Title: Terra Firma
Author: Malibu Sunset
Email: malibusunset88@gmail.com
Category: MSR
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: Through season 8. Starts when William is born. Reads as if Season 9 never happened.
Disclaimer: All the characters written about belong to the one and only amazing, Chris Carter, and Ten Thirteen Productions. I'm just borrowing them for kicks and promise to return them unharmed. I am making no money from this. Trust me. None.

Summary: This is my first ever Mulder/Scully fiction. It chronicles the first six months of William's life. Mulder and Scully navigate new parenthood and their changing relationship. This story is character-driven and not plot-driven. There is no X-File to be found here. I wouldn't exactly characterize it as fluff or smut, but there's some of that in here anyway. I, for one, believe that Mulder and Scully would have made great parents, if given the chance. This is my little self-indulgent rendition of how it might have gone. If baby fic offends you, run for cover. I really tried not to make it sappy and gooey, because I can't stand that and I can't imagine Mulder and Scully do either, but you know, there is a baby and all, so you might find yourself saying "awwww" here or there against your will. My apologies.

And so the story begins...

May 20, 2001

Mulder rushed toward the elevator doors just as they were closing, bouquet of flowers in hand. He reached out and caught the doors and they reopened, reluctantly welcoming him. He paused to catch his breath for what felt like the first time in more than forty-eight hours.

"What floor?"

Mulder looked at the young girl in scrubs and a ponytail standing next to him regarding him with tired eyes. "Excuse me?"

"You need to press a button. What floor do you want?" she asked, with an exaggerated sigh.

"Oh, um, maternity?" he answered with a sheepish smile.

"Fourth floor," she said, reaching forward and pressing the number four several times, impatiently.

Mulder stood facing the elevator doors and closed his eyes, trying to calm his nerves. It occurred to him that this was an entirely new feeling. He was not normally an anxious person. But twelve hours ago he escorted the woman he loves and his newborn son by chopper to this hospital after they had been ruthlessly stalked five hundred miles by alien clones. That can fuck with anyone's nerves.

He had stayed with Scully until she had fallen asleep last night, then had left to meet Agent Doggett and Skinner to sort out the entire mess, complete with a two-thousand dollar expense for an unauthorized chopper requisition that he is fairly certain will result in a not-so-courteous call from Kersh in the next twenty-four hours. For now, Scully and his child were safely back in D.C. and it seemed as if things had calmed down. Skinner even agreed to post security outside Scully's hospital door, just to be safe. Mulder realized that he hadn't even had time to go home and shower. He self- consciously bent his head to sniff himself. Scully had seen him in worse shape. At least he managed to grab a bouquet of irises, Scully's favorite, from a sidewalk vendor on the way in. If he was lucky, their scent would mask his.

The elevator dinged at the third floor and the doors opened. The girl started to get off, then held the door and turned back to him.


Mulder looked at her curiously. "How did you know I was-"

"You've got that slightly dazed, sufficiently panicked, haven't slept in days look that all new dads get," she smiled, sympathetically. "I see dozens per day. Nice flowers, by the way...although your presentation could use a little work. Good luck."

A few minutes later, Mulder was walking down the corridor of the maternity wing toward the room at the end of the hall where a dude in a suit sat reading Popular Mechanics outside the door.

The agent glanced at Mulder with suspicion. "Hey," said Mulder, heading toward the open room door purposefully.

"Whoa, whoa, wait just a minute." The agent stood and placed his hand on Mulder's arm. "Who are you?"

"It's okay, Jason. He's the baby's father," Scully called out from inside the room.

Guess the cat's out of the bag, thought Mulder as Rambo stepped aside and allowed him into the room. Mrs. Scully sat in a chair by the bed. Yep, the cat is most definitely out of the bag.

Mulder paused just inside the doorway, taking everything in. Scully sat propped up in the hospital bed wearing a pair of blue cotton pajamas, undoubtedly ones her mom had brought her from home because he forgot that he was probably supposed to go and bring her a bag of her things. He was a bit relieved because he would have had no idea where to even start selecting clothing from Scully's dresser drawers, toiletries from her bathroom. A fleeting image of himself sifting through Scully's lingerie collection skipped through his brain. It's a pretty safe bet he would have chosen the entirely wrong items, driven more by his own personal fantasies than what she would have been comfortable wearing twenty-four hours after giving birth.

She looked surprisingly good, given what she had been through in the past few days. Her hair was shiny, all streaks of red-gold that caught the sunlight streaming through the window by her bed. She was wearing no makeup, but her cheeks glowed a healthy pink and he secretly delighted in the fact that he could see the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose that she always worked so hard to cover up. He loved when he got to see the inner layers of Scully - both emotionally and physically. A year ago, he had been on a roll, making serious headway at unwrapping Scully, little by little, discovering all the nuances that she kept hidden from the world. He might even have said at the time that he was almost close to cracking the combination that would unlock her heart. Almost. But being dead and buried for months put an unfortunate wrench into his getting-to-know-Scully plans and since his return, it had been pretty clear that some of the walls he has worked so hard to break down, had been reinforced. He thought it had less to do with not trusting him and more to do with having been on the receiving end of circumstantial tragedy one too many times in her life. He would never really know the pain she suffered while he was gone, but he had an inkling once in awhile - like when he arrived somewhere more than a few minutes late and saw the panicked look in her eyes, knowing full well she had been wondering if she'd ever see him again. It broke his heart and he knew there was nothing he could say or do to change it. He hoped that time would heal both of them. For now, he had to settle for two steps forward and one step back.

"Are those for me?" Scully asked, nodding at the bouquet in his hand.

"Oh. Yeah. " He thrust the flowers toward her.

"Thank you, they're beautiful."

"Hello, Fox," Mrs. Scully said, standing and, in a most awkward fashion, leaning in to give him a quick and formal hug.

"Hi, Mrs. Scully." He was pretty sure she had never hugged him before, not even during Scully's cancer or when she had been fighting for her life after her abduction. So this was what it took to earn a hug. Knock up her daughter and you're in.

"Goodness, look at the time," Mrs. Scully said, glancing at her watch much too quickly to even read it. "I completely forgot I have an appointment this morning. I'll stop by later today, Honey. Kiss my beautiful grandson for me, okay?" She leaned over and kissed Scully's cheek, then reached and gave Mulder's hand a quick squeeze.

After Mrs. Scully left, Mulder sat down in the chair she had vacated and looked around the room again. Something was strange. Then he realized what was missing.

"Where is he?"

Scully smiled. "You just missed him. The nurses took him for a bath. He should be back soon, though, if you want to stick around. He's due to eat in a few minutes. "

"Is he...I mean, is everything..."

"He's just fine, Mulder. Perfectly healthy. Above normal Apgar scores, normal PKU test, solid Moro reflex, excellent Palmer grasp, healthy Bilirubin counts, and a voracious appetite."

Mulder nodded, having absolutely no idea what she was talking about, except for the voracious appetite part. He was pretty certain he knew which side that had been inherited from. In any case, Scully was grinning proudly, so he was convinced that this was all good stuff.

"You told your mom, Scully?"

"What do you mean, Mulder?" she asked, arching her eyebrows. "It's not like we were caught necking in the driveway an hour past curfew. We had a baby together."

"Does she hate me?"

Scully flashed him another exasperated look. "I'm thirty-seven- years-old. My mother knows I've been making my own decisions for awhile now." She sighed. "In all honesty, I think she was actually relieved to find out it happened the old fashioned way. I don't think she was ever crazy about the idea of in vitro."

Mulder smiled. "Well, I for one, concur. I enjoy kicking it old school, myself."

Scully tossed him another one of her 'when will you ever grow up' looks, but the edges of her mouth were slightly upturned, betraying her amusement.

"Your brother's going to beat me up when he sees me, though, isn't he?"

Scully smiled. "Yeah, probably. Maybe he'll cut you some slack when he sees what pretty babies you make."

Mulder chuckled. He loved this side of her - the one that could dish it out and take it too. There weren't many sides of her that he didn't love, though. In fact, none came to mind at the moment. Well, she could be a little stubborn at times. Who was he kidding? When she set her mind to something, she was harder to move off- course than a category five hurricane. But then again, over the past eight years, she had stood by him, unflinchingly, long after everyone else had tucked their tails and ran. Not to mention the fact that she gave birth to his son yesterday. Yeah, he could put up with stubborn.

"You look great," he said. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay. Tired. He was up every couple of hours last night."

Mulder jumped in, eager to show that he was up to the task of new parenting. "Do you want me to stay in the room tonight...get up with him, so you can sleep?"

"Um, he wakes because he wants to eat," Scully said, flushing slightly. "I'd still need to get up with him."

"Right." Mulder knew he shouldn't, but he just couldn't help himself. His eyes traveled to the front of her pajama top where her breasts strained against the buttons. He swore they had grown a whole cup size since he had last seen her, two since he had last seen them in the flesh over nine months ago.

Look at her face, Mulder. Look at her face and say something intelligent. "So do you have a name picked out for him yet?" he managed.

She shook her head. "None of the ones I had picked out seem to fit him."

Mulder wondered how a day-old infant could display enough personality yet to confirm whether he was a Tom, George, or Joe, but he didn't ask. The pensive look on Scully's face suggested that she believed the perfect name was on the tip of her tongue and he didn't want to trivialize her efforts.

"Any suggestions?" she asked.

"Whatever you think, Scully."

She pursed her lips and furrowed her brow, obviously not satisfied with that answer.

"I just mean that you don't really want a guy named Fox naming your baby, that's all," he said.

The moment she looked at his eyes, he knew he had said the wrong thing.

Good going, Mulder. Your baby? No wonder she's not sure you're ready for this.

Scully cleared her throat, nervously. Uh-oh. She only cleared her throat when she either swallowed root beer the wrong way or when she had something to say that she really didn't want to. There was no root beer around.

"I um...have some paperwork I have to fill out. For the baby."

He stared back at her quietly, blank expression on his face. She feigned at picking lint off of the blanket draped over her legs.

She cleared her throat again. "I don't have to list you as the baby's father, Mulder. Or I can. But either way, I need to know what you want." She said it matter-of-factly, as if she had just asked him whether he wanted his chicken extra crispy or original recipe.

He blinked twice. The room seemed to close in on him and he was overly aware of the buzz of the bright florescent lights above them. It occurred to him right then that she really didn't have any idea what he wanted. He didn't know why this surprised him. Since his return from the dead, they hadn't exactly spelled it out. He showed up routinely at her apartment with her favorite take-out, he called to wish her sweet dreams every night before he knew she would be turning in, he even went to Lamaze classes with her and massaged her lower back while she learned the importance of practiced breathing and 'finding her focus.' But he had never bothered to say, "Hey Scully, I'd love to hang around a little more when this baby arrives - maybe go to some pediatrician appointments, Little League games, answer to the name of Daddy." His mouth went dry and he realized suddenly that what he said next was very, very important and would possibly alter the course of his life and affect every single thing that was important to him. And the longer he said nothing, the more likely she was to misconstrue his silence for uncertainty on his part, which then made it all the more critical that he say the right thing. Catch-22 had never been a more apt expression.

Mulder opened his mouth to speak. "Scully, I-"

Just then a cheerful nurse with squeaky shoes walked into the room, pushing a bassinette. "Here he is, Mom. All fresh and clean and getting very, very hungry. This little guy has quite the appetite! He's been sucking his fist like crazy." The nurse, whose nametag read Ali and who couldn't have been old enough to drink legally, reached into the bassinette and picked up a tiny squirming lump wrapped tightly in a blue and white striped blanket (Mulder would later learn that the correct terminology was 'swaddled'). "Here's mommy, here she is," Ali cooed at the blanket. "You're ready to eat, aren't you? Yes, you are." She handed the baby to Scully and pushed the empty bassinette around to the other side of the bed, near the window. "Just buzz if you need anything, Mom." Scully smiled slightly and nodded, her gaze fixed on the tiny bundle in her arms.

Mulder leaned over from his seated position to really look at his son for the first time. His stomach flipped and a lump formed in his throat. He had seen truly amazing things in his lifetime, things that defied all logical explanation, but he had never, ever laid eyes on anything that even came close to the sight of his newborn child. He marveled at the feasibility that he was responsible for setting into motion events that would lead to the creation of something so perfect. Well, half responsible.

Scully smiled up at him, hopeful. "Do you want to hold him?"

"Um, yeah, I do. But maybe he wants to eat first. He's really going at that fist."

Scully nodded and breathed deeply, a slightly nervous expression on her face. "Would you please hand me that receiving blanket over there on the chair, Mulder?"

He got up, retrieved it, and handed it to her, then just stood there as Scully positioned the baby carefully, turning him so her arm was supporting the length of him and he was lying facing her chest.

Mulder just stood there awkwardly, eyes fixed on the tiny buttons on the front of her pajama top, waiting. The baby whimpered and his little face turned red. He looked on the verge of staging a very loud and verbal protest. Scully hesitated and her cheeks tinged pink. Mulder wondered what was taking so long. Shouldn't she just-

"Um, do you think you could..." Scully made a spinning motion with one raised finger. "We're still in the learning process and it takes him a minute to get latched on."

Mulder snapped out of it. "Oh, yeah. Sorry, Scully."

He spun and faced the door, feeling like a total idiot. He could hear tiny whimpers, slurping and smacking noises. He felt like he should say something.

"I'm so happy to see you breastfeed," he blurted out. Then he closed his eyes and exhaled and it was all he could do to keep from hitting himself in the forehead with his fist. I'm so happy to see you breastfeed? Mature, Mulder. If she wasn't already convinced that you're perversely obsessed with her boobs, then she sure as hell is now.

He tried to rescue himself. "I mean, I hear it's the best thing for the baby, especially in the beginning."

"Yes, well, it is. It's just harder than I thought it would be...to get the hang of it," she said. "You can turn around now."

He did. She was sitting upright with the baby's body resting lengthwise on a pillow across her lap. The receiving blanket was draped over her shoulder so all he could see was the bottom of the baby's swaddled form peeking out. He shuffled his feet uncomfortably.

"Sit down, Mulder. You're making me anxious just looking at you."

He lowered himself carefully back down into the chair by her bedside and stared in awe at the tiny squirming figure making contented suckling noises. "It's incredible, Scully. He's here. And he's healthy and perfect."

Scully chuckled quietly. "And he eats a lot. I mean a lot."

"Sorry about that," Mulder smiled sheepishly.

"No, it's good. It's just...I don't know...the nurses tell me I'll be able to keep up with him, but I wonder."

She lifted the baby out from underneath the receiving blanket and propped him over her shoulder gently, alternating between patting his bottom and rubbing circles on his back. Mulder watched, transfixed, as Scully nuzzled the baby's cheek and planted kisses on his tiny head. He had only ever seen this side of her once - with Emily, but the situation had been so devastating and the raw emotional pain had been overwhelming to her. There had been no room for the kind of pure and utter joy that he saw in her now. She was gentle and nurturing and so incredibly beautiful. There was no doubt in his mind that she had been born to do this. Had she not been given the chance to conceive, like they feared would be her fate for so long, it would have been beyond cruel and unjust.

Scully glanced down at the baby and then back at Mulder. "He's sound asleep," she said, smiling. "This is pretty much what he does. It keeps him busy, though."

"Don't worry, Scully. He'll be chasing genetic mutants and lake monsters before you know it."

"Mulder," she warned with her stern voice, shaking her head slowly. "Don't even." Then she lifted the baby from her shoulder and leaned toward Mulder. "Here, can you lay him down in his bassinette?"

Mulder looked at her, a slightly terrified look on his face. "Um, okay. What's the best way to..." he reached with his one arm and folded it around the infant's body carefully.

"He won't break, Mulder. It's okay. Just be careful to support his head, that's all." Scully completed the transfer and pulled her arm out from underneath slowly, leaving Mulder holding his son tightly against his chest. "See, you got it," she said with a satisfied smile. Mulder exhaled slowly and began to relax a bit. He was holding his child. His son. Some things in life he could accept, like the irrefutable existence of extraterrestrial life, but this...this took the cake.

While Mulder stood swaying and smiling down at his son with a goofy smile on his face, the nurse came back into the room. "How'd he do this time, Dana?" she asked in a sing-song voice, depositing a tall drink with a wrapped straw on the table by Scully's bed. "Did he latch on okay?"

"I think so," Scully replied. "He only managed to eat from one breast, though, before he fell asleep this time."

"That's perfectly okay. Just start on the other one the next time he feeds. And if you're feeling uncomfortable on the side he didn't nurse from, you can always express some milk by hand to relieve the pressure. But you shouldn't really be feeling too much discomfort, I wouldn't think. Your milk supply hasn't completely come in yet. It will in the next couple of days as the baby eats more."

Scully just nodded at the nurse, her cheeks flushing. Sensing that this whole exchange was making Scully uncomfortable, Mulder tried his damnedest not to look at her, but to stay focused on the baby sleeping in his arms. He couldn't help but flinch at the nurse's words, though. Her milk supply hadn't completely come in yet? They could get even bigger? It boggled his mind.

"I brought you some juice," the nurse went on, busying herself with wrapping a blood pressure cuff around Scully's arm. "You should be drinking plenty of fluids while you're breastfeeding. If you'd prefer something else, let me know. We advise against caffeine at this point. Water, milk, juices, and decaffeinated soft drinks like ginger ale are fine, okay?" She ripped the velcroed cuff from Scully's arm and wrote some numbers in her chart, then headed toward the door. "Oh, and I'll take that paperwork with me if you have it completed," she said turning back.

"Um, almost," Scully replied. "Can you stop back for it later?"

"No problem. We just want to get it filed by tomorrow morning. If you feel ready, there's no reason why you can't go home with your baby tomorrow, Dana."

The nurse left and Mulder carefully placed the baby down in the bassinette. Then he returned to Scully's bedside chair and quietly picked up the forms that sat on the table next to her. He saw that the section on the mother's information had already been fully completed in Scully's careful print. Mulder reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a black ballpoint pen. Where it said father's last , first, and middle name, he wrote MULDER, FOX WILLIAM. Then he gently placed the forms on Scully's blanket- covered lap.

"His first name is up to you, Scully. I trust your good taste. But if it's okay, I'd really like it if you could work 'Mulder' into his surname."

Scully looked up at Mulder and nodded, biting her lip, her eyes damp. Then she smiled and reached over to grasp his hand and squeezed.

"So should I plan to come back and pick you guys up tomorrow?" he asked, quietly.

"Um, actually my mom was planning to do it, if that's okay. She already strapped the car seat into her car and stocked my home freezer with enough frozen meals for a month. I figure I owe it to her to let her take us home and fuss over us for an hour or so."

Mulder nodded understandingly.

"But...after...you could come by. I mean, if you're not too busy."

"You can count on it," he said. Then he leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Get some rest," he whispered. Before leaving the room, he went back to the bassinette where his son slept peacefully, his little mouth making sucking motions, and Mulder laid one hand gently on his tiny chest to feel him breathe. Then he turned and walked out of the room and down the hall to the elevators.

May 21, 2001

"How long do you s'pose we've got, Scully?"

Mulder peered over the edge of the bassinette at his son, sleeping peacefully on his back, arms stretched out to either side of him, fists tight. Scully had fed William three times since Mulder had arrived around four o'clock. He was starting to get what she meant by 'eats a lot.'

As promised, Scully's mom had stocked the entire kitchen with fresh food, packed the freezer with homemade casseroles, and popped a veggie lasagna in the oven before she left. Mulder had shown up, held his son, kissed Scully with intensity and purpose, and stayed for dinner. Now it was 11:34 p.m. and he wasn't too sure what was expected of him, but he was going to do his best not to get kicked out tonight.

"I'd guess two a.m., give or take," Scully said, yawning and settling down into the bed.

"Then we'd better get some shut-eye." Mulder grabbed a pillow from the empty side of the bed and headed for the bedroom door.

"Where are you going, Mulder?" Scully's brows were knitted together in question.

"Out on the couch." He paused and looked back at her. "Right?"

She reached over and flung the covers back on the other side of the bed. The invitation was clear. Mulder switched off the bedside lamp and then stripped down to his boxers and climbed into the bed. Scully's bed. Where he was, apparently, now welcome to sleep. Yes, things were definitely changing.

He settled himself onto his back, staring into the darkness above him. He was extra careful not to move too much as he waited for sleep to come, for fear Scully might reconsider his presence in her bed. He liked Scully's bed. The sheets were tucked in neatly at the bottom and they smelled like a mix of fabric softener and her. There were extra pillows, all made from that fluffy down stuff that molded perfectly to your head. Mulder's pillows were flat and he didn't use fabric softener.

He had been in Scully's bed only once before. It had been sexual encounter number two out of a total of four (yes, he knew exactly how many, where they had taken place, and roughly the dates of each, as well as what she had been wearing beforehand and what noises she had made or words she had spoken at the moment of climax). She had initiated it that time, had invited him into her bed, much like she did tonight, except that she had had her tongue in his mouth and her hand down the front of his pants that time. It had taken place two weeks after their initial time together in his apartment right after he had gone off to England on his ill- conceived crop circle bender. They had gone out to dinner together that night, a real date for once, and when he had pulled up in front of her building to drop her off, she had placed her hand on his upper thigh and invited him in, making no pretense of how she expected the evening to end.

Following those two encounters, there had been just two more. One had happened in Los Angeles when they had attended the premiere of The Lazarus Bowl. Come to think of it now, he wasn't sure if it had happened in his hotel room or hers, but there had been a limousine and a Bureau credit card and some very expensive champagne involved. It was also especially memorable because it marked the one and only time out of the famous four when Scully had gone down on him. He learned three very important things about Scully that night: she giggled and flirted a lot when she drank champagne; the reality of her performing oral sex on him far surpassed any fantasy he had conjured up prior to that; and perhaps most intriguing, Scully had some signature moves in her that suggested she either had a bit of experience in the art of fellatio, or all those anatomy and physiology courses in med school made her a very quick study. He's not sure he really wants to know which it is. They had never discussed their sexual histories. He had pieced together some of it little by little through their years as friends. He knew about Jack Willis, Daniel Waterston, Jerse. He figured there had been a few others in college and med school. One of these days he hoped they'd be in a place in their relationship when they could have the discussion. He was curious. Clearly, she wasn't inexperienced, but she did manage to surprise him a bit with her sexual assertiveness and just how well she knew her way around in bed. He suspected that after only four encounters, he had only just scratched the surface of Dana Scully's talents.

And then of course, there was the last time they had slept together. It had been the night they had closed the Genie case and he invited her to his apartment to watch Caddyshack. He had felt oddly like he was back in high school, trying to score second base during a movie. By the middle of the movie, he had his arm wrapped snugly around her with her head resting on his shoulder. By the time the credits rolled, he was kissing her long and hard, tongues teasing, his fingertips shyly tracing the curve of her breast through her white cotton shirt. When he asked her to stay, she answered him by crossing her arms in front of her and pulling her top off over her head, then sliding into his lap. By his best calculations, they had made a whole lot more than love that night. It had been the beginning of William.

May 22, 2001

Mulder woke to faint rustling and whimpering noises, followed by a few softs grunts. It was dark and he was briefly disoriented. Someone was sleeping next to him. He froze for a few seconds, searching his brain for mile markers. Scully. He could barely make out her petite form in the eerie blue glow of the bedside clock radio. 2:21 a.m. and the sounds he was hearing from across the room were his son, getting hungrier by the minute. Mulder felt as if he had just closed his eyes a second ago. He got up and crossed to the bathroom directly off of Scully's bedroom and turned on the light, closing the door most of the way so just enough light floated into the room for him to see what he was doing, but not enough to wake Scully. Unfortunately, she was going to have to wake soon, but he thought he'd try to buy her a few more minutes by changing William's diaper and bringing him to her in bed.

