Shooting Star II

Title: Shooting Star
Fandom: X-Files
Pairing: Mulder/Scully
Genre: Post-series, AU, familyfic
Rating: NSFW
Summary: Seventeen years ago Mulder disappeared. Reunited after all this time, Mulder and Scully struggle to make themselves the family they should have been.

“Oh shooting star that fell into my eyes and through my body—
Not to forget you. To endure.”
—”Death”, Rainier Maria Rilke.

==== Ten ====

“Did I ever live here?” Mulder asked when they pulled into the driveway.

“No,” Scully said, turning off the car. “I moved here when Ben was a baby. Do you like it?”

“It’s . . . big.”

“You’re going to love the backyard,” Ben said. “It’s a great back yard.”

“It’s a very big house.”

“Mulder.” Scully put her hand on his. “It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s an ordinary house. It’s your home now. This is your neighborhood. We have some nice neighbors, you’ll like them. And you’ll meet your old friends soon, too.”

Mulder squeezed her hand, still looking up at the house. “It’s pretty,” he said quietly. “It looks like a nice house. It looks like a home. It looks like how your home should look, Scully.”

Scully smiled and opened the car door. “Come on.”

Mulder got out of the car too, and stood for a moment on the driveway. He closed his eyes and held out his hand, palm up, in the sunshine. He felt pale, and small in Ben’s clothes. The shirt was loose, the jeans gapped at his waist. When Scully took his arm he thought it was more to keep him from falling down than anything else.

“You think I’m fragile,” he said as they made their way up the front steps. He could feel her curbing her normally brisk steps to match his slower pace.

“You’re not in your best health, Mulder.”

“Fragile,” Mulder repeated, and Scully’s hand squeezed his arm.

“You’ll get your strength back. We’ll take good care of you.”

He sighed—he didn’t mean his body, he knew his body wasn’t strong—but Scully didn’t want to talk about it. And Ben was unlocking the front door and holding it open, they were home.

Home. Mulder stepped inside and looked around the foyer. The floors were wood, the walls painted white with a trim of tasteful flowered wallpaper. There was a mirror in the front hall, along with a coat rack with billiard balls on the hooks. Mulder paused in front of it.

“That was yours,” Scully said. “You told me once you got it while you were in England.”

“When was I in England?”

“You went to college there. Oxford University. You got a degree in psychology there.”

“Oh.” He looked down at Scully’s hopeful face, and sighed. “I don’t remember it, Scully.”

“I know. It’s okay, Mulder.” She tugged his hand gently. “Come see the rest of the house.”

Behind them, Ben shot up the stairs with the suitcases. Mulder thought he might come down again and join them, but as they moved through the house he stayed upstairs.

As they walked through the kitchen, the living room, Scully’s office, Mulder looked mostly at the pictures. There were many pictures of Ben at various ages. There was one picture of Mulder himself, on Scully’s desk. Mulder picked it up and studied his younger self for a moment, then put it down. He knew his own face, but the man in the picture was a stranger.

“Mulder?” Scully came to him and took his hand. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay. Who is this?” He picked up the framed picture of a little girl, and Scully took it and sighed.

“This is Emily. This is my daughter.”

“I thought we only had Ben.”

“Ben is yours and mine. I don’t know who Emily’s father was. I didn’t give birth to her. It’s a complicated story, Mulder.”

“Where is she?’

“She died. She’s buried in San Diego.”

He studied her face, and put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her forehead lightly. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly, and Scully gave him a thankful smile.

“It was a long time ago.”

“It still hurts you.”

She lowered her head for a moment, and then looked up at him again. “Yes, it does. But not as much as it used to. Having Ben helped a lot. Having a child of my own, that I knew no one would take away from me—that helped me most.”

“Was I there?”

“Yes. You were.”

“Didn’t I help you too?”

Here she sighed, and stepped from beneath his hands. “You did the best you could, Mulder. Come on. There’s more to the house.”

He watched her as she walked out of the office, and said, “Scully. Tell me. Please tell me. Were there times when we weren’t friends?”

Scully twisted the doorknob in her hand, and said, “No. Sometimes . . . there were times you made me crazy. There were times you didn’t trust me. There were times I couldn’t talk to you, because I didn’t think you’d listen. And there were times . . .”

“Tell me,” Mulder said again, when she didn’t go on.

“There were times I hated you.”

He leaned against her desk and folded his arms over his chest. “I thought we loved each other.”

“We did—we did—but it was always complicated.”

“Do you really want me here?”

“Yes. Yes. I’ve missed you, Mulder, I’ve needed you. I’ve wanted you every day.”


“Because I love you,” Scully whispered, her face filled with pain. “Do you believe that?”

Mulder closed his eyes. “I wish I could remember.”


“I wish I could remember the first time I saw you. Did you smile at me, Scully?”


“Did I?”

“Yes. You teased me. I liked you right away.”

“And love came later,” Mulder said quietly.

“Later. But it came.”

Mulder opened his eyes to look at her again. He had known her voice from the first time she spoke. He had known her face, her beloved face, even though he had begun to believe the memory was only a dream. He couldn’t remember falling in love with her, learning to love her—but he knew he loved her.

And she loved him. He knew that, too.

“I bet I was impossible sometimes,” he said, and she smiled cautiously.

“No more than I was.”

“But we worked anyway, you and I.”

“Yes. We fit. Like . . . puzzle pieces.”

“And the pieces put together make . . ?”

“I always thought it was something beautiful.”

Mulder unfolded his arms and walked to her, and took her hand from the doorknob. “Show me the rest of your house.”

“Our house,” she said, and he nodded.

“Yes. Our house.”


It was nearly ten-thirty by the time they finished cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, and Mulder couldn’t stop yawning. “Don’t stay up too late,” Scully said to Ben as she took Mulder by the hand to lead him upstairs. Ben grunted, already flipping channels on the TV, and put his feet up on the coffee table.

They had looked over the upstairs earlier—Ben’s room, guestroom, Scully’s room, bathrooms—and Mulder stopped at the guestroom door. “Do you have something for me to sleep in?”

“Sweatpants and a tee shirt. Mulder—” she paused. “Mulder, I’d like—unless you don’t want to, of course—I’d like for you to sleep in—in—in my bed. With me.”

“Oh,” Mulder said. “All right.” Scully flushed and nodded, and continued leading him down the hall. Her hand was trembling. He wondered why.

Scully took a package of tee shirts out of the bureau and gave it to him, as well as a new-smelling pair of gray sweatpants. “Here. Is this all right, to sleep in?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“I’ll—do you need the bathroom first?”

“No. I’m okay.”

She nodded, pushing some hair behind her ear, and said, “All right, I’ll be in the bathroom. If you need anything, ask, okay?”

“I’m okay, Scully.”

“I know—-I just—” She sighed and went into the bathroom.

He sat on the edge of the bed with his hands folded. He listened to the sounds of her getting ready, cataloging each one. He knew he’d heard them before, he knew this routine should be familiar, that he should know what every sound meant and at what stage he should expect her to come out of the bathroom.

But the sounds—even the smells of her, of her house—brought back nothing. Not even a fleeting image of a memory—sometimes he had those, but they always fled before he could catch them, pin them down.

Scully came out of the bathroom at last, her hair damp around her face. Without makeup she looked even younger, a trim woman of forty, perhaps, instead of—whatever she w

“Scully, how old are you?”

“Fifty-three.” She got into bed on the right side and pulled up the blankets to her waist, sitting up with her back against the headboard. “And you’re fifty-six.”

“Hm.” He flexed his hands, looking down at them. They were pale, slender, with prominent veins. He wondered how much they had changed since he was a younger man.

“Mulder?” She touched his shoulder and he stiffened for a moment, before turning to her and laying his head on her shoulder.  He put a cautious arm around her waist, and pulled her closer when she put her arms around him.

“Dana,” he said, and she chuckled. “What?”

“You almost never called me that. It’s strange to hear you call me that now.”


“That’s better.”

“That must be why I didn’t remember it.”

“Though it amazes me you remembered me at all. You forgot so much else.”

“But not everything,” he said slowly.

“No. Not everything.”

“I’m not sure what are memories and what are dreams.”

“I imagine it’s a combination of both. Memory reinterpreted through dreams. Or as dreams.”

“But it can’t all be memory. The monsters and the creatures—those must be dreams.” She didn’t answer and he looked up at her. “Scully? Aren’t they?”

“I don’t—no. Not all of them. Mulder, we saw—you saw so many things—inexplicable things—”

“Creatures,” he said.

“Creatures. Monsters. People who were monsters inside. Evil things. Predators. People who preyed on the weak and the vulnerable.”

“But we stopped them, didn’t we? Isn’t that what we did?”

“Yes. Sometimes we stopped them. Sometimes we couldn’t. Like the people who took you away—I’ve never been able to find out who they were or why they took you.”

Mulder shivered and tightened his arms around her. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

“All right. We won’t.”

She had been stroking his face and hair, his back and his arms, while they talked, and now she did so to soothe him until he stopped trembling. “Your sheets are soft,” he murmured after a while.

“I like a comfortable bed.”

“Tell me more about us. Tell me about the first time we kissed.”

“Well,” she said slowly, “we’d just come through a difficult time. I thought one or both of us was going to die. I thought the whole world was going to be destroyed. There were these—it sounds so ridiculous when I tell other people about it, even Ben doesn’t entirely believe me—”

“You’re stalling,” he said, and she laughed.

“All right. No stalling. A long time ago some men made a bad bargain but we were rescued—saved—before it was time to pay up. You and I were rescued, literally. And when we walked away from that confrontation, knowing we were alive and safe and the world would go on just as it always had . . .” She paused, smiling. “We both were hurt. Sooty, there was a fire. We were tired and hungry and exhausted.

“We stood there in the light of the flames—there were people cheering all around us—and you were holding me so tight. I looked up at you and our eyes met, and it was like—like we’d never really seen each other before. Like every wall we’d ever erected came tumbling down. Like every reason we’d ever had for remaining only friends was completely destroyed.

“You took my face in your hands and you said, ‘We’ve got a future now.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ You said, ‘Share it with me, Scully.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’

“And then we kissed.”

Mulder had taken her hand while she spoke, woven his fingers between hers, and he now gave her hand a light squeeze. She smiled and squeezed back.

“Seven years of devotion and passion,” she said quietly. “It was . . . it was quite a kiss.”


“Long. Hungry. On a scale of one to ten it got at least a five thousand.”

Mulder laughed, and after a moment Scully did too. “What happened next?”

“Oh . . . it took a few days for us to get home. We had to rely on the kindness of our rescuers a lot. You weren’t very happy about that. And when we did get home and told our friends what had happened it sounded implausible, even to us. And then we went to my apartment and slept for two days or so . . . and when we woke up we couldn’t stop talking. There were so many plans to make. We talked about what we’d gone through, about things that had happened to us while we were apart. You cried and I held you. I cried and you kissed my tears away. You told me again and again we had nothing to be afraid of anymore.”

“I’m sorry I was wrong,” Mulder said softly.

“You couldn’t have known. I thought we were safe too.”

Mulder closed his eyes and sighed, more saddened by the story than he’d thought he would be. “How much time did we have? Before I was—before they took me away.”

“Seventy-nine days. The happiest time of my life.”


“Oh, yes. Loving you—I can’t even put it into words. I don’t think I ever stopped smiling, the entire time. I don’t think I ever laughed so much. It was like we had to make up for all the pain we’d gone through, all the hurt we’d ever caused each other. We made lo—we made up for lost time.”

“And we made love,” he said softly, and she sighed.


“We conceived Ben.”

“Yes. And that’s the part that always boggles my mind. We thought I couldn’t have children. I think . . . while I was with the rebels they gave me something they told me would protect me. It was a—it opened my eyes, so to speak. I could see who were the invaders and who was on our side, and who were the regular people. It opened my mind in strange, wonderful ways. It was like taking a drug that cleared everything. And I think it healed me. It did something to me.It did a lot of things to me. I’ve never been sick since then, not even a runny nose.”

“Was I given it?”

“No. I wonder if they had . . . well, no point in speculating on that.”

Mulder stroked her arm. Her skin was fine and soft, scattered with freckles, a creamy gold color in the dim light of the bedside lamp. He felt as warm and safe as if he were wrapped in a blanket. Scully, he thought comfortably, my Scully, who loves me.

“You’ll have to tell me everything,” he said. “Everything about us. Everything about you.”

“What about you? Don’t you want to learn about yourself?”

He squirmed a little and said, “No.”

“Mulder . . .”

“It’s not interesting.”

“Oh, you don’t think so? You don’t want to hear about your family or your childhood or anything like that?”

“Not especially.”

“Well, I suppose I can’t blame you for that.” She kissed his head. “All in good time, I suppose. When you’re ready.”

“But I want to hear about Ben. Tell me everything about Ben.” He yawned, and she kissed him again.

“Tomorrow. Go to sleep, Mulder. Love you, sweetheart.”

“Love you.” Mulder yawned and closed his eyes, and Scully reached over and turned off the light.

======= Eleven =======

Mulder had a brief moment of panic when he woke up, unsure of where he was and who this was beside him-but as soon as he saw her red hair he remembered. Home. Scully’s home. Home with Scully. Home.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He ran his hand over his face and rubbed his eyes, and sat up carefully. Scully slept on beside him, her face tranquil. Her left arm, closest to him, lay up by her face, her palm open and her fingers curled slightly. Her hand looked very small. Mulder slipped his fingers over her hand and she stirred, turning her face away from him and rolling onto her side.

Wings, he thought, and was not sure why. Gold and white wings.

It must have been a dream. He’d had so many dreams. He smiled and kissed her forehead, and got out of bed, taking care not to wake her.

He was hungry. This would please Scully, he knew, she was worried about him eating enough. He certainly wasn’t going to wake her up to tell her, though. He could sol
ve this himself.

He could smell coffee once he was in the hall and something doughy and warm cooking as he went down the stairs. It did bring back a memory, though not one that he so desperately wanted: the hungry time, when he’d had nowhere to sleep and begged for his food, a kind-faced woman had given him fresh pancakes for breakfast outside of a restaurant. “These fell on the floor,” she’d said, winking at him, and he’d winked back though he didn’t know what the wink meant. He wasn’t as hungry now as he’d been then, but still the scent caused his stomach to growl and his mouth to water.

