Summary: One night. Mulder. Scully. Their son. Together.
She holds their son even closer to her chest, making sure his little hands are completely covered from the cold air surrounding them. His warm, small body brings her a strange sense of comfort in the dark night, and she leans down and kisses his forehead gently.
"He'll be here soon," she whispers to him, stroking his cheek with her cold finger, and he fusses a bit at the distraction. "Sorry, little one."
Scully raises her head, looking out into the darkness. The wind whips her jacket and her fiery hair. Her body trembles, shaking -- not from the cold, but in sheer anticipation. She isn't sure how she'll react when she sees him. She fears that she might even collapse, letting the fear and worry and exhaustion of the last few months finally overtake her.
There is so much she wants to say, so much she wants to do. She wants to soak up every moment with him; she wants to commit them to memory so that she might have something fresh to thrive on in the months that will surely follow, just as the memories of times past have sustained her until now. She looks down at the squirming bundle in her arms, and begins to bounce on the balls of her feet in an attempt to warm and soothe them both.
How will she live if the months turn into years?
Their son slowly opens his tired eyes, feeling her own upon him, and gazes up at her. His eyes are the color of Mulder's; they share the same depths, the same old soul. Every time she looks into them, she sees the man she has loved for as long as she can remember. The man who ultimately gave her the biggest gift in life -- a child.
She looks up suddenly, hearing the crunch of gravel beneath tires. Her eyes are wide and eager, and she notices that she's stopped breathing. The car's lights are out, and the reflection of the hotel's sign on the windshield prevents her from viewing the occupant. Is it? Please, God, is it finally him? Her heart races, and William begins to cry. Startled out of her stupor, she realizes that she's clutched him tightly to her in her frenzied desperation. She shushes him, cooing to him softly, resuming her bouncing as she refocuses in the direction of the car.
The engine stops, and the driver's door opens. One long, lean, jean-clad leg emerges and then... She squints against the blackness.
And then his face comes into view, illuminated from the small light above as he steps closer to her. A small cry escapes her throat.
"Mulder..." she whispers, her voice breaking as all the emotions crash down over her, threatening to overwhelm her.
He smiles at the sight of them, and the fleeting thought enters his mind that she has never looked more beautiful; the mother of his child, waiting for him in the slowly falling snow, holding his son closely to her. He opens his arms, and she gratefully falls into them, leaning heavily against him, burrowing her face against his chest. His arms come up around them, and he slowly strokes her hair, letting its softness twirl around his fingers.
"God, I've missed you," he speaks softly into her ear, and she shivers at the sensation of his hot breath against her cool skin. He raises his chin and presses his face into her auburn tresses, and she can feel him chuckle against her scalp.
"Nothing," he replies, laughter still hanging in his voice. "This just... isn't quite how I pictured it. There was no slow-motion running into each other's outstretched arms..." He looks around them at the barren lot and at the run-down roadside motel. "No brightly lit green fields of grass. And I don't hear any swelling orchestral music."
As if on cue, William lets out a series of protests at being pressed between them. Scully feels the shape of Mulder's smile against her head, and feels one of her own creeping upon her face. He pulls away, moving back a half-step to regard the blanketed babe fidgeting in her arms.
"I spoke too soon," he grins. "Like angels singing."
"Poetry doesn't become you, Mulder."
Resituating William against her body, she reaches out to grasp Mulder's arm. She's surprised at the matter-of-factness in her tone, her take-charge attitude, knowing that all she really wants to do is stay there, huddled against him, never breaking their embrace.
"I'm cold," she says, "and he needs a warm bottle. I shouldn't be out here. And neither should you."
She pulls him toward the building, and can't help but glance repeatedly over her shoulder, just to make sure he's there.
He's finally there.
As they step inside, the small bell hanging above the door rings soundly. The old woman sitting behind the counter looks up at them with tired eyes, but smiles as she sees who it is.
"Ah, there you are," she says to Scully, her voice warm and kind. "I was beginning to think that you and the little one would freeze into little snowmen out there."
Mulder chuckles lightly at the woman's words, as he imagines Scully and William sitting on the doorstep, covered in snow. He steps forward and stands behind his family, winding his long arms around them, simply reveling in the feeling of having them close again.
"I don't know what you're grinning at, to be sure," she scolds him. "It'll be a miracle if they both haven't caught a chill from waiting out there."
"I'm sorry, ma'am." Mulder rounds his family, and steps up to the desk. He turns back to look at the pair. "I have left them waiting a long time, haven't I?"
