Title: Fantasty in X Major

Author: Ophelia

E-Mail: OpheliaMac@aol.com

Rating: NC-17 -- explicit sexual content

Category: S, H, A

Spoilers: Redux, Redux II

Keywords:Mulder/Scully married

Summary: A possible ending to the series, where everyone lives happily ever after as circumstances allow.

Disclaimer: (Sung to "All things Bright and Beautiful:") All things dark and horrible, each hidden evil plot, all things weird and miserable, Chris Carter owns the lot. Aaaaaa-men.


Mulder Household
Manassas, VA

Mulder sat on the shower floor next to his wife, who rested on her elbows and knees, trying to stretch out her lumbar muscles. Dana's pregnancy was just shy of full-term, and Mulder knew her lower back always hurt. He gently pressed his thumbs into the pressure points alongside her backbone and massaged the sore flesh. She sighed; such a plaintive sound. It didn't seem fair that she was so small and had to carry around a belly so big.

He leaned forward to kiss her in the middle of her back, tasted the sweet water droplets. "How you doing?" he asked.

"I feel . . ." came her muffled voice, "like I'm developing an event horizon."

He couldn't stifle his smile. "You do not have an event horizon. Next month maybe. When small objects start to orbit you we'll know it's time." She reached back and bopped him on the head. "I *told* you you're gorgeous," he said, kissing her beneath her ear. "I told you you're sexy." Another kiss. "I *like* the tummy. And the breast enlargement thing. That's good."

"It doesn't feel good."

"I know. I'm sorry. I swear I'd be pregnant for you if I could." He held her close. Males got pregnant on "Alien Nation," which only made sense, since they were bigger. Thanks to inconvenient Mulder genes, Dana was already carrying almost a third of her former body weight. Another sign that human physiology was the result of hybridization experiments gone hideously awry.

"I'd like to see Armani incorporate maternity panels into its line of men's fashion," she said.

"Anything to get Spandex into the workplace," he responded.

"You're awful."

"You're beautiful. You really are." Mulder had always found pretty, pregnant women to be a bit a of a turn-on, if only because there was visual proof of just *what* they'd been up to. It was even better when the fetus in question was his. He got to feel a mixture of everything from chauvinistic conquest to Jungian, female-archetype worship. He thought it was great, and sometimes teased Dana about wanting to keep her barefoot and pregnant all the time. She usually responded by saying, "temporary insanity." It was not clear if she meant that would be her plea at trial after she strangled him, or if that described her state of mind when she married him. It didn't really matter. She'd gone through a dozen kinds of hell to stay with him over the years, a dozen more to have this baby with him. That assured him what her true feelings were.

She scooted backward a little, pressing their bodies together. The round part of her bottom was now pressing firmly against his groin, and every little movement created a delicious friction.

"Are you -- are you sure you want to do that?" he asked. The obstetrician said they could have sex if they were careful. They hadn't had made love in a while because she was achy and he was afraid he'd hurt her. Fox was worried that he wouldn't be able to keep tight control.

She took one of his hands in her own and began sucking on each of his fingertips in turn. Between kisses she said, "They taught me about the human body in med school. You think I'm getting you off by accident?"

That comment sent a rush of desire through him and he tightened his hold on her. He gave a tentative push between her smooth, wet thighs. She pressed them firmly together for him. Oh, that was delicious. He was in his own little corner of heaven. After a few strokes he reluctantly pulled himself back and coaxed her into relaxing so he could caress her in turn. She rewarded him with her sighs and her arched back. Her behind was pressed *right* up against him and it was making him nuts. When he couldn't stand the teasing any more he straightened up and guided the tip of his erection into her. It went so easy, it felt so incredible.

Later he got a lot of kisses for his efforts. However, it was possible that he pushed too hard.


Mulder Household
3:09 a.m.

Mulder stirred. Dana was poking him. He realized that the bed was soaking wet, and repressed a groan. She couldn't help it. Incontinence was niether romantic nor sexy, but he'd signed on for better or worse and he supposed "wetter" was implied in the deal. "Come on," he said, helping to ease her into a sitting position. "Let's get you cleaned up."

