Title: Easter Tidings
This is set inbetween Trevor and Milagro, after Monday, but anything is fair game spoiler-wise. Clearly, I do not own anything but the plot. Thank you for reading, and please review!
"Mulder." His answering voice was loud in her tired ears, and Scully abruptly yanked the phone away, before her sleepy brain adjusted, and managed a response.
"Scully? You okay?"
She smiled at the abrupt shift in his voice, from relaxed, even sleepy, to hyper alert. "I'm fine. I just had that dream again."
"The bank dream?" he asked, voice serious.
"Yeah. You bleeding all over me, and then boom." Ever since the hostage situation at the bank, Scully had been dreaming a much darker end to it. Mulder had been surprisingly free of nightmares on this one.
"You know my theory, Scully."
"That we actually lived that, and many other variations of the bank situation."
"Yep, you just have to remember, Scully, it turned out okay for us. We both survived, the Universe isn't done with us yet," he spoke softly, trying to soothe her with his voice.
"I know. And, that just makes me want to know why I keep dreaming this. I mean, we've survived scarier situations, and I've come out with fewer nightmares, why this?" She was frustrated and tired.
"Well, maybe that's it."
"Like you said. We've been through worse, but usually worse for us is also bizarre, we're used to dealing with that in our everyday. This bank thing was normal, for us; we weren't on a case, we were simply at a bank. Somewhere you'd normally think of as safe, that's probably what jolted you, and brought these alternate memories to the surface."
"Sometimes I forget that you're a shrink, Mulder."
"Not a shrink, Scully. I can't give you drugs."
"You've got it where it counts, Freud."
"Now see, if I were Freud, I'd say the entire thing was a metaphor for sex. You know, the gun is phallic, the explosion is the moment of orgasm--"
She cut him off. "Spare me, Mulder."
He chuckled, relived that she sound amused now. He yawned. "You were asleep already, Scully?"
"I have church bright and early tomorrow morning."
"Why not sleep late, and go to a later service?"
"Because, I'm meeting my family there and then we're getting brunch."
"The whole Scully clan?"
"Yep, even Charlie and his family."
"Wow, what did you have to do to get him over here?"
"He's on leave, and tomorrow's Easter." She yawned.
Mulder was silent for a minute. "Oh, that's explains the brunch thing. Nothing like celebrating your savior coming back from the dead by eating pancakes and sausage."
She rolled her eyes. "You're welcome to come, Mulder."
"I don't think so. You know me and church, and with both your brothers around, I'm not optimistic that I'd walk away still in possession of my balls."
"I'll protect you and your balls, and Mom wouldn't let them hurt you either."
"As intriguing as the idea of your protecting my balls is, Scully, I'm still going to politely decline. Holidays, church, family, not really my thing."
"I know...listen, you have any plans tomorrow?"
"Just my usual holiday plans."
She smirked. "Charlie Brown's Easter, beer and pizza?"
He pretended to consider that, and then joked, "I was actually thinking about switching to Ziggy this year."
Scully laughed. "Well, I'll come by after I finish at my mother's, and join you."
"You don't have to do that, Scully. Spend the time with your family, how often does your mother get to see you all together?"
"She'll have us all Monday too. The boys are on leave and aren't flying out until late Monday, and the Bureau was generous this year remember?" They also had Monday off, to give families a chance to return home from visiting relatives.
"Well, then stay at your Mother's tomorrow night, like I'm sure you planned too, and come by Monday after everyone's gone home. Visit your family, Scully; you see me all the time."
She sighed. "Fine, then I'll see you on Monday."
He smiled. "I'll be here." He paused. "Go to sleep, Scully, or you'll fall asleep in church."
"Wouldn't be the first time."
"And here this whole time, I thought you were a nice Catholic girl."
She chuckled. "Good night, Mulder...and thanks."
Scully laughed as Charlie's five year-old son Nate tried to explain to 15 month-old Matthew the finer points of playing with Matchbox cars. He sat with crossed arms as Matt once again ignored his older cousin's instructions and shoved the red Corvette in his mouth.
Bill was chuckling loudly as his young son, the picture of a happy, excited father. He'd tried to be on land more this year than in the past, and he was getting old enough to be able to request better, land-bound positions. Not that he wanted to be on land all the time, but certainly in Matt's early years, and while he and Tara were working on trying to make a second child. He and Scully had been getting along alright this visit; perhaps because of the kids, it seemed less tense than in recent years.
