She was so glad to get out of that house. She felt surrounded and smothered there. It wasn’t at all like home, so many kids. But that’s why she was here. Aunt Cindy wasn’t well, so she was here to help out with the kids. It was just for the summer, she could handle it. Mom was right, she probably would do a better job than Melissa, she was more practical, and Melissa did have that paying job to help with school costs.
It just wasn’t the way she’d planned to spend her summer. Three kids under five years old, all day, every day. No wonder Aunt Cindy wasn’t well. At least they fell asleep early, if she could wear them out every day, then she could bathe them and get them to bed by eight and have a little time to herself.
She sat on the swing, barely moving it with her foot. Okay, she was feeling sorry for herself, but she was homesick and Aunt Cindy wasn’t anything like Mom. Too bad she’d always taken Mom for granted, she was actually fairly cool for a mom. Mom had lived through three kids under five, and four kids under seven if you got technical. Oh please don’t let Aunt Cindy get pregnant again! Well, it wouldn’t be her problem. Just for the summer, then home and back to school.
"Whoa, a redhead."
She looked up startled. She hadn’t been aware of how dark it was getting; she shouldn’t be here alone. There were four of them that she could see. What the hell had she been thinking, hanging around the park this late? Don’t panic, Dana. Think!
A quick look behind her showed that the boys were all in front of her, she didn’t dare let them surround her. She rose from the swing, poised to run. They were closer; her heart was going to jump out of her chest. One of them was trying to get around her, she turned slightly.
The leader came even closer, reaching out to touch her hair where it was escaping the rubber band. She would not cry.
"Leave me alone." She drew herself up to her full 5 feet. Fighting with Bill and Charlie should have taught her something. She’d defend herself as best she could.
"Wild cat, huh?" His grip tightened in her hair.
"Leave her alone." The voice came from slightly behind her. Everyone froze. She was able to turn her head slightly. Only one boy, against four, but these guys seemed afraid. Who was this guy?
"Hey, Fox. We weren’t going to hurt her. She don’t look like no alien to us." A couple of the boys chuckled. The tall boy stood there, no smile crossing his face.
"Let go of her." Her hair came free and she stepped back away from the boy that had been holding her.
"Come on, guys, let the alien bounty hunter have her." The four of them slunk off, the leader having saved face with his last comment.
Dana turned and ran toward her aunt’s house. "Wait!" She heard him and stumbled, grabbing at the slide to keep on her feet. She pressed her back against the ladder and watched him approach.
He slowed to a walk and approached her cautiously, stopping well back from her, his hands out from his side to show her he was no threat. "Are you okay? Did they hurt you?"
She shook her head, not trusting her voice.
"Are you sure?"
"I’m fine." It wasn’t true; she could hear her voice shake. Her hands were shaking too.
"This isn’t a good place to be after dark."
"I didn’t realize how dark it was. I was thinking. . . " That was stupid. He didn’t care and she knew she sounded defensive.
"You’re new in town." It wasn’t a question.
"I’m visiting with my aunt and uncle for the summer. The Richardson’s, over on Poplar."
"Why don’t I walk you home, just in case they come back?"
She hesitated; she didn’t know him, not even his name. It was as though he could read her mind. He stuffed his hands in his jeans pockets and took yet another step back. "I’m Fox, Fox Mulder."
"I better get you home. It’s getting dark fast." She nodded and let go of the slide. He stepped beside her, leaving plenty of space between them.
She was nervous, she didn’t date yet and while she was used to talking with her brothers, she hadn’t spent much time alone with older guys. Especially guys as good looking as this one.
"Have you lived here long?"
"My whole life."
"That would be great. I mean living in one place. My Dad’s in the Navy so we move all the time."
"It’s not really that great. Everyone knows you and your business."
"Oh, I hadn’t thought of that." She was quiet then, he had sounded so sad, she didn’t know what to say. "Are. . . are you in school here?"
"I graduated in May. I’ll be leaving for university at the end of summer."
"Wow, where are you going?"
"Oxford? Like England?" God, she sounded so young, she was embarrassing herself. Why couldn’t she be cool like Melissa?
A slight grin appeared on his face. "Yeah, the one in England. I guess I’m looking forward to it. Leaving here, a whole new start." He clammed up immediately, like he’d revealed too much.
Silence took over again, but not an awkward silence. It was as though he was used to the quiet and seemed to enjoy just walking beside her. She wished again for more experience. Was she making a fool of herself?
Too quickly she could see the house. Three houses away he stopped. "Look, you’re okay. I wouldn’t mention this to your aunt. It would only upset her."
"That’s probably a good idea. Would you like to come in, meet Aunt Cindy and . . ."
"No, that’s okay. I wouldn’t mention that I walked you home either. Well, have a good summer, Dana." There was a strange note to his voice. She should keep this encounter a secret? Well, if she wasn’t going to see him again . . .
She tried to keep her disappointment from her face and voice. "You too. And thanks again for everything."
"I don’t think those guys would really have bothered you, but I’m glad I was there."
"Me too." She didn’t realize how softly she’d said it. He looked startled for a second, then motioned for her to go on.
"I’ll wait here until you get inside."
"Okay. Maybe I’ll see you around?" He nodded and she turned and headed for the door, mentally kicking herself. If he had wanted to see her around, he would have said something. She turned just before opening the door and waved. He returned the wave and headed back down the sidewalk the way they had come.
"Dana! I was getting worried."
"I’m sorry Aunt Cindy. I didn’t realize how dark it was getting. But I was fine, I’ll keep a closer eye in the future."
"Well, I’m just glad you’re okay."
"She’s fine, Cindy, you heard her. After she meets some people her own age, she won’t have to worry about being out alone." Cindy shot her husband an angry look; Dana wasn’t old enough to date in her mind, only fifteen. She didn’t need to be hanging out with people her own age.
Dana decided to retreat to her room. Fox had been right, it was a good thing she’d kept her mouth closed.
The pool could have been fun. There were a lot of kids her age here, but she had to keep an eye on the little kids. This was going to be a long summer.
"Dana, that man’s looking at you." Jennifer pulled at Dana’s arm.
"What? Where?" She turned and spotted Fox standing at the side of the pool, and smiled. He’d obviously been swimming laps. She glanced down at the tiny racing suit he was wearing and wondered at the knot that suddenly appeared in her stomach. She refused to let the smile waver and he was coming over! It was like he was drawn to her and now he had a small smile on his face.
"Hi." She realized she was feeling shy, not at all her normal self. What was it about him?
Jennifer was now hiding behind her, but Tim was pulling on her leg. "Who? Who?"
"Fox, I’d like you to meet my cousins. This is Jennifer, she’s five and these are the twins, Tim and Kim, they’re almost three."
"Pleased to meet you." He solemnly held out his hand to shake Jennifer’s, then Tim’s and finally Kim’s hands. Jennifer blushed and giggled, but the twins were fascinated that this man had spoken to them. He sat down on his towel with them, and let the twins climb on him for awhile until they got bored and decided to go back into the kiddie pool.
"Thanks. I think I’m getting boring."
"No problem. That’s a lot of kids to be watching. You like kids a lot?"
"Not as much as I used to," she admitted ruefully and he smiled again. He had a beautiful smile, but most of the time she’d seen him he looked kind of sad.
"You’re getting some sun." He pointed to her nose.
"Damn. If you ever see a redhead with a tan, just know the hair came from a bottle." She reached for the sunscreen again. It was better when she watched the kids as they talked, some of the red in her face was from that bathing suit and she knew it, she just hoped he didn’t.
"Uh, Dana? I think Kim needs you." She looked over to see Kim holding herself, almost jumping up and down.
"Oh great," she muttered. "Kim, do you need to go potty?" Kim nodded enthusiastically. Dana looked at the other kids, she’d need to round them up and take them along.
"I’ll be here. I can keep an eye on the other two, if you want."
"Oh, that would be great. I haven’t figured out all the logistics of this job yet."
"You better hurry." She nodded and took Kim’s hand, hurrying her toward the bathhouse.
They made it in time and she redressed the little girl. Coming out of the bathhouse she was struck by the fact that so many people were watching Fox and the kids. Had anything happened? All the mothers had their eye on him. She hurried over. "Did they give you any trouble?"
"No, they were fine."
He had to have noticed the looks he was getting. What was going on? She wasn’t comfortable asking, so she decided to shrug it off. The kids were fine, and Kim hadn’t wet her pants, break it down to the essentials Dana.
He was standing, gathering his towel. "Guess I better be going." She felt a stab of disappointment, which she quickly dismissed. He was older; he wouldn’t be interested in her. He was just being friendly.
"It was good seeing you again. Maybe we’ll run into each other here again."
"Yeah, I swim Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays here." He seemed reluctant to leave, maybe. . . forget it Dana, you’re not Melissa.
"Sounds like a good schedule. We’re going to the library tomorrow morning. They have the storyteller every Wednesday morning."
He smiled with just that hint of sadness. "Well, have fun. Bye guys, hope I see you here again." Jenny dipped her head, but Tim waved and at the last minute Kim ran over and hugged his legs. He looked stunned, but managed to put his hand on her head. "Thanks, Sweetie. See you later."
He turned then and was gone. Why had the baby’s hug undone him so? What was the story here? There had to be one.
She had everyone settled at the library. Even Tim was paying attention, at least for the moment. He did like being read to, but he liked running around even more if it took too long. Dana took a seat at the little yellow table behind the crowd and to the side. They could see her if they needed her, and she could let her thoughts drift a little.
She looked up and up to see Fox standing beside her. She felt an instantaneous surge of pure pleasure. He had come to see her. The pool was just a coincidence, they’d run into each other by accident. But he had known she was coming here and when. He had come to see her.
"Hi. I’d offer you a seat, but I don’t think you could fit into it."
He smiled. "I think you’re right. Do you have to stay right here?"
"No, just in the library."
"Think we could sit in some adult chairs, while we’re waiting for them?"
"Yeah, I think that’s possible." She got Jenny’s attention and motioned that she would be at another table. Jenny nodded, smiled shyly at Fox and turned back to the story.
"A big fan of Beatrice Potter?"
"Me? I can take her or leave her." She grinned
"What do you like to read?"
"Mostly biographies, but lately I found some thrillers that were kind of good."
"Robin Cook, I like his medical thrillers and his research. Haven’t read many others."
"Any science fiction?"
"Never tried any, you like it?"
"Yeah, I bet you could get into the Foundation Trilogy by Asimov. It’s a classic." She smiled again, she couldn’t help it when she was with him, and he was excited about this. She would be reading Asimov before the day was over.
He was easy to talk to, and he really seemed interested in talking to her and listening to her as well. She decided not to care that he was older, and could be with friends his own age, just to enjoy his company which was wonderful.
She couldn’t believe it when the kids ran up to them. Had it really been an hour? It felt like just minutes since they’d sat down.
"Park, Dana! Park!" Tim had hold of her leg.
"Guess where I promised we’d go after story time."
Fox smiled at the kids jumping around them now. "Could you use any help?"
"I’d love some, if you’re not busy." He rose and only hesitated a moment when Kim raised her arms to be lifted by him. They piled the kids in the stroller, got Jenny on her bike with the training wheels, and headed for the park.
For the first time since she’d arrived, Dana hated to take the kids home for their nap, but it was obvious they needed one. They had played their hardest and were already drooping, and hadn’t even had lunch.
It had become almost habit for Fox, no he preferred Mulder, to show up wherever she and the kids were playing each morning, the pool, the library, or the park. The kids had become used to his presence and enjoyed playing with him and of course Dana was more than thrilled that this man was interested in her.
She saw Mulder wince as Tim climbed up on him. "Are you okay?" She sent the kids over to the sandbox to play.
"Yeah, I’m fine." He wouldn’t look her in the eye.
"Fox, what happened? Did you hurt yourself?" He wasn’t fine, and he was leaving his shirt on. He never did that when they were outside.
"Let me see." She reached for his t-shirt, and he caught her hand. She blushed as she realized what she was doing. She couldn’t treat him like one of the kids, and she certainly had no business trying to take his shirt off. He was watching her, following her thought processes exactly.
He exhaled and tugged his shirt off. She gasped. He’d obviously been beaten. She couldn’t stop herself from reaching out. He backed away. "It’s okay, Dana."
"Tell me what happened! Oh please, it wasn’t those guys from the other night?"
"No. Those guys are cowards, don’t worry. . . " He saw her eyes and closed his own. He finally took a deep breath. "My Dad got a little too drunk last night."
"Oh Mulder." She reached out again. This time he didn’t draw away. "Does this happen often?"
"Not as often as it used to. I think he’s afraid I can take him now." Still that hint of defeat in his voice, he didn’t think he could.
"Did you?" This was so far outside of her experience. Her father had never hit her, not even the boys. Their punishments were so trivial compared to this.
"What’s the point? I’ll be leaving in a few weeks, and we’ll be out of each other’s hair, probably forever. I’m just ready to go, I don’t need an assault charge on my record."
She wanted to say she was sorry, but he didn’t want to hear that. "I’m really glad you came here today."
"Me too." He slipped his t-shirt back on and rose. He held out his hand to help her to her feet. She didn’t let go when she was up, holding his hand as they walked over to the kids.
"Dana, I have some questions for you." Cindy stood over her; the kids had left the table. Well now she’d find out why Cindy had been so pissed off all evening. "Is it true that you have been spending time with Fox Mulder?"
Dana glanced over at Uncle Charlie. He was surprised too, but seemed more annoyed at Cindy than her.
"Well, yes. I mean we’ve run into him at the pool and the library. He went with us to the park." She wasn’t about to mention that first meeting. "The kids really enjoy playing with him, and he’s real good. . . "
"You’ve let the kids be around him?!" Her voice had risen at least an octave. "Charles!"
"Now calm down, Cindy. The kids are fine; Dana’s obviously been very good with them.
"I don’t want that boy around my children."
Dana looked over at Charlie, her brow furrowed. What was Aunt Cindy so upset about? Charlie looked at her sympathetically. "Dana. . . " He began.
"You will not have anything to do with that boy, Dana! I don’t want him around you or the children. Do you hear me?"
"But why!" Dana finally found her voice. "What do you think he’s done?"
"He murdered his sister! They never even found the body!"
Dana gasped and turned to Charlie. It couldn’t be true. That’s why everyone had been staring at him at the pool. Oh god, and she’d put him in that position by helping her out.
"Cindy! Get a grip. He was never charged, no one knows what happened to that little girl."
"Everyone says. . . "
"Everyone doesn’t know. There was no evidence. . . "
"His fingerprints were on his father’s gun!"
"Which hadn’t been fired. Enough Cindy! Drop this." He caught sight of Dana’s strained face. Cindy shoved back her chair and stalked from the room.
"Uncle Charlie, please. Mulder has never done anything. . . Did they investigate his father? I mean he beats Fox, maybe he. . . "
"How did you hear about that?" He hadn’t been aware there was actual physical abuse. It made him ache inside for this boy he had never given much thought to previously.
"I saw what he did to Mulder. And Mulder didn’t fight back, he just took it. He wouldn’t hurt anyone."
"Let me talk to your aunt. Don’t make any changes yet. You’re doing a great job with the kids. Cindy’s just nervous." Dana was really getting tired of that excuse.
After she had cleaned the kitchen, since Cindy had not returned, Dana went out to the backyard and sat at the picnic table. The moon was only a sliver tonight and the stars were out, but she really didn’t see them. Why would anyone think such things about Mulder? He was the most sensitive, intelligent man she had ever met. There was no way he could have done anything to harm his sister. These people hadn’t seen him with the kids, hadn’t seen him put himself in possible danger to protect her, when he didn’t even know her.
She didn’t hear him approach, but felt his presence as he stood watching her.
"Dana, are you okay?" She looked over and saw him, worried about her without even knowing why. She stood and they walked over to the sandbox, at the far end of the yard, near the fence. In the growing darkness they couldn’t be seen.
"I’m fine, I. . . Aunt Cindy found out I’ve been seeing you, and. . . " She watched Mulder’s expression go carefully passive. No hurt would show through that face.
"Mulder, talk to me. Please tell me what happened to your sister."
He rose abruptly and she scrambled to her feet, her hand on his arm. "Please don’t go. I want to help."
"She’s not going to let you spend any time with me, so it doesn’t matter."
"It matters to me. And I will see you. Uncle Charlie is working on her for me. Please Mulder."
He slumped back down on the grass. "I don’t know what happened to my sister. I just don’t know."
"Tell me what you do know. Let me help."
"No one can help. It’s why I’m so anxious to leave this place. Go where no one knows me. No one thinks I killed. . . "
"Mulder." She took his hand, "I know you didn’t hurt your sister."
"How could you know, I don’t even know."
"You couldn’t. You just couldn’t. Talk to me."
"She was my responsibility. I was in charge that night. Our parents were next door at the neighbors. The power went out and she screamed. I woke up in the hospital two weeks later."
"Hospital? Were you hurt?"
"I don’t know. The doctors said whatever happened was so horrible I blocked it out. Nobody’s going to change your aunt’s mind about me. You shouldn’t even be out here."
"I wouldn’t be for anyone else."
He didn’t have an answer for that; he couldn’t even form a response.
"How long ago was this?"
"And you can’t remember anything?"
"Sometimes, at night, I dream about it. There’s something there, but it doesn’t seem human and I see her floating, but I can’t move. I wake up with my heart pounding, covered in sweat. I don’t know if I still cry out. No one comes if I do."
"I would." He’d been looking at the ground during his recitation, now he looked up at her startled. "I’d come, if you needed me." She had her hand on his arm.
"I know you would," he whispered it. He was staring into her eyes; the intensity was almost frightening - would have been with anyone else. He made himself look away. "I better get home." He rose and pulled her up beside him. "Thank you, Dana. No one’s listened to me for a long time." He leaned down and brushed a quick kiss across her lips. "Let me know if you want to see me."
She nodded mutely. Her first kiss, and it had been perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Uncle Charlie had gone to bat for her, and mowed down Aunt Cindy’s objections to her seeing Fox. She had not taken it well, and treated Dana with even more distrust than she had before. This continued to puzzle Dana, why would a woman who felt that way about her, want her watching her children? But Cindy took less and less time with the kids every day, declaring her nerves were on edge and she needed the quiet.
Dana found herself actually relieved when Uncle Charlie took her aside and told her that Cindy would be "going away" for a few days to rest and get herself together. Euphemisms Dana recognized immediately for what they were - Aunt Cindy needed the rest cure again. Leaving, of course, Uncle Charlie and now her, to handle everything until her nerves were better.
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?
"Mulder! Get inside." She pulled him in and together they shoved the door closed. "What are you doing out in this weather?"
"It’s going to be a bad storm, and you said your uncle would be late tonight."
"Yeah, he’s gone to settle Aunt Cindy at the hospital. You didn’t walk did you?" She looked out the window.
"No, I parked a few houses down. You don’t want the neighbors to know I’m here when your aunt and uncle are gone."
He was right, but she hated it for him. She’d thought living on base was confining. Thunder crashed again and all three kids raced into the foyer, scared and crying.
"It’s okay, guys. Look who came to look after us."
"Mudder!" Tim launched himself at him. Mulder bent down and all three of them were in his arms.
"Why don’t we go into the den, it’ll be more comfortable." Dana reached for Jenny’s hand and the lights went out. The kids, amazingly, went silent. "Mulder?" Oh god, what was this doing to him? He’d 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. "Mulder, take the twins.’ 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. Mulder 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.
"I’ll go get your blankets, you stay here with Mulder." 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 hadn’t slowed down, but the thunder seemed less fearsome now that they were settled together.
