Title: A Different Path
Author: Pamala
Disclaimer: Characters from the television show The X-Files used herein are the property of 1013 Productions and Fox Broadcasting Corp.
Category: Post Fight the future... 15 years post <g>
Rating: G
Archive: sure but let me know .. PamalaSt@aol.com
Spoilers: None
Feedback: Love it ALWAYS to PamalaSt@aol.com

Summary: Alternate universe deal. A story of what happened if Scully walked away from Mulder in FTF

Author's Notes: This takes you back to a point where Scully would have walked away from Mulder in FTF. I could easily have seen pride and circumstances bringing something like this about. Thank heavens it didn't.

Also huge thanks to my BETA/EDITOR Meg for the hard work. She deserves tons of credit !!! Thanks

Even turning the corner down his street, I still don't believe I'm here. Childish thoughts run around in my head. *Maybe I'll just drive on past.*
*If he's not at home, it wasn't meant to be and I'll just move on.*

At the moment, my emotions are one short step above a teenager's. I feel silly and confused enough that I might as well be passing him a note. Do you think of me? Do you miss me? Have you longed to see my face and touch my hand as many years I have yours? I can see it now, "check yes or no" scribbled above the row of questions lined up carefully with a row of little boxes.

But are not kids. I pass six, seven houses and pull my car to the curb just across the street. I came here to see Mulder, and whatever my reasons for doing so or what the outcome may be, I will see him again.

Looking up and down the street I'm struck by the setting. Since the day we said good bye fifteen years ago, I've been all over the country and in various parts of the world, searching for a normal life. One look around here -- at the homes, with the families that live in them outside together enjoying a warm fall day -- shows me that Mulder has found all that I longed for, just around the corner from where we spent our years together.

As I sit here, with just a bit more than passing jealousy, admiring the home and life that he has built for himself, I realize that the car is still running. I turn off the ignition and stuff the keys into my purse. I shake off the doubts and the thousand other emotions fighting for attention inside my head and reach to open the car door. *I came here to see Mulder and it's time to just get on with it.*

As I start across the street and up the walk, the sound of my heels clicking on the pavement cuts through normal life noise, flooding the block like some sort of cold reminder that I've never belonged in a place like this. A place with soft breezes rustling yellow and red leaves on half bare trees until they drift silently to the ground. The sounds of rakes, lawnmowers, and children laughing and teasing as they ride their bikes up and down the street where they're growing up.

Not yet half way to the door, a sound -- unmistakably that of a baseball card in the spokes of a child's bike -- stops suddenly just behind me. I turn to see a group of three boys, two still back on the sidewalk while one is just a couple feet behind me on the walk. He's maybe eleven years old (maybe thirteen?) still standing on the bike, his sneakered feet holding it steady on each side as he flashes me a bright smile.

"If you're looking for my dad, he's in the house."

I spin around to face him, shocked by what I think I've just heard.

"Your dad?"

My mind reels. I'm no investigator anymore. I took the time to find him again but never thought to check if Mulder might be married or have a family. I don't know why but doing more than simply finding out he was alive and well seemed like an intrusion into a life I had turned my back on. I just didn't do any more digging. It was Mulder's life, not mine. I had never imagined this day would come. With a soft chuckle, he answers half my questions before they can leave my lips.

"Well, you must be here to see my dad. It's just me and him. And I don't know you."

He lays the bike on the grass and walks past me, drawing me toward the door. As I follow him up the steps, he stops so suddenly we nearly collide.

"Hi, Dad," he says, then turns to me with a grin. "See, I told you he was in the house."

I look up to see Mulder, plus fifteen years, looking back at me through the screen door. Neither of us says a word. His son, my mind sort skips a beat, trying to get a handle on the notion that Fox Mulder has a son, starts to chatter again, breaking the awkward silence.

"That's my dad." Confused, the boy rambles on, "You are looking for Fox Mulder, aren't you? I'm mean like I said before, just me and my dad live here so maybe you have the wrong house or something if that's not the guy your looking for?"

He looks nervously back and forth between the two of us wondering if he's made a mistake.

The ice breaks, no, it shatters, as Mulder shoves open the door, reaching out and pulling me into his arms with a bright smile.

"Oh, my god! Scully!"

Standing there on the porch, taking no notice of a strange woman wrapped around his father, the boy simply grins an *I knew it* smile at both of us.

"Guess you do have the right house after all."

Knowing I should let go of Mulder, but not wanting to even for a second, I watch the boy's deep blue eyes reflect the questions ready to roll off the tip of his tongue as he tugs on his father's sweatshirt.

"So, Dad. This is Agent Scully, huh?"

We let go and step apart. A pain, like the one I felt when we last parted, echoes through my chest. I look at Mulder's face, his smile is warm but something in his eyes makes me wonder if letting go again has an similar impact on him.

"Yeah, Sam, this is Dana Scully."

My breath catches in my throat but the word slips past my lips, "Sam?" My heart aches, thinking of the loss still there, never forgotten. So much so that his son, his only family, is named after what he had lost and searched for in vain for a lifetime.

God bless the innocence of a child for easing those moments when adults have no idea what to say.

"Well, actually my name is Samuel, but you can call me Sam, everyone does."

He holds out his hand for me to shake. Charmed by the sweetness of the boy before me, I've almost forgotten I'm standing next to the only man I've really loved in my life. I take his hand for a firm handshake.

"You can call me Dana, Sam."

As he let's go of my hand, his smile is warm and welcoming. "I'm glad to finally meet you. I know all about you, Agent Scully, ooops, I mean Dana. My dad talks about you a lot."

Before Sam can say another word, the two other boys, who have been cruising up and down the street impatiently, start shouting in harmony, cajoling him to hurry up. Sam shoots a questioning look to Mulder, the boys, then back to the two of us.

I watch in awe to see Mulder, the father, in action. Nodding towards the boys in the street, he says, "Go on, Sam. Scully and I can catch up and the two of you can get to know each other more at dinner."

Permission granted, Sam scurries down the stairs and pulls his bike up off the lawn. Climbing on, he shouts to me, his face and expression so much like his father's, "You promise to be here when I get back, Dana?"

I wave, shouting back a promise I'll keep, "I'll be here, Sam."

Turning back, the boys long gone, I find Mulder watching me, his eyes damp with unshed tears.

"I just can't believe you're here, " he says, taking my hand, his thumb moving gently and absentmindedly across it. "You look good, Scully."

I think of how I look, a woman well past fifty, with the wrinkles and lines to prove it. I guess my clothes are similar. A finely tailored suit works for a hospital administrator as well as for an FBI agent. I know what I look like, but standing here with Mulder again, with no mirror to remind me otherwise, I feel thirty five again. It's as if mere minutes have passed since the last time we stood together.

But time has passed for both of us. Looking at him, I see the lines around his eyes that match my own. We've both aged. Of course, one good look at Mulder brings home what every woman knows: the cruel truth that, more often than not, men age more gracefully than women.

As I had expected, he is as handsome as he ever was. Still tall and lean, not showing any sign of the thickening around the middle that plagues so many men his age. His build, manner, and dress are that of a man ten years younger than I know Mulder to be. I can't help but smile, noting the gray hairs that are sprinkled here and there in his dark hair, and have completely taken over a short, meticulously groomed beard. While I had never in a million years imagined him with a beard, I think looks just right on him.

"You've gone gray, Mulder."

He smiles at me, reaching up to touch my hair, much shorter now and softer in color, marking the passing of time from the vibrant reds of the Scully that once was to what is now. Brushing it behind my ear, the tip of his finger lingers on the small delicate pearl earring he gave to me so many years ago.

"But you haven't gone gray now have you, Scully?"

I cover his hand on my cheek with my own.

"Don't let it fool you, Mulder. They have salons out there to handle these things. I'm gray alright."

He looks at me for what feels like forever. A silence that, with anyone else, would feel uncomfortable but feels so right with Mulder.

"You're still just as beautiful as the day you walked into the basement, Scully. I just didn't know how to tell you back then."

This time the tears are in my eyes and, despite my best efforts, they won't stay there. Unlike so many times all those years ago, I don't bother to hide them. I let them fall. All the things I thought I would lose by giving in, by showing him what was inside, we had lost a lifetime ago. I'll hold nothing back this time.

"I didn't know how either, Mulder. I just didn't know."

With one hand, he brushes a tear from my cheek while the other holds my hands tight.

"Are you married, Scully?" he says, his finger tracing the empty ring finger of my left hand.

"Only to my work," I say, turning my eyes away, certain only the truth will do this time but equally certain that, in spite of Sam's claims, Mulder wouldn't have spent all these years alone.

"Good" he says, his hand weaving into my hair, a look in his eyes transporting me back to that hallway and the one moment we came so close. "Same here. Of course, it's not my work, technically. I guess I'm married to the notion of being a successful single parent."

