TITLE: The Egg of the Phoenix

AUTHOR: Keladry

Date: July 11, 2000

SPOILERS: Big ones for Requiem. References to Christmas Carol, Emily, Triangle, En Ami, and All Things.

RATING: PG

SUMMARY: A year and a half after the events of Requiem, Scully reflects on how much she's changed, and wonders just how much she wants to stay the same.

DISCLAIMER: If you recognize 'em, they belong to CC, 1013, FOX, etc. If you don't, they're mine.

ARCHIVE: Go right ahead

FEEDBACK: Feeds the soul of keladryb@aol.com

AUTHOR'S NOTES: For my purposes, Requiem took place in the fall. Given that in the X-Files world, New Years fell in November, a May 21 airdate can mean events in October, especially when it's a season finale and the premiere won't be until the fall. So there. More notes and thanks at the end.

 

"Change is the constant,

The signal for rebirth,

The egg of the phoenix."

~Christina Baldwin

 

As she sets the dinner dishes in the sink, she's struck, as she sometimes is nowadays, with the realization of just how much her life has changed since he was taken all those months ago. Gone are the days when her apartment looked barely lived in, when dishes were washed, dried, and put away within ten minutes of use. It's ten fifteen at night and the pile in the sink has been growing since yesterday's late-afternoon snack of tuna on whole wheat for herself, and peas with a side of mashed pears for Nicholas. Through the baby monitor on the counter she can hear his gentle breathing, and she sighs, remembering the time when she could listen to his father's slow, slumbering breaths when the rest of the world was asleep.

The thing that surprises her most is how used to being without him she's become. At first she thought that life without Mulder would be unbearable. Now she seems to go about just like anyone else, dropping her son off at daycare in the morning before arriving at her office at eight AM to start the day. If anything, she feels more like a normal person than she ever did working with Mulder.

No longer does she fly across the country at a moment's notice, and her office is now on the very respectable third floor of the Quantico's office building. She hasn't been back to the Hoover building since Skinner asked for her medical opinion on another agent's case six months ago.

Work once again consists of educating cadets in the basics of forensics, as well as training the few new pathologists in every class in FBI autopsy protocol. Sometimes, she dusts off her scalpel and conducts autopsies herself. A year and a half ago, if anyone had told her that in eighteen months she'd be explaining the importance of doing things the FBI way to future agents, she would have advised they seek psychiatric aid immediately.

Softly humming a song she can't recall having heard, she slides her hands into a pair of yellow dishwashing gloves and sets to work on the task before her. Applesauce wipes easily out of the plastic Sesame Street bowl her mother gave Nicholas for Christmas, and she sets it on the rack to dry. Sometimes she feels mildly guilty for having moved on with her life, but she didn't know what else to do. The pregnancy was a blessing in more ways than the obvious: had it not been for Nick, she would undoubtedly allowed herself to slip into a depression of such depth that she might still be wallowing in it now. Being a single mother of an infant keeps self-induced anorexic isolation from being a viable option.

Two years ago, she muses as she rummages around under the sink for steel wool, a frying pan wouldn't have had eggs stuck to it because she'd left it on the stove. This morning, just as she was about to set it in the sink to soak, Nicholas had dropped his toy and began howling from his kitchen swing. Immediately the pan was forgotten and she rushed to reassure her son. By the time he was playing happily again, the clock read seven forty and it was past time to leave. She was late dropping Nicholas at Quantico's on-site nursery school, and even later getting into her office, so she spent the entire day playing catch- up with herself.

A year and a half ago, she would have forgone the eggs entirely in favor of a bagel with non-dairy cream cheese and a Starbucks latte. She'd have been in the office by seven thirty. Or maybe she'd be in Montana or Florida, chasing a killer with no body or a new mutation of the alien virus. Then again, she might have woken at five thirty with Mulder's arms still around her from the night before. She would have kissed him awake to make love before going home to shower and change, arriving at work at the then luxuriously late hour of seven forty five.