"My water's broken," she said.

"You're not due."

"So what?" she asked.

This thought began to penetrate his sleepy brain. "Holy shit," he said. "When we -- when I . . . did I do this?"

"I doubt it. It's a big baby. There might not be any more room."

"Oh, fuck." He sat still a moment, trying to process this one. He and Dana were going to be parents. Not one day, not in a few weeks, *now,* tonight or tomorrow. He wasn't ready for this. //Too late, asshole,// he thought. //Should've thought of that eight months ago.// "What do you want to do?" he asked.

"We can start by cleaning the bed up," she said. "I probably won't be in real labor for hours, so there's no big hurry." Still that infuriating Dr. Scully calm. He knew it would break later, probably big time, and then he'd have to be the strong one. At the moment he was feeling confused and inadequate.

//If you're too dumb to think of something better, do what she says,// he told himself. He got up. //Hours?// he thought, as he tugged the wet sheets from the bed. //No big hurry, huh?// Just the pre-labor warm up was going to take hours. Mulder had sworn to himself, to his wife, to anybody who would listen that he was not going to panic at this moment. He didn't panic, exactly, although he couldn't help shoving the bedclothes into the washer as if there *was* a big hurry. He rummaged in the laundry piles for something to wear. He found towels, bras, gym shorts. Crap. It was an icy February night out there. Gym shorts were not going to cut it.

This would be their last night as a childless couple. The knowledge brought both a thrill of excitement and a pang of regret. No more wandering around naked or screwing on the living room rug.

There would soon be a new person in the house. Someone part of Dana and part of himself, who needed caring and teaching and protection. Mulder wasn't sure if he was more ecstatic or terrified.


Prince William County Hospital

It was after 9 a.m. and Dana was in honest-to-God labor now. So far, she'd insisted on "natural childbirth," i.e., no drugs. Mulder had been close to asking for drugs himself when Dana’s mom came in and strongly suggested he take a break. He hadn't wanted to go. Dana didn't get a break. Margaret had pointed out that she didn't need a husband who'd lost his mind, either. He'd gone away with mixed feelings of relief and shame.

At the moment he was sitting in a darkened, empty room of the maternity wing, staring at the glass of iced tea he wasn't drinking. There was a waiting room, but it was currently occupied by small platoon of unsupervised children. He wanted to be alone.

The door to Mulder's hideout opened a crack and light spilled into the room. He stood up, rubbing his eyes with thumb and forefinger. He'd already gotten kicked out of the birthing room for acting like a wound-up maniac. This lurking-in-the-shadows thing wasn't going to look good to the nurses. "Uh -- sorry. Just leaving," he said.

"Mr. Mulder?" came a woman's voice

"Yeah. I was about to head back over there. She need me?"

The nurse flipped the lights on, making him squint. "Your wife's fine," she said. "Your sister's out in the waiting room. She wanted to see you."

For once he was stunned into silence. The last time he'd seen Samantha she'd been in tears, running down the steps of the D.C. Superior Court Building. She had made it abundantly clear after that that she did *not* want to see him.

"Oh," he said. He felt his voice was not entirely steady. "Oh, good. I'll be right out."

He wove his way through the tangled maze of corridors to the waiting room. Samantha stood in an area of relative calm, looking as he remembered. Loose, brown curls fell over her shoulders, premature worry lines were etched around her luminous green eyes. In her tan cardigan and floral print dress she might have been any pretty housewife. Her soft exterior belied the steel at her core. Two years ago Fox had gotten her to take the stand against the Syndicate, very much against her will. At the time she'd said she hated him for it.

"Hi," he said, quietly.

"Hi," she responded. She gave him a little smile and held her arms out. He caught her in a ferocious hug. Tears stung his eyes, but he didn't give in to them. Not yet.

"How did you know we were here?" he asked.

"Mom told me," she said. He nodded. He'd been aware that Samantha kept up a selective contact with their mother.

He disengaged himself and said, "She didn't nag you into coming, did she?"

Samantha shook her head. "I came because I wanted to," she said.

An awkward moment followed. There were a million things he wanted to say, and he couldn't think how to say any of them.

