“Why do I have to wear this dumb suit?”
“We’ve been over this, Will.”
The boy wrinkles his nose, tugging at his sleeves. “It barely fits!”
“It’s a little tight,” Scully sighs. “You’ve grown. But not enough to get out of wearing it today.”
“Ugh. Can’t I just wear a t-shirt?”
“Not this time, kid,” Mulder says, adjusting his own tie, bending down to do the same for Will.
“I’ll be right back, I forgot my necklace,” Scully says, heading for the bedroom.
Mulder lowers his voice, leaning in so only Will can hear. “You have the…thing…right?”
The boy nods and pats his pants pocket.
“Are we ready?” Scully interrupts, returning.
“As we’ll ever be,” Mulder stands, placing a hand on Will’s shoulder.
The courthouse is too warm, a brick building baking in the summer sun. The woman at the front desk apologizes for the suffocating heat—the air conditioning in the lobby is broken—and points them to the waiting area, where Maggie is already seated. She wastes no time fussing over Will and Scully.
Doggett arrives a few minutes later, gruff and stoic in his work clothes.
“Sorry I’m late. Someone left me with a pile of paperwork to finish up,” he mutters.
“Doggett!” Will jumps up. “Look at my suit!”
“Hey, kid,” he returns, holding up his hand for a high-five. “Nice threads.”
“Thanks for coming,” Mulder says. “And for handling Kersh.”
“You owe me,” Doggett says, then lowers his voice. “You ready for this?”
“I’m still here, aren’t I?”
Doggett chuckles, clapping his partner on the shoulder before taking a seat.
Mulder watches Will fidget with his collar. Maggie frowns as he wiggles at the knot of his tie. Mulder gives him a sympathetic smile, wishing he could loosen his own tie as butterflies dance in his stomach.
Finally it’s their turn. The judge’s chambers are blessedly cool; she waves them in, introducing herself, offering Will a mint from the candy dish on her desk.
“Just the marriage, correct?” she asks.
“And the Affidavit of Parentage,” Scully says, looking too serious for the occasion in a simple spring-green dress.
“Yes, right,” the judge says, peering over her glasses. “It looks like everything is in order. Shall we get started?”
They nod. Scully takes Mulder’s hands, raising an eyebrow when she finds them slightly damp.
“Sorry,” he mouths, feeling like a sixteen-year-old with his prom date. Her grasp is cool and familiar, calming, and the judge begins to read the vows.
Mulder reaches into his jacket pocket as they reach the end of the ceremony, and Scully’s eyes widen.
“Mulder, we said we weren’t going to do rings,” she hisses, as he gently tugs at her hand, pulling it closer so he can anchor the tiny gold band on her finger. “I didn’t get anything—“
“Don’t worry about it, Scully,” he says, gesturing for Will.
Will grins and holds out his fist, dropping a larger gold band into her palm. Scully gapes at him, then at Mulder, as the judge tries to hide a smirk.
“He wanted to,” Mulder shrugs. “I couldn’t argue.”
“Sure you couldn’t,” she mutters, but there’s a smile in her eyes as she slips the ring on his finger. When the judge suggests a kiss, Mulder’s cheeks come back wet.
“Hey, now,” he teases at the shell of her ear. “It wasn’t that bad.”
She snorts, wiping at her eyes. “Shut up, Mulder.”
“And now…the romantic part,” the judge says wryly, holding up a sheaf of paperwork. “This formalizes the marriage and amends the birth certificate. Witnesses, please.”
It’s just a few signatures, but something about the way Will looks up at him as he handles the papers makes Mulder’s throat tighten. His hand shakes slightly as he signs his name.
When it’s over, they walk into the bright summer sun, snapping a few photos before saying their congratulations and goodbyes. Soon it’s the three of them standing in front of the courthouse, Scully’s fingers laced with Mulder’s, Will rushing ahead, one liberated tie dangling from his fist.
“We should celebrate,” Mulder says, looking across the street, where a diner’s sign flashes neon. “How about ice cream?”
“Yeah! Ice cream!” Will hops up and down, nearly tripping over his feet.
The booths are old-fashioned vinyl, the chrome-rimmed table shabby with age. It’s not a fancy reception, but it suits them, reminds him of their roots.
“Mom, can I get a sundae? With chocolate?”
Scully frowns, as if mentally counting the grams of sugar, then relaxes. “Sure. Try not to get it on your shirt, though.”
When the ice cream arrives, they waste no time, eager for a brief respite from the summer heat. Mulder looks over at Will in between bites of his cone, the boy’s eyes wide at the sight of so much chocolate under a mountain of whipped cream.
He turns back to Scully, whose brownie sundae is getting similar treatment. Soon she and Will have matching chocolate smudges on their chins—like mother, like son, Mulder thinks, chuckling to himself.
“What?” she asks.
“It’s nothing,” he says, reaching across the table with a napkin to dab at the spot on her chin. “Marveling at the mysteries of genetics.”
She narrows her eyes, smirking, but lets him wipe the remaining chocolate from her face.
“Do I have to call you ‘dad’ now, Fox?” Will asks through a mouthful of hot fudge.
“You can, if you want. You don’t have to.”
The boy thinks for a moment before shaking his head. “Nah. You’re still Fox.”
Mulder pulls the boy to his side for a hug, kissing the top of his head. Will shrugs, distracted by his sundae, as Scully’s eyes shine across the table. Mulder meets her gaze, feels the weight of the last six years catch up with him in a single glance.
He ducks his head, suddenly overwhelmed, his next words whispered to the table, to the ring on his finger, to the boy—his son—sitting beside him.
“Thanks, kid. I’ll always be your Fox.”