Subject: New! Labor Day Weekend by Susan Proto
Date: Sun, 6 Sep 1998

Category: Story, MulderAngst, TaraAngst, (now that's a new one, isn't
it?) Mulder/Scully Romance

Rating: PG13 for language and Violent Images

Spoilers: through the Emily Arc (The incidents of "The End" and the
movie are not apart of this universe.)

Summary: Another barbecue gathering with the Scully Clan. Is it possible
for our heroes to simply enjoy a meal for change? Nahhh.

Archive: Yes

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully & Mrs. Scully, Billy, Tara & Matthew Scully, &
Charles Scully belong to 10/13 productions and Chris Carter. I'm just
borrowing them. I won't keep them. At the end of the story you can have
`em back, I swear, (unless you *want* to give `em to me.) All other characters
belong to me, and if Mr. Carter wants to borrow them, all he needs to do is
ask. <grin>

Introduction: I guess this may be considered the third in what has become my
"Barbecue" series. I do recommend you read "Birthday Barbecue" and "Fourth
of July" first, so you'll have a clearer idea of what's going on in this one,

Flames will be noted, but constructive feedback will be appreciated &

As always, thank you Vickie Moseley for being my CyberMuse on
this one too!

Labor Day Weekend
by Susan Proto (

Part 1/2

We pull up into the driveway Maggie Scully's made sure is left clear for me.
I'm still sporting a leg cast and crutches as a result of the fireworks
incident from the Fourth of July barbecue. Granted, the cast was downsized
a couple of weeks ago, but my mobility is still less than a hundred per cent,
so the closer to the Scully home's front door, the better.

I open the passenger door, and gingerly swing my leg around to the ground.
I don't move anymore than that since I'm still unable to put my full weight on
the leg and have to wait for Scully to retrieve my crutches from the back

As I wait, I look at the front door and smile a little to myself. For some
reason it feels like I'm coming home. After I'd been released from the
hospital, I'd come to live with Scully and Mom for a few weeks.

Yeah, 'Mom.' I still can't believe she wants me to call her that. At first
it felt strange, but I got used to it really quickly, ya know? I mean, I'm
a psychologist, and I know a little something about these things, like
behavior mod and positive reinforcement.

And it seems every time I'm near this wonderful lady, I do this little
Pavlovain number and start to salivate like one of those dogs. Maggie
Scully just knows how to make me feel like I'm worth something.

I'm lucky, because her daughter has the same ability to make me drool.
Okay, so I don't exactly drool for the same reasons over Scully as I do for her
mom, but suffice it to say, these Scully women are good for my heart and my soul.

"Mulder, earth to Mulder!" Scully says to me laughing. "You're doing it
again, partner."

"Oh, sorry. Just thinking," I say, to which she laughs right out loud.

"Uh oh. Now that's when I know I'd better start worrying. Fox Mulder is
thinking, _again_!"

"Hah-hah," I reply with my usual, witty, repartee. It doesn't matter to me
when she teases me. In fact I love it when she teases me. Since Scully and
I have become, well, involved, she's taken to teasing me more and more. And
it's been wonderful, because I haven't heard her laugh and giggle (yes,
Scully giggles!) as much in the five and half years I've known her as I have over
the last four months we've been, well, involved.

I finally take the crutches she's been holding out to me for the last couple
of minutes and pull myself up on them. Even though it's September, it's
hotter than hell. I'm wearing my khaki shorts cause their easier to get
over the cast, and besides, Scully said she likes the way my rear end looks in

Who am I to deny my Scully a good view of my ass?

I start walking over towards the steps to the front door. I would have gone
directly to the backyard to avoid the steps, but unfortunately my bladder is
not cooperating, and I know the steps in the back are a lot steeper. So,
here I am, waiting for Scully to catch up to me (or at the very least stop
feeling as though she needs to stand behind me to protect me from falling

I'm about to ring the doorbell when it suddenly flies open.

"Fox! Welcome home!"

"Hi, Mom," I reply smiling, wondering when this house had indeed become _my_
home away from home. "It's good to be back."

"Well hi, Dana. How nice to see you, my beautiful loving daughter," teases
my Scully with a touch of dramatic flair I didn't know she had in her.

"Oh, Dana, stop. You know I'm always happy to see you," says Mrs. Scully as
she envelops her daughter into a tight hug. I get a kick out of seeing
their relationship play out like this before my eyes. Sometimes I imagine that's
the way my own mother would act with my sister, had she not been taken.
Sometimes I imagine that's how my sister would act now, if she hadn't chosen
to reject me.

"Come along, Fox."

I nod and enter the doorway. I remember to walk carefully around the small
throw rug that's kept by the door to catch dirt from being tracked. The
first time I came through the door with crutches Scully had to catch me as the
crutch flew straight up. I'm more careful this time.

I eye the small guest bathroom in the corner, under the stairwell and ask to
be excused. Scully tells me she's going to go into the kitchen to help Mom
as long as I'm able to manage on my own.

"Go ahead. I'll be okay," I say. She nods, reaches up to give me a quick
kiss on the lips and heads out with her mom to the kitchen. Before she
turns though, I catch a glance of Mom staring at us with a great big smile.