Ben was cooking. He had the radio on, and as he waited for the pancakes to cook he’d shuffle a bit in a lazy-morning dance. He noticed Mulder standing in the doorway, and smiled uncertainly. “Morning,” he said, and flipped a pancake.

“Good morning.” Mulder stepped into the kitchen, and went to the coffee maker. This, he knew. He knew he liked this stuff. “Is this about ready?”

“Just about. The timer will go off when it is.”

Mulder looked around the kitchen. “What can I do to help?”

“Um . . . would you like to set the table?” He hesitated. “Do you know how?”

“Knives in the middle and the plates on our heads, right?”

Ben stared at him for a moment, then laughed when Mulder smiled. “Right. Sorry. Of course you do. Sorry.”

“I’m not completely helpless,” Mulder said, and started opening cupboards, looking for the dishes.

Ben watched him, then said, “It’s just weird, you know? Having you here, I mean. And I don’t really know—I mean, how you are—”

“You don’t quite know how to act around me.” Plates. Pale grey with blue rims, and a blue drawing in the middle.

“Kind of. Sort of. I—it’s going to take some getting used to.”

“I know.” Mulder set three plates carefully on the table. It was a small square table, with just four chairs. Perfect for just the two of them for so long, he thought.  At their hasty late-night dinner the night before, only he had hesitated about where to sit. “It’s strange for me, too.”

“Yesterday you were—” Ben stopped again, blushing, and poured more batter on the griddle.

“Ben. It’s okay to say it. Yesterday I was a mental patient and today I’m a family man.” He thought it over. “It is strange. It’s a change for all of us. Where are the glasses? And the coffee cups?”

“In the cupboard over the microwave. The silverware is in that last drawer.”

Mulder opened the drawer he’d pointed to. Three knives, three forks. The three of us, he thought, and with a sudden sadness thought, Just as it should have been all this time, maybe even more—brothers and sisters—she wanted a big family—

He put the silverware down and leaned his hands against the kitchen counter. It was like Scully was speaking to him, behind him and off to the left a little—”They do it just with a few eggs now, two or three at the most. Multiple births are too dangerous to the mother, and the babies. We could do it, Mulder. It’s just a question of if we’re willing to bear the disappointments.” And himself, younger, confident, overwhelmed with love for this woman, “I hope we have twins.” And Scully, laughing, “Let’s start with one and see what happens, okay?”

“Dad? Mulder?” Ben stood at his side, the spatula in his hand. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m okay. Just—I think—” He shook his head. Her eyes had lit up when he said twins. She wanted a big family, like the one she grew up with, and he’d pictured her with an armful of babies—”I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “It comes and goes.”

“You scared me for a second, there,” Ben said, an went back to the stove.

Mulder placed the silverware carefully around the plates. Was it a memory? He wasn’t sure. It seemed too sweet to be real. Had they talked about babies? They had lain in his bed and talked about babies. He was sure of it. Almost sure. They had held each other and named their children, laughing at first, coming up with as many variation of Fox that they could, and then seriously. If we have a girl I’d like to name her Lily. I’ve always loved the name Benjamin.

He had said it. He’d held Scully in his arms and said I’ve always loved the name Benjamin.

Ben was watching him, frowning, paying only minimal attention to the pancakes. Mulder smiled at him and said, “I named you.”


“I named you. Before you were born. One time we were talking and I said I like the name Benjamin, and here you are. Ben. I named you.”

“Oh,” Ben said, and puzzled at him a moment longer before turning back to the griddle.

Mulder stood there, wondering if maybe he was wrong-maybe it wasn’t a memory after all, just a wish, maybe Scully had told him another story of how he got his name—and then went to the refrigerator and got out the pitcher of orange juice. He’d have to ask Scully. Scully could tell him what was the truth and what were only tricks of his mind.

“Now this is what I like to see,” Scully said from where she was lounging in the doorway, and both men smiled at her. “You two can wait on my every need any time.”

“Good morning, Mom,” Ben said with relief, and she came over and kissed him briefly.

“These smell delicious.”

“They’ll be done in a minute.”

“Wonderful.” She came over to Mulder and hugged him tight. “I was worried, when you weren’t there when I woke up.”

“I was looking for coffee. And I found breakfast.”

“So you did.”

“And I didn’t want to wake you. You’re so pretty when you sleep.”

She smiled and turned up her face to him. “Kiss me, please,” she said, so he did.

“Minor present,” Ben said, but he sounded like he was teasing.

Mulder rubbed Scully’s back, still holding her close. He wanted to tell her about his maybe-memory, but decided to wait. He wasn’t sure how to bring it up. Of course she wanted him to remember things but if he remembered things that weren’t true, that would upset her, wouldn’t it?

And he didn’t want to upset her. Not this pretty, sweet-smelling woman who slept beside him so trustingly and kissed him so tenderly.

“Pancakes are on,” Ben said, picking up the plate stacked high with pancakes, and they all sat down at the table after Scully grabbed the pot off the coffee maker.


Ben watched them as they ate, the careful way Mulder cut his food, Dana’s solicitousness, how they seemed hyper-aware of each time their hands brushed. Mulder watched her too, sometimes glancing at Ben and then shyly averting his eyes. Scully did most of the talking. She wanted to take Mulder shopping, if he felt up to it. And there were people who wanted to see him, would today be good or should they wait a while?

Ben had rarely seen his mother so happy. It was a subtle sort of happiness, not obvious to someone who didn’t know her well, but he knew the signs. Her talkativeness, mainly—his mother was not a chatty woman. The light in her eyes. That she allowed their hands to brush and linger.

He was not sure what to make of Mulder. It was one thing to say, This is my father—it was another thing entirely to actually see the man, talk to him, to see his own eyes in this man’s face.

My father, he thought. This is my father. He drank his coffee too quickly and it burned his throat. “Excuse me,” he said, standing up and gathering up his dishes.

“Okay, Benjie,” Scully said, looking surprised that he was finished so quickly. Usually Sunday breakfasts could take an hour, at least. “Do you want to come shopping with us? You could use some new clothes for summer.”

“Oh. No. I’m okay for clothes.”

“Are you sure? You don’t need shorts or shoes or underwear?”

“Mom,” Ben said, embarrassed, and Mulder smiled in understanding. “I’m okay. I promise. You two go, visit the guys, and  . . . whatever. I have homework to do.”

“Okay. We won’t go for a couple hours yet, so if you change your mind . . . “

“We’ll see,” Ben said, and rinsed off his dishes in the sink and put t
hem into the dishwasher. Their arrangement was, whoever didn’t cook did the cleaning up, so he just rinsed the cooling griddle and the blender, and left them in the sink. He went to his room and turned on his stereo, and got back into bed with the novel he was reading for English.

He’d only read a few pages when there was a soft knock on his door, and Scully opened to door. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah.” He sat up and put the book aside, and Scully came in, stepping carefully around the mess on the floor, and sat down on the edge of his bed.

“What are you reading?”

“‘Slaughterhouse Five.'”

“Oh, I like that one. I’ve always loved Vonnegut.” She pushed her hair behind her ear and said quietly, “How are you doing with all this, Benjie? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, Mom, I’m okay.”

“I know it’s sudden and strange and certainly not what any of us expected—”

“Mom. I’m okay. It’s what you want, right?”

She looked out his window for a moment, then said, “I hope it’s what you want too.”

“Look—” He sighed. “It is weird, but it would be stupid to expect us to fall into some kind of—pattern—right away, don’t you think? We barely know him. He doesn’t know us. You’ve got to admit that, Mom, he really doesn’t know who you are.”

“He knows enough.”

“He knows your name is Scully and he knows you love him, and that’s really it.”

“He trusts me. I don’t think he’d do that if he didn’t know—deep down—who I am.”

“Do you think he really—do you think it’ll ever come back to him?”

“It’s not like a TV show, where he gets hit on the head and suddenly it all comes back to him. Damage was done. You can’t fix the brain the same way you fix a broken limb.” Her expressive eyes fixed on him, and she smiled. “And he knows you’re his son. I think he truly understands that.”

Ben smiled back uncomfortably and said, “Well, that’s all fine and good, but I really don’t see how it changes anything or helps him.”

“It’s the connection right now, Benjie, that’s important. He wants to love you. I hope you’re going to try and love him back,” she said quietly, a question in her eyes, and Ben sighed.

“I’m going to try. Okay? I’m going to try.”

“Thank you.” She ruffled his hair affectionately and stood. “Are you sure you don’t want to go shopping with us?”

“I’m sure. Thanks, though. I need to read . . . and I thought maybe I’d go running later.”

“Okay. I tried calling Grandma Maggie but only got the machine, so if she calls back tell her where we are, okay?”

“I will.”

“And I’m thinking chicken for dinner tonight. How does that sound?”

“Sounds fine.”

“See you later.” She left his room and shut the door behind her.

After an hour or so Ben heard them leave, and he got out of bed again and changed into his running clothes. There was a park a few blocks from their house with some good running paths, and Scully preferred he go there than any place else because it was well-tended and busy.

He rode his bike to the park and locked it up at an already-crowded rank, and stretched for a few minutes as he decided which path to take. By the pond would be good, he hadn’t taken that one in a while . . .

Oh, it was good to run. When he was small his mother had gone running with him in a stroller contraption that she could push. He’d joined her on his bike for a while, pedaling madly to keep up with her pace, and then finally when he was nine or so he ran along beside her. But she hadn’t gone running for a while, preferring exercise that was easier on her joints. Now she rode the bicycle when they exercised together.

He liked the rhythm of it, the ache in his lungs, how easy it was to clear his mind. Running, he thought, is the ultimate therapy. Maybe when Mulder was stronger he’d bring him running with him, if he wanted.

A bicycle bell rang behind him and he moved from the middle of the path to the side, and two bikes whizzed past him. The third went past him but stopped a few feet in front. “Ben! Hi!”

It was Emma. Her hair hung in braids from beneath her helmet, and her legs looked impossibly long in her shorts. Ben smiled and jogged up to her. “Hey, Emma.”

“How was your trip? The ‘family stuff’, did it go okay?”

“It was good. It went okay.” He shuffled his feet as the other two bicyclists turned and rejoined them—an older man and a girl a year or two than Emma.

“This is Ben,” she told them, and the girl giggled. “This is my dad and my sister Zoë.”

“Hello, Ben,” said Mr. Hicks, and Zoë giggled again. “Honey, why don’t you meet us over by the waterfall.”

“Okay,” Emma said, “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” She smiled after them, and looked at Ben again. “So your mom’s back?”

“Yeah. She’s back.”

“And the family stuff?”

He wasn’t sure how to answer this. “Taken care of,” he said, and Emma looked a little disappointed. Well, what do you want, he thought, for me to confide in you or something? “Bye, Emma,” he said, and started running up the path again. It forked off a few hundred feet ahead—towards the waterfall to the right, towards the playground to the left—he’d take the left fork—

He stopped and looked back, to where Emma still stood, her bicycle leaning against her hip. Her mouth trembled for a moment, then she got onto her bike and rode past him quickly, taking the right fork.

I did a bad thing, he thought, watching her go.

He started running again, and took the right fork.

When he reached the waterfall the three of them were standing beside it, Mr. Hicks had his arm around Emma’s shoulders, and Zoë stroked her arm sympathetically. Ben hesitated, and jogged up to them. Zoë narrowed her eyes at him, as threatening as only a pissed-off thirteen-year-old can be. Mr. Hicks kept his face neutral, and said quietly, “Emma.”

She looked up at Ben. Her eyes were red and her cheeks were wet. “What do you want?”

“Emma . . . that was rude of me. I’m sorry.”

She pursed her mouth sullenly and said, “Whatever. I won’t bug you anymore.”

“Emma—look—” He wished he could block out her sister’s accusatory eyes. “It’s like this. Things are weird at home, and it’s hard to talk about. To anybody. You’re not bugging me—I just—” He looked at the face of Emma’s father, who looked wise and kind and protective of his daughter.  “It’s hard to talk about.”

Zoë’s expression softened a little, as did Mr. Hicks’s, and Emma said quietly, “When you said it was okay I thought—”

“I know. Look, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to worry about my weird family, it’s not—you don’t need to bother yourself.”

“But I want to,” Emma said, and Ben wondered at how brave she was, to say this in front of her family. Or maybe she was brave because her family was with her.

“Thanks,” he said quietly. “But not today. Okay?”

“Okay.” She nodded. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Right. Bye,” he said to all three of them, and started jogging up the path again, back towards his bike, to go home.


Mulder was quiet as they drove to the mall. “There are a lot of people here,” he said as they pulled into the parking lot.

“Yeah, there are,” Scully said, squeezing his hand. “Are you going to be okay with this? If it’s too soon—”

“I don’t know how happy Ben will be with me wearing his clothes.” He gripped her hand. “I’m okay. I can do this.”

“It’s just shopping, Mulder, we don’t have to today.”

“I want to.” He looked out the window again. “But there sure are a lot of people here.”

“Mulder.” She put her hand on the back of his neck and pulled him closer to her, so that she could whisper in his ear. “Mulder. I’m right with you. You’re going to be safe here. You’re safe with me. I promise.”

“I know,” he whispered. “I know. I’m okay. Let’s do this.” He tried to smile at her, and he threw open the door to the car.

Scully opened her car door and got out, and chirped
the automatic lock. Mulder came around the car and took her hand, and held it very tight as they walked through the parking lot into the mall. They walked through the main doors and into a large court, and Mulder’s breath sped up and his grip on her hand tightened even more. Scully said nothing, but watched him: his eyes were darting around, his face was pale and beads of sweat were starting to form on his forehead.

This isn’t going to work, she thought, and stopped walking.

“Mulder. Let’s go. Let’s go home.”

“So many people,” he said softly, and jerked his hand from hers and sank down onto his knees, covering his face with his hands.

All around them people stopped walking and started to gather. “Is he okay?” “Do you need some help, lady?” “Should we call security?” “Maybe it’s a seizure.”

“So many people,” Mulder groaned, rocking back and forth on his knees. Scully knelt down beside him and put her arms around him.

“Shh, shh, it’s okay,” she whispered, and nearly sagged with relief when a mall cop moved through the gathering crowd and leaned down to talk to her.

“What’s going on, ma’am?”

“My friend is a little unused to crowds. Could you—?” She nodded her head towards the people around them.

