Hello, hello

All the usual disclaimers apply.

This story is pure fluff. I just wanted to take a short break from my usual crime stories. It's the third in the series, but you don't really have to read it to understand the following stories. If you want to read a case story, skip to The Scottish Play.

Special Agent Fox Mulder stood outside the large, stucco house fidgeting with car keys in his pocket. He longed to pull them out again, stride back to the small, cream-colored Honda, and simply drive away from the house. He did not particularly care where he was driving to; anywhere would be better than where he currently stood. As he looked at his companion, however, he realized that he would not be going anywhere.

Special Agent Dana Scully was his partner in every sense of the word. They worked together at the FBI, but their emotional connection ran deeper than that of simple coworkers. They were best friends, companions, lovers. Scully was everything to him—his world, the one thing that made him get out of bed each morning, the one person who not only understood him but accepted him, faults and all. When they introduced themselves, they would call themselves "partners" because neither could think of a better descriptor for their relationship. "Boyfriend" and "girlfriend" sounded too juvenile, too much like their relationship was a casual, fleeting thing. And both knew their relationship was far from casual and fleeting; it had taken five long years to develop, and their bond could not easily be broken. "Lovers" sounded like their relationship rested on a sexual foundation when in truth they were in a relationship of sorts before sex even entered the picture. And "friend". . . well, they were friends, but their friendship was only a part of their relationship.

And so they had unconsciously settled on the word partner. Whether on a case or talking to long-forgotten acquaintances (for neither had many true friends), they would introduce the other as "my partner." In those two simple words, they managed to convey the true depths of their relationship, a relationship that few people could claim to share. It was a relationship built on mutual respect, trust, and, ultimately, love. And those three qualities tied them more tightly together than any superficial label could have.

"If you keep staring at me like that, they're going to know something's up," Scully muttered as she shifted her own bag on her shoulder. Mulder had offered to take it earlier, but she had flatly refused his assistance. Now, he brought his hand out of his pocket and opened his mouth to offer again, but Scully anticipated his chivalry. "I told you already, Mulder, I've got it."

"Are you sure? I mean. . ." His eyes traveled down to her abdomen.

"Mulder, carrying a bag into the house is not going to hurt the babies."

"The doctor said-"

"The doctor said not to do anything which could put strain on my back. But this bag is not that heavy, and it's still early in my pregnancy, so I'm not straining my back at all. Besides, I'm a doctor and perfectly qualified to decide what I can and can't do."

"I'm just trying to help," Mulder defended.

"Well, you can help by ringing the doorbell. It's on your side."

"Suddenly, I'm not such a big fan of this helping thing."

"Mulder-" Scully began, a warning tone in her voice.

"Come on, Scully, think about it. We could go anywhere you want. How about the beach? I know you like the beach."

"Mulder, ring the damn doorbell."

"I hear Florida's nice around this time of year."


"Okay, okay, I'm ringing it." Mulder reached forward and pressed the small button beside the door, releasing it quickly as if it had shocked him. "I don't see why we have to be here anyway," he mumbled as his hands dropped back into his pockets.

"Because it's Thanksgiving and this is my family," Scully said, reiterating the same argument she had used countless times over the past couple weeks. She was beginning to grow sick of Mulder's constant petulance, and irritation colored her voice.

"But why do I have to be here?" She gave him a look, the death glare that he had come to dread. It was the look she often adopted when he was spouting off some particularly wild theory or when he woke her early in the morning to go chasing after a UFO or some other X-file. "Your brother absolutely hates me," he pointed out, still trying desperately to talk his way out of a weekend with the Scully family. Or at least, out of a weekend with every member of the Scully family except for one.

"He doesn't hate you."

"Well, I certainly haven't heard him expressing his undying affection for me either," Mulder remarked dryly.

"If you want to leave, go. But I'm staying."

Mulder sighed, knowing he was defeated. "I'm here already anyway. I might as well stay. But don't expect me to enjoy it."

"Four days, Mulder. That's all I'm asking for. Four days of normal, civil time with family. Is that really so hard?"

"You know I don't do normal, Scully. And using civil and family in the same sentence has always been an oxymoron as far as I'm concerned."

Their argument was cut off as the door swung open. Both quickly turned to face it; in the heat of their debate, they had forgotten that Mulder had already rung the doorbell. Scully smiled broadly when she saw the woman standing in the doorway, prodding Mulder in the side to indicate that he should do the same. Trying to plaster on an expression that did not resemble a grimace, Mulder looked at Scully's mother.

Maggie Scully had the same slight build as her daughter, but the resemblance ended there. Where Scully's hair was a fiery red, Maggie's was a soft brown, barely touched by grey. Scully's eyes were a deep blue, but Maggie's were light brown and flecked with gold. Even in the jeans and sweater she wore, Scully exuded professionalism, just as if she was wearing one of her typical, no-nonsense business suits. Maggie, on the other hand, wore a pair of corduroy pants and a pale blouse covered by an apron, clothes that she appeared completely comfortable in. She was relaxed, at ease in her surroundings, but Scully, after years of close calls as an FBI agent, was ready to spring into action at the first sign of trouble.

"Dana, I'm so glad you're finally here," Maggie said, pulling her daughter into a tight hug. Scully easily accepted the affection, squeezing her mother gently.

"Sorry, Mom. We would have been here earlier, but somebody was still finishing paperwork today." Scully glanced accusingly at Mulder.

"Yes, well, I didn't have much time last night," Mulder said, shrugging. "I had to get caught up so I could take two days off."

"You wouldn't need to get caught up if you'd finish your paperwork when you're supposed to," Scully pointed out.

"I've been busy lately," he defended.

"You've had plenty of time-"

"Okay, you two, enough bickering," Maggie said, throwing up her hands. "This is supposed to be a time of celebration with friends and family. Let's not start it out by fighting." She looked between the two partners. Scully was still staring at Mulder, her arms crossed over her chest in her usual position of defiance. Mulder was also staring at Scully, his hands still thrust deep inside his pockets. Maggie could tell from the glint in his eyes that the argument was far from over. She sighed, wondering how the two managed to get any work done if they always acted like testy children.

"Why don't you come inside and say hi to everybody else, and I'll show you where you're staying," Maggie suggested. Silently, the two followed her. Though they did not speak, Maggie could tell that they were still debating by their subtle gestures and the glances they threw at each other as they walked. She had learned soon after she first met Mulder that he and her daughter shared a special connection, one that allowed them to communicate without words. They spoke a language unique to themselves.

"Look who's here, everyone," Maggie announced when they reached the living room. Seven pairs of eyes turned to face the two agents, and Mulder suddenly felt like he was on exhibition at a zoo. He shifted uncomfortably, glancing quickly at the faces surrounding him. One he recognized easily as that of Scully's oldest brother, Bill. Bill had light brown hair similar to his mother's, but he was tall and muscular, a build Mulder assumed he had inherited from his father. Like Scully's, Bill's eyes were a deep blue, but they held none of Scully's warmth as they stared at Mulder.

On the couch beside Bill sat a woman who Mulder assumed was his wife. She was short and thin with graceful curves and delicate facial features. Her blond hair was pulled neatly back into a ponytail, and her jeans and light green blouse did not show a single crease or wrinkle. She held a small boy on her lap; he looked to be about a year old. He had his father's blue eyes and his mother's blond hair and narrow face.

"You know Bill, of course," Scully was saying as Mulder's eyes continued to roam the room. "This is his wife Tara and their son Matthew. Over there is my brother Charlie, his wife Kaitlin, and their kids Brian and Lily."

Mulder now focused his attention on the other four occupants of the room. Charlie was of slighter build than his older brother, but he shared his brother's neat, brown hair and piercing blue eyes. Mulder knew from Scully's stories that Charlie was only a year older than Scully herself and had been Scully's partner in crime for much of their childhood. Looking at the man sitting in front of him now, Mulder could immediately see why. Charlie had a glint of mischief in his blue eyes, one that indicated that he had not entirely lost his childish nature.

Kaitlin also seemed to be more relaxed than Tara. She leaned casually against Charlie's shoulder, her small hand on his knee while his arm encircled her shoulders. Their kids, who looked to be around six and four, played on the floor in front of them. With a jolt, Mulder realized that in a couple years, it could be him sitting casually on the couch with arm around his wife, watching his kids play. It was something he had never imagined before, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized that it was something he definitely wanted.

"Everyone, this is my partner Fox Mulder," Scully finished. Mulder managed a weak smile as he began fidgeting with the keys once more. Bill was still glaring at Mulder, his eyes clearly showing that Mulder was not welcome in the house. Tara seemed uninterested in Mulder; she was speaking softly to Matthew who squirmed in her arms. Brian and Lily both looked up at the newcomer briefly before returning to their game, and Charlie and Kaitlin stared at Mulder curiously.

"In all these years, Dana, I don't know if you've ever brought a boyfriend to Thanksgiving dinner," Charlie remarked. "In fact, I was beginning to worry about you. I was afraid my little sister had resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood."

"He's not her boyfriend," Bill growled from the couch.

"What?" Charlie questioned.

"Mulder. He's not her boyfriend. They work together. Isn't that right, Dana?" When Scully remained silent, Bill stood, his fists shaking with fury. "Well, Dana? Isn't that right?" He approached her, coming so close that their noses almost touched. Mulder pulled his hands out of his pockets, ready to force Bill to back down, but Scully caught his eye and told him with a single glance to let her handle the situation. Though Mulder itched to take action, he acquiesced to her request, contenting himself by curling and uncurling his fists in a feeble attempt to control his temper.

"We don't just work together," Scully said calmly, standing up as tall as she could. Bill loomed over her, but she appeared not to notice as she stared up at him defiantly. "Mulder's my. . ." Mulder listened to her falter, trying, as they had so many times before, to find an adequate word to describe their unique relationship. "Partner" obviously would not work in this case; it had already been misinterpreted once. They needed something that would clearly tell everyone where their relationship stood.

"One in five billion," Mulder suggested after a few seconds, a hint of a smile playing at his lips. Scully turned to him, surprised. She remembered when he first used the phrase—lying in a mental hospital, trying to convince her to believe that a monster was turning people into zombies. And for some reason, she had believed him, despite what science said to the contrary. Perhaps the phrase was a good descriptor of their relationship after all.

"My one in five billion," she repeated, now smiling slightly herself. She turned back to Bill who appeared to have swallowed something large. He spluttered angrily for a minute, unable to form a coherent sentence. Mulder watched, slightly amused, as Bill gestured wildly between the two of them. To bait the over-protective older brother, Mulder stepped closer to Scully and placed an arm around her waist. She glared at him, fully aware of what he was doing, but Charlie spoke before she could pull away.

"You know, Dana, most people would just say boyfriend."

"Ah, it's too cliché," Mulder said, realizing he might have another ally in the Scully household. "It doesn't really do our relationship justice."

"It's a nice concept," Kaitlin agreed. "To think that there's one person out there who you're destined to spend your life with."

"Thanks, man. Now she's going to expect me to say something sappy like that," Charlie remarked, looking to Mulder with an eye roll and a grin.

At that moment, the adults were interrupted by two small voices. "Auntie Dana, come see what we've got!" Brian and Lily called. Obediently, Scully moved away from Mulder and crouched down on the floor beside the two small children. She saw them playing with Mr. Potato Head, and a smile spread across her face.

"You know, Uncle Mulder does a great impression of Mr. Potato Head," she told the kids, motioning Mulder over. He crouched beside her a bit warily. "Come on, Mulder, show them Mr. Potato Head."

"Oh, you mean like this?" Squinting his eyes, he puffed out his cheeks in a decent impression of the toy. Brian and Lily both giggled. Seeing the interest his cousins were showing in the new man, Matthew wriggled out of his mother's lap and joined the four on the floor. Bill looked as if he wanted to take his son away from Mulder's influence, but he remained where he stood, watching the scene unfold in front of him.

"Do it again so you can show Matty," Lily instructed. Mulder did as she asked, and all three kids dissolved into giggles.

"If I had known I was that funny, I would have picked a different career," Mulder remarked, settling down cross-legged on the floor. Charlie and Kaitlin had resumed an earlier conversation with Tara, and Maggie had enlisted Bill to help her in the kitchen, so Mulder and Scully were left to entertain the three kids on their own.

"You try a face now," Brian announced, passing the potato to Mulder. All three kids and Scully watched with interest as he pulled the pieces off, replacing the ears with an eye and a nose, the mouth with the other eye, the nose with a mouth, and the eyes with two ears. Mulder held up the strange-looking potato for inspection.

"It's Picasso Potato," he announced as the other four laughed.

"You're funny," Lily declared. "I like you."

"I wish it was that easy all the time," Mulder said.

They played with Mr. Potato Head for a couple more minutes until Lily set it aside. "I'm bored," she whined.

"Where are your other toys?" Scully questioned.

"Upstairs. Mommy says I can't get them out 'cuz we're gonna have dinner soon. I want to get my doll though."

"Yeah, and I want my Batman action figure," Brian agreed.

"You know, you don't really need dolls or action figures. You can just pose Sc—Aunt Dana and I like you would your dolls or action figures," Mulder suggested.

"How do we do that?" Brian asked.

"Well, we'll just sit really still, and you move our arms and legs however you want them." Mulder stopped moving, and Lily cautiously reached over and grabbed his arm, moving it so that his hand rested on the top of his head. He held this new position as the kids all giggled. Soon, all three were climbing over Scully and him, posing them in different ways as they acted out different scenes.

A few minutes later, the other five adults entered the room. Scully and Mulder had been so preoccupied with the kids that they had not noticed the others leave the room. Now, they turned to face the doorway, realizing how ridiculous they must look. Scully was standing up with one arm above her head and her fingers curled into a fist. The index finger of her other hand was pressed to her lips, and her feet were crossed at the ankles, making her slightly unsteady. Mulder was on his knees with one hand on the ground beside him and the other next to his face with an index finger curled under to make it appear that he was picking his nose, a posture that all three kids found hilarious.

"Looks like you five were having fun," Charlie observed as Scully and Mulder both stood up, allowing their arms to drop to their sides.

"Go clean up for dinner," Tara instructed. Immediately, Matthew grabbed one of Mulder's hands, using it to pull himself to his feet, and Lily took the other. Brian claimed Scully's hand, and the three kids pulled the two agents toward the small bathroom. Once all hands were washed and dried, Mulder, Scully, and the kids joined the others in the dining room.