Sometimes I think Mom thinks she planned Scully's and my whole relationship.
She walks around with this perpetual Cheshire Cat grin as if our happiness
is her doing. I smile back at her and watch her blush a little. I love
watching the Scully women blush.

Oh hell, maybe it is her doing. I don't care who wants to take credit, I
just want to thank whoever is responsible for giving me my chance at happiness.


I step out of the bathroom and walk towards the kitchen. I take it easy,
cause the Scully home is a booby trap of spit 'n polished hard wood floors
and throw rugs. A crutch catches once on the fringes of a small hallway scatter
rug, but I manage to free it. Then I nearly lose my balance when the other
crutch skids across a particularly well polished section of flooring.

Just as I think I'm about to fall on my ass, I feel a strong hand grab hold
of my elbow. I voice my thanks before I realize who my knight in shining armor

"You're welcomed."

My heart stops when I hear his voice. I didn't realize he was going to be
here. I figured for sure he wouldn't be here, given the fact he was just
here for the Fourth of July. I wasn't prepared to have to deal with him, yet

"Billy. What a surprise," I say, trying really hard to keep my voice even
and calm. Inside, my stomach is doing this whirligig number.

"Yeah, well, I got my orders to ship out for a ten week stint and found out
they're departing from this neck of the woods. So, we figured we'd all come
out from San Diego, and then Tara would return with Matthew in a few days."

"Well, I'm sure Mo_," I pause and switch gears real quickly here,
"I'm sure _your_ mom is real happy about your being able to visit." I'm
glad I caught myself. The last thing I want to do is give Billy Scully a reason
to be pissed off with me..

"Yeah, well, Tara's out back with Matty. Umm, you coming?" he asks
hesitantly. It's nice to know he doesn't know how to act around me anymore
than I know how to act around him.

"Yeah. Guess so," I say with a lot less confidence than I feel, which ain't
much, I'll tell ya that much.

Anyway, I let Billy lead the way out to the backyard. He actually holds the
screen door for me, and, if I'm not mistaken, I think he's actually staying
nearby me in case I need help. This floors me. I guess the guy really
feels bad about what happened last time we were in the same backyard together.

It was a crazy thing to happen. Of course the crazy thing was for Billy to
bring the damned fireworks in the first place. But he did, and everything
was going just fine until his "Grand Finale!" When he lit those little
'helicopters' and all but the third one lifted totally up in the air, I
thought my guts were going to come up through my mouth.

Cause I knew it was heading straight for the sleeping baby in the port-a-
playpen. So, of course I dove over straight into the damned fireworks and
threw myself over the baby. Damned helicopter exploded right near my leg
and ripped it open.

Hurt like a motherfucker.

I see Tara and then look over at Matthew. He's slowly losing that baby look
to him and adopting a more 'toddler' type personna. Damn, it seems hard to
believe how much he's changed in just a couple of months.

I manage to walk over to the lawn chairs and wonder if I'm going to be able
to maneuver myself into the chaise lounge without looking like a complete dork.
I hold the crutches in front of me, and then try to bend down on my one good
knee and hold my bum leg out straight.

I feel like, however, I'm going to tip back very ungracefully, so I stand
up again. I look forlornly at the chaise. I know it would be the perfect
thing for me to sit on but know there's no way I can manage it without tempting
the fates and landing flat on my ass.

My new hero somehow manages to sense my dilemma and asks me if I need some

"Oh, well, I don't want to bother you," I say to him hesitantly.

"It's no bother," Billy responds. "What would be the best way to do this?"

I can't believe it, but I start blushing. Why the hell am I embarrassed by
this guy's offer of help? I honestly don't know why, but my face is beet
red. I feel the heat in my neck rising up to the tip of my head. Scully's fair
complexion has nothing over me at the moment.

He ignores my obvious tentativeness. Billy says, "Why don't we try it with
me holding you from the back around your waist so you can have the leverage to
lower yourself down into the chair. Then you can swing your leg up, or if
you need help, I can do that for ya."

"Umm, okay. That should work," I say quietly, and prepare myself for when
he comes around to grasp my waist. I stiffen for a slight moment, but then
slowly lower myself to the chaise. I'm able to swing my leg up myself, and
shift back to a more comfortable position.

I don't realize how exhausted I feel until I'm actually sitting. It takes a
lot of energy to keep weight off of your leg by using crutches. A whole lot
more than I had at the moment. I lean back into the chaise and almost
immediately close my eyes.


"He's lost weight, Dana," I hear Tara say.

"He's always losing weight, Tara," Scully says.

"But Dana, he's really lost a lot of weight this time. I could feel his rib
cage when I helped him sit down," Billy says.

I keep my eyes closed because I don't want to interfere in their discussion.
I mean, what could I say? I have lost a little weight, I guess. Besides,
I'm damned curious what they're going to say about me. Yeah, I can be a nosy
cad when I want to be.

"I know, Tara. But you don't know Mulder! He tends to either graze and eat
little bitty meals all day long, or he eats in spurts and either not eat for
hours at a time or stuff his face. Of course, he's also working out in the
weight room like mad to keep himself in shape, so he expends a lot of
energy. Invariably, he works off more calories than he takes in," my Scully says
with a hint of defeat in her voice.

"Dana," begins Tara somewhat tentatively, "is it possible he's exercising
too much and eating too little?"