Kim was already drifting off, draped across Mulder’s lap, with Jenny not far behind. Tim fought it for another ten minutes or so, then all three were snoring little baby snores.
Mulder lifted them into more comfortable positions, then pulled Dana to her feet.
"Are you okay, Mulder?"
"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, I’m 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. "Won’t your parents be worried about you out in this?"
"They probably won’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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. He’d made a vow never to return to this place anyway.
They both jumped at the next crash. "Oh Mulder, did that hit the house?"
"I don’t think so, stay here with the kids. I’ll 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. We’ve 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 couldn’t think of anything to say. She trusted him and didn’t want him to stop, but she didn’t 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. "You’re a quick study." She blushed and looked down. His finger on her chin caused her to look into his eyes again.
"I don’t think I can stay here after you leave. I can’t believe how close I feel to you, I haven’t. . . I haven’t 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 storm’s letting up a little."
"I don’t want you to go." Her knowledge of her own brothers came to mind and she blushed, but he had his back to her and couldn’t see anyway. "I. . . I really do want you to stay."
"Why don’t 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. "It’s okay Mulder, I trust you." Now he was blushing, she smiled softly. "Just sit here with me. It’s 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. Charlie’s 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.
Mulder 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? Hadn’t she been. . . oh. She didn’t 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."
Mulder couldn’t quite hide the flinch, but held out his own hand and shook Charlie’s. Dana’s eyes misted over. He’d 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 Mulder wasn’t watching.
Tim woke and seeing his Dad jumped up and ran over. "Mudder’s here! He lookted after us."
"Yes and he did a good job, didn’t he." Tim nodded enthusiastically. Charlie turned to Fox, "What did he call you?"
"His version of Mulder. I don’t really like Fox, so I was teaching him to call me just Mulder."
Charlie nodded, and put Tim back down. "Why don’t you wake up your sisters and we’ll all go get some donuts. With the power out that’s about the best we can do. Okay?"
"I better be getting home." Mulder moved toward the door.
"I was including you in the donuts. Just a thank you." Mulder’s 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 couldn’t get home last night. The roads were impassable and the phones are out. Was everything okay?"
"Yes. Everything was fine. Mulder was here when the lights went out, so the kids weren’t scared. They were asleep when the tree fell, so they missed that."
"It was some storm. I hope Cindy doesn’t hear about it, since I can’t call and reassure her." He seemed to lose some height, just talking about her. "Well, let’s get a move on."
Dana shooed the kids upstairs and Charlie turned to Mulder. "I’ll deny I ever said this, but I hope you find someone just like Dana when you’re old enough."
Mulder’s eyes widened, how did he know? Was he that transparent? Charlie only smiled, patted him on the shoulder and went to change. Mulder sank back down on the sofa.
Someone just like Dana. No, Dana herself. He was crazy; she was fifteen years old and hadn’t 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 she’d meet someone. He had his head down, contemplating the worst and didn’t hear her come back.
"Mulder?" She put her hand on his head, smoothing down his hair. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, I’m fine."
"No you’re not. Did Uncle Charlie say anything. . . ?"
"Your Uncle’s 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 I’m in England and you’re here in the States."
"Mulder, you will write to me, won’t you? Tell me everything you’re doing and who you’re 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 don’t see Melissa first when they come over."
"If you’re really worried about that, you’re crazy." His eyes weren’t 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. Mulder spent all of his time at the house with her and the kids. Cindy’s 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 Mulder 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 Mulder 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.
Mulder 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 hadn’t 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 didn’t matter, but Mrs. Scully. . .
"So you’re Fox Mulder. I’m so pleased to finally meet you. Dana has told me so many good things about you."
Fox was struck dumb. She’d 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. "We’ll talk later." And was gone to find her brother and check on her nieces and nephew.
"You okay?" Dana took his hand.
"Smooth, aren’t I? I didn’t know she was coming."
"I didn’t either. It’s so good to see her. I guess she came to get me, so I won’t have to ride home alone on the bus."
He stiffened, "You won’t be leaving earlier, will you?"
"No, someone has to be with the kids. I’m sure she’s talked all this out with Uncle Charlie. Don’t worry, Mulder. I won’t 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 it’s beautiful guys! But I should be thanking you. It was my best summer ever." She turned and caught Mulder’s eye. Her mother watched the communication, though unspoken, between them. So it was like that. Dana was so young. Well they couldn’t be together right now anyway. If it were as real as it looked, they’d find each other again. She’d 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 – Look Out Oxford!"
Mulder thought his knees were going to give out on him. No one had ever done anything like this for him. He hadn’t even had a birthday cake since. . . then Dana had her arms around him, hugging him. "Its okay, Mulder. 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, Mulder. 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? She’d 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 he’d manage that. Slow down Mulder, her mother’s watching you. Don’t let her get the wrong idea. He wasn’t 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 didn’t 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 she’d adopt him. He had to smile at that thought. Mrs. Scully watched him. That was the first time she’d seen the sadness leave his eyes when Dana wasn’t in the room.
She liked this boy instinctively. It wasn’t just her trust of Dana’s judgment, though that helped. They both turned as Dana entered the kitchen. She was looking at them, trying to decide if Mulder was okay.
"Don’t worry, Dana. I didn’t dissect him. See? Whole and intact."
Dana blushed. Okay, she was a little overprotective of him, she admitted it. Mulder 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 wouldn’t be appreciated now. Besides he needed to begin his own packing, he’d spent so much time here getting everything ready for the kids' grandmother, he’d 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 brother’s 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 wasn’t too much." Her father saw her eyes mist over and glanced at his wife. She shook her head and he knew she’d 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. Scully’s look forbade anyone to follow her.
She fell on her bed and opened the letter with trembling hands.
"Dana, You haven’t even left yet and I already miss you so much I can’t stand it. You’ve 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 couldn’t tell you this to your face, but that night in the park you only think I saved you. What you don’t know is that you saved me. I’d gone there to kill myself that night. My father’s gun was in my pocket the whole time – 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. There’s 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 uncle’s house, it just wasn’t 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, you’ll still want it and me.
"I moved my reservations up, I can’t stay here without you. I’ll be leaving the day after you do, so I’ll probably be in England when you get this letter. I’ll send you my address as soon as I get in a dorm. Going early I may mess up their plans, but I don’t really care.
"Think about me Dana, like I’m thinking about you right now. I’ll pester your uncle until he gets the film developed from your party and have that with me always. Please tell me everything you’re doing, what’s happening with your family, everything. I’ll pretend that they’re my family too and people at school won’t think I’m so very odd to not have anyone who cares about me back home.
"If I don’t stop now, I might never stop. I love you, Dana, and I miss you."
She didn’t hear her mother tap on her door a little while later, so she wasn’t aware of her presence at first. Then she was in her mother’s 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.
Chapter 3 - Kid Stuff Reunion
She stopped just inside of the pub door, to let her eyes adjust and to look around for him. This was the place his neighbor had told her to check. Everyone in the pub noticed her presence though she didn’t seem to realize.
Her eyes found him and her whole body seemed to light up at the very sight. Every man in the place knew he didn’t have a chance with her. More than one man looked to see who had caused this reaction in her.
He, however, just sat there unmoving, seemingly miles or years away. It wasn’t until she took a step toward him that he shook as though waking. He was on his feet instantly and met her in two strides. “Dana?”
If anything her smile grew brighter and his hand came up to touch her shoulders and then caress her face. “Is it really you?”
“It's been a long time.”
He seemed to remember where they were suddenly and guided her to his small table in the back. He closed the books he had been using and sat gazing at her as though she still might go up in smoke.
“Mulder, you’re staring.” She glanced around and several men turned away, chagrined at having been caught by her.
He shook himself again and placed his hand over hers on the table. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s a gift from my parents before starting college. My brother Bill is stationed here, so when they came to visit, they brought me along.”
“Your mother’s here too?” She nodded. “I’d like to see her.” He fell silent then, just watching her again. A blush took over her face.
“Dana, why didn’t you ever answer my letters? I thought . . . I thought you’d forgotten about me.” He couldn’t stop himself from asking. The question had been on his mind for years.
Now her face grew puzzled. “I wrote to you. I wrote all the time in the beginning, but when you didn’t answer . . . “
“You got none of my letters?” His hand had tightened its grip of hers.
“I got one. It was waiting for me when I got home with Mom. When you told me . . . “ Her own hand turned then to grip his in return.
He looked down, then up again. “You needed to know. That’s the only one? I must have written you daily for a while. I kept thinking that . . . I don’t know, that your father had been transferred or something and eventually the mail would catch up with you. Then I . . . “
“Did you ever get any of my letters?” He shook his head, unwilling to look away from her. He’d dreamed about this for years.
Neither saw the dark haired woman enter the pub and spot them. It was obvious to her that neither would have noticed the end of the world if it had happened around them right then.
She’d come to cancel their date again tonight. She knew she was playing on thin ice, and that he was aggravated with her for standing him up or canceling so often, but it had worked. At least she thought it had worked until two minutes ago.
She would have put money on the fact that he wasn’t seeing anyone else, and that when she did decide to allow him back into her bed all she would have to do was snap her fingers.
But she’d never seen that expression on his face. He had never looked at her with such . . . such love. She turned abruptly and let herself out of the pub. She needed to get her act together. No one ventured into her territory like this - he was hers to play with and no one else was allowed in her playground.
Her mind raced as she headed toward her flat. She’d cultivated him so well over the last few months. She had thought he was hooked tight. She loved his type, dark, brooding, inherently sad most of the time. He hadn’t looked sad just now. Who was the redheaded bitch? She didn’t remember seeing her on campus.
She let herself into her place, but was barely aware of her surroundings. She wasn't going to let either one of them get away with this. She began digging through her lingerie drawer.
"Dana, this isn't . . . would you go back to my room. It'll be all right, I mean - "
"It's okay, Mulder. Let's go."
His smile returned to full wattage and she wasn't sure her legs would support her. He rose and took her hand. That gave her the support she needed and she stood beside him. She felt his hand come to rest on the small of her back. It felt good there.
She made sure they were in there. She'd known somehow that he would take her back to his room. It made her resolve all the firmer. She took a deep breath and exited the car, the small bag in her hand.
She stood at the door and withdrew the small piece of lace from the bag, tossing the bag aside, then knocked.
It took a couple of minutes for him to come to the door. When he opened it and saw her, she had the impression he was going to slam the door in her face. She didn't give him the opportunity.
"Ph . . . Phoebe."
She turned so that her back was to the girl as though she hadn't noticed her. She held the tiny teddy in front of her. "What about this for tonight, Fox? At least to begin with."
He'd grown pale, but didn't answer her, looking instead behind her. She turned to see what he was looking at and feigned surprise. "Fox, I didn't know you had company." She didn't lower the lacy nothing she had held up to her body, but let her eyes scan this girl now that she had a closer view. "I guess Fox isn't going to introduce us. I'm Phoebe Green." She held out her hand.
Dana rose from the small divan. "Dana Scully." They shook hands quickly.
"A Yank. Well, Luv, you should have told me you had a little friend visiting. We can't leave her all alone tonight. I bet Derrick's free."
Derrick? Mulder didn't even know how to react to that statement. He wasn't going to let Derrick anywhere near Dana. He'd probably rape her on a first date. Besides, he couldn't go out with Phoebe tonight.
"No. Uh, no. Phoebe I'm sorry. I . . . I need to cancel - "
"Mulder, no. You shouldn't change your plans. I should have realized you'd be busy. I need to get back anyway. It was, it was really good seeing you." Dana found her voice finally.
His eyes widened in disbelief. "Dana, I - "
She held up her hand. "Really, its okay. It was nice to meet you Phoebe." Phoebe nodded taking in the pain in her eyes and reveling in it. She didn't see his face behind her.
"Dana -” She had moved to the door now. He took a step toward her but Phoebe moved, seemingly innocently, blocking him.
Dana was out the door, moving as fast as she could without actually breaking into a run.
"So, what time you 'coming' tonight Luv?" Phoebe pursed her lips at him and brushed her breasts against him.
"Phoebe, just a minute." He held her in place as he moved around her, then sprinted after Dana. He got to the street in time to see the cab pull into traffic. "Dana!"
He stood on the sidewalk too stunned to move. No! How the hell could he have let her get away? He didn't even know where she was staying! He felt despair closing in on him and had to force himself to move back toward his place.
Phoebe was watching from the window and her fury at his reaction to the little redhead's departure grew. She forced herself to calm down before he opened the door.
"The little Yank gone? I don't remember you mentioning her before."
"Phoebe, I . . . I need to cancel tonight."
"What? Come on Luv, I'm hot for you. We could - "
"Phoebe. Not tonight. Okay?"
"Are you going to tell me what's going on?"
"Nothing's going on. I just . . . I need to get some work done tonight. I'm behind on my reading and . . . "
"Your reading? Fox, you've never been behind in anything since I met you."
"Look, I'm sorry. Tonight's not a good night. I need you to leave."
"Leave? You're throwing me out?"
He turned away from her, missing the look of outrage that covered her face. He'd pay for this. No man treated her this way. He'd come crawling back to her and then he'd pay.
"Fine. You 'read' tonight." She stopped herself from saying more, she'd bide her time. One last look at him and she let herself out of the apartment. Damn him, he didn't even look over at her when she opened the door.
He hadn't looked because he hadn't realized she was finally gone. His mind was remembering, sorting, recalling every word Dana had said.
Her parents had brought her here as a gift before she started college. They were with her. Yes! Her brother was stationed here. Her father was Navy, so it made sense the brother was as well. He lunged for the phonebook.
An hour later he was ready to join a militia against the US military. Their sole purpose in life was to thwart his search for her. He'd been transferred and placed on hold by every department. Finally he slammed the receiver down; they weren't going to talk to him anyway.
So now what? Should he just head over to the base and go door to door? Hell, he would if he thought it would help. He left his flat and jogged to the bus stop. He had to find her.
She got out of the cab after checking her makeup one more time. Hopefully no one would know that she'd been crying. She took a deep breath and headed toward her hotel room.
She hadn't been there long when she heard the knock on the connecting door. "Dana?"
"Yeah Mom." She moved to open the door.
"Where did you go?"
"Oh, I just wanted to look around a little."
"I realize you're 18 now, but I'm still allowed to worry." She stopped and looked at her daughter more closely. "Are you feeling all right?"
"It's just a little headache."
Her mother continued to watch her, so she turned away. "Why don't you take a little nap? There's time before dinner."
She nodded, "Yes. Maybe that will help." She waited until her mother had left the room, then sank down onto the bed. As she reclined the tears started again and she buried her face in the pillow.
It had been almost an hour when her mother tapped on the door. "Dana? Dana, are you awake?"
It took her a moment to respond. She had fallen asleep but she didn't feel rested. "Mom? I . . . I'm awake."
Her mother opened the door, "Honey, Bill should be here in half an hour of so. You better start getting ready."
"Mom, I . . . Okay." She sat up and lowered her legs over the side of the bed. Her mother looked at her curiously but then retreated to give her some privacy.
She dressed and applied her makeup carefully. Hopefully no one would notice how red and puffy her eyes were. Her mother made no comment when she joined them, but her father gave her the once over.
"That's a little tight, isn't it Starbuck?"
"What?" She was going to have to concentrate if she was going to make it through this evening.
"You okay Honey?"
"I'm fine, Ahab. Maybe a little jet lag." He nodded knowingly, then turned at the knock on the door.
Maggie opened it and threw her arms around her first born. "Bill, you look wonderful!"
The large man, now nearly a foot taller than his mother, picked her up and swung her around. "It's good to see you, Mom." He approached his father then and shook hands, then they hugged each other. His father stepped back then to inspect the uniform and nodded.
Bill looked over then and grinned at Dana. "Hi Squirt. How did you manage to wrangle the trip?"
"Oh, just wanted a little vacation before I got down to studying again."
"So you finally got one of us to go to college, huh Mom?" His mother raised her eyebrow.
"I haven't given up on you and Melissa. Don't think so." He smiled down at her indulgently.
Dana remained quiet; glad the attention was off of her now. The nap had done nothing for her headache, except maybe make it worse. She needed to just get through this.
They rode down the elevator, Bill and her father talking away about ships and mutual acquaintances.
When the elevator reached the lobby, she was last to exit. She was behind Bill and didn't see him until they were almost beside each other.
She froze at the sound of his voice. All of them stopped. Mrs. Scully looked over and recognized him instantly. It all clicked into place immediately. This was the reason Dana had wanted so desperately to come with them to visit Bill. How could she have forgotten this boy was at Oxford? After all William and she had done to discourage . . . Dana hadn't heard from this boy in years. William had convinced her it was for the best.
Dana had gone pale beside her. What was going on? Where had she really gone this afternoon?
The two men with them had gone into a defensive posture at the sound of her name.
"Mrs. Scully, do you remember me?" He had approached them by now.
"Of course, Fox. How are you?" He held out his hand, but she hugged him instead. "I'd forgotten you were at Oxford. You look well."
"Yes ma'am. I, uh, I've done all right." His eyes were back on Dana now. She hadn't taken her eyes off of him. Bill was glancing back and forth between the two and not liking what he was seeing.
"We were just going to dinner, won't you join us?" Both Bill and Dana looked over at her startled at that.
"I'd . . . I'd love to."
"Good. I'd like you to meet Dana's father. This is Captain William Scully." Mulder straightened up and held out his hand. Her father shook it, searching his memory for this name. Fox Mulder?
"And this is her brother, Bill."
"Pleased to meet you." Mulder spoke to the younger man. Bill nodded and shook his hand but warmth was not forthcoming.
They entered the hotel dining room and took a table. Mrs. Scully kept the conversation going. "Fox, how much longer do you have here?"
"Well, I'll walk with this class in the spring."
"I thought you had another year."
"I took some additional classes, but I won't be leaving then. I've been accepted into the doctoral program, so I'll be here at least two more years."
"The doctoral program? That's wonderful, Fox. You must be quite the scholar."
"Well, I've managed to keep my scholarship at least." He glanced over Dana. "Uh, Bill, what are you doing over here?"
"It's an exchange program."
"So you're training them in the 'Yank' way?" Bill finally grinned, and the three men began talking. Both women visibly relaxed. Dinner progressed fairly smoothly and as they were finishing dessert, Mulder turned to her father. "Would you mind if I took Dana for a walk? There're several places I'd like to show her. We've been out of touch for some time and I'd like her to see where I live."
Mr. Scully looked over at Dana. He remembered suddenly exactly who this man was. It had been his idea to divert the letters. Maggie hadn't had the chance to remind him and he'd forgotten the incident. Obviously the letters had continued longer than he had thought. Still she was three years older now. "I think that would be all right."
"We won't be late, Sir." He stood and held her chair. After a slight hesitation she rose as well. "Thank you for dinner. It was very good to see you again Mrs. Scully."
"It was good to see you, Fox." She smiled at Dana and they turned from the table.
"That is the boy - “ Mrs. Scully nodded as she watched them leave the room. "Did we make a mistake?" Her father asked.
"I don't think so."
"Well I'm not so sure." Bill interjected. "He looks like he wants to swallow her whole."
"Bill!" But she understood what he was saying and glanced over one more time, but they were out of sight.
They were quiet walking out, and once out in the street, she turned to him. "You didn't ask if I wanted to go for a walk with you."
"I was afraid to. But I thought, maybe, once we were alone we could talk."
"I'm not sure I want to talk to you."
"You've got to give me a chance. Yes, I have been seeing Phoebe, but not recently. I don't have a clue why she was acting that way. She never has before. It's almost like she knew you were there."
