Title: Terra Firma VI. Persona non Grata
Author: Malibu Sunset
E-mail: malibusunset88@gmail.com
Category: MSR/Married/Family Fic/Angst
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: This story is part 6 in a series. It will not make sense unless you have read parts 1-5.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, but they have more fun with me than they do with Chris.

Summary: Somebody really, really likes Mulder. He experiences the darker side of being in the public eye and must navigate the effects on himself, his family, and his marriage. Schmoop lovers, never fear! Plenty of that in here too.

Author's Notes: I know I said Part 5 was the last of TF and I have no good excuse, other than in the words of The Beatles, it's been a long, cold lonely winter. I needed something to do with myself. Fair warning - there is a lot of sex in this part. I know the NC-17 rating pretty much covers it, but I still wanted to bring it up to add that you will realize as you read that it's integral to the storyline and not just gratuitous (although some is because that's just fun!).

Thanks: To Steph for hashing it out time and again at all hours. To all those of you who read Parts 1-5 and actually asked for more. You're either crazy or very kind and I love you all.


May 30, 2009

She fussed with his bow tie while they waited for the elevator and he let her. It was such a married thing to do. He was fairly sure it was already straight, but he figured she was so accustomed to wiping dirty faces and tying shoelaces that she had a hard time turning the mommy part off, even when the urchins were at home, snug in their beds.

He shuffled the index cards one more time, mouthing the words that he had already over-rehearsed before tucking them inside his jacket. "Why in the world was I asked to make a toast, Scully? Hasn't Skinner already suffered enough embarrassment at my hands?"

A patient smile played on her rouged lips as she patted his chest, apparently satisfied now with his appearance. "It's the man's 60th birthday party, Mulder, and you're one of his closest friends. Elise thought it would be nice for you to say a few words, and so do I." She stretched to plant a quick kiss on his lips. "You look very handsome."

"Well, thank you, but I doubt it will be me people will be watching tonight." His eyes swept over her from shoulders to heels, appreciatively. The shimmer of her teal blue, knee-length cocktail dress caught the ambient light in the hotel lobby, making her appear positively radiant. He leaned closer, eyeing her cleavage shamelessly, and slipped a warm arm around her waist. "Did I mention how much I like this dress?"

Her eyes dipped and pink swelled from her cheek bones. "Only about a dozen times."

"You're stunning."

The elevator doors opened and she ushered him inside with a gentle tug on his hand. "And we're fashionably late."

The party was in full swing when they strolled into the ballroom, ducking beneath an arch of silver and black balloons. Her hand tightened in his and she stopped short on the parquet floor, perusing the sea of faces. He wondered if they'd even know anyone besides Walter and Elise. It had been eight years since he'd left the Bureau, six for Scully. He wasn't expecting there to be so many people, but he supposed sixty years was a lot of time to make acquaintances.

Walter's wife, Elise, wove her way across the dance floor toward them, a genuine smile on her face. Her black formal dress and pearl jewelry was simple and classic. She was about five years younger than Walter and very attractive for her age, with sleek, shoulder- length, silver blonde hair and warm brown eyes. "You're here! I was beginning to get worried." She grasped both of Scully's hands and leaned to brush cheeks in friendly greeting.

Scully smiled, apologetically. "Sorry. Child wrangling and new babysitter induction took longer than expected."

"How are they?" asked Elise with sincere interest. "Walter and I were so sorry to miss William's birthday, but our flight didn't get in until the next day. Did he get the gift we sent?"

"Yes, he did. Thank you so much. William wants to thank you himself; you'll be getting a card from him."

Elise hugged Mulder tightly, teetering on her heels. "Walter's making the rounds, so I'll show you to our table. You're sitting with us up front, along with Walter's sister, Naomi, and her husband Don, and my two boys. You remember Jeff and Andrew?"

Scully nodded. "Of course. I haven't seen them in ages. I think the last time was at your wedding."

Elise looked surprised. "Has it been that long? Goodness. Jeff is living in Boston now and working in environmental law. And Andrew is a junior at Northwestern. He graduates next year."

"This is just lovely, Elise," said Scully, surveying the banquet hall. "You really went all out."

Elise shrugged modestly. "I enjoy planning. Walter would have been satisfied with a backyard barbecue, but he indulges me now and then."

They reached the large round table and Elise politely went through the introductions, amidst handshakes, polite nods and smiles. As was often the case these days, Mulder's name was recognized for his books, sparking some interesting discussion and even a few photo requests. He had learned to take it in stride.

Mulder excused himself to the open bar to get a glass of merlot for Scully and a scotch for himself. When he got back to the table, the waiters were starting to come around with dinner and Walter was seated next to his wife. He stood and gave Mulder a jovial back slap.

"Happy Birthday, Old Timer," said Mulder and Skinner grumbled a thank you, but smiled congenially. For sixty years old, Skinner still had the physique of a man half his age. Mulder was in pretty good shape himself, but he still wouldn't go head to head with his former boss. They went running together regularly and Mulder had to work to keep up.

"So Dana," Walter's sister, Naomi, began, "Elise tells us you have two beautiful children. How old are they?"

Scully smiled, politely. "William just turned eight and Claire will be five next month."

"Oh, so they're quite young! Walter mentioned that you left the Bureau awhile ago. Are you home with the children now?"

"No, I-"

"Dana is the Director of Pathology at Georgetown University Hospital," interrupted Elise.

"My goodness," exclaimed Naomi. "That's quite the change from the FBI. Don had hernia surgery at Georgetown last Fall with a Doctor Cuth-Cuth-" she turned to her husband, who arched his brows and fake smiled, trying to mask the fact that he had not been listening. "Don, who was the nice young doctor who did your hernia surgery?"

"Um, I think it was Doctor Cuthbertson, Dear."

"Yes! That was him. Do you know Doctor Cuthbertson, Dana?"

A tuxedo-wearing waiter placed a plate with a pink slab of grilled salmon, roasted potatoes, and asparagus in front of Scully and a filet mignon in front of Mulder. Scully carefully draped her linen napkin across her lap. "Peter Cuthbertson. Yes, I do know him. He's a very competent surgeon."

Naomi nodded, pleased. "Oh he was. We were quite satisfied with the overall experience." The waiter placed a plate in front of the woman and she shook her head and lifted it back toward him. "No, Honey, there must be some mistake. I ordered the chicken piccata, not the filet." The waiter took the plate away, obediently.

Naomi sighed and sipped from her wine glass. "Well, I give you working moms a lot of credit, that's all I can say. I don't know how you do it. I was home with my three until they started high school and it kept me quite busy."

Scully nodded, politely. "Well, keeping a balance is a challenge, but I think we do all right. Mulder writes from home mostly, and we have a wonderful nanny who has been with us since before Claire was born."

Elise took the opportunity to pipe in. "Now remind me what grade William is finishing this year. And will Claire be starting kindergarten this coming fall?"

Mulder cut into his filet and decided to rescue Scully so she could sneak in a bite of her food. "William will be starting third grade in September, and Claire will be entering kindergarten," he replied.

Elise shook her head in disbelief. "I just can't believe that. It seems like she was just born. The last time Walter and I were at your house for dinner, Claire was reading by herself! I was shocked, but then again, I suppose I shouldn't be given who her parents are."

Audible amusement circled the table. Scully reached for her wine and her eyes shifted modestly.

"Do you have any pictures?" asked Naomi.

"Um..." Scully swallowed a bite of food and reached into her clutch for her cell phone. "I think...let's see..." She pressed a few soft keys, then handed the phone across the table. "This one was taken just a couple of weeks ago, at Will's birthday party."

Walter and Don each took cursory glances, but Elise and Naomi pressed their heads together over Scully's BlackBerry and cooed in unison at the image of William and Claire smiling over a birthday cake. Yes, they do look innocent, don't they, thought Mulder. If that photo had been snapped twenty minutes later, Claire Bear would have been decked head to toe in blue frosting and chocolate ice cream.

"Look at those sweet faces," said Naomi, clicking her tongue.

"Aren't they gorgeous?" encouraged Elise. She leaned toward her sons who were seated together and passed them the phone. "I remember when you two were that small. It seems like yesterday."

Jeff smiled. "We were never that cute."

"Oh yes, you were," argued Elise.

"We fought like cats and dogs," added Andrew, nudging his brother and reaching for his beer.

"So do they," said Mulder and Scully smiled at him.

Elise chuckled. "William seems like such a wonderful big brother."

"Oh, he is," agreed Scully, "but Claire knows how to push every last one of his buttons." A wry smile danced on her mouth. "She gets that from the Mulder side."

Walter nodded and grinned at that and Mulder arched his brows without arguing.

"She's Daddy's girl," added Scully.

"Well, she has your coloring and your eyes, Fox," said Elise. "But her nose and mouth are Dana's."

Thankfully, thought Mulder. And she has her mother's temper. He kept that little gem to himself as well.


The band beat out a decent version of Fly Me To The Moon and Mulder led her in a loose box step, strategically sidestepping a cousin of Walter's who was weaving his way across the dance floor with his seventh gin and tonic. His hand rested at the spot where her low-backed dress came to a halt and warm, smooth skin began. She smelled heavenly and some errant strands of cinnamon hair tickled his cheek.

They didn't do this enough. Sure, they went out to dinner now and then, sometimes movies. Live theatre if he was trying especially hard to romance her. But he could count on two hands the number of times they'd done some serious dancing together. And twirling laps around the playroom to The Wiggles with Will and Claire until they melted into a heap on the rug didn't count.

Date nights out were too few. They should work on changing that. She seemed to read his mind, tilting her face up to his. "This is nice," she sighed, and he clutched her tighter.

"Your cell phone hasn't rung once. I told you they'd be fine. What was the drama with Claire about anyway?"

She smiled through a subtle eyeroll. "Bailey chewed up one of the Littlest Pet Shop toys."

"Again?"

"I told her for the hundredth time not to leave them strewn about the playroom floor, but she seems to harbor a mysterious affinity toward disorder. God knows where she gets that from." Her expression was playful.

"My office is orderly. I know right where everything is, Scully."

"Mmm, that's what scares me."

Her fingers laced into his, manicured nails folded over his knuckles. She had pretty hands. Pink half-moon nails and thin, willow-like fingers that were deceptively strong and equally loving. Her diamond glinted like starlight.

"We should do this more often," he said. "In fact, I was thinking, let's go away for our anniversary next month. We'll see if your mom can keep the kids."

Her eyes were immediately regretful. "Mulder, you know I can't take time off right now. I've got new residents starting in the middle of June."

"Just a Friday. Take a Friday afternoon and we'll go somewhere for a weekend. We can save the longer vacation until the end of summer when we head to the Vineyard with the kids."

She hesitated, her lashes dipping and a conciliatory smile forming.

"Come on, Scully. Two days. The hospital will survive." He bent to whisper persuasively in her ear as they continued to sway to the music. "Expensive dinners out...sleeping late in the morning...copious amounts of nudity..."

She closed her eyes, dreamily. "Mmm, it does sound nice."

"I promise there won't be a kids menu or a Disney movie anywhere in sight."

"I'll see what I can do."

He spun her around the dance floor to two more songs and then watched her take her time with a sliver of vanilla cake. Her pink tongue swirled around the tines of a stainless steel fork, getting every last drop of icing. Her cheeks were flushed from champagne and he couldn't take his eyes off her.


He kept it under the speed limit as they made their way home, down rain-slickened streets. Water came down in sheets, and he steered carefully through trenches in the blacktop. Headlights reflected off the pavement like strobes. He turned the wipers to high and switched on the defrost. "It's a monsoon out there."

"Slow down, Mulder, you're going to miss our exit."

He reached a hand over and stroked her knee, easing off the pedal. "I hope Ellie survived."

"Edie. And she's been babysitting Tom and Trish's kids since she moved into the apartment above their garage last fall. Trish raves about her."

"Well, anyone who can survive watching Nelson deserves the Babysitter-of-the-Year award, as far as I'm concerned."

"Mulder..."

"I'm sorry, what was I thinking? He's delightful."

Scully smirked at him. "He's a little hyperactive, that's all."

"The last time they were over, he ate Bailey's food out of the dog dish and ran full-speed through the closed screen on our back door."

Her hand covered his and she chuckled. "Like our kids are angels."

"They're perfect."

"I'll remind you of that the next time you're in the playroom refereeing World War three."

"So what's the story with this Mary Poppins lady anyway?" he asked.

"I don't know all that much, except that apparently, she has a background in nursing and her husband passed away not that long ago. She moved here from the Midwest."

"She's a widow? She has to be younger than we are, Scully."

"She is. Mid-thirties, maybe. According to Trish, her husband died from cancer. No children."

"Well, surely our impeccably behaved offspring have impressed her and she'll consider coming back. We need to go out more."

She tilted her head toward him in amusement. "After all that complaining you did about having to go tonight, you seemed to have a good time."

"I did. I was all for the barbecue idea, like Skinner, but this was nice for a change."

He turned onto their street and slowed, coasting up their long, circular driveway. The large, white colonial looked restful, the glow of soft porch lights welcoming them home. William's red bicycle lay on its side by the front steps where it had been hastily abandoned, a victim of the elements now as rainwater splashed off the handlebars. He'd have that talk with him again tomorrow about putting it in the garage at night and not leaving it so close to the driveway.

Scully unbuckled. "Edie walked here earlier, but it's raining now. Can you pay her and give her a ride home?"

"Sure. Send her out."

Her eyes glinted. "Hurry back."

He popped an eyebrow. "Thought you'd be tired."

She lowered her gaze and smiled. "Not that tired."


When he made his way to the top of the stairs twenty minutes later, she was exiting Claire's room and easing the door shut. Her cocktail dress had been replaced by a very short, very slippery thing the color of ripened raspberries.

He tucked one finger under the spaghetti strap. "Sound asleep?"

"Mmm hmm." She reached up and worked his bow tie loose, then undid the first three buttons of his dress shirt. Her makeup had already been scrubbed off, replaced by pink skin and the smell of moisturizer. He still had every article of clothing on, including his shoes, which meant he had some serious catching up to do. He bent to kiss her, but she ducked out from underneath him with a come hither look and headed for their bedroom, a handful of silk and seduction slipping through his fingers.

She busied herself turning down the bed and tossing all those ridiculous throw pillows that she insisted were necessary, onto the chair in the corner of the room. He watched this process with growing arousal as he undressed, noting that certain movements of hers offered him a tantalizing view, and relishing the fact that he was now a hundred percent within his rights to enjoy it.

When he came out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth, she was already in bed, lying on her back with the covers tucked tightly under her arms and staring up at him shyly, like they hadn't done this hundreds of times before. It was odd to be the one crossing to the bed while she watched him. He was almost always the one waiting for her as she finished doing mysteriously female things with the bathroom door partially ajar. They each had a sink and vanity in the master bathroom. His was stocked with shaving gear and deodorant, toothbrush, paste, floss. And that was about it.

The drawers in her vanity looked like the entire contents of three aisles of Walgreens had been dumped into them. Plus, everything sold at The Body Shop.

When he switched off the bedside lamp, he noticed for the first time that she had lit a small candle on her dresser. It flickered orange against the painted walls and honey colored headboard and made her look all dreamy and warm. He dropped his boxers and slid across the sheets to her. She opened her arms to him and he leaned over her, kissing her as his palm skated her smooth hip and thigh. The panties were gone already. Efficient, his Scully.

She nipped up at him like a playful kitten, bending one knee as her pelvis rotated in a smooth circle.

"You're wiggly tonight," he said, smiling against her mouth.

"Champagne."

Ah yes, the aphrodisiac of redheaded pathologists. His, anyway.

Her hand snuck in between them to grasp his cock and he jumped a little.

"Jesus, Scully!" He pressed into her warm hand as she worked him. Moans rose from her like bubbles and he captured them with his mouth. The pads of his finger skittered up her leg and her thighs fell open to his touch. He traced her labia, his fingers just barely making contact and she shivered and hissed. Her grip sped up on him, sliding the taut skin up and down his erect penis feverishly until he had to back off her mouth and issue her a fair warning look.

"Too much?" she panted, eyes half-closed.

"It is if you want more than just my hand or mouth tonight." To help her consider her options, he dipped his long middle finger deep inside her to gather her natural lubrication, then drew it up onto her clitoris and began rubbing firm circles.

Her hand slackened around his cock as distraction set in. "Oh God...that feels...sooo good."

"Mmm, you like that? Is that what you want?" He nudged the spaghetti strap aside with his teeth and dipped his fingers in again, two this time. "God, you're so wet. I couldn't wait to get you home and out of that dress."

She arched under his mouth, her raised nipples outlined against thin material. "Let's take this off too," he said, pulling his fingers out of her and tugging gently until it was up and over her head.

He paused to glance at berry colored silk. "Have I seen this one before?"

"Yes!" she rasped, grabbing the material from him and tossing it onto the carpet before forcing his hand back between her legs.

He laughed teasingly and took up stroking her again while his teeth clamped down on one eager nipple. Fingernails scored the back of his scalp.

"You are worked up tonight." His fingers slid up and down her slit. "Mmm, like this?" he moaned. "Is this what you like?" He didn't have to ask. The years had taught him exactly what it was she needed, but it was still fun to tease the hell out of her now and then.

She tugged at his shoulders firmly to indicate that enough was enough. He would have been happy to finish her this way, but she obviously had something more in mind. She coaxed him over on top of her and he entered in one long, deep thrust. His head pitched forward onto her shoulder and he groaned loudly before taking up a rhythm. She moved with him, her hips bucking up to meet him. Her eyes were dark and sultry, her hair like wildfire against the white pillowcase.

He brushed his lips to hers as he moved, just featherlight kisses and her mouth opened. The pink tip of her tongue lapped up at him and when she tired of that game, her hands cupped the back of his head and pulled him down into a hard liplock. His thrusts become sharper, faster.

Her hands flattened against his shoulder blades, caressing the rippling muscles as her nails circled against his scorched flesh, driving him wild with lust. It was good. So, so good. She panted hard into his ear and jerked her hips a little. She was trying to find the right angle for herself. Certain things needed to fit together in certain precise ways, or she wouldn't finish this way. It was tricky, but they mostly knew how it worked and had managed to get it down to about a seventy percent success rate with him on top. The other thirty percent of the time, they improvised. They were good at that too.

She bit her lip in concentration as she shifted around underneath him. He softened the thrusts and looked at her, questioning her with his eyes. 'Is that it?' 'Right there?' 'Or maybe this?'

Her eyes flew open wide for a split second and then she released a staggered breath and he knew he had it. He rocked over her, making long and deep strokes, flesh against flesh, as he watched her face in rapt attention. Their rhythm was precise and steady. She gripped at his upper arms now and he bent forward to kiss her, but her lips slid off his as she keened.

Her voice was barely more than a breath. "OhGodOhGodOhGod, Mulder, yes...right there...right there... Oh God, yes..." He fucking loved when she was like this. She usually had silent orgasms, swallowing back her cries even as he tried to coax them from her. But once in awhile she'd do this, talk to him as she climbed, and it turned him on like mad.

He resisted the urge to whisper something back to her that would undoubtedly mimic the soundtrack to one of those videos of his that had long since found a new home. He settled for a low growl as he pounded into her. He was getting close, but he could tell from the tiny wrinkle between her brows that she was closer. She needed something. Just a little something. They had learned to recognize these things about one another after years of sharing a bed.

He settled his body tighter against hers, mere millimeters separating their lips, the breath between them hot and dizzying. Every muscle in her was pulled tight, perched on the edge of release. "God, I love you..." he panted. "I love you so much."

And there it was, a deep shudder and a long, drawn-out whimper before she contracted around him in waves, pulling him under right along with her. It was the most incredible sensation each and every time it happened. The feel of her tightening around him, clamping down like a vise and pulsating as she drained him of every last ounce of fluid. Jesus Christ, it felt like a gallon.

His body felt unbearably heavy. Her slight frame heaved against him as her hands caressed his shoulders, tickling with fingertips. He nuzzled her neck and kissed below her ear, then her mouth. He felt himself softening, slipping out of her.

She wove through his pelt of hair and emitted a satisfied sigh. "I love you too. I forgot to say it a minute ago."

He smiled back at her. "You were distracted."

"I was."

"I like distracting you."

"You do it so well."

He hummed and nipped at her breast. His hips were tight to hers, suctioned together by sweat and semen and whatever alchemistic fluid mixture they created together. He could smell it, pungent and musky.

His lips skated her clavicle, then climbed her willow neck to nuzzle behind her ear. "The pink thingy is nice."

"Hmmm," she purred, absently.

His fingers dipped to the floor by the nightstand, feeling around on plush carpet until it connected with cool slipperiness. He dragged the material up and over her face and was rewarded with a giggle.

"I swear I haven't seen this one before."

She pushed the lingerie to the side and clicked her tongue. "You have, you just remove them so quickly you don't have the chance to notice."

"Oh, I notice. Believe me, I notice."

"I can't find the black one you gave me. I thought it was in my drawer, but it must be in the laundry."

He tongued her lobe. "Let's get you one of those kinky little lace numbers with the snap crotch. That might be fun."

She eyed him critically.

"You've got the body for it, Scully."

Her fingers pinched at his bare buttocks playfully. "I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, Mulder..."

"Mmm..."

"Roll off me, my leg's falling asleep."

"Sorry." He slid over to the side of her and gathered her to him.

She jumped a little and lifted her hip.

"What?" he managed, sleepily.

"Wet. Slide over."

He did. They were entirely on his side now.

"More," she said.

"My ass is on the edge now, Scully."

"Jesus, how much did you come, Mulder?"

"It's been awhile."

"Not that long. Four days."

"Five."

"We're doing it on your side next time."


May 31, 2009

Mulder awoke just before 7:30 to the muffled sounds of voices and activity one floor below. He carefully extracted his arm from beneath the mummified twist of white sheets, hair, and smooth skin pressed tightly to him and scuffled naked to the bathroom. He was flushing when he heard a clatter from below, followed by a high-pitched wail. He tugged on pajama pants and made his way down to the kitchen.

"Claire! Look what you did!"

"It's not my fault, Stupid!"

Mulder rounded the corner. "Hey, hey, shhhh. What's going on, guys?"

"Claire dumped the milk."

"I didn't do it on purpose!" Claire's arms were crossed in front of her chest and the plump bottom lip protruded in a full-blown Scully pout. Tiny toes rested in a puddle of milk on the kitchen tiles, the carton in its side. The dog lapped away at the mess, tail swishing happily.

Mulder scooped Claire up and sat her down on the countertop, grabbing a roll of paper towels and some cleaning spray. "It's just a little spilled milk, nothing to worry about. Besides, I think Bailey has it under control."

"I was making us breakfast so you and Mom could sleep," Will announced proudly, lisping his S's through two missing front teeth. Twin bowls of Raisin Bran overflowed onto the kitchen table.

Mulder ruffled Will's bedhead. "Thanks, buddy."

"Is Mommy sleeping?" asked Claire, pushing her unruly curls from her apple cheeks and watching her father clean up the mess.

"Yes, she is. Let's let her sleep." Mulder skated the floor with wadded up paper towels under his bare feet.

"Mommy would use the mop," pronounced Claire, critically.

"It's just a small mess. I think we can handle it," said Mulder confidently, spritzing 409 as an afterthought.

"We don't have any milk left," said Claire, and William began shoveling the cereal back into the box in defeat.

Mulder relocated Claire to a chair at the table, then extracted two bananas from a fruit basket and two yogurts from the fridge. "Breakfast," he said, presenting spoons.

Claire wrinkled her nose.

"What now?"

"She doesn't like strawberry yogurt, only blueberry," Will said, helpfully.

Claire blinked up at Mulder. "Can I have Oreos?"

"Good try," Mulder smirked. "Besides, Oreos without milk is like...like popcorn without butter. Why would you?"

"Mommy eats popcorn without butter," reminded Claire.

Mulder nodded, sadly. "I know. But we love her anyway."

"Can I have toast with peanut butter?" she countered.

"Done." Mulder popped two slices of whole wheat into the toaster and started the coffee. "Did you have fun with Edie last night?"

Two heads bobbed. "We made ovaries," said Claire through a mouthful of banana mush.

Mulder popped two eyebrows. "What?"

Claire pointed toward the window sill. "We folded paper."

Mulder picked up something red, shaped like a bird. "Origami. You made origami."

"Yup," agreed William. "It's cool, isn't it?"

Mulder nodded, perusing the zoo of paper marching across his window sill. "Very cool."

"Can Edie come back sometime?" asked Claire. "She read two books before bed. With voices."

"Absolutely." Mulder half-wondered what Edie would charge for a standing Saturday night gig.

"What are we doing today, Dad?" asked William.

Mulder put the origami bird down next to what was either a turtle or an armadillo, and resumed smoothing peanut butter onto warm toast. "Well, Mom and I were thinking Tully Park maybe?"

"Cool!"

"Yeah!"

"Can we take our scooters?"

"Can we take the kite?"

"Can Bailey go?"

"Can we get ice cream there?"

Mulder chuckled. "Yes, yes, yes, and yes."

"When can we go?" asked William.

Claire wiggled in her chair and began wolfing down her banana.

"Slow down, guys. It's only eight o'clock. We've got all day."

"Can we wake Mommy up?" pushed Claire.

"Sheee's up," murmured Scully with a sleepy smile as she shuffled into the kitchen in a robe and bare feet. She doled out three kisses before making her way to the coffee pot with a cavernous yawn.

Mulder passed her a San Diego Zoo mug. "You going to mass?"

She rubbed her eyes. "Wasn't planning on it, no."

"Then go back to bed," he offered, with a warm palm to her back. "We'll walk the dog, pack a cooler for the park, and wake you in a couple of hours."

Another yawn. "I'm okay. Just a little tired." She shared a communicative smile that gave Mulder titillating flashbacks and a bit of a semi.

"What's for breakfast?" she asked, opening the fridge.

"Nothing with milk," said Mulder.

She frowned. "I just bought milk the day before yesterday."

"There was an unfortunate mishap."

"Daddy didn't use the mop," piped in Claire, helpfully.

Scully glanced down to where her foot stuck to the ceramic tiles before sighing and reaching for a grapefruit.

"Did you have fun at Mr. Skinner's birthday party?" asked William.

Mulder sat down across from him with an English muffin and opened the Post. "We did."

"My birthday's coming up," said Claire, licking peanut butter off her thumb. "And I know what I want."

"You do, huh?" Mulder peered over the top of his glasses with a curious smile. "What makes you think you're getting presents?"

She giggled. "Very funny, Daddy. I've narrowed it down to a swimming pool, a Polly Pocket Cruise Ship, or a baby sister."

A knife clattered loudly into the stainless steel sink and a grapefruit rolled off the counter and onto the floor.

Mulder folded the paper calmly and put it down, then rested his chin on his hand. "Well, that does give us some options." His eyes connected with Scully's saucer-sized ones as she scooped up the wayward fruit.

**

"William and Claire, don't run so far ahead!" Tall, dense trees on both sides of the dirt trail threatened to swallow Scully's voice. Her right hand swung in his left, her purple and grey Nikes taking two steps for his every one.

"They're alright."

"I like to be able to see them." She quickened her gait.