“Of course.” He nodded and stood up, and started to disperse the crowd. “Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. Everything’s okay. Move along.”

“I’m sorry, Scully,” Mulder whispered, and she gently removed his hand from his face and stroked his cheek.

“It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s okay. Let’s get you home.” She kissed his forehead and helped him stand, and they left the mall. She had to help him put his seatbelt on.

“I’m sorry, Scully,” Mulder said over and over, and no amount of reassurance could convince him he shouldn’t be.

======= Twelve =======

Ben arrived home soon after Mulder and Scully did. He looked around the kitchen, where Scully sat at the table with a cup of coffee in her hands, and he said, “Where’s Mulder? What happened?”

“He had a panic attack at the mall. He’s upstairs, resting.” Scully lifted the cup, and put it down again without drinking. Her hands shook.

Ben stood there, fiddling with the hem of his T-shirt. He said, “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay. No, I’m not. Oh, Benjie, I think I’ve made a terrible mistake.”

“What do you mean?” He joined her at the table.

“I knew it was too soon for that sort of thing—I knew there would be too many people for him. I knew it and I took him anyway. I can’t believe I was so thoughtless.”

“Mom . . . you were trying to be practical. You didn’t force him, either, he wanted to go.”

“He went to please me.”

“Is he upset with you?”

“Probably. He’s upset. I’m sure I’m part—a large part—of the equation.” Again she tried to drink but put the cup down quickly. Her hands would not cooperate at all.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Ben said quietly.

“Well, it’s my problem to deal with, anyway. Don’t worry about it. Did you go running?” she said briskly.

“You’re changing the subject.”

“Yes, I am.”

Ben traced a scratch on the table with his fingertip, and said, “Mom, I think I like a girl.”

At this Scully smiled. “You think?”

“She’s real pretty . . . but I’m starting to know her better and she’s . . . I don’t know . . . she’s a good person.”

“But,” Scully prompted.

“She’s popular.”

“Why should that make a difference, if you like her and she likes you?”

“The last guy she dated is on the football team and the student council and his parents are loaded and an invitation to one of his keg—parties—”


“—is like being invited to the Oscars or something.”

“He throws keggers?”

“Could you focus, please, Mom?”

“Sorry. Go on.”

“That’s it, really. I can’t ask her to go out with me.”

“I’m not sure I understand why not.”

“What if she just likes me as a friend?”

“Would you rather know or do you want to keep wondering?”

“If I ask her out and she says no, everything between us is going to get weird, and I don’t want that.”

“Well . . . I think it’s a risk worth taking. Maybe she does like you. Maybe you’ll go out together and have a wonderful time. Maybe you’ll have a terrible time. But you won’t know until you ask.” Her hands were finally steady enough to lift her coffee cup, but her coffee had gone cold. She sighed and rose from the table, and dumped the coffee into the sink. “I’m going to check on your father. And I think you should ask this girl out.”

“Yeah,” Ben said, non-committal, and he was still sitting at the table when she went upstairs.

Her heart ached for him, but he would hate for her to say so. Her sweet handsome boy . . . if this mysterious girl couldn’t see past his shyness then she wasn’t worth his time, no matter how pretty she might be.

But it would hurt him so to find out. First love, she thought wryly, is the really hard one. If you can survive first love you can survive anything.

Even True Love, she thought, and pushed open her bedroom door.

Mulder lay on his back, on top of the made bed. One arm was behind his head and the other hand lay on his chest. He looked skeletally thin as he lay there, in Ben’s too-big clothes—even though Ben was on the waifish side himself, not yet filled out to a grown man’s dimensions.

Mulder glanced at the door when Scully came in, and slowly sat up.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Don’t be. It’s my fault. You’re not ready for crowds. I knew that and I dragged you out anyway. I’m sorry.” She stroked his face gently, and he leaned his head into her hand and closed his eyes.

“You and Ben . . . the two of you are easy. Alex was easy. Even Dr. Lucas . . . I could handle him. The nurses . . . they were fine. But as soon as I stepped inside that place . . . Scully, it was like . . . drowning.”

“Oh, sweetheart . . .” Scully wrapped her arms around him and he lay his head on her shoulder and put his hands on her waist.

“Scully. Tell me a story.”

She chuckled. “The Three Bears, Mulder?”

“Tell me about the day you found out you were pregnant.”

“Oh, Mulder . . . you don’t want to hear that story.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not a very happy one.”

“It’s not?” He lifted his head from her shoulder. “I though you were happy to have Ben.”

“I was . . . oh, I’m going to have to tell you this story anyway, aren’t I. All right. But let’s get comfortable.”

They moved further onto the bed and leaned back against the pillows at the head board. Scully smiled, thinking, We still fit. She said, “It took me a long time to figure it out. I was so worried about you, trying to find you and using every source I could, every liaison we had. I hardly slept, I hardly ate, and when I missed a period I thought it was stress. It never occurred to me I might be pregnant, it was so ingrained in me that I wouldn’t it just wasn’t a possibility. When I started throwing up in the morning I thought it was the flu. It was winter, it was a logical conclusion.

“I finally went to my OB/GYN soon after New Year’s and said, I know I’m not supposed to be but I think I am, tell me if it’s true. And it was.”

Scully fell silent for a moment, remembering Dr. Talbot’s kind face, how he’d smiled when they figured out she was a little more than two months along, how bewildered he was when she burst into tears. Un-Scullyish behavior in the extreme, but it was also un-Scullyish to be pregnant, wasn’t it. Certainly not something one expected of her.

She said, “He said congratulations, but I didn’t feel like celebrating. I got dressed, paid my bill, and drove to my mother’s. I must have, though I don’t remember it at all. I remember my mother opening the door, smiling to see me, and then taking me in her arms because I was crying so hard I couldn’t stand upright. She held me for an hour or so. Rocked me. Comforted me, even though she didn’t know what was wrong and I was crying so
hard I couldn’t tell her. When I finally could talk all I could say was ‘He wanted it and now he’s not here.'”

“I wanted it,” he whispered, and his hand rested gently on her stomach.

“Finally I told her the whole story. That we were looking at rings, talking about June, a priest versus a rabbi or whether to have both, the whole thing. Including naming our children.”

“Lily,” Mulder whispered. “Lily and Benjamin. That’s what we decided.”

“Yes,” Scully said absently, then looked at him sharply. “Mulder?”

“I think . . . is it a memory, Scully? I think it’s a memory.”

“Tell me.”

“We lay on my bed, we were holding each other. We joked around. You said, Vixen, I said, Foxette. And after a while you were quiet and you said, If we have a girl I’d like to name her Lily. And I said, I’ve always liked the name Benjamin. And then . . .” he furrowed his forehead. “And then it gets fuzzy for a while. But we talked about how we could do it soon afterwards. Soon.”

“And I imagined twins,” Scully said quietly. “A boy and girl. Lily and Ben. It turned out to be just Ben, but that was just fine.”

Mulder stroked her arm delicately, and said, “Do I remember it right? Is that how it happened?”

“Yes. I think so. I’m quite sure of it. I don’t know if I remember it word for word, but it happened. It really happened.”

“I’m glad,” Mulder said. “I named Ben.”

“I thought about some others. Jared. Daniel. Andrew. But in the end I couldn’t name him anything else.”

“When did you start to be happy about it?”

“Oh . . . I was happy about being pregnant. I was. I was delighted, I was so excited—I’d wanted this so much. I was just miserable that you weren’t there to share it. Of course, at the time I never thought you’d be gone so long. I thought—” she chuckled softly at herself.

“Tell me.”

“I daydreamed that you’d come bursting into the hospital while I was in labor, that you’d hold my hand and tell me you loved me, you’d missed me so much, you were so happy to be a father . . . and you’d be there when he was born, that you’d hold him in your arms and you’d cry with joy.”

“I should have been there,” Mulder said.

“Mulder, please. Please, sweetheart. It’s no use getting angry at the past.”

“Why not?” He pulled away from her. “I am angry. I should have been there. I should have held your hand in the doctor’s office, we should have celebrated together, we should have picked out the clothes and the names and the furniture, we should have kissed the scraped knees and told the bedtime stories together . . . I am angry, Scully. I am.”

“Mulder . . .” She sighed and reached out to take his hand, which he reluctantly gave. “But what good does it do? You can rage all you want, but in the end it won’t change history, it won’t change what you’ve been through. And for me, having you here now is enough. It’s enough, Mulder. It’s what I’ve longed for and now . . . I’m happy.”

“Are you?”


He studied her, frowning, and then sighed and lay down, his head in her lap. “I feel cheated,” he said.

She stroked his hair. “So do I.” She closed her eyes and bent over him, and lay her cheek on his shoulder. “But I also feel like the worst is behind us.”

“I hope you’re right,” Mulder said.


Scully’s back yard was small, and Mulder supposed another person would have let it be an afterthought: a patch of grass, some marigolds, a rosebush or two. But Scully had made it into a peaceful wonderland—climbing roses trailed from sixty-year-old oak trees, tulips and crocuses clustered around their trunks, and a rope swing hung from one and a simple tree house peeped from the branches of another.

Late in the afternoon Mulder went out to the backyard and looked around. He smelled the flowers and ran his hands over the bark of the trees, explored the small tool shed and looked under the tarp that covered the log pile. Everything smelled wonderful: loamy, cool, fresh. He had not forgotten about the seasons but it seemed to him they had been passing by without his acknowledgement. Every day had been like any other at Cove Point.

Although winter to him meant those terrible months he had wandered the streets, cold and hungry. He wasn’t even sure which city he had been in, though he supposed it was in Virginia. He only knew he had been looking for something, someone, someone who had been so important he couldn’t put off finding her any longer.

My angel, he thought, and smiled quietly to himself. My angel with a flaming sword.

But in the end she had found him. He supposed even if he had seen her and approached her on the street, she may not have recognized him. She may have been afraid of him as everyone else was, a thin dirty homeless man who begged for spare change with one breath and babbled about aliens and monsters in the next.

Though he had a feeling Scully wasn’t afraid of much.

He sat down and pulled up his knees, and ran his hand over the grass. I’m lucky, he thought. I’m a very lucky man.

And how wonderful it was, to sit on the grass in the sunshine with a full belly on a sunny Sunday afternoon in spring. It was the kind of thing he really loved, like strawberries in cream or a soft blanket on a cold night. He had another feeling that he hadn’t always been one to appreciate the simple things in life.

He liked this very much. The smell of earth and the velvet softness of the tulip petals. He lay on his back and looked up at the sky through the spreading tree branches. The sky was as blue as Scully’s eyes, and scattered with cottonball clouds. Hello, sky, he thought, it’s nice to see you again.

He had a sudden, intensely vivid vision of tree branches reaching—no, shooting towards him, their intentions murderous, their anger palpable—

He closed his eyes and counted slowly, trying to keep his breathing even. Not real, he thought, not real, not real, trees don’t murder, they don’t feel anger, not real, not real, not real.

At twenty-eight the vision disappeared.

He opened his eyes again, and the three branches waved innocently above him. Nonetheless he thought, It’s time to go inside.

The back door opened directly to the kitchen, and Scully looked up from the cooking and smiled at him. “What do you think of the backyard?”

“I like it.” He sat down at the kitchen table and said, “Scully. Did we ever—I know this is going to sound silly—did we ever run into—” he faltered. “No, it’s stupid.”

“Tell me.”

“Killer trees,” he said, and waited for her to laugh.

She didn’t. She said slowly, “Well, we did have one case where you thought the trees were under someone’s control, and they were trying to rid the area of some disturbed, abusive people. And you swore to me one of the trees tried to kill you.”


“You said it rammed some branches through your windshield.”

He said, “I think—if it’s real—I think I remember that.”

“You do?” She put down the mixing spoon and sat across from him, and put her hands on top of his folded ones. “Tell me what you remember.”

“I remember the trees. I remember thinking that they were angry with me. They wanted to stop me before I . . . what was I doing?’

“Two men had been killed. You were trying to prevent another murder.”

“By the trees?”

“I’m not sure. A lot of cases that we dealt with were like that, Mulder, they were unbelievable to anyone who didn’t go through them.”

She went on stroking his hands. “Are you all right? Do you feel okay?”

“I’m okay. I’m tired. It’s going to just be the three of us tonight, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. It seemed like tonight was a bad night for guests. Though there are a lot of people who want to meet you.”

He nodded. “I know. Soon enough. Scully?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“I’m glad I’m not crazy.”

She smiled at him. “I am too.” She leaned over the table to kiss him, and went back to the counter to finish cooking dinner.


“I don
‘t see why you have to go back to work so soon,” Mulder said as they were getting ready for bed that night.

“My substitute was only prepared for a few days, and it’s been almost two weeks.” Scully took a sip of water, rinsed it around her mouth, and spat it into the sink. “I can’t put it off any longer.”

Mulder carefully hung his own toothbrush in the rack and said, “You don’t have to work, you know. I have money, a lot of it. Alex said so.”

“That money was meant to take care of you. Who knows if it will still be there tomorrow.”

“It will be.” He followed her out of the bathroom and got into bed, pulling the blankets up to his waist. “It is mine.”

“Mulder.” She sat down on the bed and leaned her arms on his blanket-covered knees. “I don’t know who gave you that money, and I don’t know if it’s meant to cover the rest of your life or just while Alex was taking care of you. Either way I’d hate to plan on that money being available to us and then waking up one morning and finding that it’s not.”

“Then take it out of the account it’s in and put it in yours. Or one for Ben—or even one for me. It will be all right, Scully. It is mine.It was meant to take care of me and that means taking care of my family, too.”

“Well,” Scully said pensively, “it would be nice to have all the money for Ben’s college, wherever he finally decides to go.”

“Ben’s going to college? When?”

“Oh, not for another year. He’s just a junior. He’s sent for information at a few places but he hasn’t decided where he wants to go yet.”

“But he’ll be going away.”

“Probably. He’s looking at everything from UC Santa Cruz to Bennington in Vermont. I think he could go to Harvard or Princeton with his grades, but he doesn’t want to go Ivy League.”

“Oh,” Mulder said. “Do you have summer vacation soon?”

“Ben’s school is year-round. He has six weeks in June and July off, then six weeks of school, then two weeks off, et cetera, until Christmas when they have an entire month off. I usually take my vacation in July and we go on a trip, but we haven’t made any plans for this summer. I think he’s thinking about getting a job.”