"Come outside with me a minute," Samantha said at last. She took his hand in hers and led him. They went down to the first floor, then out into the freezing morning sunshine. Samantha found a relatively windless corner by the door and dug a cigarette case from her pocket.

"That's a bad habit," Fox chided gently, but he stood so as to block the wind so she could get her lighter lit.

She flashed him a rueful smile and said, "I know. I keep waiting for my life to have a low enough stress level to quit. So far, that hasn't happened."

Fox did not ask about the fate of the Smoking Man, whom Samantha had called her father. When the Syndicate's leaders were on trial, he'd been in the hospital, reportedly dying of lung cancer. Samantha had been furious when Fox had asked her to incriminate him in court.

"Do you still hate me?" he asked. He couldn't meet her eyes.

"I don't hate you," she said. She took a drag on the cigarette and reached up to tuck an imaginary strand of hair behind his ear. "I never did, really." He glanced up, and then it was her turn to look away. "I was scared," she said, "my loyalties were divided."

Fox kept his mouth shut, refused to let himself pressure her about the nature of those loyalties. She'd said all it was necessary for her to say, under oath. The rest was her own business. "I wasn't cruel, was I?" he asked softly.

She didn't answer at first. Finally she asked, "Did you tell them I was a rollover?"

"Did I tell them *what?*" he asked, appalled. A "rollover" was a Bureau term for someone, usually a petty criminal, who was bribed or blackmailed into ratting on his bosses. "Jesus, Sam, no. Who called you that?"

She shrugged. "I guess it's not important," she said.

"It's important to me," he pressed.

She looked up at him, her pale-green eyes enigmatic. Clearly, she was not about to spill more information to him. "You weren't cruel," she said. "You pushed hard, and you hammered on my conscience. I was as angry at myself as I was at you. I didn't feel as strong as you expected me to be."

"I'm sorry," Fox said. His voice broke slightly over the words.

"You made me do the right thing," she said. "You were right not to let me run."

"Are you--have you changed your mind about the Witness Protection Program?" he asked.

She gave him a smile that was almost mischievous, and he suddenly saw in her an echo of the little girl who'd called him "Buttmunch." "I have my own version of the Witness Protection Program," she said.

"I don't want to know," he said, and she laughed. "You want to come in from the cold, just say the word," he said.

Her expression was thoughtful. She'd obviously caught the double entendre. She stepped close to him and kissed his cheek. "I need to go," she said.

"Don't," Fox said, catching her sleeve. "Please stay. At least stay and see the baby."

She gently disengaged his fingers from her sweater, but she smiled and asked, "So what am I having? A nephew? A niece?"

"They say it’s a niece," Fox said, "but then word got out and our house is full of frilly stuff. We're probably doomed."

"Ah, if it's a boy he'll just grow up to be the sensitive type," she said.

"I wouldn't want him to be that sensitive. We were going to call the baby Melissa, after Dana's sister, and Samantha, after you."

Suddenly, she looked sad. "What's Dana's dilation?" she asked.

"Seven, last I heard," Fox said.

She shook her head and said, "It could be hours, then. I'll tell you what, I'll come back later and see your little one. You and Dana will need some time to rest afterward anyway."

"Promise?" Fox asked. He was very reluctant to let her go.

"Trust me," she said, and gave him another quick hug. He stood in the bitter wind, shivering in his T-shirt and jeans, as she turned and walked to the parking lot.

Samantha had been right -- Dana's labor was far from over. There was more blood than Fox had expected. When she was fully dilated and the baby's head still didn't crown, the obstetrician, a tiny Asian woman named Dr. Nygen, took Mulder aside and said softly, " I'm concerned that Dana's build is too small for a vaginal delivery. She's very certain that she doesn't want a cesarean section. For now I won't argue with her, but the moment the monitors start showing signs of fetal distress I'll have to operate. I'm aware that Dana's a physician herself, but right now she may not be at her most rational. I wanted to ask if I'll have your support if I have to do an emergency C-section."

Fox ran his fingers back through his hair. He did not feel up to making such a decision. Dana had been so heartbroken over the death of little Emily. She'd confided to him that her absence from Emily's birth was almost as painful as witnessing the child's death. Dana wanted so much to be alert and awake when this baby came into the world. Would she hate him if he let them put her out?