His eyes meet Scully's, whose shine in a brilliantly deep blue. The change in color and depth is not lost on either observing adult, and the woman smiles broadly. He turns to face her.
"I've made a lot of mistakes in the past. I do my best to make up for them."
"Judging from the look in her eyes, Mister, I don't think that will be hard tonight." She taps him fondly on the cheek. "You kids go, have a good night. Stay inside, and stay *warm*. Especially that sweet child."
"Yes, ma'am," they reply in unison. With a look and a laugh, they move off down the hall.
His hand subconsciously finds its way to the small of her back, gently guiding her forward. The familiarity of the gesture brings tears to her eyes, and she walks just a little less quickly, the pressure of his hand against her back becoming stronger. She turns her head and gazes up at him, seeing the recognition mirrored in his eyes. His arm comes up around her shoulders instead, and he pulls her to him until they are walking side by side, their bond stronger than ever by the child sleeping in her arms.
"This is it," she says, stopping in front of a worn door. She looks over her shoulder at him as she shifts William's weight to one arm and fishes in her pockets for the key with her free hand. "It's not the Hilton, but... it's out of the way. Cozy. Quiet. Unnoticeable."
"Yes," he nods. "It's fine. Don't worry about it, Scully."
She laughs softly to herself, concentrating on her search. Finally finding it, she brings it to the lock, only to drop the key to the floor in almost the same motion.
With a slightly uncomfortable smile, Mulder bends to retrieve it swiftly. Standing, he gives her a look as she readjusts the boy yet again.
"My hand is shaking," she laughs self-consciously.
She watches as he leans around her to slip the key easily into place. She studies his face intently for a few moments, then grins again.
"It's just... it's not how I pictured it, either." She can feel her eyes again welling up with tears, and again she fights them back. "This isn't how it's supposed to happen."
"Scully," he repeats, cupping her cheek with his large hand, and she falls silent. "It's okay. I promise you." He strokes her face, and she leans into his touch. "In a way it fits us," he continues. "It's so..."
"Us," she finishes, and he smiles.
"Us," he agrees, as he pushes the door open.
He watches her walk into the darkened room, then follows her in. As he slips off his jacket and drops it on a nearby table, the scent of the room hits him; he can smell traces of occupants past, of the rains the old building had endured, of the very wood from which it was constructed. It is a dank, basement smell, almost... of dust and mold. No, it isn't what they'd imagined, but it *is* remarkably like them. Lost in memories of days long gone, tucked away in basements.
She lights the lamp in the corner, and she and his son are surrounded by the warm glow of a yellowed light. And, as always, she is his beacon.
Yes, it is them. Perfect.
She straightens and comes back to him. With a look and a raised eyebrow, she requests silently that he take the baby. Coming together, he puts his arms below hers in a similar cradle fashion, and she simply lets the sleeping child slip from her hold into his. Will shifts and gurgles a bit at the jostling, but quickly settles. She turns, unbuttoning and removing her coat. She quickly retrieves the diaper bag from the bed and drops her coat in its place; when she faces them again, she is forced to stop and stare, taking in the sight for several moments. Mulder's gaze is intent on the child, and the sweet innocence that decorates the man's features is foreign to her in its rarity. He deserves this, she thinks as she ducks into the bathroom to fill the sink with hot water.
They both deserve this, she realizes as she looks at her own reflection in the mirror above the white sink. Her eyes are shiny with unshed tears, but she sees happiness in them; a light of happiness that has been missing from them for too long. She quickly brushes away the tears before she allows them to fall; she wants this night to be perfect. She wants to be happy.
She fills the sink up to its brim and then takes out the prepared bottle from the diaper bag, placing it in the water, hoping it is hot enough to warm the formula.
She can hear a steady humming sound as she exits the bathroom after flipping off the light. Her eyes scan the larger room for its source, finally coming to rest on Mulder and William, tucked into a chair in the corner. He looks up at her briefly to acknowledge her presence, then looks back to William's face. She moves across the room slowly, settling herself on the bed. She props herself up against the headboard, and pulls a pillow out to wrap her arms around. She can hear the "humming" more clearly now, and feels her own body relax at the sound of Mulder's steady tones.
"Hello, little one. Hello." Will blinks sleepily up at Mulder. "Yes, you are a beautiful boy, aren't you? So beautiful..." He begins to bounce the child gently. "Did you miss me? Did you? I missed you, yes, I did. And Mommy, too."
