Immediately After One Breath

"I kept this for you." He said, pulling her gold cross out of his pocket. "Thought you might like to have it back."

He held the delicate chain out and dropped it into her hand. Then, without a glance at her Mother or sister, he turned and left the room.

"Wow." Missy said, shaking her head. "I don't blame you for keeping him at arm's length, Dana."

"What? Who? What are you talking about?" Dana asked absently, clasping the gold chain around her neck.

"Mulder!" Missy exclaimed. "I admit; when I first met him I thought he was the best looking man I'd ever seen but five minutes later that idea was completely eclipsed by the weirdness. Is he always like that?"

"Melissa!" Maggie said, her voice a strange mixture of happiness and disapproval, "You know you've only met Fox under the most stressful of circumstances; you're not being fair."

"Mom," Missy sighed, "I've spent most of the week with him and even counting the nature of the circumstances, he's one dark and tormented individual."

"It's okay, Mom." Dana intervened, seeing her mother's frown. "Mulder can be a pretty odd character." She looked at her sister. "But I don't hold him at arm's length! We spend practically all our time together. We're friends."

"Friends?" Missy raised an eyebrow.

"I can't wait to tell him you think he's great looking!" Dana giggled. "He'll be so flattered!"

"I doubt it." Missy answered. "We pretty much fought over you all week."

"Wha-why?" Dana looked from her sister to her mother.

"Fox was against us enacting your living will, Honey." Maggie said, gently. "He didn't want us taking you off of the respirator."

"He blamed himself for your condition." Missy put in. "Does he always carry the weight of the world on his shoulders?"

"He tries." Dana admitted with a smirk. "But he tends to leave the paperwork to me."

"All that intensity..." Missy shook her head. "A man like that would swallow you whole."

"You're the one who thinks he's a hottie!" Dana teased.

"You're the one he's in love with." Missy said flatly.

Maggie dropped her gaze to her hands, clasped in her lap. Dana's mouth dropped open in shock and then she went off into peals of laughter.

"Oh Missy, you're crazy!" she finally gasped. She didn't notice the look her mother and sister shared.

"It radiates off him in sheets!" Missy insisted. "It almost knocked me down a couple of times."

"Oh!" Dana shook her head, impatiently. "Missy, this has been a difficult time for everyone. Mulder's intensity probably has more to do with reliving the loss of his sister than anything else."

"As usual, Dana, you refuse to believe anything you can't weigh and test." Missy scoffed. "I'm telling you; that man is head over heels in love with you and you'd better be careful."

"Or what?" Dana demanded. "I'm telling you, Missy; you don't know Mulder at all and once again you're projecting your fantasies all over my life." She closed her eyes in exhaustion and sighed "And you think Mulder's weird."

"If you're really his friend, you be careful," her sister insisted. "You could destroy him and you don't seem to know that."

"He's a lot stronger than you think." Dana retorted, glaring at her sister. "And he knows that I would never hurt him."

"You'd never hurt him on purpose but someday, he's going to want more..."

"Stop it! Mulder's never made any demands on me and I don't expect him to start!" Even as Dana leapt to Mulder's defense, her mind flashed to the midnight phone calls, the weekends when work suddenly popped up, the few dates she'd had since going to work on the X-files interrupted and she knew she was lying. This knowledge only made her angrier at her sister. "Just because you've never had a non-sexual relationship with a man doesn't mean it's impossible."

"Just because no man's ever been in love with you, doesn't mean that's impossible." Missy retorted.

There's no telling where this battle between the sisters would have lead had they not been distracted by a burst of laughter from Maggie, who couldn't contain herself any longer.

"Listen to you two fight!" she laughed. "Nothing the doctors could have told me about your prognosis could reassure me as much as listening to you two go at each other like cats and dogs." she turned her smile to Dana. "Oh, it's good to have you back, Sweetheart!"

Missy and Dana looked at each other and started to laugh too, the disagreement evaporating as quickly as a lifetime of others.

The three of them talked for a while longer but Dana began to look tired and her Mom and sister prepared to leave so she could get some rest. After hugging Dana, Missy straightened up and looked down at her little sister appraisingly.

"What?" Dana asked, warily.

"It'll all be okay," Missy said nodding. "Between you and Mulder, I mean. I see the two of you, under the trees and stars...his head is in your lap and you're...singing."

"I'm singing?" Dana's eyebrow flew up, doubtfully.

"Yeah." Missy said. "I think it's...Old Fashioned Love Song."

"Three Dog Night?"

"Yeah; that's it." Missy nodded confidently. Dana shook her head.

"And you think Mulder's weird." she sighed as her sister laughed and walked out the door.