“If he doesn’t, do you still want to go on a trip?”

“Yeah. It’s always nice to get away.” She squeezed his knees through the blankets, and got up to turn out the light. In the dark, she got into bed and snuggled up to his side. “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t care. Anywhere. Where did I like best?’

“Oh . . . Graceland.”


“Elvis’s mansion in Memphis. I think that was your favorite place. Would you like to go to Graceland?”

“Let’s think about it.” Graceland. He liked the sound of the name.He closed his arms, holding her to him with one arm. Her hand slowly stroked his chest, and she sighed. “Scully. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I’m sleepy.”

“Are you comfortable?”

“Yes, are you?”

“Yes.” He put his hand on top of hers, then brought it to his mouth and kissed it. Her fingers clenched his hand for a moment, and then her hand lay, docile, under his on his chest. It took a long time for her to fall asleep, and longer still for Mulder to follow.

========= Thirteen =========

Monday afternoon was so fine and springlike that Emma suggested they have their tutoring session outside. She and Ben went out to the grass in front of the school and sat beneath a cluster of elm trees, and when they had finished talking about his calculus lesson and her English assignment they sat quietly for a while, enjoying the sunshine. Ben had brought his guitar to school, as usual, and he took it out of its case and began to play.

“That’s pretty,” Emma said. “What is it called?”

“No title yet. It’s just something that’s been in my head the last couple days.”

“Is it going to be a song about your family?”

Ben laughed shortly. “I doubt it.”

“I just thought—with everything that’s been happening—”

“A song about my family wouldn’t make any sense.”

Emma listened to him play for a few minutes more, then said, “Are you ever going to tell me what’s going on?”

Ben stopped playing and rubbed the calluses on the tips of his fingers with his thumb. “It wouldn’t make any sense,” he said again, quietly.

Emma didn’t say anything—she just picked up her book bag and vaulted herself to her feet, and started to rapidly walk away.

Ben watched her go a moment, then gather up his own things and started to run after her. “Emma,” he said. “Emma!”

She whirled to face him. “Why do you hate me?” she demanded. “What did I do to make you hate me?”

Ben stared at her dumbfounded, cradling his guitar like an ungainly baby. “I—I don’t hate you.”

“Then why do you treat me like this? Like I’m stupid—like I’m inconsequential—like my feelings don’t matter!”

“You know I talk to you more than I talk to just about anybody. I don’t know what you expect me to do—pour my heart out to you just because you ask? It doesn’t work that way, Emma, I don’t know why you think it should.”

“If we’re really friends I shouldn’t have to ask.”

Ben sighed and hugged his guitar closer. “You want us to be friends?”

“I thought we were already,” she whispered painfully. “Am I wrong?”

“Look . . . I like you. I do. It’s just—I’m who I am and you’re who you are—it wouldn’t work.”

Emma wiped her eyes with her fingers and said, “I don’t understand. You’re just Ben and I’m just Emma. What else matters?”

“Easy for you to say,” Ben said, wondering if he did dislike her, just a little, for her poise and her beauty and her assurance of her place in the world. “You know, it’s a lot easier for a queen to cross class barriers than it is for a peasant.”

“What are you talking about?” Emma said, and then, “Oh. Metaphors. You want to know something, Ben Scully? You carry yourself with this tortured-soul mystique but the truth is there are many people out there in as much pain as you are, and more. And people like you a lot more than you like to admit. You’re not half the mysterious loner you think you are.”

Ben hugged his guitar closer and lowered his eyes. “You think all I am is a pose? I just want to be left alone.”

“Which explains why you carry a guitar around and make a point of looking tortured and tragic.”

“Look,” he said, “when you’ve been bothered as much as I have by idiots who just like to hear themselves talk you’d want to be left alone too.”

“That punk thing you did last year was just a cry for attention.”

“You haven’t lived my life, don’t you judge me, okay? You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am.”

“Yes,” Emma said. “And if you keep acting like this, nobody else will, either.”

“There are worse things that being lonely.”

“Name one.”

That stopped Ben cold. He’d often though there were worse things than being lonely but he’d never bothered to list them, even to himself. And now he could only think of one.

“Being dead,” he said, and Emma snorted.

“For a smart guy you can be incredibly dense. Incredibly.” She started to walk away from him again, then stopped and turned. “If you’re still mad at me for that thing with Patrick Doonan when we were six then—then you’re still a child, Ben. Do you want me to apologize? Fine. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t do anything. I know I should have. I wish I had. But I bet you’ve never noticed that Patrick Doonan hasn’t bothered you since.”

“Well . . . not as obviously,” Ben muttered.

Emma shut her eyes for a moment, opened them, and said, “You fucker.” She started walking towards the parking lot.

Ben took a deep breath and ran after her. “Emma. Emma!” She stopped and looked at him, her face unreadable. “Emma. My father disappeared before I was born and I just met him Saturday and now he’s home with us and he was hurt—hurt bad—and it’s really hard, Emma. I don’t know what to say to him or talk about or anything. And in a couple days his old friends are coming to m
eet him and they’re going to expect everything to be like it used to be—they’re going to expect him to be just like he used to be—and it’s not going to be anything like how it used to be. And they’re going to be disappointed and my dad is—he’s so fragile.”

Emma’s face had softened with each word, and when he stopped she put her hand on his arm. “How is your mom?”

“My mom is fine. My mom can handle anything.”

“How are you?” she whispered.

His lips trembled and he finally released the guitar, to hold it by the neck with one hand. He said, “I’m okay,” and began to cry.

Emma was nearly his height, so there was no awkward repositioning when she put her arms around him and gently pulled his head to her shoulder. He just held her and cried.


Scully was reading the paper at the kitchen table when Ben finally came in, and she said, trying to not sound too reproving, “You’re late.”

“Sorry. I was talking to somebody.”


“Oh . . . Emma. Emma Hicks.” He started rummaging in the pantry, and said, “My calculus tutor.”

“And how is that going, by the way?”

“It’s going okay. Mom . . . she’s the girl. The girl I told you about yesterday.”

Here Scully smiled. “I see. So that part of it is going okay too?”

“I think so. Yeah. It’s going okay.”


“Where’s Mulder?” I hope he wasn’t too bored today, with neither of us home.”

“When I came home all the photo albums were out, so no, I don’t think he was bored. He’s asleep right now—or he was when I looked.”

Scully chuckled a little. “He used to never sleep. Hardly ever.”

“Maybe it’s his way of withdrawing from the drugs they had him on.”

“I guess I should be glad it’s no worse, then.”

“He is going okay, isn’t he? Physically?”

“Physically he needs to put on more weight, but he sleeps easily and—um—everything else seems to be functioning normally. Physically he’s all right.” She sighed. “Mentally . . . only time will tell.”

“Thank you for not getting too graphic.”

“You’re welcome.” There wasn’t much to get graphic about. Mulder’s bodily functions were normal and regular, as far as she could tell, for someone with his small appetite. He complained of no pains or aches—in fact he complained of nothing at all. He ate what was put before him, slept when he lay down, wore what she suggested. It was as if he was not concerned about his body, answering its needs only as an afterthought.

It would have worried her, but his mind was so alert and curious she thought perhaps his absent-minded professor tendencies had finally won out. There was precedence, after all, of Mulder forgetting to eat and wearing the same clothes for days at a time. For now it was enough that he was aware of his surroundings, that he displayed none of the symptoms of the schizophrenia Lucas had been so insistent on, and that someday he might even want to have sex with her again.

Scully closed her eyes, then opened them to watch Ben slather peanut butter on crackers. He’d poured himself a glass of milk and already had a milk moustache. She said, “I’m beat and we need to go grocery shopping. Let’s do pizza for dinner.”

Ben drank his milk quickly and said, “I’ll never say no to that.”

“Will you order it? Two mediums and a bottle of soda should do us.”

“All right. What does Mulder like?”

“Pepperoni,” Scully said automatically, and Ben smiled. “Well, some things you never forget,” she said as she folded the newspaper and rose from the table. “Will you let me know when it arrives?”

“Sure.” He popped another peanut butter-covered cracker into his mouth.

Scully went upstairs to her room. Mulder was still asleep, lying on his side and his head cradled on his arm. She had always loved to watch him sleep, even long before they were lovers. When he slept all his fears and troubled receded for a while, he was serene and more beautiful than ever.

And he was beautiful now, even with his close-cropped gray hair and his face so thin his skin stretched taut over his cheekbones. She watched him for a few moments more, then changed her works clothes for leggings and a tee shirt and sat down on the bed. She eased herself closer to him, snuggled herself up to his body and lay her head against his chest.

“What a nice way to wake up,” Mulder murmured.

“You’re awake. Hi.”

“Hi. Did you have a good day at work?” His hand worked around her waist and came to rest gently on her stomach.

“It was okay. Everyone’s always punchy at the end of a quarter.”

He stroked her stomach and said, “What do you do, again?”

She chuckled. “I teach pathology—autopsies—at the FBI Academy.”

“Why people die,” he said softly.

“How they die. Why they die was your job.”


“What did you do today?”

“I looked at your photo albums. You have a lot of pictures of Ben.”

“It’s an only child thing, I think.”

“And I watched a little TV.”

“Ah . . . a full day of high-quality programming . . .”

“I found a really good movie channel. I watched the end of something in black and white and the beginning of something in color, and then I fell asleep.”

“You had an exciting day.”

“It was like yours. It was okay. Are you tired, Scully?”

“Yes,” she murmured. “I’m tired.”

“Can I make dinner?”

“Oh . . . I had Ben order pizza. We’re low on everything and I just didn’t feel like cooking. If I’d known you wanted to . . .”

“Oh. It’s okay. Maybe some other time?”

“Sure . . . “

“Was I a good cook, Scully?”

“Not really. You could boil pasta with the best of them, though.”

Her eyes had already drifted closed. She thought she might fall asleep herself in a moment more. “How about if you make a salad for us tonight.”

“All right.” One hand was still stroking her stomach, and the other moved up to rub the back of her neck. “You’re all tight right here.”


“Would you like me to rub your shoulders?”

“Mm . . . yes . . .”

His hands gripped her shoulders and began to rub, gently, as knowing as they’d ever been.  Ohh . . . she’d missed his hands. She sighed in contentment. “Mm, Mulder, that’s so good.”

“Is it?”

“Oh, yes . . .”

“Do you like it when I rub your tummy?”


He moved one hand down again to her stomach and began to rub it slowly in a slow, wide circle. She said sleepily, “When Benjie was a baby I’d do this when he had a tummyache.”

“I bet it helped a lot.”

“I think it did.”

He pressed a kiss to her ear and whispered, “I missed you so much today.”

“I missed you too.” She stroked his arm that lay over her belly.

“Did you go to the bank today?”

“What? Oh, no. I don’t know, Mulder, the thought of that money makes me uncomfortable. Who knows where it’s from.”

“Then we should use it for something worthwhile. Like sending Ben to college. Like doing something you’ve always wanted to do.”

She smiled. “The only thing I’ve always wanted to do is have you home again.”

His hands paused, and he clasped her to him and kissed the side of her neck. “Scully—I—there’s something I want to ask you.”

“Yes, Mulder?”

“Are you honestly, really glad to have me here? Even though I’m . . . different?”

“Mulder . . .”

“I’d always hear people say, He used to be brilliant. He used to be such a genius.”

She turned over to look him in the eyes, and he held her hand to his chest. “You’re you, Mulder. You’re you. That’s all that matters to me. You’re still my sweet Mulder. And yes, I am really, honestly glad to have you here.”

He studied her face, and touched her cheek with his fingertips.

“You’re so pretty,” he said, and Scully smiled.

“Thank you.”

Mulder rubbed his hands over her back. He said softly, “Scully . . . I’ve missed you so much today. I hate it when you leave me.”

“I know. I hate leaving you. But I like my work, Mulder. And I always come ho

“Will you always come back to me?”


“Will you always find me when I’m lost?”

“Oh, yes, Mulder. Always.”

She was trembling, and Mulder whispered, “What is it? Are you cold?” as he rubbed her back.

“No,” she murmured, “I’m not cold.” She ran her hand through his hair and cupped the back of his head. His skin was cool and smooth, and he watched her through lowered eyelids.

“Scully,” he whispered, and she moaned because his voice, oh, his voice, whenever he said her name in that voice . . .

“Mulder,” she answered, and kissed him with an open mouth.

He gasped and his hands gripped her waist. For a moment she thought he was going to push her away, but he only held her and he kissed her. He kissed her slowly at first, uncertainly, and then with growing confidence.

For all the tender kisses they had given each other over the past few days, Scully felt this was the first true one, the first kiss from the Mulder she remembered. She spread her knees to rest her weight on them, and held his head between her hands and started kissing his face. She kissed his eyes and his nose and his sweet beloved lips, and he moaned softly and moved his hands upwards, to just below her breasts.


“What, Mulder?” His ears tasted like soap. She sucked on his earlobe and he moaned again.

“Is this okay? Are you sure this is okay?”

She smiled at him. “Oh, Mulder . . . this is okay. This is incredibly okay.” She smoothed his hair down at his forehead and kissed along his hairline. “Is it okay with you?”

Here he smiled, and squeezed her sides lightly. “Oh, I think so.” He ran his fingers under her chin and brought her mouth to his again.

They heard the doorbell ring from downstairs, and they both froze.

“The pizza,” Scully said.


“Ben will be expecting us—oh, God, Mulder, I’ve never had sex with Ben in the house, maybe we should go somewhere—”

They heard Ben bound up the stairs and he knocked on the bedroom door. “Mom? Mulder? Pizza’s here.”

“We’ll be right there,” Scully called, and looked down at Mulder with soft exasperation.

“I’ll meet you back here later,” Mulder said, and Scully laughed and kissed the tip of his nose.

“Come on, let’s eat.”

They rose from the bed and went down to the kitchen. He held her hand as they went down the stairs.

========= Fourteen =========

There are few meals quite as fundamentally right as fresh pizza and cold root beer. They ate the first few slices in reverential silence, broken only by requests for napkins. Mulder ate with his eyes closed in pepperoni-induced ecstasy—he had exclaimed, “Oh! My favorite!”when they opened the box to the first pizza, which made Scully and Ben smile. He was less enthused over the vegetable pizza that was their other choice, but he ate a slice and decided it wasn’t bad.