He reached into the bassinette and lifted the tiny squirming infant out. "Hey Buddy, it's okay. I got you." He gently lowered William onto the changing table and rested his large hand on his abdomen while he reached for a clean diaper and the wipes. The baby grunted and sucked his fist frantically. Mulder unsnapped about a hundred tiny snaps on the bottom of the terry yellow sleeper, four more on the onesie, pulled the tape fasteners free, and deposited a very heavy diaper into the pail by the side of the table. When he touched the clean wipe to the baby's skin, he jumped.

"Sorry. I know it's cold. I'm hurrying, I promise. I'll get better at this, okay?" Mulder lifted the pudgy kicking legs and slid a clean diaper under, then fastened the tabs in the front at the waist. Before redoing all the snaps, he thought it prudent to lift the baby from underneath the arms and see if the diaper stayed put or slid right off. Not bad for a first-time diaper change, he thought. He finished getting the sleeper back on, being extra diligent about making sure all the snaps were lined up correctly because he didn't want to have to start all over again. He lifted the baby back up and held him snugly against his bare chest. William turned his head and rooted against him, whimpering.

"Yeah, I know. I wish I could help you out, but I got nothing. I think I know someone who can, though. Let's see if we can wake her up."

"Mm'wake," Scully's muffled voice sounded from her pillow. She rolled over. "C'mere baby." She unbuttoned her pajama top and lifted her swollen breast to William who latched on immediately. It was fairly dark in the bedroom, but Mulder could see enough. Still, she was either too sleepy to bother with the receiving-blanket- over-the-shoulder trick, or she figured that sleeping in her bed with her afforded him the right to watch her feed their child. Either way, it was progress.

Scully gently rubbed and patted the baby's bottom as he nursed. "He's dry. You changed him already?"

Mulder nodded, flopping back down onto the bed beside her. He could feel rather than see Scully's less-than-confident look resting on him. "Piece of cake, Scully," he smiled.

"Was this your first diaper changing experience, Mulder?"

"Maybe. Why?"

"No reason. Just wondering."

"Alright, I *may have* practiced at home on a stuffed animal once or twice recently," he admitted.

Scully snorted. "Been reading those new dad pamphlets from the childbirth classes, huh."

"Always be prepared, Scully."

"That's the Boy Scout motto. You were an Indian Guide, Mulder."


"What other pockets of baby wisdom did you absorb?" she asked.

"Nuh-uh. I'm not going to reveal my whole hand on the first night, Scully. I did find the chapter on lactation and breastfeeding riveting, though."

"I'm sure you did," she said.

"Speaking of," he rolled up onto his elbow to face her just as she switched William to the other breast. "There is an intimidating contraption with tubes flowing out of it sitting in the corner of your dining room next to the shower gifts. It's either a breast pump or a funky new kind of cappuccino machine. Supposing it's the former, you could try and pump milk so I could take turns getting up in the night to feed him and you could get some sleep."

"We'll be able to do that, but not for a couple of weeks. Introducing a bottle too soon can cause nipple confusion," she replied, matter- of-factly.

He let that sink in. Scully said 'nipple', a Beavis & Butthead chuckle skipping through his brain. Good Lord, nipple confusion? Whatever it was, he was pretty sure he didn't want his son to have it. He had always found nipples to be pretty straightforward things, but perhaps that came from years of blissful exposure to them.

Scully peeled a sleeping William from her breast and handed him off the Mulder who walked him to the bassinette. By the time he returned to the bed, he could tell by the steady sound of her breathing that Scully had already drifted off to dreamland. He rolled onto his stomach and tucked one arm under the pillow while he considered Scully's 'two weeks' remark. In two weeks he'd be able to help her feed William at night. That presupposed that he would still be sleeping in her bed in two weeks. He pondered what she meant by that and tried not to let himself be too hopeful. He had gotten by in life thus far by setting his expectations low in order to avoid disappointment. Still, maybe it wouldn't hurt to stop by his apartment tomorrow and pick up a few changes of clothes, just in case.

The next time Mulder awoke, sunlight was filtering through the mini blinds and there was a Scully void next to him. The clock read 7:40. He stretched and stood, shuffling to the bassinette. Also empty. He used the bathroom without bothering to close the door, slipped his T-shirt on and then headed toward the kitchen where the smell of coffee beckoned.

Scully sat at the table in her bathrobe, turning the pages of The Post with one hand, cradling William in her other arm. "Good morning," she said, without looking up. "Help yourself to coffee and there's a breakfast quiche my mom made on the stove."

"Real men don't eat quiche, Scully."

"Fine. Starve." She smiled.

Mulder opened the cupboard to the left of the sink where he knew the glasses and mugs lived and extracted one. Scully had a complete set of glassware that matched, some tall and some short. She also had coffee mugs that all went together nicely in earth tone shades. Mulder's mug collection consisted of exactly five: two that said FBI Academy; one with the Oxford logo on it; a Yankees one commemorating World Series 1998; and one Frohike had given him two Christmases ago that said 'Only The Paranoid Survive.' His water glasses were a hodgepodge of ones collected from gas station fill-ups, including the full set of Simpsons' character glasses.

He filled a mug, cut an extra large piece of quiche for himself and joined her at the table. She handed him the sports section without him asking for it.

"Why didn't you wake me for the five o'clock feeding, Scully?" He sounded a little hurt.

She shrugged. "He slept through 'til almost 6:30. I'm used to getting up before then anyway. I'll take a nap later."

"What's on the agenda for today," he asked, cautiously. What he wanted to ask was 'do your plans include me and how would it be if I just hung out here a little longer, like forever?'

Scully glanced down at the baby snoozing in her arm. "William has big plans for today, actually. Plenty of eating, intermittent sleeping, and if he's feeling really ambitious, he might try and focus his eyes on brightly colored objects around the room."

Mulder smiled. Scully was funny. She was usually too busy serving as the serious, grounding force in their partnership that he rarely got to enjoy this lighter side of her. He liked it.

"What are your plans, Mulder?" she asked, innocently enough.

Mulder cleared his throat. "Well, um, I have to go to the bank and I'd like to go for a run at some point. I should go home and check messages, feed the fish, do some laundry."

"You could bring it over here."

"The fish or the laundry?"

"The laundry...for now. I mean, you could bring some clothes over to keep here. If you want. "

And that's how it started.

June 3, 2001

Mulder sat propped up on the bed, feeding William a bottle while Scully took a shower. They had to leave for Will's two-week pediatrician appointment in an hour. He heard the shower shut off just as William sucked down the last drop of the bottle. Mulder tossed the burp cloth over his forearm and gently flipped the baby over onto his stomach, propping him lengthwise on his arm. With his other hand he patted William's back. Scully preferred the over- the-shoulder method of burping, while Mulder thought the football hold was much more efficient at producing gas in a shorter period of time. These were the things he pondered lately.

Scully padded into the bedroom wearing a bathrobe and a towel wrapped and twisted around her head. She opened the top drawer of her dresser, extracted a pair of blue cotton panties and slipped them on under the robe. Then she took a matching bra out of the same drawer and, keeping her back to Mulder, lowered her robe, hooked the bra around her ribcage and lifted the straps onto her shoulders. Mulder tried to occupy himself with the baby. He was not exactly looking, but not exactly not. In the two weeks since he had been staying at her apartment, he had not seen her completely unclothed. Most of the time, she made a point of dressing while he was in the shower, the kitchen, or out of the apartment altogether. He knew she felt self-conscious about the changes in her body since giving birth. He wanted to tell her that she was beautiful, that he rather liked the extra curves, but he didn't want to make her more self-conscious by drawing attention to it. From the little that he had seen, her body looked to be nearly back to normal, aside from perhaps an extra ten pounds that had settled in some very promising places.

With her back still to him, Scully pulled a pair of dark wash jeans out of a drawer and started to put them on, but when she went to button them, he heard her swear under her breath. She pulled them off and tossed them back in the drawer, then settled for a pair of black yoga pants instead. Slamming the dresser drawer shut in disgust, she crossed to her closet and chose a solid light blue cotton V-neck shirt.

"Scully, it's only been two weeks. Give yourself a break."

Her head snapped around to deliver an ice cold death glare. Then she left the room and he could hear her unloading the dishwasher, rattling silverware and slamming cupboard doors. Note to myself: it always sounds better in your head, Mulder. When you think you should keep your mouth shut, you should keep your mouth shut.

Will flew through his check-up with flying colors. He had gained almost four pounds since birth, which put him in the seventieth percentile for weight and the ninetieth for length. Mulder glanced at all five-foot three of Scully and decided that although Will took after her in his coloring, his size was all Mulder.

"How's the breastfeeding going?" asked Dr. Brightman, a woman in her late fifties who wore Birkenstocks and wool socks with her scrubs.

"Fine," replied Scully. "I think we've gotten the hang of it. It's just...sometimes I feel like he's not getting enough. He seems hungry too soon after eating."

"Well, he's gaining weight just fine, so he is probably eating enough. It could be the comfort of sucking that he wants. Some parents find that this is a good time to introduce a pacifier."

As if in response, William grunted and shoved a tight fist into his mouth, sucking loudly. Mulder wrestled with his wiggly legs to get him strapped back into his infant carrier.

On the way home, they stopped off at a grocery store to restock since the supply of frozen Maggie Scully meals seemed to be dwindling and it was time they started to consider feeding themselves. Mulder pushed the cart with William's baby carrier locked into the top facing him. Scully tossed produce into the cart while Mulder made faces at the baby and dangled squeaky things in front of him.

"Peanut butter, Scully. I used the last of it on my English muffin this morning." They headed for the peanut butter aisle, making a detour by cereal on the way and settling on Raisin Nut Bran and Spoon Size Shredded Wheat. After two wrong turns, they finally found peanut butter tucked away at the end of the coffee aisle of all places, which was good because they were almost out of that too. Scully reached for a large jar of Jif Creamy.

"I like crunchy, Scully."

"I don't." She gave him an annoyed look. They stood staring at each other in a stalemate, as if this were indeed a problem of mythic proportion. Of all the hundreds of complicated and perilous decisions they had faced over the years on the X-Files, crunchy versus creamy threatened to do them in.

"One of each?" He suggested.

She sighed in surrender and tossed two jars into the cart.

Twenty minutes and about fifty items later, they were done.

At the checkout, Scully rooted through her purse for her wallet while Mulder pulled out his debit card.

"I'll get this one," he offered. "I think I've been eating most of the food anyway."

She shrugged her shoulders and nodded. He had a point.

After they arrived back at Scully's apartment and all the groceries were safely put away, Scully fed William in the living room while Mulder busied himself preparing sandwiches for their lunch.

"Where's the mayonnaise, Scully?" he called out.

"Don't have any. There's mustard in there."

Grey Poupon it is. Of course she didn't own mayonnaise. It didn't fall neatly into the list of low cal, nutritious, preservative-free sundries that were allowed in Scully's domain. Still, it was a staple condiment for Christ's sake. Everybody had mayonnaise.

It occurred to him, not for the first time, that he didn't live here. It was Scully's apartment. Her name was on the lease. Her dozen black suits hung in the closet, killer pairs of heels lined up like soldiers on the floor underneath. Her classical music CDs sat, dust- free, in the rack next to the stereo, her medical journals were fanned out across the coffee table. Her bottles of mineral water chilled on the top shelf of her refrigerator, labels all facing out. Her matching bras and panties nested together in pairs in the top dresser drawer, her vanilla scented lotion perched on top of her nightstand. The vanity in the bathroom housed makeup and nightcream in the top drawer, a blowdryer, round brush, and hairspray in the middle drawer, tampons and other mysteriously female things in the bottom one.

Even William had space. He had a room all his own, filled with stuffed Winnie-the-Poohs, wind-up music boxes, and a nightlight that cast shadows of the moon and stars on the ceiling. He didn't sleep in there yet, but it stood ready and waiting for him when he needed it.

Mulder had one drawer in the bottom of Scully's dresser where some extra sweats and T-shirts hung out and half a shelf in the medicine cabinet where his toothbrush and shaving gear shared space with the Band-aids and Tylenol. His overnight bag full of clothes sat on the floor of the bedroom next to one pair of running shoes and another pair of brown loafers. He had one box of frosted Pop Tarts in the pantry and a leather jacket hanging on the coat tree. That was the sum of Mulder's existence in Scully's apartment.

Scully put a sleeping William down and joined Mulder at the kitchen table for lunch.

"If we don't have anything else planned after lunch, I think I'll go spend some time at my place, Scully."

Her chewing paused briefly and she looked at him, then finished her bite and swallowed.

"Some time. As in the afternoon, or a day or..."

"I don't know. Some time."

"Okay. If that's what you want, Mulder."

Hegel Place was stuffy when he walked in and it smelled suspiciously like there might be a take-out container lurking somewhere that he had forgotten about. He had been there to check messages and grab clothes four days ago. Since then, Frohike had offered to stop by and feed the fish in exchange for use of Mulder's video collection. Mulder glanced at his leather couch and hoped that Melvin had taken the videos home with him to enjoy. Maybe he should have specified that part.

He sprinkled some flakes into the fish tank and played his message. Only one. It was his dentist's office calling to confirm his appointment, which was yesterday. Shit. It was not surprising that there were no other messages. Scully was the one who called him the most and she obviously knew where to find him and Skinner always called his mobile anyway. The Gunmen didn't even bother with pretenses. They just called Scully's number directly. Once, Scully had answered and Frohike had asked to speak with "the man of the house." That got him a roll of the eyes and an exaggerated sigh as she handed the receiver to him.

Mulder plopped down on the couch and flipped on the TV. A black and white Godzilla movie played on the Sci Fi channel while he sorted through a pile of mail that was eighty percent junk mail, twenty percent bills and two magazines - the kind that arrived in sleeves that you couldn't see through. He opened one and thumbed through it. The centerfold wasn't bad - cute body, but she was a blonde. He was really more of a redhead kind of guy. Who would've figured? He came across a petite redhead, perfectly proportioned breasts, hair sleek and just past her shoulders...but her eyes weren't blue. They were sort of a greenish-grey color. Close, but no cigar. He sighed and tossed the magazine on the table. When had she become the one against which he measured every other woman he looked at? Who was he kidding. About eight years ago.

Just then he heard the scrape of a key in the lock. What the hell? Why would Scully drag the baby out to come over there? Why wouldn't she just call him on his cell phone if she needed him? He heard whistling and Frohike rounded the corner.

"Whoa! Hey man, I didn't think you'd be here. I came by to feed the freshwater parasites. Oh, and exchange these," he thrust two video tapes toward Mulder. Then the magazine on the coffee table caught his eye. "Lookie what we have here. Is that the new issue?"

Mulder picked it up and handed it to him. "Be my guest. In fact, keep it. There's one on page 64 you might enjoy that bears a resemblance to...well, never mind."

Frohike shrugged out of his jacket, sat down in a chair and dangled one leg over the arm. He turned to the page Mulder had referenced. "Yeeeesss, very nice. Uncanny, the similarities of hair color and facial features, petite size. Thanks, man, I'm indebted. Um...just out of curiosity...the rest...from the neck down. Are we close here?" Frohike wagged his eyebrows.

"Shameless you are, my friend," Mulder said, shaking his head, but smiling nonetheless. "A gentleman never divulges details."

"Yeah, well. I had to ask, you understand."

Mulder waited a couple of beats, then said in a low voice, "better." He got up and headed for the kitchen, leaving Frohike picking his jaw up off the floor. "Want a beer, Frohike?" Mulder called back.

Melvin was too busy staring at the natural redhead with the rounded breasts pictured in front of him. Better? Holy shit.

Twenty minutes later, Mulder and Frohike were finishing off their first beers. Mulder reclined on his black leather sofa, twirling a basketball on his finger. Frohike stood at Mulder's bookshelf, trying to decide between Muffy The Vampire Layer and Interview With a Vibrator.

"Take them both," moaned Mulder. "In fact, take them all."

Frohike turned around slowly. "This isn't good, my friend. When a pal loses his interest in science fiction porn, there's a disturbing unbalance in the universe. Spill it, Pops. What's going on with you and Scully?"

"Nothing. That's the thing."

"Did she kick you out? Is that why you're hanging around here?"

"No. I want to be there. But see, the thing is I REALLY want to be there."

Frohike frowned in confusion. "I'm not following."

Mulder sighed. "I don't know what I expected when the baby was born. I didn't have much time to think about it, I guess, but I'm pretty sure that in the back of my mind, I thought happily-ever- after might factor in."

"And she wants something else?"

"I don't know what she wants. She doesn't say. She just swears at her jeans and rattles silverware and doesn't own mayonnaise and gets pissed off about buying crunchy peanut butter."

"Crunchy peanut butter sucks. Creamy all the way, Bro."

"Whose side are you on?"

"Both of yours. It's taken you guys eight years to get here, I think compromising on condiments wouldn't be out of the question. Have you told her how you feel...what you want?"

Mulder shook his head. "What if she doesn't want the same thing?"

Melvin leveled his eyes at Mulder. "What if she does?"

Frohike's cell phone screamed out the theme to Star Trek. He answered it. "Frohike here." (some talking on the other end) "Hanging with Mulder at his place." (more talking on the other end) "Hey, get your boxers out of a bunch, Paisanos. I'll be there in a flash." He hung up and rolled his eyes. "Dickweeds can't manage without me for a second. Geez."

He grabbed the two movies and the magazine and put his jacket on. "It's Mexican night. The amigos are waiting for me to cook frijoles and chalupas. Join us?"

Mulder shook his head. "Nah, that's okay. Don't think I'd be good company tonight. Got some thinking to do."

"Don't think too hard, my friend. Nothing good can ever come of that."

Mulder stood and slapped Frohike on the shoulder. "Wiser words were never spoken. Hey thanks, Melvin. For feeding the fish and ...whatever."

"De nada, amigo. If you ever have baby mama drama again, I'm your man." Then he wagged his eyebrows. "And if you fuck this up and Scully kicks your ass out, I'll be her man."

Mulder chuckled.

"No, seriously, Dude. You tell Scully I can make great balloon animals and I know all the words to Goodnight Moon . The kid'll love Uncle Melvin. And after the sun goes down, I'm a tiger in the sack. She'd never miss ya."

"Hey watch it there, Don Juan. That's my son's mother you're talking about."

Frohike looked at him in all seriousness. "You and I both know she's more than that. Tell her."

Mulder nodded. Frohike headed for the door and paused. He held up the magazine. "Better than this? Really?"

Mulder just smiled.

As Melvin closed the door behind him, Mulder heard him say "Lucky son-of-a-bitch."

Mulder flopped back down onto the couch and flipped channels. His stomach growled. Maybe he should have taken Frohike up on chalupas after all. He shuffled into the kitchen and opened the fridge. Suspicious orange juice, more beer, half a Subway sub from God-knows-when, stick of butter, ketchup, MAYONNAISE, one green pepper (where the hell did that come from? He didn't recollect purchasing anything healthy recently) and a dozen eggs with a date of...Mulder picked up the carton...June 8th. Jackpot.

Mulder pulled a frying pan down from one of the hooks above his stove and rummaged in a drawer for a spatula. He cracked four eggs into the pan and turned on the burner. While he waited for the stove to heat up, he chopped up the green pepper. Shredded cheese would have been nice. He liked cheese in his scrambled eggs. But he didn't have any cheese. Scully had cheese at her place. Sigh.

Fifteen minutes later, Mulder sat on his couch eating scrambled eggs and drinking orange juice that was not so suspicious after all, directly out of the container. He wondered what Scully was having for dinner. After he finished eating, he checked his e-mail, paid his electric bill online, and watched a Dr. Who re-run until he nodded off.

When he woke up, it was after eleven. He washed and dried his dinner dishes, grabbed one pair of jeans, two more shirts, several pairs of underwear and socks, and the jar of mayonnaise and headed out the door.

Mulder closed the door to Scully's apartment quietly. He toed off his shoes, hung his coat on the coat tree, and left the rest of his clothes folded on a living room chair. He stopped in the kitchen to put the jar of mayo in the fridge and then walked to the bedroom. Scully was asleep on her side of the bed, facing away from him. He walked to the bassinette and leaned over it. There was just enough moonlight streaming in through the window that he could clearly see William's face. He was sound asleep, his little mouth moving up and down like he was sucking on something. Mulder wondered what the baby dreamt about or if he even did. He ran the palm of his hand gently over William's sweet downy head, stopping to feel the pulse in the soft spot on top. He knew even before the baby was born that he would love him. There was no question in his mind. But he couldn't have predicted moments like this - when his stomach would clench and his breath would catch in his throat and he would be overwhelmed by the certainty that he couldn't possibly love anything more. He didn't deserve this child, but he would die to protect him.

Mulder moved to his side of the bed. He chuckled at the thought - his side of the bed. He had a side in Scully's bed. He shed all but his boxers and climbed in. Scully didn't stir. He slid closer to her and spooned her, snaking his arm around her waist and nuzzling her neck.

"Scully," he whispered into her ear. "Scully, wake up." He realized this sudden display of affection might be surprising to her. Apart from the passionate kiss they shared the day she brought the baby home, they had been cautious with one another. They slept in the same bed, but they hadn't kissed or really even touched each other since.

She breathed deeply and groaned, heavy with sleep, rolling her head toward him. "Mulder? Is everything okay? Is the baby-"

"Shhh, he's fine. He's sleeping. Scully, I need to talk to you."

"Now? Mulder, it's late."

"I know, but I don't want to wait until morning to say this."

"Okay," she whispered. He heard the caution in her voice.

He breathed deeply. "Scully, I want to stay here with you and William."

"I thought you were staying here with me and William," she said, sleepily.

"I mean permanently. Live here. Or somewhere else, but wherever you guys are."

Scully was quiet. She rolled onto her back, then over on her side to face him. He could tell she was giving this thoughtful consideration. She inhaled slowly, then exhaled.


"Okay?" Mulder felt himself smiling in the dark.

"Okay. But we'll need to figure out where to put everything and some stuff will need to go into storage." Scully - ever the pragmatist.

"Can I bring my fish?"

"Of course you can bring your fish, Mulder. What kind of question is that?"

He leaned toward her slowly and brushed his lips against hers and held them there for a few seconds, then pulled back.

He heard her breath hitch. "Can you do that again? Please?" she whispered.

Mulder thread his fingers through her hair and pulled her in, capturing her mouth with his. She parted her lips inviting him in and he entered without hesitation, claiming her. Scully moaned and traced the roof of his mouth with her tongue. She tasted like minty toothpaste and home and if he didn't have to breathe, he would have been happy to set up camp and stay there for the rest of his life. He slid closer until his body was flush against hers, their tongues flicking and taunting. He was incredibly aroused, hard as a rock against her and he knew there was no way should she could have missed it. Scully pulled back from their kiss and glanced down between them.

"Just ignore it," he groaned, breath coming in spurts.

"I'm sorry, Mulder, we can't-"

"I know. S'okay," he panted. "Ignore it."

He continued kissing her, slowly at first, cupping her face with his hands. Before long, however, the kiss deepened, and Scully shifted her body so she was more underneath him, her arms wrapped around his back. His tongue danced with hers and he nipped at her lips gently. Scully responded by moaning and lightly scraping her fingernails down his bare back.

"Jesus, Scully," he panted, pulling away and trying to catch his breath. He felt dizzy. "I think we need to stop now, okay?"

She nodded.

Mulder rolled onto his back and flung one arm over his face, still breathing hard. Party over, but his erection hadn't gotten the message. He wondered if it would be in bad taste for him to head for the bathroom and finish things off. He decided it would be. It would have to wait until his morning shower, which was where he had gotten used to taking care of business since he had been staying at Scully's. The good thing about this whole encounter? She was interested. Clearly she was. He just had to wait another four weeks, give or take. Jesus.

June 4, 2001

Mulder awoke in the predawn light to Scully nursing William, lying on her side facing him. The baby suckled hungrily, his mouth flush against the creamy mound of her breast, slight pooling of milk around the corners of his lips. Scully's eyes were closed, the edges of her mouth upturned in contentment. He could tell she was relaxed, but not asleep.

