Title: Apocalyptic Eden
Author: Kirsten Kerkhof *
Written: November 2010
Feedback: Cherished and worshiped at kirstenkerkhof@gmail.com
Classification: MSR, AU
Keywords: S R A H
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Post-colonization, AU
Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement intended.
Archiving: Sure. I'll do Gossamer myself, all others: you're welcome when you tell me where it's going, okay?

Summary: Set on their post-colonization farm, they find life has never been better for them...

Note: It's probably set a few years back in time, about 2005 or thereabouts. Make them a little younger than they are now ...This story is a NaNoWriMo extension of my earlier story, 'The Farm'.

A light covering of snow is gathering in the fields and around the haystack as I make my way back to the house. I look up, but it's a fairly calm sky which doesn't seem to predict heavy snowfall, and I'm reassured. It doesn't look as though we'll need to take extra precautions as far as the weather is concerned.

The animals are inside and I know she's already fed them. We've divided the tasks, helping each other out when necessary: I take care of the fields and crops, the outside of the house, the maintenance of our farm equipment. She cares for the animals, the vegetable garden, the inside of the house. And she cares for the two of us. I'm pretty sure we'd never have made it if she hadn't taken such good care of us.

It can be a lonely life out here on the farm. There are a few farmsteads dotting the countryside around ours, but they've all been abandoned. We're truly alone. Well, for as long as it'll last; we're not naive enough to believe They won't come back for another sweep -- and I'm not sure we'll escape again. But no one knows when that will be, and if it'll even be in our lifetime, and for now we're making a decent life for ourselves.

We were told it wouldn't happen until 2012 -- but They lied ... They came a lot sooner, and we were nowhere near prepared for it. Nobody was. We've seen it happen, the invasion, the panic, the ... carnage. As usual she was the sensible one, though by all means we should've done exactly the opposite of what we did. We should have fought. We should have stood our ground. We would have died like rats. Like so many billions of others ...

I see a chicken in the small paddock next to the barn and decide to pick her up. She must have escaped, all the hens and our rooster are penned up. Winter so far hasn't been too cold yet, but we have to be careful with our animals and we can't afford to lose any through negligence. I slowly approach her, then scoop the small animal up in my arms. She clucks a few times, but doesn't seem unduly upset. Good. I walk to the barn where the chickens and the pigs are housed and open the top of the Dutch door, letting the chicken in. Then I go back to the gate and pick up the tools I'd put down to get that chicken, and walk on home.

It's not a bad place to live, this farm, this land. I would never have chosen this life for us, but on the whole we're not doing too badly. We were never trained for a farmer's life, and we made some very serious mistakes, but we survived last year's winter -- although I never knew hunger like that and pray I never will again -- and I can only hope we're better prepared now.

A few weeks after we arrived here we checked out the other farms in the neighborhood. They were all empty, with the exception of a few provisions and some semi-starved animals, all of which we had no qualms about taking for ourselves. The people who once inhabited these houses must have fled when They arrived -- like everyone else. There is very little chance they'll ever come back.

Mankind has been decimated. Nobody knows how many people have died worldwide, there is hardly anything left. Governments have toppled, countries have ceased to exist. I'm pretty sure the coastal cities are all gone, and inland cities must have fared just as badly. DC was hit later than cities like New York or San Francisco, but I know the city is gone nonetheless.

We ran before They hit, as did everyone else, but we took another route. We've always gone against the grain. We did it again: we ran towards Them. They arrived in the south-west -- God only knows where they came from -- and from there They spread like a virus, Their lethal tentacles spreading like viscous oil across the land. The population fled as it was bound to do, heading for the east coast in numbers that must have resembled the Migration waves of the early Middle Ages. Only this time it wasn't the Huns that made the people run, but something much more sinister.

Everyone went east. We went west. There were days when I just knew we would never make it, but she was convinced it was the best route to take. I don't know how she knew, she wouldn't tell me, but I could see in her eyes that she had a plan. And seeing that I had nothing of the kind, I wasted no time and went with her.

We lost the car with all our belongings to looters somewhere in Texas, spent three terrifying days hiding in a cave system in Colorado, stole a cart and horse in God-knows-where, and finally, heading north after a while, came across these farms. We hadn't seen Them for a week at least, but we were penniless, desperate, and on the point of starvation, not having eaten for close to two weeks, except for the odd fruit we'd found along the way. The stores in the ghost-towns we passed through were empty, though from looting or otherwise I don't know, and we didn't know what other food stuffs we could eat. True city-folk we were, completely unprepared for a life of fending for ourselves.

Then we came across this farm and its rich green fields and we just knew: whatever it was the future held for us, we had come home. We have no idea which state this is, and we don't care either.

I push the back door open and walk into the outbuilding behind the kitchen. I kick off the clogs I am wearing and on socked feet I walk into the large farm kitchen. I'm wearing three pairs of socks and even then I can't feel my toes anymore. The stove is roaring, spreading a balmy heat throughout the large room and I smile when I smell what's cooking: it's Christmas Eve and she's roasting a goose for our Christmas dinner. We keep a few geese for the eggs and the meat, and one of them must've paid the price. I can't wait.

Just then she walks into the kitchen and my smile grows even bigger. She's wearing a flowery dress and shoes. Nothing fancy; in fact, it's homely and rather plain, but I've become so used to seeing her in overalls and clogs that it's nice to see her dressed so feminine again. Her hair is long and looks freshly washed.

"Did you manage to fix the fence?" she asks, walking up to me and wrapping her arms around my waist.

"Yep. It wasn't too bad, just a couple of beams come loose. I've nailed them in place. They should last for another year or so, but I'm going to check on them in Spring before we let the animals out into that field, to see how they survived the winter."

She nods. "Anything else?"

I smile. "Just a chicken running loose in the paddock, but she's back inside again."

She sighs. "That little brown one?" I nod and she smiles, shaking her head. "She's a regular Houdini. Nothing can keep her indoors, it's ridiculous."

"Knowing our luck she'll turn out to be the best layer of the bunch, give us a few weeks of tremendous output and then get eaten by a fox or something."

She chuckles. "I have no doubt. Anyway, if you want to wash and change before we eat, you have plenty of time. That goose needs at least another hour or so before it's ready. You want me to heat up some water?"

I smile. "Yes, please, can you do a kettle?"

She reaches up and kisses me. "No problem, I won't need the stove for the next half hour anyway."

I run my hands through her soft wavy hair and smile at her. "Thank you. I'll go and pick up the tub. Can I wash here? It must be freezing cold in the rest of the house."

She smiles widely. "If you're going to get naked here, it's probably a good idea I won't need to be in the kitchen for another hour or so."

I bend down and kiss the side of her neck. "Or it would be one heck of a way to kill the time until that goose is done ..."

She chuckles. "Go upstairs and get your clean clothes and a towel, Mulder, and I'll put the kettle on."

I should really try not to distract her too much, the food probably needs her full attention. On the other hand: the night is young, the room is warm, and I'm going to be naked ...

"Did you know that in ancient times it was customary for women to give the men a bath?"

I'm sitting in the big tin tub -- which we used as a drinking trough for the animals last summer and we bathed in the fish pond -- which is filled almost to the brim with nice warm water, and she's on a low stool next to the tub. I sincerely tried to coax her into joining me, but that damn goose needs basting so she had to refuse.

She picks up the wash cloth, and starts washing my back where I can barely reach. "Really?"

I nod. "Mm-mm, I read it somewhere."

"Do I really want to know where?"

I chuckle. "Probably not. Anyway, do you have some more hot water in the kettle?"

She shakes her head. "No, I used it all when I poured in the last kettle. Want me to boil some more?"

I reach up and give myself a good stretch. "Nah, don't worry about it. It's about time I got out anyway."

She hands me the towel. "I should mend that towel, it's starting to fray."

I stand up and wrap the towel around me. "I think it'll last for a while longer, don't you?"

"I'm sure it will, but the sooner I fix it, the less I'll have to fix."

Ever the logical one, she is, I think with a smile as I vigorously towel myself dry. The kitchen may be warm, but we don't have central heating in this house and there is a nasty draft. I can't wait to get back into some clothes. Last winter we even went to bed fully clothed at times because it was so darn cold at night. We found new ways to be intimate, because it meant no skin contact except for hands and faces. Then again, by the end of winter we'd come so close to starving that we needed all our energy simply to stay alive. Sex might just have literally killed us off ...

I've decided to wear some fancy clothes as well, and the nearest I can tell they're not even torn or much worn. In a neighboring farm we found some men's clothes which the former inhabitants must have left behind, for whatever reason. Maybe they couldn't take them with them, maybe they forgot them. Maybe they simply didn't like them enough to bother with them. Well, whatever the reason, I was more than happy to take them. I'm wearing a pair of khaki trousers, a plaid shirt and the shoes I had on when we first got here.

"Dressing up, handsome?" she says as I button up the shirt and I look at her, grinning.

"If you're all dolled up, then so should I," I reply.

She smiles, looking me up and down. There is something sad in her eyes, even though she's smiling. "We've changed so much," she says softly.

With the top three buttons still unbuttoned, I reach out, cupping her face in my hand, making her look at me. "Are you sorry?" I ask very softly.

She smiles again, shaking her head a little. "No, not at all. I realize every day how we must be among the luckiest couples in the world and I can never be sorry for that." I raise my eyebrows and she clarifies. "We have love, not to mention that we are still alive. That latter thing alone makes us very much an exception already. But love, Mulder -- who can boast a precious commodity like love nowadays?"

I swear I can hear my heart breaking. She's right. I close my shirt, leaving the top button undone and then I draw her in. "I love it when you are right."

I feel her chuckle. "Only you can give answers like that and make them sound like the sweetest of compliments, can't you?"

"Well, I'll take that as a compliment then, too."

She presses a soft kiss on my lips, then pulls away. "I should get back to the goose, and put the potatoes and turnips on. Can you set the table?"

"Sure. By the way, is the fire still going in the living room?"

"Should be. I put on plenty of logs before you came in, although you may want to put more wood on."

"We should be careful with our firewood ..."

She shakes her head. "Normally, yes, but not tonight. It's Christmas Eve. Tonight I want to enjoy life. We can think of it as the Yule Log."

I chuckle. "All right."

Day before yesterday we spent all day decorating a small spruce that is our Christmas tree. Maybe that's why Christmas is in winter -- it's about the only time in the year we can afford to have a day off for something as trivial as decorating a tree. We decided we could spare a cob of corn from the larder and made popcorn. She threaded the popped kernels onto lengths of string while I went in search of candles. We have candles, just not very many of them, and, because we have no way of replacing them, we save them for special occasions. Special occasions like Christmas. Then we put the strings of popcorn in the tree, added some pine cones which I'd dipped in chalk to whiten them, and added a cloth star to the top of the tree. It's standing next to the fireplace and we're on the sofa, facing the fire, our main source of heat.

Picture perfect.

I have no idea what time it is right now. I lost my watch along with just about everything else on our trek up here and hers ran out of batteries a few months ago. There is no clock in this house. We could check out the other farms for clocks, but chances are they're not working anymore. And to be honest, it's not really necessary to us. For time keeping we use the sun dial in the garden and hourglasses, and we're doing fine by those. We're living as much in the 18th century as in the 21st ...

"I liked the turnips," I say, "they weren't bitter like I remembered them."

"I put a potato in with the turnips as I boiled them. I read in Mary-Ellen's cookbook that adding a potato to the turnips takes away the bitterness."

"I never would've thought of that."

She smiles. "Nor would I. But that's been the story of our lives for the past year and a half, hasn't it?"

I just smile. True ...

"Anyway, I saved the goose fat. It makes fantastic cooking fat."

"Can you make French fries?" Years ago I read somewhere that the best tasting fries are made with goose fat and the slob in me hasn't forgotten that titbit of information.

"Mm, can we afford to use so much fat? Spring is still so far away."

I sigh. "Yeah, you're right. We must be economical with our fat. God knows we may need it again."

She shakes her head. "I'm sorry. But I never want to be that hungry again ..."

I pull her a little closer. "Nor me. I wasn't thinking, I'm sorry. You're right, making fries is irresponsible."

She looks up and smiles. "That's all right. We need a little irresponsible dreaming now and then to make the truth more palatable."

I chuckle. Then we fall silent for a while. The fire is crackling loudly in the large fireplace, three candles are on a stool near the Christmas tree, and we hear a soft wind going around the house. One of our sheep is bleating a few times and a few other sheep answer, but it doesn't sound serious. On the whole it's pretty calm around here.

I wanted to say peaceful, but I'm not that stupid ...

"It's our second Christmas here," she says and I nod.

"It's the start of a new life, a new year," I add.

"I don't even know where They are now," she continues, her voice soft.

I shake my head. "They could be anywhere."

"Shit ..." I look at her and see her frown. "I hate this insecurity!"

I smile a little. "Scully, we can't help it. And we shouldn't even be thinking about it. If They come, we'll stand no chance. We will be killed. But that may still be so many years into the future. It may not even happen in our lifetime. We must make plans, we must live for what's yet to come, or we won't fare any better than all those people who perished."

"It's up to us?"

I shrug easily. "Who knows? Makes us sound rather important, doesn't it?"

She smiles. "Terrifyingly so." Then she gets up from the sofa. "Anyway, seeing that it is Christmas: I have a couple of gifts for you."

I feel a wide smile break out on my face. "Really?"

She nods with a smile. "Really. I just need to get them. Can you get us some more tea in the meantime?"

We dried herbs and fruit for tea this autumn and I must say I've become quite fond of the drink. Of course, since we ran out of coffee after only a few weeks, we needed something else to replace our daily shot of comfort. I walk into the kitchen and bring the water in the kettle back to boiling. Then I walk on into the outhouse and pick up my gift for her. It's simple, it's hand-made, but I'm pretty proud of it. I just hope she'll like it because I'm planning on building my future on it.

With the steaming teapot and two mugs in my hands and my gift under my arm, I return to the living room. She's already on the sofa, two parcels wrapped in tea towels on her lap. I wrapped my gift in some old burlap cloth I found in the stable. We're truly the king and queen of fancy wrapping ...

She must have sensed my thoughts because she looks at her gifts and then at mine, and gives me a wry smile. "I see Tiffany's didn't offer free gift wrapping this year either ..," she says, making me laugh.

"So, who goes first?"

She looks down at her gifts and pauses for a moment. "I think we're forgetting something."

I frown. "We are?"

She sets her gifts down on the table, and gently takes my gift to join hers. Then she turns towards me and takes my hands in hers. "I think we should first offer some thoughts of gratitude to where they're due. We have not had an easy year, but we survived and we're still together, and we shouldn't take that too lightly, I think ..."

I nod. Boy, is she ever right. "Of course." I raise her hands to my lips and press a soft kiss on her fingers. "You want to pray?"

She smiles a little. "I do, but you can do whatever you like," she knows I don't pray. After all we've been through I still haven't found my way to God, and to be totally honest I don't think I ever will, but I do respect her beliefs and perhaps some of it will eventually seep through and find its way to me. If I even deserve that, of course.

For a moment I expect her to let go of my hands, but instead she pulls me towards her. Then she wraps her arms around me and hugs me close. It might have been arousing, if I didn't suddenly feel so touched and so emotionally connected to her that I'm on the verge of tears. I like this way of praying, Scully ...

We're sitting like this for a long time and I can hear her whispering, although I can't make out the words. It's not important. As for me, I try to include a few thoughts for the world, for everyone who suffered -- but I can't. I'm so selfish ... I only think of her and of me. I put in a few thoughts for our animals, too. I've grown quite attached to them, not in the least because they are so vital to our survival. The first time I had to slaughter one of our pigs I could barely do it. And although we have grown less sensitive about it now, it doesn't mean we don't love our animals.

But mostly I think of her, and maybe I do pray, in my own insignificant way. I don't care, I just want her to be safe.

After a while we're down to just cuddling. She no longer smells of shampoo and perfume, like she did before the Invasion. Her smell is different now, far more earthy, far more natural. I no longer smell of aftershave or cologne, either, like I used to. I smell of grass, hay, and crops, of mucked-out stables, and sweat. She smells of hard soap and animals. She smells of the fertile soil of our vegetable garden. And I don't give a damn about that bullshit about women not sweating: I've seen her sweating like a horse. There were times the mere sight of it made us end up copulating like a couple of crazed rabbits. What can I say, we're silly that way.

We slowly let go of our close embrace, replacing it with a much gentler cuddle, side by side on the sofa.

"Merry Christmas, Mulder," she whispers and I smile, leaning in to press a kiss in her hair.

"Merry Christmas, Scully," I reply. "So, can I have my presents now?"

She laughs. "Yes, little boy, you can have your presents!"

I laugh with her. "Little boy, eh? I don't recall hearing those words last night ..."

Her ears turn a lovely shade of pink and she grins. God, I love being able to banter with her. She reaches over and picks up the larger of the two presents.

"Oh, okay then. Here you go, stud."

"Ooo, 'stud'. I like the sound of that!" I say in a low voice, making no effort to hide the underlying message.

"Just open the damn gift, Mulder, or we won't even make it to opening all three of them before the night is over!"

I shrug easily. "I wouldn't mind."

She chuckles. "No, I know that," she turns a little so she leans into my side, her feet on the sofa. With her head on my shoulder she watches me open her gift.

She's the queen of knots, I think, as I try to unpick the string that keeps the tea towel in place. Hard farm labor has made my hands rough and my finger tips calloused. Good for ploughing fields, useless for undoing string.

In the end, however, I manage to get a couple of knots undone and I slide the string away and open the tea towel.

"You made me a sweater?"

She nods, her eyes a little insecure. "Yes. Last year you complained about how incredibly cold it was outside, so I thought I try out my old knitting skills." I pick up the navy garment and hold it up. "I know it's not much, but it's been over 30 years since I last tried my hand at knitting, so ..."

To be honest this sweater would never win a prize. It's rather shapeless, and the neck, cuffs, and waist look a little odd. And at first glance it's at least two sizes too big.

On the other hand, it looks toasty warm and she made it all herself. I don't care what it looks like, this sweater will be worn a lot.

"Are you kidding? This is fantastic, I love it!" I lean in and kiss her soundly on the lips. "Thank you."

She grins widely. "Really? I made it too big because I figured you could wear some clothes underneath it for extra warmth."

"When did you make it? I've never seen you knitting."

She smiles. "I did it while you were outside tending to the fields and so on. I started in July, because I wanted it to remain a surprise, so I had to hide it whenever you came in."

I grin. "You sneaky little devil! Where did you get the wool by the way?"

"I unravelled some of the old sweaters we found on our trips. And I found knitting needles in the attic."

"Thank you. Thank you very much." I carefully fold the sweater and put it on the table. "Can I give you my gift now?"

She grins, sitting up. She looks eager like a little kid. "Yes, please!"

I reach over and pick up the small present. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart."

She smiles, her eyes soft at the term of endearment. We don't use them often, because we don't feel the need for them, but it sort of fits the situation now.

I didn't use string, I just rolled it in the cloth, so she has a much easier task when it comes to unwrapping. "Is it fragile?"

I shake my head. "Nope."

"Okay." And she holds the cloth up with her right hand, letting gravity do its job. A few wooden spoons drop into her left hand.


I nod. "You can never have enough of those."

She grins. "Are you telling me you want to be fed more?"

I lean in and kiss her, deeply and slowly. When our lips part I look in her eyes. "I couldn't ask for a better cook than you," I say in a low voice. Her eyes are dark and intense, and her face is flushed. "But you can feed me anytime ..."

"Keep that up and you'll never find out what's in that second parcel."

I press another soft, lingering kiss on her lips, but pull away just before she can deepen it. "Well, we can't have that, can we?"

"We'll discuss this later."


"Well, it's just a euphemism."

I grin. "And thank God for that."

She takes the spoons and picks out one of them. They're all just plain wooden spoons, except for that particular one. "What's up with this spoon?"

"It's a love spoon."

She gives me an intense look. "A love spoon?"

"Yeah. Although I guess I'm a bit old for one of those, but ..."

"I don't get it."

I shrug, also to mask my nervousness. "Well, I couldn't find a ring, so ..."

"A ring?" Her voice is nothing more than a whisper.

I nod. "Yes. I know a ring is more customary but in the absence of such jewellery, I thought I revert back to more ancient symbols. Like the love spoon."

She just looks at me, her expression a mesmerising mixture of love, excitement, fear, astonishment, and a good dollop of something I've never seen there before.

I realize she won't say a thing until I have finished. I take her hands in mine. cliché?, but the only thing I can think of now. "Will you marry me?"

Her eyes open wide. "Are ... are you serious?"

I nod. "I am. Dana, there is not a person I could do this with but you. I wouldn't even want to try." I duck my head. "I've always loved you, but there was a day this summer, when you were working in the garden, I ... I spent some time just looking at you ..." I take a deep breath. "I just knew then that, apart from my loving you, I knew you were the only person I ever actually truly liked, you know ..." I look back up at her and I see a tear running down her cheek, but she's smiling the sweetest smile possible. "I just ... felt it ..."

"So you thought ..."

I smile a bit. "Well, I didn't just think. I knew. I knew then that we'd be together for as long as fate allows us to, but ..." I shrug a little. "... maybe I'm just old-fashioned ..."

I hear her chuckle and it makes me smile as well. "I never knew you were so romantic."

I smile a little more. "Well, that's as good as may be, but you haven't answered me yet: will you marry me?"

She nods. "Of course I'll marry you." Then she frowns. "But how are we going to do that?"

"Do what?"

"Get married, I mean. There are no churches or courthouses left. Everything's gone."

"We don't need those."

Her frown deepens. "We don't? Mulder, how are we ..."

"They're just trappings. I figured ... I mean, I've been thinking about this quite a bit, you know ... And as far as I see it, a marriage is really about two people, making a solemn promise to one another. And that we can do ourselves. I think."

She smiles. "I never thought of it like that."

She very gently pulls me towards her and presses a soft kiss on my forehead. For years that was the most intimate touch we had, and it's still a very special gesture between us. Then she rests her forehead against mine and we just sit.

With our foreheads still touching, I hear her speak. "I still have a gift for you."

"I'm having all I could ever wish for," I say and I hear her chuckle softly.

"Well, that's very sweet and all that, but what would you say if I told you I made you a spoon too?"

I grin at her gentle joke, grateful she's lifting the heavy atmosphere. "Of course, that would change everything!" With that we sit back and smile at each other.

"By the way, did you carve these spoons yourself?"

I nod. "Yeah, I figured it was a good way to learn how to use a knife, seeing that I was never trained in lethal knife skills like you were." I wink at her and pick up a spoon. "This was the first one. Well, the first one that didn't break, although I'm not giving out extended warranties on it. Then I made those three, and I spent the last two months carving the love spoon."

"Where did you keep them? I never saw you carve anything. Well, nothing that resembled spoons anyway."

"I had them in my pocket. Whenever I was taking a break from harvesting or some other job, I would take out the spoon -- or rather the piece of wood -- and do some more carving. Do you like them?"

My parents had love spoons in the house as decorations and they were beautifully intricate. Mine is not nearly that. I think my love spoon is on par with her sweater: it'll do the job, and was made with more heart than skill. And she, too, doesn't seem to mind a bit.

"I love them, especially the love spoon, because you made them for me."

See, there you go! How's that for sappy ...

She reaches out to pick up the smaller present and hands it to me. It's soft and pliable, and weighs next to nothing.

"It's not a spoon," I quip and she smiles.

"It's not a spoon," she confirms. "Open it."

With this gift I don't need to untie the string because I can bend it so the string slides off. I pretend I don't hear her "You're cheating!" and open the tea towel. Inside is something small made out of flannel or some fabric like that.

"Actually, I don't think I'll fit in th-" I whip my head round to look at her. "Scully?"

She smiles and gives a little shrug. "Maybe it's a good thing you just proposed to me, 'cause someone will need to make an honest woman out of me ..."

I must've been gaping, but now I swear this grin can't get any larger or my face will split in half. "Are you serious?"

She nods. "I missed my period about three months ago, but didn't think much of it. I mean, I hadn't had my period for months last winter when we were so hungry. Then I missed it again a month and a half ago, and I was getting a little suspicious. After all, I was in pretty good physical condition, there was no reason for it to stay away. And it didn't come two weeks ago either," she takes a deep breath. "Add to that some mild morning sickness and a few changes to my body, which I was kind of hoping you'd pick up on, and I think we can fairly safely predict you're going to be a father again in, let's say, May or June."

I gather her up in my arms and hug her hard. Oh my God, this goes deep ... I can feel my emotions right down to the core.

"Why didn't you just tell me?"

She snickers. "And miss out on an expression like the one you just gave me? I'm taking that one to my grave!"

I grin. "I'm glad I could amuse you."

"So, seeing that things have changed a little: when were you thinking of marrying me?"

"Well, we could do it now, or whenever you feel like it."

"Do you think Christmas is the right time?"

"It's a celebration of how the days are beginning to lengthen again. But that's kind of a pagan interpretation and if you're not comfortable with that, which I can imagine, we can just wait a little more."

She's silent for a bit. "No, this is as good a time as any. I don't think we can afford to put things off or live in the future --"

"We appear to have made a baby recently, I don't think there is a more concrete way of living in the future actually," I interrupt her, smiling.

"Don't be such a smart-ass," she admonishes gently, making me chuckle. "Anyway, apart from this baby, I want to do things now. Well, tomorrow, that is, it's getting a little late."

I grin and kiss her. "All right. We'll get married tomorrow," she smiles a warm smile and I reply in kind. Then I wiggle my eyebrows. "You know, the night is still young ..."

"Is it now?"

I nod with a grin. "Yeah, and I'm feeling like I'm letting you down a little in the gift department."

"You don't need-"

I interrupt her with a hot kiss. "I know," I murmur against her lips when I break the contact.

"That second gift-"

"Wasn't even for me," I interrupt her again and she rolls her eyes, but she's smiling. "I know." I gently push her down onto the sofa.

"Oh, I get it," she says with a twinkle in her eyes. "You want to make that baby some more?"

I can't resist, I know I'm a pig, but I just can't. "Well, seeing that you're offering ..."

She grins as she starts to unbutton my shirt. "Oh, all right then," she sighs, pretending she's just doing me a favour, but her eagerness shows in the trembling of her fingers and the flush of her skin. I undo the zipper down the back of her dress and pull the top down over her shoulders, revealing the little camisole she's wearing underneath. She hasn't completely gained back the weight she lost last year and for a moment I'm worried. Will she be strong enough to carry the baby to term? We can only hope we have enough provisions this winter ...

"I'm still skinny, aren't I?" she says softly, reading my mind. "I should've put on some weight over summer, but I just can't seem to keep it on."

I bend down to kiss her, pausing momentarily from the pleasant job of undressing her. "We can only do our best and hope winter won't be too harsh."

She nods. "Yeah ..." Then she stretches like a kitten, arching her back and I'm immediately drawn back to the task at hand. What man has time to think about winter provisions when he has the woman of his dreams willing and ready under his hands? I'm a twit.

God, this room is cold, I think when I wake up. I don't think it's snowing anymore, but it's still the end of December and the temperature must be way below freezing. I wouldn't be surprised if there was an icicle hanging from the tip of my nose.

That's it, I'm never getting up again.

"Morning," she whispers and I snuggle a little closer. She's small and warm and so soft. Like I said, I'm never getting out of this bed again.

"Morning," I reply, prying an eye open. "Can we stay in bed today?"

She chuckles. "Wish we could, this feels really good," she wraps her arms and her legs around me and we cuddle some more. "Merry Christmas, by the way. Think we could make love some more or don't we have time?"

I sigh. "The animals need us to feed and clean up after them. And I want to check the barn to see if our supplies are still dry. I think the wheat needs to be turned, too, so I'll have to do that as well."

She chuckles. "And we thought we were busy when we were still in the Bureau ..."

I smile a little ruefully. She's right, though. If we ever complained about not having enough time to ourselves before the Invasion -- although personally I never really cared -- it had nothing on how busy we are now. If we've taken two days off last year I should be surprised, and even then it was more like a few hours at a stretch than complete days. We have too many lives depending on us now.

I pull her closer and we just kiss and hug for a little while.

Then I brace myself and get out of bed.

Goddamn, this house is cold ... I quickly throw on the nearest clothes I can find and step into the house slippers I keep by the bed to keep my feet off the freezing floor. Then I turn around and see how she's curled up in a big ball with all the sheets and blankets on the bed. How's that for a little cover-hog ...

"Go check on the animals, Mulder. I'll see you tonight," she says from under her toasty igloo. I grin and start pulling away her covers. She shrieks playfully, making me laugh even more. God, and here we thought we were getting old! How are we ever going to be an example to our son or daughter? We're as playful and childish as any 5-year-old.

"Oh no, you don't!" I grin, but I let her keep that last blanket. We sleep naked whenever possible and the house is too cold to pull away all of her shelter. I take her bathrobe and toss it to her. "Come, put that on, and you can stay in bed for a bit. I'll get the kitchen stove on to heat up the kitchen."

"Nah, that's my job, and it's time to get up anyway. If you can feed the animals today, I'll get the fire going in the living room and the kitchen, and I'll see you in half an hour or so for breakfast."

"It's a deal," I smile and make my way downstairs. Duty calls, Christmas Day or not.

"Don't tell me that's --"

"Yup, we're having coffee," she smiles. "I wish you could've seen your own face when you came in."

I think I've just died and gone to heaven. "Where did you get that from?" I can't believe it. Oh my God, I never knew coffee smelled this good!

"I saved a bit for a special day. Which I suppose today is," she says. I wrap my arms around her and kiss her. "How was the wheat?"

Screw that, I get to have coffee! But I'm pretty sure I can't say that. "Looking good. I don't think the rainfall we had last week was heavy enough to cause any damage. But I've given it a stir anyway. Oh, and I moved the chickens and the pigs to the other pen. Their pen was freezing cold."

"That's true, their pen faces directly into the wind."

"Mm-mm. If we keep their pen empty for now, it can function as a kind of insulation. Besides, I think the combined body heat from the animals will keep them from getting too cold. Although we'll need to do more mucking out now, seeing that they're all together now."

She shrugs. "I'd rather do that than lose animals to the cold."

"So," I go on, moving behind her, but keeping my arms loosely around her waist. "How's breakfast coming along?"

"You hungry?"


She gives me a stare.

"Sorry," I apologize. After last winter, that's not a joke anymore. It'll be a long time yet before it will be again.

"Anyway, it's almost ready, I just need to fry the eggs."

"The coffee smells ready," I say. She chuckles.

"It does, doesn't it?" She gently pulls out of my embrace and hands me the table cloth. "If you can set the table, I'll take care of the eggs, and we'll eat."

I set down the plates and cutlery for our breakfast on the kitchen table. Then I light a candle. Because it's Christmas Day, yup. She picked some holly a few days ago and I arrange it around the candle, adding a little Holiday decoration to our sober kitchen.

Meanwhile she's frying the eggs, hopefully in extra fat, and that coffee smells more than ready. God, I'm hyper already and I haven't even had that caffeine yet! Must be the anticipation.

"I know you used to use sugar in your coffee, but of course we don't have that. You could try some honey if you like," she says, putting down a large pot of steaming coffee on the table. I see a little fabric bag floating on top, which I guess is what she put the coffee in and used as a filter.

"Thanks, I might try that," I say. "Think it's ready to drink?" I sound so eager it makes her smile. "It sure smells ready."

"And here I thought I'd weaned you off your coffee."

I grin. "Nah, addictions are forever."

She pours the black liquid into my cup and I smile happily. This, I tell you, is perfect. She pours herself a cup, too, and together we sip the scalding drink.





Coffee ...

"I don't remember it tasting this good," she says and I smile, nodding.

"Me neither. How much do we have left?"

"Well, there's enough in the pot for another cup, but we've hardly any coffee left to make. Perhaps I could make one more pot of coffee, but that would definitely be it then. I think I'll put it away again for another special occasion."

I nod. I drain my cup and smile. Merry Christmas indeed! Speaking of which ... I get up from my chair and walk over to her. I reach out my hand and she lets herself be pulled up from her chair. It's only the smallest of movements now to gather her to me.

"I haven't even wished you a Merry Christmas properly," I say in a low voice.

"You haven't? You sure could've fooled me with that orgasm this morning," she quips, making me smile.

"I think that was technically still yesterday."

"Yeah, whatever."

I smile before I lean in to kiss her. Long. Deep. Wet. Like the lovers we are. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a kiss between a long-standing couple, make no mistake about it. We only came together physically a few years ago, but we've been lovers psychologically almost from the day we met. That makes a huge difference. People may scoff at the idea of soul mates -- but only those who have never met theirs do so. We know differently.

"You know ..."

I smile a little. "What?"

She takes a deep breath. "You proposed yesterday."

My smile grows. "Yes, I did." Then I feel the smile fade. "You're not having second thoughts, are you?"

"Oh no! I was just wondering when and where you were planning on marrying me, seeing that you had this idea we could do it by ourselves. I still don't see how you're going to do that."

The smile is back, mostly because I'm reassured now. Damn this sense of doubt and insecurity in me! When it comes to her I should know so much better by now. "Well, I was thinking that we could perhaps do it in the living room where it's warm."

"Oh ..."

I sense a kind of disappointment. "But perhaps you had another place in mind?"

"Well ... what about the old oak in the wheat field? I know it's lost its leaves for winter, but it's still a magnificent tree. And, well, oaks do have some significance and ..."

"You're not worried by the pagan symbolism here?"

She shrugs. "Whatever happens we've already come so much closer to a nature-based belief system than we could ever have imagined. It was inevitable, now that we're so incredibly dependent on what Nature is prepared to give us. Believe me, contrary to just about everything I was raised to believe in, I have talked to the animals and I have talked to the plants as though they're imbued with a kind of spirit whose existence I never once contemplated before we got here. I'm not giving up my Faith, but there is a lot more to this than I ever thought," she lets out a deep breath. "I think we should honor the old man down in the field."

"The old man, huh?"

She nods. Then, with a smile, she rests her head against my chest, her head snugly under my chin. "Come, let's get covered up," she says and I hear the smile in her voice, "and let's get hitched."

We're having a pretty fine Christmas this year. Clear blue sky, bright winter sun, and a light dusting of snow covering the earth. Enough to make it pretty, not enough to disrupt our daily routine. I think it's freezing, but only just.

We're walking towards the old oak tree behind our house. It's a impressive tree, even without its leaves. I'm guessing it's a good 200 years old at least, and judging by the abundant foliage it sported this summer, it has at least another 200 left in it. As make-shift churches go, this is not a bad one at all.

I smile when we get to the tree and quickly glance at its branches. Each branch, small or big, is covered in a thin layer of snow. It's pretty magical.

"So," I say.

She smiles. "So," she repeats. We're a bit unsure as to how we should continue.

Her nose and cheeks are pink with the cold. "Are you okay?" I ask.

"A little cold, that's all."

I put my arms around her and pull her to me. "Let's warm up first then."

We stand like this for a little while, our combined body heat driving away the chill. Our clothes aren't very warm by themselves, and even though we're wearing lots of layers, it's not exactly toasty.

"Are we just going to stand here?"

"Well, I suppose one of us has to start ..."

"It was your idea," she says. "You start."

"A vow, eh?"

She shrugs a little. "Well, something like that, I guess. I think you said it was about two people making promises to one another, but quite frankly, you don't need to promise me much, because I already know you're not going anywhere without me."

"That sounds like a vow to me already," I smile and I hear and feel her chuckle.

"Do your stuff, Mulder. Give me a reason to say 'I do'."

"All right."

We stand in our embrace for a bit longer while I think. How am I going to put this into words? It's not like I wrote anything or have given it much thought. Perhaps I should have.

"I'm going to improvise here, because, well ..."


I nod. "I mean, I know I'm not exactly known for being concise, in fact, I think I should learn to shut up once in a while, but ..."

