table setting

Title: The Sins of the Father
Author: MD1016
Written: November 2002
Gossamer: Vignette
Rated: PG-13 for language

Summary: Just your run-of-the-mill Thanksgiving at the Scully house, Bill's POV.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I hate Fox Mulder. I'll never understand what my sister sees in him. All the stories I've heard, both from her and my mother, paint him a complete lunatic. Even Missy, God rest her soul, had him pegged for a man unwilling to give up his demons, and Missy could find goodness in anybody.

The honest truth is I never got along with Missy, even before she packed her bags and left. I loved her because she was my sister and I respected her because she was an independent, intelligent woman, but I never understood her. I don't think many people did. Dad certainly didn't. Maybe that's why she had Fox Mulder figured out; maybe she saw in him what others couldn't see in her. Maybe she found in him a kindred soul.

It takes a nut to know a nut, I guess.

And I know Fox Mulder is a certified lunatic. I've heard the stories that Dana has told Mom in fits of frustration, so I'm aware of some of the things that have gone down between my only living sister and her partner. But I learn even more from Dana's silences, the things she refuses to explain completely; the looks on her face when she talks to him on the phone or the half whispered, embarrassed apologies she mutters as she leaves yet another family gathering to go gallivanting after him and one of his insane theories. This guy believes in Aliens. He believes in ghosts and magic and even Bigfoot, but not in God. He's a first class, certified whack job with a strange hold over my sister that I can't explain and don't want to contemplate and I hate him.

Which was why when Mom said he was invited to Thanksgiving dinner, and could I be civil to him? I said no. Absolutely not.

"Isn't it bad enough that he usually calls just as the turkey's being served and Dana leaves her family to rush to his side? Do we have to suffer through his *presence* this time as well?"

"Bill, Jr.," Mom said in her mom-voice. "You will be civil to Fox Mulder. His mother passed away this year, and Dana says he has no other family and no where to go for Thanksgiving."

"Exactly! What does that tell you, Mom? The guy has no friends -"

"He's got Dana," she reminded me. "Now I won't hear another word on the subject. You *will* be civil."

"Yes, ma'am." I wasn't thrilled, but she is still my mother, and the fact that I have two children of my own doesn't change that. A man who doesn't respect his mother is no man at all. They teach you that in the navy, believe it or not. And in my house, growing up, it was sermon.

The evening in question began pleasant enough...but then Tara and the boys and I arrived first. Mom is great with my sons. They're three and nine months, and both look like my youngest brother Charlie who was once again missing Thanksgiving serving somewhere in the South Pacific.

We fed the boys and put them to bed, and had just settled down in the living room with some of Mom's hot cider when the doorbell rang. Tara jumped up and rushed to let the late-comers in. My wife adores Dana. She has one younger brother who was still in elementary school when she left for college, so she feels she missed out on the whole sibling thing. I tell her she's lucky, but she doesn't believe me for a second. She's in love with the idea of having a sister, even if she is just a sister-in-law, and even if she's Dana, who doesn't act much like a girl. Although on that particular night every inch of Dana was soft and feminine. I don't remember exactly what she was wearing, but it had a short skirt on it, and some very high heels. And a plunging neckline. And she curled her hair a little. If I'd seen her on the street I wouldn't have recognized her.

Fox Mulder I would have recognized. He wore what he always wore: a sorry expression and a loud tie.

General hellos were exchanged, and Dana approached me cautiously before giving me a big hug. She was nervous. So was Mulder. He shook my hand and said my name as if to say, "I know how you feel about me, and it's big of you to let me come here."

I returned the gesture with an implied, "I'm glad you're aware of where you stand with me. Don't make me hurt you."

Dana gave me a warning glare, but Tara didn't seem to notice at all, and cheerfully guided Dana into the dining room.

The table was set and all that was missing was the delicious aroma that wafted in from the kitchen. Mulder and I selected seats opposite each other, and Dana and Tara hurried in to help Mom bring the food to the table. The turkey, of course, was placed in front of me. Tradition dictated that Dad always carved the Thanksgiving turkey, but since he passed, that duty was logically mine.

Conversation was minimal at first. Mom brought us up to date on Charlie. Apparently, he'd written to say that he'd met some girl, and that she was nice and sweet and Irish Catholic which pleased my mother to no end.

It wasn't until the conversation fell into a lull that I noticed Tara wasn't eating. She pushed her mashed potatoes absently on to her turkey while her eyes were glued on Dana, who was sprinkling a yellow powder over her salad.

"What's that?" Tara asked.