"I want you to err on the side of safety," Fox told Dr. Ngyen.

The doctor nodded, seeming satisfied. "I'm glad you see it that way," she said.

Fox looked over at his wife. Dana was bloodied, half-naked, writhing on the obstetric table as she clutched at her mother's hands. He caught Margaret's eyes, read the request there. Fox briefly put his hand on Dr. Ngyen's arm and stepped past her, saying, "She needs me."

Dana's eyes were wide with pain and her face looked sickly pale. Mulder took her sweaty little hands from her mother and looked up at the IV plugged into her arm. Nothing but saline in there. Did she need blood? She seemed to have lost an awful lot of it. He knew enough about emergency medicine to glance at the skin beneath Dana's fingernails, and saw it was pink rather than blue. She wasn't going into shock. Not yet.

He kissed her hands. "You're doing so good," he told her. "You're gonna get this over in no time."

Dana's face twisted up into a grimace as the next wave of contractions hit her. She cried out and crushed Fox's hands in a grip tight enough to turn his fingers white. Her back arched sharply off the table. He took this as a positive sign.

Dr. Nygen said, "I'm going to give the forceps one more try."

"Okay, all right," he said. Dimly, he was aware of all kinds of machines beeping and whirring. Fox prayed to a God he wasn't sure he believed in. "Please get it over soon. Please, just let her be all right."

"Push, Dana," said Dr. Ngyen. "I know it's hard, but try to push." Dana's hands crushed Fox's fingers like a vise. She cried out.

"You're so brave, baby," Mulder said.

Then Dana started screaming. Mulder barely stifled his reflex to grab for the gun he wasn't wearing, to take charge of the situation, to *do* something. There was nothing here to fight. He was helpless and he hated it.

After what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Nyen said, "It's all right, Dana, the head's out. The rest is easy."

Of course, "easy" was a relative term. Dana cried and cried; Fox wiped her eyes and nose with his hand. He said all the reassuring things he could think of and felt completely useless.

"There -- got it!" cried Dr. Ngyen.

"Oh," Dana managed, "oh, can I see her?"

"No, you can't," Ngyen said, "but you can see him."

The doctor set something on Dana's belly. It made a wet "splat" noise. Mulder saw a little, wrinkled red thing lying on his wife's abdomen. Yellow-white goo lined every crease in the baby's skin. Mulder's first impression was that it looked like "Leonard," the deformed twin brother of the late Lanny, Florida circus freak. //Oh, God,// he thought. What had he done wrong to engender such a creature?

Dana caught the creature in her arms and cried out, "Oh, he's beautiful. Look at him, Fox, he's beautiful."

A nurse lifted the infant and settled it in Mulder's arms. Shocked, he looked down at it. It was a purple-and-red mess, but the balled fists pressed under its jaw each had four fingers and a thumb. He shifted the baby onto its back and saw that it had five toes on both its little feet. It didn't seem to have a tail. It looked normal. No -- *he* looked normal. The newborn's little private parts were perfectly formed and definitely male.

"We're gonna have to sue that ultrasound tech," Fox said shakily.

"He's gorgeous," Dana said. "Isn't he gorgeous, Fox?"

"Yeah," Fox said. Actually the poor little thing was hideous, but he seemed healthy. At least he was out. The bad part was over. Mulder felt a confused mixture of relief and anguish and tenderness. Hot tears spilled down his cheeks.

After a minute or so Dr. Ngyen gently took the baby from his father. A nurse washed the blood and slime off the child and wrapped him in a blanket, then settled him in his mother's arms. He snuggled up and fell asleep almost immediately. Dana wasn't far behind him.

She slept as they wheeled her to a maternity room, and a nurse took the baby to the nursery area. Mulder curled up on the extremely uncomfortable couch-like object which was the room's only other furniture. He wished more than anything that he could sleep with his wife.