Bailey sniffed around a mossy stump, stretching the retractable leash out as far as it would go. Mulder whistled and gave a little tug and the dog took up the pace again. Mulder knew that Scully did her best to pretend she wasn't pissed off that what was supposed to be *her dog* had been following Mulder around like a shadow since they'd brought him home three years ago. He was a great family pet, patient and tolerant with the kids, but when push came to shove, he was Mulder's dog. Mulder, who'd never had a dog before in his life, who had been anything but sympathetic when Queequag had become alligator appetizer.

"So how'd she get on the baby sister kick?" he asked, watching the path and steering her carefully around some tree roots.

"I was going to ask you."

"More importantly, what do we tell her?"

She lifted two brows at him. "No. Obviously."

He chuckled. "Well, obviously. But you know her. 'Why' is her favorite word. I have the feeling a simple 'no' isn't going to cut it."

"What are you suggesting?"

"I don't know. What does current pediatric literature say about fielding questions from overly precocious five-year-olds who ask where babies come from?"

Scully passed him a wry smile. "Lie, of course."

"That's your expert medical opinion?"

"Hell, no. That's my terrified mother opinion."

"Does Will know?"

"The bird and the bees?"

Mulder nodded. "He walked in on us once."

"Twice."

"What?"

"Yeah." Her cheeks pinked. "You were...um, down ...your head was..."

"Oh God, right."

"Although," she smirked up at him, "I doubt very much he had any idea. He thought we were making a blanket fort."

Mulder laughed out loud. "He said that?"

"Yes." She laughed with him. "But then there was the shower thing. The time he woke up early before school and we were both-"

Mulder winced. "We are such bad parents."

She chuckled. "It's normal. And good, actually. There's strong research to suggest that children who observe visible affection between their parents feel more safety and security as a child, and grow up to experience healthier intimate relationships themselves."

Mulder flashed back, trying to recall how many times as a child he'd actually seen his parents express affection toward one another. That could explain a lot. Like the first thirty-odd years of his life. Why he'd never had a relationship that lasted more than eighteen months. He didn't really have to wonder what changed. He felt the warmth of Scully's hand tucked into his - solid, congruous, like the most natural thing in the world. She was like his phantom limb. Even before she was there, he had felt her missing.

Seven years of marriage this June. Seven years and it felt like it went by in the blink of an eye. He played basketball on Thursday nights with guys his age who had fifteen, even twenty years of matrimony under their belts. He had gotten a late start. They'd go out for a beer sometimes and they'd joke with each other - "She's got you on a tight leash, huh Bro?"; "Man, I couldn't wait to get out of the house tonight;" and "Jill's all pissed off about what she found on my computer, but Jesus, I don't know what she expects when she falls asleep at nine o'clock every damn night."

He'd laugh sportingly and toss back another beer or throw a few more darts. He got it, he did. Marriage wasn't always a walk in the park and he and Scully worked at it like everyone else did. Still, he suspected things might be just a little different for them than for most couples. They had just spent too many years fighting to get to where they were today. Spending the rest of his life being thankful for what he had seemed a small price to pay.

They fought with the same intensity that they loved each other. Completely, exhaustingly, and as if the entire earth paused spinning on its axis just for them. Thankfully, they made up that way too.

His mental reverie on marital bliss was interrupted by a loud shriek up ahead and then the sound of Claire crying. It was the loud, shrill cry that indicated something more had happened than routine sibling warfare. Both kids had wandered quite a ways ahead on the path and all he could see was Claire doubled over and Will standing next to her, looking down the path for his parents.

"Claire!" yelled Scully.

Mulder handed her the dog leash and took off running toward his daughter. When he reached her, she immediately held up two small arms to him and he lifted her. She curled her anguished face into the cotton of his tee shirt and wailed.

"What happened?" he asked Will.

"I don't know. She was picking flowers and then she just started screaming."

A pile of buttercups lay at the toe of Mulder's running sneaker. He tried to pull Claire away from him far enough to survey her, but she clung tightly.

Scully arrived and handed the dog off to Will. "What happened? What is it?"

Mulder rubbed the back of Claire's shirt. "She won't say. She won't stop crying."

"Claire," Scully said gently, her eyes scanning over her daughter. "What hurts, baby?"

Claire took a wracking breath and pointed to her stomach.

Scully reached for her, insistently. "You need to let Mommy look at you." The sobs gradually ebbed to staccato breaths, and Mulder handed Claire off to Scully. She carried her daughter to a patch of leaves and lowered her. Lifting the edge of Claire's yellow tee shirt, she carefully examined her before letting out a relieved breath.

"Bee stings. Three."

"Ouch," said Mulder.

William pointed to a spot on the grass not far from where Claire's abandoned flowers lay. "There. Look, Dad."

A dozen or more yellow jackets circled around the base of a tree. "There must be a hive there," said Mulder. "Back up some more, Will."

Scully touched the irritated skin around the bee stings and examined them again before pulling down Claire's shirt and letting the child snuggle back into her arms. "It looks like the stingers are gone. We've got a first aid kit in the car with ibuprofen and Benadryl. Let's head back." She rubbed circles between Claire's shoulder blades and pushed back damp curls to kiss her forehead. "It's okay, baby. I know it hurts. You want Daddy to carry you?"

Claire sniffled and nodded. Bailey wagged his tail and licked her cheek and the child tangled a pudgy hand in the dog's fur.

"C'mon, Claire Bear," said Mulder, pulling her into his arms until her legs were wrapped around his waist and her arms circled his neck. "Enough adventures for today. I think you've earned the big ice cream cone." Claire popped a thumb into her mouth and rested her head against Mulder's shoulder.


Mulder finished loading the last of the dishes into the dishwasher when she rounded the corner. She had exchanged the tee shirt and jeans she'd worn to the park for a little blue tank and drawstring shorts. She wasn't wearing a bra and the ribbed tank clung in all the right places.

He handed her a glass of merlot. "How is she?"

Scully took a long swallow before answering, the purpley- red liquid disappearing down her white throat. "Asleep. The miracle of antihistamines."

"Those were some angry looking welts. She took it like a champ."

"Her first bee stings. A rite of passage."

Mulder reached for her hips and gently pulled her to him so that her back was pressed against his front. He began massaging her shoulders and her head dropped lazily to one side. "I think we should consider the pool," she said with eyes closed, voice drowsy and relaxed.

His hands slowed. "Really? You don't think that's a little much for a birthday present?"

"Not just for her birthday. We've talked about it before. I think we'd all use it."

He tilted his head, considering. "We do have the space in the back yard. I'll make some calls and get estimates. If we're going to do it, we might as well get it done as soon as possible so we can use it this summer." He chuckled. "You do realize our house will be a magnet for every rugrat in the neighborhood, don't you?"

She sighed and took another swallow of wine. "This is true."

"Teenaged pool parties... loud music...disorderly conduct..."

"They're eight and five, Mulder. We're still at 'Don't pee in the pool.'"

"Ah, time flies, Scully."

She leaned back into him. "Are you going to write tonight?"

"Mmm mm, no. I need to check email, though. I'm expecting something from Pamela. Why?"

"Because I have a date with the sofa and the TV remote and wondered if you wanted to join me."

"Love to." He planted a kiss to the side of her neck. "Give me fifteen minutes."

She refilled her wine glass and headed off toward the family room while Mulder went down the hall to his office with the dog at his heels.

Several years ago, at the urging of his editor Pamela Rice, Mulder reluctantly agreed to having his own website. With five books now and a sixth scheduled to be released in September, fan email was steady. On any given day, there were half a dozen or so messages, and although his website promised no personal responses, he often sent one anyway.

Tonight, there were eight messages. He skimmed the first five. The sixth one caught his eye and he read it twice.

Dear Mr. Mulder,
This is the first time I have ever written a letter like this and I must admit, it's difficult to know where to begin. I have been an avid fan of your work for years, since your first book was published in 2002. At that time, I had been an active member of MUFON for eight years.

When I was just ten years old, my father disappeared and was never seen again. The police had all kinds of rational explanations for what had happened, but I knew the truth. I knew what I had seen that night and to this day, I have never forgotten.

I am fascinated and encouraged by the things you write. Your words are familiar and comforting, a beacon of truth in a world of hypocrisy and pretense. Thank you for giving people like me a voice.

I know you are a very busy man, but I would be eternally grateful if you could recommend some relevant reading material. I am specifically interested in detailed abductee accounts that you feel bear some authenticity. I eagerly look forward to your response.

Respectfully,
Agnes

Mulder took another swallow of his wine, then clicked the button that said 'Reply to Sender.'

Dear Agnes,
Thank you for your letter. There is an overabundance of abductee literature available to the masses, but you are wise to be cautious. Much of it is sensationalized and distorted. I have included the links to several books that I recommend, all of which can be purchased either directly through Random House or Amazon. Additionally, there are a dozen or so journal articles that you can link to through my website. I would recommend starting with those written by a man named Howard Turnbull. Turnbull has been documenting abductee accounts for over twenty years and I have found his research to be reliable and authentic.

Best wishes in your pursuit of the truth.

Sincerely,
Fox Mulder

He clicked Send, then responded to another message from Pamela regarding potential dates for book signings before powering down his desktop computer and heading off to the family room. He hoped that Scully hadn't already been sucked into some snooze fest movie that involved Jennifer Aniston and some sensitive, gay best friend who she was secretly in love with. Or worse yet, anything based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.


June 1, 2009

He slid out of his running shoes just inside the front door and left them in a heap. He would put them in the closet where they belonged if it wasn't so much fun to actually wait for her to give him the look. The one with the cute little crinkle between her brows that makes him want to drape her over a piece of furniture and have his way with her in the middle of the afternoon.

The leash was snapped off the dog and Bailey commenced running laps between the kitchen and the dining room, tongue lolling. Muddy paw prints decorated the tiles and Mulder shoved the dog into the laundry room before double-timing it to the paper towels because those would get more than the crinkle brow from her.

SpongeBob wafted from the family room, punctuated by Will's laugh, and Mulder popped his head around the archway. "Which one is this?"

"Hey Dad. The one where SpongeBob and Patrick build the clubhouse in the tree." Will was hanging upside-down off the couch cushions with the top of his head resting on the rug. Mulder grabbed a socked foot and tickled it and Will scrunched his toes and wiggled away without breaking his concentration.

"Wherefore art the females?"

"Mom was blow drying her hair and Claire was ripping apart her closet looking for her pink sneakers the last I knew."

"Did you eat breakfast?"

"Yup."

"Packed your school bag?"

"Uh huh."

"Did your homework?"

"I don't have homework, Dad. I'm in second grade."

"Right."

Claire traipsed into the room with the pink sneakers clutched to her stomach, messy pigtails eschew. She sat down with a loud sigh and worked her feet into the sneakers before thrusting them at Mulder. He propped her foot against his shin and pulled the laces snug before tying them. "Did you do your hair yourself?"

She sniffled and nodded.

"Looks good."

Heels click clacked on hardwoods and Scully tossed a leather briefcase onto a chair and then continued fastening the back to her earring.

"You look nice," he offered, watching her stretch on tiptoes to rummage through a cupboard for the travel mug she wanted. He knew to give her a second before automatically stepping in to help.

"Research committee meeting all day." Her arm lowered, clutching the insulated mug, and she smoothed the front of her black suit jacket. "Lindsey needs to leave at four for an appointment. Will is going to Josh's after school for a play date, but he needs to get picked up at 5:00. Claire has swim lessons from 4 until 4:30. Is there any way you can pick up Claire at the YMCA, swing by Josh's to get Will, and then meet me with both of them at his softball game at 5:30?"

"Uh. Yeah." He grabbed a pen and flipped over a phone bill to write on the back. "What's Josh's address?"

Claire wandered into the kitchen and Scully began redoing the pigtails, finger-combing through curls with the elastic band between her teeth.

"Ow, Mommy."

"Sorry, Baby. How did you get a brush through this hair? It's all snarls."

"Josh's address?" Mulder repeated.

"Um, it's Franklin Street. Either 16 or 18. The brown one on the corner with the red front door."

"Sixteen slash eighteen Franklin...brown...corner...red door. Got it. What time?"

Scully patted Claire's shoulders. "There. Much better." Claire scampered off.

"Five. He'll have his softball uniform with him and he knows to change at Josh's before the game, but you'll need to remember to bring his catcher's mitt."

The front door opened and closed. "Helloooooo, everybody." Lindsey breezed in, depositing her purse and keys onto the floor, sunglasses onto the counter.

"Hey," said Mulder.

"Morning, Linds," said Scully. "Mulder's going to pick up Claire after swimming and then get Will at Josh's, so you can take off early."

"Cool beans. Thank you. Is there any coffee left?"

Scully opened the cupboard for another travel mug. "Help yourself." She arched two brows at their nanny. "Tired?"

Lindsey smiled, conspiratorially, and the two women exchanged an enigmatic, estrogen-enriched look. "Not that tired, unfortunately."

"Really?"

Lindsey sighed. "Really."

Scully looked equally disappointed. "Was this Lexus or Honda?"

Mulder shifted uncomfortably. He was clearly out of the loop on this one, and pretty convinced he had no desire to be in it.

"Honda. Lexus went back to grad school at Tulane. And it wasn't even his Lexus. It was his parents'."

Scully scrunched her nose. "Yuck."

"Exactly."

"A Honda's good, though," Scully said brightly. "Reliable, dependable."

"Very true." Lindsey tilted her head. "I just...ya know, we're approaching that point in time when I can't help but want to get a better look at the engine, though. It's sort of important."

Scully smirked wildly and sipped at her coffee. "Mmm, yes, it is. Well, it's been how long?"

"Alllllmost... six weeks?" Lindsey's eyes widened and she worried her bottom lip thoughtfully.

"I don't think it would be unreasonable for you to initiate a test drive...at this point." Scully bit the tip of her little finger and raised a brow.

"You think?"

"I do."

Mulder rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I'm gonna..." He waved a thumb over his shoulder toward nowhere specific. "Will! Get your stuff, it's time for school."


The house was quiet.

He had two more hours until Lindsey got back from picking Claire up after preschool. He also had four chapters due by the end of next month, but he worked best under pressure anyway. He had at least two more weeks before he started getting anxious emails from Pamela written in all caps. The bottom of his computer screen told him that Frohike was lurking online. He sent a chat request. Seconds later, a window popped up on the screen.

"Where r the ankle biters going? We can babysit.>

He decided to check email before getting sucked into his book. Among several more fan emails, he recognized another from the woman, Agnes, whom he had replied to just last night. Curiously, he opened it.

Dear Mr. Mulder,
I can't tell you how pleased I was to receive your reply. I have ordered copies of all the books you recommended and am quite anxious to receive them. In the meantime, I'll keep myself occupied rereading all of yours. I understand that you are working on a sixth book now. I am certain you must have plenty of fascinating hypotheses that you'll be introducing, just like always, but I have several of my own ideas as well that I'd love the opportunity to discuss with you.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon!

Agnes

He sat there staring at the screen for a minute, his thumb swiping his chin thoughtfully. A fan who wants to write his book for him. That's a new one. He shook his head with a faint smile and closed out of email before wandering into the kitchen for a mid-morning caffeine fix.


"I'm hungry, Mommy."

"It's the last inning, Baby. We'll head home and eat dinner soon," assured Scully.

Claire went boneless against her mother's denim leg, mindlessly tapping her Sketcher on the metal bleachers. This was her 'Have mercy, I'm wasting away to nothing' act. Scully was pretty sure she had heard Mulder say that he'd given Claire a snack following her swim lesson. She wasn't a cruel mother, but she figured the child could last another half hour.

"I've got some granola bars, if she can have one," offered Trish.

Claire perked up and worked the sleepy hazels at her mother. Scully nodded. Trish produced something in an orange and white wrapper with the Quaker man on it and you would've thought Claire had just been given a million dollars.

"What're you guys doing for dinner?" asked Trish, keeping her sunglass-covered eyes trained on home plate. "Come on...come on...," she said to herself, quietly. "If Wyatt strikes out, prepare for imminent meltdown. It was not pretty last time."

Scully smiled sympathetically. "I don't know. I'm hoping Mulder managed to plan something because I've been in meetings all day."

The bat connected with the ball and soared and Trish was on her feet, clapping furiously. "Yay Wyatt! Go! Go! Go! Run!"

Trish sat back down with a long exhale and a hand to Scully's knee. "Oh thank God. I can't take these games; they're too stressful."

"Mulder wants to coach next year. I don't know where he thinks he'll find the time. He's putting out a book a year now."

"Tom wants to too. And he's trying to make partner next year. What is it about dads that they think they have to coach Little League or they'll somehow get passed over for Father of the Year? Where are they anyway?"

"In the dugout."

"So how did it go with Edie the other night? I haven't talked to you since."

"Really well," said Scully. "You've been holding out on me. If I had known you had such an awesome babysitter, I would have stolen her months ago."

"Isn't she great? Wyatt and Nelson love her. Nelson doesn't even care when I go now. He used to latch himself onto my pant leg and scream. I think Tom and I have been out more in the past three months than we have for the entire nine years we've been married."

"What's the story? Does she work?" Scully offered an apologetic look. "I'm sorry; I'm being nosy."

"No, trust me, I think we gave her the third degree before we agreed to rent to her. I mean, you should've seen some of the nutjobs we interviewed for tenants."

Scully raised her eyebrows. "I'll bet."

Will stood up to bat and hit a long one out into left field on his first swing, then tore off for first base, dust swirling around his cleats. Enthusiastic clapping ensued.

"Nice!" said Trish.

"Mulder's been working with him. They were outside all last Saturday in the rain."

"I wouldn't want your laundry."

"No, you would not."

"Anyway," Trish continued, "apparently, Edie worked as a home health aid in the midwest - Indiana or Illinois, I can't remember which. She had completed most of her nursing degree when her husband got sick. She quit working to care for him until he passed away, and then she decided to move east and start over, get away from the memories, you know." Trish made a clicking sound with her tongue. "I can't imagine losing my husband at that age. She's such a nice person. It's really sad."

"How long has she been renting from you guys?"

"Eight months now. And I guess she's enrolled for September at the community college to finish her nursing degree. Until then, I plan to make good use of her babysitting services. Speaking of, I've been meaning to ask if you and Mulder- GO WYATT! RUN! No, no, no...don't tag him, don't tag him...darn!" Wyatt made his way back to the dugout with his head hanging. "Like I was saying, I've been meaning to ask if you and Mulder want to do something with Tom and me Saturday night? Edie offered to watch all four kids at our house. That new Thai place on Fifth got a great review if you want to check it out."

"Um yeah...I think yeah. Hang on." Scully pulled her BlackBerry out of her purse and pressed a few keys. "Saturday is...good. Let's plan on it."

Trish wrinkled her nose at her younger son, who was seated next to her with one tiny digit lodged up his nostril. "Nelson, for the last time, please stop that. It's disgusting." She reached into a canvas bag big enough for a family of four to live out of for a week, pulled out a pack of wet wipes and attacked the guilty finger with sanitary zeal. "Why do they do this? Why? I can't ever remember being this fascinated with my nose."

Claire stared with undisguised curiosity, and Scully was grateful that her two had inexplicably escaped the booger fetish. Although once upon a time, Will had gone through a very brief toddler phase where he seemed to think that playing with himself was about the most entertaining thing going. She figured that ran on the Mulder side of the family. Thankfully, they'd both outgrown it.

"We're going to Shifty's for burgers and milkshakes after the game. You guys want to join us?" asked Trish, yanking her long blonde hair from the elastic and redoing her ponytail.

"That sounds good. I think it's over. I see long faces." The two teams were in a line up, exchanging sluggish high fives. Will was wearing that same look he wore when he had to clean his room on a Saturday. "We're definitely going to need milkshakes," said Scully.


June 3, 2009

Dear Mr. Mulder,
I haven't heard back from you regarding the opportunity to discuss some of my ideas for your upcoming book, but I know you're a busy man. I simply can't imagine how difficult it must be to balance such a successful writing career with a family, but I'm sure you make it seem effortless. Your family is so lucky to have you. Anyway, I thought it might be helpful if I sent you a detailed outline of some of my ideas so you can review them before you write back with your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Agnes


June 5, 2009

Dear Mr. Mulder,
I was reading a book on telekinesis the other day that I thought you might like. It's by Raymond Barnes, Ph.D. from University of Minnesota. Have you read it? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Perhaps you are out-of-town, as I have not heard back from you yet regarding my outline.

Your Friend,
Agnes


June 6, 2009

Dear Mr. Mulder,
Do you think it's possible to know upon meeting someone in this life, that you have for certain known them in a previous one? This happened to me the other day. I am left with the uncanny notion that I may have been quite a powerful woman in a past life. In fact, I am quite sure of it.

Hope you are well.

Your Friend,
Agnes

Mulder saw her out of the corner of his eye, paused in the doorway to his office. "C'mere," he invited. She came to perch on the edge of his desk in drawstring shorts and a v neck tee the color of pink lemonade. Bare feet swung six inches off the floor. "Toes," he said, eyeing them. They matched her shirt. She hardly ever painted them.

"Claire and I just spent an hour being girly. Do you like my bracelet?" Scully offered her left wrist for inspection. Glittery pink and lavender plastic beads dangled from it.

"It's lovely." He planted a kiss to the inside of her wrist.

"I'm wearing it out to dinner tonight."

"You absolutely should."

She read over his shoulder. "What's this?"

He smiled. "This...is from Agnes."

Her eyes scanned the screen and then the brows took a hike. "Okaaay. New admirer?"

"I guess. Or rather a wannabe co-conspirator. Hang on, there are more." Mulder clicked back through a couple of the other messages and Scully read them. "Apparently, she would like to help me write my book."

Scully bit her lip and nodded very slowly. "How lucky for you."

"She claims to be a MUFON member."

Scully mouthed words silently to herself as she read, face cycling through several animated expressions. "Have you responded to this woman, Mulder?"

"Only after the very first letter. She asked for some reading material and I sent her a few recommendations. That's it."

"Should this concern us?"

Mulder chuckled lightly and wrapped one arm around her seated hips. "You know how this works by now. She's just an overzealous fan. If I ignore the letters, they'll eventually stop."

Scully nodded, then smiled in reluctant agreement. "No, you're right." She slid down off the desk and squeezed his shoulders affectionately while leaning to his ear. "We need to take the kids over to Trish and Tom's in forty-five minutes. Don't forget to leave yourself time for a shower." Their cheeks brushed and his stubble made a scritching sound. "And shave."

His eyes narrowed into a playful smolder. "You don't like my rugged weekend look?"

She lowered her gaze and slipped a warm hand up underneath the hem of his tee shirt to rest at the waistband of his shorts. "Do I have to spell it out for you?"

He turned his face into her neck. "You could show me instead."

"Later. Shave."

"Agnes loves me even when I don't shave."

She pinched his stomach and chuckled at his pouty "owww" before sauntering out of the room with a bit more swing in her hips than usual.


"I ate too much," groaned Tom from the back seat.

"No one told you to finish the whole dessert," Trish joked.

"Everything was so good," said Scully.

"We'd love to do Thai more often, but the kids won't touch it," said Trish. "How about yours?"

"Will eats pretty much everything. Claire, very little, unless it has cheese on it or is chicken in the form of a finger," lamented Scully.

"Which isn't even really chicken," added Trish.

Scully's hand raised in agreement. "Exactly.

"Nelson's the same way. I spend my time plotting ways to sneak vegetables into his macaroni and cheese."

"Am I the only one here who is not at all offended by chicken that has been breaded and fried to hell?" asked Tom.

Mulder removed his right hand from the steering wheel and waved in solidarity. "I am a friend of the chicken finger."

"Oh before I forget," jumped in Scully. "Claire's birthday party is next Sunday at 2:00. You're all invited. Edie too, of course."

"That's nice of you. I'm sure she'd love to come. I get the sense she doesn't know many people around here yet," said Trish.

Mulder drove past their own dark house and down two more blocks to Tom and Trish's street. The two-story home looked wide awake from the outside, lights illuminating the entire first floor. When they walked in, they could hear giggles coming from the direction of the living room, but no voices. It was suspiciously quiet and Scully arched a brow at Trish who returned a pair of wide, curious eyes.

All four adults rounded the corner together to find Will, Nelson, Claire, and Edie seated on the long sofa watching Wyatt, who was hopping around the carpet with his two hands perched atop his head. Claire erupted into giggles again and Nelson popped his thumb out of his mouth long enough to utter one word. "Fwog."

Wyatt shook his head in response and continued hopping.

"Hi, Mommy. Hi, Daddy," pronounced Claire. "We're playing charades."

"Shhh," said Will. "Wait, I know! I know! Rabbit."

Wyatt cupped his hand as if he were carrying something.

"I think you're close, Will," encouraged Edie with a knowing smile.

Claire jumped up off the sofa and clapped her hands together. "EASTER BUNNY!"

Wyatt smiled and stood. "You got it."

Nelson ran over to Trish and lifted his arms to his mother and she picked him up, propping him against her hip. "How did it go?" she asked Edie. "It looks like everyone had a good time."

"They were great. I hope it's okay that Will and Claire had dessert," Edie addressed both Mulder and Scully.

"We made brownies!" exclaimed Claire. "And we have some left to take home too!"

"It's fine," said Scully. "Thank you for watching them. I hope four wasn't too much trouble."

Edie laughed, good-naturedly. "Are you kidding? Really, I had a lot of fun. They saved me from a very exciting night of doing my laundry. Anytime you guys want to get out for an evening, just call me."

"How do the next four Saturdays look for you?" joked Mulder.

Scully sat Claire down and began putting her sneakers on and tying them. "Trish mentioned that you're finishing a nursing degree, Edie."

"I have just two more classes, then my practicum."

"That's great. Depending on where you get placed, I might see you."

"I hope so. Georgetown University Hospital is one of my top choices."

Scully looked puzzled for a millisecond. "How did you know I worked at Georgetown?"

"I um, I think Trish may have mentioned it at one point."

Trish waved a hand, dismissively, bending to pull off her heels. "I'm sure I probably did."

Mulder reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. "How much do we owe you, Edie?"

Edie looked momentarily flustered. "Oh, I have no idea what to even...they were all so good. Really, it was no trouble."

Mulder pulled two twenty dollar bills from his wallet and handed it to her. "Is that enough?"

"More than enough, thank you."

Tom doubled it and Edie reluctantly accepted.

Goodbyes were exchanged, overtired children were wrangled into sweatshirts and scurried out the door. It was almost ten thirty by the time teeth had been brushed and blankets had been tucked.

Scully was rubbing vigorous circles on her cheeks with something that looked like guacamole by the time Mulder opened the medicine cabinet for the toothpaste. Her mouth formed an O and her eyes were owl wide. She was in just her panties and a camisole that had crept north to reveal a two inch wide strip of bare back. The bold red ink of her tattoo played peek-a-boo with him and her breasts did a little tantalizing jig with the movement of her arm. He had a hard time keeping his head steady just watching them.

He swiped blue gel onto his toothbrush and sank his mouth over it, never taking his eyes off her.

"Remember when we first met Trish and Tom at that Fourth of July picnic and you were afraid they wanted to swing with us?" She asked, all but innocently.

