Collage by Tiffany - archived at Tiffany's X-Phile Heaven

TITLE:  Transcendent Sacrifices
AUTHOR:  Lara Means
E-MAIL:  LaraMeansXF@aol.com 
WEBSITE:  www.reocities.com/larameans_2000
CLASSIFICATION:  SRA
RATING:  R
ARCHIVE:  Gossamer, NO; Spookys, NO (I'll submit directly to 
both); Ephemeral, YES; Xemplary, YES; anywhere else, YES, but if 
possible please let me know
SPOILERS:  Small ones for Paper Hearts, Memento Mori, Tempus 
Fugit, Detour, Emily, Chinga, Agua Mala, The Unnatural, Amor 
Fati, Millennium, Closure, Hollywood A.D., Je Souhaite, Requiem.  
(post-ep for Requiem; sequel to my stories "Someone I Once Knew" 
and "Contact")
SUMMARY:  "You can't always get what you want, but if you try 
sometimes, you might find you get what you need." - The Rolling 
Stones.
DATE POSTED:  10/09/00
FEEDBACK:  Encouraged and welcomed at LaraMeansXF@aol.com
DISCLAIMER:  U.S. copyright law says that the studio is the 
author of a movie or television show, not the writer or creator.  
Which means that "The X-Files" ultimately belongs to Rupert 
Murdoch.  (Of course, it was *created* by Chris Carter, and 
brought to life by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.)  I mean 
no infringement, Mr. M. -- I do this for love.
AUTHOR'S NOTE:  Despite the summary, this is *so* not songfic.
Heartfelt thanks and eternal gratitude to Nic Simpson and Diana 
Battis for their advice and encouragement.  Also, thank you to 
everyone who sent feedback on "Someone" and "Contact."  
(Additional notes at the end.)
This story is set on Columbus Day weekend, October 12, 13 and 
14, 2013.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TRANSCENDENT SACRIFICES
Written by Lara Means

There are clouds in the distance.  Some are thin and wispy, 
others are thicker and darker.  If it were later in the day, the 
setting sun would paint them in streaks of dusky rose, rusty 
orange, blue gray.  But it's early yet, just after lunchtime, so 
the only colors in the sky are yellow and white, touched by 
shades of blue.
I close my eyes and let the cool fall breeze caress my face.  As 
I breathe in the salty fragrance of the ocean, the sounds of the 
other people on the dock fade away.  My body hums with 
anticipation, with anxiety, with fear, with wonder.
Amazing, how life can change so quickly.  Six months ago, we 
were in an altogether different place.  The only thing on track 
was my career -- after years of dancing around the possibility, 
I'd decided to become a 'regular' doctor.  At my age, the 
additional training and long hours required for my residency 
were tougher than I'd imagined, which didn't help things at 
home.  As it was, my marriage was merely tolerable -- not exactly 
unhappy, but not exactly happy either.
Then came the difficult Memorial Day weekend with his parents in 
Pennsylvania, when he finally confronted my ambivalence and 
asked me, flat out, if I wanted a divorce.  My answer, an 
ambivalent "I don't know," just made him angry.
On the drive home, everything changed.  In an instant.  With the 
sickening sounds of scraping metal, shattering glass, my little 
girl's screams... and the sight of my husband's blood.
Barely more than a month later, another paradigm shift -- Sara 
contacted her father, wanted to meet him.  I approached the 
whole thing as something *she* needed, ignoring how I felt about 
seeing him again.  I was certain that he still hated me for what 
I did to him, denying him the opportunity to be her father 
before he even knew about her.  But my daughter, wise beyond her 
years, knew he didn't hate me -- he thought I hated *him* for 
turning his back on us, on her.  He still loved me, she said, 
and I know she had high hopes for our reunion.

I hear the disembodied loudspeaker voice announce that the ferry 
to Martha's Vineyard will be boarding in a few minutes.  I open 
my eyes and glance around for Sara -- she's nowhere in sight.
Panic grips me and I call out for her.  For the first time in 
years, I wish I still carried a weapon.  "Sara?  Sara!"
Then I see her, hurrying over to me from the snack bar, two 
bottles of Diet Coke in her hands.  I'm so relieved I could 
almost cry.  I try to hide it, but she sees right through me.
"Mom, I'm fine, I'm right here."  She hands me a soda, sees my 
trembling hand.  "Are you okay?"
I nod, letting out a shaky breath.  "You just... I didn't know 
where you were."
"I told you I was going to get us something to drink."  She 
gives me an appraising look, shakes her head.  "You've been an 
ex-FBI Agent for how many years?  C'mon, Mom, I thought we were 
past all this paranoia stuff."
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I became obsessed 
with keeping my baby safe.  Even with Skinner's assurance that 
the Smoking Man was really dead, I couldn't allow myself to take 
her safety for granted.  Cancerman wasn't our only enemy -- 
Krycek and Covarrubias were still out there somewhere, and God 
only knew what their agenda was.  I had to stay alert, even 
after I left the Bureau and we moved to New York.
But that was nearly six years ago.  Sara's right, we should be 
past all that.  We're safe now.  I slip my arm around her and 
pull her close.  "I'm sorry, Sweetie.  Old habits."
She hugs me back, then grabs my suitcase.  "Ferry's boarding."

We stand together on the deck of the old ferry as it chugs 
across the sound, taking us to him.  To Mulder.
His life has changed drastically, too.  In three short months, 
he's become a father.  I imagine it's one thing to know there's 
a child out there who's a part of you, but another thing 
entirely to come face to face with her, to try and become a real 
part of her life.  He's in New York practically every weekend, 
taking Sara to baseball games, basketball games, museums, 
movies, plays, concerts...  She's visited him on the Vineyard a 
few times when he wasn't able to come to New York.  Sara's 
blossomed under his influence, becoming more confident and self-
assured, comfortable with her innate beauty.  And Mulder -- he's 
embraced his new role with as much passion as he devoted to his 
work over the years.  He savors every moment he spends with his 
daughter.
It was her idea for the three of us to spend Columbus Day 
weekend together.  Tomorrow's his birthday, her first to 
celebrate with him, and she's really looking forward to it.  She 
picked out his gift and has already made reservations for us to 
take him out to dinner at the best restaurant on the Vineyard 
Sunday night.  And I think she's hoping that spending three days 
and two nights in his house will bring the two of us closer.
Ever since she first contacted him, Sara's harbored a not-so-
secret desire for us to resume our relationship.  Whenever 
Mulder's in New York, she does her best to turn whatever they're 
doing into a 'family thing.'  By the time I sat her down to 
explain that Mulder came to see *her*, it was too late -- he'd 
already started to add a 'family' event to his weekend 
schedules.  And on more than one occasion, Sara has claimed a 
headache or tummyache and stayed with the Caldwells, leaving 
Mulder and me to go out alone.
Not that I mind, really.  Even at nearly fifty-two, the man can 
still turn my insides to jelly.  Mulder's always been 
attractive, but as he's aged, he's become quite handsome.  The 
streaks of gray in his hair, the smile lines at his eyes, the 
way those eyes can still see into my heart... not to mention the 
glasses.
That I love Mulder is a given -- but I don't know how he feels, 
what he wants.  On some level, I'm afraid he's still angry with 
me for marrying another man.  That he doesn't love me anymore.

