TITLE: Blood Ties 7: Gaining Some Perspective
AUTHOR: Dawn
EMAIL: sunrise83@comcast.net
ARCHIVE: MTA, Xemplary, Gossamer -- others are fine,
just let me know
SPOILERS: Various through season 7
RATING: PG-13
CLASSIFICATION: SA, AU
KEYWORDS: MSR, 3rd Person POV
SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully’s vacation, as seen
through the eyes of three very different observers.
DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully, and Frohike belong to
Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. Grey McKenzie and
Rosa Olivares are my own creations.
AUTHOR’S NOTES: This story is for all of you who asked
for a glimpse of "the vacation that never was" from Blood
Ties 6 -- you know who you are. Since I don’t write smut,
you’ll just have to use your imaginations and fill in the
blanks. And I *know* you all have vivid imaginations!
<VEG> I promise the next installment in this series will be
a nice, long, angsty one. <g> As always, much gratitude to
my wonderful betas: Donna, Laurie, Nikki, and Vickie.
Here you go, Vickie! I said I could do it in three!
FEEDBACK: I crave it. Please feed my addiction!


Blood Ties 7: Gaining Some Perspective
By Dawn


Part 1: Grey
Georgetown

"Mulder, not the Knicks shirt! We're going on vacation, not
grubbing around the gym!"

"That's right, Scully, the operative word is *vacation*. As
in a time for relaxing. That shirt is the most comfortable
one I own!"

I settle back into the overstuffed cushions on Dana's couch,
nibble a cinnamon raisin bagel, and enjoy the show.
Listening to these two pack is more entertaining than an
episode of the Simpsons.

"No wonder it's comfortable -- there's so many holes you
might as well not wear anything!"

The leer is audible. "Not now, Scully. My brother's right in
the next room!"

An exasperated growl followed by the snap of a suitcase lid
tells me that this time my brother has gained the upper
hand. When Dana emerges from the bedroom, however,
she doesn't give the appearance of someone who's just lost
an argument. Her blue eyes are soft, her lips curved in just
the hint of a smile. As Fox steps out behind her, carrying
the luggage, she tucks the smile away, along with a strand
of auburn hair.

Fox sets down the suitcases and offers me one of his
patented smartass grins. "See to the bags, will you James?
The missus and I will be along directly." The accent,
undoubtedly mastered during his Oxford years, holds just
the right level of snobbery.

"Sure thing, I know right where to put 'em," I drawl,
offering him the one-fingered salute.

His eyes light up, though he does his best to look insulted.
The only thing Fox appreciates more than delivering
sarcasm is getting it back, in spades. That razor-edged wit
is always searching for a worthy opponent, and I can't help
but feel a twinge of satisfaction when I manage to provide
one.

He wanders around the apartment, checking that appliances
are turned off and nothing essential has been forgotten. I
take the opportunity to covertly observe him under the
guise of reading the newspaper.

Fox is actually healthier than he's been in several months --
though that isn't saying much. Barely recovered from a life-
threatening bout with an alien virus, then sustaining near-
fatal injuries when caught in the blast from a bomb. And
right when we all thought he'd weathered that crisis, less
than a week before Christmas he contracts a nasty case of
Bronchitis that lands him back in the hospital for a couple
days. Fortunately some high-powered antibiotics and
enforced bed rest put him back on his feet and home for the
holiday.

He's still not the man that showed up on my doorstep ten
months ago. What was once lean has become just plain
thin, jeans riding low on his hips and the belt a notch
tighter to compensate. Skin still a little too pale and an
economy to his movements -- a natural reaction to offset
residual weakness that I don't think Fox realizes he's
adopted. And he still naps in the afternoon, though Dana
discreetly warned me not to mention it.

Though it's obvious he still has miles to travel on the road
to complete recovery, my eyes see only how very far he's
come. Eating like a horse, chafing under the medical
restrictions, and generally driving us all crazy -- glorious
Technicolor compared to the monochrome man lying near
death in a hospital bed. I glance up and catch Dana
watching Fox fiddle with the computer, her eyes
suspiciously bright. She senses my scrutiny, but rather than
evading it her eyes lock onto mine and the corners of her
mouth turn up as we share a conspiratorial grin.

In another time, another place, I could easily have shared
my heart with this woman. Instead we share a love for the
always brilliant, frequently troubled, and occasionally
infuriating man who is currently pulling files off the
computer's hard drive and copying them on a disk. And I'm
content.

"Mulder, you are *not* bringing work on this vacation,"
Dana says firmly, rolling her eyes and moving to peer over
his shoulder. "I let the disreputable tee shirt slide, but I'm
not budging on this one. The laptop stays right here."

Fox widens green eyes and juts out his lower lip in a pout
designed to turn Dana's iron backbone to jelly. "Scuh-
leee." His voice is low and husky, coaxing her to
reconsider. "We're going to be stuck in the middle of
nowhere, just sand and water for miles. I grew up near a
beach, so believe me when I say I'll get bored. What do you
expect me to do with myself?"

Dana's annoyance morphs into a Mona Lisa smile. She
slides her arms around Fox's waist, slipping her hands into
the back pockets of his jeans so that she's essentially
cupping his ass, and rises up on tiptoes to whisper into his
ear. Even from across the room I can see the abrupt
increase in his respiration, the flush that creeps up from his
collar and heats his face. The disk drops unnoticed onto the
desktop, he pulls her close, and I can only watch with
bemusement and a touch of envy as the world around them
ceases to exist.

After several minutes I decide it's either speak up or they're
going to miss their plane. I clear my throat indelicately and
endeavor to look offended. "Please, y'all, show a little
restraint. Not in front of the hired help."

Fox breaks the kiss with visible reluctance, resting his
forehead against Dana's for a long moment before turning
toward me with a sunny smile.