"I don't know. I mean, I'm not watching what he consumes every minute of
the day__. Wait a minute. Tara? What are you saying?" Scully sounds confused,
and quite frankly I am too. I listen to the three Scullys continue their
exchange and try to understand what the unspoken question really is.

"Well, it's just that I knew someone, someone very dear to me. and, well,
Fox seems to be doing all the same things he'd done. I mean, I know I'm not
around all the time like you are, so I might be way off base, but, Dana, is
it possible Fox is not eating enough, intentionally?" Tara asks.

I jerk my eyes open in response to her question. I can't believe what
Tara's insinuating. C'mon, Scully. Come to my defense!

"Tara, you can't really think ___." I hear Scully hesitate here. C'mon,
Scully, defend my honor here. I am not intentionally starving myself here.
"I mean, it's not a condition that's terribly common in men, is it?"

Whoa, Scully. What ever happened to the old adage 'the best defense is a
good offense.' This is more like surrender.

"Actually, it's more common than you might think," Tara says.

Jeeze, since when did Tara Scully become the resident expert on eating
disorders? Then, quietly, Billy Scully puts his arm around his wife's
shoulders as she practically whispers,

"My younger brother was anorexic, Dana."

Oh. I guess since then.


I'm _not_ anorexic.

I vow to stuff myself silly today. I don't want _any_ of the Scullys
worrying about my eating habits.

I'm not anorexic. I'm not.

I close my eyes again. Tightly.


I suddenly feel small pincers pulling on the hairs of my exposed leg.
Again. I know immediately who the perpetrator is before I even open my eyes.


He's gone and pulled himself up and he's walking around me by holding on for
dear life. Apparently, however, he finds it a lot easier to do it by
holding on to my individual leg hairs. Ouch.

He stops suddenly and looks at me with those trademark Scully blue eyes.

"/Bwoke/?" he asks.

/Bwoke/? I don't do baby speak.

"/Bwoke/?" he repeats looking at my leg.

Oh! Broke. He's saying 'broke'. For some silly reason I am absolutely
elated I've cracked this particular code.

"Yes, Matthew, it's a little broke," I confirm in my own version of baby

"Aww. /Bwoke/," he repeats in a sad little voice.

"It's okay, Matty. It's getting better," I say with a smile. Don't want
the kid to worry about me. He's too little to have to worry about anything
other than his next cup of juice or Zweeback.

Damn, I loved Zweebacks when I was a kid. I remember I used to steal
Sammy's all the time. I smile a little to myself at that memory.

"/Feex/?" he asks.

"Yeah, Matty. It's getting fixed. It's gonna be okay," I affirm.

He just looks at me as if he's wondering if he should believe me or not.
Either that, or my baby speak isn't too good, and he doesn't understand a
word I'm saying.

"O-kay," he echoes. I'm amazed as I watch this child, this tiny little
person, pat my leg as if to offer me comfort. I can't believe a kid not
quite a year old is capable of showing this much compassion. Of course, I realize
this child is pretty advanced. I'm not sure how Billy managed it, but he
apparently fathered a pretty smart little kid.

"Matthew! Come, sweetie pie. Time to get your diaper changed," calls Tara.

I swear the child looks at me with an expression that screams, 'Cheese it!
The cops!' and he drops down to the ground and starts to crawl off in the other
direction of the chief of police whose wielding the clean diaper.

I smile openly now. I remember running off in the other direction when my
mom came running after me with the diaper. Of course, it wasn't the fancy
Pampers they have now. Nope, my mom used those awful cloth ones on me. And the
damned, itchy, sweaty rubber pants to go over them. Ugh!

Don't you just love an eidetic memory?

Eidetic memories can be a real bitch sometimes, but they can be a blessing
too. Yes, it causes me to remember the bad times; some of which were even
horrible. But there were good times too. I actually remember some good
times. I just don't think of them very often, but I can remember them.

Mom used to let me run around naked on the beach until Dad came home. Then
she'd hurriedly put my diaper on cause she knew Dad had felt it wasn't
proper for me to be seen buck naked out in public. But that was okay, cause then
he'd grab the big book of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes and read to me.

I still find it hard to imagine William Mulder reading fairy tales to a
toddler, but I remember him doing it. I remember snuggling with him in his
oversized Barco-lounger chair and reciting the words along with him. And
he'd ruffle my hair when I'd get all of the words right.

And then we'd sit and have Oreo cookies and milk together.

I remember happy times in our house. Today, as I look at Matthew, I even
manage to think of them.


Scully is suddenly in front of me asking me if I'm okay.

"Of course I'm okay. Why wouldn't I be okay?" I ask confused.

"You didn't answer me," she replies.

"I was thinking," I say

"Again?" she teases in relief.

"Yeah, so shoot me," I reply in kind.

"Don't tempt me, Mulder. C'mon, we're getting food," she says.

Before I even realize it, the words fly out of my mouth. Words I wish I
could take back instantly, because I know Scully will take them the wrong way.

"Go on without me, Scully. I'm not all that hungry."

She looks at me with eyes as wide as saucers. Damn Tara for putting such
foolish thoughts in Scully's head. I'm not anorexic, but I know that's what
she's thinking at the moment.

I mean, I'm a psychologist. I know the symptoms. I know the reasons. It's
a control thing. People, usually young, adolescent girls and not thirty-eight
year old men, feel as though they're not in control of their lives, so they
take control of the one thing they can.

