"Mom? Tara said you called. Is everything okay?"
"Bill, yes, everything's fine. Did Tara . . . " Maggie hesitated, obviously Tara hadn't told him anything. Was she afraid to even mention things like this to him? "I was wondering if you could get a short leave, come to DC for a long weekend in a few weeks."
"I could check, what's going on. Are you okay?"
"Oh yes, in fact I have good news. Your sister is getting married and we want you here to help us celebrate."
"Married? Dana, shit, it's not Mulder!"
Maggie closed her eyes and sighed. No, she really didn't blame Tara for bailing on this one. "Yes, Bill, she and Fox and getting married on the 5th, and we'd love to have you and Tara and Matt here to celebrate with us. Charlie is coming with his family and - "
"Charlie condones this?"
"I don't believe your sister has asked either of you for permission. She is over 21 and of sound mind."
"I doubt that. Mom, you have to talk her out of - "
"I have no intention of trying to dissuade your sister from her plans. She is very happy, in fact I don't think I've ever seen her happier. If you can't come, so be it. I thought it would be a good time for Matt to get to know his cousins, but that's up to you. How is everyone doing?"
The change of subject didn't help and very shortly Maggie broke the connection, feeling sorry for what Tara and Matt were going to have to endure for the next few hours at least.
"Are you really going to attend this farce of a wedding?"
"Well, hello to you too big brother," Charlie said. "And yes, I am going to my sister's wedding and finally getting to meet this Mulder that's such a big part of her life."
The rude noise that Bill made brought a smile to Charlie's face, but he waited.
"Charlie, you need to talk to her. We have to get her out of this."
"Get her out of what? Marrying the man she loves?" Again that rude noise. "Bill, I'd love to see you, I know Mary would like to spend some time with Tara and the boys need to get to know each other, but if you can't be happy for Dana, can't support her in her decision, then don't come."
"She's not happy with him, she's got some sick addiction to him maybe, but her life has been a total train wreck since she met him! She - "
"She doesn't see it that way, Bill. She loves him and he makes her happy. I don't think I've ever heard her sound happier than when we talked. I - "
"You talked? She called you?"
"Yeah, didn't she . . . " Shit, she'd let Mom drop the bomb on Bill. Thanks, Danes, put me in the line of fire. "Bill, doesn't that tell you something? You don't want to alienate her from your life and that's what's going to happen. I haven't met Mulder, but any man who would go to the ends of the earth, literally, to save my sister, is okay in my book."
"She wouldn't have been at the ends of the earth without him! Why can't you see what he's done - "
"Why can't you see how happy he makes her? Look, we need to agree to disagree on this one, big brother. I'm going, it would have been nice to see you, but not with this attitude. This is supposed to be one of the happiest days in a woman's life and Dana deserves that happiness. I think you better stay away, send a toaster oven or something."
"You're really going," Bill voice was subdued now.
"Yeah, I am. And I'm going to toast to my sister's happiness and if there's dancing, I'm going to whirl her around on the dance floor a little. I love her, Bill and anything that makes her this happy, makes me happy too. Think about it and tell Tara hi for me." Charlie broke the connection and looked up to see Mary standing in the doorway.
"I guess I don't need to wonder who that was," she moved into the room.
"Nope. Mule headed as ever, that's my big bro." Charlie shook his head. "I just don't get it."
"Me either, but I'm sure glad I got the brother I did," Mary leaned down and gave him a kiss.
"Umm," he pulled her into his lap. "Me too."
"You still think eloping is a bad idea?" Mulder asked resignedly as he pulled up in front of her mother's house.
"I think Mom will eviscerate us both if she even gets a hint you're thinking that."
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
"What's eviscerate?" Josh asked, unbuckling himself.
"Uh, she wouldn't be happy," Mulder explained. "Come on. Let's get inside. I'm sure your Grandmother wants to see you."
Josh grinned. He liked Maggie. He'd never had a grandmother before and she really seemed to like him.
A Week ago -
"Mom, are you busy tonight?"
"Nothing I can't get out of. Do you want to come over?"
"Actually I was hoping you could come over here. We could have dinner and there's something I need to talk to you about."
"Are you okay? Fox?"
"We're both okay, but he is involved."
"What time do you want me there?"
