He looked over at her and recognized the tenseness in her posture, her shoulders. "You okay?"
"Okay, I'm nervous." She tried to smile, but it didn't quite come off.
"Its just Mom. You survived my father, he's the hard one."
"No, this is harder for me. Mulder, I'm going to be the other woman. What if she doesn't like me?"
He blinked at that, "How could she not?" He was honestly stunned that she was even concerned about this.
That finally brought a smile to her face. "Thanks."
"Dana, I'm serious."
"I know. That's how I'm going to get through this." She took a deep breath, and tried to relax.
The woman had obviously been watching for them, because the door opened as he parked the car in front of the house. She stood in the doorway, her coat around her shoulders, her hands clasped at her waist. Dana realized that the only thing she would really have to change in order to pose for a portrait of a Puritan woman, was the bonnet for her white hair.
Dana steeled herself. She'd survived the father; surely this couldn't be worse. The woman did actually smile when she saw Mulder emerge from the car and wave. That smiled dimmed considerable as he opened Dana's door and held out his hand to help her from the car.
"Steady." Mulder whispered. "She's just from New England." He squeezed her hand, then placed his hand on its accustomed spot on her back.
"Hi Mom." Mulder smiled at her as they approached the austere saltbox. She held out her arms to embrace him, pulling them inside the door. He gave her a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek she offered.
"Mom, I'd like you to meet Dana Scully. Dana, this is my mother, Teena Mulder." Mrs. Mulder held out her hand and shook with Dana. Her hand was dry and papery feeling. Well, Dana mused, at least one of them wasn't nervous.
"I'm pleased to meet you Miss Scully."
"Please call me Dana." She smiled at the older woman.
A tight smile appeared and she nodded. No answering invitation to use the name Teena was offered. Mulder caught her eye and winked. Okay, she could do this for him.
"Come in." Mrs. Mulder moved from the door and led them to a parlor motioning for Dana to take a stiff looking chair, while she sat on the sofa beside Mulder.
Dana did as she was bade and looked around the room. There was a menorah on the table in front of the window. That caught her a little off guard. They had never discussed religion; he knew she was Catholic, but he hadn't mentioned being Jewish.
Mulder caught her eye; "I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukah." He winked, "explains some things, huh?"
"Fox!" His mother's tone was disapproving.
"Just kidding. How have you been?"
"Mostly well. I haven't heard from you much lately."
"Sorry, I had exams and then had to get ready for the trip. I'll do better, promise." He gave her another buss on the cheek.
She turned then toward the younger woman. "You have a great deal of influence on my son. I've been trying to get him to visit home for years."
Dana smiled, a little unsure. "I don't know about that, but I'm very glad he was able to come now. My parents were pleased to see him as well."
"Oh, you've met her parents?"
"Yes, they're very nice people. Of course, I met her mother years ago when I first met Dana."
"Years ago?" Teena's back became just a little straighter.
"Dana and I met that summer before I left for England. She was here on the Vineyard keeping her cousins. We still lived at the other house. You should remember the Richardsons. Dana is Charles Richardson's niece."
Teens glanced at Dana again, "They moved from the Vineyard several years ago."
"Yes, my aunt wanted to move closer to her family. They've been in Chicago for about five years now."
"I didn't know them well."
"My aunt was ill, they didn't socialize very much."
Mulder kept his face carefully impassive at those words. He'd remind her of her understatement and tease her about it later.
"Dinner should be ready in a little while, I have some mulled wine in the meantime. I thought something warm would be nice." She stood abruptly.
"May I help you?" Dana started to rise as well.
"No, thank you. It's all ready." She moved toward the kitchen.
When she left the room, Dana's shoulders slumped slightly. Mulder rose and was at her side. "Doin' okay?"
"Sure." But her voice shook slightly.
"You really are more nervous about her than you were of my father." He sounded truly astonished.
"I'm fine, Mulder."
He bent down and kissed her. When they broke apart, Teena was standing in the door with a tray in her hand, waiting. Mulder took in the color that stained Dana's face and squeezed her hand, then moved toward his mother and took the tray from her hand. He placed it on the coffeetable.
Teena didn't speak of what she had witnessed, but poured three cups of the warm wine from the silver server. She extended a cup toward Dana, who reached for it. The cup rattled in the saucer and she placed it on the table instead.
