into it.
"You know, I'm over at your house all the time, but we rarely have the chance to talk. How has work been lately?"
"Work's been the same as usual. We haven't had any especially exciting cases lately, but we've definitely been busy."
"And Dana's doing okay?"
"Scully's been doing great. I love having her back, and I think she likes being back, too. Even if we do both miss the girls."
"Well, I've certainly enjoyed babysitting for them. They're both wonderful babies. And they seem amazingly alert for their age."
"Scully and I have noticed that, too. But then again, how could they not be smart with the mother they have?"
"Remember what I said about selling yourself short, Fox? Genetics come from both sides." Maggie waved a soapy ladle at him and ended up slinging suds everywhere, including onto her nose. Mulder could not help but laugh, and Maggie soon joined.
Thirty minutes later, they had finished cleaning up. "I guess Samantha's being difficult again," Mulder said, starting up the stairs. Maggie followed him into her bedroom which had been turned into a temporary nursery by the addition of two folding cribs. When they walked into the room, both stopped and smiled at the scene before them. Scully was fast asleep on the rocking chair with both babies cuddled to her chest, also limp with sleep.
"I need a picture of this," Maggie declared, retrieving a camera from a nearby drawer. After she snapped a couple shots, Mulder walked over and stood above Scully for a moment, watching the steady rise and fall of her chest.
"I feel bad waking her," he said quietly, still staring at his partner and daughters.
"The offer to stay here still stands."
"No, I don't want to impose. Besides, we don't have enough diapers for tomorrow." Mulder bent down and lifted the babies, placing them in their car seats before he carefully slid his arms under Scully's body. It took a bit of maneuvering because of the arms of the rocking chair, but he still managed to lift her gently without waking her. "Could you grab the car seats, please?"
"Of course." Maggie picked them up and followed him out to the car. After settling all three sleeping girls in the car, Mulder returned to the house for the diaper bag and the cribs. After a quick goodbye to Maggie, he was on the road home.
Scully awoke the next morning to find herself in her own bed still wearing her clothes from the night before. She glanced over at Mulder who was lying on his back with one arm next to his side and the other thrown across his face. He seemed to sense her gaze, for he groaned and grunted, "What?"
"I don't remember leaving my mother's house last night, but I also know that I didn't drink enough to have memory loss."
"You fell asleep while you were putting the girls back to sleep," Mulder explained, removing his arm from his face and turning toward her. "I carried you to the car, drove home, and then carried you in here."
"And the girls?"
"Damn. I knew I was forgetting something."
"They're sleeping peacefully." He nodded to the baby monitor on their nightstand. Scully could hear the soft breathing of her babies emanating from it.
"Since they woke up at midnight, they should sleep in this morning," Scully pointed out, scooting closer to Mulder.
"That's true." He wrapped his arms around her and closed her legs between his, rubbing his nose against hers. "What should we do with that extra time?"
"We could go back to sleep."
"Or we could stay awake." She moved her legs slightly so that her thigh brushed against his growing erection.
"I'm definitely a proponent of staying awake."
"Good. Because I'm not tired."
When the crying of the girls finally pulled them out of bed, it was after nine in the morning. Scully walked to the nursery to feed the babies while Mulder walked down to the kitchen to start breakfast. He had discovered a few weeks before that despite his lack of cooking talent, he could actually make decent pancakes, so the two had eaten numerous pancakes since that time.
Scully entered the kitchen a few minutes later with both babies. Mulder had just taken the first pancakes off the stove, and he flipped them onto a plate before passing them to Scully. After placing both babies in their bouncers, Scully accepted the food and began to devour it. Mulder watched her with his eyebrows raised. "Didn't you get enough to eat at your mother's party last night?" he asked.
"Not really. I didn't get a chance to eat for most of the night because people kept insisting on talking to me."
"I thought you liked being sociable."
"To an extent."
"Well, there will be more pancakes on the way. What do you want to drink?"
"Coffee and a glass of milk. I'll get it."
"Don't bother. I'm already up anyway." Mulder started toward the fridge.
"Can you grab the fruit that I cut up yesterday while you're at it?"
"I've got it." Mulder pulled out the bright yellow Tupperware and set it on the table before pouring two glasses of milk and two mugs of coffee. As he waited for the first side of the pancakes to cook, he grabbed a couple slices of apple and popped them in his mouth, chewing mechanically. As his mouth worked, he began thinking of how his breakfast had changed from whatever he could grab on the way out the door to pancakes and fresh fruit. In fact, most aspects of his life had changed after the fateful day he had finally grown some balls and told Scully his true feelings. Of course, the changes turned out to be for the better. Whatever drugs they gave him must have been really good.
"You might want to flip the pancakes before they burn," Scully suggested.
"Right." Mulder walked back to the stove and flipped over the pancakes which were luckily still a perfect golden brown.
"What were you thinking about?" Scully questioned.
"I'm glad of it."
They spent the morning with the girls, enjoying their free time. Work kept them busy during the week, so they liked to relax whenever they could. After a lunch of soup and sandwiches, they loaded the car with the gifts they had wrapped the day before and headed for Maggie's house.
Lily answered the door when they rang the bell and immediately began to beg to hold one of the babies. Scully ushered her inside with promises that she would consider the request. Once they reached the living room, Lily turned again, widening her eyes as she pleaded. "Please, Aunt Dana, just for a few seconds!"
"Okay," Scully conceded. "Sit down on the couch and hold your arms out, okay?" Immediately, Lily bounced over to the couch and extended her arms. "Now, this is Samantha," Scully said, taking Samantha from her carrier. "When you hold her, put one arm under her bottom and one under her head like this." Scully demonstrated. "Are you ready?" Lily nodded eagerly. "Okay. Now be very careful." Scully transferred Samantha to Lily's arms, watching closely as Lily carefully cradled the infant in her lap. Samantha regarded Lily curiously for a moment as if trying to decide whether or not she liked this new person.
A few seconds later, Samantha made her decision known to everyone in the room. She let out a large wail which startled Lily, causing her to jump. Instantly, both Mulder's and Scully's hands were next to their daughter, steadying her on her cousin's lap. Scully picked her up and began to rub her back, calming her once more as Lily apologized profusely. "It's okay," Scully told her niece. "You just have to be a bit more careful."
"Come on over here and play with the boys," Kaitlin called from across the room. Lily obediently stood and walked over to her mother.
Scully settled on the couch that Lily had recently vacated, still cuddling Samantha against her shoulder. The baby's cries were diminishing now, and she had begun to play with her mother's hair. Mulder settled beside Scully before setting Melissa, who was squirming to be released, on the floor. She started crawling toward her grandmother, and Samantha, upon realizing that her sister may have found something interesting, stopped crying and began reaching to join her. With a smile, Scully place Samantha on the floor, and she took off across the living room.
The family talked for a couple hours until Maggie finally announced that dinner was ready. As they sat down to eat, they were all smiling and joking, even the usually stoic Bill. After the prayer, Charlie started the conversation with a joke that put everyone at ease. All in all, it was turning out to be a pleasant dinner, devoid of the tension that Mulder usually felt smothering him when he was around Scully's eldest brother.
About fifteen minutes into the meal, a shrill ring sounded. Both Mulder and Scully immediately reached to their pockets, and Mulder soon produced the ringing phone from his. He glanced at the number which was calling him, and his expression grew puzzled when he saw that the number belonged to his mother. "Can you excuse me for a second? I should take this," he announced, standing.
Scully watched him go with a similar puzzled expression, and Bill shot him a disapproving look. Ignoring both Scully siblings, Mulder stepped into the next room. Scully could hear the low murmur of his voice as he spoke to whoever was calling, but she could not make out any words. The conversation at the dinner table had stopped abruptly, and tension filled the air. Before things could become too out of hand, Maggie remarked, "Well, how was kindergarten this year, Lily?" Lily immediately launched into a lengthy story about her first semester at school, a result that Maggie had been hoping for.
A couple minutes after leaving, Mulder returned to the room. All eyes went to him, and Scully instantly noticed that his face was devoid of color. His hazel eyes were wide and fearful; she would have described the expression on his face as looking as if he had just seen a ghost had she not known that he would have been excited if he saw a ghost. "Mulder, what's wrong?" she questioned, passing Samantha to Tara and walking over to him.
"I have to go," he said simply, turning away.
"Mulder." Scully stepped closer to him, but he was already walking out the door. "Mulder, stop!" She followed him into the foyer where he had already retrieved his coat from the closet and was automatically putting his arms into the sleeves. "Mulder!" She put her hand on his shoulder, and he turned his head to face her without truly looking at her. His normally warm hazel eyes were distant; he looked as if he were staring at something that Scully could not see.
"Mulder, talk to me. What's going on?"
"Nothing. I just need to go."
"Dammit, Mulder, I'm not going to take that from you. We're a team. Now, either tell me what's going on or I'm going to have to reconsider this partnership."
"There was a police officer on the phone. He said my mother was dead. Committed suicide." Mulder's voice was slightly shaky as he spoke.
"Oh, God Mulder, I'm so sorry." Scully knew he was not close to his mother, but she also knew that he loved her as any son loves his mother.
"I need to go see her. She didn't commit suicide. She wouldn't."
"Then I'm coming with you."
"No, Scully, you should stay here with your family."
"You are my family."
"What about the girls?"
"I'm sure my mother will take them for tonight. I'm not letting you go alone, Mulder." Scully's grip on his shoulder tightened, and he looked at her sadly for a moment before nodding.
"Fine. Let's go."
"Just give me a few seconds to tell my mom that we're leaving." Scully hurried back into the kitchen.
Before she could open her mouth to explain, Maggie said, "Go. I'll watch the girls."
"Thanks, Mom." Scully had always found her mother's ability to know what she was thinking impressive, and for once she was glad of this ability. Scully was not ready to explain what had happened to the rest of her family. The time would come to do that later. Rejoining Mulder in the foyer, Scully announced, "Let's go."
Scully insisted that she should drive, and Mulder acquiesced to her request with virtually no fuss. His lack of argument told Scully that the news had affected him more than she had initially imagined. Scully's anxiety for Mulder caused her to press the pedal down a bit harder than she normally would have, and she found herself crossing the state border sooner than she had expected. Still, she did not let her foot rise; in fact, she pressed down a bit harder, feeling an inexplicable sense of urgency.
They arrived in Quonochontaug just after 9:00. For the entire trip, Mulder had barely spoken, and Scully continued to shoot furtive glances at him. Every time she looked, he was simply staring out the window into the darkness of the night. Scully grew more and more worried with each passing minute that he remained quiet, but she had no idea how to start a conversation with him. How could you comfort someone whose mother just died, especially when that mother lied her whole life? And so the uneasy silence remained in the car for the entire trip.
When they finally pulled up in front of the cabin, it was deserted except for a single cop car. Yellow crime scene tape still extended across the doorway; one end had come loose, and it flailed eerily in the wind. As soon as Scully shut off the car, Mulder unbuckled his seatbelt and left, striding quickly toward the door. Scully struggled a second with her seatbelt before it released, and she had to jog to catch up to Mulder. He was still in his own world, and he did not even acknowledge her presence. When they reached the door, he simply ducked under the crime scene tape, walking automatically to the living room.
Two cops were standing in the living room discussing something. When they heard Mulder and Scully enter, they looked up. "You two can't be here," one of them said. Mulder automatically pulled his badge from his pocket.
"I'm Fox Mulder. This is my mother's cabin. I want to see her."
"I'm not sure if that's the best idea," the second cop told him. Shaking his head, Mulder stepped farther into the room, pushing past the two cops. "She's not here," the cop called after him. "They already took her to the morgue."