"How about five? We could talk before we eat."
"Are you sure you're all right?"
Scully chuckled slightly. "Yes. I am definitely all right."
Maggie was silent for a moment. She did sound good. "I'll be there. What would you like me to bring?"
"Just you. See you at five." Scully broke the connection and turned to Mulder. "She's coming."
"I didn't doubt it. You've intrigued her."
"I didn't mean to sound mysterious, but I couldn't get into this over the phone."
"No argument from me. I hope you don't expect me to help with the cooking."
"Heaven forbid!" she laughed and looked over as Josh joined them.
"What?" He looked between the two of them.
"Your mother is insulting my cooking. And we've invited your grandmother over to meet you." He said it lightly, but he was watching the boy for reaction.
"Grandmother?" Yeah, he did look nervous.
"She's great. You'll like her. Heck, she raised Scully, you know she's a good one."
"Tonight. Josh, she's going to love you. I already know it," Scully said softly. "Please don't worry."
He didn't respond, but moved closer to Mulder. Scully looked up at him and he gave her a reassuring smile and nod.
Scully set them to work, straightening up the place, which in Mulder's eyes didn't need it. She actually had him dusting after vacuuming the living room. Josh got to put out fresh towels in the bath and set the table.
The chicken pot pie was in the oven, the salad in the refrigerator and Josh had chosen ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert.
Okay, maybe the place did look a little better, Mulder thought when they were through. He headed for the kitchen to check on the rest of his family when the knock at the door stopped him.
He turned to answer it and felt Scully come to the opening into the kitchen. He didn't see Josh. His smile grew when he opened the door for Maggie and watched her visibly relax when she saw him.
"Well, you wouldn't be smiling like that if there were something wrong," she gave him a quick hug and looked around for Scully. "You know you scared me," she said to her daughter.
"I told you everything was fine."
"Fine," she sniffed and Mulder chuckled, standing behind the woman and nodding at Scully.
Before Scully could respond, Maggie had spotted Josh behind her. "Now who's this?"
Scully put her arm around the boy and brought him into the living room. "Mom, this is Josh." She started to say more, but Maggie obviously wasn't listening, looking at the boy closely.
"I've seen you - "
"The Amber alert," Mulder said quietly.
"Of course, that must be it. But . . . "
"Why don't you have a seat?" Mulder steered her that way and Scully motioned for Josh to take a seat beside her. He did, still not having spoken.
Scully sat on the other side of Josh and Mulder made a quick detour into the kitchen, then joined them carrying a half glass of red wine for Mrs. Scully. He sat it on the coffee table in front of her, then after a quick glance at Scully, added a coaster. Then he took a seat in the chair beside the couch.
Maggie bit her lip, but managed not to smile. "I read about you in the papers, Josh. How are you doing? Are you staying here with . . . " Her voice trailed off and she really looked at the boy again, then over at Mulder. "Explain."
It was a command, even in her softer voice, and Mulder took it as such. "He wasn't kidnapped, he ran away to find his real parents."
"You," Maggie nodded.
Scully's mouth dropped open in shock. "How did you - "
"He's the spitting image of the man, look at him. Except for - "
"The eyes," Mulder spoke for her.
She nodded, then faced Scully. "Emily." It was the only word she said, but Scully paled and didn't respond.
Mulder moved quickly to take a seat on the other side of Scully, ending up on the arm of the couch, but with his hand touching her. He was the one that spoke. "Yes, but Josh here is healthy."
Maggie closed her eyes for a moment and her lips moved silently. When she opened them, her arm went around the boy. "I'm very glad to meet you, Josh. I'm your grandmother."
He nodded and her arm hugged him. He wished for just a moment he wasn't too old to sit in her lap and to his amazement, she was patting her lap, inviting him there. He didn't even glance at Mulder, taking the invitation. Maggie infolded him in her arms, rocking him slightly.
Mulder looked down at Scully and spotted the tears slipping down her face. With a little more room now, he scooted her over and let his arm enclose her.
Maggie was speaking softly to the boy, but Mulder could hear her. "Did you know about your sister?"
"They told me about her."
"I never got to hold her, or even meet her. I'll never let a chance like that get away from me again."
Mulder realized that Scully was leaning against him and he squeezed her, brushing a kiss on her ear.
