Story: Cursing Miracles I
Category: Angst, UST, MSR, Humor
Summary: Full length fic set in season 7 and thereafter. . Mulder, Scully, Lone Gunmen, Skinner. Scully and Mulder grow closer until he disappears. Scully must deal with her loss, a new partner, and a pregnancy. Will Mulder return?
This is the beginning of what is currently a two-part story arc. The length is beginning to take on epic-like proportions. The story takes place during season 7 and afterwards. Anything post-season 7 diverges from canon. Canon kept slipping in though. William is named William, whereas I'd named him something else before he was finally born in season 8�it took him a long time to be born! If you're familiar with the later seasons, you'll recognize some other similarities.
Chapter One is post-Orison 7x07
After shooting Donnie Pfaster in her apartment, Scully couldn't bring herself to stay there that evening. Not that it mattered once her apartment became a crime scene. She needed some place to stay, and Mulder rose to the occasion, telling her to come back to his apartment. With this gesture Mulder had come to her rescue once again, as they both had done repeatedly for each other�in both large and small ways. Accepting his invitation almost had seemed like the logical thing to do. They were partners and friends, so she could bring herself to accept his help, when she knew she needed it. If Scully was anything, she was logical.
Standing in her apartment, Mulder could sense that Scully was wrestling with some inner conflict. "If you want to pack some things, we can get out of here." He paused for a moment: "You can't judge yourself."
"Maybe I don't have to."
"The Bible allows for vengeance."
"But the law doesn't."
Mulder had intimate experience with getting himself into unpleasant situations when running abreast of the law as an agent. "The way I see it...he didn't give you a choice. And my report will reflect that...in case you're worried. Donnie Pfaster would've surely killed again if given the chance." He couldn't have endured it, couldn't have carried on, if she'd been killed�he knew that as well as he knew his own name.
"He was evil, Mulder. I'm sure about that, without a doubt. But there's one thing that I'm not sure of."
Mulder looked at her concernedly: "What's that?"
"Who was at work in me? Or what...what made me...what made me pull the trigger?"
Mulder considered for a moment. "You mean if it was God?"
"I mean...what if it wasn't?"
Mulder had given her his jacket, but she still was shaking somewhat from shock as they entered his building, and Mulder put his arm around her. Thankfully he was giving her space in the silence between them. Mulder either knew she didn't want to talk or was too uncomfortable himself to think of what to say to her. She had a feeling it was the latter: Mulder could be a coward when it came to probing her emotions. Her standard "I'm fine" seemingly was just as much a relief as an annoyance to him. She sometimes wanted more from him, but for the moment his silence didn't matter. Mulder was the person she trusted most in the world, and she knew he felt the same way: he'd said as much many times during their partnership. His arm around her provided the only comfort she was bound to be afforded, and her shaking had stopped by the time they reached his apartment door. He fumbled with his keys and flipped the light on as they entered, tossing the keys down on the table by the door.
For years Mulder's apartment had been almost uninhabitable�lacking in essential creature comforts, such as a bed, but about six months ago that had changed overnight. He now actually had a bed and bedroom furniture and the bedroom itself, formerly a storage room for files and porn, had been cleared out to make room for these new additions. His apartment was now fairly respectable, and she actually didn't mind staying there. She had stayed there before its current transformation: formerly she'd sat in the reddish-brown leather chair watching him or waiting for him on a few occasions when it was necessary, but she had never considered it to be a relaxing place in general.
"Do you want something? I can get you something to drink. I'm afraid I don't have much to eat."
Mulder's refrigerator was perennially empty, as Scully was well aware. He had a personal relationship with every delivery place in a two mile radius. That photographic brain of his had probably memorized their carry-out menus years ago.
"Do you have any wine? I think that might calm me down."
"Yeah. Sit down, and I'll get it." Mulder turned on his heel, heading for the kitchen, and Scully walked into his living room.
Carefully arranging herself on the black leather sofa that faced the television, Scully folded her legs underneath her and pulled the jacket around herself tightly; she didn't want to give up that jacket yet. Her pajamas had been stained with blood, and she had quickly changed into a pair of grey running pants and a white men's undershirt that she sometimes ran in. She'd also carefully wiped the blood off her upper lip.
She could faintly hear Mulder in the kitchen fumbling through drawers and cabinets. She pictured him looking for glasses and uncorking the wine in his somewhat dated kitchen. Scully mused that the kitchen with its white brick walls and outmoded kitchen units seemed more like Mulder's style, even if the rest of his apartment had visibly improved. He appeared around the corner, carrying two glasses and a bottle tucked under his arm.
He set the bottle and glasses down on the low wooden coffee table, straightening up and immediately running his large brown hands through his hair, one of the little personal habits that Scully knew very well; he did it a lot when he was thinking. What he was thinking about she couldn't fathom, but he was thinking�that much she knew. He joined her on the couch and she glanced sideways at him. His face was in profile, and she considered how used to him she had become: when first she was assigned to work with Spooky Mulder, she had thought him attractive. She still did, but now she was less impressed and more comfortable with the way he looked.
"I don't know how good this is. Someone gave it to me somewhere along the line, I guess," he apologized handing her a glass.
"Anything will do," she said watching him lean forward and pour them each a glass.
'I should probably appreciate him more,' she thought to herself as he handed her a glass, which she accepted and sipped from before closing her eyes momentarily. 'Start appreciating him and stop pushing him away.' After all, he was only a selfish shit some quarter of the time. She could sense Mulder sitting back due to the subtle shift of the sofa beneath her. "Mulder, would you talk to me?" she asked gripping the stem of the glass more tightly. Silence wouldn't do anymore.
His eyebrows knit together, looking confused and concerned, but still saying nothing.
"About anything...anything at all. Just talk: I don't want to think right now."
Thinking back on that night, Scully couldn't perfectly recall exactly what he said or if she had responded to much of it, but she had a feeling that she hadn't. Nonetheless, something changed that evening between them. They had been through so much that she would have never imagined that one evening could change much of anything. After all, they had saved each other's lives, sat by each other's hospital beds, fought the unknown, and she had even shot Mulder. How could one evening on a sofa change anything? And yet, it did. Maybe it had been building up over the past few weeks and months. Long ago she had begun to tell time in terms of cases, and Mulder's mysterious illness and subsequent disappearance from the hospital had not been so long ago. Maybe her boundaries had been irretrievably weakened by that experience. Maybe it was more a game of atrophy for the both of them stretching over the years.
Scully was on her third glass of wine, and being exhausted, was feeling the effects ooze into every limb of her body and cloud her brain. She did some muddled calculations of her body weight and blood alcohol levels. Even if she wanted to, she wasn't going anywhere under her own power tonight. Mulder was sitting with his head back against the wall behind him, arms crossed over his chest and feet propped on the coffee table. Somehow in the course of the evening Scully had come to sit alongside Mulder with her legs pulled up onto the couch, her arms wrapped around her knees, and her head resting on his shoulder. Scully couldn't remember when it had happened, nor was she fully conscious of the fact either.
Mulder, on the other hand, painfully aware of his partner's closeness, was silently afraid to move. If he moved, if he spoke, if he breathed Scully was bound to awaken from whatever trance she was in and pull away-reestablishing her strict code of conduct. He was conscious of every breath that entered and exited her body, as it sent a small electrical pulse through the fabric of his shirt to his skin. It was pleasant having her like this, but his fear that it would abruptly end made enjoying the moment next to impossible. Her behavior was baffling-Scully had been through some awful things, but she had never curled up alongside him in such a manner�then again, maybe he'd never given her that option.
The long silence must have finally allowed Scully's mind to have its way with her emotions: she lifted her head from his shoulder to look at him and he saw the tears streaming down her face. Mulder had suspected that she was crying having felt a change in her breathing patterns, but her face had been hidden to him and he still had been afraid to move. Not a lot frightened him anymore, but Dana Scully could really throw him sometimes.
Before he could say anything, she blurted out, "I'm lost, Mulder."
Without having to explain any further, Mulder knew the full weight of her declaration and it extended beyond the moment and beyond this evening. Scully was talking in bigger terms than that, and Mulder could understand her pain acutely.
He took both of her hands. "You're not alone," he said simply, and he hoped that would be enough.
He wanted desperately to draw Scully's pain into himself, so that she might not feel it. He let go of her hands and slid his arms around her waist, lightly pulling her to him. Scully leaned into his embrace burying her face in his chest and placing her arms around his neck. Held tightly against him, he rested his cheek on the top of her silky head. Mulder could instantly feel her tears dampening his blue oxford shirt.
Mulder felt extremely guilty about the projection of Scully's life since he had entered it: he was convinced that he had cheated Scully out of a normal life and perhaps any hope for one in the future. What she had seen and experienced had virtually tied her to him. Whenever this overwhelming guilt began to creep over Mulder and he would contemplate telling Scully to quit the X-files or the FBI altogether and join the average Joes of the suburban world, he would choke and lose his nerve. If she quit, he would lose her, and he couldn't bear the thought of losing the one person he could trust, let alone the person he loved most in the world. At times when he had been lost, Scully had been the one to ground him and keep him from going over the edge.
He felt that familiar sinking feeling that evening and again he couldn't bring himself to do it: he felt certain that it was his fault that she had been attacked and nearly murdered this evening, but his insecurities and inner ache kept him quiet.
I'm a selfish asshole,' he thought as he pulled her tighter.
He was terrified of losing her. And yet, he was also fearful of telling her the way he truly felt: he liked to think that he knew Scully, and the Scully he knew pushed him away much of the time and relegated all mention of that grey area to the realm of don't ask, don't tell.
Responding to Mulder's tight squeeze, Scully lifted her head, so that Mulder also raised his head, looking into her blue eyes brimming with tears yet unshed. He cupped the back of her red head with one of his large hands and kissed her forehead. He held the kiss for some time, before pressing his forehead against hers with eyes closed. Her skin felt so smooth against his own that he drew back to kiss it yet again. Scully slightly tilted her head upwards so that Mulder's lips met her own, and very gently he pressed his lips against her soft smooth ones. Pulling back just the smallest bit so as to look at her, Mulder brushed her cheek with the back of his hand, slowly wiping away the tear stains that were there. Scully opened her eyes slightly and bent her head closer to his once more, and obligingly Mulder kissed her again. Scully's hand went from Mulder's chest, where it had been resting to grab the back of his neck and pressed her delicate fingers into his flesh, a sensation that required Mulder to suppress a moan. A small sigh escaped from her as their lips parted. They did not meet again: Scully closed her eyes and rested her head once more against Mulder's shoulder.
It wasn't the first time he had kissed�or nearly kissed�Agent Scully. They'd come very close on a couple of occasions. Mulder tended to be more physical than his partner: he was always trying to draw her into his personal space, put an arm around her shoulder, rest a hand on her back, trying to remind her�I'm here. Maybe even convince himself or those around him that she was his, if only professionally. Scully, on the other hand, kept everyone�including her partner�at an arm's length. In spite of that, he was almost convinced that she would have returned the kiss he had initiated in his hallway a few years earlier if it hadn't been terminated by a bee laden with an alien virus. That was his kind of luck.
Those missteps only seemed to further solidify Agent Scully's reserve, rather than weakening it. It had taken years to briefly surmount the invisible fencing that had marked the boundaries of their relationship. It had been New Year's Eve, and they were standing in a hospital hallway at that very appropriate time of midnight after Mulder had been treated for minor injuries. Staring up at the TV screen, listening to Dick Clark enthuse about the millennium, Mulder had watched a happy couple giddily kiss. He'd glanced down at his partner: even in hospital lighting with zombie scratches on her throat she was beautiful. Mulder reflected later that had he been clicking on all four cylinders, he would have deliberated longer before kissing her and perhaps would have decided against it; but he had been exhausted and he hadn't reconsidered acting on the oft repressed urge. After straightening back up and seeing Scully's smile�her surprised smile�he'd mused: "The world didn't end." She'd agreed. He'd meant�the world didn't end just because we kissed, Dana Scully�but he wasn't so sure that she hadn't meant�the millennium was a lot of hype.
He had never found out what Scully thought about that kiss; he never found out how she felt about a lot of things. He could get her to rehash the details of a grisly case, but detailing how she felt on a personal level was not something he'd been particularly successful at dragging out of her. Scully could be closed off. She had been mostly quiet in the early morning of the first day of the new year, playing doctor and worrying about his arm as she drove him home and helped him into his apartment. He knew that Scully sometimes had trouble taking him seriously outside of the professional realm, which was admittedly his own fault for being so flippant. Hell, even his onetime, doped up, and half-recollected confession of love hadn't elicited a real response from her.
And if he didn't know what the New Year's kiss meant to her, he sure as hell didn't know what the kiss tonight had meant. They probably wouldn't ever mention that either. Go on as if it had never happened. And as someone who mechanically pushed down all irrational hope that Scully thought of him as anything other than her partner, every time something happened between them the job of swallowing his hope became that much more difficult. He was spending too much time thinking about her unprofessionally as it was. He figured at some point he would reach his breaking point and he'd do something stupid, potentially driving away the ever professional Agent Dana Scully.
After a few minutes, Scully had fallen asleep against him. For awhile Mulder mused that he might let her stay there all night and have the satisfaction of watching her chest rise and fall against his own and feel her warm breath, but then he realized that he was being selfish and she would sleep more soundly in bed. Besides acknowledging his selfish motivations, Mulder began to feel unsure whether he could stand the sensation much longer: Mulder was a gentleman in most respects and he knew what his partner had been through, and yet the heaviness of her head resting against him was becoming all too appealing. So, begrudgingly, he hooked his one arm under her legs and grabbed her under the arms with the other. Cradling her like a child and even now taken aback to find her to be so small in comparison to himself, he carried her into his bedroom. How could someone so strong be so small?
He slipped her beneath the tan heavy feather comforter that was already turned down. As he tried to sit her upright to take his jacket off, she awoke with heavy lids.
"Mulder?" she mewed.
Mulder liked the way Scully said his name when she wasn't angry, and the sound of her sleepy voice made him smile somewhat. "I'm just taking this jacket off."
"Why?" she asked, letting her eyes close once more.
By this time, Mulder had been successful and was pulling the covers up around her. "You're all right now. I'm going to sleep on the sofa, if you need me."
She nodded with closed eyes before turning away from him to face in the direction of the door. Mulder switched off the light and was half way out the door when her eyes popped back open. "No, Mulder."
"What is it?" he asked turning around and taking another step back in the room.
He came to the side of the bed, and she held out her hand, which he grasped.
"Don't sleep in there," she commanded squeezing his hand.
He brushed a stray piece of red hair away from her eyes. "All right...I won't," he said getting the impression that she did not want to be left alone for now.
Mulder went to his chest of drawers to pull out his grey Georgetown T-shirt. He unbuttoned his shirt, traded it for the T-shirt, and then shed his pants, remaining in his blue and white boxers. He did this all in the dark, hoping that she had fallen asleep and was resting comfortably. Mulder eased himself into bed and poised on the edge, wondering whether he too should get beneath the covers. He saw nothing inherently wrong with it, but he wondered what Scully would think when she awakened, possibly unsure of where she was at first. Sleep overwhelming him, he decided to be content with the remaining atop the covers. He carefully arranged himself on the far edge of the bed, so as to give Scully room to move around in the night without bumping into him.
"Good night, Scully," he whispered looking at her one more time before closing his eyes.
This chapter is set during "all things" 7x17.
It had been two months since the evening Scully slept over at Mulder's, and there she was again. She had had a very stressful couple of days, and the only thing she wanted to do was be with Mulder. They were watching a movie, and she was curled up against him, drinking the tea that she had made for the both of them. She had begun the weekend this way, and now she had returned some days later in similar fashion, but feeling rather differently about life...about Mulder. And for once her daily trials had had nothing to do with Mulder, or perhaps they had had everything to do with him.
She had met an old lover, whom she discovered had moved to D.C. a decade earlier to be near her without announcing his presence. He knew she had a new life, but he didn't approve of it and wanted her to give it up to be with him again. He had been everything to her at one point in her life�most importantly, her mentor, but also her lover�and the results of their relationship had been far reaching. This man had a family, whom he ultimately deserted so as to follow Scully. Seeing him and his daughter after so many years had caused Scully to rethink her life. There was a distinct chance that this now increasingly familiar scene with Mulder would not have been repeated if this shadow from her past had been successful in pressing his opinion about her new life.
It was true that her life had been irreparably altered by her contact with Mulder's quest for the truth, and in the past that fact had angered her. There was a bitter stage in their partnership when she would routinely wake in the morning feeling distinctly as if her life had passed her by. Acknowledging that Mulder hated himself for much of what had happened to her had done little to reconcile that anger at times. Only a few nights ago she had left Mulder's apartment before the sun came up, feeling irritated�feeling as if her life was being directed into a certain course without her knowing why. And this week, while Mulder was running around the English countryside and her former lover pressed her to accept him once more, she had considered what her life might have been like with Daniel�not just the ephemeral concept of some mystery man that she might potentially be out there waiting for her. The result of her internal inquiry was a certainty that what once had been Mulder's quest had become hers as well and that everything happened for a reason.
The last evening she had spent with Mulder prior to his leaving for England, they had made love for the first time. For some reason it had seemed like the natural thing to do, which was ironic, considering that she had been so careful to preserve a professional relationship with her partner for nearly seven years. After a long day in the field, he'd invited her back to her apartment. She'd gotten too tired to leave and the idea of staying hadn't seemed so unpleasant. It could be lonely in her apartment and she didn't want to drive home to that feeling. It had just happened. But it occurred to Scully that evening, still wrapped up in Mulder's arms, that she could hear her mother's voice telling her�things like that don't just happen.
The evening and the act had a strange veil of familiarity that hung over it; a level of comfort that she'd never experienced before with anyone right out of the bag. She'd seen Mulder undressed before, he'd seen her in various states of undress, she'd held him and been held, but all of this, while sometimes tinged with tension, had taken place in a non-sexualized context�at least most of the time it had, she conceded to herself. So, their intimacy wasn't completely revolutionary. Nevertheless, sexual intimacy was fairly foreign to both of them at this point in their lives. It had been years since Scully had slept with anyone, and while she had no empirical evidence, Scully believed that it had probably been nearly as long for Mulder. As much time as she spent with her partner, she felt that she would know, perhaps even feel, if there was someone in his life other than herself, even if it was only for a night.
Neither of them had said 'I love you', yet it seemed undeniably implied, and Scully wasn't devastated at the time that he hadn't crossed that barrier. She knew Mulder was emotionally scarred: she didn't expect a long diatribe on his feelings for her. It would have been stranger if he had, and she wasn't sure she was ready for that. They still hadn't spoken of plans or the future: in that moment Scully felt content to be with her partner and put away all the other worries that constantly plagued her life. Nevertheless, after Mulder fell peacefully asleep and she lay staring at the ceiling, her mind began to run wild.
