Shadows of Winter
By Jaime Lyn
Disclaimers, yadda yadda, all in part one. This is part three. Rated
'R' for language and sexual situations.
Silence and darkness smothered the house, and Mulder felt like breaking something
heavy to shatter the monotony. He needed to prove that his life was
still his, and he could still do what he wanted, and that despite a global
conspiracy out to get him, nobody could take away his freedom to piss and
moan and argue with his hard-headed partner. He was part of this outfit,
wasn't he? His opinion still mattered, didn't it?
A steady stream of light escaped from the end of the hall and Mulder followed
it. He paused at the door to the bedroom and peeked inside; a nightlight
shaped like an Oyster shell had been plugged in, and the carpet alit in ribbons
"I just thought you would want to know, I was ah, I was looking out the living
room window." Mulder stood in the bedroom doorway, leaning against the frame,
his legs crossed right over left. "And I think the Carvers just got back
from Hawaii. They're standing out there talking to the cops and the
tow-truck guy. No knocks on the door yet, though, so I'm thinking that's
a good sign. Nobody in here but us chickens, you get my meaning?"
"Good, that's good," murmured Scully, her back to the doorway, her knees
cushioned beneath her. She sat on the floor amongst a conglomeration
of gray couch pillows, her arms folded on the edge of the mattress in un-spoken
prayer. Her shoulders were rounded, her hair spilling about her neck
in soft, red waves that seemed much darker by nightlight. She wasn't
enraged with him, at least, he didn't think she was, but he wasn't entirely
sure she was happy with him, either. Mulder himself wasn't exactly
getting ready to throw any parties in Scully's honor.
The baby, all night-scented and soft skin and dream-kissed cheeks, lay asleep
in the center of the bed, fenced in on all sides like a bumper-secured bowling
lane. Scully must have gone and dug up some old pillows out of the
closet. His arms lay flat on the sheets, his red sweater crunched up
like an accordion. His delicate chest rose and fell evenly, almost
rhythmic; it was the breathing that made him real.
"Mind if I sit?" asked Mulder. "It's like the crypt from an Indiana
Jones movie down there."
Scully waved a hand to the empty space beside her, but otherwise said nothing.
Her cheek snuggled into the mattress, and she gazed sideways at William.
Mulder nodded to himself and crept forward, wondering how long this would
continue on: Scully's unwavering bedside vigil. This animosity between
them over what to do about the baby.
"How is he?" Mulder asked, bending his knees until he slid down the base
of the bed and landed on his backside.
"He seems alright," Scully whispered, turning. Her skin was amber
soft in the void between darkness and light, tomorrow and yesterday. "A little
scared, but I can't say I blame him. Not that - we're all scared, but
he's just a baby. He doesn't understand what happened in that car or
what's happening now, and he doesn't - He can't possibly remember who we
are." She shook her head at herself, brushed away moisture
from her cheek. "Mulder, I... I know you mean well and I understand
you - maybe better than you do - but it’s different this time."
Mulder reached across the comforter for her hand. "It’s a shitty situation,"
he said. "And I feel the same way you do. Really. And I've
been downstairs for two hours thinking about it, struggling to figure out
which is the lesser of the two evils. And the only conclusion I've
come to is that it really fucking blows to have no idea what to do."
Scully forced a smile. "I know," she said. "But let’s say,
maybe for right now, just right now, that we can pretend this is safe?"
She gazed at him with pleading, blue eyes. "He's here. He's ours.
Whatever happens tomorrow, he's ours right now." She turned, touched
the tips of her fingers to the baby's flushed, round cheek. "I just
wish I could make this better for him. Maybe if he wasn't so frightened
- if he knew who we were."
"Hey, we're lucky we even know who we are," Mulder joked. "I think I've actually
"Oh." Scully reddened, took a deep breath, closing her eyes.
"Oh my God. I was just standing there holding William and then I looked at
you and I saw you looking at him, and I realized that he needed to connect
with you - " She paused. "That is, with you you and not -"
"It's okay." Mulder waved her off, tickling the inside of her hand
with his thumb. He knew what she meant, and he understood why she wanted
to apologize for the indiscretion, but at this point, it made no difference.