He desperately wanted Dana's comforting but knew she was in no shape to give it to him. He shoved the couch as close to her bedside as he could, then reached up to take one of her hands in his. She never stirred. The reappearance of his sister and the birth of his son ought to have filled him with joy, but just now he felt exhausted and terribly lonely. Maybe it was because he couldn’t share these things with Dana. He cried for a long time. At last the regular whisper of her breath soothed him into quiet, and then to sleep.

It seemed he had scarcely closed his eyes when a horrific noise awoke him. Mulder opened his eyes and saw a nurse handing a bundled mass of shrieking baby to Dana. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and watched his wife undo the ties at the shoulder of her gown. Once she'd exposed her breasts she began to suckle the baby, and his sharp wails ended in a contented-sounding gurgle.

Mulder experienced a strangely conflicted feeling. Up until now he'd had Dana all to himself, and now he'd have to share. Suddenly he was afraid that he was not going to be able to compete with that new, tiny person wrapped tight in a hospital blanket.

The nurse who'd brought the baby in turned to him and asked, "Are you the daddy?"

"Uh – yeah," Fox said. His voice was hoarse from tears and fatigue. To his surprise she took one of his hands and snapped a hospital bracelet around his wrist. "Somebody commit me?" he asked.

"No. That's got an ID number on it that matches your baby's. We'll ask you to recite the number before we give him to you. Wouldn't want to give a baby to the wrong parents."

Fox sat up on the arm of the miserable vinyl couch so he could see Dana and their son better. She had a bracelet with an ID code, too. "So now we all have matching serial numbers," he said. "I feel all warm and fuzzy in a faceless, industrial kind of way."

He rested his head against the hard mattress of Dana's bed, and was much reassured when she ran her hand over his hair. Of course she wasn't going to forget about him. She'd married him on purpose and everything.

"How are you doing?" Fox asked, once the nurse left.

"I've been better," Dana said. He looked up and saw the dark smudges beneath her eyes, which stood out starkly against her pale skin. She looked like hell. She looked the way she had when she was in the worst phase of her cancer, and it frightened him.

"Are you going to be okay?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said, with a sigh. "I just feel like sleeping for the next week."

"You can," Fox told her.

That got a wry smile from her. "You don't have a lot of experience with babies, do you?"

"I didn't give birth to him, but I can feed him," Fox said. "Even if I don't have a built-in snack bar like you do."

She smiled but didn't reply, gazing intently down at the baby's face. "I think he looks like you," she said, a little dreamily.

"You can tell?" he asked. He got up and went around to the other side of the bed so he could get a better look. "He looks like a little hockey player, all bruised, no teeth . . . we could call him Gordy Howe Mulder."

"I don't think so," Dana said. Though she still held the baby against her breast, he seemed to have fallen asleep. "He doesn't seem to want to eat much."

"Can I see him?" Mulder asked.

"Sure," she said, and she gently handed the baby over. He was wrapped up into a neat little package that fit perfectly in the crook of Mulder's arm. His little body was warm and soft and holding him felt good.

Mulder rocked the little creature, gazing in wonderment down at his soft mouth, his squeezed-shut eyes. Actually, he didn't look *that* bad. He was really kind of cute. "Hi, baby," he said, softly. He stroked the bridge of the baby's nose with his forefinger, and the child stirred a little, opened his cavernous mouth. He turned his face against his father's chest and began trying to suck his shirt. "Sorry, buddy, the store's closed," he said. After a moment he asked, "What are we going to call him? 'Melissa Samantha' ain't going to cut it." They'd given up on looking for boys' names at about month 5, when the ultrasound tech assured them the child was a girl.

Dana sighed. "I don't know. I suppose Frohike will want us to name it after him." Frohike had hacked into the remains of the Syndicate's computer system and tracked down Dana's remaining ova. Conceiving a child in a lab wasn't the same as conceiving one in bed, but the procedure did effectively make her fertile again.

"I think naming a child ‘Melvin’ is illegal in this sate," Mulder said. "And I’m *not* calling him ‘Frohike Jr.’" Frohike was an all right guy, but there were limits to Mulder's affection for him.

"I suppose you don't want him to be Fox Jr.," Dana said.

"Oh, God, no," Fox said. "I wouldn't wish that on anybody."

"I like your name," she said.