Did she love him? Well, yes, she loved him, but was she in love with him? She'd been attracted to him for years, but it wasn't as if she couldn't sleep at night from thinking about him. Scully didn't have much of a fantasy life, but she carefully barred her partner from what little fantasy life she indulged in. That she had to actively keep him out for several years was something she hadn't cared to overanalyze. But she certainly didn't blush at the mere sight of him. When he'd whisper to her in that husky monotone, it had raised the hairs on her arms more times than she could remember, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. He could toss off an innuendo, and she'd return his serve without missing a beat.
She loved him and she was attracted to him. Did loving someone and being attracted to them mean you were in love with them? Why couldn't she remember it ever being so difficult before...with her other lovers? She'd been in love before. Mulder wasn't the only man to have ever appeared in her orbit. Then why did it feel like he was? And then she really came to the point�Why hadn't he said he loved her? Shit, she was pretty sure people who hadn't loved her had said it, so why couldn't he? She sat up in his bed, looking down at his calm expressionless sleeping face. She didn't want to be there one more minute.
She'd gotten dressed in his bathroom while he was still asleep, and she'd stared at her reflection in the mirror. She wondered just who was looking back at her: an older Dana, a more cynical Dana, a damaged Dana, but Dana in love? Maybe that part of her�the part that could love romantically and passionately�had died, just like some of the other innocent bits of her that had shriveled up over the past few years. She left without waking him to say goodbye.
She brought lunch and her building hostility to their office later that morning. She could barely listen to his slide show monologue about crop circles as she stabbed her salad with the fork held tightly in her hand. Her voice bristled with anger after he had announced that he'd purchased two tickets for England to await the appearance of new crop circles.
"Mulder, I still have to go over to the hospital and finish the final paperwork on the autopsy you had me do. And, to be honest, it's Saturday and I wouldn't mind, I don't know, taking a bath?"
Mulder's face screwed up and he shot back: "Well, what the hell does that mean?"
"What it means, Mulder, is I'm not interested in tracking down some sneaky farmers who happened to ace geometry in high school. And besides, I mean...what could you possibly get out of this? Or learn? I mean, it's not even remotely FBI-related."
"I'll just cancel your ticket. Thanks for lunch."
He threw down his wrap sandwich before walking out the door, clearly hurt.
Scully could tell she had wounded him�she knew she'd gotten pretty good with her aim. When she'd walked into their office, he had seemed calm, even happy, listening to music�and now he was hurt. If his happiness had anything to do with her, now his pain certainly did.
She called after him, trying to explain herself. "Look, we're always running. We're always chasing the next big thing. Why don't you ever just stay still?"
The thing was she didn't just want him to stay still: she wanted him to be still with her.
He returned with a bitter answer, defenses up: "I wouldn't know what I'd be missing."
Hospital visits, accusations, and old wounds all began to tighten Scully's nerves until they could have popped if plucked too hard. Mulder's continued requests for her time were verging on breaking her. Switching over on the phone line from Daniel's daughter to Mulder, she heard voices in the background, but no familiar 'it's me.'
Through what sounded like a speakerphone, she could make out a man's voice saying: "I'll never see you again."
"Hello?" 'What sort of game is Mulder playing?'
Still no answer, just another phantom voice: "You're breaking my heart."
Just as she was getting ready to put an end to the call there was a scrambling noise and Mulder spoke through what she was now certain was his speakerphone: "Hey, you there?"
Mulder could immediately catch the tension in her voice. No chance that her mood had shifted, it would seem. "Am I catching you at a bad time?" he asked.
Her answer in the negative sounded more like a positive�probably not the best time to request a favor, but Mulder was used to Scully giving in to his requests. It was just an errand really; surely she wouldn't begrudge him a fax.
'Probably a really bad time' he amended, as he received nothing but silence from her end. "Speak to me, Scully."
While silent Scully was unnerving, he immediately wished she had remained mute, when she finally did respond icily: "I'm out for the evening, Mulder."
Mulder immediately went into defensive posturing, shutting down so as to save whatever scraps of pride she was leaving him with: "Well, why didn't you just say so in the first place?"
He couldn't very well say what he was thinking: 'You're breaking my heart.'
Frustrated as she felt with her partner, she couldn't help but think that her chance meeting with this man from her past remarkable in its timing. Daniel wasn't afraid to say that he loved her and was not afraid to make plans with her. The comparison made her wonder. Wonder whether she had made a mistake. Wonder if she was living a life of her choosing. She thought she knew what she wanted in life: surely she wanted everything that she should wish for at this point in a woman's life. Daniel would have given those things to her, if she'd let him. But, she knew that she no longer wanted the past: she wasn't the same woman who'd left ten years ago to join the academy, and if she hadn't seen Daniel again, she might not have realized that. She was changed in a basic way that wasn't just the addition of heavy baggage, but also the gifts of increased maturity and spirituality.
She now knew she didn't want Daniel or whatever it was that Daniel could offer her. She also recognized that the X-files had become a passion for her as well, not just something that kept her from hot baths on Saturdays. She was still unsure, however, of her nebulous relationship with Mulder�especially as it now stood. The question of why Mulder would not or could not give her the things she wanted continued to disturb her sleep while he was gone. Was she being a fool?
Until she had seen him, she'd been unsure. She hadn't immediately recognized him, but when the person in front of her had turned around on the sidewalk, inexplicably it was Mulder. It was like a metaphor for her relationship with Mulder. She had never thought he was 'the one', if there really was such a thing. It had been over a year ago...maybe two when she woke up and realized that the closest thing to 'the one' had been in front of her for years. And she had decided to accept that for her 'the one' came in the form of a partner and friendship, but not a romantic relationship.
What had she told that woman in that god-forsaken place? 'You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is...suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.' She'd known that much for years, but now on that sidewalk she had a moment of clarity�rare emotional clarity. She loved Mulder�no, she was in love with Mulder, and now she could admit it to herself. She couldn't continue to press those feelings down. She couldn't compartmentalize herself. Their lives had become hopelessly intertwined, and she wanted it that way. Perhaps they would never have a normal relationship with a house, two point five kids, and a dog; maybe they would never even have what most people would consider a life together, but she would have Mulder, which was all that mattered. He was obsessed, he could be difficult, he didn't stay in one place, but that was the man she had fallen in love with: goofy, Stonehenge loving, tormented, grey alien chasing, Mulder.
She knew that he loved her: she felt it with every touch, every look, and every hushed comforting phrase he ever uttered to her. She was surer of his love than she had been of her own. Questioning it only seemed to be a part of the self-destructive pattern that had colored her romantic relationships with men for many years now. Start poking holes in things, look for evidence of failure in your mate, and bail out before things get too intimate...before you lose any of that independence that you cling to like a life raft. Even the shitty things he'd done�like ditching her half a million times�were probably done in a misguided attempt to protect her from his own psychosis. So why should she condemn him for not verbalizing how he felt, when she had pushed him away for years? Mulder gave himself in bits and pieces, but he was fiercely devoted: not just to his quest, but to her as well.
Mulder had been disappointed in the way in which they had parted, and their brief conversations over the phone had done little to remedy the situation. It was all the more frustrating, because he had thought that he might actually have been making her happier, which was more than he ever had hoped to expect. He had always thought she kept him from being declared clinically insane, but he had never considered that he might actually make the complexity that was Dana Scully happy. Piss her off? Yes. Happy? It hadn't seemed possible. Never mind the fact that she had opened herself up to him in an intimate way, which boggled his mind; it wasn't so long ago that they had a large and seemingly insurmountable psychological wall between them. Yet, when he returned from his aborted quest and saw her for the first time, she had seemed flustered and surprised, but relieved to see him, which in turn quieted his anxiety. Now she sitting alongside him again; back in his apartment and by his side. And she was smiling: it was so good to see Scully smile and laugh. She so rarely did it.
She had grown quiet and the credits were rolling on the screen, the light flickering in the room making shadows on her delicate features. Her head was resting against his shoulder, and he sat looking down at her face with her lashes hiding her eyes. Mulder slid his arm around her shoulders, stroked her smooth hair, and traced her cheekbone with his index finger. He kissed the crown of her head.
"I missed you this week," Scully said quietly.
"I didn't know whether I should hope for such a receptive homecoming," he said with a chuckle.
"Maybe a little...maybe I was a little worried about coming back."
Mulder hadn't taken their first night together as a guarantee that she would ever allow him indulge in that level of intimacy with her again. He was concerned about how he would manage to play the platonic friend again, if that turned out to be the case: he'd never been so good at that role to begin with. It hadn't just been the physical release: for that moment in time, he felt as if they were no longer the pathetically devoted Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, each trying to access the other, but failing in more ways than one. He wasn't just privy to her theories or her opinions�for that moment in time he was privy to the real Dana Scully, whom he wanted desperately to know, cherish, and make happy. It would be an inhumane task to draw back into their former roles. And if that was what was to be required of him and he wasn't up to it, he would lose entirely what he treasured most.
"I don't see why," she said sitting up and cocking her eyebrow, although she knew he was alluding to their last night together and her embittered behavior afterward.
She felt a twinge of guilt: she'd certainly given him the impression that he should be wary of her upon his return: since when did she forget that chilly�no, downright hostile�behavior following sexual consummation was not a way to win hearts? Surely she used to be better at this. Surely she would have never gotten beyond a first date, if she hadn't once been more pleasant, more agreeable. She had been wrapped up in her own concerns, but maybe she should have thought about the consequences of her own behavior. She knew she could do better.
She traced the pattern in the fabric of his pants with her finger tips, choosing her words. "Unless of course you weren't investigating crop circles like you told me; then you would be right to worry."
Her voice was quiet, and Mulder thought it sounded a little tired, but still teasingly lighthearted.
"What are you insinuating, Agent Scully?" he asked, enjoying their playful banter.
"I'm wondering whether you ran out on me this weekend. Who exactly did you see while you were over in the British Isles?"
"I'm not stupid, Scully. You've shot me before and I wouldn't care to have a repeat performance."
"I have better aim than you."
She squeezed his thigh. "You know I don't like being ditched, Mulder."
"Technically, I didn't ditch you," he corrected her softly.
"And then you come back looking so relaxed..." she continued, "while I've had the weekend from Hell."
"And I think I might even look it."
He smiled at her approvingly. "You look beautiful, G-woman. You always do."
Mulder's ridiculously worded compliments made Scully smile.
And although the hour was growing late, Scully decided to share with him the details of the last couple days in all of their complexity.
"I just find it hard to believe," Mulder stated matter-of-factly, having listened to her tale.
Scully could easily believe that.
"The part where I go away for two days and your whole life changes."
"Mmm, I didn't say my whole life changed."
The changes had already taken place. She was just finally ready to acknowledge them.
"You speaking to God in a Buddhist temple, God speaking back."
Scully leaned her head back against the sofa. "Mmm, and I didn't say that God spoke back. I said that I had some sort of vision."
"Well, for you, that's like saying you're having David Crosby's baby." Mulder paused, looking at Scully as the small smile faded from her lips. He continued: "What is it?
"I once considered spending my whole life with this man. What I would have missed."
That's what she had decided: if she had taken another path, she would have missed this�missed Mulder�and she now knew that this wasn't just an accident.
Mulder tilted his head thinking. "I don't think you can know. I mean, how many different lives would we be leading if we made different choices. We...we don't know."
Mulder had a past on which Scully was only somewhat clear: he too could have ended up with someone else, just as she could have. Phoebe Green, Diana Fowley, and perhaps countless other women and choices lay behind him.
"What if there was only one choice? All the other ones were wrong? And there were signs along the way to pay attention to?" Scully mused.
Mulder looked forward. "All the choices would then lead to this very moment."
Scully liked the thought of that and leaned her head on the sofa next to his shoulder, listening to him continue to speak as she closed her eyes overcome by exhaustion.
"One wrong turn and we wouldn't be sitting here together. Well, that says a lot. Says a lot, a lot, a lot. I mean, it's probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour."
Glancing down at Scully, he saw that she had fallen asleep. Time seemed to slow as he brushed a red strand of hair that was resting on her cheek, tucking it behind her ear and watching her reverently before pulling the Indian blanket over her. If there was only one path in life that led to sitting on his couch with Dana Scully, Mulder knew that he'd actually made the right choice-even if that was the only thing he had been right about.
He'd let her sleep there while he got ready for bed and then attempt to carry her to bed without waking her.
He had a towel wrapped around him from the shower and had just finished brushing his teeth when Scully appeared in the doorway of the slightly ajar bathroom door. He smiled at her and she stepped inside. She'd convinced herself in the dark of his living room that she had to tell him. She had to overcome her emotional block
"I love you, Mulder," she said quietly as she took his hand.
Mulder bit his bottom lip and smiled at the same time.
Scully sighed to herself, thinking that he knew she found him attractive, but she was also keenly aware of his insecurities.
"I thought you couldn't stand me," he said pulling her to him.
His skin was warm from the shower.
"Watch it, Mulder," she said in the strict tone that she frequently adopted with him.
He laughed, and she admitted to herself that she loved his laugh.
So, they'd made love again. Twice they had made love, and to her relief, Mulder's penchant for pornography didn't seem to have any marked affect on his real life relations. Mulder was strong and gentle and loving, and she wondered why she had suppressed her feelings for him for so long. Professionalism be damned. Isn't this what she had always needed?
Sixty-three hours had passed, but she once again found herself dressing in Mulder's bathroom. She took note of the rhythmic dripping of water, and as she'd stared at her reflection in the mirror, she observed the message of such repetition in both sound and sight. She no longer had to wonder who was looking back at her: an older Dana, a more cynical Dana, and a damaged Dana. Moreover, a Dana who had come full circle with her partner: originally sent to debunk his theories, they now shored each other up professionally and emotionally, and that development couldn't be by chance. She left without waking him to say goodbye�not out of anger, but out of respect for a man, who was granted precious few nights of genuine rest.
As she pulled the door to his apartment closed, she considered the repercussions that might arise from their involvement: there were people in the world who were well aware of the importance Mulder and Scully placed on their partnership and hadn't and wouldn't hesitate to profit from that knowledge. It was part of their sinister method of torturing them at every turn, and if these people knew of this new development in their relationship, things could conceivably become even more dangerous for them. Moreover, there was the fact that the Bureau might think it necessary to separate them on grounds of fraternization; and without each other, neither could carry out their work successfully.
Chapter Three is set post-"Requiem" 7x22 with flashbacks to that episode
At first, the news was so amazing that the fact that Mulder was gone didn't completely dampen her hopes, as it eventually would. She could easily recount every time they had made love, and she reflected on each of these encounters repeatedly to herself. They had not been together that many times. When the doctors suggested that she might be pregnant, she had almost laughed in their faces. Numerous doctors had told her that she couldn't have children: she had no ova as the result of her abduction.
She hadn't always wanted children: she used to think that she wasn't cut out to be a mother. She was a professional and she had professional goals. She was more comfortable performing an autopsy than with a room full of children. But that had changed when the choice was taken from her. She knew she wanted children. That she couldn't have one was a constant source of pain for her, and Mulder was well aware of that fact; maybe it was what he had felt worst about, but she couldn't be sure. He'd been with her when she mourned Emily. In-vitro had been a failure, and he'd seen her pain again. Then she'd noticed him looking at her when she was holding that woman's baby in Oregon. What she didn't know was that Mulder had made a decision at that moment: no longer would he let her fight his fight. He wanted her to have a 'normal' life, if she possibly could, and maybe she would let him be a part of that, but maybe that too was impossible.
She had been feeling dizzy, light-headed, and sick to her stomach, but she could think of no reason why she would be suffering from those symptoms. The first time the feeling of sickness became too much for her, she left her motel room to be with Mulder. When she'd arrived at his room a look of concern came over his face.
"What's wrong, Scully? You look sick."
"I don't know what's wrong." She walked into the room and tried to describe how she was feeling. "I, um...I was starting to get ready for bed and I started to feel really dizzy�vertigo or something�and then I just...I started to get chills."
"You want me to call a doctor?"
"No, I just...I just want to get warm."
Mulder ushered Scully over to his bed and tucked her in before lying down behind her and embracing her.
The moment he put his arms around her she felt immediately safe. His arms had a soothing effect, and she figured if something did go wrong, he would know what to do. For once, she was surrendering responsibility to someone else and it was a monumental relief.
"It's not worth it, Scully," he whispered into her ear.
"I want you to go home."
"Oh, Mulder, I'm going to be fine."
"No, I've been thinking about it. Looking at you tonight, holding that baby...knowing everything that's been taken away from you. A chance for motherhood and your health and that baby. I think that...I don't know, maybe they're right."
"The FBI. Maybe what they say is true, though for all the wrong reasons. It's the personal costs that are too high. There's so much more you need to do with your life. There's so much more than this. There has to be an end, Scully." He kissed her cheek.
He couldn't know what was ailing her; he would have never expected such an event, even though they hadn't used birth control�there was no reason for it, after all. The vial of Scully's ova that he once had in his possession was proof positive of the unusual cause of her infertility. Yet, even without knowledge of her condition, he was aware of one thing: he wasn't going to let Scully place herself in danger anymore. In the past he had been selfish and tried to keep her by his side at all cost, but lately he had come to realize that he couldn't afford to be selfish when it came to Scully anymore. She'd told him a few weeks ago that she was pretty happy. She didn't say it was because of him, but he felt the implication hanging there in the air and he was certain that's what she meant. It made him smile ear to ear. Coming from Scully that was an enormous compliment; she'd never said anything remotely like that before and he wanted to make sure she stayed that way.
She hadn't gotten better as the case progressed. She kept feeling as if she was going to faint, and when they'd gotten back to D.C., Mulder wanted Scully to stay put. He was afraid for her; she could sense the fear coming off of him like heat rising off the pavement. His fear was clouding his judgment: this perhaps is why the Bureau looked down on romantic relations between agents. His misunderstanding of a potentially dangerous situation led them to be separated. Mulder wanted to return to Oregon, but he refused to take Scully with him.
He'd reiterated that it had to stop somewhere: "I want you to forget about it, Scully."
"Forget about it?"
"You're not going back out there. I'm not going to let you go back out there."
"What are you talking about?"
Yes, she hadn't been feeling well, but she wasn't a delicate flower. She could handle herself. They were partners. Equals. If she felt up to going, there was no place else she should be than by his side. Surely Mulder knew that. Surely he hadn't become so intensely protective that a little bout of sickness was going to make him demand that she stay home.
"It has to end sometime. That time is now." 'I've done enough damage for a lifetime,' he added silently.
Mulder knew that Scully wouldn't be entirely comfortable with this situation. They were partners and she wouldn't want to be left behind leaving her partner to carry the burden of investigation�never mind that she would certainly bridle against being told what she could and couldn't do. Mulder knew she wouldn't like it, but he had to make her grasp what he had discerned.
"Scully, you have to understand that they're taking abductees. You're an abductee. I'm not going to risk..." he paused looking at her sadly and his voice breaking, "losing you."
It was a decision made solely on emotion. They were partners, but Scully was so much more to him than just his partner. Once he knew the danger she was in, he couldn't stand the thought of letting her accompany him back to Oregon. He wanted to stress to her the facts: they're taking abductees. But he couldn't help but express his fear as well-his fear of the personal cost.
She stepped into his embrace, and he held her tight. If he could just keep her safe, then everything would be alright.
