Because you asked so nicely...
"Daddy, I'm hungry".
Mulder looked up as his daughter entered the lounge area of their hotel suite. Eyeing his watch, he realized that if they didn't soon make a move, they were going to be late.
"Why is it that you only call me "daddy" when you want something?"
"I just want some food". She plonked herself down on his lap, pouting. "I'm soooo hungry daddy".
"Your mom asked you barely ten minutes ago if you were hungry and you said no". Reaching out, Mulder traced his hand over the middle of her dress. "This is pretty", he said, pointing first to the flowers adorning the lower half of the cream dress, and then the one clipped into her curly hair. "It matches your hair".
"Don't mess up my hair!" she shrieked, the thought of food momentarily forgotten.
"Ok, ok, I won't. You're worse than your mom sometimes. Speaking of your mom, how's she doing?"
"You remember our surprise for later?"
She nodded. "It's a secret".
"In his room".
"And how's Ashley doing?"
"She looks pretty", commented Ellie, Mulder and Scully's youngest daughter, as she rested her head in the crook of her father's neck, forgetting all about her hair. Aged just seven years old, she was a daddy's girl through and through, though she was the spitting image of her mom and older sister, aside from her coloring. Piercing blue eyes, a button-like nose, and Scully's chin, Ellie had chestnut brown hair and Mulder's darker complexion, and was a more laid back version of Ashley. As the baby of the family, she was spoilt rotten by her parents, brother and sister, especially Ashley, who doted on her. Even twelve year old William, who was the living definition of a grumpy teenager – at least, according to Mulder, seemed to adore her, though the same couldn't be said when she was first born.
Soon after William's birth, Mulder and Scully decided to let nature take its own course when it came to birth control. If they had another child – great – but if not, they were more than happy with their little family. When, five years later, there was still just the four of them, they'd stopped thinking about a third child. So when Scully suffered a bout of sickness, they'd put it down to a stomach bug that had been doing the rounds at William's pre-school. Two weeks later, she collapsed at work and a subsequent round of tests revealed the news that she certainly wasn't expecting – she was six week's pregnant. The news came as a shock, but they were delighted to learn there would be a new addition to the family. A 20-week sonogram told them she was expecting a girl, and the rest of her pregnancy passed without incident. Mulder was there throughout – from the first bouts of morning sickness to the textbook delivery, this time in the comfort of a hospital rather than the middle of nowhere, and he willingly relinquished midwifery duty to the professionals. Six pound, ten ounce Ellie Grace Mulder completed the family, to William's disgust. He'd told his classmates and teacher he was having a brother, and they believed him up until the moment Scully turned up to collect him at school, carrying a tiny bundle of cuteness wrapped up in pink. Thankfully as the years passed, William managed to get over his disappointment.
"Is Ashley ready yet?"
"Almost. She needed mommy to help with her dress, and I said I was hungry and so they said you had some chocolate I could have". She grinned cheekily as Mulder have her a doubtful look.
"Nice try troublemaker, but I distinctly remember your mom banning chocolate until after you've walked down the aisle. Your sister would like at least one picture with you in a clean dress".
It was the day they'd been looking forward to – and dreading – for almost two years now, ever since Ashley had returned home from a romantic weekend in New York with her long term boyfriend Tyler and announced he'd popped the question. Her wedding day. Though her parents were happy for her, they found it hard to believe that their little girl had grown up and was getting married. And she was their little girl. She had been Mulder's from the moment he'd met her, when she wanted him to help rid her bedroom of the monsters hiding beneath her bed. Jack may have been present at her conception, but that was about the only influence he'd had on her. She was a fairheaded version of her mom, but thanks to all the time she'd spent with Mulder over the years, she'd developed his curiosity, his stubbornness (though he was pretty sure that was Scully's doing), and his habit for breaking the rules from time to time. And Mulder had been there for the milestones in her life – the loss of her first tooth, starting high school, graduating from college to begin a career as a vet, to her engagement. She and Tyler met at college and began dating just over a year later. Mulder wanted to hate him, he honestly did, but it had now been six years and he'd yet to find a reason to. Tyler was polite, funny and caring, he brought Scully flowers whenever he came to dinner, was a surrogate "cool" older brother for William, and even humoured Ellie when she forced him to attend dinner parties with her Barbies. And – most importantly – he idolized Ashley, who after everything she'd been through, deserved nothing but the best. When he'd approached Mulder shortly before his and Ashley's vacation to ask for her hand in marriage, Mulder welcomed him into the family with open arms.