She chuckles, which is what I was aiming for anyway. I smile.

"... but, there isn't such a lot to say now, you know, apart from that I ..." I take a deep breath. " ... I can promise you, and I do promise you that I will be with you, stand by you, protect you, us, from whatever bad the future holds for us." I loosen the embrace so I can look in her eyes. The warm soft look takes my breath away. I know she's soaking this up and I know she believes me.

"I can't promise we'll be safe, but you know I'd lay down my life for you, don't you?" She nods. I close my eyes and lean my forehead against hers.

"I love you, Dana," I whisper, voicing whatever thoughts pop up in my head. It seems that's the most honest thing to do. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you. When we make love, I feel as though I'm part of you, as though you're a part of me, and I -- there is not a better feeling in the world." I'm silent for a moment, feeling her hands on my face. "I want to marry you because it's another step closer towards being closer to you. I'd do whatever it takes, because ..." I sigh. "God, this is so selfish, but ... Dana, I need you! I need you with me, and I want to be with you. In good times and bad, sickness and health and all that -- I need you ..."

My voice, soft already, drops to a whisper and I lift my head a little so I can look her in the eyes again. I'm close to begging here. Not because I'm afraid she'd refuse me, but simply because I can't tell her how much I need her in my life. I don't know how to. "You've been the center of my life for close to twenty years, even though I haven't always shown you that and I know that. And I'm not sure you couldn't have had a lot better than me, but ... I really appreciate your not giving up on me, you know ..."

She chuckles softly and I smile widely, feeling confident enough now to ask her the big question.

"Will you accept me as your husband, to be by your side, forever?"

"Forever?" she whispers.

"Well, I know it's customary to include that 'till death do us part' crap, but I'm not letting a stupid thing like death come between us," I say, and I'm completely serious. "I'm going for eternity."

She grins. "You're nothing if not thorough, aren't you?" She cradles my face in her hands and gives me a fabulous smile. "If you can stand to be with me forever, then I'm definitely settling for that. Do I accept you as my husband? Heck yes! I do, Mulder, I do with all my heart."

She pulls me to her and we hug hard. "I think it's my turn now," she says.

I smile. "I can't wait."

She chuckles. "I was thinking of just saying 'ditto' and ask you to say 'I do', but ..," she takes a deep breath before going on. "I think you were wrong just a moment ago when you said I could've had better. Because I tried, and I failed, and you're honestly the only man who would ever have done for me. You've shown me your love and friendship and affection from the day we met, because you've always treated me with respect. Love is easy, but true respect for the innermost person -- that's rare to find. You've given it to me and it never seemed to take much of an effort in you."

"I couldn't help it," I say and she nods.

"Exactly, it came completely natural to you. That's a strong foundation for love, Mulder, and I felt safe to give you my love, because I knew our love would be built on utmost respect. Whatever the future holds for us, however things are going to change, I know we will always have love and respect for each other. You've given me a precious gift --" She places her hand on her lower belly. "- and you've given me your heart. I can only ask you to accept mine ..," she reaches up and kisses me softly. "Will you take me as your wife, to be truly yours in every way possible, forever?"

I gather her to me again. "I will. I do. Oh God, I do ..." Then I let go and after a quick look at her, I pull her face towards mine and we kiss. We seem to kiss forever.

We end with a few soft kisses. I for one just don't want to give this feeling up.

"So we're married now, aren't we?" she says, smiling.

I nod. "As far as I see it, yes." Then I frown. "I wish I had a ring for you."

She cups my jaw in her hand and her eyes are soft. "I know you do. It's okay, maybe one day we'll find a ring somewhere. It'll keep."

I pick up some old dry wheat stalks left behind from this year's harvest. The field is empty, seemingly barren, but hidden under the moist black soil the seeds lie dormant. Just waiting patiently for their time to appear and grow. The symbolism isn't lost on me.

"You know, in pre-Christian times wheat was considered to be a sign of good luck and fertility," I say and she smiles. If I had been her I'd be making some lame comment now, but she's too smart for that. I arrange them into a miniature sheaf, then rather sheepishly offer it to her. "It's not much, but it seems stupid not to give you anything now."

She smiles widely. "Thank you." We look at each other for a bit and I feel my smile growing bigger by the second. My God, I'm a lucky bastard to have her! I lean in and kiss her hot, my hands wandering to her ass all by themselves. She giggles a little. "Getting playful, are we?"

I grin. "Well, maybe a little." I wiggle my eyebrows. "After all, seeing that we just got married, there's always the ... wedding night ..."

"Mulder, it's only midday!"

I lean in close and softly kiss her neck, little vampire kisses that I know can turn her on in seconds. "So we'll have more time."

She shudders and she becomes soft in my arms, and I feel a rush of arousal shoot right through me. "The animals need us ..," she protests weakly.

"I'll get up later to care for them, I promise," I say in a low voice. Then I pull away from her and I grin when I see the dark look in her eyes. Her lips, lipstick-less for almost two years now, are red and full and moist, betraying her excitement. I take her hand and together we make our way back to the farm; to a warm house and a warmer bed.

"Can you see it? It's getting rounder."

She's lying on her back, her head on my chest, and she's lazily stroking her abdomen. We're taking a breather from our lovemaking, and we're just lying here now, chatting a bit, cuddling some more, taking our own sweet time. I'll need to get up to tend to our animals before darkness falls, but right now the world can wait.

I nod. "It is. Are your breasts larger, too? They seem so to me, but then I'm rather biased."

She chuckles. "You would be, wouldn't you? But, yeah, I think they are. Well, they'll have a job to do soon," she turns around onto her stomach and crawls up so our faces are level. "Except for turning you on, that is."

"They've always been able to do that," I say and she giggles.

"Even before we became lovers?"

I nod. "Remember Oregon when you stripped for me?"

"That early?"


"But I had my underwear on still, hadn't I?"

I huff. "That hid nothing, sweetheart, especially not from a guy who hadn't done it in an embarrassingly long time. I may have had a reputation for having done the entire secretarial pool -- and I didn't mind that reputation, it sure beat the other one! -- but I'd been on a dry spell for way too long. How I ever managed to keep my hands to myself when you stood there almost naked is still a total mystery."

"Really? I had a boyfriend at the time, I'd always thought you must've had a girlfriend as well."

"Nah, you know our work didn't mix well with relationships."

She nods. "Ethan left me about two weeks into our partnership. Said I wasn't paying him enough attention," she lets out a soft sigh and turns a little, moving up so our faces are side by side. "To be honest I think he was jealous because I was with another man."

"You weren't with me, you were just my partner."

She shrugs a little. "Try telling that to a guy like him."

"Are you sorry he dumped you?"

She doesn't answer right away. Then, "I think it was inevitable. And maybe we didn't really have a future together anyway. I don't know. He was an all right guy, but ..," she sighs. "... anyway, he left me and I got you. And I haven't had the urge to look elsewhere."

I nod.

We are silent for a little while.

"Do you think I should get up to look after the animals?"

She nods. "Perhaps you'd better, they need us. But I don't want to stay in this bed alone. It'll get cold," she stretches, letting out a satisfied little groan. "You've worn me out."

"Good, because the feeling is quite mutual."

She grins. "Good," she combs my hair with her fingers. "Your hair is getting long again, I should cut it."

I nod and rub my hand over my jaw. "I should shave, too."

"Yeah, I've noticed that ... stubble of yours in very interesting places," she says, her eyes twinkling dangerously. Cut it out, I think, or those beasts will never get another meal. "Come," she then says, "let's get out of bed, feed the animals and clean the pens, and we can continue this very pleasant pastime when we get back."

"Maybe we could do it in front of the fireplace then. You know, stoke up the fires in more ways than one ..."

She smiles. "I suppose we could." Then she frowns. "I completely forgot: did you blow out the candles?"

I nod. "Yes, before we went outside."

"Phew, thanks. You know, I'd forgotten all about them!"

"So I noticed. It's not like you to be so absent-minded."

"I was ... preoccupied, shall we say?"

I grin. "I know ..."

We're back inside after looking after the animals. I'm beginning to doubt the wisdom of my decision to put the chickens and pigs in together with the geese, sheep and our two horses and three cows, because the mess they're making is absolutely unbelievable, but for now I think it might be the only solution. If the temperature goes up to above freezing we may change them back, but for now it will probably help in their survival. We lost a few animals to the cold last year, and although it meant instant food, I'd much prefer to determine their fate as our needs grow. It's a delicate balance, since more live animals means more mouths to feed, but possibly more young in the spring. We slaughtered a couple of pigs and an old cow this autumn and she pickled fruit and vegetables, and that should see us through the winter, but it's not going to be easy.

I should've spent my money on books about survival and farming instead of on all those videos I never owned ...

The fire in the hearth is blazing. We're recklessly extravagant with our firewood today, but we'll be more careful again tomorrow. We need to be prudent.

Sometimes it annoys the heck out of me.

"Penny for your thoughts?" she says softly and I smile at her. We're cuddling on the couch, still fully dressed. I know we were thinking of a little sexy fun in front of the fire, but we haven't gotten to that yet.

"Nah, I don't think they're worth that much."

She smiles. "Worrying about the upcoming winter?"

I raise my eyebrows. "How did you know?"

She shakes her head. "It's all we seem to think about these days, and it's what we should be thinking about. By the way, skipping winter and moving to spring: I think a few of the sheep are pregnant."

I nod. "I was thinking as much, yes. Bessie and Flora are going to have young as well. And the chickens and geese will probably have loads of chicks." Bessie is our brown heifer, and Flora is the young mare I was hoping to get a foal from anyway. Our other horses are getting on a bit and we need new, strong animals. I'm kind of hoping this foal will be a male, as I don't think our current draft horse has a lot of years left in him, and a young stallion will be invaluable. Of course, a little female will give us the promise of new foals to come when she's older. Anyway, babies are always good, no matter what the sex is.

She's silent for a few moments. Then she chuckles a little. "It's a fertile little farm we're having, isn't it?"

My eyes are drawn to her abdomen, which doesn't show anything under her clothes yet. Well, hardly anything; perhaps I'm seeing a small bump, but I'm probably just kidding myself. "It would seem so, yes." Then I frown. "How are we going to know if everything is all right with the baby?"

She sighs. "I don't think we'll know until the baby is born. Unless it goes wrong, that is. I'm not going to be able to have check-ups, like with William. We're going to have trust everything will be okay," she looks up at me and smiles. "Stop looking so worried, women have been having babies for as long as mankind is on this planet. I'm sure I'll be fine."

"Women have been known to die in childbirth in their thousands as well until modern science stepped in," I counter, unable to shake my sense of doom.

She presses her lips together and gives a little shrug. "Yeah, well, there's precious little we can do to change this, is there? There's no chance They'll be leaving soon and the civilisation that made that science possible is now truly a thing of the past. Maybe of the future, but it's not here now. We're alone and we're going to have to make the best of it."

"Maybe this baby ..."

"I think this child was meant to be," she says softly. "I mean, I know we're not using birth control, and the thought of not having sex with you is total lunacy, but the chances of my getting pregnant in the first place were so astronomically small that I think there was a higher power at work that pulled a few strings and pushed a few buttons and made sure that that little egg down there ripened and was lucky enough to find some sperm. As unlikely goes, this is a pretty good candidate."

"Lucky stars, eh?"

"That's one way to put it, yeah," she softly squeezes my hand. "We have to put our trust in God or whoever decides about this. There's nothing else for it."

"Do you think that coffee you had this morning was smart? I heard that pregnant women shouldn't have caffeine."

She shrugs. "Maybe not, but ... well, it's not as though I'll be having a lot of it anyway. And if winter turns out to be harsh, that little bit of caffeine will be the least of this baby's worries. I can only try to do the best I can, and pray we'll have a healthy child by the end of it," she smiles. "Not to mention that I really wasn't going to pass up on a chance to have coffee again."

I let out a breath. She's right. Now I just need to convince myself of that fact.

I feel her hand in my hair and turn to look at her.

"Stop worrying," she says softly, smiling. "We'll be fine. We'll all be fine." Then she straddles my legs and kisses me. "You know, with the animals settled in for the night, and the crops safe and dry, we have some time to spare."

I smile, pulling her closer until our bodies are flush. God, I love feeling that tight little body against mine, it never fails to arouse me. "Determined to put your words into action?"

"Actually, I believe those were your words. You were the one suggesting a little hot fun in front of the fire."

"So I was. But you didn't exactly protest."

She curves an eyebrow and I grin. "Come on, honestly, did you expect me to?"

I shake my head and start kissing and nibbling the soft skin of her neck, little vampire bites. "Nah, not really."

I hear her chuckle. "Good," she says. "Now, go be a manly man, and put some more wood on the fire so we won't get interrupted."

"You like being bossy, don't you?" I grin, but the truth is I just got turned on another notch. I'll have to be careful or this is going to end embarrassingly early.

"I can be a lot bossier than that, but I'm not feeling like that right now."

I smile and quickly kiss her before I get up to feed the fire.

"Hurry up, Mulder, it's getting cold without you."

If I ever needed an incentive to move faster so I can get intimate with her, I just heard it.

When I wake up my arms are empty and it feels as though the skin on my back is freezing off. Just then I feel how a blanket is draped over me and I smile, welcoming the warm cover.

"Shhh, you can stay here," I hear her say and for a moment I'm tempted to do just that. Then I remember where we are and I force my eyes open.

"Shouldn't we be in bed?"

She sits down on the edge of the sofa. She's wrapped a blanket around her. Then, blanket and all, she lies down next to me. I hold open my blanket and she snuggles closer, letting her blanket fall open so we're skin to skin, covered by a warm stack of wool.

"Where did you go?" I whisper.

"To the bathroom. Go back to sleep, it's still dark outside."

Of course by now I'm completely awake. "Are you sleepy?"

"Well, not really, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't go back to sleep," she says. "Why? You want to make love some more?"

She doesn't sound too keen herself and although I don't think she'd refuse if I said I did, I don't want to make her think she has to do me a favour. We may have waited ridiculously long before we became lovers, but it hasn't dampened her eagerness a bit and I'm pretty sure she'll be ready and willing soon enough. Besides, there's something to be said for simply cuddling as well.

"Well, I wouldn't mind, but ... you know ..."


"Well, it's a bit late to be thinking about this now, but ..." I take a deep breath. "... do you think this is the kind of world we should let a child be born into? It's not a safe place and we really don't know what the future will hold for us."

She doesn't answer immediately. Then, "I don't know. But it's not as though we can just quit now, can we?" She sighs, but smiles. "People have had children in the worst of situations. Children have been born during wars, famines, in times of incredible poverty and deprivation. I don't know if we'll be able to give this child a good future, even when I know we'll both fight to make it happen. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only pregnant woman on this planet right now, and all those babies were conceived after the Invasion. I think it's only natural that people continue to have children. As it should be."

I nod. "Yeah, you're probably right."

She kisses me softly but warmly. "Of course I am," she smiles, making me smile in return. "Come, let's go to sleep. Christmas is almost over."

"I wouldn't mind if it never ended," I reply, almost more to myself than to her, and it's true: this was a pretty damn fine one.

"Me neither," she whispers against my lips and the warmth of her lips and her breath, along with the sensation of her tongue against my lips quickly heats up this kiss. She gently pulls me on top and I feel my groin stir. Looks like we're going to make love after all. Well, I don't mind at all.

"Merry Christmas," I whisper and she smiles, running her hands over my torso. I can't really see her, but I can feel her skin heat up with arousal. My body isn't slow to follow.

"Actually, I think it's technically already the day after Christmas," she answers and I can hear the grin in her voice.

"Yeah, well, whatever," I reply and pull her down to kiss her.

Merry Christmas, Dana.

The snow hasn't let up since it started just before Christmas and I wrap my coat a little tighter around me. I'm wearing the sweater she gave me, and I don't know how many more clothes underneath, but the cold seems to penetrate the layers with alarming ease. This is going nowhere.

I pick up the large axe and kick the tree trunk into position with my left foot, leaning on the axe for balance. Time to chop some more wood for the stove. I'd kill for central heating in our house, but at least this activity will keep me warm for a while.

It's New Year's Eve, we're on the brink of a new year. I smile involuntarily as I give the hard dry wood of the tree trunk some whacks with the axe. I'm slowly getting better at this and my aim is improving every time I chop wood. If I keep up this pace I should be quite a pro by next year.

A new year. Well, come what may, things are going to change. We got married four days ago and I'm going to be a father again. Yesterday at breakfast I had a few moments of doubt -- not about whether I want to be a father, because God knows I do -- but whether I have the right to use 'again'. I mean, nobody needs to remind me I was conspicuously absent the first time fatherhood came knocking. But I just can't make myself believe anything but the fact that I am entitled to thinking I'm going to be a father for the second time. And this time nothing and nobody can take that child away except from my cold, dead hands.

The thought makes me frown and I hit the wood with extra force, almost as though I want to re-enforce the determination I have no right to be feeling. It's all good and fair to be determined to protect what's mine, but I know all too well that the forces that can rip this thing apart are absolutely not impressed by whatever I do or say. They don't care, They never have, so why would They start now, right? Ain't gonna happen. The wood is splintering under the force of the blade and I shut my eyes every time I hit the log. I'd wear safety glasses but of course I have none. Two more hits by the axe and the log breaks into two. I stand back and wipe the sweat from my forehead, using the sleeve of my coat. The fabric, originally navy, is now dark and stained, and the cuffs are blackened with tree resin and general filthiness. We have no way to wash this coat properly, but it's not important. And at least I know now that I can soil it as much as I like -- another stain isn't going to matter in any way.

"How's it going?" I hear behind me and I turn around.

I smile at her. "Not bad. Few more hours should give us plenty of wood to last the next three or four days I think." I frown. "Aren't you cold?"

"I'm fine. I brought you some tea to warm up, but I can see you're doing just fine."

"It's the work, I'm burning up in all these clothes."

"So take off your coat. It won't kill you."

I shrug off my heavy coat, and I see her grin. "What?"

"When I decided to make that sweater a little bigger, I had no idea I miscalculated that badly."

I chuckle, holding out the excess fabric. "It's rather big, isn't it?"

"Do you mind that it's that big?"

I gather her to me and kiss her on the forehead. "No." Then I look at her. "It does its job and you made this with a very specific purpose in mind -- and that was not that it would look amazing. It keeps me warm and you spent a lot of time and effort towards making this. I like it a lot."

"I still think I should've tried a little harder to at least get it to fit a bit better."

I shrug. "I don't care, I honestly don't. Anyway, maybe it'll shrink in the wash."

"I hope it will, but I'm not sure, seeing that the yarn wasn't new to start with."

I feel a shiver run through me. "Brrr, I should either get back to chopping wood or put my coat back on."

She smiles. "Go back to torturing some timber. Do you still want that tea? It's probably cold now though."

"I'll give it a miss if you don't mind."

"You want me to come back with more tea in a few hours?"

"Nah, I'll be fine, I'll keep warm by chopping wood, but I'll have a cup of tea when I'm done."

"Okay," she says and reaches up to kiss me. I answer her kiss briefly and we smile.

I watch her walk back to the house and with a sigh I pick up the heavy axe. This is no wimpy tool, and the first time I tried to use it I think I nearly lost a leg, figuratively speaking, but I'm getting the hang of it. Scully still cannot watch me use it though, even when I'm fairly confident I know how to handle it. Oh well.

Right, let's crack on. This tree trunk will make a good amount of fire wood so I'd better get on with it and finish the bugger off.

"How will we know it's midnight?"

"We won't, I'm afraid."

We're side by side on the couch, watching the fire in the fireplace. It's a normal, sparse fire again, nothing like the roaring mass of flames we had for Christmas. Sure, it was warm and comforting, but it was also incredibly uneconomical and that is one thing we simply cannot afford to do too often. She's pulled her legs up and she's leaning against me, her trouser-clad legs covered by an old horse blanket for warmth. There's another one on the floor by my feet, but right now I don't really need it.

"So how will we know when the new year starts then? We don't really have any true indication, do we?" she asks.

I sigh softly. "I don't know. I mean, there is a full moon and maybe we can check whether it comes up over the house or something, like the sun, but I don't think the moon even works that way."

"What did we do last year?"

I smile wryly. "Besides starving?"

"Well, yeah, but seriously though, how did we decide about when it was the new year? Because I can't seem to remember."

"Last year we had other things on our minds, we weren't interested in such trivialities, I think, we were just surviving. I remember wishing you a happy new year about two days late because we'd totally forgotten about it anyway."

"That's right," she smiles. I watch her smile disappear. "We had a tough year," she says very softly.

I bite my lips and nod. "We had."

She ducks her head and when she looks up again her eyes are a little sad. "I still haven't figured out whether I've become a better person or not because of all this. Sometimes I think back on what has happened ever since we decided to flee, you know, what we did to survive, and I get ... Mulder, I've committed sins I never thought I could and I didn't even bash an eyelid."

"What sins do you mean?" I say softly.

"Well, stealing mostly. We took stuff with no intention of paying for it or ever returning it. That's stealing. And I don't care about people having stolen from us as well, because that's no excuse. We've committed the same crimes, the same sins. It was necessary to do so in order to survive, but that doesn't make it right."

"We had no choice."

She sighs heavily. "I know ..."

"Is there anything I could do to, you know, help? I mean, I don't really know what I could do, but ..."

She sucks her lips in and bites them. "I don't know," she says, her voice fragile.

I stroke her hair, feeling terribly sorry for her. "Do you miss ... do you miss the opportunity to go to confession? Because if you ... I mean ..."

She huffs softly. "I haven't gone to confession since I moved out to go to college," she smiles a little sadly. "I don't know why this is bothering me so much all of a sudden. I mean, during our time at the Bureau I killed people for goodness' sakes, that's a lot worse than taking a few ... I don't know, a few half-starving pigs that were left behind to die anyway, and add them to our little group. It's just ..."

I pull her a little closer and drop a kiss on top of her head. "Well, I for one am very glad to hear that these things still bother you. Not because I want them to bother you, but because it would be so easy to just lose your standards in the chaos that is the current state of the world. It's every man, woman, and child for themselves now, and it's not pretty. And if we ever want to have a chance of rebuilding anything that even resembles a civilisation, even if this means one that's more like ancient Egypt than what we had before the Invasion, we need people with a decent sense of right and wrong."

"If that's your way of telling me I hold the future of the human race in my hands, I'm getting out of here," she smiles.

I chuckle. "I'm not letting you go unless I can hitch a ride."

"Yeah, well, that's a given," she smiles, reaching up. I close the distance and close my lips over hers. I feel her hands on the back of my neck and I cup her cheek in my hand, deepening the kiss.

"Are we going to make love?" I murmur against her lips.

She smiles. "I don't mind."

I raise my eyebrows. "You don't mind? That's not good enough for me, Dana, I can't do it if your heart is not in it."

She smiles and sighs, resting her head against me. "Mulder, you know I love sex with you, I don't think I've ever made a secret of that. And you're a very passionate man."

"Too passionate maybe?"

She laughs softly. "No. Although I must admit I never knew I was woman enough to keep up with you."

I feel my body stir and I curse inwardly. Shit, she just so much as said she wasn't feeling like making love and here my body is trying to decide that the Neanderthal approach will work just fine. "Oh, you are. You are more than woman enough." I curl my index finger under her chin and make her look at me. "What is it?" I whisper.

She sighs with a small smile. "I don't know," she whispers back. "Maybe it's the pregnancy, I mean, I know my body is changing rapidly and ..."

"Your body is making a baby, Scully, of course it's changing."

She closes her eyes for a long moment. "We waited so long to become lovers, and when we did become lovers I couldn't help but feel I wanted to make up for, you know, lost time. And I got ..," she chuckles "... pretty enthusiastic, you could say."

I grin. "Oh, you could definitely say that!"

She laughs freely, and quite fluidly slides down so she's lying on her back with her head in my lap, looking up at me. Her smile becomes gentle, but a soft sadness creeps up into her eyes. "I've changed."

I nod. "Yeah."

"I don't want to disappoint you."

"Oh, sweetheart, for you to disappoint me you'll need to do a lot more than not be eager every single time my hormones take over." I reach out and splay out my hand over her abdomen. She follows my hand with her eyes, then looks back up at me. One of her hands covers mine on her abdomen, the other reaches up for my face. There is a current of electricity between us that is rare even for us. "You're carrying our baby; this beautiful body, this stunning person who is lying here, is giving me a chance at being a father. Now you may argue that women have been doing that ever since humans started walking the earth, but I don't care, it's still mind-boggling to me." I turn my face in her hand and kiss the palm.

"So, what do you think we're having?" she asks. "Boy or a girl?"

I smile. "I don't know, and quite frankly I don't care."

She lets her hand drop away from my face and folds her hands over her stomach. "Yeah, we'll just have to wait and see. For all we know I could be carrying twins, you know," she says and winks, making me chuckle. Then she yawns. "Do you think it's midnight already?"

"Could be, I don't know."

"Yeah ..."

We're silent for a bit.

"Do you ... do you think we should, you know, go round and wish the animals a happy new year, too?" she then says. "Or is that a stupid idea?"

I raise my eyebrows. "I hadn't thought of that, but I think it's a pretty good idea. I mean, if the weather is dry, maybe we should just go round the yard and check up on them."

She chuckles. "For some of them it's not going to be such a great year, they're destined to be eaten."

I smile. "That's right, but ..." I shrug. " ... that's the way it is, isn't it? That's why we have them, why we keep them. That doesn't mean we don't wish them a good life for as long as they have, does it?"

"No," she sits up with a cute little groan. "I think it's dry outside. Shall we take a little walk?"

I smile. "All right. Let's get muffled up in warm clothes and go outside."

"I didn't realize it was such a clear night tonight."

We're standing in the small paddock, leaning against the gate to the meadow where the cattle graze in summer, our eyes on the heavens above.

"The Milky Way," I say, pointing at the wide band of stars across the pitch dark midwinter sky. "Doesn't it look amazing?"

"I never saw it like that back in DC. Actually, I never saw the Milky Way at all. With all the light pollution of a big city I was lucky if I managed to see Orion and the Big Dipper from the window of my apartment."

"Yeah ..."

"It's a pretty humbling sight this," she goes on. "It makes me feel totally insignificant."

"You're not insignificant," I say and she chuckles.

"On a cosmic scale, I'm afraid you and I are nothing but small fry, Mulder, puny and utterly unimportant, no matter how we look at it."

I smile and pull her into my side, and she rests her head on my shoulder.

"Where do you think They came from?"

I sigh. "I don't know, we never saw Them coming. I don't think anybody knows."

She doesn't reply immediately and I look at her. She's biting her lower lip and frowning a little.


"I ... Actually, I think there were people who did know," she says slowly. "Don't you think it went, you know, a bit too easy for Them? We were just picked off, nothing seemed to be standing in their way at all. If ... if we as a human race had truly been surprised by the attack, don't you think we would've fought back?"

"Perhaps we would have, but I don't know whether it was a real possibility. The attack was pretty massive and overwhelming."

"I'm not saying that those in the know might not have been unpleasantly surprised by the scale of the attack or the utter carnage that followed, but ... I still think there was insider information at some levels of government."

I sigh. "Yeah, you're probably right, it would make pretty good sense if They had had help. But we'll never find out, will we?"

"No. By now I must admit that I don't really care anymore. It's done."

"Do you think we know who those men were? Do you think we'd heard of them when we were still in the Bureau?" I ask.

She shrugs. "Could be. There was a time when we were involved enough that we might have known. But ..."

I take a deep breath. "Yeah ..."

She moves to stand before me and wraps her arms around my waist under my coat. I follow her example and pull her closer.

"Maybe it's time we leave it behind us, all the conspiracy theories and secret governments," she says softly. "We did our bit to stop them when we still had the power to do so, and I'd like to think we did make a difference, but that part of our lives is truly behind us now. There's nothing we can do, I don't think we should even be trying anymore."

"I must admit I find it pretty damn hard not to think about it," I say and I see her smile a little sadly.

"I can imagine," she says. Then she takes my hand and places it on her abdomen. "Let it go, Mulder. Our priorities have shifted."

I sigh with a dejected smile. She's right, it's time to put that part of my life, as long and intense as it was, behind me forever. We have no influence anymore, no part to play in the global situation as it's being acted out right now.

"What time do you think it is?" I hear her ask.

I smile. "I haven't the foggiest idea," I say and she smiles widely. "Shall we call it the new year? I mean, it probably is already."

She nods. "Good idea," she reaches up and presses a soft kiss on my lips. "Happy New Year, sweetheart," she whispers with a smile.

I feel a wide smile appear on my face. "Happy New Year to you, too," I reply, my voice equally soft. I kiss her lips and then the bright red tip of her nose, making her giggle. She rubs her hand over her nose and sniffles.

"Let's go back inside, I think the fire hasn't died yet."

"Are you cold?" I ask and she nods.

"I am, I'm not going to lie about that. Although it's kind of nice to be standing here with you as well."

"And to think that next year there will be three of us," I say and she smiles.

"That's true. And God knows where it will end."

I raise my eyebrows. "Are you planning on having more kids?"

She smiles. "Well, it's probably something we need to talk about first, but ... it might just happen, you know, seeing that we have no methods for birth control except for abstinence -- and that's something that's most definitely not going to happen -- and this child, well, it came pretty darn unexpectedly, didn't it?"

An image of Scully and myself and half a dozen kids flashes before my eyes and I gasp. Mostly, I realize, because I'm not nearly as shocked by the notion of having that many kids as I reasonably ought to be.

Damn ...

"Well, maybe we should just wait and first see about this little one that's on its way and worry about the rest later, shouldn't we?"

She reaches up. "Are you happy you're going to be a father?"

I nod with a smile. "Astonishingly happy." I run my thumb over her lips. "You are amazing, you know that? Absolutely amazing."

She smiles widely. "Thank you, you're pretty awesome, too, you know."

I chuckle and give her one last hug. "Come, let's see how the animals are doing and wish them a happy new year."

"You're right," she wraps her arm around my waist and we make our way towards the stables.

It's a clear, bright night, and the stars look so peaceful up there. You'd almost think the Invasion never even happened ...

"Come on, you little sucker, just move!" I mutter under my breath as I pry a screwdriver underneath the drawer. I'm in one of the spare bedrooms, trying to dislodge a few drawers of a cupboard that has successfully fought our best efforts to open it ever since we moved in here. We're planning on using this room as the baby room, and this cupboard would be a great piece of furniture to have for storage -- if it would just open and reveal its secrets.

"Any luck yet?" I hear behind me and I turn to look at her.

"No, it's a stubborn little son of a bitch," I say, giving the handle another yank, which doesn't seem to accomplish anything. "I got the two doors open by breaking the lock, I hope you don't mind that too much, but these drawers are just plain impossible."

She pulls a wicker chair closer and sits down. I don't think she can sit comfortably on the floor anymore by now. "Aren't they just locked? Because if so you could just try to break those locks as well. I mean, it's a pity we can't keep them intact, but a locked cupboard is useless no matter how you look at it."

I sit back down and put the screwdriver down. I wipe the sweat from my forehead with my sleeve and shake my head. "Actually, I don't think the drawers are locked. Not in any conventional sense of the word anyway. I can't find a keyhole either, that's what so puzzling. And if they were simply stuck, I'm sure I would at least be able to wiggle them around a bit, but even that doesn't happen."

"Maybe they've been nailed shut?"

I open the cupboard doors and peer inside and up at the bottom of the drawers.

"No, they haven't. At least not in any way that I can see."

She smiles. "Wow, it's a true conundrum! Would be fun to see if there is finally something that defies Fox Mulder!"

I huff. "Never!" I say, making her laugh.

"Anyway, I made tea and baked cookies. Come on downstairs and take a break, I might need you later to help with the lambing."

I get to my feet. "Are the ewes lambing? I didn't see any real signs this morning."

"I think at least one of them is ready to give birth, but I don't know when the lambs will arrive. Anyway seeing that I'm not really able to crawl into the straw anymore, I might need to leave those acts of advanced acrobatics to you," she says, giving me a wink.

I groan. "Have mercy, woman, I'm not eighteen anymore!"

She laughs. "Well, thank God for that!" She reaches out her hand and we walk down the stairs.

"How are you feeling?" I ask.

"Fine. The baby was kicking hard this morning, it was quite uncomfortable, but I think he's asleep now. Shhh, let's not wake him up!"

I chuckle. We've decided to call our baby a 'he', although of course we have no way of finding out whether it is in fact a boy. But calling the child 'it' becomes increasingly difficult, now that her pregnancy is really showing.

"What are we having for dinner?"

"I picked some early spinach and I've put some salted pork in water to de-brine, so we're having some cooked ham to go with the spinach. The new potatoes aren't ready to be harvested yet though, so it'll just be meat and vegetables for now."

We walk into the kitchen where I see the small ham soaking on the counter. Last year our preserves were a complete disaster, but this summer I found an old moldy book on preserving vegetables, fruit, and meat on one of my wanderings around the deserted farms in the neighborhood, and so far we've been doing pretty darn good. We had to throw away the jars of strawberries which had decided to grow a nice furry coat after only a few weeks, and some of the sausages started to glow in the dark so obviously they had to go, but on the whole we've had a far better winter than last year. Then again, if we ever have a worse year we'll never survive ...

"Sit down, I can get the tea," I say.

"Mulder, I'm not an invalid!" she protests, but I wave her words away.

"No, you're not, but that doesn't mean chivalry is completely dead in me. So just grab a seat and let me do this for you."

She chuckles. "Oh, all right then, Sir Handsome, pour me some tea."

I smile and get the drinks. She's baked some cookies and to my delight they are still warm from the oven. They're simple shortbread biscuits, but these days we don't need tremendous luxury to make us feel happy. I don't know if I'd trade our old lives in for this if we had been given the choice, but it's not a bad life on the whole.

"How far along are you?" I ask when we're sitting at the kitchen table.

She rubs her hand over her abdomen and smiles. "Getting pretty close to due I think, but without the proper neonatal exams I cannot be sure. Could be any day really, but it could also be another month, I don't know. Are you ready for it?"

I smile, raising my eyebrows. "As ready as I'll ever be."

"You realize you'll have to help me bring this baby into the world, right? Be my midwife?"

I laugh softly. "God help me, yes, I know that."

She smiles. "Well, you can practice on the sheep for starters."

"I don't know. Our child is not a sheep, so I'm not sure I'll ever be truly ready for when this baby arrives."

"It'll bleat just as much as a lamb," she grins. "Anyway, speaking of sheep, shall we have a look at the ewes? See if any of them need a hand?"

I drain my mug and get up. "Good idea." I reach out and she uses it to pull herself to her feet. She's getting pretty big and I can tell it's really starting to bother her. We walk into the utility room and wrap up in our coats. She's using a man's coat now and it looks kind of funny, but I don't have the balls to tell her so. She may be close to eight months pregnant but that doesn't mean she cannot still kick my ass.

"Three lambs from two ewes, not bad," she says as we walk back into the house. "The other two ewes seem to have a little while to go yet. I wonder how Bessie and Flora are doing."

I smile. "Flora definitely has a few months to go yet I think, although I don't really know how long the gestation period for horses and cows is. But we'll just have to wait and see. I have no doubt we'll come into the stable one morning and find a little foal and calf suckling away."

She sighs. "I wish humans had as easy a delivery, I'm not looking forward to giving birth. I mean, William was no joke and I haven't exactly forgotten that," she says wryly.

I sigh too. "I'm sorry. At least you know your body can deliver a child the natural way, we can only pray nothing goes wrong."

She stops and bites her lips, rubbing her hands over her stomach. "I'm scared I'll die," she whispers.

Her words send a chill down my spine. "Don't say that," I say, putting my hands on her shoulders. She looks up at me and I see tears in her eyes.