He almost coughed on his toothbrush. "I don't think I said 'afraid' neccessarily."

Her brows lifted. "So you're saying you wouldn't mind?"

Uh oh. "Did I imply that? I don't think I implied that." Good answer.

"So you'd actually consider having sex with Trish then."

And at that exact moment, he did the most foolish thing a man can do when asked if he could ever imagine himself having sex with another woman besides his wife. He paused.

He was so taken aback by her question that he stared at her a full thirty seconds before snapping out of it. "What? No! Of course not. That's just...that's-"

"It's okay, Mulder." Her tone was snappy. "What guy wouldn't? Everything on Trish is long, blonde, and voluptuous."

He blinked twice at her. She blinked back at him.

"I don't-I'm not sure what to say to that."

With an audible huff, she slapped the handles on the tap and the water blasted. Okay, obviously he should've said something besides that.

And now he was getting just a little bit pissed off. He felt like a fly stuck to flypaper. This was just about the stupidest conversation ever. "And what about Tom? You wouldn't? If we weren't together? He's a good looking guy."

She flipped her hair back and bent to rinse her face over the sink. "He's a very handsome guy." Her voice was gurgly from the water.

His eyes narrowed. "Very? How very?"

"You want a number on a scale or something?"

Alright. This was getting a little out of hand. He didn't really want a number on a scale for how hot Scully thought their friend was. "Fine, give me a number."

"Seven."

"Well that sure didn't take you long. Have you thought about this before?"

"No, actually. I haven't. But now that you mention it," she tossed a tight-lipped, very smug smile over her shoulder at him before starting toward the bedroom, "he is a very good looking man."

Mulder stood at the sink still holding his toothbrush. "You're waiting for me to ask what number I am, aren't you?" he yelled after her. "I'm not going to ask, Scully. Because this is a ridiculous conversation."

"Fine," she called back.

She was in bed with the light turned out when he exited the bathroom and he couldn't see a damn thing. He walked straight forward until his toe hit the wooden bedpost. "Fuck. Ow." He got in and slid down until his feet touched the end of the mattress. "I don't like this conversation. I don't want to have sex with Trish. Please don't make me."

She snorted quietly next to him and he felt the curved ball of her foot creeping up his shin. "Have you ever noticed how much gel Tom puts in his hair? And when he talks a lot, little bits of saliva gather at the corners of his mouth."

He chuckled and reached for her, tugging her gently until she was lying over him. She sat up, rocking a little, and shed her tank top. His eyes had adjusted to the dark and he could make out the slope of her breasts and the taut peaks of her nipples silhouetted against the glow of the bedside clock. He swept his thumbs over them and she slowed her movements and inhaled raggedly.

"Kiss me," he demanded, and she folded forward and sank her tongue past his own, sweeping the roof of his mouth. The front of her panties were hot and damp on his groin and he thrust up shamelessly, rutting against her, his cock aligning itself with the line of her slit through the cotton. He pressed the thin material into her with long, firm strokes, swiping back and forth over her clitoris until she had completely soaked through onto him. The skin on his cock was slick and sticky from her and he felt dizzy with lust. She bit at his lower lip hard, making him whimper and he knew they should slow it down a bit, but Jesus Christ.

He reached between them, yanked the crotch of her panties aside and drove up hard into her.

"Oh God, Mulder!" Her fingers dug into his biceps.

He stilled himself, feeling his stomach coil. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." His breath was stagnated.

"No, s'okay," she panted, climbing his torso with her hands until she was vertical on him again. "It feels good...so good. Keep going."

Relief flooded him and he clutched at her hips to hold her steady while he stroked into her evenly. Quickly establishing a comfortable rhythm, he fucked her exhaustively for a good ten minutes until he was slippery with sweat and so close he could feel his orgasm chasing him like a storm. She still hadn't come, but he could tell she wanted it, was working toward it. Sometimes she had trouble shutting off her brain and getting there, even when she was horny as hell. Stop thinking, Scully. Stop thinking and let it all go.

With a deep growl, he grabbed her ass with two hands and lifted her off his cock. When she mewed in frustration, he shushed her and helped her wiggle out of her panties with very little finesse. Then he hauled her up his chest until her pussy was hovering right over his hungry mouth and spread her wide open with his fingers. He latched onto her engorged clit with a suction and firmness that sent her slender form into an immediate arc as her head dipped back. Her hair danced between her shoulder blades like corn silk.

She ground herself into his mouth and pinched her own nipples and he nearly lost it all over her lower back. His hips thrust themselves up off the mattress with a will of their own. He ate her hard until her inner thighs clamped around his ears and she pitched forward to clutch the headboard, trembling and shaking as she came.

He waited for her to come back. It took her longer than usual to recover and he was patient, blanketing her bare shoulder with kisses, lifting her slack arm and brushing his lips from elbow to wrist. In good time, she began to perk up and kiss him back, wet, open-mouthed, and languid. "Come in me," she panted.

He swiped his tongue back and forth against hers and moaned. Do you taste that? That's you. That's what you taste like. Fucking amazing, isn't it.

"Mmmm hmmm," she hummed, long and low as her tongue twisted around his, and he realized he'd whispered it aloud to her. He suddenly needed to get inside her with a mad desperation.

His mouth left hers and his chest heaved with each breath. "Turn around."

Her shiny wet eyes looked momentarily puzzled before she moved to arrange herself on her hands and knees facing away from him. She tossed her hair over one shoulder with a plump lower lip pinned between her teeth and waited for him to mount her.

It hadn't been what he meant, but he couldn't take his eyes off the pale swell of her perfect ass. He exhaled loudly and slid his middle finger along her opening from front to back, causing her to arch like a cat.

"C'mere. Like this. Sit on me, facing the other way."

Awareness settled in and she straddled him, her knees bracketing his hips, and lowered herself all the way down. His eyes slipped shut at the immediate sensation. It had been awhile since they'd done it this way and he had forgotten how tight it felt, the natural angle of his penis being challenged. Her walls gripping him like a vise. He thought of what she had looked like when she came on his mouth. He held her hips firm and steady while he drove up into her in rapid fire succession. A dozen long, stiff pumps before his entire body went taut and he spilled into her.

She slid off and crumpled into a heap on her side next to him, her arm flopping bonelessly across his chest. She was breathing as hard as he was.

"Oh my God, that was so hot. You okay, Scully?"

She managed to scoot closer, nuzzling into his collarbone with a drowsy sigh. "I'm great, how are you?"

He just chuckled. "We haven't gone at it that hard in awhile."

"Mmm, maybe we need to piss each other off more often."

"I'm sure that won't be a problem for me."

She pulled the blankets up over both of them, her movements still a little shaky and imprecise from exertion. Her smooth cheek was hot against his bare shoulder and he wrapped both arms around her in an embrace.

"Nine and a half," she said.

He was momentarily lost as the post-orgasmic fog cleared. "My number?"

"Uh huh."

His brows raised in the darkness. Nine and a half was really good. Had she ever had- "Have you ever had a ten, Scully?"

"Nope."

"Then how do you know I'm not one?"

She bit his nipple teasingly and he flinched. "I always like to leave room for improvement. Besides, I don't want your ego getting too big."

"Unlike other parts of me, obviously."

"Hush, or I'll go back to mooning over Tom." She was shaking her head no as she said it.

He grinned in the dark. "So...that makes me the best you've had?"

"That surprises you?"

"That makes me want to nail you to the sheets. The twenty year old version of me would be doing that right now. The forty-seven year old has to settle for this." He kissed her mouth lingeringly.

"I like this version of you," she said when they separated.

"I was a prick at twenty. You would not have been impressed."

She was quiet for several minutes and he drifted, his respiration becoming even and steady. He thought about her standing there at the bathroom sink washing her face, bringing up Trish and Tom, and his eyes opened.

"Scully?"

"Hmm?" She sounded sleepy.

"Do you really think about us having sex with other people?"

"What do you mean?" Not sounding sleepy anymore.

"Like...what you said about Trish and Tom."

"Swinging?"

"Yes. NOT... that you want to...just that you think about it."

"You mean fantasize?"

He released a breath. "Sure. If you want to call it that, I guess."

She rolled more fully onto him, her chin perched on folded hands, face gazing up at him. She bent her knee and waved one foot around lazily. "Are you asking me what my sexual fantasies are, Mulder?" Her voice held an echo of flirtatiousness.

"I...am. I don't think I've ever asked you. That's weird, don't you think?"

"I don't know. Not really. It is rather personal after all."

"Come on, Scully. We talk about everything. I want to know what turns you on?"

"You turn me on."

"Well I know THAT."

She clicked her tongue and he could nearly make out her exaggerated eye roll in the shadows.

"I mean, there must be something else. Something just a little taboo that you think about when you-"

She cut him off with a pinch to the hip.

"Ow." He chuckled.

"Watch it."

"Then tell me what you think about."

"Not swinging."

"Okay. What then?"

"Nothing that weird or kinky."

"I'll be the judge of that."

"Mulder, they're only fantasies. It doesn't mean I actually want to do them. They're just intriguing to think about."

"Okay, okay, I get it," he rushed. "Mind candy. I'm familiar. So...what then?" He was pleasantly surprised at how tantalizing the concept of Scully fantasizing seemed to him. It twisted his brain in entirely new directions.

She was quiet, her breath teasing his overheated skin.

"You're going to make me guess, aren't you? Fine then. I'll work for it. Let's see...um...no swinging... so I'll assume no raucous orgies either. But perhaps...two guys maybe? A little Scully sandwich?"

Her shoulders shook as she laughed silently, her hair tickling his chest. "Too much work. One man at a time is plenty."

"Not...handcuffs, bondage, that sort of thing." He almost didn't have to ask. She'd been restrained against her will a few too many times to find it arousing.

"You know not."

She was right. Wasted guess.

"Although..." she hedged shyly, "a bit of safe, rough play isn't an entirely unpleasant thought either. In a trusting relationship, it's a little bit hot."

His brain skittered about. "What um...like, you mean...you want me to um..."

The flat of her tongue circled his nipple and she giggled. "You keep thinking on it."

Jesus. He wanted to come back to that. In the meantime, "Okay. I've got it! Another woman."

She snorted quietly. "You wish."

"You have no idea."

"I think I do. Based on your old porn collection."

"You wouldn't ever."

She was quiet for a decade and his organs began to liquify. "Scully, if you're pausing for effect, it's working. In fact, it's downright cruel."

"Truthfully, I'm not really interested. Sorry. But you might be surprised to know that the idea isn't as distasteful to me as you may think. I never did it, no. But that doesn't mean it would have been entirely out of the question, given the right opportunity at less judicious points in my life. The perfect situation never presented itself." Her fingers danced across his bicep. "I am guessing it tops your fantasy list, though."

"Well... I don't know about tops, necessar--okay, yes. It's up there. But that thing you said about mind candy? That's what it is to me. I don't really want to watch you with another woman."

"You don't? Honestly?"

"I mean, I can't say for sure, but I suspect there'd still be a little bit of jealousy involved for me. It's fun to think about, but I doubt I'd be okay with watching you being pleasured by someone else. Anyone else."

"That's very grown up of you, Mulder."

"Just don't tell any other man I said that ever or they'll revoke my guy card. There's a secret pact, you know. Even a handshake. It's all very clandestine."

"I'll take it to my grave."

"Okay. Jesus, Scully, what the hell is your fantasy then? I've been guessing everything I can think of and-" He stopped talking and smiled. "Unless."

"Mmm..."

"Yes, of course."

"What, of course?"

"That's it."

"I'm listening."

"I should've known," he said, smugly. "It's always the self-controlled ones."

"Mulder."

"You want to be watched, don't you? You're a naughty little exhibitionist, aren't you?" He swept fingers up and down her naked rib cage and she giggled and writhed at his touch.

"Stop it," she protested weakly, still laughing. "You're making entirely too much of it. It's not like that."

"Oh yes it is! It's exactly like that."

"Mulder, stop. Now I'm sorry I told you."

He pulled her closer and kissed her forehead. "Shhh, no, no. I'll be good, I promise. It just wasn't what I was expecting, that's all. And I love it when you surprise me."

"What about it surprises you so much?"

"Well, for one thing, what about that time on our honeymoon on the vineyard? I tried to take your bikini top off and get you to have sex in the ocean and you wouldn't."

"It was broad daylight! On a public beach where anyone could've seen us. No, not like that."

"Okay. Then what?"

She giggled again and buried her face in his chest, her hair falling like a curtain around her. "It's a fantasy, Mulder." Her voice was muffled by his skin and her lips reverberated on him. "It doesn't mean I really want to do it. Like you said. And if I did, it would be different."

"Different how? Give me an example."

"I...don't have a...I mean, I don't really ever think about specific-"

"Come on, Scully! Yes, you do. You've thought about a scenario and I want to hear it. Please. Pretty please. And then I promise to stop bugging you."

She paused and raised her head to look at him, exhaling long and slow. "Okay. Fine. Well, there are two that I like a lot, but one is tamer than the other." Having resigned herself to telling him, she suddenly seemed quite chipper about the whole idea.

He waited. She took a cleansing breath.

"Sometimes there are variations on the same scenario, depending on my mood."

"Um, do you have a flow chart for us beginners?" he asked, and she swatted his arm.

"Sorry. Go on."

She cleared her throat. "Okay, don't laugh."

"Cross my heart and hope to die."

She smiled. "It goes like this: It's late afternoon and you come in to pick me up at work. I'm with a patient, so you wait in my office, but I don't know you're there. As soon as I close the door, you're on me. Your hand goes over my mouth and you whisper in my ear so I know it's you and I'm not afraid. My pulse races and my knees feel weak. You tell me to be quiet and I do. The door is unlocked. Anyone could walk in at any time. We can hear voices in the hallway as doctors and interns walk by. They're all people I know. I see the shadows of their footsteps in the sliver of light under the door. I feel...I feel excited and nervous and ...fantastically aroused. You push my skirt up roughly and tug at my stockings until they tear. I hear the clink of your belt and the rasp of your zipper and I'm wet, so wet for you. Your breath is like fire on my neck and I can feel your hardness pressing like a knife into my belly. You ask me if I want it and I do. Oh God, I want it so badly. You sweep stacks of files off the top of my desk and set me down, grasping my ass tightly enough to leave marks on my skin. And you fuck me. Harder than Hell. I clutch your back and bite down on your shoulder and I come like crazy. I can't stop."

She exhaled audibly and Mulder struggled to regulate his own breathing again. Holy shit.

"That wasn't the tame one," she whispered breathlessly.

Thank fuck.

"Too much?" She sounded truly embarrassed, her voice quiet.

"No," he jumped in. "I um...wow." He tugged her forward on him. "Come here." He kissed her fully, stroking her lower lip with his tongue and moaning into her mouth.

They separated and she pulled a shaky breath and he felt like he should say something more. "That was maybe the hottest thing I've ever heard." He meant it. She relaxed beneath his touch.

"Sometimes you...just use your hand on me." She swallowed. "Sometimes it's oral sex."

"Giving or receiving?"

"Both."

"Oh Jesus, Scully. I'll tell you right now I can't top that. I think I'm actually going to steal your fantasy."

She huffed out a small laugh. "You can't steal my fantasy."

"I don't think I can help it. It's in my head now. Which skirt are you wearing in it?"

"Not telling. Get your own hot office fantasy."

"The straight black one with the slit up the back?"

"Dammit, Mulder."

He laughed and she couldn't help but do the same.

"You said you had another fantasy."

"No way. You're a fantasy burglar."

More giggling. A little feigned pouting.

"What else?" he pushed. "Come on."

She sat up on him and his attention was lost in the subtle sway of her breasts. Her hair was a tangled mess and she swept it from her face and twisted it into a loose spiral behind her neck. "Okay. The one in my office is my favorite. But I also sometimes think about what if we were in a movie theatre. A dark one. Almost empty, but not quite." The pads of her fingers sifted through the springy hairs on his chest and she rocked gently on him. "We sit in the far back and we have an entire row to ourselves. I...let my hand wander to your lap and begin to stroke the outside of your pants. You shift your legs apart and I can feel your arousal. I unzip you and take you out. My hand moves slowly at first, lazily. There's a woman a few rows up who glances over her shoulder at us. She can tell what's going on and it turns her on. I pump you faster and you thrust up into my palm. When you're close, you lean and whisper my name like a dirty little secret in my ear and I bend over and take you in my mouth and finish you that way. I don't miss a single drop."

She licked her lips and he swallowed hard. He was fully erect again and eyeing her through heavy lids.

"That's the...tame one?" he breathed.

She nodded slowly. "Sometimes it's mutual. We touch each other at the same time." Her manicured nails scraped at his testicles before palming them gently, feeling their weight. "Sometimes the woman watches while you make me come. I stare into her eyes until my orgasm forces mine shut."

With a shuddering breath, he wrapped two hands behind her lower back and rolled her until she was beneath him. Sliding into her tightness, he rocked steadily, his lips never leaving hers.


June 8, 2009

Dear Mr. Mulder,
I am sorry. You really must forgive me. I know now why you cannot contact me and it makes perfect sense. I am not angry with you, but rather quite disappointed in myself for not realizing it sooner. This is a monitored account and it would not be appropriate for you to parade our friendship around in front of your publisher and those whom you answer to. Not to mention the fact that there is always the risk that it may appear improper, which of course, you and I both know it is not. I fully respect the fact that these limits will exist until we find a more private way to communicate.

I will continue to write to you and will patiently await contact from you when you feel it is appropriate to do so.

Devotedly,
Agnes

**

June 11, 2009

Dear Mulder,
I have not been well. I won't bore you with the details. Sometimes the world is a cruel place. The important thing is that I am feeling much better now and finding myself once again looking forward to the day when you will be able to make contact. I do hope it will be soon. Sometimes I feel as if my head is simply bursting with thoughts and ideas that nobody but you will understand. I just know you must feel exactly the same way at times. Take heart and know that I remain...

Your Devoted Friend,
Agnes


June 13, 2009

Maggie Scully walked out of the dining room carrying a stack of pink paper plates with Disney Princesses on them. "Dana, how many should we set the table for?"

Scully paused her napkin folding to count with her fingers. "Let's see...there are four girls from her preschool class, plus Will, and Tom and Trish's boys...so that's eight including Claire. The adults can eat wherever they want."

Maggie stared down at the plates with a raised eyebrow. "Is this a new one? I don't recognize her."

"That's Jasmine. From Aladdin."

"How long has she been around?"

"Awhile, Mom."

"Rather revealing outfit for a character marketed toward children, don't you think?"

Scully returned a tight-lipped smile and headed to the kitchen for the cups and silverware.

Will was standing at the counter, carefully swiping one finger along the bottom edge of the cake frosting. Scully halted him with a mom smile and he jumped back guiltily. "Can you do me a favor, Babe, and run up and see what's taking the Birthday Girl so long?"

"Sure." He scampered away and up the stairs. "CLAIRE! HURRY UP!"

Mulder entered the kitchen from the door off the garage, carrying a stack of pizzas and a box perched on top. "We really need this much pizza, Scully? How much are these kids going to eat?"

She was busy mixing lemonade and pointed to an open spot on the counter to put the pizzas. "You invited the Gunmen, Mulder."

"Good point. Maybe we need another pepperoni."

"What's that?" she asked, tilting her head toward the box.

"I don't know. I figured you did. I was on my way out yesterday and the Fed Ex guy was dropping it off. I threw it in my car. It's addressed to Claire."

Scully picked up the toaster-sized box and examined it with a frown. "There's no return address."

"Did you order something for her birthday?"

"No, I'm sure I didn't."

"Open it."

Maggie strolled into the kitchen. "What else can I do to help?"

"Mom, did you send something to Claire?"

Maggie glanced at the box before taking over stirring the lemonade. She shook her head. "Not that I remember, but I suppose I might have -OH! Wait a minute. I'll bet that's from Bill and Tara. She mentioned that she was putting a gift in the mail when I spoke with her on the phone last week."

Scully slit open the packing tape with a blade and peered inside. Styrofoam peanuts spilled out onto the floor and Bailey sniffed them with suspicion before concluding they were not edible and moving on. "That must be it, then." Scully pulled out a gift wrapped in pink paper with ballet slippers on it. "I seem to remember her sending me an email mentioning that as well."

Mulder licked a dollop of cake frosting off his index finger and Scully tossed him a disapproving look. "Between you and your son, there'll be no cake left for our guests."

He swiped another finger full and held it out to her. She sank her mouth over it, finishing with a swirl of the tongue. "Mmm, God that is good."


She cut three more pieces of cake and handed them off to Mulder, along with plastic forks. "That one on the end is for Nelson. He doesn't eat frosting."

"What? Is there something wrong with him? Wait - never mind."

Scully smiled at him and shooed him back into the war zone, otherwise known as their dining room. A chorus of high-pitched voices floated out.

"May I please have some more lemonade, Claire's Daddy?"

"Is there chocolate ice cream?"

"When will it be time for presents?"

"Can we play Pin the Tail on the Donkey?"

"Ariel is the prettiest of all the princesses."

"No way, Belle is."

"Dude! Look! My tongue is BLUE!"

"Claire's Daddy? Your dog ate my cake."

Frohike wandered into the kitchen wearing a balloon animal on his head. "I have come to offer my services, Party Queen. Byers is getting a head start on balloon wiener dogs and Langley is raiding your CD collection, preparing for the dancing segment of the festivities. What can I do?"

Scully smiled appreciatively. "Can you refill lemonades?"

"That is on my resume, yes."

"It's a rough crowd."

"No worries. My approval rating is at an all-time high with the under ten crowd."

"SCULLY! MORE PAPER TOWELS!" Mulder's voice called out from ground zero.

She pulled the entire roll off the holder and handed it to Frohike, along with the lemonade pitcher.


Scully cut off the hot water with her big toe and settled lower into the lavender scented bubbles, sighing. Mulder padded in and placed a glass of red wine on the corner of the tub by her head. "One five-year-old Cinderella, now fast asleep."

"What's Will up to?"

"Reading in bed."

"Mmm," she smiled with her eyes closed. "This is the best bath in the history of baths. Care to join me?"

"Would love to, but-" he bent to plant a quick peck on her lips, "I have to get some work done. I'm getting constipated emails from Pamela."

Scully frowned. "Does that woman have a life?"

"From what I can tell, no." He sat down on the floor next to the tub in his jeans and dangled one hand into the water to play in the bubbles. "But she has had four husbands."

"Four? That many men actually married her?"

He chuckled. "She isn't so bad. She lets me write what I want."

Scully took a long swallow of her wine and made another happy humming sound. "Speaking of writing, are you still getting love letters from your secret admirer?"

Mulder smiled. "Agnes. Oh yes. Except that now she doesn't expect me to write back because she thinks ...let's see, how did she put it... that my publisher is monitoring my email account and would not approve of us parading our friendship publicly."

Scully opened her eyes and lifted her head slightly. "Mulder. This is weird. You're not concerned about this woman?"

"Oh I'm definitely concerned about this woman." He barked out an incredulous laugh. "But not because I think she's dangerous. She's just a harmless wackjob, Scully. Nothing to worry about." He kissed her forehead. "Don't wait up for me." He stood up and started out of the bathroom.

"Mulder?"

"Hmm?"

"What was in the package from Tara and Bill? I was so busy I didn't see all the gifts she opened."

"Some kind of doll. Claire liked it. She took it to bed with her."

Scully settled back again and closed her eyes sleepily. "Mm. Remind me to call Tara and thank her."

"Night, Scully."


June 16, 2009

Dear Mulder,
Last night I had a dream we met. We ate sushi together, but didn't speak a word. And I knew exactly what you were thinking the entire time. It was the most intimate experience I've ever had.

Agnes


June 21, 2009

Mulder,
I don't sleep lately. There is too much to think about and the days are filled with distraction. Sometimes I lie awake and wonder if you are awake too. You have a restless soul like I do. We are different than the others.

A


June 28, 2009

He was just hanging up the phone when she rolled over, squinty and rumpled and wearing nothing more than what the Good Lord gave her. "Time?" she rasped.

"Eleven fifteen. I just ordered food."

She scrunched her forehead, but didn't open her eyes. "Breakfast or lunch?"

"Yes. All of it."

"How much did I drink last night?"

"Before or after you took your shirt off on the beach?"

Her arm flopped over her face. "Oh God. Mulder, you're my husband. You're supposed to keep me from making a mad fool of myself."

He grinned. "I don't believe that was in the job description. Not to mention, what would ever make you think you could trust me, of all people, to do that?"

"This is awful. I'm a doctor. And a mother."

"Don't forget a semi-practicing Catholic."

"I never drink that much." She rolled over and made a painful hissing sound. "Now I remember why."

"Here, sit up a little and drink some water."

She slid up slowly against the cloud of pillows and downed half a glass of tepid water. "I have to pee." With the calculated movements of an eighty-year-old, she pushed the covers back and unfolded herself to all five foot three.

Even hungover, with raccoon eyes and rock star hair, she was delicious. His morning erection was intrigued. She looked down at it with a combination of fear and dismay. "You're kidding me."

He laughed. "I can't help it."

"Don't even think about coming at me with that. I've lost count, Mulder. I'm sore."

"Don't worry, so am I. Go pee and put something on. The food'll be here soon and I think you've given enough of a free show for one weekend."

She threw a pillow at him and started toward the bathroom before pausing and turning back, a horrified look on her face. "Nobody saw us, did they? On the beach?"

He smiled and shook his head, reassuringly. "It was two-thirty in the morning. Besides, all we did was make out. You only had your top off for a minute before I put my jacket over you." He laughed lightly. "The terrace, however..."

Her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh my God! We had sex on the terrace last night."

"Twice, actually. But don't worry about it. It was dark out and very late and I don't think anyone can see onto our terrace anyway."

She looked suddenly nauseous. "This is so bad. I'm so bad."

He chuckled. "Relax. We're here for the weekend, celebrating our anniversary. No harm was done, no laws were broken... for the most part."

She closed her eyes and grimaced.

"No big ones anyway. I had a great time and so did you...a few times, by my count." The other pillow sailed over his head as she shuffled off.

She left the bathroom door ajar as she used the toilet, washed up and brushed her teeth. When she came back to the bed, she was wearing her silk robe and had scrubbed last night's makeup from her face. She downed two pills from the palm of her hand and chased them with another long swallow of water.

"You feel okay?"

"I'm alright," she said weakly. "I won't be doing that again for a long time. Why did you keep buying me drinks, Mulder?"

He grinned impishly at her. "I was trying to get laid."

"Well, guess what? News flash, Mulder. I'm a sure thing with you."

"Not always. You make me work for it sometimes."

"Even so, no need to get me that drunk."

"Yeah, but it was fun anyway. You dirty danced, Scully."

"I did not."

"Yes, you did. It was so fucking hot."

She flopped onto her stomach and buried her face in the tornado of untucked sheets, groaning loudly.

"You were doing the bump and grind like a spring break coed. You were the girl my mother warned me about, Scully. It wasn't my fault. I just kept the drinks coming."

"Yeah, you're a regular boy scout," she grumbled. "You drank a lot last night too."

"This is true. I was feeling no pain."

"Then why are you this chipper? It's unfair. Not to mention annoying."

"You forget, I outweigh you by an entire twelve-year-old."

