Sent: Wednesday, November 01, 2000

TITLE: Blood Ties 9: Entropy and a Simple Little Wedding
ARCHIVE: Gossamer, MTA, Xemplary--others are fine,
just let me know
SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully are getting married--but
it's not turning out exactly as he'd planned.
DISCLAIMER: I do realize that Mulder and Scully aren't
mine--they belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions.
I'm obsessed with the show, not delusional.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: At the end
FEEDBACK: Please. It makes my day.

Blood Ties 9: Entropy and a Simple Little Wedding (1 of 6)
By Dawn

Till my body is dust
Till my soul is no more
I will love you
Love you

Till the sun starts to cry
and the moon turns to rust
I will love you
Love you

But I need to know
will you stay for all time?
Forever and a day
Then I'll give my heart
Till the end of all time
Forever and a day

"I Will Love You" by Fisher


St. Anne's Catholic Church
11:53 p.m.

"You may kiss the bride."

The look of blank incomprehension Fox gives the priest
spawns a chuckle that nearly gets away from me, despite
the solemn occasion. His eyes skitter randomly across faces
before finally arriving home. Hazel fuse with blue, and I
could swear I hear a crash as the rest of us drop off the face
of the earth. Dana's lips curve in a Mona Lisa smile, fingers
drifting across his cheek before threading through the hair
at the base of his neck. In a gesture symbolic of their
relationship, they meet halfway, lips brushing softly, then
with increased intensity.

I blink and glance away, noting that I'm not the only one
whose throat feels a little tight. Well, Billy boy seems to be
having trouble swallowing, but his expression looks like
he's bitten into a piece of rotten fruit--hardly the demeanor
of someone moved by the poignancy of the moment.

Fox pulls back just far enough to rest his forehead against
Dana's. His voice is soft, meant for her ears alone, but from
my close proximity I can make out the words. "We made it,

"Thank you, Jesus."

Okay, so my fervent mutter is a bit irreverent. The priest,
Father McCue, pins me with a disapproving glare, Fox
scowls, and Dana's eyebrow executes a perfect lift off. I
just offer them an unrepentant grin.

Hey, putting this wedding together has been a long and
rocky road. As far as I'm concerned, we've all made it.

Two weeks earlier...

6:30 p.m.
14 days to wedded bliss

"I...I can't keep going."

"Don't be silly, of course you can."

"I'm too tired--you know my stamina isn't back to normal

"Mulder, stop being such a baby about this and finish what
you started."

"I'm telling you, Scully, I just can't."

"We've done this countless times, Mulder, and this is no
different. What are you going to do, make me finish this

"Gee, would you?"


"I was just kidding--mostly."

A gusty sigh.

"I actually find this sudden lack of confidence quite
endearing, love. It doesn't get you off the hook, but it's
endearing. Now keep going."

A protruding lip.

"You're ruthless, babe."

"Fine, Mulder. You just lay back, close your eyes, and
enjoy the ride."

"Ooo, Scully! I love it when you take charge."

Scully snatched the keyring from Mulder's hand and slid
behind the wheel. After only a moment's hesitation, he
slouched around to the passenger door and got in. She
paused before turning the ignition, head tilted to take in his
compressed lips and blankly staring eyes.

"Mulder, I honestly don't see what you're so nervous about.
We're telling my Catholic mother that you've asked me to
marry you. Don't you think she'll be thrilled we're not going
to continue living in sin?"

For a minute she thought he'd swallowed his tongue.
"Living in...Sculleee! We've been very discreet. Your
mother can't possibly know that you...that I...that we..."

"Oh, please, Mulder! She's raised four children, and let me
assure you from first hand experience--nothing, and I mean
nothing, gets by Maggie Scully. So you may as well just

Mulder moaned and sank further into the seat. "Sure. No
problem. You drive, and I'll just concentrate on keeping my
jaw from doing that thing Skinner's does when I piss him

Scully reached over to lay her hand against his cheek,
thumb brushing gently across his lower lip. "She loves you,
Mulder." The corners of her mouth turned up. "Not as
much as I do, but then no one could. How about
concentrating on that?"

Early in their evolving relationship, she'd learned the power
both words and touch held over Mulder. The tension, which
had been thrumming through his body like a guitar string,
evaporated. His large hand covered her small one, fingers
nudging and shifting until they'd meshed. Bringing her
palm to his lips, he pressed a kiss to the sensitive flesh, then
lay their still joined hands over his heart.

"It's not this, babe. I hope you can keep that in mind when I
start to get a little crazy. It's the mechanics--the ceremony,
the legalities, the rest of the world--that overwhelm me.
This..." He looked down at their entwined hands with an
expression of reverence. "I don't have to concentrate to feel
this, to know it's right, any more than I need to concentrate
on drawing my next breath." He chuffed and gave her a
little grin. "I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my
life with you. It's traveling from point A to point B that I'm
lukewarm about."

Scully blinked and swallowed reflexively. When she spoke,
her tone was tentative. "Mulder, I know you would have
preferred a spontaneous trip to a justice of the peace, and

He stopped her with tightened fingers and a furrowed brow.
"No, Scully. Don't ever apologize for the depth of your
faith, or your devotion to your family." His mouth twisted
wryly. "I've spent most of my life with a sad shortage of
either one. At least I can experience them vicariously."

The wariness left her face and Scully smiled. "Oh, I don't
know about that, Mulder. Lately I've noticed that stubborn
agnosticism slipping just a bit. And you're hardly the lone
wolf you were a year ago."

He snorted. "All the more reason not to elope, I guess. I
don't think Grey would forgive me if he didn't get to stand
up for us. I get the distinct impression he considers himself
responsible for getting us together in the first place."

Scully joined in Mulder's soft snickering, pleased to see
him sprawling comfortably in his seat, tension replaced
with bemusement. She retrieved her hand and turned the

"Ready now, Ace?"

"Willing and able. Pedal to the metal, babe. Let's go tell
your mom I'm gonna make an honest woman out of you."

Scully treated him to a blistering version of "The Look,"
both eyebrows knitting together. "I'm already honest,
Mulder. That's why I'm telling you up front that I promised
Frohike he could have all those videos that aren't yours."

Efficiently rendered speechless, Mulder settled back to
enjoy the ride.

7:45 p.m.
13 days to wedded bliss


"Hey, Bubba. What's shakin'?"

"Nothing much on this end. But then the level of
excitement in my life rarely measures up to yours, little

Mulder settled back into the couch cushions and tucked his
free arm beneath his head. "Yeah, that's me. Mr.

Silence from the other end of the line.

"Grey? You still there?"

"Just waiting for you, Mr. Excitement. From the tone of
your voice it sounds like you've got something on your

"I was just curious if you had any plans for the weekend
after next." Mulder gnawed on his lip, wondering why he
could suddenly feel Mexican jumping beans in his gut.

"Don't think so. Want me to check the calendar?"

"Go ahead."

He waited, staring at the spot on his ceiling that had once
hidden a surveillance camera. Eyes riveted to the rather
shoddy patch of plaster that covered the hole, he was
suddenly transported back to what had been a very dark
moment in his life. As if it were yesterday, he felt the burn
of tears down the back of his throat, the oily chill of metal
pressed to his temple. So close, so very close--until the
phone rang and his life jumped tracks, careening in an
alternate and unforeseen direction.

Back then he'd been certain that true happiness was beyond
his grasp, perhaps even against his genetic make-up. Now...
Well, it was still too new to keep from pulling it out and
compulsively examining it from all angles, like the shiny
silver dollar he'd owned as a kid. Too new to accept it as
simple fact and file it away beside stats for the Knicks and
the Yankees. Too new to shake the occasional paralyzing
fear that it was all a dream, that sometime soon he'd
awaken alone, Spooky Mulder, the brilliant crackpot in the
basement who chased aliens and couldn't keep a partner for
longer than six weeks.

Guilt, loneliness, and melancholy had overshadowed much
of his life, a habit as addicting, in some ways, as heroin.
Learning to accept happiness, to take it at face value and
without suspicion, was a process. A long and sometimes
rocky road.

But with Scully and Grey by his side, he treasured the

"You still there?"

"No, this call was just a practical joke. Next I'm going to
call Scully and ask her if she has Prince Albert in a can."

"Anybody ever mention that you've got a smart mouth,
little brother?"

"Once or twice. Did you check your calendar?"

A soft puff of laughter. "Sure did. I'm free as a bird. No
small feat considering my extremely busy social life."

"Yeah, I hear the Rotary Club is real demanding, Bubba."

"You're just a barrel of laughs tonight." A beat of silence,
then Grey's voice took on a more serious, probing quality.
"You know, whenever you start cracking wise like this, it
usually means you're avoiding something. If I didn't know
better, I'd say you were nervous."

*Mechanics* Mulder thought sardonically.

He paused, considering the most effective method for
delivering the big news. Messing with Grey's head was just
too tempting to pass up -- he'd certainly committed his own
share of brother baiting in the past. Should he play with
Grey a little, keep him guessing about the true nature of this

Mulder's lips twisted in a sardonic grin. Nah, sometimes
only the kamikaze approach would do.

"Scully and I are getting married. Want to be our witness?"

Grey had been in the process of taking a drink -- if the wet,
spluttering sounds were any indication. Mulder listened
with satisfaction for several minutes while his brother
hacked and wheezed.

"You did that on purpose."

Mulder let the shark's grin seep into his voice. "Yeah, I

"You're really getting married? Seriously?"