"Fine. Tell them not to start the autopsy. I know someone who will do it."
Scully had remained quiet up until this point, knowing that Mulder needed to outlet his grief in some way. Now, however, she felt that it was prudent to interfere. "Mulder, I don't think I could do that."
Mulder whirled around to face her, his eyes filled with tears. She could clearly see the lines of pain on his face, lines which were drawn many years ago after the abduction of his sister and which had simply deepened with each passing year. "Why not? You're the best coroner around."
"Thanks, Mulder, but she's your mother."
"So? That's all the more reason for you to do the autopsy. I wouldn't trust anyone else." Mulder's eyes widened, silently pleading with her.
"It's a conflict of interest. I can't remain objective."
"Please, Scully." His voice had grown quiet. He sounded so fraught with pain that Scully could not help but agree. At her nod, he smiled slightly. "Great. You can head over to the morgue now; there are a few things that I'd like to check out here."
"Mulder, it's Christmas Eve."
"Scully, this is important." Scully looked at him, the man for whom she would do anything, including an autopsy on Christmas Eve. With a sigh, she turned toward the door. "I'll be back in three hours to pick you up."
"See you then." Mulder had already turned and was scouring the room. The policemen seemed unsure of how to deal with the two FBI agents, and they simply stood a few feet away, watching them. When Scully asked one of them for directions to the morgue, he nearly jumped out of his skin before settling down and providing her with the desired directions. With a final, worried glance in Mulder's direction, Scully left, thinking about ways she would rather be spending Christmas Eve.
Exactly two hours and fifty-six minutes later, Scully returned to the cabin. She found the driveway empty; it seemed the cops had already left, likely to return to their families. When she first opened the door, she thought that the cottage was similarly deserted. All the lights were off, and she did not hear the telltale creak of floorboards under feet. Listening closer, however, she could hear soft breathing in the room next to her. Entering it, she found Mulder sitting on a plastic covered couch in the dark, staring at a picture that he held in his hands. "Mulder?" Scully called, crossing the room. She noticed an open shoebox next to his feet with multiple pictures spilling out of it.
Mulder looked up at her, but did not answer. Scully was now close enough to see the tears in his eyes though the lights in the room were dim. Sitting beside him on the couch, she placed her arms around him and pulled him against her body, allowing him to sob onto her shoulder. For a couple minutes, they sat in the room without speaking. Finally, Scully said, "She had been taking ibuprofen for her arthritis. They found an empty open bottle beside her. Even if she had only taken half the bottle, it would have likely have been lethal based on her body type and weight. I'm sorry."
"She left a note," Mulder remarked, his voice hollow. "It was addressed to me. All it said was 'My dear Fox, I apologize for leaving like this, but I cannot think of another way to go. As you now know, I have made a number of mistakes in my life. I have failed you and your sister. I only hope that you will one day forgive me. I wish you luck as you continue your quest though I must warn you that the people behind your sister's abduction are beyond justice. I only hope you learn that before your search destroys your life. I love you, my son. Enjoy any time you can with you daughters; don't make the same mistakes that I did. Remember that family is the most important thing in this life.'" Mulder stopped to choke back a sob. "It sounds fake," he remarked. "It's too typical."
"Mulder, there are no signs that this is anything but a suicide."
"Someone could have staged it."
"There were no signs of a struggle."
"Maybe they knocked her out or put a gun to her head."
Mulder could tell from Scully's tone of voice that she thought his scenarios were a bit farfetched. "You don't understand, Scully. She couldn't have committed suicide. It just doesn't make sense. I mean, why now?"
"Have you talked to her recently?"
Mulder shook his head, the tears now flowing freely down his cheeks. "I haven't spoken to her in over a month. How horrible is that? What kind of son doesn't speak to his mother for more than a month? And now she's dead, so I'll never have the chance again."
"You did nothing wrong," Scully assured Mulder, rubbing his back comfortingly. "You loved your mother, and I'm sure she knew that."
"When the girls grow up, they're calling us every day."
"I think that may be a bit excessive."
"Every week then. I don't want to lose touch with them. I don't want them to have the same relationship with me that I had with my mother."
"You won't. You're already a great father, and I know you'd do anything to keep those girls safe."
"My mother thought she was keeping me safe."
"Mulder, no matter what you may think, you are not your mother. You will make mistakes as a father; it's inevitable. But I know that whatever happens, you will always love the girls and be the best father possible."
"I found this," Mulder remarked, holding out the picture he had been staring at. Scully took it from his hands and looked at it. It appeared like a perfectly ordinary picture; it showed a woman in her late thirties standing outside a large house. The house appeared old, but it looked to be in good shape; the yard was neatly mowed, and a fresh coat of paint gleamed on the exterior.
"Is this your mother?" Scully asked, noticing that the woman's face was the same shape as Mulder's own. In answer, he nodded. "She's beautiful," Scully told him. "When was this taken?"
"According to the date on the back, it was taken just after my fourteenth birthday."
"Was this where you lived?"
"That's just it. I don't recognize the house." His voice was quiet, and something told Scully that there was more he was not telling her.
"What is it?"
"There are more pictures from the same house." He nodded toward the box by his feet, and Scully leaned forward to retrieve a couple of the pictures from it. "I found that box in a trunk in the bedroom," Mulder explained as she straightened up once more. "I hadn't really noticed the trunk before, but it was open tonight. I'm guessing it was the last thing she did before she died."
By this time, Scully had brought the picture close enough to her face that she could make out the dim outline of the image. Peering closer, she noticed that it had been taken in front of the same house as the last one. This time, however, two figures stood in front of the house. The first was Teena Mulder. The second was someone that Scully had seen countless times in photographs. "Is this. . ." She trailed off, unable to finish her question. It just seemed too unlikely.
"That's Samantha." Mulder's voice was quiet again.
"Are you sure the date is correct?" Scully questioned.
"I don't see why it wouldn't be. But Samantha never wore her hair that short."
"But that would mean. . ."
"That Samantha was ten years old in that picture. Two years older than she was when she was abducted."
"Really?" Mulder's voice was tinged with anger. "Because after everything I've seen, I would say it's not only possible but likely."
"This is all just speculation. You can't assume she's alive because of a single photograph."
"It's not just a single photograph. Keep looking."
Apprehensive, Scully set the first photograph aside to reveal another that showed a brunette girl who looked to be around twelve years old. She was not facing the camera; instead, she was staring at something off in the distance, a forlorn expression on her face. It was dated two years after the previous photo.
Intrigued, Scully continued to look through the photos, noticing immediately that nearly all of them showed the same brunette girl in various stages of her life. Her first thought was that the girl was not actually Samantha, but the features were identical to those of Samantha in all the other pictures Scully had seen. Also, the girl had Mulder's intense hazel eyes, the strong set of his chin, and the long, narrow structure of his face. The two were obviously related.
"The last one is dated 1996," Mulder remarked, his voice still unusually quiet. "That would make her thirty years old. She'd been gone for twenty-two of those years, and I've been looking for her for almost all of that time."
"Mulder, don't start this." She reached for his hand, but he pushed her away.
"Don't start what, Scully?" he asked. His voice had grown louder now.
"Don't start blaming yourself. This is not your fault. You can't control everything."
"Twenty-two years, Scully! And I didn't find her." He stood and began pacing the room restlessly. "This is the best evidence I've ever had that she's still alive. I need to start looking as soon as possible. I'm close; I can feel it."
"Mulder, it's Christmas Eve. Actually, I guess it's Christmas now. Let's go back to my mom's house. We'll open presents and spend the girls' first Christmas with them. Then we can start searching, okay?"
Mulder looked at her, indecisiveness displayed clearly on his face. He glanced down at the picture, and Scully thought for a moment that he was going to go harrowing off on a wild goose chase as he had done so many times before in their partnership. But when he looked back at her, she realized that his priorities had truly changed. "I still find it hard to believe sometimes that I actually have a family."
"Well, you better believe it, Mulder. And that family wants you home for Christmas."
"Let's go back to your mom's house. I want to see the girls."
Scully's face broke out into a wide smile. "I love you, Mulder. More than you can ever imagine." Rising from the couch, she walked to his side and entwined her fingers with his. Together, they walked from the house with Mulder still carrying the picture of his sister.
They arrived back at Maggie's house just before 7:00 in the morning. Surprisingly, none of the kids had awoken yet, and the house seemed unnaturally still when Mulder and Scully stepped into the foyer. "I'm going to go check on the girls," Scully whispered, starting toward the stairs.
"I'll come with you," Mulder told her, following behind her. As they rounded the corner, Scully caught sight of a small figure sitting on top of the stairs.
"Lily, what are you doing up?" Scully questioned.
"It's Christmas," Lily answered matter-of-factly.
"Have you woken everybody else up yet?"
"Uh-uh," Lily said, shaking her head. "I was waitin' for you guys. Everybody needs to be here to open presents."
"Well, thank you very much." Scully was amazed at the small girl's thoughtfulness, but Lily had always been mature for her age.
"Can I go wake everyone up now?" Lily asked, already on her feet. Scully smiled at her eagerness. She might be mature for her age, but she was still a child.
"Why don't we wait for your brother and cousin to get up?" Scully suggested.
"Oh, they're already up. I told them we had to wait though."
"Well, then I guess you can go wake up your parents."
"And Grandma and Uncle Bill and Aunt Tara?"
"Yes, them too. Get Matty and Brian to help."
"Are you gonna help, too?"
"Uncle Mulder and I are going to go check on the girls, but we'll meet you downstairs in a few minutes, okay?"
"Okay!" Lily was already racing toward the bedroom she shared with her brother and cousin. Scully shook her head, turning to Mulder. She was happy to note that he also wore a smile on his face. Scully had realized that children tended to put everything in perspective. Even after the horrible occurrences the past night, seeing the smile on Lily's face helped make everything seem okay.
Mulder and Scully found Samantha wide-awake and hungry. While Scully fed her, Mulder wandered down to the living room and found Brian, Matthew, and Lily waiting impatiently next to the tree. He assumed they had awaken the other adults, but none of them had come downstairs yet. Of course, this meant that Mulder was the center of attention as soon as he walked into the room.
"Uncle Mulder, where were you and Aunt Dana last night?" Brian questioned.
Mulder cleared his throat as he searched for an answer that would be acceptable and at least partially true. "We just had some grown-up business to deal with."
"Oh, like taxes?"
Despite the circumstances, Mulder had to laugh. "Not quite like taxes, Brian."
"Oh, cuz that's the grown-up business that Mommy and Daddy always complain about." At that moment, Charlie and Kaitlin walked into the room, and Brian immediately forgot about his conversation with Mulder as he rushed over to his parents. "Mommy, Daddy, can we open presents now, please?" he begged.
"We need to wait for the rest of the family," Kaitlin told her son. Catching sight of Mulder, she turned her attention to him. "I didn't know you and Dana were back."
"We just got in a few minutes ago," Mulder told her.
"You must be tired."
"We're used to it."
"Is everything okay?" Charlie inquired.
Mulder chewed the inside of his lip in an effort to prevent the tears from falling. "It's a long story. I'd rather not get into it now."
Fortunately, Charlie was not the type of person to continue pressing for details. Turning back to Brian, he did his best to entertain his son until the rest of the family joined them. Bill and Tara entered the living room next; Bill was wearing a blue terrycloth robe and yawning broadly while Tara seemed only slightly more alert. Maggie was the most awake of all the adults; she had actually already dressed in jeans and a Christmas sweater. A couple minutes after Maggie's arrival, Brian asked, "Should I go get Aunt Dana?"