Of all the things she misses about Mulder, it's the leisurely bliss of those mornings that she misses the most.

Nicholas' whimpers carry from the baby monitor and she hurriedly heads for their shared bedroom to check on him. One thing that hasn't changed is her address. At first, she figured she would have a few months to look for a larger place before he was born, but somehow she managed to find other things to do in preparation for his birth. Before she knew it, she was bringing her child home to the same one bedroom apartment she'd lived in for seven and a half years, crib standing proudly in front of her bed. Then she didn't trust anyone enough to leave him with them while she looked at other apartments, and she certainly didn't want to take a newborn all around the DC area to find a suitable place. After she went back to work, she just didn't have the time.

In the end, she knows she's really putting off moving to a new place because she's afraid Mulder won't be able to find her when he comes back, but such a thought is so horrifying that she doesn't allow herself to dwell on it.

By the time she gets to the bedroom, Nicholas seems to have settled down again, his whimpers no more than normal sleep noises. She removes one of her gloves and strokes his head, struck by how much he looks like his father when he sleeps. Beneath her fingers, her baby stirs slightly, and she beams down at him. He's really here, she tells herself. He's real.

With a great deal of reluctance, she returns to the kitchen, well aware that letting the dishes sit for 'just one more night' will attract thousands of ants, and she's unwilling to share her home with them. She's drying the last dish when she hears the front door opening and quickly she retrieves her weapon from the shelf above the dining room table.

"Whoever's there, stop. I'm a federal agent and I'm armed." Shaking, she debates whether to rush to the baby's side to assure his safety, or to go immediately to the door to confront the intruder.

"So am I," Skinner's voice says from the doorway. "You weren't answering your phone, and when I knocked, the door fell open."

She lowers her gun when she sees him and nods. Two years ago that door would have been dead bolted three times. Yet Nicholas' diaper was badly in need of changing when they got home, and she must have forgotten. "I turned the ringer off so it wouldn't wake the baby, and my cell phone doesn't get much use anymore; I think I left it in the car."

When she looks into his face for the first time, she notices that he's smiling. Grinning, actually, and his face is near crimson with excitement. "Sir, what--?"

"He's back."

She's suddenly grateful that she set her gun on the bookshelf; if she hadn't it would surely have slipped through her fingers and clattered to the floor. "M-- Mulder's back?"

Skinner nods. "University of Maryland Shock Trauma called. A doctor there recently transferred from Washington National and remembered the memo we sent to all DC-area hospitals. When the hospital couldn't reach you, he called me."

"The shock trauma center?" Her face pales and she needs to grip onto the edge of the couch for support.

"Yes. He was brought in when a motorist hit him. He was walking naked down Thames Street in Fells Point. Driver said he seemed dazed."

"I have to go there. I have to go-- He needs me." She retrieves her gun and hoster, and is rushing out the door when she remembers. How could she have ever forgotten? "Nicholas."

Skinner nods. "Do you need help? I'm coming too."

"His baby bag needs packing...and milk...There's a small cooler in one of the kitchen cabinets. Fill it with ice and put some of the baby bottles from the fridge in it. And there's baby food on the shelf above the sink, pack some...and the box of Eggos on the freezer door. He's teething and chewing on them helps."

She rushes into the bedroom, trusting Skinner will follow her orders. There, she begins throwing things into the baby bag. Two clean onesies. His favorite bear. And rattle. The silk blouse he clutches for comfort because it smells like her. Why didn't she have the damn bag already packed? Diapers, Balmex, and baby powder. Latex gloves. Baby wipes. A plastic bag to put dirty diapers in.

"Agent Scully?" Skinner appears in the doorway holding the cooler in one hand. "Make sure you bring a bag for yourself as well."

She shakes her head. "No time."

"There's time, Dana." He places his hand against the doorjamb, preventing her from leaving. "I'll get Nicholas fastened into his car seat, give me your keys."