"But I'm hungry daddy", whined Ellie. "I won't be strong enough to carry my flowers unless I have some food".
Mulder had to laugh at her words. Occasionally when she was tired, her dramatic side came out, reminding him of her sister when she was the same age. "Ok, ok, let me see if I can find you something to eat that won't make a mess. But if you're not hungry later when the food is served, your mom will kill me".
"Why will I kill you this time?" Scully asked, walking out into the lounge area, fixing an earring. "What's your dad done now Ellie?
The little girl sighed. "Mommy I'm hungry".
"How's Ashley?" Mulder interrupted, feeling nervous for his older daughter. She'd been incredibly calm in the run up to the wedding, even earlier that morning when she turned up at their hotel suite to get ready with Scully and Ellie.
"She's fine. She's asked us to go on ahead of you two", replied Scully as she took a seat next to Mulder and their daughter. She ran a hand through Ellie's wavy locks. Mulder noticed she didn't fuss when her mom touched her hair. "Your hair looks beautiful baby girl. Do you like it?"
"How are you holding up?" Mulder asked, taking in his partner's appearance. Her hair had grown over the years, and was now shoulder length. Today it had been curled and all pulled back, secured by a navy clips that matched the sleeveless mid-length dress she was wearing. She looked beautiful, definitely not like a fifty year old, but her eyes were soft and wet – Mulder could tell she was barely keeping it together.
"I'm ok". She didn't sound too sure.
"No" she conceded, leaning into his side. Mulder wrapped his free arm around her and pulled her in towards him. "Our baby's getting married Mulder".
"How did she grow up so fast?"
"I thought I was your baby?"
Grateful for the interruption, Scully leaned across and kissed Ellie's cheek. "You are all my babies. Speaking of which, where's William?"
"Mommy, I don't want to share a room with William tonight", Ellie whined.
"You shared a room last night".
"He told me ghost stories and I didn't like it".
"He told you ghost stories?" asked Scully, shooting a warning look over at Mulder. "I wonder where he got those from?" she added dryly. "Just tell him "no" if he tries it again tonight. Where is your brother?"
"He's in the bedroom talking to his girlfriend", replied Ellie, and Scully nodded in understanding. A confused Mulder looked between the girls in his arms. "Wait, William has a girlfriend?"
Ellie nodded. "Alice".
"She's in his English class", explained Scully, clearly bemused at Mulder's shock.
"How do you know that?"
"He told me".
"How come he told you and not me?"
"Because it's only fair that at least one of our kids comes to me and not you".
She was right; both Ashley and Ellie were daddy's girls, especially their youngest daughter. With her dark brown hair and cheeky grin, she reminded Mulder so much of his sister, and the way she sometimes terrorized William brought back memories of Samantha doing the same to him. But William was a mommy's boy in both looks and personality. "You didn't tell me", he sulked.
"I thought you guessed when I asked you to have "the talk" with him?"
"What talk?" asked Ellie, food now forgotten. It was amazing what kids picked up on even when you didn't think they were listening, thought Mulder, as he gave them a look that said they'd talk later.
"Never you mind Flower Girl", answered her mom, kissing her once more and wishing he could stay that age and that innocent forever. It seemed like only yesterday that Ashley was the same age, and now here she was, about to get married and start a family of her own. Though Scully hoped she took her time with that – Mulder would likely have a breakdown if a little being called him "grandpa" anytime soon.
