By Christine Leigh

Summary: Post-Existence. The new family adjusts to their routine, and plan an outing. This story is the fifth in what I call the Party of Three Universe, which is a series of stories and vignettes that are set post-Requiem.
Rating: PG
Category: MSR
Spoilers: Existence.

May 2001
Scully's apartment

party Mulder is dozing. He goes in and out for a few minutes and then slips out of bed, grabs some clothing and goes into the bathroom to dress. The three of them have already established a routine, and if it isn't disturbed, Scully and William will sleep another two hours until seven. He exits the bathroom and does a head check before leaving - steady breathing issues from the bassinet - good. Steady breathing from the bed - also good. Everyone's fine, so it's time for him to make his daily trek. He bends and gives Scully's cheek a gentle kiss, and then is out the door.

Mulder's apartment

There's no traffic at 5:30 in the morning, so Mulder arrives at his apartment in about 15 minutes. As he stands watching the fish gobble their breakfast, he muses on the cliche that's proved to be 100 per cent true, the one about home being where the heart is. He hasn't lived in his apartment on a regular basis since his return, and not at all since William was born, but there are the fish still, and his things, which he has been taking one bundle at a time over to Scully's. They've never discussed it; it's another unspoken given between them. He's been moving in for three weeks now, and he loves seeing her smile her little smile whenever she chances upon another of his belongings. Whether a shirt in a drawer or his juicer on the kitchen counter, she's happy he's doing this. He still has to sort of pinch himself to know that it's all real, that she wants him there, and that his being there has made her happy. Hell, it's made him happy. Happy is this whole new concept that's invaded their lives; it's taken over for the present; he wants them to assimilate it. He wants William to have a father and a mother who aren't afraid to hope.

Mulder knows he should probably get on the task of deciding what to do with his furniture since with the exception of the desk, he's not sure he needs to hold onto any of it. He looks at his former devoted companion, the couch, and finds himself incredulous. The man who'd spent the better part of the last ten years there, eating, drinking, sleeping, in short, pretty much passing on life altogether, no longer existed. When his mind wanders back to those years, it now seems like a movie of someone else's life. Well, with the exception of one spectacular night, but that had only started here. The main event had most definitely played out in his bedroom. Now he is grinning like an idiot. Time to get moving. Not that he'll be wearing them anytime soon, but today he's decided to take a couple of suits with him. He gets them from his bedroom closet, says goodbye to the fish, and leaves. One more stop for bagels, and then home.

Scully's apartment

Scully has never felt this way before in her life. Not even close. She looks down at William, who is nursing rather vigorously. So far, there have been no problems with feeding him. Every four hours they're ready to go again. She is sitting up in bed, her back against mountains of pillows. Mulder has great fun throwing them on the floor beside the bed each night, in order to make room for himself. When the 3 a.m. shift rolls around, she then retrieves as many as can fit on her side of the bed and then lifts William from his bassinet beside her, and they proceed while Mulder sleeps on. She's never known that such contentment existed until sitting there nursing their son while watching Mulder sleep. He awakened the first few times for the event, but now sleeps on through until five or so when he gets up and runs his morning errand.

She watches the tiny mouth in action, and is filled with awe. She's tired, and knows she will be for some time to come. But she's so happy. She's no fool, and is learning to accept her miracles. The two people who comprise her world are here and healthy. There's nothing more she will ever want from life, and she prays to God to grant them all good long ones together. She hears the door to the apartment open and close. He's back; she smiles and calls out to him.

"We're up."

He enters and comes to her and they kiss good morning.

"Hi," he says softly.

He then kisses William on the forehead. Scully's heart always skips a beat when she sees this, and she sees this a lot. Mulder loves William so, and he isn't shy about demonstrating it. She had always known that if given a chance, he'd be a wonderful father, and witnessing it has been priceless. He sits down on the end of the bed.

"How did you sleep? Was the 3 a.m. all right?"

"Fine. He's so good. I think we're about through for now. I could use a shower."

Mulder grabs a clean towel from the stack on the chair by the bed, and throws it over his left shoulder.

"Hand him over."

She does and exits into the bathroom. The hot water revives her brain. She stays under long enough to review a small plan she's made for today. It's a very small one, but important. She finds Mulder and William have moved to the kitchen when she comes out. She dresses in jeans and a buttoned down teal-colored shirt she hasn't worn in years that would ordinarily be a little large for her, but is perfect for now. She's lucky, she knows - she lost most of her baby weight when William was born, but there's some more that she will shed eventually. She joins them.

"Mulder, thanks for picking these up." She smears cream cheese on a warm bagel, while he pours a cup of her favorite morning tea. She's not back on coffee yet. Who knows, maybe she'll end up not going back. She'd missed it desperately at the beginning of her pregnancy, but hadn't at all in recent weeks. Mulder's smelled so good, though. Guess time will tell, she thought.

He'd moved the bassinet to the living room where William was now sleeping, and where they took their breakfast to sit and eat on the coffee table. This was their morning routine - alternating showers, usually hers first, and then breakfast on the couch. Sometimes they'd read the paper a little, or sometimes they'd just sit there quietly consuming their meal. It was all very simple, and too good to be true. But it was. Scully was ready for the next step, though, and having finished her breakfast, broached the topic.

