Title: Find the Future Series: Prologue
Authors: xphilernj and Fibbie (aka Fbiwhistleblower)
Written: September, 2005
Feedback : xphilernj@aol.com and Fbiwhistleblower@aol.com
Distribution: Ephemeral and Gossamer is fine. Everyone else, please ask first!
Rating: At least, no one under the age of 13, please, due to some curse words. If rating changes, a 'Content Warning' will be included.
Categories: S, MSR, H, a
Keywords: AU, Mulder/Scully married
Spoilers: All episodes up to Requiem and before Mulder's abduction. Then ventures off into an unknown future.
Disclaimer: Fibbie - Sorry CC, we just couldn't help ourselves, but we will return them when we're good and ready. nj - Shhhh, don't tell anyone. We'll sneak them back in before midnight. (Maybe...)

Summary: After all is said and done, can Mulder and Scully find the future they deserve?

Author's notes I: //nj//: This series was born from a question of 'What if Mulder was never abducted?' With a little vignette I wrote called "'erms," Fibbie insisted it be posted. I brought Fibbie on board and so, this series begins. Part 1 of the prologue was copied and revised from transcripts obtained from Rohan's X-Files Realm at http://xfiles.stylicious.com. Further notes follow the Prologue.

Author's notes II: //Fibbie//: In our little corner of the universe, Teena Mulder never had a dreaded disease and died.

Samantha is still missing and presumed dead. Mulder never had a dreaded brain disease and was never abducted, and therefore never died. However, happily, joyfully, CGB Spender was still pushed down the stairs and croaked. Further notes follow the Prologue.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Xfqbb and Anubiskv5 for their insight, grammar and constistency patrol, and dedication to detail.

Dedication: //xphilernj//: To my sweetest and dearest friend Fibbie. Luvsya, babe!

Dedication II: //Fibbie//: To the kindest person and best friend I'll ever have the privilege to know -- seriously -- hands down, nj! Luvsya!

Prologue: Dare to Dream

May 2001 AD Skinner's Office
F.B.I. Headquarters

Scully couldn't take any more. She walked out of the office and with hands on her hips, paced the hall. Within minutes Mulder followed her out, closing the door behind him.

"Mulder, if any of this is true ..."

"If it is, or if it isn't, I want you to forget about it, Scully."

Scully stared at him in disbelief. "Forget about it?"

Mulder replied firmly. "You're not going back out there. I'm not going to let you go back out there."

Surprised, Scully asked, "What are you talking about?"

"It has to end sometime. That time is now."


"Scully, you have to understand that they're taking abductees.

You're an abductee. I'm not going to risk..."

He looked at her sadly, meaningfully, his voice breaking a little.

"... losing you."

She walked slowly into his embrace. They clung tightly to each other.

"I won't let you go alone," she said, tightening her hold on him.

Bellefleur, Oregon woods
Next evening

Skinner stopped the car along side the Oregon wooded area, popped the trunk and both men got out, moving around to the back.

"This is starting to feel like the snipe hunt I was afraid of," Skinner stated as he took in the surrounding area.

Mulder retrieved a backpack out of the trunk and started off into the woods, then turned back to Skinner.

"There's no such thing as a snipe, sir," Mulder replied with a smirk.

"Hey, you know, my ass is on the line here, too, Agent Mulder," Skinner shot back with irritation.

"I know that."

Mulder headed into the woods while Skinner took one more look around and then started to follow.

AD Skinner's office
Same Evening

Scully and the Lone Gunmen were still looking through files long after Skinner and Mulder had left for Oregon. Scully looked at one of the files with concern and drew in a shaky breath.

"This just can't be."

"What are you looking at?" Frohike queried.

She inhaled deeply and slowly began to speak. "Medical records -- Billy Miles and other known abductees in Bellefleur, Oregon.

They all experienced anomalous brain activity."

"Electro-encephalitic trauma," Byers said as he stepped up beside Scully.

The other two Gunmen gathered around them.

"Which is exactly what Mulder experienced earlier this year," she said with a sigh.

"I don't understand," Langly said, confused.

She turned to Langly and explained. "There was something out there in that field. It knocked me back. Because it didn't want me. Mulder thinks that it's me that's in danger of being taken."

"When it's Mulder who's in danger," Frohike worriedly replied.

Scully slowly turned back to Frohike, looking weak and disoriented.

"Scully?" Frohike inquired as she slowly closed her eyes, swayed and then collapsed. The three men caught her as she fell to the floor.

"Scully! Whoa! You okay? Oh, gee." The three Gunmen called out at once with worry and dismay over the latest event.

Seven years ago -- a lifetime for some -- a solitary man walked alone. His vision was clear and his pursuit of the truth relentless.

The truth was his quest.

The quest was his life; it was all-consuming and he had little time for the vagueries of a so-called "normal" life, for liasons or romances. He stopped for no one, gave little quarter and did not suffer fools gladly.

Of these things, his enemies knew all too well, and plotted, not-so-subtly, for his downfall.

So, then the man was unexpectedly blind-sided by someone who he believed to be a spy, in the form of a partner assigned to "help him" with his work.

It was a very obvious, very intentional breach in the deepest caverns of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington D.C.; an invasion into the basement office -- the lair of the infamous Lone Wolf.

He took this breach very seriously, trusted no one, kept his own counsel, watched his own back -- and waited for the other shoe to drop.

From the very beginning, however, the tenacious little redheaded female pathologist gave him a run for his money, hanging on like a remora on a shark. Though he ditched her at every opportunity, deterred her at every turn and tried his best to scare her away, her dogged determination and rigid beliefs, which were deeply rooted in impirical facts and the hard sciences, soon proved to him to be invaluable.

Before he realized it, she had become invaluable to him on a very personal level.

After seven years of struggling, dancing around the shadows of conspiracy, dancing around their feelings for each other and walking headlong into an unknown future, everything changed, literally, overnight.

Now, on that day, Special Agent Fox Mulder stepped into a life he thought had been forever lost to him. A life of which all dreams are made; a fairytale borne of pain -- physical, mental and emotional -- and more tears and heartache than even he, with his eidetic memory, could remember.

On a trip back to Bellefleur, Oregon, where their partnership had begun seven years previously, Mulder's partner, Special Agent Dana Scully had become ill.

When Mulder and Scully returned to D.C., she had said she was fine but Mulder was not convinced. Given her experiences in their earlier years working together with her near death due to a three month abduction and disappearance, life-threatening cancer and then, for her, the final blow, that of the discovery of infertility due to the unexplained, unremembered but obviously horrific tests and experiments done on her during her abduction, he was terrified something heinous was happening to her once again, at the hands of their enemies.

Convinced she was being set up to be abducted again (or worse, taken to her death to punish both of them), Mulder simply refused to let Scully go back to Bellefleur with him. He absolutely would not change his mind.

Scully, on the other hand, would not allow Mulder to go back to Oregon alone, so their immediate superior, Assistant Director Walter Skinner, had the luck of the draw.

Before he left, Scully gave Mulder her most important possession -- the small gold cross her mother had given her as a girl, and Mulder wore it as a sign of his deep love for her.

Concerned for Scully's health, and out of a soul-deep need to stay in touch with her, Mulder would not even consider going into the forest without proper communications abilities.

Mulder and Scully's somewhat bizarre but loyal friends, John Byers, Melvin Frohike and Ringo Langly -- the Lone Gunmen -- came to their rescue by providing Mulder and Skinner with a satellite phone, as well as GPS devices.

As it turned out, the sat phone ended up being extremely fortuitous because, while out in the woods, Skinner received a call from the Gunmen, and their 'nice little trip to the forest,' was cut short:

Scully had collapsed, was sick and in the hospital.

Unfortunately for Mulder, no one could or would tell him what was wrong with Scully, and he couldn't get back to her fast enough.

Their subsequent Pacific-to-Atlantic cross-country plane trip was the longest and most nerve-wracking flight Mulder had ever experienced. No amount of consoling on Skinner's part could settle Mulder's frantic concerns and rampaging paranoia.

Upon their arrival at Dulles International Airport in D.C., Mulder was fit to be tied and Skinner was ready to clamp the handcuffs on him and throw Mulder in the trunk of his car.

In Mulder's mind, Skinner couldn't drive fast enough to the hospital. He gnawed at his fingers and chafed at the seatbelt, feeling confined.

Even before Skinner pulled to a stop, Mulder was out of the car and running through the emergency entrance to the hospital, stopping only long enough to get the information of his partner's whereabouts.

The elevator ride also seemed agonizingly slow. Mulder's mind was a gridlock of confusing thoughts and overwhelming worry. Had his and Scully's worst fears become reality? Would they, once again, have to face the possibility of another long uncertain revelation?

What if it was cancer again? Could he live through it if she didn't? Would they have a future?

Mulder's heart had been beating like a trip-hammer. His fate was inexplicably tied to Scully's and had been for some time. He honestly didn't know if he could live without her.

More to the point, would he want to?

The doors opened, jolting him from his reverie. After rushing Skinner to get him there, Mulder was now virtually paralyzed by fear. He felt he was moving so slowly it was as if he had been caught, like an insect, in hardening amber.

However, Mulder steadily made his way to Scully's room. He could clearly see her through the small window in her door; she was staring out the window into the hospital's courtyard. She looked pale to him, which did nothing to quell his uneasiness.

Mulder knocked lightly, released a small breath of a sigh and then cautiously pushed the door open. Attempting to put on a good front for her, he allowed a gentle smile to grace his lips as he approached her bed.

He didn't realize it, but he could not, however, hide his emotions from her. Scully looked up into his fretful expression and reached for his hand.

"Hey, Scully. Howya feeling?" Mulder asked as his fingers gently entwined with hers.

Scully grasped his hand with both of hers and tugged lightly until he perched on the edge of the bed next to her. She turned toward the window for a moment, took a deep breath and slowly released it.

"Scully?" Mulder prompted softly, needing desperately to know, yet overwhelmingly afraid of any forthcoming answers.

"Um ... I'm fine, but ... there's something I need to tell you, Mulder." Scully struggled momentarily, as if trying to gather her thoughts.

"Scully, you're alright, aren't you? I mean, the cancer, it's not ... back, is it? Scully?" Mulder squeezed her fingers to get her attention again and bent slightly toward her, needing to look into her blue eyes. Concern laced his voice very thickly.

"No, Mulder. It's not the cancer. They checked when I was brought in. I was frightened of that possibility, too. In fact, I had them check twice to be certain," Scully began to explain. Her other hand gravitated to his cheek, caressing him. "There is something, though ..."

At the continued look of worry on his handsome features, she continued hesitantly. "It's something good ... and I hope you'll think so, too. Mulder ... um ... oh God, I can't believe this is happening," she broke off with a choked sob.

Mulder grasped the hand that still held his face; pain and confusion evident in his eyes and in his voice. "Please, Scully ... please ... just tell me. We'll work through it together. You know I'll be here for you, whatever it is ... no matter what happens."

Scully looked up at him, meeting his eyes, desperately needing a reassurance about which she was not certain. "I don't know how it can be, but ... Mulder, I'm pregnant." Scully scanned his face for a sign of what he might be feeling.

Mulder sat unmoving for a few moments, stunned, unable to grasp what he had just heard. Too many questions needed to be answered. Too many questions to ask.

He blinked away his confusion and fear, and for the first time since his arrival, he truly saw her; truly saw his Scully.

Even though she wore no make-up, even though her hair wasn't done to it's normal perfection and her beautiful face was streaked with tears, Scully glowed. In fact, Mulder couldn't remember a time when she'd looked more gorgeous than now, at this exact moment.

A smile very slowly lit up his face and eyes. Mulder released her hands, then placed his on her cheeks and his thumbs chased the tears away. He leaned in and kissed her very, very tenderly. He felt her arms stretch up and encircle his neck.

Mulder dropped his arms down around her waist and pulled her closer to him to deepen their kiss. He leaned back from her and buried his nose in her hair. His audible sigh did not go unnoticed.

"Mulder?" Scully whispered. With uncertainty, she asked, "Are you okay?"

Within his embrace, she nuzzled his neck. A shiver of delight raced down Mulder's back and he smiled again. He leaned back and looked into her beautiful blue eyes, which were filled with tears.

"Scully, I was terrified from the moment Skinner told me you were in the hospital until I walked into this room. I didn't know what to think or do." Mulder shook his head slightly in disbelief, but the smile didn't disappear. "Scully, I have so many questions for which I know we'll never get answers. I thought because the Ivfs failed that you would never ... God, Scully, how can this be?

How ... who?"

Scully couldn't help herself, she laughed at his question.

"As for 'how' ... The birds and the bees ... and the monkey babies, Mulder." Scully shyly smiled at him and blinked back another onslaught of happy tears. "As to 'who,' well ... you, Mulder, only ever you." Scully's tears broke loose and cascaded down.

"Me, Scully? Really? But I thought ..." Mulder stopped and then with realization dawning, his face lit with the most beautiful smile Scully had ever seen. "Oh." Mulder blinked his own teary eyes, leaned in again and placed soft kisses across her face.

