TITLE: Love for all Seasons 1: Summer into Fall
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere
CLASSIFICATION: V, MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: FTF
DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks.

SUMMARY: Scully spends a month at her mother's cottage on Chesapeake Bay and finds more solace than she sought. Introspection, then action. What *should* have happened after FTF.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Fluff, pure fluff. I'm writing a series of relationship--OK, fluff--pieces, starting summer 1998 and continuing as inspiration strikes until I get tired of fluff. My universe runs parallel with CC's universe only where I want it to. Where applicable, I write relative to The X-Files Time Line, archived at http://www.usd.edu/mmarek/xf/.


September 21, 1998
4:43 PM

I can't believe it's almost fall. Geese sail south in neat vees against a blue sky spotted with just a cloud or two. Gold-tipped trees crowd the shore and reflect across the still waters of the bay. The sun is warm against my back but against that warmth, now and again, the gentle wind has a crisp edge; its cool fingers trace the healing scars on my face, a fine web of frost-bite and chemical burns.

A month ago, I retreated to my family's beach house to lick my wounds and to heal and to think. This house echoes with warm memories of Mom and Dad, my brothers and sister and I, all laughing and happy.

This is the house where I spent my summers, nurtured, maturing through my teens into adulthood. There are only good ghosts here and it comforts me to be with them. I lean back against a tall piling that marks the end of the dock and close my eyes, listening to the gentle whisper of the waters passing under me, running out to be lost at sea.

That was my life, before.

The events of the past few weeks have been a wake-up call for me. The Powers That Be in the Bureau slapped me in the face with demotion and transfer to a dead-end job in Salt Lake City. Mulder shocked me with an anguished confession of his feelings--his need--for me. Then there was the almost-kiss that rocked my world. I close my eyes and remember the emotion in his face and the tears streaking down mine.

I remember the tickle of his breath against my cheek and the gentle first touch of his lips. I remember wanting his kiss, opening my heart for it. I also remember that damned bee and how Mulder literally went to one end of the earth to find me and bring me safely home again.

I hear a splash and open my eyes. A circle widens in the water nearby. Fish. While I'm watching, another fish--perhaps it's the same fish--leaps into the air, its scales shining gold in the evening sunlight. With a flip, he hits the bulls-eye, splashing through the first mark and into the water again. The second circle chases the first, ever widening, never meeting. Both slowly drift away and are gone.

That was my life, before.

I've spent the past six years unconsciously drifting toward Mulder and consciously pushing him away. Mulder is not the man I would have chosen for myself. He is dark, moody, driven, tortured. He invariably takes the most difficult path through life. But somehow we have grown together, his rhythms becoming my rhythms, my needs becoming his needs until I am no longer certain how to separate the two of us.

Even though I am in Maryland and Mulder is in Massachusetts, the 500 miles between us is a bond, not a gulf. Mulder has spent his month on the Vineyard, at the house he inherited from his father. After the first few days, he sent me a hesitant e-mail. Shy, almost. The message was shockingly intimate by Mulder standards. No X-File, no conspiracy, no mutants, no aliens. Just simple stories about painting the porch and what he found while cleaning out the attic. Simple, but perfect. Each morning I eagerly boot my laptop, logging in for Mulder's late-night e-mail and sending my early morning reply.

This faceless communication, safe, typing in black and white to an impersonal screen is an easy medium. I find myself telling the screen things I'd never consider saying to Mulder about my life, my feelings, my dreams. For once we talk about ourselves and not about The Work. We both choose our words carefully. We dance cautiously around the kiss and its meaning. But between the lines we acknowledge that we've willingly stepped over a line in our relationship.

In a way, we've spent the last month negotiating the rest of our lives.

A raft of geese raucously plummets to earth on a marshy neck of land just north of my dock. The tall grass conceals their sleek summer bodies; only heads show above the weeds as they waddle among the tufts of Goldenrod, pecking and grumbling. It's a beautiful time, Fall. It's a time when nature holds its breath. It's a time for change.

It's time for me to change.

I roll onto my stomach, my face over the edge of the dock. A vague reflection stares back at me from the ripples. Red hair, tied in a ponytail that falls over one shoulder. A purple sweatshirt. Between them, my face: the moving water blurs my blemished skin and makes it clear again. It is my face and not my face I see. Just the way I want it. I push one finger through the water and watch the long trail that streaks away from it, a long ribbon that widens and rolls out into the bay.

This is my life, now.

The dock vibrates beneath me. I sense someone moving along the boards, coming in my direction as the vibrations grow stronger. I turn to see a pair of heavy black boots appear next to my shoulder. Oh, Lord. I twist an awkward kink into my neck and follow a pair of well-worn jeans north. They are faded, hugging long legs in all the right places, slipping tightly over narrow hips. Oh my. A light cable knit sweater, charcoal gray, drapes over the them, hanging from broad shoulders. Mulder stands there, hands in pockets, his chin casually unshaven, his hair overgrown and falling carelessly into his eyes. Holy cow.

"Hey Scully." The timbre of his voice sends shivers up and down my spine.

I push into a sitting position at his feet. I shade my eyes against the setting sun and look into his tanned face without speaking. I can't speak, in fact. My tongue is firmly stuck to the roof of my very dry mouth.

"Hey." He offers me a hand and I take it, letting him pull me onto my feet.

"Mulder." I pry my tongue loose and mumble his name. My voice trembles as I climb onto shaky legs, retrieving my hand and using it to unsteadily brush down my sweatshirt. "What brings you here?"

"You." Unvarnished.

Both sides of my brain are shouting *run, Dana, run* but they point me in opposite directions and cancel each other out. Frozen, I use the one remaining functional part of my body to babble, "How did you get here?" Cool, Dana.

Mulder reaches out to touch my cheek. This is not a patented Mulder touch, caring but cool and impersonal. This is different. This touch burns me from each of his fingertips. Warmth surges up and over my head. Something passionate swelled between us, tense, exciting, forbidding.

Then his stomach growls. Loud.

We burst out laughing. The tension evaporates. It's just Mulder and me again.

"You don't happen to have anything to eat around here, do you Scully?" Mulder rubs his belly.

"Been a while?" I say over my shoulder, smiling broadly as I lead the way off the dock.

"Yeah. I caught the 6 AM ferry and I've been on the road ever since." Mulder catches up with me as we wade through the grass in the direction of my mother's house. My pulse settles down to a steady thrum in my veins as we walk and trade innocent pleasantries.

The house, which is ordinarily pretty, white and neat, tonight shimmers like a fairy palace as the setting sun washes the clapboards with gold. Petunias hang around the edge of a porch that wraps around two sides of the house. I have tended my flowers carefully this summer and a riot of blues and reds and pinks and purples cascade from the pots to sway gently in the evening breeze. Tips of white curtains flutter from open windows as Mulder follows me onto the porch, his heavy footsteps a counterpoint to my lighter ones on the wooden stairs.

I raise an eyebrow at Mulder's duffel bag, which sits discreetly to one side of the front door, tucked behind the glider. This is no courtesy call on his way home to Virginia; he plans to stay with me awhile. Little fingers of anxiety play around the inside of my stomach as I heft the bag and bring it into the house with us. I don't make the pretense of putting it in a guest room; instead I push open the door of my own room and set it there, feeling Mulder's eyes against my back the whole time.

Despite my best efforts, I can't quite meet Mulder's gaze when I return to the living room. He helps me out--the room is empty. I walk the few steps into the kitchen and find his backside sticking from the refrigerator where he forages for something to eat.

I gulp and avert my eyes from the taut denim, moving around him, reaching for the salad things. "So how was the drive?" God, that sounds stupid to my ears. My shoulder rubs against his muscular one as I pass him the lettuce and tomato and mushrooms and croutons. Salad-making does not exceed his culinary skills. I've seen him do it before.

"Good. Not too much traffic." Mulder smiles and plays along, rinsing the lettuce in cool fresh water from the sink. "How was your day?" He pats each leaf dry meticulously, his long fingers stroking the lettuce through the thick fabric of the towel.

I force myself to ignore the long stroking fingers as I pour water onto the rice mixture and seal it with a lid. I turn the heat to low then turn to Mulder. Let's get this out of the way, I decide. Without warning, I push him against the counter and slide up his chest until I'm on the tips of my toes and our faces are nearly even. I take his face between my hands and, still not daring to look into his eyes, focus my attention on his lips instead. They are moist and parted, straight white teeth showing behind them. Before the coward in me wrests control of my body, I sink into those lips, working mine across them, feeling their warmth, feeling them open to me.

Mulder's arms slip around my back and he pulls me against him. I lean into his warm strength, my fingers threading through the long hair at the back of his neck. I am surprised by the quiet whimper that escapes his throat as his tongue and mine meet and slide together. I pull back, kiss the line of his jaw, breath his essence from the skin of his neck and burrow my burning face into the soft knit of his sweater. He holds me and I hold him and I listen to the blood rushing through my veins and the pounding of Mulder's heart beneath my ear. After a few minutes, standing there together, I turn from his arms and take the barbecue tongs from the counter.

"I'll start the coals." I peek at his face as I turn toward the front door. What I see there shakes me to the soles of my feet. I see love. I see unshed tears. I see his need for me. I see his need for me to need him.

I take my time lighting the grill, meticulously arranging the coals, and placing the metal grid just-so on top of it all. The crisp evening air cools my face, which I know is as red as the glowing coals I push around with my tongs. Mulder, bless him, understands my need for a moment to myself. I hear him working in the kitchen, rattling the flatware, clattering of plate against plate as he sets the table inside.

As the sun fades to indigo twilight and the coals settle into a deep glow, Mulder appears at my side with a plate of marinated fish. "Look what I found in the refrigerator," he murmurs into my ear, holding the plate toward me, somehow making a pile of dead fish into something strangely erotic. I fork the fillets onto the hot grill where they sputter and pop. Mulder's fingers creep across my nape followed by the humid gust of his breath. The soft warmth of his lips against my sensitive neck flows into me, feeding the heat that blooms in my belly. I concentrate fiercely, fork trembling in hand, and turn each section of fish to grill the other side.

How do we make it through supper? Barely. Mulder, damn him, found candles stored beneath the sink and sowed them throughout the house: two on the dining table, three on the sideboard, four scattered around the living room and, I would discover later, three small flickering votives in the bedroom. We eat our meal in golden dusky candlelight and soft gray shadow that hangs thick with promise.

Then it happens.

While clearing the table, I turn from the sink and collide with Mulder. I steady myself against him and suddenly find both hands beneath his sweater, gliding across the smooth skin that covers his back. My eyes crawl up his chest, across his neck, over his chin, and finally meet his gaze. Mulder's eyes are hot and dark and deep.

Now.

The time is now.

Then his leg is between mine and I press myself hard against him, reaching for his lips with my own, feeling his arms come around me and lift me in the air so that I naturally wrap both legs around his waist, pulling the sweater over his head as I slide my arms up his back and around his shoulders, finally devouring his lips with my own while a tinkle of breaking glass sounds somewhere in the far distance. With his tongue exploring my mouth and his hands roaming beneath my sweatshirt, both touching sensitive forgotten places, Mulder stumbles blindly from the kitchen, caroms off a living room wall to one in the hall, lurches into the bedroom door jamb, and finally staggers across the polished bedroom floor to fall across the bed. I waste no time, ripping at his buttoned fly, peeling the jeans and underwear down his legs in one long pull, throwing the useless garments at the far side of the room before leaning down to kiss him *there.* He groans, jumps beneath my lips, then pushes me back against the mattress and drags my sweatshirt over my head with one hand, dropping it, forgotten when his eyes focus on my bare breasts, nipples popping in the cool evening air. Watching him watch me, I pull down my jeans with trembling hands and kick them away, letting one leg fall to the side, opening myself to him, feeling as wet and as ready as I have ever been for the touch of a lover, feeling the feather-light tickle of his fingers advance along my thigh and climb higher, sliding across the heat of my core, through the curls at the top of my thighs to the sensitive skin on my breasts. His lips follow the path his fingers took and finally I moan because I can't help myself.

Mulder pulls back and looks me in the face, giving me a chance to back out.

"No way," I tug him toward me, breathing heavily, needing this as badly as he does.

Our consummation is a simple act after so many years of foreplay. He slides his naked body up the length of mine, joining us in a single movement, filling me completely. It is simple, but perfect.

Pleasure swirls up and through me as he starts to move his hips. I bite my lip in an attempt not to cry out. Mulder frees my lips with his own and I whisper into his mouth. He smiles against my words, thrusts more deeply within me. I wrap my legs around his hips and move against him, letting go, opening doors, holding nothing back.

"Hey Scully," his words come out as a gasp and a chuckle. Familiar words in a new context.

I open my eyes and see him grinning above me. There are no dark clouds in Mulder's face, our lovemaking has blown them all away. So help me, this is the face I want, the face I need to see first thing in the morning, last thing at night, for the rest of my life. I spin into his light, grip him and thrust against him, climb with him into that soft warm place where we can float forever.

Much later, I wake. Perhaps it's the weight of the moon glow that spills over Mulder and me where we lay twined beneath the sheets. Perhaps it's the tickle of Mulder's breath as it slips between lips parted in sleep and spills across my cheek. Perhaps it's the throbbing, the life surging through parts of me that have been left untouched for too long. Maybe all these things nudge me through my unconsciousness and bring me back to wakefulness where I lay in the loose circle of Mulder arms and simply watch him sleep. Simple, but perfect.

Mulder stirs, rolling onto his back. After a moment, his eyes flutter open and, blinking, he turns his head toward me on the pillow. A sleepy smile stretches across his face.

"Will we be awkward in the morning?" It has been so long since I've slept next to a man and woke in his arms.

"Yes, maybe. A little." He folds me into him, his arms strong around my back. "You'll blush and turn away so I can't see your face," he murmurs into my hair, "I'll beat myself over the head for being such a fool to think you'd ever really care for me this way."

Silly boy. I taste his shoulder with a leisurely swirl of my tongue. Hot and salty with a tang of Mulder. Delicious. I sigh and continue the thread. "I'm afraid to look at you because I'm scared to death you'll regret this..."

"As if, Scully." Mulder breathes quietly against my ear for a moment. Then, "Do you?"

"What?"

"Regret this?" Insecurity tinged his voice.

"No way," I whisper against his chest as I drift into sleep.

The End


TITLE: Love for all Seasons II: Coloring Fall
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere
CLASSIFICATION: MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: None
DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks.

SUMMARY: Still learning how to be comfortable in their new intimacy, Mulder and Scully are ambushed by the Scully clan.

Love for All Seasons is and will be:


September 29, 1998
7:38 AM

"Well."

I swim through many layers of sleep toward the sound. Scully curls against me, her soft round derriere tucked into my lap, her smooth warm back pressed against my chest. I breathe in the nest of her hair, wild and fragrant; her breath tickles my arm as it drifts from her lips, parted in sleep. With Scully in my arms, I sleep the night through, undisturbed by dreams. With Scully in my arms, I have found myself.

"Fox."

Scully called me Fox one day last week, then blushed as if my given name were too intimate to use in broad daylight. She called me Fox on the day we found the old Hobie Cat in the barn, dusty, but its sail carefully furled and stowed in a dry place. The blocks ran fine after we'd cleaned and oiled them; the sheets were strong and good. We used ropes to drag it across the meadow, flushing geese into the sky, leaving a long trail of bent grass while the birds cursed and nagged us from the air. The thin mast wobbled awkwardly as the little catamaran bumped along uneven ground but, in the water, the Cat bobbed gracefully, its boom swinging side to side, inviting us to sail. So we did.

Under Scully's light hand, the little craft tacked smartly across the bay, skipping over the waves, veering left and then right as she sent us sailing into the evening sun. A chilly breeze whipped across my face. I should have felt cold, but I felt warm all over instead.

"Fox, look!" With one hand she pointed at the shore. A flock of Egret sprinted through the shallow water then took flight and skimmed along the bay, their long legs trailing behind them in the air. Laughter poured from Scully's throat as she pulled the tiller, sending us skimming in their wake, losing the race as the white birds dissolved into the sun's glare. She changed course sharply, turning the Cat on one hull. I leaned back against the turn and rose high in the air. From the look on her face and the flush across her cheeks, I could tell she'd heard my name on her lips.

"It's OK for you to call me that." Both hulls settled against the waves and we tacked in another direction. "I'd like for you to call me that."

That night she used my given name several times, loudly. I smile at the memory and snuggle closer to her. My arm easily circles her small waist and I press my palm against her flat belly, lazily running one finger around the soft dimple of her navel.

"Dana."

I still call her Scully. Somehow between us it seems the more intimate name. Scully. I hear her name in my ears and see her face, smiling, above mine in the darkness. Scully. I feel the soft down of her thighs slide across my hips and warm heat of her core envelop me, drawing me in, sheltering me, making me warm and safe and whole. Scully. Delicious goose bumps bubble along my spine as I push into her, hearing her gasp my name in turn. Scully. I hold her against my heart as our breathing slows and we drift into sleep. Her warmth comforts me. I am reluctant to leave it but something tugs me to wakefulness.

"Time to wake up," the voice says loudly this time; so I do.

Blinking sleepily, I flinch as Mrs. Scully materializes from the bright morning sunlight. Shit. Busted. Reflexes honed to a sharp edge during adolescence kick in and I bolt upright, bare chested, blankets pooling around my waist. I'm certain she knows I'm stark naked beneath the flannel and cotton. Somehow she also knows that her daughter and I made glorious love in this bed last night. Twice. It doesn't matter that her daughter is a 35-year-old woman. It doesn't matter that I've been "dating" her daughter for six long years. It doesn't matter that I love her daughter more than life itself. She's a mother, I'm in bed with her daughter, and I'm dead meat. "Mrs. Scully." The words hiss from my lips like air passing from a corpse.

"Mom?" Scully asks sleepily, pushing herself to a seated position. I grab the sheet as it slips, anchoring it to her shoulder with one hand. Her eyes deglaze at my sudden movement, focus. She stiffens as she realizes we have company. "Mom!" and then "Charlie!" Her voice trails off in a squeak.

"Long time, no see, Sis," a red-haired man steps around Mrs. Scully and glares down at me as he speaks to his sister.

Scully folds into herself, pulling the sheet up to her neck. She peers at her family from the far side of the hem. "We didn't expect you."

Indeed.

"We wanted to surprise you," Mrs. Scully replies, a faint smile on her lips. Charlie scowls.

They did, indeed.

Scully struggles to regain her composure and take control of the situation. "Charlie, I'd like you to meet my part...uh...my...um ...friend.... Well." She thinks for a moment. "This is Fox Mulder," she says finally.

Smooth, that's my Scully.

"So I gathered," Charlie says. He turns to me. "Bill's told me a lot about you."

Great. "I hope they're all good things," I say, knowing they're not. To Bill, I'm the devil incarnate, corrupter of sisters. And I'm living up to my reputation.

The front door slams. A hollow galloping sound swells in our direction. "Auntie Dana!" an excited voice squeals just as a flying projectile lands on the bed with a bounce. A sandy-haired girl squirms into the space between Scully and I, unfazed by the strange man who sits naked in bed next to her aunt, unfazed by her equally- naked aunt hiding beneath the covers. "Auntie Dana, there's a boat out there. Did you see it? It's in the water. The sail is so pretty! Can we ride on it? Please. I wanna go on the boat. Please." Her words pour out in a flood of enthusiasm.

"It's a catamaran, Diana," Scully pronounces the word carefully, with all the syllables, "not a boat." Apparently all Scullys must be able to identify common recreational craft correctly from an early age.

"Cat-a-mer-an," Diana dutifully repeats, flashing a gap-toothed grin at both Scully and I. Her nose and cheeks are liberally sprinkled with freckles and her bright blue eyes twinkle with excitement.

"So, can we go?" A new voice, from the doorway. An older boy, cut from the same genetic cloth, lurks just outside the room. Christopher. Behind him stands a woman I recognize from Scully family pictures as Charlie's wife Laura. Charlie and Laura, Diana and Christopher, Mrs. Scully--we're really holding court here. Who's missing? Bill and Tara and Matthew. Bill. I wince mentally and count my blessings.

"Who's he?" Diana finally figures out there's a naked stranger in the bed. She turns and looks up at me, eyes wide and innocent.

"Fox."

"Uncle Fox!" Diana rolls into my lap and hugs me sweetly, her head burrowed against my chest.

"Well, no, not exactly...." I pet her curly head, feeling something strange and paternal swell around my heart as her hair slips through my fingers, fine as silk. I attempt a reasonable explanation of my relationship to Auntie Dana but it's cut short by Diana's exuberant "Let's go! Let's go!" She tumbles from the bed and, tugging at her brother's hand, drags him from the room. "Come on, Auntie Dana!" The front door closes behind them with a bang and, for a moment, the only sound in the room is my breath strangling in my throat.

Laura discretely steers her husband from the room. After a moment, the front door sounds again, more quietly this time. Mrs. Scully lifts an eyebrow--so that's where Scully gets it--then turns and leaves the room, closing the door behind her with a soft click. Finally. We are alone again.

Scully rolls her eyes and dives into the pillow, burying her face there. A muffled groan leaks from the feathers. "Take me now, Lord."

I rub her back sympathetically. "It could have been worse. We could have been doing the wild thing when they walked in."

Another muffled groan, louder this time.

"Come on, Scully," I feel her shaking beneath my hand. "We had to tell them sometime."

She rolls onto her back, the sheet slipping from her shoulders, and bursts into laughter. "You should have seen your face," she howls. "It was priceless!"

"My face? What about those deer-in-the-headlights eyes I saw barely peeping over the edge of the sheet?"

Scully snickers and stretches; the sheet creeps farther down, exposing what she nearly flashed at her mother and brother. They beg for my attention and I give it to them.

"Mulder, don't!" Scully giggles. I love it when I make her giggle. It's so un-Scully. It's special. "Mulder!" she gasps as I pull at a nipple again with my lips. "My mother..." her voice breaks as I swirl my tongue over the tight nubbin and gently suckle her "...is in the living room."

"Ah, come on, Scully." I shift my attention to the other breast, savoring the sweet morsel with my mouth. "Didn't you ever make out with boys while your parents were watching TV in the next room?"

"How...could...I..." she threads her fingers through my hair and pulls me close against her "with Bill and Charlie policing the house like the Junior Shore Patrol?" She throws her head back against the pillow. "Ahhhhh."

The delicate skin on her neck distracts me and I travel upward, tasting her chest, the small hollow at the base of her throat, the skin behind her ear, the fine line of her jaw. At long last I find her lips and sink into them.