Two year-old Jackie toddled over to Scully with a book in her hands, clambered up on the couch, and plopped heavily onto her diapered bottom. Charlie's youngest looked up at her aunt with the Scully bright blue eyes, and handed her the thin picture book. Obligingly, Scully pulled the little girl into her lap, and opened the book. Scully spent the next fifteen minutes quietly reading her only niece 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', while her oldest nephew nagged his father to let him eat some candy. By the time she reached the end of the story, the little girl's eyes were dropping, and she was soon sound asleep.
Scully raised an eyebrow at her younger brother. "What time did you get her up this morning?"
"Nate ran through the house screaming at six, and woke us all up." He shot a look at his son, who grinned mischievously.
"Uh huh, somebody wanted to see what the Easter Bunny left them." She smiled. "Funny, Charlie was the same way."
"Oh, I wasn't that bad," he insisted.
"Oh, believe me, you were," Maggie same in, rolling her eyes. Her youngest son shot her a look of mock betrayal. Maggie looked at Jackie, and rested her hands on her hips. "And here I thought that child was so shy."
"So did I," Scully agreed.
"She usually is, she hardly ever leaves Rose's side at any family functions, right Hun?" Charlie turned to his wife.
"She never wants to go near anyone, but I guess there's something about you she likes, Dana." Rose smiled at her sleeping little girl.
"That's not surprising," Bill said. "She's just like Dana was then, right Mom?"
"Yes, Dana was always pretty quiet, and very thoughtful like Jackie is."
"Yeah, except when Bill was teasing her, then she morphed into a little Fury," Charlie grinned.
Scully rolled her eyes. "Bill was deserving of everything I did to him."
"Oh, thanks Sis. Love you too," he teased.
Their quiet laughter was interrupted by a knock at the door. A heavy knock, as if their visitor was tired, maybe even weary. Maggie went to get it, waving her children and their spouses back. Scully didn't even try to move, not wanting to wake her niece. She ran a hand over the little girls head, and tried to ignore the pinch in her chest at the thought of another little girl.
"Mr. Skinner, what a surprise." Scully turned at that, confusion written on her face. What was he doing here? She did move then, attempting to move Jackie to the couch, but the little girl stirred and held on tighter. Scully hitched the toddler up on her hip and walked over to the door where her mother wore a frown of confusion, and her boss looked exhausted.
"Sir?" She asked.
"Agent Scully, sorry to disturb you holiday, but I'm afraid I have some bad news." Skinner wasn't dressed as if he'd been celebrating a holiday, but like he'd been at the office, except for the soot. Scully's breath suddenly caught in her throat.
"Oh god, don't tell me they burnt down our office again?"
"No, the office is fine. I need to--you should--is there somewhere we can talk? You should be sitting." He was looking from his feet to her face, and back again, as if he couldn't bare to look into her eyes for long.
Then Scully felt her heart jump into her throat. "Something happened to Mulder."
Skinner didn't respond, except to look into her eyes now.
"Mom, can you take Jackie?" She was already handing the little girl over, only feeling a little bad when tiny hands tried to grab at her shirt, not wanting to leave. She didn't notice her brothers approach the door, both looking worried.
"When was the last time you talked to him, Scully?" Skinner asked, ignoring the family milling around her.
"Last night, he didn't mention any new leads coming up. What hospital is he at?" She asked quickly, already moving to grab her jacket.
"Agent Scully...can you please sit down somewhere?" He pled with her, following her inside, her family parting, and watching nervously.
"I'm fine. Just tell me what happened." Her blood was already rushing in her ears, and she could feel her legs weakening beneath her.
"Dana, the children," her mother reminded her. "How about we go into the kitchen?"
Scully nodded, and marched into the kitchen, while Maggie handed Jackie off to her own mother, and joined them. Scully's brothers followed, but she didn't seem to care, she folded her arms over her chest, and regarded Skinner, demanding with her eyes.
"There was a fire at his apartment building. They got as many survivors out as they could, and managed to contain it. It ate most of his building, and damaged the ones on either side. The firefighters were still trying to fight it when I left, but they assured me, there wasn't anyone left alive inside." Skinner paused, looked away from her, clearing his throat as he stared at her white knuckle grip the the wooden chair back.
She already knew what he was going to say. "Sir?"
"He wasn't among the survivors, Scully."
"He might not have been home, did you, did you try his cell phone?" Her voice was shaking, and her mother came beside her, and put an arm around her. Scully was still gripping the chair, her hands now trembling slightly.
Skinner nodded. "I figured after the third call, he wasn't going to pick up."