"Will you give me the talk daddy?"
"Not at least for another thirty years".
"Ok enough talking. Ellie, go get your brother please and then let's make a move". As Ellie jumped up off of her dad's lap and raced off to find her brother, Scully turned to her partner, sensing his nervousness. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine", he replied unconvincingly.
"You know", began Scully, leaning over to lightly peck at his lips. "It's not that we're losing Ashley. We're just gaining another son". She grinned as Mulder paled.
"The son we have already costs us more than enough. I think I'll pass".
No sooner had Scully and the kids made their way out of the hotel suite, with Scully promising Ellie she would find her some food, the bedroom door opened and out walked Ashley. She took Mulder's breath away. Her long blonde hair and been curled and pinned up, like Scully's, with flowers woven through, while the dress she wore was long and elegant, a strapless ivory number, fitted at the waist before flaring out. She was beautiful.
"Wow", commented Mulder, his voice thick with emotion.
Ashley smiled nervously, as though waiting for his approval. His opinion had always been important to her and throughout her life she'd strived to make him proud. And he was.
"Hi", she replied as Mulder stood up and walked over to her.
"You look beautiful".
His words brought tears to her eyes. "Thank you".
"Are you ready?"
"Are you ready?"
Mulder chuckled. "I am".
Ashley hesitated. "Dad…?" Even now Mulder loved hearing that word, especially from Ashley, even if it was followed by a request for money or a lift somewhere. It had taken them a long time to get there, but it was worth it. When William had been born, Mulder had assured Ashley that he felt the same for both her and her brother – that he loved them equally – that as far as he was concerned, they were both his children. He stood by that, he loved all three of his kids. His only regret was that he hadn't known Ashley as a baby or toddler, that he hadn't been there for her first milestones. But he had more than made up for it over the years.
"When you married Diana…"
Mulder bit back a smile, remembering how as a child, Ashley hadn't been impressed with his former partner. "Yeah?"
"Did you…did you think you'd be together forever?"
"I…" His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why, are you having doubts? Because if you are, you –"
"I'm not", she replied instantly. "I'm sure about Tyler. I guess I was just wondering".
"Well…" he mused. "If I'm completely honest, I don't know if I did. I don't know if I even thought about it at the time. I…I loved her and I wanted to be with her at the time, but…I don't think we really thought too much about the future".
"What about mom? When did you know she was the one?"
"When she was sick", admitted Mulder. "I knew she meant a lot to me a lot earlier than that, but it was then I realized I couldn't lose her". He smiled. "Or you".
"I remember asking to live with you".
"I only wished I could have said yes at the time. But at least it worked out ok in the end".
"I got my wish".
"You helped us get together you know".
Ashley grinned proudly. "No I didn't".
"You did. Back when you were cheeky and adorable and –"
"And I called you to scare away monsters?"
"And you drew on my wall".
"And I painted your nails".
Laughing, Mulder shook his head. "I can't believe you remember that".
Sobering, Ashley moved in closer to her dad and squeezed his hand. She took a deep, measured breath before speaking. "Dad, I know that…" She tried again, swallowing hard. Mulder knew that whatever she was about to say, it clearly meant a lot to her. "I know that Jack wasn't a great dad. I don't really remember him, except for the fact he was never around. I know he didn't want me –"
"Ash", interrupted Mulder, gripping her hand tight. "It wasn't you –"
"I know, but I also know I hardly ever saw him. I just remember you taking me to the zoo instead of him".
"He wanted to come".
Ashley nodded. "But he didn't. You did, and you were there for me long before you and mom got together, even though I was nothing to you –"
"That's not true –"
"But all I'm saying is that you were there for me long before I called you dad. And as far as I'm concerned, you are my dad". Her voice cracked as she spoke. "And I just wanted you to know that, and to know how much I love you for adopting me and being my dad". Feeling himself fight back tears, Mulder reached out as Ashley stepped into his arms. "I look at you with Ellie and you're no different with her than you were with me, and I just wish I was yours".
