Picking Up The Pieces
Story: Picking Up The Pieces
Disclaimer: I don't own Mulder and Scully, sadly.
Summary: It was true, both Mulder and Scully could both pass genetic muster. It was just a shame they couldn't make a marriage work.
Author's Notes: Ok, so this story randomly popped into my head as I was driving to work one morning! In this little alternate world that Mulder & Scully live in, Scully isn't barren.
Thanks to Xfilegrl for reading through this. She's a star!
Fox Mulder straightened his tie and took a deep breath, before knocking gently on the door. Stepping inside the room, he cleared his throat to announce his arrival, and the four people gathered in front of him turned their attention to the newcomer.
'Come in Mr Mulder, please sit down', came the voice of the stern-talking woman at the head of the table. Mulder smiled gratefully and took a seat to her left. 'I'm sorry I'm late. I got held up at work'.
'You're not that late', the woman politely lied, looking at her watch and realising just how late he was. 'You're here now'.
The petite red-haired lady sat opposite Mulder scoffed, and he raised his eyes to meet hers. There was a time when he swore he could get lost in those deep blue eyes, but not anymore. 'Like I said Scully, I apologise', he said firmly.
Scully raised her eyebrow as though issuing a challenge. 'Once again work got in the way I see', she said sarcastically. *One nil to Scully* Mulder thought, as he looked his wife - soon to be ex-wife - up and down. Her hair was longer, he noticed, now touching her shoulders, and she looked tired, but apart from that she was still the same old Scully.
'If we can continue', the lawyer sat next to her interrupted. 'We were just reviewing what has already been agreed between you and Mrs Mulder'.
Mulder nodded, not taking his eyes off his wife. She looked emotionless - composed - like she was detaching herself from the meeting. She refused to look back at Mulder, instead staring intently at her lawyer, focusing on everything she said. If Mulder had only just met her, he'd have presumed she was cold-hearted and ruthless, but he knew Scully well. Hell after almost fourteen years of knowing her, he should. He knew she was putting on a brave front, trying to act like she wasn't bothered about what was going on. He knew that deep down, their divorce was killing her as much as it was him.
'Mr and Mrs Mulder have both agreed that Mrs Mulder and the children will remain in the house where they currently reside'. Mulder didn't want to move out of course, he wasn't in favour of them separating, let alone divorcing, but he knew he had no choice. Scully didn't take the matter of divorce lightly - it wasn't exactly encouraged in her religion - but Mulder had pushed her to the point of no return. She had fought for their marriage until she'd run out of energy. If only Mulder had done the same.
'And Mrs Mulder has agreed joint custody of the two children, the arrangements of which are to be sorted out amongst the two of you at a later date'. That announcement caught Mulder's attention, and he shot Scully a questioning look. 'That's if it's ok with you', she remarked coldly, her eyes narrowing. She could still read his reactions. 'The children still want to know their father. I presume you can make time in your schedule to see them?'
*Game, set and match Scully*. 'Of course I can. Thank you'. He smiled at her, hoping she understood how much it meant to him that she wasn't filing for sole custody. She had every reason to of course, he'd hardly proved himself as a father over the past few years, and he considered it a miracle that their children knew who he was, let alone wanted anything to do with him. He thought about six year old William, a replica of Mulder in both mind and body. Already tall for his age, he had dark hair and his father's hazel eyes. He was confident, witty, frustratingly stubborn at times, a sports fanatic and was always looking for the next adventure. But he was a good kid, eager to sit down and do his homework quickly so he could get outside and shoot some hoops. And then there was little three year old Abbie, a proper daddy's girl. Like her brother, she had inherited Mulder's dark hair, but had Scully's face - mesmerising blue eyes, which somehow convinced both Mulder and Scully to give her (almost) everything she wanted, a small button nose, and pouty lips. She was gorgeous, and Mulder knew he'd have to keep an eye on her when she was older. And she was also like Scully in the way she behaved - she was calm, reserved, intelligent and quiet at times, although the older she got, the more confident she became. It was true, both Mulder and Scully could both pass genetic muster. It was just a shame they couldn't make a marriage work.
'So, providing the both of you agree with what's been set out for today, it looks as though we can proceed without any further delay'. Mulder realised that the lawyer was signalling the end of their meeting. Scully said something that didn't quite register with him, then stood up and put on her black suit jacket - the kind she used to wear when she worked on the X Files. She shook her lawyer's hand before walking out of the room without glancing back at Mulder. Not wanting to be left behind, he said his goodbyes to his own lawyer and chased down the corridor after Scully. There were still some things needed to be said.
'Hey Scully, wait up', he called as he saw her walk out of the building. As he raced to catch her, he realised she had heard him after all, and was waiting outside. She had her arms folded in front of her, adapting her familiar defensive pose. 'What do you want Mulder?' she asked impatiently.
He skidded to a halt in front of her and took a deep breath. They'd hardly spoken to one another since they'd separated - instead just being polite in front of the children. It was better that way - the more they talked, the more they argued. 'I just wanted to say thank you', he said breathlessly. 'Thanks for letting me see the kids'.
'I'm not doing it for you Mulder, I'm doing it for our children. They deserve to grow up knowing who their father is'. She eyed him frostily. 'They can make up their own mind about you in due course'.
Mulder ignored her bitter comment. She was entitled to her opinion, and the truth was, he felt the same. Over the past few months, since the divorce proceedings began, he thought back to his own childhood - how hurt he was when his own parents divorced and how alone he felt never truly knowing his father. He didn't want his own children to feel neglected or to think of their dad as a stranger - someone they only saw on birthdays and at Christmas.
'Well I appreciate it anyway Scully. And I'm sorry…I'm sorry for being late today, and I'm sorry for being an ass as of late'.
*Of late?* Scully held her tongue and nodded.
'Have you got to get back straight away?' he asked hesitantly.
'Why do you ask?'
'I was wondering if you wanted to grab a bite to eat or something…For old time's sake.' He shouldn't have added the last part - Scully wasn't in the mood to reminisce.
'Mulder, we're about to get divorced, I don't think it's a good idea'.
'So what, seven years of marriage meant nothing to you?' He said it without thinking it through, and immediately wished he could take the words back.
She stopped short, her eyes boring into him. 'Do you really think that?' she asked sharply. 'Do you really think I came to this decision lightly? Shouldn't the question be, did seven years of marriage mean anything to you Mulder?'
He looked his almost ex-wife straight in the eyes. He could see the hurt residing, and knew how hard it must have been to come to the decision that she wanted to end their marriage. He didn't blame her, if he were in her shoes then he'd have done exactly the same thing. Since before the day Dana Scully had walked into Fox Mulder's life, he'd always been obsessed with his work, determined to find out the truth about what happened to his sister Samantha and the government's involvement in hushing up the existence of the paranormal. Scully tolerated his passion for his work for a number of years, but hoped his priorities would change once they married, and particularly when their two children were born. Sadly the temptation to prove the existence of extra terrestrials and government conspiracies was too much for him.
'Of course it did Scully', he replied quietly. 'I'm sorry if it feels like it didn't. I just thought now might be a good time for us to talk'.
'Isn't it too late for that Mulder?' She was calmer now.
'I don't think so'. He smiled. 'Besides, we've got things we need to discuss'.
Scully considered his proposal and then nodded. 'I can't be long though, make it a quick sandwich. I need to pick Abbie up from my mom's in time to collect William from school'.
'Sure thing. I can make it fast'. They both blushed at his innuendo but neither made a comment. 'There's a bakery just down the road, are you ok to walk?'
The walk to the bakery was silent, with neither quite knowing what to say. This was their first proper meeting without the children or their lawyers. The last time they'd been alone, Scully had informed Mulder of her decision to file for divorce.
'It's not working Mulder'.
'I know it's not working Scully, I'm trying to fix it'. Mulder, who was armed with a screwdriver and hammer, was attempting to find out what had caused the washing machine to stop. Scully was stood behind him, her hands on her hips.
'No not this Mulder. Us'.
He sat up quickly, hitting his head on the worktop. 'Damn it!' He put a hand to the back of his head and rubbed the injury. He looked up at his wife, seeing the deadly serious expression on her face. 'You're kidding, right Scully?' She wasn't, so he struggled to his feet, his arms outstretched towards her. She took a step back, avoiding his touch. His touch was deadly, just one hug and she knew she'd surrender.
'Mulder, it's not working', she repeated, her gaze now focused on the hammer in his hand. She had to look anywhere but his eyes.
'May I ask why?' He knew why of course, but he wanted to hear it from her.
'I don't know you anymore. You're obsessed with your work Mulder. We hardly ever see you here. You still run off in the dead of night to explore the faintest of leads. It was bad enough when it was just you and me, but now we have two kids to think about. Two kids who only just know who their father is. It won't be long before I have to show them photos to remind them of who you are'.
'Scully'. His hand stretched out to touch her arm, but she slapped it away.
'No Mulder, it's time you listened. I cannot do this anymore. We cannot do this anymore. It's time you stopped being selfish and thought about others. You're not the most important person in this family'.
'I didn't say I was. I see the kids Scully'.
'Sure, you see them. You tuck them in when they're already asleep, you kiss them goodbye before they're awake and you can make it home almost once a week to have one meal with them. Jeez Mulder, do you even know anything about them?'
'Of course I do'.
'And what about me? Do you even remember anything about me?'
'Don't be stupid Scully'.
'What about us? When's our anniversary?'
He thought for a moment, and then the realisation that it was the previous day hit him. 'Shit Scully, I'm so sorry, I'll make it up to you'.
'You may fool the children with that one, but that excuse won't work with me anymore'.
'My work is important', he protested.
'And your children aren't?'
'I didn't say that Scully. Are you asking me to make a choice?'
'How dare you Mulder! You forget, in all the years I've known you, I have never asked you to choose me over the X Files'.
'So what are you trying to say?'
'I'm telling you that unless you want to turn out like your father, you need to make some changes to your life'.
'I will do'.
'You've said that before'.
'I mean it this time'.
'You've said that before too'.
Mulder sighed. 'I don't know what you want me to do Scully'.
Then she spoke the words he never thought he'd hear her say. The words he dreaded. 'You don't have to do anything'. She paused momentarily. 'I want a divorce'. She might as well have shot him again. It hurt him more than any bullet ever could.
'No, Scully, you don't mean that'.
'I mean it'.
'You're willing to break this family up?'
'Me? I have put so much into this family Mulder, I've given everything, my heart and my soul. But I can't do it alone. I refuse to do it alone. I think it's better for us and better for the kids if we do this'. She blinked back the tears, refusing to cry. She'd done more than enough of that lately.
'Explain to me how it's better for the kids'.
'They won't see us argue anymore. It's not good for them. Did you know William cried himself to sleep last night after hearing us?' Yup, all in all, Scully had a pretty lousy anniversary. Her own husband forgot, they had an argument and then her eldest child was practically hysterical when he got to bed.
'I…no I didn't'. Of course he didn't, he was out investigating a lead in Virginia until just past twelve.
'And that's not the first time Mulder. I refuse to put them through it again'.
Mulder didn't know what to say. 'And you think they won't get upset when they realise we're not together anymore? I don't want to be a weekend father Scully'.
'Isn't that what you are already?' He wanted to protest, to beg her to reconsider, but knowing Scully she'd been thinking about this for some time. It wasn't the kind of decision she took lightly. Maybe if he gave her some space she'd calm down, realise she loved him and needed him, and things could go back to how they were. He'd soon talk her out of the divorce. They didn't say anymore. Mulder threw his hammer down onto the counter, smashing a plate in the process, then walked upstairs and packed his things, leaving Scully once again to pick up the pieces.
When they got to the bakery, Mulder held the door open for his wife, then as she stepped inside, he put a hand to the small of her back, just like old times. It was a habit that was tough to break, but she stopped deadly still when she felt his touch. 'Mulder'. He pulled his hand away quickly, as though he'd been burned, and didn't reply. 'What can I get you Scully? My treat?'
She eyed him cautiously, wondering why he was trying to get in her good books. After all, she'd already given him what he wanted, regular access to their children. 'I'll get mine thanks', she responded coldly.
'Can't I even buy my wife lunch anymore?'
'I'm not your wife'. Her eyes narrowed. 'Well, not for much longer'. Seeing Mulder's face drop, she realised she was being a little harsh, and softened towards him. 'I'll just have a coffee and…' she browsed the counter. 'And a croissant'.
'Push the boat out why don't you?' He smiled at her to let he know he was joking. 'Do you want to find a seat?'
While Mulder paid for their lunch, Scully found a table for two in the corner by the window. When he finally joined her, she was lost in her thoughts as she watched the world go by. 'Whatcha thinking Scully?'
He placed the tray down onto the table, passing Scully her lunch. 'You looked miles away'.
'Oh. I was just thinking'.
'It's nothing'. She saw a hurt look appear on Mulder's face when he realised she wasn't going to open up to him. 'I was just thinking how we've been married seven years, and yet it only takes about ten minutes for us to get divorced. I guess it feels like it should be more complicated than this'.
'You want me to contest it?' Mulder smiled, but the truth was he did think about doing so at first. He honestly didn't believe she'd actually go through with it, but then again Scully did always stick to her guns. It was when he saw that she was happier without him that he decided to give her what she wanted. She looked younger now if that was possible - obviously the constant worrying and arguing with him had caused her to age. And now he actually took time out to see the kids - he saw them now more often than he did when he lived in the same house - so maybe they were better apart. Scully had made him see just what he was missing out on. It's just unfortunate that he realised too late.
'No thanks. I just…it seems like the end of an era'.
'It is. It's the end of our partnership'. Scully no longer worked at the FBI, instead taking up a part-time residency at the local hospital. It conveniently fitted in with the kids' schedules and meant that her life was no longer in danger from chasing little grey men.
'God. I feel so old'.
Mulder chuckled. 'What does that make me?'
'Absolutely ancient'. She picked up her croissant and tucked in.
Mulder took a sip of his coffee. 'Gee thanks'. His smile faded. 'Seriously Scully, thank you again. For letting me see the kids. I know I don't deserve it, but I'm determined to be a better father to the both of them'.
She nodded, not entirely sure she believed him. After all, she'd heard him say the same thing many times. 'I'm doing it for them too Mulder. I want them both to grow up knowing who their father is'.
'They will. So how are they both doing?' He'd been away on a case, so hadn't seen the pair of them for a few days.
'They're fine. Abbie's getting incredibly excited about her birthday, because she gets presents. Her words not mine'.
'Good to know what her priorities are'.
'And William's doing great at school. I saw his teacher the other day, and she's really happy with his progress. He's been getting good marks in spelling and reading tests'.
'That's great. He gets his intelligence from you'.
Scully didn't answer, instead focusing on their youngest child. 'Speaking of Abbie's birthday, I was thinking it would be a good idea to get a joint present from you and me. I figured we could at least feign a united front for the kids. It's less complicated that way'. Plus she didn't want it to result in a competition between her and Mulder, to see who could buy the better presents.
'That sounds good to me. What were you thinking of getting her?'
Scully pursed her lips, ready to berate Mulder for not putting any thought into their daughter's birthday, but he realised what he'd done. 'Has she given you any hints as to what she wants?'
'A pony', Scully said stone-faced. 'Or a puppy'. Mulder's eyes lit up. 'Mulder, we are not getting her a puppy'.
'Oh come on Scully, it would be fun'.
'Fun for whom? I have enough to deal with cleaning up after two children, let alone a dog on top of that'.
'Ok, so no puppy yet'. Mulder stored the information at the back of his mind. Maybe when Abbie was older.
'She was talking about a bike the other day'.
'That could work'.
'My mom takes her to the park a lot, so she'd get use out of it'.
'Sure, a bike it is. Did you want me to come with you to pick one out?'
'Do you want to?'
Scully smiled over at him, pleased he now seemed to be taking an interest. 'I thought I might throw her a little party too, invite some of her nursery friends'.
'Sounds good. I can be another chaperone if you'd like?'
'Really?' Once again he was faced with one of Scully's surprised looks.
'Ok. Well, we'll talk about it, and sort something out'. She looked down at her watch. 'I have to go, else I'm going to be late'.
Although grateful to be spending time with Scully without arguing, Mulder was disappointed at how quickly their lunch 'date' went. 'Do you have to go now?'
'If I don't head to my mom's to get Abbie, I'll be late picking William up from school, and I don't want him to worry'.
'Do you want me to collect William - save you running around like a lunatic?'
'It's ok, you don't have to'.
'I want to'. He did. Now Mulder wanted to spend as much of his free time as possible with the kids, realising how much he'd missed out on them when they were younger. He realised he couldn't get those memories back. It was his way of making it up to them. Plus Scully's constant reminders made him realise that if he carried on the way he was, he was going to turn out like Bill Mulder. And that thought scared him.
Scully paused, wondering why Mulder was suddenly more eager to do things for her and to spend time with the children. Obviously the divorce had given him the wakeup call he deserved. 'Sure, that would be great. I'll go get Abbie and see you back at the house soon'. She almost said 'home' but stopped herself in time. It wasn't his home anymore. Mulder didn't notice her hesitation, instead relieved she was allowing him more time with their children. Maybe things weren't turning out too bad after all.
'Daddy!' As Mulder stepped into the house, he was nearly knocked over by the force of his four year old daughter flinging herself into his arms.
'Hey gorgeous'. He straightened up, manoeuvring Abbie so she was balanced on his hip, her arms around his neck and head resting on his shoulder. 'How are you?'
She pulled back and gave him a kiss on the cheek. 'Good'. William walked past his father and up to Scully, who was just coming out of the kitchen. 'How was school Will?' she asked, as she planted a kiss on the top of his head. He didn't answer.
'Guess who got top marks in his spelling test?' Mulder called out.
'You did?' William grinned and nodded at his mom. 'I knew you'd do it William. I'm so proud of you'. He was rewarded with another kiss. 'Why don't you go upstairs and get changed?' William looked nervously over at Mulder and bit his lip, before returning his attention to his mother. Scully sensed what he was worried about. 'It's ok, daddy will still be here when you get back'. Once Mulder nodded in affirmation, William ran upstairs to his bedroom.
'It's my birthday soon daddy', Abbie said proudly, bringing Mulder and Scully's attention back to her.
'I know it is. And how old will you be?'
Abbie giggled. 'No'.
That earned another chuckle. 'No silly, I'm four'.
'No way! Four?' he exclaimed unconvincingly. 'Our little girl is growing up too quickly Scully'.
'Tell me about it', she answered, smiling at the interaction between father and daughter. Despite Mulder not being around a great deal, Abbie was a proper 'daddy's girl', and it was only since Scully had filed for divorce that Mulder seemed to pay attention to both children.
'Mommy said I can have a puppy for my birthday'.
'No mommy didn't Abbie. Mommy said you're too young, but that she'd think about it in a few years time', Scully said sternly, rolling her eyes at Mulder.
Abbie leaned in closer to her father. 'Can I have a puppy daddy?' she whispered, her huge blue eyes almost hypnotising Mulder into saying yes. Scully headed back out into the kitchen. 'Your mom and I will think about it', he whispered back, not entirely sure if he was involved in the decision-making process. Abbie pouted, and Mulder knew that if the tears soon followed, he'd end up agreeing to anything she asked. Thankfully she didn't cry, instead embarking on a new line of questioning. 'Are you staying tonight daddy?' Mulder smiled sadly at his daughter, wishing he could return to that age of innocence. While William reluctantly accepted his parent's separation, Abbie was too young to understand. Each time she saw Mulder, she'd ask him when he'd return home. It broke his heart each time he tried to tell her the truth.
'No sweetie, not tonight'.
'No'. He kissed her forehead, avoiding Scully's gaze as she returned to the hallway. 'But I was going to ask mommy if I could steal you and William away for something to eat this evening?'
Scully looked guilty. 'I've already got their dinner planned for this evening Mulder'.
'That's ok, I thought that might be the case. I can take them out another time'. Mulder smiled at Scully, and this time she returned it. 'Sure, maybe tomorrow?'
'Umm', he hesitated. 'I've got to fly out to Chicago tomorrow'.
Scully didn't say anything, knowing it would probably end in an argument, and she didn't want that to happen in front of the children.
'Why daddy?' Abbie was obviously listening in on their conversation.
'I have to work sweetie'.
'You work a lot', she said frowning, looking just like her mother. He hoped Scully wasn't about to add her thoughts to the conversation. William then saved the day by coming back downstairs, dressed in jeans and a light t-shirt. He seemed overjoyed to see Mulder still there, as though he worried he was going to disappear while he was upstairs. 'Hey dad, can we go and shoot some hoops?'
Mulder looked at Scully. 'How about another time? I think your mom wants to get ready for dinner soon'.
'Aren't we eating out tonight mom? You promised!' William started to whine, while Scully looked embarrassed. Mulder saw her nod briefly. 'Can dad come?' Scully looked at Mulder apologetically. He took the hint. 'It's ok kiddo, I gotta run'.
'But I want you to come dad'.
'Me too', Abbie piped up, snuggling against her father.
Scully was torn. On the one hand she thought it was best that Mulder went home. After all, although they'd so far managed to remain civil, she couldn't guarantee they wouldn't argue at some point during the evening. But on the other, it was rare that Mulder actually had any time free to spend with the children, and she didn't want to deny them the chance of seeing their father. 'You can come if you want Mulder'.
He looked surprised. 'I don't want to intrude'.
'You're not intruding'. She didn't sound too convincing.
'You have to come dad, we're…we're….' William looked at his mother for help.
'Celebrating', Scully finished. 'Because William's done so well at school and has been working hard, I said we'd go out to celebrate'.
'So you're coming daddy? Abbie asked hopefully. Mulder nodded and was pleased he agreed when he saw how happy the children were.
'Can we go shoot some hoops before we go mom?' William asked excitedly.
'Ok, but don't get yourself too dirty'. Mulder put Abbie back down on the floor and William ran up to him, taking hold of his father's hand and dragging him outside to the backyard. The basketball hoop there was Mulder's - he'd installed it shortly after he and Scully moved into the place, but because William seemed to be a big basketball fan, Mulder had decided to leave it where it was, so his son could enjoy it. Besides, in his new apartment, there was nowhere to position the hoop. There wasn't much space anywhere in his apartment - barely enough room to position a couch and a television. Now his divorce with Scully seemed imminent, Mulder was on the lookout for a new place, so that the kids could stay over when he had them. Currently when he looked after them, he returned them both to Scully at the end of the day - Abbie still didn't like being away from her mom for too long.
As the boys went outside, Abbie put her hands on her hips and looked at her mother. Scully bit back a smile, realising her daughter looked almost forty rather than four with her stance. 'You ok sweetie?'
'Basketball is stupid'.
Scully laughed. 'I know, but daddy and Will seem to like it'.
'If William has a basketball hoop, can I have a puppy?' Scully sighed.
'So how's school going Will?' Mulder was watching his son dribble the ball up the driveway towards the hoop. He suddenly lunged after the ball, deliberately missing it so William had an open shot. 'Ok'.
'Ok? You don't sound too sure'.
Will took a shot and missed, but managed to regain possession of the ball. 'I like the work'.
'What about the people? Have you got lots of friends?'
William stopped abruptly, the ball falling out of his hands and down into the road. 'Stay here', Mulder warned, as he ran out into the street to get it back. When he returned, William was still rooted to the spot. 'What's up Will?'
'I don't have any friends', William whispered.
'Of course you do. What about Greg and Daniel and…' Mulder stopped himself, realising he didn't know a great deal about his son's social life.
'They're not my friends'.
'How come?' Mulder gently threw the basketball at William, but he made no effort to try and catch it.
'They don't like me'.
'I thought you said Daniel slept over last weekend?'
'So he's your friend'.
William shook his head. 'He's not nice'.
Mulder's heart lurched as he realised his son's eyes were filled with tears. He walked up to William and knelt down on the path so they were almost eye-to-eye. 'Why is he not nice Will?' he asked gently.
'He doesn't like me'.
'Did he say why?' William nodded but didn't say a word. 'Why doesn't he like you Will?'
'He says I'm stupid and that he can't be friends with me because I don't have a dad'.
Mulder's eyebrows knitted in confusion. 'Yes you do, look, I'm here'. He tried to smile but William made no effort to return it.
'He says that you and mommy aren't a proper mom and dad because you don't live together. He says I'm a freak'.
'Oh Will'. Mulder pulled his son into a tight hug. 'Don't you believe him for a second ok?' Kids could be so cruel sometimes. 'You're not a freak, and while mommy and I don't live together, we love each other and we love you. A lot. More than most mommies and daddies who live together love their children. So the next time Daniel says something, you tell him that you're a perfectly normal boy, ok?'
William nodded, a lonely tear spilling over and rushing down his face. Mulder gently wiped it away with his thumb. He felt terrible - since Samantha's disappearance he was labelled as a weirdo and it stuck with him for life. The last thing he wanted was for either of his children to have to go through the same. 'And if he says something bad to you again, I want you to promise that you'll tell me or mommy or your teacher. Don't keep it to yourself'.
'Ok'. William spoke so quietly, Mulder could only just hear him.
'Because you feel a bit better now, don't you, for talking to me?'
'Come here'. William stepped into his dad's arms once again. Mulder wished he could take the pain away. He was grateful his son felt he was able to open up to him. As Mulder pulled away, he saw Scully standing at the door looking worried. He mouthed to her that he'd tell her later, and she reluctantly stepped back inside.
'So are you done playing today?'
'Wanna go have dinner and get some ice cream?'
'Yeah'. This time he smiled, and Mulder took his son's hand and led him back into the house.
'So how long are you away for this time?' Scully glared accusingly at Mulder across the table. They were currently alone - the children had gone to pick out their desserts. So far the evening had gone relatively smoothly, with Mulder and Scully choosing to talk to the kids rather than to one another.
'I get back on Friday. Do you want to go and look for a present for Abbie then?'
'Only if you can spare the time'. Mulder could hear the sarcasm in his wife's voice.
'I can make time'.
'Oh, so now you can'. Her fingers clenched around her glass of soda.
'Yes I can'. He said sternly. 'I guess I've had my wake-up call'.
'Just a shame it's too late'.
'Is it?' he asked, raising his eyebrows.
She blushed, resisting the urge to tell him it was far too late, and decided to change the subject. 'So what was that about earlier with William?'
'He was a bit upset'.
'I could see that'. Scully frowned. 'What was he upset about?'
'I think he's having a few problems with the boys at school'.
'He hasn't mentioned anything before now'.
Mulder shrugged. 'He said something about Daniel being nasty to him'.
'Did he say why? I thought they were friends'.
'So did I. Apparently Daniel called him a freak because we're not together anymore'.
Scully was about to speak when William and Abbie appeared back at the table. 'So did you both pick what you're going to have?'
'Ice cream', Abbie said excitedly, as she crawled back into the booth and sat next to her father.
'And you William?' He sat back down next to Scully.
'Ice cream sundae. Chocolate ice cream'. He grinned.
Mulder pointed to the dessert counter. 'Are you sure you don't want anything Scully?'
'No thanks, I'm stuffed'. Mulder doubted that was true - she'd picked at her meal - but he didn't want to question her, not while she was in such a bad mood.
'Yes?' Mulder turned to look at Abbie.
'Why do you call mommy Scully?'
Mulder flashed his soon to be ex-wife a smile. 'Um that was mommy's surname before we got married. I've always called her that'.
'But mommy's name is Mulder'.
'I know sweetie'.
'Are you going to change your name back mom now you and dad aren't married?' Came the soft voice of William. Scully turned to look at her son, who was staring intently at his milkshake, then turned her attention to Mulder, who raised his eyebrows.
'No William. Mulder is your surname and Abbie's too, and I want to have the same name as you both'.
As the waitress brought the children's' dessert over, Mulder gave Scully a questioning look, which she ignored. He thought she'd change her name back, wanting to forget all about him, but then he understood her reasons for remaining a Mulder. He was also concerned about William. When Mulder had first left, their son had taken the news badly, unable to sleep unless it was with Scully, but recently it had seemed like he'd come to terms with the separation, particularly now he saw his father a lot more. But tonight he seemed quiet, like he was worrying about things. The children tucked into their desserts, while Mulder and Scully silently finished their drinks.
'So are you looking forward to your birthday party sweetie?' Mulder tucked a strand of Abbie's hair back behind her ear. He used to love doing the same to Scully, but now touching her wasn't allowed.
'Uh huh'. Abbie smiled, and for a moment Mulder saw a younger version of Scully grinning back at him. 'All my friends from school are coming'.
'I know, mommy told me'.
'And William's friend is coming too'. Scully had told her son he could invite people too, so that he didn't feel left out.
'Who are you inviting Will?' Scully asked.
'I don't want to invite anyone'.
'Isn't there someone you want to come?' Abbie asked.
William threw his spoon back down into the dish. 'I don't want anyone to come to the stupid party. I don't want to go to the stupid party myself'. He folded his arms in front of him and stared hard at the floor, holding in the tears that were threatening to spill.
'I'll get the cheque'. Mulder interrupted Abbie, who was about to yell at her brother, while Scully anxiously observed her son.
No sooner had they settled into the car, Abbie had fallen asleep. Then just as Mulder pulled into the driveway, William had followed suit. Scully unlocked the front door before lifting her daughter into her arms and taking her upstairs. Mulder did the same with William, managing to get him ready for bed without him stirring. He must have needed the sleep. Mulder knelt by his bed and gently kissed his son goodnight. It was rare he was around for bedtimes, and with a pang, Mulder realised he missed the opportunity of saying goodnight to the kids. The worry on William's face had thankfully disappeared, and Mulder hoped he'd have a peaceful night's sleep. Once William was settled, Mulder stepped out of his room and walked along the corridor, where Scully was just finishing tucking Abbie into bed. She turned as she heard the door creak, and motioned for Mulder to be quiet. He tiptoed across the room and gestured towards Abbie. Scully nodded and then left the room, leaving Mulder to tuck in their daughter. He made sure she was fully covered by her duvet, then pressed a kiss to her forehead. She stirred slightly but didn't fully wake - like her mother she could sleep through most things. When Mulder had switched off the light, he made his way downstairs and saw Scully sat on the sofa, nervously fiddling with her nails. 'Hey'.
'Hey'. She bit her lip as he walked into the room.
'How are you doing?' Once again he noticed how pale she looked in the light of the room.
'I'm fine'. Some things never changed. 'I wish I could say the same about William though'.
'He'll be ok'. He took a seat next to her.
'How can you be so sure Mulder? It's a lot for kids to deal with when their parents split up, and if he's being bullied on top of that -'. Her voice broke as a tear slid down her cheek. She was worried about William and also felt guilty - one of the main reasons she separated from Mulder was because of the children. They hardly saw him and when they did, usually he was arguing with their mother. It wasn't the best environment for them to grow up in.
'He's strong Scully'. Mulder tried to reason with her. 'He gets that from you'. He moved to put an arm around her to comfort her. She began to settle into his embrace but then seemed to realise what they were doing, and pushed him away.
'He's a little boy and he's got a lot going on in his life. I just don't want him to hate us for how he's feeling'. She slowly rose to her feet and walked towards the door. Sensing this was his cue to leave, Mulder followed her. 'Goodnight Mulder'. She folded her arms in front of her and Mulder instantly knew that was the end of the conversation. With a sigh, he walked out of his door and away from his family.
Mulder ran up to the front door and hurriedly knocked. A few moments later, the door opened and he was faced with an angry and tired-looking Scully. He smiled apologetically but noticed that her expression didn't change. 'I'm sorry I'm late Scully, I was -'
'Working?' She raised her eyebrow.
'My flight from Chicago was delayed'.
'Working'. It was more of a statement than a question. She walked away from the door, not inviting him inside, and returned shortly after with her purse. 'You ready to go? That is, I presume you have enough time in your busy schedule?'
'You know I do Scully'. Mulder walked back to his car while Scully sat herself in the passenger seat. 'So are we settled on what we're getting Abbie?'
Scully noticed Mulder's use of 'we', bearing in mind Mulder hadn't made any suggestions for birthday presents, but she chose to ignore it. 'I think a bike would be a good idea. She was talking about one the other day'.
'Ok'. He started the engine and they headed to the toy store. 'How's Will doing?' he asked gently, aware that Scully was still worried about their son.
Scully frowned. 'We had tears this morning'.
'Yeah'. She looked uncomfortable. 'He didn't want to go to school'.
'That's not good'.
'And he wanted his daddy'.
'Oh'. Mulder felt terrible.
'And then that started Abbie off, because she then decided she wanted to see you too, so I had two of them crying and had to explain why you weren't around. Not the best start to my day'. No wonder she looked tired.
'You should have called me'.
'I thought your flight was delayed', she said accusingly. 'Besides, it's not like it hasn't happened before. I can cope'.
Scully nodded and closed her eyes, trying to forget about the two upset children she had on her hands that morning. It hurt her to see them cry, and she wanted nothing more than to burst into tears with them. Sometimes it was hard being a single mom. 'I just hate to see them upset Mulder'.
'I do too, believe it or not'.
'I know you do'. Noticing his surprised expression, she continued. 'I know you love them, it's just sometimes you used to have a funny way of showing it'.
'I'm doing my best to change Scully'.
She nodded again. 'I know'.
They parked close to the entrance, and as they walked towards the store, Mulder instinctively placed his hand on the small of Scully's back. After so many years of doing so, he found it hard to stop. This time she didn't push him away, instead relieved to know he was close by. The store was relatively quiet for a Friday afternoon, and pretty soon they'd chosen Abbie's bike, a pink Disney Princess one complete with tassels hanging from the handlebars, and some smaller presents including a doll. Unlike her mother, Abbie was a proper little girl, liking all things pink and girlie. They also picked out a baseball mitt for William, not wanting him to be left out, particularly with the tough time he seemed to be going through. As they were paying, Scully's mobile phone rang.
'This is Mrs Corran, William's teacher at school'.
'Oh? Is everything ok?' Mulder stopped what he was doing and looked at Scully, noticing the worried expression she had on her face.
'Mrs Mulder I was wondering if you could come in and see me this afternoon? I just have a few things I'd like to chat to you about if you could spare the time'.
'Of course'. She frowned. 'Is everything ok?'
'If it's ok with you, I'd rather discuss things face-to-face'.
'Perhaps if you could come and see me just before you pick William up this afternoon - unless you can make it sooner?'
'Umm…I can be there right away if that's convenient?' Scully bit her lip, wondering what was wrong.
'I'll see you when you get here'.
'Is he hurt?'
'No Mrs Mulder, William's...he's fine'. Scully wasn't convinced. As she hung up, Mulder instantly knew something was wrong. 'What's up Scully?'
'That was William's teacher - she wants to see me as soon as possible'.
'Did she say why?'
'No, she said she didn't want to say over the phone'.
'Is Will ok?'
'She didn't say'. She looked up at Mulder and noticed how concerned he looked. He rubbed her shoulder soothingly, before picking up Abbie's bike and the rest of the bags. 'Let's go to school then'.
Scully hesitated. 'Are you coming?'
Mulder frowned. 'Don't you want me to come?'
'Of course. I…' In actual fact, Scully was surprised that Mulder was willing to go with her. In all the time that William had been at school, Mulder had only visited it once - his work conflicting with parents' evenings. 'I wasn't sure if you could make it'.
'Of course I can'. He realised that Scully no longer expected him to do things for her or the kids - she'd spent too many years getting her hopes up and having him disappoint her.
They arrived at school in next to no time, Mulder still ignoring the speed limits, but for once Scully didn't complain. William's teacher met them in the foyer and took them into a private room. 'Thank you for coming so quickly'.
'What's wrong?' Scully didn't want to hang around to find out why they'd been called.
'Please take a seat'. Mrs Corran gestured to two chairs opposite her. Mulder and Scully sat down and waited for William's teacher to explain why she called them. She cleared her throat. 'I apologise if I sound like I'm prying, but I just wondered if everything was ok with William at home?'
Scully glanced at Mulder before returning her attention to her son's teacher. 'He's been absolutely fine at home'. She cleared her throat. 'My husband and I are currently going through a divorce, but William seems to be coping with things well'.
Mrs Corran nodded. 'Over the past few weeks, he's become very distant when he's in class. His work is perfect as always and he is advanced for his age, but I worry about him socially. He's incredibly quiet and spends most of his breaks alone rather than with friends'.
Mulder spoke up. 'He did mention a couple of days ago that some of the other kids had been cruel towards him, so I guess that would explain it'.
His teacher didn't seem surprised to hear he was being bullied. 'Children can be so cruel'. She continued. 'I've also found William in tears a couple of times recently'.
'Because of what the other kids said?' Scully asked worriedly, upset to hear that all wasn't well with her son.
Mrs Corran looked uncomfortable. 'Not exactly…Mrs Mulder, Mr Mulder, I'm not prying in any way, but when I've asked William what's wrong, the only thing he's been able to tell me is that he wants his father'.
Mulder groaned and rubbed his face. He let his hand fall onto Scully's, which was resting on her lap. She gritted her teeth, wanting to push his hand away but realising it wouldn't look good in front of the teacher. 'Mul…My…Mr Mulder works away from home a lot, I guess it's understandable William would miss him'. Mulder noticed that Scully couldn't bring herself to call him her husband. 'Is William ok today?'
Mrs Corran shifted in her seat. 'Not exactly. The main reason I called you both here, although I did want to update you on the situation, was that William hit another child this morning.'
'He hit someone?' Neither of the children had ever shown any sign of hitting out. They were usually both so passive.
'I'm afraid so. Unfortunately I wasn't close enough to see exactly what went on, but according to witnesses William was provoked by a classmate'.
'So why haven't you dragged this other kid's parents in here then?' Mulder was agitated, wanting to see his son rather than deal with his teacher.
'Mulder!' Scully glanced apologetically at Mrs Corran. 'Is the other child ok?'
'He had a nosebleed but he's fine now, just a little shaken'.
'Well maybe that will teach him for picking on others'.
'Mulder!' Scully shot him a warning look, willing him to be quiet. He'd hardly taken any interest in William's school career so far, but now all of a sudden was getting involved. 'How's William? Can we see him?'
His teacher nodded and rose from her chair. 'I'll take you to him now'.
They followed her out of the room and down the corridor.
