She couldn't stop staring at him. She'd known he was good looking, actually gorgeous. Missy had referred to him as a hunk and that was an understatement in her opinion. What she hadn't realized, truly realized, was how brilliant he was. Number one in his class at Oxford. She thought she would burst with pride as they placed the hood over his head. And he was hers, body and soul. She couldn't remember ever being happier than at this minute.
She didn't know the people around her, it would have been nice to share this moment with someone - even his parents, but they hadn't chosen to attend. She'd been surprised at that, but he hadn't asked his father, and he'd explained that his mother didn't enjoy traveling overseas. No, don't think about them now, concentrate on him. She could see his eyes sweep the audience, looking for her, and the light in them when he spotted her. She felt like she could melt into a happy pile of goo. She must look like an idiot smiling like this. But when she looked around, she realized she was one of many - all thrilled at the accomplishment of their graduate.
Finally the ceremony was ending, the speeches over. Dana could see him maneuvering through the crowd towards her. She stayed where she was, so that he could find her. Then he was there, his arms around her, lifting her to his lips and then swinging her around.
When she got her breath, she looked up at him. "How do you want to celebrate?"
"You know exactly how I want to celebrate." That was murmured in her ear and he watched the blush climb her cheeks.
"I'm involved with a satyr."
"You better believe it."
"Hey Fox! Over here!" Another classmate was gesturing to him.
"Pictures." He groaned in her ear.
"Yes, and I want some myself. Go on."
"Where are you going?"
"To get a couple more copies of the program. Mom wanted one." He looked startled at that - his own mother hadn't wanted to be bothered to attend, and Mrs. Scully . . . Dana was here, that was all that mattered.
He squeezed her hand and went to join the others. She moved toward the entrance and picked up two extra programs, then someone caught her eye. That man, slipping out the side, for some reason he looked familiar. The man turned at the last minute to look back toward the stage and Dana's eyes widened. Mr. Mulder, his father was here. Before she could move he was out the door and lost in the crowd. She looked back toward Mulder. He hadn't seen, he didn't know that his father had been here to see him graduate. Should she . . . ? No, don't say anything now.
She began making her way back to the front to get her own pictures and was close when she heard the voice.
"Fox. Your mother certainly knew what she was doing when she named her only child."
Dana was close enough to observe him. He'd tensed at the sound of her voice, but her comment had stiffened him. She didn't even know he had a sister. For some reason that gave Dana the strength she needed and she moved quickly to his side.
"Phoebe. Nice to see you again." Dana spoke politely to the dark haired woman.
He hadn't spoken, but he seemed to relax slightly at the sight of her, then pulled her to him, his arm around her protectively.
"Well, it's the little Yank. I didn't realize you were here, Lovey."
"Of course, I had to see Mulder graduate."
Phoebe didn't respond, turning back to him. "I hope you're not planning on running off to the colonies too soon, Fox. We haven't seen nearly enough of each other lately."
Her eyes were raking his body and Dana recognized the attempt to intimidate her. She nearly laughed when Mulder blurted out, "We haven't see each other at all!"
Dana looked away after a quick glance at Phoebe's face.
"We're leaving for the states day after tomorrow, Phoebe." She managed to keep her voice steady. "We have a wedding to attend."
"A wedding, how quaint. Who's getting married?"
"We are." Mulder spoke then and Dana watched Phoebe's face turn to stone, she seemed to age before her eyes.
"You, Fox? Well, isn't that ducky." She was grasping for composure, looking around surreptiously for anyone else to focus on. She hadn't heard a word about an engagement, damn him and his privacy. He'd told no one, hardly ever even mentioned the little redhead, keeping her all to himself.
Dana started to step away, in order to get a shot of the stage and the students milling around. He didn't let go of her hand, but Phoebe grasped his arm and whispered in his ear. "If you've gotten her knocked up, Fox, I know some people - "
He snatched his arm away as though burned and Phoebe nearly lost her footing. His grip on Dana's hand tightened and she looked up concerned. She hadn't been able to hear, but it had obviously upset him.
He put his arm around her then and moved her away from Phoebe in the crowd, without a backward glance.
She'd have to find out what had upset him so, but later when they were alone. Why had the bitch come here and spoiled this for him?