He glances back up at Scully, who rewards him with a grin. She can still barely hear Mulder; he is speaking more through his chest than his mouth, letting the vibrations calm the child. He slips off the boy's little wool hat.
"Yes, I did. Sweet baby." He bends his head, and places a soft kiss on the baby's brow. Will, smiling, waves his arms at Mulder, and a gurgly laugh escapes him.
Mulder looks up with astonishment. "He laughs? Did he just laugh?"
Scully's smile widens. "Yes, Mulder. I thought you'd like that."
"*Like* that? Oh, what a sound!" Mulder's gaze drops to the baby again, his eyes dancing.
"Mulder, he's-- Here, let me just--"
She slides off of the bed and moves over to the pair. Leaning over Mulder, she carefully unsnaps and removes Will's coat. Mulder watches with fascination. The connection between mother and child could be felt; Will's face lights up with sheer and unadulterated joy at the mere sight of her. It warms Mulder, even as he regrets the lack of his own connection. She tosses the small article of clothing onto hers, then burrows back into her own place on the bed.
"Is the bottle ready yet?" he asks without turning his eyes away from their son.
She can hear the affection in her own voice as she replies. "No... it'll be ready in just a few minutes. You can feed him then."
He doesn't reply, but merely looks up at her, and she can see the silent thank-you in his eyes. You're welcome, hers say back, and he turns to the boy again. She wishes he knew how much this means to her; how much it means to see him playing with Will, simply being close to him. How much it will mean to see him feed their son, even if it will also break her heart, knowing that it will be the last time for a long while.
She watches as he pulls up Will's little T-shirt and tickles his stomach, and he is rewarded with the same sweet laugh once again. She smiles at the scene before her, as Mulder leans down and blows small feather kisses on the boy's tiny belly. She has never witnessed anything more beautiful or pure.
Mulder leans back in the chair, sliding slowly down in the seat, until he is nearly horizontal. William is balanced on his chest, and the position allows him to move more freely on his belly. He waves his arms and his legs in the air, chirping and cooing at Mulder, whose smile is wide and infectious. Gravity begins to work its magic, however, and Will's energy becomes less and less exuberant as he's forced to lay his head down several times, still too young and shaky to be able to support it against the earth's forces. He calms, and lies contentedly and quietly on Mulder's torso.
Scully smiles at Mulder's instinct, and again leaves her place on the bed. She comes out of the bathroom with the bottle. Popping off the cap, she tests the temperature on her wrist.
"It's ready. Can you sit up?"
Mulder puts his arm along the length of the boy and straightens. The child's small body slips into place, and Mulder adjusts himself to accommodate. She hands him the bottle. Will watches, his eyes still alert -- and focused on his coming meal -- even as he sighs sleepily. He looks up at Mulder expectantly, and clutches his shirt with his little hand. He tugs at it softly, as if to implore that Mulder please hurry just a bit faster.
The proud father grins, and puts the nipple within reach of the tiny mouth. Will suckles enthusiastically, his little digits grabbing onto Mulder's hand where it surrounds the bottle. Mulder's smile grows even wider as he watches with bewilderment. Will's eyes are open, staring up into his own, and in them Mulder sees a wisdom that belies his son's young age. He sees himself, and for a moment he wonders how such a wonderful creature possibly could have originated from him.
But, as he turns up and looks over at Scully, it all falls into place. William is a creation borne of the both of them - - half him, half her. He is the miracle they never thought they would live to experience; the miracle he's always wanted for Scully, but didn't realize he wanted for *himself*... until it actually happened. And now, as he watches her watch the scene they are creating, he knows that he could never live without either of them.
*This* is what he has striven for all through his existence. Through all his pathetic attempts at creating something he could call a life... this is what it all came down to. Scully and their son. His family.
Will's hunger subsides after several minutes, and Mulder gently pulls the bottle from the boy's mouth. With a deep sigh, the babe closes his eyes.
"I think he's done," Mulder says softly.
Scully reaches out to take the child, lifting him from Mulder's arms. She puts him over her shoulder, and gently pats his back. Moments later, she hears the liquidy gurgle she seeks.
They smile at each other at the sound.
"I'm going to change him. Unless, of course..."
Mulder holds up a hand. "No, really. You just, you just feel free to do that."
She laughs lightly. "I thought so. Just like a man."
He pulls himself out of the chair and the position he'd held for so long. She comes from the bathroom, takes the coats and places them on the nightstand, and lays a towel on the bed. Unable to lay it sufficiently flat with only one arm, she looks up at Mulder. He's already halfway to her as she does, and he pulls the corners out.