Sara's hand on my arm and her urgent "Mom!" rouse me, and I turn 
to her.  "I called your name three times.  Where were you?"
I shake my head and smile at her.  "Woolgathering.  What's up?"
She fidgets momentarily, a sure indication that she has 
something to say that she doesn't want to.  "I'm not..."  Then she 
takes a deep breath and dives in.  "I want to move in with Dad 
for a while."
Nothing could surprise me more than this.  All I can do is blink 
at her, my mouth falling open.  She takes my hand and squeezes 
it, hurrying to explain.
"You know I love you, Mom, I love you more than anything.  It's...  
I want to get to know him better, and it's hard to do that just 
on weekends."
She wants to live with him.  She wants to leave me and live with 
him.
I try to hide the hurt and confusion I'm feeling, but my voice 
is unsteady.  "Have you talked to your father about this?"
Sara shakes her head.  "I wanted to talk to you first."
"So you spring it on me five minutes before we dock."  She 
doesn't say anything, just stares at her sneakers.  Her new 
sneakers.  That Mulder bought for her.  I take a deep breath and 
shake off the jealousy that has inexplicably surged inside me.  
"I'll talk to him.  We'll figure it out."
She nods, and we stand together side by side.  A long moment 
passes, and she puts a hand on my arm.  "Mom?  I'm sorry.  I 
didn't mean...  You know I love you, right?"  I turn my arm under 
her hand, and she links her fingers with mine.  But I don't say 
anything.

With a glance at me for approval, Sara hurries ahead when the 
ferry docks, snaking her way past the people boarding from the 
island.  I stop on the gangway -- I see him.  He's standing on a 
footbridge, his arms on the rail.  He's staring off toward the 
water, confident that she'll find him.  And she does.
"Daddy!"  At the sound of her voice, he turns and smiles.  My 
God, that smile.  I can count on one hand the times I've seen 
that smile.  Sara runs into his arms and he holds her tight, 
lifting her up and spinning her around.  He puts her down and 
kisses her, then draws her close for another hug.  From the 
looks of them, you'd never guess it's only been a week since 
they last saw each other.
I stand here on the gangway, watching them.  I let my emotions 
run free -- they aren't paying any attention to me anyway, so I 
don't feel the need to hide.
Since before she was born, I've wanted this for her.  I prayed 
that Mulder would be returned in time for her birth, and I cried 
when he wasn't.  I tried to make up for his absence, but Sara 
knew better.  She liked Ethan, may have even loved him, but she 
never bonded with him the way she's bonded with Mulder.  And 
Mulder... he loves her beyond reason.  This man was meant to be a 
father -- no, he was meant to be a *daddy*.  I've known that 
about him ever since Emily.  He was so gentle with her, so 
loving, so... endearingly goofy.  He was the only person who could 
make her smile.  Like Sara's smiling now.
She turns around, her eyes searching for me.  Mulder looks up 
too, and his eyes lock with mine.  The mask slips quickly into 
place and I wave -- and hurriedly blink back tears when I find 
myself on the receiving end of that smile.
I reach them and Mulder gathers me in for a hug.  He kisses my 
cheek like he always does, but then he takes my face in his 
hands and stares into my eyes.  My mind flashes back to the 
first time he kissed me -- New Year's Eve, 1999.  His eyes were 
smiling then, the same way they're smiling now.  He leans in and 
presses his soft, soft lips to mine...
When he pulls away my eyes come open -- I didn't realize they'd 
closed -- and he's still close, still smiling.  My left eyebrow 
rises a few millimeters and he brushes his thumb lightly over 
it.  "I'm so glad you're here," he whispers.  I've lost the 
ability to speak, so I just return his smile.
Mulder takes my suitcase and Sara's hand, and we move toward the 
parking lot.  Sara reaches back for me, her eyebrow raised and a 
little Cheshire Cat smile on her lips.  I've seen that look 
before -- hell, I've *given* that look before.  I shake my head 
and take her hand, smiling up at Mulder, who's watching us.  He 
looks happy.  He's looked happy ever since July.  And that makes 
me happy.

Mulder's house is in the town of Oak Bluffs, on a private beach 
facing northeast, toward Nantucket.  It's a two-story Cape Cod 
with a fenced-in front yard, green and lush even in October.  
Sara runs up to the porch, bouncing on the balls of her feet 
waiting for us.  Mulder smiles indulgently as he unlocks the 
door -- and Sara's immediately tackled by forty pounds of 
panting, affectionate black Lab.
"Who's this?" I ask as Sara rolls on the floor while the dog 
licks her face.
"Spooky," Mulder says, and I cast a glance at him.  He grins.  
"Seemed like a good idea at the time."
I laugh and crouch down, extending my hand to the dog.  Spooky 
sniffs, then tentatively licks my hand.  I reach up and scratch 
its head, which sets its tail wagging.  The dog puts a paw on my 
leg and leans in to lick me under my chin.  Sara giggles at 
that.  "She likes you, Mom."
Spooky soon tires of me once she spots Mulder taking a leash 
from a hook by the door.  He fastens the leash to her collar, he 
says, "Sara, why don't you get your mom settled, give her the 
grand tour while I take Spooky out?"
Mulder and Spooky go outside and Sara shows me around.  It's a 
beautiful home -- I don't know what I'd expected, but somehow I 
don't think it was this.  The first floor has a spacious living 
room and comfortable kitchen, with the master bedroom on one 
end.  Upstairs is a study, the room dominated by Mulder's old 
black leather couch.  I run my hand along the soft, well worn 
leather, a hint of a smile on my lips.
"What?"
I shake my head, but I can't look at her just now.  "Pleasant 
memories," I tell her.  Pleasant indeed.  Mulder and me, wrapped 
up in each other.  The taste of beer and popcorn and Mulder in 
my mouth.  'Caddyshack' in the background, before our moans and 
groans and sighs and screams finally drown out everything else.
I can feel Sara's eyes on me, a blush rising in my cheeks.  "If 
you tell me I was conceived on that couch, I'm never sitting on 
it again."
I laugh and throw an arm around her, keeping that little detail 
to myself.  I think I see a shudder run through my daughter's 
body as she shows me to the guest room.  I deposit my suitcase 
there and Sara gives me The Eyebrow -- I shoot it right back at 
her and she sighs, moving on to the other bedroom on the second 
floor.  Her room.
It's bigger than her room at our apartment in New York.  There 
are no hints of Mulder here -- this is her space, a sanctuary 
he's created for her in his home.  She's standing back, just 
inside the doorway, waiting for my approval.  I walk over to the 
bed, where a new collection of stuffed animals hold court.  I 
pick up the one in the middle -- a small gray alien, with a big 
head and slanted black eyes -- and I have to smile.
"Dad got me that the last time I was here," she says in a very 
small voice, and I'm ashamed that I've been so selfish in 
considering this thing.  She wants to live with him because she 
loves him, not because she doesn't love me.  This is something 
she needs, and her needs are more important than mine -- isn't 
that what being a mother is all about?
Putting the little alien back among his friends, I turn to Sara.  
"It's perfect, Sweetie.  It's you."
My daughter smiles at me, and I see it.  His smile.  *That* 
smile.