Dana slipped the rest of the packet away and mumbled a quick, "Gobana," under her breath.


"Gobana," she repeated more deliberately, but didn't look up from her plate. She was playing it cool, and I wasn't about to let her get away with it.

"What the hell is Gobana?" I demanded.

She briefly glanced at the man beside her, but Mulder shrugged and sipped his wine. "You're on your own on this one," he said with a smirk.

"It's an extract," she explained, as if that told me anything at all.

"Tell him what it's extracted from," Mulder suggested with a devious grin.

Dana glared at him, but he didn't seem to mind. He was enjoying his turkey and her obvious discomfort. My interest was piqued.

"What is it an extract from, Dana?"

She shrugged and inhaled and raised her brows like it was no big deal, and then said nonchalantly, "Sharks."

"That's not exactly correct, is it, Scully?" Mulder smiled at her from around a mouth full of mashed potatoes.

"Mulder, I don't think -" she savagely whispered, but I cut her off.

"What is it, Dana?"

"Shark urine." She didn't skip a beat, and neither did Mom. Peas, mashed potatoes and gravy sprayed from my mother's mouth to Mulder's tie. I radiated gratification and I got a stiff kick in the shin from Tara for it. Mom apologized profusely, and Mulder repeatedly told her it wasn't necessary as the both of them wiped food from his front. Dana covered her mouth to keep from laughing out loud. It's been a long, long time since I've seen her light up that way.

"Dana?" I asked pointing at her plate. "Why?"

Her face instantly dropped.

Mulder happily supplied the answer as he changed napkins. "Wrinkles. Isn't that what you told me, Scully? Something about wrinkles and skin stretching?"

"Shut up, Mulder."

"Yes, I do think that's what you said." He grinned at her and she rolled her eyes. "Did you know," he earnestly asked me, "that sharks have a chemical in their urine that promotes cellular regeneration in the top level of the epidermis?"

"No," I told him, skeptically.

"Really." He seemed satisfied by my answer. "Because neither does the USDA or the FDA." Mulder ripped a roll and shoved half of it in his mouth. It bulged in his cheek like a chipmunk while he talked. "And, as a matter of fact, after extensive research with all of the accredited medical organizations of the world, the only information that I could find on Gobana came from a pamphlet Scully handed me. And curiously enough, that pamphlet was printed by the same company that produces Gobana."

"Mulder, shut up," Dana growled.

"You're kidding me," I insisted. "Dana buying into a fad cure-all?" It seemed so unlike my younger sister. "Why do you let her eat that stuff?"

"Let her?" he asked, incredulous. "Do you have any idea how stubborn your sister is? Have you ever tried to talk her out of something she's already made up her mind to do?"

"As a matter of fact, I have." I didn't mean to make the comment as pointed as it came out. Or maybe I did. After all, how many times had I told Dana she was making a mistake staying partners with that guy? How many times did I beg her to leave the FBI? In any event, this time it was Mom who slammed her heel into my shin.

"So, Dana," my wife said, pushing her untouched plate away to make room for her crossed arms. She must have been nauseated again if she wasn't eating my mother's cooking. But Tara's a trooper; you'd never know she felt sick to look at her. "What's with the two of you?" Her inquisitive blue eyes darted from my sister to her partner, and then back to my sister again.

"Not much," Dana shoved a fork full of lettuce into her mouth stopped all further comment. Mulder gave her a sideways glance, but she pretended not to notice. Something was going on; Tara was far too interested in the silent drama playing out on the other side of the table.

Mulder spooned another heap of turkey on to his plate, and then speared a stack of the slices for Dana, but she steered his hand back to the serving plate. That's when it hit me that all she'd put on her plate were salad and a roll.

"No turkey, Scully?"

"Mulder, don't start."

"So, Mulder," Tara interrupted. "Is there anything new with the two of you?" The way she said it, and the way Mom sat forward told me something was indeed new with the two people opposite me.

"Actually," Mulder said, as he wiped his mouth, "it's funny you should ask." Dana froze, fork halfway to her mouth, but Mulder continued. "Scully and I have decided to cut down our hours in the field."

Tara sat back in her chair. "What does that mean, exactly?"

"Well, neither of us is getting any younger, no matter how much one of us may try -"

"Hey!" Dana protested.

"And we've started to think in the long term."

My wife sat forward again, enthralled. "Really!"

Mulder nodded. "Yep. We successfully petitioned for an expansion of the X-Files division, and got two rookies assigned to take over a lot of the leg work for us. That's left a tremendous about of time for us to do some research."

