Title: The Curious Wedding of George Hale (The Final Miracle part 3)
Author: DS
Feedback: buddhaxds@hotmail.com
Rating: PG
Genre: MSR/AU
WARNING: Doggett and Reyes mentioned
Archive: Yes, please drop me a line and let me know where.

Thanks to Rachel V. for beta and encouragement. You are the bomb Chika. And Duncan Sheik for Phantom Moon-the only thing that got me inspired enough to finish this.

We are three in the basement now, Doggett, Reyes, and I. Monica was kept in DC so long answering to directors, inquiry panels and review boards explaining her actions that night that she moved into my apartment and never left. At first I thought I would find her presence an intrusion but I actually took comfort in her companionship. She will never replace Melissa in my heart, but she has filled a need for female companionship I didn't even realize I had. Having a confidant helped heal some of the wounds create on the day of Noble's birth.

We rarely speak of what occurred that day, and never in the Hoover building. But our secrets and lies, truths and knowledge have woven Doggett, Reyes, Skinner and I into a relationship that is not definable by words like friendship or family. We ground each other in reality-we are the only people who can corroborate a reality that the rest of the world will hopefully never know. And I confess that at times I take great comfort in knowing that at least a small handful of people know that I am not the abandoned lover and mother of a dead child that the world must believe I am.

Monica Reyes and I have a comfortable relationship as housemates. She began dating a psychologist in Georgetown named Andrea soon after she moved here, and she spends as many nights there as she does at our apartment. The rampant rumors that Monica and I are an item have served me well in keeping me off the market so to speak, so I've done little to quell them. Monica and I joke about it a great deal, giggling like schoolgirls and calling each other lipstick lesbos.

Despite all that has happened I do laugh more now, at least in private. I have more faith in the world than I have had since my early days in the X files. I have witnessed a miracle, birthed him into his father's arms. I know that somewhere I have a family waiting for me. I just have to bide my time until I can join them. It has been 18 months since Mulder fled with our son, but as long as our enemies live and continue to manipulate and scheme their safety is in constant jeopardy. My dropping out of site would only raise suspicions and perhaps start the search for Mulder anew. Though I ache at night for my lover and my child, I cannot risk their lives to satisfy my own needs.

"Dana, what is it? You look like you've just seen a ghost," Monica says, concerned by the look of utter shock on my face. We are sitting in the Miami airport waiting to fly home after investigating a case.

I cannot even speak. I'm rapidly sifting through a whirlwind of emotions. Anger, pain, fear, disappointment, all of them swell up; causing a lump in my throat that threatens to turn to tears. I hand her the copy of the Los Angeles Times I had been reading. What serendipity that some traveler would leave this paper behind for me to find. It almost seems like too much of a coincidence to my paranoid and suspicious mind.

"Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Windham of Los Angeles wish to announce the engagement of their daughter Diana Grace Windham to George Hale of Los Angeles. The wedding will take place at River Bend Country Club on September 17th, 2002. The groom's son Angelus will serve as ring bearer," Monica reads the announcement aloud, her eyes growing wide.

"Oh, Dana, you don't really think it's him, do you? Surely it can't be. He can't be the only George Hale on the planet. I'm sure it's all a big mistake."

When I find my voice all I can say is, "I can't believe he named my son after a vampire on a television show."

"Huh?" Monica questions. I forget that she barely knows Mulder or his sense of humor.

"Angelus. That's the name of the vampire on the WB show Angel. Who else would name their kid that but him?" Even here in a crowded airport I am hesitant to speak his real name.

"Dana, it's got to be a mistake. Look, our plane is boarding. Let's just get home and we'll figure it out. It can't be him."

She takes me by the elbow and guides me onto the plane. I am shaking so badly I wonder if my legs will carry me that far. It can't be him. He swore he would wait for me forever. Samantha gets almost ten years and I only get 18 months? Does Noble think this LA socialite named after two dead princesses is his mother?

Monica doesn't even try to argue with me when I order a shot of tequila as soon as the flight attendant begins taking orders. The fiery liquid burns all the way down, a nice match for my mood at the moment. I don't know whether to be furious or heartbroken. Do I hop the next flight to LA and confront him? What if he runs when he finds out I am looking for him? I can't believe he would be so brazen and impractical as to even put an announcement in the newspaper. At least it doesn't have his picture with the announcement. He hasn't totally lost his mind.