Sara and I sit on the back porch, watching the waves and letting 
the stress wash away.  We're comfortable in our silence, just 
rocking slowly in the porch swing, my arm around her, stroking 
the long, thick hair I've envied since she was a toddler.  We 
hear a dog barking, then I spot Mulder coming up the beach, 
Spooky dragging him along behind her.  When he's closer to the 
house he lets the dog off her leash and she comes bounding up 
the sand toward us, tail wagging happily.  Sara gets up just 
then and gives Spooky a pat on the head, then goes inside -- for 
what, I'm not sure.
Mulder trudges up to the porch and drops onto the swing next to 
me, breathing hard.  His head falls back, eyes closed, a thin 
sheen of sweat on his face.  His mouth quirks in a wry grin.  
"I'll be glad when Spooky's as old as I am," he mumbles, and I 
suppress a laugh.  "It's worse now than when she was a puppy.  
At least then I could amuse her with a rubber ball and a few 
squeaky toys."  I can't suppress the laugh anymore, and after a 
second he joins in.
Sara comes out with a small towel and a bottle of water, already 
opened.  I'm impressed and proud of her, and I give her a smile 
as she hands them to Mulder with a kiss on the top of his head.
"Eww, Dad, your hair's all sweaty."
"That's 'cause I'm old, baby girl," he tells her, wiping his 
face.
Sara moves behind the swing, puts her arms around his neck and 
kisses him again.  "You, old?  Never."  She grabs the towel and 
starts rubbing his hair vigorously.  Mulder laughs as she does.
I love watching them together.  Their easy interaction, their 
close bond, their obvious love...  I can't help but wonder how 
things would've turned out under different circumstances.  If 
I'd found out I was pregnant sooner.  If Mulder hadn't gone to 
Oregon.  If he'd been returned sooner.  If I hadn't married 
Ethan.  If I'd divorced him when Mulder came home.  If Mulder 
hadn't decided to stay away.
If.
Sara tosses the towel in Mulder's lap and kisses his head again.  
"There.  All dry."
"You're pretty good at that.  Considering a career as a barber?"  
He gives me a wink, and I play along.
"We've got her application for cosmetology school all ready to 
go."
Sara gives me The Look, which she just gets better and better 
at, and laughs.  "Oh yeah, I can't wait.  Can I go play with 
Spooky?"
At the mention of her name, Spooky perks up, tail wagging.  
Mulder nods, and they're off toward the water.  "Don't go too 
far," I call after them.
Mulder and I sit back and watch them play for a few minutes.  
"That's what I need," he says softly, "a kid to keep her busy."
I don't say anything about Sara wanting to live with him just 
yet.  Now's not the time.  So I ask about something else -- in 
truth, the only thing about Sara's request that still troubles 
me.  Mulder's work.
After he left the Bureau, Mulder decided as I did that he wanted 
to do something else with his life.  Even though, according to 
Frohike, Mulder would never have to work another day in his 
life, I know him -- if he stayed home all the time, he'd go stir 
crazy.  So he continued his training in psychology, and went to 
work as a consultant for the National Center for Missing and 
Exploited Children.  He mostly works with recovered children, 
helping them cope with their experiences.  Sometimes, though, 
he's called in when a child is reported missing, to talk with 
the parents.  To determine whether they're victims or 
perpetrators.  His status as a former FBI profiler is valuable 
to them -- but I believe they call on Mulder too often, when 
local law enforcement could handle the job.
"How'd it go in Atlanta yesterday?" I ask him.  Sara and I were 
supposed to arrive last night, but he was called out of town 
suddenly.  That's what concerns me.
He sighs, shakes his head.  "Not good."
"I thought it was a recovery."
"I didn't want Sara to worry."  He's quiet for a moment, and I 
turn on the swing, facing him.  I reach over to gently stroke 
his arm, and he goes on.  "Seven-year-old boy, reported missing 
on Wednesday.  I got there Thursday evening, and I knew.  I knew 
just by looking at them."
I lace my fingers with his, smooth his hair where Sara left it 
mussed.  "Parents?"
"Mom's boyfriend."  I slip my arm around him and draw him close.  
He lays his head on my shoulder and sighs.  "I've been doing 
this work, or something like it, for my entire life, Scully, and 
I have never understood -- never *will* understand -- how anyone 
could harm a child."
We're both watching Sara now as she plays with the dog, and I 
think we're both offering up a silent prayer of thanks.  That 
she's ours.  That she's healthy and strong and safe.  That she's 
here at all.  And I know, deep down, he's thinking about 
Samantha too, the pain she went through.
I lean down and rest my head on his, and his silky hair tickles 
my nose.  He looks up at me, and I can see a shadow of his own 
pain in his eyes.  I press my lips to his forehead, lingering 
there for a long time.  When I pull back he moves in closer and 
hesitantly kisses me.  It's brief, but it's charged -- I have to 
fight the urge to follow his lips with my own when he releases 
me.  I'm rewarded for my restraint when his eyes flick to my 
mouth and he whispers my name, then draws me to him again.
This kiss is beyond charged.  This kiss is lightning.  He tugs 
on my lower lip, then his tongue soothes it, and I open my mouth 
to taste him.  God, it's been so long since I've tasted him...
We take our time, exploring, reacquainting ourselves.  His hand 
comes up to caress my cheek, mine tangles in his hair -- it's 
almost like that night thirteen years ago, when we first gave in 
to what we'd felt for so long.
The sounds of Spooky barking and Sara laughing bring us both 
back to the present.  We end the kiss, both smiling a little 
shyly.  Mulder traces my lips with his finger, sending a shiver 
through me, and murmurs, "I've missed you so much."
I'm getting a better idea of how Mulder feels.