Scully giggled, actually giggled, at Mulder's brief discomfort, then simply enjoyed his sweet kisses. He dropped his head on her shoulder and chuckled, happy he could bring her a smile, even at his own expense.

"Scully, this is so unbelievable." He raised his head and clasped her hands between his. "Are you happy, Scully? Are you okay with this? I know how badly you've wanted a baby, but ... are you really, truly, fine with this?"

"Oh God, yes. Yes, I am. But, Mulder, what about you? I know we didn't really talk about what would happen if I did get pregnant, but it became a moot point when the Ivfs didn't take." She hesitated for a moment, looking into his bright hazel eyes and then continued. "I don't want you to feel obligated in any way, but I do want our baby to know his or her father ... I want you to be a part of our baby's life, in whatever way you want to be involved. I want you to be there for us. But only if you want to be ..." Scully's voice trailed off into a whisper with the last statement, slightly hoarse.

"Scully, I won't lie to you. I'm absolutely terrified at the prospect of being responsible for such a small life." Mulder took in a deep breath and then continued. "You know me, Scully. I've been responsible for only myself for such a long, long time and, in some respects, for a short time, yours as well.

"Scully, I never thought ... never dreamed that this would be an option for me. After I found your ova during your cancer, and then told you ... and then the Ivfs didn't take, I gave up every one of my own hopes and dreams for a family of my own ... and fatherhood.

"And, Scully, I wanted the Ivfs to work. I truly did have those hopes and dreams ... but with you. Only with you. You ... you never knew it, but I grieved with you, for you, for us..." Mulder squeezed her fingers lightly, and reached up to wipe a stray tear away, allowing his thumb to soothe her soft skin long after the tear was gone, then continued.

"I'm not sure what our future will hold, but Scully," Mulder told her as he looked deeply into her eyes, "I would love to find that future -- together, as a family -- with you and our little one."

Scully blinked, tears now freely streaming down her cheeks.

"Mulder, I ... we ..."

Mulder stopped her with a finger to her lips.

"Scully, I love you ... more than I can ever say in mere words," He stroked her cheek with the palm of his hand and then kissed her forehead.

Scully nervously laughed. "Is that a proposal, Mulder?" she was only half serious but hopeful just the same.

"Yes," Mulder quietly replied, although a bit hesitant.

Her eyes closed and she sighed. "I love you, Mulder. With all my heart, all that I am, all that I'll ever be."

Scully tilted her head up and Mulder met her lips eagerly with his own, hugging her tightly to him, then quickly backing off and looking down at her abdomen, fear obvious in his eyes. Scully lifted his face to hers and reassured him with a sweet smile that it was alright, that he was not hurting either her or the baby.

She took his hand, placed it on her abdomen where their baby was growing and held it there gently. Mulder watched their hands for a moment, dreaming of a future he could still only imagine, of a beautiful new baby with auburn curls and blue eyes.

"We have our miracle, Scully," he whispered.

Then, smiling broadly, Mulder looked up to see a matching smile on Scully's face, leaned forward and kissed her deeply and lovingly; he never wanted to let her go again.

If anyone could arrange such an occurrence, it would be Fox Mulder.

Outside the door of Dana Scully's room, Skinner watched his two favorite renegade agents engage in their intimate embrace. He paused a moment longer and then started back down the hall to give them the privacy they so badly needed. He would find out the why's and wherefores tomorrow.

For now, both agents were safe and together. What the future held for them, he didn't know.

However, AD Walter Skinner was smiling as he left the hospital, heading home.

Chapter One - 'erms

November 21, 2005
Monday before Thanksgiving

The bright mid-morning sun chased the chill of the Fall morning away as a father and son explored their world. The three year old boy ran ahead pointing and asking one question after another. Fox Mulder smiled, taking great pleasure in the simple act of spending time with his son, William.

Three years before, Mulder and, his partner, Dana Scully worried if they would ever have a future as a family. They had worked tirelessly making sure that future became a reality; that the world at large had a future as well.

The days and nights of looking over their shoulders, jumping at moving shadows and being an ever-vigilant presence in their son's young life almost took their toll. They tried very hard to give William the life an innocent little boy deserved by keeping him out of the line of fire and leaving the stress outside the door of their home.

Unlike the majority of the world, they were privy to the inner workings of a global conspiracy, a Consortium, that was working with what most people would think impossible: extraterrestrial biological entities -- in other words, aliens.

And these aliens weren't even close to the friendly, benevolent ones portrayed in Spielberg's 'Close Encounters' film.

The Consortium had been a cluster of old men and Their minions who collaborated against the world and with the aliens for decades in order to greedily save themselves at the expense of humanity -- all five billion plus of them.

At one point, Mulder and Scully believed that the Consortium had been destroyed, but, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, at least one of Them -- the most heinous of them all -- had survived and resurrected a new Consortium, but with basically the same plans.

The Consortium, with the aliens, were working on a virus that would, in essence, wipe out all but a select few of the humans.

Scully and Mulder both had been purposely exposed to the vaccine, and from their own blood and DNA, they hoped a vaccine could be found.

Mulder and Scully married a few months after his return from Oregon. Scully chose to return to Quantico and teach until her maternity leave.

After many late night discussions, Mulder, having had fairly recently discovered his sister Samantha's fate and, in essence, the truth, had decided his work as a Federal agent was done. He felt that helping to raise his and Scully's baby was much, much more important.

Not long after, Mulder resigned from the F.B.I. and decided to, with much encouragement from his wife, write a line of Young Adult books about his and Scully's escapades into the paranormal realm, which combined action and adventure with learning and reading activities. Mulder had been overwhelmed by his books' success, but Scully, knowing her husband's genius, sense of humor and proclivity toward creativity, was not at all surprised.

Her usually effusive husband had been stunned speechless the day she brought home Book Review Magazine where he had been described as "possibly the next J.K. Rowling." English teachers were actually using his books in their classrooms as the basis of school projects, and he was asked and paid to talk to school auditoriums full of avid fans of his stories.

On the practical, real life side of things, with Scully's connection and reputation within the Medical Community, she was able to secure an 'underground' lab run by scientists, who like herself and her husband, believed.

Mulder's contacts, who were considered to be less than reputable, were able to obtain many items needed. Behind the guise of a defeated and uninterested retired Federal employee, he was able to move about more freely than he and Scully had anticipated.

Mulder had turned the tables and was now monitoring *Their* whereabouts and activities, unbeknownst to Them, instead of vice versa -- how it used to be for them when they were field agents.

After many false starts, when a trial vaccine proved to be the virtual 'Holy Grail,' the synthesized product was mass-produced and introduced into the medical main stream. Hidden behind the ruse of a new and fast-spreading "deadly pandemic viral plague" which could only be avoided by vaccination, the unsuspecting public was given a second chance.

After all the veiled death threats against Mulder, Scully and their newborn son, Mulder and family finally began to live their lives on their own terms.

With the help of their friends, Mulder was able to secure a future in Culpeper, Virginia. In the process of remodeling their home, he brought his mother-in-law, Maggie and his mother, Teena down to live with them as well.

It was a bit touchy for awhile trying to convince their mothers to move, but in the end they knew it was for the best.

Mulder and Scully had the room, Maggie Scully's youngest grandchild lived fairly close, and her own house was large, and she was alone, so she decided to move to Culpeper to spend more time with her family members who lived closest. With both Bill and Charlie being sailors and, like their father before them, moving from port to port, Maggie felt this was her chance to settle down. Her sons could come to Culpeper to visit as easily as they could visit her in Baltimore.

Teena Mulder was a bit more resistant at first, having closed herself off so much with the loss of her daughter at such a young age, but William was a sweetheart and had innocently ingratiated himself into his 'Gamma's' good graces. Teena, frankly, could not get enough of the little boy; he reminded her so of Fox at that age.

Looking out across his backyard, he admired the numerous flora, shrubs and vines Scully had planted not long after moving to the farmhouse. An old wooden rail fence enclosed a modest amount of land to make a very active little three old boy happy. Mulder had a five foot privacy fence placed two feet on the outskirts of the railed fence providing the 100 by 200 foot yard security for William's curiosity and he and his wife's peace of mind.

Mulder was drawn out of his thoughts by his son's voice. He looked and had seen William prancing from one foot to the other waiting to show his Daddy what he had found.

"'ook, Daddy," the little boy yelled while pointing at the fence.

"What, little Buddy? Whadaya see?" the little one's father questioned.

"'on't know." The boy looked up at his Daddy and shrugged his shoulders. His hands thrust out, palms upward, the only way a three year old could. He lifted his arms up and demanded, "Up."

"Up what, Son?"

"Up peez, Daddy," the little one answered. Just as his Moma had taught him.

"That's a good boy, William," Mulder said as he lifted his son up close to his chest and kissed him on the cheek. "Now, what did you want to show me?"

William pointed to the fuzzy little creature that was slowly crawling across the top of the fence rail.

"'ook, 'erm," William said with a frown and pointing. He wrinkled his nose and said with disgust, "'uk!"

Mulder laughed at the face his son was making. "No Buddy, that's a caterpillar."

With a much too serious look on his face for such a small boy, he shook his head and pronounced, "Uh uh, Daddy. Dat's 'erm. 'uk!"

Mulder knew, just as with his mother, when he had lost an argument. William could be just as stubborn as she. Mulder smiled and looked into his son's eyes and asked, "You want to take it home and show your Moma?"

William shook his head with a surprised look and placed his hands on either side of Mulder's face. "No Daddy! Moma 'on't 'yike no 'erms! 'uk!"

"I guess you win. No "'erms" for Moma." Mulder laughed, swung his son up on his shoulders and William placed his small hands on top of Mulder's head. Then he slipped his hands down and covered his Daddy's eyes.

"Hey! Who's doing the driving here?" Mulder laughed as did William.

"Peek boo! Daddy!" he squealed with delight when Mulder pulled William's hands down and blew raspberries in each palm.

Still giggling and laughing, father and son made their way back up the path along the old fence that bordered their backyard.

"Daddy, war 'erm goes?" William questioned while leaning his head down trying to look into his Daddy's eyes.

"Whoa Son, hang on there." Mulder shifted William and tilted his head, thought for a moment and then spoke. "Well the caterpillar, um ... worm will make a home and sleep for awhile. And then, when he wakes up, he'll be a beautiful butterfly. The butterfly will fly away."

"War he go, Daddy? I 'ant ta fy Daddy," William proclaimed, throwing his hands above his head.

"To see the world, Buddy. To see the world." Mulder reached up, grabbed William around the waist and lifted him above his head. William's laughter made Mulder chuckle with delight.

"I 'ant ta see the 'erd, Daddy."

"You will, Son. One of these days, hopefully, you will," Mulder replied thoughtfully, trying to stave off thoughts of a teen-aged William leaving home for college.

As they got closer to the house a screen door screeched and then banged against the door frame. A petite redhead, hands on her hips, shook her head, a smile on her face.

"What are you guys up to?" she asked. Mulder placed the boy down on his feet when he stepped up on the porch.

"I go fyin 'yike uh ... uh," William stuttered and then turned to his father and said, "Daddy?"

Mulder bent down and whispered to William, "A butterfly."

William swung around, arms out as if flying, and whispered, "utfy. An I taw uh ... uh ... 'erm."

"A worm!?! Yuk!" Scully exclaimed with wide eyes, wrinkled her nose and then spoke with a serious tone. "I don't like worms."

William turned around quickly, stomped his foot and looked up at his father with his little hands on his hips. "To'ya, Daddy. Moma 'on't 'yike no 'erms."

Scully patted her son indulgently on his head, chuckled and then announced, "Lunch is ready. Come on in and wash up." She opened the screen door and started inside.

"Just like your mother," Mulder muttered then asked loudly, "Whatta we having? Sandwiches and worm soup?"

Scully and William both exclaimed as one with a look of disgust on their faces. They wrinkled their noses, eyes wide.





"What, what did I say?" Mulder threw his hands up in self-defense. Grinning with mischief in his eyes, he followed Moma and son inside.


Chapter Two - 'eefs

November 22, 2004
Tuesday before Thanksgiving

Once again, the backyard resembled a patchwork quilt: maroons, scarlets, reds, oranges, ambers, yellows and greens. Yes, Fall had arrived and Mother Nature decided to redecorate the back yard, once again.

Mulder sighed, picked up the rake and headed for the far end of the yard. It was Tuesday and this job had to be done by Thursday.

After about an hour and a half, he had five multi-colored piles of leaves and was slowly working on the last. He paused for a moment and wiped his brow. A screech and bang of the back screen door alerted him to an intruder. A smile played at the corner of his mouth when he heard the crunch of leaves and the shuffle of small feet creep closer.

"Daddy, Moma to'd me to gif dis to 'ou." William announced as he slowly walked closer, mindful of the glass of iced tea he was holding. He held it up to his Daddy, proud that not a drop had spilled.