"Do you have any particular plans for today Mulder?"

"Do you mean besides the usual?"

She bows her head and grins. Who'd ever have predicted it, she thought, that they'd ever see the day when "the usual" encompassed solely the care and feeding of their child? Life truly was weird, but in a beautiful way.

"Well, the usual could use a little variety, don't you think? William might be wondering by now if the world begins and ends within these walls."

"They're great walls, Scully. Walls to be proud of. Walls to inspire genius and instill athletic grace. Walls, to..."

"I get it. He'll be President of MENSA and the United States, not to mention a star of the NBA, if he never leaves the confines of these walls until he's eighteen."

"Something like that." He grins. God, he loves her. He leans over and kisses her. She deepens it, and they keep going until the inevitable, which happens in a matter of seconds - a tiny cry that escalates fast. Mulder gets up and retrieves William from the bassinet.

"What is it? You were so sleepy a few minutes ago." Mulder is rocking him and speaking so softly that it is almost imperceptible, to anyone else, that is, besides himself and William. They are in their own little world. Scully could watch this all day and night and never tire of it.

"Does he need to be changed?" she asked.

"No, I don't think it's that." He continues the rocking.

"Was it a dream?" he whispers. "We can't have you having bad dreams; that's not allowed." A few minutes more, and William seems to be calming down, so Mulder lowers him back gently into the bassinet.

"I'm sorry, Scully. You were trying to say something."

"Yes, I was. Mulder, how about an outing? You know, leave the apartment for a few hours, all three of us." There, she'd said it.

"Oh." He knew she'd been going a little stir crazy. He also knew that it was time to face his apprehension about the inevitable first trip outside of their little cocoon. He had thought that the occasion would be William's first checkup, but that wasn't until next week. Apparently it was going to happen sooner.

"What did you have in mind?"

"How about a visit to your apartment? I haven't been there since you came home from the hospital, and from the look of things around here, it must be emptying out fast. I know he won't remember it, but I'd also love for William to have been there at least one time."

"Hasn't he been there at least one time?" Mulder couldn't resist that one.

She smiled and blushed. "All right, one more time."

It was the blush that did it. How could he say "no" to a woman who'd experienced the things that Scully had, but could still blush at the memory of that night? The answer was, that he couldn't. She had him. He had her. They were stuck.

"I'll clean up then, and we'll go whenever you two are ready." He headed for the bathroom.

She waited until she heard the water running, and then went into the bedroom. Scully wore next to no jewelry, but she still kept a jewelry box on her dresser. She opens it and removes the two slim gold bands that have been there for close to two months. They'd worn them only for the minutes following the brief ceremony, but perhaps today they would put them back on.

She got busy packing. First the diaper bag and then rest of William's things - that was easy. Then she moves to the refrigerator and starts to load things into the old wicker picnic basket that had been her grandmother's. She makes two good-sized turkey sandwiches, and throws in a jar of pickles, some slices of extra-sharp cheddar, some chocolate chip cookies her mother had brought over yesterday, two bottles of water, and a split of champagne that had been sitting in her refrigerator for a year. And then she remembered utensils, and two wine glasses. She hasn't noticed any of Mulder's flatware in her kitchen drawers, but who knows what they'll find over there. Frankly she doesn't care; she is giddy at the prospect of being, once more, in the place where her dreams and her life had finally converged.

William awakens and starts to cry again. This time it is his diaper. Scully carries him into the bedroom and dispenses with the operation. She then dresses him and they return to the living room. He would be awake now for a bit. Good timing, she thinks, as she sits there on the couch cradling him.

"We're going for a ride. You're going to see where your Daddy used to live. We'll visit with his fish."

"His fish miss you." Mulder stood before them, clean, shaved and dressed. In his black jeans and one of her favorite almost black, but actually dark grey turtlenecks, he looked so handsome, not to mention tempting.

"I packed lunch." She nodded toward the basket by the door next to William's bag. "Is there anything else you can think of that we'll need?"

He looked at her, or at them rather, and didn't say anything. "Need" had taken on a whole new meaning for Mulder. When he thought about the people and things that had fulfilled his so-called needs before now, it all seemed like a joke. All that he would ever need was right here before him. This beautiful woman and tiny baby were it. The happy thing is definitely kicking in.

"No. I'm ready. If that's everything, we can make it down in one trip, I guess?" He phrases this as a semi-question. He wants their first foray into the world to go smoothly.

"I think so, if you take the basket and William's bag." She gets up from the couch.

"Mulder, thank you for doing this. It means a lot to me. I hope we enjoy ourselves." She stands on tiptoe and gives him a swift kiss on the cheek. He'd given her so much. He'd given her a life.

"Mulder, I love you."

"Scully, I love you."

William gurgled.

Out the door they go.

~ End ~

Next in series: Party of Three

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This story is (c) Copyright 2001 by Christine Leigh. "The X-Files" and its characters are the property of the Fox Network and Ten-Thirteen Productions and are borrowed here without profit or intent for profit.