She lays Will down on the towel, and the clean diaper alongside him. He's still dozing quietly as she unsnaps his pant legs and raises them up and out of the way, then pulls back the tape. Mulder flinches in anticipation, and Scully can't help but laugh.
"It's only wet, Mulder. God."
He opens his eyes and chuckles.
"Yeah, well... reflex."
She smiles, rolling up the soiled diaper, putting it to the side. Then, thinking better of the opportunity, she picks it up and holds it out to Mulder.
He looks blankly at her. "What?"
With a raised eyebrow and an amused look, she replies, "Garbage. Now. It's the least you can do."
"I fed him."
She extends her arm, her eyebrow raising just a bit further.
"Ugh." He presses his hand to his face, massaging his brow bone. Reaching out, he takes the diaper and, taking only a couple of steps, promptly releases it. It bounces off of the wall and into the trashcan near the nightstand.
Scully rolls her eyes. "Oh, nice."
"I made it in, didn't I?"
She finishes her task and buttons up Will's pants again. He's still asleep.
"Come on. You've had your hands on worse things." She stands, and he can tell where her mind has wandered to with just a look.
"I know what you're thinking, and that's really uncalled for."
"Well," she sniffs, wrinkling her forehead. "I don't have to like them just because you did."
"Just because they weren't you."
"Exactly." She puts William into the baby seat.
"I got it right eventually."
She turns to him and smiles.
"Yeah... you did."
An awkward silence spreads between them. They both make motions to move to each other, and both pull back a second later. Scully's smile falters, and she turns and heads for the bathroom again.
He goes after her with long steps, and finds her standing in front of the mirror. She is silently cleaning her hands under the running water, the motel soap creating a white lather on her fingers.
"No, it's okay, Mulder," she says without looking up. "We both had lives before this."
He sighs softly as he takes the soap and lets his hands join hers under the warm water.
"This isn't about that, and you know it."
Her hands still, and he turns off the water. He gently grabs her arms and turns her around until she is facing him. She refuses to meet his gaze and he places his dripping fingers under her chin, gingerly forcing her to look up at him. When her eyes meet his, they're brimming with unshed tears, and his heart breaks at the sight of her.
"I'm sorry," she says, angrily wiping away the tears. "I'm just..." She looks up at him again and shrugs almost imperceptibly. "I'm sorry."
He wishes he could find the right words to give her comfort; wishes that he could promise her that things will be okay soon. But he shares her fears. He, too, knows the feeling of waking up alone, wondering if he will ever be with his family again. He sometimes wonders if William will forget his father before even getting to really know him. He knows that their son is still just a baby, but sometimes he is truly afraid that he will leave him to grow up without a father. He wishes she knew how much he fears these things; that she is not alone in being afraid, but he doesn't know how to say it out loud.
Instead, he leans down and captures her sweet lips with his own. They are warm and soft, trembling slightly at the contact. She runs her hand up along the length of his arm until she finds the back of his neck. She threads her fingers through the short hair they encounter there, pulling him even closer. When she feels his tongue's gentle prodding, she opens her mouth willingly, letting him in. She wants to taste him, to drink him.
His hands trail a path up and down her spine, and she shivers underneath the gentleness of his touch. They move to her sides, brushing against her breasts through the thin layer of cotton. She gasps into his mouth, and he takes the opportunity to deepen the kiss even further. His tongue traces the roof of her mouth, and she tastes just like he remembered. A taste that can be compared to nothing else; a taste that is purely Scully.
He finds the buttons of her shirt, and with skilled fingers he undoes one after another. When there are no more, he breaks away, watching her face as she languidly opens her eyes. Her lips are slightly swollen from his kisses, and she soothes them with the tip of her tongue. Her eyes are a deep ocean-blue when they meet his, a color he has only ever seen there in the throes of passion. He is mesmerized by her.
Reaching out for her again, he strokes the soft skin of her stomach, still unable to believe that a life found its beginning there such a short time ago. He can see only faintly the traces of her pregnancy. For a moment, he's transported back in time, before they'd been torn worlds apart. She's familiar; she's home.
His hands find their way inside her open shirt and travel delicately up her sides, his caresses light as a feather's touch. He pushes it over her shoulders and, as she wriggles a bit, it falls into a white heap on the bathroom floor. Leaning down, his lips graze the skin just below her ear. With a deep sigh, her head falls helplessly to the side, and her hair is like the finest silk against his cheek.
"Mulder..." she whispers, but she is unable to finish her thought as it gives way to a soft moan.