She rises to meet me, matching my passion with her lips and her tongue. Dana Scully of the dark suits and impeccable grooming and the tight composure is also Dana Scully, passionate hellcat, a redhead in every sense of the metaphor. I am one lucky man. I throb with needing her. I need to bury myself in her, lose myself in her, and find myself again and again in her. Instead, I rest my forehead against hers and open my eyes. As Scully reminded me, her mother is in the living room. "We should get dressed."

"Yeah."

I could drown myself gladly in her eyes when she looks at me like that. "Later," I promise.

"It's a deal." With a kiss, she seals the agreement. A few moments later, she's dressed and out the door, leaving me to compose myself. When I pad into the living room, smoothing my bed-mussed hair with both hands, Scully is head-to-head with her mother. The rest of the family is nowhere to be seen.

On the sofa, Mrs. Scully leans toward her daughter, her head tipped, listening. Scully speaks earnestly into her mother's eyes, now and then patting Mrs. Scully's arm for emphasis. I sense a positive vibe here and perch on the edge of the wicker armchair, waiting for judgement.

After a moment, Mrs. Scully turns to me, immediately noting my anxious expression. "It's OK, Fox. Relax." She pats my arm gently. "Really." She opens her mouth to say more but is cut short by the whirlwind that blows back onto the porch and bursts through the front door.

"Grandma! Daddy found life per...preser...preservants..."

"Preservers," Christopher corrects his sister.

"...preservers in the barn. Grandma! Come see. We can go sailing now." Diana pulls at Grandma's hand, towing her onto the porch. Scully and I follow, just to see the show.

"No, Diana." Mrs. Scully Grandma says, "Auntie Dana and...Uncle...Fox are going to stay home today and fix our lunch." She turns and gives us The Eyebrow.

"That's right," I say.

"But I want them to come!"

"Diana, there's no room on the Cat," Scully ruffles Diana's hair affectionately.

Diana pouts for a few seconds then excitement quickly overwhelms her again. She bounds down the steps, skipping across the grass in the direction of the dock. "Bye-bye Auntie Dana. See you later, Uncle Fox" her voice trails behind her as she breaks into a full run.

Mrs. Scully turns to me as she follows Diana down the stairs. "She's really taken with you."

"Kids and puppies." I shrug.

The rest of the morning passes quickly. Scully and I manage to get into a bit of mischief with whipped cream, some body paint, and a bar of lavender soap, but we are clean and smiling--broadly--by the time the rest of the family ties up at the dock again.

Later that afternoon, I sit at the end of the dock, thinking. Scully and her brother have gone into town for more groceries--without me. I declined to join them because it's obvious they need time to talk, sibling-to-sibling. Mrs. Scully and Laura are hard at work in the kitchen baking cookies and preparing for dinner; occasional laughter and cooking sounds drift from the house. Diana and Christopher are off doing what kids do best on a warm fall day. In the barn. Loudly. The geese that have flocked south all afternoon continue to fly noisily overhead in small groups. I sit alone on the wooden planks, basking in the sunshine, listening to the happy sounds all around me, daring to feel part of it from where I sit a safe distance away at the water's edge.

A breath of cool wind rolls off the bay and washes over me, making me shiver for a moment before it drains away again. Something tickles my arm. Diana. Wild curls frame her face; her cheeks shine pink with sunburn. Somehow, in my reverie, she has crept up on me. Without a word, she stretches out across the wooden boards, unpacking a sketchpad and a box of crayons. With much fanfare, she turns to an unmarked sheet and selects a crayon from the box, carefully considering the blank paper in front of her. Then she starts.

A brown rectangle appears on the page, drawn with heavy vertical strokes. The brown crayon is exchanged for a green one and loops of bright green swirl around the brown object. Ahah. A tree. She changes crayons again, this time taking a bright orange one, and applies liberal dollops of color across the green canopy. She sits back and admires her handiwork.

"Nice," I say, looking first at her drawing then at the trees just across the water from us.

"You draw." She thrusts the sketchpad at me.

"Diana, I can't draw."

"You draw." She drops the pad into my lap and offers the crayons to me. Determined blue eyes look into mine, reminding me of someone else. I know that look and I know I can't resist it. Her obedient servant, I accept the crayons and balance the pad on my lap, turning to a fresh page. Diana stops me with a feather light touch of her little hand. "No, Uncle Fox. Draw on mine."

"I don't want to ruin your pretty picture."

"You won't ruin it. Draw." Stubborn. A chip off the old Scully.

I search through the crayons for a nice blue. Cerulean. A bad memory scorches my fingers and I quickly drop it back into the box. No. Not that one. I select another--blue, plain blue. I sketch a few lines of water on the pad. Chesapeake Bay. I resist the urge to add a sea monster or two--purple mountain majesty blended with cornflower would bring Big Blue back to life right here in Maryland--but there are no monsters in this bay.

Diana nestles against my side, resting her soft cheek against my shoulder.

With raw sienna, I add the shore, sketching up to the base of her trees, drawn with a darker brown. Diana chafes my arm affectionately with her hand as she watches me work; the unselfconscious gesture sends a thrill running through me. I start my trees with granny smith apple and add detail with asparagus. While considering where to add splashes of goldenrod, I tap the crayon against my chin. One whiff of the familiar waxy aroma takes me back to the past where I smell warm summer days, see Samantha's awkward baby hands coloring both inside and outside the lines, feel utter security in my parents' ability to protect me, and have an unwritten future filled only with possibility. Heady stuff.

"Smell." I hold goldenrod out for Diana to sample. She sniffs the tube thoughtfully and nods, understanding some of what I smell in it.

"And purple," she advises me as I replace the gold crayon and examine my handiwork.

"Purple? I don't see purple on those trees."

"Yes there is. Look!" Diana points at the tree line across our little inlet of bay. Sure enough, the blaze of colored leaves melts into a purpling sky. Nature is a strange and wonderful place when seen by a child's eye, wide open and unfiltered. Newly enlightened, I select a violet crayon from the box and hold it up for her approval.

"Good," Diana murmurs. As I add purple to the tips of her tree and mine, I feel Diana's head droop on her tired neck. She pushes the pad from my lap and climbs into its place, turning to nestle her sunburned nose against my sweater. She falls asleep, boneless, within seconds. I tuck the open edges of my jacket around her body to protect her from the night and from all bad things.

A few minutes or a few hours later, Scully crouches behind me on the dock; her breath gusts warm against my ear and her hand falls lightly on my shoulder. "Hey, are you two going to sit out here all night?"

"Shhhh," I caution her, nodding at Diana. I'm numb from the waist down, stunned into immobility by the child sleeping so innocently in my arms.

"Mulder, you can carry her like a sack of potatoes and she won't wake up. Don't you remember anything about being a child?" Vague memories of surreal trips between house and car, of sideways furniture and upside-down lamps, flit through my brain.

I struggle to my feet with the precious cargo still wrapped warmly in my jacket. Diana shifts in my arms, muttering in her sleep, but does not wake--just as Scully predicted. Scully collects the artwork and crayons from the dock and follows me as I stagger toward land, working the kinks from my legs and my back with each step that I take.

Tonight, the house glows dandelion yellow from the inside out; laughter and happy voices spill from the open door. As I move up the steps, something catches my eye from the blue violet sky over the barn. The evening star twinkles back at me, simple in silver.

Simple, but perfect.

The End

Author's End Note: I have no idea how I produced this so rapidly. Part III will be along presently


TITLE: Love for all Seasons 3: Winter Solstice
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere
CLASSIFICATION: A, MSR
RATING: PG-13 (sorry) ;-)
SPOILERS: None
DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks.

SUMMARY: In an evening of intimate dancing, unexpected encounters, and unplanned detours, Scully learns to say the three words.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: OK, I skipped back 6 months to where I left off. At this point, Mulder and Scully have been together romantically for only three months.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Sincere thanks to all of you who answered my plea for beta help, particularly Leslie, Christie, tua, gwynne, and lara who gave me pages of very helpful suggestions to read through. You helped a great deal. Also, thanks to everyone else who answered with words of encouragement.


December 21, 1998
Annapolis, MD

--When somebody loves you,
It's no good unless he loves you
All the way--

The smoky alto curls through the darkness, floats across the tabletops, and rolls over me where I sit alone at a table in the shadows. A small votive flickers in its globe; splinters of golden light bounce across the tabletop and fill the empty chair on the other side. Listening to the soft jazz, I watch the door, wondering where Mulder has been for the past twenty-four minutes when he should have been here with me.

--Taller than the tallest tree is,
That's how it's got to feel--

The Merlot glides like fire down my throat and into my veins. Mulder and I discovered this place last September while we discovered our new relationship. Small and intimate, lit by candles and scattered lamps, a few tables, each tucked into a private alcove, Trattoria Nicoletta has become our haven. We drive down from DC at least once a week to meet here. Discreetly.

--Deeper than deep blue seas,
That's how deep it goes, if it's real--

We're realistic, Mulder and I. We know that the people who watch us have watched us cross the line into intimacy. They see everything. I don't like it. In fact, I hate it. But I also remember that I should have the serenity to accept those things I cannot change. So I'm working on it.

--Who knows where the road will lead us
Only a fool would say--

I spin the wine around the bottom of the glass, watching its rich red waves refract the candlelight that warms this little puddle in the darkness. Our puddle. There's nothing that attracts so much attention as two people sneaking around. So we don't. I sleep over at Mulder's apartment and he sleeps over at mine. But we don't have romantic dinners at the little bistro up the street from the Bureau, either. For that, we drive to Annapolis. Or Baltimore. Or a small inn near Leesburg. On that thought, I pour the rest of the wine down my throat and close my lips on a smile.

-- But if you let me love you
It's for sure I'm going to love you All the way.

A strong hand settles on my shoulder. Finally, Mulder. "Sorry I'm late," he smiles sheepishly as he slides into his chair, scuffing it closer to mine, nuzzling the side of my neck with a kiss. "It's getting slippery out there."

It's getting slippery in here, I think as my heart slides around in my chest. I savor his lips against mine until I catch a whiff of garlic. During our embrace, antipasto and bread have materialized on the table. My stomach rumbles appreciatively and we laugh, turning to our meal.

As we share our entree, we share our impressions of the X-File du Jour, an animated conversation of disagreements and challenges. Yes, we indulge in shop talk--Mulder and I are far too consumed by our work to let a little thing like romance get between us and a good mystery--but it is talk tempered with gentle touches and loving looks, even when we disagree.

Then comes dessert and The Crisis. My crisis.

I'm floating in heaven after a healthy bite of tiramisu when Mulder pushes a small velvet box across the table at me. I panic, coming down from my high so fast I leave a crater in the pit of my stomach. "Happy Anniversary," he says with a shy smile, nudging the box closer.

"Anniversary?" I squeak. It is?

"Three months," he nudges the box a little closer.

Oh Mulder, don't do this to me, I moan to myself. Help. The little box pins me against the back of my chair and I stare helplessly at it.

"Open it, Scully," Mulder chuckles, completely misinterpreting my horror as stunned pleasure.

Mulder, you're pushing me farther than I want to go, farther than I can make myself go right now. I force my hand across the table.

Mulder, I've spent a lifetime keeping people at a safe distance and keeping my heart closed to them. I wrap my hand around the gift; the soft white velvet burns my fingers.

Mulder, I can only take one step at a time, not this. I lever the lid carefully with one finger.

Earrings.

Beautiful sapphires ringed with small diamonds sparkle from a bed of white velvet. Beautiful. Really.

"I love them," I blurt and nearly collapse with relief.

Earrings.

Mulder beams, taking the box from me, slipping to his knees at my side, fastening one delicate post to each ear. His lips admire the artwork, sending shivers down my back as they nip and suckle one tender lobe. "I love you," he whispers into my neck, resting his forehead lightly against my cheek. The music ends and a smattering of applause fills the room. Dancers change places, some drifting onto the small square of parquet, some drifting off into the shadows.

"You too," I manage after a long moment.

"You too, what?" he fishes for the three dreaded words, his lips smiling against me.

"You know," I force the words my heart wants to shout, "love you."

Mulder tenses, withdraws, stands and looks down at me, hurt, confused. "Well, don't strain yourself, Scully." He turns away into the darkness.

Of course, he's hurt. Damn me, I curse myself, taking his arm.

"Don't." He jerks it away.

--I'm gonna love you, like nobody's loved you
Come rain or come shine--

I pry his fingers loose from a clenched fist and thread mine through them, tug. "Let's dance, Mulder."

He yields slowly to the distraction, stiffly following me to the dance floor. Two other couples move around the room, lost in their own dreams.

--High as a mountain, deep as a river
Come rain or come shine--

I slip into Mulder's arms, pressing my cheek to his heart, cupping the back of his neck with one hand and curling the other around his waist. We catch the rhythm, surrender to the melody, and dance.

-- You're gonna love me, like nobody's loved me
Come rain or come shine--

In Mulder's embrace, pressed against his long, lean body, I glide easily around the dance floor. Even tense, Mulder is a great dancer, strong and graceful. As we move together, little by little, I feel his tension drain away. He bows his head into mine, pressing his cheek against my hair. He uncoils my arm from around his waist and clasps my hand with his, holding our joined hands against his heart.

Reprieve.

I exhale slowly, release some anxiety, and turn my face into the softness of his dress shirt. A delicious sound vibrates through Mulder's chest, a cross between a groan and a purr, and he chafes my back with his free hand. The heat of his lips skims my knuckles and my legs go wobbly. I relax into Mulder and he takes my weight easily; an air molecule couldn't find the space to pass between us if it tried.

--We'll be happy together, unhappy together Now won't that be just fine?--

Oh Dana, what am I going to do with you, I chide myself while swaying to the music. Your father raised you to be strong and self- sufficient. You depend on yourself, rely on no one. Go, girl. So what has it done for you?

Mulder strokes my hair; the taut cable of my neck unwinds at his caress. I sigh and nuzzle his shirt front, detecting essence de Mulder, a whiff of his distinctive cologne, and--maybe--a touch of garlic from the antipasto that got loose when the devil had momentary possession of my shoeless left foot.

Ah...back to the issue of control again. So is our relationship--any relationship--more about giving up control or getting control, I wonder as Mulder guides me easily around a potted palm at the edge of the parquet.

--The days may be cloudy or sunny
We're in or we're out of the money--

Then there's the way he runs off, tilting at every little green windmill he sees. I don't want to spend my life being jerked off my feet every time another UFO flies by...I'm momentarily derailed by the soft warmth of his mouth as it works its way from one side of my knuckles to the other.

--But I'm with you always--

When the steam clears from my brain, I continue upbraiding myself. Come on, Dana. Be fair. Mulder's done his bit. In the seven years you've known him, he's calmed down, gained focus, quit ditching you...well, almost quit ditching you...and nearly lost his life saving yours. Does control matter when I can trust him with my life?

--I'm with you baby,
I'm with you rain or shine--

Trust. It's really all about trust, isn't it? With trust in the equation, the element of control is insignificant. I trust Mulder with my life but do I trust him to help *me* take care of *my* life? I sigh and he rubs my back gently with his broad hand. Yes. I do. I really do.

So. All you have to do is tell Mulder how you feel. That's all. Simple. Just. Do. It.

I work the words past the lump in my throat, balance them on the end of my tongue, open my mouth...then the music winds down. Mulder and I continue for several turns, drifting to a stop at one side of the dance floor, standing together, unwilling to leave the moment. But the scattered applause, a low murmur of voices, and the clatter of dishes invade our privacy. The words I struggled so hard to produce dry on my tongue. I touch my new earrings with nervous fingertips, seeking strength from the stones. No luck. Damn. The moment is gone.

And the hour is late.

Mulder and I find our coats then walk through the front door and into the night. We step out on a gust of warm air and are swallowed by the crisp, swirling white. Where are the lovely flurries that wafted around my car on the drive down from DC? Now, big puffs of snow sift through the cone of light cast by a street lamp while a lone car squishes slowly along the unplowed road.

A few cars, heaped with great mounds of white, stand hub-cap deep in powder around the parking lot. I scan one hump after another until I recognize a Taurus-shaped lump with blue sides parked next to a similar lump with silver sides. My car and Mulder's. I wade through snow, hearing it creak beneath my feet, hearing Mulder's footsteps creak behind me until we reach our cars.

Without words, Mulder helps me sweep the snow from my Taurus then I turn and help him remove the snow from his. A team effort, just has our lives have become. Suddenly I'm overwhelmed with guilt, love, frustration. I turn to him, touching his arm with my gloved hand. "Mulder, I'm sorry," apologizing, "I don't know what's wrong with me tonight."

"Nothing," he assures me, his brown hair frosted white, a thin veil of snow hanging between him and me.

Nothing? He remembers our three-month anniversary, gives me a beautiful gift, tells me he loves me, and I...choke...on a simple I- love-you?

"You're scared. So am I," he offers reasonably.

Scared? "You are?" Of what?

He nods, whisking a handful of large fluffy flakes from my hair, warming me with the heat in his eyes so that I don't even feel the cold soaking through my boots into my feet. "Sure. Love is a bit like Pandora's box. It's one thing when it's all neatly boxed up in an strong-walled container. It's quite another thing when the lid's off and suddenly the emotions are swarming around you so thick and so fast you're utterly out of control."

"Control," I say, feeling remnants of control slipping away.

"Yes."

"Mulder, I..." when the three words escape me once again, I try to draw a fair picture of my emotions with my hands, stirring the snow as it falls around me.

"I know, Scully," Mulder understands my sign language. "I love you, too." We stand alone in the world, enveloped by the snow that falls silently around us. "Your place or mine?" Mulder finally says. It's all he needs to say.

"Mine." I step through the veil of snow, slide my arms around his waist. "You're a good man, Mulder."

"I know," he answers promptly.

We laugh together for a moment before I turn to unlock my car and get in. After much spinning of wheels and slipping and sliding, we finally make it onto the surface of the road. Here the snow has been tamed by repeated passage of cars and the driving is easier. I creep around a corner, my rear wheels intermittently gripping the road through the thick layer of snow. The beam of Mulder's headlights through my back window reassures me. It's less than a mile to the interstate, I remind myself as I drive along the wooded road, carefully negotiating the wide turns, the dips and the rises.

Then it happens.

I slow into a sharp turn, skidding slightly as I steer the car around the corner. Suddenly I'm blinded by a flare of bright light. Something, perhaps a fragment of peripheral vision, registers the outline of a Sport Utility in the glare, careening around the curve on my side of the road. I swerve hard onto the right shoulder, losing traction as my headlights rake the guardrail, sliding sideways, the steering wheel loose in my hands. Then my tires bite into pavement and I'm under control again, wobbling back onto the road...just in time for the SUV to clip my back bumper and send me spinning wildly across the snow-covered pavement.

Lights explode behind my eyes when my head bounces off the driver's side window. Through the speckles I see a smear of red taillights, Mulder's headlights, rocks, trees, the guardrail, Mulder's headlights, then blackness as my car slips over the edge of the road and slides backward down the embankment. With a bump, the car settles in the ditch, motor running, headlights shining blindly into the falling snow.

Damned SUV. I kick at the door, forcing it open into the snow. I struggle through the narrow opening, my head throbbing, little purple dots dancing across the snow as I fall to my knees, nauseous.

"Scully!" Mulder's voice, faint over the pounding in my ears, comes from somewhere above me.

"Mulder!" I call back weakly, my stomach rolling then righting itself. I blink through a thick red fog, wiping awkwardly at my face, feeling the sticky warmth of blood on my fingers.

"Scully!" Louder.

Small clots of snow bounce down the slope, peppering my head and shoulders as I struggle to my feet, swaying. I claw blindly at the embankment, grabbing handfuls of snow and frozen mud, pulling myself upward with rubbery arms.

"Scully!"

I shove hard with wobbly legs, pushing myself toward the sound of his voice, to safety. As I struggle, a strong hand grips my arm and I'm hauled to my feet, supported by Mulder's strength. He helps me the short distance to the road then folds me against the warm length of his body.

"Oh Scully." He uses the end of his tie to swab the blood from my face, blotting carefully at my eye, my cheek, and the small cut over my left eye. His fingers graze my new earrings as he gently strokes the matted hair away from my face.

Now, Scully. Tomorrow may be too late. Two minutes from now may be too late. Now is the time. To hell with control. "Mulder..."

He looks at me with worried eyes. Snow blows around us with a high- pitched whine and a faint ding-ding-ding from his open car door throbs like a pulse, out of sync with the orange strobe of the SUV's emergency flashers. The faint tones of a siren swell in the distance, coming closer. Through it all, my blood pounds in my veins.

"...I love you."

His smile, a bright sun, takes the pain away. I shed my fears and walk through that last door, into his light.

The End


Musical Credits

*All the Way* -- Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen *Come Rain or Come Shine* -- Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer

The Smoky Alto is me...in my dreams. :-)


TITLE: Love for All Seasons 4: Winter into Spring
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: anywhere, sure
CLASSIFICATION: MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: *Alpha* and *Milagro*
DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks.

SUMMARY: An evening at home for Scully and Mulder becomes complicated.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a stand-alone in my LFAS universe. All you need to know is that Mulder and Scully are now involved romantically, trying to have a normal relationship within the context of their anything-but-normal lives.


Scully's Apartment
Friday, March 19, 1999
7:46 PM

I shift the lumpy bag of groceries to my left arm and juggle my key ring, trying to catch Scully's front door key each time it pops up in my hand. I miss it repeatedly and grumble to myself, hiking the groceries higher on my hip, reaching around them for the elusive key.

"Agent Mulder."

I nearly jump from my skin when a familiar voice booms my name in the empty hallway. My keys hit the door, sliding to the floor with a metallic thunk, and the groceries go wild, jumping in my arms like a sack full of cats. I struggle to regain control, thinking of the wine and the pasta sauce and the jar of cherries and the mess it will make if it hits the floor. The bag wins, squirming loose. I grab at it desperately with both hands but swat it across the hallway instead.

Fumble.

AD Skinner deftly fields the pass, plucking the bag from the air and hugging it to his chest where it behaves like a bag of groceries should behave--nice and quiet. "Agent Mulder," he surveys me thoroughly over the brown paper fringe, taking in the turtleneck and jeans, the tell-tale keys and my guilty expression. "Is this a bad time?"