"His battery could have died, or he could be out of range. He might have gone back home, he might be there now," she insisted, desperation making her voice high and thin.
"Scully, I was there for hours, he didn't come back." He watched her fight to maintain her composure, and wondered why she was bothering, she was allowed to grieve. "Scully...do you know what his plans were today?"
She pulled her eyes off the table and looked at him, her lips shaking as she spoke, voice cracking. "He was just going to stay home."
Skinner sighed, he was holding out hope that he'd gone to see his mother or something. He picked up her hand, and squeezed it. "I'm sorry."
She nodded, and seemed to swallow down every emotion raging inside her. "We should get over there, and see what they find."
"No, I should get over there. You stay here, with you're family."
"No, I need to go. I need to--" Skinner cut her off, shaking his head.
"You need to let me handle this. I promise, I'll let you know as soon as we find him." Or rather, his body, but Skinner couldn't seem to bring himself to say that to her.
She went to object again, but her mother stopped her. "Dana, please listen to Mr. Skinner, I know how close you and Fox are, and being there while they're--it won't be a good situation for you."
Scully finally relented, and Skinner took the opportunity to duck out. Her mother had both arms around her now, but Scully still refused to cry. She couldn't, she just couldn't accept it. Charlie chose that moment to step in front of her, and take her hands.
"I'm so sorry, Dana. If there's anything I can do..."
She nodded, and began shaking herself loose of all her family members. She felt like she was suffocating, like her chest was so heavy she couldn't move it. She knew the weight that was crushing it was grief, a phantom substance with a very thick phantom density.
"I need some air," she said quietly, pushing back quickly from the table, and rushing out the back door. It slammed shut behind her, and no one tried to follow her.
She paced and dialed his number, fingers stabbing the buttons as if the phone was responsible for the fire. Mulder's line went immediately to voice mail. She hung up and dialed again. Again she heard his voice asking her to leave a message. She hit the end button, and dialed again, only to be hit with the same message. This time she didn't hang up.
"Answer the phone, Mulder. I need you, please answer your damned phone." Her voice cracked, she was edging on tears. "I need you to answer your phone. Skinner came by, he said there was a fire at your building, he said you were dead. I need you to call me back, and tell me it isn't true." She finally hung up, a hand coming to rest over her mouth.
Scully leaned against the side of the house, and just began to shake. Not shiver, not quiver, but full blown tremors wracking her body, trying to force her to allow the sobs in her chest to escape. Her stomach was flipping over, tying itself in knots, creating a sharp, burning ache inside her. The kind of ache you get when you're really afraid of something, the kind that doesn't go away with a little Pepto.
She slid down the side of the house to the ground, her arms around her body, hugging herself. He couldn't be dead. Mulder couldn't be dead. She couldn't say goodbye to him, she couldn't, she just couldn't. Scully stared off into space, thoughts of denial running through her mind, circling around as if building a safe little cocoon for her mind to retreat to. Her eyes began to burn, and she blinked them once, and just kept staring.
A fence and the gray and white house next door sat in front of her, but what Scully actually saw was her world falling apart. Oh god, Mulder.
Scully couldn't eat dinner. She wasn't hungry, and she didn't even try to feign an appetite for her family. They'd given her thirty minutes outside before coming to check on her, and bring her back in with a hug and condolences. She retreated to the den, which she was using as a bedroom, and stayed there for hours. She'd called Mulder at least a dozen more times, and left a few more messages begging him to call her back.
After a few hours, she'd begun to believe it was really true. If Mulder heard her half-crying on his answering machine, he'd have found a way to call her back by now. This was one of the few moments when his over-protectiveness of her was actually proving useful.
Scully still hadn't cried. She couldn't until Skinner came back, and told her they'd found his body. At a quarter to seven, she silenced the sobs that were still trying to break through, and quieted the shaking that had wracked her body on and off for hours. Only the burning pit of knots in her stomach remained, as she rejoined her family. No one said much, but her mother held her tightly, and Scully noted that her eyes were red.
She sat and listened to them talk as they had before, trying very hard to keep conversation light. Jackie returned to her favorite aunt, with a new book, climbing up on her lap.
"Jackie, I don't think Aunt Dana really feels up to reading to you right now," Charlie gently told his daughter.
The two year-old looked up at her aunt, one finger on her mouth, studying her. "Why are you sad?"
The innocence of the question nearly made Scully breakdown, but she held it together to respond. "I lost a friend today."
The little girl cocked her head to the side, her pigtails bouncing. "What happened?"
