TITLE: Almost Home (14/?)
AUTHOR: Shoshana
EMAIL ADDRESS: shoshana1013@excite.com
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Gossamer, Spookys site, Xemplary,
etc.
SPOILER WARNING: Seventh season episodes through Requiem.
RATING: NC-17 (Most of the story is rated R, NC-17 parts will be
clearly marked)
CONTENT STATEMENT: MSR
CLASSIFICATION: SRA
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully Romance
SUMMARY: Post ep for Requiem. Mulder comes back... but he's
missing something.
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me.
NOTE: Thanks to my great beta readers Keleka, Lisa and Sallie!

Almost Home (14/?)
By Shoshana

February 23nd, 2001
Friday
12:30 p.m.
Margie's Pharmacy and Cafe
Quonochontaug, Rhode Island

Scully had no difficulty spotting Mulder's childhood friend at the
claustrophic, yet pleasant, drug store. She was the only woman who
raced over to the tall agent, trapping him in an affectionate bear
hug.

Attired in pharmaceutical white, and bearing a huge smile on her
face, she said cheerily, "Oh, Fox. It's so good to see you. You're
looking great!"

Mulder was a little taken aback. The last time he'd seen Margie was
in high school, when he'd come to the summer home with his mom for
several months. He knew she'd wanted to follow in her father's
footsteps and was pleased the store now bore her name.

Margie Townsend had been just one of a crowd of teenagers who'd hung
out at the beach, a mixed group of townies and seasonal residents.
Samantha and Margie had been close friends before his sister's
disappearance. She'd always seen Mulder as a big brother type, a
relationship sustained throughout their adolescent years.

The incident at the summer home in 1997 had caused her family
nothing but worry for her old friend. Everyone had seen Mrs. Mulder
occasionally after her son had graduated high school, staying at the
summer home for a few weeks every year. They all knew about Fox's
illustrious career at Oxford and his subsequent job with the FBI, but
Margie never dreamed there would be a hostage situation involving her
friend.

Local cops had filled her in on the details not printed in the
newspaper. The FBI had tried to suppress as much information as
possible, but it was truly difficult to quash small town rumors.
Margie had been content with the knowledge Fox Mulder hadn't harmed
himself or anyone else around him.

She'd shelved the whole thing in her mind, attributing it to
excessive job stress. There were times she wanted to scream at
little old ladies in her establishment who wouldn't obey her warnings
about mixing medications. That was as stressful as her job got. She
could only imagine what law enforcement was like and what pressures
led to his apparent breakdown.

Margie had been sad to hear of his mother's suicide. Convinced
she'd never she him again, his phone call that morning had been most
welcome. She unhooked her long arms from around his all too skinny
frame, and smiled at his shocked, but pleased expression.

"So, who's your friend?" she asked, not bothering to give Fox Mulder
a chance to respond to her initial greeting. He was still gaping at
her like a fish, so she decided to expedite all necessary
introductions.

Mulder grinned at her demand, then bobbed his head shyly in Scully's
direction, "Um, uh, Scully. This is Margie Townsend, a good friend
from high school. Margie, this is Dana Scully, my, um, uh, partner
and uh--"

"Fiancee," supplied Scully, rescuing her flailing companion.

Mulder's eyebrows soared skyward, amusement crossing his stunned,
but joyful face. He hadn't expected any acknowledgement of this kind
from Scully, not even when they went to her mother's house on Sunday.
He'd given her his grandmother's ring the other day as a promise--
with no timetable, no set expectations. Her public candor pleased
and delighted him to no end.

"Well, for goodness sakes, I hope so!" quipped Margie, gesturing
toward Scully's midsection. "It's about time, too, Fox! I've
already got three of my own!"

Scully blushed involuntarily, uncomfortable in the spotlight.
Margie saved her quickly by adding, "Come on, Dana. There's a table
with your name on it right over here."