Dana stopped then and turned to face him on the street. "She . . . she did. She came into the pub this afternoon, while we were talking. I didn't think about it, but that was her. She came in the door and looked around. She looked at us, but didn't come in. She just turned and left."
Mulder closed his eyes. "That explains some things. I'd put money down that she had come there to cancel our plans for tonight. But then she saw you, saw us. My feelings for you - they're not something I can hide. Dana, when you walked in that door, I didn't jump up, I didn't run to you. It never crossed my mind that it was reality. I'd fantasized it so many times. It was too much for it to be real."
She was staring at him; he couldn't tell if she was still breathing.
"But you're sleeping with her."
What could he say? It didn't matter, nothing mattered but her. "I... I have. When she begins pursuit, it's . . . it's exhilarating. I don't know why she targeted me."
"You don't?" She clearly didn't believe that.
He barely smiled, "You're good for me. I was naive when I met her, fairly inexperienced, and lonely. So damn lonely. You were gone and I couldn't find you, I never heard from you."
"You know they took my letters."
"Yeah, I saw it in your father's eyes when he realized who I was."
He took a deep breath, "I can only say this because you're here now, but they may have been right."
"You were fifteen years old, Dana. What I felt, what I feel for you, wasn't appropriate then. I'm not sure it's appropriate now, but at least you're not jail bait any more."
She blushed at that. He took her hand and turned her to continue the walk. "Two and a half more years here."
"Yeah." He draped an arm over her shoulders and pulled her close to him. She relaxed and allowed it. He had written to her, he hadn't forgotten her. They'd been sabotaged. Besides, she'd had as many fantasies of this encounter as he had and if that woman had staged that . . . that thing this afternoon . . .
"I've been accepted at Georgetown."
"Have you decided on a major?"
"Physics." He stopped and turned to look at her with fascination. She laughed at his expression. "I know, but it's what I want to do, now anyway. I can always change my mind."
He kissed her forehead, "I bet you don't." She shrugged.
They walked for a long time, talking continuously now that the awkwardness had lessened. The really important things had been said, now they could learn about each other's lives over the last three years.
They had stopped on a bridge, still talking as he pointed out places in his life to her. She realized that he was no longer listening to her, his eyes locked on her lips. Without conscious thought they met - their lips coming together with the ease of twenty years of familiarity and the freshness of a first kiss. She felt his hand go to the back of her neck to bring her even closer to him. Her own arms encircled his waist agreeing with the sentiment.
When the kiss ended he was grateful for the bridge railing, because he was supporting her as well as himself. Neither could seem to get their breath.
“I . . . I should get you home.” He finally managed to say.
She nodded, still not trusting her voice. She leaned into him as they started to walk again. “How,” he had to clear his throat, “How long will you be here?”
“Oh!” She stood up straight then. “We leave in the morning.”
“You what?” He stopped dead still in the street, moving only when a horn blared behind them. He moved them quickly to the sidewalk and stared down at her in horror. “You can’t!”
“I . . . I didn’t know if I would find you, or if I did, that you would remember me.”
“Oh god.” He leaned down, resting his forehead against her. “You can’t go. I can’t lose you again so soon.”
“What . . . what do we do?”
“Where were you going?”
“Dad has a conference in Liverpool. We were going there for a couple of days.”
“And then? Were you coming back here to fly out?”
She nodded, “Yes, the flight home on Saturday leaves from here. What are you thinking?”
“Stay here. Let your parents go on to the meeting. I have some friends - females - in the building. You could stay with them and still fly home with your parents when they come back. That would give us a couple of days. Do you think they’d go for it? Do . . . do you want to stay?” He was holding his breath now.
“Oh Mulder.” Her hand was on his cheek, “Yes. Yes, I want to stay.”
“Would they still be awake? Your parents? I need to talk to them.”
She glanced down at her watch. “Mom’s still up. She’ll read until she hears me come in. She never admits it though.” She smiled.
They quickened their pace back to the hotel. She let him into her room, then tapped on the connecting door. “Mom?”
“Dana, Honey? You’re in?” She opened the door and paused when she saw Mulder with her.
“Mrs. Scully, I’m sorry to bother you so late, but I just found out that you’re planning on going to Liverpool in the morning. I was hoping you would think about Dana staying here while the two of you go on to the meeting. She could stay with a couple of friends of mine - Tess Davies and Marilyn Abbot. They live in my building. We’ve . . . we’ve had so little time together.”
One look at Dana’s face and Maggie knew where she stood. She tried to keep the guilt she was feeling about keeping the letters from both of them at bay, but it was there. Dana was an adult now, technically and in reality. In fact, looking at her children, this one was the most adult, despite age or career choices. She really had no reason to refuse this request and in all honesty no authority. Mulder knew that, but still was gentleman enough to ask. And Bill would be here if she needed anything. She smiled at them and saw the relief come over their bodies.
“Let me talk to your father, but I think I can persuade him. It is getting kind of late.”
Mulder glanced at his watch. “I have an eight o’clock. I’ll call you before I leave for class.”
She looked up from her book and spotted him as he all but burst into the lobby. He looked anxiously around and she watched the smile grow on his face as he saw her.
"Mulder, we talked before you went to class."
"That was two hours ago. Until I could see you again I was too afraid to believe you'd really be here." She moved into his arms and they were kissing. "Let's get out of here."
He'd borrowed a friend's car to pick her up and he loaded it quickly with her suitcase. Back at his place he carried her bag into his room. "Tess should be back later. We'll just leave your stuff here for now. What do you want to do?"
"When's your next class?"
"It's independent study. I'm yours for the rest of the day."
"Only the rest of the day?" She grinned at him.
His face grew serious, "For as long as you'll have me."
"Be careful, Mulder. I'll stuff you in my suitcase so fast - "
"No. Let's not talk about it now." She nodded, their time was short, no reason to discuss it.
"I want to see where you live, what you do."
He nodded, that he could handle. "Come on." He took her hand and they headed back out.
He showed her everything, from the classrooms to his favorite hiding place. They ended up back at the pub for lunch, having talked for hours. They were late for lunch and the place was nearly empty. By the time they finished eating people were beginning to drift in from work.
"Mulder, it's almost time for dinner." He looked at his watch startled. How could time move this fast?
"You want to head back to my place? You probably want to get settled, then we can make plans for this evening."
She nodded but didn't speak. He took her hand and they moved toward the door. She was quiet on the way back, but he decided she was probably tired. He had walked her into the ground as he talked her ear off. God, he wanted to share everything with her.
He glanced over at Tess's apartment. They didn't seem to be home yet, or they'd gone back out. He let her in to his place. "I'm sure they'll be home soon."
She was looking around now. The first time she'd been here had been so brief and had ended so abruptly. It was a small place, only the one room. He had a double bed in one corner, underneath the window. There was a thin red blanket over it as a spread. His desk was under the other window. There wasn't a kitchen as such, just a sink and a hot plate, with a small refrigerator under the sink. The small divan she has been sitting on when Phoebe arrived was next to the desk. The door to the bathroom was slightly open and she could see a tub. He had a dresser and what must be small closet. The clothes that had been thrown over his desk chair were missing now; he'd obviously cleaned when he knew she was coming. She took a deep breath and turned to face him.
"Mulder, I . . . I want to stay here, with you."
He was completely still for a moment. He wasn't even sure his heart was still beating. "What . . . what does that mean?"
"It means I want to be with you."
"Dana, I . . . "
"I know I've caught you off guard, but I'm not fifteen anymore Mulder. I've had . . . opportunities before." He stiffened at that. "I waited. I wanted to . . . to see you again. To see if, if what I felt for you back then was . . . was as real as it seemed." He swallowed, afraid to ask the obvious question. "I want to stay with you tonight."
He drew a shaky breath. "I would very much like you to stay with me."
She smiled then and relaxed a little. "Will you tell your friends for me?"
"Oh, uh, sure. What, uh, what do you want to do now?"
"I want to unpack a little." He nodded but didn't move out of her way. In fact he moved even closer and lightly touched her face. "I'm really here, Mulder."
"I think I'm beginning to believe it." He allowed her past him then, to put her things away.
When she returned he was still standing there. "I know we had a late lunch, but do you want some dinner or - "
"I want to stay in now. I want," She took a deep breath, "I want you." She reached for the top button of her blouse.
His hand stopped her, "Let me." She nodded, letting her hand fall away. He looked deep into her eyes and then began unbuttoning the blouse. He couldn't get enough of her; his hands were shaking as he lowered her blouse from her shoulders. "God, Dana, I - "
Her lips cut him off and he felt her fingers slip under his t-shirt. He’d been without his shirt quite a bit that summer, years ago. She’d never forgotten the bruises he had wanted to hide from her when his father had hurt him. He was different now; he’d had a good physique then, from the swimming. He had a man’s body now. His chest was broader, more filled out with muscle, hairier. Her hand trembled as she traced those muscles. His breath was shallow and he closed his eyes for a moment to savor the sensations she was causing.
He opened them as she took his hands and led them to the hook of her bra. "Dana, are you really sure about this?" She nodded and he allowed himself to remove her bra. He lowered both of them to his bed, his arms going around her as he explored and tasted her.
He made love to her body slowly and gently with lips and tongue. She was inexperienced, but not ignorant. She’d grown up with brothers and had dated quite a bit her last year in high school. On more than one occasion she’d had to fend off a boy who had ideas contrary to her own.
She’d always known this man was exceptional. Now she came to know he was extraordinary as well, asking nothing for himself. In fact, stopping her when she attempted to touch him.
“No, Dana. This is for you.” She took a deep breath and watched his hands. They were doing things to her body she’d never even dreamed possible. He took his time, loving every inch of her. He smiled at the little noises she was making. The scent of her readiness was making him drunk with desire. He needed to slow down, the last thing he wanted to do was rush her.
Then he felt her hand guide his to her core. She was rubbing herself with his fingers. He couldn’t repress the shudder that ran through his body. Now she smiled and pressed her thigh against his straining cock.
He took a deep breath, trying to regain control and moved slightly away from her. “No . . .” She moaned.
“Just for now. I’m not through with you, my love.” He entered her slowly with his finger, probing her, slicking himself with her juices. Her breathing had grown shallow and she closed her eyes to concentrate on this new sensation. He found her clit and began pressing on it firmly. Her eyes flew open and she gasped.
“God! Mulder!” She was nearly convulsing in his arms and he held her tightly, keeping her safe. Then she was staring at him in total disbelief. “What . . . what did you do to me?”
He had to smile then. “You came, Dana, an orgasm.”
“Damn.” She was still trying to get her breath. She clung to him as he soothed her, covering them both with a sheet as her body cooled.
When she realized he was watching her so closely, she leaned up and kissed his lips. “It’s your turn.”
He shook his head slightly. “It’s not too late to change your mind Dana.”
“Mulder, I haven’t changed my mind in three years, and nothing that’s happened here would cause me to want to change it now.”
“Three years?” His voice was nearly steady.
“I only suspected what I was missing. Now you’ve confirmed it. I want you so much Fox Mulder.”
He looked at her for a long moment, then buried his face in her neck, kissing, nuzzling her. Part of him still trying to realize that she really was here with him.
He kissed her once more and rose from the bed. “No.”
That drew a smile. “I have to get some protection.”
“You don’t have it in here?” She didn’t want to release him.
“I wanted to give you every opportunity to change your mind.” She shook her head at that, it wasn’t an option and let go of his hand.
When he returned she took the foil disk from him and opened it herself. She was outside her experience here and wanted to know everything. “May I?”
He nodded and joined her in the bed again. She was gentle and cautious, allowing his hands to guide her. When her hand squeezed him he groaned.
He nodded and had her juices flowing again in no time. Still he hesitated, “Dana, this might hurt.”
“I want you Mulder.”
He entered her slowly, giving her time to adjust. When his body found the barrier he looked deeply into her eyes. She nodded and with a quick thrust he was deep within her. She gasped and her eyes grew large. He held himself still, letting her feel this sensation.
“You’re . . . you’re so big.”
“You are good for me, Dana.” He smiled and kissed her. Then he slowly began to thrust into her. He felt her fingers press into his shoulders and memorized every sound, every moan she made. She tight, tight and hot and he could feel himself losing control. He brought his fingers into play again and she gasped, coming again. That was all it took, his thrusts became erratic and he plunged over the edge, giving himself up to her.
His orgasm overwhelmed her with its intensity. She held his shuddering body as he relearned the art of breathing. "Dana." It was all he could manage.
"I've got you Mulder. It's okay, just relax." She kissed his forehead and he sank into oblivion.
She watched him sleep, curled around her, holding her even unconscious. Eventually her eyes drifted closed as well and she moved even closer to his warmth.
It was a couple of hours before she stirred, then moved carefully away and left the bed. She slipped into the bathroom and cleaned herself a little. She warmed a cloth and started back to him.
He woke with the start, grasping for her. "Dana!"
"I'm here Mulder. I'm right here." She hurried back to his side.
"Don't, don't do that. Don't - "
"Mulder, I just went to the bathroom. I'm with you. Here, let me . . . " She pulled the sheet down, exposing him, and letting the warm cloth trail down his chest. He shuddered again at her touch.
He sat beside her on the bed, "Dana, I'm going to class. You sleep and I'll bring us some breakfast." She nodded and kissed him. Then he tucked the covers back around her and after a moment of watching her get comfortable with her arms cuddling his pillow, stood. He had to force himself to leave the flat.
The tap on the door woke her. His hands must be full. She smiled as she slipped his shirt on to open the door. "I'm glad you're - "
The sight of Phoebe standing in front of her stopped her. It obviously stopped Phoebe as well, but she recovered first. "So, you're still here, visiting. How sweet." She stepped inside without waiting for an invitation.
"What do you want Phoebe?" Dana had finally found her voice.
"Apparently the same thing you want."
Dana looked away and straightened her shoulders. "No, I don't think so. This isn't a game with me. I love Mulder, I have for a very long time."
"How quaint. You've known him a long time? He's never mentioned you."
"She's always been too precious to mention." Neither of them had heard him enter. He placed the breakfast he had brought on the table. That brought color to Phoebe's face and a smile to Dana's eyes. "There's not enough here for you Phoebe, sorry." He might have been talking about the food, but Dana knew better. He handed a container of tea to Dana. Phoebe's eyes narrowed and Dana managed to hide the shudder her look caused.
"Fine Fox, you give me a call in a couple of days, after things have gotten back to normal." She sauntered to the door, determined to remain in control.
"I don't think so, Phoebe. I'm going to be really busy." Dana wanted to step away from the heat of the glare Phoebe shot her then, but Mulder's arm went around her and she felt herself relax.
Phoebe shut the door carefully behind her as she left and Dana sagged slightly against him. "You okay?"
She nodded, "I'm very glad to see you."
"It never occurred to me that she would - "
"It's okay. She's not happy to have me here."
"But I am." He pulled her closer and kissed her tenderly. "What do you want to do today?"
She glanced over at the bed and he chuckled. "Okay, after that?"
"We'll think of something."
Later that afternoon he lay on the bed; she was cross-legged beside him. They were eating sunflower seeds from his chest. Rather she was eating; he was watching her. "You're not going to vanish on me again, are you?"
"No way, Mulder. You'll be hearing from me this time." She chuckled, "especially if I'm pregnant."
"I wish you were." He responded without a smile.
"I was kidding, Mulder."
"A baby would certainly complicate things."
He watched her for another long moment. "Will you marry me?"
"Yes." She replied without hesitation. That finally brought a little smile to his face.
She actually laughed at that. "No, not today Mulder. You've got school to finish and I've got school to start. We need to do that first. But when you come home in two and a half years . . . "
"You'll wait for me?"
"Yes. I have less time to wait now than I've already waited. You're not really worried are you?"
He took a deep breath. "I don't think I am, and that's not like me. I still think you're good for me."
"I am." He chuckled at that. "I've used a lot of energy here today Mulder. These seeds aren't doing it, I need some solid food."
"Well, I'm not letting you out like that." He looked pointedly at the breasts displayed in front of him. She blushed but didn't cover herself, comfortable under his gaze.
She raked the remaining seeds from his chest and rose to her knees climbing over him. He had to close his eyes to keep from grabbing her. She was hungry and he should take her to eat instead of throwing her back down on the bed. But they would be coming back here...
As soon as she disappeared into the bathroom he hurried to his dresser and quietly pulled open the top drawer. He found what he was looking for immediately and was back on the bed, tying his shoes when she emerged.
"What do you want to eat?"
"You decide Mulder, I don't know what's here."
She was laughing as they left the building and headed down the street. He was mesmerized by her. "Dana! Hey Dana, wait up!" They both turned. Her brother Bill was hurrying toward them. "Wasn't sure I'd find you. Mom asked me to check in and . . . " He had caught up with them now and was staring down at Dana. The smile vanished from his face and a more menacing look was upon it.
After a long moment he turned to Mulder. "If you hurt her I'll kill you."
Mulder looked him directly in the eye. "If I hurt her, I'll deserve it."
That caught Bill off guard and he gave this man in front of him another appraising look.
"Bill, it was my decision to stay here. There was no pressure."
Bill hadn't looked away from Mulder. The man didn't deny her words, but didn't confirm them either. "I think you and I should spend some time together next week."
"I look forward to that, to getting to know more of Dana's family." He didn't look away from Bill. "We were going to get some dinner, would you like to join us?"
"No, I think I'd rather not. Dana, I . . . if you need - "
"I'm wonderful Bill. Please don't worry about me."
"You're only 18."
"Then I've been extraordinarily patient. I've loved Mulder since I was 15."
"15? What are you . . . this is the guy from that summer at Uncle Charlie's? You're kidding!" She shook her head, smiling. "Well, that . . . " He took a deep breath. "I'll see you later." He turned then and walked away.
Mulder put his arm around her, "You okay?"
"I'm fine. How about you?"
"Well, I didn't end up on the ground, yet, so I guess I'm fine too. Come on, let's feed you."
"Yeah, I might need to use up some more energy tonight." Her eyebrow rose and his heart lightened.
But he was quieter now, obviously worried about Bill. They entered the restaurant and got a table. He ordered them both an ale and then some food.
"Mulder, are you okay?"
"I'm worried about you."
"Me? Mulder, Bill's my brother. He's spent years torturing me; he's not the protective type. We just caught him off guard."
"It's not him I'm worried about. Dana, he took one look at you and knew what had happened between us. How can I put you on a plane with your parents for a trans-Atlantic flight? I won't be there with you. How can I let you face that alone?"
She sighed, "Maybe they won't know."
"Your mother? She might know already."
She gave a short chuckle then. "Mulder, I'm 18. I leave for college in a matter of weeks. I was also probably the only virgin I knew. I'm not sorry and I'm not going to apologize to my parents or to anyone else. This was my decision. No one forced me. You didn't force me. Mulder, we don't have that much time together. Please don't waste any of it on this."
He'd closed his eyes at that statement. She was right; he wanted to savor every second that he had with her.
He nodded finally. "So, what should we do tonight? A movie? Dancing?"
"A walk. I didn't get to see the campus at night. I bet it's beautiful."
"It is." He smiled at her then.
They ate quickly and headed for campus. He did his best to shake off how he’d felt earlier in the evening. Being with her now was more important. The future would happen, it always did. His own future looked brighter now and he needed to hold on to that.
“Dana, sit here a minute.” He motioned toward a bench in the quad. There were other people around, but not close enough to disturb them. He sat beside her as she looked expectantly at him. “I, uh…”
She smiled at him then. “What awkwardness could there still be between us Mulder?”
He did relax then and smiled at her. “I have something I want you to have.” He reached into his pocket then and brought out his closed hand. He hesitated for a second, then took her hand and turned it over. She felt the delicate chain on her palm and looked up at him. “Go ahead, look.”