"Let's go then. Suddenly all that sand and water is looking
mighty attractive."

Chalk one up for Dana -- except Fox doesn't seem to view
himself the loser. He bats my hand away from their
suitcases, growling that he's not an invalid and we make
our way down to my car.

"Whoops! Let me get that," I say, clearing Kristen's jacket
and a couple empty soda cans out of the back seat so that
Dana can get in.

We didn't make it to Kristen's apartment until the wee
hours of the morning. Too tired to unload the car properly,
we just stumbled in and went to sleep. She was still out like
a light when I left for Dana's apartment.

Fox comes around the trunk, handing me one of their
suitcases. As I shove Kristen's aside to make room, he
ducks his head so that he can see my face.

"So, how did Kristen like Christmas with the McKenzie
clan? I don't see her -- she did make it back alive, didn't
she?"

Did I mention my brother has a smart mouth?

"She's home, asleep. She was pretty worn out after the
trip," I reply, stowing the second case and shutting the
trunk with a bang.

He waggles his eyebrows and gets a wicked grin. "I'll bet."

I give him a check to the ribs but I can't help laughing.
"From the drive, you pervert! We didn't leave Raleigh until
ten last night, so it was after midnight by the time we got to
her place."

Fox turns to lean against the car, arms folded across his
chest. In the blink of an eye the lecherous look has
vanished and he's studying me with a ghost of a smile that
overlays real affection.

"Seriously, Grey. I know this was your first Christmas with
someone other than Kate. Spending it with your family just
ups the ante. How did it go?"

When Fox wandered into my life ten months ago, my
feelings were ambivalent. Now I often find myself
wondering how I lived 43 years without him. He can be
arrogant, insensitive, and hardheaded in the extreme but it's
tempered with an endearingly childlike gentleness and
vulnerability. Hard not to be drawn to someone so willing
to question the known and embrace the unknown.

I prop myself beside him and search for a response.
"Christmas was...good. That doesn't mean it was without
the odd moment here and there. Sometimes I'd look over at
Kristen, helping Mom in the kitchen or cutting up with
Shannon and Kira, and suddenly..." My throat closes up
and my eyes burn.

Fox keeps his eyes on the passing traffic but leans subtly to
the left so that his shoulder brushes mine. "You saw Kate,"
he murmurs.

I nod, blinking hard. "Kate loved Christmas. She'd get
down on the floor and rip the paper off her presents like
one of the kids. Seeing Kristen in her place
was...disconcerting."

Fox finally turns his gaze on me, and now I'm the one
fascinated by the activity on the street. "I don't really have
to point out what's wrong with that statement, do I?" The
warmth in his eyes softens the words.

"I'd rather you didn't," I answer, my own tone considerably
more frigid.

Fox releases me and turns back to watch an older woman
tug an apple-cheeked toddler down the sidewalk. "Sounds
as if everyone liked Kristen. I don't suppose just anyone
could pass Shannon and Kira's inspection."

I don't know if it's the psychologist or the profiler in him,
but at times he has a nearly psychic ability for saying just
the right thing. I feel the knot in my stomach loosen
accompanied by a rush of gratitude.

"Oh, I don't know," I reply, pretending to mull it over.
"They like *you*."

He clutches his chest and feigns mortal injury just as
Dana's door cracks open and I see a flash of copper hair.
"Ah, gentlemen? If you two are just about done bonding,
maybe we could catch that plane now?" she suggests dryly.

There's not an ounce of real irritation in the jibe, and as Fox
scoots around to the passenger side of the car I see her
following his movement in the rear view mirror. Dana is
ever the scientist, a keen observer. I have no doubt she
monitored our conversation in a similar manner, allowing
us space until we finished. I smile to myself -- a necessary
quality for keeping up with my impetuous, curiosity-driven
brother. Fox has met his match.

Our drive to the airport is quiet and uneventful. By this
time most people are at work, so traffic is light and we
make good time. When we're nearly to the terminal, Fox
has a brief and relatively mild coughing spell, something
that's occurring with less frequency as his lungs continue to
heal from the bronchitis. He bends slightly forward,
smothering the hacking as much as possible with a
handkerchief.

A flicker from the back seat catches my eye and I look into
the mirror. Dana is sitting rigidly upright, teeth worrying
her lower lip and fingers laced tightly together. When Fox
sucks in a ragged breath of air one hand makes a tiny,
abortive movement toward his shoulder before the other
captures it and drags it back to her lap.

"You okay, Mulder?"

Her tone is smooth, casual -- a direct contradiction to body
language. He waves her off with a scowl directed more
toward the coughing than the polite question. The spell
subsides and only I understand how much effort that
assumed indifference cost her.

No one enjoys being sick or injured, but Fox regards it as a
personal affront. He's completely intolerant of his own
weakness, ignoring or downright disparaging most doctors
and continually pushing the envelope on the recovery
process. Thank God for Dr. Nick Brewer, whose irreverent,
"rebel without a cause" attitude and straight, pull no
punches style has managed to earn my brother's complete
respect -- if not complete cooperation. Without him, I don't
know that any of us would have survived the past few
months.

I have a pretty good idea what made Fox this way. Like
most abused children, he tries to absorb the blame for our
father's actions and absolve Bill Mulder from guilt. He
won't openly admit he's a victim, but here and there small
trickles have slipped past his defenses - a bitter disclosure
in the heat of anger, an unwitting confession after a few
beers -- and I've pieced together a frighteningly clear
picture.

Bill Mulder was a man eaten up with a guilt, whose only
outlet was his sensitive, troubled son. The anger that he
didn't dare vent on his colleagues, the blame that he
couldn't afford to place on himself, he directed toward Fox
-- young, na´ve, and very vulnerable. And Fox sucked it all
up like a sponge -- that he was to blame for our sister's
disappearance. That he would never quite measure up to
our father's expectations. That he was unworthy of love.
And that he was powerless to change any of the above.