"Hey, Matt, come sit down," Bill told his son, patting the chair beside him.

Matthew glanced at his father and then up at Mulder whose hand he still held. Instead of letting go, his grip tightened and he moved closer to Mulder. "Why don't you go sit over by your dad tonight," Mulder suggested, seeing the anger flash through Bill's eyes. Matthew looked up at Mulder pleadingly, but Mulder simply shook his head. "Come on, Matthew, please." He gave Matthew a small push toward his father, and the young boy finally toddled over. Bill lifted him into the high chair between him and his wife. Mulder looked at Scully, his eyes clearly asking if he had handled the situation correctly. She gave a small smile, and he relaxed visibly.

In the end, Mulder ended up sitting beside Scully with Brian on his other side. Lily took the seat between Scully and Bill who spent most of dinner alternating between glaring at Mulder and glaring at the food on his plate. Mulder noticed this but instead focused his attention on Brian who spent most of the meal talking about school, his friends, and his favorite games. When Brian mentioned that he loved basketball, Mulder smiled broadly. "That's funny. Basketball's my favorite game, too."

"Really?" Brian's blue eyes grew wide. "Do you think we could play sometime?"

"We'll see," Mulder told him.

"So, Fox, Dana, how is work?" Maggie asked. Mulder winced when he heard his first name but did not correct her, having learned long before that she would call him only by his given name.

"It's fine," Scully said, giving her customary response when she felt that someone was delving too deeply into her personal life even if that person was her own mother.

"Just fine? I don't get any details?"

"Mom, my job isn't exactly conducive to good dinner table conversation."

"And why not? Who doesn't want a good liver eating mutant story while they bite into their steak?" Mulder questioned under his breath. Scully's foot found his, and she pressed down hard. He was glad she was not wearing heels.

"You're just always so secretive."

"Well, that's what we get for working for the government," Mulder remarked cheekily. Scully's foot smashed down on his again.

"What about outside of work?" Maggie inquired. "How's everything with your personal life?" She looked between the two expectantly, noticing the fierce silent debate which started and ended in the five seconds before Scully answered.

"Everything's great," Scully told her mother.

The subtle prodding for information continued for the rest of the meal; by the time they had all finished eating, Mulder had begun to think that Maggie had missed her calling. She would have made a great interrogator. Mulder offered to help clean the dishes, but Maggie shooed him away, claiming he was their guest. With nothing better to do, he entered the living room where the three children immediately latched onto his limbs and begged him to watch a movie with them.

Somehow, Scully and Kaitlin ended up in the kitchen together washing dishes. "You're a lucky woman, you know that?" Kaitlin remarked as she rinsed a plate.

"Why do you say that?" Scully asked.

"Because you've found a man who's completely in love with you."

"You have Charlie."

"Yeah, I know. And I love him, I really do, and I know he loves me back, but there's something different about you and Fox." Scully snorted at the name. "What?"

"He hates his first name. Everybody calls him Mulder."

"Your mother doesn't."

"Yes, well, Mom's rather stubborn."

"Anyway, as I was saying, you two just seem more. . . intense, I guess."

"Mulder and I have been through a lot together. It's only natural that we're close."

"But you're more than close. I've only watched you two interact for a couple hours, and I can tell that. You don't need to talk; it's like you read one another's minds. And I've seen the way he looks at you—like you're the only person in the world. I've never had anyone look at me that way—not even Charlie. And then that one in five billion thing earlier. It was really sweet."

Scully smiled as she dried a large pan and reached to place it back in the cabinet. "Don't let Mulder hear you say that. He'll vehemently deny it. Besides, you wouldn't be so convinced of that if you knew the circumstances where that phrase first came up."

"I'm sure he's done plenty of sweet things for you though."

"I guess you could say that."

"Care to share any of them?"

"Sometimes, you're as bad as Mom, Kaitlin."

"Come on, I'm just curious. Just one thing."

"I guess escaping from the hospital after being shot in the head so that he could come to Antarctica to rescue me could be considered sweet," Scully said.

Kaitlin looked at her, baffled. "What were you doing in Antarctica?"

Scully chuckled. "That's a long story."

"He risked his life to save you, though."

Scully shrugged. "Sure."

"You say that like it's only natural."

"Kaitlin, we work for the FBI. Both of us have risked our lives more than once for the other. It's what partners do."

Scully walked into the living room to find Mulder at one end of the sofa with Lily and Matthew cuddled in his lap. Brian was curled against his side, and all four were watching the animated dinosaurs on the television screen. Picking up Brian, Scully settled the small boy in her lap as she snuggled against Mulder's side. "Where are the others?" she asked quietly.

"Your mom said she was turning in early since she would have to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to start cooking. Tara went up to finish unpacking, and Bill and Charlie went out for a walk. I have a feeling they're discussing yours truly."

"What makes you say that?"

"The pointed glances Bill threw my way when he told Charlie he needed to talk to him." Mulder moved one arm around her shoulders, holding her close as he pressed his lips to the top of her head.

"I'm surprised you didn't follow them."

"My hands were full," Mulder said, nodding down at the children.

"They really seem to like you," Scully observed.

"It must be my natural charm."

"Natural charm?"

"Yeah. It worked on you, didn't it?" He turned to her with a smile, and his arm slowly slid from around her shoulders so that his hand rested on her stomach. Their eyes met, and Scully immediately ascertained what he was thinking. He wanted the normal family life—the ability to watch a movie with their kids at night without worrying about aliens or vampires or government conspiracies. Unfortunately, he also wanted the truth. She knew he could never completely give up their cross-country trips in search of paranormal phenomena, and she knew that his dedication to the X-files would never completely die. He had offered her everything—a chance at a normal life, one that was not fraught with violence and danger. But she had refused, knowing that he could never be truly happy with that life. And after everything she had seen and done, she doubted that she could either. Even if the mysterious stranger had not forced their hands, they likely would not have left the X-files because their work there was too important to them and to the rest of the world. They were not destined to have normal lives. But nothing said that their lives could not have moments of normalcy.

When the movie ended, Mulder looked down at the two kids in his arms. Lily was sleeping peacefully, her thumb stuck in her mouth and her other hand clutching the fabric of his shirt. Matthew was not quite asleep, but he was well on his way; his eyelids were half-closed, and he had buried his head against Mulder's chest. "What do I do with them?" Mulder asked Scully quietly.

"They'll sleep in Bill and Charlie's old room. There are twin beds and a trundle in there. Come on, I'll show you." Scully stood, still holding Brian who was also nearly asleep. Mulder followed her up the stairs, carrying the two younger children. Tara met them at the top of the stairs wearing a light pink bathrobe.

"I was just about to come down and check on them," Tara whispered. "How is my little man, huh?" She looked at Matthew who buried his face deeper in Mulder's chest.

"I'd say tired," Mulder guessed.

"Do you want me to take him?" Tara offered.

"Nah, it's okay, I've got him." Mulder walked into the nearest bedroom behind Scully, and Tara followed, watching as he gently lay the two sleepy kids he was holding on their beds. He stepped aside to let Tara tuck Matthew in while he pulled the sheet and blanket up over Lily. "Goodnight. Don't let the bedbugs bite," he whispered before turning and leaving the room.

"Night, Aunt Tara. Night, Aunt Dana. Night, Uncle Mulda," a small, groggy voice called as they left. Mulder smiled as he shut the door.

"Are Bill and Charlie back yet?" Tara whispered as they tiptoed down the hall.

"No, not yet."

"Guess I'm more interesting than I thought," Mulder muttered.

"Well, Kaitlin's already gone to bed, and I think I'm going to turn in, too," Tara announced, oblivious to Mulder's comment. "I'll see you two in the morning."

"Goodnight," Scully said, and Mulder nodded. Once the door closed behind her, Mulder turned to Scully.

"So where exactly am I sleeping?" he inquired.

"It's up to you. Tara and Bill are in Mom's room, and Charlie and Kaitlin are in the guest bedroom. Mom and I usually take the twin beds in Missy and my old room, but you're welcome to one of them if you want. Or you can have the pull-out couch downstairs."

"I'll take the couch. It'll feel more like home."

"Okay. Let me just grab some sheets for you." Scully pulled a set of white sheets from a nearby closet and walked downstairs with him. After they had pulled out the bed and finished making it up, Scully turned to Mulder. "I should probably be getting to bed, too. I'll see you in the morning."

Mulder leaned forward and kissed her. What was meant to be a simple goodnight kiss soon turned into something more. His tongue traced her bottom lip until she granted him entrance, and he eagerly probed her mouth, placing his hands at her hips to draw her body closer to his. "Are you sure you don't want to stay down here with me?" he muttered, pulling away slightly.

"My entire family is just upstairs," she pointed out.

"So?" Mulder placed his mouth against hers again, loving the feeling of her lips against his. Her hands tangled in his hair as she pulled him closer, and their hips ground together. His fingers moved to trace the smooth skin that showed through the gap between her sweater and her jeans, and for one wild moment, she seriously considered his suggestion that they share a bed.

The back door closed suddenly, and the two sprang apart like guilty teenagers caught making out by their parents. Both turned to see Bill and Charlie standing next to the door, staring at them. Charlie gave a cheeky smile before grabbing his older brother's arm and starting to drag him from the room. "By all means, carry on," he told the two.

When the two brothers had left, Mulder turned to Scully with a smile. "Busted," he remarked, leaning his forehead against hers.

"Well, I should probably get to bed before Bill decides to come down here and murder you."

"I think I can take him."

"He's in the Navy."

"I'm in the FBI."

Scully shook her head and gave him a chaste kiss. "Goodnight, Mulder."

"Night, G-woman. Sweet dreams."

An hour later, Scully was still awake, staring at the shadowy ceiling above her childhood bed. She had always loved that bed. It had never failed her before; usually, she was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. But tonight was different. She wondered if Mulder's insomnia was rubbing off on her. She was so accustomed to being awakened at all hours of the night to go chasing some new lead, she had cultured herself to sleep at odd hours. It was one of the drawbacks of working with Mulder. He didn't let some petty concern like time stop his quest for the truth.

Sighing, Scully glanced over at her mother whose dark form she could barely discern in the bed beside her. Deep, steady breathing filled the room, telling Scully that her mother had long since fallen asleep. Obviously, Maggie Scully would not be much company. Knowing that only one other person in the household was likely to be up at this hour, Scully slipped quietly out of bed and padded out of the room.

As she was walking down the steps, Scully was overcome by a sudden chill and a feeling of dizziness. She had grown accustomed to both symptoms during her pregnancy, and she simply closed her eyes, knowing that the moment would pass. Suddenly, she felt a pair of strong arms wrap around her, and a familiar voice remarked, "Miss me already?" Scully opened her eyes to see Mulder standing in front of her wearing nothing but an old pair of grey sweatpants.

"I couldn't sleep," she told him, her vision still swimming.

"You okay?" he asked. "You look like you're about to fall over."

"Just dizzy. And a little cold."

He pulled her tighter against him. "A little cold? Geezes, Scully, you're freezing."

"I'll be fine."

"Come on, let's go get you warmed up." With an arm around her shoulders, he walked with her the rest of the way down the stairs and to the bed in the living room. Once there, he pulled back the covers and helped her into the bed before climbing in behind her and wrapping his arm tightly around her waist, pulling her body close to his. Slowly, the warmth of his body started to chase away the chills.

"Thanks," she whispered.

"No problem. I was actually about to come and see if you were still awake. I couldn't sleep either," he admitted.

"I love you."

"I love you, too." With that, they drifted off to sleep.

Scully's stomach woke her just after 5:00 the next morning. Throwing off the sheets, she raced for the downstairs bathroom, arriving just in time. Mulder followed blearily behind, crouching down beside her so that he could rub her back comfortingly as she rid herself of most of the previous night's dinner. When she finished, he automatically stood and retrieved a glass of water and a cold washcloth for her. This series of events had become somewhat of a morning ritual for them. Though Scully's doctor had prescribed some medicine for her morning sickness, it did not quell the early morning nausea. Luckily, it seemed to take effect before they had to be at work.

"You know, you don't always have to follow me in here," she told him. "It can't be the most pleasant experience in the world."

He shrugged. "I figure you've doctored me enough, I owe you a few favors."

"At least this saves us the embarrassment of being caught in the same bed by some member of my family."

"True." He yawned widely. "Feeling better?"

"Much. Thanks."

"I'll go get your pills," he offered, kissing her forehead.

"They're in the side pocket of the bag." Mulder nodded as he left, bringing a hand up to stifle another yawn.

When Mulder reached the top of the stairs, he nearly ran into Maggie. "Fox? What are you doing up so early?" she questioned.

"Couldn't sleep," he lied. In truth, as soon as Scully had joined him, he had been out like a light and slept soundly for the entire night.

"Oh. Have you seen Dana?"

"Yeah. She's downstairs."

Maggie looked slightly suspicious but said nothing. "Okay. I should have breakfast in a couple hours. You should at least try to get some more sleep. You look like you need it." Mulder nodded before disappearing into the bedroom.

He found Scully in the kitchen helping her mother gather dishes for the dinner that night. As soon as she saw him, Scully wiped her hands on a nearby towel and approached him, gratefully taking the pill bottle from his hands. "What are those for?" Maggie asked curiously as Scully opened the bottle.

Mulder and Scully exchanged a look, and Scully shrugged, telling him that they might as well get it over with. "Mom, there's actually something we need to tell you."

Suddenly, Maggie's face paled, and she turned around. "Oh, your cancer's come back, hasn't it? I knew it was too good to be true! I knew-"

"Mom, the cancer hasn't come back," Scully said before her mother could become any more frantic. "Actually, we have good news for you."

"Good news?" Maggie turned her attention away from the Thanksgiving meal, focusing fully on Scully and Mulder who shifted nervously.

"Yes, good news. You see, Mom, I'm. . . pregnant."

"Pregnant?" Scully nodded, and Mulder mumbled something to his feet. If the circumstances had been any different, Scully would have laughed at his embarrassment; it was rare that anything fazed Mulder. But she knew that the current situation was not the time to be laughing. "But how?" Maggie continued, now chewing her bottom lip, a habit that her daughter had picked up. "I mean, I thought. . . after the cancer. . ."