She opened her palm then and saw the necklace, curled in her hand. On the chain was a ring with a medium size square cut emerald, flanked by two smaller diamonds. “Mulder?”
“It was Samantha’s. Well, actually it was my Grandmother Mulder’s. When she died Dad took it for Samantha. It was too big for her fingers, and way too expensive for a seven year old, so he bought the chain and let her wear it on special occasions. He and I found it when we finally cleaned out her room. Mom could never bring herself to do it. He kind of tossed it to me and I took it. I guess I am the last Mulder. Dad’s brother died when they were kids, so… Try it on.”
“Mulder, are you sure you want me to have this?”
“You said you’d marry me. I can’t afford the kind of diamond you deserve right now, but maybe this - “
“Mulder it’s beautiful. Would you, would you put it on me?”
He took it back then and removed the ring from the chain. He looked up at her again and slipped it onto the ring finger of her left hand. It was only the tiniest bit too big. He brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it. “I love you Dana.”
She blinked back her tears, only one escaping. She realized that getting on that plane and leaving this man was going to be the hardest thing she had ever done. “I love you too, Mulder.” It was barely a whisper. He leaned in and kissed her gently. “Take me home.”
Home. He looked deeply into her eyes and nodded, though it took him a moment to stand. He took her hand and she stood beside him. They turned toward his flat.
Their lovemaking that night was slow and delicious, both memorizing everything they could about the other. In between they lay in each other's arms, talking quietly, not sleeping. There would be plenty of time for sleep when they were apart.
Morning came too early. Her parents should arrive around lunchtime, in plenty of time for the flight back to Washington. They didn't speak of it, but they found themselves touching each other at every opportunity.
The cab ride to the airport was made in near silence. They met Mrs. and Mrs. Scully in the cafeteria. Bill joined them shortly. Lunch was ordered but neither Dana nor Mulder ate much. Mrs. Scully did most of the talking, telling Dana about Liverpool and trying to keep the quiet from becoming oppressive. Bill just kept his eye on Mulder.
Dana jumped when their flight was called for the first time and both of her parents looked at her closely. "We should get going."
Dana nodded but seemed unable to stand. Mulder took her hand and helped her to her feet. They started toward the gate, Dana and Mulder falling slightly behind her parents and brother.
Mrs. Scully glanced back at them a couple of times but said nothing. When their rows were called Dana turned to Mulder, "I don't know if I can do this."
"I'll be in the states for at least a couple of weeks this summer. I've been holding the ticket since I got here. They haven't exactly been begging me to come home, but I will now. I'll let you know the exact date in a few days. We'll be together."
She nodded, her hand going to the chain around her neck and she closed her eyes. His hand brushed her cheek lightly and she opened her eyes. She rose up on her toes and their lips met. Ignoring the fact that her family was there, he pulled her to him and she melded into his body, the kiss deepening.
He heard the loudspeaker again announcing her flight and forced himself away from her. "You have to go Dana." She remembered that expression on his face, it was the same as when she had left him the last time - trying to hide the devastation he was feeling.
She nodded, and whispered into his ear, "You won't always be the last Mulder. I promise." She turned then and moved toward the plane's entry. Mrs. Scully sent a look of sympathy to Mulder and followed her daughter down the ramp.
Mulder closed his own eyes then, his hand coming to rest on the chain around his own neck, fingering the small golden cross.
"Hey, Mulder, why don't we have drink. You look like you could use one."
Mulder looked over at Bill and nodded. They moved together toward the bar.
Chapter 4 - Kid Stuff No More
She stood slightly to the side, watching the people deplane. She was nervous, but totally excited. Then she spotted him and her heart gave a triple beat. He was looking for her as well and when he saw her, his smile warmed her whole body.
Then they were in each other’s arms, his bags forgotten at his feet as he lifted her to his lips.
When they finally broke apart, she was gasping for air. "Miss me?" He murmured in her ear.
"Oh yeah." He was touching her face, her lips, her hair with his fingertips, so she couldn't concentrate.
"I want you, I want you right here, right now."
"We'd spend the entire holiday in jail."
"Can we share a cell?"
She shook her head as he nibbled on her neck.
"Then forget it. And you should keep your hands to yourself in public. Shame on you."
She laughed out loud then and he watched, falling even more in love with her if that was possible.
"Come on, let's get out of here. We have things to do."
He waggled his eyebrows at her and retrieved his bags. "I have one bag I had to check."
Once they were in the car, he leaned back to watch her drive. "It'll take a while to get used to driving on the wrong side again."
"Then I'll do the driving."
"Where am I staying?"
"Oh, I found you a nice little place, quiet. You have to share it though."
"Uh oh, do they snore?"
She swatted at him, and he took her hand. Her voice sounded full of wonder. "I can't believe we have two weeks together. I have two more exams, then I'm all yours, no distractions."
"I hope you've already done some studying."
She nodded, "I knew having you here would wreck my concentration, but I know the stuff. I'll need a couple of hours before the actual tests for review, but other than that . . . "
"I’ll try to be good, but if you keep looking at me like that, there are no guarantees." He smiled again, "I see you're still wearing the ring."
"I always do, either on my hand or around my neck when I'm working in a lab. You didn't think I wouldn't be wearing it, did you?"
"No, I feel pretty secure with you. It feels good."
She fell silent; she was actually too happy to speak. Just having him beside her was nearly overwhelming.
When she pulled into her space in front of the building, she turned to watch his reaction. "It's not as historic as your apartment."
"You mean the pipes won't rattle every time I turn on the water?"
"Something like that." She smiled.
"You're sure your roommate won't mind?"
"She's already gone, though she wanted to meet you. She finished her exams yesterday and headed home to South Carolina. We've got the place to ourselves."
He took the larger suitcase and the box he had checked, while she took the smaller bag.
Once inside, he kicked the door shut and dropped his luggage as she came into his arms again. He found her bedroom, mostly by radar, and they tore the clothes from each other.
Their second encounter was slower, becoming more familiar with each other again. After that they lay, exploring each other's bodies, not really talking. That would come later, they had two weeks to be together and they would make the most of them.
"Hey, big guy, I need to take a shower. Mom's expecting us for dinner."
He picked the most obvious topic first. "Shower?" His eyes gleamed.
"Mulder, I have to be able to walk. We are going to my mother's."
"I'm looking forward to seeing your mother and your dad, but it's gonna take a lot more than a shower to wash that 'I just got some' glow off of your face. Mine too, no doubt."
"Are you kidding?"
"Oh great. You better let me up."
"Does this mean I can't shower with you?" That puppy dog look was devastating.
"Can you behave?" She rose, nude, from the bed and looked down at him.
"I'll do my best." He crossed his heart with an index finger.
He washed her hair for her, and though his body tried to betray him, he didn't allow himself the release yet again. She stepped from the shower first and shut off the hot water. The cold water blasted him and he yelped, following her rapidly from the tub.
"Evil, you are evil." He took the towel she handed him.
"Like I'm going to let you be in front of my father with that hard on."
He mock glared at her, but didn't disagree.
She pulled up in front of her parent's house. "You ready?"
"You think they'll be happy to see me?"
It was the first bit of insecurity she'd seen since he arrived.
"Oh yes, Mulder. They've been looking forward to your visit. They may ask about the ring."
"I can be honest with them?"
She nodded, feeling unaccountably shy for an instant.
He saw that and took her hand, squeezing it gently. She nodded and they both left the car.
Mrs. Scully met them at the door and gave Mulder a hug, ushering them inside. "You look wonderful, Fox. I want to hear all of your news. Dana, Missy's here. When she heard Fox was coming to town, she decided to come in for the weekend."
"I haven't seen her in ages. Where is she?"
"Helping your father with the wine. Come in, come in!"
They followed her to the kitchen. Captain Scully and another redhead looked up.
Her father held out his hand to shake. "Good to see you again, Fox."
"You too, Sir. It's good to be back in the states."
"Fox, this is Dana's sister, Melissa."
He held his hand out to shake with her as well. Dana couldn't help but notice Missy's interest, or the way her eyes flicked down to check him out.
She was stunned at the depth of her reaction, fighting the urge to scratch Missy's eyes out.
It was possible that Mrs. Scully sensed the tension, though the men seemed oblivious. "Why don't we have a toast?" She moved forward and took a glass from the counter to hand to Mulder.
"Yes. Thank you." Mulder glanced over at Dana and touched his glass to hers.
Her confidence returned at the look in his eyes. Maybe he had noticed. Maybe things like that happened to him all the time, but it was her that he loved. She was the one wearing his ring.
"Dinner's ready. Fox would you take the salad out? Dana, fill the glasses with ice." Mrs. Scully kept the evening moving, putting everyone at ease as she brought herself up to date on Mulder's life.
Dana marveled at the information her mother garnered and wondered if she'd ever be so adept herself. An official interrogation wouldn’t have revealed so much.
They moved into the living room for coffee and dessert. Mulder couldn't help but compare this to his own upbringing. He felt Dana's hand slip into his. He looked down at her and winked.
He sat beside her on the couch and took the cup and saucer Mrs. Scully handed him. He took a sip, then Captain Scully spoke.
"Fox, I'm curious about this ring Dana's wearing."
Mulder felt Dana tense slightly. "Yes Sir. It belonged to my Grandmother Mulder. When she died it went to my sister, the only granddaughter. When she . . . I got it. I've had it for years."
"It’s a very valuable piece, Fox." Mrs. Scully remarked.
"Not as valuable as the woman wearing it." He glanced down at her. "Mrs. Scully, Captain Scully, I want Dana to have it. It shows a small amount of the . . . the love I have for your daughter." He smiled at her and she returned it full wattage.
"Are you . . . is this an engagement ring?" Mrs. Scully asked.
"Yes ma'am, it is. Dana has agreed to marry me."
"What about school?" Her father leaned toward the couple.
"I'll be finished with my dissertation in eighteen months. Then I'll come back home permanently and set up a practice. I know Dana has quite a bit more ahead of her, but we'll be okay. We know what it's like not to have enough time together. It's just nice to know that in the future we'll have more time."
"I love him, Ahab. I have since I was fifteen."
"You haven't dated that much, Honey." Mrs. Scully said mildly.
"I've dated enough. I know what I want, and I want Mulder. We're not going to run off this week, don't worry about that. We both want to finish school."
Captain Scully leaned back and looked at his wife, then turned back to the young couple. "I think it's wise that you're planning to finish school. Your mother and I are frankly relieved to hear that. Fox, I'd like to spend a little time, just the two of us, before you have to return to England."
"Yes Sir. I think that's a good idea."
Everyone seemed to relax a little at that.
After a little more visiting, Dana spoke up, "I'm sorry to end this evening, but I do need to study a little more tonight. My exam's tomorrow afternoon."
"You're right, but it's been a wonderful evening and I hope we get to see more of you while you're here."
Dana picked up the tray and Missy took the extra cups and headed for the kitchen.
"You haven't said much, Missy."
"I think you've found a winner, Dana."
"You seemed to appreciate him."
"Who wouldn't? He's a hunk, but you don't have to worry. You're the only woman he sees. Dana, his eyes follow you whenever you're in the room. He always knows where you are, regardless of what else is going on around him. I envy you."
"We've loved each other a long time."
"Just be sure you use protection, Dana. You both want to finish school."
"Oh come on, a blind man could see it with a cane. Mom and Dad are ignoring it for now - part denial and part avoidance I think. Just be careful."
Dana nodded and moved to return to him. She wasn't comfortable with this conversation.
She heard her mother speaking as she returned, “ . . . with your parents. I'd like to meet them."
"They, uh, they're divorced now Mrs. Scully. I haven't seen either of them for a couple of years."
"Oh Fox, I'm sorry."
"No, it's okay, really. I plan to see them while I'm here, introduce Dana. I'll be sure to tell them you'd like to get together." He turned toward Dana then, though she hadn't made her presence known and reached for her hand.
Captain and Mrs. Scully walked them to the door and said goodnight, then they were on their way back to her place.
"How do you think it went?" He turned to look at her.
"Very well. You were a hit as always." She grinned at him.
He sighed and leaned back in the seat. Once back at her apartment he expected her to hit the books, instead she tugged him back into the bedroom and when he backed up to the bed, pushed him down onto the mattress.
He lay back and watched her as she slid his belt from the loops.
"I thought you had to study."
"I do. Anatomy, yours."
His eyes gleamed as he watched her remove her blouse. When he reached for her, she shook her head. He tried to keep the smile from his lips and almost succeeded.
She stood over him then, nude and after watching him for a long moment, straddled his knees. She was amazed that he could grow even larger.
She traced the muscle of his chest and felt his body twitch against hers.
"Whose,” he cleared his throat, "who else's anatomy do you study?"
"Grey's, but it's not nearly as much fun."
"You really are taking a . . . anatomy?" He closed his eyes a second to try to regain control.
She was smiling when he opened them again. "It seemed like an interesting elective."
Without warning she impaled herself on him and his hands fisted in the sheets straining for control. His groan shook even her.
"You liked that?"
"You're trying to kill me aren't you?"
"I wouldn't even consider it. I plan to keep you around for a very long time." She rose again to her knees.
"Not like this you won't." He placed his hands on her hips and fell into her rhythm. When she lost control, her spasms pushed him over the edge and he exploded into her. She collapsed onto his chest.
"Dana, you okay?"
"Never been better, Mulder."
He smiled and pulled the sheet up over them, settling her more comfortably on his chest. She needed to sleep and he wanted to hold her while she did.
The next morning he was gone from the bed when she woke. She smelled the coffee and rose, reaching for her robe.
He turned as though he felt her presence and she remembered Missy's words. "Sleep well?"
"You're kidding, right?" She grinned and accepted the cup of coffee he handed her. She'd really been asleep if she'd missed his shower and dressing.
"Okay." He settled at the table. "Your exam is at 2. I'm going to make myself scarce until lunchtime. I'll be back here at noon, to make sure you eat something before you go and take you over if you want, so you don't have to worry about parking. That's if you trust me with your car."
"Just stay on the correct side of the road. I don't want you to be gone all morning."
"It's just for today and tomorrow. After that, you'll see so much of me, you'll be sick of me."
"I'd like to see you try to be around that much."
He stood and kissed her. "I won't be late, but you be sure to buckle down while I'm out."
She sighed and walked him to the door.
She actually did get into her studying and was startled when he opened the door at noon. "Is it really twelve?"
"Yeah, do you need more time?"
"No, if I don't know it now, another hour won't help. What's that aroma?"
"Lunch." He held up the bag. "I haven't had an American hot dog since I can remember. Hope you don't mind."
She was laughing, "No, I don't mind at all. It does smell good."
"Great!" He laid the greasy bag on the table and pulled some glasses from the cupboard. "Come on, eat, then you have to get dressed."
She joined him at the table and they enjoyed their meal. When they were finished he insisted on cleaning up while she showered.
He was waiting for her when she emerged from the class. "One down, one to go."
"How was it?"
"Actually I feel pretty good about it, but your body is still more interesting."
He kept after her about her studies that night too; the last final was at ten the next morning, though he held her closely to him all night. She was practically dancing when she emerged from that exam.
He was sitting in her car and watched her approach him. She waved him to remain in the car and let herself in. "That's it. And I think I aced it as well."
He still hadn't spoken and she finally realized how upset he was. "Mulder? What happened?" She reached out and took hold of his arm. "Mulder?"
"I'm sorry. You said it went well?"
"Forget the exam, what happened?"
"I called my father."
He said it without emotion, but that only increased her fear. He hadn't sounded like this since that summer. "What . . . what did he say?"
"The normal stuff. I remember why I haven't been in touch. He wants to have dinner tonight, and he wants to meet you."
"Mulder, we planned all along for me to meet him. What did he say to you?"
"He was just his normal charming self. I don't want to subject you to him. Couldn't we pretend I'm an orphan and - "
"Mulder, it'll be okay. I'll be there."
He laid his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes. "I shouldn't have contacted him. I was having such a great time. If I never saw him again . . . "
"Mulder,” her hand tightened on his arm. "Let's go home. It's going to be okay."
He nodded and put the car in gear. She watched him, this had really upset him, much more than she had thought. She was back to that summer, the things this man had done to Mulder. She could still see those bruises and closing her eyes didn't help.
He let them into her apartment and she led him to the couch. He pulled her against him and just held her. "Dana, explain it to me. I'm an adult. He's not paying for my education anymore. I earned the fellowship I'm on. Hell, I'm less than two years from being a licensed psychologist. How can I treat patients when the sound of his voice does this to me?"
"Mulder, what did he say to you?"
"He wasn't thrilled that I wanted him to meet you."
That surprised her. "He doesn't want to meet me?"
"He doesn't want there to be a you. I guess it goes back to not wanting me to have any happiness in my life."
"Mulder, regardless of what he wants, I am in your life. He can't change that."
His arms tightened around her.
"It's going to be okay. Besides we're only going to dinner, then if you want, you don't have to see him again your entire visit. Do you have a Christmas gift for him?"
"Then give it to him tonight. If you want to see him later, if tonight goes well, you still can."
"Go well? I spent an evening with your folks - that went well. Nothing like that ever happened in my family."
She sighed, she hadn’t met these people, but anyone who hurt this man was on her list. She wasn’t going to let them hurt him any more than she could help.
Mulder stepped into the restaurant and looked around. He spotted the man almost immediately. “He’s here.” He pointed the older man out to Dana. “He’s already got a drink. I wonder which one it is.”
Dana’s hand squeezed his arm and he looked down at her. “I love you.”
“I know. That’s the only thing keeping me here right now.” He didn’t smile as he said it and she saw again how hard this was for him.
Neither noticed that his father had looked up and seen them. He took in the protective way his son hovered over this diminutive redhead and felt despair. It would never work; his son had responsibilities that he wasn’t even aware of yet. A woman would be an encumbrance, at least a woman that he truly cared for would be. He stood and saw his son straighten up and this woman’s hand grip his.
“He’s seen us.”
“Then let’s go meet him Mulder.”
He looked down at her again and was actually able to smile. She might look small, but there was a lot there in that tiny package. He nodded and they moved toward the table.
“Son.” William Mulder held out his hand to shake and Mulder took it.
“Dad, I’d like you to meet Dana Scully.”
The older man shook her hand as well, scrutinizing her for a moment. “Ms. Scully.” He nodded and held her chair for her. When they were all seated, an uncomfortable quiet settled over the table.
“Would you like a drink?” Mr. Mulder offered and motioned the waiter to their table.
Dana looked up at the waiter and smiled, “Iced tea please.”
“I’ll have the same.” Mulder nodded.
Mr. Mulder watched them, not sure what he was looking for, “I suppose Fox warned you not to drink in front of me.”
“Actually, Mr. Mulder, I won’t be 21 until February, and I like iced tea.”
Her directness caught him off guard. This woman was only twenty years old? She seemed much more assured than that. He caught the look of amusement in Fox’s eyes before the younger man could look away.
“I’ll have another Scotch.” He spoke to the waiter, who took the order and left. No one seemed to know how to break the silence. Finally Mr. Mulder looked at Dana. “Why don’t you tell me a little something about yourself?”
She nodded before Mulder could protest. “I’m at Georgetown University, majoring in physics.”
“Physics?” The normal response and she smiled.
“Yes, it’s a fascinating field. I don’t plan to teach; right now I’m looking at pure research, but I have a little time to decide.” She noted that he was more uncomfortable than the information would warrant. Why would a physics major bother him?
“My parents are in DC now, my father is career Navy and stationed at the Pentagon. He’ll be retiring soon.”