William was slumped in his chair, his gaze focused on his hands, which were folded on his lap, and his legs kicking freely in frustration. As the door opened he looked up momentarily, his face flushing as he saw his parents enter the room. He knew he was in trouble. 'Hey Will'. Scully walked over to her son, crouching down so she was almost eye-to-eye with him. Mulder held back, not entirely sure what to do.
'Hi'. William didn't look up until Scully took hold of his hand and squeezed it.
'How are you doing?' When she saw William shrug his shoulders, Scully realised he was probably afraid of what she was going to say to him. She opted for a new line of questioning. 'Mrs Corran has said you can come home with daddy and me now. Would you like that?'
William shrugged again and Scully sighed, shooting a glance at Mulder who was still stood in the doorway. 'Are you going to yell at me mommy?'
The question surprised Scully. 'Are you sorry for what you did?'
'Yes'. His voice was nothing but a whisper. 'I'm so sorry mommy'.
'I'm not going to yell William but I just want you to promise me that you'll apologise to Daniel when you see him again'.
'Ok'. William looked over at his father. 'But you yell at daddy when he does bad things'.
Mulder took this as his cue to interrupt the conversation. 'That's because daddy doesn't realise he's being naughty Will. You know you've made a mistake and you're sorry for what you did, so that's the last we'll hear of it, ok?'
'Ok'. Scully patted her son on the knee. 'Come on, let's go home'. William took hold of her hand and stood up.
'Did you want to grab some ice cream on the way home?' Scully shot Mulder a warning look and interrupted before William could respond. 'Not today kiddo, maybe another time'. She led her son out of the room, ignoring Mulder's questioning gaze.
'Are you going to tell me what that was all about Mulder?' The family had just returned home - William had headed straight up to his room and Scully had just got off the phone to her mother to let her know they were back and would pick Abbie up shortly.
'What what was about?'
'Back at the school. Ice cream?'
'I thought the kid needed a break'.
'He doesn't need to be rewarded for hitting another child'.
'I wasn't rewarding him'.
Scully put her hands on her hips. 'Well it certainly seemed like you were giving him that impression'.
'You said yourself he wasn't going to be punished, that the whole episode was over'.
'I just don't want him to do it again Mulder'.
'He was provoked Scully!' Mulder was practically shouting now. 'The other kid probably deserved it'.
'But we're the cause Mulder, it's our fault this is happening to William'.
Mulder crossed his arms in front of his chest defensively. 'I think you'll find you were the one who wanted out'. It was a cheap shot but he was angry with her.
'What?' Scully couldn't believe what she was hearing or that Mulder could be so childish. 'How dare you, she snapped.
'I'm just saying Scully, you're the one who wanted us to finish'.
'Wanted? I didn't want anything. I had no choice. You gave me no choice'.
'I said I wanted to work things out'.
'And didn't we try that at least a dozen times? I gave you so many chances Mulder, and you just threw them back in my face to go in search of Samantha'.
'God damn it Scully, she's my sister'.
'And we're your family'.
'Just shut up!' The shout behind them startled both Mulder and Scully. They turned to face William, who was stood at the bottom of the stairs, glaring at his parents. 'Stop arguing, you're always arguing'. He spun round and ran back upstairs, leaving Mulder and Scully feeling terrible. 'God'. Scully put her head in her hands.
'I'll go after him'. Mulder brushed past Scully on his way to follow their son, but she put her hand on his arm to stop him. 'No, you've done enough'. She glared at him, not willing to forget their argument. 'I think you should go'. Without waiting for a response she walked upstairs, ready to pick up the pieces of her broken family once again.
Mulder had never been great at timekeeping. Sure, he could make it into the office a few hours before work officially started, but when it came to family commitments his internal clock was a little slow. So it came as no surprise when the knock at Scully's door came an hour after Abbie's party had kicked off. As the door opened, Mulder was surprised to find he was face-to-face with his (soon to be ex) brother-in-law. 'Bill'.
'Mulder'. Bill Scully narrowed his eyes at the man opposite him. The two of them had never seen eye to eye, with Scully's brother protective of his little sister, and there had certainly been no love lost between them since Mulder and Scully separated.
Mulder looked behind Bill, hoping to catch the attention of someone (anyone) inside the house. 'Um, can I come in?'
Bill folded his arms in front of him, blocking the doorway. He made no attempt to move. Mulder sighed, predicting what was going to happen next. Today was the first time they'd seen each other since Scully had filed for divorce. They had some catching up to do.
'If it was up to me, Fox', Bill practically spat Mulder's name. 'You'd never set foot in this house ever again'.
'This is technically my house you're talking about Bill'.
Bill's face flushed as he struggled to contain his anger. 'It stopped being your house the moment you screwed my sister over'.
Mulder was about to retort when another figure appeared in the hallway. 'Fox?'
'What are you doing out there on the doorstep? Come in'. Reluctantly, Bill stepped aside, allowing Mulder to enter the house. Maggie Scully approached him, a gentle smile on her face. To his surprise, she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him in for a tight hug. Maggie had tried to remain impartial after the split, aware that whatever had happened between Mulder and her daughter, he was still the father of her grandchildren. 'How are you doing?' She pulled away and smiled, shooting a warning look at her son who was glaring at them.
'Good thanks Maggie'.
'Well at least someone is'.
'Bill', Maggie hissed.
'I'm just saying, that's all'. If looks could kill then Mulder would've no doubt been lying stone cold on the floor. 'You're late by the way. Dana said you were supposed to be here this morning'.
'I'm aware of that'. Mulder smiled apologetically at Maggie. 'Sorry, I got held up'.
'Work?' Scully appeared at the kitchen door, frowning at her husband. 'At least you showed up I guess'. She would've said more had she not heard the sound of children shrieking from the lounge. Moments later, Abbie ran out, jumping into her father's arms. 'Daddy!' Mulder caught her, and in the process dropped her birthday card. 'Happy Birthday sweetie. Are you having a good day?' She nodded excitedly, her face flushed from the busy afternoon she was having. 'Thank you for my bike daddy'.
'That's ok. Do you like it?'
'I love it'. She motioned to get down and Mulder placed her back on the floor. No sooner was she back on her feet, she had already raced back into the lounge and was jumping onto her bike. 'Not indoors Abbie', Scully frowned, the stress clearly written on her face. Looking in the room where his daughter now stood sulking, Mulder could see why. There were at least fifteen little boys and girls in the lounge, all shrieking and squealing, and the place looked like a tip. Wrapping paper was littered across the floor, sofa cushions were being thrown around, and the beige carpet was stained with what appeared to be birthday cake. And from the looks of it, his innocent-looking daughter was at the centre of the chaos. Maggie brushed past Mulder as she returned to her original job of attempting to clear up. Mulder took the opportunity to approach Scully, and held out the card. 'I'll give this to you, it's safer. I ugh…I wasn't sure if we were doing a joint card or something'.
Scully didn't speak as she took the card from him. 'I did write her a card from the both of us, but she can have this too'.
'Oh', Mulder felt awkward. 'Well, no, don't worry. I just…um…I wasn't sure where I stood'. *In more ways than one.*
Scully chose to ignore his comment, clearly wanting to get something off of her chest. 'I let her open her presents this morning'.
'That's fine'. The truth was, he did want to see Abbie open her gifts, but then asking a four year old to wait a few hours was asking too much.
'I thought you were going to come early'.
'So did I, but something came up'.
'As it always does'. Scully pursed her lips in anger, then realising they had an audience with Bill nearby, changed the subject. 'William's upstairs'.
'Is he ok?'
She shrugged. 'He's been very quiet the past few days. I think he's coming down with something too. He says he feels sick. I kept him home from school today but I don't know if that was the right thing to do'.
'You think he might be avoiding school?'
Scully looked worried. 'I hope not'.
'Do you want me to talk to him?'
She thought for a moment before nodding. 'Thanks'.
Leaving the chaos behind, Mulder headed upstairs towards his son's bedroom. The door was slightly ajar, and as he peeked round he saw that William was in bed, his head almost entirely covered by his duvet. Pushing open the door, he tiptoed inside, not wanting to wake his son. Stopping by the bed, he knelt down on the floor and regarded William. His face was flushed and the back of his hair damp. Lightly pressing his lips to his forehead, he discovered that William had a slight temperature. As he pulled away, he saw his son begin to stir, and William's eyes fluttered open. 'Dad?'
'Hey Will'. William wriggled and pushed the duvet off of himself. 'How are you feeling?'
'My tummy hurts'.
He shook his head. 'I feel sick though'.
'Do you want me to get you anything?' William shook his head and Mulder smiled at how pathetic his son looked. He'd never really seen either of his children ill before, usually leaving Scully to look after them. 'Ok. Do you want me to let you get some more sleep?' Again William shook his head and held his arm out. Scooting closer to the bed, Mulder smoothed his son's hair away from his face. 'How's school been this week?'
William shrugged. 'Ok'.
'Have you seen Daniel?'
'He didn't say much'.
'Is that good?'
William nodded. 'He didn't say anything mean'.
'Well that's a start then isn't it?'
'I guess'. It was clear William didn't want to talk about school anymore.
'Do you want anything from the party?' William shook his head. 'Did you want to come down and say hello?'
'Grandma and Uncle Bill are here. And Matthew'.
William shrugged. He seemed as thrilled at the prospect of seeing Bill as Mulder was. 'There are too many girls downstairs'.
Mulder laughed, thinking about Abbie's shrieking friends. 'That's true, there are a lot'.
'I'll stay here'.
'I don't blame you son'. Mulder smiled as William's eyes began to droop again. When he was finally satisfied that William was asleep, he took a deep breath and headed back downstairs to the party.
'Thanks for coming mom'. Scully gave Maggie a hug and kissed her on the cheek as she prepared to leave. The children had all left with their party bags, leaving Scully and her family with the mammoth task of restoring the house to order. Bill and his wife Tara had left a short while beforehand, wanting to get their son Matthew to bed. 'And for clearing up after the monsters'.
'You're welcome. I'm glad Abbie had a good day'.
'She certainly did'. Scully glanced in the lounge, where Abbie was almost asleep on Mulder's lap. He didn't look particularly awake himself, having spent the rest of the afternoon entertaining the children. Two hours of pass the parcel and pin the tail on the donkey with fifteen screaming four year olds had taken its toll on everyone.
'It's a shame William didn't feel well enough to join in'.
'I know'. Scully bit her lip, worried about her son once again. 'I'll bring him round to see you as soon as he's feeling better'. She looked as Abbie yawned. 'I think she's ready for bed now'.
'I'll take her', Mulder volunteered. Scully was about to say something until she realised how long it was since he'd last put his kids to bed. He'd always been at the office or off chasing an X File when they were still together. 'Thanks'. He picked up his sleeping daughter and walked over towards Scully and her mother. 'You going to say goodnight pumpkin?'
'G'night', Abbie murmured, her eyes dropping. Maggie kissed her granddaughter, smiling at how cute she looked. 'See you soon Abbie'. Kissing Scully and then Mulder goodbye Maggie opened the door and let herself out. Scully turned to face her sleepy daughter, smiling at how beat she looked. It had been a long day for her, particularly as she had woke at 6am, claiming to be too excited to sleep. 'Sleep tight sweetie, ok?'
'Mmm ok'. Abbie lifted her head from her father's shoulders, and moved an arm to place it round Scully's neck. 'Love you mummy'.
'Love you too baby'. Scully kissed her daughter goodnight and then watched as Mulder carried her upstairs. Sighing to herself, she headed into the kitchen to tackle the dishes.
'So, has my baby girl had a good birthday today?' Mulder had gotten Abbie changed into her pyjamas and had settled her into bed.
'Yes thank you daddy'.
'Time to go to sleep now'.
'I don't want to'.
'You're tired sweetie'.
'But if I go to sleep it won't be my birthday anymore'.
Mulder leant over and kissed her forehead. He settled down on the bed next to her. 'I know, but then pretty soon it will be Christmas. And then your birthday again'.
'Ok'. She seemed to accept his argument.
'Do you want a story?'
'Uh huh'. She smiled sweetly at him, and Mulder wished he could be there each bedtime to read to his daughter. It was a shame that when he had the chance, he was never around.
'What do you want me to read sweetie?'
Abbie shook her head. 'You tell me a story daddy'.
'Alright then. What about?'
Mulder chucked. 'There once was a princess named Abbie, who - '.
'No daddy, a real story'.
'Ok...' He thought for a moment. 'Like what?'
'Like when I was born'.
'How about another one?'
'No', she answered firmly, in a tone that was eerily identical to Scully's. Mulder grimaced, but seeing the look on his daughter's face, he couldn't resist. 'Ok, mommy may need to add some parts, but I'll tell you what I know'.
Mulder kicked his shoes off and stretched out on the bed, snuggling up to his daughter. 'It was a Wednesday morning, and I was in Texas when I had a phone call from mommy…'
'Mulder', he mumbled sleepily.
'Mulder it's me'.
'Hey Scully. What's up?'
'Mulder I think the baby's coming'.
He sat up straight in bed. 'What do you mean?'
'I've been having contractions. I thought they'd go away but they're persisting'.
'You can't be in labour Scully'. Looking at the clock, he saw it was only 6am. He'd only been asleep a couple of hours, having arrived back at his motel room in the middle of the night.
'I know'. She sounded worried. 'It's too early Mulder'.
'Have you called the hospital?'
'I wanted to call you first to see if you'd come home'.
'Ok, I'll make sure I'm on the next flight out'. He ran a hand through his hair and got out of bed in search of his clothes. 'I'm sure it's nothing'.
There was a pause at the other end of the line. 'I'm scared Mulder'.
'You'll be fine'. His mind suddenly wandered to the case he was investigating - he'd have to call the local sheriff's office immediately and let him know he'd no longer be able to help.
'It's too early', she repeated.
'I'll be there as soon as I can, ok? In the meantime, call your mother, she'll come and take care of you'.
'My mom's in San Diego Mulder, I told you that already'.
*Shit* 'I'll be there as soon as I can. Take care'. He hung up, realising how harsh he sounded, but he was still half asleep. Realising his new son or daughter was about to make its appearance into the world, he quickly dressed, before calling both the airport and the sheriff. He had just checked in for his flight when his mobile rang again.
'It's not a false alarm Mulder'. Her voice sounded pained.
'Oh god Scully, where are you?'
'I'm calling from the hospital. The contractions are getting stronger and closer, I need you here now'.
'I'm doing my best, ok? I promise I'll be there as soon as I can. How are you feeling?' He knew it was the wrong thing to ask, but did so anyway.
'I'm scared'. He could tell that she'd just started to cry. 'What if there's something wrong with the baby Mulder? I can't do this alone'.
'You won't be alone Scully, I'm on my way'. He wished there was a way he could instantly click his fingers and be in Washington with his wife. He felt terrible knowing she was on her own, with no one to hold her hand, but there was nothing he could do'.
'I need you here now Mulder. I told you not to go away again, I told you'. He heard her sobbing.
'I'm nearly there Scully, I promise you, I'm nearly there'. The phone went dead, she'd hung up on him.
When he arrived at the hospital, he knew instantly that he was too late. He stopped by the shop and picked Scully some flowers, before the nurse showed him up to her room. She was in bed, fast asleep, and a small bundle was resting in a crib next to her bed. Quietly stepping inside the room, Mulder edged towards the bed, his movement waking Scully up. 'Hey', he whispered softly, smiling apologetically at his wife. She slowly sat up, grimacing at the pain, before looking over at him. She'd been crying - he could see the tear marks staining her face and her puffy eyes. 'I'm sorry I'm late'. The words hung in the air, he could tell she was upset at him and rightly so - he was upset with himself too. 'How are you feeling?'
Scully took a deep breath. 'We have a daughter'. She bit her lip to stop herself from crying. 'We have a daughter Mulder, and you weren't here to see her born'.
'I'm here now', he reasoned.
'But you weren't here when I needed you'. A tear slid down her face. 'I had to give birth alone Mulder. I had no one'.
'Scully, I'm sorry'. He reached out to kiss her, but she backed away.
'How many times have I heard that?'
Mulder felt himself choking up, and then allowed himself to look over at the sleeping bundle to the side. He'd deal with Scully's anger later. Walking up to the crib, he saw his daughter for the first time - a little on the small side, but still big considering she was so early. She was dressed in a tiny white baby-grow and had a full head of brown hair. She was gorgeous, a miniature version of Scully already. Mulder felt the tears fall as he realised he'd already missed her first hours in the world, and he'd let his wife down. 'She's beautiful Scully', he choked. 'She's so beautiful'.
'I know', she whispered, tears pricking at her eyes.
Carefully picking the baby out of its cot, Mulder walked towards the bed, perching on the edge. Scully shifted to make room for him, her eyes mesmerised by the sight of their daughter. They sat there in silence for what felt like hours, Scully's eyes beginning to droop, until suddenly the baby opened her eyes and looked up at her father. 'Hey, she's got your eyes Scully'.
'All children have blue eyes Mulder'. From the tone of her voice Mulder knew he wasn't forgiven. His absence would take a long time to forget.
'No, she'll keep them, I can tell'. He pressed a kiss to his daughter's forehead. 'Hey there little girl. You're probably wondering who I am. I'm your daddy, I'm the man you're going to wrap around your little finger'. Glancing to the side of him, he saw that Scully had fallen asleep. He shifted off the bed careful, so as not to wake her. 'I'm sorry I missed you arriving here, you gave us a bit of a shock coming so early. I wanted to be here for you and mommy, but as it turned out that wasn't possible'. He walked over towards the window, gently rocking his daughter. 'I know that mommy hates me right now and rightly so, but I promise you I'm going to make up for it. I love you both, and your older brother William so much. I'm not going to miss another day of any of your lives'. If only he'd stuck to his promise.
'So you see, I missed your first few hours, and do you know what?'
'What daddy?' Abbie asked sleepily, her eyes slowly closing.
'It's the biggest regret I've ever had in my life. If I could turn the clocks back and change what happened I would. And I'm so sorry that I wasn't there for you and mommy'. His voice choked with emotion. 'I'm sorry I let you down baby. I'm sorry I keep letting you and William and mommy down. I love you so much, I hope you don't forget that'. Abbie was silent, and Mulder realised she'd finally succumbed to sleep. Kissing her again, he slowly got off the bed and tucked her in. As he turned to the door, he saw Scully on the landing, wiping the tears from her eyes. Realising she'd heard the whole thing, he followed her downstairs. 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean for you to hear that', he whispered, as they were safely in the living room.
'I'm glad I did'.
'I'm so sorry Scully. I wanted to be there more than anything in the world. I'm sorry for letting you go through that alone'.
'I hated you for that Mulder', she said quietly.
'I hated myself too'.
'I wasn't just angry about being alone, I felt sorry for you, knowing that you'd missed it and that you wouldn't be able to get that memory back'.
He sat down on the couch, his head in his hands. 'I'm a lousy father Scully'. The guilt was kicking in.
She perched on the arm of the chair next to him. 'No you're not. Deep down you're a great father. The kids both idolise you, that's got to say something'.
'But I was never there for them'.
'You're here now. That's what matters'. She gently touched his shoulders as he began to cry. 'And as long as you continue to be there for them, I won't have to kick your ass'. That broke the tension, and they both began to laugh through the tears.
'You're pretty mean when you get angry Scully, do you realise that?'
'I have been told that on a number of occasions. Mainly by Bill'.
'Ah I get it'. Mulder sat up straighter and turned to face his wife. 'You bully him so he takes it out on me, right?'
'Something like that'. The smile slowly disappeared from Scully's face. 'He's just protective, you know how he is, and it's just gotten stronger since we…' she paused again. 'Separated'.
Mulder nodded. 'It's understandable. If you were my sister I'd be the same'. They both knew that what he was really thinking was that he'd have been the same if Samantha had still been with him.
'If I were your sister Mulder, we'd have both been arrested years ago'.
He laughed, realising it had been far too long since they'd shared a joke, or even a proper conversation without raising their voices. 'I've had a good day today', he said, grinning. 'Thank you for inviting me. I'm sorry I was late'.
'That's ok. Thank you for coming. It meant a lot to the kids'. She hesitated. 'And to me too'. She held his gaze and Mulder could feel tension in the air. They both stood up at the same time, but neither one of them moved towards the door. Mulder stepped closer to Scully and she took a deep breath, the tears in her eyes threatening to fall. 'I'm sorry', he whispered, as he bent down and kissed her cheek, before moving to her lips. She didn't push him away, and taking that as a good sign, he placed his hands on her hips, drawing her in closer. It was what they needed, a chance to be close again. It was as though they'd never been apart, that they'd never argued. It felt right. Mulder felt Scully's hands move up to his chest, and the next thing he knew she was pushing him away. 'I think you should go'. She didn't look at him, she daren't.
'Go Mulder'. She was insistent this time. Knowing there was nothing he could say to make her change her mind, Mulder sighed and walked out on his family once again.
'Mulder it's me'.
'Hey Scully. Is everything ok?' Not that he wasn't pleased to hear from his soon to be ex-wife, but Mulder knew it wasn't a social call. They didn't do that anymore. Every phone conversation had a purpose now.
'Not really'. She sounded tired. Very tired. Like she desperately needed a break.
'Abbie?' For a moment Mulder's heart stopped beating as he feared the worst for his daughter.
'I think she's coming down with William's bug'.
'Oh'. He let out the breath he'd been holding. Realising that 'oh' wasn't the most helpful of responses he continued. 'What's wrong?'
'She has a temperature and was up all night feeling sick'. No wonder Scully felt tired. 'I was wondering if you could look after her today. I've got an emergency meeting at work and can't get the day off, and I don't like to ask, particularly as I know you're probably busy yourself or about to go away or - '
'Scully', Mulder interrupted, wondering when it got so difficult for Scully to ask him a favour, particularly when it concerned their children. 'That's fine. What time do you need me to come round?'
'Is now a bad time? I need to drop William off at school on my way'
'Is he feeling up to it?' After Abbie's party their son had spent the whole weekend in bed with a stomach bug and had taken a few days off school.
'He says he's feeling fine, and he must do if he's actually asking to go to school this morning. His temperature is back to normal too'.
'Ok'. Mulder looked at the mountain of paperwork sitting in front of him on his desk - the paperwork that had encouraged him to get into the office early that morning - expense reports, old write-ups, newspaper articles and potential new cases. He knew that somewhere amongst the pile could be the answer to his sister's whereabouts. Putting his wife and children first for once, Mulder agreed to help Scully out. After finding his keys and locking up the office, Mulder went to look after his daughter.
'Hmm?' The small croaky voice behind him jolted Mulder from his thoughts. Scully had promised to come home at lunch to check on Abbie, who had been sleeping most of the morning after suffering from a bout of sickness literally two minutes after her mother had walked out of the door. Taking advantage of the peace and quiet, Mulder had decided to help Scully out by doing some housework. He'd just put a load of washing on, including Abbie's now soiled sheets and pyjamas, made the beds and even cleaned the bathroom. Now he was making a start on lunch, hoping Scully appreciated his efforts.
'Daddy'. Abbie tried again, and as Mulder turned to face his daughter he smiled at the sight of her. 'Are you ok sweetie?' Her hair was damp and matted, flying out in all directions as though she'd been tossing and turning in her sleep. Her skin was flushed, her eyes were glistening with tears and her lower lip trembled. She was clinging on to her new doll - a birthday present from Maggie - for dear life. She looked so pathetic and sorry for herself that Mulder instantly dropped to his knees and drew her in for a hug. 'What's the matter?'
'I'm going to be sick'. Her voice broke as she spoke and a lonely tear trailed down her cheek. 'I want mommy'.
'Oh'. Looking at the clock, Mulder realised It wouldn't be long before Scully was due home. 'Mommy will be back soon sweetie'.
'I want mommy now'.
'I know, I know'. Mulder gently rubbed Abbie's back, hoping it would soothe the hiccups that had just started. 'Do you want a drink or something? It might make you feel better'
'No'. Abbie pulled away and swallowed hard. 'I feel sick daddy', she repeated.
'Ok, let's get you back to bed, you'll feel bett -' He'd barely been able to get the words out when without warning Abbie stuck to her words and was sick. As she finished retching she noticed her father's now soiled shirt and burst into tears.
'Hey, hey'. Wrinkling his nose, Mulder quickly removed his once white work shirt and threw it into the sink. He crouched back down and took his daughter in his arms. 'Do you feel better for that?' From her reluctance to speak, Mulder knew that Abbie was still shocked about what had happened. No one liked being sick, but his daughter always got so upset. He felt her nod her head. Not breaking contact, Mulder lifted her into his arms and stood up. 'Let's get you a drink, then we'll take you back upstairs, ok? Mommy will be back any minute now'. He sighed as he left the room, wondering how Scully managed to cope with two kids in his absence.
'Mulder?' Removing her key from the lock, Scully stepped inside the house. She was greeted with silence. Stepping into the lounge, she was surprised to see the television on standby, the only evidence of another adult being in the house was Mulder's discarded jacket and briefcase. 'Hello?' Throwing her own jacket on the sofa, Scully headed towards the kitchen, where she heard the washing machine on spin cycle. Opening the door, she was greeted with the sight of her half naked husband. 'Mulder?'
'Hey'. He was standing at the sink, rinsing his shirt under the tap.
'What…' Scully tried to gather her thoughts. 'What's going on?'
'How do you mean?' He turned to face her.
Scully gestured at his bare torso, keeping her eyes fixed above his neckline. 'What happened? Where's your shirt?'
Mulder picked the wet garment out of the sink. 'Abbie didn't feel too good. She's a good aim'.
Scully was overcome with both worry for her daughter, and the urge to laugh at Mulder's put-out face. She opted for the latter, covering her mouth as she giggled. 'It's not funny, I know'. Sobering up, her thoughts went back to her ill daughter. 'How is she?'
'Asleep now. I keep checking on her to make sure she's ok. She was upset when it happened, but she's calmed down now'. Taking another look at his wife, Mulder saw Scully still looked tired, her face flushed too. 'Are you ok Scully?'
'I'm ok'. She took a seat at the table. 'Just tired'.
'Are you sure that's it? You're not coming down with it too, are you?'
'I'm fine Mulder'. Scully sighed wearily. 'Besides, I can't get ill. Not right now'.
'Well you'll need to keep your strength up then'. Abandoning his shirt, Mulder went to the fridge and took out the salad he'd prepared earlier. 'Have some of this'.
'You made lunch?' Scully couldn't help but sound surprised.
'I can make lunch'. Taking some tongs from the drawer, Mulder began to dish up the salad, then placed the plate in front of Scully. 'Drink?'
'Ok, where is the real Fox Mulder and what have you done with him?' Noticing that the washing machine was now silent, Scully raised her eyebrows.
'I had some time to kill this morning, and thought I'd clear up after our daughter'.
'She was sick this morning too'.
'Oh'. Looking down in disgust, Scully pushed the plate away from her. 'I think I'll just have a drink thanks'.
'You don't want my salad?'
Scully smiled up apologetically at Mulder. 'I'll eat it later'.
'Are you sure you're ok?'
She sat still for a moment as though composing herself. Just as she was about to speak, she clamped a hand over her mouth and ran from the room. Mulder heard the downstairs bathroom door close, and chased after her. Stopping outside, he could hear her retching through the door. 'Scully?' He tapped on the door then opened it, seeing his wife kneeling on the floor, coughing. She sat back on her heels and flushed, then tried to stand up to get to the sink. She couldn't quite manage it though, suddenly weakened after being sick, so Mulder went to her aid. He grabbed a flannel and rinsed it, then handed the cool cloth to Scully, who pressed it to her lips. 'Thanks', she whispered, closing her eyes and moving so she leant back against the wall. Mulder sat down next to her and brushed the hair from her face, ignoring the fact she flinched when she felt his touch. 'Do you want a drink or anything?' She was about to speak when she suddenly moved forward and positioned herself over the toilet bowl once again. This time Mulder was there for her, scooping her hair back from her face and gently rubbing her back. When she was finally spent, he briefly left to grab her a glass of water, before resuming his position next to her on the floor. 'You ok?'
She took a sip from the glass and smiled appreciatively. 'Yeah'.
Noticing her face was scarlet, Mulder reached over and placed his hand on her forehead. 'You're burning up'.
She shrugged. 'I feel a little cold'.
'Why don't you go upstairs to bed?' Realising she was about to protest, he nodded. 'I insist. Get yourself up to bed'.
'But I've got to collect William later'.
'I'll do it. And I'll call the hospital too and tell them you won't be back after lunch'.
'What about your work?'
Mulder thought for a moment, then as he stood up, held out a hand to help Scully to her feet. 'Work can wait'. Had Scully been feeling herself she may have raised an eyebrow or made a sarcastic comment, but instead she let Mulder pull her up, then lead her to her bedroom. She collapsed onto the bed, aware of Mulder removing her shoes and then helping her under the covers. She'd barely let out another 'thank you' when she drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
It was official, both Scully and Abbie were sick. Mulder had spent the whole afternoon running from his daughter's room to his wife's bedside, tending to them both, fixing them drinks to keep up their strength and holding their hair back as they were ill. At Abbie's insistence he'd eventually carried her into Scully's room, placing her in bed with her mom. Their daughter had then simply snuggled up to Scully and promptly fallen back to sleep, her mother following suit shortly after. Now Mulder was getting ready to pick William up from school. Pushing open the door to Scully's room, he stopped short of the bed, gazing at the two figures asleep. Had it not been for the differences in hair colour and size, they'd have been identical - both asleep on their front, their arms stretched out either side. And both looked peaceful - no doubt relieved to have a break from being sick. Realising he needed to wake Scully, Mulder walked over to her side of the bed and knelt down. 'Scully'. He gently put his hand to her forehead, realising she was still burning up.
'Hmm?' She came awake slowly, taking a few moments to blink and focus.
'I'm gonna go and get William from school, ok?'
'Mmm'. She shifted onto her side, checking back on Abbie who now lay behind her. 'Are you sure it's ok?'
'You're hardly in a fit state to go out Scully'. Mulder smiled, his fingers automatically brushing through her hair. He noticed she didn't push him away, but reminded himself she was sick - she probably wasn't thinking straight.
'Ok'. She snuggled back down onto the pillow and sighed, closing her eyes briefly. It was then Mulder realised just how tired she looked, and knew she needed a break. No wonder she picked up the sickness bug. He got up off the floor and leant over the bed. 'Get some rest Scully', he whispered, as her eyes began to droop. 'I'll get Will and when we get home I'll fix some dinner. You girls stay here and get better soon'.
Scully reached out and took hold of Mulder's hand, her eyes fluttering open. 'Thank you Mulder. I'm sorry'.
'Sorry for what?'
'For doubting you. I know you love the kids really'.
'I do Scully, I really do'. Leaning down, Mulder pressed a kiss to her forehead, sighing as he felt his heart flutter. He wanted to say more, to tell Scully that he still loved her too, but now wasn't the time. Instead he straightened up and walked out of the bedroom, determined to prove himself a good father and husband once and for all.
Mulder stood on the doorstep and knocked. As he waited for Scully to answer he looked up at the house - once his house - a world apart from the small, pokey one-bedroom flat he now rented. When he and Scully had first seen the three-story whitewashed building, they'd both fallen for it immediately. It had taken them months to find the perfect home, and by the time they finally found it, Scully was heavily pregnant with William. They knew it was where they wanted to raise their children. A true family home. Neither of them realised their family would soon fall apart. The sound of the door opening brought Mulder from his thoughts, and he was faced with the sight of his soon to be ex-wife. 'Scully?' It had been a couple of days since she'd come down with the children's sickness bug, and she didn't look a great deal better now. 'Are you ok?'
'I'm fine'. Without another word she turned and headed back into the house, leaving Mulder to close the door behind him. He followed her into the kitchen. 'How are you feeling?'
'I've been better', she admitted, turning to lean against the worktop and face him. 'I just feel a bit weak now'.
'You need to rest'.
'I wish I could'. She smiled grimly. 'I'm not getting a great deal of sleep'.
'Are you still being sick?' Over the past few days Mulder had tried to pop in from time to time to check on his family, but was no longer needed when Maggie came to stay to help Scully with the children.
At the mention of their daughter's name, Scully looked concerned. 'She isn't any better. I'm taking her to the doctor's in a while. I think it's more than a bug'.
'Do you want me to come?'
Scully looked surprised but said nothing. 'Actually, could you pick William up from school this afternoon? I'd get mom to do it but she's out for the day. I think she needs some time for herself, she's been running ragged here the past few days'.
'She's not the only one by the looks of it'.
'I'm fine'. Scully smiled and shifted awkwardly. 'Abbie's still asleep at the moment'.
'Oh. Ok'. Mulder sighed. He remembered a time when he didn't need an excuse to speak to Scully. Now it was as though the children were all they had to talk about. 'Well that's ok, I'll see her this afternoon. I just thought I'd come round and check you're all ok'.
'Thanks'. There was tension in the air as neither knew how to end the conversation.
'Do you want me to pick you up any groceries this afternoon?'
Scully shook her head. 'No thanks, I was thinking of popping to the store on the way home from the doctor's, if you don't mind having William a bit longer?'
'Sure. It will be good to spend some time with him'.
'Well I'd better get to work, I have a meeting shortly. I'll see you later on. Let me know how Abbie gets on at the doctor's'.
'I will'. For a moment neither made an attempt to move, but then Mulder took the initiative. He headed towards the door and let himself out, wishing he could turn the clock back.
Mulder was late. Very late. From the moment he'd stepped into the office he knew it was going to be a bad day. His meeting had dragged on - he never knew there was so much to say about his expenses - and as soon as it was over he returned to his office to skim read a few potential new cases. At least that was the idea. He didn't expect one case about alleged abductees in Arizona capturing his attention - so much so that it was only when he reached for the cup of coffee on his desk that he noticed the clock on his computer. And realised how late he was. He didn't even bother to switch down the computer as he jumped up from his desk, case papers flying everywhere, threw on his jacket, grabbed his keys and ran from the office. He knew that even if he broke every speed limit in DC, he still wouldn't be there in time for William. As he sprinted towards the car park, he pulled out his cellphone, intending to find the number for William's school to let them know he was on his way. Instead he was distracted by a number of missed calls - all from Scully. He cursed himself mentally, aware that Scully no doubt knew he'd not turned up at the school and was surely annoyed. Rather than call her back he decided to stick with his original plan of heading to the school, hoping William was still there.
He'd barely stopped the car when he jumped out of the vehicle and ran towards the school entrance. It was a sure sign of how late he was that there were only a few cars parked outside - even most of the teachers had long gone. Opening the door, he then approached a desk just inside. 'Excuse me'. A lady who he recognised from the last time he was there looked up from the work she was doing. 'Can I help you?'
'Yes, I'm here to pick up William Mulder'. The puzzled look the woman gave him didn't exactly fill Mulder with confidence. 'He's in Mrs Corran's class'.
'Right'. She moved her chair back and stood up. 'If you can just bear with me sir, I'll just go and find someone to help you'. Mulder was left tapping his fingers on the counter impatiently as she walked off. Moments later she returned with a woman Mulder recognised as Mrs Corran. His smile faded when he realised she was alone - William wasn't in sight. 'Mr Mulder -'
He didn't let her finish. 'Where's my son?'
Mrs Corran halted in her steps. 'William's mother came to collect him'.
'It was supposed to be me'. Mulder's shame was replaced by anger. 'His mother asked me to'
'I'm aware of that Mr Mulder'. She paused, obviously trying to choose her words carefully. 'Unfortunately William was here quite a while and was beginning to get upset when no one came to collect him. We had no choice to call Mrs Mulder'.
'Right'. Mulder ran his fingers through his hair, trying to calm himself down. He was angry - angry at himself for getting distracted, for being unable to deal with the easiest of fatherly duties - and ashamed of the fact he'd just proven himself to be a failure in front of William's schoolteacher. 'Well thank you'. As he turned away he heard William's teacher call him back. 'Mr Mulder?'
'It's none of my business, but William is an intelligent little boy, with a lot of potential. But already over the past few weeks we've seen a change in his attitude. I'd hate for any problems at home to ruin his chances of success'.
Mulder stared at the woman, who shifted awkwardly. 'You're right. It is none of your business'. Without waiting for a reply, Mulder turned and walked away.
The door opened before Mulder had even knocked. Scully had obviously been lying in wait for him. All signs of fatigue and illness had vanished from her face and instead had been replaced with anger. She gestured for him to step inside and as he did she slammed the door. Wincing, Mulder walked into the kitchen, Scully close behind him. 'Scully, I'm sor-'
'Don't Mulder, don't you dare say it'. He turned to face her as she sat down at the table, aware her eyes had now filled with tears. 'I'm fed up of your apologies. I don't want to hear it.
'I lost track of time'.
'That excuse won't do anymore Mulder'. Her eyes bored into him, and if looks could've killed he would have no doubt been lying stone cold on the floor. 'Do you have any idea how upset William was when I finally got to school?'
Mulder shook his head.
'Do you have any idea how bad I felt when I got there? With everyone looking at me like I was a bad mother?' Her voice broke but no tears fell.
'Scully, I've -'
'I'm used to you letting me down Mulder, but I don't want you to keep on hurting my children'.
'They're my children too Scully!'
'Well for once why don't you try acting like their father? Like a real father, not someone who just pops in from time to time'.
'If you gave me the chance I would'.
'What about last week? You had the chance to spend the whole day with your daughter on her birthday. And what did you do? You turned up late because of work. And then you had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with William. And once again you let him down'.
'I was worried sick when I got the call from the school. I thought maybe you'd been in an accident and was lying dead somewhere. But then I called the office and they told me you hadn't signed out. That's when I knew'.
'Knew that once again you'd put work first'. A lonely tear fell and Scully wiped it away quickly. She was no longer looking at him, no longer feeling able to.
'There is no excuse Scully, I know. And I'm sorry'.
'You keep saying that Mulder, but you never change'.
'I will'. He wanted to say more, to try and convince Scully that he was trying hard to change, but he didn't. Knowing he wasn't going to win the argument, Mulder opted for a new line of questioning. 'How did Abbie get on at the doctor's?'
'She thinks Abbie has a virus. She's just got to rest really'. Scully sniffed and cleared her throat. 'She's upstairs asleep now'.