The realization came too late. One of them was in definite danger of abduction, but it wasn't Scully: it was Mulder. He was the one that they wanted; he was the one that they needed. She'd insisted that Skinner go with him to Oregon, but when Scully finally recognized that she had been rejected by the space ship, but Mulder would not be, she knew sending Skinner along with Mulder would not be enough to protect him. The realization had hit her with such force that she had passed out while meeting with the Lone Gunmen. Mulder had been suffering from electro-encephalitic trauma�anomalous brain activity�just like all the other abductees.
Frohike verbalized it first: "it's Mulder who's in danger."
Once again Scully felt dizzy and disoriented as if she didn't know where she was, and then she collapsed, caught by Frohike. She collapsed just as her world was collapsing around her.
The Lone Gunmen rushed her to the hospital. Another hospital room. But no Mulder, no Mother, no one but those three awkward men sitting in the waiting room. Lying in her hospital bed in her flimsy blue paper gown, she waited on the results of some tests, one of which would determine whether or not she was pregnant. She had tried to convince the nurses bustling around her that there was no need, but after stating it twice, she gave in�she didn't have the energy to hash out her story of infertility. Sitting there made her feel small and helpless. She cursed whatever it was that put her in that bed instead of at Mulder's side. Skinner, the man she had sent in her place, carried the news to her that Mulder had been abducted�news that came on the heels of the doctor's affirmation that yes: she was pregnant.
Alternately her thoughts drifted from the miraculous life inside of her to Mulder's disappearance. She spent hours staring out of the windows of her apartment, thinking that somehow she must find him, and Scully, always confident in her abilities, believed that she would indeed find him. She was having Mulder's child, and he had to be there with her�he had to know, he would want to know.
It wasn't so long ago that Scully felt certain that she could raise a child on her own, given the chance. She had wanted to adopt Emily, and she hadn't felt as if she needed anyone's help to do that�not her mother's and certainly not her self-absorbed partner's help. And when she considered the possibility of in-vitro, she had asked Mulder to be the donor, but she had been confident that she didn't need his help to raise the child. But now she doubted that she would be able to do it without Mulder. He'd so completely become a part of her that she couldn't imagine doing anything without him. She didn't want to have to do it alone. So, she simply had to find him. After three months, she had come back; so, why wouldn't he?
Scully steeled herself for her first appointment with the ob-gyn upon her return to Washington. Sitting in the waiting room filling out forms, she looked around to see other women sitting with their husbands or boyfriends, but she had no one. She hadn't even told her mother yet, because she had some lingering worries about the health of her baby: she wanted to spare her mother from any possible unpleasantness, shielding her as she had done numerous times since she began her work on the X-files. She'd even foisted the job of telling her mother that she had cancer off on Mulder, but she wasn't going to be able to do that this time�at some point she would have to tell her.
She wanted to have DNA tests run on the fetus to determine if everything was normal, especially considering her abduction and the death of her test tube daughter, Emily. If something was wrong, if this child was going to be sick and die, she didn't know what she would do. She wanted Mulder by her side at this appointment; he could be a soothing presence, when she let him perform that role, but this time he wouldn't be given that chance. He wouldn't be there to hold her hand or help her with any important decisions�decisions in which she heartily believed he deserved to be a part.
A nurse called her name, "Dana Scully?"
She stood up and made her way to the door, feeling as if the other couples were watching her, maybe even pitying her. Rationally she knew it was her own overly active imagination�she wasn't the first single mother in the world, after all. Hell, these people didn't even know she was truly alone: the father could be one of those workaholics that you have difficulty keeping on task regarding life outside of work. Scully corrected herself: the father was one of those workaholics.
The nurse led her down a white hallway to an empty room. "I just need to go over some questions with you, and then you can visit with Dr. Hill. Could I have those forms?" she asked cheerfully.
Scully handed the neat looking lady the stack of papers and sat down on the cold blue plastic seat. The nurse slipped on a pair of half glasses that hung around her neck to read Scully's small black writing.
"Will Mr. Mulder be attending the rest of your appointments with you, Ms. Scully?" she asked running her finger underneath the line that had asked for the father's name.
"I..." Scully paused, unsure what to say. "He's away and isn't sure when he'll be able to get back," she hedged.
The nurse nodded her head in a maddening way to Scully's way of thinking.
'No, you don't understand,' she thought bitterly. 'I haven't been abandoned in that way.'
"And how many weeks do you believe yourself to be along now?"
"Eight to nine."
Not so long ago. It was already beginning to feel like a lifetime.
"Oh yes, I see you've written an estimated conception date here...that's good." The nurse flipped through the papers. "All right. Everything seems to be in order here. I'll call in Dr. Hill, if you'll be so good as to put on this dressing gown, Ms. Scully."
The nurse closed the door behind her, and Scully was left in the badly decorated room to change into the light pink open backed hospital gown. Left alone again with her thoughts. She had been given ample space for thought lately. Too much time. She'd gone back to work immediately, trying to fill her days, but it hadn't been much use. At the Bureau people danced around her like wary butterflies. The Lone Gunmen called and left cryptic messages on her message machine at home while she was at work: she could only assume they did so in an attempt to both intentionally miss her and in a pathetic attempt to comfort her. And Skinner. Skinner was the worst. He wasn't being a good soldier. His self-flagellating blame was written all over his face every time she walked into his office. And she still hadn't told her mother that Mulder was gone. She couldn't bear the thought of formulating the words.
The doctor entered just in time, since Scully was beginning to fear she would break down there in the room alone. If Mulder had been there with her, he could have lightened the mood with a crack about stirrups.
"Good morning Dana," she said offering her hand.
"Morning," Scully said mechanically.
"I've quickly looked over this information you've given us, and it seems as if you've been doing everything right since you found out you were pregnant, but that was only ten days ago. Is that correct?"
"Yes, I had been told that I was infertile. I didn't recognize the signs."
"What a surprise then," the doctor said perkily.
Scully smiled, lowering her head. She was already beginning to feel conflicted in the tens days that had passed: she was deeply moved by the idea that she would have a child, but she was having some difficulty celebrating that fact.
"Now, I just want to let you know that I'm sure nothing is wrong with the child. A few glasses of wine aren't the cause for a lot of concern: I know that worries a lot of expectant mothers, and I see you requested a DNA test, which is probably unnecessary."
"I understand that�I'm a doctor, but I want to be very careful. My daughter died at a young age, and..."
"I'm sorry Dana, it says here that this is your first pregnancy?"
"Well...I've never carried a child. This was a..." Scully tried to think of a way to term Emily's conception: alien experiment...government conspiracy?
"Surrogate?" the doctor supplied.
Scully nodded slowly. She suddenly felt as if she had lost the power of speech and she hoped she wouldn't be required to answer very many more questions.
"Well, if that's what you want, of course I would be glad to arrange for the procedure, although it is rather unusual."
Scully folded her hands in her lap.
"For now why don't we do an exam and an ultrasound?"
Scully nodded, and Dr. Hill stood up and walked over to the exam table.
At two months, the fetus does not clearly resemble a baby, and Scully had imagined that seeing it would not have a great affect on her for that reason. Scully recalled details from her obstetrics class from medical school as the doctor's medical diagnostic sonographer entered the room and set up. While you can't feel a fetus move between the eighth and ninth week of pregnancy, movement has begun and the fetus can grasp things in its hands. That sort of detail was usually too small to see at this stage, however, especially using a trans-abdominal sonogram.
The sonographer ran the cold tool over her as of yet still flat stomach and pronounced, "everything looks fine, Dana, which is good news. Would you like to see the screen?"
Scully nodded 'yes', and Dr. Hill turned the monitor so that Scully could see it for herself. It wasn't much more than a visible heartbeat in a kidney shaped being�only a little over an inch long from head to bottom, with the head being about half the total length�but for the first time she knew there really was something there, and Scully began to feel tears gathering in the corners of her eyes, which she hastily wiped away.
"Amazing isn't it?" the doctor mused.
Scully left the building clutching her black purse to her body, as the only thing she had to hold on to. The doctor had given her a picture of the baby, which was carefully folded and put away inside of the zip compartment of her purse. She had seen other women show these images proudly; she had no one she could share this with. Not yet. Not when she still wasn't sure whether everything was truly alright. The appointment for her procedure was a week away at St. Ann's hospital, and again she would have no one with her. At this point, she just wanted the results so that she would know where she stood. She unlocked her black sleek car with a press of her remote entry button and threw herself down on the gray leather seats with a sigh.
At least she had Skinner. At times in the past, she had doubted that she could trust him, but he had witnessed Mulder's abduction, so he was one of the only people with whom she could talk. Furthermore, she was convinced by now that AD Skinner cared deeply for both herself and Mulder, as agents, colleagues, maybe even friends. So, she told him that she was pregnant before anyone else�right there in the hospital after he personally came to tell her the news that he'd lost Mulder. And she'd asked him to keep the news to himself, which he did.
She continued to work for the Bureau, but it was hard to work up any enthusiasm for the typical monster du jour cases that she and Mulder had worked on for years. Nothing seemed to hold up in his absence. Her main focus was on finding her partner, and she enlisted the help of the Lone Gunmen, who�other than a few comments regarding her and Mulder that they thought she hadn't overheard�proved to be rather useful in her attempts to investigate his disappearance. Funny, really, how she had once found them so utterly ridiculous and now she trusted them as much as Mulder had. Despite their help, however, so far she had made no progress in Mulder's abduction case.
'Damn sleepless nights don't help,' she wearily cursed inwardly, picking up her cup of tea.
She was having reoccurring dreams, waking up bathed in sweat, much like she knew her partner had for years in motel rooms next to hers. She was still trying to shake last night's images from her mind.
She could hear Mulder repeatedly calling her name, but she was disoriented and groggy, unable to sit up or focus on the sound. Then she would see him and feel his arms lifting her off the ground, supporting her against his knee.
"You want some water?" he asked concernedly.
That face of his was heartbreaking.
She struggled to explain what had happened to her: "I just...I just..."
'I just smacked into an alien ship's energy field,' Scully thought, sighing as she was unable to stop the memories from flooding back. The dreams were so vivid that it felt like she was replaying key moments of her last hours with Mulder over and over.
"It's okay. It's okay," he said soothingly.
In her dreams she knew it wasn't okay, but she couldn't tell him that, she couldn't warn him: she was locked into endless and worthless reruns of their exchanges. She hated these visions. She held on to them, because it was all she had left of him.
Sipping her herbal tea and poking at the salad that she had picked up on her way home from work at the upscale organic grocery store, she stared at the large yellow folder that had been delivered by messenger to her neighbor while she was at work. She knew it contained the results of the fetus' DNA test, and she wasn't sure that she wanted to open it. Again, she felt the emptiness in the pit of her stomach, knowing it was because Mulder should be there with her when she opened such a life-changing envelope.
She had incessantly covered all the possibilities in her mind, contributing to her insomnia. If the fetus was normal there was no doubt in her mind that she would keep the child, and she felt positive that Mulder would be happy for her. She wasn't as sure how this development would affect Mulder personally, as this pregnancy certainly hadn't been planned and he had never asked to be a father. He had, however, at one time agreed to be a sperm donor for her with a charmingly characteristic Mulderism: "At that part, I'm a pro." How many people had a partner they could ask such an embarrassing and intimate favor of? But she hadn't extracted promises from him about the future and his relationship with any potential offspring. And it had all been for naught. She knew, however, that even if this shocking news bowled him over, he would never expect her to give up this miracle.
Unless the child wasn't normal. Scully believed that there was a strong chance that whatever had made her infertile would also cause this child to develop abnormally, in which case she would have the option to terminate the pregnancy. Scully had been raised a Catholic and struggled with the notion. At the same time, she wondered if it was fair to bring a child into the world to suffer and die at a young age as Emily had done. Her child could be born with no average kind of problems. Would bringing the child to term merely be selfish, or was there any hope that she could discover some cure for her child before it was too late? Was a short life full of struggle better than none at all?
She thought she had an inkling of what Mulder's opinion would be: she thought it likely that he would want her to terminate the pregnancy for her own good, if there was something wrong. He, more than anyone, knew how hard the Emily's death had been on her. He would want her to have a chance to be a mother, but not at the price of her own sanity.
And hadn't Emily suffered for all the wrong reasons? She hadn't been born with the intention of being loved and she had only known love at the very end. The psychological effects of carrying a child to term that was destined to painfully die within a few years couldn't be small by any measure. Mulder would be more worried about her well-being than anything else, she suspected.
These were horrible things to ponder. They would have been horrible if Mulder had still been with her. But at least she could have heard him out. Maybe some of the idealist left in Mulder could even shore her up and urge her to hope for a miracle, should she need one.
She put the last bite of the salad into her mouth and got up from the large pine table in her kitchen to run the plate under the faucet. She wiped her hands off on the white dishtowel by the sink and stacked the plate on top of some others that she hadn't put away in the cabinet yet. She walked back to the countertop where the envelope sat waiting for her.
She knew it was best that she open it as soon as possible, so she simply steeled herself as best she could before tearing into it. She pulled out the thin white sheet of paper full of black ink from a computer. Her eyes scanned the page nervously and she gripped the white edge of the countertop, ready to steady herself if necessary. She didn't know exactly what she was looking for�it could be anything. She had faith in science. Science could help her. Science could prove that everything was going to be alright or it could provide her with ample warning of possible problems ahead.
She stopped reading and pressed her hand to where her cross normally rested on her chest; it was no longer there, because she had given it to Mulder before he returned to Oregon, just as she had given it to Emily some years ago. The cross almost meant more to her now, knowing that it was with him and hopefully protecting him with whatever power it might possess.
Silently she told him wherever he was, 'everything's fine, Mulder. Everything is well within normal parameters.'
She felt as if a large weight had been lifted off her shoulders: one possible scenario could now be eliminated. She would have a baby. The baby would be fine. She was going to be a mother. Now she could focus more clearly on searching for Mulder. The baby would be fine and this was a relief, but Mulder was still missing, and she had to dedicate her energies towards finding him. Celebrating a healthy baby would have to wait. It occurred to her, however, that while she currently only had haunting memories of Mulder, she would someday have something more lasting from him: his child. Maybe that would bring her comfort.
She went into her bathroom and began to run the water in the tub. She unbuttoned her blouse and pulled off her skirt, leaving only her cream colored silk slip. She rubbed it in between her fingers and sat on the edge of the tub as it filled. She'd been wearing this slip, and he'd said that he liked it, she thought to herself. She could put it away, so that she'd be sure to always have it, but she liked wearing it: it reminded her of the way it felt to be held by him. Turning off the water and removing the slip, she slid into the warm water and rested her head against the edge of the tub.
Closing her eyes, she tried to remember the last thing she had spoken to him before he left. She hadn't tried to access that particular memory, since was continually being assaulted by others. What was it that she had said? She could see his face assuring her everything would be all right. And Skinner had shown up, since she wouldn't let Mulder go without him.
"Oh," she sighed aloud. Her last words had been: "Agent Mulder, you're forgetting your gun." 'How very moving,' she thought with regret.
It was miserable to think those might be the last words she would ever say to him. But how was she to know that she wouldn't be seeing him again? She only wished she hadn't seen the need to call him 'agent': Skinner knew how close they were, and he would have thought nothing of it should she have called him 'Mulder,' as she normally did. Her defenses had been up, concerned that what people had whispered and cracked wise about for years had finally been confirmed and was written on her face. So, the last time she spoke to the man she loved she'd called him 'agent' and handed him a gun. Romance was hopeless.
Her mind wandered back to the baby, and she tentatively touched her stomach thinking of the ultrasound image she had in her bedroom from two and a half weeks ago. It wouldn't be long until she was three months, and she would have to go back for another appointment, but at least she now knew everything was alright. Mulder wouldn't be with her though, unless...she was still holding out hope. After all, she'd been gone three months. She couldn't give up on him. Surely Mulder couldn't disappear into thin air; although, that was exactly the way in which Skinner described it. The bright white light, the bottom of a triangular alien ship, and then nothing. She sighed again and dunked her head under the water for just a moment.
The phone was sitting next to the tub on the floor within reach. She always had her cell phone near at hand, knowing how many times she had received emergency calls from Mulder on it. She carried it with her everywhere: there was a chance he would call again, after all. She could visualize the numbers appearing back lit on the display: (202) 555-9355. Her regular chunky white cordless phone was also with her, and she reached for a towel before grabbing it and dialing her mother's number. She sunk back down level with the water and closed her eyes as the phone rang.
"Hi, Mom. This is Dana."
"Dana sweetheart, I haven't heard from you in quite awhile." There was a hint of admonishment in her statement that Scully immediately recognized.
"I've had a lot going on."
Understatement of the year.
"I hope everything's all right?" Her mother's tone belied her worry, and Scully wondered whether a mother's intuition was at work. She might even experience firsthand such unexplained phenomenon one day.
"I'm not sure I should be telling you this over the phone, but I've got some important news and I just don't have anyone to talk to right now."
"Go ahead, sweetie."
Scully squeezed her eyes tight. She would have to say it fast to lessen the sting, like ripping a bandage off.
"Mom, I'm pregnant."
Scully smiled ruefully as she listened to the charged silence on the other side of the line. What did she expect? That her Catholic mother would be over-the-moon to hear that her thirty-something unwed daughter was knocked up? The thought actually made her smile.
"I'm nearly three months now," she continued into the silence. She waited for any response, but none was seemingly forthcoming. "You're going to have to say something, Mother. Tell me I'm going to Hell, but tell me something."
"Oh, Dana. You know I don't feel that way. I'm just surprised. These aren't exactly the circumstances I'd imagined..." she tried to explain before trailing off.
Scully had been playing a game with herself lately that began with the phrase: when I was a little girl. One of the things she would say to herself was�when I was a little girl I never dreamt that the father of my unborn child would be abducted by aliens. Dana Scully knew all too well about unfulfilled expectations.
"I know...I know...I'm more shocked than you, Mother."
"Dana, you told me that you couldn't have children."
"That's what I thought. That's what the doctors thought. No viable ova or so I was told. But we were all wrong, clearly. I've seen the ultrasound."
"Oh, Dana. I'm at a loss for words. I'm happy for you, obviously. What a blessing! Have you...have you been trying?"
This was her mother's tactful way of asking whether her daughter had merely been careless.
"Dana you sound upset. It's okay. I'm happy for you, really."
And as the shock seemingly wore off, her mother did sound genuinely happy. More grandchildren couldn't be an evil.
"You haven't asked who the father is."
"Well, I didn't want to pry."
"Sure you did," Scully chuckled, "I know you do."
"I didn't even know you were involved with anyone..."
Yes, telling her mother that she'd become romantically involved with her partner was on a long list of things that Scully had no intention of confessing to her mother. Although, it was probably one of the very few pleasant things on the list. The others were things she needed to protect her mother from. The Mulder issue was just something she hadn't felt comfortable sharing. It had been so new. She had still been trying to figure out how it all worked. What it meant.
"Mulder, Mom. It's Mulder's."
"Fox? Dana, I didn't know..."
"Well, it hasn't been going on for long."
"Clearly something has been going on for quite a while, Dana."