“Will that interfere with your academic plans?”
“No, I’m on a scholarship.”
Mulder noticed that the information the man was receiving, while overwhelmingly positive, seemed to make him more and more fidgety.
“I see you’re wearing my mother’s ring.”
Dana felt Mulder stiffen beside her and she laid her hand over his, the ring exposed for all to see. ‘Yes, I am.”
“I wanted her to have it.” Mulder spoke, after curling his hand around hers.
“I was unaware that you had it.”
“There’s probably a lot about me that you’re unaware of, Dad. Mom found it just before I left for England and just handed it to me. I decided to take it with me.”
Mr. Mulder nodded, then turned to accept his drink from the waiter.
“I think I know a lot more about you that you realize, Fox. I’m very proud of your accomplishments at Oxford, your grades.”
“I didn’t know you were receiving my grades.”
Dana wanted to cringe at the tone these men, father and son, were using with each other. Ahab would never have spoken to Bill or Charlie like that, much less tolerated it in return. Instead she tried to remain passive, but didn’t release his hand. The image of those bruises returned.
“I’m not, officially, but I have connections as you well know. I wanted to stay in contact.”
“In contact? Really?” The sarcasm was thick.
The older man looked away at that and took a sip of his drink. “I guess you’d be surprised to know how in contact I’ve been. Like hearing about the recruiting effort on the part of the FBI.”
Mulder’s eyes widened in surprise for just a second, then he had control again. Dana sat stunned, recruited by who? He hadn’t mentioned that to her.
“I don’t see that as any of your business.” His eyes narrowed as his anger grew.
“Well it is my business. You are my son, regardless of our relationship. I think it’s a bad idea. I would advise against you joining the Bureau very strongly. I know those people, Fox, I don’t think that’s the kind of career you’re suited for.”
“Well thanks for the input Dad, but I think I’ll file your opinion - “
“Mulder, maybe we should order.” Dana interrupted quickly. “I’m getting hungry.”
Mulder looked down at her, almost surprised that she was still beside him; hell, that someone like her was even in his life. She gave him a quick smile, and he nodded. They placed their orders and the waiter left the table.
“If I could get back to an earlier topic, I would like to know if the ring symbolizes some sort of commitment between the two of you.”
“Yes, it does. I have asked Dana to be my wife and she has accepted.”
Dana saw the man’s knuckles go white around his glass. He looked at her and she returned his gaze. “Mr. Mulder, why does the thought of your son marrying me upset you so?”
He shook himself and focused on her again. “Ms. Scully, I apologize. You are a very charming young woman and I’m sure you will make someone a wonderful wife someday, I just don’t see that happening with Fox.”
She felt Mulder bristle beside her, but before he could speak, she leaned forward. “Why?”
He looked directly at her then, turning slightly away from his son. “I’m sure you two haven’t known each other very long, you couldn’t have. You’re not at Oxford, you told me that, and he’s been in England for the past five years.”
“I fell in love with Dana when she was fifteen years old.” Mulder spoke quietly, but she heard the emotion behind the words.
“Fifteen? But how - “
“Mr. Mulder, the summer before your son went to England I lived on the Vineyard, looking after my cousins. I’m Charles Richardson’s niece.” The name seemed to mean something to him, though he made no comment.
“She was my savior that summer.” Mulder spoke then, “the only light in the pit I was living in.”
He didn’t comment on his son’s words, looking instead at Dana. “I don’t recall Fox introducing us.”
“Would you remember it if I had?” Mulder asked.
“Mulder.” She put her hand over his again.
“Sorry.” He looked down at her and she nodded.
“That . . . that was a difficult summer for your mother and I, Fox.”
Mulder nodded but didn’t bother to comment. He did notice that his father would no longer meet his eyes. That was interesting.
They were saved from further conversation at the moment by the arrival of their meals. They all ate in silence for a few minutes.
“Miss Scully - “
“Please call me Dana.” She interrupted him.
“Thank you. I’m William. Dana, I’ll probably cause an explosion with this comment, but Fox is very like me. He becomes consumed with his work, single minded in his pursuits. That’s how he’s been so successful at Oxford, completed his degree ahead of time and at the top of his class. But it’s not a good combination for a relationship.”
“I - am - nothing - like - you.” Mulder spoke low, but fairly spat out the words, enunciating each word clearly.
“I know you don’t want to be, and I can’t say that I blame you, but it’s true Fox. You don’t want to hurt this woman the way I hurt your mother.”
Mulder turned away then and started to rise. “Mulder, please. Let’s finish our meal.”
“You don’t believe him?”
She ached at the hurt on his face, and ignoring the fact that his father was sitting across from them, kissed him and whispered “no” into his lips.
William watched this by-play with a sinking heart. She was going to be a complication. His comment about not joining the FBI had reached its target, now Fox would give the idea consideration. His son might have the degree in psychology, but he’d been using it for decades.
The older man decided to change the subject. Too much pushing wouldn’t work and he found himself liking this woman despite his reservations about her place in Fox’s life.
“I hope you’re planning to see your mother while you’re home.”
Mulder glanced up and blinked, then took the olive branch that had been offered. “Yes. I want her to meet Dana as well. We’re driving up over the weekend.”
“Good. Please wish her happy holidays for me.”
Mulder nodded and returned to his meal.
Dana took over then and gave William a little more of her own background, the different bases she had lived on and the climate of Washington as opposed to more exotic locations. It worked and the meal finally ended.
Mulder refused the offer of dessert for both of them and explained that Dana had just finished her exams and was tired from the late hours she had put in studying. She only nodded, any excuse to get Mulder out of here would do. The strain on him had been enormous.
William nodded and rose from the table. He extended his hand to shake again with Mulder. Dana marveled at this, her own father never hesitated to hug his sons any more than he did with his daughters. It was incredible that Mulder had become the loving man that he was; he had certainly had no role model in this man.
Dana shook his hand as well and thanked him for the meal, then with Mulder’s hand guiding her, they left the restaurant without looking back.
She drove; he was upset though he was trying to hide it. They were almost to her apartment when she heard him mutter a soft, “damn.”
“I didn’t give the SOB his Christmas present. Fuck it, I’ll mail it to him before I go back to England. I don’t want to spend another five minutes around him.”
He lapsed back into silence and after a moment she released the wheel with one hand to hold his. His grip was almost painful. He only released her when she had to make the turn onto her street.
After they exited the car she took his hand again. “I think maybe I should take a walk or something.” He didn't quite face her.
“Okay.” She looked up at him, “where are we going to walk?”
“I . . . I thought I would go alone.”
“Mulder, do you want to be alone?”
He gazed down at her for a long moment. “No.”
She flashed him a quick smile. “I need to change my shoes. There’s no way I can keep up with those long legs in these.”
That actually drew a chuckle from him and he followed her inside.
She slipped out of her shoes and picked them up. “I’ll be right back.”
“Wait, you don’t have to. I don’t feel the need for that walk now.”
“Are you sure?”
“I was going so you wouldn’t have to put up with me.”
“I like putting up with you.” She turned toward her room to put away her shoes, when he took her arm.
She was looking up at him and heard the seriousness of the question. Her own expression grew serious. “That’s easy. I love you.”
“After meeting him?”
“Well, I’m not in love with him. But you aren’t him, and I don’t see how you could be.” She moved to the couch and tugged him down to sit beside her. “I don’t know what your father’s gone through to become the man he is, but I do know you and what you’ve shared with me. I love the man you are.”
She was startled to see tears in his eyes. “Mulder?”
He just shook his head and pulled her to him. She relaxed in his arms, and they held each other for a long time.
Finally he leaned in to kiss her, “Thank you.”
“My pleasure.” She returned the kiss, then. “I do have a question.”
“Hmm?” His lips not leaving her neck.
“When did the FBI recruit you?”
“What? Oh that.”
“Yeah, that. You hadn’t mentioned it.”
“I know, I’m sorry. I haven’t given it any serious thought.”
“And now?” She twisted slightly to see his face.
He sighed, “Now I’m going to give them another hearing.”
“Mulder, you can’t base your career decisions on your father’s - “
“But Dana, that’s just what I did. When the man from the Bureau came to talk to me, I assumed he came because of my father. State Department, FBI - they could have a lot of connections. If he didn’t send them, if they wanted me because of my abilities, that makes all the difference.”
“And the fact that your father is opposed to the idea . . . “
Mulder grinned, “Okay, that adds a little icing. You met him.”
“That’s the kind of family I come from.”
“I’m going to be your family now Mulder.”
His lips met hers, “Yes. Yes, you are and I can’t wait.” He stood then and led her toward the bedroom.
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 it’s 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.”
had time to adjust to it and it’s history to me. I guess we’re not kids anymore
“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.”
Chapter 5 - Kid Stuff Ceremonies
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 naïve 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, 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.
aware of anyone else in the chapel, which was as it should be.
Chapter 6 - Facing Reality
Maggie hurried out of the elevator and toward the room number they had given her. She spotted Mulder in a chair beside the bed. “Fox? Fox, what happened?”
He looked up and managed to focus on her. “Mom.”
She took the chair beside him. “Fox?”
“She lost the baby.” His voice sounded dead.
“Oh, Fox. I’m so sorry.” She touched his arm.
He didn’t seem to notice. “They . . . they’re doing a D&C now.”
Maggie nodded, tears forming in her eyes. They sat in silence for a long moment.
“I should never have taken this case. I should never have gone out of town.”
“Fox, you can’t blame yourself - “
“If I’d been here - “
“No! Fox, don’t do this. When you lose a baby this early in the pregnancy, there’s something about the baby that can’t live. There’s nothing - “
“I should have been here! She’s my wife, she was carrying my baby and I’m off hunting down some maniac that . . . that . . .” He lost it then, burying his face in his hands.
Her arms went around him, cradling him against her as she had her own children when they were in pain. He sank into her comfort, giving in to his grief. He couldn’t remember ever being held like this, he had never known how much he needed it.
After what seemed like a long time, he slowly pulled away from her. “Thanks.”
“Fox, I love you like one of my own. I’m always going to be here for you.”
He swallowed and after a moment, nodded.
“I think you should talk to William, too.”
He looked quizzically at her.
“I don’t know if Dana ever told you, but I lost a baby too, between Missy and Dana. It was a shock; I’d had two healthy babies. I love all my children, Fox, you know that, but maybe Dana is a little special to me, because she’s the baby that proved I could have children again. But William had shipped out, he wasn’t there and I know that devastated him. It took a long time for him to be able to talk about it. He . . . he would understand how you feel.”
He nodded and allowed her to put her arm back around him. After a few minutes, he sat up. “She should be back by now.”
“Why don’t you go splash some water on your face?”
He nodded and forced himself to his feet. He had only been gone a couple of minutes when the door opened and they rolled her into her room. They transferred her to the bed and the nurse checked her IV, then left.
“Mulder?” She sounded weak, and . . . and scared.
“He’ll be right back, Honey. Can I get you anything?”
Dana just shook her head and turned away. Maggie closed her eyes and leaned back in the chair. Dana was dozing already when the door opened again.
“Dana.” He hadn’t realized she was back in the room. He moved quickly to the bed, where he leaned down and kissed her.
“Mulder.” She opened her eyes and Maggie slipped from the room.
“How do you feel?”
“Groggy . . . empty.” She looked away and missed the pain on his face. “They, uh, Linda said I could go home in a couple of hours.”
“Go home? Shouldn’t you - “
“I want to go home.”
“Okay. Why don’t you rest now?” She nodded and let her eyes close. He took her hand and sat beside her. When Maggie looked in the door, she backed away, tears in her eyes.
Mulder sat watching her sleep, thinking back to how he had bungled this whole thing from the beginning.
Several weeks ago:
They had both been working long hours. Her residency kept her at the hospital more nights than he wanted to admit. Of course he hadn’t been the best about being home for dinner lately either. He knew profiling was taking a toll on him. Some cases were damn hard to shake off so that he could talk about anything ‘normal’ in the evenings. Patterson was a tough agent and already Mulder was beginning to chafe under his thumb. The other agents thought Patterson could walk on water; he needed to think about that.
She hadn’t been feeling well, but she didn’t dwell on it. She was just working too hard. Well, he could see that. But tonight he was home at a reasonable time and she had promised to be as well.
He could smell something good from the kitchen when he opened the door. “Dana? I’m home.”
When she didn’t answer he headed into the kitchen to find her. She was there, knife in hand where she had paused in chopping vegetables for the salad, but she was a million miles away.
She jumped slightly and turned to him, a faint smile finally appearing on her face. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
“I could tell. Where were you?”
She shook her head, “We can get into that later. How was your day?”
He shrugged, “Patterson rode me all day, mainly because of a profile I did a year ago - that worked by the way - but didn’t meet his criteria.”
“I tell you he’s jealous.” She stretched up and kissed him.
“I wish. Why don’t I take over there?” He washed his hands and reached for the knife.
“You feeling any better?”
She turned away slightly, but it could have been to look into the refrigerator. “I’m fine. It’s good not to be on call for a whole forty-eight hours. I’ve practically forgotten what that feels like.”
She looked up at him then, “Mulder, I’m sorry I’m away so much. It’s - “
“It’s not your
fault. We knew it would be tough. It’s just that with both of us working 24/7
it’s gotten a little out of hand. And hell, I admit it, when I’ve been inside
some sicko’s head all day; it’s probably good you’re not here to put up with
The oven timer went off and she moved toward the stove. “Hope I remembered how to cook.”
“You don’t like the Chinese food boxes in the frig?”
“It’s better than the pizza boxes, they don’t take up as much room.”
He couldn’t exactly dispute that, so he finished the salad and carried it to the table. They were both quiet over the meal, not uncomfortably so, both apparently talked out from their days.
When they were finished, he stood and took her plate. “You cooked, so I guess I get clean up.”
“Mulder, wait a minute. We need to talk, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Her tone sent a frisson of fear up his spine and he lowered the plates back to the table. “Are you okay?”
She didn’t respond, just standing and moving toward the living room. He was only a half step behind her. “Dana?”
She sat in her normal seat and he immediately joined her. “Dana, what?”
“I don’t know how to tell you this. I . . . “ She looked up and saw the fear in his eyes.
He took her hand, “Come on, Dana, you’re scaring me.”
She seemed to shrink just a little, “I . . . I thought it might be like the other time, I hoped . . . “ She took a deep breath. “Mulder, I’m pregnant.”
He blinked, unable to absorb the words. She wasn’t ill, this was a good thing, right?
She was watching him; he needed to say something. “I, uh, I thought, aren’t you on the pill?”
She looked away for a second, “Yes, I am. And I haven’t missed one. It just happened.”
They were both silent for a moment, “Dana, I’m sorry. I’m just blown away; uh, this is, this is good. We wanted kids.”
She sighed, “You don’t have to say that. I know you’re not exactly thrilled.”
“That’s not it, it’s just the timing. I mean, well now is . . . it’s gonna be rough, rougher.”
Her mood seemed to sink even lower, he knew he was blowing this but damn it, she had caught him completely off guard. At least she’d had a little while to absorb it.
“When did you find out?”
“I ran the test at work this morning.” She looked positively forlorn.
“Dana, hold it, back up. Let’s start this whole conversation over. We’re going to have a baby. You and me. Together.” A small smile did play on his lips then as she watched. “I need a promise.”
“Yes. She has to look just like you.”
“Oh yeah. I know about boys, I was one. We want girls. Little red-headed ones with blue eyes.”
He saw the tears form in her eyes and pulled her on his lap, rocking her, holding her, loving her.
As he held her close that night, he kissed her ear. “Dana, I’m sorry I was such a shit earlier tonight.”
“When you first told me. I should have swept you into my arms and kissed you until you couldn’t breathe.”
She shook her head; “You handled it a lot better than I did. Mulder, this is going to be so hard. I want it, you know that, but why now?”
He had no answer; the same question had been playing in his mind since he had recovered enough sense to think. It couldn’t be a worse time for her to get pregnant. Both of their careers were at the starting gate, this was when they had to prove themselves to their colleagues. Even before they were married would have been better, to be honest. Then she could have postponed her residency. Okay, that wasn’t exactly fair, but . . . the burden was going to fall on her 95%, no be realistic, more like 110%. She had to carry it; he couldn’t help there at all.
“Dana,” his arms around her tightened, “can you do this? I mean physically? You’re working harder than I am right now. I’ve known for weeks you weren’t feeling well, but I didn’t . . . this didn’t cross my mind.”
“This? It’s a pregnancy Mulder.” She knew before the words were finished that she’d said the wrong thing. This wasn’t his fault any more than it was hers.
“I know that Dana.”
“I’m sorry. I guess I’m a little more shaken than I realized. I’m fine Mulder, go on to sleep. I know you’re tired.”
He kept quiet at that. Sleep? Yeah, sure. He didn’t have a clue what to do to help her. He wasn’t even sure she wanted his help at this point. She turned, disengaging herself from his arms and making herself more comfortable on her own side of the bed instead of in the middle where they normally met. He didn’t know whether to be hurt or angry, decided neither would do much good and after a moment rolled over himself.
It was a long night, with neither getting very much sleep. Morning didn’t bring any enlightenment. He rose first and put the coffee on, then took his shower.
She was in the kitchen when he came in dressed, but the coffee hadn’t been touched. “Don’t you want any?” He poured himself a cup and motioned with the pot in her direction.
“I have to have decaf now.”
“Oh.” He didn’t know what else to say. There was a hell of a lot he didn’t know, and right now she didn’t look much like she wanted to tutor him. “Are you feeling okay? I mean, morning sickness or anything?”
She tried to hide the slight shudder that went through her, but wasn’t completely successful. He started toward her, but she pulled back. He stopped immediately, totally unsure of himself.
“Dana, why don’t I call in sick today. We could - “
“No. You don’t need to miss work. I’ll just hang around, try to catch up on the laundry.”
“Don’t do that. Why don’t you just rest? I can do the laundry tonight. I’m pretty sure it’s my turn anyway. Just . . . just look after yourself today.”
She nodded. “Yeah, maybe I will. Have a good day, don’t let Patterson get you down.”
“Yeah, okay. Will you call me if you need anything?”
“I . . . I don’t know. Look, I’ll bring dinner home tonight. What would you like?”
She looked away and shook her head. “Whatever you feel like. I can’t decide that right now.”
He nodded, at a loss again. Could he do anything right? He kissed her, on the cheek as she turned her head, and after a second moved toward the door. “Promise me you’ll take it easy. Go on back to bed, Dana. Don’t worry about any housework or anything. If you need something, call me and I’ll pick it up on the way home.”
“Thanks. See you later.” She didn’t move toward the door, just stood in the kitchen looking a little lost. Maybe he should call in, but . . . but she didn’t seem to want him here.
Things weren’t a whole lot better that evening when he got home. He was later than he wanted to be, but he’d picked up Thai for her and a pound of decaf coffee. Thai wasn’t his favorite, but she usually liked it.
She seemed a little rested and she had done the laundry and dusted and everything he hadn’t wanted her to worry about. She only picked at the food and when he tried to coax her to eat more just shook her head.
“Dana, do you want to do something tonight? We haven’t been to a movie in ages. We could - “
“No, I really don’t want to go out. I know you’re tired too Mulder. I can see it. Did you get any sleep last night?”
“Not much. My mind was fully engaged.”
“Mulder, I can’t have an abortion. I just - “
His eyes widened in horror. “Dana, No! I would never, no! You don’t think that’s what I want, do you?”