Dana and I are giving him that power, I hope. But it's baby
steps. Bill Mulder had years to instill this mentality in Fox.
Neither Dana nor I are foolish enough to think we can undo
the damage overnight.

I pull into a parking spot and get out to help Fox with the
luggage, ignoring his protests that I don't need to see them
off. When we get to the metal detectors, Dana reaches
reflexively for the small of her back, then smiles sheepishly
when she remembers that her service weapon is locked
safely in her desk. Fox leans over to mumble something
and I hear the words "frisk me, Scully?" She lifts an
eyebrow and rallies with a comment about "packing heat"
that puts that delighted glint into my brother's eyes. Her
fingers trail down his arm and brush against his palm until
he curls his own around them, one corner of his mouth
turning up.

Baby steps.

"So y'all will be getting to Key West later this afternoon," I
say, making conversation as we walk to the gate.

After Fox was injured in the hospital bombing, and then
fell ill, Doc Brewer gently suggested that maybe they
should keep their vacation domestic. My brother's immune
system is still weakened from the virus, and I think the idea
of Mexico made the doc extremely nervous. Before Fox
could become mulish, Elena saved the day. She'd been
taking his blood pressure at the time, and no doubt saw the
way the wind was blowing from the results she was getting.
Fox had barely opened his mouth to argue with Brewer
when Elena offhandedly mentioned that she had a great-
aunt in Key West who ran a bed and breakfast. Would he
and Dana be interested?

Dana told me she could have kissed Elena right then and
there. I snickered and said I didn't think Walt would
appreciate that.

"That's right. We fly into Miami, then take a puddle jumper
to Key West. Elena's aunt is named Rosa Olivares. My
mom has contact information in case of an emergency,"
Dana replies.

Fox cringes. "Don't even *say* emergency, Scully. We
haven't exactly had good luck at taking this vacation. I keep
waiting for the other shoe to drop."

I snort. "You mean like someone hijacking the plane?"

It's amazing how their heads can swivel at exactly the same
time and speed. "Bite your tongue," Dana growls with a
shudder, while Fox adds, "And don't even speak the B
word."

Dana chuffs a little and squeezes the hand still linked with
hers. "Anyway, Mulder, I'm not worried about
emergencies. I'm sure if Bill falls and breaks a leg my mom
and Tara can handle it."

"Aw, Scully. Stop trying to cheer me up," Fox smirks,
earning a quelling look.

"Speaking of which -- how's your arm, Dana?" I ask,
realizing for the first time that she's shed the cast.

"Some trained investigator," my brother wisecracks.

I didn't neglect to mention he's a smartass -- did I?

"Cast came off the day before Christmas Eve," Dana
answers, ignoring him. "It's a little stiff, but I'm doing my
PT exercises." She flexes it to demonstrate, wincing a little.

We've reached the gate and I can see they've already begun
boarding the plane. "Looks like this is it, y’all," I tell them,
and wink. "Behave yourselves. Don't do anything I
wouldn't do."

Dana purses her lips. "That leaves things wide open."

I'm still grinning at her when Fox astonishes me by pulling
me into a hug. It's brief, over before I know it, but it's the
first time he's ever initiated such a physical expression of
affection. For just a moment I'm speechless, but I am a
Mulder by blood -- it doesn't last long.

"Take care of him," I say, embracing Dana and giving her a
peck on the cheek. "Sit on him if you have to."

And my brother, never one to miss an opportunity, leers.
"Oooh, Scully. Would you?"

"Shut up, Mulder."

The reply is automatic, but she winks at me when his back
is turned. I watch them until they disappear down the
jetway, my brother shortening his strides to match Dana's,
the perpetual list to his posture as he listens intently to
something she's saying. Two people so physically
mismatched, yet somehow they fit together with seamless
perfection.

I watch until they disappear, but I don't stay until the plane
takes off. Kristen's waiting, and suddenly I want very much
to see her smile.

Part 2: Rosa
Key West

They aren't what I expected.

What *did* I expect? I suppose as soon as my 'Lena said
the letters FBI it tarnished the rest of her description. A
couple, she said. Partners on the job for seven years;
partners after hours a much more recent development. They
investigate something called paranormal phenomena:
ghosts, aliens and dark things. He's recovering from a
terrible illness; she's exhausted from the resulting stress and
worry. Both are worn down, she tells me, in desperate need
of a sanctuary where for just a little while they can leave
their troubles behind.

Though many miles separate us, our only connection
electronic, I can see the plea in my Elena's big brown eyes.
"Please Tia Rosa. I know you don't do this anymore, but
just this once..."

I never could resist that child, and she knows it. So, in spite
of my reservations, regardless of the fact that having two
government types in my home makes me cringe, I tell her
yes. Send the FBIs to me and I'll put them up for a week.
I'll be hospitable. I'll wash their bedding, cook their meals,
and share my beautiful beach. I will not, however, enjoy it.

There was a time when nothing pleased me more than
opening my home to others. Waldo and I worked hard for
forty years, scrimping and saving in anticipation of the day
we would retire to our dream house here on this beach. He
was an accountant, clever with numbers and finances; I was
a nurse, more concerned with the physical than the
material. I like to think that my 'Lena chose nursing
because of the many visits she paid her tia at the hospital.

Our first two years in this house were paradise. We
survived on our retirement, supplementing the income by
converting the spare bedroom and bath into lodgings for
vacationing couples -- selected at our discretion. We were
living our dream, and thrilled to share it with others. I have
a guestbook tucked away in the attic with my
grandmother's wedding ring and a packet of Waldo's letters.
Some day I may be ready to read those written expressions
of joy and contentment without feeling the sharp sting of
my loss.