"Yeah well, at least you didn't humiliate yourself."

"Oh I've done plenty of embarrassing things when I've been drunk. The difference is just that they don't happen to vary widely from the embarrassing things I do when I'm sober."

There was a knock at the door and Mulder answered it to receive a rolling cart overflowing with enough food to feed a small country for a day.

"Mulder, what is all of this?"

"Um, let's see. Scrambled eggs, pancakes, croissants, crispy bacon, and a cheese and fruit platter. Oh, and orange juice and coffee." He surveyed her, hopeful. "Are you too hungover to eat?"

She appeared to be considering the idea for a long moment before launching herself at the coffee pot. "I'm starving."

He smiled victoriously and began heaping food onto a white china plate. "I called and arranged for late checkout. We've got the room until four. I thought we'd eat like royalty, maybe hit the hot tub for awhile, and then who knows..." He couldn't imagine he had another one in him, but he never turned down a challenge.

Scully, however, looked less committed to the idea. In fact, she looked like she might get up and run out of the room.

**

July 2, 2009

Scully was just getting out of a meeting with fifteen new interns when her pager went off. It was the number for the triage desk down in the ER, which puzzled her. She rarely did consults in the ER anymore. She ducked into her office and dialed the extension.

"This is Doctor Scully. You paged me?"

"Yes, Doctor, we have an MVA victim that was just brought in by ambulance about twenty minutes ago. She's asking for you. Her name is Lindsey Plath."

Oh my God, Lindsey. Scully felt the burn of bile climbing her esophagus as she glanced quickly at her watch. The kids had gotten out of school for the summer two weeks ago, which meant-

The telephone receiver made loud contact with the wooden desktop as Scully bolted out the door and toward the elevator. "Dr. Scully? Dr. Scully, are you there? Dr. Scully?"

The ER was a flurry of activity when she exited the elevator. She ran to the triage desk, dodging gurneys and white coats. "I'm looking for Lindsey Plath. She was recently brought in by ambulance."

Scully didn't recognize the nurse she was speaking to and the older woman's eyes darted to the name tag on Scully's lab coat. "Um, hold on just a moment, Dr. Scully, and I'll check for you." Paperwork was shuffled and phones rang incessantly. "She's in exam two, but she's scheduled to be taken down to X-ray in a few-"

"Thank you!" Scully took off toward exam two, knocking a stack of files off the counter in her haste.

The door to the exam room was open and Scully could see several nurses circling Lindsey, hooking up equipment and taking notes. She rushed into the room and all three nurses glanced her way in expectation, but continued performing their duties. Lindsey was flat on her back with a neck brace on and bandages on her left cheek. One of her eyes was swollen nearly shut.

"Lindsey, I'm here." She bent over Lindsey's face carefully, knowing it would be painful for the young woman to attempt to turn her head.

Lindsey's breathing was rapid and she struggled to speak. "They weren't with me," she rasped. "William and Claire - s'okay. They weren't in the car. Mulder...working from home...said they could stay there while I grocery shopped." Lindsey's cheeks were wet with tears. "They're okay."

Scully exhaled and dipped her chin to her chest, closing her eyes for what felt like forever as she suppressed sobs of relief. She said a quick and silent prayer of thanks before opening her eyes and smiling reassuringly at Lindsey. "Has a doctor examined you yet?"

"Yes. I don't feel that bad. My neck hurts and it's painful when I take a deep breath, but other than that, it's not so bad."

"What happened?"

"I-I don't really know. It all happened so fast. I remember seeing another car come out of nowhere. It was a small car, grey maybe, or black. There was a woman driving it and I saw her face. I swerved toward the shoulder to avoid her and I must have gone off the road. I think I passed out, I'm not sure. The next thing I knew, I was being pulled out of the passenger side of my car."

"You're going to be okay," reassured Scully. "I was told that you still need to go down to X-ray, so we probably won't know a lot until then, but I'm going to go and speak with the doctor who is assigned to your case. I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?"

"Okay." Lindsey reached for Scully's hand. "I'm so sorry." She choked back a sob. "What if they had been with me? If Mulder hadn't offered for them to stay home, they would have been in the car. I can't stop thinking about it." Her bottom lip trembled.

Scully's eyes stung, but she smiled and held Lindsey's hand between hers. "Listen to me. This was not your fault. It was an accident and by the sound of it, one you could not have avoided. The kids weren't with you. They're safe and I'm just thankful you are too. Besides my mother, there is no one else we trust more with our kids. You're like family to us."

Lindsey bit her lip and swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "I love you guys too."

Scully pulled a thin cotton blanket up over Lindsey's legs. "I'll be right back, okay? I promise. Just try and relax."

"Can you please call my mom for me?"

Scully nodded. "Of course."


It was well after midnight when Scully slid into their bed. Mulder was asleep on his back with the remote control resting on his bare chest. She aimed it at the TV and hit the off button, plunging the room into darkness. He stirred next to her. "Hey, I was watching that."

She nuzzled into his side, molding herself to him and swinging one bare leg over his. "Celebrity Rehab, Mulder?"

"Yeah, one of those dudes from the Partridge Family is a total burnout now. Did you know that?"

"I'm sorry to say I haven't kept up."

"What time is it?"

She let loose an exhausted sigh. "Late. I'm sorry I woke you."

"How is Lindsey?"

"Lucky. She's going to be okay, but she's got weeks of recovery and physical therapy ahead of her."

"The kids want to go see her."

"Not yet. She looks pretty bad right now. I think it would be upsetting to them."

"What the hell happened?"

"Well, no one is entirely sure and Lindsey can't remember much, but there was definitely a second car involved that fled the scene. Police are investigating, but unfortunately, it happened so fast that Lindsey can't even identify the make and model of the car."

Mulder pivoted onto his side to face her and nuzzled the top of her hair. "At least she's going to be all right. This might not be the time, but we need to talk about what we're going to do in the short term."

She sighed. "I know. I've been thinking about that."

"I can cover tomorrow."

"And I've got the Fourth of July off. I'm hoping that maybe my mother can help out for the rest of this week."

"I leave for New York next Tuesday and I can't change it, not with the new book coming out in a couple of months. If you think Skinner got irate at missed meetings, you haven't seen Pamela Rice when she's been stood up."

"I'll ask around at the hospital for references. And I'll call the agency we found Lindsey through and see if they have anyone who can help us. Lindsey is going to be out of work for at least four to six weeks."

"We'll figure something out. Try and get some sleep. What time do you have to be back at the hospital tomorrow?"

"I have a meeting at nine, but I want to get there early to check on Lindsey first. The grocery shopping didn't get done, so you'll have to do that. Or I can do it on my way home. We need to make something to take to the Martin's Fourth of July picnic. And there's a pile of laundry to be done. Mulder, I'm sorry...I know you've got a deadline."

"Hey, shh. It's okay. I'll do what I can during the day and then write at night after you get home. We'll find somebody. There's always the Guys in a pinch."

Scully groaned and turned her face into the flesh of his arm.

He chuckled. "Just laying out all our options here."

"I must be exhausted if I'm actually considering it."

"Oh, and I forgot to mention that the contractors are breaking ground on the swimming pool next week too."

"Great. That's...great. Let's see, what else can we fit in? Should we have the roof reshingled too?"

"Nah, we had that done five years ago. But I've been thinking a basketball court might be nice. Next to the pool? What do you think, Scully?"

"Go to sleep, Mulder."

He kissed her. "Night, Scully."


July 4, 2009

July in northern Virginia. It was that kind of oppressive heat and humidity, even at seven o'clock in the evening, that hugged the body like a warm, wet blanket. She was sweating in some very unflattering places. There were still about two hours until the fireworks display, and the party was in full swing. Neighbors, in all states of sobriety, or not, mingled.

She had consumed exactly one beer since four o'clock. Will and Claire were in the Martins pool, along with about twenty other kids, and she was vigilantly keeping watch and counting heads. Will was a very good swimmer, but Claire was still learning and they hadn't bothered to bring along a swim vest for her. Claire had, therefore, been confined to the shallow end of the pool, despite her indignant protests. Her daughter was a daredevil by nature, having inherited her father's less cautious tendencies. Scully dreaded the teen years like the plague.

Something cold and wet touched the back of her neck and she reached back to wrap her hand around a Rolling Rock. Mulder claimed the lawn chair next to her, propping his foot up on his other knee. "I just spent forty-five minutes listening to Herb Draper recite his entire stock portfolio, followed by all the scores from his bowling league."

Scully snorted and tipped her bottle back. "I've got you beat. Gwen Holden just offered to share a joint with me in the upstairs bathroom."

Mulder choked on his swallow of beer. "Are you serious?"

Scully smiled.

"You didn't."

"Of course not."

"Jesus. The women are a lot more fun than the men around here."

William climbed out of the pool, his blue swim trunks trailing a long stream of water behind him all the way to the diving board. "Hey Dad! Watch!" He catapulted himself off the end, pulling his legs up into a perfect cannonball.

"Nice one!" Mulder called back, giving him a thumbs up. "Watch the little kids when you jump, okay Will?"

"Maybe we should get them out. They've been in for hours. Claire's a prune."

"They're having fun. Wait until our pool is in. They'll never get out." He leaned closer and gave her a sidelong glance, peeling the label from his beer bottle. "And just think, when the sun goes down, we'll have it all to ourselves."

The corners of her mouth edged up into the hint of a smile. "To swim laps, of course."

"Exercise is important."

"So I was talking with Sheila Martin earlier, and guess who just graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and is home for the summer?"

Mulder shrugged at her curiously.

"Ashley."

Still nothing.

Scully tipped her sunglasses down and peered at him over the top. "Ashley Martin? She babysat for us once? You drove her home in the rain and she offered to give you a different kind of ride?"

Awareness dawned and Mulder arched two eyebrows. "Oh, thaaaat Ashley."

"Yes. Than one. Apparently, she did quite well at Chapel Hill. Graduated magna cum laude."

"You don't say."

"Mmm. I could make a comment about how she might've managed that, but I won't."

"Hey, if she's free for the summer, we could ask her to be our temporary nanny," he grinned.

She blinked twice at him. "You're funny."

He chuckled. "Come on, Scully. It's been five years. You can retract the claws now."

"She stole our towel. One of those big fluffy bath sheets. I want my fucking towel back."

Tom approached, wearing a tie dyed shirt and carrying a martini. "What's up, doctor/writer people?"

"Whattaya call 5,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?" asked Mulder.

Tom pulled up a chair and straddled it, facing the back. "A good start. Dude, get some new lawyer jokes."

"How does a lawyer sleep?" asked Mulder, drawing from his beer. "First he lies on one side, then he lies on the other."

"That's a little better." Tom raised his glass and clinked it with Mulder's bottle. "Who's DJ'ing this thing anyway? I just heard Def Leppard. I'm having prom flashbacks. If they play Pour Some Sugar On Me, will you dance with me?" He raked Mulder with his eyes, in mock flirtation.

"No, but Scully will. That's exactly what she listens to. You should see her ipod. Whitesnake, Poison, Van Halen, Guns 'N Roses..."

Scully shifted her jaw and threw him her best fuck off look.

Tom laughed. "Really? That's awesome! I can see that." He nodded enthusiastically. "I can definitely see that about you."

"Oh yeah," said Mulder. "She begged me to let her take a year off work and be a groupie for the KISS reunion tour a few years back, but ya know, I had to put my foot down and say no to that, didn't I Honey?"

"Cute. You're cute," she deadpanned. "How did I resist you for so long?"

Trish wandered over and sat down, balancing a glass of white wine between her knees while she twisted her long blonde hair and clipped it up. "What? What did I miss?"

Tom piped in. "Mulder was just telling us about Dana's love of 80s hair bands."

Trish arched her brows. "Really?"

Scully shook her head and rolled her eyes.

"Hey, Jon Bon Jovi is totally hot," said Trish, vehemently. "I went to their concert when I was a senior in high school. When he sang Livin' On A Prayer, I almost threw my panties at him."

"Nice, Babe," smiled Tom. "That's my wife, ladies and gentleman. Isn't she sweet?" He took a long drink from his glass and Mulder and Scully laughed.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you guys!" Trish lifted her sunglasses to perch on top of her forehead. "I was mentioning to Edie about what happened to Lindsey - which is absolutely awful, by the way, I can't believe it - and Edie said that she'd be interested in helping you guys out with watching the kids. That is, if you're interested."

Scully sat up straighter. "Really?"

"Yeah, sure," replied Trish. "Her nursing classes don't start until September and she needs to earn a little extra money for tuition. She gets along great with your kids and they seem to really like her. I don't know - it seems like the perfect arrangement to me. Why don't you give her a call?"

"I will," said Scully. "God, that would be a huge help. We weren't sure what we were going to do. I can't take time off from work right now and Mulder has a book deadline coming up."

"I would have helped you out myself," said Trish apologetically, "but the kids and I are leaving next weekend to go visit my sister in Colorado."

Tom turned to Mulder. "I'll be a bachelor for three weeks."

Mulder lifted a brow at him.

"Don't get any ideas," warned Trish. She held an index finger up to Mulder. "I'm holding you responsible."

Scully huffed out an incredulous laugh. "Oh Good Lord."


July 6, 2009

The phone rang as Mulder was cutting the crusts off sandwiches. He balanced the receiver on his shoulder and hit the talk button with a jellied finger. "Hello."

"Hi, it's me."

"It's you."

"How're you managing? I'm sorry my mother couldn't take them today, Mulder. I forgot she was going to be out-of-town for the weekend."

"We are...hang on a sec...Claire Bear, please don't feed that to the dog, and go find your brother and tell him lunch is ready... okay, I'm back."

"What's for lunch?"

"PB&J aaaaand..." he opened the crisper drawer to the fridge and pulled out a plastic produce bag. "Grapes." He opened the bag and looked inside. "Wait - no grapes. Eeew. How long have these been in the fridge?" He overhanded them into the garbage and pulled out two apples and began slicing them up instead.

"So I did a background check on Edie."

He stopped slicing. "You what? She gave you permission?"

"Not exactly. I asked her for her social security number so we can give it to our accountant for tax purposes and then I called Skinner and had him run it for me."

"Jesus. You really think that was necessary?"

"Do you want to take the chance? We ran Lindsey before we hired her too."

"And?"

"Edith Walker. Date of birth November 19, 1972. She's squeaky clean. Not even a speeding ticket in the last ten years."

"So, yes then?"

"Yes. I'll call and see if she can start Monday."

"Scully?"

"Yeah?"

"What's this thing in the yellow Tupperware?"

"What does it look like?"

"It looks like the furry things that collect under the beds when we don't vacuum for awhile."

"Don't eat it."

"Thanks, Doc."

She laughed. "I love you. You're doing a great job."

"I'll see you tonight."


Edie started at 8:00 a.m. Monday. She showed up in shorts, sneakers, a ponytail and a Yankees cap, and by the time Scully left for work at 8:30, she had cleaned up all the breakfast dishes and was arguing draft picks with Mulder. Scully knew that everything would be just fine.

She came home to a chicken roasting in the oven, a clean house, and two tired and happy kids. Scully insisted that there was no expectation that she start dinner, but Edie claimed it had been far too long since she'd cooked for more than herself, and she enjoyed it. After tasting the roasted chicken, Scully opted not to argue with her.

Mulder managed to work all day behind a closed door, texting her three times to tell her in detail what he planned to do to her that evening. She opened a message on her vibrating phone during her two o'clock meeting and turned beet red.

After dinner, he read to the kids, put them to bed, packed his bags for New York, and then made good on his promises. Before her alarm went off the next morning, she felt his lips on hers as he kissed her goodbye. "Love you, Scully. I'll call you tonight."

"Mmm," she hummed and smiled, rolling over into his pillow.


July 10, 2009

Dear Mulder,
I apologize that it has been awhile since I've written you. You may have been worried and for that, I am sorry. I have not been unwell, though. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have been relaxed and content and at peace with many facets of my life, finally coming to terms with things that have haunted me, for lack of a better term. I am quite sure you understand. We all go through seasons in our lives. Times of metamorphosis, of greater enlightenment, of becoming. Oh it is wonderful.

I hope you are well and that your book is developing nicely. I wish so much that I could read it now. I dislike having to wait and I know you hate having to make me. I do understand, though. We will have our time.

Devotedly,
Agnes


July 11, 2009

Lindsey continued to make progress toward recovery and Scully checked in on her several times a day, monitoring her condition and speaking with the doctor assigned to Lindsey's case, Dr. Beckett, regularly. In fact, she had Dr. Beckett on speed dial now, and she got the distinct impression that had she not outranked him, he would have told her to take a long walk off a short pier awhile ago.

A little over a week after the accident, Scully was rounding the corner toward Lindsey's hospital room and she almost ran over a young man with dark hair and glasses. He smiled and greeted her cordially by name.

Lindsey looked happy and relaxed, sitting up in her bed, doing the Times crossword. Color had returned to her cheeks and her light brown hair fell in shiny waves around her shoulders. Cards and flowers filled nearly every available surface of the room.

She looked up and smiled as Scully approached her bedside. "Hi."

"Hi, yourself." Scully arched a brow at her and nodded toward the door. "Honda?"

Lindsey grinned and nodded. "Uh huh."

"Cuuuute."

"Uh huh. He stops every day on his lunch hour, and again every night after work."

Scully's mouth stretched wide. "Soo, it's going well then."

Lindsey's cheeks pinked up a little and she beamed. "I like him. A lot." She slid a flat black and gold box from beneath a stack of magazines and pulled the lid off. "He brought me contraband chocolate."

"Oh my God, marry him." Scully selected a round truffle and bit into it with a rapturous hum of approval. The hell with flowers.

"He's a real gentleman." Lindsey delivered a pointed look. "So much so that I've entertained the idea of throwing him up against a wall."

Scully laughed out loud at that. "Well, all I can say is that in my limited experience, most often the guys who are willing to wait are the ones worth waiting for."

"He wants me to go away for the weekend with him once I'm better."

"Sounds promising. So he's a hopeless romantic then."

Lindsey smiled, dreamily, and took a second chocolate. "I could get used to it. Besides, having something to look forward to will encourage me to work harder at my physical therapy."

"Speaking of that, I just talked to Dr. Beckett and he informed me that you're being released tomorrow. That's great news."

"It is," Lindsey agreed. "I've had enough cafeteria Jello to last me a lifetime. Still, I'm not looking forward to coming back for PT four days a week."

"Dr. Beckett has ordered an aggressive physical therapy treatment plan and I have to concur. You're young and healthy. The harder you work, the sooner you'll be able to put all this behind you."

"I won't argue there. I want to get back to work; I miss the kids terribly."

Scully smiled. "They miss you too." She sifted through the folders in her arms. "They made you Get Well cards. Claire used a whole bottle of glitter. It's all over the inside of my car and office now." She pulled out two large pieces of folded cardstock and handed them to Lindsey.

"Awww, Pickle." Lindsey clicked her tongue. "You can never have too much glitter. I taught her well." She propped up both cards on her bedside table and admired them. "What are you guys doing for help? Mulder has a deadline. I feel just terrible about all this."

"Actually, we're doing okay. The woman who is renting Tom and Trish's apartment has stepped in temporarily. She watched the kids once or twice for us before on weekends, and she offered to help out while you're recovering."

"Oh yes. Edie, right?"

"You've met her?"

Lindsey shook her head. "No, but Will and Claire mentioned her before."

"She's going back to school to finish a nursing degree in the Fall, but she's available for the next couple of months, so it worked-"

Scully's pager went off, interrupting their conversation. She smiled, apologetically. "I have to run. Duty calls. But I'll check in on you tomorrow morning before you're released."

Lindsey held the candy box out to her. "One for the road?"

"Don't mind if I do," Scully said, choosing a caramel. She started toward the door. "Say hello to Honda for me," she smirked and Lindsey returned the look. "Does he have a name?"

"Ryan," Lindsey sighed, dreamily. "His name is Ryan."

"Ryan and Lindsey," repeated Scully. "It has a soap opera ring to it."

Lindsey closed the chocolate box, then on second thought, snuck a finger inside for one last piece. "It does. But with a lot less sex," she said regretfully.

"Finish your PT. Get well." Scully smiled. "Then go away for the weekend and jump him."

"Are those doctor's orders?"

"They absolutely are."

"I'll tell him," grinned Lindsey.

**

July 12, 2009

Dear Mulder,
Do you ever miss it? The thrill of discovering something that can have deeply fateful repercussions for humanity. I wonder if a domestic existence is enough for your complicated and sophisticated mind. Do you ever feel like chasing something again?

Agnes


July 13, 2009

Scully typed quickly and backspaced through her errors, cursing under her breath. Her call home was answered on the fourth ring by a very winded-sounded Edie. "Hello?"

"Edie? Hi, it's Dana. Did I catch you at a bad time?"

"Oh hi! No, no, we're outside and I ran for the phone. Everything okay?"

"Yes, fine. It's just that, I have a grant proposal that I thought I'd be finished with today and I'm not. It's due Monday morning and I can't bring it home with me because all the files I need are here at my office. I'm going to have to stay for several more hours. I called and made arrangements for my mother to pick the kids up before dinner and keep them until I'm finished, but I wanted to let you know she'll be stopping by soon to get them."

"Oh don't be silly, that really won't be necessary. I can stay a little longer tonight, it's no problem."

"I can't ask you to do that Edie. I might not be home until after nine."

"It's okay! I wouldn't offer if I didn't want to."

"Well..."

"It's settled then," said Edie. "We'll see you later."

"Thank you so much. Honestly Edie, I don't know what I would have done without you this week with Mulder gone."

"I'm glad to help. Now get back to work!"

"Thanks again. I'll see you later."

**

The July humidity and fourteen hour day had done a number on Scully's fresh dressed look. By the time she pulled into her driveway at 9:15, she felt wilted, like somebody let all the air out of her. The kitchen was quiet when she closed the door. She peeled her linen suit jacket off and draped it over the back of a chair. The air conditioning felt dreamy and she was tempted to just stand over a vent in her skirt for awhile, letting the cold air do deeply intimate things to her.

The counters had been wiped down and the dishwasher had been emptied. Bailey stretched and yawned and loped out of the laundry room to greet her with a wagging tail.

"Hey, Boy." She scratched the top of his head and ran his silky ear between her fingertips. His nails were getting long and he could use a good brushing out. She'd get to it this weekend. He looked at her expectantly, and she opened the tall bag next to his food dish and dug out two large scoops, depositing them into the stainless steel bowl. The tail swished gratefully and Bailey began to dine with the manners and grace of a well-trained Brontosaurus.

"I let him out about an hour ago," said a voice from behind her. Edie stood in the doorway between the family room and the kitchen in shorts and bare feet, her dark hair falling out of a loose ponytail. "The kids are asleep. I just checked on them."

"Thank you so much," sighed Scully. "I thought today would never end." She slid out of her heels and left them in an untidy heap right in front of the door, too tired to even bother.

Edie smiled. "You look like you could use a cup of tea."

"Actually, I was thinking of something..." she opened the pantry and came out a few seconds later holding a bottle, "even more relaxing." It was an unopened bottle of California merlot. "Join me?"

Edie hesitated for a second.

"I'm sorry, it's Friday night. I'm sure you have better things to do." Scully smiled kindly and stretched on her tip toes to open the cupboard that held the wine glasses. Dammit, why did Mulder put these up so high anyway? If they drank wine, they usually did it together and he was the designated wine glass retriever.

"Well, there is a Sandra Bullock marathon on cable I was in a hurry to get home to," Edie laughed, jokingly. "But really, how many times can you watch Hope Floats?"

Scully turned over two wine glasses on top of the counter and went for the corkscrew. "Well, it is Harry Conick, Jr." She wrenched the metal into the cork with renewed energy. Nothing would keep her from this bottle of wine tonight. "So I think at least once more, don't you?"

The movie was nearly a third over by the time they located the channel, but that was fine. They spent more time conversing than actually paying attention to it anyway.

"It must be hard for you with him gone," said Edie, sipping slowly.

"Mulder?" Scully smiled wistfully, the warmth of the wine coating her throat and fading the edges of the room. "I have grown rather attached to having him around, yes. But we did live a good portion of our lives as single people." She tilted her head, considering and took another swallow. "Well. Sort of. I'm not really sure what we were."

"You've been together a long time?"

"Married? Seven years. Together? That's a little trickier."

"Was it love at first sight?"

Scully huffed out a laugh. "No. Then again, I think there was something indefinable there, even from the beginning." She glanced at Edie and realized that this poor woman looked entirely perplexed. Sometimes she forgot that normal people didn't get her and Mulder, and that they had to cut people a little slack. "Good Lord, I'm sorry. I know it sounds crazy, believe me. The road to true love hasn't exactly been paved with hearts and flowers for Mulder and me, that's for sure. We aren't what you'd call typical."

"Well," said Edie, fingering a loose thread on the sofa cushion and pressing her lips together in a smile. "What would be the fun in that?"

Scully stared into her wine glass with arched brows, like that was just about the most pivotal question ever asked, and then drank deeply. Yes, what would be the fun?

The cordless phone on the end table rang and she reached for it without looking and without relinquishing her drink. Right on time. He always called at ten when he knew the kids would be tucked safely into bed and she'd be on her way there herself. She'd get between the sheets with the phone, wearing something of his, and they'd talk until one of them paused long enough to give away the fact that they were drifting off to sleep. When they would finally hang up, she'd roll onto her stomach on his side of the bed and take his pillow hostage until morning.

"Hello."

"I want you in my bed," said that low voice that sounded a little too cocky for its own good.

"Oh really. And why would I want to do that?" She fingered a droplet of merlot from the side of her glass and licked it from her finger.

"Do you want me to tell you in elaborate detail?"

A quick glance to her right indicated that Edie was trying her very best to focus her attention on the TV.

"We were talking about you. Your ears must have been burning." There was soft shuffling on the other end and she pictured him sprawled across an ugly hotel bedspread, shirtless. It wasn't helping her concentration much. Harry Conick had nothing on shirtless Mulder.

"We?" he asked.

"I'm sharing a bottle of wine and watching a chick flick with Edie."

"Ah. Estrogen fest. Sorry I can't make it."

"Can I call you in a little while?"

"I'll be up. Love you."

"Love you too."

She hung up, finished the last sip of her wine, then reached to pour a refill from the half empty bottle on the coffee table. Edie drained her glass and stood. "I really should go."

Her abruptness startled Scully. "Oh. Um, are you sure?"

Edie smiled anxiously. "I guess I didn't realize how tired I am."

Scully stood, turning off the TV. "It has been a long day. Thank you for staying with the kids tonight. We'll compensate you for it, of course."

Edie waved her hand casually. "It was no trouble at all. Thank you for the glass of wine."

Scully followed her to the door, feeling oddly like the woman was rushing herself out. She hoped her phone call with Mulder hadn't made her uncomfortable, although she had no idea why it might have. It had been brief and discreet on her end. "Have a nice weekend, Edie."

Edie foraged through her purse for her car keys. "Thank you. The same to you. Mr. Mulder will be coming home?"

Scully smiled. "Sunday."

"I'm sure the children will be happy to see him. So I'll come back Monday morning then?"

"Yes. We'll see you then. Thanks again, Edie."