"You can have it," he answered. Then he added, "I guess we could run with the small, woodland animal thing. He could be Raccoon, Badger . . . Squirrel. I like it -- Squirrel Mulder."

"No," she said firmly.

Just then the door creaked open. Frohike, of all people, popped his head around the door and gave Mulder a big grin.

"Aw, fuck . . ." Mulder said. He was in no mood to deal with the Gunmen right now.

Frohike lifted a small portable radio to his lips and said, "Xray, Quebec, Delta -- room 214. Over."

The radio broadcast Langly's static-muffled reply, "Copy that. We'll be right over."

"No, you won't," Mulder snapped.

"Fox, it's okay." Dana said. She looked exhausted, but if she was willing to see the Gunmen, then he supposed he should probably let them in. It was true that he and Dana could never have had this baby without their help.

Frohike came in wearing that stupid tuxedo of his. In one hand he carried a vase filled with pink roses and little blue carnations, and he had a suspicious-looking black bag slung over his shoulder. He set the flowers on the table beside Dana's bed and took one of her hands in his. He kissed her knuckles and said, "You're looking lovely as always."

"Thank you," Dana said. Mulder was sorely tempted to kick the little geek.

"You knew to get blue flowers!" she said.

"The Gunmen know all."

"You know this?" Mulder asked, and gave him an obscene gesture.

Frohike walked over to him and stuck his hand out. "Hey, buddy, no hard feelings. I'm not here to hassle you. I just want to say congratulations." Fox forced himself to take Frohike's hand. The hacker shook hard and said, "So you had a boy despite their predictions, you son of a gun." He slugged Mulder in the shoulder.

Mulder knew it was stupid and sexist to assume that a man's virility rested on his ability to produce male children, but some Neanderthal corner of his heart was pleased at Frohike's obvious admiration. He couldn't help giving him a lopsided grin as he said, "Yeah, well, Dana did half the work."

"I did *way* more than half," she pointed out.

Then the door opened again and Langley and Byers came in. Mulder was glad that they were not wearing tuxedoes. Langely sauntered up to him and peered at the bundle in the crook of his arm. "Whoa," he said. "Is he supposed to look like that?"

Mudler suddenly felt hostile again, but before he could get a reply out Dana said, "Let somebody pull *you* out of a drainpipe with a pair of tongs, and see how *you* look."

"Hey, no offense," Langley said. "Just curious."

Byers stopped at the side of Dana's bed and asked, "How are you feeling?"

She smiled and said, "I'm doing well. Thank you for asking."

"Sorry, man," Langley said to Fox. "Seriously, can I see him?"

Mulder thought about it. The little person nestling against his chest was so small and soft and warm that he didn't want to give him up. On the other hand, he couldn't hang onto this baby forever, and the Gunmen had been instrumental in bringing him into the world. "Yeah," he said, and handed the baby over to Langley. He was gratified to see that Langley took him gently, and was especially careful with his delicate neck.

"You've handled babies before," Dana said.

"My sister just had number four," Langley said. "I'm used to 'em by now. Hey, little guy." Langley favored the infant with one of his rare smiles. The baby opened one slate-blue eye--which was more than he'd done for his own father--and then squeezed it shut again.

"He thinks you're ugly," Frohike said.

"He's just scared 'cause I'm standing next to you," Langley replied.

"What are you going to call him?" Byers asked.

Mulder and Dana exchanged glances. "We weren't really sure," she said.

"I think you should name him after me," Frohike said.

"No," said Mulder and the two other Gunmen.

"You could name him after Alger Hiss, martyr to the excesses of McCarthyism," Langley said.

"Not on your life," said Mulder.

"If he was a girl you could name him FOIA, after the Freedom of Information Act," said Frohike.

"Well, he's not a girl," Mulder said.

"You could name him after Skinner," suggested Byers. "He sacrificed a lot to put the Syndicate members in jail."

"Skinner Mulder?" Dana asked.

"What about Walter?" Mulder replied.