"I was barren," Scully finished. "I thought so, too, Mom. But we went to the doctor and confirmed it. I'm pregnant. As for how, I don't really want to question it. I'm just happy to accept that God has given us this little miracle. Well, two miracles actually. I'm having twins, Mom."

"Twins?" Maggie now appeared to be in shock. Her mouth was opening and closing rapidly as she stared at the two FBI agents in front of her.

"You might have wanted to give her a little time to adjust to the whole miracle pregnancy thing before you sprang that on her," Mulder whispered, having recovered from his momentary embarrassment. Scully glanced over at him, her eyes clearly telling him that it was not the time for joking. With a shrug, he fell silent.

"Look, Mom, I know this is shocking, but it really is a good thing. We're very happy. Both of us." Scully looked at Mulder who smiled broadly.

"So, you're getting married then."

Scully and Mulder exchanged a look. "Mom, it's complicated," Scully said.

"Complicated? What's so complicated about it? I mean, obviously, I would have preferred that you didn't get pregnant until after you married, but it's a little late for that. So you'll get married now. It's only proper."

Scully heard Mulder snort softly, and she knew that he was about to make a comment about propriety which would do nothing except to augment her mother's anger. Quickly, she said, "Look, Mom, you know as well as I do that Mulder and my relationship has never been. . . well, typical. There are a lot of powerful people who aren't very happy with us right now, and if we get married, we're going to attract unwanted attention. Please just trust me, Mom, when I say that we can't get married right now."

"Dana. . ." Maggie began, breaking off when she could think of nothing to say.

"Mrs. Scully," Mulder began, belatedly realizing that she had asked him dozens of times to call her by her first name. "Maggie," he corrected quickly. "The fact is that I love your daughter, and I would give my life to protect her or these babies. I know that you would prefer that we were married, and if it were possible, I would marry her right here and now. But I'm afraid that we simply cannot do that. If it makes any difference, I think we're married in every way except for actually having a license. Actually, I think in some ways, we've been married for five years." He smiled at Scully, his hand resting on the small of her back. Scully looked back at him, a smile also gracing her face. The more she thought about it, the more she realized he were right. Over the five and a half years of their partnership, they had been mistaken for a married couple numerous times. Thinking about it now, Scully realized why so many people had formed the wrong idea about their relationship. Even from the beginning, they had been unusually close to one another. Though they had not crossed the line into romantic territory forbidden by the FBI until recently, they had toed it for years. Every subtle touch on the back, every gentle hand on a shoulder, every touch of his lips to her hair or forehead was simultaneously casual and intimate. Even before they admitted their love, they were more than friends though neither would say it aloud.

As Scully looked at the man standing beside her, closer than she would allow anyone else in the world to stand, the typical marriage vows danced through her head. She could hear the deep, gravelly voice of the priest at her childhood church intoning, "Do you, Dana Scully, take this man to be your husband, to have and to hold." She could definitely put a large check mark by that particular vow. They had certainly held each other numerous times over the years, from their very first case together when she had rushed into his room, scared of two mosquito bites on her back, to his comforting hug during her bout with cancer. "Through sickness and in health." Scully nearly laughed as this vow popped into her mind. They had proven time and time again that they would stick together through sickness and in health. "For richer or poorer." Scully honestly could not say for sure whether their relationship would endure both these conditions, having only experienced the latter, but she doubted that suddenly finding herself in possession of untold riches would change her feelings for Mulder or his for her. "In good times and bad." Again, Scully thought of how well they had adhered to that vow. It seemed that no matter what hardships their rather unusual careers threw at them, they always fought through it together. "As long as you both shall live." Well, she certainly knew they would stick to that vow. They had decided long ago that they were in the fight for the truth together. Scully knew that she would be with Mulder for the rest of their lives. She only hoped that the end would not come too soon.

After Mulder's speech, Maggie watched the couple standing in front of her carefully. Mulder's hand was gently caressing her daughter's back, causing Scully to lean in closer to him. Never before had Maggie seen her daughter this comfortable with a man. Always, Scully had remained distant, even from her own family. She kept part of her heart hidden away, locked up somewhere where no one could find it and break it. But Mulder seemed to have discovered that piece of her heart, and, even more strangely, Scully did not seem to mind. They stood together, taking strength and comfort from one another, and Maggie imagined that they would continue to stand together for a long time to come, facing the whirlwinds of life. Scully had not chosen the path that Maggie had wanted for her, nor was her life what Maggie imagined it would be. But as Maggie looked at the two agents, she realized that for the first time in her life, Scully was truly happy. And she could clearly see that everything had happened for a reason. Despite her wishes to the contrary, Scully and Mulder were exactly where they were meant to be.

"So, are you two giving up the X-files then?" Maggie questioned, knowing the answer even as she asked the question. She could not help but hope, however, that her suspicions might be wrong. They were reckless with their own lives, but they surely would not put the lives of their unborn children in danger.

Yet Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance that told Maggie her initial suspicions were correct. "Actully, Mom, we're going to keep working," Scully said.

"But why? Surely there's someone else who can work on the X-files. You two have other responsibilities now; you can't go gallivanting across the country, not when you have these babies to worry about."

"It's complicated," Mulder said, echoing Scully's words from earlier, realizing how feeble the explanation sounded.

"No, Fox, it's not. What's so complicated is why you insist on continuing this reckless behavior. You're going to get yourselves killed."

"Look, Mom, we don't have a choice."

"Yes, you do. There's always a choice."

Scully shook her head. "Not in this case. Soon after we found about the pregnancy, a man came to us. He works for some powerful people. He threatened us and the babies, said that he would take them from us if we didn't continue our work with the X-files."

"What? Dana, this doesn't make any sense."

"Trust me, Maggie, it doesn't make any sense to us either," Mulder said, his voice quiet but firm. "All I know is that there's some elaborate game of tug-of-war within the government, and we've been elected to be the rope. I hate it, I really do, but right now, I can't stop it. All I know is that as long as we follow instructions and stick with the X-files, we'll be safe for now. All four of us."

"But for how long?"

"I don't know." Mulder's voice remained steady, but Maggie could see the pain in his eyes, and she knew that he had the same wishes she did. Unfortunately, their path had been set, and they could not fight the inevitable.

"So you're going to remain on the X-files?"

"We will make some changes," Scully assured her mother. "Shorter hours, less cross-country trips, spending weekends at home."

"Well, I guess you'll need a good babysitter then."

"We've been thinking of hiring a nanny," Scully said.

Maggie waved her off. "Nonsense. I'm only thirty minutes away."

"Mom, you don't have to."

"But I want to, Dana." Maggie looked into her daughter's eyes, silently telling her that she had accepted what Scully had to do. Sure, she still did not like the idea, but she was willing to push aside her concerns. "With Bill and Charlie so far away, I haven't had the chance to watch my other grandchildren grow up. It'll be nice to see these two full time." She smiled, hoping her daughter did not see the fear which still danced in her eyes. If Scully did, she did not say anything, for she simply pulled her mother into a hug.

"We'd love to have you take care of the kids."

"Good. Now, when are these little miracles due?"

"Early June," Scully answered, pulling away.

"Who else knows?"

"No one," Mulder answered. "Well, except for the shadow man, and we didn't exactly tell him the good news."


"I'm not looking forward to that conversation," Mulder said, smiling in spite of himself. "Skinner'll probably flip."

"And Bill and Charlie?"

Mulder winced. "I'm not looking forward to that conversation either." Scully laughed and hugged his arm. "Your brother's going to kill me, Scully."

"No, he won't."

"I got his baby sister pregnant."

"He'll forgive you." Mulder gave her a look. "Okay, he might not, but I doubt he'd resort to murder. Besides, you said you could take him."

"That was before I remembered that my gun's in the car." He tried and failed to stifle a yawn, and Maggie immediately noticed.

"Okay, both of you need to go back to bed. It's way too early for you to be up. Especially you, Dana. You need your rest."

"Mom, you're as bad as Mulder. I'm fine."

"Don't lie to me, Dana Katherine Scully. I want you in bed in five minutes." With that, Maggie shooed them from the kitchen and into the living room. Mulder glanced down at the queen-sized bed with its sheets still rumpled from their mad dash for the bathroom that morning.

"I do believe your mother just told us to go to bed together," he said with a smirk.

"I can't believe she's still treating me like a child. I'm thirty-two."

"Come on, it's sweet. Now, take your pills and let's go to bed."

"Don't you start, too," Scully warned, her eyes narrowing dangerously.

"Okay, okay, I won't tell you to do anything, I promise." Mulder held up his hands in mock surrender. "I'm going to get your glass of water from the bathroom. I'll be back in a minute, and then we should probably get to sleep before your mother comes in here and punishes us both."

Two hours later, Mulder was awaken quite abruptly when a loud voice exclaimed, "What the hell do you think you're doing." Reluctantly, Mulder opened his eyes to see Bill Scully looming over him, already dressed in jeans and a t-shirt despite the early hour.

Mulder bit back the sarcastic comment which was on the tip of his tongue and instead said, "Think we can discuss this somewhere else. I don't want to wake her." He looked down at Scully who was curled up beside him, one leg thrown across his body and her head buried in his shoulder. Bill took one look at his still-sleeping sister and nodded curtly, waiting for Mulder to untangle himself before striding out of the room.

Once both were out on the porch, Bill rounded on Mulder. "Are you two sleeping together?" he questioned harshly.

"We were until you came and woke me up," Mulder remarked dryly.

"I'm not in the mood for joking."

"And I'm not in the mood to have my ass chewed off. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that is exactly what's going to happen."

"I cannot believe you! First, you get Missy killed. Then, Dana gets cancer. And you've put her life at risk time and time again. And for what? Aliens? UFO's? I don't care what you do with your own life, but I'm sick of you dragging my baby sister along with you on your crazy quest. You're going to get her killed!"

"You think I don't know that?" Mulder asked. He had never been a morning person, and Bill's accusations merely increased his temper. "You think I don't lie awake at night worrying about her? You think I enjoy sitting in the hospital, knowing that she nearly died because of another one of my attempts to find the truth? News flash, buddy, I hate it! I wish she would go back to teaching at Quantico or to another department where she might have regular assignments that don't put her life in danger day in and day out. But she won't do that, and I've accepted that. And truthfully, part of me is glad that she's still by my side because I don't know if I could do this without her. She's the one thing who's kept me sane all these years, the only person I can trust. And rest assured, I'll do anything in my power to make sure she's around for a long time to come doing just that. I love your sister, more than anything, more than my quest for the truth, more than my career, more than life itself. She's the only thing that matters to me. So you can stop worrying about her because I do enough worrying for the both of us. And trust me when I say, I would sooner die than hurt her." Mulder stopped pacing across the deck abruptly, turning his face from Bill's so that the older man could not see it contorted with pain.

"Fine. If you love her so much, then force her to leave the X-files. I know you can do it. She'll listen to you if you tell her to."

"I can't." Mulder turned back to Bill, his face still twisted as he tried to control the tears that he knew threatened. He was not prone to crying, but Bill's accusations had struck a chord within him. Bill was right; Mulder had put Scully's life and the lives of her family members in danger multiple times. And his petty quest for the truth had already put the lives of his unborn children in danger. He had known the cost would be steep when he first began his search, but at that time, he did not have much to lose. Now, there were other lives at stake, and Mulder was not sure when the price would be too high. Perhaps it already was. But he could not turn back now; he and Scully were already too deeply entombed in the conspiracy. He had no choice but to continue onward and hope to preserve the lives of those he loved.

"Of course you can," Bill spat.

"You don't understand, Bill."

"Then make me understand."

Before Mulder could even attempt an explanation, the door opened and Maggie appeared on the porch. "There you two are. Come inside. We should have breakfast in a few minutes." She looked from one to the other, noticing the murderous expression on Bill's face and the slight glistening in Mulder's eyes. "Okay, William Vincent Scully, this is really enough. I will not have you terrorizing your sister's partner. This is your only warning. If I catch you again, there will be consequences."

"Yes, Mom," Bill muttered, suddenly feeling like a small child. His mother seemed to cause that feeling quite often.

"Now, get inside and set the table. Fox, why don't you wake Dana?"

"Sure," Mulder agreed, eager to be away from Bill. He quickly slipped inside, padding back to the living room and over to the couch where Scully still slept soundly, her arms now splayed to the sides. He smiled slightly, noticing how relaxed she appeared. In fact, sleep seemed to be the only time when she relaxed, the only time she allowed herself to let go of the demons of her past. Her face appeared younger, less weathered by experience and hardship. While she slept, she turned from Special Agent Scully into Dana, and Mulder liked the transformation.

Bending over, he placed a gentle kiss to her temple, causing her to stir. "Come on, Scully, there's breakfast," he told her. She opened her eyes and immediately noticed the dampness in his eyes that he had not fully wiped away.

"You've been crying," she observed, reaching up to touch the corner of his eye.

"I have not. Real men don't cry," he objected with a grin.

"Well, obviously you're not as manly as you thought. What happened?"

"Nothing major. I just had a little chat with your brother."

"Did he beat you up?"

"Of course not! I can hold my own in a fight, Scully."

"Please tell me you didn't shoot him."

This comment elicited a soft laugh. "No, I didn't shoot him. He just said some things which. . . well, they struck home."

"You shouldn't listen to him, Mulder. He's always been a bit overprotective."

"I'm not sure if he's being overprotective in this case."

Scully sighed, realizing what was bothering him. "Mulder, no matter what Bill says, nothing that's happened to me is your fault. I owe you my life."

"Your life would never have been in danger if not for me."

"I chose to come to the FBI. I knew when I made that choice that my job would be dangerous. But I still joined."

"Your job wouldn't be nearly as dangerous if you weren't working on the X-files."

"But it also would not have been as much fun. You need to stop blaming yourself, Mulder. You can't control everything that happens."


Scully placed a finger on his lips, stopping his words. "No arguing. I don't regret a single thing, Mulder. If I had to go back right now, I wouldn't change anything. We've both made sacrifices, and I'm sure we'll continue to do that. But the fact is, we're partners. I'm not going to leave you or the X-files, no matter what Bill thinks."

Mulder smiled against her finger. "I'd like to hear you tell him that."

"Before or after we tell him I'm pregnant?"

