a/n: so here we are at the end. it's been a great ride, and I'm so thankful to all of the readers that have stuck with me and continued to support me even though I constantly teased you throughout this story. you will be rewarded here. I felt terrible for Scully after your reviews of the last chapter. yes, it was shitty of her to leave Mulder after 8 years, but her whole journey has been to give her daughters a better life, and when she was offered the opportunity, she took it. I would have done it. aside from that, hopefully you guys enjoy this last chapter. if not, I'm sure I'll hear from you. thanks again for reading and making this experience an incredible one. and I'm sure I'll see you again.


~October, 1997~

"Hey Mommy," Anna bounded into the car, practically throwing her violin on the floor under her backpack. Scully winced. She'd paid a lot of money for that thing.

"Anna, you can't treat an instrument like that," Scully leaned over and picked it up. Anna scoffed and settled it into her lap.

"Mom, Greg gave me his brownie at lunch today," Anna informed her. She'd been hearing a lot about Greg Nickels lately. The boy was in her daughter's class and lived down the block. A little sweetheart. His glasses were too big for his face and his pants were ironed every morning. Every time he saw her, he'd greet her with, "It's nice to see you, Dr. Scully." And it was no secret that, even at 8, he was infatuated with her little girl. Scully never thought that she'd have to worry about boys at this point in Anna's life, but she had spoken with the Nickels about it, and they decided to let the harmless crush play itself out.

"That was very nice of him."

"Paulina made fun of me for it."

"Paulina is probably jealous that nobody shared their brownie with her."

"I think I'm gonna tell her that."

"I think you should just keep that one between us."

They'd built a nice little life in Milford. Scully was finally doing what she'd always wanted to—help sick children to get better. She loved her patients. Their smiles made every sacrifice she had to make worth it. Otherwise, Anna was doing well in school. Not surprisingly to Scully, she'd quickly developed a large group of friends. In addition to the social aspect of an eight-year-old's life, Anna had picked up the violin and was taking piano lessons twice a week after school. Another two days a week, she was at dance class, making Scully feel like a typical soccer mom. She couldn't imagine what she was going to do when Emily had activities other than day care.

But there was something missing, and it wasn't hard to surmise what it was. Every Friday night, Mulder drove to Delaware to stay with them for the weekend. Those were the days she loved. She tried to get off work early those days, would be able to pick Emily up from day care and have time to straighten up the house a little before having to get Anna, then Mulder would usually be there when she got back. Then, they'd spend time doing things as a family on Friday night—usually a movie, the library, game night, or other event. Saturdays were usually the girls' time with Mulder exclusively. Sometimes they'd go see his mother, or do something else exciting. On Sundays, Scully and the girls would go to church and then arrive home to breakfast with Mulder, then spend the rest of the day around the house until Mulder had to go.

That was the worst part. Weekends were never enough.

Their weekends didn't allow much time for Mulder and Scully to be alone, and their relationship had suffered because of it. She just wished that, if nothing else, he would kiss her again. And touch her, and rub her, and she wanted to feel his body against hers…

Taking a deep breath, Scully brought herself back to the present.

"Is Mulder at home?" Anna didn't seem to notice her mother's sudden flush.

"I haven't talked to him, but I assume so."

"Good. I have a science project for him."

"He's only going to help you, baby. You need to do most of the work."

"Okay Mom," even Anna looked at her skeptically. Mulder always took Anna's projects to the extreme.

Emily was waking up from the impromptu nap she had taken in the car just as they were pulling in the driveway. There was a figure sitting on the front step, though, and Scully rushed over to find Mulder, head in hands, dirty clothes, and unshaven face.

"Mulder!" Anna exclaimed, running over to him. Scully stopped her daughters before they got too close, though.

"Take your sister in," she told her oldest, holding out the key for Anna. Then, in no time, she was at Mulder's side, throwing her arm around his shoulder.

"Are you hurt?" she asked, even though he looked like he didn't want to talk.

"No."