They lay on top of the tangled sheets. They'd 'celebrated' until she wasn't sure she could move. He had his head resting on her flat stomach, facing her toes. She was playing with his hair, entwining it around her fingers, utterly content.
"Dana," he kissed her stomach, "are you . . . okay with the wedding."
"The wedding? What do you mean?"
"Well, are you sure it's what you want?"
"What I want? What do you mean?"
"You know; is it the wedding you've always dreamed about?"
The light dawned, "Oh, you mean ten bridesmaids and trumpets?" She smiled.
"Mulder, is this your way of getting cold feet?"
"No!" He jerked up to look at her and saw the grin. He kissed her quickly. "No."
"Mulder, I'm wearing my mother's gown, and my groom is Fox William Mulder. That is the wedding of my dreams."
She had her hands in his hair and pulled his lips down to her again. "I am disappointed that Bill can't be there."
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry."
She shrugged; she'd been in the Navy long enough to know about these things.
"You don't think Charlie feels like second choice?"
"No. He's happy to be your best man. But you know you didn't have to ask one of my brothers."
"Well, I don't have one, or a cousin, and you know my friends from high school."
"Mulder - "
"It's okay. Your family is my family." He put his head back against her breasts and she felt his mood darken. Before she could speak, he took a deep breath. "Dana, what if my parents are right?"
"What if . . . what if I am a shitty husband?"
That caught her off guard, but she responded lightly, "then I'll whip you into shape."
He turned suddenly to look at her, "You won't leave me?"
She looked him straight in the eye then, "No. I won't leave you." She brushed his hair back and kissed his forehead. "Mulder, where is this coming from?"
He slipped his arms around her and didn't answer.
"What did Phoebe say to you?"
When he tensed, she knew she'd hit on at least part of the problem.
"It's not worth repeating."
"If it's bothering you, it is. Come on Mulder. No secrets, remember?"
He sighed, "She couldn't understand why a woman would marry me unless I had gotten her pregnant."
Dana frowned, that didn't sound right. "Mulder, what did she say exactly, the actual words." She had no doubt he could do it, she was familiar with his memory.
He looked away; yeah, he remembered. Once in a while it would be nice to actually forget things. Dana was watching him. She really wanted to know. "If you've gotten her knocked up, Fox, I know some people."
She closed her eyes and let her chin drop. He tensed immediately. "Dana?" She didn't look up, so his finger tilted her face back up toward him. He was stunned to see the smile she was trying to hide. He didn't know what to say.
"Mulder, I'm sorry. It's not funny. I'm just so happy you're so naive about women."
"Mulder, she didn't think you needed to get me pregnant so I'd marry you; she was giving you an out because she thought I had trapped you."
"That's not - "
"That's what she meant. Trust me. And come to me any time you have questions about women, Dr. Mulder."
"Are you saying you'll protect me from all those evil hussies out there?"
She rose then and straddled his chest. "Yes, I promise to protect you from all those women out there in the cold, cruel world."
"My savior." His hands on her ass moved her closer, so that once again his tongue could drive her mad.
He looked down at her, asleep against his shoulder. He had wondered if he would feel a loss leaving England. He certainly hadn't missed the states when he'd left there. The only thing he had regretted leaving was her. Who would have thought he'd be returning now to marry her, to be with her forever? And not just her, he was going to have a whole family, a real family. Brothers, another sister and . . . and parents that wanted to be parents.
The stewardess smiled as she watched him adjust the blanket around the woman with him. He was the kind of man she'd like to have a few drinks with after a flight - maybe more, but she knew she had no chance with this man. That was one lucky woman.
Mulder watched as her parents hugged her home then delighted when they automatically did the same for him. "We're so glad you're here! Fox, you look wonderful."
"I am wonderful. It's good to be here."
"Come on, I've got a pot roast cooking." Maggie moved everyone toward the luggage area.
She kept up the conversation on the way home and as they set the table, pouring over the program that Dana handed her. "This is so incredible. The first doctor in the family."
"Not by much, Mrs . . . Mom." He changed it at her look and she smiled at him. "It'll save on stationary being Dr. and Dr. Mulder." He held Dana's chair as they sat, the meal finally ready.