Letting go of my hand, he reaches for the back of my neck, pulling me just a bit closer, increasing the sensation of deja vu and making me wonder just what might intervene this time around.

"It's just been me and Sam for more years than and I can count.... Me and Sam and you, Scully."

I'm there all over again, standing, held in his embrace, the tears filling my eyes. He speaks as if not a moment has passed.

"I do know just what to say this time, Scully. I'm too old and I've lost too much through the years to be afraid to say it." Holding my face in his hands, he continues, "I love you, Scully. I always did. I've been alone for fifteen years because, other than Sam, no one could come close to touching my heart the way you did."

The tears flood his eyes again before falling away with his words.

"I don't expect anything from you, Scully, but I promised myself if you ever walked back into my life, the first thing I would do is tell you. Tell you, and do this."

Before I can think of all that's happened, of what's been said, Mulder's lips are on mine. After all these years apart, the years of walking to the edge together and stepping back over the line again, all it takes is a scant thirty seconds together and nothing in the world feels more right than kissing Mulder.

Our lips part, but neither one of us moves an inch. I look around suddenly embarrassed.

"Mulder, among a host of other reasons, we shouldn't be doing this out here on the porch where all your neighbors can see."

His laugh and his smile are so beautiful that my heart leaps into my throat.

"No, NO! Scully, if I didn't think you might slap me, I'd drag you out into the street and kiss you again for all to see. You have no idea what it's like being the middle aged single man on the block. If one more well meaning neighbor tries to fix me up with another lovely divorcee or widow, I may dig out one of the guns I put in storage when I retired and shoot up the block."

The surely comical notion of Mulder being subjected to constant fix ups and blind dates flies right over my head with the realization that he had given up his work at the FBI.

"You're retired, Mulder?"

He breaks our embrace, my hand in his, pulling me through the door.

"Yeah, I retired a long time ago when Sam was just a baby. There are so many things I need to tell you. You'll stay awhile, Scully?"

"Yeah, I'll stay, Mulder," I say, pulling the door shut behind us, while being nearly dragged into the house. "After all, I promised Sam I would."

At the mention of Sam's name, he stops and turns to look me in the eye again.

"Yes, you did promise. And you were never one to break a promise, were you?"

There is something curious in his face, a piece of the mystery and adventure that was the man I knew. Something more there than meets the eye.

"Yes, you must get to know Sam, Scully."

Things cooled just inside the door. Not so much as anyone else would notice, but enough to feel like old times. A line, so boldly crossed only moments ago, returned from the past itself to work its way in between us. Still so warm and affectionate, but guarded again. As he showed me around his home, his hand on my arm or against the small of my back, it occurred to me that, once again, I had failed.

I hardly took in the surroundings as we moved from room to room, lost in the realization that, one more time, I had left Mulder's declaration of love unanswered. The chill between us was my doing. I tried in my own way, a touch, a smile just for him that no other could bring to my lips.

But it didn't matter. He needed to hear the words from me. He always had. And I never had the strength to say them. No matter how many times they fought their way up from my heart to the tip of my tongue, I held them back. And now I had missed my chance all over again.

As the two of us carried all the necessities and a couple of cold drinks out to the deck to do a little Sunday afternoon barbecuing, I had to laugh at the notion that so many people thought was true: *Older and wiser.* No, in my case, *You can't teach an old dog new tricks* seemed more accurate.

As the hamburgers sizzled on the nearby grill, we sat there, sipping our drinks, running down the last fifteen years for one another. We both had lots of history to share but we stuck to the simple stuff. He told me how he had adopted Sam two years after I left and had almost immediately made the decision the leave the FBI behind.

He made it sound simple, but I knew there was more to it. For one thing, I was fairly certain Sam was Mulder's biological son. I also knew that, unlike me, he would never have walked away from the things that we were up against all those years ago.

I try not to think about that too often. No one likes to look their weaknesses in the face. I've done a fine job all these years convincing myself I wasn't weak when I left. Tell yourself *you have to save yourself and it was never your fight anyway* long enough and you can actually believe it. Until I saw him again.

Maybe I shouldn't push for answers about Sam, the virus, or anything else, hoping Mulder's character was as weak as mine in the end. I leave all those questions unasked and unanswered for the moment.

Hearing of life after the FBI was enjoyable. He explained he had purchased this house right after Sam arrived with money from the sale of his father's home and whatever he'd been able to stick aside all those years. His dedication as a father comes out in every word. My admiration for a man, whom I had never entertained an unkind thought about, grows with each passing minute.

"For Sam" he says time and time again. I couldn't put myself in danger all the time.... I wanted a nice home... find the best possible schools "For Sam". It makes me feel good to listen and hear just how much Mulder loves and cares for his son. It sort of reached in and filled, if just for a few hours, that empty space deep inside me that still longed for a child of my own.

I innocently inquired what he had done with himself all these years without the Bureau. In return, I got a slight wince accompanied an irresistible challenge.

"You really wanna know, Scully?"

Of course, how could I resist when he seemed apprehensive and slightly embarrassed at revealing what was keeping Fox Mulder busy in retirement? A smile, nod and an "oh yeah" from me and he disappeared into the house.

During the short time he was gone, I studied the back yard. I wasn't surprised to find a basketball hoop attached to the side of the shed. A basketball sat on the ground near a discarded sweatshirt, too small to be Mulder's, and a half-empty water bottle. I was imagining Mulder and Sam playing together when he returned and tossed a paperback on the table in front of me. "Dried Leaves by M. F. Luder".

How could I help but smile? Apparently M. F. Luder rides again, this time not as the messenger of truth but as the pusher of fiction in the name of private school tuition, braces, and expansion of a rapidly growing son's college fund.

He tried to gloss over the whole thing but I enjoyed it too much to let him. He explained when it came down to doing private investigation work with The Gunmen or taking up the offer of a very eager publisher, dying to see what might come from the mind of a former FBI profiler, he choose the latter.

Apparently making your living by getting into the head of a maniac lends itself well to making up new and more disturbing psychos for public consumption later on. He felt silly about it, but I thought it was wonderful. I had never dug, never checked. I had had no idea that my Mulder was a popular novelist with a half dozen books and assorted serial killers to his credit. It was an exciting, interesting, and very much alive way to have spent his years.

His cards all laid out, he pulls a chair up next to me to see what life had dealt me. My hand felt emptier than ever running down my life without him. Sure I'd been busy, even successful, but I had become the one thing I'd never wanted to be: a bureaucrat.

After those years with Mulder bending the rules, or making our own, I found myself setting the rules. Sure I had spent some time doing real medicine, saving lives, and making a difference. But in the end, the ambition I'd forgotten I had in my years with him took over and I found myself rising in administration.

I had played the office politics and towed the company line. Sitting there with him, no matter what success I have, or how many people would be eager to listen to my speech at the conference tomorrow afternoon, I felt as if I had failed.

He was sweet, attentive, and proud. He hung on each word, each city and position I told him of. But all I could think of was how I wished I had been with him and wonder what we might have done together.

Ready to get away from the past and enjoy the present, at least this one evening, I ask him one question that had plagued me for fifteen years.

"Mulder, the virus. What happened?"

No sooner do the words leave my lips than the side gate swings open and Sam comes bounding in. I'm not sure if he is old enough to read anything into the scene but he certainly has a huge smile at seeing the two of us so close.

With a wrinkled, possible disapproving, nose he checks the contents of the smoldering grill before coming over to join the two of us. Taking advantage of the last moments alone together, Mulder leans in, his lips nearly touching my ear.

"We'll talk about it after he hits the hay, Scully."

Having no choice, I put my questions on the back burner. It's time to fulfill my promise to get to know Sam Mulder by sticking around and having dinner with the two charming men seated next to me.

Over hamburgers, potato salad, and ice tea, the three of us roll through Sam's life story. Watching the two of them together, I'm more convinced than ever that Sam is Mulder's biological son. Among the other reasons, there is a pretty strong resemblance. Sure some things are different, the blue eyes, his nose, but the boy could have inherited a few things from his mother. The rest is all Mulder. Dark hair, lean tall build, the chin, and, even if the color is different, the boy has Mulder's eyes.

Naturally, all that will wait for later, as Sam and I run down all the things a twelve-year-old boy holds dear as the really important information in life. Before we can finish dinner, I have a firm handle on his school, friends, favorite subjects, video games, what kind of bike he has, and, of course, the all important rebounds per game and batting average.

Mulder says little. He sits, watching and listening, with a look on his face I can't quite place. Once the cool evening breezes chase us indoors, Sam turns his attention to family history. With the aid of photo albums from the bookcase across the room, I get a glimpse into Sam and Mulder's life together.