"You're missing the sight of me patting myself on the back,
little brother. I had a feeling this was coming."

"You did not!"

"I did. Saw it coming a mile away."

Mulder realized his mouth was hanging open. He slammed
it shut, jaws connecting with an audible click, noting the
smug tone now inhabited Grey's voice and he'd somehow
inherited the disbelief. Wondering how his brother had
managed to so neatly turn the tables.

"You are so full of it," he said weakly.

"Fox, I lived through Dana's disappearance with you --

"And that's supposed to tell me...?"

"I saw you while she was gone. You were the saddest
excuse for a human being I've ever seen, and in my line of
work that's saying something. You were adrift,
disconnected, you..."

"I think I get the picture."

"And I saw you in the hospital, after we found her," Grey
continued, ignoring him. "You were a different person."
His voice dropped, softened. "You were whole. And the
expression on your face... It told me you weren't about to
waste any more time."

Something in Mulder's chest swelled with a confusing
mixture of joy and pain. "I've never been very good at
facing up to my feelings. Losing Scully--again--forced me
take a hard look at my life." A soft breath of laughter. "And
to consider an extreme possibility."

"You scared?"

"Grey, I've been terrified ever since Scully and I took this
detour. But at the same time I feel...I *know*..." A sigh.
"This is right. This is meant to be. I don't know whether to
thank God, fate, or that cigarette smoking bastard for
bringing Scully into my life. What I do know is that my
time with her is a gift, and I'm going to do everything in my
power to cherish it."

Grey's voice, when he finally spoke, was thick. "I'm glad.
And I'd be honored to stand up for you. Just name the time
and place."

"I'll let you know as soon as I do," Mulder promised.
"Scully and I have agreed not to make a big production of
this, Grey. Just the two of us, a priest, and you and Maggie.
No fuss, no complications."

"Just a nice, simple little ceremony, huh?"

Mulder frowned at the undercurrent of amusement in his
brother's voice. "Exactly. What's so funny?"

"Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. You haven't had too much
experience with weddings, have you, little brother?"

"Brilliant deduction, Bubba. What exactly are you trying to

"Are you familiar with the concept of entropy?"

"Degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an
ultimate state of inert uniformity."

"Show off."

"Your point?"

"I've got my own definition of entropy, Einstein--shit
happens. And never more than in the course of planning a
wedding. I hope you and Dana have a real nice, relaxing
spot picked out for the honeymoon, 'cause you're going to
need it."

"I just *told* you, we're keeping it small and simple,"
Mulder said, annunciating each word as if speaking to a
slow-witted child.

"Uh-huh. And I wish you the best of luck. But in about two
weeks from now, when you're ready to tear out your hair, I
just want you to remember that one word--entropy--and
that I'm the one who said it."

The rattle of a key in the lock, creak of abused hinges, and
a flash of Scully's teeth before she ducked into the kitchen
with a fragrant bag of take out.

"Anything you say, Bubba. I have to run; Scully just got
back with our dinner. I'll call you in a few days with the

"Give her my congratulations, and my love," Grey
answered. "I'll look forward to it."

Mulder hung up the phone, brow contracted at the sound of
lingering humor in his brother's voice. "Entropy," he
muttered to himself, standing up to indulge in a bone-
cracking stretch. "And people think *I'm* odd."

8:33 p.m.
Ten days to wedded bliss


"So when the hell were you going to tell me, Dana? Sometime
after the honeymoon but before your first anniversary? I know--
Christmas! It's at our place this year; you could just show up on my
doorstep with the ring on your finger and Mr. Paranormal by your
side. That is, unless he drags you off to another haunted house."

"Gee, Bill, I don't know why I haven't said anything. Afraid of
drowning in the outpouring of love and support, I guess." Scully
set down her soda can and transferred the phone to her right ear.

Mulder's head popped up from the magazine he'd been reading. At
the utterance of Bill's name he clamped his hands around his neck
and pantomimed gagging. Scully sent him a warning glare and
turned her back.

"How can you expect support when all the guy does is take you
away from the people who love you?" Bill's voice climbed an
octave. "This is another perfect example, Dana. To expect you to
get married without your family..."

"Not without my family, Bill. Without *you*. I already invited
Mom to stand up for us. And don't blame Mulder, it was a joint
decision." Scully's voice could have frozen lava.

Silence, then Bill's exaggeratedly even response. "I see."

Scully sucked in a long breath of air and released it. "How did you
find out? I asked Mom not to say anything."

"She didn't intend to. I've got some vacation time coming and I
suggested Tara, Matty, and I might fly in for a visit that weekend.
Mom got a little flustered and let it slip."

"I regret you had to hear about it that way, but I won't apologize
for the decision. Mulder and I have traveled a long, difficult road
to arrive at this wedding. It's personal, and private, and frankly, we
just don't feel like sharing. I'm sorry if that hurts you, Bill."

An indelicate snort. "Hurts ME? What about YOU, Dana? What
about a wedding gown, and bridesmaids, and...and throwing the
bouquet? All the parts of a normal wedding that you're giving up?"

"Think of it this way--I'm saving money and sparing my friends the
indignity of wearing what inevitably turns out to be an over-priced,
ill-fitting dress," Scully said dryly. "Not to mention the fact that
most of them are married and those that aren't have no desire to be
herded together like cattle so that I can throw flowers at them."

"All I've got to say is, it's a good thing Dad isn't around to see this.

I mean, who's going to give you away, Dana? Call me
presumptuous, but as the head of the family, I always assumed that
responsibility would fall to me."

Scully could feel her blood pressure rising. She kneaded the flesh
above her eyes, receiving a clear mental image of her face turning
beet red and little puffs of steam erupting from her ears, like Elmer
Fudd after a particularly maddening encounter with Bugs Bunny.

"I'm hardly in need of someone to present me to Mulder like some
kind of trophy, Bill, whether that be you or Ahab. I am an
intelligent, competent, adult, and I have no desire to participate in
such an outdated, archaic, and sexist tradition. *I'll* give myself to
Mulder and our marriage vows, and he'll do the same."

"You go girl," Mulder chirped from behind her, snickering when
she flashed him an obscene gesture over her shoulder.

"Shouldn't be surprised," Bill muttered, but there was affection and
not rancor in the words. "You've never been one to defer to
someone of the opposite sex. Not since you were ten and beat the
hell out of Jimmy Mueller for stealing Charlie's lunch money."

She felt her lips quirk in spite of herself. "In retrospect, it's kind
prophetic, isn't it?"

Bill's next words were halting, but soft as velvet. "Dana, whatever
differences we've had, you know I love you. Don't you?"

Caught off guard, her mouth worked impotently to form words for
several moments before she could successfully utter a response.
"Sometimes I don't think you do."


"I'm not doubting the love, Billy, I know it's genuine. Misguided,
but genuine. It's just not *me* who's the object of that love. It's an
illusion. The perfect version of a little sister. She has a career in
medicine--pediatrics, perhaps. A financially secure husband in a
stable job, whose biggest source of excitement is watching football
on the weekends with a six pack and a few buddies. A mortgage, a
minivan, two point five kids...

"That's the Dana you know, the woman you think I am. And when
you look at my life, see the total lack of resemblance to that
pristine image, you blame Mulder." Scully's voice sharpened.
"Well get out some paper and a pen, Billy, and write this down. I
am EXACTLY where I want to be. I have a job that I love, a man
that I adore, and, best of all, they aren't mutually exclusive. I may
not heal the sick, but I have made a difference in a lot of lives.
And, at least for now, I have my health--something I will *never*
take for granted. I'm happy, Bill. If you really love me, you'll give
up the fantasy and accept the real thing."

Bill's response was quiet, subdued. "I just want the best for you,

"Then we finally agree on something. So do I. And I think I'm the
best judge of what that entails."

Silence again, but she could tell from the rapid, uneven puffs of his
breath that he was struggling with strong emotions. "Dana..."

Her name seemed to catch in his throat, rough and tangled, and her
residual anger faded. "What is it, Billy?"

"I told myself I wasn't going to do this...but..." He cleared his
throat and sucked in a noisy gulp of air. "You're the only sister I've
got left. Please."

Scully worried her lip with her teeth, feeling the inexorable pull of
the man at her back even as Bill's words sparked emotions she'd
thought long deceased. She let her eyes slip shut in resignation.

"A week from Saturday at St. Anne's. Eleven o'clock. And so help
me, Bill Scully, if you so much as mumble one snide remark..."

"I won't. And I promise you won't regret this, Short Stuff. We'll see
you at the church."

She nearly inhaled the Diet Coke she'd just sipped. "WE? Wait a
minute, Bill, I didn't mean... Bill? BILL?"

Dial tone.

Scully pulled the receiver from her ear and stared incredulously at
it for several long moments, thereby avoiding the eyes boring into
the back of her head. Opting for the offensive, she whipped around
and stabbed the phone's antenna in a direct line with Mulder's

"*Don't* say a word. It's not what you think."

Hazel eyes narrowed, lips tightened to a thin line, and arms wove
together across his chest. Yet, though his body language was
screaming, Mulder remained mute. When it appeared he intended
to take her at her word, Scully folded.

"What *are* you thinking?"

"Wondering how I can get my hands on a kevlar vest before the
ceremony. If your brother is that hell bent on attending there must
be an assassination plot in the works."

"You're pissed off. Why don't you just say so?"