"No, sir," I manage to find the words while my mind whirls. Car? Discreetly parked at home thanks to the metro DC public transportation system. Incriminating overnight bag? I have enough things stored at Scully's for a protracted visit. My keys and her door? His view of the struggle had been blocked by my back...I think For all intents and purposes, I'm just a guy with a bag of groceries, standing outside his partner's door. "Scully and I are having dinner and going over some recent cases," I feed him an edited version of the truth, leaving out my choice of dessert.

The deadbolt rattles and the wooden door creaks open behind me. "Sir." Scully, composed. Of course she heard everything as it happened in the hallway.

"Agent Scully."

Scully lifts her eyebrow, lounging in the doorway, waiting.

I scoop my keys from the floor, discreetly tucking them in a pocket as I slip through the door and stand to one side. The smell of snuffed candle hangs heavily in the air -- although candles are no longer in evidence -- and a pile of case folders sits prominently on the edge of the dining table. The scent of garlic permeates everything and my stomach rumbles.

Skinner shifts from foot to foot, his unease charming in a way. "I...uh...wanted to get your impressions of Agent Lowell, off the record."

Special Agent Thomas Lowell worked with us on several recent cases, doing background checks and feeding us information from home base in DC while we toiled in the field. I thought he was a spy, Scully thought he was the best rookie she'd seen in a long time; we both agreed Lowell had been very helpful to our work, despite any ulterior motives.

"Then join us," Scully insists, swinging the door wide and stepping aide, "if you don't have plans."

Skinner hesitates, looking from Scully to me and back to Scully again. "If you're sure." He steps through the door and presents the groceries to Scully.

Touchdown.

Like a courteous guest, I stand waiting for Scully's lead. She ceremoniously presents me with the groceries, asking me to unload them in the kitchen. As I turn, she takes Skinner's coat. I empty the bag and fold it carefully, barely stopping myself before I reflexively open the cupboard where Scully keeps her recycling. I lay the bag on the counter instead. When I turn again, Skinner stands behind me, minus jacket, minus tie, rolling sleeves up his muscular forearms.

"What can I do to help?" he asks Scully, not me. Good. I'm just a guest here.

Scully directs the work in the kitchen and before long we sit at the table, eating and talking. Scully and I offer AD Skinner our candid assessments of Agent Lowell, including my suspicion that he had been planted in our office to spy on us. Discussion of Agent Lowell leads naturally to a discussion of the cases he worked on, and before long, we enthusiastically begin to chew our way through cases we planned to review anyway.

Halfway through dinner, I realize the whole issue of rank has simply ceased to exist. I'm Mulder, he's Skinner, she's Scully--three agents discussing work problems over pasta and wine. It's good this way.

After dinner we adjourn to the living room, freshly refortified with Merlot, our arms filled with files. I'm first in the room and nearly drop my glass when I see a size thirteen sneaker nosing from beneath the coffee table.

Shit.

Skinner's right behind me, talking to Scully. "...so you're telling me that this..." his voice trails off as I carefully place my wine on the coffee table, leaning over, blocking his view of the shoe with my body.

"Wangshang Dhole" Scully offers helpfully. With my other hand, I let my folders slide onto the floor, covering the evidence.

"This wong...whash..." Skinner tries to wrap his tongue around the name--his wine glass lands on the coaster next to mine--and gives up. "...man...can transform into canine form and back again?"

"That's what Mulder thinks," she humors my opinion.

I slip a hand beneath the folders and shove hard, forcing the shoe beneath the couch.

Disaster averted.

I collect my papers and finally pop up to join the conversation. "Well actually, according to Chinese myth, the Whangshang Dhole is a *dog* that changes form to fool people," I insist, taking my wine to the safety of an overstuffed chair, leaving the sofa for Scully and Skinner to share.

"Myth is the key word here, Mulder," Scully stresses the first word. "There's often a big difference between myth and historical fact."

Skinner joins in, leads a discussion of alternate realities to the trickster dog hypothesis. Before long, we've moved through the Gurwitch case, discussed the possibility of demonic posession, and have taken a large bite out of the Area 51 issue--is it or isn't it?

Without acrimony.

With laughter.

Separating fact from fancy, considering all angles.

Skinner's good. He's really good. The Bureau lost a great field agent when they promoted him into the executive suite. Skinner's assessments of our cases are fresh and spot-on. I note three suggestions for follow-up next week. Then the telephone rings and Scully drops out of the loop.

While I huddle over a crime scene photograph with Skinner, I monitor Scully's conversation in the background. I hear her say "Hi Mom." From the corner of my eye I see her smile into the receiver, listen, then hold it out to me. "She wants to speak with you."

Mrs. Scully, the mother I've always wanted. In her gentle way, she tells me about the service award she'll receive from her garden club tomorrow, the first day of Spring. There's a ceremony and a luncheon.

I shoot a look at Scully, who obviously knows what this is about. It's up to me, her eyebrow says. I decide. "Sure, Mrs. Scully. I'd love to. Nine o'clock."

Skinner glances at me, appraising the moment, then continues reading the file. "This Padgett guy had to have an accomplice," he says to Scully as I break the connection.

"But the obvious person, the psychic surgeon he describes in his book, had been dead for two years," Scully argues rationally.

"So you take the text literally?" Skinner challenges Scully as I return the telephone to its stand.

"No," I field the question instead, "it's obviously someone who's assumed the persona."

"OK, I'll buy that," Skinner empties his wine glass, "but how in the hell could he remove the hearts from his victims without leaving a wound? The hearts were gone, right?"

Feeling the call of nature, I start to rise and then stop. Think. Of course, I'd know where Scully's bathroom is located.

"That's an obvious problem," Scully agrees, "but here's my interpretation...uh...well, my guess...."

I interrupt to excuse myself from the debate, pad down the hall, then nearly faint when I flip on the bathroom light. Incriminating debris is spread around the room--men's toiletries, a razor, an old towel with my initials on it. I bundle them together and deposit them quietly behind the connecting door to Scully's bedroom. I even scrape the drains with a fingertip to clean out any contaminating brown hairs that might be found among the few red strands collected there.

Having sanitized the room and completed my business there, I return to the discussion. Several minutes or several hours later, in the middle of a heated argument over the scientific explanation for the existence of zombies, I notice that Scully's eyes droop from the wine and the food and the late hour.

Skinner notices, too. He checks his watch. "It's late."

I follow suit. Two AM. How did that happen?

We all rise and stretch. Skinner thanks Scully then collects this things, sliding into his jacket, pulling his coat over the top. "May I give you a lift home, Mulder?" he asks, turning from the door. He's going my way.

"Uh...no, sir," I think quickly. "I'll drive myself."

Skinner nods thoughtfully. "That's funny. I stopped at your place before coming here and I could have sworn I saw your vehicle parked out front."

Busted. He's known all along.

"A lot of people drive Tauruses these days," I say blandly, fighting the need to lay my arm across Scully's shoulders where it belongs. To be safe, I jam my hand into the back pocket of my jeans.

"They do," he agrees and steps outside. Stops. Turns. Regards us carefully. "Don't ask, don't tell," he advises cryptically, then pulls the door closed behind him.

"Aarrgh," After a moment, Scully turns and burrows her face into the front of my sweater.

"Hey, Scully." My arms spring out of control and wrap around her, finally pulling her tight against me.

"Yeah?" Muffled.

"Wanna go to bed?"

"Yeah." She nods against my chest.

We totter down the hallway together, ending up in the bathroom. The first thing I see is my toothbrush standing next to Scully's in the holder. Oh damn. Skinner used the facility twice tonight.

"You did..." she yawns in the middle, "...what?"

I tell her about the deposit I made in her bedroom and the impromptu drain cleaning.

"No way," she chuckles sleepily, filling her brush with paste and working on her teeth.

"Way," I insist, reaching behind the bedroom door, producing the evidence for her to see.

Now she really laughs, holding the sink while I restore my things to their proper places.

I reach for the tap before she sees me move, diverting the water into her unsuspecting face.

"Hey!" she protests, hair plastered against her cheeks, water running down her neck and onto her sweater. It's just like Scully to be delectably sexy when wet, with a mouthful of toothpaste. Before I can really enjoy her discomfort, she returns the favor, blinding me with the stream. Fair enough. I grin and scrub my eyes clear with both hands.

By the time we finish washing up, we're both dripping liberally. A trail of droplets sparkle from the bathroom tile to the hardwood of the bedroom floor. In the dim light, Scully pulls the sweater over her head and drapes it carefully over a chair to dry. The ivory skin flexes across her back as she drops her jeans and panties in one motion, stepping out of them.

My pulse accelerates as she bends again, pulling her silk pajama bottoms over the taut curve of her hips. My breath catches in my throat as she reaches for the blue silk of her top, stretching, dropping it over her shoulders. It flutters as it settles around her hips.

I nearly burst from my clothes, wanting to feel her heat in my arms. I join her beneath the fluffy comforter and roll to her side of the bed.

Scully leans away from me; with a click, the room is dark.

I slide my arms around her, pulling her against my chest.

She snuggles against me, pulling my arm around her chest and tucking it, like a blanket, over her shoulder.

I slip my free hand beneath her pajama top; it glides across the smooth skin of her flat stomach.

Scully relaxes against me with a sigh.

I nose my way through the fragrant nest of her hair, finding the perfect place for my cheek to rest among the damp curls. The last thing I remember as I surrender to unconsciousness is the warmth of Scully, asleep in my arms.

The End


Thanks for reading this little thing. First I wasn't going to post it, then I posted it on my site only, then I reconsidered and decided to share it anyway.

That's it until next year. I'm taking a break and recharging my batteries. Happy Holidays everyone!


TITLE: Love for all Seasons 5: Leaves of Spring
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere
CLASSIFICATION: MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: None
DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks.

SUMMARY: Scully discovers Mulder's hidden talent.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Yup, out of order, just as I threatened. Thanks to Pam for recognizing Mulder's voice when she heard it.


Scully's Apartment
June 4, 1999

I riffle through papers piled high across the coffee table. Photographs sit atop manila folders, folders leak memoranda scrawled in Mulder's sprawling hand; a generous handful of notes have scattered onto the carpet, onto the contents of Mulder's briefcase and mine, stirred together.

What a mess.

Today we resolved to pull together loose bits of several old cases, drawing conclusions where we could, closing as many cases as humanly possible. We loaded our arms and our briefcases then staggered to my car behind impenetrable shields of paperwork, for once making no pretense about leaving together.

While I dig through the debris, looking for Mulder's case notebook, I hear the whir of my food processor. It's Mulder's turn to cook and he has forbidden my presence in the kitchen. Interesting aromas, Italian aromas, roll over me where I kneel on the floor, sifting through papers, collecting the odd bits pertinent to case number X-Z066-2.

I feel something under the couch. I probe the small space with my fingers and come up with...a tennis shoe, size 13. More and more, Mulder spends his time at my apartment. His things have crept in and mixed with my things. Shoes, books, CDs, clothing, fill the empty corners of my apartment the way Mulder has filled the empty corners of my heart.

Finally, I spot the slim profile of a leather notebook wedged between the lamp and my computer. I pluck it from its hiding place and open the cover, leaf through the first few pages, then stop. What the hell is this?

Scully, 010/06/94 Washington DC

-I screwed myself this time. I see -anger in your face, cheeks -tight as clenched fists, lips -put together in a fine seam. I curse -

This isn't the Pelletier case. I flip to the middle of the book.

Scully, 05/21/98 Washington DC

-I loved her. Unlike you, -her soul is dark and shuttered -tight against scrutiny and me. - -I love you. Unlike her, -Your soul is joy and light, -open, my refuge from the dark.

My God, these are poems. Poems written to me.

Scully, 04/21/96 Home, Pennsylvania

-Life leads from you to infinity. - -A natural mother, you nurture -the best in me, bring it out, -raise me above any potential -I brought to this world with me. -

I had no idea. I leaf through page after page.

Scully, 11/18/96 Hamilton County

Scully, 1/24/97 Philadelphia

Scully, 12/31/97 San Diego

I flip back and forth, selecting one entitled "Scully, 01/15/98, near Taos," and read the words he's written to me.

-Delicate. - -Your hands flutter among the artifacts, -Touching this, touching that -Lightly. Not even dust cowers -Beneath your delicate fingers. - -Strength.

-Your touch against my arm, -Your hand in my hand, holding me -Lightly. Fueled by your strength, -I can slay dragons.

Oh, Mulder. I hold the open book against my chest and remember the case. New Mexico. January 1998. Anasazi elders haunted the dreams of several communities. It sounded like a case of peyote to me. Mulder had been equally convinced it was spiritual visitation. We tracked the epicenter of these visions to an undiscovered burial ground, dating back to the 10th century. Over the years, wind and erosion had exhumed the remains. Under the guidance of a shaman, we reburied the bones in newly-consecrated ground. The visions stopped. Go figure.

I remember how I worked with the bones, sorting them back into likely groups--female child, male adult, elderly woman. I remember Mulder sitting on a rock, notebook on his knee, writing with great concentration.

-Your hands flutter among the artifacts....

I thought he studiously recorded the facts of the case, not the innermost feelings in his heart. With a guilty conscience, I snap the book closed on his private thoughts, quickly slipping it back into the space between computer and lamp.

Not quickly enough. "Did you read my poetry?"

I jump at the sound of his voice. "I'm sorry, I was looking for your case notebook and opened it by mistake."

He retrieves the notebook and holds it up to the light. "My case book is black. This is navy."

"I know, I'm sorry." I'm guilty. "The light was dim."

He turns his face away, folding the book against his chest, holding it there.

"The one I read was beautiful." Flattering.

"It was just something I wrote."

"A wonderful something." I touch his elbow gently. "You have a gift."

"Not really. I just scribble." Shy.

"Well, I liked it." I did. How could I not?

"Thanks." He pushes the book into a drawer and closes it completely.

"I only read one." Well, two...maybe three.

"Which one?"

"The one about...my...hands."

"...Your hand in my hand, holding me/lightly. Fueled by your strength/I can slay dragons," he recites from memory.

"That one."

For a moment, we stand quietly.

"I can." He takes my hands in both of his and holds them tenderly, turning them palm up. He traces my life line with the tip of one finger, following it around the mound at the base of my thumb.

"Can what?" I shiver at the delicacy of his touch.

"Slay dragons..." He presses a kiss to each of my palms in turn, igniting the fire deep inside me "...with these."

Oh Mulder. I cup his face between my hands and brush my lips against his lips. Mulder groans in response, slides his arms around me, pulls me tight against his body. I lose myself in the warm heat of his mouth, the softness of his lips, the smell and taste of him.

Without warning Mulder slips one arm behind my knees and sweeps me into the air.

"Mulder!" I squeak, feet dangling.

"I saw it in a movie once," he laughs, striding down the hall toward our bed.

"In the kind of movies you watch?" I laugh, incredulous.

"Sure," he pauses in the bedroom door, eyes gleaming in the dim hallway light. "You'd be surprised how much I've learned from those movies." He kisses the sensitive place at the nape of my neck.

Ahhh. He hits the sweet spot every time. My neck turns to rubber and rolls loose on my shoulders. I sigh deeply. Ummm...Mulder's lips and..."lasagna," I gasp in his ear.

"Cooling on the counter," he whispers in response, laying me gently across the comforter. "The salad is crisping in the refrigerator." He nuzzles the side of my neck while his agile fingers dance down the front of my blouse. "The garlic bread is buttered and garlicked and ready to toast... " my blouse falls away and Mulder dips his head, kissing my bare shoulder "...later."

"Later." I agree, more interested in sustenance of another kind right now. I push him against the mattress with one hand and pull at his belt with the other. The buckle clunks against the floor as I helpfully shrug out of my blouse and pull at his fly. Mulder somehow sheds his trousers and briefs with a graceful twist, exposing his beautiful body to me. My bra hits the floor next, closely followed by my slacks and pantyhose.

Finally we lay naked together.

I feel his heat, his life, the blood hammering through his veins as he slides into me. Pleasures explodes through my body and I thrust hard against him, gasping. Mulder's eyes close as my breath rolls across his face; he draws a deep breath and rocks his hips rhythmically against me, pressing deeper, finding my soul and burning his love into it.

My nerves spark, tiny bursts of electricity prickle across my skin in waves as my body responds to him, moving faster, meeting his thrusts. Mulder's ragged breath is loud in my ears, louder than the drumbeat of my pulse. When he whimpers in the back of the throat, I am lost.

After the maelstrom, Mulder rolls onto his back, taking me with him. I lay in his arms, his love still warm inside me, and listen to the slowing rhythm of his heart beneath my ear.

"So...Scully?" He strokes my hair as a mother would, releasing small tangles with his gentle fingers.

"Hmmmm?" I snuggle against him, sated, happy, boneless. Loved.

"Now that we've had an appetizer, how about some dinner?"

I nod against his shoulder, thinking ahead to dessert.


The next morning, the aroma of coffee drags me from my sleep. I yawn and stretch, reaching for the headboard, feeling each vertebra pop into its proper place. As my hands fall back onto the blanket, I hear a crisp rustle. I roll to one side and find a piece of paper in Mulder's place. A poem.

I find my glasses on the nightstand and read the few lines scrawled there.

Scully, 06/05/99 In Our Bedroom

-My sun rises in you each morning. - -Your breath - restores my life, -Your faith - renews my hope, -Your pulse - drives blood through my veins; - -Without it, - without you, - -I would wither and wish to die. - -This morning I watch you sleep. - -Your radiance - warms me. -Your hair, - a red corona. - -You are my sun.

I fold the paper carefully across the words, then fold it again. I lay the thin slip between pages of my Bible then close it, preserving Mulder's words like a flower. I find my slippers and pull on my robe against the morning chill, then pad in the direction of coffee.

In the kitchen, Mulder leans against the sink, clad only in jeans, feet bare, a mug of coffee steaming in one hand. Muscles cross his back in taut relief, flexing beneath his skin as he raises the mug to his lips. Quietly I pad up behind him; he sighs and relaxes against me as I slide my arms around his waist and press my cheek against his back.

The End


The moral of this story: poetry leads to sex. ;-) Little did my 8th grade English teacher suspect.


TITLE: Love for all Seasons 6: Reluctantly, Summer
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, archive OK
CLASSIFICATION: MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: None
DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks.

SUMMARY: Mulder copes with separation from Scully.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: It seems most logical to me that the *Biogenesis*-*Amor Fati* story arc continued unbroken with all segments occurring within a few weeks of each other at most. Since there's got to be a gap in time somewhere and since *Amor Fati* occurred after the World Series, I've decided to move those episodes into late summer/early fall, and use early summer for a story of my own.

Once again, thank you for reading!


June 28, 1999
The Lone Gunmen's Den

"...and the best thing? We caught the guy red-handed. Secret government documents stuffed in his mattress, under the rug in the living room, and in zip-lock bags floating in the toilet reservoir" Byers concludes with a flourish.

"We're still sifting through the papers," Langly's voice slides up the scale, perilously close to an adolescent break. "We'll be putting it out for the next six months!"

"At least!" Frohike jumps in. "The Area 51 stuff alone will fill three issues."

The guys' voices buzz in the background of my thoughts. Scully's been sent off on Bureau business and, for once, I can't work at her side. I'm left sitting in DC like a good wife, waiting for her to come home again. Lonely. Frustrated. I see her face reflected in every window, hear the sound of her voice in my ears, feel her heat next to me in our empty bed every night. I need...

"Earth to Mulder." Frohike summons me back to the conversation.

"I'm sorry. What?" Contrite.

"Area 51?" Byers dangles the holy grail in the air between us. "Documents proving that our government mined alien technology for development of new aircraft over the past fifty years?" He waits expectantly for my excited response.

"Cool," I manage.

"Cool? Is that all?" Byers lifts an eyebrow. Frohike probes me with a squinty stare. Langley stares at me blankly.

I scrub my face with both hands. "I guess I'm not all here today."

"AWOL, man," Langley agrees.

"You got it bad," Frohike pats my arm sympathetically, looking more than a little envious.

Byers shakes his head mournfully. "Another one bits the dust."

I smile weakly, remembering that I bit the dust over six years ago when a rookie agent with red hair and a headful of brains walked into my office and swept me off my feet with the first words she spoke. My cell phone interrupts those thoughts. I find it in my pocket and thumb the switch. "Mulder."

"Mulder, it's me." Scully's voice echoes in my ear.

Scully! "Where are you?"

"Kosovo..." Static breaks over her words, washing them away.

"What?" I shout into the distortion.

"...wanted to let you know...on the news."

News? "Know what?"

"...fine," she says, the line clearing suddenly. "I just caught some shrapnel."

"Shrapnel!" I shout into the phone. The guys exchange worried looks. "From what?"

"From the..." her voice fades into the distance, then surges back "... mine."

"From your what?" Damn this connection.

"It's OK, Mulder. I'm OK. I just wanted to let you know."

Know what? "Scully!" I shout into the phone as the line goes dead. "Shit!" I bounce the plastic case off my forehead in frustration.

"Mulder," Byers hunches over his computer, tapping at the keyboard. "Here it is." Byers, bless him, has hacked the DOD again.

I read the bulletin over his shoulder. "Flash Alert. 28 June 1999 Pristina, Kosovo. 14:22 PM local time. While excavating a mass burial site near Suva Reka, a land mine..."

"*Land* mine." Christ! That's what she tried to tell me.

"...exploded, seriously injuring two members of the 481st US Army construction battalion and killing one member of an FBI forensic investigation team."

That's why she called. She didn't want me to hear that an FBI forensic specialist had been killed and not know whether it was her. My heart resumes its steady thud in my chest and I continue reading.

"Several other workers from the joint team suffered minor injuries from flying shrapnel." The bulletin continues, but I sag against the table in relief. Shrapnel, I think. "Jesus," I say, thinking of Scully.

"Chill, Mulder. She's OK." Frohike claps a hand on my shoulder.

"Yeah but what about tomorrow and the next day and the day after that?" There's so much work--important work--that needs to be done over there, but I can't help but think of the live ordnance laying around, waiting to explode under Scully's tiny foot.

"She's probably in more danger driving on the Beltway at rush hour," Byers tries to reason with me.

"Not to mention her continuing risk of alien abduction,' Langley adds.

I chuckle despite myself.

"Here." Frohike presses something into my hand. An envelope. Fat. "I think you need this more than I do."

"What..." is it, I start to ask.

Frohike waves away my question. "Just go home, open a beer, lay on the couch and look at what's inside." He gives me a push toward the door. "Go."

So I go.

