Title: Heart Turned Inward
Author: Keleka
Distribution: Gossamer, Spookys, Xemplary, etc.
Rating: G
Spoiler Warning: Requiem Content Statement: msr
Classification: VR Keywords: TLG, MSR
Archive: Sure! Please tell me where so I can visit.
Disclaimer: Get real! If I owned this cash cow, do you really think I'd be living in Mississippi?
Feedback: It's certainly welcome in my house!

Summary: The Lone Gunmen deliver an unexpected Christmas present to Scully. Have yourself an early little Christmas.

Author's Note: Huge steaming piles of thanks to Shoshana, Fabulous Monster, and TBishop, who graciously beta read my stuff, usually without too much complaining, and always with great insight. All my fanfic (X-Files, Hawaii Five-0, and Star Trek) can be found at http://www.keleka.net/keleka/


"Frohike, I don't think this is a good idea."

Jesus. Is he ever going to give it a rest? I pull the van off the highway onto the secondary road and stop for a red light.

We skipped breakfast and I'm tempted to pull into the McDonald's to my left and get some coffee. It's a damn good thing Byers isn't driving or we'd not have made it this far.

I turn to look at Byers who is sitting in the back of the van at the communications console. "Dude, it's Christmas day," I snap back at him. "This is when he'd want us to do it."

"I'm not so sure he'd want us to do this at all," Byers says, almost whining.

"Look, Byers, we already had this argument and you lost, two to one; so shut the hell up and get in the Christmas spirit already." Sheesh. I love these guys but, frankly, sometimes they can be so damned annoying. A couple years in the Marine Corps when they were young would have done them both a lot of good. It certainly made a man out of me.

Byers continues to sulk in the back. I glance over at Langly, whose nose is buried in the map of metropolitan Baltimore. He hasn't tied his hair back in a ponytail this morning and it's cascading around his face. If Langly were a woman, he'd almost be attractive.

"Where to now, Langly?" I ask.

"Turn left at the next red light," he says without looking up, "then take the third right onto Bridgeport Street."

When I turn off, we leave the commercial area and find ourselves in a pleasant residential neighborhood of brick and stucco homes with family-sized yards with swing sets and Japanese maple trees. Sometimes, when I drive through a neighborhood like this, I regret having chosen the path I have for my life.

"There," Langly says, pointing to a modest white stucco house with blue shutters and a large front yard. There is an empty parking spot on the other side of the street so I go to the next intersection, make an illegal U-turn, and swing back to park.

Leaving the van, I'm struck by how peaceful it is here. In the distance I can just barely hear 'Jingle Bells' playing. I wish we had some snow on the ground to go along with it. As we cross the street, someone coming out of the house next door waves to us. "Merry Christmas," he calls out cheerfully.

"Merry Christmas," we all call back.

"Man, this place is giving me the creeps," Langly mutters under his breath.

"This is how normal people live, Langly," I say, laughing.

"Yeah, well, give me abnormal anytime," he says. "It's more real."

We're at the door now, me in front with Byers and Langly behind me. I've always been the pit bull among us, the one who's out front leading the way. Not that they aren't courageous in their own way; it's just that their courage is more subtle than mine. It's what makes us such a good team.

The door is a pretty blue, matching the shutters, and there's a large brass knocker. I reach for it and give it three good raps. After a moment the door pulls open and I find myself looking squarely into someone's chest.

Slowly, I raise my eyes and see a very tall man with short strawberry blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Jesus. He's built like an ox. If this is who I think it is, it's no wonder Mulder avoids this guy like the plague. He's smiling, no doubt filled with Christmas spirit, though his smile fades quickly as he gets a look at us.

"You must be Bill," I say.

"I am. Do I know you?"

"No. We're here to see Dana Scully."

His eyes immediately become clouded by a veil of suspicion. He's in full protective mode now. "Who should I say is calling?" he says, apparently deciding to be the polite professional until he determines for sure whether he needs to kick my ass to kingdom come.

I know if I tell him we're 'The Gunmen' he'll never let us in. "Tell her it's the Three Stooges."

That sets him back a bit. He looks at me oddly for a moment. "Wait here," he says finally, pushing the door partly closed.

I can hear muffled voices in the distance and for the first time since we left our lair I actually harbor doubts about whether Scully will agree to see us. Safe and sane, surrounded by her family, she might not want to enter back into our world of gloom and paranoia. She might not want to be reminded of everything ... and everyone ... she's lost, and every pain she's suffered.

The Hulk, as I now think of her brother, returns to the door and does not look too happy. I think he was looking forward to kicking my ass. "You can come in," he says. "But if you upset her in any way..." he adds in a menacing voice and then lets the implied threat hang ominously.

"Chill out, Bill. We aren't here to upset her."

The foyer is bedecked with wreathes and candles. When we enter the living room, my eyes are immediately drawn to the Christmas tree in the corner. It is tall and full, sparkling with tasteful decorations. Then I spot the flying saucer ornament I gave Scully for Christmas last year and smile. This tree is obviously decorated with love.

"Frohike? Byers? Langly?"

Her voice draws me out of my tree hypnosis. I turn in its direction and see her at last. She's sitting in a large, overstuffed easy chair by the front window. Several boxes are on the floor at her feet and discarded wrapping paper is strewn about. A small pile of baby clothes is perched on her lap.

For a moment I am too stunned to answer her. God, Dana Scully is gorgeous, even pregnant. Especially pregnant! There is a glow about her that I've seen matched only when she's relaxed and with Mulder. Watching the changes to her body since Mulder disappeared has been incredible. She's due any day now. I haven't seen her since she began her maternity leave a month ago and came to stay with her mother till the baby is born. In just that one month the change has been unbelievable. I wish Mulder could be here to see this.

I approach her cautiously, ever mindful of her brother hovering protectively by her side. One wrong move and I could be toast. I lean down and kiss her chastely on the cheek.

"You look incredible, Scully,"

She laughs and lays her hand on her belly. "I look like a cow!"

Langly gives his greeting from across the room. He's never been one for kisses and tender endearments. Byers approaches and kisses her cheek. "We've missed you, Scully," he says, a wistful look in his eye.

She smiles at him and I can see some tears beginning to glisten in her eyes. Damn hormones probably have her crying all the time now. She composes herself and then introduces us to her family. Mrs. Scully seems to have heard of us, but Bill and his wife haven't. He scowls at us when Dana refers to us as 'The Lone Gunmen,' and she hastily explains what that means. He softens a bit, apparently satisfied that we aren't about to pull out weapons and start blasting.

What brings you guys here?" Scully asks when the introductions are finished. "Not that I'm not thrilled to see you."

Suddenly I'm struck with a memory of the time I played one of the Three Wise Men in a school nativity play when I was a kid. I don't know how wise we are, but in some way, we're playing that role today. We're even bearing a gift.

"We brought you a Christmas present," I say, my throat beginning to constrict a little. I'm remembering Bill's threat if we upset her, and frankly, I'm not entirely sure how she's going to take this.

She smiles broadly. "You brought me a present? But I thought we agreed--"

"It's from Mulder."

Her face goes ashen. Bill takes a step toward me and I'm pretty sure the ass-whooping is about to commence. He stops when Scully places her hand on his elbow.

Scully's face is a picture of agony. If it weren't us, if it were anyone else, she would think this was some sort of cruel joke. But it IS us and she knows we would never do anything to hurt her. She takes a moment to compose herself before speaking. "Maybe you'd better explain," she says softly.

I nod. Yeah, I think that would be a good idea.

"About a week before he ... before he went to Oregon," I begin, choosing my words as carefully as I can, "Mulder told us he wanted to get you ...something. Byers went with him to pick it out. He asked us to keep it until he was ready to give it to you. We don't know exactly what he was waiting for, but ... but, we think that under the circumstances, he would want you to have it now. He would want us to give it to you."

That's Byers's cue and he steps forward, taking a small package from his jacket pocket. We wrapped it this morning in white and silver Christmas paper and topped it with a small blue bow to match Scully's eyes. We usually wrap gifts in old newspaper cartoons, if we wrap them at all, but we took our time with this special package, wanting it to look just right for her.

Scully takes the package from Byers and looks at it sadly. Some tears begin to escape and slide their lonely paths down her cheeks. Valiantly she tries to smile, but her heart just doesn't seem in it. Her eyes give away her sadness.

Her mother moves to sit on the arm of Scully's chair, sliding her hand down Scully's back reassuringly. "Open it, Dana," she says softly.

Scully nods and slowly begins to remove the paper. When she's finished she holds a small black jewelry box. Her hands tremble slightly.

"Go ahead, Dana," Bill says, bending down on one knee beside her chair. How about that? The Hulk can be tender when he needs to be.

She opens the box and when she sees what is inside her eyes widen and then are filled with joy. Tears stream down her face.

I've never seen her look more beautiful. "It's a claddagh!" Mrs. Scully exclaims, her smile almost as joyous as her daughter's. Even Bill looks happy. Thank God.

Mrs. Scully looks at us and our bewilderment obviously shows. "Do you all know the story of the claddagh?" she asks us. We all shake our heads. "Why don't you tell them, Dana?" she says softly.

Scully wipes the tears from her cheeks, and looks at us. I've known Dana Scully for over seven years now. At first she merely tolerated us and our antics because we were friends of Mulder's; later she came to respect us even though she seldom agreed with out beliefs; eventually she came to trust us and rely on us, and even to believe us sometimes. Today, however, is the first time I believe she has ever looked at us with unconditional affection. I feel blessed, as though I've been made an unofficial member of the Scully family.

"Irish legend has it that a man from the village of Claddagh was captured by pirates and sold into slavery to a rich Turkish goldsmith," she begins. "In time he became a master goldsmith himself and when he earned his freedom, he returned to his village and created the legendary Claddagh ring." She takes the ring from the box and holds it so that we can see. "The two hands clutching a heart, topped with a crown, epitomizes the expression of lasting love and eternal friendship. The heart symbolizes love, the hands friendship, and the crown loyalty and fidelity."

Her voice falters now. I'm sure she's thinking of Mulder and commitments they made to each other in the months before his abduction. I can't begin to comprehend how painful it must be for her, knowing that she might never see Mulder again; or how joyful she must be at having his baby; or how she can juxtapose those two emotions. And again, I wonder if we have done the right thing. To stir these emotions in her, with her due date so close....

Mrs. Scully interrupts my thoughts, continuing the story. "The legend also says that if you wear a claddagh on your right hand with the heart facing outwards, the world will know your heart has not yet been won. Wear it on the right hand with the heart facing inwards and it shows that you have friendship and love under consideration. But worn on your left hand with the heart turned inwards, the claddagh means that two loves have joined forever."

As I watch Scully slip the ring on her left hand, heart turned inwards, I know that we have done the right thing.

Title: Heart Turned Inwards: Revisited
Author: Keleka

Summary: Love is ageless. Sequel to "Heart Turned Inwards"


Even before he opened his eyes, he recognized the sounds and smells of a hospital emergency room. He ran a quick mental checklist. He could feel his legs and arms, his head didn't hurt, and his heart was beating strong if the persistent bleep

he heard was from a heart monitor. He felt a slight numbness in his left arm and guessed he was hooked up to an IV.

Moreover, he felt neither pain nor the mental fuzziness of pain medication.

Reasonably certain he wasn't dying, Fox Mulder opened his eyes to confirm his suspicions. He found himself in a relatively quiet emergency room. He rolled his head to the left and could just barely make out the metal tag on the heart monitor.

"Georgetown Medical Center." Yes! If he was in Georgetown, Scully had to be close by.

Now if he could just remember where he'd been and what happened to him. He had to concentrate for several moments before--in a sudden flash of coherence--it all came to him. Oregon, Skinner, Bounty Hunter, spaceship. He'd been abducted. He lifted his right hand to his neck and found his confirmation in Scully's cross pendant. He smiled softly.

