"Scully, did you know Sheriff Tate is my age?"
"Uh, wha - Who?" She looked up distracted from her report.
"Sheriff Tate, head of law enforcement in Chocowinity. The case you're writing the report about."
"Oh, uh no I didn't realize."
Mulder leaned back. "Yeah, he's only a couple of weeks older than me."
"Okay." Where was this conversation going and why?
"I was just comparing what I have to him." He was staring up at the ceiling as though counting pencil holes.
"You mean like hair?" She grinned.
He gave an unamused laugh. “Yeah.”
“Mulder, you okay?” He had her attention now.
He shrugged. “I just . . . when I went by his house, you know, while you were in the lab . . . He’s got three kids. The oldest one just got his license. In his backyard were a grill and a trampoline. His parents and two of his brothers and their families were over there when I stopped by.”
“I don’t - “
“He’s got a job in law enforcement and a life. Like you always wanted.”
“Mulder, what’s going on?”
“I just noticed.” He shrugged, but didn’t turn back to his computer.
“I don’t remember you noticing things like that.” He didn’t look over at her, but he was obviously aware of her. “Do you . . . care about those things Mulder?”
Now he looked like he wished he’d kept his mouth shut. “Uh, listen, I’m gonna cut out. If you want to leave that for me to finish, I’ll knock it out in the morning.” He was on his feet then, startling her. He punched the button, blanking out his screen and pulled his suit coat from the back of his chair. He tossed it over one arm, not even bothering to unroll his shirt sleeves.
“Mulder? What - “
“See you tomorrow, Scully.” He was out the door. She couldn’t say his pace was running, but it was close. She sat there staring at the empty door frame, her mouth open.
He was standing, staring into the refrigerator when he heard the knock. Since nothing in there was speaking to him, he swung the door shut and turned to answer the summons.
He was a little startled to see Scully standing there. She’d gone home first and changed into casual slacks and that blue sweater he liked so much. ‘G-woman’ had left the building.
“Did, uh, did I forget something?” He moved back to let her in as she admired his attire. Just jeans and one of his hundreds of gray t-shirts. It wasn’t what he wore; it was how he wore it.
“Yes, you did.” She pulled herself back to the present, hoping he hadn’t noticed her lapse. “You forgot to tell me why you bailed out of the office this afternoon.”
“Yeah, that. What’s up, Mulder?”
“Nothing, it’s nothing.”
She took a step closer. “How long have we known each other?”
He gave her a little grin then. “You mean there was a time I didn’t know you?”
Her eyebrow was on the rise. “So, tell me what’s wrong.”
“Scully, it’s, uh, it’s not something I can talk about to you.”
She stopped then, hesitating for the first time. “Woman trouble?” She tried to say it lightly, but wasn’t sure she succeeded.
From the look on his face, he couldn’t have been more stunned if she’d sprouted a third foot from the middle of her chest. “No!”
The restriction in her chest eased instantly. “Then what is it? Does it have anything to do with the sheriff?”
He looked away then.
“Mulder, what did you see when you went over there?”
“Nothing. I mean it was just a family gathering. His father and his brother were doing some friendly bickering about the best camping site. A group of boys were playing touch football. The grandmother was holding this blonde little girl and trying to keep her from sucking her thumb. It was just so, so normal.”
Scully realized he’d quit talking. “So that’s what caught your attention? Normal?”
He shook his head. “I guess it’s not so unusual for you, growing up with all those siblings in an ideal family.”
“Ideal family? You have some major misconceptions about the Scully household, Mulder.”
“Yeah. It was far from ideal. You know Mom was alone a lot of the time. She didn’t stress about it like some of the wives, but when we all got going . . . Bill was a bully a lot of the time.” She ignored Mulder’s smirk. “Missy wanted to date very early. She was always on the phone with one boy or another. There wasn’t much money . . . “
“Missy wanted to date? Not you?”
“Well she was nearly four years older than me and liked to push the envelope.”
“Four years, I hadn’t . . . why the gap? There’s two years between Bill and Missy, and two between you and Charlie, right?”
Scully nodded. “It’s no secret. Mom had a miscarriage after Missy. It was very early, but I know it was hard on her. And Dad was away. That made in rough on both of them from what I heard.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It was a long time ago and so early in the pregnancy, there wasn’t anything to be done.”
“You changed the subject, Mulder.”
“Scully, I really don’t . . . “ her eyebrow was on the rise already. “It just seemed so, so nice and . . . “
“Since when have you equated ‘normal’ with ‘nice’?”
He looked trapped, but her arms were folded now. “Since you asked me . . . “
Her face paled then, and her arms dropped. “The in-vitro.”
He nodded. She looked down, seeming smaller somehow.
“I’m sorry I can’t give you that.” She said quietly, not looking up.
His finger under her chin brought her face up. He saw the tears glistening in her eyes. He pressed his lips to her brow. “I’m sorry I can’t give you that.”
He led her to the couch and snagged a couple of tissues on the way. She took them with a tiny thank you.
“See why I didn’t want to talk to you?” He said miserably.
“You know, Mulder, you could still have kids.”
He nodded. “We could adopt, I suppose.”
Her head flew up then. “We?”
He drew back, realizing what he had said. “I meant . . .” Hell, he didn’t know what he’d meant. He should have stuck to his plan of not talking to her about this.
“Mulder,” she said in a very small voice, “If . . . if it had worked, what did you see as your role?”
“The reality or the fantasy?” he asked, glancing at her hands playing with each other in her lap.
“Both,” she said quietly.
He met her eyes then. “The fantasy, you’d realize how much you needed my help, you’d let me move in and be there for you. You’d realize I wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to you and you’d accept my proposal.” He looked down then, taking her hands in his. “I’d be your coach and we’d have a little red headed girl with blue eyes. A couple of years later we’d have a boy with dark hair and your nose. We’d buy a house with a yard and a swing set and a sand box.”
He didn’t dare look up at this point, though her hands had gone still. “The reality, after she got a little less fragile, you might let me hold her. I’d get to come over occasionally so that she’d have a male figure in her life, and get to be Uncle Mulder. I’d come in ahead of Frohike and Langly and just behind Byers in stability. I won’t even bring up Skinner.” He finally looked up grinning and saw the tears sliding down her face.
“Oh god, Scully. I didn’t mean to make you cry. Damn.” He pulled her against him, but it only seemed to make her cry harder. “Scully.” He pulled her into his lap and she snuggled into his chest.
He rubbed her back, keeping his mouth shut now. He’d done enough damage. When she had cried herself out, she started to sit up. Without thinking he pulled her back, loath to lose her warmth against him. Then he realized what he had done. “Sorry.”
She wouldn’t look up, but now that he had released her, she didn’t seem to want to leave. “You thought about marrying me, because of a baby?”
“No. No, no no. You don’t get it. That would give me the courage to ask; I’d be doing it for someone else.”
“Courage? I’m that scary?” She asked quietly.
“Are you kidding? There’s nothing in my life scarier than you.”
Her eyes clouded. “Why?”
“Because if I were to drive you away . . . “ he shrugged.
She seemed to realize where she was sitting and he could see the thought flit through her mind. To his astonishment she still didn’t pull away or try to rise from his lap. “Is that what you meant, not wanting this to come between us?”
“I’m not going anywhere, Mulder.”
His finger traced her jaw line. “I’m beginning to believe that.”
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.