'And what about you?'
This caught Scully's attention and she turned back round to face Mulder. 'What about me?'
'Didn't you ask the doctor to check you out? You look exhausted Scully, she could have given you something to help'.
'You're obviously not. Why didn't you ask the doctor to check you over?'
'And why don't you mind your own business?'
'I don't like to see you ill Scully. The kids need their mom to be fit and healthy'.
'How do you know what they want?' Her tone was firm but she kept her voice to a whisper.
'Scully - they want -'
'I'm fine Mulder', she stressed.
'You're not fine'. He gestured to her pale appearance. 'You're -'
'I'm pregnant', she snapped, her fists clasped in anger.
Mulder was rooted to the spot in shock. 'Pregnant?' His mind reeled. She couldn't be. They'd only separated a few months previously - surely she wasn't that quick in finding someone else. 'Are you sure?' he stuttered, now desperately wanting to leave the house. She didn't say anything but nodded, looking down at her hands in her lap. 'How?' he asked, before he realised what a stupid question that was. 'I mean…' the anger suddenly kicked in. 'How does that work? You kick me out one night and the next you get yourself pregnant by some stranger?' He paused momentarily, lost in thought. 'Is it a stranger, or is it someone we know? I mean, you tell me I'm not committed to our marriage, and here you are sleeping with someone else'. Taking her silence as guilt, he continued. 'Come on Scully, tell me. I'm interested to know all about the man who's taken my life, and who no one has had the decency to tell me about. Do I know him?' he repeated, this time louder.
'Yes', came a whisper. She didn't elaborate, instead fixed to the table in front of her, now fiddling with her nails.
'Come on then, enlighten me'.
This time she did look at him, square in the eyes and he could see the fury residing there. She stood up and walked over to him. Raising her hand, she slapped him hard on the cheek. The impact brought tears to his eyes but he said nothing, instead bringing a hand to his face to calm the stinging sensation. It was going to leave a mark.
'It's you Mulder', she said bitterly. 'Contrary to what you might like to think, I've always been faithful to you, to us. And look where it's got me'.
'Me?' He was stunned. Of all the people he thought she'd say, never in a million years did he think she'd name him. 'But how -?'
'I'm almost twelve weeks Mulder'. Once again the tears spilt over. 'I ignored the signs, I thought I was just stressed out, particularly after the last few months I've had. Her voice broke. 'But I was wrong'.
'Twelve weeks?' He tried calculating the math in his head. 'That's when we -'. She nodded, a sob escaping.
Mulder knocked on the door, before slowly inserting his key into the lock. He wasn't quite sure what he should do - it wasn't officially his house now that Scully had told him to go, but his clothes and belongings were inside. When she had told him it was over, he'd left in a hurry and had now ran out of clean clothes, so it was time to face the music. William was at school and Abbie was no doubt at Scully's mom's, so the coast was clear. He wasn't entirely shocked when Scully met him by the door. 'Hi'. She looked surprised to see him.
'Hi'. He looked down at the key in his hand to try and explain. 'I…I just came to get my things'.
'Oh'. A look of what appeared to be disappointment flashed briefly across her face. 'Well, don't let me stop you'. She carried on walking towards the kitchen, trying to ignore him. He debated whether to go straight upstairs, but then thought it was best if he tried to talk to Scully. Following her into the kitchen, he saw her at the sink washing up, the plates clattering in the drainer. 'Scully, can we at least talk?'
'There's nothing to talk about Mulder. We've tried to talk so many times and it doesn't change anything. You've had too many second chances'.
'Can I at least explain?' He edged closer, noticing that Scully was scrubbing at the same plate, over and over again.
'You don't have to explain'. She sniffed and Mulder was aware she was crying. 'I understand perfectly, your job comes before your wife and your children. I get it'.
'Scully'. He moved so he was stood by her side. 'I promise you, from now on you guys are my priority. I know I should have put you first a long time ago and I was stupid, but it won't happen again'. He paused. 'Scully…will you at least look at me?'
She shook her head. 'I'm doing the dishes Mulder', she choked.
He reached out and grabbed the plate from her hand. 'You've washed this one at least a dozen times. I think it's clean'. Then he reached over and gently guided her head so she was facing him. 'I'm sorry Scully', he pleaded, his thumbs wiping away her falling tears. 'I really am. I love you, and you come first'. She nodded and he bent his head down to kiss her. Pulling back, he then pressed gentle kisses to her cheeks, catching the salty tears, before moving back to her mouth. Settling the plate onto the worktop, Mulder's arm reached out and drew Scully closer towards him, without breaking their embrace. She didn't try and pull away, instead deepening the kiss and wrapping her arms around Mulder's waist. Eventually they had to break for air, but they still stood in each other's arms. Scully then stood up on tiptoes and initiated another kiss, her arms moving up under Mulder's shirt. Suddenly their kiss became more frantic, and as clothes were shed they quickly made their way towards the bedroom.
Later, Scully lay in Mulder's arms, fast asleep. His finger gently stroked the top of her arm as he stared at her. She was cute when she slept and looked peaceful, like she had no worries at all, like her husband wasn't completely useless. Mulder himself couldn't sleep - his mind was racing. It had been far too long since they'd done this, it had been months since he'd last touched her, and he didn't ever think he'd get the chance to do so again. Maybe things were going to be ok between them. Maybe they could now sit down and talk and think about getting back together. The sound of his phone ringing startled him, and he raced to find his trousers and cellphone before it woke Scully. 'Mulder'. As the person on the other end started talking, Mulder was aware that Scully was awake, shifting in the bed.
'Uh, ok I'll be right there'. He hung up and stared straight ahead, not wanting to face Scully.
'Mulder', she called suspiciously. 'Who was that?'
'I have to go'. He said it so softly he almost suspected she didn't hear it, until he felt her get out of bed in a hurry. Keeping her back to him, she sought out her underwear on the floor and put it on, before stepping into her bathrobe. 'Where?' she hissed, her face now clouded with anger.
'They've got a lead, about Samantha'. He too got out of bed and began to dress. 'I leave in an hour'.
'So you're just going to run off? I thought you wanted to talk?'
'I do Scully, I just have to go. We'll talk as soon as I get back'.
She narrowed her eyes at him as she tightened the belt of her robe. 'So what, you just get your leg over and then abandon me once again? Is that all I mean to you?'
Mulder paused as he buttoned his shirt. 'You know it's not like that Scully. It's…it's my sister', he pleaded.
'It's always about your sister', she sighed, tears stinging her eyes. She'd cried far too much over this man.
'I'm getting closer to finding her. It's what I set out to do'.
'That was before you had a wife and children Mulder. You can't expect us to get back together and then keep leaving them every time a dodgy lead comes up'.
'This one seems genuine Scully'. He couldn't understand why she wasn't pleased for him, why she wasn't encouraging him to go. She knew how important the search for Samantha was for him.
'That's what you say every single time' she cried. She marched up to him, looking him square in the eye. 'You were talking about priorities earlier and now's your chance to think about what matters more to you'.
Her eyes were like daggers. 'What's more important to you Mulder, your sister or your children?'
'You're not expecting me to make a choice?' His eyes widened as he realised that was exactly what she was thinking. 'I can't do that'.
'What I'm asking you to do, is to consider if this lead is so important that you once again have to run out on your family and leave them behind. Because we've put up with it time and time again, and it always turns out to be nothing. I can't keep doing this'.
'I can't turn my back on Samantha. I can't do that', he repeated, now securing the belt of his trousers.
'Fine, but I'm telling you now, if you walk out on us again, that's it Mulder. No more chances'.
He stopped and looked at her. She was serious, he had no doubt about that. 'It's my sister Scully. I could find her'. He tried to reason with her.
'I'm your wife Mulder. And we have two young children who want to get to know their father. Now I just want to know if you're going to give them that chance?'
Mulder glanced apologetically at Scully. He'd spent too many years looking for his sister to give up on her now. Slipping his feet into his shoes, he grabbed his jacket and walked silently out of the door. He'd made his decision.
'Oh my god'. Mulder put his head in his hands as he took a seat by the kitchen counter. 'What are we going to do?'
'We're going to do nothing Mulder', Scully said quietly. 'I'm going to have this baby and no doubt raise it myself. I dare say you may find the time to see it every now and then, but I don't want to get its hopes up'.
'Scully - '.
'Don't Mulder. Just don't. You've said and done enough'. As her tears continued to fall, Mulder realised she was still upset that he'd insinuated that she'd slept with someone else. 'Listen, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply you were unfaithful'.
'You don't mean to do anything, but somehow you still manage to'. She looked at him, her eyes boring into his face. 'I have never been unfaithful to you Mulder'.
'I know, and I'm sorry for suggesting you had been. I was just…I'm just trying to process all of this. It's such a shock'.
'For you and me both', she exclaimed. 'I certainly didn't plan this'.
'A baby', he whistled. 'Another baby'.
'Yeah'. She thought for a moment, her worries coming to the surface. 'I don't think I'm going to be able to cope'.
'What do you mean?'
'Three children Mulder. I…I could barely cope when both William and Abbie were ill, and pretty soon I'll have a baby needing my attention round the clock. And there'll be school runs to balance with morning feeds and nappy changes'.
'I'll help Scully'.
She scoffed. 'Like you helped today you mean?'
'I'll support you, I promise'.
'I don't just want financial support from you. I need more'.
'I need to be able to trust you, to know I can count on you'.
'But what if something comes up? What if you have to leave to follow a lead?'
'Scully, I can't just give up on Samantha, I -'
'I know you can't. I know how important she is to you'.
'We'll find a way Scully. We'll do this, together'. She nodded, not quite believing him. Mulder stood up and went to put and arm around her but she shrugged away from his touch. 'You'd better go upstairs and apologise to your son'. It was clear she didn't want to talk about the baby just yet. 'He's still upset'.
'Right'. Taking a deep breath, Mulder walked towards the kitchen door. As he got there he turned around. 'I mean it Scully, I'm doing my best to change. I'm going to be there for you all'. He walked out of the room, praying he'd been given a second chance to prove himself.
'Mrs Mulder?' Scully looked up from the magazine she was reading. Quickly closing it and placing it back on the table, she picked up her bag and followed the technician down the corridor and into the examination room. She smiled nervously as the woman turned to look at her. 'Is Mr Mulder here?'
Scully's face fell. 'No, he's running late'. She took a deep breath and forced another smile, avoiding the technician's eyes. 'He's caught up in a meeting so he won't be here today'.
'Well in that case I'll just pop out and leave you to get ready, and then we'll get started, ok?' Soon Scully was on the examination table, the cold gel applied to her abdomen. She sighed, trying to calm herself, but she was nervous. It had been a long time since she'd done this, and it was the first time that Scully knew she'd be on her own. Mulder had volunteered to attend the scan with her, and she'd agreed, pleased at how he was taking an interest in her pregnancy. Since she told him the news, they hadn't had a great deal of time to discuss the matter, with Mulder busy on cases, but he'd told her that he would support her and their new arrival. He also swore he'd make an effort to be there for them. And she'd almost believed him. But now here she was, about to see their unborn baby for the first time, and Mulder was nowhere to be seen. The only explanation she'd had was a quick voicemail left on her mobile late that morning. He was driving back from Philadelphia, having got caught up in a case, which had taken up more time than he'd anticipated. Scully was surprisingly calm as she listened to the message; deep down she knew that somewhere along the line he'd let her down.
All thoughts of Mulder escaped her mind the moment the black and white grainy image appeared on the screen in front of Scully. She felt the tears form as she cast her eyes on her unborn child, the child she never expected she'd have. When she and Mulder began having problems she figured two children would be her lot. As soon as she discovered she was pregnant again, Scully knew that abortion was out of the question. She loved this child immediately, and knew that deep down Mulder did too. The door behind her opened and Scully heard footsteps approaching the bed. A man cleared his throat. Mulder. 'I'm sorry I'm late', he apologised, as he stood next to Scully. 'I got here as fast as I could'.
She raised her eyebrow, actually surprised to see him standing before her. 'It's ok, you're not too late'.
He followed her gaze to the screen, a smile forming as he saw the image of their baby. 'Wow'. He found a seat next to Scully and sat down, his eyes never leaving the monitor. Scully watched as he processed the image. Eventually he tore his gaze from the baby and looked over at her, his eyes filled with tears. 'Our baby Scully', he whispered, as he took hold of her hand. Scully didn't break from his grasp, instead turning her attention back to the screen. She was about to reply when the technician interrupted them. 'As you can see it's quite a clear image. Everything looks fine, the baby seems to be developing nicely. At the next scan you can find out if it's a little boy or girl if you'd like.'
Mulder didn't let go of Scully's hand until the image faded from the screen and the monitor was switched off. As soon as he did she immediately felt the loss of his warmth, but soon composed herself. He waited outside while she got dressed again and collected the printout, handing it to him as she approached him. 'Thanks for coming', she said awkwardly as they headed towards the door.
'That's ok, I wouldn't have missed it'. Mulder opened the card and looked down at the image. 'I can't believe that's our baby'.
Scully smiled. 'I know, I'm still taking it all in'.
'It's just so tiny'.
'I know'. They stopped walking and focused on the picture of their unborn child.
'I know you must doubt me Scully, but I meant what I said. This time I'm going to do everything right. I'm going to be there, for all of you'.
Scully nodded, not saying a word. It wasn't that she didn't believe him, she didn't want to get her hopes up only to be let down later during her pregnancy or after the birth. With William, Mulder was there for her throughout, attending every scan, doctor's appointment and Lamaze class. He'd been there from the first contraction, had seen William's first breath and changed his first nappy. But between William and Abbie, things had changed. Mulder's search for his sister had intensified, with more leads coming in about her disappearance. He'd taken to travelling across the country at short notice to look for her, or anyone who could help him, which was acceptable when he was single, but he left Scully juggling an energetic three year old with morning sickness and the strains of pregnancy. He'd missed the first scan after Scully found she was pregnant, attending her twenty-week scan but having to dash out before it was over. Scully's mother had attended Lamaze classes with her in the end after Mulder let her down at the last minute. And then of course she had to give birth alone, something she'd never quite forgiven him for. But Mulder was aware that this was his second chance - his opportunity to make up for his failures in the past. He knew that Scully had it tough juggling a stressful job with two young children, and it would no doubt be harder for her when the baby arrived.
'So what are you up to now? Have you got work today?' They continued their walk out of the hospital building and towards the car park.
Scully shook her head. 'I've got the day off. I'm heading home now to relieve mom of the kids'.
'How are they?'
'They're good. Abbie's feeling a lot better and William even seems a little happier at school'.
'Yeah'. Scully hesitated. 'They've been asking about you actually. They miss you'.
'I miss them too', Mulder admitted, and it was true.
'Maybe you could come back with me and say hi. Unless you've got to get back?'
'No that's fine'. Mulder made a mental note to cancel his afternoon meeting on the way back to Scully's. 'Umm…when are you going to tell them? About the baby?'
Scully chewed her lip nervously. 'I guess there's no time like the present. Now we know everything's fine we could do it together today?'
'Sure'. Mulder was just glad that Scully was including him. 'What about your mom?'
'Well if you can handle it we could do that too?'
'Yeah, let's do it. But I'm not going to be there when you tell Bill though. I think he'd murder me'.
Scully smiled. 'If it's any consolation he's going to kill me too'.
'He'll kill me first. At least you'll have time to run'.
'I was thinking about just not telling him for a little while. Just give it a few weeks to sink in first'.
'That sounds good to me'. They reached Scully's car and stopped walking. Scully fumbled around in her bag for her keys. 'So I'll see you in a bit?'
'Sure'. Mulder watched as she got in the car and drove off, before making his way back to his own vehicle. After making a call to work to say that he had a family emergency to deal with, Mulder set off for his old house, to spend an evening with his family.
Scully shifted awkwardly as her mother took in the news. 'I'm pregnant mom'.
Maggie Scully raised her eyebrows in a move that reminded Mulder of his wife. The children were just finishing up their lunch when Mulder and Scully took the opportunity to take Maggie to one side and tell her about the baby. 'And was this…planned?'
Mulder could see the look of astonishment on his mother-in-law's face, and knew exactly what she was thinking, how Scully could wind up pregnant while they were currently going through a divorce.
'Not necessarily', Scully blushed and Mulder rushed to her rescue. 'I know it's a shock Maggie, it was a surprise for us both, but a good surprise'. He looked at Scully. 'We're both happy about this, and I've told Dana I'm going to be there for her and the baby'. He was grateful when Maggie didn't question him on his commitment, after all, she'd had to stand back and watch while Mulder hurt her daughter repeatedly in the past.
'Well'. A smile appeared on Maggie's face. 'If you're both happy then I am too'. She stepped forward and enveloped Scully into a hug. 'Congratulations to you both'. Pulling back she surprised Mulder by drawing him in for a hug too. 'Another grandchild. I guess that's another Christmas present I'll have to buy'.
Scully didn't say anything, relieved that her mother accepted her condition without question, and pleased that Mulder was by her side as she told her the news.
'How far gone are you?'
'Three months'. Scully pulled the picture from her bag and handed it to her mother. 'We got the all clear this morning'.
'And when are you going to tell the children?'
'As soon as they've finished their lunch'.
Maggie nodded, not saying anything. 'Well I'd better be off now you're home'.
'Don't you want to stay for a bit?'
She looked at Mulder knowingly. 'No it's ok, I'll see you all soon. I'll give you some time to yourselves'.
Scully saw her mother out of the door while Mulder headed into the dining room to see the kids. 'Daddy!' Abbie threw down her knife and fork and ran over to Mulder, and he scooped her up in his arms.
'Hey guys, you ok?'
'What are you doing here dad?' William looked over at his father, his face full of uncertainty.
'I thought I'd come and say hi, is that ok?'
'Yeah'. William returned his smile. 'Can we play basketball?'
'Sure. Just let your food settle first'. Mulder turned his attention to his daughter. 'Are you feeling better sweetie?'
'Uh huh, lots. I don't feel sick anymore'.
'That's good then'. He set her back down on the floor. 'Go finish your lunch Abbie. Mommy and I just need to a word once you've finished'.
William stopped eating and pushed his plate away. 'About what?'
'Nothing bad'. Mulder tried to reassure him, but noticed his son's worried look. Whenever they'd sat the kids down in the past, it had always been to tell them bad news, the last time being when Scully had informed the children that Mulder was moving out, that they still loved one another but sometimes mommies and daddies couldn't live in the same house. Mulder hoped that they'd take the news about the baby a little better, although he knew that Scully was worried the children would get the wrong idea, and think they were getting back together.
'Is mommy mad at you again?' Abbie asked innocently as she sat back up at the table.
'No, it's nothing bad guys, it's good news'. He regretted his words instantly.
'Are you coming back to live with us?' William's eyes widened and Mulder felt guilty for disappointing him. Scully chose that moment to walk into the dining room, stopping when she saw sets of eyes focused on her. 'What's going on?'
'Are you and dad getting back together?'
Scully shot Mulder a warning look and he shot her an apologetic glance in return. She sat down at the table, and Mulder took a seat opposite her. 'It's not that'.
William's face fell, and Scully put her hand on his arm. 'We've already explained that it's for the best if dad stays at his place for the time being'.
Mulder noted her choice of words. 'Your mom's right. And I'm still going to come and see you and take you out'.
'It's not the same', William grumbled, fiddling with the tablecloth.
'So…' Scully started, looking to Mulder for support. 'Your dad and I have some news'. She paused slightly, taking a deep breath. 'We're going to have a baby'. She frowned as William stared straight ahead, not making any comment.
'A baby?' Abbie looked up at her father.
'You're going to have a little brother or sister', Mulder answered. 'You get to be a big sister'.
She thought for a moment, and then turned her attention to Scully. 'Do I have to share my bedroom?'
Scully was tempted to laugh at her daughter's question, but realised she hadn't considered the logistics of a new baby. Their house only had three bedrooms, and while the baby would obviously sleep in Scully's bedroom at first, it would soon need its own space. 'We'll talk about that later, ok?'
Abbie seemed to accept her mom's reply. 'Ok'. She thought for a moment. 'Am I getting a brother or a sister?'
'We don't know yet sweetie'.
'We won't know until the baby arrives'.
Abbie looked confused. 'Where's the baby now?'
'It's in mommy's tummy'.
'How did it get there?' Mulder grinned at Scully as she blushed at their daughter's question. Thankfully William saved any more embarrassing questions. 'Is the baby going to live with us or with dad?'
'The baby will live here, with you guys'.
'And what about you?'
'I'll stay at my apartment, but I'll come and visit a lot'.
'I don't want you to just visit though'. William's lower lip trembled, and he focused hard on his plate, trying to hold back the tears.
'I know Will'.
'Will you visit the baby more than us?'
'No, of course not. I'll spend time with all of you when I'm here, like I do now'.
'Will you love the baby more than us?'
Mulder was faced with two sets of worried eyes. He pulled Abbie onto his lap and gave her a hug. 'Mommy and I love you and William both equally. And the same goes for the new baby too, ok? We'll never stop loving you'.
Noticing William had finished his dinner, Mulder tried to appease his son. 'You wanna go shoot some hoops Will?'
'Ok', William answered indifferently.
'Go get changed out of your uniform first'. Scully watched as William rose from the table, then collected the dinner plates together. She walked out into the kitchen, with Mulder close behind. 'Well that went better than expected', he remarked, careful for Abbie not to hear.
'What's the matter?' He went to stand by the sink as Scully began the washing up.
'I guess we're going to have to be careful with the new baby. I don't know, maybe I've been…maybe I've neglected the kids recently'.
'Well William's already concerned that when the baby comes along he'll be relegated to the background. Maybe I haven't been paying them enough attention lately, maybe that's why he's been having trouble at school'.
'Scully'. Mulder put his hand on Scully's shoulder to stop her. 'It's not your fault. You're a great mom, and the kids don't feel neglected. I'm the one who hasn't been there for them, I'm the one who should be feeling guilty, not you. But I'm changing ok? I'm going to make an effort to see them more, be a father to them, and the same goes for the baby'. He moved his hand so it was resting on Scully's stomach, and could detect the slight hint of a bump. He knew he wouldn't be able to feel the baby kick, but the gesture was all the same. He smiled up at Scully, relieved to see she was returning his grin. She stepped forward and moved her hands around his waist, pulling him in for a hug. 'Thank you Mulder'. Mulder's arms moved to rest at the small of her back as he savoured her touch. 'And for what it's worth, you are a good father, and the kids love you too'. Hearing William's footsteps descending the stairs, Mulder reluctantly pulled away. It was rare Scully showed any affection towards him, so he wanted to savour it while he could. 'You don't want to keep him waiting', Scully smiled sadly, and for a moment he thought he could detect regret in her eyes. 'Right'. Mulder turned to face his son as he appeared at the kitchen door. 'C'mon kiddo'. He stepped out of the kitchen, hoping this time he wouldn't let his family down.
The shrill ringing of his cellphone woke Mulder from a deep sleep. Slowly coming to his senses, he fumbled for the light switch and then hunted for his phone. 'Mulder', he murmured sleepily, rubbing his eyes as he adjusted to the light in the room.
'Scully, what's wrong?' He knew it wasn't a courtesy call, not at 2am.
'Can you come and look after the kids?'
'Is that ok?' Her voice was faint and shaky.
'Of course it is. Scully what's happened?'
'It's my mom'. He could tell she was about to cry. 'She's been in an accident'.
It was a good job Mulder was still lying down, else he was sure his legs would've buckled. 'Is she ok?'
'I don't know, they wouldn't tell me over the phone. And I'm a doctor Mulder, it's not good news'. He heard Scully let out a sob.
'I'll be there as soon as I can. Listen Scully, try not to worry, she'll be fine'. He only hoped it was true.
'Do you need me to come to the hospital with you?'
She thought for a moment, considering his offer. 'No thank you. I need to know that the children are being looked after'.
'Ok. I'll see you in a bit. She'll be fine, don't worry'. Hanging up, Mulder shot out of bed, rooting around on the floor for his clothes that he'd discarded earlier that night.
He made it to Scully's in record time, grateful for the lack of traffic on the roads. When he arrived she was already dressed and waiting for him. 'Thanks for coming'.
'What happened?' He took in Scully's appearance. She looked exhausted, having obviously been disturbed from sleep herself, and her eyes were red and puffy.
'She was driving home earlier tonight and they think she must have lost control of her car and ploughed into a tree. I got a call a little while ago to say she'd been brought in. They wouldn't say how bad her injuries were'. Her voice wobbled as she spoke but no tears fell.
'Are you sure you don't want me to come with you Scully?' She shook her head. 'You need someone with you, you shouldn't be alone right now'.
'It's ok. You stay here with the kids'.
'But you'll call me if you need me, right?' Mulder held her gaze, trying to convey with his eyes that he wanted to be there for her and help her.
She nodded. 'I'll call as soon as I find out what's going on'. She picked up her keys off the table and headed towards the door.
'Take care Scully', Mulder warned, aware that he had their unborn baby to worry about, as well as her. He watched as she got into her car and drove off out of the driveway and out of sight, then closed the door. Walking back into the living room, he pulled the door to, not wanting to wake the children. He approached the display cabinet in the corner of the room, full of photos from when the children were younger. Most parents took dozens of pictures of their kids as they were growing up, but Mulder noticed Scully used to take more than most. Looking back he knew she did it to capture the moments he'd missed out on, Abbie's first steps, William's first day at school. His gaze fell to a picture of him, Scully and a baby William when he was just a few hours old. Both of them were red-faced and exhausted but they were genuinely happy. It wasn't long after the picture was taken that Mulder got caught up in the search for Samantha, leaving his family behind. He wandered over to the coffee table, his attention caught by a newspaper article lying in the centre, an advert ringed. He knew he shouldn't look - after all, what Scully got up to now was technically none of his business - but his curiosity got the better of him. He picked up the paper and a letter underneath it and read them, frowning as he realised what they were. A job advertisement, for a position at a local hospital. In San Diego. His heart racing, Mulder skim-read the accompanying letter, realising it was from Bill. No wonder. Scully's brother had been on at her to move out there, particularly after her split from Mulder. But Mulder never would have guessed she'd actually be considering it. His thoughts were interrupted when the living room door opened and in walked a sleepy William.
'Dad?' He rubbed his eyes as he looked up at his father. 'What are you doing here?'
'Hey'. Mulder put the picture back in the cabinet. 'What are you doing up?'
'I couldn't sleep. Where's mom, does she know you're here?'
'Yeah. Mom's had to go out'.
Mulder sighed. He couldn't lie to his son. 'Come take a seat'. He sat on the couch and watched as William slowly made his way round next to him, looking at him wearily. When William was settled, Mulder put his arm around him. 'Ok before I start, I just want to tell you not to worry, ok? Everything's going to be fine'.
His words did nothing to soothe William's nerves. 'What's wrong?'
'There's been an accident. Grandma was driving home earlier this evening and she hit her car. She's been taken to the hospital, and your mom's just gone to be with her and make sure she's ok'.
William's eyes opened in concern. 'Is she hurt?'
'A little', Mulder admitted. 'Mom's gone to see how she is'.
'Is she going to die?'
Mulder gripped his son tightly. 'Hey, none of that talk, you hear me? Your grandma's going to be ok'. He wished he knew for certain that was true, that he could honestly say how Maggie was. William slipped an arm around his father's torso, not speaking. Mulder was content to hold his child, realising how little he'd been able to do so in recent years. Although he was now renting his own apartment, it wasn't exactly what you'd call child-friendly, and only had one bedroom. He'd only just managed to unpack his clothes, realising he couldn't wear scrunched up suits to work, and his crockery consisted of a plate, a cereal bowl, a knife, fork, spoon and teaspoon, and a saucepan. At first when he took on the lease, he figured it would only be temporary, maybe a couple of months at the most. But now, particularly with the divorce about to be finalised any day now, he knew he should find somewhere permanent, a place where the kids could stay at the weekends. He needed to make an effort, in an attempt to dissuade Scully from taking the children and moving away. He'd never set out to become a weekend father, but often life didn't go as planned.
'Are you staying tonight?' William asked sleepily.
Mulder looked down and noticed his son's eyes drooping. 'Yeah'.
'Will you be here in the morning when I wake up?'
Mulder hesitated, not sure what would happen when Scully returned from the hospital - if she returned by morning. Thinking about it, he realised she'd need to catch up on her sleep when she got home. 'Sure. Why don't you go back to sleep?'
'I'm not tired', William yawned. 'I want to sit here with you'.
'Ok'. Mulder settled back on the couch, his arm around his son. Within minutes the two of them were fast asleep.
The sound of a key in the door rose Mulder from his sleep. He sat up slowly, careful not to wake William, and removed his son's arms from around his waist. Standing up, he walked to the hallway, coming face to face with Scully. 'Hey'. He rubbed his eyes and looked at his wife as she closed the door, intending to confront her over the letter he found, but realising there was a more pressing matter at hand. 'How is she?' He knew the answer instantly the moment Scully turned to face him. She lifted her eyes from the floor to look at him. 'She didn't make it'. She bit down on her lip hard to try and stop the tears from falling but it didn't work.
Scully glanced nervously at Mulder as she approached the phone, and he smiled reassuringly. As she dialled the number, he went to stand behind her, wanting to hold her but not sure that she'd appreciate his touch. 'Bill, Scully's voice wobbled as she heard her older brother speak. 'It's Dana'. She took a deep breath and Mulder reached out, taking hold of her hand. Rather than push him away, she squeezed his fingers and continued speaking, his touch obviously giving her the strength to go on. 'Um, I've…I've got some bad news. It's mom'. She bit her lip as her brother said something, and then interrupted him, obviously eager to tell him the news before she changed her mind. 'There's been an accident. Her car hit into a tree earlier this evening and she was taken to hospital. She um…she…they did everything they could but…I'm so sorry Bill'. She let out the sob she'd been holding in, and Mulder stepped in towards her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. 'I'm sorry Bill', she repeated, dropping the phone to her side. Mulder picked up the receiver, and could hear her brother at the other end of the line, clearly in a state of shock. '…it happen? Why was she out so late?' 'Bill', Mulder cut his brother-in-law off. 'It's Mulder'. He waited for the insults but they never emerged, Bill obviously still trying to process what his sister had told him. 'We're still trying to get details about what happened. Apparently your mother lost control of the car'. He listened to Bill speak for a moment, then continued. 'Yeah Dana was there with her…I know it's a shock, I'm so sorry'. He glanced at Scully, who was trying desperately to compose herself before speaking to her brother again. 'Of course I will. I'm going to stay with them'. He'd realised this the moment Scully had called him over, at the time thinking that she'd need to spend time at the hospital to help nurse her mom back to full health. Now though, there was a funeral to arrange, children to wash, feed and get to school, and Scully needed to get plenty of rest for her own sake and that of their unborn baby's. 'Ok…Dana wants a word. I'll speak to you soon'. He handed the phone back to Scully, who had stopped crying and now appeared to be back to normal, or at least acting like normal. 'Bill, I'll call you tomorrow so we can make the arrangements'. She couldn't say the word 'funeral', not yet. It made the whole thing seem final. 'Ok, I'm so sorry. I'm going to give Charlie a call now'. She stopped as she listened to her brother. 'No it's ok. I'll do it. Thanks for offering'. She paused. 'Give my love to Tara and Matthew'. As she hung up the phone she let out the breath she'd been holding.
'Are you ok Scully?'
She nodded. 'I'm fine'. Looking up, she saw the look of disbelief on Mulder's face. He knew her too well to fall for that old line. 'I'm…I still can't believe this is happening. It feels like a dream, a horrible horrible dream that I can't wake up from'. Mulder knew how she was feeling, it was the same for him during the aftermath of Samantha's disappearance - as though someone was playing a sick joke on him and his family. 'I guess I'd better break it to Charlie'.
'Do you want me to do it?'
Scully touched his arm gently and squeezed. 'No, it's ok. Thank you. I think I need to do it. Maybe then it will sink in'. The phone call to her younger brother was longer as she told him more details about what happened, and how their mother had looked lying peacefully in the hospital bed. They also discussed possible dates for the funeral, and as soon as she hung up Scully told Mulder that Charlie was booking his flight over to DC immediately. Scully had managed to keep herself together as she broke the news, as though she was shutting herself off to what happened. While Mulder hated seeing her upset, he knew it was the best thing for her to do - it wasn't healthy for her to keep her emotions bottled up like she had done in the past.
No sooner had Scully hung up, Mulder put his arms on her shoulders and steered her into the kitchen. 'I'll get you something to eat'.
'I'm not hungry'.
He eyed her sternly. 'You need to keep your strength up'.
'I'm aware of that Mulder. I am a doctor'.
'And you're also pregnant'.
Scully softened at his words, her shoulders slumped forward in defeat. 'Please Mulder, I'll eat later. Right now I can't face it'.
'Ok. In that case you should get some sleep'.
'I'm not going to be able to'.
'You need to go to bed. At least lie down and shut your eyes. Rest for a while'. He was practically begging her, and Scully felt she couldn't argue.
'Ok'. She sighed and headed towards the stairs, looking towards the living room as she passed it. 'What about William?'
'I'll take him back to bed'. Mulder watched Scully ascend the stairs and then headed into the room where his son slept. William looked so peaceful, as though he didn't have a care in the world. Mulder wished they didn't have to give him the bad news when he woke up. Lifting him carefully as though not to disturb him, he carried his son up the stairs and back into his bedroom, where he gently laid him on his bed and covered him with his quilt. Bending down, he pressed a kiss to his son's forehead, then froze momentarily as William shifted in his sleep, but didn't stir. Mulder then exited the room and made his way to his old bedroom, remembering how he used to walk this path every night after tucking William up in bed and telling him a story. As he headed into the bedroom, he was faced with the sight of Scully in just her underwear and sweatpants, halfway through pulling a jumper over her body. 'Oh, sorry'. Scully paused as she saw him enter, his gaze dropping to her swollen stomach, and then she continued dressing, noticing his disappointment when her skin was fully covered. 'I could smell hospital on my other clothes', she explained, and then laughed. 'I work with the smell every day and it never bothers me. But now…now it will always remind me of this'. She sat down on the bed, her eyes dropping to look at her knees, and Mulder took the opportunity to take a seat next to her, not quite touching her, but almost. 'I'm faced with death every single day I go to work. I've probably seen more dead bodies in my lifetime than any normal person should and yet…and yet I can't even accept the fact my mom's dead'.
She ignored him. 'I stand in front of grieving families and tell them that I did everything I could to save their loved ones' life. And they accept that. So why can't I believe the word of my colleagues, when they tell me the very same thing? Why do I think they should have done more?'
'Because you're in shock. And you don't want to believe that Maggie's gone. And I don't blame you Scully, because I don't want to believe it either'.
She nodded. 'It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Not now. I need her Mulder, I need her here with me to help me…I…I don't know what to do'. Mulder put his arm around Scully's shoulders and pulled her in towards him. Her hand automatically went across his torso, and she leant her head into the crook of his neck. 'I know it's not much Scully, but you have me to help you. I'm here for you'.
When he woke, Mulder realised that Scully was no longer asleep. She was still in bed but her eyes were open, her gazed fixed on the ceiling. 'Hey', he spoke softly, but still she didn't look at him. 'Scully?'
'Mulder'. Bill stood back and let Mulder enter the house, closing the door behind him. As he walked in, he turned to face his brother-in-law. 'Bill. I'm sorry for your loss'. He held out his hand and Bill shook it, nodding. 'Thanks for coming'. Scully's brother cleared his throat. 'And thanks for helping Dana out these past few days'. He led Mulder to the living room, where his family waited. 'Hi'. Mulder stood at the doorway and smiled awkwardly at the people inside - Bill's wife Tara and their ten-year-old son Matthew, Charlie, his wife Emma and their two children.
'Mulder'. Charlie jumped up from the armchair and walked towards him, shaking his hand. 'Good to see you again. It's a shame it couldn't have been under better circumstances'.
Straightening the black tie that hung around his neck, Mulder looked around the room for his wife. 'Where's Dana?'
'She's upstairs getting the kids ready', Charlie explained. 'I think William's a little upset this morning'.
Mulder looked back at the door. 'I think I'll go up and see how they are'. Bill moved to stop him but Charlie but his hand on his brother's arm, as though warning him. Ignoring them both, Mulder walked upstairs. He came to a stop outside Abbie's bedroom and knocked on the door before entering. 'Hi'.
Scully was kneeling on the floor, helping Abbie into her shoes. William was sitting on the bed next to his sister, his attention fixed on his hands, which were resting on his lap. 'Hi'. She stood up, her black skirt dropping so it came to a stop just below her knees. She pulled her matching jacket down so it covered her slight bump. To anyone looking in, it appeared that she was in professional mode, on her way to work, but Mulder knew the truth. She was trying to maintain a calm exterior, trying to keep her emotions under control on the day of her mother's funeral. 'Are the cars here?' She looked worried.
'No, not yet'. Mulder walked further into the room, pressing a kiss to Scully's forehead as he moved past her. 'I thought I'd see how you were all doing'.
'We're fine'. Scully looked in the direction of their son and swallowed hard. 'Thanks for coming'. The death of his grandmother had hit William hard, and for the past few nights, he'd been refusing to go to sleep without his father being there. Abbie was still too young to understand exactly what was going on, but Scully had tried to explain in the easiest terms that Maggie wasn't coming back. But it was Scully herself who Mulder was most worried about. Since she and Mulder had broken the bad news to the children, she's retreated into herself. She hadn't spoken about her mother, not even when Charlie and his family came to stay shortly after her death, and she hadn't cried anymore. Mulder knew she didn't want to let her guard down in front of the children - that she wanted to be strong for them - but he suspected she was ready to burst, having kept her emotions in check for so long. He'd repeatedly told her he was there if she needed to talk, but she hadn't taken him up on his offer. Charlie was worried too - he was the one who Scully would always confide in when they were younger, but now she wouldn't open up to anyone.
'Hi daddy'. Abbie looked up at Mulder, swinging her legs from the bed.
'Hey sweetie. You ok?'
She nodded sadly. 'Is it time to say goodbye to grandma?' she asked sadly. Mulder looked over at Scully, who looked as though she was trying hard not to collapse in tears, then turned his attention back to his daughter. 'Almost'.