"Is that your Grandmother's ring?"
Dana's eyes were wide and didn't speak. "Yes, Mom. I gave Dana the ring when we finally met up again in England. I asked her to be my wife."
"Yes, and she's agreed."
Teena turned to look at Dana then; "You've accepted my son's proposal?"
"Yes ma'am. I love him very much."
"You love him. How sweet."
Dana blinked at that, startled.
"I thought I loved his father, once." She drew herself up straight again. "Have you set a date?"
"No, Mom. Neither of us is finished with school. When I get my Ph.D., I'll be moving back to the states, to DC. Once I'm settled, have a job, we'll get married and Dana will complete her education. We're not rushing into anything, we know what we want."
"Is that true, Miss Scully?"
They both noted the use of her name. Dana rose to stand beside Mulder, "Yes. I'm very much in love with your son. I want to spend the rest of my life with him."
"Fox," She didn't look over at the man, "would you leave us for a minute."
He started to protest, but Dana nodded. After a moment, he squeezed Dana's hand. "I'll be in the kitchen." He moved reluctantly, but left them alone.
When Teena was sure he was gone, she motioned for Dana to sit beside her on the sofa. "This is a mistake. You should not plan to marry Fox. The Mulder men are . . . not marriage material. There is too much of his father in him."
"I met Mr. Mulder. He said the same thing."
That statement obviously startled the older woman. "I had no idea William was that insightful."
"Mulder isn't like his father. He's a loving man, he's wise and he's the best thing that's ever happened to me. We were apart for years, but I never forgot him. When we saw each other again, I found that he hadn't forgotten me either. We were both young to fall in love, but it happened and we don't intend to fight it. We belong together."
"You're very naive."
Dana squared her shoulders. "I may be, but I do love your son and he loves me. I hope that you can accept that."
"Accept it? He won't make you happy."
"He already makes me happy. I'm not so naive as to think we won't have problems. Every couple does, but I believe that what we have is strong enough to get us through them. I'm sorry that you're upset by this, I hoped, we hoped, that you would be happy for us."
"Happy? I haven't been happy since that man ruined my life. The same, I'm afraid, will be true of you."
"I appreciate your concern, Mrs. Mulder - "
"My concern. What makes you think that you can make him happy?"
Dana froze. "I can only try." She said after a moment. "But I've never wanted to do anything more. Mrs. Mulder, I do hope that we can put this aside for this evening. Mulder wanted to spend some time with you. I would hope that you can give him that."
The older woman nodded, "Fine, but you and I should have a conversation later, when he has returned to England."
"Yes ma'am. But for now . . .?"
The woman inclined her head in an almost royal nod. Dana managed to hide her sigh. This was what she had worried about, but it had happened and she had survived. For this evening at least, she needed to put this aside as she had asked Mrs. Mulder, and let him enjoy this time with his mother.
"I'm sure Mulder is getting nervous. We should probably join him."
"Why don't you call him Fox?"
"He prefers Mulder. He's not comfortable with Fox."
"He told you that?"
"Yes, years ago."
Teena seemed to deflate slightly at that. She took a deep breath and rose from the sofa. "You're right, we shouldn't leave him alone any longer." She motioned for Dana to accompany her to the kitchen.
Teena watched as her son's eyes searched the young woman's. Whatever he saw there seemed to soothe him. This man that was her son was a mystery to her, but he seemed to have genuine affection for this small woman. That was too bad for both of them no doubt.
Dana made it through the meal, drawing strength from her own mother, mostly allowing the two of them to talk and catch up. Mulder occasionally drew her into the conversation, but she would turn it back toward him or his mother and allow them to almost be alone.
Following dessert, Mulder excused himself to run out to the car. "May I help with the dishes, Mrs. Mulder?"
"Thank you, but no. Stella will take care of everything tomorrow morning." She rose from the table and carried her cup of coffee toward the living room.
Dana fell silent again; she hadn't realized that the woman had a maid. Her own mother had never even had a cleaning woman, even with all four kids at home. After a moment she followed the woman.
Dana turned when she heard the door open. Thank goodness, being alone with this woman was more intimidating than her first physics teacher - the one that didn't believe women should have been taught to read.
Mulder was carrying a beautifully wrapped package, which he sat on the coffee table. "Happy Hanukkah, Mom."
