sorry I've been neglecting this story lately. I hope you're still reading, and if you are, I hope you like this chapter!
Desperate to avoid going to court, Scully sought more mediation for her and Paul. This time, though, as she walked toward the county building in the biting cold, Mulder was right behind her. It was a major concern of Scully's that she was introducing her boyfriend and the main man in her life for too many years to count to her ex-husband and father of her child, particularly because of Mulder's sometimes unpredictable temper. She couldn't, however, deny that she felt a quiet peace—a new confidence—spreading through her as he grasped her hand.
"You'll be okay?" he asked for confirmation as he held the door open for her.
"Once I get this over with," she stepped through it.
He was surprised when she kissed him. Hard.
"Hi, I'm Delaney Southern, I'll be your mediator," a perky young woman met them outside the room they were assigned to work in. Scully shook her hand and introduced herself, then Mulder did the same. The mediator looked confused and Scully knew why.
"I'm sorry, you're not Paul Berman?" Delaney asked Mulder.
"No," Scully was quick to jump to his defense, "Paul has a habit of being fashionably late."
"Oh," Delaney said, looking at the ground. Both Mulder and Scully were pissed off. Scully because this wasn't anything new. There were several times Sam had stood at the window hours after Paul was supposed to come pick her up, waiting. When he would show, he'd always make some lame excuse. He had to work. Little Joey, his new infant son, was sick. Elizabeth, his wife, had invited some friends over. Though he hadn't experienced that (thankfully for Paul), Mulder was angry for another reason. He knew that even though Sam wasn't his biological child, he would go to any length for her. There was no task too large, no stretch of land too far, absolutely nothing he wouldn't do for Sam to see her happy. In that spectrum, making it to a child custody mediation involving her on time didn't seem like such a large feat. But maybe that was just Mulder.
They took a seat on one side of a large square table. Delaney took a seat at the head of it. And they waited.
For thirty-five minutes.
"Sorry I'm late. So sorry," a well-dressed man with a nice smile came rushing into the room just as Delaney was about to tell them to go home. Mulder eyed the man. He was good-looking, nobody could contest that. He looked successful and intelligent and charming and everything he believed Scully should have if they didn't have such a fucked-up hold on each other. Because he was so affluent-looking, Mulder believed for a second that he really was busy, that he really did have a meeting that he couldn't get out of like he was explaining to everyone. He was a man you wanted to believe. Upon further inspection, though, Mulder detected a tiny red lipstick stain high up on his white collar. And he had the sneaking suspicion that it didn't come from his wife.
"Mr. Berman, I must remind you that if this case does end up going to trial, a judge isn't going to wait around for as long as we have. And if you are interested in obtaining full custody of your daughter, which you clearly are, that would be the most egregious mistake to make in a courtroom," Scully was very satisfied to hear Delaney say. It didn't seem to faze the smug man, though. He just nodded and finally lifted his eyes up to see who he was sitting across the table from.
"I apologize. I love my daughter more than anything," he said directly to Scully with ice in his eyes and in his voice. Mulder searched for her hand under the table, and when he found it, he was dismayed to find it just as cold. She couldn't shut down. She couldn't stop fighting just because this bastard had a strange authority over her. He was there for her now, and he was never going to leave.
The mediation finally began. Scully and Paul both gave a background of their history with Sam's custody, then explained the reasons why they felt the other was wrong. It seemed as if everything Scully said, Paul just said the opposite of, trying to make her sound stupid and unequipped. Mulder could tell that Scully was getting frustrated. Mulder could tell that Paul knew this.
"I'm sorry," Mulder finally decided to speak up, "but can we take a short break?"
Everyone in the room agreed that that was probably the best move at this point, the mediation was going nowhere and resorting into character attacks. Mulder took Scully's hand and led her out of the room first, leading her to a small corner outside of the room.
"Scully… what's going on with you?" he asked, enveloping her small hands in his own. She tried not to meet his gaze, but he caught it.
"God, what the hell did I see in that man?" she scoffed at herself to deter Mulder from the fact that he still had a big impact on her.
"You are a good mom, and Paul knows that. That's why he's been attacking you this whole time."
"He's been attacking me because that's what he does when he knows he doesn't have a leg to stand on. When I found out the truth about his affair, he even tried to pin it on me, saying I was only accusing him of that because I was the one having the affair."
"Then why are you just sitting back and letting his comments whiz past you? They're totally unsubstantiated."
"Because, Mulder, unlike Paul, I'm only interested in keeping my daughter with me. It's just like back when we were in the FBI. No matter what the official story of a case was, we always knew the truth. And as long as we knew the truth, that was all that mattered."
"But I hated that, Scully. I hated that because if we knew, other people could know. But there was always something in the way."
"Can we please just drop this? Look, the mediator can see through his charm, we know he's no good, as long as we can reach an agreement today, we never have to deal with him in this setting again."