"She knows to be here," Mulder told the young boy. "She's probably still feeding the babies. You can go ahead and start unwrapping gifts if you want."
Brian started toward the pile of presents under the tree, but Lily held out a warning arm. "Not until everyone is here," she chided.
"Uncle Mulder said it was okay, butt face," Brian retorted.
"No name calling!" Kaitlin scolded. "And just for that, you're going to wait until Dana comes back. And then Brian will be the last to open a present."
"But Mo-om," he whined.
"Careful or you won't get presents at all."
This threat immediately quieted Brian who moved to the corner to sulk. A few minutes later, Scully walked into the room with both babies. Mulder stood and took Samantha from her hands. Before they could even settle down on the couch, Lily, Brian, and Matthew were already going through the pile of presents. "Why don't you three be elves and deliver the presents to whoever they belong to?" Tara suggested. The three kids immediately latched onto this idea and began to pass out the presents. Since only Brian could read, he directed the process, telling his younger sister and cousin who to deliver each package to.
Fifteen minutes later, the presents were sorted into stacks. Mulder was surprised to find that his stack was as big as those belonging to the other adults. He had not expected many gifts; he figured Maggie would give him something and Charlie might have also thrown in a small package. But he counted six gifts at his feet, including one from Bill and Tara (which Mulder imagined meant that it was truly from Tara).
As the youngest, Melissa was allowed to open her gift first. Of course, "opening" was a rather generous term. In truth, she only managed to rip the paper slightly; her mother had to help her completely remove it to reveal a Fisher Price toy. "Look what Aunt Tara and Uncle Bill got you!" Scully exclaimed, showing Melissa the box. Melissa, however, seemed much more interested in the wrapping paper.
"I guess Christmas shopping will be a lot easier and cheaper next year," Mulder remarked, watching Melissa giggling with delight as she played with the wrapping paper. The rest of the family laughed.
Since they were opening one present at a time, it took nearly two hours to finish opening gifts. As Mulder and Charlie cleaned up the wrapping paper, Maggie left to make breakfast. Brian was setting up a new Hot Wheels track that he had received, and Matthew was watching interestedly. Lily was showing off her new doll to Melissa and Samantha who were both more interested in their own new toys, especially the singing keyboard Maggie had given them. "I have a feeling we're going to get sick of that really quickly," Mulder remarked, listening to the keyboard.
"But they certainly seem to enjoy it," Scully pointed out.
"Why couldn't they enjoy a quieter toy?"
"They're your daughters."
"That was uncalled for, Scully."
"I wouldn't say that."
"Oh, you're going to get it!" Without warning, he lunged at her, tackling her to the floor. She landed in a pile of wrapping paper with Mulder on top of her.
"Mulder, what are you doing?" she questioned through her shrieks of laughter.
"Punishment." Mulder pushed himself up onto his elbows, keeping his body directly over hers so that she remained pinned to the ground. He started to lean forward, but before he could do anything, Tara entered the room and cleared her throat loudly.
"Maggie has breakfast ready," she announced.
"We'll be there in a minute," Scully called from beneath Mulder, pushing at his chest so he would stand up. He remained on his elbows, hovering above her for a few more minutes before dipping his head down to kiss her. Before he could go too far, however, she pushed him away more firmly.
"Okay, okay, I see how it is," he grumbled, pushing himself to his feet. Reaching down, he helped Scully to hers before both walked to the kitchen.
Mulder and Scully spent the rest of the day relaxing and playing with the kids. Mulder was surprised to find that he actually did not think about his sister or mother much at all during the day. He felt bad about this lack of concern, but as Scully had pointed out earlier, he had a family now. His sister was not his whole life any longer; he had people who loved him, people who he could spend Christmas with. It was an odd feeling to have a family, but he liked it nonetheless.
After the kids were in bed that night, the adults all settled down in the living room. Maggie was watching Mulder and Scully expectantly, and Scully figured they did owe her an explanation; after all, she had watched the girls without question the previous night. Clearing her throat, Scully said, "There are a couple things Mulder and I need to tell you."
"Does this have something to do with your disappearing act last night?" Bill asked.
"It does," Scully answered.
"See, Dana, this is why he's such a bad influence on you. I mean, all he has to do is say the word, and you go gallivanting off with him. It was Christmas Eve. You're supposed to spend Christmas Eve with family, not chasing down aliens."
"Could you at least let her finish before you start criticizing her?" Mulder questioned, his temper flaring. The emotional strain of the previous night had begun to take its toll, and he really did not feel like dealing with Bill's pompous attitude.
"Why? So she can make excuses for you again?" Now, Bill was angry, too. His face was beet red, and his nostrils were flared. Mulder would have associated him with a charging bull had he not been too blinded by his own anger.
"My mother died, you ass! That's not an excuse; that's a fact. And I'm sorry if the time of her death inconvenienced you in any way, but there are some things that I can't control. I'll make sure that next time a family member dies, it's not during the holidays!" With that, Mulder stormed out of the room. If there had been a door in his path; he likely would have slammed it. As it was, he simply stomped through the archway into the foyer. Scully heard the front door shut heavily after him; obviously, he had been thinking clearly enough to realize that shutting the door too hard would wake the kids. She supposed she should have been worried about him leaving, but she knew Mulder well enough to know that he never would leave without her.
"Is that true, Dana?" Maggie asked, her voice sounding unusually quiet after Mulder's loud outburst.
Scully nodded. "They found her body last night. That's who called him at dinner."
"That poor boy. First his sister, then his father, and now his mother."
"I've always said disaster follows in his wake," Bill muttered.
"William Scully, I do not expect another comment like that to come out of your mouth. Have you got that?" Maggie questioned.
"Yes, mom," Bill assured her through clenched teeth.
"Is there anything we can do?" Maggie inquired.
"Actually, we were wondering if you could watch the girls for us for a few days. There's some. . . business we need to attend to."
"What kind of business?" Kaitlin asked.
"Just some old family effects that Mulder found," Scully said half-truthfully.
"Of course, Dana," Maggie agreed. "I can be at your house by 8:00 tomorrow."
Scully smiled in relief. "Thank you so much, Mom. I'll see you then."
"Are you leaving?"
"I'm still worn out from last night, and I want to get the girls home and to bed."
"Okay. Well, good luck, and tell Fox I'm truly sorry." Standing, Maggie hugged her daughter goodbye. After also giving the other members of her family hugs, Scully said a final goodbye and walked upstairs to pick up Melissa and Samantha from her mother's bedroom. She found Mulder already there, putting Samantha in her car seat. Melissa already sat in hers, gurgling in contentment. She had learned that the car seat often meant that she was going for a ride—something she loved to do. The motion of the car soothed her just as her parents' pacing did.
"I thought you went outside," Scully remarked.
"I was going to, but then I remembered these guys." Mulder pushed the two pieces of the buckle together with a satisfied click before tickling Samantha. The baby giggled, causing him to smile.
"My mom's coming over in the morning. She said she'd stay with them as long as we needed her to."
"That's good." Mulder stood, still staring at Samantha. Finally, he turned back to Scully, and she could clearly see the pain in his eyes. "I'm not being a bad father, am I, Scully?" he questioned.
"Not at all, Mulder. You're a wonderful father. But everything cannot always be about your daughters. Sometimes, there are other things you have to do. Now, are you ready to go home?"
"Home sounds good."
Mulder did not sleep well that night. When he did manage to fall asleep for a couple hours, his dreams were filled with horrible images of what might have happened to Samantha over the past thirty years. At 5:00, he finally gave up attempting to sleep and rose from the bed, walking automatically to the nursery. Once there, he simply stood in the middle of the room, watching his daughters sleep. Samantha was curled up with her thumb in her mouth, the picture of innocence (though Mulder knew from experience that looks could be deceiving). Melissa slept with her limbs sprawled out on all sides of her so that she took up a good portion of the crib. The different sleeping positions simply served as a reminder to Mulder that despite the similarities in his daughters' appearances, they were two completely different people. He and Scully had speculated on what they would be like when they grew older, but Mulder expected that few of their predictions would actually come true.
By 8:00 that morning, both Mulder and Scully had packed a duffel bag and prepared to leave. Since they had taken the entire week off for Christmas, they did not have to worry about calling work. When Maggie arrived, they gave their daughters a final kiss before hitting the road.
Their first stop was the cabin in Quonochontaug. The crime scene tape had been removed; Scully had expected this much. Since all signs pointed to suicide, the police likely saw no point in continuing to investigate the death as a homicide. The case had probably been marked closed and shuffled to the side as the police dealt with more pressing matters. But Scully suspected that the case was far from closed. Though she would not voice her suspicions aloud, she sensed that there was more to Mulder's mother's death. It was not just a run-of-the-mill suicide. Actually, nothing about her or Mulder's lives could truly be considered run-of-the-mill.
Mulder fished around in his pocket for a few minutes before he discovered the key to the cabin. Inserting it in the lock, he jiggled it for a few seconds before the lock finally turned. Pushing the door open, he stepped into the dark hallway. As Scully walked into the house behind him, he crossed to the other side of the hallway and flipped the light switch. Unfortunately, nothing happened. "I figured that would be the case," Mulder remarked, pulling a flashlight out of his coat pocket. Both agents followed the narrow beam of light down the hallway and into the small living room.
As Mulder swept the light around the room, Scully surveyed its contents. She supposed that with adequate lighting and a bit of cleaning, it would be quite cozy. Two big windows and a sliding glass door led onto a back porch. Looking off in the distance, Scully could just make out the glimmer of moonlight reflected in the ocean. Aside from the couch they had sat on earlier, there were two lamps, a couple end tables, a recliner, and a fireplace. All the furniture was covered in plastic, and the plastic had a fine layer of dust over it. Mulder had said that his family had not come to the cabin in a long time, and Scully certainly saw evidence of that.
Mulder crossed the room in three long strides, coming to a stop next to one of the end tables. Bending over, he opened the top drawer and pulled out a dark-colored cylindrical object. "Here," he said, holding it out to Scully. As she walked over to him, she realized it was a flashlight.
"What am I looking for?" Scully questioned.
"Anything that would lead us to Samantha."
Scully nodded and moved to the corner of the room where a large tarp covered a stack of boxes. Carefully, Scully lifted the tarp and set it aside. She slid her hands under the top box, lifting it into the air. It was heavier than she expected, and she grunted with the effort. Mulder glanced over with raised eyebrows, and she saw his slight movement in her direction. "I've got it," she grunted, standing straighter and moving to the side where a free spot on the floor provided a convenient place for the unusually heavy box.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Mulder, I'm positive." Scully could feel her arm muscles straining to hold the box up against the force of gravity, but she refused to let the exertion show on her face. Instead, she bent down slowly, setting the box on the floor. Sitting cross-legged beside it, she pulled the flaps open to reveal a stack of dusty records. Pulling the top one out, she saw that it was the Beatles' White Album. "Who was the music buff?" Scully asked, holding up the record so that Mulder could see.
Mulder glanced up from the box he was searching through. "Oh, that was my dad. My mom used to complain all the time about how much space all his records took up. That's probably why they were moved out here."
"You know, some of these are probably worth a lot of money now," Scully remarked as she continued to flip through them.
"If you know someone willing to buy them, I'd be more than happy to sell them," Mulder remarked, still focused on the box of pictures in front of him. "It's not like I have anything to do with them. I don't even have a record player."
"We could probably find one somewhere," Scully mused. "It would be nice to keep at least some of them. We can listen to them when we're feeling particularly nostalgic." She gazed fondly at the records in her hand, already imaging a romantic night with candles and possibly the soft strains of Frank Sinatra. Sure, she had a number of Sinatra CD's, but there was something much more romantic about listening to the original record.