"Why should I have to?" Mulder ran his fingers through his hair
and cupped the back of his neck. "Scully, I thought we were
together on this. I thought we knew what we wanted. I just don't
think it's fair for one of us to change the rules in the middle of the

The unspoken disappointment in his tone pricked her conscience
and put her on the defensive. "If we're talking fair, Mulder, why
should *your* brother be at our wedding but not mine?"

"Because my brother doesn't hate my guts!"

Scully rolled her eyes. "Bill does not HATE you."

"Babe, the man looks at me like I'm something he scraped off the
bottom of his shoe."

Scully compressed her lips into a thin, bloodless line. "Fine. I'll
call him back and tell him not to come." She snatched the phone
off the table and headed for the bedroom, ignoring the creak of
springs and thump of pursuing feet.


The sound of her name on his lips, not his hand on her elbow,
pulled her up short. His arm snaked around her collarbone, pulling
her against his body. The warmth combined with the gentleness of
his touch chased away her anger more efficiently than words and
she instinctively relaxed back into the embrace. They stood in the
darkened hallway, Mulder's cheek pressed to the crown of her
head, his breath ruffling the hair near her left ear.

"I can be a self-centered son of a bitch," he finally murmured in the
low, honeyed voice that always sent shivers down her spine. "But I
love you. I just need to hear from your own lips that this is what
YOU want."

Scully reached up to stroke the length of the arm around her neck,
then tugged until Mulder loosened his grip enough for her to face
him. She could barely make out his features, just the glitter of his
eyes in the half-light.

"What are you saying?"

He sighed, releasing her to lean back against the wall. "I know how
Bill operates, Scully. I've been on the receiving end of one of his
guilt trips--more than once. This wedding is about us, you and me.
It's not about your brother's need to fill your father's shoes, and it's

for damn sure not about making up for the fact that Melissa will
never stand in yours. If you've included Bill out of a misguided
sense of culpability for your sister's death, then give me the phone
and I'll make that call myself. On the other hand, if it was because
he's your brother and you love him..." Mulder's laugh was nothing
more than a flash of white teeth in the shadows. "I'll let him walk
ME down the aisle."

Scully arched an eyebrow. "Talk about a picture worth a thousand
words." She sighed, slipping her arms around his narrow waist and
laying her head on the warm plane of his chest. "Bill is an ass. But
he's my brother, and I do love him."

Mulder's fingers combed and sifted through her hair and his reply
was very soft. "That's enough for me."

Scully let her eyes slide shut, the last tendrils of tension uncoiling.
For his part, Mulder seemed content to remain as they were,
despite the less than ideal location for cuddling. She basked in the
peace of the moment until, with typical skill and bad timing, Bill's
words broke the moment. Her eyes popped open and she
involuntarily stiffened.

Mulder looked down at her quizzically. "What now?"

"Did I mention I also love Tara like a sister?"

A. D. Skinner's office
9:42 a.m.
Five days to wedded bliss

"...and I'll have Kim book you a flight for Thursday night. The
workshop ends Monday at noon, so I'll expect a full report first
thing Tuesday morning." Skinner's voice was brisk and no-
nonsense, not unlike a drill sergeant issuing orders to the troups.

Mulder couldn't seem to avoid shifting in his seat, or stealing looks
at his partner, which Scully studiously avoided. He was in the
process of surreptitiously trying to nudge her foot with his toe
when Skinner cleared his throat and pinned him with an icy glare.

"Is there a problem, Agent Mulder?"

He snapped his focus back to Skinner's face, adopting what he
hoped was his most innocent expression. "Sir?"

Skinner's jaw tightened and a small muscle high on his cheekbone
twitched. "From your behavior, Agent Mulder, it would appear you
have something to say."

Mulder straightened, casting a sideways glance at Scully just long
enough to confirm he was on his own. "Uh, sir, it's just that
we...that is, Scully and will be impossible for us to attend the

Skinner braced both forearms on the blotter and leaned forward, a
dangerous glint in his eye. "Agent Mulder, you can trust me when I
tell you that this is one extreme possibility in which I have
complete confidence."

"I believe what Agent Mulder is trying to convey, is that there are
extenuating circumstances," Scully finally inserted, taking pity on
her floundering partner. "You see..."

Skinner cut her off with an uplifted palm. "Save it, Scully, I've
heard it all. Bottom line is that you can't weasel your way out of
this one. You and Mulder *will* attend this seminar come hell,
high water, or mothmen. I can think of absolutely no extenuating
circumstances, short of an untimely death, that would absolve you

"How about a couple gold rings, a church, and a priest?" Mulder
deadpanned, unable to resist.

There were some moments when Mulder thanked God for his
eidetic memory. He filed away the expression on Skinner's face--
certain to be a comfort at some point in the future while his boss
was reaming him for another lost cell phone. Skinner closed his
mouth, blinked, and tried desperately to appear matter of fact.

"You're getting married?"

"This Saturday," Scully confirmed, sending Mulder a reproving
glare that said he was enjoying Skinner's discomfiture far too

"I didn't think...I mean..." Her boss gave a slight shake of his head,
stood, and walked around to lean against the front of his desk,
offering Mulder his hand. "Congratulations. I wish you both the

"Thank you, sir," Scully replied while Mulder accepted the
handshake. "I'm sure you see why attending the conference is

Skinner folded his arms, nodding slowly. "I'm surprised you two
haven't approached me before now. When were you going to
arrange for leave? I assume you'll be taking a honeymoon."

Mulder's eyes darted to Scully and he shifted uneasily. "Actually
we aren't taking one right now. We plan to be at work on Monday,
just like always."

A crease formed on Skinner's brow. "All right."

For some reason, Mulder felt compelled to continue, speaking a
little more rapidly. "Scully and I wanted to keep things simple, sir.
We're having a very small, private ceremony."

Skinner inclined his head. "I see. Human resources will initiate the
paperwork for your change in marital status, of course, and..." He
broke off, scrutinizing Mulder's expression. "You DID notify
human resources, didn't you?"

Scully took one look at Mulder's panic face and opened her mouth
to reply. Unfortunately, her husband-to-be cracked before she
could utter a word.

"Well, you see, sir...uh...we weren't planning on going public with
the marriage right away. I mean, it's not like we're really trying to
*hide* it, or anything, know, avoid upsetting the current

Skinner's eyes narrowed. "You mean you don't want to take the
chance they'll split you up."

"That's one consideration," Scully said quietly. "There's also the
matter of our smoking friend and the renewed...interest shown in

Skinner ran one hand along his jaw. "You realize this puts me in a
bit of an awkward position. As your supervisor I'm obliged to..."

"Which is exactly why we didn't tell you," Mulder said a little
desperately. "We didn't want to ask you to keep our secret. We
figured what you didn't know, you wouldn't have to report. We
appreciate all the times you've stood by us over the years and we'd
never want to take advantage of your friendship." When Skinner
didn't seem inclined to reply and the silence weighed heavy, he
blurted, "Otherwise, we would have told you about the wedding.
Hell, we probably would have asked you to be there! Which
means, of course, there's no reason why you shouldn't be there
now, since the cat's out of the bag, so to speak and there's no
longer a need for secrecy."

Skinner lifted an eyebrow, his mouth quirking. "Mulder, are you
trying to bribe me into silence by inviting me to your wedding?"

Mulder smiled weakly. "Would that work?"

Skinner stood and returned to his desk chair, shaking his head. "I
don't even want to consider what Kersh would have to say if he
knew about this." He picked up a pencil, tapped the eraser idly on
the desk blotter, then sighed. "Where do I go and what time should
I be there?"

"St. Anne's, eleven o'clock," Mulder said quickly.

Skinner opened a folder and began to write. "I'll let you off the
hook this time, but you'll attend the next appropriate workshop that
comes along. Enthusiastically."

"Yes, sir."

Skinner continued to write, and Mulder kept his eyes focused on
the shiny top of his boss's head, though he could sense Scully
trying to catch his attention.

"You're dismissed," Skinner finally growled, never lifting his gaze.
"Get out of here."

As always, Scully exercised remarkable restraint. She followed
Mulder calmly out of Skinner's office, smiled at Kim, exchanged
greetings with several agents in the hallway, and stared serenely at
the doors of the elevator until they opened on the basement level.
Only when she and Mulder were safely ensconced in their office
with the door shut did she round on him.

"Skinner? You gave me grief over inviting my own brother to our
wedding, and you just invited Skinner?"

Mulder crossed to his desk and dropped into the chair, lacing his
arms defensively across his body. "What's wrong with inviting ol'
Walt? He's been a good friend to both of us. Do I need to remind
you of the time...?"

"What happened to the simple little wedding? To not changing the
rules in the middle of the game?" Scully braced her palms on the
desktop, leaning over him like an auburn haired bird of prey.

"Okay, okay! So I caved! It just didn't seem right somehow, asking
him to keep quiet about the marriage and not even inviting him to
the wedding. I'm sorry, all right?" He met Scully's eyes for the first
time since leaving Skinner's office. His shoulders slumped and the
defensiveness seeped from his posture. "I'm sorry, babe. Really."

Scully circled the desk to stand between Mulder's knees, taking his
face in her hands. She waited a long moment before speaking. "I
love you. I just need to know that this is what YOU want."

Mulder's smile lit up his eyes and told her the significance of her
words was not lost. "I have an enormous amount of respect for the
man. I trust him. And I consider him my friend...our friend."