We decide to take it easy the rest of the day, just enjoying 
each other's company.  Mulder fired up the grill for hamburgers 
and hot dogs, I made my mom's potato salad, and Sara assembled 
ice cream sundaes from the several flavors in his freezer -- her 
favorite, and mine, and a couple more for good measure.
All during dinner, he touches me.  Kisses me.  At one point he 
wipes a smudge of chocolate syrup from the corner of my mouth, 
then licks it from his thumb.  This simple action, paired with 
his eyes staring into mine, is incredibly sensual -- at least, 
until we hear Sara's comment: "That's either really romantic or 
really disgusting, I can't decide which."
After the sun sets it turns quite chilly, and we spend the rest 
of the evening inside watching a movie.  Sara's taste in movies 
has always been a lot like her father's -- raucous comedies and 
old sci-fi.  Tonight she picks 'Plan 9 From Outer Space' -- I sit 
between them, eating buttered popcorn and laughing myself silly 
as they take turns reciting the dialogue.
Sara says goodnight soon after the movie ends.  Mulder and I 
clean up the kitchen, then I go up to tuck her in.  I sit on the 
bed behind her to brush her hair, something that's become one of 
our nightly rituals in the past few months.
"Did you have a good time today?"  She suppresses a yawn as she 
nods.  "Tired?"
"Um-hmm.  Dad can be handful."
"You don't know the half of it," I say with a smile.  "I like 
watching you two together."
"I was just gonna say the same thing about you," she tells me, 
then grins.  "Except for that chocolate syrup thing.  That was 
just weird."
I laugh a little, brushing and waiting for her to ask me.  I 
don't have to wait long.
"Have you talked to him yet?"  She sounds almost apologetic.
I shake my head.  "Not yet.  But I will."
She stares at her fingernails for a moment, turns to face me.  
"Mom..."
"It's okay, Sweetie.  I'm not mad.  I understand, really I do.  
When I was your age, my father and I were very close -- I want 
that for you and your dad."
Her voice gets soft.  "Was Daddy close to his father?"
I honestly don't know how to answer that.  I know so little of 
what Mulder's life was like before Samantha disappeared.  Then I 
remember...  "I think they were when he was a little boy.  He told 
me once they were Indian Guides together."  She looks at me 
skeptically -- practically the same look I gave Mulder at the 
time.  "Didn't help him when we were stranded in a forest one 
night."
"Your fire-starting skills left a lot to be desired too," we 
hear from the doorway.  Mulder and I share a smile at the 
memory, then he winks at Sara.  "Although she does a killer 
rendition of 'Joy to the World.'"
"You don't have to tell me," Sara giggles, "I've heard her 
sing."
"All right, you two, that's enough," I tell them, mock-
indignant.  Sara climbs under the covers as Mulder comes into 
the room.  We both give her goodnight kisses, snap off the 
lights and go.

Crossing the study, I pause a moment at the leather couch.  
Mulder comes up behind me and slips his arms around my waist, 
his mouth at my ear.  "Reminiscing?"
I give him a small smile, and he kisses my neck.  "Why'd you 
keep it?"
"Sentimental reasons," he rumbles against my skin, nibbling my 
earlobe.  I lay my hands on top of his and he holds me tighter.
"Never thought of you as sentimental, Mulder."  His lips, teeth, 
tongue on my skin... Jesus, anything that feels this good ought to 
be illegal.
"Only about some things... about you..."  His hands under mine span 
my stomach, stroking and caressing.  "Wanna recreate some 
memories?"
He tightens his arms around me, holding me closer.  I can feel 
him pressed against me, getting aroused.  Already aroused.  The 
heat that's been building since he kissed me this afternoon 
bubbles up and pools between my legs.
"Not with our daughter in the next room."  Was that my voice?  
Couldn't be.  I want this.  I want him.  I want him so badly...
Mulder rocks his hips against me once, and my sharp intake of 
breath surprises me.  When he releases his hold on me I feel 
naked, bereft without his warmth against my back.  His hands 
come up to grasp my arms and he turns me around to face him.  He 
leans down and kisses me lightly, whispering, "Downstairs, 
then."
I nod a little and pull away from him, going down the stairs 
first.  I have to put some distance between us before I lose 
control completely.