When he raised his arm, he caught the attention of a nurse who quickly approached his bed. "Hello, Mr. Mulder," she said softly. "We were wondering whether you were going to join us tonight."

Mulder returned the smile. "Scully," he said. "I need to see Dr. Scully."

The nurse patted his hand gently and gave him a slightly puzzled look. "I'll let Dr. Scully know you're awake, Mr. Mulder. Now you just rest."

He closed his eyes and tried to get his thoughts in order. He had learned so much in the brief period the aliens had kept him on their ship. He finally had the answers to so many questions. He had so much to tell Scully.

In a few minutes, Mulder heard soft footsteps approaching. He opened his eyes and saw a tall, lanky man wearing a white lab coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck. His brown hair was long, reminding Mulder of himself as a college student.

The man even had the misfortune of having a prominent nose, just like himself. But it was the eyes that struck Mulder. He'd only seen that depth of blue in one other person.

The man picked up the medical chart at the end of Mulder's bed and made a pretense of looking at it. Mulder noticed that the man's hand was trembling slightly which he found unusual for an emergency room physician. Finally the man looked at him, smiled, and moved to stand beside him.

"Agent Mulder, I'm Dr. Andrew Scully. I'm the doctor who admitted you."

Mulder was confused for a moment and then realized the mistake. "Oh, I meant Dr. Dana Scully. My partner at the FBI. Is she here?"

Dr. Scully said nothing for a moment and then stepped away to pull the curtain around the bed, offering them some privacy.

He pulled up a stool and sat down next to the bed.

Mulder could feel his heart starting to race, a feeling that was confirmed immediately by the heart monitor. Dr. Scully reached over to turn it off. He studied Mulder intently.

"Where is she?" Mulder said, his voice rising. He could feel the sense of panic starting to wash through him. Something wasn't right here. He needed to see Scully right now, dammit! "What's happened to her? Is she okay?" His eyes pleaded for information.

"She's fine, Agent Mulder. She's not here right now, but you'll see her soon. I promise."

Mulder relaxed a little. He wasn't sure why, but somehow he thought he could trust this young doctor. "How did I get here?" he asked after a moment.

Dr. Scully ran his hand over his face. "To tell you the truth, we don't know for sure. One minute you weren't here. The next minute you were lying unconscious on a gurney in the hallway. We found your weapon and your FBI identification in your jacket pocket."

"What's wrong with me?"

"You're a little dehydrated. There's no indication of any other injuries. We were waiting for you to gain consciousness before we decided what to do with you." Dr. Scully looked away for a moment. When he looked back there was a sadness in his eyes that Mulder couldn't comprehend. "There's something I have to tell you, Agent Mulder, and I'm not entirely sure how you're going to take it."

"Just tell me," Mulder said, bracing for the worst.

Dr. Scully nodded. "You're just like she always described you," he said softly. He smiled when he saw the confusion in Mulder's eyes. "You see,...Dana Scully is my mother and you...Agent Mulder...you're my father."


A few hours later, after being thoroughly poked and prodded by his son, Mulder stood in front of a mirror in the men's room.

He looked the same as he looked just a few days ago, before he had gone to Oregon. His hair, his eyes, everything was the same. His world, however, was upside down.

At first, he had been skeptical. How could thirty years have gone by? But in some ways, it made perfect sense. Einstein had predicted as much in his theory of relativity. The alien ship Mulder had been on had traveled faster than the speed of light. To Mulder, it seemed as though he'd been gone only about two days, but here on Earth, over thirty years had passed.

Mulder heard the door to the men's room open and saw Andrew Scully step up to the vanity. Mulder looked, wide-eyed, at his reflection right next to that of the young doctor. His son. They were the same height and they shared the same hair coloring, nose, and firm jaw line. Andrew's--but he saw Scully's--blue eyes looked back at him curiously.

"Spooky, isn't it?" Andrew said.

Mulder laughed. "Yeah, it is. But I don't understand. Scully couldn't have children."

"I think it would be best if Mom tried to explain that."

"Mom." It made Mulder pause. It was so strange to hear anyone refer to Scully as 'Mom.' Then it occurred to him that Scully must be sixty-six years old. He felt panicked. What if she wasn't well? What if she had a husband?

"Your mom...is she...okay? I mean...her health?" Mulder asked cautiously, almost afraid to hear the answer.

"She's great," Andrew said. "She just retired last year as Deputy Director of the FBI."

"Wow!" Mulder was impressed. Deputy Director was only one heartbeat away from the Directorship. "I always knew Scully would go places without me to hold her back."

"She wouldn't want to hear you talk like that,...um.... Dad."

Mulder stared at Andrew's reflection until the younger man broke out into a lopsided grin. "Sorry. I just had to try it once to see how it felt. I've never had anyone to call 'Dad' before."

"It's...it's okay. Actually...I kind of liked it."

They were quiet for a moment, still studying each other in the mirror. Somehow, this conversation was easier for them both because it was taking place between two reflections.

"What about your stepfather?" Mulder asked, trying to sound casual even though his heart was racing.

"There's never been anyone else," Andrew said. He chuckled. "When I was little, I tried to play matchmaker between Mom and Uncle Walter, but I didn't have much luck."

"Uncle Walter? Skinner?"

He nodded. "They were very close. He was like a father to me. He coached my Little League team. Took me to Orioles games. Came to Parent/Teacher conferences with my Mom. But they were just...friends."

"Where is he now?"

Watching in the mirror, Mulder saw Andrew's eyes tear. "He died five years ago. Not long after I graduated from medical school."

Mulder reached for his son's shoulder to comfort him. "I'm glad he was here for you. He was a good man."

Andrew nodded, blinking back the tears his memories invoked. He was so much like his mother, Mulder thought. He was beginning to realize that this world would be nothing like the one he had left.

"I think its time to go, Andrew. Did you tell your Mom we're coming?"

"I just called her. She wanted to come down but I told her we'd be right over. I don't want her coming out alone this late at night."

Mulder smiled, recognizing his own protectiveness in his son. "I bet she liked that."

Andrew laughed. "Yeah. Well, she said if I didn't get you there right away, she'd kick my ass."


Mulder barely noticed his surroundings as Andrew drove him through the streets of Georgetown. The only thing on his mind was seeing Scully again; he worried about how she would react.

"Did you tell her...about...that I haven't aged?" Mulder asked his son.

"I didn't have to," Andrew said, smiling softly. "She's always suspected that if you were returned, it would be like this."

"But how...?"

"Don't forget...she's a scientist. She explained it to me as soon as I was old enough to understand."

"That explains why you didn't seem too surprised."

Andrew took his eyes off the road for a moment to look at his father. "I hide it well," he said after a moment.

"Just like your mother."

"There's something else I think you should know...Dad." Mulder waited, giving his son the time he needed to get his thoughts together. Finally he continued. "You have three grandchildren."

Mulder was stunned. "Three? Grandchildren?"

"Twin boys and a girl. Fox, Walter, and Maggie."

Mulder stared at Andrew in disbelief. "You named my grandsons 'Fox' and 'Walter'?!"

Andrew laughed. "Mom said you wouldn't like it," he said. "But I wanted to name them after the two most important men in my life and my wife didn't think much of 'Mulder' and 'Skinner' as first names."

Mulder's mind spun as he tried to assimilate it all. He had a 30-year old son, a daughter-in-law, two grandsons, and a granddaughter. It was almost more than he could grasp.

Finally, Andrew pulled the car up in front of an elegant brick townhouse so typical of Georgetown. As they walked up the steps, Mulder stopped and turned to his son. The younger man looked at him quizzically.

"You're a good person." Mulder placed his hand on Andrew's shoulder.

Andrew ducked his head shyly. "Thank you,...but you don't even know me."

Their eyes locked. "Your mother would raise nothing less."

Mulder watched his son struggle to keep from crying. It was time to lighten the mood. There would be plenty of time to talk later. "Oh, and by the way, sorry for the nose."

Andrew laughed through his tears as he opened the front door with his key.


Mulder barely noticed the decor. All he had eyes for was the diminutive woman standing in the middle of the room. He studied her wordlessly for a moment. She had aged, but gracefully; her hair was the strawberry blond he remembered from their first year together as partners. Her brilliant blue eyes were just as penetrating as they had always been, though tonight they were clouded with tears.

"Scully," he said her name reverently as if it were the only word he knew. "Scully."

In Mulder's mind, it had been just two days since their last embrace. That was the night he told her he didn't want her to go to Oregon with him. She had put her cross pendant around his neck, telling him that she would always be with him as long as he wore it.

He reached behind his neck and unfastened the necklace, holding it out before him, the cross dangling from his fingers. He took several tentative steps toward her.

"I brought back your necklace, Scully."

She moved to close the gap between them. Gently, she took his face in her hands and smiled tremulously. "Mulder." It was her benediction, and he bowed his head in acceptance. As he encircled her in his arms, thirty years seemed to melt away from her face, and she was his Scully again. Beautiful. Powerful. Honorable. Perfect.

When they broke the embrace, Mulder fastened the cross pendant around Scully's neck. "There," he said softly. "Now we're both back where we belong." He wiped the tears from her cheeks and then pulled her hands to his lips for a tender kiss.

He noticed for the first time that she was wearing the claddagh ring he had bought her before he went to Oregon. He had left it with the Gunmen, planning to give it to her for Christmas. They must have given it to her for him. He was glad.

He fingered the ring for a moment, and then looked into her eyes. "Two souls joined forever, Scully?"

"Forever, Mulder," she said just before he pulled her into his arms again.

Andrew Scully watched for a moment as his parents kissed, then slowly turned to leave, quietly closing the door behind him.

*end*

Title: Heart Turned Inwards: No Apologies
Author: Keleka

Summary: Love may be ageless, but it's not without its problems.

Sunlight streamed through the blinds in Dana Scully's second floor bedroom window. It was not the light of early morning.

She opened her eyes, blinking at the noontime glare, and realized that she had slept the morning away. It was understandable after the dream she'd had last night. It was similar in theme to the dreams she'd had nearly every night for the last thirty years, dreams about Mulder returning to her. But last night's dream had seemed so real, so vivid, and so different from those she'd had in the past.

She yawned and stretched, and when she did, she sensed there was someone--or something--in bed behind her. Her eyes widened when she realized there was an arm draped around her waist. She must still be dreaming. There was no other explanation for it. There hadn't been anyone else in her bed for years.

"Scully."

She froze. A voice. HIS voice. In a sudden flash, she remembered. It wasn't a dream. Mulder had returned to her! She turned, and when she did, his arm tightened around her waist and pulled her closer. When she saw his face--eyes closed and lips moving slowly as he mumbled in his sleep--she remembered everything.

Mulder was back and Einstein had been right. In Mulder's mind, he had been gone two days. In Scully's reality, thirty years had passed. She laid her hand lightly on his cheek. The contrast between the aged, slightly wrinkled skin of her hand against his still-youthful, tanned cheek startled her.

Carefully, she untangled herself from his arm, sliding to the side of the bed and sitting up. She pulled herself to her feet and turned to look at him again. He appeared almost angelic when he slept. She had forgotten that about him. His lower lip protruded in a slight pout. His eyelids fluttered softly. He was dreaming. She smiled, wishing him sweet dreams.

It had been after 10:00 last night when her son, Andrew, brought Mulder to her house. Oddly, she didn't remember Andrew coming over at all. All she remembered was seeing Mulder come through the door; Mulder putting her cross pendant around her neck; Mulder pulling her into his arms and kissing her. Mulder was all she could remember about last night.

They'd sat up talking until nearly 3:00 AM. It was as though he wanted to know everything that had happened for the last thirty years, all in one night. The miracle of her pregnancy; her search for him and her rise through the Bureau hierarchy; the birth of their son, his childhood, his education; Skinner, the Gunmen, and her family. Everything. He was insatiable.