Scully locked the door behind her and set the house alarm before making the rounds through the first floor, extinguishing lights in her wake. Bailey followed at her heels as she made her way upstairs to the master bedroom, carrying her glass of wine. She had her blouse fully unbuttoned by the time she got there.

**

July 14, 2009

Dear Mulder,
I am not satisfied with this arrangement between us. I know that you feel the same and I am trying to appreciate your predicament, but it's difficult. I would have thought it would be possible for things to progress by now. You need to help me understand why we are still pretending. I want to understand, truly I do, but you should know that my patience is wearing thin. There are too many obstacles and we need to start dealing with them if things are to be as they should.

Despondently,
Agnes


July 15, 2009

Mulder made it home in time for dinner Sunday. Seven years and he was still getting used to the idea that people eagerly awaited his arrival, that there were little arms and legs that would wrap around him like seaweed and make him feel like he never wanted to leave home again. And then he'd look up and there she'd be, standing off to the side with a smile on her face, arms crossed at her chest, patiently awaiting her turn with him. He'd have to blink several times to convince himself that he wasn't going to wake up any minute at Hegel Place with a leaky waterbed, a pile of dirty laundry, and a head full of conspiracies.

Well, he still had those. But he'd learned to assimilate them into a reasonably normal life now.

He'd want to take her to bed the minute he got home. It always worked that way. She'd kiss him, almost shyly, and he'd bury his face in her hair and say "Hey Scully," in his serendipitous way, like he hadn't been missing her more than oxygen.

Tonight she had made pot roast. Sunday pot roast. It was almost cliche. He didn't laugh, though, because it was very good. One of the many surprising things he had learned about Scully when they had first embarked on their adventures in cohabitation, was that she was a more than a decent cook. Most of her recipes were simple and safe, but reliable. Growing up on as part of a large family on a naval base must have taught her a thing or two about cooking basic food. He suspected that none of Margaret Scully's children left home without knowing how to take care of themselves. The food was hot and good and he ate a lot of it, making up for five days of hot dog vendors and Subway.

They loaded the dishwasher side by side and she told him about her week. The contractors had made progress on the pool installation. Barring unforeseen weather delays, they'd be swimming by the middle of next week. There was currently an enormous hole in their back yard and Bailey found it endlessly amusing to case the perimeter of it and bark, like he was preparing for something unknown and menacing to rise from its depths.

"Claire learned to tie her shoes," said Scully, flipping on the garbage disposal. The loud whirr startled the dog and he got up and shuffled out of the kitchen, disgruntled.

Mulder stopped rinsing. "What? How did she do that?"

"Edie taught her."

He frowned. "I've been working with her on that for weeks."

Scully ran a hand over his shoulder affectionately as she moved to the other side of the counter. "Should we fire her then?"

Mulder hrmphed quietly. "So it's going well."

She shrugged. "Seems to be."

"What do you think of her?"

"She's a little quiet. But polite and more than willing to be flexible. And the kids seem to have taken to her rather seamlessly."

She deposited a detergent tab, closed the dishwasher and pressed start. When she turned around, he was there leaning into her with one hand pressed to the counter. "Are you writing tonight?" she asked his Adam's apple.

"Nuh-uh." He brushed her hair from her neck and kissed her. "You have my undivided attention."

She smiled and leaned into his mouth. "It's early yet."

His lips reverberated on her like a tuning fork. "I can wait." He pressed closer, bracketing her sandaled feet with his own. She smelled so damned good.

Her brow arched and she glanced down between them. He knew what she felt and he couldn't help it, so he wouldn't bother trying. He loved that it still brought color to her cheeks, even after all this time.

Will careened into the kitchen and Mulder pushed off the edge of the counter abruptly with his hands, tugging the front of his shirt down to cover his fly.

"Dad, can we shoot hoops? It's still light out."

"Sure. Give me a minute to get my sneakers on and I'll meet you out there." Will took off out the door to the driveway and the dog trailed behind him.

"Wanna come out?" he asked her. "You and Will against me and Claire Bear?"

She smiled. "You go ahead. I need to start some laundry and check email. I'll be out in little while."

He played an hour and a half of two on one with the kids and she still hadn't made an appearance. It was getting dark, so they tossed the balls into the garage and went inside. She was sitting at the kitchen table, staring blankly at her laptop. The room had gone shadowy and she hadn't bothered to turn on any lights. He punched the dimmer switch and the chandelier above the table sprang to life.

"We missed you out there." He was about to go for a glass of water when the gravity on her face registered and his smile faded. "What's wrong?"

The kids wrestled one another for access to the water and ice dispenser on the fridge and Claire howled her indignation at Will.

"Scully?"

She stared at him, but addressed the kids. "William, take your sister upstairs."

"Okay," he said quietly, his tone cautious.

Seconds later, noises began to filter down from upstairs and it became clear that it was just the two of them in the kitchen.

"What? What is it?"

"I got an email from Tara," she said calmly. "They've been out of town visiting her sister. She forgot to get Claire's birthday gift in the mail until a few days ago. She sent her apologies."

He started back blankly. Obviously he was missing the punchline.

"Bill and Tara didn't send that doll to Claire for her birthday, Mulder."

"Charlie and Michelle then-"

"No. They sent a gift card. It arrived the week before her birthday."

"Well, someone sent the doll," he said, shrugging with lack of concern.

"Yes. Someone certainly did." She bit her lip and continued staring at him.

"What are you saying? You don't think..."

"You said she was harmless, Mulder. You said not to worry about it."

"I-I still don't think-"

"You don't think that the crazy woman who has been stalking you for over a month might have sent your daughter a gift for her birthday?" The volume of her voice had risen considerably.

He pulled out a chair and turned her laptop to face him, punching keys. "How the hell would she have gotten this address, Scully? We've been so careful. Everything is unlisted."

"If someone wants it bad enough, they'll get it. I think we should call the police."

He entered his username and password and waited for his email messages to load. "Don't you think that's jumping the gun a little? We don't even know it was her yet. I'll handle it."

"Like you've handled it so far?" Her tone was icy. She was royally pissed. He hoped she was overreacting, but he was more agitated by this than he let on to her. The idea that something could have happened while he was away and she was home alone with the kids terrified him. Not because she couldn't take care of herself. She had proven otherwise time and time again over their years together. She was as trained as he was. But still, she and the kids were supposed to be safe in their own home.

There were several messages from Agnes in his email account. They were messages he hadn't read yet, and he clicked through them, skimming. She read over his shoulder, the tension in the room growing with each passing second. "Mulder, Dammit!"

"These are new messages. I haven't logged into this account since before I left." The tone of the messages had changed and what he read made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.

She stalked out of the kitchen and up the stairs. He heard their bedroom door slam shut a few seconds later.

He read the most recent message for a third time. Then he clicked reply and typed one sentence.

Agnes,
Did you send something to my home?

Fox Mulder

It took every ounce of his self-restraint not to threaten her, to tell her that if she ever contacted him again, he'd hunt her down and make her life a living hell. But he held back. It was more important for him to find out if she had sent the package and if she knew his home address. His profiling instincts told him that if he responded with hostility, she may never tell him what he wanted to know.

He clicked send and then went upstairs after Scully.

Will was in Claire's room, reading to her on her bed. They had both changed into their pajamas without having been asked. Will paused midsentence when his father walked by and then started up again.

He opened the door to the master bedroom and found Scully sitting on the edge of the bed, bent over her knees with her hands steepled in thought. He sat down next to her. "I'm sorry if I made light of the situation. I honestly didn't think it was anything to worry about and we still don't know if it is. I sent her a message."

She turned toward him, a deep furrow between her brows. "What did you say?"

"I asked if she sent something to me. I'm not going to say anything else to her unless she confirms it was her."

"And if it was?"

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "If it was, then we'll deal with it."

"What does that mean?" She rose to her feet and faced him, arms crossed. "That package was addressed to Cl-" she lowered her voice and bent forward slightly to make her point, the words leaving her in a hiss. "It was addressed to Claire for her birthday, Mulder! That means that this woman knows your daughter's name and her birthday. And God knows what else! I can't believe you let it go this far!"

"We don't know it was her, Scully! Jesus." Now his voice was raised. He stood and unbuttoned his shirt, overhanding it into the hamper with more force than necessary. "Don't you think you might be overreacting just a little?"

"I don't believe you just said that! Did you actually read the same emails I just read?" Her eyes were wide and she was gesticulating with her hands. "This woman is not stable, Mulder! She's delusional and could very well be dangerous. God, I'm not the one with the psych degree here and even I can see that! You need to wake up! "

"Mommy," a small voice said from the doorway. Claire stood there in turquoise butterfly pajamas, scrunching her bare toes into the carpet and biting her lip.

Scully drew a startled breath and turned toward her, trying to force a comforting smile. "Ready for bed, honey?"

"Can Daddy tuck me in?"

Mulder walked over and scooped her up in one arm, holding her tight. "You bet." He planted a kiss to her forehead and carried her toward her bedroom.

"Throw me," giggled Claire.

Mulder smiled and swung her gently through the air without letting go. "Like this?" She erupted into more giggles. Mulder did it again, higher this time. "You mean throw you high, like this?"

"Higher, Daddy! Throw me!"

Mulder swung Claire up through the air twice and on the third time, he very carefully aimed her toward the center of her fluffy, quilt- covered bed and let go. The mattress squeaked as Claire bounced and laughed.

She scrambled under the covers with pink bare feet and Mulder pulled the quilt to her chin. He sat on the edge of her bed and arranged a plethora of stuffed animals all around her. She grasped her blankie and buried her face in the satin binding, like she always did when she was sleepy.

Mulder bent to turn on the night light. "I missed you while I was gone."

"Did you miss Mommy too?"

He tilted his head, curiously. "Yes, I did. I missed her very much."

"Why were you fighting?"

He sighed, tucking the covers more snugly around her. "We weren't fighting. We were just working something out. And sometimes...sometimes when we work something out, we tend to get a little bit carried away."

Clare's eyes roamed his face. "Like when I went in Will's desk and used up all his glue sticks, so he hid my Zhu Zhu pets?"

"A lot like that. Even when you're both frustrated, you still love each other."

Claire nodded, thoughtfully.

"Well, grown ups are just like big kids sometimes. We do things to frustrate and anger one another. But even when we're working something out, we still love each other."

She eyed him judgmentally for a long moment. "What did you do?"

He laughed and bent to press a kiss to her forehead. "None of your beeswax. Go to sleep. I love you, Claire Bear."

"Night, Daddy."

He turned the light out and closed the door partway. Then he said goodnight to Will who was reading in bed and wished him sweet dreams, foregoing the 'lights out' reminder. It was summer and there was no school. They had relaxed the bedtime rules.

When he finally made his way back to his room, she was reading in bed. She didn't look up at him while he stripped down to his boxers and slid in. He lay on his back with his hands crossed over his bare chest. She pretended to be reading, but she hadn't turned a page in minutes and he knew she wasn't that slow of a reader.

"So you're going to go to bed angry now, is that it?"

She heaved a sigh and turned her book over facedown onto her stomach. "I don't know what I am. Frustrated, I guess. You knew I was uneasy when the emails started and you belittled my concern. I wouldn't be so upset if the stakes weren't so high. But this involves the safety of our children, Mulder."

He inhaled deeply and rolled to face her, propping his head on his elbow. "I know. I'm sorry. You know I'd never do anything to put you or the kids at risk. I honestly didn't think it was something to worry about."

She placed the book on her nightstand and then slid down further into the bed, turning onto her side and resting her small hand next to his. Their pinky fingers brushed tentatively. "Maybe you're right and it wasn't her."

"Either way, we'll deal with it. Even if she didn't send the package, she needs to stop writing me."

He slid one arm under her pillow. "It'll be okay."

She exhaled deeply and nodded with her eyes closed.

"Claire thinks we're fighting," he said.

Her eyes opened and looked at him sadly. "What did she say?"

"She asked me what I did?" he smiled.

Scully huffed out a laugh and pressed her face closer to his. "Smart girl."

He kissed her tenderly and snuck a hand under her pajama top to brush the curve of her breast. Her warm skin rippled beneath his touch and she kissed him back, her tongue sliding against his.

"Are you okay with this?" he whispered. He'd been wanting her for days. He always came home this way and she knew it. But he didn't want her to satisfy him just because she knew he wanted it or expected it.

"Yes." Her hips rose gently against his hand and she nipped at the hollow of his throat.

"Say it," he urged. "Please. I need to hear you say it."

Her open mouth skittered across his jaw. "I was right and you were wrong," she breathed, barely getting the last word out before releasing a laugh.

He pulled her tighter. "Cute, Scully. Really cute."

She giggled a little more before running her hand between them to dip into the waistband of his boxers. He released a groan and pressed into her.

"Make love to me," she whispered, taking his full lower lip between hers. The clothes were off and he was sliding into her within seconds. He reached and groped for the lamp on the nightstand, knocking over enough things for her to pull her lips from is and shush him.

"Sorry," he moaned. "I can't stop moving. You feel too good."

The light stayed on.

She bent her knees and snaked her legs around his waist, rocking and moving with him. They went on like that for a good ten minutes before he felt her hand slide between them. Her eyes were closed tight and she was touching herself, her nails gently scraping at his hard flesh as she circled her clit. He rocked back onto his knees so he could watch and continued to thrust into her steadily.

She was quiet this time when she came, like she often was. Her breathing changed, growing rapid and staggering before halting completely as she climaxed. Her body went rigid and waves clutched his cock. He slowed in order to feel them, fast and rhythmic at first, then tapering into gentle squeezes. She relaxed her legs and unfolded herself, stretching feline-like beneath his weight.

This was right about where he lost it each time, speeding up to finish seconds behind her. Watching her always did him in. He pitched forward over her and increased the timing and depth of his thrusts. Her fingers caressed his shoulder blades as she urged him on. She coordinated a tightening and releasing of her vaginal muscles along with his pumps, and it felt amazing. She relaxed as he pushed in, and then tightened as he pulled out. His balls felt heavy and full. He needed a release. He pumped into her harder and faster.

Minutes later, still nothing. He was breathing like he'd run a marathon. Her hand cupped his face and her eyes connected with his. "You okay?" she whispered.

He slowed the pace. "Yeah. I'm just, I don't know." His torso was slickened with sweat. "It feels incredible; I'm just having trouble focusing."

"A different position?"

"Yeah, sure." He pulled out and watched hungrily as she arranged herself on her hands and knees, bless her. The cinnamon strands of her hair swept gently across her pale back as she glanced behind her with a permissive smile.

He sank into her and groaned. She was so tight this way. He grasped her hips and took up a rhythm, and she rocked down onto her elbows, opening to him even further. "Yesssss," he panted, quickening. They kept it up for awhile and he could feel himself getting closer and closer, but then plateauing just as his climax was within reach. He pumped harder and heard her suppress a cry.

He stopped moving. "What? Did I hurt you?"

"I'm okay."

He pulled out and eased a finger gently into her. She wasn't nearly as wet as she had been. He deposited saliva onto his palm and then coated his penis before trying to push in again. She tensed and he heard a barely audible hiss.

"Jesus, I'm sorry," he said, rolling onto his back next to her. "I don't know what the hell's wrong with me tonight."

She kissed his bare shoulder. "Shh, it's okay. I'm just a little sore, that's all." He felt her mouth making its way down his rib cage and then over his stomach, sucking and kissing, and he knew exactly where she was headed.

He shifted under her and tugged at her upper arms. "It's okay, Scully."

The flat of her tongue traced his hip bone. "Let me."

"C'mere." He coaxed her gently back up so they were face to face. He could already feel his erection waning. "I think I'm just tired tonight, that's all. It's been a long week." He planted a kiss to her mouth. "Try again tomorrow?"

"Mm, of course, sure," she said, quietly.

"Let's get some sleep."

She sighed and snuggled closer, fitting her head into the notch of his shoulder and eventually drifting off. He lay there awake for a long while, listening to her breathe.


July 16, 2009

Dear Mulder,
So Claire received my gift then. I'm so pleased. I looked long and hard to find a doll that was just right for such a pretty little girl. She looks just like you with those beautiful dark curls and green eyes. I hope she enjoys the gift.

With Love,
Agnes


Agnes,
You should know that I have contacted the proper authorities. Cyberstalking is a criminal offense, punishable by up to six months in prison. If you attempt to contact me or any member of my family again, I will exhaust every avenue available to me to make certain you are apprehended and charged. Since you obviously know so much about me, you must realize that I retain enough contacts within the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make good on my promise. DO NOT contact me, or any member of my family, ever again.

Fox Mulder


When Scully got home from the hospital Monday, there was a Crown Victoria with darkened windows parked along her street. She drove slowly past the car before turning up her driveway. She had been on enough stakeouts to recognize one when she saw it.

She dropped her briefcase and purse inside the door and stood in her work heels with her hands on her hips, watching Mulder type with precision accuracy at his laptop. He had set up some kind of makeshift office at the kitchen table. Legal pads, books, files, and half empty coffee mugs littered the cherry tabletop.

"What's going on, Mulder? Where are the kids?"

He kept typing without looking up. "They went out for pizza with Edie. They'll be back in an hour. Have a seat."

She pulled out a chair and sat, warily. "Why do we have FBI watching our house?"

His brows raised, apparently impressed by her powers of observation. "They're not FBI."

She crossed her arms and waited, her frown deepening.

He closed his laptop and faced her, solidly. "The package was from Agnes."

She drew a deep breath and stiffened, but continued to listen.

"I've bypassed local authorities. They can't do much but file a report. I called Skinner and explained the situation, and he sent over a couple of agents to take a statement and start looking into it. At this point, the FBI won't release any manpower for surveillance." He nodded his head toward the window that overlooked the driveway. "So that's where Frank comes in. And Marty, who won the coin toss and is now casing out the pizza place where Edie and the kids are having dinner. They're friends of Walter's. Friends with a certain type of background. And they owe him favors."

Her mouth hung open. "You've hired bodyguards for our kids?"

"For all of us, and surveillance on the house. Hopefully only for a week or so. Until we either figure out who she is or she stops all attempts at contact. You wanted me to take this seriously, Scully. I'm taking it seriously. And there's one more thing you need to know."

She felt her gut tighten at his tone and the way his eyes locked with hers.

"Agnes has seen what Claire looks like, probably William too."

She felt her breath catch and she dropped her gaze. Fuck.

"She described Claire in her last message," he said, soberly. "Now, it's always possible that there is a photograph floating around publicly that we're unaware of, but we've been very careful about that. What's more likely is that she lives locally and has somehow managed a sighting."

"Mulder," she said breathlessly, her eyes stinging.

He reached for her hand. "I know."

"How did this happen?"

"We've always known it was a possibility, Scully. It happens all the time for those in the public eye. Frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner, especially with the content of my books." He shrugged in resignation. "We both know that the subject matter has the tendency to appeal to... certain types of individuals."

She closed her eyes and sighed. She knew this wasn't his fault. Still, just the tiniest little bit of her wondered why the hell she couldn't have fallen in love with a man who wrote books about managing investment portfolios.

"How much do the kids know?"

"Very little. Although I had to tell them something. They know they aren't allowed outside the house alone, and that a couple of very nice friends of Mr. Skinner's are going to be hanging around for awhile."

She couldn't help the grimace.

"But...Frank played a little one-on-one with Will already, and Marty carries gum with him everywhere, so as far as the kids are concerned, that's enough for them."

"And Edie?"

"I gave her the abbreviated version. She isn't to take the kids anywhere without an escort. The doors to the house stay locked at all times, whether someone is home or not. No one gets in for any reason, unless she knows them. She doesn't speak to anyone about her job or give out any information whatsoever."

Scully bent forward and ran her hands over her face. "God, this is crazy. I feel like a celebrity or something."

He played a little with her wedding ring, swiveling it around her finger. "Mrs. Spooky. Doesn't quite hold as much prestige as being Mrs. Johnny Depp."

She pouted her lower lip just a bit. "Yeah well. Johnny offered, if it doesn't work out with you..."

He lifted her hand and kissed it. "Scully...I'd like it if Frank or Marty escorted you to work and home each day-"

"No!"

"They don't need to stay. Just to make sure you get inside, and then-"

"I said no, Mulder. I can't live like that. Let's take the precautions with the kids, I agree with you on that. But I'm capable of taking care of myself. You, of all people, know that."

He shook his head slowly and worried his bottom lip, his eyes drifting toward the ceiling. "Okay. On one condition."

She studied him. "What?"

"You still have your permit. I want you carrying."

She only hesitated for a moment. He was right and she knew it. "Okay. But I have a condition of my own."

He nodded to indicate he was listening.

"No secrets, Mulder. If this woman so much as breathes in your general direction again, I want to know about it."

He nodded. "I'm sorry, Scully. I thought I'd escaped all this when I left the FBI."

She sighed, kicking her shoes off under the table. "I thought so too."

"Must be my magnetic personality," he said, nudging her elbow with his.

She rested her elbow on the table and propped her chin on the heel of her hand. "Your ass isn't half bad either."


Mulder rolled off of her, panting and cursing a blue streak. "Jesus, motherfucking son of a...FUCK!" The grand finale was a fist to his pillow.

She risked a glance at the bedside clock and hoped he didn't notice her doing so. They had been going at it hard for almost forty minutes and he was still erect. This was unexplored territory for them. If anything, he often had to work to pace himself.

The irony wasn't lost on her. She knew that some women joked about having a man last this long. She, on the other hand, had finished twenty minutes ago, and not that she was complaining, but things were getting raw and she could really use some sleep before work tomorrow.

"What the hell is my problem? This has never happened to me before."

She rolled onto her side and brushed her fingertips in whisper light sweeps over his chest, hoping to calm him. She chose her words carefully. "A lot has happened in the last couple of days. You're probably just tense and having a hard time focusing."

"Tense is an understatement. Do you know how badly I want to get off right now? I'm so worked up it actually hurts."

"Is there anything I can-"

"It's like I can feel it and I'm almost here and everything's great, ya know? It feels incredible and you're so tight and wet and-and Jesus, you're just so fucking hot and it feels so good -"

She pressed her mouth to his shoulder and bit back a laugh for fear it might be taken the wrong way. She didn't think any guy had described having sex with her quite that eloquently in about twenty years.

"And then it's just...gone. Just like that. I'm there and then I'm not. I lose my focus. I'm getting a hard on, no problem. But I can't seem to finish. I feel like I'm going to explode."

She hedged into her question carefully. "Did you...maybe, by any chance...I mean, did you...by yourself?"

"Are you asking me if I jerked off?"

"I wouldn't be angry if you did. You know it doesn't bother me."

"I appreciate the endorsement, but no, I didn't jerk off. Not in..." he hissed out a long exhale. "I don't know, a week? When we were on the phone my first night in New York."

Ah yes. She remembered.

"Besides, even if I did, you know it's not that often and it never seems to affect us."

It was true. It wasn't like they talked much about whether or not he masturbated on occasion, but they were still having sex at least twice a week, regardless. If that was the case, then she had no problem whatsoever with it. It wasn't like she was exactly a saint in that department either, especially when he was traveling. She kept a little something in the back of her lingerie drawer for such emergencies.

His voice was thick with frustration. "I keep hearing those commercials in my head, 'If you have an erection lasting longer than four hours, call your doctor.'"

She huffed a small laugh and he couldn't help but echo it.

"They don't mention what to do if you're sleeping with your doctor, though," he said. "Say Doc, can you help me out with this neverending boner of mine?"

Her fingers dipped lower to caress his still erect penis. "Well maybe that's the answer. Maybe we just need to take the edge off a bit." She wrapped her hand around him and began to stroke firmly up and down.

He stretched his legs long and folded his hands behind his head. "That feels good." He inhaled deeply and appeared to be relaxing some. She sped up, her hand shuttling up and down, his taut skin moving against muscle. He hummed his approval and let his eyes drift closed.

Good. Just relax, she thought. She sat up and straddled one of his thighs, giving herself better leverage and freedom of movement. He was hot and solid in her hand and she experimented with different degrees of pressure and grip. This wasn't something they did often, so she wasn't entirely sure what he liked best. "Slower? Faster?" she whispered.

His legs fell open a bit more and he kept his eyes closed. "Um, maybe a little faster." She sped up and brought her other hand down to gently tease his balls with her fingernails. He sucked in a quick breath.

"Good?" she asked.

"Very."

She kept going. And going. Her mind wandered a little and she started thinking about this morning's breakfast meeting with the Chief of Cardiology, Roger Burns. They were supposed to be working together on another grant proposal, but she got the distinct impression from their meeting that he was not pleased about the idea of working with a woman. He was at least twenty years older than she was and from the sounds of it, very antiquated in his views. She wasn't sure how to handle it. Should she simply confront him?

Mulder cleared his throat, bringing her back to the present. She realized that her hand had slowed substantially and that her wrist ached. Not only that, but he was starting to soften. She bent forward and took him into her mouth fully, but he uttered a groan of frustration and she felt his hands tug gently at her shoulders.

He slid out from under her, cursing some more.

"Mulder?"

The bathroom door snicked shut and she collapsed onto her side of the mattress. Dammit all.

She heard the toilet flush a few minutes later and he shuffled back to bed, settling onto his side, facing away from her. She lay there for at least five minutes, waiting for him to say something, but he was quiet. Rolling over, she spooned herself behind him and slipped an arm around his waist, resting the flat of her palm to his abdomen. After a few seconds, his hand covered hers. She inhaled deeply. "Mulder, it's okay."

"I don't want to talk about it."

"If you want, we can try-"

"No. I just want to go to sleep, Scully."

"Okay."

She pressed her mouth to the back of his shoulder and closed her eyes.


July 20, 2009

The week passed. The tension did not. There had been no additional contact from Agnes, but Mulder couldn't help but feel it wasn't over yet. He had been around enough crazies in his lifetime to know that they just didn't give up that easily. So every cell in his body stayed on high alert. He drank copious amount of coffee and Diet Coke and spent all his time either running, writing, or wandering the house in a state of paranoia. About the only silver lining to the whole shitstorm was that it was great for his exercise regimen and his writing deadline. He was three chapters ahead in his book. He thought sure Pamela was having an orgasm over the phone when he told her. Well, at least someone was having one.

Frank and Marty watched the house and the kids, and Mulder watched Scully. He watched her when she slept, with her arm bent under her head and the tiny strap of her silk camisole drifting down her baby soft skin. He watched her while she got ready for work in the morning, leaning over the porcelain sink to apply mascara and eyeliner while she made funny faces at herself in the mirror. She had taken lately to wearing these little boy cut panties that rode low on her hips. When she bent over, he carried on entire mental conversations with the tiny, rounded globes of her fabulous ass. He wanted desperately to fold her in half and bury his whole face in it.

But he didn't. He never let her see him watching her. He showered with the door closed and waited until she left for work before he dressed each morning. He wrote in his office until he was certain she was asleep, and then crept silently into bed. He played with the kids and walked the dog and mowed the lawn. When she asked him if everything was okay, he answered yes with a reassuring smile.

On the fourth morning after their last disastrous lovemaking attempt, he found himself alone in the house. It was almost noon and Edie had taken the kids to the park and then for lunch, accompaniment courtesy of Frank this time around, who tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible while sitting on a bench and reading The Post.