She offered Scully her hand, then gently guided her to a seat at one
of the six tables near the coffee bar. The old soda fountain had
been renovated, reduced in size and outfitted with the latest
coffeehouse paraphernalia. Margie had wanted to maintain some of the
atmosphere of her Dad's store, which was a hangout for local
residents all year round.

Mulder shook his head in astonishment. Margie had always been
feisty and outgoing. She'd looked after him like a mother hen after
Samantha disappeared, despite being years younger. He'd always
looked forward to summer in Quonochontaug, confident he had one
friend in the small tourist town.

At thirty-seven she still looked great, blonde and lanky as he
remembered her. Mulder was exceedingly grateful there'd never been
anything other than friendship between them. He wasn't prepared to
face the wrath of Scully if she suspected anything otherwise.

Margie spoke first again, her curiosity a great motivating factor,
"What the heck are you doing here in February? I thought you Mulders
never show up in the winter months?"

"We're taking a break, Margie. I was, uh, on special assignment for
a few months. Scully was at work until this past week when I
returned from out-of-state."

He thought fast, improvising a plausible scenario in his mind in
case Margie's audacity compelled her to pursue this topic any
further. She didn't, sensing Dana Scully's discomfort as her
'fiance' spoke. Instead, she beckoned her young counterperson over
to the table and plopped menus in front of both her guests.

"Well, I hope you'll at least have a couple of warm drinks today. I
might have to take off and fill some prescriptions for a few minutes,
but in the meantime I want you two to enjoy yourself."

"Thanks, Margie. You don't know how much it means to me to see a
familar face," Mulder said earnestly.

Scully smiled at him from across the table, the poignancy of his
words evident to them alone. She'd made the right decision not
mentioning his breakdown before they arrived in Quonochontaug. He'd
digested all the details in his journal and it still hadn't prevented
him from driving up here for the weekend.

She surmised their conversation this afternoon had occurred after
some soul searching on Mulder's part. He couldn't remember every
second of their confrontation in the summer house as she did.
Secondhand knowledge of that incident was working in his favor this
time. He didn't need to recall pointing a gun at her in a
hallucinogenic haze. There were some memories best left forgotten.

Margie turned her attention to Scully after they'd ordered their
drinks. "When are you due, Dana?" she asked, her tone more
sisterlike than maternal.

Scully smiled, first at Margie, then across the table at Mulder. He
was rapidly recovering from Margie's warm welcome, totally relaxed in
the small town setting around him. He loved DC, but he also loved
every little roadside eatery he'd visited as an FBI agent.

This one was even more special to him; it had been a haven for him
as a child, with his friend Margie and her family constantly
around. Now, as an adult, he savored his reacquaintance with
his old friend, elated to share the good fortune of Scully's
pregnancy with her.

"May, I hope," Scully responded, enjoying Margie's candidness.

"Well, all my kids were a little early. All healthy, too. I
suppose he's been coddling you," she teased.

"A lot more lately," she responded, glancing at Mulder knowingly.
He winced, a flash of regret temporarily on his face. Margie missed
it; her eyes were totally focussed on Scully's blue ones.

"She's very independent," Mulder said, trying to lighten the mood.
He wouldn't dwell on his forced separation from Scully, and he didn't
want her to either.

"She'd have to be, to put up with you, Fox," Margie replied, her
eyes brightening.

"Ah, I wasn't so bad! Samantha just made it sound that way!" he
asserted.

Margie's face darkened suddenly, her tone becoming deadly serious,
"Fox? Did you ever?" She reached beside her and placed her hand
over Mulder's. "I don't mean to pry... you know how much it would
mean for me to know."

Mulder squeezed Margie's hand once, then glanced at Scully before he
spoke, "She's gone, Margie. She died when she was fourteen."

Margie gasped, placing her hand over her mouth in disbelief.

"We found out last year, around the time my mom passed away. It's a
long story, too long to recount here." He paused to place his hand
on his friend's shoulder. "I'm sure she's at peace now. That's the
most important thing for me to know. I hope it will help you, too."