Once the first edge of hunger was taken care of, Scully leaned back in her chair with a satisfied sigh. “As nice as it would be to live only on pizza, we really need to go grocery shopping,” she said. “I could go tomorrow after work . . .”

“I’ll go tonight, if you want,” Ben said. “I could take the bank card.”

“Oh, would you, Benjie? That would be perfect. Of course it means we have to make up a list.”

“What,” Ben said, “you don’t like it when I improvise?”

“Every time you improvise you end up spending too much,” Scully said firmly. “We’re making a list and I want you to try to stick to it, please.”

“I always stick to it.”

“One carton of ice cream, Ben. No more.”

“Right, right.”

“I’ll go with him,” Mulder said, and they both looked at him, startled.

“Are you sure, sweetheart? The supermarket is usually pretty busy, even at this time of night.”

“Please,” Mulder said. “I want to.”

Scully tapped her fingers on he glass a moment, then said, “Maybe I should go with you.”

“I’ll be fine,” Mulder said.

“I can take care of him, if anything happens,” Ben said.

“But nothing’s going to happen. I’ll be fine. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

“All right,” Scully said after thinking it over a moment more. “But I want you to come home the instant you start to feel uncomfortable, all right? The instant.”

“The instant,” Mulder echoed, and she smiled at him at last.

“All right. I’ll make up the list while you two clean up.”

“Suckered into it,” Ben said, smiling, and ate another piece of pizza in just a few bites before standing and taking his plate and glass to the sink.

Mulder was very careful as he helped with the dishes. When he’d lived in the group home he broke a plate a week, it seemed to him, and though he hadn’t broken any of Scully’s dishes yet he didn’t want to start. Ben put the leftovers away, offering suggestions to Scully about the grocery list, and when the kitchen was clean Scully gave him the list, the car keys and the bank card. “Come home if anything happens,” she said to him again. “Anything.”

“I know, Mom. We’ll be okay.”

She kissed Mulder and whispered to him, “I love you,” and stood in the garage doorway as the car pulled out. She didn’t close it until they’d pulled out in the street.

Ben drove like Scully, fast and precise. He turned on the radio and then turned it off again. “You can choose,” he said.

“Whatever you like. I don’t know any stations.”

“Right.” Ben turned the radio on again. The music was loud and discordant, and Mulder wondered if it was what was popular now or Ben had chosen it to see his reaction. Whatever his reason, after just a few minutes Ben changed the station to something softer and relaxed a little, leaning back in his seat.

When they got to the grocery store the parking lot was about a quarter full, and Ben looked at Mulder for a moment after he turned off the car. “You sure you’re going to be okay?”

Mulder nodded and said, “Yes. I’m sure. I can do this.”

“Okay.” He got out of the car and Mulder followed.

The fluorescent lights were unnaturally bright, and Mulder paused in the entry. He wanted to take Ben’s hand but he didn’t think Ben would care for that. Ben was already ahead of him, pulling a cart from the queue and starting towards one side of the store. He knows his way around, Mulder thought, he’s been here a hundred times. He took a deep breath and followed to where Ben was waiting for him.

“Hanging on?” Ben said.

“I’m fine.” Ben had a quick, long stride, that Mulder kept up with easily. He had thick, dark brown hair that he wore long from the top and short at the sides, and his eyes looked gray in this light. He was tall. His hands and feet were big, and his waist was slender.

This is my son, Mulder thought. This boy—this man—is here because of me. He took another deep breath and straightened his shoulders, and Ben glanced at him and smiled uncomfortably for a moment.

“All right?”

“All right. What are we looking for?”

“Mom’s ice cream. She always says to only get half a gallon and then we eat it in three days and it’s like, what’s the point? Let’s get a whole gallon and at least it will last all week.”

“Maybe we should get a whole gallon.”

“Well, that’s what I keep telling her.” He stopped in front of a freezer door and opened it, and pulled out two cartons. “And I like the premium stuff and she tells me it’s too expensive, but when we get the house brands it’s nasty and it just sits in the freezer.”

“So it lasts longer than a week.”

Ben hesitated, then shrugged as they continued down the aisle.

“Well, we eat it eventually with lots of chocolate sauce. Mom likes chocolate.”

“Yes,” Mulder murmured, unsurprised. Scully liked chocolate . . . he’d known that.

“Or we foist it off on the guys—Mom’s friends—they’ll eat anything.Mom likes feeding them. She worries about them, three old bachelors . . .”

“They were my friends too, weren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “I guess they were.”

“I hope I get
to meet your friends sometime, Ben.”

“Oh. Yeah. Sure. I don’t see why not.” Ben didn’t say anything for a while, plucking groceries off the shelves without glancing at the list, then he said abruptly, “I was talking to a friend this afternoon. A girl. I haven’t had many friends who were girls.” He turned over a box of instant rice in his hands, and said, “I haven’t had many friends, period.”

“Why?” Mulder said, and Ben looked up at him.

“I don’t know. Some people are just really hard to talk to, I guess.”

“That shouldn’t stop you.”

“No, I mean . . . I think I’m hard to talk to. And I never realized it before today. Mom and I, we’ve talked about this, kind of, that neither of us let people in easily. She says it’s something I have to work on. But today I was talking to this girl and  . . . ” He stopped and laughed to himself. “Never mind. I’m boring you.”

“It’s your life, Ben, I’m interested. I want to know about you.”

That got a smile, and Ben said, “I was talking to this girl and she said a lot of people she knows want to know me better, but I’m so—stand-offish, is what she said—that a lot of them are afraid to approach me. That I’ll get really offended or something.”

“Do you? Get offended?”

He shrugged, stooping over the shopping cart as he guided it down the aisle. “It depends. There are a lot of jerks at my school, and they hang out with kids that may be perfectly nice, but it’s hard to tell. I can’t always tell when someone is being sincere or when they’re just going to laugh at me with their friends, so I just stay away from them all.”

“What about the girl you were talking to? What’s her name?”

“Emma. Her name is Emma.” He sighed. “She runs with the jerk pack.”

“But you like her.”

“I do. And she likes me. And she likes her friends. And maybe they’re not the terrible people I’ve always thought they were.” He stopped and looked up at Mulder. “Two drastic life changes in three days.”

“I hope I’m not making your life more difficult,” Mulder said seriously.

Ben shook his head. “I’m not sure what I should call you, though. ‘Dad’ feels weird.”

“‘Mulder’ works.”

“I think Mom wants me to call you Dad.”

“You call me whatever you’re comfortable calling me.”

Ben said, after a moment, “I wish I could ask you things nobody else knows about you. Like, what you were like when you were my age, and stuff like that. I mean, Mom didn’t know you and your family’s gone and Aunt Samantha doesn’t know and she and Mom don’t speak anyway—”

“Aunt Samantha?”

“Yeah. Your sister. I guess you forgot about her, too.”

“Samantha,” Mulder repeated softly. There was a feeling to that name, one of rage and grief and final resignation, but no specific memories. “My sister.”

“Yeah. I don’t even know if she knows you’re back. Like I said, she and Mom don’t speak. When Grandma Teena died they gave up on any pretension of getting along. I don’t know what happened between them, though I think it was from fighting about you.”

“My sister,” Mulder repeated softly. “And that’s all my family?”

“That’s all, I think. My grandparents died a long time ago and you didn’t have any other brothers and sisters. I think there’s extended family but they’ve never kept touch with us, either. Then there’s Mom’s family, of course, but she doesn’t talk to them often except Grandma Maggie. Mom’s . . . private.”  Ben said after a moment, “You know, it’s weird what you remember and what you don’t. I’d think you’d remember your sister more than Mom but it’s like all you remember is Mom.”

“Well . . .” Mulder said, and shrugged himself because he didn’t have an explanation for it either. “She is who she is, you know?”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “I know.”


Scully met them at the garage door when they returned home, obviously relieved that the trip had gone without incident. Ben went up to his room as soon as the groceries were put away, though it was still early, and Mulder fiddled with the soup cans in the pantry for a few minutes, stacking them and turning their labels to the front, and wondering what to do until bedtime.

He’d been trying all evening not to think about kissing Scully, but it was so hard not to. She had such a pretty mouth. Her lips were so full and soft, and when she pressed them against his it made him feel warmed and brave and wonderful. Her hands on his body were like a healing balm.

I want to touch her, he thought, and sighed heavily. She might welcome it—she might even like it—but how do you ask?

“Mulder?” Her voice was soft. “Are you done in here?”

“Oh. Yeah.”  He left the pantry and turned off the light, and put his hands on Scully’s shoulders and kissed her forehead. “I hope you’re not too angry about the ice cream.”

“I’m not angry. We eat too much of it, though.” She slid her hands up his arms to his elbows. “Mulder. We need to talk a little, I think.”

“I’d rather kiss you.”

Scully smiled and said softly, “Some things never change. But this is important.”

“More important than kissing you?” He pulled her closer and kissed her forehead again, and then her nose.

“Mulder. I’m worried about your heart.”

He looked down at his chest, then up at her, frowning. “Why?”

“There’s a condition caused by excessive weight loss, and I’m afraid that right now your heart may not be up to the strain.” She bit her lower lip for a moment, then said, “I think it might be wiser to wait until you’re healthier. Sex is strenuous. I’d hate for something like this to hurt you.”

“Oh,” he said softly, then removed his hands from her shoulders. “Maybe I should sleep in the guest room, too.”

“No, no, Mulder—” She sighed. “This is exactly what I don’t want you to think. I want you to sleep with me. I want to be close to you and I do—oh, God, I do want to make love to you. But only when I’m sure you’re healthy enough for it.”

Mulder studied her face for a moment, then caressed her cheek with the backs of his fingers. Scully drew in her breath and closed her eyes. “I think,” he said slowly, “that you should let me be the judge of that.”

“Mulder . . .” She smiled, her eyes still closed. “You always were the worst patient alive.”

“I feel fine,” Mulder said. “I don’t get winded going up the stairs. I kept up with Ben the whole time we were at the store, and he walks fast. Here.” He took her limp hand and pressed it to his chest. “Can you feel it?”

She spread her fingers so that her palm rested over his heart. “I feel it.”

“How does it feel to you?”

“Strong,” she whispered. “It feels strong.” She added, after a moment of feeling his heart beat and his hand gently stroking her arm, “And fast. And steady.”

Mulder let his fingers glide up her arm and rested his hand on top of hers on his chest. “I want to touch you,” he said. “I want to touch you and kiss you and—and everything you want me to do, I want to do it.” She made a soft sound in her throat. “But Scully—this is kind of embarrassing—”

Her eyes flew open. “What?”

“I know I’m not a virgin but I feel like one. I’m not sure I know how to make love to you.”

“Do you remember anything about it?”

“I remember feelings. Moments. I remember loving you so much it filled my body like—like a breath of air when you’ve been holding it—” At this she closed her eyes again and swayed closer to him. “But I don’t remember specific actions or anything like that.”

“Mm,” she said softly. “Well. It will be like the first time all over again, won’t it.”

“Will you show me, Scully? Will you show me how to make love to you?”

“Yes. Yes. Of course I will. There is my other worry, though.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t want Benjie to hear us.”

“His room is at the other end of the house.”

“But I can be loud,” Scully said, a blush rising in her cheeks.”You’ll have to help me with that.”

“Maybe we should stay down here,” Mulder said softly.

smiled and looked up at him. “I know. The study. That green couch in there, that was yours.” She took both his hands in hers and started pulling him towards her study. “Ben may have been conceived on that couch, though of course it’s hard to pinpoint something like that in our circumstances.”

“I wish I could remember, Scully. I wish I could remember it with you.”

“It’s all right, Mulder,” she whispered, closing the study door with her foot and drawing him to her. “I remember enough for the both of us. And just think about all those new memories you’ll have.”

Mulder sank onto the couch and pulled her onto his lap, and she straddled his body on her knees. “Yes,” he said quietly. “Show me, Scully.”

Her eyes were dilated so they looked almost completely black, and she cupped his head in her hands and smoothed his hair. “Where do you want to touch me, Mulder?”

“Everywhere.” He swallowed hard and placed his hands gently on her thighs. “Where do I start?”

She was smiling tenderly, and took his hands and kissed them. “At the top. Move downward. Use your hands. Use your mouth. And when it gets to that point, Mulder, I think you’ll know what to do.”

Mulder put his hands on her face and eased his fingers into her hair. He traced her skull, her ears, her cheekbones; he ran his fingers along her jaw and her chin and her nose; he passed his fingers over her lips and they opened and her tongue darted out and licked his fingers and sucked them into her mouth. She began to move against him, her hips grinding against him slowly and easily, and Mulder began to grind up in response, each touch sending a delicious thrill throughout his body. Scully bent to kiss him, holding his head and stroking his neck, and when she undid the first few buttons on his shirt he stopped moving entirely and clasped her around her waist.

“Is something wrong?” Scully whispered.

“No. No. Scully—I feel so strange—”

At once she pressed one hand to his forehead and the other to the pulse point at his throat, and he smiled. “Good strange,” he said, and she relaxed a little.

“I’m still worried.”

“Don’t be. I feel happy—and—and—”

“Yes,” she murmured, kissing him again.

“—and loved—so loved, Scully—”

“Yes, Mulder. Always loved.”

“I love you, you know,” he said.

“I know.”

He took hold of the hem of her t-shirt and looked up at her, and she nodded slightly and lifted her arms. He brought the shirt up her body and over her head, and they both sighed as he reverently cupped his hands around her breasts.

“Is this all right?”

“Yes. Yes.” Scully unhooked her bra herself and Mulder eased it off, and she smiled at his soft, “Oh, my.” He glanced up at her face again, which was flushed and pink and her eyes were closed, and decided not to ask but just to do. He pulled her closer and captured one dark pink nipple between his lips, and Scully gasped and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his hair. “That’s good, Mulder,” she whispered between kisses. “That’s so good.”

He ran his hands over her back and her sides as he sucked on her breast, felt her shoulder blades and her smooth stomach and her round hips. When she moaned he stopped for a moment, sure he’d hurt her, but she was smiling and she whispered, “Don’t stop,” so he continued.