"Why thank you, Buddy. I really needed this. I'll have to thank mom later." Mulder gently patted William on the head and then winked at his son which elicited a giggle from the little boy.


"Yeah, Buddy."

"'ou pay in da 'eefs? I 'on't ta pay too, Daddy," William announced enthusiastically as he jumped up and down. Then without warning, and before Mulder could reply, his energetic son dove for the nearest pile of neatly raked leaves.

"William Fox Mulder!" Mulder yelled as he stood stunned for a moment, watching as his little boy rolled around, scattering the neat pile. Mulder shook his head and chuckled. He stepped over to the porch, set down his glass and turned to see William running as hard as his little legs could carry him.

"No! William!" Mulder took off running and snatched up a laughing little boy before he could dessimate another pile. "Oh no you don't, Buddy. I didn't spend the past hour raking so you can destroy it," Mulder said laughing as William squirmed in his arms to be let down.

William stopped wiggling and said, "'ut Daddy, I 'ont ta pay, too," William said, his bottom lip prominently sticking out. Sometimes, Mulder thought, looking at his son, it was like looking in the mirror.

Mulder sighed as he looked between the leaves and his pouty son.

Apparently, to his young son, raking leaves was child's play.

Surprised, William squealed with delight and clapped wildly when his Daddy suddenly plopped down in the middle of the biggest pile of leaves, scattering them everywhere. William picked up a handful and tossed them on top of his Daddy's head.

"Pay, Daddy, pay wif me!" William called, little fists full of leaves.

"Hey, you! I'm gonna getcha for that!"

His Daddy grabbed his short leg as he tried to scramble away and shrieked as a handful of leaves was dumped on top of his head.

Father and son tumbled around laughing and destroying yet another pile.

Scully shook her head as she stood at the kitchen window smiling, watching her two boys play amongst the fallen leaves.

"Mulder's gonna have to get those leaves raked up by morning. But, I doubt he's gonna mind it too much," she said aloud and chuckled.

She wiped her hands with the dishcloth, made another glass of tea, peeked in the oven and then headed out the door to find her two hard-working boys.

Delicious aromas drifted across the yard and the sound of the screen door closing alerted the two prone figures that someone was approaching. Father whispered to son. The son giggled and nodded.

Scully set the extra glass of tea on the porch, slowly walked to where her two boys were huffing and puffing, clearly exhausted and a little dirty from their romp through the gorgeous color palette of leaves. She was oblivious to the conspiracy about to unfold.

"Hey, you two, whatcha ... ?" Her question was abruptly cut short by two large hands grabbing her waist and pulling her down between father and son, leaves once again flying everywhere. She yelped when her son doused her with the fallen leaves.

William giggled behind the small hands that were covering his mouth. He started inching away from his squirming Moma.

"Daddy, to'd me ta do wit," he announced as he pointed his finger, a very Mulderesque smirk tempting the corners of his mouth.

"Traitor!" Mulder yelled as he lunged for William.

Scully laughed as her son screamed and started running to get away from his Daddy. Mulder caught William and they both tumbled into another pile, rolling and laughing.

"No! Da ... deeeee!" William screamed as his Daddy tickled him, legs kicking wildly in his attempts to escape.

Mulder and William were so engrossed in their bonding session that they did not see or suspect Scully was sneaking up behind them.

Suddenly, leaves rained down upon them, causing them to stop abruptly, mouths agape. They sat up quickly only to see Scully disappear through the screen door.

"Uh, oh," William whispered breathlessly, looking worried. "Is Moma mad?"

"Uh, oh, is right. I don't think so, Buddy. But, You know what?

I think we better get these leaves raked up and then get cleaned up for dinner without Moma having to tell us. Whataya say, want to help me out here, Buddy?" Mulder asked as he stood and brushed off his and William's clothes.

"'kaee, Daddy. I git ma yake and hep ya, Daddy," William said.

He ran to the porch as fast as his chubby little legs would carry him, picked up his little plastic rake and joined his Daddy.

Mulder grinned as his son struggled with the small plastic rake, stopped, wiped his forehead and then with an exagerated sigh began again. Even though it took twice as long with his son's help, they had all the leaves, once again raked, picked up and stored in the compost bin.

Both looked tired and dirty, but happy as they tried to quietly slip up the stairs and into the bathroom.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Scully hummed while putting the finishing touches on their evening meal. She glanced out the kitchen window and smiled wistfully thinking about the last three years. Good times overshadowing the bad had been the only way they managed to survive, considering what it had taken for them to reach this point. They truly had something to be thankful for each and every day.

As she was taking the sweet potato pie from the oven and placing it aside on a cooling rack for their family Thanksgiving dinner, she heard her two favorite men noisily stomping down the stairs.

A pair of strong arms encircled her waist. Scully shivered as Mulder's breath blew across her ear. A smaller pair of arms encircled her leg and squeezed.

"Love you, Scully," Mulder whispered in her ear.

"Wuv 'ou, Moma," William said as he looked up at her with a sheepish grin.

"Love you, too. Both of you ... with all my heart."

Scully reached down, lifted her son, kissed him on the cheek and then kissed his Daddy on the lips.

"Ewwwwww. 'uk," William announced and stuffed his face into the crook of Scully's neck. Both parents laughed at his reaction.

"Come on, my backyard heroes -- let's eat," Scully told them.

Then Mulder and Scully sat at the table to eat, with William secure on his toddler booster seat, in a chair between them.

Scully looked from her husband to their son and decided that, yes, they truly had a lot to be thankful for.

Chapter Three - "'urkee"

November 23, 2005
Mulder Residence
Wednesday before Thanksgiving

Mulder had just finished the last few lines of a chapter he had been working on. The draft for his latest book was due by the end of January and with the upcoming holidays, he grabbed bits of time alone when he could.

His son's footsteps drifted through the open door to his office just as Mulder shut his computer down. He turned to see William standing in the doorway.

"Hey, Buddy, finished watching your video?"

William nodded. "Daa ... deee," the three-year-old whined.

"Will, please don't whine. You know we've talked about this before. Haven't we, Buddy?" Fox Mulder questioned as he got up and knelt before his impatient son.

"Yesss, Daddy. 'ou don't yike it 'en I do dat," William replied, sticking out his very Mulderesque bottom lip and lowering his head.

"That's right, Buddy, I don't like it when you whine," Mulder lightly scolded.

"I, sowee, Daddy."

"Okay, Buddy. Now, what did you need?" Mulder asked, as he brushed a lock of light brown hair from William's brow.

"Daddy, 'en Matty get 'ere? I 'anna pay 'if Matty." William questioned his father, looking up, but still pouting.

Mulder sighed for the fifth time and gathered his already fragile patience. Needless to say, it had not been the only time today they had had that conversation. He had been delegated, by his harried wife, to keep their very impatient son busy so she could finish the last minute preparations for their family dinner.

Scully's family, Bill, Tara and Matthew, were due almost anytime.

Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Mulder couldn't help but wonder if this was the kind of frustration Walter Skinner had felt every time he sat in front of his AD, attempting to justify some outrageous X-Files case, usually without prior permission.

It was at times like these, with his own son, when Mulder felt a deep, abiding wonder, admiration and kinship with his ex-boss' extraordinary patience.

"Will, I'm not sure when they'll get here, but it shouldn't be much longer. Hey Buddy, how'd you like to help me with a big decision about something that's very, very important?" Mulder asked William, hoping to prevent any further questioning.

William nodded as his little face lit up; he loved helping his much-adored "Daddy". "Okaee, Daddy. I hep 'ou."

"Great. Come on, Buddy, let's go into the den."

Mulder stood up and held out his hand. William eagerly slipped his small one into his father's big one and both headed out on their mission.

Dana Mulder watched from around the kitchen wall as Mulder talked to William. With a grin, she shook her head when she realized her husband had yet again dodged another extensive pouting session. She was more than familiar with the famous Mulder pout and its effect. Scully might never tell him, but that plump, pouty lower lip was one of the very first things that had attracted her to her partner-husband.

Scully turned back into the kitchen, checked the roast, carrots and potatoes in the oven, glanced at the clock and then pulled the vegetables out of the refrigerator. Since she had already cleaned and prepared the veggies ahead of time, all she had to do was make the salad. Securing it with plastic wrap, she returned it to the fridge.

A commotion from the den drew her attention and she slipped quietly up to the doorway and peeked in, being careful not to interrupt the intense conversation. Scully quickly covered her mouth with her hand to forestall the giggle that was tempted to erupt.

Father and son were vigorously debating the merits of watching football or Sponge Bob Squarepants. Unfortunately for Mulder, Sponge Bob was winning, hands down.

Scully knew that Mulder was privately and overwhelmingly grateful that Barney, that awful purple dinosaur, was no longer the number one video addiction of pre-schoolers everywhere. She clearly remembered the day when her Mom had offered her vast collection of Barney videos to them for her youngest grandson's enjoyment.

Maggie had bought and kept them at her house for Matthew's visits when he was William's age.

Scully also remembered the panic face, which only she could read, and the vein that had quite visibly throbbed on her husband's temple at the suggestion. Mulder had very politely declined his mother-in-law's offer, insisting that she keep them for some time in the future when William would eventually stay overnight at Memaw's house.

Scully was certain Mulder had barely avoided an aneurysm over that one!

Scully was jerked out of her reverie at the sound of knocking at the front door and she immediately headed in that direction.

The sound of footsteps scrambling through the den behind her had her laughing as she opened the door.

Father and son skidded to a halt behind Scully as she opened the door. William could barely contain his excitement, pulling on Mulder's pants and jumping up and down.

"Hey, Bill. Come in, please," Scully said rather coolly but still hugged her big brother and planted a kiss on his cheek, then closed the door against the cool fall air.

"Hi, Dana." Bill hugged his little sister, then stepped back.

"Good to see you. You look good."

"Thanks. Where's Tara and Matthew?"

"Oh, they're out by the car. They saw Mom coming up the drive."

Bill replied and then glanced at William and Mulder. "Hey, little guy. You're getting so big. How're you doing?" Bill bent over to look at him eye to eye.

"Fine," William shyly replied as he inched closer to his Daddy while clutching his leg, clearly not comfortable around his uncle. As much as he'd tried not to show it, Mulder was certain his son could feel the tension between his "Daddy" and his "Uncle Bill." Of course, Bill's expected remarks didn't help matters, even if William didn't truly understand their meanings.

"Well, we know whose son he is," Bill snidely commented as he stood.

"Bill." Scully warned.

"Mr. Mulder." Bill addressed Mulder, nodding his head and ignoring his sister.

"Bill. Please, just call me Mulder. Nice to see you. Would you like to see where you will be staying or would you rather wait until later?" Mulder cordially addressed Bill, secretly hoping he would take the offer, and then picked up his son.

William had reluctantly let go of his father's pants leg and then threw his little arms around his Daddy's neck as he was lifted up.

Bill turned back to Scully, completely ignoring Mulder. "We can wait 'til later."

Laughter and excited greetings could be heard from the front yard. Scully opened the door to smiles and giggles.

"Hey, Matthew. Look at you. You're so big," Scully said as she hugged him.

"Hey, Aunt Dana."

"Matty!" Will called excitedly out to his cousin, barely able to keep from jumping out of his father's arms.

"Hi, Will. Hi, Uncle Mulder," Matthew said, greeting both father and son with a smile. "Wanta go play, Will? Is it okay, Uncle Mulder?" Matthew asked as Mulder knelt and placed William back on his feet.

"Hello, Matthew. It's nice to see you. And, yeah, it's okay.

Hey Buddy, why don't you show Matthew your room?" Mulder gently coaxed William.

"Okaee. 'mon Matty." William looked up at his cousin and smiled and then both boys rushed from the room. "I yike 'urkee legs. 'ou yike 'urkee legs, Matty?" His excited chatter echoed down the stairway.

Mulder chuckled, stood just as Tara and Maggie walked through the door. He watched as Scully greeted both women and then patiently waited.

"Fox," both women said in unison when they turned from Scully to see him grinning.

"Hello, Tara. Hi, Mom," he softly replied, hugging both women.

Mulder glanced over at Bill and could clearly see the disgust and anger on his face. Mulder ignored him and ushered the women into the den.

"Are you coming, Bill?" Scully asked with a smirk, turning and leaving a fuming Bill Scully standing alone.

"Should've stayed at a hotel," Bill muttered under his breath as he reluctantly followed them.

Dana, Tara and Maggie were looking through the latest Mulder family photos. There was laughter and a lot of oohing and aahing over various cute and adorable father and son antics.

Scully proudly cooed over pictures of William.

Bill sat staring sullenly at the football game playing on the television and visibly cringed each time Mulder or William was mentioned. He shifted restlessly, as if trying to find a more comfortable position.

Mulder watched the scene before him, feeling content and happy.

A smile played at the corners of his mouth when, from the stairwell, he heard William and Matthew giggling and laughing over the latest Sponge Bob video. He sighed and shook his head when he spotted Bill squirming and barely containing his frustration.

Mulder stood and addressed the women.

"Ladies, I'm going to get a glass of iced tea. Can I get you something?"