His lips are slowly making their way down the side of her throat, burning against her already heated skin. He reaches around her back, in one swift motion unclasping her bra. His mouth never leaves the hollow of her throat as the undergarment drops silently to the floor, her breasts spilling into his waiting hands. They are full and soft against his palms. She arches her back ever so slightly, pressing herself against him.
As he lightly traces the edges of her hardened nipples, she moves back. He looks up at her and blinks once. Her cerulean eyes sparkle through heavy lashes. She runs her hands up and down his covered arms, giving him a radiant smile.
"I want to feel you," she says simply, and he grins in response.
She grabs the hem of his sweater and he is forced to release his gentle hold on her breasts as she pulls it over his head. His hair is standing out in every possible direction, and a giggle escapes her. She quickly covers her mouth with her hand, but his smile has already turned devilish.
"And just what, exactly, is it you find so funny?" he asks, squinting his eyes. He suddenly tickles her sides, making the giggles turn into laughter.
There's a hardened glint in his eyes when he suddenly pulls her roughly to him again, her breasts pressing up against his bare chest. Their laughter ends as quickly as it began and they fall silent. She bends back her head, staring up at him. He strokes away a stray tendril that has fallen over her eyes, and she kisses his fingers as they slide over her lips.
Her fingers play softly over his chest and down his sides until she finds the edge of his jeans. She can see the anticipation in his eyes, and she knows that it is mirrored in her own. With fine surgeon's hands, she eases the button open and slides down the zipper. She hooks her thumbs on the inside of his boxer shorts, then pulls them down with his jeans. He pushes off his shoes with his feet and, as her fingers brush against the back of his knees, he steps out of his pants, letting them join her shirt and bra on the cold floor. He carelessly kicks the pile outside the door.
As she stands, she lets her gaze travel over his muscular body. There's a flash of light in her eyes as she looks up at him, and he once again realizes how much he has missed her. Missed her face. Missed having her body this close to him, feeling her even when they're not touching. Missed her touch...
As if she can read his mind, she brings her hand again to the back of his neck, pulling him down until she can feel his uneven breath against her skin. Soft kisses, lips meeting, pulling away only to once again come back together.
"Something doesn't seem quite fair here," he whispers in- between kisses, tugging slightly at her still present pants, and she nods in reply. He unfastens them, and they fall easily to the floor with her underwear and are promptly pushed away.
His arms encircle her tiny waist, and he pulls her naked body up against his. Their kisses turn more passionate, more bold, as their tongues duel fiercely for control. His hands come up to her hair, and he laces his fingers through her auburn strands.
He is hard against her, and she moans appreciatively into his mouth. Her soft sounds make him want her even more, and he releases her lips for only a few seconds, as he bends down to grab her and lift her up. With a surprised gasp, her legs circle his waist, her heels digging into the back of his thighs.
He claims her lips again, and she braces herself on his shoulders as he carries her to the bed. He sits, pushing the towel to the floor. She rests on his lap, her knees on either side. She studies his face, tenderly running her fingers along his jawline.
"God, I love you," she murmurs, trying to memorize every line around his eyes, around his mouth. She stares into his hazel depths, captivated as they change colors with every passing second, darkening as she watches him.
"Love you, too," he mouths back, bringing her forehead down until it touches his.
"You better, if you know what's good for you," she whispers against his mouth, beaming.
She lets the tip of her tongue graze his full bottom lip, teasing it as she bites down gently only to soothe it again. He catches her tongue and she gives him no resistance, leaning into the kiss, deepening it. He falls back onto the bed, and she laughs as she follows him. Her hair hangs over her face like a veil, and he pushes it behind her ears, willing it to stay there so that he can see all of her.
"You're so beautiful, Scully," he tells her. "I only wish you knew how much."
Her eyes water at his words. "You tell me every time you look at me, Mulder. With every touch, every look... you tell me. I have always known."
"Good," he whispers, brushing away the wetness, catching it before it spills onto her cheeks. She gives his hand a quick kiss.
He moves up the bed until he reaches the headboard, and sits against it. She pursues on her knees, regaining her position in his lap. She takes one of the pillows and places it behind his back, and he smiles gratefully at her.
Tilting forward, he places small kisses along her collarbones. She has missed his mouth, missed the way it feels against her skin. He travels down to her breast and, as he closes his lips over the sensitive peak, she wants to sob from the wonderful feelings he's producing within her. She raises her chin hard, pushing herself against him. His nips become stronger, and her blood rushes through her veins.