He was careful not to stir, wanting to watch them, to take in this perfect scene. He couldn't believe he was allowed to be there. If someone had told him even a few years ago that he would one day be lying in bed watching his son nurse from Scully's breast, he would've told them they were high. How is it that all the cosmic forces in the universe aligned themselves in such a way as to make this possible? She was so beautiful. They both were. He wanted to give them everything. But first, he'd have to figure out what that was. Scully was notorious at being indirect about her feelings. She wore nothing on her sleeve, revealed nothing. He didn't know what she wanted in the long term and experience told him that asking her directly would not yield the results he was looking for and might even damage his case. No, with Scully you had to work for it. He could do that. Game on.

She opened her eyes to find him watching her. "Hey," she said, smiling.

"Hey yourself. I missed the two o'clock feeding. You should've woken me. I could've given him a bottle and let you sleep."

Scully lifted William from her breast and then sat up against the pillows, placing the baby gently over her shoulder to burp him. Mulder noticed that she didn't bother to close her top back up right away. Her breast bopped enticingly through the opening between the buttons.

"Mmm, you were tired," she said. "I wanted to let you sleep. You need energy for all that packing you have to do." Another smile. Bigger.

So she did remember. He was half afraid she was too sleepy last night to recall their life-altering conversation and he would have to summon the nerve to start it all over again. So if she remembered that, then she must also remember the kiss afterward and his shameless display of hormonal need. He had flashbacks of junior year in high school, getting to third base with Janice Simms in the backseat of an Oldsmobile before she pulled away and lowered her skirt, giving him a sympathic smile and whispering "Goodnight, Fox" as she got out of the car. He wanted to have sex with Scully about a thousand times more than he had ever wanted Janice Simms. Four weeks. He could make it. What he needed was a distraction. Packing and moving would be his distraction.

"I thought I would head over to my apartment and start packing some things up today, if that doesn't interfere with anything else we have planned."

"Can I-" she started, but was interrupted by a loud burp from William. She chuckled. "I mean, can we come over and help?"

"You want to help me pack?"

"Sure, I don't mind. I kind of want to see the place again and you know, say goodbye." She gave him a slightly melancholy look. "A lot of good memories, you know?"

He nodded. "Not to mention I think it would be nice to take Junior over and show him where he got started." Mulder grinned.

"Mulder." Scully pursed her lips at him, reproachfully, but then dissolved into an amused smile.

"It was there, wasn't it?" he asked. "That last time?"

She nodded with a not-so-innocent smile.

God Bless Shiner Bock.

By mid-morning, Mulder was emptying his bookshelf into boxes while Scully wrapped glassware and casserole dishes that had never been used, with packing paper they had picked up from U-Haul on the way over. William dozed in his infant carrier in the living room.

Mulder poked his head into the kitchen. "Scully, I don't know why you're bothering. Your kitchen stuff is light years better than mine and you have plenty of it."

"Then what are you going to do with all this, Mulder?"

"I was just planning to drop it all off at Good Will."

She sighed. "Well, it will still need to be packed up so it doesn't get broken."

"Yeah, it would be a pity if my Simpsons glassware got chipped."

"Is there anything here you want to keep?"

"Um...the Yankees mug."

"That DOES have a chip."

"I know. My mother gave it to me," he said.

Scully nodded understandingly and moved it to the very small KEEP pile.

William let out a wail from the living room. Scully finished taping up a box, marked it DONATE, and then went off to feed him. She unbuttoned her blouse and unlatched her nursing bra, then settled onto the leather sofa with the baby propped on a throw pillow at her breast.

Mulder paused with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy half into a box and gazed at her.

"My couch is happy, Scully."

She gave him a puzzled and slightly disinterested look as she glanced down to pull the edge of her blouse away from Will's mouth. "What are you talking about, Mulder?"

"Well, it never really saw much boob action over the years." He tilted his head to the side, considering. "Unless, of course, you count that time you got drunk, slid into my lap, and disrobed like an MTV spring break co-ed."

"I wasn't drunk. And if memory serves, I only took my shirt off. You were more than happy to do the rest," she smiled.

"Scully, you were straddling my lap with your tongue down my throat before the credits rolled. I was defenseless," he teased.

"Oh Puh-lease Mulder. You practically begged me to stay. You had your hands all over me during the movie."

"Well what do you expect, Scully? Wearing that tight white shirt that clearly showed the outline of your...your...well, you know. And then thrusting your chest out at me and sighing, like every five minutes."

"I did not do that, Mulder! It was a plain white cotton shirt and I sat there and minded my own business and watched the movie. You...you kept putting your hand on my thigh and trying to inch it higher without me noticing. And then you did that thing with your...with your...eyes where you lean in and look down at me with that smolder."

Mulder gasped, mockingly. "I smoldered you, Scully?"

"Yes. You did, Mulder. You smoldered me," she giggled.

"Well, that's just downright inexcusable, Scully."

She smiled. "Actually, it wasn't too bad. In fact, it was kind of... cute. "

"That was a pretty amazing night, wasn't it?"

Scully nodded, a mischievous smile on her face.

Mulder traced a finger gently over William's nursing cheek. "And that, Little Buddy, is how you became a wee little sapling. Scully, do you think we should tell him when he gets older that he got started all because I smoldered you?"

"Is that what they're calling it these days?"

Mulder chuckled and leaned down to give her a kiss on the lips. William whimpered softly.

"Hey now, don't be greedy," Mulder pretended to scold. "You got the boob; I get the lips."

"Speaking of good times, Mulder," Scully nodded her head toward the bedroom. "What are you going to do with your bed? We don't really need a second one."

"Got it covered, Scully. Frohike wants to buy it from me. He thinks it might be lucky." Mulder wagged his eyebrows.

"Twice, Mulder. We had sex in your bed twice."

Mulder nodded. "Still, I think it might be more action than Melvin's seen since the first Bush administration."

"That recently?" Scully smiled.

"Plus, you were in the bed. That's enough to elevate it to Holy Grail status in Frohike's book."

Scully grimaced.

Mulder walked over to his movie shelf. "I think I'm going to give him all my videos too."

Scully looked up. "What? I kind of liked Caddyshack," she whined, "what I saw of it anyway," she said under her breath.

Mulder smiled. "I meant my other videos."

Scully mouthed a silent "oh" and her cheeks pinked up a little.

"I don't think I'll have much need for them," Mulder said with tentative hope in his voice.

Scully didn't look up at him. "I think that's a safe bet."

Mulder exhaled. He was very, very happy to hear her say that. And a little aroused.

After the bookshelves had been emptied, the kitchen had been sorted and packed, and all the videos except for a few PG-13 ones had been boxed up, Mulder and Scully moved on to the bedroom. William, ever portable in his carrier with handle on top, passed time fluctuating between snoozing with a death suck on his pacifier and blowing spit bubbles. Mulder sorted his clothing into three piles: move to Scully's, take to storage, and Good Will. The first group went into his suitcases, the second into large rubber totes and zippered garment bags, the third into garbage bags. Scully sat on his bed, passing judgment on which of his sweaters he should keep because they brought out the color of his eyes and which ones went out of style with Milli Vanilli.

"What are you going to do with all your suits, Mulder? I don't think we'll have space for all of them in the master bedroom closet."

"I don't know. Storage, I guess."

"You don't think you'll need them anytime soon?"

He realized that was subtext for "are you ever going to get a job or are you planning to live off me for the rest of your life?"

He decided to face it head-on. "Why? Are you worried I'm going to sit around sponging off you and getting fat watching daytime television, Scully?"

"Of course not, Mulder. I was just wondering if you had thought about what you wanted to do yet, that's all."

He sighed and sat down on the bed next to her. "I've been thinking about it for weeks now, ever since the FBI decided to disassociate itself with me."

"And have you come to any conclusions?"

"A few. I know I don't want to peddle used cars or sell hot dogs at Yankee Stadium, although I wouldn't mind pitching for them. Do you think there's any chance they'd trade Roger Clemens for me?"

Scully managed a quiet laugh, but still looked at him hoping he had more.

Mulder took her hand. "I can't stop looking for the truth. I hope you understand that. I've seen too much to look the other way. But...I don't want it to consume my life either. I have other things to think about." He squeezed her hand. "I want to write, Scully. I want to chronicle our experiences on the X-Files. I want to write about the paranormal, makes sense of things that don't make sense, perhaps even assist on some cases outside of the federal jurisdiction once in awhile or give lectures on occasion."

Scully chewed her bottom lip, thoughtfully. "Well, you've certainly made a name for yourself. You're well-known in your field. You're a brilliant man, Mulder. I know I'm not the only one out there who appreciates that."

He smiled. "Flattery will get you nowhere, Scully."

She chuckled. "But what will you do for money, Mulder? I'm planning to go back to work after my maternity leave, but things might be tight on my salary alone."

Mulder shook his head. "I would never expect you to support me, Scully. Don't be ridiculous. In fact, if you don't want to go back to work, you don't have to. I have enough money."

"What are you talking about, Mulder?"

"Exactly what I said. I have enough money to coast for awhile, to write, to do what I want to do. And if you want to stay home with William or go back to school to recertify for medicine, or whatever, Scully, I've got enough for that too."

She sat there with her mouth open slightly, clearly trying to process what he just said.

"Scully, I want you to be happy. I want you to do what makes you happy. So start thinking about what that is, okay?"

She nodded slowly. "I have been...thinking about it. And I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell you that I'm not going to be returning to the X-Files, Mulder."

He didn't look surprised. "I know."

She gave him a puzzled look. "How...Mulder, I haven't told anyone yet...not even Skinner."

"I knew the day you left for your maternity leave. It was in your eyes even then. That day I came to pick you up for childbirth classes, you were conflicted about leaving Agent Doggett. It wasn't because you were unsure if he could handle things for two months while you were on leave; it was because even if your head wasn't ready to admit it, your heart knew you weren't going back."

She met his gaze, tears threatening to spill. "Are you disappointed? Do you feel like I'm abandoning everything we worked for, Mulder?"

He shook his head and gathered her to him, wrapping both arms tightly around her and resting his head on top of hers. "God, Scully, how could you even think that? You have sacrificed so much - more than any person should ever have to give. So much has been stolen from you. You don't owe anything - to the X-Files, to the FBI, or especially to me."

She let him hold her for awhile before pulling back and reaching for a tissue on his bedside table. "I wasn't trying to keep my decision from you, Mulder. I only knew for certain myself just recently. The more time I spend with William, the more I realize that I want a normal life - that I need to know when I walk out the door in the morning, that I'll be coming home to him that night. He deserves that."

Mulder wanted to point out that she would be coming home to him now too, but it sounded a bit too matrimonial in his head and he thought he might be getting ahead of himself. Not that the thought of slapping a ring on her finger in the future wasn't lurking in the back of his mind, but more that he didn't sense Scully was quite there yet.

"So, then...if no X-Files, what's next, Scully?"

"There's a teaching position open at Quantico. It's in my field of expertise and it would be an eight to five job. Skinner told me that it's mine if I want it."

"I thought you said Skinner didn't know you weren't going back to the X-Files?"

"He doesn't. Not for sure anyway. But I think he suspects I'm considering my options and he doesn't want me to leave the FBI."

"Would you do that, Scully? Leave the FBI?"

She sighed and looked down at her hands. Then she nodded slowly. "It's not out of the realm of possibility, especially now that you're no longer there. It doesn't hold the same interest it once did. But mostly, I want to practice medicine, Mulder. It's what I trained to do and I've never really had the chance. But I need time. There are procedures...perhaps additional training once I choose a specialty. This teaching position at Quantico would give me the time I need to figure things out, plus a decent income. It's actually a slightly higher pay grade than I qualified for on the X Files."

"It sounds like you've made your decision, Scully. If this is what you want, then you should go for it. I'm behind you a hundred percent."

Scully smiled that gentle smile that made his heart ache. "Thank you," she whispered, then leaned in to kiss him lightly on the lips. Mulder wrapped his hand around the back of her neck and held her head, deepening the kiss.

"Mmmm, Mulder..." she mumbled into his mouth. "If we're going to get any more packing done, we'd better get busy."

"That's what I'm trying to do, Scully. Get busy." He continued nipping gently at her lips with his eyes closed.

Scully giggled and stood, trying to pull Mulder up by the hand. "Come on, you finish the bedroom, I'll start on the bathroom."

Mulder groaned and flopped back onto the bed instead. "Aaaaaaaahhhh, just throw it all away." He could hear her already opening and closing drawers in the bathroom, rattling things around. He forced himself to get up and start in on packing his CD collection.

Not long after, he had packed up most of the CDs, except for a handful that he didn't listen to anymore and would get rid of, and a couple that he thought he had also seen in Scully's collection. It didn't make sense to have two.

"Hey, Scully," he hollered, heading for bathroom. "Don't you already have The Beatles' Revolver CD in your-"

He rounded the corner to find her sitting on the bathroom floor with a box of condoms in her hand. She looked up at him. He read the uncertainty in her eyes. They had never used a condom during the times they had been together. They had both been tested and were clean and they had every reason to believe pregnancy wasn't possible. Why did he have them then? Had he used them with someone else?

He stared back at her, challenged her to examine the box for proof. She did. They were unopened. The expiration date read October, 1997. They had been sitting, unopened in his bathroom for over four years.

He gave her a sheepish smile and she exhaled in relief, then tossed the box into the garbage can.

"So... Revolver, Scully?"

"I have it. As well as St. Pepper, Abbey Road, and The White Album."

"John, Paul, George, or Ringo, Scully?"

She flashed him an amused and slightly playful look. "Paul. Always Paul."

He turned and walked out of the bathroom. "You're such a girl, Scully."

By four o'clock, they had collectively packed twelve boxes of items to keep and seventeen boxes and eight garbage bags of items to be donated or tossed. Additionally, there were three boxes of treasures for Frohike to enjoy. The furniture would have to be dealt with later, once Mulder had secured a small storage facility. The fish would get moved within the next few days. Scully was finishing up tossing the food out of the cupboards and fridge before they left, so Mulder took the opportunity to have a conversation with his fish.

"So it's gonna be great, you guys, you'll see. Granted, you will have to share my love. And she does tend to play Mozart more than Pink Floyd, but give Scully a chance. While she doesn't fully appreciate Roger Waters the way we do, I think Dark Side of the Moon is growing on her a little. Plus, she's pretty and she smells good, but I guess those things are probably more important to me than to you. Tell you what, though. If you behave yourselves and give this a fair shot, I'll buy you one of those little plastic mermaids with the really big-"

"Mulder? Are you almost ready to go?" Scully said, walking into the living room. "What are you doing?"

"Heart to heart with the fish, Scully. Just so they know what to expect."

She gave him an adorably bewildered look as she bundled William into his carrier.

"But yeah, I'm ready."

June 25, 2001

Mulder returned from his morning run to voices in the kitchen. He paused and listened. Scully's mom. It shouldn't feel awkward. She knew he was living there now. But still... sometimes it did. So many years of he and Scully being together, but not together. He wondered if it was weird for anyone else, but them. Sometimes he would catch himself with his hand poised to knock on the apartment door instead of just inserting his key and letting himself in. It felt strange to see his name on the outside of the mailbox in the entryway, directly underneath her name. Granted, it was still mostly Scully's stuff in the apartment, but he really didn't mind. Her stuff was far nicer than his anyway. His needs were simple. He had some dresser drawers and about a quarter of the closet, which suited him just fine. Just seeing his garments co-mingling with Scully's inside a dark closet made him giddy.

Mulder followed the voices into the kitchen. Scully and her mom were sitting at the table drinking coffee. A dissected grapefruit sat on a plate in front of Scully. It had become a constant in Scully's breakfast routine ever since the day of William's doctor's appointment when she couldn't button her jeans. Some days she treated herself to a hard-boiled egg. Lunch usually consisted of a mixed spinach and romaine salad, fat-free dressing, no croutons. Some days it was cottage cheese and fruit, just to shake things up a little. Mulder wanted to argue with her about the substantial caloric needs of nursing mothers, but he thought it wise to just shut his mouth and eat his turkey or roast beef sandwich with mayonnaise and crispy bacon. He hid his jar of mayo in the back of the fridge behind the baking soda to ensure that it didn't meet an early demise.

"Hey everybody," Mulder said, smiling and trying hard to look like a guy who lived there and wasn't self-conscious about it.

"Good morning, Fox," Maggie said.

"Hi, how was your run?" Scully asked. "You were up and out early this morning. I didn't even stir when you got out of bed."

Okay, that wasn't awkward at all. Not that she didn't already assume we sleep in the same bed, but couldn't we at least pretend we're innocent and we have no idea where this baby came from?

Maggie Scully chose to ignore the whole exchange and instead went for the always wise change-the-subject strategy.

"Fox, I'm glad you're here. Maybe you can help me talk some sense into Dana."

Uh-oh. Nothing good can ever come from a conversation that begins with "talk some sense into Dana." Can't we go back to me sleeping in the same bed with your daughter. That was actually less uncomfortable. Doesn't she realize I'm on thin ice here? I've only been living here for a couple of weeks. I'm still finding it surreal that I get to wake up in Scully's very comfortable bed every morning and see her gorgeous face on the pillow next to me. I'm still flipped out that she lets me sit on the edge of the tub and talk to her while she stands at the bathroom sink applying mascara wearing only her bra and panties. I mean, these are the things fantasies are made of. Well, mine at least, for the past seven years. It's entirely possible that at any moment she will come to her senses and realize that she has an unemployed conspiracy theorist who knocked her up living in her apartment. I needed to be on the same team with Scully and "talk some sense into her" sounded like a risky team strategy to me.

I decided my safest response was to stand there, smile nervously, and shift my feet, so that's what I did.

Maggie continued her campaign. "I was just telling Dana she needs to get out of the house - you both do. Now that William is five weeks old, there's no reason why you can't let me take him to my house for an evening while you two get out and have some time to yourselves. For heaven's sake, see a movie or something."

Hmmmm. Time alone with Scully. Perhaps it was time to reassess my team position.

"You know, Scully, your mom might have a point," I said, hesitantly. "You haven't gone anywhere without him since he was born. It's probably good for him to develop attachments to other people and I'm sure your mom would love some time with him." I waited for Scully to demand her key back and tell me to take my fish and hit the road, but surprisingly, she nodded her head, sighed, and said, "I guess you're right. Okay."

"It's settled then," Maggie smiled. "You'll drop him off at my house this evening and go out. And none of this grab a quick slice of pizza and come back in an hour nonsense. My grandson and I will be busy for at least several hours. You should plan to do the same."

At 5:15, Mulder finished giving William a bottle, burped him and placed him on a blanket on the floor surrounded by a plethora of brightly colored Fisher Price toys designed to stimulate his mind and engage his senses. Mulder was skeptical, but Scully bought into it. Where is the irony in that, he wondered.

Scully had headed off to take a shower thirty minutes ago to get ready to go out. The bedroom door had been closed ever since and he thought it wise to stay out of her way. He set about packing up the diaper bag. It was already chocked full of extra diapers and wipes because they never left home without those. He noticed there was also one extra onesie and sleeper in the bag. He added another set for insurance. Breast milk went through William faster than spicy Thai went through Mulder. Then on second thought, he tossed in a few more diapers. Better to pack too much than have to cut their date short to go on a Pampers run. Next he opened the fridge, extracted four bottles of pumped breast milk (again, better to overpack), placed them in an insulated tote and then into the diaper bag. He tossed in two pacifiers, a burp cloth and receiving blanket, and the Mylicon drops in case Will had one of those crying jags that Scully swore was gas and not colic. Last, but not least, he tucked Brown Bear, Brown Bear into the side pocket, although Mulder was pretty sure Maggie Scully wouldn't do all the animal faces like he did when he read it to Will.

Then he sat down on the sofa and flipped on ESPN and waited for Scully. He heard a hairdryer start up. That was a good sign. Progress. He also didn't detect any swearing and the walls were pretty thin, so he took that as a positive sign she had found something to wear that didn't make her cry.

At 5:35 the door to the bedroom opened and Scully walked out. She was wearing a fitted blue button down blouse, unbuttoned just far enough for Mulder to catch a glimpse of something black underneath, wedge-heeled sandals and the jeans she had unsuccessfully tried on three weeks ago. They fit her perfectly.

"Nice jeans," he said, shamelessly checking out her ass.

"What, these old things?" She flashed him one raised eyebrow and a smile and headed to the kitchen to get her purse.

A half hour later they were dropping off William at Maggie Scully's house along with four thousand instructions, both Mulder's and Scully's cell phone numbers and the numbers for the pediatrician's emergency answering service, the poison control center, and the local police, fire and ambulance.

"Or...I could just call 9-1-1," Maggie said.

"Mom, don't scare me like that," Scully replied, kissing William goodbye for the tenth time.

Mulder and Maggie exchanged sympathetic looks. William blew more spit bubbles and tried to grab handfuls of Scully's hair.

"Just go, you two. Have fun and don't worry. We'll be just fine, won't we William?"

"C'mon, Scully, he'll be fine. In fact, he's looking kind of like he wants to talk about us behind our backs, so we should go," Mulder quipped, gently trying to pry Scully away from the baby carrier.

They were seated at a quiet table at the back of a Cheesecake Factory and Mulder tried to remember when the last time was that he and Scully had shared a meal alone together. Certainly before William was born, but he wasn't even sure if they had done anything more exciting than cheap take-out since he had returned from the dead. He thinks the last restaurant meal they had together had been as partners, before he had disappeared. It seemed like ages ago. So much had changed. They were still partners, for lack of a better definition, but of a very different kind. Instead of trading theories on the unexplained, they passed each other burp cloths and bottles; instead of filing expense reports and requisitioning rental cars, they wrote grocery lists and folded laundry together.

Mulder ordered a glass of red wine. Scully pondered the idea, but settled on a cranberry juice with club soda. Mulder got a nice, big, juicy steak with a baked potato. Scully ordered the roasted chicken with pine nuts, easy on the butter, and instead of rice, she wanted to substitute extra vegetables, but not broccoli because it made William gassy. When Scully ordered, she was like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. Except without the fake orgasm. Mulder had forgotten about that. It was one of the things about Scully that drove him crazy, but that he found adorable at the same time. He smiled when he wanted to roll his eyes and made a mental note to give the waiter a generous tip.

"We're on a date, Scully." He said it in both amusement and wonder. It was the same feeling he had each year around St. Paddy's Day when McDonalds brought back their Shamrock shakes. In the back of his mind, he always knew he'd get to enjoy one again, but he forgot just how good they were until he had one in his hand. "We haven't been on a real date since...God, would you count L.A.?"

Scully took a sip of her drink and nodded. "Oh, I would definitely count L.A.. You don't drop five-hundred dollars on dinner and champagne and not call it a date."

"Yeah, well, it wasn't our five-hundred dollars."

"True. But I'd argue that we earned it over the years."

He nodded and stared at her, a twinkle in his eye.

"What, Mulder? Why are you staring at me?"

"Nothing, just remembering some things...about that night."

"I don't know how you can remember anything - we drank so much."

"Oh, certain things are a little hard to forget. Scully, you were...Jesus, there are no adequate words."

Scully's cheeks pinked. She was obviously recalling the evening too, although he doubted her memories included the view of the top of her silky red head enthusiastically bobbing up and down on his lap.

"I liked seeing that side of you. You should consider letting that Scully come out to play a little more often," he challenged.

She stirred her drink with a swizzle stick and didn't look up. "I think that could be arranged." Now her cheeks were bright red and he found it adorable.

He glanced down at his watch. "Well, it is only 7:15 and our curfew isn't until eleven. After French fries and milkshakes, we could go to Lover's Lane and make out. If I have you home on time, your parents will never know," he joked.

She laughed. "Maybe we'll just stick with dinner and a movie for tonight."