We sit there together, the three of us, Sam turning the pages and providing narration. Right from infancy there are so many pictures. Holidays, vacations, sporting events. Never once do I get an image that they have ever been anything but a family, close and happy together.

Occasionally I glance up at Mulder's face to see his eyes on us, not the photos. Each time I look at him, there is something I can't quite put my finger on. I don't know what it is, but there's something not quite comfortable about my intruding into his life with his son after all these years.

Of course, I have little time to give it much thought. Sam quickly grows tired of our walk down photographic memory lane. With a shrug, he shoves the books aside on the sofa and bounces to his feet. Before I know it he is halfway to the stairs urging me to "Come on, Dana, I wanna show you my room." He shoots a look to his dad for the okay and Mulder gives him the go ahead with a smile a wave of the hand.

Mulder gets to his feet, making his way to the kitchen as I follow Sam on the stairs. "Why don't you show her your baseball cards, Sam? Scully loves baseball," he says with a big grin in my direction. As I climb the stairs out of his sight, I can hear his promise to "be right there as soon as I make a quick call."

As quickly as I went up, I'm back down, walking into the kitchen in search of a towel to mop up a spill I created from a long forgotten glass of water on Sam's desk. Mulder is dialing and moves the phone to his ear just as I walk into the room.

Without a sound, I explain the mishap. Ah, here it is again, different circumstances for sure, but still Mulder and Scully communicating without saying a word. He hands me a towel just as the party on the other end picks up.

I should leave right away but I stay long enough to hear his conversation. He keeps an eye on me as he talks, perhaps thinking I'll misunderstand his intentions.

"Hey, Sandy, it's Fox."

I enjoy hearing him use his first name, still making the face he always did at the sound of it even coming from his own lips.

"I have a friend over."

I can tell she interrupts as he rolls his eyes a bit answering this question.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, it is a lady friend."

Silence again. A long silence as the woman says heaven knows what. Finally he gets a word in edgewise.

"That's great, Sandy. I know you think highly of me and Sam and only have our best interest..." He gives me a see what I mean *neighborhood bachelor torture* nod before he can finish.

"Anyway, we have a lot to catch up on. I thought Sam could spend the night and go to school with Tommy in the morning, if that's okay with you."

I smile, turning and heading back up to Sam and the damp carpet. I realize that, while unsure of just what it means, Mulder and I will be alone again soon. As I start up the stairs, I hear him in the distance.

"Good bye, thank you." And the thing that set butterflies loose in my stomach. "I hope I will have a good time, Sandy."

Back in Sam's room, no more than a minute or two, just enough to clean up the mess, Mulder walks in. All dad again, he lays out the deal.

"Get your books and clothes. I'm going to let you stay at Tommy's tonight. You can go to school with him tomorrow."

One question answered: the boy is definitely not too young to read things into a situation. With a smile at the two of us, he goes about shoving jeans, socks and the rest of the essentials into a nylon gym bag as he speaks.

"Great idea, Dad!"

Backpack on one shoulder, gym bag in the other hand, and a devilish grin on his face he squeezes past us into the hall. "You guys should be alone for awhile."

We look at each other and laugh softly before following him down. At the top of the staircase, with his hand on my back, I hear that cool wit of Mulder's I've missed for so many years.

"Did I mention the neighbors are not the only ones around here who try to fix me up?"

We walked Sam out the door and watched as he made his way to the porch just four houses down. As Mulder and his neighbor exchanged parental waves, I felt odd standing next to him knowing what the woman must think. But odder, and childish yet again, wishing it were true.

With Sam safely stowed down the street for the night, we go back in. He wastes no time; we must have an awful lot to discuss.

"Have a seat, Scully. You and I need to talk."

I do and he sits next to me, restless, fidgeting with his pant legs as he speaks. He's nervous? I 'm quickly on guard again and nervous right along with him.

"You asked about the virus, colonization. I'll just tell you that it's okay, Scully. It's not a threat anymore."

As I open my mouth to speak, he moves closer, taking my hand, cutting me off before I say a word.

"I promise I'll tell you everything. But it's okay. We're safe, Scully."

He looks me in the eye and I see that look all over again. Something is wrong. Almost in I harmony, we speak the same thought.

"I will, I'll tell you it all. But first, I need to tell you about Sam."

"You're Sam's natural father, aren't you, Mulder?"

I move on, effectively shutting him down. "I just guessed, Mulder. He looks so much like you. And let's face it, you would have been over forty when he was born. You traveled all the time, were unmarried, you had a questionable profession, no support system in place. And even if I know differently, Mulder, to an adoption agency you'd appear to have a very shaky mental history."

He laughs softly, watching me, realizing just how quickly I figured out the unlikelihood that anyone would approve his application for adoption, while so many people around him have just accepted it as fact all these years.

"Yeah, Scully, Sam is mine. I am his father." He laughs a bit again, lightening a very tense moment. "And I can't thank you enough for pointing out all those wonderful reasons why any adoption application I would have filled out would have been stamped 'Rejected'!!"

I can't wait another second for answers. "Who is Sam's mother, Mulder?"

He just looks at me not saying a word, adding to an irrational fear I have no right to have. A fear that Mulder had found someone else and fallen in love as soon as I'd left. That they'd made a child together, and he'd moved on so easily on while I longed for only him year in and year out.

"Sam's natural mother?" He looks at me as if I have the answers, instead of him.

Frustrated with the cat and mouse game, I nearly shout, "Who is his mother, Mulder?"

He takes both of my hand in his, holding tight.

"I'll tell you Scully, but first you have to promise me you'll listen. Feel anyway you want about me after, say what you like, do what you need to, but promise you'll sit here and listen to every word before you do."

I nod but that doesn't satisfy him. Suddenly I'm terrified of what I'm going to hear.

"No, Scully, say it! Promise me you'll listen."

With a lump in my throat making it difficult to speak, for once I manage to say what he needs to hear, "I promise you, Mulder."

Tears fill his eyes as he reminds me what he said just a few hours ago. "You always do keep your promises, Scully."

He squeezes my hands which are still trapped in his, his eyes never leaving mine for an instant, tears falling onto his face.

"He's your son, Scully. You're Sam's mother."

My vision blurs with the salty water filling my own eyes. I can hardly see his face through it, but the words cut through.

"He's our son, Scully. You and I are Sam's parents."

I don't recall doing it. There is some sort of gap between the time he spoke the words and this moment. But I have moved away from him, pulled my hands from his, distanced myself from him.

I can't breathe. I'm numb. I don't feel a thing on the outside. But, inside, I feel it throughout every inch of my body. I'm aching. Pain everywhere, deep inside, because I know it's the truth. From the second I saw him, I had felt something. But I didn't know exactly what it was. He was Mulder's son, and since Mulder means so much to me, I had told myself that I was drawn to that sweet little boy because I loved his father.

Without realizing it, my shaky hand touches my cheek to wipe away tears that I'm shocked to find I haven't shed. My face is dry. How can that be? I can feel myself sobbing shamelessly, my body shuddering with sorrow and loss. He touches my arm, and I pull away. He's saying something that I simply can not hear.

My eyes find Sam's picture on the fireplace mantel across the room. I feel removed from myself, like my heart and soul have taken over and left my body behind. No tears, I don't feel anything or get any sensations at all. But it's there inside me: pain, anger, thoughts, almost voices in my head.

As always, from somewhere inside, Doctor Scully taps my shoulder, *You're in shock, Dana*, and brings me back to my senses.

A sudden gasp for air, warm tears beginning to fall down my face, and I feel I'm alive again. As my body catches up with my mind, words force their way out of my mouth.

"Oh, my God. No, Mulder. NO!"

I can hear his voice now, emotion cracking as he says my name. I turn my head, it feels stiff and uncooperative, almost dead weight against my neck. He has moved farther away from me, his face buried in his hands. His words are muffled but I can hear them clearly. Hearing the sorrow and regret in his voice, I am angered by the compassion I feel for him.

"It's true, Scully. You are his mother and I've kept him from you all these years...."

The truth. The facts. Even after all these years apart, there is no other place for us to start. His voice is choked off but I find mine.

"I know, Mulder, I can feel it. Just like Emily....." It hits me like a blow. "Emily!"

Understanding, he reaches for my hand again. I let him touch me.

"He's fine, Scully, not like Emily. He's a healthy boy. Just the little illnesses we all get."

"Thank God," I say, giving his hand a gentle squeeze before pulling mine away again.

I'm surprised how much I miss his touch. I just sit there quietly taking one of the most confusing and painful emotions there is. How many other women have experienced this?

I look over at him to find tears on his face, a face that somehow looks much older and worn than it did just a few short hours ago. No matter what I feel for him, for whatever he might be feeling, I find myself fighting a fury building up inside of me.