"Depends. Do you want me living when you tell him? From the way he talks, he seems to hold some naïve belief that you're still an innocent virgin. He actually asked me if we were sleeping together."

Scully's eyebrows shot up. "And how did you respond to that?"

Mulder smirked. "I told him we were until he woke me up."


"Unfortunately, we're going to have to shatter his illusion soon. Unless you think he'll buy an immaculate conception story."

"Somehow, I doubt it."

"I'll just have to assure him that you were sleeping with people long before I came into the picture."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Depends on what you do to convince me that it's in my best interests to keep your secrets to myself."

"How about what I won't do if you don't keep my secrets to yourself?"

"Touché." Leaning forward, Mulder pressed his lips to hers, and she moved back slightly so that he could sit in the bed next to her with his long legs folded beneath his body. After a few seconds, they were interrupted by a small voice.

"Grandma says she wants you both in the kitchen now." Breaking away from Scully, Mulder looked down to see Brian standing beside the bed, his small, skinny arms clutching a tattered brown bear.

"Okay, buddy, we're coming." Mulder pushed himself off the bed and turned to help Scully who characteristically ignored his hand and scooted out of the bed unaided.

As they walked back to the kitchen, Matthew asked, "Auntie Dana, why were you kissing Uncle Mulda?"

"It's because we love each other," Scully explained. "Just like your mommy and daddy."

Brian frowned. "But you aren't married."

"You don't have to be married to love each other," Scully told him.

"Uncle Bill says so."

"Well, Uncle Bill has a rather limited view of the world," Mulder remarked. Scully turned to him, her eyes narrowed, and he simply shrugged.

When Matthew saw Mulder enter the kitchen, he banged eagerly on the chair beside his high chair, saying, "Mold, Mold!"

Mulder turned to Scully with a smile. "An interesting moniker."

"Certainly a step up from Spooky," she told him.

"I guess." Mulder took the seat beside Matthew; unfortunately, Bill had already claimed the seat on Matthew's other side. Both men seemed slightly uncomfortable with the seating arrangements; however, neither said a word to each other. Bill glanced up once at Mulder before returning to the paper he was reading. Mulder turned away, trying to dispel some of the tension by offering to help Maggie bring the food to the table. As usual, Maggie refused his offer, enlisting Scully to help her instead and leaving Mulder to try unsuccessfully to make small talk with Kaitlin who sat beside him.

After a couple minutes, Scully and Tara emerged from the kitchen, both carrying plates loaded with food. Tara set one in front of Bill who grunted in thanks without looking up from the paper he was reading. When Scully put a plate in front of Mulder, he grabbed her arm, pulling her face close to his so that he could plant his lips firmly on hers. Pulling away after a few seconds, he whispered, "If we ever become an old, boring married couple who barely speak to one another and have sex twice a year because we feel like we should, do me a favor and shoot me."

Scully smiled in spite of herself. "Trust me, Mulder, the last thing you have to worry about is us becoming boring. Old, well, I can't really control that."

"Where are you going?" he asked as she straightened again.

"To get the rest of the plates."

"I'll help."

"Thanks, but we've got them."

"Tara, sit down and enjoy your breakfast. I'll help Scully with the rest of the plates," Mulder said, also standing. Tara looked at him curiously for a moment before turning and taking her seat on Bill's other side.

As they entered the kitchen, Maggie turned to them, also loaded down with plates. "Fox, I thought I told you to stay seated."

"I was just helping Scully serve. Tara looked like she needed a break."

"Fine. These are the last of the plates, but you two can get drinks for the kids and yourselves. Milk and orange juice are in the fridge, and the coffee's over there."

"Okay, Maggie, thanks." As soon as the door shut behind her, Mulder turned to Scully who was standing in front of the counter, reaching for glasses. Grabbing her shoulders, he spun her around to face him, trapping her in place by putting his hands on either side of her body. "I never got my good morning kiss," he told her.

"Sure you did."

"No, I seem to remember we were interrupted."

"And we will be again. My entire family's sitting out there, expecting us to come out in a minute with drinks."

"We've got a bit of time before they'll miss us." With that, Mulder closed the gap between them. Scully's objections quickly died on her lips as she felt desire course through her body, and she wrapped her arms around Mulder's neck to pull him closer. She was not sure how long they stood like that; it could have been days or hours, but she suspected it was closer to a minute or two before they heard someone clearing his or her throat. Both heads turned to see Tara standing in the doorway.

"Sorry to interrupt, but we were beginning to wonder where you were."

"We were just about to pour drinks," Mulder declared, backing away from Scully and opening the refrigerator. Scully grabbed a mug from the cabinet and started toward the coffee pot, but Mulder stopped her. "No caffeine, Scully," he said without turning around. She sighed, placing the mug on the counter beside the pot.

"It's for you," she lied.

"Yeah right." Mulder emerged from the fridge holding a carton of orange juice and a gallon of milk. "Which one?"


"Good choice. I think I'll go with milk, too."

"Sometimes, Mulder, I wonder if you have eyes in the back of your head."

"Eyes in the back of my head? Why, Agent Scully, that sounds like a theory which should be coming out of my mouth."

"Just pour the damn milk, Mulder."

"Testy, testy, Scully," Mulder said as he poured a generous amount of milk into the two glasses she set on the counter. "What about for the kids?"

"Milk," Scully answered.

"I can get it," Tara offered, but Mulder had already filled two plastic cups and a sippie cup halfway with milk.

"Can I interest you in anything, Tara?"

"I'm fine, thanks. I've got coffee on the table." Grabbing two of the glasses, she left the room as Mulder put away the milk and orange juice.

"I'm getting coffee, Mulder," Scully announced once Tara was out of earshot.

"No, you're not." Mulder grabbed her hands and spun her around to face him.

"Mulder, there is no definitive link between caffeine and birth defects."

"Caffeine's a stimulant, Scully. Even I know that. And a stimulant is a drug which means it's bad for the babies. So no caffeine."

"In moderate amounts-"

"I don't want to hear it, Scully. You're not getting coffee unless it's decaf. If you notice, I'm not drinking it either, so stop complaining."

"You're being overprotective, Mulder."

"I just want two healthy babies. Now, let's go before another member of your family decides to come in here to make sure we keep our hands to ourselves."

"I believe you're the one having that problem."

"Who came to me last night when she couldn't sleep?"

"You couldn't sleep either."

Throughout breakfast, Brian continued to pester Mulder about playing basketball with him until Mulder finally threw up his hands. "All right, you win, I'll play."

"Cool! We can go out right after breakfast!"

"You need to get dressed and brush your teeth first," Kaitlin reminded him.

"Okay, we can go out right after I get dressed and brush my teeth."

Mulder chuckled. "Anyone else want to play?" he questioned. Lily and Matthew immediately volunteered, but the other adults shook their heads. Mulder turned to his partner, his eyebrows raised.

"No, Mulder, you're the basketball person."

"You're not bad," he told her.

"I'm not good either."

"Come on, Scully, please." Mulder's eyes grew big, and his bottom lip jutted out. Scully rolled her own eyes as she watched him.

"Yeah, Auntie Dana, please!" Brian begged, catching onto the game.

"Fine," Scully finally conceded. "But not one comment about my basketball skills or lack thereof."

"I'll do my best," Mulder promised.

An hour later, the five stood at the end of the Scully driveway facing the old, worn basketball goal. It had long since lost the net, and the metal rim had started to rust. Still, it would serve its purpose. "Okay, so I think teams should be Matthew and I against Brian, Lily, and Scully," Mulder announced, lifting Matthew to his shoulders so he could "play."

"Who's Scully?" Brian asked.

"Aunt Dana," Mulder corrected.

"Oh. Why do you call her Scully?"

"It's her last name. Most people at the FBI call each other by their last names."


"It's tradition."

"Does she call you by your last name, too?"

"Yeah. Mulder's my last name."

"What's your first name then?"

"I don't want to tell you."

"Why not?"

"Because it's embarrassing."

"Please tell us! Please!" Brian begged.

"I'll make you a deal. If you guys win this game, I'll tell you my first name."

"Pinky swear?" Brian held out a small, pudgy finger.

"Pinky swear." Mulder locked his own finger around Brian's. "Now, are you ready to play?" All three nodded eagerly. "Okay, you know how to check?" This question earned another nod from Brian. "Well, check the ball to me then and let's go."

Three hours later, the five finally made their way inside, hot and sweaty but still wearing wide grins. Charlie had joined them for a short time, but he had gone inside to take a phone call and never returned. None of the kids seemed to notice, however; they were simply happy to have an adult playmate, no matter who it was.

"We won the last game," Brian announced. "Now, you have to tell us your name."

"Really?" Mulder asked, the spitting image of a whiny child.

"Yes, really. You pinky swore."

"I guess that's right. I can't break a pinky swear," Mulder said, his face full of mock seriousness. "Okay, come closer so that only you three hear. I don't want everyone to know my secret." Eagerly, the three kids pressed around him as he bent down just inside the doorway. Scully stood back a little, a small smile on her face as she watched how easily he interacted with the kids. "So, you really want to know my first name?" he questioned. They all nodded, squirming so they could move still closer. "Okay, promise not to tell anyone else?" Another round of nods followed this question. "My first name is. . ." He paused briefly.

"Come on, tell us!" Lily begged.

"I will. I just feel like there should be a drum roll. Think you can help me out?" The kids all beat on their thighs, creating a drum roll of sorts, as Mulder leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, "Fox."

The drum roll stopped as all three giggled. "Is that really your name?" Lily asked. Mulder widened his eyes with false hurt.

"Would I lie to you?"

"In a heartbeat if it suited your purposes," Scully said from behind him.

"I don't need you input, thanks," Mulder said, turning to her.

"Don't worry kids. He's not lying. Fox is really his name," Scully assured the three, also bending down to their level.

Lily chewed the inside of her right cheek as she considered this new piece of information. "I kinda like it," she finally declared. "It's neat. Like an Indian name."

"Did you hear that, Scully? I've got an Indian name!" Mulder grinned at her.

"Should we call you Uncle Fox now?" Lily asked.

"Nah, let's just stick with Uncle Mulder," Mulder told them. "Now, come on. You should probably go get cleaned up." He stood, walking with the kids into the kitchen.

"I like you, Uncle Mulda," Brian said from his place by Mulder's right side. He had to take two steps for every one stride of Mulder's long legs, but he managed to keep up without too much difficulty. "I wish you were my daddy."

"You don't wish that," Mulder said quickly.

"Yeah, I do. Daddy doesn't never play with me."

"I'm sure your dad's just really busy. I know he loves you."

Their conversation was interrupted at that moment as Tara came around the corner. She offered to take the three kids to clean them up, and Mulder accepted her offer. Once all four had disappeared up the stairs, he turned to Scully.

"I heard," she said before he could ask.

"I don't want that," he told her. "I don't want our kids to wish someone else was their daddy because I'm never around. I want to be the one playing with them, Scully."

"And you will be, Mulder. I know you'll make a great father. You've already proved that in this past day. Look at how much my niece and nephews love you already."

"But what about when we go back to work? I mean, the X-files take us all over the country. I can't be home every night to play with the kids or tuck them in. What if they resent me for that?"

"Mulder, I worry about the same things, but there's nothing we can do. We'll just have to make sure that the kids know that we love them and spend as much time as possible with the kids whenever we can. Mulder, look at me." She cupped his chin in her hand and turned his head to face her. "You're going to be a wonderful father. Our kids are so lucky to have you, and I know they'll love you. Okay?"

Mulder nodded. "Okay." Turning his head slightly, he pressed his lips to the palm of her hand, smiling. "And I thought you were the one supposed to be getting emotional."

"Just wait."

"I can hardly contain the excitement." He kissed her palm again before pulling away. "I'm going for a run. Feel like coming?"

"How can you honestly have any more energy?"

He shrugged. "Well, I didn't get time to exercise yesterday. I figure I'm already sweaty. I might as well go running now."

"Well, I think I'll pass this time. Have fun."

"Will do. I'll see you in an hour or so."

After Mulder left, Scully wearily made her way upstairs. Basketball had been fun, but three hours of running up and down the driveway had proved taxing. As she stepped into the hallway, she heard shrieks of laughter from a partially-opened door to her right. Walking over, she pushed it open and saw Tara crouched in the center of the bathroom trying to wrestle Matthew into the tub while Lily and Brian sat nearby, encouraging Matthew in his attempts to escape. "Need some help?" Scully offered.

Tara turned to look at her, sweeping her hair out of her eyes. "That would be great, thanks. He's never liked baths, and these two aren't helping."

"I can see that." Scully knelt down beside Brian and began to undress him. He squirmed, trying to escape her grasp, but she was strong despite her small size.

"What happened to Mulder?" Tara asked.

"He went running."

"Running? I thought he'd be too tired."

"Well, Mulder tends to accumulate a lot of pent up energy. If he can't use it up working on a case, he has to find another way. Swimming, running, basketball, you name it, Mulder will do it until he crashes." Scully finished undressing Brian and carried him to the bathtub, plopping him unceremoniously into the warm water.

"You two will make great parents one day," Tara said as Scully turned to Lily.

"Thanks," Scully did not mention that one day was not too far in the future.

Mulder returned almost an hour later. Despite the chilly weather, sweat darkened most of his gray t-shirt and glistened on his reddened face. Scully took one look at him and wrinkled her nose before pointing upstairs. "First door on the right," she said.

"Yes, ma'am." Mulder gave a mock salute before leaving.

When he finished his shower, he pulled on a clean pair of jeans and an old basketball jersey that he had won in a free throw competition in college. Normally, he would leave the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel or possibly a pair of boxers after a shower, but he decided that walking around Mrs. Scully's house nearly naked would not be the smartest idea. Still rubbing his hair dry, he stepped out of the bathroom.

Immediately, Mulder noticed that the house was quiet, almost eerily so. He glanced around, searching for anything out of the ordinary, and the hand not holding the towel dropped to his hip before he realized that his gun was in the car. Still staring warily at the area around him, he backed back into the bathroom and hung up the towel before creeping slowly out again. If someone or something was going to attack him, he wanted both hands free.

He did not see anyone in the hallway so he softly made his way down the stairs. He thought about calling to the others, but if there truly was an intruder, he did not want to give away his position. Instead, he remained silent as he reached the wooden floor of the foyer and cautiously surveyed his surroundings. Still, he saw nothing and heard nothing. He considered going to the car to retrieve his gun, but if the Scully family was in danger, every second might count, so he needed to find them quickly.