I go to Scully's apartment instead of mine. Big surprise. One step inside and she is all around me. Her smell. Her things. The four walls of Scully's apartment embrace me loosely as I lay the mysterious packet on the coffee table. I toe off my shoes and pad into the kitchen to brew a pot of the special herbal tea that also smells and tastes like Scully to me.

With a steaming mug in one hand, I open the windows and let the early summer heat flow inside, bringing the fresh smell of growing things with it. From the comfort of the couch, I open the envelope and slide the contents onto my hand. Photographs. A whole stack of them. I riffle through the pictures randomly.

Scully in a dark suit.

Scully looking through a microscope.

Scully laughing, a notebook in one hand, Byers looking over her shoulder.

My word. I sit back and watch sunlight flicker through the blinds. Frohike has given me his secret stash.

I sip my tea and fluff the pillow then lay back and kick my feet over the arm, relaxing into the cushions. I leaf through the pile of snapshots until I come to a picture of Scully and me.

I remember this one.

Blue Ridge Mountains near Crabtree Falls. Easter weekend 1999. We needed all four eyes and frequent reference to the GPS coordinates to find the dirt road and the Gunmen's base of operations in the woods at the end of it.

The guys had called with reports of mysterious blue lights floating across the night sky. Scully favored swamp gas, I favored aliens, and the Gunmen were certain they'd seen secret government trials of experimental aircraft the night before.

The photo shows Scully on her knees, hands full of slime, a smear across her cheekbone. I'm blotting the filth with my handkerchief as Frohike snaps the shot.

"Hey! Aren't you supposed to record supernatural phenomena with that thing?"

Frohike chuckled in the charming dirty-old-man way of his. "I've got a few extra frames to burn." He opened his coat to reveal six canisters of film, each neatly trapped in a loop of velcro. "I'm prepared."

So was Langley. He handed around mugs of coffee--Irish Coffee--to the whole gang. "Antifreeze," he described it. It worked--after two doses, I radiated heat into the cool night air.

I snicker to myself as I examine the next picture, a close up of Scully's rear end as she reaches for something in the dirt.

Next there's a crooked shot of Scully talking to someone with a wedge of my chest in the background.

Then I find a photo of us sitting in the dirt, leaning against a log, a low campfire glowing through the artificial light of the flash. Scully and I face the camera, laughing.

"...and the chimpanzee said..." Langley was beside himself, laughing through the punch line. We could barely understand the garbled words but laughed anyway, mostly at Langley who had to wipe his face with both hands to dry the tears.

Suddenly I heard a loud pop and went blind. I struggled to focus through a purple smear as the whine of a recharging flash rang in my ears. "Frohike!"

"Oh, look!" Scully points at the air, still laughing. "Little purple spots of light. They're heeeeeerrrrrre!"

Filled with antifreeze, we all laughed hard at that one.

Byers tilted his watch toward the firelight. "Eleven fifteen. We should take up our positions now." He tossed a walkie-talkie in my direction and I neatly plucked it from the air. "Call us if you see or hear anything."

The guys left the ring of firelight, thrashed through the underbrush, and disappeared toward their campsite on the far side of the ridge.

After a moment, I tossed my sleeping bag at Scully's back. The bag bounced harmlessly onto the ground, ricocheted from a tree, then rolled to a stop at her feet. She prodded it carefully with one toe before looking up at me.

I waggled my eyebrows in the fading firelight. "Hmmm. Look what fell from the sky."

She sat on her own bag and undid the ties on mine. "Think you'll get lucky tonight, Mulder?"

I knelt on the ground next to her, helping her with the knots. "I certainly hope so." I unrolled the bag, sliding the zipper with one hand as I watched her from the corner of my eye.

A smile flirted around her lips as she followed my lead, unzipping her bag all the way to the bottom.

It was a simple matter to mate the prongs of my bag with the slider on hers, zipping the bags into one roomy envelope. I folded back the top, exposing red plaid lining. Then I peeled back the collar of her flannel shirt, exposing her pure white shoulder, kissing it, nipping it with my teeth. God, she tasted good--sweet, a little salty--I feasted my way to the delicate hollow at the base of her neck.

Scully giggled as her head rolled loose on her shoulders. "I feel positively adolescent, Mulder."

"I should be able to make you feel a bit more than that," I promised her as I slipped the shirt from her shoulders.

"The guys might come back." She shivered a bit from the cold air.

I rolled to my knees and lifted the edge of our joined bags. "They're too busy scanning the sky."

Scully hesitated. "Mulder, we're supposed to be looking for strange lights, too."

"In there," I pointed to the dark interior of the bag.

She squinted, smiling, pretending to look for mysterious lights in the bag. "I don't know, Mulder. I don't see anything suspicious in there."

Before she could close her lips behind the words, I shucked my clothes and dove into the bag, grinning wickedly at her in the fading firelight.

She threw back her head and laughed from the belly, then clapped a guilty hand over her mouth as the sound echoed around the hillside.

I enjoyed her laughter and laughed at her discomfort. When she relaxed and laughed again--more quietly this time--I lifted the edge of the bag, sliding to the far side. "So?" An invitation.

Scully shed her remaining things and slipped into the bag with me, her silken softness sliding warmly down the length of my body.

Scully. A sleeping bag. A naked girl in a sleeping bag. Wow. My head nearly exploded when I realized I had a boyhood fantasy in my arms. My hands roamed all over her; her hands touched me everywhere. I drank from her lips and she answered my thirst with kisses of her own.

"This is good, Mulder," she murmured against my mouth.

Yeah. With a thrust, I found myself inside her. She was wet and hot and held me tightly. She parried each thrust with one of her own, somehow rolling me onto my back so that she could ride above me. The Gunmen no longer existed in this slice of space/time continuum as far as I knew.

"Ah." Her breath snagged in her throat as she gave in, shuddering around me, whimpering into my shoulder. I followed a moment later, calling ScullyScullyScully into the veil of her hair. Odd blue lights bobbled through my vision as I gave myself to her.

Odd blue lights. Well, there you are, I thought as I snuggled into Scully's warmth and drifted into sleep.

I drain the last of the tea and sit up, selecting another photograph from the pile. This one shows my face and Scully's, sleepy-eyed in the dawn light, peering from the top of our joined sleeping bags.

Something woke me. A noise. A change in air pressure. I reluctantly stirred in my warm cocoon, flexing my muscles against the soft warmth of Scully, who lay sleeping in my arms. Then I got a jolt in the ass. A size nine jolt, if the magnitude of the sore spot on my left cheek was any indication.

"Mulder, you old dog." Frohike boomed in the early-morning quiet. Amused with a touch of envy.

Shit. Busted. I felt Scully tense against me, sliding down in the bag until only stray ends of red hair curled above the quilted flannel.

"You were supposed to be watching the sky."

"I was...we were. We did."

"So, did you see anything?"

I recalled the blinding blue lights and Scully in my arms then shook my head. "No. Did you?"

He didn't. The whole expedition would have been a complete bust except for Scully in the sleeping bag, making beautiful love with me; except for Scully in the sleeping bag, giggling against my nakedness as she pretended to hide from Frohike even though her discarded clothing and mine lay scattered around us on the sunlit ground.

A gust of warm air rolls through the window, carrying the sound of children laughing, playing. "Hurry home, Scully," I whisper, pressing images of her between my palms. "Summer is passing without you. We've still got to spend that week on the Vineyard and a weekend or two at your mom's beach house, *alone* this time. We haven't rented bicycles and gone for a long ride along the Potomac. Don't forget that we're going to take up tennis again and I'm going to whip your ass." I speak the words to her empty apartment and they echo back at me.

I find a half-filled photo album in Scully's bedroom and turn to an empty page. I select twenty-two photographs from Frohike's stash, mostly pictures of Scully and me, some photographs of Scully alone that are too delicious to overlook. One by one, I slip them beneath the clear plastic, fixing them in place, sliding the plastic back over the top of each completed page and pressing it down.

A herd of kids on skateboards thunder past the open window and disappear up the street. "We're going to have a life, Scully. Somehow, in this mess, we'll find a way."

I place my palm over a blank page, smoothing it, considering the possibilities.

The End


A cry in the dark: I'm stuck in the edit of LFAS III. If anyone would like to read it and give me their impressions--good/not good, throw out these parts/keep in those parts--I'll happily end it off to you by return e-mail and be eternally grateful. I'm stumped.


TITLE: Love for all Seasons 7: In August
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: anywhere, I'm easy
CLASSIFICATION: MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: None except for the earlier parts of this series.

SUMMARY: Scully and Mulder, behaving like a normal couple on a weekend in August.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a (mostly) stand-alone in my LFAS universe. Mulder and Scully are now involved romantically, trying to have a normal relationship within the context of their anything-but-normal lives.


Saturday, August 21, 1999
10:52 AM

"A rabbit."

"No, it's clearly a bear."

"Mulder, bears don't have little fuzzy tails."

"It *doesn't* have a little fuzzy tail, Scully."

"Well, not now it doesn't."

"Now it's a bear."

I squint and turn my head, considering the bear hypothesis carefully. "OK, it's a bear. But it could be an elephant."

Mulder reaches over and pulls the bill of my cap down over my face.

"Hey!" I use the excuse to roll over him, pinning Mulder to the warm, fragrant grass. I fall into his lips, working my mouth against his; he opens to me and our tongues slide together, hot and moist. Unseen, the rabbit that became a bear and then was an elephant collides with a unicorn and spins apart, wisps of white fluff dissolving into pure blue sky. Unseen, the sun pours over both of us, splintering across the Potomac River as it runs south to the sea.

As I lose myself in him, Mulder's appreciation rises toward me through the tense lycra of his bicycle shorts. The image of his nicely-muscled derriere and his tight thighs, pushing and flexing, floods my mind. I gasp and I push back, looking with wonder into his laughing face.

"No way it's an elephant." He tumbles over me, tipping me so that we lie side by side on the grass again.

I giggle at his unintentional metaphor--you are sooo wrong, Fox Mulder--and watch the sky spread blue and clear above the grassy knoll next to the river. It's a beautiful Saturday morning and we've already cycled fifteen miles up the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath from our home base in DC. Two weeks ago, Mulder appeared at my door, pushing two shiny mountain bikes. He coaxed me out of my robe and slippers, urging me into shorts and a T-shirt. He laughed when I rolled my eyes at the sleek blue helmet. Then he fastened it securely beneath my chin, put me on the bike, and pushed me into the street.

I love him for it.

Today, we follow an ambitious itinerary. We will ride to White's Ferry, cross the Potomac, then cycle to the town of Leesburg, where Mulder has reserved a room in a historic inn for us to spend the night. A romantic inn, the waggle of his eyebrows told me. A great idea. I plant my feet in the grass and prepare to stand up. "Ow!" Pain lances through my left leg, a memento of Kosovo.

Mulder immediately levers himself on one arm, reaching for me, his eyes heavy with concern. "We shouldn't have come this far. It's my..."

"It's not your fault, Mulder," I rebut what he was about to say and sit carefully, rubbing the back of my aching thigh. Mulder can find a way to blame himself for everything. Last Spring, the FBI sent me to Kosovo as part of a forensic team. The work went smoothly until Neil Blacklund stepped where he shouldn't have stepped, and lost his life for that one small mistake. Several bits of the exploding mine lanced into my thigh--I lost a little blood, a bit of muscle tissue, and lot of sleep over it. The FBI sent me home and Mulder freaked out, trying not to hover protectively.

He failed miserably and I love him for it.

I roll away from the pain in my left leg and scramble to my feet, tumbling downhill before I fully gain my footing. Mulder pops to his feet behind me and races after me down the hill to our bikes, stashed in a clump of bushes. Determined to beat him to the path--we're not competitive or anything, oh no, not us--I yank my bike from the tangled branches and vault onto it, standing as I pedal hard away from him. My legs hurts only a little.

"Hey!" Mulder's bike clatters behind me, a little too loudly. I grin as I imagine him falling over himself to climb on and catch up.

"See you in White's Ferry!" I taunt him as I bump along the path, dodging pot holes, hissing across grassy patches. After a few seconds, Mulder noses even then edges past me, a grin plastered across his face. The muscles in his legs stand out in glossy relief as he leaves me in the dust. Literally.

"Hey, guys!" A familiar voice.

I tear my eyes away from Mulder's fine ass and turn to see Agent Lowell and his wife pedaling alongside me.

"Thom!" Suddenly I'm awkward. This is the first time we've tested our new relationship with people we know, without the pretense of work. Why am I awkward? If I were Mister Special Agent Dana Scully, no one would blink to see me and Mulder cycling together on a Saturday afternoon. We'd be two buddies out for a ride and a few beers. Except we're not out for a ride and a few beers. We're out for a ride and a night of luscious sex in a romantic country inn. My face burns as blood floods beneath my skin.

"Hey, Dana," Thom Lowell coasts next to me, his blonde hair ruffling in the wind.

"Hi Thom," I turn my face into the same wind, praying that it washes away the guilt that radiates from my skin. "Peggy," I greet Mrs. Lowell from the corner of my eye. Peggy is as dark as her husband is fair, generations of Italian ancestors giving her a rich olive complexion and glossy black hair. Thankfully, the heat recedes into my neck and my face feels normal again.

"Thom!" Mulder has pedaled back to join us. Like a rambunctious puppy, he cycles in fast circles around us as we head upriver.

"Whereya off to?" Thom asks.

"White's Ferry then across to Leesburg," Mulder offers our itinerary. My guilty conscience and I struggle against each other. I barely manage to keep the blush below the collar of my tee-shirt.

"Ambitious for an August afternoon," Thom remarks not-so-dryly; perspiration beads across his forehead and dampens his shirt.

"We're planning to stop for a long lunch at Drake's Point, wait out the heat of the day, then go on in the late afternoon. Join us?" Mulder coasts at my side.

Thom checks with Peggy. "I'm up for it," she says, "as far as White's Ferry anyway."

"Did you bring your lunch?"

Thom patted the pack strapped around his waist. "Sure did."

"Great, then. Last one there is a rotten egg!"

Where did you find that old one, Mulder, I laugh silently as he and Thom sprint ahead, disappearing into a green tunnel where trees grasp at each other across the narrow path. Peggy and I pedal along more slowly, enjoying the day. I like this, being a normal human being with normal human beings, although I squint against the bright green light, looking for Mulder, part of me longing to race alone with him through the trees instead of following at a sedate distance.

Peggy and I chat comfortably about this and that, the guys pedal back to meet us and race off again, then suddenly, somehow, we're at Drake's Point with growling stomachs. We pedal out of the trees to find Mulder and Thom high on the bluff overlooking the river, leaning against their bicycles, laughing about something. The line of Mulder's back is relaxed, his face--turned into the sun--happy, alive.

As I push my bike up the slope, I'm nearly overwhelmed by my desire to throw Mulder on the grass, peel off his lycra shorts, and impale myself on him. Does Mulder sense my thought?

He turns, smiles, and my knees go wobbly from the heat of his eyes washing over me.

I carefully lay down my bike, force a distracting laugh between my teeth. It sounds real, casual, I think. I don't meet his eyes, just in case. Instead I paw through one of the bags on Mulder's bike, searching for my lunch.

Thom eyes the large panniers--overnight bag-sized panniers--then turns his eyes away, refusing to be curious. Bless you, Thom, I thank him silently.

We settle in a row, human crows perched along a crumbling foundation that has decayed gracefully into this bluff. I sit between Mulder and Thom, unpacking my lunch onto my lap.

"Whatcha got?" Mulder asks, peering at my sandwich.

"Tuna."

"Baloney."

"No, it's really tuna," I start to argue with him.

"And mine's really baloney...wanna trade?"

I mime grinding my sandwich into this face as he laughs at the expression on mine. "I can't believe you're actually eating that mystery meat stuff." I shudder at the thought of odd animal parts, ground together and pressed into a tube for slicing.

"It's good," Mulder slurs through a mouthful of pressed meat and white bread.

"Yeah sure." My tuna--white meat packed in water, served with a dollop of fresh mayonnaise and a touch of dill, spread on a bakery roll--tastes much better than his bologna ever could.

A large cabin cruiser powers up the Potomac, American flag snapping from the stern. Small figures lounge around its deck, watching us as we watch them. Thom waves and a slim young thing in an invisible bikini waves back. Peggy reaches around Mulder's back to pound Thom's shoulder with one fist. We all laugh, including Thom, and watch the boat disappear around a curve in the river.

Thom and I find ourselves talking shop, revisiting a case we worked together earlier this year. In between our words, I find myself staining to hear Mulder's conversation.

"...sailing, each summer on the Vineyard..."

Thom blinks into the sunlight. "..so I did a bit more background on the Melliors case."

"...my sister, my mom, and I..."

"The Melliors case?" I know I should remember, but my mind fills with images of the Mulder family in happier times.

"...and I remember riding bicycles, out to Gay Head..."

"Sure, Dana. Mrs. Melliors claimed to be channeling the spirits of her missing family members..."

"...I guess that would have been 1972 or 1973, before..."

A year or so before Samantha went missing, sending Mulder into the tailspin he's still fighting to control. "Uh, right," I agree with Thom.

"And it turned out that she finally collapsed and confessed to the murders." Thom continues to nudge my memory.

I shake myself. "Right. But the bodies were never found. They dug all over the farm."

"And Mrs. Melliors was never tried or convicted."

"Then?"

"We found the bodies!" Thom delivered the punch line with boyish enthusiasm, slapping his thigh for emphasis.

"Really? After all this time." Mulder and Peggy, heads together, prospect among the tumbled stones, turning gray slabs over with a thick stick.

"Yes! Just this year, Mrs. Melliors sold the family farm to a developer. When the woods near the old house were graded to accommodate the new homes, the bones of Mr. Melliors and the two children turned up."

"Near the house? But we looked there already." Several bricks spiral from the ruin and plop on the grass near Thom and I. I crane my neck and see movement in the old cellar hole.

"The remains were nestled beneath the spreading roots of an old oak tree. She must have put them in a natural hollow, then filled the hollow with rocks and dirt." Thom continues. "DNA testing sealed the case. Last week we arrested Mrs. Melliors, now Mrs. Taylor with another small child at home."

"A close call for the new husband and their baby?" Two more bricks join the pile.

"Perhaps."

"Thom!" Peggy Lowell grasps the foundation and levers herself up, rolling across the top and landing on her feet at Thom's side. She holds out one hand. "Look!"

Thom takes the small item from Peggy's hand and holds it to the light--an amber crystal in the shape of a teardrop sparkles in the afternoon sun. "It looks like one of those bobble thingies from a chandelier."

"I think it is," Peggy replies, then opens her other hand to reveal three more jewels.

"How odd that it wasn't found before. How old is this place anyway?" As I watch the Lowells examine their booty, a large hand catches me low in the back, slides up, and slips over my shoulder. Mulder steps in close and distracts me, displaying his own treasure between thumb and forefinger. "Hey!" I murmur in surprise...into his shoulder, he's standing so close.

He drops the faceted crystal into my hand with a smile. A gift. The droplet catches the slanting light and sends golden splinters skittering across my palm. Mulder's heat burns against my side and his breath teases my cheek. I relax into him, letting his strength hold my weight, and nestle my head into his shoulder. Mulder's scent--warm, spicy--floats around me. Then, after a moment's bliss, I come to my senses. Two partners inspecting a specimen don't stand close like this; two people about to have mind-blowing sex stand close like this...for the last two seconds before having mind-blowing sex. From the corner of my eye I see Thom drop the crystals into Peggy's pack and pull the zip.

I tense against Mulder, still applied closely to my right side, his arm across my back, his fingers laced through the hair at the back of my neck.

Thom straightens.

Mulder tenses against me, suddenly aware of our predicament.

Thom turns toward us, his eyes lingering on Peggy. He's laughing at something she has said.

Coward that I am, I move to peel myself away from Mulder; Mulder holds me at his side with the slight tension in his fingertips. "Look," he whispers against my face, poking at the bauble in my palm.

Thom's head swings up, slowly.

I flex my palm and the amber crystal drops to the ground, rolls across the grass, and bounces to a stop against the white wall of Thom's sneaker. Thom bends to retrieve it and I exhale into Mulder's shoulder. Mulder kisses me on the forehead then releases me with a squeeze that is also a promise.

Thom hands our booty to Mulder and glances at his wristwatch, pulling a face at the hands. "Six-thirty. I guess time really does fly when we're having fun." Thom stretches high, twisting from the waist, bending to touch his fingertips to the ground. Bouncing lightly, he pulls at one calf and then the other.

"We'd better head for home, Tommy boy," Peggy gathers the remains of their lunch, tucking the bits into her pack and Thom's as Thom loosens up for the ride home.

"Mulder, what were you doing?" I hiss. "You were practically wrapped around me." Of course, I don't mention that I practically wrapped myself around him or that a series of lascivious thoughts had wrapped around my brain, nearly inducing paralysis at the critical moment.

Mulder leans into me. "A sudden movement would have attracted more attention."

He's right, of course, and I say nothing, collecting our debris, carefully separating garbage from recyclables, packing it neatly into the pannier that lays on the grass nearby. Thom and Peggy untangle their bikes from our stack.

"You loved it. Admit it, Scully," Mulder whispers.

I did, but I'd rather die than let him score the point, so I snort instead.

"You can't keep your hands off me, in fact."

"That's a case of the pot calling the kettle black if I ever heard of one," I finally retort, my palms itching to stroke his strong back, to slide lower, to feel the warm strength of his.... I shake myself, turning toward Thom and Peggy, launching my bicycle downhill with a kick of one foot.

Mulder only smiles. We join Thom and Peggy on the path, our bikes pointed in opposite directions.

"Let's do this again some time," Thom suggests. "Have you ever done the Washington and Old Dominion rail trail?"

"No, but I'd like to." I would. This has been fun, pretending to be normal people.

"Great! Then what about next weekend..."

"Next weekend we're sailing with the Morrisons," Peggy interrupts with a light hand on Thom's arm.

"So the weekend after that...uh, September 4th..." Thom does the math.

"Labor Day Weekend," Peggy reminds him.

Mulder shrugs. "Then we'll ride shoulder to shoulder with all the people desperate to squeeze in as many outdoor days as possible before winter."

"Are you up for it?" Thom's ready to go.

"Fine with me." I agree. I'm already looking forward to the trip.

We make plans to make plans, then Thom and Peggy turn back toward town while we ride farther upriver, eventually threading our way through evening traffic in White's Ferry on our way to the river crossing.

On the ferry, I stand at the rail, squinting through my sunglasses at the sun. It drifts low among treetops on the Virginia side, sowing golden seeds across the river that slides beneath us. Mulder holds the railing to either side of me and I lean back against him, content in his circling warmth and the heat of the sun, letting my thoughts unravel as they will.