"What's the matter?"

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?"

"For coming like this."

"Just tell me what's wrong."

Mulder looked straight into her eyes for the first time since she had arrived home. They were empty, and it scared her.

"I found her."

Scully's heart stopped in her chest. She knew exactly who he was talking about.

"How?" she asked after a few minutes of not being able to move her limbs.

"A cold case. Serial kidnapper from Vermont was linked to another mass grave. I… I looked at her bones."

"Why didn't you call me?"

"And tell you what? I can barely comprehend this myself."

"Mulder…" Scully put her hand to his cheek.

"All this time… she was in the ground."

"Did she suffer?"

"I don't know."

They sat in silence for a few more minutes. Looking ahead, Scully waited for Mulder to say what else needed to be said. She couldn't imagine, knowing what Mulder had been through since he was twelve, what finding out what kind of death his sister had met would put him through. She wasn't even sure he knew how he felt.

"Come inside," Scully told him once she realized how long her two daughters under ten had been in the house by themselves.

"I want to sit out here for awhile, if that's okay."

"Are you going to be alright?"

"I think."

After the investigation wrapped up (the killer, John Byrne, had died in jail three years earlier—no justice would be served here), they had a small funeral for Samantha. Her bones were buried alongside his father's, and the headstone was changed accordingly.

It was just Mulder, Scully, the girls, and Teena. Mulder hadn't been back to work since he'd found Sam, and he was staying with Scully. It was nice to be around people he knew truly loved and cared for him, not to mention getting to spend more time with them in the past two weeks than he had gotten to in the last two months. Every morning, he let Scully sleep in a little while he got the girls ready for their day. He'd take Anna to school but keep Emily from day care so that he could be with her all day.

Mulder couldn't believe how much she'd grown since they moved. Her wavy hair now reached the bottoms of her ears, and she had gained at least 5 lbs. His little girl was on the chubby side, and he wouldn't have it any other way. She talked and talked now, he couldn't believe how smart she was. She was really into kitties. While she was still on the reserved end of the spectrum, she loved to go outside—something Anna still didn't enjoy as much. Emily was a runner, climber, jumper, dirty girl when she was outdoors, and she would cuddle up in your lap for no reason at all once you cleaned her up and went inside. Whenever she sensed her mother or father were losing their patience with her, she'd look up at them with her big doe eyes and sweetly say, "I love you." Even though she was only two, she had a distinct and diverse personality, and Mulder enjoyed learning more and more about it every day.

The girls clung to Teena and Scully held Mulder's hand when the bones were put in the ground. Back in the ground. He threw some dirt over them.

Looking into his eyes after that action, though, Scully did not expect to find what she did there. Hope. Peace. Finality. And she physically saw at least 50 lbs. of weight lift itself from Mulder's shoulders. He was free. He was finally free.

"Fox," his mom walked up to him, handing him his youngest daughter before enveloping him in a large hug. She knew what he was feeling. She knew that they could now both breathe easier and turn their faces toward the sun. Tears were falling for Sam, yes, and they would continue to do so for the rest of their lives.

But they could finally move on.

Teena offered to take the girls to her hotel for the night, knowing how her son needed to recover from the day. Plus, her intentions were not unselfish. Burying her daughter made her want her granddaughters around her even more, and neither Mulder nor Scully was going to deny her that. With many kisses and hugs, they let their daughters go.

"Where do you want to go tonight?" Scully asked Mulder, allowing him to call the shots. There was never any doubt in her mind, though, that she wouldn't be with him.

"I want to climb to the top of the highest building in DC. I want to look down and smile. I want to feel like God."

If he wasn't clutching her hand so tightly, she would have been worried at his words. But he was anchored to her.

"Then what?"

They weren't looking at each other.

"I want to feel like a man."

It was the first time she was back in their old house since she moved. Scully didn't know whether it made her happy or sad that practically nothing had changed.

He started kissing her neck before she was even able to get her coat fully off. This was what she missed between them. They wanted each other.