Finally, she did what she had done so often in the past: she'd fallen asleep on his shoulder in mid-sentence. He must have carried her to the bedroom, undressed her, and put her to bed. And then he had climbed in beside her, just as though he really had been gone only two days.

"Oh, Mulder," she whispered, feeling tears fill her eyes. "Why has everything always been so difficult for us?"


When Mulder awoke an hour later, he knew immediately where he was. He remembered everything about last night with crystal clarity. He remembered his joy as he held Scully in his arms and she told him about their son. He remembered his sadness as he learned the fates of his friends and her family. Only John Byers and Scully's nephew, Matthew, were left. He remembered the pleasure he took from watching her fall asleep on his shoulder.

Never one to lollygag, Mulder jumped out of bed and into the shower. Afterwards, as he pulled on his jeans, he realized that he was going to have to go shopping today. He had been wearing the same clothes for three days, or thirty years, depending on how he looked at it. He was about to head downstairs when he noticed a picture frame on Scully's dresser and stopped to look at it.

It was a simple silver frame with three 5x7" pictures. On the left was a formal portrait of the Scully family: Maggie, Bill, Tara, Matthew, and someone he assumed was the ever-elusive Charlie. Scully was there as well; and standing in front of her was a small boy, probably about five years old, with an mischievous, lop-sided grin. "Andrew," he whispered softly, suddenly having to bite his lower lip to keep from breaking into tears Just as he had been last night, he felt overwhelmed by how much his trip to Oregon had cost him.

The picture on the right was another family portrait--of sorts. It was Scully, Andrew, and Walter Skinner. Andrew was older, perhaps ten or twelve years old, and looked exactly like Mulder did in the pictures he had of him and Sam as children. There really was no doubt that Andrew was his child. Even if Scully had never told a soul, anyone who had known him would have suspected.

The picture in the center brought home to Mulder the reality of his new life. It was of him and Scully, but it was informal, not a posed portrait like the other two. They were at the Gunmen's lair. Only the Gunmen had known that he and Scully had finally gone beyond mere friendship, and their home was one of the few places they could relax and be themselves.

Mulder could remember the night the picture was taken. It was about a month before he was abducted. The guys had invited them over for 'Pizza Night' and Frohike was showing off some new camera equipment. Somehow the little troll had gotten a candid shot of them seated together on the sofa. In the picture, Mulder's arm was looped lazily around Scully's shoulders. Her face was turned toward him and they were sharing a secret smile. They were young and in love and they were planning to spend the rest of their lives together.

The memory brought a dull ache to Mulder's heart. He replaced the frame on the dresser and stood for a moment to reflect on recent events. Scully was sixty-six now, while he was still thirty-eight. None of that mattered to him in the slightest.

She was still Scully. She was still the mother of his child and the only woman he'd ever truly loved. But, somehow, Mulder knew this age difference was going to be a problem. It was going to be a problem for Scully.

Mulder made his way downstairs to look for Scully. He found her in the kitchen. Her back was to him as she busied herself with something on the counter. He crept up behind her quietly. "I hear you, Mulder," she said softly, just as he was about to reach for her. He laughed, slipping his arms around her slender waist and nuzzling her neck. He could feel a wave of apprehension sweep through her at his touch. "Mulder...stop...don't," she said, twisting her shoulders a bit, trying to push him away.

"Nuh, uh," he murmured, kissing her neck, her ear, her shoulder, any patch of skin he could find. "Don't wanna stop." She turned to face him and he saw the tears in her eyes. "What's wrong, Scully?" Mulder asked, though he already knew the answer. Her face was bleak with sorrow.

"I've been thinking--"

"Don't," he said quickly, leaning in to steal a gentle kiss. "Don't think, Scully. There's nothing to think about. I'm back. And I'm not going anywhere." He could see the inner torment gnawing at her. She had already decided what was best for him, without even consulting him, as though he had no say in the matter. Nothing much had changed in thirty years.

She lowered her eyes and took a deep breath, steeling herself for what she had to say. "Mulder, you're welcome to stay here as long as you need to, until you decide what to do with the rest of your life. But I think it would be best if you stayed in the guest room or in Andrew's old room from now on."

"No." She lifted her eyes to his, obviously surprised by the simplicity of his answer. "If I stay in the guest room, it will be really difficult for me to do this." He lifted his hand to her face and gently stroked her cheek before sliding it into her hair. He tilted her face upward as he leaned in to shower kisses along her jaw, finally capturing her lips with his.

When Mulder felt her slip his arms around his waist, he deepened the kiss, his lips beginning to burn with desire. He slid one hand behind her and pulled her against him so she could feel the evidence of his arousal pressing against her. When they broke apart, they were both gasping for air. He rested his forehead against hers and waited for her to recover.

"Mulder," she whispered after her breathing calmed. "Look at us. I'm old enough to be your mother."

"I AM looking at you, Scully," he said with determination. He pulled back and waited for her to meet his eyes. "'To me, fair friend, you never can be old. For as you were when first your eye I eyed, Such seems your beauty still.'" He smiled at her questioning look. "Shakespeare's Sonnets. There were advantages to going to college in England."

Slowly, Scully slid her hands up his back and pulled herself to him until her head rested on his chest. He could feel her sobbing gently against him. He lifted his eyes and silently railed against the injustice of it all. It had taken them so long to admit their love for each other, and then to have this happen! It felt as though they 'were but playthings of the Gods.'

He pushed a lock of hair away from her ear and leaned down to nibble it for a moment before responding. "I love you, Scully. And I'm not going to let you commit some kind of grand sacrifice because you've decided it's what's best for me."

"Mulder, I can't...." He pulled her closer, feeling the pressure of her fingertips against his lower back. He could sense there was something she wasn't telling him. A quick and disturbing thought came to him. Perhaps she meant what she said literally.

"Scully, is there some...some medical problem I should know about?"

She looked up at him, her eyes clouded with tears. What he saw in her eyes was fear. Stark, vivid fear. "I'm afraid," she said, being honest with him at last. "I'm afraid of growing old and dying and putting you through that. I'm afraid of leaving you alone and heartbroken. Mulder, I can't do that to you. You deserve so much more."

Mulder was pleased to hear her admit her fear so freely. He'd always had to drag it out of her before, sometimes tearing painfully at the fragile fabric of their relationship. Maybe some things did change. "We don't deserve the cards we've been dealt, Scully. After everything we've been through together, after everything that was taken from us, the least they could have left us was our time together. I want to make the most of the time we have left."

Scully lowered her eyes while Mulder spoke and wouldn't look at him. He wondered whether there was something else, some other emotion trapped beneath the surface that she was unable, or unwilling, to reveal. A thought suddenly struck him: Maybe Andrew had been wrong. Maybe there had been another man in Scully's life. Maybe guilt, not fear was the unspoken emotion he had seen in her eyes. He pushed aside a wave of jealousy by reminding himself that he had been out of her life for thirty years. Expecting her to wait for him...it wasn't logical. It wasn't fair.

Mulder pulled her close and whispered in her ear, "Is there something else you want to tell me, Scully?" When she didn't answer, he narrowed his inquiry. "Are you trying to tell me there's someone else?" Still she was silent. "It was Skinner, wasn't it? I saw the picture on your dresser. Andrew told me you and Skinner were close."

When she looked at him now, it was with conflicting emotions. He watched as she tried to force her thoughts into order.

Mulder smiled, as much to reassure himself as to reassure her. He had to know the truth, but he vowed silently that he wouldn't be angry or hurt if she had turned to someone else for love in his absence. Thirty years is a long time to be alone.

"It wasn't like you think," Scully said, finally, a bare whisper. "It wasn't...."

"I don't think anything, Scully. Whatever it was, it's okay." Mulder slipped a finger under her chin and tilted her head up. "Look at me," he said when she avoided eye contact. "It's okay," he repeated when she met his eyes. "Do you want to tell me about it? You might feel better if you do."

When she nodded, he led her to the living room and sat beside her on the sofa. He started to put his arm around her but she pulled back, taking his hand in hers instead.

"He was torn up with guilt over losing you in Oregon," she began, hesitating. "He blamed himself and tried to make up for what he thought of as a personal failure by doing everything he could for me and Andrew." She paused. "He fell in love with me," she continued, her eyes locked on their hands. He stroked her palm gently with his fingers. "I loved him too, but...but not the way he wanted me to."

Mulder agreed softly, "Platonic love."

"Not exactly...." she faltered.

He found that he was not breathing. "Go on," he pressed gently, fighting a sudden swell of dizziness.

"He wanted more. I couldn't...I couldn't give it to him. But he didn't leave us."

"He didn't leave you and Andrew," Mulder mirrored.

"By the time Andrew started school, I knew I needed help. He was more than I could handle alone." She laughed gently when Mulder looked shocked. "He wasn't a bad kid, but he was...a handful."

Mulder chuckled with happy memories. "That's what my mom used to call me when she talked to Dad on the phone. She'd beg him to come up to Connecticut to talk to me about something I'd done."

"Like father, like son. Andrew was into everything. He had a million questions. He was into sports. I needed a man in the house to guide him. I didn't want him to grow up without a father, like you did. She paused. "We bought this house together after I was promoted to an Assistant Director. He lived in the guest room, and the downstairs den was his. He lived with us for ten years, until Andrew left for college. I bought his share of the house and he bought one a few blocks from here so he would still be close. The day he moved out was one of the most painful days in my life, but without Andrew as an excuse, I was afraid--"

"I'm glad he was here for you. For both of you. I wish I could thank him."

Scully continued as if he hadn't spoken, her voice soft as the words flowed more freely. For a moment, he wasn't sure whether she realized he was still sitting beside her. "Over the years...sometimes he came to me at night or I went to him. Sometimes... sometimes we both just needed to be held." She suddenly looked at him, her eyes shining with tears. "But sometimes....we needed more. He was so good to us, Mulder. He was so good to Andrew. I couldn't refuse him. And sometimes I wanted...." She looked away again and now she was crying. "Mulder, I missed you so damned much."

Mulder took her face in his hands and waited until she met his eyes. The pain in his chest began to ease. "I understand, Scully. It's all right."

"It's not all right, Mulder," she said chastising herself. "I betrayed you."

"You didn't betray me, Scully," Mulder murmured, pulling her to him. He swallowed hard, trying to find a way to assuage her guilt. His expression stilled and he grew serious. "Scully, there's something I want to tell you. I should have told you years ago, but I couldn't. Something I did. Something unforgivable."

Scully pulled back to look at him, but now he couldn't meet her eyes. She kept her features deceptively composed. "Tell me," she urged him gently.

"When you were gone--"

"Gone?"

He met her eyes now and felt a stab of guilt. "When you were abducted." She nodded understanding. "Skinner reopened the X-Files after you were abducted, after we found out Krycek was part of the Consortium." He shifted uncomfortably and felt her take his hands in hers. "The next day I was in Los Angeles, on a case. Alone. Skinner knew better than try to make me take on a new partner."

Scully settled against the sofa cushions, listening. "Krycek's betrayal must have been very painful for you," she said softly.

He nodded, his face clouded with uneasiness. He dreaded talking about that time in their lives. It was painful for them both. "I...uh...while I was in Los Angeles, I had a 'one-night stand.' It was only a week after you were abducted."

"Mulder, we weren't even 'involved' then. Why would you feel guilty about that?"

"I was already in love with you, Scully."

An uneasy smile played at the corners of Scully's mouth. "I know, Mulder," she said, lifting her hand to touch his cheek gently. "I already loved you too. But it was unspoken. And I don't think we'd even admitted it to ourselves at that point. We'd made no commitments to each other, not even silent ones."

"She was a suspect in the case I was investigating."

"Jesus, Mulder. What were you thinking?"