How dare he? What right did he have? Inside my head, my brain shouts at him. *You have no right to those tears. What pain do you have? You've had it all, god damn you! You took it all from me and kept it for yourself!*

The shouting continues on inside me, hidden from the one who needs to hear. The room is silent, neither of us saying a word. Just a familiar, deafening silence. The silence we always hide behind when faced with talking about something that really mattered between us.

Our inability to face one another openly is infuriating. It is also a convenient place to rest my anger instead of dealing with what has really happened here. Maybe it is easier, or feels safer, to dwell our joint failings than face the fact that, somehow, for the past 12 years, Mulder has been raising a child who was created from my stolen ova and his sperm.

I turn to stare at him, wondering why. How could he? Unable to look at him for very long, I turn my eyes towards the window. The blinds are drawn shut but one vertical slat tilts open, giving me a view of the street light, as my mind wanders away.

So many emotions to run through, now and undoubtedly for the rest of my life. The anger and confusion melt away for a moment as I dive into a sadness of what might have been.

I concentrate on the tiny street light and think of my baby. Years ago, after I had finally acknowledged that I had fallen in love with Mulder, how many times had I entertained the thought of having a child with him? Women like me would never admit to such a romantic fantasy, being happy, having a family. But I had my share of fantasies.

After all, that's what they tell you. If you're lucky enough to find that one person meant for you, you automatically get to live happily ever after.

Of course, none of the fairy tales say a word about finding that one person, only to find fear and pride plotting to keep you apart. Or that you can love completely, but are never able to find the words to say it. Or that circumstances can intervene so that, as much as you may long to, you'll never carry a child in your womb, you'll never hold your newborn baby in your arms. Fresh tears in my eyes blur the light. I move my gaze back to the room, coming to rest on a heavy, dark wood rocking chair near the doorway. Another thought comes to me: never once did I hold my baby in my arms and rock him to sleep. I recall a picture from the photo album, a picture of Mulder holding a sleeping baby in his lap in that chair.

He deliberately kept Sam from me. My own mother died never knowing I had a son. I can hear Mulder calling my name, sounding as if he is across the room even though we are sitting two feet apart.

The anger starts burning in my stomach again. Mulder used to be the one person I could reach out to when I was in pain. The person I could count on to hold me, touch me, who could understand and ease my pain like no other simply by being near. How do I cope with the realization that he is the one who has deliberately hurt me?

I can't bear his comforting touch now; I want to lash out, to hurt him back. To put my hand across the side of his face. To spout hateful words. I won't do it, though. It's not me.

Being able to take a punch bravely is hardly consolation for getting beaten up by life, but it's what I know.

He keeps talking to me, I have to say something. So many things in my brain, waiting to be said, but only one word finds its way free.


"I'll tell you everything, Scully. How it happened, how it's possible. . ."

I turn, cut him off, finding the harsh words are there, more ready and willing to go that I had thought.

"Actually, Mulder, I was just wondering out loud how on earth I've managed to live fifteen years of my life without the special brand of heartbreak and tragedy only you seem to be able to supply."

I feel a twinge or remorse saying it and seeing the look on his face, but not enough to stop me.

"By all means, Mulder, go ahead and tell me how! It's what you do, isn't it? You couldn't have lost your touch after all these years. Make the impossible seem explainable, even reasonable."

He stands and moves away from me, only serving to fuel my rage.

"There has to be a story, right, Mulder? Something noble? Did you do this to me thinking you were saving me? Or is it bigger than that? Did you steal my child from me because you had to do it to save the human race?"

A deep breath and a new calm comes over me. I look into his eyes, feeling cold as ice and I find I can say the words to hurt him.

"Maybe there's nothing noble at all about it, Mulder. Maybe you just finally gave in, forgot the truth and learned to make deals like the rest of them."

I can feel regret bubbling up. What I'm saying isn't true, but that doesn't keep me from throwing one last dagger.

"Then again, maybe you always knew. Maybe you had a hand in what they did to me all along but had to wait until I was gone to claim your rewards."

I sit there watching him so calm and quiet. I can see the pain in his eyes, the way he bites he lower lip, turning away to avoid my gaze. I have hurt him.

But hurting him doesn't help me.

My tears fall again, freely this time. With a kindness I don't feel I deserve, he hands me a tissue box from the end table before sitting down in a nearby chair. He looks right at me as he speaks, although I can tell he'd rather not.

"Okay, Scully, feel what you have to, say anything you like, I deserve it. But listen. You promised me you'd listen to what I had to say. So let me tell you everything."

I lay the tissue box on the sofa next to me still holding several of them wadded up in my hand.

"Okay, Mulder, go ahead, I'm listening." What else can I do but listen?

My eyes keep drifting back to Sam's picture across the room. I want to take the picture and hold my son in my hands. But I feel silly about it, even though I really shouldn't care what Mulder thinks. I reach for the long discarded family album, still lying on the couch from when Sam and I were looking through the pictures together.

I hold it on my lap, closed, my fingers tracing the binding and running back and forth along the gold inlay that frames the front cover, listening to Mulder's story.

"I told you it was all over, Scully, there's no longer a threat of colonization."

As he speaks, perched on the edge of his seat, tension is written all over him. From the way he forces himself to meet my eye, to the fidgeting with his beard that has evidently replaced the much younger Mulder's nervous habit of running his fingers through his hair at time like these.

My pain has dulled a bit and I do all I can to devote my energy and attention to the story, to the how and why. Not ready to speak, I simply nod for him to continue.

"You'd been gone six months at most, Scully, when the first visitor turned up at my Apartment. It was the Englishman, the man who had warned you at my father's funeral."

Surprised, I look up from the book in my hands. "The man you said was killed in the car bomb?"

He closes his eyes, rolling his head on from side to side until there is an audible pop and a visible release of tension.

"The same one, Scully, with the exception that he was never dead. He said he had been hiding out with his family until the night he came to see me. He said he had come to tell me what had happened, to tell me it was over."

The pace of this story frustrates me. I need to know about Sam. I try not to show it in my voice. I'm only moderately successful, my body language betraying me as I sit there, twisting my pearl earring.

"What did happen, Mulder?"

Either he misses my irritation, or just chooses to ignore it.

"Well, like many other stories of conquers and conquest, it came down to a matter of internal conflict. He told me that the rebels, the faceless men who burned those groups of people, won out in the end. They made colonization so difficult that it was no longer appealing."

That story sounds too simple. Too easy and convenient. Even the Mulder I once knew, the one who would give himself a chance to believe anything, would not have swallowed such an easy ending. I'm sure my disbelief is written all over my face. Before I open my mouth to speak, he answers my question.

"I know, Scully, I didn't believe it either. I spent the better part of another year not believing it. But they just kept coming."

At last he has my full attention. "They?"

"Yeah, Scully, 'they.' Next came Alex Krycek. I found him sitting in my Apartment, airline ticket in hand. He had the same story, said it was all over. He said he stopped by on his way out of town to offer me some advice.

"'It's really is over, Mulder, believe it. Don't be an ass. You got another chance at life, take it.'"

Mulder sits back in the chair, defeated, slumping against the headrest as he continues.

"He stood up, slipped on his coat, patting the pocket where he had stuffed the ticket. He looked me dead in the eye with pity. Coming from Krycek, that still turns my stomach. He said, 'Find a life for yourself, Mulder. Go find Scully.' Then he walked out. I've never seen him since that night."

The numbness in me starts to wear off and the anger begins to find an edge again.

"Mulder, I know I cared about all this once, hell, I suppose I still do. But what I really need right now is to know about Sam."

He looks at for a moment, sad, and I get a feel for that uncomfortable pity he saw in Krycek's eyes.

"I'm getting to it, Scully. Actually, I'm telling you right now."

He looks away. This time, it's his gaze on our son's picture as he speaks.

"After Krycek was gone, another month drifted by, with me still stubbornly disbelieving. Then one night, I came home to find none other than Old Smokey himself at home inside my Apartment."

This time I'm the one tossing my head back against the sofa in defeat. *Damn it! I just knew that son of a bitch had something to do with this.* Unable to lift it, I turn my head to him to ask a question, already knowing the answer.

"I suppose he had the same story?"

He stares at me for what seems like forever, as if he wants he can stop here and save the rest of the pieces of the puzzle for later. But we both know that he can't. Unlike the past, we don't have to take small pieces and continue to search. All of the answers are here. I see in his eyes, that here is where the truth lies.

"Yeah, same old story, but with a twist this time. While the others talked of going on with or making a new life, he claimed his was over. He said there was nothing left for him."

Even though it feels out of character, I feel relief, almost joy at the though of that old man long dead and rotting in his grave somewhere. Perhaps it shows on my face, or maybe after all these years, Mulder still feels the same relief. He gives me a weak smile and nod as if he has read my mind and joins me in a silent chorus of 'Good riddance to he who took so much from us.' "He sat there, Scully. I think he really believed he could make amends. He said that, while his life was over, he wanted to do something for me."