“No, I don’t know. This is supposed to be a wonderful thing and we’re both . . . Mulder, we’re devastated. I feel guilty and - “
“And you don’t feel good. Dana, I’m not devastated, I was shocked last night, yes. And I know what a burden this is putting on you. That’s my biggest concern. Just how much help can I be? I’m way outside my learning curve here, Dr. Mulder. I didn’t even think about the decaf this morning or, or a thousand other things I should know. I’m worried about you.”
“Mulder, really, I’m - “
“Fine?” He smiled at her. “I’m beginning to hate that phrase. Have you told your parents?”
She shook her head. “I wanted to get my act together before I did that. If she had seen me yesterday, Mom would have wanted to have me committed. A good Catholic girl isn’t supposed to react like I have.”
“Well I can’t speak for the Catholic part, but I think you’re reacting the way any overwhelmed woman would. Maybe we’re not dancing in the streets right now, but I’ve always wanted to have children with you. I did when I was 18 and saw you with your cousins.” His face froze for a minute, “Do twins run in your family?”
“Oh yeah, you’re not devastated. No, twins run on my aunt’s side.”
He had to chuckle then, “Okay, so maybe I am more than a little overwhelmed. Geez, Dana, it’s just so unexpected. But I love you and I love her.”
“You know we can’t send it back if it’s a boy.”
She swiped at his arm and for the first time since the day before, relaxed into his embrace. He closed his eyes in relief.
Her shift had started before he got home the next night, and the emptiness of the apartment seemed worse than usual. He wanted her to take it easy, but that was impossible unless she decided to take another year or more to complete her schooling. That would be fine with him, but he knew she would fight it, wanting to stay at work probably until she went into labor.
Labor - good god. What if he fainted or . . . he shook himself, this was certainly counterproductive. Move on, he’d brought enough work home to keep him busy.
He pulled up in front of her parent’s house. He was running late, no surprise. He jumped out and hurried to the front door and let himself in. He was family now and he couldn’t help but smile again at that fact.
“We’re in the kitchen.” He heard Dana’s voice and his smile dimmed a little. She was working too hard; maybe after tonight her mother could help talk her into taking it a little easier.
“Hi.” He joined them, giving Dana a kiss, “Sorry I’m late.”
“Work?” Dana looked up at him. She’d put on her makeup carefully, the circles under her eyes were completely gone and he knew it wasn’t from rest.
“Yeah, we caught a break in the case.”
“We or you?” She asked.
“Well, I picked up on something Patterson missed.”
“Did you say anything?”
“I didn’t have to.” He grinned widely and she shook her head. “Hey, I was very politically correct.”
She rolled her eyes as he moved on to his mother-in-law and kissed her cheek. “Smells wonderful as usual. Forgive me for holding things up?”
“You didn’t hold us up. The rolls are browning as we speak. Call William down and we’ll start.”
He glanced over at Dana; obviously she had waited for him to make the announcement. He brushed another kiss on her forehead and headed for the stairs to call his father-in-law down.
William came at Mulder’s call and clapped him on the back. “Thought I heard you come in. Glad we could find a night you were both available.”
“Tell me about it. I have to keep her picture on my desk to remember what she looks like. She doesn’t have a desk, so I think I surprise her whenever she sees me.”
“It’s not that bad, obviously.” She glanced up at him and he grinned down at her.
“Well go ahead and explain that.” He teased.
“Explain what?” Maggie set the basket of rolls on the table.
Dana reached for Mulder’s hand, “Well,” she took a deep breath. “Mulder and I are going to have a baby.”
It took about a heartbeat and a half for it to sink in; then the happiest smile he had ever seen took over his mother-in-law’s face.
“Dana! Oh Fox, I’m so happy for you!” She threw her arms around her daughter and Mulder had to chuckle.
This was the way it should have been when she told him. But at least now they were getting used to the idea. They still had no logistics figured out, but Maggie’s obvious delight was contagious.
William shook Mulder’s hand and hugged his daughter, though he seemed at a loss for words.
They took their seats, but Maggie had taken over the conversation and was firing questions at Dana left and right. Yes, she’d had Linda check her out; no, no ultrasound yet, in a few weeks; no, only Linda knew at work. Yes, she was feeling fine.
Mulder snorted at that last one, and Maggie looked over at him. “Dana? Have you had morning sickness?”
Dana glared over at Mulder and decided not to kick him, then looked back at her mother. “I just can’t understand why it’s called morning sickness, when I feel like this all day.”
Maggie looked at her sympathetically. “I can tell you it will get better.”
Dana nodded, but made no comment. Dinner seemed to rush by, and though he noted she ate almost nothing, he didn’t comment in front of her parents. After the meal when Dana and Maggie disappeared into the kitchen with the plates, over his protests, he looked over at his father-in-law.
“This was a surprise, wasn’t it Fox?”
“A huge one.” Mulder admitted.
“Is she okay? Are you?”
“Well I no longer have to hold onto the walls to walk, but yeah, I’m still reeling a little. I don’t know about her. She’s working too hard and she doesn’t feel good. But I don’t seem to have any control over either thing.”
Bill smiled at him, “Get used to it son.”
“I need to get her home, she could sleep the clock around if she had the opportunity. I wish we hadn’t come in two cars.”
“Yeah, you look after her, as much as she’ll let you.”
Mulder nodded and headed into the kitchen. “Enough, ladies. You can talk later. I need to get my wife to bed.”
“Mulder, I’m fine.” He just looked at her until her eyes dropped and the color grew on her face.
“He has a point, Sweetie. Go home and get some rest while you can. Call me when you get a break. Fox, you’re welcome for leftovers tomorrow.”
“Sorry, I have to fly to Denver in the morning.”
Dana’s head flew up. “Denver?”
“Yeah, I told you we got a break. We have to check it out.” He sobered then, “You’ll be okay, won’t you?”
“Of course I will. Don’t be silly.”
Mulder looked over at Maggie, “She will be fine, Fox. Dana, you’re welcome to stay here while he’s out of town.”
“Mom, thanks, that’s not necessary. I can stay at the hospital in the resident’s quarters if it’s late, and it will be. Don’t worry.”
“Remind me you said that in a few years.” Maggie chided, but didn’t press.
Mulder followed her home and after she got ready for bed, she sat on its edge as he packed a quick bag. “What time is your fight?”
“Six. I’ll be real quiet when I leave.” He moved the suitcase and joined her on the bed. “Do you want me to get out of this? I could - “
“Of course not. This is your job and besting Patterson is doing you a world of good ego-wise. I’m not sure professionally.”
He grinned, “It has been interesting. I just try to keep my head down and do the work. I hate being away from you, especially now.”
“We’d be apart anyway. I’ve got a long shift coming up. Call and leave a message so that I know you got there safe. Okay?”
He nodded, looking deep into her eyes. “Dana, other than fine, how do you really feel?”
She sighed, “Tired, there’s a constant nausea that crackers and all those other remedies won’t touch. But it’s normal and it should pass soon.”
Well that was more than he’d gotten lately. He pulled her down on the bed and cuddled her next to him. “Your mother could have touched the moon tonight.”
She grinned and nodded. “A good Catholic grandmother, all the way. And it is their first grandchild.”
He pulled her closer and lay there as she fell asleep on his chest. He didn’t sleep for a long time.
The next week was grueling. He’d only had to be in Denver for two nights. When he’d gotten home, her appearance had honestly frightened him and he’d threatened to call her mother immediately. She had assured him that Linda was keeping an eye on her and allowed him to pamper her a little. But then the trip to St. Louis had been thrown at him. They were close on this guy, damn close, and they couldn’t let him go underground again.
She said nothing, but he could feel her reluctance to see him leave again. “Talk to me Dana. Please.”
“There’s nothing to say. You have to go, you have to catch this guy. Just call me and let me know when you’ll be home as soon as you know. I’ll check the messages and come home when you do.”
“Do you get any rest when you stay at the hospital?”
“Some. It’s not a good as here, but by the time my shift ends, I’m not always safe on the roads. It’s better to just crash there.” She looked up at him. “Don’t say it. Just don’t say it.”
He sighed and held her close. He couldn’t ignore the uneasiness when he left the next morning. On the plane with Patterson riding them all, he managed to shove it aside and when they landed they jumped into action so quickly, he didn’t have time to call and let her know he had arrived. That was a first for him, but the action was intense.
They finally took the fugitive into custody at 4 a.m. the next day and the questioning went on for hours. Mulder fell into bed around 2 p.m. He was roused a couple of hours later for even more questioning. He was so absorbed in the case that it wasn’t until they took a break around six that evening that he realized he hadn’t called Dana at all.
Appalled, he found a phone and left her a quick message. There had been no answer as usual. Well, that meant she was working, but the guilt didn’t go away completely. He left a message that he would try back again before bedtime.
He’d been gone four days by the time he made it home. She was there, but sound asleep when he let himself in. He knew it was partly imagination, but she seemed to have lost weight and was pale just lying there against the pillow.
He eased himself into the bed and took her in his arms. She didn’t wake, but seemed to relax into him. He felt a moment of relief and closed his own eyes.
He wasn’t sure what woke him, but she wasn’t in the bed. Where . . .? “Mulder!”
All trace of sleep was gone with her cry and he leapt from the bed moving toward the sound. She was standing in the bathroom, blood soaking through her nightgown.
“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” He was already pulling on his slacks from the night before. He snagged some towels and wrapped her robe around her, then lifted her into his arms. “Just relax, Dana. I’m going to take you to the emergency room. You just try to stay calm.”
He’d gone into agent mode in order to retain his sanity. God, it looked like she was bleeding to death. The baby.
He settled her gently in the backseat of the car and scrambled into the front. “Dana? Dana can you hear me?” He was already pulling out, there was little traffic at this hour.
“Mulder, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She was crying and he wanted to hold her, but he had to get her help.
“Shh, just relax. We’ll be there in just a couple of minutes. Hold on Dana. Please.”
“Oh my god.” She sobbed then. He didn’t understand the significance of that until later. He just knew he had to get her help.
They recognized her as he carried her into the ER and led him immediately to a trauma room. Then one of the nurses was gently pushing him out of the room.
“No, I have to stay.”
“Mr. Mulder, let the doctor examine her. You need to wait right here.”
“She’s my wife!”
“Just give the doctor a couple of minutes with her. Is there anyone you need to call?”
He blinked at that, yeah. Mom, he needed to get Mom here.
They were home. He opened the door and let her in. They were both quiet. She still felt spacey from the medicine and he didn’t know what to say. He tried to lead her to the bedroom, but she stopped. “I want to be up for a little while, Mulder.”
“Okay.” He seated her on the couch. “Can I get you anything?” She shook her head. “How about some tea?”
“Sure, fine.” She watched him walk toward the kitchen. Part of her wanted to call him back, just sit with him, but he needed to be doing something and she felt too weird to think clearly.
When he returned, he handed her the tea and sat beside her on the couch.
“Thanks.” She took a couple of sips then put the cup on the table. “Maybe I should lie down.”
He was on his feet instantly. “Are you okay?”
She made some movement with her hand and stood. He put his arm around her, but it felt awkward. He helped her get settled in the bed and brushed the hair from her forehead. “Sleep, Dana. I’ll, uh, I’ll straighten up and join you.”
“I know it’s early. You don’t have to - “
“I’ll take a quick shower, then I’ll be here.”
She nodded silently, afraid suddenly that her voice would break. She reached for him as he moved away from the bed, but he didn’t see it and she pulled back immediately. He didn’t quite close the door; so that he could still hear her if she needed him, then walked with a heavy tread to the bathroom.
He turned on the water and stood, oblivious to it until the steam hit his face. He stripped and stepped in. As the heat relaxed his tense frame, he felt himself losing control and realized he was crying. Before he knew it, he was sobbing uncontrollably. It wasn’t until the water turned cool that he forced some composure back.
He dried off quickly and hurried to check on her. She was sound asleep. He carefully got in the bed beside her and lay watching her. He wasn’t even sure how to feel. He hadn’t been as supportive as he should have been when he found out about the pregnancy, but it wasn’t because he didn’t want it. Did she understand that? It was the timing. She still had her residency to finish and this had been too much for her. But she had convinced him that she . . . God, how had this happened? Why hadn’t he kept a closer eye on her? Because he’d gotten involved, intrigued by the case. He had allowed a case to come before her.
Was he his father?
She had gone back to work after three days. He had stayed home with her during that time despite her protests that he had work to do. The sight of her in the bathroom, with all of that blood had not left his mind. Even in sleep, thoughts of being away from her terrified him.
He had heard what Mom had said, but if he had been here . . .
Without her at the apartment, he began spending more and more time at the office himself. The problem was, he didn’t want to spend any more time than he had to with Patterson or his disciples.
Fortunately, Patterson didn’t seem to want to spend that much time with him either and kept sending him on grunt errands. It was on one such errand to the basement that he ran into a store of files that caught his attention.
It was a garbage dump, but some of the case files were fascinating. After checking a few out he realized these were files that the FBI hadn’t wanted to investigate - alien abductions, psychic phenomena, paranormal happenings. He wanted to laugh, at first.
After a few times down there, he began finding excuses for going. There was a room nearby, unused and dusty. He began using his time cleaning the spare room. He moved a desk in and then the file drawers with the files. He began refiling the folders in a more cohesive order and read each one. They were becoming more fascinating each day.
It was also becoming obvious that the Bureau hadn’t tried very hard to solve any of these cases. They had been shelved; placed in the basement and forgotten.
He had almost gotten used to what he was reading, researching new phenomena each day. Then he found it. He was knocked for a loop. Samantha’s file.
He didn’t go home for two days. He didn’t report to Patterson either; he just sat in his new ‘office’ and stared at the information. He read it over and over. With his memory it hadn’t been necessary, but he couldn’t stop.
He had left a voice mail for Dana, but hadn’t actually talked to her. He couldn’t, he couldn’t talk to anyone. Why the hell was Samantha’s file down here in the garbage? Was this the way they had treated the case from the beginning? Had they bungled the entire investigation? Shit, what had they done?
He felt as though he were alternately freezing and running a fever. There was no one to confront, not yet. When he finally emerged from the room, he carried the file with him. It would not be relegated to a trash pile ever again.
Dana wasn’t at home when he finally arrived. It was just as well; even now he couldn’t talk about this.
She knew something was bothering him but he didn’t want to talk about it. She couldn’t help it, she felt shut out. He had always discussed his work with her; it had seemed to help him in dealing with Patterson. Now she felt apart from him.
The problem was, she just didn’t have the energy to pursue it. Since the miscarriage she had held on, but barely. These days she was more likely to be asleep when he got home than he was. It had been months since she had beaten him home but in the last couple of weeks . . . She felt depression creep up on her again.
She wondered briefly if his arms around her would help, but she was too tired to care. She was always too tired now.
He was up and gone before she woke the next morning. It looked as though he had come home, but he may have slept on the couch. She couldn’t tell, but she didn’t remember feeling him in the night.
When she got home that night, he wasn’t there, but her mother was. “Mom? Did we . . . I’m sorry, did we have a date tonight?”
“No. Your father had a meeting and, when I called, Fox said he had to work late, so I thought we could have dinner.”
“Mulder’s working late?”
“That’s what he said. Didn’t you know?”
“I haven’t seen him lately.”
“Dana, are you . . . I was going to ask if you were okay, but I can see that you aren’t. Honey, I know this has been hard. Losing a - “
“Mom, please. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But you should. Dana, you can’t hold something like this in. Have you and Fox - “
“Mulder hasn’t been home a lot.”
Maggie blinked at that. “The two of you need each other. Dana, you need to lean on him and . . . “ Dana turned away from her and Maggie’s fear rose.
“Dana, talk to me.”
When she turned back, her eyes glistened but no tears had fallen. “I don’t know what you want me to say. Mulder . . . I think he’s relieved that I lost the baby.”
“Dana! You don’t believe that.”
She nodded dismally, “He doesn’t talk about it. He . . . he never even cried.”
“Never even . . . oh Dana. That’s not true. I was with him when you were having the D&C. He was utterly destroyed. He fell apart. Your father doesn’t cry, I’ve gotten used to that and I worry about it, he holds too much in, but it’s what I’m used to. When Fox . . . I was actually frightened for him. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised he didn’t let you see him like that. He felt he needed to be strong for you, but Dana, don’t for an instant think that he wasn’t completely devastated by what happened.”
He headed downstairs, glad for the break. Besides, it would ruin his career to actually punch Patterson. He was surprised to find the door to his new ‘office’ unlocked. He opened it and found a woman standing at the files, looking through one of the drawers.
She turned then, “Oh, hello. Are you the one collecting these files?”
“Yes, is there a problem?”
“No, I’m grateful.”
Grateful? Who was she? As though she sensed the question, she dusted her hands off and extended her right to shake. “I’m Diana Fowley.”
He nodded, “Fox Mulder.”
She smiled, “Glad to meet you. How long have you been checking on this stuff?”
“The X-Files? A few weeks.”
“X-Files, I like it.”
“What did you call them?”
She chuckled, “Mostly the trash.”
He grinned then, “It fits.”
“You’ve got a better filing system.” She gestured at the drawer and he moved closer to see which file she was reading.
He remembered the case and they began talking.
”Dana?” He’d flipped on the light, not expecting to find her home. She was in her nightgown, but lying on top of the covers. She’d obviously fallen asleep waiting for him.
“What time is it?”
“Almost one. I didn’t think you were going to be here tonight.”
“I was going to surprise you.” After talking to Mom she’d felt a little calmer, and Mom had been right, they needed some time - together.
He looked stricken, “Dana, I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t know. You’re keeping some pretty late hours.”
“Yeah, well it does get kind of lonely here at night, so I’ve been reading those old files I mentioned. I’ve been refiling them, making some sense of the system.” His eyes were gleaming. She felt an instant of jealousy - he usually looked at her like that. “Anyway, today I met another agent who was familiar with the files and we got to talking over some of the cases. Time just got away from me. I’m really sorry.”
“Mulder, it’s okay. I got a nap. Who’s this agent that knows about these old cases?”
“Oh, Diana Fowley. She’s got some real off the wall ideas about some of the stuff we’ve read.”
“Yeah, she’s been with the Bureau a few years. I remember hearing her name. She works in domestic terrorism.”
She nodded, her throat constricted for some reason.
He sat beside her on the bed and gave her a kiss. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”
“It’s okay. You’re here now.” She let one of her fingers trace a button on his shirt. Her other hand moved father south.
He took that hand in his own. “Dana, what are you doing?”
“I miss you.”
“Sweetheart, I miss you too, but we can’t, not yet. Linda hasn’t given us the all clear.”
“Mulder, I’m a doctor too.”
“No, Dana. This is too important. I’m not willing to risk hurting you.”
“Mulder, you wouldn’t - “
He kissed her, thoroughly, then moved away from her in the bed. “I need a shower. I’ll be right back to hold you all night.”
She smiled sadly and even that slipped away when he left the room. He’d been that caught up in talking to this other woman? No, other agent, don’t get paranoid. But she realized, it didn’t go away completely.
She got home to find him already there. That surprised her, she’d hoped to freshen up a little, but she was more pleased that he was here. She headed into the bedroom and stopped, stunned, when she saw him packing.
“Dana, hi. I’m glad you got home before I had to leave.”
“Leave? I . . . I thought you’d caught the guy.”
“What? Oh, oh yeah we got him. This is a new case, kind of a reward. I got the go ahead to investigate one of those X-Files I was telling you about.” She didn’t speak; he hadn’t been talking to her about any ‘X-File’. He was facing the drawers and didn’t see her expression. “It might not come to anything, but Diana liked my theory, so we’re going to look over the scene.”
“Yeah, she’s between cases too and she’s really interested in the X-Files, so we thought why not.”