"I know, Mom. You like him. You've made that more than clear over the years."
At least someone in her family liked him and didn't blame him for all the evil that had fallen on their doorsteps.
"I've always just wanted you to be happy. I hope you know that."
Scully splashed the water with her free hand and bit her lip, hoping she wouldn't start to cry. Why hadn't she listened to her mother in all those years?
"Well, what does Fox think?"
Scully tilted her head from side to side, trying to think of an answer. "Mmm...he doesn't know."
"You haven't told him?" Her mother's voice sounded strained.
"Dana Katherine, Fox has a right to..."
"No, Mother. You don't understand. Mulder is gone," Scully stated as firmly as she could, trying to keep her voice from shaking.
"What do you mean?"
"Gone. Flat out disappeared."
"Oh, he would never run out like that on you. I don't believe that!"
"No, he wouldn't. It isn't like that. It's not like he had a choice in the matter. I guess it's like when I...when I disappeared..." Scully knew she wasn't making sense and the words on her lips died away.
"Dana, are you telling me that Fox has...that he's been kidnapped?"
"I suppose so. Assistant Director Skinner, my superior, witnessed it. He can't explain it...I can't explain really...all I know is that he is gone, and I don't have anyone."
She began to cry, despite her best efforts to maintain her composure.
"Dana, dear, whenever you need me, I will be there for you. You don't have to be alone. Why don't you come home?"
Scully wiped at her eyes. The thought was tempting in a way: she could just be a daughter for a while and be taken care of. She could revert back, pretend the X-files, the FBI, medical school, all of it was just an illusion.
"No, I've got to stay here. My doctor is here...and I just can't leave in case there is anything I can do to help Mulder, Mom. I just can't."
"Of course. But, Dana, I know how you can be. I want you to promise to take care of yourself. You work too hard and don't take any time for yourself. Don't wear yourself out."
"Alright. You get to bed early and keep in touch. Dana I'm praying for you...and Fox."
"Thanks, Mom." She paused as she caught her breath. "Night," Scully added, finally having regained control of her heightened emotions.
There was a knock on the office door, and Scully looked up from the papers she was trying to make sense of amidst her mental distractions long enough to call, "come in."
Skinner opened the door to the rather dim basement office.
"Hello, sir. You should have called me up," she said standing, "I'm almost finished with my report."
"I didn't come about that. I came down here, because I didn't want anyone to know we were talking, Agent. Go ahead, sit back down. There are some things we need to discuss."
Scully sat down figuring that he had some special assignment for her�she knew better than to expect news about Mulder.
Skinner looked as if he was afraid to begin.
"Agent Scully, I am going to assign you to a desk job upstairs."
"Excuse me, sir?"
"Upstairs. I'm reassigning you," Skinner confirmed, shifting awkwardly on his feet.
She and Mulder had been punished like that before when AD Kersh supervised them during their probationary period. Answering phones. Running background checks.
"What am I being punished for now?" she asked.
"Nothing, of course. You're my best agent. But I can't have you running around on the X-files anymore."
Scully found it hard to process what Skinner was saying to her.
"Wait. Am I not capable? How have I let you down?"
Skinner stepped forward resting his hand on the table that served as her desk�despite always resenting not having been given a desk, now that she was given the chance, Scully hadn't taken over Mulder's�that was sacrosanct.
"Agent Scully...people are beginning to talk."
Scully smiled thinly into the table. She wasn't aware that AD Skinner gave much thought to gossip.
"That's nothing new. Let them," she said shuffling her papers and avoiding his stare.
"No, I think you miss understand me. They're saying it isn't safe for you to be out on assignment, saying it is unacceptable, and you have to admit that they're right on both points. Look at it rationally."
"Sir, is it the FBI's policy to deny their pregnant agents a place in the Bureau?" she asked casually, as if she was unaware of the answer.
"You're not being denied a place, Agent Scully. Your job will be there when you return, but for now..."
"I can't, sir. I won't." She punctuated her statement with a bang of her stapler, stapling together several sheets.
"Agent Scully!" Skinner said crashing his hand down on her desk and causing Scully's eyes to grow large.
"I see. You've come down here to intimidate me?" she asked standing up. "You might have spared yourself the trip, because I have to keep searching for Mulder and I can't do that answering the phones upstairs. Not you and not anyone else is going to stop me."
"I've come down here to speak on Agent Mulder's behalf, since he doesn't have that luxury."
Scully cocked her eyebrows as if to dare him to predict what Mulder would ever say to her.
Skinner's tone was once again calm and pleading, "Agent Scully, he wouldn't want you to be actively involved in dangerous cases such as X-files."
Mulder was always maddeningly trying to protect her�something she'd insisted that she didn't need or want. Now Skinner seemed to want to step right into that particular role. It annoyed her when Mulder did it; it downright infuriated her that Skinner was attempting to do it.
"I think you assume too much, sir."
"You think so? Please, don't insult my intelligence, Agent Scully. Remember who you're dealing with. I know how you and Agent Mulder interact and I know how he feels about you."
Skinner was careful to use the present tense. He wasn't ready to count Mulder among the dead either. There were precious few people who felt that way these days. He imagined that it wouldn't be long until it was a club of two. A rather depressive club.
"You think that report you're preparing on that bat-boy was a wise choice of cases?"
Scully rolled her eyes. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Chasing giant bat creatures?"
"Don't mock the work. My field report will demonstrate that this was a legitimate X-file."
"That is beside the point. You don't see any inherent danger in that kind of behavior, Agent?"
"That behavior as you call it is my job. Everyone here puts themselves in danger: that's the business we're in."
Skinner straightened his jacket. Trying to reason with the ever rational Agent Scully was proving more difficult than he had anticipated.
"Of course. But, the X-files are particularly dangerous."
"No one seemed concerned for my safety when I was assigned to the project. Then I was deemed very useful."
Skinner took a deep breath, determined to get through to his agent: "But you're working without a partner now. Don't get me wrong: you've done good work without Mulder. But, without a partner you're on the line with no one to back you up. It's unnecessarily dangerous�especially in your condition."
"I don't want to be assigned a new partner," Scully said looking Skinner boldly in the face, never one to back down.
It used to be Mulder that bucked every new partner assignment that came his way: now Scully had become just as difficult to manage.
"You won't be. It's just a temporary reassignment to the bullpen."
"You don't understand...I don't want to be up there amongst the boy's club. The innuendos, the snide remarks. I've been putting up with it for years...we both have."
Skinner cleared his throat. He was well aware that the Bureau could function as a rumor factory, and right now the disappearance of Agent Mulder and the condition of his partner had more than one tongue wagging.
Seeing that he was about to speak again, Scully shook her head: "They can talk all they like when I'm down here, but damned if I won't stand for it..."
The thought was abhorrent. Yes, she dreaded the prospect of being assigned to work with a sexist Neanderthal. She had been lucky in getting Mulder as her partner, and she'd realized that almost right off the bat. The FBI and law enforcement in general still was tainted by a rather retro take on the usefulness of women in the force. Mulder had his quirks and he made his share of comments, but at his core he wasn't judging her or any other female agent based on their sex. She might not be so lucky with a new assignment. But, it was more than that. If she was given a new partner, it would be further proof that Mulder wasn't coming back. She didn't want a replacement. He couldn't be replaced.
"No, you don't understand, sir..."
Skinner interrupted, raising his voice once more, "Then go home, and I don't mean that unsympathetically, but please, I can't allow you to chase after Agent Mulder or anything else. I won't have you on my conscience. You have three choices: accept the temporary desk position, go home and come back when you're ready, or I have to fire you for refusing temporary reassignment...don't make me fire you."
Scully turned red, angered by the extremely unfair hand she had been dealt in life of late. She was blessed with Mulder's child, but cursed to have lost Mulder. The curse had made it difficult to celebrate the blessing, and now it appeared as if her blessing would prevent her from searching for Mulder. She didn't want to resent her situation. It couldn't get much worse than that, she considered.
She slammed down her papers, scattering them around the room. It was infantile and unprofessional. It was like she was channeling Mulder. Skinner watched the papers as they floated to the floor.
"Agent, you don't have to leave today, if you have work to do."
He wasn't used to Agent Scully being the emotional one in the duo that worked under his direction. He'd bellowed at Mulder in his attempts to cow his unruly agent. He was fairly certain that wasn't the tact to take with Scully at the moment.
"I'm not getting anywhere, sir. Nowhere. I've made no progress."
"Dana," Skinner said softly, trying to calm her down.
Unhinged, Scully persisted, "I'm fighting to stay on, but to what purpose? I've been chasing ghosts since day one. There is no evidence of Mulder's disappearance other than your account. Two trips to Oregon have provided no information, and I'm forced to rely on conspiracy theories sent to me by the Lone Gunmen. Who am I supposed to ask to give him back? What do I have to do? And who do I have to ask?"
She sighed in exasperation. Skinner watched with sympathy as his agent tried to still her shaking hands.
The whole investigation had been a farce: right from the beginning when men were rifling through Mulder's files, Scully knew that she would receive little real help from the FBI. Mulder hadn't been kidding when he called himself 'the FBI's most unwanted.' Skinner might be on her side, but he was just one man. Just as she and Mulder had just been two people fighting against incalculable odds. The chances just weren't good.
"The most important case of my career...of my life, and I'm utterly failing at it," she continued, her voice faltering.
"I'm going to place another agent on the case," he said taking her by the shoulder.
Scully blinked quickly, somewhat brought around by Skinner's tone and firm touch.
"Someone capable and trustworthy," he continued. "I'll handpick the agent. I'm going to do all I can to find Agent Mulder. It's my top priority. You know that."
She couldn't accuse him of not caring�not on this one. Everyone else in the J. Edgar Hoover Building might share some of the blame, but not AD Skinner. She'd seen it in his face when he'd brought her the news in the hospital. He wasn't only afraid of telling her, he was blaming himself. His face had twisted in pain, his trembling voice betraying him: "I lost him. I don't know what else I can say. I lost him."
Mulder was his agent and he owed something to not only Mulder, but to Scully as well. He owed them for years of not always being a completely stand up guy, when he should have known better, and losing Mulder was a sorry way to repay that debt. Skinner wasn't going to obfuscate the issue of Mulder's disappearance; he was going to be forthright. He'd assured her that she wouldn't have to stand against the Bureau alone. "What I saw, I can't deny. I won't."
And reluctantly she had to concede that Skinner had a point about her work in the field. Yet, while she could admit this rationally, she hadn't wanted to accept the possibility that she needed to slow down. She was now six months along and clearly showing; the point where she could hide beneath blousy tops had long since passed. Certainly, the last thing she needed was to take a bullet, be mauled by a bat-boy, or fall while chasing the unknown through the darkness. Besides needing a healthy dose of self-preservation, she had to acknowledge that Mulder would also want her to be careful. He'd made her stay behind, trying to protect her from perceived dangers after all.
He too might have been more careful. Maybe if she had found out before he left for Oregon, he wouldn't have gone; maybe that area where he had painted an 'X' on the pavement so many years ago�that area that promised the elusive Truth�wouldn't have been enough of a draw to take him away from her. But then she couldn't think about that, since agonizing about what might have been never amounted to anything. It could become a cancer.
She began to pack up her things, heedless of the papers littering the floor. Skinner watched, motionless. He'd done what he had to do, but the sight of Agent Scully resignedly packing up her things in the dingy X-files office tore at him. She seemed broken. He could still remember her as a new bright face in the Bureau, recruited out of medical school and only two years in the Bureau before being assigned to work as the junior partner under Agent Mulder.
"I can have you sent to Quantico, if you prefer."
Scully looked up, her blue eyes empty. "It makes no difference."
Scully paused in front of Mulder's desk, grabbing his nameplate and stuffing it in her purse.
She stopped, turning to face Skinner once more: "Just don't close the X-files. He wouldn't want that."
Skinner shook his head: "I'm not going to."
"Promise," she demanded.
Her tone sounded like a warning to Skinner.
"Promise," she demanded more emphatically.
"I won't close the X-files, Agent Scully."
"You just can't do that to him," she said quietly.
Her bottom lip began to tremble and she pushed past him out the door.
She started her car and pulled out of her parking space looking behind her as she did so. She wished she'd been able to handle herself better back there. She never liked falling apart, let alone in front of superiors. It wasn't what a good soldier did. But lately, she was having a hard time holding it together.
At first, she had only wanted Mulder to return home speedily. Now in addition to her increasing concerns that he might never return, she also feared that he might return changed, maybe even dying. If she was given cancer, why might not he also be given cancer or something equally sinister? A chip had saved her, while also most possibly marking her and making her traceable. Never mind that it had proven to be able to control her actions in a most sinister way. Would there be such a cure for Mulder, if he ever did return? How cruel would it be if Mulder was returned to her only to die?
She turned the wheel and entered traffic, touching her stomach. He'd want to see the baby, if nothing else. There was a certain inherent danger in being the child of two such parents�she couldn't blind herself to that reality, but she had learned that you can't suspend your life by living in fear. That is what she had done with Mulder, and she regretted every minute of her delay.
Devoid of anything to do, Scully despondently chose to avoid driving home to Georgetown: she could drive over to Alexandria to Mulder's apartment. She could stare at his door marked with a brass number 42. She could put the key labeled 'Mulder' in the lock, pretending that he was waiting inside for her. She could check his answering machine, nominally to see if he had gotten any messages, but really to hear his laconic voice state: "This is Fox Mulder. Please leave a message." She could sit there in the dark with his things surrounding her. She could wait.
She slowly paced back and forth in the living room of her apartment, staring at the floor. She was wearing a black suit, consisting of a well fitted knee length skirt, a white blouse partially unbuttoned, and an equally well fitted black jacket: it was the type of outfit she had worn to work during all the years she'd worked for the FBI. She was returning as is nothing had changed, but everything had.
"Let me have him for a second, Mother," she said turning to face her mother, who sat on the sofa holding a small bundle.
"Dana, if he spits up on you, you'll have to change."
"Maybe I'm not ready," Scully said leaning over to take the baby from her mother despite her mother's more seasoned maternal advice.
"You don't have to go back, Dana."
Scully rested the child on her shoulder and stroked its soft downy head. "No, you know that I have to make sure that this new agent hasn't been making a mess of things," she said, ignoring her mother's knowing smile.
Years ago when she had wanted Dana to quit, she had known better than to ask it of her. Margaret Scully understood what her husband and son Bill never could: her daughter was fiercely devoted to her work and that would never change.
"Dana, don't worry about a thing. You're only going to be gone for a few hours, and I promise I won't let anything happen to the little dear. I had a few of my own, you know," Mrs. Scully said, taking the baby back from her daughter and reaching for her daughter's keys.
Scully kissed the crown of her baby's head before taking the keys from her mother. "Okay, but you'll call me for whatever reason?"
"Of course," her mother said, holding the door open for her daughter.
"And you have my cell number?" Scully called back one more time as she headed down the hallway, but her mother provided no response and merely made the one month old wave its tiny arm 'goodbye.'
Scully entered Skinner's office five minutes late. She had rarely been late to work or a meeting in her life�without Mulder having been the one to slow her down. Now she was five minutes late, because she had delayed her leave taking from her perfect little baby. She was responsible for a tiny helpless being, and it was already changing her. Being late didn't seem like the worst possible offense anymore, but she apologized nonetheless.
"I apologize for being late, sir."
Skinner stood up behind his desk and came around to shake Scully's hand. "I'm just glad to have you back, Agent Scully."
Scully turned to look at the man sitting in one of the chairs in front of the Assistant Director's desk.
The man stood up as she noticed him, and Skinner addressed Scully, "this is Agent Troy, he was assigned to the X-files while you were on leave."
Scully stuck out her hand.
"It's good to finally meet you, Agent Scully. I feel as if I know you already."
Scully smiled awkwardly and sat down in the other empty chair.
"We have some things to go over concerning the X-files today, Agent Scully," Skinner said as he returned to his desk chair.
Scully nodded and crossed her legs.
Agent Troy was probably the same age as Scully, but he looked younger than that to her. He looked young and untested. His hair was so dark that it was nearly black. His eyes were blue and his skin was fair with a hint of rose in his cheeks. He was slight of build and not quite six-foot.
'Completely different from Mulder,' she thought, which was probably a good thing.
Skinner went through the run down on Troy's work on the X-files in her absence. Scully sat, seemingly attentive, but inwardly counting off the minutes until she could end this meeting and get back to her work. She had been hesitant to leave in the morning, but once she walked through the doors of the Hoover Building, she wanted to get back to work. Every minute spent in meaningless review was a minute wasted. A minute she could spend towards more important things related to the X-files.
Since he'd begun his work on the X-files a few months ago, Troy had investigated some minor cases, but none had turned out to be true X-files.
'Or so he believes,' Scully silently amended.
What could this man possibly know about the X-files? Other than those several lackluster cases, he had spent the past few weeks working on and off on Mulder's still unsolved disappearance. Scully was aware of this, because every day of her maternity leave she had called Skinner personally, as if it was normal for her to call her superior for no seeming reason. She hadn't asked directly, but he must have known what she was calling about. He'd always told her the same: "nothing new to report on Agent Mulder's disappearance." Scully had begun to mouth along when he'd say it. The one day she hadn't called�the day she went into labor�he must have guessed the reason: he sent flowers to the hospital. The enclosure card might as well have read: "Nothing new to report. Congratulations."
After their meeting in Skinner's office, Agent Troy took Scully to the new X-files office, which was well lit and above ground�again, very different from her past experience. She looked around the room absentmindedly as Troy pulled open the drawers of a metal filing cabinet and took out some papers. The walls were beige and they had a full window that bathed the room in natural light. It was your typical government office. Nothing about it was familiar�none of Mulder's clippings, photos, or posters papered the peg board, no pencils were lodged in the ceiling tiles, no coat rack with Max Fenig's NICAP cap thrown on top sat in the corner. All of their things from their basement office had been boxed up and stored away some time ago. Skinner had asked if she wanted to supervise the clean up; she had declined. It all seemed over, finished.
"Would you like me to go over the flesh eating bacteria case I encountered in the Boston T?"
Troy's voice startled Scully out of her silent appraisal of her new surroundings. "No," she answered flatly, refusing to take the folder he held up.
"I thought maybe that would be up your alley. I could have used your expertise, I'm sure."
Scully walked over to the empty desk that awaited her�a desk of her own.
"You have an amazing breadth of knowledge. I've read through a lot of the old files."
"Find anything interesting?" she asked sardonically.
"Plenty," he responded with a slight chuckle.
Scully rolled her eyes, as Troy continued to dig through files. "Why were you interested in the X-files, Agent Troy? It's not usually considered to be a brilliant career move."
"I don't see it that way," he said glancing at her over his shoulder. "Did you?" he asked, causing Scully to turn away from his gaze and pick up the empty pen and pencil cup that sat on the edge of her desk, pretending as if it held some interest for her.
She'd been a little bit star struck actually, when she was assigned to Mulder�from what she'd heard about him he was generally thought of as the best analyst in the violent crimes section. But her initial enthusiasm had quickly been erased when he'd said much the same thing to her on her first day: "Who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?"