For the first time since I pushed him away, he moves to sit next to me on the couch, reaching over to take my hand in his. In spite of myself, I take comfort in his touch.

"He said he knew a way. He said he was going to give me back something I had lost."


I don't look at him, my eyes are to busy searching the room for a picture, for any sign that he had found his sister. I haven't forgotten, I know what we found, and what he believed. But without physical proof, my hope had never really died.

"Oh my God, Mulder, he helped you find Samantha?"

Even with everything I've been through in the last day, I feel my feet lifted off the floor with an exhilarating combination of relief and joy to think he had found her. I know it was his loss, but over our years together it became mine too.

Finally, I look into his eyes and come crashing back to earth, seeing the truth there before he can speak it.

"Samantha's dead, Scully. I have the proof, of what happened to my sister in body if not her soul. You know that."

He blinks away whatever confusion he is feeling, rubbing the bridge of his nose as if he'd just removed the glasses I haven't seen him wear in fifteen years.

"It was cancer." He hesitates, eventually I think, finding it easiest to relay the details to Dr. Scully as matter of factly as possible. "From what I gather from the medical records I was given, the cancer was the outcome of experiments done to her in the years following her abduction. I don't know exactly what they did, Scully, but it was the same course they followed with Cassandra Spender, except it failed and my sister was left to die alone. I still believe in a way she was spared, taken from the pain and suffering, but also know the suffering her body endured and the fate it would have met had she not disappeared."

I reach out to touch his hand. He looks down at our hands while he speaks, together, selflessly there for one another again.

"Back then, when we were together, she'd already been dead more than 10 years. They'd cloned her, I saw glimpses of the woman she could have become, but my sister was never there for me to find, Scully."

One last touch, he gives my hand a gentle squeeze in his before resuming his story. His face and the coolness in his voice hit me as he speaks. I can see the pain, softened by the years spent coming to terms with the loss of what he had searched for most of his life.

For the first time, this one moment, I feel nothing at all as I watch him rise to his feet, and be it out of kindness or discomfort, he moves away from me as he speaks.

Is it all too much? Have I reached an overload, unable to process all that has and is being laid out for me?

"It was you, Scully, you, that I'd lost. Old Smokey sat there smug, as if he'd brought me salvation, and explained how I could bring you back. How you'd never walk away from me again if we had a child."

He goes on, looking away as tears start down my cheeks without my permission yet again. I can't find the word to say, or perhaps there are none. I only listen.

"He had it all worked out. A well thought out plan to bring you back to me. The offer, he explained, was simple. When the project was disbanded, he managed to take what remained of the ova that was stolen from you put them into private storage."

So much for the notion of feeling nothing or a blessed emotional overload. My stomach start churning but I can do nothing but stare blankly at him as the image of the two of them sitting together in his darkened apartment plotting to steal my child becomes clearer in my mind by the second.

"God, Scully, he was so proud of himself. It was all ready to go, he already had the lab, the doctors and the surrogate all set. All he needed was my cooperation."

"And you did."

My voice is so soft from my own lips I can barely hear the words myself. But I can feel the tides changing inside me. I've felt so defenseless through all this. Fighting for control and pushing the anger back. Now here I am, standing here whispering the accusation I want to scream.

The pressure has been building inside me with only occasional relief from numbness brought on by the enormity of what's happening to me here tonight. I know I can't hold back anymore. I can't begin to understand why I've tried.

He's just standing there staring at some invisible spot on the floor. His head hung down and both hands jammed into his pockets, he looks more like a child caught in a lie he knows he escaped than a grown man trying to explain how he could do something so hurtful to someone he claimed -- no claims -- to love.

He doesn't look up as I cross the room, to stand mere inches from him. Only my voice, cold as ice, pulls his eyes upward to meet mine.

"And you did it, didn't you? He had your cooperation? He had YOU, didn't he, Mulder?"

Nothing! No defense. For that matter no response at all. The anger, the pain, everything I feel inside explodes. "You did it!!!? Damn it, Mulder, say something!!"

Still not a word, just a look of pity in his eyes. A confession?

"YOU did this!!"

Before I can think about it, something inside me that had never found its way free lashes out. My open palm meets the side of his face with the full force of all the anger I've been holding back.

"God Damn you. Mulder, YOU did this to me!"

I'm just standing there in front of him waiting for him to say something, anything. But he is silent his head turned, his lower lip drawn between his teeth, and his eyes are still shut from the blow. I wait there but he doesn't utter a word.

I've had enough. I know we're not done here, but it's enough for one night. I'm sure he's not even aware as I go for my coat and purse. I can hardly hear his voice, and childish or not, I choose to ignore it going ahead with slipping on my suit jacket and reaching for my topcoat.

"I didn't do it, Scully."

Distracted, I don't hear him move behind me. He grabs my forearm hard enough to make it clear the intensity of his emotions are quickly becoming a match for my own.

"I said I didn't do it!" His tone is as fierce as his grip on my arm.

Still prepared to leave, I turn to face him. God, I can't place the look on his face. Is he hurt, or angry? Or is this something new, the outcome of the first time in all our years together, and even the ones apart, when there is no trust or faith between us?

I stand my ground, coat in hand.

"Mulder, the fact, the biology, is that if Sam really is OUR son they couldn't have done it with out your help."

It feels incredibly silly. Again same road we've traveled so many times. Mulder offers up the impossible and I toss facts and science at him in a feeble attempt to hold onto what I think should or should not be.

"You promised you'd hear me out, Scully."

He snatches my coat from my hands, tossing it to the couch in front of us, anger and frustration bleeding through the calm exterior he's trying to maintain.

"Now sit down and listen to me!"

For a moment I consider leaving anyway, but something inside me won't allow it and I take a seat, hurt, distrusting, my accusing eyes burning holes through him.

"Fine. Go ahead, Mulder, finish your story."

"It's not a story, Scully. This is my life, Sam's life... "

I stop him, turning my attention away to my hands lying limp in my lap.

"It was MY life too, Mulder. But you left me out of it."

Again he says nothing, a soft shake of his head and he turns his attention to the closed blinds on the window that looks out to the street. I watch his face as he speaks, wondering if his eyes have found that tiny light across the street, like me hoping it will help him fade away.

"I didn't help them, Scully. I told him no. I told him to give them back to you. And to leave me alone." His eyes drift shut as he continues. "I asked him to find you and give you back what you'd lost because of me."

His eyes open again, his gaze drifts away from the window to a chair below --or maybe, judging from his blank, lost expression -- to nowhere at all.

"I meant it, Scully. I really hoped his twisted need to help me would find its way to you, and maybe do something good. I thought maybe you'd found or would find someone you could really love. Someone who could give you all the things you deserved, a home, a baby and a life without pain. I didn't want to hurt you anymore, Scully. I wanted more than anything, more than for myself, for you to be happy. I thought I could help, I could do something to get you the happiness you'd never have with me. So I sent him away, to you."

He goes on but my thoughts drift away, backward in time, to a nondescript doctor's lounge in a hospital from so long ago I hardly recall the name. I was busy, finally putting the past behind me and diving into my work.

When I had been told someone was waiting there to speak to me, a passing thought of it being Mulder had crossed my mind. I had shaken it off, feeling that it wasn't him. I had walked into that room -- Dr. Scully, expecting to see a coworker or maybe a patient I'd recently treated -- only to see him standing there, turning a still sealed pack of Morley's over and over again against the faded green counter top.

All of sudden I felt it, I can feel it now years later, a fire in the pit of my stomach and the inability to breath as if the stethoscope wrapped loosely around my neck had coiled up like a snake to choke the life out of me.

It was long ago but now its all clear. Why he'd come there and the meaning of the things he said.

*"I see you remember me, Agent Scully." * He had been smiling and forcing a warm and friendly air that made me more uneasy that any encounter I'd had with the man in the past.

*"I don't mean you any harm, Scully, I'm here to give you something," he had said, slipping the pack into his inside jacket pocket. "To right a wrong."*

I hadn't listened. I had been cool and controlled, showing little or nothing of what the man's presence really did to me. I had told him he had nothing for me, that there was nothing he could do to right a lifetime of wrongs. He stood there silent watching me pushing me to reach for the phone * Leave now or I'll call security *.

*"I'll go, Scully. I only came because I said I would."*

It had seemed so easy at he time. He hadn't even meet my eyes as he brushed past me to the door. But the mumbling I had heard then, not bothering to try to understand, is clear now. Looking back at Mulder now in this room quietly watching me I know what he said, what he meant.

*"Tell him I tried..... but you pushed us both away."*

I can only imagine the look of my face seeing the truth in my own memories.

"What is it, Scully?"

"It's just... I do believe you, Mulder."

He gives me a faint, but warm, smile.