"Thank you, son. Let me go get your present." She left them alone for the first time that evening and he had her in his arms instantly.
your arms around me."
"Me too. We'll be out of here in a little while. I'm so proud of you."
"Well, I don't know about that, but I love you." His lips took hers until she heard his mother returning and she pulled away. She swiped her thumb over his lower lip to remove the lipstick.
Mrs. Mulder handed a large flat box to Mulder and a smaller box to Dana.
"Mrs. Mulder, thank you." Dana was surprised, but Mulder grinned at her.
"Come on, open your present Mom."
She seated herself on the sofa and picked up the package. There was no paper ripping in this family. She unwrapped the package carefully and lifted out a delicate, antique cup and saucer. It had a royal look to it.
"I found this in an antique store not far from campus and it reminded me of you."
"Thank you, Fox, it's perfect. Now open yours, both of you."
Mulder looked over at Dana, and waited for her to begin. She found a bottle of her favorite bath oil. She smiled up at her future mother-in-law, "How did you know?"
"Fox said it was your favorite. I hope you enjoy it. Fox - "
Mulder tore into his package then, while Teena shook her head slightly at the mess he made. He held up the sweater, "Mom, it's very nice, thanks." He gave her another quick kiss.
They finished their coffee and finally Mulder rose. "Mom, I'm sorry but it's a long drive back. We need to get going."
"Of course." She rose as well and gave her son a stiff hug, then shook Dana's hand again. "If you have time, give me a call before you return to England."
"I'll do that. Thanks for the dinner."
"Yes, thank you, Mrs. Mulder."
"Be careful on the drive. It was nice meeting you, Dana. I'll talk to you soon I hope."
Dana nodded and Mulder looked at them both, but refrained from comment. He took Dana's arm and Mrs. Mulder stood in the door until they were in the car.
"Glad that's over?" He looked over at her.
"Maybe a little relieved." She leaned back in the seat and took a deep breath.
"And maybe a lot?" He smiled at her and, after a moment, she nodded. "Let's get you home."
"That sounds good."
She offered no information on the conversation she'd had with his mother and after very few questions, he dropped the subject, instead describing past holidays with a rueful humor.
Dana watched him sleep that night, unable to fall asleep herself. He had been really pleased with his visit to his mother's. He was willing to accept so little, and she was beginning to realize that was what he felt he deserved. That's why he was so stunned at her feelings for him. She wanted to cry at the injustice of it.
He woke slightly and pulled her to him. "Dana?"
"Shh, go to sleep, Mulder." She cuddled in next to him and closed her eyes.
The next morning they slept late, then made love for a while, before she could persuade him to actually leave the bed. It was nearly time for lunch before they were both up and dressed. She started to call to him, to let him know the coffee was ready when the phone rang.
"Hello?" She looked up as he kissed her forehead and moved toward the kitchen.
"Is Fox there?"
"Uh, yes. Just a minute." She looked up at him and shrugged, handing him the phone.
"Hello?" His brow furrowed, "Diane? How did you know where to reach me?"
Dana tried to slip past him, to give him some privacy, but his hand shot out to stop her. "Mom, uh? Well Diane, it's good to hear from you, but I'm just in the states for a short while, so we're not going to be able to get together. Yeah, maybe. Tell your parents hi for me. Yeah, Merry Christmas to you too. Bye."
He hung up the phone, but didn't say anything. Finally she ran a hand down his arm. "Old girlfriend?"
He looked over at her and she dropped her teasing instantly. "How could my mother do that? Why would she . . ." He shook his head and turned away.
"Mulder. It's okay."
"Okay? What it is, is another indication of how much my parents don't want me to find happiness. Dana, I'm sorry."
"Mulder, you have nothing to apologize for." But she could see the sadness in his eyes. "Why don't we get out of here for awhile? We still haven't walked around the mall, seen the Lincoln Memorial, any of that stuff."
"You don't have to try to cheer me up."
"I'm not. As cold as it is, the crowds will be down and we won't get jostled. Put on your coat, and come with me."
He blinked, but did as she ordered. Whatever happened, he knew he would feel better just being with her. He had survived his parents, maybe some people did better, but he had survived - and somehow met this incredible woman. Why was he asking for more?