"You know, Scully, it would be nice if you focused on helping me find my sister now. We can take a trip down memory lane later if you like." He sounded vaguely amused, and Scully glanced over at him to see if she had accurately gauged his feelings. Unfortunately, he was facing away from her, so she could not see the expression on his face. Still, she was happy to note that he no longer sounded as lost or forlorn.
"I was just saying that there are a lot of good albums in here. Like The Monkees for instance."
Suddenly, Mulder averted his attention from the box in front of him. "What?"
"The Monkees. It's the first album by the band of the same name." Scully waved the record at him. He pushed himself up and strode to her, his hazel eyes crinkled in an expression that Scully could not quite discern.
"Are you sure?"
"Assuming I can trust the large letters on the front." Scully had been around Mulder for too long; she was beginning to adopt his caustic sarcasm. Before long, she would be spouting crazy theories about alien abductions and vampires. "Why? Is there something wrong with the Monkees?"
"My father hated them. He would never have bought their record." Mulder took the record from her hands and began to turn it over, examining the dusty cover. The ink had faded, but the artwork was still clear. It was definitely a Monkee's record; Mulder had no doubt about that.
"Maybe it was your mother's," Scully suggested, shrugging.
"No, she never listened to music. She couldn't tell the Beatles from Three Dog Night."
"None of this is conclusive, Mulder."
"No, I guess not." He sounded distracted; he continued to turn the record, examining each side as if it was a precious gem and he was a jeweler attempting to determine its authenticity. Finally, he seemed to decide that there was nothing special about the outside of the cover, and he flipped the case over, allowing the record to slide out. However, he wasted no time examining the record itself; instead, he focused all his attention on a few folded sheets of paper that had slid out along with it.
"What's that?" Scully inquired out of habit though she knew he did not know any more than she did. Wordlessly, he shook his head, setting the cover aside so that he could use both hands to carefully unfold the papers. They were slightly yellowed with age but not so old that they crumbled in his hands.
Gently, he spread them out in his lap and began to skim the first sheet. "It's a deed," he said. "I don't recognize the location." He glanced up at Scully and knew immediately that she was having the same thought he was. Was it possible that this deed provided the location of the mysterious house in the picture? Could they actually be so lucky as to find it with minimal searching?
"It's definitely possible," Scully said, answering the unspoken questions. "Certainly worth checking out."
"It's in Lexington, Massachusetts," Mulder said.
"That's just outside Boston."
"My mother always wanted to live in Boston. My dad steadfastly refused though; he said it was too noisy, crowded, and dirty."
"There's also an air force base near there."
"It makes you wonder how deep this thing goes and how many people are involved," Mulder said, still staring at the deed. Suddenly, he stood up as if struck by some sudden inspiration. "It's still relatively early. We can easily be there by nightfall."
"Shouldn't we finish checking here first?" Scully asked, having always been a proponent of thoroughness. "After all, we're not even sure if this deed is for the same house in that picture. We could be going on a wild goose chase here and missing some other important clue."
"No," Mulder said, shaking his head impatiently. "I know this is the right place. I can feel it, Scully." He seemed so eager, reminding Scully forcibly of her niece and nephews the previous day while they were opening presents. Of course, the resemblance was expected; after all, he had just received one of the best presents of his life, a present he had been hoping for for years.
"Are you sure, Mulder? I mean, we can finish searching here today and be on the road bright and early tomorrow."
"There's nothing else to find here," Mulder told her with a dismissive wave of his hand. "You have to trust me, Scully. Right now, this is where we need to be." He tapped the piece of paper which he still held in his right hand.
"Okay," Scully agreed, unable to argue with him any longer. Sometimes, Mulder spoke with such conviction that it was impossible to doubt him. "Let's go."
"Good. I'm driving."
"Are you sure you're okay driving? I mean-"
"Scully, I'm a man. I'm always okay driving."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Just that women are inferior to men in some ways. The difference in driving skills between the genders is-"
"Finish that sentence and I pull my gun on you," Scully warned. Though her tone was angry, she was truthfully happier than she had been since the morning of Christmas Eve. For the first time, everything seemed to be back to normal. They were teasing each other just as they had done countless times before. Scully knew that she had hope to thank for the newfound normalcy. It was Mulder's hope that he might finally see his sister again that allowed him to lighten up and forget the tragedy of the past couple days. It was ironic, really, that losing one family member could give him the key to finding another.
Both were so preoccupied as they left that neither noticed the blinking green light on the wall behind them.
Mulder did end up driving to Lexington, mainly because Scully had been unable to suppress a large yawn. After seeing this, Mulder insisted that she was too tired to drive, and she found it hard to argue with him since he was correct. All of her limbs felt heavy, and her eyelids had begun to droop. She had been hoping to use the time off from work over the holidays to catch up on some much needed sleep. She should have known better though; with Mulder around, her plans would inevitably change. Although she enjoyed the spontaneity of it, she sometimes wanted to yell at him to stop, to get out of the damn car. They had their opportunity for a normal life—the house (admittedly, it had no picket fence, but it was close enough), the two kids, the promise of a future together. But Mulder was still driving. Sure, he would stop, sometimes even for weeks. Yet Scully knew that he would eventually climb back into that car to continue on his quest. This tendency both infuriated her and made her love him more. It was his determination, his firm belief that the truth was out there, that first attracted her to him, and this same dogged persistence still made him who he was—the man she loved. But she could not help but wish from time to time that their lives were a little more normal, a little less fraught with danger and government conspiracies.
Scully knew that if she asked Mulder to stop, he would. In fact, she could tell him to send the car to the junkyard so that he could never get in again, and he would follow her orders with only minimal complaint. Yet she also knew that he could never be happy with only the normal family life. He had been driven by his quest for the truth for so many years that it would be impossible for him to simply abandon it. If she were being honest with herself, she would have to say that it would be impossible for her to abandon it as well. It was so much a part of them now that losing it would be like losing a piece of their soul. The quest had brought them together, binding them so tightly to one another that nothing could separate them. They owed it to themselves, to their partnership, to continue that quest.
And so Scully resigned herself to once more sitting on the slightly scratchy cloth that covered the passenger's seat of Mulder's car, watching as buildings whizzed past on either side of her. Now, however, she did not stare wistfully at the large, family homes with children's toys spread across the front yard, for she knew that once they had finished the current leg of their journey, they would be able to return to their own home with baby toys strewn across the floor and bottles piled up in the sink because both were too busy to wash. Scully and Mulder had not settled; they had simply found a precarious balance between their quest and their family. Scully wondered how long it would be before that delicate balance blew up in their faces.
Mulder heard Scully sigh and turned to see her staring out the window. "What are you thinking of?" he questioned, turning his eyes back to the road though his attention was still on her. He could practically feel her mood—an odd mixture between melancholy and contentment that hung heavily in the air.
"Just that here we are once again on a non-descript road following yet another vague lead, unsure of what exactly we're going to find."
"Do you want to go home?" Mulder had known that she was not happy about being away from her family on the holidays, but he had also thought that she knew how important this particular search was to him. It was his last chance of connecting with what little was left of his family. Surely she understood.
"No, I want to be with you, to help you. But I can't help but wonder how much longer we can continue doing this."
"Doing what? Searching for Samantha? Because I intend to do that until-"
"No, not searching for Samantha," Scully interrupted. "I know that you won't stop until you find her, and I fully intend to be by your side the entire time. I'm talking about living this double life."
"At work, we act as if nothing has changed, like we're still just Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, two people without any responsibilities. But things have changed, Mulder. We have two daughters now. We can't go back to the way things were."
"I never asked you to."
"But I sense that part of you wants to. You still haven't given up your quest, and I wouldn't expect you to."
"Nothing says I can't search for the truth while raising a family."
"I'm just wondering how long it will be before living two lives catches up with us."
"Where is this coming from, Scully?"
"Nowhere. I was just thinking. Just drop it."
"No. You brought it up, so we're going to discuss it. Do you think I'm not a good enough father? Is that it? Am I not spending enough time with the girls?"
"No, Mulder, you're a great father. You're very devoted."
"Then what the hell is wrong?"
"I don't know. I just have an uneasy feeling that everything's going to change very soon. I'm probably overreacting."
"No, Mulder, it's nothing. Just keep going." Don't stop this car right now. I know that this is what you need.
They were silent through Massachusetts. When they finally reached Lexington, Mulder stopped at a gas station for directions to the address printed on the deed. He came out with a piece of paper, two bags of sunflower seeds, and a Diet Coke. As he slid into the driver's seat, he passed the soda and directions to Scully before tearing open one of the bags of sunflower seeds.
"The guy told me it's not too far from here," Mulder said, staring straight ahead. He popped a sunflower seed into his mouth and cracked it between his teeth. The sound seemed preternaturally loud in the car.
"Uh huh." Another seed cracked. Still, Mulder did not start the car.
"Are we going, Mulder?"
"What do you think of spending the night here? We've stayed in plenty of crappy motels but never a gas station parking lot."
"What if I don't find her, Scully?" He turned to her, his brow furrowed. "What if this is just another dead end?"
"You seemed so sure of it earlier."
"I've had some time to think now."
"Mulder, I've known you for seven years now, and as hard as it is for me to say, your initial feelings have the uncanny ability of being right."
"I could still be wrong."
"But what if you're right?" They stared at each other for a moment before Mulder finally let a small smile grace his lips.
"Talk about a reversal in positions."
"Don't expect it to happen too often," Scully warned.
"I guess we should get going then."
"I guess we should."
Ten minutes later, Mulder reached the address listed on the deed. The moonlight illuminated the house in front of him, and he recognized it immediately from the pictures he had seen earlier that day. It was older now, and the paint had begun to peel in places, but the resemblance was too great for it to be another house. "This is it," Mulder remarked, shutting off the engine. He sat staring for a moment before reaching for the door handle. Scully smiled slightly at this. She had wondered if she would have to give him another pep talk before he went into the house; she should have known that he would convince himself to go.
They followed a wide stone pathway to the front door. Mulder's long legs allowed him to walk slightly ahead of Scully, but she had learned to keep up with his large strides over the years. They climbed onto the porch together, and Mulder reached for the plastic rectangular button mounted to one side of the door. "Here goes nothing," he remarked, depressing the button. Scully could hear the chimes sounding inside, and she suddenly realized that she was nervous. What would they do if someone came to the door? What if that someone was Samantha? What did you say to a woman who had been missing for twenty-six years?
Fortunately, Scully did not have to worry about the questions plaguing her, for no one answered the door. "Guess no one's home," Mulder said, attempting to sound flippant though Scully could clearly hear the twinge of disappointment in his voice.
"We should still check it out."
"I guess." Mulder pulled out his knife and spent a few seconds knifing the door. The bolt was old and the wood surrounding it pliable, so it was not long before he managed to push the bolt back into the door, swinging the door open. Immediately, he stopped in his tracks, sniffing the air. Scully, who was close behind him, quickly recognized the scent that had alerted him.
"Cigarette smoke," she breathed.
"And not stale either." Mulder wore a scowl as he reached beneath his coat and pulled out a gun. Carrying his gun in one hand and his flashlight in the other, he stepped farther into the room, trying as hard as he could to remain quiet. Behind him, he heard the soft sound of Scully also withdrawing her gun from its holster.
Mulder stepped first toward the doorway of the living room. Before he could sweep the beam of his flashlight around the room, and familiar voice remarked, "You can put that away. I mean you no harm."
"What the hell are you doing here, you black-lunged bastard?" Mulder questioned, stepping further into the room. Instead of placing his gun back in its holster, he released the safety and pointed the barrel directly at the older man's head.