"That's a pretty heavy name to give a kid," Langley said. Skinner had forgone his Fifth Amendment rights to testify against several key Syndicate members, including the Smoking Man. He'd essentially ended his FBI career by incriminating himself, and was mocked in the papers as the "Ollie North of the Ventura Administration." Still, Mulder had stood and applauded when Skinner got down from the witness stand. No one else had, and Mulder suspected he'd come off as a nut, but he didn't much care.

"I like the name Walter," Mulder said. He thought it had a strong, honest sound to it. "We could call him Walt for short."

"I'll think about it," Dana said.

The door to the room opened again and a nurse peeked in. When she saw the Gunmen her eyes went wide. "Oh," she said. "You have a visitor, but I'm afraid there's a limit to how many people we can have in one room."

"They were all just leaving," Mulder said

"Of course," the nurse said, seeming a little nervous. "I'll send her in as soon as you're ready."

"You guys better beat it," Mulder told the Gunmen, and he held his arms out in a wordless request to retrieve the baby.

Langley gave him back, but Frohike held up his hand and said, "Wait! We've got our digital cam here!" He set the black bag he'd been carrying onto the foot of Dana's bed. He unzipped it and pulled out an object that looked like a one-eyed pair of binoculors.

"Don't you point that thing at me," Mulder said.

"Fox, it's all right," Dana said.

"I don't know about you, but *I* don't wanna be captured on film looking like this," Mulder said. Actually, he wasn't sure what he looked like, but he felt like hell.

"It's not film, it's digital," Frohike explained.

"Dammit--" Mulder said, and then the flash went off. Still cradling the baby in one arm, Mulder flipped Frohike off with his free hand. The flash went off again.

"Classic!" exclaimed Frohike.

The door opened and Samantha peeked in. "Hello?" she said.

Fox pushed aside all three Gunmen to get to her. "God, I'm glad you came." He hugged her tight with his free arm. She'd said she'd come back. She'd promised and she'd come through. He'd been so afraid she wouldn't. He would have wept if Frohike and the boys hadn't been there. "The geeks are leaving ASAP."

He turned and said, "You guys need to get out of here."

Frohike just pointed the goddamn camera at him and said, "Get over by the bed with your wife. Bring the kid and your sister."

Samantha's tugged him over to Dana's bedside. "Hi," Sam said softly.

"Hi," Dana replied. Mulder realized they'd never been formally introduced to each other.

Frohike's flash went off. "God-fucking-dammit will you put that thing away?!"

Mulder said.

"This is a Kodak moment," Frohike said.

"It is *not.*" Mulder was fighting hard to keep back the tears. He hadn't wanted very many things from life and now he'd been given them and the feeling was devastating. He turned away from the geeks.

Dana rested her hand on his arm and said softly, "It's okay."

He bent his head and grabbed the couch back in a white-knuckle grip. He knew if he was quiet and just kept breathing he would weather this and would not break down.

He did not want to weather this. He wanted the fucking paparazzi out of here so he could feel what he was feeling.

"It was nice of you to come and see us," Dana said, in a firm "it's time for you to leave now" tone. Bless her.

"Sure, man," Langly said. "We're not here to cramp your style. Your little guy is great. Congratulations."

"May the road rise to meet you," Byers said, with his usual solemnity.

"Peace, guys," said Frohike.

Mulder hated it when Frohike tried to sound "with it."

"Thanks again, for everything," Dana said.

Fox heard the door close and within seconds he was crying. He sat down on the edge of the couch-bed and let Dana ease the baby from the crook of his arm. Samantha pulled his body against her chest. Her kind words felt like arrows shot into the sorest parts of him. He'd forgotten that happiness could hurt so much.

After a while Samantha pulled back and said, "Come on. Let's walk around a little-- get you calmed down."

He looked over at Dana, who was clearly exhausted. She didn't need to be kept awake by hearing him cry. Hell, the baby would cry and wake her up every four hours for the next three months. "Okay," he said. He stole some of Dana's Kleenex and wiped his eyes.

"You all right?" she asked. He sensed her ambivalence -- the desire to comfort him vying with her desperate need for sleep.

"Yeah," he said. "I will be. You want me to put the baby back in his bed?"

"Sure." She kissed the child on top of his downy head. Mulder took him and settled him in his bassinet, then Dana asked, "Could you bring him around over here? I want to be able to look at him."