She had been right, the crowds were definitely down and seeing these sights with her made everything new. He couldn't say that he actually led them to the FBI building, but once there he turned to her. "How about a tour?"
"Uh, sure. Want to get the lay of the land?"
He grinned and nodded. "I still haven't decided that I want to work for the feds, but I might as well check out the building, you know?"
"Sounds like a plan." She took his hand and they moved into the building.
She began by just trailing him, but when they got to the part of the tour on forensics, her own interest was piqued. When they were leaving, he bent down and whispered to her, "That anatomy course looking even more attractive?"
"Not as much as you do when I'm studying you."
"Oooh, great answer." His arm snaked around her and he pulled her against him. At least he seemed to be grounded again.
He didn't tense up again until they got back to her place and saw her message machine blinking.
"Hey, it might be for me, you know?"
"I sure hope so.
She squeezed his hand and pushed the button to listen to the message. "Hi, Dana Honey. Just wanted to make sure you and Fox were still planning on being here Christmas morning. Charlie will be with Mary's family, so it will only be the five of us. I promise blueberry pancakes. Talk to you soon. Love you."
She looked over to where he had collapsed onto the couch. "It was for me."
He shook his head, "It was for us. If you should, God forbid, change your mind about marrying me, do you think you could get your mother to adopt me?"
"I'll check into that, but I wouldn't count on it. Incest is illegal and I have no intention of letting you go."
He pulled her down on top of him on the couch, crooning "I love incest in the springtime."
She was up before him Christmas morning, but he woke while she was still in the shower and joined her. "You better not make us late for Mom's. Ahab will never forgive us if he has to wait to open his presents."
He ran a hand down her back and over the rise of her hips. "But aren't you what Santa brought me? And here you are unwrapped and - "
"You're insatiable. I like that in a man." She placed a quick kiss on his lips and stepped from the shower.
"Don't go near the hot water!" He moved to defend the faucet.
"Who me?" She looked up innocently and proceeded to dry herself off. He watched, appreciating the view more than he could describe, then showered himself and hurried to get dressed.
They arrived at her parent's home on time and she and Mulder carried the packages inside.
Mrs. Scully met them at the door, "Merry Christmas! You're just in time, your father was ready to tear into the presents without you." She hugged them both and drew them into the living room where Mulder arranged their packages with the others.
Missy joined them. "We have to eat first, Mom?"
"Argh!" Maggie shook her head. "You're all impossible. I guess I can keep the pancakes warm."
"Good surrender, Mom. I'll bring the juice in the living room." Missy gave Dana and Mulder a quick hug then turned back toward the kitchen.
Mulder already felt himself relaxing. These people had fun together. The Captain joined them, following Missy with two mugs of steaming coffee in his hand. They both put their burdens down on the coffee table, then he encompassed Dana in a bear hug and shook hands with Mulder.
"This other coffee is yours Mulder. Thought you and I could use the wake up."
"A bit chauvinistic, Ahab." Dana grinned.
"One of my strengths. Pour yourself some juice."
He sank down on the couch and patted the seat next to him when Maggie entered the room. "Under the tree Dana. I want that big one in the corner."
Dana turned to Mulder. "I'm the youngest here today, with Charlie out of town. So I have to hand out the presents. Have a seat."
He laughed and settled into the easy chair closest to the tree, watching this group interact. Once all of the presents had been distributed, Dana sat at his feet and watched her father rip into his first present.
Each took a turn, which was new to him, then he watched with some fear as her father picked up his present. The paper landed on the floor and Maggie scooped it up and wadded it into a tight ball, which she then threw at Missy.
Mulder was in a state of disbelief. His own mother would never do something like that.
"Mulder, where did you find this?" Her father was holding the book he had found him.
"Oh, uh, there's this little store near campus. It has all kinds of neat things, antiques, used books. I hang out there and when this came in, I thought of you."
Bill turned the book so that Maggie could see it, a book on the British navy.
"It's not a first edition - "
"But it is autographed. Mulder this is wonderful. Thank you so much."
Mulder grinned and felt Dana's hand go around his lower leg and squeeze. One down. He watched Maggie pick up her own gift and winked at Mulder. He found he wasn't even worried, not with this family.
