She barely heard the doorbell over the crash of thunder. She hurried to the door. Who would be out in this? Had Uncle Charlie forgotten his key?
"Fox! Get inside." She pulled him in and together they shoved the door closed. "What are you doing out in this weather?"
"Itís going to be a bad storm, and you said your uncle would be late tonight."
"Yeah, heís gone to settle Aunt Cindy at the hospital. You didnít walk did you?" She looked out the window.
"No, I parked a few houses down. You donít want the neighbors to know Iím here when your aunt and uncle are gone."
He was right, but she hated it for him. Sheíd thought living on base was confining. Thunder crashed again and all three kids raced into the foyer, scared and crying.
"Itís okay, guys. Look who came to look after us."
"Mudder!" Tim launched himself at him. Fox bent down and all three of them were in his arms.
"Why donít we go into the den, itíll be more comfortable." Dana reached for Jennyís hand and the lights went out. The kids, amazingly, went silent. "Fox?" Oh god, what was this doing to him? Heíd come to help her and now he was thrown into his own personal nightmare. She put her hand on his arm, more concerned for him than the kids. "Fox, take the twins.í She lifted Kim into his arms. She had to get him to focus on now, to move. "There are candles in the kitchen. Come on."
He was stiff, but he was moving, the twins in his arms with their arms around his neck. Dana held tightly to Jenny, enlisting her aid, making her feel like one of the adults.
It worked, Jenny calmed down and helped Dana locate the candles and matches. Then they all moved to the den. Fox was less drawn, moving more smoothly.
"Hey, you guys want to sleep on the couch tonight?"
"Yeah!" A chorus of delight rose, almost drowning out the sound of the storm outside.
"Iíll go get your blankets, you stay here with Fox." She looked over to see if he was okay with that. He nodded and joined the kids on the couch, allowing them to crowd around him. Dana took a candle and hurriedly gathered up blankets, pillows and favorite sleep animals.
Scully joined the crowd on the couch and everyone scrunched down to listen to Dana tell Goldie Locks and the Three Bears one more time. The lightening hadnít slowed down, but the thunder seemed less fearsome now that they were settled together.
Kim was already drifting off, draped across Foxís lap, with Jenny not far behind. Tim fought it for another ten minutes or so, then all three were snoring little baby snores.
Fox lifted them into more comfortable positions, then pulled Dana to her feet.
"Are you okay, Fox?"
"Great hero I am. I come over to check on you and the kids, and you end up taking care of me."
"Hardly. You were great with the kids, Iím so glad you were here. They calmed down right away and look how secure they felt. We all felt better with you here, especially me."
He squeezed her hand and led her to the smaller sofa. "Wonít your parents be worried about you out in this?"
"They probably wonít notice. Mom was in her valium daze and Dad was on his third scotch. It was probably better to get out." Dana said nothing, he didnít want sympathy, he was just stating facts.
An especially loud crash of thunder sounded overhead and Dana moved a little closer to him. The kids murmured but didnít wake. He put his arm around her and it felt so natural. At his urging she began telling him about her family and the different places they had lived. He never got tired of that. Heíd made a vow never to return to this place anyway.
They both jumped at the next crash. "Oh Fox, did that hit the house?"
"I donít think so, stay here with the kids. Iíll be right back."
"Be careful." She whispered after him. He was back in no time.
"Two doors down, they lost that big tree in the front. I still think this is the best room to be in. Weíve got the kids right here where we can grab them if we need to. Just sit back down and talk to me."
She cuddled in next to him and they continued to talk, until she felt him moving closer to her face. His lips brushed her hair and suddenly she couldnít think of anything to say. She trusted him and didnít want him to stop, but she didnít know what to say or do.
"Dana?" She smiled at him and realized her arms had gone around his waist. When did she do that? "Can I kiss you?" She gave a little nod, almost imperceptible, and he kissed her lips gently, then a little more firmly when he realized she was responding.
"Have you ever kissed anyone before?" She shook her head, still not trusting her voice. "Youíre a quick study." She blushed and looked down. His finger on her chin caused her to look into his eyes again.
"I donít think I can stay here after you leave. I canít believe how close I feel to you, I havenít. . . I havenít had someone in my life that I care about for so long." He glanced over at the kids and she realized she could read his face as though it were an open book. He wanted this, a family of his own, a place he belonged with no questions, and her. He wanted her to be part of that. For the first time she felt anger at her youth. Was this what Missy kept railing about, being too young all the time?