"Everyone thinks we're crazy, you know," she said as a non-response to Troy's probing question.
Scully immediately winced at having said 'we,' knowing Mulder was no longer a part of the X-files, unless you counted his having become one. 'We still have that in common in this world�there's a file on me and one on you too.'
Troy snorted, "Well, if that's the case, welcome me to the loony bin, I guess."
Scully placed the cup back on the table before finally sliding her black bag under the desk. It might feel strange, but this was where she would be working from now on. 'Better start getting used to your new life: single mother, new office, new partner, senior agent. No Mulder.'
Troy straightened up and handed her the paper for which he'd been searching. Scully glanced down at the file: it was a report on Troy's latest investigations into Mulder's disappearance.
"I know Skinner told you I was having no success on this front, which is pretty much correct, but I wanted you to have a look yourself."
Scully nodded, swallowing.
"And I just want you to know that I've admired your dedication to a part of the FBI that no one typically is willing to recognize. I've known of you by reputation, Agent Scully, ever since I began working for the FBI."
Scully scanned the sheet looking for anything worth reading.
"And Agent Mulder...well..."
"Agent Mulder what?" she dared him without looking up from the paper.
He didn't know quite what to say. Agent Fox Mulder had a reputation as well, but it wasn't wholly flattering. He knew better than to say such things to Agent Mulder's former partner. For that matter, the two of them as a pair had quite a reputation. One that had only been expanded upon since Mulder's disappearance and Agent Scully's pregnancy. He didn't want to offend his new partner, and he was also a little bit wary of her. Based on her behavior thus far, it seemed as if Agent Scully could be as cold as people said.
Agent Troy cleared his throat. "Agent Mulder's nonconformist methods were arguably very refreshing."
Scully raised one eyebrow. 'Refreshing?' she thought. 'Give me a break.' His methods could be totally irresponsible. They could also be genius. "You believe in aliens, Agent Troy?" she deadpanned, knowing from the report that she held in her hands that his answer wouldn't be satisfactory.
"Well..." he hedged.
"You can't be of any help to Agent Mulder, if you don't," she said laying the paper down on Troy's desk.
"I want to put aside the question of aliens for the moment."
"Oh you do? We're dealing with something much more sinister than little green men. This is no joke. Have you even spoken with AD Skinner about what happened?"
Troy fingered the file on the desk. "Agent Scully, I want to find Agent Mulder�that's a primary objective for me on this new assignment."
Scully stared at him, clearly irritated.
He tried again, "I'm excited to work with you. And I'm glad to have your help."
Scully swallowed again, watching him silently for a moment. He almost visibly began to squirm under her withering gaze.
"I think the real question is whether you can help me," Scully finally responded before she turned to leave the office, pulling the door closed behind her with a satisfying slam.
She headed back to Skinner's office, fuming. She marched past his secretary, Arlene, flinging open the Assistant Director's door.
"What is the meaning of placing someone on the X-files who doesn't even understand what has happened to Mulder?"
Skinner had a phone pressed to his ear. "Excuse me, I'm going to have to call you back," he spoke into the receiver.
Scully waited impatiently, sighing nosily.
"Agent Scully, you just interrupted an important phone call."
"Did you hear my question?" she demanded.
"Yes, I did. Agent Troy is..."
Scully interrupted: "You assured me that you would do everything in your power to find Mulder, and I don't believe..."
"Agent Scully!" Skinner shouted.
Scully raised her eyebrows: "Yes?"
"You might have a hard time accepting this, but you yourself did not believe at one time in the existence of alien life...in a conspiracy. I didn't either, or...or I chose to ignore it."
"Or to be a part of it, you mean," Scully interrupted icily.
Skinner's face registered the chastisement. Those men had sat in this office, directing policy, and Skinner was still trying to make amends for it.
He continued in a softened tone, "Agent Troy is willing to work on the X-files and eager to find Agent Mulder. I hand-selected him, because I believe that he can provide you with the kind of assistance you should be welcoming. Despite what you might like to think, the FBI is not bursting with agents who would believe me, if I told them that Agent Mulder was abducted by aliens right in front of my eyes."
Scully shifted her weight, silenced for the moment.
"Whether you like it or not, if you choose to continue your work on the X-files, you will have Agent Troy working with you. This is not a democracy. I suggest you make the most of it."
"There are other agents with interest in the paranormal...in unexplained phenomena," Scully stated more calmly.
Skinner looked down, gripping the wand of his glasses between his thumb and forefinger: "Name one."
"There were other agents then. You neglect the fact that Agent Fowley is dead."
Scully sighed: true, but she couldn't think of anyone else.
Skinner fixed her with a look. "And I got the feeling you two weren't the best of friends."
Scully unlocked the door to her apartment, and pulled it closed behind her, looking around the room. There was no sign of her mother or her baby, other than the yellow baby blanket draped over the arm of the sofa. The day had been draining, and there was some comfort in reentering her personal refuge.
"Dana?" called her mother's voice from the kitchen.
"I'm home," Scully answered, putting her things down and making her way into the kitchen.
"He's asleep, the little angel," her mother said wiping her hands off on a towel.
"Good. Everything was all right?"
"Everything was fine, sweetheart."
"I don't know how to thank you."
"You have to let people do for you, Dana."
Fiercely independent by nature, Scully slowly had been forced to give up control to those around her during her pregnancy and once William had been born.
"I think you should start looking for a nanny though."
"Well, I'll be leaving soon, Dana. I can't stay here forever...this isn't my home."
Scully knew this was coming, and she'd tried to mentally prepare herself for it. She'd just become very comfortable having her mother around. She'd become so solitary that at first she bucked the appearance of her mother in her life in such an intimate way, but she'd quickly learned that she needed her mother. Scully wasn't a natural at motherhood, but her mother had assured her that she wasn't necessarily lacking and only needed practice.
They had fought occasionally during the final months of her pregnancy, when her mother had wanted to throw a baby shower for her. Scully had no wish to be paraded in front of her mother's friends in an embarrassing spectacle of gifts and cake and silly games, and she'd only won that point after some rather unpleasant exchanges over the phone. Only a heated disagreement over William's baptism had marred their time together since William's birth. And while Maggie didn't approve of her daughter's decision to not have William baptized and believed that she would come to regret it, Scully was amazed to find that her mother respected her wishes with less angst than she might have previously.
Scully hugged her mother. "It's meant so much to me you being here for me, Mom. I don't know what I would have done...who I could have trusted."
"Well, my mother stayed with me after each of you was born. It's only right. Now, tell me about your day. I've been wondering all day how things were going."
Scully picked up the mug of coffee that her mother had poured for her. "It was good to be back. I can be of some use there."
Her mother nodded slowly: her daughter always needed a purpose, a clear task.
"But, I don't know why I have to have a new partner. I was doing alright on my own."
"Shouldn't you have a partner?"
"I don't want one. Especially this one."
"Doesn't he seem helpful?"
"No...that's not it exactly...he thinks he's helping, but I have serious reservations about him."
"Now Dana, I know how you are. You've got a stubborn streak a mile wide, and you determined before you even left this morning that you weren't going to like this new agent."
"Why don't you give him a chance?"
Scully sipped her coffee before setting her mug on the counter, gripping it tightly.
"Is there really something so awfully wrong with him?" her mother asked with a raised brow.
"He just doesn't share the same viewpoint as I do. He never will. I'm afraid it will hold me back."
The irony of the situation had already occurred to her. After all, Mulder must have felt the same way about her when she was assigned to work with him.
Her mother reached out to cover her daughter's hand with her own. "He isn't going to be Fox you know."
"I know...no one could be."
Scully paused, debating whether she should verbalize what she had been contemplating of late.
"It feels like he's getting farther away from me," she said quietly.
"What do you mean, dear?"
Scully tapped her finger on the mug, working up to a confession of sorts. "I used to have these dreams."
"At first I dreamt about our last few days together," Scully said, walking away from the counter to gaze out the window.
"Honey..." her mother said, pulling her back into this world. She didn't know how long she'd been standing at the window in silence. "I still dream about your father."
She knew her mother was trying to connect to her experience, and she appreciated the gesture. It gave her courage to continue.
"In the last couple months of my pregnancy the dreams changed," she said, speaking faster so as to get everything out before she had time to rethink her decision to tell her mother. "I would dream about him...wherever he is. I'd see him. I'd see things being done to him. It wasn't pleasant."
Scully could hear her mother take a step closer to her.
"And as awful as the dreams were...I felt like...I felt like I was connected to him and I felt like I had some assurance that..." she drifted off unable to finish her thoughts.
"You've stopped?" her mother asked quietly. "Having them?"
"When I had William, they stopped."
"Well, you've got a lot on your mind now. It's not a bad thing for you, Dana."
Scully nodded, although she was disappointed that her mother didn't seem to understand.
"I don't know anymore," she said flatly. Hearing the deadness of her own voice should have been disturbing, but she felt disembodied and unconnected with her emotions.
"They've stopped and I don't know any more if he's alive."
Scully's nanny had her bachelor's in childhood education and came highly recommended. She was twenty-five years old and had taught the third grade at a local school for two years until she decided that working with a classroom full of unruly children wasn't as gratifying as working for one family. After some reassuring background checks and the test of time, Scully trusted her almost as much as her own mother. Her name was Gabriella and William clearly was very fond of her. And nowadays Scully almost trusted William's judgment more than her own: he seemed to have an innate sense of things, which being unfamiliar with babies, she didn't know whether to attribute to general babyhood or something unusual about her son.
Gabriella's competence coupled with more regular bug and security sweeps performed by the Lone Gunmen allowed Scully to feel a little less worried when she left her child for the day or for a week while she was on assignment. Gabriella had been amused at the Lone Gunmen's first visit to Scully's apartment.
"You have some interesting colleagues, Dana," Gabriella said with a smirk.
"Not colleagues really," Scully hedged. It occurred to Scully that her peculiar friends might not have been on their best behavior without her there to supervise: "They didn't hit on you, did they?"
Gabriella smiled cheerfully: "no harm, no foul."
Surprisingly, she and Gabriella soon became something of friends, which was fairly novel and very welcome at this point in Scully's life. She wasn't the type of person that Scully would have imagined herself becoming friendly with. She was younger by enough that Scully would have thought that enough of a barrier to friendship, but she had other qualities that made her an unlikely companion as well. She was optimistic, cheerful, and untouched by cynicism. She had no interest in science or the greater questions about the universe. She was grounded and normal.
She hadn't had a girlfriend in years, ever since the X-files had begun to overcome every avenue of her life. She couldn't remember the last time she had called Ellen; she didn't know what they would have in common anymore if she did. In the first flush of her assignment on the X-files she had been able to comment on the looks of her new partner with Ellen, but such harmless exchanges had quickly given way to an absence of regular phone calls. Her job left her with little that she could share professionally and eventually ate away at any personal life that she had previously had. 'So, I performed an autopsy on a man who suffocated in mud yesterday,' didn't have the kind of girlfriend-friendly feel as talking about cute guys.
And she certainly wasn't going to reach out to Ellen now. How would she explain the absence of contact over the past few years as well as her current unwed mother status? Never mind the look she would get from her former friend over William's parentage: surely Ellen would remember her partner's name and put two and two together. Much like the look she had gotten from her brother Bill, she imagined. She had chalked up the loss of Ellen's friendship and others as just another cost among many, assuming that she might never again have the time or energy to make a new friend.
"You should go," Gabriella urged.
Gabriella had one quality in spades: she was forthright and didn't pull any punches.
"I think you missed the point, Gabriella."
"No, your point is that you're afraid to go out on a date with him�I can see that clearly enough," Gabriella as she packed up the things she brought with her to Scully's apartment with a smirk on her face.
"He didn't actually ask me out. He's my partner: we can't date," Scully insisted, setting her coffee mug down with some emphasis and causing William, who was now two months old, to kick his chubby legs as he lay on the couch next to his mother. "The FBI has policies..."
Gabriella interrupted, "You wouldn't date him, if he wasn't your partner, Dana."
"No, I wouldn't. I have no wish to."
"Which is why I know that you're afraid."
Scully shook her head dismissively, "You're wrong. I'm not going to invite any sort of misunderstanding. I've always been very careful to preserve a professional relationship with my coworkers."
Gabriella put her bag down on the ground and placed her hands on her hips, as she stood in front of the door. "Dana, don't give me that. I know Fox Mulder was your partner in the FBI."
Gabriella knew that Mulder was William's father: after all, Scully had given the child Mulder's surname. Gabriella was also aware that there was an ongoing investigation into Dana's partner's mysterious disappearance, but she knew little else besides that. She knew nothing about the man besides the name. Scully could barely bring herself to speak about Mulder.
"That's just the point. Does he think that I'm given to this sort of thing? Partnering up?" Scully responded with aggravation.
There had been a string of relationships in Scully's life that crossed professional boundaries, if she cared to admit it, but she didn't like to think of her relationship with Mulder as being a part of that pattern: she wanted to believe that it had been different. She desperately wanted that smoking son of a bitch to be wrong.
"I doubt that's it. Maybe he really just wanted to get coffee. Don't be paranoid, Dana."
Paranoia�that was just another attribute Mulder had passed along to her, like a disease.
"Anyway, my relationship with Mulder was complicated," Scully explained, looking down at William and adjusting his shirt, so as to avoid Gabriella's gaze.
"Well this isn't. Why can't you sit across a table from him and drink coffee? Is he that bad looking?"
Scully tilted her head: "No...I guess not. I haven't noticed."
"That's total BS. You've noticed. Who doesn't?"
"I just don't think it's appropriate and I'm not interested," Scully said in her strict tone of voice that she had employed so often with Mulder.
"Inappropriate...good Lord. I wouldn't be as careful as you for a kingdom. You come home with reports of your partner's inappropriate coffee offer like he's a criminal!" Gabriella said half laughing and shaking her finger at Scully. "Have you always been this sensible?" she asked Scully with one raised brow.
"One learns from one's youthful indiscretions," Scully sighed.
What she had with Mulder had developed so slowly that you couldn't possibly call it the result of a temporary lapse in judgment...or temporary insanity�long term, perhaps, but most thoroughly contemplated. So long term in fact that she still felt as if she was very much still a part of that relationship: Mulder felt like an amputated limb�no longer capable of functioning, but still capable of
causing phantom pains. She may have been the remaining part of the pair, but the ghostly pains she was suffering from were rendering her less than fully functional.
"So you told him 'no'?"
"I told him nothing...I walked out without responding."
Gabriella smirked, "Good, maybe he thinks you're hard of hearing and he'll ask you again sometime, so you can say 'yes'." Gabriella left her spot in the doorway and sat on the edge of the couch, her tone becoming serious. "You don't do anything, Dana. Don't you get lonely here? When was the last time you went dancing? Had a picnic? Spent an afternoon at the art museum? When was the last time you really lost yourself in something?"
'When was the last time?' Scully asked herself. 'Mulder, I lost myself in Mulder. I finally gave in and let him swallow me whole. It's liberating when you finally do.' She shook her head. 'Liberating with Mulder,' she amended. "You probably won't have a hard time believing this, but I haven't done much of those types of things in years, Gabriella. I wouldn't know a picnic, if it was laid out in front of me."
"That doesn't make it alright."
"It comes with the territory," Scully replied dismissively, picking up William and pressing him to her chest.
Gabriella shrugged, "Okay, so I know you're not going to get involved with this Troy guy, but I bet he's nice. If he's an okay partner, maybe he'd make good company too."
"Maybe so. Would you like me to set you up?" Scully deadpanned.
Gabriella rolled her eyes, laughing: "Dana...why not go out for coffee with him? It's not a lifelong commitment. I'll even watch William for you."
Scully sighed. "It isn't as simple as that, because I have to work with him every day, and I can't deal with that pressure. I'm not romantically interested in anyone, let alone Agent Troy."
"So if he asks again, be clear with him. Maybe you read it all wrong. Maybe you'll just get an hour outside of work with an adult...I don't know, but it's got to be better than watching the Discovery Channel every night."
Scully pulled William back, looking at his contented face with a half-smile. "I like the Discovery Channel."
Mulder had been gone now for just shy of a year, and Scully had nearly given up all hope of his ever returning�the part of her that had nourished that hope felt like it was drying out, becoming desiccated and increasingly raw. Her life had become so emotionally exhausting. Things had been turbulent before, but now she discovered that the horror of knowing The Truth without Mulder left her with new unsolicited burdens. She was playing two roles at all times: without Mulder she was the mother and the father, the skeptic and the believer, the scientist and the nonconformist. Fulfilling the role of logical and sensible Agent Dana Scully came much more naturally to her than intuitive and open to the possibilities pseudo-Mulder. But the X-files needed both, and Agent Troy, despite turning out to be a better partner than Scully initially had been willing to acknowledge, could not provide that particular blend of qualities that made Mulder and Scully the perfect team.
Just the mere act of sitting across from Agent Troy at a Starbucks during off hours would seem to confirm the fact that Mulder was indeed beyond her reach forever. She couldn't pretend that she wasn't still in love with him. She daily missed the comfort and feeling of mutual satisfaction that she had shared with him so briefly. Nonetheless, she thought that perhaps Gabriella was right. Her mother had recently told her on the phone that she had best find a way to deal with her loss, because being obsessed and unhappy wouldn't be good for William. Maybe Gabriella was sensing the same thing.
Obsessed and unhappy�maybe she was better at being Mulder than she gave herself credit for. Whenever she wanted to escape from her carefully adopted attitude of detachment and articulate her grief, she knew who to call. There were three lonely bachelors who not only had lost a friend, but who allowed her to speak her mind without judgment. She'd shared with them her dreams about Mulder one evening, when she'd pulled William from his crib at an ungodly hour and called to wake them up so she could drive over to talk with them and not be alone if only for a few hours.
"Who is it?" Scully heard Langley calling faintly in the background after Frohike had groggily answered the phone.
"Agent Scully," Frohike called back.
"Are you all asleep?" she asked, knowing the answer.
"No," he lied to her in a voice gravely with sleep.
She was grateful for the lie.
"Do you mind if I come over?"
"Is she alright?" Byers asked from somewhere nearby Frohike.
"She's coming over," Frohike answered.
"Tell her to bring the little man," Langley shouted back.
She'd driven over to their lair, not bothering to contemplate how strung out she must look or how unhinged it must seem to awaken her baby in the night on a whim. She just knew she could talk to them and they wouldn't think she was crazy or try to reason with her. They could offer her an audience for her thoughts and commiserate in her loss.
Frohike and Byers must have gotten dressed after she called, but Langley, who quickly took William from her, was still attired in his pajamas, dispensing with the lie that they hadn't been asleep when she'd called.
"Have any of you ever had visions?" she asked.
"I had a bad trip once. It was supposed to be peyote," Frohike confessed.
Scully pulled at a lose thread on her jeans, refusing to meet anyone's gaze as she gathered her courage. "I think I had visions...when I was pregnant."
"Wicked," Langley said in awe, as he continued to make faces at the baby in his lap.
"I used to dream about Mulder, right after he disappeared. I'd replay our last few days together in great detail. They were very realistic."