Their body. Their intake of food. They exercise to sculpt their body.

I am not in that category. I am not in need of regaining any control. I
mean, just because I've been, for the most part, out of commission for the
last nine weeks doesn't mean I feel a need to regain some kind of control.

C'mon, Scully. This is bullshit. I'm sorry. Damn it.

"What's cooking, anyway?" I ask in an attempt to divert.

"Chicken wings, burgers, dogs, and tuna steaks," she replies tonelessly. I
realize as I listen to her respond she is trying desperately to decide if
there's a modicum of proof to what Tara had said.

"Okay, Scully. The tuna steaks sounds good. Wanna give me a hand?"

I reach out with one hand and wait for her to grab it. She hesitates for
only a moment, but it was long enough to make me feel uncomfortable.

Almost, as if I'm tainted.

Suddenly, I'm not only _not_ hungry, but I feel a little nauseous.

Oh shit.

Part 1/2

Labor Day Weekend
by Susan Proto (

Disclaimers in Part 1

Part 2/2

I grab Scully's hand and climb off of the chaise. I then walk over to the
picnic table and sit on the end, so I can stretch my leg out without getting
in anyone else's way.

I keep wondering about what Scully, Tara and Billy were talking about. I
thought Anorexics use their intake of food as a means of gaining control
over their lives. But that doesn't fit my M.O. I mean, food has never been a
real important facet in my life. I use it as fuel, as a means of building up
energy, but I never have had much of a love affair with it like some people

I watch the Scully family mill around the table and realize their mealtime
is very important to them. It's a special time for them to share good food,
good talk, and good company. It goes back to the Pavlov thing again. If you
associate one good thing with something else, that "something else" becomes
important to you too. You're conditioned to respond in a positive way.

I watch as Scully passes the macaroni salad around, laughing as she heaps a
spoonful on Mom's plate and then her own. Billy takes a corn on the cob and
starts slathering butter and salt all over it, chattering away. Tara is
spooning string beans onto Matthew's highchair tray, but the baby looks very
happy gnawing away on his own ear of corn.

An Anorexic would more than likely find this entire scene totally repulsive.
Perhaps even frightening. I find it neither.

I simply find it foreign.

Foreign in the sense I hadn't had my own, Mulder family meal bonding time
since I was a very little boy. My family gave up on family meal times
immediately after Sam was taken. Dad was hardly ever home at all, much less
during a mealtime. Mom stopped cooking. Didn't have the strength, she
said, so I was left to fend for myself.

Not much sense in making a big deal out of a meal you ate alone, was there?
If I made Mom something, she'd just tell me to leave it on the dresser.
Eventually she'd eat it, but never in my presence.

Never with me.

I ate alone at the kitchen table. I fixed a box of macaroni and cheese, or
threw together a bologna sandwich, poured a glass of milk, and that was the
end of it. Voila! Dinner was served, eaten, and cleaned up all in about
twenty minutes. Lunch and breakfast took even less time.

Not exactly one of the more memorable moments in my day.

So it doesn't surprise me I don't start salivating at the thought of eating.
But I'm not repulsed by it either, and that's what I have to make Scully
understand. If I'm hungry, I eat. If I'm not hungry, I don't eat. Simple
as that.

Honestly. For a change, it really is as simple as that.

So how come I figure it's gonna take a miracle to convince my beautiful
partner and significant other of this fact? Maybe I can try some more
diversionary tactics.

"Hey, Scully, wanna pass me the macaroni salad?" I ask.

She looks at me with a smile of relief and passes the large bowl over. "Are
you ready for the tuna steak now?" she asks.

Though I really am not hungry, I know I can't say no without having all
eyes fall on me. So I do what any normal guy in my situation would do. I lie
through my teeth.

"Sure am. Pass it on down." I plaster a smile on my face and pray Scully
doesn't see through it.

I watch as Mom places a tuna steak on a plate. Ever since I stopped eating
meat and chicken, I've been trying different types of fish. Scully must
have told Mom I like tuna steaks.

"Hope it's cooked enough for you, sweetheart. Let me know if you want me to
throw it back on the fire," Mom calls out to me.

"Okay," I reply as I take the plate from Scully. I look at the piece of
fish and figure it must be okay. It's seared pretty well on the outside, so I
assume it's cooked through on the inside.

That is my first mistake. I really have to learn never to assume anything.

I cut into the tuna steak.

Bigger mistake.

It's bright red. No, actually, it's raw. And if I was into sushi, it would
have made a perfect Tuna Tatahki dish. But I'm not into raw, red anything.
Not since the Diamond serial killer case, when I swore off meat. Swore off
anything that bled.

Well, the tuna didn't bleed, but it's red and raw and it's close enough to
the vision that makes me sick to my stomach. I know I am going to be sicker
than a dog and I have to get up so I won't gross out everyone and make them think
I'm crazier and sicker than a loon.

But I'm not anorexic. I'm not.

But at the moment I know I'm gonna have a helluva a time convincing any of
the Scullys of that fact. I have to get out of there for a minute.

"Umm, will you guys excuse me for a minute? Nature's calling. Oh, and Mom?
The steak could use another minute or two on the fire, okay?" I say as I
point towards the plate without actually looking directly at it.