"Its going to be hard, Starbuck."
"I know Ahab, but we can do it."
"We can, Captain." Mulder spoke up, "I'll make sure she studies. I might even wash or dish or two."
"You better." She punched him lightly on the arm, and he laughed.
"The food's great, Mom. I haven't had home cooking since I was here."
"You don't cook much, Fox?"
"Well, I only had the one room. It's hard to do gourmet on a hot plate. Besides, the pubs had really good food."
"Well, I don't know if I can recreate them, but you need to tell me your favorites so I can make them."
"That's easy. If you're cooking it, it's my favorite."
"He's a keeper, Dana." Maggie smiled at her daughter. "I just hope your parents think so tomorrow night."
Everyone at the table jumped when Mulder's fork dropped onto the edge of his plate. "My, uh, my parents are coming here?"
"Yes, Fox. We need to go over a few loose ends."
"Loose ends . . . " He glanced down at his hands and Dana's hand covered his.
"It's okay, Mulder." Dana spoke quietly as her parents exchanged glances.
"Fox, could you help me in the kitchen?" Maggie rose from the table.
"I can help you, Mom." Dana looked up.
"That's okay. Fox can do it." She'd already turned away. Mulder nodded to Dana and pushed back his chair to follow her.
"Fox, are you okay?"
"Don't have them here, Mom. I don't . . . "
"Fox, you know we have to meet your parents. I've talked to your mother a couple of times, about the guest list, things like that. She's been very cordial."
He sighed and looked away. "They're against this."
"Against me marrying Dana."
"They . . . they don't like Dana?"
"They don't like me. They know she's too good for me."
"Fox, stop. You don't believe that." He looked so miserable.
"Will you still let me marry her, after you meet them?" He was only partially kidding.
She gave him a quick hug. "You and Dana belong together. Part of me knew that the first time I met you. I felt guilty for years about keeping the two of you apart. When you did meet again, I knew better than to even question it. Some people are just made for each other. You and Dana are."
"You . . . you believe that?" He was staring at her now.
"I do, and the fact that the two of you were secure enough to wait to get married until you graduated made me even more sure."
He let his head fall back and closed his eyes. What the hell had he ever done to deserve this family?
Dana watched him follow her mother into the kitchen. "Starbuck? Is it that bad?"
"Worse." Her shoulders slumped.
"Your mother said there had been some physical abuse."
She nodded, "When his father drank."
"What about his mother? Didn't she protect him?"
Dana sighed, "I think her abuse was worse. She didn't care. Maybe before Samantha was taken she was different, but . . . "
"You really love him."
"More than I can say."
He patted her hand. "I'm glad, Honey. He seems like a fine young man. And I know he loves you. I don't know that I could ask for more for you."
"I love you. I just want what's best for you."
"What's Mulder?" The man they were discussing pushed the door open and carried in a basket of rolls.
She looked at him closely, "Eavesdropping?"
He shrugged, "What would I learn?"
"That I'm in love with you."
"Ah, I wondered about that." But he managed to smile and took his seat. "I'm okay, really." He glanced at her mother and nodded slightly.
It was time to change the subject and Maggie did it smoothly, "Missy is coming over tomorrow to help us with the final fitting."
"Fitting?" Mulder asked.
"The wedding dress, so you need to find something to do, because you can't see it."
He looked over at the Captain. "Don't fight it son, we're only in the way until the actual wedding. Just know you've made my wife a happy woman. She's in her element - planning, commanding . . . it's been fun to watch. And you won't know it for awhile, but seeing Dana in the dress her mother wore . . . "
"Ahab?" Dana took his hand. He shook his head and after a moment patted her hand and picked back up his fork.
"So, Fox, when should your things arrive?" William's voice was under control again.
"Actually, all I shipped were my books. My apartment was furnished, so all I had were clothes and books."
"I made sure he packed his tuxedo. We need to have it pressed but it's in the top of his suitcase." Dana offered.
"Good, bring that over tomorrow Fox, and I'll take care of it."
After dinner Maggie spotted Dana's yawn and chased both she and Mulder out of the kitchen. "Fox, I know you have to be tired too. Why don't you head on over to Dana's apartment."