When Mulder stepped into the kitchen, he heard voices and tensed for a moment, scanning the room. No one was there. For one wild moment, he thought the house could be haunted, but he soon realized that the voices were not coming from the kitchen. Rather, they were coming from just outside the kitchen. Nearly laughing with relief, Mulder looked at the door which led to the back porch. From the window beside it, he could see the six older members of the Scully family. Thinking that maybe Scully was partially right about his tendency to jump to conclusions without evidence, he walked to the door and opened it.

"I was wondering when you would join us, Fox," Maggie said.

"Someone banished me to the bathroom," Mulder explained, looking down at Scully who was lounging on one of the two large, padded chairs. Bill and Tara were sitting on a small swing on one side of the porch, gently swaying back and forth, Charlie and Kaitlin had commandeered the two wooden chairs around the small table, and Maggie had taken the second padded chair, leaving Mulder with nowhere to sit. Naturally, this situation did not challenge him for long. He simply approached Scully, inclining his head slightly to indicate that she should stand up. Sighing, she rose to her feet, and he settled himself into the chair before pulling her into his lap.

"You know, this isn't helping your case with Bill at all," she muttered, settling back against his chest. Although she was not fond of public displays of affection, she found his body much more comfortable than the chair and decided to take advantage of the warmth and safety of his arms. Besides, she rationalized, there was not another chair for him to take. It was only logical that they should share.

"I'll manage," he said quietly, wrapping his arms around her. "Besides, I don't see another option. Unless you'd rather I sit with your mother."

"No, this is fine," she mumbled. Already, his familiar scent and body heat were having a soporific effect on her. Since she was already worn out from basketball, she doubted if it would be long before she succumbed to sleep.

"You're shivering, Scully," he remarked, feeling her shake beneath his arms.

"I'm just a little cold," she told him.

"A little? You're freezing!" Even through the coat she wore, he could feel the chill of her body. And when he took her hands in his, he found her fingers as cold as ice.

"I'm fine," she insisted.

"I'll go get a blanket," he offered.

"No, don't move. I'm comfortable."

He smiled as she burrowed deeper into his chest. "You don't have to tell me twice," he said, gently running his hands up and down her arms to warm her as she crossed her arms against her chest, tucking her hands beneath her upper arms to conserve heat. After a few seconds, he looked up to see that everybody else on the deck had fallen silent and was watching them interact. "By all means, carry on," Mulder told them. "I don't mean to interrupt. I'm just here as an observer and a human blanket."

"I can go get a blanket from inside," Tara offered quickly. Scully muttered something indistinguishable into the fabric of Mulder's shirt, and he laughed.

"That might be a good idea. Thanks."

"Is she sick or something?" Bill asked as his wife left.

"No, she's fine," Mulder said. "I think she's just tired. Three hours of running after those kids is enough to wear anyone out."

"Maybe we should get her inside and up to bed," Bill said.

"No," Scully said, her voice surprisingly loud despite being muffled in Mulder's shirt. Turning, she said, "I'm fine, really. Don't worry about me."

Bill looked as if he was going to say something else, but a look at his sister's face caused him to change his mind. The door opened again, and Tara came out with a blanket. Mulder took it from her with a smile and carefully spread it over Scully and him.

"So, Dana was just telling us about your recent exploits in the Antarctic," Kaitlin said as Tara settled herself again by her husband's side.

"Was she now?" Mulder looked down at Scully curiously, wondering exactly how many details about that particular situation she had divulged.

"I must say, it sounds a bit fantastical," Bill declared. "Genetically altered corn plants? Bees carrying a deadly virus? It sounds like science fiction."

"Welcome to the X-files," Mulder said with a chuckle, wondering if Scully had happened to mention that the deadly virus the bees carried had actually been alien in origin. But of course she had not. He still had not managed to convince her that the virus was alien; she would not even accept the fact that a UFO had flown over them while they were lying huddled together on the snow.

Scully looked up at him, her eyes clearly saying, "If you mention one thing about aliens, there will be hell to pay later." Deciding to heed this warning, Mulder said, "Did she tell you about having to pull me out of the ocean?"

"No, not yet," Kaitin said, leaning forward in her seat slightly.

"Trust me, you'll like this story."

They talked amicably for another hour or so, Mulder and Scully telling stories about their experiences on the X-files, Bill telling about his adventures in the Navy, and Charlie contributing a few tales about life as an accountant. A noise from a monitor sitting on the table in front of Charlie interrupted their conversation. "And that's my cue to go," Charlie said, rising to his feet. Kaitlin and Tara also stood to help. Bill, however, remained seated, his eyes fixed on his sister and Mulder. For the entire time they had been talking, his gaze had continued to settle on them, watching the casual affection they bestowed upon one another. Periodically, Mulder would briefly press his lips to Scully's hair or temple or move his hand gently over her body beneath the blanket. Scully would respond by relaxing further against his chest, sometimes turning to place a kiss on his collarbone or neck. Though certainly not over-demonstrative, these small actions still sickened Bill. He hated to see his sister so comfortable with a man, especially one who had nearly gotten her killed multiple times. It was almost as if a different person was sitting in front of him now. Dana had always been extremely proper while in his presence with her previous boyfriends, often avoiding any form of affection, even something as simple as a touch. Bill had always admired her for this, knowing that it indicated she was independent. She did need a boyfriend watching out for her. Also, it showed that she had been raised right—she knew that the proper place for affection was in private.

But with Mulder, she seemed ignorant of this fact. They always seemed to be touching—Mulder would have a hand on her back or an arm around her shoulder, or she would lean against his side. And when they sat down, they would always be close to one another, their thighs touching, their shoulders pressed against each other. On top of that, she was obviously sleeping with him, and they did not seem to care who knew that either. Bill was not stupid; he could tell how comfortable they were in bed together from the naturalness of their postures when he found them tangled around one another that morning. Their current position was one of the worst; she was literally on top of him, so close that Bill had difficulty telling where one of them began and the other ended. It made Bill's blood boil to see his sister so intimate with a man, and Bill was certain his father would never approve of her actions. Fox Mulder seemed to have changed his sister and certainly not for the better.

Worst of all, Maggie Scully seemed not to care that her daughter's morals were deteriorating before her eyes. In fact, as Bill glanced at her, he noticed that she seemed to be beaming as she watched her daughter and that man curled up together. Obviously, Bill was the only one in his family who had any sense of propriety. He was the only one who saw Mulder for what he truly was: a selfish bastard who had already ended the life of one member of the Scully family and was well on his way to destroying another.

Wanting to do something, anything, to separate the two, Bill suggested, "It looks like Dana fell asleep. Why don't we take her inside to get some rest?"

"I don't really want to move her right now," Mulder said. "She tends to be a rather light sleeper."

How did he know that? Now, Bill was seething. Mulder seemed to know all the personal details of his sister's life, some that even he did not know. Dana had always been so secretive, even as a child. She never told anybody more than they needed to know. But somehow, Mulder seemed to know everything about her.

"I think she'll be more comfortable inside," Bill argued.

"I don't want to wake her," Mulder said, his voice still calm. His fingers traced languid circles on the small patch of skin exposed beneath her jacket. Bill noticed the slight movement of the blanket, and his eyes darkened. "We'll be fine out here. Feel free to go inside if either of you has something you need to do."

"Actually, I do need to get the stuffing started," Maggie announced. "We'll probably have dinner in three hours or so. If you get hungry before then, there's plenty of food in the kitchen. Just help yourself." Mulder thanked her as she stood and disappeared into the couch. Bill, of course, remained seated. He was certainly not leaving his sister alone with this man. He did not even want to imagine what might happen.

"You know, we're not going to have sex on your mother's back porch if you leave us alone," Mulder remarked suddenly, causing Bill's stony glare to turn to one of surprise. Mulder laughed at this reaction. "I may be unprincipled, but I'm not that bad. Give me a few more years, and we'll see."

Bill was too stunned to respond immediately. He could not believe that the man sitting before him actually had the audacity to talk about sex with his little sister as if it was a completely natural occurrence. Bill wanted to yank his ass from the chair and throw him against something hard to wipe the supercilious smirk off his face. Unfortunately, his baby sister was curled up on top of the pompous ass, so Bill had to resort to verbal threats. "I can't believe it," Bill spat.

"Believe what?"


"Yes, well, many people have that problem. Once you tell people you believe in aliens, suddenly everything that comes out of your mouth is questioned."

Bill gave a low growl as his hands clenched the side of the swing so tightly he felt the small splinters in the wood pierce his skin. "You stay away from my sister."

"I can't."

"Oh, yes you can."

"No, Bill, I can't." Suddenly, all traces of humor were gone. Mulder locked his eyes with the steely blue of Bill's own, willing him to believe the words which now poured quietly from his mouth. "She means too much to me for me to leave. She's my better half, so to speak. She keeps me grounded, makes me whole." He quirked his lips up in a half-smile, remembering a phrase Scully had spoken during one of her more romantic moments. "Chance meeting your perfect other."

Bill's grip slackened as he saw the truth in Mulder's eyes. They sat in silence for a minute before Bill finally spoke. "You really love her, don't you?"

"I really do."

"And I don't suppose I can do anything to change that."

"Believe me, with everything we've been through so far, you're the least of my worries."

Bill sighed. "Then I guess I accept it." Mulder grinned. "That doesn't mean I like it or encourage it, but I understand there's nothing I can do."

"Thanks. I know that wasn't easy."

"Nothing ever is."

"Don't I know it."

"Take care of her, Fox Mulder. If you don't, there'll be hell to pay."

When Scully woke up, the first thing she noticed was that she was quite warm. Opening her eyes, she found that she was still out on the deck, wrapped in her partner's arms. A blanket covered her; she dimly remembered Tara bringing it out for her, but by that time, she was already succumbing to sleep, and her memories were a bit hazy. Inhaling deeply, she smelled the slightly fruity scent of the perfume her mother had worn for as long as she could remember. It had always lingered in the house when Scully was younger, and the smell still evoked pleasant memories of childish adventures and long, lazy summer days. Scully still associated the smell with home.

Of course, she now associated other smells with home, one of which now also assaulted her senses. The memories Mulder's smell brought to mind were not all pleasant, but they were nevertheless comforting. For despite the difficulties they had faced, the scent reminded Scully that Mulder had always been there. Even when it seemed all hope was lost, he had somehow magically appeared to save the day. With him, she was safe. She knew instinctively that, despite the logic to the contrary, together, they were indomitable.

Careful not to wake him, she placed one arm on the arm of the chair and used it to push herself over so she was facing him. He had changed since they had first met five and a half years before, but the changes were subtle. A few faint lines, visible to only the most careful of observers, trailed out from the corner of his eyes. A couple creases seemed permanently planted on his forehead, reminders of the worries he had faced. But he was still the same Mulder she had first met, the same Mulder she had fallen in love with and continued to fall in love with every day. His lips were still full, still able to form that distinct smirk which simultaneously annoyed her and made her smile. His nose was still prominent, a fact of which he complained quite often. But Scully found this protuberance rather endearing; it proved that he was not perfect, that he was just as human as she was. His hair was miraculously still thick, not yet touched by grey.

"Take a picture, it'll last longer," he muttered suddenly, startling her.

"I didn't realize you were awake."

"Your knee is digging into my thigh," he said, reaching down to move the offending limb. Unfortunately, doing so unbalanced her, and she ended up collapsing onto his chest. "Hm, I find this to be a rather agreeable position," he remarked, looking at her face which had landed just beside his head so that they were lying cheek to cheek. Turning, he took her chin in his hand and brought his lips to hers.

After a couple minutes, he pulled away. "I promised your brother we wouldn't have sex on the porch, so we should probably stop before I reconsider."

"You really told him that?" Mulder nodded, his eyes alight with amusement. "You're trying to get yourself killed, aren't you?"

"When have I ever sought out trouble, Scully?" She raised her eyebrows.

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

"Probably not. What time is it, anyway?"

"You're the one with a watch."

"You're laying on my arm."

"Sorry." Scully shifted, nearly falling out of the chair in the process. Mulder reached out to steady her, but the momentum of her body continued to carry her forward so that she ended up sprawled across the arm of the chair, her legs still entangled with his. Both were laughing as she struggled for a moment to raise herself again, eventually settling with her head resting on his shoulder.

"How important is finding out the time?" Mulder questioned.

"You're the one that wanted to know."

"True." Mulder raised his arm, more carefully this time. "2:39," he announced.

"Mom usually does Thanksgiving dinner at 4:00."

"Whatever will we do for the next hour and twenty minutes?" His newly-freed hand moved back under the blanket, coming to rest on her hip.

"Don't even think about it, Mulder."

"Think about what? I was just trying to find a comfortable spot to put my hand where you wouldn't lay on it again." His thumb began to rub circles on her the lower part of her side through the fabric of her shirt, and Scully felt a tingle travel up her spine.

"Mulder," she said, the note of warning she intended for her voice to have lessened by the desire she felt. He grinned.

"What? This is perfectly innocent, above-the-belt touching." As he said this, his hand slipped lower, finding her hip bone and continuing the teasing.

"It's not so above-the-belt anymore," she told him.

"Are you complaining?"

She wanted to say yes, but the only sound which came out of her mouth was a small gasp as he pressed the spot lightly, creating a tidal wave of sensation. Scully had always marveled at the reaction her body to something as simple as his touch. It was as if the pads of his fingers sent electrical currents through her body, seeking out dormant emotions and bringing them to life. She had never known anyone else who could evoke such an extreme response from her. He seemed to instinctively know the right places to put his fingers and the right pressure to put on those spots to build up her desire.

"What are you thinking about?" Mulder questioned after a few minutes of silence. I

She felt his chest rise and fall beneath her, and she took a deep breath before answering. "I'm thinking about how nice this is—just sitting out here, relaxing. We don't do this enough, Mulder. It seems like we're always on the run either to find something or get away from something. We never take the time to just stop."

"Stop what?"

"Stop chasing ghosts and aliens and government conspirators. Just slow down and live a normal life for a little while."

Mulder sighed. "I'm not sure if we can stop."

"Nothing says we can't."

"Actually, the Syndicate, the FBI, that cigarette smoking son of a bitch, all of them, are saying exactly that."