He follows me into the kitchen, coming close even though my back 
is to him.  When I glance at him, I see confusion on his face.  
"Scully?"
"Would you like some tea?"  I wonder if he can hear the forced 
calm in my voice.
He shakes his head, frowns.  "What...  Did I do something wrong?"
"No, Mulder, it's...  You've touched me, kissed me, more in the 
last twelve hours than in the last three months, and I just..."  
For God's sake, Dana, just say it.  "You don't kiss me like that 
in New York."
He's staring at the floor, and I almost miss his response.  "I 
can't kiss you like that in New York."
He looks up at me now, fixing me with that anxious expression I 
thought I'd seen the last of a long time ago.  And suddenly I 
understand.
"You mean at my apartment."  He nods so slightly it barely 
registers.  "Because of..."
He cuts me off, squeezing his eyes shut.  "I walk in, Scully, 
and it's like... it's like he's *there*, watching.  Waiting for me 
to do something, to touch you or...  So he can tell me I'm too 
late, that you're... that you belong to him."
He takes a shuddering breath and finally opens his eyes -- 
there's so much pain there.  Because of me.  Because he came 
home to find me married to another man.  I have to make him 
understand.  I step closer, reach out to him.
"No," I whisper.  He shakes his head, and I take his face in my 
hands.  "No," I tell him more firmly.  My thumbs smooth the 
lines beneath his eyes, then trail down to brush his lips.  He 
smiles a little, remembering, as I do, unspoken words of promise 
and devotion.  Words I need to speak now.  "My heart has always 
belonged to you.  Always."
He turns his head and presses a kiss to my palm.  He seems 
content with this, but there's more I need to tell him.  "He 
knew that, Mulder.  He knew."
He looks surprised.  "Scully..."
"I need to say it."  My voice is stronger than I thought I was 
capable of.  "I know you don't want to hear it, but I need to 
tell you.  I need you to know how it was."
Mulder nods, and I take a half step back, giving us both a 
little space.  He looks into my eyes as I speak -- his expression 
is soft, affectionate, loving.
"He loved me, and he loved Sara, and he did his best to fill the 
gap in our lives...  Then you came home.  And he knew."
"That early-morning phone call at the hospital."
I nod, remembering as if it were yesterday.  "He was angry.  
Jealous.  We fought when I got home."  Mulder takes my hands in 
his, strokes his thumbs over my knuckles, encourages me to go 
on.  "When you decided to... to step back, he felt secure.  Until 
Sara's birthday."
He brings my hands to his lips and just holds them there, his 
mouth pressed to my fingers.  "Scully, I didn't mean to..."
I shake my head fiercely.  "No, Mulder, you...  I had wondered for 
so long if I'd ever hear from you again.  At least I knew that 
you were still... that you still cared."
"I never stopped caring.  Never stopped loving you.  Or Sara."  
God, the way he looks at me.  So much love in his eyes.  How 
could I ever doubt how this man feels?
"And we never stopped loving you, Mulder.  *I* never..."  I wrap 
my arms around him and hold him close, my head over his heart.  
I hear him take a shaky breath, and I know he's holding back 
tears -- so am I.  He tightens our embrace, and we stand together 
in his kitchen, just holding each other.
I didn't intend to get into this tonight, but I should've 
expected it.  Mulder and I have a history of not talking about 
the important things until it's almost too late, and this has 
been building since he was returned eight years ago.  I smooth 
my hands up and down his back, letting a sigh escape.  "Why 
can't things ever be easy for us?"
I feel his sad chuckle before I hear it.  "Fate?"
"Can't be.  Not after everything we've been through, all we've 
sacrificed."
He smiles and tilts my face up, drops a soft kiss on my 
forehead.  "I like to think we've been rewarded for our 
sacrifices."
I return his smile, knowing what he means.  "Sara."
Mulder nods.  "She's the best thing that ever happened to me, 
Scully," he reaches up to tuck my hair behind my ear, his 
fingers trailing along my jaw.  I lean into his caress as he 
adds, "Although you run a very close second."
He kisses me, and I snuggle in his arms again.  "She loves you 
so much."
"I love her, too.  And you."
It's now or never, Dana.  I take a deep breath, then tell him.  
"She wants to come and live with you."
He doesn't move.  For that matter, neither do I.  I feel him 
inhale, then he whispers, "What?"
I lean back to look at him -- his expression is a mixture of 
surprise, elation, hope, fear, shock.  "Sara wants to come and 
live with you for a while," I tell him with a smile I hope is 
reassuring.  He opens his mouth but nothing comes out, so I fill 
the silence.  "She wants to get to know you, Mulder.  I've given 
it some thought, and I believe this would be good for both of 
you."
He searches my eyes for any sign I might be being less than 
honest with him, but I'm not.  Watching them today, I realized 
that their spending more time together can only be a good thing.  
But concern clouds Mulder's face.  "Scully... is everything okay 
between you two?  Sometimes, when their parents aren't together, 
kids play them against each other -- I don't believe Sara would 
do that, but..."
"No, she wouldn't -- and everything's fine between us, really.  
It's just that... having you in her life is still new.  It's only 
been three months, only weekends."  I shrug, smiling up at him.  
"She wants more."
Mulder steps away from me now, moving off into the living room.  
He runs a hand through his hair and turns back to me -- I can see 
the self-doubt in his eyes.  "Scully, I've been alone for a very 
long time.  What if... what if I can't do this?  What if I can't 
give her what she needs?  I mean, don't girls her age need their 
mothers more than their fathers?  Scully... I don't know the first 
thing about being a father!"
I take hold of his hands and sit him down next to me on the 
sofa.  "Yes you do, Mulder.  You love her.  That's the most 
important thing."  He tries to get up again, but I don't let go 
of his hands, keeping him with me.  "I think you'd be terrific.  
But it has to be your decision."
"What about what Sara wants?"
"She knows it's not up to her."  I give his hands a squeeze, but 
it does little to soothe him.  "Mulder, I'm not completely 
without reservations here, but I have total confidence in your 
ability as a father and your devotion to Sara."
He's relieved, pleased that I have faith in him, and nods 
slightly.  That seems to be all he needs for now -- his eyes 
drift shut, and I can see how weary he is.  I reach up to caress 
his cheek and he leans into my touch.  "Sorry to drop this on 
you so suddenly -- she told me on the ferry this afternoon."
Mulder laughs a little, his eyes still closed.  "That's our 
girl."
My fingers stroke lightly over his face, his eyelids, his 
forehead.  He sighs, and I lean in to kiss him.  It's a sweet 
kiss, gentle, not like we shared earlier.  I think we're both 
just too damn tired for anything else.  I end it and stand, 
bringing him with me.  "Get some sleep," I tell him.  "Think it 
over, and we'll talk about it again before we say anything to 
Sara."
He nods, fixes me with a sleepy gaze and a lopsided grin, then 
wraps his arms around me.  I rest my head on his shoulder, 
becoming aware of my own fatigue, then he tightens our embrace.
"I'm afraid, Scully."  His lips are at my ear but I barely hear 
his whisper.  "I didn't have the best role models as parents, 
you know?  What if I screw everything up?  What if..."  He takes a 
deep breath, and his voice seems to get impossibly softer.  
"What if she hates me?"
How can he think that's even a possibility?  My hands smooth up 
his back, and I turn my head so I can place a kiss on his 
throat.  Then I lean back a little, so he can see my eyes, and I 
can see his.  "Mulder...  Don't you know by now how that little 
girl feels about you?  She... she could no more hate you than I 
could."
I watch his shifting expressions as the truth of what I said 
sinks in.  There's still a lot of self-doubt there, but it wars 
with the happiness I know he's feeling.  He gives me a loving 
smile and threads his fingers through my hair.  "Have I ever 
said thank you for her?"
It was the last thing he said to me, in his hospital room eight 
years ago.  Tears threatening, I nod.  "But I never have."  I 
pull him close again, going up on my toes and drawing his head 
level with mine, and with my lips at his ear I whisper, "Thank 
you, Mulder, so much..."
We tighten our embrace once more, holding on to each other as if 
our lives depended on it.  How many times in our past was that 
really the case?  How many times did I hold him, sick or 
injured?  How many times did he hold me?  Yet how long did it 
take until we realized the depth of our feelings for each other?
We finally let each other go, and I stretch up again to kiss 
him.  My hand rests on his chest, and I can feel his heart 
beating beneath it.  I only intended this as a goodnight kiss, 
brief and affectionate, but I deepen it myself.  Our tongues 
touch and explore as our hands massage and caress.  God, I've 
missed this, missed kissing him, missed his talented mouth on 
mine.
Mulder ends the kiss and holds me, stroking my hair and 
breathing hard.  "Scully, I...  Go on upstairs."  I look up at 
him, confusion evident in my eyes.  He presses his lips to my 
forehead, and I can feel them moving as he speaks.  "I need to 
think about this thing with Sara, and you...  When we're together 
again, I want to focus on *you*."
I've been the focus of Mulder's attention, desire and passion 
before, and I want that again.  So I force myself to push away 
from him.  His hands trail down my arms, taking hold of my hands 
as I walk backwards toward the stairs.  His eyes sweep over me 
and he grins, a seductive quirk of his lips.  I return it, 
adding a slow wink before turning to go upstairs.