Scully looked up at her brother, silently asking him if the little girl would understand.
Charlie nodded, "We lost a cat."
She turned back to the girl, and answered as simply as the girl had asked, "He died."
"Oh." Jackie did seem to understand, her pink lips forming a frown, and head drifting toward her lap. She looked up at her aunt again. "Do you love him?"
Scully almost smiled. The two and a half year-old couldn't imagine what a loaded question that was. She loved her mommy and daddy, and brother, and the cat she buried, it would be a perfectly innocent normal question to her. Scully avoided looking at her family--especially Bill--when she answered. "Yes, I do."
It didn't occur to her that they were speaking about him in present tense, or that, that was wrong for any reason. Jackie seemed to study her, looking more like Rose than Charlie, with her mother's darker hair and rounder face. Then she reached her short, chubby little arms up, and wrapped them around Scully's next, hugging her.
A breath shuddered within Scully's chest, and she was sure she was going to lose it and break down right there in her mother's living room. A knock at the door, startled them all, and distracted her from the sweet little girl hugging her. She let herself believe for just a minute that it was Mulder at the door, waiting to crack some joke about not being dead yet.
It wasn't. Her mother opened the door once again to Skinner. Scully didn't bother moving, she couldn't work up the desire. Jackie had settled down, snuggled into Scully's side, apparently with no desire to move either. Rose took the opportunity to rush her son out of the room, leaving Charlie to grab their daughter if the conversation got bad.
"Did you find him?" Scully was pleased her voice didn't crack.
"We won't know for a while. They pulled a lot of people out, and it was bad, matching dental records will take some time. I've got one of the Bureau pathologists helping them." He was still smudged with soot, and was sitting on the edge of the coffee table, his back hunched in exhaustion. Skinner, the former Marine, always sat ramrod straight, this was new. He'd respected Mulder, she knew that.
Scully looked at her lap, willing herself to breathe deep breaths so she didn't choke on the tears she was still holding back.
"There's more, Scully. The city's Arson Unit got in there after the firefighters greenlighted it. They said the fire came from the apartment next to Mulder's, which I'm told has been vacant for months now."
Her mouth opened, she knew what he was saying, but she couldn't seem to get any words out. Skinner pressed on.
"The apartments were pretty much destroyed, but they managed to find pieces of a bottle of vodka. The way the fire traveled, they think it started at the wall between the two apartments."
She moved her mouth, then quickly covered her young nieces ears. "They killed him."
"Who's they?" Bill asked, frowning.
Scully turned to her brother, whose voice she was hearing for the first time since Skinner's earlier visit. "The people who abducted me and gave me cancer."
"Someone murdered Fox? And, all those other people? On purpose?" Maggie Scully was staring horrified at them.
"How many people died?" Scully quickly asked Skinner, her hands still covering her niece's ears.
"They pulled out about seven bodies."
"They really are afraid of him."
"Why?" Tara was sitting close to her husband, Mathew on her lap, worry in her eyes.
"Because he knows more than they want him too, and he's relentless in his fight against them."
"You're paranoid, Dana." Bill stated blandly.
"They killed him, Bill. What the hell does that say to you?"
"That the bastard pissed someone off, and he probably got what was coming to him."
Scully's blue eyes flared, and if she'd been closer, she might have slapped him. No, not might, she would have. Hard.
"William!" Her mother was alarmed.
"Just stating an opinion."
"Go to hell, Bill."
"Scully, what if you're in danger too?" Skinner chose to ignore the sibling squabble, and their upset mother.
"We're always in danger, Sir. That's part of working in our unit." She sighed. "I just didn't think there was anyone left to try and kill us."
"Smoking man," Skinner answered.
She nodded, oblivious or apathetic to the confused and worried looks on her family's faces. They wouldn't come after her, not right after killing Mulder, it would look too suspicious, and Skinner knew it.
Mulder was sore and tired, and the sweat dripping off his body had caked dust to him. He felt gross. More than a shower though, he wanted food, and he didn't trust anything enough in the summer house's refrigerator to bother looking. When was the last time any of them spent a summer in Connecticut?
He closed the last box, stretched, and headed for his car. He found his cell phone on the seat, and smiled, he'd been wondering what he'd done with it. He'd completely forgotten about it after he lost reception around 11. He'd made a note to himself for the future, scenic route = no cell reception. And, still he had no reception. He shrugged and drove into town, it wasn't like anyone would be looking for him today anyway.
