Charlie laughed, "You went to school in England and grew up on Martha's Vineyard? Now you're trying to say that you aren't loaded?"
Mulder looked down at his food, obviously so self-conscious that his new friend felt immediately guilty.
"Hey, Mulder…I'm sorry…I didn't mean to…" Charlie started to apologise and winced at his sister's angry expression.
Mulder shook his head, "No…really, it's fine…my family had money. My mom has most of it. I inherited a little from my father, but it was dirty money and I wasn't interested. I've sold most of the property and spent a lot of the money over the years on the search for my sister…you'll be surprised how much FBI expenses don't cover."
Scully looked at him sharply, "Wait…these expenses were…?"
Mulder looked over at her and shook his head, "Let's not…please..." He asked her quietly.
"I'm sorry, I was being insensitive…" Charlie apologised genuinely. "To be honest I thought talking about something nice would…I guess I didn't think."
Mulder smiled and nodded, "I did keep two things my father left me...my paternal grandparent's wedding rings…" Margaret raised her eyebrows at Scully with a small smile and she looked away, even though inside her heart had started beating a little faster, "…and an old family home that my grandparents had bought when Samantha and I were kids."
"You own a home?" Scully asked genuinely surprised. "You haven't mentioned that. Where is it?"
Mulder glanced at Scully and then looked back at Charlie and Margaret before answering her, "It's on the coast…Oak Bluffs…"
Margaret sucked in a breath and raised her eyebrows, "Very nice…you didn't want to sell it?"
He shook his head and still didn't look at Scully, "I liked my grandparents, I have good memories of visits there…"
The server came and delivered the food to their table and Mulder fell silent for a few moments. After digging at the food on his plate for a few minutes he glanced at Scully next to him and then continued, "My sister and I used to visit over the summer…it's almost a hundred years old, built right by the sea next to the beach…three bedrooms…huge windows right around the property, it's like living on the water. My dad refurbished a year before he died…had a big stone fireplace put in."
As Mulder talked self-consciously about the house Scully listened transfixed, it sounded beautiful – like paradise.
"You never visit?" Scully asked, already knowing the answer.
"It's a trip…and we're usually so busy. I've just never been able to let it go," Mulder said and started to eat.
"But why?" Scully pressed.
"It's a nice house, I like it…Samantha was happy there…and you…" Mulder stopped and bit his lip as he glanced at Charlie and then looked over at Margaret.
"Dana likes the sea…" Margaret finished with tears in her eyes. "You kept the house because you thought Dana would like it."
Mulder sighed and then smiled at Scully trying to cover his embarrassment, "I did go up once not long after my dad was killed…one weekend when you were with your mom. I even met with someone about selling up…but when I was there looking around I could see how much you would love it…around every corner, there was something else that reminded me of you. I dropped out of the sale, hired someone to keep an eye on the place and have never been back."
Charlie smiled at Mulder a shook his head in wonder, "You kept the house for my sister, even though you weren't together…and had no idea that you ever would be?"
"I don't have much…" Mulder looked away and sighed, "…much that I could give her." He looked up into Scully's tearful eyes and reached to take her hand, "I would have given it to you, but I didn't know how…without…well, you know…"
"Oh, Mulder…" Scully said as a tear fell and she pulled him tightly into her arms, at least one piece of cutlery clattering to the floor.
"I knew my brother could be stubborn, but he really has no idea…" Charlie said in wonder as he watched his sister tightly hold her partner.
Scully laughed at her brother's comment and then pulled back and smiled at her partner, "You don't owe me anything, Mulder. If you want to sell this place, use the money for…"
"I want you to have it, Scully, in my heart it's already yours," Mulder argued. "I even have the papers written up…"
Scully smiled and looked over at her mom who was desperately trying not to cry, then she looked back at Mulder, "Okay…how about a compromise?"
Mulder looked confused and shrugged, "Like what?"
"How about we keep it, you and me? We could buy a little boat and some shares in Dramamine…we could invest in a hot tub and spend hours sitting on the deck watching the sea…we could take vacations, sleep late and take long walks down the coast…" Scully grinned as she watched Mulder begin to genuinely smile. "Have you ever actually been on vacation?"