"Oh Fox, it's lovely." She held up the teacup that he had brought her. It was nothing like the one that he had given his own mother. The regal look was missing from this one, it was more comfortable looking, something she would use rather than put on a shelf to be dusted occasionally. "It's an antique, isn't it?"
"Yes, ma'am, from the same store. The guy that runs it has taken to calling me when he gets a new shipment." He grinned.
He turned as Missy finished opening her own gift. "Crystals!" She looked delighted and held them up to catch the light.
"What is it Missy?"
"It's crystals. They're used to call the directions, get in touch with your spirituality."
Maggie rolled her eyes slightly, but smiled. "You had to have some help picking out that gift."
"I did. Dana clued me in."
"My turn." Dana picked up the small package that he had brought her, and ripped the paper from it. "Oh Mulder . . ." She held up the antique cameo from the box.
"She reminded me of you."
Dana pulled herself up by his knee and rose to meet his lips. He was aware that her family was watching, but didn't really care. And obviously neither did she.
When they broke apart, Maggie gave them a mock disapproving look but couldn't sustain it.
"One more present, then we're definitely going to eat breakfast." Maggie looked over at Bill and he withdrew an envelope from his pocket. "This is kind of for both of you." Bill handed it to Dana.
She looked up at Mulder, clearly puzzled. "Go ahead." He urged her on.
After a quick glance at Missy, who shrugged herself, Dana tore open the envelope. "Oh my god!"
Mulder leaned forward to see what had shocked her so. She turned to him and held out the piece of paper she had in her hand. That hand was trembling.
"This note entitles the bearer to one round-trip ticket to England, to attend the graduation of Fox Mulder."
"Are you serious?" The question came from Mulder; Dana was still too stunned to speak.
"We thought both of you would appreciate this." Maggie spoke again.
"Mom, it's too much. I know - "
"Don't worry about it, Dana. We'll just cut back on the hors d'oeuvres at the wedding reception."
That brought a startled chuckle from Dana and a blush to Mulder's cheeks. "Thank you Mrs. Scully, Captain Scully. I . . . This is great."
Maggie nodded, "Come on, we're going to eat. You can catch us up on what you've been doing since you got here."
She saw the smile slip slightly from his face, and decided maybe that would be a better topic for later. And maybe just between she and Dana.
Breakfast, nearly brunch now, was fun. Charlie called and visited with everyone and Mulder just relaxed into the dynamic. He decided not to mention his own family. He didn't especially want to remember them and Maggie seemed to sense this.
The three younger members of the party cleaned up while Maggie put the turkey on to roast, and Bill lit a fire in the fireplace, then turned on a football game.
"Dad, do we have to watch that?" Missy wandered back into the living room to check out her gifts and picked up the blouse to try it on.
"Yes. Next question?" The Captain leaned back in his chair. "Where's Mulder, I'm outnumbered."
Mulder heard that and chuckled. "Maybe I better go bond."
"Good idea." Dana rose up on her toes and brushed a kiss on his cheek. "I have a present for you that I didn't bring here. Remind me when we get home." She whispered. His eyes gleamed. "Not that, big guy. Something you can take back with you."
"I think I can fit you into my suitcase."
"Don't tempt me. Now go bond. And let Ahab see what a great son-in-law you're going to be."
It was a wonderfully relaxing day and he continued to marvel at the dynamics of the family and how easily they had accepted him into it. After dinner, Captain Scully dozed in front of yet another football game and once the dishes were washed and put away, Dana and Mulder thanked everyone once again for everything and excused themselves.
In the car she turned to him, "You sure you don't mind being alone with me? You and Ahab seemed pretty tight."
He grinned, "I think I can handle being with you for a little while. And don't you owe me a present?" Her blush startled him, what in the world had she gotten him?
They hurried inside; the temperature had continued to drop all day though they hadn't noticed between the warmth of her family and just being together.
Mulder piled the gifts in her chair while she carried the food her mother had sent with them on into the kitchen. He had removed his coat by the time she returned and helped her with her own.
"You're not stalling on me, are you?" The color was back in her cheeks again. "What in the world have you gotten me that would embarrass you? It is me."
"I know. I just can't believe I . . . I'll be right back." She headed to her bedroom and returned quickly with a beautifully wrapped present.
He took it from her and sat on the couch, pulling her down beside him. He looked over at her, but she didn't meet his eyes. Okay, he quickly unwrapped the box and opened it. His eyes widened and a smile took over his face.