I couple more shots of liquid fortitude and I don't remember much of the plane ride home. Monica drives us home in silence, me still clutching the newspaper in my hand.

Monica helps me into the apartment and parks me on the sofa where I read the announcement for the hundredth time. The blessed event is taking place two weeks from tomorrow.

I walk unsteadily into my bedroom and dump the dirty clothes and toiletries out of my suitcase into a heap in the middle of my bed and begin to refill the suitcase with clean clothes. As I dig in my closet I come across the suit I was wearing the first time Mulder and I made love. The suit he peeled away from me so that we were skin to skin and heart to heart, loving in a way we had denied ourselves for years. The memory upsets my precarious equilibrium and the tears began to fall. I scrub at my face like a child, smearing mascara until I look like Courtney Love and feel nauseous from drinking on an empty stomach.

Monica peers at me from the door, coming up and putting her arms around me.

"It's okay, everything will be fine. Why don't you change your clothes and wash your face and we'll call the gunmen and see what they can find out about this, okay? Let's not panic or jump to any conclusions just yet."

I nod obediently. She's right. I'm making a fool of myself. I need to get my act together and get the facts before I rush off to Los Angeles. I can't just run off and plant myself on Mulder's doorstep. Any number of people could be watching me, and God only knows who I could be leading right to the very people I've been hiding so diligently for the last 18 months.

"Shiny happy monsters dancing...shiny happy monsters..." REM sings along with a bunch of furry muppets on Sesame Street as Noble follows in his high little off-key soprano. I feel old. I remember when Michael Stipe had hair.

I cut the crusts off the little master's peanut butter and jelly sandwich and pour him a glass of milk, then place them on the table. "C'mon, Little Man, time for dinner," I announce. He ignores me, just as I expect.

He squeals in protest when I turn off the television, but acquiesces and joins me at the table to partake of our usual bachelor fare of PB&J for him and frozen pizza for me. Sometimes when we're feeling really adventurous we have Apple Jacks or Fruit Loops for dinner. We are man's men, consummate bachelors, living off of whatever can be microwaved or prepared without turning on the stove.

I peer across the table at my small son, who is engrossed in squeezing his sandwich so he can lick up the jelly that falls on the plate. To look at him you would never know I was his father. He is a male version of the young baby-faced Scully who came to my office in 1993. His features are fine boned with wispy strawberry blonde hair and delicate eyebrows, and blue eyes the color of sea-glass. His skin is smooth and downy like a ripe peach. Though he is a toddler now and beyond such indignities, I love to rub my cheek across his as he sleeps beside me in our shared bed. I have yet to outgrow the paranoia of having him sleep anywhere but next to me, where the heat of his young body and the rise and fall of his small chest reassure me that he is whole and safe.

After dinner we go for a walk around the block. We have made our home in a small community in Ontario, Canada call CrowSea. I feel safe and comfortable here. It reminds me a great deal of the small communities on the east coast where I vacationed throughout my childhood. We know most of the neighbors and they all fawn over Noble. It's a different lifestyle than I've ever known before, and not just because I'm a father now. I'm employed as a fact checker for a smallish publishing firm that specializes in true crime novels, and I'm living off almost half what I was making at the FBI. But I work from home and set my own hours, often doing my work late at night after Noble is asleep and the ghosts named Loneliness and Desire haunt me. I work to keep from thinking of

Scully, of missing her the way an amputee misses a limb.

My dreams are always of Scully. The smell of her hair, the feeling of muscles moving under silky skin beneath my hands as we lay entwined together loving and possessing one another. The taste of black coffee and Altoids that remind me of her kisses, the feeling

of her cool fingers running through my hair. The dreams are delicious torture. But I bide my time, as I know she is biding hers. One day I'll open the door and she'll be standing there, and my life will truly begin again.

"Frohike, I can barely hear you. We must have a bad connection. Where are you?" I yell into the phone, hearing my voice echo back at me through the static.