Waldo died of a heart attack two years after we moved
here. Two years. I spent forty preparing for the golden time
when we could simply be together, enjoying the tranquility
of this place and each other. His death was quick and
relatively painless. A blessing, some might say, to live 72
full years and then leave this earth still whole in mind and
body. But I don't feel blessed.

I feel cheated.

I stopped taking in couples after that. I couldn't bear being
reduced to catching the crumbs of happiness that fell from
their plates when once I feasted on it. Two years have
passed since I last aired out the spare room, smoothed fresh
sheets onto the large four-poster bed, and filled the cut-
glass vase with flowers. I face each task as a chore to be
finished, telling myself that in a week the FBIs will be
gone.

They arrive late in the afternoon, barely making it through
my door before the sky opens up with one of our daily rain
showers. I urge them to drop their bags and come into the
kitchen for a cold drink. Once they are seated in the
breakfast nook, admiring the view of the water, I'm able to
secretly observe them.

At first glance they appear woefully mismatched. He's tall
and thin, a head of thick, dark hair, a larger than average
nose and full mouth tempering mere good looks into
character. His eyes intrigue me -- first hazel when I greeted
them at the door, by the light from the window they've
turned a deep, mossy green. She's absurdly tiny by
comparison. The top of her head doesn't even reach his
shoulder and laced up in white Keds, her feet look as small
as a child's. Her hair is the color of bright copper and
though she pretends to be enjoying the waves crashing onto
the beach, I notice that her blue eyes are watching him as
discreetly as I'm watching her.

"Don't worry about the rain," I tell them as I set tall,
moisture-beaded glasses in front of them. "We have
showers every day about this time. It will clear off within
the hour and the sunset will be muy bonita."

She takes a sip of the juice, then a long draught, and I'm
pleased by the way her eyes slip shut in bliss. "That's
delicious, Mrs. Olivares. I can't recall the last time I had
fresh-squeezed lemonade."

"It's the only kind worth drinking," I reply. "And you may
call me Rosa."

"Thanks, Rosa. I'm Dana, and this is Mulder."

I nod at her, then give him the look that used to make Elena
tremble. "Hmm. Elena said that you would want me to use
your last name. I told her that I won't call a guest under my
roof by his last name, no matter how much he hates his
first."

His eyes dart to Dana's face and they talk to each other
without speaking a word. She raises both eyebrows and
purses her lips. His forehead crinkles and he gnaws on his
lower lip, then lifts one shoulder in a little shrug. Her lips
relax into a grin and her eyes sparkle. He rolls his own
before turning to me.

"I think I see where Elena got her spunk," he says,
sounding both amused and irritated at the same time. Then
he smiles ruefully. "Please call me Fox."

Something about that lopsided smile automatically coaxes
one onto my own lips. "Gracias, Fox. Can I get you some
more lemonade?"

"No thank you, Rosa."

I can see why 'Lena is so taken with this one, those eyes
could soften a heart of stone. My nurse's training can spot
aftereffects of illness in the ashen tone of his skin, the
smudges under his eyes, and the slight tremor in his hands.
It's clear the stress of traveling has exhausted him, and I
can tell from the way Dana keeps stealing glances at him
that she sees it too. Her lips part as if she's about to speak,
but she frowns, then presses her hand to her mouth as if
hiding a yawn. She massages the back of her neck and
blows out a long puff of air.

Fox is instantly alert, examining her as if she screamed
rather than sighed. "You okay, Scully? You have a
headache?" he asks, voice soft with concern.

She rolls her head, then her shoulders. "No. Just tired and a
little stiff from the plane."

I wasn't married for forty-one years to the most stubborn
man on earth without learning a trick or two. I sense what
Dana is up to and decide to give her a little help.

"Dinner won't be for another two hours. Why don't you two
get settled in your room, maybe rest for a bit? Not much to
do right now since it's raining."

Fox pops to his feet and extends a hand to help her up,
pushing aside his own weariness. "Sounds like a plan, G-
woman."

"Just head down the hall and turn left," I add, collecting
their glasses and taking them to the sink. "Last room on the
right is yours."

Dana lets him pull her to her feet and usher her out of the
kitchen, his hand pressed to the small of her back. When
they reach the doorway, she tilts her head back and sends
me a look of thanks.

I surprise myself by winking.

************************************************

Dana and Fox are model houseguests, quiet and
unassuming, and the next few days slip by in a comfortable
rhythm. They spend the mornings exploring our little island
-- visiting the aquarium and the Audubon House and
Gardens, browsing the shops -- and the afternoons soaking
up sun on the beach, where Fox inevitably falls asleep. I'm
happy to see the tense, frayed expression fade from Dana's
face, though her milky skin can do little more than adopt a
rosy glow. Fox, on the other hand, quickly turns a uniform
bronze, the sickly pallor fading overnight.

I find a great deal of pleasure watching these two, and I've
become shameless about it. The funny part is, I've never
been a busybody -- quite the opposite. And I've never felt
more than a passing interest in any of the couples who have
stayed here. Perhaps the difference is that Fox and Dana
remind me so much of Waldo and myself.

They are consumed with each other. He delights in her
laugh, something I sense she does all too rarely. Fox,
therefore, goes out of his way to provoke it, even if it
comes at his own expense. One afternoon he set about
constructing something that looked like a flying saucer out
of sand. Unfortunately, he built this odd creation too close
to the rising tide line. I thought Dana was going to hurt
herself, she laughed so hard at his frantic attempts to stop
the water from ruining his masterpiece. He pretended to
pout when the waves turned his space ship back to a
shapeless pile of sand, but I wasn't fooled, and neither was
Dana.

My mama, rest her soul, always said that still waters run
deep. That's Dana. Compared to Fox, who broadcasts his
feelings and emotions in letters ten feet tall, she is reserved,
almost aloof. Her eyes, however, give her away.