The house was quiet. He found himself thinking about Scully and the last time they were together. God, what the hell was wrong with him anyway? He knew he was anxious and uneasy about the whole Agnes situation. But he'd been stressed to the max plenty of times before and it had never affected his sexual performance. This had simply never happened to him, and certainly not with Scully. Sex had always been something they did well together. He'd always laughed off those articles in the doctor's office about sexual dysfunction. Who me? Never.

It wasn't like he wasn't attracted to Scully. If anything, his attraction to her had grown over time, along with the overall intimacy of their relationship. He was still discovering little things about her that turned him on to no end, even after seven years of marriage. Like when she had told him about her sexual fantasies. Listening to her talk to him in that husky, aroused voice about fucking her in her office was about the most insanely hot thing he'd ever heard. He had made her tell it to him again, in even more tantalizing detail, over the phone when he'd called her from New York.

Jesus Christ, what if he couldn't get past this? What if it never worked again?

He glanced down toward his lap.

And then up again at his computer screen.

He hadn't kept porn in the house since before they were married. Even though Scully wasn't opposed to it, it had become unnecessary and unsatisfying to him. He had spent enough years of his life flying solo. Once he had the real thing on a regular basis, the two-dimensional version simply lost its appeal.

Beyond that, the topic had come up between them in casual conversation once William was old enough to show some interest in computer games. Mulder's computer was password locked to protect his written work, but he logged Will in once in awhile to play games. Scully had highbrowed Mulder once over a full laundry basket. "There wouldn't be any reason to fear he might stumble across something he shouldn't on your computer, is there?" she had inquired, without making eye contact. There had been a couple of emails with attachments from Frohike that he promptly deleted before bestowing an official PG rating on his computer. And it had stayed that way.

He stared at his computer screen now. Dammit.

This wasn't how he wanted to accomplish it, but he had to know. He just needed some kind of reassurance that he wasn't permanently broken before he tried again with Scully. He couldn't go through another episode like the two they'd had earlier in the week. She had been understanding and patient. She had been everything she should have been. But this was his problem and he'd fix it.

He stood up and closed the door to his office. Then he typed something into his internet browser and unzipped his fly.


The buzz of his cell phone as it walked across is desk nearly made him jump a mile. A text from her lit up the screen. She rarely texted him in the middle of the day. His respiration, which had almost regulated itself again, sped up. He grabbed a handful of tissues with one hand and the phone with the other.

Shit. He quickly minimized the computer screen, tossed the tissues, and wrangled his zipper back up. Shit.

What the hell had happened? He could recall twice when she'd come home in the middle of the day, and both times she'd been sick or one of the kids had been. Whatever it was, it couldn't be good. He knew he should have insisted on surveillance for her, dammit.

When he walked out onto the porch in his shorts and bare feet, she rolled the car window down. "Get your shoes on and get in."

He hesitated. "Where are we going?"

"You'll see."

"Are you okay, Scully?"

She slid her sunglasses down her nose and peered over the top. "Aside from the fact that you're asking too many questions and killing my lunch hour, I'm great. Are you coming or not?"

There were sandwiches from his favorite deli, Indelicato's. The kind of old mom and pop deli that wrapped everything in butcher paper and included a kosher pickle spear. She spread a blanket out in a shady spot and took off her shoes. He could see red lines on the tops of her arches and he thought about how lucky men were not to have to stuff their feet into heels. She tucked her legs under her and spread a napkin out over her navy skirt. He felt guilty for being in cargo shorts and a Gap tee shirt when she looked so pretty.

"Where are we?" he asked, through a mouthful of roast beef and provolone. She had even remembered the dijon mustard. And iced tea. Yup, it was love.

"Damned if I know. It looks like an orchard."

"Okay. So let's try this - why are we here?"

She smiled and sipped a Sobe water. "Lunch."

They munched contentedly.

He peeled an orange and fed her a wedge, then licked the sticky sweetness off his fingers. "We can start swimming tomorrow."

"I know. It looks great. The kids can't wait."

"How is Lindsey?" he asked, finishing off his pickle spear and eyeing hers still sitting on the butcher paper.

She handed it to him. "I saw her yesterday when she came in for physical therapy. She's doing well. She wants to see the kids. I thought maybe I'd take them over to her house sometime next week."

He nodded. "How much longer until she's recovered?"

She sighed. "Hard to say. Maybe another two weeks? Three? Is there a problem with Edie?"

He finished eating and crumpled the garbage up, then sprawled out onto his back on the blanket. His feet hung off onto the grass. "No, no. She's great. The kids seem to really like her and she's always like, doing stuff she doesn't need to do. Cleaning and stuff."

"I've told her over and over again that it's not expected. I think she likes it."

He shredded a blade of grass. "Yeah. The other day she was putting my laundry away when I went up to our room." He grimaced. "There's something unsettling about your nanny going into your underwear drawer."

Scully chuckled. "I'll speak to her." She unfolded herself next to him, propping her head on one elbow and resting a warm hand on his stomach.

He tensed involuntarily. "What time do you have to get back?"

"In a bit. Why, are you in a hurry?"

"What, me? Where would I be going?"

He stared up at the leaves of a maple swishing in the breeze. There was a cloud directly above him that bore a striking resemblance to Mickey Mouse. He began scanning for more Disney characters.

He turned his head to look at her and she kissed him. It was sweet at first and he closed his eyes, tasting her lip gloss and Italian dressing. Her hand slid under the hem of his shirt and she tucked her fingers in the waistband of his shorts, teasing the soft hairs of his groin. She wasn't thinking they would...was she? Sometimes her signals could be hard to read. And since she had never kidnapped him in the middle of the day to go trespassing on private property, he wasn't sure what might qualify as foreplay under such circumstances.

Then her tongue dipped past his and her nails plucked at his fly and he was suddenly crystal clear on where things were headed. Jesus Christ, Scully, your timing could absolutely not be worse. After what he'd finished doing minutes before her car pulled up the driveway, there was no way he'd get an erection right now.

Should he say something?

Oh God. She had pushed his shirt up and was creeping down his body now, running the flat of her tongue along the muscles of his lower abdomen. Her small hand had maneuvered its way down the front of his pants and she was stroking his limp cock. He would trade Yankees season tickets for a boner right about now. This was humiliating.

Her breath was hot on his skin and her tongue wet.

"Scully, what...what are you doing?"

"I think that's fairly obvious, don't you?"

He wiggled underneath her, bending his knees and trying very subtly to derail her. "Don't you think that's a little...I mean, we're outside. It's broad daylight." He sounded pathetic, even to himself. He never turned down oral overtures from her. Like ever.

"There's no one around, Mulder." She stroked him a few more times, but was rewarded with almost no response. She looked up at him, questioningly.

He stilled her hand with his own. "Scully, just...stop, okay?"

She sat very still for a few seconds not moving, just looking at him. And then she lowered her eyes from his and pulled herself off him quickly, scrambling to smooth her blouse and skirt back down.

"Scully, please-" He sat up and reached for her, but she jerked away.

"I have to go. I have to get back to work." Her voice was shaky and quiet. She gathered up garbage and began thrusting it back into a paper bag without looking at him.

"Scully, just wait a minute. Please." He pulled himself to a kneeling position and did up his fly. "I'm sorry, I wasn't expecting...can we just talk about it for a minute-"

"I said I have to go." She shoved her feet into her shoes and turned abruptly. "I'll meet you at the car and give you a ride home. Bring the blanket." She stalked off.

Fuck. This was bad. This was really bad. He grabbed the blanket off the grass and stumbled after her carrying his shoes.


He left her two messages during the afternoon. He didn't even bother trying to write because he knew he wouldn't be able to focus. Instead, he went on a long run and then mowed the lawn. She finally called at about the time she would normally get home.

"Hi," she said, her voice quiet, but matter-of-fact. "I wondered if you could manage the kids tonight? I thought I might go to the movies or something."

"Um, sure. By yourself?"

"Yes."

There was a lengthy pause and he waited to see if she would offer more.

"Scully-"

"I'll see you later tonight, Mulder."

And she hung up.

They ordered pizza and watched Alvin and The Chipmunks. He watched TV in bed until midnight and then turned out the light.


July 21, 2009

The early afternoon sun was high in the sky and beating down hard onto the pool patio. Translucent, aquamarine water shifted in ripples with the warm breeze. Inflatable inner tubes and pool toys floated aimlessly and pinballed off the vinyl sides. The lounge chair next to her squeaked and Scully opened her eyes to see a soaked Mulder unfold himself onto it, rubbing his upper arms with a green striped towel. Water sluiced off the dark hair on his tanned legs. Within minutes, an entire puddle had formed beneath the chair.

"They're having so much fun," he said, reaching for his glass of iced tea that no longer had ice in it. "This was a great idea."

Scully turned over and propped the back of her chair up another notch to watch the frolicking in the shallow end. "It was." She sighed drowsily. "I think I fell asleep."

"We went in and ate lunch. There's a turkey on rye for you in the fridge. Your shoulders are getting pink. Turn around and let me lube you up." He reached for the bottle of 50 SPF and she obediently swiveled her back toward him and criss crossed her legs under her. His warm, damp fingers swept the hair from her shoulder. The sunblock felt slightly cool against her overheated skin.

She really should know better than to spend this long in the sun, but it felt so good and she almost never did it. Even doctors were allowed to thumb their noses at healthy choices once in a blue moon. She ate her veges, drank only in moderation, had given up even the social cigarettes by age twenty-seven, and dutifully dragged her ass onto the treadmill at least three mornings a week. A pink shoulder or two wasn't the end of the world. The amount of sunblock she'd faithfully applied to her skin over her lifetime would probably fill the pool.

He rubbed firm circles into her scapula, moving the strap on her bikini top aside to get beneath it. He seemed to take bit longer than necessary for a standard reapplication, and when he was finished, he planted a quick kiss to the top of her shoulder. "Mm, you smell coconutty." She sucked in a startled breath.

This had been going on all morning and she had no idea what to make of it. He was being flirtatious, solicitous, and still yet, cautious. As if he expected her to rebuff him at any moment and truthfully, she wasn't sure that she might not.

The entire past week had been painfully awkward. He had been avoiding intimacy with her like the plague. She could count on one hand the number of times during the week that he had touched her, even casually. As if an affectionate squeeze of her hand might inadvertently lead down a slippery slope toward, God forbid, full- blown sex.

She had tried to be patient, sympathetic, to give him the time and space he needed to sort through this. The physician side of her knew that this was not the end of the world, that it was almost certainly stress-related, and temporary. And she also understood that most men did not take any kind of sexual performance issue well. Mulder was more progressive than most men, but he was still a man, and his ego was alive and well.

On the other hand, the woman in her struggled not to take it personally, not to allow herself to become swallowed in self-doubt. Something inside her languished and cried out just a little louder each and every time he pushed her away. They had always been able to talk about everything. And she was quickly discovering that she had no idea what to do when they couldn't.

The events of the previous day had cut her to the quick. She had rearranged her work schedule to clear an indulgent two hours of free time in the middle of her day. She stopped on her way home and grabbed sandwiches from his favorite deli. She thought perhaps a change of scenery might relax and rejuvenate him, might take the pressure off. His reaction had been so completely unexpected that she had been left feeling utterly foolish, hurt, and confused. There had been no misunderstanding; she had been clear about her intention to pleasure him. And his rebuff had been unmistakable. If he continued to shut her out, they'd never get past this.

At the end of her work day, she had been unable to go home. Instead, she'd wandered around a used bookstore, ate dinner alone, and then had paid to sit through a late movie that she didn't watch.

And now. Now she was lying on her back sunbathing with one knee bent and he was gazing at her like he wanted to give her a tongue bath from head to toe. Earlier, when she had come out to the pool deck wearing her sky blue bikini, one would have thought he'd never seen cleavage before.

He had been checking her out all day. Blatantly checking her out. She was beyond confused.

Claire was floating around on a giant, orange foam noodle and William was jumping off the diving board over and over again, calling to them each time to make sure he had a captive audience. Scully stretched and rolled off her chair. "I'm going in," she pronounced, as if she were entering a hazardous crime scene.

She felt his eyes following her from behind as she made her way to mount the diving board. She was a decent swimmer. Growing up near water, she and her siblings had learned to swim at an early age, and it had always come naturally to her. She could enter water head first before she could ride a bike without training wheels. She walked slowly down the board, bouncing slightly to test its spring. Her toes curled over the edge. With artistry and precision, she dove in, slicing through the water and swimming long until she surfaced in the shallow end.

He was still watching her when she opened her eyes. "I give it a nine point oh," he said, arms crossed over his bronzed chest.

"Oh really," she answered, defiantly.

"Yes. Just a touch more arc and it would have been a solid ten." He hid a smile behind his eyes that said he was messing with her.

"Okay. Let's see you do better."

Claire giggled and swam to Scully, wrapping two small slippery arms around her shoulders to piggyback on her.

"Yeah Dad, come on," called Will.

Mulder rose slowly and made his way to the diving board, adjusting the waistband on his red swim trunks, haughtily. He started from further back than Scully had, and when he left the end of the board, it sprang with a loud, reverberating thwung.

His form was skilled and his entrance into the water was precise and subtle. He went deeper than she had and stayed under longer before surfacing, whipping his head around to spray water in an arc.

"Not bad," she conceded.

He glided slowly toward her, treading water aimlessly. "Thank you. I much prefer watching you do it, though," he smiled.

Her eyes retreated from his quickly and she started spinning Claire around in the water, refocusing all her attention on where she knew it would be safe.


They ate grilled hamburgers on the pool deck for dinner, still wearing their swimsuits. The air grew cooler as the sun lowered in the sky and before long, the kids were doing more shivering than swimming. Little fingers and toes were wrinkled and pruney by the time they were coaxed from the pool and ushered into the house for baths and bed. The central air conditioning in the house made it feel like they were entering a meat locker, and Scully immediately adjusted the thermostat to compensate for chattering teeth.

"Can you start Claire's bath while I check email?" she asked Mulder. "I'm waiting on some revisions of a grant proposal."

Mulder scooped up a terry cloth wrapped Claire and hauled her over his shoulder until she was nearly upside-down. She giggled wildly and the wet tendrils of her curly brown hair dripped onto the carpet. "Let's go, my little mermaid."

William tried to escape undetected to the family room where he would commune with Nickelodeon and leave a wet mark on the couch from his bottom. But his mother aimed him up the stairs and toward the shower.

"Claire's using the bathroom," he protested weakly.

"Use ours."

At long last, the first floor was quiet and she made tea and searched the house for her laptop, only to remember that she had left it at work in her haste to escape a truly shitty day on Friday. Still wearing her swimsuit cover-up, she made her way to Mulder's office to borrow his computer.

She tried not to pass judgment on the mess as she searched for a place to set her mug of tea. She used to make an issue of it once upon a time; now she just kept the door closed. Still, she couldn't help her instincts entirely and she stacked up several dirty dishes to be transported to the kitchen and threw away a wad of tissues that hadn't made it into the garbage can. Honestly Mulder.

With a slide of the mouse, the monitor came to life and she entered the password. When she went to open a new tab, something caught her eye in the list of minimized screens. Planet Triple X. She raised two curious brows, and despite the sense that it might be a very bad idea, she opened it.

In the center of the screen was a movie that had been paused about two-thirds of the way through. She clicked on the little white arrow to resume play and then jumped at the sound that erupted from the speakers connected to the computer. Reaching quickly, she turned the volume nearly all the way down and then watched without blinking.

A long-haired brunette lay draped on her back over white sheets with her knees splayed open and her head thrown back. One of her hands pinched at her own nipple while the other hand clutched the head of a second, shorter haired brunette who lapped at her diligently. The woman on the receiving end had apparently just reached climax because as the movie played on, her hips slowed their thrusting movements and the obscenities streaming from her mouth tapered. The shorter-haired brunette, whose breasts appeared to defy all logic in both size and gravity, began climbing up the body of the longer-haired brunette. Once she was about half way up, the shorter-haired woman lowered her vagina to connect with the first woman's and they began a steady grind with their legs scissored.

Scully caught a breath in the back of her throat and clicked the movie off, removing her hand from the mouse as if she'd been stung.

Nine minutes and twenty- three seconds in. That's how many minutes of the movie had elapsed at the point where Mulder had paused it. Nine minutes and twenty-three seconds. That's how long it had taken him... to do what, she was pretty sure she knew.

A picture was beginning to take shape in her mind. The odd nervousness when she had shown up at home unannounced. His inability to get an erection. The way his hands had tugged at her shoulders to stop her when she tried to go down on him.

He hadn't said a word to her about it because he had been too embarrassed. Instead of just admitting to her that he had used pornography to relieve himself, he had allowed her to feel confused and undesired. She couldn't care less about the porn. She hadn't cared before they were married and she didn't care now. But the idea that he had put his own embarrassment ahead of reassuring her, especially after all they had been dealing with recently, made her stomach clench and her eyes sting. She glanced down again at the clump of tissues she had unknowingly rescued off the floor. It could have been a coincidence, but she kicked the metal wastebasket in disgust and anger anyway.

Without even bothering to check her email, she went upstairs. William was finished with his shower, but Claire was still playing in the tub. Scully kissed both of the kids goodnight and then headed into the master bathroom to take her own shower. When she finally emerged, Mulder was sprawled across the bed in his boxers, flipping channels. His eyes cased her as she moved about the room wearing a towel, picking up stray clothing items and footwear that had accumulated into corners.

"Another wild and crazy Saturday night for us, Scully. Look, there's reruns of Columbo on." His voice was mirthful. "Or wait, oooh, a repeat of Lost. Ya know, this was much better before they got caught up in-"

His voice cut off for a lingering few seconds when her towel hit the carpet. "...the-the-the teleporting...stuff." She shimmied into a pair of cotton panties and an oversized tee shirt and then went back into the bathroom to comb out her wet hair, leaving the door ajar.

He wandered into the doorway and leaned in with his hands braced above the door frame. "Hey, is there any ice cream left downstairs?"

She shrugged. "Maybe."

Crossing to the sink, he stood behind her, tugging her back to rest against him and slipping a hand up under her shirt. "How about if I bring you a bowl too?" He bent down to skip his mouth hungrily over the slope of her neck. "We can get each other sticky and then take another shower together."

She slipped from his embrace and walked toward the bedroom.

"Scully?"

She stood at the bed, not wanting to turn around, willing her eyes not to tear up.

"What's the matter? What did I say?"

"Nothing. You didn't say anything, Mulder. That's the problem."

She felt the heat of him as he approached her from behind. "I don't understand. Is it about yesterday?" He sighed. "I'm sorry, Scully, but it was just-"

She spun quickly, her eyes misty despite her best efforts to hold it together. "Just what? Just what was it, Mulder?"

He stopped talking, his face sober, his eyes trying to connect with hers but failing.

"I...forgot my laptop. So I used your computer to check my email," she confessed softly.

His expression was still bewildered. "You can use my computer anytime you-"

Awareness dawned and he stopped talking for a full thirty seconds before he shook his head slowly and took a very long, painful blink. "Shit." His curse was a breathy hiss.

"Yeah," she whispered, hugging herself. "Was it from before or after the picnic yesterday?"

He didn't meet her eyes. "Before. Right before."

She nodded, weakly. "Thought so."

"Scully, that was not...honestly, I can't remember the last time I looked at porn."

She frowned. "You think that's what I'm upset about? That you used porn?"

He was quiet, apparently having decided that he was quickly batting zero and had better just shut up and listen. The man could infuriate her at times, but he was not stupid.

"I couldn't care less about the pornography, Mulder. I thought I'd been clear about that whenever it's come up in conversation. Provided you're not viewing anything illegal or...well, truly distasteful and I think I know you well enough to know that wouldn't be the case, then I don't care. As long as you and I are enjoying a healthy sex life, then as far as I'm concerned, you are welcome to view pornography any time you want to."

"I don't want to."

"I DON'T CARE!" She bit her bottom lip to temper both her emotion and her raised voice. "That's not the point. What I'm upset about is that you let me-" she faltered and raised the back of her hand to her mouth, her eyes looking down at the floor. After a long moment of willing herself not to fall apart, she heaved a sigh and continued. "You let me think that you didn't want to be intimate with me." Her voice broke on the last word. "In order to save yourself a little embarrassment, you let me think that you didn't want me."

"Scully, that's crazy. I always want you. If I went after you every single time I wanted you, you'd be beating me away with a stick."

"What was I supposed to think, Mulder? You've hardly touched me all week. You avoid coming to bed, you won't talk to me about it. My God, you act like you're in pain whenever I get too close to you."

He took a step toward her and she could feel his overwhelming desire to touch her, but he stopped just short, probably because her posture indicated she might not be receptive. Since she wasn't entirely sure if that was the case, she lowered her arms to her sides. She couldn't help but crave his embrace, despite knowing that it may very well set off an avalanche of emotion in her. Her love for him was stronger and more powerful than anything she'd known in her life. If it wasn't, this wouldn't hurt so damn much.

"Scully, I'm so sorry. I couldn't face another failed attempt with you. I know that sounds idiotic and egotistical, but when it comes down to it, I'm a man like any other man. Being able to...perform - God, that sounds so ridiculous - matters. I'm sorry, but it does." He ran a hand through his disheveled hair and sat down on the edge of the bed. "I've just never had this problem before."

After a moment, she sat down next to him, her leg resting against his.

"I thought that if I used the porn to just...see... ya know, if I could finish. Well, then, it might boost my confidence a little and I'd be ready to try again with us. I had to know if it would work."

She huffed out a tiny laugh. It bordered on sympathetic. "Well, I'm guessing it did."

"It did." His voice was just above a whisper.

She nodded slowly and they sat in silence for a dense minute.

"I should have said something, Scully. I never meant to hurt or upset you. You surprised the hell out of me when you came home. And then on the picnic blanket when you tried to-to-Jesus."

She huffed another breath and he did the same, shaking his head.

"I thought I was being spontaneous," she admitted sadly.

"Yes. That was-you were very spontaneous. That is definitely one word for it."

"Why didn't you just tell me?"

He shrugged feebly. "I had been pushing you away all week. I know you don't give a shit about porn most of the time. But I guess I figured you'd be upset if I used it when things weren't going well with us."

She nodded slowly and tiredly, admitting he was probably right about that.

"And then you went maverick on me, Scully, showing up at home five minutes after I had my dick in my hand, offering me my favorite sandwich and a blow job and I admit it, I panicked. There was no way I was going to get it up, and by the time my brain kicked in and realized that I had to tell you why, it was already too late. You were close to tears and I had officially fucked it up beyond repair."

"Maybe not entirely beyond repair," she whispered.

"I'm sorry, Scully. I would never hurt you on purpose. God, I hope you know that."

"You were trying to solve something by yourself that we should have been solving together."

He nodded and ventured a tentative hand over to cover her knee. She looked at it, thoughtfully, but left it there. It felt soothing and familiar and she liked it very much. "We talk about everything, Mulder."

"I know."

"I like that about us." She swiped at her damp cheeks. "I need that."

"Me too." He reached for her hand and brought it up to his lips. "This week has just been fucked. If I could start it over..."

With a soft sigh, she bumped his shoulder with hers and he wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close. They sat like that for a long time.

"So now what?" he asked.

She stood up, still holding his hand and gave a gentle tug. "Well, I don't know about you, but now I really need that bowl of ice cream."


July 23, 2009

Dear Mulder,
I hadn't wanted to do this, but you've left me no alternative. It's not as if I'm asking you to leave her yet. I can understand what you see in her, if not mentally, then certainly physically. She is quite lovely. She's aged remarkably well, I'll give you that. Take a look for yourself.

Love,
Agnes

Mulder's heart raced as he clicked on the attachment. This was the first contact of any kind from Agnes in two weeks. Not only had they assumed she had given up, but they had stopped the surveillance on the house and the kids. The FBI had turned up no valid information on either the package that was mailed to Claire, or the numerous email contacts. All messages had been sent from a cloaked IP address.

On his computer monitor, several photographs loaded, five in all, and Mulder stared at them, feeling as if he might lose his lunch. They were all of their anniversary weekend away together. The first two had been taken the day they arrived, on the veranda outside their room. In the first one, he was talking to her and she was smiling wide. His back was to the second story railing and she was leaning into him. In the second shot he was kissing her, her face turned up to meet his, her eyes closed.

The last three were also taken on the same veranda. But they featured Scully sunbathing in a lounge chair. In one, she was lying on her stomach, the strings to her bathing suit top untied and hanging loose. But in the last two photos, she had flipped over onto her back. And had not bothered securing her bikini top. Her arm was resting lazily over her face, her bare breasts exposed.

Mulder swallowed hard and stared harder, as if by focusing his eyes intently on the screen, he could somehow cause the images to morph into something entirely different. Fucking hell. How in Christ had this happened? How had that fucking psycho gotten close enough? Their room and veranda had been private and secluded, with no visibility from any other room, nor from the grounds below. He had made certain of it.

There had been two other small hotels across the boardwalk, but nowhere near close enough to snap photos like this without a mega telephoto lens and at least some intermediate photography skills. The idea that this twisted bitch had found out where they were staying, had actually followed them and watched them the entire weekend made him seethe with rage. He felt violated, and he wasn't even one who had been photographed half nude. He didn't want to think about how Scully was going to react. He wanted to protect her, but there was no way he could hide this from her. Not after all they'd been through recently. He'd have to tell her.

The first thing he did after he calmed down a bit and felt reasonably certain he could refrain from taking a baseball bat to his computer monitor or setting something on fire, was to pick up the phone and call Walter Skinner's private line. He answered on the second ring.

"Skinner."

"It's Mulder. I need a favor."

"What's going on? Are Scully and the kids all right?" Mulder heard the tightness in Walter's voice. Skinner had been kept in the loop for the past month. Besides Scully and him, Walter knew more about what had been happening than anyone else.

"They're okay. But I received another email today. And there were photos attached this time."

"Jesus. Photos of what?"

Mulder sighed heavily. "They're of Scully. And let's just say, she's a bit more exposed than anyone who's not in the center of a magazine ought to be."

"Shit. How did she get those?"

"They were taken on our anniversary weekend away at the end of June. I took Scully to Ocean City. We stayed at a very secluded, private inn. Apparently, not private enough."

"So what does she want from you? Did she make threats?"

"Not yet," said Mulder. "But she made a comment about being forced to use the photos, and that she didn't want it to come to that. I'm assuming she wants something. She just hasn't told me what it is yet."

"What do you need me to do?"

"I need a list of names and contact information for all guests staying at both The Sandbar Hotel and The Granville on the weekend of June 27th. Anyone who stayed on the second through the fifth floors. Those were the only two places where a view of our veranda could have been possible with a long range telephoto lens."

"You got it," said Skinner. "Give me a day."

"And one more thing."

"Yeah?"

"Any chance of reinstating surveillance?"

Skinner sighed. "Marty's on another assignment and Frank's out of town until the end of the week. But I'll see what I can come up with."

"Thanks, Walter. I owe you big time."

"No you don't. Just stay safe. I'll be in touch tomorrow."

The call ended and Mulder immediately hit another speed dial number.

"This is Dana Scully. Please leave a message."

