The baby stirs and wakes and lets out a thin, hitching cry. The mother breathes in, slips from the bed. The father turns onto his back.
It is just a little past three a.m. It is their first night home.
Mulder thinks: so this is how it begins.
He means several things. He is thinking, on one level, that he'd better get used to waking up this way. He is thinking of the tremulous and insistent sound of his son's hungry crying. He is thinking of Scully, watching through half-lidded eyes as she gets up, as she lifts the baby from his bassinet and holds him against her shoulder, as she settles back against her pillow, unbuttoning her pajamas.
How new this is for her. How strange to see her like this.
They have a baby. He listens to the small snicks and grunts as the baby nurses. He thinks: so this is how it begins.
Scully leans back against the headboard and lets her head fall to the side. Mulder can see her eyes glint toward him through the darkness.
"Hey, Mom," he whispers, reaching out to tug gently on the baby's miniature foot. This makes Scully smile. Her hand slides across his pillow to sift through his hair. He smiles and rolls toward her, pretending to go back to sleep with her hand captured beneath his cheek. She lets out a soft, silent laugh, but doesn't move. The baby is asleep against her chest.
"I guess I'm trapped," she says. He smiles against her hand, turning his head to kiss her open palm.
"That you are," he murmurs. He takes a deep, wonderful breath, and lets it out slowly.
Then, taken by impulse, he pushes himself up on his arm and leans over them, nuzzling close to the sleeping baby, drinking in the smell of them - the warm, milky, powder-and-sweet-skin smell of mother and child. My God, he thinks, there's nothing like it. The tip of his nose grazes the baby's soft cheek; their eyelashes mingle and flutter. Mulder breathes against Scully's bare breast, presses his lips to her taught skin. Her hand squeezes the back of his neck gently.
"Here," she says, shifting slightly. "Scoot over..."
She lays the baby on the bed between them and settles back down so that they surround him like parentheses. Propped up on their elbows, they lay and watch as their son sleeps.
Just the thought sends small thrills down Mulder's spine, grabbing him deep in his gut. He reaches between them and takes Scully's hand in his own.
They are silent, watchful, excited, glancing at one another from time to time, eyes bright with wonder. They don't ask the hard questions now. They don't talk about the future. As far as Mulder is concerned - and who is to say it isn't so? - at this very moment, everything is right with the world.
He hasn't felt like this for quite some time.
When the baby begins to snore, they are both surprised, and let out quickly hushed snorts of laughter.
"Wonder where that comes from," Scully whispers, and Mulder looks up at her evocative smile. He can only grin. From me, he wants to say, feeling a warm glow emanate from in his chest. It comes from me...
He laces his fingers through hers. Here is the proof, he thinks, smiling broadly. Here is the truth.
He sees them from somewhere outside himself - sees them as if from above - and he blinks dizzily. He thinks: What prepares you for this?
He looks at Scully. She is smiling down at the sleeping baby, a sleepy smile, her face a mirror of the infant's sated exhaustion. Dim moonlight comes through the bedroom windows to illuminate the delicate landscape of her face.
"Is this amazing to you?" he asks, watching the shadows play on her cheekbones. His voice is hushed, husked. He can feel the moment dawning; the promise of time yawns like a glittering cavern around them. "Do you see this? Can you get your head around this?"
Scully smiles. She looks unreal, ethereal, serene, her eyes reflecting the moonlight softly as she looks up at him.
"I've had some time to get used to the idea," she says. Mulder smiles, taking the baby's hand, tiny shrimp-like fingers curled tight, and presses the perfect fist to his own lips. He closes his eyes a moment, then looks up at her again.
"But this -" he starts softly, feeling the moment swell to embrace them, stealing his voice. It is as though his nerve-endings reach beyond his own body - like he is feeling and breathing for all of them - like his heart beats for all of them -
"I know," Scully says, watching him through the darkness. She leans carefully forward to kiss his lips.
Mulder thinks of his own parents and wonders: did they bring him home and lie awake like this? Was there a time when they felt this way about him? Did they love him like this?
Did they love each other like this?
He watches as Scully drifts toward sleep again, and thinks: there was a time when he didn't even know her... a time before he knew he loved her.
And this idea is as incredible to him as the small miracle nestled snugly between them.
It is after four a.m. Scully yawns deeply.
"You should sleep," Mulder says. His pinky finger traces the edge of his son's dimpled arm. "He'll want to eat again in another hour or so."
She nods and hums and yawns again, laying her head on her upper arm. She looks up and their eyes meet. Her hand tightens on his.
"I wish we could stop right here," she says, "Mulder -"
Her eyes glitter at him. "I wish there was some way to capture this -"
"Shhhh," he says, smiling at her. She smiles back.
Then she turns back to the sleeping baby, and is lost in admiration.
Mulder remains awake after Scully has drifted back to sleep, the baby lying on his chest. He feels the past and the future spread out around them like ether, suspending the moment, crystalline, brief as a soap bubble. He knows that, in the moment, he is blessed.
He thinks: this is only the beginning...