"What's done is done. I'm not even sure it matters anymore."
He gazed about the room as if expecting someone with a gun or a knife or
just a lot of green, acidic blood, to pop out of the shadows and prove his
point, because at least that would put a face to an invisible enemy.
Scully yawned, watching him with an indecipherable look.
"Besides," he waved his hand in circles between them. "I kind of missed
"I missed us, too."
"Not that we were never still us..." He frowned at his logic.
"No, of course not."
Mulder tilted his head to one side, trying to understand himself. It
was much too late for heavy philosophy. The blanketing warmth of the
late hour pressed tightly to them, and silence came dancing in the air above
Scully's voice finally cracked the darkness. "I just keep thinking..."
She frowned as if trying to gather her thoughts. "I keep thinking that
we could run forever, you know? If we really had to? Just go
from place to place without identities or even a destination in mind, and
wander, live for ourselves, moment by moment. Or we could go buy some
boat in the middle of the ocean where there'd be no chance of intrusion -
"Criminal, I get seasick when I take a bath."
Scully smiled, and her eyelids drifted shut. "But William complicates
"So what do you propose?"
"I don't know."
Mulder nodded, breathing oxygen into his aching lungs. They were talking
in circles, repeating the same worries, the same fears, going around and
around again and again, and if they didn't stop soon, he was going to get
dizzy and throw up.
"Are you ever afraid, Criminal?"
Scully frowned at the change of subject.
"Afraid of what?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Dying, not dying, never knowing - all of
She tilted her head, considering. She seemed to think about it for
an interminable amount of time before answering, "I used to be, yes."
Mulder tilted his head to one side. "You used to be?"
With her free hand, Scully patted his knee. "There was a time, back
when I had my cancer, that I used to think to myself, there isn't anything.
No God. No higher purpose. Nothing. And then I'd think...
what happens to me, then? What happens when my body goes out on me?
My organs would shut down I suppose, and then I would die, and nothing would
come from that. The world would just go black one day, and I would
die. The thought terrified me."
Mulder let his hand roam to her leg, and then her hip; Whatever happened,
he wanted to be near her. He couldn't fathom not being near her.
He nodded her on, "And then?"
"And then I came close to death - so close to it - and I felt this...tugging.
Kind of the way I used to feel when I went to sunday school as a girl, and
I imagined that God was in the sun, keeping everything warm. I felt that
my sister was close to me, and my father, and I - I felt as if they were
telling me not to be afraid." Her eyes glazed in silent memory, and
she took a breath. "So now I think that...Much as death seems a certain,
biological end, I don't believe I have anything to fear from it. Perhaps
this life is not the only life. Maybe there's something more.
Something better, waiting where we can't see it."
Mulder smiled, eyeing her cross. "How very religious of you, Agent
"It's honest," Scully countered, her whisper secure and haughty. "I
can't vouch for it, or validate it, but I believe in it. In something
greater than myself." She squeezed his hand a second time. "Letting
go of logic in order to make a sociopoetic leap... isn't that the kind of
nonsense you're always blathering about?"
"Blathering?" Mulder scrunched his nose in distaste, leaning down to press
a kiss to her fingertips. Her skin was warm.
Scully raised an eyebrow, watching his mouth move across the plane of her
knuckles. "I believe there is usually a good amount of blathering involved,
Mulder released a melodramatic groan.
"So let me get this straight." He pulled back to a seated position,
leaving her knuckles pink and wet, and eyebrowed her. "You won't believe
in Big-Blue, but you'll believe in an invisible afterlife that collects all
the dead people."
Scully rolled her tongue in her cheek. "If I told you I believed in Big-Blue,
would you quit blathering about death?"
"If I quit teasing you about the afterlife, would you quit using the word
"I don't know. Now what are you blathering about?"
Scully smiled a wide, adoring smile at him, her cheek muscles stretching
attractively until her entire face alit with all the things she must have
felt, but never said. Mulder sat, amused by this unexpected playfulness,
and gazed at her until the smile faded into an exhale.
"So you think..." Mulder found himself stumbling over what he wanted
to say next. "So you think - heaven, angels, the whole nine yards -
that's what saves us? That it's God who has the final say?"