Dana swallowed hard, “How . . . how long to do you think you’ll be gone?”
“A couple of days, not more than three I’m sure.” At her silence he looked up, “You’ll be okay, won’t you?”
“Sure.” She sounded short, clipped even to herself, but he didn’t seem to notice.
He smiled at her. “I’ll leave a message on the machine when I get in. I’m sorry to rush, but we have to make the plane. I love you.” He kissed her and she followed him to the door.
“Yeah?” He looked down at his watch.
“Nothing. Be careful.”
“Always. I’ll call you.” He kissed her again and was gone.
He let himself into the apartment. He was tired but it was a good tired. He was even frustrated, but he and Diana had seen what they’d needed to for their first X-File investigation. The first of many, he hoped. He dropped his keys on the table and looked around. Dana wasn’t home but that didn’t surprise him.
He’d call over to the hospital and let her know he had gotten back earlier than he expected. Maybe he could head over there and have break with her. He had missed her and it felt like forever since they had spent any time together.
He punched in the number for the resident’s quarters. “Hello?”
“Hi, this is Fox Mulder, I’m looking for my wife.”
“Dana? She’s not here. Mulder? This is Cliff. Dana took off a couple of days. I thought she said the two of you were going out of town or something. I must have misunderstood.”
“Uh, yeah, I just got back in from a case. Well, thanks I’ll track her down.” He hung up, confused. Why had she told Cliff she was going out of town with him? He picked the receiver back up and dialed Mom’s. She’d know what was going on.
Mulder hesitated just an instant. It wasn’t a voice he had expected to hear. “Bill? Is that you?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“It’s Mulder, is - “
“Mulder, you SOB! What shitty kind of husband do you think you are anyway?”
Mulder froze, stunned at the attack. When he got his voice back, “Bill? What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about my sister and how you’re treating her. I ought to come over there right now and beat some sense into you.”
“What the hell are you - “
“She’s working like a dog, she’s depressed, she’s ill and you go out of town with another woman just when she’s finally gotten some time off to spend with you. You’re a real piece of work.”
“Ill?” He was still having trouble speaking and Bill had laid too many things on him at once.
“Hell yes! She hasn’t recovered from the miscarriage. Do you not even know that? No wonder she’s so depressed, with you as a husband.”
Mulder actually staggered at those words and then sank down onto the couch. “She, Dana said that to you?”
“Not directly. I heard her crying to Mom.”
“She was crying? Bill, where is she?”
“I don’t know that she wants to see you.”
“Damn it Bill, where is she! Where’s my wife!” He couldn’t shake the cold tendrils closing around his heart. Bill had hit him at his most vulnerable spot. He had forgotten how scared he could be, having guns pointed at him were nothing compared to this.
Maybe Bill heard that, anyway he relented slightly. “When you had to go out of town she came over here. She and Mom went to Connecticut to see some friends.”
“You said she was ill.” His voice shook on that last word.
“She’s not recovering. Mom thinks she’s working too hard. She needed you this weekend. Who the hell is this woman you went out of town with?”
“It wasn’t a woman, well yes, but she’s an agent. We were investigating a case, I wasn’t out of town with a woman!”
“Yeah, right, whatever. You weren’t with her after she went to the trouble to get the time off.”
“I didn’t know! I didn’t - hell why am I talking to you? How do I reach Dana?” His anger was surfacing finally, the fear slipping a little to the side.
“You can’t, they’re already on their way back. They should be here in a couple of hours. If she wants to see you, she’ll come home then.” And Bill hung up the phone.
Mulder sat there, unable to move. He couldn’t even hang up the phone. She was ill, she wasn’t recovering? This was what had happened when she’d lost the baby - he’d gone off on a case and . . . He was his father. He’d never felt so cold.
When she wasn’t home four hours later, he felt something break inside of him. In his pain, it never crossed his mind that Bill had been lying to him. She hadn’t wanted to see him, hadn’t wanted to come home.
He was sitting in the dark when she opened the door. She didn’t see him, setting her bag just inside the door, then turning to close it and flip on the light. When she turned back, she nearly gasped.
He didn’t even turn his head.
“Mulder? Are you okay? What are you doing here?” She came around the couch then and her hand came up to touch his forehead.
He pulled back slightly and she let her hand drop back to her side.
“What are you doing back so early? I thought - “
“I wasn’t sure you were coming home.”
“Not coming . . . Mulder, are you okay? Were you injured, what’s wrong?” Her voice was rising with fear at his continued silence and distance.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had time off?”
She blinked at that and sank down onto the couch beside him. “I . . . you were already packed and late for your plane.”
She seemed to get smaller, “I wasn’t sure you wanted to be with me. You were so excited about . . . “ She stopped when he closed his eyes.
“Mulder, I’m sorry.”
His eyes flew open instantly. “No. Don’t you apologize. You did nothing wrong, it was me. If I had known . . . “
“Mulder, if I had said something, would you have stayed?”
“Oh god. Don’t you know I . . . Dana.” The tears in her eyes frightened him more than he could say.
She moved even closer then and took him into her arms. “Mulder, I should have spoken up. This is not your fault, we just didn’t communicate.”
His face was buried in her hair, “Why now? Why did you take the time now?”
She burrowed into him, “Linda gave me the green light and I . . . “
He groaned then and his arms tightened around her.
“We still have tonight.”
“Do you still want me?”
She locked eyes with him then. “Yes.”
He nestled her against him. “Why?”
“Because you’re Fox Mulder and you’re my husband.”
“Dana - “
“Mulder, you’ll need to be gentle.”
Her new rotation began and with it, even longer hours. She had fallen slightly behind and worked hard to catch up. He understood and tried his best to be supportive. He tried to avoid the truly nasty cases, they kept him from her emotionally as well has physically and that wasn’t what he wanted.
He even avoided the old files in the basement for a long time, and he didn’t contact Diana. When Patterson assigned him to a serial killer, who enjoyed rape and mutilation, he wanted to refuse. This was just the kind of case that shut him down to polite society, but Patterson didn't care about that. The man had no family, no life outside of the Bureau and he didn’t expect the agents under him to have them either.
He rode Mulder especially hard. This was an important case and women were dying. The entire northwestern United States was in near panic and the FBI was under intense scrutiny.
When he was sent out of town, he went reluctantly. They hadn’t been separated since that horrible weekend. That wasn’t strictly true, she’d spent overnights at the hospital, but he had always remained where she could reach him and she had begun calling him on her break, just to say hi.
This trip, this case was tough. She understood, but he still fought it. He would do better staying where he could come home to her, touch her. Patterson didn’t understand that, wouldn’t even listen.
So he was on this plane to Washington State.
She was planning to stay at the hospital. Without him at the apartment, it really wasn’t worth the drive home if she would only have a few hours. She lived in scrubs now anyway and the showers at the hospital had more hot water than at home.
She was in the resident’s lounge, nursing a cup of coffee when the doctor heading her residency entered. “Dr. Scully?”
She started to rise, “Dr. Waterston?”
“Sit, sit. May I?” He pointed toward the coffeepot. She nodded and sat back in her chair. He poured himself a cup and took the seat beside her.
“Dr. Waterston, I got to observe the surgery you did this morning. I was very impressed.”
He smiled gently; “I could say the same about you Dr. Scully. I’ve been following your work and I’m very impressed. Have you decided on a specialty yet?”
“Uh, no sir. I’m only half way through my rotations. There are several areas that I’m interested in that I haven’t gotten a chance to explore in depth.”
“What areas would those be?” He leaned back, watching her closely.
“Neurology and pathology.”
He smiled slightly, “Not gynecology or pediatrics?”
“No sir. Are those the areas to which you normally steer the female students?”
He actually laughed then, “I’d heard you didn’t pull any punches Dr. Scully. No, I tend to steer students where their talents lie. I’d like to see you take an interest in cardiology. What I’ve seen so far has pleased me. I’d like to work with you. I know you have to continue your rotations, but I see that you stay here at the hospital most nights. If you’re not adverse to it, I could give you a little extra mentoring. I think you could eventually be quite an asset to the field.”
She blinked at him, her surprise holding her silent for an instant. “That, I’d been honored.”
He smiled again and rose from the table. “Fine. I’ll check your schedule and see when I can fit some time in.” He turned away from her then and let himself out of the lounge. She sank back into her chair. Wait until Mulder heard about this.
It was late when he called, but she had hung by the phone, too jazzed by her encounter with such a leader in the field to rest.
“Hi. Still at the hospital I see.”
“Yes, and Mulder, the most extraordinary thing happened today. The head of cardiology approached me and offered, offered, to mentor me. Can you believe it?”
“Without any problem. Scully, don’t you know how good you are?”
She laughed a little then. “I wish you were here, we could celebrate.”
“I wish I was there too.”
She finally heard his tone of voice. “How’s it going?”
She could hear his hesitation. “This is one very nasty dude.”
“Are you getting inside him?”
He laughed harshly, “Yeah. I hope you let me come home.”
“Always. I wish I could help.”
“Just hearing your voice helps. It’s the only good thing that’s happened to me all day. Listen, I need to get back. If Patterson finds out I’ve taken time out from the horror to try to get some perspective he’ll have me scrubbing toilets to get back in the mood.”
“Nearly. Go back to work Dana. I’ll call tomorrow.”
“I should be at the house. I’m supposed to have twenty-four hours off.”
“I promise I won’t enjoy it without you.”
He managed a laugh, though it sounded a little hollow to her. “I’ll call the apartment then. ‘Nite Dana, I love you.”
“I love you too Mulder. Keep remembering that.”
He broke the connection and she felt a loneliness encompass her. How much worse was it for him? She’d only met Patterson once, but she believed Mulder’s assessment of him. He reveled in all of the evil he delved into in other men’s minds. She didn’t know if he had ever been married, but she doubted it.
He stared at the receiver in his hand for a long moment before moving his finger from the button and placing it on the phone. He closed his eyes and then stood. If Patterson found him, he sighed . . .
He headed back down to the room they were using as headquarters. Patterson had been sleeping there as well. He just ate up this kind of filth.
“Mulder, about time. Get over here.”
Mulder sank back into the mindset that suited him best for this kind of work. He pushed Dana to the back of his mind. He didn’t want his thoughts of her to be contaminated by this pervert.
They found the man, but not until after one last victim. His guilt over that one vied with the euphoria of the other team members. It was as though the last victim was worth it as bait to catch the man. She’d been a redhead, taller than his redhead and not as attractive, but seeing her on that slab in the morgue had been devastating nevertheless.
He couldn’t quite shake his guilt by the time he got home. He tried to hide it; she was so excited about her work with Dr. Waterston that he got away with it.
Holding her in his arms that night helped, but when he woke up to find her gone, the gloom overwhelmed him again. He had the day off, but she was gone. He didn’t know if that was good or bad, but it was lonely. He needed to try to get his mind on something else.
He forced himself out of bed, took a shower, then headed for the office. He wasn’t going to let Patterson know he was even in the place.
He headed directly for his ‘office’ in the basement and spent the day there, behind closed doors. He even forgot to eat lunch. It was the only thing that kept his attention when he was like this.
The only file that he didn’t, that he wouldn’t, discuss with anyone, was Samantha’s. Even Diana didn’t know he’d found that one.
They fell back into the pattern again. Both working too many hours, allowing themselves to spend time with co-workers rather than each other.
Each time it was harder to find their way back to each other. But neither admitted that, even to themselves.
He was out of town, as usual now, when he got the call. She had been admitted to the hospital. That was all the information the Bureau had. He left Patterson a note and took off for the airport. He hadn’t been home in nearly a week, but she hadn’t been ill. At least not as far as he knew, he realized.
He’d done it again. He’d been away working on a case for the VCS. Okay that was his job, but his spare time had been taken up more and more with the X-Files. Diana spent as much time as she could with him, but she had a regular assignment as well.
Diana was the one who had brought up the idea of creating their own department, to work exclusively on the X-Files and the idea was damn intriguing. They’d spent many an hour discussing it in the little office that was still, for the most part, a secret from anyone that mattered at the Bureau, as far as he knew. Hours he could have spent with Dana, except she was spending her own time with ‘Daniel’.
That thought caused him to tense up a little. He knew he had no reason to be jealous. He did, but she was spending a lot of time with the man.
That wasn’t important now. His wife was in the hospital and he didn’t even know why. The flight was interminable. His thoughts kept returning to the words his father had said that night in the restaurant.
Dana, I’ll probably cause an explosion with this statement, but Fox is very like me. He becomes consumed with his work, single-minded in his pursuits. That’s how he’s been so successful at Oxford, completed his degree ahead of time and at the top of his class. But it’s not a good combination for a relationship.>>
You don’t want to hurt this woman the way I hurt your mother.
It was the first time, nearly the only time, his father had met Dana and he had felt it that important to warn her about his son.
His mother had said something as well. Dana didn’t know that he had heard anything and she hadn’t wanted to tell him. At the time he had thought it was just the way his mother felt about his father, but the words were there nonetheless.
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.
He won’t make you happy.
Over and over he heard the words in his mind. He was deep in despair by the time he reached the hospital. He got her room number from the desk and hurried up the stairs.
He approached her room and saw that the door was partially open. He looked through the glass panel to make sure it was her, and stopped at the sight of the man beside her.
She had her eyes closed, but this man was holding her hand, caressing it. “Dana, come on, open your eyes.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead. Mulder felt like he’d been punched in the gut. Who was this man?
Dana opened her eyes, “Daniel? What are you doing here?”
Daniel? This was Dr. Waterston? What the hell kind of mentor was he?
“I just wanted to check on you.”
“I’m fine Daniel; I told you that.”
Mulder moved back from the door. He didn’t want to hear this. He slipped into an empty room across the hall and waited. In a few minutes Daniel left the room and still he waited. Well, he couldn’t stay here forever and he needed to know what was wrong with her. She was still his wife, for now.
He forced himself to cross the hall and tap on the door as he opened it. She turned and spotted him. To his surprise her whole face seemed to light up. “Mulder?”
She held out her hand to him. He made his feet carry him to the bed.
“What are you doing here? Oh please, tell me they didn’t call you in from the field!”
“I got a call that you were in the hospital.”
“What did Patterson say?”
“I didn’t talk to him, I just left a note.”
“Oh Mulder.” She pulled him closer and he allowed it, finally kissing her. “I’m fine. They should never have bothered you.”
“They don’t usually admit people who are fine into the hospital.”
She rolled her eyes. “They do when overly cautious doctors have too much clout.”
“What happened?” He sat stiffly beside her in the chair.
“Nothing really. I was in surgery with Dr. Waterston. It lasted over five hours and went very well. When it was over and we were washing up, I got a little dizzy and I may have blacked out.”
“Maybe for a second. I was just hungry. But Dr. Waterston went all overprotective and had me admitted. I’m really fine and I’m sorry they worried you. But it is good to see you.”
He managed a small smile at that.
“Mulder? Is it a bad case?”
“Aren’t they all Dana?”
She looked at him curiously, but decided to change subjects. “Well, since you’re here, I’m getting out. I shouldn’t have been here in the first place. Why don’t you take me home?”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Mulder, are you okay?” She reached for his hand again, but he withdrew it into his lap. It might have been an accident, a movement he started before she did. That must be the case.
She pulled the covers back and rose from the bed. His hand automatically came out to steady her. “Mulder, will you buzz the nurse while I get dressed? Thanks.”
She moved into the bathroom and he stood unmoving, his mind whirling. What should he believe? He can’t make you happy.
He returned to his team the next day and withstood Patterson’s diatribe on responsibility without a word. Everyone noticed his complete withdrawal into himself, but when he emerged with a profile and led them directly to the man’s business, they kept quiet. It was unusual that he made no sarcastic remarks regarding Patterson, especially after even Patterson had to admit that he had solved the case.
From the depths of his own despair he’d had no trouble getting into this tormented man’s mind. The problem was getting out of it.
Diane found him in ‘their’ office a couple of days later. He was holding a file, but didn’t appear to see it.
It took him a beat to realize anyone was there, then he looked up but didn’t speak.
“Are you okay?”
“Diana? Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Well you look like shit. Want to talk about it?”
He blinked at that and watched her sit.
“You’re Catholic Dana. I was thinking you’d want an annulment, since there’re no children.” He didn’t see her face at those words. He couldn’t look at her anyway. This had all made so much sense when he’d discussed it with Diana. He wasn’t husband material, anyone could see it.
“Annulment, in other words, no marriage ever existed.”
“If there’s no husband, how can there be a marriage? Dana, none of this is your fault. It’s me; I’m too damaged. I should have realized it.” He shrugged, “I should have stayed with women like Phoebe.”
“Or Diana?” That caused him to finally meet her eyes.
“Dana, I’m not having an affair with Diana Fowley.” Why had he said that? They were separating; maybe she needed an excuse.
“Not physically, maybe.”
He stared at her at those words, but didn’t dispute them. She turned away then in order to keep some composure.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll pack a bag for tonight and pick up the rest of my things this weekend.”
“That’s what you want?”
“It’s for the best.”
“Best for whom?” She came back at him.
He didn’t bother to answer; she couldn’t hear him now anyway. But it would be best for her. He didn’t know how to be the kind of husband she needed. He hadn’t even been with her when she started having problems with the pregnancy. He would never forgive himself for that, but if he gave her freedom, maybe she would find the kind of man she deserved. Someone a hell of a lot better than him.
“I promised never to leave him.” She was dry eyed again and sounded so remote.
“You didn’t leave him. Dana, Honey, give it a little time.”
“Why? He contacted Father McKuen. He wants out.”
“Dana, he doesn’t want out. He thinks you’d be better off without him. You knew that about him. You’ve known him since you two were children. Please, don’t write off this marriage; not so quickly.”
“I haven’t written off anything. He has.”
“Dana, let me talk to him.”
“No! Mom, don’t talk to him. I shouldn’t have come to you, but please don’t - “
“Of course you should come to me. Dana, you’re hurt and he’s scared. You need to talk to someone, if not me then Father McKuen or, or someone.”
Dana shook her head. “I’m tired. Do you mind if I sleep here tonight? It’s so . . . empty over there.”
“Of course you should stay here. Go on up and take a long bath. Try to relax.”
“Mom, swear to me you will not call him. Or Ahab either. If this is what he wants, then . . . Swear it Mom.”
Maggie sighed, Dana knew her too well. After a long moment she nodded, “I won’t call him Dana, but I think it’s a mistake.”
Dana nodded and moved toward the stairs. She felt very very old.
Chapter 7 - Full Circle
He gave a final grunt and rolled off of her to the side. She said nothing, looking at the door. After a couple of minutes, she started to rise. "Dana? Where are you going?"
"I need to get home."
"I thought you were going to stay here tonight."
"I really can’t, I have a lot to do."
"You’re still angry with me about that remark. Dana, it’s well known - pathology is a dead end field."
"Daniel, I don’t want to get into it now. I need to go home."
"Dana, please." He took her hand as she rose from the bed. This was getting tiresome.
She gently extracted her hand from his. "I’m sorry, Daniel."
He pulled back away from her. On anyone else’s face she would have called his expression a pout, but he was a world-renowned thoracic surgeon. She moved into the bath and dressed quickly.
It had been a mistake getting involved with him, but he’d been so strong for her after her breakup. When had he turned into this sniveling . . . ? She shook her head; she was having sex with the man. What did that say about her? He wasn’t that good; he didn’t try to please her. He was much too selfish for that. Hell, she’d been spoiled, sex with -
She drew herself up right and brutally shoved that half-formed thought away. Comparing sex partners was stupid anyway. She checked her hair and returned to the bedroom. He had pulled the sheet up over his lap and was waiting for her.