He reaches down with his hand to touch her, but she stops him. He looks up, a puzzled expression on his face.
"I just want to feel you," she says, repeating her earlier words to him. He nods understandingly. She elevates herself higher on her knees, his hands light against her sides. With one smooth movement she suddenly surrounds him, and he disappears in her velvet softness.
They stay motionless for a while, simply relishing in the feeling of being connected in such a profound way again. She buries her face in the crook of his neck, inhaling his scent, and she can feel him shudder underneath her. His hands move over her back, stroking it, kneading her flesh with his fingers.
"Love you so much..." she whispers in his ear, then begins to slowly rock above him.
Their movements are slow, gentle; their hushed words quiet, soft. They move in perfect sync with each other, as if they had never been parted. As their passion escalates, so does the pace of their bodies. Her nails dig into his shoulders, and he holds her even tighter as she begins to clench around him, taking him even deeper. Suddenly, she starts to shake in his arms. She sobs into his skin, crying out as her orgasm ripples through her. He follows her only seconds later, and she swallows his gasps, covering his mouth with her own.
She slumps against him, her body limp in his embrace. Their kisses become slower, their breathing more regulated as they come down from their high. He relaxes his hold around her ever so slightly, carefully sliding down until his back is against the bed. Her body covers his like a warm blanket in the night, and he strokes her hair as she kisses his throat.
She lays her head over his heart, listening as it beats steadily in his chest. The even rhythm is interrupted as she hears Will fussing over in his seat. She raises her head, looking up at Mulder, smiling apologetically.
"I better go get him," she says softly.
He gives her a quick kiss, a small smile on his lips. "You stay here -- I'll get him."
She slips off of his body and lays on her side, propping her head up on her elbow. She watches as he strides over to the car seat, picking up the little boy. But instead of staying up with him, he brings him back to where she lies. He gently places the child in her arms, and she smiles at him as he rounds the bed. He climbs in again, spooning up against her back and pulling up the covers, sheltering them from the outside chill. When he drapes his arm over them, she turns her head back, pressing her lips against his.
"Thank you," she murmurs against them. He nods again, and she turns back to the baby and nuzzles his soft head.
They lie like that for several minutes, quietly, together as a family. She feels safe in that embrace, and for the first time in very long while, she feels complete. Mulder wraps his fingers around their son's, and she is overwhelmed by the tenderness in the gesture. Will's hand looks so incredibly small against Mulder's larger one. This is what it should be like. They should be with each other, in each other's arms, always. Instead, they are forced apart, forced to fight for their future together. She's tired of battling, however, tired of waiting.
Wide awake, she stares out of the window, watching the stars sparkle against the black night's sky. Soon the sun will rise, and their short time together will be over. She cries out silently to a god she no longer knows if she believes in, demanding retribution.
Why not now?
She feels Mulder move behind her, burrowing his face into her soft red curls.
"Scully...?" he whispers into her hair. "Are you falling asleep?"
"No..." She turns her face into his arm, forcing back the tears rising in her eyes. "I'm falling apart."
Mulder tucks his face into Scully's neck and takes a breath. After a few moments, he brings his mouth to her ear.
"I want to say something wonderful, Scully," he whispers. "Something immensely profound, something unquestionable and brilliant." He buries his nose in the hair at the back of her neck. "I just... haven't figured out what that is, yet."
She sniffs, and he raises his head.
"I can only think of one thing to say, and that is..." He trails off, and pulls his body from hers to rest on his back. "I know that life without you is out of the question. We will find a way, Scully. We always have. You and me. Together. That's all I know, and it's all I care about."
She curls herself more tightly around the body of their son. Mulder turns to look at her, but she's closed off. She's shielding herself, he knows. He exhales deeply, and gets out of the bed, picking up his boxers and pants as he steps over the pile of clothing.
She can hear the bathroom door close. There's a silence, then the shower is turned on. The steady rhythm of the water provides a soundtrack to her thoughts.
Why does she do that? She didn't mean to shut him out. God knows she didn't want to. Only a few precious hours, and not a moment to waste. But it was so hard... every moment falling in love with him again. Falling in love with the way he moved, the way he looked at her; the glow in his eyes as he watched William, the tenderness with which he touched him... with which he touched her. His hands, the nimbleness of his long fingers, the harnessed power in them... enough power to crush a man's throat, but yielding enough to gently cradle a baby's head. The intensity of his eyes could drive her to the height of passion, or bring her crashing down to the stark reality. The way he carried himself: proudly, but, somehow, always at ease. His commanding presence, never really allowing him to blend into the scenery. There had always been an air to Fox Mulder, an air of mystery and excitement. She'd found danger and sorrow to be close behind. Why it should surprise and frustrate her now, heaven only knew.