"I wasn't thinking. All I felt was pain and emptiness, and I sought relief, even if just for a moment and only with a stranger." He shuddered inwardly at what she must think of him. "At least you turned to someone who loved you; someone you cared for; someone we both respected. What I did was far worse. What does that say about me?"

"I think it says you're human, Mulder. We both are. We both make mistakes. We both have needs. I think we have to forgive ourselves, not each other."

"Then forgive yourself, Scully, because you've done nothing you should feel guilty about." Mulder gently wiped the dampness from her cheeks. Enough tears. They should be celebrating his return, not crying over things that happened while he was gone. "I'm glad it was Skinner," he said softly, determined to lighten the mood. "I'm just glad it wasn't, Frohike."

Scully laughed and Mulder smiled at his success. "Speaking of Frohike," she said and then laughed again at his feigned look of shock. "No, not THAT. He and Langly and Byers...sometimes it was like having four sons: three juvenile delinquents and Andrew. If Walter provided Andrew a father figure, the Gunmen were his recalcitrant brothers. They made sure he grew up with a sense of adventure and that he learned to question authority rather than follow it blindly. Without them all, he wouldn't be the person he is today."

Mulder wondered what he had done to deserve such good friends--friends who were willing to step in and help Scully raise his son. Perhaps the Fates saw it as some small compensation for all the pain and suffering they had inflicted on him during his life. He put his arm around her and pulled her close. He was relieved when she relaxed against him.

"I want to make love to you, Scully," he said, his voice low and smooth. "We'll wait until you're ready, but just so you know, though...I'm NOT sleeping in the guest room."

The smile in Scully's eyes contained a sensual flame and her mouth curved into a brilliant smile. "That's good, Mulder, because John Byers will be occupying the guest room tonight. I called him and he's coming over for dinner. He can't drive at night anymore because of his eyesight so he'll be staying overnight."

"Fantastic! What else do you have planned?"

"Lunch. Then we've got to take you shopping for some clothes. And tomorrow we're going to Andrew's house so you can meet his wife and your grandchildren."

Mulder settled back against the sofa cushions and pulled Scully with him. She rested her head against his shoulder and he stroked her hair. "Good God, Scully. We're grandparents."

"I've had time to get used to it," Scully said. "You're not much older than their father, so it might be more difficult for you."

"Do you realize...I have a son and three grandchildren and I've never changed a single diaper my entire life."

Seeing the amusement in Mulder's eyes, Scully laughed. "Maggie is still in diapers. I'll make sure you get your chance."

"I'm sorry I brought it up." He barely kept the laughter from his voice.

"I wish my mother had lived to see her great-grandchildren born. It would have meant so much to her." Her eyes glistened as she spoke.

"What about Bill?" Mulder asked. "I bet he gave you grief, didn't he? About being pregnant by me, I mean. And me nowhere to be found."

"At first, but he got over it. And he was crazy about Walter. When he found out I had turned down Walter's marriage proposal, he almost blew an artery."

Mulder pulled back a bit and looked at her wide-eyed. "You didn't tell me Skinner proposed!"

She smiled softly and her eyes took on a faraway look. "Many times, actually. He was persistent, but he never pressured me.

That was Bill's job."

Mulder looked at her thoughtfully for a moment and then whispered in her ear. "And what about when I propose, Scully?" he asked huskily. "Am I going to have to pressure you?"

Scully met his eyes, her lips trembling slightly. "I guess you'll find out when you ask, Mulder," she said, her voice liquid velvet to his ears.

"Scully, you always keep me guessing," he murmured as he leaned in to kiss her.

*end*

**

Title: Heart Turned Inwards: The Lonely Gunman Author: Keleka & Shoshana

Summary: The Lone Gunman comes to dinner.

As he pulled his vehicle up to the curb in front of Dana Scully's house, John Byers wondered how often it had been said that 'one is the loneliest number'? More times than he cared to count, that's for sure. For over a decade, he had perceived himself as one of three. 'The Lone Gunmen.' Or, 'The Three Stooges,' as Dana Scully had always been fond of calling him, Frohike, and Langly. Raised to be a corporate man, he had never chafed at losing his individuality to the group. It had given him comfort to know that he belonged to a larger whole. He hadn't known that comfort for a long time.

This morning, when Byers's phone had rung for the first time in days, he felt, finally, that the 'oneness' of his life might finally be over. Mulder was back. Mulder and Scully were together again. Mulder and Scully and Andrew made three. Byers liked things that came in threes. The thought made him smile as he stepped out of his car and looked up at Dana Scully's townhouse. He opened the trunk and then flipped a switch on a small remote control he carried in his pocket. A steamer trunk levitated smoothly out of the trunk and moved to the sidewalk where it hovered patiently, waiting for him to tell it where to go next. Of all the technological advances he'd witnessed in the last thirty years, the 'Anti-Grav Porter' was far and away his favorite.

The steamer trunk floated calmly behind him as he slowly climbed the steps to Scully's front door. He was spry for his age, but his eyesight left something to be desired, and he was extra cautious on steps. It had been months since he had visited Scully's home and weeks since he had heard from her. Andrew called once a week like clockwork though, and occasionally he dropped by to visit. Other than Scully and Andrew, Byers really had no friends. He was truly the 'Lone Gunman' now. It made his heart sing to know that his old friend Mulder was back.

When the door opened, Scully greeted him with a smile and a hug. She was dressed attractively in an amethyst dress which cascaded around her ankles. Her trim figure still looked marvelous for her sixty-six years of age. Thrice weekly trips to the gym guaranteed she looked lovely still. She'd even had to refuse a few propositions from younger men at the health club.

It seemed to Byers that he'd known Scully forever, but it wasn't until after Mulder disappeared that he had really gotten to know Dana Scully. He had quickly grown to understand how Mulder had fallen so head-over-heels in love with her, and why he had taken so long to tell her. She was one formidable woman.

"Where's the guest of honor?" Byers asked as he steered his levitating package into the house and into a corner of the living room.

"He went for a run. He'll be back shortly." Scully motioned him to join her into the kitchen while she finished preparing dinner.

"A run? Alone?" Byers was surprised. "Is that wise, at his age?"

Scully came to a quick stop and turned around. "I forgot to tell you, John. Remember what I told you once about Einstein's theory?" Byers nodded. "I was right."

Byers felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him. "Oh my God," he said. "Then...."

"He thinks he was gone only two days."

"Then he's...."

"Not much older than Andrew," Scully said, finishing his sentence and moving to the counter where she resumed making three salads. She hoped her own ambivalence toward the situation wasn't apparent.

"Jesus, Dana. Have they met yet?"

Scully laughed and threw a glance at Byers. "Andrew met him first. He was returned to the emergency room at Andrew's hospital. My theory is that they returned him there on purpose...because of Andrew. Very considerate of them, don't you think?"

Byers moved to the counter and stood beside Scully. He swiped a carrot stick from the pile she had cut and turned, leaning against the counter. He munched on the carrot stick absentmindedly.

"Does he remember anything?" he asked after a moment.

Scully put down her knife and wiped her hands. She look at Byers thoughtfully for a moment. "You know, I really don't know.

I didn't want to press him. I didn't know what they'd done to him or whether he'd want to talk about it. So far...so far he hasn't said anything. He's been more concerned with learning what he's missed here on Earth."

"How's he taking it?"

Scully smiled and carried the three salads to the refrigerator. She stopped at the oven for a moment to check on the beef pot pie she was baking. When she opened the door, the escaping aroma made Byers's mouth water. He always was a sucker for Skinner's beef pot pie, and he knew Scully always used Skinner's recipe.

"So far...with a sense of humor," she said after she was satisfied with the pie's progress. "I think he has his moments of melancholy, but he's holding up well. He's actually quite psyched about meeting his grandchildren tomorrow."

Byers couldn't suppress a laugh. "Mulder a grandfather. That had to be a shock for him."

"I think he was more shocked by the names Andrew and Becky gave his grandsons."

Byers smiled, but then his eyes turned serious. "Does he know about...you and Walter?"

Scully looked away for a moment. "Yes. He knows."

"And?"

"He knows what?" came Mulder's voice from the door. Sweat trickled down his broad chest, weaving through his sparse, mahogany-colored hair, as he wiped himself down with a towel. He still had the same healthy color he'd had the day he disappeared, and the sight of him perspiring and breathing heavily from his run was enough to bring a blush to Scully's cheeks. Seeing him like this brought to the surface some long-buried memories and desires.

"Mulder...." Before Byers could continue, he felt the long nurtured sadness bubble up inside him. He felt his throat clench and the tears begin as he was helpless to stop them. Scully tenderly patted him on the back and made soothing noises.

Mulder hesitated for a moment, briefly overwhelmed by his friend's outpouring of emotion.

Mulder took tentative steps toward Byers. He looked just as Mulder imagined he would look. The same, just older. Frailer, perhaps, but with the same perfect posture; his hair and beard now turned a distinguished gray. Scully smiled at Mulder and stepped away. Mulder slipped his arms around Byers and pulled him close.

"It's okay, John. I'm back now."

Byers struggled for a moment to control himself. "It's been so long, Mulder," he blurted out. "So much has happened."

"I know, John. It's okay." Mulder glanced at Scully who looked like she was about to cry herself. He was just beginning to realize how much the last thirty years had affected the people who were closest to him. Byers was one of the strongest, most determined people Mulder'd ever known, and yet somehow he seemed so much more vulnerable now, just as Scully had earlier.

After a few moments, Mulder could feel Byers calming. He pulled back and smiled. "Better now?" he asked.

Byers nodded. "I'm sorry. I'm just so glad to see you, Mulder."

"Let me go catch a shower and I'll be right back," Mulder said. He gave Scully a quick kiss on the cheek and left to go upstairs.

"Andrew's the spitting image of him," Byers said after a moment.

"I know. They look like they could be brothers. Doesn't say much for Scully genes, does it? The only thing Andrew got from me was blue eyes."

Byers put his arms around Scully and hugged her tightly. "Don't underestimate your contribution, Dana," he said softly.

"Andrew may look like Mulder, but he's got your personality and temperament."

Scully pulled away, laughing. "My temperament? Is that your way of saying he's a hot-headed Irishman?"

Byers chuckled softly. He pulled back, looking at her intently. "Are you....is he...going to live here with you?"

Scully averted her eyes and turned back to the counter. She smiled at Byers's tactful question as cleaned up the discarded carrot skins on the counter. After a moment she nodded. "He says he is," she said softly.

Byers studied her for a moment. "Do you want him to?" Byers prodded gently.

Scully carefully wiped her hands dry on her apron before removing it. She looked at Byers briefly, her expression blank, her eyes betraying nothing. She lifted a pile of dinner plates and silverware and turned to carry them to the dining room.

Gently, Byers placed his hand on her arm, stopping her. "He's been gone a long time, Dana," he said, barely above a whisper.

"It's understandable to be confused." She smiled and nodded her head toward some glasses and coffee cups.

"Help me set the table, John."

**

"Damn, Scully. When did you learn to cook like this?" Mulder wiped his mouth with his napkin before helping himself to a second serving of pot pie.

Scully glanced briefly at Byers with a wry smile. "Walter taught me," she said softly. "He was an excellent cook. This was his recipe."

Mulder snorted. "The Big Guy could cook? You've got to be kidding."

"There were a lot of things we didn't know about him," she said. "He was full of surprises."

Mulder looked thoughtfully at Scully for a moment, sensing that she'd like to tell him more about the man who helped her raise his son. He glanced quickly at Byers. "Surprise me," he said after a moment.

Mulder listened quietly as Scully told him some of the things Skinner had done for her and Andrew over the years. He lowered his eyes and felt his throat constrict. He was quiet a moment, then cleared his throat before looking up. "He took good care of my family for me," he said softly.