And if she liked it at one breast she must like it at the other—and that moan must be a good sound, yes, she liked it—and oh, the way her hips were grinding against his, that felt so good too—

Abruptly she pushed his head away from her chest and Mulder looked up at her. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No. No.” She was breathing so quickly, and her hands were shaking as she went to work on his shirt. “It’s your turn.” She opened his shirt and pulled it off impatiently, and she scooted down his body and closed her mouth over his nipple. Mulder gasped and stroked her hair, watching her bright head as it moved over his chest. His body felt weightless, infinite, as if she were trying to pull him together with her kisses.

She kissed his neck and his chest, sliding down his body until she knelt on the floor. Her hands were shaking as she undid the buttons on his jeans, and Mulder took her hands and kissed them. He said nothing, however, and after a moment Scully carefully stood, still holding onto his hands.

“What is it?” she whispered. “Are you all right?”

“I just want to look at you a minute.” Amber light shone through the shades from the street lamps, casting stained-glass patches on her skin. Her hair was coppery, and her lips were plump and wet. “You’re beautiful.” He slid his hands from her hips past her narrow waist and up her sides, to rest just below her breasts. “You’re perfect.” He pulled her a little and she stepped towards him, watching him through half-closed eyes. “I just want to—I don’t know, Scully—gobble you up.” She laughed at that and put her hands on his shoulders. “But first I want to look at you more,” he said, and slipped his hands into the waistband of her pants. She moved enough to let him slide her pants and underwear down to the floor, and watched his face as he looked on her naked body.

Mulder honestly did not remember what she had looked like before, but he was certain she had been this beautiful, this round and soft and inviting. It was a body that cried out to be touched, caressed, tasted, pleasured. It was his turn to kneel and he ran his hands and then his mouth up her leg and down the other, over her belly, even—and he had to close his eyes for a moment—over the round cheeks of her ass. Scully was not silent, she whimpered and moaned and whispered his name, touching his face and his hair and his shoulders.

“Poetry,” he said softly.

“Tell me.”

He closed his eyes again—it was a memory, if he reached out for it he could grab hold of it, tight—and whispered, “I looked at you—you’d just taken a bath, you were drying off—and I recited something, some poem about a woman getting out of the bath and you laughed and called me—what did you call me? A hopeless romantic. And I said, ‘Hopeful.Not hopeless.'”

“It was D. H. Lawrence, I think. I finally found the poem a few years ago. I have it in a book, copied out.”

“You loved me,” Mulder whispered, and pressed his face against her stomach. “You loved me so much and I could see it in your eyes whenever you looked at me. You didn’t hide it in front of other people, you let it show. And I loved you for it.”

“I loved you,” she said softly. “I still love you. I love you so much.” She sat down on the couch and then lay down on it, and Mulder joined her and started kissing her again, tenderly and slowly. She raised her knees so he could lie more easily between her legs, and as he kissed her skin she began to rub her hips against him again, quietly insistent.

“You taste like honey,” he whispered, and she moaned. She grabbed his hand and took his forefinger into her mouth, and sucked on it, swirling her tongue around it from base to tip. Mulder’s eyes widened and he moaned, surprised at the sound and at the tremor that went through him. He knew his body was responding to her, turning what had been a shameful and solitary activity of the last few years into something wonderful, something beautiful, something that was meant to be shared and experienced together.

Scully took his still-wet finger and parted her legs, and eased his fingers carefully inside her, where she was slick and tight. “There,” she whispered, her breathing fast and sharp, “that’s where you want to be, Mulder, that’s where I want you.”

“Here,” he whispered, and started moving his hand, watching in fascination as her head lolled back and forth on the sofa cushion. Her skin was flushed pink all over, radiating heat. It was the most beautiful thing Mulder had ever seen, as she writhed and bucked and cried out to him.

When her body finally came to rest and she opened her eyes, Mulder ran his thumb over
her lips and said, “That was pretty good?”

“It was good. I think you remember. You just don’t know it.”

“I’ve done that before?”

“Oh, yes. Something very like it.”

He pulled his fingers from her and sniffed them, and smiled at the scent and put them in his mouth. “Mmmm.”

“Mulder . . .”

“You taste sweet, Scully. And salty. And . . . mmm . . . warm . . .”

“Mulder.” She sat up carefully and moved over to straddle him again.

“I want you. I want you to fuck me, Mulder.”

“If Ben said that—”

“Ben had better not be even thinking about fucking,” Scully growled, tugging on his jeans. “Lift up, Mulder.” He lifted his hips as she said and she pulled down his jeans, and reached through the opening in his boxer shorts to uncover his penis. It was hard and engorged, and he looked at her face, biting his lip, expecting her to be repulsed.

She was smiling. “Ohhh, Mmmmulder . . .” She looked into his eyes. “I remember this.”

“So it’s all right?”

“It’s beautiful.” Her hand closed gently around the head and he gasped and closed his eyes. Her hand pumped him slowly, and she kissed his mouth and his face. “I want it inside me, Mulder. I want you inside me.”

He grasped her hips and spread his legs to open hers further, and whispered, “Now?”

“Now.” She raised herself and wrapped her arms around his neck, and lowered her body onto him.

“Oh. Oh, God. Oh, my God.”




“Scully. God. Scully.”

“Tell me. Tell me.”

“Wet. So . . . mmm . . .hot. And—and—tight—so tight—”

“Yes, Mulder.”

“Don’t ever—want—to leave—”

She cried out again, shivering beneath his hands, and kissed his face with open lips. Her breath was warm and her lips were wet, and her tongue snaked out to lick his face. “Love you,” she said in a low voice. “Love you inside me. Missed you—missed you so much, Mulder, missed you so much I couldn’t bear it sometimes, I’d lie in my bed and cry for you, wanting your hands, your mouth, to hear your voice—” Her voice broke and she buried her face in his shoulder, and he felt wetness from her tears.

“Shh, shh,” he whispered, “shh. I’ve got you. I’m here. I love you.”

Scully lifted her head and looked into his eyes, and said, her voice still low, “I know.” She kissed him, keeping her eyes open, and he watched her watch him. They kissed, watching each other, and their bodies moved together as if they had never been apart.

“Mulder!” Her mouth left his, and she grabbed his face and stared into his eyes, holding his gaze until she couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. Her face scrunched up and her neck arched, and she gave a cry that sounded like either bloody murder or utmost joy, and Mulder died.

It took a minute or too for him to realize this was not actual death, just a close replica, and that Scully was kissing him and cooing sweet wordless noises to him. He stroked her back and tried to think of something to say, something loving and wise and wonderful, and gave up and kissed her.

Eventually Scully moved off him and got dressed again, and Mulder reluctantly followed her example. “Is it wrong of me to want to do that again?”

She smiled and smoothed down his hair. “No. You should probably pace yourself, though.”

“So later tonight is out of the question.”

“No . . . we’ll see. Hey, Mulder.”


“You really don’t remember having sex? You don’t remember making love to me before?”

He shook his head. “No. I wish I did.”

“Maybe it’s just me,” she said softly, and put her arm around his waist. “I’m sleepy. Let’s go to bed.”

“No argument there,” Mulder said, and turned off the study overhead light as they went out the door.

======== Fifteen ========

Tuesday morning, and Ben approached school with more than his usual amount of trepidation. It was one thing to talk for hours after school with a girl—it was quite another to talk with her for a few minutes in front of her friends.

They hadn’t made any real plans to meet, but Emma had said, “I’ll see you tomorrow before class, okay?” and he’d said, “Okay.” So should he go look for her, the usual place where she talked with her friends? Or would she look for him? What if he went to the landing, and she went to the benches under the oak, and they missed each other completely?

He went to his locker, and there Emma was, looking pretty and fresh and hiphugger jeans and a daisy-yellow t-shirt. She grinned at him. “Hey, Ben.”

“Hey.” He grinned back. “How come you always beat me here?”

“I come early to get a good parking place, and do homework in the library until people start to show up. You walk, don’t you?”

“Yeah. We’ve only got the one car.”

She stepped closer to him and said softly, her eyes searching his face, “How are your folks? Are they doing okay?”

“They’re okay. They were making googly eyes at each other this morning at breakfast, which was weird enough—my mom’s not the googly-eyed type—but what was even weirder was that my dad got up early and made breakfast in the first place.”

“What it good?” Emma said, smiling uncertainly.

“It was delicious. He made omelets. They were even better than my mom’s. That was another thing: last night we went grocery shopping, just him and me, and it wasn’t terrible. It was pretty cool. We, like, really talked.”

“That’s so sweet.” “Yeah,” Ben said shyly, and twirled the combination on his locker.

Emma watched him for a moment or two, then said, “Tell me something.”


“Your parents, it sounds like they love each other.”

Ben paused and looked at her. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “I guess they do.”

“That’s so cool. Even after all this time and everything else that’s happened.”

“Yeah.” There was something in her eyes, something sad and painful, and he hesitated before putting an arm around her shoulders. “What is it?”

Her hand came up to his chest and she leaned her head on his shoulder. “My parents are getting a divorce,” she said quietly. “My mom’s moving out. She says—she tells Zoë and me that it’s nothing to do with us, she just wants more—and she doesn’t love my dad anymore—and all I can think is, why? You know? They’ve had such a normal life.”

“Maybe that’s why,” Ben said quietly, and he ran his fingers along the ends of her hair where it curled, golden-white. She had the longest hair of anyone he knew. “Maybe it’s harder to make love stay when there’s nothing to really threaten it. If my mom and dad had been together all this time, maybe they wouldn’t be now. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah,” Emma said, and sniffled.

“I’m sorry about your parents, Em.”

“I knew you’d understand.”

“That’s me, Mr. Understanding.”

She sniffled and giggled, and over their heads the bell rang. “Damn it,” she said, closing her eyes.

“Yeah.” Ben didn’t want to let her go. Her body was strong and warm and she smelled like honey. Her hand felt utterly, completely right on his chest.

But she sighed and stepped back, and picked up her book bag from where she’d set it on the floor. “Okay. I’ve got to go. Want to each lunch together?”

“That would be great.”

“Okay. Where do you want to meet?”

“I’ll get you. What class do you have just before?”

“Chemistry in D-24.”

“Okay. I’ll meet you outside.”

“Okay.” She was reluctant to go, and Ben put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

“Shoo. You’ll be late.”

“So will you.” She started to walk away, then turned and hugged him, tight and quick, and hurried to the nearest stairwell.

Ben stood at his locker, dumbstruck and delighted, until the second bell jarred him out of his daydream. He had to run to not be late.


Eleven o’clock to twelve was Scully’s first office hour of the day. She wasn’t expecting anyone—most of her students had come the day before, in l
arge groups, to prepare for their final exams. She had papers out on her desk and some preliminary questions for the final on her computer, but she couldn’t concentrate. She’d barely gotten thought her lecture that morning, losing her train of thought repeatedly until one of her students asked her if she needed to sit down.

It was strange to feel this way, but not unfamiliar. Sex with Mulder the first time, seventeen years ago, had turned her into mush, too.

What a basket case she’d been the next day, goofy and silly and so happy she hardly knew what to do with herself. She’d held Mulder’s hand as they walked into the Hoover building, knowing that everyone was looking at them and not caring who saw. “They’re all looking at us,” Mulder had said, out of the side of his mouth like a cartoon conspirator.

“Good,” she’d answered, and he laughed and pulled her to him and kissed her, hard on the lips, on front of the tourists and the security guards and everybody else who had no idea how close they’d come to annihilation. As long as that kiss lasted everyone was looking at them, and as long as that kiss lasted Scully pitied them for not being loved like this.

Despite everything, that was a good day. The first of many good days, the first of what she hoped would be endless good days. Even when the story began to come out and she was afraid someone would break their promise and tell exactly what role two FBI agents had played, there had been many, many good days.

She’d often wondered if someone had told, and that was why Mulder was taken away—but that made no sense to her. Well, none of it made sense, that They—the ever-present They, the They who refused to admit defeat—would take Mulder way in the first place. Or what they had hoped the gain, if they had thought she would go mad without Mulder and thus, finally, defeat her.

Without Ben I might have, she thought. They weren’t expecting that.

She smiled a little, remembering Ben’s report of his conversation with Krycek over coffee, how Krycek had said no one expected Ben to exist. Surprise, she thought, looking at the framed picture of Ben beside her computer, and her smile broadened as it usually did when she contemplated the miracle that was her son.

She’d never thought he would exist, either, and it had seemed like too much to hope for that he would not only exist but would be strong and handsome and intelligent. But here he was. One last gift from the rebels who had helped them.

Or was he the last? The mysterious men who had put Mulder into Krycek’s care, who had they been, for whom had they been working? And would they ever return?

She sighed and turned reluctantly to her computer. I really need to get some work done.

But someone knocked on her door and she was glad for the distraction. “Come in.”

She expected one or more of her students, or possibly the department secretary, but it was none of these. “Hi, Scully,” said Walter Skinner, and for a moment she was too surprised to smile.

“Walter. Hi. It’s been a while.”

“Yes, it has. May I?” He sat down in the chair in front of her desk. “I heard you were finally back in town and I thought I’d stop in to say hello.”

“You made the trip all the way out here just to say hello? You know you’re always welcome at the house.”

“I thought it would be best if I came here.” He ran his fingers over the edge of her desk. “I understand Mulder is back.”

“Yes. He is.”

“Uh-huh.” Back and forth over the wood veneer. “How is he?”

“He’s good. His health is good. His—” she took a deep breath, “his memory is returning.”

“His memory?” Whoever had told him Mulder was back had obviously left out some details.

“There’s a lot missing. But we’re working on it.”

“But he is all right?”

“He’s all right. He’s actually quite wonderful.”

“I see.” He finally stopped fidgeting. “I’m glad. I’ve been worried about you, you know.”

“I know.” She leaned forward. “Why don’t you come over tomorrow night? The guys are coming, we’re having dinner together. It’ll be like old times.”

He said, “I don’t think I should.”

“Ben misses you.”

Skinner sighed and said, “I miss him too, but I think under the circumstances it would be best if I stayed away.”

“Walter. One marriage proposal doesn’t mean we’re no longer friends.”

“Maybe. But one marriage proposal plus Mulder coming back into your life does.”


“I’m happy for you, Scully. I am. I know how much you’ve missed him. But I think it’ll be a while before I’ll visit again.”

“I’m sorry. I really am.”