'Ok'. She thought for a moment. 'I don't want to say goodbye'.
Hearing Scully take a sharp intake of breath, Mulder sat down next to Abbie and put his arm around her. 'I know. None of us do. But remember what mommy said, grandma wouldn't want you to be upset, ok?'
'Ok'. She didn't look convinced. Neither did William, who was clearly thinking hard. Mulder reached his arm across to tap his son on the shoulder. 'Hey Will'. William lifted his head up to catch his father's eye, and Mulder could see he was upset. Just like his mother, he was trying to keep his emotions under wraps. Since his problems at school, William had become more like Scully - more eager to keep his thoughts to himself rather than talk about them. 'You ok?'
Just as Mulder was about to press his son for details, Charlie appeared at the door. 'Dana, the car's here'.
Sensing Scully needed a moment to compose herself, Mulder stood up, helping Abbie off the bed. 'Kids you go downstairs with Uncle Charlie, ok? Mom and I will be down in a second'. He waited until the children were out of earshot, then approached his wife, resting his hand on her shoulder. 'You ok Scully?'
She shrugged. 'As ok as I can be I guess'.
'It's going to take time you know. Time to come to terms with everything'.
'I know. I just wish it didn't have to happen'. She smiled sadly. 'But that's life I guess'.
Mulder looked down at Scully's swelling stomach. 'And sadly life has to go on'.
She followed his gaze and placed a hand instinctively on her bump. 'I wish she could have got to know this little one'.
'And see the kids grow up'.
Mulder's hand slid down to rest on Scully's back. 'I know it's not much compensation, but at least they got to meet her. And they're at the age where they'll remember her when they're older. We won't let them forget her, and we can tell the baby all about her'.
Scully nodded, taking note that Mulder referred to them as 'we' - that he seemed to be taking an interest in the family, sounding as though he wanted to hang around. She sighed shakily. 'I guess we should get going'.
'Yeah'. Mulder's hand left Scully's back and returned to his side. 'You ready?'
She linked her arm through his and squeezed hard. 'As ready as I'll ever be'.
On a normal day, the journey to the church was relatively short and painless, but today - the day of her mother's funeral - it felt like it was taking forever to Scully. She was in the first car, with Mulder the children, and Bill, Tara and Matthew. Charlie and his family were following behind, with Maggie's sister and her husband. Eventually they pulled up outside. Mulder got out first, holding his hand out to help Scully from the car. As she stepped out, her grip on his hand tightened when she saw the pallbearers lift Maggie's coffin from the hearse. Mulder followed her gaze, and bent down to whisper softly in her ear. 'It's ok Scully. We can get through this'. Nodding, and biting down hard on her lip, she turned around to take hold of the children's hands. 'Are you guys ok?' She tried to stand in their line of sight to block the view of the coffin, but William had already caught a glimpse. 'Is that grandma?' he asked sadly.
Mulder put his other hand on William's shoulder. 'It's not really grandma', he tried to explain. 'Remember?' Scully had tried to explain to the children that they weren't burying Maggie exactly - that her soul was now looking down on them but that her body had to be buried. Despite her everyday dealings with death, she had no idea how to explain it to William and Abbie, but they'd seemed as though they understood what she was saying.
'Ok'. William didn't seem convinced, his eyes knitted with worry. He took hold of his father's hand and gripped it firmly. Scully worried that the children were too young to be attending a funeral, but both she and Mulder had explained what was going to happen, and the children had asked to go. They stood as a family and watched as the coffin was carried towards the church, Mulder never daring to let go of his hold on Scully, for fear of her legs buckling. Once Maggie was safely inside, Scully took a deep breath and led her family inside and towards the front, ignoring the distant family members and onlookers who were already seated. She took a seat next to Charlie, and Mulder sat next to her, with Abbie on his lap and William by his side. Scully said nothing before the service began, instead staring intently at the box in front of her. No tears came - instead Mulder saw her bite down hard on her lip, trying to keep herself composed. He squeezed her hand gently, reminding her that he was there for her, but it didn't break her concentration. She was lost in her own world of grief.
As the service began, the small group listened as the priest paid tribute to a loving wife, mother and grandmother. It was short and simple - just what Maggie would have wanted - with a touching eulogy from Bill, who as head of the family wanted to pay tribute to his mother. Scully was emotionless throughout, her eyes still fixed firmly on Maggie's coffin and her hand linked with Mulder's. It wasn't until Abbie moved onto Scully's lap and threw her arms around her that she broke her gaze. 'Are you ok?' Mulder leant over and whispered in Scully's ear. The truth was he was worried about her. Over the past week she had thrown herself into arranging the funeral and looking after the children, meaning she'd had little time to make time for herself. In previous years, following the death of her father and sister, she'd bottled up her emotions and carried on with life, but now, after Maggie's demise, he could see she was close to breaking point.
'I'm fine'. She continued to stare straight ahead, not daring to meet Mulder's eye in fear of crumbling.
Once it was all over, the family proceeded to head back towards the cars. Seeing Scully hang back, Mulder set Abbie back onto the ground and turned to Charlie. 'Can you just take the kids? We'll be with you in a second'.
Charlie followed his gaze back to his sister. 'Sure'.
Mulder made sure the children were out of earshot before he returned to Scully. 'Hey', he said softly, noticing her startle at the sound of his voice. 'How are you doing?'
She shrugged. 'As ok as I'll ever be'.
He placed his hand at the small of her back and followed her gaze down to the mound of earth in front of them. 'I think she'd have been pleased with today'.
'It doesn't matter' Scully replied coldly, wrapping her arms around her waist. 'She's not here to appreciate it. It's just a few empty words, and it's not like it will bring her back'. Mulder rubbed her back soothingly, letting her continue. 'I don't want to keep doing this Mulder'.
'Burying my family. I feel that one day soon I'm going to be the only one left, and I hate that thought. I don't want to be on my own'.
'You're not on your own Scully'. Mulder moved his arm around her waist and pulled her in towards him.
'I feel like I am sometimes', she whispered.
'I know, but I promise you, I'm here. You don't have to do this alone. Any of this'.
Scully leant her head against Mulder's chest. 'Thank you'.
Giving a final glance towards her mother's grave, Scully let Mulder lead her back to the car, where their family waited.
No sooner had they got back to Scully's house, Emma and Tara volunteered to take the children to the park, believing that after the upsetting morning they'd had, they'd need some kind of entertainment. Bill and Charlie, still upset following the funeral, decided to stay at home to keep an eye on Scully, still worried about her lack of emotion during the service. Likewise Mulder didn't want to let her out of his sight, realising that somehow he needed to get her to open up.
'I think I'm going to go for a nap', Scully announced, as the children had gone willingly with their aunts. She rubbed her stomach soothingly, and Mulder noticed Bill's gaze shift to his sister's bump.
'I'll come tuck you in'.
'It's ok Charlie'. Scully forced a smile in the direction of her other brother. 'I'm a big girl now'.
'Let me do this for you Dana'.
Sensing the pleading tone to her brother's voice, Scully nodded. 'Ok'. They all knew she wouldn't sleep, she hadn't been sleeping properly all week. She just needed her space. Mulder smiled grimly as he watched Charlie lead his sister upstairs. As soon as they'd disappeared from earshot, he felt Bill's icy glare bore into him.
'It was a um… a nice service'. Bill and Mulder had never got on, not from the word go, and things had gradually gotten worse since the separation. And it seemed that now the funeral was over, Bill had had enough of being polite.
'Yeah it was'. Bill looked at his watch. 'Haven't you got somewhere to be? Work or something?'
Mulder shook his head. 'I've got the day off'.
'Wow'. Bill let out an exaggerated breath. 'It's a shame you didn't think to do that a few more times when you were with my sister'.
'Maybe if you were a bit more considerate to her then, she wouldn't be in such a state right now'.
'Hey'. Something inside Mulder snapped. He'd had to put up with years of Bill insulting him and claiming he wasn't right for Scully, and he'd always stood back and took the blows. 'Scully is mourning her mother right now. Your mother. For once Bill, you can't blame me for that'.
'You don't get it, do you?' Bill approached Mulder, his face reddening. 'Yes she's upset about mom, but she's also facing up to the fact unless something's done, in a few months she's going to have to juggle her career with three kids all on her own'.
'I've promised to support her'.
'Just like you vowed to at your wedding?' He laughed bitterly. 'That turned out well, didn't it?'
'It's different now. I'm doing my best'.
'Your best obviously isn't good enough'.
Mulder shrugged. 'Well it's all I can do. Let Scully be the judge of that, shall we?' His eyes narrowed towards his brother-in-law. 'Anyway, who are you to comment on my support? You're the one who's on the other side of the country, and you saw Scully and Maggie, what? Three or four times a year? I may be a rubbish husband and father, but even I check in with them more than that'.
'Hey'. Bill took a step in closer towards Mulder, who stood his ground. 'If my family needed me I'd be right there. It's a shame the same couldn't be said for you'.
'I'm here now, aren't I?' Mulder clenched his fists and then released them repeatedly, trying to calm down.
'Yeah you're here now. But the same couldn't be said when your own wife was in labour. I mean, I may have to go away sometimes, but at least I made it in plenty of time for the birth of my child. I didn't leave my wife scared and alone in the delivery room. And at least my son doesn't hate me'.
Without warning, Mulder stepped forward and pushed Bill away. It wasn't the fact his brother-in-law was taunting him that was upsetting him. It was that what Bill was saying was the truth. Bill had hardly any time to react when Mulder did it again, this time more forcefully. He brought his fist up to lash out again, when a voice to the side stopped him.
'What the hell is going on?' Both men turned towards the door to see Scully standing there, her arms folded, a confused expression on her face. Charlie was walking down the stairs after her.
'Why don't you ask young Fox here', Bill remarked bitterly, a flash of triumph in his eyes. Mulder brought his arms back down to his side. 'Scully, it's -'
'We buried mom just an hour ago, and you two can't even wait to get back to your childish games?' Her confused look gave way to anger, her face red and her lips pursed. 'Couldn't it at least have waited?'
'You're right Dana', Bill remarked. 'I'm sorry, I was just telling Mulder it was time to face facts'.
Scully unfolded her arms and brought one up to rest on the doorframe. 'Bill, I don't need you or anyone else to stick up for me. I can handle myself'.
'Well he just needs to be told'.
'I don't need you to tell me anything Bill', Mulder snarled, still upset at his brother-in-law.
'Yeah? Well I'm fed up with how you've been behaving'.
'I'm not that keen on your attitude either'.
'Will you just stop?' Glaring at them both, Scully then turned and stormed off, towards the back of the house. Mulder shot Bill a warning look, as though daring him to say more, but then decided to go after Scully. As he walked past a confused Charlie and entered the kitchen, he noticed she was standing outside in the garden, her arms folded in front of her. She looked like a small child, and he wanted nothing more than to wrap her in his arms and comfort her. Opening the back door, Mulder walked down the steps of the porch towards her. 'Scully?' he called softly. She didn't turn around, her gaze fixed firmly ahead. 'Scully I'm sorry you witnessed that back there'.
'So you're not sorry you did it then'. Her voice was cold and emotionless. He took a step closer.
'I think it was long overdue', was his only comment.
'So you don't think it's a bit insensitive on the day of my mother's funeral to turn on my brother?'
'He said some things Scully. Some things I couldn't just stand there and take'.
'We all are'. Once again he stepped in towards her, this time placing his hands on her shoulders, so her back was against his chest. 'Bill let his grief out on me, and I did the same to him'. He sighed. 'You need to open up Scully'.
'There's nothing to say'.
'Like you said, you just buried your mom. You've built up this wall around you since it happened, and it's not healthy. You need to let it out'.
'Don't tell me what to do Mulder'.
'I'm just worried about you'.
'You're worried about me?' She stepped forward, releasing herself from Mulder's grasp, but still she didn't turn to meet his stare.
'Of course. It isn't healthy, and all of this extra stress can't be good for the baby-'
'Don't tell me what's good for this baby'. This time she did turn to face him, and Mulder almost wished she hadn't. She looked angry - vicious almost - her eyes wide and her face stern. The tears were there but she wasn't letting them fall. 'How do you know what's good for anyone? You can barely look after yourself and you've proved no end of times that you don't know what's good for the two children you already have'.
She moved in closer towards him, her face now flushed with anger, her stare venomous. 'I thought I could count on you today to be strong and to help us through this, but as soon as my back is turned you're lashing out at my brother'.
'Yes he probably deserved it, but not now. Not today'.
'I know, and I'm sorry'.
'Sorry?' She laughed bitterly. 'Do you know how many times I've heard you apologise Mulder? You're always sorry. I've listened to it time and time again, and it means nothing to me now'.
Mulder stepped in closer so that he was practically touching Scully. He lifted his arms in an attempt to draw her in for a hug, but she slapped them away, shouting. 'Don't you dare touch me. Don't think that that'll work. I may have fallen for that at one time but not anymore'. He knew there was nothing he could say to get her to calm down, and the truth was, he knew she needed this. Though she was angry - livid even - at him, she was at least venting her frustration and grief. It was the only way she'd get through this.
'I am sorry Scully. I love you so much -'
'I hate you!' Clenching her fists, she hit out at Mulder once again. This time the tears began to fall, and she attempted to blink them away. 'I hate you for how you've made me feel. I hate you for abandoning us. I hate you for letting us down so many times'. Each time she spoke, her fists pounded into his chest. Mulder grimaced as her words sunk in, realising they hurt more than the physical blows she was dealing him. He reached out and grabbed hold of her arms, pinning them down to her side. 'I know you do Scully, I know. But it's ok. It's going to be ok'.
'I hate you!' Suddenly exhausted, Scully pressed her head into Mulder's chest and began crying. Satisfied that she was no longer going to lash out, he let go of her arms and moved his hands to rest on the top of her back, pulling her in closer. He held her while she sobbed, while she let out the grief she'd been bottling up over the past week. His grip tightened as Scully's legs buckled and she began to sink to the floor. 'I'm sorry', she managed to speak through the tears. 'I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it'.
'Hey, that's ok', Mulder spoke in a soothing tone, swallowing back his own tears as he realised Charlie and Bill were observing their actions from inside the house. 'It's ok Scully, let it out'. Without releasing his grasp, Mulder manoeuvred them towards the steps by the porch. He let go briefly to sit down, pulling Scully next to him, then wrapped his arms around her torso. Ignoring the worried onlookers who stood inside, he held his wife until her tears eventually subsided.
'Daddy!' Abbie raced towards the front door and jumped into Mulder's outstretched arms. William was close behind her, smiling nervously at his father.
'Hey guys, are you ok?' Shifting Abbie so she was perched on his hip, Mulder nodded at Charlie, who was still staying with Scully, at least for the next few days. Since she had let her guard down at the funeral the previous day, they thought it best she wasn't alone. Although Mulder was grateful that Scully and the children had some support these past few days, he couldn't help but wish he was the one helping them cope with the loss of Maggie.
'Yeah.' Noticing William turn his attention to his feet, Mulder realised something was up. 'Where's mom?'
'Upstairs'. Charlie closed the door behind Mulder and led him to the living room, ruffling William's hair as he passed. 'She's sleeping'.
'That's good'. Mulder could tell at the funeral that Scully was exhausted and desperately needed to rest, for both her and the baby's sake.
'Mommy's crying a lot'. Abbie's expression turned serious and Mulder could see the concern in his young daughter's eyes. 'Mommy's still a little upset sweetie. She just needs time'.
'She hasn't been downstairs today', she answered matter-of-factly.
'Oh'. Placing Abbie on the floor, Mulder turned to speak to Charlie. 'I'm going to go up and see her'.
Charlie smiled, clearly relieved that Mulder was there to help. 'Thanks'.
'I'll come'. William spoke up.
Mulder faced his son. 'In a bit, ok? I'll go first and check how she's doing'.
'But I need to make sure mom's ok'.
'I'm sure she's fine'. Mulder didn't realise he was about to eat his words. 'Listen, let me just say hello and then you can both see her, ok?'
'Promise'. Mulder started towards the stairs but was stopped in his tracks by Charlie, who had followed him out into the hallway. 'Mulder'. He beckoned him back, pulling the living room door closed so the kids couldn't hear what he was about to say.
Charlie sighed, something clearly on his mind. 'I'm worried about Dana'.
Mulder nodded. 'I know'.
'I've never seen her like this. She's so quiet and withdrawn. I thought we had a breakthrough yesterday after the funeral, but she's just gone back into her shell. She's not sleeping or eating a lot either. I thought the kids may have helped to take her mind off things but they haven't, she won't speak to anyone. I'm hoping you can get her to open up'.
'She won't talk to me Charlie'. Mulder chewed his lip nervously, worried for Scully. He had gotten used to her bottling her emotions up over the years, but he'd always known her to carry on, to throw herself into her work or looking after the children, not shut herself away from the world like this.
'Of course she will Mulder, you're the only one she trusts to confide in'.
'That was before…everything'.
Charlie dismissed Mulder's comments with a wave of his hand. 'You're the one she turned to yesterday'. He paused, letting his words sink in, then continued. 'Just see what you can do, please?' Mulder could hear the pleading in Charlie's voice. He nodded, patting his brother-in-law on the arm, then continued his journey to his old bedroom. He knocked once before entering. Scully was lying on the bed on her side, with her back facing Mulder. To anyone else it would have appeared that she was asleep, but Mulder knew better. 'Scully?' He inched forward until he reached the bed, then took a seat on the edge of the mattress. He noticed her shift slightly but she said nothing. 'Scully', he tried again.
'Go away Mulder,' she mumbled into the pillow, still not moving to face him.
'Not until you tell me you're ok'.
'I'm fine'. Neither of them were convinced of her words.
'Talk to me Scully'. Mulder kicked off his shoes and manoeuvred himself onto the bed so he was closer to her. 'I know you're not ok. I'm worried about you, we all are. I know I can't bring your mother back - I wish I could - but I can help you through this'.
Scully sniffed and lifted her hand up to her face to wipe away a stray tear. 'I just miss her so much'.
'I know you do'. Mulder moved closer so he was spooning up against Scully. He wrapped an arm around her waist, relieved when she didn't push him away.
'She was always there for the kids. And for me. I don't know what I'm going to do without her'.
Mulder squeezed her gently and whispered. 'I know Scully. I know it's no consolation, but you still have people around you who love you and will help you through this. We all miss her, but she'd be the first person to say that life goes on, whether we want to continue or not'.
'We're worried about you Scully. The kids are too'. Scully's eyes widened as he mentioned the children. 'They hate seeing you like this'.
Scully wiped away another tear. 'I've neglected them this week'.
'Of course you haven't'.
'They must think I'm a terrible mother'. Scully's voice broke as she spoke.
'Of course they don't'. Feeling brave, Mulder laced his fingers through Scully's and leant forward to kiss her cheek. 'They just miss you'.
'Oh God', Scully rolled over to face him, wincing as she did so.
'Yeah'. Mulder wasn't convinced. She looked a wreck, her hair coarse and matted, her face flushed and old tear tracks stained her cheeks. Her eyes were red and underlined with dark circles, confirming his suspicions that she hadn't slept properly for some time. He ran a hand through her hair. 'Why don't you go have a bath, then I'll make us some dinner?' Scully slammed her eyes shut and moaned. 'I know you might not want to, but sooner or later you're going to have to face everyone, and the longer you leave it, the -'
'Mulder'. Her voice was nothing but a whisper, but even so Mulder knew something was wrong. In a mere instant, Scully's face had turned a deathly pale colour and her eyes widened in horror.
'Scully?' Mulder perched himself on his elbow and looked at his wife, trying to figure the problem. 'What is it?' Her hand flew to her abdomen and again she groaned. 'Is it the baby?' She said nothing but nodded, tears streaming down her face. Mulder instantly sprung into action, standing up and pulling the covers back. As he did, he saw it, his heart leaping into his mouth. 'Scully?' She turned to face him, a look of horror etched onto her face. 'You're bleeding'. She followed his gaze down to the blood stain sinking into the mattress. 'I'm losing the baby Mulder', she choked. He didn't stop to think, instead running around to her side of the bed and lifting her into his arms. 'We've gotta get you to hospital'. He raced out of the room and down the stairs, trying not to add to Scully's discomfort. He could feel the bottom of her sodden pyjamas but tried not to think about it - the important thing was to get Scully to hospital as soon as possible and to ease her pain. Charlie heard footsteps down the stairs and came out of the living room, with the two children behind him. 'Mommy?' Abbie looked in horror at her mother, moaning in Mulder's arms and clutching her stomach. 'Mommy, you're bleeding'.
'Kids, go back inside, just for a minute, ok?' Charlie was trying to process what was going on, but he couldn't take his eyes off Mulder's bloodied hands.
'What's wrong dad?' William ignored his uncle, his eyes never leaving Scully. 'Is mommy going to die?'
'No'. Mulder sounded desperate as he spoke. He wanted to stop and give his kids a hug and tell them that everything was going to be ok, but he couldn't. He had to get Scully to a doctor. And the truth was, he didn't know that everything would be fine. 'I'm taking mommy to the hospital. I'll be back as soon as I can'. Charlie opened the front door and helped Mulder to the car, opening it for him while Mulder settled Scully in the passenger seat. She wanted to speak and to calm the children down, but she was clearly in a lot of pain, clutching her slightly swollen stomach and moaning. 'Call me as soon as you can', Charlie said shakily as he closed Mulder's door. Mulder nodded and started the car, slamming his foot on the accelerator. He took hold of Scully's hand and winced as she squeezed it hard. 'It's going to be ok Scully, it's going to be ok'. He swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat and concentrated on the road.
'Mr Mulder?' Mulder looked up from the cup of coffee in his hands. He hadn't drunk any of it, instead buying it purely for something to do. As soon as he and Scully had arrived at the emergency room she had been whisked away by the medical staff, leaving Mulder to despair by himself. He'd been alone for what felt like hours, imagining every possible scenario - losing the baby, even losing Scully - and tried to guess the outcome from the looks the doctors and nurses were giving him as they passed him in the corridor. No one was telling him anything, just that Scully was in safe hands. He knew that of course, he just wanted to know she was ok.
'Yes'. Mulder stood up and faced the doctor who was walking towards him, his hands in his pocket. The doctor couldn't have been more than thirty, probably new to the job. His face was expressionless, which didn't help Mulder's nerves.
'I'm Ryan Edwards, I'm a colleague of Dana's'. Mulder had never heard of him, but that wasn't a surprise. It wasn't as though he and Scully often spoke about work - usually their only conversation nowadays was the children.
'How is she?' Mulder decided to skip formalities, he just wanted to know the truth.
'We've managed to stop the bleeding. Dana is in a stable condition and we've settled her down. You can see her in a moment -'
'And the baby?' For a moment the world stood still as Mulder waited for the doctor to give him the bad news.
'The baby's fine'.
Mulder's head shot up as he looked at Scully's colleague. 'What?'
Doctor Edwards smiled. 'We've run some tests and the baby's fine. Dana was very lucky though. She needs to take it easy and get plenty of rest…' Mulder stopped listening to the doctor. It was ok. They hadn't lost the baby. After all the bad luck they'd had recently, he was sure Scully was going to miscarry. 'Can I see her?' he interrupted.
Thanking the doctor, Mulder headed towards the room where Scully was resting. He knocked gently and then opened the door, catching his wife's attention. 'Hey'.
She turned to him and smiled as he walked over towards the bed, sitting himself down in the chair next to her. 'Hey'. Her voice was shaky and her eyes still red and puffy, but that was understandable, particularly after all she'd been through.
'How are you feeling?' He lifted his hand to the bed and laced his fingers through Scully's, relieved when she didn't pull away.
'I'm ok'. She gave him a watery smile. 'Better than I was'.
'You certainly know how to scare me Scully'. He leant forward and with his free hand brushed her hair away from her face.
'Tell me about it'. She sobered. 'I thought I'd lost the baby Mulder'.
'I know'. He continued running his hand through her hair. 'But everything's ok?'
She nodded. 'For now. I'm supposed to take it easy for a while'.
'I'm sorry Scully'.
'I guess I haven't helped you a great deal lately and have probably added a great deal of stress to your life'. Seeing she was about to protest, Mulder held up a hand as though to silence her. 'It's true. You're supposed to be relaxing now you're pregnant, and instead thanks to me you're having to run around after two kids as well as work. It's my fault'.
'Mulder', she interrupted. 'Today was not your fault. Yes I have been stressed lately, but it's not all down to you. I mean, this whole thing with my mom…it…it took it out of me I guess. I should have focused more on the baby and resting'.
'It was one of those things Mulder. Just a scare. I'm not having you blame yourself, ok?'
He nodded. 'Ok. So you're on complete bed rest?'
She grimaced. 'Something like that'.
'That's fine. I'll make sure you don't lift a finger'.
'I can still do things Mulder'.
'I know, but I also know what you're like. Give you an inch and you take a mile'. He smiled to let her know he was joking. 'And there's Christmas coming up too, you'll have to take it easy in the run up. I'll help you out, I can do the shopping'.
'You picking out presents Mulder?' Scully raised her eyebrows, aware of Mulder's taste in gifts. 'Is that wise?'
'Ok, you pick out the presents. But I'll go and buy them. Give you a break'.
Containing her surprise at his words, Scully shifted in the bed, her hand moving to rest on her stomach. 'They gave me another scan'.
Mulder wished he had been at her side, still on a high after seeing the original scan just a matter of days ago. 'And everything's ok?'
Scully nodded. 'Her heartbeat is pretty strong, which is a good sign'.
Mulder looked at her in disbelief, then a grin slowly formed on his face. 'Her?'
'Yeah'. Scully's own smile widened. 'They're pretty sure we're having a girl. Unofficially anyway, they'll confirm it at the next ultrasound'.
'A girl?' he repeated.
'Wow'. Smiling proudly, Mulder moved his hand so it rested on Scully's on top of her stomach. He looked at her for permission. Taking her smile as confirmation, he rubbed her belly gently, as though saying hello to their unborn daughter. 'Another girl'. He groaned. 'She's going to have me wrapped around her little finger'.
'Probably. Especially if her older sister teaches her how'.
Leaning forward, Mulder pressed his lips to Scully's forehead. She closed her eyes as she felt his touch, wanting to savour the moment. As she opened them again, she felt Mulder's gaze upon her. She held her breath as he appeared to lean in further, as though to kiss her again, but he stopped short, whispering in her ear instead. 'I love you Scully'. The words brought tears to her eyes, and the lump that formed in her throat left her speechless. Smiling sadly, Mulder leant back in his chair. 'I'd better go home and let Charlie know what's going on. I think we gave him and the kids a fright'.
Scully looked in horror as she vaguely recalled William and Abbie's frightened faces as Mulder carried her out of the house. 'I think I've scarred them both for life this week', she commented sadly.
'Don't be silly. They're made of strong stuff'.
'I saw how scared they were Mulder. A child's not going to forget what happened in a hurry'.
'Hey'. Mulder took hold of her hand and squeezed it. 'As soon as they know you're ok, they'll be fine. They were just worried. In a second they'll know there's nothing to worry about'. The last thing he wanted was for Scully to start feeling guilty. He knew that she had to relax from now on, and he was going to do everything he could to help her. 'I'm going to head off now, ok?' He stood up and pressed a kiss to Scully's forehead, then walked towards the door.
Scully thought for a moment and then sighed. 'Can you stay?' It was clear she felt uncomfortable asking him.
Mulder turned back towards the bed. 'Are you sure?'
She nodded. 'Just for a while. I mean…call Charlie for sure, but umm…can you keep me company?'
'Of course'. He knew it was rare for Scully to ask him for anything, particularly this, and he wasn't about to decline.
Mulder exited the room and headed towards the nearest payphone to speak to his brother-in-law. Charlie was understandably relieved that both Scully and the baby were now stable, and assured Mulder that he'd managed to calm the children down, though both were eager to find out how their mother was. Mulder promised Charlie that he'd be round later that evening to reassure the kids himself, then after hanging up the phone, paid a quick visit to the gift shop on the way back to Scully's room. 'Hey'. He pushed open the door and saw that she had been dozing. 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you'.
'It's ok', she shifted herself into a seated position. 'I wasn't really asleep'.
'You should have been', Mulder warned, as he walked back into the room. 'You need to get some rest'.
'I know', she smiled, grateful for his concern. 'And I will do'. Noticing Mulder's arm behind his back, she eyed him cautiously. 'What have you got?'
'Hmm?' He feigned confusion, grinning at her impatience. 'Oh'. He turned to look behind him, then brought his arm round the front, revealing a small bouquet of purple and yellow flowers. 'I thought I'd get you something. These were the only ones not dying in the gift shop'.
'Thank you'. Scully took the flowers from him and rested them on the cabinet next to her bed. 'They're lovely'. She couldn't remember the last time that Mulder had bought her flowers - aside from when he was trying to get back into her good books. She patted the bed next to her and Mulder took a seat, surprised when she took hold of his hand. 'Thank you for today Mulder, for the past few days actually. I don't think I've actually had a chance to say that'.
'You're welcome', he answered, squeezing her hand gently. 'I know it hasn't been easy for you lately'.
Scully shook her head. 'No, but I shouldn't have hit out at you yesterday. And I should have been stronger, I shouldn't have let it get me so worked up'.
'You had every right Scully. You've lost your mother, and then there was today's scare and I…I haven't been a great help in your life lately. In fact I think I've just made things a hundred times worse'.
'No', Scully answered a little too quickly, then felt her cheeks redden. 'Well not a hundred times worse'.
Mulder smiled, but it was replaced by a look of concern when he saw her yawn. 'You need to sleep Scully', he warned. 'Now's the best time to do so without the kids running around'. She opened her mouth to protest but Mulder squeezed her hand again. 'Please? For me?' Feeling decidedly brave, he leant over and kissed her forehead. 'My girls need to keep their energy up'.
'Ok'. Scully scooted back down into the bed and rolled over to face him, bringing their hands down onto her swollen stomach. 'Will you be here when I wake up?'
'Of course'. As Scully's eyes began to droop, Mulder set himself back down in the chair beside her bed, and watched as his wife drifted off to sleep.
'Ok, so I hope you're prepared for this'.
'For what?' Scully eyed Mulder suspiciously on the doorstep as he inserted his key into the lock and paused.
'For the reception you're about to get. There are two incredibly excited children lurking behind here'.
Scully beamed at the thought of seeing William and Abbie again. She'd been staying in hospital for a couple of days - until the doctors were certain she was back to near full health - and was fed up of the four walls of her room. Mulder had tried to spend as much time with her as possible, but she was eager that he go home to check on the children regularly. She made an excellent doctor, but a poor patient.
'Those two incredibly excited children should be getting ready for bed'. Nodding at Mulder, Scully watched as he opened the door, and saw the children running towards her. 'Mom!' William got to her first, flinging his arms around her waist.
'Hey Will, watch it!' Mulder put an arm out protectively to pull his son back slightly, his other hand balancing Scully's overnight bag and the flowers he brought her in the hospital. 'Go easy on your mom'.
'Sorry'. William looked concerned. 'Did I hurt you?'
'No'. Scully pulled him in for another hug. 'I've missed you'.
'I missed you too'.
Pulling back, Scully crouched down so she could hug Abbie, who was hanging back cautiously. 'Are you ok sweetie?' Her smile faded as she realised her daughter appeared to be nervous.
Abbie nodded, then looked at her father for support. 'Are you still sick mommy?'
'No, I'm all better now'. Scully knew she had to take it easy from now on, but for the moment the doctors seemed pleased with her progress, and so did Mulder. She had a healthy glow to her cheeks now, and no longer looked quite so exhausted. They were going to monitor her carefully throughout the pregnancy - just to be on the safe side.
'But you were bleeding', Abbie replied sadly.
Scully sighed heavily. 'Let's go sit down, ok?' She took hold of her daughter's hand and led her into the living room where Charlie sat. 'Hey'.
'Hey'. Relieved to see his sister looking much better, Charlie jumped up from his seat and gave Scully a hug. 'How are you feeling?'
'Good', she replied honestly. 'How have things been here?'
'Ok'. He nodded at the children. 'You've got two angels here'.
Realising he was intruding, Charlie gestured to the kitchen. 'I'm going to make some drinks. Did you want one?'
'Juice would be great'. As soon as he disappeared out of the room, Scully took a seat on the sofa and pulled Abbie onto her lap. 'I'm sorry for scaring you the other day', she spoke softly, looking at William too. He stood next to his father, with Mulder's hand on his shoulder. Both children were worried about Scully being in hospital, particularly after losing their grandma the previous week, but it was more difficult to try and explain to Abbie. 'I wasn't feeling very well, but I've been to the hospital and I'm much better now, ok?'
Abbie eyed her mother solemnly. 'But you were bleeding a lot'.
'I know sweetie, but I'm fine now. The doctors made it stop'.
'Did they put a plaster on?'
Scully smiled at her daughter's innocence. 'Something like that'.
'Is the baby ok?' William moved from next to Mulder and took a seat on the sofa close to Scully. He hadn't mentioned the baby a great deal since learning of his mother's pregnancy, still confused about what it meant for Mulder and Scully.
'The baby is fine', she answered, putting her arm around him. 'So there's no need to worry, ok?'
'Have you got any homework to do?'
William shook his head. 'Uncle Charlie made me do it earlier'.
'Really'. Scully raised her eyebrow just as her brother walked back into the room, placing her juice on the table. 'I'm glad to hear it. Uncle Charlie never did his homework, and look what happened to him'.
'Hey, I didn't come here to be insulted!' Charlie narrowed his eyes playfully. 'I'm actually going to head out for a bit, catch up with some old friends'.
'Just some friends'. Charlie winked at Mulder, who realised his brother-in-law was giving he and Scully some space. 'I'll be back late, don't wait up'. Without waiting for an answer, he turned and walked out of the door. 'Well he didn't hang around', Scully remarked, letting Abbie off her lap.
'I guess these two must have worn him out over the past few days'.
'I guess'. Scully thought for a moment. 'Did you want to get a takeaway or something? I don't think I feel like cooking tonight'.
'Sure'. Mulder tried to contain his surprise at being asked to stay for dinner - he figured that Scully would want some time to herself and the children now she was home. 'Pizza?'
'Yay, pizza!' Abbie exclaimed excitedly.
'I guess that's a yes then'.
'Pizza sounds good'. Mulder smiled across at Scully, remembering the number of takeaways they had shared over the years. Though she tried to eat healthily - and encouraged the children to do so - when tempted with takeaways she often found it hard to resist, particularly when pregnant. 'I'll go get it', Mulder offered. 'It's quicker'.
'Ok'. Scully took the children's order and wrote it down for him. 'I'll get you some money'. She moved to stand but Mulder shook his head. 'My treat'.
'Can I come daddy?' Abbie asked.
'Sure'. He looked down at his son. 'Did you want to come with me?'
William looked at Scully nervously. 'No, it's ok'.
'You can go with your dad if you want', Scully said softly. 'I'm fine here'. She knew what William was worried about - that if they left her, there would be no one to help if she fell ill again. 'Honestly'.
'Ok'. William stood up and ran out of the room to grab his coat and shoes, with Abbie close behind him.
'He's just protective of you'.
'I know', Scully sighed. 'But I'm fine, I really am'. She was about to say more when the children returned to the room. 'Ready dad?'
'Sure. Let's go'. Scully smiled as the kids left with their father, then closed her eyes, hoping to get a few minute's rest.
The pizza was almost gone, bar one or two slices, the children were bathed and ready for bed, and Mulder was currently upstairs tucking William in. He'd volunteered to help out, sticking to his promise to Scully that he'd be there for his family, and had delighted Abbie by agreeing to read her a bedtime story, which had then turned into two. By the time she finally fell asleep, it was time for William to go to bed. Scully had said goodnight to the children and had settled back on the sofa. 'You ok?' Mulder peeked his head around the door, trying to work out if she was asleep.
'Yeah'. Scully yawned as she switched the television off and placed the remote back on the table. 'Are they both asleep?'
'William was out like a light. It took Abbie a while though, I think she was still excited about having you home'.
'I should go away more often'. Scully's smile faded as she considered her words.
'I'd rather you didn't Scully', Mulder walked over towards her, taking a seat on the sofa - not quite touching her. 'I don't want another scare like that'.
'It's not your fault. So are you glad to be home?'
'God yes', Scully laughed. 'I was going out of my mind in that hospital bed!'
'You make a bad patient Dr Scully'.
'I remember you saying that before'. Back when she was pregnant with Abbie, and suffered from chronic morning sickness for the first few months.
'What are you going to do about work with everything that's happened?'
'Well I've been allowed leave anyway, until I get better, but I guess if I'm going to have to take it easy I might have to reduce my hours a bit, just to be on the safe side'.
Mulder nodded. 'I'm going to try and stay local for a while'. Seeing Scully's raised eyebrow, he continued to explain. 'You said yourself, you're going to have to take things easy. I can help out some more'. He cleared his throat. 'I haven't been very good at doing that recently, and I need to spend more time with the kids, so I can take them off your hands every now and then if you want'.
'I know the children need to see you Mulder, but I…you don't have to take them out. You're welcome here whenever you want you know. I…I'd quite like to see you sometimes too'.
Mulder turned to face Scully, but her focus was on her hands resting on her stomach. 'I guess I just…I wasn't sure I was still welcome'.
'Of course you are Mulder, you're always welcome, but I just need to know you mean it, that you're not going to let the children down again'. *And me* She added silently. He wanted to question her more on what she meant, and tell her that he was serious about spending more time with them - as a family, but Scully had already changed the subject. 'What are your plans for Christmas?'
Yeah', she shifted awkwardly. 'I just wondered what you were doing for it'.
The truth was, Mulder had never been a fan of the festive season before he became involved with Scully. It was a time for family, and always reminded him of Samantha. When he and Scully became an item, he reluctantly played along, helping her decorate the tree and wrap presents, then found he actually enjoyed having someone he loved to enjoy it with. Then when the children came along, he got more into the spirit of things, actually looking forward to seeing their faces when they discovered Santa had been there. But this year he hadn't made any plans, and instead imagined the day would be like any other - reading up on case notes, or sitting in front of the television with a microwave meal for one. 'I umm…I don't have any definite plans yet'.