Scully reached for Mulder's hand and squeezed it gently. "He loved us, Mulder. You, me, and Andrew. We were his family too."

When they finished eating, Scully scooted the two men into the living room while she cleared the dishes. Byers laughed at Mulder's expression when he saw the box Byers had brought with him rise from the floor, float gently over to the sofa, and set itself down quietly at their feet. For several minutes Mulder amused himself by using the remote control to levitate the box around the living room. Scully came in carrying a tray with three mugs of hot coffee.

"You knock anything over with that, Mulder, and you're in big trouble," she said when she saw the box floating perilously close to an antique lamp. She set the tray on the coffee table and took a seat on Byers's other side.

"You never let me have any fun, Scully" he whined, sticking out his lower lip in an exaggerated pout. He handed the remote control back to Byers who returned the box to the floor at his feet. "So what'd you bring, John?" Mulder asked, taking a mug from the tray and sitting back on the sofa.

Slowly Byers pulled open the box, pulling things out and stacking them on the coffee table. There were several thick albums, and a smaller box containing several dozen computer disks.

"Frohike left this box for you, Mulder," Byers said when he was finished, his voice breaking slightly when he spoke. "He wanted me to give these to you if you ever came back."

Mulder looked thoughtfully at the books and disks but didn't reach for them. "Tell me what happened to Frohike, John."

Byers leaned back in the sofa, his hands clasped tightly in his lap. He lifted his eyes to look at Scully. She smiled encouragingly. "He took his own life three years ago, Mulder," Byers said in a low, composed voice. "He was dying from heart disease. He couldn't stand it anymore...the pain, the helplessness. I came home one night and found him. He had shot--" he stopped, unable to say the words out loud. He shook his head regretfully. Scully reached for Byers's hand and squeezed it gently.

"I'm so sorry, John," Mulder said, his voice a velvety mumble, his eyes darkening with pain. He imagined how horrible it must have been like for Byers to come home and find Frohike like that. He knew it would have shaken him, and he was far more inured to violent death. "What about Langly?" he asked after a moment.

"Oh, God, Mulder...." Byers blurted, his voice aching with grief. Byers didn't continue and Mulder looked to Scully.

She took a deep breath and looked to Byers before she began. He nodded slightly, letting her know she could go on. "About ten years ago Langly was diagnosed as schizophrenic. The decline was so gradual...I should have realized sooner...maybe we could have helped him if I had." She blinked back tears, remembering how clear Langly's symptoms had seemed in retrospect, yet how blind she had been to them until it was too late. "His paranoia grew so strong that eventually he didn't even trust us. One day he disappeared and we've never been able to find him. It's been nearly six years."

The silence weighed heavily on Mulder. The years had taken their toll on his friends, and he regretted not being there for them. He once believed the world would be a better place without him; that his friends wouldn't have suffered the indignities they had if not for him and his quest. Now, though, after seeing what had happened to so many of his friends, he couldn't help but think he might have helped make their lives better had he been here. He reached for one of the albums Byers had removed from the box.

"What are these, John?" he asked.

The change of subject helped Byers regain control of his emotions. "Photo albums," he said after a moment. "Frohike made it his mission to document Andrew's life in case you ever returned."

Mulder opened one of the albums and began to flip through it. There were several hundred pictures in each album, pictures of Andrew as an infant, toddler, and young boy. There were pictures of Andrew in a Boy Scout uniform, playing baseball, at high school graduation. Frohike had truly documented the young man's life in glorious detail. As he paged through the albums, he occasionally asked questions and enjoyed listening to Scully and Byers tell him about Andrew's exploits. Mulder felt himself rise and fall on waves of emotions as Scully and Byers told him about events in Andrew's life. His son's life. At times it seemed surreal and he had to remind himself that he had missed out on thirty years of life with Scully and Andrew. Scully seemed atuned to his emotional rollercoaster and knew just when to squeeze his hand supportively.

Finally, he spotted a group picture of Andrew, Scully, Skinner, the Gunmen, and a woman he didn't recognize. "What's this?" he asked, carefully removing the picture from the album and handing it to Scully.

Scully smiled gently. "That was at Andrew and Becky's wedding. It was just two years before Walter died. It's probably the only picture we have of the entire 'family.'" She handed the picture back to Mulder who studied it for several moments. For just an instant, he felt his emotions overwhelming him. Scully had used the word 'family,' and that felt so right. The only person missing was him. He set the picture aside. He would have it enlarged and framed.

"What about these?" he asked, pointing to the video disks Byers held.

"Video disks," Byers said. "Frohike video-taped several events and converted them to disks." He handed the small box to Mulder.

"Events?" Mulder asked. He pulled out the first disk and looked at the label. "'Andrew's birth,'" he read. It took a moment for it to sink in. He looked at Scully, his eyes wide. "You let Frohike videotape you giving birth?!"

Scully blushed and ducked her head. "Walter talked me into it," she said. "They both knew you'd want to see the big event if you ever came back."

"Let's watch it!" Mulder said enthusiastically. Now it was John Byers's turn to blush.

Scully snatched the disk out of Mulder's hands. "No way," she said, emphatically. "I've watched it with Walter, but no way is John seeing it."

Mulder laughed. "Okay, we'll save it for later." He handed the disk to Scully who set it aside for safe keeping. "What else you got?"

"How about little league games and Boy Scout events?" Byers asked, holding up a disk.

"That'll do," said Mulder.

Byers crossed to a panel in the wall and slid the disk into an open slot. Mulder marveled as a three dimensional picture appeared on the wall.

An hour later, Mulder nudged Scully and pointed to Byers who had fallen asleep.

"I think it's time for the old folk to turn in, Mulder," Scully said softly, standing and stretching. "Why don't you help John get to the guest room? You can stay up if you want, but I'm ready to turn in."

Mulder grinned. "I'll be right up."


Mulder washed his face, brushed his teeth and changed into the pajama bottoms Scully had left out for him. He turned off the bathroom light before leaving the room, stepping gingerly across Scully's bedroom to the edge of her bed. The only source of light now was the full moon outside the window, broken into one-inch slats by the Venetian blinds.

Scully wasn't asleep yet--he could tell by the soft susurrous breaths she took as he climbed into bed beside her. Her heart rate seemed to increase in little increments the closer he got to her, the more thoroughly he wrapped his legs and arms around her. She didn't pull away, nor did she completely relax into his embrace.

Mulder gently pushed the collar of her silk pajamas aside with his lips, then paved a trail of sweet caresses from the nape of her neck to the tender spot just below her delicate ear. Her body tensed against his briefly, then relaxed with a soft satisfied sigh. She moved her neck a fraction of inch, allowing him better access to that spot he remembered so well.

"It's been so long, Mulder," she murmured.

"No more waiting, Scully. Well, at least to have you in my arms again, that is."

She pressed back against his strong, hard torso, telling him he could go further if he liked. Mulder tightened his grip around her, smoothing his hands over the curve of her hips, the softness of her belly. He pressed his nose into her silky hair, breathing deeply of her distinct, familiar perfume.

Mulder wedged his chin against her shoulder, leaning toward her ear so she could hear every word distinctly, "I want to make love to you, Scully. But not tonight. Tonight I just want us to enjoy the anticipation, to feel our bodies respond anew. I want to be unsated for just one more night, knowing what's in store for me tomorrow night."

"Are you sure?" Scully purred softly, arching her back against his chest.

She could feel him smile against her shoulder when he replied, "Very sure. Besides, when I make love to you I want us completely alone. I don't to share you with anyone else. I want to hear those noises you used to make--"

"Mulder!" she said, in mock disapproval.

"Byers is here tonight, Scully. But tomorrow night belongs to us--I'm going to make you come all night--"

She couldn't suppress schoolgirlish giggling as he continued with his lustful promises, "I'm going to pay heed to every square inch of your beautiful body, Scully. You deserve to be loved and loved well."

Mulder grabbed her shoulder and turned her around so he could see her ageless face in the moonlight. His tone was dead serious now as he told her what he'd been thinking all day, "I don't ever want you to suffer again, Scully. I won't let you be lonely again."

Tears slipped down her cheeks as she brought her hands to his beloved face. She hadn't gone a day for over thirty years without his face before her. She hadn't fallen asleep for one night since he disappeared without wondering where he was or what had been his ultimate fate.

"I'm so glad you're here. I'm so glad you weren't the one left behind, Mulder--because I don't know if you would have taken it well." She sniffled, wiping the moisture from under her eyes. "If it had been you--in my place--"

Mulder swooped in to kiss her soundly, then pulled back to meet her liquid eyes. "I would have waited for you. I wouldn't have given up hope."

"Yet I did," she answered shamefacedly, her voice cracked and worn.

Mulder shook his head emphatically, denying her these words.

"No, no. You didn't give up. You did the best you could. You waited so long, Scully. I love you so much for that. I'm so sorry you had to raise Andrew without me. I'm so sorry I wasn't around for your pregnancy, for all those moments when our boy was growing up."

Scully caressed his cheek tenderly, then wove her hand through his thick, dark hair. "I had help. I had Walter. I had our wonderful friends, all of them."

"And you still have Byers, Scully. I'm so happy he's still alive for me. I'm so happy you had a family, friends, to keep you from leading a lonely, isolated life. And now, now I can get to know my son, get to play with my grandchildren. I'm so excited about that--I don't know how I'll be able to sleep tonight. I always wanted children, you know that. But only if they were your children, Scully. Only you."

Mulder gathered her close to him again before she could say another word. He laid flat on his back, then pulled her light weight over him like a warm blanket of Scullyflesh. She nuzzled her face down into his Ivory scented skin.

She hummed a tuneless song against him, exhausted beyond words by the events of the last few days, the passion of the last few moments. He stroked her satiny hair, muttering soft words of comfort and love until he knew she was truly at rest.

Mulder smiled in the darkness, listening to her even respirations against his chest. Tomorrow there was something important he needed to do. And, he would meet his grandchildren. He couldn't wait.

*end*

**

Title: Heart Turned Inwards 5: Reunited Author: Keleka & Shoshana

Summary: Mulder has a busy morning.

 

Mulder awoke to the soft beeping of his wrist watch alarm. He shut it off quickly and then lay very still, not wanting to wake Scully. After a few moments of listening to her steady breathing, he knew she was just as sound a sleeper as she had been thirty years ago.

Gently, Mulder disengaged his limbs from hers and pulled himself from the bed. It was 6:45 a.m. and he had a mission. He went down the hall to use the guest bathroom so the noise wouldn't wake Scully. After a quick shower, he pulled on his jeans and a clean t-shirt.

He paused for a moment at the door to the guest room, listening for any sign that Byers might be awake. He knew that Byers had been an early riser in his youth, and hoped that old habits died hard. He could see a faint light under the door and he heard the sound of mattress springs moving. He inched the door open and peeked in.

"Byers," Mulder said, whispering. "Are you awake?" He pushed the door open further and saw that Byers was sitting up in bed, reading a book.

"Come in, Mulder," Byers said, closing the book and laying it on the bed beside him. "What are you doing up so early?"

Mulder quietly closed the door behind him and moved to Byers's bedside.

"If you're up to it, John, there's someplace I need to go. I need you to take me."

Fifteen minutes later they were in Byers's car heading to their destination. Mulder watched the scenery pass by in silence, noticing the many changes over the years. Periodically, he could feel Byers's eyes on him. Finally he turned to look at Byers.

"What's on your mind, John?" he asked.

Byers looked at Mulder for a moment, his eyes full of questions. There were so many things he wanted to ask, he wasn't sure where to begin. Finally, he decided. "Do you remember what happened to you, Mulder?" he asked, gently, fearing that he was asking his friend to remember unspeakable horrors. "Dana said you haven't told her."

Mulder nodded and returned his gaze to the scenery passing by his window. "She hasn't asked."