"Thanks, Mulder. I think I would love some iced tea too," Scully answered with a smile. "Mom? Tara?"

"Yes, thank you, Fox," Maggie replied.

"Yes, that would be nice," Tara softly said.

"Great," Mulder said, then addressed his brother-in-law. "Bill would you mind helping me in the kitchen? I'd really appreciate it," Mulder said with a disarming smile.

Bill's venomous look grated on Mulder's nerves, but he made a point to hide it. He watched as Bill stood, stuffed his hands in his pockets and huffed out a sigh. Mulder took in a deep breath and headed to the kitchen. Bill followed slowly behind.

Mulder opened the refrigerator and took out the pitcher of tea, setting it on the island counter. He then opened the freezer door and looked back at Bill still standing in the doorway.

"Bill would you mind getting the glasses out of the cabinet over the dishwasher?" Mulder said over his shoulder, then pulled the ice container out and set it next to the pitcher of tea.

Without a word, Bill reluctantly did as asked, but was obviously not pleased about being alone with Mulder.

Mulder went to the sink, washed and dried his hands, then began filling the glasses with ice. He noticed Bill had moved to the screen door leading out to the backyard. He sighed and paused for a moment, glancing at Bill's profile. Then, he filled the glasses with tea and set them aside.

Mulder turned with his arms folded, leaned against the counter and lowered his head.

"Bill, Dana and I have been married for four years now," Mulder began. "She is the happiest I've seen her in a very long time.

Hell, we both are. I can't speak for her but, I believe we've finally found the life we both had longed for and deserve. We have a beautiful little boy who is the biggest joy in our lives."

Mulder paused, with a glance toward Bill. His brother-in-law hadn't moved, other than the muscle in his jaw which was getting a good workout from grinding his teeth.

"With the exception of my mother, William, Dana and her family, by extention, are the only family I have. I want my son to know his mother's family. I want him to grow up knowing that there will always be someone that he can count on." Mulder sighed and turned to the kitchen window. Before he could utter another word, Matthew and William entered the kitchen.

Both boys stopped and looked between their fathers and then at each other. William sidled up to his father and tugged on his pants leg.

"Daddy, can Me and Matty haf sumpin ta dwink? Peez?" William asked as he looked up at his father.

"Of course, Buddy. How about some juice?"

Both boys yelled their approval along with laughter and giggles.

"Can we take them back to William's room, Uncle Mulder?" Matthew asked while jumping up and down.

"Oh no, Matty," William started with a stage whisper. "Moma don't yike no dwinks in tha woom."

Mulder grinned at his son and then corrected him. "William it's, 'Moma doesn't like drinks in the room.'"

"Moma dozen lllike drrinks in tha rrroom." William looked at his Daddy expectantly. "Did I say it rrright, Daddy?"

"You did good, Buddy," Mulder replied, ruffling his son's hair.

He pulled two small juice containers from the refrigerator, opened them, stuck in the attached straws and handed the drinks to William and Matthew. "You boys go sit at the breakfast table until you're finished."

"Thank you, Uncle Mulder," Matthew uttered, carrying his juice to the table. He climbed up on one of the chairs to wait for his cousin.

"Tank you, Daddy," Will said as he took the drink from his father, then said, "Daddy, was that rrright?" William asked, looking to his father for approval.

"Th ... ank. Thank you." Mulder repeated.

"Th ... ank you, Daddy." William grinned and with both hands holding his juice turned to join Matthew at the table.

"You're welcome. Just be care ..." Before he could finish, William tripped on a stray shoe lace, squeezed the container and spilled his juice on the floor.

"Uh ... oh." William stammered anxiously, staring at the puddle on the floor.

Mulder grabbed a handful of paper towels. He walked over to William, carefully took the drink from his son's hands and set it on the table. Then he handed him the paper towels and gently prodded him to clean up the spilled juice.

"Daaa ... deee," William whined and then quickly eyed his Daddy, pouty lip firmly in place.

"William," Mulder said sternly, but gently. "Get to it, Buddy.

The quicker you finish, the quicker you can join Matthew at the table," he encouraged his petulant child.

William threw his hands up, sighed loudly and then knelt down on the floor, and as quickly as his little hands could, he cleaned up the spill.

When he finished, William threw the soiled paper towels into the garbage without being told to do so, then turned back to his Daddy with an impish grin.

"Okaee, Daddy?" the child asked his father, walking slowly to him.

"Thank you, Buddy. You did good." Mulder knelt beside his son, wiped his hands with a damp kitchen towel, and then quickly tied the loosened lace on his shoe. He brushed an errant lock of hair off his William's forehead, then patted him gently on the bottom.

"Go on now and be careful, okay?"

"Okaee." William hugged his Daddy and then joined Matthew at the table.

Both boys began whispering and laughing, being extra careful not to spill their drinks.

Mulder stood, threw the hand towel on the counter and turned to see Bill staring in what he thought might be awe. He picked up two glasses of tea and handed them to Bill. Then he carefully juggled the other three and motioned with his head for Bill to follow.

"Mulder, just a minute," Bill quietly spoke. He glanced over at the boys, walked closer to Mulder and lowered his voice.

"You were good with him. With both of them, actually. I suppose I'm a bit surprised."

Mulder gave Bill a quirky grin, nodded, sat the glasses down and spoke seriously. "Look Bill, all I want is to make Dana and William happy and to keep them safe. All I ever wanted, since I fell in love with your sister, was a chance to be a husband and father. She has graciously granted my first wish and blessed me with the second. You can ask your sister. I didn't change overnight. I understand your concerns, but Bill, she is happy. I live to give her everything she could want or need and deserve. She's the very air I breathe. So is our son.

"I don't know what else I could say or do to make you understand or accept the life we now live. I can only hope that one day you will see what I see now: A very content wife and mother, and a beautiful, happy little boy."

Bill looked at Mulder for a moment and then shook his head.

"You speak eloquently now of how you've changed, but it's gonna take a lot more to convince me. Even though you have this place and money, I still don't believe you're good for my sister or my nephew." Bill glanced back at the boys and then lowered his voice even more. "In my book, you're still a sorry son-of-a-bitch."

Mulder blinked at Bill, decided that discretion was, indeed, the better part of valor, and changed the subject. "Let's get these drinks out to the women."

Bill nodded, smiling smugly to himself, turned and started back to join the rest of the family.

Mulder picked up the glasses once more and followed behind in a bit of a quandry. He shook his head. He would have to share this last bit of revelation with his wife later that evening.

Maybe, there was hope for a Happy Thanksgiving, but then again, with Bill Scully around ...

The Year 2004

As Fox Mulder's 2004 New Year's resolution, and with the help of the Gunmen, he had started a search for the perfect place to settle down and raise a family.

Very specific conditions were placed by Mulder on their massive search: privacy, plenty of wide open spaces, enough acreage to accommodate several dwellings.

The most important stipulation of all, however, was that Scully was not to know about any of it.

The latter condition, as it turned out, was the most difficult of all to keep.

With the hush-hush conversations between Mulder and the Gunmen, quick shut-down of computers, hanging up in the middle of phone conversations and clandestine meetings, Scully was ready to string them all up and hang them out to dry.

Mulder felt bad for the deception because Scully's patience was clearly wearing thin.

On March 3rd, after three long months of stomping around the countryside of northern Virginia, they found the perfect place:

one hundred and twenty-five acres of prime real estate, complete with two lakes and a large, very old, very beautiful farmhouse.

There was more than enough room for Mulder, Scully and William ... with room to grow, hopefully.

On March 15th, the papers were signed. After four months of renovations to the main house, roads carefully planned out and built, agricultural clean-up, landscaping and five lakeside cottages constructed and furnished, Mulder was ready.

Quick thinking and careful planning had the Mulder family on the road for their first family vacation. "It's a surprise, Scully.

If I told you where we were going, it wouldn't be a surprise," Mulder had told her and would not relent on his silence.

Passing the Culpeper, Virginia highway sign and taking the exit had finally proven to be too much for Scully's overwhelming curiosity.

"Culpeper, Mulder? What's in Culpeper? Have you ever been here before? Mulder, what are we doing here?" the rapid firing of questions had Mulder grinning and shaking his head, continued to crunch on his ever-present sunflower seeds and glancing in the rear view mirror to see William taking in the scenery with wide eyes.

"Patience, Scully," Mulder's jovial tone did not seem to quell her propensity for wanting all the facts before hand. The 'I' in F.B.I. had become her motto years ago.

From the back seat came his son's impatient voice. "Aw we dare yet, Daddy?"

Mulder glanced in the mirror once more, grinned and then replied, "Almost, Son."

William sighed, leaned his head against his car seat and stared out the window again.

The dirt road lead to an old rustic arched gateway. Above the arc in ornate iron lettering was, M & S. Hanging underneath was a crude weathered sign bearing the address: 1013 Starbuck Drive.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Scully's mouth open and close. Her eyebrow raised.

Mulder grinned as he followed the road, about a quarter of a mile, then made a right turn. The Land Rover traveled another 600 feet and came to a stop before, what appeared to be, a newly renovated white two story southern-style farmhouse.

"Mulder, what is this? Who lives here?" Scully asked, eyes squinted and clearly agitated by Mulder's continued silence and constant smirk.

"Come on, Scully," Mulder said as he slid out of the Rover and opened the back door to retrieve his son. "Come on, Buddy, let's get you out of here."

William patiently waited as his Daddy unfastened his seatbelt, helped him out of the kiddie carseat and took his hand as they joined his Moma.

"Mulder ..." Scully's tone left nothing to the imagination. She was beyond impatient.

Mulder slipped a hand in his pocket and pulled out a set of keys, handing them to her and grinning.

"Go, go and open the door."

"Mulder, what are you talking about? Who lives here?"

"We do."

"Wha ..." Scully's startled response was cut short by Mulder's kiss and her son's giggles.

"Just open the door, Scully. Please." He pleaded.

Stunned, Scully slowly took the sidewalk up to the steps and onto the porch. She hesitated for but a second and then stood before the door and slipped the key into the lock. She glanced back as Mulder and William came up behind her, turned the key and opened the door.

"Mulder," came Scully's soft response to the vision before her.

She stepped further into the foyer, turned and with wide, watery eyes she looked first at her smiling son and then to her husband.

"Mulder, it's beautiful. How? When? I ..." A hiccupped sob escaped and her hands covered her mouth.

"Do you like it, Scully?" Mulder asked as he stepped in front of her and at her nod he nervously continued. "We had talked about finding a place away from D.C. to raise William and possibly having his 'Gamma' and 'Memaw' close by. The guys helped me look for and find this place. I know it drove you crazy and I'm sorry for being so secretive but I really wanted to surprise you. Do you really like it, Scully? You will have to do the decorating 'cause you know what my apartment looked like and ..."

Scully stopped his rambling with a kiss. Her arms draped around his neck and letting go of William's hand, his wrapped around her waist. She withdrew slightly and whispered. "I love it, Mulder.

I love you."

Small hands tapped Mulder's leg. He looked down to see his son's smiling face.

"I wanta hug too!" William exclaimed.

Mulder and Scully laughed as Mulder picked him up and hugged him tightly. Scully reached around her two men and laid her head on Mulder's chest.

"Is dis my howz, Daddy?" William asked.

"Our house, Buddy. Do you like it?"

"Yup. I yike it," William replied and then snuggled into the crook of his Daddy's neck.

"We're home. Really home," Mulder said as he kissed the top of Scully's head, and then their son's forehead.

On August 23, 2004, the Mulder family had finally come home.

Present day
Wednesday, late afternoon
Mulder Residence

After a couple of hours of terse conversations, offensive glances and Bill's anxious fidgeting, Mulder had decided to put Bill out of their misery.

Piling into their respective vehicles, with Maggie hitching a ride with her son-in-law, they made the three-quarter mile trek to where Bill, Tara and Matthew would be staying while visiting. Scully stayed behind with William, to Mulder's disappointment, to finish the dinner she had planned for them all.

"Mom, I don't think Bill wants to be here," Mulder quietly said.

"Fox, don't worry about Bill. The important thing is that we're all together, thankfully, another year. Give him time, Fox, he'll come around."

"I don't know about that, Mom. It's been four years and still nothing's changed. Sometimes, I wonder, if I had stayed away, things would have been different ... better for ..."

"Different ... better, for whom, Fox? You, Dana, William? Yes, I agree it would have been different, but I don't see how it would have been better. William wouldn't have the father whom he absolutely adores, and Dana would not have the love of her life, the other half of her soul," Maggie stated quietly with a glance in his direction, her hands primly folded in her lap. "You wouldn't have my daughter and your son, and I've never seen you so happy in all the years I've known you. And, Dana is finally happy ... truly happy for the first time in a very long time.

"Fox, in case you hadn't noticed, Bill is a very stubborn man and will have to work through his doubt about you on his own. All you can do is continue to love my daughter and grandson, just as you always have. That's your job. There isn't anything more that you can do. Stop worrying about Bill. That's my job." Maggie finished with a smile.