She watches him. Not when he'd notice, of course. Behind
dark glasses as she suns herself while he's swimming and
splashing in the surf. From the corner of her eye when she's
supposed to be reading a book as he wanders along the
beach hunting shells. Only when he's sleeping, sprawled
out on his towel like a little boy worn out from play, does
she indulge herself in observing him openly. Her eyes go
soft and liquid, her mouth curves, and she lets her fingers
smooth the tousled hair from his eyes.

And that's when I can no longer watch, my throat clogged
with tears and the hollow feeling in my heart nearly
unbearable. A love like that comes along once in a lifetime,
if you're very lucky. Dios mio, I miss you, Waldo.

The fourth night of Fox and Dana's stay, I am torn from a
sound sleep by a blood-curdling scream.

"Sculleee! Nooo!"

I throw on my robe and race down the hallway, pulse
hammering and nerves jangling. Scrambled images go
through my head -- an intruder, an accident...surely not a
fight. By the time I reach their door the screams have
stopped and I can hear the murmur of Dana's voice.

"It's okay, Mulder, it was only a dream."

His voice is barely recognizable, high and fast with panic.
"Scully, he took you, he took you and I couldn't stop him, I
tried but I couldn't move, I couldn't reach you and my gun
was gone and all I could do was watch."

"Shhh. I know, but I'm right here, love. It was a *dream*.
Slow down, take deep breaths."

I hesitate, then knock softly. There's a rustle of sheets and
Dana appears in the doorway, her hair tangled from sleep
but her eyes alert. Over her shoulder I can see Fox,
hunched over with his forehead resting on bent knees.

"Can I get you anything?" I ask her, not meaning to intrude,
but wanting her to know I'm willing to help.

She responds with a small smile, strain mixed with
gratitude. "No thanks, Rosa. It was a nightmare; he'll be
fine. I'm sorry to disturb you."

I wave my hand and shake my head. "Don't be silly. I'm
glad he's all right. If you need anything, just call."

She gives my arm a grateful squeeze and shuts the door. I
hear the creak of bedsprings and then her voice again,
much lower and softer than when she spoke to me.

"Come on, Mulder, lay down. That's it, close your eyes,
love. You need to sleep."

I start back to my room, then detour to the kitchen. At the
moment sleep feels beyond my grasp, but a cup of warm
milk should put it within reach.

I try not to think about what kind of nightmare can reduce a
grown man to that kind of terror.

My Waldo used to swear I had The Sight, to which I would
tartly reply that I didn't need ESP when living with a man
so predictable. Still, something prompts me to add an extra
helping of milk to the saucepan. And I'm not really
surprised when Dana hesitantly steps into the kitchen.

"There's milk on the stove -- mugs in the cupboard over the
sink," I say in welcome.

She prepares her cup and sinks into the chair opposite me,
sipping and gazing out at the play of moonlight on water.
I'm sad to see that a little of the tension has crept back into
her face.

"How is Fox?"

Her eyes never leave the water. "Sleeping."

"Bueno. That's the best thing for him," I say approvingly.
"There's no substitution for a good night's sleep."

Her eyes dart to my face and I see the apology forming.
"Rosa, once again I'm..."

"Hush. I already told you not to worry, chiquita. I'll finish
this milk and be fast asleep in no time." I shake my head.
"No one should have to experience a nightmare like that."

Dana looks thoughtfully into her mug, swirling the milk.
"Mulder doesn't sleep well, and he's suffered from
nightmares for most of his life. Something..." She falters as
if considering whether to continue, then does. "Something
terrible happened to him when he was a child. Add that to
the horrors we've come across in the course of our work,
and I guess an occasional nightmare is inevitable." She
releases a laugh that is no more than a puff of air. "I
experience them myself, though not as intensely as Mulder
does."

"He's been sleeping quite well until now," I observe. "He
already looks much stronger than the day you arrived."

A little of the tightness leaves her and she smiles. "Yes.
He's looking much more like his old self. Ironically, this
nightmare is a sign he's improving. When he's sick or
injured he's too exhausted to dream."

While I ponder what Fox's health history must be for her to
make that statement, Dana drains the last of her milk and
stands.

"Thank you, Rosa. Not just for the milk, but for allowing us
to stay here this week. Elena told us that you don't normally
accept guests anymore, and we appreciate your generosity."

"It's my pleasure," I tell her warmly.

I'm a little disconcerted but very glad to realize that I mean
it.

************************************************

In the blink of an eye, the week has come to an end. On the
day they're to fly home, Dana heads out right after
breakfast for some last minute shopping -- something about
a gift for her mother. Fox groans and begs off in favor of a
final run along the beach. They argue good naturedly for a
few minutes before Dana admits defeat and lets him go
with a stern warning about moderation. He tugs on her
purse with a smirk and parrots the advice.

Odd how his gentle teasing feels more intimate than a look
of smoldering passion and her "Shut up, Mulder"
communicates more affection than flowery words of love.

A little bit later, as I sit on the patio sipping a cup of coffee
and reading the headlines, he returns. In a pair of shorts and
a cropped off tee shirt his thinness is still evident, but he's
tanned, flushed with exertion, and bright-eyed -- a world of
difference from the wan, frail man who stood on my porch
a week ago. Our little haven has helped to nurture a
wounded fox, Waldo, and now he's ready to return to his
natural habitat. I feel both pride and sadness at that fact.

"Sit," I tell him as I watch the sweat roll off his fingertips.
"I'll get you a cool drink."

"Water, please," he replies, mopping his face with the hem
of his shirt.

I come back with a tall glass of water and a towel, which he
accepts with a grin. He downs half the glass in one long
gulp, then uses the towel on his face, neck and arms.

"I hope you didn't overdo," I tell him, looking for signs of
guilt. As I said, this one wears his emotions on his sleeve, I
can spot them a mile away. "You were gone a long time."