“So am I.” He rose, paused, and leaned over the desk to kiss her cheek. Scully accepted his kiss quietly, and watched him go with genuine sadness. He’d been a good friend to her all these years, tender and supportive, and his proposal had come out of nowhere, surprising her completely And of course she’d refused him. fI never wanted him to fall in love with me, she thought, and sighed, her need for Mulder only intensified by this encounter. I wish it were summer . . . I wish I could go home early . . .

Two o’clock. Two o’clock was the earliest she could leave and not feel unbearably guilty.

And it would be a good hour before Ben would come home. Longer if he was talking to his new friend again.

The day was already looking up. She smiled and took a deep breath, and turned to her computer, determined to get the final at least halfway written before her next lecture at twelve-thirty.


“How are you getting home today?” Emma asked as she and Ben ate their lunch on the grass in the commons.

“The usual. I walk.”

“I can drive you. It’s no trouble.”

Ben was lying on his back, his arms under his head, and at this he closed his eyes and grinned. “I’m okay. Really. It’s not that far.”

“‘Cause I’d kind of like to meet your parents.”

Ben’s eyes popped open. “Oh. Today?”

“Do you not want me to?”

“I hadn’t really—I mean, I had thought about it, but not in terms of, like, soon.”

“Why not?”

“Emma . . . I don’t know if meeting my father right now would be a good thing. For either of you.”

“Why? Do you think I’ll scare him?”

“No . . .”

“Or that he’ll scare me?”

“You’re being silly, Emma.”

“So are you.”

They regarded each other quietly, then Emma said, “Look. You’ve met my dad—”

“And such a good impression I made, too.”

“—and you’re not going to meet my mom anytime soon, so . . . so I want to meet your folks.” She added with a grin, “And any other family member you might care to toss at me.”

Ben grinned back and rolled onto his side, towards her. “I have four godfathers. They’ll all very wonderful guys but they’re quite odd, in their own ways. They might scare you—but they’re really quite nice.”

“I’m not afraid of nothin’,” Emma said, laughing, and Ben laughed with her.

In a moment they became aware that they were not alone, and Ben glanced at the new people uncomfortably.  They were some of Emma’s friends, perky and pretty girls who always made him feel oafish and clumsy.

“Hey Trina,” Emma said, not sounding any happier to see them than Ben felt. “Hey, Alyssa.”

“Where have you been? We held the seat for you in the cafeteria and everything,” Trina said.

“I told you I wasn’t eating lunch with you guys today. Do you guys know Ben? This is Ben.”

“Hey,” Alyssa said softly.

“Hi,” Ben said.

“Uh-huh,” Trina said. “How could you bail on us today? We’ve got all this stuff to plan for, there’s the whole summer coming up and we haven’t decided anything.”

“I think I’m going to do something more than hanging out at the mall this summer,” Emma said quietly.

“Don’t you want to come down to Trinity Island with me again this year?”

“Mm, and hang out at the Trinity Island mall. Probably not.”

Trina dug the heel of her shoe into the grass a moment, then said, “So you’d rather hang out with this loser than with your

Emma’s eyes flared and she said, putting her hand on Ben’s arm as he started to rise, “Leave Ben alone. He never did anything to you.”

“His very existence offends me.”

“Oh, get over yourself!” Emma said. “You’re one girl in a big high school in a big city, in a big world, Trina, that you don’t even think about, that you don’t even acknowledge—and none of it is in a fucking mall.”

“Yeah, you’d know about fucking,” Trina sneered.

“Hey, guys, come on,” Alyssa said quietly.

“Go do the football team,” Emma said with disgust. “Go get wasted in the parking lot. Go do something you always do, ’cause you know what?You’re never going to change. You’re going to be forty-five years old and still worrying about hair colors and hemlines. I want to talk to somebody with some depth for once. Why don’t you go talk about lip gloss with someone who cares.”

“Bitch,” Trina said.

“Oo, vocabulary,” Emma said, her eyes like steel. “Did you think that up yourself or did your mommy think it up for you?”

Trina stared at her, her chest heaving, and she turned with a muttered, “Come on, Alyssa.” She tossed over her shoulder as she walked away, “I guess Emma prefers geeks over worthwhile people.”

Alyssa followed her, but looked at Emma, Ben thought, with some longing.

Emma had squeezed her eyes shut, and she was visibly trying to calm herself down. Ben put his hand on hers, and when she didn’t pull away he put an arm around her. She leaned her head on his shoulder, and he was alarmed to see tears on her lashes. “Are you okay?” he whispered.


“I gotta tell you, Emma, that was awesome, I’ve never seen anybody rip into someone like that except my mom.”

She chuckled tearily and said, “I’m sorry you had to see that. It’s been a long time coming. The people who you fit in with when you’re ten, they’re not always right for you when you’re sixteen.”

“I know. I know. Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For standing up for me.”

“Trina’s a snob. And she’s ignorant. She thinks the capital of the world is headquarters of the Gap.”

“That was still about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. You’re tough.”

She looked up at him, her head still on his shoulder. “You’re not a geek. And you’re not a loser.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a geek.” He smiled a little. “Welcome to the other side, Em.”

She looked up at the oak leaves overhead, and said, “I bet I’ll be a lot happier here.”


Scully expected—sort-of hoped—for Mulder to be waiting for her on the front steps. She found him instead in the kitchen, making dinner. His smile was large and genuine, however, when he saw her, and he wiped his hands on a towel and hugged her tight.

“You look so nice I don’t know if I should kiss you.”

“You should,” Scully said, so he kissed her. “Mm . . . it’s good to be home.”

“Did you have a good day?”

“It was okay. It’ was an all-right day. I saw an old friend today, for the first time in a long while.”

“Isn’t that good?”

“Normally it would be, but we had a—a misunderstanding a few months ago.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Mulder said softly. His hands were doing gentle and wonderful things to her shoulders, and Scully sighed and leaned against him.

“He asked me to marry him,” she murmured, “and he was very hurt when I said no.”

Mulder sighed too and stopped rubbing her shoulders. “Why did you say no?”

“Because it’s not right to marry someone when you’re in love with someone else.” She looked up at him, tightening her arms around his chest. “You don’t think I should have said yes, do you?”

“No . . . only your friend might have made you happy.”

“Not as happy as I am right now, standing here and holding you.” She began to rub his chest in slow circles with her palm. “I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”

He put his hand over hers on his chest and said, “Dance with me, Scully.”

She laughed. “There’s no music.”

“I’ll hum.” He started humming something in ¾ time, and she fell into step with him, deciding to ask him later when he had learned to waltz.

======== Sixteen ========

The pasta salad for their dinner cooling safely in the fridge, Mulder decided to join Scully in the back yard. She’d changed her work clothes for jeans and a t-shirt, and had sat outside in the swing for that last half-hour, dreamily swinging back and forth. He’d watched her as much as he could, admiring the way the sun shone on her hair and wondering what she was thinking about.

She smiled when he joined her on the swing, and leaned against his chest comfortably. Mulder used one heel to rock them slowly back and forth, and ran one hand lightly up and down her arm while he held her around the waist with the other.

“Is Ben home yet?” she murmured.

“Not yet.”

“I hope . . . this girl worries me. I’m terrified she’ll break his heart and he’ll end up hating women forever. He’s so sensitive.”

“I think,” Mulder said slowly, “that if Ben is willing to trust her that way we should believe he’s made the right choice.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“Of course I am.”

“Oh, of course,” Scully murmured, her voice low and amused. She reached back to stroke the back of his neck with her fingertips, her nails scratching him lightly. Mulder burrowed his head into the crook of her neck and sighed with contentment.

“Tell me a story,” he said.

“What kind of story?”

“Tell me about the day Ben was born.”

“Oh, my,” she said, chuckling. “That’s a tale. All right. My mother and the guys were taking turns being with me, because I was overdue and they didn’t want me to go into labor alone. I’d been having contractions, not very strong ones, for about two days, several hours apart, so I knew it would be soon, but I wasn’t sure how soon. So on this particular day,” she said with another small chuckle, “my mother went to the store for a few minutes and got rear-ended while she was out, so she was gone much longer than she thought she would be. Frohike had been with me earlier but he had an appointment so I told him to go ahead and go, my mother would be back soon and Byers was on his way anyway. So he left, but my mother didn’t come back and Byers didn’t show up. It turned out he got stuck in traffic.

“Anyway, I was alone and the contractions had started coming closer together, and I realized if this kept up I would have to drive myself to the hospital, which I did not look forward to because once a contraction is going it’s really hard to concentrate on anything else. I tried calling my mother but she’d forgotten the cell phone, and the guys didn’t trust cell phones so none of them had one. So I decided I’m not having this baby in my apartment, wrote a note to my mother, dragged my suitcase out to the car, and drove myself.”

“That’s my strong Scully,” Mulder said, squeezing her gently.

“On the way I decided to call Skinner. He and I hadn’t been talking a great deal since I’d been reassigned, but he was glad to hear from me and agreed to meet me at the hospital. So he was there by the time I got there, and helped me check in and get settled. And he was lucky enough to be there when I went into serious, white-knuckled, trying-not-to-scream labor. It scared him. He kept saying, ‘This is too much, you need drugs,’ and I kept telling him, ‘No, no, I don’t want drugs.’ He just about fainted when my water finally broke.”

Again Mulder squeezed her about her waist, and kissed her neck. Scully caressed his face and went on, “I was in labor about fourteen hours, which isn’t so bad, considering most first babies take a long time. My mother finally showed up, fresh from reporting the accident, and the guys were there in time to see me sweating and swearing at the very worst of it. They took turns holding my hand. It was very sweet of them, really.”

“What was it like, giving birth?” Mulder whispered.

“Oh . . . Hard. It’s called labor for a reason. But beautiful in
its way. Moving. Spiritual. I don’t know, Mulder, it’s hard to explain. It was the hardest physical work my body has ever done but at the same time the physical part of it wasn’t important, it was that I was giving birth and it was your baby and . . .” She sighed, and laced her fingers through his hand at her waist. “I wanted you terribly.”

Mulder closed his eyes and said through a husky throat, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”

“Mulder.” She shifted in the swing to look at him. “Mulder. Look at me.” He opened his eyes.  “It wasn’t your fault. You know that.”

“But that’s the part that makes me angry, Scully. I should have been there.”

Scully said nothing for a few minutes, just stroked his face tenderly and kissed him lightly, and then said quietly, “When they put Ben into my arms I cried. I just held him and cried. I wanted you to be there, I wanted you to burst into the delivery room and witness the birth of your son, I wanted you to tell me you loved me and would never leave me again. I had fantasized about that. I wished for it, every day, and I desperately wanted to find a way to make it true.And when I held him and he was bloody and messy and screaming, that was when I knew there wasn’t going to be any magic, you weren’t going to just reappear. If I would ever have you back I would have to find you. And I’d do it. I vowed it then and there. For Ben’s sake, I’d find you.”

He kissed her forehead and leaned his own against hers, a few tears slipping down his cheeks. “Thank you.”

“For what?” She kissed his tears.

“For loving me that much.”

“Oh, Mulder . . . ” she whispered, kissing him more, and Mulder kissed her back and held her tightly. “I do love you,” she whispered. “You believe that, don’t you?”

“Yes. I do. What I don’t understand, really, is why.”

“Mulder . . .”

“I mean, I’m not the man I was. I know that. And I have to ask myself, do you love who I am or who I used to be?”

Scully traced his lips with her fingers and said, “They’re one and the same to me, Mulder.” He sighed and leaned his head against her shoulder. “You’re not like how you used to be, that’s true. But there are things about you that are so unmistakably Mulder that I don’t think anyone could really think you’re not the same person. You’re still Mulder. You’re my Mulder. That’s all that really matters to me.”

“Like what?” he whispered.

“Fundamental things. Your gentleness. Your affection. The way you look at me. Even the way you make love.”

“You recognize the way I make love?”

“Oh, yes. You have that same focus, that same intensity. When we make love it’s like there no one in the world but us.”

“Do you like that, Scully?”

“Yes. I do.”

They were touching each other, gently, enraptured. Light fingers over cheekbones and chins, down necks and through hair. Their eyes held each other’s, and their mouths smiled. He whispered, “What would the neighbors say if we made love here?”

“I’m not worried about the neighbors so much as I am about Ben coming home.”

“Oh, yeah,” Mulder said, leaning back his head and closing his eyes. “I guess we’ll just to wait a while.”

“Just a little while. Just a few hours. Think you can bear it?” She kissed him, keeping her eyes open.

“Since I have to, yes, I can.” He picked her up and set her on his lap, and she laughed. “But will you kiss me for a while, to tide me over?”

“Yes,” Scully said, and kissed him, her arms around his neck.

Just a few minutes passed this way when they were interrupted by a slightly embarrassed cough, and Scully stopped kissing Mulder to look behind her. Ben stood on the steps from the house into the garden, holding hands with a blonde girl. “Hi,” Ben said. “Um, we can go inside—”

“It’s all right, Benjie, come on,” Scully said, moving off Mulder’s lap to sit beside him in the swing again. Ben led the girl down the steps, and they stopped in front of the swing.

“I—uh—this is Emma,” he said. “This is Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. My mom and dad.”

“Hello, Emma,” Scully said, shaking her hand, and she glanced at Mulder and quirked her eyebrow. Mulder grinned back.

“Hi, Emma,” he said, shaking her hand carefully.

“Hi. Hi. It’s so good to meet you. Ben’s told me so much about you both.”

At Scully’s look Ben ducked his head and said, “Well, we’ve had to talk about something besides calculus. I want to show Emma around the house a little, okay?”

“All right,” Scully said. “Would you like to stay for dinner, Emma?”

“It’s pasta salad,” Mulder said. “With chicken.”

Emma looked at Ben, and he nodded, smiling. “I’d love to. I’ll have to call my dad, of course, but I’d like that very much.”

“Cool,” Ben said, and they went back into the house.

Scully’s smile faded and she sighed, and leaned back against Mulder again. “If you had known you’d have to deal with teenage first love, would you have wanted to come home?”

“Of course.”

His arm around her shoulders and her head against his chest, they swung in companionable silence for a while.


Ben was just glad he’d made his bed that morning. Emma sat down at his desk and pulled up her legs, setting her backpack on the floor, and grinned at him, and he sat down on the bed and grinned back. “Are you hungry or anything? Do you want something to drink?”

“I’m okay. Your parents seem really nice.”


“And this is such a cool house. How long have you lived here?”