Byers handed her a cup of coffee, which she accepted with a nod.
"And then...during the last couple of months of my pregnancy," she said, sipping from the cup, "the visions...I mean, what seemed like visions really started."
"What would you see?" Frohike asked with evident fascination.
"Mulder. Mulder stretched out on a table," she said gesturing with her free hand, which shook slightly as she mimed a flat surface.
"Hooked up to things...machines. It was like he was being tested. And he was in pain. I could see it. I could almost feel it."
All three men were silent.
"And I'd have these visions almost every night. Slightly different, as if I was watching something that was going on in real time. I was just an invisible observer, I couldn't say anything to him, but...as strange as this might sound, I was glad to have them."
Frohike nodded. Scully wasn't sure if he understood or was merely urging her to continue.
"Do you think it's possible that what I experienced...do you think I was having visions?" she asked.
Byers knit his brow, "this isn't really our specialty: the paranormal."
"No, my local expert disappeared," Scully said with a sigh. She sipped from her cup again. "I did some digging around in some old files of Mulder's. There is a theory that pregnancy heightens psychic abilities...or opens connections...something like that."
"So, you're psychic now?" Langley asked.
It was the lack of condescension in his voice that was so welcome to Scully. She knew she could tell them.
"No. The visions stopped."
"When?" Frohike asked.
"When I had William."
"Immediately?" he asked.
"Immediately. Connection severed...or whatever. And sometimes I just wish that I'd wake up terrified from one of those dreams again, because when I was having them, I felt like he was still out there." Scully paused, staring at the metal table in front of her. "Do you think they meant something?" she asked, looking up for reassurance at the three men before her.
Byers stretched out his hand to her, placing it on her shoulder. "If someone was going to be connected to Mulder psychically or otherwise, it would be you. You're the best judge. I think that if you felt they meant something, then they must have meant something."
"And that I'm not having them?" she asked, her voice trembling.
"Means we'll just have to be patient for a while longer," Frohike assured her.
The unresolved nature of her loss was driving her to an unhealthy distraction, and she wasn't remotely happy, even with William. She recognized that she didn't have the luxury of completely giving in to her grief. If she was going to rise above it, maybe she needed all the friends she could get, even if that friendship came in the form of Agent Troy.
Skinner had suggested that Scully visit The Bureau's psychologist, Karen Kossoff, on a more regular basis than previously, and while Scully originally bridled at the suggestion, she eventually gave in. Dr. Kossoff felt that Agent Scully needed to develop relationships that were healthy�be they work relationships or relationships outside of work. Dr. Kossoff said that sometimes when an agent loses their partner, they feel as if they've lost their support system, not only professionally, but personally as well. Successfully coping with that loss could include developing new support systems. Her new partner might become a part of that network, if she chose to let him in.
Dr. Kossoff also thought that encouraging more social interaction between her and her new partner might even be a positive for Agent Troy and Agent Scully's professional partnership, since Scully admitted to having trouble trusting Troy.
"You have to develop trust in people. I don't need to remind you how important that is in the field," Dr. Kossoff urged.
Scully nodded, as if she conceded the point. 'Trust no one,' she inwardly reflected.
Resignedly, she resolved to be less precise with Agent Troy about the strictures of their working relationship and perhaps allow him to develop some level of friendship with her. But, even after they had spent some time together outside of the Bureau, Scully could not make herself entirely comfortable with the situation. Years of walling people off had made it rather difficult to reveal any part of herself to anyone. It had made it almost impossible for her to open herself to Mulder, and she had no trouble trusting him.
The fault did not lie with Agent Troy: he was kind, polite, and competent�the sort of person Scully should have been able to warm up to. What they had was something short of friendship, however, and Scully suspected that would always be the case, as she was somewhat hesitant to call him her friend. He was merely an inadequate place holder. She associated the term 'friend' with something deeper than she knew she would ever feel for Agent Troy.
Agent Troy sat on a park bench with Scully after a late dinner that Troy convinced her to partake in after a draining field report. She had gone home and changed, and Gabriella had agreed to stay with William for the evening. Troy was pointing out different constellations that were barely visible in the D.C. sky to Scully, and Scully was experiencing the semi-nauseous feeling that sometimes overcame her when she was alone with Agent Troy. It wasn't that he wasn't at all times appropriate; it just sometimes felt as if he was trying too hard.
"You seem to have a vast knowledge of the heavens," she replied slightly sarcastically.
"I had a telescope when I was a kid. I wanted to be an astronaut."
"Ah..." Scully replied, thinking that his somewhat cowboy attitude towards fieldwork now made sense.
Scully was immediately aware of Troy's shift on the bench, and she realized that he was leaning in to kiss her. Scully pulled away.
"Agent Troy," she said, reverting to his job title.
"I'm sorry...I thought perhaps..."
"You thought wrong," she said gathering up her purse.
"It won't happen again, Dana...I guess I was..."
"Out of line?"
"Sure," he said downtrodden.
"No, it won't happen again," she demanded, shaking her head quickly.
"No, it won't."
"Take me home." Her tone was thinly stretched as she tried not to scream at him. What she wanted to do was scream at herself: 'What were you thinking, Dana?'
Scully's cell phone rang and she pulled it out of her purse turning it on and pressing it to her ear.
"Agent Scully, this is AD Skinner."
She sighed, thinking that he had some monster he wanted her to drop everything for and chase after. Those days were gone, she kept wanting to tell him, when she would give up every last bit of herself and run off with Mulder to hunt the unknown at a moment's notice. There was no Mulder and there was William to think about.
"Agent, where are you?"
"I'm just out for a moment, sir. What is it?"
"Do you know where Agent Troy is?"
"Yes, but why?" she asked, swiveling away from Troy on the bench.
"Well, I have been trying to reach him for an hour. I have something...someone."
Scully gripped the phone more tightly with a sudden instinct.
"Sir, who is it?" she asked trying to modulate her tone.
"Agent...Dana...Mulder was found two hours ago outside of the city in a railway car."
Scully almost dropped the phone, and she felt her heart begin to beat faster, threatening to burst inside her chest.
"Sir, where are you? Where is he?"
"I'm at the hospital with him."
"Then he's alive," she hoarsely whispered.
"He's asking for you."
"Which hospital are you at?"
"Agent Troy and I will be there in fifteen minutes."
She tossed her phone into her purse and jumped up.
"I need you drive me directly to the Georgetown Hospital. I can't waste any time going back to my apartment."
"Of course. This is about Agent Mulder?" he asked incredulously, following quickly after her as she made her way towards the street where his red car was parked.
He'd been trying to achieve just this kind of change of mood in his partner for months. He'd been trying to earn her trust, make her proud on assignments, and maybe make her smile once and awhile. News of Mulder had switched her on like a light in a dark room. Every inch of her body had begun to glow preternaturally. He had wanted to help find Mulder for purely professional reasons initially, but he'd eventually wanted to find Dana's old partner, because he'd imagined it would have just this kind of effect on her. He wanted it, even though he was sure it would spell the end of their partnership.
"He's been found...I don't know in what kind of condition. We have to hurry," she said, stepping over a crack that could catch her heel.
They reached the car and jumped in as Troy hurriedly tried to start the car, but he fumbled awkwardly with the keys, knowing that Scully was watching and wishing he could move that much faster. She was difficult to please�making the pleasing all the more worthwhile. Now was the opportune moment to be the ideal partner...friend, but he knew he still wasn't measuring up.
They entered the hospital and headed for the ward in which Skinner had said Mulder was being held. Skinner had made sure that his floor was placed under high security, where no one unauthorized could enter without his approval. Scully and Troy flashed their badges at the nurse at the desk.
"FBI," Scully said quickly, straining to look down the hall to see if she saw Skinner anywhere.
"We're here for Special Agent Mulder," Troy explained, tucking his badge back into his coat.
"Room 315," the nurse said as Scully already began to hurry down the hallway, her heels clicking on the tile floor.
She stopped before the door, trying to catch her breath, not from the exercise, but the sheer affect this news was having on her body. Troy caught up with her and put his arm around her, but she barely recognized his presence as she braced herself to enter the room. He still had his arm around her as they entered the room, but he dropped it as she moved forward to a weary looking Mulder, who was nonetheless, awake and alive.
Scully said nothing, but quickly lifted his head to look at the nape of his neck, looking and feeling for some mark, some hint.
She found nothing and whispered, "oh, thank God," before checking his pulse and looking into his eyes with a penlight that she carried in her purse, blind to the fact that this had all been performed a few hours earlier, minus the examination for an implant.
Mulder's eyes followed her actions silently.
"I'll find Skinner," Troy said quietly gesturing towards the door, but Scully took no notice, and he left the room.
Mulder followed Troy's exit with his eyes before turning to look back at Scully.
"Is that your new partner?" he asked hoarsely.
Scully let out a suppressed sob and squeezed Mulder's hand. He swallowed with some effort and gazed back at her. Her breath was quick and sharp and her face flushed. She was dressed for an evening out: a sleeveless short black dress with a v-neckline. He couldn't recall Scully ever dressing in such a way.
Skinner entered the room and Scully straightened up, brushing some hair out of her eyes. "I want to speak to his doctor."
"I've just been speaking with him, and everything seems to be fine, but he is dehydrated, so..."
"Sir, I need to speak with his doctor. I need to have some tests performed," she said letting go of Mulder's hand as her voice rose.
"I'll get him for you, Agent Scully," Skinner said resignedly. He turned to leave the room again, but paused. "Perhaps you would cool your zest somewhat to have Agent Mulder put through a cavalcade of tests, if you knew what he'd already been through."
"I think I know," she angrily retorted.
Skinner stared from Mulder to Scully, before stepping outside.
For a few moments, Scully stared blankly at Mulder once they were alone in the room. Was it her new partner? Or was it someone else? She hadn't answered him. He wasn't sure and he didn't know if he wanted the entire truth.
Mulder flashed his smile, somewhat weakly perhaps, but nonetheless it was the Mulder smile she knew so well. "I'm surprised you got so dressed up to come welcome me home, Scully."
His flippancy couldn't help but provoke a smile in return from Scully. Scully stroked his forehead and was about to lean down to kiss him when Skinner appeared in the doorway again.
"Agent, why don't you step outside? I managed to catch the doctor and he can speak to you now."
Scully followed Skinner out into the hallway and shook hands with Mulder's doctor as Skinner stood by.
"Agent Scully, this is Dr. Hallowell. He has been attending Mulder since his arrival. Agent Scully is a medical doctor."
"I'm Agent Mulder's doctor," Scully asserted, "and I have some questions."
"What sort of condition was Mulder in, when he arrived?"
"He was found unconscious, Agent Scully, but the emergency staff quickly brought him to in the ambulance. Shortly after that, he came under my care, since he had sustained no visible injuries. As you saw, we have him hooked up to vital monitors, and we've been keeping a very close eye on him. Am I to understand that Mr. Mulder had been missing for approximately a year?"
Skinner nodded in affirmation, as Scully hurriedly continued: "And he was found in a railway car?" she asked with perturbation.
"The call came from a railway worker who was checking some tracks, when he saw bodies inside an abandoned car," Skinner explained to her.
"Bodies?" she asked quietly.
"The other victims...missing persons...from Oregon," Skinner said trailing off.
"Are they under your care as well, Doctor?"
"The emergency technicians assessed them all as dead upon arrival," the doctor said flipping through the chart. "Only Mr. Mulder was alive and considering his circumstances�in good condition. He's dehydrated and has some minor skin abrasions, but that's the extent of it. I'll keep him tonight for observation and re-hydration, but barring any new development he can go home tomorrow, as far as I can tell right now."
"May I?" Scully asked, reaching for Mulder's chart.
The doctor shrugged handing it over.
Scully scanned the pages before her quickly.
"I want you to run some additional tests. Bone scans, cat scans, blood work," Scully said hurriedly.
The doctor gave her a confused look. "There doesn't appear to be any need for such extensive testing."
"Agent Mulder is a federal agent. I must insist that these tests be run for his complete evaluation," she persisted, handing him back the chart.
"What are you looking for?" he asked with a furrowed brow.
"Cancer, abnormalities, any number of things..."
The doctor shook his head, tucking his pen into the pocket of his lab coat: "Agent Scully, with all due respect, it is unlikely that whatever kidnapping ordeal Mr. Mulder endured would immediately result in diseases such as you suggest. It would be odd to think they ever would," Dr. Hallowell said slipping Mulder's chart under his arm.
Skinner placed his hand on Scully's arm and drew her aside, begging the doctor's pardon.
"This man will think you're insane, Agent Scully."
"You know that I'm not, sir. So, it's no use trying to stop me. Mulder must have these tests done," she said feverishly.
Her eyes almost felt as if they were burning under the fluorescent lights of the hallway.
"We both have Mulder's best interest in mind. I made sure he didn't end up in a military hospital; now you need to make sure he gets home. Right now I'm sure all Mulder wants to do is go home. Why don't you ask him?"
"He will go home, but first..."
Skinner fixed her with the most imposing look he could muster. "Now, Agent Scully, listen to me. Your own fears are clouding your judgment. Mulder appears to be completely healthy. There is no reason these tests cannot be run in a week's time when he is mentally better prepared for whatever the results may be, let alone the physical ordeal of the tests themselves."
Scully boldly stared up at him before heading back into Mulder's hospital room.
She stood at the foot of his bed. "Mulder, you'll have to stay the night, but the doctor says you should be ready for release tomorrow."
He nodded and licked his dry lips. The idea that Mulder had been piled up with dead bodies in a railway car flashed through Scully's head and she gripped the bed's cold metal frame with both hands.
"You feeling all right Mulder?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah. I'm swell," he said looking down at the glucose drip in his vein.
Agent Troy reentered the room for the first time and looked from Mulder to Scully before dropping his gaze to the floor. "I'll take you home, Dana. Skinner will stay tonight."
Scully didn't turn her head to answer him.
"Go home, Scully," Mulder said quietly.
"No, tell Skinner that I'll stay tonight with Agent Mulder."
"But..." Troy tried to attempt to coax Scully over to the door with hand signals, so that he might speak with her.
She reluctantly let go of the bed and took a few steps towards him.
"What about William?" he asked dropping his voice.
Scully bit her lip, having for the moment forgotten about him. She pulled her phone out of her purse.
"I'm sure it won't be a problem," she said beginning to dial.
"Look, if I can't take you home, at least take my jacket, Dana. You'll be cold here all night," he said stepping forward and removing his sport coat.
Scully held her hand up to refuse. "I can get a blanket from the nurse. Thanks."
Troy sighed and turned on his heel, leaving the room.
Scully walked over to the yellow plastic stuffed chair that was pushed into the corner of the room. She dragged it across the floor so that she could be closer to Mulder and collapsed in it as the phone rang.
"Gabriella? I'm sorry. I know you must have been worried."
Mulder eyed her from his bed, wondering what exactly was going on with Scully.
"I simply can't get home tonight, and I was hoping you could stay with him."
Scully met Mulder's gaze for a moment and quickly looked away again.
"I'm at the Georgetown Hospital...if you can't reach me on my cell, the number is in the book, should you need me. Room 315. I really appreciate this. If you need anything there's some money there on the kitchen counter. Just go get whatever or I'll pay you back if need be�whatever you need, Gabriella. I'm sorry about the short notice: it's just very important that I stay here. And I should be back by tomorrow afternoon."
There was a pause as Scully listened to whoever's voice was on the other end, and then she asked quietly, "is he all right then?"
Mulder turned his head to look up at the ceiling, wishing he wasn't there at the moment.
"Good night, Gab, I'll see you tomorrow."
Scully slipped her phone back into her purse and drew a deep breath, assessing Mulder's appearance against the white sheets.
"You can have my blanket, Scully, if you're cold...I'm all right," Mulder said before resting his head against the pillow with closed eyes.
"Oh Mulder," Scully sighed. "Don't try to be the hero," she said taking his hand once again.
She sure hadn't been the hero, she thought to herself. For all her work, for all her searching, Mulder had finally just been dropped back into her lap with all the others, who were dead. He could be dead. They could have found his lifeless body in that railcar. The very thought made her heart begin to race. But he was here and he was alive, which was the only thing that mattered.
She rubbed her thumb over the top of his hand, which was lightly scratched with dried blood.
"You've been gone so long," she said softly.
"Have I?" Mulder asked without opening his eyes.
"And a lot's changed...there is someone you have to meet," she said very quietly, and for the first time she truly was afraid to know how Mulder would really react to the knowledge that he was a father.
While she was pregnant and still hoping that he would return, she imagined it might be a little awkward, announcing that he would be a father; but now the situation was different�he no longer was going to be a father�he was a father, whether he currently knew it or not. And she wasn't sure whether he would be game for an insta-family, just add Mulder.
Scully's pronouncement had caused Mulder's mind to leap to a very different possibility. He assumed that this had something to do with that new partner of hers who had so casually called her 'Dana.' Whoever he would be forced to meet shortly, couldn't possibly spell great things for him, he reasoned and he clenched his jaw, angry with the hand fate had dealt him.
"Can it wait until tomorrow?" he asked somewhat sardonically, but the tone appeared to have been lost on Scully, who seemed to be completely consumed by her thoughts.
A few minutes later, she realized he'd fallen asleep, and she pulled her gun from her purse, laying it on the table next to her. He had come back to her and she wasn't going to let someone take him from her again. She turned one way and then another in the chair, trying to curl up and get comfortable. She knew that she probably wouldn't sleep that night.
Scully washed her face in the bathroom attached to Mulder's private hospital room and straightened her clothes in the small rectangular mirror. The fluorescent light above the mirror cast a light that made her reflection appear ghostly pale. She was displeased by what she saw. She had half moon shaped blue rings under her eyes from lack of sleep, and she uselessly tried to remove them by pressing her fingers cooled by the water from the tap against the discolored skin. It was no wonder she looked unwell: she had slept fitfully, dreaming of Mulder in a train car full of dead bodies.
The doctor was speaking with Mulder, as she had done a few minutes previous. She had set up some tests to be run the following week. Mulder was filling out some release forms, and she was going to be able to take him home. Troy had arranged for her car to be dropped off at the hospital and it was waiting for them outside. Outside of this hospital lay the real world, where she would be forced to tell Mulder all the things she was holding back. She swallowed some water from the plastic cup that was resting on the sink's edge and went back into the room.
The nurse was helping Mulder up and into a wheelchair.
"Scully, please explain to Nurse Gene that I can walk."
Scully simply cocked her eyebrow in response and took hold of the handles.
Mulder was wearing a black knit sweater and blue jeans�items that she had sent Troy to get earlier in the morning from Mulder's apartment. Without it being asked of him, Troy had also gone to Scully's apartment and returned with a blue pants suit, which Gabriella had selected from the closet packed with one suit after another.
Scully wheeled Mulder out into the hallway and towards the elevator. Scully punched the white button with the arrow pointing down, so that it lit up. They stood alone in the hallway before the silver door of the closed elevator, totally silent. Scully was trying to think of a way to begin setting up her introduction of William. The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Scully pushed the wheelchair forward. In turning the wheelchair around, so that it faced outwards, Scully brushed Mulder's leg against the wall of the elevator.