He swallows some more water, rolling his eyes. "Please,
Rosa. Don't go getting Scully on me."

I deliberately lift one eyebrow, an expression I've seen her
use time and again, and he chuckles appreciatively. "What
does this mean, getting Scully on you?" I ask.

"Worrying too much," he replies simply. "I'm fine. And no,
I didn't overdo it. I just stopped and walked for a while."
He makes a face. "I'm out of shape."

I tap one finger on my cup. "We worry about those we
love. My Waldo has been gone two years and sometimes I
still have dreams of those final hours in the hospital. My
head knows he's well and safe now, but my heart still
worries."

He looks uncomfortable. "Rosa, I'm sorry about the other
night. I didn't want..."

"Ay!" I groan, holding up a hand to cut him off. "Not you
too! I already told Dana to forget it."

His face smoothes and he sips more water, turning his gaze
to the ocean. I should leave well enough alone, but I never
have before, so why start now?

"You're afraid of losing her."

He looks back at me sharply, but whatever he sees takes the
fire out of his eyes. "Yes. I'm afraid that... The work Dana
and I do is dangerous. There are powerful people who
would like to shut us down. They've used Scully against me
before, and it's very possible they would try again."

I have no understanding of the world he and Dana live in,
filled with danger and evil men. But I do know more than a
little about losing someone dearer to you than your life.

"Fox, whether sooner or later, one day she will be taken
from you. Worrying will not stop it, and it will only poison
the time you have now," I say quietly.

He searches my face, and though I want to pick up my cup
and flee into the house, I remain. I regret to see my own
sorrow reflected in his gray eyes.

"How do you bear it?"

The pain is sharp, but I feel it cut cleanly through the callus
that has surrounded my heart. And suddenly I know -- I
*know*, Waldo, that somehow you sent these FBIs to me.
Fox is not the only one who has begun to heal this week.

"I bear it by holding tight to my memories without regrets,"
I tell him, and I could swear I feel your hand on my
shoulder. "And by knowing that although I ache for him
every day, I wouldn't trade a single minute of our time
together to lessen the pain."

He looks sober. When he speaks, his voice is hardly more
than a whisper. "Sometimes, I don't think I deserve
her...deserve happiness." His eyes jerk back to the water
and I can see he's shocked that he spoke the words aloud.
I'm sure they are constant companions in his thoughts.

I reach out to touch his hand and smile. "Mi hijo, everyone
deserves happiness. Some just don't know how to reach for
it."

He sucks in his lower lip and chews on it, and though his
gaze remains fixed on the surf I can tell he isn't really
seeing it. Dana chooses this moment to return, her arms
laden with packages. She wrinkles her nose at Fox's sweat-
stained clothing and shoos him toward the shower without
seeming to notice his thoughtful mood, perhaps distracted
by eagerness to show me her purchases.

An hour later they're on my porch again, this time packed
and headed for the airport. I dreaded their arrival, but how
sad I am to see them go.

Dana takes my hand in that formal way she has, but her
eyes tell me everything I need to know -- warmth,
affection, and deep gratitude.

"Thank you so much, Rosa. You have a lovely home, and
it's been a wonderful week."

I drop that cool hand and grasp her shoulders, placing a kiss
on her cheek. "Come back anytime," I tell her. "You are
always welcome."

Fox leans down to drop a kiss on my cheek, giving my
hand a slight squeeze. "Thanks for making an exception,"
he says. "This was just what Scully and I needed."

"Not an exception -- a new rule," I answer with a smile.
"I've decided it's selfish to keep this place to myself. I'm
going to start accepting guests again."

Dana makes a small sound of appreciation, but Fox pins me
with those changeable eyes. "No regrets?" he murmurs.

"Nada," I reply, and mean it.

He walks her to the car with his hand at the small of her
back, and I realize that rather than appearing mismatched,
they fit like hand in glove. Love has a way of balancing the
scales.

They weren't what I expected, but they were exactly what I
needed. *Waldo, mi corazon,* I think fondly. *One day
you and I are going to have a long talk.*

I would swear I hear you laughing.

Part 3: Frohike
Dulles Airport

I'm not quite sure how I got roped into doing this.
Navigating a crowded airport terminal is number seven on
my top ten list of paranoia inspiring activities, and as for
playing chauffeur...well, let's face it, Byers is a natural for
the part. Since he's off on what I suspect is a hot date, and
Langly absolutely refuses to pass through a metal detector
(he says they scan and record your genetic code as part of a
covert government experiment), yours truly won the honor
by process of elimination.

Don't get me wrong -- Mulder and Scully are my friends
and I'd willingly break into a top-secret research facility or
hack into the Pentagon if they needed me to. I just don't see
why they couldn't take a cab.

Then I remember Mulder as I last saw him, fresh out of the
hospital after bronchitis, and mentally kick my own butt.

I step onto a moving walkway and lean back, checking for
any suspicious characters on my tail. You can never be too
careful, after all. Mulder and Scully's flight should be
arriving at the gate within the next few minutes, but there's
no sense letting haste make me sloppy. Vacationing or not,
those two attract trouble like steel to a magnet.

Mulder vacationing. Voluntarily. Talk about a concept
that's tough to wrap your mind around. I've known the guy
nearly ten years now, and obsessive is actually one of the
kinder adjectives I could use to describe his personality.

I know, I know. People who live in glass houses...

Don't misunderstand me, I have the highest respect for Fox
Mulder. I once described him as a redwood among mere
sprouts, and I wasn't just saying it because I thought he'd
died. He's sufficiently intelligent and quick-witted to keep
up with the three of us when we're on a tear -- no small feat,
let me tell you. And he's blessed with both an insatiable
curiosity and a fierce hunger for the truth -- often a painful
combination. But what gives Mulder redwood status is
simply that he has a good soul. I may be a paranoid geek,
but I'm wise enough to know what a truly rare commodity
that is.