"You are mine", Mulder answered, realizing his daughter was now crying. "The adoption certificate just proves what we knew already. You're my little girl". Ashley sniffed. "Hey, it's your wedding day, you're not allowed to cry".
"You're crying too".
"I've got something in my eye".
Huffing against him, Ashley pulled back, smiling as Mulder kissed her forehead. "I love you dad".
"I love you too. Now…" he said, wiping her tears away. "Let's go get married".
Scully sat at the table, deep in conversation with Maggie about the day's events. The service had gone off without a hitch – the weather beautiful enough for them to get married outside – and Ashley was now Mrs Scott. The photos had been taken, a wedding breakfast served, and the speeches had been a hit, especially Mulder's, which had made the bride, her mother and her grandmother shed a few tears. Now Mulder, William and Ellie had disappeared to who knew where, leaving Scully to do the rounds and chat with her family. "Mom?"
Scully looked up as Ashley approached the table, smiling proudly at her beautiful daughter. "Hi sweetheart. Have you seen your dad?"
Ashley looked nervous for a split second before answering. "He's outside. We're having to take a few more pictures and we need you".
"More pictures?" They'd already taken what felt like hundreds to Scully, and she wasn't even the bride. Somehow though, thankfully, Ellie had managed not to complain until the very end.
"You can never have enough wedding photos", commented Maggie.
"Surely you don't need any more of me?"
"I just wanted to get a few more of us mom, then I promise we're all done".
"Alright", sighed Scully as she got to her feet, smoothing down her dress. "Do you need your grandma to come?"
"Umm no", Ashley replied apologetically. "Just you for now".
"Go ahead", urged Maggie. "Your brother promised me a dance".
Leaving her mom to find Charlie, Scully followed her daughter, who paused momentarily to link arms with her. "Dad did a great job with his speech".
"He's been worrying about that for weeks". They headed out of the hotel building and towards the river close to where Ashley and Tyler had said their vows. Scully could see that the area had been lit up by candlelight. "Ashley, it's getting dark. Are you sure you want more pictures outside?"
"It'll be fine mom", her daughter reassured her.
"Ok then". Scully didn't sound too convinced. Still she knew better than to argue with a bride on her wedding day. "I still can't believe you're married. My baby!"
Ashley grinned, her whole face lighting up. She looked so happy, Scully thought, and she deserved it too. "I know. It still doesn't seem real. This day is going by in a blur".
"Well enjoy it. You've certainly put enough effort into it".
As they approached the pavilion, Scully was aware of five familiar figures ahead of her, dimly lit by the candlelight, but before she could process it all, Ashley suddenly paused and drew her in for a hug. "I love you mom", she said, embracing her tightly.
"Oh baby, I love you too".
"Thank you for everything you've done for me. If Tyler and I are half as happy as you and dad are, that's more than enough for me". Pulling away, Ashley's eyes caught sight of something – or someone – behind Scully, and her smile widened. Taking hold of her mom's hand, she led her forward, until Scully realized who she'd been smiling at. Mulder. And the reason she was smiling, was because he was down on bended knee. To his left stood Tyler and William, while Ellie sat on one of the chairs that had been set out for the wedding. She jumped up, grinning eagerly as soon as she noticed her mom.
Tears immediately sprung to Scully's eyes. "Mulder…?" she asked cautiously. "What are you doing?"
He smiled. "What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Get up". She couldn't believe what appeared to be happening. Her family had been in on it the whole time. She'd been set up.
"In a second, I have something to ask you first".
"Get over here Scully". His grin widened as he ignored her.
"You'll ruin your pants on the grass".
"I don't care".
"Those stains will never come out". Scully was rambling now, tears threatening to fall at any moment. Ashley squeezed her arm reassuringly before walking over to stand by her little sister.