He stood suddenly and turned away from her. "Maybe I ought to be leaving, the stormís letting up a little."
"I donít want you to go." Her knowledge of her own brothers came to mind and she blushed, but he had his back to her and couldnít see anyway. "I. . . I really do want you to stay."
"Why donít you go over and be with the kids."
She had risen from the sofa and stood just behind him. He startled when she put her hand on his arm. "Itís okay Fox, I trust you." Now he was blushing, she smiled softly. "Just sit here with me. Itís okay."
He allowed her to lead him back to the sofa and they sat, not talking, just listening to the storm and being together. He realized shortly that she had fallen asleep against him. He waited until he was sure she was fully asleep, then picked her up and carried her to the larger couch with the kids. He then retreated back to his own seat and sat there watching her. What was he doing? She was only fifteen, but she seemed much older, older than him sometimes.
Charlie wiped his feet and tried the light switch as he entered the front door. Power was still out; it had been a hell of a storm. He glanced into the family room as he took off his coat and smiled. Dana was on the couch, almost completely covered by kids. They must have slept there; a movement on the other side of the room caught his eye. Fox Mulder, asleep in the chair. Charlieís eyes immediately returned to Dana, she was fully clothed except for her shoes, as was he. He relaxed again, Fox had stayed over because of the weather. Nothing had happened.
Fox woke to see Charlie standing in the doorway. He sprang to his feet. "Sir, I was here because of the storm. The kids were scared and. . . "
Dana was awake now and watching them, not moving. How had she gotten to the couch? Hadnít she been. . . oh. She didnít want the kids to wake up for this.
"I know that Fox." He stepped toward the young man and put out his hand. "Thanks for looking after Dana and the kids."
Fox couldnít quite hide the flinch, but held out his own hand and shook Charlieís. Danaís eyes misted over. Heíd been expecting a fist, had been reconciled to it. She wanted to throw her arms around Uncle Charlie and thank him for understanding the situation. She would do that later, when Fox wasnít watching.
Tim woke and seeing his Dad jumped up and ran over. "Mudderís here! He lookted after us."
"Yes and he did a good job, didnít he." Tim nodded enthusiastically. Charlie turned to Fox, "What did he call you?"
"His version of Mulder. I donít really like Fox, so I was teaching him to call me just Mulder."
Charlie nodded, and put Tim back down. "Why donít you wake up your sisters and weíll all go get some donuts. With the power out thatís about the best we can do. Okay?"
"I better be getting home." Fox moved toward the door.
"I was including you in the donuts. Just a thank you." Foxís mouth opened slightly and Dana had to turn away from the surprise in his eyes. Otherwise she would have cried. Uncle Charlie was being so great, just like Mom.
To cover the moment, Charlie walked over to Dana. "Sorry I couldnít get home last night. The roads were impassable and the phones are out. Was everything okay?"
"Yes. Everything was fine. Fox was here when the lights went out, so the kids werenít scared. They were asleep when the tree fell, so they missed that."
"It was some storm. I hope Cindy doesnít hear about it, since I canít call and reassure her." He seemed to lose some height, just talking about her. "Well, letís get a move on."
Dana shooed the kids upstairs and Charlie turned to Fox. "Iíll deny I ever said this, but I hope you find someone just like Dana when youíre old enough."
Foxís eyes widened, how did he know? Was he that transparent? Charlie only smiled, patted him on the shoulder and went to change. Fox sunk back down on the sofa.
Someone just like Dana. No, Dana herself. He was crazy; she was fifteen years old and hadnít even dated yet. That sent a tightening through his stomach. He would be out of the country and Dana would be growing up, meeting guys, dating, falling in love. He shook his head. Penpals, oh god. Would she even write to him, maybe at first, but then sheíd meet someone. He had his head down, contemplating the worst and didnít hear her come back.
"Fox?" She put her hand on his head, smoothing down his hair. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, Iím fine."
"No youíre not. Did Uncle Charlie say anything. . . ?"
"Your Uncleís great. No." He looked up at her standing so close to him and stood to be even closer to her, "I was just thinking about when Iím in England and youíre here in the States."