"I have to. You know as well as I do that childbirth was the number one killer of women before modern science stepped in and made hospital births as safe as they could be. We've lost that science, and dying in childbirth is now a real possibility for me. If this baby is a breach or simply too big for me we will have a huge problem. And even if I deliver the baby safely I may still haemorrhage to death."

"Shit, Scully, will you just shut up about that?" I say, more forcefully than maybe I should have. But I just can't listen to her talking like that: it's something I have thought about before and it's scaring me to death. And maybe it's denial, but I was kinda hoping she hadn't thought about it. Stupid, I know, seeing that she's the doctor, but ...

She lets out a deep sigh. "I'm sorry ..."

I sigh too, my momentary anger deflated, and gather her to me. "No, I'm sorry, that was rude of me. It's just that ... I can't bear to think about losing you, I just can't. We've been through so much and ... this is supposed to add to our happiness, not take everything away."

"But do you think denial is the way to go?" she asks softly.

I shake my head. "Of course it isn't. But the truth is just so ... unpalatable ..."

She chuckles softly. "Maybe it's the only way," she looks up at me and I bend in to kiss her softly, lingeringly. I miss being able to make love to her, but at least we can still be loving.

"I've been thinking," I murmur against her lips.


"I'd definitely die if it was me who had to do that pregnancy thing."

She smiles. "You probably would, yeah."

"I wonder who ever thought of women as the weaker sex."

She huffs softly. "Probably someone who never watched a woman giving birth. Have you ever witnessed a birth?"

I shake my head. "No, I haven't. I should've been there for you when William was born, but of course ..."

"I know ... I was glad Monica was there. I have no doubt she would have fought for our baby as much as any of us would. I mean, you weren't there and I was in no condition to fight for William, but I had every faith in her. Not to mention that I really didn't have much of a choice."

"Yeah. You know, sometimes I wonder if John and Monica made it. Do you think they're still alive?"

She sighs. "I truly hope so, but I'm not very confident. The odds are stacked against their survival, too many people were killed."

"I know."

Her voice sounds small and vulnerable when goes on. "Sometimes I suddenly think of Mom, and William, and Bill and Charlie and their families. You know, and Skinner, and John and Monica. Whether they made it, and if so, if we'll ever see them again. And then I have to admit that ... well, it's unlikely, isn't it?"

I pull her closer and sigh. "We can only hope, we have no other options open to us. And maybe, if it's not too much of an overly positive train of thought, we should remember that even when the majority of mankind was killed during the first few months of the Invasion, there are still people out there. I mean, we have no proof, but there must be survivors. We survived, there must be more. And maybe they are amongst those survivors. And perhaps, just perhaps, we'll get news about them, or even see them again."

"Yeah ..." Then she smiles a little sadly. "We have to keep up hope, but it's not easy, is it?"

I shake my head. "No, it isn't."

We fall silent as we stand in our embrace, our minds filled with thoughts and memories.

"Are you going to give opening that cupboard another try?" she then asks.

I sigh with a smile. "I should, shouldn't I?"

"Well, not necessarily, but if you were able to open those drawers, it would be a really useful little cupboard. Besides, I'm kind of curious to see if they hold something."

I chuckle. "Knowing our luck we'll find a great wad of cash -- which in the current state of affairs is worth precisely shit of course."

She smiles. "Wouldn't that just totally suck?"

"But you're right, I too would like to know if those drawers have something hidden inside them. So, yeah, I think I'll spend tonight on that cupboard. What are you going to do?"

She shakes her head. "Not a lot, I'm afraid. Probably wash up, and then rest for a while. That time in the barn with the ewes has really exhausted me and I should take it easy whenever possible now, so I'll probably lie down on the couch after I've done the dishes, put my feet up and so on. My back is killing me."

I smile and kiss the tip of her nose. "All right, I'll see if I can find out about those drawers. Go rest, Dana."

Well, the drawers did open. There was a little catch behind a ridge, almost like a secret lock of sorts. I found it after I decided to, 'oh, what the heck', turn the whole thing upside down. I heard objects roll around in the cupboard so I knew there was something to discover. They turned out to be fairly useless little things, but at least the mystery has been solved and the cupboard can be used now. And, no, there was no money in them. I will admit I was just a little disappointed, even when there is absolutely nothing we could have used that money for at this stage in our lives.

It's May Day today. In the old calendar this is the true start of spring, the beginning of a new season of what we can only hope will be filled with plenty.

I'm sitting on the wicker couch on the porch, watching the fresh green leaves on the trees all around us. We have just had lunch and she's taking a nap before we go on with the outside work. She usually tends to the garden and vegetable patch while I do the field work, but at this moment I have to take on a number of her tasks. I wonder when the baby will come, surely it can't be too long now anymore.

I hear her footsteps on the old wood of the porch, the timber creaking softly under her steps. This house, being so old, is filled with sounds, and whatever we do or wherever we go in this house it keeps making noises. When we first moved in it was pretty creepy at times, but now it's just comforting. We've learned to interpret the sounds of the house and they've become part of our lives. This house is like old stripy pajamas: worn, tattered, and thoroughly comfortable.

"Come here," I say, patting the faded plaid cushion next to me. "Have a seat."

She smiles and gingerly sits down.

"How are you feeling?" I go on.

"Tired of being pregnant," she smiles a little wryly. "I've had it with this pregnancy, I can't wait for the baby to come. I mean, I can't walk properly, I get sore when I sit too long, I get no sleep to speak of. Of course I won't get any proper sleep either when the baby is born, but at least my body will let me snatch a few minutes here and there even if the kid won't. And right now I'm just so uncomfortable. It sucks."

"I wish I could help," I say softly and she smiles.

"I know you do. And I didn't mean to whine, it's just getting really uncomfortable now."

"Come, turn around, I'll give you a back rub."

"Oh, thank you, that would be great."

She turns a bit and I start massaging her lower back as she holds on to the back rest and arm rest. From the back you'd never think she was so close to due. She still looks tiny. How she'll ever manage to give birth to a full-grown 40-week baby is a total mystery to me, even when I know the science behind it. Science or no, this is still pretty weird.

"Do you know what day it is today?" I ask softly and I smile when she lets out a soft moan. Guess I hit the right spot. I feel my body rise to attention and try to tamp it down. Down, boy, you know there isn't going to be any action to be had.

"Not really. Must be about May now?"

"It is, it's May 1st. May Day." I wiggle my eyebrows although she can't see it. I lean in. "Beltane," I whisper in her ear before sitting back up again.

I hear the smile in her voice when she replies. "Beltane? Getting in touch with your pagan side here again, aren't you?"

"Always." I lean in again and kiss the side of her neck. "They have the best traditions, you know."

I know she's grinning. "Feeling horny, lover?"

I move closer to her so she's leaning her back against me and I can feel her body weight. Then I move my hands up to her shoulders and give her a gentle massage there, nipping her neck and shoulder. "I am, I can't help it, you're just so sexy."

She huffs. "Don't be ridiculous, I'm nowhere near sexy. I look like a hippo, I'm huge!"

I softly nip her earlobe, then kiss it to soften the touch. "You're hot and you're gorgeous. And I want you so much, but I'm not sure I can right now, and really that's okay. But I still get so incredibly turned on when I see you."

"You can't, I'm not sexy anymore. Not like this."

"Like this? My God, sweetheart, you're carrying my child, can't you understand how incredibly sexy that is? It's mind-boggling, I can't get over how sensual you are."

She chuckles. Her posture softens, I think she's giving in to my words. "You know, if we make love now we might actually get this baby on its way. There are enzymes in sperm that can kick-start the labor."

"I've heard about that." I rub my hands over her belly, feeling the taut hot skin and her full breasts. I know they're getting ready to feed our child and I love the idea of that. I watched her nurse William and it blew my mind. I can't wait to see it again. Well, what can I say? I'm a breast-man, and I don't mind sharing the pleasure. "Want to give it a try?"

"God help me, but I do," she says, tipping her head back. "I want you and I miss making love so much."

"It would be a great way to celebrate this festive day," I murmur against her skin. "You know what Beltane stands for, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do," she whispers. "It's the start of spring, the beginning of new life."

"It's the festival of fertility, when Nature celebrates the start of fresh young life."

"Fertility, huh?"

I smile. "Yeah. Not that we have anything to complain about where that's concerned."

"We've been blessed. I never thought we could have children."

"Nor me." I get to my feet and hold out my hands for her to take. I see the hot intense look in her eyes and I'm pretty damn sure it's mirrored by the expression in my own eyes. Holy shit, I want this woman so much and I want her now. "Come with me."

A slow smile spreads over her face. "Is that a challenge I hear?"

A low moan slips from my lips and I pull her up and against me. "Well, I know how much you love a challenge."

She reaches up and gently pulls my face closer. "Then do it," she whispers against my lips before she kisses me hotly.

Jesus, will we even make it to the bed?

"We have a little filly," I say as I walk into the kitchen. I'm wiping my hands on an old rag I picked up in the stable, then throw it into the bin. Scully is sitting in a kitchen chair by the stove, nursing our daughter Katherine.

That's right, we have a little girl, and she's two months old now. It was not an easy delivery, and after 15 hours I was exhausted -- I'm not even going to try and imagine how Scully felt -- but overjoyed to hold our baby girl. And if I thought I'd once fallen in love with Scully hard and fast, it couldn't even compare with what I felt for our daughter.

"So it's a little girl?" she asks with a smile. "That's wonderful. How's Flora doing?"

"Looking relaxed as always," I chuckle as I wash my hands. Then I pour myself a cup of tea. "Honestly, that horse is impossible to impress. Anyway, it's a little chestnut foal with a white blaze, it's a really pretty little animal." I kneel down beside her as I sip my hot tea. "How is she?"

Scully looks down at Katherine who is happily drinking her dinner. "Doing just fine. She was crying before I fed her, I don't know what was bothering her. I changed her diaper and tried to feed her, but she didn't want to have anything to do with either of it. So I decided to just wait it out for a little while. Anyway, she's okay now, she probably had some cramps or something."

I frown and look up at her, but she smiles in reassurance and I smile, too, relieved. Then I look at Katherine and reach out to stroke her head. My hands are so rough now that I sometimes worry about hurting her skin, but that is a risk I may have to take. I love her simply too much.

Scully raises our girl and burps her. It's a cute little burp and I chuckle. Last week I watched her burp our daughter and I made an inane comment that I was glad there was at least something I could teach the baby. Scully proceeded to give me a death-stare and I had to sleep on the couch that night. Lesson well learned, no doubt about that.

I get to my feet and rinse the mug in the sink. Then I turn and lean against the kitchen counter, watching them.

"I've been thinking while I was sitting with Flora," I say.

"What about?"

"I want Katherine to meet the new foal."

Scully smiles. "She will eventually. What about it?"

I bite my lip. "Actually, I was thinking of taking her there today. Now that this animal is just newly born."

She cocks her head. "Why? I mean, I don't think it's a bad idea per se, but I don't really see what the rush is. And I'm not sure Flora wouldn't be really protective at this stage, it might be dangerous."

"Nah, she's a laid-back horse."

"She is, but her mothering-instincts have kicked in now. She may hurt you or me if she thinks we're a threat. God knows how she'll react to Katherine."

"Maybe she'll react well to her. I mean, it's another baby."

She's hesitant. "I don't know ..."

I give her my most winning smile and I can tell she's melting. "Aww, come on, I'm sure she'll be fine. Besides, she'll have to meet the horses at some point, and there will always be some form of danger."

"I know, but right now Flora might be the most dangerous one of all. And I don't want to take any unnecessary risks."

She gets up from the chair with our daughter in her arms and walks up to me.

"I'm not saying you're wrong. I just ..," she sighs and looks down at the baby who is sucking on her little fist, her big blue eyes taking in the world around her. She has her mother's eyes, but we don't know who she'll take after in hair color. Currently she's a platinum blonde. As for the rest of her features, well, I can only hope she'll take after her mother. For the moment it's just a little button nose and the softest skin imaginable.

I lean in to kiss my wife. "I guess you're right. But maybe we could just stand outside the pen and let her look in. You know, let Flora and the little foal take the initiative? If Flora doesn't want to have anything to do with Katherine for now, we'll be able to back away easily. And if she is interested, we're there. I mean, it's worth a try, isn't it?"

She laughs softly. "Oh, all right. You know I can't refuse you anything."

I grin and give her a quick kiss on the lips. "No, you can't. Lucky me."

I scoop curly kale seed from the container in the outhouse into a small bushel, ready for planting between the corn out on the far field. It's early August and the weather is hot and dry. It's strange to be thinking of vegetables we'll be eating in winter when the memory of snow is no more than, well, a memory, but we need to be prepared. Scully has been sorting potatoes all morning so we can store the best ones for winter use, eat the ones that look a bit weird, and plant the ones that look most promising for a good crop next spring and summer. I can only pray we won't get blight in our potatoes or we'll be in real trouble.

I look at the sun dial in the vegetable patch. It's about 4 in the afternoon, give or take half an hour I think -- where has the time gone when five minutes could so easily seem an eternity and of such vital importance? - and the heat of the day is waning. It rained yesterday so this is not a bad day for planting. We seem to do nothing but harvesting right now and the attic and kitchen are filling fast with produce. I just hope she can keep up with the preserving of the bounty that Mother Nature is giving us.

I walk into the kitchen where she is pickling vegetables. Katherine is on a thick quilt on the floor in her small playpen, playing with a little cloth ball Scully made a few weeks ago. I carved some wooden animals for her, but at this stage they don't seem to hold much interest for her yet. I also carved a teething stick for her out of the antlers of a deer I killed this winter on a hunting expedition, and as plain as the stick may be, it seems to be pretty much her favorite. She has two little teeth already and last night I could feel the sharp outlines of two more under the soft gum tissue when she was sucking on my index finger. Looks like this little lady will have a nice set of pearly whites in no time.

"How is the preserving going?" I ask as I walk up to Scully. I wrap my arms around her waist and kiss her cheek.

She looks at me and kisses me back, now on the lips. "Fine. Those grapes we grew on the south wall last year may not have given us drinkable wine, but they made great vinegar. I'm trying to use that for pickling, because we're quickly running out of salt and I have no idea where we could get any."

"How about the honey? Do we still have enough?"

She nods. "It would seem to, and we'll be able to get new honey in a few weeks. No, I don't think we'll have a problem satisfying our sweet tooth."

I chuckle. "Good." Then I let go and return to the small bushel, filled with kale seed. I transfer it into a sack I can hang over my shoulder.

"Are you going out into the field?" she asks and I nod.

"Yes, I'm going to plant curly kale. You know, for late winter."

"Where are you going to plant it? The vegetable garden is full I think."

"I know. I was thinking of using that spot in front of the corn field. It's quite a large area, but it's too exposed for many other plants. The kale should do okay there though."

"I guess so, it's worth a try anyway."

I've finished transferring the seed to the burlap sack so I walk over to the playpen and pick up Katherine for a cuddle. "Hey, gorgeous," I say and she looks at me, giving me that inscrutable baby-gaze. I grin. We walk over to Scully who bends in and kisses our daughter on her peachy cheek.

"I was thinking," I begin.


"I want to take Katherine out with me for sowing."

That earns me Scully's full attention and she frowns in confusion. "Oh?"

I shrug. "Yeah, I don't know, really, I just ... I'd like a bit of father-daughter time, you know, and for sowing this kale I don't need to actually bend or work with animals or tools which might harm her."

She smiles. "That's true. And I'm using boiling water here now so the kitchen is not exactly the safest place to be for her either. Is it hot outside?"

"No, it's okay, but I'll put her cape on to protect her from the sun anyway." Scully made a little hooded cape for Katherine to wear over her dress in summer, seeing that we can't get any caps or anything. And that little wisp of downy hair she has now is no form of protection from the summer sun.

Scully wipes her hands on a kitchen towel and takes Katherine from my hands. "I'll change her diaper and give her a feed, she should have had her dinner in the next half hour or so anyway, and then she'll be all set for her big adventure with you," she says, smiling.

I can't help the wide smile on my face as we walk into the living room. The windows are open and the little net curtains billow out in the warm wind coming in. She sits down in the grand-father chair and unbuttons her top to nurse our daughter. With an aim that would put me to shame, the baby latches on and begins to suck.

"You like watching me nurse her, don't you?" she says and I nod, unashamed.

"I do, I'm not going to lie about that. I love it."

"You don't mind sharing my breasts?"

I huff. "Sweetheart, this is what they're for, for feeding our child. And I'm not going to deny that I find quite a lot of pleasure in them as well, but if there is anyone we should ask about it I think we should ask Katherine if she doesn't mind having to share. She has first dibs now, you know."

She smiles, looking down at the baby who has lost her first eagerness and is now comfortably drinking. "She has no idea yet that breasts have any other function than to provide her with a full tummy."

"Yeah, well, let's keep it that way for another fifteen years or so, shall we?" I say drily and she chuckles.

"I'm not going to breast-feed her for quite that long. One year sounds plenty to me."

"No, I mean, she doesn't need to know about how much fun men think breasts are for quite a while yet."

Scully is silent for a moment. Then, "I hope that one day she'll meet someone she can start a family of her own with."

I let out a short sigh. "Me, too. I mean I'm sure that in about fifteen years' time, things will have changed enough for us to have come into contact with other people. And maybe these people will then have young men of Katherine's age whom she can fall in love with and eventually have children with. It's a long time to go yet, and it may not happen, but we cannot give up hope. I'd love to be a grandparent some day."

She smiles. "Me too, as long as it doesn't happen for another twenty years or so."

"Well, we'll see. Let's first make sure this little treasure grows up."

She lifts the baby and burps her. "Don't say a word," she warns with a grin and I throw up my hands in surrender.

"I wouldn't dare," I say innocently.

"All right, let me just change her diaper and get her cape and you can take her out."

Together we walk upstairs and into the baby room where Scully changes Katherine's diaper expertly. We're using the cloth diapers which she found about 6 months ago in the attic of a neighboring farm, and I'm still trying to get the hang of this folding and pinning of the diapers, but she seems to have it down.



"Do you trust me to take her out?" I ask softly as I watch her dress Katherine.

She pauses in her work and looks at me. "What? Of course I do."

"You won't be around, it'll just be her and me. Do you trust me to keep her safe?"

She finishes putting Katherine's dress on and picks the baby up before she answers me. With Katherine in her arms she turns to face me. I'm surprised by her almost annoyed expression.

"I don't know what the heck you're talking about. I've always trusted you with everything I hold dear in life, why shouldn't I be able to trust you with her?"

I sigh. "Well, I read somewhere, you know, years before the Invasion, that many mothers don't trust the father with the baby until they're quite a bit older than she is. She's so tiny, so vulnerable still and I can understand that maybe- ..."

"I trust you," she interrupts me, "I always have, I always will. So stop those toxic thoughts and enjoy your time with her. It's not worth doubting yourself or me over this," she stands on tip-toes and kisses me. "You're her father and I know you love her. If I didn't know better, I would almost say you love her so much you're borderline cheating on me!" Then she hands me our daughter who fusses for only a moment before settling comfortably in my arms. "Take the baby sling so you'll have your hands free for sowing," she adds.

"You're amazing, you know that?" I say, my voice soft with emotions.

She smiles. "I do actually," she quips, making me chuckle. "Come, go out and get the kale in the ground before it gets too late. Because I do want you to be back home with her before the dew comes in."

I grab the baby sling from the hook and nod. "I will. Can you hold her for a moment while I put the sling on and get the sack of kale seed over my shoulder?"

"Of course."

Together we walk back down the stairs to the kitchen. I put the strap of the sack over my shoulder and then put the baby sling on, ready for Katherine to be put inside. Just before Katherine was born, Scully made the sling from a large piece of cream flannel and it's become one of our most prized possessions -- of the non-living kind of course -- because it allows us to carry her and still have our hands free for whatever activity we're engaged in. I've seen pictures of slings like these from all over the world and the design must be as old as mankind, but it's still a winner.

"Ready?" she asks and I nod.


She grabs a tin field flask from the shelf and fills it with water from a pan. "Here, take this in case you get thirsty. You can give her some as well if she asks for it."

I frown. "Shouldn't you boil the water first?"

She nods. "I did, I was meaning for it to be used for the pickles, but I can boil some more," she reaches up for another quick kiss and then she kisses Katherine on her forehead. "Have fun, you two."

"Thanks, mom," I quip, making her chuckle. Still smiling I walk out of the kitchen and out into the field. Let's do some sowing.

"Do you like butter, Katherine?" I ask. I'm sitting in the shade of the old oak tree where Scully and I got married eight months ago. The branches were bare then but the canopy is full and lush now and the shade is solid. Great for us to take a little break. My daughter is lying on my pulled-up legs, watching me as she sucks on her little fist. I've picked a buttercup and I'm tickling her under her chin with it. "Hey, it looks like you do! Well, you're a great milk-drinker anyway, not that mama is giving you anything else yet."

She sneezes adorably and I throw the flower away. "Uh-oh, I hope those aren't allergies, sweetheart, because we have nothing to treat them with." I wipe her little button nose clean with my handkerchief, and check her eyes and nose. I see no signs of irritation though, so I think it was just a random little sneeze.

I grab the flask and take a large swig of the lukewarm water. I know it was ice cold when it came out of the well, but I don't know how warm it still was from boiling when Scully filled the flask and of course I've had it in the August sun for the past couple of hours. It's still good. "Do you want some?" I ask Katherine. I know she's not going to give me an answer, but I think it might be a good idea to give her some water. I don't want her to get dehydrated. I dribble some water over my hand onto her lips and she opens her mouth, almost lapping the water up like a kitten. I don't have a baby bottle of course, and this way I'm spilling quite a lot of water, but I don't mind. Our well is well-stocked, you could say.

When the flask is empty I put it back into the sack that used to hold the kale seed. I'm basically done sowing and I guess I could go back to the farm, but it's nice out here and I think I want to stay here with my baby girl for a bit longer.

I take her little hands and her tiny fingers curl around my thumbs. I begin to sing a lullaby, moving her arms to the beat. Where this lullaby comes from I have no idea, but it doesn't matter.

And then, suddenly, she smiles at me. For real.

Jesus, did my heart just break?

I feel a tear pooling in the corner of my eye as I watch the sparkle in her baby-blue eyes and the nearly toothless smile that curves that little mouth.

"Do you like this, sweetheart?" I whisper and I have to blink hard to get rid of that tear. I could just wipe my eyes of course, but I don't want to let go of her hands. "Do you like it when I sing you a song? Sure looks like you do, doesn't it?"

So I sing the lullaby some more, moving her arms in time with the song. I swear, They could come now for the second Invasion, and I wouldn't notice a thing, nor give a damn if I did notice. I'm entranced by this little person here on my legs and at this moment I have no other goal in life than to make her smile some more. I think I'm in love.

I've almost come to the end of the lullaby when she gives me a cracking big yawn.

"You're right, isn't it nice and quiet here?" I say as I pick her up from my legs and rest her against my chest. She is a fairly big baby for her 11 weeks, about 24 inches tall now, but she still seems to weigh next to nothing to me. I cup her little bare feet in my hand as I hold her with my other hand and marvel at the miniature perfection of her. "Go to sleep, sweetheart," I whisper. "I'll watch over you."

I undo the top four buttons of the plaid shirt I'm wearing and cradle her against my skin. I don't know why, I just have a sudden intense urge to feel her close. Scully was right, I love this little girl almost more than I love her mother. Maybe it's because something inside me recognizes the kinship, the fact that she is partly me. I made this little gem, I was privileged enough to be able to share my genes and do my bit to create a whole new little person out of the love I feel for her mother. Sure, I love sex as much as the next red-blooded guy, but this gift, this chance to make something so beautiful out of something as exquisite as making love with the woman you adore -- well, let me just say that there is not much that could even come close.

I yawn as well and decide it's time to head back to the house. Before Katherine was born I probably would have chosen to fall asleep here, and maybe if I didn't have her with me, I still might do so now, but I don't want to fall asleep and risk hurting her. I'd never forgive myself.

"Come, princess, let's go home. I had been hoping for a little more in-depth conversation, but if anything you are a great listener," I whisper to my sleeping daughter and I can't help a self-conscious smile. I'm being an idiot and I don't mind at all.

I put the baby sling around my shoulder and carefully put her inside, trying not to jostle her more than strictly necessary. Then, as I bend over to pick up the empty burlap sack I spot something under the tree amongst its roots and I pick it up, amazed at my luck.

"Well, I'll be damned," I mutter.

"Hey, mom, we're home!" I say with a grin when we enter the kitchen. "What's for dinner, we're starving!"

She laughs and walks up to me, taking Katherine from my arms. I pull her in and kiss her.

"Did you enjoy yourselves?" she asks and I nod.

"We did. She smiled at me."

"Your first time?"

I nod happily. "It was, I thought my heart would swell to breaking point."

"Isn't it the best sight? I couldn't believe it when she gave me her first smile."

I feel my ecstatic smile fade a little. Of course she sees it and she cups my jaw in her free hand.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mulder, I didn't mean to take this moment away from you. I didn't realize ..."

I shake my head. "No, I'm an idiot, you spend far more time with her and you're her mom who feeds her and everything. Of course she'd smile at you sooner." I kiss her softly, but lingeringly. "I'm just very glad she gave me that smile. Nothing will ever take that away from me."

She smiles lovingly. "You're a very wise man, you know."

I smile. "Thank you. So, what's for dinner?"

"Peas with new potatoes and goose eggs for you and me, milk as usual for Katherine. So if you want to freshen up, you can do that now, while I drain the potatoes."

"I think Katherine needs a clean diaper, too. Let me take her upstairs and get her changed."

"Could you do that? I need to finish the peas and I think I miscalculated a bit."

"No problem." I take our daughter back in my arms and settle her against me. "I'll be right back."

"Thank you."

I walk up the stairs with Katherine and into the baby room. I put her in her crib for a bit so I can grab the things I need for changing her. We don't have all the fancy powders and creams and all that nonsense I'm sure we would have had if the Invasion had never happened, but strangely enough our baby doesn't seem to suffer any the worse for it. No rash, no irritation, nothing. Maybe those cotton cloth diapers, as cumbersome as they may be at times, do have their advantages.

"My God, Katherine, how can a cute little thing like you smell this bad?" I mutter as I unpin her diaper and throw it into the hamper. The wash house behind the farm has been taken over almost entirely by diapers drying on the wash lines. It's a nearly full-time job to wash them. I'm sure in the past this would have been a woman's job only, but I'm emancipated enough to help Scully out as much as I can. I helped to make Katherine, it's only logical I do my bit to help her clean up the mess this baby leaves behind.

I quickly wash and wipe her clean and put a clean diaper on her, with, I'm pleased to say, only a minimum of fumbling. Would you believe it, I might actually be getting pretty good at this! Then I take a clean nightgown from the cupboard and put it on her. It's quite a fancy one, with Irish crochet lace ruffles along the collar, the bottom edge of the skirt and the short puffy sleeves. She doesn't get to wear it often, but tonight I've decided is going to be a bit of a festive night. Actually, if it looks like it's going to be another hot night, she'll end up sleeping in just her diaper, but for now she looks adorable. And I may not have the clothes to dress up, but that doesn't mean our little princess hasn't.

"Don't you look gorgeous, sweetheart," I say softly as I lift her to inspect her. "You and I are going to give mama a wonderful present." I smile when another thought enters my mind. "Actually, it might be nice if mama could give you and I another one, too, but that's probably a little much to ask, especially since she's still breast-feeding you, huh? Right, I'd think so too. Come to think of it, would you like to have a little brother or sister?"

Katherine looks at me, then blinks twice and gives me another smile, making me grin. "All right! You do! Well, so would I. That is, I'd like you to have a little brother or sister, I mean. You'd probably fight, but on the whole siblings are pretty cool, you know."

I gather her to me and we walk down the stairs back to the kitchen. I pause outside the kitchen and hold her so that she can look at me. There is one more thing I need to tell her. Right now. I have no doubt I'll tell her again later, but she needs to know now too.

"Did you know you have an older brother, Katherine? Well, of course you don't, but you have. Mama and I had to say goodbye to him and we miss him very much. I'm sure he would love you as much as we do." I sigh and kiss her baby-soft cheek. "Maybe one day we'll find him and we'll be truly complete. But for now you're a great addition to this family."

Then I push open the kitchen door and walk in. I spot Scully at the sink and when she turns around I see tears in her eyes. I'm instantly worried.

"What's wrong?" I ask.

She smiles through her tears and shakes her head. "Nothing, I'm just being silly."

I raise my eyebrows as I walk up to her. "You're a lot of things, but silly is not one of them. What is it?"

She takes Katherine and hugs her. "I heard you talking to her," she says softly and I understand. William. Of course.

"I'm sorry."

She shakes her head again. "Don't be, it was sweet. And you're right, we won't be truly complete until William is returned to us."

I sigh. "Too bad the odds of that ever happening are so incredibly small." I could eat these words when I see fresh tears well up in her eyes and I rub my hand over my face. "Oh, I'm sorry, sweetheart, I didn't mean to hurt you like that ..."

She walks into my embrace and the three of us hug for a few moments. "I know," she says.

I tip her face up with my fingers and press a kiss on her mouth. "You know, I promised Katherine a little brother or sister."

She giggles in spite of her tears. "Of course you did. You know you're not the one who will be doing the hardest job, right?"

I smile. "I'd have to do my bit, though."

She huffs. "Last time I checked you didn't seem to mind that bit at all! Come, let's eat or our dinner will be cold."

I want to ask whether Katherine wouldn't need to be fed first, but she's fallen asleep. Guess that answers my question. I smile. "Right."

We eat in relative silence, sharing smiles every now and then. God, I love young peas and new potatoes. In winter we have to rely on whatever we have in store, and really, I know better than to complain, but there is nothing that beats vegetables that are fresh from the garden. Let's face it, these peas probably never even realized they'd been picked before they hit the boiling water! The goose eggs are hard boiled but still the slightest bit runny in the center of the yolk and the potatoes so tender we can eat them with their skins still on. I think we're living in pretty much a post-Apocalyptic Garden of Eden right now.



"Why is Katherine all dressed up in her lace night gown?"

I smile, but don't answer. Good, she's curious.

"No, really," she continues, "what's the occasion? It's not your birthday or mine. Or hers for that matter. It's the beginning of August so none of your beloved kinky pagan celebrations there either. What's up?"

"Kinky celebrations?" I ask, unable to hide my grin.

She raises an eyebrow. "You know exactly what I mean."

I sit back and smile at her. "Katherine and I have a gift for you." We have, or I have, or whatever you want to call it.

She raises an eyebrow, widening my smile even more. "A gift? Must be one heck of a gift then."

I nod enthusiastically. Her voice was a little skeptical, but I don't care, I know I'm doing the right thing. And I know I'm not helping her one bit here. "Oh, it is. It is."

She smiles then, her face losing the disbelief and slight annoyance it held just a moment ago. "And it's Katherine's gift as well?"

I nod. "Yup. Curious yet?"

She laughs, ducking her head. "God help me, but I am."

Just then Katherine starts to fuss, then cry in her playpen and Scully gets up from the table to get her. "I thought it might be about feeding-time for this little one, my breasts are starting to hurt."

I frown. "Your breasts hurt? What's wrong?"

She smiles. "From the pressure of the milk of course." Then she turns to Katherine. "Come, sweetheart, it's time for your dinner," she sits down in the grandfather chair by the stove to nurse our daughter. When they're both settled down and Katherine nursing and generally satisfied for the moment, Scully looks back at me. "So, spill the beans! What's on your mind?"

I draw a kitchen chair up to next to her chair and sit down. I wrap my arm around her shoulder and for a few long moments I say nothing, just look at our daughter drinking.

"Ahem, you have a gift for me," she reminds me, making me look at her. I grin, and reach into the pocket of my pants, deciding it's time to quit teasing her. I wrapped it in a clean handkerchief to reduce the risk of losing it. I pull the handkerchief from the pocket and unwrap it. I do, however, conceal the object for now in the palm of my hand. I can't just hand it to her, this little thing needs a speech. Or something.

"I found it under the old oak," I begin.

"The oak? Why were you even there? The corn fields are way on the other side of the mead-."

I stop her words with a finger to her lips. "Shhh, let me explain," she nods and I drop my hand.

"Katherine and I were taking a break after sowing the kale," I go on. "She was lying on my legs and I was singing a lullaby for her. That's when she smiled at me." I smile involuntarily. Sure, it was nothing truly special, that baby smile, but it cracked open my heart just a little bit more. "I gave her some water to drink, although a bottle would have come in handy big time, if we'd had one. Actually, come to think of it, I sang that lullaby after she had had the water." I chuckle. Whatever.

"Anyway, after a rest and a cuddle, I decided it was time to go back home for dinner. So I gathered all my belongings, put her in the baby sling and stood up. And there it was, just lying amongst the roots of the old tree. I must have passed that spot hundreds of times and I never saw it, but there it was. Guess it was waiting for me."

I open my hand and show her a simple gold ring.

"I think I promised you something about eight months ago ..." I say softly.

Our eyes meet and I'm struck by the open adoration I see in her eyes. "A ring," she whispers. I nod.

"Yeah. I seriously doubt whether it will fit your finger though."

She surprises me by wrapping a hand behind my neck and quite roughly pulling my head to hers and slanting her lips across mine, kissing me hard and deep. If she wanted to find a better way to say thank you, I honestly don't know what it is. Well, nothing that she can take care of right here right now anyway.

"You found a ring for me," she says, her voice betraying her amazement. "I never thought you would."

"Well, I did promise you."

She smiles. "I know, and I know also that you would have done whatever you could to keep that promise, but it's not that easy now."

I take the ring in one hand and take her left hand in the other. Just like I thought, the ring is too big for her ring finger. Or for any other finger for that matter.

"Is there a name inside? It might be a man's ring," she smiles.

"I couldn't find any engraving, I checked when I found it. It's a simple plain gold band," I answer, taking the ring again. I sigh. "It's a pity it doesn't fit, isn't it?"

She changes Katherine to her other breast for some more nursing before she replies.

"Actually, if you can undo my necklace I can wear the ring around my neck. I mean, it would have been nice if I could wear it on my finger, but this is just as good. If anything the ring will be even closer to my heart that way."

I hadn't even thought of that. I reach over and unclasp the delicate gold necklace I know so well. I slip the ring onto the necklace and it comes to rest in my hand next to her cross. Love and Faith, not a bad combination.

"Do you want me to put the necklace back on?" I ask.

"I do, but in a moment. I'm going to take care of Katherine first," she lifts the baby onto her shoulder and with a small towel on her shoulder to catch any milk she might return, proceeds to burp her. It's barely audible this time, making me smile.

"You're growing into a proper little lady, Katherine," I comment, "that was very civilised."

Scully chuckles. "Well, we can but hope." Then she turns to our baby. "Let's get you ready for the night, sweetheart, and daddy and I can talk a bit more."

Talk? Actually, I was hoping for a little more than just talk, but I can be patient. I mean, I have yet to see the day when she refuses me sex. She may look all cool and composed on the outside, but there's a sex-loving minx under those plain oversized overalls and we just can't get enough of each other, even after all this time together. I think the only time she actively pushed me away was during the first few weeks after Katherine was born -- broken nights and a recovering body would have taken a toll on anyone, even when the swine in me was still lusting after her -- and back then she couldn't even have physically allowed me to have sex with her. I think the normal period of abstinence after delivering a baby is about six to eight weeks at least -- we were at it after only five weeks. Well, what can I say: I was horny, she was horny, and Katherine had just begun to sleep for more than three hours at a stretch. I absolutely had to have her, and I was ready to sing hallelujah when she nearly pounced on me one night. I know we didn't make another baby that night, but let me tell you, it wasn't for a lack of enthusiasm on our part.

I put the necklace on the kitchen table and follow them up the stairs. There I watch Scully change Katherine into her little cotton nightshirt, carefully checking the night gown she was wearing for stains and then folding it and putting it away again.