'Ok. Did you want to come here?'
'Are you sure?'
'Yeah, the kids would love to see you'.
Mulder shifted awkwardly. 'Are your brothers coming?'
'Charlie's going to his mother-in-law's, but Bill and Tara have said they'll come here'.
'You'll want to spend time with your family Scully'.
Nervously, she reached out and took hold of his hand. 'You are my family too Mulder'.
A lump formed in Mulder's throat but he quickly swallowed it, then smiled at Scully as he moved in closer towards her. 'Thank you. I'd love to'. He leant in further and pressed a kiss to her cheek. Scully closed her eyes as she felt his lips touch her and sighed contentedly. As he pulled away, she looked up and smiled at him, stifling another yawn. 'I missed this,' she announced absentmindedly as she settled her head back against the sofa, her eyes beginning to droop.
'What?' Mulder knew of course what she was talking about - he missed spending time with her too.
'Just sitting here with you and talking'. This time she couldn't hide the yawn that escaped her. 'Sorry'.
'It's ok Scully, you get some rest'. He moved his hand up to brush the hair from her face.
'I miss you Mulder', she slurred, sleepily.
'I know, and I'm trying to change Scully, I really am'. When Mulder finished speaking, he realised she had already fallen asleep. He leant over and kissed her again, this time on the forehead. He was determined to change for the better, and win his family back.
Scully paused as she went to walk into the bedroom. Her young son was sat on his bed, staring out of the window, his face, which was resting on his hand, was a mixture of hope and disappointment. Like his father, he wanted to believe, he didn't want to give up hope. 'William'. She stepped into the room and perched on the edge of the mattress next to her him. 'It's time to open your presents'.
'I don't want to open my presents', he mumbled into his hand.
'I think you'll like them. And it's Christmas Day, you have to open your presents'.
'I hate Christmas'.
Scully's smile turned into a frown as she noticed her son's lack of response, his gaze still trained outside. 'I thought Christmas was your favourite time of year?'
'Not any more'.
'William', she sighed, and placed her hand on his elbow. 'You know…sometimes…sometimes people make promises they can't keep'.
'He said he was going to come'.
'I know. But something may have come up at work, or he may have missed his flight back to Washington'. William had called Mulder every night that week, wanting to hear his father's voice while he was away on an urgent case. Sensing that his son was feeling unsettled, Mulder confirmed he'd be spending Christmas with the family, arriving early in the morning. But still there was no sign of him. While Scully was used to him letting the family down, William still believed his dad's promises.
'But he promised me'.
'William'. Scully put her arms around William's waist and pulled him so he was facing away from the window. She then slipped off the bed so she was sat on her knees facing her son. His head dropped down and his lower lip trembled. 'Sweetheart, I know it's not easy, but I don't think your dad is coming today'.
'But I wanted him to'.
'I know. I did too. And he knows too. I'm sure he'd be here if he could'.
'Why hasn't he called?'
Scully sighed, struggling to make excuses for Mulder. 'I don't know. There could be a number of reasons. I know it hurts, but you'll see him soon. You can have another Christmas with him next week to make up for it'.
'Why does he do this?' William looked up at Scully, and she was surprised by how much he looked like his father. Mulder always conveyed his feelings through his eyes, and sure enough she could see the pain reflected in William's. 'Why does he keep disappointing us?'
Scully resisted the urge to raise her eyebrows. Her son may have only been young, but he understood what was going on. He knew that his dad had constantly let the family down. She picked up his hand. 'Like I said, sometimes people, even grown-ups, make promises they can't keep. It's not that your father doesn't want to be here, but sometimes things come up'.
'Is this about Auntie Samantha?'
Scully paused. Mulder had told the children about Samantha, but at her insistence, he'd only told them that she'd disappeared when she was younger, and that one day he was going to find her. Scully didn't want the children to hear any of his theories over her disappearance, fearing they'd have nightmares, or worry they'd be taken next. 'Yeah, it is'.
'Will dad find her?'
'I hope so'. Scully wasn't entirely sure if that was true. She knew that one day Mulder would find out what happened to his sister, but she feared that Samantha was dead. Mulder on the other hand felt sure she was still alive.
'Will we see him more when he does?'
She considered the answer to his question. If - against all odds - Samantha was still alive after all these years, Mulder would obviously want to spend a lot of time catching up on those lost years with his sister. She had no idea how things would turn out. 'I hope so'.
'Does he love Aunt Samantha more than us?'
'Hey'. Scully lifted William's chin up so he was looking her in the eye. 'Your father loves you a lot, ok? And Abbie too. You're both incredibly important to him. Don't ever think that you're not'.
'Dad loves you a lot too', he answered matter-of-factly.
Scully nodded, choosing to ignore her son's words. 'Promise me something, ok?'
'Promise me you'll spend lots of time with your family when you get married'.
William wrinkled his nose. 'I'm not getting married'.
'Because girls are yuck'. He made a face to emphasise his feelings. Scully opened her mouth wide in mock surprise. 'But I'm a girl'.
'No you're not'. He smiled. 'You're my mom'. Laughing, Scully pulled her son in towards her for a hug. 'I don't know what I'd do without you guys'. Pulling back, she got to her feet. 'Come on, let's go and open some presents, ok?'
William looked thoughtfully out of the window, then realising Mulder wasn't about to appear, took hold of his mom's hand and walked out of the room.
Mulder glanced down at the bags crammed full of presents resting on the sofa. He sighed heavily, still tired from his late night flight. Part of him was pleased and touched that Scully had invited him to spend Christmas with her and the kids, but he also knew it shouldn't have come to this. He should have woken up with them as a family, and seen the reactions of the children as they saw their presents. Scully had told him they'd wait until he arrived before they started on the gifts, but it wasn't the same. He wanted to be a full-time dad, not one who was only around at the weekends and holidays. Feeling his throat constrict, Mulder took the few steps into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He had still yet to unpack, initially believing it would be a temporary thing, him having to move out. He'd told himself that Scully would change her mind within a few weeks - realise she was being too hard on him and take him back with open arms.
The knock at the door startled Mulder, who put down his glass and approached the door carefully. He didn't get many visitors, and didn't know who'd be calling round on Christmas Day of all days. Looking through the peephole, he opened the door and stepped back. 'Byers?'
'Hi Mulder'. John Byers stood before him, shifting awkwardly. 'Merry Christmas'.
'Merry Christmas to you too'. He stood aside and gestured behind him. 'Come in'.
'Thanks'. Still looking uncomfortable, Byers entered Mulder's apartment, taking in his surroundings. The Gunmen had been here before, but only to help Mulder with security a few months back when he'd first moved in. 'I um…I like what you've done with the place'. He was kidding of course. Cardboard boxes had just been dumped in various spaces on the floor, but apart from them there was hardly a sign that anyone was living there. Mulder had opened the boxes long enough to remove enough cutlery and crockery for one, and his utensils were still on the kitchen worktop, waiting to be washed.
'What can I do for you Byers?' He was suspicious. It was rare he heard from one of the Gunmen without the other two in tow.
'I brought you these'. Byers held his arm up, revealing a gift bag. 'Well, they're for William and Abbie'.
'Thank you'. Mulder took hold of the bag, noticing a few small packages. 'You shouldn't have'.
The man before him shrugged. 'They're good kids'.
'The guys actually wanted me to ask you if you wanted to come round for lunch today. It won't be much, and certainly not as good as Scully's cooki-…' he stopped short and cleared his throat, as though the mention of his wife might upset Mulder. 'We just…didn't want you to be alone and miserable at Christmas'. The Gunmen hadn't been too shocked when Mulder announced that he and Scully had separated, and were surprisingly supportive of him, though it was clear they all thought a lot of his wife too.
'Thanks but umm…I'm actually going to see Scully and the children today'.
'Oh?' Byers couldn't stop the look of surprise that crossed his face.
'Yeah, Scully invited me'.
'That's good of her'.
Mulder raised his eyebrows. 'Well they are my children, it's nice for them if they have both parents there on Christmas Day'.
'Of course'. Byers cleared his throat, wanting to get something off his chest. 'Listen Mulder, it's none of my business, but Scully is a good person. Neither she or the children deserve to get hurt again'.
'What makes you think I'm going to hurt them?'
He looked uncomfortable. 'If you got a call right now saying that the location of your sister had been uncovered, what would you do?'
Mulder grimaced. 'She's my sister Byers'.
'So it doesn't matter that you'd be letting your family down in the meantime?'
'Scully would understand, she knows that Samantha's important to me'. He knew it was a lie of course. If someone had proof Samantha had been found, Scully would of course side with him. But while he was investigating unfounded sightings and rumours, they would always disagree. 'Now I'm not being rude, but I have somewhere to be'.
'Listen Mulder'. Byers folded his arms in front of him, and looked Mulder in the eye. It was clear he meant business. 'You haven't seen what Scully goes through….when you run off'.
'Oh really? What does she go through?'
'We've had her at our door in the middle of the night sometimes, demanding we check every police report and hospital in the county, just to check you haven't turned up dead somewhere'. Mulder shivered inwardly. 'You'd think she'd be as mad as hell at you for running off, but she's not. She's just out of her mind with worry, hoping you're ok'. Byers stood up straighter, as though gaining confidence from somewhere. 'You're our friend Mulder, but so is Scully, and we hate to see her so upset'.
'You were right earlier. It is none of your business'.
Byers smiled, clearly anticipating Mulder's words. 'I know, but if I was acting like an ass, I'd want my friends to be truthful to me'.
'An ass?' Mulder was surprised at what the man was saying. Usually he was quiet and reserved, and in the past had never made comment on his marriage. It seemed he was making up for lost time now.
'Mulder it's true. Before you and Scully split up you were constantly running off to god knows where and leaving her to look after two small children. It's no wonder she said she'd had enough'.
'I wasn't ditching her, or the children. My search has always been important to me, Scully knows that, and - '
'And she supported you', Byers answered matter-of-factly. 'When it was just the two of you, she never said anything about it, and followed you willingly. Was it surprising that when the children came along she wanted to try and live a normal life?'
Mulder sighed. 'I guess not'. He knew Scully had put up with a lot since she'd been with him, and he didn't always thank her for it. 'Why are you telling me this now?'
'Because I think it has to be said'. He cleared his throat. 'And because I hate seeing you two so miserable. It's obvious you both still love each other. I know Dana would take you back in an instant, and I think you need to -'
'Really?' Mulder sneered. 'She's not making it easy'.
'That's because you're not making it easy for her. She needs to know she can trust you, that you won't convince her you've changed only to run off and leave her again. If you can do that, I honestly think she'd give you a second chance'.
Mulder nodded. He knew it was true. Until he convinced Scully that he was going to change, there was no way she'd take him back, for fear of him hurting the children. 'I'm going to make it up to her. I'm going to do things right by her…and the kids'.
Byers nodded, seemingly believing him. 'Well maybe you should try telling Scully that, not me'.
'I intend to'. Mulder looked at his watch. 'Now I'd love to stay here all day and have you insult me, but I have somewhere important I need to be'.
'Of course'. The other man sighed. 'Listen Mulder, I didn't mean to offend you, but I just felt something had to be said'.
'I appreciate your honesty. I know I didn't want to hear it, but I'm glad you said'.
'I'll let you go now. Merry Christmas. Give my love to your family'.
'Thanks. And say hi to the guys for me too'.
Shaking his friend's hand, Byer's stepped out of the door, leaving his friend to get ready for Christmas with his family.
Scully opened the door and Mulder glanced at her in surprise. Despite only being just over five months pregnant, she'd gained weight fast, her baby bump clearly visible despite the fact she was wearing a free-flowing dress. She'd seemed to bloom even more since the last time he saw her. He was glad that since their scare with the baby a few weeks ago, her pregnancy seemed to be going more smoothly. They'd since had another scan, confirming they were going to have a daughter. Scully had been taking it easy, cutting back her hours at the hospital, while Mulder had been trying to spend as much time with her and the kids as possible, and hated being away from them this past week. 'I didn't think you were coming'. He noticed she didn't look too happy.
'I got caught by Byers, I'm sorry'. He held up two large bags of presents. 'Merry Christmas Scully'.
He could tell she was debating whether to say something about his late arrival, but she obviously decided against it. 'Merry Christmas Mulder'.
'You're looking good'.
She stood to one side as he entered the house. 'I think the word you're looking for is fat'.
'I'd say blooming'. He smiled apologetically as she led him towards the living room. 'The kids had almost given up hope that you were coming', she informed him. He hung back momentarily, before taking a deep breath and entering the room and facing the family. He hadn't seen Bill since the funeral, when the two of them had argued, and they'd hardly parted on good terms. Scully's brother wasn't Mulder's biggest fan at the best of times, even when they were married, so he suspected since their fight, Bill now wanted to kill him. 'Merry Christmas all', he announced, as he entered the room. Abbie abandoned her games and ran straight for her father, enveloping him in a big hug and clearly happy to see him. Even William had decided to forgive him, and approached him for an embrace. 'Merry Christmas guys'. He knew it was worth coming just to see the look of surprise on their faces, even if he was running late. A much better alternative to staying in his flat and watching the television, even if it meant spending the day with Bill Scully.
'I didn't think you were going to make it', William announced excitedly, his earlier disappointment clearly forgotten.
'I'm sorry I'm late, but Santa had a few extra presents that he'd left behind, and he asked me to pick them up on my way here'. He held out the bags and the kids immediately dived for them. 'Careful', he laughed at them. 'They're not all for you'. Ignoring his words, Abbie and William rifled through the bags, stopping briefly to hand Bill, Tara and Matthew their presents, before opening their own. They were only small last-minute things that Scully had asked him to pick up earlier in the week - they'd already opened their main presents.
'Is my puppy here daddy?' Abbie looked up expectantly.
Mulder crouched down so he was at eye level with his daughter. 'Not this year sweetie. Santa said that as you were getting a baby sister, you could maybe have a puppy next year'.
The little girl frowned, adopting an identical pose to her mother. 'I'd rather have a puppy than a sister'.
Scully thought it best to try and distract her daughter. 'Why don't you finish opening your presents now daddy's here?' She turned to her husband. 'Do you want a drink Mulder?' It was clear she wasn't sure whether to forgive him for his late arrival.
'A coffee would be great'. He rose to his feet. 'I'll get it Scully, you take a seat'.
'I've been sitting all morning'. She looked over at her brother. 'Bill, do you want one?'
'I'll help Dana'. Tara stood up, satisfied that all three children were behaving themselves, and headed out into the kitchen after taking her husband's order.
Scully eyed Bill and Mulder cautiously. 'Now you boys play nicely while we go and make the drinks'. Mulder smiled at her as she stepped out of the room, his grin fading when he saw the menacing look on his brother-in-law's face. Not that he was surprised of course, Bill Scully hated him before they'd even got married - now they were about to get divorced he positively despised him, particularly after their last run in after Maggie's funeral. 'Merry Christmas Bill. How have you been?' Mulder attempted to make small talk, knowing that he was wasting his breath. He thought he should at least try and make the effort - for Scully's sake. 'Family well?'
'Apart from my little sister they are'. He hissed, careful to kept his voice low so that the children didn't hear. 'She's going through a bit of a tough time no thanks to her waste of space husband'.
'Anyone I know?' He couldn't help but make the joke, aware that it would only make Bill angrier.
'And now she's knocked up and has to cope with yet another one of his children'.
Mulder's expression turned serious - the time for joking was over. 'Listen, I've made it clear that I'm going to be on hand to help out your sister'.
'Just like you did last time you mean?'
Ok, so he knew that was coming. Bill didn't need any excuse to put Mulder down. 'I've learnt my lesson, and I've assured Dana that I'm telling the truth'.
'Charlie tells me Dana had a scare too. No doubt down to you'.
'Dana was under a lot of pressure, not just from me, but from everything that has happened recently'. He gritted his teeth. 'But I'm sure she'll agree if you were to ask her, that I have been there for her of late'.
'Ever heard of the saying too little too late Mulder?'
'Ever heard of keep your noses out of other people's business?'
'Give me one good reason why I don't come over there and kick your ass'. Bill's voice rose, but luckily the children were too engrossed in their new toys to hear it. There was no doubt about it, he was definitely Scully's brother. Like Scully, his face flamed red when he was angry, his eyes narrowing and nose flaring.
Mulder shrugged. 'Maybe because your sister is more than capable of kicking it herself?'
'Damn right I am'. They both turned to see Scully re-enter the room, her eyes rolling at the scene in front of her. She was tired of the arguments between her brother and husband, and while half of her was tempted to just let them get on with it, she didn't want a full-blown fight - particularly today. 'Bill, Tara's asking for you'. Bill didn't seem to hear her, instead busy in a staring contest with Mulder. 'Bill'. Scully's voice - louder this time - brought him out of his daze. 'Ok'. He gave Mulder a look as if to tell him he hadn't finished with him just yet, then went in search of his wife.
'Ah it's good to see that Bill still loves me Scully'.
'Well I guess he has a point or two this time round'.
'I knew I missed family gatherings for a reason', he said sarcastically.
'Well I didn't force you to come here', she responded defensively.
Mulder sobered. 'I didn't mean it like that Scully'.
'I know'. She sighed and looked down sadly at the children. 'Your drink is in the kitchen. I'd better go serve lunch. We were waiting for you'.
'It's ok, it wasn't an accusation'.
'Do you want some help?'
She shook her head. 'I've got it sorted. You stay here with the kids, they've been looking forward to seeing you'. She turned and walked out of the room. 'Daddy?' Mulder's attention was caught by his daughter, who was tugging on his hand. 'Do you want to come to my tea party?'
Abbie nodded, and pointed behind her. She'd lined up her new dolls on the sofa, and had opened her new crockery set. 'There are no boys allowed. But you can come daddy'. Smiling at her, Mulder took hold of his daughter's hand and followed as she led him to the sofa. 'You sit there'. She pointed to a spare seat. He sat down and looked over at William, who was engrossed in a computer game that Matthew was playing. He knew he needed to spend time with his son - William missed his father a lot - but he seemed happy enough where he was. 'Would you like tea or coffee?'
'I'll have coffee please'.
He watched as she picked up the plastic teapot and poured him a drink, concentrating intently as she did so. She handed him the cup and smiled up at him. 'Thank you'.
'You're welcome'. It was then Mulder realised just how much he'd missed out on while his two children were growing up. He'd missed out on tea parties with his daughter, watching her deal with her dolls like a proud mother, taking charge like Scully often did. He pulled Abbie close and kissed the top of her head. 'I love you Abbie'.
As he released her, she frowned at him for interrupting the game. 'Did you want a biscuit too?'
Scully entered the room, stopping short as she took in the scene. Mulder was sat on the sofa, surrounded by Abbie's dolls and teddies, pretending to drink from a small pink plastic cup and making appreciative noises. Abbie was by his side, watching her father's reaction to the drink she had just made him. Although he had been late that morning, she was glad he'd made the effort to turn up, and that the children seemed happy enough. She didn't want to interrupt, but she knew that Bill and Tara were waiting in the dining room and so cleared her throat. 'Lunch is ready guys'. Mulder looked up gratefully, and put his cup down. 'I'll finish this after dinner, ok?'
'Ok'. Abbie looked mildly annoyed at being interrupted, but set the teapot down. She took hold of her father's hand as he led them out of the room. William and Matthew took a little longer to leave, claiming they needed to finish the level before lunch.
'Do you want some help?'
'Help?' Scully looked up at Mulder. 'Fox Mulder is offering to do the dishes?'
'I can do the dishes Scully'.
She raised her eyebrows. 'Breaking them doesn't count you know. Neither does using plastic ones so you can throw them out after one use'.
'Ah but maybe my domestic skills have improved since…' *The separation*. He didn't need to finish his sentence, Scully knew what he was going to say.
'In that case, prove it'. She stepped back with a smirk on her face, and pointed to the sink.
'Step aside Scully and watch the master at work'.
She giggled, obviously forgiving him for his late arrival, and watched as he picked up a baking tray and began to scrub it. After watching him clean it and set it on the draining board, Scully decided to help by drying. They worked in silence, quickly but effectively, and soon the crockery and utensils were all done. Scully picked up a stack of plates to put them back in the cupboard, but quickly set them back on the side, her hand flying to her stomach. 'Ooh'.
Mulder spun around in surprise, his arms reaching out to steady her up. 'Scully, are you ok?'
'Yeah'. She relaxed and stood up tall, her hand now rubbing the bump. 'She just kicked, and I wasn't expecting it'.
Mulder looked down at her stomach. 'She kicked?' He desperately wanted to reach a hand out to touch the bump but daren't. Whereas he was free to do so when Scully was pregnant with William and Abbie, now he wasn't allowed to touch without permission. As if reading his thoughts, Scully took hold of Mulder's hand and guided it down onto her bulging stomach. 'She has been for the past few days. I'm not sure if she will do it again right now, she's been pretty quiet so far today'. It felt strange touching her again - the last time they'd been this close had resulted in Scully conceiving. 'There, did you feel that?' Sure enough, Mulder felt a tiny flutter against his hand. Smiling proudly, he nodded, not wanting to remove his hand. 'Wow'.
'I know'. Scully was smiling too, more for the look of amazement etched on Mulder's face.
'That's our little girl Scully'.
'Yeah, it is'.
'Wow', he repeated, gently rubbing his hand over the bump, and feeling the flutter again. 'I don't think I'll ever get tired of this'.
'It is pretty amazing. I can't believe it was over four years ago that it was Abbie kicking, and now here we are again. And after the scare…I really thought we were going to lose her'.
'I know'. Mulder thought back and realised he didn't have a great deal of memories from when Scully was pregnant with Abbie. When she was having William he'd made it to all the scans and was there in the delivery room to watch his son being born. That was before he got so carried away with finding out the truth about his sister. Sadly it was his daughter he unwittingly neglected, and even an older William missed out on quality time with his dad.
'I'm going to do everything right this time Scully', he murmured, his hand still on her stomach. 'I promise you. I've been an idiot'.
Scully smiled wistfully but didn't speak, she didn't trust herself to for fear of her voice breaking. Instead she tightened her grip on Mulder's hand as they felt their daughter kick once again. 'I'd say she's woken up now', he chuckled, a look of amazement still etched on his face.
'I think she recognises your voice'.
With his free hand, Mulder raised it to Scully's face, cupping her cheek. She took a deep breath, trying to suppress the butterflies she was feeling as he leant in towards her and whispered. 'Scully, I uh -'
'Dana!' Bill walked out into the kitchen and the moment was broken. Scully pulled away from Mulder as though she'd been scolded, and straightened herself up. Mulder tried not to show his disappointment at the interruption by Scully's brother.
'What's the matter Bill?' Scully nervously tucked a strand of her hair back behind her ear. A faint blush crept onto her cheeks, leading Mulder to wonder if she would have let him kiss her should he have tried. At that moment he hated Bill Scully more than ever.
'Charlie's on the phone'. Scully's brother eyed them cautiously, as though he knew he'd interrupted a moment between them. 'He just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas'.
'Oh, ok'. Clearing her throat, she began to walk out of the room, stopping short at the doorway. 'Bill, give Mulder a hand with the dishes'.
'It's ok', Mulder murmured once she'd left the kitchen. 'I can do it'. The last thing he wanted was another lecture from his brother-in-law.
'Sure', Bill replied coldly, not about to argue, before returning to the living room where his wife and son were waiting. Mulder sighed, realising his chance to tell Scully how he felt was over.
'Who wants to come for a walk?'
'A walk?' Mulder put down the games controller and turned to face his wife. William didn't appear to notice his mom, instead engrossed in the racing game he was still playing.
'Yeah'. Scully rubbed her stomach. 'I'm full, and was thinking about getting some air while working off some of that lunch'. She turned to face Abbie, who was struggling behind her with a Wellington boot. 'Abbie's coming with me. I wasn't sure if you two wanted to come or stay here'.
'What do you think Will?' Mulder already knew what he wanted to do. 'Shall we go get some fresh air for a bit?'
William looked longingly at the game he'd just paused, then sighed. 'Will we be gone for long?'
'No'. Scully yawned. 'You can play again with your dad when we get back'.
Mulder smiled at his son's hopeful look. 'Sure. As long as you let me win next time'.
'Ok'. William jumped to his feet and ran to the door. 'I'll just get my coat'.
'Ok'. As Scully watched her son run upstairs, she smiled, pleased that he seemed a lot happier now Mulder was around. He'd been through a lot lately - what with the trouble he had at school and Maggie's death - and had retreated into himself, but after spending the day with Matthew, and also seeing his father, he appeared to be getting back to normal.
'Where are Bill and Tara?'
'Matthew wanted to try out his new scooter, so they've taken him to the park'. She smiled. 'They did announce it quite loudly, but you and Will were obviously too engrossed in your game. I'm not sure buying him that was such a good idea'.
'It'll keep him out of trouble'.
'I doubt I'll ever get a proper conversation out of him again.'
'Daddy'. Abbie marched into the living room, right up to where Mulder was sitting on the floor. 'Do you like my boots? Santa brought them for me'.
Mulder had already seen them, having picked them out with Scully. The purple boots were covered in green frogs. 'I love your boots Abbie, they're very stylish'.
'Mommy said I can wear them and jump in puddles'.
'No Abbie', Scully tried to explain. 'Mommy said it's been raining and there are lots of puddles, but she didn't mention jumping in any'.
Knowing her father wouldn't deny her anything, Abbie leaned in closer to Mulder. 'Can I jump in some puddles daddy?'
Mulder smiled, and helped his daughter straighten up one of the boots. 'Only if you promise not to splash anyone'.
His daughter thought for a moment. 'Ok'.
Abbie stuck to her promise for all of five minutes. They'd no sooner reached the end of the road when she saw the first puddle then, sticking her tongue out in concentration, let go of her mother's hand and raced forward, jumping into the water and narrowly avoiding her brother. 'Abbie', Scully warned, trying not to let her grin show. 'Daddy told you not to get anyone else wet'.
Stopping momentarily, Abbie waited for her parents to catch her up before she took hold of Mulder's hand. 'Daddy, will you jump in a puddle with me?' She gazed up at her father, her big blue eyes pleading with him. 'Ok'. Pointing down the street, he tugged on her hand and together they ran towards the puddle and jumped into it. Mulder ignored the fact the bottom of his black trousers were now wet, instead mesmerised by his daughter's giggles as she splashed him. She sounded just like her mother, which made Mulder realise how long ago it had been since he'd heard Scully laugh. He hadn't given her a lot to laugh about of late, but new he was going to do everything in his power to change that. 'Come on William!' Abbie shouted, ordering her brother to catch up to them. 'Come and play with us'. Like his father, William seemed unable to resist his sister's demands, though Scully knew he was also doing it so he could spend more time with Mulder. She stood back and smiled as William jumped into the deep puddle, sending water flying all over his family. His trousers were now ruined for the day, but Scully didn't mind, knowing he needed to have fun.
'You coming in Scully? The water's lovely'
'You're ok'. Slowly she walked towards her family. 'I don't think it's wise for me to jump in my condition'. She patted her bulging stomach.
'Excuses excuses'. Mulder kicked his foot into the puddle, sending water over his son and daughter, who shrieked as it hit them. He stopped as he saw Scully reach across over a hedge, and pull something away in her hand. 'What's up Scully?'
'What's that mom?' William ran back to his mother, who held out her hand, revealing a sprig of mistletoe.
'Thistletoe?' Abbie approached her mother, eager to find out what was going on.
'What's that for?'
Scully beckoned her daughter over. 'When you stand underneath it with a loved one, you're supposed to give them a kiss. Like this'. Scully bent down and kissed her daughter on the cheek. Abbie smiled. 'Again'. Scully obliged and then stood up straight, rubbing her back. Abbie reached up for the mistletoe. 'Can I have it mommy?'
'What's the magic word?'
Abbie sighed. 'Please'.
Scully handed over the sprig to her daughter, who ran back to her father. 'Daddy! Look what I got!'
'What have you got?'
'Mistletoe', she announced matter-of-factly. 'You have to kiss people under it, mommy said'.
'Like this?' Mulder bent down and scooped Abbie into his arms. She lifted the sprig of mistletoe over their heads and squealed when Mulder blew a raspberry on her cheek. 'Nooo!' She pushed herself up in her father's arms and kissed his forehead. Scully smiled at her actions, imitating the way Mulder had kissed her in front of the children.
'I'm sorry, I thought it was more like this'. He blew another raspberry.
'That tickles!' she giggled.
'Again daddy', Abbie giggled as Mulder did it again, this time on her neck. 'Now kiss mommy'.
Mulder sobered as he saw Scully's smile fade and her shift awkwardly in front of them. 'It's your mistletoe, you kiss her'.
'Thanks for letting dad come'.
'What?' Scully looked at her brother, surprised. He had never been a fan of Mulder, but now he appeared to be taking his side.
'Why not?' he repeated, not offering an explanation.
'Because no matter how much I love him, I'm worried he'll let me down. Because I'm worried he'll let the children down, and I don't want them getting hurt again. Because I'm worried that we'll always be second best'.
Bill nodded. 'He seems to be making a bit more of an effort of late'.
'Yeah, I don't know what I'd have done without him the past few weeks'. She eyed her brother cautiously. 'What's with the questioning?'
'I guess…I just hate seeing you miserable Dana'.
'I'm not miserable'.
'Oh come on. I know you've been through a lot over the past month or so, but even before then you weren't happy. And Mulder looks like a wreck too'.
'As long as the children are happy then I'm happy'.
'That's a lie, and you know it'.
Scully sighed, running a hand through her hair. 'I'm tired Bill, it's been a long day and I'm going to bed, I don't want to get into this right now'.
She moved to step past him but Bill put an arm out to stop her. 'Dana, if Mulder makes you happy then you…' he hesitated. 'You can fix this if you want to'.
Scully pushed his arm away. 'I don't understand why you're suddenly in support for Mulder, you've never agreed with him'.
'I'm not going to lie to you. I hate the guy. A lot'. Bill grimaced. 'But you seem happy with him, and if I'm not wrong that kiss you two just had meant something to you'.
'It was nothing' Scully felt a blush form on her cheeks.
'You're lying, it did mean something. And I know how much it meant to Mulder. He's an ass Dana, but he loves you, anyone can see that. And you're so miserable without him'.
'It's not as easy as that though Bill'.
'Sure it is. Just tell him'.
'I can't!' Suddenly Scully was wide awake. 'How do I know I'm not making the same mistake again?'
'How do you know you're not?' Seeing his sister sigh in defeat, Bill put his arm on her shoulder. 'Dana, you're my sister and I love you, but sometimes you can be quite dense'. He moved out of the way, laughing as she went to elbow him. 'Go to him'. Scully's smile faded and she felt the tears glisten in her eyes. 'Just tell him that you love him. You don't have to take him back or anything, just explain how you feel and talk it out'.
'Not tonight, Bill, the kids -'
'The kids are asleep. Besides, if they wake up, Tara and I are here to keep an eye on them'.
Taking a deep breath, Scully nodded. She knew that her brother was right, she needed to talk to Mulder as soon as possible. They hadn't had a great deal of time to talk away from the children. 'Ok'. She retrieved her coat from the hook inside the door, and went to put it on. Bill removed it from her grasp, then held it open for her to step in to. When she turned round again, he watched as she did up the buttons. 'Thank you', she whispered softly.
'You're welcome'. He smiled, surprised as she laced her arms around him and pulled him in for a hug.
'Thank you for everything. I'm so glad you're here. Mom would be so proud of you, you know'. As Scully pulled back, she saw that Bill looked a little teary. 'I'll be back soon'.
'Ok. Take care driving'.
Nodding, Scully turned around and let herself out of the door, ready to face her husband.
As soon as Mulder entered his apartment, he threw his jacket down on the sofa and kicked off his shoes. Walking over to the fridge, he took out a bottle of beer, and flopped down on the couch. It had been a long and eventful day, both with keeping the kids amused and trying to be civil to Bill Scully. All he wanted to do was curl up and sleep, though he knew his mind was too active to relax. His thoughts were still on the kiss he'd shared with Scully. He knew she'd felt something, judging by the way she responded and reacted once he'd pulled away. That's why he had to leave so suddenly. Deep down he was aware that he should have stayed and tried to talk to her, but he didn't want to put too much pressure on her. And the decision about their future would obviously rest with Scully, though he would try his hardest to convince her to trust him. Flicking on the television, Mulder fast realised there was nothing decent on, so threw the remote onto the table in front of him, leaving an old Christmas film playing in the background. He took a swig of beer and brought his leg up onto the sofa so he was lying flat out on his back. He groaned inwardly as he heard a knock on the door, before intrigue got the better of him. Sitting up and settling his beer on the table, he slowly walked towards the door, and without looking through the peephole, opened it. 'Scully?'
'Hey'. She looked like she'd been crying, and was huddled up tightly in her coat.
'Is something wrong?' Mulder's first thought was that something had happened to either her or the children as soon as he'd left.
'No', she hesitated, before clearing her throat. 'Everything's fine'.
'Ok'. Confused, he stepped to the side, silently inviting her into his apartment. She stepped inside, before stopping and looking around the flat. It was the first time she'd ever been there. Mulder hadn't invited the children round, knowing it wasn't a suitable place for youngsters, with hardly enough room for one. Plus there was the fact he hadn't even unpacked his belongings properly. He wondered if Scully was going to pass comment on the state of his apartment, but she didn't, though out of the corner of his eye he saw her swallow hard, shaking her head. 'I'm sorry, if I'd had known you were coming I'd have…' he trailed off, imagining what she must be thinking. 'It's only temporary, this place…I…I want somewhere bigger where the kids can come and stay'.
'Mulder'. Scully turned to face him, and he could see the tears forming in her eyes. As she prepared herself to speak, he interrupted her. 'Scully, what's wrong?'
She took a deep breath, and began fiddling with the sleeves of her jacket. 'Did you mean it?'
'Did I mean what?' He knew what she was talking about, but he needed to hear it from her. What happened now was for Scully to decide.
'The kiss'. She spoke softly but Mulder could still hear her words. Realising she was nervous, he moved in towards her, not quite touching her. 'Yes Scully, I meant it'.
She released the breath she was holding and nodded. 'Why did you do it?'
'What else are you supposed to do with mistletoe?' He smiled thinly to let her know he was joking. 'I just needed you to know how I felt…how I feel about you. I don't think I used to tell you enough'.
'So tell me now'.
Mulder could tell his wife was nervous, but somehow she'd found the ability to stay strong. 'Ok'. He gestured to the sofa. 'Did you want to sit down?' A shake of her head told Mulder that Scully just wanted him to come out and tell her how he felt, no preliminaries. He sighed. 'I love you. I love you more than you can possibly imagine, more than I've ever told you'. He saw Scully slam her eyes shut as she heard his words, but he continued regardless. 'I don't know what I was thinking before…when I used to leave you. I was stupid, and I'm paying the price for that now'.
'How?' Scully whispered, still not daring to open her eyes. She knew that if she looked over at him as he was declaring his love for her, she'd crumble, and she didn't want to do that.
'Every time I look at the children, I realise how much I've missed out on. Every time I look at you, and your bump, I realise what I'm missing now'. He sighed again shakily, the emotion evident in his voice. 'I'd give anything to go back and change it all Scully, I truly would'.
'What would you do?'
'I'd never leave your side'. She nodded, signalling for him to continue. 'I'm a sorry, pathetic son of a bitch Scully, and I don't deserve you, or the kids, but I'm…I'm so grateful that you're still in my life. I know I'm selfish to want more, but I do. I want you back. I want my family back'.
This time Scully did open her eyes, and as she did so a tear fell down her cheek. She edged in closer towards Mulder, who felt her brush up against him, and lifted her hand to his face, wiping away his own tears, the ones he didn't even realise he was crying. Without words, she stood up on tiptoe and pressed her lips to his. It started as a tender chaste kiss, but then she pulled him towards her, deepening it. For a moment Mulder stood rooted to the spot, but realising that Scully was taking the lead, that she wanted this too, he pulled her in closer and began kissing her back. It was like embracing her for the first time all over again, it was new and exciting, yet comfortingly familiar. He moved his arms round to her back, gently rubbing it, while Scully put her arms around his neck, pulling him down to her level. When they broke free for air, Mulder leant in towards her ear and whispered. 'Are you sure about this?'
'Yes'. Needing no further comment, Mulder leant in for another kiss, more passionate this time, and judging from Scully's reaction, she wasn't about to push him away. He moved his attention from her lips to her neck, and as she struggled to get her breath back, Scully moved to unbutton his shirt. Mulder pulled back, silently questioning her with his gaze. As if hearing his question, Scully nodded, then shivered as his hands moved to the back of top of her back, finding the zipper on her dress. 'I love you Scully', he repeated, before undoing it and letting the dress fall to the floor. He looked at his wife, realising she'd never looked so beautiful. His eyes dropped to her protruding stomach, and he reached down to put a hand on her bump where their baby was growing. Their baby. 'You look beautiful'. He saw Scully's hand join his own, then looked up to see her smiling at him, the tears still glistening in her eyes. 'Bedroom?' Her words brought him back to the moment and he pulled his arm back to his side. 'Umm'.
'Mulder?' For a moment Scully thought she'd said something wrong, until she saw his sheepish smile.
'Stay here two seconds Scully'. She watched as he ran off and into a room to the side, realising it must be his bedroom. When he didn't emerge a few moments later, she walked over to the room, feeling somewhat exposed in just her underwear. Sneaking her head around the door, Scully had to suppress her laughter. 'Mulder, what are you doing?'
He had his head practically inside a cardboard box, clearing looking for something.
'I'm…I'm making the bed', was his muffled reply. Looking at the bed in the middle of the room, Scully realised it had never been slept in, and was sporting just a mattress cover as well as a pile of Mulder's clean (she hoped) clothes. The duvet had been discarded onto the floor.
'What?' she bit back a smile.
'I…Usually I take the couch'. He stood up, holding sheets in his hand. 'Give me a second'.
'Mulder…' Scully moved over to the bed, picking up Mulder's clothes and dumping them onto the carpet. 'Ta da'. She held out her hand in invitation and he walked over to her. He let her take the lead as she sat down onto the bed and reached for him, pulling him down to the mattress. He shifted so he was lying on his side next to her, then leant over to kiss her again, happy that Scully was letting him into her life once again.