"Careful. This thing doesn't have power steering," Mulder protested.
"I'll try to remember that," Scully said leaning forward to press the first floor button.
They were quiet for a few moments as the second floor passed them by, their progress indicated by a cheery ding.
"Mulder, I want to take you over to my apartment before I take you home, if you feel up to it. I need you to meet someone, and then I'll take you back to your apartment if you want."
Scully couldn't see Mulder's face, which displayed a pained expression.
"Sure, you're in the driver's seat today, Scully," he responded flatly.
"For once, huh?" she said as they exited the elevator and she rolled Mulder out into the bright and bustling entrance lobby of the hospital.
At a stoplight Scully pulled out her cell phone and called her apartment. "Gab, this is Dana. I'm ten minutes from home. Everything been all right?"
She turned the corner, and Mulder watched out the window as familiar scenery passed by. To him it seemed like it hadn't been very long since he'd been driving to her apartment, but he had been told that it had been a year. A year. How do you count the time spent lost in such agony? How do you begin to make up for everything that you've missed?
"I'm bringing someone home with me, Gab. I was with Agent Mulder last night," Scully said somewhat anxiously.
On the other end of the line, Gabriella dropped the phone from shock, succeeding in hanging up on Scully. Scully heard the dial tone and shook her head, putting the phone back down on the console. She glanced over at Mulder, but he was staring out the window.
She wished that he would say something, instead of being so silent. It would have been easier, if he had been more typically Mulder and launched immediately into a discussion of the details of the case�the case of his disappearance. Or if he had began quizzing her about the state of the X-files. Or about baseball game scores. Anything but this interminable silence that hung between them. If he acted more like himself, she would know better how to handle him.
They pulled into Scully's apartment's parking lot, and Mulder snorted and shook his head, as if pondering a private joke.
"What's so funny, Mulder?" she asked, turning off the car and grabbing her purse.
"I'm wondering how you'll carry me inside, since we don't have a wheelchair handy," he explained as he pulled on the door handle.
He sounded rather embittered to her.
"You've been through a lot," she said as she slammed the driver's side door shut.
Mulder did the same. "No kidding."
"I just want you to take it easy�that's all. Try not to let your manly macho nonsense get in the way of realizing that people are merely concerned," she said, as she walked up the sidewalk to the building.
He managed to make it to the door of the building before her and held the door open for her.
'Nonsense? It's not nonsense to try to save yourself from abject humiliation. First you're being wheeled around in a wheelchair, and then you're being told that you've been replaced by a newer model...a better looking model...a saner model. You're getting the easy let down.'
He figured if he had lost her while he was gone�if she'd ever been his to begin with�he might as well try to salvage some of his pride by convincing her that he was not completely helpless and not entirely emotionally destroyed. It occurred to him that he had no wish for her to know the power she held over him. The power to crush him, should she so choose. He'd play this defensively.
As they walked through her hallway, Scully felt her hands begin to shake and she fumbled through her purse for her keys so as to avoid betraying her appendages' uncontrolled movements. They stopped in front of her door, and Scully worried that the keys would drop right out of her hand, so she simply tried the door first. Mercifully it was unlocked. There had been a day when such an occurrence would have made Scully wonder if she should draw her gun before entering, but now she knew it was only Gabriella, anticipating her return home.
Scully hoped that Gabriella would not come to the door with William in her arms or with a bottle in her hand. She had to break this to Mulder herself�even if she had no idea how she would do it, she had to tell him herself�to do otherwise would be entirely heartless. No one was in the living room, and Gabriella had tidied up. Gabriella's things were already packed in her blue quilted bag, sitting on the small table by the door, and none of William's things were conspicuous. It looked as if nothing had changed since the last time Mulder had graced her apartment.
"Gab, I'm back," Scully called, and Gabriella emerged from Scully's bedroom, thankfully without the baby.
Mulder was standing in the doorway, having not come in or shut the door entirely, and while Gabriella glanced quickly in his direction, she did her best to appear slightly disinterested in the man about whom she had heard so much.
Mulder, on the other hand, was blatantly staring, trying to figure out why this blond twenty-something year old girl was in Scully's apartment and apparently quite at home there.
Scully tossed her purse down on the table and turned to Mulder. "Shut the door, Mulder."
He turned to do so, but Gabriella sprung forward. "No, I was just leaving. Hold it for me."
Mulder held the door, but slightly blocked the way with his arm: "and you are?"
Gabriella stood speechless, and Mulder continued to stare at her.
"Mulder," Scully said, "it's not nice to stare."
Mulder looked from Scully back to the mysterious woman, somewhat bemused.
Scully continued, "this is Gabriella, and she...mmm...helps me out."
Mulder almost laughed at Scully's unusual inarticulateness. What could be shaking her up so?
"And Gab, this is Agent Mulder. He was my partner in the FBI."
Mulder inwardly flinched at Scully's use of the past tense. Yes, she had a new partner now. She might have a lot of new things in her life for all he knew. He could very well be yesterday's news all around.
"Oh, right. FBI. Sure," Gabriella said. "Okay, well," she said, hurriedly ducking under Mulder's arm, "Bye, Dana. Nice to meet you," she called back over her shoulder as she half jogged down the hallway.
"She was in a hurry. Did you tell her all the bad stuff about me?" Mulder asked with a smirk as he nudged the door shut with his elbow.
"Yeah, something like that," Scully said, refusing to turn around again.
"Hey, you've got my fish tank," he remarked after glancing around her apartment.
"I got tired of going over there to feed them all the time, so I had it brought over here." 'I couldn't stand being in your apartment alone' she inwardly thought. Every time she'd gone there she'd ended up sitting silently in the dark, sometimes for hours, thinking she could almost feel Mulder there�almost. It had become a dark habit she had forced herself to break after she gave birth to William.
"Do I even have an apartment anymore?" Mulder asked with a half chuckle.
Well, she couldn't stand going over there, but she also couldn't stomach the notion of getting rid of it either: whatever remained of Mulder, even his dingy apartment, she'd wanted to hold onto. It was a shrine to his previous existence in this world, where she could call him, visit him, climb into bed with him...anytime she pleased. It still hadn't sunk in that he was here in the flesh. She could just hold on to him, if she wanted to. There was nothing separating them physically.
"No, it's still there. Pretty much as you left it. They did rifle through for evidence during the investigation, but it's not bad. You can have my extra key for now," she said, gesturing back at her purse and keys.
"So was that it?" Mulder asked, putting his hands on his hips.
Scully cocked her head. She hadn't been listening to what he was saying.
"What was that Mulder?" Scully asked distractedly.
She could feel her palms beginning to sweat.
"Well...she, uh, Gabriella is it? She isn't the one you wanted me to meet, right? If that's the case, I'm still not terribly well acquainted with...your friend...or housekeeper? I'm missing something," he admitted, running his hands through his hair.
"No...well...there's nothing to do but show you, I guess."
Scully headed for the bedroom and paused to look back to make sure Mulder was following her, his footsteps made undetectable by the carpet runner. She entered her bedroom, which was doubling for a nursery, since she was crowded for room in her apartment. Her wooden double bed took up most of the room, along with her bookcase, desk, and a table that she had converted into a makeshift changing table. The crib was sitting alongside her bed directly opposite the door as you entered under the window. The shades were pulled shut, since Gabriella had put the baby to sleep before they arrived, and it left the room rather dark even though it was a sunny day outside.
In a few steps, she was around her bed and at the crib, lifting William out, asleep with heavy lids and bright pink cheeks. She pressed him to her shoulder. Her heart had risen into her throat and she could feel a deep flush creeping up her neck and into her cheeks. She turned to face Mulder, who had followed closely behind her. She had been afraid to imagine this moment in all the time since William had been born�afraid that what she would dream of would never come to be.
Mulder was only inches away from her, staring at the child with absolute confusion written on his face. She could plainly see that Mulder did not miraculously guess the nature of the situation; she wouldn't be saved from having to explain who William was to him. She looked from the baby on her shoulder to Mulder, gathering strength to speak.
"Mulder, he's ours," she said softly as she reached out with one hand to touch Mulder's chest, not wishing to jolt Mulder or the baby.
She watched Mulder intently, ready to read any sign that might appear on his countenance. She didn't have a script ready and she knew he wouldn't have anything prepared either. They would have to be honest. Whatever his reaction might be, she could count on it being genuine.
Mulder brought his gaze from the baby to Scully's face with his brow knitted together.
Words rushed through his mind but refused to form themselves, and all he could manage was a pathetic, "how?"
"I don't know," she said pressing the baby closer to her breast.
Mulder reached up a tentative hand and brushed the baby's cheek with one finger.
"He's ours...he's mine?" he whispered hoarsely.
Scully nodded 'yes.' "He's yours and he's healthy...perfectly healthy, Mulder. Nothing is wrong with him," she said as large tears began to trail down her cheek.
"Scully," he said with empathy, drawing out her name as was occasionally his habit before leaning over to capture her mouth with his own.
He quickly pulled back, afraid he might have inadvertently been crushing the baby. He wiped the tears from her face with his thumbs.
The baby's bright blue eyes slowly opened and he mewed contentedly, which brought about a broad smile from Mulder. Scully saw his evident pleasure at the child and she felt immediately more at ease. Maybe everything would be alright. Maybe they could be a family. Maybe no one would get sick. No one would go missing again.
"This is your father, William. He's come home," Scully said using her motherly tone of voice.
"William Mulder," she said handing the baby over to Mulder, who looked decidedly awkward with the bundle. "After your father...and mine."
"You gave birth to him?" he asked, moving to sit on the bed so as to feel more secure as he held the small worming bundle.
The child smelled of baby powder and its little blue wooly sleeper felt warm to the touch. Scully stood in front of the both of them, taking in the sight and placing her hand on Mulder's head and lightly running her fingers through his hair. He felt abuzz with pleasant stimulus unlike anything he'd felt in ages. The knot of nerves that had begun to form itself in the back of his neck as they'd left the hospital started to loosen as he realized that this was what Scully had intended to show him. His child. That was as unpleasant as it was going to get, and there was nothing unpleasant about this moment.
"Yes. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a routine delivery."
No test tubes. No tanks. No unwilling surrogates. Just his Scully giving birth to their child. That seemed just as surreal. He squinted at the baby in his arms, trying to make out what features looked like Scully and which might look more like him.
"I wasn't there," he said looking back up at her.
She shook her head, 'no,' sitting down next to him and resting her head on his shoulder. "My mother was with me."
She stroked William's downy head. His hair was getting darker, and she thought it was starting to resemble Mulder's medium brown floppy mane. He might have had his mother's blue eyes and light complexion, but this small detail that reminded her of Mulder had pleased her immensely in his father's absence. It was another bit of Mulder she could hold onto.
"He's four months old now...I was almost two months pregnant when you...when you..."
Scully had to stop to catch her breath. Was this really Mulder here beside her with their child?
"Mulder are you really alright?"
He let go of the baby with one hand and looped it around Scully's waist. "I'm fine now."
She had been afraid to ask him if he remembered anything: he had pressed her when she returned to share her memories, but now that Mulder had returned, she wanted to hear nothing of his trauma. For the moment she just wanted the nightmare to be over. To pretend as if it had never happened.
"Were you...hurt?" she asked in a strangled voice.
She asked, but she didn't know if she wanted him to answer.
Mulder kissed the crown of her head, but remained silent.
Mulder stayed the afternoon with her, watching her go about her regular routine, and when Scully was not attending to William, he was holding the child with a permanent look of wonder.
"Mulder, you're going to spoil him by never putting him down," she called from the kitchen where she was throwing together dinner for the two of them.
Feed him, she kept thinking to herself. Other than that she had no idea what to do with him. He looked thin: all that was left of him was lean muscle.
Mulder was sitting on the gray and white stripped sofa in her living room with his feet propped on her glass coffee table. Normally she would have nudged his feet off, but she did not feel it necessary to badger Mulder about his sloppy habits for the moment. She entered the room, carrying a cup of tea for him: he had wanted coffee, but she insisted that tea would be better for him. She placed it on the table in front of him, and leaned forward to ruffle his hair with her fingers. She gave him a crooked smile, before stepping back.
"He seems like he knows things," he said as William gripped his index finger.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know. Wise beyond his years...months. Like he knows what's going on. Like he's aware of things. Maybe I don't know enough about babies."
Scully considered, looking down on the pair of them. She was no baby expert either; she had quickly realized that her background on proper childhood development had been of little practical use to her. So, she'd had entertained similar thoughts about William herself. The things that she imagined should have upset him seemingly washed over him with little effect, as if he wasn't going to make a fuss, because he knew exactly what was going on. Whatever it was, it made him remarkably easy to deal with. Even her mother had commented on his calm composure.
"I think maybe he is different or...aware in some ways, but I don't have the foggiest what that's means," she conceded.
He looked up at her, tearing his gaze away from the baby in his arms. "I never thought I'd have a child."
He held her gaze for several seconds, until she forcibly looked away. Scully began to move about the room tidying up what had already been messed up: some of her neat-freak tendencies had disappeared, but not all of them. She fluffed a red pillow on one of the overstuffed chairs, trying to assume a sense of normalcy, even though everything seemed to have set itself on its ear.
Mulder followed Scully with his gaze as she went around the room attending to things that wouldn't have caught his attention. He watched her movements with interest, trying to read her. She hadn't responded to his statement. She seemed ill at ease and walled off from him. Maybe she had the wrong idea.
"I think I maybe even always wanted one, but I didn't think I would get a chance...for more than one reason," he explained further.
Monster Boy that he was, he never thought that sort of opportunity would ever present itself.
She knew Mulder was trying to become accustomed to the thought of being a father, just as she had digested the idea of being a mother for nearly a year. And Scully had to admit that his reaction to the stunning revelation left little to be desired. It seemed rather perfect, and she was aware that nothing in life was perfect. She stood up straight.
"It's a miracle, Mulder. He's a miracle. When I found out about the pregnancy, I didn't know what to think. I had DNA tests done performed on the fetus just to be sure."
"I'm shocked. There was a question of parentage? I didn't know there were others," Mulder grinned, clutching his chest in mock horror.
Scully shook her head. "No, Mulder. I was completely astonished. I wanted to make sure that the baby was healthy. That it wasn't going to..." she couldn't manage to finish her sentence.
Linking this healthy child to the memory of Emily brought her pain. She had to remind herself, as she did on occasion, that William was a world away from Emily. He was the result of something normal and good.
"But he's fine," she managed. "And we're not going to end up on Jerry," she added, the corners of her mouth just barely turning up.
"Phew," Mulder mimed, as Scully sank into the chair with the freshly fluffed pillow. "Do you have any pictures?"
"No, of when you were pregnant?"
"Are you kidding? Do you need evidence?"
Mulder smiled. "I wouldn't mind seeing."
"I would. I looked awful."
Mulder shook his head as if he didn't believe that could be true. He hadn't seen her at eight months.
"Have you had any tests done?" Mulder asked.
"No. Why would I?"
"Well, I only ask since you're so fond of them," he replied with a smirk.
Scully rolled her eyes, refusing to respond.
"I thought perhaps you would want to see if you were still infertile, or, if...I don't know, see if something's changed. I mean, something obviously has."
Scully sat staring straight ahead. "No, it never occurred to me."
Strangely enough, in all her concern for the unborn child, she hadn't thought to get herself tested. She had been told that she was infertile, and when she became pregnant, she had accepted that either everyone had been wrong or she had been lied to.
"Scully-mom didn't wonder if she could have any more?" Mulder asked, raising his eyebrows in amazement.
Scully adopted her steely attitude and got up to finish dinner. She paused before she turned to walk away, "You don't ask for more than one miracle, Mulder."
Scully couldn't bring herself to reveal her true feelings: she had assumed that Mulder would never return, and without Mulder she had no more considered the possibility of another child than she had the possibility of filling the ever present dark ache in her chest. Adopting a healthy chill seemed easier than verbalizing that pathetic jumble of emotions.
Scully awoke in the middle of the night. The room was dark and the space beside her empty and cold. For a moment, it seemed normal: she was always alone. Except for William, so she listened for the sound of her baby's gentle breathing. As she strained to hear her son, she remembered that Mulder should also be there. He had stayed the night with her.
At first, she had insisted that she would drive him home. She had several reasons why this was a good idea�some she named aloud and others she counted inwardly. He would sleep better in his own bed. It would be his own bed and William wouldn't be there to potentially create a racket at some inopportune hour. He needed to sort through the mess in his apartment. She'd had his bills forwarded to her apartment address, but there was a pile of junk mail that she'd left on his coffee table that he might want to sort through. His clothes and his toiletries were all at his apartment. She was out of orange juice. She had gotten rid of her premium cable subscription. The thought of having him stay the night made her stomach do flips and sweat bead on her forehead. Some of the reasons were better than others.
But when they had begun to put William in his car seat to ready him for the trip to Alexandria, Scully had paused and said simply, "stay, Mulder." She had initially wanted him to go back to his apartment, because she was afraid. Deeply afraid. She wasn't sure what it was that she was afraid of. She couldn't name it or put her finger on it, but she felt gripped by an irrational fear. There was hesitancy present in her attitude towards him, and she was certain that Mulder sensed it.
Scully had put William to bed, and Mulder was leaning over the rails of the crib gently brushing the baby's small soft head with his own large tan hands. Scully watched Mulder in silence from a few feet away. Mulder looked so strange, standing there in her bedroom by her son's crib, but Scully knew it was where he should be, and she felt her heart swell up inside of her. She walked over to him and placed her hand on his back, feeling the warmth of his skin just beneath the surface of his shirt.
"I'll sleep on the couch, Scully," he said quietly.
He turned his head to look at her, and for a moment they just watched each other. Scully had begun to feel that she would never see Mulder again, and she was basking in the chance to just see his face. It seemed like a lifetime ago that she had been able to look at him�really look at him�and not be afraid that she was looking at him too long or that he'd get the wrong idea or that he'd see through her with those eyes of his.
Something in Scully's gaze seemed to speak to Mulder that he might take the chance to kiss her again for the first time since she had told him that this beautiful child was their own. He reached up to touch her cheek and leaned down, pressing his forehead against her own. If he could have pulled her inside of him, he would have, just so he could span all the distance and the hurt and be one with her.
They had made love, and somehow it had been different from every previous time. No longer was it two lonely souls suited for no one but each other due to circumstance, tied by scars and losses; this was unlike what either had ever experienced before. In the past Scully had found it disquieting when a lover would stare at her while they made love, but now she realized that if she did not look at Mulder and if he did not look at her, there would be no reassurance that this was real and not just another dream. She watched him with intent devotion and immediately noticed when his arms began to shake. When she told him to stop, Mulder's sigh expressed the impossibility of such a request, but Scully only wanted him to roll over, knowing full well that he was in a weakened condition.
There was a slight desperation in the act and a bitter sweetness that had made Scully turn over and cry after they were finished. She had mistakenly thought that Mulder had fallen asleep and wasn't aware of her tears. As he had lain on his back, he wondered why he must always make the one person he truly trusted and loved unhappy�make her cry. Scully didn't give in to tears, or at least the Scully he had known all those years rarely cried, but he had come home to a significantly altered Dana Scully.