Byers waited for Mulder to continue and was puzzled when he didn't. "Did they experiment on you," he probed gently. "Run tests?"

Mulder took a deep breath and let it out slowly. When he was on the alien ship, all he could think about was getting home to tell Scully about the wonders he had seen. But that was before he knew he was going to miss out on thirty years of life with her; before he knew he was going to miss the birth of his son, and the deaths of so many of his close friends. Now when he thought of his 'two days' aboard the alien spaceship, his heart filled with guilt and regret.

"It's okay if you don't want to talk about it," Byers said when Mulder didn't answer. "I'm sure it was a...difficult two days for you."

Mulder was quiet for a moment, struggling to find a way to explain it to Byers. He wasn't sure how much was known now about the aliens and their final abductions. For all he knew, the people of earth knew all about the visitors from another planet and the purpose of the abductions. He decided to probe a little to find out what Byers knew.

"John, what happened after I left? About colonization, I mean. Obviously it didn't happened."

Byers was puzzled by the question. "We spent years trying to find you, Mulder. A few months after you were taken...there was no more alien activity. At least, none that we could verify. It was as though they just disappeared. We never really knew why."

Mulder sighed. He was relieved to know the rebel aliens hadn't lied to him. "The faceless rebels won. The colonizing aliens were destroyed and the rebels seized control." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, barely noticing the passing landscape. "The rebels gathered up the humans whose minds had been altered so they could repair the damage. It was their way of righting the wrongs of the defeated aliens. I wasn't meant to be taken. The brain surgery I experienced had already removed the alien influences from my brain. When they realized I was among the group taken at Bellefleur, they treated me like royalty."

"I don't understand...." Byers said, frustrated that he couldn't concentrate on the conversation while driving. He pulled the car off the side of the highway and parked. He turned to face Mulder and noticed for the first time the stress lines on his face and the tears filling his eyes.

"While you all were living your lives, while my son was growing up, while my friends were dying...." Mulder's voice cracked, but he pulled himself together and continued. "While Scully was growing old, I was out joy-riding with the alien rebels."

"Joy-riding?"

"They took me to their home planet. We left the solar system. That's why we exceeded the speed of light." Mulder turned to stare out the window. "That's why thirty years passed on earth while only two days passed for me," he continued, his voice a painful rumble.

"Jesus, Mulder."

"I don't know how to tell Scully. I don't know that I even should."

"All the other people who were taken didn't remember anything." Byers remembered Skinner and Doggett's reports from interviewing the returned abductees. None of them remembered being abducted. None of them remembered seeing Mulder.

"I know. Their memories were erased. They let me keep mine. I'm to be an... ambassador of sorts for them when they return."

"They're returning?"

"Someday. When we're ready."

Byers waited for Mulder to turn back to face him. When he didn't, Byers put the car in drive and slowly merged back into the light highway traffic. His mind spun as he tried to determine what Mulder needed to hear. "You didn't do anything to feel guilty about, Mulder," he said finally, in a low, awkward voice.

"I abandoned Scully," Mulder said, still staring sightlessly out the car window. "I left her alone and pregnant. I let everyone down."

"You didn't abandon anyone, Mulder. You didn't even know Scully was pregnant. From your perspective you were gone only two days. You couldn't have known."

"Shit, Byers," Mulder said angrily. "I'm not stupid. I knew about Einstein's theory. I should have known. Exceed the speed of light...I should have known."

"From what you've told me, I don't know that you had any choice. Would they have released you if you asked?"

Mulder's spirits sank as he realized he'd never even asked to be released. His excitement at visiting an alien world had practically wiped from his mind all thought of the people he'd left behind. He felt like such a fool. The aliens could have told him that Einstein was right. They could have told him he would be a man out of his time when he returned to earth. If only he had asked. Now he had to live with the knowledge of what he'd lost and what his absence had cost Scully, his son, and his friends.

They traveled quietly for several minutes until they reached their destination. Byers drove through the brick gates and followed the signs to visitor parking. It was barely 8:00 a.m. and they were among the first few visitors to arrive. Mulder walked beside Byers as they made their way up the path to the Visitor's Center. He wasn't surprised by Byers's spryness. Byers had never abused drugs or alcohol like Frohike and Langly; he had taken good care of himself.

They bypassed the Visitor's Center and continued on the path to their ultimate destination. Byers didn't need directions. He had been here many times in the last five years. Mulder stopped to read a sign: 'Welcome to Arlington National cemetery | Our Nation's Most Sacred Shrine | Please Conduct Yourself with Dignity and Respect at All Times | Please Remember These Are Hallowed Grounds.'

Mulder felt a knot forming in his throat. "If anyone deserved to be buried here," he said, softly, "it was Walter Skinner."

Byers nodded and waited quietly while Mulder grappled with his emotions. He understood. Arlington National cemetery has this effect on people. He and Scully had been coming here regularly for five years and it was still an emotional experience.

"Frohike could have been buried here too," Byers said after a moment. "He was a Marine, like Skinner. He did a tour in Vietnam a few years before Walter was there. They didn't talk about it much, at least not to me." He swallowed hard and bit back tears. "They became very close."

Mulder turned and placed a hand on Byers's shoulder. "Where is Frohike?" he asked softly as he gently squeezed Byers's shoulder.

Byers's smile was bittersweet. He looked up at the sky and then at Mulder. "He's up there," he said. "His ashes are out there, somewhere. In space."

"You can do that now?" he asked incredulously.

"We can do that now," Byers said. "Ironic, isn't it? He was up there with you and you didn't even know it." They shared a smile before resuming their walk.

Mulder felt a tingle of excitement as they passed by Abner Doubleday's grave. During happier times, his father often told him the story of Doubleday and how the man once believed to be the inventor of baseball was also a Civil War hero. He smiled to himself at the memory.

"You know, Mulder," Byers said, as if reading his mind, "Skinner really hated baseball."

"Hated it? But what about all those pictures?" Mulder asked in bewilderment. "He took Andrew to Orioles games and went to his Little League games. Scully told me he even coached Andrew's team for a couple years."

"He did it because he knew you loved baseball and would want Andrew to love it too. He did it for you."

"One more thing I owe him," Mulder mumbled. He gathered his thoughts as they continued their walk. He remembered the trips he had made to his mother and father's graves. He'd gone so far to visit them, and yet when he arrived, he had nothing to say. Now he had so much to say, he didn't know where to begin. How do you thank a man who spent his life taking care of your family? He was still lost in his thoughts when Byers grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop.

"This is it, Mulder," Byers said, gently. He nodded toward a small, marble headstone.

'Walter S. Skinner | U.S.M.C. | 1952-2025 | Vietnam | Deputy Director, FBI'

"Not enough words to sum up the life of a man like Skinner," Mulder said.

Byers nodded. "The cemetery doesn't allow much more than that."

"Can you give me a few minutes, John?" Mulder asked. Byers nodded and walked away to give Mulder privacy.

Mulder faced the grave and let his thoughts roam free. He remembered all the times he and Skinner fought, usually over his more inprovident actions. He remembered how Skinner risked his career and his life by dealing with Cancerman for a cure for Scully's cancer. He remembered Scully telling him how Skinner placed his life in her hands when Krycek's nanobots were killing him...and he suddenly realized that Skinner was in love with Scully long before he had been abducted. He found the thought unnerving. One one hand, he was comforted that Scully spent her life with a man who stayed with her, not out of a sense of obligation or guilt, but of love. She deserved that. But, he still felt a pang of jealousy.

"You can't eat your cake and have it, too," he muttered to himself. He gave himself a mental shake and began absently tracing in his mind the engraving on Skinner's tombstone.

"I don't know whether you can hear me, Walter," he began awkwardly. "I've never been much of a believer in the afterlife." He chuckled softly. "Seems I can believe just about anything except the possibility of a benevolent deity and the existence of heaven." A feeling of warmth rose in his chest and spread like a wave throughout his body, making him tingle pleasantly all over. Was this Skinner, he wondered, giving him a sign that he was here? Or was it his imagination running away with him? Whatever it was, it made his eyes fill with tears as he fought to get his thoughts together.

"I just wanted to thank you for everything you did for me while I was gone. For taking care of Scully and Andrew, and for helping make Andrew the man he is. I'm sorry I wasn't here, but if there had to be another man in Scully's life...I'm glad it was you." He bowed his head and stood quietly. He could hear the faint sound of taps off in the distance as someone was laid to rest in another part of the cemetery.

Mulder didn't know how much time had passed when he felt someone touch his arm.

"Are you okay, Mulder?" Byers asked, his eyes full of concern.

Mulder turned to look at Byers, the tears that filled his eyes earlier replaced by a look of peace. "I am now." He smiled and put his arm around Byers. "Let's go home, John."


Mulder stealthily inched his borrowed key into the front door lock, not wishing to rouse Scully a moment earlier than need be. He had slipped the spare off of the set hanging near the foyer, this being the first time he'd left her company for more than a jog around the block. He wanted to keep that key; he wouldn't give it back willingly.

It said a lot about his state of mind that he still feared Scully would reject his proposal to live with her. A few short days and some passionate embraces didn't seal the deal for him. He wanted more than that--his clothes in her closet, his shoes underneath the bed. Permanently.

He needed to get back to some semblance of his old life, to start working at something again. A world of possibilities lay ahead for him, even in this radically changed world of the future. He could try to work for the Bureau again, or teach, or go into private practice as a psychologist.

Getting himself declared alive and well would be an amusing exercise in bureaucratic red tape and updating all his credentials would take time. Mulder knew he could do all that in record time with Scully's help. She had just finished up an illustrious career at the FBI and was well respected in the medical community at large.

He hoped he wouldn't have to ask too much of her, that she would go along with any plan he had for the future. All possible prospects included her by his side, no matter where they took him. He was willing to curtail any amount of foolishness or wanderlust if it made her happy. Less than a week ago, at least as far as his memory was concerned, he had told her it all had to end sometime. Sometime had arrived thirty years ago for Scully. He would just have to catch up with her now.

Mulder's caution was unnecessary--Scully was already up and brewing fragrant coffee in the streamlined kitchen. He inhaled the comforting aromas of home, coffee, buttered toast, and her distinctive perfume. She turned around and smiled shyly at the sound of his rubber-soled footsteps.

"Hey," she said softly. "Where'd you go?"

Mulder returned her smile and wrapped his arms around her shoulders as she stirred cream into her coffee.

"Did you get my note?" he asked, dipping his mouth to kiss the tempting space between her collar and a royal case of bed head. He loved that she hadn't bothered to primp for him.

Scully chuckled at his question. "'Going out. Be back soon.' Uh, huh. I got your note."

"You forgot the part that said 'I love you, Scully,'" he crooned into her ear while disengaging her hands from her coffee cup and turning her around in his arms.

"Oh, that part--" she answered, welcoming his lips when he bent to meet them. She allowed a leisurely kiss, then pushed him gently away, still locked in his embrace. "So, where did you go?" she persisted.

Mulder allowed his eyes to sweep over her face, memorizing every inch of it as though this were his last opportunity to do so. Something inside of him constricted like an overly taut bowstring, creating a vivid, yet strangely apropos image of Cupid shooting straight for his heart. He blinked twice to rid himself of the visualization, not prepared to describe or explain its appearance to the woman in his arms.

"Mulder?" she asked, sensing his distraction.

He focused on her once more, shaking off his internal musings. He tilted his head slightly to one side and grinned back at her. "Sorry, Scully. Just got lost looking at you, I guess." He moved his hands to encompass her pretty face, and leaned in to kiss her.

"Mulder--" she protested as he swept his mouth over hers, effectively silencing her essentially weak objection.

They kissed with complete abandon now, Mulder dipping his body to meet her smaller one. Frustrated with their height difference, he managed to lift her to the counter with minimum effort and a few seconds between kisses. He stepped between her well-toned thighs, threading his fingers through her brilliant colored hair and sprinkling kisses from her forehead to her breastbone.