"We're in Key West. It's our first vacation in 9 years. At the moment we're sitting on the beach slinging back margaritas and appreciating the resurgence of the thong bikini," he replies, his voice almost lost in the heavy static.

"Frohike, I need you to do me a favor-Frohike? Melvin?" The line is dead. Dammit. I dial his cell again and get no answer.

Of course, the gunmen are busy getting carcinoma and trying to pick up chicks while I desperately need their help. I hope they all get horrible sunburns and STDs to boot.

Once again, it seems the world is conspiring against me. An internet search shows twenty-seven George Hales in California. I can't covertly track them all down in the two weeks before this wedding and verify that they are not Mulder. My brain flaps around like a towel on a clothesline-go, stay, confront, sit back in silent defeat. Dana Scully, Indecisive be thine name.

I spend the evening wandering aimlessly around the apartment, lacing my coffee with brandy and making one decision after another only to cast them away as impractical or dangerous. I keep avoiding the one decision that I know there is no turning back from.

I go to the freezer and pull out the box of frozen waffles, extracting from it my hidden passport. The one with the name Silvia Hale. This has always been my last out, the final decision that would reunite me with Mulder and Noble. Dana Scully could die and Silvia Hale could go find her men. Before he left we set up an elaborate communication system to let him know I had done the deed-killed Scully and taken on the persona of Silvia Hale.

I am to place a personal ad in the Birmingham Post-Herald saying, "Dear George, I had a blast. Let's meet up again." and then we will meet in Roswell, Georgia 2 weeks later. Yes, it sounds rather hokey now, but we planned this while my contractions were two minutes apart and all I was thinking about was clean hospital sheets and an epidural.

When Monica comes home around 11PM she finds me sitting at the dining room table with a yellow legal pad, writing down ideas for planning my faked death. I've hit the brandy a bit too hard and my handwriting is illegible, but I keep writing.

She sits down at the table with me, her damned perceptive mentality cutting right to the chase.

"It's time, isn't it?" she asks.

I don't know. I'm scared, I'm unsure, I think of all that could come in the wake of this decision but I nod anyway. My brain might be holding back, by some other part of me has made the choice.

Monica is silent, biting her nails. She wants a cigarette but she knows I'd go postal if she dare smoked in the apartment. Finally she says, "John and I will work it out. A car accident on our next case would work. Either torch the car or drive it off a bridge.

We'll figure it out. I'm going up to bed. We'll discuss it with John tomorrow." She stands up and that's that. She hesitates for a moment, and plants a light kiss on the top of my head before leaving me alone with my thoughts in the darkened kitchen.

It's 2 AM and Noble is finally asleep. I'm afraid the poor kid has inherited my insomnia. Frankly I'm exhausted too. Toddlers are little balls of pure energy, and I wonder if God knew the magnitude of the practical joke he was playing by allowing us humans to reproduce past the age of twenty-five when we couldn't possibly have the energy to keep up with them.

I stretch out on the couch and start flipping channels, finally settling on a Roger Corman movie. The Birmingham News is on the coffee table in front of me, providing me with another opportunity to feel empty and disappointed when there is no message from Scully in the personals sections. Out of habit and some small glimmer of continued hope I open the newspaper and thumb through it.

If I hadn't already been lying down, I would have fallen. There it was, in black and white "George, I had a blast. Let's meet up again."

My heart flutters against my ribcage and my mouth goes dry. I sit up, turn on the lights and get my reading glasses, reading the notice again and again. It is today's paper, so I have two weeks to angst and fret until I meet Scully in Georgia.

My emotions are spinning out of control. Part of me could die of happiness, but another part of me wonders if she still loves me. She could just be coming for Noble. What will it be like after 18 months of separation? Will Scully be happy living in our little Canadian hole in the wall? Will she be okay with the way I have been raising Noble? What if she just wants her turn to raise Noble and takes him and leaves for parts unknown?

In the morning I will call the appointed hotel and make a reservation for a suite, my part of the deal that will let Scully know I have gotten her message and will be waiting for her. Suddenly two weeks seems like an eternity. My heart fills with happiness and shatters at all the possible scenarios many times before sleep finally claims me.