"Good. I'm not going to lie to you, Scully. The truth, exactly as it happened." The last words mumbled as he begins to pace slowly in front of me. "I owe you that."

"Like I said before. I told him to go and he did. He handed me an envelope that I later found contained the information regarding what had happened to Samantha. He said some crap about my 'not being man enough to do what it takes to get what I want', pulled my apartment door shut behind him, and he was gone. I didn't see or hear anything from him until nearly a year later."

He stops moving turning to look right at me.

"A year later, early one Saturday morning, he was at my door again. I opened the door and he pushed right past me into the room. 'Fox I have something for you. Something to change your life.'"

"I'm not going to lie to you, Scully, I wasn't in a good place in my life at the moment he walked through that door. I had nothing as far as I could see. You were gone and I had finally accepted that fact you were not coming back. My family was gone. My work had become empty and tedious without my relentless search for 'the truth'. I'd suffered through, sometimes tortured, a series of partners who were never going to work out because they were not you."

I watch the tears begin to pool in his eyes again

"I didn't care, Scully, nothing was going to change my life. Then as I turned with annoyance to watch him move into the living room, making himself at home standing at my desk, looking out the window. A woman moved around the corner, through the door and into the room. She didn't say a word only smiled affectionately as she set an infant car seat at my feet.

"She pulled back the pale blue blanket so I could see that tiny face, eyes closed, long dark lashes resting on his soft skin. God, Scully it felt like a dream. I couldn't breathe, speak or move. And then his voice cut through the confusion and I knew it was real.

"He said, 'This is your son, Fox.'"I looked away from Sam sleeping there at my feet to see him almost beaming like a proud father. He had a cigarette in one hand and lighter in the other. He looked at me and down at the baby then shook his head snapping the cancer stick between his fingers and tossing it in the trash next to the desk.

" 'He is yours, and hers too, Fox.' "

"I don't recall how I got there. The next thing I knew I was sitting on my couch holding a baby in my arms. Lucy, the woman who had brought him through my door, said she was a professional nurse, that she had been caring for the baby since his birth until the time I was up to caring for my son on my own.

"I didn't know what she meant at the time. Later, I questioned CGB concerning the woman's knowledge of what they had done. He explained that, for her safety and silence, she had been told that she was caring for the newborn child of a woman who died from complications during childbirth. That I, the distraught father, had fallen apart after losing my wife and had turned my new son over to my father until I could pull myself tougher and be a proper father."

I doubt I could hold it back if I wanted to. The words escape from my lips right before my own eyes.

"Jesus, Mulder, everything else and now you're telling me that man played proud grandfather to my child for the first weeks of his life."

He looks at me and I can see a need in his eyes to help me understand. To find a way to make it all make sense. I don't want to hear it, but the need to share those first moments is clear in voice.

"I don't like it anymore than you do, Scully. And I can't forget, but it only took a moment of holding him, seeing him start to wake up, stretching and squirming about in my arms, to know that all that mattered was that he was there now and that I was going to take care of him, protect him."

I watch him as he turns and looks at the picture of Sam on the mantel.

"I knew, Scully. I felt it. The first instant I held him, I had no doubt he was my son, ours."

I'm exhausted, I feel trapped sitting here on this sofa, the need to get away becomes overwhelming. Without a thought, I get up and walk past him toward the kitchen.

I can hear his voice behind me, "I didn't help them create him, Scully," but it doesn't stop me. "But once he was here, I couldn't think of a life without him."

He follows me into the kitchen standing silent and undoubtedly curious, just a few feet away, as I begin riffling through the cupboards. I rummage around more than needed, possibly enjoying a chance at invading his life, his home, in only the most vague likeness to the multitude of violations I've been treated to this evening.

I assemble all the requirements on the countertop in front of me just as his hand reaches out halting the busied motion of my own.

"Coffee? Let me do it, Scully. You sure? It's getting late. You'll never get to sleep."

I step away, moving over to lean against the sink, and look out the window to the blackness I know hides the backyard.

"I'm not going to sleep tonight, Mulder."

He moves over, running the water to fill the glass pot.

"He was always part of the plan, Scully."

He stops, setting down the glass pot, standing so near, looking into my eyes, making me ache with everything that went wrong.

"They had what they took from you, Scully, and what they had taken from me as well back when they held me. Sam was never intended for either of us to love. They would have used him. He was never meant to be anything more than a wedge between us and a means to keep us in check if we got too close."

As Mulder returns to his chore, I close my eyes and shutter. No matter what else may have happened, I'm grateful Sam has been here and safe, not under the control of those who meant to harm him.

As the pot begins its hissing and gurgling, Mulder goes about retrieving the mugs, cream, and such. I watch him and look around me at the same time. Standing in a place that seems so foreign, mingled with what I once knew of the man in front of me.

It's a real home with cupboards stocked full, matching dishes, a note from school plastered to the refrigerator door with a remnant of the past, an FBI logo magnet. Mulder and Sam have a life together, and there is no room here for me.

Who knows how long I stood there thinking? It was long enough to catch him off guard when I did speak.

"Who took care of him, Mulder?"

It must seen odd to him. But I know what happened and now I have a sudden need to hear about my son. To collect bits and pieces of the twelve years I've lost.

He looks at me, surprised, a glimmer of joy in his eyes at a chance share Sam's life with me. He leans back against the counter, arms and feet crossed in front of him, in gesture of body language I don't even attempt to pick apart.

"Well, the nurse stayed here for a while. She showed me what I need to know. Old Smokey actually winded himself making several trips down to bring back all the things I'd need to begin to care for Sam. I wondered at the time what the woman must have thought. A man expecting a child now alone in a one bedroom apartment with none of the essentials of caring for a baby. In time, I decided he'd found a way to explain it all. A man as adept at lies as he was could surely reason it out to a stranger. Maybe he told her I'd gotten rid of it all? Maybe there was a story of a home somewhere ready and waiting that had been left abandoned."

Coffee done at last, he pours for both of us, remembering flawlessly how I take it. I follow him into the dining room taking a seat just to the left, one that I venture to guess, judging from some scraps and dents in the rich wood table, may very well be the spot long inhabited by Sam. Visions of a frustrated toddler banging tableware against the surface drift through my head until his voice again chases them away.

"She taught me how to hold him, feed him, change him. She went through all his things with me. An hour long crash course in parenting. She gave me a book, sort of a journal, from those first weeks. In reading it, I found the routine. I started to learn to be a father."

I listen, looking at the steaming cup in my hands. "Did you ever see her again?"

"No, never. She helped set up that tricky little fold up crib they'd brought, smiled at me before putting a gentle kiss to Sam's tiny head and with a nod from CGB walked out the door never to be seen again. That night plays like a movie in my head, the image is so clear. I stood there, holding him in my arms, my living room strewn with tiny clothes, blankets, bottles and diapers. He walked up to me, after making certain she was gone and the door was closed, tossing an envelope on the table.

" 'Adoption papers, Mulder. Valid, unquestionable. Tell me his name and I'll make sure they are filed on the other end.'"I said it without a thought. 'Sam, of course.' "I asked him why he'd done it, I tried to ask many things but he refused to answer. He just stared at the two of us a moment and went to the door and left never show his face again. As he left, he only had one thing to say."

I take a sip waiting, but he says nothing, only stares down at the steaming mug in his hands.

"What did he say, Mulder?"

Mulder won't look up from the table.

"He said, 'Take him to her, Mulder, you can make her come back to you.' "

"Why, Mulder? Why didn't you?" The tears in my eyes blur the grain of the wood in front of them, I don't have the strength to look up either. "Why!"

"Those words Scully, I couldn't get them out of my head. So many times as I fumbled through trying to care for an infant, I desperately wanted to call you. And the times that I found joy and contentment with him like I had never imagined, I wanted you even more. But each time I called or wrote you, his voice, those words, would pop back up in my head. Scully, I'm so sorry, it was proud and wrong of me, but I couldn't bear the thought of using Sam to pull you back to me."

My mind wanders back so many years to a series of calls, a few letters from him, the last few I even sent back returned to sender. He was trying to reach out to me and I pushed him, and unknowingly my son, away. Regret fades fast in my head. *He should have told me!* Anger festers again.

"Ego, Mulder! You kept my son from me because I didn't want you!"

To his credit he doesn't even attempt to defend himself.

"Yes. No matter how wrong it all was, I justified it to myself. I couldn't stand the thought of your coming back to me for Sam when you made it so clear you wanted nothing to do with me. Of course, that was only the case in the beginning. Over the years, I became a pro at fooling myself. I came up new reasons all the time. A never ending line of denial. When I couldn't stand the thought a second longer that my ego was running the show, I decided it was a matter of his safety. I was able to cling to protecting him from anyone who might hurt him for many years. Naturally, over time my power to rationalize what I'd done as a matter of protection wore out its welcome just like all the other excuses. In the end, these last few years, it's all come down to no more than fear . . ."