Mulder looked unconvincingly offended, "I have! You made me…I went to Graceland!"
"That doesn't count…" Scully laughed and rolled her eyes.
"How does that not count?" Mulder asked and then looked at Charlie for support.
"It doesn't exactly sound…" Charlie started and Mulder cut him off.
"Right, you Scully's stick together!" He teased and then looked at them all with a smile. "Okay, let's talk to our therapist tomorrow and see if she thinks it would be okay to take the week…then we can go visit Martha's Vineyard and I can prove to you all that I know how to have a vacation!"
"All of us?" Margaret asked.
"There are three bedrooms, we can wait for Matt and then go up for the week. Set up the house, have BBQs…buy a hot tub…whatever the hell Scully wants. I'll even consider the boat idea as long as she promises I won't have to spend hours flung over the side vomiting into the sea!"
Scully looked up at a server as they delivered some replacement cutlery, "We're going on holiday!" She announced happily.
"Some people have all the luck…" The waitress smiled at her kindly and then bent to retrieve two forks from the floor.
They all pulled up outside the double garage in a rented 4x4 and Scully jumped out of the vehicle, balancing on the side for a better view of the house.
"It's beautiful!" She gushed excitedly and then turned to push up on her toes and look at the sea. "And look how close the water is!" She jumped down and slammed the door before rushing around the corner and disappearing.
Mulder smiled and followed not far behind.
Matt looked over at Charlie and Margaret as he opened the door and climbed out, "After everything they've been through…she looks so happy."
Charlie smiled over at his mom and then nodded towards the house, "That's all him…"
"Ain't love grand," Matt smiled and looked back towards the house when he heard Scully yelp with joy.
Charlie laughed, "It's not a cure-all, but it certainly helps…and Dana has been waiting for this a long time."
"He's hot…" Matt observed, and then smiled as Charlie raised his eyebrows, "…just an objective observation, he's clearly claimed."
"Oh, it's like that is it?" Charlie laughed.
"And so am I…" Matt confirmed needlessly and leaned to kiss him chastely before walking around to pull their bags out of the trunk.
"Don't worry Matt, even I can appreciate my daughter's excellent taste," Margaret smiled warmly at them both as she joined them at the back of the 4x4.
Matt laughed and took two bags out, "Can you bring the shopping?" He nodded at a small bag in the corner and Margaret smiled.
"Thank you, Matt," She smiled at Charlie, clearly telling him that she was impressed, as they all walked around to the side of the house.
Scully came out with a wide smile, "It's so beautiful!"
"You do like it then?" Charlie asked.
"It's perfect, I can't believe Mulder kept it for me all these years!" She beamed.
"Sounds like a keeper," Matt observed.
"The man or the house?" Charlie laughed.
"Both," Matt replied smiling broadly, "…but mainly the man."
"The man is definitely a keeper," Scully agreed, "…but I think I'll keep both."
Mulder came to join them, his arms naturally slipping around Scully's waist from behind and his chin resting on her shoulder, "Who's keeping what?"
"I'm keeping you, we're keeping the house…" Scully confirmed and leaned back against him happily.
"Mmm…I like the way you think Ms Scully," Mulder teased and quickly kissed the side of her neck. Then he looked up at their guests, "We have a delivery coming this afternoon, so do you mind if I show you up to your rooms and then make a couple of calls?"
The three shrugged and Mulder picked up Margaret's bag and walked towards the stairs, "Scully and I want to settle into the master suite, maybe make some changes, so I hope you don't mind the guest rooms?"
"Of course, this is your home, Fox," Margaret smiled.
"I thought Charlie and Matt in the double at the end, and you in the twin overlooking the sea? The twin is larger and has an en-suite but I assumed you guys would be more comfortable in the double?" He looked back at Charlie and Matt and they nodded.
"Sounds perfect, Mulder," Charlie smiled.
Mulder kicked open one room, "This is you…" he smiled at Margaret.