John Doggett, Walter Skinner, Monica Reyes and I weave together one last tapestry of lies and deceit. Providence must be smiling on us, for the planning comes remarkably easy. Alibis are contrived and paper trails are burned, and in the wee hours of a Friday in the thrall of hurricane Belle, Special Agent Dana Scully loses control of her Ford Taurus on the I-20 Bridge between Baton Rouge and Port Allen, Louisiana. The car plummets into the Mississippi River and the body is never found.

The body, now known as Silvia Anne Hale, looks on as Walter Skinner once again risks his career and his life to help me and mine. I stand in the pouring rain, barely able to stay upright in the gusting winds as Walter nearly kills himself; jumping out of the car mere heartbeats before it goes over the bridge. I run over and help pull him upright as he catches his breath, the whipping wind tearing at our clothes and carrying our voices away as soon as we speak. The rain washes rivulets of blood down his face from a gash on his forehead.

"The car is at the end of the bridge, just about a third of a mile down. Will you be okay?" He shouts to be heard over the voice of the river and the wind.

I nod, not knowing how to say goodbye. It would be pointless to cry when the river water is already in my eyes and mouth, soaking me to the bone.

"I'll never forget you, Walter." I press a quick kiss to his wet cheek and turn to jog off into the black night, the wind plastering my wet hair to my face and driving the rain into me like little pin pricks until the bridge ends and the road begins. On the side of the road is an ancient Pontiac Ventura, the keys in the glove box and my overnight bag in the back seat. I drive; shaking both from cold and adrenaline, to the airport in New Orleans, leaving behind everything I have ever known and loved. Except the two people whom I love enough to do this. They are my future, and in two days they will be waiting for me in Georgia.

I adore my son. I really do. So I mean it with all due respect and affection when I say he is an absolute beast on the airplane. He drops two open boxes of raisins on the floor, breaks most of his crayons and whines that he is bored, and that's all before the first connection.

"Daddy, I wanna go home!" he squeals as I stand in line at Starbucks, arching backwards in the sling so that I almost drop him.

The woman behind the counter must have kids. She gives me a knowing smile and gives Noble the biggest cookie she has. He noshes happily while I sip my latte, and I am loath to admit it, but for once I am happy to have him silent. Only eight more hours of airplane hell to go.

Noble and I are arriving a day early. I'm surprised to find how happy I am at the prospect of being on US soil again. After three months in the Netherlands and 15 months in Canada, I have missed ESPN, the Sci-Fi Channel, cherry blossoms in front of the Hoover Building in the spring, and greasy disgusting sidewalk cart hotdogs. I can't wait to go to PeachTree Plaza and hear north American accents again. I'm going to buy Noble an Atlanta Braves baseball jersey. It's time to start the finer points of his education before Canadian football ruins him.

All too soon it is time to board another plane and Noble is none too happy about it. His plaintive wails of "Daddeeee!" can be heard even over the noise of passengers boarding and getting settled as I strap him back into the seat. I've blown a small fortune on items to entertain him at the gift shop. I pull a package of rubber space aliens from my backpack and hope to God we survive the rest of this trip. I'm glad we're arriving a day early so I have time to rest up after the trip. I'm not a young man any more.

I'm glad we planned things for me to arrive in Georgia a day early. I am not a girl anymore, and I'm simply exhausted after the events of the last few days. I want to be at my best when I see Mulder and Noble tomorrow.

I take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. I have a dangerous amount of cash on me because Silvia Hale doesn't have any credit cards-just a passport and a Michigan driver's license.

At the Embassy Suites I go to check in and the desk clerk tells me "Mrs. Hale, your husband made the reservation for tomorrow. I'm afraid the room isn't ready yet."

"Yes, I know, I finished my business trip early. I'll take a single for tonight and surprise him tomorrow."

"Very well, here's your room key. We'll call you in the morning and let you know when your suite is ready. Have a good stay Mrs. Hale."

"I'm sure I will, thank you." it feels so surreal to be called Mrs. Hale. Over the past few days I've tried to let it sink in that I have taken on the persona of Mulder's wife. That Dana Scully is dead and will probably have a memorial service later this week. Oh, my poor mom, what have I done? How is she going to take the news that her sole surviving daughter has been washed away by the Mississippi River?