Mulder smiled back and reached out and squeezed her hand. "All right, Mom. I'll try."

"Good," Maggie said with finality and patted his hand.

At the fork in the road, Mulder took a left, passed Maggie's cottage and came to a stop at the next one. As he exited the vehicle, he could hear Matthew's excited voice.

"Uncle Mulder, this place is so cool!" Matthew excitedly said and then turned to his father. "Isn't it great, Dad?"

Bill silently cursed the Mulder name and put on a false smile for his son's benefit. "Yeah, great," he spoke aloud and then to himself. *Just great*. Bill slammed the Jeep's hatch after unloading the luggage and huffed with iritation.

Mulder ruffled Matthew's hair and smiled. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a set of keys, handing them to Matthew.

"Here ya go, Matt. Why don't you go open the door for your dad?"

"Really, Uncle Mulder?" At his, fast-becoming favorite Uncle's nod, Matthew turned to his Dad with pride. "Come on, Dad. I'll open the door for you." Matthew grabbed his suitcase and another small one and headed for the front door.

Mulder turned to Tara when he felt her hand on his arm.

"It's a beautiful place, Fox. Thank you for inviting us," Tara said with her soft voice. "And for that." She nodded toward her son with an appreciative smile.

"Don't mention it, Tara. He's a good boy. And, it's a pleasure to have you all here. I know Scully has been looking forward to this for a long time," Mulder replied and briefly touched her shoulder before continuing. "The house was just cleaned and stocked. If there is anything and I mean anything that you need, just let us know. I'm gonna head back to the house. I'm sure Scully could use a break from William. We'll see you around 6."

Tara chuckled. "Thanks, I'm sure we'll be just fine. You go before Dana comes looking for you."

"We'll see you later," Mulder said as he climbed back into his Land Rover and headed back to the their home.

Later that night, while William slept safely and peacefully down the hall, Scully curled up against her husband's sated body.

Mulder closed his eyes and sighed with contentment. His family was safe.

His family.

That would always be his greatest source of strength and happiness. He smiled and gently pulled Scully closer.

Chapter Four - Thanksgiving Day


Tuesday November 20, 2001
Maggie Scully's Residence

Maggie wiped her hands on the kitchen towel as she hurried out of the kitchen. She opened the front door to a sight she hadn't expected to see. There stood Fox Mulder, hands in his pockets.

She felt a twinge of alarm as she greeted her son-in-law.

"Fox, hello."

"Hi, Mag ... Mom," Mulder stuttered with a shy smile gracing his handsome features. He was still getting used to calling his wife's mother "Mom," at her constant insistence.

"What's the matter? Is Dana all right? Come in, come in," Maggie gushed, grabbing Mulder's arm and pulling him inside the entryway.

"Are you okay? Is the baby okay?"

"We're all fine. Dana's at home resting," Mulder placed his hand on her shoulder to quell her worried tone. "She's doing all right.

The baby was pretty active last night. She swears it's my fault," Mulder laughed. "She says he has my sleeping habits."

"He?" Maggie grinned and clasped her hands to her chest.

"Well, we're not sure. We had to call it something. Calling the baby "It" just didn't set well with her." Mulder shrugged and chuckled.

"She still wants it to be a surprise, I suppose. But, it would make my job much easier if I knew which it was going to be," Maggie said with a sigh. "I've been working on a layette since I found out she was pregnant. Wasn't sure what color to make it.

Come on in the kitchen, Fox. Would you like some iced tea?"

"Yes, thank you. Maggie, she'll love it, no matter what color."

"I know, but it would be nice to know," he said with a smile.

Mulder sat at the table watching Maggie bustle around the kitchen.

"Maggie? I need your help."

"Sure, Fox, what do you need?" Maggie asked as she placed the glasses of tea on the table and then sat across from Mulder.

"Well ..." he started hesitantly. "We'll be here Thursday, but I wanted to do something special for Scul ... Dana. This is our first Thanksgiving as a family and I thought ... that maybe ... I could cook a special dinner for her, Friday. She's been so tired lately that I didn't want her to have to do anything. But .... I'm not sure what to do. That's why I need your help," Mulder finished with a hopeful look.

Maggie reached across and patted his arm. "Of course I'll help.

Let me get a pen and pad and we'll get a list started so you'll know what to shop for."

With pen and paper, Mulder and Maggie sketched out a simple and uncomplicated meal that even he couldn't screw up. They finished their tea with comfortable conversation, riddled with past holiday stories and laughter.

Maggie sent Mulder off with a list in hand, a smile on his face and, she sensed, another reason to make her daughter happy.

November 23, 2001
Fox and Dana Mulder's Apartment
Friday following Thanksgiving Day

"Wife! Dinner's ready!" Mulder yelled from the kitchen.

Scully heard Mulder's call and slowly made her way from the bedroom prepared to chastise her husband, once again.

She couldn't believe her eyes or nose when she rounded the corner. Mulder had outdone himself and with what she had come to understand had been a little help from her mother.

Before her was a beautifully decorated table. It was adorned with a lace tablecloth and linen napkins, two china plates and polished silverware, crystal goblets and a fall floral centerpiece flanked by two candles. A bowl of dilled green beans, garden salad and a small roasted turkey breast surrounded by small red potatoes, completed the festive table.

"Mulder, it's beautiful and smells wonderful."

"Thanks," was his only reply as he pulled a chair out for Scully.

"I didn't know you could cook anything other than warming up Campbell's Soup or scrambled eggs. However, did you do this?

What restaurant did you call, Mulder?" Scully asked with a smirk.

"Ha ha, Scully. I'll have you know, I shopped and made dinner all by myself," he replied with a playful, indignant tone.

"I'm impressed, Mulder. But you shouldn't have gone to so much trouble for just the two of us."

Mulder knelt beside her, placing his hand on her well-rounded belly. He kissed her cheek and looked into her sparkling blue eyes.

"It wasn't any trouble. You've been so tired lately with Junior keeping you awake at all hours." Mulder rubbed her belly and continued. "Because of you, I have so much to be thankful for. I just wanted to do something special for you.

I wanted to thank you for everything that you have done for me over the years. I wanted to show you how much I appreciate you. Happy Thanksgiving, Scully. I love you."

"Oh, Mulder. I love you, too. Thank you," she whispered and kissed him gently on the lips.

Present Day

November 24, 2005
Thanksgiving Morning
Mulder Residence

As the sunlight shone through the double windows in the breakfast room, Dana Mulder's reminiscing of past memories was disturbed by the pounding of feet on the stairs. She smiled and continued to sip her coffee.

On the island counter was a spread deemed worthy of the two male figures that shadowed the kitchen entry. Both Mulder and William scratched their stomachs and yawned, totally in sync with each other but unaware of each other's actions.

Mulder then picked William up so his son could see the feast his moma had prepared.

Scully laughed at her two favorite men as they ogled the breakfast she had prepared especially for them.

"Wow!" Mulder and William exclaimed as they drooled over the bacon, link sausage, toast and eggs that were spread out before them.

"Moma, that for me and Daddy?" William asked, running to Scully after Mulder had put him down and climbed into her lap.

"Yes, baby. It's all for you and Daddy. Are you hungry?"

Scully asked her son and with his eager nod, she sat him in a chair and went to fix his plate.

Scully popped Mulder's butt just as he snitched a slice of bacon. She pointed to the table and laughed at the pout on his face and then smiled at the kiss he planted on her cheek.

Mulder took his place next to his son and both waited patiently to be served. Mulder did get up and retrieve a glass of milk for William, a cup of coffee for himself and a refill for Scully.

"Moma, you gonna eat, too? You not hungee?" William innocently asked his Moma.

"I had cereal and toast earlier, baby. You and Daddy eat up.

We have a big day today," she explained, ruffling William's hair and then sipping her coffee.

William grinned and began eating ravenously. Scully shook her head.

"Just like your Daddy."

Mulder smiled around a mouthful of toast. He then sipped his coffee, leaned back and watched William. With a glance out the window, he sighed.

"At least I won't have to rake the backyard again. Doesn't look too bad this morning. Do you need help in the kitchen, Scully?"

"Nah, you and Will can go over to your Mom's and mine to see if they need help later. I'm okay here. Just have a few things to finish up."

William finished with his meal and leaned back, mirroring his father. He patted his stomach, belched then covered his mouth with both hands and giggled.

"'cooz me," William said quickly. Then looking between his Moma and Daddy he said apologetically. "Sowee."

"Just like your Daddy," Scully repeated with a shake of her head.

Mulder grinned at his wife then looked at his son and ruffled his hair.

"It's okay this time, buddy. But, you shouldn't burp when we have company. Some people don't think it's very funny. You understand?" Mulder asked gently.

William nodded and climbed up into his Daddy's waiting arms. Mulder hugged him and kissed the top of his head.

"How about going up and change your clothes. We'll go see Memaw and Gamma. Okay?"

"I don't want to now, Daddy. I want to pay. Moma, do I got to?" Will whined, glancing at his Moma and then back to his Daddy.

Scully grinned behind her cup of coffee trying not to let her son know how humorous the situation was.

"William," Mulder warned in a soft but firm voice. "Why do I have to keep reminding you about whining?"

William bowed his head to Mulder's shoulder and muttered. "I sowee, Daddy." He lifted his head, placed his elbow on Mulder's shoulder and propped his little hand under his chin, thoughtfully looked at his Daddy. "Daddy, you don't like whining, do you?" William sighed when Mulder shook his head.

"No, William, I don't like whining. We've had this conversation too many times for you to forget. What do you think we should do about it?" Mulder questioned his son.

William looked into his Daddy's eyes, let out a disgusted breath and cocked his head to the side. "I don't know, Daddy. We'll figger it out." With a look of startled surprise from his Daddy, William flung his arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.

"Okay, Daddy?"

"Okay, Buddy," Mulder replied, looking at Scully's stunned expression, with a grin. "Now, scoot on upstairs and get changed."

Mulder set William down on his feet. Scully hugged her son and he was off and running, the sound of his little feet stomping back up the stairs.

Moma and Daddy laughed as they continued to enjoy the quiet and sipped the rest of their coffee.


November 24, 2005
Thanksgiving Day
Mulder Residence

After Maggie Scully offered up a quiet, sincere prayer for their family and friends gathered together, for Charlie and his family, who couldn't attend, and for the Thanksgiving meal, Teena Mulder looked around the table at her extended family and friends.

It was, to her, a strange conglomeration of individuals who, on the surface, generally seemed to have little in common.

There was, of course, herself, her son, Fox, his wife, Dana, their adorable three year old son, William, Dana's mother, Maggie Scully, Dana's brother Bill Scully, his wife Tara and their 9 year old son, Matthew.

Aside from Dana, of course, she'd met Maggie before, and she liked her, but she felt a strange, unexplainable tension between Dana and Fox, and Bill.

Also in attendance were Fox and Dana's former FBI supervisor, Mr. Skinner, whom she had also met on some rather difficult occasions through the years, and Fox's friends, Mr. Byers, Mr. Frohike and Mr. Langly, also known as the Lone Gunmen.

Of all of them, the latter three were quite possibly the strangest, and Teena didn't quite understand their friendship with her son, but Fox and Dana liked them, William adored them, and that was good enough for her.

Throughout her life, especially early on in her marriage, she had learned the need to adapt, and, in this case, while difficult, in the end, she'd been glad she'd followed the course her heart had pointed her by moving to Culpeper.

Teena had, unintentionally, overheard Fox telling the slightly strange trio, when they arrived, to be on their best behavior, and they had all looked at each other and then nodded in agreement. Then Mr. Byers handed Fox several bottles of the fine wine they were currently enjoying.

They all sat at the old, oval antique mahogany table she'd given to her son and daughter-in-law after they moved into the old farm house, and Dana had loved it, the matching chairs and the mirrored sideboard, where the wines, drinks and desserts sat waiting to be served. The accompanying china hutch held antique place settings and glassware which, she came to understand, were a Scully family heirloom.

The table was beautifully decorated with a burnished amber tablecloth, covered with a hand-crocheted cover. Pretty bone china plates, patterned with tiny, delicate fall leaves, sat upon matte gold chargers, and sparkling crystal wine and water glasses were at the adults' settings.

Two glorious fall flower arrangements with bronze, burgundy, gold and orange mums sat between the three candles in gilded candlesticks on the table. The glow of two more candlesticks on the sideboard, and the slightly dimmed lighting, added an air of fellowship and family to the early evening event.

Votives situated around the dining room, kitchen and living room lightly permeated the air with the perfumes of cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and allspice.

Combined with the heavenly scents of the dinner her daughter- in-law had prepared, it reminded Teena of the relatively early days of her marriage; of a once loving husband, a young son and an even younger daughter, and of a home long gone. She forcibly shoved those thoughts to the back of her mind; this was her family now -- they wanted her here, she had a grandchild and she intended to enjoy every minute given her.