"I will explain that to you as soon as you show me a little less hostility," Cancer Man said calmly, pulling the cigarette from his mouth and jabbing it in a nearby ash tray.
"How about I just blow you to hell and call it a day?"
"Agent Mulder, you and I both know that that's an empty threat. You need me. I have the information you want."
"Where's my sister? What did you do with Samantha, you bastard?"
"I did not do anything with her. However, I do know what happened to her."
"What?" Mulder jabbed his gun toward Spender. Scully remained in the shadows, her gun still pointing at Spender.
"I told you, I will tell you as soon as you put your weapon away."
With a scream of rage, Mulder threw his flashlight aside and rushed at Spender, squeezing the man's neck with his now-free hand. He moved his other hand so that the barrel of his gun was pressed to Spender's temple. "You're going to tell me where she is, you son of a bitch, or you're not going to walk out of here alive."
The older man began to laugh. Mulder could feel the vibrations of his chuckles beneath his hand, and he automatically tightened his grip to the point where he knew it would be choking. Still, Spender did not stop laughing. "You have quite a temper, Agent Mulder," he chided. "Unfortunately, it's not going to get you anywhere." He stared up at Mulder, completely unaffected by the murderous glare in the younger man's eyes or the hand which still grasped his throat. Calmly, he lit another cigarette. "Now, are we going to discuss this like rational human beings or is it going to get ugly?" Spender questioned.
"I want to know where Samantha is."
"And I plan on telling you. Look on the table over there." Spender nodded to an end table about ten feet from his chair. Mulder glanced over and noticed something sitting on top of it. He glanced back at Scully who began to approach the table cautiously, her gun still trained on Spender. When she reached the table, she hesitated for a moment before lowering her gun and lifting the object.
"It's a manila folder," she announced, opening it. "I can't read what's in it."
"Medical records," Spender announced. Mulder had finally released his throat though his gun was still pressed to the wrinkled temple. Spender had taken the opportunity to place the lighted cigarette in his mouth. He inhaled a lungful of smoke before adding, "You sister's."
"I think he may be right," Scully told Mulder, squinting at the papers.
"You'll find everything you want to know in there," Spender said. "And now, I must go. I have other matters to attend to." He grabbed the arms of the chair and pushed himself to his feet. Mulder considered stopping him but quickly decided against the idea. He could not do anything to Spender; Spender and the other members of his group were beyond reproach, beyond justice. They worked only for themselves. Mulder was surprised that he had received the information he wanted so readily.
Ignoring Spender as he slipped out of the room, Mulder approached Scully and picked up his flashlight, shining it on the papers she held. Sure enough, they were hospital records, and the name at the top read simply "Samantha." "No last name," Mulder observed, unable to keep a slight waver from his voice.
"The description matches though."
"It's dated three months after she disappeared." Mulder was finding it hard to believe that the answers for which he had searched for so long were now in front of him. It seemed surreal. "You're going to have to tell me what it says, Scully. I don't really understand all of this medical jargon."
"It's just a general physical form," Scully said. "Height, weight, condition of ears, eyes, nose, etc. There's nothing remarkable about it." Mulder reached for the folder to flip to the next sheet, but she closed it before he could touch the top sheet. "Mulder, let's go find a motel room for the night. That way, we can go through these somewhere comfortable with adequate lighting."
Mulder looked as if he wanted to object to her suggestion, but instead he simply nodded. Casting a final glance around the unfamiliar living room, he followed Scully out of the darkened house.
Thirty minutes later, they both sat on a queen-sized bed in a small motel room. It looked exactly like every other motel room they had stayed in for the past seven years—stained carpet, ugly, unmatched bedspread, wallpaper in some horrible floral print that actually looked worse than the bedspread, a slightly wobbly nightstand, and a armoire with a few chunks of wood missing. Neither gave the room a second glance; they simply tossed their bags in one corner and took a seat on the bed. Scully opened the Chinese food they had picked up and began to eat without looking while she looked over the papers in the folder.
"That's odd," she remarked after a couple minutes.
"What?" Mulder sat up straighter, turning to her. He had decided to allow her to go through the papers since she was a doctor and would understand them better than he would. Of course, that did not make him any less anxious.
"There's a blood and urine test here which makes sense. They're pretty standard for physicals. But they've also done genotyping."
"Don't they usually do that for infants?"
"Yes, when doctors suspect that a child might have a genetic disorder. But that genotyping is partial. This is a complete genotype. Not only that, someone has sequencedSamantha's DNA and matched alleles with proteins. There's pages and pages of bases here."
"Mulder, we don't even know what the human genome looks like much less which genes correspond to which proteins. The Human Genome Project has been working on sequencing the human genome for ten years now, and they still haven't finished. This information is invaluable, especially if we find the rest of the sequence."
"Does it help find Samantha?"
"No, but the scientific community-"
"Can wait," Mulder said firmly. "If they've been working on this for ten years, a few more days isn't going to hurt. Can we focus on finding my sister now and on increasing the knowledge of the scientific community later?"
"Okay." Scully carefully set the information aside, still in awe. During the time she had worked on the X-files, she had seen a number of amazing things, but she had never imagined that she would discover something that could change the entire field of biology. She would have to examine it closer later.
"How about I start at the back and help you out," Mulder suggested as Scully began to skim through the papers once more.
"These are medical records, Mulder."
"I know. But I still might be able to find something that tells me where Samantha is. It's worth a shot at least. I can't just sit here and do nothing."
Scully sighed. "Fine," she agreed, handing him the bottom few sheets of paper. He glanced down at the first and quickly set it aside. "Did you even look at it?" Scully questioned.
"Sure. It wasn't important."
"How do you know?"
"It was just a bunch of meaningless numbers."
"I'm sure they weren't meaningless."
"They are if you're trying to find Samantha." He repeated the process with the next sheet before looking down at the third. Scully heard his sharp intake of breath.
"What is it?" Looking down, she saw his hands were trembling slightly. "Mulder?"
"No." His voice was quiet and faraway. "This can't be happening. I don't believe it. No!" His last word was more forceful, and he stood, tossing the paper aside. Two quick strides brought him to the flimsy wooden door, and he slammed his hand against it, causing it to quiver in the frame.
"No! This isn't right! It can't end this way!" Mulder cried out, completely oblivious to Scully. His head was tilted heavenward, and his hands were still curled into tight fists. One was raised above his shoulder, and the other hung by his side. Scully could see the shimmer of disappointment and anger in his hazel eyes. Curious, she reached for the papers he had discarded. Immediately, she saw what had set him off. The words "Boston morgue" were emblazoned at the top, mocking her, mocking the quest she and Mulder had embarked upon so long ago.
Though she did feel a wrenching pain deep in her gut upon reading the words, it was not as deep as Mulder's had undoubtedly been. After all, Samantha was not her sister. In some ways, however, it felt as if she was. Scully had dedicated seven years of her life to finding Samantha. She had been with Mulder through all the possible leads and then the subsequent disappointment when they turned out to be nothing but false alarms. And now, she was here as he received what could possibly be the worse news in his entire quest.
Still, Scully remained clear-headed enough to scan the remainder of the autopsy report. The victim's name was listed as Jane Doe, but the description fit Samantha, right down to the break in her left collarbone. As Scully read on, however, she gasped in surprise. Quickly, she began to shuffle through the other papers, searching for something to confirm what she had just read.
Mulder noticed her frantic movements and turned back to her. "What is it, Scully? It's not her, right? That's why you're so excited? Because you found out that it's not her?" He looked so hopeful that Scully found it hard to tell him that in all likelihood, Jane Doe #329 was Samantha. So she said nothing for a few moments, instead continuing to sort through the papers. "That's it. I knew it. I knew I hadn't lost her. Cancer Man probably included that report to scare me. That vindictive-"
"I think the autopsy report is hers, Mulder," Scully said, pulling three sheets of paper from the file. "But you're right, I don't think you've lost her. Not completely."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Mulder inquired.
"The autopsy indicated that she gave birth, likely multiple times?"
"There are reports here of births—three to be precise. The mother is listed as Samantha, the father as unknown." Scully spread the papers on the bed in front of her. Mulder sat down heavily beside her, his mouth hanging slightly open. "I also found reports of in vitro fertilization."
"Fertilization with what?" Mulder questioned, almost afraid to ask.
"The report is not clear on that point." Scully frowned at the papers in front of her.
"So what happened to the kids?"
"It doesn't say. There are only reports of the fertilization procedures, the pregnancies, and the births. After that, there's no information. My guess would be that there are separate files for the kids."
"I can't tell you, Mulder."
Suddenly, Mulder stood up again, pacing restlessly. It was no mystery who Melissa received her love of moving from. "We need to find them, Scully."
"We don't even know where to start looking," Scully pointed out logically.
"We start at the house. Three kids can't just disappear. There's bound to be some indication of their whereabouts there."
"Mulder, it's getting late. We should go to bed."
"I'm not tired."
"But I am."
Mulder looked at her for a moment, torn between concern for her and concern for his newfound niece and nephews. Finally, he sighed and said, "Get some rest."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to finish looking through this file. If I don't find anything there, I'm going back to the house to look."
"You should sleep, too, Mulder."
"I wouldn't be able to. I'm way too keyed up."
Scully wanted to argue with him more, but a yawn forced its way to her lips. Covering her mouth, Scully allowed it a moment to pass before warning, "Don't do anything stupid, Mulder."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
"I'm serious. Don't go looking for them by yourself. Wake me up."
"Okay, I will." Scully continued to stare at him for a moment, trying to discern whether or not he would actually keep his promise. After a few seconds, he threw up his hands. "I promise, Scully, okay?"
"Okay." Still watching him suspiciously, she moved the papers aside and grabbed a nightgown from her overnight bag. With a final glance in Mulder's direction, she closed herself in the bathroom to prepare for bed.
When she emerged from the bathroom, she found Mulder sitting on the edge of his bed with his laptop open on his lap. He obviously heard the click of the bathroom door opening, for he began to speak without turning around. "Almost all the later medical forms are signed by the same person, a Dr. Harry Peters. I thought it was worth checking into."
"And?" Scully asked, already moving back toward the bathroom. She knew that whatever Mulder had found would inevitably require her to follow him somewhere.
"He works for a psychiatric hospital about ten miles from here. Tell me, Scully, what would a psychiatrist be doing signing blood tests and physical forms?"
"I couldn't tell you, Mulder."
"I think we should go check it out."
"Just let me put my clothes back on." Once more, the bathroom door clicked shut behind Scully, and she sighed as she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror. Dark shadows surrounded her reddened eyes, making her appear like a drugged raccoon. With a sigh, she splashed water on her face, knowing it would be the closest thing she received to sleep that night. Crossing her arms in front of her, she reached underneath her arms and pulled the nightgown over her head. Donning her everyday clothes once more did not take long, and Scully paused to run a brush through her hair a few times before exiting the bathroom.
She found Mulder already standing next to the door of the motel wearing his leather jacket. He held her jacket out to her, and she slipped her arms inside it before following him out to the car. They did not speak as both slid into their respective seats. Both were still processing the events of the night; it was hard to believe that they had gone from searching for Mulder's sister to searching for her children in only a few hours. They felt an inexplicable need for silence, as if talking about their current situation might suddenly cause the events of the past few hours to change.
Mulder had been unable to find a home address for Dr. Peters, so they drove instead to the hospital where he worked. Scully knew some doctors worked odd hours, and she hoped that Dr. Peters would be one of them. If they could find him, the entire situation could be resolved that night. Scully had a suspicion that he held the answers that they had been searching for.