Sitting up in the dark, Scully scanned the room to see if Mulder was somewhere within the room. When she was sure he was not there, she threw back the covers and climbed out of bed, making her way to the crib. She peered in, aided by the dim light coming through the slits in the blinds, but she saw no William. A cold fear gripped Scully as she padded out of her room to search the rest of the apartment, flipping on lights as she went and ducking her head around doors. Around the corner to the living room came a soft glow and Scully wished that she had brought her gun in case someone had entered her apartment. Somewhere within her, she knew her worst fear was that someone would come for William�someone or something; and what if they had taken Mulder as well?
There, sitting in the large pink and white overstuffed chair by a lamp and holding William in his lap, was Mulder. Scully grabbed the wall for support, sighing.
"Mulder, you...I didn't know where you were," Scully said, coming forward and carefully avoiding the word 'scared.'
She didn't want Mulder to know how very frightened she had been. She felt certain that the fear, which had spilt out in her tears a few hours earlier next to him in her overly fluffed bed, needed to be kept silent and bottled up as tightly as possible.
"I'm sorry...I'm being selfish. I should have woken you up."
She sat on the arm of the chair wiping the sleep out of her eyes. "That's all right, but you need your rest, Mulder. Why aren't you in bed?"
"I need to catch up on some of the time I missed," he said laying his hand on her thigh. She was wearing a cream colored satin pajama set, and Mulder thought she looked more beautiful than he could ever recall. "Why? Do you need me for something?"
Scully rolled her eyes and smiled slightly before leaning over to kiss him on the forehead. "You're going to get his nights and days all messed up, and then he'll be entirely your responsibility. I don't get enough sleep as it is."
Mulder looked back down at William, adjusting the fuzzy blue sleeper that he was wearing, and then back up at Scully. The thought that this baby, whom he hadn't known existed twelve hours ago, was now partly his responsibility both frightened him and warmed him. He had thought his family was lost: now he had been given one. He had no wish to let this opportunity slip through his fingers like so many grains of sand.
"I want to say something, Scully, and I realize..." Mulder fumbled for words as Scully gazed down at him quizzically. "Well, while I doubt you suffer from any delusions about my being conventional...Scully, I want you to marry me."
He watched her intently, waiting for her response, but he was not exceptionally encouraged by her immediate reaction.
She drew in air as though through a straw and then let it out quickly in a gasping rush. "Mulder...I..." She felt the fear welling up inside of her once more. She shook her head. "I don't think that's a good idea."
Mulder nodded his head in a knowing matter and adopted an air of casualness. It was easy enough for Mulder to believe that he could have been replaced, but as easily as he could believe it, it wasn't easy to accept.
"Is this because of that partner of yours?"
"Mulder," Scully answered in a 'how could you' tone of voice, standing up from her spot on the arm rest and moving to the sofa, where she rested her face in her hands. "There is nothing between Agent Troy and me."
"Nothing as in the nothing that went on between us for seven years? Or as in the nothing that went on between us for the last few months we were together? Or..."
"Mulder! There is nothing between us. Agent Troy is my partner and that is all."
"You're trying to tell me that he doesn't have feelings for you? It certainly appeared that way when you showed up with him, when I inconvenienced you by reappearing."
Scully's already fair face turned a deathly shade of pale.
"Don't ever say that. Don't ever, ever, say that to me again. If I hadn't had William to live for, I would have died after you didn't come back," Scully said through gritted teeth, her voice dripping with venom.
Mulder swallowed, knowing he had gone too far and wishing he could take it back, but his jealousy had gotten the better of him. He had personally experienced exactly the fresh Hell that Scully had gone through, and he knew he was not being fair. He'd put a gun to his temple over her disappearance; he'd walked around like the living dead.
"We'd come from dinner. We sometimes spend time together outside of work, but nothing's happened...nothing ever could happen. The only reason I even made an effort with him was because my mother was worried that the state of my mental health was harmful to William's well-being and adjustment...and...and I had trust issues with my partner that the Bureau psychiatrist found potentially dangerous." Scully paused, balling her fists: "I shouldn't have to justify my behavior to you, Mulder. You've been gone and I've done the best I could to carry on."
Despite the rationality of Scully's words, Mulder could not bring himself to accept them: Mulder always was ruled rather strongly by his passions.
"I know you loved me, Scully...you said so."
"You're right, Mulder. To my own determent I love you."
Mulder snorted: "That's rather cruel, don't you think?"
"Well, you want The Truth? That's the truth. Both of us would be much better off if we didn't have these feelings for each other."
"I refuse to believe that." He couldn't believe it: why continue living if that was the case? "If you love me, marry me."
He'd decided that whatever time they had left, he wanted to spend it with her�spend it with her and their child and in as normal a way as possible, so that he might give her the ordinary life she had always wanted.
His face looked as hard as stone. She gazed at him, and her anger began to drain out of her as if she'd been slit open by his steel stare. She couldn't help but feel deeply saddened: this wasn't the romantic moment Scully had dreamed of as a girl, and it probably was in no way what Mulder had intended either. A marriage proposal wrapped up in an angry command.
She carefully modulated her tone, trying to sound less biting. "Mulder, if you had come back and there had been no William, you wouldn't be saying that to me...if you had never been taken away you wouldn't be saying that. We'd just be as we were."
Mulder considered for a moment and then answered truthfully, "You're probably right, Scully. Marriage has never been one of my priorities."
He'd let one marriage fail without a fight, because he wasn't invested. This was different. He was willing to fight for the possibility of one this time.
Scully stood up, ready to leave the room, but Mulder held up his hand to stop her.
"But what I wanted in the past has nothing to do with the way I feel now: I want to marry you. What we were in the past, it wasn't enough. It isn't enough�not for me. I'll do anything you want. Say 'yes,' Scully," he said pleadingly as he stood up slowly so as not to disturb the partially sleeping baby in his arms.
He felt vulnerable: he knew his beseeching tone belied the mask of stern composure he carefully adopted.
Scully could feel herself beginning to cry again and she didn't want Mulder to see her tears. She took William from Mulder's arms before turning away.
"I just don't think it's a good idea...on a lot of levels. It doesn't mean you can't be a part of William's life...of my life, Mulder. You know I want that, but I can't marry you."
Scully refused to turn around, afraid that seeing Mulder's face in the light once more would force her to change her mind. If she could just get to the darkness of her bedroom and have a night's rest and its accompanying sanity, she felt sure that she could stand firm.
She wanted Mulder to agree with her. Realize that his suggestion was the product of a fleeting moment of insanity and laugh it off. Marriage was for normal people. They were anything but normal. Surely he'd realize the impossibility. But he said nothing.
"Just come to bed, Mulder."
Mulder's face had fallen, his pride crushed. "I don't think that's a good idea," he responded icily.
Scully didn't know where Mulder was. She had heard the door slam shortly after she'd gone back into her bedroom. Maybe he'd gone out into the night by himself, or maybe he was just wandering her halls. She entertained all sorts of possibilities and weighed the safety of each of these options methodically as the hours ticked by on the electric alarm clock by her bed. Sure, Mulder could take care of himself, she argued with herself, but then who can protect themselves against what is really out there�against those things only very few people even knew about.
William was asleep; she could tell by the pattern of his inhalation and exhalation that usually had a calming effect on her. She envied him, but she knew she wouldn't sleep until she was sure that Mulder was all right. She wanted him to walk back through that door, but she suspected that if he did, he would be coming back to insist that she rethink her answer, which she didn't want to do. But after more than an hour had gone by, Scully reasoned that Mulder was the type of person who would not return to be rejected a second time: he had been too emotionally empty for too long to expose himself to that chance. Her rejection had sent him away�probably for good.
At four in the morning, Scully wrapped a silk robe around herself, giving up on sleep, and moved into her living room so as not to awaken William, who was thankfully still slumbering. She opened her bay window and breathed in the somewhat chilly early morning air. She decided to make herself some tea and sit on the windowsill until the sun came up. She stirred some honey into her tea and tested the warmth with her finger, just as she did with William's bottles, before returning to the window to drink in the brisk air. The warmth from the tea created white puffs of steam in the quickly cooling air of her apartment, which she watched mindlessly.
Even at this hour there was activity outside: cars drove by, taxis went by in a flash with their bright yellow paint drawing her attention, and some daring souls even walked the sidewalks. Scully's apartment was on the first floor, close enough that she could tell whom everyone was as they passed by, but separated from the road by a stretch of green grass.
She tried not to think about what she'd done. The things she had said. How hurtful they must have been. Mulder had returned from God only knows what unspeakable torture, only for her to push him away. She couldn't bring herself to open up. She couldn't even ask him what had happened to him while he was gone. She was completely shutting down. She knew it, but she tried not to think about it.
If he was gone, she hoped it wasn't far. Even if she had driven him away, she wanted him close. She wanted to know he was safe. She couldn't bear the thought of him being a question mark once more in her mind.
Scully's eyes had begun to droop, when she heard a noise inside her apartment, and she stood up, realizing she had not checked to see whether the door was locked after Mulder left; anyone could be entering her apartment. But as she awkwardly slipped from the windowsill and turned to her right, she saw Mulder standing there. He looked tired and thin. She realized that he looked a lot worse than she had been willing to acknowledge before�even with her thirst for tests to prove that he was harboring some awful illness.
The fear gripped her once more, and she recognized it for what it was: she was afraid of losing Mulder again to the unknown, so she was pushing him away. Better to push him away than to pull him into her and have him ripped away. It was the logic of old rearing its head once more; the logic she thought she'd banished when she'd begun to slip into his arms at night over a year ago. Why hadn't she embraced him and told him she loved him the minute she saw him in the hospital?
And since powerful men like Mulder always reminded her in a strange way of her father, she briefly let her thoughts drift to William Scully: he would have never wanted one of his children to turn out to be a coward. She'd always imagined that her father would have looked on her chosen career as a failure. The truth was more painful: she was setting herself up to be a personal failure�a failure at life.
She understood the fear and she understood the terrible mistake she had made.
She pulled the window shut and placed her mug of tea on the table. As she took a few steps towards Mulder, she realized that her feet were frozen into almost painful numbness.
"I saw you from the street. It's cold," he said simply without moving forward or backward.
Mulder nodded in a seemingly irritated fashion. "Of course you are."
Scully wanted to take another step towards him, but she couldn't will her frozen feet to move.
"I didn't think you were coming back," she said softly.
"I took a cab back to my place. I used some money you had there on the counter, but here, I'm repaying you," he said digging in his pockets to produce some bills.
Scully shook her head to indicate that she didn't mind. "Why did you come back? Not to pay me, I hope," she said as she watched him toss the wadded bills on the table.
"I got to my apartment and it was depressing as hell. Was it always that depressing?" he asked.
She bit her lip, unsure whether he was really asking her opinion on the pitch of his apartment. It had several moods, and she imagined that she had experienced all of them during the years she'd known Mulder.
"So, I'm here. This isn't where I want to be either though," he sighed with exacerbation, running his hands through his wet hair.
Scully realized he must have taken a shower at his apartment, since it was not raining. Her brain seemed to be working very slowly as she worked out these mundane details.
She didn't know what she was going to say to him, but before she knew it, words were spilling out of her mouth as if her tongue had a will of its own. "Mulder, we need to talk."
"I don't want to," he said flopping down on her sofa.
Scully followed him doggedly, sitting on the edge of the sofa and scooting as close to him as she dared. "Then I'll talk and you listen. I have to tell you how frightened I've been...how frightened I still am."
Mulder licked his lips and gave her his attention somewhat begrudgingly.
"I'm scared that five days or five years from now we're going to find out that you have a tumor in your brain and I'm going to lose you, and that terrifies me. I'm a doctor and I know we all die, but I don't want to lose you like that."
"Doesn't sound so grand to me either, Scully."
"I'm afraid to ask you about what happened to you even though you might want to tell me. Afraid to know about the things I've dreamt of...I dreamt things, Mulder. Horrible things. The whole time I was pregnant I'd have these vivid dreams about what was happening to you. They were terrifying. I'd wake up bathed in sweat and crying. I've lost my strength. I've become someone that's afraid. Constantly afraid. That's why I don't want to marry you: I'm afraid."
Mulder was about to open his mouth to say something, but Scully placed her fingers over his mouth, applying only the slightly of pressure to his lips.
"I never thought I lived my life guided by fear. I thought being your partner for all those years proved that I was strong and brave."
Mulder knit his eyebrows and tried to shake her hand off, seemingly to object to something she'd said, but Scully kept her fingers pressed to his mouth.
"But most of the time I wasn't taking personal chances. I was holding back. Protecting myself. I thought I was protecting the both of us by closing you off. And I can't afford to do that anymore, especially since I'm making decisions for two. How could William ever forgive me if I didn't give you a chance, Mulder?"
Mulder swallowed, but remained silent even after Scully dropped her hand from his mouth. She pressed her fingertips into the heavy grain of the thigh of his jeans. Feeling him beneath her fingers was further evidence that he was here in the flesh.
"It doesn't matter what the tests say about your health...it doesn't matter what happened while you were gone...it doesn't matter what bursts through that door to threaten us next. Nothing could make me feel differently...I want to be with you."
Mulder put his own large hand over Scully's delicate one. "I didn't come here to give you an ultimatum, Scully. I was wrong to make that demand of you."
He'd wanted to tell her how much he loved her. How he wanted to make everything right and give her everything she had ever wanted in life. How grateful he was to have her in his life and how he never wanted that to change. How grateful he was that she had given him a son and made them a family. It had come out as an angry demand for her to promise to bind herself to him for eternity. At least, that's how he imagined she had interpreted it. Accusations and demands were not the way to win over the stubbornly independent Dana Scully; he should have known better.
"It doesn't matter what you came here for. We never discussed where we were going with this," she said, squeezing his hand, "and I suppose we should have. I was wrong to say 'no' to you."
"Maybe not. You don't need to say it, Scully: I know you think I'd be a disaster as a husband. Maybe you're right."
"I won't listen to you say things like that. I've never wanted you to be anything but yourself. I'm not asking you to become something else. I don't need that."
"Scully, it's okay. I walked out, but I'm back. I'm not going to disappear, if that's what you're afraid of. It won't change anything, if you don't marry me. You're under no obligation to me."
"I know I'm not obligated to you. This isn't about obligations. Mulder, I'm saying yes. I'm saying yes to you...to us."
Mulder scrubbed his face with his hand, trying to absorb what she was saying. It wasn't what he'd expected when he'd walked back through her door. He was ready to accept whatever crumbs she could offer him, and he knew how pathetic that was. He couldn't help his need to be with her at whatever cost to his pride. If she'd told him he could stay around, if he played babysitter and handyman, he would have; but she was offering more than that.
"Mulder, I didn't mean anything I said earlier. I would never wish that things were different between us. I need you to believe me," she pleaded, her voice cracking. She tilted her head down to look at their intertwined hands. "You were gone and I never for a minute regretted loving you...I only regretted not telling you sooner."
Mulder pulled her head to his chest and drew in a sharp intake of breath, trying to suppress a sob.
Pressed against his chest, listening to the hammer of his heart and feeling his chest rise and fall with each breath, Scully began to feel at peace. She had made a mess of things, but he was here. He hadn't left her. They still had a chance.
After his breath slowed, Mulder spoke firmly: "I'm going to quit, Scully. There is no place for me in the FBI, assuming they'd even tolerate me anymore."
Scully sat upright and took both of Mulder's hands. "Mulder, it's me. You don't have to do that for me. The X-files have been your life's work. I know how much the work means to you."
"Look, I don't know what it is you think I want, but I told you�I don't need you to pretend to be something you're not. You wouldn't be happy giving up like that. Quitting."
"Sometimes, Scully, you have to know when to walk away, and that's what I'm doing. There's nothing more either of us can do there...especially not for the X-Files."
"That's not true. I've still been investigating. It's only been half of what it could be with you there, but I made sure they wouldn't shut us down. We can be a team again...partners."
"No, listen. Before...when we were in Oregon, I'd already decided that I didn't want you to endanger yourself anymore," he said staring intensely at her.
"Mulder, I'm fine."
"Why do you always say that?" he asked edgily.
"Mulder, I have always wanted to be your partner."
He smiled weakly: "not always."
"Always. It's my life too. I'm as wrapped up in it as you are after all these years."
"What a gift," he said, shaking his head. "And what about William?"
"William is alright. I've managed."
"There's no point, Scully. Why bother managing?"
"Stop. Don't say that you can't make a difference. Don't say that we can't. Then what did it all mean? Everything we've sacrificed? What happened to the truth?"
"I don't know."
His tone was completely flat. This confession scared her more than anything else he'd said to her since he came back. Just what had happened to him?
"Mulder, I won't let you give up."
She had assumed that her dual character role was over: Mulder was better at being Mulder than she ever could be, but now he was bewilderingly rejecting his part.
He grabbed her wrists somewhat roughly so that she could feel each finger pressing into her flesh. "Listen, Scully. I'm telling you: it's over."
He looked into her eyes, trying to communicate the finality of his decision. He didn't want to tell her the truth that he had learned�didn't want to break her spirit.
"Then what will we do, Mulder?"
"Lay low for awhile. You can teach. Whatever you want."
She wanted him to stop sounding so distant. He was still gripping her wrists, but she didn't think he was aware of it.
"And where...where do we go?"
He let her wrists slip, before drawing her back into his chest.
He spoke into her hair: "Anywhere...middle America. I really like corn."
Scully would have laughed, if she wasn't so confused. Her mind, always wary of quick moves and lack of planning, was slightly spinning�she wasn't sure how he could turn off that inner driving obsession�but she urged her nagging inner voice to be quiet. Maybe this was what he needed for the time being.
"We just pack up and leave?"
Scully could think of half a dozen reasons right off the top of her head, but she could tell he wasn't truly interested in reasons to stay here. She tucked her hand under his shirt and drew small circles on his warm taut skin, trying to communicate something through her touch. If he needed to leave, she would go with him. She felt his chest slowly sinking as if the tension was beginning to drain out of him.
"But we can't go anywhere just yet," he said quietly.
Scully sat up to look him in the eye and cocked her left eyebrow.
"I want to get married first," he said reaching up to stroke her cheek, "make you an honest woman."
Scully rolled her eyes before leaning into the palm of his hand.
"We can apply for a marriage license in a few hours from now and be married at the courthouse within a week," Scully offered with eyes half-lidded, enjoying the feeling of Mulder's hand against her cheek.
"No grand cathedral wedding for Dana Katherine Scully?" Mulder asked teasingly.
"I'm past the point of fairytales, Mulder," she acknowledged softly.
Mulder stroked her hair.
"Mmm?" she murmured without opening her eyes.
"You're the bravest person I know."
Scully opened her eyes and leaned forward to whisper in his ear: "I love you."
Author's Note: For those people that might be interested in a part two...you may have noticed that Mulder seems to be harboring some secret-there will be more on that. Also, it won't be the kind of marriage fic where they're experiencing diaper hi-jinks, in case that might scare some people away!