"Oh, Fox. She was a beautiful friend to me. I've always wondered--"

"She's in a safe place now. You don't have to wonder anymore," he
assured her.

Marge put her hand over his while it still rested on her shoulder,
patting it softly. "You always said you might find her if you looked
hard enough. Don't you remember telling me that?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I do. And I did find her. But the path I took to
find her led me to Scully, too. We never would have met, would never
have been partnered at the Bureau."

Mulder stopped talking and looked over at Scully, who was pursing
her lips and gazing downward. He didn't want to embarrass her
publicly, but she'd come to mean everything to him in less than a
week. Granted, he knew their history together, knew they'd had a
strong commitment to one another long before his abduction and
subsequent memory loss.

His sixth sense kicked in whenever he was near her--and he was never
far from her distinctive scent, her mellifluous voice, the soft
touch of her cream-colored skin. They were all so familiar, so
soothing to him. He knew he'd be lost without her; he didn't care to
analyze the situation any further than that. There was no logical
reason for him to be so in love with Scully after less than a week--
but his life, his work at the FBI, had seldom been altogether
logical.

"I'm glad something good came out of your long search, Fox. And
now... what are you going to name the baby?" Margie chirped.

Mulder and Scully laughed in unison. With all the other things on
their mind, they hadn't even discussed baby names. Mulder grinned
at Margie, then at Scully and said, "Just so it's not Fox, right
Margie?"

"What? Doesn't Dana call you Fox?" she queried, amused by his
longstanding aversion to his given name.

"He won't let me. Never has," interjected Scully dryly.

Margie smiled broadly and replied, "So that's why he calls you
Scully! I was wondering what was up. How long have you known each
other?"

Both agents opened their mouths to answer the question, then paused
to look at one another. Scully smiled sweetly, tilting her head to
one side, waiting for his cue.

"Eight years, Margie. We've known each other eight years," Mulder
replied wistfully.

"Margie!!!" a voice from the other side of store screamed out.

"Oh, gosh. Sorry to spoil the party! I have to go back to work.
Damn! Fox, I'm so glad you stopped by. Dana, I know you have your
work cut out for you with our friend here," she said, giving Scully a
conspiratorial look.

"Margie, if she doesn't know by now--" Mulder wisecracked.

"Exactly. He's a handful, as his mom used to say. But he's never
looked happier since he teamed up with you! I wish you both the
best. Now... eat lots of doughnuts. Especially you, Fox," she said,
winking at Mulder.

Margie embraced them both before leaving to take care of business at
the other side of the store. They both watched her stride off, her
licorice-colored turtleneck and gabardine slacks a striking contrast
to her white pharmacist's jacket.

Mulder swiveled his head back around, suddenly self-conscious he'd
been staring a little too long at Margie's receding backside. Scully
had her lips wrapped round the rim of her coffee cup, a barely
concealed, but wry smile meeting his guilty eyes.

"Scully! There was never anything--" he sputtered.

Scully giggled into her beverage, using her considerable manual
dexterity to lower the mug to the table without spilling its
contents.

"I know, Mulder! It's not a sin to admire her. She's a very pretty
woman. A lot more outspoken than I'd expect in this conservative
little town. It's no wonder you two were friends; you both defy the
status quo in your own idiosyncratic way," she observed.

"She's done well for herself. I always knew she would," he mused.

The lunchtime crowd had fled the little cafe area, returning to
their jobs or other wintertime errands. A local newspaper was
nonchalantly spread across the top of the wooden countertop, so the
barperson could simultaneously read and keep an eye out for new
customers.

Mulder moved from his chair across from Scully to the one on her
left. He slid the wicker chair close to her side, then did a
boardinghouse reach to retrieve his coffee from the other side of the
table.

"Comfy?" Scully asked dryly.

"Very," he responded, grabbing a sip of his unadulterated black
coffee. He savored the rich taste; Scully's pots of decaffeinated
had not been cutting it lately, even when he spiked them with
Taster's Choice.