Mom piped in this time. "What is it you're researching?"

"Us," Dana explained. "How we work. We've always had to use conventional labs and facilities to run tests or experiment to solve our cases. The problem being that our work is anything but conventional."

Mulder nodded. "We've been given the go-ahead to put together a separate lab for our unit, but since our particular brand of investigation has never existed before, we have to start from scratch."

"And tell them about Max."

Mulder smiled at my sister, his gazed lingered a little too long in her eyes, and I felt my Thanksgiving turkey turn to rock in my stomach.

Mulder then turned to my wife. "We also have a new office manager named Max who is creating a database for all of the X- Files case files, so we'll be able to cross reference, sort, and locate specific key traits without depending on my memory or Scully's ability to decipher my filing system."

"Wait," I said. It was a lot of information to assimilate at once. "Less time in the field means less time in the line of fire, right?" Maybe this wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Mulder smiled briefly at my sister. "We'll that is one of the perks."

"What are some of the other perks?" Tara asked.

"More sleep." Dana answered quickly. "Less work stress, less damage to my shoes -"

"More of a social life?" God love her, my wife has a one- track mind.

"Well, that's still in the theory stage," Dana grumbled. "But things are better. More livable."

"Yes," Mulder agreed.

An odd hush fell over the table and I had the distinct impression I'd just missed something.

That thought was interrupted by the wail of my youngest son. Tara looked and me and sighed. "He sounds hungry again."

"Dear." Mom placed a hand on my arm. "Why don't you bring little Ryan to the table."

"Oh, Mom," I chuckled. "Tara's still breast feeding."

"I know that, Bill, but she hasn't had a chance to finish her dinner yet. You can't expect the poor woman to feed your son when she hasn't replenished herself."

"Mom, she's not going to feed Ryan at the table."

Now, don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against breast feeding. In fact, I'm for it. The pediatrician said it's good for both the mother and child. And it's cheap. And if the truth be told, I like watching little Ryan take to Tara's nipple. It's...satisfying in some strange, paternal way. But that doesn't mean I want that lunatic, Mulder, to witness it. I don't want him anywhere near my wife's breasts.

My eyes must've strayed to him, because Mom admonished my concern. "Surely you're not worried about Fox. It wouldn't bother you if Tara breast feeds Ryan that the table, would it, Fox?"

"Of course not," Mulder quipped. "But the little guy isn't getting his hands on my turkey and stuffing." And then to punctuate his lame joke, he shoveled some in his mouth. The women tittered.

"There, you see Bill? Now, go get your son before he wakes up his brother."

I swear to God I hate Fox Mulder.

Tara was wearing the shapeless post-maternity dress her mother got her when Matthew was born. The buttons down the front made for easy access, as did the ugly utilitarian nursing bra. I think it must always be a shock to see your wife pulling out a naked breast at the dinner table. Even when your crying son is lying in her lap. I tried to ignore it and continue with my cranberries and bread.

"What...?" Dana seemed hesitant to ask, but then finished the question. "What does it feel like?"

Tara looked up from our suckling son and beamed at her sister-in-law. "Much like you would think. But instead of the usual sexual charge, there's a calming effect."

"Oh, for crying out loud!" This is what happens when a woman is encouraged to expose her breasts in mixed company; immediately the conversation degenerates to sex talk.

"Oh, Bill." Tara placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. "He doesn't like to talk about sex, but he had no trouble making his two sons. And another on the way."

"What?" My mother sat up and stared hopefully at my wife. "Another?"

Tara nodded with a smile stretching from ear to ear. "We found out for sure last week, and we thought we'd save the news for tonight."

"Oh, Bill!" Mom jumped up and hugged me tight, kissed my cheek, and then moved on to Tara.

"Congratulation, Bill," Dana said. Her smile wasn't as forced as it had been in the past.

"Yes, congratulation," Mulder echoed.

"This is wonderful," my mother cooed. "When? Do you know the sex yet?"

"Not yet. But it's due at the end of July." Tara was smiling, beaming in fact, and my chest tightened a little knowing that I was able to give that to her. I'm no softy, but even I have my moments.

As I took a sip of my wine, I saw a look exchanged between my sister and her partner. It was half a second at the very most, but I caught it. An argument fought and won by my sister, I was fairly sure. Then she picked up her fork and deliberately focused on her plate again, ignoring Mulder and his stony expression. The man has no facial muscles to speak of. The only way I knew he was irritated was the way he continued to sit there and watched her fork not actually pick anything up.