"Could be," she said. "I don't know if I believe it's necessarily 'God.'
But for me it's not even about God anymore. It's...It's wanting to defy the
unknown. After years of searching and sacrificing for it, needing to
take back control of my life and just...live. Just be. I'd rather die
having really lived, and not live waiting for the sky to fall."
"Okay, so what then - you want to go skydiving and jump naked into European
Scully took a breath, her lips twitching in revolt against a smile, and she
extended her free arm in explanation. "It's like this." She paused
for a moment, stilled in contemplation, and went on, "Maybe we die tomorrow
or maybe it never ends for us, or maybe the world really is doomed and nothing
else means anything. No matter the outcome, I'd rather be here with
you and my son than running from invisible men until I'm blue, or - or waiting
for you and the truth at the foot of a mountain somewhere, wondering if anybody's
hurt my child because I made a terrible mistake."
Mulder pursed his lips, understanding. "So then - you really believe
we could protect him?"
He exhaled about a year's worth of misfortune, unsure of whether he himself
could believe so blindly. When in the world had Scully turned into
him and he into Scully?
"Well, I don't know how I feel about that," he said honestly. In his
mind he kept replaying the conversation from the stairs.
"I can't tell you what to feel, P.I," she answered. Her eyes searched him
with quiet askance, her arms pillowing her cheek. She blinked, took
a breath, and whispered, "Do you love him?"
Mulder stilled. "What?"
"Do you love him, Mulder?"
Mulder glanced over at the bumpered-in baby, so susceptible to any type of
mundane or paranormal danger that the human brain couldn't even comprehend
There were supersoldiers and alien hybrids, corrupt murderers within the
FBI mainframe and pissed off CIA operatives with consortium contacts.
There were sharp objects in the kitchen and household poisons under the sink.
There was a hairdryer in the bathroom that the baby could knock into the
bathtub and get electrocuted by.
And then the electrical outlets... a fuse in the bedroom could short out
and the entire house could catch on fire, burning them all to ash.
Towering stairs, guns, knives, small ingestible parts, plastic bags, beds
that were too high -
For the first time since William was born, Mulder felt the first pangs of
fatherhood. He wasn't just afraid of the unknown, he was afraid of
"Yes," he said, gazing from Scully to the baby. "Yes, I do."
Scully smiled in half-measure, her thumb pressing gently over his thumb.
"Okay then. Do you love me?"
Taken aback by her bluntness, Mulder frowned, but was unable to speak.
Scully looked away as if utterly embarrassed by asking such a question, and
her cheeks pinkened below her eyelashes. Mulder gazed down at their
intertwined fingers and turned her palm over. With careful concentration,
he ran his index finger along each indentation in her skin, up across the
outlines of her fingernails and back to her wrist. He traced her hand
over and over, brushing, caressing, marking her as his, until he was sure
he'd reached every crevice and imperfection. Then he looked back up into
her eyes to see if she understood him.
"Do you trust me?" she breathed.
Mulder tilted her chin with his thumb, studying her. "You know I do."
Scully nodded. She tugged their hands to her lap, entwining her fingers throughout
his and raising the mesh of them together so that their hands were eyelevel.
"So then we have this," she whispered, pressing his knuckles to her lips.
She tilted her head towards the sleeping baby. "And we have that."
Her eyes opened and closed in lazy, measured rhythm. "It may not be
the secret of the Universe, but it's something. Mulder, Scully, and
William two points, Everyone else a-million, but we have time to catch up."
Mulder shrugged, grinning. Her presence made his ears ring and his
hands sweat. "Oh, I don't know." He leaned in closer to her,
heart thrumming. "I think you're skimming on the point scale."
He wanted to touch her and he felt as if it had been ages since he had.
She smiled at him mischievously, unmoving, teasing, waiting for his next
"For instance," he said, his chin tilting sideways, "I'd say the sex alone
earns us a good twenty points." She chuckled in short, breathy exhalations,
and he added, "Per orgasm, per encounter."
That, for whatever reason, flushed her cheeks a bright scarlet-red, but left
her undeterred, with that ever-present raised eyebrow.
"So if you think about it," he finished, "We're at least half-a-million points
ahead of the curve."
"Are we now?"