We are so ordinary and we are not ordinary at all.

Mulder and I nearly forgot how to live in a world without conspiracy, aliens, and hybrid cloning--to name a few horrors. It was a close call. But, over the past year, working together, we have pulled back from the brink of that harsh reality to another one, a kinder world, a world of laughter and happiness, a world where mundane pleasures like watching television and cooking together are the norm rather than an impossible dream. It's true that this reality, Thom and Peggy's world, faces the same threats to mankind as our world does. The difference? We help each other live every moment and seize the happiness we find instead of deferring our lives--and our love--to a time that might never come.

Carpe diem with a vengeance, and I love it.

We coast into Leesburg with the twilight, cycling through purple streets. Down a narrow lane, nested in a grove of old oaks, a white house rises from the gloom. Welcoming light spills from its windows to lay in warm slats across the brick path. We push our bikes around the side of the house, then return to the front door, panniers in hand. Mulder levers the brass ring twice against the red door and we wait.

After a moment, the door swings open; light and the aroma of roasted meat spill onto the porch, making me blink and inspiring my stomach to emit a long, low growl. "Fox!" A cloud of chartreuse chiffon floats out to envelop Mulder so that only the top of his head and his legs escape the embrace.

"Dana." A hand sparkling with diamonds emerges from the tangle to pull me into the house with them. I stumble inside, pushing the door behind me with my free hand. It closes with a smooth click and a heavy thump that echo richly around the large foyer.

A glittering chandelier floats in air above our heads, flooding the room with light. Through an archway, I see a melange of people, young and old, sitting and standing around a well-appointed parlor, drinks in hand. Muted music and the sound of agreeable conversation drift to my ears as I turn to watch Mulder slowly extract himself from the chiffon cloud. He gestures toward our hostess, still firmly attached his other hand. "Dana Scully, I'd like you to meet Mary Braxton Randolph."

Mary Braxton Randolph towers over me, even topping Mulder by an inch or two with mounds of abnormally dark hair piled high atop her head. The voluminous caftan now drapes from her broad shoulders to pool sedately on the marble floor around her feet. If I had to guess, I'd say that Mary Randolph must be at least seventy years old but, with her energy and enthusiasm, she seems to be much younger, more Mulder's age and mine.

"Dear Dana, it's delightful to meet you at last," she speaks in the soft cadences of Virginia horse country, smiling at me through her words while literally beaming at Mulder.

I return the greeting, then shake my head in wonder. Mulder--so introspective, so intense--collects people like a stray dog collects fleas, and they all love him desperately. It's something to do with his passion and his compassion, his quiet honesty and the vulnerability he is not afraid to reveal--the same things that caught me when I wasn't looking. I haven't quite figured out how he puts it all together for strangers, but I'm working on the puzzle, enjoying the pursuit immensely.

Mulder grabs my hand as Mrs. Randolph tows him toward the curving staircase. She addresses me over her shoulder as I, once again, stumble in her wake. "After my dear Thornton passed away, I was so terribly bored. I decided to turn our lovely townhouse into an inn."

On the steps, she pulls us past paintings of long-dead ancestors-- Great-Grandfather Lincoln Douglass Braxton, Grandmother Randolph, Great-Aunt Lucinda Braxton Baylor--waving a jeweled hand at each relative as we pass. "I still have my beloved horses on the farm, of course, but here I have people." Our little train pads softly down the hall behind our hostess. "People give me energy, they keep me young and alive."

We stop at a pair of mahogany doors, each bearing the Randolph family crest. Mrs. Randolph opens one door and tows us inside. "There you are, Fox," she sweeps a glittering hand around the room. "Cold supper, candles, privacy. Everything you asked for. Good?"

"Good, Mary. Very good. Thanks." Mulder gallantly kisses the back of her hand, sending--I swear--a deep red blush creeping across both of Mary's wrinkled cheeks. "Thanks," he says again, gently leading her into the hall, then pushing the door closed behind her.

Now it's just me and Mulder and a roomful of candlelight. Oh, boy. A tickle starts deep in my tummy. I look around.

A huge mahogany bed dominates the room, its crisp white comforter embroidered to match the lacy canopy spreading overhead. A crystal vase bursts with red roses on a nightstand and, near the dark fireplace, our supper lays across a small table. I survey the offering--chicken salad, a basket of strawberries and other fruit, iced tea in a pitcher, an assortment of cheeses with crackers on a silver platter--and my stomach growls all over again.

Laughing, I fall face-first onto the bed and sink through the comforter into the soft down mattress. Bliss. This is sheer bliss. Fatigue drains from my limbs and I float, boneless, in the soft eiderdown sea. Gentle waves roll under me as Mulder climbs onto the bed; a shiver runs through my body as his lips tease my shoulder through the thin knit of my tee-shirt.

"I'm all sweaty," I protest into the feathers. I need a bath and some food.

"You smell tasty," he nuzzles my neck. "You taste tasty," he nibbles his way up my throat.

I reconsider the bath. This is good. The food can wait, too. I attempt to recall my muscles to action, but I'm suddenly one big cramp from my waist down to the soles of my feet. "Ahhhhhhh!"

Mulder rolls away from me. "That doesn't sound like a good ahhhh."

"Just a little stiff," I manage to squeeze the understatement between clenched teeth, willing each muscle to relax into its former state of bliss.

"Here, let me." From the corner of my eye, I see Mulder rise to a kneeling position. His large hands span my waist and grip tightly, moving downward, digging into each muscle in turn--psoas major, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor brevis digitorum--constantly forcing the spasms downward.

"Ahhh!"

"Am I hurting you?" Mulder stops, cradling my right foot between gentle hands.

Yes, but it's good. "Don't stop." Please don't stop.

A cloud of deep relaxation builds around me while Mulder kneads knots from each of my toes and the tissue that joins them. I surrender to the pleasure, closing my eyes, drifting. A few moments later, I open my eyes. Morning light filters through lacy curtains and fills the room with a diffuse glow. Relaxed, rested, and cramp-free, I stretch languorously across the fine linens to find that I have the bed to myself. Where's Mulder?

Metal clinks softly against metal.

I turn my head at the muffled sound and see Mulder forage his breakfast from the supper trays. A slice of cheese disappears into his mouth, then a strawberry, then a thin cracker. He chews with his eyes closed and I watch him greedily, feasting on the flex of his arm, the blush of sunburn across his shoulders, the muscular curve of his rear end, his long legs. The familiar tickle rises in my tummy as I follow another slice of cheese until it slips between his lips.

I must have made a small noise, because Mulder turns his head in my direction. The smile that creeps across his face stokes the fire already smoldering inside me. My face creaks into a sleepy smile as he brings a juicy slice of pineapple to the bed. He teases me, holding the fruit just out of reach, allowing a few droplets of juice to splatter onto my lips. I literally rise to the challenge, propping myself on both elbows, taking the fruit with my teeth. I take my time, sucking the juice from his fingers, licking each finger clean, before I chew the pineapple and swallow it slowly. Then I sit up and kiss him thoroughly, tasting the cheese and strawberries in his mouth as I slide my tongue between his lips.

I look down and see that Mulder enjoyed the kiss as much as I did. I toss the comforter aside, opening my arms to him. "Come here. We have some unfinished business that we need to finish."

"Just like that?" Without question, he settles between my thighs.

"Just like that," I agree, tipping my pelvis to him.

Just like that, he sinks into me and we move together. Heat explodes through me. I lift myself from the mattress to meet Mulder's thrusts. I grip his shoulder with my teeth, gently, as we push against each other.

Then, in the distance, the door rattles with a polite knock. "Coffee!" our hostess calls cheerfully through the thick mahogany panel.

We freeze, guilty expressions on both our faces, then burst into laughter. I giggle nervously as Mulder struggles to assemble some words in his mouth. "Leave it outside, will you Mary?" he manages to croak after several strangled attempts at speech.

"You kids have a good night?" Mary persists.

"Great night, Mary." Mulder twitches within me. "We'll see you at breakfast." His voice climbs into the next octave as I squeeze him in response.

We wait, listening to the silence outside the door for several heartbeats, then Mulder turns back to me. "Now where were we?"

"Somewhere around here," I roll over, rising above him in the morning sunlight.

"Right about there," Mulder agrees, spanning my waist with his gentle hands, holding me.

The End


Author's Note: It's been a while. My excuse involves the holidays, the gift of Tomb Raider III, a shake-up at work, my vacation, and the novel-writing class I'm taking on-line. I blew off an assignment to finish this work, so I hope you liked it. More, soon.


TITLE: Love for all Seasons 8: When The Leaves Fall
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: anywhere, it's yours
CLASSIFICATION: SA, MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: The *Biogenesis --> Amor Fati* arc.
DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks

SUMMARY: Scully helps Mulder heal and tends to some wounds of her own.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This installment takes place within *Amor Fati,* some time after Scully rescues Mulder from the DOD facility and before the final scene in the hallway, where (in my interpretation as it follows from this story in my universe) she has started back to work but Mulder hasn't yet.

Once again, thank you for reading!


"...uhhhhh," Mulder moans softly in my ear, calling me from my sleep.

I blink against gray morning light that leaks faintly around dark shades and roll beneath the sheets, reaching for Mulder with concerned hands.

It has been just a week since they drilled holes in his head, removed tissue from his brain then abandoned him, bleeding, on a table behind a locked door at the Department of Defense. I shudder and draw him against me, remembering. I press a kiss onto his bandaged forehead and whisper his name into the gauze.

The thick dressing forces spikes of short brown hair in odd directions. I hold him, watching his eyes dart rapidly beneath pale lids, rolling in deep sockets above the dark circles that smudge his cheeks. Dreams. Bad dreams. He moans again, chapped lips moving slowly, murmuring "Scully, Scully..."

"I'm here, Mulder," I cradle his head in my arms, pull him against my warmth, fill his ear with shapeless words. He relaxes against me, his breathing slows. I hold him until he slips back into dreamless sleep then my stomach rolls into the back of my throat and I scramble for the bathroom. Oh, yuck.

I'm tired. I'm emotionally spent. I must have a bug. I spend the day eating crackers, drinking weak tea, and watching Mulder sleep. I watch him until daylight fades away. I turn on a dim light and watch him some more. Later in the evening, he wakes, hungry. We share some eggs that my stomach deigns to tolerate, then I crawl into bed beside him and fall asleep in his arms.

The next morning dawns brighter. I lay next to Mulder in his bed, whispering with him, sharing soft kisses. He is weak, speaking in short sentences, frequently losing the train of his thoughts. I worry. I wonder, will he ever be the same? What did they do inside his head? What parts did they cut out? What did they leave behind? Blood drains from my hands and my head, leaving them cold as waves of nausea rise within me. I run for the bathroom and barely make it before my stomach turns inside out.

On shaking legs, I crawl back into Mulder's bed, the tang of Listerine strong in my mouth. He places on hand lightly on my forehead; I feel the heat of his palm against my cool skin.

"No fever," he announces the obvious, pauses. "Maybe..."

"No. no. It's the stress of all this," I protest quickly, not wanting to think about that.

"But it could be..." My cold fingers still his lips.

I shake my head. I don't dare think.

"But, Scully," he props himself on one elbow, reaching for me, taking my cold body into his warm arms. I sink into his embrace, lay my head against his chest, and listen to his soft words vibrate into my ear. "What if it is? We've never used any protection..."

I shiver, remembering his delicious warmth pulsing deep inside me. I remember the wonder spreading across his face--the happiness, the love in his eyes--as his climax overwhelms him. I remember how the hot surge of his love chases away all my doubts and my fears and the demons, how it lights my fuse, and how for that moment in time there is no one, nothing, but Mulder and me together in this world.

Oh Mulder, could it be?

I spend the day wondering while Mulder spends the day sleeping. I wonder in the shower, gliding soap-slicked fingers across my tummy, searching for detectable swelling. I wonder at the grocery store, taking an extra carton of milk, just in case. I wonder while doing the laundry, untangling my things from Mulder's, smoothing them out, folding them into neat piles, his and mine together. Ours.

The next morning, after I empty my empty stomach, I rise and putter in the kitchen. I pile toasted bread on a plate, gather butter and jam from the cupboard. I arrange the meal carefully on a tray, chewing a piece of dry toast, forcing it down my throat. When something crawls around my waist, the knife flies from my hand, bouncing off the cupboard, clattering across the tile and onto the floor before I recognize the weight of Mulder's hands.

"Sorry," he whispers into my ear, resting his chin on my shoulder. His hands cup the soft flatness of my tummy; the warmth scares me to death.

I turn, facing him. "You shouldn't be up."

"I'm fine."

I raise an eyebrow at that and we both laugh. I'm holding him up and he knows it. "You shouldn't be up," I repeat nicely, pushing him and holding him at the same time.

Mulder rolls his eyes. "If I spend...if I have to stare...uh...I'm going to...I'm...going stir crazy in there," he finally puts words together and they come out in a rush.

I wedge my shoulder under his arm and guide him to the sofa, holding him when his knees go out, falling with him to the cushioned leather, hugging him tightly with my head tucked under his chin. "So why don't you stare at the walls in here for a change," I suggest gently against his chest.

"Yeah," Mulder rumbles, holding me tightly, combing my hair with his fingers.

I lay there for a moment, listening to the pull of his breath. The CAT scans of Mulder's brain after the injury showed small gaps-- missing gray matter--some bleeding, and a lot of swelling, but no major injury. *Major* injury, I laugh quietly, thinking of all the nerves sliced, connections permanently severed. The neurologists couldn't define or quantify the full extent of Mulder's neural trauma, other than to predict that, once the swelling went down, he'd most likely make a full recovery. "Please," slips between my lips.

"Please, what?" Mulder murmurs into my hair.

I shake my head, snuggle tighter.

"You know it's OK to hope," he reminds me.

For what? That Mulder will fully remover from the rape of his brain, or that I'm...we're.... My chin bobbles and tears run down my cheeks. Am I a hormonal mess or what? Maybe it *is* true. My cycle has been intermittent for years. I don't keep track anymore.

"Scully?" Mulder, contrite.

I pull back, turning away, dashing the tears from my eyes.

"Come here. Let me hold you," he reaches for me.

Yes. I curl into the safety of his side, let him take care of me for a moment. He slides onto his back, along the length of the couch, taking me with him. I reach up, snag the afghan, pull its warmth over us. Mulder strokes my hair, gently, like a mother.

A mother. Mulder. Me. A mother.

I wake up on the same thoughts, in a room filled with orange shadows of late afternoon.

All my life, I planned to be a mother. College didn't change that. Medical school didn't change that. Even the X-Files didn't change that; the X-Files made me want it even more.

Am I any less whole without being a mother? Yes.

Can I survive not being a mother?

I watch the rise and fall of Mulder's chest, count his breaths as he sleeps, one hand thrown over his head, a smile on his face.

Can I continue without Mulder? No. Never. Not without Mulder.

My stomach twists, but the pain is different this time. I stumble from the sofa, bent over, running for the bathroom.

Sitting, I look between my knees. Crimson streaks spiral downward, staining the glacial white of the bowl. Air rushes through my lips and I collapse forward, over my thighs, hugging my calves with cold hands. A single tear burns my eye, plops on my foot, and scorches its way to the floor. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn them. Damn me.

"Scully?" Mulder, disoriented again, calls from the living room.

"Coming." I straighten, wipe the traces of grief from my cheeks, finish, then stand. Averting my face, reaching blindly, I lever the handle and hurry back to Mulder's arms.

He needs me.

The End


OK, that's about as much angst as I can take. Back to happier things!


TITLE: Love for all Seasons 9: Falling All Over Again
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: anywhere, it's yours
CLASSIFICATION: MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: Small references, more likely to confuse you than to spoil you. DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks

SUMMARY: Scully attends a technical conference and Mulder finds a way to share the experience.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a stand-lone story in my LFAS universe, which takes place after *When The Leaves Fall* (LFAS 8) and, in CC's XF universe, shortly after *Rush.* But all you need to know is that Scully and Mulder have been in a romantic relationship for over a year and trying to have a life like normal people.


Prologue
November 29, 1999
J. Edgar Hoover Building

Six forty-four AM. The aroma of coffee fills the air and Scully sits at my desk, her nose buried in a glossy brochure. I hang my coat, unwind my scarf, stuff my gloves into one pocket and crane my neck to get a good look at her reading material. I see palm trees, black beaches, wind surfers, and can nearly smell tropical salt air swelling from the pages in her hands. I resist the urge to warm my frozen fingers against them. "Planning a vacation?" I know she's not.

Scully raises an eyebrow, sighs, and folds the brochure against her chest. "No, as a matter of fact, I've been asked to speak at the AAFP meeting."

"AAFP," I frantically work on the acronym. "American...Association of, Association for the..."

"...of Forensic Pathologists," Scully finishes for me.

"Now there's a lively group," I can't help myself, sitting on the edge of my desk, prying the brochure away from her chest. "I don't remember you going to that meeting before."

She snorts, allows me to take the booklet from her. "Well, let's see. Last year I had to cancel because Kersh sent us to Idaho, looking for piles of sh...fertilizer. In '97, I registered but had to cancel because we went--were supposed to go--to that teamwork seminar instead. Of course, we never managed to get there, but I digress. I canceled the year before because...somebody...held us up in Tennessee, while he relived his past lives...."

"Hey!" I take my former lives very seriously, even if they don't make much sense anymore.

"Then I didn't go in 1995..."

"I get it, I get it." I give up. "So, when is it?"

"Two days from now."

"Don't you think you're leaving it a bit late?"

"Karen Stafford had to cancel at the last minute. She's filled in for me, More Than Once I must say, so it was the least I could do to fill in for her. Her father's having open heart surgery next Tuesday."

"Oh, so you're just doing your duty."

"Uh-huh," she nods, a big smirk on her face, "on Maui.

"Maui," I smell the salt air, feel the humid warmth on my face, almost chafe one hand against the other and hold them against the image. "So, when do we leave?"

She grins, snatching at the brochure.

I whisk it away, hold it above her head. She hates that.

She lunges from the chair, reaching for it. "Plane reservation for one, Mulder."

I turn my back, protecting my prize. "Look, they have these side excursions," I riffle through the pages. "Hana. Haleakala. Iao Needle. I could go. I would have something to do."

She reaches around me, grabs the brochure. "Mulder, I'll be gone less than a week. Can't you live without me five whole days?"


Royal Prince Regent Hotel
Ka'anapali, Maui
December 3, 1999
5:38 PM HST

I walk across golden stepping stones thrown by tiki torches guttering along a path that twists through tropical foliage, past ponds and waterfalls. Here and there I come upon couples in sequestered alcoves, busy with their own business, and avert my eyes, making my way over rope bridges, down stairs and up again. I follow directions to the Kamehameha Lanai where Scully and a hundred of her most intimate colleagues attend a social function. Wine and cheese, pineapple and mango, all served on platters bristling with little paper umbrellas, I decide as I climb bamboo-motif steps, passing beneath faux palm leaves bound together in a faux palm roof. A sign placed tastefully to one side announces "AAFP Social, Private Party."

They don't need the sign.

One hundred wild and crazy party goers, most wearing wool flannel in the sultry heat, mill around the Lanai, perspiring freely. Haven't any of these people heard of tropical weight suits? I browse a buffet table, select a red umbrella with pineapple, mango, and a wedge of melon speared on its shaft, then wade into the sea of gray wool, looking.

There. At the bar. A flash of red.

I snag a flute of champagne--open bar, I'm impressed, these pathologists really know how to throw a party--and work my way around the room until I'm right behind her. She perches on a stool, one hand wrapped around a tall, icy glass of something clear, with a twist of lime and no umbrella in sight. Unlike her colleagues, she's wearing a emerald linen sheath, slit up the side, showing a great deal of creamy thigh where it falls away from her leg. When I finally tear my eyes away, I bristle to notice the eyes of several men--dweeby men, *sweaty* dweeby men--in crumpled suits, fixed on the same delicate wedge of skin.

We'll see about that.

I hear the trill of her laughter over the murmur of the crowd and the dull thump of the band playing imitation tropical music. The tall blonde woman next to her must have said something amusing because all heads in their circle roll back with amusement. Dweeby Man Number One bends solicitously--may I get you another drink, would you like something to eat?--I imagine him saying.

I slide close behind Scully, lean my hip against the bar, exchange my empty flute for one bubbling with champagne, take a sip and set it down. The bubbles pop in my nose as I slide closer. I feel her heat through the sheath and the thin fabric of my own linen suit. I smell her scent--eau de parfum and eau de Scully--slide even closer, until I notice the bemused glances of the blonde and the dweeb and a couple other people gathered around the most important woman in my life.

Watch and learn.

I slide one arm around her waist, lingering on her curves, leaning down, whispering "Wanna dance, babe?" into the pink shell of her ear.

Scully tenses for a second, then relaxes into my embrace. A tremor, a shiver, pulses through her body as my words puff against her face, then she weaves her fingers through mine where they rest at her waist.

I spin her from the stool--smoothly, I might add--enjoying the domino effect on the sea of jaws around us. On her feet, she slowly turns to me and slides into my arms. Surprise, happiness, and something hot reel through her eyes, one emotion right after the other. Somehow the band knows to dip into a rhythm that is not quite a tango or a rumba or a waltz, something that begs for two bodies, pressed together, moving in synchrony across the floor.

"Where'd you come from?" her words vibrate against my chest.

"From a plane, from a taxi."

She laughs and I swing her in a lazy circle.

"Couldn't you wait three more days?" she asks innocently.

"Nope," we circle back along the bar, where the blonde watches us through slitted eyes, sipping a tall drink that wouldn't dare have an umbrella floating in it. I lean down to Scully, asking, "Who's the blonde chick?"

"Blonde *chick*?" She's amused. "Sally Shandel."

Sally Shandel. So that's the infamous Dr. Shandel, woman with a mission, bound and determined to put Scully together with a suitable man. No wonder she drilled me with her eyes when I sleezed up to Scully and slimed her off the stool; I can nearly smell smoke rising from holes in my jacket. Suitable Male. The devil possesses my lips, they nibble down the side of Scully's face, around her delicate ear, into the hair at the nape of her neck. She gasps--I suit her just fine, it seems--and melts even closer against my chest.