At a mom and pop deli, he grabbed a turkey and swiss sub and an ice tea, nibbling the sandwich already as he walked back to the car. Sliding the drink in the cup holder, and one hand shoving his sandwich toward his mouth, Mulder checked his cell phone again. Eureka! Reception! His phone was already telling him he missed calls. Three from Skinner, and...oh shit.
Over a dozen from Scully. That could not be good. He also had four messages, and he hit the button to hear the first one, his sandwich forgotten on his lap. Her voice hit him like a brick, she sounded like she was trying very hard not to cry.
"Answer the phone, Mulder. I need you, please answer your damned phone. I need you--"
Then it suddenly cut-off. He ripped the phone away from his ear, and stared at the screen. It blinked, 'Low Battery' and 'Bye Bye' before the screen went black.
"Shit! Goddamn it!" He cursed slamming the phone against the steering wheel. His chest was tight, and his pulse was hammering. She needed him. He wasn't there and she needed him.
The broken phone flew over his shoulder into the back seat, and he started the car, putting it into gear, before peeling out of the deli. At least, he told himself, she wasn't being attacked, that was certainly a nice change. And at least, Skinner seemed to know about whatever was going on, which meant she was probably safe. He'd go to her mother's first, that's where she was supposed to be tonight, and where she'd go for comfort if he wasn't around.
Unless she was at a hospital.
He allowed himself a moment of panic at that thought, before realizing if she'd been admitted, they wouldn't have let her use her cell phone. But, then what was wrong? Oh god, what if something had happened to her mother? Or one of her brothers, or their families? He glanced at his speedometer, and pushed a little harder on the gas.
For the entirety of the seven-hour drive, Mulder's brain was wracked with dozens of horrible scenarios of what could have made Scully so upset. His fingers tapped endlessly at the steering wheel, and his leg bounced beside him. His stomach gurgled loudly around midnight, so he finished his forgotten sandwich and gulped his warmed ice tea for the caffeine rush. Rather than stop, he maneuvered himself expertly, and peed in the empty cup. When it started to smell, the cup went out the window.
He parked across from Maggie Scully's house just after three a.m., and to his utter surprise, sat frozen. He was scared. What if Scully wasn't alright? What if she'd had a nosebleed? God, he couldn't handle that. Mulder rested his head in his hands for a moment, and just forced himself to take deep breaths. She was okay, she had to be. Before he could panic anymore, he jumped out of his seat, shut the door, and trotted up to front door. It was the middle of the night, and he was going to wake up half the house. Oh well, he had to see her.
He knocked, and fidgeted waiting. There was no answer, and no lights, and Mulder's heart began to inch up to his throat. He knocked again, hand quivering slightly now. A light came on, he heard the locks in the door turn, and it opened to reveal a familiar figure. Her hair was tousled, but her face said she hadn't slept much, her eyes were muted, until she saw him. Then her baby blues came to life wide, and her mouth dropped open a couple inches. Mulder didn't get a chance to say anything before she was in his arms, squeezing the oxygen right out of his body.
He was a little surprised by the action, and flat out stunned by her ferocity. Still he held her back, almost as tightly, happy that she seemed unharmed. On arm around her waist, the other rested on her head, stroking her hair, Mulder was somehow still surprised at how well she fit under his chin. The gentle quaking of her body alerted him to the fact that she was crying before she even made a sound. His heart jumped up into his throat again, as he leaned close to her ear.
"Scully, what happened? What's wrong?"
She looked up then, tears still dribbling down her cheeks, but drying up in the wake of her surprise. "Didn't you listen to your messages?"
"Only a little bit of the first one...my battery died," he said sheepishly.
She didn't seem to know what to say for a moment, and then moved back from him, and grabbed his hand. "Come inside, we need to talk."
He obeyed, following her into the living room. "Scully, is your family okay? Your mom?"
She offered a tired smile. "She's fine, the boys are fine, their families are fine."
"Then what happened? You sounded like you were about to cry in your message."
They sat together on the couch, hands still joined. "Mulder, where the hell were you all day?"
"In Quonchonitaug, my mother asked me to clean out the summer house a few months ago, I figured this weekend would be a good time."
"You drove here from Connecticut?" One eyebrow rose up on her brow.
"You sounded upset, you said you needed me." He tried not to feel silly, but now he did a little.
"You ever consider a payphone?"
"I think over the years we've established that I don't tend to think very clearly when it comes to you, Scully."
She actually smirked at that, and squeezed his hand. "I'm very grateful that you made the drive."
"Not that I'd ever mind the greeting, but why the tears?"