And it was time to move on.

"Mulder," she was able to squeak out before he got her shirt fully off.

"Hmmm," it was one of the only times he was unconcerned with what she had to say.

"No, Mulder, I need you to stop," she pulled his head away from her collarbone and his hands followed.

"Please don't tell me you don't want this," he begged her.

"I just need to look at you. I need to know you're not just doing this because you're sad about Samantha."

"I want to feel alive tonight. But… I guess we can stop," he took a deep breath and sat back on his knees. He was running his hands through his hair when he felt her fingers connect with his own. Soon, Scully joined him on the floor, the most caring expression on her face.

"We don't have to stop. I just want to tell you something."

"What is it?"

Now it was Scully's turn to take a deep breath. She was so nervous, her hands were shaking. When she tilted her head downward, unexpected tears fell from her eyes. Mulder was so worried, but she was smiling.

"I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you," once the words came out, they wouldn't stop coming. Scully wrapped her arms around Mulder's shoulders, squeezing tightly. Through his shock, Mulder was able to connect what she was saying to how he felt about her. She loved him. She loved him just like he had loved her for nine years.

"Scully," he finally got her to stop rocking back and forth. Holding her head in his hands, he asked her if this was real with his eyes. And she with hers answered yes.

They barely made it up the stairs to the bedroom before they finally let go with each other. All walls crumbled. All previous hesitations were released. And they made love well into the night.

"I'm so sorry," she later confessed between kisses to his chest, "There was never going to be anybody else. It was always you."

"You've made me so happy. All these years, this is all I ever wanted."

"I'm sorry it's taken this long. I couldn't… I didn't want to hurt you."

"Stop, Scully. We both needed to figure out what we meant to each other. I don't think that it could have happened any other way."

"How much time have we wasted, though?"

"I haven't wasted one second of my life since I've met you. Scully, I know that for nine years we've been coloring outside the lines, but look at the picture we've made. You gave me two beautiful little girls, you gave me a large Irish family, you gave me my own mother and father back, and now you've given me your heart. I'll never regret what we went through to get here."

They were exactly the words she needed to hear. She rubbed her cheek against his strong chest in response, trying to keep from crying anymore. It took getting to this point for her to realize that it was what she had wanted all along. But how many times had they almost been here? How many times had they been right on the brink of the happiness they were now experiencing, and she pulled back? She knew he would only keep telling her not to feel guilty, so she decided to put the issue to rest. In order to make amends with herself, she made a promise to never let him slip through her fingers again.

Now that she was there, in his arms, content and complete, she never wanted to leave.

"Mulder," she addressed him, though he was almost asleep.

"Yeah?" he rasped.

"Please come back to Delaware with me."

He was silent.

"I know you were mad when we left, but the girls and I are in Milford, and we want you to be too. These past two months have been the worst of my life and it's because I had to leave you here. I can't leave you again."

He was still silent.

"Please, Mulder. Please say something," he felt her warm tears hit his naked chest. The irony of her question was ridiculous. And all night he had been trying to figure out how to bring the subject up. Well, when he wasn't preoccupied.

"Before I got wrapped up in Sam's case, I'd been looking for a job over there. And the Harrington Police Department offered me something."

Unsure of what this meant, Scully didn't speak.

"Which means I'll need somewhere to live…"

"Yes," she let out the breath she had been holding. Scully couldn't help the smile that spread across her face, and when her lips met Mulder's, she noticed his were in the same position.

Perhaps because of the moment, or perhaps because of lack of oxygen, Mulder went back to the night they had met in his mind. They were both just baby-faced young adults, her unwilling to trust him and him desperate to make her comfortable. Then he met Anna and understood why Scully was weary of letting another man into her life. Above everything else, he wanted to be the one that showed her that not all men were like Ethan and Daniel. And he couldn't help the love he felt for both her and her daughter.

It had taken all of this time, but their search was over. And it couldn't have happened any sooner (it really couldn't have).