"Since when have you listened to anything anyone told you?"

The door opened at that moment, and Kaitlin walked out onto the deck holding two mugs. Steam rose off of them, curling slightly before dissipating in the wind. "Your mother told me to bring you two some hot apple cider," Kaitlin said.

"That sounds good," Mulder remarked, extending the hand that he had earlier placed around Scully's shoulders, leaving his other one free to continue its exploration of her hip. Scully started to stand up to find her own chair now that additional ones were free, but Mulder grasped her hip firmly, holding her in place. Knowing that arguing would be fruitless, Scully settled into his lap again, moving so that she was sitting straighter and could drink her cider without risking pouring the hot beverage on herself.

"So, what have you two been doing out here?" Kaitlin asked.

"Sleeping, mostly," Scully answered honestly. "I guess that basketball game earlier wore me out more than I thought."

"Or it could be all the running around you've been doing lately. From what Mulder told me earlier, you two have had a busy couple weeks."

"Actually, we've had a busy five and a half years," Scully said.

"At least you seem to enjoy it."

"Most of the time," Mulder said. "I could do without the mutants wanting to kill me though. And if Cancer Man decides to leave me alone, I won't complain."

"Do you always have people wanting to kill you?"

"Pretty much. I think if we were cats, we'd be dead by now," Mulder answered.

"How do you deal with that—knowing someone might kill you at any moment?"

"You get used to it," Mulder assured her. "And besides, I've got Scully to protect me. She hasn't let anything happen to me so far, and I've managed to get myself into some pretty nasty messes."

"Do you regret it?" Kaitlin asked. Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance.

"Not at all," they chorused.

When they finally decided to go back inside, they found all three kids in the living room playing a board game. Or rather, they were moving the plastic pieces around a board; the three were not exactly following any set of rules. Hearing footsteps, all three looked up, and they immediately jumped to their feet in excitement, inadvertently knocking into the board game so that the pieces went flying. All three ignored this, however, for the placement of the pieces was not important anyway.

"Uncle Mulda! Aunt Dana!" Lily called, reaching them first. Mulder caught only a glimpse of a whirlwind of brown hair before she threw herself at him. "We were gonna get you to play, but Mommy said you were sleepin' and not to 'sturb you."

"Can you tell us a story, Uncle Mulder?" Brian asked from beside his sister where he was also hugging Mulder's leg tightly. Laughing, Mulder picked both of them up and carried them with him to the couch. Scully followed close behind with Matthew.

"Sure," Mulder agreed, settling onto the soft cushions with both kids in his lap. He felt the couch dip slightly as Scully sat beside him holding Matthew. "Let's see, where should we begin?" He paused, thinking. "The year was 1947," he finally said, his voice a deep baritone, perfect or storytelling. "And the place was Roswell, New Mexico."

By the time Maggie called them in for dinner, Mulder had told two stories, both involving aliens, and Scully had told one story without mentioning the word alien once. As they all walked to the bathroom to clean up, Mulder put an arm around Scully's shoulders and pulled her against his side. "I forgot to tell you earlier. I came to a truce of sorts with your brother."

"A truce of sorts?"

"He said he would accept our relationship. He still doesn't like it, but I'm not sure if he ever will. I figure I should take what I can get."

"How did you manage that?"

"I told him I loved you."

"Was this before or after you mentioned we were having sex?"

"After. But I'm thinking this might mean he'll be slightly more receptive to our good news." Scully gave him a skeptical look. "I said slightly."

The dinner was excellent. Mulder found himself eating more than he typically did in a week. Of course, he usually did not have a home-cooked meal; he lived off take-out and frozen dinners. It was not that he could not cook; his mother had forced him to learn when he was younger, and though not a world-class chef, he could hold his own in a kitchen. But he never saw a reason to cook. Nearly every recipe he had ever read was for at least two people, and they all seemed to be mocking his status as a bachelor. On top of that, it was simply easier just to heat something up in the microwave or order something. He usually did not feel like expending the energy to cook.

The conversation was punctuated by laughter and smiles, and for the first time, Mulder realized what a true Thanksgiving dinner entailed. After Samantha had disappeared, his family had rarely had a meal together, even on Thanksgiving. His father was usually working, and his mother never seemed to care about spending time with family. Usually, she would cook something and place it in the refrigerator for Mulder and his father to eat when they were hungry. And on the few occasions where they did come together to eat as a family, they often said little to one another, and Mulder would excuse himself as soon as he could. He did not have much in common with his parents; he realized that early on in life, and he accepted that fact, spending most of his time in his room or out of the house. No matter what they said, the family had never truly recovered from Samantha's disappearance. All the happiness seemed to leave the house with her.

Thankfully, the same did not seem to be true about the Scully family. Though they obviously missed Melissa, they did not let this fact deter from their happiness. There was one tense moment when her name was brought up during the prayer before dinner, but conversation soon returned to normal as everyone at the table enjoyed the good food and company. Mulder noted with some satisfaction that the tension between Bill and him had abated somewhat. Bill even asked about Mulder's experience playing basketball, an experience Mulder was always happy to expound upon.

By the end of the meal, the tryptophan had begun to kick in, and they were all starting to feel a bit sluggish except for Mulder and Scully whose earlier nap had staved off their exhaustion. The two offered to do the dishes, and, after some arguing, Maggie agreed to let them. As the rest of the family trudged upstairs, Mulder and Scully began to carry dishes into the kitchen, arguing about an unfinished case report that Mulder had left sitting in his apartment and conveniently "forgotten" about. When Scully had mentioned the case after dinner, he had accidentally remarked that they could look up the details when they arrived back home, and the bickering had commenced.

Forty-five minutes later, they finally finished putting away the last of the dishes and made their way to the living room. Scully's shirt was slightly damp from Mulder's attempt to start a water fight, an attempt he quickly abandoned when she told him he would be cleaning up the aftermath of the fight by himself. They found Charlie watching football, and Mulder eagerly took a seat next to him on the couch, listening as Charlie gave a brief synopsis of what had happened in the game so far. Scully started to back out of the room, but Mulder stopped her.

"Scully, where are you going?" he asked.

"To get a book."

"Why? There's a game on."

"I don't want to watch football, Mulder."

"Come on, I'll explain the rules to you."

"I understand the rules. I just don't enjoy watching it."

"You don't know what you're missing out on, Scully."

"Oh, I think I have a pretty good idea."

"It's weird to hear you call her Scully," Charlie remarked as his sister left the room. "I keep thinking you're talking to me."

"I guess old habits die hard. Besides, she always worries if I call her Dana in every day conversation. It usually means something's wrong."

"So you never call her Dana?"

Mulder smiled. "There are certain. . . ah, situations where I do."

Understanding passed across Charlie's face, and he quickly turned his attention back to the television. "I probably don't want to ask any more questions, do I?"

"Probably not," Mulder agreed with a small chuckle.

When Scully returned, she curled up in one of the armchairs with a medical journal. Mulder glanced up at her and saw her pull a case file from the inside of the journal. "How come I'm not allowed to bring work but you are?" he asked.

"This isn't work. Contrary to what you may think, I actually enjoy reading these journals. It's always interesting to read about new discoveries."

"I'm not talking about the journal. I know you're weird enough to like it."

"Pot calling the kettle black," Scully mumbled, but he ignored her and continued.

"I'm talking about that." He pointed to the case file. "Don't tell me you brought that along for some light bedtime reading, too."

Scully glanced down at the case file as if just realizing that it was there. "Oh, I must have stuck it in there when I was finishing up at the office yesterday."

"Which one is that anyway?"

"The Memphis one, I think."

"Right, the reports of alien abductions."

"For the last time, Mulder, there is nothing to substantiate any of these people's claims that they had been abducted by aliens."

"What do you think it is then?"

"I think that someone has an overactive imagination."

"Not just one someone, Scully. There are three different claims in there."

"So one person claims to have been abducted by aliens, and a couple other people hear this and decide that it happened to them, too. It's purely psychological."

"But the details of their stories closely match accounts from other abductees. Loss of time, extreme heat, electrical equipment going haywire. Surely I don't need to list them all for you. You've heard this before; hell, you've experienced it."

"That's exactly my point, Mulder. These accounts are all over the place. It's pretty easy for someone to pick up a tabloid, copy the details from an abduction story, and come up with a plausible account of their own."

"After everything you've seen, Scully, how can you still not believe?"

"It's not that I don't believe, Mulder. I just think that in this particular case, there is nothing other than a few lonely people who want some attention."

"So you don't want to take a trip down to sunny Tennessee?"

"It'll be a waste of time, Mulder."

"Fine. You're always such a killjoy."

"Just keeping you from pissing off the FBI officials more than you already have."

"Give it up, Scully. It's a lost cause."

"I'm beginning to see that."

The others joined them around an hour later. Bill immediately settled on the couch beside his younger brother to watch the game while the three women took the chairs around where Scully sat. After a few minutes, they finally enticed her to put down her medical journal and join their conversation. For awhile, they discussed everything from families to television programs before an absence of shouts from the opposite side of the room announced that the game had ended. Scully glanced over at Mulder who was talking to Brian. He sensed her gaze and looked up at her. Their eyes met, and a question and answer quickly flowed between them.

"Actually, everyone, there's something I need to tell you," Scully said, hoping that she would have the courage to continue. All conversation stopped, and every eye in the room seemed to hone in on her face. Even the kids stopped tussling on the floor, obviously sensing the seriousness of the situation. "There's actually something else I have to be thankful about. Something that I wouldn't have even thought possible a month and a half ago. God, this is hard for me to say. I'm having trouble believing it myself, and I've had some time to adjust." Mulder's eyes met hers, urging her to simply make the confession. "You see, I'm. . . I'm pregnant."

Scully did not know exactly what to expect, but the silence which followed her announcement was disconcerting. Kaitlin and Tara were looking at her as if she had sprouted a second head, Maggie was simply staring at her fingers, Charlie was slowly moving his gaze from his sister to Mulder and back again, and Bill looked as if he wanted to murder someone—likely Mulder. As always, Mulder immediately discerned Scully's discomfort and stood, quickly striding across the room to stand behind her. He placed a single hand on her shoulder, a gesture that had comforted her countless times during the five and a half years of their partnership. "I'm thinking that whole truce of sorts is out the window now," he muttered, watching Bill.

"Is it his?" Bill finally asked, jerking his head up toward Mulder.

"No, they're the pizza boy's," Mulder remarked quietly.

"Of course. Mulder's their father," Scully told her brother.

"Their?" This time, Charlie did the questioning.

"I'm having twins."

The four adults suddenly appeared more shell-shocked, something Mulder would not have believed possible until he saw it. "What are you doing then?" Bill asked.

"What do you mean?" Scully questioned.

"I mean, are you getting married?"

"Not exactly," Scully answered cautiously.

"Not exactly? What the hell does that mean?"

"It means we can't get married right now," Mulder informed Bill.

"Goddammit, Mulder, I'm really sick of hearing that word come out of your mouth. You can't do anything, can you?"

"Look, Bill, you don't know all the details," Scully said in a feeble attempt to placate him. Unfortunately, Bill's temper could not be cooled.

"Well, I do know that my little sister is unmarried and pregnant by a man who has no intention of marrying her. I really don't care about the rest of the details." He started toward Mulder who released his grip on Scully's shoulder, preparing for a fight.

"Bill, don't you dare!" Scully shouted suddenly, rising to her feet and stepping in front of her brother. He looked down at her, his nostrils flared.

"Dana, get out of my way." He tried to sidestep her, but she moved with him, keeping him from approaching Mulder. He looked down at her again. "Dana."

"No, don't Dana me. You say you know enough, Bill, when you really know nothing! You can't stand there and pretend to know everything about my life. I'm a grown woman now, Bill. I can make my own decisions. I don't need you to protect me or treat me like a child! Do you have any idea how much both of us wanted this, how much we hoped and prayed for a miracle? And we were given two! And we've already been through so much just to keep those miracles alive, and I'll move heaven and earth if I have to to continue doing just that. I know Mulder will, too. We've made sacrifices, Bill, sacrifices you couldn't even begin to comprehend. But we did what we had to, and we will continue to do what we have to whether it's what you think we should do or not!"

The ominous silence which followed Scully's diatribe was finally broken by Brian's small voice. "What's going on?" he questioned.

Bill looked at his nephew, blinking as if coming out of a trance. "Nothing," he finally said. "There's nothing going on." He glared back at Mulder, his gaze clearly indicating that this particular argument was far from finished. Mulder held his gaze as he stepped forward and place his hand again on Scully's shoulder.

"You're making a huge mistake, Dana," Bill told her.

"No, Bill, I think this is one thing I can honestly say I've done right."

Bill turned and slowly made his way back to the couch, refusing to look at the two FBI agents standing in the middle of the room. "Maybe I should get my gun now," Mulder said quietly. His hand squeezed her shoulder gently, and she brought her own hand up to rest on top of his while she turned to her sisters-in-law.

"Congratulations," Kaitlin said with a small smile which Scully gratefully returned. "Have you thought about names yet?"

"We're still getting used to the idea that we'll soon be parents," Scully told her.

"It's a great experience, trust me," Kaitlin enthused.

"I'm sure it will be," Scully agreed, happy to have at least one ally.

At that moment, Mulder felt a hand on his upper arm and turned to see Charlie standing a couple feet away. Mulder thought for a moment that Scully's brother was going to deck him, and he prepared himself for the blow. Instead, Charlie held out a hand. "I wish the circumstances were different, but I can tell my little sister's happy about this, so I am, too. And I trust that you'll take good care of her."

"Always," Mulder told him.

"Then I wish you the best of luck, Dad." He shook Mulder's hand firmly before turning to his sister and pulling her into a hug. "Congratulations, Dana. You're going to make a wonderful mother."

"Thanks, Charlie."

"Just do me a favor and don't name them after Mulder. I'd prefer not to have a nephew named Fox. No offense." He turned back to Mulder.

"None taken. Trust me, I wouldn't put my kids through the same hell my mother put me through. The name Fox has never been an option."

"Good to hear. Now, if you'll excuse me, we should probably be getting these rugrats to bed." He looked at his wife who stood, and they ushered the three kids out of the room. Tara followed after giving Mulder and Scully a soft congratulations.