"Is he - " Maggie stopped and shook her head. "I was going to ask if he's safe here, but I know he is with the two of you. What happens now?"
Even Mulder blinked at that. "Well, we can prove through DNA that he's mine. So the story is I wasn't aware of him and his mother put him up for adoption. That's abandonment for the courts. The surrogate that carried him is dead."
"What from?" Maggie demanded.
Old age, was Mulder's thought but that was TMI. "Natural causes, Maggie. She wasn't killed."
Maggie held Josh a little tighter, but waited for Mulder to continue. "His adoptive parents are gone now."
"The father too?"
Mulder nodded, but gave no explanation. "So I petitioned for custody."
"You have the same problem Dana had with Emily. The courts won't - "
"They'll listen if I'm married."
Maggie blinked, her eyes going from Mulder to Scully and back. "Well it's about damn time." She looked down at Josh. "Sorry, that was a bad word."
He just grinned up at her.
Mulder had to clear his throat. "So, we have your blessing?"
Maggie's head came up, studying them both. "Yes. It's more than a little strange, the two of you as a couple. But I've seen you as together for a long time. Even before Emily and nothing has changed my mind. Have you set a date?"
Mulder actually laughed then and looked down at Scully. She was mesmerized by the sight of her son in her mother's lap and Mulder wasn't sure she had even heard the conversation. He shook her lightly. "Scully?"
"What? Oh, date, yes, April 5."
"That's not much time."
"It's not going to be a big wedding, Mom. I was thinking about the chapel with just a few friends and family. Since the courts are involved, we can't take too long."
"No, I guess not. What do you need me to do?"
"Uh, you've done it. I wasn't sure that you . . . "
"Dana Katherine Scully, you need to give me a little credit. Now, you won't want a gown, I know you, but I'm not letting you get married in a suit. That's unacceptable. We'll have to go shopping, pick out a few flowers. You have to have a bouquet at least, maybe a boutonnière for your men. I wonder if the boys can come? Josh, you have two uncles and three cousins, all boys."
Maggie didn't look up, but Scully glanced at Mulder's face and he tried for bland. It was too late. She squeezed his fingers and pressed her back into his chest. He took a breath and let it out slowly. He could do this.
Fortunately the oven timer went off then, distracting all of them.
Mulder offered, but Scully moved into the kitchen to take up dinner. Josh led Maggie to the table and told her he had set it. She complimented the job and asked about school. Mulder went over to help Scully, taking the salad from the refrigerator.
Conversation centered on the wedding and plans. Josh proudly told Maggie that Mulder had asked him to be best man. Maggie agreed that was totally correct.
"Do you have a suit, Josh? I know Mulder has plenty." She turned to him. "I think the charcoal gray one and let Dana pick a tie."
He grinned and Scully just looked bemused.
"Now for you, not white of course."
Scully's head shot up and she spotted Mulder's grin before his face was down, practically in his plate. Before she could think of a response, Maggie continued. "I think with your complexion a cream would be much nicer. White would just wash you out." She looked up and caught sight of Scully's expression. "Dana, give me a little credit. Don't you think you'd look better in cream?"
The time flew by. Scully gave up and let Maggie have her head. She did maintain veto power but found little use for it. Her mother knew her taste better than she'd ever given her credit.
The woman had even brought three dresses to her house for Dana to try on. She had insisted that that activity take place without Mulder in evidence. Scully had resigned herself to the process, but was pleased with all three dresses and delighted if a little surprised that her favorite was also her mother's. They agreed that the cream-colored taffeta dress slightly flared, which hit Scully just above the knees, with strapless bodice embellished with crystals was perfect. With her hair in a French twist and a little baby's breath she felt like a bride.
They'd had a cursory visit with Father McCue. There was no time for the class the Father tried to urge them toward, and regardless Scully knew Mulder would balk at attending anyway.
Now everything was done and tomorrow they would be married.
Mulder glanced at the house again. Yes, he would elope, but he would not hurt Maggie and he could see the excitement in Scully's eyes. He relaxed a bit, yes, the excitement in her eyes made it all worth it.