Tara looks at me with concern and I can see her confirming her diagnosis in
her head. Scully looks at me quizzically and then looks at my plate. I
know she would have understood why I can't look at the plate before she had
spoken with Tara, but now I wonder if she's able to look beyond her sister-in-law's
assumptions. I see her expression is anxious, but I'm not sure if it's
because she suspects the anorexia or because she's flashing back to the
Diamond case too.

I manage to rise and begin walking to the house. I look at the stairs to
the back door, sigh, and start the climb. It takes me a few minutes to reach
the top, but before I open the back door, I notice Tara and Scully in deep
conversation with Mom.

And I suspect I am now in deep shit.

I'm not anorexic. But now I apparently have three Scully women to convince,
and one stubborn, pain in the ass, Scully brother.


I manage to take care of my bladder needs as well as do some deep breathing
exercises to regain my composure. As I wash up, I tick off all of the so-
called symptoms I display and come up with a plausible, reasonable
explanation for each.

Number one. I eat sporadically. Well, I simply eat when I'm hungry. That
is not a bad thing. People are overweight because they often eat when they're
not hungry, but merely out of habit.

Number two. I eat a lot sometimes and not a lot at others. Well, for the
same reason as number one. Sometimes I expend more energy and need to fuel
up more. This is particularly true when we're on a case. I try to build up my
reserves before I get heavily into a case since I know the case sometimes
upsets my eating habits.

Number three. I exercise a lot. I like to exercise. I like the release of
the endorphins when I've had a good run. God, I miss running. I can't wait
till I can run and swim laps again. And now, I'm working like a maniac to
keep myself in shape so I can get back out into the field as soon as
possible. It's not easy to keep in shape when half your leg has been blown off.

Number four. I've lost weight. Well, yeah, but that's because I'm actually
eating healthier than I've ever eaten in my life. I can't believe Scully
finds fault with that. She's been after me for the last five and half years
to give up the fatty, greasy burgers and fries and watch what I eat. Now
that I finally do, she's ready to have me committed for an eating disorder.

What's wrong with this picture?

I open the door to the backyard and take a quick look at the Scully clan.
They're engrossed in one another at the moment, which I figure is good for
me. Maybe I can quietly make it back to the table, eat my dinner, and convince
everyone there's absolutely nothing wrong with me.

I let the screen door bang behind me as I start to hobble down the stairs.
They're pretty steep, so I have to really keep my attention on where to put
a crutch and where to put a foot. I'm really intent on watching where I walk
and don't look beyond my next step.

When I finally make it to the bottom, I pick my head up and see everyone's
eyes directly on me. So much for being able to slip back unnoticed. Like
I ever had a chance in this family.

I've grown accustomed to all of the attention the Scully family has been
bestowing upon me. I've really been enjoying it actually. But this. This
is different. This is making me feel like they don't trust my judgment; my
ability to take care of myself. I've so rarely found the Scully family to
be unreasonable, (well maybe with the exception of Billy Boy over there) but I
actually feel like I'm the only one who's thinking rationally here.

Now that's a scary thought.

I have to smile at that. But at the same time, I wish I could make them
understand there's a very good reason I suddenly feel defensive and a little
out of control. They're stripping me of my dignity and none of them even
realize it. God, where's the voice of reason when I need it.

Amazingly enough, just then the phone rings and Maggie clicks on the
cordless she's brought out into the yard. I hear her say, "Hello."

Next, I see a huge smile form on her face, and I intuitively know who's on
the other end.

"Charles! How are you, sweetheart! Oh, we miss you so much. I wish you
and Karen and the children could be here," she laments.

I listen to her acknowledge her youngest child as she responds to his
questions and he to hers. The tuna steak is back on my plate, and this time
it is cooked through. I take a small bite, if nothing more than to appease
everyone else. I discover, however, it tastes pretty good to me, and I
begin to eat more heartily.

I see Mom is now murmuring softly into the phone and, after a few more
minutes, pass the phone to Scully. I know Charlie is someone very special
to my Scully, and I can understand why. Charlie and his family were at the
last two Scully family barbecues, and I found him to be a very bright, kind, and
sensible guy.

In other words, I really like Charlie Scully. I respect him too. And I
think I can honestly say he's someone I could trust in every sense of the word.
He's a good man.

I wish he was here.

I continue to slowly eat my tuna steak in silence, but I sense the Scully
women are watching me like a hawk. I take a quick peek at Scully and see
she is now speaking to her brother in soft, hushed tones. She sneaks quick
glances at me as well, and I know instantly she is telling Charlie about her
fears of me having an eating disorder.

I feel myself beginning to blush. For some reason, I find myself feeling
totally embarrassed at the thought of Scully sharing this information with
Charlie Scully.

I don't want Charlie to think I'm crazy. He's one of the few men I've been
able to develop a half way decent relationship with, and now it looks like
Scully is going to destroy that by humiliating me and declaring me as
emotionally unstable as a teenage girl with anorexia.

I want to crawl into a hole somewhere, curl up, and disappear for a while.
Ten, twenty years should do it. I look back down at the half eaten tuna
steak, sigh, and push it away. It doesn't matter anymore what anyone
thinks. I'm not hungry any longer and realize it would be absolutely senseless to
try and force myself to eat.