Aside from the glorious sunrise streaming in through the 
windows, the first sight that greets me when I come downstairs 
bright and early this Sunday morning is Fox Mulder -- lying on 
his back on the sofa, wearing flannel pajama bottoms, legs 
crossed at the ankle, arms folded over his bare chest, sleeping 
peacefully.  Why he's sleeping here, when he's got a perfectly 
comfy-looking king-size bed in the other room, is a mystery to 
me.
I can't help the slow grin that overtakes me as I watch him 
sleep.  His silky hair has tumbled onto his forehead, and not 
even the strands of gray can detract from the resulting little-
boy look.  His full lips purse reflexively, his tongue darting 
out to moisten them, and I want nothing more than to follow it 
back into his mouth.  I steal a glance down his body, pausing at 
the bulge I knew I'd find.  It's been more than thirteen years 
since I last made love with this man, and I remember it as if it 
were yesterday... every look, every touch, every sound.  I want 
him again, now, just as I did all those years ago.
Shifting my gaze back to his face, I move to kneel on the floor 
next to the sofa.  I reach out and brush the hair from his 
forehead, letting my fingers comb through it slowly.  I did that 
a lot when he was in the hospital, those three days he was 
unconscious after he was returned.  I'd hoped he would find it 
as soothing as I did -- I needed the contact then, needed to 
touch him, to reassure myself that he was real.
As I touch him now he sighs, and his breathing shifts.  He's 
waking up.  I continue my gentle movements, waiting for him.  
After just a few minutes, his lips form a slow grin and his eyes 
open a few millimeters.  I'm the first thing he sees, and I give 
him a smile.
"You are so beautiful," he murmurs, and I look away, suddenly 
shy.  He trails a finger along my inner arm, bringing my eyes 
back to him.  "You are."  He means it, too.  That Mulder can 
still find me beautiful, after all these years and at my age, 
amazes me.
We keep up our soft touches as he comes to full waking, then I 
have to know.  "Mulder, why are you on the sofa?"
He gives a little shrug.  "Couldn't sleep."
"You were doing fine a few minutes ago."
"Till you woke me up."  I notice his tiny grin and return it.
"Sorry.  Couldn't help myself."
His eyes drift shut again.  "That feels nice."  I begin to 
wonder if he's gone back to sleep, until he whispers, "Tell the 
truth, Scully.  You weren't really checking me for head trauma 
all those times, were you?"
I laugh a little.  "Not *all* those times, no.  Sometimes it was 
just an excuse."
He looks up at me now, his eyes soft and smiling.  "You never 
needed an excuse, Scully."
I want to kiss him.  I want to kiss him now, and never stop 
kissing him.  But I just keep moving my fingers through his 
hair.  Keep shivering at the touch of his fingers gliding up and 
down my arm.
"Why couldn't you sleep?"
"Thinking too much, I guess."  He shrugs again.  "Sometimes it's 
easier out here, or on the couch upstairs."
"Some things never change."
Then we hear the biggest change in both our lives -- Sara.  She 
comes bounding down the stairs, Spooky on her heels.  "Morning, 
Mom!"  She looks surprised when she spots Mulder on the sofa.  
"Hi, Daddy.  I'm gonna take Spooky out before she tinkles on the 
floor," she says as she attaches the dog's leash.  "Kisses when 
I come back!"  And she's out the door.
Mulder and I exchange a look.
"Hurricane Sara strikes," I tell him with a smile.  I mean it as 
a joke, but then I remember another hurricane, a real one, a 
lifetime ago.  A time when I almost lost him.  My smile fades 
quickly and all I want to do right now is hold him, cherish him... 
kiss him.  So I do.  It isn't a particularly long kiss, but it's 
tender and passionate.
Ending the kiss, I lean down to rest my head on his chest.  His 
arms come up around me, and he runs his fingers through my hair.  
"What was that for?"
I raise my head and give him a tiny grin.  Then I stand up and 
offer him a hand.  "Go shower.  I'll make coffee."  He lets me 
pull him to his feet and kisses me again, then heads off toward 
the bedroom.

By the time Mulder comes out, in khakis and a sweater, his hair 
still damp from the shower, I've made a good start on breakfast 
and Sara's setting the table.  He stops next to her and gives 
her a hug.  "Morning, Daddy!" she says as she hugs him back.  
She's been calling him that more and more.  I'm glad.
Mulder drops a kiss into Sara's thick hair.  "Morning, 
Sweetheart."  He takes in our activity, glances at me.  "What's 
going on, ladies?"
I give him The Eyebrow and play innocent.  "What are you talking 
about?"
He comes into the kitchen and wraps his arms around my waist, 
nuzzling my neck as I flip a pancake.  "You're making breakfast, 
Sara's setting the table.  You two are supposed to be my 
guests..."
Sara pipes up, interrupting with, "We're not guests, Dad, we're 
*family*."
Mulder looks from her to me, giving us both warm smiles.  I 
glance at Sara, nodding slightly.  She quickly darts upstairs 
and Mulder looks at me, surprised.  "Scully..."
"It's a special day, Mulder."
"It's Sunday."  He still doesn't get it, so I give him another 
hint.
"It's the thirteenth."
At that, Sara flies down the stairs, a festively wrapped package 
in her hand, and throws her arms around Mulder again.  "Happy 
Birthday, Daddy!"
Mulder laughs as she pulls him down for a kiss.  Smiling, I just 
watch them until he catches my eye, then I whisper, "Happy 
Birthday."
I can count on one hand the times we celebrated each other's 
birthdays when we worked together.  My gifts to him have faded 
from my memory, but I still carry the Apollo 11 keychain he gave 
me during our fourth year, just after my cancer was diagnosed.  
And I learned to appreciate baseball in his arms one summer 
night, a very late or very early gift from one Fox Mantle.  This 
year, though, I'm going to make his special -- for both of them.
I scoop the last pancake off the griddle, popping it into the 
oven with the rest, and join them at the table as Mulder tears 
into the wrapping.  Sara glances over at me, then comes to stand 
close, her arm around my shoulders.  Mulder opens the hinged box 
and lets out a gasp -- the watch is beautiful, elegantly crafted, 
perfect for him.  He looks up at us both, his mouth hanging 
open.
"Do you like it?" Sara whispers, excitement pouring off her.
Mulder's still at a loss for words.  "It's... Sara, I... it's..."
"*Daddy*!  Do you *like* it?"
He smiles at her, a full, joyous smile.  "I love it, Sweetheart.  
It's the most beautiful..."
"It's engraved on the back."  I glance up at her -- this is 
something I didn't know about, and I make a mental note to find 
out when she had that done.  Mulder turns the watch over and 
reads the inscription aloud.
"To FWM, we love you, DKS and SAM."  He looks at both of us, his 
eyes glistening.  "I love you, too."
Sara moves to him and he pulls her onto his lap.  Their arms 
wrapped around each other, I think they're both trying not to 
cry.  They're not alone in that.

Breakfast is leisurely, and we use the time to plan our day.  
The only thing we have definitely scheduled is dinner, and 
Mulder is impressed with our choice of restaurant.  We decide to 
spend the rest of the day exploring and sightseeing.
We rent bicycles and ride up to the lighthouse at the 
northernmost tip of the island.  We wander the boardwalk in Oak 
Bluffs, playing carnival games and riding the antique carousel.  
We drive to West Tisbury and Chilmark, so Sara can see where her 
father grew up.  We try unsuccessfully to find the beaches where 
Steven Spielberg filmed 'Jaws.'  All day and at dinner Mulder 
revels in the chance to show us off, beaming as he introduces us 
every time we run into someone he knows.