"Scully, will you shut up for a second? I'm trying to propose".
There, he'd said it, just in case she hadn't gotten the hint with him on bended knee holding out a diamond ring to her. Taking a very shaky breath, Scully stepped forward almost hesitantly, swallowing the lump that had formed in her throat. It the ring, she noticed through watery eyes as she moved closer. The same ring Ashley had presented to her when Mulder had died. The ring he'd bought for her, intending to ask her to marry him all those years ago. The same ring she'd thrown at him and could never find, presuming it had been lost down the back of the counter forever. Apparently not.
"Where did you find that?"
Mulder grinned. "Ashley found it that night and gave it to me later. I've been keeping it ever since, waiting for the right moment". Scully sniffed as she realized that the three diamonds now represented their three children. "Marry me".
"Mulder, not now".
"Why not?" Still his smile didn't fade, though Scully could see the uncertainty in his eyes.
"It's Ashley and Tyler's wedding day".
"It's ok mom", Ashley spoke up, and Tyler nodded in agreement. "I was the one who suggested that dad did it today".
"It was the only way I'd get you here", added Mulder. "Usually you do anything you can do avoid a proposal".
"That's not true", Scully sniffed. "I said yes once".
"You were also high on drugs because you'd just given birth to Ellie. I'm pretty sure you'd have agreed to anything that day". He had a point, she conceded. "So how about it Scully? I know we always said we didn't need it, that it wouldn't change anything between us, but I want you to be my wife". Scully's tears spilled over. "I think you know by now how much you mean to me, but if you have any doubt, I love you. I've loved you for a long long time, even back when you wore those awful jackets with the giant shoulder pads…."
Ellie turned to her sister, confused. "What does daddy mean?"
"He's just being weird", answered William but even he was grinning as he watched his parents.
"And I'm pretty damn sure you love me too. We've faced so much together, but you saved me time and time again, and you gave me three beautiful children". Scully was crying in earnest now as she lifted a hand to wipe her eyes. Mulder got up from the ground and closed the gap between them, taking hold of her free hand. His eyes were wet too, she realized, and she fell in love with him all over again. "You helped me through illness and death and loss and flukemen and a lot of other things that these guys don't need to know about. You once said you wouldn't change a day, and neither would I. I'd do it all again if it meant standing here in front of you now, even if I am still coming to terms with the fact that one day soon we're going to be grandparents". Finally Scully laughed, leaning into him as he pressed his lips to her forehead. "So I'm asking you…Dana Katherine Scully…love of my life, mother of my kids…"
"Maker of your lunch?" Scully supplied, her voice thick with emotion.
"That too. Will you please, finally do me the honor of being my wife?"
Mulder held his breath as he waited for Scully to answer. It seemed to take forever. Even the kids started to get impatient, with Ellie practically bouncing up and down. Mulder wasn't going to rush her though, even though he was desperate for her answer. Finally William spoke up. "Say yes mom!"
His words managed to break Scully out of her spell, and after sniffing hard she nodded, grinning up at her partner…her husband to be. "Yes", she replied, her voice barely a whisper.
"YES!" Ellie exclaimed, running over to embrace her parents. Barely taking his eyes off of Scully, Mulder leaned down to pull Ellie up into his arms, before kissing her mom soundly. He could barely make out William, Ashley and Tyler's congratulations as he embraced Scully, putting on a display that was bordering on inappropriate in front of the kids. Breathlessly they pulled apart, and as Scully reached her hand up to rub his cheek, he realized he was crying too. "Finally", he smirked, pressing his forehead to Scully's.
She nodded, laughing nervously. "We did it".
Scully sat in her chair, smiling at the scene in front of her. Ellie had ordered Mulder to dance, and was currently stood on her daddy's shoes as he shuffled them around the corner of the dance floor. To their right, Ashley and Tyler were enjoying yet another dance together as man and wife. As she returned her attention to her partner – or fiancé – she reminded herself, her right index finger caressing the unfamiliar yet familiar shape of her engagement ring, Mulder looked over at her and caught her eye. *Get over here Scully*, he mouthed, and without hesitation she rose from her seat and wandered over to them.