"Dana, why aren't you eating?" I felt it was a legitimate question, given that it was Thanksgiving dinner and Mom had gone through all the trouble to provide a feast for us. Tara thought differently, and kicked me again for my troubles.

"OW!" I said in frustration. "Will you stop that?!"

"You stop being rude," she whispered harshly to me.

"I'm not being rude," I insisted. "I just want to know what the hell the problem is."

"There's no problem," Dana said, cutting in. She sounded neither offended, nor thrilled that the subject had been addressed. "My stomach is a little upset is all."

"Oh, dear," Mom said. "I hope it's not the flu."

"No," Dana assured her. "It's not." Her eyes slid sideways but never actually lifted to meet her partner's expectant gaze. "Uh...will you excuse me, please?" She stood, dropped her napkin beside her plate, and hurried up the stairs to, what I assumed was, the bathroom.

I glared at Mulder until he reluctantly looked my way, and then shrugged and offered up a lame, "What?"

"Is this where you tell us Dana has developed some sort of eating disorder, or something?" I asked, ready to nail him with the blame the moment the words came out of his mouth. He drove her crazy, that much was clear. She easily could have developed all kinds of psychological disorders because of her associations with this guy.

"She's not feeling well," he said slowly, carefully. There was no way I could miss the extra flexing he did with his jaw. Interesting.

"How long hasn't she felt well?" I challenged.

He hesitated, and I knew I had him. He wouldn't lie, not with my mother sitting right there, and he obviously didn't want to tell us the truth. There *was* something going on, and I was absolutely certain I wasn't going to like it one bit.

"Oh, dear, God," Mom said in a little gasp. Her fork clattered to her plate, which upset little Ryan. "It's..." she shook her head, and her face went as white as the China. "It's not the cancer. Fox. Tell me it's not the cancer again."

"No," he said quickly, and turned the corners of his mouth up in reassurance. "She's not sick. It's not that at all."

"Then what?" I demanded. It is one thing to keep secrets from your family, but it's another thing entirely to scare your mother with thoughts of terminal illnesses. "Tell us, damn it! We want to know the hell is going on!"

"Bill, please," Tara said under her breath.

Mulder turned to look out the archway to the stairs as if my sister might instantly materialize and rescue him.

"Fox," my mother said, more reasonable and calm than I felt myself. "If there's something wrong, we deserve to know. We love Dana."

"I do, too," he insisted. Facial expression or not, I could tell he instantly regretted it. The room was absolutely silent as we all sat there, Tara with her mouth hanging open, and my mother with a look of shock in her wide eyes. Or was that fear? The only sound was my son suckling away, and Dana upstairs, retching.

He glanced back at the empty stair. "I should probably..." he mumbled, and yanked his thumb in the direction of the sound of the toilet flushing.

"Fox." My mother's patience had finally worn thin, it seemed, and I watch with delight as he began to squirm under her chilly tone. "Tell me what you meant when you said that."

He swallowed, and glanced at each of us to gauge the room. We must've looked like rabid dogs to him. "I meant that I love her, too."

Mom's eyes narrowed. "Are you saying that you and Dana are having a...relationship?"

"No," he said simply. "You said you deserved to know what's going on because you love her. And I'm saying I understand that, because I love her, too."

"I see." Mom was playing it cool.

I didn't have the same patience. "So, what the hell is going on?" I demanded yet again.

"Well, we are in a relationship. A romantic relationship," he felt the need to clarify, and I felt the meal I'd just eaten seize up in my stomach and threaten to come back up again.

"No, you're not," I told him. I know it's silly. In hindsight, I can see that. But I grew up in a house where the man ruled the roost, and what he said went - or didn't. Forgive me for being a chauvinist, but part of me resents the fact that I don't have that kind of control over my own life.

"We are," Mulder said with a dismissing shrug. "And we've...been trying to get pregnant. That's why she's sick. The hormones she's been taking -"

"WHAT?!" both Tara and Mom screamed in unison. Ryan burst into tears, and his mother had to shift him to the other breast.

"How can you - you're not even married!" my mother cried out, and then she gasped as another thought hit her. "Mary, Jesus and Joseph. Fox, tell me you didn't elope!"

He sat back in his chair, and glanced guiltily over his shoulder. Still no Dana. "No. We're not married."

"How can you even think to bring a child into this world without securing its future? Would you have my daughter be a single mother?"

Mulder shook his head. "It's complicated."

"How complicated could it possibly be?" I yelled. "You want to bed my sister without taking any responsibility for her -"

"I'm responsible to her!" Mulder sat forward, on guard, and red in the face. "I love her and protect her and -"

"It's complicated." Dana finally appeared in the archway, looking pale but put together. She gave her partner a weary look and then sighed. "I thought we were going to save this for another time."