Scully let her thumb drift across his lip, one corner of her mouth
turning up. "That's enough for me." She pressed a kiss to his
forehead and took two steps toward her own desk before pausing
to direct a wicked grin over her shoulder. "That, and the dinner of
my choice at your place tonight."

Mulder, very wisely, kept his mouth shut and nodded.

6:29 p.m.
Three days to wedded bliss

"Hi honey, I'm home."

Mulder shut the door with a flourish, disappointed when greeted by
an empty living room. He detoured through the kitchen, dark and
suspiciously lacking any fragrances that might hint at dinner,
before heading down the hallway to the bedroom.

Soft light spilled from the bedside lamps, revealing a neatly made
bed containing a purse and briefcase, but no Scully. Mulder
nudged the door open all the way with his toe, stepping into the
middle of the room.


"In here, Mulder." She poked her head out of the walk-in closet for
only an instant before vanishing back into its depths. "You're home
early," she called, voice muffled. "I thought you said that meeting
with Skinner was likely to run long."

"He was surprisingly brief and to the point," Mulder replied,
slipping off his jacket and tugging at the knot on his tie. "I think he
had a hot date." He feigned a disappointed sigh. "I rushed home,
certain the little woman would be waiting with open arms and
dinner on the table."

An unladylike snort drifted from the closet. "Reality's a bitch, huh?
Pizza will be here in twenty minutes."

Mulder snickered softly under his breath, pulling navy sweat pants
and his favorite Knicks shirt from the bottom drawer of the bureau.
He sat on the edge of the bed to strip off his socks, wriggling his
bare toes appreciatively in the thick carpet.

"What are you doing in there anyway?"

"Looking for an old pair of shoes that would be perfect with my
dress for the wedding." Scully's voice tightened with annoyance. "I
*know* they're in here somewhere." She was silent for a beat
before curiosity replaced irritation. "You really think Skinner had a

Mulder let himself flop onto his back, staring bemusedly at the
ceiling. "The man must have looked at the clock ten times while I
was in his office. And I think I caught the distinct bouquet of Old

"Skinner does NOT wear Old Spice, Mulder." He could hear the
arched eyebrow in the inflection of her voice. "It was probably

"Scully, I'm shocked. Have you been sniffing our boss?"

"I'm getting married, not buried, Ace."


A little more curiosity--Scully was in what Mulder liked to call
"full Yenta mode." "Think he's still seeing Elena?"

Mulder's lips curved, his voice a mixture of amusement and
chagrin. "Oh, I can just about guarantee he's still seeing Elena."

Silence, then Scully's head popped out of the closet again. "Don't
tell me. Flush with generosity from inviting Skinner to the
wedding, you suggested he bring Elena, too."

Mulder let his head loll to the side, fixing her with a wounded
gaze. "Think you know me so well, huh Scully? Well in this case,
you're wrong." When she continued to stare at him without
speaking he sighed. "Okay, you're half right. I *did* tell Skinner
he could bring Elena. But he asked me, it's not like it was MY

Scully ducked back into the closet, shaking her head. "Semantics,

"I got the message you left while I was in the meeting. What did
you need to tell me?"



"We can discuss it over dinner."

Mulder sat up. "Oh God. Who *else* is coming?"

"You aren't making this easy, you know."

"Sorry. It's aren't having a little fun at my expense, are
you?" He didn't have to feign the pleading tone.

He heard her expel a long gust of air. "Charlie's ship is back in port
and he has a six week furlough. He called Bill and..."

"Now I'm certain you're pulling my leg because we both know that
Charles Scully is a completely fictitious character created to
further terrify potential suitors of the Scully women."

"Further terrify? I haven't noticed you shaking in your boots up till
now, Ace." The rattle and thud of boxes hitting the floor
punctuated Scully's words, followed by swearing under her breath.

"That's because up until now there's only been one Scully male
who'd like to rearrange significant portions of my anatomy. Once
the mythical Charlie shows up it'll be two against one, and then
where will I be?" Mulder pointed out. He stood and began
methodically exchanging suit pants and dress shirt for the sweats
and tee.

Scully no longer attempted to hide her mirth. "Don't worry, love,
I'll protect you from my big, baaaad brothers."

"Laugh all you want, but they've both been trained for combat,"
Mulder grumbled, raking fingers through mussed hair.

"You're proceeding from an erroneous assumption, Mulder.
Charlie is nothing like Bill. You two are going to hit it off, just
wait and see."

Mulder winced. "Could we not use the word 'hit,' Scully?"

A rare giggle erupted from the closet. "Just try not to have any
preconceived notions about Charles, all right? You can't let..."

The sentence cut off in a sharp gasp and another rumble of boxes.

"Scully? Are you all right?"

When she didn't answer right away, Mulder crossed quickly to the
closet and swung the door wide open. Scully's back was toward
him, her shoulders slightly hunched and her head tucked forward.


"I'm fine, I'm fine."

She turned, and even with one hand pressed tightly to her nose he
could see the crimson sparkle between her fingers. Mulder
watched, mesmerized, as one fat droplet rolled down her palm and
dripped onto the carpet.

"Mulder! Don't just stand there, get me a tissue!"

Scully's sharp command penetrated the roaring in his ears, and he
stumbled over to snatch a handful from the small box she kept on
the bedside table. She accepted the wad with a small grunt of
acknowledgement, pinching one over the soft, fleshy part of her
nose and dabbing at her upper lip with another. Mulder shook
himself out of his daze enough to retrieve a wet washcloth from the
bathroom. By the time he'd returned the bleeding had stopped, and
she gratefully accepted the offering, using it to clean the remaining
blood from her face and hands.

Not until she'd removed all the telltale rusty stains did she lift her
eyes to take in his chalk white face and wide, shell-shocked eyes.
Her mouth formed a small "o" as she put two and two together,
moving quickly to his side.

"A box hit me in the face. It was up on the shelf. I reached for
something behind it, it slid off, and smacked me right on the nose.
It's fine now, Mulder." She took his face in her hands. "It's just an
old fashioned bloody nose, love. Nothing more."

Swiftly and without warning she found herself enfolded in a
crushing embrace. Though his vise-like grip stole the breath from
her lungs, Scully melted passively into it, bringing her arms around
his waist. His heart thumped wildly beneath her ear and she could
feel the tension humming through his body. After several minutes,
she sensed him regaining control and gently extricated herself from
his hold. Silently taking him by the hand, she led him over to the
bed and pulled him down to sit beside her.

"Mulder, I just had an extremely thorough check up. I think they
ran every test known to mankind. The doctor said, and I quote, 'I
wish all my patients were this healthy.'"

Mulder sucked in a long slow breath, his fingers tightening on
hers. "I know that here." He touched his temple with the fingers of
his free hand. "But here..." He lay them over his heart. "It's not that
simple, babe. We have no way of knowing what they did to you.
All we do know is that the chip, the most likely catalyst for your
remission, is gone."

Scully turned slightly to face him. Her voice was soft, but very
firm. "I can't spend my life waiting for the other shoe to drop,
Mulder. I won't."

His eyes flicked to hers, then danced away, and he swallowed
thickly before nodding.

Scully turned further until with one quick motion she'd slung her
leg over his hip and seated herself in his lap, forearms resting on
his shoulders. Mulder's eyes flashed surprise and his lips curved.

"Hi there."

Scully refused to be deterred. "I love you. And I plan on spending
the rest of my life showing you--whether that be a day, a week, a
month, or fifty years. It's the here and now that matters, Mulder.
Let the future take care of itself."

Mulder gave her a crooked grin and tipped his forehead until it
bumped hers. "That part about showing me... What exactly did you
have in mind?"

He was flat on his back, Scully's palms braced on his chest and her
tongue halfway down his throat before his befuddled brain could
register what hit him. Bringing his own hands up to tangle in her
hair, he could do little more than moan appreciatively until she
released his mouth and moved on to the sensitive skin just behind
his left ear.

"I'm think I'm getting the picture, babe," he gasped, wriggling
when her teeth grazed his earlobe. "Don't stop now."

Scully's answering chuckle was decidedly wicked.

11:30 a.m.
1 day to wedded bliss

"Mulder, the Gunmen left another three messages on the machine.
You really should call them back."

Mulder shoved the remainder of a bagel into his mouth and hastily
removed his bare feet from the coffee table just before Scully
breezed into the room. She wore jeans and a teal sweater--he'd
been pestering her about working more color into her wardrobe--
which somehow managed to bring out the blue in her eyes and set
off the copper glow of her hair.

"Scully, I TOLD you. If I call them now they're sure to figure
something is up, and they won't stop until they've ferreted out what
it is. So unless you want three extremely paranoid geeks at the
ceremony, I suggest we wait until tomorrow night to return the

Scully paused, hands on her hips, her mouth quivering. "I can see it
now. They'd probably insist on running a background check on
Father McCue."

"Not to mention having the church swept for surveillance
equipment," Mulder agreed.

Scully snickered. "Metal detectors at every entrance."

"Nah, Langly would never agree to that. He won't go near them.
Says they're scanning our brain waves for covert government
experiments in mind control."

Scully's snort coincided with the doorbell. "That must be Mom and
Bill. Be nice, Mulder." She was halfway to the door before tossing
over her shoulder. "And take your feet off the coffee table."

Mulder's heel had just brushed the glass surface, and he yanked it
back hastily. "I saw that episode of the Dick Van Dyke show,
Scully. Danny Thomas was from the planet Twila and he had eyes
in the back of his head."