I see Tara is now looking at me with an intensity that is making me
uncomfortable. Finally, I return her stare and practically dare her to make
her accusations aloud.

I think she's just about to say something when I feel a tap on my shoulder
and someone call my name.

"Mulder," Scully says. "Mulder!"

"What?" I ask, slightly taken aback by Scully's harsh tone.

"I'm sorry," she apologizes, "but I called your name four times and you
never responded."

"Oh. Sorry."

"Here," she says as she hands me the phone. "Charlie wants to say hello."

Oh, shit. I look at her and wonder how she could do this to me. I thought
she cared for me. Hell, I thought she loved me. Oh, all right, I know she
loves me. I know she loves me as much as I love her, but how could she put
me in this position. I know she's told Charlie all about Tara's suspicions and
I can't bear to hear his response to it.

I don't think I can deal with Charlie Scully patronizing me, or worse,
pitying me. No, I can't deal with that at all.

Scully practically throws the phone in my lap and admonishes me, "C'mon,
Mulder. It's long distance."

Oh. Right. Charlie lives in Texas at the moment, so it's not exactly a
local call. I pick it up and say a tentative hello.

"Hey, Mulder! How the hell are ya?" he says lightheartedly.

"Charlie. I'm doing okay. The cast comes off in another week or so and
then I get to do some really serious therapy to get it back into shape," I ramble
in reply.

"Hey, man, that's so good to hear. I'm glad. Dana says you've been working
really hard to stay in shape."

"Umm, yeah," I reply hesitantly, as I wonder where this part of the
conversation will lead. I suspect this is Charlie's attempt to open up the
conversation about my exercising and eating habits.

"Mulder, you know Scully's worried," he says, getting right to the point.
If anyone else were that direct, I probably would feel a little off guard, a
little worried. But I really do trust this man, and all I feel is grateful
that he respects me enough to not beat around the bush.

"Yeah, I overheard Tara, Bill, and her having a conversation about my eating
habits," I say quietly. "Hold on one moment, Charlie?"

I want to stand up and walk a little bit away from the group. I now
actually want to talk to Charlie, but I feel the need for privacy. I manage to stand
up and place the phone in the crook of my shoulder and ear and limp off away
from the table.

"Sorry," I apologize in explanation, "I just wanted to get away from the
others for a bit."

"No problem, I understand completely," he replies. "Mulder, I love my
family, dearly, but why do you think I live in Texas?"

I chuckle out loud at this revelation but then get back to the business at
hand. "Charlie? What's the deal with Tara's brother?"

"He was anorexic, as I assume you figured out. He died about three years


"Complications from the anorexia. He'd lost so much weight, and his immune
system was compromised. Mulder, Tara's brother was gay and also had AIDS.
Brian had a lot of issues to deal with," Charlie offered.

"Tara thinks I'm anorexic because I've lost weight, I'm exercising
religiously to keep my upper body in shape so I'll recuperate faster, and I don't
always eat three square meals a day," I offer. "And since she's mentioned her
fears to Scully, Billy and Mom, the only one who looks at me without thinking I'm
going to keel over from starvation is Matthew. Then again, he's worried
about me because my leg is '/bwoke/,'" I explain with a hint of humor.

I hear him chuckle a bit at that and then Charlie says seriously, "Mulder,
tell me why you don't believe you're anorexic."

I take a deep breath and then tick off the reasons I'd conjured up while I
was in the bathroom earlier. I hear him say 'Uh-huh,' and "Mmm-hmm,' in
acknowledgment of my rationale. He listens patiently to everything I have
to say, interrupting only once or twice to ask a clarifying question.

Finally, he asks me, "Have you mentioned any of this to my sister or Tara?"

I stand silently with the phone in my hand. For some reason I feel really
dumb at the moment. "No, Charlie, I haven't really had the chance."

"Bullshit, Mulder. You're chicken to bring up the subject in the hopes it's
just gonna disappear. But you know my sister. You gotta know she's not
going to let it drop. So why don't you just nip it in the bud now, Mulder?

"Look, what you just told me makes perfectly good sense, and I honestly
believe Dana is looking for any and all reasons to not give credence to
Tara's concerns. So, don't let this fester between you two. Talk to her. Give
her the reasons. Give her the information which supports your position.

"She doesn't want to believe Tara is correct. But, Mulder, she's afraid not
to believe her in case you really need help," Charlie concludes.

"So, you're telling me since I love your sister and she loves me we need to
develop a more open and honest line of communication, huh?" I ask in a
deadpan tone of voice.

"In a nutshell, yes," he responds in kind.

"Charlie, I wish the hell you were here," I say in a sudden burst of honest

"Yeah, from the sound of it, it seems like you could use me today to do
battle with you. But Mulder, you can fight this one yourself. She's so ready to
listen to you, so just get on with it and do it. Okay?"

"Yeah, Charlie. I will. Right now. Thank you. Next time you're in town,
promise me you'll let me buy you a beer or something, okay?"

"It's a deal, Mulder. Now, my phone card is about to hang me up, so say
hello and goodbye to everyone for me, okay? Take care, man."

"Say hi to the kids and Kar__." I realize I've been cut off as the phone
card must have expired. I turn to the others as they look expectantly at me. I
also notice Billy reach out to take the phone from my hand.