And lest I forget, all of this is contingent upon the wedding announcement tucked into my overnight bag. Mulder might be meeting me here to tell me that he's marrying someone else and to have a nice life. Since he responded to my ad and made the reservation I am hoping and praying I am wrong, but my fear is overwhelming at times.

I feel an ache in my heart as I ride the elevator up to my hotel room. My mother has suffered so much loss. How cruel of me to put her through this yet again. At least Walter has promised to deliver the news himself. He's kind and he'll help my mother cope.

In the room I toss my overnight bag on the bed and sink down onto the bed next to it. I ache all over, and my head throbs with lack of sleep. Monica and I really had gone to Baton Rouge for a legitimate case, and had spent the first night on stakeout. It had been a mere 8 hours since my unfortunate accident. So I've had less than 4 hours sleep in the last 48 hours.

With what's left of my energy I toe my shoes off and curl up on the bed, glancing at the clock and considering setting the alarm. It's 4AM. Sleep overcomes me before my arm makes it to the button on the clock.

Where the hell am I? I sit up and look frantically around.

I regain my composure as I shake off the veil of sleep. I am at he Roswell Embassy Suites. I am Dana Scully, a dead FBI agent. I am Silvia Hale, and I have no idea who she is.

I rake a hand through my matted hair and pull my overnight bag towards me. Monica packed it from the suitcase I'd brought with me to Baton Rouge. It contains two linen shirts, a linen jacket, a pair of black pants and a black rayon skirt, along with toiletries and undergarments.

These are the clothes of a well-dressed professional. Who is Silvia Hale? Is she a career woman? A housewife? Who am I now that I no longer have a badge and gun to define me?

My mind latches on to a memory of Noble nursing from me breast, his tiny little fist kneading my skin as he gulped contentedly, his blue-gray eyes unfocused and fighting sleep. My heart constricts as I remember how warm and soft his skin was, how beautiful and delicate his features were.

Silvia Hale would not wear these clothes. Silvia Hale is a wife and a mother, and has the sudden urge for some nice comfy t-shirts from the Gap and maybe even some jeans. Perhaps Silvia will grow her hair out and wear it in a ponytail.

A little flutter of joy rises up in my heart. I am a blank canvas. I am free of expectation, of assumption and stereotype. Dana Scully is dead, and I can create Silvia Hale without the hands of the FBI or the consortium or even the Holy Catholic Church to guide me. I laugh out loud and let my clothes fall where they will as I strip them off, heading for the shower.

I let the hot water soak away my aches and pains and stay in the shower until the water begins to run tepid. I redress in my practical G-woman clothes and call for a cab to PeachTree Plaza. I want to buy Noble a surprise, and if there's a Victoria's Secret I might even get a little something to surprise Mulder. Even if there is a Diana Grace Wyndham in his life, I was there first. I have come to claim what is mine, and no LA socialite is going to stop me from trying.

After getting out of the Atlanta airport with Noble, our luggage, his diaper bag and car seat, I wonder as I pull up to the hotel if they'll send a wheelchair out to haul me in. Noble is napping fitfully in the back seat of our rental car, clutching his Elmo doll tightly in his arms.

It's almost 2pm, so we should be able to check into the suite by now. I'm hoping Noble will play quietly and let his old man get some rest. Scully should be here sometime tomorrow, and I want to be in better form than this when we meet.

There's no curbside wheelchair service but I am grateful for the bellhop who meets the car and puts the bags on a dolly so I don't have to haul them around anymore. With Noble's head tucked under my chin I go to the front desk.

"Good afternoon Mr. Hale. Your wife checked in early this morning, but your suite wasn't ready so she's in room 418. I tried to call her room about an hour ago and let her know your suite was ready, but she didn't answer the phone." The desk clerk says as she hands me two keycards.

My heart drops into my stomach. I'm elated at the prospect of seeing her again, but I don't want her to see me with two days of razor stubble and ketchup on my sleeve thanks to Noble. Oh yeah, I'd look like a worthy prize in exchange for all the things in life she just left behind.