Her legs and mine work together with the music. What is this stuff, pureed steel drum, steel guitar, and ukulele; Don Ho on acid with a cha-cha-cha? We turn again, drifting to the door and down the steps onto a cobbled walkway. There, amidst bamboo and flowering hibiscus, water runs over rocks and falls with a gentle hiss into a shallow pool. Scully turns in my arms and leans up, taking my lips with her own. Her arms slide around my neck, she opens her mouth against mine, tickles me with a tongue between my lips as I open them to her. "It's early. Let's go for a swim," she suggests against my lips.

"Now? Here?" I pull at my belt.

"Mulder!" she stays my hand, laughing. "I've got a suit in my room."

"So do I."

"In my room?"

"Yes, I had my bag sent up."

"You're out of luck, Mulder. I share a room at these meetings. It keeps costs down to the merely astronomical." Dead serious.

It never occurred to me. About the room, I mean--every time I look into her eyes, I know that I'm a lucky man.

Her grin lets me off the hook. "Don't worry G-Man, invited speakers get their own rooms," she tugs me toward the elevators, her fingers laced through mine.

Talk about self-restraint.

In the privacy of Scully's--our--room, we quickly shed our clothes. I'm forced to turn away from the sleek line of her back, the turn of her calf, as I struggle to pull on my red Speedo, victimized by my own damned physiology. I keep my eyes averted and my mind on colder things--frozen space ships, alien ice worms, Alex Krychek--while I pull a rumpled linen shirt over my shoulders and slip bare feet into suede loafers.

She leads me from the room, down the back stairs, and along a gravel footpath that twists between clumps of gardenia and azalea, around green thorned boles of coral trees, twined branches spreading overhead, filtering diamonds of lamp light onto our path. Suddenly, we're standing in a sheltered glade where water cascades down a mound of boulders and tumbles into a small pool, all lit by the thin flame of a single torch.

"Here?" A small half moon of impossibly white sand spreads between us and the dark water.

"Yes," her smock flutters to the ground. "This is part of the swimming pool," she drops first one sandal then the other and lays her towel, neatly folded, on top. "Really."

"It looks like a carp pond." I eye the depths for the flicker of golden fish.

Scully wades in, the water shimmers around her. "Trust me on this one, Mulder," she floats away, sliding behind two elephant ears bobbing low over the stream.

I drop my things on top of her things. I toe the water, find it warm. I let it take my weight, waiting for the nibble of little fish teeth against my toes but feel nothing worse than the silken caress of warm water across my skin. I stroke my way through low foliage, through the narrow part, into a wider stream with bird of paradise spiking overhead. A burst of laughter drifts down from a rope bridge that spans the rocks far above me. Alone, I paddle in a circle.

Scully surfaces like a ruddy otter, water streaking from hair slicked back, sleek and beautiful in her blue suit. Flickering torches seed glittering diamonds across her shoulders; her raised hand, beckoning me, sparkles with tiny points of light.

"You see...no fish," she chides me, swimming in my direction.

I reach for the bottom with my toes; if I stand en pointe, my face is steady above water. She swims into my warms, wraps her legs around my waist, burrows her face into my neck. "I'm so glad you came."

Not quite, but I'm about to explode. Either by accident or design, her hot core presses hard against a very sensitive part of my anatomy. "Jeez, Scully!" I can't help but push back, my hips having a mind of their own.

"Ahhhh," she catches on, working her hips against mine, rubbing me crazy with her heat.

I whimper with frustration, thrusting against two layers of lycra when I should--I desperately want to--thrust deeply into her wet softness instead.

Scully hisses, throwing her head back, biting her lip. I swear I feel her pulse against me before she pulls back, leaving a fierce kiss behind on my lips. "Later," she promises, sliding from my arms, falling into the warm embrace of water, turning, swimming away.

"No fair!" I dive after her, follow her fluttering feet to a shimmering pool. I surface when she surfaces and tread water again, looking around. The pool is lit by torches and a few electric lights, but the deck is empty and darkness rolls in from the beach like fog, folding this tiny oasis into night. A bar nestles in foliage edging the pool, its lily pad stools rising to a foot beneath the surface. Two patrons sit at one end, each focused within the other. Eight empty stools float between them and a low waterfall burbling at the far end.

I swim to a stool near the waterfall end and pull up, splattering the tiled bar. With a splash, Scully joins me. A bartender in traditional dress--aloha shirt and khaki shorts--towels the bar and takes our order. We charge the drinks to our room--thank goodness, since there's no room between me and my Speedo for even a dollar or two--then sit side by side, leaning together, enjoying each other while night life flows, muted, around us.

Scully describes the meeting so far, with amusing anecdotes.

I tell her about the baby that teethed all the way from Los Angeles to Maui, how my ears still ring from her miserable shrieks.

She combs my dying hair back from my face, running light fingers over the sensitive new scars on my scalp.

I wince, confessing to a pounding headache I can't quite seem to shake and a recurrence of the dizzy spells. I quickly add "but I took a cab to the airport" to ease the worry on her face. When I lean forward, resting my forehead on the cool tile, Scully massages my scalp, rubs my temples, kneads my neck. The pain fades to mere tension. Sheer bliss.

Then a hand rises from the water, crystal globules glittering on fine hairs, groping for the edge of the bar. I shift toward Scully, giving the new patron room to climb onto the next stool. I turn, intending to smile an impersonal acknowledgement, to dispense minimal cordiality, so I can get back to Scully's thigh, slick, warm, in the water next to mine. I freeze instead.

It's him.

It's Spender, that cigarette smoking son of a bitch, who--bare shouldered, bare chested--is surprisingly fit for a man his age with a nasty habit. An attractive older woman, auburn-haired, wearing a tasteful black maillot, rises from the water and slides onto the stool next to him.

He blinks water from his eyes, turning to face me. "Why, Agent Mulder. What a delightful coincidence."

"Bullshit."

"The delight or the coincidence?"

"Both."

"What do you think? That I spend all my nights and days entombed in a dark room, plotting, planning, and smoking myself to death?"

Smoking himself to death. Now, there's an idea.

"Don't worry," he reacts to my expression. "Tomorrow we leave on one of those windjammer cruises. Victoria's idea. Should be fun." He turns, murmurs something to the woman, Victoria. They laugh together, an obscene rattle to my ears, then she leans around him, curious with cool blue eyes.

Scully, one elbow on the bar, meets her gaze, staring her down.

I resist the urge to curl my fingers around Spender's throat, drag him to the bottom of the pool, and roll him to death like an alligator would.

"Truce!" Can he read my mind? "I didn't see you, you didn't see me. I'm having a lovely vacation. You continue with your... whatever," he waves his hand at my relationship with Scully. "Let's leave it at that." He holds a palm to the bartender then slips into the water without leaving so much as a ripple behind.

I lean back, watching his dark streak slide under the water while Victoria, hair impeccably dry, strokes along the surface in his wake. Is this a mood-breaker or what?

"So, do you take him at his word?" Scully presses her cheek against my shoulder.

Strangely, I do. I nod, still watching. I keep watching until Spender and his woman climb from the far side of the pool, wrap themselves in dark towels, and pad into the hotel. I watch the entrance for a few seconds longer to make certain they go in and don't come back out.

"Come on," Scully pulls at my arm. "Let's go back to our room."

I glance at the clock. Seven twenty three local time. "You tired?" I hope not.

"No," she says. "That's the point."

I do the math. Seven twenty three plus five means it's a little after midnight on the east coast. Mulder Prime Time. Curiously, the adrenaline rush has flushed the headache and residual tension from my system, leaving me clear headed. I swim alongside Scully as we make our way back to our shirts and shoes.

I swear I can hear the thump of her heart in the plush carpeted hall. Then again, maybe it's the echo of my own pulse, hammering through my veins. At any rate, I thump my way into the room behind Scully, then turn to the French doors, pushing them onto a small balcony.

A full moon rides on the lacy edges of dark surf that rumbles from horizon to shore. Lights twinkle through the trees and gusts of faint music blow in with the wind. I undress in the warmth, closing my eyes, dropping my shirt and my Speedo in a heap on the tiles, letting the tropical breeze flow over every inch of me. "We've come long way from the motel in Bellefleur, Oregon," I remember the first case we worked together.

"And we're a lot more naked," Scully presses her warm breasts against my bare back, then the flat tightness of her belly against my ass, then the heat of her legs twine with mine.

"Hallelujah," I turn, she rises into my arms, wraps her legs around my waist, presses a hot slick promise against me, no lycra to frustrate either of us this time.

A gust of wind teases the drapes. They flutter around us, moonlight and lamp light flicker into the room. "This beats the view from your bedroom window, Mulder," she rotates her hips against me.

"Who's looking?" I gasp. I'm not. My face is buried right where it should be, in her hair, against the soft fragrant skin of her neck. Home. I'm home. Five thousand miles from where I hang my clothes but, wherever she is, I'm home.

"Come on," she kisses my ear, my temple, my neck, sliding up, sliding over me, sliding down.

My brains spins, the room spins. Somehow I find the bed and fall onto it, protecting Scully with my arms.

"Good, huh?" she whispers into my lips, pulling me closer, her eyes deep with love for me, the love I desperately strive to deserve.

"Unh," my tongue tangles in her mouth as I give myself up to her heat, falling into her eyes, falling in love all over again.

The End


End Note: Made up the hotel (it's loosely based on some hotel with a forgotten name at Ka'anapali, but I'm sure it doesn't have a pool exactly like I described, the liability issue would be profound, wouldn't it?) and AAFP (to the best of my knowledge and that of my search engine) but not the red Speedo (thank heavens).


TITLE: Love for All Seasons 10: One Wednesday in February
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: anywhere, it's yours
CLASSIFICATION: MSR
SPOILERS: Sein und Zeit, Closure, slight for Duane Barry

DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks.

SUMMARY: On a Wednesday in February, Mulder and Scully don't make it to work on time.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Another installment in my no-longer-such-an- alternate universe where Mulder and Scully enjoy a normal romantic relationship. If CC continues in his current direction (oh please, please, please), I'm going to be out of business real soon (say hallelujah). SPECIAL NOTE: For the sake of argument, let's say that Scully has a highly efficient heating system in her apartment. ;-)


Scully's Apartment
Wednesday February 23, 2000
6:23 AM

"Mulder!"

I burrow my face in her neck, looking for the sweet spot, my Heaven Spot I call it, that lies somewhere just south of her ear and only a little west of the delicate hollow where sweet dew collects when we make love.

"Wait!" She presses her tender backside against the inflamed flesh of my groin, pushing me away, egging me on.

I grin at the pun, laughing as I see the spatula wobble in the air, one egg after the other falling back into the frying pan. I burrow deeper and nip the tender skin beneath her chin, rubbing myself into her soft embrace. I shiver with wanting her.

"Mulder!"

Plop. The last egg flops bottom up into the pan, a yellow slick spreading from the broken disk. The spatula clatters onto the stovetop, bounces on the counter, and skids across the tiled floor. Thunk. It finally comes to stop against a baseboard and the room fills with the sound of my breath and Scully's instead.

I find her breasts with my hands and coddle them gently, rubbing the nipples with my thumbs.

"Ahhhh," her protests turn to small sounds of pleasure, a catch of her breath, a sinuous wiggle against my heat, coaxing me. She swats at the burner control, finally flipping it to the off position after several attempts, then she slips in my arms and turns the full heat of her eyes into my heart.

"Ahhh," it's my turn as I let the her passion boil my blood. Her small hands slide around my back, slipping low, gripping my ass and pulling me tight against her. Then her lips are on mine, teasing, slick, probing, and I'm suddenly breathless, reaching for her.

Then - oh my God - with a little hop she wraps her legs around my waist, pressing her moist heat against me, pressing my start button, pressing my ballistic into space button, and I'm lost, lost, lost, turning, spinning across the kitchen - in the distance a chair hits the floor with a dull whack - until my thighs hit the table and we fall forward.

I prop myself above her, gulping air, blood thundering in my head. She reaches up to me, shifts slightly, then I find myself sinking, thrusting, yearning to surround myself completely with her. She parries each of my thrusts with one of her own, wrapping her legs around my waist, pulling me into the bottomless love of her eyes.

More, more, more. I need more of her. More. I need to lose myself in her. More. I'm barely conscious of the table hopping across the floor beneath us until it jerks to a halt against the far wall. More. The pressure in my chest and my pelvis swells and explodes, shattering what's left of my consciousness. I spasm wildly into Scully, calling her name ScullyScullyScully as she cries my name and spasms around me.

She is pliable, like rubber, when I scoop her into my arms. We breathe into each other's mouth, our hearts hammering against each other's chest, slowing together as we hold each other. Scully rubs my back, slides one arm around my shoulders. When she nestles her face against my neck, I burrow my nose into her hair. Our world is her heartbeat and mine, her breathing with mine, for several long minutes. Then, with a sigh, Scully peers over my shoulder, eyeing the mess on the stove.

"That's what you get for frying eggs, naked," I rub the sigh out of her back.

"You know, those were the last eggs."

My stomach rumbles audibly. "Well, what about cereal, then?"

"No milk."

Dry granola. Ugh. "French Toast?"

She shakes her head slowly.

"No bread." Shit. A smile creeps across my face as I think of dining on Scully. Blood pounds steadily below my waist. Yup. I'm up for it. I smirk this time.

"No way, Mulder," she interprets the play of expressions on my face. "I'm hungry. I want food...breakfast. Then we've got to go to work."

Work. With a sigh, I let Scully slide down my legs until she stands on the floor. I hold her loosely around the shoulders while she wiggles her legs straight again.

"Shower first."

Shower. Now that has possibilities. I pad behind her to the bathroom and paw my way through clouds of steam to join her in the stall. Slick, hot, honeysuckle- scented, steamy, her hands and my hands, sliding, water splattering, laughing, lips and tongues, tight hard deep, stars, stars and more stars. We stumble, weak-kneed, from the shower. I fold Scully into a plush bath sheet, rubbing her dry from head to toe.

"You know," she mumbles into the terrycloth, "there's a good reason why we usually sleep at our own apartments during the week...oh."

I finish with a florish and turn the towel on myself as Scully pulls on a sweatshirt and jeans. I find my own clothes and follow her through the room, dressing on the way. With no meetings scheduled this morning, we negotiate quickly, opting for the much-needed groceries and a second attempt at a leisurely meal instead of coffee and muffins-on-the-run.

The produce department is refreshingly empty at 8 AM as we weave between apples, bananas, salad things, strawberries.

"Strawberries?" then her eyes widen at the price.

I reach around her and snag two pints for the cart. Early hothouse berries but worth every penny. She loves them.

"Thank you," she shakes her head at my extravagance.

"No, thank YOU." It's her turn to pay.

She laughs and pushes me into the dairy section. Eggs, plenty of those little yogurts she loves - yeech, I shudder at the thought - and butter, cheese, milk. Then, in the mirror of the refrigerator I see Scully and I, reflected on the background of normal life. Wet hair slicked dark on her head, University of Maryland sweat shirt - the one I bought her to replace the shirt Duane Barry ruined - jeans, tennies, Scully studies the prices carefully through the glass. Next to her, a tall lanky guy, spiky hair in need of a good combing, dark turtleneck, jeans, boots. Me. Behind us appears a sleepy hausfrau, hair trapped beneath a flowered scarf. With a murmured 'excuse me' she reaches through for a pint of cream then pushes on, not finding anything unusual about Scully and me. We're two normal people out for an early morning shop. Two normal people with normal lives and normal wants and needs and expectations.

Can we be?

I mull that question, trailing behind Scully through the baked goods. We have a cart filled with groceries - milk, meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables - enough food for us to hibernate in Scully's apartment for days. The empty part of me that needed focus, that required the passion of a quest to fill it, resides in Scully now. That scares me as much as it would scare her, if she knew. So I've started seeing a shrink again, really desperate this time to get my head on straight, to center myself once and for all, to order my priorities...for her. I need to accept the resolution of Samantha's fate, my mother's death, even the lingering pain of my father's deceit. I need to let it all go, and learn to be strong, whole, and not blow this wonderful new thing that's grown between us.

I need it too much.

I smirk at myself. So I'm not there yet. I transfer my death grip from the shopping cart to the loaf of bread and bag of muffins Scully gives me, transferring them to the basket before following her to the check out line.

While the disinterested clerk drags our choices across the sensor and Scully piles them into bags, I run out to bring the car around. A few minutes later, we're back at her place, filling the cupboards with our purchases. With Scully preoccupied in the refrigerator, I fumble in my pocket and in a small bag pushed to one side of the groceries.

"What's that?"

"Nothing," I turn my back to her. Ouch. A red pearl swells on my finger tip.

"Nothing my foot," she tugs at my arm and I resist the gentle pull easily.

There. A perfect bow. I give it a shake. Good. Scully's curious hands pluck at my sleeve as I turn to her. "Happy Birthday, Scully," with a flourish I present the red rose I bought from the street vendor when she thought I only went for the car. One perfect rose, tied with a white bow on its stalk; a white bow with a sparkling ring in its heart, gold and purple glinting in the light.

Without a word, Scully pulls at the bow and the ring drops into her hand. She stares at it.

"Amethyst. Your birthstone." I roll my eyes, thankful she can't see my face. Of course she knows her birthstone. "It's not...it doesn't mean anything more than you want it to mean. I mean...it's a birthday present." Oh please, Scully, stop me before I babble myself to death.

She tenses slightly, rolls the golden circle between her fingers. Each of the three amethysts, graded in size from left to right, circled by tiny diamonds, sparkles as she twists it from side to side. "What do you want it to mean?" Softly.

Eternity. Everything. The endless circle of my love for her. "It's a promise" I say finally.

She nods, understanding. When we work through this mess we call our lives, when the time and the place is right for us to move forward again...it's a promise.

I take the ring from her hand and hold it like the fairy godmother's glass slipper, letting her choose which finger it fits. Without hesitation, she raises her left hand, offers the third finger. I slide the ring home.

"Perfect," Scully observes, turning her hand. Fragments of light splatter onto the counter, a bag of carrots, a bottle of juice. I can't believe that I gave her the ring in the kitchen, amidst the debris of our shopping.

She follows my eyes, catches my expression. She caresses my cheek with her left hand, her thumb strokes my lips. "Mulder, it's perfect," the warmth of her mouth follows the touch of her hand.

I lose myself in her. Perfect.


The End


TITLE: Love for all Seasons 11 - April Showers...
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, thanks
CLASSIFICATION: MSR
RATING: R
SPOILERS: Everything through season 7, including Requiem.
DISCLAIMER: Just the wall, not the bricks.

SUMMARY: Scully ties up loose ends, then waits...

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Well, it's been a wild ride but now that CC finally has caught on and caught up with my premise :-) I think I'll take a load off and let him carry the ball for a while. Of course, he might fumble and I might need pick it up again, but for now, let's say we're even. Since I don't know whether CC will slip the time line or let it stand, I'm presuming that the events of Requiem actually took place in mid-May. And, for the record, Mulder and Scully have been intimate since shortly after the movie...in my universe at least.


Alexandria, Virginia
August 17, 2000
3:10 PM

Dust motes shimmer in the afternoon sunlight that slants through empty windows, rolls across bare floorboards, and breaks against the blank walls at the far side of the room. I move into the light, wading through its rich pool to the window, leaning forward; improbably in the summer heat, the glass pane cools my forehead. Outside, through the sticky reside of a taped X, I see a van trundling down the street with a rumble and a clatter. A herd of teenagers on mountain bikes pedal furiously in the opposite direction. A businessman in a summer weight suit strides quickly along the sidewalk. A car door slams. I glance in that direction and see a young man bend to help an elderly woman onto the curb.

S + M, I trace with one finger across the dusty windowsill, then rub it away with the cloth clenched in my left fist, then trace it again, hard, with the tip of my finger against the dark paint. Scully plus Mulder equals...? My dusty hand lifts, travels lightly across the dirty front of my tee-shirt, across the thickened curve of my belly, across the miracle that grows there.

"...the Lord gave..." I whisper, the words echoing loudly in my ears as I imagine the new life growing protected beneath my hand.

"...and the Lord hath taken away..." I turn to the empty apartment, eyeing the small box of cleaning things dropped by the door.

"...blessed be the name of the Lord." I strangle on the last words, tears welling in my eyes. Taken away. Is this the price I must pay? Mulder, for the baby? What kind of blessing is that? I dry my cheeks with the back of one hand and find the bottle of cleaner I carried to the window.

With a sniffle - suck it up, Dana, I imagine my father saying to me - I spray my cloth with lemon-scented wood cleaner, slide it along the top of the wainscoting, across the molding, and into the corner where Mulder kept his fish for as long as I've known him. I close my eyes and see the fish in their new home, sitting on the same shelving that now stands next to the armoire in my living room. I imagine the little UFO, bobbling up and down, and the fish, swimming aimlessly, waiting for...what? Mulder? No, waiting for food. To them, Mulder is nothing more than the big shadow that drops fish flakes into the tank.

He is so much more to me.

I spray again and work my way along the molding until I stand where the leather sofa once stood. There are so many memories here. I remember the night in April when I fell asleep on his shoulder and woke beneath the Indian blanket. I remember the evening soon after, when we drank beer and watched stupid movies, then made glorious love right there on the leather. In May I learned I was six weeks pregnant. When did it happen? Was it one of those April nights? Did the miracle occur right here in this apartment, right here in this spot? I look down at my feet on the bare floor, remembering.

"Fifteen hundred dollars, Scully," Mulder's smug words had tickled my scalp as he murmured through the hair on my head. Across the room, a black-and-white man, hair slicked back, whispered into the ear of a woman with her hair curled into an impossible pile.

I twisted my head to look at Mulder, who sat on the couch at my back, his knees bracketing my shoulders. "No way."

"You owe me fifteen hundred dollars, Scully," he kneaded my shoulders lightly, encouraging me.

"I don't have it."

"Then we have a problem," the words puffed against my ear as Mulder leaned forward. "You could sell a few things."

"I don't have much to sell." I'd been having a run of bad luck and had to return most of my assets to the bank.

"What about that...and that...and that?" Mulder fingered three documents that lay on the coffee table in front of me.

My best properties. My only money-makers. Without them, I might as well give up. "Together they're worth less than $1500."

"A special deal...for you."

"You're so generous." Meaning anything but, I slapped the cards into his hand.

"True," he ignored the sarcasm in my words, taking his turn, parking the car safely on his own property. He dropped the dice in my hand. "I can afford to be."

I threw the ivory cubes and watched them skitter across the board, teetering on their edges before falling to rest, eyes up.

Snake eyes.