"Fox, you will write to me, wonít you? Tell me everything youíre doing and who youíre meeting. Even the beautiful women."
That startled him, she was worried about women he might meet? That finally caused a small smile on his face. "Are you going to tell me about all the guys you're dating?"
"If it ever happens, I guess. If they donít see Melissa first when they come over."
"If youíre really worried about that, youíre crazy." His eyes werenít smiling, he was totally serious. She could hear her Uncle Charlie coming down the steps, so she hurriedly brushed a kiss across his lips.
"Thanks." She dropped back down flatfooted and went to find the kids. His fingers went to his lips, as though to hold the kiss closer to him.
Her last few days flew by. Fox spent all of his time at the house with her and the kids. Cindyís mother would be coming in for a few days to watch the kids until school started, and Dana wanted to make sure the house was perfect so that neither Cindy nor her mother could find fault with how she was running the place. She would find Fox standing off to the side, watching her and smiling, occasionally saluting before heading for his assigned task. Uncle Charlie had made sure that the neighbors had seen Fox there, eating with the family and playing in the backyard with the kids. He even invited a few friends over for a barbecue as a going away party for Dana and made sure they knew Fox Mulder was a friend of his.
Fox was totally overwhelmed at this and Dana had to keep an eye on him to make sure he mingled and enjoyed himself. She turned to get Tim another handful of carrots when she saw her.
"Mom!" Dana ran across the lawn toward a woman that was obviously a female version of Charles, and quite a bit more attractive. "What are you doing here?" They were hugging each other like, well, like they hadnít seen each other all summer. What would it be like to have a mother like that?
Dana was pulling her across the yard toward him. What should he say to her? These other people didnít matter, but Mrs. Scully. . .
"So youíre Fox Mulder. Iím so pleased to finally meet you. Dana has told me so many good things about you."
Fox was struck dumb. Sheíd told her mother about him? No one had ever. . . god, where was his voice? "Mrs., uh Mrs. Scully."
She was smiling at him, then she brushed a kiss across his cheek. "Weíll talk later." And was gone to find her brother and check on her nieces and nephew.
"You okay?" Dana took his hand.
"Smooth, arenít I? I didnít know she was coming."
"I didnít either. Itís so good to see her. I guess she came to get me, so I wonít have to ride home alone on the bus."
He stiffened, "You wonít be leaving earlier, will you?"
"No, someone has to be with the kids. Iím sure sheís talked all this out with Uncle Charlie. Donít worry, Fox. I wonít leave until they drag me off."
"Dessert everyone, come on over!" Charlie called across the yard. Everyone headed back to the patio, where he let Jenny carry out a cake, decorated with the words, "Thanks Dana!"
"Oh itís beautiful guys! But I should be thanking you. It was my best summer ever." She turned and caught Foxís eye. Her mother watched the communication, though unspoken, between them. So it was like that. Dana was so young. Well they couldnít be together right now anyway. If it were as real as it looked, theyíd find each other again. Sheíd only been a year older than Dana was now when she met Bill, and that was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
"We have another dessert, before we cut into this one." Mrs. Scully called out, helping the twins carry out the second cake, which said, "Congratulations Fox Ė Look Out Oxford!"
Fox thought his knees were going to give out on him. No one had ever done anything like this for him. He hadnít even had a birthday cake since. . . then Dana had her arms around him, hugging him. "Its okay, Fox. We just wanted to show you how special you are." She whispered in his ear, knowing she was half supporting him.
"Go with me, Dana." He whispered back, knowing it was an impossibility, but needing her to know how he felt.
"I want to, Fox. But I will be here when you get back. Come on, cut your cake. These people want to congratulate you."
He reluctantly stepped back from her and allowed the other people at the party to approach them. He tried to quell the thought that these people had known him forever and never treated him like this before. They never would have if not for Dana. She was everything to him. Exactly how long would it take him to get his degree and come home to her? Sheíd be 18 in three years, would she be old enough then? Would they be old enough to be together forever then? She should go to school, but heíd manage that. Slow down Fox, her motherís watching you. Donít let her get the wrong idea. He wasnít after Dana like that. He just wanted to be with her, forever.