"Really? I wasn't expecting her until tomorrow."

"She said her business trip ended early."

"Thanks," I manage around the lump in my throat. "I'll call her myself and surprise her."

The clerk laughed. "Funny, that's just what your wife said this morning."

I deposit Noble's sleeping form on the bed, pulling the blanket up around him. I pace the room for a few minutes. I want to call her, I'm afraid to call her. I love her, I want her, I'm losing my mind. She's one floor up from me and I can't bring myself to pick up the phone. What is she plans to just take Noble and leave? I can honestly say I'd rather die than lose my son.

I take a shower first and scrub away the grime of 36 hours of air travel. I'm on a budget now and had to take the cheapest flight with the most connections. How I miss having a Bureau expense account sometimes. Need a car, a suit, plane reservations? Charge it to good 'ole J. Edgar. Now it's Eddie Bauer if it's on sale and coach seats on the plane.

My poor little guy is really exhausted. He sleeps through my shower and the additional hour I spend pacing the room when I am done. Finally I gather my courage and dial Scully's room.

ring.ring.ring.ring. Dammit.

How could she not be there? I'm on the verge of tearing my hair out and she's not even in her room.

I sit on the bed across from Noble and watch him sleep, trying to hold my sanity and heart together.

I'm going to have to buy a suitcase before I leave Georgia. I'm sitting in the food court at PeachTree plaza with a battalion of shopping bags at my feet. I have jeans, leggings, chinos and soft cotton t-shirts from the Gap, a pair of sneakers, toys for Noble, and a lavender silk gown from Victoria's Secret that plunges so low in the back you can see my tattoo.

I changed out of my fibbie-wear in the dressing room and left the store in a yellow t-shirt and jeans, a casual pair of loafers on my feet. I feel a bit naked. I can't remember the last time I left the house in casual clothes. It's something I'll have to get used to. No more Donna Karan suits or Nine West shoes for me. I wonder what Monica will do with all my clothes. I can envision my wardrobe of carefully chosen, somber clothes on a Goodwill rack somewhere in Washington. I can envision my mother holding one of my shirts and sniffing the perfume, just like she used to do with an old sweater of Missy's, and tears well up in my eyes. I can't go there. I can't ever go back. If I keep thinking this way I'll lose my mind.

I've blown almost a grand at the mall and still have 24 hours before I expect Mulder will arrive. At least by the time I get back to the hotel I should be able to check into the suite he reserved and attempt to prepare myself for tomorrow.

I ring Scully's room every fifteen minutes for the next two hours and she doesn't answer. I'm going mad. I'm a ball of nerves, but I have to stay quiet as not to wake the little sleeping master. After praying for hours that he would fall asleep, I am overjoyed when he wakes up. I change his clothes and bundle him back into the car, hoping to blow a couple of hours at the mall. Perhaps by then Scully will be back.

I feed Noble lunch in the food court and buy him a Braves jersey and baseball cap. He also talks me into a Fisher Price spaceship and a Beanie Baby frog that he dubs Olivier. At the rate I'm spending money we're going to have to hitchhike back to Canada.

I want to get something for Scully, but I haven't a clue what would be appropriate. I stand in front of the jewelry store for a long time before Noble comments "Very pretty." as we watch a plate of loose diamonds spin lazily in the store window.

Finally I go in and buy a wedding ring to match my own, hoping it's the right size. Hoping more than anything to see it on Scully's finger before this day is over.

As Noble and I stand in line to buy ice cream out of the corner of my eye I see the back of a head of flame red hair, pinned up in a tortoise shell barrette. For a moment my blood surges and I swivel my head, but the figure in a yellow shirt and jeans exits through

the mall doors.

It just couldn't have been her. Scully wouldn't be caught dead in that outfit. I try to remember if I've ever seen Scully in jeans, and the answer is a resounding no. It definitely wasn't her.

Noble and I eat our ice cream and ride the carousel a couple of times before I decide to head back to the hotel. Of course, like the dumbass I am, I completely forgot about the Atlanta traffic until Noble and I are stuck in the middle of it. We spend the next hour and a half moving at a snail's pace down the interstate.

I stop at the hotel desk when I return to see if the suite is ready yet.