He glanced over at Dana. Yeah, he should leave, but knowing that she would be sleeping here until the wedding was not a pleasant thought.
"I'll walk you out." She took Mulder's hand.
At the car he pulled her against him. "How am I supposed to get to sleep tonight knowing we're on the same continent but not in the same bed?"
"I just don't think we can get around it this time Mulder. They're not stupid."
"No, not your parents, but . . . geez."
"You be careful with my car and come over as early as you can tomorrow."
"What about the fitting?"
"I'll find a place for you to hide so you don't see me." She looked up at him seriously then. "Are you really okay?"
"Your mother is incredible. I'd rather have you beside me tonight, but I'll be okay. Are . . . are we supposed to be here tomorrow night?"
"I don't think so, but I'll make sure. You shouldn't worry about it. Tonight, we're here to get over jet lag. Tomorrow the four parents have dinner here and we're on our own. We do have the rehearsal dinner the next night, Friday, but there's going to be a crowd there, so the burden won't be on us."
"Your parents are hosting that."
"Teena and William Mulder? Are you sure?"
"They offered and it is kind of a tradition for the groom's parents. Mulder, they'll be on their best behavior and Mom can handle anyone."
"Now that I believe." He glanced toward the house, "You better go back in. I'll call you when I get to your place so you'll know your car is safe."
"Or just for some phone sex?"
His eyes gleamed, "I knew you were the right woman for me."
"You do remember what happens on Saturday, right?"
"Yeah, that I remember." He kissed her thoroughly and got in the car. She shut the door and stood watching as he drove away.
The apartment was nice and he'd had no problem finding it again, though they had only dropped by to leave his things. This was the place she had rented for the two of them. It was larger than the place he had shared with her when he'd been here for Christmas that time. She had moved her furniture in, but there was plenty of room for his stuff, when he bought any.
Her scent pervaded the place, but it wasn't enough. He wanted her here. Sleeping in her bed, what would be their bed, without her didn't seem right. Besides he wasn't ready to sleep now anyway. Their 'conversation' had done nothing to relax him. Reminding him of past encounters was not restful. She was playing dirty anyway, he was stuck over here all alone.
He took his suitcase on into the bedroom and put away his clothes, laying his tux out to take over to the house in the morning. She had left drawers empty for him, and half the closet. He didn't need that much space, but it was nice to see his clothes in there with hers.
He moved around the apartment, touching things. In one corner there was a stack of wedding presents with the cards still attached. He looked through the gifts, smiling at some of things, wondering what others were. There was a larger selection at her mother's house. He and her father had watched Dana open a few tonight before he left, but he was out of his element.
Finally he sank onto her couch and picked up the remote. The building had cable, so maybe he could find something to watch. He wasn't familiar with American TV anymore anyway, so anything would be new.
He woke on her couch the next morning, having never gone to the bedroom. For some reason that felt right to him. He rose and showered, anxious to return to her. He did call before he left, to make sure he wouldn't walk in at the wrong time, and her mother gave him the green light.
He grabbed his tux and hurried over. Dana met him at the door and he was grateful neither of her parents made an appearance for a few minutes.
"Without you? No. I ended up on the couch, with the TV on all night."
"Are you serious?"
He nodded, "I think I'll wait until you're there to sleep in the bed."
She looked at him, slightly stunned. "You know I love you."
"I was beginning to suspect. What are my assignments for today?"
She smiled and pulled him toward the kitchen. "You and Dad are to take your tux in and then go by the chapel and make sure everything's ready there, except the flowers."
"Will we know?" He grinned.
"Mom has a list."
He chuckled at that, but nodded. "Is Melissa here yet?"
"She's in the kitchen. Mom made cinnamon rolls."
He went to work and was reminded how it had been all those years ago working to get ready for Dana to leave that fateful summer and turn that household over to her uncle's mother-in-law.
When he and the captain returned from their errands, he found Dana and Melissa polishing silver and setting the table. He could smell wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen.
The thought that his parents would soon be in this comfortable home caused his mood to plummet. "Mulder?"
"I want to be out of here before they come. She doesn't want us here, does she?"
"No. She understands we don't want to be here, but we do have to see your parents at the rehearsal dinner tomorrow night. Mulder?"