This... is Mulder and Scully... as they'd always been... at their very best. Against the world.
Williams shifts at her side, and she sits up. Making sure that he's safely centered in the bed, she slides her legs around and lets her feet drop to the floor. Slowly standing, she looks for her own garments. During her search, she instinctively retrieves Mulder's as well, folding them and putting them in a neat pile on a chair. She catches herself, and smiles.
As she's buttoning her shirt, she hears Will's grunting and picks him up from the bed. Holding him close, she lets him play with the gold cross that dangles from its chain.
A symbol of faith.
The bathroom door creaks open, and she raises her eyes to meet Mulder's. He seems only mildly surprised at her organized appearance. With a weak smile, he brushes past her. His eyes search the floor rapidly; the mild confusion on his face is answered by Scully, who glances at him then at the chair and its contents. He nods lightly. As he bends to pick up the sweater from the top of the pile, he stops and grins with amusement. He glances up at her again.
"Picking up after me, now?"
The humor in her voice is evident as she replies, "Shut up, Mulder."
Will's tears come now, full force. Mulder straightens and watches with interest and concern. Scully turns back to him, her tone sharpening.
"There's a bear in his diaper bag. It winds up. Go get it."
Without hesitating, he goes back into the bathroom. After a beat, he returns with the little plush toy.
"It winds up?"
"There's a key on the bottom. Turn it, and give it to me."
Mulder turns the toy over. He rotates the silver key, and a tune comes tinkling out from the bear as he hands it to Scully. As soon as it comes within a short proximity of the boy, he immediately hushes and looks at the object with great fascination. He waves a chunky hand, and Scully gives it to him. He holds it against his body, grasping the nose and eyes, pulling at the arms. He gurgles happily.
"Tragedy averted," mumbles Mulder.
Scully moves to the baby seat and lays Will in it. He continues to paw at the bear for a minute, then he rests it against his stomach. His eyes wander; he appears to be listening to and contemplating the meaning of the music. Scully rocks the seat, humming along with the melody.
Mulder again reaches for his sweater, but again he stops. Pursing his lips, he goes to Scully.
She looks up at him, her blue eyes shining, questioning. He reaches for her hand; receiving it, he pulls her to her feet.
A small gasp escapes her lips.
He presses his body to hers and wraps his other arm around her waist, resting his hand at the ever-familiar small of her back. He keeps her other hand clasped in his as he languidly begins to sway them both to the mechanical lullaby.
Slowly, her own free hand creeps up his arm, finding its resting place on his shoulder. She leans her head into his chest, and she can feel the tears trail down her cheeks. He rests his head on hers, and she hears him humming the music. Or, perhaps, she's only feeling it in the vibrations that move in his throat. She sniffles, and places her cheek against his skin, feeling the dampness she left there moments ago.
Minutes pass, and the music box stops. Mulder begins to pull away, but Scully's grip tightens.
"No," she whispers imploringly. "Just... keep dancing."
He complies, and their bodies move in perfect sync in the complete silence... to the rhythm of their breathing and their beating hearts.
"I have to go," he whispers into her hair. "It's almost--"
They take a few more steps together.
"I can't let you go, Scully. I won't. You know I won't. I'd hold you here forever, if you asked me to."
"Hold me here forever."
A pause. "I can't."
He can feel her body tighten, straighten. Her breathing becomes more controlled, and her grip loosens. She's pulling away from him, squaring herself emotionally. As always, he is amazed by her strength and courage against overwhelming odds. She simply resigns herself to the fact that she must go on...
And he knows that she will go on. They both will, somehow. They always find a way.
Without looking back at him, she walks quickly across the room, buttoning her shirt as she does. She grabs the diaper bag from its place in the bathroom and begins digging around in it, searching for something... anything... nothing.
Mulder cocks his head to one side. Her detachment is almost brutal. He pulls the knit top on, then his socks, shoes, and jacket. He checks the pockets for the keys, his pants for his wallet. He runs a hand absent-mindedly through his damp hair.
She finishes rummaging, and crosses the room again, slipping her feet into her shoes as she does. He watches as she makes her way past him to the seat. She gently lifts William out of it, careful not to jostle him too much; the toy animal is left to fall into his place. He snores quietly against her shoulder as she bounces him lightly.