“Just about all my life. My mom was in an apartment when I was born but decided I needed a backyard, so here we are.”

“You’ve got a huge music collection.”

“I like music. It makes me happy.”

Emma nodded, and looked at his cluttered desk. She picked up a picture frame and said, “Who is this?”

“Emily. My sister.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“She died before I was born. She had a rare blood disease of some kind. I don’t know the details.”

“It must have been hard for your mom.”


Emma nodded, still holding the picture frame. “She doesn’t look like you at all.”

“Different fathers.”

“Really? Your mom was married before she was with your dad?”

“No . . .” Ben sighed. “When my mom had been working with my dad a while she was kidnapped. She still doesn’t know who did it, exactly, or what was done to her. But stuff was done . . . bad stuff . . . and part of it was they took her ova.”

“You’re making this up.”

“I’m not. And they used her ova to make Emily. She doesn’t know who Emily’s father was. She didn’t give birth to her. She didn’t know Emily existed until, like, a month before Emily died.”

“People don’t do things like that.”

“They don’t anymore, but they used to. Emily is the proof.”

Emma said nothing, looking at the picture with a serious expression. She looked up at Ben and said, “What happened to your father?”

“The same people took him, they did shit to him, and they gave him back. Only instead of giving him back to us, like they did with my mom when they were through with her, they gave him to a guy named Krycek and told him to take care of him. He did for a long time and then when Mom found him he stepped away. So now we’ve got a guy who’s nearly sixty but he’s like a kid, and it’s weird . . . but I’m glad he’s here.”

Emma nodded again, slowly. “You remember when you said you thought they might not be together if he’d been around this whole time?”


“I don’t think that’s true.”

“How so?”

She smiled a little. “The way he looked at her. The way they were kissing when we came outside. I think if he’d been here you’d have seen that all your life. That’s the real thing.”

Ben shook his head. “Maybe. Of course we’ll never know. Maybe they’d still be together, maybe I’d have a ton of brothers and sisters, maybe they’d have split up a long time ago. Who knows. What’s important is that he’s here now, and she’s happy.”

“You love your mom lot, don’t you?” Emma said, putting the picture frame down
at last.

“Yeah,” Ben said, watching her face. “I mean, of course there are other people in our lives but they’ve always seemed—I dunno, peripheral—and all that really mattered was Mom and me.”

Emma nodded, her gaze distant, and then she looked at him and smiled a tiny bit. “You’re lucky, you know that? You’ve got two parents who love each other like crazy and love you like crazy . . . that’s something everybody wants, I think. That’s what we all wish for. Part of it, anyway.”

“And the other part?” Ben said, smiling himself, and she blushed a little.

“Oh . . . that part’s important too, don’t you think? A whole circle of love you can wrap yourself up in.” She pulled up her knee and rested her chin on it, her arms around her leg.

“Yeah, I think it’s important. Everybody wants love.”

“Real love.”

“True love.” Ben was trembling, and as he looked at her he thought, Now, now, now. He said softly, “Emma.”

“Yeah, Ben?”

“You make me happy too.”

She didn’t say anything, but the way her eyes sparkled said enough. She unwrapped her legs and moved in the chair as he walked across the room, and he knelt down so their eyes were level. She put her hands on his shoulders and smiled, her eyes serious.

He said again, softly, “Emma,” and leaned forward, and kissed her lips carefully. He felt her quick exhale of breath and pulled away for a moment, and her hands touched his face and pulled him back.

Her lips were sweet, waxy from her lip balm, and soft.

“Hey,” she said when they finally parted for breath.


She smiled at him and rubbed his shoulders. “You make me happy too, Benjie,” she said quietly.

“Except when I’m being a jerk.”

“You recover from that pretty quickly, it’s not so bad.”

“I’ll do better. I’ll try.”

“It’s okay. I know it’s hard for you to be open all the time.”

“Not just hard. Next to impossible. But I’ll try, Emma, you’ll see, I can be the best boyfriend you’ve ever had.”

“Boyfriend?” she whispered.

“Oh . . . I mean—”

“Boyfriend,” she repeated. “Yeah. My boyfriend, Ben Scully. It works.”

“Whew,” Ben said, not quite meaning it to be a joke. She smiled at him again and continued rubbing his shoulders, and he said, “Is it okay to kiss you again?”

“That would be great,” she said, so he did.

========== Seventeen ==========

Something had happened between the children between their talk in the garden and when Mulder called them down for dinner. Scully frowned, trying to place it. They hadn’t fought. They were smiling, touching each other’s hands, looking at each other before they spoke whenever a question was asked. Emma looked like she was about to burst into giggles, and Ben looked—what, exactly?

Like Mulder that long ago day when he’d kissed her the first time.

Scully set down her glass and coughed into her napkin, and Ben said worriedly, “Mom? Are you okay?”

“Fine,” she gasped, and leaned back against Mulder’s hand, which rubbed her spine in comfort. “Fine.”

Well, it had to happen someday, didn’t it? She’d always known it would, hoped it would, that someone would see in Ben what she saw: that he was smart, handsome and interesting young man, that he was well worth loving. She’d always told herself she’d welcome whomever Ben chose to love into their lives, despite her fears for his gentle heart. It was natural, it was expected, circle of life and all that.

She looked at her handsome baby, who was still watching her carefully to make sure she was still breathing, and smiled. “Sorry. I swallowed too quickly.”

He nodded, looking down at his plate, and Scully thought, Not a baby anymore. On his way to being a man. She sighed, and Mulder’s hand continued rubbing her back, slowly. She looked at him, wondering if he knew it too, and saw in his smile that yes, he did.

“Don’t choke, Scully, that wouldn’t be good,” he said solemnly, and she touched his cheek.

“Sorry to scare you. I’m okay.” She sipped her juice, and when his hand nudged hers beneath the table she held onto it. “It’s such a nice night. Let’s go for a walk after supper.”

“We can do the cleaning up,” Ben said quickly, then looked at Emma. “Is that okay?”

“Sure,” Emma said.

“Thank you, Benjie.” She noticed the way Emma smiled when she called him that, and wondered if she, too, would turn a name into a term of endearment loaded with meaning and nuances no one else would ever understand. Mulder had told her, long ago, “It got to the point when every time I called you Scully I meant something else: love, sweetheart, dearest, muffin.” “Muffin,” she’d repeated, laughing, and teased him by calling him Doughnut for a week.

Scully glanced at Mulder again and tightened her hold on his hand for a moment. He squeezed back and smiled at her. Would he remember that, ever? If she called him Doughnut now would there be a moment of recognition or would he just be confused?

I am not going to do this to either of us, she thought. I’m not going to pin my hopes on his remembering things that may never come back. I’ll tell him about them all, someday, if he wants, but I’m not going to hurt him by trying to make him remember and being disappointed when he doesn’t.

When they all had finished eating the children started cleaning up at once, but Mulder was slower to rise. Scully watched him for a moment as he pushed the remains of his meal around his plate, and then went to stand behind him and put her hands on his shoulders. She rubbed his shoulders gently. “Are you okay?”

“Of course.”

“We can stay in if you want.”

“If you want to go walking I want to come with you. You’re right, it’s a beautiful night.” He put down his fork and turned in the chair, and put his arms around her waist. “And it’s only your neighbors, right?”

“Yes, and they’re very nice people, most of them.”

“So it will be fine.”

“Yes.” She stroked his face. “It’ll be just fine.”

“All right, then. I’m coming.” He stood and brought his dishes to the sink, and Emma took them from him.

“You two go, have a few minutes alone,” she said, waving her hand at them. “We’ll be fine here.”

Scully took Mulder’s hand. She could still feel his hesitation, his worry about this next new experience, and she said, “If you want to stay in it’s okay to say so.”

“I want to walk with you,” he said, looking into her eyes, and there was something about that simple phrase that made Scully tremble and tighten her hand on his. He no longer was the man who could make a simple question sound like a proposition, but there was still that sensuality to him, the need to give love and show love the way he had always best understood it.

They walked hand-in-hand up the block, stopping to admire neighbors’ flower gardens or for Scully to point out a particular friend. It was a fine spring night, warm and breezy, and many others on the block were out as well: children playing in their front yards, parents gardening or watching the world go by. Mulder said little when she stopped to talk to her neighbors, but he held Scully’s hand very tight.

As they rounded the corner to head back home, Mulder said, “Scully, do you think . . .”

“Do I think what, sweetheart?”

He sighed. “Maybe I’m just shy.”

She smiled and said, “Maybe. I think it’s more that you’re not used to being around strangers. You’ll get over it, I’m sure.”

“What if I don’t?”

She squeezed his hand and said, “It’ll be all right either way.”  They walked a little further, then Scully said, “Mulder. Would you tell me a story?”

“I’ll try. What about?”

“Tell me about when you were homeless. Tell me what that was like.”

He wrinkled his forehead. “I don’t want to talk about that, Scully. It was a very bad time.”

“But that’s why I want to know about it. I want to know what you went through.”

Mulder walked with his head down, holding her hand tightly, and said, his voice low, “I was frightened all the time. I w
as hungry and cold. And I was looking so hard for something . . .” He glanced at her. “Someone. I was looking for my angel and I didn’t know where to look, where to start. I only hoped I would find you somehow.”

Scully rubbed his arm in sympathy. “I’ve wondered if I saw you on the streets and didn’t recognize you.”

“I would have known you, even if you didn’t know me.”

“Yes,” Scully said. “You probably would have.”

“I don’t know when, exactly, I started seeing things. I’d started thinking—Dr. Lucas had started to convince me that not everything I saw was real. But now I’m not so sure. I still see things, Scully.”

“Like my wings?”

He looked at her and said, “They’re gold and white and they’re so beautiful, Scully.”

“Mulder . . .” She leaned her head against his arm. “You’ve held me, you’ve touched me. You know they’re imaginary.”

“But I see them. I see . . . something.” She sighed and he bit his lip. “I’m sorry. It makes you unhappy.”

“It worries me, sweetheart. That’s all. Do you see other things, too?”

“I’m afraid of seeing some of those other things again. I don’t want to see them.” He paused again, and said, “Sometimes I’d stay in homeless shelters and my nightmares would scare the other people there. So it got so that I’d stay awake all the time, and the people in charge would ask me, ‘Are you on drugs?’ ‘No.’ ‘Are you sick?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then why won’t you sleep?’ And I’d tell them, I’m afraid to sleep. I’m afraid of what I’ll see. They were so real, Scully.”

“Oh, sweetheart.” She let go of his hand and cupped his face tenderly. “You know you’re safe now, don’t you?”

“I hope I am.” They regarded each other quietly, then Mulder said, “Let’s go home, Scully.”

She nodded, and they walked on.


“Well,” Emma said eventually. There was little cleaning up to do, just getting the dishes into the washer and scrubbing the few bowls Mulder had used to cook. Now they sat on the porch steps, holding hands and watching the world go by.


“I don’t know what you were so worried about. Your dad, he’s quiet but he’s not weird.”

“No, he’s not. He’s just . . . I don’t know. Simple. I told you he’s like a kid, and in a lot of ways he is. And it’s weird having a stranger in the house.”

“He’s not a complete stranger. Your mom knows him.”

“She knows him better than he does, literally. She probably knows him better than anybody in the world.”

“That sounds nice,” Emma said softly. “To know somebody completely. To not have any secrets.” She took a deep breath and said quickly, “Ben, I have to tell you something.”

His heart clenched but he said, “Okay.”

“You remember what Trina said earlier today, when she was so angry?”

“Yeah.” He remembered all of it.

“It’s not quite the truth. It’s not quite a lie, either. I’ve never—you know—gone all the way but I’ve done some things. You should know that.” She looked at him like she expected him to be repulsed.

“Thank you for telling me.” He added casually, “I’ve never kissed a girl before today.”

“Really?” She smiled a little. “Never?”

“Never. You’re the first.”

“Your first kiss.” She grinned more broadly, looking out at the street. “Wow. That’s . . . that’s . . . I’m really glad of that.”

“You are?”

“Yeah. I’m your first kiss. No one else is ever going to be your first kiss. That makes me feel . . . really good.”

He grinned back, and then leaned over and kissed her again, gently. “You’re special, you know. I’ve always known that about you.”

“Ever since kindergarten?”


“I always knew you’d be special to me someday. I guess I was just waiting for you to let me.”

“Emma.” He took her other hand and squeezed them both. “You and me . . . it’s not out of pity or because you’re lonely or something, right? You’re with me because you want to be?”

“Yes, Benjie, how can you ask that? I’m with you because I like you. You make me feel smart and pretty and like I’m a good person.”

“You are a good person.”

“Well, there you go.” She hesitated. “There are some guys who don’t make me feel like a good person. That don’t make me feel anything good.”

Ben watched her, her features sparkling in the sun like a cameo, and he said, “I don’t ever want to say or do anything that hurts you, ever again. It’s not right.”

“Thank you.” She sighed. “I should go. It’s getting late.”

“Okay.” He stood and held out his hands to bring her to her feet. “See you tomorrow?”

“I’ll be there.” He hugged her tight, and said, “I was stupid before, you know? We could have been friends a long time if I’d thought you really wanted to be.”

“I do. But it’s okay, we’ve got now.”

“Yeah.” He kissed her and opened the car door for her. “Be safe, Emma.”

“I will.” She smiled at him and got into her car, received his kiss smiling and drove away.


Ben and Emma were standing by Emma’s car, holding each other. Ben stepped back a little as his parents approached, and gave Emma a quick kiss on the lips. He opened her car door for her and kissed her again once she was inside, and stood on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets as she drove away.

“She’s a nice girl,” Scully said when they reached him.

“Yeah. I like her.” He grinned, blushing. “But I guess that’s obvious.”

“Just a little.” She smiled at him and wound her arm through his. Both her men with her, how wonderful. “Mrs. De La Cruz wanted to know if you’d mow for her again this summer.”

“Sure. I’ll give her a call later tonight. What do you think of our neighbors, Mulder?”

“Oh . . . they’re nice, I suppose.”

“Yeah. We’ve got some good people around here.”

They headed up the front steps to the door. It’s not perfect yet, Scully thought, it’s not quite like he’s been here all along, but we’re getting there. We’ve got a long way to go but we’ve started the journey. She squeezed both their hands, and they both smiled down at her.

My family, she thought, and the words thrilled her. Complete at last.

End Part II.

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