"Fine, I'll handle that because the next day I'm going to marry you. Tonight, let's get out. Would Melissa like to have dinner with us?"
She smiled, "Thanks, I'll ask her."
"When will Charlie get here?'
"He and Mary are driving in tomorrow for the rehearsal dinner, they should be here by lunch time." She smiled, "Mary's very anxious to see the preparations. I know they want to set a date for next year."
"You don't think this will scare her off?"
"It hasn't you."
"Yeah, but she's not marrying you."
She laughed then and kissed him.
"Hey guys, not in front of the maid of honor." Melissa groaned as she came into the dining room.
Mulder grinned at her. "Wanna have dinner with us?"
"Yeah, that'd be good."
"I'll see what else Mom needs." Dana moved into the kitchen.
Melissa looked back over at Mulder. "You sure you don't mind?"
"It was my idea. I want to get all the innocent bystanders I can away from here. If I could get your parents to leave I would." He shrugged.
She gave him a look of sympathy, then they both turned as Dana and Mrs. Scully entered the dining room. "You guys go on and have a good evening."
"Mom, are you sure - " Melissa started.
"Everything's ready. I appreciate all your help, but I'm all set. Really, go ahead." She put her arms around her daughters and squeezed them. Then gave Mulder a kiss on the cheek. "Don't be too late."
He nodded and herded the two younger women to the front door, where they grabbed their bags, and then on out to the car. At Melissa's instruction he drove them to a pizza parlor and they ordered a large, hall veggie, half garbage pizza. The women watched him put away his half with amusement as they worked on their own half. When they finished, he offered a movie, but Dana suggested they return to the apartment. Knowing they had a chaperone was daunting, but at least she could get some thank you notes written.
As the evening lengthened, Dana could see the strain grow on Mulder, and her heart went out to him. When he got up for the third time on some lame excuse, she caught Missy's eye. "Call Mom, see if they're gone." She whispered, then followed Mulder into the kitchen.
"Sorry, I just can't sit still."
"I understand, but Mulder, we're getting married day after tomorrow. Nothing is going to change that. My parents know you, they love you. Your parents are not going to make a difference there."
"I hope not."
"Mulder." She moved into his arms and they closed around her. "Trust me. Please know that I love you. Don't doubt me."
He just held her, not speaking. Melissa came to the door and after a moment, cleared her throat. "The, uh, festivities at home are over. We can go any time."
"Thanks, Missy. We'll be just a minute." She looked up at Mulder. After this, only one more night apart. I promise you." She kissed him lightly on the lips, then took his hand and led him toward the door.
The drive over was quiet and when he pulled up, he didn't turn off the motor. Missy let herself out with a quick thanks. "Aren't you coming in, Mulder?"
"Maybe I shouldn't."
"Mulder, come inside." It was an order, gently said, but an order just the same. He didn't argue, shutting off the engine and getting out. She took his hand and led him to the house.
Mrs. Scully heard the door open again and came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands. "I'm glad you came back with the girls, Fox. How are you?"
He shrugged, "I guess . . . "
"I wanted you to know that tonight went fine."
"Fine?" He wasn't sure he wanted to ask. "So the wedding's still on?"
"Mulder!" Dana tugged at his hand.
Mrs. Scully lightly caressed his shoulder. "To be honest, your parents were so busy being ultra polite to each other, there wasn't much time for anything else. But they both do love you, Fox."
He gave a harsh laugh then. "They were always so good about showing it too."
"You'll just have to get through tomorrow night, and the actual ceremony, Fox. And we'll all be here with you."
He nodded, "I better get back to the apartment. You guys need to get to bed, so you can be ready for Charlie and Mary."
"And Ben. You haven't met Missy's friend yet either, have you?"
He shook his head, barely listening. Dana and her mother exchanged looks. "You don't have to leave now, Mulder."
"Yeah, I should. I'll be here in time for lunch. That's when you expect Charlie, right?"
"Come early. Come as soon as you wake up, promise me, Mulder."
He didn't quite nod, but gave her a chaste kiss on the forehead and left.
"He'll be okay. He's a strong man, he's had to be to grow up."
"What did you think of . . . of them?"