"I think we need a second coffee maker," she said, reading his
thoughts.

"Maybe we'll get one as a wedding gift, fiancee," he teased.

Scully almost lost control of her coffee cup a second time, laughing
at the term thrown back at her.

"I saved your butt, Mulder. What would your old school chums say?"

"I doubt they even know I'm alive, Scully. Margie's the only person
who'd remember me. The older residents knew my mom, probably still
did--until last year." He paused for a minute, choosing his words
carefully. "After my mom died, Scully, there were a lot of changes
made."

Scully looked at him blankly, unable to guess where he was going
with this.

"Yeah?" The one word sounded more like a statement than a question,
uttered simply to encourage his narrative.

"You know, I asked you if you wanted to keep the summer home with
good reason, Scully--I spoke to my lawyer this morning while you were
taking that long delicious shower of yours."

"The one you ordered me to take?" she reminded him.

"Yeah, so I had an ulterior motive; I had to call Henry. I was
curious about some things only he would know," he replied
enigmatically.

"I've spoken to Henry, Mulder. Two weeks ago I was investigating
how to handle your bills when they stopped your paychecks in March.
Skinner had bought me six months time and it was getting close to the
wire."

"I know. He told me he talked with you. He obeyed my instructions
to the letter--or at least the ones I'd left with him last March," he
explained.

She pursed her lips, impatient with this slow unveiling of what she
could only guess was some Mulder family secret.

"Well?" she said, pressing for details.

"Apparently, my mom had everything planned out before her death," he
stated unemotionally. "She left everything to me naturally. All the
other properties were sold off, including my dad's house. The only
remaining property is the summer house, which someone has offered to
buy."

"So sell it if you want to, Mulder. Don't let my opinion stand in
your way."

Even if they were unofficially 'engaged,' Scully felt no need to
interfere with his decision. If for some reason they never married,
she'd have a clear conscience about her actions now. She didn't want
to unduly influence what should be his decision alone.

"Scully," he said quietly. He leaned closer, placing one hand on
her shoulder. "The summer house is half yours. I wasn't kidding
when I told you everything I have is yours. It is. Legally you have
the right to veto the sale."

Scully stared at him in astonishment. She didn't want to believe
what he seemed to be saying; he'd willed her his estate last March?
Immediately after his mom's death?

Mulder kneaded her shoulder gently and continued, "Henry's been my
lawyer for twenty years. He's been warned never to believe any tale
of my untimely demise without a body and complete dental records. He
knows how dangerous our jobs are and he also knows a little bit about
the specific problems the X-Files have had. He would never have
revealed this arrangement to you--"

"Arrangement?" she parroted back, still incredulous.

"Is it so hard to believe I'd try to take care of you, Scully?
Granted, I needed to know more of the details from Henry--but it was
no shock you were my beneficiary," he responded sincerely.

She blinked hers eyes in disbelief. In all the months preceding his
abduction they'd never spoken of marriage, or even moving in with one
another. They'd maintained separate apartments by unspoken
agreement, guarding their independence by simply refusing to confront
one another about other living arrangements. This was far beyond
what she'd expected of him.

"I never thought--I didn't know, Mulder," she stammered. "I should
have known... I guess. We had such an equal partnership... you know?
But I have nothing to offer you in return, Mulder. A 401k plan,
maybe," she quipped.

He shook his head slowly, then slipped his hand in hers, clutching
it tightly, "You don't have to give me anything, Scully. You
wouldn't have known about this unless I was declared legally dead. I
never wanted to pressure you into marriage--or at least that's the
impression I get from Henry. We were happy, weren't we? The way
things were last year?" he asked tentatively.

"Yes! Oh, Mulder... we were very happy! I've never seen you so
relaxed. Our difficulties didn't start until the audit of the X-
Files in September and Bellefleur. We were finally enjoying
ourselves a little. I haven't even begun to tell you half of it--"

"And you will." he interjected. "We have plenty of time now... I
think it's ironic--I can't remember making these provisions for you,
but I'm really glad I did. If I hadn't--and I hadn't come back to
you--"

"Don't say that, Mulder," she replied firmly. "You always come back
to me. I don't want to think of the alternative." She squeezed his
hand, then continued, "I'm glad Henry obeyed you. I don't think I
could have handled this knowledge if you were still missing."