And he bent down in agonizing slow-motion, nudging her cheek with his nose.
Unmoving and silent, she seemed to close her eyes only at the last possible
second, her watchful gaze trailing his movements as if unsure of herself,
or of him, or of anything she ever wanted.
Her lashes fluttered shut over the side of his face, her lips tickling his
jaw. His mouth edged over hers in reverent delight, kissing her first
with tender licks and presses, and then with harder, more insistent pressure,
while she pressed back, her palm at his chest, fingers over his heart.
Her neck tipped to allow him a better angle, and he caught the base of her
head in his hands. She was soft and warm, and she tasted like a dozen
unspoken truths and promises.
His fingers played with the buttons on her shirt, flicking at them until
a few finally came undone, and the silk parted to reveal pale, freckled skin
above her breastbone. She was so warm, and tasted so good, and somehow
she was everything at once - or more than everything, if there was a word
for more than everything - and he couldn't let go, couldn't stop touching,
couldn't ever be without her, without this, not ever.
His mouth trailed a wet line down her neck, and then to the opening of her
blouse, and her fingers found the top of his head, massaging, pressing, skirting
through the dark strands. Her eyes were closed, her head tilted back,
her spine arched. She was incredible.
The wisp of a moan escaped her through a heavy breath, and he touched his
palm over one breast, smoothing his fingers over the outline of a nipple
through the silk, as he kissed his way back up to her mouth.
He undid some more buttons and pushed open her shirt, and realized suddenly
that beautiful women wore black lace bras for evil, nefarious purposes.
Scully shifted in his arms, lolled her head back, and then forward, her eyes
foggy. "Oh..." She exhaled darkly. "Mulder?"
Needed her, needed this, only this, only her, only... only now, he
needed it now. Yes, he definitely needed it now. Some parts of him
Her hands gripping his shoulders, her eyes closed, her mouth opened, she
pushed out breaths like she was drowning, and he trailed his mouth down across
her chin, up over her cheek, up to her earlobe, up over the soft flesh.
Her hair was thick and soft behind her ear and dizzying with, what was that
But enough of the ear, he wanted her mouth again. And he wanted her
"Mulder," she bit more forcefully, and then she pushed hard at his chest,
panting as if she might hyperventilate or burst into flame.
"Scully?" Mulder frowned, clouded to the point of pain with arousal,
and trying like hell to focus.
Her hands were braced on the floor on either side of her and her head was
tilted towards her chest, her ribcage heaving quickly and heavily.
Too heavily. Much too heavily. Mulder's eyes widened in horror.
Something was definitely beyond wrong with his partner. She was going
to pass out if she kept breathing like that.
"Scully, what is it? Talk to me - tell me what's wrong." His
hands moved helplessly over her, trying to calm her, to still her, to do
anything, but her breathing didn't slow. His arousal died in a hard
moment, and he realized with a bite of frustration that she was the one with
the medical training and he was the one with the psychology degree, and at
the very most, this meant he could help her work through anger management
over her weird breathing. Or give her a Band-aid.
"What's wrong?" he whispered, lifting her hair out of her face with his thumbs.
"I don't know... what's wrong," she gasped, her shoulders angled towards
her chest in a painful looking hunch. Between breaths she heaved, "I just...I
feel...dizzy...need to stop...for a minute..."
"Dizzy?" Mulder leaned forward to search her face, and he pressed his
palm to her forehead, feeling for fever. "God, you're shaking, Scully.
Are you sick?"
Her head lifted slightly then, the space between breaths growing more and
more even, and she blinked cautiously, looking for her bearings and finding
some of them still missing. She reached for Mulder with one hand and
he took the hint, grasping her arm, steadying her as she blew out a few test
breaths through her mouth, inhaled through her nose. She looked up
at him, into him, and nodded. "Yeah, I'm okay," she whispered.
"I'm sorry, I just... I got a little dizzy for a minute."
A little dizzy? That was a little dizzy? Mulder was positive he'd seen
steadier looking drunks. "Not exactly the kind of ticker tape parade
you want to throw a guy," he joked, hoping to God she got the meaning behind
the unspoken question.