"Do you mind that I put that on her? I know it's a pain to wash," I say, feeling a little contrite.

She smiles. "It's all right. I don't know if I would have dressed her in it, but she has the gown anyway and she'll grow out of it very soon. At least she has worn it one more time now. I'll bet that in a month or so that garment will no longer fit her."

"She's growing so fast. I remember holding her just after she was born, and she was so tiny!"

Scully huffs softly. "That's not my memory from right after she was born. She felt big enough to me."

I chuckle, dropping the subject. If I want Katherine to have a brother or sister, it might be a wise move not to remind Scully unduly of how hard Katherine's labor was. Not that she'll ever forget of course. "How long will it take for you to get Katherine in bed?"

"Mmm, I want to give her a sponge bath and I'm going to sing her a few songs. About fifteen minutes I think. Why?"

"I'll go and check up on the animals then. You know, fill up the feeding and water troughs and get the chickens into the chicken coop for the night. Because ..." And I bend over to press a hot kiss on the side of her neck, right over her pulse. "... I have plans for you for tonight."

I feel her shudder and she lets out a hitching breath. When our eyes meet I see the fire in her eyes. "I'll be there," she just says, her voice a little huskier than usual.

"Good," I reply, trailing my hand over her cheek. It feels as though I'm setting both of us on fire.

Then I leave to take care of our animals. If we can just get the creatures in our care, human and animal, ready for the night, we'll have all the time we want for our own selfish lustful pleasures. I can't wait.

Well, we survived to see another Christmas! Another Christmas, another year where They didn't find us -- or at the very least didn't try to kill us. Something in me seriously doubts whether They are truly unaware of our presence, but even if They know we are here, They are leaving us alone for the moment. Maybe They have achieved Their goal of world domination, maybe They're not even on this planet anymore. God knows. All I know is that the three of us have made it so far and I'm truly grateful.

I'm carrying a pail of wood into the living room, ready to add to the fire. It's our once-a-year-because-it's-Christmas fire: big, roaring, and toasty warm. Katherine is in her playpen quite near the fire, a sheet covering two of the four sides of her pen to protect her from the draft we simply cannot keep out. It's an old house and terribly drafty. Scully is in the kitchen, preparing Christmas dinner. We wanted to exchange gifts last night, but we had an emergency with Bessie's calf, Nana -- that name is Katherine's doing and we don't see any reason to change it -- who had tripped over what seemed to have been some compacted hay and straw in her pen and couldn't get up, so that was the end of that festivity. But, Nana is fine and back with her mother, and we are celebrating Christmas properly today.

I put some more logs on the fire while I listen to Katherine babbling away in her playpen. I smile, delighted by the simple joy she brings. This little girl is such an easy baby to have, it almost makes me doubt the wisdom of wanting another child. I mean, we must have hit the jackpot with this one, and I'm not sure we have enough good karma for another one like her. Knowing our luck, the next one would probably burn the house down.

I pick her up from her pen and together we walk into the kitchen. We don't have a fire place there, but we do have our trusty farm stove which gives off at least as much heat. It's torture in summer, but a blessing in winter.

"Hi, mama," I say, waving Katherine's hand at Scully.

She smiles widely. She leaves the cooking for a moment to come up to us, and gives our daughter a kiss on her cheek, then kisses me on the lips.

"Hello, sweetheart," she says to Katherine. Then she looks at me, an unexpected heat darkening her blue eyes. "Hey, gorgeous."

I feel my body react. Really? This could mean a pretty good Christmas if I read this correctly.

"How's Christmas dinner?"

She nods. "About ready to serve. That was a nice goose you picked out, good and fat. And I made mashed potatoes with gravy and red cabbage with apples. And custard for dessert."

I smile. "We're having dessert?" This may sound like a stupid question, but we haven't done dessert more than once or twice since we moved in here. Well, except for seasonal fruit when we can just pick it from the plant or up off the ground. But cooked desserts are a rarity. And I'm looking forward to it. A lot. I mean, I'm going to have custard, served by a horny woman. What more could a man ask for, right?

"Yes. I do hope the custard is all right though. I mean, I've never made proper egg custard before and I even had to replace the sugar with honey, so I just hope it'll set. But if it doesn't we can always drink it as a non-alcoholic eggnog."

I chuckle, sitting down at the kitchen table with Katherine on my lap. "I'm sure it'll be great. Is Katherine's dinner ready?"

She nods. "Yes. I mashed some red cabbage into the potato mash and added some of last night's chicken which I saved in cold water for her. I don't think she should have the goose, that is too fatty for her still."

"Shall I feed her so you can continue with our dinner?"

"Would you do that? The goose needs to be taken out of the oven to rest and I still have to mash our potatoes. Thank you."

She plates up Katherine's mashed-up food and sets it in front of me with the tea spoon we use for feeding her. It's only a small amount of food, she still gets the majority of her nourishment from breast-feeding, but about a month ago she started showing interest in our own food so we knew it was time to introduce her to solids. And so far she's not doing too badly. I mean, of course she fusses over certain foods and sometimes just plain refuses to eat them, but on the whole I think she won't be too much of a hassle.

And this dish certainly goes down a treat.

In pretty much record-breaking time I finish her dinner. "Are you still hungry, sweetie? Well, I'm afraid we'll have to look at mama to combat that and maybe if ask her really nicely, she'll give you some dessert," I say softly. "Hey, can you do puppy-dog eyes? She's a sucker for that."

"I heard that," Scully says, making me grin. I rise from the table and, with our daughter still in my arms, bend over her shoulder, kissing her neck.

"I know," I just say and she chuckles.

"Of course you do," she hands me the wooden spoon, one of the set I made for her last year I'm pleased to see. "Keep an eye on the cabbage and stir it every now and then while I nurse her. I want to eat and do the gifts before she falls asleep," she leans in and whispers, "And then you can unwrap another gift if you think you're up to it."

I feel the heat rising in my body. "You bet I am."

She giggles. "I had no doubt," she kisses me softly. "I'll feed her and then we can eat, okay?"


We spend the next few minutes in comfortable silence, the quiet only broken by the soft suckling sounds from our child, the bubbling of the food, and the crackle and soft roar of the wood fire in the stove. It's extremely domestic and I can't believe how comforting it is.

"I think that's it," she says as she buttons up her blouse and then burps Katherine. Scully's wearing a skirt she made and the blouse she was wearing when we came here -- I'm amazed she managed to get almost alll the stains out, although there is still a faint blood stain on one of the sleeves -- and she looks stunning to me. She gets up and puts Katherine back in the playpen, then joins me at the stove. "Come, let's eat."

I take two large plates and we plate up. I look at the amount she takes for herself and smile, recalling the bird-like servings she used to take before the Invasion, but our current existence demands more nourishment and I'm glad she's given in. I adore a woman who eats with gusto. We sit down at the kitchen table and dig in.

"It's good, isn't it?" she says and I nod.

"This is great. You know, I once had goose for Christmas as a kid, but it never tasted this good. It wasn't nearly as juicy either."

She smiles. "Well, I don't think that's all thanks to my culinary skills. This goose has had a great life; it wasn't a factory goose, fattened up in the shortest amount of time to make as much money as possible. It would stand to reason one could taste the difference."

I nod. "I'm sure you're right. Of course the company in which this goose is eaten is definitely better than it was back then," I say as I finish my food and put down my knife and fork.

She looks at me for a moment before she speaks. "Was this before or after Samantha was taken."

I smile a little ruefully. "Actually, it was after that. Like I said, the company now is a lot better."

She lets out a short sigh and I see a saddened look in her eyes. She doesn't speak for the longest time, but the ever-changing expression on her face and in her eyes tells me more of her compassion than any words ever could. She sighs again and reaches out to take my hand. "Are we making it better?"

I smile. "Infinitely better."

"Even in the current situation?"

"Especially in the current situation," I reply. I wait until she has finished eating, then get up from my seat and walk over to her, holding out my hands for her to take. She takes them and stands up as well, allowing me to gently pull her into my embrace. "I mean, honestly, what do I possibly have to complain about? I'm alive, with the woman I love most, I have a gorgeous little daughter, a house, a livelihood ... In the world as it stands today, this is a miracle, an absolute fortune. We have no money left, but ..." I kiss her. "... as cliché? as it may sound, I truly feel I'm a rich man."

She's smiling widely, but her eyes are suspiciously moist. "Why are you always so wise?"

I huff. "Always? You have grown a decidedly selective memory, Dana, because I seriously doubt whether even my slighter smarter moves come close to outnumbering the ones of incredible stupidity."

She wraps her arms around her neck and reaches up to bring her face closer to me. "Call it selective, call it whatever you like, but I'm sticking with this opinion. You're a wise man, whether you like the idea or not. Deal with it."

I chuckle and kiss her briefly. "Oh, I like it. And I can deal with it." Then we kiss for real.

"We still have the custard," she murmurs against my lips when we end the kiss.

"Bring it into the living room," I reply. "I want to give you my presents."

She smiles. "You're awfully eager."

"It'll only get worse the further this evening will proceed, I'm afraid."

She blushes a little and I see fire in her eyes. "You know, Katherine is still too young to realize there are gifts to be exchanged. We could postpone it till tomorrow ..."

I laugh. "Who's the eager one now, eh? No, we'll do this properly, and we can still enjoy one another tonight, after Katherine is in bed."

"She sleeps in our room. What should we do about that?"

I think for a moment. "We can either move her crib downstairs into the kitchen and keep the stove on for warmth, or ... we ignore all modern ideas about privacy and make love while she's in the room."

"Mulder, we can't do that!"

"Actually, I think it's a fairly modern idea that children are kept ignorant about all things sexual, it probably only started in the early 20th century. And growing up on a farm she'll see animals mating anyway. We can't hide the sex. Can we afford to be circumspect about our own love life?"

She sighs. "Maybe you're right ... but I would still rather let her sleep in the kitchen."

I smile. "Yeah, I think we'd better do that. You're right."

"Well, we'll have to see about that, but I feel better that way now," she smiles and I grin, kissing her quickly, then letting her go.

"Can you bring the custard? I'll get Katherine. Or would you like to bring her? I don't mind."

"I'm fine. If you'd like to carry her, you can."

I smile, walking over to the playpen to pick Katherine up and hugging her to me. "Hey, sweetie," I say to her and she looks at me, her little fist back in her mouth. I'm sure it's her idea of a substitute for a pacifier. "It's Christmas, you know that? Well, of course you don't, but this is a very special day." I smile widely at her and she smiles, her fist still in her mouth. "Yes, it is!" She answers by softly pouncing me in the cheek with her wet fist and I wipe the baby spittle away. Thanks, sweetheart ... Oh well.

Scully has taken the large bowl of custard and two dessert bowls with a couple of spoons and together the three of us walk into the living room. The fire is still going pretty strong in the fireplace so we sit down on the couch, Katherine snugly seated between us. We have the small spruce next to the fireplace again, just like last year, but this time we've decorated the tree with painted walnuts instead of popcorn. I made some stars and other ornaments out of scraps of wood and the cloth star on top of the tree is in place too. We placed our gifts under the tree where they should be. Perfect.

"Last year we were just two," she says and I nod.

"I had no idea we'd be seated here like this one year later: still safe, well-fed, well taken care of, and with a little treasure like this between us."

She nods. "You know, last year we gave thanks for what we had -- and we'd had a pretty awful year. With all our good fortune of the past year, I don't think we should let this moment pass without again giving thanks to where it's due. We cannot afford to become complacent in our comfort."

"Da!" Katherine says, interrupting us. She points at the tree and looks at her mother, who smiles.

"That's right, that's our Christmas tree. Do you like it?"

"Da," she replies and I grin. Scully picks her up and hugs her, allowing me to move closer to the two women I love most in the world. I pull them into my arms and we just sit.

"Do you want to pray?" I whisper and Scully nods.

"I do," she folds Katherine's chubby little hands between her own and then, to her surprise it seems, I cover her hands with my own. "Do you want to pray, too?"

"In my own silly little ways, I do and I will," I say with a half-smile. It's at moments like these that I wonder why I'm such a lucky man when I've never given much of a moment's thought as to where all this might have come from.

She covers my mouth with hers and kisses me tenderly for long moments.

"I thought you wanted to pray," I whisper when our lips part and she smiles.

"I do, but I'm not na?ve enough to think that my happiness doesn't come first and foremost from you. I know God has played His part, but you make it happen every day."

Damn it, how can I keep it together now? I feel my eyes tear up and I blink furiously. "You give me way too much credit."

"No, I don't. Shhh, let's just sit here for a few minutes -- if Katherine will let us of course -- and send up a little gratitude to whatever or whoever we think should receive it."

I sigh. "I'm not entirely convinced God will listen to me."

She gives me a little smile. "I think you'd be surprised, but that's not important right now."

I smile, and watch her bow her head and close her eyes. Katherine looks at her mother with huge eyes. Then she turns to look at me and, probably because I'm returning her gaze, lets a big smile appear on her little face.

I think I just found my prayer ...

We sit in silence for a while. Last year I did send up thoughts, but this time I'm just looking at what I have been given to love. I bend in to give Katherine a soft kiss on her fuzzy little head and she giggles.

"Did you pray?" Scully whispers after a little while and I smile.

"Yeah, I looked at Katherine and she smiled and giggled for me," I just say.

For a moment she's confused, but then her features become more soft and tender than I have seen in a long time. "That's beautiful," she whispers. I let go of her hands and she, in turn, releases Katherine's tiny hands. "Come, I'll scoop some custard in our bowls and we can start unwrapping our gifts."

I smile widely. "All right!"

She chuckles. "Deep down inside you there is still that little boy eager for gifts, isn't there?"

I lean in. "A little boy? That's not what you called me two nights ago."

She returns my gaze unashamedly. "No, I didn't," she says in a low voice. "And I'll bet I won't do so tonight either."

"Keep that up and Katherine will miss her first Christmas!" I growl, making her giggle.

"Well, we couldn't do that to her. What kind of parents would that make us? Besides, we can play all we like tonight. Come, it's time to exchange some gifts before she falls asleep on us."

"Yeah, you're right. I'll go first." I get up from the couch and take my gift to her. This year we have obviously both made a little more effort to spruce up the gift wrapping, and I've used old wallpaper I found in the attic. Scully appears to have used brightly colored fabrics. Looks pretty good actually. Sitting back on the couch I hand her my gift.

"It's heavy," she remarks when she takes the large square gift.

I smile. "It is. Come, open it!"

She peels away the stiff paper to reveal her gift.

"A checkers game! Did you make this yourself?"

I nod. "I did. I wanted to make a chess set, but my wood carving skills are not up to carving two full sets of chessmen yet. So, yeah, checkers it is. But we can always just write the names of the chess pieces on the disks and play chess."

"I used to play checkers with Ahab."

I nod. "I know. Your mother told me that years ago. She said you were quite the master."

She smiles. "My father didn't like it much, the way his daughter used to kick his ass at a board game," she reaches over and kisses me. "Thank you, this is lovely!"

I smile. "You're welcome."

She moves over to the tree and picks up a tube-shaped gift, handing it to me. There is a little note attached, saying, 'From Katherine for Papa.' I look at Scully who tries to look ignorant.

"Open it," she says, "Katherine is all eager to know what you think of her gift."

I grin. "I have no doubt," I say, as I see our daughter playing with her knitted shoe, completely oblivious to or uninterested by what is going on.

I open the gift to reveal a sheet of rolled-up paper and I unroll it.

"It's a drawing," I say and Scully nods.

"She made it when you were working in the living room two weeks ago, whitewashing the fireplace surround. She was watching you so I gave her this paper and a pencil and she starting scribbling. I think she was trying to draw you."

I smile, insanely pleased with the scratches on the paper. I kiss Katherine on her cheek, causing a little startled shriek, but thankfully no tears, and then I move in to kiss her mother. "This is amazing, thank you."

"You're welcome," she replies softly.

"Let's have some custard before we continue," I say. "We have all night."

She looks at our baby, who is already starting to fall asleep and she chuckles. "Maybe we don't. Let's give her her gifts first, and I'll put her to bed and then we'll continue."

"Okay, you're right. It's my turn now." I rise from the couch. I pick up my gift for Katherine and give it to her. She seems quite surprised by this, and immediately begins to chew on a corner, causing an alarmed action from both of us.

"Hold it, sweetie, I don't know how non-toxic this paper is," Scully says and she gently takes the gift from her little hands, unwrapping it. She looks at me when she sees what I made. "It's a car."

I nod. "It is. I even got the wheels to spin, see?" I carved a simple wooden car out of a piece of beech wood and used filed-off iron nails for the axles. "Of course, if you think they're too dangerous for her yet I can take them off."

She smiles. "We'll see what she does, maybe we'll have to. But for now it looks good." Then she chuckles. "How are we ever going to explain to her what a car is? She'll never get to see one as the current situation stands."

I smile. "I hadn't even thought of that. Well, we'll just see about that when the situation arises, shall we? She may not even question it."

"Mmm, knowing the mind of her father, I wouldn't be too sure about that. If she's anything like you, she'll question absolutely everything eventually."

I chuckle. "Yeah, well, let's deal with that when we need to, okay?"

"You're right. My turn now."

She takes a small parcel from under the tree and hands it to Katherine. "Here you go, sweetheart."

Looking just as surprised by this as she was when I gave her my present she stares at her mother, her eyes large and her rosebud mouth open in astonishment. We both crack up at the sight and I gently take the gift from her chubby little hands. "Come, sweetie, I'll unwrap it for you, okay?"

I undo the ribbon that holds the piece of fabric closed. "Look at this, Katherine, Mama made you a cow!"

"Ga!" she says, pointing at the small brown knitted animal and I swear I see Scully nearly tear up with pride.

"That's right, it's a cow!" I comment with a wide smile. Then I look at Scully. "You made her a cow, that's so cool!"

"She loves Bessie's calf and seeing that she was born only a day after Bessie gave birth to the little heifer, it feels like they're almost, well, twins in a way, doesn't it? I've always had a feeling there is a special connection between these two so I made her a little stuffed cow to cuddle until she's big enough to cuddle the real thing."

"You are amazing," I just say.

"Yeah, well, let's just see about that."

Katherine has her cow in her arms, inspecting it carefully. Then she looks back at her mother. "Ga!" she says again, making us both smile, and causing a smile in her as well.

"Looks like she has a favorite already," Scully says, gathering her up in her arms and I smile.

"My car is sadly forgotten it seems."

"Oh, I'm sure she'll play with it eventually," she says softly, a tone of pity in her voice and I chuckle.

"Don't feel sorry, I doubt whether she's even old enough yet to be playing with toys like that." I kiss her cheek. "I'm fine and I think she is too, she looks very happy with her presents."

She kisses me back. "Yes, she does. I think we've both done very well."

We look down at our daughter and we smile, seeing how she's quickly nodding off, her fist back in her mouth for comfort, her cow tucked in under her little arms.

"Are we still having her sleep in the kitchen?" I ask.

Scully chuckles softly. "Maybe she'd better. I want to continue our Christmas celebrations for as long as we possibly can."

I growl softly. "Oh yeah ..." I lean in and kiss her hot. When we part I'm pleased by the heated expression I see in her eyes and I grin. "I'll go and fetch her crib if you can make her ready for bed?"

She gets up, settling a sleeping Katherine in her arms. "Sounds like a great plan." Together we walk up the stairs.

"When you're in the kitchen and ready with her crib, can you put some more logs on the fire in the stove?" she says when we're in the baby room. "I usually let the fire die down to embers, but of course we need to kitchen to remain warm tonight."

I pick up the crib. "No problem." Then I carry the crib down the stairs. It's made out of wicker so it's fairly light-weight, thank God. She's starting to grow out of it, though, maybe I could find some time to make her a bed one of these weeks. Oh, wait, I think I saw a child's bed in one of the other farms when I was on yet another foraging expedition a couple of months ago. If it's still in okay condition, maybe I can take the horse and cart and bring it home.

I've just finished putting another few logs onto the fire in the cast-iron stove when Scully enters the kitchen with Katherine, dressed in her little flannel nightgown in her arms.

"The excitement of Christmas has worn her out," she comments, making me smile. "Doesn't she look just like a little angel?"

"She looks adorable, but of course even the worst kids look like angels when they're asleep."

She smiles and I watch her as she tucks our daughter in for the night. Then we go back into the living room where we snuggle up together on the couch in front of the fire. We don't speak for the longest time.

I look at her when she sighs, and I'm a little worried, but she smiles in response. "I'm not sad," she says softly, making me chuckle. She must have read my mind.


"We still have gifts waiting, you know."

"I know."

"Don't you want to know what I got you?"

"Well, yeah, I do, but we have time. And of course there is still Katherine's gift to you," I smile. "It's a pity she's not awake anymore to give it to you."

She chuckles. "She would probably have tried to eat it."

"She probably would have, yes." I let out a lazy groan as I get up. "I'll get Katherine's gift to you." I take the small box from under the tree and sit back next to her. "Here you go. This is from Katherine, although I'm not sure she realized or understood what I wanted her to do."

Scully smiles. "Thank you. Do you mean she helped?"

I nod. "She did actually, although I needed some time because she's pretty fidgety at the moment. Come, open it."

She unwraps the small box and opens the lid.

"Oh, Mulder, this is fantastic!" she says with a delighted smile.

She's holding up two pieces of baked clay, one of which has the imprint of Katherine's little hand, the other one an imprint of her foot.

"Where did you get the idea for this?"

"Actually," I say, "it came from seeing her play in the mud puddle in the back yard this September. I saw the small hand prints all over the water trough and little muddy foot prints on the stone slabs, and I knew I wanted to make this more permanent. So I did. It solved the problem of finding you a gift from Katherine as well, so, you know, two birds with one stone and all that."

"Is this clay from the stream?"

I nod. "It is. I air-dried the pieces in the barn for a good two months and then baked them in the stove about a month ago while you were outside tending to the vegetable patch to make it ready for winter. I knew you'd be occupied by that task for a few hours, which gave me the ideal opportunity to bake the clay. Actually, I'm amazed they didn't shatter in the oven after all my efforts."

She reaches for me and kisses me. "Thank you. This is amazing, I love it!"

I smile. "I'm glad. It was fun making them, even when Katherine found it decidedly tough to keep still for even those few moments I needed to make the imprints."

"I can imagine that. I think these days the only moments she's fairly still is when she nurses or when she sleeps. She's quite a bundle of energy."

"She is," I reply. Then I yawn, surprising us both. "Oh man, I don't know where that came from."

She smiles. "And here I thought we'd put Katherine in the kitchen for a good reason. But it looks like you're not even going to make it."

I huff. "Oh yes, I am. That yawn meant nothing."

She chuckles. "Then you'll have to prove it to me when we go to bed. But first there is still my gift to you," she gets up from the couch and takes the last present. "Actually, it's a bit of a joke, but, well, I didn't really have time to knit you another sweater or something useful like that."

"So it's not another baby either then?" I smile, making her blush.

"I'm afraid not. We can try again tonight though."

"You know I don't mind that one little bit." Then I unwrap the small gift. Inside I find a white feather with a black tip, a small bag of dried lima beans and two notes. I look at her and she nods encouragingly.

"Read the note that comes with the beans," she says.

I smile and begin to read, my grin widening as I go along.

"Cowboy Bubble Bath So you are a cowboy Well, here's a cowboy treat Boil them in some water Eat all that you can eat! Draw yourself a nice warm bath- In an hour quit your hooting- Bubbles galore will fill the tub As you find yourself a-tootin'! Pretty soon you'll sing a song Then you'll start to laugh 'Cause you'll find you're sitting In a cowboy bubble bath!"

By the end I'm laughing out loud. "A Cowboy Bubble Bath? Scully, this is hilarious!"

She grins, too. "Remember that bean stew we had a month ago? That night was a disaster, wasn't it? But it did give me the idea for this gift."

"You're crazy, but I love it!" I smile. Then I take the feather. "Is this so I can be an Indian as well as a Cowboy?"

She shakes her head, her expression more tender now. "No, this is more serious," she takes a deep breath. "I worry about you quite a lot. I mean, you're out in the fields and I don't really know where you are, I can't see you. And, well, it scares me sometimes, because I don't want to ... Well, I need you, you know. And Katherine needs you and ... I'm always scared that ... that something will happen to you and I'm going to lose you ..." I realize from her halting speech that she really feels this deep down inside and I'm touched.

"Oh, sweetheart, you know I'm not going anywhere!"

"I know, but it's not always up to you or me or whoever. And, well, I thought you might like a good luck trophy. Or something," she hands me the note that comes with the feather. "It's, well, it's from your Guardian Angel."

"Might be a bit too late, seeing that my Guardian Angel is already sitting right next to me," I say in a low voice, looking her in the eyes.

She smiles in response, her eyes soft. "Just read it," she whispers.


Your Guardian Angel Feather I am an angel feather, sent from God above. To serve as a reminder, he watches and sends his love. I'm from your guardian angel, that the Lord assigned to you. He dropped it in his struggles, as he protected you. Each time you almost stumble, each time you nearly fall. Thank God and all his angels, for answering your call.

By the end of the poem I swear I feel tears in my eyes -- and I'm not afraid to admit it. "Oh, Dana ..." I can't say anything else.

She smiles a little uncertainly. "Well, it's not really anything useful, but like I said I didn't really have time and ..."

"These are the best gifts," I tell her and I mean it. "You've put a lot of thought into them and you've given them to me because you truly care. Thank you."

Her smile widens, becoming more confident. "You're welcome. I love the checkers board you made. Do you want to play?"

I let a grin creep across my face. "Oh, I want to play, but not at checkers."

"What about the custard?"

I cut a quick, disdainful look at the dessert. "Are you serious? When you just asked me if I wanted to play?"

She giggles and gets to her feet. She holds out her hand in invitation. "Then, let's play."

I don't waste a moment following her up the stairs. Let's play indeed!

"Katherine, come here," I say as I chase our daughter around the living room. She's been crawling for about a month now and she's getting pretty darn good at it. This girl sure can pick up speed if she chooses to! She's eight months old now and a strong little girl. I want to keep her away from the fire in the fireplace, but sometimes it's not easy to curb her curiosity.

I scoop her up from the floor, making her squeal in delight. I hug her to me. "Here you are, you cute little devil!" I grin. "Come, it's time to eat, mama has your dinner all ready." I hoist her up, her little diapered fanny on my left arm so she can sit comfortably, her little arms around my neck. Together we walk into the kitchen. "Here we are, mama," I say and Scully smiles.

"Good, dinner is almost ready. I finished hers so I can feed her before we eat."

"What are we having?"

"Mash of green cabbage and potatoes, and sausages for us, pureed mash for Katherine."

I see the small plate of mash for her and I frown. "Looks like she already ate this," I say, then clap my hand in front of my mouth. Shit, that came out badly. "Oh, shit, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that!"

I'm surprised when I see her grin. "Yes, you did. And it does sort of look like puke, doesn't it?"

I smile. "She never seems to mind."

She takes the baby and sits her on her lap, ready to feed her. "No, she doesn't, and I'm glad, because it's not as though we have such a variety of food to give her."

We don't have a high chair so we take turns feeding Katherine while she sits on our laps. She eats solids now, even when they still have to be pureed for her, and Scully nurses her to top her off, making for what looks like a very happy little girl. I'm sure she doesn't really need the milk anymore, but Scully loves nursing her. And who are we to complain? Katherine certainly doesn't.

I think it's time I spent some time making a high chair for her though. Or at least go round the other farms to see if they have a high chair somewhere. This just isn't practical.

"How are the animals doing? Did you get a chance to check up on them yet?"

"They seem okay as far as I could see, but two of the older sheep are a bit poorly. I wonder if they'll make it to spring to be honest."

She frowns. "Are they suffering?"

I sigh. "I don't know. Animals are so good at hiding their discomfort that sometimes I'm worried I'm not picking up on the signals they give off and they suffer unnecessarily."

She gives Katherine another bite to eat before she answers. "Do you think it would be better to slaughter them? I mean, we could use the meat for stew and if they are suffering it might be a more humane thing to do. Are you talking about those two black and white sheep?"

I nod. Katherine has finished her mash and Scully gets up to nurse her by the stove. It's freezing cold in the house, but the living room and kitchen are nice and warm thanks to the wood fires, and with the exception of our bedroom where we have an open fireplace -- Katherine still sleeps in our room because of the cold in her unheated little room -- these are the only two rooms we use in the house. In summer we utilise the other rooms in this, actually pretty big, farm, but right now that's simply not doable.

"Can you stir the mash for me?" she asks as she lets our daughter drink.

I get up and give the mash a good stir. These enameled cast-iron pans are the best non-stick pans I have ever seen. Sure, they are old-fashioned, but my God do they work.

"Here you go, sweetheart, all done," I hear Scully say to Katherine and I look round to see her re-adjust her own clothes. She gets up from the chair and puts our daughter in her playpen. The wooden animals she was not interested in all those months ago are now quite the favorites. She also loves her little cow, and it's a downright disaster when she can't find it when she goes to sleep. She has some wooden blocks and a couple of fabric balls and seems quite content with this meager lot.

Sometimes it boggles my mind that this child will most likely grow up without ever knowing about computers, cell-phones and other electronic gadgets we used to think we couldn't live without. We don't have any books in the house except for an old Bible, but I'm writing poetry and stories in my free time and I plan on telling her all the fairytales I can remember.

Scully plates up the mash and sausages for us and we sit down to eat. After saying grace -- quickly this time, I'm ashamed to say, because I'm so hungry -- we dig in.

We eat in relative silence. I'm not really much of a fan of mash, but in January our options are becoming increasingly limited. Besides, the pork sausages are pretty darn good. We ran out of salt in October so Scully had to resort to using herbs in her cooking and these sausages are definitely one of the better attempts.

"So, what are we going to do with those sheep?" she asks when we've finished our dinner.

I put down my fork and knife and sigh. "I think I'll slaughter them if you have time to process the meat. They are getting on in years and won't give us any more lambs. Besides, I think the cold will kill them off no matter what."

She nods. "I can make time tomorrow, if you have time to help. I'll see if I can find a recipe for black pudding in Mary-Ellen's cook book to use the blood and fat. And I can cure the mutton if you can hang the hooks in the smoking barrel tomorrow morning for smoking. Do we have saw dust?"

I nod. "I'm sure we have, but I'll check just to be certain. All right, let's do that. If you want to make black pudding I'll need you to catch the blood though, I can't keep the sheep still and save the blood at the same time."

She sighs. "Yeah, I know," she bites her lips. "Poor things, I hate it when we have to kill them, for whatever reason."

I nod. "I know, it just feels cruel, doesn't it? But at least we know they had a good life and these sheep would have died soon anyway."

She smiles a little. "I know. I'm being totally unrealistic," she takes a deep breath and gets up from the table. "I guess I'd better see about that recipe then. We can't afford to lose the blood, it's too nutritious to waste."

"All right. I think I'm going outside, get some more wood for the fire. I checked out the sky when I was walking back from the pens and it looks like we might have a lot more snow. I don't want us to be stuck indoors with not enough firewood to sit out a blizzard."

"You think it's going to be that bad?"

I nod. "Could well be, the sky is that really dark slate color I saw last year. It doesn't bode well. Remember that blizzard we had last winter, when we were stuck inside for three days? The sky looks just like that time."

"Yeah, I remember. I honestly thought we'd lost the entire harvest then. And we did lose some of the animals to the cold. It was bad. Do you think one of us should prepare the animals for the snow storm? You know, seal off cracks in the door and walls to the pen, perhaps give them extra food?"

I frown and nod. "That's probably a good idea, yes. Do you want me to do that, or ..."

She shakes her head. "No, I'll go and look after the animals. That's my task in this household anyway, isn't it? If you can carry in some more wood for the fire and the stove, I'll see to the livestock. Do you still have those burlap sacks in the stable? I was thinking of using those to seal out the draft."

"They should be there. I think they're by the tools, otherwise they're in the granary, I can't actually remember now. But, yeah, they're in there somewhere."

"Okay," she says, putting on her big coat and a scarf she knitted. "I'll be right back. Can you look after Katherine for a bit until I get back?"

I nod. "I will. Be careful!"

I hear the kitchen door close behind her and I sit on a chair next to Katherine's playpen.

"Well, Katherine, it's you and I now," I say and she smiles at me. I lift her out of her pen and onto my lap. "Mama is going to take care of the animals."

"Ga!" she says, making me smile. I pick up the knitted cow she got for Christmas and she grabs it.

"That's right, your cow. We have real cows, too, but you already know that, don't you?" I say, watching her. I smile then. "I never thought my daughter would be a farmer," I add and chuckle softly.

Let's be honest, I didn't even think I'd ever have a daughter, period. Come what may, but I'm a lucky man.

I wake up with a ray of sunshine hitting me straight in the eyes. I must have forgotten to close the curtains properly last night. I don't like waking up like this, it's too abrupt, it's too ... too much like an alarm clock.

Haven't woken up to one of those in a long while ...

I roll over and pull the sheet and blankets over my head, denying the arrival of a new day. Then I hear Katherine crying, and I sigh, knowing it's futile to stay in bed. Our daughter needs us and so do our animals.

"Scully, are you awake?" I say softly, stroking her face. I'm surprised by the feverish skin I touch.

"Mulder? I'm ... I don't feel so good ..."

I'm instantly worried. "What's wrong?"

She looks pale and a thin sheen of sweat is covering her face. "Don't know. I feel nauseous and my head hurts like a bitch."

My worry grows from just, well, worry to almost full-blown panic. "Are you going to be okay? This is not ... It's not serious, right?"

She smiles weakly. "I think it's just a fever, a bug or something which my body is trying to fight." Then her smile fades. "I feel awful though ..."

I hear Katherine crying even harder. "I need to go get our little girl, we can't let her cry."

She nods. "Go get her. I'll see if I can feed her."

I shake my head. "No, you're in no condition to feed her."

"But she needs her milk!"

I sigh, getting out of bed. The sun may be shining, but it's only early March and the air is still freezing cold. I quickly put on my clothes and shoes and peer through a slit in the curtains. It's a beautiful early spring morning. "She's taking solids as well, you know that. And I'll get some milk from Bessie. It's not perfect for her, but it's clean and mother's milk, and it'll tide her over until you're better again. It won't do her any good if she catches whatever you have. Go and try to get some more sleep, and I'll bring you some breakfast, okay?"

I'm not even going to contemplate the option that she might not get better. I shake my head as I walk towards the baby room. No, thinking like that is completely counter-productive.

Inside, Katherine is now screaming her little head off. I pick her up, wrap a soft blanket around her and cuddle her, trying to calm her down.

"I know, I know," I say softly. "You are hungry and you need a clean diaper, don't you? Well, it's up to you and me now, sweetheart, because mama isn't feeling so well."

I carry her downstairs into the kitchen and give her some water to drink. Baby formula would be ideal now, but for want of that we keep some boiled water in a bottle on the kitchen counter at all times. It's not going to give her any nutrition, but it does fill her tummy for a moment and gives us time to find something better. I pick up a clean tea spoon and spoon feed her some of the water. She readily laps it up, at long last calming down. Good, because I now know I'll have to milk Bessie to get milk for our daughter and this girl is already hungry. We can only hope she'll stay calm long enough.

Together we cross the small paddock and into the stable where the animals are housed and I go into Bessie's pen. Nana is drinking from her mother and I sit next to them, Katherine in my lap.

"Hi Bessie," I say as the cow looks round to see what's going on. It's a beautiful gentle creature and I'm not afraid she'll hurt either me or Katherine. "Hi Nana."

"Na-na," Katherine says, pointing her chubby little finger at Bessie.

I smile. "No, that's Bessie. This," and I stroke Nana's brown hide. "is Nana. You like Nana, don't you?"