"No." She gathers a few odd pair of jeans and slacks anyway, tosses in a few shirts. Underwear follows. And high heeled shoes. "I'm not comfortable leaving him with many people."

She doesn't trust him, that's what she's saying, and that realization must sting, but he simply nods. "At least let me carry everything to the car."

She nods her ascent and he bends down to puck up both her personal bag and the baby bag. Nicholas stirs as she reaches into the crib to pick him up, and she rocks from one foot to the other until he's sleeping against her shoulder, blanket wrapped around him. "My badge, my purse, they're on the dining room table, would you--?"

He retrieves both and she leads him to her car.

Two years ago she had an overnight bag already packed and waiting at all times. Two, actually, one in her car and one at the office. You never know with Mulder. Now it's been over a year since she's flown, and with a desk job she's not likely to need to suddenly get up and go. What does his return mean to everything she's built for herself in the past months?

For the first time, she feels apprehensive about having him back in her life. She's considered that he may be somehow altered by his experience, either physically or mentally. Maybe both. She's even allowed herself to consider that his feelings for her have changed while he was gone, or that his memories have been altered so that he won't remember her at all. But this is the first time she feels herself wondering how the ways in which *she* has changed will affect their relationship.

She's missed him, that isn't even up for debate, but she's happy with Nicholas, and Quantico, and never missing family gatherings. She likes being home every night, and no longer fearing for her life at every turn.

The Consortium, she thinks wryly, could have saved a lot of effort if they'd stopped trying to kill her and arranged for her to get knocked up years ago. But the last nightmare figure of the Consortium, CGB Spender, is dead; she conducted the autopsy herself, and she suspects that the reason for her renewed fertility probably died with him. Maybe this was his plan all along.

Would Mulder understand that she *couldn't* go back into the field, now? Or that they wouldn't be able to spend entire weekends locked in her apartment screwing like horny bunnies? Did he even want a child? She glances at Nicholas in the rear-view mirror. He's sleeping in his car seat, her old shirt clutched in his left hand.

'There's so much more than this', he'd said on their last full night together. She hadn't wanted anything more, then, just him to be with her, always. She thought she was happy with her life, frustrating and intense as it was. Yet looking at Nicholas, she feels wonderfully relaxed and content in a way she hasn't felt since childhood. Will he still feel that there's much more to life than the X-files?

Part of her is resentful that Mulder is once again disrupting her life. Part of her doesn't want him back.

"Are you all right, Agent Scully?" Skinner puts his hand over hers, and she's suddenly aware that indeed the traffic is blurred by tears.

"Yes. No. Yes, Sir. I'm fine."

"Like hell you are," he replies. "Do you want me to drive?"

"No. No, I'm fine. My cell phone's in the glove compartment; would you hit the fifth speed dial number for me?"

He does and hands her the phone. Ring. Ring. Ring. Answer, dammit!

"Hello?"

"Mom," she breathes into the phone.

"Dana? Dana, honey, what's wrong? What is it?"

"Mom, he's back." She bites her lip to keep the tears from starting again.

"Mulder's back?"

"He's at the U of M medical center. We're driving up now, me, Skinner, and Nicholas."

From the other end of the connection, she can hear her mother breathe a long sigh of relief. "Thank God."

"Yes. I...I just needed to tell you." She feels suddenly foolish for waking her mother up with news that could have kept until morning and then been delivered with information about Mulder's condition. "I'm sorry I woke you, but I needed to tell you."

"I'm glad you did, honey. Do you need me to do anything while you're gone? Water your plants, anything?"

"N...No. I might ask you to come up to Baltimore to help with the baby, though. I'm not sure how long I'll be here."

"Anything you need, honey."

"I love you, Mom." She hits End and sets the phone on the dashboard.