"Seriously, I'm okay." She shook her head as if trying to get out the
cobwebs. "Just a bit of vertigo. It's just been a stressful day
and I wasn't...wasn't feeling great earlier and I haven't eaten all that
much today. It's nothing." She gazed up at him with stark apology
in her eyes, and, as if to reassure him, leaned in and slanted her mouth
over his. The resulting kiss was deep and powerful, but short, and
when she pulled away, Mulder searched her expression for anything she might
not be telling him. It was damn hard to read her and worry about her
when all he wanted was to fuck her.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "Do you - do you need something to eat?
A glass of water? Some, um, ice or - or a cold compress or asprin?
I think there are Band-aids somewhere..."
Scully shook her head, an amused smile stretching the corners of her lips.
"Everything I need is right here in this room," she whispered, and then she
tugged on him with one hand until he followed her down to the floor.
In his lifetime, Fox Mulder had faced and conquered the crown-royalty of
all monstrosities; murderers, vampires, mutated animals, mutated humans,
aliens, alien-human hybrids, conspirators hell-bent on taking over the world,
and a particularly nasty bunch of FBI auditors. Any of which would
have sent a normal man screaming and running for the hills with his nether
regions shrunken into unmentionable size. But Fox Mulder, he was a
man's man, an unafraid, purpose-filled man, and Fox Mulder never backed down
from an injury, a monster, or a challenge. Nothing would break him;
nothing had or ever could.
Until his partner set a squirming child at his feet, slipped on her overcoat,
and announced that she had a midday shift at the hospital and would be leaving
Mulder to entertain their son for the day.
And Fox Mulder, man's man, abduction survivor, went almost catatonic with
panic. He froze in mid-step, his mouth open, his hand white-knuckled
around a glass of orange juice, and found he had forgotten how to form complete
sentences without his voice cracking.
"Good grief," Scully muttered, kissing the top of the baby's head, and then
the top of Mulder's head, before she crossed the living room for the front
door. "Do you need some smelling salts, Mulder?"
Mulder blinked. Not only was he terrified of his own son, he was also
operating on an hour's worth of sleep. Plus, the house was still freezing
from lack of electricity the night before.
"I don't think - " Mulder looked down and found William sitting on
the tile under his feet, gazing up the length of his father's legs as if
considering the urge to scream. "I don't think he likes me, Lily."
Scully paused in the foyer, rummaging through coats on the side-rack, turning
over magazines and opening drawers, flipping through some extra memo-pads
and pens and slips of paper. She shut the drawer and patted down her overcoat,
frowning. "He doesn't even know you."
Mulder made a face. "He doesn't know you and he likes you."
Distracted, Scully bent down to search beneath the end table by the door,
and her arm disappeared under the bottom shelf. "That's because when I pick
him up, I don't hold him like I'm about to pull the pin and throw the grenade.
He's not a biological toxin, he's a child, Paul -" She paused and glanced
up. "Have you seen my car keys?"
Mulder sighed. "Second drawer on the left."
She pulled open the drawer, fiddled under a few items, and extracted a tiny
gold keyring. "You know, you might want to take this afternoon as an
opportunity. I think your son is about as stubborn as you are, but
you won't make any headway if you act like you're afraid of him. Why
don't you just play with him?"
"We um, we don't have any toys," was all Mulder could think of to say.
"Then why don't you get out your baseball volumes and read him the box scores?"
Scully shot him a lopsided grin. "At least that way you could put him
to sleep all afternoon."
"Funny," he muttered.
William crawled into the living room and tugged at Scully's pant hem, extending
his short arms and wriggling his oatmeal-sticky fingers in 'baby-up-speak.'
The plea was stark in his big blue eyes. With an exhale of defeat,
Scully scooped up William and rocked him in her arms, whispering to him that
she would be back soon. She stroked his soft brown hair with the tips
of her fingers and tickled his ear. Apparently, Dana Scully, former FBI Agent
and forensic pathologist, was just as good a parent as she was a medical
doctor. And Mulder found the ease with which she slipped into motherhood
something of a wonder, if not the slightest bit infuriating.
While Scully had garnered nothing but clingy affection from William, Mulder
had only incited tears and shrieks of horror any time he stepped within three
feet of William's personal space. The lack of any headway he'd made
as far as bonding went was appalling.