I smile and take the bowl I brought from the kitchen. Then I settle Katherine in my lap so that I have my hands free and place the bowl under Bessie's udders. "Can we have some of your milk, Bessie? I need to feed my daughter, just like you're feeding yours."

You can call me crazy that I'm talking to the animals and, until we got here, I would have thought exactly the same about people who do all that horse-whispering and stuff, but our lives have become so entwined with those of the animals we depend on for our lives, that I've come to regard them as almost equal. And certainly worthy of being talked to. They may not give us any intelligible replies, but that doesn't matter one bit.

I smile at Nana as she takes a step back, her mouth still covered with her mother's rich creamy milk. Bessie's teats are a little slippery from Nana's saliva, but I give them a quick wipe with my handkerchief and we've solved that problem. I know Nana is almost weaned from her mother, but I'm glad that, at least for now, I can still milk her. I put her with the bull some time ago and I know she's expecting again, so it's time to fully wean Nana from her. For now, though, this is a great temporary solution.

It takes only a few pulls to fill the small bowl I've brought with the steaming frothy milk. "Here, Nana, mommy is all yours again," I say as I rise to my feet, taking Katherine and the bowl of super-fresh milk with me. I press a kiss onto Bessie's soft furry head. "Thank you, Bessie."

Then we leave the stable, carefully closing the door behind us. I'll need to come back to feed them pretty soon, but first I need to feed and clean my daughter. We cross the paddock back into the house and we walk up the stairs to our bedroom, picking up the tea spoon from the kitchen as we pass through it.

"How are you feeling?" I whisper as I sit on the bed, setting the bowl with the cooling milk on the nightstand, Katherine in my lap. Scully's still in bed and huddled under the covers, but I can see her face.

"My head feels like it's splitting open," she moans and I frown.

"Do you think you need to throw up? I can get you something to catch it in, if you like."

She shakes her head. "No, thank you. The nausea is gone somewhat, I just have a really bad headache."

"Can I get you something for that? I mean, we don't have any Advil or anything, but you know ..."

"Can you get me a glass of that boiled water, please? It's not going to alleviate the pain, but at least it'll keep me hydrated. And you should feed Katherine, she must be starving by now."

I look down at our daughter who is, as always, sucking her fist and I smile. "I think she'll last for a bit longer, although she needs a clean diaper badly. I gave her some water to drink on our way to the stable so her tummy is momentarily convinced she's eaten."

"Can you get me that water, then? Oh, and you know I hung up chamomile flowers to dry in the outhouse. Can you boil some water to make chamomile tea for me? Thank you," she sighs. "I'm sorry, I don't want to boss you around like that, but I really don't feel like I'm in any shape to help, you know ..."

I smile. "Don't worry about that. Katherine and I will be okay. You just rest and get better." I pick Katherine up. "Come, sweetheart. We'll go and fetch mama a glass of water and then I'll change your diaper. And then it's finally time to give you some real breakfast." I settle her on my left arm so I have my right arm free. I've become decidedly ambidextrous since becoming a father, but you can't change a good 40-odd years of right-handed preference that easily. I pick up the bowl of milk and we descend the stairs back into the kitchen and I fill a glass with water from the bottle. Scully and I normally drink our water straight from the well -- it's fresh and as clean as Mother Nature can make it -- but Katherine still gets her water pre-boiled. Her immune-system is doing okay because she is breast-fed, but I think we will have to be fairly careful for another year or so. Or until she starts drinking from the water trough or do something equally stupid ...

I set Katherine down in her playpen for a minute while I rake through the glowing embers in the stove and add some kindling to restart the fire for real. Then, when the fire is going I put in some logs to feed the fire. I put the water kettle on and pour some cold boiled water in a glass.

"Can you stay here for a moment, sweetheart? I'll be right back."

I walk upstairs into our bedroom and set the glass on the side table. "Here you go. I'll come in with the chamomile tea in a little while, okay?"


I frown and sit down next to her. "Are you sure this isn't serious?"

She sighs and looks at me, her face still very pale. "No, but I have no way of finding out. It just doesn't feel too serious, and my instinct is the best tool I have right now."

I nod and sigh. "Well, I'd better get going. Katherine still needs to be changed and fed, I need to fix your tea, and the animals need to be looked after." I bend over and kiss her fever-flushed cheek.

"I'm sorry ..."

I smile and squeeze her hand gently. "Don't be. I'll be fine. I'll come in with your tea in a bit and I'll check up on you regularly, okay?"

"Okay ... Mulder, don't you need to go out into the fields to plant the crops?"

"Yes, but I can do that tomorrow, too. No, I'll be hanging round the house today. There's plenty to do here anyway and I want to be close-by in case you need me."

"Thank you. I think I'll try to sleep a bit then."

"Do you still want me to bring you your tea?"

"Just set it down when it's ready. Thank you ..."


"Can you give Katherine a kiss from me?"

I smile. "I will." Then I leave the bedroom, closing the door softly behind me. I sigh as I walk into the kitchen. Shit, I just hope this is nothing more than a bug like she said. I pick Katherine up from her playpen.

"Let's get you changed, baby," I say softly, taking her up to her room. I quickly and fairly expertly change her diaper, dropping the dirty one in the pail. It's filling up fast so I decide I might as well put them away to soak. The weather is great today even when the sun isn't very strong yet. Maybe, if I have time, I can wash them as well, take care of that chore. The sun will make excellent bleach. Then the two of us walk back downstairs into the kitchen where I sit us down in the kitchen chair with the bowl of milk. It has cooled down to room temperature.

I see her eye the milk and she makes soft smacking sounds, making me smile. "Are you hungry, sweetie? You must be, normally mama would have fed you ages ago." I pick up the tea spoon and start feeding her the creamy milk. She eagerly takes it, apparently not caring very much that it's not her own mother's milk. We sit quietly as she drinks the milk I give her. It's not ideal, this spoon, but I haven't found baby bottles anywhere, and I don't think she can drink from a cup yet. And as slow as it is, this does work.

Before too long she has cleaned out the bowl. Maybe I should have gotten more milk, I think for a moment, but she doesn't seem to hungry still, so I guess I'm not doing too badly. Really, I have no idea how much she eats. Guess today I'll learn.

I hear the water boil in the kettle on the stove so I put Katherine in her playpen, go into the outhouse and take some of the dried chamomile from the wires along the ceiling. Last year we put herbs, fruits, and flowers of different kinds up there to dry and we've benefited from our actions all through the winter. When vegetables are scarce, and they certainly are in winter, it's good to have dried apple slices and quartered pears ready for us to take down and soak in some water for extra vitamins.

Putting the chamomile flowers in one of the little muslin bags we use for making tea, I pour the boiling water into the tea pot and hang the flowers in to steep to make tea. This will only take a few minutes. I take our smallest hour glass, which we timed to last for about 10 minutes when Scully's watch was still working, and turn it upside down so it starts running.

Katherine is sitting in her pen, playing with her soft toys, chattering away at them in that unintelligible baby language she has. I can't help a smile as I cut a slice of dark rye bread for my own breakfast and put some jam on it. There are times when I mingle in the conversation, but it seems this time she has all the company she needs, so I just sit back and listen to her while I munch on my bread and wait for the tea to steep and get its flavor.

When I see that the hour glass is about half-way, I take the little teabag of flowers from the teapot and pour a mug full of tea. The herbal teas we usually have in winter can take up to ten minutes to steep, but these flowers are more delicate. I take the jar of honey from the store cupboard and walk back upstairs into our room.



I smile. So she's still awake. I sit down on the edge of the bed on her side and look at her. "How are you feeling?" I say softly.

"Not well, I'm afraid."

I set the mug down on the side table. "I have your tea. Do you want some honey in it?"

"Yes, please."

"Okay." I pour a drizzle of honey into the hot liquid and stir it. "There you go. Do you want something to eat as well?"

She shakes her head. "No."

I smile again. "All right. I'll be downstairs, I need to feed the animals and muck out their pens so I'll probably be out of the house for a while, but I'll come to check up on you every now and then, okay?"

"Thank you."

I press a kiss on her forehead which earns me a weak smile. Then I get up and leave the bedroom, unable to shed a feeling of sadness and frustration. Shit, I hate it when those I love best feel so miserable! I walk down the stairs back into the kitchen. Katherine is enjoying herself in her pen, but I daren't leave her unattended for as long as it will take me to care for the animals.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but you'll have to come with me," I say as I pick her up. She starts to cry in protest and I sigh, taking her toy cow from the pen. "Here is your toy, sweetie, shhh ... Come, we'll go and see the animals, okay? Papa has to work."

Carrying a still-sniffling Katherine, I quickly cross the small paddock.

Inside I look around for a safe place to put her and I spot the empty sheep pen next to the cows. It's where we kept the old sheep I slaughtered a few weeks ago and we have now set it aside for the lambs that should be arriving any day now from our other sheep.

"Let's pop you in there while I work," I say and I lift her over the fence. I cleaned out the pen when the old sheep were gone and I already put fresh straw in there in anticipation of the newly-born lambs so it's not a bad place for Katherine to stay in. Besides, she'll have Bessie and Nana to look after her. She sits down and stares at me with her big blue eyes before she takes a look around and spots the cows.


I chuckle. "That's right, honey, there are your cows!" She starts to crawl around the pen towards the beasts and I wait for a minute to watch their reactions. She pulls herself up with the use of the railings between the pens to gain height, all 28 inches or so of her, to get closer to Nana's face. They may have been born only one day apart, but the calf is nearly fully grown now, and our daughter is still a baby. However, there seems to be a very special connection between her and our cows. The little heifer licks Katherine's cheek, causing a little startled shriek from our daughter. Then she fairly drops back down onto her diapered fanny, turns around and crawls towards the center of the pen where her little toy cow is, and starts to play. I smile, wiping the cow saliva from her face. Then I pick up the rake and start mucking out the pens. Time to get to work.

The sun is beginning to set as I work the last of the diapers through the wringer. Whenever there is laundry to do I tend to work the wringer because it's quite hard work, but today I've also had to do the washing. I guess the bleaching I was planning to do will have to wait until another time. I hang the diapers over the washing lines in the outhouse to dry, and when that's done, I take the empty laundry pail into the kitchen where I've left Katherine in her playpen. These days she gets more freedom to roam around the house, but with Scully sick in bed and me having to do all the work, I can't watch over her, and she's back in her pen. Sorry, sweetheart.

I walk up the stairs to our bedroom and I'm pleased to see that Scully is sitting up, though, quite frankly, still looking pretty ill. I sit down on the bed next to her.

"How are you feeling?"

She smiles weakly. "Better. I don't feel nauseous anymore, and my headache is a little less, so I guess those are all very good signs."

I nod. "Can I get you anything?" She hasn't eaten all day and it's beginning to worry me.

She nods. "Can you get me some more of that chamomile tea with honey?"

"Are you sure you don't want anything to eat? I can make you something, I still have to fix my own dinner and Katherine's."

She chuckles a bit. "No, thank you, I can't even bear to think of food right now," she takes my hand. "Don't worry, I'm not going to starve simply because I'm not eating for one day."

"I wasn't going to suggest -- ..."

"Yes, you were," she interrupts me and we smile. Busted.

"I wish I could make you better, though."

She touches my cheek with a clammy hand. "You're doing a great job, thank you. What have you been doing today? Where is Katherine?"

"Katherine is doing fine. She's in her playpen in the kitchen. She went with me when I went to muck out the stable and feed the animals."

She frowns. "Where did you keep her? Surely you didn't let her just wander around, did you?"

I shake my head. "No, I put her in the lamb pen. You know, the one we prepared for the new-born lambs. It was empty and had clean straw in it so I figured it would make a pretty decent spot for her to stay while I worked. I mean, that way I could at least keep an eye on her and besides, that pen is right next to Bessie and Nana. I couldn't ask for better child-minders than those two."

She bites her lip, but then nods. "You're right. And it was a good decision to put her in there. It was probably the best place."

I smile. "I wish I'd had a camera though, she looked adorable when she took her nap right there in the straw. Just like a little baby bird in a nest. And you should have seen Bessie when one of the chickens walked into the pen and got too close to her: you would've thought Bessie was going to kill that chicken for coming so near our daughter."

"It wasn't a dangerous situation, was it?"

I shake my head. "No, even if Bessie had wanted to get closer, she wouldn't have been able to. Those walls are pretty strong." I lean in and pull her closer. "I think there is something very special between Katherine, Bessie, and Nana, something very precious."

"It really looks like it, yes." Then she lies back, her eyes closed again.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

"Just really tired," she says softly. "Can you get me the tea, please? I think I'll try to sleep a bit more. Has the sun set yet?"

"No, it's about late afternoon, I think."

"Oh, okay."

I press a kiss into her hair and get up from the bed. "I'll be right back."

"Thank you ..."

I leave the bedroom and climb down the stairs back to the kitchen. I walk a bit faster when I hear Katherine cry. When I get to her I scoop her up into my arms.

"Hey hey, sweetheart, what's wrong?"

I sniff and I smell a dirty diaper. I sigh with a smile. How does she do it? I mean, I don't go to the toilet nearly as much and I eat a lot more. Oh well, it doesn't matter one bit what causes them, because it doesn't change the outcome one bit either.

"Yep, it's time to change you again, isn't it? And you'll probably want something to eat as well." I take her into my arms and we walk into her room where I change her diaper. She babbles at me to her heart's content and I can't help but smile and talk to her in response. This is such a happy little girl and even though her arrival has in some way made our lives more complicated, she adds such joy, such a completely new dimension to my life -- actually, make that to our lives -- that I simply cannot imagine not being a father anymore.

There was a time when I thought I wasn't relationship material -- and then I met Scully, and that notion went straight out of the window. But I always imagined that, if things were indeed to get a little too intense between us, I'd want to get out. I mean, that was what I had done with all my previous girlfriends: enjoy the sex, then get the hell out when they implied commitment. Of course that idea completely changed when we became lovers and I found that the sex between us was all I'd ever hoped for and far more. Actually, the sex was that good because our connection was that good. Talk about chemistry, whoo boy! And I realized that the commitment was what made it this good.

But, a husband and father? Never! At least, so I thought until we arrived here and I realized that my whole world had been revolving around her for nearly twenty years anyway and that it was never going to change anymore. Becoming the father of her child was a step that I had never anticipated, but which seemed incredibly logical. I think it triggered a part of me I never knew existed, and which I was very glad to discover.

With a clean but seriously hungry little girl in my arms I return to the kitchen. I milked Bessie again this afternoon and there is a large bowl of fresh milk waiting on the counter. I was hoping to save it for after dinner as a kind of dessert for her, but I don't think she can wait that long. I sit down at the kitchen table and start feeding her the milk which she accepts with gusto.

She cleans out this bowl in no time as well and gives me a milky smile.

"Well, that was good, wasn't it?" I grin at her. "Let's get some proper food on the stove so I can eat too and maybe give you a little more to fill your tummy."

I close the kitchen doors and decide I can let her roam around the room. I mean, the most dangerous part is the hot stove, but I'll be in front of it so I guess it'll be okay. I start scraping some potatoes, and putting them on to cook and I wash some lettuce in well water. I place two chicken eggs in the boiling water with the potatoes to hard-boil them. It's a simple dinner, but it will do nicely.

"Are you ready for some more dinner, Katherine?" I ask as I mash half an egg, a potato and some lettuce leaves together for her. She looks up at me, her cow clasped in her hands. She cocks her head as though she's trying to understand me and then she smiles, holding out her little arms to me, happily crying out to me. I pick her up and we sit down at the kitchen table.

"Do you like this?" I say as I feed her small table spoons of mash. Some of it lands on her little apron and I sigh with a smile. Great, more laundry to do. I keep feeding her until she has cleaned out her bowl. "Was that good? I think it was, wasn't it? So, what do you think? Is it time for papa to eat some dinner? Well, I think so anyway."

I set her down in her playpen and I sit down at the table next to the pen to eat my own dinner. When I've finished, I put the dishes in the sink.

"Might as well check up on Scully," I say to myself as I see Katherine playing in her playpen. She's occupied for the moment, she doesn't need me right now. I climb the stairs again and peer into our bedroom. "Scully?" I say softly, but I don't get any reaction. I hear her soft, even breathing though, so I smile and close the door again. She's asleep. Good. I descend into the kitchen, back to our little girl. "Well, Katherine, I guess it's still just you and me then."

I pick her up from the pen and we walk out onto the front porch and sit down on the wicker couch there. It's a wonderfully sheltered corner and even the slightest spring sun can make this a very cozy place to sit. With Katherine next to me, her cow in her hands, my forearm around her little shoulders, I look out into the distance. And I feel my smile fade.

I wonder where They are.

I wonder what's left of the world we once knew.

Suddenly I feel incredibly alone, unbelievably lost.

I feel tears well up in my eyes and I furiously wipe them away, confused by my reaction. What's wrong with me? How can I possibly be this ungrateful?! You pathetic little fuck, I berate myself: you have a wife and a daughter and a home and your health -- what's going on with you? What more could you possibly want?

But angry or not, the tears are still there. I take a deep, cleansing breath and look at my little girl who is staring at me with her big bright blue eyes, her little mouth forming a perfect O. I can't help but smile a little in spite of my tears.

Scully may have called me wise, but I have nothing on this little thing here. Sometimes I wonder just how much she understands and then I realize it's probably a lot more than we think. This girl is wise beyond her years.

And I start talking to her, not even knowing where the words really come from, not really caring either.

"We've come a long way to get here, you know. You were born on this farm, and you don't know, you may never know, life beyond these fields, but we weren't supposed to be here. They came when They weren't going to come for years yet. They lied.

"You know, I wanted to fight Them, be brave and all that, but your mother wouldn't hear of it. She insisted we should flee, run away and save ourselves. Sometimes I wonder whether we did the right thing. With our knowledge, our background, perhaps we could have made a difference, change things somehow. We knew things nobody else knew, but we were selfish and chose our own welfare. It bothers me sometimes. But I don't think we would've made it if we had stayed. It was a tough decision, it really was."

I sigh, looking back out across the fields I now call home. "So many people died, the carnage was indescribable. They had no mercy, They gave us no time at all. It was awful, I will never ever forget what I saw. I hope you don't have my memory, sweetheart, it's not worth it. Some things one deserves to forget. And I can't forget.

"I saw I'd been mistaken, too. I thought I knew about Them, knew what They looked like, what They were up to and what Their plan was." I huff. "What a fool I was. I had no idea, no idea at all. I was just as surprised as anybody else. Maybe that's why I couldn't think straight when the time came to make a decision as to whether we should stay or go. She had to make the call, because I was in no state to do so, I was just dumbstruck."

I shake my head and I feel tears choke up my throat, making my voice sound rough. Fuck, this hurts. "I couldn't believe how much it hurt when everything I had always believed in was proven to be a complete lie ..."

I look at Katherine who is staring back at me. Then, with impeccable timing, she slowly reaches out and offers up her little knitted cow.

Oh my God, is she offering me comfort?

I feel my face crumple and I pick her up instead, hugging her close, and I cry, unable to stop it. I don't know what causes this outburst, maybe these are tears that have taken three years to surface, and now that they have found their way out, there is no chance in hell that they'll let themselves be stemmed.

Of course it doesn't help one bit that Scully's sick in bed. I may be acting all tough and in control, but the reality is that I'm worried out of my mind about her and us.

I keep hugging my baby as I feel myself calm down again, relishing the feeling of her warm little body and those chubby arms around my neck. God, is there a better feeling than the unconditional, uncomplicated love of a child for its father? I always said I didn't want to be a father, didn't care for the screams, the tantrums, the hassle and responsibility -- I guess I never saw, or wanted to see, the other side.

If this is what came from our exile, if this child is why we had to leave everything we had or cared about behind, maybe we have to thank Them in an insane sort of way. They ruined the world, destroyed everything, but They made my life more complete than I could possibly have anticipated.

Now we can only pray we'll never see Them again ...

Oh no ...

I just happened to look up at the sky from my pumpkin planting and I cannot believe what I'm seeing.

GodDammit, no! No, this absolutely cannot be happening now!

I drop my tools and the small bag of pumpkin seeds where I stand and run towards the farm as fast as I can. I've seen these skies before and they were the new sign of the apocalypse back then. I have no doubt this is just as bad. I push the door to the utility room open, slamming it behind me in a blind panic as I storm into the living room. It's empty and I run on towards the kitchen.

"Scully! Shit, where are you?! Scully? Katherine? Scully?!"

I throw the door to the kitchen open, quickly scanning the room. They're not here either. Where the hell are they?

Then I see Scully come into the kitchen from upstairs, Katherine in her arms, looking alarmed.

"What's wrong? Why are you shouting like that?"

"They're back," I pant, both from the effort of running all the way from the fields to the house and from the relief of finding them both well.

Scully's face blanches in shock. She doesn't even need to ask what or whom I'm talking about. I'm sure the mere expression on my face tells her all she needs to know.

"No ..," she just says, instinctively clutching our daughter closer to her.

I nod, trying to catch my breath and tell her what's happening at the same time. "The sky. It's back, the colors, the shapes; that sky is back, just like when we were still in DC."

Tears start to drip down her cheek as she walks to the open window, looking out. It's not because she doesn't believe me, that much I am sure about. She just needs the confirmation. This is our worst nightmare and it has just come true. Of course she'd want to check for herself. I would have done exactly the same.

Then she turns around, looking back at me. "What do we do?"

I take a deep breath, my breathing almost back to normal again after my mad dash home from the fields. "Can we run?"

"Where to?"

I rub a hand over my face. "Don't know. But what's the alternative? Stay here and just ... die?"

"I don't know ..."

I groan in helplessness, burying my face in my hands and shaking my head. As much as I want to, this time I know I cannot possibly protect them. I have never in my life felt such a raging desire to protect my family -- and never felt so completely unable to do just that.

Fresh tears run from her eyes. "Mulder, we have nowhere to go or any method of transportation. Even when we fled from DC and we still had our car, we couldn't outrun Them. What options do we have now?"

I just look at her as she's gripping our daughter tightly, and shake my head. God, I don't know, but I don't want us to die. Not now, not when we've finally started to live!

"Besides," she says softly as she moves closer to me. I wrap my arms around them. "Katherine is still far too young to be on the run. She doesn't understand, she'd never cooperate if that was what was needed, she can't yet."

"So, what do we do then?"

She bites her lips. Then she lets out a sigh. "We wait."

I nod slowly. "For death to come? We're just going to sit here and wait for Them to come and kill us?"

She hugs Katherine closer and nods as well. "We knew this day would come, we've already had so much more time than other people. You said it yourself: They are going to come and we will be killed when They do," she sighs. "I think today is that day ..."

I close my eyes for a long moment. GodDammit ...

"Maybe They won't notice we're here," I say softly, denying what is too blatantly obvious.

She smiles in spite of herself. "A well-kept house amid tended fields in a landscape that's been left to run wild for three years? We stick out like a sore thumb. They know we're here, They know there are people living here."

Just then we hear the ominous humming we remember only too well. We may not have heard it for years, but some things we will never forget. We both look at the door, then back at each other.

"It's started," she whispers, fear evident in her voice and her eyes.

I nod. "Yes." I pull her into my arms and we kiss, long, deep, hungrily. God, I wanted so much more time with her ... I wanted to grow old with her, maybe make another baby with her, and watch our children grow up and have children of their own. This is not what I had in mind at all, even when deep down inside I know this day might come. I just pushed it away. When we break the kiss I see her cry, and I feel tears form in my eyes as well. I reach out for Katherine. "Please, let me hold her. Just for a moment," I whisper.

I'm touched by the complete lack of hesitation as she passes our daughter to me. I'm sure she knows I'll protect this child with my life. Hell, I'll protect everything I have with my life: my wife, my child, our animals, our home. I hug our daughter close to me with one arm, wrapping my free arm around her to pull her in. If They do come and kill us, at least this way we'll be together when we pass into the next world.

Then the pull starts.

"They want us," I say and she nods.

"Do we fight it?"

I think for a moment, then shake my head. "No. It's futile to resist now, God knows how many They are, and there is just the three of us." I look at Katherine who is eerily calm. "Well, two and a half." Where I find the strength, or stupidity, to joke I don't know, but Scully chuckles softly. Then I sigh. "Come, let's go. Maybe if we show cooperation They'll be merciful and kill us quickly."

"Maybe They'll even let us live," she whispers, her voice fragile with unfounded hope.

I sigh. "Maybe," I just say, unable to believe it. They had no qualms about killing over 90% of the human population, and that was before we even made it to this farm and broke all means of contact with the outside world. God only knows how the situation currently stands. They wiped entire cities from the map, obliterated all the metropolises of the world without giving so much as a few hours' warning. If They have any mercy to give, They have certainly not wasted it on this planet.

"Do you want Katherine back?" I ask.

She looks at me. "Yes, but you want to hold her, too, I know," she reaches up and I meet her half-way, kissing her softly. "I'm not going anywhere so I'm as close to her and you as I possibly can be." Then she takes a deep breath and gently squeezes my hand. "Let's go."

I nod. She pushes open the kitchen door leading into the vegetable garden, letting me pass with Katherine in my arms. Then she carefully closes the door and joins my side.

The sky is purple and yellow. When we first saw it in DC from the window of Skinner's office -- we later joked about the significance that the end of the world came just as we were being told that our department was being shut down due to the economic crisis -- we were baffled by the purple-yellow hue, but we very quickly learned the importance of this color. I swore then and there that never ever in my life, however short that life might turn out to be, was I going to have anything to do with those two colors. I had never particularly liked those colors anyway, but at that point they came to mean pure evil to me.

"They are back," she says softly as we walk out through the vegetable garden and towards the old oak tree. I don't know why we're heading for the tree, it's not as though we made any conscious decision to go there, but it seems like a logical spot for us. It's where we got married, it's where I found her ring. And I think it's where we made Katherine, on that warm Sunday in late September.

She looks back at the stable. "Poor creatures," she says softly and I nod. We've seen the emaciated carcasses of starved farm animals. In a way maybe we humans did fare best of all: at least most of the human victims didn't have to die slow, agonising deaths.

We reach the old oak and sit down underneath its branches. It's spring and tender light green leaves have just started to appear. All around us Nature is casting off the gloom and desertedness of winter, bringing the vibrant new signs of life -- and we are sitting here, awaiting our execution. I clutch Katherine to my chest, pulling Scully into my side. She pulls her legs to one side and lies against me.

And we wait.

We don't speak, there is nothing left to say.

Out of nothing, three of Them appear in front of us, about three hundred feet away. I hear Scully gasp softly and I bite my lips. They make their way towards us, walking-floating in that distinctive manner of locomotion I'm sure I would find absolutely fascinating if it didn't carry such a sense of doom with it. Right now I can only feel intense loathing.

With every yard they cross in our direction I feel the tenseness in my body rise. Scully has stiffened against me, her eyes fixed on the creatures. I look down at Katherine who is lying against my chest, her eyes closed, lazily sucking on her little fist as always.

Poor little thing, I think, but then I realize that perhaps it's a blessing that she's still so young. If we are indeed going to die and they do have mercy on us, she will die quickly, never really knowing what hit her. We, on the other hand, know very well what's going to happen -- and it doesn't make this any easier on us.

[You escaped.]

I hear Their voices in my head. I look at Scully who nods. So she hears Them as well. Good. This will make the conversation a lot easier.

I nod at Them. "Yes, we did."

[Did you really think you could stay hidden from us forever?]

I realize I have lost my sense of fear and gained a fighting spirit. Maybe it's because they have made contact, but by God, if they want to get at Scully or Katherine, they will have to go through me.

"No. But we weren't going to just sit and wait for you either."

One of Them looks at Katherine and she turns her head. I look down at her and I'm surprised by the look in her eyes. This little girl is making contact, it seems.

[Hello, Katherine.]

Fuck, the creature knows her name?

::I don't like you,:: I hear in my head, and Scully and I both snap our heads round to look at our daughter. Holy shit, she's talking to Them!

The first creature, who I feel is male, gives off a smiling sensation, as though he finds her answer quite amusing.

[Why not, Katherine?]

::You are scaring them.::

[Go to sleep, Katherine,] he orders and I feel her body relax completely, her head hitting my chest heavily. I'm instantly terrified. Did that asshole just kill her?

"Katherine?" I whisper anxiously, and I check her for a pulse. When I feel her heartbeat still strong under my fingers I let out the breath I didn't even know I was holding, feeling immensely relieved. Scully, too, seems to be able to breathe again and we turn to look at Them.

"You complete fucks!" I spit out, not caring about what I'm saying now. I know I have to watch my language around our daughter, but this time I really don't give a shit.

I hug Scully and Katherine closer to me, staring straight at Them, challenging them.

I feel Scully sigh deeply. She, too, is looking at them, but apparently she isn't feeling as defiant as I am. "What are you waiting for?" she asks softly, tiredly.

[For you to give up.]

Give up? What the hell?

"I'm not giving up," I say, my teeth clenched. "And you're not going to get your hands on my wife, my daughter, or myself, until you have to pry them from my cold, dead fingers."

[Don't be so melodramatic.]

I get the sensation he's rolling his eyes at my words, although in reality they don't move nor blink. He's right, though, because true as my words may have been, that was actually quite pathetic.

The creature who has been speaking until now moves closer, widening the gap between himself and the other two, who seem to be female. Or Their equivalent of that.

[Give her to me,] he says, reaching for Katherine.

I hear Scully scream in shock and I clasp our daughter to me. "What? Fuck you!"

[You don't understand, do you? You have no choice in this. So you can either hand her to me and live, or we will kill both of you and take her from your cold, dead fingers, as you put it so feebly.] I feel Scully's body shake and tears are running down her face.

"What are you going to do with her? Please don't hurt her, please don't take her away from us. We love her so much ..."

The pain in her voice slices through me like a sharp knife and all my anger rips right out of me, leaving me only with a feeling of immense despair.

[She will not leave your sight. We only want to check her.]

"For what?" I say wearily, feeling incredibly tired all of a sudden. I'm terrified and furious at the same time and it's draining my energy like nothing else.

[She may have something we need to be aware of. Most New Children do.]

"New children?"

[Children born after the Invasion, as you call our first visit. They are not as you are.]

Scully and I look at each other and then she shakes her head.

"We have no choice," she whispers.

"Yes, we have," I reply, softly but strongly. "We cannot let Them have her! I can't let her go!"

She takes a deep breath and gets to her feet. What?

"Please don't hurt her," Scully pleads with Them and I'm shocked when she takes Katherine, who is still asleep, from my powerless hands and walks up to the first creature. "Please, for God's sake don't hurt her. We waited so long for her, we love her so very very much ..."

[You are smarter than your mate, woman.]

I have to forcefully control myself when I see him take Katherine from Scully's hands. She then absolutely throws herself into my arms. My whole being is screaming out in a mad desperate desire to rip our daughter from his clutches, but I have no doubt whatsoever that he wasn't bluffing when he said he would kill us if we didn't comply. To be honest, I don't understand why They haven't killed us already. It would have made Their job a whole lot easier.

I watch him hand Katherine to one of the silent followers as I hold Scully who has buried her face in my chest and is sobbing out of control. The female, if that's what she is, holds Katherine up and I see the sun behind our daughter. A beautiful halo forms around her small body, her shape silhouetting against the creamy white dress she is wearing. It's a wonderful sight -- and a very smart move on their part, because with the backlighting we can't really tell what They are doing.

I have no reason to trust Them, none whatsoever, but I'm sending up a prayer to a God I never really believed in to please let Them not hurt her. We'll never forgive ourselves for just having handed her over to Them if They do hurt her.

Then I see the first creature return with Katherine, who somehow is still asleep. We jump to our feet and I run towards him.

"Give her to me," I order.

[She is fine. She will make you very happy.]

What the hell? I grab my daughter and clutch her to me. She wakes up and begins to cry softly. I hold her little body close, giving her all the love I have to give.

"I thought you said you weren't going to hurt her!" I say angrily as I try to calm her down, walking backwards towards the tree.

[She is not hurt, just confused. Make her happy, she will make you happy, too.]

"What do you mean?" Scully asks of the creature when I've reached her.

[This is a beautiful child. You are very lucky to have her.]

Well, d-uh, I think. I feel the back of her neck for an implant, and I'm relieved to find there is none. The creature must have spotted it and I once again I sense he is laughing.

[We have advanced from that. And she does not need it.]

I see Scully hold out her arms and I hand Katherine to her. My arms suddenly feel incredibly empty without a child in them.

I get the feeling one of the other creatures is saying something and then the first creature moves towards us again. I see how Scully pulls Katherine closer and I step into front of them.

[Not many of your kind are as sensible as you are.]

I huff. "I'll bet. Can you not just leave now? We've done what you asked of us, we played by your rules. You have seen her, you know we are here. What do you still want from us?"

The creature beckons one of the females and she moves towards us.

[Do you want another child?]

Scully and I both gasp in unison. "What?" she asks.

[We give as well as take.]

We look at each other and I can't help a little smile, which she answers. Then her smile vanishes completely as she looks at them. "You've taken away my ability to have more children," she says in an icy voice.

[We give as well as take.]

Seems like we're not going to get a straight answer out of them.

The female creature moves even closer and Scully quickly gives Katherine back to me. Then, when I have our daughter in my arms, she reaches out to take my hand. The creature puts her hand on Scully's abdomen and I feel the bolt of power that surges through her, knocking the wind out of her on a low groan.

She collapses under the onslaught of whatever it is that surges through her body. I hold Katherine with one arm as I try to hook my other arm underneath Scully's body, slowing down her fall. She catches herself in a squatting position, then rises to her feet slowly. She lets out a long breath, but it doesn't sound like she's in much pain.

"Are you okay?" I ask, worried.

She nods. "I think so," she says softly. "Thank you."

Then she turns to face Them. "What the hell was that?"

The two females turn around and walk-float away until they have disappeared completely, but the male is still in front of us. Then we get the sensation that he smiles, and for the very first time I have this weird idea that he's actually being kind.

[If you want another child, breed with your mate before your moon is in the apex tonight.]

"What? But I'm still breast-feeding, I ..." I can tell from Scully's voice that she's confused. I meanwhile can only stare in disbelief. Another child? Tonight?

[Don't doubt us.]

The threatening atmosphere is back and she sighs.

"Wait!" I call out as the male creature moves away from us. He looks at us. "Will you be back or will you let us be?"

[You have nothing to fear.]

Then he, too, vanishes.

For long moments we both stare at the spot where he disappeared. Then we turn slowly and look at each other.

"Mulder ..."

"We're still alive."

She nods. "Yeah ..."

I feel a primeval sense of desire rise in my gut and I groan. Fuck, I want her and I want her now, but that's just madness! What's going on?

"He said -- ..."

She nods. "He said we can have another child."

"Do you think that was the ... energy that creature gave you? Or whatever it was?"

She nods again. "It ripped through my lower abdomen. Around my ovaries and my womb. I think ... I think it might have ripened and released an egg ..."

"But ..."

She smiles a little. "Apparently they give as well as take." Then her smile widens a bit more. "It's kind of hard to believe that, isn't it?"

I grin, glad that the atmosphere around us has lightened up a little. I allow a flash of lust to shine in my eyes, confident she'll pick it up. "Do you think we can handle another little one?"

"He said we only have until midnight tonight."

I look up at the sky, which is back to its normal blue with fluffy white cumulus clouds. The sun is shining with all the power it has to give this early in the spring. If I didn't know better, I'd say nothing ever happened.

Fuck ...

"It's only about mid-afternoon," I say, not wanting to put pressure on her. After all, like she said a while ago when we talked about possibly trying for another baby, she'd be the one doing all the work. "We can take our time thinking about it."


She looks at me, but instead of a smile I see her face crumple and then she absolutely collapses in my arms, crying hard.

"I thought we were going to die," she cries, "and I thought They were going to take our baby!"