"Up until I opened the door, I thought you were dead."
Mulder looked like he took a gut shot, not quite the panic face, but he was clearly dumbfounded. "W-why?"
"Skinner came by at about 2:30 this afternoon...Mulder, they burnt down your apartment building." Gut shot number two. "You weren't answering your phone, you'd told me you'd be home, the bodies were so burnt they needed dental records, I--God, I, I," She stopped trying to talk as the tears built up in her eyes once more. That feeling was still too fresh.
Mulder pulled her back into his arms, and held her. He was too stunned to talk anyway. His apartment? Burnt down? People died? "How many people died?"
"Skinner said seven." She spoke into his shoulder, not inclined to move. They'd been restrained the last several times one of them came back from the dead, or near dead. Maybe she was tired, but she just didn't feel like being restrained right then. He was alive, the thought made her eyes moisten even more.
"You know it was Them? That they were aiming for me?"
"They soaked the adjoining wall of that vacant apartment with Vodka. They were definitely aiming for you."
"There's a lot of people in my building, Scully. The whole thing went up?"
He was almost wincing, and she could see the guilt setting in. "It's not your fault, Mulder. You weren't even there, and thank god you weren't!" Her grip around him tightened.
"But, they destroyed all those people's homes, they took seven lives, just to get rid of me? That's not fair Scully. Why didn't they just shoot me? Or blow-up my car or something less destructive?"
"God Mulder, I can't have this conversation right now, not after I spent the last 12 hours believing you were dead--And, you lost your home too, don't forget that."
He released a pained sigh, and let his head fall back against the couch. "At least I got rid of that damn water bed---oh god, my couch!"
Scully almost laughed at the mournful expression on his face. "You can crash at my place for a while."
"I've had that couch since I joined the academy, it's the longest relationship I've ever maintained."
"We'll find you a new couch. You had renter's insurance, right?"
"Are you kidding, Scully? With my history? I took everything they'd give me."
"Good. When we call Skinner tomorrow, and tell him that you're actually alive, I'm sure he'll be more than happy to give you time off to get new things."
"Aw damn it, my suits! I don't even have one suit now." He moaned into his hands.
Scully was relieved the initial guilt seemed to pass when realized that he'd lost everything as well, he was just as much a victim.
"Or underwear, or a toothbrush, or a razor, socks, a comb, my Knicks jersey..." His bottom lip popped out as he realized he'd lost everything except the clothes on his back.
Scully pulled him to her, comforting him as he had her. "You can replace all that, Mulder. We'll figure it out. I'm just so glad I don't have to bury you in a few days."
He pulled back at looked at her then. She seemed more tired than she had before. "I'm sorry, Scully. I probably would have lost it if Skinner told me you were dead." He hugged her to him again.
"How about this, you leave me every number for every house your parents own, and we'll never think about today again." It was too painful, she added silently. Her eyes were beginning to droop, it had been such a long, miserable day.
"Sure. Remind me and I'll give you a list." He kissed the top of her head, which rested against his chest.
He chuckled at that, and when he became quiet again, he realized that her breathing had evened out. He considered carrying her back to bed, but 1, he didn't know where she was sleeping, and 2, if she woke up in the middle of it, she'd probably hurt him. He snorted mournfully, wasn't like he had anywhere to go anyway. He looked at his passed-out partner, and recalled how tightly she'd held him when she first saw him.
She was right, he was grateful to be alive.
Maggie Scully woke up with the sunshine, happy to have her family under one roof, but at the same time, with a heaviness in her heart. She hurt for her daughter, who was in so much pain, but so damned determined not to show it. Fox was dead. They'd been so close the last several years, Maggie worried for her little girl. There were certain things she would never be able to protect her children from, and those were somehow the most painful experiences in life. She'd relied on God to protect her children from some of these things, and she was a little peeved to find out he couldn't this time around either.
Dana had suffered so much already, what possible reason could there be to add it all that?
Shaking her head, she stepped down the stairs, and walked over to the den, surprised to see the door open. Dana wasn't there. Puzzled, she tried the kitchen. It was as silent as the rest of the house, and deserted as the den. Growing a little concerned, she circled the ground floor of the house, stopping in the living room, her mouth dropping open in surprise.
Her daughter was sleeping in the embrace of a ghost.
But, then she saw his chest rise and fall slowly under Dana's hand. Not a ghost.
Maggie stood and stared at the pair, trying to figure out what was going on. Then her lips curved into a pleased smile. It didn't really matter did it? He was alive, he hadn't been in his apartment during that fire, and that's what was important. He may have disappeared for the day, but he'd found his way home.