The hospital was a dreary brick building set off about half a mile from the main road. It had a relatively small parking lot that contained only three cars besides Mulder's. The area around the building was unlit, increasing the ominous atmosphere around the two agents. Scully half-expected a storm to suddenly began brewing. A lightning strike to the top of the building would be highly appropriate.
Fortunately, no freak storms occurred as the two made the short walk to the front doors. Unlike the doors of most hospitals, the front door was not made of glass; in fact, it was a large, wooden object that looked as if it weighed twice as much as Scully. Mulder turned the knob, leaning his weight into the door to push it open. With a groan of protest, it swung inward, revealing a dimly lit, linoleum-floored hallway. "Looks like it's open," Mulder remarked. He stepped back to allow Scully to enter first. As soon as he entered the hospital behind her, he muscled the door closed again and surveyed his surroundings. The walls were white and bare, and the floor was white and blue checkered, darkened by dirt and grime. Mulder saw no signs of a waiting room or receptionist. "Maybe we're supposed to find our own way," he speculated, his eyes still roving.
"That'll be difficult since neither of us has any idea where we're going."
"That way." Mulder pointed down a side hallway which had even less light than the one in which they currently stood.
"Why that one?"
"Because we have to go somewhere, and it's as good of a place to start as any."
"I swear, Mulder, if you get us lost-"
"Relax, Scully, I won't get us lost." He led the way down the hallway, pausing to glance at the patients through the small privacy windows in the doorways. After a minute or so, the clicking of heels on the linoleum announced the arrival of someone else. Mulder and Scully glanced up to see a stern-looking nurse staring at them, her lips pursed in a disapproving frown. Her graying blond hair had been pulled into a neat bun, and the only word Mulder could think of to describe her uniform was sterile. It had none of the bright colors he had seen on the uniforms of other nurses; it appeared that the uniform was meant only to be functional.
"Who are you two? What are you doing here?" the nurse questioned.
"We're here to see Dr. Peters," Mulder told her, smiling politely.
"It's late. You'll have to make an appointment and come back at another time."
Mulder reached into his coat pocket and extracted his badge. "This is an urgent matter," he told the woman. "Now, I would appreciate it if you would direct me to his office."
"What does the FBI want him for anyway?"
"I'm afraid we can't tell you, ma'am," Scully answered. She could see the frustration brewing on Mulder's face, and she knew he would not remain placid much longer.
The nurse glanced at the two of them, still appearing suspicious, but she did eventually raise her arm to point down another hallway. "It's the fourth door on the right. But I hope this is important; Dr. Peters does not like to be interrupted when he is in the middle of something."
"Trust me, it's very important," Mulder said, already heading toward the hallway. It was relatively easy to find Dr. Peters once they turned onto the hallway; his name had been engraved on a black plaque which hung beside the doorway. Mulder raised his hand to knock, but Scully stopped him when a familiar smell reached her nostrils. "Morleys," she announced, sniffing the air.
"Looks like the elusive bastard gets around," Mulder commented, rapping his knuckles on the hard wood of the doorway.
"So is Peters part of the plot, too?"
'There's one way to find out."
"Yes?" a voice called from inside the office.
"I'm Agent Mulder. I have a few questions for you; I was wondering if I could have a minute of your time." Mulder somehow managed to keep his voice even though he was now quivering with murderous rage. He had suspected that Peters was in league with the Cigarette Smoking Man, but he had not been sure of their connection until Scully had smelt the cigarette smoke. Now, there was no doubt in Mulder's mind that Peters had a hand in his sister's death.
There were a few seconds of silence, and Mulder called again. "Dr. Peters?"
"I'm coming. It just takes me a few seconds." The door opened, revealing a brown-haired man in his late forties. He was tall and thin and wore a stained white lab coat open over a light blue shirt and black slacks. His clear, intelligent green eyes quickly took in the agents, and a number of creases appeared on his brow. "How can I help you?" he asked. Though he seemed outwardly calm, Mulder noticed his pink tongue dart out to wet his thin lips, a sign that he was nervous.
"We wanted to know what you know about Samantha Mulder."
"I'm sorry, I don't know anyone by that name."
"That's funny considering your signature is on most of her medical records."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I'm talking about this." Mulder held up a few sheets of paper that he had grabbed from the folder. He did not know exactly what they described since they were written in the incomprehensible jargon that only doctors could understand, but he did know that Peters' signature was at the bottom. "That is your signature is it not?"
"I'm sorry, I can't help you." Peters started to close the door, but Mulder placed a firm hand on it to stop him. Now, the anxiety had spread further across Peters face. He glanced up at Mulder, who had a good four inches and twenty pounds on him, and his eyes widened in fear.
"Actually, I think you can. For starters, you can tell me what happened to Samantha."
"I told you, I don't know-"
"Don't lie to me!" Mulder's hand slammed into the wall beside the door, causing it to shake. Scully half-expected plaster to rain down on her from the force of his blow.
"I'm not lying."
"You are, you miserable scum." Mulder pushed the door further open, stepping fully into the office. Peters backed up in front of him until he ran into the desk. Peters was obvious not an organized man; his desk was stacked with papers and folders, and the file drawers around the room were stuffed to the point of overflowing. It did not look as if any of the drawers would close.
"No, I promise-"
With a roar of rage, Mulder lunged at Peters and grabbed him around the neck before the smaller man could retreat. Unlike Spender, Peters did not retain his calm as Mulder lifted him bodily off the ground and slammed him against a nearby wall. One of Mulder's hands splayed across Peters' chest, holding the man a couple inches off the floor while his other hand remained firmly pressed against Peters' windpipe. "Tell me what happened to Samantha!"
"She's dead," Peters coughed. "She died three years ago."
"Complications from the birth of her third child."
"Where are they now? Samantha's children."
"I can't tell you."
"Tell me or I kill you." Mulder's icy tone clearly indicated that his statement was not an empty threat.
"You won't kill me. They're coming for you. They know you're here. It's only a matter of time before they come and find you."
"Trust me, I have plenty of time to kill you." Mulder removed his hand from Peters' chest, allowing the older man to slide down the wall until both his feet were resting on the floor. Still, Mulder's hand encircled Peters' neck. Using his left hand, he drew his gun from its holster and pressed it to Peters' temple. "Now tell me where the kids are," Mulder growled.
"Downstairs," Peters said, his voice unnaturally high. "Room 32."
As soon as Mulder received the location, he released his hold on Peters and turned, motioning for Scully to come with him. They left the office with Peters watching them, massaging his sore neck.
Mulder set a quick pace as they searched for stairs or an elevator—anything which would take them to the basement. Finally, they found a door at the end of the hallway which opened to reveal a set of dusty cement stairs. "It doesn't look like anyone ever uses these stairs," Scully remarked as they started down. Mulder pulled out his flashlight to combat the darkness of the stairwell, choosing not to respond to her observation. He did not want to imagine what he might find in the basement.
The stairs opened onto a darkened hallway, and Mulder began to quickly stride down it, sweeping his flashlight from one side to the other so that he could read the numbers on the doors. Finally, he found a door with "32" stenciled on it in peeling black paint. Mulder reached for the handle and turned it, realizing almost immediately that it was locked. He continued to jiggle the handle for a few seconds, pushing on the door as hard as he could, hoping that he could somehow force it open. He only stopped when Scully gently pushed him aside, relieving him of his knife in the process so that she could knife the door.
In no time at all, she had pushed the bolt aside, and the door opened to reveal a darkened room. Scully groped along the wall for a moment before discovering a light switch. When she flipped it, a single dusty bulb hanging in the middle of the room illuminated, revealing a scene which made both agents doubt humanity.
Three scrawny children lay huddled together in a single, twin-sized bed covered with soiled white sheets. The bed was the only piece of furniture in the tiny room which resembled a prison cell, from the cement floor to the cinderblock walls. The air smelled strongly of urine and feces, and Mulder caught sight of a filthy bucket in one corner of the room from which he imagined the smell originated.
Mulder did not spend long looking at the room, for there was not much to look at. Instead, he focused his attention on the three children who were now gazing at the two agents with a mixture of apprehension and dislike on their faces. Having read the file, Mulder knew that they were three, four, and five, but he never could have guessed their ages by looking at them, for they all appeared much younger. They were obviously malnourished; the boys wore only tattered shorts, and their skin was so tight around their chest that Mulder could count their ribs. Both had distended stomachs, and Mulder could tell that their sister was in a similar condition due to the sheer nature of her shirt.
Despite their sickly appearance, Mulder could tell immediately that the three children belonged to Samantha. The young girl looked exactly like Samantha had when she was younger, from the long face to the piercing, hazel eyes, to the long brown hair (which was currently tangled and matted with sweat and dirt). The two younger boys shared many features with their sister though Mulder had to admit that they also looked a lot like he had. One of them even appeared to have the same birthmark on his left thigh that Mulder had. Like their sister, their mostly nude bodies were streaked with dirt and grime, and their hair was unkempt and longer than that of most young boys. Looking at the three kids in front of him gave Mulder a sudden urge to go back upstairs and finish off Peters, but he resisted this impulse, knowing that he had precious little time to get the kids out of the building.
Scully had obviously come to the same conclusion, for she started toward the children. The effect was immediate. The girl began to shriek, her voice louder than Mulder had imagined it could be. "It's okay," Scully said, shouting to be heard over the noise. "We're not going to hurt you. We just want to help."
Either the girl did not understand or did not trust them, for she continued to scream. Scully looked back at Mulder who was at as much of a loss as she was. Neither was quite sure how to handle the emotionally-scarred children in front of them. "I'm your uncle," Mulder told the kids, also moving closer. "Your mother was my sister. I loved her very much. I can't be with her any longer, but I do want to help you three. I know it's what your mom would have wanted."
The girl must have comprehended at least part of what Mulder said, for she stopped screaming and regarded him carefully. Her hazel eyes shown with wisdom far greater than that of most five-year-olds. Mulder looked to Scully, pleased with himself. They were making progress. "Good. Now, this is my friend, Dana. We're going to get you out of here, okay?" He stepped next to the bed and immediately felt a sharp pain in his arm. Looking down, he noticed that one of the boys had bitten his forearm. And despite the boy's small stature, his jaws were strong.
Mulder bit his tongue to prevent a stream of expletives from escaping his mouth. He knew shouting curses would only frighten the children further. Instead, he looked down at the boy with an expression he hoped resembled a smile. "You remind me a lot of your mother," Mulder said, his voice soft and reassuring. "She used to bite people all the time when she was younger if she didn't get her way."
Obviously, Mulder's calm reaction was not what the boy had expected, for he removed his teeth from Mulder's arm and stared up at the man with a curious expression. "Okay, guys, we're going to have to get out of here. I'm going to carry you so we can move faster, okay?" Mulder looked at the kids who gave no response. Leaning over, he picked the two boys up. Immediately, the one who had bitten him began to kick and scream, and Mulder held on as best as he could, avoiding the flailing limbs. "Scully," he grunted as the young boy's foot connected with his chest.
"I've got her," Scully said, picking up the girl. Luckily, she did not begin to scream again. Instead, her eyes took on a distant, hopeless look. Mulder noticed that the other boy, who seemed to be older, wore the same expression.
By the time they reached the stairwell, the younger boy had stopped kicking and screaming. They ascended the stairs in eerie silence; even the sound of their footfalls seemed to be dampened. When they reached the top, Mulder turned away from the office, knowing the building would have some back entrance. As he suspected, a turn brought him to a metal door that looked better suited for a warehouse. Using his shoulder, Mulder pushed it open and stepped out into the cold night air.