I hug her close, as close as I can while still holding Katherine. I don't speak, there is nothing I can say right now.

"I almost lost William to Them and today I thought They were going to take Katherine, too. I can't let ... I can't let Them do that, Mulder, I can't let Them!"

"And we won't," I whisper. "Not while I'm here as well. Shhh ... we'll be all right ..." I slowly rock her, comforting her. "We're going to be fine ... Shhh ... Let's go home, sweetheart ..."

I wrap my arm around her shoulder and with our daughter on my other arm we slowly make our way back towards the farm.

Another traumatic afternoon to add to the collection. You could almost say it's starting to get boring ...

Katherine is in bed and Scully and I are sitting together on the couch on our porch, lost in thought. We didn't talk about what had happened today over dinner, we just couldn't, it was too overwhelming, too raw still. After dinner, we silently washed up and then she put Katherine to bed while I took care of the animals. The sun is setting, but the air is still warm. It's the end of March and a beautiful and surprisingly warm spring day.

I sigh. I need to ask or we'll be too late.


She raises her head up from my shoulder and looks at me. "Mm-mm?"

I take a deep breath, releasing it on another sigh. "Do you want another child?"

She looks down. Then she slowly raises her head to look back at me. "I ... I think so."

I raise my eyebrows. "You think so? That's not good enough, you know."

"What? Not good enough? Is this some kind of test?"

I'm taken aback by her sudden annoyed reaction and I shake my head. "No! No, not at all. I'm sorry, I just mean ... Well, we need to be sure about this, you know. I mean, I'd like another baby, but I'm, well, I'm not the one who'll be doing the hardest job. And Katherine is still so young. If we choose to have this child, we'll have two really small children in a very uncertain time and place. It's just that ..."

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped at you, that was unfair ... it's just ..," she sighs. "Could you ever forgive me if I said no?"

I laugh softly. "Scully, just how shallow do you think I am? I mean, come on, you know me better than that, don't you?"

"But we only have one chance and it's irreversible. If we make love before midnight tonight, I will get pregnant. If we don't, I probably never will again. It's ... This is not an easy decision to take."

I sigh. "No, it isn't. So you don't want another child, huh?"

She shakes her head. "No, that's not it, I do want another child. I just thought ... we might have had more time, waited a bit longer, maybe have a little more of a ... surprise of sorts ... But that's not how it works, is it?"

I recall my sensation of lust right after They left and her eager response. I turn to look at her. "I just wonder ... would we have made love tonight if we hadn't been told about the possibility of having that child?"

She blushes. "After They'd left us, in that field, I wanted you so badly," she whispers. "They were gone and you were holding me and we were still alive, and all I could think of was that I wanted to make love to you if it was the last thing I ever did. I don't know why, I just wanted, needed even, to have sex with you. It was crazy."

I feel myself harden instantly at her words. I take her face in my hands, focusing on her eyes. "Then we would have made that baby."

She nods, her hands on my hips, pulling me closer to her. "Yeah ..."

I put my hand behind her head and slowly push her down onto the couch, my eyes never leaving hers. "I want you."

She sighs, her breath shuddering with desire just before I cover her lips with mine, and we kiss hot and hungrily. Oh my God, I want this woman, and she obviously wants me just as much, as I feel the intense heat of her desire for me. Holy shit, is there anything more arousing than a woman who wants you this much? I don't think so, I certainly can't think of such a thing.

"So, what are we going to do?" I whisper as I nip the pulse on the side of her neck. Her skin is flushed and her heartbeat has sped up, both signs revealing her eagerness. God, I want her. So incredibly badly. "We don't have to do this, we can still stop." I look up at her and she shakes her head slightly.

"No, I can't, and I know you can't either."

"Then what about that baby?"

She smiles slightly. "I want you, I want this child, and I want to take full advantage of whatever it is They are stupid enough to give us. We played nice, gave Them everything They asked for, and I'm taking whatever I can from Them."

I grin, moving up so our faces are level. "Then let's make another baby," I whisper, covering her mouth with mine.

She moans and it ratchets up my need for her even more. "Out here?"

"Yeah, I want Them to see this, I want the whole world to see this. I want Nature to feel our love, our desire, our lust. I want to share this, because we're so incredibly beautiful when we make love." I trail a line of hot little kisses all over her neck, throat, and collar bone. Shit, she's so addictive. "Come to think of it, it's the start of spring. I think the pagans called it Ostara or something like that. It's a feast of fertility if you're at all interested."

She laughs gently, her eyes soft and warm. "Now why am I not surprised you seem to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the pagan festivals ever invented?"

I chuckle, kissing her softly. "Well, I definitely know about the sex-related ones, yeah." I grin. "Hey, what can I say? I'm a sexual man."

Her smile fades and her eyes change from soft and warm to intense and hot. "Yes, you are. You're a very sexual man. So, fertility, huh?"

"The pagans had all the best festivals," I say, wiggling my eyebrows.

"You're a pig," she gently scolds, making me chuckle. I kiss her some more.

"You know, you are fertile now," I whisper against her lips and she shudders under me. "So am I. We both are."

"Yeah ... So we're going to make love out here?"

I nod. "I want to bless the soil, reawaken the seeds that lie dormant, bring new life to our home and lands."

"It's been a long time since your seed was last lying dormant, lover," she smiles and I grin.

"Lucky me, I know. Actually, come to think of it, the symbol of Ostara is the egg."


I nod, unbuttoning the shirt she's wearing. She has given up wearing a bra after the only one she still had from before the Invasion was literally falling to pieces with wear. I can't say I'm complaining because it just gives me quicker access. I'm a swine, I know, and I don't care one bit.

She makes me look at her and I nearly choke when I see the raw desire on her face. "Well, I have an egg," she says in a low voice as she, too, starts to undress me. "And it's getting hungry for your seed."

Holy shit ...

For all the fun that this conversation was, she just sliced it right to bits with that remark, which addressed a part of my brain so ancient and primeval I would never have thought it could have survived a few hundred thousand years of evolution.

We shed the remainder of our clothes in near record time, the heat of our bodies driving away any early-evening chill there might be in the air. I rise up a little to admire her naked body. God, I love looking at her. The physical work we depend on for our survival these days has given her already slim frame a wiry tightness that accentuates her shape. At the same time our all-natural, full-fiber, full-fat, full-everything diet has given her the slightest subcutaneous layer of fat, just enough to soften all her curves and make her body so feminine it drives me absolutely insane with desire every time I see it.

"Get up," she whispers and I dutifully rise to my feet. I have no idea what she's up to, but I don't see any reason to question her motives. This can only get better. She, too, gets up from the couch and then we stand, facing each other. She places her hands on my chest as my hands land on her hips. I don't know what made them go there, but I don't care. I gently pull her in so our naked bodies touch completely and she wraps her arms around my neck. And then we kiss once again, for what seems like ages and ages, letting our hands wander as they will.

"You're so beautiful," she whispers, making me smile.


She nods. "Yeah, I love your body, it's so strong these days. I mean, I loved it before, you know, before the Invasion, but ..."

"But what?" I say softly, curious to find out why she stopped there.

"... back then it was ... artificial strength, you know?"

I cock my head. This is interesting. "Artificial?"

"Yeah, I mean, we both depended on the gym to stay in shape, it didn't come naturally. But your body now, I go crazy when I see your muscles these days because ... because I know they're making our survival here possible. You make life for me and Katherine possible, we depend on your strength for our lives. It's natural, developed by hours and hours of hard, honest, physical work. It's very ... masculine. I see all that strength and power and it triggers something so raw in me I can barely resist it, it's that arousing," she runs her hands over my biceps and bites her lower lip. "God, you're gorgeous ..."

I smile. "I love your curves," I say in a low voice. "I can't get enough of looking at you, the way your waist dips in and then flares out to your hips. God, I just adore running my hands over your hips, I lie awake at night with visions of them in my mind. And your breasts ..."

I nip the soft skin of her shoulders as I run my hands over her lush hips. "Do you know why I just can't stop looking at you when you nurse Katherine? It's because of your femininity. I mean, I love your breasts, and I love your body, but these days ... I realize every single time I see you nurse our daughter that, without your body, Katherine would not exist. You carried that amazingly perfect little girl for nine months and I was fascinated to see your body slowly change as it accommodated her developing body inside you. And, my God, the night you gave birth to her, if I had ever been in awe before, it paled in comparison to what I saw then. It would have surely killed me. And it's mind boggling to think you can do it again. Your body is perfectly made to make and care for human beings. My body can do nothing of the sort."

"You made her, too, you know."

I give a short thrust with my hips, making her moan. "So I helped. No big deal."

"I want you to help me again," she says in a low voice.

I feel another surge of arousal course through me. "Right here?"

She shakes her head. "No. I want to make love under the old oak."

I frown, confused. "But that's where They ... this afternoon ... We nearly died there and ..."

"No, we went there to die and we lived. I want to infuse that place with more life, if that makes any sense at all. Every part of our lives these days, every major part was started there. We got married there, you found my ring there."

I slide my fingers underneath the gold necklace she's still wearing, her cross and her ring. "We made Katherine there," I add in a soft voice and she nods.

"It was the best place we could have chosen to die this afternoon, but it is also the best place to be alive. To make life. A new life, a new child," she reaches up and whispers against my lips, "I want you to take me out there and make me pregnant again."

I feel a chill of arousal trickle down my spine, from my brain right down to my groin and I grow even harder than I was. "Keep that up and I won't even make it there," I say in a low voice, making her smile.

"Having a hard time?" she quips.

I take her hand and blatantly place it on my hard hot flesh in reply. I want release, but I also want it done right. Maybe it's a good thing I'm pushing 50, because I have quite a bit more endurance now than I had 25 years ago and I need it badly.

She unabashedly strokes me and I groan. I want to know how ready she is because, by God, this is almost unbearable, so I reach for her and stroke her, finding her wetter than I can remember her ever having been before. She gasps when she feels my fingers touch and part her, stroking her intimately, and I almost can't stand it. Fuck ... Will I even last? I'll have to, but, Jesus ...

"Oh, this is ridiculous. Stop teasing me and come with me already," she growls, stepping away from me and taking my hand. She nearly drags me in the direction of the tree, and I gladly follow her. "This is taking way too long. I want you and I want you now."

We fairly run towards the tree in our eagerness -- although I must admit I'd find actual running pretty much impossible in the state I'm in. We stop just shy of the dark shadow of the canopy. Immediately underneath the tree the ground is bare sand because the dense summer foliage doesn't allow any sunlight to penetrate, but there is lush soft grass all around the tree. In summer we let the cattle graze here, but this year they have not yet been let out and the grass is long and young.

"Scully ..."

She looks at me for the shortest of moments, then flings her arms around my neck and nearly jumps into my arms, kissing me hard and hot. I crush her hot lithe body to mine while I answer her kiss with equal fervour. I slowly drop us down into the grass and I lie down with her on top of me, not even breaking the kiss once. We're pretty good at this really.

"Do you actually want to be on the bottom?" she whispers and I smile up at her, her head framed by the darkening blue sky. Gorgeous.

"I don't mind," I reply. "This is a great position, but the other way round is amazing, too. Then again, if you want to be on top, I'll definitely have a fantastic view."

She smiles, but then shakes her head. "No, I like it better when you're on top. I want to feel you and you can go in deeper that way," she says in a low voice.

Whatever you say, Dana, you know I can't refuse you anything. I roll us both over so I'm on top of her. She looks equally good with her long red hair fanned out among the green grass, her face and chest flushed with arousal. I bend down and kiss her throat before I go lower towards her breasts. She has more or less weaned Katherine by now, but there is still a little milk in her breasts and something in me just loves that. I can't help tasting some of it every time we make love, it's so goddamn feminine.

"No, don't play," she moans when she feels my mouth on her breast.

No? I move back up her body and look at her.

She shakes her head, taking my face in her hands. "We can play all we like later, right now I just want to feel you deep inside me."

I can't refuse a woman who makes a sensible request.

I smile at her and she wraps her legs around my hips, and then I slip inside her in a long, strong, well-practiced move. God, I love this feeling, there is nothing quite like it, there really isn't.

"Oh, yeah ... God, this feels good ..," she smiles, her eyes closed as I pick up the rhythm we both love best. Long-term lovers we may be, but this just doesn't get old or trite.

Look at us, you little fucks, I think as I thrust confidently into the woman I love most in the world. You may have slaughtered almost the entire population of this planet, but you can't beat us all. We're making another child here, and our children will eventually find other young people and have children of their own and our species will ultimately reign supreme once more.

I read once that human beings were like viruses, uncontrollable, unbeatable. Well, whoever said it may have done so in jest, but that person was completely right at the same time. You can kill most of us, but we will come back, and come back more resistant.

I pick up speed as I feel her body react to our lovemaking. "God, I love you, Dana, you are so unbelievably sexy ... I love this, I just can't get enough of making love with you ..."

"Yeah ... that's it, go faster, please ..," she moans. "God, I'm getting close ..."

Not just you, I think and I feel that familiar sensation in my balls as they get ready to release their sperm. I can make her pregnant today, I think, I have the power to make a brand new person. As these thoughts flit through my mind, I feel another surge of excitement shoot through me, hurtling me even closer towards my climax.

"Come inside me," she says between clenched teeth. "Fuck, I'm almost there, Mulder, I can feel it ... please make me come! I'm so fucking close, I ... Oh, yessss!"

Oh God, I can't hold back anymore. "I'm there, Dana, come with me, please! Oh God, oh Gooood! ..."

I feel how her walls contract all around me and I let go without any restraint, growling my pleasure out loud, her unabashed screams of pleasure and climax mingling with mine. God, this is good ...

I drop my head into the crook of her neck and I listen to our panting. I nuzzle the fine hairs there, which are sweaty with her efforts. The scent of our lovemaking mixes with the scent of the grass and the moist virile spring earth underneath, surrounding us in a cocoon of sex and the life that sex brings.

"Wow, this was a good one," she says softly and I can't help chuckling softly.

"Yeah, it was," I reply with a smile and I lift my face to look at her.

She's smiling gently. "Thank you."

Uhm, for what? This isn't exactly a chore, you know. "You're more than welcome."

I slowly pull out of her, causing soft disappointed moans in both of us. We watch as some of her fluids mixed with traces of my semen drip out of her and into the long grass where they're soaked up by the fertile soil. Her eyes are smoky when she meets mine. "I can share," she just says in a low voice and I groan. Visions of my sperm impregnating Mother Nature play in front of my eyes and it's amazingly arousing.

Shit, if only I were younger we'd already be back at making love, I think to myself. As it stands I'll need to wait a bit longer. I place my hand on her hip and she moves towards me, our eyes fixed on her lower abdomen. "Do you think you're pregnant yet?"

She chuckles. "If not I will be shortly. I don't know if your sperm has reached my egg yet, you know, I don't know where exactly that egg is. But, yeah, if everything goes according to plan then in a few hours' time I certainly will be."

I can't look away from her stomach and put my hand over the area where I know her womb is, almost unable to believe what's going on in there right now. She places her hand on top of mine.

"It's a weird idea, isn't it?" she says with a smile.

I shake my head. "It's unbelievable. Just incredible." I look back at her and begin to laugh, I can't stop it. Her eyes widen at first and then she joins me in delighted laughter. I punch the air in victory. "We did it, you little fuckers! You can't beat us, we will survive this!" Then I take her face in my hands and kiss her deeply, infusing the kiss with all the love and adoration I feel for her.

We part after what feels like forever, smiling widely at one another.

"Let's go back home," she says, stroking my hair. I want to purr like a kitten under her touch. "Check up on Katherine, see that she's all right, and maybe we can continue this very pleasant pastime later tonight," she stands up and I let myself be pulled to my feet as well, letting out a little groan as I get up. I pull her into me and she puts her arms loosely around my neck. We exchange short kisses intermingled with Eskimo kisses and loving smiles. Then she nods and steps away from my body, taking my hand. "Come, let's go. And perhaps later tonight you can make me a little more pregnant if you like."

The room is growing chilly, but I hardly feel it. We spent the past ... well, I don't know how long we took really, but we took it long and leisurely. But I digress. Funny how she can make me lose focus in some aspects and heighten it completely in others.

Anyway, we spent a good long time making love again. You know, getting her a bit more pregnant and all that nonsense fun we love to joke about so much. It's amazing how light hearted we are with regards to sex -- must be because there are no pretenses to keep up between us. We can be entirely ourselves in the knowledge that the other one will not be surprised or disappointed. It certainly takes the awkwardness away, I can tell you that much. And it definitely makes for a lot more enjoyable sex.

The house was warm and quiet when we came back from our bout of steamy fun under the tree. A quick check assured us that the animals were dozing or quietly munching on their food, happily settled in for the night. Katherine was sound asleep, apparently not terribly bothered by what had happened to all three of us this afternoon. So we took one look at one another, grinned, and just about ran upstairs for a follow-up to our delicious late-this-afternoon-early-this-evening pastime. And, yes, she did let me play, and I let her play, and the actual sex almost became an afterthought. To be honest I would happily have settled for just some enthusiastic fellatio and equally whole-hearted cunnilingus if there hadn't been a small part of me -- but a very ancient and overpowering part of me -- that wanted nothing more than to ensure that I really had succeeded in impregnating her. It was my caveman instinct and I couldn't have stopped it if I'd wanted to.

I guess it is what drives all organisms, including us humans, to sex anyway: the need to procreate, the desire to share our genes with a compatible mate and make new life. And after the trauma of meeting Them and coming so fucking close to dying this afternoon, my whole being was focused on nothing else than making sure I had passed on my genetic material and made another baby before I was to be in such danger again. It wasn't very sophisticated by a long stretch, I know, but it did feel tremendously satisfying knowing that I had made it happen.

She's lying on top of me, her head under my chin, her feet about half-way down my shins. A warm soft Scully-blanket. It's pretty amazing how we can be so different in size and yet fit so well together. I have my right hand in her left one, our fingers intertwined, and my left arm is draped across her back, my hand splayed out protectively.

"So, you think you are pregnant now?" I ask. It's a dumb question, but it's foremost on my mind and I just need to ask.

She laughs softly. "Well, if They were any good at doing what They promised, I think I can fairly safely say that, yes Mr Impatient, I am now pregnant. So, scared yet?"

I laugh, I can't help myself. "Not as much as perhaps I should be."

She raises up on top of me, leaning her elbows on the feather mattress next to my shoulders so she can look me in the eyes, and smiles. "They promised us a child."

"Yes, They did."

"So if I don't carry this baby to term, we can hold Them responsible."

I feel my wide smile fade to wistful. "I'm not sure They'd be entirely impressed by that, to be honest. Why are you saying that? Are you expecting any problems?"

"Well, no, but I'm not really that young anymore. At this age complications are a risk I have to bear in mind. I mean, women in their mid-forties aren't really expected to get pregnant anymore and it isn't that straight forward anymore. Heck, for all we know I may be carrying twins now."

"I wouldn't mind that."

She sighs, lying back down with her head on my chest. "You know, I would actually. Because the risks involved in a multiple birth are so much higher."

I hadn't thought of that. "Then what can we do?"

"Nothing, I'm afraid. Nothing but hope and pray that this is a single child and that it's healthy and will stay in here for the full 40 weeks."

I nod, and we lie silently for a bit longer.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel bad," she says softly, her fingers softly drawing doodles on my chest.

I smile a little. "Don't worry, you are right to bring this up." Then I yawn. "God, I'm tired ..."

"Then let's sleep. This has been one heck of a rollercoaster day for all of us. We can only pray we won't get nightmares."

"You know, I haven't had nightmares for years."

She rolls off me, then molds herself into my side. "I know, I'm very happy about that."

"You haven't had them either ever since we came here, have you?"

She shakes her head a little. "No. I haven't had much time to think about it," she is silent for a bit. "Is it just me or does our old life seem so incredibly far away?"

I look up at the familiar high, uneven, white-washed ceiling of our bedroom. I can hardly remember what the ceiling of my DC apartment used to look like and I lived there for more than twenty years. I thought my brain would never let me forget anything, but maybe this was so trivial that it decided this wasn't even worth making that memory. "You know, I can barely even remember my old apartment."


"Of course it was never much of a home to me anyway."

"Wasn't it? But you lived there for years."

I sigh. "It was a roof over my head, Dana, that does not automatically make it a home. I didn't have ... there was nobody to come home to there, there was no warmth or love to be found ... That's why I didn't sleep in my bed, well, unless you were staying with me and joined me in it, that is." I sigh again, deeply this time. "A house can be a very lonely place if there is no one or nothing to love ..."

I turn my head to look at her and see her wipe a tear away. "I'm sorry ..."

I smile ruefully. "Well, for years I didn't even want you to know. I didn't want you to feel sorry for me, and as long as we weren't lovers -- which I kept hoping for, but never gave myself much of a chance of getting -- you wouldn't need to know. I mean, it's no point yearning for something you're so damn unlikely to get, right? But that was why I came over to your place often, increasingly often, because your apartment did have that love and warmth that I craved. I didn't realize it at first, but after a while I discovered what attracted me to your place, and it was that sensation of being at home. I could never find that at my place."

She nods. "I loved my apartment. It was the first apartment I took on all on my own. It was paid for entirely by me, and I was immensely proud of it. My parents, even if they didn't understand completely why I had joined the Bureau, were very proud of me for being able to have a place of my own. I had to work hard to keep it, but the house rewarded me with a sense of ... fitting me. It was a home to me, even though I, too, didn't have someone to share it with. Well, until we became lovers that is."

"I know, your place really did feel right." I turn onto my side, facing her. "I have that feeling with this house, too. Don't you?"

She nods. "Yes, it feels good, it feels like a home," she smiles. "After we became lovers I used to daydream about the two of us buying a proper house together, you know, a little two-story, suburban house with a garden. And we'd have a dog maybe and a couple of cars and all that domestic nonsense we were raised to aspire to."

I grin. "You wanted us to be normal? No wonder it remained a daydream."

She raises her eyebrows and smiles. "Did it? I mean, really? Okay, I know we never thought we'd end up being farmers, but ... we have a house and animals and a child with another one on the way. And we are married, Mulder, we're married with children. How far from normal are we now, if this isn't it?"

I laugh softly. "Goddamn ..."

"Exactly," she strokes her fingers through my hair. "Come, let's sleep. We'll need to get up early again to continue with the work. We lived to tell the tale today, let's do our best to make it last."

"I want to grow old with you on this farm," I say softly. She nods, but a sad look flits across her eyes. It's gone immediately afterwards, but I've seen it nonetheless. "What?"

"Nothing, it's nothing."

I shake my head. "Yes, it is. Tell me. What's wrong?"

She takes a deep breath. "You know, I realized something today. And then I forgot about it, but your words reminded me ..."

"What's that?"

"If we had been killed today ..," she sighs and bites her lips, not continuing for a few moments. So I wait, I have all the time in the world where she is concerned. "You know, if we had been killed, we would at least have died together ..."

I feel a chill grip my heart. She's right, if we aren't killed one way or another, one of us will eventually be left behind. Oh God, don't let it be me, I think, unreasonably selfishly, you know I couldn't make it without her ... "Hopefully neither of us is going to die for a long time yet," I say softly, my voice trembling a little.

She nods. "Yeah. Let's first celebrate the coming of new life before we lament the loss of other life. I'm newly pregnant, the animals are expecting young soon, Nature is giving us fresh new life. We have a future together, let's never forget that," she wraps her arms around my neck and I pull her to me, and we kiss.

I love it when she's right.

I smell fresh baking as I come into the kitchen from herding our cattle out into the pasture. It's May and time for the animals to taste and feel the summer for real. From now on until the middle of autumn they'll be staying out there around the clock, whereas in the past month I had to herd them back for the night every day. It's good for them to be out there now and stretch their legs. So far we have thirteen new lambs, three calves, another foal -- a male foal this time -- and more piglets than I've cared to count. Not bad at all. We let the rooster in with the hens last month to get us chicks and we already have a handful of little balls of fluff scurrying around the hen house. Katherine, who is walking now, is fascinated by all the new arrivals and runs around between the stable, the house, the fields, and the paddock as fast as her little legs can carry her, checking up on whatever is going on. It's a good thing the animals are quite used to her presence because her excitement at absolutely everything must be annoying the soon-to-be mothers at times and I take care to move the animals who are ready to deliver into pens where she cannot reach them. I do trust our animals, but new moms can be fiercely protective, and I know that Katherine cannot be expected to be aware of that at this young age.

I'm not sure if she realizes this either, but today is her first birthday, and Scully has made a fruit cake for us to celebrate this momentous occasion. Our baby has made it past her first year and she is strong and happy and thoroughly healthy. It's enough to make even me feel slightly religious.

"God, this smells good," I say and I stand behind Scully and wrap my arms around her waist, my hand flattening out on her abdomen which has just begun to swell a little. Her clothes still hide everything, but at night, when there is nothing to obstruct my view of her naked body, I can see it. I love it.

She has cut the cake into two layers, and she's pouring honey between the layers. I know Katherine hasn't been allowed to have any honey in the past year, but this cake just begs for a good generous dose of the stuff.

She turns her head and smiles. I kiss her briefly but softly. "It does, doesn't it? Where is our little birthday girl anyway?"

I chuckle. "Where do you think she is? She's with Nana." I let go of her waist and take her hand. "Really, you've got to come and see this."

She smiles in curiosity and together we cross the paddock into the stable. "Oh my God," she whispers when she sees the scene. "That's adorable."

Our daughter is sleeping in the straw, her head propped up against the warm soft flank of the young cow, who is lying on the floor, her head nuzzling Katherine's small hand. The toy cow is clutched in our daughter's arms. Towering above the couple-and-a-bit is Nana's mother Bessie, faithfully watching over them, her new little steer calf by her side.

We walk over towards Bessie who turns her large head towards us and moos very softly. I stroke her gentle face as I pull Scully into my arms. She meanwhile can't seem to tear her eyes away from the peaceful spectacle at our feet.

"I can't believe this," she says. "I mean, I know they are close, but this is amazing."

I feel Bessie's heavy head on my shoulder and I stroke it. "You have a wonderful daughter, Bessie," I say and Scully smiles.

"What do we do now?"

I smile. "We let her sleep for a while, I think." I've left the upper portion of the Dutch door open for ventilation and I look at the sun. "It was about nap time for her anyway." I climb onto the low stone wall that divides the pens, patting the stone beside me to invite Scully to join me there. When she's sitting next to me, I put my arm around her shoulder to pull her closer and then we just sit and watch. Yes, there is so much work I still have to do and so has she, but right now there really is nothing more important than watching our daughter sleep, propped up against the flanks of her best friend, even if that friend is a cow.

We seem to have been sitting here for hours, although I'm sure not a tremendous amount of time has passed, when she wakes up, rubbing her eyes. Sensing our daughter's movements, Nana too begins to move and Katherine slowly sits up, wobbling a bit with post-sleep drowsiness.

"Mama," she says softly as she sees us sitting on the fence, and she holds out her little arms, yawning. Scully hops off the wall into the pen and takes her into her arms. I follow suit to join them, taking Nana's large head in my arms and cradling her to me. Katherine sees the young cow and starts to wriggle out of her mother's arms. "Nana!"

Scully sets her on the floor and she strokes Nana's head in that clumsy patting way that toddlers have. The young animal doesn't seem to mind at all.

I walk up to her and gently take her hand. "Come, sweetheart," I say softly and she looks at me, "let's have something to eat, okay?"

"Ee," she says and I grin.

"That's right, you're hungry again, aren't you? Come, say 'bye bye, Nana' and you can come back here a bit later today, okay?"

She waves at Nana by opening and closing her little hand. "Baba, Nana!" Then she beams a great big smile at me. I can't help but answer in kind. I stroke her hair, flattening a few strands that are sticking up from her nap. Her blonde hair is still short and incredibly soft, but it has a tendency to stick up all over the place. I don't know who she'll take after in hair color, but judging by the stubbornness of her hair, it'll probably be me.

Together the three of us walk out of the pen and back into the kitchen. In the middle of the kitchen table stands the fruit cake with a single candle in the center. Scully takes Katherine onto her arm as I take a thin dry stick, light it in the fire of the stove and then light the candle. Katherine's eyes become huge as she sees the flame.

"Da!" she says, pointing at the candle. She looks at her mother in amazement. We smile involuntarily.

"That's right, sweetheart, that's for you," she says, but our little girl is no longer looking at her. Her gaze is back at the candle and the bright flame, her eyes glittering with fascination. Oh cool, we seem to have a miniature pyromaniac on our hands here ... I grin at the thought and shake my head.

We sing 'Happy Birthday' for her, first making smile, and then bury her face against her mother's shoulder. All this attention must be making her feel shy. Of course she is usually the center of attention, but we take care not to make her feel as though she is. Today, however, she calls the shots. After all, there is only one first birthday.

Scully puts her down in the high chair I found in one of the surrounding farms and goes to get a small bowl of porridge for her, while I slice some rye bread for us. Cake is all good and well, but it's not a full meal, and this birthday girl needs a good full tummy if she wants go exploring again this afternoon.

She dutifully eats her porridge, fed by her mother, and when she has finished her lunch Scully and I have our ham and honey sandwiches. Then, when we too have eaten our lunch, I light the candle again. I extinguished it soon after we sang for her, because in our house candles are a luxury item which we cannot afford to waste, but it's not a birthday if she doesn't get to blow out that candle.

Her little mouth forms a perfect O when she sees the lit candle again and I chuckle. God, it must be great to be so easily pleased.

"Can you blow it out, Katherine?" I say and Scully sits her on the table near the cake. "You're supposed to make a wish, but for now we'll make a wish for you, okay?"

Scully chuckles. "She already knows what she wants, she just wants to play with Nana."

I chuckle, too, but I don't reply. Instead I turn to our daughter. "Let's blow out the candle, shall we?" I demonstrate how she should blow, but she just stares at me like I'm an idiot and Scully and I burst out laughing. "This doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Now what?"

"I'm afraid she doesn't understand it one bit. Come, I'll blow out the candle if you want to make a wish for her."

"You sure? I mean, I could blow it out if you'd like to make her a wish."

She smiles. "All right. Let's both blow out the candle and we'll both make a wish for her."

"Okay, here we go." We blow out the candle together, and we smile at each other and then at Katherine who seems completely bewildered by what's going on. "You don't understand, do you, sweetheart?" I ask of her, while Scully pulls the candle out of the cake. She takes it to the sink, washes off the cake crumbs that stick to it, and returns with a knife. She cuts a big piece for me, a slightly smaller one for herself, and a very small one for Katherine.

"Let's first see if she even like this," she says when she sees my disappointed expression at the miniature slice. "If she likes it, she can always have more," she takes a tea spoon and scoops out a small bite from the slice and offers it to our daughter. It appears to be going down a treat. "Seems like we have another winner."

I chuckle while I eat my slice. "Oh, this is good," I say. This is indeed good cake: dark, moist, fruity, and just sweet enough to make it appetizing without cracking the enamel on my teeth.

She smiles. "Thank you, I'll have some in a minute when she's finished."

The last couple of bites of Katherine's slice seem less than welcome, guess she truly has a full tummy now. With our girl still on her lap, Scully finally gets to sample her own baking, finishing Katherine's piece.

"You are right, I am fantastic!" she says with a grin.

I laugh out loud, I can't help myself. "Do we still need to put her in bed for her nap?"

Scully smiles. "I think she had her nap with Nana. It's all right, she can wander around and if she feels sleepy I'm sure she'll nap wherever she finds a comfortable spot," she puts our daughter down on the floor and we watch her scurry off to whatever destination catches her fancy.

Last month when she started walking, I closed up the open access to the well, so only Scully and I can get to the water now, as well as to a pit in the back yard, and the farming tools are also behind lock and key. However, a farm is still a fairly dangerous place for such a young child to be. Scully and I had a lengthy discussion about the potential danger to our young daughter, but in the end we agreed that, except for the option of locking her up completely, we'd never be able to keep her completely safe. She'll need to get a few scrapes and bruises to find out what her limits are, and meanwhile it's our job to watch her from a little distance and stop the worst catastrophes from happening. There is no room for helicopter parents on a post-apocalyptic farm and we'll just have to do our best and place a fair amount of trust in that small flock of guardian angels who already seem to have our daughter's back.

"You think she's going back to the cows?" I ask.

Scully smiles. "Probably. Why aren't Bessie and Nana out in the fields, by the way? What kept you?"

"Actually, it was her. She was in the stable with me as I was going to herd the other cattle to the field, and I just couldn't do it. She was so happy to be with them, I couldn't bear to separate them."

"You big softie you! I never would have thought it," she grins, making me grin as well. "But I do think Bessie and Nana should be out there. Why don't the three of us take them there? She can lead her friend and we can keep an eye on her and them. You know, maybe if she knows where the cows are going and how happy they are out there, she'll understand."

I nod. "Yeah, I think you're right." I get up from the table and together we cross into the stable. Sure enough, Katherine is in Nana's pen, chattering away to the young heifer who seems completely fascinated by what the little girl has to say. I take a long thick rope and make a make-shift halter for Nana's head. We've been halter training her for just over two months now and she seems quite unperturbed by the proceedings. Scully puts a halter on Bessie and together the five of us leave the stable. I let Katherine lead Nana, with me holding the end of the rope just in case, while Scully leads Bessie.

"She looks so in charge, doesn't she?" I say softly to Scully, who chuckles. It's quite a sight, this tiny little girl leading an almost fully-grown young cow. I would have given anything for a camera now really.

When we get to the field where the other cows are grazing, I take off Nana's halter.

"Say 'bye bye, Nana'," I say softly to Katherine as I pick her up so she is level with Nana's head.

She looks at me as if to ask 'Really?'. Then she squeezes her little hand in goodbye. "Baba, Nana," she says very softly before she buries her face in my neck.

"Well done, sweetie," I say and smile. Bessie is walking on into the field, but Nana doesn't seem so sure, looking alternately at her mother and at us.

I turn to Scully, who isn't smiling. "What is it?"

"Do you ... do you think it's ... I mean, should we separate them now? Don't you think the separation is a little harsh on them? They are so close and she's still so young ..."

I bite my lips. She has a good point there. "Separating them will be hard on them anyway, at whatever stage it is. And I really think Nana is ready for it. Besides, Katherine will see Nana again, she isn't really, you know, gone."

She sighs. "Yeah, you're right," she chuckles. "God, I really must be hormonal."

I smile. "No, you're a mom." I shift our daughter into a more comfortable position. Then I wrap my free arm around Scully's shoulder. "Come, let's go home."

We turn and slowly walk back to our house, taking our time to enjoy the weather and the surroundings.

"Nana!" Katherine suddenly cries excitedly when we're almost home and Scully and I turn around. We burst out laughing as we see the young brown cow trudging a few feet behind us. She clearly has been following us, or rather, following Katherine.

"You still sure Nana is ready?" Scully smiles and I chuckle. Guess not then.

We wait for the young animal to reach us and I stroke her fur, while Katherine is so excited she nearly falls out of my arms. I decide to put her on the ground before any accidents happen. She runs up to the cow and wraps her little arms around the animal's chest, her cheek against the cow's skin.

"Nana!" she cries happily and the young cow nuzzles the fine hair on our daughter's head. Friends reunited.

"Well, it is still her birthday," I smile, "and Nana's too by only a day. I suppose we can wait a little longer." I put the halter back on the cow and give Katherine the rope to lead her, all by herself this time. We wait for a moment, watching the little girl lead her best friend back home.

"I love you, Fox Mulder," Scully whispers and I pull her closer, smiling widely at her. I lean in and we kiss.

"I love you, too," I reply. "Let's go home. There is still work to be done."