I don't know how, I don't hear a thing or catch any movement in the corner of my eye, I just know he is now looking at me. I look up to meet his eyes.

"I was afraid you'd take him away from me."

I see a weakness and fear in his eyes I've never seen.

"You have every right to. It's not like we could go into a court arguing custody over a child, publicly adopted, that is the biological outcome of a union we never could get right. If it came down to it, I knew I'd just let you take him rather than let it come to that."

"And so you kept him for yourself?"

I don't know what I'm hoping for. Deep down, do I think he can solve this horror, make right, like all the others?

"Yes, I did."

He get gets up, leaving me, going into the kitchen. What else can I do but follow? He stands, his back to me, pouring the full cup into the drain.

"I did! And I'm so sorry. I loved you, but not selflessly enough to keep from hurting you."

Nothing left to say, I set the full cup in my hand on the counter and walk back to the living room gathering my things to leave. I can tell from his voice that he follows me back, but only so far as to stand in the space just between the dining room and living room.

"You're leaving?"

This time I leave my back to him.

"It's late, Mulder, I'm going to my hotel. I'm canceling my appearance at the conference, I'll be back tomorrow "

"Don't go, Scully, stay here tonight."

I turn around so quick, confusion written all over my face, so much so he has the sense to correct himself quickly.

"No, I don't mean that. It's very late. It's been a rough night. I'll worry if you drive back now. I have a nice guest room you can use. That way I'll know you're safe."

One last plea, "And if you don't give a damn what I think, think of your safety for your son's sake."

Defeated, I lay my coat and bag down again.

"Fine, Mulder, I'll stay. We have a lot to sort out tomorrow. And I do want to see Sam again."

"I'll go make up the room. Yyou come up when you're ready and I'll show you where everything is."

He starts up the stairs and I find myself fighting an urge to go to him. I'm hurting right now more than I thought I ever could. Even if he is the cause, I want nothing more than to wrap myself up in his arms, bury my face in his chest and cry.

Instead I sit down on the couch and cry alone.

After retrieving my garment and overnight bags from the car, I go upstairs. I can hear him moving about in his room. Since he seems not to hear my approach, I set the bags down and spend a few moments in Sam's room. I look around trying hard not to disturb anything.

The room is done up in rich blues. Clothes and sporting equipment piled in a corner. There are papers and a few books on the desk. I look around at the walls. Posters and pictures of his favorite players tacked up here and there. Baseball, basketball, just like his dad. I walk over looking up at a collection unique to Sam.

"He's his own man. I hooked him on my pet sports. But the love of fast cars and racing is all his."

I turn to see him in the doorway, not sure what to say I pick up a picture from the desk, one of Sam and a dark haired woman.

"Who is this, Mulder?"

He walks over to me my taking the picture from my hand touching me gently in the process.

"Well, officially, that would be Margaret Frohike. Unofficially, it's Aunt Meg."

I smile with my whole heart for the first time if the last few hours.

"Frohike is married?" I look at the picture again. "She's much to good for him."

He smiles and laughs setting the picture back into its place on the desk.

"Yeah, well, we all knew just about any woman was going to be. He is married, all the guys are, Langley and Byers. Both have kids too."

A voice pops up in my head *and look at the two of you!*

Thank heavens he starts talking again breaking that train of thought.

"Sam and Meg are very close. I took a leave after Sam arrived but eventually I had to go back to work. My mom was gone and the line of possible nannies parading through my apartment was very unappealing. Frohike had just announced suddenly he'd met the woman of his dreams and they were going to get married. They were over a lot back then. They both adored Sammy and spoiled him rotten. One night Meg was complaining of being sick of waitressing at the deli where they met, wishing she could make a living doing something she loved that made her feel good. She had Sam snuggled up in her arms at the time and knowing I had to get back to work soon, I offered her a obscene salary to be Sam's nanny. She jumped at it and took only the best, loving care of him until I could be home with him again myself."

I can't help the envy I feel as look back at the picture.

"They're close, I'm glad!"

Turning away looking down at the photo I feel his hand settle on my shoulder.

"He needs you, Scully. He needs his mother."

I turn further away staring at the wall in front of me, looking anywhere but at him.

"Stay here, Scully. Leave your job, get a new one here. Move back. I'd let him go with you if I didn't know how hard it would be, how it would scare him. And if that's what you really want, I'll do it. I'll send him back with you and dedicate myself to helping him understand and cope. But it's not what's best for Sam. Come back here and be with your son. I'll find a way to tell him the truth. I'll make any sacrifice I can. I just want to find a way to give the two of you back what I stole."

He takes his hand off me stepping back, "The room's all set, it's right next door. I put a box on the bed for you. It's full of things I've saved for you over the years. Sam's things."

He stops just outside the doorway. " Goodnight Scully, please think about it "

It's a nice room but I don't bother to take it in. Instead, I go immediately to the box sitting atop the bed.

Knowing what's inside, I'm so eager to get a look that I don't even realize that I still have my own bags in my hands until I try to reach for the box.

I take my time setting down my bags fairly certain that, in my current frame of mind, rushing into anything is probably not a good move. With a bit more care than necessary, apparently as a stall tactic to gather my thoughts, I find the most convenient spot for my small suitcase and lay the garment bag gently across the simple but rich green comforter covering the bed.

Rushing in switches effortlessly to sitting on the edge of the bed doing nothing at all.

I have no clue what I'm waiting for. One too many life changing experiences this evening may have made me a bit gun shy. Naturally, even after all these years, that thought doesn't sit well with me so I open the box, quietly and thoughtfully, starting to sort the contents. I pull out the scattered pieces, laying them out against the blankets, my heart breaking at the sight of all the lost years.

At first I'm shocked at how complete the time line is with so few objects in one little box.

Mulder has set aside just the right things to outline my little boy's life. I'm grateful but still a tad surprised at the thought and detail he has put into the effort. But as I look back in my mind, I'm suddenly not surprised at all. Mulder was always the pack rat, his office and apartment filled with pictures, little scraps of paper, and all sorts of keepsakes that held meaning or memories for him alone.

But these are memories he collected only for me. Each tidbit marks a moment in Sam's life, from the tiny blue sleeper, possibly the one he arrived at Mulder's door wearing, to a recent report card with handwritten notes in bright red pen that point out "Outstanding achievement" in English and "Needs some work-possibly bright student unchallenged at current level recommend advanced math next term ".

There are so many precious moments for me to hold.

Scattered over the blankets is a wonderful yet heartbreaking history of what I have missed : A first lost tooth sealed in a plastic box. A beaten up green teddy bear. A handful of matchboxes cars. Even an old hospital bill thrown in to commemorate a fall from a tree at age 10 that prompted a trip to the emergency room with a broken left wrist.

Many things have small notes in Mulder's hand attached to them. "Program from Sam's first major league baseball game". An old ratty baseball marked "Sam's first hit".

It's easy to see all the time and energy it will take to go through it all. It's also becoming very apparent that, no matter what I may have thought, how I feel about it, it's now 2:35 in the morning and I'm completely exhausted. Maybe tired enough to get a little rest.

I pull from the box a large manila envelope with the word "Pictures" written across the front. It's bound with twine to a collection of various sized other envelopes. I set these items on the night table and put all the other treasures back setting them carefully aside for another time.

Shoes, earrings, and watch discarded for the night, I stretch out on the bed, my back against the headboard. With only the bedside light for illumination, I have high hopes of looking through a few precious photos until I can no longer keep my eyes open and drift off to sleep.

Each photo has a date and a description written on the back. I'm no more than half way through the stack when the harsh reality sets in, unable to focus my eyes any longer, of just how tired I really am. Tucked safely back in the envelope, I set the pictures aside for another time as well.

Lying back, I begin to think I may actually sleep until the word "MOM" on a bright yellow envelope atop the stack of letters catches my eye. I pick up just the one, curious about the rest of them, but knowing full well I don't have the strength left to go through anything else tonight.

It is a card and there is a long white envelope clipped to it with a note sandwiched between the two. I read the note first and my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach.

Across the top of the piece of paper he has printed "MOTHER'S DAY / 10 YEARS OLD". A date, a brief description, much like the others but, in this case, very different.


Scully, This year, for Mother's day, Sam insisted on buying a card for his mother. I tried to talk to him about it but he has reached that magical age where his dad is, and always has been, a complete idiot and cannot possibly have any idea what he is talking about.

So of course he totally dismissed anything I had to say on the matter. I had to write you this note to tell you what he had to say. You know thinking about it, putting in down in black and white, I suppose he was right and one hell of a lot smarter than I ever was.