Is this renewed closeness to her mother another thing that will change, now? They're closer now than they have been since she was a freshman in college, calling home every day to get moral support. She told her adviser she wanted to transfer to Maryland for financial reasons, and it wasn't a lie. After almost a year at Berkeley, she simply couldn't afford the daily calls to the east coast.

Once again, they talk every day, a pattern they got into while she was pregnant. She'd taken little interest in obstetrics while she was in school, and for a doctor she knew surprisingly little about pregnancy.

So, faced with an unplanned pregnancy and little knowledge of what to expect, she called her mother every night with questions. If I take a hot bath, will it harm the baby? Are my breasts supposed to be this sore? What about the nausea, will it go away? Lacking Mulder, what do I look for in a Lamaze partner? Do I even need one? Why do I suddenly crave green tea ice cream with chocolate sauce? Her mother had answered each question with gentle amusement, and after Nicholas was born Scully kept the phone calls up, sometimes asking about normal baby behavior, sometimes just wanting to hear her mother's voice on the line.

No, she resolves, she won't let them drift apart.

"You know exactly where you're going, Agent Scully?"

"Take the Downtown exit, stay on 395 which turns into Howard. Left on Lombard, right on Paca, left on Redwood and left on Green. I did several rotations at the hospital in med school, and Mulder's actually a repeat customer."

Skinner smiles, slightly. "Why does that not surprise me?"

"I haven't spent time in an emergency room since the night he was taken." She sighs deeply. "I haven't missed it."

Skinner nods. "I wouldn't imagine it's a pleasant experience."

"No." In the backseat, Nick starts to cry. "Damn. How are you with tired babies, Sir?"

He turns and cooed at the child. "Hi, Nicholas, I'm Walter. Do you remember me? We're going to see your daddy. Yes we are, yes, yes we are."

She smiles as Nick's cries subside and Skinner strokes her son's hand. "You're a natural, Sir. Thank you."

"I was the oldest in a family with six kids; my littlest sister's 16 years younger than me. I got a bit of practice growing up."

"I never knew tha-- We're here."

She yanks up the parking brake and jumps out of the car. "I popped the trunk, will you get the baby bag, Sir?"

He nods while she fumbles to unsnap Nicholas from his car seat. Remember to breathe, dammit, she orders herself as she picks Nicholas up from the finally unfastened car seat.

"Special Agent Dana Scully, FBI. I'm here about Special Agent Fox Mulder. Car accident earlier this evening." She barks at the front desk.

"Mulder?" The woman turns to her computer.

"Yes. M-U-L-D-E-R, Fox."

"He's in surgery right now, If you'd have a seat I can page a doctor to come explain his condition to you."

"Thank you."

She turns to the plastic waiting room chairs and sits next to Skinner, placing Nicholas on her lap. "He's in surgery."

"And you're content to just wait for them to tell you what the extent of his injuries are?" Skinner stares at her, incredulously.

"No. I'm not. But I can't very well chase doctors around with Nicholas in my arms." She shrugs.

"Well, neither am I." He stands and crosses to the desk. "My name is Walter Skinner, I'm an assistant director with the FBI. I understand you have one of my agents, a Fox Mulder, in surgery. I want to know what's wrong with him and I want to know it now."

"Sir, a doctor will be with you shortly, if you'll just--"

That woman over there is a medical doctor and Agent Mulder's next of kin. I want his chart in her hands five minutes ago."

"Sir, if you'll just--"

"Rosemary, what seems to be the problem?" A tall man in surgical scrubs approaches the desk.

"This man is Walter Skinner, he's here about the car accident in Fells Point. Fox Mulder."

"Nice to meet you in person, Sir, we spoke earlier on the phone. I'm Doctor Cashan. Agent Mulder's coming out of surgery now. If you'd like to have a seat, we can talk."

"Yes. Doctor Cashan, this is Agent Mulder's partner, Doctor Dana Scully."