She'd get the story when they woke up anyway.
"Wha-huh?" She turned to see her youngest, yawning and looking confused, his sleepy daughter in his arms.
She gestured him toward the kitchen, she had to start breakfast anyway. He sat Jackie at the table, and then stared at his mother. "I didn't know Dana was seeing anyone."
"If you ask her if she is, she'll deny it." Maggie reached into the refrigerator and pulled out eggs, butter, and blueberries.
"Why? And, who is he?"
"I'm not sure, but apparently, he isn't dead."
"Well, that's good."
"You sound as if you're unsure about that, Charlie."
"It's just if Bill sees him wrapped around Dana like that, he may not stay that way long."
"Well, Bill will just have to get over it, won't he?" She said, setting the bag of flour down while she gave him a pointed look.
"You need any help?" He asked.
"Do you want to start the coffee for me?" He nodded and set to work on the coffee, while Maggie mixed pancake batter, and let Jackie eat a few blueberries.
"What the hell?" A surprised cry startled them as they worked. Charlie shot a look at his mother.
"Oh dear." They hurried out to the living room, where they found Bill glowering over Mulder and Scully, who were squinting and trying to figure out what was going on.
Once Mulder did, he immediately removed his hands from Scully, and shifted over to give her a little more space. He was obviously uncomfortable with the audience, and tried to appear very small and invisible. Scully was trying very hard not to blush, and sat up, straightening her top, trying to appear like she wasn't the slightest bit embarrassed.
"Isn't he supposed to be dead?" Bill demanded loudly.
"Good morning to you too, Bill," Scully answered.
"Fox, I'm so happy to see you're alright," Maggie said, ignoring her unhappy children.
"Thank you, Mrs. Scully. I hope you don't mind that I crashed here last night." Mulder straightened himself out, tried to appear proper.
"Of course not, and I don't think Dana would have had it any other way."
Scully actually blushed at that, but quickly cleared her throat—she was not a teenager caught with a boy, she would not be embarrassed.
"So, you want to fill us all in?" Charlie asked, Jackie attached to his leg.
Maggie held up a hand. "I think we should all have some coffee first."
Her three children, and near-surrogate son all nodded in agreement. As they were trudging into the kitchen, Jackie tugged on Scully's pajama pants. Scully reached down, and lifted the little girl into her arms.
"Aunt Dayna, who he?"
Scully looked at Mulder and then back to the little girl. "You remember that I told you I lost a friend yesterday?"
"Well, it turns out that I was wrong. This is my friend, Fox." She involuntarily cringed at the name, it didn't sound right coming from her mouth, but it would be less confusing for a child.
"Fox? He not a fox!" She giggled.
"No silly, that's just his name."
They turned at the sound of Mulder chuckling. "Oh god, I wish I knew."
Scully rolled her eyes at him and turned back to her niece. "Because his mommy and daddy liked that name."
Jackie seemed to consider that, and then nodded her head, apparently satisfied. They'll all fell into seats at the kitchen table, Jackie on Scully's lap, until she decided to crawl over to Mulder. She sat on his lap facing him, seeming to study him, while Mulder watched in return, a little lost as to what to do with her. Then he noticed something, his head cocking slightly to the side, and turned to his partner.
"She has your eyes."
Scully nodded. "Grandma Scully's. Ahab's mom, her mother had them too, right Mom?"
"Yes, she did. Those blue eyes seem to go only through the women of her line, except for her little brother, he had them too. Melissa didn't get them though, and neither did your cousins." Maggie paused in her stirring, hand on her hip, thinking.
"Ok, can we cut the chitchat, and you just tell us why you aren't dead?" Bill turned to Mulder, scowling.
"Well, when you put it that way," Mulder responded.
"Forgive my lack of enthusiasm."
"He was in Connecticut, with no cell reception," Scully supplied, ending the pissing match before it could begin.
"What's in Connecticut?" Charlie asked.
"My parent's summer home, I was cleaning it out. I didn't get Sc-Dana's message until after eight last night, and even then it was only the first bit. Then the phone died, I knew she was here, and she had sounded upset, so this is where I went. She told me what happened when I got here."
"That's it?" Bill was less than impressed.
Mulder simply shrugged.
Charlie looked somewhere between skeptical and amused when he spoke. "Wait, so you're telling me, you got part of a phone message from my sister, in which she sounded like she was upset, and then drove what, seven hours, in the middle of the night?"