"Dinner and a movie is good too," he said.

She looked up at him. "Mulder, I hope you know it's not that I don't want to. It's just a little too soon still."

He reached across the table to cover her hand with his. "I know. I can wait." Then he smiled and said, "You don't mind if I try and look down your shirt, though, do you, Scully? You know, just to get me by."

She pursed her lips in amusement. "Some things never change, Mulder."

He feigned indignation. "Well, I never! Scully, how could you even insinuate that I used to try and sneak a peek at your breasts at work?"

"Maybe because you did. It was quite obvious, Mulder, although you were pretty good at trying to hide it. Whenever I would catch you, you would always furrow your brows like you were just thinking about something and your eyes had just coincidentally happened to land there. If you were really embarrassed about it, you'd clear your throat and look down at your shoes. Sometimes, during your more bold moments, you'd purposely stand on the side of me where my blouse opened and lean down to whisper something in my ear, affording you the perfect opportunity for a glance."

Mulder's mouth hung open in surprise. "Holy shit, Scully. You caught all that? Why didn't you call me on it?"

She licked her lips. "I didn't mind, Mulder. Why do you think I wore the black lace so often? I suspected they were your favorite ones."

"Scully, you little tease!"

"Oh, come off it, Mulder. We both know that we were playing that game for years."

He nodded, smiling. "It's just funny to hear you admit it, that's all. And more than a little arousing to think you knew I was ogling you and liked it. But the real question remains - why the hell did it take us so long then?"

Scully sighed. "A million different reasons, I guess. The important thing is that we finally got around to it."

Mulder had many things he wanted to say in response to that, including but not limited to, "Hell yeah; I'm madly in love with you; let's get hitched and live happily ever after; and I really want to have a lot more sex with you. A lot." But right then their food arrived and Scully said, "This looks great. I'm starved" and dove right in.

Okay, food now. Happily ever after later.

After dinner, they headed for the movie theater. Mulder's vote was for The Mummy Returns, Scully wanted Moulin Rouge, so they compromised and saw Pearl Harbor. They shared a diet soda and a popcorn without butter, which was the way Scully liked it. Mulder wanted to ask where the compromise was in that, but then she would have just suggested they get separate popcorns and he rather liked the way their hands sometimes tangled when they reached into the container at the same time, so he kept his mouth shut. Unbuttered popcorn tasted the way he suspected Styrofoam packing peanuts would taste.

They both put their cell phones on vibrate during the movie just in case something came up with Will. Scully checked hers four times during the movie; Mulder checked his twice. They both resisted the urge to step out into hall and call to see how things were going. Maggie Scully had raised four children and three of them had turned into reasonable adults, thought Mulder. The jury was still out on Bill. Regardless, a seventy-five percent success rate suggested that William stood a good chance at surviving his evening with her, so Mulder rested his hand on Scully's knee and tried to concentrate on the movie. Then he discovered that if he leaned back just right, he could see straight down Scully's blouse. He suspected she was on to him because at one point she whispered, "Watch the movie, Mulder." He would never get tired of these games they played. Never.

At half past eleven, they made it back to their apartment with a sleeping William who, according to his grandmother, had a perfectly delightful time and had not missed them at all, which Mulder could tell made Scully feel both relieved and a little sad. They placed the infant carrier down on the floor of the living room and stared at it.

"Should I wake him and nurse him so he sleeps longer?" Scully asked.

Mulder tilted his head considering. "You know, just a thought, Scully, but what if we put him to bed in his own room?"

A slight look of panic crossed Scully's face, but she recovered quickly. "Do you think he's ready?"

"We have a baby monitor. We'll be right across the hall. It's up to you, Scully."

She seemed to be thinking about it as she unfolded William from the car seat carrier and carried him in to the changing table, obviously having decided to wake and feed him. Mulder noticed, however, that when she nursed the baby this time, she did it in the rocking chair in the nursery instead of their bed, which was where she usually fed him at night. William managed to stay awake to eat from both breasts, which, thankfully, offered the best odds at a long stretch of sleep before the next feeding. After she burped him, Scully placed William in his crib on his back, turned the night light on, and left the room with the door halfway open.

Mulder was already in bed when she came into the bedroom. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness and he watched her undress and pull on a pair of silk shorts and a camisole. Then she went into the bathroom and closed the door. The toilet flushed and then he heard water running. He pictured her washing her makeup off and going through her bedtime beauty regimen. It always made him thankful to be a guy. Pee, brush your teeth, hop into bed.

A few minutes later she climbed into bed and slid over close to him, resting her arm across his naked chest. Her fingernails traced circles on his sensitive skin. She buried her face in his neck and planted soft kisses behind his ear.

"Mmmm, Scully, that feels good. A little too good maybe." He turned his head to capture her lips with his. She tilted her head back and yielded to him, opening her lips and granting him entrance. His tongue met hers and they both emitted a moan. He reached for her, caressing her shoulder, her arm. He wanted to touch her breast, but he wasn't sure if she would welcome it, so he held back. Her breasts were in demand most of the day; he felt like he should take a number. As if she could read his mind, she clasped his hand and guided it to her nipple, taut through the slippery fabric of her camisole. Mulder broke their kiss, panting heavily.

"You have no idea how much I've missed these, Scully," he whispered, cupping her breast gently and feeling the weight of it, just a little fuller than he remembered.

Scully sat up, crossed her arms and pulled the camisole up and over her head and tossed it aside. As if in slow motion, Mulder could see her hair gently fall and cascade down her bare back. It was longer than it used to be before his disappearance. He liked it, liked to thread his fingers through it and feel it slip through them like perfect silk.

She settled back down next to him on her back. He took his time, enjoying her, circling her areolas with his fingertips and running his thumbs over her hard nipples. She arched her back against him. It didn't take him long to realize he had been unabashedly rubbing his erection against her hip while he was touching her. But he almost jumped out of his skin when he felt her reach down between them and scrape the edge of her nail along the length of him through his boxers.

"I don't intend to just ignore it this time, Mulder."

"But, you can't-"

"I know. But you can," she said, sliding her body down to his waist. She hooked her fingers in the waistband of his boxers and tugged them off. Then she bent over him and teasingly traced every inch of his cock with the wet tip of her tongue before plunging down over the entire length of him.

Mulder bucked his hips, raising them completely off the bed for a second before falling back down. "Jesus, Scully," he hissed, "that feels...oh my God..." His brain failed to form complete sentences.

Scully took up a slow and steady rhythm, sliding her mouth almost entirely off of him, while swirling her tongue over his tip, then plunging back down until he could nearly feel the back of her throat. After a couple minutes of this, she gradually increased the speed of her ministrations and added a hand to the base of his cock. Her lips rose and fell while her thumb and forefinger formed a tight circle underneath her mouth and stroked him up and down at the same time. She used just the right amount of pressure with her hand. When her mouth moved up on his cock, she tightened her throat slightly and sucked and when she plunged back down, she relaxed her muscles. To top it all off, he could feel the brush of her breasts against his balls as her upper body rose and fell with her mouth. He was pretty certain he had never had a blow job this incredible before, wondered if any man, ever, in the history of blow jobs had. Not unless he had been lucky enough to have one performed by her and...well, he just didn't want to think about that. Christ. How, where, when did she learn how to do this? Scratch that too. Better not to know that either. She was doing it to him now and that was all that mattered. Somewhere along the line, Scully had aced Advanced Blow Job Techniques For Experts with flying colors and he was the lucky bastard that was reaping the benefits.

She sped up with purpose and he gave up all attempts at thinking. Every synapse in his brain was focused on one taut muscle in his body, a muscle that was getting harder with every stroke of her lips and tongue. He could feel his balls start to tighten and draw up closer to his body. He knew he should warn her. The one and only other time she had done this to him, she hadn't finished him this way. They had both wanted more, to feel him inside her. But since that wasn't possible this time, he didn't know what her expectations were and he didn't want to surprise her.

"Scu...Scully..." he panted. "I'm close. You might want to...um..."

Was that enough of a warning? It was just about all he could manage in his current state. She had either not understood or not cared because she forged on, full speed ahead, stroking her hot, wet mouth up and down on him and pumping his base with her hand. He was just about to say something again, to give her one last chance to cease and desist, when he heard her make a very erotic humming sound in the back of her throat. He felt the vibrations all up and down his cock and that was all it took. He started to unravel.

"Oh God, Scully...I can't stop...I'm gonna come."

He threw his head back onto the pillow and jerked his hips, uttering a long string of vowels with just a tiny sprinkling of profanity mixed in. He felt the first couple of spurts release into her warm mouth, but it kept coming in waves. She swallowed some and then pulled her mouth off of him and aimed his still pulsating cock at her bare breasts. Several more jets of his fluid sprayed onto her chest, running back down over her hard nipples.

Mulder laid there panting, trying to catch his breath. Scully collapsed onto her back next to him.

"That was fun," she said, with a low, throaty laugh.

"Oh my God, Scully," he breathed. "That was fun? Six Flags is fun. That... that was a religious experience."

"You're not a religious man, Mulder."

"I am now. You converted me, Scully."

"Mmmm, glad you enjoyed it." She leaned over and planted a kiss on his mouth. He tried not to think about what had just passed through those luscious red lips. She didn't really seem like the swallowing kind of girl, but hey, she had proven him wrong about a few of his assumptions about her. He wasn't complaining. "Excuse me for a minute," she said.

She went into the bathroom, but left the door open. He heard water running and suspected she was cleaning herself up. She climbed back in bed a few minutes later.

"Sorry about the mess, Scully."

She settled close to him, her head on his pillow. "It's okay. It was a turn on, actually."

"You...you liked it when I ...on your breasts?"

"Mmmm hmmm," she sighed, "on my breasts...or anywhere else."

Mulder quietly tried to process that tidbit of information.

He smiled in the dark. "You're kind of kinky, Scully."

She giggled quietly.

"What else do you like?" he asked.

She nuzzled his neck. "You're a creative man, Mulder. You'll just have to figure it out on your own."

"I intend to make it my personal quest. The truth about the existence of extraterrestrial life and what turns Dana Scully on. I shall discover those two things and die a happy man."

They rolled onto their sides in synchrony, Mulder spooned up against the back of Scully, his arm folded over her waist, hand resting against her stomach. They drifted off to sleep like that and the next time they awoke, it was 6:40. William had slept right through the night for the first time.

"Isn't that something, Scully? And we thought he was the one keeping us up at night."

July 9, 2001

Mulder knew her postpartum check-up was today at 3:00. She hadn't mentioned it to him, but he had seen it written on the calendar she had tacked up in the kitchen next to the refrigerator. He tried not to get too excited about the possibilities. It had actually been seven weeks since William's birth, but he knew these recovery timelines were only estimates. She would let him know when she was ready. Until then, he would be taking extra long showers in the morning.

By ten o'clock, they had eaten breakfast, unloaded the dishwasher from the night before, changed the sheets on the bed, and taken showers. Scully had still not mentioned her appointment. By noon, Scully had vacuumed the entire apartment, called her mother, checked her e-mail, and made an appointment for next week to get her hair trimmed. Mulder had put together the baby swing Scully had received at her shower and three quarters of the high chair, even though there was no indication that William would be deviating from his liquid diet anytime soon. She still had not mentioned her appointment.

Scully made tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch and they ate quietly while Mulder did the crossword and Scully went over the paperwork for her teaching appointment at Quantico that would begin in two weeks. William lay slumped in his new swing, strapped in tightly and wedged in on all sides by rolled up receiving blankets. He busied himself with strategizing ways to get his foot into his mouth. The swing made clicking sounds as it went back and forth.

"So what's on the agenda for this afternoon?" Mulder asked casually. Anything? Anything at all, like, oh say, a doctor's appointment that you forgot to mention?

Scully didn't look up from her paperwork. "Not too much. I have a few errands to run. I wondered if William could stay with you for a couple of hours...if you're not too busy. Otherwise, my mom can probably take him."

"No problem. I'll be around. Maybe William and I will take a stroll to the park and see what's going on there."

That made her look up. "You're going to the park?"

"Maybe. Why?"

"No reason." She looked back down and flipped a page over a little harshly.

Mulder waited for more.

"It's just pathetic the way the other moms practically strain their necks to check your ring finger when they see you...or any guy for that matter...pushing a stroller."

"They do not, Scully."

"Are you kidding me? They do it when I'm standing right next to you, Mulder."

He smiled, completely amused by her. Scully had a jealous streak a mile wide and he found it adorable.

Mulder stood to carry his dishes to the sink. "Well, I'm only interested in one mom." He bent to plant a kiss on her neck as he passed her. He rinsed his plate and bowl and loaded them into the dishwasher.

"Besides, if it bothers you that much, Scully, maybe I should wear a ring."

She was half engrossed in her paperwork and half engaged in their conversation. "That's ridiculous, Mulder. Why would you wear a ring if we're not-"

Scully looked up at him, the apparent realization that they might be talking about something bigger suddenly dawning.

"I wouldn't wear one...if we weren't, Scully." Her eyes widened slightly. Mulder started for the living room, deciding to let that one sink in for awhile. "I'm going to pack up the diaper bag."

Mulder and William had returned from the park and the grocery store where they had picked up steaks to grill for dinner. William had guzzled a bottle and was sleeping it off on a blanket on the living room floor; Mulder had nodded off on the sofa above him. Scully got home at a quarter to five. The sound of the apartment door opening woke Mulder, but William snoozed on. Mulder, who was innately a very light sleeper, was amazed that any kid of his could sleep through ringing phones, loud TVs, vacuum cleaners, and sometimes even getting his diaper changed. Until he remembered where the other fifty percent of his child's genes came from. Scully was a first class, no nonsense, pedal to the metal, expert sleeper. She could fall asleep on airplanes, in rental cars, on stakeouts and desktops. No pillow? No problem. His shoulder had served as a substitute on several occasions. Mulder, on the other hand, had a complicated relationship with sleep. He had a hard time getting there and when he finally did, he was plagued by restlessness and nightmares. For many years, he didn't even bother owning a bed. Beds were for sleeping and sex. Since he got very little of the first and none of the second until about a year ago, he didn't see the point. Since he had been sleeping in the same bed with Scully, however, all that had changed. He slept better now than he had since he was a kid. That's why he didn't mind getting up in the night with William now that he took bottles. Even with the interruptions, he was still getting better sleep than he had gotten in decades. And he knew Scully was getting far less than she was accustomed to. In his experience, a well-rested Scully was the way to go.

"Hey, how was the park?" she asked loudly, tossing her purse and keys on the table.

"Shhh, don't wake the offspring," he gestured toward the blanket on the floor. "It was good. We only had to fight off a few lustful single moms today. It was a light day."

Mulder pulled himself up to a sitting position and Scully kicked of her sandals and flopped down next to him, resting her feet in his lap. He began massaging them. Her eyes drifted closed and she leaned her head back onto the sofa.

"Mmm, that feels amazing. I'll let you in on a little secret, Mulder. Contrary to popular belief, jewelry isn't the way to a woman's heart, foot massages are."

"I thought chocolate was."

"Well, that too. Oooh, yeah right there, oh my God, a little harder."

Mulder smirked. "I hope the neighbors are listening, Scully, because this is sounding pretty good."

"They can get their own massage boy," she smiled. "You're booked."

"Feet aren't even my specialty, Scully."

She opened her eyes and rolled her head lazily to look at him. "I'm afraid to ask, Mulder."

"Then I'll just have to demonstrate. Later."

"Speaking of. I had a doctor's appointment today."


"Mmm hmm. My OB said I've recovered nicely from the birth. She said my uterus has returned to its normal size and I'm only about five pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight."

"Did she...say anything else?"

Scully breathed deeply, then exhaled. "She asked what I wanted to do about birth control."

Mulder's hands stopped massaging. "Um, should we...I mean, do we...need it?"

"Are we planning on having sex?"

Is this a trick question, he wondered. He didn't want to appear too anxious, but what he really wanted to do was jump up and down and yell "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YES!" Instead, he went for understated enthusiasm. He smiled and bobbed his head.

"Thought so. Then it's something we need to discuss, Mulder. We didn't think I could get pregnant before and I did. Theoretically, it could happen again."

"How would you feel about that, Scully?"

She had the same look on her face that she used to have when she was sniffing out one of his outlandish theories and finding it utterly ridiculous. "Like now? I'm going back to work in two weeks. I'm just starting to remember what it's like to sleep four hours in a stretch. I can't even-"

"I don't mean now, Scully. I mean in a couple of years maybe. How would you feel about it?"

"I...have no idea, Mulder."

"Because I think it's a valid question if we're considering our options. I mean, if we're done...having children...then I could always consider doing something more permanent."

"Are you talking about a vasectomy, Mulder?"

"I think so."

"Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves? A vasectomy is permanent and we're not..." She shook her head and got up from the couch.

Mulder followed her into the kitchen where she filled a glass with ice water. "What aren't we? Why can't you say it instead of running away from it?" he asked.

Scully drained her glass of water and refilled it. "I don't know what you're talking about."

He decided to go for a major artery this time. "The hell you don't, Scully. I'm going to say something-"

"Please don't, Mulder. Can't we just-"

"With all due respect, shut up, Scully."

That did it. She stared at him and chomped on an ice cube.

"Just listen to me without interrupting for a minute...please. Then you can walk away or ignore me or whatever you need to do."

She bit her bottom lip and gave a slight nod of her head.

Mulder took a deep breath and continued. "I think you know how I feel about you, at least I hope you do. But in case you don't, I love you, Scully. There, I said it. And I probably violated a hundred little unspoken rules that exist between us and you probably want to run away right now, but I'm not going to let you. I love you and you drive me crazy and I can't imagine spending even a second of my life without you in it. And even if we didn't have William, I'd feel exactly the same way. I want you to marry me, Scully. Don't worry - I'm not asking you right now. I know you're not there yet. But one of these days I am going to ask you properly, so I want you to think about it. But if you don't want that and this is all you can give me, then I'll take it." He took another deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair until it stood up. He noticed his hand was shaking slightly. "Okay, I think I'm done now," he whispered.

Scully only hesitated a few seconds until she walked over to him and kissed him hard on the mouth. It was a deep kiss, a purposeful kiss and he hoped it said what he thought it said, but only time would tell. The cards were on the table now.

She walked to the refrigerator and opened it. "I see you bought steaks for dinner. How about lighting the grill. I'm starving."

A little after ten that night, Mulder came out of the bathroom and headed for the bed only to find Scully fast asleep with her paperback copy of Raising Confident Boys draped open across her chest. He turned off the bedside lamp, laid the book on floor and a goodnight kiss on her cheek. He would be lying to himself if he didn't admit that he had been hoping for more that night, but he didn't have the heart to wake her when he knew she would probably be up in a few hours to feed the baby. It had already been a year since he'd made love to her; what was another day?

The next night, Mulder went to play basketball at the Y while Scully and William went for dinner at Scully's mom's. On the way home, William had fallen asleep in the car and didn't wake up again until he was safely inside the apartment. Unfortunately, it was also that moment that he decided he had had enough sleep for awhile and proceeded to remain awake and alert for another three hours. Taking turns, Mulder and Scully fed him, bathed him, changed him, walked him, rocked him, read and sang to him. By the time their beloved finally passed out after midnight, even Mulder had to admit that sex sounded like just a little too much effort. He thought it might not reflect well on him, nor inspire Scully toward future intimate endeavors if he fell asleep during their first sex in a year.

The following evening at eight thirty, there was a knock at the apartment door just as Mulder was arranging the dinner dishes in the dishwasher and Scully was settling herself on the sofa to feed William.

"Are you expecting anyone, Scully?"

"No, nobody," she replied, hesitating before opening her blouse.

Mulder answered the door. "Walter. Hey man."

"I'm uh, sorry I didn't call first. I was driving by and took the chance I'd find Dana home."

"Yeah, sure. She's here. Come on in." Mulder stepped aside and ushered Skinner inside while Scully stood, holding William.

"I don't mean to intrude. Wow, he's gotten a lot bigger since I last saw him," Skinner said, grasping William's sock-covered foot, which kicked in protest at the same time that his face reddened and he let out a healthy wail.

"You're not intruding at all, Sir. Would you like a cup of coffee?" asked Scully, trying to juggle a squirming, hungry Will.

"No, thanks. I won't stay long. I just need to discuss a couple of details regarding the new teaching position with you."

William's whimpers began to escalate.

"He wants to eat," said Mulder, "and he hasn't quite grasped the concept of delayed gratification yet."

"A man who's not afraid to speak his mind," said Walter. "I can respect that. And I'm pretty sure I can confirm through experience that he inherited that quality from both sides of the gene pool."

Mulder smiled at that while Scully averted her eyes. It amused him to no end that despite the living, breathing proof that they had been sharing a bit more than expense reports and crappy diner meals, she still held out hope that it might have just slipped under the Bureau radar. Sorry, Scully. The cat's out of the bag, the ship has sailed, and the fat lady has sung on this one. All those people who were wondering whether or not there was a little hanky panky going on in the basement - they're not wondering anymore.

"I got him,"Mulder said, reaching for William. "I'll heat up a bottle. You two talk." He could've sworn he saw both relief and regret pass over his former boss's face at the realization that there would be no breastfeeding in mixed company this evening. She had argued no before, but Mulder knew that on more than one occasion, he had caught Skinner spending just a moment longer than necessary watching Scully leave a room, although Mulder hadn't phrased it quite so eloquently to Scully. He's pretty sure 'checking out your ass' were his exact words. He had gotten used to it over the years; most guys checked out Scully. However, appreciating the sway of her hips in a form-fitting suit was different than sneaking a peek at her exposed nipple. He'd rather not have to kick some ass tonight. Besides, if history was any indication, confrontation with Skinner didn't typically end well for Mulder.

"Would you like to sit down, Sir?" Scully asked.

She settled onto the sofa while Skinner took the chair opposite her.

"I want to thank you for all your help with the transition to Quantico, as well as the letter of recommendation," she continued. "I'm looking forward to getting started."

"Yes, well, that's why I'm here, Scully. I met with the Head of the teaching faculty this afternoon. It seems that a faculty member has taken an unexpected medical leave and there is an additional vacancy that needs to be filled. They would like you to teach three classes instead of two, Dana. I explained that you were returning from maternity leave and preferred a lighter schedule to start, but they assure me this additional appointment will only be for a few months."

Scully took a breath and raised her eyebrows. "Um, I don't know what to say, Sir. Two classes and three labs was already a slightly heavier load than I had hoped for-"

"The additional class is cytopathology. It's a ninety-minute lecture, two days per week, no lab. If you manage your time wisely, you should still be able to maintain a forty hour week. You'd have a TA working with you...and, I might add, an attractive salary bonus. Dana, you're the best qualified person to take over this position."

She managed a weak smile. "Of course I'll do it, Sir."

"That's good to hear. Now, there's just one final thing. I know this is very last minute, but the faculty committee will need a copy of your course syllabus by tomorrow afternoon in order for it to be reviewed and approved at the next faculty meeting this Friday. Again, I know it's late notice."

Just then Mulder walked back into the living room, a reclined William contentedly downing his dinner.

"What's late notice?" he asked, curiously.

"An additional course to teach. I've been asked to fill in for another faculty member."

He nodded. "Do what you need to do. We'll make it work."

Skinner stood. "Just fax or e-mail your syllabus to the faculty office by five o'clock tomorrow and if there are any questions about it, I'm sure they'll let you know. Oh, and I've been told you can pick up the key to your office anytime next week."

"I'll get started on it tonight," she said, taking William from Mulder and propping him over her shoulder, patting his back. "I hope you'll excuse me. I'm going to go get William ready for bed. It was good to see you, Sir." She turned and walked off to the nursery.

Skinner paused at the door. "It's quiet around Hoover without you two." He smiled. "And I can't even imagine how much extra money is going to be in my department budget when this quarter rounds out in September."