"It was Twilo, Mulder," Scully corrected as she absently checked
the peephole before disengaging the deadbolt.

Mulder's grin widened in delight. "Scully, I'm speechless."

"Good. Keep it that way and we may just get through this visit
without casualties." She swung open the door with a bright smile
that abruptly turned incandescent. "Charlie!" she squealed, flinging
herself into the arms of a young man bearing the characteristic
auburn hair and fair skin of the Scully clan.

Mulder stood, still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that
Scully had actually *squealed* while Charlie lifted her off her feet
in a bear hug. He caught a glimpse of Maggie, Bill, and a dark
haired woman hovering in the hallway as Charlie set Scully on her
feet and stepped back to regard her gravely.

"Looking good, Fred. The FBI must agree with you."

Scully grinned up at him, then at Bill. "Thanks. It does."

Mulder blinked, unable to completely suppress a smirk when Bill
looked ready to swallow his tongue.

"Fox." Maggie squeezed past her children to give him a hug and a
sound kiss on the cheek as Scully greeted the dark haired woman
with an enthusiastic embrace.

Scully seized Charlie's hand and led him over to Mulder. "Charlie,
this is Fox Mulder. Mulder, my bratty little brother Charles."

"Hey, Mulder, it's good to finally meet you. I've heard a lot about
you." Mulder accepted Charlie's hand, feeling awkward as the
younger man made a production of scrutinizing him from head to

Charlie's grin widened and he cocked an eyebrow. "Funny--he
doesn't look like the devil incarnate to me, Bill."

Bill scowled, Maggie pursed her lips, and the dark haired woman
elbowed Charlie in the ribs. "Behave yourself," she said under her
breath and turned to Mulder with a smile. "I'm Karen, Charlie's

"Where's Tara?" Scully asked, transferring her hand from Charlie
to Mulder and giving his a squeeze.

"She's back at the house with the boys. Charlie and Karen have two
sons, Fox," Maggie explained. "Daniel is thirteen and Andrew is

"I can't wait to see them, they must have grown so much!" Scully
said, her face alight with pleasure.

Mulder shook himself from his daze. "Would anyone like
something to drink? A cup of coffee?"

"We're on our way to lunch. Mom just wanted to stop by and make
sure Dana didn't need anything," Bill said, his tone civil but his
expression sour.

"Oh, don't be silly, Bill! We're in no rush," Maggie chided. "I'd
love a cup of coffee, Fox."

"Me too," Karen chimed in, and Charlie nodded. Bill's mouth
compressed to a thin line and he averted his eyes.

Mulder headed for the kitchen, his steps faltering when he heard
Charlie say, "Hey, Fred. Why don't you and Mulder join us for
lunch?" and Karen chime in, "Oh yes, Dana! It would give us a
chance to catch up."

He could feel the warmth of Scully's gaze, hear the unspoken
reassurance in her voice. "Thanks, but we still have some things to
take care of before the ceremony tomorrow. How are the boys?
Are they both still playing soccer?"

He continued to the kitchen, pausing in the doorway to sneak a
brief look over his shoulder. As if sensing his gaze, Scully glanced
up from conversing with her brother, her lips curving in the barest
hint of a smile. Mulder mouthed a hasty "I love you" before
ducking into the kitchen and busying himself with the coffee pot.

Standing with one hip propped against the counter, contemplating
the trickle of brown liquid, the sudden addition of a voice startled
him into nearly knocking a coffee mug onto the floor.

"Need any help?"

Charlie leaned against the doorjamb, arms folded. Mulder turned
warily to face him. Though the man's posture was non-threatening
and his expression mild, past experience had taught him that time
alone with a Scully male was never pleasant.

"Thanks, but I think I can handle it," he said aloud. An awkward
silence ensued as Charlie made no move to leave, just continued to
regard him with a half smile. Mulder shuffled his feet, and a
relatively safe question popped into his head. "Why do you call
Dana 'Fred'? Bill always calls her Short Stuff. I just assumed you'd
call her that too."

Charlie grinned, crossing the kitchen to drop into a chair at the
table. "Nah, that's just Bill's name for her. I'm the younger brother,
remember? Half the time we were growing up she was taller than

"Okay. So why Fred?"

"You probably heard by now that Dana was a real tomboy when
she was a kid. Missy would be off with the girls, putting on make
up and painting her nails, but Dana always wanted to tag along
with Bill and I--playing baseball, shooting BB guns, climbing
trees. When we tried to tell her she ought to play with other girls,
she'd get real mad. Said all that girl stuff was boring and she'd
rather be a boy. So..."

"You called her Fred," Mulder finished, a smile tugging at his lips
in spite of himself. "Bet she loved that."

"Hey, she said she wanted to be a boy," Charlie replied, lifting his
hands in a gesture of helplessness. "Anyway, Dana has never been
one to let gender stop her from doing what she wants to do.

Mulder shook his head. "Don't I know it." He sobered. "She's a
good agent--the Bureau is lucky to have her."

Charlie leaned back in the chair, eyeing him shrewdly. "And you?"

Mulder met his gaze squarely. "The finest partner I've ever worked
with. And the best thing to ever happen to me."

Charlie nodded to himself, dropping his eyes to the tabletop. "Bill

"Bill has his reasons. There's no denying that Scully--Dana's life
and your family have been impacted by her assignment to the X-
Files. We do good work, and we've made a difference, but we've
both paid dearly for it. Bill..."

Charlie sat forward, lowering his voice. "Bill thinks he's Lord of
the Manor--has ever since Dad dubbed him the man of the house
while he was at sea. He's never really known Dana for who she is,
just who he wants her to be." He shrugged. "Or me, for that

"And what about you?" Mulder asked quietly.

A smile spilled slowly across Charlie's face. "Me? I've always
taken Dana at her word. I'm the one that calls her Fred,

A knock on the door cut short Mulder's chuckle and he moved
quickly to answer it. Grey stood on the other side, baseball cap on
his head and a smirk on his face.

"We havin' fun yet?"

"Are you kidding? The party's in full swing, did you bring the
beer?" Mulder submitted to a brief hug before ushering Grey into
the apartment.

His brother took one look at the little group in the living room and
froze, an expression on his face that Mulder couldn't quite identify.
If he didn't know Grey better, he'd think it was a panic face.

"Didn't know you'd have company. What's Billy boy doing here?"
he muttered as Mulder closed the door.

"You should know, you're the one with the grand theory on
weddings," Mulder growled. "Come on, I'll introduce you to
Scully's brother, Charlie, and his wife."

Grey stopped him with a hand on his arm. "THE Charlie? I thought
you said he was a figment of Dana's imagination."

"Guess I was wrong." Mulder started forward but was stopped
again when Grey tightened his grip.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute. There's something I have to tell

"Grey! Come on in and meet my brother, Charlie," Scully called,
getting up from the couch and beckoning him closer.

Grey's grin looked strained. "Be right there, darlin'." He turned
back to his brother, but Mulder had already sidestepped him and
was halfway into the living room. "Fox!" he hissed, then gave up
and followed.

Mulder watched, bemused, as Grey accepted Scully's hug and
pressed a kiss to her cheek, then suffered politely through all the
introductions. He could sense an odd preoccupation in his brother,
though Grey still managed to give Charlie an assessing look as if
trying to determine just how much he had in common with Bill. He
greeted Maggie warmly, shook Bill's hand with a barely concealed
smirk, and said something charming to Karen, yet Mulder sensed
an air of impatience beneath the surface courtesies.

When the others sat down and Mulder left to get the coffee, Grey
followed on his heels like an anxious puppy. Mulder eyed him with
irritation, reaching for a mug.

"What is wrong with you? To quote one of your expressions,
you're acting like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs."

Grey snatched the cup from his brother's hand and set it back on
the counter. "I have to talk to you. Right now."

Three raps on the door underscored his words. Mulder frowned.
"Now what? Just a minute, I'll be right back."

"Fox! Wait a minute, Fox! I have to..."

Mulder glared over his shoulder and opened the door. His jaw

"Fox, sweetheart, it's so good to see you!"

Grey's parents and both his sisters stood on the doorstep, bright
smiles on their faces and overnight bags in their hands.

12:02 p.m.

"I can't tell you how thrilled we were to hear the news," Linda
McKenzie continued, after kissing Mulder soundly on the cheek.

"It's about time, I'd say." Grey's father shook Mulder's hand with a

"Oh, Douglas! Behave yourself!" she scolded. "Anyway, you know
by now that we consider you and Dana to be family, Fox. When
Grey told us about the wedding I'm afraid we all just hitched a
ride. You don't mind, do you?"

"Betcha never saw this one coming," Kira said sotto voce, her eyes
glinting with amusement.

Though Mulder's mouth worked to form a reply, the words
somehow got lost between his brain and his tongue. Then Scully
was there, a small hand on his elbow and a warm smile on her face.

"Of course we don't mind. It's wonderful to see all of you again, it's
been much too long." Only Mulder would have detected the slight
tightening of her lips as she added, "So, are the kids here too?"

Shannon chuckled. "We wouldn't do that to you two! They're at
home with Rob. Having the time of their lives, I'm sure."

"Come on in and meet my family," Scully urged. She tried to catch
Mulder's eye but he was still dazed by the almost surreal turn of

He stood stupidly in the hallway throughout the flurry of greetings
and introductions. The sense of claustrophobia, just a faint, queasy
sensation in his gut when the Scully clan had descended, now
expanded to a choking weight. When Linda and Maggie began
comparing the pros and cons of a large wedding and Doug and
Charlie started discussing life in the Navy, something inside
Mulder snapped. His hand was on the doorknob before he realized
he was moving.