He grasps it and speaks into the phone. When all he hears is silence, he
looks at me questioningly, and I have to tell him Charlie's phone card
expired. I was cut off, but Charlie had told me to say hello and good-bye
to everyone.

"What the fuck?" Billy grouses. "I'm his God damned brother, for crying out
loud. He speaks to you, but not me? Well, fuck you, Mulder. This is
bullshit!" He stands up and stalks off toward the house.

"/Boo-Sheet/!" Matthew shouts out the top of his lungs.

"William!" Maggie shouts out toward him, appalled. "Please! It is
absolutely not necessary to use that kind of language in this house, and particularly
in front of my grandson!"

Tara looks totally mortified with her small son's word choice and her
husband's choice to behave in about the same manner as their toddler son.
"Fox," she begins, "I'm sorry. He's so jealous of you, it's not even

Now I'm the one who has a mortified look on his face. "Jealous?" I respond.
"He's jealous of me?"

"Of course, he's jealous," she replies. "How could you not realize that?"

I don't even know how to respond to that. I mean, I'm the one who lost my
own sister, was unable to help Scully escape from Duane Barry, was the reason
behind her being given her damned cancer, lied to Scully about her inability
to have children, who__. Oh, I could go on for hours, but for now I merely
stood, dumbfounded.

I finally say something brilliant like, "There's nothing to be jealous of."

I then hear a voice say, "You're right. There isn't." Billy has returned
to our little group, and I notice the women visibly tense up at his return.

Mom looks at her eldest with some disdain and admonishes him, "William
Scully, Jr. how can you even say such a thing to this man?"

"Look," he says turning to me, "I know you saved Matty and all, but you're
right. You're not worth being jealous over. I've always thought you were
one sick, sorry, sonofabitch, and now that you've got that disease Tara's
brother had, it just proves it even more," Billy professes with all the wisdom of a

I remain standing absolutely still and quiet. I want to lash back at Billy.
I want to throw his words back into his face, but I know I also must be
careful of Tara's feelings too.

Though all of this nonsense began with Tara's assumptions, she never meant
any harm. I don't want to see her needlessly hurt because her husband, once
again, says something stupid.

I begin to speak slowly and carefully. "Charlie tells me Brian died of
complications of a compromised immune system."

"He was a homo and he had AIDS, Mulder. So what? But he also had that
anorexia nervosa disease too. And Tara seems to think you have it also, and
she would know. I mean, she lived with it for a few years," Billy charges.

"Billy__," Tara warns.

"__No, Tara, let's get this out. I mean if the guy is sick, I don't want my
sister near him. I mean, I don't want her to get sick too," Billy declares.

"Billy, do you think Brian got AIDS because of the anorexia?" I ask
astonished at the possible ignorance this man possesses. I mean, even though I know I
don't have anorexia, I can't possibly let this man go on believing anorexia
was the cause of Brian's acquiring AIDS.

"Well, it didn't help. He was weak and he was a fa__. I mean he was a

"Billy," Tara interjects, "Please, don't talk about things you know nothing

"But didn't you say Brian got the anorexia because he was gay?" Billy asks
in a desperate attempt to make his point.

"No, I never said that. I said anorexia was more common in the gay
community among men, but he did not develop it simply because he was gay. There were
other physical and emotional factors which I'm not about to address right

"All I said," Tara continues, "was Fox looks as though he is losing a lot of
weight and is perhaps exercising too much. I worry he's doing it
intentionally, and if so, that could prove harmful," Tara explains with

"Well, nothing would surprise me with this guy," Billy says with irritation.
"Look at him! I mean the guy's a wreck!"

"He's a wreck because he's been recuperating for the last two months from a
horrible accident for which you're to blame!" Scully accuses.

Oh, God, she's so upset now. This was supposed to be a nice, relaxing day,
and now she's crying.

Why is it where ever I go, tears are usually a part of the package? I turn
and watch Scully begin to run towards the front of the house. I'm thankful
she hasn't chosen to go back in the house, or it would take me forever to
catch up to her.

I have to make her understand I'm okay. I follow her to the front of the
house and see she's sitting on the porch swing.

Yeah, Mom has a porch swing. Figures, doesn't it?

I carefully climb the stairs and sit next to the love of my life. She moves
over so I can prop my leg up on the swing, and then she kind of scootches in
between my legs to sit. I wrap my arms around her protectively. I know
this woman is the strongest person I know and does not always need my protection.
Today, however, I sense she might want it.

I know I always want to give it to her.

"Hey G-Woman, you okay?"

"I think so. I just had to get away from him before I pulled my gun out on
him," she says with great seriousness.

I chuckle a little at this and murmur a 'hmm' in agreement. We sit quietly
together for a few minutes. I remember what Charlie told me during our
phone conversation. I have to talk to her, he said. She doesn't want to believe
Tara, so talk to her.

"You're not sure whether to believe Tara or not, are you?" I ask looking
directly at her. She nods slightly in affirmation, and then I say, "But
Scully, I'm not anorexic. I may have other emotional baggage to deal with,
but anorexia is not one of them."

I repeat to Scully what I had said so convincingly to her brother, Charlie.
Once again I find myself ticking off the several reasons that validate my
stand of my normalcy.

Okay, so everything is relative. My _relative_ normalcy. I watch as Scully
nods her head ever so slightly at every piece of proof I offer.