'What's the time?'
Mulder lifted his arm and squinted to look at his watch in the darkness. 'I've no idea'.
'It's late'. It was a statement, not a question.
'I'd better go'.
He felt the bed shift, and so rolled from his back onto his side, to see his wife try and move from under the duvet. 'Wait a second'.
She paused, and then shifted so she was on her side too, facing him, hugging the duvet under her chin. 'What?' As he leant over to kiss her again, she smiled, then reached her free arm to wrap it around his neck, banishing any doubts about whether she wanted this from his mind. 'Mulder', she chastised as he pulled away. 'I have to go. The kids will be wondering where I am'.
'The kids should be asleep'.
'So should I'.
'You could stay here'. He knew she wouldn't of course, and he didn't mind. He was just grateful that she was still here, that she hadn't pushed him away.
'I have to go', she repeated, sighing. But she made no effort to move.
'Before you do…' Mulder took hold of the duvet and lifted it, revealing Scully's body to the cool night air.
'Mulder!' She reached for the cover, but Mulder stopped her. He placed his finger lightly on her lips, then slowly ran it down her neck and chest, working his way down her body. 'That tickles'.
'Wait'. He edged down the bed, pushing himself up so he was now on all fours. He moved to straddle her, smiling at her hesitant look. 'Just humour me Scully'. When he reached her protruding stomach, he stopped, then pressed his lips to the bump. He sat up, grinning proudly at her. 'I've wanted to do that since you told me you were pregnant'.
'I've wanted you to do that too'.
Leaning down, he kissed her bump again and then leant his head so it was resting against his stomach. He felt Scully's hands run through his hair, as though encouraging him, but he didn't move, instead waiting. His patience was rewarded moments later, when he felt a light flutter against his cheek. 'She's waking up'.
'I told you she recognised your voice', Scully spoke softly. 'Another daddy's girl'.
As Mulder looked up, he saw his wife with tears in her eyes. He moved back up to the bed so he was face-to-face with Scully, then kissed her again. 'I mean it Scully. This time, I'm going to do everything right. I know I don't deserve a second chance, but I'm not going to mess this opportunity up'.
She nodded, closing her eyes and kissing his forehead. 'I want to go slow though Mulder'. She smiled at his raised eyebrows. 'I know we didn't do that this evening, but I don't want to get anyone's hopes up. Even mine'. She kissed him gently on the lips. 'I just don't want to put any pressure on us. And if the kids get wind of what's going on, they'll presume that you'll immediately move back and we'll go back to how we were'.
'I want that to happen though Scully. In time'.
She nodded. 'In time. But you know what they're like. I'd hate to let them down. And William gets so disappointed easily'.
'I've let him down too many times'.
She smiled sadly. 'You turned up today though, you made his day'.
Mulder cleared his throat. 'This morning had nothing to do with Samantha, Scully. I just wanted you to know that. It was Byers'.
'Byers?' Scully looked confused. 'Is he ok?'
'Yeah, he brought some gifts round for the kids. Then proceeded to tell me I was an ass for the way I treated you'.
'Yeah. Who'd have thought he had it in him?'
'Actually, I was having a similar conversation with Bill this evening'.
'Yeah', she laughed. 'So we must be in a sorry state if my brother and Byers are giving us relationship advice'.
Mulder laughed, then sobered quickly. 'So what did Bill say?'
'Oh he still hates you, I wouldn't worry about that'.
'That's good to know'.
'But he said he can see you make me happy, most of the time, and that I was stupid not to talk to you'.
'I think I'm actually warming to your brother Scully'.
'He's not too bad, he's just protective'.
'I know. So he convinced you to come here?'
Scully nodded. 'So you have him to thank'.
'I'm not sure he'd appreciate me thanking him for this'. Mulder gestured to their naked state.
'And speaking of Bill, he's going to worry soon if I'm not back'. Scully bit her lip. 'I'd better go'. This time she did move, getting up out of the bed and bending down carefully to pick up her discarded clothes. Mulder watched her dress, then stood up himself and put on his boxers. He followed Scully into the living room and to the front door, unsure of what to say. Luckily she helped him out, turning round and kissing his cheek. 'So we'll see you tomorrow?' She caught sight of the time on the television, which was still playing in the background. 'Or should I say tonight?'
'If you're sure?'
Scully nodded. 'We want to see you'.
'I'll be round later then'. Slipping his arms around Scully's waist, Mulder kissed her lightly on the lips. 'Thank you'.
She smiled, opening the door behind her. 'I love you', she whispered gently, releasing herself from his grasp.
'I love you too'. He'd never been more certain of anything in his life.
'So what time did you get back last night?'
Scully picked up the newly-washed plate and wiped it with the dishcloth. 'Um I can't remember'. She turned towards the cupboard, avoiding her brother's knowing glare. 'Late I think'.
'Must have been'. Bill placed another plate on the draining board. 'So did you two talk things over?'
'We did chat for a while'.
'And we've agreed to take it slow'. Scully could tell that Bill had been dying to question her. It was the first time all day that the two of them were by themselves - they'd spent the morning as a family watching the children play with their Christmas presents, then had gone to the park in the afternoon, before Scully and Tara had made a start on dinner.
'And Mulder's agreed not to be such an ass in future?'
'Something like that'. Scully set the dishcloth down, and leant against the kitchen worktop. 'Bill, listen. Mulder and I aren't going to rush into anything, it's not like he's moving back in tomorrow or something. I need to do what's best by the kids, so I think it's best that we drop this conversation for now, before they get wind of it. I don't want them to be disappointed'.
Bill nodded, draining the water from the sink. 'Sure. I can understand that'. He watched as his sister walked over to him, throwing her arms around his neck. 'Thank you for your advice last night. I'm glad I listened to you'.
'S'ok. I guess that'll be the first and only time that you do take my advice though, right?'
'About Mulder - '
'It's ok Bill, he knows you still hate him'.
'Good. I don't want him to think I was going soft on him or anything'.
'God forbid'. Scully bit back a smile. 'For what it's worth, I appreciate you looking out for me'. She smiled as her brother pulled back and shrugged. 'You're my baby sister. What else am I supposed to do?'
They were interrupted by a knock at the front door. 'I'll get it'. Bill grabbed a towel to dry his hands, before walking out of the room. Scully returned to her task of wiping the dishes, straining to hear the caller's voice, though she had a feeling who it was. She was just about to put the cloth down and head towards the door when she sensed someone enter the room and stand behind her. There was a moment's hesitation, and then she felt hands encircle her waist, coming to a stop on her protruding stomach, and pulling her gently backwards. 'Hey'.
'Mulder', Scully whispered, craning her neck to look at her husband. 'Not here, someone might see'.
'Your brother informed me that the family were in the living room'. His hands began caressing her bump, pausing momentarily when he felt the baby kick, acknowledging his presence. 'And we're in the kitchen, so technically we're safe'.
Reluctantly pulling away, Scully turned around to look at Mulder. His smile was genuine, but he looked scared, no doubt worried she was having second thoughts and would push him away. 'Bill told you that?'
'Yup'. Mulder smiled at his sceptical wife. 'Right after he told me he'd kick my ass if I hurt you again'.
'He said that?'
'Well no…but his look insinuated that he'd kick my ass'. His smile faded as he looked at Scully, noticing her fold her arms in front of her chest. 'How are you today?' The moment of playfulness was over.
'Tired'. Scully smirked, moving closer to Mulder, checking behind him for any witnesses. 'I didn't get a great deal of sleep last night'.
'Really?' Understanding her game, Mulder brought his hands round to Scully's back, pulling her in towards him. 'Me either'. He grinned as she stood up on tiptoes and kissed him. It was a chaste kiss but full of love and promise. Just as he opened his eyes, she stepped back, reverting to her normal, professional self. 'Why don't you go on in and see the kids. I'll put the kettle on'.
'I'd rather stay here with you'.
'Slow Mulder', Scully repeated her words from earlier that morning, when she left his apartment. 'Slow'.
Realising he didn't want to upset his wife, or jeopardise things, Mulder nodded. 'Slow', he mouthed. 'Do you need a hand with the drinks?'
'No thanks'. Scully picked up the kettle and held it under the running water. 'You're needed in the other room. Abbie was refusing to go to bed earlier until you got here, and William wants a rematch on the computer'.
Taking off his jacket, Mulder rolled his eyes as he headed towards the door. 'Always in demand'. Scully smiled to herself, before taking the milk from the fridge, glad to have her husband back.
'Ok say goodnight Abbie'.
'Goodnight'. The youngster rubbed her puffy eyes as she addressed her aunt and uncle. She'd managed to avoid sleep for most of the night, but now it was getting late, and she was ready to succumb. William had already given into tiredness, obviously exhausted from the excitement of Christmas.
'Did you want daddy to read you a story?'
Abbie thought for a moment, before wrinkling her nose and shaking her head. 'I want you mommy'.
'Ok'. Standing up from the sofa, Scully stretched before taking hold of her daughter's hand and leading her out of the door. 'Daddy will come up in a minute and say goodnight'.
'Ok'. Abbie waved tiredly at her family in the living room as she was led upstairs. Tara was also upstairs, getting Matthew ready for bed, leaving just Mulder and Bill alone. Mulder took a deep breath as he realised it was just the two of them, then smiled thinly at his brother-in-law. 'Look, Bill'.
'I can look out for myself'.
'I know you can. So does he. He just cares about you'.
'Hmm'. Scully smiled thinly. Mulder reached over for his jacket and slowly slipped it on, then turned back to face his wife. There was a moment of tension where neither of them were sure how to say goodbye. 'Thanks for coming'.
'Thanks for having me'.
'Anytime. You're welcome here whenever you want, you don't have to ask to see the children Mulder'.
'What about seeing you?'
She grinned shyly. 'You don't have to ask about that either'.
'That's a shame'.
'I was about to ask if I could take you to dinner one night next week…just the two of us'. Mulder cursed himself for how nervous he felt - he hadn't been this concerned the first time around.
'Like a date?' Scully crinkled her nose up.
'If you wanted it to be. Or just dinner between a man and a woman'.
'A man and his wife?'
Mulder debated whether to ask Scully about the divorce - after all, it was now going through the courts - but he knew it was still early days. 'If you wanted it to be'.
'That would be nice'.
Mulder returned his wife's smile. 'Ok, well…I umm can't do the next few nights, but how -'
'How does New Year's Eve sound?'
'Really?' The truth was, he wanted nothing more than to see the New Year in with Scully.
'Yeah. We could go out for dinner, and then by the time we get back, we can wake the children up to see the ball drop'.
'That sounds good. I'll…I'll see if I can get a table booked somewhere and let you know'.
There was another awkward moment, when Mulder felt the need to draw Scully in for an embrace. He knew that things were changing between them, but wasn't sure if she'd push him away if he took the initiative. It was still on her terms, and Mulder knew he had to let her take the lead. 'Scully?'
He quickly turned to look behind him to check they were still alone. 'Can I kiss you?'
Scully couldn't hide the blush that appeared on her cheeks. She thought for a moment, leading Mulder to believe she was going to decline. 'Ok'.
She looked confused. 'Ok'.
He stepped in towards her, then after brushing a strand of hair behind her ear, leant down and pressed his lips against his wife's. Scully pulled him in closer, wrapping her arms around his waist, while Mulder's hands caressed her back. Reluctantly he pulled away, eager for things not to get out of hand, particularly with Bill upstairs. 'I'd better go. I'll call you tomorrow'.
'Ok'. For a moment it looked as though Scully was having trouble focusing, but then she straightened up and opened the door. She watched as her husband pressed another kiss to her lips, then walked out of the door with a spring in his step.
'So guys, what do you think? Blue or black?' Scully stood in front of the children holding up a dress in each hand. It was New Year's Eve and she was preparing for her dinner date with Mulder. She hadn't told either of the children about their plans, not wanting to get their hopes up - or hear protests that they wanted to come along. She realised that she and Mulder needed some time to themselves - away from the kids - to talk about things and their future.
'Whatever'. William dismissed his mom with a wave of his hand, then craned his neck to try and watch the television. Noticing her son's attempts to evade the question, Scully walked over to the television set and, after transferring both outfits to one hand, switched it off. 'Mom! I was watching that'.
'This is important William, and I'd like your input. Now which one do you prefer?'
'I hate them both'. Clearly sulking now, he folded his arms in front of him defensively. Scully tried not to laugh. He looked the spitting image of Mulder whenever she used to disagree with him.
'Well which one do you hate least?'
'Why do you have to go out anyway? It's New Year's Eve'.
'I have an important dinner to go to. And I've told you I'll come and wake you up ready to celebrate the New Year'.
'But I want you to stay'.
Scully ignored him. 'If you had to pick, which one would you choose?' She smiled at her son's reaction to the dresses - she knew what he was thinking - that she was going out to dinner with someone other than his father. 'I hate them both', William shouted, clearly not interested in helping his mother. 'I want you to stay at home'.
'William', Scully replied sternly. 'I'm only going out to dinner, I'll be back in a couple of hours'.
'I don't want you to go'.
She ignored his protests, focusing instead on her daughter. 'So blue?'
Abbie nodded eagerly, sucking on her thumb as she looked up at her mother. 'I like blue'.
'Blue it is'. As Scully went to walk out of the lounge, there was a knock at the door. She stopped on her way upstairs to open the door, knowing full well who it was. 'Byers, hi. Come in'. She stepped back, allowing her friend and babysitter for the evening into the house. Scully hadn't had much time to herself in recent months, what with her marriage troubles, so she hadn't managed to regain much of the social life she'd had before she met Mulder. Plus it was New Year's Eve - the friends she did have already had plans - and she knew she could trust Byers to keep the children in line. It was Mulder's idea actually, and Scully agreed on the proviso that he came alone - not that she didn't trust the other Gunmen, but they tended to let the children eat a lot of sugar, resulting in them staying up well past their bedtime. 'Thanks for coming. The kids are in the living room', she explained, closing the door behind him. 'Abbie's bathed and ready for bed - she'll probably go up in an hour or so. William usually lasts until about half eight and then it's time for him to go upstairs. He likes to watch television for a little while before bedtime, but we make him put the light off about nine fifteen. We should be back just after that'. She led Byers into the lounge where the children were sitting patiently. 'I've left the coffee out for you, please help yourself. There are some snacks out in the kitchen too'.
'Thanks'. Byers turned to face the children. 'Hi guys'.
'Hi John'. Abbie smiled sweetly, liking her mother's choice of babysitter, while William focused intently on the television that he'd switched on again, clearly ignoring their visitor. The move wasn't unnoticed by Byers. 'Hi William'.
'William's in a mood', Scully explained so her son could hear. 'I'm hoping he'll snap out of it shortly'. She held up the dresses in her arms. 'I'm going to get ready, I'll be down in a bit'.
By the time Scully had finished getting ready - opting for the midnight blue dress - a long sleeved v-neck outfit that finished at her calves - William was still sulking, though seemed to be talking now. 'You guys promise to be good while I'm gone, ok?' She stood at the entrance to the living room.
'Who are you having dinner with?' William asked softly. He looked worried, as though he wasn't sure he was going to like her answer.
'I'm -' Scully was interrupted by a knock at the door. 'Why don't you open the door and find out?'
'I'm not supposed to answer the door', William replied, suddenly realising he didn't want to know.
'It's ok, I'll be right behind you'.
Sighing, William rose from the sofa and stomped past Scully towards the door. He threw open the door and stepped back in surprise, seeing his father at the door. 'Dad?'
'Hey'. Mulder smiled at his son, then looked up at Scully, and took a deep breath. His eyes acknowledged her appearance, but he said nothing. 'Are you ok?'
'What are you doing here?' William looked from Mulder back to his mother.
'I had the evening off, so thought I'd visit. Is there a problem?' He winked at Scully, obviously aware at William's discomfort of him being there. 'You look great Scully'.
'Thanks'. She blushed at her husband's words.
'Mom's just going out', the little boy explained. 'Did you want to come back tomorrow?' Both parents knew that William was trying to protect Mulder's feelings.
'Going out? Anywhere nice?'
Scully smiled. 'Just out for dinner'.
'How about that. What time are you heading out?'
'Whenever my umm…dinner partner decides it's time to leave'.
Mulder bit back a smile. 'Dinner partner?'
'Anyone I know?'
'You do know him quite well actually'.
Mulder stepped forward and put his hand on his son's shoulder. 'Don't worry Will. It's a good job I'm going to take your mom out before her dinner date arrives'.
'What?' Mulder watched as his son turned to look at Scully, clearly confused when she laughed. 'Why are you laughing mom?'
'William, your dad is the one taking me out tonight. That's the reason he can't look after you and Abbie'.
The little boy's eyes lit up. 'On a date?'
'Not exactly'. Scully shot Mulder a look to let him know she didn't want to give the children too much information. 'We just need to talk about some things'.
'Why can't we come?' It was obvious William wanted to spend time with his father.
'Because sometimes grown ups have to talk about things alone. But your dad can come back here later and see you'. She looked over at Mulder. 'If he wants to?'
Scully relaxed. 'So we'll be back later, and your dad will come and spend some time with you and Abbie'.
'Speaking of which'. Releasing his grip on William, Mulder hurried into the living room where his daughter still sat. 'Daddy!'
'Hey pumpkin'. Walking over to the couch, he pressed a kiss to Abbie's forehead. 'Are you being a good girl for John here?'
'Uh huh'. She beamed at the sight of her father. 'I'm always a good girl'.
Mulder rolled his eyes. 'Somehow I don't think that's the case'.
'Are you here to play?'
'No sweetie. I'm borrowing mommy for a few hours, and then we'll be back, ok?'
'Can I come?'
He sighed. 'No, but you get to stay here and play with William and John'.
Abbie leant in towards her father, a strand of her dark hair falling in front of her eyes. 'William won't play with me. He says dolls are for girls'.
Mulder moved his head to whisper in Abbie's ear, though still loud enough for Byers to hear. 'John told me earlier he loves playing with dolls'. Standing up straight, Mulder smiled at the glare his friend was giving him.
'Really?' Abbie's eyes opened wide in surprise.
'Really. So I think you'll have fun'. He leant down quickly to kiss his daughter again. 'I'll see you in a little while, ok?'
As Mulder left the room, he chuckled as Abbie jumped off the sofa and raced to get her dolls. Scully was giving William a lecture about behaving while they were out. 'So we'll see you later, ok?'
'I will', William sighed. 'Are you sure I can't come?'
'Sorry kiddo. You'll have fun with Byers though. Just don't make his life too much of a misery, ok?'
'Ok'. Mulder watched as William retreated into the living room, then put his arm around his wife and led her out of the door.
'So are you going to tell me where we're headed?' The car journey had been relatively silent, with just small talk about the children. They'd been driving for about ten minutes, and still Mulder hadn't revealed their destination.
'Umm', he hesitated, only briefly taking his eyes off the road to shoot Scully an apologetic look. 'I feel the need to apologise'.
Scully slowly exhaled, trying not to show her disappointment. 'Oh?'
'I guess I forgot that New Year's Eve is an incredibly busy night. I umm…I tried to get reservations but everywhere was booked. Unless you fancied McDonalds', he joked, clearly uncomfortable.
'So I got dressed up for nothing?'
'Not nothing Scully. I think…I think you look amazing'.
'So where are we going?' She looked over at Mulder, who was clasping hold of the steering wheel so tight, his knuckles were almost white. 'And please don't tell me McDonalds'.
Mulder didn't answer, instead pulling over and parking the car. 'I'll be back in two minutes'. He unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car, leaving Scully alone and confused. True to his word, he was back at the vehicle moments later, armed with two large boxes. He opened the back door and perched the boxes on the seat, before letting himself back into the driver's side. 'Pizza, Mulder?'
'It was the best I could do', he shrugged. 'I guess I should have asked you out to dinner earlier'.
Scully nodded, choosing not to comment. It had been so long since the two of them had been together without the children, and they hadn't been out to dinner alone for years. She knew Mulder was trying, but couldn't help to feel disappointed that they wouldn't be going on a date in the traditional sense of the word. They continued their journey in silence, and as they turned into a familiar looking road, Scully realised where they were headed. As Mulder pulled up outside his apartment, Scully let herself out of the car. She waited for him to retrieve the pizzas, then followed him wordlessly into the building and into the elevator. She watched as he fumbled for his keys, then let them into the flat. 'Wow Mulder'. She stopped short at the door, taking in her surroundings. Since she was last here, almost a week ago, it was clear he'd spent time tidying up. The boxes that once littered the floor had now been discarded, the crockery that was previously scattered on the draining board had been stored away in cupboards, and he'd even placed a small dining table in the corner of the room. The table was already set with a tablecloth crockery, cutlery and glasses, and a couple of candles sat in the middle. 'I'm sorry Scully', Mulder deposited the pizza boxes in the kitchen, before coming back to close the front door. He gestured at her to remove her coat. 'I had to improvise'.
'No, I'm sorry Mulder'. Scully took off her jacket and handed it over, noticing how her husband's eyes immediately went to her bulging stomach. 'It looks great'.
'I guess it was about time I unpacked', he quipped, though the truth was he didn't want to empty the boxes. When he first took on the flat, he thought it would only be temporary, maybe a few weeks at most. He didn't realise Scully would have been serious about them separating, instead thinking she'd take him back with open arms as soon as she realised she had overreacted. He'd underestimated her resolve.
Scully was about to reply when her stomach rumbled. 'Sorry', she smiled, blushing slightly.
'Someone's hungry'. Placing his hands on her shoulders, Mulder led her over to the dining table.
'Yeah she is'. Scully smiled as Mulder pulled the chair out for her. 'Thanks'. She sat down, propping her elbows up on the table.
'Doing your usual trick I see'.
Her eyebrows knitted in confusion. 'What's that?'
'Blaming your hunger on the baby'.
'Of course'. She smiled, sighing as Mulder retrieved the pizzas and placed them in the centre of the table. 'I got your usual', he hesitated, wondering if she even had the same tastes. 'With extra pineapple. I wasn't sure if you had any cravings for anything in particular'.
'Only chocolate'. Not able to resist any longer, Scully reached over and took a big slice of pizza. 'But the pineapple is appreciated, thank you'.
He retreated back to the kitchen, returning with a bottle. 'And I thought we could celebrate'.
Scully pointed down to her stomach. 'Mulder I can't drink'.
'Me either'. He revealed the bottle to her. 'I presume you still like grape?'
She held up her glass, smiling. 'Of course'. She remembered her previous pregnancies, when Mulder decided to give up the same things as her - namely alcohol and coffee, so he could go through the same motions as her.
'I'm sorry I couldn't get us a table somewhere a bit more upmarket'. Mulder poured the drinks as he looked around the room, his eyes coming to a standstill as he realised Scully was staring at him. 'Don't be silly Mulder, it's fine'. She realised her choice of words. 'It's great, and besides, at least we can have some time away from the children to talk'.
*Us*. Maybe there was hope for them yet.
'Are you ok?' Mulder was sprawled out on the sofa, with Scully on her back between his legs. Their hands were joined together on her stomach as they felt their baby move within her.
'Mmm'. Scully nestled further back into his arms. She felt more relaxed than she had done in months, and was beginning to feel drowsy from a combination of a hearty meal and the way Mulder's hands rubbed against her skin. They'd talked a little over dinner - discussed the children, family and the baby, and once the pizza was gone they retreated to the sofa. Mulder had been hesitant at first, not daring to touch her, but then Scully had leaned in towards him, giving him permission to touch her.
'Someone's active tonight'.
'She's like you, she doesn't sleep until the early hours'. Scully sighed in contentment. 'I'm hoping she doesn't continue this pattern once she's born'.
'Have you thought about names?'
'Not really, there are a few I like, but I haven't settled on one yet'.
She thought for a moment. 'I guess I like Beth, Lily, Kate', she trailed off. 'And a few others. But I think it's something we can discuss a bit closer to the date'.
'We?' He couldn't stop the words from tumbling out of his mouth.
'I figured you'd like some input, bearing in mind she's your daughter too'. Scully didn't mean to sound so harsh.
'No I just…I'm just glad you're letting me. I don't deserve you Scully, I really don't'.
'Well, you have me'. She felt him smile against her shoulder.
Mulder moved his hands up and down Scully's stomach. 'This is nice'.
'This. Your dress'. He plucked at the fabric, emphasising his words.
'Thanks. I've had it a while'.
'I remember. You got it when you were pregnant with Abbie, right?'
'For your work's Christmas meal'. Their smiles faded as they both remembered. 'The one I didn't go to. The one where I cancelled at the last minute'.
Scully moved her hands so they were once again resting atop of Mulder's. 'It's ok, you didn't miss much'. Although she meant the Christmas party, it was clear Mulder was thinking of other times. He didn't know about the sympathetic looks Scully received when her colleagues discovered her husband had been called away on a last minute case, the fact she had to sit next to an empty seat for the whole evening, knowing Mulder was likely putting his life on the line, while she sat alone and her friends chatted with their loved ones. 'I missed a lot Scully. I've missed too much', he added despondently.
'You're here now', she sighed, squeezing his hands.
'I am, and I'm glad'. He kissed the side of Scully's neck, sending a shiver down her spine. 'Particularly as I finally get to see you wearing that dress'.
Scully laughed. 'In that case I'm glad I wore it tonight'.
'Me too', he replied, a little too enthusiastically. 'I'm just sorry I didn't get to take you anywhere special for you to model it'.
'This has been just perfect, I've enjoyed it'. She meant it too. Despite her initial reservations, the two of them had had a good time. Scully was pleased they'd managed to have some time alone, and that they were taking things slow. She didn't want them to rush into anything too quickly. Looking over at the clock on the television, Scully sighed. 'I guess we'd better get back to the kids. William won't be too happy if we don't wake him up in time for midnight. He already hates me for not telling him who my dinner date was'.
'He thought it was another guy?' Mulder watched as Scully pushed herself up into a seated position, and brought her legs onto the floor.
'Yeah'. She turned to face her husband, aware of his uncertainty. She knew what he was thinking. 'Never, Mulder. There hasn't been anyone else, and there won't be'.
He thought back to the day she told him she was pregnant, when he'd all but accused her of having an affair, not believing he was lucky enough to be the father. 'I know'. Swinging his legs onto the floor, he stood up and helped Scully to her feet, pressing a kiss to her lips as she stood up straight. 'I know'.
'Ready? Ten, nine, eight ….' Mulder and Scully sat in the living room. William was by his father's side, staring intently at the picture on the screen, while Abbie was drifting off on her mother's lap, the excitement of the New Year obviously too much for her. Byers had left the family to celebrate alone, claiming he had somewhere he needed to be at midnight, though Mulder suspected he didn't want to intrude. As his son counted down the seconds along with the crowd on television, Mulder looked over at his wife only to find her staring back at him. 'You ok?' he mouthed. She nodded, smiling, before turning her attention to the television and joining in with the countdown. 'four, three, two, one…' The cheering in Times Square began, but before Scully could say anything more, Mulder had pressed his lips to hers. 'Happy New Year Scully', he whispered softly, as he pulled away. She should have pushed him away or chastised him for his display of affection, but she didn't. To the children, it looked like a polite kiss, but Mulder and Scully knew more. 'Happy New Year Mulder'. She smiled shakily and then reached an arm out to William, who was watching his parents cautiously. 'Happy New Year William'.
'Happy New Year!' he shouted excitedly, waking up his sister in the process. She stirred and stretched, her arm catching her father as she did so. 'Mommy?'
'Hey sweetie'. Scully smoothed her daughter's hair down and gently rocked her, trying to encourage her to go back to sleep. 'Happy New Year'.
'Fireworks!' William jumped up and ran towards the window. It was clear that he wouldn't be going to sleep anytime soon. Sure enough they heard rockets being set off somewhere in the neighbourhood. 'Can we go watch dad?'
'Wrap up warm', Scully warned, watching as her son raced into the hallway to throw on his coat and shoes. 'Come on!'
Sensing his son's impatience, Mulder stood up, then held out a hand to help his wife to her feet. She shifted Abbie in her arms, the little girl's head now resting on her mother's shoulder, drifting in and out of consciousness. It was clear she wanted to witness the celebrations, but her body was betraying her. They met William in the hallway, and then Mulder opened the front door, so they could all see the fireworks. William stood mesmerised as the multi-coloured rockets were set off, making whoops of appreciation. Mulder was behind him, with one hand on his son's shoulders and the other around his wife and daughter. 'Happy New Year Scully', he murmured again, kissing her cheek. 'Thanks for letting me be here'.
'Thanks for being here'. She shot Mulder a blinding smile, stepping in a little closer. 'I love you', she whispered.
'I love you too. I promise you Scully, this is going to be the best year ever'. Realising William's attention was focused on the patterns in the sky, Mulder kissed Scully again, drawing her in towards him. Little did they know he'd end up eating his words…
'Mmm'. Yawning, Scully gradually opened her eyes and came awake. She shifted in the bed, feeling a presence behind her. Sure enough, an arm snaked around her waist and pulled her backwards.
'Did you sleep ok?'
Focusing on the alarm clock, Scully suddenly pulled on the arm that was holding her. 'Mulder, look at the time!' She felt her husband press a series of kisses to the back of her neck, trailing round to her cheek, before he sat up and followed her gaze. 'I've still got time Scully'.
'It's 6am. The kids will be awake soon'.
'And I'll be gone by then. Just five more minutes'.
Scully thought for a moment, before putting her head back on the pillow and gradually rolling onto her back to face her companion. 'Five more minutes', she repeated, more as a warning.
'Ok'. Mulder swooped in for his first proper kiss of the day, and for a moment Scully forgot all about the time. In fact all rational thoughts were pushed from her head until they finally broke free for air. 'You should go', she whispered, not really meaning it.
'I know'. He made no effort to move. In recent weeks the two of them had given into temptation on more than one occasion, leading Mulder to spend the odd night with Scully in her bed. Not that the children knew - they were oblivious, as their father was long gone by the time they woke. Though Mulder and Scully's relationship was getting back on track, they were careful to keep it a secret for the time being - they still had matters to work out. Mulder was still being called away on cases, though was more reluctant to go now that Scully's pregnancy was progressing. She was now six and a half months gone, and was finding it harder to juggle work and her home life, so relied more on Mulder's help. 'I like waking up next to you Scully', he murmured, nuzzling her neck.
'Hmm', was her only response, before she leant over and kissed him, throwing her arms around his neck. It was hard for Scully to manoeuvre thanks to the impressive bump she now carried, but Mulder propped himself up so he was resting on his side, his other arm thrown over his wife's waist. Neither of them heard the door open or footsteps approach the bed. It wasn't until Mulder pulled back that he came face to face with his daughter. 'Daddy?' He broke free from Scully's grasp and sat back, while his wife checked that their modesty was covered, her face flushing as she did so. 'Abbie, what are you doing here?' Scully asked, a little too panicked. There went her idea of keeping their relationship a secret.
'I had a nightmare'. Abbie clutched one of her dolls close to her chest, and rubbed her eyes, frowning. 'What's daddy doing here?' She lifted up the cover and proceeded to crawl into bed with Scully, who shot Mulder a warning look. He looked over to his side of the bed, spotting his boxer shorts and reached out to grab them. He slipped them on, then retrieved Scully's robe, which was also on his side of the room. 'He was just sleeping sweetie'. She put on the robe, then watched as Abbie snuggled up against her. 'But he's just going'.
'Can he stay?' Abbie was already close to falling back to sleep. 'Just for a minute'.
'Just for a minute'. They watched as Abbie drifted off back to sleep, then sighed. 'I should go', Mulder murmured, gazing at his sleeping daughter, realising it had been too long since one of the kids had crawled into bed with him and Scully after a nightmare or thunderstorm.
'You might as well stay now', Scully whispered softly, bringing her hand up to Mulder's face. 'Just make sure you're up and dressed before William wakes. I'd rather he didn't find out just yet, he'll get his hopes up'.
'Ok'. Mulder looked over at the clock once again, then leant in for another kiss. 'Five more minutes'. With that he snuggled up to his wife and daughter, holding them tightly, then drifted off to sleep.
'Morning'. William walked into the kitchen, throwing his school bag onto the floor. He ignored Scully's warning look and took a seat opposite his father and sister. It wasn't unusual for him to see Mulder at the breakfast table - in recent weeks his dad had been the one to take him to school, and had dropped round for food first.
'Morning', Mulder replied, pouring his son's cereal and milk for him. 'Are you ok?'
'Yeah'. William sighed. 'Do I have to go to school today dad?'
Mulder stopped, shooting Scully a confused look as she walked over towards the table. William hadn't mentioned a great deal about school recently - not since the trouble he'd had - leading them both to believe that he was no longer being bullied. 'Fraid so kiddo. Why do you ask?'
'Can't I stay here with you?'
'Not today. I've got to get to work'.
'But it's Thursday, not long to go. We can spend some time together at the weekend though if you want'.
'He's got a party to go to on Saturday', Scully volunteered.
'A par-tay hey?'
'Mmm'. William whirled his spoon around his bowl of cereal, then looked up at his father. 'Can I see you before the weekend?'
'We'll see daddy tomorrow morning', Abbie said sweetly, in a way that reminded Mulder of his wife.
'How come?' William took in a mouthful of Cheerios, stopping as Scully leant over to pour him a glass of orange juice. He looked over at his sister, who clearly had something on her mind.
She took a sip of juice before sitting her glass down. 'Daddy slept with mommy last night'. Mulder tried hard not to choke on his piece of toast, while Scully instinctively let go of the carton of juice she held, watching as it hit the floor and the juice spilt out. Oblivious to the chaos she'd caused, Abbie picked up her spoon and continued eating, kicking her legs happily under the table. 'He was here all night'.
William set his spoon down and looked between both parents accusingly. 'Dad was here last night?'
Mulder jumped up to help Scully clean up the spilt juice. 'Here let me'. Returning with a wet cloth, he bent down and began soaking up the liquid. 'Yeah I was'. He didn't meet his son's eyes.
Scully intervened, busying herself by clearing away the cereal packet from the table. 'Your dad was tired, so it made sense for him to stay'.
'When did he get here last night?'
'Late'. They'd planned it that way - Mulder arrived just after the children had gone to sleep, not wanting to delay their bedtimes any longer.
A smile appeared on William's face. 'So dad's moving back home?'
'No William', Scully answered, a little too quickly. She looked at Mulder for confirmation, before continuing. 'Your father and I are taking things very slow at the moment, ok?'
'Ok', he replied uncertainly.
'What your mom means', Mulder added, standing up and stretching out the kinks in his back. 'Is that we're working on it, but we're not making any promises'.
'Do you want to move back?'
'Of course I do'. Mulder deposited the wet cloth in the trash, then opened a window to let out the stench of orange juice. 'It's not quite as simple as that. Before I can do so, your mom and I need to talk about things'.
'You are staying here tonight, aren't you daddy?' Abbie pushed away her own cereal bowl and looked up at her father. He glanced over at Scully, who shrugged, a small smile on her face. 'I might do'.
'Can you read me my bedtime story?'
'I can manage that'. Mulder smiled over at his daughter, who seemed happy with his answer.
'So when are you going to move back in dad?'
'William', Scully warned. 'One day at a time, ok?' She knew her plan of keeping her and Mulder's relationship a secret from the children would never last.
'Ok'. William smiled, suddenly feeling a lot happier. It was clear he'd already got his hopes up. Scully only hoped she and Mulder didn't let their family down again.
'Hmm?' Mulder set down the file he was holding and looked at his daughter. It was Saturday - William was at a friend's birthday party, more enthusiastic now that the day had arrived, and Scully was lying on the sofa. The baby had been pressing awkwardly against her, keeping her awake for most of the week, so she was now attempting to catch up on some much-needed sleep. Mulder had ended up staying the previous two evenings so his wife could attempt to relax without worrying about the children. Now he was supposed to be in the office, going over long overdue paperwork, but he'd agreed to work from home to give Scully a break. Though Abbie had tolerated her father going through files, she now wanted him to give her some attention. 'Will you come and play?'
'Sure'. He didn't need to be asked twice. 'What do you want to play?'
'Help me colour in'. Abbie took hold of her father's hand and tugged him down from the sofa and to the floor. 'Ok, I can do colouring'. Mulder was just relieved it wasn't another tea party. He followed his daughter towards the coffee table and settled himself as she retrieved her books. 'So what are we colouring?'
'This'. She opened a book of Disney Princess pictures, settling on a scene from Cinderella. Mulder resisted the urge to sigh. He never dreamt that he and Scully would end up having a typical little girl - Scully herself had been a tomboy when she was a child, and Mulder presumed their daughter would be the same, particularly being around her older brother. But it wasn't to be - she liked pink, princesses and dolls. 'Ok, so what colour shall I do this?' Mulder pointed at the dress.
'Umm…' Abbie thought, rifling through the pack of colouring pens she had. 'Blue!'
'What colour blue?'
'This one'. She handed her father a light blue pen, then watched as he took it in his right hand.
'Nothing', she smiled sweetly.
'Aren't you going to colour?'
'Not yet'. She looked up expectantly.
'So you're going to watch me?'
Feeling the pressure, Mulder removed the lid of the pen and slowly began colouring in. He looked at his daughter, gauging her reaction, but she said nothing. Satisfied he was doing it properly, Abbie reached for a yellow pen and started on Cinderella's hair, scribbling on the page, her tongue poking out in concentration. 'Is this ok Abbie?' Mulder moved back to reveal his efforts, narrowing his eyes when he noticed her frown. 'What?'
'You're not very neat, are you daddy?'
'What do you mean?'
She pointed to the page, ignoring her own scribbles. 'You don't colour neatly'.
'Hey'. Inwardly Mulder knew he shouldn't be offended at his daughter's comments, but he felt protective of his work. 'At least I'm staying within the lines'. He raised his eyebrow as though challenging Abbie to reply. 'Only just', was her response. She certainly was her mother's daughter. Mulder heard a chuckle behind him, and turned to see Scully stretching out on the sofa. 'Don't you start'. He pouted, which only made Scully laugh harder. It was a move not unnoticed by Abbie, who put down her pen and scooted closer to her father. 'It's ok daddy, I still love you. And you'll get better with practice'. Even Mulder couldn't suppress his laughter. 'You are a cheeky little girl'. He threw down his pen and grabbed hold of Abbie, drawing her onto his lap and tickling her stomach. Her giggles turned to shrieks, and pretty soon she was begging her father to let her go. 'Daddy it tickles! It tickles!'