"Your father and I have only met them once. It wouldn't be right to form an opinion yet. But please, try to reassure Fox that everything will be okay at the dinner. They may not be entirely pleased about . . . about everything, but they won't cause a scene, or . . . or embarrass themselves."
"I believe you have formed an opinion, Mom."
The older woman barely smiled. "The next couple of days are going to be very busy. You should get some rest too."
Dana knew she'd get no more that night, so she headed to her room and got ready for bed, then called Mulder.
"It's me, Mulder. That good night kiss left me wanting more."
"I knew you wanted to talk to your mother."
"She said for you not to worry."
"Sure. I'll stop right now."
"They won't embarrass themselves in front of my parents. I believe Mom on that. Please come over early tomorrow."
"I'll be there. Go on to bed Dana. I love you." He hung up before she could say anything else.
She didn't rest well and was up very early. Her father found her in the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of coffee and joined her at the table. "Starbuck?"
"Morning. I haven't heard your take on last night."
"Well, I can't see your mother and I taking vacations with them."
She gave him a sad smile, then looked down at her coffee. Her father placed his hand over hers. "I like your young man. I think I like him even more after meeting them. He has a strength of character I didn't appreciate before."
She looked up then, surprised. "I love him."
"I know. I think you're both very young, but I guess your mother and I were even younger. Maybe not in age, but certainly in what he's lived through."
"I wish it was tomorrow."
"I know you do. You're going to look so beautiful in that dress."
"Go get dressed Starbuck, we have a lot of company coming today." She nodded and rose, kissing him on top of his head.
It was her father who let him in when he arrived "Morning, Son." The younger man couldn't quite bring off the smile. "It's going to be a long day for you, isn't it?" Mulder nodded. "Dana was up at 5:30."
"Is she okay?" He asked immediately.
The captain smiled, this man did love his daughter. "She's impatient for tomorrow to get here. She's helping her mother get the rooms ready for Charlie or Mary or someone. Why don't you go on up?"
"Thanks." He said it faintly, as though relief had taken his voice, and took the stairs two at a time. Dana heard him coming and hurried to the hall, jumping into his arms.
"Wow." Was all he said when he got his breath back.
"No. I think they've all been answered." He was smiling again.
"Good. Remember that and get in here to help me change the sheets."
He continued to help with the housework as directed until they heard the commotion downstairs. Dana looked up "Charlie!" and headed for the stairs, Mulder right behind her.
"Of course it's you. Who else could make so much noise just coming home?" She hugged her younger brother fiercely.
"Behave, Sis, I brought someone important with me."
"Thank goodness, otherwise I'm not sure we'd let you in. Hi Mary, it's good to see you again." She hugged her sister-in-law to be and turned toward Mulder. "I'd like you to meet Mulder."
Mary extended her hand, "I'm so glad to finally meet you. You're just about all Dana can talk about."
Mulder's smile brightened, "It seems like a good family to hook into."
Mary nodded, "Have you and Charlie actually met?"
"Nope, but he had the good sense to choose me as best man, because he has met Bill." Charlie interjected and shook Mulder's hand. "Hope you're not expecting a hugely racy bachelor party tonight."
"No way. I want a very clear head tomorrow."
"Yeah, if you're planning an escape, you do need a clear head."
Dana rolled her eyes, "See what I mean? This is why we only let him come home for special occasions. Come on Mary, I'll show you your room. He can sleep in the garage."
Mulder watched delighted as the two women made their way upstairs. Once alone, Charlie clapped him on the back. "Don't you dare repeat this, but I've never seen Dana look so happy."
Charlie looked up at the taller man, surprised. "Yeah." He said softly after seeing his expression. "You're going to be good for her. You've already brought her out a lot."
"Come buy me a beer." He headed toward the kitchen and Mulder followed. He actually took the tea pitcher from the refrigerator, rather than a beer and poured both of them a glass. Once they were both served, Charlie leaned against the counter. "I know she's my big sister, but she's also younger than me in some ways. Even though she never knew anything else, she never got used to the moving, changing schools, making new friends. You were the constant that she talked about. I know now that you two were apart for several years." He rolled his eyes, "Mom's done a few rosaries of guilt on that one, but . . . somehow Dana knew she'd see you again even if she didn't ever see anyone else from the past." He straightened up then, as though he'd been a little too sappy. "Anyway, welcome to the family and thanks for asking me to be your best man."
