By Christine Leigh
Summary: Mulder finds something he enjoys doing, and Scully prepares to return to work. This story is the seventh in what I call the Party of Three Universe, which is a series of stories and vignettes that are set post-Requiem.
It was a quiet for the moment. Scully was sleeping, Mulder was feeding William, and the sound of the clock ticking in the living room could be heard in the kitchen. Nearly three a.m. and all was well. Mulder sat at the kitchen table while William sucked on his bottle. The transition from Scully to Scully/bottle had been a bumpy one at first, but William seemed to have accepted it for now, and was going at the bottle with vigor. It had been two weeks, and Mulder was happy to see his son okay with their new arrangement. He spoke to William in his softest voice.
"Your mom is leaving us for the big, bad world soon, so I'm glad to see you've made the smart choice. You're one smart boy. Yes you are."
William gave Mulder what Mulder swore was a smile, even while feeding. Scully had yet to see it, so she went along with Mulder when he yammered on about it, but Mulder had seen it three times now, and he grinned back at his happy little camper. Scully would be returning to work the week after next, so the weaning had happened earlier than she would have liked, but that was that. Mulder was sleepy, but contented. There was something about this feeding thing, it was different from just holding him.
Two weeks prior
"Scully, it's me. I'm not sure how late I'll be, but probably another hour. Bye."
Scully smiled as she listened to the message. He sounded good. She took the jacket off that she'd been trying on and went to take the lamb chops that she'd just put into the oven out.
Days like today she felt as though she'd stepped through the looking glass, except that unlike Alice, the world that Scully entered was normal. Reverse it, she thought, and that's us.
Anyway, they were both certainly busy now. She'd been going to a retraining class for the past month at Quantico in preparation for her return to the classroom, and Mulder, for the first time since William's birth, had been alone with his son three mornings each week during this time. She and Mulder had both been a little nervous about this, but it was working. William was all the more happy to see his mother when she arrived back, and he was a trouper. After he was fed, she and Mulder would have lunch and then would tend to whatever needed tending. There was still a lot of his stuff that needed to be unpacked, and the sight of those suitcases and boxes on one side of the living room couldn't disappear too soon as far as Scully was concerned, but finding space, or a place to store each item had become a challenge. Some days they just threw it in, and took a nap instead. Those were the best afternoons.
The chops removed, Scully opened a bag of salad greens and emptied it into a bowl. She chopped some green onions and a red pepper, mixed them in and set this aside. There was a loaf of garlic bread that would go in later, and half a bottle of Cabernet, if they felt like wine.
This was Mulder's second week at his new 'job.' At Scully's insistence, he'd gone back to shooting hoops at the gym shortly after he'd moved in. She'd had to almost physically push him out the door, but once he'd started again, there was no stopping him. He'd been doing this for so long, with more or less the same group of players, and they had given him a warm welcome back.
Jim, a criminal lawyer, now on disability, had been a member of the group almost as long as Mulder, and upon hearing that Mulder was no longer employed, had asked him if he would be interested in doing some volunteer basketball coaching for a group of disadvantaged boys. They weren't juvenile delinquents, but definitely possible candidates. It was through St. Michael's Academy. Mulder vaguely recalled hearing of this organization. It was based in D.C., founded by a former NBA player who had established the academy in order to give the youths of his former neighborhood a chance to succeed in life. It combined after-school and summer tutoring and sports programs and the students who were accepted only paid a nominal fee of five dollars per month. Mulder said he'd give it a try, and a coach, of sorts, was born. The sessions were from four until 6:00 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday, and as needed or when he was available, on Saturday. So far it had been a terrific experience. He came home those nights looking somewhat like the man Scully had met on that day a million years ago.
She returned to the bedroom. The trick was to find a suit that would work with a blouse that allowed easy access to the milkworks. She started sorting through her closet one more time.
"You're not just smart, you're intelligent. Your eyes give you away. You have your mother's eyes, and, believe me, those are the best eyes in the universe. When you're older, you'll find out just what I mean by 'best.' We'll have to talk about that. Yes, we will."
William was through, finally. Mulder was really tired. It had been a long week. He loved the coaching, and enjoyed the boys, but also acknowledged that he wasn't getting any younger. Not that anyone was, but Scully was remarkable. She seemed to be all right with her retraining, but they hadn't talked a whole lot about it. On class days, she'd come home, feed William, and then after the two of them had lunch, they'd go either their own ways, or sort through more of his stuff, or spend the afternoon napping, which had become their code word for an afternoon of sweet, hot, sex. He had no complaints. He was just tired. He put the near-empty nurser on the counter, took William back to the bedroom, changed him, and put him down to sleep, which, after one more smile (number four!) he did.