It must be the hottest day of summer today, I think, as I wipe the sweat off my forehead for what must be the hundredth time this afternoon. For the past three days I've been cutting the long grass with a scythe and it's backbreaking work, but it has to be done while the weather is still this hot and dry if we want to have good hay for winter. I'm down to just my pants and clogs; my shirt has long since been discarded, lying near the entrance to the field. Thank God I tan easily, because there is no sunscreen to be had anywhere and I need to push on even though it's the hottest time of the day. I know there is the risk of possible skin cancer in the far future, but there is also the risk of very real starvation in the near future, and I have to be practical. I don't have a choice.

I take the scythe again and continue cutting the grass.

"Hey," I hear behind me.

I stop and look around.

"How's it going?" she asks and I smile.

"Not too bad. I'm sure I'll be done in a few hours or so, thank God. My back is killing me," I reply, stretching my muscles. She looks worried and I smile. "I'll live, don't worry, I've had worse. At least I am getting better at it which makes it a little less stressful on my body."

"Okay, just be careful. I don't want you to get injured. Anyway, I brought you some more water to drink, I thought you might already have finished the water you brought and would like some more."

I grin. "Thank you. You're right, I finished my water a little while ago, but I didn't want to go back for more before I'd be done cutting the grass." I take the jug and, pulling her into my side, I drink the cold water. God, this is good. I pour the last few gulps' worth of water over my head, cooling me down. "Aaah, this feels so good, it's just what I needed!"

She smiles and takes the jug from me. "You're welcome."

I reach down and pick the scythe back up from the ground where I dropped it. I fully expect her to have turned around for the farm, but she hasn't. She's still there, looking at me, her eyes dark. I gulp: I can feel that gaze in my groin. "What?"

She blushes a little, clearly surprised I caught her staring. "Uh ... nothing. I just ..."

I grin and I drop the scythe again. The grass can wait a few more moments, this is way more fun. I cross the small distance between us and place my hands on her hips, pulling her gently closer. I bend over to softly nip the side of her neck. "What?" I whisper.

She lets out an almost inaudible moan, but I'm so in tune with her voice and her body that I can hear it anyway. "I just ... God, you're looking so good, I couldn't help but notice ..."

My grin only seems to get wider. "Really?"

"Yeah ..."

I move one hand over her abdomen, the soft curve no longer hiding the child growing inside her. "Well, if you just tried to say that I'm hot, I'm not nearly as sexy as you are," I whisper in her ear. I drop down onto my knees and nuzzle her belly through her clothes. She is about five months along now and it has started to really show.

"Oh, cut it out, I'm not sexy, not anymore," she says.

I huff, getting back to my feet. "Oh yes, you are. In fact, if it wasn't for the heat and the fact that the grass is waiting, I'd lay you down right here and show you just how sexy I think you are," I say in a low voice. "And if you don't believe me ..." And I take her hand and unabashedly put it on the crotch of my pants. If she can't feel my desire now, I'll eat all this grass myself.

She takes a sharp breath when she feels my hardness and the look in her eyes becomes downright wanton.

"See?" I whisper, biting my lower lip to keep from groaning. "You still convinced I'm a liar?"

She shakes her head and slowly takes her hand away. Shit, I liked her touch there. "Mulder, we can't ... not now."

"Where is Katherine?"

"That's why we can't. She's playing in the paddock and I just left her to quickly get you this water. I don't want her to get hurt ..."

I kiss her quickly but warmly. "You're right, and I was utterly selfish. I'm sorry."

She smiles, taking my hands in hers. "I like it when you're selfish like that," she says, making me chuckle. I'm not going to lie, I am a little disappointed that we can't just let our lust take over, but she's completely right. I would never forgive myself if our daughter was to get hurt because we didn't look over her. "I gotta go."

She lets go of my hands and picks up the jug as I take the scythe.

"Come home when you've finished," she smiles seductively, "and you can claim your reward." With that she turns to leave me.

Fuck, that's it, I'm finished already, I think, and suddenly the patch of grass that still needs to be cut seems larger than ever. I take a deep, cleansing breath. 'Think of the future and of those who depend on you, you little prick,' I scold myself, 'not just of your own immediate gratification. God knows you do that too often anyway.'

You know, my conscience can be a real pain in the ass sometimes ...

At long last the grass is cut and drying in the field and I'm on my way home, the scythe over my shoulder, the shirt and the water jug I'd brought along with me this morning in my hand. The sky is blue and the summer sun is shining down with all the bountiful heat it has to offer.

I walk onto the small paddock in front of the stable and put the scythe in the shed where we keep the tools. I smile when I see Scully sitting on a bench in the shade, washing and preparing the vegetables for dinner. Katherine is in the sun, playing in the tin tub we use as a bath in winter. We use it as a water trough for the animals as well, but they are out in the field and have a small stream to supply them with water. The tub is currently promoted to Katherine's private swimming pool and she's splashing around in it to her heart's content.

"Having fun, sweetheart?" I say to our daughter as I kneel down beside her. She grins from ear to ear at me and stands up, all 32 inches of almost naked little girl. She holds out her arms and I pick her up, sopping wet as she is. I don't care, the water feels good on my sun-heated skin. Together we walk towards her mother who is smiling at us and we sit down next to her on the bench in the shade of the house.

"Shall I get a towel for her?" she asks and I look at our daughter who is shivering a bit, now that she's no longer in the sun. She's wearing her little cotton camisole to protect her upper body from the sun, but it's soaking wet and cooling her down very fast now.

"Do you want to go back to your tub?" I ask of her, loosening my hold on her so she can get down if she wants to, but she leans back into me. I guess not then. I turn to Scully. "I think that would be a good idea, thank you."

She gets up and walks into the kitchen.

"Did you enjoy yourself, sweetheart?" I say to our girl and she smiles, showing a nice going-on-full set of baby teeth. She nods and I smile back at her, hugging her close to me. I take off her wet camisole, dropping it in a sopping heap by the side of the bench. Her cool body feels good against my skin.

"Here you go," Scully smiles, handing me a towel. Then she sits back down next to us and I dry our daughter off. Then, after toweling her fine baby hair into a complete mess and smoothing it back down with my hands, I let her off my lap and run around the small paddock, naked as the day she was born.

"Shouldn't we get some clothes on her?" Scully asks, a worried look in her eyes.

"Why? There's no one but us to see her like that," I reply.

"No, I mean, because of the sun? We should protect her skin, it's still so vulnerable."

I smile. "I know what you mean, but it's getting late, I think the worst of the sunshine is over. Let's let her run around unrestricted by clothes for a little bit, it will do her good, I think."

She smiles, but I can tell it's not whole-heartedly. "Okay, I'm sure you're right."

I chuckle. "Well, most probably I'm not, but as long as we're nearby we can at least keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn't burn." I spot her by the mud puddle next to the stable and I grin. "Besides, I think she has just found some natural sun screen," I say, just as the little girl jumps into the slush, her delighted squeal resounding in the enclosed yard.

"Oh no ..." Scully says, unable to refrain from laughing along with me. Our daughter is rapidly covering herself in mud. Two glittering bright blue eyes and a delighted smile of those pearly-white teeth are all we see in a mass of dark brown mud. "Well, we'd better leave the tub in the yard, we're going to need it to wash all that mud off her before dinner."

I move closer to her and wrap my arms around her shoulders, pulling her into my side.

"Mmm, you're hot," she says softly and I grin.

"It's the sun, I've been outside all day."

She turns her head and kisses my bare shoulder, letting her lips linger just a little bit longer than really necessary. "That must be it, then. Silly me; and here I thought you were this hot because you're so damn sexy."

I gulp. This isn't even innuendo, this is flirtation bordering on blatant seduction. What can we do? "Scully," I say in a rough voice. "You know we can't make love right now, right?"

"I know. But that doesn't mean we can't play a little."

I turn and cup her face in my hands, kissing her long and deep. What's wrong with me? A good twenty years, two children and multiple near-death experiences -- oh, and let's not forget that one actual-death experience -- have passed since we first met, and I still can't get enough of this woman. By all accounts I should be completely fed up with her by now, but I only seem to get in deeper. This is nuts.

"How far can we take this?"

"Well, let's find out, shall we?" I say.

"Can we get naked? In front of her, I mean?"

I look at her and smile a little. "It's not the way we were raised, but ... I mean, nudists have done it for years, right? And their kids don't seem to need therapy because of it."

"Yeah, but they don't make love in front of their kids."

"Well, that's true."

We are silent for a bit, our hands wandering slowly.

"We can't leave her alone in the paddock," she then says. "She can drown in as little as a couple of inches of water if she falls down."

I nod. "You're right, it wouldn't be responsible. We'd never forgive ourselves." I sigh as I kiss the crook of her neck. "God, I so want to see your body though."

She chuckles. "Don't be silly, we sleep naked every night. You'll get to see my body again soon enough."

"It's not the same," I protest like a petulant child. "I want to see your skin glow in the sunshine."

"You mean I'm pale enough to glow in the dark?"

I growl in response, annoyed by her answer. "You are gorgeous, so for God's sake don't put yourself down. I'll never think of you as anything but beautiful, because that's what you are." I push her blouse open slightly, revealing her pearly skin underneath. "I want to see you naked. I want us to be naked. I'm not afraid to show the world our beauty."

She sighs. "Nor am I, but ... I am afraid I won't be able to control myself when I see you naked ..."

I smile a little, my annoyance mostly gone now, but I don't comment. She answers with a wry smile of her own.

"You know I want you. I always do, I always have. But I don't want to make love in front of our daughter, even if she isn't paying attention right now. We have an example to set, we can't just give in to our horniness every time it comes knocking."

I sigh deeply. I'm disappointed, I'm not going to lie about it, but she is absolutely right. She sees the expression on my face and smiles apologetically. "I'm sorry."

I shake my head. "Don't be. I was a pig and you were right to call me on it." I lean in and kiss her softly.

"Tell you what," she then says, her eyes glittering, "chances are it's going to be a hot night again. We can always make love outside when Katherine is in bed."

Whoo boy ... "Is that a date?" I say, making her chuckle.

"That's a date," she replies. She kisses me softly on the lips. "It's almost time to eat, so I'd better put these vegetables on. Can you get our little mud-monster and clean her up, please?"

I get up from the bench. "No problem." I walk over to the mud puddle where the only signs of our daughter seem to be her blue eyes and white teeth. How can she be so completely covered in mud? How on Earth does she do it? "Come here, sweetheart. Time to give you a bath."

She stands up and walks up to me. "Bah," she just says as she rubs her little hands through the slushy mud on her tummy, giving me a great big grin. I laugh, I can't help it. This is adorable.

"That's right, 'bah'."

I take her muddy hand in my own and we cross the paddock to the tub which is still filled with the water she played in this afternoon, leaving a trail of little brown footprints. She'll need a more thorough rinse than that to get her all clean again, but at least she can soak off the worst of the mud in there. I pick her up and set her down in the tub.

"Let's get you cleaned up, shall we? Mama is making dinner and we can't let you eat your dinner when you're all dirty."

Slowly but surely the worst of the mud washes away from her small body and I smile as she sees the mud dissolve in the water and her eyes go wide in amazement.

That's right, sweetheart, another mystery of the world explained. You have a lot to learn yet, and your mother and I look forward to guiding you along your route of discovery. It's going to be a wonderful journey.

Katherine is in bed and asleep. It took a long soak in the tub, and then some real scrubbing before we managed to get all the mud from her. It's simply amazing just how much mud such a small girl can carry on her. But in the end she was squeaky clean again and ready for dinner and then for bed. No doubt tomorrow she'll be right back in the puddle and the whole process will start all over again. Oh well, as long as the only mess she gets herself into can be washed off with nothing more than a liberal amount of water, I guess we can consider ourselves lucky.

The outside temperature is still high and we're on the bench, our arms around each other, her head in the crook of my neck. And, no, we're not naked. We haven't quite gotten to that point yet. Don't know if we will tonight either to be honest before we go to bed.

"It's a beautiful night, isn't it?" I say. She nods, then chuckles. "What?"

"Small talk? I mean, really?"

I grin, catching her drift. "Well, it's a date, isn't it? And what is a date without some excruciatingly awkward small talk?"

She chuckles again. "That sounds like my dating history. So, were you an awkward dater when you were younger?"

I grin in spite of myself. "Scully, I was the poster child of awkward. Let's just say I could have been used as an example of how not to date and leave it at that."

"Really? But you always seemed so confident around people. At least around me you certainly were."

"I think that's because the two of us didn't meet with the intention of becoming lovers. All I had to show you was a decent work attitude and be a half-reasonable working partner for you, and that I knew I could do, even if I didn't always do it. I was confident where the work was concerned, I was confident around those people I had to meet for work. But you've seen what kind of women I used to get involved with romantically, and what a complete and utter train wreck that was."

"Did they break your heart?"

I smile wryly. "Yes. To be honest, every woman I've ever met has broken my heart at one point or another," I whisper, "except for little Katherine ..."

I look at her, not surprised to see the shocked expression on her face. "You mean I have, too?"

I nod. "Yeah, but the difference between you and all those other women is that you never gloated about it. You weren't proud of it, I'm pretty sure you weren't even aware you were doing it. That makes a huge difference, because it makes dealing with the pain so much easier."

"Why didn't you ever tell me? I could have made it easier on you, maybe even have avoided it," she bites her lips. "Have I done it often? And lately?"

I shake my head and smile. "No and no. You have broken my heart in the past, but it was mainly because I put you in a position where you couldn't do anything else. And it was really only in those first few years of our partnership when we were still finding out where our boundaries were. You know, testing how far we could go."

She sighs. "I never meant to do it, I never wanted to hurt you like that."

I smile and hug her a little closer. "I know, I've always known." I huff softly. "I must have broken your heart so often, too ..."

"No, you hav- ... well, yes, you have. A few times. But at the time I really ought to have known better. Those women treated you like crap."

"Because I let them. I gave them every opportunity to use me, and I hurt your feelings in the process. It couldn't have been a pretty sight, and I let them do it anyway ..."

We are silent for a bit, comfortable in each other's presence even if the subject is a little sad.



"You ... you keep telling me I'm hot and gorgeous and all that, but ... why?"

I look at her, my eyebrows almost up to my hairline. Excuse me? "Because it's the truth, that's why. Scully, you are hot and gorgeous. What else am I supposed to say?"

She folds her hands, moving them nervously. "Well, I've never had a ... lover who thought I was all of that, you know, and ..."

Then they've never taken the time or effort to really look at you, I think, and I gently lift her chin to make her look at me, my eyes pleading with her to believe me.

"Dana Katherine Scully, I've been fortunate enough to have spent the last twenty years with you and there hasn't been a day since we first met that I regret knowing you. You've challenged every part of me and you've made me a much better person in the process. I have seen the best of you, I have seen the worst of you, and it's only made my love for you stronger. I've never been able to stop it; there is a large part of me that absolutely yearns for you. Constantly. And I honestly don't know why. I just know it's there."

"But why? I've always been so ... cold ... and ... You know they called me the Ice Queen, and I know that moniker was true, but you can make me feel so sexy and so desirable and sometimes ..," she sighs deeply and I feel it all the way in my heart.

"You've welcomed me into your life, you've welcomed me into your bed," I say softly. "Now that's all great and more, but I've had that with other women. They let me be with them and they let me sleep with them and sometimes, hell, most of the time the sex wasn't even half bad. But none of them ever welcomed me into their hearts. You have. You opened your heart to me and you let me in. Do you realize how precious that is? And how goddamn sexy?

"You made me want to be a husband and you made me want to be a father, when those two things were the only things in my life I was sure I would never want. You changed my mind because you showed me that I could be a good husband and father if I had the right person by my side. And then we mourned what we thought was the end of that dream, because we thought we'd never be parents. But still we kept fighting for our dreams and our relationship."

I shake my head, wiping the tears from both our cheeks. "You rescued me, Dana, and I realize so well that I can never be all that to you, but, God, I'm so grateful for what you have been able to give me.

"And you are beautiful, you've got to believe me on that. Please. Whenever I see you, whether you are naked or not, whether you are tired and sweaty from working so incredibly hard to ensure our survival or you're just sitting back, taking a little break and relaxing and looking happy -- I get crazy about you and I just keep wanting you."

I shrug a little helplessly, struggling to put into words what she means to me. And just as I'm ready to give up on trying to explain just how unbelievably badly I need her in my life, she grabs my face and proceeds to kiss me so incredibly hot I can feel her lips right through my head. I swear, that kiss burns the back of my skull, setting every fiber of my body and every nerve cell of my brain on fire.

When we part from our kiss we're lying down on the bench and I'm well and truly underneath her, my hands under her shirt. How we got in this position I can't recall, but who am I to complain?

"If that is your way to say you agree with me, I'd be more than happy to put your mind to ease on any subject you choose to name," I smile and she grins as she wipes away a stray tear.

"So I really am sexy?"

I roll my eyes with a smile. Then I take her chin, making her look at me.

"Yes," I say, trying to infuse the truth of my words in every single letter of that one short word.

"You're incredibly gorgeous as well, you know."

"So you've been kind enough to tell me," I chuckle, looking up into her glittering eyes.

"Maybe we should show the world."

I grin. "Hell yeah." I wiggle my eyebrows. "Wanna make love?"

She smiles, rubbing her hand over the side of her pregnant belly. "You've already done your part to make this little one a reality, you know."

I chuckle. "I know. Does it make me a total pig if I feel inordinately proud of that fact?"

She laughs, throwing her head back with joy. I feel my whole body stir, seeing her unabashed glee and, Jesus, it's so arousing!

She must be feeling my body's reaction because she looks back at me and her smile has changed from playful joy to heated joy. "So you are a pig!"

I chuckle. "Just a guy, sweetheart. Could be the same in some aspects, but, hey, what can I say? I'm a man."

"Yes, you are a man. Very much so, in fact," she says in a low voice. "You think you're up making love to a pregnant woman?"

I flash her a lustful smile. "There is nothing sexier. Besides, in a couple of months it will become a lot more difficult physically. We might as well grab any opportunity for sex by the balls." I grin when I see her grin. "Pun fully intended."

"I'm glad to hear it."

She gets up from her position on top of me. I follow her example and we stand in front of one another for a brief moment before we reach out and meet in a fevered kiss.

"I can't get enough of you," I say in a very low voice and she moans softly.

"I want you," she replies, and that puts an end to our conversation for now. What more needs to be said after all?

We take our time undressing each other, letting our hands wander across every newly revealed bit of skin. I am so familiar with her body, even when it is now changing slowly but surely, and she knows every last inch of my body -- she must do, she has explored it with various body parts of hers on countless occasions -- but we just seem to rediscover the pleasure of our bodies with every session of lovemaking we embark on. It's intoxicating, it's amazing, and I can't get enough of it.

When we're finally completely naked we just take some time looking, smiling, kissing.

"Do you like my new belly?" she asks softly and I smile, dropping down onto my knees like I did in the field this afternoon so I'm level with her belly button. I turn my face and put my cheek to her growing tummy, our baby separated from my touch by only a thin layer of skin and muscle.

"I love it," I say, turning my head again so I can kiss the skin. That's my child growing in there, I think, I helped to make that new little person. I think I have to correct my words from a few minutes ago: inordinately proud doesn't even begin to cover it.

"Get up," she orders with a smile and I obey. Of course I obey. Wouldn't you? She takes my hand and smiles a bit wider. "Come with me. I want to make love with you but I don't want to do it here."

"Are we going inside then?"

"No, we are going to find a spot out there where They can see us if They are watching. I want Them to see us having sex."

"I'm sure They're watching. If there is anything that could completely mess up Their plans, it's us humans making love and making new babies."

"Or just having sex for the heck of it," she says, her eyes dark and wanton, her smile pretty much gone. "Because I feel like having some good old-fashioned straight-on sex."

I grow completely hard at her words and she grins knowingly as she watches it happen. "You want to be fucked?" I ask, my voice low and rough.

She nods. "Actually, yeah, I do. Tenderness is all good and well, you know, and there are times when that's just what I want, but I'm simply too horny now. Horny and aroused and so ready for you I could scream. I want to fuck you and I want you to fuck me."

I close my eyes for a moment, trying to regain some control. Holy shit, this is going fast! Then, when I feel I've got at least some control back, I grab her hand and we cross the paddock into the empty field where we've been letting the grass and wild flowers grow to feed our cattle next month. The grass is soft and clean and the perfect place to make love under the stars. Correction, to fuck one another senseless under the stars. Jesus, grant me the strength to last long enough to make this good for her ...

"Right here?" I ask and she looks around for a moment before her eyes meet mine again and she smiles.

"Right here will do nicely," she replies, milliseconds before we kiss again, frantically, as though the world is coming to an end. Well, it almost did so three years ago, I know how to handle this situation. And we are doing just dandy.

I feel her hand on my hard flesh, stroking me blatantly, without the slightest hesitation or awkwardness. I buck into her hand once, before slowly pulling her down with me into the grass. Bring it on, babe. Bring it on.

The whole house is smelling of pumpkin today. She's been busy cooking and baking the pumpkins I picked up from our vegetable garden this morning, and we're having a pumpkin dinner tonight. What else are we supposed to eat on Halloween?

To be completely honest, we're having pumpkin fairly often. I found a small bag of pumpkin seeds when we moved into this farm three years ago and we've been growing pumpkins ever since -- it's one of those rare plants that have not let us down at one stage or another. Even during that disastrous first winter we had at least a few pumpkins, and I'm fairly certain that the humble pumpkin helped us survive, even when the ones we ate by the end of winter had almost rotted at that point. But let's face it, if the choice is between plain starvation or eating bad vegetables, I'd pick option two, please. We all would.

Of course, none of the credit for these pumpkins should go to me. Sure, I may have been the one who found the original batch of seeds, but she's the one who has been tending to them ever since.

She's let one of the plants grow a larger pumpkin this year by cutting away all but one of the fruiting vines of one of the pumpkin plants, so we can make a proper Jack o' Lantern. In previous years we didn't really have enough plants to cut away any vines that might produce fruits, but we've had a bumper harvest this year, and after some careful deliberation we decided that maybe we could afford to grow a pumpkin for decoration only. It will probably taste like shit because we've let it grow far too old and big , but that's okay, we're not planning on using that thing for food anyway.

I've just carried in the big pumpkin that will be our Jack o' Lantern. It's not as big as some of the show ones I saw in stores before the Invasion, but then again we're not growing any of the decorating varieties either; we're growing food varieties and these simply do not grow as big. But this particular pumpkin has a lovely orange color, and it's nice and squat and it will make a great lantern. Scully has made a candle out of beef fat and a cotton wick so we won't need to sacrifice any of our precious stearin candles.

I put the big pumpkin on the kitchen table and take a sharp knife and clean kitchen towel from the cupboard. "Look at this beauty!" I say and she turns around from her cooking.

"I know, hasn't it done well?" she says, smiling.

Of course she's not surprised, you idiot, I tell myself, she did all the growing and tending and pruning of the damn thing. You should be complimenting her, not yourself.

"This will make a beautiful carved pumpkin," I go on, not allowing my mind to mess with my enthusiasm. "What do you think I should carve? The classic scary face or something else? Or maybe Katherine should carve it."

She blanches slightly at the thought of our 18-month-old daughter wielding a sharp knife, and I grin.

"If she wants anything to do with it, she can draw a design, but you or me will do the actual carving," she says. Then she picks up a small pumpkin from the counter. "Why don't you give her this pumpkin to draw on? I wanted to cook it, but the center is starting to rot so we can't use it for food."

"But that's a really tiny pumpkin," I whine as I take the fruit.

What the hell is wrong with me today? Oh wait, it must be the excitement of carving pumpkins -- excitement of the non-sexual kind always brings out the whiny kid in me. Not a nice trait to be honest and how she manages to put up with it is a total mystery to me, but there it is.

"Well, she's a really tiny girl, and I think she'll love it," Scully says with a smile, but her eyes hold a definite warning which I'm smart enough not to ignore. "Why don't you go upstairs and see if she's woken up from her nap yet?"

I move over to where she stands and kiss her. "You're right, I will. And I'm sorry for being such a brat just then. I don't know why I did it."

She smiles, kissing me back. "It's all right, I like my boys naughty."

I grin, stroking my hands over her belly. "I know you do ..." She's close to seven months pregnant and my hands are simply itching to touch her body every time I see her. I kiss the side of her neck, nipping just the slightest bit. Then I let go. "All right, I'll be right back."

With a smile still plastered on my face I climb the stairs to our daughter's bedroom. Last month we moved her into another, bigger room to make space for the new baby, and she's incredibly proud of her 'big girl' bedroom. Scully made cute bright red and white plaid curtains for her new room and I white washed the walls so they are all pretty and clean for her. A new bed, which I rescued from one of the other farms, with some fresh bright white sheets and a red woollen blanket, an old mahogany dresser and a wicker chair with cushions made from the curtain material, complete her sparse but cute new bedroom.

"Katherine?" I say softly as I open the door. "Are you awake, sweetheart?"

"Papa," she says softly and she sits up in her bed, yawning and rubbing her eyes. Then she holds out her arms and I walk up to her, lifting her out of bed and into my arms. She wraps her small arms around my neck and lies against me, dozing a little more, as I sit down in the wicker chair, cuddling her small sleep-warm form.

"Did you sleep well?" I whisper, kissing her soft cheek and she nods lazily.


"Mama is making pumpkin," I say and she lifts her head, smiling. She absolutely loves pumpkin, in whatever shape or form we give it to her.

"Mama pum-in?" she asks and I nod, matching her smile. I get up from the chair with her still in my arms and we move to her dresser. She's really getting heavier now, even a little chubby, which is good, because if we're unlucky this winter she'll need her baby fat. Scully and I will always do our best to feed her whatever the circumstances are, but in this uncertain existence you just never know.

I take off her flannel nightgown and dress her in her warm woollen sweater and long dress. She looks like she stepped right out of an old painting in her ankle-length dress, but we have found that those long skirts and many layers are ideal for keeping her warm in a drafty farmhouse that has no central heating. I put her hand knitted socks on and then her little clogs. In summer she walks around barefoot for a good three months or so, but during the other nine months of the year she wears clogs just as we do.

"Mama will have to fix your pigtails, sweetheart, I'm no good at doing that," I say as I set her down on the floor. I take her hand and, after quickly throwing open her bed so it can air, we walk down the stairs into the kitchen.


Scully turns around and beams at our daughter who quickly runs up to her.

"Hello, sweetheart, did you sleep well?"

"Mama hug," she says, holding out her arms to be picked up, and Scully chuckles.

"I'm sorry, baby, but I can't give you a hug you now. I have the new baby here, remember?" She kneels down carefully and pulls our daughter in. "But I can always give you a cuddle, because I love you."

"Da's bee-bee," Katherine says, putting her hand on her mother's stomach and Scully nods.

"That's right, here is the baby. Are you excited about having a new brother or sister?"

"No," she says, not missing a beat, and I burst out laughing.

"There you go, that's honesty for you," I grin and Scully chuckles, getting back up again.

"We can only hope she'll be more excited when this baby is here," she says and I smile.

"I'm sure she will. I think it's simply too abstract for her at this stage, she doesn't understand what a baby or a brother or sister is yet. And how can she be excited about something she can't see, eat or play with?"

"That's true."

"So, how much time do we have till dinner?"

"Plenty. I'm baking this pumpkin for dinner and I need to strain the cooked pumpkin chunks so I can mash them to make pie -- ..."

"We're having pie?" I ask, altogether too elated by the prospect.

She smile and nods. "That's right, we're having pumpkin pie tonight. It's Halloween, I want to celebrate."

I grin from ear to ear. "Awesome! So, we have time to carve these pumpkins, right?"

"Yes, you do," she takes a large spoon from the cupboard and puts it on the table. "If you cut the top off the pumpkins, maybe you can let her scoop out the insides, although I'm not sure her motor skills are up to it already."

"I'll let her try at least," I reply. Then I pick up Katherine who is standing near the stove, watching her mother. "Come, sweetheart, let's make some spooky faces!"

"Spooky?" I hear behind me and I chuckle. Gotcha!

I sit Katherine down on the table. Then I take the knife so she can't get at it and cross over to her mother. I lean into her, unable to resist it.

"Do you think I'm spooky?"

She chuckles and turns her head. "Ow! That's awful. Just plain awful."

"Well, do you?"

"I'm not even going to answer that, you know."

I snicker, peck her on the cheek, and then move back to the table, where Katherine is sitting patiently, sucking her fist. I wonder if we'll ever be able to wean her off that habit ...

"So, here we go, sweetheart, your first ever pumpkin carving!" I say and she looks at me with big eyes. I pick up a piece of charcoal and sit on the chair next to where she is sitting. I pull the larger of the two pumpkins towards me.

"Let's draw some faces, shall we? I mean, we have got to have scary pumpkins! It's the essence of Halloween, you know."

"Actually, it's not," I hear behind me and I smile.

"Don't listen to her, Katherine. I know some people think it's about Saints and dead people and stuff, but I'm telling you, Halloween is all about pumpkins."

I hear her walk up till she's right behind me. "I will talk to you later," she says in a low serious voice, but I chuckle anyway. She returns to the stove, continuing her cooking.

"Are you going to make me pay?"

"I might, but you'll have to wait and see just how."

"You're not making me sleep on the couch again, are you?"

She raises her eyebrows and for a moment I'm convinced she will. But surely ...

I turn to look at her. "You are right. I know it and I'm sorry. But don't you think she's a bit young for ... for religion? Surely we shouldn't be bothering her with something like that, right?"

She looks at me and then, very slowly but by no means any less shocking to me, I see a tear pool in the corner of her eye. It doesn't fall, but that doesn't matter one bit. Oh no, what did I just say?

And just when I think it can't get any worse, she just turns around and walks back to the stove. I feel my heart absolutely shatter as I realize I have just smashed my fist right into the very heart of her beliefs, of every value and moral she was raised with and which she holds so dear.

"Scully, I'm sor- ..."

"Forget it, Mulder," she interrupts me in a soft pained voice, making me feel even worse. I didn't think it was possible, but it happened. "Please, go decorate those pumpkins with her. I'm sure she doesn't understand why you're not playing with her."

Fuck it, no! Religion has always been the one subject that divides us, and I have on occasion taken her faith less than seriously, but I believe this is the first time in twenty-odd years that I have actively insulted her beliefs. And I cannot allow her to push me aside before I can apologize.

Then again, Katherine must be entertained, she is right about that. I grab some scrap paper and give our daughter the charcoal. "Go draw a picture, Katherine," I say. "Papa needs to talk to mama."

With Katherine scribbling away, oblivious to what's going on, I cross to Scully and go to stand next to her. I dare not touch her now, but I really need to reconnect. I'll never be able to put together the pieces of my heart if she won't let me back into hers.

I see tears on her face and I reach out to carefully wipe them away, making her look at me. She opens her mouth, but then appears to decide against it, and she sighs, leaning her hands on the handles of the stove, shaking her head and closing her eyes.

"I didn't- ..."

She holds up her hand to stop me. "Don't apologize if you don't mean it."

But I do! GodDammit, Scully, I do, I am sorry! "What if I do mean it?" I whisper.

She looks at me. "Then you shouldn't have said it in the first place."

I open my mouth to protest, but there is nothing I can say. Annoyed with myself I cross my arms, but then I remember that such a gesture implies that you don't want to talk, and I let my arms fall open again. I'll do anything to make her believe that I want to apologize, that I so want to make up for my stupidity.

"I think the pumpkin is cooked. Can you move aside for a moment, please? I need to drain the chunks."

Normally she would have asked me to help, and the fact that right now she just wants me out of the way is like a slap in the face -- and one I deserve. I reach into the cupboard and take out the colander anyway, placing it in the sink for her. That earns me a look, just slightly softer than what it has been for the past few minutes. It's all she can muster no doubt, and more than I should have hoped for.

With the pumpkin flesh draining in the sink she turns towards me, her arms crossed, her eyes now well and truly pissed. In a sadistic way I'm actually glad she's furious, because this I can handle. Disappointment is so much harder to deal with.

"You, Fox Mulder, are a complete asshole!" she spits at me. "Honestly, I cannot believe the sheer audacity of your words, I just can't ... I can't believe you have the guts to insult me like that, I ..," she shakes her head, apparently unable to put her fury into words. I think if there ever was a time I came within inches of being slapped hard, this must be the moment.

If we were in any other situation, I'd probably be packing my bags now to leave her forever. As it stands I simply cannot leave, it's just physically impossible unless I start hiking in whatever direction I choose and die of starvation and exposure long before I meet anyone who can help me.

Feeling suicidal anyway, I decide on the one action that will either get me kicked out of this house and her and Katherine's lives forever, or will be a step in the right direction: I put my arms around her and pull her closer, pouring every last bit of love and regret over my words into my embrace. She'll fight it, but I won't let go, I can't.

"Let me go!" she orders, pushing at my chest.

I shake my head, using my superior strength to keep her where she is. "No, I will not let you go because if I do you'll never let me in again."

"Fuck you!" she spits at me and our eyes meet.

She's livid, she's inconsolable, and she is marvelous. That's right, baby, abuse me, curse me, hit me, make me feel like the utter turd I am.

And then, mysteriously, I too become angry.

"For fuck's sake, Scully, why won't you let me apologize?!" I ask.

"Because this is not something you want to apologize for!"

I look aside and see our daughter look at us, big-eyed and open-mouthed, clearly confused. Shit! I do not want our child to see us fight! I remember the fights my parents had and it traumatized me for life. I cannot put her through that. We need to stop right now.

"Katherine is watching, we cannot do this now," I say. She looks aside and deflates, nodding.

"You're right," she relaxes in my arms and I let her go. But just as I turn away, she grabs my arm. "This is not over."

I shake my head. "I know. Tonight we will talk."

She nods and returns to our dinner, while I walk towards Katherine and sit down next to her. I see the pumpkins and suddenly I'm not interested in carving them at all anymore.

"Papa?" she says softly.

I sigh inwardly and look at our daughter, dreading her upcoming question. "What is it, sweetheart?"

She picks up the paper and holds it out to me, smiling widely. "Papa Ka-run!"

I feel my heart break all over again. "Oh, honey, did you draw you and me?"

She nods enthusiastically, showing me the charcoal scratches on the paper.

"Is mama in your picture, too?" I ask. From the corner of my eyes I see Scully look at us, a small smile on her face. She may be thoroughly pissed off at me, but she just cannot be angry with our daughter. I smile a little, too, venturing a reconciliation of sorts.

Katherine nods and points at a certain mass of scratches on the paper. "He-e," she says. "Mama. Mama bee-bee!"

"Oh, honey, it's beautiful!" I say and I lean in to kiss her chubby little cheek, making her giggle. She's lifted my spirits quite considerably already. Not bad for a barely-articulate 18-month-old child. Therapists would need years, she just needs to draw a picture.

"Shall we draw a picture on the pumpkin?" I ask, drawing in the smaller pumpkin.

She nods enthusiastically, clapping her hands, and I start drawing a funny face on her pumpkin. "You like that?"

She giggles. "Papa!" she says, pointing at the pumpkin.

I look at Scully who clasps her hand in front of her mouth to smother her laughter. For a moment I feel a flash of annoyance, but then I too start laughing. "Is that papa?"

Katherine nods and I sigh with a smile. Guess I deserved that one ...

Outside the rain is battering the house and the wind is howling: a true November storm. I've laid the fire in the fireplace and the living room is nice and warm. We are sitting on the couch, but tonight there is a distance between us, both physically and mentally.

The rest of the night we spent with Katherine went well enough, but I'm not na?ve enough to think that we have bridged the gap that I created this afternoon. Katherine and I carved the two pumpkins and they are on the table, the beef-fat candle inside the larger of the two, sputtering softly. Katherine had a lot of fun scooping out the inside of the pumpkins with her hands, delighting in the mess she was allowed to make.

Scully put her to bed a little while ago and she returned a few minutes ago with a pensive expression on her face.



"Katherine asked why I was so mad with you."