"Mrs. Hale, are you alright?" the desk clerk asks.

"Yes, I'm fine. You say my husband checked in this afternoon?" the handle of the shopping bag digs painfully into my palm. I hear the rush of my pulse roaring in my ears.

"Yes ma'am. He said he would call you himself, but I guess you were out. I gave him your passkey to your suite, but here's another one. I can have someone carry your bags up."

"No, thank you, I'll do it myself."

"Okay, just ring the desk when you get your things moved and I'll send someone up for the key to your room."

I nod absently. Mulder and Noble have been here all day while I was out shopping. I take the elevator up to my room and hastily throw my things back in my overnight bag, then go back down one floor and find the suite number. I mutter a quick prayer and slide my passkey through the lock. The light turns green and I push the door open.

I drop my bags at the door and just take it all in. The floor is scattered with toys-an Elmo doll and space ships and matchbox cars and rubber bugs and aliens. Hanging off the back of a chair is a little red hooded sweatshirt. I pick it up and hold it to my nose, inhaling the scent of little boy sweat and Johnson's baby shampoo. Tears well in my eyes. My little boy is so close. Oh God where are they?

Next in my hands is Mulder's shirt. The familiar smells of Bay Rum cologne and Mulder's own musky male scent overpower me and I feel my knees about to give. I sink down onto the bed, clutching the two articles of clothing to my chest. My world revolves around the two people who wear these garments. The wait for their return is agony. I suppose it's only just that I should have to wait after making Mulder wait for me all day.

I sit there lost in thought. Has Mulder told Noble anything about me? How do I introduce myself to my own child? Hello, I'm your mother. I know you don't know me from Adam but do you think you could love me?

I wonder what Noble looks like. I have never felt his loss more keenly than I do when I am so very close to holding him in my arms.

Mulder is another story altogether. How do I confront him about the wedding announcement? Will he still have enough respect and concern for me to be honest and bring it up first? For a moment I am gripped by fear, but a cursory glance around the room shows no female belongings. If there is a fiancée, he hasn't brought her with him. Thank God for small favors.

I don't hear the door open, but I nearly jump out of my skin when a small voice demands, "Who you, Lady?"

He is too beautiful and precious for me to absorb at once. He is wearing a Braves cap and clutching a plastic space shuttle, a smear of something chocolate on his chin.

And behind him stands Mulder, his left hand on Noble's small shoulder, his wedding ring glowing like the North Star. He's already married her, his fiancée named after the two dead princesses. I'm too late.

When I open the hotel room door I almost trip over a bag right next to the door. I stumble, and as I catch myself I look up in time to hear Noble say "Who you, Lady?" and see her sitting on the bed.

In a supreme gesture of debonair masculinity I just stand there for a minute and stare. She's wearing a yellow t-shirt and jeans, with her hair pulled back off her face. I'm aghast that we missed each other in the mall by ten seconds and I didn't recognize her.

She's lovely. Prettier than I remembered- softer, fresh-faced and looking so young. She looks no older than she did the first day I met her. Finally my brain begins to function again and my jaw snaps shut. I take Noble by his grubby little hand and walk him over to the bed, kneeling beside him.

"Noble, this lady's name is Silvia, and she's your mama, sweetheart," I explain to him.

Scully smiles, tears glittering in her eyes. "Hello, Noble." Her voice cracks and the tears trail down her cheeks. She cups his ice cream smeared chin in her hand. "You certainly are the most handsome little boy I ever met."

"Thank you," He says, his precocious vocabulary in full swing, "I got a new toy. Wanna see?" He holds the plastic Rescue Heroes shuttle out to her.

"Wow, this is very cool. Did Daddy buy you this?" She coos softly at Noble. I can see the restraint she is using not to overwhelm him with her desire to smother him with kisses. It cuts sharp and deep to realize that it will take time and patience, not just biology, to make a family of the three of us. I love her all the more for respecting Noble's feelings despite what must be a desperate desire to clutch him in her arms and never let him go.

"Yup. We went to mall. I got ice cream. And here's Olivier. You hold him, 'kay?" He gives Scully his slow, lazy grin and plops the frog in her lap. "Daddy, I wanna watch toons."