He smiled as he spoke into the phone. "Hey Scully. I just wanted to hear your voice." He paused and pressed his thumbs to his closed eyelids, then cleared his throat. "Anywaaay...the little people and I held a very important summit and we decided that it should be taco night tonight. So race right home after work and get your sombrero on. We'll be waiting." Another pregnant pause while he threaded together several paper clips. "And I...love you very much. Okay, see you soon."

He hung up and clicked reply with his computer mouse.

Agnes,
What do you want from me?

He didn't bother signing it.

He left his office and found the kids finishing their breakfast while Edie tidied the kitchen. "Good morning Edie, what's on the agenda for today?"

She startled at his voice and looked at him for a stretch, owl-eyed. He was just about to repeat the question when she answered. "Good morning. Um, grocery shopping this morning, and then the kids would like to come back and swim for the rest of the afternoon."

"Change in plans," he said with a firm smile. "The kids will be staying here with me today. If you wouldn't mind doing the shopping on your own, that would be a big help. When you're finished, you're welcome to knock off for the day."

"You're taking the day off work, Daddy?" asked Claire.

"I am."

"Can we still swim?" asked Will.

"We can," said Mulder. "Why don't you guys scoot upstairs and get your suits on, okay?"

Claire shoveled the remainder of her cereal into her mouth in three big gulps and then both kids took off for their bedrooms.

Edie smiled shyly and went about loading the dishwasher, suddenly conversational. "That's wonderful of you to take the day off and spend it with them. They enjoy it so much. Would you care for another cup of coffee? I just made a fresh pot."

Mulder grabbed a mug from the cupboard and went for the pot, gratefully. "Thank you. You've really been a big help these last few weeks."

Edie walked to the refrigerator and retrieved the milk carton, then placed it on the counter next to him, along with a clean spoon.

He studied her curiously before reaching for it.

"Milk, no cream or sugar, right?" she asked, nonchalantly.

He nodded, hiding a smile in his eyes. "You have a good memory."

Edie closed the door to the dishwasher and pressed start, then spun to face him. Her eyes darted briefly to his and then away again. "Well, sometimes you tend to leave the carton on the counter after you use it."

Mulder chuckled. "That's right, I do. Scul...uh Dana... likes to remind me why our milk is always going sour."

He caught a smile on her face as she reached for the grocery list and the pen. "I'll pick up some more today."

Mulder took a long swallow and studied her with mild interest as she finalized the list. "You must be looking forward to starting your classes and finishing up your degree."

Her face was empty for a split second. "I'm sorry, my..."

"Your nursing degree?"

"Oh yes, of course. I will be-I am. Definitely."

"Where did you move here from again?"

She looked down, doodling random shapes on the notepad. "Um, Illinois. About an hour from Chicago."

Mulder nodded. "Born and raised?"

"Yes." Her head tilted and she smiled back at him. "But I rather like it here now. I think I'll be staying. It seems like a nice place to start over."


Edie returned with a car load of groceries and Mulder and the kids helped her unpack them and put everything away before she left for the afternoon. "If you're sure you don't need anything else..."

"Thank you. We're all set," Mulder confirmed.

She hesitated. "I could finish putting the laundry away, if you'd like," she offered. "I really don't mind."

"I think we can manage," Mulder said, kicking the refrigerator door closed with his foot as he carried some fruit and cheese to the table for the kids' afternoon snack. "You go ahead and enjoy your day."

Edie hovered for a few more minutes, before making her way toward the front door.

"Oh, I forgot," Mulder called after her. "Dana's planning to take the kids to visit Lindsey tomorrow morning, so you won't need to come in until lunchtime."

Edie returned a frozen expression for a moment before her keys slipped from her fingers onto the hardwood floor, causing her to start at the sound. "That'll be nice. I'm sure Lindsey misses them terribly. When will she be able to come back to work?"

"Not sure yet. A few weeks maybe." Mulder peeled a banana and handed it to Claire. "Will that be too long? If you have other obligations for the rest of the summer, just let us know and we can make arrangements."

"Oh no! No, it's not that at all. I was just thinking that perhaps I could continue to help for a little while once Lindsey returns. You know, just until she has all her strength back." She offered a hopeful smile.

"Umm, I'm not-"

"I wouldn't expect you to pay me or anything," she jumped back in, offering a dismissive wave of the hand. "I'm happy to do it."

"Well, I don't think that would be fair. We'd insist on paying you for your time. But I don't think it's anything we need to decide on now, right?" He smiled.

"No, of course not." She stood there for another moment.

"So then... we'll see you tomorrow afternoon."

Edie returned a timid smile and hitched her purse higher onto her shoulder. "Yes, tomorrow. Oh, and the children drew pictures for Lindsey. They're in William's room." She said goodbye to William and Claire and then left.


Dear Mulder,
I want only what every human being wants. Acknowledgment, validation, love. I know you want them too, and although I'm sure you are convinced she can fulfill all your needs, you're wrong. She doesn't understand you the way I do. I thought you would have seen that by now, but instead you let her convince you that I am the threat. I assure you, it is quite the opposite. I am the only one who will save you.

All I want is to be able to communicate freely with you and for you to do the same with me. Do not close me off from you. I hadn't wanted to resort to unnecessary threats to accomplish this goal, but you have forced me. Communicate regularly with me and the photos will remain our little secret. Did you know the email addresses of all Georgetown University doctors and staff members can be obtained through their website?

Love,
Agnes


Thunderstorms rolled in by late afternoon and the kids were settled into the family room watching a movie when Scully arrived home. Mulder was in his office when she marched in with her heels dangling from two fingertips, wearing a grave expression. "What happened?"

"Hey, Scully." He handed her a full glass of wine and she arched two brows at him before taking it gingerly.

"That bad, huh?"

He shrugged and reached to run one hand down her forearm to her palm.

"It's her again, isn't it?" she asked, although it wasn't really much of a question when she already knew the answer.

"I think you should sit down."

"I don't want to sit down. I want you to tell me what's going on. You left me a message at work in the middle of the day to tell me that you love me very much. You don't make sappy, mid-day phone calls, Mulder. The last time you did that, you were three days late remembering our anniversary."

"Before you get upset, I've already contacted Skinner, and he-"

"Jesus Mulder, just tell me what's going on!"

"Okay. She sent another email, and this time there were photos attached."

Scully's eyes widened slightly and she set her glass of wine down, untouched. "What kind of photos?"

"Not a very nice kind."

"Stop beating around the bush, Mulder."

He nodded with resignation and opened the email attachment. The first photo that came up was the one of the two of them talking on the veranda. He figured his best approach would be to ease her into the madness. "They're from our weekend away," he said, unnecessarily.

She swallowed and stared at the screen.

He moved to the second photo of them kissing and watched as she tilted her head to the side with a glassy stare. "She followed us."

"It would appear that way, yes."

"Those aren't the worst of them, are they?" She blinked once, slowly.

He shook his head, but didn't say anything. After waiting a beat, he clicked on the first of the three topless photos of her. And then winced at her sharp intake of air.

In for a penny, in for a pound. He clicked to the second and then the third.

"Oh my God," she whispered, when he was finished.

"That's all," he said, looking down and away from the images.

"How-how did she get them?"

"The best I can figure, she must have stayed at one of the two smaller hotels across the boardwalk from us and took them with a long range, telephoto lens. That's the only possible explanation."

Scully stared at the images, transfixed for minutes, before withdrawing her gaze and taking two unstable steps backwards to sit down onto the couch.

"I called Walter right after I got the email. He's getting me a list of names of everyone who stayed on an upper floor of either hotel that weekend."

Her eyes registered a split second of panic. "Mulder, please tell me you didn't forward him-"

"He didn't see the photos."

"Why would she do this? What the hell does she want?"

He nodded and pulled up the most recent message. "To communicate with me, apparently."

Scully got up again and moved close enough to read the screen. He could tell the exact moment that she got to the part where Agnes threatened to email her medical colleagues, because her hand covered her mouth and he heard a mournful sound escape through her fingers. "She could send these to everyone who works at the Hospital, Mulder."

"She won't."

"How can you be sure?"

"Because she doesn't want to. She wants me to communicate with her. This is simple extortion, Scully. If she sends these photos to anyone, then she's played her last trump card. I'd have no reason not to cut off contact with her."

Scully looked at him, incredulously. "But you can't be serious about engaging with this woman, Mulder. She's obviously disturbed. She could be incredibly dangerous."

He nodded. "Oh, I don't doubt that. But as long as I keep her happy, she'll behave herself. All we need is a few days, I think. Skinner will get me those names and we'll figure out who she is. "

"What if she registered at the hotel under a false name?"

"She may have. But I already checked and both hotels require a license plate number to park a vehicle overnight. If she drove her own vehicle, then we've got her. If she rented a car, then we'll have a longer trail to follow, but we'll find her. And if I can keep her talking to me, then I think that for the time being, you and the kids will be safe. Regardless, Walter is trying to get surveillance reinstated within a couple of days."

Scully frowned again at the images on his computer screen, turned her head away, then looked again. "I can't believe I did that."

"You couldn't have known. Our veranda was completely obstructed from any kind of natural view. Whoever she is, she went to great lengths to get these pictures."

"How the hell could she have known where we were going, Mulder? And what else does she know about us?"

His eyes met hers soberly. "I don't know." He stood up and wrapped his arms around her, feeling her head fall to his chest in defeat. "But we're going to find out."

**

July 24, 2009

William and Claire had been looking forward to visiting Lindsey for weeks. While they had warmed to Edie, Lindsey was the only nanny they'd ever known and they thought of her as family. During her recovery, Lindsey had been staying at her parents' house instead of her apartment. Scully rang the doorbell a little after 10 am.

A thin, youthful woman in her late fifties came to the door. Her eyes lit up at the sight of the children standing on the front steps. "There you are!" She swung the screen door open. "Come in, come in! Lindsey has been waiting for your visit all weekend."

"Hello, Mrs. Plath," Scully greeted Lindsey's mom. "Thank you for having us." Scully had met Marilyn Plath several times over the years that Lindsey has worked for them. She was an artist and maintained a pottery studio in a small barn behind the house. Lindsey had brought William and Claire over many times to make things from clay, and the children loved it. In fact, Scully had received a few interesting artistic creations over the years for birthday and mother's days and she adored all of them, even the ones she couldn't quite identify.

"Lindsey is in the sunroom waiting for you. Can I get you anything? Lemonade? Blueberry muffins?"

"Oh no thank you," smiled Scully politely. "We just finished breakfast before we came."

Scully steered the kids through a set of French doors off the living room and felt Claire's little hand wrench free from hers as the child squealed and ran toward Lindsey's open arms. "Pickle!" Lindsey was sitting lengthwise on a high-backed sofa with her leg propped and she immediately pulled Claire up onto her lap. "I missed you so much!"

William ran over and Lindsey tugged him closer as well. "Look at you, Will! I think you grew taller just since I've seen you. You're taking after that nutty dad of yours."

Scully smiled. "Mulder sends his love. He's working up to a deadline."

"Tell him he'd be proud of me. I've watched more black and white science fiction movies than anyone should get away with."

Scully's eyes passed over Lindsey's swollen, wrapped foot. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm good. My physical therapist says I'm about a week ahead of schedule."

"Did you break your leg, Lindsey?" asked William.

"Nope. Just a bad ankle sprain." She ruffled his sandy hair. "Don't worry, I'll be chasing you guys around the yard in a couple of weeks."

Scully raised her brows at her.

"Okay, maybe next month."

"We got a pool!" exclaimed Claire.

"I heard. How's your swimming coming along, Pickle?"

Claire smiled proudly. "I can make it all the way across the shallow end, only touching bottom ONCE!"

"High five it!" said Lindsey, raising her palm. "Did you bring pictures?"

Scully pulled her BlackBerry from her purse. "We knew you'd ask."


Mulder was pondering the wisdom of running in Virginia in July anytime past 9 a.m.. That, and he was panting harder than Bailey and sweating profusely as he made his way up the last block of White Spruce to their two-story colonial. He was absolutely not, however, thinking about whether or not he was getting too old for this shit. The guys at Thursday night basketball insisted that once you stopped running regularly after the age of forty, your gut went to hell in a hand basket, and he wasn't taking any chances. As Mulder slowed to a walk, Bailey kept pace with him.

The house was quiet now, which was the exact opposite of what it had been when he left for his run an hour earlier. There had been some kind of crisis involving Claire and purple flip flops. How not at all surprising that anyone bearing Scully's genetic material would have an obsessive relationship with footwear. In Scully's world, "Do these shoes look okay with this?" ranked only a step below "Does this make me look fat?" That last question always got him. Apparently all women were hard-wired to ask it, even the hundred and five pound ones.

He walked in the door and half stumbled over three pairs of Claire- sized shoes, including the purple flip flops at the heart of the matter. He wondered what that meant in terms of who won the war - Claire or Scully. Both the women in his life could be irrationally and adorably stubborn. And both of them wore that tiny little wrinkle smack dab in the middle of their foreheads when they were perplexed, or when they were surveying snack foods and nothing appealed.

There was only a little bit of orange juice left, so he drank it straight from the carton, but not before glancing around self-consciously. The stack of mail was mostly journals for Scully and junk mail and a colorful postcard about Claire's kindergarten orientation next month. He attached that to the fridge with a magnet before making his way upstairs to shower. He was rounding the corner toward the master bedroom when he literally ran smack into Edie. She bounced backwards, looking terrified and scattered. "OH!"

"Jesus Edie, you startled me! I though you weren't coming in until lunchtime. Your car isn't in the driveway."

"I'm sorry, I was-I just-I wanted to get a start on the kids' laundry. It's a nice day, so I walked over." She kept a hand to her chest, her voice shaky. "I came upstairs to gather Claire's laundry."

Mulder looked past her toward the open door to his and Scully's bedroom. "Claire's room is that way." He pointed back the other way with a curious half smile.

Edie's cheeks reddened slightly and she looked down at the carpet. "I...I thought I might've heard something...but I guess not."

Mulder studied her thoughtfully, more amused than irritated that the nanny was in all likelihood snooping in their bedroom. He hoped that she had at least found something of interest to her, although he couldn't imagine what that might be. "Well, thank you. For checking."

She offered an apologetic nod before slipping past him toward the kids' rooms. Mulder closed his bedroom door behind him, then stripped down and entered a hot shower.


Lindsey wore a big grin as she cycled through all the photos of William and Claire swimming in the new pool. Claire sat as close to her as possible, making sure Lindsey didn't miss acknowledging the ones of her demonstrating her swimming skills. "I'll bet you guys have been in that pool sun up to sun down, haven't you?" mused Lindsey, smiling at a photo of William jumping from the diving board.

"Mostly," Claire replied. "Although Edie doesn't like to swim very much. She just watches us. You'll swim with us, won't you, Lindsey?"

"Sure thing, Pickle. I can't wait. I heard Edie does other cool stuff with you, though, like origami and all kinds of baking."

"She does and that's fun." Claire scrunched her nose a little. "She hugs a lot, though, and she likes to play this game where she calls me Rose."

Scully paused in the middle of rooting through her purse for mints and frowned. "You never told me that, Claire."

Claire shrugged, insignificantly. "I don't mind it really."

"Rose is sweet," observed Lindsey. "Certainly not as weird a nickname as Pickle."

"I like Pickle!" giggled Claire.

Lindsey made nom nom sounds and pretended to snack on Claire's arm as the little girl shrieked happily.

William took the BlackBerry and continued scanning through all the photos. "Look. Here's one of Edie." He handed the phone to Lindsey.

Scully watched like it was happening in slow motion. Lindsey's green eyes locked onto the photograph and the look of panic on her face was chilling. Her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes immediately teared up. "Oh my God! It's her! Oh my God!"

"It's who?" asked Claire, frightened and curious. "Who is it?"

William handed the BlackBerry to his mother and stepped backwards like he'd just touched something venomous.

"William, please take Claire into the kitchen and ask Mrs. Plath for a glass of lemonade."

"I'm not thirsty, Mommy," said Claire, timidly.

"Go get something to drink with your brother, Claire. Now."

William took Claire by the hand and led her from the room.

Scully was shaking as she held her phone. "Tell me."

Lindsey's hand was still at her mouth and Scully watched her chest rise and fall quickly. "That's the woman who ran me off the road. Her face...I only saw it for a split second, but I remember it. I remember those eyes. It was her, Dana."

"Are you sure?"

Lindsey nodded, never removing her eyes from Scully's. "Yes."

"Agnes." She said the word barely above a whisper.

"Who's Agnes? I thought her name was Edie."

"So did I," said Scully, hitting speed dial. It rang three times. Five times. The house answering machine clicked on at the sixth ring. "You've reached the Mulder family. Please leave a message." Scully swore and punched the end button several times roughly before hitting the speed dial for Mulder's cell. "Come on, come on, Mulder, pick up." Four rings. "Where the hell are you?"

Mulder's voice mail kicked in. She tried to keep her voice steady. "Mulder, it's me. Edie is Agnes. It's her, Mulder. Please, please call me as soon as you get this message."

"Lindsey, can you keep the kids here with you? Mulder might be in trouble."

"Of course, yes. What do you need me to do?"

"Don't take them anywhere, not even out of the house. If you don't hear from me in an hour, call the police."

"Be careful," instructed Lindsey, slowly pulling herself to a standing position and reaching for the pair of wooden crutches that were balanced against the sofa.

Scully was in her car and pulling down the Plath's driveway when Walter Skinner's voice mail picked up. Dammit! Why doesn't anybody ever answer when you need them to? If Mulder was fine and had simply left without his cell phone again, she was going to kill him.

"Walter, it's Dana. The woman who has been stalking Mulder goes by Edith Walker and her address is 3315 Tamarack Lane. I can't reach Mulder on his phone and I've got a bad feeling. I'm headed home right now." As she sped through light mid-morning traffic, she tried Mulder's phone again three more times without success.

**

Mulder had all the shampoo rinsed from his hair when the light went out in the bathroom. His first thought was a fuse. It happened sometimes when Scully's hairdryer was going full blast as she tugged through her russet strands. Why it was so important to her to straighten it, he had no idea. He liked the curls. They wrapped around his fingertips like tentacles when he caressed the back of her neck. When a fuse blew, she'd shake him from slumber and make him plod to the basement to flip the switch and she'd stand at the top of the stairs and holler "Got it!" when he found the right one.

But Scully wasn't using her hair dryer.

It wasn't very dark because the windows above the whirlpool tub faced the east and welcomed the morning sun. He could see enough to finish his shower.

When he smelled sulfur, he stopped turning beneath the stream of water and breathed deeply, wondering why his bathroom smelled like just-lit candles. "Scully?" he called out to the back of the shower curtain.

"No," the other side of the curtain replied.

He stood stone still, feeling the hot water needle his skin. "Edie?"

"Wrong again." There was a smile in the response.

He knew her voice, though, so whatever the hell she was up to, he wasn't finding it funny. This shit about her coming into their bedroom or bathroom had to stop too. "Listen Edie, you don't have to do our laundry, I think we've been pretty clear about that. And I'm taking a shower here, so this isn't really the best time for casual conversation."

"You'd better come out then. I don't know how long she'll be gone with the kids and we might not have much time."

And it was precisely that second when Mulder realized that he was officially up shit creek without a paddle. "Agnes," he said, hollowly.

"Bingo. Although I have to admit, for the FBI's former star profiler, your powers of deductive reasoning are disappointing. I can't believe you didn't figure out who I was weeks ago."

"I guess I'm out of practice," he said, trying to control the waver in his voice.

"Why don't you turn off the shower and come out now." Her tone was coddling, almost motherly.

After a lengthy survey of his options, which were none, Mulder twisted the chrome handle almost three-hundred and sixty degrees to the left until the water cut off. "Could you maybe hand me a towel?"

She snorted a laugh. "It's nothing I haven't seen before. But fine, if it'll make you feel better..." Thin white fingers pushed a bath towel around the edge of the curtain and Mulder snatched it. He took his time fixing it around his waist, trying to organize a plan in his head. She wasn't that big, maybe five feet six or so. Around a hundred and forty pounds. He could likely overpower her.

He slowly slid the shower curtain open. And felt his stomach coil. She was standing not five feet in front of him, her sleek, dark hair down around her shoulders, wearing lipstick that very much resembled the mulberry shade in the gold tube Scully had on her dresser. But that wasn't the worst part. She was wearing Scully's black negligee - the one that he loved with the tiny straps and the plunging neckline and lace cups. The one that ended right at the very tops of her thighs. Edie was by no means fat, but she still outweighed Scully by at least thirty pounds, which meant that the extra small article of lingerie was doing her no favors.

Agnes ran her hand down the front of her stomach, trying to smooth the rolled fabric. "It's nice," she said, the sickly pink of her tongue tracing her rouged lips. "She has a lot of nice ones, but I chose the black. I thought it might be your favorite."

Not anymore. He swallowed hard.

"Is that my gun?" he asked, staring down at his Beretta. She had it gripped in her right hand, resting at her hip and pointed at the floor.

She sighed, hefting the weight of the gun around, thoughtfully. "You know, you really shouldn't leave weapons unsecured in a house with children? Didn't anyone ever teach you that?"

Up until weeks ago when the stalking started, both his and Scully's handguns had been kept in a combination lock box. But he had recently taken them out. Scully carried hers to and from the hospital. He kept his on the shelf at the top of his closet, out of reach of the kids, the magazine separate. One trained glance to the handle of the weapon and he realized that she had also found and loaded the ammunition clip. She currently had fifteen rounds at her disposal. And he was good and rightly fucked.

He stood dripping and feeling very cold and vulnerable. "What do you want, Agnes?"

She tilted her head to the side, her ear nearly connecting with her shoulder. "You're always asking me that." She clicked her tongue. "You act like I want to hurt you or something. I don't want to hurt you. I just want us to get to know each other better, that's all."

"How would you like us to do that? And could I please get dressed first?"

Her lips pursed in lengthy consideration and her eyes raked his body up and down twice. "Mmm, no." She smiled a smile that made his naked balls shrivel like prunes. "No, I don't think so. What I have planned will work much better if you don't."

He tried really hard not to think about what she meant by that statement as his eyes darted past her to the two side-by-side sinks. She had lit a votive candle on each of the countertops and the flames flickered and danced roughly, like they were starved for oxygen. He looked for something he could use to defend himself. Anything at all. His sink had nothing but a toothbrush and a stick of deodorant sitting out. His gaze drifted to Scully's and something long and silver glinted back him. Scully, God bless her, had left a metal nail file resting on the very edge of her sink. It was possible that he had never loved her more than at that precise moment.

Maybe. Just maybe. If he could get to it fast enough. She had his gun, but her grip on it was sloppy. He wasn't even sure if she knew how to use it. He manufactured his best smolder. "Well, why don't I get out and you show me what you have in mind then?" He lifted one leg out of the shower and onto the bath mat.

His suddenly confident approach seemed to jar her. Her eyes flittered back and forth between his, nervously, and the hand on the Beretta trembled. Shit. She was a live wire and if he didn't play this right, the situation could go south fast. "Hey," he said calmly. "How are we going to get to know each other when you're holding me at gunpoint, huh?" He chuckled. "Maybe we could get rid of the gun. What do you say about that?"

She took rapid breaths and gnawed on her bottom lip, looking down at the weapon she held.

Mulder stole a split second look at the nail file, calculating how many steps to reach it. Fuck. She was too unstable and anxious. He couldn't take the risk. He'd have to play another angle. "Agnes, can I have the gun? We can sit down and talk, just the two of us." He took a very careful step toward her and stretched out a hand, palm visible.

Her arm snapped up and she aimed the gun directly at his bare chest. "Stop!" Her hand shook almost uncontrollably under the weight of the weapon. "Stop! Please, just-just stop moving!"

Mulder raised both hands slowly in surrender. "Okay. It's okay, Agnes. It's just us. We can talk, right?"

Her eyes were dark and scattered. "I need you to go into the bedroom now. Keep your hands where I can see them."

Mulder hesitated, stealing another desperate glance at the nail file like it was a mirage in a desert. She was standing right in front of him now, within arm's reach. He'd have to push past her to get to it, and what he saw in her eyes told him that she did not feel in control. She was at the edge, and responding with fear aggression. She'd use that gun if she had to.

"Go!" she barked, pointing toward the bathroom door.

Mulder walked slowly with hands hovering in the air at shoulder height. He could feel the towel slipping, but he figured it was the least of his worries at the moment.

"Lie down on the bed now, please. On your back."

At the foot of the bed, coiled and ominous, was a small pile of dirty, white braided rope. He didn't recognize it. She must have brought it with her. She had been planning this for today because she knew Scully and the kids would be out of the house. He felt suddenly nauseated as a picture of what she likely had in mind began to form.

"Agnes, let's just talk about this. I'll get dressed and we can sit down and-"

"SHUT UP! I'M DONE TALKING NOW!" Her chest heaved as she struggled to catch her breath. When she finally spoke again, her tone was cool and detached, her voice almost lyrical. "Take off the towel."


Something felt wrong the moment Scully entered her house. She crept in quietly, her weapon drawn. Mulder's running shoes were in a tipsy pile by the door and the mail had been sorted into piles on the kitchen counter. His cell phone was right next to the glass bowl of tangerines and pears in the middle of the table and his car was in the driveway.

The first thing she heard was a high-pitched whine coming from the other side of the laundry room door. She knew that whine. It was the same one Bailey made when Mulder shut him out of their bedroom at night. Someone had locked the dog in the laundry room. Mulder never did that. He and the dog were inseparable during the day.

The second thing she heard made her heart jump and her grip on her gun tighten. It was the murmur of voices coming from upstairs, followed by a woman's sharp shriek, then the distant sound of more voices. She could identify one as Mulder's and they were coming from their bedroom. Bailey's whining escalated and he scratched frantically at the laundry room door. Scully was tempted to release the dog, but she knew Bailey would immediately bolt for the bedroom and his interruption could put all their lives in danger, so she left him confined. She carefully slipped out of her shoes and then made her way stealthily up the stairs in her stockinged feet.

Her heart hammered in her chest as she stood right outside their bedroom door, listening. She was amazed that she could hear anything above the sound of her own heartbeat.

Mulder's voice was strained, almost like he was in pain. "You know, I usually like to wait until at least the second date before getting tied up. I'm just shy that way."

"I like your sense of humor. It's one of the things I find the most attractive about you."

"I do a sick Eddie Murphy impression. If you untie me, I'll show you. Mel Gibson too. I've got a whole Lethal Weapon montage."

"Stop talking now, please."

Scully slid closer, angling herself so she could see the reflection of the king-sized bed in the long mirror above her dresser. Mulder was lying face up in the center of their bed, arms and legs spread- eagled, and oh God - he was entirely naked. She should have expected it from what she just heard, but it still took her by surprise. His limbs had been tied to each of the four posts of their bed with long ropes. Edie - or she should probably refer to her as Agnes now - was on the bed with Mulder, kneeling in the wide V between his long legs. Her back was to Scully, but she could see that the woman was wearing some kind of black negligee with spaghetti straps. It was extremely ill-fitting and tight, ending at the tops of her thighs.