I sigh. "Because you were right to do so."

"She noticed the fight between us," she sighs. "I had kind of hoped she wouldn't notice. What kind of impression will this leave in her? I'm terrified she'll feel ... like it's her fault, that there is something she could have done to prevent it ..."

"She couldn't."

"I know. But does she know?" She sits up and turns towards me, taking my hands in hers. "Tell me honestly: why did you say it? It wasn't a mistake, you knew exactly what you were saying."

I nod. "I did. I knew what I was saying and I realized that I was going to hurt you."


I shake my head. "There is no 'but'. I'm apologizing to you because I insulted you on the most basic level I could have picked. There is nothing I can say in my defense."

She frowns and sighs, letting go of my hands. "Why did you say it? Do you really believe that we shouldn't ... bother Katherine with religion?"

I shake my head again. "No. I did think that viewing Halloween as a festival of pumpkins was more appealing to her at this stage, but I said it in such a way that I knew immediately afterwards I had hurt you. Badly. And for that I am truly sorry."

"Do you think we should raise her with religion? I mean, we have never discussed this and perhaps we should have done so before she was born, but we need to be united on this as much as we are with regards to any other aspect of raising our children. Because next month we will have another child to care for and whatever we decide upon, we need to agree on that and we need to do it now."

"You're right, we should," I say.

She looks at me. "Why is religion so hard for you? I've never quite understood it."

"I wasn't raised with any kind of organized religion," I say softly. "I mean, I was born Jewish, but raised kind of Protestant I suppose. But we never went to church or to the synagogue or anything like that, and religion served no purpose whatsoever in my family when I was younger." I shake my head. "Then again, just look at the mess I was growing up in."

She moves closer to me. "How old were you when you celebrated your Bar Mitzvah?"

I look at her, kind of surprised at her question. I smile and shake my head. "Actually, I didn't. I should have done it when I was thirteen, but that was just after Samantha was gone and my parents couldn't go through with it."

"You didn't get to do it?"

"No. It just ... never happened, I guess."

"Did you want it?"

Again I shake my head. "No, I ..." I bite my lips. "... I didn't think I deserved it ..."

Her expression becomes unexpectedly soft and compassionate. She moves even closer until she sits in her customary place by my side. I gingerly put my arm around her shoulder, relieved when she doesn't move away. I think I'm on the road towards at least partial forgiveness ...

"Religion doesn't hold happy memories for you, does it?" she asks.

I shake my head. "No, it doesn't. But it's important to you, and that is enough reason for me to mind my language. Maybe even change my mind about it."

She takes a deep breath. "So, where do we go from here?"

I don't answer right away. Then, "To be completely fair, I'm not going to change, I think, there have been too many wounds that I don't think will ever really heal. Do you think I'll change?"

"Well, no, and I wasn't expecting that anyway. But can you support me if I want to imbue at least a practical sense of Catholic faith in our children?"

I nod. "I can. I will, because I think it will do them a lot of good. I just need to be aware of that and not insult you."

She smiles a bit. "Actually, I think I really need to grow a slightly thicker skin," she sighs. "I over-reacted, didn't I?"

I shake my head. "No, you didn't. I think you did what you had to do. I do regret fighting in front of Katherine though. My parents fought in our presence so often and it hurt like hell, even when Sam and I were still tiny and didn't understand what it was they were fighting over. Maybe it was even worse then, because we didn't understand. I always thought it was because of something I had done."

"But it wasn't. Didn't you know that? Didn't they tell you that?"

"Rationally speaking I know that now, but I seriously doubt whether I ever knew that internally. I spent years on a therapist's couch and I still don't think anyone ever really managed to convince me ... And my parents never told me it wasn't my fault. My guilt-complex suited their case just fine. Guess I was an easy victim for two thoroughly messed-up adults."

"I'm sorry ..."

"I know, don't be. I think I did all right in the end." I smile. "So what do we do now?"

She sighs. "I don't know ... When we were ... fighting ... I thought I'd lost you. I thought this was the end ..."

I nod. "I felt like my heart had been ripped right out of my chest."

"So, what now?"

I look down at my hands, then back up at her. "Do you think you could forgive me?"

She looks at me, apparently surprised. "I haven't done so already?"

I shake my head. "No, but I understand that perhaps you can't. I just hope you- ..."

She pulls my head closer and presses her lips on mine. She truly surprises me with that, but then I come to my senses and I angle my head slightly so we can kiss more comfortably. And we kiss for real, for ages I think.

When we part slowly, I feel my lips curve into a smile even when I feel tears on my cheeks. "Does this mean I'm forgiven?"

She nods and smiles. "Yes, you are," she laughs softly. "Dammit, Mulder, why can't I just stay pissed off at you?"

I laugh too, I can't help it. "Because you love me too much."

She smiles warmly. Then she grins, shaking her head in apparent disbelief. "God help me, yes, I do. I do love you way too much."

I wrap my arms around her and pull her in until head is resting on my chest. I rest one hand on her stomach over our unborn child. I press a kiss in her hair. "Thank you."

"Happy Halloween," she whispers.

"Happy Halloween. I love you," I reply in an equally soft voice.

I feel her doze off in my embrace and I smile, listening to the crackling sounds of the wood in the fire and the sputtering of the candle. Outside the storm is still raging, but I feel warm and comfortable, and safe in the knowledge I'm truly loved.

Counting my blessings never seemed so appropriate ...

I'm absolutely exhausted -- but I can't believe I've ever been happier. Well, to be precise there have been a couple of previous occasions of equal amounts of happiness, but this is definitely up there with the best.

I'm sitting on the side of our bed, watching my wife and our new baby daughter. Yes, we have another little girl, I can't believe our luck. We haven't decided on a name yet, but we have a few options we're considering. Of course since we didn't know if we were going to have a boy or girl, we had to have a few names for either gender, and we still haven't made up our minds yet. For the moment though I'm not sure she's up to deciding, and I can wait. The only thing I can imagine that will mess up our determination to take our time finding the perfect name for our new little treasure, is Katherine. If she wants to know the name of her baby sister, we'll have to think fast.

"Penny for your thoughts?" she says, her voice soft and tired, but smiling.

I chuckle. "If you can find one, sure." I bend over and kiss her sweaty face. "Would you like something? Maybe freshen up a bit?"

"I would love that. Can you get some water and a towel? I think I need to get changed and clean up. I feel pretty gross right now."

"All right, I'll be right back. Actually, I will have to boil the water, so I'll be a bit, but take it easy, okay?"

"Where do you think I'd be going?" she says and I grin.

"Yeah, sure, that's right ... Okay ...um ... I'll be right back then."

She smiles, looking at our brand-new girl. She's only 15 minutes old, but she hasn't slept yet. According to Scully it may be up to an hour before she'll sleep, and quite frankly I'd love to sit here for that entire hour and watch her fall asleep, but I'll need to take care of Scully too.

I walk down the stairs and light a candle. The stove is down to embers, giving off quite a bit of heat still, but no light. Normally we either have daylight, or the light from the fire in the stove if we really have to get up early, but this is not an option now. The night is pitch dark and clouds cover the stars and the moon. With a candle by the side of the stove I boil some water from the well.

After what seems forever, I see the water bubbling so I take it off the fire and put it on a towel on the table to let it cool down a bit.

I sit down at the table, twiddling with the mugs that are still there, thinking about our day so far. Her labor started yesterday afternoon and her water broke a few hours ago. Then it went pretty fast. It's very early morning now of this cloudy January day. January 6th. Twelfth Night. That's right, this sorry son of a bitch knows his Saint Days. I'm not even going to contemplate the twisted logic behind that one.

I dip my finger carefully into the water to test the temperature and decide it will do. I grab a clean towel from the cupboard and walk back up the stairs to our room. I sit back down on the side of the bed, setting the bowl of water on the nightstand, the towel on the bed.

"She's still awake, isn't she?" I ask, smiling at the tiny form of the latest addition to our family. God, I'm a lucky man.

"Yes, I nursed her a bit just a moment ago, just a few sips to get my milk flowing and to make sure she gets the colostrum to kick-start her immune system. I think she'll go to sleep soon. We do need to get a fresh diaper on her before we put her into her crib though."

"If you like, I can hold her for a bit, maybe change her diaper, and you can clean yourself up and change into a clean nightdress. This one looks pretty soiled."

She smiles. "Thank you, that would be lovely," she holds our daughter out for me to take and I carefully take her into my arms.

"She's so light! And so tiny."

She smiles wryly. "That's not how I remember her feeling just an hour ago, but you are right, she's quite small."

"Is she too small?" I ask, worried all of a sudden.

"I don't think so, but she seems a bit smaller than what Katherine was at birth. Which is a little odd considering that I was in so much better condition this pregnancy. But at first glance she seems healthy so I think we can relax."

She gingerly pulls the soiled cotton nightgown over her head. "It's well and truly ruined it seems. And so are the bed sheets. I don't think I'll ever be able to clean those stains out of them."

"Well, I'll put them away to soak anyway. You never know."

"Can you get me some pads as well, please? I'll need them to catch the blood."

"You're bleeding?"

"I just gave birth, I'll be bleeding for another few weeks or so at least. It's normal. I just need to check that the bleeding doesn't get too bad. Really, it's kind of like a heavy period, nothing worse."

"Oh, okay." With our girl in my arms I walk over to our dresser and pull out a clean bed sheet and nightgown and take some pads from the drawer. Meanwhile she has started to give herself a sponge bath.

"This feels so good," she says with a smile. "Could you do my back, please? I'm too sore to reach."

"Sure." I take the towel, holding our baby in one arm, and wash her back, wiping away the sweat. My practice handling Katherine has given me a dexterity I would never have expected before. "There, all done."

"Thank you." I change the bed sheet while she puts her clean nightgown on. Then she lies back against the pillow, closing her eyes. "God, I'm tired."

"Go get some sleep, I can stay up and look after this little one."

She shakes her head, her eyes still closed. "No, you need to sleep, too. I'm not going to be any help for the next week or so, and Katherine will need to be taken care of as well. Is the baby asleep yet?"

I look down at the baby in my arms and notice she has closed her eyes. "I think so."

"Then change her diaper, put her in the crib to sleep, and try to get some sleep yourself. God knows we won't be getting much in the sense of sleep for another few months anyway; we've got to grab whatever we can get."

I smile. "Yeah, you're right." I quickly change her diaper. Then I walk over to the wicker crib we used for Katherine and put our baby girl in there, tucking her in under the tiny sheets and blanket. After kissing her soft forehead I walk to my side of the bed and take off my clothes. I slip under the covers next to my wife.



"Thank you for giving me the chance at being a father again."

She smiles, her eyes closed. "You're welcome. And thank you for giving us this little treasure to love."

I lean in to kiss her gently. "My pleasure."

"Papa bee-bee?" Katherine asks when I go into her room the next morning. Normally it's her mother who wakes her up in the morning so she must have guessed something's going on. We really do have a smart little kid here.

I nod, picking my girl up from her bed. The bed has quite a high side which is good to prevent her from falling out of it, but of course she then needs help every time to get in and out. "That's right, the baby is here. You have a little sister."


I quickly change her diaper. Then I dress her in her sweater and dress and put her socks and clogs on. I take the hair brush. "Stand still for a moment, sweetheart, let me just brush your hair."

"Mama do."

"Mama is still tired, darling, she can't brush your hair now, she's still in bed."

She starts to cry softly. "Mama do ..."

I sigh. I really don't have the energy to fight her now. We are quite strict in our approach not to give in to any of her whining, but this morning I really don't have the energy to stand my ground. But then again, if I give in now she'll try again. I must be firm. "No, Katherine, mama will not do your hair. Sit still for a moment, honey, so I can do it instead."

She sniffles and mopes a bit, but lets me brush her hair anyway. I manage to make two fairly acceptable pig tails. Then set her on her feet and I take her hand.

"Come, you want to see your new sister?"


"Yes, the baby," I smile. Together we cross the landing to our bedroom where Scully is nursing the newborn.

We talked a bit after we woke up this morning and we decided to call our new daughter Julia. We considered all the girls' names that our immediate families held, but none seemed suitable: they either held negative connotations or carried a sense of loss which we still haven't quite been able to cope with adequately. So we went for something classic but new to our family.

"Hello, sweetheart," Scully says with a smile when she sees Katherine. "Come say hello to your new sister."

"Up, peez," Katherine says to me, holding out her arms. I smile and lift her onto our bed. We're trying to get her to say 'please' and 'thank you' and she's starting to get the notion. In our opinion it's never too early to start learning good manners. She crawls to sit next to her mother. "Mama bee-bee," she reaches out and softly pats Julia's little head.

"Be careful, sweetheart," Scully says, gently taking her hand. Katherine sits up on her knees, looking at the little baby who has just stopped nursing. Julia yawns and Katherine giggles.

"Bee-bee ty-ud!" she says.

"Yes, she is. She sleeps a lot, you know, because she is really small and she wants to become a big girl like you."

"Yike Ka-run!" she says with a grin.

I grin too. "Yes, just like Katherine," I say.

"Papa, ah hungee," she then says and she holds out her hands to me.

I pick her up and into my arms. "Of course you are. Let's go downstairs and get you some breakfast then. Scully, can I get you anything?"

She nods. "Yes, please. Can you get me some sandwiches and a glass of milk, please? And I'd like a jug of boiled water, please, I'll need to keep my fluids up when I'm breast-feeding."

I bend over and we kiss briefly. "I'll be right back. I'll bring you the milk, then feed Katherine, and afterwards come back with the sandwiches and the water, okay?"

She smiles. "Thank you."

"Let's go and eat," I say to Katherine and we walk downstairs into the kitchen. I put on water for Scully and milk to make porridge for Katherine. I take the oats I put away to soak last night and add them to the milk. It looks like thick wallpaper paste, but with some honey in it she eats it just fine. Then I pour a glass of fresh milk for Scully.

"Katherine, can you sit there for a moment so I can take this glass of milk to your mom?"

She looks at me with her big blue eyes and sits down on the floor. Satisfied that she's all right, I hurry upstairs.

I've just put the glass of milk on the bed stand when we hear a loud 'bump' and then Katherine crying hard.

"Oh no," I say and I run down the stairs where I see her sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, bawling hard, her little hand over her forehead. "Katherine, what happened? What did you do?"

I pick her up as she just keeps on crying, and I gently pry her hand away from her forehead to check her for injuries. A bruise is already forming and I have no doubt it will become quite a lump. The skin doesn't appear to be broken, though.

"Oh no, did you bump your head, sweetheart?"

"Tay-bul!" she cries, burying her face in my chest and I stroke her back for comfort. She keeps on crying but the despair and shock seem to be waning.

I pull the porridge away from the stove so it doesn't burn, and together we walk upstairs. I'm sure Scully will want to see first-hand that our girl is basically all right.

"Katherine, what happened?" she asks, her face showing her worry. Julia is in her arms, sleeping.

"She bumped her head against the table," I say with a small smile. "She has quite a lump on her forehead."

"Is she okay?" she asks of me and I nod.

"It looks like it. I think her tears are mostly shock, nothing worse."

"She doesn't have a concussion, does she?"

I shake my head. "I doubt it. She didn't lose consciousness and she was just crying hard. I think she's just startled."

"Oh, sweetheart ... Come here, so mama can give it a kiss and make the pain go away, okay?"

She nods, still sobbing softly. I set her down on the bed and she settles down in her mother's arms next to her little sister, wrapping her arms around her mother's neck. I see Scully wince for a moment, but she doesn't comment. Then Scully bends in and presses a tender kiss onto the bruise on our daughter's forehead.

"There you go, darling. Are you feeling better now?"

She nods and sits against her mother's chest, sighing and sniffling, sucking her fist for comfort. I sit down on the edge of the bed, enjoying the sight of the three women of my life, even if one of them is currently a little sad.

"How did she bump her head?" Scully asks softly.

I shake my head. "I don't know. She must have lost her balance or something. I put the fire screen in front of the stove so she wouldn't be able to touch that, but she must have hurt herself some other way." I frown. "I should've paid better attention ..."

Scully shakes her head. "No, you did what you could. We've been over this, we cannot protect her from everything on this farm," she sighs. "She'll need to learn her boundaries the hard way, there is no other way."

I smile wryly. "Still think I could've done better though."

"I know you do, and you couldn't have. Trust me on that. Anyway, has she eaten yet?"

I shake my head. "No, I'd put her porridge on and I'd just brought you your milk when she fell."

"Katherine," Scully says to our eldest daughter. "Are you hungry?"

She nods. "Ah hungee."

I smile. "Then let's eat."

Guess it's not that bad then. We walk down into the kitchen to get some breakfast.

I've cut out a heart from a piece of old wallpaper I found in the attic and I've given it to Katherine to color in. It's Valentine's Day and even though I know we've never really celebrated it much, there is something to be said to do so at least in a small way. And certainly to let the children make some gifts for their mother.

Katherine usually gets charcoal to draw with because at least we can replace that. I made a charcoal pit last October and spent three days tending to the fire and wood to make charcoal. There was a book in the stable that gave general instructions on how to do it and I decided to give it a go. On the whole I think I didn't do too badly: I got some fairly decent charcoal and I didn't set the landscape on fire. What more could I possibly want for a first-timer, right?

Today, however, I've dug out a box of crayons for her. Because that heart just has to be red, there is no other color that will do.

She's sitting at the kitchen table in her high chair, her little cow in her hands. "Papa!"

"What is it, sweetheart?" I say as I sit down next to her. "Do you want to make your heart?"

"Haht," she says, pointing at the paper cut-out and giving me a big smile. Her baby teeth are about complete now and she shows a nice pearly set. I put the paper heart on a piece of scrap paper because her sharpshooting skills in drawing still leave a lot to be desired.

"That's right, that's a heart. Can you color it in so we can give it to mama?"


"It's Valentine's Day, you know, and we are going to give her a little heart to show her how much we love her."

"Ka-run luf Nana!"

I smile. "I know, you love Nana, don't you? Do you love mama, too?"

She looks at me, completely confused, and I laugh. Clearly this conversation is going right over her head. "Of course you love mama," I say. I take the crayons and pick out the red one. Then I reach over to where she is sitting and I start coloring in the heart.

"Ka-run do!" she says and I give her the crayon, pretending to be surprised. Of course this was exactly my intention but there is no reason to show it.

"Do you want to color the heart?"

"Yah!" she says with a grin and begins to torture the heart and the crayon. I wince a little when I see her wasting those irreplaceable crayons, but I refrain from commenting. She won't do it any other way at this stage. For a little while all we hear is the soft roar of the resting fire in the stove and the waxy scratching of crayon on paper. The tip of her little tongue is between her lips as she concentrates on her task, making me smile. It's such a simple task, really, but to her it's a true challenge. Then, out of the blue, she throws down the crayon. "Dah!"

"Are you done, sweetie?"

She holds out her arms to me. "Down peez."

I smile as I lift her out of her chair. Talk about a short attention span ... I set her down and she runs off towards the window, her little clogs clattering on the tile floor. She puts her hands on the window sill, looking out. Then she looks at me, pointing at the sight outside.


I walk up to her. It's started to snow softly. "Oh, look at that, Katherine, it's snowing again! Do you want to play outside?"

"Pay!" she says, smiling widely, clapping her hands in excitement.

I hear footsteps behind us and I look around, seeing Scully enter the kitchen with Julia in her arms. She was upstairs, changing Julia's diaper and I think it's time for her to be nursed. I walk up to my wife and kiss her.

Katherine meanwhile is still fascinated by the fluffy white snowflakes that are covering the outside world. We have had quite a bit of snow and this may well be the last snow of winter, but to Katherine it's still a magical sight that just begs to be admired, enjoyed, and messed up.

"Are you going to nurse her?" I ask and Scully nods.

"Yes, she's hungry again. Are you going out to play with Katherine?"

I look at our eldest daughter's fascinated expression and I smile. "Yes, I think I will. She really does love the snow, doesn't she?"

"I think it's kind of magical to her, the way her toys just seem to fall out of the sky," she sits down in the grandfather chair by the stove, unbuttons her top and begins to nurse our youngest child.

"Will you be okay?" I ask as I watch them.

Scully smiles. "We'll be fine. Go on, take your daughter outside to play, it's probably the last time we'll have snow this winter, go on and enjoy it while you still can. When Julia is done I'll put her in bed and I'll get dinner on the way."

I bend down and kiss her, rising with a grin. "All right then. We'll be back in a little while, probably when we need to unfreeze." Then I walk over to Katherine. "Come, Katherine, let's go outside and play in the snow!"

"Yay!" she cries excitedly. She runs into the hallway, returning a few moments later, staggering under the weight of my coat and her cape. We don't have a proper coat for her so Scully took an old wool coat apart and made it into a hooded cape for her. "Kah-run cape?"

I take the garments from her arms and put my coat on the floor for the moment while I fasten her cape around her shoulders and put on the hood. I undo the safety pin that keeps her pair of knitted mittens attached to the cape and put them on her hands. Then I grab my coat and put it on, taking my own mittens from the pockets.

"Go say bye bye to mama and Julia, sweetheart," I tell her and she runs over to them.

"Baba, mama," she says, kissing her mother on the cheek, then stroking Julia's fuzzy little head with her mittened hand. "Baba, bee-bee."

Scully chuckles and I smile.

"Do you think she will ever say Julia instead of just bee-bee?" I say.

"I'm sure she will eventually. Just give her some time," Scully says with a smile. "Have fun!"

"Thank you, I'm sure we will."

When we come back into the kitchen we are both soaked and freezing, but I personally feel incredibly alive. Katherine had the giggles for just about as long as we were outside playing in the paddock, making a snowman in the meadow, and throwing snow balls in the field next to the stable. I deliberately missed her and she managed to hit me twice, causing elated cheers from her. After a little while we decided to go into the stable to check up on the animals. They needed to be fed, and we could use the occasion to warm up a little in the process.

We looked in on the horses and the pigs and spent some time with our cows. Of course some extra quality time was spent with her best bovine friend, Nana. The young cow is as old as she is, going on for two years old and I think I'll get the bull on Nana in the summer to see if we can have some calves by her by next year's spring. She's a good strong young cow and should give us plenty of calves and milk.

After checking up on the general state of the cattle, Katherine gave me a hand feeding them before we ventured outside again to continue our wintery fun. I showed her how to make snow angels. I think that was pretty much if not totally the highlight of our little trip, both for her and for me. I never enjoyed making them, but it helps tremendously if you have a little girl with you who gets enthusiastic over absolutely everything you do. I'm sure we'll need to have this conversation again in about 13 years' time, but for now I really am her hero, and it is a pretty damn good feeling.

The kitchen feels toasty warm when we get back inside. I'm carrying Katherine who is by now too exhausted to walk. She's no longer taking afternoon naps, but I think today she'll probably be asleep a lot earlier than normal.

Scully is cooking dinner and she looks up when she hears us enter. She smiles at the sight.

"Don't you two look an adorable couple! Did you enjoy yourselves?"

I nod, looking at our now sleeping daughter. "We did, we had loads of fun. But I think I know of a certain little girl who has well and truly worn herself out."

Scully smiles widely. She stirs whatever she is cooking and then walks up to us. "She is completely out of it, isn't she?"

"Fast asleep," I grin. I sit her down on the kitchen table, supporting her floppy sleeping body against my stomach as I take off her wet cape and mittens. "Could you get a some dry socks for her? These are soaked."

"Of course," Scully says. "In the meantime, if you can, could you hang the wet clothes by the stove? That way they can dry overnight."

I nod, taking a towel to cushion Katherine's head as I lie her down on the table. She's still asleep. I remove her wet socks and clogs and wring out the edge of her long skirt. She has another skirt, but I can't really afford to run the risk of her soiling that one before Scully has had an opportunity to wash and dry this one. Maybe Scully should make some more skirts for her, but the trouble is that she's growing so fast. Then again, of course with Julia we'll have someone to pass the clothes on to, so it might just be worth our while. I'll have to talk about it with Scully.

She returns with a clean dry pair of socks and a dry sweater so I quickly change Katherine into these clothes, hanging the wet clothes over the bar next to the stove. We usually keep our dishcloths and towels there to dry, but of course it is ideal for this purpose as well.

"What do you think? Should I put her in bed for a while or ..."

She thinks for a moment, then shakes her head. "Why don't you lie her down to sleep on the couch in the living room? She's old enough not to roll off the furniture anymore, and she can continue her nap there. After all, she'll need to wake up for dinner in not too long anyway. And you should really change out of your wet clothes as well."

I smile, allowing a little heat to shine. "Can I change here? It's nice and warm in the kitchen."

She smiles back, her expression acknowledging the look I sent her. "If you can stand the disappointment of no follow-up, feel free to do so. I can't help you out yet, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the view."

I feel a tingle of arousal trickle down my spine and I pull her closer, kissing her just a little hotter than I probably should do. "I'm glad you do."

She chuckles and pecks me on the cheek. "Go change, lover, and take your cruel temptations with you."

I laugh. "Temptations, huh?"

We share a loving look and then I turn. I take Katherine's sleeping form into the living room and gently lay her down on the couch, covering her with one of the horse blankets we keep there for warmth. Then I make my way up the stairs to change out of my wet clothes and into something warm and dry.

Katherine and I still haven't given Scully her heart yet. But I have had a great afternoon with my daughter. Guess that's a good way to spend Valentine's Day, too ...

Katherine and I have just finished putting the dirty dishes in the sink for me to wash up later tonight and Scully is sitting by the stove, nursing Julia. It's warm, cozy, and quiet. Katherine can be quite a little chatterbox, but she can also be very quiet, just sitting there with her little toy cow, watching and observing. We've discovered she really loves to just sit and take everything in.

She's sitting on a kitchen chair now, wiggling her socked feet and clutching her cow as she watches her parents go about their business. I walk up to her and I'm greeted with a big smile. I kneel down by her side.

"Do you remember what we made this afternoon?" I ask her very softly. She frowns a little and I decide to help her. "We drew a ..."

Her face lights up. "Made haht!" she exclaims excitedly, making Scully turn her head to look at us. I may have thought we could keep this a secret, but perhaps not then. Guess she's still too young for that.

"That's right, sweetheart, we made a heart, didn't we?" I smile and I reach into my pocket to draw out the paper heart. "Is this the one?"

She nods enthusiastically. "Yah!"

I look at Scully who is smiling, but not saying anything as she nurses our youngest girl. I smile at her, wiggling my eyebrows. Then I look back at Katherine who is the picture of excitement.

"What do you think? Do you think mama will love your heart?"

She nods again. "Luv mama!"

"Do you love mama?"

"Yah!" she exclaims. Then she holds out her little cow. "Ka-run luv Nana!"

I laugh and shake my head. "Yes, you love Nana, too." I look at Scully who is laughing softly. "How's that for a sudden change of subject, huh?"

"It's normal at this stage," she says. "Actually, if I remember the books I read when I was expecting William correctly, she's doing remarkably well regarding her levels of concentration."

I get to my feet and take Katherine under her arms, lifting her from the chair and down to the floor. Together we walk to her mother, my wife. I kneel down to be on eye-level with Katherine when we're there.

"Do you want to give mama your heart?"

She looks at me. "No."

We burst out laughing, confusing her and she frowns.

"Did you draw your heart?" I ask.

She nods and smiles. "Yah."

"Who did you draw the heart for? Did you draw it for me or for mama?"

"Foh mama!"

I nod. Good. We seem to be making headway by now. "So, do you want to give the heart to mama then?"


I cover my face with my hand and I hear Scully laugh. I take a deep breath. "But what would you say if we gave her this heart together? It's a very pretty heart, I think she will love it very much."

She looks at me, appearing for all the world as if she is contemplating my suggestion. Then she smiles and takes the paper heart from me. "Haht foh mama?"

I nod. "I think mama will be very happy if she gets your heart."

"Kay," she holds the heart out to her mother. "Mama haht!"

"Oh, sweetheart, it's beautiful! Did you draw this heart?"

She nods. "Ka-run haht!"

Scully smiles, first at her daughter, and then a tender one at me. Then she looks back at her oldest girl. "It's your heart, isn't it? Well, I love it and I will keep it very carefully."

Katherine reaches up to her. "Up peez."

I take Julia from Scully arms. Julia wasn't nursing anyway so it's no problem. Then Scully lifts our girl up and into her arms.

"That's a beautiful heart. Thank you very much, baby," she says, cuddling Katherine.

"Das bee-bee!" she says, pointing at Julia, her eyes wide with confusion.

Scully smiles and I grin. Gotta love these young kids, they take everything so damn literally. I bend over and kiss my wife. "Happy Valentine's Day," I say.

She frowns a little. "I don't have a present for you, I completely forgot all about it," she replies and I smile.

"Are you kidding me? You've given me two priceless gifts already."

"Bleh, that's soppy beyond words," she grins, "but then again, it is too true."

I can't help laughing a bit. "Come, let's go into the living room."

We rise, Scully carrying Katherine who is starting to doze off again -- well, it is about bedtime for her anyway -- and me carrying Julia who fell asleep pretty much right after she was nursed. Together the four of us walk into the living room and we sit down on the couch. I pull one of the horse blankets over our little group and we fall silent, not talking, just listening to the soft wind around the house and the crackling of the fire in the fireplace.

I look around and smile when I see that they've all fallen asleep by now. I scoot a little closer and put my arm around them, carefully holding them.

And then I just relax, utterly content with what I have.

If Valentine's Day is all about love, well, we're doing a pretty damn great job.


Fifteen Years Later

"Mom, can Julia and I still go to the Fair tomorrow?" Katherine asks as the two girls come running into the kitchen from outside where they had been tending to the poultry, their cheeks red with both the wind and their excitement.

"The Fair? I didn't know there was a Fair on?" Scully says, but she gives me a surreptitious wink. The girls have been talking about nothing but the village Fair for close to a month now.

"Aww, mom, don't be ridiculous, you know the Fair is on!" Julia says and Katherine nods enthusiastically. "We've been talking about it for weeks!"

No kidding, I think. It's becoming almost annoying, they are talking that much about absolutely nothing else. But nothing really happens on this farm so I can imagine that any break from the routine is something to be relished by two lively teenage girls who have hormones raging in their bloodstreams.

"Who will be taking you there?" I ask as I'm sorting seeds I want to sow tomorrow.

The girls start to giggle and chitter like a couple of day-old chickens. "John and Joshua," Katherine says between giggles, causing even more giggles and blushes. I wink at Scully who smiles. Ah, teenage love.

It's been nineteen years now since the Invasion and the human race seems to be doing well again after coming close to extinction. About ten years ago we came across the first people we saw after we fled from DC: a young family with three kids. They moved into one of the abandoned farms in the neighborhood and we helped them to make the house and fields ready for living in. Katherine and Julia were delighted to meet kids of their own age to play with and the parents and us are getting along pretty well. Ellen, their oldest girl, was born just before the Invasion and was more than happy to be an older sister to our two girls, and the two boys have proved to be the perfect playmates for our little tomboy Katherine. Julia has turned out to be quite a girly-girl who can happily spend hours doing nothing but brush and plaid her long brown hair and make daisy chains, and she has found a doting older sister in Ellen who is easily as girly as Julia is. Julia is a real help to Scully in the household, where I find Katherine the best stable hand I could possibly ask for.

Today, however, work is most definitely not on their minds. Tomorrow it's their first chance ever to go to the small village May Fair about ten miles from here, and the girls can't wait to go.

"Is Ellen going as well?" Scully asks and the girls nod.

"Yes. She says she wants a boyfriend," Julia replies, causing them both to giggle again. Honestly, these two seem to be stuck in a perpetual giggle these days.

"You know that mom and I are going as well, don't you?" I ask.

"Yeah. But you're not going to follow us and check up on every move we make, are you?" Katherine asks, sounding a bit panicky and exasperated.

"Sweetheart, we've been over this," I say with a smile. "Your mother and I want a day out as well, but we'll have fun of our own. As long as you promise to take care of yourselves and be back before midnight, you can have fun and you won't even see us."

I see delighted smiles on two teenage faces, before they run up the stairs. "We have to fix our clothes!" I hear Julia exclaim. Of course, who else would care about their outfits if not our little princess.

"We are not going to check up on them?" Scully asks and I grin, getting up. I walk over to her, wrap my arms around her waist and pull her in.

"Of course we are, but I wasn't going to tell them that." I bend in and kiss her softly. "Think you still remember how to do a stake-out?"

She grins. "A stake-out? Really?"

I nod. "Yeah. You up for it, former G-woman?"

She smiles, resting her head against my shoulder. "Yeah, I'm up for it."

"I think Joshua really fancies Katherine," I say and I feel her nod.

"I agree. But they're a bit young still, aren't they? I mean, he can't be much older than eighteen and she's only sixteen."

I think for a moment. "What can we do?"

"Nothing, I'm afraid. But maybe it's just a fling, you know, just a teenage infatuation."


We are silent for a bit.

"Can you imagine yourself as a grandfather?" she then asks and I see a twinkle in her eyes.

"No, but considering I never saw myself as a father either, I'm not sure my ideas are worth the brain waves they are carried on," I smile.

"God help us if that Fair becomes a little too cozy."

"We'll deal with that when it happens. You know they've been getting cozy for a year or so now. We can't stop them."

She nods. "You're right," she frowns briefly then. "Do you think we've told them enough? I mean, they're still teenagers, but do you think we've adequately expressed our desire that they get married before they're having kids?"

I take a deep breath. "We can only hope we did. And Katherine is a smart, sensible girl, we'll have to put our trust in her. I think that if we give her a relative amount of freedom now, she will honor the boundaries we do set. And she knows that we think she's a little young still to be a mother." I bend in and kiss her. "But we know how little effort it takes and how much fun it is to make a baby, don't we?"

She swats my arm softly. "You're impossible!" she says, making me laugh.

We hear the clatter of a pair of clogs coming down the stairs again.

"One day those two will ruin those stairs in their excitement," I mutter and we smile.

"Mom, can you come and see if our clothes are all right?" Katherine asks, popping her head around the door leading into the kitchen. Scully moves out of my arms.

"Of course, I'll be right up."

"Sweet!" our oldest girl exclaims, disappearing up the stairs again to join her sister.

"Can I come and see if your clothes are all right, too?" I ask. I stand up and pull my wife closer again. She grins, wrapping her arms around my neck, her eyes hot.

"My clothes?" she says. "When did you start to even care about my clothes?"

I grin. "Well, I didn't really, no, unless it was about how fast I could get you out of them."

She reaches up and kisses me. "They're not the only ones who can have a great May Fair, you know."

"I know. But I'm not waiting until tomorrow," I say in a low voice, making her smile. I let her go.

"And thank God for that," she walks towards to the door. "I'd better see what they need me for, I think. I'll be right back."

With that she, too, disappears up the stairs. I sit back down on the kitchen chair and take the seeds I was sorting, thoughts running wild in my mind as I try to concentrate on my task. One thought, however, just keeps on popping to the forefront: could I imagine being a grandfather?

I smile when I realize that, hell yes, I could. In the old world, prior to the Invasion, I most definitely wouldn't have let my daughter get together with a boy this early on, but the world has changed and my mindset has changed. It's an 18th-century farmer's life we lead, we should not let any pre-Invasion 21st century values come between then and our reality now. We don't have access to contraceptives and the girls are teenagers with love on their minds. If one of them gets pregnant we'll have to deal with the consequences, and in the current situation, I suppose we are capable of doing so -- although if they both do I'm not sure my heart will be able to take the shock.

I look out of the window at the blue sky, dotted with fluffy cumulus clouds. It was on a day like this that They last visited us, all those years ago, and we thought we were going to die that afternoon. Instead we were allowed to make a new life in the form of our youngest girl and we could keep on making a future for ourselves, for all four of us.

Maybe it really is time that the circle continued and perhaps, just perhaps, new lives added on to it. I smile, and continue sorting.

The End

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