"Are you guys having fun?" she asked as she neared them, and Ellie glanced up to nod at her mom. Mulder lifted his daughter up into his arms, settling her on his hip, while with his now free hand, he pulled Scully in towards him.
"How about you?"
"You know what? I'm having a good day actually".
"We could really wipe the smile off Bill's face right now", Mulder commented as he glanced across the room at Scully's brother and sister-in-law who were also up on the dancefloor.
"We could", Scully agreed, grinning mischievously. "But I don't want to be responsible for giving my brother a coronary. I figured I'll wait until they get home and call Tara with the news. She can pass it on".
"At least he'll be back on the other side of the country. He won't be able to hit you from there".
"You make a good argument". As Scully laughed, they resumed their dancing. Mulder caught sight of William walking across the dancefloor with his cousin Matthew. "Hey Will", he called. "Where's your tie?"
William frowned. "Where's yours?" Without waiting for a response, he continued towards the table and took a seat.
"Honestly, that kid hates me".
"No he doesn't".
"We should have given him up for adoption. It would have saved us a lot of hassle".
"Why would we give William up for adoption?" Ellie asked seriously, her eyes wide in concern. Scully glared at her partner.
"We wouldn't sweetheart", she reassured her. "Your daddy's trying to be funny".
"Can I sleep with you and mommy tonight?"
Mulder tried – and failed – to hide a grimace. Sleeping in the same bed as Ellie pretty much ended up in not sleeping at all. His daughter tended to take up the majority of the bed, while Mulder and Scully clung onto the edges for dear life. "What's wrong with your room?"
"Will told me ghost stories last night. And he said there was a monster hiding under my bed".
Scully smiled. "I remember when Ashley used to say that too". So did Mulder. It was how he first met the youngster.
"So there is a monster underneath my bed?"
"Your mom didn't mean that", Mulder said. "There's no such thing as monsters". He glared at Scully as she smirked, no doubt thinking she'd been telling him that for years. "You'll be fine. But…" he added, looking into Ellie's eyes and realizing he was about to lose the battle. "I guess you can sleep with us. But just for tonight".
"She's got you wrapped around her little finger".
"When we get married, we're having a honeymoon, and we're leaving the kids at home".
"Alone?" Ellie asked in horror.
"No baby, you can stay at Grandma's. Or Ashley's".
"By the time we finally get married, Ashley will probably have a few kids of her own. She won't want ours". Scully grinned as she saw Mulder pale. "What?"
"Let's not talk about that".
"She is married".
"She's still my baby".
"I thought I was your baby?" repeated Ellie.
"You are. I –"
"Dad?" Mulder looked to see Ashley walking towards him, with Tyler close behind. "Hey. Can I cut in?"
"Of course you can sweetheart", said Scully, taking Ellie from Mulder's arms. He left the two of them dancing together with Tyler and stepped in towards his first-born.
"You did it", she said excitedly, stepping in to his arms.
"So did you".
"I'm so glad she said yes".
"God me too. I couldn't have handled yet another no". Ashley laughed. "It was all thanks to you though. It all was, right from the word go".
"I'm just glad it was you. I love you dad".
Grinning, Mulder hugged his daughter. "Love you too Tigger".
The end of the whole story!
I know some of you were thinking I'd touch upon season 9, but I like to pretend that season never happened. It may be that some day in the future I fill in some of the gaps between Existence and the epilogue (I do have an idea for IWTB and for some chapters involving William and Ellie, and who knows what will happen now the show is coming back), but for the moment, this is it, and I need a break after the TWO YEARS(?!) it took me to write this. Thank you so much to everyone for reading and reviewing, I really appreciate it all.