Immediately, Mulder realized something he had neglected before—the temperature was in the single digits, and the kids were all wearing next to nothing. Mulder could already feel the boys beginning to shiver; with no other option, he tucked them against his chest, using his jacket to cover them as best as he could. He and Scully walked quickly to the car, happy that the parking lot was unlit. As Mulder unlocked the car and bent to put the boys in the back seat, he noticed that two more cars had entered the parking lot. Quickly, Mulder shed his jacket and used it to cover the boys before shutting the door and sliding into the front seat. Scully was already sitting in the passenger seat, so Mulder wasted no time in starting the car and pulling out of the parking lot.
The ride home was quiet. Scully attempted to talk to the three kids, but they all remained silent, staring straight ahead with wide eyes. Though Mulder could tell they were still frightened, they also seemed curious. He doubted that they had ever been outside the hospital before, so everything was a new experience for them. It was no wonder that they were scared. The only response they gave the whole trip was to cuddle closer together underneath Mulder's coat which easily covered all three. Still, they were shivering, and Mulder continued to turn the heater up, hoping to coax all the warmth from it that he could.
The motel was still when they reached it, likely because it was just after two in the morning. As soon as Mulder parked, he walked around back to carry in the boys. Both still gazed ahead with wide-eyed apprehension. As Mulder picked them up, he noticed a dark spot on the seat beneath the younger one. He supposed it was only to be expected; after all, the three children were all frightened. Making a mental note to clean up the mess later, Mulder followed Scully into the motel room.
Scully's first stop was the bathroom. She set the girl on the tiled floor and began to run the water, testing the temperature with her hand. All three children watched in quiet fascination as she stopped up the tub and it began to fill with water. Of course, the silence was not meant to last. As soon as the tub was half-full, Scully shut off the water and reached to the girl who immediately began to fuss again. "Shh, honey, it's okay," Scully assured her. "I just want to give you a bath. Trust me, you'll feel better afterward." Still, the girl continued to yell. Gently, Scully pulled her closer and removed her meager clothing before lifting her and placing her in the tub. After a few seconds, the girl seemed to realize that Scully was not going to hurt her, and she quieted. Her head swiveled around as she surveyed the water in which she now sat. She cupped some in her hand, allowing it to run through her fingers. Eventually, she came to the decision that the water was okay, and she settled back into the tub without any further fuss.
Seeing that their sister had not been harmed, the boys were much more willing to enter the tub. The children were still small enough that all three fit in together, a fact for which Scully was grateful. She doubted that they would be willing to be separated. As she began to gently pour water over the girl's head using a Styrofoam coffee cup, Mulder entered the bathroom. "I ordered a couple pizzas," he announced. "I thought they might need something to eat."
"You need some help?"
"That would be good."
Somehow, they made it through the bath without incident. As Scully and Mulder dried the children, Scully marveled at the difference something as simple as a bath had made. Though they still appeared malnourished, the bath had seemed to restore some health to the children. A knock at the door announced the arrival of the pizza, and Mulder exited the bathroom to pay the delivery boy. After setting the pizza on the bed, he grabbed three of his old t-shirts and walked back into the bathroom. "I know they're going to be huge, but it's all I've got," he told Scully, holding the shirts out to her. Nodding, she accepted the t-shirts and dressed the kids in them.
The boys were practically tripping over the shirts as they walked back into the main room. The girl was only slightly better off; the t-shirt still hung off her shoulders, making her seem even thinner than she was. "I've got pizza guys," Mulder told them, indicating the two boxes. They regarded the boxes curiously before looking back to Mulder. Opening the first box, Mulder pulled out a slice and brought it to his mouth, taking a large bite. "Yum," he said, rubbing his stomach for emphasis. The girl seemed to understand his demonstration, for she also picked up a slice and took a tentative bite. Mulder saw her eyes light up when the pizza hit her taste buds, and he smiled broadly. "Dig in, guys." Her brothers followed their older sister's example, and soon all the kids were happily munching away on pizza.
By the time they finished their meal, the kids and Mulder had polished off a pizza and a half. All three kids were covered in tomato sauce and cheese, and Scully shook her head when she saw them. "I hope you didn't like those shirts much, Mulder," she remarked, returning to the bathroom for a washcloth. She cleaned the kids up as best as she could with the cloth before tossing it in the sink. "Okay, you three, I think that's enough excitement for today. It's time for bed." Setting the pizza boxes aside, Scully pulled back the sheet and blankets from the bed, allowing the kids to climb in. Once they all seemed comfortably settled, she pulled the blankets up around them and turned off the lights. "Night, you three. I'll see you in the morning."
Mulder and Scully met in the bathroom once the kids were tucked into bed. Closing the door, Mulder flipped on the lights and took a seat on the side of the bathtub, facing Scully who was already sitting on the toilet. "What are we going to do about the kids, Mulder?" Scully questioned.
"Keep them," Mulder said as if it was the most obvious answer in the world.
"Mulder, they are not stray puppies. They're children! Children who have been through God knows what horrors and who are going to need a lot of care."
"They're not just any children, Scully. They're Samantha's children."
"I know, Mulder, but taking them in is not going to bring Samantha back."
"If Charlie and Kaitlin or Bill and Tara died, would you take in their kids?"
"Exactly. These kids are my flesh and blood. I can't just abandon them."
"Mulder, we don't know where these children came from. We know that they someone wanted them to be born, but we don't know why. We don't know who wants them."
"From the looks of things, nobody wanted them. Look, Scully, I need to protect these kids. I can't let anyone else do that. You have to understand."
Scully sighed and closed her eyes. "I knew this case was going to bring some changes. I just didn't know it was going to give us three more children."
"So you agree? We're taking them in."
"I don't see another choice."
Mulder's face broke into a wide grin. "I love you, Scully."
"I love you, too, Mulder."
"Now let's go see if we can find some space in that bed."
Mulder awoke before anyone else the next morning to find himself sandwiched between Scully and the smallest boy. Carefully, he slid out of bed, and Scully simply rolled over to fill the gap. With a fond smile at the four sleeping figures, Mulder walked to corner of the room and dug a change of clothes out of his bag. As soon as he had dressed, he left to pick up breakfast.
When Scully woke up, she found that one of the boys had snuggled against her chest. Scully smiled down at him, thinking about how nice it was to have his warm body pressed against her. Before she could think about it too much, however, the door opened, and Mulder walked in with four paper bags. "Breakfast," he announced. The kids began to stir, and Scully sat up, reaching for the food.
After eating, they began to pack to leave. Remembering the file from the previous day, Scully reached for it on the bedside table, wanting to take a closer look at the DNA sequencing results. Immediately, she noticed something she had not the night before. "Mulder, the file's gone," she told him.
Mulder looked at the bedside table and noticed that she was correct. "They're cleaning up their mess as usual," he remarked. Scully glanced nervously at the kids, and Mulder anticipated her next question. "I think we're safe now. If they truly wanted them back, they would have tried to get them back already. For whatever reason, they've decided to let us keep them. Right now, I don't really care why. Let's just go home."
After checking out of the motel, they started home. Since the kids had no decent clothing, they stopped at a Target, and Scully spent twenty minutes picking out an outfit for each kid. She knew they would have to pick up more clothes later, but at the time, she just wanted the kids to be warm and presentable.
They stopped only twice during the drive back, once to use the restroom and once for lunch. The kids were all silent during the trip; Scully knew they still did not completely trust her or Mulder. But at least they seemed willing to trust the two agents, and for the moment, that was good enough.
When they arrived home, Mulder waited in the car with the kids while Scully went inside to talk to her mother. They had decided that it would be better if they waited to introduce Maggie to the kids, for the children were still getting used to Mulder and Scully. They had been through a lot, and Mulder and Scully did not want to overwhelm them, for they were afraid that they might lose all the ground they had gained.
Once Maggie had gone, Mulder shepherded the kids into the house. He and Scully first decided to introduce the older children to Samantha and Melissa. Luckily, the introductions went well; all five kids accepted the others without fuss. As soon as introductions were over, Scully announced that she was going to go shopping for clothes. She started to take the babies with her, but Mulder insisted that he would be fine with all five kids. Scully looked at him skeptically but still passed Melissa to him. "Call me when you need me," she told him.
"You mean if I need you," he corrected.
"No, I mean when."
As Scully drove away, she felt slightly apprehensive. She knew Mulder was good with kids and could easily handle the girls by himself, but she wondered how he would handle three new kids on top of the twins. Especially three kids who needed as much attention as his niece and nephews did. Still, Scully forced herself not to worry too much, patting the pocket of her coat where she kept her cellphone. If he needed anything, he would call.
Scully stopped first at a Ross. Ross had always been her favorite clothing store because she could easily find cheap, brand-name clothing, and today was no exception. In no time at all, she had filled a cart with tiny articles of clothing. There were a number of after Christmas sales, and Scully took full advantage of these as she continued to shop. With each small shirt or pair of jeans that she added to the cart, she felt a twinge of excitement in her stomach. She had always enjoyed shopping for children's clothing, for it gave her a pleasant, maternal feeling.
When she saw the total, she cringed slightly but still handed over her credit card. She knew that she and Mulder had enough money. He had a decent-sized savings account that his father had left for him. He usually refused to spend it, referring to it as "blood money," but Scully knew he would use it if they absolutely needed it. As she helped the cashier load her many bags into the shopping cart, she checked her watch. She knew she should start heading home soon, but she wanted to make a couple more stops. And Mulder had volunteered to watch the kids. . .
When Scully returned home, she was surprised to find that the house was still in one piece. Grabbing a couple bags from the back of her car, she walked in through the garage, stopping when she saw the scene in the living room. Mulder sat in the center of the sofa, a baby on each shoulder as he read from a large storybook. The three older kids surrounded him; they had actually come to trust him enough to slide closer to him so they could see the pictures. Still, however, they did not touch him; Scully knew it would be awhile before they developed that level of trust.
Hearing the door close behind Scully, Mulder glanced up at her, but the soothing cadence of his voice continued. The book he was reading to the kids was one which had belonged to him when he was younger, and he had memorized it long ago. As he finished the current page, he paused, allowing the kids time to gaze at the pictures. "You need some help?" he asked, leaning his head back so that he could see her standing in the doorway. She flashed him a broad smile.
"No. You just keep doing what you're doing. I'll be fine." Still grinning, she set the bags of clothes in the foyer and turned back to the garage to retrieve more.
Since she was working by herself, it took her longer than she had expected to bring in all her purchases. Once she had finished putting away the groceries, she returned to the living room and walked over to the couch. Placing her arms on either side of Mulder's head, she leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his hair. Once more, he leaned back, and she moved her lips to his. After a short kiss, Scully pulled away slightly. "I'm going to fix some dinner," she told him.
"Sounds good. I'd offer to help, but I know you'd refuse."
"I've seen you in the kitchen, Mulder. My refusal is in the interest of self-preservation."
"The truth hurts." Scully leaned forward and kissed him again. When she started to pull back after only a second, Mulder's arm reached up and held her lips against his for longer as his tongue plundered her mouth. When they finally did pull apart, both were breathless and wearing stupid grins. Glancing to the side, Scully saw that the kids had watched the entire exchange with interest. "Any special requests?" Scully inquired, looking back to Mulder whose intense hazel eyes were still focused on her face. Scully suppressed a shiver of desire.
"Well. . ."
"For dinner," Scully clarified.
"I'll eat whatever. I'm easy to please."
Scully rolled her eyes at the innuendo before standing up straight. "I bought some toys for the kids. They're in bags over by the doorway."
"Okay. We're almost through with this book, and then we'll go check them out."