I looked ahead two spaces, knowing what I'd find there, knowing I was finished. A door slammed on the television. The slick man stood looking at gray wooden panels with defeat in his eyes. Back on my cardboard world, my battleship steamed forward two spaces.

Boardwalk. With a hotel.

Mulder chuckled in the air above me. "Two thousand dollars, Scully."

"You'll take it in trade?" I ask for a confirmation.

"Sure. Whaddya got?"

What did I have left? I summed my remaining properties quickly, selling houses back to the back. Less than a thousand dollars. I gave Mulder the verdict.

He shook his head. "Not good enough."

I folded my deeds and my money neatly together then placed the dice squarely on top of them. "I've got a better idea." I turned in his arms, kneeling, sliding my hands beneath his sweater.

"Sex for payment? That's illegal." Mulder raised his hand to my face. Gently. I turned my lips into his hand. Slowly. Connection made, the electricity below the surface began to flow, short-circuiting our negotiation, resetting our focus to the naked bodies clumsily hidden beneath our clothes.

"So arrest me, G-man," I pulled the turtleneck over his head and tossed it away. I undressed a willing Mulder and myself, tasting each part of him as I liberated it from the confines of his sweater and jeans. Mulder's hands competed with my own, undressing me and himself, flinging odd bits of our clothing around the room until we finally lay skin-to-skin in each other's arms.

"This should be illegal."

"Thank God it isn't."

Then we were inside each other, him literally, me enveloped by his embrace, moving, surrendering to pure feeling, floating, falling, frantic like the first time we came together. Afterward, I lay on his chest, feeling blood pound through every inch of my boneless body, listening to our thundering heartbeats and the concussive rhythm of heavy rain against the window.

April showers bring May flowers, I remember the rhyme as I stand in the August sunlight. Did they in my case? I scuff the dust rag one more time across the molding. "Just one more day, Mulder. Just one more day and I...we...would have known about our pregnancy. Just one more day and you would have had good reason not to return to Oregon." "One day, twenty-four hours, stood between me and losing you. And I lost you." I remember Mulder's words in Oregon, asking if he should call a doctor. Why couldn't I, for once, have given in?

I find a broom and push it through to the bedroom, nosing into corners, herding dust bunnies to the center of the room. As I bend to whisk them into the pan, I notice a long blue thread in the collection. Holding it between my fingers, I can see clearly that it's the blue of Mulder's comforter, a piece that got away - like Mulder, a piece of me that got away. I sit back on my heels, thinking of the last time we spent together here.

It was a Sunday morning, mid-May, just a week before he disappeared.

That morning, pale yellow sunlight flooded the room, spilling across the quilted blue comforter. Coffee steamed on the nightstand, Mulder's mug next to mine, both sitting atop a case file serving as a coaster. We spooned together, the heat of Mulder's naked body pressed against my bare back. With the Sunday paper spread out on the sheets, I nosed my way through the trivia of the back pages.

Mulder, propped on one elbow, read the news through the gap between my shoulder and my head, his breath tickling my ear while his left hand tickled the skin where he chafed my arm idly. "Hey, what's that?" his hand crept up the page to a minor item in an inside column.

I followed his finger to the item of interest. "Langton, Indiana. For several nights, local farmers observed unusual lights in an isolated corn field. Authorities called to investigate report a series of large, overlapping bald areas, where the corn stalks have been crushed in rough circular shapes. The damaged plants, burned around the edge..."

"Crop circles," he interrupted me.

"Vandalism," I know how to play this game.

"Obviously crop circles."

"Mulder!"

"What?"

"It turns you on. The idea of crop circles turns you on."

"Well..."

"Don't deny it. I have the proof right here," I reached between us and found him with my hand; in the circle of my fingers, he swelled and hardened even more than he had at the thought of an alien landing pad.

"It's *you* that turns me on," he whispered against my mouth as I rolled in his arms, pushing him onto his back.

That morning, I forced the pace, kept him off-balance, receptive, submissive. Our lovemaking was hot, sweet. I enjoyed the act of making life without knowing or even suspecting that life had already begun to grow deep within me. The passion in Mulder's eyes - delirious out-of-control passion, love, and desire - was the fire that lit my fuse. I exploded around him and he in me.

"Next time, we'll have to try that *in* a crop circle," he pulled me down into his arms and I drifted with him into a short nap.

Next time. When would that be? Would there be one? I shake the negative thoughts from my head, refusing to go there. I sit up, stand up, then finish the floor, propping the cleaning things against the wall. I check his closet - only two empty hangers dangle from the rod that once held Mulder's expensive wardrobe. They clatter in my hand as I take them down and turn away.

So many of my things are too tight at the waist, so many blouses already gap from the swelling of my breasts. I have carefully folded them away and hung Mulder's beautiful suits, his shirts, in their place. His shoes stand carefully arranged on the floor. One side of my closet is now his closet, waiting for him to return.

Thanks to Mulder's paranoid foresight, his affairs are in perfect order. I knew he had inherited money from both parents; I hadn't realized it was Money with a capital M until his disappearance forced me to invoke legal guardianship of his bank accounts and investments. There is more than enough to pay rent on this apartment through the 21st Century, but I choose not to. If I can't have Mulder, at least I can live surrounded by his things.

And when he returns, he will live with me...and our child.

In the bathroom, I sluice water around the tub. Scrubbing the porcelain, I remember a Tuesday morning in early Spring when steaming water sprayed into this tub, streaming over Mulder and me. That morning, my pleasure center waged a battle with the rest of my brain.

Pleasure Center: You love it, don't you Dana?

Mulder stood naked before me, soaping my hair, massaging my scalp. Clots of fine bubbles surfed across my wet shoulders and tickled their way down my arms.

Me: I have to be at Quantico in an hour.

PC: When was the last time a naked man massaged your scalp? Doesn't it feel good?

Me: Yes. Oh hell, yes.

Mulder turned me into the hot spray. I closed my eyes and let him rinse my hair clean, loving the gentle sweep of his hands as he slicked the hair away from my face.

Me: I wonder what time it is?

I stood, eyes closed, face turned into the steam. A soapy bath sponge chafed light circles across my shoulders leaving my skin clean and tingly in its wake.

PC (as if reasoning with a dull child): Do you really want him to stop?

Me, groaning: No. Never.

Mulder scuffed gently at my back, his hands following the sponge, moving lower.

Me again: Ummm, that feels heavenly. Let's see...I'll present the Kilgore case first, then the case of the...

PC, sharply: Can't you live in the moment just this once, Dana?

Mulder lifted one foot, then the other, working the sponge against my heels and sliding slick fingers between each toe, massaging the sensitive skin that lay hidden there.

"Ahhhh. You're too good to me," the words tumbled from my lips on a gasp of pleasure. I turned around, reaching down for him.

"No such thing, Scully," his soapy chest glided up my legs, slipped over my belly; his hairs tickled my breasts, sending a jolt of desire straight to my core.

PC: See?

"Ummm. This isn't fair. What are you getting out if it?" I finally opened my eyes. Looked down. Oh.

My head fell against his shoulder, suddenly too heavy for my rubber neck. As he soaped my arms and washed them down in turn, I traced the swell of his pectorals with an available finger, splayed a cleaned hand across the damp tightness of his abdominals, then strayed below his waist.

"No no," he swatted me away. "This is for you."

"Mulder," I protested weakly.

"Almost," he ran a fine velour cloth over my face, "done." He guided me in one last circle through the water. "All done."

"Your turn," I reached for the sponge.

"No time," the sponge disappeared into the cloud of steam above his head. "You'll be late," he kissed me quickly. "Next time," he promised, swatting my backside with his free hand. "Now off to work with you, young lady."

Next time. A sound - somewhere between laughter and tears - turns to dust in my throat. I watch the last of the rinse water circle the drain - once, twice, then it's gone and the empty steel eye stares back at me. Bracing myself against the porcelain sink, I stand awkwardly. I don't need to clean the apartment. The guys would do it for me. Mulder...I...can well afford to leave it dirty and sacrifice the deposit. Or pay professional cleaners. But I need to do it. I need to bring order into a life that consists of nothing but loose ends these days. I need to take control with my own hands. I need to touch everything that brings me closer to him.

My cell phone warbles, jolting me back to the present. I find it in the living room and thumb the send key, raise it to my ear, allowing myself to imagine for a moment that it's Mulder's voice I'll hear. I hold my breath, saying nothing, listening, hoping.

"Scully?" Byers. The Gunmen have triple teamed me since Mulder's disappearance three months ago.

"Yes."

"We've put the furniture and the last boxes in storage. The things you wanted are over at your place."

"Good." I close my eyes and lean back against the wall. The last rays of sunlight warm my face.

"Frohike fed the fish," Byers chokes a little on the words. The guys have put up a strong collective face but I see the strain in their eyes and hear the loss in their words when they speak with me.

"Thanks." Thanks for everything. Thanks for being there, for loving me and loving Mulder. Thanks for not giving up, for spending part of each day following endless leads, searching for the love of my life, who surely is the father of my child. As I listen to Byers' comforting voice, I think of the manila folder tucked away on my desk. Tonight I'm going to open it. I'm going to confirm what I already know in my heart. I'll erase all doubt that this miracle is anything other than the product of love between Mulder and me. Then I will go on, following every UFO sighting, interviewing witnesses and possible abductees, until I find him or he finds me.

He will return.

We will play silly games and laugh again.

We will lay in bed and cuddle again.

We will shower together and it will be my turn for exploration with soapy hands.

We will be together again.

I have no doubts.

The End


TITLE: Love for all Seasons 12: Gripped by Winter's Chill
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: anywhere
CLASSIFICATION: MSR, AU
SPOILERS: through deadalive, sort of

SUMMARY: A very pregnant Dana Scully faces the holidays without Mulder. How will she make it through? With a little help from her friends.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THE TIMELINE: This continues my LFAS universe, in which Mulder and Scully have been romantically involved since FTF. In LFAS11, Mulder has been abducted and Scully is pregnant and due in December/January. Obviously the time line is not canon, but it didn't start out to be. It's my intention to finish this series with two more stories, bringing it up to the present time and congruent with the current story line (if CC and his pack of trolls don't ruin it).

This will take you straight to LFAS 11, if you want to brush up on the story line before starting this one (but it's not necessary):


Scully's Apartment
Georgetown
December 23, 2000

"Sir."

"I don't want to intrude."

"You didn't." I wipe my cheek with the back of one hand, turning away from the door so he won't see. I step aside. "Come in."

He hesitates. I follow his eyes to the problem and see the considerable swell of my belly still blocks the way.

"Oh," I step back again, gesturing him inside with one hand.

Light puddles around the sofa from one small lamp turned low. I toddle awkwardly through the darkness, touching switches until the room glows with welcoming light. Gathering a pile of used tissues into my pocket, I turn back to my visitor. "Can I get you anything? I'm just having some herbal tea."

"No," A. D. Skinner stands just inside the door, shifting from foot to foot, gripping a small cordovan leather book in both hands. "I'm fine. I can't stay."

I lever myself onto the sofa and lay back, seeking relief from the pressure that flattens my organs into a thin strip against my spine.

"How's the little guy doing?" Skinner asks from his refuge near the door. Ultrasound has shown clearly that it's a boy.

"Fine. Active." I reach for my child with both hands, holding him through the hard dome that protects him.

Skinner follows my hands then quickly looks away. "And your mother?"

"Mom's fine. She went to San Diego for Christmas." I feel his surprise and rush to explain. "It's been planned for some time."

His look raises the guilt in me. "I'm too big to fly," I excuse myself quickly. Nine months. Over the limit.

"And your mother went anyway?"

"I insisted. I told her..."

"...a lie," he diverts my story to the truth.

"Ah... " heat rushes into my face, "...just a creative variation on the truth."

Skinner perches on the far edge of the couch. "So who are you spending Christmas with?"

"My friend Ellen."

"Are you?"

"Haven't seen her in years."

We chuckle together for a moment before losing the connection. Mulder's fish tank burbles in the corner, the popping bubbles and low hum of the filter loud in the quiet room.

"Do you really want to be alone?" he gathers himself to stand again.

No, I don't. I shake my head. "I'm tired of being pitied, being tip-toed around." I think of my mother, bless her. "Mom means well but she tries too hard. I need to get this," the long two weeks since Mulder's death and his funeral hang in the air, "behind me and move forward again...for all of us."

Skinner nods, his glance skating off my belly again. He turns the book over in his hands. "This afternoon the investigators released the *evidence* they confiscated from Mulder's apartment after his abduction."

I remember the eerie emptiness of the apartment, the dust ring where his computer had stood, opened drawers and cupboards, things out of place. They had invaded Mulder's privacy with the same disregard they'd have for a criminal. Anger fills me all over again.

"I saw this listed on the inventory," Skinner continues, turning the leather book around then handing it to me, cover up, "and pulled it out for you."

The number 1961, embossed in flaking gold, is the title of the volume. It creaks open, nearly falling from my icy hands when I read the inscription on the fly leaf.

Teena Mulder
Arlington Virginia
1961

The chill is flushed from my body by a rush of heat when I realize this book chronicles Mulder's birth year. A sob catches on a hiccough and I swallow it whole.

"I...thought you might want to have that," Skinner backs toward the door, clearly far outside his comfort zone, trapped as he is in a room thick with progesterone fumes.

I can't speak. My eyes fill with tears that threaten to overflow.

"Stay," he holds up one blurry hand while he twists the doorknob with the other. Clearly the physics of me getting off the couch is more than he can bear to witness. "I'll let myself out." He does. The door thumps, its handle rattles, and I'm alone with the book.

I sit for a long time, staring sightlessly at the first page. When it returns to focus I follow the precise loops and turns of Teena Mulder's writing with one finger, feeling how her bold script furrows the thin sheet, even after all these years. I gather the pages into one hand and let sheet after sheet covered with tight script flutter onto the back cover. A field of exclamation marks catches my eye and I fumble through the pages until I find it again.

February 14, 1961 I received the best Valentine's gift a girl could get. I'm pregnant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After all these months of trying, Bill and I are finally going to have a baby. Bill's trying not to look too excited, but I know he is.

The book bounces off my knees and onto the floor, skidding out of sight beneath the coffee table. Sobs well out of my chest in great heaves, one after the other, emptying me, filling my ears with the sound of my grief. I slide into the place I've been avoiding all month, go headfirst into it, and it closes over me. Instead of being a safe haven, this darkness - my spiritual nadir - is fractured by the slideshow flashing through my head, real memories shown in counterpoint to memories that will never be.

Flash.

The first time I met Mulder alternates with the look on his face when he learned I was pregnant.

Flash.

Our first kiss alternates with a memory of Mulder with our son in his arms

Flash.

The first time we made love and the second and the third time is overwhelmed by a flood of things I'll never get to remember, one coming right after the other.

Flash.

Flash.

Flash.

A bout of hiccoughs brings me out of it and I dab my swollen eyes with the handful of used tissues from my pocket. 'Bill's trying not to look too excited,' virtual purple dots dance over the memory of what his mother wrote. I blink and shake my head -- putting Mulder in his father's shoes leaves no doubt about the joy he would have felt. The thin wall that divided our relationship from our life in the Bureau would have blown apart, splinters showering to earth across the entire District of Columbia. I'm warm all over, thinking of how he would have rejoiced our pregnancy and embraced all the chores - obstetrician visits, ultrasounds, Lamaze classes, my swollen feet and strange cravings - that came with it. Gladly. There's no mystery to me why Mulder kept this particular volume of all his mother's journals. With shaking hands I find it on the floor, relieved to see my carelessness has not damaged the precious old book. It falls open to a page in the middle and I continue reading.

June 29, 1961 I'm four months and starting to show. Today I bought my first maternity things, slacks with stretch panels in the front, a pretty red smock with a big white bow at the neck, and a roomy muu-muu covered in bright orange flowers. I don't need to wear them, they're still big on me, but I do because then I can imagine the baby coming sooner. If it's a boy, we're going to name him Gilbert, after Bill's father. Gilbert William (after Bill) Mulder. Gilbert (Gil) is a good, strong name that will serve him well. If it's a girl, she'll be Katharine, Kate, after my favorite actress and the anglicized version of my mother's name, Katrien. If she has half the strength, presence, of my mother or Miss Hepburn, she'll have a good life. That's what I want for my children. A good life. Happiness. Love. Success.

"Gil," I test the name on my tongue. How different would Mulder's life have been had he been named Gilbert instead of Fox? Children grow into their names, fated like vines to fill the trellis they're given. Did being named Fox preordain him to come at life from an odd angle, carry a chip on his shoulder? I dab at one eye with a mangled tissue and discover my eyes are dry. "I will give our son a good name, a solid one that leaves no question of how he'll grow," I promise Mulder in absentia, riffling through the pages to find a new entry.

October 8, 1961 I'm as big as a house, front heavy, I can't bend over or I'll fall over. I can't breathe, I can't sleep, and I think Bill's so fed up with being disturbed at night he's about ready to pitch a cot in his office for the duration. We're still thinking of Gilbert for a boy but now Bill has suggested the name of his best childhood friend, Foxworth, who died in Korea. It sounds a bit stuffy to me but Bill's taken with the idea. We still agree on Katharine for a girl.

I'm a little hurt by Bill's reaction to the changes in my body. He seems repulsed by belly, even turning away when I get undressed at night. It's normal, I want to tell him. It's glorious and beautiful, I think. I love to lay my hands on the tight skin that protects my son or daughter. I love to feel the life growing inside me.

Teena's grandson lands a swift kick on my bladder and I wince in response. "Hey now," I caution him, caressing him blindly through the muscle of my belly. He calms immediately and I leave my hand there to comfort him.

Would Mulder have been repelled by my ungainly growth? No way. He would have celebrated the changes with his entire body. I can assemble a faux memory from the bits Mulder has left me and, closing my eyes, I join him there.

Mulder kneels on the floor between my knees. He pushes up the thin knit of my shirt exposing the mound of my belly to the cool air. My skin is shiny white, stretched tight like a drum head over our baby, who lays curled beneath my heart. Stretch marks, delicate like pink lace, feather along my flanks.

"Wow." He splays his long fingers around me and our child, holding us like a basketball between his hands.

Our son responds to Mulder's touch, shifting inside me to fit better into his father's embrace.

"I envy him," Mulder presses his lips against my tummy; I feel the words vibrate against my skin. "There have been days when I wish I could crawl in there, just like that."

...and be held next to my heart, like you always are. "There have been times when I thought you did."

"Umm," he slips his arms around us, sliding up, pressing his cheek against my belly, resting his head against my breast.

I smoothe his hair and let my hand wander across the heat of his neck to the strength of his shoulders and down the long plane of his back until I run out of reach. I find my hand on my own thigh. I sigh. "Oh Mulder."

Alone in the room, I tear myself away from my dreams and turn back to Teena's memories, flipping the page. Time has skipped ahead.

October 23, 1961 A lot has happened in the past two weeks. Friday the 13th turned out to be my lucky day! That evening while I was ironing, my water broke all over the kitchen floor. I finished two of Bill's white dress shirts before the contractions started. In the time it took Bill to drive from the State Department to Arlington, I finished them all and left them hanging in the closet, ready for him to wear. My contractions were lazy, coming hard only every few minutes, so Dr. Raitt left for the night, telling me he'd come deliver my baby in the morning. Surprise! The nurse caught little Fox in her hands just before midnight. Bill and I compromised on Fox William for his name, Fox minus the "worth." I hope the shortened name will still be worthy of him. Fox is a beautiful little boy, he looks like me (Bill says). He wakes me up at night and I'm so tired I find myself taking naps during the day, but I don't care. I'm the happiest girl on earth.

Happy. A tear dribbles from one corner of my eye and runs down my cheek. I'm numb inside where I should be happy instead. I wish I could pick up that numb spot and move it over to the Mulder node that aches like a bad tooth. I chafe my palm protectively over my child. Poor little guy. He's having to grow up steeped in a pot of nasty stress hormones instead of happy ones. What kind of mother am I?

What kind of mother was Teena to Mulder? I look at her journal and see delerious happiness. When did it end? Her increasing anxiety and despair wore on Mulder like water on stone as he grew into a boy and then into a man. She had so much more to offer him, but didn't. Couldn't. I have so much to offer this child, and I will. I will pull myself out of this funk and get on with it. I owe it to everyone. I flip a few pages ahead, reading with new resolve.

December 1, 1961 Fox is six weeks old today. We're preparing for the holidays and Bill has invited his strange friend Charles Spender to spend the month of December with us. Charles lives somewhere away from Washington, I don't know where. There's something odd about him. He's always watching, never participating. He seems to be hiding something. He doesn't talk about the same work Bill doesn't talk about. I don't know whether he gives me the creeps or not but I need to paste on a smile and make nice for him while he's here.

Spender. The Smoker. The presence of that man in this shrine to Mulder's birth is sacrilege. Giving him an ordinary name - Charles - makes him too human for me. I knot my fingers at the top of the page but resist the urge to tear it out. I escape to the back of the book and read the last entry.

December 31, 1961 The New Year is just hours away and I'm sitting here, thinking about the old one, rejoicing for everything it brought us. Charles (Spender) is besotted with little Fox. He's turned out to be the perfect nanny and not so weird as I thought. He's better with the baby than Bill is, who holds Fox stiffly as if he might explode at any minute. Charles is infinitely patient, changing diapers without hesitation, singing to Fox when he's fussy until he falls asleep. What a blessing he's been! I'd ask him to be godfather if we practiced that ritual in our family. Tonight the three boys (as I've started to call them) are camped out in front of the new television, watching Guy Lombardo in COLOR!! Life is good.

Life is good. The diary ends on those words. I close the book and fold it against my belly, thinking about how 'good' life turned out for Teena Mulder. I remember her as-yet unborn daughter's abduction and escape into death rather than suffer longer at the hands of goverment operatives. I recall her her ex-husband's murder and her own suicide. My memory of her son's death will always be with me as will the memory of my own sister's murder in my stead. I think of this kinder gentler Spender, dead too. All dead. When life, her choices, all became too much for her, she retreated into a hard cold shell that kept everything away, including all chance of happiness. I think of how many times Mulder tried to breach that shell. And failed. I wrap my arms Teena's fatherless grandson and wonder how on earth I guide him away from this darkness in his genes.

When I wake, daylight fills the room. Turning my head, I see thin flakes fluttering outside the window. Snow. December 24th. Christmas Eve. I massage the cramp in my neck with hands stiff from gripping my belly all night. I claw my way to a seated position then discover what woke me.