"Mulder? Where are you going?"

He could barely glimpse Scully through the sea of bodies. His
brain fumbled for an answer as his eyes roamed the apartment like
a trapped animal. The kitchen provided an easy, if rather
implausible answer.

"To get more coffee," he muttered, fleeing to the refuge of the
silent, empty hallway and pulling the door shut. He sagged against
it, eyes slipping shut. "Coffee. Right. Think I'll shop somewhere
out of the way--like Columbia."

Fresh air was good. The sweet smell of flowers combined with the
nip of a temperature still debating whether to give itself over to
spring. He walked for a long time, aimlessly and with no purpose
other than to feel the pavement beneath his feet. Fortunately, he'd
had a pair of running shoes in a gym bag in his car. Scully would
never forgive him if he wound up lame at their wedding, all
because he'd panicked and fled the apartment with bare feet.

*Their* wedding. What a joke. Somewhere along the line it had
turned from a sincere expression of their love to a three-ring circus.
"Entropy," Grey had called it. His brother must be laughing up his
sleeve right about now.

Eventually Mulder settled himself on a bench at a park several
blocks from Scully's apartment. The screeching of rusted swings
and the clear babble of children's voices as the preschool set
enjoyed the fine weather played an oddly soothing counterpoint to
his own conflicting thoughts and emotions. At one point a bright
red ball rolled under his bench, followed closely by a rosy-cheeked
toddler with cookie crumbs on her chin. He tossed the ball to the
child, sending what he hoped was a reassuring smile to her mother,
who eyed him as if she'd seen his picture at the post office.

"No child molester here," he muttered to himself. "Just the
headliner in a cast of thousands."

"Ain't it great to be important?"

Mulder didn't bother looking up as Grey squeezed his shoulder and
then plopped down beside him. "You want the truth?"

"Heck no. I'm just here to see what's holding up the coffee." Grey
waited a beat, then added, "You planning on coming home anytime

Mulder stole a quick look at his brother from the corner of his eye.
"She pretty mad?"

Grey stretched his arms along the back of the bench and turned his
face up to the sun. "Surprisingly, no. I didn't even have to lock up
her gun."

Mulder released a long breath of air. "Worried?"

"Worried is another story. You've been gone over two hours, you
know. I told her I'd find you. I mean, how far can a barefoot man
in search of coffee get?"

The attempt at humor fell flat. Mulder leaned forward, head
cradled in his hands. "Everything in my life has been such a damn
mess. Was it too much to ask for one moment of perfection?"

Grey shifted, and his voice lost all traces of humor. "Fox, you are
marrying the woman you love. A beautiful, intelligent woman who
wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with you. A
woman who, by your own admission, holds the other half of your
soul." He shook his head and chuckled wryly. "If that's not
perfection, little brother, then I don't know what is."

Mulder turned his head to gaze up at his brother. "Were you

Grey segued without batting an eye. "Spitless. And I mean that
literally. My throat was so dry I sounded like a bullfrog and my
tongue kept sticking to the roof of my mouth." The corners of
Mulder's mouth twitched and Grey shot him a quelling look. "Is
that what this is about?" he asked after a moment of silence.

Mulder sighed, sitting up and staring sightlessly at a group of
toddlers scooping sand with bright colored plastic shovels. "No."
He made a small grunt of frustration "Well--not exactly, anyway.
I've loved Scully for a long time. But for too many years I let other
forces keep us apart. The job. Family. Our enemies. Her stubborn
rationalism. My fears and insecurities. I realize that on some level
those forces will always be there. But I'd hoped that, if only for a
heartbeat, this commitment could just be about the two of us.
Because when it's just Scully and I, Grey, I'm not scared."

Grey nodded slowly, thoughtfully. "There were 150 people at our
wedding. Small wonder I came down with a case of the jitters. But
a funny thing happened on the way to the altar, Fox. When I saw
Kate, when I looked into her eyes, all those people just faded right
out of existence." He grinned. "It was a regular X-File."

"I wish I could have known her."

Grey looked momentarily nonplussed before adopting the slightly
wistful expression that Mulder had come to associate with Kate. "I
do too. She would have liked you, little brother. She always did
appreciate a challenge."

Mulder made a face. "I'm not taking that bait." He waited a beat.
"Will Kristen be at the ceremony tomorrow?"

"I hadn't... Fox, I felt bad enough about bringing half of Raleigh
with me."

Mulder snorted softly. "On the other hand, why stop now? You're
on a roll." He looked at his brother, the sardonic grin gradually
fading. "Ask her."

Grey ducked his head, studying his clasped hands. "Not yet.
Maybe some day." He offered Mulder a little grin for deliberately
misunderstanding the question.

Mulder's lips curved. "You think?"

Grey shrugged. "It's not such an extreme possibility." He stood,
stretching the kinks from his back for several minutes before
turning to his brother. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to take you in
now. Any last requests?"

"Do you think you could tell Scully you found me in a really,
really long line at Java Dog with a pound of Espresso Roast in my

Grey shook his head, smirking, and extended a hand to his brother.
"I keep tellin' you, little brother--I will not mess with that woman.
Not even for you."

Mulder allowed himself to be tugged to his feet. "Good to know
where your true loyalties lie."

"Self-preservation. You should try it sometime."

"Hey, I'm still here, aren't I?"

"Now *that's* an X-File."

2:24 a.m.
9 hours to wedded bliss

She awakened slowly, gradually drifting from the velvet depths of
heavy slumber to a kind of drowsy cognizance. She didn't need her
eyes to tell her she was alone in the bed; the absence of solid
warmth at her back, of the gentle sough of breath in her ears,
delivered the message just as efficiently. Scully sat up, all senses
attuned, frowning a little when her eyes detected a steady golden
glow seeping around the doorframe rather than the anticipated
flickering blue.

She hesitated, gaze wavering between the clock and the door, teeth
worrying her lower lip. Eventually, with a stifled yawn and a
plaintive look at her pillow, she slipped out of bed and padded to
the living room.

Mulder was seated on the couch, head bent in concentration, but
the television screen was mute and dark. Scully hovered in the
shadows for a moment, studying the sweep of dark hair on his
brow, the curve of his neck. Though she hadn't made a sound, he
sensed her presence, lifting his head.

"Hey. Why are you up?"

Scully joined him, snuggling into the crook of his arm when he
pulled her close. "Couldn't sleep. I got cold."

"Cold? Scully, it's not... Oh." His mouth twisted ruefully.

"So, what's your excuse?"

The muscles in the arm looped across her shoulders tensed and
Mulder's eyes played tag with hers, skittering down to an object
lying beside him on the couch. Scully reached across his body to
pick up the small book, its fragile pages stained with time and
tears. He didn't try to speak, but his expression was somewhere
between embarrassed and contrite.

Scully's fingers caressed the worn cover for several minutes before
placing the diary on the coffee table and lacing with Mulder's.
"Penny for your thoughts." Her voice was soft, warm, and without

Mulder studied the tangle of digits for a long time before replying.
"He had greater resources and more influence than I could ever
hope to claim, but he still couldn't protect his family. What reason
do I have to think I can do any better?"

The question was a veritable minefield. Scully ran her thumb over
the palm of his hand, cursing Bill Mulder. Not for the first time.

"Frankly, Mulder, just hearing you compare yourself to your father
makes my blood boil. What happened to you and to Samantha was
the direct result of choices he made. Choices *you* would never
make. He dealt with the devil, and both you and your sister paid
the price."

Mulder was very still, almost frozen by her words, and she
struggled to remove the fury that had leached into her voice. "And
as for the two of us--we protect each other, remember? It's been
that way for seven years; it's not going to change now."

Mulder expelled a soft puff of air that ruffled her hair. "Hate to
belabor the point, babe, but I've done a pretty lousy job."

Scully shrugged his arm off her shoulders, turning to face him with
eyes blazing. "I'm alive, I'm well, and I'm happy, Mulder. All
thanks to you. Let's not start racking up points for near death
experiences, because we both know who'd win."

Mulder held her gaze for a moment before glancing away,
muttering something that sounded suspiciously like "cancer" under
his breath, though his posture loosened considerably. Scully arched
an eyebrow. Two could play that game.

"Boxcar fire," she growled.

His lips quirked. "Branched DNA."

"Retrovirus," she countered.


She winced involuntarily before rallying. "Mothmen."

Mulder bit his lip, eyes narrowed in concentration. "Gunshot!" he

Both auburn brows skyrocketed and Scully glared pointedly at his
thigh. Mulder grimaced.

"Okay, okay. So maybe that wasn't the best example," he conceded
hastily. His frown turned to triumph. "Padgett."

Time to pull out the big guns. "Black cancer, Steve Cole
channeling John Lee Roche, that beast in the Nantahala Forest, the
bomb at the hospital..." Scully ticked each one off on her fingers.


"Does that mean you're admitting defeat?"

"I throw myself at your mercy." Mulder's voice deepened. "Be
gentle with me, babe."

She snickered in spite of her best intentions and was pleased to
observe that the darkness had receded from his eyes. Mulder
noticed her scrutiny, and the laughter faded, replaced with the
expression that sent shivers down her spine.