Mulder got into bed. Scully was just short of snoring, she was sleeping so soundly. That was good. She needed her sleep. Teaching, undoubtedly wouldn't be as wearing on her physically as all her years on the X-Files, but it would be a change, and any change requires time for adjustment. She'd taken on motherhood so far with relative equanimity, but he worried all the same about her. Last year had been hell on both of them, but they had moved beyond it, if ever so slowly. It was a painful progress at times, and at others, not. He was so sleepy. He turned over and was out, and . . .
He was walking down a street. It was fall, October, most likely, but then it is October, isn't it? The trees were red with beauty. Cambridge, or perhaps somewhere else in Massachusetts? Odd, it wasn't the Vineyard. He was going to meet her, but she must be late. He approached an outdoor café and sat down at a table. Everyone around him seemed so vibrant. They were exchanging ideas, and talking as though one word of theirs would change the course of humanity for the better. It was exhilarating just listening to them. It was excruciating waiting for her, though. He ordered an espresso and continued to listen. She was almost never late. And she was very good about calling. His drink came. He sipped at it. Where was she? The trees were so red. His cell phone was ringing. He froze. He wouldn't answer it. She would show up if he didn't answer the phone. If he ignored the phone, she was all right . . .
He woke up. And then he sat up. She was next to him and she was nearly snoring. He got up and went over to the bassinet. William was making regular breathing sounds, only perhaps a little louder than usual - like mother, like son, Mulder thought. He went to the window and opened it a crack. The air would be good. He returned to bed, and slept.
Scully awoke to an empty space beside her. Which wasn't unheard of, but when he'd been up for the early feeding, Mulder would usually defer his morning run. And this morning in particular, she'd been counting on that. Oh well, best laid plans. Scully got up and took the baby monitor with her to the bathroom. Good time to grab a shower. Or not. William was crying. She finished washing her face and went to fetch her son.
Mulder returned half an hour later to a still fussy William and a perturbed looking Scully who was nursing him.
"Anything wrong?" he asked. He planted a kiss on her cheek and went to pour a glass of orange juice.
"I don't think so. How was he earlier?"
Mulder downed his glass of juice.
"He smiled again. Twice. That's four times now."
Now Scully smiled. She was waiting to see this 'smile,' that William had so far graced Mulder only with, but if it had to happen (if it ever had) then today was a good day for it.
"Good time for me to take a shower?" Mulder asked.
"Yes. We're about through here."
Mulder headed for the bathroom, and Scully and William for the bedroom. The running water sounded so good to Scully as she put William down. She needed to call her mother about what time she was to pick William up, and she needed to call to confirm the food she'd ordered for dinner. But right now, above all else, she needed a shower. A good, hot, long one. With Mulder. She shed her pajamas and grabbed the baby monitor and headed for the bathroom. William started to cry. She put her robe on, and picked him up.
"What's wrong? Do you know what today is? I know, you don't. But I know you love your daddy, and even smile for him, or so he says. Oh, sweetie, what's wrong?"
Scully cuddled him and walked back and forth, for a couple of minutes. "How about a little music?" She wasn't in voice just yet this morning, but she turned the radio on. It was tuned to an adult contemporary station, which was the compromise between her NPR and the all-sports station that Mulder liked. William went for it. After a few minutes of silence from the bassinet, Scully headed for the bathroom, once more, where Mulder was actually still in the shower. No wonder the water bill had almost tripled in the past few months.
Mulder was enjoying his shower. He was enjoying everything. Who knew that domestic life could be like this? He hadn't had many close men friends, but the men he knew who'd lived this life hadn't seemed the way that he himself felt right now. They had been so normal, so, he hated to say it, so boring. Aside from their work lives, Mulder really hadn't had too much interest in knowing anything about them. Now, he felt almost guilty for having judged them that way. Was he one of them? Nah, he couldn't be. One thing for sure was, was....he stopped his musing and grinned through the water and steam at the shower door that had just opened, and at Scully. Now she was behind him, her head against his back and her arms around his waist. The water poured down upon them.
Oh yeah. This was it. One thing for sure was, he was not alone. Probably never would be again. This was a good thing. He turned to face her and they stayed that way for a few minutes just letting the water blind them. Then Scully leaned up and kissed him, long and hard. "Mulder, happy birthday."
~ End ~
Next in series: Hooligans
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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.