Mulder pulled the little wheeled box to her bedside so she could look through the clear plastic at the bundle of sleeping baby.

Then he and Samantha walked out into the hall. He decided getting out had been a good idea-- being in public forced him to get his emotions in check. He was fatigued and stressed enough that he could have gotten on a nasty crying jag and driven poor Dana up the wall.

"He's beautiful," Samantha said as they wandered toward the elevators.

"Well . . . I think he's going to be beautiful. He's got a beautiful mom."

"He's really not bad-looking for a newborn. My daughter looked much worse when she was born."

"Seriously?" Fox asked.

"Mm-hm. Little stinker was a 12-pounder. She dislocated her shoulder coming out."

"Whoa. We're actually pretty lucky the kid was early. If he'd been bigger they'd have had to do a C-section. Dana would have hated that." They were quiet for a few moments and then he said, "I've never seen your kids."

"True," she replied.

He gauged her possible reactions and pressed, "Can-- can little Walt meet his big cousins one day?"

She smiled a little without looking at him. "Walt?" she asked.

"Well, maybe. I like it."

She did not reply for some time. After a while Mulder asked, "You think your kids aren't safe where I'm at?"

"I don't-- I don't know. I've tried hard not to tell people where they are. I haven't even told Mom. The--the Others aren't gone, you know."

Fox released his breath slowly. It was a little over two years ago that Samantha had appeared at his door, looking wild and frightened and dripping from the rain. She'd said, "There's a war in heaven."

The Others, as she'd called them, had a rebellion among their ranks. The date of their "colonization" had been set back. Without the Others' technological might and without the focus of "the date," the Syndicate had turned on itself and its members toppled like dominoes.

It was a temporary reprieve. The peace might last another week or a year or a thousand years.

"Samantha," Fox said softly, "I would never sell out your children. Not any more than I'd sell out my own."

She was very quiet as they paced the hall together. At last she asked, "You want my number?"

"Yes. Oh, holy Christ, yes." He pulled his wallet from his back pocket and yanked the pen from its holder, along with one of his cards.

She wrote a phone number on the back and returned it to him. A couple of read-throughs was enough to burn the information into his mind permanently.

"It's a message service," she said.

He felt a sharp pang of disappointment. She didn't trust him enough to let him contact her at her home. Well, all right. This was a step forward. It was definitely better than nothing. "You'll answer?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Promise? It would mean a lot to me." His voice was not quite steady as he spoke.

"I promise."

He scanned her face for evidence of sincerity, decided she spoke in good, if guarded, faith. He would have to earn her trust. "I would never, ever hurt you, or your children," he said.

She gave him a smile that did not quite reach her eyes, an expression that reminded him of their father. "I thought your motto was 'trust no one.'"

"Hey, I'm no one," he said.

Samantha laughed and kissed him on the cheek. She let him hug her a long time before pulling away. "I need to go," she said. "You need to get some sleep. You won't believe how precious sleep will become during the next few weeks."

"Okay." His eyes were starting to tear again. Of course. He jammed his hands in his pockets to resist the urge to hold to her. "See you later?"

"See you later." She gave him a smile and turned to the elevators. For the second time that day he let her go. He wiped his eyes with his fingertips as he walked back to Dana's room.

To his surprise and chagrin, she was still awake. "What's up? Pain pills not working?" he asked.

She held her hand out to him and he settled on the couch-bed beside her. "I just wanted to see you."

"Don't worry about me. I'm okay."

She bopped him lightly on the head with her hand. "*I* wanted to see you. Not everything's about you, remember?"

"Oh, yeah. I knew something was wrong around here." He rested his head against her mattress and reached up to stroke her hand. "You know what I was just thinking?" he asked.

"What?"

"Happiness can hurt because it means you have something to lose."

"You're right," she said. "I think it beats the alternative though." They fell silent for a long time and finally Fox turned off the light above her bed.

He was drifting to sleep curled against her bedside when she said dreamily, "Walt Mulder. Walter Mulder. I think I like it."

"I still want to call him Gordy Howe."

"No."

The End




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