Title: Mulder's Son

Author: jrfpatton

Feedback: jrfpatton@hotmail.com

Archive: At your pleasure. Let me know.

Rating: PG13


Summary: An attempt to answer Scully's question about why the aliens didn't take the child they came for. Perhaps the baby is exactly what they thought he was.

Disclaimer - These characters are owned by Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox.


Mulder's Son

With the benefit of hindsight, FBI Special Agent Dana Scully thinks she probably began the process of granting his wish like the genie in the rug merely by letting him know she was happy to be with him. Little details, clues, loom so large in her mind now. She should have known. Certainly she set the stage with new props by sharing her experiences with an old lover. She hadn't planned to do that exactly; it just seemed natural to tell her best friend and partner about an experience that changed her life and the rest, well, that was a by-product.

It happened just as she'd once told someone else it would: she turned and looked at Fox Mulder in a different light -- the light from his fish tank if she recalled correctly. She had heaved a big sigh of relief as though that particular vision resolved a number of basic questions. Her work partner had turned to her, seen her smile and become, in fact as well as theory, her life partner.

Whatever sparked it, after that night the way she viewed everything else seemed askew. Life became more exciting, more interesting -- even though they stayed the same for all intents and purposes. She and Mulder worked together in comfortable partnership, bantered, fought, complained, dodged bullets both physical and metaphorical. No one would ever guess they had become lovers; sometimes she had to remind herself. It became the natural order of things as unremarkable as the sea at storm or a perfect winter snowfall. Even in airplanes or long car trips they did nothing more than hold hands occasionally or lean against each other in weariness or for comfort. They stayed in separate motel rooms --most of the time. Mulder lived in his apartment; she lived in hers --more often than not. Every time they visited they still knocked on the door instead of using the keys they had given each other - - unless they were in a hurry.

Or he came to love her.

Those nights Mulder underlined in red, tinged with the gold of exhilaration and a little black fear. On those nights he overwhelmed her. She forgot herself. She became sixteen, unable to speak, act or think in a rational manner. She loved all their times together, but especially the times she would look back and marvel that she didn't know him - or herself.

On those nights Scully would walk in to find Mulder standing in her apartment, arms by his side, his eyes dark and dangerous. On those nights she would jerk awake to find him leaning over her as she slept. Once she came out of the shower to find him nearly naked in her bedroom. She caught her breath quick and shallow -- first from surprise, then desire. Without a word he walked up to her, his eyes pinning her to the spot, removed the towel she had wrapped around her slick body, and taken her to himself. Another night she had just left him in the street when she heard his footsteps outside her door and knew why he'd followed her. On those nights he seemed stuck dumb --unable or unwilling to risk uttering more than a few words: "Here!""Yes!" "More!" Or "Sculleee!"

Someday, someday soon, they would have to talk further.

The day, or rather the night, arrived before she was ready. This time he knocked on her door. He seemed intense, nervous. He looked as she always felt the morning after one of those nights. Not uncomfortable, but not quite at ease either. Concern furrowed her forehead; she invited him in.

"I have something for you," he said. He looked like he felt ridiculous. "You probably ...it's a family thing. I've had it..for some time."

She nodded, feeling rather awkward. He took her hand and placed a silver ring in her palm. Double rings, actually, secured by what looked like a double helix. They resembled in miniature the two magic rings that she had played with as a child and tried to separate. Her brothers knew the secret of separating the rings, but she never could figure it out.

"Magic rings?"

"Sort of screams 'Mulder', doesn't it?"

She grinned.

"Uh, it's for a baby blanket. You wrap the child up and fasten the blanket through these loops. It's a very...it's a rare metal. It protects the baby."

It took her a long time to speak. Her hurt was so deep, the pain so profound. "I won't need it. You know that, Mulder."

Gentle pressure on her upper arms brought her eyes to

his. "You will, Scully. You said once they gave you cancer so

I would believe--"

"That was cruel -- and untrue."

"The in vitro didn't work for a reason. Your child was meant to be conceived another way so you would believe."

"In what?" It was barely a whisper.

He drew himself to her, his lips so close they moved against her ear, "In what we can do together."

She wanted to believe. God, she wanted to. After that night she would almost believe in anything, sacrifice anything.

In the morning she expected he would be gone. They couldn't seem to stay together. He always was gone by morning. Or she was. Gone to his apartment, her familiar role, their protective overcoats of routine. Instead, she felt him next to her on the bed before she opened her eyes. He was propped on one elbow; the other arm lay across her bare stomach. The morning sun through the window behind him nearly blinded her. She squinted to try to discern his features. He seemed eerie, transparent around the edges. With open pleasure she watched his reverent strokes across her body -- and when his hand moved lightly over one breast she couldn't hold a sharp intake of breath. His fingertips across her lips hushed her.

"I've come to love you. I-I didn't think--that it was possible. It was never my intention or purpose."