"I just wanted to get one, Dad. Even if I never see her, never have the chance to know who she was, I did have a mother once. Somehow I just know that she did love me. She just didn't have the chance to. She couldn't be with me, but in my heart I know there had to be a good reason she gave me up. Something very big must have happened to keep her from me. So I just wanted to get one to remember her this year, like I hope she remembers me sometimes."

The letter attached, the one marked 'return to sender' that you never opened, Scully, is where I finally told you the whole truth. It was far too little, too damn late. But undoubtedly for my own selfish reasons, I had to let you know I did try to do the right thing.

I'm more sorry than I ever thought I could be. Mulder

I open up the card, fighting tears the whole time I read it. Soon after that I also open that several-year-old letter from Mulder. I don't know why, I believed him without reading a single word. I guess I just needed to see it for myself. The truth is there, delivered right to my door so many years ago only to have my toss it right back in his face.

I put them both back, stretching myself out eyes closed still fully dressed mentally begging exhaustion to take me away and stop the thoughts and questions racing about inside my head.

That notion turns out to be pretty much hopeless. I roll onto my side, looking out at the star-filled late fall sky through the open window across the room. Lying there quietly staring off into space, the painful edge begins to fade away. I think back to often gazing out the windows of my own home, thinking of, and occasionally wishing for what might have been.

Bright, vivid, colorful daydreams of the normal life I'd so casually suggested to him all those years ago. A home, the children I knew I'd never have, so many everyday things that even people who thought they knew me so well never imagined I longed for.

Of course never once in all those dreams, no matter how many years passed, or how many miles I put between us was there ever anyone other than Mulder there to share it with me.

It makes my head ache. I shut my eyes in hopes of chasing it all away. Alone in the dark I realize I've spent my whole life alone for no other reason than pride keeping me from that one person I could have shared it with. It's certainly hard to consider but its also painfully clear that my pride begun all this and his pride, in reaction, ended all hope for the future.

My eyes are still closed but I clearly hear his footsteps nearby, as I finally look up I see the light in the bathroom between our two rooms flick on. I lay silent, listening to him shuffle about preparing for a night's sleep that, if the past still rings true, he'll never quite achieve.

So many things are rushing about in my head and I find myself actually fighting the urge to go to him. I sit up in the dark room feeling nothing more that the need to wrap myself up in his arms. The anger and pain is still fresh but the need to be with him seems to override everything else.

Be it anger, pain, longing, or a half dozen other emotions I can't put my finger on, at the moment it's still only Mulder who can make me feel.

The light goes off again as I hear him retreat back into his room. I can't help laughing softly to myself "we're right back where we always were", the two of us sitting in dark, adjoining rooms with no idea how to come together.

With Mulder, and the moment gone, I reach over to the other side of the bed, which seems to have remained empty my whole life, and pull the extra pillow against my chest letting the laughter turn to fresh tears.

It doesn't take long -- self pity and regret not being two of my favorite emotions to dwell on, knowing Mulder is safely tucked away in his room -- to shake off everything I'm feeling in favor of some time with my son.

I get up, leaving the room dark, and Mulder unaware what I'm doing, and cross to my little boy's room.

I sit on Sammy's bed a long time, one thing running over and over in my head.

*It's all here, Dana... your little boy, a warm loving home, and Mulder.*

I try often to let the anger and hurt rub Mulder from the equation, but I can't, even being angry with him. Mulder is still in my life.

I hear a rip then the crinkling of paper. The noise and the light under his closed door drifting into Sam's shadowy room confirms what I already knew. Mulder is not asleep.

The voice rings again in my skull this time accompanied by Mulder's plea "Stay here, Scully! Be with your son. Feel anyway you like about me but stay with Sam, Scully. He needs his mother."

I don't give it much thought, it's the way my life with Mulder has always worked best. I pull myself from the baseball-themed comforter and head across the hall. The door is closed but not latched, causing my light knocking to push it partially open.

With the very first rap I can hear him loud and clear, obviously not even in the neighborhood of sleep.

"Scully?" His voice sounds so tired and beaten. "Come in, please." A playful lightness, forced, but still familiar kicks in. "I'm fully dressed, it's safe to enter, promise."

I push the door open, surprised at the room before me. All those years in a cramped apartment sleeping often on a not-quite-long-enough sofa appears to have had an effect. This room is enormous, nearly the size of the entire apartment I once knew him to inhabit.

Looking around but not moving from the doorway, I see it's divided nicely into two areas. Mulder sits atop a vast bed almost too large to simply be king size. Everything around him is done up beautifully, almost a picture from some sort of male version of better homes and gardens. Rich but cool gray's make up the color scheme of his bedroom that suits the scattered gray's in his hair and beard perfectly. It's all lovely, but it also seems odd to see him there.

The other end of the room, apparently an office area, is the man I knew. New and stylish bookcases and a monster sized desk take up and entire corner and the far wall. But they are mixed with my Mulder. His couch, more ragged than ever, sits nearby the same oddly colored southwestern blanket draped over the back as always.

There are bits and pieces of the past scattered amongst the shelves. A photo of the two of us, once thumb-tacked to the wall of the office behind his desk, now in a silver frame sets upon a shelf near the computer.

I step forward a bit looking further in the room. Around the corner nearly behind the door, most likely only really visible seated at the desk, I can see what I know is the poster I cannot imagine him without.

"Do you need something, Scully?" His voice draws me back to him now sitting fully upright against the wall behind his bed.

When my eyes fall fully on him, like when I first saw him again this afternoon, I'm struck again by what a handsome man he is even in these advancing years plaguing all of us these days.

He is still wearing the sweatshirt from earlier but the jeans are gone now in favor of a pair of those oh-so-soft plaid pajama bottoms I've never forgotten he favored.

"I wanted to talk to you for a second." I look down at my feet not sure I have the energy or strength to go forward.

"Sure, anything, Scully!" He sets down a legal pad and pen on the bed next to him patting it gently for me to sit next to him only an instant before rethinking the gesture. "Would like to go back down stairs? I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

"No, this is fine."

I take a few steps forward before stopping in my tracks convincing myself I'm merely begin considerate when I know full well its more like stalling or even a means of escape. I look at pad of paper lying nearby.

"I'm sorry, am I interrupting your work? We can talk tomorrow."

His eyes follow mine to the pad then back to me with a bright smile that makes my heart ache. "Oh, NO! I was just writing. Or at least attempting to."

I glance over at the office area then back to him amused by how much he hasn't changed. All the resources a writer could want and of course my Mulder would take to pen and paper.

Following my gaze and reading my mind, he confirms what I know so well. "I write on paper a lot. It's not practical, doesn't make sense doing it twice, but it's just the way I like to do things."

Heaven knows why but for some reason, I chose that moment to blurt it out. "I'm going to stay, Mulder."

He tries to be very casual and sensible in his reply but I can't miss that carefully hidden smile I know so well. "Good, Scully. Sam needs you."

I need to be near him now. I cross the room taking a seat on the edge of the bed next to him. Out of courtesy or kindness he moves away a bit.

"He doesn't need me, Mulder. But I do need to be with him."

I reach out touching his hand wrapping in gently in my own. "Wherever we are now. Wherever we may end up through all this, Mulder, everything I've ever wanted is here."

Looking in his face, I can see the pain of his own wants rise up as a lump in his throat.

"I won't walk away again, Mulder."

He squeezes my hand in his trying to reassure me with words when we both know there are no guarantees.

"Scully, we'll tell Sam. We will find a way to make it work somehow."

I pick up the note pad to cast it aside seeing for the first time that he'd done nothing more than color every other line for the first 10 or so blue with the ink of a nearly spent pen. He gives me a sheepish smile as I lay it on the nightstand, the pen rolling to the floor below.

"I was trying to write but all I could think about was what I'd done . . . how I'd lost everything all over again."

*Thinking!* I'm so tired, I don't want to think. I don't want to wonder what we can have. What we can work past. I don't want to think of losing or failing again. I hear his voice around me. More promises, apologies, and assurances.

Instead of talking, I pull my body onto the bed next to him, urging his arms around me, reaching out to switch off the light.

He holds me so gently at first, uncertain, and rightly so, how he should respond. But I close my eyes, letting my head come to rest against his forearm as I speak. He pulls me tight to him, holding on to each other for this one night, the uncertain future a truth we both know still hanging in the air around us.

"I'll stay, Mulder, and we will take what comes, together."

The End

Hey gang, Well I said I was done but I decided to try and do a lil epilogue today and hopefully be able to share it at the end of the week. Kinda needs a lil follow up <g>

As far as a happy ending which several requested I'm not sure if this qualifies but I wanted to be as real as possible. The whole story was meant as a look into people who really do love each other hurting one another. The only ending that seemed real was the willingness to try and put it back together coupled with the heavy uncertainity if it can be done at all.

thanks for the read and feedback


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