He could see the pleading in her eyes. But it still didn't make it easy for Mulder to just let go of the way Paul spoke about his girlfriend. He was powerless against her eyes, though, and leaned down to kiss her.
"I'll be back in soon, just have to make a stop in the restroom."
Scully's hands lingered on his as he parted from her.
Paul was in the bathroom cleaning off the stain from his white collar. But Mulder knew that already.
The two men didn't waste any time pretending with each other. Mulder walked right up to the second sink and splashed some cold water on his face.
"So you're the infamous Mulder," Paul said, almost insultingly.
"And you're Paul," Mulder extended his hand, dripping with hostility.
"It's nice to finally meet the man my ex-wife was running from."
Mulder really had to rein himself in at that point. The man wasn't holding back anything, showing how truly nasty his personality was.
"You got something on your shirt," he said politely. Very politely.
"So what brings you all the way out here after all this time? Give up on looking for little green men?"
Grey, Mulder's mind said.
"Just decided that I couldn't live without her anymore. And when I heard she had a daughter… I knew I had to be out here."
"What, so you could take credit for her happiness without doing any of the work?"
"Oh, like you did so much work. Tell me, Paul, did Dana ever tell you what her life was like in DC?"
"Yeah, she was always working long hours, she never had any time for herself, and she genuinely wasn't happy. She wasn't happy with you."
It pained Mulder to hear Paul say that, but he had to keep going. He had a feeling that the man didn't know.
"Our work left her barren, Paul. She wasn't supposed to be able to have children."
Mulder's words hit Paul like a ton of bricks. He'd had no idea.
"She was taken during our second year working together. She was gone for three months, and when she was returned, she was nearly dead. Once she recovered, she discovered that she was barren among other things…" Mulder shivered, remembering her battle with cancer and their few days with Emily. "Do you even know what she's been through?"
Paul was struck silent, and only shook his head almost imperceptibly.
"I don't know why Sam was conceived, and I won't ever want to know. But she is Dana's miracle."
Still dumbfounded, Mulder left Paul in the bathroom to return to the mediation room. Scully was sitting at the table once again, looking intently at the fingernails she had bitten to nubs.
"Hi," he slid in right next to her and kissed her cheek. Scully was a little surprised, but it was nice to be able to do that with someone. She'd never felt that close to Paul, or any of the men she'd dated prior to being assigned to the X-files. His kisses were uniquely Mulder.
Deep in her eyes lay hidden sorrow and grief. She had so much pain in her past, his Scully. Pain that was so locked away that she hadn't even told her husband about it. He wanted to hold her in his arms forever, keeping her protected from everything in her past and future. She needed help that he, even as a psychologist, could not give her.
"Paul was in the bathroom, wasn't he?" Scully assumed.
"Shhh, he's coming back in," Mulder didn't want to talk about the conversation he'd had with Paul in the bathroom. He never wanted to revisit her pain, but it was an inevitability in the future if he wanted her to get the counseling she needed.
"Alright, are we ready to start again?" Delaney asked the parties. Mulder and Scully nodded yes, but Paul did not. He took a deep breath, then addressed the mediator.
"Um, I'm interested in changing the terms of my complaint," he said without looking at the two across the table from him. If he had bothered to gauge their reactions, he would have seen two very confused expressions.
"Okay… I guess we can do that here. You're no longer interested in full custody?" Delaney asked, just as stupefied as Mulder and Scully.
"No," then Paul turned to his ex-wife, "Dana, look, it's dumb for us to be here. I know that you're not going to keep her from me. I'll drop everything if you just allow her to be with me for one weekend every other month, then two months during the summer. I'd also like Christmas and spring break. Is that going to be a problem?"
Scully was so shocked that she couldn't speak, but only shake her head. Looking at Mulder, she silently asked if he agreed. He did.
There was only a minimal amount of paperwork to do that day, but more would be coming later. Outside of the county building, Scully got the courage to leave Mulder's side and walk up to Paul. He was about to get into his white Lexus when she approached him.
"Hi Dana," he was the first to speak.
"Why did you change your mind?" she didn't want to waste any time.
"I realized it wasn't worth it."
"What does that mean?"
"Dane, we never really knew a lot about each other," Paul spoke honestly. Scully had to admit that was true. She'd never even met his parents. "But one thing we do know about each other is that we both love our daughter. And as much as I'm going to miss her, I can't hurt you without hurting her. So no custody case. No judges, no lawyers. Just… please make sure she's happy."
With tears in her eyes, Scully told him, "Of course I'll make her happy. I'd do anything to make her happy. And you really did the best thing, Paul. I would never keep her from you."
"I know that, Dana. You're a good mom."
"She's a good kid."
"She's your miracle."
And on that note, Paul got in his car and left.