"So what're you saying? I need to stop down and teach Doggett how to make some noise and spend some money?" Mulder joked.

Skinner snorted and shook his head. "Just don't be a stranger." He reached out his hand and Mulder shook it.

Walter looked down at his shoes and shuffled his feet. "If I were to, say, need a mailing address for you for whatever reason..." he fished.

"It would be safe to bet on finding me here," Mulder smiled. "As long as I behave myself."

"Shit, why does that worry me?"

"Walter...ye of little faith. I can color in the lines if I have a good enough reason to."

Skinner nodded his head toward the hallway where a dim light spilled out from the partially closed door to the nursery. "You've got every good reason right there."

Mulder gave an assured nod. "Preaching to the choir. Take care, Walter."

Skinner left and Mulder locked the door and returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up.

When he finished, Scully was at her computer with a three foot stack of pathology textbooks next to her. "Why don't you go ahead to bed, Mulder," she said, fingers typing. "Don't wait up for me."

He sighed and leaned over to kiss the top of her hair. Then he headed for the freezer and pulled out the pint of Ben & Jerry's Karamel Sutra and a large spoon. If he wasn't getting laid tonight, he would at least drown his sorrows in food that sounded sexy.

By 4:30 p.m. the next day, Scully had successfully e-mailed her six page syllabus to the faculty office and she and William were both taking a nap. Mulder went for a run, then took a shower. Afterwards, he sat down at the computer to do a search of current real estate listings in the area. The idea of he and Scully moving to a bigger place had crossed his mind several times, especially as the end of her maternity leave loomed near and she would be returning to work. While he looked forward to taking care of William, there was only so much domesticity he could handle. He was anxious to start doing some of the writing he had discussed with Scully. If he was going to get anything at all accomplished, he would need some space to himself and their two-bedroom apartment didn't offer much in the way of an office for him. His computer, personal files, and most of his books were all in storage. He needed a place to stretch himself out and get the creative juices flowing again.

He and Scully had only broached the subject of real estate once. He suspected that in the back of her mind, she realized they would eventually need a larger place. Either that or she was hoping he would just forget about the things he had in storage and she wouldn't have to find a place to put them. The one time it came up, they had been driving by an open house in a neighborhood not far from Scully's mom's. The house was a large brick colonial with a wrap-around porch. Scully's eyes had lit up when she commented on what a beautiful house it was and that she had always wanted a wrap-around porch. Mulder had pulled over so she could grab one of the information pamphlets. He thought they should take a walk through, but when Scully saw the listing price, she told him that she didn't see the point. Mulder wanted to say something then, to tell her that they could afford far more than she thought they could, but he knew it would be awkward. While he considered his money to belong to both of them, he realized Scully did not. She still insisted on paying for the groceries every other time they shopped.

That night, they ordered Indian take-out because nobody felt like cooking and after William had been fed, bathed and retired to his crib, Scully announced that she was going to take a bath and get into bed. It was only a little after nine o'clock.

Mulder was stretched out on the sofa where he had been reading and munching sunflower seeds. "You're tired already?" he asked.

"No. I'm not tired."

His head snapped up. He knew that tone of voice. It was the same one she had used on an April night over a year ago when she had climbed into his bed naked and reached for him, whispering "Mulder, it's me." The same one he heard in the back seat of a limousine on a warm Los Angeles night after an expensive dinner and plenty of champagne. He had pulled her close and asked where she wanted to go next. She had brushed her lips against his ear and said, in that same low, sexy alto, "I think you know." He knew that tone of voice and so did other parts of his body that were already beginning to feel very, very hopeful.

"Don't read too long, Mulder," she said as she began to unbutton her blouse and head for the bathroom.

An hour later, Mulder brushed his teeth and headed for the bed in his boxers. He wondered whether to take them off before he got into bed, but just in case he had misread her intentions, he left them on. He was already half hard in anticipation and more nervous than he could ever remembering being with her. Even during their first time together, he had been more relaxed, probably because she simply surprised him naked in his bed and he hadn't had time to overthink it. Right now, he was terrified by the thought that he might only last a few minutes. He wasn't normally a minute man, but geez, a year without it can make any guy edgy.

He pulled back the covers and climbed in. "Hi," he whispered.

She slid closer to him and rested her hand on his chest. "Hi." Her fingers began tracing a path from his sternum to his lower abdomen and then back up again. She did this silently two or three more times and with each pass, her hand dipped just a tiny bit lower until it touched the waistband of his boxers and then stopped. He was fully erect now and straining at the front of his shorts. If her hand descended just another inch or two, he'd be an incredibly happy guy.

He hadn't touched her yet and the suspense was killing him. He rolled to face her and propped himself on his elbow. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough that he could see her fairly well. She was wearing something silky, as usual, but he didn't think he had seen this one before. It had tiny spaghetti straps and ended just below her belly button so there was about a three inch strip of skin visible to him before the top of her bikini panties started. He gently caressed the strip of skin and felt her tremble beneath his touch and goose bumps formed on her.

"Cold, Scully?"

"No," she whispered, licking her lips.

He leaned to kiss those pink, plump lips and she wrapped both hands around the back of his neck and pulled him in. His tongue tangled with hers and their mouths moved together, changing angles every so often. She breathed hard against him and he could feel the peaks of her breasts standing at attention beneath the flimsy fabric of her top. He slowly slid his hand up her belly, underneath the material until he felt the bottom curve of her breast and then traced it teasingly with the pad of his thumb. She pulled away from their kiss, struggling for air and moaned. Encouraged by her response, he continued moving his hand northward until he was flicking her hard nipple with his finger. She arched her back up off the bed and Mulder lifted her top up and over her head and tossed it aside. Her breasts were beautiful. They were round and full and firm with puffy pink nipples and areolas that were slightly darker than before her pregnancy. He still couldn't quite get past the fact that he had spent all those years trying to catch a glimpse of lace trim at the right angle through the buttons of her blouse and now he had his very own front row seat to the live show.

Mulder moved his hand down to her panties and cupped her through the fabric, then slid his finger firmly up and down the center indentation where he knew her opening was. She jumped at his bold touch and drew in a quick breath. He could feel her heat through the thin material and he hardened even more, although he wasn't quite sure how that was possible.

"Take them off. Please," she begged quietly.

He hooked his fingers in the top of her panties and slid them down and off and tossed them over the side of the bed. Then he snaked his hand back up the inside of her leg until he reached her center and stroked her slowly. Her thighs fell open in permission and he gently slid one finger in just a tiny bit. He heard her breath hitch and her hips began a slight gyration against his hand. She was slippery wet to his touch.

Scully reached her hand down to Mulder's boxers, inserted one finger into the waistband and gently allowed it to snap back. "You need to catch up," she breathed. Mulder nodded and was up on his knees on the mattress, very ungracefully yanking his shorts off in three seconds flat. Still balancing on his knees in front of her, his erection bobbed in front of him, pointing directly at her like the needle on a compass. She wrapped her hand around him and tugged it up and down multiple times, firmly and briskly.

Mulder hissed and steadied her hand with his own. "Mind the trigger there, Scully. We wouldn't want the gun to go off prematurely." He heard her giggle in the darkness as she pulled him down on top of her and sunk her tongue back into his mouth.

"Are you ready?" he whispered in between kisses.

She hesitated for a second, then nodded. "I think so. Just...go slow. And stop if I ask you to, okay?"

"Scully. Of course I'm going to stop if you ask me to. Why would you even think you had to say-"

"I'm sorry, Mulder. I'm just nervous, that's all."

"I'm nervous too. We'll go slow. And...if it doesn't happen tonight, that's okay. I'll still call you tomorrow," he joked, trying to put her at ease.

She laughed quietly and kissed him again. He felt her legs part further and he settled himself in the valley between them. He was incredibly aroused and his hardness nudged insistently against her. She reached down and positioned him at her entrance. He pushed forward slowly and felt himself enter her just a little. He paused for a moment and when she continued kissing him, he took that as permission to keep going. With great restraint, he pushed forward some more, but he didn't seem to be getting too far. While she was wet and incredibly warm, her walls were clenched down on him like a vise.

"Relax, Scully," he panted, pulling himself out and then back in slowly, trying to get in just a tiny bit further with each stroke. Mulder felt her stiffen and her fingertips dug into his shoulder blades.

"Am I hurting you?"

"I'm fine," she whispered.

He stopped moving. "I didn't ask if you were fine, Dana. I asked if I was hurting you."

"A little."

He pulled out, but she held onto his forearm. "Don't...I want this," she said.

"I know...let's just try something first."

Mulder slid slowly down her body kissing her breasts, her stomach, then her abdomen. He nuzzled the tip of his nose into the soft, smooth skin just above her trimmed pubic hair line and he felt her tremble. Then he kissed the tops of both of her thighs and slid his hands underneath to cup her ass, raising her off the bed slightly while he positioned his upper body down between her legs.

"Is this okay, Scully? I think it might help you relax."

"Yeah," he heard her whisper, breathlessly.

He lowered himself to her and traced the length of her opening with his tongue. He heard her gasp and her hips bucked once against him. "Oh God," she cried out. He kept going, slowly at first, then a bit faster, flicking his tongue quickly and repeatedly over her clitoris and pausing every so often to run his whole tongue flatly up the slit of her opening and dart it in and out of her tunnel. She moaned quietly and one of her hands reached down to tangle in his hair, pulling him toward her in encouragement.

He smiled to himself, remembering now how much she enjoyed this. They hadn't engaged in any kind of oral sex the first time they slept together, and it had taken a bit of convincing from him the second time they made love for her to allow him to do it then, but the two times after that, she had practically pushed him down there as soon as her clothes were off. Her enthusiasm for it was a huge turn-on for him - then and now. This was one of his favorite ways to enjoy her. He always knew she would taste amazing, even during all those years he spent fantasizing about it. She had hinted at the possibility that in the past she had been with a couple of guys who hadn't been that into it. Foolish bastards. She tasted like heaven on earth.

After working on her for a good ten minutes, he felt her thighs begin to tense and release gently as her hips undulated in time with his tongue strokes. He knew the tell tale signs that she was getting close. He was tempted to finish her this way, but then again, this was probably the best time to enter her again - when she was relaxed and aroused and incredibly wet. The overwhelming desire to be inside her won out and he pulled his mouth away. She whimpered at the loss of contact, but seemed to read his mind when he slid quickly up the length of her body and positioned himself once again at her entrance.

"Oh my God, now please," she begged, her breath coming fast and heavy.

He entered her again, still slowly at first, but was relieved to find it easier this time. She was still incredibly tight, but she was very slick and relaxed enough now to accommodate him without discomfort. In fact, it seemed to be quite the contrary. She moaned and exhaled as he sank into her and began moving her hips against him immediately. He matched her movements and established a slow and steady rhythm. She was hot and tight around him and she felt mind-blowingly amazing, even better than he remembered. He tried to keep it steady, but it felt too good. He quickened his strokes, hoping she wasn't too far from release because he knew that despite his best efforts, he wouldn't last long.

She raked her nails lightly down his back and wrapped her legs tightly around his hips causing him to sink even deeper into her and he groaned. "Sculllleeeeee... have mercy...please..."

She kissed him passionately and thrust her hips upward to meet his strokes. "Can you...go ...just a little faster..." she panted in his ear. He bit down on his lip and quickened his thrusts, using every ounce of restraint he had to keep himself from coming. When she reached one hand up to fondle her own breast, he thought he was going to lose it for sure, but somehow he held on and kept driving into her hard and fast. Suddenly, she threw her head back against the pillow and let out a little yelp and her thighs clenched around him in a death grip as he felt her internal muscles pulsate over and over again. Watching her orgasm was the hottest thing he had ever seen and it pushed him over the edge right after her. He thrust very hard into her once, twice, three times and then emptied himself, feeling a year's worth of tension and arousal and need and lust flow into her. He buried his face in the hollow of her neck and let out a loud groan mixed with some random consonants and, he's pretty certain, an utterance of her name and the "L" word.

Mulder collapsed onto her, but only for a second before rolling off and to the side to keep from crushing her. Both of their chests rose and fell in tandem, completely spent and struggling for air.

"Oh my God, Mulder, wow," she panted.

He'd take that.

He gathered her to him, wrapping both arms around her and she rested her head on his shoulder. He bent and planted several quick kisses on her head and then one on her lips. And then he waited. In general, Scully was anything but chatty. She measured out her words carefully, like teaspoonfuls of sugar. But of all the little things that had surprised Mulder about the sexual side of Scully - and the list kept growing, her propensity toward post-coital conversation was perhaps the most amusing to him. Each of the four times that they had been together before, she had rewarded him with a little gold nugget, a secret, a story, a glimpse into her past experiences or what made her tick. He almost liked this part as much as the actual sex. Not quite, but almost.

He traced imaginary lines with his fingertips on her back and side and listened to her breathing start to regulate. He wondered if she was going to fall asleep and disappoint him, but then she spoke.

"I was eighteen the first time I fell in love. I mean really fell hard. I had dated a few guys in high school, even had a steady boyfriend most of my senior year, but this was different. His name was Trey and I met him a week after my graduation. He was a navy brat like me and his family got relocated from Wisconsin to my hometown right after senior year ended. I met him at a party that Missy and her friends dragged me to. It was on this lake and I remember that I didn't want to go, but they all wanted to drink and Missy offered me twenty bucks and these little black boots of hers that I loved if I'd go and be their designated driver.

By the time we got to the party, I was already pissed off because one of Missy's friends had brought a joint and they were all smoking it in the car. It was Dad's car and I was convinced that we were going to get pulled over and arrested and our parents would kill us. I had a tendency to be a little uptight and bitchy back then."

Mulder grinned widely in the dark and wanted so badly to make a snide comment, but he knew it would shut her right down and he'd rather hear the rest of the story.

Scully continued. "Anyway, when we got to the party, everyone went inside, but I refused. I thought I was making a statement of protest, but I don't think any of them even noticed. Instead, I went down and sat by myself on this wooden dock by the lake. In retrospect I think I was just pouting because I had agreed to be the driver and couldn't join them."

Did she mean join them in getting high, wondered Mulder. Hmm, an eighteen-year-old stoned Scully. Back in the pre-M.D. days, before she had sworn to uphold the law, serve as a model of righteousness, and faithfully provide clean urine samples upon request. This was not a Scully he had ever contemplated before and visions of debauchery danced in his head. Now wasn't the time, but he'd love the chance to find out more. Scully and experimental drug use. She would always keep him guessing.

"So while I was sitting on the dock, this guy came down and started untying this rowboat that was down there, and once he got it untied he climbed in and asked me if I was coming. Just like that. I had no idea who this person was, but for some reason, I got into the boat with him. I could tell he was about my age and he had this really kind, gentle smile. So my rebellious side won out and I got in and we rowed out onto this tiny lake."

Would that be the same rebellious side that inspired you to get a drunken tattoo and spend the night with a hallucinating psychopath? Again, not the right time to bring it up, but he couldn't ignore the parallels. He hoped this story had a better ending.

"Well, we ended up talking all night in this rowboat. Missy and her friends couldn't find me when they went to leave the party. The car was still there, but since I had the keys, they were stuck. They had to call my parents to come pick them up and of course, Missy and her friends were all smashed, so they got in trouble. And nobody could find me. As it turned out, Trey and I had rowed into this little cove that was hard to see from shore. When we finally rowed back at dawn, my whole family was there - the neighbors and everybody had been looking for us. They were just about ready to call the police. My father was so furious with me and I thought Bill was going to hit Trey. But for probably the first time in my life, I didn't care what everyone else thought and it felt great. We spent the whole summer together and when it was over, I went to University of Maryland and he went to college on the west coast. It was a true summer romance, like something out of a movie or a book."

Scully sighed and her one fingernail charted an imaginary journey across his bare chest. If he hadn't already spent every sexual reserve he had, he would have found it erotic.

Mulder silently entertained thoughts of a younger version of Scully, longer hair, tanned and freckled, all innocence and idealism, before the days of stolen ova and dying little girls and evil men who wanted to wash her hair. He mourned the fact that he would never know that Scully.

What the hell. He'd ask. "So Scully...did you and this guy ever...I mean, I'm assuming you probably... you know..."

"Yeah," she whispered. "Not that first night, but ...yeah, we did." Another sigh. "He was my first."

Mulder held his breath. Wow. As far as gold nuggets went, this one was pretty sparkly. He had always assumed it had been what's-his- name. The senior year boyfriend, Marcus. Man, he must have been pissed. The poor schmuck had invested a whole school year in her and she gave her cherry to some summer Romeo she barely knew. Go Scully.

"How was it?" he asked.

"How was what? The sex? I don't know, Mulder. It was teenage sex outside on a blanket under the stars, jeans in a wad, an hour past when I was supposed to be home."

It sounded pretty good to Mulder.

She read his mind. "Actually for a first time experience, it was nice."

"I really hope you didn't tell him it was 'nice,' Scully. You really know how to boost a guy's ego."

She giggled. "It got better after that."

"Geez, how many times did this guy get into your shorts, Scully?"

"Well, like I said, we spent the whole summer together. And it wasn't like that, Mulder. I really fell hard for him and I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual. I don't regret it. It was...an amazing summer."

"Poor Marcus."

Scully snorted. "Oh please. All I can say is thank God Marcus wasn't my first. He would have been reciting the periodic table and conjugating verbs while trying to figure out where to...put it."

"Smart is sexy."

"Yeah, well. Marcus had nothing to complain about. Just because we didn't do it didn't mean that we didn't do stuff."

"Cryptic. Why does this feel strangely reminiscent of conversations I used to have in junior high school? What base are we talking here, Scully?"

"I have no idea. I never understood what all the bases were."

"Oh, that's easy. Let me enlighten you. See, baseball and sex are two of my favorite things, so this analogy works for me." He cleared his throat like he was ready to recite the Declaration of Independence. "First base is kissing, all types, even tongue. Second base is pretty much boob action or anything above the waist. Now third base is where it gets really interesting because it encompasses the most options. It's touching below the waist, so fingering and hand jobs are included. But it also means any kind of oral sex too, so you can really get your money's worth out of third base."

"How charming."

"And of course, I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that you know what a home run or fourth base is."

"Yes, I think I'm clear on that one, thanks. Well, based on those definitions, then the answer to your question is third base."

Mulder let out a low whistle. "Well done, Marcus," he said, reverently. "Whatever happened to the Rowboat Romeo, by the way?"

"Um, we wrote letters back and forth for a few months after we started college, but eventually the letters became less frequent and finally stopped. I heard through the grapevine a few years back that he stayed out on the west coast after college, got married and has something like three kids now."

Mulder was quiet. She could have had that, he thought to himself. Instead of neck implants and heartbreak, she could have had a husband who kissed her goodbye each morning and came home every night at six o'clock on the dot. Two cute kids and an SUV full of sports equipment and grocery bags. A house with a basketball hoop in the driveway and a golden retriever in the yard. A lucrative career in medicine, annual vacations to sunny destinations, and neighbors named Ted and Susan who came over for games and potluck on Friday nights. She told him once before that she doesn't regret the choices she made. He hoped she never does.

"Mulder?" she interrupted his musings.


"Quid pro quo. What was your first time like?"

"Well, let's see. I was sixteen. It was prom night and I took my hot eighteen-year-old next door neighbor to the dance. When I dropped her off, I had sex with both her and her older sister, who was a twenty-four year-old lingerie model, at the same time in the downstairs hot tub while both of their parents watched TV in the next room."


"I'm kidding, Scully," he snorted loudly. "That's my cover story. And if I close my eyes and think about it long enough, I can imagine it was just that good too. The real story is far less impressive."

"Which is-"

"The part about my being sixteen-years-old and it being prom night is true. As was the next door neighbor part. But that's where the fantasy ends. She was in my Global Studies class and her name was Candace, which would have been fine, except that she insisted on going by Candy, which, I think, says it all. Before that night, we had gotten together a few times to do homework and she let me feel her up. It kinda made up for the fact that she had no idea what the Bay of Pigs was and she thought China was a continent. So I took her to the prom. And afterward, I had sex with her in the car with Peter Frampton playing on the radio. I don't think it was her first time."

"You lost your virginity in a car?"

"Don't sound so shocked, Scully. Somehow I doubt I was the only teenager who hit a homerun in an Oldsmobile before. I probably wasn't even the first one to do it in that car. It was old. And old Olds."

"Front seat or back seat?"

"Back. Why?"

"Just curious."

"You've never done it in a car, have you, Scully?"

"I have so, Mulder."

"You're a terrible liar."

"So what if I haven't? I doubt I've missed much."

"Yeah, you have. Climbing over the gear shift, steering wheel pressing into your back, windows fogged up, panties on the floor. It's a rite of passage everyone should experience, Scully. But we can fix that."

"Mulder," she warned. "I'm not going to have sex with you in a car just to play into some horny adolescent fantasy of yours-"

"Not even if I say 'please'?"


"Okay. Your loss, Scully. You don't know what you're missing."

"And I'm perfectly okay with that."

She pushed the covers back and rolled out of bed. "I have to pee." She headed for the bathroom, still naked.

He got up and followed her. She left the lights off because both of their eyes had adjusted to the dark.

"Scully. We didn't use anything. Any protection."

She used the toilet and flushed. Moved to the sink.

"I know," she said. "The thought crossed my mind, but..."

He took his turn after her, standing at the toilet with his back to her, still listening. The intimacy of it was ludicrous - the idea that they pee in front of each other now without even breaking conversation.

"Do you think...I mean, is there a chance we could've just-"

"It's extremely unlikely," she said, shaking her head. "I haven't even started menstruating again."

They both moved to the bed and curled back up into each other. He folded himself around her and cupped her bare breast with his warm hand. That was another thing he had learned about the sexual side of Scully: she never put clothing back on after sex, not even underwear. Well, he only had five total experiences to draw upon, but so far that was the pattern. He wouldn't have thought she was the sleep naked kind of gal, and normally she wasn't. But it was almost as if she viewed the remainder of the night following sex as an integral component of the total encounter. Typically, Scully liked her space when she slept. If there was spooning or tangling of limbs before sleep, she would always disentangle herself as she drifted off, rolling over and entering her own little world, fiercely independent, even in slumber. But he learned that there were different rules after sex. She would fall asleep with her head resting on his chest or shoulder, or her thigh raised, hip flung over his. Sometimes his leg wedged between her knees or his arm rested gently on the slope between her waist and hip. Any number of pretzeling opportunities were allowed after making love.

"I don't know, I haven't had to think about birth control in so long it's weird," she said.

He sighed against her neck. "We could just...let whatever happens happen. Sometimes what you don't plan for ends up being the best plan."

She didn't say anything, but she tilted her head back and he leaned over and kissed her on the lips. Then she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, signaling her intention to go to sleep. He closed his eyes and buried his face in her hair and followed her.

July 20, 2001

Scully went back to work the day after William turned two months old. Although he had been down to only waking once in the night to eat, the baby must have sensed something was fishy because he woke three times the night before she was to start her new teaching position. Mulder got up with him all three times and let Scully sleep. When her alarm went off at 6 a.m., he had only just gotten William back to sleep a half hour before that. He groaned and threw a pillow over his head.

"I'm sorry, Mulder. Thank you for letting me sleep." She planted a kiss on the top of his bare shoulder. He grunted in response and she headed for the shower.

When she stepped out from their bedroom, fully dressed, he was in the kitchen yawning his way through making a pot of extra strong coffee. He had to do a double take. It was Agent Scully. She looked exactly like she had that day he left for Oregon over a year ago, except her hair was a little longer now. He could've sworn he even recognized the suit, although it was hard to tell. She owned no less than a dozen fitted black skirts. But she had that sky blue silk blouse on underneath, the one that brought out the color of her eyes. And she had on those black pumps with the four inch chunky heels - the ones he used to imagine her wearing while draped across his bed. Except in his fantasy, she wasn't wearing the suit with them. Or underwear. Just the shoes.