Scully's eyes grew wide as she realized what she was looking at. Why that conniving little thieving cunt! Spurred on by her own fury, and without a second thought, Scully burst into her own room and approached the bed in three long strides.

"Bitch! You're wearing my lingerie!" The look of total shock on Agnes's face was priceless as Scully's open palm connected with her cheek in an explosive smack. Agnes reeled backwards, almost falling off the edge of the mattress with an animalistic screech.

Mulder looked ninety-four percent relieved to see her, and six percent terrified. "Scully, this is not what it looks like."

Scully kept her eyes trained on Agnes, who was still disoriented from the assault. "It looks like you were stripped naked and tied to our bed by a crazy stalker who intends to do unmentionable things to you against your will."

"Okay. Maybe it is what it looks like then." He strained against the ropes. "Can you give me a hand here, Scully?"

Agnes regained control and surged toward the nightstand where Mulder's weapon lay. "Hang on a minute, Mulder." Scully launched herself onto Agnes's back and the two women tumbled onto the carpet. "Oh no, you don't!" yelled Scully. Agnes scrambled and grunted, trying to free herself, but Scully held tight, yanking Agnes's arms roughly behind her back and pinning her down, cheek to the floor. Agnes continued to writhe and buck.

Scully straddled her, breathing hard. Her voice was tight and strained. "Don't...make me...have to hit you...again."

"Bite me!" Agnes hissed.

"Don't tempt me!"

Lodging one knee into the base of Agnes's spine and holding her wrists with one hand, Scully yanked open the bottom drawer of the nightstand and felt around underneath a pile of magazines until her fingers closed on cold metal. She withdrew a set of law enforcement grade handcuffs that Mulder had given her once as a gag gift. In less than a minute, she had Agnes cuffed to the leg of a dresser and she was busy untying Mulder. He managed to smile impishly up at her. "And you swore you'd never use those."

Scully blew the stray hairs from in front of her face and worked feverishly at the knots. "Are you okay?"

"Besides feeling more emasculated than when I play Barbies with Claire, yeah I'm great. Extremely glad to see you. How did you figure it out?"

"Lindsey recognized her photo as the woman who ran her off the road."

"Jesus," said Mulder, rubbing his wrists where the ropes had started to burn. "Well, you'll be relieved to know that this has effectively destroyed any kind of bondage or S&M fantasy I might have been harboring, Scully."

There was mild amusement in her eye roll. She tossed him a pair of pants just as the pounding on the downstairs door started. "FBI! Open up!"


Scully's mom picked the kids up from Lindsey's and offered to keep them for the remainder of the day. It took two hours at the house for statements to be taken before Agnes was taken into custody. Mulder left with Skinner and the other agents to go help sort everything out while Scully stayed at the house to clean up.

Several hours later, she was on the phone with Mulder while she finished putting clean sheets on the bed. "Edith Walker was her sister's name," said Mulder, sounding just as exhausted as Scully felt. "Her sister is deceased and Agnes assumed her identity, which was how she made it through our background check."

"But how is that possible, Mulder? The background check would have turned up a death certificate on Edith Walker."

"Yes, it would have. If one had been filed."

"Well, the only way one would not have been filed is if the death was never reported."

"Bingo," said Mulder. "Agents from the Chicago field office searched the last known residence of Edith Walker about an hour ago and discovered human remains in an attic trunk. According to the M.E., they've been there for years. The house is owned by both Edith and Agnes Walker, and is managed by a trust fund. There are no other living relatives. The house is located in an extremely rural area and has been lying vacant for a long time. Edith Walker was the sole guardian for her sister Agnes, whose psychiatric records list a diagnosis of severe borderline personality disorder and sociopathy."

"Oh my God. Did Agnes murder her sister?"

"We don't know for certain, but it appears not. The last known medical records for Edith Walker indicate that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2001, but never treated. It's likely that she died at home of natural causes."

Mulder paused and she heard a lengthy sigh. "But it gets better, Scully."

She cradled the phone on her shoulder while she wrangled pillows into clean cases. "I'm afraid to ask." She tossed the last pillow toward the headboard and sat down on the edge of the bed, rubbing her forehead.

"Agnes came to this area much earlier than we thought. There is a record of a woman being admitted to Georgetown University Hospital under the name Agnes Walker and giving birth to a baby girl on June 14, 2004."

Scully's heart skipped a beat. "That's the day Claire was born."

"The baby, named Rose Walker, was born with anencephaly. She lived for just over an hour.

Scully's hand covered her mouth. "Oh my God, Mulder. Claire said that Edie liked to play a game where she called her Rose."

"According to the hospital records, Agnes was completely disassociative and refused to acknowledge her daughter's death. She claimed that her baby was alive and had been taken from her and given to another family. Upon discharge from the hospital, Agnes was institutionalized for four years. She was released last summer."

"She rented the apartment from Tom and Trish just last fall," said Scully, still not believing what she was hearing.

"It's thought that Agnes after was released, she returned to the Illinois home that she had shared with her sister. She stayed just long enough to gather together all the legal documents she needed to assume her sister, Edith Walker's, identity. Then she moved back to Virginia and rented the apartment."

Scully's voice was not much above a whisper. "She's been watching us and planning this for over six months."

"Probably longer. If she believed that her child was taken from her the day she was born, then she had most likely been researching births that occurred at that hospital on the same day for quite some time. It's not unusual for individuals with borderline personality disorder to have delusions that make them believe they are connected or associated with well-known people or celebrities. It's likely that she chose to believe Claire was her daughter because of me. Then she began reading all my books and the fantasy world took on a life of its own."

Scully tipped back onto the bed and stared up at the textured white ceiling, still holding the phone to her ear. "My God, that poor woman."

"I know. At least she'll be getting the help she needs now. Are you okay, Scully? We haven't even had time to talk."

"Yeah, I'm fine." She allowed a long sigh to escape. "Just glad it's over."

"I'm on my way home now. I was wondering, do you think your mom might keep the kids for the night? I think we could use some time alone."

"I think you're right. I'll call her."

Scully had no sooner disconnected the call when the phone rang again.

"Hello."

"Dana? Oh my God! I don't believe this!"

"Hi, Trish."

"The FBI has been crawling all over that apartment for hours! Tom talked to Mulder, but he wasn't able to say much over the phone. I'm freaking out here. Are you guys alright?"

"We're fine. A little shaken up, but everyone's okay."

"This is just crazy! I'm still in shock and I feel so terrible. My God, I recommended her to you."

"You couldn't have known. None of us could have. It's not your fault."

"I know, I just can't help thinking about what could have happened. How are Will and Claire?"

"Blissfully unaware at the moment. They're with my mother, hopefully until tomorrow."

"What can I do for you guys?" Trish asked. "Anything, just name it."

Scully arched a brow. "Well, now that you mention it, are you free to take the kids for the next couple of weeks until Lindsey's back? I'll throw in all the swimming you want and a mom's night out with lots of wine."

"You got it, Hon."


Mulder floated under the inky blackness, staring up at a perfect gibbous moon. His ears filled with water and all he could hear was the muffled hum of the filter. He turned his head thirty degrees to the right and saw a foot as he passed lazily by. Upon further inspection, the foot was attached to a very pleasant looking leg. He righted himself in the deep end and began to tread water, his eyes hiding a hopeful smile. "I was wondering where you were. I thought you might've changed your mind and decided not to come in."

She shook her head and lowered herself to sit at the ledge, dangling her legs into the water and taking up a circling motion. "The water's warm," she observed, sighing as her head tipped back toward the night sky. "Mmm, it's so beautiful."

His eyes remained fixed on her. "Yes, it is."

He drifted closer through the prisms of light that shimmered off the surface. The water made a gentle lapping sound against the pool ladder and he hooked several fingers around the top rung, watching her. Her hands were braced behind her and she was leaning back, the perfect slope of her pearly neck exposed, swan like, her hair brushing past her shoulder blades. He stared until she caught him, and then he smiled.

"Do you know how crazy I am about you?" he asked, surprising even himself with his candor.

Despite the lighting, he could see the shift in color on her cheekbones. She dipped her head, her eyes glancing quickly off his.

"I don't think I say that enough."

She slipped off the ledge silently, dipping down into the water to the neckline. He stayed where he was and let her come to him. Her cool fingers reached to touch his collarbone, tickling his skin. "It's been a tough few weeks," she said, her eyes resting on his throat has he swallowed.

He nodded slowly and thoughtfully, his mouth working itself as he studied her. Her gaze rose to his and held steady for several long moments. She drifted even closer until he could feel her breasts barely scrape his chest and he shuddered. She had one hand next to his now, balancing her weight on the ladder while the other gently tugged at the back of his neck until his lips met hers. A soft hum of relief sounded from him and he gave up holding back and reached for her waist.

The kiss was patient, not hungry, a series of brushes and pecks, his mouth lingering as he took shallow breaths. He lost track of the laws of flotation for just a moment and released his grip on the ladder to wrap both arms around her. They both went plummeting into the water and then came back up laughing and sputtering. She splashed playfully at him before side stroking toward the shallow end. He took up pursuit. As soon as his feet could touch, he snaked an arm forward to hook her waist and tug her back again. She wrapped her legs around him and rested two hands atop his shoulders so he was balancing her weight. They bobbed and glided aimlessly, and he set about sneaking as many kisses as she'd let him. She let him sneak a lot.

It wasn't long before his body began to respond and he felt himself harden, tenting his swim trunks and pressing into her bottom. She pulled her mouth from his, her lips plumped and parted as a look of awareness settled over her features. He tilted his head slightly in a 'well, what do you know' look and she returned a little pixie smile before kissing him again.

The unhurried pace continued, and he tried his best not to be self- conscious of the fact that every time they bobbed up and down in the water and she settled on him again, his erection prodded her shamelessly. She interrupted a kiss at one point to stifle a quiet giggle.

"Sorry," he breathed, palming the back of her head affectionately.

"No need to apologize. I like it." She tipped forward to take the lobe of his ear between her teeth.

He hissed and pressed down on her hipbones. "Well if you like that, I've got some other tricks you'll really love."

"Have you ever gone all the way in a swimming pool, Mulder?" Her voice was raspy, her breath hot on his neck.

He rubbed her back, doing some mental calculations. "Not in a..bout...eighteen years...give or take."

Her fingers climbed down his torso to dip in the waistband of his swim trunks. He sucked in a scattered breath. They were floating and circling closer to the shallow end and it was making him dizzy. She could touch bottom now, but just barely, and he felt her legs slip from around his waist and lower themselves. With a devilish grin, she dunked herself to the shoulders and twisted like a pretzel until her hand came back up to the surface holding her white bikini bottoms. They landed on the pool deck with a soaking splat.

"I think you've done this before," he teased, eyes on her slim fingers as she slipped the knot on her top free.

"Mmm, I think you could be right." The scrap of material joined the other piece and her breasts bobbed like two perfect little balloons, coral tipped nipples peeking above the surface now and then to mesmerize him.

The act of getting out of his trunks reminded him of a very bad execution of a sack race. He hopped up and down on one leg like a drunken giraffe before switching to the other. "Let's just start naked next time, Scully."

She smirked. "What's the fun in that?"

"I'll show you," he growled, flinging his trunks aside and then pulling her back to him. She resumed her previous position with her legs around his waist and her arms hitched around his neck. He lifted her bottom and gently lowered her all the way down onto him. Her face was buried in the side of his neck and she whimpered and bit down lightly on him.

He exhaled in one long stream before starting up a dreamy, imprecise rhythm. "God, you feel incredible." He cupped her bottom, lifting and then lowering her smoothly while he kissed her. Their bodies slid together tightly, their mouths never separating, breathing raggedly through their noses and moaning. They moved like one form. It was perhaps the most intimate sex he'd ever had.

He was close in no time and he slowed, reluctantly releasing her mouth. His hand twisted in the wet tendrils of her hair and he clutched her body hard. "Damn," he panted. "I'm going to come already. You feel too good." She flexed her vaginal muscles and arched her lower back as he stroked up into her half a dozen more times and then surged hard, his mouth open in intense pleasure. She kept bucking urgently against him, her eyes feverish and he knew she was almost there. He kept going, sliding in and out of her until she went rigid and cried out, fingers digging into his scapula and hips jerking in his hands.

"Jesus," he panted as she slid off him and lowered her legs. He kissed her mouth over and over again, sharing ragged breaths.

She led him by the hand, up out of the pool. They twined themselves together like strands of DNA on top of a chaise lounge, covering up with two large, terry beach towels. They stayed just like that until the first nebulous rays of dawn began to paint the horizon, then they crept, drowsy and languid into their bed and made love again.


Epilogue

September 18, 2009

Mulder's head popped into the bathroom as she was applying a thin coat of Lancome's Plum Fiesta to her lips. "7:50 Scully."

"Shit."

He lingered in the doorway nonchalantly, and she briefly hated him for being the only person in the house who didn't have to rush around in the morning. "Why did you let me sleep so long, Mulder? You know I have to get up by 6:30."

"Yeah, okay." Her peripheral vision caught a roll of the eyes. "I'll remind you that you said that the next time I'm trying to wake you from a sound sleep, Scully."

She ignored his comment and pressed her lips together with a tissue between them. "It's too dark," she lamented with a sigh. "I should know better than to listen to a five-year-old's opinion on lipstick." She brushed past him, shoeless, in her black pencil skirt and white satin bra.

"I think it's hot. I'd do you."

She pulled a crisp, white fitted blouse off a hanger and slipped into it. "Thanks. Not exactly the image I was shooting for at our semi- annual research committee review board. But I appreciate the endorsement. Did you make lunches for the kids?"

"Lindsey's doing it."

She finished buttoning and went back into the closet for black heels. "What's Lindsey doing here this early? I thought she had a class this morning."

Lindsey had gone back to school, taking paralegal courses part- time. She worked her class schedule around the kids' school schedule.

"No idea," shrugged Mulder.

William wandered into the bedroom with Bailey on a leash. "Dad, can you give me and Bailey a ride?"

"Bailey and me," Mulder corrected. "And where are you going?"

"To school. I'm taking him for Show and Tell."

"You can't take Bailey to school, Will."

"Why not?"

"Because dogs aren't allowed in school."

"Why not?" Bailey yawned and sat down next to William, patiently awaiting further instructions.

"Because ...they just aren't. Take something else."

"Kyle Feeney brought his hamster last week."

"Hamsters are different. They're in cages. Bailey is an eighty pound dog." Bailey wagged in agreement.

"Then can I get a pet in a cage?"

"We'll talk about it."

Scully arched two brows at him.

"Sometime," he amended. "We'll talk about it sometime."

With a dramatic huff, Will released Bailey from the leash and tromped off to his room to come up with a distant runner-up for Show and Tell.

"Hamsters are messy, Mulder. And nocturnal." She paused for a moment before slipping her second pump on. "On second thought, you two might have something to talk about."

"I'm not messy anymore, Scully."

His discarded tee shirt sailed over his head.

"Okay, but I'm definitely not nocturnal," he said, following her downstairs.

Claire was at the table finishing her breakfast and Lindsey was stuffing apples and sandwiches into lunchboxes. "Good morning," said Scully, heading for the coffee pot. "You're here early. I thought you had a class on Fridays."

"Good morning. Not until ten-thirty."

Scully poured and then leaned back against the kitchen counter. "And you were just dying to come over three hours early to pack PB & J's?"

"She makes the best ones ever, Mommy," piped in Claire.

"Thank you, Claire," said Scully.

"But yours are second best."

"Pickle, it's library day," reminded Lindsey. "Don't forget your books."

"Crap!" Claire exclaimed, sliding from her chair to run upstairs.

"CLAIRE!" three voices chorused.

Will, who had just reached the bottom step, grinned widely. "I told you not to say that one."

"You said not to say the other one."

"Don't say that one either," he warned.

"Which one?" asked Scully, hands on her hips.

"Never mind!" both kids said in unison, giggling.

Claire ran upstairs and Will rounded the corner into the TV room.

Lindsey shifted her stance casually and smiled at Scully over a hot mug of coffee. "I might not have stayed at my apartment last night."

Scully tilted her head up a little, her eyes barely concealing amusement. "Mm hmm. You might not have been staying at your apartment a lot lately."

Lindsey took a sip and sighed, dreamily. "Might not."

Mulder shook his head and wedged between them to get to the cupboard. "Might there be any coffee left around here?"

"Might be," said Scully and Lindsey snickered.


Scully checked her watch as she made her way back to her office after her meeting. 4:45. Allowing for Friday afternoon traffic, she could be home in forty-five minutes to change her clothes before they headed over to Tom and Trish's with the kids for dinner. She felt around in the pocket of her white lab coat for her office keys.

No sooner had she closed the door behind her and reached for the light switch, than a hand covered her mouth from behind, muffling her cry. Her heart raced and her eyes went wide as she felt the hot rush of breath by her ear. "Shhhh, don't make a sound." Her shoulders relaxed at the familiarity of the voice.

He very slowly removed his hand. She didn't turn around. Her adrenaline was still spiking and her chest heaved in excitement and now, instant arousal. He was knife hard and pressing thickly into her lower back. Jesus, how long had he been in here waiting for her? She knew how he got in. She kept an extra set of car, house, and office keys on a ring, at home in her top dresser drawer.

Voices sounded right outside her door and her eyes flew to the tiny, one inch space of shadow and light that shifted underneath. He was grunting and grinding himself into her from behind, his hands clutching her hipbones. The activity in the hall seemed to excite him more and he pushed roughly at her skirt, sliding a hand up her bare thigh. His fingers pressed at her center, rubbing her through her panties and she whimpered and bit her bottom lip to keep from crying out.

He spun her to face him and buried his tongue in her mouth. One of his hands tangled in the back of her hair while the other continued stroking her hot, slick core. Her hips bucked and trembled and she couldn't believe she could be this wet this quickly. Only for him.

Two long fingers slipped past the cotton crotch of her panties and deep inside her. She pulled her mouth away to draw a ragged breath, spreading her thighs for him. He curled his fingers forward toward the front of her vagina and began pumping rapidly, unmercifully. The dark irises of his eyes studied hers for a reaction. Son of a bitch. Her mouth opened in a mix of pleasure and pain and her heavy lashes drifted closed. He knew what this did to her.

More noises outside the door, louder this time, stilled his fingers momentarily, and her vaginal muscles clamped down on him in desperation. Somewhere in the deep recesses of her rational mind, she knew she should care that her skirt was bunched at her waist and she was being finger fucked behind an unlocked office door, but her entire awareness hovered around being less than a dozen strokes away from a mind-bending orgasm. She was flowing like the Amazon around his fingers.

"Please," she panted. "Oh God, please."

With a wicked look of satisfaction, he withdrew his hand and brought it to his mouth to taste her. She reached for the front of his jeans, but his grip closed around her wrist, almost roughly. She flashed him a pouty look of indignation, fighting against his control, but craving it just the same. Before her next thought entered her mind, he had her spun around and bent over her desk and he was tearing at her underwear, dragging it down her legs to catch on her heel. The small pop of his knees as he knelt, and then nothing but the hot, wet silk of his tongue tracing her opening as his fingers spread her wide. She turned her head to the side and muffled a scream by biting down on her forearm. Her fingers curled around the edge of the desk. Her cheek and hardened nipples were pressed flat to the wood as he licked and sucked her into oblivion.

Oh God, I'm going to come. I'm going to come so hard, she thought. He hummed a very satisfied affirmation and she realized that she had done a little more than just think the words.

His mouth left her and with split second precision, he had her facing him as he hoisted her bottom up onto the desk. His eyes locked on hers as she heard the metal rasp of his zipper and then felt him ease himself all the way in until her cervix was nearly screaming from the pressure. She locked her feet around him and gripped his upper arms, fingers digging in as she pushed forward to meet his rapid thrusts. The very thought that someone might open the door and see her there, face flushed and hair a mess, getting the hell fucked out of her, drove her nearly mad with arousal. "Harder," she pleaded, "do it harder."

He double-timed his rhythm and wasn't more than thirty seconds in when her climax hit like a full force gale. The scream rose in her and he must have seen the desperation in her eyes because he clamped his hand over her mouth and kept it there as she contracted hard around him, her thighs trembling and shaking. He followed with a series of hisses and grunts as he pulsed into her, his eyes never once leaving hers.

It was a mess. She was a mess, her hair knotted and her lipstick smeared. Her desk was a mess, leftover coffee spilled to mix with his fluids and hers. He tried to get to the tissue box and tripped over an avalanche of files that had pitched onto the floor. He dabbed at her sticky thighs with a handful of Kleenex, ineffectively, before just handing her the entire box. He tucked himself back in and zipped up, not even bothering.

She stood and teetered on her heels, tugging and smoothing her skirt back down. "You're crazy," she panted breathlessly at him with one hand to his chest to steady herself. He responded with a deep chuckle and she couldn't help but do the same. "Jesus, Mulder."

He smiled smugly. "One down, one to go."

Her mouth opened and she shook her head, incredulously. "I don't think so. No, Mulder."

"What do you say we get a babysitter and check out what's at the movies this weekend, Scully."

She was slipping her panties back up her thighs, her hands disappearing under her skirt. "We're going to be late getting to Trish and Tom's for dinner."

"Unspoken rule - lateness is always excused when making your wife's office sex fantasy come true. It's in the husband's handbook."

She warned him with a look. "Mulder, you wouldn't dare say something-"

"Relax, Scully," he said, stacking the files back neatly onto the corner of her deck. "You can just say you were taken by surprise with a last minute appointment."

She smirked up at him as he opened the door for her and she walked into the hall. "Funny thing Mulder, but I don't see you listed on my desk calendar for this afternoon."

He rested an arm confidently over her shoulders. "I have an open invitation."

They were waiting for the elevators when a small group of first year female residents passed by, lingering and whispering, their eyes glancing over repeatedly. Scully cleared her throat and felt her cheeks darken slightly. Of course they couldn't tell, could they? What a ridiculous thought. She glanced down at the speckled floor tiles and shifted her footing. She felt the weight of Mulder's gaze on her and his barely repressed smile.

Two of the residents made their way over to the elevators and stood next to them, stealing more curious looks. Scully recognized both of the women, but couldn't remember their names. Finally, one of the residents, a young blonde woman in her mid-twenties turned toward them. "Hi, Dr. Scully," she said with a shy smile. "Um, I don't mean to interrupt, but I was just wondering...um, what I mean is that we were just wondering, my friend and I...are you Fox Mulder? The writer?"

Scully exhaled and tried not to appear overly amused.

Mulder nodded and smiled, politely. "That would be me."

The dark haired resident next to the blonde laughed nervously. "Holy shit." She threw a hand over her mouth. "Sorry. It's just that, we're both fans. I love your books."

"We just love them," confirmed the blonde, nodding emphatically. "I'm Abby and this is Jess."

"Nice to meet you, Abby and Jess," said Mulder, offering his hand and that subdued, pouty-bottom-lipped smile that rendered pretty much anyone with two X chromosomes speechless.

Scully shifted her weight to her hip and crossed her arms, smirking down at her shoes.

"Someone said that Dr. Scully was married to you, but we thought they were just kidding," said blonde Abby with a disbelieving huff. "And then we were just passing by and there you were."

"Like, completely took us by surprise," added Jess, flipping her hair over her shoulder.

Like, imagine that. Scully stared ahead, wondering if slower elevators existed in all of the District of Columbia.

"Oh! Do you think we could get your autograph?" asked Abby.

"Yes, would you mind terribly?" asked Jess.

Mulder flashed another smoldering smile and Scully mentally calculated how hard she'd have to step on his foot with the heel of her shoe before it would hurt.

"Sure, no problem," he said, charmingly. "Um, I don't really have anything-oh hey Scully, do you have a pen on you?"

She blinked several times and smiled back tightly before reaching into her purse for a black ballpoint.

Mulder took the pen from her and popped the cap off. "Where would you like it, Ladies?"

Was he fucking kidding?

Abby shuffled through folders until she came up with a blank sheet of paper. She balanced it on her forearm while Mulder wrote whatever the hell he wrote to cute, little blondes half his age who devotedly bought all of his books. Scully couldn't read it from where she stood and she didn't really want to. Not really.

When it was Jess's turn, she looked at him, doe-eyed. "I don't have anything good for you to write on, but could I get a picture with you?" She held up her iphone.

"Oh my God, Jess, that's so good," exclaimed Abby, delighted. "Great idea!"

Jess handed her phone to Abby and positioned herself next to Mulder. He rested a long arm around her shoulder and smiled at the camera.

The elevator dinged, finally, and the doors opened. Scully stepped in and turned around, glancing back at Mulder, who was playing rock star now next to Abby while Jess snapped away on the iphone.

"Can you hold the elevator a sec, Scully? We're almost done here."

"Just one more shot," said Jess. "I think your eyes might've been closed in that last one, Ab."

Scully placed a hand to the edge of the door. "Mulder, we really need to get going. We're late already," she reminded in her best saccharine voice.

The two women gushed and cooed their goodbyes. "Have a great weekend, Dr. Scully." Parting handshakes were exchanged while Scully stood holding the doors open until Mulder joined her.

As the elevator descended, Scully stood silently with her arms crossed, watching the light over the doors count down the passing floors.

"They seemed nice," commented Mulder.

"Mm," she said tightly, quirking a brow at him.

He chuckled. "What?"

"I didn't say anything."

The elevator doors opened and Scully strode purposefully into the parking garage with Mulder trailing her. "Schmoozing with fans is part of my job, Scully. It sells books."

She smiled patronizingly at him. "Yeah well, maybe you could try not to enjoy it quite so much when you schmooze."

"You're just jealous because you don't have groupies."

She punched at her key fob and her black Audi chirped twice. "Oh I have groupies. They're called interns." She smiled smugly. "And they beg me for my signature too. If they don't get it, they don't pass."

"I love having groupies," he sniffed haughtily, pulling his sunglasses from his shirt pocket and sliding them on. "I'm thinking of getting my own tour bus."

She shook her head, but the corners of her mouth were turned up. "I'll remind you of that the next time I have to rescue your naked, tied-up ass."

"Will you be one of my groupies and go on tour with me, Scully?"

She tossed her briefcase onto the passenger seat of the car and closed the door. When she spun to face him, he was standing close, leaning over her. Her eyes raked his upper body, finally settling on his bottom lip. "What's in it for me?" she asked, teasingly.

He sighed, a coltish smile masquerading behind the intensity of his eyes. His hand reached down for hers and he toyed thoughtfully with her diamond. "Well...you do already have a starring role in all of my books and a kickass rock on your finger. But I might be able to sweeten the deal a little."

She giggled quietly and prompted him with her eyes.

"How bout I throw in a guaranteed spot in my bed every night, and all the miniskirts and blue eye shadow you want?"

She bit her lip and tried not to laugh. "Hmm, it's a good offer. Toss in an unlimited shoe allowance and you've got yourself a deal."

He shook his head and smiled. "You drive a hard bargain, groupie girl."

"I'm worth it."

"That, you are." He lifted her chin with his thumb and kissed her.

The End

Thank you so much for reading! Feedback appreciated at malibusunset88@gmail.com

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Non-Canon Kids
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Keeping William
Married With Children
Picture It Challenge
One Each Way Challenge
Stolen Ova: Another Child Challenge
William's Twin Challenge
Take Two Challenge


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