Sara says goodnight almost as soon as we get home -- the day has 
worn her out.  I offer to take Spooky for a walk while Mulder 
tucks her in.  I want to give them some time alone, so the dog 
and I stroll down to the shoreline.  I slip off my shoes and 
squish my toes in the wet sand -- Spooky loves this, and she runs 
into the water as far as the leash will let her.
By the time we turn back, Mulder is standing at the water's edge 
behind the house.  He stares out toward the ocean, hands in his 
pockets, bare feet getting wet.  Spooky barks once when she sees 
him, tail wagging furiously.  When we reach him he takes her 
leash from me, kisses my cheek and whispers, "Be right back."  I 
watch as he takes the dog into the house and comes back out 
carrying a blanket.  He lays it on the sand a few yards up from 
the shoreline, then reaches out his hand to me.
We settle on the blanket together, him lying on his side facing 
me.  I'm sitting up, arms wrapped around my knees, watching the 
waves roll in.  I shiver a little in the cool night breeze.
"Cold?"
I nod and he moves closer, not quite touching but close enough 
that I can feel the heat coming off him.  I shiver again, but it 
has nothing to do with the temperature.  I look into his eyes as 
he traces a finger down my arm, and I'm taken aback at the 
intensity of the desire I see there.  He moves even closer, his 
lips joining his fingers along my arm, and I can't stop the low 
moan that escapes me.  I can feel him smile against my skin, 
then a gentle pressure on my shoulder as he lays me down next to 
him.
He leaves a trail of wet kisses up my arm to my throat, his hand 
slipping underneath my sweater to caress my stomach.  I feel 
frozen, incredibly aroused but unable to do anything beyond 
reacting to what Mulder is doing to me.  I want to touch him, to 
feel his skin against mine, but I can't move -- not until he 
shifts on the blanket to hover over me, his knee parting mine.  
His hand moves higher to stroke the underside of my breast 
through the satin, and suddenly my paralysis is broken.  I pull 
him closer, drawing his sweatshirt up and clutching at his back.  
My hips grind against his and I can feel him, already aroused.
His mouth continues its worship of my throat while his fingers 
tease my breasts, and I'm certain I'll die soon if he doesn't 
kiss me... touch me... make love to me.  Finally, *finally* he 
raises up, looking at me with a feral intensity I'd forgotten he 
was capable of.  I hear him whisper, "Love you, Scully," then 
his mouth covers mine, his tongue plunging inside as his hips 
rock against me.  God, I want this man.
But when his hand leaves my breast and moves to the button on my 
pants, I stop him.  "Mulder, no... not here."  He looks around, as 
if just remembering that we're lying on the beach, then his eyes 
return to mine, a mix of desire and apology there.  "I want to, 
I do, just..."
"Not here.  Inside."
"Yes."  He kisses me again, and helps me to my feet.  I grab the 
blanket as Mulder pulls me toward the house.

He takes my hand and leads me into the bedroom, locking the door 
behind us.  Then it's almost like he starts over -- he draws me 
close and cradles my face in his hands, kissing me gently, his 
tongue teasing at my lips.  I deepen the kiss as he wraps his 
arms around me, pulling me against him.  He moves us toward the 
bed and we drop onto it, essentially resuming our positions from 
before.  My hands are more active this time, shoving his 
sweatshirt out of the way and trailing my nails up his back.  My 
leg moves to hold him to me as his fingers work the button on my 
pants.  He unfastens it and begins to draw the zipper down -- 
suddenly my hand is on his wrist, stopping him.
Mulder raises up and looks at me, questioning.  "Scully?  If you 
don't..."
"No, Mulder, I do, really, I... I'm just a little nervous."  He 
smiles gently, giving me time to figure out what's going on in 
my head.  "It's been a long time since you and I were together 
last... we're older, things have changed..."
He leans down and kisses me softly, stroking my face.  "Scully, 
you know I could never think of you as anything but beautiful."  
I glance away, but his finger under my chin brings my gaze back 
to him.  "I'm older too, you know," he grins.  "I have more gray 
hair than you, more wrinkles..."  I reach up and trace the lines 
on his face, run my fingers through the silk of his hair.  He 
kisses me again, then stands up.
I sit up and watch as Mulder pulls off his sweatshirt.  He 
tosses it aside and just stands there a moment while I look at 
him -- yes, he's a little older.  A little heavier.  There's a 
sprinkling of gray in his chest hair.  But he's still Mulder.  
He's still the man I love.
He reaches out a hand to me -- I take it, let him draw me to my 
feet.  He begins to unbutton my sweater, keeping his eyes locked 
with mine as he does.  When he finishes he slips it off, letting 
his hands caress my shoulders.  He kisses me, our tongues 
touching lightly, then he steps back.  Waiting.
I give him a hesitant smile, then reach behind and unclasp my 
bra.  I let it drop to the floor, looking away from him.  
Between the drooping and the stretch marks, I'm afraid he'll be 
disappointed.  I realize I shouldn't have been when I hear his 
choked whisper.
"Beautiful."
I look into his eyes then, and all I see is love.  And I believe 
him.
He comes close again, brings my hands to the button on his 
jeans.  I can feel him beneath the denim, hot and hard, as I 
slowly pull the zipper down.  I push his jeans off his hips, 
then stroke him through his boxers.  He gasps at the contact, 
and a shudder runs through him.  He grabs my wrist and pulls my 
hand away, his eyes shut tight.
"Don't."  He exhales slowly, then tells me, "It's... it's been a 
long time, Scully, I... I want..."
I kiss him, and he opens his eyes.  He smiles, knows I 
understand.  I guide his hands to the waistband of my pants, 
where he was before.  He unzips them and slips his hand inside.  
It's my turn to shudder when his fingers venture under the 
elastic of my panties.
"Mulder, please..."
"What, Scully?  Tell me what you want."
"You... I want you."
Between us we make short work of our remaining clothes, then 
we're on the bed again, our mouths and hands everywhere.  His 
hands on my breasts.  My mouth on his jaw.  His fingers parting 
my folds.  My hand stroking his erection.
His tongue swirls around the tight peaks of my nipples, and he 
kisses his way down my body.  I know where he's headed and I 
want him there, need to feel his mouth on me... but I need to feel 
him inside me more.
I tug on his hair and urge him away from his downward path.  His 
weight covering me is welcome, and he kisses me deeply, full of 
the passion I remember so well.  But he surprises me by rolling 
us over so that I'm straddling him.  It takes me a few seconds, 
but then I understand -- he wants this to last, and it takes 
longer for him to come in this position.  Besides, he once told 
me he liked to watch my body when I move above him.
I raise up on my knees and guide him to my opening, then slowly 
take him inside me.  The memories come flooding back, memories 
of every time we made love.  I've missed this.  Missed him.
"Oh, God, Mulder."
"Scully... you feel..."
"I love you."
I think I've surprised him.  I never actually said that while we 
were making love.  Sometimes after, sometimes before, sometimes 
when we were nowhere near the bed -- but never before with him 
inside me.
Mulder nods a little and smiles.  He runs his hands up my arms 
to my shoulders, then pulls me down to him and kisses me.  It's 
a passionate kiss, full of love and desire, promise and 
devotion.
I end the kiss and lean back, and he raises his knees behind me 
for support.  Then I start to move -- slowly at first, then 
faster as we find our rhythm.  He begins to thrust upward, 
matching and countering my movements.  He caresses my breasts, 
squeezes them.  Our thrusts and counter-thrusts pick up speed -- 
I reach down to where we're joined, feeling him glide in and out 
of me.  My touch there sends a shiver through us both, and I can 
feel my release approaching.
Instinctively Mulder begins to thrust harder, faster.  One hand 
joins mine at my center, while the other rolls and pinches my 
nipples.  Then he starts to whisper to me.  Amazing, even after 
all this time, he still knows just what I need.
"God, Scully... you're so beautiful... come on, baby, that's it... let 
me see you come..."
With a hand behind my neck he pulls me toward him, changing the 
angle of penetration just enough.  Then he thrusts up into me, 
hard, grinding our fingers against me -- and I'm soaring.  
Quaking above him.  Screaming his name.
Mulder barely moves until my orgasm has almost subsided, but 
when he does it's sudden.  He rolls us over again and braces 
himself above me -- that passionate intensity is back in his 
eyes.  I wrap my legs around him as he begins to move -- again, 
slowly at first, then faster and faster, harder and harder, 
until he's pounding into me and I'm just hanging on for the 
ride, urging him toward his own climax.
And when he comes, he screams my name.