He stayed late to help clean up and somehow found himself alone in the kitchen with Mrs. Scully while Dana put the kids to bed. He didnít even feel manipulated. She was as easy to talk with as Dana. He found himself talking to her, really talking. He even answered questions about his parents. If she still thought Dana was too young when he got back, maybe sheíd adopt him. He had to smile at that thought. Mrs. Scully watched him. That was the first time sheíd seen the sadness leave his eyes when Dana wasnít in the room.
She liked this boy instinctively. It wasnít just her trust of Danaís judgment, though that helped. They both turned as Dana entered the kitchen. She was looking at them, trying to decide if Fox was okay.
"Donít worry, Dana. I didnít dissect him. See? Whole and intact."
Dana blushed. Okay, she was a little overprotective of him, she admitted it. Fox watched the by-play with amusement. They really enjoyed each other. They were friends. That was so wild. The only negative thing about Mrs. Scully was that she had come to take her away. A cloud settled over him at the thought.
"Well, I guess I better be getting home." It was the last thing he wanted to do, but he had to leave sometime. Even sleeping on the couch wouldnít be appreciated now. Besides he needed to begin his own packing, heíd spent so much time here getting everything ready for the kidís grandmother, heíd let his own stuff slide. He was leaving and it would be okay, she was too.
Mrs. Scully said nothing as Dana walked him to the car and was gone for several minutes. She trusted her girls and now she knew she could trust Fox as well. Not that she minded that he would be out of the country for a few years, but. . .
"You brought her back? Aw, Mom, we thought we were rid of her for good." Bill, Jr. punched her arm, but Charlie tossed his arm over her other shoulder and swung her out of their older brotherís way.
"When'd you get taller than me?" Dana looked up at her "little" brother. "This is getting ridiculous!"
Her father waded through the assorted family and took Dana into a bear hug. "You were gone too long Starbuck. Nobody gets you next summer, understand?"
"Aye aye, Ahab."
"Was it too much for you?"
"No. It wasnít too much." Her father saw her eyes mist over and glanced at his wife. She shook her head and he knew sheíd bring him up to date later.
"Hey, Dana. You got a letter today from Massachusetts. Have you got a boyfriend?" Melissa dangled the letter just out of reach.
Dana lunged for her and grabbed the letter. No return address, just the initials FWM in the corner. Without a word to anyone she left the kitchen and headed for her room. Mrs. Scullyís look forbade anyone to follow her.
She fell on her bed and opened the letter with trembling hands.
"Dana, You havenít even left yet and I already miss you so much I canít stand it. Youíve become part of me and the thought of not being able to see you and only being able to talk through letters is truly painful to me.
"Until you, I had written off the entire human race. I couldnít tell you this to your face, but that night in the park you only think I saved you. What you donít know is that you saved me. Iíd gone there to kill myself that night. My fatherís gun was in my pocket the whole time Ė the one everyone thought I used on Samantha. I had decided that Oxford would be no better than here, and that my past would follow me there. I admit I had some help reaching that conclusion. My father was drinking that night too.
"But you were there and you needed me. Thereís no one else in the whole town that would have needed me. You were meant to be there that night, to save me. After talking with you, walking you to your uncleís house, it just wasnít as dark as it had been. When I got home, Dad had passed out, so there was no more abuse from him and I was able to slip the gun back into its hiding place without anyone ever knowing.
"No one did until this minute. In some cultures you would own part of me. You should know that you do, and anything I accomplish from now on is yours. I just hope that when I finally get back to you, youíll still want it and me.
"I moved my reservations up, I canít stay here without you. Iíll be leaving the day after you do, so Iíll probably be in England when you get this letter. Iíll send you my address as soon as I get in a dorm. Going early I may mess up their plans, but I donít really care.
"Think about me Dana, like Iím thinking about you right now. Iíll pester your uncle until he gets the film developed from your party and have that with me always. Please tell me everything youíre doing, whatís happening with your family, everything. Iíll pretend that theyíre my family too and people at school wonít think Iím so very odd to not have anyone who cares about me back home.
"If I donít stop now, I might never stop. I love you, Dana, and I miss you."
She didnít hear her mother tap on her door a little while later, so she wasnít aware of her presence at first. Then she was in her motherís arms, being comforted as he never had been. That made her cry all the harder while Mrs. Scully rocked her and murmured to her comforting words that could provide no comfort. Only time could bring them together again, if it was meant to be.