"So you're not mad?" He breathed a little easier, the lump in his
throat rapidly disappearing.

"You think I'm mad?" she questioned.

"You didn't seem really pleased," he moped.

"I'm not displeased, Mulder. I'm just... I'm just stunned. We
weren't even involved when you made these provisions."

Mulder chuckled, then pulled her hand to his mouth for a soft kiss.
"Scully, I *read* my diary--we've been involved for a long, long
time. You can't tell me having a sexual relationship had anything to
do with my feelings for you. I was in love with you for years before
I could tell you how I really felt."

Scully scowled in spite of his protestations. She knew he'd loved
her--but that was before his amnesia. She wanted to leave things
indefinite for now. There was always the chance, always the
possibility they'd be incompatible as husband and wife. She didn't
want him to feel obligated toward her or the baby.

"You *were* in love with me for years, Mulder," she said, lowering
her voice. "But you're not the same now. You may never recapture
the last eight years, and I don't want you to feel you have to marry
me... or even love me. You're the same man I met in 1993, but you
deserve your freedom if you so desire it," she said firmly.

Mulder let go of her hand and slumped down in his chair, amazed at
her resistance. He thought they'd resolved the question of marriage.
Why would she present herself as his fiancee to Margie? She was
playing it safe, giving him a way out. Maybe she had the right to be
cautious--he didn't think of himself as that great a catch.

"Don't sulk, Mulder. It's unbecoming," she teased, trying to cheer
him.

She loved him dearly, but there'd been a few moments in the last
week that had taxed her hormonally-charged nerves. He hadn't been a
child when she'd met him, but his childish behavior could still be an
issue. As things stood, they didn't have the benefit of years and
years of life experiences together.

Scully was in a better position to interpret his moodiness, his
unarticulated thoughts and desires. He'd have to work twice as hard
to figure her out, since she wasn't planning on a personality
transplant. Anything could happen to their relationship in the
coming months. They might decide to live separately for all she
knew. She still didn't want to get married right away, baby or no
baby.

"You don't want to get married," he frowned, arms drooping on either
side of his chair.

"I've never said that."

She chewed at her bottom lip, frustrated with his lack of empathy
for her situation. She pulled his lax hand into her own, entwining
their fingers with some difficulty, since his fingers refused to
cooperate at first.

Mulder came around eventually, his grasp tightening as he spoke,
"Okay. We'll wait. As long as you want, Scully. I'm prepared to
tell your mom whatever you want me to on Sunday, but she might not be
very understanding. As both your mom and a Catholic," he reminded
her.

"You let me handle Mom," she smiled. "I've had more practice."

Mulder snickered at her comment, then said, "Let's not forget Bill,
Scully. I've read the choice comments from him from when you were
ill. I don't think he'll be as forgiving as your mom."

Scully's shoulders fell, exhausted at his endless energy. He
constantly anticipated every bump in the road.

"Mulder, you have to relax. My relatives aren't going to surprise
us with a shotgun wedding. Not if I have anything to say about it."

"How about a nice, easy Rhode Island wedding instead?" he offered.

Scully smiled at his persistence. "You won't stop, will you?"

"Never," he vowed, grinning at her affectionately.

"I'll consider it," she grinned back, hoping for conciliation.

Mulder's eyes brightened, and he moved closer to her again, close
enough to whisper in her ear, "I'll hold you to that, Dana."

A tiny shiver travelled down her spine when he used her given name.
She had little opportunity to return the 'favor' by calling him
Fox... his generous lips were swifter than her vocal cords,
effectively squelching any impulse to do so. By the time their kiss
had ended, she would have gladly driven to the county seat.

fin

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