"Save it?" I asked with a snort. "Until when? Your bastard child's old enough to let us in on the secret?" Tara's foot landed firmly against my calf, and I yelled, "Stop kicking me!" Ryan instantly burst into tears again.

Disgusted and fed up, Tara took the baby back upstairs with a muttered, "You're impossible!" under her breath.

Dana reluctantly took her seat once more, and a brief look was exchanged between them; concern, reassurance, annoyance, apology.

"Dana?" Mom was quiet as she asked, "Are you going to have a baby?" Even wrapped around a glass of wine, Mom's hand shook. I couldn't tell if she was hopeful or fearful, or a little of both.

My sister sighed heavily, and gave her a weak smile. "I can't. We thought for a while it might be possible, but it's not."

Mom put down her drink. "Is there going to be a wedding?"

Silence hung heavy over the table, and I snorted my disgust. "I think you better leave." I left no room for question in my tone. Either he was going to leave, or I was going to kill him with my bare hands.

To my surprised, Dana agreed with me.

"He's right," she said.

"He's not," Mulder countered, with a slight shake of his head. "Tell them the rest of it."

"Too much has been said already, Mulder. Let's just go."

He leaned closer to her and whispered her name. "Tell them." For the moment or two that his face was so close to hers she was absolutely transfixed, as if the two of them were the only two people left in world. And then, she closed her eyes and let out a breath that I hadn't realized she'd been holding. When she turned back to Mom and me, I finally understood why this man had so much power over my sister. She loved him. Completely. Absolutely.

Suddenly, Fox Mulder became very dangerous in my eyes. I now knew for certain that my sister would never willingly walk away from this man.

"A couple of months ago Mulder found a laboratory that contained tissue samples harvested from women who were abducted like I was. My ova were among them." She glanced at her partner, and he gave her a nod of encouragement. "We had to move fast. Once the cells began to thaw the window of opportunity when they would be viable was very slim. help..." She stumbled over the words, and fidgeted in her seat. "And the result was seven viable fertilized eggs."

"Christ, Dana! Why are you telling us this crap?!" Yes, I took the Lord's name in vain.

"William Henry!"

"I'm sorry, Mom," I said, though I was very far from it at that point. "But I can't sit here and listen to this."

"Then don't," Mom snapped. "I want to hear it." When she turned back to my sister, Dana waited a moment or two to see if I was actually going to leave the table. I know Mulder was hoping that I would.

"We had to work quickly," Scully continued. "And the thing is, Mulder and I..." She glanced at him, and a small smile appeared on her lips. "We're new to this," she said, waving a hand between them. "And with the restructuring and hormone therapy and reorganizing and in vitro and reprioritizing - all in addition to our normal case load, well, there really hasn't been time to deal with the other stuff."

"What other stuff?" Mom asked.

Dana shrugged. "Eating, sleeping, talking about the rest of our lives. We were focusing on the next nine months."

"There's been a lot of stress," Mulder added, and I had to curb the urge to reach across the table and strangle him with his ugly tie. Pigs and toasters. I ask you, what kind of a man wears a tie like that to Thanksgiving dinner?

"Yes. Stress," my sister said quietly. "And no baby. There were only seven tiny possibilities, and none of them survived." My heart actually went out to her when she said that. I thought of my two sons, so perfect and beautiful, and another on the way, and how empty my life would be without them. No matter how much the thought of my sister procreating with that son of a bitch turns my stomach, I would never begrudge her the miracle of parenthood.

Mom didn't asked any more questions, and Dana didn't offer anything further, so I felt the need to state the obvious.

"So. You two are a couple, then."

They both looked at me like I was an idiot, but then Dana cracked a smile, rolled her eyes, and hung her head to hide her amusement. "Yeah. We're going steady."

"Just so we're clear," I said, elbows on table, looking as ferocious as I possibly could while sitting at Thanksgiving dinner. "If you ever hurt her, I'm going to kick your ass."

Mulder smirked, and then nodded. "Understood. And right back at ya'."

What? Yes, I still hate Fox Mulder. I like to think the feeling's mutual. But it's not like I could stop them from seeing each other. I mean, yeah, I could've kicked and screamed and raised holy Hell, like dad did, but what good would that have done? That's how we lost Missy all those years ago, when Dad refused to bend and something had to give.

And maybe, just maybe, by getting to know Mulder a little better, I might finally get the chance to know Missy, too.

The End

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