"I love you," he murmured. "You make me forget the nightmares."
The ghost of a smile curved his lips. "You give me perfection."

Scully blinked, her throat tightening painfully. She wasn't exactly
sure of the meaning behind Mulder's words, but sensed it was
profound. "I love you, too."

The kiss was passionate, but not sexual. A covenant as deep and
binding as the ceremony that would take place in a few short
hours--perhaps more. They sat in contented silence, wrapped
around each other, until Mulder's arms loosened and her eyes
began to droop. Mustering will power, Scully stood and tugged on
his hand.

"Time for some beauty sleep."

Mulder groaned, scrubbing the heel of his hand over his eyes, but
allowed her to pull him upright. "You don't need it, babe. You're
already beautiful."

Scully grinned, leading him down the hall. "Who said I was talking
about me, Ace?"

St. Anne's Catholic Church
10:43 a.m.
The Big Day

Scully sincerely hoped that her face didn't betray the dismay she
felt. Especially since Mulder's was an open book. Tara just
continued to babble, oblivious.

"...and we called everyone your mom could think of, but they all
had plans, being a Saturday and nice weather and all, and by that
time it was getting late and we were afraid we'd miss the ceremony
and--Matthew! Put that down this instant!"

"Don't be silly, Tara, there was nothing else you could do." She
gave Mulder an inconspicuous jab with her elbow in hopes of
jarring the horror from his face. "There was no way of anticipating
that Mrs. Prescott would come down with the flu. I'm sure Matty
will be..."

"Matthew Robert Scully! I said no!"

Tara dashed across the room to pry a hymnal out of her son's
mouth. Karen watched her go, turning back to Mulder and Scully
with a reassuring smile.

"My boys will help keep an eye on him, Dana. It'll give them
something to do. They're with Charlie and Bill, parking the car."

That choking, claustrophobic feeling was back with a vengeance.
Scully took one look at soon-to-be husband's face and drew him

"Breathe, Mulder," she murmured, flashing Maggie an
"everything's wonderful and we couldn't be happier" smile. "You
look like you're about to hyperventilate."

"This is all Bill's fault." He didn't even attempt to keep the
petulance from his voice.

"Bill? How in the world could he be responsible for this?"

"How the hell do I know? He...he probably poisoned the old lady--
slipped her a Mickey."

Scully studied him as if gauging whether or not to call the men in
the white coats, then checked her watch. "We still have a few
minutes. Why don't you go grab a breath of fresh air?"

Mulder opened his mouth to retort, but nodded instead. "Yeah.
Think I will."

She smiled, not the high voltage one he got after a near death
experience, but a gentle curve of the lips that reached all the way to
her eyes. Tara's gentle scolding, Matthew's wails of protest, and
Karen's soft chuckle of amusement faded to a meaningless drone,
drowned out by the sight of Scully in ivory silk, her copper hair
swept up into a pearl clip.

"You are so beautiful."

The smile expanded, and she took a half step toward him, but
something metal crashed to the floor and Matthew's infuriated cries
increased in pitch. Indicating the door with a tilt of her head and an
apologetic expression, Scully turned back to handle damage

Mulder willingly left her with Karen and the extremely flustered
Tara, pushing open the heavy wooden door and stepping into
sunshine. He closed his eyes and sucked in several long, slow
draughts of air, trying desperately to regain the oasis of
contentment he'd felt a few moments earlier.

"What kind of face is that, FBI? This is your wedding day, not one
of your Z Files."

Mulder's eyes flew open and he spun on his heel, searching for the
source of the familiar but unexpected voice. At the bottom of the
stone steps stood Skinner, Elena, and an older woman with steel
gray hair and sun-kissed skin. They ascended the steps and reached
his side, but he still couldn't seem to stop gaping like a freshly
caught fish.

"Speechless, Mulder?" Skinner's voice was dry with poorly
concealed amusement. "Id've sworn such a condition was

Mulder's tight lipped glare melted into a genuine smile of pleasure.
"Rosa. It's wonderful to see you."

Rosa cocked her head, brown eyes intent. "I'm glad to hear you say
it, since I'm here without an invitation."

Mulder slipped his arm around her small shoulders and gave them
a squeeze. "Not anymore. Scully will be thrilled to see you. But

"I'm afraid I'm responsible," Elena admitted, darting a rueful look
at Skinner. "I was so pleased you and Dana were getting married

"That when Tia Rosa called she spilled the beans," Rosa
interjected with a wink at her niece. "Child never could keep a

Mulder shook his head. "You came all this way? For us?"

"Weeell, I've been trying to convince her to come up for a visit for
a while now," Elena said. "Your marriage just provided an
excellent catalyst."

"You and your Dana did not just enter my home, Fox. You entered
my heart." Rosa's voice was warm with affection.

"And you ours," Mulder replied quietly. "How goes the bed and
breakfast business?"

"Ay! More work without two to share the load." She smiled. "But
life is good."

"I'm glad."

Rosa's gaze sharpened. "And you? What is this face I saw a
moment ago?"

Mulder dropped his arm from her shoulders and shoved his hands
into his pockets, fumbling for a reply. "It's's nothing,

Skinner and Elena exchanged a glance.

"Think we'll go find Scully," he said, guiding her toward the
church doors with a hand to the small of her back. "We'll see you

"Better make sure you get a seat," Mulder mumbled under his
breath, drawing a raised eyebrow from Rosa. When he fell silent
she folded her arms and pinned him with a stern glare.

"So? Digame!" She motioned with one hand. "That means talk."

Mulder chuckled, suddenly feeling lighter. "Just a case of pre-
wedding jitters, I guess."

Rosa nodded knowingly. "On our wedding day, my Waldo spent
most of the morning in the bathroom." She examined him for a
moment. "There is more, si? Reaching for happiness can be a little
frightening--especially the first time."

Mulder sank his teeth into his lip, squinting up at the sun.
"Happiness is a tricky thing. It has a habit of slipping away just
when you get used to it."

Rosa lay her palm over his heart. "Then you must hold it here, hijo
mio. As tightly as you can." She gave him a pat before dropping
her hand. "Now I'd best join 'Lena and Walter. And you'd best find
your bride."

Mulder watched her walk to the church doors, her back straight
and her steps brisk. "Rosa?" he called before she could enter.

She turned, eyebrows raised.

"Still no regrets?"

Rosa smiled, lines smoothing and years melting from her face.
"Nada, Fox. Nada."


When he slipped back inside, Scully was standing with Bill,
Charlie, and Grey, a half-smile on her lips. It blossomed when she
saw Mulder, and she crossed the foyer to slide her arm through his.

"Feeling better?"

"Yeah, I am. Did you see Rosa?"

"She, Elena, and Skinner went to take a seat. Last time I checked,
they were sharing a pew with Grey's family. Mom, Karen and Tara
are talking to Father McCue and Charlie's boys are watching

Mulder glanced over at the little group to his left. Grey was talking
animatedly while Bill tried hard not to grin and Charlie openly
guffawed. "What's that all about?"

Scully rolled her eyes. "Your brother is entertaining them with
some of his more incredulous stories of life as a Raleigh police

"Oh God. Well, at least he's keeping Bill distracted."

Scully consulted her watch. "It's eleven o'clock. Ready to get this
show on the road, Ace?"

Mulder turned so that he could slip both arms around her narrow
waist. "Bring it on. Next step's the honeymoon--right?"

She rested her palms on his chest, tilting her head to look up into
his eyes. "We're not taking a honeymoon, remember?"

Mulder dropped his chin until his mouth was level with her ear, his
voice low and husky. "We're not GOING anywhere, babe. I never
said there wasn't going to be a honeymoon."

Scully shivered. "Well, when you put it that way..."

"Matthew? Matty?"

Tara burst into the room looking frantic, Maggie, Karen, and
Father McCue on her heels.

Bill was at her side in an instant. "Tara? What's wrong? Where's

"I don't know!" Tara snapped, darting over to look behind a bench.
"If I knew where he was I wouldn't be calling for him! Matthew?
Matthew where are you?"

"How can you not know where he is?" Bill growled. "He was with

"Actually, he was with Danny and Andy," Karen spoke up, her
voice contrite. "They were playing with him while we were talking
to Father McCue and..."

"Well then, why don't THEY know where he is? Don't they know
better than to..."

"Instead of casting blame, why don't we all look for him," Mulder
suggested, drawing a murderous glare from Bill. "He must be here

"Danny said they were playing hide and seek," Karen offered.

Bill snorted. "Hide and seek? With a little tiny kid? Who'd come
up with a crazy idea is that?"

"I may be stickin' my neck out here, but I'd guess another kid
would," Grey drawled. "I'll look downstairs."

Tara moved back into the sanctuary, her voice trembling as she
continued to call for her son. "Matty? Matthew Robert you answer
your mother right now!"

Grey was halfway toward the stairs when the wails came. They
followed the muffled sound of Matthew's voice to the confessional
located at the far end of the sanctuary. Within seconds, the entire
group, including a very sheepish looking Daniel and Andrew, had
assembled. Matthew's outraged cries were emanating from the
closed door on the left-hand side.

"Mommeeeeee! Daddeeeee! Out now!"

Tara tugged on the knob but the door remained firmly shut. "It
won't open."

"Oh, for cryin' out loud." Bill nudged her aside and grasped the
knob, wrenching it firmly to the right.

It refused to budge.

He jiggled it back and forth, muttering something under his breath
and then casting a guilty look over his shoulder at Father McCue.
When the door still refused to open he rapped firmly on the wood.