Mulder shakes his head slowly. He goes to the door and opens it a few inches.
Her sudden breach of the pervading silence causes him to jump. He turns around swiftly, eyebrows raised. She comes to him.
"Mulder, I--" She is finally looking at him again, and the pain and grief in her eyes is startlingly evident. "Mulder..."
He wraps his arms around the pair, hugging them to him tightly.
"Soon, Scully." He pulls back, and holds her face in his hands. "Soon it'll all be over, and I'll come home." His eyes are wet and shining, gleaming shades of hazel. "There will be an end. There has to be an end." He caresses her cheeks with his thumbs, then leans in to place a gentle yet needy kiss on her lips. He inhales her deeply, and her composure breaks for a moment as her face clenches against his in agony.
He bends to place a kiss on the downy head resting on her shoulder.
"Don't grow up while Daddy's away, little one." He places his cheek against the boy's head, feeling the softness on his face. "Take care of Mommy, and... never forget how much I love you."
She can barely hold herself together. Her body vibrates, struggling against the waves surging within it. He turns back to the door, and again her voice stops him.
"Wait; I'm coming out with you."
"No." His tone is forceful, and his gaze is intent upon her. "I don't want to leave you out there, cold and alone. Don't make this harder than it already is. Just..." He falters. "Stay here. Hold him. When I'm gone, get your things together, and go home. I'll be in touch. I promise."
She takes a step back. The steadiness in his voice calms her and, finding balance in his eyes, she recomposes herself.
He turns again to the door, stopping short of stepping out, half expecting her to stop him. She doesn't, and he crosses the threshold. Taking the knob in hand, he looks back to her, studying her face. She maintains eye contact. He smiles softly, then he winks, his eyes dancing. He pulls the door shut behind him.
Almost as soon as he's closed it, she leaps forward and grasps the door handle. She begins to turn it... but lets her hand fall. She brings her arm back up to support Will, hefting him a little higher against her body.
As she begins to move away, she hears a sound -- a brushing noise on the outside of the door. She can hear the wood groan a bit as Mulder puts his weight against it, leaning heavily into it. Several moments pass with no motion. Then, just as suddenly, she can hear the wood relax as his weight is removed from it.
Authors' notes: (Angie) This is what happens when the two of us get bored. Freda and I had been talking about writing a story together for a while, and then one boring evening, she says to me, "So... wanna start that story?" And who am I to turn her down? *g* This has been a great experience for me. We've both had to learn to compromise, but I am almost surprised at how smoothly it went. And quickly! *hugs Freda* Thank you *so* much for this wonderful week -- I'm already looking forward to our next joint project. :o)
(FredaX) Bored, indeed. I started it as a joke, actually. I needed to kill some time, and I thought that it might be fun to write *something* together that night. As she says, we'd been talking about it for a while. At any rate, the rating is a departure for me, as those of you who read my work will know. And I have Angie to blame for it. She corrupts me *and* my stories. I hope no one holds it against me. She wrote the passages in question, after all. Hey, Ang? *big hug back* You know I love you for it. :o)
Thanks and Dedications: (FredaX) This one. . .goes out with a great amount of love and appreciation to the ever-fabulous Angie, who has proven to be a wonderful friend in the last few months. She's amazingly supportive, horribly talented, and just. . . downright generous. Not to mention funny as hell. But I'm not going to get into that here. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Angie, for entertaining me, putting up with me, sharing your friendship with me. . .just. . .everything. You SO rock, and you know it. This has been an amazingly enjoyable- -and amazingly smooth--experience. I couldn't have asked for a better time. Really. Oh. . .also. . .thanks to my regular readers--you fantastic people--who were so eager to get their hands on this. And to Billy Joel, for serenading me, and giving me an idea for a line.
(Angie) And just how am I supposed to follow THIS?? Sweetie, this has been an amazing ride. Thank YOU for YOUR friendship -- I still remember getting that first e-mail from you, asking me if I would read through your stories. Never did I imagine then that you would become my fabulous writing partner. Thank you so much for these past months -- it doesn't matter if we're just talking about nothing, or singing to songs from "Moulin Rouge" together, I'm always having a great time doing it. You're amazing at everything you do, and I'm lucky to have gotten to know you. *huge hugs* I'd be lost without you. Also, a big thank you for Tanja, for never giving up on me, and for being my biggest supporter. To Denie, for simply being... who you are. *mwah* To all the readers -- I hope you enjoyed this as much as we enjoyed writing it.