Her daughter-in-law, by default and because of her profession, had been the designated "slicer and dicer" of the huge turkey, leaving Fox to dole out portions. Then Dana busied herself seeing to William's and Matthew's plates first, making sure they had what they wanted and needed -- boys being boys, each wanted a turkey leg -- and seeing that their milk glasses were filled.

"Moma, ah don't yike pees," William whined as his mother spooned approximately ten of the little round, green vegetables onto his plate, knowing she had absolutely no hopes of getting any more of the vegetables into his mouth.

"William," Mulder warned softly. "You know what we've talked about, Son."

"Yes, Daddy," William pouted, "I not s'pos ta whine."

"That's right, Will," Scully told him and patted his arm.

"There are just a few. Please eat your peas for Moma. They'll make you grow big and strong and tall ... and handsome ... just like your Daddy."

William looked up at his Daddy. "'ou eat peas, too, Daddy?"

Mulder nearly choked. He actually hated green peas as much as his son, and looked to his wife who was standing behind William, and was grinning, he would swear, almost evilly. "Yes, Will ... Daddy will eat his peas, too."

To prove his mettle, he picked up a forkful of peas and ate them, chewing as little as necessary and swallowing quickly, making rather unconvincing "yummy" noises while he did so.

"Come on, Will," Matthew chimed in. "I'll show you how to eat 'em right." William turned to his cousin, who was sitting next to him and watched in fascination. "First, you take your mashed potatoes 'n gravy on your spoon, then you stick that into the peas and the peas stick to the mashed potatoes and you eat 'em."

He leaned over and whispered conspiratorally to his younger cousin. "You almost can't taste 'em in the potatoes 'n gravy!"

William nodded seriously and used his spoon to do the same thing Matthew had done with his fork. After he chewed and swallowed the spoonful of potatoes, gravy and peas, he looked at his cousin, a look of disgust on his face. "Yuk."

The adults tried very hard not to laugh, and Mulder sympathized completely with his son's plight.

"It's okay, Will," Mr. Skinner told him. "I'm eating my peas, too. See?" To prove his point, he ate a big forkful of peas. "Mmmm..."

William screwed up his face, "Yuk, Unka Water."

They couldn't help it at that point; all the adults at the table laughed at William's reaction ... except for, of course, Bill Scully. Teena could tell that Fox was more than aware of his brother-in-law's reactions which consisted, mostly, of muttering under his breath between bites of food.

The man sat sullenly, eating and not looking up at anyone and ignoring everybody. It was abundantly clear that he did not want to be here and it made for a rather uncomfortable situation.

That Bill Scully didn't like her son was obvious; the reasons for it were not.

After everyone was served their desired portions of turkey, Scully asked, "Before I sit down, does anyone need anything else?"

"No, dear, I'm fine," Teena had picked up her knife and fork and was in the process of cutting her meat.

"Dana," Tara told her, "Please sit down and eat before the food gets cold. We're all perfectly capable of helping ourselves, and you've already worked yourself to death putting together this wonderful meal."

Scully smiled at her. "C'mon, Scully," Fox patted the chair seat next to him. "Please sit down and eat."

Across the table, Bill snorted and muttered something. All she could hear was the name "Scully," and then Tara elbowed him in the side. Bill glared at his wife.

Teena took a delicate bite of the wonderfully seasoned cornbread stuffing and glanced, from under her eyelashes at her son and noticed that the muscle in his jaw was jumping. It was something that he'd unconsciously done since he was a little boy, and she recognized it as a sign of stress or unhappiness.

The table was quiet for a moment and she noticed Mr. Byers, Mr. Langly and Mr. Frohike exchange glances, with the latter nodding at the bearded man.

"Scully," Mr. Byers spoke up and Dana looked up from her plate.

"This is so good. I haven't had a meal this good since ... well, last year."

"Hey!" Mr. Frohike cut in before Scully could say anything.

"What about the huevos rancheros this morning?"

"We have those *every* morning," the blond man, Mr. Langly, chimed in. "We don't get a full turkey dinner every day!"

"Yeah, well," the smaller man said with a hint of a sneer, "maybe if you'd get up out of bed and cook something yourself you wouldn't have to eat huevos rancheros every morning. And if it's that awful, why do you ask for thirds?"

Langly opened his mouth to answer, but Teena herself interrupted.

"I believe Dana did a wonderful job on everything," she wiped her mouth daintily with her linen napkin. "This is a most delicious and enjoyable meal."

Dana Mulder beamed under the praise. "Mom taught me everything I know about cooking."

"And I, for one, am glad she did, or I'd be eating Fruit Loops for Thanksgiving dinner," Fox remarked, pride for his wife beaming on his face.

"Fruit Loops is right," Bill grumbled under his breath.

"Bill!" Maggie's abrupt, sharp tone brought her son's head up from his slumped posture. "May I see you in the kitchen, please? I need your help with something."

Teena watched, as did everyone else, like a tennis match, heads bobbing from Bill Scully's visage to Maggie's. The only ones truly oblivious were William and Matthew.

Bill sighed, stood up, threw his napkin on his chair and stormed into the kitchen with his mother in tow.

Dana looked around somewhat nervously, an obviously embarrassed flush rising on her face, tears forming in her eyes. It was very obvious she was trying hard not to let them fall.

Teena continued eating, hearing muted voices coming from the kitchen and saw, out of the corner of her eye, her son reach over and put his hand over Dana's, squeezing it lightly.

Dana looked up into his eyes and aimed a wobbly smile at him.

Fox leaned over, whispered something, then kissed her lightly on the lips.

"Yuk! Oh YUK!!!" William complained loudly at his parents' spontaneous display of affection, immediately covering his green eyes with one hand, unintentionally smearing potatoes and gravy on his nose.

All the adults still at the table looked from Fox and Dana to William, there was a moment of silence and then everyone broke up laughing.

"I know just how you feel, Buddy," Mr. Frohike told him, an overdone, highly theatrically sad look on his face. "I feel the *exact* same way every time I see your Daddy kissing your Moma."

"Melvin," Dana warned with a blush and Teena noticed her son grinning wickedly at his wife. "Mulder," Dana told him, "Don't encourage Melvin. You know how he is."

"Yes, I do." Fox glanced from Dana to Mr. Frohike. "I'm just very lucky I met you first, or I'd have never had a chance with 'Melvin' around."

However young William was, like his father, he was quick on the uptake and asked in all innocence, "'ou meen if Moma worked wif Unka Ickee afore Daddy, Unka Ickee would be my Daddy?"

Teena couldn't help but laugh herself when Fox and Dana, who had both been taking sips of their wine, choked and spluttered and barely avoided spewing their drinks.

Fox recovered more quickly. "Um, no, Will. I met Moma first.

Unka Ickee will always be Unka Ickee." Fox glared menacingly at Mr. Frohike making William and Matthew laugh and "Unka Ickee" slump low in his chair.

Mr. Langly had opened his mouth to say something else, but whatever it was died on his tongue as Bill Scully came back into the room with a basket of hot rolls in his hand. He slammed the basket onto the table, making everyone jump, then and slammed himself down onto his chair.

Maggie followed Bill with the traditional green bean casserole.

"Look what we found! I can't believe we forgot this. I know it's one of your favorites, Fox."

Teena noticed Maggie went out of her way to serve her son-in-law a heaping portion of the vegetable dish, glaring at her own son over Fox's shoulder.

It was clear that heated words had been exchanged between mother and son, but no one wanted to ask any questions.

"Bill," Maggie's voice was sharp and her son immediately looked up, "Would you please pass the rolls?"

With a grunt, Bill shoved the basket into Tara's hands and Tara elbowed him in the ribs. Hard.

Conversation resumed, somewhat stunted at first, until Fox's three friends got into a lively debate about current DVR technology.

Given Bill Scully's still sullen expression, Teena suspected that Fox's friends intentionally took the subject somewhere rather aimless.

For that, she was thankful, and she found herself liking the three men more and more, recognizing their devotion and deep friendship to her son and her daughter-in-law.

"Daddy," William said holding up his glass. "More milk!"

"More milk what, Son?" Mulder asked somewhat sternly.

William smiled, remembering his manners. "More milk peez, Daddy?"

"That's very good, Buddy," Fox replied, rose from his place, retrieved his son's glass. He then asked Matthew if he wanted more milk and after his nephew's positive response, with an extra "please" tacked on for good measure, Fox disappeared momentarily into the kitchen to retrieve their drinks.

"Fox is a wonderful father," Maggie spoke up proudly, her warm eyes moving from Dana to Teena and it was Teena's turn to smile under the praise.

"I'm very proud of my son," Teena replied, "And of Dana. They're both very attentive, responsible parents. They're doing a fine job raising William."

The boy in question looked up at the mention of his name, food covering his face. His napkin was tucked in at his collar, underneath his chin, and in his right fist, he held his turkey leg.

Teena put a hand to her lips, trying not to laugh. Her grandson was a beautiful little boy and a constant source of delight and joy to her. He reminded her so of Fox, when he was that age -- innocent, happy and uninhibited. She could only hope and pray that he would stay that way.

"Excuse me," Teena said and quickly left the table. When she returned a moment later, she had a disposable camera with a flash in her hand. However, she looked at her daughter-in-law. "Dana, do you mind? I realize it's still dinner ..."

"No, Teena," Dana replied. "They're only this age once. I'd like copies, if you don't mind. I'll be more than happy to pay for them."

"Don't be silly, dear!" Teena told her, aiming her camera at William and Matthew who were intent on their turkey legs, though at Matthew's age, he was able to eat with considerably less mess.

"William," Dana called to him. "Matthew! Boys, Gamma wants to take your picture, please!"

Just as Fox came back into the room with their glasses of milk, both boys turned to Teena Mulder and smiled.

Fox had to put the glasses down on the sideboard and leaned over, grabbing his stomach to keep from laughing out loud.

Matthew was the epitome of 9-year old-grace, his napkin also tucked into his collar, with a few drips of gravy on the napkin, his turkey leg in hand which had obviously been heavily predated.

William, on the other hand, held his turkey leg in a death grip in his right hand, as if afraid someone would wrestle it away from him. Gravy dripped down his chin and his arm.

The little boy had mashed potatoes all over his face and in his hair, a partially mashed pea hanging tenuously off his nose and, when "Gamma" told them to smile, another pea was displayed, caught between his front teeth.

It was clear that the linen napkin would be sitting in a pan of bleach for hours.

The camera's flash went off and both boys blinked, seeing spots and didn't have time to do anything else when the flash went off again.

"Okay, Mom," Fox told her with a laugh. "I think that's enough." He reached for his own napkin, went around the table and set about cleaning up his son, as much as was possible.

"Daddy!" Teena watched, a smile on her face as William squealed when her son removed the turkey leg from her grandson's hand and tried to clean his fingers. "I not finished!"

"But, what about dessert, Buddy?" Fox whispered to him. "Remember? Gamma made pumpkin pie, Memaw made apple pie and Moma made sweet potato pie! And we have your favorite, Buddy: Bluebell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream!" William's mouth fell open as he stared at his father. Clearly, he'd forgotten about dessert. "If you eat that whole turkey leg, you won't have room for your pie and Bluebell!"

William thought about it another minute, then, with his mind obviously made up, he reached for the turkey leg. "I 'ant 'urkee!"

"Okay," Fox said, "But you can either eat all of that big leg and not have room for pie and Bluebell, or we can save your leg for tomorrow and you can have pie and Bluebell now!"

William looked contemplatively between the turkey leg, his cousin, his Daddy, his Moma and everyone at the table.

"Well," Walter Skinner spoke up, pushing his plate away, "I don't know about Will, but I want some of that sweet potato pie and Bluebell! Maybe I'll have a little of both pumpkin and apple pie and Bluebell!"

"Sounds good to me! But, I think I'd like some of that sweet potato pie," Mr. Byers said, pushing his plate away, and looking at William. "I think I'd rather have pie and ice cream than another helping of turkey!"

"Just apple pie for me," Mr. Langly chimed in.

William looked long and hard at his Unka Byes, Unka Angee and Unka Water, then pushed his own plate away, as well as he could, folded his arms over his chest the way he'd seen his Unka Water do so many times and announced, "I 'ont sweet 'tato, Daddy!"

Tara and Maggie had helped Fox clear the dinner plates away while Dana went about preparing everyone's desserts.

Bill Scully, Teena noticed, still sat sullenly, his arms folded definitely across his chest. Whatever was going on with him, the rest of the family was obviously ignoring his not-so-subtle temper tantrum.

All but Fox, that is. His jaw muscle continued to jump and twitch, but outwardly, he smiled and also ignored his brother-in-law until he absolutely had to speak to him.

With everyone seated again, except for Dana and Fox, they waited, conversing quietly, until Dana appeared in the kitchen doorway and Fox entered with a large gilt silver tray heavily-laden with luscious-looking desserts and the infamous Bluebell Ice Cream.

"Boo-bell!!!" William shrieked happily as Dana first serve Matthew then her own son. William hadn't been able to help himself, despite practicing with his parents previous to this gathering; he lost control of himself and insistently banged his spoon on the table.