Mulder swallowed, partly searching for words, partly too emotional to speak. "It, uh, it seems to get better by the hour."
Charlie nodded, took a long drink of his tea and turned toward the door, "Guess I better get these suitcases upstairs before Mom gets after me for cluttering up the entrance. Where is she anyway?"
Mulder shrugged, "She and Missy went somewhere, something last minute."
"I keep trying to talk Mary into eloping. I'm afraid this won't help." He shook his head mournfully and Mulder laughed out loud.
"What are you two talking about and cut it out?" Dana called from upstairs. "Are we going to have to come get the luggage?"
"See what I mean?" Charlie shook his head at Mulder and took one of the cases. Mulder already had the other and they headed upstairs.
Mulder changed there at the house, using Charlie's room rather than returning to the apartment before dinner that evening. He came out of the room to get some assistance with the tie and spotted Dana at the top of the stairs. He stopped and stared at her.
"My god you're gorgeous." He finally spoke.
"I was thinking the same thing about you." Dana smiled. At his puzzled look, she moved closer and slightly adjusted the tie. "You really don't know how good looking you are do you? I like that."
Mulder smiled, shaking his head. "You need glasses."
"Mulder, not to mention unpleasant things, but just how many non-hunks did Phoebe date?"
"Think about the other men that Phoebe had around. What did they look like?"
"Oh, male models, athletes."
Dana's eyebrow went up. "And where do you think you fit?"
"I was the one she used when everyone else was busy."
Dana looked startled at that, then went into his arms. "You don't get it, but that's probably good. Remember you promised to come to me with questions about all those hussies out there."
"No one else I trust to tell me the truth, Dana." His arms tightened around her. "Isn't it time yet?"
"Don't you know grooms are supposed to get more nervous as the time gets closer, not less?"
"Those are the grooms that aren't marrying you." He leaned down and gave her a kiss, then took her hand and led her downstairs.
He was pleased to be able to ride with Charlie and Mary over to the dinner rather than drive himself. It was a good excuse to leave when they did and he could come back to the house for just a minute alone with Dana before picking up her car and going back to that lonely apartment for one last night.
He still hadn't met Ben, but Missy assured everyone that he would be at the hotel for the dinner. She was riding over with her parents, but would catch a ride home with Ben.
As they got closer to the Watergate, he realized his hands were shaking slightly and felt another surge of gratitude that Charlie was driving. Dana slipped her hand into his and squeezed it. "Don't worry about anything Mulder." She whispered.
"I won't. Your mom will be there to protect me." He smiled at her and she laughed lightly.
"What? No secrets in the back seat. Do I need to put Mary between you two to make you behave?" Charlie said from the front.
Mary turned and looked at them. "I'm not sure putting me back there would help at this point. We better get them inside."
Mulder marveled again at this family. He did feel safer seeing his father than he ever remembered.
The four of them entered the private dining room together. Mr. and Mrs. Scully were already there talking with his father. His mother was listening to a young man with a ponytail and looking slightly uncomfortable. When Missy joined the two of them, Mulder realized that this was the famous Ben and wanted to laugh at his mother's obvious disapproval. That was a new feeling and he felt Dana squeeze his arm and smile up at him.
He leaned down and kissed her, then straightened up and put his arm around her, leading her to his mother.
"It's good to see you, Mom." He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek that she offered to him. "You must be Ben." He extended his hand and Dana felt herself relax. Mulder was going to be okay.
He felt his heartbeat rev up as the organ increased in volume. He turned from watching Melissa and saw that Dana and her father had stepped into the aisle. His breath caught as he looked at her. She looked like a goddess, he could learn later that she was wearing a mantilla for her veil, so that her face was not covered. The dress was low cut with an empire waistline, and long sleeves, which came to a point on the back of her hands. He could see the tiny pearls that made a design on the sleeves and bodice. It was white, but an aged white, softer than the white of her father's dress uniform. The dress trailed slightly behind her, not a long train, but just enough to look elegant.
Neither seemed aware of anyone else in the chapel, which was as it should be.