With a sigh, Mulder stood in the kitchen doorway like the picture of rumpled
sleep, glass of orange juice still untouched in one hand, wrinkled sweatpants
lodged in odd places. Behind every movement either of them made with the
baby, there were a hundred unsteady variables pushing at their heels. William
was either safe here or he wasn't safe here, just as the three of them either
would end up dead or they wouldn't. Mulder couldn't help but feel as
if he'd been playing poker with the wrong in-crowd, and now his debts had
mounted and it was payback time.
"I'm emailing Agent Doggett this afternoon," Mulder said. He didn't
say why, and he hoped Scully wouldn't ask him.
But her expression darkened, and her hold on the baby tightened, and Mulder
knew immediately what she was thinking.
"Just be careful about it," she answered, pressing her lips to William's
ear. She gazed up at Mulder, and her resolute blue eyes communicated
all that she refused to say: Despite whatever love she felt, if Mulder requested
special care or protection from Agent Doggett, if he tried going against
her wishes concerning William, she would make sure he lived to regret it.
"I know what I'm doing," said Mulder, feeling suddenly as chilled as his
glass of orange juice. "I can handle the situation. I can handle
an afternoon alone with a baby."
Scully pursed her lips, switching the baby to her opposite hip. "I
never suggested you couldn't."
A long silence crept up upon them, and Mulder stared into the swirls of his
juice. Many unspoken problems still laid between them like a puddle
of gasoline waiting for a match.
Scully cleared her throat. "Are you going to drink that or just stand
there with it?" She motioned with two fingers to Mulder's orange juice.
Mulder shrugged. "I don't know. You didn't drink yours.
You also passed on the coffee. You sure you're feeling alright?"
Scully softened slightly, but her shoulders didn't relax. "I'm fine,"
she said, not offering much else.
Mulder finally took a sip of his juice and the taste was bitter, with bits
of pulp sticking to his teeth and lodging in the crevices between his gums.
While the previous evening had been ethereal and lazy, and while they'd spent
the bulk of it lying naked, pressing and sating and kissing each other into
blessed, pristine ignorance, Mulder was still unable to get the image of
Scully's sudden spell out of his mind. Every time he closed his eyes
there she was, hyperventilating with panic, trembling with vertigo.
He'd meant to question her about it, but was unable to find the right moment.
Between her using William as a buffer to avoid interrogation, and the excuse
that she was getting ready for work, Scully had grown quite skilled at not
letting a free moment slip.
Scully rubbed William's back, her cheek pressed to his pale forehead.
"Maybe I should just stay home with him. With both of you."
And now she was changing the subject again.
William pressed his small palms to Scully's cheeks, giggling his delight
at her texture, and Scully smiled a toothy grin, tickling the baby's chin
with her index finger. "He needs some new clothes and another
bag of diapers - I don't think the one I picked up this morning's going to
make it through the day. And I think -"
Mulder just stood there with his orange juice in hand and a blank stare on
his face. "You can't just play hooky, Dr. Selden," he said.
Scully nodded despite herself; she knew Mulder was right, and Mulder knew
Mulder was right, but William, on the other hand, he was a hard temptation
to resist, with his little button nose and his big blue eyes, and - Mulder
wasn't the least bit conceited about this - his father's infamous, 'Scully,
do this because you love me' smile. If Mulder hadn't already been annoyed
over Scully's pick-and-choose method of disconnecting from him, he might
have found her inability to resist second-generation-Mulder-charm quite amusing.
"I'll see you both when I get home then," Scully finally said - loud enough
for both William and Mulder to hear - and she set the baby on the floor beside
the couch, eyeing Mulder with a thin cross between love and mistrust.
"I'm taking that green toxin to the lab to be analyzed - I'll do it at lunch
and call you with the results. Just...Don't go anywhere with him."
Pulling on her gloves, she added, as an afterthought, "I know you hate the
cold. It's ah, supposed to be miserable out there today anyway."
But their gazes caught and held, and Mulder understood her real meaning with
stinging accuracy; Don't you dare take my child out of this house, Mulder.
"We'll be okay," he said, forcing neutrality into his voice.
"Good," she said.