"I think I'll go up to read for awhile, too," Maggie announced. "Bill?"

Bill gave Mulder a final scathing look before following his mother out of the room. "Well, the cat's out of the bag now," Mulder remarked once they were alone.

"It's actually a relief. Now I won't have to worry about that so much."

"Yeah. You just have to worry about how to tell Skinner."

Scully groaned. "Let's not think about that and just relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend," she suggested.

"I can't relax. I have a feeling your brother wants to kill me again."

"You should be used to that."

"I should." Leaning forward, he kissed her, slipping his hand beneath the hem of her shirt. She automatically leaned toward him, relishing the feel of his smooth lips pressing against hers. He tasted like chocolate and salt, likely from the candy bars and pretzels the men had consumed as they watched the game. For some reason, Scully found the taste oddly fascinating, and she eagerly tangled her hands in his hair, pulling him closer as their tongues dueled fiercely. After a few minutes, Mulder pulled his lips from hers, moving them to the corner of her mouth and then down to her chin. His teeth nipped lightly at her skin as he continued his journey up to her ear and then down to her neck, enjoying her sweet, distinctive taste. Automatically, his mouth sought out the sensitive spots of her skin, causing her to moan faintly. Her response gave his hands all the encouragement they needed, and they began to dance upwards.

Scully knew subconsciously that they should stop before things got out of hand. After all, they were standing in her mother's living room with the rest of her family just upstairs. But all rational thoughts were drown out by the desire that flooded her body as his lips and hands caressed her skin. She moved her hands to his shoulders, feeling the bunched muscles there. Gripping them tightly, she pulled his body closer to hers, and felt evidence of his own desire pressing against her stomach. His hands moved out from beneath her shirt, quickly making their way to the top button of her blouse.

"You know, that's probably not helping your case at all," a voice remarked behind them. They broke apart quickly, their faces reddened and breathing labored. "Don't worry, I'm not Bill," Charlie said, laughing lightly. "Though it would be interesting to see his reaction to that little display."

"Sorry, Charlie," Scully said. Mulder grinned and opened his mouth.

"Don't even think about it," Charlie warned. "I already hear that way too much."

"I guess Fox isn't the only unfortunate name."

"I was just going to watch television if that's okay with you two."

"Sure. It'll probably be good to have someone else in the room anyway," Scully said, sitting down on the couch.

"Think we need a chaperone?" Mulder questioned.

"I think you do," she retorted.

"Hey, you were a willing participant," Mulder told her.

"You want my opinion? You're both acting like teenagers," Charlie said.

"Well, that's what five years of sexual tension will do to you," Mulder said.

"And I think this should be the end of this conversation," Scully declared, turning on the television. "What do you two want to watch?"

Charlie did not leave the room until nearly midnight, apologizing for commandeering Mulder's "bedroom" for so long. Mulder, naturally, shrugged off the apologies. "I'm a chronic insomniac anyway. This is earlier than I usually go to bed."

"Well, I'll see you two in the morning. Goodnight," Charlie told them.

"Night," Scully answered, rising from the couch. Once Charlie left the room, she helped Mulder begin to remove the pillows from the couch. After they pulled out the bed, she retrieved her suitcase from the corner of the room and began to search through it.

"You sleeping down here tonight?" Mulder inquired.

"I was planning on it. Unless you'd rather I not."

"No, I'd like you down here. I guess this means we're abandoning all pretenses."

"I think we abandoned them when we told everyone I was pregnant."

"Hey, if you don't think they'll buy the immaculate conception story, you can always tell them about the IVF. After all, we did try that."

"Yeah, ten months ago."

"They don't know that."

"I think I'm just going to let them think what they want," Scully decided.

"How very Zen of you." He turned and watched as she pulled one of his old, comfortable t-shirts from her bag. "Isn't that mine?" he asked.

"You gave it to me a month ago or so," she reminded him.

"I loaned it to you when you slept over for the night," he corrected.

"Do you want it back?" she questioned, knowing, as he did, that the shirt was now hers. It had been hers since the moment he threw it to her and told her that he thought she would be comfortable in it for the night. And she was comfortable in it that night—and during the countless other nights when she had worn it afterward. In some ways, the shirt was a reminder of their relationship—nothing belonged to just one person. They shared all their secrets, all their hopes, their fears, their dreams with one another. They understood and trusted one another completely.

"Nah, it looks better on you." As she turned to leave, he called to her. "Where are you going?"

"To the bathroom to change."


"There are windows all around here and anyone can walk in. I'm not stripping in the middle of my mother's living room."

"Too bad. That might have been interesting." He felt a pillow connect with his head as she walked out of the room. "Nice shot!" he called, chuckling.

After Scully's bout of morning sickness the following day, she quickly fell asleep again, but Mulder was having a hard time emulating her example. Eventually, he gave up and opened his eyes, content to simply watch his partner as she slept nestled against him.

Around 7:00, Tara walked into the room, still wearing her dressing gown. She yawned widely before turning and seeing the two still curled up on the bed. "Sorry," she apologized quickly. "I forgot you two were sleeping in here. I didn't mean to wake you."

Mulder smiled. "Don't worry about it. I've been up for a couple hours anyway."

"A couple hours?"

"Yeah, Scully's morning sickness seems to hit about 5:00 in the morning. I'll tell you, it's better than an alarm clock for waking you up."

"I remember," Tara said sympathetically. "What have you been doing?"

"Just laying here. I don't want to get up because I don't want to wake her. She needs as much sleep as she gets. She refuses to slow down because of her pregnancy, and whenever I suggest that she should, she bites my head off."

"That's sweet."

"Actually, it's self-preservation. Scully's not fun when she's tired. And for some inexplicable reason, her anger always seems to be directed toward me."

"That's because you've usually done something stupid," Scully muttered groggily, raising her head slightly. "Good morning, Tara."

"Good morning, Dana. I'm really sorry I woke you."

"It's about time I got up anyway." She sat up in bed and stretched, knocking the sheet and blanket off of her and Mulder's bodies. Tara's eyes immediately took in their attire. Scully was wearing an old shirt that looked around three sizes too big for her and a pair of flannel pants. Mulder had on a pair of gray sweatpants and no shirt. Automatically, Tara's eyes scanned his chest, noticing the deep grooves of his muscles. She remembered Scully's comment the previous day about how he always needed to do something active, and she thought that his constant exercising certainly showed.

Strident bickering tore Tara from her ruminations. "Mulder, I am not an invalid. I do not need you to take care of me," Scully was saying.

"I just want to help."

"There's a fine line between helping and smothering."

"What about when I'm sick and you start going on about how I can't do this or that and making sure that take my medicine and generally treating me like a child?"

"That's different, Mulder. I'm your doctor."

"Well, I may not be your doctor, but that doesn't mean I can't help you out from time to time."

"I don't need help."

"Scully, why can't you just let me take care of you for once?"

"Is everything okay?" Tara asked, wondering if she was witnessing the end of a relationship that she had earlier thought stronger than any other.

Mulder waved off her concern. "Yeah, we do this all the time." His eyes remained locked on Scully's, and Tara noticed that the argument seemed to continue through their glances and gestures.

"Aren't you worried? I mean, arguing is not a good sign."

"Sure it is. It means we're both intelligent people who happen to have different opinions but are willing to listen to the other person's," Scully said.

"I guess I've never looked at it that way," Tara admitted.

"Trust me, perspective is everything." Mulder suddenly gave a triumphant grin, indicating that he had won the silent argument. "One hour," he told her.

"Thirty minutes," she countered.

"Forty-five," he compromised.

"Fine. But I doubt I'll be able to go back to sleep."

"Sure you will. Just lie down and close your eyes. I'll even offer my services as a human pillow provided you let me get my book first."

"You better wake me up in forty-five minutes."

"Of course I will."

In the end, Scully fell asleep for a little over an hour. When she woke up and noticed the time on the VCR across the room, she turned to Mulder, fully ready to chew him out for not waking her. He held up his hands in surrender before she could say a word. "You looked so peaceful that I couldn't wake you up. Besides, you don't need to be up for any reason. Enjoy that while it lasts."

Scully glared at him. "Next time I tell you to do something, Mulder, I expect you to do it."

"Yes, ma'am."

"And put a shirt on. I can't believe you're sitting in my mother's living room half-naked."

"I get hot when I sleep, Scully. You know that. You're lucky I decided to wear the sweat pants; I was thinking of sleeping in my boxers like I usually do."

At breakfast, Charlie challenged Mulder to a game of one-on-one basketball, and Mulder quickly accepted the offer. The kids watched the game for awhile before growing bored and deciding to race one another across the yard instead. Scully and Kaitlin sat on two folding chairs they had brought out of the garage, watching as the kids wrestled, occasionally stopping to retrieve the ball when it flew out of bounds. "They really get into that," Kaitlin said, nodding to her husband whose face glistened with sweat.

"Guys and sports. I've never understood it," Scully agreed, watching as Mulder faked the ball to the left and dribbled hard toward the basket, spinning quickly before sending the ball soaring over Charlie's head through the net.

"Mulder's good," Kaitlin observed, watching the ease with which he handled the ball and the grace of his movements down the court.

"Mulder doesn't do anything half-heartedly," Scully said. "If he gets it in his head that he wants to do something, then he's going to do it better than just about everyone else. He's actually one of the most brilliant profilers that's ever come to the FBI."

"Why isn't he doing that then instead of investigating those weird cases?"

"Because those weird cases are his obsession."

"But why?"

"It's personal."

Kaitlin nodded in understanding and watched the two men play for a couple more minutes before commenting, "He doesn't seem like the type of guy who believes in aliens. I mean, from the way he speaks, he's clearly intelligent."

"He's brilliant," Scully agreed.

"Then why does he believe in flying saucers and abductions?"

"Because Mulder doesn't see the world the way most of us do. He doesn't trust that science can explain everything. The scary part is that he's usually right."

"What about you? Charlie told me you got an undergraduate degree in physics and went to medical school. Surely you believe in science."

"I believed in science and still do to some extent. That's why I was first sent to work with Mulder. They thought that, as a scientist, I could debunk his work. But I quickly realized that some of the things we investigated couldn't be explained by what I learned in school. That scared me. Science had always been the one constant in my life, the one thing that I could always rely on. But when I needed it most, science failed me."

"What did you do?"

"I found a new constant, something else to believe in."

"What was that?"


They had a lunch of sandwiches using the leftover turkey from the previous day, and Mulder announced afterward that he was thinking of going for a short hike through he woods behind the house. Scully accepted his request for her services as a guide, and the kids immediately begged to go along. "The more the merrier," Mulder said with a shrug, eliciting a chorus of cheers.

And so the three set out after they finished eating, Mulder carrying Matthew and a backpack with plenty of food and water at the insistence of Maggie. Scully led the way to a large stream a few hundred yards behind the house. "The four of us used to play here when we were kids," she told the others. "Dad hated it. He would tell us to stay away because the currents could get pretty bad in the summer, but we never listened."

"Can we go in now?" Brian asked.

"It's too cold now," Scully told the small boy.

"What about when it's not cold?"

"We'll see."

"Daddy says you're gonna have two babies," Brian said as the five began to walk again, following the winding course of the stream.

"I am. But not until summer."

"Is Uncle Mulda their daddy?"

"He is."

"Aren't you 'sposed to be married 'fore you have babies?"

"Usually," Scully said.

"So are you and Uncle Mulda gettin' married 'fore June?"

"Probably not, sweetheart."


"Because we can't get married right now. But we really love each other and these babies, and that's all that really matters."

"Okay." Brian seemed to accept this answer; he was silent for a couple minutes before remarking. "How come you're gettin' two babies at once? Aren't you only 'sposed to have one at a time?"

"Sometimes, you can have twins. That's what it's called when you have two babies at once. And some people have three babies at once. They're called triplets."

"How do you know how many you're gettin'?"

"The doctor has a machine that he can use to look into a mommy's tummy where the baby is, and he can tell her how many babies are in there."

A shout from Mulder drew Scully's attention, and she reached for her hip before realizing that she wasn't wearing her holster. She searched wildly for him before she saw him about a hundred feet away, waving his arms in the air. Since he seemed okay, her first thought was that one of the kids was hurt, and she quickly grabbed Brian and ran to his side. "What is it?" she asked.

"We found a bunny," Mulder said, pointing.

"A bunny? Dammit, Mulder, I thought someone was hurt!"

"You shouldn't say that," Lily chided.

"Sorry," Scully apologized automatically.

Mulder looked at her, seeing the fear which creased her face. Reaching out, he grabbed her arm and squeezed it reassuringly. "I didn't mean to scare you, I promise. I just wanted Brian to see the bunny."

"I guess I overreacted."

"No, I just wasn't thinking when I called you. With what you're used to, I wouldn't be surprised if you had come in here with your gun drawn."

"I don't have it with me or I would have."

"I guess we have to get used to not being FBI agents for a weekend."

"It might not be as bad as you think." Scully crouched down next to her niece and nephews who were all exclaiming excitedly over the bunny who was regarding them all with surprising indifference. "I'm amazed he didn't run away when you shouted."

"I didn't shout that loud," Mulder defended.

"It sounded that way."

"I think your ears heard what they expected to hear. It's been too long since one of us was in mortal danger, so we've started seeing it everywhere. Or hearing it."

When they returned from their hike, the kids were so tired that they agreed to take a nap without complaint. "We need to send them with you more often," Kaitlin remarked as she herded them all up to their bedroom. "They're never this easy to get to sleep."

"It's amazing what running through the woods for a couple hours can do to you."

"Bill and Charlie are on the back porch," Tara told them.

"Okay," Scully said, watching as both women walked upstairs with the kids. When they had disappeared around the corner at the top, she turned to Mulder. "I'm going out to talk to Charlie and Bill. Are you coming?"

"I think I'll pass this time," Mulder told her. "I have a feeling they're not going to be in the mood to pass around cigars."

"Suit yourself."

When Scully walked into the living room an hour later, she found Mulder fast asleep on the couch, an open book resting on his chest. His mouth hung slightly open, and one of his arms was dangling off the couch with the knuckles of his hand brushing the ground. His other arm rested across his body, and his long legs were propped up on the arm with his feet hanging off it. It was a posture Scully had seen him adopt countless times after falling asleep on the sofa at his apartment.