'Tell me that my colouring skills are the best'.
'No!' She braced herself for another onslaught of tickles. 'Mommy, help!'
'I'd love to sweetie, but if I get on that floor, I won't be able to get back up again'.
'Tell mommy I'm better at colouring than she is, and I'll let you go'.
Abbie shook her head. 'Mommy stays in between the lines all the time'.
'Why you little traitor'. Mulder pressed his lips to his daughter's neck and began blowing raspberries, eliciting more giggles from her. 'Let me up', she managed to choke out, tears of laughter now streaming down her face. 'Let me up'.
Taking pity on her, Mulder released his hold on Abbie and sighed, his stomach hurting from laughing so much. He watched as she stood up and ran out of the room, without an explanation. 'Where's she going?'
'I dread to think'. Scully chuckled to herself as she recalled Abbie's excited giggles as she played with her dad.
'Did you sleep well?'
'Hmm not so much'. She rubbed her stomach in slow, gentle circles, watching as Mulder scooted back so his back was resting against her legs. 'She's not letting me get any rest today'.
'Want a back rub?'
Mulder moved onto his knees and stretched up to kiss his wife. Their embrace was interrupted by the return of their daughter. 'What've you got there Abbie?'
She marched into the room, one hand dragging her pink Princess duvet, and the other holding a pillow and a doll. 'Daddy's been naughty, so I'm putting him to bed'. She threw the items onto the floor and walked over to her father, holding out a hand. 'C'mon daddy, let's have a nap'.
'But I'm not tired'.
'Yes you are'. With her free hand, Abbie smoothed out the duvet on the floor. 'Lie down'. Bemused, Mulder did as his daughter said, stretching out on top of the quilt. 'Lift your head up'. As he did so, Abbie placed the pillow underneath him. 'There you go'.
'Thank you'. Mulder smiled up at Scully, who was watching the scene with interest. She loved seeing Mulder with both children, but particularly Abbie, who hadn't spent a great deal of time with her father. She was more than making up for it now. When he was settled, Abbie handed her dad the doll. 'Now you take care of Annabelle, ok daddy? She can go to sleep with you now'.
'What about you?' Mulder shot Scully a warning look, daring her to comment on the fact he had a doll cuddled up to him.
Abbie settled herself on the floor next to Mulder, resting her head on the pillow. 'I'm going to sleep too'. She'd calmed down slightly, and both Mulder and Scully realised she had tired herself out.
'What about mommy?'
'What about mommy?' Scully asked cautiously.
'Mommy needs a nap too'.
'But mommy can't get down on the floor'. Scully pointed to her bulging stomach. 'Not unless daddy has a fork lift truck on standby to help her up'.
'Sure you can Scully'. Mulder perched himself up on his elbows. 'Hey Abbie, go get mommy some pillows, ok?'
Groaning slightly, Abbie stood up and vanished out of the room, returning moments later with pillows obviously taken from William and Scully's room. Meanwhile Mulder had collected cushions from the sofa and placed them on the floor. 'C'mon Scully'. He held out his hand and helped his wife onto the floor, so she was stretched out, resting on her side on the cushions. He spooned up behind her, placing his hand on the small of her back, kneading the flesh there. 'What are you doing daddy?' Abbie stood next to them, a puzzled expression on her face.
'I'm giving mommy a backrub'.
'Because her back hurts'.
'Because the baby is resting awkwardly'.
'Is the baby kicking?'
'A little'. Scully looked up at her daughter, and patted the floor next to her. 'You want to come and feel?'
Abbie chewed her lip nervously before answering. 'Ok'. She got down on the floor next to Scully, lying on her side facing her mother. Scully took hold of her daughter's hand and placed it on her belly. Moments later she smiled. 'Do you feel that?'
'Uh huh'. Abbie looked confused, then looked up at her mom. 'Mommy?'
'Yup'. Scully closed her eyes in contentment as Mulder continued his assault on her aching back.
'When the baby's here, will you still play with me?'
'Of course I will. And soon you'll have a little sister to play with too'.
'I don't want to play with her, I want to play with you'.
'You can do'.
'What if you don't want to play when she's here?'
Scully reached out and drew Abbie in towards her. 'Of course I will sweetheart. Daddy and I will still have time for both you and William, as well as the baby, ok?'
'Ok'. Abbie pulled back from her mom, yawning widely.
'No I'm not'.
'You look it'.
'No I don't'.
Scully bit back a smile as Abbie's eyelids drooped. She was still going through her phase of disagreeing with everyone, and unfortunately was as stubborn as her mother when it came to backing down from an argument. 'Ok, well if you're not tired, do you just want to stay here while daddy and I sleep?'
'You and daddy are sleeping?'
'Uh huh. I'll be asleep soon if daddy keeps up the good work'.
'Can I have a backrub mommy?'
'I guess so. You need to roll over though'.
'Ok'. Abbie quickly rolled onto her other side so she was facing away from her mother. Scully brought a hand up and gently rubbed her back, not applying any pressure. 'Does that feel good?'
'Are you still awake?'
A few moments later, Scully lifted herself up onto her elbow to peer over her daughter. Sure enough, Abbie was fast asleep. 'Well that was easy', she whispered softly, sighing contentedly.
Mulder chuckled, slowly his movement on Scully's back. 'Why don't you try and nap too?'
'I'm not tired'. She smiled as Mulder kissed her cheek lightly.
'You're as stubborn as her, you know?'
'Does this feel ok?'
'It feels wonderful'. She attempted to stifle a yawn, but failed.
'Go to sleep Scully'.
'Will you still be here when I wake up?'
'Do you have to be somewhere?'
'No. I'll stay as long as you want me to'. He hoped one day she'd tell him not to leave, but knew they still had to work some things out before she did so.
Mulder stilled his hand, then moved it to rest across Scully's abdomen. As he moved in closer towards her, he listened as she sighed again, and then her breathing became more regulated and relaxed. Realising he was right where he wanted to be Mulder dropped his head back onto the pillow, and watched while his loved ones slept.
Scully was lying on the sofa, reading softly to Abbie as her daughter snuggled up next to her. William was on his stomach on the floor, concentrating on a jigsaw puzzle he was working on. They were all bored, having been cooped up inside over the past few hours thanks to the endless rain. The doorbell rung and Scully startled and groaned, forcing herself up into a seated position, Abbie moving with her. She was now seven months pregnant and had an impressive bump, so found it a lot harder to move around.
'Do you want me to get it mom?' William looked up from his puzzle hopefully, eager for a distraction.
'No it's ok, I'll get it'. Scully slowly stood up and stretched, before waddling awkwardly towards the front door, rubbing her stomach soothingly. She had a feeling she knew who it was, or at least who she hoped it was. 'Mulder'. She stood back to let him inside, puzzled when he hesitated momentarily, despite the fact it was still raining heavily and he was getting wet. 'You ok?'
'Mmm'. He didn't say much, just stepped inside the door and removed his shoes and his dripping coat, placing it on the banister. As he turned to face her, Scully stood up on tiptoe to try and kiss him, but he pulled away, his gaze trained on the floor. 'What's wrong?' she asked, hurt at his rejection. Things had been going well between them over the past couple of weeks. Mulder had stayed some nights, still trying to spend as much time as possible with his family, though he still had the odd day when he had to work late at the office, chasing up on leads. But it had been mainly deskwork for him - Scully wasn't sure if that was his choice or not. They seemed to be slowly getting back to how things were before their trouble started. It seemed like Mulder had learnt his lesson.
'Nothing'. He was quiet, sullen looking, and still wouldn't quite meet her eye.
'Ok', she answered sharply, suddenly tired and not interested in an argument. 'The kids are in the lounge. They'll be glad to see you, they're out of their mind with boredom'.
'Actually, I want a word with you'. Mulder gestured to the kitchen, and then followed a puzzled Scully into the room, closing the door behind them. No sooner had he shut the door, Scully turned to confront him. 'Are you going to tell me what's wrong?' She narrowed her eyes and folded her arms in front of her defensively. She had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, wondering if he was about to deliver some bad news.
Mulder reached into the back pocket of his jeans, dampened by the rain, and removed an envelope, lifting it towards her. 'I thought we were going to talk about this?'
'About what?' Scully's eyes knitted in confusion as she tried to make out the sender of the letter.
'This'. He thrust the envelope into Scully's face, leaning back on the kitchen counter as she took it and opened it. She unfolded the letter, her eyebrows rising as she realised what it was about. Her face fell as she read it, her heart racing as she realised why he was so angry. 'When did you get this?'
'I haven't seen it. I…' Her eyes welled up as she saw the anger on Mulder's face. 'I…I didn't know'.
'I thought you said you were going to talk to your lawyer'.
'I know, I guess I forgot with everything that's happened. And I hadn't had time to call them back'.
'Forgot? Jeez Scully, we're not talking about taking out the trash. We're talking about a divorce for Christ sakes!'
*Divorce* The word was now out in the open, hanging in the air between them. Scully put her head in her hands, rubbing her eyes furiously as she tried to take in what was happening. She wished it was a bad dream that she could wake up from. Since she and Mulder resumed their relationship, she had promised to try and put their divorce on hold, at least until they sorted out their differences. But with problems with her pregnancy coupled with the stress of looking after two young children and coming to terms with the loss of her mother, it had been cast to the back of her mind. And as a result, in the eyes of the law, she and Mulder were no longer married. 'I'm sorry Mulder'. She knew now that he was hurt, that he took it as a personal rejection, thinking she didn't want to be married to him, despite the fact they were on better terms.
'You should never have done it Scully', Mulder muttered sternly, his eyes now focused on her, boring into her. She could see the anger residing there. 'I told you I was going to change, and I have. If you'd trusted me in the first place, this would never have happened'.
'Hang on Mulder'. Scully threw the letter confirming their divorce down on the counter, no longer wanting to read it. 'If I hadn't filed for divorce, you'd still be running off on one of your wild goose chases, while your family sat at home worrying about you'.
'So what, you did it to scare me?'
'Of course I didn't'.
'Well why did you do it Scully? Why didn't you consult me first?'
'Consult you!' They had both raised their voices now, forgetting that their two children were just in the next room. 'Mulder I repeatedly told you that unless things changed I wanted out. And you did nothing. It was as though you wanted this'.
'What I wanted was my wife and children'.
'And you had them! It was your choice to ditch us every time some crappy lead came up'.
'I didn't ditch you Scully. You were always talking about family, and I was just trying to find mine'.
'Your family was here all along Mulder'.
'Samantha is my sister'.
'I know, and I never had a problem with the fact you wanted to find her. I just could never see why you'd run off based on the weakest piece of information and leave us'.
'I came back!' Mulder knew Scully had a point, but he wasn't about to admit it.
'You came back too late. I gave birth without you, remember?'
Scully's words cut into Mulder like a knife. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself, but he was worked up. He wasn't just angry at Scully, but himself. He knew she was right, he was at fault, but right now he needed someone else to blame. 'Don't you think I regret that Scully? Don't you think I'd go back and change that day if I could? And you keep dragging it up. It's in the past'.
'In case you don't realise, I'm pregnant again Mulder'.
It won't be like that this time. I don't know why you can't believe me'.
'I wish I could, I really do. But I know you. If someone offered you the answer to your sister's abduction, you'd be there in an instant, no matter what you left behind'.
Mulder sighed, realising he wasn't about to win the argument. Scully was angry now too, her earlier guilt now forgotten. 'And I can't understand why you won't support me'.
'Just like I can't understand why you're happy to leave your children. You know, you're lucky that they're good kids and can adapt to you running off. But if you keep it up for much longer Mulder, you'll find that none of us will be here when you come back'.
'What's that supposed to mean?'
Scully bit her lip. She didn't want to get into a bigger argument right now. 'Nothing'.
'I…' Mulder thought twice about asking her again. He'd suddenly had enough of this argument. He was angry - angry and hurt - and just wanted out. He needed time to himself to come to terms with what had happened, and to get his head around the fact his marriage was officially a failure. Just like so many other aspects of his life. 'I'll see you later'.
'I'm sorry Scully, I just need some time to calm down'. He opened the kitchen door and stormed out into the hallway, leaving her behind him. Just as he was about to let himself out of the house, William came walking out of the living room, a look of concern etched on his face. 'Dad?'
'Hey buddy'. Mulder turned to retrieve his dampened coat, not stopping to speak to his son.
'You're leaving already?'
'Fraid so'. Mulder eyed Scully coldly. 'I'll be back later though'.
'Daddy?' Abbie stepped out into the hallway. 'Why were you and mommy yelling?'
'We weren't yelling sweetie'.
'Yes you were'. The little girl looked scared, her eyes filled with worry. Her expression was echoed in William's face. 'Are you splitting up again?'
Scully looked over at Mulder, keen to know his answer to the question. His face relaxed slightly, though she could tell he was still angry. 'No we're not, so stop worrying, ok?' It was welcome news to Scully. She wanted to work things out just as much as he did - both for their sakes and for the children. Mulder patted William on the shoulder. 'I have to go, but I'll see you guys later'. He started to open the door, ignoring Scully behind him.
'Did you bring my surprise daddy?'
'Surprise?' Mulder turned back to face his daughter.
'Yeah. You promised'. All week Mulder had been hinting to Abbie that he had a special present for her, that he'd bring over at the weekend, but he wouldn't let on to her what it was. It was news to Scully - something else he'd gone behind her back about.
'So I did'.
'Did you bring it?'
Mulder nodded, sighing. 'I did, but I'll bring it back with me later, ok?'
'I want it now'. Abbie pouted as she looked up at her father.
'Abbie, what is it with all this 'I want?'' Scully asked, her arms folded. She was still angry at Mulder and herself, but tried to soften in front of the kids.
'I want my surprise'.
'What's the magic word?'
'Ok', Mulder sighed again. 'I'll go get it, and then I have to go'.
'Ok'. Abbie seemed to cheer up, but William was still nervous. He wasn't sure he wanted Mulder to leave, in case he didn't come back. Mulder let himself out of the house and walked towards his car.
'What surprise is this Abbie?' Scully walked up to the children, putting her hand on William's shoulder, squeezing reassuringly. It did nothing to help him.
'Daddy said because William and I were good we could have a surprise'.
Abbie rolled her eyes. 'It's a surprise mommy'.
'Silly me'. Scully smiled thinly. 'You ok Will?'
'Why were you yelling at dad?' He kept his eyes trained down towards his feet.
'Just grown up stuff'.
'Don't you love him anymore?'
'Of course I do'. Scully addressed both her children. 'Sometimes moms and dads argue, but that doesn't mean they love each other any less'.
'So you're not going to make daddy leave?'
'No'. *Not unless daddy wants to leave*. She didn't say any more, still angry at herself. Things between them had been going well recently and Mulder seemed to be making an effort to win his family back. Scully could see why he was so upset - he probably felt she wasn't interested in getting back to where they were before their troubles.
'Daddy's coming back!' Abbie stood at the door excitedly, standing on tiptoes to try and see what he was carrying.
'Why don't you move out of daddy's way?' Scully moved to pull Abbie back from the door, but she paused when she saw the 'surprise' Mulder had in his arms. 'You're kidding me'. Her heart raced as she saw what he was carrying. She closed her eyes and pursed her lips, willing herself to stay calm. One argument was enough for a morning.
'Daddy!' Abbie's eyes lit up. 'A puppy!' Sure enough, as Mulder stepped back inside the house, they could see the small animal in his arms. A golden retriever puppy, seemingly only just old enough to have been taken from its mother. Its eyes were barely open, Mulder's arms apparently comfortable enough to sleep in. As it heard the children's shrieks of delight, it sighed and perked up to find the source of the noise. Mulder bent down so the puppy was at the same height as Abbie, and began coaching it. 'You like him?'
'I love him'. Abbie stepped forward and placed a hand on the puppy's head, giggling when it stuck its tongue out and licked her. 'Is he mine?'
'He's yours and William's. But you have to promise me you'll take good care of him, ok? He needs a lot of attention and love'. Mulder smiled thinly, still not in the mood for happy families.
'I love him already'. Abbie smiled at her father, then threw her arms around him, managing to squash her new dog in the process. Even William was grinning, his earlier worry now forgotten. In fact, the only person who didn't appear happy was Scully, her face now like thunder. 'Can I have a word Mulder?' she spoke through gritted teeth. Mulder nodded, then handed the puppy to his daughter, before stepping back in the house and closing the door. This time he didn't bother removing his jacket, knowing he wouldn't be staying for too long. He edged the children into the living room, then returned to the kitchen, not closing the door completely. He'd barely set a foot inside when Scully flew at him. 'What the hell is that?'
'It's a puppy Scully'.
'I can see that. What's it doing here?'
'The kids said they wanted one. I thought after all they'd been through recently they deserved a treat'.
'A treat is a little different to a puppy Mulder. It's a big decision'. She folded her arms across her chest. 'One that should be made together'.
Mulder shrugged. 'You said yourself they could have a dog one day'.
Scully scoffed. 'One day Mulder. I didn't mean now. Did you even stop to think about this?'
'What's there to think about?'
'How about the fact I'll have to look after a baby on top of a puppy in a couple of months?'
'The kids will help out. And I will too'. He rolled his eyes. 'I thought you'd be pleased I was taking an interest'.
'It was a decision we should have made together'. Scully was aware she had raised her voice once again. She knew she should calm down for the sake of the children, as well as her unborn baby, but Mulder had once again acted without consulting her.
'You mean like getting a divorce?'
She closed her eyes as Mulder's words cut into her. 'You should have asked Mulder. A puppy's a big thing. Yes Abbie wanted one, but she also wants a pony and a cat. Are you going to get them for her too? You should have waited before getting one'.
'It's fine', he replied stubbornly. 'I'll take it back'.
'Don't be stupid. You know you can't do that'.
'Well what the hell can I do Scully? It seems that all I do is annoy you. Do you even want me around anymore, or do you just keep me in the wings so you can take out your frustration on me?'
'You know that's not true!' Scully's head was spinning. Just 24 hours ago she and Mulder were fine, snuggling up on the sofa once the children were in bed. Now the cracks in their relationship were starting to appear again. She wasn't sure how much more arguing she could take.
'No!' She was about to protest further when she heard the shrill ringing of a cellphone. She watched as Mulder retrieved his mobile from his jacket pocket to see who had interrupted them, waiting for him to hang up on the caller. But he didn't. 'I need to take this', he muttered sternly, before walking back out into the hallway. Scully remained where she was, her hands rubbing her swollen abdomen, where the baby was kicking profusely, obviously aware of her parents' distress. She could only make out snippets of his conversation, though her ears pricked up when she heard him tell the caller he'd be there as soon as he could. She swallowed hard as he returned to the kitchen, trying not to cry. When he re-entered the room, his face was flushed, and she could tell he was still angry. 'I have to go'. He said no more, biting down hard on his lip to stop himself from yelling. 'I have to go away for a few days. I'll call you when I get back'.
'Go? Go where?' She knitted her eyes in confusion. 'How long for?'
'I…it's urgent'. He didn't elaborate.
'So is this'.
'I have to go', he repeated.
'Where?' She reiterated, more sternly this time. 'Who was on the phone?'
'I…They thing they've found Samantha'.
'What?' Scully struggled to find the words to speak. Mulder had been so devoted to her and the children in recent weeks, that she'd almost forgotten Samantha existed, and was sure Mulder had cast her to the back of his mind too.
'In Arizona. A woman, matching Samantha's description down to a tee'. He seemed in shock at the news, obviously believing the caller.
'Who called you? Was it Skinner?'
Mulder hesitated. 'No'.
'Well then who?'
'It's a new source. I've had no reason to distrust him up till now'.
'So you're going to go to Arizona based on a whim and the word of someone you don't know'.
'There is strong reason to believe it is Samantha this time'.
'What makes this lead stronger than all the others?' Mulder looked away, not willing to meet Scully's eye. She knew he didn't have proof, that it was another whim. 'It's a trap Mulder. How many times have you had the same phone call, only for it to come to nothing? Someone's trying to set you up'.
'You don't know that! You don't know anything'. Deep down Mulder knew that Scully could be right, but he couldn't chance it right now. He needed to know if it was indeed his sister who had been found.
Scully flung her arms back down by her side, exasperated. 'So you're going? Again? Running after yet another dead end'.
'It's just a few days Scully. Maybe it'll do us good to be apart'. She knew he was doing this because he was angry. Maybe if they hadn't argued already, he'd have stayed, realising how much Scully needed him.
'Or maybe it'll kill us', she shouted, closing her eyes as she saw the pang of hurt cross Mulder's face.
'What are you saying Scully?'
She sighed shakily. 'Nothing. I'm not saying anything. I just thought maybe after everything that's happened lately you'd be a bit more reluctant to chase after a dead end'.
'It's not a dead end'.
'It sounds like one to me'.
'It's about my sister!'
'Your sister's dead!' Scully closed her eyes in regret as she saw Mulder's horrified face, but she didn't soften.
'You don't know that', he replied shakily.
'Don't you think you'd have found her by now? It's been years Mulder, and still you're no closer to finding her than the day she disappeared'.
'You're wrong'. Mulder stepped forward so he was right in front of Scully, she could feel his breath on her face. Both of them were so engrossed in the argument that they didn't see a shocked Abbie and William standing at the door, listening to their every word. 'Samantha is alive, and I'm going to find her, with or without your support. For once Scully, can you think about someone other than yourself?' He sounded bitter, still angry over their divorce as well as their current argument.
'I have been thinking of others'. Scully opened her eyes, and could see the hurt reflected in Mulder's own. 'I'm thinking about our children, your children. The ones who you repeatedly walk out on, leaving me to pick up the pieces. And you said you'd changed, but it's going to be the same when the baby comes along. Mulder you don't even know where Samantha is. Why do you continue to do this, to leave your family while you chase after a lost cause?' She blinked back tears, desperate now. She wanted Mulder to stay, knowing that if he left things would never be the same again, that the progress they'd made in their relationship over the last few weeks would have been in vain.
'A lost cause? That's what you think it is?' Mulder was shouting now, all of the anger he'd bottled up in recent months rushing to the surface. 'If you've thought this all along then you've wasted a lot of years being around me. You needn't have bothered'.
'What are you saying Mulder? That you wish you'd never met me?' Tears began to slide down Scully's face but she ignored them, her hands firmly on her hips. 'Is that what - '
'Stop arguing!' William ran into the room, attempting to stand in between his parents. 'Please don't argue'.
'William go to your room', Mulder snapped, not clearly registering that his children had heard every word.
'No. I want you to stop. I want you to stop arguing'.
'We're not arguing'.
'Yes you are and I hate it. I don't want you to leave'.
'I have to'. Mulder turned away from Scully, not daring to meet his son's eyes. Instead his focus fell on the little girl standing by the living room door, tears running down her face as she looked up at her father. He swallowed hard to stop himself from crying, and looked back to Scully, his anger now subsiding as he saw his broken ex-wife in front of him. 'I can't give up Scully, I just can't'.
'And you can give up on us?'
'I'm not giving up. I need you with me on this'.
'And I need you with me. Here. With your wife and children'.
Shaking his head, Mulder composed himself. He let her comment slide, not wanting another argument about the divorce. 'A couple of days max, then I'll be home. I'm sorry Scully, but I need to do this. We'll talk about this when I get back. I promise after this, I'm all yours'. Without waiting for an answer, Mulder pushed past his children and headed out of the kitchen.
'Mulder', Scully shouted, ignoring the sharp pain in her abdomen. She watched in horror as he walked towards the front door, ignoring her protests and that of the children. Abbie ran after her father, crying as he closed the door behind him, while William stood next to his mother, his eyes clouded with tears. Scully shut her eyes as she heard the door slam, then ran her hands through her hair. As she opened her eyes again, she saw that the puppy had wandered out from the living room into the hallway, and was beginning to make a mess on the carpet. It was the last straw for her, and she burst into tears again.
Mulder ignored the phone calls he received on the way to the airport. He knew it was Scully, but felt it was too soon to talk to her. He was angry - angry at his wife for filing for divorce in the first place, for suggesting he didn't care about her, and for claiming Samantha was dead. And he was angry at himself for everything he'd done recently, including walking out on his family for a second time. As if his day wasn't bad enough, he got caught in the worst traffic jam ever en route to the airport, when all he'd wanted to do was plant his foot on the accelerator and let out some of his frustration. He knew that Scully had reason to be angry with him too - after all, he'd turned up on her doorstep, yelled a little, dumped a puppy on her and then walked out to search for his sister. He should have consulted her about buying the children a pet, but he wanted to make William and Abbie happy - particularly with the year they'd had. He thought it would make them a proper family - that they could take the dog on long walks at the weekend - but instead it drove a further wedge between him and Scully. And he knew she'd been under a lot of pressure lately, with juggling work and the children, the unexpected loss of her mother and then her pregnancy scare. But it still hurt him that she'd filed for divorce in the first place.
He finally arrived at the airport an hour late, but still in time to catch his plane. He parked the car in long stay, grabbed his overnight bag from the trunk, and made his way to the departure terminal. His phone began to ring once again, but this time he switched it off, without even noticing the caller. Whatever it was could wait until he'd landed. He made his way to the check-in point, noticing his flight was delayed by half an hour, and got in the queue - that was the kind of day he was having. Taking a deep, impatient breath, Mulder tried to clear his mind of the morning's happenings, but he couldn't shake the image of the family that he'd left behind - a shocked William, upset Abbie and a devastated Scully. In all of the time he'd known her, she'd hardly ever cried - until they were married that was. Then when the cracks started to appear in their marriage, it seemed that she was always in tears, and he knew it was all down to him and his quest for the truth. For so many years, Samantha had been his number one priority, and it was hard for him to shake that. He thought Scully would understand, and she did - to a point - but then he took his obsession too far. It was fine while it was just the two of them, but he had the feelings of two children to think of. And now a third on the way. In a way he considered their baby to be a miracle child - she was conceived at an awkward time, and was definitely not planned, but now she was giving Mulder the chance to prove himself as a father and husband. He was going to do everything right this time, everything that he was too wrapped up in his work to do with Abbie. So why was he here at the airport, leaving the city, when he had three people at home who needed him?
Mulder thought for a moment, then retrieved his mobile phone from his jacket pocket. He stepped forward along with the rest of the queue, as he debated whether to call Scully and apologise. He knew deep down it had to be done face-to-face, but wasn't sure if she'd let him after their earlier argument. Maybe he could soften her over the phone, then make it up to her later. Sighing, he switched the phone back on, and waited for it to load. He noticed that the check-in queue was rapidly dwindling, and knew he had a decision to make soon. Grimacing, Mulder noticed he had a number of voicemails, and it was his choice as to whether to listen to them first, or just call Scully. 'Can I help you sir?' He lifted his head to look at the young girl sitting behind the desk in front of him. He heard the sound of the man behind him tutting with impatience, and realised he was now the one holding the queue up. 'Sorry?'
He made it to the hospital in record time, the journey there a complete blur. All Mulder could think of was Scully, and what she must be going through without him. The doctor didn't explain much over the phone, just that his partner was experiencing contractions, which they were trying to stop. It was too early - far too early - Scully was only just seven months pregnant, and she couldn't give birth now. Coupled with the earlier trouble she'd had with her pregnancy, the outlook didn't look promising, but Mulder tried not to think of that. He knew he needed to stay strong for Scully. After parking the car, he rushed into the building, racing to the front desk. 'Dana Scully. I need to see Dana Scully'. He felt sick, aware that none of this would have happened had he not walked out on her earlier that day. He was the one who got her upset, and no doubt it was the stress that started the contractions. Eventually he was pointed to the correct ward, and found the room that Scully was currently in. As he stood outside, he debated whether to go in or not - he wasn't sure if he'd be welcome after his behaviour. Not that he could blame her, but he wanted to be there, whatever happened. He knocked gently on the door and took a deep breath, before entering. Scully was lying on the bed, her head resting on the pillow. She was hooked up to a couple of machines, and Mulder could hear the sound of a heart beating rapidly. Their daughter's heart. A nurse was just finishing a conversation with Scully when she heard Mulder enter the room, then smiled at him. 'This must be your husband'.
A girl. A tiny little girl - the smallest little girl Mulder had ever seen in his life. He'd been there the whole time, whispering words of encouragement to Scully, holding her hand throughout her labour, seeing his daughter for the first time. So small. But still so perfect. She made no noise as she entered the world, and his heart broke as he feared the worst. He knew childbirth was supposed to be a life-changing experience, but not in this way. When William was born it had been one of the happiest days of his life. He felt triumphant in the delivery room - that he could actually father a child - and he felt so proud of Scully for giving him a son. He thought it would be the same this time round. Their little girl was supposed to bring them together - to give Mulder the chance to redeem himself - but it wasn't meant to be. As the doctors crowded round the tiny being, Mulder slipped his arm around Scully and held her as she sobbed. He was too numb to cry - still in shock as to what was happening. Just a few hours ago everything was fine and now, after the quickest birth he'd ever witnessed, his family was in tatters.
Mulder had never seen so many tubes and machines. He almost couldn't see his daughter in the incubator because of them. The nurses were still tending to her, so he wasn't allowed in the room just yet, but he could look on helplessly from the window. She was still alive, which was remarkable considering how small she was, but the doctors said she was weak. Mulder hoped the baby was like her mother - determined to prove people wrong - and that she'd fight to keep breathing. He knew that there were risks associated with premature birth - that she could grow up to have growth or respiratory problems, or even be deaf or blind, but he and Scully could deal with that. They could deal with anything that was thrown their way, as long as their daughter survived. He stood there for what felt like hours as the baby was settled, tears threatening his eyes but never falling. He needed to stay strong.
'Mulder?' Scully's lower lip trembled as he returned to her room, closing the door behind him. 'How is she? They're not telling me anything'. He realised why she was so worried - she was fearing the worst. He took a seat next to Scully's bed, and turned to face her. 'They've got her settled, and she's hooked up to the machines. So many machines Scully'. He shook his head. 'There are a few other babies in there too, all fighting so hard. You know, one little boy is even smaller'. He looked at the palm of his hand. 'No bigger than this'.
Scully took her time returning to the room. She needed some time to herself, to comprehend what had happened. It had been a crazy day, with everything happening in such a short space of time, and it was only now just sinking in. She had given birth. Two months early. And now her impossibly small but perfect daughter was fighting for her life in another part of the hospital. Scully felt empty - she was used to cradling her children as soon as they were born, not having them taken from her immediately before she had the chance to even see them. She felt like a failure - she cursed herself for getting so wound up when Mulder left, and blamed herself for what had happened. And then of course, there was Abbie and William, who were no doubt worried sick about their mother having to be rushed to hospital. Again. They'd barely recovered from the last time, when she was bleeding during the pregnancy. She could vaguely recall their hysterical screams as she lay on the hallway carpet earlier that morning. Thankfully William was pretty clued up for his age, and called for an ambulance before raising the alarm with their next door neighbour. When she'd woke up earlier that day, she thought they might have a relaxing day together as a family, with Mulder joining them once he'd finished work. She never dreamt she'd end the day divorced, with her ex-husband hating her, and a daughter barely clinging onto life by a thread. She took a deep breath as she opened the door to her room, knowing that Mulder wanted to talk, but not knowing if she was going to like what he had to say. She couldn't blame him for being angry, but she was just relieved he'd been able to make it to the birth - knowing he'd never have forgiven himself if he hadn't been there. When she opened the door, she stopped short, rooted to the spot by the sight in front of her. Mulder was still sitting in the same chair, hunched over. His face was buried in his hands, and he was shaking. Crying. Scully could hear the sobs from across the room. She crossed the room slowly and quietly, then when she reached him, she tugged on his hands, drawing them away from his face. 'Mulder', she whispered, her own tears falling once again. Mulder straightened up, but he couldn't stop crying. Scully sat down on his knee and slipped her arms around his neck, drawing him in towards her, resting her chin on his head. He resisted at first, not sure he was deserving of her sympathy, but his arms soon snaked around her waist. 'I'm so sorry Scully', he choked, his tears soaking her nightgown, but neither of them made an effort to move. 'I didn't mean for any of this to happen. It's all my fault'.
Scully sat back in her chair, leaning into Mulder. He moved his arm so it was resting around her shoulders, and pulled her further in towards him. They both stared intently at the tiny child in the incubator in front of them, literally fighting for her life. 'She's so small', Scully spoke eventually, finding the words. She found it hard to believe that the baby was so tiny. She'd seen premature babies herself, working in a hospital, but her child seemed smaller than most. And she still couldn't believe this was happening to her daughter.
'I know', Mulder murmured back, watching as his daughter worked hard to take another breath. 'I don't think I've ever seen anything so tiny'. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Scully move her hand up to wipe away a tear. 'Are you ok?'
'Yeah', she answered shakily. 'I just didn't expect today to turn out like it did'.
'Huh, that's an understatement'.
'I thought it would just be a day of doing nothing and relaxing…not…not this'.
With his free hand, Mulder took hold of Scully's own. 'I'm so sorry Scully'. She tore her eyes away from the incubator, and turned to look at him. 'For what?'
'For today. For this'.
'Mulder, you didn't do this'.
'If I hadn't shouted at you and left, none of -'
'And if I hadn't shouted back, I…' She sighed, before continuing. 'Listen, we can blame ourselves as much as we like, but this has happened, and we just have to deal with it. We'll get through this'. She squeezed his hand tightly.
'I know, but I just want to apologise. For everything'.
'Me too'. Leaning across, Scully pressed her lips to Mulder's cheek. 'I do love you, you know that, don't you? And I didn't mean for any of this to happen'.
'Hey'. Mulder kissed her forehead. 'None of that now. I was angry earlier, and I shouldn't have gone off at you. And I'm sorry about the puppy too'.
Scully laughed. 'I'd forgotten about him'.
'You know, I think in hindsight that dog was a good idea'.
'Really?' He turned to face her.
'Yeah I do. It'll give the kids a distraction, particularly over the next few days'.
'So we'll keep him then?' Mulder held his breath as Scully considered his question, hoping she wouldn't object to his use of 'we'.
'I guess we will. But you can clean up when it makes a mess everywhere'.
'Sounds like a deal to me'.
The smile on Scully's face gradually faded. 'I guess we should choose a name soon. For the baby. Just…she can't be nameless forever'. Her words hung in the air, and Mulder knew she couldn't bring herself to finish her sentence. *Just in case. Just in case she doesn't survive*
'We should'. Mulder squeezed Scully tighter. 'Have you got any favourites?'
'I haven't thought about it lately. I guess I thought we still had time to make a decision'.
Mulder thought back to just after Christmas in his apartment, when Scully was talking him through the names she liked. Christmas - it felt like so long ago. They had hope then, things were looking up. 'How about Lily?'
Scully's eyes widened. 'Really?'
'Yeah. I remember you said you liked the name, and even Abbie has been calling the bump by the name. Do you think?'
'What do you think? It's not just my decision'.
'I like Lily'. He smiled nervously, shifting in his seat.
Scully smiled, tears springing to her eyes. 'Lily it is'. Her voice wobbled as she spoke. 'We um…I guess we should think about -'
'Getting her baptised?'
'I think we should do that'. They hated talking this way - like Lily wasn't going to survive - but deep down both knew it could happen. They had to be practical.
'Yeah'. They both sobered, their attention both returning to their daughter. Neither of them wanted to think the worst, but knew they had to be practical. After all, she weighed only a couple of pounds, and the odds were stacked firmly against her.
'I'm scared Mulder'. Scully snuggled in closer, closing her eyes as Mulder began to rub her shoulder.
'I know. I am too'.
'I'm so glad you're here'.
'I wouldn't be anywhere else'. He kissed her once again. 'We'll get through this, ok? She's a fighter'. He hoped he was right.
'Dad'. William raced to the door as his father entered, flinging his arms around his waist.
'Hey buddy'. Mulder could tell his son had been worried - both about Scully's welfare and also that his dad wouldn't return. 'Are you ok?'
'Where have you been?' Mulder pulled back to see his son's tear-stained eyes. 'Mom's in the hospital'.
'I know Will'. He brushed a strand of William's dark hair away from his face. 'I've been at the hospital with her'.
'So you're not going away?'
He realised the kids must have heard most of his argument with Scully. 'No, not at all. I'm sorry you heard all that earlier, ok? We didn't mean anything ok, mom and I were just a little angry'.
'Is mom ok?'
Mulder looked up. 'Where's Abbie?'
'She's in the lounge'.
'Ok, let's go see her, and then I'll tell you'.
'Is…' William's lower lip trembled. 'Is mommy dead?'
'No!' Mulder pulled his son in for a tight hug. 'Your mom's fine, ok? She's fine'. With his hand on William's shoulder, he steered him into the living room. Abbie was lying on the sofa, dozing, while Scully's neighbour was sitting and reading a magazine, the puppy also on her lap. 'Hi'. Mulder quietened as he saw his daughter sleeping peacefully. 'Hi. Thank you so much for looking after them Emma…'.
'How's mom?' William interrupted, eager to know what was happening.
Mulder gestured to the sofa. 'Have a seat'.
'No. That's what you said last time'. *When Maggie died*
'Trust me, ok?'
Nodding reluctantly, William perched on the edge of the sofa. Abbie shifted as she felt the cushion next to her move, and slowly opened her eyes. 'Mommy?'
Mulder was by her side in an instant, smiling at his daughter as she looked up sleepily, rubbing her eyes. 'Hey sweetie'.
It took her a moment to focus. 'Where's mommy?'
'Mommy's at the hospital'.
'Is she hurt?'
'No, she's fine'. He helped Abbie move into a seated position, and pulled her onto his lap. She snuggled into him, now sucking on her thumb.
'When's mom coming home?' William asked, still worried.
'Probably in a few days'. He cleared his throat, wondering how to explain the events to the children. 'Your little sister arrived this afternoon'.
Mulder smiled at his daughter. 'She is'.
'Is mommy with her?'
'Yup. Mommy will be with her for a few days. Your little sister was born early -'.