"William Fox," Dana warned, "Please behave yourself.

Remember what we talked about? We have guests and you know your manners."

"Sowee, Moma," Will pouted, and Teena nearly laughed at the familiar Mulder expression. How many times had she seen that expression on her own son when he had been Will's age?

Will looked around the table at everyone, an embarrassed blush on his face. "Peez 'scooz me. I fo-get." Then he smiled happily. "But I dint burp, 'coz it not nice ta do!"

Once again, the table burst into laughter and William only smiled, not understanding the reason for it.

William looked from his small slice of warmed sweet potato pie with a small dip of Bluebell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream on top. "Can I start, Daddy?" he asked sincerely.

"'May' I start, Will," Fox responded.

"'es, 'ou may, Daddy," William responded instantly, having heard the response to many times to his own question, and the Gunmen nearly bust a gut each at the expression on Fox's face. Maggie guffawed, then Mr. Skinner, Tara, Dana and Teena.

A red-faced Fox Mulder glanced around the table, knowing he'd been unintentionally had and looked back at his young son. "Just go ahead and eat your dessert, Buddy," he sighed and watched as everyone dug into their treats.

Groans of approval sounded from around the table as everyone enjoyed their desserts.

"Dana," Mr. Skinner said between bites, "this is the best sweet potato pie I've ever tasted!"

"Thank you, Walter," Dana replied, a slight blush to her cheeks. "But I owe it to Teena. She gave me the recipe."

"And Dana did an outstanding job with it," Teena gushed. "It's always been Fox's favorite dessert. I do believe that Dana has improved on the recipe, don't you agree, Fox?"

Mulder looked up from his pie and glanced from his mother to his wife. He felt certain he was in a no-win situation and pretended his mouth was too full to answer politely.

Dana laughed and nudged her husband in the ribs. "It's okay, Mulder," she whispered to him.

"Mom," Fox said after he swallowed. "No one can improve on your pie. Ever." Then he glanced back to his wife. "But, Scully's is probably a close photo finish."

"Well, that was diplomatic!" Mr. Frohike mumbled. "Way to go, Mulder."

"'ay to go Mudder!" William exclaimed, parrotting his Unka Ickee. Everyone snickered at Will's comment, glancing from son to father who was busily devouring his own large slice of sweet potato pie and ice cream.

"Mudder," Teena heard Bill mutter. "How appropriate."

Dana glared across the table at her brother and watched as Tara elbowed him in the side again. Teena would bet the big Navy man would have a permanent imprint of his wife's elbow in his ribcage by morning.

Whatever was going on, quite frankly, Teena was tired of it and had determined to get to the bottom of the problem, in her own way. However, now was not the appropriate time.

With the exception of Bill, of course, everyone chatted amiably over dessert and coffee, or in the case of Matthew and William, more milk.

"I finish, Moma!" William exclaimed happily, and before anyone could stop him, he up-ended his ice cream bowl on his head, smiling ecstactically at everyone.

"Oh my!" Teena exclaimed, glad she had kept her instant camera on the table. She grabbed it up and took a couple of pictures of her grandson and his cousin Matthew who was staring at the younger boy in confusion, but with a smile at the corners of his mouth. It was clear he was extremely tempted to follow his younger cousin's example, if only for the fun of it.

"William!" Fox and Dana exclaimed together when they looked up and saw the current condition of their young son. Gamma Maggie burst into laughter as everyone else laughed even harder, and even this time, Matthew joined in with the hilarity, staring with wide-eyed awe at his younger cousin as the dregs of his "eye-keem" dripped down his face.

"I'll get it," Maggie proclaimed with a snort and a hand to her daughter's shoulder as she jumped up and headed into the kitchen for paper towels and a damp cloth.

"Will," Mr. Skinner reached to the child seated to his left and extracted the bowl, "I thought you'd grown out of that!"

He glanced at his former agents' faces. While Dana had her head bowed, her red face covered with her hands, Fox was smiling broadly, enjoying the sight of his son, clearly enjoying himself.

"Well, we've tried," Fox responded. "I thought we'd broken him of that particular stunt, however, I do believe he's spent entirely too much time with his three 'unkas' lately."

Mulder managed to put a rather insincere frown on his face and looked at the Gunmen.

"Don't look at me!" Byers exclaimed. "I *warned* them not to encourage him!"

"What?! You're blaming us?!" Langly and Frohike cried simultaneously.

"I think he's cute," Tara said softly, watching melted ice cream drip down William's face. "You should have seen some of the things Matthew did when he was Will's age."

"Mom!" Matthew complained at her, turning beet red himself.

Maggie had returned and was trying, without much success, to clean the ice cream from her youngest grandson's face, eyes and hair as she glanced from her daughter to son-in-law.

"Will's done this," Dana stated matter-of-factly, "since he was old enough to hold a bowl ... *after* his Daddy taught him, very specifically, how to do it!" Dana now glared at Fox. "By example, I might add!"

Teena smiled. "Let me tell you, dear," she said conspiriatorially to her daughter-in-law. "Fox did the exact same thing from the time he could pick up a bowl until he was six years old."

Fox nearly gave himself a whiplash turning to face his mother. "Mom! I did not!"

"Fox," she stated quietly, a smile on her own face, "I have photographic evidence. If need be, I can fetch it to prove..."

"Er, no," her son suddenly backtracked. "That's not necessary."

"Teena, I'd really like to see those..."

But Fox was saved by his mother-in-law. "Dana -- it's obvious that Will needs a bath and a change of clothing. There's entirely too much ice cream in his hair."

"No, Memaw!" William cried. "Don't wanta bath! Wanta pay wif Matty!"

"Yes you do, Will," Fox exclaimed a little louder than necessary. "And I'll help you! You can play with Matthew after."

Fox jolted out of his chair, ran around the table, grabbed his protesting son out of his booster seat, threw him over his shoulder in a make-shift fireman's carry and literally ran up the stairs, feet pounding, and out of sight.

There was dead silence at the table for a moment, then Mr. Skinner began chuckling and everyone, including Bill Scully, joined in, laughing at Fox Mulder's distress.

"Teena," Dana told her, "I *insist* on seeing those photos! There are occasions when blackmail works very well with your son!"

"I'd pay good money for *copies* of those photos," Mr. Frohike added, waggling his eyebrows at Teena Mulder. Both Mr. Langly and Mr. Byers looked equally interested, mumbling something about an exclusive front page story for "The Magic Bullet."

"Too bad I'm no longer his supervisor," Walter retorted. "I could've used some of those photos to keep him in line at the Bureau."

"Yeah, right!" Dana laughed at him. Then she looked around the table. "Does anyone want seconds on pie and ice cream?"

A chorus of groans and denials greeted her as the sight of all the men, including Matthew, clutching their stomachs was her answer.

"Well, then," Dana stood, "I'll just get started on the dishes..."

"You'll do no such thing!" Tara told her. "You've done the majority of the cooking and I will do the clean-up."

"I'll help you, Tara," Maggie told her. "Bill? Will you help us clear the table?"

Bill didn't say a word, knowing any protests would be futile, but sighed as he got to his feet and began helping collect the dishes.

"Well, thank you," Dana said. "I think I'll go see what Mulder and Will are up to ... before I find the bathroom flooded."

Everyone busied themselves gathering dishes, including Matthew, and helped carry them to the kitchen.

"How would you like to help wash the dishes, Matty?" Maggie asked.

"At home, Mom lets me dry," was Matthew's answer.

"Then dry the dishes you will, young man," his grandmother replied and handed him a dry towel. The boy got busy as his grandmother scraped the scraps into the trash and handed the dishes to Tara.

Once finished bringing the dishes from the dining room to the kitchen, Bill slipped, seemingly unnoticed, out of the kitchen and to the den. Once there, he sighed, found the remote, turned on the television and began channel surfing. He ground his teeth noticing that Mulder owned a wide-screen, high definition television -- something that he could not afford, even on a Naval officer's salary. Leave it to Fox Mulder to flaunt his wealth!

What the hell? Why the hell not enjoy it?

He settled back into the Lazy Boy chair and settled on the Dallas/Denver football game, wishing he had a beer.

It was obvious to Bill that he'd already missed over half the game, but the score was tight and it looked as if the rest of the game might be very intense.

He'd just managed to get caught up on the stats for the game when he became aware of a presence near him. Fully expecting it to be his blasted brother-in-law, he glanced around in annoyance and then abruptly stood up, out of ingrained habit, when he realized that the person watching him was none other than his brother-in-law's mother.

"Mrs. Mulder?"

"Mr. Scully," she responded and sat down on the couch near him.

"Am In interrupting?"

"No, ma'am," he responded and clicked the remote to turn off the game. "And please, call me Bill."

"I'd prefer to call you 'Mr. Scully,'" she responded, not unkindly, her steel blue/gray eyes never leaving his face.

Bill was thrown for a loop, not knowing what to expect. "Um, what can I do for you, Mrs. Mulder?" he couldn't help it; he squirmed.

"I'll be direct, Mr. Scully: I'd like to know what my son has done to you to cause you to treat him with such disrespect."

Bill Scully blinked. "Um ... I beg your pardon?"

"I couldn't help but notice your comments and remarks toward my son during dinner ... and before," Teena remarked. "I'd like to know the reasons behind them."

"Maybe you'd be better off asking your son, Mrs. Mulder," Bill replied.

"Perhaps ... but I'm asking you."

"Mrs. Mulder," Bill remarked, gathering his thoughts, "My sister has been through a lot since being partnered with your son in the F.B.I."

"What business is that of yours?" Mrs. Mulder asked.

Bill's temper was rising, yet he was trying very hard not to let it get the better of him, especially with an elderly woman, even if she was Fox Mulder's mother.

"It's my business, Mrs. Mulder, because he married my sister," Bill retorted, a little more sharply than he intended.

"I believe that is also the business of my son and your sister -- and neither of ours," she pronounced.

"Mrs. Mulder," Bill stood, stuffed his hands in his pockets and began to pace back and forth, "I'm betting you don't know what's gone on during their partnership."

"I'm betting you know even less than I do, Mr. Scully," Mrs. Mulder responded and that stopped Bill in his tracks.

"What do you mean?" he couldn't help but ask.

"I mean that there are *many* situations of which I am quite certain you have never been fully apprised."

"Such as?"

"I believe that is for Fox and Dana to tell you, assuming they wish to do so," Teena Mulder responded, not backing down.

"I lost a sister because of your son!" Bill barked at her, then lowered his voice. "Were you aware of that?"

"I am aware that your sister was murdered in the mistaken belief that it was Dana," Mrs. Mulder responded.

"Wh-what?" Bill stammered.

"You didn't know?" she asked, clearly aware that he hadn't.

"Dana was the intended victim. Your sister, Melissa, happened into the situation and was murdered ccidentally.

Had it not been Melissa, it would have been Dana. From your reaction, I'm assuming you didn't know these facts."

"No ... no, I didn't." Bill staggered for a moment, then regained his equalibrium. "It doesn't change the fact that, either way, your son would have been responsible."

"My son was nowhere near Dana's apartment when that event happened. He did not pull the trigger." Teena leaned forward where she sat, her hands clasped in her lap. "I know my son, Mr. Scully. He would have gladly traded places with your sister to avoid her death. I would have been devastated having lost his sister so many years before, but, as I said, I know my son."

"His sister?" Bill blinked in confusion. "What about his sister?"

"I take it you didn't know about that, either," Teena remarked. It was not a question, and she continued. "When Fox was twelve, his sister Samantha was eight years old.

Their father and I had gone to the neighbors one evening in November for dinner and a game of cards. We left Fox to look after his little sister. He was very proud he was being trusted with her." Teena stared at the floor for a moment, tears apparent in her eyes and then she looked up at Bill Scully again. "While we were gone, Samantha was abducted.

It was very rough on Fox. He was only twelve, and his father blamed him for not taking care of his sister.

"Our family fell apart after that," she related. "I was not the best mother to him after that, either. His father and I divorced shortly after Samantha disappeared. Fox grew up a lonely, ostracized boy ... and he has felt guilty all his life over the loss of his sister. My son dedicated his life to finding his sister. It's why he joined the F.B.I."

"Your ... your daughter," Bill gulped. "Was she ever found?"

Teena Mulder's eyes met Bill Scully's. "No, Mr. Scully. She was not. *And*, it was not Fox's fault, either. It was my husband's."

"Your husband's? Are you saying that your husband kidnapped..."

Mrs. Mulder cut him off impatiently with a wave of her hand.

"No, not directly. But he was involved. It's a very long story. One I do not care to relive again in depth. Suffice to say, my husband was involved deeply in our 'government,' in, shall we say, clandestine, highly-classified projects with dark intentions toward the American public, if not all of humanity.

My daughter, Samantha -- Fox's sister -- was a casualty of my husband's work with these ... questionable factions.

"My husband was having second thoughts and Samantha was taken to induce my husband's continued cooperation. He was murdered shortly before your sister, Melissa, was murdered -- because he was about to disclose to Fox the depth of his betrayal to our family, to his country -- to everyone. In fact, the intent was to make it look as if Fox had murdered his own father."