The door rattles in the frame from a sharp knock-knock against the wood.

I attempt to rise but, unbalanced, I fall onto the cushions again. A sharp jab in the kidneys turns out to be Teena Mulder's journal.

The rapping is louder this time. "Scully!" I hear my name called in Skinner's voice.

I relax against the sofa, rubbing my eyes, smoothing my hair back from my face. "Come in," I call to him, remembering the door is unlocked anyway.

Skinner shoulders his way through the door, a small tree in his right hand and two grocery bags in the left. He nudges the door shut with one toe, rushing to say "Merry Christmas." He raises the tree in a salute, his cheeks redder than usual.

"Sir?"

"Chrismas Eve dinner," he studies the bags - one paper, one plastic - in his right hand, apparently fascinated by a baguette wrapped gaily in red and white that pokes through the thin plastic one.

"You didn't need to do that," I wiggle my way to the edge of the cushion, preparing to stand and be hostess.

"You're doing me a favor. My family...I..." he fumbles for the right words, putting the tree on my coffee table. Its tiny green branches wave in the air, spewing pine scent everywhere. "I don't have any plans."

He offers a hand and I take it; with his help I float to my feet with the grace of a ballerina, fighting the urge to dip into a grateful but disastrous grand pliť.

I hesitate then turn, maneuvering my belly out of the way so I can wrap my arms around his waist. I hear a thump and a rattle as the bags in his hand drop to the floor. Warmth circles my shoulders and I'm held firmly against his chest. A gust of pent-up air bursts from my lungs as I burrow my nose in the front of his sweater and hang on for dear life. I surrender to the rhythm of his breath moving in and out, drifting with it, smelling Christmas in the air. "Thanks," I say finally.

His hand freezes where it's tangled in my hair. "Sure thing," he says tightly, setting me squarely on my feet before stepping away.

I throw a double take at the tense line of his back as he gathers the bags from the floor and carries them into the kitchen.

"Come on, Scully," he interrupts my addition, putting the bags on the counter. "Get with it. Last one with Christmas spirit is rotten egg...nog."

It doesn't escape me that only one of us seems to lack the spirit.

He roots around in the paper bag and pulls out three small boxes. "You have a tree to decorate and I have a dinner to fix." He pushes the boxes at me without more than a glance.

Tiny golden balls, red bells, and green stars fill my hands. "That doesn't seem like an equal division of labor to me, sir."

"Sir? Sir??" mock horror fills his voice as he pulls food items from the bags like rabbits from a hat. Cranberries. Bread. Olives. Stuffing mix. A large parcel in butcher's paper. He obviously finds each one fascinating because he doesn't take his eyes off them. "Cut the *sir* crap."

I find my eyebrow floating out of control, creasing my forehead.

"This is Christmas Eve. You are Dana. I am Walter."

"SWalter," I say to his back, reaching out, touching his arm with my fingertips. Gently. It's OK, they say to him.

"Dana," he finally looks at me, takes me by the shoulders and steers me toward the living room, "there's an undecorated tree in the other room. Hop to it."

"Yes Sir Walter," I sketch a mock salute in his direction and nearly fumble the ornaments in my hands. I smile despite the grief that's pulling me down from the inside. Sir Walter. He's certainly some lucky woman's white knight, I think, watching the steady movement of his strong hands arranging things for our supper.

Wonderful Smart Impossible Quixotic Irritating Romantic Mulder has ruined me for any other man, I sigh, holding the heat of my palm flat against the side of my belly. A tiny foot - or maybe an elbow - migrates into my grasp and gives me a swift nudge of acknowledgement. Except for one. I smile and rub back at him.

The End


TITLE: Love For All Seasons 13 -- Happy New Year
AUTHOR: Kate Rickman
E-MAIL: kate.Rickman@mindspring.com
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, sure.
CLASSIFICATION: S, MSR, AU, babyfic
RATING: PG-13
SPOILERS: Through Season 8, but only classic XF Characters involved or mentioned

SUMMARY: ...and baby makes two?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This continues my LFAS series, off-camera MSR starting with the aftermath of FTF and continuing until Mulder's abduction. With LFAS 11, the series is strictly AU, but will, by LFAS 15, the final installment, once against meet up with canon, again off camera (because they never let us see the really good stuff).

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO READ THIS ONE: Scully becomes pregnant in April 2000 as suggested by S7 episodes. Continuing on that time line, she is nearly at term in December when I calculate Mulder is found and buried for dead. One month later...


January 15, 2001
Scully's Apartment

"Guys!" I heave myself to a sitting position, fighting the strong arms of weight and fatigue that press me steadily into the soft pillows on my bed. Amid the pile of velveteen and silk and chenille, ruched and ruffled and plain, all in soothing earth tones I sit awkwardly for a moment, legs splayed like a plastic doll, hugging the mound of my unborn child with both arms.

Bright winter sunlight floods my room, bringing with it urban noises -- a passing car, the sound of footsteps along the sidewalk, laughter from somewhere -- that ring clear on the crisp air. Inside I'm warm and snug in my soft knit track suit and the thick socks that coddle my feet. The vacuum cleaner hums in the living room, filling my room with comforting domestic sounds.

I rub my belly, stretched drum tight over the baby I carry beneath my heart. My belly, my back, my pelvis, my hips ache. My feet and ankles are fat sausages at the ends of my legs. My calves knot and retie themselves on an hourly basis. Around my middle, slow cramping comes and goes with annoying intermittence -- a slight tightening of the drum, then a release, then a long wait for the next one.

I struggle to the side of the bed and throw my legs over, balancing on the mattress edge. These days my stomach shuttles between heartburn and hunger -- I'm seldom without one or the other. Today, at 10:45 AM, I'm ravenous. Images of pizza an inch thick with my wildest dreams on top flood my brain and my mouth waters reflexively.

"Yeah?" Frohike emerges from my bathroom on a gust of pine scented disinfectant. I'm forced to tuck a smile into the soft roll of my collar so I don't betray amusement at the ruffled pink apron he wears. I think it belonged to his mother; there's a reverent connection to his family history somewhere. Wielding a toilet bowl brush in one yellow-gloved hand, he waits for instructions.

The vacuum moans into silence outside the door and Byers pokes his head around the corner, somehow knowing something is afoot or perhaps simply stunned by the vision of Frohike in pink and yellow. When Langly passes by, white trash bag in hand, Byers snags him too. My little army stands at attention, three pairs of eyes staring straight at me.

"So, how about I treat you guys to some pizza?" I slide down until my feet touch the floor.

They shoot looks among themselves and the clock.

"Come on, by the time it gets here, it will be lunch time," I remind them, easing my weight onto the balls of my feet. "Besides, all guys like pizza. It's a Y chromosome thing."

"Then what's your excuse?" Langly demands.

"I don't need one," I pat my belly, "this little guy's chromosome speaks for both of us. He says 'Mom, I want olives and peppers and sausage and anchovies. Now.'"

Byers's face twists at the mention of anchovies.

"Okay, okay," I'm on my two feet, holding my belly with both hands, straightening so I can walk to the telephone when it happens. "Uh-oh."

"What?" Byers appears at my elbow.

Wet sticky heat creeps down my legs.

"Uh..." My stomach growls. The wet patch spreads slowly across the back of my track suit. I hold my breath, waiting for a cramp. Nothing. I straighten and my stomach growls again. Insistently. For the moment, heartburn is only a vague memory. "Uh...why don't you order what you want and I'll join you in a moment?" Butterflies flutter to life around my slumbering baby, their wings tickling both me and him.

Backing toward the bathroom, I feel remarkably relaxed for someone about to be screaming her tonsils out in the birthing room.

I change into clean things and tidy myself for the trip to the hospital before wolfing through a quarter of the large pizza that arrives a few minutes later. My midsection is tight, ready, but holding steady for the moment and the thick, juicy tomato slices, the savory pepperoni, the rich mozzarella all slide down with ease. When the first bona fide contraction hits I bobble the third slice and it lands, face down, in what's left of my lap with me on top of it.

"Scully?" Byers asks, but he knows.

"Yesssss," I hiss between clenched teeth, "call...Mom." Mom's my Lamaze coach. Her brand-new cellular phone number is fixed to the 'fridge with a green alien magnet I salvaged from Mulder's apartment.

Frohike tumbles over his own feet en route to the kitchen. I wince at the flutter, clatter, and plink of magnets and other memorabilia hitting the tile floor in a chain reaction started by the innocent little alien.

"Mrs. Scully?" I hear Frohike ask after a moment. My mother has grown accustomed to my strange entourage -- my 'well-mannered young men,' she calls them. I'd never thought of the Gunmen in exactly that way but when I see them through her eyes, I agree. They are well-mannered; even Frohike.

Byers has found my tote, pre-packed for the big moment, and lugs it into the living room; Langly holds my coat in one hand, my gloves in the other. From the corner of one eye, I see them hovering by the door, waiting while my breath rushes in and out of my chest and pain from the contraction subsides.

"She's on her way. It will be about an hour," Frohike reports, returning from the kitchen. He gasps the message, more winded than I am. "She'll meet you at the hospital."

"Then may I have a lift?" I raise my head, heart thumping wildly, my midsection rather numb, crampless for the moment. I lift the forgotten pizza slice gingerly with two fingers, peeling it away from what had been my clean track suit, the sauce splotches blending perfectly with the deep rust color I chose to wear for the occasion.

I waddle to the elevator and out the front door of my building with Frohike at one side and Langly on the other. The pressure in my belly is so strong and so low that it seems to interfere with the way my legs work. I imagine my baby's head wedged in my pelvis like a golf ball, all teed up and ready to go.

Byers pulls to the curb in his Volkswagen minibus, its little engine clattering beneath the back deck. I wobble into the back seat with Frohike guiding my elbow. Langly slides the door shut behind us -- its tinny thunk booms like the lid slammed on a fifty gallon drum. I find the least uncomfortable spot on the hard vinyl seat and brace myself for the trip to the hospital.

The engine roars and we lurch forward. It seems that a flock of desperate woodpeckers, all hammering at the metal, power us through the streets somehow. Midday traffic is more stop than go and we only inch our way up New Hampshire Avenue toward Washington Memorial Hospital.

"Aaaaaaaah," I roll to one side, into a surprised Frohike, pushing against the front seatback with my feet, nearly kicking Langly into the windshield. Langly turns, concern spreading over his face. My knees boomerang back into my belly and I nearly end up in Frohike's lap, trying to breathe.

Frohike grabs me by the shoulders and steadies me. "Is this it? The baby? Now?"

"He's an only child," Byers says over his shoulder by way of excusing his friend's panic.

"Yeah, his parents took one look at him and said 'no more of those,'" Langly drawls, clutching the seatback in case of another assault -- by me or Frohike, I can't tell.

"Shut up, mutant" Frohike snaps back, then turns to me asking gently "It's not?"

"No, Frohike. It doesn't work like that," I grit the words through clenched teeth, through the unbelievable pain that has possessed my midsection. It wasn't nearly this bad being shot in the belly by the useless Agent Ritter. That was a clean, searing pain and I thankfully passed out quickly from the blood loss. This is an encompassing pain, a deep burning cramp that starts in my belly and radiates out to the tips of my tingling fingers -- and it's not going to stop any time soon. "That's why they have maternity wards, so women can scream in pain for hours on end."

Frohike's hands bite into my shoulders, a welcome distraction from the cramp in my belly.

Suddenly we're at Washington Memorial, Dr. Speake has been called, and I've been escorted to the pale blue birthing room chosen by my mother and myself for this occasion -- blue has nothing to do with the fact that I'm carrying a boy; it has everything to do with the fact that I hate the color pink.

Nurse Maja Something-Long-With-an-Impossible-Juxtaposition-of- Consonants helps me out of the wheelchair that carried me here, steadying me on my spaghetti legs. White blinds are pulled to one side of a wide window where gallons of clear winter light pour in to fill up the room. A twin bed -- hospital issue adjustable but framed in oak with four decorative posts -- sits to one side covered by a pristine quilt and flanked by end tables, each with a lamp of its own. A deep easy chair stands to one side of the bed while portable monitoring equipment, switched off for now, tries to hide behind a blue muslin curtain. An open door on the far wall reveals a white porcelain bowl and a matching sink.

Frohike murmurs something about needing to re-park the minibus and snatches the keys from Byers's hand. He takes off at a half trot down the hall with Langly tight on his heels. Byers looks after them with longing before turning back to me with a thin smile fixed to his face. It's a dirty job and he's been elected to do it, the smile says. He adjusts the tie at his neck with both hands.

I double over and Byers catches my elbow. "Scully!"

"Urrrrr," is as much of his name I can find in my brain right now, tottering as I am, staring at the clean blue linoleum with my gut twisted to the point that I could tear into two pieces. Unless Byers has sprouted a third hand, Nurse Maja is helping him steer me toward the bed -- alternating white and blue tiles pass beneath my feet until the quilt and the oak framed bed come into view.

The contraction eases and I straighten, holding my belly with both hands, eyes closed, willing my heartbeat down to a steady thrum and trying to catch up on my breathing. I flick a glance at the wall clock -- 1:15 PM. "It's been over an hour. Where's Mom?" I wonder aloud, punching a few words between each lungful of air.

Nurse Maja -- clad in tasteful blue scrubs that blend seamlessly with the blue theme of this room -- suggests I change into more suitable clothing, showing me something open all the way down the back that will flap above my knees. I wave her off, finding my tote on the floor at Byers's feet; Byers has wrapped himself securely around one of the four oak bedposts.

"Byers, call Mom. I'm worried." I lift the tote, straightening with one hand supporting my lower back. I want my Mommy is what I really wanted to say.

"I can't," Byers frees one hand to pull at his tie.

I waddle over to the bathroom door, turning at the last minute. "And why is that?"

"Frohike has the card. You know, the card with the cell number on it," he explains.

"Oh, for heaven's sake." I turn into the tiny bathroom, thinking that Mulder would have remembered the number after seeing it only once.

Mulder.

The tote falls from my hand, a sense of loss suddenly overwhelming me. Mulder should be here today. He should share my joy in the birth of our son. Some of my excitement leaks away, leaving a cold, empty space near my heart.

"Sorry," Byers's anxious reflection follows me from the mirror.

I snap a double take at his reflection, suspecting him and everyone else of mind reading these days. He meets my gaze simply, with sensitive compassion. "Well then, would you please get *my* phone for me. I have the number programmed." I push the door into its frame before pulling off my clothes and tossing them into a heap on the floor. I splay my fingers across the tight drum of my belly, feeling the warmth and strength of the cradle holding my child who, wakening, soon will be cradled in my own arms.

"I can't do that, Scully," Byers reply cuts into my reverie.

"For heaven's sake" there's a querulous edge to my voice now, "why not?" I bend awkwardly, unzipping my bag.

"You didn't bring it."

Damn. He's right. I waddled out the door with only my keys in hand. I find the deep burgundy gown purchased just for this occasion and drop it over my head; the waltz length hem flutters delicately around my calves. A quilted bed jacket in matching burgundy and gold tops the ensemble. I moisten a face cloth and blot gently at the perspiration on my face and neck.

"I guess you were a bit preoccupied," Byers tries to excuse my lapse. "I could find Frohike," he suggests hopefully.

"Yeah, yeah, yoooowwwww!" the pain ramps up rapidly, taking me by surprise. I drop the damp cloth into the sink and grip the porcelain for dear life. I struggle with a moment of panic that I can't do this, that I can't bear the pain that will come, that I'm terribly afraid of this untraveled path I'm about to take. Two lines of forgotten poetry rise to mind that seem to describe my condition perfectly -- 'I've eaten a bag of green apples/ Boarded the train there's no getting off.' "Well, let's find the depot, Dana," I mutter encouragement to myself as the contraction eases and I'm able to stand and shuffle into the birthing room.

Nurse Maja helps me onto the bed and lifts my gown to attach the fetal monitor. At the first twitch of the fabric, Byers whirls, pacing to the window, apparently engrossed with something in the bare limbed tree that spreads against the sky outside. He stands at attention, his stiff back carefully turned to the room.

After the second contraction my bed jacket hits the floor and I relish the cool air that licks at my damp neck and shoulders. "Oh man, this is worse than the worst food poisoning I've ever had," I tell the nurse.

"You've had a lot of experience with food poisoning?" Nurse Maja asks, her eyes on the fetal monitor.

"Uuuuhhhhh...owwwwwwwwww." The pain has scrambled my thoughts. My heart hammers in my chest but I can suddenly breathe again and so I drag huge gulps of air into my lungs. "My work takes me on the road a lot -- it takes me on a lot of strange roads, in fact." I breathe deeply, enjoying the respite. "Available food choices aren't always of the best quality," I gratefully accept a plastic cup filled with chipped ice, savoring one icy cube as it melts a cold streak down the back of my throat.

"At least with food poisoning, I'm sick then it's over. This is going to kill me, I swearrrrrrrr." Another cramp cuts me in two. I slam the cup on the bedside table and chips of ice fly everywhere; I hear them skittering across the floor as counterpoint to the pulse booming in my ears.

"I am in control, I am in control," I chant rhythmically, knowing that I'm anything but "in control."

Face-down over my belly -- or as far over my belly as I can fold myself -- I see a cloud of miniature teddy bears swarming around the foot of my bed. The swarm resolves into two legs and a tunic. Another nurse has entered the room.

"Just relax, Scully," Byers's hand floats lightly across my shoulder for a moment. I imagine him nervously tucking it into a pocket. Propping myself up with one hand on the mattress, I savor a few deep breaths.

"You call your wife by her last name?" The nurse. Her name tag reads Glenna Murray, RN.

"Wife?" Byers yelps, grabbing at his tie, his glance darting around the room, lingering on the door, "No, I'm sorry, she's..." he shifts on his feet, forward and back again, finally meeting the curious eyes of the nurse straight on, "I'm...just standing in."

"Ah," Nurse Murray says.

"Ahhhhhhh" is right. In the middle of feeling sorry for Byers's discomfort, I double over with another contraction. When my vision clears, I plan to check the clock, but I'd swear it's been less than two minutes since the last one. Somebody better get a catcher's mitt -- this little guy is going to hit home plate a lot sooner than anyone thought.

I need to breathe. Breathe, breathe, breathe I remind myself as my head swims in the vacuum left by my empty lungs.

'Hang in there, Scully.' The words float through my head, his voice loud in my mind. Mulder.

"I'm hanging, I'm hanging," I promise under my breath, my heart hammering.

'Breathe, Scully.' I feel the warm puff of his breath on my ear.

I force discipline on my respiration, focus on a smooth deep pull and a long steady push, feeling the knot in my chest melt and my head clear.

Mulder's warmth circles me from behind; I am secure with the strength of his arms wrapped around me. I lean back against his chest, as comforting as a pile of soft pillows, and find the tension uncoiling from my arms and legs. A wall rises between the pain and me; from a distance, I manage the contractions as they come and go. I take comfort in Mulder's slow steady heartbeat, his warmth, his strength, his faith in me, my love for him, his love for me and our unborn child.

"Dana!" Dr. Speake arrives, crisp in fresh scrubs. "How are you doing?" she asks both me and Nurse Murray.

"Fine," I reply. Nurse Murray gives a more technical response while I work through another contraction.

Dr. Speake disappears between my knees. "Dana, you are doing wonderfully," she says after a moment. "You're nearly dilated. Let's try pushing next time."

I sense Byers's flinch at the words "dilated" and "pushing." He's out of my sight line, pressed against the wall at the head of the bed, well away from the open end of the sheet draped over my legs. "Byers," I begin to say but am distracted by the tightening in my belly.

Wait, the weight of Mulder's hands on my shoulders reminds me. Wait. I struggle to refrain from hyperventilating as my midsection coils for another contraction. Wait. I pull a deep breath just before the pain builds to the point where my self-control snaps and I bear down hard. "Uuuuuuuhhaaaaa," the war cry declares my intent and seems to make the pushing easier.

"Good. Great, Dana," Dr. Speake coaches me from between my knees.

"He's stuck," I panic, knowing he's not stuck.

"No he isn't. He's crowning. Just wait until the next contraction." Her reasoned words calm me.

The strength of Mulder's fingers twines through mine where they guard our child within the thick walled vessel of my belly. Together we feel the muscle begin to tighten, heralding a new contraction that hits quickly and hard.

"Dana!"

"Mommmmmmmmmm...uuuuuuuuuuuuhm," I call to her, pushing against an imaginary brick wall.

"Sweetie!" She sheds her coat and bag as she crosses the room to my side. "There was an accident on Route 50. Traffic backed up for miles. I am so sorry I couldn't get here sooner." Her cool hand is balm to my hot forehead.

"Mom," I gasp when the contraction loosens its grip on my vocal cords.

The warmth of Mulder's hands slides up and down my arms.

"Just one more push, Dana. Next time," Dr. Speake smiles at me over the sheet.

"Byers," I reach blindly toward the head of my bed. His cold hand finds its way to my warm one. "Thanks. For everything."

"Sure," he clears his throat, "I'll just go wait with the guys." He nods at my mother before skidding from the room.

Mom smiles, shaking her head after him. "He's a good friend to you, Dana."

"I know, Mom." Uncle John, Uncle Melvin, and Uncle Ringo will be there for both my son and me. There's no question in my mind. They are an integral part of our extended family.

"Ah," It's starting again. I breathe deeply, preparing for the push of a lifetime. I focus on Mulder's heartbeat, lose myself in its rhythm -- a measured thumpthumpthump -- matching it with the pulse of my own breath.

Two cramps, two deliciously satisfying shrieks later, the pressure suddenly rushes away and a thin wail rises between my knees. I reach out with shaking arms, exhausted, but wanting my baby as soon as Dr. Speake and her team will give him to me. A long moment later they deliver a tiny bundle to my arms.

"Oh, Mulder." Covered with baby slime, face red with indignation, eyes screwed tight against the sudden light, it's a beautiful little boy. My shaking hands cradle him against my chest.

"Dana, he's beautiful," my mother agrees with me, crowding in, caressing her grandson's wet forehead with a trembling finger.

He is. He's gorgeous. He's the best of Mulder and me.

"Have you chosen a name?" Nurse Murray stands to one side of the bed, pen poised over a clipboard.

"Yes." "William Scully..."

Mulder's arms tighten around me.

"Mulder. William Scully Mulder."

'I love you, Scully.' I feel Mulder's lips brush my cheek.

"Mulder," I say again, touching the warm spot on my face. My fingertips carry the dampness to my own lips.

The End


Metaphors --by Sylvia Plath

I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.


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