"Mulder!" she yelped, as he started to disrobe her.

He stopped and looked up at her like a puppy about to lose its favorite toy.

"Scully?" he responded with a involuntary whine.

She smiled broadly and reached out to smooth his bangs away from his eyes. "Hey, let's get out of this kitchen. I don't think I'm up to doing it on the counter."

Mulder stepped back, sheepishly releasing her. He hadn't given much thought to where and when to seduce her; he'd just plowed ahead without any forethought. He lowered his eyes to the floor between them.

"Scully, I'm, I'm so sorry. That was a bad idea."

Scully laughed softly and reached for his chin, forcing him to meet her eyes. "No, it's not a bad idea, Mulder. Just not the greatest location." She extended both hands to him, entwining her fingers with his own. She squeezed his larger hands firmly and continued, "Let's find someplace more comfortable."

Mulder smiled at her proposition, then brought their hands to his lips kissing her knuckles, one by one. He still felt a bit chastened for rushing her. "Sure?"

Scully smiled back. "Sure as I'll ever be."

Mulder leaned in and kissed her lips softly. "I'll tell you all about this morning later, okay?"

"Okay. I'm a patient woman. About some things," she pretended to grouse. "Now--"

"Help you down?" he asked brightly.

"Sweep me off my feet, G-man."


The minute Mulder lowered Scully to the floor next to the bed he knew her mood had changed. She was no longer feisty and lighthearted. She was just plain scared. She stood close to him, her eyes focused on the floor, arms wrapped around her torso.

Without a word, he began to gently massage her stiffened shoulders, then her upper arms, on down to her forearms. He added a few kisses to the crown of her head and Scully gradually relaxed until he was massaging each of her hands individually. He raised each one to his lips and kissed each finger individually, taking all the time they needed.

Mulder understood. He could only guess how long it had been since she'd made love to anyone. He knew that person had to have been Walter Skinner and he tamped down an ugly bit of jealousy racing through his mind. If he'd been there for Scully, she would never have needed Skinner, he told himself.

Mulder should be grateful she had a little happiness in her life while he was off in a spaceship somewhere. Not to mention the way Skinner had helped her raise Andrew. His old boss had never imposed upon her, never insisted they get married. He had nothing but respect for both of their actions. Thirty years was a long time to wait for your lover to return.

"Thank you," she said softly, weaving her arms around him, then laying her red mane against his chest.

He smoothed the length of her hair with firm downward strokes, kissing the top of her head tenderly. "No problem, Scully." His throat was constricted with such joy he didn't know how he continued breathing. Had he always had a lump there that big?

They stood silently for a few minutes, their hands wandering, rediscovering little nooks and crannies they'd forgotten. For Mulder it had been less than a week, his familiarity with her body hadn't left his consciousness the whole time he was held captive. He was discovering differences however, little ones that told a story of a life well-spent raising a child, and actively pursuing her career as an agent.

She was rounder and curvier in certain places, probably from her one pregnancy. She'd kept her hourglass figure though; he guessed from working out at the gym. He started to kiss her forehead, then her brows and lashes, working his way down the bridge of her nose. She giggled when he got to the end and kissed it.

Smiling against her lips, he breathed softly against them, then licked them softly with his tongue. She responded with her own gentle caresses and soon they were sharing a deep kiss, passionate but a little restrained. It was a slow steady dance for both of them, each calling upon the memory of their last time together, thirty years ago.

Scully felt her body weakening with desire for Mulder. She'd never expected to see him again, much less make love to him. She had enjoyed her arrangement with Walter, but it had never been the same as with Mulder. She and Skinner had been friends, not soul mates. It had been comforting and a little bit of happiness for her before he'd left the world too soon. She knew Skinner loved her in a way she could only try and return. He accepted whatever she was able to give and they'd been happy for awhile. His death had been difficult for her and she had given up any hope of having a man in her life again.

Now here was Mulder, back from the dead, back from whatever star he had visited for thirty long years. She didn't want to question him about that yet. She just wanted to live in the moment, to enjoy the long length of his body pressed against her own.

She leaned heavily against him, her legs finally giving out. She was in good shape but emotions were overwhelming her, forcing her to depend on his strength and stamina.

"Want to sit down?" he asked as she slumped against his chest.

"Mmm hmm," she answered in a sexy rumble that sent a jolt through his system.

"Come on, Scully. Let's get comfortable," he told her, bringing her along as he lay crosswise on the bed.

She lay on her back and he moved beside her, propping himself up on one elbow. He used his other hand to straighten her bangs, then caress her cheek lightly as they stared at one another for a long minute.

"You're still so beautiful, Scully. You know that, don't you?"

She closed her eyes and licked the side of her mouth nervously before grabbing his hand and bringing it to her lips. When she reopened her eyes, they were brimming with tears of joy, and she told him, "I love you, Mulder. I never stopped loving you."

"I know," he responded, inching over to kiss her glossy lips.

Mulder kissed and kissed her in a somewhat awkward position before rolling them both over. He landed on his back, gently pulling her over him like a blanket. She could take the initiative this way, he thought. He had always liked that and he knew she did too.

Scully was true to their experience with one another, moving up his torso, cupping his head in her hands as she planted loving kiss after kiss on his full mouth. He ran his hands up and down her spinal column, then gradually worked on dispensing with her robe. It fell off her easily and she moved it to the side of the bed in one motion. She climbed higher on his still clothed chest and lowered her nipples to his face, gasping as he graced them with equal lascivious attention.

It was so good, so very good to have him in her arms again. She rubbed her sex against him, still clothed in soft blue jeans. She felt him, heard him, groan against her as she moved against the bulge in his pants. He hadn't stopped paying attention to her breasts, using both his lips and tongue to make her so wet and so ready for him.

"You're so wet," he mumbled without thinking when he stopped to gaze at her for a second.

Scully froze in the position she found herself in, straddling his thighs. She looked at him with wide eyes and astonishment. "What did you expect?" she asked a little tartly. "Old and dry?"

Mulder's hand fell to his sides and his face showed his immediate distress. "Um, um, oh shit. Scully, that didn't come out right. It wasn't a comment--oh God, you know I'm a stupid bastard sometimes--" he stammered.

Scully blushed with embarrassment. Why had she assumed he was a making a crack about her age? She reached for his hand and brought it to her mouth for a sweet kiss before answering, "You're not stupid, Mulder. I'm sorry. I snapped at you."

Mulder raised his free hand and caressed her cheek softly. "Let me finish, Scully. I wasn't thinking about your age. I'm barely conscious of it anymore. That remark--that's something I'd say anyway. I was always amazed how aroused you'd get for me. Please tell me you believe that," he pleaded.

"Yes, yes. I do." She smiled sheepishly at her lover. "It just-- it's been almost seven years, Mulder... since I've made love to anyone."

"Really?" he asked, a little stunned by the revelation. He knew Skinner passed away five years ago. What had happened between them?

"Really. Skinner was very ill for almost two years before he died. Sex was not a priority, not something I even thought about except in an occasional daydream. My life revolved around making him comfortable in his last days."

"Oh, Scully. I'm so sorry." He kissed her hand tenderly and pulled her down against his chest. "I couldn't have known. And I'm still sorry if my remark hurt you. It was never on my mind you might--"

Mulder couldn't finish his sentence. This was too sensitive a subject and he didn't know how to approach it. Luckily, Scully did.

Speaking against his chest in dulcet tones she explained, "Mulder, It's 2030. There have been a lot of advances in hormone therapy. Women don't have sexual dysfunction like they used to. I've been on the same hormones for years and I'm absolutely healthy and happy."

"I guess I needed Dr. Scully to explain it all," he crooned softly into her ear. He ran his hand through her sweat-streaked hair and leaned forward to kiss her forehead.

Scully chuckled softly and shifted position against him slowly. Mulder gasped when she rubbed against his erection with meaningful intent.

"Scully!" he cried out. "Jesus, woman!"

"I think we need to pick up where we left off," she whispered.

Using his hips for leverage she pulled herself to a sitting position across his thighs. Mulder stared at her with a silly lovesick expression, melting her inside. She giggled softly and pulled at the zipper on his pants, easing it halfway down. Mulder laughed when he realized just how far behind he still was in the clothing category. They managed to pull his jeans and boxers off in one fell swoop and were both glad he'd already shed his shoes in the kitchen.

Mulder struggled with his tee shirt, and with her, as she pushed him backward on the bed. Her mouth was on him before he'd stripped off the cotton garment and his hips bucked against her involuntarily.

"God! Scully!" he cried out.

Scully steadied his hips with her deft hands, and continued stroking him with her lips and tongue, bringing him so close he had to put a stop to it. He reached down and gently nudged her away, his eyes sparkling with love and lust for this beautiful woman.

She lifted her head and smiled with delight. "Too much?"

"For now," he rasped out. "Come up here, Scully. I want to kiss you properly."

She scrambled up his body, sliding her breasts and body across his erection. She cupped the back of his head and pulled his face close for a long heated kiss, tongues imitating what their bodies would shortly do. He let his hands wander, smoothing his hands over her lovely skin, her firm behind.

They both gasped with pleasure as she let go of his face and detoured backward, opening her legs wide so her clit would rub against his hardness. She traversed the length of him over and over again as Mulder used long arms to massage her bouncing breasts and tease her nipples. He finally lost patience with the constant tease and gently stopped her.

"Now," he pleaded as he grabbed her by the hips.

Scully grinned and surprised him when she rolled over on her back and pulled him toward her. She didn't have to say another word, he knew what she wanted. He moved between her legs, sliding slowly inside her while she wrapped her legs around his powerful thighs. Using his hands and elbows to balance above her he thrust all the way inside until his face met hers in a rough but powerful kiss.

They moved against one another in a constant rhythm they'd both established so many years ago. She'd never forgotten, he knew too well how to please her from recent memory. She broke off their fervent kisses and nestled her face against his neck, urging him on, telling him to go harder and faster now.

Her fingernails dug into the skin of his upper back but the pleasure overwhelmed the pain now as he drove into her constantly, holding back until he could feel her come. She squealed with rapture as he hit just the right spot over and over and her orgasm washed over her and tightened her around his engorged penis.

"God, Oh God, Mulder, come for me. Come with me," she called to him.

"Look at me, Scully," he entreated, luring her face away from shoulder and back to his own. "Love you, Scully," he exclaimed, letting loose when he could see the loving expression in her beautiful blue eyes. "Love you, Scully," he repeated as his hips made a final jerky movement against her.

He tried to balance on his elbows, tried not to crush her, but he was having little luck at it. He was more exhausted from the last few days than he had admitted to anyone, including himself, and he couldn't stay balanced. She was urging him to stay with soft words and strong hands but he couldn't--he slipped out of her and pulled her slight figure onto his chest instead. She was warm and wet and slippery and he loved her more than he could tell her.

Scully sighed, sublimely satisfied for the first time in years. It had been years since Walter had passed on, and he had been her only other lover since she'd fallen in love with Mulder. They'd had a cozy relationship, a nice relationship. Not like this however. Not with the passion and force of Mulder's personality. He was like no one she'd ever known--a unique combination of character and personal attributes she'd feared she'd lost forever. She'd come to believe in recent years that the only way she and Mulder would be reunited would be in the afterlife-- a vision of heaven he probably didn't believe in. She'd just hoped she believed enough for both of them.

"Hey," the subject of her wandering thoughts finally said.

"Hey, back at ya," she replied, smiling against his chest and tightening her arms around his broad shoulders.

"Was it good for you?" Mulder quipped.

Scully heard the strain in his voice, perhaps a little insecurity concerning his place in her life, then and now. She decided to reassure him the best way she knew how, with a cogent argument.