Bill stood before her, mouth agape. "Dana never told me any of this. Neither has my Mother."

"No," Mrs. Mulder commented, looking at her hands again. "I expect they wouldn't ... because they respect and love Fox, perhaps moreso than even I."

"Why are you telling me this?" Bill asked.

"Because you have no reason to hate my son," she replied.

"If you want to hate anyone, hate me. Out of guilt forced upon him by both his father and me, for years Fox pursued clues to Samantha's whereabouts with little success.

"Our 'government' has stalled him at every turn and," she continued, looking directly into his eyes, "Dana was assigned, by those same factions, to him those many years ago to distract him and to ruin his work. Dana wasn't aware she was being used, per se, but your sister has too much integrity and ended up becoming not only his ally, but his friend as well. Yes, Dana suffered, but so did my son. He suffered physically, yes, but every time your sister was hurt or any of your family members were hurt by their association with him, he was hurt even worse than anything that could physically be done to him.

"Now, after all this time, after all they've been through, thankfully, Dana consented to become his wife and the mother of his son, and, honestly Mr. Scully," Teena took a deep breath, "I haven't seen Fox so happy since before Samantha disappeared. I'm overwhelmingly grateful that they've forgiven me and have invited me to be part of their lives and William's.

"So, again, Mr. Scully," Teena told him as she stood, preparing to leave, "if you continue to feel the absolute need to hate anyone, hate me. I'm an old woman; I can take the hatred. Your sister and my son -- and your nephew -- do not deserve it. If you continue with your course, and I am speaking from experience here, Mr. Scully, you will lose your sister and your nephew if you force them to choose. I can tell you, from what I see them share, exactly who she will choose."

With that, Teena Mulder left the room.

Bill stared after her for a moment, sat down and again reached for the remote.

However, the television screen stayed black. Bill didn't touch the "on" button. He simply sat there and thought about the things Fox Mulder's mother had told him.

November 24, 2005
Thanksgiving Evening
Tara and Bill's Cottage

Tara held the phone close to her ear, smiling while she watched from the front porch as Matthew and William walked up the dirt road to Fox and Dana's house. William's very childish and animated gestures had Matthew laughing as they walked side by side. Little Will had to take double the steps to keep up with his older cousin.

"Dana, Matty and Will are on their way back to your place. Are you sure you want two hyper young boys tonight?" Tara questioned, obviously enjoying the antics of her nephew and son.

"Don't worry, Tara. Mulder is on his way down the drive to meet them and he will be keeping the boys occupied until bedtime," Scully said with delighted laughter obvious in her voice.

"Mulder will be thrilled to have another male around to play with.

He'll definitely be in his element."

Tara chuckled. "If you're sure, then okay. I know Matty was looking forward to spending time with Will while we were here; it was all he talked about. He was so excited when he found out we were coming to see his Aunt Dana and Uncle Fox. Needless to say, he was very impressed with this place. Dana, Fox was so good with him this afternoon. Matty was beside himself. I think Fox treating him like a big boy made all the difference."

"Tara, Mulder was just being Mulder. He has always had a way with kids." Scully paused for a moment, as if she was not sure she should voice what she was thinking, and then continued. "He was so good with ... Emily ... when she was so sick. I had always suspected that he would be a good father but ... at that moment in time, I knew he would be a great father."

Tara noted a tinge of melancholy lacing Scully's voice and sympathized with her sister-in-law. When Emily came into the picture, Tara was experiencing such joy with the birth of her son while Dana's heart was being ripped apart by the death of her daughter.

"Dana, I know it wasn't the best time for you, but I'm so glad Fox was there for you. I know he was very worried about you.

And Dana, I don't know if you knew or if he told you, but he was hurting too." Tara paused, waved when she saw Fox greeting the boys at the fork in the road, then began again. "When we left the chapel, he was just going in and Dana, he looked like he had been crying. When I asked him if he was okay, he just smiled and asked if you were all right. Dana, I felt so bad for the both of you. I'm sorry, I've waited so long to tell you that."

"Oh Tara, I've missed having someone other than Mulder and my mother to talk to about these things," Scully had a slight catch in her voice. "Thank you, Tara, for being there for me then ... And now. I'm so glad you and Bill decided to come be with us for Thanksgiving.

"I know it wasn't easy for Bill to accept the invitation, even if it has been 4 years. Tara, I just don't know what to do anymore. Mulder is practically walking on eggshells when Bill is around and trying so hard to be civil to him for me. I just don't understand Bill anymore. Why can't he just be happy for me? Because, Tara, I'm the happiest I've ever been, here in Culpepper, with Mulder and our son."

Tara was quiet for a moment, trying to figure out how to say what was in her heart. Then she spoke, "I know you're happy, Dana. I can see it just by the smile on your face or the laughter in your voice when you see or talk to Fox and Will.

I won't make excuses for Bill anymore. It's gone on too long.

I have an idea what might be Bill's problem and I don't really think it's Fox at all. I don't think even Bill realizes the real reason for his anger toward him. Fox just seems to be, at least for Bill, a convenient outlet for his pent-up anger.

And, for that, I'm truly sorry because Fox doesn't deserve to be the brunt of Bill's hostility." Tara hesitated for a moment, then continued, "Dana, I have an idea ..."

"What are you thinking, Tara? Why is Bill ... oh um, Tara ... The boys just came in, so I'd better let you go for now. We'll talk tomorrow. You and Bill have good evening."

Tara smiled, hearing the boys excited voices and Fox Mulder's laughter in the background over the phone line.

"Yeah, I think I hear Bill stirring around, so I had better go too. See you tomorrow. Good night."

Tara pressed the 'end call' button on her cell and looked out across the lake, admiring the beauty and serene atmosphere it provided. She could see several lights burning in the house across the water that she had come to understand as being where Mrs. Mulder lived. Her arms wrapped tightly around her waist. The cardigan she wore was too light weight for the rapidly cooling evening. Turning she noticed lights illuminating her mother-in-laws cottage as well. Smiling, she sent up a prayer of thanks that Fox had the foresight and unfailing paranoia to move Teena and Maggie to his and Dana's little arcadia. It had proved to provide them with comfort, companionship and a refuge from prying eyes and ears of an unforgiving press.

Sighing, Tara resigned herself to the inevitable: The Talk.

Bill had never been a big believer in expressing his feelings.

Tara had known this about her husband since they had met and she had accepted him for who he was. But with each passing year, Bill's antagonism toward Fox had only increased. And she knew if it was not resolved, Bill would wind up alienating everyone he loved, including possibly herself and eventually their own son.

Tara looked out across the lake once more, squared her shoulders and headed into the cottage. *Might as well get it over with. Better to be mad with me than with anyone else*, she passively thought.

Bill was stretched out on the sofa, remote in hand, watching a movie. He looked up and over his shoulder when Tara entered the room.

"Hey, hon. Who was on the phone? Mr. High and Mighty himself?

I swear, Tara if he ..." Bill was cut off by his wife's stern but soft voice.

"Bill. That was uncalled for. Fox has been very cordial and has gone out of his way to make sure that our Thanksgiving holiday is a pleasant one." Tara shook her head when her husband grunted and sneered at her words, his eyes retreating back to the tv screen.

"Bill, you've been hostile toward Fox for too many years."

Bill quickly rose from the sofa, clicking the television off and throwing the remote on the couch. He started pacing back and forth, a prominent scowl gracing his face.

"And, I suppose you and everyone else don't think I have reason to hate him? Look what he's done, Tara! Look what he's taken away from us!" Bill's voice gradually rose with each word and Tara was grateful that Matthew was staying with Will that evening.

Tara kept her temper in check and continued to softly speak.

"No, Bill. I don't think you have good reason to despise Fox, at least, as much as you do.

"He has not taken anything or anyone away from your family, Bill. Fox has done nothing to this family. If anything, he has gone out of his way to make sure your family is safe.

If you have to have someone to blame, condemn the men who killed your sister, Melissa. Curse the men who hounded and tortured your living sister, Dana. Don't put the blame where it doesn't belong, Bill. You and I both know I'm right about this one."

Bill still paced about the room, silently fuming, visibly not accepting his wife's narrative of past events.

Tara stepped into Bill's line of vision and placed her hand on his chest to stop his insistent pacing. She looked into his cold eyes and shivered. Taking in a cleansing breath she began to speak softly again.

"Bill, I'm going to say something to you and I don't want you to speak right away. I want you to think long and hard about what I'm saying you." Tara stopped long enough to make sure she had his complete attention and then began again. "Are you certain that Fox is the problem or could it possibly be someone else? Could it be that you no longer have that one person here to hold accountable? I know, you don't want to hold a grudge or take your frustration out on your remaining family, so in your mind, Fox became the most logical substitue. Think about it, Bill.

Who are you really angry with?

"You seem to be the one and only person that sees Fox as some kind of monster out to destroy your family. Why is that, Bill? What is it about him that makes you deaf and blind to anything and everything around you? Can you honestly tell me what he's done. Other than love Dana and William, what has Fox done -- really -- that has you so belligerent toward him that you can't see how you're affecting your own family?"

Tara reached up and placed her palm against his warm cheek.

"Bill, sweetheart, if you don't open your eyes and see, really see, what is right before you, you're going to lose everyone you love." At the sudden stricken look on his face she quickly tried to reassure him. "I love you, Bill, and you won't lose me over this but, you don't earn any brownie points either.

"You might lose Dana and William over this though. Dana loves him and Will adores him. Your own son loves him. Think about Matthew, Bill. He loves you so much and looks up to you as his main male role model. We rarely see my parents and his Grandpa Bill is gone. What kind of example are you setting for him? I love you dearly, Bill, but sometimes you can be such an ass."

Bill's eyes were large, slightly watery, and, for once, he seemed totally speechless. Rarely did she speak unkindly of or to anyone and hardly ever uttered a curse word.

She stroked her husband's cheek to soothe the sting of her words.

"Now, I'm going to go to bed. Join me when you're ready?" At the muted nod of his head, she stroked his cheek again, kissed him lightly on the lips, then gave him a gentle smile.

She disappeared into the bedroom as quietly as she had entered.

Bill's eyes followed her retreat.

Bill watched as his wife left, feeling totally bereft. Her absence, after she had literally raked him over the proverbial coals, had left him feeling cold and aching.

He plopped down on the sofa, head in hands and wondered when everything went so wrong.

How could they not see Fox Mulder the way he saw him? How could they not feel the same way he did?

Bill rubbed his temples. Thinking was not an option, at least, at that moment. His head pounded and his eyes burned.

Tomorrow. He would think about it tomorrow. He just couldn't be bothered right now.

He slowly stood and entered the small bathroom, rumaging through the cabinet and finding the bottle of pain reliever; he popped two in his mouth. Shivering from the chalky taste, he quickly downed a glass of water and then splashed a handful of water over his face.

Glancing in the mirror, he did a double take and was frightened by what he saw. Long gone was the carefree smile that used to grace his lips and the sparkle of laughter in his eyes.

He shook his head and closed his eyes. Tomorrow.

Already clothed in flannel pants and a thermal pullover, he crawled into bed next to his wife. He carefully spooned up behind her, placing his arm across her waist. He gently kissed her cheek, whispering I love you's as he drifted off to sleep.

His last thought? Tomorrow.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, as he drifted off to sleep, he thought of Scarlett O'Hara.


What do you think? Will Bill come around or still be a stubborn ...?

Authors' End Notes:

Fibbie: nj - It's been a pleasure to write with you.

You are, without a doubt, the dearest friend I've had the joy to meet and know. I seriously do -not- know what I'd do without you.

I'm honored you asked me to write with you and I look forward to continue working on this delightful, gentle series you created.

I am thrilled beyond words that, against the odds, you -finally- started writing again! The XF world is a -much- better place with your stories. Thank you, dear friend. ("You just keep thinkin' Butch ... that's what yer good at.")

To the Readers: I am overwhelmed if you have taken the time to read this missive. It's been a pure labor of love, and I know I speak for both of us when I say that we hope you'll be coming back to visit our little universe for more visits. This is only the beginning: we are planning, at this point, to post new chapters once or twice a month. This is -not- a WIP; it's a -series- (-we- think there's a difference!) and we plan to continue working on it for as long as we are interested and as often as humanly possible. Thank you for reading! //Many thanks to Xfqbb for her invaluable input and help.//

xphilernj: Fibbie - Thank you sweetie for the sweet words and your friendship. You are my best friend and have been there for me when I truly needed someone to give me a virtual kick in the butt to get started again. Without your help and words of encouragement, this story would not have materialized. Thanks, babe. //Many thanks to Anubikv5 and Xfqbb for their invaluable insight and constant badgering over consistency and grammar. g//

To the Readers: This story has been a wonderful source of enjoyment for me. If you decide to continue, I hope it is for you, too. Thank you for getting this far. I hope you will give this Series a chance and let us know how we're doing.

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