Scully stares at the doctor, unable to keep the smile from touching her lips. She'd been a child the last time she saw Adam Cashan. He was her supervisor, a brilliant doctor with an equally brilliant male lover. They were the first gay men she'd ever met, and for the first half of the rotation she was terrified that he'd try to turn her into a lesbian, or that by speaking to him she'd risk eternal damnation. One of her classmates told her if she touched him, she'd probably get AIDS. Cashan had been patient and understanding with her prejudice, and by the end of the rotation she was sorry to part ways.

"...should be awake soon, if you'd like to see him." Both men look at her.

"What? Yes, of course."

They've painted the halls since she was been here last, and it looks as though someone commissioned "get well" artwork from the pediatric ward. Thinking of hospitalized children causes her to hold Nicholas more tightly, thanking God for his health. Due to her prior infertility, hers was considered to be a very high-risk pregnancy, and she spent months on bent knee in church, praying for her child to be born healthy. When he arrived at 8 pounds, 4 ounces with ten fingers, ten toes, and a perfect ten on the Apgar test, she was able to breathe easily for the first time in months. Everyone agrees that his development is still well within the normal spectrum, and in some areas he seems to be advancing more quickly than other 11 month olds. Given how much joy Nicholas has brought, Mulder's abduction seems almost inconsequential.

When she realizes what she's just allowed herself to think, her stomach turns. Has she really lost sight of how much a part of her life he is? Has she really allowed herself to reduce Mulder to being no more important than The Magic Bullet's cover story? No, she tells herself, she's being realistic. Mulder's absence matters to her a lot, and it's brought her no shortage of pain, but she's surviving. Nicholas simply reminds her that she can have joy in her life, even when he's gone.

Still, she's now wondering which matters more to her? Her best friend and lover, the man she owes her life to? Or her child, the miracle she'd given up on until her darkest hour?

Tears sting at the corners of her eyes and she remembers the grief of losing Emily, whom she never even had the chance to know. She cannot bear the thought of losing another child, especially one she's been with every day since his birth. She's lived with the loss of both lover and child, and she's survived. Yet as soon as she sees Mulder, lying flat in his hospital bed, she knows he's as essential as air to her, and she won't survive losing him again.

To distract herself, she picks up his chart from the foot of his bed and begins reading. He was admitted at nine that night. They'd tried unsuccessfully to reach her and had finally gotten a hold of Skinner at ten thirty. His right femur is broken in two places, and will require additional surgery to set it correctly, and his left humerous is cracked. Thankfully, he has no internal injuries. It will be a slow healing process, but if he listens to a physical therapist, he will heal.

Satisfied that his doctors know what they're doing, she allows herself to wonder, for the first time, how he came to be wandering nude in Baltimore on a cold February night. He shows no signs of hypothermia, which leads her to suspect he was deposited there recently. She makes a mental note to ask about reports of strange lights or and UFO sightings in the morning.

In her arms, Nicholas begins to cry. She shifts the way in which she holds him and rocks back and forth. He wails louder. A quick check reveals a clean, dry diaper, and with a sigh she sits down by the bed and unbuttons her blouse. For the most part, she's stopped breast feeding him, but she still pumps out what feels like gallons of milk every day. Right now she needs the closeness of feeding him herself again. He takes her breast quickly, and she winces at the initial pain of the milk flowing and his new teeth grazing her nipple.

The pain subsides quickly, and she smiles down at her son. When she first brought him home from the hospital, she called her mother in a panic because she'd forgotten what the nurse said about how to feed him. Margaret Scully had driven over to her daughter's apartment to find her crying hysterically, rocking a sobbing child. Gently, she instructed her daughter on how to hold him with her arm resting on a pillow for proper support. She advised letting him initiate suckling on the breast, to just brush her nipple against his cheek until he took it into his mouth. When he'd finished and her mother showed him how to burp him, Scully laid him down in his crib, at last feeling that she really could be a good parent.

"Hey, kid, that's mine." Mulder murmurs.