Even though they had eaten two large meals along with an afternoon snack, the kids still ate heartily at dinner. They even ate the green beans that Scully had fixed for them, an occurrence which made Mulder smile. "That's not going to be happening too much longer, I bet," he said.
"I always ate my vegetables as a kid."
"Of course you did. You were the perfect child."
"I wasn't perfect."
"Oh really? What rebellious acts did you do?"
"I joined the FBI."
"You weren't a child then."
"When I was thirteen, I used to sneak my mom's cigarettes out of her purse and smoke them."
"Yep. And I never got caught either. Also, when I was ten, Bill got on my nerves more than usual, so I decided to take revenge by hiding his bike. It took him two hours to find it; he was not at all happy about that one."
"Okay, I concede. You weren't perfect."
"What rebellious things did you do, Mulder?"
"I can't tell you that. It might burn your virgin ears." He grinned, and Scully was sorely tempted to reach across the table and slap him. "Here, buddy, I'll get that," Mulder said to the younger boy, reaching to help him cut his pasta. As he sliced the noodles, he looked at Scully, a thoughtful expression on his face. "I remember one day my sophomore year when one of my friends brought some pot to school. We decided it would be fun to go out behind the school and smoke it."
"Mulder, what if you had been caught?"
Mulder shrugged. "I was fifteen and stupid. In some ways, it was good though. I discovered that day that I absolutely hated the stuff and never smoked again." Once more, his face took on the thoughtful expression, a small smile forming on his lips. "I remember that I used to sneak out a lot in high school," he said. His voice had taken on a fond tone as he remembered. "One time, I accidentally hit my mailbox as I was driving back. My father saw it the next day and assumed it was some neighborhood kid screwing around. I never corrected him."
"Ahab would have killed me if he ever figured out that I did something like that."
"I don't think my father cared enough." Mulder's lips curved downward into a frown with this statement, and his brow furrowed.
This time, Scully did reach across the table. Gently, she placed her hand on top of his. "I'm sorry, Mulder."
"Don't be. The past is past." With that, he returned to his pasta, shoveling large forkfuls of it into his mouth.
"Oh, I have a surprise for you guys," Scully told the kids. "I ordered you some beds. They should be here sometime tonight."
"Tonight? How'd you get them to do that?" Mulder questioned.
"I asked nicely, and they agreed."
"I'm sure that's how it went."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Just that if I had asked nicely, they never would have agreed to deliver them tonight."
"That's because you don't know how to ask nicely, Mulder."
"I do know how to ask nicely. It's because I don't have boobs."
"Gender has nothing to do with this, Mulder."
"Was the person who agreed to this a male?"
"Then gender has everything to do with it."
"I refuse to believe that every time someone is nice, it is only because I am a woman."
"Just like you refuse to believe it was a spaceship?"
Before Scully could continue the argument, the doorbell rang. Scully immediately rose from the table to answer it, shooting one final glare at Mulder who continued to eat calmly, stopping from time to time to encourage one of the babies to eat the cereal on the trays of their high chairs.
When Scully opened the door, she found the same tall, broad-shouldered man who she had spoken to in the furniture store. "We brought the beds you asked for tonight as promised, Ms. Scully," he said, indicating a truck behind him.
"Thank you. I'll just show you where they go."
"That sounds good, Ms. Scully. I must say, you have a lovely home. Of course, it's only to be expected since you're so lovely yourself."
Scully did not have to turn around to know that Mulder was listening to the entire exchange with a broad grin. She felt her ears go red but somehow managed to stammer out, "Thank you."
"You're quite welcome. Now, if you'll excuse us, I'll just go get those beds." The man started back to the truck, and Scully turned to Mulder.
"Don't you dare say 'I told you so'."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
"Where are the kids?"
"Still eating. I just got another plate of pasta for the oldest three, so that should hold them off for a little longer. Melissa's almost finished with her cereal, and Samantha is more interested in building towers than actually eating it. We may have an engineer on our hands."
"And why aren't you in there with them?"
"I wanted to check out my competition."
"What? I think the future Mr. Scully seems very nice. Perhaps a bit slow, but it's so hard to find a good man today." Mulder ducked his head to avoid her hand. Laughing, he grabbed it and brought it to his chest, leaning forward to kiss her. Though Scully could hear the men shuffling in with the first bed behind her, she still returned the kiss for a few moments, enjoying the brief intimacy.
"I have to go tell them where to put the beds," Scully said, pulling away.
"And I should go back and make sure that the majority of the food is actually going into their mouths."
Later that night, Mulder and Scully lay in bed. All the kids were finally asleep, giving them some much needed time to themselves. Though the lights in the room were out, neither agent was particularly tired. "We need to come up with names," Scully said practically.
"Billy Bob Joe," Mulder said, scooting closer to her so that he could nuzzle her neck with his nose.
"Hey, you just said we needed names. You didn't say they had be good."
"I refuse to have a kid named Billy Bob Joe."
"What about Aaron?"
"Aaron's good. Aaron Michael."
"Aaron Michael. I like it," Mulder declared.
"I was thinking Thomas for the younger boy," Scully said. "I had a grandfather named Thomas, and I always liked the name."
Mulder was quiet for a moment. "We could use Gregory for his middle name."
"Thomas Gregory. I think it's nice."
"What about for the girl?"
"Rebecca Joy," Scully answered almost immediately.
"Well, that was fast."
"If we had had a girl and a boy, I wanted to name the girl that."
"So we have Rebecca, Aaron, and Thomas."
"I guess we do."
Gradually, Rebecca, Aaron, and Thomas adjusted to their new life with Mulder and Scully. With regular meals and good nutrition, they started to gain some weight and lost much of their unhealthy pallor. They also began to trust Mulder and Scully more, so much that the two agents finally deemed it safe for the kids to meet Maggie. Though scared at first, they came to realize that she, too, did not pose a threat.
It was two weeks before one of them spoke. Because the three needed so much attention, Mulder and Scully had arranged a work schedule with Skinner that allowed one of them to remain home with the kids at all times. One day, Scully had been standing in the kitchen fixing lunch with Rebecca watching closely. As she started to spread peanut butter on a piece of bread, Rebecca suddenly said, "No!" Scully's eyes widened as she turned to the small girl.
"What did you say?" Scully asked.
"No. No peanut butter. Just jelly."
Scully had been so excited that she had to call Mulder at work to tell him. Thomas and Aaron began to talk soon after that, following their older sister's example as always. Thomas proved to be particularly loquacious; it seemed that once he started talking, he never stopped. He had a higher vocabulary than Scully had expected; she had been afraid that when the kids finally did start talking, they would be behind most kids their age because of their slow start. She was pleasantly surprised to find that all three kids seemed unusually smart. Briefly, she wondered if someone had tampered with their DNA to bring about high intelligence, but she quickly dismissed this thought. She refused to believe the kids were anything but normal.
They had done a DNA test which showed that all three kids were likely related to Fox Mulder. Of course, simply looking at the three was an easy way to ascertain this, too. The boys had his same intense hazel eyes, the same dark hair, and the same rather large nose. And Rebecca looked exactly like Samantha had when she was younger, right down to the pigtails she insisted on wearing most days.
One month after they had first found the kids in the small basement room, both Mulder and Scully finally returned to work full-time. Knowing that Maggie likely could not deal with five young children by herself, they enrolled the three older ones in the daycare at a local church. This had been another huge adjustment for the kids, but they reacted better than either Mulder and Scully had expected. Slowly but surely, they began to accept other people into their lives, even managing to make a few friends along the way.
One Friday afternoon, Mulder sat in the basement office attempting to finish a report that Skinner wanted on his desk by the end of the day. Scully was also working on paperwork; she sat on the other side of the desk frowning at a file open in front of her. As he typed in the last sentence, Mulder pressed the period button with some flourish before sending the document to the printer. "Finished," he announced proudly.
"Good because so am I," Scully said as she capped the pen she was holding and closed the file.
"Let me just go turn this into Skinner, and then we can get out of here," Mulder promised, picking up the papers from the printer. He hit them on the table a few times to even out the ends before placing them all in an empty manila folder that Scully had already labeled neatly.
After leaving the report with Skinner's secretary, Mulder and Scully headed to the daycare center to pick up the kids. It was just after 3:00, for Mulder and Scully both attempted to end their day early on Fridays to give them more time to spend with the kids on the weekend. Since it was still relatively early in the afternoon, the daycare was nearly full, and it took Mulder and Scully a moment to find the three familiar figures amongst the sea of children.
Rebecca seemed to sense their presence first; she looked up from the paper she was coloring and spotted them at the doorway. Immediately, her coloring was forgotten, and she raced toward the two agents calling, "Mommy! Daddy!" Mulder and Scully had encouraged the kids to adopt these titles for them, for they figured that it would be less confusing for them that way.
Aaron and Thomas, hearing their sister's cry, emerged from the corner where they had been playing to greet their parents. Smiling, both agents knelt to receive the three energetic children in their arms. One of the teachers approached, also wearing a wide smile. She waited for a moment as the five finished greeting one another, watching the exchange with interest. After a few moments, Mulder stood, holding Rebecca and Aaron in his arms. "How were they this week?" he questioned.
"Much better," the teacher informed him. "They seem to be adjusting well to daycare. They're socializing better with others now. I think they were just a bit shy when they first came."
"Probably," Scully agreed. She had picked up Thomas who was currently attempting to grab her nose. Scully and Mulder had decided it best not to inform anyone else of the kids' background. Though they seemed to be in no danger from whatever organization had created the three, they thought it best not to take unnecessary chances. Besides, the story was too incredible for anyone to believe.
"All three can recite their alphabet now and count to twenty. Whatever you're doing, keep doing it. They're progressing remarkably fast."
"We'll keep at it," Mulder promised. He and Scully had been working with the kids at night, attempting to teach them basic skills with numbers and reading. All three seemed unusually perceptive; they picked up on everything their parents taught them fairly quickly. Mulder wondered if this ability might not be entirely natural, but he and Scully had decided that they would not look too closely at the kids' backgrounds unless it became absolutely necessary. There were some things that they were better off not knowing.
After talking another minute with the teacher, Mulder and Scully left with the kids, arriving home to find Maggie seated on the floor of the living room with the babies crawling around her. She looked up when she heard the five enter. With a smile, she pushed herself up from the floor, a move that Scully found impressive considering her age. "How was work?" Maggie questioned.
"Fairly boring actually," Mulder answered, setting Thomas on the floor so he could remove his coat. "Just a bunch of paperwork."
"Well, I'm going to go ahead and get out of your way. I've got that dinner at church tonight, so I need to be there early to help set up for it."
"Okay, Mom. Thanks for everything," Scully told her.
"Anytime. Call me if you need anything."
Because they were home early, Scully made lasagna while Mulder entertained the kids. After eating, they all prepared for bed before curling up on the couch to watch a movie. It had been a long week, and both Scully and Mulder were grateful for the time to relax. After the movie finished, Mulder glanced down at the two children who were limp with sleep across his chest. He turned to Scully, his eyebrows arched, and found that she also had two children draped across her body, both fast asleep. The fifth was leaning against her side, his chest rising and falling slowly as he slept. Catching Mulder's eye, Scully smiled.
"This is how I always hoped my Friday nights would be," she remarked.
Mulder was silent for a moment, feeling the warmth of Samantha's body against his shoulder. His left hand gently rubbed circles on Thomas's back as he spoke. "It is nice," he agreed. "I could definitely get used to it."
"I already am." They smiled at each other before turning back to the television where the credits were rolling across the screen. Friday nights had certainly changed for them both, but neither was complaining.