Margaret walked in and looked around, "It's stunning, Fox…look at that view!" She walked to the window and smiled back at the three men.
"How come Margaret calls you Fox but even Dana calls you Mulder?" Matt asked with a chuckle.
Mulder laughed and shrugged, "I prefer Mulder…and I guess over the years Mulder and Scully became natural for us. I've had the occasional girlfriend insist on calling me Fox, but that was mostly a control thing…they knew it made me uncomfortable, gave them the edge…"
Margaret looked concerned, "Does it bother you? The last thing in the world I want to do is make you uncomfortable."
Rushing to shake his head Mulder tried to reassure her, "I think it made me uncomfortable because of associations with my mother and sister, the relationship I never had with the former and couldn't have with the latter. You're different…you're Scully's mom...it's different."
"I can try to get used to Mulder, really…" Margaret offered.
"You and Scully can call me whatever you want, Margaret. Honestly. I actually like that you call me Fox…it makes me feel like family…maybe that's what made me feel uncomfortable in the past," Mulder admitted. "Although generally, I do prefer Mulder," he smiled back at Charlie and Matt.
"Well, as I said before…any time you want to change to Mom is more than okay with me sweetheart," Margaret said, genuinely touched by his words. Then she turned to Matt, "The same goes for you too, Matt, although I guess in your case that would be…mum."
They all laughed and Charlie nodded gratefully at his mom.
"So what is this delivery?" Margaret asked, too intrigued not to be a little nosey.
"Just a little surprise for Scully, it should be here in about half an hour but they could take the rest of the afternoon and it might be a little noisy…so I thought we could all walk down the coast and get some seafood."
"You spoil her," Margaret teased and smiled warmly at Mulder.
"I'm enjoying having the opportunity," Mulder conceded. "When we were…I mean, over the last few weeks I've learned how important it is to make the most of what you have, to appreciate the people in your life…and no one means more to me than Scully."
Margaret, Charlie and Matt all smiled and then Mulder snapped out of his thoughts, "So…twenty minutes okay? And you're all happy to walk? It's not far…"
"Perfect," Margaret said happily and Mulder left to show Charlie and Matt to their room.
Margaret stood on the beach and watch four young men slowly hoist the hot tub up and onto the second-floor veranda.
She smiled up at Scully as she walked over to join her, and then they both looked back at the workers.
"Can you believe he got that thing?" Scully smiled broadly and then turned to grin at her mom.
"I believe that if you said you wanted the moon that man would get out a piece of paper and start trying to work out how long he'd need to cut the rope," Margaret laughed and shook her head.
"Mom!" Scully laughed.
"It's not a bad thing, sweetheart. That man loves you…he knows better than anyone how hard the last few years have been and he enjoys making you happy. What's wrong with that?"
"He doesn't need to do anything, Mom, just being here with him…being anywhere with him…that's more than enough. And the effort he's making with you and Charlie…" Scully smiled at Mulder as the three men walked down to meet them.
"I think you'll find its little effort, Dana. He's a good man, and I think he's enjoying spending time with your family…feeling a part of something," Margaret observed.
Mulder smiled at the ladies and pointed down the coast, "Just this way. There's a gorgeous little place that does fresh seafood." He held out his arm to Margaret and smiled, "Shall we, Mom?"
Margaret smiled and slipped her arm into Mulder's as Scully tearfully watched them walk away.
"It's a good job you like him, Dana, because we're growing quite used to him…" Charlie teased as he linked his arm with his sister and tugged her along to walk behind Mulder and her mom.
Matt joined them on Scully's other side and nodded, "I think this is already my favourite branch of the Scully clan…not counting the youngest brother of course."
She squeezed Matt's arm gratefully.
The sun beat down on them warmly and she squinted a little, reminding her self to dig out her sunglasses later. Scully watched Mulder chat happily with her mom as they walked and then smiled up at her brother, "Maybe it's true, it does get darkest before the light," she observed with a smile.
(There will be another part of the series eventually, I wouldn't deny them a much-deserved vacation!)