And then she was out the door, and nothing more could be said.
Four hours, six glasses of orange juice, three children's programs, three
Advil later, and there Mulder sat, bone-tired and cross legged on his living
room carpet, making paper airplanes out of the sports' section with a one
and a half year old.
Since neither he nor Scully had any toys lying around, and since William
seemed to be rather content with wailing and shrieking his displeasure over
Scully's absence, Mulder had tried everything he could think of to amuse
the child or, at the very least, preoccupy him. Nothing, however, had
worked until he'd unearthed last week's newspaper and begun compulsively
folding the local sections into paper fans; William was fussy as hell, but
he seemed thoroughly enraptured by crumpling paper.
Not that William smiled for Mulder the way he had for Scully, despite a newfound
common interest in crushing the personal ads. At this non-development, Mulder
had first been resigned, and then annoyed, and now he careened wildly towards
frustration. Fox Mulder seemed to have a singular genius for being
unable to bond with the one person left in the world still genetically related
"Hey, check this out - " Mulder wiggled a paper swan at William, pulling
on its base to make the wings flap. "You like birds? We could
give this one to Mommy."
William took the swan from Mulder as if he expected Mulder's fist to close
in on him like a sea anemone upon a crab. Mulder grinned at the improvement
- William not being afraid to touch him, that is - and set to work on another
swan. William turned the first swan over, examined it carefully, and
set it on the floor. Then he pounded the swan with his fist until the swan
looked as if it had gotten caught swimming in between the Titanic and the
Mulder sighed. "Everyone's a critic," he said, ripping another page
out of the newspaper. With a yawn, he glanced at his watch: five-twenty-two.
He shivered and tried shaking off his unease; the house was still not warm
enough for his liking, and he'd have to turn up the heat or clean out the
air vents or...something.
Scully called him every hour on the hour, and she emailed him every half
hour, and while she insisted to no end that she trusted him but distrusted
everyone else, Mulder couldn't help but think that Scully didn't actually
trust him at all. Or - that is, she trusted him with her life, but not with
the child she had raised from birth.
And that knowledge stabbed at Mulder harder than any gunshot or knife wound
he'd ever received.
Maybe Scully was terrified he would make good on his argument to call Skinner,
just completely disregard her wishes, and give William away during the break
between his lunch and his afternoon snack. Not that Mulder would ever
do such a thing without her expressed consent, but the fact that Scully actually
considered he might sent a sliver of anger up the base of his spine.
If Scully didn't trust him enough to accept her judgment, and if he couldn't
trust her to be honest with him...
Well, then perhaps the real motivation behind William's return to them was
simply a psychological ploy: confuse he and Scully into such a state of un-trust
that they killed one another.
William reached over and repeatedly jabbed the tip of a Classified-Ad paper
airplane into Mulder's knee, and Mulder yelped as the edges dug into his
skin. William jumped in surprise, obviously unprepared for such a reaction,
and he skittered away towards the couch on his hands and knees, his tiny
nose scrunched as if he wanted to wail at the heavens again. Again,
for the fiftieth time in one afternoon.
Cursing silently to himself for erasing hours of father-son progress in the
span it took to inhale, Mulder tried on a wary smile. "Hey," said,
still testing out this never-before-used 'Daddy voice' of his. "Hey,
no more - none of that, okay? It's not a big deal, Will. Look
-" He grabbed one of the airplanes and jabbed it into his other knee, wincing
at the sharpness of the airplane's tip. "See? I do it, too.
Daddy's just a big... a big dumb airplane man. Look -" He jabbed the
airplane down again and tossed the crumpled leftovers into the air, arms
William, seemingly unconvinced by any of these antics, sat huddled by the
couch, eyebrow raised, thumb in his mouth.
Mulder sighed. "Yeah, your mother wouldn't buy it, either."
Pushing down onto his hands, Mulder crawled closer to the child, all the
while making goofy faces to try and distract the baby from his encroachment.