Walking over, Scully gently lifted his legs and placed them in her lap as she sat down on the end of the couch. He stirred, blinking as he looked up at her. "I guess hiking wore me out more than I thought," he remarked groggily, rubbing his eyes as he sat up.

"We're going out for dinner tonight," Scully told him. "We'll probably leave in an hour and a half or so."


"Yeah. Taking an eleven month old, a four-year-olds, and a six-year-old to a fancy restaurant is asking for trouble." They both smiled. "So, are you at least enjoying yourself somewhat?"

"Somewhat. Charlie's pretty cool."

"I told you that you two would get along."

"I'm guessing Bill still wants to kill me."

"He's the oldest. He's always been really protective."

"So, did I miss out on any interesting conversation on the porch?"

"Bill and Tara are thinking of having another kid."

"Her idea, I guess."

"They didn't say."

"Trust me, it was."

"If you say so. Charlie thinks you missed your calling. He says you should have played pro basketball. I told him that it would've been too boring for you."

"And it probably would have. Besides, if I played pro-basketball, I never would have met you." He smiled at her. "I don't think I would be nearly as happy."

"You might want to stop saying things like that. Kaitlin thinks you're sweet."

"Well, good to see I have her fooled."

"You know, Mulder, you do have your sweet moments."

"Do I now? Well, I guess I'll have to rectify that." He put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her against his side. She leaned her head against his shoulder, closing her eyes as she relaxed in the familiarity of his presence.

They arrived back from dinner that night shortly after 8:00. Because each car held five people, Maggie had ended up riding with Kaitlin and Charlie and their kids while Mulder and Scully were in the car with Bill, Tara, and Matthew. Neither Mulder nor Bill seemed thrilled with this arrangement, so Scully and Tara ended up doing most of the talking. When Bill stopped the car in the driveway, Mulder immediately reached for the door handle, eager to be out of the car as soon as possible. He stopped, however, before pushing the door open. "Scully," he said. Scully heard the note of apprehension in his voice, and she followed his gaze. It did not take her searching eyes long to find what had alerted his attention. One of the front windows was open slightly, and the curtains inside billowed in the slight breeze. "I know they were all closed when we left," Mulder said.

"What's going on?" Bill asked.

"Call Charlie," Scully instructed. "Tell him to make sure everyone stays in the car."

"Why? What's going on?" Bill asked again.

"I don't know yet." Scully opened her door, sliding out of the car and making her way to Mulder's car which was parked a few feet to the left. She walked at a low crouch, frequently glancing back over her shoulder. Mulder started to follow her, but Bill stopped him by placing a strong hand on his upper arm.

"Mulder, what the hell is going on?"

"The front window is open."

"I'm coming with you to see what's going on."

"No! Stay in the car with your wife and son. Call Charlie and 911. Let Scully and I handle this."

"I'm not letting my baby sister go into a house where there might be a killer."

"Bill, she may be your baby sister, but she's also a trained federal agent who's a better shot than I am. Trust me, she can take care of herself."


"No buts, Bill. You need to stay here and let us do our jobs." With that, Mulder opened the door and made his way quickly and quietly to Scully's side.

"What took you so long?" she questioned. She was already holding both their guns.

"I had to deal with an overprotective older brother." Mulder took his gun from her hand and held it low as he started across the lawn toward the front door.

After Mulder left, Tara called Charlie and 911 while Bill watched his sister and her partner creep across the front lawn. It was odd to see his baby sister holding a gun. He knew that she was a federal agent, and he knew that job entailed carrying a weapon, but he had never before seen his sister with a gun. To him, she would always be the baby who needed protecting, even though she had proved countless times that she was perfectly capable of protecting herself. But to see her acting so natural holding a weapon. . . it reminded Bill of how much had changed since they were younger.

When Mulder and Scully reached the front door, Mulder gestured to the back, indicating that he was going around to the back door. Scully nodded, and he held up his index finger. Again, Scully nodded, agreeing to wait one minute before entering the house. As soon as he saw her head move up and down, Mulder disappeared, keeping low to the ground as he made his way to the back door.

When he reached the door, Mulder realized that he had a problem: he did not have a key to the Scully household. Silently cursing himself, he tried to turn the doorknob, knowing even as he gripped it that it was locked. Deciding that Maggie would rather he not bust the door down, he pulled his pocket knife out and set to work picking the lock.

Because it had been awhile since he had picked a lock, it took Mulder nearly a minute before he heard the satisfying click. Returning his knife to his pocket, he again grasped the doorknob with one hand, holding his gun ready in the other. Cautiously, he opened the door, bringing his gun to eye level and sweeping the room with its barrel. Nothing looked out of place. Quietly, he padded onto the tile floor of the kitchen, turning toward the living room. He caught a slight movement out of the corner of his eye and whirled around, his gun now at chest level.

Scully stood in the doorway leading to the hallway, her gun pointing straight at him. Simultaneously, they both relaxed and stepped toward the other. Mulder looked to the living room, but Scully shook her head; she had already checked there and found nobody. She tilted her head toward the ceiling before moving back the way she came, making her way toward the staircase. They climbed it together, Scully in front and Mulder a few feet behind. Both were tense, and their guns continued to sweep the area around them. They had been in plenty of dangerous situations before, but the current one frightened them more than any previous one because their failure might spell not only their deaths but also the deaths of the other members of the Scully family.

When they reached the top of the stairs, Scully paused and listened for a moment. She heard a faint rustling coming from somewhere to her left, so she moved in this direction. Even in heels, she made no sound as she moved across the floor; years at the FBI had taught her to be stealthy no matter what her attire was.

The sounds were coming from the master bedroom. Both agents paused at the doorway, guns ready. After a couple seconds, Scully pushed the door open with her foot, and they both entered the room, pointing their guns at the two figures standing in front of Maggie's dresser. "Freeze, FBI!" Scully called. Immediately, both figures froze, and a paper bag dropped to the ground. "Put your hands up!" Four arms were quickly thrust in the air. "Turn around slowly." They immediately complied, and Scully saw that both men were wearing ski masks. Keeping her gun trained on the left man just in case, she moved forward and pulled off the wool masks, revealing the faces of the men.

Both Mulder and Scully let out an almost audible sigh of relief when they saw the men's faces. From the time they had first seen the open window, an unspoken fear had lingered in the air, a fear that whoever had broken into the house had done so because Mulder and Scully were staying there. During their five years on the X-files, both had made countless enemies, and they did not doubt that these enemies would stoop so low as to kill their family members if they deemed it necessary. Both could deal with death threats to themselves, but they could not live with themselves if they knew that their actions had caused the deaths of their loved ones.

"Who are you and what the hell are you doing here?" Scully asked.

"We just wanted to make a quick buck," the rightmost man said. Scully looked to him; in the moonlight, she saw that his pudgy face was pale with dark eyes and rather shapeless features. He stood at around 5'9" and likely weighed over 200 pounds.

"Shut up, Dan," the second man said. Unlike his partner, he was thin and wiry with a hawk-like appearance and straight, dark hair.

"They've caught us anyway," Dan protested.

"They don't know nothin' unless we tell them, idiot."

"Well, now they know my name 'cuz you told them. Who's the idiot now?"

Mulder looked to Scully with raised eyebrows. It seemed that the intruders were simply robbers—and not very good ones, at that. The Syndicate had nothing to do with this particular incident. "Let's go," Scully said, moving toward the first man. She grabbed his arms and pulled them behind his back, turning him around. She reached down to her hip for her handcuffs, but her hand grasped nothing but air. "Mulder, do you have your handcuffs on you?" she inquired.

"Sorry. I didn't think I would need them on this particular vacation." He turned the second man around, forcing him to move forward by pressing the barrel of his gun beneath his shoulder blades. "But they seem to be reasonably cooperative. Isn't that right, fellas?" His question earned a glare from the skinny one.

"What's the FBI doin' here anyway?" Dan questioned as Mulder walked him down the stairs without letting go of his wrists.

"This is my partner's mom's house. We've been staying here for the holidays."

"Did you hear that, Simon?" Dan called back to his companion. "That 'perfect house' you picked out for us had two FBI agents staying in it."

"Well, how was I supposed to know that?" Simon grumbled.

By the time they reached the front door, sirens outside the house announced that the police had arrived. The door swung open forcefully, nearly slamming into the side of Dan's body. "Freeze!" the police officer shouted, stepping into the doorway with his partner directly behind him. "Put down your weapons."

"We're federal agents," Mulder informed the officer. "This is the house of my partner's mother. We've been staying here for Thanksgiving." He released Dan's wrists to reach for his ID before realizing that it, too, was in the car. "Scully?"

"Car," she told him.

"Naturally," he muttered. "Officer, I just need to go out to the car to get my ID. I'll be back in a minute. In the meantime, you can arrest these two men for breaking and entering and attempted robbery." Mulder pushed Dan toward the officer who seemed unsure of what to do for a moment. He turned back to his partner who shrugged. Lowering his gun, the first officer pulled out his handcuffs and placed them around Dan's wrists. His partner looked up to Scully who still stood on the stairs with Simon a few feet in front of her, unmoving due to the gun pressing into his shoulder blades.

"Uh, would you like me to take him, ma'am?" the second officer offered.

"That would be good, thanks." Scully propelled the man forward with the barrel of her gun as the second officer stepped around his partner to meet them at the base of the stairs.

By this point, Mulder had returned, carrying both FBI shields. Flipping them open, he showed them to the officers who glanced from the pictures on the ID's to the faces of the two agents standing in front of them.

"So, you're really FBI then," the first officer remarked.

"I wouldn't lie to you," Mulder told him, pocketing his shield and passing Scully's to her.

"I know. It's not often that we have FBI agents present during arrests though."

"Well, there's a first time for everything," Mulder told him. At that moment, the front door opened forcefully again, colliding with the first officer before bouncing back toward the large figure who now stood in the doorway.

"Dana, what the hell is going on?" Bill questioned.

"These officers were just arresting the two robbers we caught," Scully explained calmly. Bill looked up at her, noticing she still held her gun loosely at her side, having nowhere to holster it. Despite her small stature, she made a rather imposing figure standing almost perfectly straight on the stairs, a gun at her side.


"Yeah, you know, thieves, burglars, whatever you want to call them," Mulder explained sarcastically.

Bill glared at him. "So this has nothing to do with-"

"With us?" Scully finished for him. "No, Bill."

"Oh." Bill thought for a moment before speaking again. "So can everyone else come inside now? They're all a little frightened."

"Sure. Mom needs to make sure nothing was taken anyway," Scully said.

Bill nodded and turned, making his way back to the cars. "We're going to need you two to give a statement," the first officer said. "You can stop by the station in the morning."

"Okay," Scully agreed absent-mindedly, glancing up the stairs. She was still having trouble accepting the fact that her mother had been the victim of a random robbery. In her line of work, any crimes directed against her or her family members were usually related to a case she had worked on at some point in the past. She had never believed in coincidences, and it seemed like too much of a coincidence that two men who had no connection to the X-files would choose to rob her mother's house on the weekend when she was staying there.

"It has nothing to do with us," Mulder assured her as the officers left. Scully glanced up at him and noticed that he had stepped closer so that he was now standing two steps below her, his eyes even with her mouth. As usual, he had read her mind.

"I can't help but think that it might."

"Then stop thinking," he suggested.

"That's your job," she retorted with a smile. He shook his head, raising himself on his toes so that he could place a quick kiss on her lips.

"Well, this is a definite reversal of positions," he remarked.

"Now you know how I feel," Scully told him.

"Yeah. Short." This comment earned him a smack on the arm. "Hey, I didn't say it was a bad thing. You might be short, but I know for a fact you pack a punch."

"You'd do well to remember that."

The door opened again at that moment, and three small bodies joined them on the stair. "Auntie Dana! Uncle Mulda! Daddy says you caught the bad guys!" Lily exclaimed.

"We sure did," Scully told her.

"Are they goin' to jail now?" Brian asked.

"They are," Scully assured him.

"'Cuz that's where all bad guys go, right?"

Scully looked at Mulder. Both knew from experience that "bad guys" did not always end up in jail. They had met a number of them in positions of great power, and these men would never see the inside of a jail cell. Scully fervently wished that the judicial system of the United States could be reduced to the simple black-and-white ideal held by her six-year-old nephew. As far as he was concerned, the bad guys would always be punished, and the good guys would always come out on top. But Scully and Mulder had learned the hard way that this simplistic view did not often hold. There were a number of grey areas in real life, places where good and bad merged together so completely that it was virtually impossible to discern which was which. And so the justice system was flawed, just as the people who created it had been flawed, and just as the people who operated it were flawed. Of course, Brian did not need to know this. The time for disillusionment would come later; for now, he needed to know that Disney spoke the truth: good would always triumph over evil. And so Scully simply said, "Yes, they do."

Saturday passed rather uneventfully. After visiting the police station, Mulder returned and was roped into playing with Scully, Charlie, and the kids. By the time Mulder and Scully left that evening, both were wearing wide smiles. As they walked back to the car, Scully remarked, "See, I told you this weekend wouldn't be that bad."

"I'm not going to tell you that you were right."

"Come on, Mulder, it's three simple words."

"Three words which will never come out of my mouth."

"Never say never, Mulder."

"Is that a challenge, Agent Scully?"

"Maybe." She sighed and tilted her head back slightly, admiring the faint stars spread out across the sky. "Well, I for one, think this weekend was a rousing success."

"Your brother still hates me."

"Only one of them. And my mom took the news pretty well. So did Charlie."

"Two for three. Not great, but I'll take it."

"Technically four for five. Tara and Kaitlin both congratulated me."

"Eighty percent then. That's a B, Scully. Are you willing to take that?"

"I think I can handle it."

"I'm not sure about Skinner. He might bring us down to a C."

"Well, we'll find out on Monday."

"So you're telling him then?"

"We're telling him."

"I thought we agreed that you would be the one to break the good news. I'm not supposed to be their father, so it would look kind of odd if I did."

"You can still be in the room with me."

"And run the risk of becoming collateral damage?"


"Fine. I'll take my chances."

"I thought so." They had reached the car by this time. Mulder threw both their suitcases in the trunk before climbing into the driver's seat. As he started the car, he turned to Scully.

"Hey Scully?"


"It was a good Thanksgiving."

She smiled. Though he had not exactly said she was right, it was close enough.

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