I never thought anything could be more important to
Mulder than his work and the search for his sister. Then the
luscious Dana Scully walked into his life and turned it
upside down.

I can still remember how he moaned and groaned when he
found out he'd been assigned a partner. Mulder's a lone
wolf who has trouble playing well with others. It wasn't the
fact that Scully was a woman that frosted him. Male or
female, a partner would invade his turf, defile the sanctity
of that basement office and his quest. He called her a spy,
convinced she'd been sent to discredit him, and to be fair
I'm sure that was just what Blevins and that cigarette
smoking son of a bitch thought she'd do. More fools they.

Scully sandbagged him. Found a crack in that cool, G-man
exterior and bypassed his defenses, beginning that very first
case when she dropped her robe and showed him territory I
can only dream of exploring. God, I wish I could've seen
his face! And Mulder, all leer and innuendo but no action,
would probably have taken that story to his grave if I hadn't
been complaining about a bunch of mosquito bites one
night after we'd had a few too many beers. I honestly don't
think he remembers telling me, and my lips are sealed.
Byers and Langly will never hear it from me.

That's right. I know come off like a dirty old man, but I
have integrity, too.

Anyway, Mulder started to give Scully his trust that night,
and that's not something he offers easily. They became
partners, then friends, and we watched with amazement as
the enigmatic Dr. Scully gradually replaced the X-Files and
Samantha as the most important thing in Mulder's life. The
lone wolf had found a mate.

When did they realize they loved each other? I think
Scully's abduction forged a bond between them that
surpassed mere friendship. But her cancer cemented it. Did
they behave like two intelligent adults and admit their
feelings for each other? Hell, no! Denial ain't just a river in
Egypt, and those two were the perfect example.

Way I hear it, the only reason they're together now is that
Mulder got stoned and spilled the beans. Thank God Mr.
GQ can't hold his drugs and liquor or they'd probably still
be lusting after each other from afar. And who knows? I
might just have scraped up the nerve to make my move on
the lovely Agent Scully.

Don't laugh, I can ooze charm when I put my mind to it.

I finally reach the gate, and I can tell from the trickle of
people remaining that I've missed the plane's arrival by at
least five minutes. Cursing under my breath I backtrack to
baggage claim. I check the monitor for the correct carousel
and weave through the crowd, keeping an eye open for the
blaze of Scully's hair.

I almost don't recognize them, literally blink and do a
double take. A week ago Mulder looked like an extra from
The Night of the Living Dead. The only spots of color on
him were the purple shadows beneath his eyes, and I swear
I could've counted every bone in his body. It shook me up,
let me tell you. I mean, I'm used to seeing Mulder battered,
but never...frail. And as for Scully, she looked like a coiled
spring, one turn away from flying apart. I noticed she could
barely take her eyes off him, but the line between her
eyebrows made it obvious that it was worry and not lust.

Those two people are the photographer's negative of the
couple I spot standing by the circling luggage. Mulder's got
the kind of tan people pay money for, and even with blue
jeans and navy pullover I can see a softening of angles and
planes that testifies to weight gain. He's got his hands on
her hips and is looking down at her with that smartass grin.
Scully's hands are on his forearms, head tilted back, and
lips slightly parted as she listens with visible amusement to
whatever outrageous remark he's spouting. The skin of her
forehead is smooth, if a little pink from the sun, and the
looks she sends him are raising *my* temperature -- and
I'm not on the receiving end.

As I watch, she slides her hands up his arms until the
fingers of one tangle in the hair at the back of his neck and
the other rests on his shoulder. The kiss is short but intense,
and ends with her teeth in his lower lip. Scully then turns
and strolls over to the carousel with a sly little smile,
leaving Mulder sporting a moony, lovestruck grin that I
would have sworn the muscles of his face were incapable
of forming.

Pretty soon the guy's not even going to be paranoid any
more and then where will we all be?

By the time I weave my way over they've retrieved both
bags.

"Mulder, Scully," I call, just to be sure they see me coming.
You do *not* want to surprise a Fed, especially if uncertain
whether they're packing a gun.

"Frohike! Right on time, as usual," Mulder greets me.

Ah, sarcasm. I knew he missed me.

"Bite me," I reply cheerfully. "I got held up in traffic. You
two ready to vamoose?"

They exchange one of those telepathic looks before Mulder
picks up both suitcases and inclines his head. "Lead on,
McDuff."

I think I must be parked at the completely opposite end of
the terminal, and midway Mulder's puffing and looking
decidedly worse for wear. I can tell Scully's pissed he's
pushing himself and wants to carry her own bag, but the
closed expression on his face warns against even an offer.
Her lips shut look as if they're welded shut and she stares
straight ahead, eyes narrowed.

"Hey, man, where's my manners? Let me get one of those,"
I say, keeping the tone light and pretending not to notice
the flash of relief that crosses his face. And hers.

"Shoulda grown up to be a limo driver, Hickey," Mulder
says to cover. "You're a natural."

"And give up this carefree existence? No way," I reply
sarcastically.

We find the van easily (another reason not to send Langly -
- he inevitably forgets where he's parked) and toss the bags
in back. I'm a little surprised when Scully chooses to ride
shotgun, leaving Mulder to sprawl out on the back seat. Her
nose wrinkles as she digs a partially consumed candy bar
and an empty bag of potato chips out of the cushion, but
she politely refrains from comment.

"So, how was Key West?" I ask conversationally as I pull
out of the garage and into line at the ticket booth.

Mulder thrusts a five-dollar bill into my hand and folds his
arms when I try to protest. I shrug and hand it to the
terminally-bored woman in the booth along with the card
that tells how much I owe for parking. Once she's given us
her blessing by raising the little gate, Scully answers.