"Dana." He picked up the top frame and saw the second picture underneath.
"Now you know why I didn't take these over to Mom's."
He swallowed then and nodded. "Where did you . . . "
"It was Kristy's idea. She had heard of this studio that did special pictures. She thought you might like to have something like this to remember me by when you get home."
He held up the two photos. The one of her in the negligee was incredible. His body was already reacting to it. The first was glamorous, and he could leave it out for others to see; but this one would go in his bedside drawer to get him through the night.
"It was . . . difficult. I've never done anything like that before."
"Glad to hear it. Do I need to go punch out the photographer?"
"No, she was very reassuring."
Dana laughed. After returning the framed photos to the box, face down, she settled into his arms. He allowed it, with his memory, both pictures were firmly in his brain now.
The rest of his visit seemed to pass in a blur. Neither could believe how quickly the time went but refused to discuss it, not willing to bring the other down.
Mulder did call his mother once, and at Dana's urging didn't mention Diane's call. The older woman didn't bring it up either and the call didn't last too long. He dropped his father's gift into the mail and didn't contact him again.
They had dinner once more with the Scully's before he had to leave, but other than that, they kept the world at bay. No one else was needed.
Finally! He hadn't gotten but one letter from her since his return. He knew that classes had started, but knowing that didn't help. He needed to hear from her. He tossed his research on the desk and sank onto the bed, opening the letter with his index finger impatiently.
"I miss you and I love you. I know I haven't written and I want you to know that everything is okay."
Okay? He realized his hands were shaking and he was honestly too scared to skip ahead in the letter.
"I wouldn't even tell you this, but we said no secrets. I had a little scare after you left. Well, actually it was a pretty big scare for me. I was over a week late. But everything is fine and I am not pregnant."
He lost his grip on the paper then, his fingers nerveless for an instant. Then he had the phone in his hand, dialing.
"Hello?" She sounded a little sleepy; he hadn't bothered to check the time.
"Mulder? Is that you?" He could hear her moving around in the bed, getting comfortable.
"Are you all right?"
"You got my letter." He could hear her sigh.
"Talk to me, please."
His voice shook and she felt tears prick at her eyes. "Mulder, I'm fine. I told you. You don't have anything to feel bad about, I - "
"I should have been there. You shouldn't have had to go through that alone."
"I didn't feel alone, Mulder."
"I can get a flight out tomorrow. We can get married in a couple of - "
"Mulder. Mulder listen to me. I'm not pregnant."
"That's not why I want to marry you."
"I know." He could hear the smile in her voice. "That's why I didn't feel alone. Don't make me regret telling you."
"Don't! Don't ever regret telling me anything Dana. I just feel so far away. You shouldn't have been alone."
"I love you Fox Mulder. I can't imagine going through something like that with someone I wasn't completely sure of. Mulder, I was concerned, because of the implications to our education, but I wasn't frightened. It didn't occur to me that you wouldn't be there for me."
"I want to get on that plane tomorrow."
She laughed then, "You can't. I won't get anything done and we both need to finish this damn education that's keeping us apart. What did you think of the courses I added?"
"Did you finish my letter?"
"Well did you think I was going to? Damn, Dana."
I've had time to adjust to it and it's history to me.
I guess we're not kids anymore, Mulder."
"I haven't thought of you as a kid since you walked into the pub here and brought me back to life. I want to marry you."
"Good, because I want to marry you too. Don't doubt that for an instant. And Mulder, later I do want to be pregnant by you."
She heard his voice hitch just a second. "I want that too."
"Go finish reading my letter, Mulder, then study. You have a Ph.D. to finish up. Then I can come over, watch the ceremony and haul you home with me."
"You mean, hang up?"
"We have to, for now. You can't know how much this call means to me, Mulder. I knew you were here for me but . . . " She stopped to regain her composure.
"Always, Dana. The Atlantic's not that big."
He heard the light laugh, but also the tears she was trying to hide. "I really can fly in tomorrow.'
"No, Mulder, and don't make me say it again, because I'm not sure I can."
"Okay. I know I've ruined your sleep for tonight, but try to get some rest. I'll go finish your letter and dream that you're in my arms. I love you."
"Love you too. "Nite."