"As good as it ever was. Maybe better than that, Mulder." She lifted her head a little so he could see the mischievous gleam in her eyes. "We can always keep putting you to test, you know."

He gaped back with a sex-stupefied expression she was extremely grateful she'd lived long enough to see again. In the flesh, not just beyond the gates of heaven. Though that would be nice too, she thought. This is about as close to heaven on earth as I'm going to get.

"What's that? Heaven on earth, Scully?"

Scully felt her post-coital blush deepen when she realized she'd spoken her thoughts aloud. She turned her head the other way, hiding coyly from his view. Mulder laughed at her affectionately and leaned down to kiss the top of her head. One hand caressed her face, urging her to turn around and meet his gaze again.

When she did, he saw incipient tears forming and he panicked, uncertain whether he'd hurt her feelings or not.

"You okay, Scully? I didn't mean to tease you," he said as he wiped his thumb under her eye. A few droplets had fallen of their own accord and he continued to swipe at them as a smile bloomed on her face.

"I'm okay, Mulder. I'm--I--never thought you'd be back--and now--"

"Always, Scully. We'll always have this. I'm just sorry I wasn't back sooner. I'm sorry I couldn't take care of you better."

She stroked his face with her fingertips and answered, "It's the luck of the draw, Mulder. At least we won one hand." She flashed him a brief smile, and let her fingers stray through his thick dark hair, straightening sweaty tendrils. "Tell me where you went this morning. What did you and Byers do?"

Mulder smiled sadly and fidgeted with her hair, tidying it behind her ear. "We went over to Arlington, Scully. I'm sorry I just didn't tell you in the note but--"

"You thought I might get upset?" she interrupted.

"Yeah, maybe a little. I guess I didn't want you to follow us out there. I hope you don't mind."

She shook her head slightly and he could see the bittersweetness of the moment reflected in her eyes. "No, no. I'm happy you went there. Just sad he's not here to see you in the flesh. So to speak," she grinned, rubbing his bare shoulder with one hand.

Mulder grinned back. "I wanted to say goodbye to him, Scully. You know how I feel about religion, about counting on an afterlife--I guess you might not, I've never really told you. But I can tell you this now, Scully--I could feel something when we were there. Especially when Byers went off by himself for a few minutes. I think he needed to say goodbye to me as much as I needed to thank him for taking care of you all these years."

Scully fought hard to suppress a flash flood of teardrops with little success. She knew the complicated yet affectionate bond between Mulder and Skinner would have lasted for many years--if only Mulder had been around. Skinner had borne the guilt of losing his friend for years after his abduction. He'd tried to do penance by doing everything he could to make Scully and Andrew happy and comfortable throughout their lives.

He'd never demanded anything from her, never once acted like anything but a gentleman. She'd been the one to initiate their sexual relationship, and then only after years and wishing and waiting for Mulder's return. Skinner had been good for her and she had loved him in her own way but she'd never given up hope, never forgotten Mulder was out there, somewhere. Maybe one could only have one true love. Maybe she was doubly blessed for having known both these men.

"Ah, don't cry, Scully," he crooned softly.

He found it impossible to follow his own sage advice, tears streaming down his cheeks. Mulder gently wiped the tears from her face with the tips of his fingers, then he pulled her closer, close enough to kiss the salt away.

Scully choked on a sob, trying to speak again, "I'm not sad, Mulder. I'm so glad you felt a connection to him, even now. He regretted losing you until the day he died. He sacrificed a so-called 'normal' family life to live with us. I wasn't even involved with him for years, Mulder. He never expected anything of me. Never once. Damn, I don't mean to get like this!" she claimed, lifting herself from his chest so that she could straddle him comfortably. "Why don't we go get cleaned up? Take a shower?" She raised one auburn eyebrow as she put forth the question.

"Together?" he asked jovially.

"Yes, together!" she answered, swatting his nose with the tip of one finger. "How else? You've already gotten a good look at my decrepit old body."

Mulder laughed at her self-deprecating remark. She was hardly decrepit and barely looked her real age. She didn't look any older than movie stars he used to admire regularly in the tabloids, women over fifty like Sophia Loren. If he weren't already in love with her he'd still think she was gorgeous.

"What's it going to take to convince you how lovely you are?" he told her honestly. "You look great, Scully." He touched his hand to her cheek and continued, "I'm going to let you know that for the rest of your life."

Scully worried her lower lip, momentarily speechless. Her eyes conveyed the happiness he'd brought to her, just in a few short days. She caressed the hand that stroked her cheek and turned her head slowly to kiss his palm. A smile bloomed on her lips and she lowered herself back onto his chest, kissing the sparse hair there tenderly. She scootched a little farther north and met his lips in a sweet kiss that lasted for as long as they could manage without pausing for a hint of oxygen.

"How about that shower?" she finally said when they unlocked their lips.

"How about a bath?" he proposed.

"Not enough time for a good one. I have something I want you to see before we head over to Andrew's house. Not to mention we haven't had breakfast yet," she teased, poking her index finger at his chest.

"Who needs breakfast?" he countered, kissing her again, just for a moment. "Okay, let's go. I'm curious what you have for me to see now."

The relaxing shower Mulder craved was not to be. They had just enough time to lather each other up and enjoy washing each other's hair before the phone started ringing off the hook.

"Damn!" she exclaimed. "I forgot to set the machine last night. "I'm sorry, Mulder. Let me rinse my hair and catch that."

Scully just made it to the phone, towel clutched around her. Mulder was surprised someone would be so persistent and ring so many times. He wondered who needed Scully so urgently; the usual paranoid thoughts swam through his head and he had to remind himself this was a different time and place for both of them. They weren't being chased down by aliens or the Consortium anymore.

Mulder followed Scully into the bedroom after drying off. She was already halfway dressed and off the phone. He intended to slow her down.

"Hey," she protested when he approached her from behind and caressed her breasts through her satin bra. She turned her head slightly and advised him in her most persuasive voice, "We'll have plenty of time alone later, Mulder. I really need to eat before we go over Andrew's. They want to have an early barbeque around four and I don't think I can make it until then."

He dipped his chin to her shoulder and kissed her neck, "I know. I can't help getting fresh with you when you're dressed like that."

She turned around in his arms and looked up into his eyes, "Well, if you don't get some boxers on soon, I might have to get fresh with you." She smiled and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.

He released her slowly, then crossed the room to the dresser she had designated for him. Within minutes they were out in the kitchen, preparing breakfast together as though it were something they'd done every morning for years. Bagels, cream cheese and orange juice, and a pot of strong Kenyan coffee Mulder remembered her liking so well.

"So who called?" he finally asked her after they had everything on the table and were about to dig in.

"Someone from the Bureau. They wanted to confirm an appointment we have there tomorrow. I usually program the answering machine but I forgot to last night." She gave him a cross look. "You're shattering my routine, Mulder."

"Sorry," he apologized. He frowned even though he was sure she was putting him on.

Scully gave a ladylike snort as she continued to add cream to her coffee. "You don't know how good it feels to break that day-to-day routine, Mulder. It's not that I don't have plenty to do. I'm doing everything I thought I would do during retirement. It just hasn't been the same since Walter passed. I haven't had someone to talk to for over five years, someone who understood everything I'd been through."

Mulder put down his cup of coffee and took her free hand in his own. "You have me now, Scully. I'm not leaving again. I'm not going back to the Bureau unless I can work in DC. If they'll have me, that is."

"Ha! I think they might understand your predicament, Mulder. Science has advanced quite a bit since you were gone. They haven't broken the speed of light and spacecraft don't fly off to Alpha Centauri but I'm sure even the ordinary bureaucrats at Hoover will understand. And of course they're all my colleagues, so they better take my counsel and believe you are very much alive and well."

"Deputy Director when you retired, huh?" Mulder repeated the title, still in awe of her former position in the Bureau.

"Yep." She squeezed his hand firmly. "How I wished you had been there--" She shook her head and released his hand. "No use dwelling on that now. We're going to have a great time over at Andrew's. The kids are wonderful. Walter and Fox never stop running. What?"

Mulder cringed at the names of the twins, unable to disguise his perturbation. "I still can't believe they're named 'Walter' and 'Fox.'" He panicked when he saw her disappointment and scrambled to make amends, "I mean, it's not that bad. It just sounds odd to my ears right now."

She grinned at him and took a small bite of her bagel before answering. "It's okay. It didn't sound right to me at first. Andrew insisted on those names; to honor both you and Walter. I never had a chance to dissuade him."

"He seems like one hell of a good son, Scully," he said thoughtfully. "What does Becky do? How did they meet?"

"She's was physical therapist at the hospital Andy clerked at during med school. They hit it off right away and got married. Now she works part-time at Georgetown Memorial. I know you remember being there, don't you?"

Mulder chuffed a laugh. "Unfortunately, I do. Too many times but most recently in a padded room. 1999. So many years ago now. Andrew has been at Georgetown Medical Center since graduation?"

"He's been there since he finished his residency at Maryland two years ago."

"Probably a good thing they don't work together," he told her with a wink.

"Oh, yeah. I know how difficult that can be," she teased back.

Mulder's smile couldn't disguise the sudden and painful realization racing through him. Scully would never be his work partner again. They would never have another late night argument in their basement office. Nor sit all night on a stakeout. He wasn't sure he wanted to go back to the Bureau without her.

"Is something wrong, Mulder?" she asked when she spotted his fleeting grimace of regret.

He lowered his eyes to his uneaten breakfast and gave her a little shoulder shrug. "I'm not sure, Scully. Maybe I'll be able to talk about it later."

Scully conceded she wasn't going to get anything more out of him at the moment, glancing at the wall clock, "It's almost eleven, let's move over to the living room couch for the entertainment."

"Entertainment, huh? I thought that was what we were doing--"

"Mulder, not that kind of entertainment! Although Frohike did have a hand in producing this--it's strictly G rated!"

Mulder chuckled as he helped her moved their bagels and coffee to the sleek comfortable sofa.

"Frohike, huh? This better be good!"

"It's the best, Mulder. Just sit down and watch," she told him.

She sat close to his side, entwining the fingers of her left hand with his right one. To Mulder's amazement the screen on the wall opened at her command, switching to the channel and volume level she desired.

"Wow," he marvelled, "I'm never going to get used to that."

Scully laughed, "It does boggle the mind sometimes when you stop to think about it. Now--watch, Mulder. This is something special, just for you."

Mulder leaned over to kiss her still-flushed cheek, wondering how he'd gotten so very lucky thirty-seven years ago when Scully had strolled into his office.

The video started and Scully explained, "This was taken from videotape and processed to disk years ago. That's why it's a little fuzzy at times."

The setting was a hospital birthing room, Scully and Skinner the main participants. Mulder's throat swelled with grief at a glimpse of his old friend. He felt no jealousy when confronted with the tableau before him, Scully in sitting up in the institutional bed, Skinner beside her.

Scully was clearly uncomfortable, sweaty, anxious and panting furiously. Skinner was helping her by counting to ten, reminding her when to stop pushing and taking all the abuse her little hands could give his bigger ones.

The doctor finally said the magic words, "The baby is crowning!" and Scully became even more determined to push her son into the world. Skinner leaned close beside her, occasionally rubbing his hand over her back soothingly or exhorting her to push.

The baby's first cry was deafening, demonstrating what a healthy set of lungs the kid had. Everyone in the room had tears in their eyes as the doctor gently placed the newborn on Scully's abdomen. Skinner cut the cord as Scully nervously clung to her child.

Scully looked over at Mulder, still riveted to the images on the screen. Silent tears were streaming down his face. She felt her own joyous teardrops cascade down her cheeks.

Mulder turned toward her, brightly gleaming eyes connecting with a tear-filled reflection of his own joy. He rubbed his thumb over her palm softly, lost for words. She smiled back, offering him a full, radiant smile, thirty years overdue.

fin

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