Some time later, after he's spooned up behind me, Mulder wants 
to talk.  Of course, he wants to kiss my shoulder, too.
"Scully?"
"Hmm?"
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
"I've thought about it, Scully... and I want to."  I'm not sure 
what he's talking about, so I roll over a little so I can see 
his face.  I quirk an eyebrow and he smiles.  "Sara.  I want her 
to come live with me."
I return his smile, glad he's come to this decision.  "Good."
"I know there are things to work out, but I want this."
I kiss him softly, trying to let him know how happy I am for 
him.  Then I turn over again and snuggle back against him.  He 
tightens his arms around me and goes back to kissing my neck.
"Scully?"
"Yes?"
"Marry me."
I glance back at him, eyebrow raised.  "Mulder..."
"Marry me, Scully."
Now I turn over to face him.  Part of me hopes he's kidding.  
Part of me knows he's completely serious.
"I love you, Scully, and I want us to be together.  You, me, 
Sara -- I want us to be a real family."
I don't know how to respond to him.  The first time he said it, 
fifteen years ago, it was a joke.  The second time, when he came 
home, I was married to someone else.  Now... now, I just don't 
know.
Mulder sees the confusion in my eyes and lets me off the hook -- 
for now.  "Don't say anything now, okay, just think about it.  
Think about Sara, how it would be for her if the three of us 
were together..."  He grins, trails a finger lightly down my 
chest.  "Think about you and me, how good we are... how right it 
feels between us..."  He leans down to kiss me, whispering into my 
mouth.  "Then say yes."
When he ends the kiss, he molds his body to mine again.  Before 
long I can hear his breathing slow as he falls asleep.  But I 
can't sleep.  Because I know now what my answer will be.

I slip out of Mulder's bed while he's still asleep.  I make 
coffee and take a cup out onto the back porch, settling on the 
swing and watching the sun rise.  I have no idea how to do this, 
how to tell him.
Sooner than I expect, the sliding door opens and he comes out, 
sipping coffee and running a hand through his hair.  He doesn't 
sit down right away, just watches me from the door.
"I woke up alone this morning."
"Sorry."
"I was hoping to put that behind me."
I close my eyes as he comes closer.  "Sorry."  He sits down next 
to me, close but not touching.  "Mulder..."
"You're saying no, aren't you."
It's all I can do to nod.  I still can't look at him.
"Why, Scully?"
That's my Mulder, cutting right to the chase.  But it's also the 
part I'm not sure I can explain.
"Why?"  He's insistent, almost demanding an answer.  I take a 
deep breath and try to give him one.
"You said... you said to think about Sara."
"Sara wants us to be together."
"So do I, Mulder."
"Then why..."  He shakes his head, tilts my chin up to look at 
him.  "Explain it to me, Scully."
I can't look at him and do this, I have to put some distance 
between us.  Without having to see the pain in his eyes, I 
figure out how to make him understand.
"Why did you disappear from our lives eight years ago?"
"Is that what this is about?  Are you still angry?"
"No, Mulder, I'm not, I swear."  And I'm not.  I haven't been 
for a long time.  I turn to face him now and ask again.  "Just 
tell me why."
He's still puzzled, but he answers me.  "I wanted to do what was 
best for Sara, and for you."
"So you walked away."
"Yes, but Scully, that wasn't my first choice."
I nod, glancing away from him again.  "I know, and I'm sorry for 
that.  But that's why I have to say no."  He shakes his head, 
and I sit next to him again.  "Mulder, I... I deprived you of your 
daughter.  And I deprived Sara of her father.  I want to give 
some of that back, to both of you."
Realization overtakes him suddenly.  He understands what I'm 
doing.  Why I'm doing it.  He doesn't like it, but he'll accept 
it.  But I have to tell him something else.
I take his hand in mine.  "I hope you'll ask again someday.  
Because I do want to say yes."
He gives me a small, sad smile, then brings my hand to his lips.  
"Count on it."
The sliding door opens behind us and Sara steps out, bringing 
Spooky with her.  "You guys are up early."  She looks from him 
to me and back again.  "What's wrong?"
I can't do this.  I can't watch her excitement when I tell her 
she can move in with Mulder.  And Mulder knows this.  He gives 
my hand a squeeze, then turns to Sara.
"C'mon, Sweetheart, let's take Spooky for a walk."
She hesitates, seeing tears in my eyes.  "Mom?"
Mulder gets up and holds out a hand to her.  "It's okay, Sara, 
Mom just needs a minute."  Still watching me, she finally takes 
his hand and they move off toward the beach.
I know in my heart I'm doing the right thing.  I'm giving them a 
chance to get to know each other.  To be together.  To be a real 
father and daughter.
Doesn't make it any easier.

END
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
END NOTES:  Yes, there'll be at least one more story about this 
little family.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a 
program called Project ALERT, in which retired law enforcement 
officers work with NCMEC in their efforts to locate and recover 
missing children.  I don't know if the work I've given Mulder is 
something NCMEC actually does; it works for my purposes, and is 
something I can see him doing once he leaves the FBI.  For more 
information about NCMEC, go to http://www.missingkids.org.
Lara Means

 

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