William watched Mulder with wary blue-violet eyes, his thumb securely stuffed
in his mouth, his free hand wrapped around the first hand. He
looked for all the world like Scully, after being forced to sit through one
of Mulder's paranormal slideshow-fests. The lack of confidence was
Finally, Mulder's backside hit the couch, and, unable to go any farther,
he sidled up next to his son. Both little Mulder and big Mulder gazed
at one another with uncertainty. If William had no idea what to make
of this weird, goofy guy claiming to be his father, then the weird goofy
guy had less of an idea what to make of William. William didn't utter
a sound, but he didn't look reassured either, and he didn't take his eyes
off Mulder, as if waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Okay, kiddo, here's the deal," said Mulder, "I'm going to pick you up again
and take you into the office upstairs so I can check my email, so that your
mother's head doesn't explode, but I need you to not cry this time. I know
I'm not Mommy and you're intent on reminding me of this fact over and over,
but I think I've exceeded my dosage of Advil for the day."
William blinked, his tiny mouth squeezed around his thumb. On the one
hand, silence wasn't the best answer, but on the other, it wasn't a high
"Okay," said Mulder, nodding to himself. There wasn't any reason why
he couldn't do this without scarring or injuring both of them.
William froze in mid-thumb-suck as Mulder reached out with nervous hands
and touched William's back, and then his side, trying to figure out the best
angle to hold the kid. He certainly couldn't throw William over his
shoulder in a fireman's grip, or hold the kid like a dirty towel, but every
time he tried picking William up any other way, screaming erupted as if Mulder
was poking him with dinner forks.
William's lower lip jutted in a pout, just a slight waver that stretched
all the way to his eyes. In a moment of panic, Mulder reached under
William's arms and quickly pulled the child up, settling him onto the side
of his hip as he'd seen Scully do earlier. William seemed to like that position
whenever she held him that way, and Mulder supposed it didn't seem all that
uncomfortable or impossible to execute.
"You doing okay?" Mulder asked, practically on the verge of crying himself.
"You ah, you like the weather up here?" When there was no protest from his
son, Mulder breathed a sigh of relief. "See? Look how good I am at
William, thumb still stuffed in his mouth, cocked his head to one side and
examined Mulder like an agent examining a suspect. Mulder cocked his
head to the other side and did the same. The tentative look on the
child's face still seemed to indicate unshed tears, and Mulder realized that
lack of shrieking did not necessarily translate into winning the war.
Frowning, Mulder glanced about the room for a distraction. Four Advil
would definitely be pushing the envelope of decency, and he refused to call
Scully. There were no toys lying around, no dolls or games or shiny
objects, nothing but crumpled newspaper and -
"Aha!" Quite pleased with his own brilliance, Mulder bent at the knees
and scooped up a framed photo from the coffee table.
It was a Polariod picture of he and Scully from a rest stop somewhere in
the Pacific Northwest. Mulder had been sucking on a ketchup drenched
french fry, and Scully rummaging around through the miniature backpack she
occasionally carried in those days. Mulder bent over to whisper something
in her ear, and whatever he'd said must have made her laugh, because Scully's
head was tilted towards his in suspended amusement. It was one of the
only pictures he and Scully had ever taken together, mostly because it had
been completely unexpected; a young girl somehow snuck up behind them and
froze the moment on kodak paper.
"Look," said Mulder, holding up the picture for William to see. "Who's
this lady? I think you know her."
William blinked a few times, glanced back up at Mulder, and seemed to consider
this peace offering. Mulder held his breath; negotiating peaceful coexistence
with his son was like negotiating a peace treaty between two children fighting
over the same animal cracker.
Curious, William patted the cool glass over the photo, examining the texture
of the frame. His heart-shaped mouth screwed up on one side, and then
his tiny brows furrowed, and finally, he giggled for the first time all afternoon.
"Yeah." Mulder smiled. "Pretty cool, huh?"
Seemingly delighted by his new discovery, William clasped his hands together,
and the musical vibration of the child's giggle carried like fresh air to
Mulder. The secret moment between father and son warmed the still frozen
places inside Mulder's muscles, and both little Mulder and big Mulder laughed
as they shared in the one thing they undisputably had in common: uncensored
adoration for Dana Katherine Scully.
"Let's say we take Mommy upstairs," Mulder offered, gripping William from
underneath with one hand, and keeping both the child's body and the photo
secure with the other.
William gurgled at this, and Mulder translated drooling as a 'yes.'