"C'mon Scully, you've practically lived with me for the last five and a
half years. You _know_ I don't exactly have the most normal eating habits, but
that fact does not make me anorexic. You can see that, can't you?" I ask.

No, I plead. I really need her to see I'm right on this one.

"You're right, Mulder," she says and I release a burst of air that I have no
idea I was holding. "You don't exactly follow a given eating pattern, but
that in and of itself is your pattern. No, you're not anorexic. You may be
a lot of things, like accident prone for one, but you're not anorexic." She
gives me a small smile with that comment so it doesn't sting quite as much
as it might.

But she believes me.

I am curious about something though. "So, if you don't believe I'm
anorexic, then why did you take Tara's words to heart so quickly?"

"I guess I'm just worried about you, Mulder. I've worried about you ever
since the accident__."

"__But, Scully," I interrupt, "I'm gonna be fine. You know that, don't

"Yes. Yes, I know it in my head, but I just want to see it happen already.
It's been so long since I've seen you without crutches, and you've been
working so hard to stay in shape, and everything seems to be taking forever.
So, I guess when Tara voiced her fears, it just gave me pause to think of
one more catastrophe that could happen in our lives.

"Let's face it, Mulder. It seems the two of us are a little prone to
catastrophes, aren't we?" she chuckles as she says this.

I smile in agreement and say, "But not this time, Scully. This time we've
escaped one."

I look down and see her beautiful eyes peering straight into mine. I am so
grateful this woman sees fit to love me. I am a lucky, lucky man.

She's so tiny, I have no trouble encircling her waist with just my one arm,
while I gently stoke her hair with my other hand. God, I love her so much.
I want her to realize how much I adore her, but at the moment all either of us
seems to need is the feeling of being in each other's arms. We share each
other's company quietly for the next several minutes until, suddenly, my
stomach decides to break the silence.

"Okay," Scully says laughing, "I could use a good cup of coffee and I'm
dying to see what Mom made for dessert. I suspect your stomach might agree."

Dessert? I've forgotten about dessert, and when it comes to Maggie Scully's
home baked desserts, that's pretty hard to do.

We both get off of the porch swing, Scully with grace and me without falling
flat on my face, and walk back into the backyard. Everyone looks up from
the table directly at us and seems to wait with anticipation. I'm not sure what
to do.

Scully senses my hesitation and takes over. If I didn't know one of the
reasons why I love this woman before, I do now.

"Okay, you guys. Mulder and I have talked, and well, Tara, we appreciate
your concern, but the symptoms just do not fit Mulder. I mean, they're close,
but they're just not Mulder." Tara looks like she's about to say something,
when Scully beats her to it.

"However, since Mulder has been under a doctor's care for a couple of months
now, and will continue to be under a doctor's care for at least a couple of
more, he'll mention your concerns__."

I look sharply at Scully and am about to voice my objection to this when I
see her shout me down with her eyes. She then continues, "__Because he knows
you are mentioning these concerns out of affection and love for him."

She then turns to me and gently chides me a bit. "It certainly wouldn't
hurt to see if there was something the doctor could suggest in terms of a diet or
dietary supplement that could keep some of those calories working for you
instead of against you, doncha think G-Man?"

I consider her words carefully for a moment or two and then nod my head.

"No, I guess it wouldn't hurt," I agree softly. I then look at Tara and
say, "You know Tara, I'm not exactly used to having people voice their concerns
for me. It's been a very long time since I've had anyone besides Dana or Mom
show me they care. Thank you."

Well, Tara just looks at me and I see the tears are starting to form and, I
brace myself on my crutches 'cause I know what's gonna happen next. She's
over by me with her arms wrapped around my waist in about two seconds flat
and she's murmuring in my ear, softly.

"I loved my brother very much. We ignored his symptoms, because we didn't
want to believe it was happening. It was so hard to watch Brian waste away
to nothing and not be able to do anything about it, because by that point it
was too late.

"I don't want it to ever be too late again, Fox." Tara squeezes me tightly,
and I hug her back. Yeah, I can definitely get used to this family
business, even if she does slip and call me 'Fox.' Yeah, definitely can get used to

"I promise to check with the doctor, Tara, but I'm fine. I really, truly,
am fine."

At this point, Mom simply says, "Good, now that is settled, who's ready for
coffee and dessert?"

I look over at Maggie and ask hopefully, "Chocolate fudge cake or apple

"Both, Fox," she replies with a broad grin.

Did I mention I've developed quite a sweet tooth since Mom adopted me as one
of her brood. Maggie Scully's chocolate fudge cakes and apple pies are the
absolute best in the entire world.

"Yes!" I shout with great sincerity.

"/Yesh/!" cries out Matthew in imitation.

I notice Tara looks relieved Matt has so quickly exchanged the other
expletive for this one. I also note Billy scowling at me, but I quickly realize it's
not my job to make Billy Scully happy. Never was, never will be.

My only concern was the beautiful red head standing next to me.

Oh, and a slice of apple pie and chocolate cake. Hey, I know my priorities.

Really, I do.

I kiss Scully and then look longingly at the pie and cake Mom has just
brought out.

"Go, Mulder," I hear Scully relent.

"Thanks, Scully. You are the best."

And she is, you know.

End of Part 2/2

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