"Dana? Will I see you tomorrow?"
"I don’t think so. We have two autopsies scheduled and who knows - "
"You’re doing this to punish me aren’t you? You’re much too good a doctor to throw it away on pathology. You’re angry and want to take it out on me."
She turned without a word and moved out of the bedroom and toward the door.
"No wonder they’re calling you the Ice Queen around the hospital." He called after her as she shut the door.
She closed her eyes and leaned against the door once it had shut behind her. ‘Ice Queen’ huh? Not always, she could remember being wanton and . . . but that was in the past, over.
So was this. She was going to terminate her relationship with Daniel. It was something she should have done ages ago. No, it was something that never should have begun. She’d been vulnerable and he’d swooped in and . . .
She forced herself back up and headed toward her car. She had no real reason to go home, she’d just wanted to get away. Her new apartment was nice, she was beginning to add a few personal touches finally, but it didn’t feel like a home.
The next day as she scrubbed following the first autopsy, she was surprised at a page to come to the resident’s lounge. Daniel had better not be playing some kind of game. She hurried to change and made it to the lounge in a little less than ten minutes.
Two men in suits awaited her. They were strangers and both stood as she entered the room. "Dr. Scully?"
The taller of the two men held out his hand, "I’m Special Agent Morris, this is Agent Harmon. May we have a word with you?"
She was stunned into immobility for an instant. Had something happened to . . . no, they were smiling. Dana forced herself to move and sat, motioning for them to join her.
"Is there a problem?" Her voice was steady, damn maybe she did deserve the title of Ice Queen.
"No, Dr. Scully. Not a problem at all, in fact I hope this will be good news for you."
"Dr. Kuhn has been in touch with us about your residency and has praised your work highly. He’s very impressed with you and gave us your name. We understand that you are coming to the end of your residency and have expressed an interest in forensic pathology. That’s why we’re here. The Bureau has need of talent such as yours at the academy."
"We would like to discuss the possibility of recruiting you into the FBI to teach forensics at Quantico." He smiled at her obvious surprise. "We only ask the best."
"I . . . I don’t know what to say. That was very kind of Dr. Kuhn."
"He wasn’t just kind, he was highly enthusiastic. We’ve worked with him for years and I believe his exact words were, ‘Get your ass over here before you lose your opportunity’." He grinned.
Work for the FBI? She couldn’t; he was there. But it was a huge organization. A slight smile formed on her face as she remembered the tour that she had taken with . . . that Christmas holiday. She’d been fascinated. If she were honest, that’s probably why she had been drawn to this field. Not to tick Daniel off, as he so eloquently phrased it.
"I . . . I need some more information of course. I have another autopsy in just a few minutes. Could we set up an appointment?"
"Certainly. You pick the day and time and we’ll meet you or, if you like, you can come over to Quantico and see the facilities. They are state of the art and we think you’ll be impressed."
"I . . . I’m sure I would be. My day off this week is Thursday. Would that work for you?"
"It certainly would. Could you be out there around 9? We could set up a tour and then answer all of your questions."
She found herself nodding. This was stupid, why would she want to work where . . . No, she couldn’t plan her life around history. And it was a huge place, remember that.
After a few more minutes, she had to excuse herself. She shook hands with the two agents and made her way back downstairs.
She had to work to keep her mind on the second autopsy, but it was finally finished. After cleaning up, she went in search of Dr. Kuhn.
Dana found him in his office and entered when he responded to her tap. "Dr. Kuhn, I believe I need to thank you."
He looked up and then grinned, "Stan showed up?"
"Yes, that’s him. He’s a good guy."
"I’m stunned that - "
"Dana, you’re probably the best student I’ve had since I took over the department. I’d love to have you stay here and be my second in command, but under the circumstances, I think it would be better for you personally to move on." His smile dimmed a little at those words and she could only hope her cheeks weren’t flaming. Word of her ‘relationship’ with Daniel was common knowledge?
Dr. Kuhn stood and shut the door, motioning to the chair. Dana sat, too humiliated to respond verbally.
"Dana, I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. I want to look out for your best interests. Dan’s a wonderful surgeon, I have great respect for his skills; I can’t say that about the rest of him. You’re one smart woman and I know if you want to, you can distinguish yourself in your career and probably set the FBI on its ear. And I can say I knew you when." He smiled again. "I hope you give this offer a lot of thought. Our profession is not the most glamorous one in the medical field, but it is one of the most essential."
Dana nodded. "I think you’re right Dr. Kuhn and I appreciate your forthrightness. I . . . Thank you."
"You’re welcome. I hope it turns out to be something you’re interested in."
"I’ll be interviewing and touring on Thursday."
"Stan didn’t waste any time. Nice to know he listens to me sometimes. I’d like to hear what you think. Now, how did the Wither’s postmortem go?"
The tour was incredible. State of the art didn’t cover it. The equipment they had was better, newer, all together more. There were prototypes of equipment she’d never seen. They were obviously courting her and it felt good. The money, the benefits were better than she had expected, and it would be a new start for her.
That was the deciding factor. She wanted to be on her own, prove that she could do it. Prove it to herself as much as to the rest of the world. Like Dr. Kuhn had said, distinguish herself.
She made herself wait a week, sleeping on it. She found herself reluctant to talk about it with her parents and finally made the decision just to tell them after the fact.
Telling Daniel was different, even more difficult. She had finally accepted his invitation back to his apartment. He was surprised and angry when she refused his physical advances.
"I came here to talk Daniel. Either you listen to me or I leave, now."
His eyes narrowed, he wasn’t used to anyone talking to him that way.
"You’re still on your high horse aren’t you? Well, let me tell you - "
"Daniel, listen to me." She interrupted. "I wanted to tell you this in person, then I’ll be leaving."
"Leaving?" She could see the tension in his face and shoulders.
"When my residency ends next month, I will be joining the FBI. I’ve been recruited, and I will be teaching forensics at the Academy. I’ll also be taking training myself."
"You’re not serious." He was staring at her, mouth open.
"Daniel - "
"No. This is a threat, right? You’re trying to punish me." He was pacing now.
"Why does everything have to be about you?"
"There is no way you’re going to throw away a promising, profitable, career for something like this." He turned on her.
"I didn’t go into medicine for profit Daniel." She spoke calmly, quietly.
"You know what I mean, Dana. You’re angry, but I won’t let you throw your life away on this."
"Won’t let? Daniel, you have no say in this."
"Of course I do. We’re together Dana."
"We’re not together. We had an affair. You’re married. This was a huge mistake and . . . and people are aware of it."
Daniel blinked then, his face growing ashen. "You . . . you don’t know that."
"Yes. I do. Daniel, you have a family, and I have my life. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you, but I need this. I need to be on my own." She turned toward the door and he grabbed her arm.
"You aren’t . . . you can’t!"
She just looked at him with those clear blue eyes and he saw the truth even though he couldn’t accept it. She extracted her arm from his grip and walked toward the door.
"Dana!" She didn’t stop.
She had deluded herself that she was in pretty good shape. After several nights of ice packs and aspirin, she finally began to see what kind of shape she could be in and began to enjoy the process.
She also marveled at exactly how large an organization she had joined. There was every possibility that he would never even realize that she worked for the same people.
He was aware of their plans to recruit her several days before the first contact. He’d given serious thought to sabotaging the whole thing, but eventually dismissed the idea. He’d screwed up her life enough. If she wanted this, she should have it. It was her choice.
So instead, he had his friends expunge every record of their marriage. It was fairly easy with an annulment. His friends had asked no questions though he could tell Frohike was dying to. The only change they could see was that the wedding ring he had worn disappeared from his hand. It was never commented upon.
He had kept up with everything about her. He knew every grade, every award . . . every relationship. He knew about her . . . her affair with Waterson. It had nearly killed him when he found out; now he just used the information to torture himself.
If she were keeping up with him, which he doubted, she wouldn’t find anything like that. There had been no relationships, none, since he had left her.
Diana had made it clear that she was ready, willing and able to keep him company. He shuddered even thinking of it. One of the last things he’d said to her was that he wasn’t having an affair with Diana - he couldn’t go back on that.
After a while he had wanted a woman, not a relationship, sex. It had become so overwhelming, that he had finally decided to purchase some fake affection. He’d actually driven down to the district and parked where he could check things out. It wasn’t until he’d made his decision that he realized he’d chosen a short redhead.
He’d gunned the car and gotten out of there. He’d never tried that again. Now he stuck to TV or videos - and never a redhead. They were all tall blondes with augmented breasts. It worked, so what if it didn’t make him happy. He didn’t deserve ‘happy’.
The Bureau was a big place. On the rare occasions he had to go to Quantico; he made sure it was when she would not be there. He had her schedule memorized, and he kept busy.
He’d made quite a name for himself in Violent Crimes. "Spooky". Oh, he’d gotten commendations, praise for a job well done, but it was his nickname that seemed to stick. Only Patterson never used it. She would have said it was out of jealousy, but then she’d spent a lot of time trying to make him feel better about himself. Too bad he had never learned to do that for her.
It worked, for almost two years it worked. He became more and more involved with the X-Files. His insight, his memory served him in good stead there as well. Diana was there, pushing at times - sometimes odd times, but he gave her the benefit of the doubt. She was a good agent, and she listened to his theories. Sometimes her own were even more ‘out there’. But sometimes he wished . . . he didn’t know what he wished, but he needed someone between Patterson, the fascist, and Diana, the believer.
He’d finally written up a proposal for a new department - a department for working old cases, unsolved cases. They had to look at it, he’d been too successful, and he’d made a couple of friends on the Hill, by clearing up some old stuff from their districts and in one case, something a little more personal.
The powers that be weren’t happy, but he had been successful on cases where other agents had given up. If he’d gloated, they could have come down on him - instead, the only reward he seemed to want was permission to check out another case.
He’d made no secret of the fact that he didn’t want to work with Patterson. The problem was, Mulder was too valuable a commodity to lose. Since the academy, they had recognized his abilities and had wanted to groom him to replace Patterson some day. That didn’t look likely now.
They grudgingly granted him provisional permission to work part time on the X-Files. And Diana was allowed to assist him. The latter came much easier than he had thought.
He wanted to laugh at that. Hanging around the guys was making him paranoid.
The truth was, the X-Files were revitalizing him. He was busy with cases that intrigued him; he was away from Patterson; he could investigate Samantha’s disappearance with full resources, and . . . and she was doing okay. She was making a name for herself as well. Her background in physics and, of course, her medical training had given her the reputation of a hard-core scientist and that was winning her respect, even from the good old boy network. That invoked a smile when he thought about it. He could follow that from afar and feel close to her, feel proud, even though he didn’t deserve to.
It took him some time to realize that he was moving away from Diana. His personal involvement in Samantha’s case made that his constant number one priority and she continued to shy away from the "UFO" cases, and tried her best to steer him away too.
He’d woken one night from some unremembered nightmare and the thought came to him that she was trying to thwart those investigations. He shook it off; Diana wouldn’t do that. She was invested in the X-Files too.
Nevertheless, she seemed to have less time to work with him and he really didn’t miss her as he became more and more engrossed.
The morning Diana approached him and told him that she had asked for a transfer to the European Terrorist Division, he had to fake his reaction. He wanted to feel sorry that he was losing her input and her assistance, but Diana just wasn’t important to him personally. No woman was, or ever would be again.
He hated being summoned to Blevin’s office. It was never good. He took a deep breath and tapped on the door, then entered.
"Agent Mulder, please have a seat."
Mulder nodded and took the seat across the desk from Blevins.
"Agent Mulder, I have your request to expand your time in the . . . the X-Files. This proposal says that you feel you could spend full-time on this . . . project."
Mulder managed not to wince at that description. Project? Is that was the man thought of the work? Never mind, he had to keep his cool. If he could just get this started, really going full time, he would prove how valuable it could be.
"I’ve discussed this with several people here at the Bureau, and the decision is that we will grant you department status, but we will be assigning a partner to you."
"A . . . a partner?"
"That’s really not necessary."
"Agent Mulder, it’s a condition of the offer."
Mulder sat silent for a moment, his mind racing. A partner, someone assigned by the brass, the people that didn’t want this to happen. What kind of ‘agent’ would they stick him with? Someone no doubt set to close him down as quickly as possible.
"Do you have someone in mind?" Putting up a protest wouldn’t help at this time.
"We have a short list."
"Will I be allowed to sit in on the interviews?"
"There will be no need for that Agent Mulder. The decision will be made at a higher level. We’ll get back to you." Blevins nodded in dismissal and Mulder rose.
When he exited the room, he noted that Blevin’s secretary was away from her desk. He didn’t quite close the door, and bent to tie his shoe. Sure enough, he heard Blevin’s pick up his phone.
"He just left. No, he took it surprisingly well. Are you sure about this? You think . . . yes I know. Okay, I’ll have Dr. Scully over here to talk with her tomorrow."
Mulder knew the blood had drained from his face. Dr. Scully? No, they wouldn’t . . . did they know? Not easily, there was no record. He was confident in the guy’s abilities on that count. He moved rapidly to the door before Blevin’s secretary could catch him, he didn’t especially want to see anyone anyway. He avoided the elevator and took the steps to the basement.
What was this about? Was Dana behind it? No, that was nonsense. Besides, she didn’t have enough seniority to even request something like this. She wasn’t a field agent, okay she’d had the training, but she was an instructor. They were going to put an untried agent with him, probably because of her scientific background. Would she play along? Would she do what they wanted? Would she try to shut him down? He didn’t deserve any better from her. Hell, she might see this as a good chance to get her revenge.
The other part - that’s what worried him the most - how would he handle seeing her? He hadn’t seen her, not in person, in nearly three years. Could he stand to see her now? He’d have to be on his guard. She had more power over him than anyone else in the world. He couldn’t let her know that. He’d have to keep his distance, until he could get her to transfer out. With his reputation that shouldn’t take long.
The wall around his emotions that he’d begun as a teenager was strong and well built now. She’d been the only one to ever breech it, but he’d been young and he’d still believed he could be loved. At least he’d wished it. Now he was older, more jaded and a hell of a lot more cynical. His sarcasm was legendary around here.
She wouldn’t last long, hell; she probably wouldn’t accept the assignment anyway. But if she did . . . if she did, he’d just keep his distance, keep it light. No, doing what he did for a living, she wouldn’t want to stay.
Dana made her way down to the basement. At least she was able to walk again. Blevins had shocked her nearly senseless with this new assignment. He didn’t seem to be aware of their past relationship, asking if she knew an ‘Agent Mulder’. She’d kept it light, saying she knew him by reputation. She had heard his new nickname while at the academy. "Spooky". It certainly fit.
She’d kept quiet about the marriage. To be technical there hadn’t been one. He’d gotten the annulment and she hadn’t seen him since. She knew that her mother had tried to keep in touch, at first, but his obvious discomfort at her calls had eventually caused her to stop them.
Her parents didn’t blame him for the breakup, but with his own parents as his only role model for far too long, he had never understood that.
The elevators opened on the basement level and she forced herself to step out of the car. She squared her shoulders and tapped on the door.
"Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted."
God he looked good - she took in the office. She’d heard about this room when they were together, but to actually see it . . .
"Agent Mulder, I’ve been assigned to work with you." She held out her hand and he shook it lightly.
"Isn’t it nice to suddenly be so highly regarded." God, he sounded cold. He turned away from her. "So, who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?" Scully, not Dana, okay they were both professionals.
"Actually I’m looking forward to working with you. I’ve heard a lot about you."
"Oh really? I was under the impression that you were sent to spy on me."
"If you have any doubt about my qualifications or credentials - " She felt like she was in the middle of a play and hadn’t rehearsed.
"You’re a medical doctor, you teach at the academy, you did your undergraduate degree in physics. ‘Einstein’s Twin Paradox, a New Interpretation’, Dana Scully’s senior thesis. Now that’s a credential, rewriting Einstein."
What kind of game were they playing? "Did you bother to read it?" Stupid question, he’d edited it for her.
"I did. I liked it. It’s just that in much of my work, the laws of physics rarely seem to apply. Maybe I can get your medical opinion on this though . . . "
He flipped off the lights and continued talking. Okay, she could do this. He wasn’t going to push her away from her first field assignment.
"Do you believe in the existence of extra terrestrials?"
Was he kidding? Was he testing her? And why was he standing so close, hovering over her. She managed to stand her ground.
"The answers are there, you just have to know where to look."
"That’s why they put the ‘I’ in FBI. See you tomorrow morning Scully. Bright and early we leave for the very plausible state of Oregon."
She had to smile; it felt like she’d passed some sort of test. She wasn’t going to let him intimidate her. She’d faced enough of that in medical school. But she’d never seen him like this.
He’d thrown everything at her - an exhumation, a search in the woods after dark, that really weird flash of light when the car died and that crap about time disappearing. But she wouldn’t let him run her off, even with his sick jokes and comments. He’d obviously kept things from her, the X he’d painted on the road, the marks on Peggy’s back - he didn’t trust her. It crossed her mind that he didn’t trust anyone. Some of his vulnerability still shown through, though he stuffed it down quickly each time. "I’m not crazy Scully."
Did he realize the protective gestures he was making? No, she shouldn’t read anything into it. It was probably just manners, but when the coffin had broken free, it was her he had grabbed to pull out of the way.
And damn it, did he have to wear his hair that way? Her fingers twitched to brush it off his forehead as she had . . . damn it! No, she could do this. He was not going to run her off. How would that look on her record?
She turned back to her report. Concentrate Dana.
Not five minutes later, the power failed. Shit, might as well get ready for bed.
The jolt of adrenaline and fear that surged through her body when she felt the tiny bumps of her back overcame her better judgment and she found herself outside of his room.
"I want you to look at something."
"Come on in."
She untied her robe, took a deep breath, and let the robe drop. She could feel his eyes on her body, but when she glanced down at her lower back, he was professional again.
"What are they?"
He took his time; maybe he was enjoying this. "Mulder, what are they?"
Then he grinned, "Mosquito bites."
"Are you sure!"
"Yeah, I got eaten alive out there myself."
She couldn’t stop herself, pulling her robe up and moving into his arms. He hesitated, but his hand came up to hold her.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes." She wrapped her tattered composure around herself and stepped back.
"I need to sit down."
"Take your time."
He’d never told her he’d found Samantha’s file. So many things made so much more sense now. She’d had no idea he’d had the hypno-regression either, with this Dr. Werber. Mulder honestly thought he knew what had happened to her now. "Nothing else matters to me."
He’d shut down his emotions in every other area and he thought she had been assigned to debunk him. Well, to be honest, she’d come to the same conclusion, but it didn’t have to be that way. If she did use her knowledge . . . maybe they could solve this. No, she didn’t think he was crazy, she knew better.
Everyone was keeping things from her, but they wouldn’t for long. She was good at her job and she’d get even better. She could learn. She knew how important this was to him. More important than she’d ever been. But if she helped him . . . She’d thought the pull of him had diminished more. Maybe she was just vulnerable after breaking up with Jack. It didn’t matter, this was her assignment and she’d do the very best she could. Her past relationship should be a non-issue. If he could do this, so could she.
He’d survived. He’d spent several days with her and he’d survived. She hadn’t been cold or especially hostile. She’d treated him professionally - except when she’d come to his room. That had nearly undone him, having her lying of his bed, listening to him . . . he’d had to stay on the floor, but he hadn’t disgraced himself, he hadn’t thrown her down and ground himself into her. But he also hadn’t managed to scare her off. Well, there was always the next case. Surely she wouldn’t hang around for long . . .
Links to other sites on the Web
Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.