"It was beautiful. Elena’s aunt has a lovely home with a
private beach, very secluded."

Huh. At least four suggestive remarks regarding recreation
possibilities pop into my head, but I'd rather keep the
ability to procreate. I'm funny that way.

"Get your mind out of the gutter, Hickey," Mulder growls
from the back seat.

I like to think I'm a complex person. I hate it when he
shatters the illusion. I lift my eyes to the mirror so that I can
give him a colorful response, but I see that his attention is
on Scully. She's half-turned in the seat, one perfect
eyebrow arched and that sly smile back on her lips. I'm just
in time to see him give her a slow wink, then mouth "later."

Lucky bastard.

We zoom down the highway, Mulder letting Scully field
my questions about the island and the sights. She seems so
happy that I find myself paying little attention to the
details, focusing instead on the contentment in her voice
and occasionally stealing a glance at her face. I can't help
wondering what it would be like to be the lucky stiff who
makes Dana Scully this cheerful, and a slight feeling of
jealousy that Mulder holds the honor.

Still, if it can't be me, I'm glad it's Mulder. The guy's had an
awful lot of crap dished out to him over the years. 'Bout
time the big guy upstairs served up some happiness instead.

Speaking of Mulder, I suddenly realize that at least ten
minutes have passed without a sound from the back seat.
No witty remarks, no innuendo -- not even a comment on
my driving ability, or lack thereof. I check out the mirror,
and my jaw drops open in surprise.

He's asleep.

Mulder. Mr. Insomnia. The guy who can quote every tacky
infomercial word for word and routinely watches the
national anthem.

When I nearly rear-end the car in front of us, Scully catches
me gaping into the mirror. She looks over her shoulder, and
her gaze turns from annoyed to affectionate.

"He's asleep," I say, brilliantly and unnecessarily.

"Yes. And if you give him a hard time I will personally
shoot you," Scully warns, her brows knitting together and
her jaw clenching.

Jeez, she's gorgeous when she's pissed.

"I'm not going to rag on him. It was just a shock." I try to
look hurt but I obviously don't have Mulder's knack
because she just chuckles.

"Can the puppy dog act, Frohike. Mulder's made it an art
form and it still doesn't work."

Yeah. Keep telling yourself that Scully.

"He went running this morning, and then the stubborn fool
had to carry both bags," she continues. "His stamina is still
not up to par. He gets very frustrated, so I'd prefer it if you
pretended not to notice this little nap."

"No problemo." I can't resist looking in the mirror one
more time. "He's drooling."

She actually grins. "I know. He does that when he's really
zoned."

"He looks a lot better," I observe. Feeling daring, I add, "So
do you."

The pink tinge to her skin deepens but she inclines her
head. "Thanks. He is much better, which is frightening in
its own way. Skinner won't be able to keep him down much
longer."

I shrug. "I wouldn't worry. The way Mulder tells it, the
head G-man has been pretty good at putting him in his
place up till now."

She graces me with a rare Scully laugh. "That may be true,
but Mulder manages to constantly provide a new
challenge."

We drive a few more minutes in silence, until I realize a
decision must be made. When I look over, Scully is gazing
out the window, but from her expression I'd say she's not
seeing the passing cars and trucks.

"Uh, Scully? Where am I going?"

For a moment she stares at me as if *I'm* the one drooling,
then understanding smoothes out her features. "Mulder's
place, I think."

"What do you guys do, toss a coin?" I blurt, then feel like
an idiot.

She's not offended. "We've decided to find a place together.
Now if Mulder will just stay well long enough..."

I guess I'm feeling sentimental. That's my only explanation
for running off at the mouth. "You know, I've never said
anything and it's none of my business. But for the record?
I'm glad you two have finally admitted what the rest of us
knew all along."

There goes that eyebrow again. "I'm not quite sure how to
take that, Frohike. I guess I'll just say thank you."

We arrive in front of Mulder's building, and by some stroke
of luck I find a parking spot. Scully gets out and opens the
back door while I busy myself pulling out their bags. She
leans in, but just looks at him for a long moment with an
expression that could be Webster's definition of the word
love. Then she runs the backs of her fingers down his
cheek. Mulder startles, then straightens guiltily and looks
around, swiping at the moisture on his chin. True to my
word, I duck my head and act absorbed in luggage duty.

"Hey," I hear Scully say softly. "Home sweet home."

Mulder climbs out and stretches. "My place, huh?"

She lifts one shoulder. "Would you have preferred mine?"

He smiles -- something I've noticed they both do a lot
lately. "Nah. Long as you're with me, babe, geography's
irrelevant." He's kissing her forehead when I walk up.

"I hate to bust up this tender moment, G-man, but it's time I
hit the road," I say, handing over the bags.

He takes them with a grin. "Thanks for the lift, Frohike. I
owe you a cheesesteak and at least one conspiracy theory."

"Deal. But the cheesesteaks have to be from Philly's and the
theory has to be substantiated."

Scully rolls her eyes with that "boys will be boys" look,
then gives me her own nod of thanks.

I get behind the wheel, but pause to watch them make their
way up the steps to the front door. Scully tugs insistently on
one suitcase, and they argue briefly before he grudgingly
gives it up. That settled, both reach for the front door,
hands colliding before either can grasp the handle. She
squints up at him, then graciously allows him to pull open
the door and hold it for her.

That's always been the key to their relationship, I realize.
Give and take. Supernatural or Science. Logic or Intuition.
My place or yours. The dynamic remains the same, even if
now they share a bed.

I shake my head and turn the ignition. *Melvin, you have
got to get a life*, I think ruefully. I spend the drive home
cooking up a way to make Langly believe the airport metal
detector was really a government mind probe designed to
steal secrets to winning Doom.

Hey -- a guy's gotta have *some* fun.

The End