"Come on, Buddy, we have a wedding party to attend," Mulder said unbuckling himself as Josh had done. Scully shook her head at them, but was smiling. As she emerged from the car the door to the house opened and a ginger haired man, not quite as tall as Mulder stepped out. Scully's smile grew and she hurried toward him. He met her half way and picked her up, hugging her.
"I sure hope that's Charlie," Mulder muttered to Josh, who laughed.
"It is." The man approached Mulder then, hand out. He only faltered an instant when he spotted Josh. He shook both of their hands, but couldn't seem to decide which one to focus on.
"Come on inside," Scully advised, moving them along.
"Mom said there was an extra surprise. The woman's been around the FBI too long, obviously. I didn't know you had a child, Mulder." His voice was cautious now.
"You're in good company. I didn't either until a few weeks ago. I've applied for custody and Scully, uh, Dana had filed for adoption with me. His birth mother and his adoptive parents are dead."
Charlie's eyes widened, then recognition seemed to hit him. "The Amber . . . "
Mulder and Scully both nodded.
"And when you saw him, you had to run the test."
Mulder shrugged. "It's a small planet."
"Well, that explains the timing of this extravaganza Mom's been planning. I hope we have a little time to talk, Mulder."
Mulder was already reassessing. The man had heard the biggest, most damning secret and still acted like he was glad to meet him. Maybe he really wasn't like Bill.
"Come on, you have cousins to meet. They've taken over the den, both to get the TV and to stay out of Mom's way." He led the way back toward the den. "Hey guys, your aunt Dana is here."
The boys looked up smiling and at a gesture from Charlie, rose and hugged Scully. They were introduced to Mulder and then Josh. Josh didn't faze them at all, but Mulder had their complete attention. Questions began before he could take a seat and he shot a glance at Charlie, who was grinning.
"I need to go help Mom," Scully broke in. "You guys okay?"
"Yeah. We'll call you if we need protecting," Mulder said, brushing a kiss across her cheek. Even that caused a blush, which widened Charlie's grin and from the look in his eyes, added to the list of questions Mulder was going to be hit with.
They all settled down around the muted TV and began to talk. Scully stopped at the door and looked back. Her nephews had made room for Josh on the couch and were asking him questions as well. She knew Mulder would protect him, but he was looking a little bemused himself. And happy.
She entered the kitchen and spotted Mary looking in the refrigerator, Mom was at the stove. "Hi," she called and both turned to look at her.
"You're here! I didn't even hear the door." Maggie wiped her hands and moved in her direction. Mary got there first, hugging her.
"You look great, Dana and so happy."
"I am," she said simply.
"Did Fox come with you?" Maggie looked around her.
"Charlie met us outside. That's why you didn't hear the door. All the boys are in the den."
Maggie shook her head, but her eyes were twinkling. "So they're getting along?"
"Looks like it. I'm not sure Mulder has been hit with that many questions at once since his last press conference, but he's coping," she smiled.
"Maggie said there was an extra surprise," Mary said. Her eyes tracked down to Scully's waist.
"Oh no, not that. Come on, I'll show you." She led both women back to the den and tapped on the door to get everyone's attention. The conversation was lively. Mulder rose to his feet and was introduced to Mary, who gave him a hug to his surprise. Maggie did the same. Then Scully motioned for Josh to join her. "This is Josh, our son. He's the main reason for the hurried up wedding, so the courts won't have a problem with the adoption."
Mary greeted the boy and Maggie gave him a quick hug while Mary and Charlie exchanged looks. Mulder watched, yeah, he understood that. They would have made great partners too with that ability to communicate.
"Well," Maggie said, "we'll let you boys get back to your conversation, but I wanted Mary to meet everyone. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
The females left, Mulder's eyes following Scully with a smile. She looked happy. As he turned back he caught Charlie's eye who nodded. Mulder felt himself relax another notch.
At Maggie's call, the men all trouped into the dining room and Mulder stopped, a little stunned. The woman had gone all out. Silver and crystal gleamed, fresh flowers that matched the cream and rose flowers that Scully was going to carry tomorrow were on the table. Maggie was at the head of the table, with Mulder and Scully on either side of her, Josh was between Will and Sam who were across from Charlie and Mary. Intimate and still formal somehow.
They took their seats and Maggie gave thanks, but before they could begin passing the food, Mulder heard a tap and then the front door opening.
It was Bill.