a/n: thanks to those who reviewed. there are about five more chapters of this story already finished, but it's always nice to get some feedback before i take the plunge.

disclaimer: the x-files do not belong to me, i'm simply borrowing the characters and situations for recreational purposes and my immense enjoyment.

"Mulder, you alright man?" Reggie asked after Mulder finally registered.

"Yeah, just thinking," he confessed.

"Well I was wondering if you've eaten anything yet. It's close to 3 and you haven't left that seat all day." It felt good to have a partner who was generally concerned for his well-being, even outside of the field. Mulder had heard some horror stories about partnerships within the Bureau, and they weren't hard to imagine; he knew some agents that were real assholes. He considered himself extremely lucky to be partnered with someone like Reggie.

"Um, no I haven't eaten. I guess I should go," Mulder said as he began to realize how hungry he was.

"Why don't you get out of here for the day? I can finish the paperwork myself and you haven't exactly been on your game today," Reggie suggested.

"Haven't been on my game?" Mulder feigned offense.

"Mulder, Patterson had to call three times about our missing expense reports before you even realized that the phone had rang." The whole time he was speaking, Mulder knew he was right, but what was he going to do if he left work?

"Reg, we have two hours left. I can make it to the end of the day."

"That's my point. We have two hours left, you still need to take a lunch break, and the work we have left is nothing. Go home. You're no good to me here."

"Ouch," Mulder laughed, knowing he was right.

"The truth hurts. Now go home."

Once he was outside, the question of what he was going to do for the rest of the day arose. He knew he didn't want to go back to his apartment. For mid-October, it was a fairly nice day out, and Mulder knew he would regret wasting it. Since Dana had been running through his mind all day, it wasn't a far stretch for him to hop in his car and drive to Georgetown. He wasn't even thinking, he just did what felt natural to him. His instincts and his photographic memory brought him right outside her apartment building ten minutes later.

As he made his way up to the stoop to find her buzzer, a woman in a baseball cap was making her way out of the building with a stroller. Mulder grabbed the door for her, not noticing who he was holding it for until she muttered her thanks to him, then turned to do a double take.

"Mulder?" Scully asked, wondering why he was at her apartment.

"Scully?" he was bewildered. A stroller?

"What are you doing here?"

"I got off work early and came over to see how you were."

"Why?" It amazed Scully that he would show up to her home in the middle of the day. They didn't know each other very well. However, she couldn't help but admit that he had been crossing her mind quite frequently throughout the day. She was amazed, but not as shocked as she could have been to see him there.

"I, uh…" Mulder tried to answer, not realizing before he got there that he didn't have a good one. Fortunately, cries started to come from the stroller, and Scully's attention was diverted to that.

The baby was very small, probably not even able to sit up alone yet. Mulder could demise from the pink sweatshirt, hat, and the flower print at the bottom of her tiny jeans that Scully was the mother of a little girl. Wrapping a blanket around her, she hoisted the baby into her arms and cradled her against her shoulder.

Once the baby had quieted a bit, Mulder decided to say something.

"She's beautiful Scully."

"Thank you. We were just going for a walk."

"Mind if I join you?" Scully was so confused by Mulder's intentions. The night before, it hadn't been difficult to figure out what he had wanted. But now, after he realized that she was a mother… it didn't seem likely to her that he would ever want anything to do with her again. It was hard enough to get some men to care for their own children, much less have someone else step up to the plate and do it. Not that she was looking for someone to support her. She was perfectly capable of providing for her daughter herself. Scully had given up on the male population since she had her daughter, but Mulder was a different story. He puzzled her.

"Alright," she finally said, not sure she could tell him no. Fox Mulder was showing real promise.

They walked a little ways, talking about the weather and Mulder's day at work before they reached a park. Scully took the stroller near a bench by a small pond, then took a Ziploc bag of bread out of her diaper bag. Lifting her daughter out of the stroller and onto her lap as she sat on the bench, they proceeded to feed the ducks that were swimming close to the shore. The little girl stared intently at the animals, and Mulder, off to the side a bit, watched her.

"What's her name?" he asked, wondering how they had managed to have a conversation without bringing it up. That's when he realized that Scully must have danced around the subject carefully. And he concluded that that was probably the reason she was so quick to get out of his car last night. She must have been quite used to hiding the fact that she was a mother.

"Anna. She'll be five months tomorrow," Scully offered, not looking at him while she answered. Was she embarrassed?

This was the usual line of questioning. What's her name? How old is she? Where's her father? And the third question was the one she always tried to avoid. People had a stigma against young, single mothers, and Scully did not want to be discriminated against because of the societal standpoint that she was a stupid whore. In case she could save herself at this point in their blossoming friendship, Scully did not want Mulder to believe that about her.

Based on their conversation the night before about her not having a husband or boyfriend, Mulder felt it would be rude to ask about the baby's father, so he didn't. Instead, he was more interested in something else.

"Can I hold her?"

The man just kept the gears in her head working, and surprised Scully with every direction he took them in. But if he was willing, she was willing.

"Yeah. Just don't be offended if she starts to cry. Around five months is when babies start to develop stranger anxiety, plus she's been a little fussy today," she warned, carefully placing her daughter into his outstretched arms. She waited for Anna to start to whimper, but no such thing happened. It was heartwarming to see her little girl catch and hold Mulder's gaze so intensely that it seemed they were the only two people in the world.

"Hi Anna," Mulder cooed to her softly, giving her his index finger to grasp.

"She really seems to like you."

"Well I like her too."

"Mulder," Scully sighed, wondering when the jig was going to be up; when the fairytale was going to end. At the tone of her voice, he looked up to see her worried expression.

"I'm sorry, Scully," he said, handing Anna back to her, "have I done something wrong?"

"No. No, you haven't done anything. That's what gets me! I'm just wondering when you'll realize that I'm a woman with a baby and head for the hills!"

"Scully, the fact that you have a daughter doesn't make you any less appealing to me. I still think you're beautiful, smart, all of those things… you just also happen to be a mother," Mulder confessed. He was 100% sincere in his sentiment. She was the most interesting woman he had ever met, and he knew he couldn't let her slip out of his life like so many others had.

"I'm sorry Mulder… I just didn't think that there were men like you out there. Most guys only want one thing, and when they find out that you have a kid…"

"I'm sorry if you've had bad experiences with men in the past. But I still want to get to know you, and a 10 lb baby isn't going to scare me away." A huge weight seemed to have been lifted from her shoulders.

"Hey, she passed 12 lbs the other day. Didn't you sweetheart?" she smiled at her daughter. And it was a real, genuine, soul-lifting smile that her daughter gave back. The air between the two adults was so much lighter, and they spent the next half hour at the park with Anna before Scully had to leave to get ready for work.

When he was driving back to his home in Alexandria, Mulder became fully aware of just how happy spending time with Scully and her daughter had made him. Usually, he dreaded going home to his drab, unwelcoming apartment. Now, though, with his memories of the day, he knew he'd have enough smiles to take him through to the next day. Since it would then be Saturday and Scully had informed him that she was not the weekend bartender, he was already making plans.