He must have been staring because she self-consciously smoothed down her hair and tucked it behind her ears. "What's the matter? Do I look okay?"

"This T.A. they're giving you. Is it a guy?"

She smirked and headed for the coffee pot. "I hope so. I requested one, preferably with a background in athletic training or exotic dancing."

"You're a MILF, Scully."

She tilted her head and shot him a look through raised eyebrows as she poured her coffee. The look said "watch it," but the corners of her mouth tugged gently upward. She sat down at the table next to him.

"Actually since you're a doctor, maybe that makes you a DILF," he said.

"If you do the grocery shopping today, I'll be whatever you want me to be later."

He stretched his bare foot and ran it up the length of her calf underneath the table. "Be careful, Doctor Scully. You wouldn't want to be late on your first day."

She left for Quantico and Mulder mused that those poor first year male FBI recruits weren't going to know what hit them when Dana Scully walked through the door. He could empathize.

Scully reentered the apartment again at 6:30 p.m. with a stack of mail in her arms, toeing the door closed behind her. She followed the sounds of splashing to the bathroom where both Mulder and William were in the tub. Mulder had the baby cradled between his legs and was leaning him back to rinse his hair, shielding his eyes from soapy water with a cupped hand.

"Hey," he said when he saw Scully standing in the doorway. "It was just easier this way. I couldn't figure out how you got a good grip on him leaning over the tub. He's too slippery."

She nodded. "Your way's good too."

"Wanna get in? Lots of room. The family that bathes together...conserves water."

She ignored his offer and sat on the closed toilet lid to sort through the mail, tossing the junk fliers and credit card applications in a pile on the floor tiles. "William's social security card came," she said.

"It's about time. Vacation's over, Buddy." Mulder feigned a stern look at his son, who stared back blankly and splashed his hand on top of the water. "The working world awaits. Don't think you can just lay around here forever, enjoying free cable and all the milk you can drink."

She ripped open another envelope. "Huh. We used twenty percent more electricity in the last couple of months," she said, nonchalantly.

"Air conditioning. We were here all the time. You used to be at work during the day," he reasoned. "And the fish tank. You'd be surprised." He handed a wet, slippery baby to Scully, who held out a terracotta colored fluffy towel. "I'll cover it, don't worry about it," he said, stepping out of the tub and retrieving his own towel.

"I wasn't worried about it. I was just observing." She carried Will and the remaining stack of unopened mail to the nursery. Mulder went to the master bedroom where he busied himself hunting down clean sweatpants. Grocery shopping was today; laundry tomorrow. He'd get this.

He could hear some shuffling noises and humming coming from across the hall as he pictured Scully with William on the changing table, stuffing his chubby little limbs into the light blue terry cloth sleeper with the dogs on it that he had left out.

Mulder headed for the kitchen where he opened the oven door to check on dinner. Twenty more minutes, maybe? Hard to tell. Chicken always looked done. He set the oven timer for fifteen.

When he turned back around, Scully was standing in the doorway with an unfolded piece of paper in one hand and William in the other. She had her arm wrapped around the baby and he was facing away from her and toward Mulder, his legs kicking a mile a minute. She looked like she was holding a stack of textbooks instead of a baby.

"What is this, Mulder?" She held out the paper to him.

He took it and glanced at it, then handed it back to her. "What does it look like?"

"Like a 529 college savings account statement. In William's name."

He nodded his head casually, opening the cupboard and taking down plates for dinner.

"Did you start this?" she asked.

"Yeah. When he was born. It's never too early, right? All those years at Oxford won't come cheap. You don't mind, right?"

"No, of course not. You just beat me to it, that's all."

Scully scanned further and then turned to the second page. "Oh my God," she whispered. "Mulder, there's well over a hundred thousand dollars in this account already."

"We can keep adding to it. I figured it was a good start."

"A good start? How can you...where did you get..." She stopped talking, apparently unable to manage complete sentences, then spun and walked into the living room.

He found her on the couch, sitting facing forward and staring blankly straight ahead. Her hands were folded in her lap. William babbled from his vantage point on his floor blanket. Mulder sat down next to her gingerly. Her eyes searched his. They were big and wet and full of trust and he hoped so badly that he deserved it.

"Scully, there's money...from both of my parents' estates. And from the sale of my mother's house and the house in Rhode Island. I want to do good things with that money. For William and for you. For all of us."

"How much money are we talking about?"

"Between five and six million." He heard her breath catch and she sucked in her bottom lip. He continued. "In cash and mutual funds. Another one and a half or two million in bonds that haven't matured yet."

They sat in silence for several minutes. Scully's eyebrows furled and her gaze rested on an invisible spot somewhere across the room. She blinked in even intervals. She was processing and he needed to give it time.

"I don't know what to say, Mulder."

"I know. I wanted to tell you before...I started to in my apartment when we were packing. But I didn't know how."

She let out a very quiet, incredulous laugh. "Is there anything else you want to tell me?"

He slowly shook his head and then smiled. "Just that we can afford a house."

"You can afford a house, Mulder."

"Don't do that. This isn't going to work if you do that."

Scully leaned over to pick up the baby. She pulled him to her and unbuttoned her blouse. William latched on, taking the entire areola into his mouth and suckling vigorously. Scully closed her eyes and her shoulders lowered in relief as a day's worth of milk let down. Mulder had noted that sometimes nursing was self-soothing behavior for Scully. When nothing else made sense, she could at least feed her baby.

"Scully, let me use this money for us... for him. I want to buy us a house, a place big enough with an office where I can write, a yard for William. A wrap-around porch," (for you, he left out saying). He gave her a hopeful smile.

Scully placed her mouth and nose against the baby's head as he nursed. She closed her eyes and nodded. Mulder reached and took her hand and she squeezed back.

A timer beeped in the kitchen. "Dinner," Mulder said, rising from the couch.

Scully gave him a wary look.

He shrugged his shoulders. "I can follow a recipe. I think. It did call for capers, though, and I wasn't sure what they were, so I left them out."

He sympathized with her caution. He thinks the closest he ever got to demonstrating culinary aptitude was heating up a can of soup for her. He's pretty sure it was after the second Donny Pfaster incident when she had stayed at his apartment long enough for the cleaning company to get the blood out of the hardwoods. He looked at the floor where an oriental carpet now lay, littered with baby blankets and squeaky toys. Was that the spot? Jesus Christ. They did need to get out of here.

September 6, 2001

"How many are we seeing today?" Scully asked, flipping through the real estate listings from the passenger side of the car.

This was the third Saturday they were going to be spending looking at potential houses. They had already looked at a total of twelve other houses, spread out over the previous two Saturdays. The first two times, they had taken William with them and it had been difficult, to say the least. This time, Maggie Scully had graciously volunteered to babysit William at their apartment so he could take naps in his own crib. They took Scully's car and Mulder drove, something that happened a lot lately and that he found interesting. There were car seats in both and sometimes they took Mulder's car, but mostly they took hers because it was a little bigger. And cleaner. He remembers when he was a young kid, back when his parents still liked each other, his father drove whenever they went anywhere. His mother never did, even though she was perfectly capable. It was one of those things he had noticed about couples - when they went places, the guy usually drove. He wouldn't have minded if Scully wanted to drive. But he still did a mental happy dance whenever she would silently hand him her keys and get into the passenger side. In his mind, it reinforced their couplehood. Wisely, he never pointed it out to Scully. Some things were better kept to himself.

"Five for sure. One last one that's on a lock box if there's time. When does your mom need us back?"

"No specific time. She said to make a day of it."

"Scully, can you check the directions on the first one? Is it Westchester Ave. to Summit?"

"Um, yes. Then from Summit, a left onto Highland. Number 2140."

A few minutes later, they pulled into the driveway of an attractive two-story modern house. "Too close to the road," said Scully and Mulder thought to himself that it was going to be a very long day.

The real estate agent's car was already in the driveway. Their regular agent was unavailable this weekend, so they were meeting a colleague of hers. A middle aged woman with blond hair and a lavender pant suit who looked like Mulder's first grade teacher answered the door. "Mr. and Mrs. Mulder, come in. I'm Deborah Ames-Lockwood, we spoke on the phone." She held out her hand to shake both of theirs.

"Actually, it's Dana Scully," Scully said, grasping the woman's hand firmly and shaking it.

"Oooh, you kept your name. I love that. I really wanted to, but my husband would have had a fit. He's very traditional, you know. So I hyphenated it, but I envy your resolve." Scully closed her mouth, apparently deciding not to bother. The woman glanced approvingly at Mulder, visually congratulating him on being so progressive. He silently nodded his head and Scully gave that tight-lipped smiled she reserved especially for uncomfortable situations and when someone told a bad joke.

Deborah Ames Hyphen Lockwood spun around and headed through the foyer, heels clicking on the tile, beckoning with her hand for them to follow.

At 5:30 they were finally driving to the last house. They had looked at houses that were, according to Scully, too old, too new, too modern, too close to the road, too far from the road, too unoriginal, and too self-indulgent (whatever that meant. Mulder had no idea). Some didn't have enough closet space, some didn't have enough windows, and some just reminded her of places they had been that she would never want to be reminded of. Others just didn't "feel like home" to her. Mulder didn't really care. She was home to him.

They pulled up in front of the final house, a two-story white colonial with red shutters and a circular driveway on a quiet side street. Scully got out of the car and walked toward the house without uttering a word. Her brows were knit in concentration as she scrutinized the outside of the house with the same intensity she used to decipher cellular matter under a microscope. She slowly walked up onto the wrap-around porch and ran her hand along the wooden railing.

"This home has only been on the market for a few weeks," the real estate agent said. "The family had to relocate out of state, so they're motivated to sell. Shall we go inside?"

They spent the next half hour wandering through the large empty house. Scully was mostly quiet throughout the tour, but when they had seen everything, she asked the agent if they could have a few minutes alone.

"Of course. I'll be outside."

After the woman left, Mulder turned to Scully, expectantly. They were standing in the large modern kitchen and late afternoon light filtered through the picture window over the sink. Mulder hoisted himself up to sit on the granite countertop, absent-mindedly gnawing on a sunflower seed he had found in his pocket. He had no idea what she was going to say. He had given up trying to read her mind years ago.

"Okay, Scully. What's wrong with this one?"

Scully drifted over to the lazy susan and spun it gently. "Nothing."

"Excuse me? I must not have heard you right."

"Nothing is wrong with it, Mulder. It's perfect. This is the one."

"You...don't think we should look at some more next week, just to be sure?"

"I don't see the point," she said. "It has everything we need. And it just...feels right."

"That's very scientific of you, Scully."

"Home is a feeling, Mulder. It's not quantifiable."

He couldn't argue with that. "Okay. Let's put in a purchase offer."

It was dark by the time they left the real estate agent's office after drafting a purchase offer. Scully called her mom to check on William and was assured that he was perfectly fine and that they should go ahead and go out to dinner before returning home.

"Where do you want to eat, Mulder?" They sat in their car outside the dark real estate office.

"I don't know. We ate a late lunch."

"You're not hungry?"

Mulder was quiet for a few seconds. These things had to be approached delicately. He reached his hand over and caressed her thigh through her black pants. "Not for food."

She gave him a sidelong glance and appeared to be trying not to smile. "You want to just go home then? You might have to wait. William won't be asleep for another couple of hour."

"I didn't say I wanted to go home."

Scully looked adorably bewildered for a minute before she got it. "You're kidding me. We're in a parking lot. You've lost your mind, Mulder."

"Well, we both know it wouldn't be the first time that's happened to me, but no, I was not proposing that we have sex in a parking lot."


"Actually, I had somewhere else in mind."

"Where?" she asked suspiciously.

"Come on, Scully. Let's go for a drive."

"I already told you once that I have no intention of having sex in a car."

"Go big or go home, Scully."

"Fine. Let's go home," she said, smiling triumphantly.

"C'mon. If you do this, I won't ask you to join the Mile High Club with me."

She gave him a look that was a hybrid of her 'what the hell are you talking about' look, and her 'don't tell me you just said what I think you just said' look.

"It's another fantasy of mine," he explained.

There was a pause. "And what if I said I was already a member?"

"I'd say bullshit."

She smiled.

"You're kidding."

Another smile.

"It was Willis, wasn't it?"

Now he got the 'it's really none of your business' look.

"Son of a bitch. I can't believe he got you to do that."

"As I recall, I was a consenting adult."

"Jesus, Scully." He regarded her with newfound awe. "How was it?"


He raised both eyebrows and gaped.

"The bathroom," she giggled. "The bathroom was small."

"Scully you wound me. You'd do it in an airplane bathroom with another guy, but you won't do it with me in a car?"

"You can dispense with the guilt trip. I will have plenty of great sex with you at home in our nice, big comfortable bed."

"Alright, we'll just make out then. I won't try anything else." He smiled mischievously at her.

"Yeah, every guy says that. What - do you all receive a manual with instructions on how to get into a girl's pants?"

"Yup. It's in chapter four, right between how to unclasp a bra with one hand and how many dates you should wait before attempting to slip her the tongue."



"Two dates. No tongue before the third date. Unless he bought you a really, really expensive dinner, then maybe just a little bit of tongue." Scully smiled, teasingly.

"That explains why I never got any. I always took her to Pizza Hut."

Scully laughed. "Alright, Mulder. Show me this place of yours. I might kiss you. With tongue. But that's it."

Fifteen minutes later, they had made no less than five turns off the main road and were making their way down a single-lane dirt road surrounded by a corn field on one side and a large clearing on the other.

"Mulder. Where the hell are we? I'm afraid to ask how you even know this place is here. Is this even on a map?"

He chuckled. "It is, actually, but not modern ones. It's an old access road to a canal lock. I think it's all just farmland now. The Gunmen claim that the exact geographical coordinates of this location fit into a mathematical equation that coincides with other locations around the Western Hemisphere where UFO activity has been cited in the last decade. Last year, we came out here one night to stake it out."

"Did you see anything?"

"No. We just ended up drinking a cooler full of beer in the back of the van and falling asleep."

"Party animals. Mulder, I'm sure this is private property now. It's probably even posted."

Mulder cut the engine to the car and turned the headlights out. "Relax, Scully. Nobody's going to come down here."

"Are you sure, because there was a farmhouse a couple of miles back when we turned off of the main road."

Mulder unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned over close to her. "Shhh. I never thought I'd say this to you, Scully, but you talk too much." He slipped his hand around the back of her neck and pressed his lips to hers. After an initial tensing of the shoulders, Scully finally let go and relaxed into his kiss.

Mulder stretched himself over the console far enough to unlatch her seatbelt and then tilt her seat back a couple of notches without even breaking the kiss. He opened his mouth slightly, inviting her in and she took the hint, her tongue drifting to meet his. She tasted so good, he wanted more. His tongue darted deeper, dueling with hers and she countered by flicking hers in and out of his mouth teasingly.

He groaned against her lips and his hand moved, on its own accord, to rest against the swell of her breast. He began kneading the mound through the fabric of her shirt. He was half afraid that she would shut him down, but she didn't, so he kept kissing her and gradually started unbuttoning her blouse. When he got about four or five undone, he reached his hand through to caress her soft, smooth skin and trace the lace edge of her bra. Jesus Christ, her nipples were hard. He could feel the peaks through her satin bra. He wanted to suck on one so badly. He reached into her bra and lifted one succulent breast up and over the cup of her bra and then broke their kiss to bend and tongue the tip of her nipple. At the same time, he casually moved his hand down her leg further until it was right at the top of her thigh. He rested his hand there for a minute while he continued relentlessly taunting her nipple with his tongue. When she didn't bother to swat his hand away, he decided to forge ahead and went for the button on her pants. He got it undone and started to ease her zipper down when she caught his hand.

"Mulderrr," she warned.

He pulled his mouth from her breast, breathing harshly. "Aww, come on, Scully," he groaned. "We're only at second base. At least let me steal third."

"You promised we'd only make out. That you wouldn't try anything else," she admonished, but her smile betrayed her.

"I lied." Mulder kissed the slope of her slim neck and touched her through her pants. "It'll feel reeeeally, reeeeally good, Scully."

She reached and covered her hand over the erection that strained against his jeans. "Like this?" He drew in a sharp breath and bucked his hips, pressing his hardness against her hand.

"Don't start something you don't intend to finish, Agent Scully." Because if this wasn't going anywhere, he needed to know now. When he felt her hand start to rub up and down, stroking the length of the bulge, he felt so happy he thought he might actually cry.

Mulder migrated his hand inside the flap of her unzipped pants and then up and over the waistband of her panties to find her slick and soaking wet. He slipped a finger inside her and she squirmed on the seat.

"Shit, Scully," he breathed. "You little tease. You want this, don't you." It wasn't a question that needed a verbal answer. The sight of her sitting there, blouse unbuttoned, breasts lifted over the top of her bra cups, pants unzipped, cheeks rosy and flushed. He could actually smell her arousal.

"Wanna get in the back?" he asked, his hand moving insistently against her wet folds.

She nodded, undid the last two buttons on her blouse and shook it off, followed quickly by her bra. Then she lifted her hips and slid her pants down, taking her shoes off with them. For a woman who, only three minutes ago wasn't sure she wanted to do this, she sure disrobed in record time. Scully was like the '74 Mustang his parents gave him for his high school graduation. Sometimes hard to start, but once her engine turned over, she purred like a kitten.

She climbed up and over the seats gracefully, wearing only her panties, her breasts hovering enticingly near his face as she bent to maneuver herself over the console. And you've never done this before? he thought, skeptically.

Since attempting the same acrobatics could end very badly for a man his size, especially with a raging hard-on, Mulder opened the car door and climbed out from the front, then into the back the boring way. Once he closed the door, he leaned in close to Scully, intent on continuing where he left off. He bent her over gently against the seat and kissed her. Her hands yanked at his shirt, but her arms weren't long enough to get it over his head, so he helped, tossing it into the front seat. Then she reached for his pants, her slim manicured fingers working his button and zipper with expertise. Her soft hand drifted into his boxers and pulled him free. He retreated from their kiss just long enough to utter a strangled moan and then continued tonguing her mouth with enthusiasm, his hand dipping back into her panties to rub her. She panted and pressed her wetness against him harder.

"Now what?" she whispered, stroking her hand up and down his hard shaft. A tiny bit of sticky moisture had formed at his tip and she licked her lips and swirled it around the head of his cock with the pad of her finger. If he didn't get inside her now, he thought he might die.

"It might work best," he panted, "if you get on top."

He slid to the middle of the seat and lifted her slightly by the hips as she straddled him, face to face. Her panties were still on and he was trying to figure out the logistics of that, but her tongue was flicking in and out of his mouth and her hard nipples were brushing against his bare chest and his problem-solving skills were currently MIA. He was thrusting against her shamelessly, her underwear creating a thin barrier to where he needed to be. She moved her hips back and forth with his movement, rubbing herself teasingly against him. Her panties were wet with her own juices on the inside and a little of his on the outside. The sight of her perched over him, lips red and swollen, fingers in his hair, eyes closed, firm breasts gently bobbing with her movements was going to kill him.

"Scully, please," he begged.

He felt her reach between them and yank the center of her panties to the side and sink down on him. They both groaned at the exact moment of penetration and she just sat there for a moment without moving, bottomed out on him. She felt hot and tight and he jerked his muscles, which she apparently felt because she countered with a raise of her eyebrow and a clenching of hers.

Scully locked her eyes on his and began to roll her hips slowly in a circular motion. Then she placed both hands on his shoulders and began to lift herself up and back down again in a steady rhythm. He wrapped his arms around her and cupped her ass with both hands, lifting gently when she pulled up and then pushing down on her with each descent. They locked mouths again and kissed and she picked up the pace gradually until she was rising and falling rapidly, their bodies making a distinct slapping sound each time she landed on him. He was so hard, incredibly rigid and he could have easily come right then without any effort, but he wanted her to get there first, so he concentrated on holding off.

The windows were completely fogged, which struck Mulder as really funny and he almost laughed for a second, except that his thought was interrupted by a sudden increase in speed by Scully. She began rising and falling on him faster, her breasts bouncing in front of him. He'd be lucky to last another couple of minutes at this rhythm. He hated to ask this question because he felt like he should know, but he needed a mile marker to pace himself.

"Scully-" his whispers came out in breathless bursts. "Are you close?"

"Getting there," she panted quietly. She furrowed her brows in concentration. "Sometimes...it's hard...for me. You don't have to wait."

That was unacceptable to Mulder. Intervention was called for. He slipped his hand down in the space between their bodies and found her center. Her body jerked when she felt his touch and she let out a gasp and a tiny high pitched cry of surprise. Her movements slowed for a minute while she adjusted her rhythm to his touch. He stroked her lightly at first, but when he felt her rubbing into him harder, he increased the pressure.

Her full lips were open and her back was arched, head tilted back, hair cascading down her shoulders as she rode him faster, grinding herself against his hand, his cock embedded deeply inside her. She was gorgeous. Mulder hovered on the brink, plateauing, trying to keep himself from coming while he concentrated on her pleasure.

Then he felt Scully's hand between them, next to his. She gently nudged his fingers over just a tiny bit, guiding him. "Indirect pressure...like this," she whispered, her breath coming hard and fast. He followed her lead and he was pretty sure he had found the right spot because her eyes flew open wide and she bit down on her lower lip, stroking up and down on him with intensity and purpose. She was hot and wet against his hand and he felt her thighs start to tense around him.

"Ohhhh God...right there, Mulder. Don't stop...please don't stop." She was grasping his shoulders tightly and whispering her words like a secret into his ear in between hard breaths. Then her whole body tensed and slowed and he felt her internal muscles clamp down on him like a vise, then release in a flutter of contractions that went on and on. Mulder finally allowed himself to coast over the plateau as he gave one last powerful thrust up into her, lifting both of them completely up off the seat. He grasped her hips with both hands and held her body down onto him tightly as he spilled into her in waves.

Scully collapsed forward with him still inside her. They were both covered in a light sweat, completely spent. He felt her breasts heaving against his bare chest and he held her body tightly to his.

"So was it better than prom night?" she whispered, trying to catch her breath.

Mulder laughed. "Light years. For one thing, it lasted more than three minutes."

Scully laughed lightly and slid off him, bending over the seat to look for her abandoned clothing.

"So about the Mile High Club, Scully-"

"No. Absolutely not."

"Come on, Scully. You did it already. I want to try it."

"I'm not having sex with you in an airplane bathroom, Mulder, and that's final."

"Okay, we'll just make out then. I won't try anything else, I swear."

"Oh brother."

November 11, 2001

"We've been invited to a party tomorrow night," Mulder said, sitting on the bed in his pajama pants with William perched between his legs, mouthing a set of plastic toy keys.

Scully had just emerged from the bathroom wearing one towel on her body and a second one wrapped around her hair. Steam billowed from the open bathroom door. He watched her pad across the bedroom floor to her dresser and open a drawer, perusing her lingerie selection with disinterest. She turned and gave him a quizzical look, pulling on a pair of cotton panties underneath her towel.

"It's a birthday party for Frohike and Byers. Langly throws a small soiree every year about this time."

"For both of them?"

"Their birthdays are a week apart."

"Who's invited?"

"Usually just me. And now you. Like I said, it's small."

Scully let the towel on her body drop to the floor and then bent forward at the waist to remove the one on her head and shake her wet hair out.

"I don't know, Mulder. I thought we were going to try and get the rest of the packing done this weekend. The movers are coming next Saturday." She faced the bed, hands on her hips.

"Yeah, I know, but we'll have all day Sunday and I'll get the rest done during the week."

William babbled loudly and tossed the keys across the bed. Mulder covered his little eyes with the palm of his hand. "Have some sympathy for the little guy and put a bra on, Scully. You just weaned him. He can't handle the pressure." And frankly, I'm having a hard time concentrating as well, he thought, but didn't say.

Scully smiled, then turned and pulled a bra from the drawer and started putting it on.