"I was, uh, worried." Mulder cleared his throat, and shifted around in his seat, pretending to focus on Jackie as she climbed back into her aunt's lap.
Charlie began to chuckle. "Now, I know why Mom likes you."
"Oh!" Scully suddenly said. "I've got to call Skinner." She took the cordless Bill handed her from the wall, thanking him.
"You want me to do it?" Mulder offered, not entirely comfortable among her family.
"Better not. Wake-up call from a dead man?"
"Good point. He likes you better anyway, better you bum him out," he joked.
Scully shot him a look and dialed. Mulder watched her, while helping Jackie back on his lap. He looked over at Charlie to make sure it was okay (he had a feeling Bill would smack him if he touched Mathew), and relaxed when the other man shrugged.
"Good morning, sir." The three men in the room turned and watched Scully's half of the conversation. "I'm doing fine, sir. Thank you. Um, good news, Mulder's fine." She paused. "Yes, he's right beside me. He was unreachable in Connecticut." Another pause. "Yes sir, I told him. We'll go out and get him some news things today." Pause. "Thank you, sir. I know he'll appreciate it. I'll put him on now."
Mulder took the phone a little apprehensively. "Hello, Sir." He listened for a moment. "Yes, so am I, and I do appreciate the time." He paused. "I can do that, but I won't be able to tell them much." Pause. "Shopping and visiting the insurance people, I guess." He scratched his head. "I'll crash on Scully's couch until I find a new place, or she gets sick of me." His eyebrows rose at Skinner's next words. "Yeah, figures. Well, we promise to behave ourselves, and we'll be off duty anyway. Besides, I think we already broke those rules a few dozen times."
Scully's eyebrows were so high they were about to pop off her face, and Bill was squeezing his coffee cup tight enough to whiten his knuckles.
"Thank you, sir. I'll let you know." Mulder finally hung up the phone, and noted that he had unwittingly gained everyone's attention.
"What rules did we break?"
"Fraternization. Skinner seems to think the Bureau would frown on me crashing at your place. But, according to him, if we're good, he won't say anything."
Scully rolled her eyes. "Then I guess we'll be good."
Charlie chuckled, while Bill was grimacing painfully. Maggie had a small smile on her face as she transferred a couple finished pancakes to a small plate. A little tab of butter, and a squirt of syrup later, she set them in front of Jackie, who was still parked on Mulder's lap. The little girl wasted no time grabbing the fork and going to work on the pancakes.
They were soon joined by Tara, who's mouth dropped open at the sight of Mulder, and Rose, who looked similarly at the sight of her shy daughter on a strange man's lap. Scully quickly made introductions, and explained the story that had already been told twice. She had no trouble sensing Mulder's discomfort with the attention and general family atmosphere. She asked him in a whisper if he wanted to move to the living room, but he gestured to the child on his lap, reluctant to disturb her. Scully had to smile at that.
An hour later, after they'd eaten, and Scully had showered and changed, they prepared to leave to deal with his lack of belongings and home. Jackie was still attached to Mulder, who seemed to have grown more comfortable with her. At least, comfortable enough to hold a doll and use a funny voice.
"I'll give you a call tomorrow, Mom," Scully promised.
"Alright, I wish this had been more of a break for you." Maggie seemed resigned as she watched her daughter shrug, and embraced her. A little voice objecting startled them.
"But, I don't want the fox to leave!" Jackie had her arms crossed over her chest, and a scowl to match her Uncle Bill's.
"Told you," Charlie said. "Just like her aunt."
Scully shot him a look, but turning to Mulder, who already looked guilty for leaving the little girl. She almost laughed at that, apparently his guilt complex extended to disappointing small children. She crouched in front of her unhappy niece.
"Hey Jackie, we have to go take care of some things today, but I'll make you a promise, okay?" The toddler remained unconvinced. "When I come to visit for your Fourth of July barbeque, I'll bring him with me. How's that?"
Jackie seemed to consider that. "You promise?"
"Cross my heart."
Jackie nodded. "Okay." She then consented to hug her aunt, and 'the fox', who was trying very hard not to be embarrassed.
Maggie took her turn with him then. "Fox, I'm so glad you're alright. You let me know if you need anything."
"Thank you, Mrs. Scully."
They made their way outside to Mulder's car, and drove off toward Washington. Jackie stood staring at the door they'd just left through. Rose watched her daughter, looking amused.
"Charlie, I think our child has a crush."
He chuckled. "Yep, just like her aunt."
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