'Like me?' Abbie spoke up, her eyes wide.
'You were just a few weeks early sweetie. Lily's almost two months early, which means she's very very small, and at the moment she's very weak. The doctors are doing all they can to help her, but she needs a lot of care at the moment'.
'Is she going to be ok?' William's eyes were wide in fear.
'I…'. Mulder knew it was best to tell the truth. 'I don't know. We hope so'.
'Can we see her?'
'I hope so'.
'Can we see mommy?'
'Children aren't allowed in the hospital sweetie'.
Abbie's eyebrows knitted in confusion. 'But Lily's there with mommy'.
'Because Lily was born in the hospital'.
'But so was I'.
'I know…I know it's hard to understand Abbie, but you'll see mommy real soon, ok?'
'Ok'. She didn't look convinced.
'How about we say thank you to Emma for looking after you, then go get something to eat?'
'Can we get donuts?' She asked hopefully.
'Hmm mommy will kill me if she finds out'. Abbie pouted, in a move that reminded Mulder of her mother. 'But then again', he winked. 'Mommy's not here'.
Mulder pushed open the door, stilling as he saw Scully fast asleep. He grimaced as the door squeaked, relieved when she didn't stir. Walking slowly across the room, he took a seat next to the bed, then ran a hand through her hair. She shifted in the bed and slowly came awake. 'Mulder?'
'Ssssh'. He didn't remove his hand from her hair. 'Go back to sleep'.
'S'ok, I'm awake'. She rolled over to her side to face him, wincing as she did so.
'Are you ok?'
'Mmm just a little sore. What are you doing here?'
'I thought I'd come and see my two girls'.
'How are the kids?'
'They were a little worried, but seem to be doing ok now. Their bellies are full, and when I left they were playing with Paddy'.
'Mmm hmmm. Paddy the puppy'.
'Who chose the name?'
'William actually. It was the lesser of two evils, Abbie's taken to calling him pup'.
Scully smiled thinly. 'Ingenious'.
'Yeah'. He watched as she grimaced again. 'Shall I get something for you for the pain?'
She shook her head. 'I'm ok'.
'So how are you doing, honestly?'
'Honestly? I feel empty. I miss her. When…when I was pregnant I could feel her move and kick and I knew instinctively that she was ok and happy. But now…now I don't know that'. Tears threatened her eyes and she swallowed hard. Mulder took hold of her hand. 'What if she dies Mulder?' She'd finally uttered the words that neither of them had dared to speak. 'What if she doesn't make it?'
'She will'. Mulder couldn't bring himself to consider his daughter dying. His family had been through more than enough as it was. He wasn't sure how much they could take, how much more he could take.
'But what if she doesn't?' It seemed that Scully was determined to have this conversation.
'If she doesn't'. Mulder squeezed her hand. 'Then at least we'll have got to meet our little girl and spend some time with her. And we'll know she fought so hard to stay with us'. He moved his hand to gently wipe away Scully's tears, which were now falling. He felt like crying too, he felt like he was betraying Lily by even thinking about her leaving them, but he knew he had to stay strong for Scully.
'And if she survives Mulder. What if…what if I can't love her?'
'I…What if, when I hold her, I can't connect with her? With William and Abbie I held them straight away and nursed them. I won't have any of that with Lily'.
Mulder frowned, worried that Scully was thinking too much. He rubbed his eyes, then placed his hand on her face, lightly caressing her cheek. 'Scully, I know that won't happen'.
'Because you're a great mother. And you already love Lily so much. She's only a day old, and the only time you haven't been with her is when the nurses have forced you back into your room. It won't happen'.
Scully smiled thinly. 'I hope not'.
'Listen Scully. Things are going to be ok'.
'How do you know?'
'I don't. I just hope'. He smiled back. 'And whatever gets thrown at us over the next hour or day or week, we'll cope with. We'll stay strong together'. Scully lifted Mulder's hand from her cheek and brought it down to her lips, kissing his palm. 'Thank you. What would I do without you?'
*Probably live a long and happy life* he thought bitterly, but said nothing, instead holding Scully's hand until her tears subsided.
Lily Ann Mulder was baptised when she was just a day old. Her mother and father were there to witness the ritual, though they wished they could have taken her in their arms to hold her. It certainly wasn't the christening that either of them would have planned, but then again, neither of them had expected their daughter to be fighting for her life. But like her parents, Lily didn't seem to be giving up. Each minute she lived was a minute more than the doctors had predicted. Scully was a doctor herself and knew the odds were stacked firmly against her daughter. But the newest addition to the Mulder family seemed determined to prove them wrong. After Lily was baptised, Scully reluctantly left her to return to her hospital room, Mulder by her side. 'I heard from Bill today', she spoke as Mulder helped her back into bed.
'Yeah. He and Tara are going to try and come over at the end of the week'.
'That's nice'. Mulder knew Scully was hoping her brother would get here sooner. *Just in case*. He on the other hand was apprehensive about seeing Bill again. He remembered his threats to him at Christmas, that should he hurt Scully in any way, there'd be hell to pay. And he couldn't help but feel responsible for their daughter's premature birth. It was only a matter of time before Bill found out the truth about how Scully went into labour.
'And I've been told I can go home tomorrow'.
'That's…' Mulder paused as he saw tears spring to Scully's eyes. 'That's good, isn't it?'
She shrugged. 'I don't want to leave her'.
He sighed in response, aware of her pain. He hated leaving the hospital too. Just in case something happened while he was gone. 'I know Scully, but you said yourself that she's in good hands'.
'What if something happens? I'm just down the corridor now, but when I'm back home I'll have to drive here. I could be too late'. She bit down on her trembling lip to stop her tears from falling.
Mulder sat down on the edge of the bed and pressed his lips to Scully's forehead. 'If something happens', he stressed. 'The hospital will let us know. And we'll be here for her. Both of us'. Scully nodded as she took hold of his hand. She wasn't entirely convinced.
'She's…' Bill Scully took a deep breath as he looked through the window at his new niece. 'She's beautiful Mulder'.
Mulder nodded as he followed Bill's gaze into the special care unit. His eyes landed on Scully, who was sat by Lily's incubator yet again. She'd been home for five days now, but had spent most of her time at the hospital with her daughter, their little miracle. The baby appeared to be getting stronger each day, though her parents knew that the slightest setback could be detrimental to her health. That fact was even more apparent to them just two days previously, when baby Oliver, born the day after Lily and weighing almost two pounds more, lost his fight for life, despite the fact he seemed to be improving. Scully had been there to witness his downfall, and had been up all night crying. Mulder was there to comfort her, relieved she had let him into her bed and heart again. They'd clung to one another all night, until finally she'd succumbed to sleep and a new day began.
'So how's she doing?' Bill gestured towards baby Lily.
'Honestly? We don't know. She's already lived a week longer than she should have done. We're having to take it one day at a time'.
Bill swallowed hard, still in shock from the phone call he'd received earlier that week. 'Listen Mulder, I just want you to know…I know we've never seen eye to eye, but I would never ever wish this on anyone. And if you guys need anything at all, just let me know'.
Mulder nodded. 'Thanks, I appreciate it'.
'How's Dana doing?'
He sighed. 'She feels guilty about the whole thing. She needs to slow down and rest, but she's running backwards and forwards between home and the hospital. It can't be good for her'.
'Or you either'.
Mulder shrugged. 'I'm fine'.
'I thought that was something only Dana said. You look shattered Mulder. Both you and my sister need a rest, otherwise you'll get sick, and what good will that be to the kids?'
'I need to be here for Scully', he murmured, watching as she rose from the chair in the room in front of him, and walked towards the door. She smiled as she saw her brother in the corridor - a smile which didn't quite reach her tired eyes. 'Bill, thank you for coming. Where's Tara?' She stepped forward into his outstretched arms and hugged him tightly.
'She's taken the kids out to the zoo. How are you doing Dana?' Bill pulled back to take a look at his sister.
He turned round to roll his eyes at Mulder. 'You both look like crap. You should go home and get some rest'.
'It's ok, I'll stay here for a while'.
Mulder followed Bill's gaze, and could see why he was so concerned. Scully did look terrible - dark circles surrounded her eyes, and she looked like she'd lost weight - not just her baby bump. And she seemed paler than usual, nothing like her rosy glow she'd had while she was pregnant. 'I'll stay here', he offered, frowning as Scully shook her head. Before she had the chance to speak, Bill interrupted. 'You should both go home. I can stay here'.
'But, what if -'
He silenced Scully with a look. 'I insist. If we need you for any reason, I'll give you a call. But I'm sure we'll be fine'.
'Maybe I want to spend some time with my niece, ok?' He smiled at them both. 'Mulder, take your wife home and put her to bed'.
Mulder saw Scully tense at her brother's mention of 'wife', knowing she was now thinking of their divorce and subsequent argument. He reached out to put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing reassuringly. She turned to smile at him gratefully. 'Are you sure?' Scully didn't want to leave, but knew her brother was talking sense.
'Of course I am. You've got the house to yourself for a few hours, go home and get to bed'.
Nodding, Scully enveloped her brother in another hug. 'Thanks for being here'. As she pulled back, he pressed his lips to her forehead. 'No problem. Now go'. He watched as Mulder took hold of Scully's hand and led her down the corridor, then turned his attention back to the tiny tot in front of him.
'It feels weird here with the house so quiet', Scully remarked as they entered the front door. She threw her keys on the table and removed her jacket, hanging it on the banister.
'Mmm, enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts'. Mulder followed her inside and closed the door behind them. 'Can I get you anything, or are you heading straight up?'
'I don't think I could sleep, even if I wanted to'.
'At least try Scully. You need to save your energy'.
Her eyes welled with tears as she turned to face him. 'I think I think too much when I go to try and sleep. It just doesn't work'.
'Shall I make you a hot chocolate or something to help you relax?'
She shook her head, a tear escaping as she did so. 'No thank you'.
'Why don't you just go and lie down, even if you can't sleep'.
'Will you come with me?' she asked faintly. Mulder could hear the pleading tone of her voice. 'Of course'. Placing his hand on the small of Scully's back, Mulder followed her upstairs and into the bedroom. He watched as she removed her shoes and sat down on the bed, then followed suit, bringing his legs up so he was lying on his side propped up on his elbow. When Scully settled her head on the pillow next to him, he reached out, taking hold of her hand. 'Close your eyes', he said softly, as he began tracing light circles over her hand.
'Humour me Scully'.
'Ok', she smiled faintly, and did as he said.
'You know Scully, I don't think I ever had the chance to thank you'.
'For putting up with me. For still speaking to me after everything I've put you through'.
'And for giving me three wonderful children. I know I've said this a thousand times, but I really do mean it now. I'm here for you. No more excuses. No more running off. No more leaving you to pick up the pieces. I just hope I'm not too late, that you don't hate me right now'.
Scully opened her eyes, and turned to face Mulder. 'Of course I don't hate you. I just…I just got angry, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to end up like this. I know you're upset about the divorce, but -'.
'I think I deserved it. And you know it doesn't change a thing. I love you just as much as I did when we were married, though I know I didn't act as though I did'.
'I love you too'.
'You're my family Scully', he murmured, as he slipped his arms around her stomach. 'And I'm never going to let you down again'.
'I know'. She snuggled up against him and closed her eyes. Within minutes the two of them were fast asleep.
'Hey Scully. Don't you think it's time to come home?' Mulder peered his head around the door, startling the woman sitting by the incubator.
'What?' She tore her attention away from Lily, who was sleeping soundly, and turned to face him. Their daughter was now four weeks old, defying the odds, and getting bigger and stronger every day. They still hadn't been able to hold her, and of course, she wasn't out of the woods just yet, but both Mulder and Scully had more hope than when she was first born. She looked a lot better too, and early signs showed she was going to look just like her mother. Scully had been at the hospital every day expressing milk to help her daughter.
'I think it's time you took a break'.
'I'm fine Mulder'.
'I know you are. But you need to eat'. Closing the door behind him, he edged over towards his partner and child, taking hold of Lily's tiny hand through the hole in the incubator. He smiled at her sleeping form, wishing she was strong enough to take home. 'Hey Lily. How's my little girl doing?'
'I'll grab something from the canteen'.
He looked back up at Scully. 'And I need to eat'.
'You can grab something too'.
'And the children need to eat'.
This got her full attention. 'You brought them here? But they're not allowed in'.
'I know. They're sitting patiently outside waiting for their mom'.
'How did you get them in here?'
'I fluttered my eyelashes at a young nurse'.
She raised her eyebrows, clearly not believing him, and then sighed heavily. 'But I have to stay here'.
'The children need to eat Scully'.
'And they need to see their mom too. They're beginning to wonder if she's just a figment of their imagination'. He meant it jokingly, but his words rang true with Scully. 'I guess I haven't been there for them lately'.
'I was kidding Scully. They know why we need to spend time here'.
She sighed. 'I feel bad. And I need to come back later to feed her'.
'I'll tell you what. I'll bring you back here ready for feeding time once you've been fed yourself. It'll be a compromise'. He widened his grin as Scully rose from her chair.
'And you'll feed me, right?'
'Of course. I'll wine you and dine you. Well maybe not wine. The kids want a milkshake so you're welcome to join them. And I promised I'd take them to the movies. But I will have you back here in a couple of hours'.
'Well with an offer like that, how can I refuse?'
'That's my girl'. Reluctantly he let go of his daughter's hand and stepped away from the incubator. 'I'll have mommy back soon sweetie'. He watched as Scully put her jacket on, and stared longingly at Lily. 'Ok', she sighed, always hating when she had to leave, in case her daughter needed her. 'Let's go'.
They spoke to the nurses on the way out, with Scully insisting that they called her should anything happen to Lily. She followed Mulder out into the corridor, where William and Abbie sat waiting patiently. 'Mommy!' Abbie was off her seat in an instant, running towards her. 'Hey!' Scully crouched down to take her daughter in her arms. 'Are you ok?'
'Daddy's taking us to dinner!'
'Sssh'. Scully put a finger to her lips. 'You have to stay quiet, you're in a hospital, ok? People are resting'.
'Is Lily resting?'
'Yes she is'.
'Can we see her?' William was desperate to see his youngest sister. He could still remember Mulder and Scully bringing Abbie home when she was just a few days old - he wasn't used to his sibling being in hospital for weeks on end.
'I'm afraid not. You can see her soon though'. *Hopefully* There had been no talk of when Lily would come home, but it wasn't expected to be for a few more weeks, providing she continued getting stronger and avoided any infections.
'Can I have popcorn at the cinema mommy?' Abbie was clearly excited at having both parents together with her. The past few weeks had seen Mulder and Scully alternating between home and the hospital and had rarely been in the same room together, apart from when they swapping shifts or going to bed.
'Of course you can. As long as you eat your dinner'.
'Ok'. The little girl took hold of her mom's hand. 'Let's go'. Smiling to herself, and feeling better already, Scully walked with her family out of the hospital.
'Can we have ice cream for dinner daddy?' Mulder helped Abbie up into the booth and took a seat opposite her, next to Scully. 'Ice cream, already? Aren't you full up from the popcorn?'
'Nope. William ate the popcorn'.
'Not all of it'. William nudged his sister, and in return received a warning look from Scully. The reality was she'd missed this - spending time together as a family, seeing William and Abbie interact with one another. She was glad she had them to focus on when she wasn't at the hospital, knowing that if she hadn't, she'd have gone insane over the past few weeks.
'Providing you can eat your main, you can have dessert'. Mulder settled back into the booth, casually raising his arm to drape it around Scully's shoulders.
'What do you want for your main course?'
'Can I get pancakes mommy?'
'Not for main sweetie, maybe for dessert'.
'But I want a chocolate sundae for dessert. Can't I have both?'
'You can't have pancakes followed by a sundae'.
Scully inwardly cursed her daughter's inquisitive nature, something that had developed further since she'd started pre-school. 'Because you can't'.
'But daddy lets me'.
Scully raised her eyebrow as she turned to look at Mulder. 'He does, does he? So this is what you get up to while I'm with Lily'.
Mulder shrugged. 'Hey, they've gotta eat Scully. I'm just giving them what they want'.
'So that explains the endless amount of energy she has', she replied dryly.
'So what are you having?'
'Well', she looked longingly at the menu. 'The cheeseburger does look tempting'.
'Cheeseburger? Who are you and what have you done with my woman?'
'Mmm'. Mulder leant across to kiss her cheek. It felt good to spend time with her away from the hospital. They needed time to reconnect. 'So cheeseburger?' he asked as he pulled away.
'Well I shouldn't really'.
'I need to lose the rest of my bump'.
'This!' She lifted her top a little to grab hold of some skin on her waist.
'There's hardly anything there Scully. And anyways, I like your baby weight. It's like a battle scar or something'.
Scully rolled her eyes and leant back in the seat, resting her head on the back of the booth. 'You're just being a pervert'.
'And how do you work that out?'
'It's so you can take credit for it isn't it? Like it's telling the world that you did this to me'.
Mulder laughed. 'You know me too well'.
'What do you mean?'
Scully blushed as William spoke up, then cleared her throat. 'Cheeseburger it is. Are you ready to order kids?'
'Yeah I'm good'. Scully rubbed her stomach, suddenly regretting the cheeseburger. She'd relied on snacks and salads while she was at the hospital - it had been a while since she'd eaten a hearty meal.
'You look tired'.
'No actually, I feel good'. She noticed Mulder's concerned expression. 'Honestly. It's done me good, thank you'.
'Maybe we should do this more often'.
'Come out. As a family'.
Scully grinned, her eyes darting towards her children, who were currently picking out their desserts. 'I like that idea'.
Mulder followed her gaze. 'How have we managed this Scully? '
'Managed what?' She turned her head to look at him.
'This. To have three amazing kids?'
She smiled. 'I ask myself that a lot'.
'I mean all we've put them through. And they still turn out reasonably normal'. He sobered momentarily. 'I know I've put them through a lot, I wasn't blaming you. I'm hardly what you'd call a good father figure and - '
'Shut up'. Leaning over in the booth, she captured his lips with her own. She pulled away, catching her breath, and noticed the surprised look on Mulder's face. 'Stop blaming yourself. It's in the past'. And it was. Mulder had spent most of his time either at home or at the hospital lately. He'd taken some long overdue annual leave at work, and had been given a few weeks' compassionate leave following Lily's premature birth. When he wasn't by his daughter's side, or looking after William and Abbie, or doing housework, he was popping back to his apartment to pick up a change of clothes. He'd only been into the office briefly, and had informed the powers that be that he wouldn't be doing any field work in the near future. Not while his family needed him. And the subject of Samantha hadn't been brought up since the day Lily was born, though both he and Scully knew that had to deal with it one day. But not yet.
'If I keep blaming myself, will you keep kissing me?' He raised an eyebrow suggestively.
'No, that offer only stands for the next minute or so'.
'Ok, so I know it's my fault - ' He smiled into the kiss as Scully embraced him once again. 'You're flirty today, aren't you?'
'I guess that's what happens when I eat a disgustingly fat burger'.
'Speaking of which, did you want dessert?'
'No, it's ok, I'll burst'. She looked longingly at the dish William was holding as he walked back to their table, a fudge sundae with whipped cream on top.
'Go on'. Mulder whispered, nudging her lightly. 'You know you want to'.
She pursed her lips in thought, then sighed deeply. 'Bring it on'.
Mulder chuckled and rose from the table, relieved he could still make her smile.
'Do we have to go home already?' Abbie rubbed her eyes as she followed her parents and brother towards the car. It was clear she'd had enough excitement for one evening, though she was unwilling to admit defeat.
'We do. Mommy needs to go back to the hospital to say goodnight to Lily. And we need to get you to bed too young lady'.
'But I don't want to go to bed'.
'We'll see about that when we get home', Scully replied, knowing she'd be out like a light the minute her head hit the pillow.
'I'm not going to bed'. Abbie pouted, narrowing her eyes as her father approached her.
'You are going to bed'. He suddenly pounced, scooping her up in his arms and tickling her. 'No daddy, no!'
'You're going to bed, else I'm going to keep tickling you forever'.
'No!' Her infectious giggles caused Scully to laugh too, though she wasn't sure tickling was the right way to get their daughter to have an early night.
'You'd better do what dad says Abbie. He means it'.
At the sound of William's voice, Mulder stopped, then set Abbie back on the floor. 'You want some too?'
William grinned. 'No'.
'I think you do'. He approached his son, who had his arms out defensively in front of him. Mulder moved to dart back towards Abbie, but at the last minute grabbed hold of William. With little effort he flung him over his shoulders, and continued walking towards the car. 'Dad. Put me down!'
Sensing he wasn't about to be released, William began to hit his father on the back, a fit of giggles suddenly overcoming him.
'Mulder, put him down!' Scully chided, concealing a laugh. 'He'll be sick'.
'It's ok Scully, we're not at home. It doesn't matter'. Reaching the car door, Mulder opened it, then turned back to his family. 'Now, should I let him down?'
'Yes!' William shouted.
'No!' Abbie was clearly enjoying her father's playful mood.
'Hmm'. Mulder loosened his grip on William slightly, so that his son slid closer to the floor, though he still had good grip on him. Abbie cackled, shrieking at the thought of her brother hitting the ground. 'Careful daddy'.
After a few minutes of teasing his children, Mulder suddenly relented, pulling William back over his shoulder and settling him back on solid ground. He helped him and Abbie into the back of the car, then opened the passenger door for Scully. As she stood in front of him, her smile sobered, and she stared at him intently. 'What?' he asked, wondering why she was gazing at him.
'Nothing'. She snapped free of her thoughts and stood on tiptoe to kiss him. 'I love you', she whispered as she stepped into the car. Mulder smiled to himself as he closed the door for her, wondering what he'd done to deserve his current fortune.
'Left?' Mulder looked over at Scully sitting in the passenger seat, wondering why she wanted the change of direction.
'I thought we're going to the hospital?'
'So why are we turning left?'
'Just turn left'.
'Ok'. He had no reason to distrust her, so did as she said.
'And left again at the end of this road'.
'Scully, where are you taking us?'
'You'll find out soon enough'. She smiled, obviously an idea had sprung to her mind. Once they'd turned left, she continued to direct them, until they approached a familiar looking road. 'Ok pull over on the right here'.
'Just park the car Mulder'.
Switching off the engine, Mulder unbuckled his seatbelt and turned to face her. 'Are you going to tell me what we're doing here?'
'I just…I just thought we could show the kids your apartment'.
'Why?' He hadn't stayed at his apartment properly for over a month, and clearly wasn't expecting any guests.
'Trust me Mulder'. Gazing into her piercing blue eyes, he knew he couldn't argue. They stepped out of the car and approached the block of flats, followed closely by William and Abbie, who were somewhat subdued following the car journey. Mulder let them into the building, and led them upstairs to his apartment. He paused outside, his eyes questioning Scully, but she didn't let on. 'Aren't you going to let us in?'
Sighing heavily, Mulder opened the door, and stepped back to let his family inside. Neither of the children commented, both knowing that their father didn't belong here. Scully took charge as she entered. 'This is where daddy has been living'.
'Daddy's going to use the bathroom'. Mulder closed the door behind him, then brushed past Scully to leave the room. He had no idea why she wanted the children to see where he had lived - and in what state he'd lived in. He finished up in the bathroom and then walked back out into the living room, pausing as he took in the scene in front of him. Scully was carefully packing up his crockery into one of the boxes he'd had lying around for months. 'What…what are you doing Scully?' He felt his heart pound, though he didn't want to get his hopes up.
'Packing', she answered matter-of-factly, not looking up.
'Yeah'. She straightened up and put her hands on her hips. 'The kids and I were just saying that it seems stupid you keeping your things here'.
'Oh?' He could barely find the words.
'We want you to come home'. She turned to face him, barely concealing a smile. 'That is, if you want to?'
Mulder didn't answer, instead crossing the room in just a couple of steps and wrapping his arms around her. 'Are you serious?'
'More serious than I've ever been in my life', she whispered back. 'I need you back home. We need you back home'.
Pulling back, Mulder looked into her eyes, seeing the love reflected in them. Without warning he moved his arms around her waist and pulled her in for a kiss. Suddenly realising they had an audience, he reluctantly let go of her, pressing his forehead against hers. 'So is that a yes?'
'Say yes dad!' William's smile lit up his whole face. In fact, Mulder couldn't remember seeing his son so happy in months.
'You're coming home?' Abbie gasped.
'I'm coming home', Mulder repeated, hardly believing it himself. He'd been given another chance, and this time he wasn't about to screw it up.
By the time they'd dropped Scully back off at the hospital, Abbie had succumbed to sleep, and William wasn't too far off it himself. Mulder had barely gotten his daughter into bed when the phone rung, interrupting his conversation with a sleepy William. 'Hello'.
'Mulder it's me'.
'Hey Scully, what's up?' He smiled as he recognised the familiar voice.
'I need you to come to the hospital'.
Looking back, Mulder wondered how he'd managed to drive to the hospital without crashing the car. He couldn't focus at all during the journey, his thoughts resting with his baby girl at the hospital. He didn't know what was wrong, but Scully sounded as though she was in shock. It couldn't be good. He'd driven there in next to no time, and couldn't even recall if he'd ignored any stoplights. Parking in the first space he'd found, Mulder sprinted into the building, making his way down the familiar corridor, up the stairs and towards the special care unit. His heart was pounding as he feared the worst - he hadn't even heard the rest of Scully's telephone conversation, his thoughts resting with their daughter. She'd been doing so well lately - the doctors were pleased with their progress, and both Mulder and Scully were silently hoping they could take her home in a few weeks or so, not wishing to tempt fate. It seemed that luck wasn't on their side.
He came to a standstill outside the door, his hopes fading as he took in the scene in front of him. Lily's incubator was empty. He pressed his hand against the door to steady himself as his legs buckled. Scully was sat in a chair next to the incubator, her back to the door. She appeared slightly hunched over, and her shoulders looked like they were shaking. She was crying. A nurse stood in front of her, explaining something. Mulder knew he had to go in there, he needed to comfort Scully, but part of him wanted to run away - he wasn't sure he could face any more heartache, and knew his family couldn't either. Reluctantly he opened the door and stepped inside, hesitating momentarily. The nurse noticed his presence and smiled, before turning away - he wasn't sure if the smile was to be polite or in sympathy. 'Scully?' His voice wobbled as he spoke. He felt like his hopes were fading - they'd had such a fun evening, and he hated the thought that his day was about to go downhill. He felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him when Scully shifted in her chair to look at him. 'Hey'.
She sat back to look at Mulder, her eyes narrowed in confusion. 'What?'
'Marry me'. Noticing the smile on her face, he shook his head. 'I'm serious Scully. Marry me'.
'But…' Her grin slowly faded. 'What? Why?'
He sighed. 'I know we've spoken about this, but I mean it. I…If you don't want to then that's fine, I understand and I'm happy that you're just letting me back into your life. But I want another go. I want to do it properly this time'. His eyes pleaded with her. 'I want to do everything right'.
'I'm sorry', he laughed. 'Am I moving too fast?'
'No…' Scully chuckled too. 'I'd say after 14 years you're definitely not going too quickly. I'm just…Are you sure?' Just one look into his eyes told her all she needed to know. 'Yes', she whispered, moving back to embrace Mulder and her baby.
Lily wriggled in Mulder's arms, and he took care to make sure none of her tubes came free. 'They say we can take her home in the next week or two'.
'Yeah. So I guess we'd better get shopping'. Scully had refused to buy new things for the baby too far in advance, fearing it would tempt fate. Little did she know how things would turn out.
'Where's she going to sleep?'
'I figured she could come in with us for the first few months at least'.
*With us* Mulder couldn't believe how things had changed in recent months. He never thought he'd be welcome back home again, but here he was, on the brink of moving back in. 'And then what?'
'There's plenty of space in Abbie's room for them to share'.
'There is', he remarked, looking back towards his daughter. 'Or we could always look for another house?'
'Yeah, a bigger house, with a bigger yard for the kids to play. Maybe we could get the girls a swing or something, and put a real basketball hoop up for William'.
'You've thought about this?'
'I've thought about it a lot. I mean, I love our house now, but it holds some bad memories for the both of us. This would be a fresh start - somewhere for us to make new memories'.
Scully shook her head, her eyes brimming with tears once again. 'Fox Mulder, you always keep me guessing'.
Mulder laughed. 'But that's why you love me, right?'
'I love you too. More than anything'. And then Mulder settled back into his chair, content to hold his family in his arms.
See! No fear, I love a happy ending! And speaking of which, this is the end…well…there's an epilogue written if anyone wants to read it - let me know ;)
Sorry for the delay in getting this out to you….
So this is it…the epilogue. The final chapter. For a story that originally I didn't have many ideas for or motivation to write, it soon turned into something more, and I ended up really enjoying it. Thank you all so much for sticking with this story and for all the reviews. I say this all the time, but they do mean a lot. Seriously. And they encourage me to keep writing. Special thanks has to go out to Moonbeams, my fabulous beta. She was actually instrumental in Lily surviving, as I was going to have Scully miscarry earlier on in the story (I'm sorry, I'm sorry!) So thank you to her for reading and proofing all of my chapters, and listening to my random babblings and ideas. Also to Allialli, who really surprised me by saying that she liked this story - it means a lot, because I think she's great and can't wait to read more from her.
Here you go. I hope you like it.
Mulder smiled as she opened her big blue eyes. Rolling over on the bed, he gently took hold of her hand and kissed it, sighing contentedly. 'Hey'. She said nothing and just stared at him, her face a mixture of confusion and recognition. 'Did you have a good nap? I thought you'd sleep for longer. Why don't you try to doze off again?' He noticed her wide yawn, which he took as confirmation that she was still sleepy. 'Have I ever told you how gorgeous you are? Well I'm sorry if I haven't, but you are. You look just like your mommy, which is a good thing, because we certainly didn't want you to end up with this'. With his spare hand he pointed to his nose. A movement to his left caught Mulder's attention, and he saw Scully standing in the doorway, her arms folded in front of her and a smile on her face. He could see the tears in her eyes, but she said nothing, just watching him and their daughter interact. Turning back to the baby, he gently kissed her forehead. 'Speak of the devil. Shall we let mommy come and play?'
'It's ok', Scully spoke softly, careful not to disturb their daughter. Despite her unpredicted entrance to the world, Lily was a content baby, hardly crying at all and virtually sleeping through the night, but Scully didn't want them to get too complacent. She was now ten weeks old - ten weeks older than doctors first predicted. 'I'll come back later'. The truth was she loved seeing Mulder with the baby, hearing him tell her stories and teach her about the world. Things were so much different now, particularly compared to last time, with Abbie. Mulder was there each night for every bath time, bed time and early morning feed, and he was also around to take William and Abbie to school, allowing Scully and Lily to catch up on their rest. He made sure he only worked office hours, Monday to Friday, allowing him the weekends at leisure to spend with his family. He'd learnt his lesson.
'No, it's ok'. He held out his arm in invitation, and Scully closed the door behind her, and slowly walked towards him. As she reached him, he pulled her down towards the bed. She kicked off her shoes and brought her legs up onto the mattress so she was lying next to him, her arm snaking around his torso. 'Are you ok?'
'Mmm'. She hummed contentedly. 'The kids are both asleep'. She looked over at Lily. 'Two down, just one to go'.
Mulder followed her gaze. 'She's nearly there I think'.
He raised his eyebrows. 'Any particular reason for the rush?'
Scully moved her hand to sneak under Mulder's t-shirt and gently rubbed his stomach. 'I just thought I could spend some time alone with my man'.
'Oh'. He smiled suggestively. 'Does your husband know?'
Laughing, Scully lifted her hand up to tap his stomach in warning. 'He will do soon'. *Husband* It was a simple and quick ceremony, with just a couple of Scully's colleagues and the children in attendance. They didn't waste any time in remarrying - a new start to the rest of their lives.
Mulder kissed his wife's forehead, then turned his attention back to the baby. 'Do you hear that Lily? Daddy's on a promise tonight'.
'Mulder! Don't talk like that in front of her. She'll have issues when she's older if you keep that up'.
'Come on Scully, she's our daughter. She's bound to have issues anyway'. He smiled to let her know he was joking. 'Besides', he added, nodding to where Lily was letting out another impressive yawn. 'Somehow I doubt she'll be awake for the main event'.
Scully stifled a yawn of her own, then snuggled in closer to her husband. 'I'm hoping I will be'.
Lily chose that moment to increase her grip on her dad's hand, as though reminding him she was still there. 'Hey Scully?'
'For someone who was so tiny, she's certainly got a good grip'.
Scully reached across Mulder for her daughter's other hand. 'She certainly does'.
'You're like your mommy, aren't you?' Mulder laughed as his daughter frowned at him. 'She's little too, but she's strong'.
'Just ignore him Lily, he's just jealous because mommy can kick his ass'.
'Scully! He turned to her in mock horror. 'She'll have issues when she's older if you keep up with your potty mouth'.
Scully narrowed her eyes, then pressed her lips to his. 'You don't complain about my potty mouth when I do that'.
He thought for a moment. 'I love your potty mouth'. And to prove it, he kissed her again. When they finally broke free for air and looked down at their daughter, she was finally asleep again. 'Aha'. Mulder let go of her tiny hand. 'I'll go put her down'.
'It's ok, I'll do it'. Scully had already released her grip on Mulder and was rising from the bed. 'It'll give me the chance to hold her'. She was joking of course - she loved that Lily appeared to be a daddy's girl and that Mulder was spending time with her. She walked around to the other side of the bed and carefully picked up her sleeping daughter. 'Say goodnight daddy'.
Mulder kissed Lily gently on her forehead, and carefully stroked her cheek. 'Goodnight beautiful'. He smiled and settled back on the mattress as Scully walked over to the Moses basket next to the bed and laid Lily down. Once she was settled, Scully stood and observed her daughter, smiling at the sounds she was making in her sleep. As she turned to face the bed again, she saw Mulder grinning. 'What?'
He shrugged. 'I just love watching you with her'.
Smiling, Scully walked back over to the bed and climbed onto the mattress, settling herself on top of Mulder. 'Hmm?'
'Yeah. You're such a great mom Scully. You've given me three amazing children, and I can't thank you enough'.
'You helped you know', she answered, perching herself up on top of her elbow. With her free hand, she slowly began to unbutton Mulder's shirt. 'And I can think of a way to thank me'.
Mulder kept his arms down by his side. 'Maybe we should try again'.
'For what?' Reaching the last button, Scully pulled his shirt away, revealing his bare chest.
'For another baby'.
Scully paused and looked up at him. 'What?'
'Since we seem to be so good at producing these amazing children, maybe we should try for another one'.
Her eyebrows knitted in confusion. 'Now?'
'Well not now'. He saw her let out the breath she was holding.
'Good. Because as much as I love children, the thought of having two under the age of one doesn't exactly excite me'.
'But you'd be willing to consider it?'
'Where has this come from Mulder?' Since being back together, they hadn't discussed the possibility of more children.
'From seeing you with Lily. I just want to experience that again. They grow up too quickly. And it would be nice to have another boy, don't you think? Give William an ally?'
'I guess'. Scully hesitated. 'What if something went wrong again? I don't think I could cope with a pregnancy like last time'.
'It'll be different next time'.
'How do you know that?'
'Because with Lily, you'd been through a lot. And I wasn't exactly helping, with all the stress I was throwing your way. Next time it'll you can relax and take it easy and I'll deal with any problems that come our way'. He stroked his hand through Scully's hair. 'I'm not pressuring you Scully, I'm just suggesting it. If you don't want another baby, I'm more than happy with the three we've got'.
Scully smiled thinly. 'I guess another one would be nice'. She thought for a moment and then sighed. 'But not just yet. I know I technically don't have that long left in terms of childbearing, but I want us to enjoy Lily for a while. And I don't want us to deliberately try, to get our hopes up. If it happens, it happens. I don't want us to fall out because I can't fall pregnant, or you're too tired or something'.
'I'm never too tired Scully'.
She giggled as he wiggled his eyebrows once again. 'I know that'. She sat up so she was straddling his lap, and then slowly undid the buckle of his belt. 'But in the meantime, we can always practice trying for a baby'.
'Practice? I like that idea'. Mulder put his hands on Scully's thighs and lifted her dress over her head, throwing it on the floor to the side.
'Me too'. Scully leant down and kissed him, then suppressed a giggle as Mulder flipped them over so she was on her back and he was cradled in her thighs. As he began to nibble at her neck, he heard the door burst open. 'Daddy!' In a swift movement, he sat up on the bed, whilst shielding a half naked Scully from their daughter. 'What is it?'
Abbie eyed her parents cautiously, then ran over to the bed. Scully reached for her dress and covered herself with it. 'There's a monster in my room!'
Relaxing, Mulder smiled at her. 'A monster?'
She nodded. 'It's big and hairy and green and it's under my bed right now'.
'There's no such thing as monsters sweetie', Scully answered softly.
Mulder raised his eyebrows in challenge to Scully. 'Mommy was always the sceptic'.
'Since daddy is an expert at dealing with what he thinks are monsters, he'll scare it away for you'.
'Really?' Abbie's eyes were wide in concern.
'Sure'. Securing the belt of his jeans, Mulder got up from the bed and picked up his daughter. 'Let's go and find ourselves a monster, shall we?' As he walked out of the room, Scully smiled to herself, then got under the bedcovers. Minutes later, after scouring the whole house for monsters, Mulder returned to the room. 'Crisis averted?' Scully asked sleepily, her eyes closed.
'Kind of'. Hearing Mulder's dejected tone, she felt the bed dip, then a tiny arm encircle her waist. She opened her eyes to find her daughter lying in bed next to her. 'Daddy said I can sleep with you tonight'.
Scully smiled and kissed her daughter. 'Didn't he scare off the monster?'
Abbie shook her head. 'He couldn't find it'.
'Ah'. Mulder shot Scully a warning look, as though begging her not to comment. He quickly got changed, ready for bed, then joined his wife and daughter. Pulling the duvet so it covered them, he snuggled up against them both, noticing that Abbie had already fallen asleep. 'I guess our practicing will have to wait then', Scully murmured, a chuckle escaping her lips. Mulder didn't care. They had all the time in the world.