"Come on, Scully. I already talked to your mom about it and she's going to keep William at her place overnight. We haven't been out in a long time."

"A date at the Gunmen's lair. You sure know how to show a girl a good time, Mulder."

"How about we make an appearance and then come home and I'll show you a good time?" He wagged his eyebrows at her.

She smiled and gave him the exact same disapproving look she had been giving him for the past eight years when he made a suggestive comment. Despite the fact that he got to undress her on a fairly regular basis now, she still found it necessary to play the game. She even still blushed at him for good measure. He found it both endearing and highly arousing.

"Okay," she said, heading for the closet. "We'll go."

"Excellent. And if you wouldn't mind, can you swing by the liquor store on your way home and get a bottle of single malt scotch for Byers? Something top shelf."

"What about a gift for Frohike?"

"Don't worry. I got Frohike covered," he grinned.

"Do I want to know?" she asked.

"No, probably not."

Scully pulled a pair of brown slacks and a sweater from the closet and continued dressing. Mulder practiced propping the baby up in a sitting position and pulling his hands away slowly, like he had just built a house of cards and the slightest wrong move might send it toppling.

"Quick. Look, Scully, he's doing it again," he whispered. Just as Scully turned, William folded over and hiccupped.

"Oh man," Mulder said. "He's so close. He can do it for a few seconds, but then he jackknifes. We'll keep working on it, won't we Buddy?"

Scully bent over the baby, kissing his chubby cheeks. William tried to grab a handful of her hair, but she tucked it behind her ear. "Tell Daddy not to rush perfection."

Mulder took William into the nursery to change and dress him while Scully brushed, blowdried, polished, tucked and tamed herself into the public persona that walked halls and broke hearts at Quantico every day.

When she finally emerged, Mulder and William were in the kitchen, contemplating strong coffee and a warm bottle. Scully leaned over and kissed Mulder on the lips. "Bye. See you tonight. Make sure you give him a vegetable with the rice cereal at lunchtime. There's a jar of peas in the cupboard."

She turned to William and kissed his chubby hands. "Bye, Baby. I love you."

Mulder scrunched his nose. "Yeah, did you see the diapers after his last rendezvous with pureed peas, Scully? Why can't he eat green vegetables on your watch?"

"Oh and he loves the apricots, so feel free to try those on him again, but make sure he has a bib on because they stain everything an orangeish-yellow," she instructed.

"Oh, no worries," Mulder smiled. "We've got that worked out. We just eat lunch naked."

"Both of you?"

"Yeah." He grinned and bobbed his head.

Scully rolled her eyes and headed for the door.

"Don't knock it 'til you try it, Scully," he called after her.

At 8:00, they were at the door of the Gunmen's den, bearing gifts. A voice bellowed out from a speaker on the door, "Who dares to disturb the Great and Powerful Oz?"

"Shut up and open the door, Birthday Boy," Mulder said.

Six locks later, the heavy door swung open to reveal Frohike, wearing a birthday hat and Mardi Gras beads and holding a glass of beer. His face lit up at the sight of Scully by Mulder's side. "Ah, I see you have brought a fair maiden to sacrifice."

"Watch it, Frohike. Just because it's your birthday doesn't mean I won't hurt you," Scully said, smiling and walking past him into the dimly lit abode. She headed toward Byers, who also wore a party hat with his standard suit.

"Happy Birthday, Byers." She handed him the bottle of scotch wrapped in a red bow.

"Thank you. Wow, this is a very nice choice," Byers replied as Langly walked by, admiring the goods.

Mulder handed a flat wrapped gift to Frohike. "This took some searching, but I think you'll be pleased. Just do me a favor and don't think of me when you...enjoy it."

Frohike grinned and wagged his eyebrows. "Hey now. Is this the one with the two lovely little..." Mulder nodded, emphatically. Frohike continued, "How the hell did you find that one?"

"It wasn't easy, my friend."

"Well, thank you. Feel free to borrow it sometime." Frohike glanced from Mulder to Scully, who gave a tight-lipped smile and looked down at her shoes, then back to Mulder again. "Or you might not need it." He left briefly to carry his booty into the next room and stash it safely away.

"Did you guys eat? We've got leftover chili," Langly offered. "Or how about a couple of beers?"

"Yeah, you slackers need to catch up," Frohike affirmed, walking back into the room.

"I'll take a beer," Mulder said.

"I'll do a shot of the scotch, if Byers is interested in sharing," Scully said, smiling that smile that often followed a very unScully-like comment from her.

Frohike gave a low whistle of approval and Mulder looked at her quizzically, then nodded in understanding. The baby had just weaned about a week ago and she hadn't had any alcohol in almost a year and a half, if you counted the pregnancy too. This could be an interesting evening, he thought to himself.

An hour later, Scully had downed two shots and had switched over to beer. Mulder had put away a couple himself. A birthday cake was carried out and everyone, including Byers and Frohike sang Happy Birthday with electric guitar accompaniment, courtesy of Langly. Scully yelled "make a wish" before they blew out the candles together and Mulder wondered what two guys like Frohike and Byers would wish for.

"Who's up for some drinking games?" asked Langly, heading to the refrigerator for another round for everyone.

Mulder glanced at Scully and offered a skeptical look. No freaking way, he thought.

"It's tradition, Dude," confirmed Frohike.

Scully stood there looking bewildered and uncomfortable. "I don't think so, you guys, but thanks."

Langly held another beer out to Scully. "Come on. We're all friends here. It's cool."

Mulder smiled at Scully. "Whattaya say, Scully?"

Scully took the beer from Langly, twisted off the cap, and took a pull from it. She was silent for a few seconds, then took two more swallows of the beer. She shrugged. "Sure. Fine. Whatever. What are we playing?"

Another hour and several rounds of beer pong later and Scully was sitting next to Mulder with her hand resting on his leg, her cheeks flushed. She had done surprisingly well at the game, but given her size, he could tell she was feeling pretty buzzed. The good news was that she no longer seemed apprehensive about drinking games.

"What're we playing next? I'll take another one, Byers," she called out in the general direction of the kitchen. Byers appeared a few seconds later, more beer and chips in his hands.

"Let's raise the stakes a little and play I Never," challenged Frohike, raising one eyebrow.

"How does that one go?" asked Scully.

Mulder shook his head slowly. "I don't think she wants to play that, you guys."

Scully shot him her best twenty-first century feminist look and he decided to let her fend for herself on this one. He'd enjoy saying 'I told you so' later.

"The rules are simple," explained Frohike. "When it's your turn, you make a statement that starts with 'I never' and if anyone at the table has done it, they have to take a drink."

"And no lying. On your honor," said Langly.

"But if you drink, you're not obligated to offer an explanation," offered Byers.

"But you can if you want to," added Frohike.

"We can play something else, Scully," Mulder said. "You don't have to do this."

She looked at him, as if weighing the challenge and he knew she wouldn't be able to leave this one alone. Scully was a private person and the idea of this game undoubtedly scared the shit out of her, but if there was one thing he knew for certain, it was that she never took the easy way out.

"Okay, I'm in," she said, sitting up straighter in her chair. "Who starts?"

"I will since it was my idea," said Frohike.

"Be nice," warned Scully.

He cleared his throat. "I have never told a date I would call them when I knew I wouldn't," said Frohike.

Everyone except Frohike and Scully drank.

Langly leveled a look at Frohike.

"What? I'm a man of my word, especially with the ladies," he said, nodding toward Scully as if he hoped for a pat on the back.

It was Langly's turn next. "I have never ridden on a rollercoaster."

"WHAT?" four other voices chorused.

"They scare the shit out of me," he admitted.

Everyone else drank.

Mulder went next. "Let's see, um...I have never smoked an entire cigarette."

"Really? What about-" Scully looked at him.

Mulder shook his head. He knew she was thinking of his run-in with the tobacco beetles and his subsequent attraction to nicotine. "Took a few drags, but nope."

Scully raised her eyebrows and took a drink. Everyone else followed.

The rotation moved to Scully. She took a deep breath. "I have never stolen anything from a store, not even a pack of gum."

"I don't think I have either," said Mulder, thinking.

Only Frohike and Langly drank.

"See how easy this is?" said Frohike to Scully. "Piece of cake."

"Yeah, that was only round one," said Mulder.

"Wait, Byers has to go," said Langly.

"Okay, I've got one. I have never worn the same clothes two days in a row," Byers said.

"Not even camping?" asked Scully.

Byers shook his head no.

Everyone else laughed and then drank.

"Why does that not surprise me, Byers?" said Mulder.

"You live your life off-the-leash, man," said Langly, slapping Byers on the back.

"Okay, back to me. Round two," said Frohike. "I have never skinny dipped."

Everyone drank, but Byers, who looked to be considering this one carefully. "Does it count if nobody else was there when you did it?"

"You swam in the buff by yourself?" Langly asked.

"I wanted to know what it was like before I did it with anyone else," Byers said, with an embarrassed smile.

"Yeah, drink," said Langly, so he did.

"I'm up," said Langly. "I've never had sex with more than one person at a time."

"WHOA! He pulls out the big guns," yelled Frohike. "Drinking game etiquette suggests that you're supposed to wait until at least round three before you break out the sex questions, Dude. You're going to scare away our guests."

Some clearing of throats and shuffling went on around the table. "Well since it's already out there..." Frohike said, and everyone looked around the table, expectantly. Nobody drank.

Then Byers took a sip of his drink and stared down at the table.

"Fucking no way!" said Langly.

"You've never skinny dipped with a chick, but you've had a threesome?" said Frohike, thoroughly confused.

"I'm not obligated to offer any explanation," Byers said, carefully.

"Not now, you're not. But I'm getting that story, one way or another," vowed Langly, lifting his hand to him for a high five. Byers slapped his hand reluctantly, his cheeks bright red.

"Mulder, you're up," said Frohike.

Mulder took a deep breath and debated his sanity before speaking. "Well...since Langly already threw one out..."

Scully turned to look at him, her eyes wide and wary.

"I have never had sex on an airplane before."

Scully's mouth hung open and she looked like she was praying for a trap door in the floor to magically open and swallow her. Mulder stared back, smiling.

The table was quiet. Nobody drank.

"Always wanted to, though," said Frohike.

"Yeah. Me too," Mulder said with an edge to his voice, still staring at Scully.

She cleared her throat and lifted her beer to her mouth.

"HOLY SHIT!" exclaimed Frohike.

"Way to go, Scully," said Langly. Byers just gave her a sympathetic look.

Scully glared at Mulder.

"Oh man. I don't know how wise that was, Mulder," said Frohike. "She looks really pissed."

"I just want to know who it was if it wasn't Mulder," said Langly.

"No explanation necessary," said Byers. "Let's move on. I believe it's Scully's turn."

"I need another beer," she said, getting up and walking to the kitchen to grab one. She returned, popping the top off and tossing it into the garbage can, a perfect shot.

"Okay, the gloves are off, boys. Let's play this game," she said, and Mulder's stomach clenched a little at the edge in her voice.

"Here, here," agreed Frohike.

Scully took a deep breath. "I have never... had a one night stand," she said.

Mulder looked at her, trying desperately to hide his surprise. He had one name and one name only on his mind, accompanied by the image of her tattoo burned permanently in his brain. Scully met his gaze and didn't retreat. She was trying to tell him something important. He questioned her with his eyes and she gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head. The others at the table seemed oblivious to their silent conversation.

"Clarify the statement, please," said Langly.

Scully looked down at her beer bottle and picked at the label with her fingernail. "I have never had sex only once with someone I just met."

"What if it was twice in the same night with someone you just met, and then never again?" asked Frohike.

"Gulity, man. Drink," said Langly. "And bravo."

Everyone drank, except Scully. Mulder looked at Scully in apology as he set his beer back down. He suspected she wasn't all that surprised that he drank on that one, but she must have wondered anyway.

"Men are pigs," said Frohike. "You're a woman of virtue, Scully. And aeronautical creativity." Scully smiled and took the tease.

It was Byers turn next. "Let's see. I'll say...I've never smoked pot," he said.

"No kidding?" said Langly.

"I think I knew that," said Frohike.

"We could stage an intervention," offered Langly.

Byers chuckled and shook his head politely. "Just never really had the desire, I guess."

Frohike and Langly clinked bottles and drank.

"Okay, you government pawns," Frohike said to Mulder and Scully. "What's the story with you two? Let me guess, you didn't inhale."

Mulder smiled and lifted his bottle to drink. Then he looked at Scully. He honestly had no idea. They had never discussed it, but he had a feeling after the story she told about Melissa that she had certainly had opportunity.

She sighed in surrender and took a drink.

The rotation was back to Frohike. "Round three. This is where the sex questions are supposed to come out, but this is a group of overachievers. Still, I don't want to disappoint, so I'll say...I've never had sex in a car before."

Scully's head snapped up. "Mulderrr," she warned.

"What? I had nothing to do with this one, Scully. Honest."

Langly, Byers, and Mulder drank. Scully followed suit reluctantly, not meeting anyone's eyes.

All three Gunmen looked from Mulder to Scully and back to Mulder again. Frohike raised his brows and Langly let out a snort.

Frohike grinned and leaned to whisper something in Langly's ear. Langly laughed and they slapped hands.

"Okay, I got one," said Langly. "I've never had sex in a car with someone at this table."

Byers looked clueless.

Scully stared at her drink and her cheeks flushed, but Mulder could swear he saw the edges of her mouth tugging slightly upward. They both drank at the same time. Scully closed her eyes and he thought maybe she was willing herself to turn invisible.

"Just curious," said Frohike, smiling. "Does sex in a government issued rental car with your partner fall under trust building or professional development?"

"Ha ha, very funny. It falls under none of your damn business," said Mulder.

"Yeah, yeah, loverboy. Go, it's your turn," said Frohike.

Scully shot Mulder a sideways pleading glance. "Relax, Scully. I'm going to go easy on you. And besides, I think this is really cool. I have never eaten a bug."

Scully smiled and breathed a sigh of relief, then drank. Everyone else's bottles stayed on the table.

"That is cool, Scully," said Byers.

"What was it?" asked Langly.

"Cricket. Long story," she said. "My turn?" Heads nodded.

"Okay, I've got one. I have never ridden on a motorcycle."

"Really?" said Mulder.

She shook her head, sticking out her bottom lip in a fake pout. "And I've always wanted to."

"That's a crying shame, Spookette, since you wear the leather so well," said Frohike.

Mulder noted that a black leather jacket had indeed surfaced in Scully's wardrobe in the past couple of years and she did look dangerous in it. Not surprisingly, it hadn't gotten past Melvin.

"I'd take you out on my bike right now if I wasn't a bit sauced," admitted Frohike. "Rain check?"

"Definitely," said Scully. Everyone else lifted their bottles to toast her and drank.

"Byers, you're up," said Langly.

"Okay, I got one. I have never gotten a speeding ticket," said Byers, proudly.

Mulder and Scully looked at each other and Scully smiled.

"No fair. Those two have get-out-of-jail-free cards," said Frohike, gesturing toward Mulder and Scully. "Let's change it to never been pulled over for speeding."

"Start chugging, Scully," said Mulder.

"You have to drink too, Mulder," she countered.

"Only once since joining the Bureau, Scully. And one ticket in college." Mulder addressed the Gunmen. "But this one is the Queen of Speed, fellas. Three times that I can remember since I've known her. And that's only what she's told me about."

"So how does that work?" asked Langly. "Just flash the badge and you're good to go?"

"Pretty much," admitted Scully.

"Where's the justice for the little man?" asked Frohike.

"Well, in all fairness, we do get shot at, so I think a few passes when it comes to traffic indiscretion is not uncalled for," said Mulder. Everyone nodded, conceding his point.

"If it makes you feel better, Frohike, I'll finish my beer on that one," offered Scully.

"Inebriation always makes me feel better," said Frohike.

"Speaking of...I'm out, boys. I need to sober up before we leave," said Mulder, placing his hands on the table and pushing his chair back.

"Hey, I got an idea," said Langly. "Let's take some brews up to the roof and test out Byers' new infrared, long distance, night vision binoculars."

Scully looked at Mulder with a look that was the silent equivalent of "you owe me." He shrugged sheepishly and smiled.

An hour later Frohike and Mulder were on one corner of the roof, taking turns with the goggles. Langly was tipped back in a lounge chair with a handheld telescope aimed at the stars, tapping his foot to Bon Jovi. Byers led Scully in a slow and lazy jitterbug that didn't quite fit the music. She wore Frohike's Mardi Gras beads around her neck and giggled and swayed a bit more than usual.

Frohike watched Byers twirl Scully under his arm and than catch her as she misstepped and laughed. He leaned in toward Mulder. "She's a bit wrecked, eh?"

Mulder smiled. "She weaned the baby two weeks ago. You're witnessing the end of fifteen months of prohibition."

Frohike leaned in just a bit closer. "So off the record...you two...in a rental car? Seriously twisted, Dude."

"No rental cars were violated. There are rules against that sort of behavior, you know."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. We all know how concerned you two are about codes of conduct. Your car then?" Frohike wagged his eyebrows.

"Sorry, Melvin. My mother raised a gentleman. I don't kiss and tell."

"Sounds to me like there was a bit more than kissing involved. Come on, Amigo. Your bed proved to be a bust. No luck so far. The least you can do is throw a brother a bone."

Mulder sighed and shook his head. He kept his eyes on Scully, dancing and enjoying herself. "Between you and me. Because Scully would kill me."

"I swear on my substantial collection of adult entertainment."

"Her car. Two months ago."

Frohike stared at Mulder, processing it. "Do you have any idea how jealous I am of you? Any idea whatsoever?"

Mulder smiled and slapped Melvin on the shoulder. "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cut in."

Frohike watched as Mulder headed over to where Byers and Scully danced. Byers saw Mulder coming and held out Scully's hand to him. Scully wrapped two arms around his neck and leaned on him, smiling a half-lidded, sleepy smile. They swayed to the music, Mulder's arms around her in a full embrace. She leaned in and brushed her lips against his ear. "Take me to bed," she said in a breathy alto.

Five minutes later, Mulder was unlocking her car door for her. The Gunmen stood on the sidewalk, bidding farewell. Scully leaned on her tip toes to give Byers a hug goodbye, followed by Langly and then Frohike. Mulder smiled to himself, thinking she looked like Dorothy, saying goodbye to the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion, in that order.

"Scully, is this a new car?" asked Frohike.

Mulder shot him a death glare, but Melvin ignored it.

"No, I've had it for a couple of years. Why?" she asked.

"No reason. I just never noticed before how roomy the back seat is, that's all."

Scully looked adorably clueless and shut the passenger side door.

Scully was especially flirtatious on the ride home, running the edge of her fingernails up his thigh while he drove. At one point, she had even been so bold as to stroke the length of him through his jeans, humming softly to some 80s rock song on the radio. When he stopped at a red light, she unzipped him and reached in to pull him out and stroke him. Mulder groaned and placed his hand over hers.

"Scully," he warned. "If you don't want to get us killed, you need to wait. Please. I promise I will make it up to you...in exactly three point seven miles."

Scully pulled her hand back and pouted while Mulder grimaced and tucked himself back in while trying to keep the car on the road. Jesus. The only other time he can remember her being this obviously horny was when they had been in L.A. and she had started the party in the back of the limousine on the way to the hotel.

As soon as he parked the car and turned the engine off, Scully's seat belt was unbuckled and she was leaning over and nibbling on his earlobe. Her juicy red lips worked their way down his neck, her breath hot against him. She cupped is erection and rubbed gently. "I want you inside me. Now," she whispered. He couldn't get her upstairs fast enough.

By the time they had toed the door to the apartment closed, her legs were wrapped around his waist and he was carrying her. His hands slipped underneath the back of her shirt to unclasp her bra and she pulled both garments off and tossed them somewhere in the entryway, never removing her lips from his. Somehow they made it into the bedroom and he practically threw her down onto the bed, roughly. She let out a yelp in surprise, then a giggle. Scully on the bed, giggling. With no shirt or bra on. It made him dizzy. She watched him and licked her lips as he shed his clothes in record time. He stood at the edge of the bed, staring at her hungrily while she shimmied her jeans and pants down and off. Then she turned herself around and got up on her hands and knees. She tossed her hair back over her shoulder and turned to look at him. "This way," she begged, breathlessly. "I want it this way." She was, hands down, the most erotic thing he'd ever seen. Mulder pitched forward and sank into her and hung on for dear life.

Afterward, they lay exhausted and relaxed, limbs intertwined. She laced his fingers with her own and her silky hair tickled his chest. She was quiet and he wondered if she'd talk tonight. He waited, not expecting. She had already shared enough for one night. But he was wrong.


"Hmmm." He turned his head and nuzzled her hair.

"When I said I had never had a one night stand, you were surprised."

"Yes, I was. I had just always assumed...I mean, you stayed with Jerse all night, so-"

"I know. But I didn't...we didn't. I can't say that nothing happened, but we didn't sleep together." She sighed deeply. "But I wanted to."

"Why didn't you?"

"It felt too much like cheating," she admitted, quietly, "even then."

He nodded, understanding exactly what she meant.

She was silent for a minute. Then she said, "You did drink."

"I did."

"Was it in college?" she asked, tentatively. "I mean, I'm assuming there was more than one. I guess I'm unusual."

"There was one in college, yes. Stereotypical party hook-up. I was interested the next day, she wasn't." Mulder snorted. "Well, I guess you could count my sixteen-year-old encounter on prom night too, technically. It was the only time we were together, so that's a one night stand."

He breathed deeply. "Scully, there was one more. It happened during your disappearance seven years ago. I was... in a really dark place and it was a moment of vulnerability. It was stupid."

She was quiet, but he could hear her calm, steady breathing.

"Are you angry?" he asked.

"No," she sighed. "No, I'm not angry, Mulder. There was no reason for you to be faithful to me back then. We weren't together."

"Yeah, I know. But it still felt wrong. And it does now," he admitted.

Scully turned to rest her mouth against his cheek and he wondered if she was going to say something, but she didn't. She just kissed him lightly below the ear and continued tracing light circles on his chest. Words did not come easy to Scully, so it was a good thing that they never needed a lot of them to understand each other. He knew this was her way of saying "let it go, the past is the past."

He stroked her hair. "So I have to admit to being a little surprised that you never had a one night stand."

She shrugged thoughtfully. "I've come close a few times...hooked up with people in college and...well, you know. Did everything but."

He laughed. "And that's not a one night stand?"

"No, it's not," she argued, smiling. "You defined the bases yourself, Mulder. You said, and I quote, 'you can really get your money's worth out of third base.' I'm just frugal."

"No, that's called being a tease."

"I am not a tease!"

"I hate to break it to you, Scully, but sometimes you are. Although I don't believe you mean to be. At least now I know how you got to be really good at...certain things."

"You act like I was a prude or something. I had sex, just with people I was in relationships with, that's all." She sighed. "Medical School is a strange place. For a group of people training to save people's lives, to promote health and well-being, a lot of risky behavior goes on. Blame it on the long hours and the stress, I don't know. Sex with strangers just wasn't my chosen method of relieving stress."

"So what was your chosen method?"

"I'm not sure I really had one. I was pretty uptight in Med. School."

"I can't imagine."


"Sorry. Go on."

"I don't know what else you want to know. I partied some like everybody else, but not a lot. Less and less toward the end of school."

"You smoked pot."


"You drank during the game. You admitted to smoking pot before."

"Yeah, so what Mulder. A lot of people have. You admitted it too. There were a few times in college, once or twice in Med. School. I liked it, it was fun. Then I grew up. What's your story?"

"Um. Not much more interesting. Phoebe smoked it, often actually. I joined her once in awhile. She dumped me and that was that. Not since. Did you ever try anything else, Scully? Anything harder?"

Silence. Breathing. More silence.

"You've got to be kidding. Scully, didn't you ever hear of Just Say No?"

"Why is it important for you to know all this, Mulder?"