I open the sliding doors to the living room part of the suite and turn the TV on for Noble. He plops down and tunes out, leaving Scully and I to talk alone.

As I approach her I know in an instant that she has only come here for Noble. She's looking at me in that cool, detached manner in which she would read a field report or examine someone's stomach contents. I don't have a snowball's chance in hell with her. I am heartsick.

Mulder looks positively green around the gills when he sits a respectful distance away from me on the bed. Is that guilt or pity I see in his eyes? We sit in awkward silence for several moments, the sounds of the Animaniacs the only soundtrack to our pitiful


"You look great, Scully," He finally says, his eyes averted.

"So do you. Fatherhood agrees with you. You're doing a wonderful job with him, Mulder. He's so smart and outgoing..." I stop before my voice cracks with unshed tears. Losing them once was hard beyond words. Losing them again is unthinkably painful, like an

icy knife twisting in my womb.

We fall silent again. Looking anywhere but at each other. I can't look in his direction for fear of seeing that damned ring on his finger again.

"Scully, I don't want to lose Noble. He's my life. I know that you deserve to parent him. After all you've been through you deserve it more than anything in the world. Please, just don't take him away and never let me see him again," His voice pulls me like a magnet and I look up. His eyes are pleading and sincere.

"How does your wife feel about this?" I ask, nearly choking on the word wife.

"Wife?" Mulder spits out.

He looks shocked. Maybe I was wrong...oh God, could I have been so wrong?

"Scully, my god, I'm not married. I realize you only came here to be with Noble, but I'd hoped you were coming here for both of us."

My mind does a double take. Not married? I get up and go to my overnight bag, pulling out the now tattered newspaper with the engagement announcement. I drop it in his lap.

"If this isn't you then why is that ring on your finger?"

I want to slap him when he gives a strangled chuckle. "Oh Jesus, me marry a woman named Diana? Besides, I don't even live in Los Angeles, I live-we live-in Canada. Scully, I wear this ring so people know I'm taken. I wear it to feel married to you," he puts the paper aside and pulls a ring box from his jacket pocket. "I bought you one too, hoping you would want to wear it."

I open the box and in it is a matching platinum band. The absurdity of our misunderstanding is worthy of a bad Shakespearian play. I laugh out loud, tears of relief running down my cheeks.

"Mulder, I didn't come here to take Noble away from you. I came here to find out why you were marrying someone else and hopefully talk you out of it. I love you."

Mulder stands and looms over me for a moment, tears wetting his own eyes. He lightly touches my hair, then runs the pads of his fingers along the sides of my face before dropping to his knees and wrapping his arms around my waist, burying his face in my abdomen. I run my fingers through his hair, clutching the ring box in one hand and listening to him whisper my name over and over again. I know this is the last time we will be Mulder and Scully. We will leave here George and Silvia Hale, and I treasure this last moment of being able to hear him say my name with the passion that only he is capable of.

I stand and take the ring box from Scully's trembling hand. I know that we don't have the luxury of even being Mulder and Scully in private-we can't risk slipping in public or letting Noble learn our real names. Though George and Silvia are legally married-there is even a marriage certificate-I want to make this vow to her using our true names.

I slip the ring on her finger. It's a little loose but it will have to do.

"Dana Katherine Scully, with this ring and with my life's breathe I vow to love, honor, and protect you through sickness and health, joy and pain, until death steals me away from you."

She trembles and sobs. I catch her to me, holding her to my chest and swaying with her. She's as light as a feather in my arms. Her hair still smells of lavender. There is no freaking way I'm going to ever let her go again.

When she pulls away she takes my left hand and kisses the wedding ring on my finger. "I promise you my life, my loyalty, my love. I promise you everything that I have and everything I am until Heaven ceases to exist." She smiles then, that wide, sensual smile that only the people closest to her are gifted with.

She laces her fingers with mine and I pull her back to me, murmuring "I now pronounce us man and wife," before bringing my mouth to hers and claiming her for my own.

The kiss is long and lingering and nourishes my soul, filling and completing me. I am kissing my wife and my son is happily playing in the next room. This is really as good as it gets.



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