Scully nearly drops Nicholas off her lap. "Mulder?"

"Was I that easy to forget, Scully?" His tone is light, but there's raw pain in his face, and she knows he's on enough morphine that it's not his injuries that are bothering him.

She plies Nicholas' head away from her breast and holds him on her lap facing the bed. "This is Nicholas William Mulder. Nick, honey, this is your daddy." Nicholas begins to cry and she returns him to her breast.

Mulder stares at her. "How...?"

"I honestly don't know. I found out I was pregnant after you were taken. Mulder, I did the DNA tests, he's yours. Ours." Nick lets her nipple slip out of his mouth and she holds him against her shoulder to burp him, finally letting the tears pour down her cheeks.

"How long was I gone?"

"Seventeen months, twenty eight days." She blushes slightly, embarrassed to have kept track.

"And no hours?" He smiles, slightly.

"Do you want to see your son?" She asks, beaming.

"If his mother comes with him."

Gently, she lays Nicholas on the bed next to Mulder's good arm. "Always." Leaving one hand on Nick's stomach to keep him from rolling off the bed, she leans over and brushes her lips across Mulder's. "I missed you."

He leans his neck forward slightly to take her mouth with his own, and it is the sweetest kiss they've ever shared.

"Get some rest, Mulder," she whispers.

"Yes, Doctor," he says, eyelids already fluttering closed.

"I love you, you know."

He opens his eyes long enough to meet hers for a moment before muttering "Oh brother."

By the time she's finished laughing, he's asleep. A quick glance at Nick confirms that he too, is in the land of dreams. After pulling up the rail on the side of the bed and assuring herself that it's enough to keep Nicholas from falling, she stands and stretches. She catches a glimpse of Skinner peeking in the door and crosses the room to talk to him.

"He's sleeping again, Sir. The baby's with him." She glances back into the room in time to see Nicholas draw his thumb into his mouth. "I'm going to ask that DNA tests be ordered, just so we're sure, but... It's really him."

Skinner nods. "Do you need anything?"

It's her turn to nod. "Find Doctor Cashan; ask him to scrounge up an extra crib from the maternity ward, Nicholas and I are sleeping here tonight.

"Consider it done, Agent Scully." He turns to make her request happen and pauses. "He was wearing this when they brought him in." He hands her a small gold cross on a thin gold chain. "It's yours, isn't it?"

She swallows the lump in her throat. "Yes. I gave it to him, so he wouldn't be alone..."

Skinner smiles and turns again.

"Sir?" she says to his back. "Thank you. For everything."

Skinner grunts a reply and she slips back into the room.

Tomorrow she'll try to piece together where he was taken and how he got back. She will see what he remembers and ask his doctors about getting him transferred to George Washington or Washington National. They'll discuss living situations and the fact that all his furniture is at the Capitol Self Storage facility in DC. She'll put off talking about returning to the X-files. Right now, though, it's three in the morning, and she needs to sleep.

She fastens her cross around her neck and looks at her lover and child, sleeping side by side. This is my family, she thinks. Whatever else happens, this is where I belong.

 

 

*

Firstly, Thank you to Joey for the beta. Someday I'll stop making typos so you can stop correcting them for me.

Thank you to my aunt insisting upon explaining the process of breast feeding to me last year, despite protests that I wouldn't need the information for a *very long time*.

This was written entirely on an Alpha Smart, and had it not been for the device I doubt this would have turned out the way it has, so thank you to my mother for "borrowing" it from the school she teaches at so I could use it during the summer. (Alpha Smarts *roc* http://www.alphasmart.com)

Mulder's injuries, and their treatment, are based upon those incurred by a friend's step-brother who was hit by a car last month. Last I heard he was recovering well.

--- keladry http://members.aol.com/keladryb/ "A week before he was shot, Lincoln was in Monroe, Maryland. A week before he was shot, Kennedy was in Marilyn Monroe. Coincidence?" --Richard Belzer




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