"Matty? Unlock the door, honey, and let Daddy in."

Matthew's howls only increased. "Want out! Want out!

"What do we do? How do we get him out of there?" Tara
demanded anxiously.

"Everyone stay calm. I'm certain there's a key in my office," Father
McCue soothed. "Just keep talking to him, try to reassure him, and
I'll go get it."

"Sing him a song, sweetheart," Maggie suggested to Tara, who was
pressed against the door, murmuring reassurances. "He loves that."

"Huh, just don't let Billy sing--kid'll never want to come out,"
Charlie muttered, earning an elbow from his wife.

"Don't even say it," Scully warned when she saw Mulder's lips
twist into a smirk.

Five minutes later Father McCue returned with the key and a
tearful, hiccuping Matthew tumbled into Tara's arms. Mulder
watched the reunion for a moment before turning to speak to
Scully. The unguardedly wistful expression on her face caused the
words to dry up. Sensing his gaze and his thoughts, she slipped her
hand into his and brought it to her lips.

"It's all right, Mulder."

He shook his head, tears stinging the back of his throat. "No. No,
it's not, Scully. You should have..."

"I have what I need." She pressed a kiss to his knuckles before
releasing his hand. "I have you."

Mulder brought it back up to cup her chin. "Scully, I once said I
didn't see you as a mother. I was wrong." His thumb brushed her
lips, followed by his mouth.

"Well, are you two ready to make this official? I think everyone is
now present and accounted for."

Father McCue's deep voice startled them both. Mulder stepped
back, surprised to note that the others had all moved to take seats.

"I'm ready," he said, twining his fingers with Scully's and cocking
an eyebrow. "You?"

Her brilliant smile chased away the last of his fears. "Oh yeah.
Let's go."

They followed Father McCue to the front of the church, where
Maggie and Grey were waiting. Maggie reached out to smooth an
errant wisp of her daughter's hair that had evaded the clip, eyes

"You look beautiful, sweetheart. I wish your father were here--he'd
be so proud."

Scully kissed her cheek. "He is here, Mom. I feel it."

Grey's eyes locked with his brother's, a mixture of joy and sorrow
that didn't require words. He gave a barely perceptible nod, one
corner of his mouth turning up.

Father McCue cleared his throat. "Fox and Dana, we're here today

"All right, nobody move! We've got this place surrounded and..."

A collective gasp, and all heads swiveled toward the back of the
church. Mulder's jaw dropped as he took in the sight. Then his eyes
narrowed and he took a menacing step forward.

"Frohike! What in the hell do you three think you're doing?"

The Lone Gunmen, wearing bewildered expressions and packing
more hardware than the U.S. Marines, stood frozen under 20 pair
of curious eyes.

St. Anne's Catholic Church
11:15 a.m.

Mulder strode angrily down the long aisle until he was looming
over the three men. Frohike's eyes darted between his thunderous
face and the wedding guests, Langly scuffed his toe in the carpet
and hunched his shoulders like a kid caught swiping cookies, and
Byers just looked desperately embarrassed.

"What are you three up to, storming in here like that?" Mulder
demanded. "What's with the commando routine?"

"We were worried about you." Frohike turned puppy eyes to
Scully, who had reached Mulder's side and looked no happier than
he. "We thought you were in trouble; came to get you out!"

"Trouble? What kind of trouble?"

"Well...bad trouble. Real life and death
and..." Frohike ceased his stammering, looking pleadingly at the
other two. Langly evaded his gaze and Byers heaved a martyr's

"Einstein there told us you and Scully had been abducted and were
being held against your will," he muttered.

"What?" Scully shook her head, looking at each in turn, ending
with Frohike. "Whatever gave you THAT idea?"

"Oh no, " Byers said, folding his arms and glaring at Frohike.
"This one is all yours, Melvin."

"I just...well, there have been certain...uh...transmissions, that...uh,

sounded..." Frohike tried to loosen his collar, swallowing hard.

"TRANSMISSIONS?" Scully's voice dropped thirty degrees.
"Please tell me you haven't been bugging our apartments again."

"Just the phones," Langly filled in helpfully. "We don't normally
listen to 'em. It's just supposed to be, you know, in case of

Scully's fingers curled slowly into fists and her lips compressed to
a thin, bloodless line. Mulder stepped between her and Frohike,
lowering his voice as if for confidentiality.

"If I were you, Hicky, I'd come up with an emergency real quick.
You don't want to mess with Scully when she's wearing that face."

"Well--you weren't answering our calls!" Frohike blurted. "We'd
been trying to reach you for more than a week. And when I tried
asking him"--Frohike jerked his thumb at Skinner, who was
looking way too amused for Mulder's taste--"he told me you two
were going to Seattle for a seminar. Only I did a little checking,
and there was no such seminar, and you weren't booked for any
flights! we tapped his phone."

Skinner's mirth vanished. "You did WHAT?"

"You gave me false information--deliberately misled me!" Frohike
stammered. "And then...then he was talking and acting
suspiciously. Saying things he'd been sucked into the
conspiracy! And interoffice emails to the Human Resources
department, asking questions about...about what would cause
partners to be split up! And then today he was telling someone
Mulder and Scully were being held at this location! Stuff like that."

"The WEDDING was being held here," Skinner said through
clenched teeth. "I was talking to Elena. And as for those memos--I
was trying to figure out how much leeway I have for keeping
Mulder and Scully partnered when the news eventually breaks that
they're married. THAT's the conspiracy, Bernstein."

"Way to go, Melvin," Langly muttered under his breath.

"Hey, how was I supposed to know they were..." Frohike trailed
off, his eyes growing to the size of saucers. "WEDDING? You're
getting hitched?"

"We were giving it our best shot, before you and the A team burst
in here," Mulder replied.

Frohike stood with his mouth hanging open, processing the news.
Then his jaw snapped shut and his expression took on an air of
wounded dignity.

"Mulder, man--you're getting married and you didn't invite us?"

Mulder dropped his head into his hands and moaned.

Father McCue, who had been silently observing the entire
exchange, placed one hand on Mulder's shoulder and the other on

"Are you expecting any more guests? Or shall we give it another
try?" His lips twitched suspiciously and his tone was dry.

Scully flushed. "Father, we're so sorry for all the confusion, really,
I never..."

"Neither have I, I assure you. But I guarantee this is one wedding
I'm not likely to forget." He stretched a hand toward the front of
the church. "After you, Dana."

"You're here now, you may as well sit down," Mulder growled at
the Gunmen. "Just take off those damn bulletproof vests. And you-
-" He glared at Grey, who looked ready to implode with repressed
laughter. "Not a word. Not one word."


That's about the whole story. I'm happy to say that the actual
ceremony went off without a hitch. And to see them now, the way
they're smiling at each other, you'd never guess what they went
through to reach this moment.

And I'm not talking about wedding plans.

Kristen walks over to give Dana a hug and Fox turns to me with a
wry grin. "Entropy, huh?"

I love him--but he IS my little brother, and sometimes I just can't

"Gotta hand it to you, Fox," I tell him. "Your wedding gave a
whole new meaning to the word."

He makes a face. "Ha, ha. You were right, okay? Happy now?"

And suddenly the fun and games are over. Guess you can't hide
your emotions behind jokes forever. "Yeah," I tell him. "I am. For
you. You're overdue, little brother. May you and Dana have many,
many years making up the deficit."

Fox looks at me as if he can read my soul, a disconcerting habit he
has. "Thank you. But we both know life doesn't exactly keep an
even balance. I wish..."

I hold up my hand to stop him. I can't listen to this--not here, not
now. The church, the ceremony, the look in Fox's eyes... Kate has
been so close today, yet so very far away. But today wasn't about
me, and I won't let it become so.

"Way I see it, you and Dana got two options," I say, hoping to
derail that particular train of thought. "You either slip out of here
now, while folks are preoccupied with discussing the more
entertaining aspects of the wedding, or you invite 'em all back to
Dana's and send Walt and I to the nearest liquor store."

Dana chooses this particular moment to break free from my sisters
and links her arm with his. Fox looks down at her, as if expecting
some input on the decision, but she just lifts one of those limber
eyebrows and smiles that enigmatic little smile.

I can almost see the white flag go up.

"Oh, what the hell," Fox huffs. He turns to face the mingling
guests, raising his voice to be heard over the chatter. "Everyone's
welcome to join us back at Scully's...uh...our apartment for a little
celebration. Champagne's on us."

I wince at his unfortunate choice of words. "I'd watch the way you
issue that invitation, little brother," I murmur. "Billy boy just might
take it literally."

Dana tries to give me "The Look", but she's way too happy to
really pull it off. I watch them wind their way through well
wishers, tickled to see Fox enjoying the attention just as much as
Dana. Okay, so this "simple, little wedding" didn't turn out to be
what my brother once envisioned. That's the way life is, right? But
thanks to the people who love them, whose lives he and Dana have
touched, it *will* be a memory to cherish.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well, this was supposed to be the easy one.
Not too long, no complex casefile to deal with--just get them
married, hopefully with a few laughs along the way. Then I had my
first experience with writer's block. Ouch! I owe my undying
gratitude and the completion of this story to Vickie, Sally, Donna,
and the crew at Crystalship. Thank you for all your support and
motivation, including the occasional kick in the butt. <G> And
thanks to all of you who wrote asking for this installment. Your
encouragement kept me going. I hope I didn't disappoint!