"Well, it wasn't. I was just making conversation, but now? Shit."

He could imagine her rolling her eyes in the dark. "In Medical School. I did amphetamines a couple of times." She sighed loudly. "It was everywhere...all the interns did it."

"Score one for peer pressure," Mulder joked.

"That's what thirty-six hour shifts can do to your self-control."

"That was it? Nothing else? C'mon, Scully. Never snorted blow, shot up heroin, dropped acid, smoked rock?"

"God, no! Jesus, Mulder. You're scaring me. Just what have you done?"

"Nothing," he laughed. "Nothing, but what I told you. And drank like a fish on occasion. Lots of occasions."

He felt her exhale and relax into his embrace. She felt warm against him and he could see the edge of her breast in the shadow of the moonlight coming in the window. It rose and fell with her breathing. He felt a twitch in his groin and savored the realization that he could easily go another round right now. Not bad for a guy who just crested the hill of forty. She seemed really relaxed, though. He didn't want to push his luck. There was always the morning since they weren't scheduled to pick the baby up until almost lunchtime. They had only had morning sex a few times because it wasn't convenient with William, but it happened to be one of Mulder's favorites. He loved reaching for her in the early hours when she was still sleepy and warm, her hair a sexy mess, and slipping into her. It was an incredible way to wake up and it relaxed him for the whole rest of the day.

There was one last question he wanted to ask her, though. He knew she wasn't asleep yet because her hands still moved against him in soft caresses. This was the Big One - the question he had wondered about, even long before they were a couple, back when he secretly admired her tight runners calves rising from her four inch heels, watched her tight behind walking in front of him in her fitted black skirts, imagined what the soft swell of her perfect breasts would feel like under his hands. He wondered who else had know what she looked like with her flaming red hair fanned out on a pillow, her back arched in arousal. How many others had known what it felt like to have her small, but muscular legs wrapped around their waist as they thrust into her until she made that little high-pitched yelp and shuddered.

"Scully?" he whispered, tentatively.

"Hmmmm..." she hummed, sleepily.

"What's your number?"

Her body tightened slightly in his arms. "What do you mean?"

"You know, how many others have there been? How many guys have you slept with?"

She was quiet and very still. In fact, he couldn't even feel her breathing now.

"Please tell me you're not hesitating because you don't know," he said with a nervous chuckle.

"No, I know. I'm just wondering why you feel the need to." Her tone wasn't one of irritation or even challenge, but more of cautious curiosity.

Mulder spoke slowly and carefully. "I want to know...because... we're in a relationship and, forgive me if I'm wrong, but I sort of feel like I have the right to know. As you do about me. And I want to know because...I love you and I want to know everything about you."

He felt her relax and then roll into her back. He knew this posture. She was getting ready to speak, but she couldn't be rushed. He had to wait for it. And he would. But in the silence, he couldn't stop the hilariously unsettling thought from running through his head that maybe she had slept with a lot of guys. Was it around ten? That wouldn't be bad. More like fifteen? A little slutty, but he could learn to deal with it. Jesus, had there been more than twenty? No. There couldn't be. She admitted that she had never had a one night stand, so there couldn't be that many? Right? Christ, Scully, hurry up and say something. Anything. He knew in his heart of hearts that it wouldn't make a difference. He'd still want her no matter what. But he couldn't deny that the thought of someone else's hands on her drove him just a little bit crazy.

"Six," she said.

Mulder exhaled. Relief flooded him. Six. Six was good. Really great, in fact. Six he could live with.

"You want to know who, don't you?" she asked.

"Well, yeah, of course I do, but that's okay. You don't need to tell me."

She breathed deeply in and out, then lifted his arm up to locate his hand in the dark. She placed her hand against his, palm to palm and then threaded her fingers in his. It was lazy and casual, but intimate. This meant she was going to tell him what he wanted to know. If she wasn't, she wouldn't have gone out of her way to touch him. He was learning the signals. She was like a puzzle and he was convinced that he had all the pieces, but he was still learning to put them together. He waited. Always waiting for her.

"Well, Trey was the first, of course. I told you that story. Then, I met Brian at the end of my Freshman year in college. We were together for almost a year. He transferred to another university after Sophomore year and by then, I guess we were just growing apart anyway. He was a nice guy. Astronomy major. A little geeky, but in a sexy sort of way, if you can picture it."

He couldn't, but whatever. Please keep talking, Scully.

"I was his first."

Now that was interesting. Scully took someone else's virginity. He tried to imagine how mind-blowing it would have been to lose it to a nineteen-year old Scully. Then again, no. His sexual prowess was severely lacking in the beginning. She would not have been impressed.

She sighed and snuggled up closer to him. He was riveted. It was better than opening a gift on Christmas morning.

"I didn't really date anyone again until my senior year. Well...not anyone seriously enough to sleep with. That's where that third base sort of stuff came in, you know."

He did. He knew. And his cock twitched at the thought of her swollen lips stretched around his throbbing-

"I met Andrew at a party toward the beginning of my senior year. My instincts told me to run the other way, but I couldn't. He was like no one I had ever been with before. He was dangerous and beautiful and troubled. He had long hair and he was a music major. Percussion. Never date a drummer."

"Noted," he said.

"I brought him home with me for Thanksgiving and Missy thought he was the cat's meow. That should've told me something. My parents didn't approve of him because he smoked and they disapproved even more because I did too when I was with him. He never really fit in with my friends and I never fit in with his, but I tried to overlook it. I just thought he was tragic and misunderstood. Turns out he was really more of an asshole."

Mulder nearly laughed out loud at that, except that he felt it might be inappropriate, given where he suspected the story was headed. Scully was not exactly a stranger to profanity, but it was rare for something to come out of her mouth any more dangerous than "what the hell, Mulder" or "Dammit," an utterance of "shit" now and then. She reserved the bigger ones for those rare occasions that she found deserving, and whenever he heard them pass her lips, he always wanted to laugh. It was somewhat like hearing his kindergarten teacher say fuck. He had only heard Scully call someone an asshole maybe twice. Of course, once in awhile she let a big one slip during the throes of orgasm and when that happened, it drove him crazy with lust and he couldn't hold back even if he tried.

She stopped talking for a minute and turned onto her side to face him, resting her head on his chest. He waited for her to tell him the rest, but he knew he probably didn't want to hear it. He already wanted to kill the guy, even though he didn't know what he did.

"We had been together for about five or six months when I caught him with somebody else. She was a Freshman. Her name was Felicia. Isn't it weird that I remember her name? Felicia. She was a music major too. I don't know how long it had been going on, but he had been with me the night before, so..."

"Ouch. I'm sorry, Scully. That sucks."

She snorted. "I think I'm over it, Mulder. It was fifteen years ago." She gave an exaggerated sigh. "But wait, there's more. The next month, I was ...late."

"Like...late late?"

"Not late for class."

"Didn't you, you know, use anything?"

"Yeah, but there were a couple of times when we didn't. Stupid, I know."

"Shit, Scully. What happened?" He couldn't imagine and held his breath. He knew she would have never, ever had an abortion. Catholic girl and all. Plus, it just wasn't in Scully to do that.

"Nothing. I freaked out for a week. Then I found out I wasn't. I never told him."

He pulled her closer with his arm and ran his other hand up and down the curve of her back gently. "You want me to find him and mess him up for you?"

"Um. No, that's okay. But I appreciate the thought. It's very chivalrous of you." She stretched to kiss his cheek.

"So that was college," she said. "Then I went to Medical School and I was too busy to think about relationships. I was more interested in getting A's than getting a man into my bed. For a long time. Then, there was Daniel and that was a big, long complicated story, but you know all about that. And then I joined the Bureau and there was Jack Willis for about a year. And that's it."

"But that's five. You said there were six."

"You, Mulder."


"How easily we forget," she giggled.

"Trust me, Scully. Sex with you is a lot of things, but forgettable is most definitely not one of them."

So the six included him. Wow. Even better.

"Okay, Mulder. What goes around, comes around. What's your number?"

He took a deep breath in, then let it out. "More than six."

"Yeah, I kind of figured."

He cleared his throat. "Eight. Including you."

"Really? That's it?"

He laughed. "You're not doing a lot for my sexual self-esteem, Scully. At least try not to act too surprised."

"I'm sorry. I just thought maybe there would have been...more. You must have had more opportunities than that."

"Some. I guess you could say that I also got my money's worth out of third base. I suppose you want the breakdown?"

"It would be nice. Fair is fair."

"Let's see...Candace in the car kicked things off, of course. Then, I had a girlfriend my senior year in high school. Valerie. She was Mormon. She wouldn't drink anything with caffeine, but she had sex with me. A lot of it. I have no idea why, but I think it's safe to say I didn't care.

Then I went to college and eventually started dating Maureen. Nice Midwestern girl, bright, very cute. Too bad she fell in love with her roommate while she was supposed to be dating me. Her roommate's name was Caroline."

"Oh," said Scully.

"Yeah. I was devastated for about a week, then I got over it and was subsequently very turned on. Sadly, they weren't interested in including me in their private parties. I offered just to watch, but...nope."

Scully snorted. "What is it about guys and ...that?"

"I don't know, it's just hot. Two of everything, four of everything, all slipping and sliding around. What's not to love?" He paused for a moment. "Hey, just out of curiosity, but have you ever...been with another girl, Scully?"

"Plenty of times. You just asked me how many men I had slept with. That's another whole list."

Silence. He swallowed hard. "You're...you're serious?"

She erupted into giggles. "No, Mulder. I'm not. But your reaction was priceless. Sorry to destroy your fantasy, but I have not been with another woman."

"Not even kissed?"

"Mmm, sorry. I was propositioned once, though."

"Yeah? Did you consider it?"

She sighed. "No, not really. I mean, okay maybe for a few minutes."

He groaned. "Uuuugh, I'm getting hard already, Scully."


"Can't help it. Sorry."

"Continue on. You're up to Maureen. That's three."

"Right. Well, then there was the one night stand I told you about. Your typical party hook-up. Embarrassingly, I wish I could offer you a name, but...it was a long time ago and I was drunk. It began with an L...Laura, Lisa...something like that. She had huge-"

"Keep going. Who was next?" Scully interrupted.

"Next would have been...Phoebe...at Oxford." He gave a big sigh. "You know the important parts. She wrapped me around her finger and toyed with me for almost a year, then unraveled me and left me in a pile of my own pathetic despair. I was an embarrassment to my gender.

So...I swore off women until I graduated. Then joined the Academy. Dated a few people here and there, nothing serious, no sex anyway. Story of my life. Spent time in Violent Crimes, trying to make a name for myself. Which brings us up to the start of the X Files and Diana."

He didn't feel her stiffen at the name, which was a good sign. "You two were...pretty serious," she said. It was a statement, not a question.

Mulder breathed deeply. "Yeah, we were. Looking back on it, though, I guess it was a relationship borne of a certain shared interest. We were like minded and I felt like she was the first person to understand me in a long time. She was a different person back then, Dana. Different than when you knew her."

"What happened? I always wondered."

"Um, I think that what drew us together was what eventually tore us apart. We were consumed with the work to the point that there was no room in our lives for anything else. By the time she told me she had accepted a transfer to Europe, I guess I wasn't even surprised. It had stopped being anything more than a physical relationship months before.

So, that just leaves the one that I told you about...when you were gone. Her name was Kristen," he whispered. "And in case you're wondering, I requested a blood test afterward."

"I know," she whispered.

He looked at her, surprised.

"I saw it...in your medical records...back when you were hospitalized right before I went to Africa. I saw that you had made the special request for a blood test back in '94, in addition to the regularly scheduled ones required by the Bureau. I figured that maybe...something had happened with someone."

"Why didn't you ask me, Scully?"

"Because I had no right to. It was your personal life, Mulder."

"I'm sorry, Scully."

"Forget about it, Mulder. You did nothing wrong."

"I'm still glad you know about it now." He sighed and pulled her up tight against him. "So that's the big, impressive list. And then there's you, of course. But ...it was always you...long before it really was you. If that makes any kind of sense."

She smiled against him. "Strangely, it does."

They rolled together to face in the same direction, their bodies molded tightly. He wrapped his arm around her waist and rested the palm of his hand against her stomach. He laid his cheek again hers and kissed her.

"Mulder," she whispered.


"You're good about saying it and I'm not, but I want to be." He felt her draw a deep breath against him. "I love you. Sometimes I feel like the words aren't enough, like they can't possibly capture this thing between us, so I don't say them. But I'll try to be better about it. I just wanted you to know that it's there, even when I'm not saying it."

He smiled against her cheek. "I know, Scully. I know."

November 18, 2001

"That's the last of it, Mrs. Mulder." The nametag sewn onto his blue striped uniform read Chad and he wore a goatee and sunglasses.

"It's Scully. Dana Scully," she replied, hands on her hips and dirt smudged on her face. She wore a white fitted T-shirt and jeans. A blue handkerchief was tied around her hair to keep it off her face. Who wore a white shirt to move? Mulder thought. He looked at Scully, shrugged his shoulders and gave her his best "what're ya gonna do?" look. Maggie Scully sat on the couch that had just been deposited in the center of the room and bounced William on her knee. She did her best to ignore the entire exchange the same way she ignored the fact that they shared a six-month-old and a queen- sized bed together. And now a two-story colonial.

Chad looked nonplussed at Scully's correction. As long as he got paid, he'd call her anything she wanted. "Um, okay. Just sign here." He held out a clipboard to her.

After the movers left, Scully retreated to the kitchen to continue disinfecting the hell out of it before she put the dishes away.

"Why don't William and I start unpacking some of the things in his room?" Maggie Scully suggested, standing and carrying the baby with her toward the stairs.

"That would be a big help, Mom, thanks," replied Dana.

She turned to Mulder with the posture she reserved for times when she thought there was something helpful he could be doing, but wasn't. "Mulder, can you please look for my box content inventory list? I need to know which box has William's bottles and dishware in it so I can get that stuff put away first. And then there's a box in the upstairs hallway marked BED LINENS. If you could start making up beds, that would be great."

He nodded and shuffled off in search of Scully's list. Not surprisingly, she had a system for moving that rivaled even the best disaster relief efforts. Every box had a number that corresponded to a matching number on an inventory list. The inventory list had a detailed description of all the items that were packed in that box. That way, they could find everything they needed in record time. It did make sense, he'd admit. And it probably worked better than his unpacking method, which was: give the box a gentle shake. If it didn't rattle, it was probably towels or sheets. If that's what you needed, open it. If not, shake another one. All the leftover boxes from his old apartment were stuffed into the room he would use as his office. None of them had numbers on them. He had no fucking idea what was in any of them.

There was a knock at the door. Mulder opened it to find the Long Gunmen standing there.

"Greetings, Homeowner," said Frohike. "We can't stay long. We just wanted to drop off your housewarming gift."

"Who is it, Mulder?" Scully called from behind a row of boxes at the entryway to the kitchen. Was it wrong that Mulder was amused by the fact that she was too short to be seen behind the stacks of boxes?

"It's the welcome wagon," Mulder said.

Scully walked in, armed with a bottle of cleaning spray. Frohike stepped forward and extended his hand toward her. It held a container of bubble bath.

"Wow. You shouldn't have," Scully said, looking down at it with a blank look.

"That's for later because Mulder said you guys had a Jacuzzi tub. Thought it may come in handy, if you know what I mean." Frohike wagged his eyebrows. "Your real gift is outside."

Both Mulder and Scully went to the window to look out.

"It's a lawnmower," said Scully. "Mulder, they bought us a lawnmower."

"We figured you didn't have one yet," explained Byers.

"And you have a lawn now, so we thought it might come in handy," added Langly.

"That is very practical of you guys. Thank you," said Scully, with sincerity. She turned to Mulder. "Do you know how to mow a lawn, Mulder?"

"Um yeah. I know how to mow a lawn, Scully."

"Good. That's good," she said, placing her hand on his upper arm. "I'll just go and ...put this in the bathroom then. Thank you again, guys." Scully walked off with the bottle of bubble bath.

"Scully's acting a little weird," said Frohike.

"She's unpacking. And cleaning. Chaos doesn't agree with Scully," observed Mulder. "She'll be back to herself when we can see the floor."

"I like the look, though," smiled Frohike. "She does the whole tasty housewife thing well."

Mulder leveled a look at him and shook his head slowly.

"Too far, huh?"

"Just a little," said Mulder.

Mulder retreated to his office to contemplate the wall of boxes there. He and Scully had mutually agreed that he would take the den on the first floor as his office. It made the most sense because he would be home taking care of William while he was writing, so he needed to be in the middle of the action. Scully took the smallest bedroom on the second floor as her office. Then there was the master bedroom, William's room, and one other bedroom. Scully referred to that one has the guest bedroom, but he couldn't miss the fact that she instructed the movers to put all the boxes with the outgrown baby clothes in that closet. There hadn't been any discussion about birth control since it had come up back in July. She seemed content to go along with his suggestion to just see what happened. He didn't think there was any chance of anything happening quite yet. He didn't even think she had gotten a period since weaning the baby, but then again, it's not something she would have mentioned even if she had. He had detected no evidence of it, though. He remembers one time, several years ago when they had been working a case out of town. Scully had asked him to stop by a pharmacy. She had come out to the car with a bag and he could see the label on a box of tampons clearly through the thin plastic. He remembers that it had struck him as so intimately female and strange - the concept that Scully got her period, just like every other normal woman. She was so fiercely private that little things like that had boggled his mind.

He looked around the den. His familiar things were there. His desk was in one corner with his computer on it. A bookshelf was next to it and there were some built-in shelves above the desk. His leather sofa rested against one wall. It looked happy to be there. He had offered to put his fish tank in his office too, but Scully said she wanted it in the family room. It apparently had a calming effect on the baby. He knew it was because Scully and the fish had bonded during their stay in her apartment. They were his fish, but they liked her better. He couldn't blame them.

Mulder opened up boxes of books and began lining them up on shelves. In the bottom of one of the boxes marked MULDER ESTATE there was a small metal box with a combination lock on it. He knew the combination by heart and he opened it, spinning the dial without even paying attention. Inside, buried beneath miscellaneous documents and bonds, was a small black velvet box. Mulder opened it and looked at the ring inside. He took it out and slipped it over his pinky finger. It only fit over the first knuckle and then stopped, too small to go further. The stone was exquisite, a two carat diamond solitaire, appraised at more than five times what he had ever had in his bank account before his parents died. It had been his mother's ring and Mulder knew who should have it. It had stopped becoming a question of "if" for him and became a question of "when" over a year ago, before he went missing, maybe even earlier if he were being honest with himself.

He regarded it carefully now. He had learned some things about Scully during these last few months of cohabitating with her. One of them was that she had a taste for the finer things, yet her style was simple. The clothing that hung on her side of the closet was well- made from quality designers. Her preference was to sleep in silk. She would rather own fewer items of higher quality than an overabundance of mediocrity. She liked things that were simple and conservative. She owned very little jewelry and what she did have was classic and tasteful. Looking at the ring now, it struck him that the stone suited her, but the setting was a little too showy for her tastes. He made a mental note to take it to a jeweler this week and have it reset into something that would better suit her. If he had even a chance at getting the answer he hoped for, he needed to put his best foot forward.

Mulder had put the ring back in the box and was returning it to its safekeeping when he heard the sound of glass breaking coming from the kitchen, followed by an utterance of profanity. He headed that way.

"Scully? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, I just broke something and I don't have any shoes on."

Mulder glanced down at her bare feet, pink toes peeking out from the bottom of a pair of faded blue jeans. He still wasn't entirely used to how short she was without her work heels. She was positively child-like.

"Hang on, Scully." He walked over to her and scooped her up, swinging her legs over his forearm in one smooth movement and removing her from the mess. "Does this count as carrying you over the threshold?" he joked.

She just gave him an amused look and a smile. It warmed him to see that marital innuendos didn't send her running for the hills, like they used to. That was a very encouraging sign. He deposited her gently on the oriental rug in the formal living room. "There's a broom and dustpan in the pantry," she said. "I'll put some shoes on and be right there."

A few minutes later, Scully reappeared in the kitchen with tennis shoes on. He had most of the big pieces picked up and was sweeping the tiny fragments onto the dustpan. She slid the garbage can over to the remaining mess.

"Thanks, Hon. I think I got it from here," she said, her eyes sweeping the vicinity, trying to spot any errant pieces of glass that may have taken a detour toward the stove or underneath the counter. She reached for his dustpan, but he held it tight and stared at her from his crouched position. His eyes were cautious and unsure, as if teetering on the edge of something steep and meaningful.

"What?" she asked.

"Did you hear what you said?"

"Yeah, I said I got it from here." She held out her hand for the dustpan again, a bit more urgently. He was clearly holding up progress.

"You called me Hon."

"No, I didn't. Mulder, you're hearing things."

He knew what he heard, clear as a sunny day, although he'd never convince her of it. But it was enough. He'd just wait for it again. And in the meantime, he'd get that ring reset.

Mulder stepped toward her and grasped her outstretched hand - the one that had been waiting for the dustpan. It would have to wait a little longer. He pulled her to a standing position, then hooked his hands underneath her arms and hoisted her onto the counter, facing him.

"What are you doing? We need to get this mess-"

He captured her moving lips in his and drank her in. She tensed for a second, her task-driven side vying for control. Then he felt her concede and respond to him, relaxing into his kiss. The kiss deepened and they changed angles mid-stream. His slipped his hands just inside the back of her T-shirt to feel her smooth skin and he felt her wrap both legs around his waist. They were making out, he mused, almost allowing a laugh to escape him. On the kitchen counter in their new house. Making out like kids.

Suddenly, another voice rounded the corner into the kitchen. "Dana, is everything okay? I had William on the changing table and I heard--- ooops! Oh my goodness, I'm sorry." Maggie's face turned bright pink and Mulder knew where Scully had inherited that endearing little quality from. Mrs. Scully spun on her heels and started to head back out of the kitchen. "I can see that you're perfectly fine, so I'll just-"

"It's okay, Mom. I um...broke something and Mulder was just helping me clean it up." Scully hopped down off the counter and smoothed her shirt with her hands. Her cheeks were also a deep rosy color.

"Actually, it's about time I headed home anyway. The baby is asleep in his crib - he just couldn't keep his little eyes open a second longer. We got most of his clothing put away, but you might want to rearrange the drawers to your liking."

"Thank you so much, Mom, for all your help with William today."

"Yes, thanks, Maggie," Mulder added, trying to forget that he had just been caught with his hands up her daughter's shirt.

Maggie gathered her purse from the table. "Oh, and I put a dish of chicken parmesan and a tossed salad in your refrigerator for dinner. Just heat it up, okay?" She leaned to give each of them farewell hugs and Mulder realized that it actually wasn't all that weird hugging Scully's mom anymore, which was cool.

"And by the way, I'd really love to take William overnight again soon. Maybe next weekend? Think about it. I know you two could use the time to get settled in. Alone." She leveled a look at them both. Nope, not the least bit awkward.

Maggie left and Mulder realized they were alone in their new house for the first time. Well, as alone as they could be with a sleeping baby who was scheduled to wake up and eat again in about an hour.

"Where were we, Scully?" He wrapped his arms around her and started nibbling at her neck.

"I think we were cleaning up this mess."

"Mmmm, no, not ringing any bells, I'm sorry. But this...this I remember..." He slid one hand up the back of her shirt and kissed her hard on the lips.

"Mulder," she moaned a weak protest through the kiss.

"Scully, one hour. We might have one hour, if we're lucky. Whattaya say we go upstairs and do some housewarming of our own?"

She giggled. "Mulder, your unpacking skills need some work."

"Maybe, but I'm really good at figuring out where to put things. Come on, let me show you."

He grabbed her hand and she allowed him to lead her up the stairs and into their bedroom and to the moon and back, and she even got to see stars - twice, actually. And it didn't even take a whole hour.

The End

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