Her eyes grew wider. He seemed so strange, almost spirit and not flesh. As though he could read her mind, he brushed her mouth with his. Proof of the man, not the spirit.

She started to ask what he meant.

"Incredible." He tasted her again almost experimentally, then said, "I see how it's possible to lose your true purpose."

She had dismissed it. "You have too much integrity and natural curiosity."

"You mean I'm obsessed, don't you?" He smiled, brushing the hair off her face. "You love the man you believe I am."

In the months after his abduction she would be comforted by the feel of his hands that morning, his kisses, and that she alone of all the earth knew it was possible to be one and still two.

In the months following his return she deflected the pain of his indifference with her unspoken beliefs.

When she was alone she would take out the rings, hold them to the light, and practice lacing the edges of a yellow receiving blanket through the loops.

"What do they want with my baby?" Scully had been leaning on her hand listening to Mulder discuss the fire at Dr. Parenti's clinic and his run-in with Alex Krycek and Billy Miles. She was curled up in an overstuffed chair. In front of her Mulder sat on a footstool and tried to explain his ideas. Through her fear Scully tried to understand why everyone in the universe seemed to want this child except the father.

"I can't begin to fathom Krycek's motives," said Mulder. "You have to figure out where the money is, where the power is before you know where his loyalties lie."

"And Billy . . ." She chewed on the knuckles of her fist.

"He is what I would have been if you and Skinner hadn't intervened," Mulder said.

She shrugged. "Mulder, there's nothing in his medical

exam or his physiology to indicate--"

"Why did he attack me? Why burn the clinic?"

Now she shook her head. "We have no proof he burned the clinic. Perhaps he attacked you because he was scared. You of all people should know he's been through a traumatic experience. "

"I haven't attacked anyone -- all right, Doggett. Once."

"You chose to retreat." She hadn't meant to say that. She bit her lip, but it was too late. He swung his head toward her, his body quivering with insult.

She dropped her eyes and turned away from him as he had turned from her. He exploded off the stool. "Get packed. Let's get out of here, Scully. I want to take you someplace safe."

"I can't start running. It will never stop."

"I can't protect you here," Mulder said.

"I will protect myself."

"Do you want to?"

"Is that the question of the hour or is there another?"

Mulder's mouth opened slightly in surprise. "There is no question."

She stayed quiet with great difficulty. After a moment she said, "Why is this happening?"

Mulder seemed embarrassed, but he plunged ahead, "I thought the IVF failed."

"It was just as you said, a miracle. A miracle we made."

"A miracle we made?"

Scully studied her hands. "I know your abduction left

you with many gaps ---"

"Gaps, not continental divides."

She smiled. "The IVF wasn't the way this child was meant to be conceived. That kept me a believer."

"A believer? In what?"

She shook her head sadly.

His cell phone interrupted and she seized on the chance to get to the bathroom. When she came out Mulder said," Skinner has Krycek."

She reached for her shoes and started for the door.

"Too risky, Scully. Doggett is on his way over, " he said. "Just stay here. You've got your weapon --keep it close. Here, let me hoist you onto the couch."

"I will pilot my own gunboat," she said. Her back hurt from the soft pillowed back of the chair. "Aren't you going?"

He rocked back and forth on his heels. "In a minute."

Scully put her hands on her hips. "You don't believe I can take care of myself?"

"Didn't we just have this discussion?" For a moment he stared: damned if he did and damned if he didn't. "Lock the door," he said.

She grunted her approval and padded behind him to the door.

He stopped, his back to her. His shoulders and neck went rigid, then slumped before he turned back to look at her. "Scully..." His eyes were a liquid chocolate, sweet and warm pouring over her. He reached out for a strand of her hair and let it play through his fingers. She closed her eyes and leaned against his hand. He opened his palm to cradle her cheek. "Scully.." He looked as though he wanted to kiss her, or to tell her something. He appeared torn between what he wanted and what he needed to do.

She decided for him. Scully drew her weapon from its holster on the table near the door. "Go."

He hesitated only a moment more; she locked the door behind him. Her apartment seemed large, threatening, too many corners to defend. She gripped the gun handle tighter and her hands grew sweaty. How long, she wondered, before she heard anything, before Doggett arrived.

Perhaps her sense of time had warped with her body. It seemed Mulder had been gone hours. If she were being truthful she wasn't afraid for herself, but she became anxious every time he was out of sight. She jumped when someone banged on the door.

"Scully!" She peeked through the hole and unlocked the door in surprise.


"I have to talk to you. I don't think we have much time," Mulder said. He sat down quickly on the couch and as she made to join him he said, "Don't leave your gun."

That made her brow crease, but she went back to the table and picked up the weapon again.

Mulder watched her come to him with a grin. "You are so beautiful. So beautiful."

Scully stared down in amazement. Mulder seemed himself, but not the same.

His smile vanished. "Do you remember Dr. Parenti's office the day you saw all those jars with fetuses in them?"

"I'm not certain they were fetuses, but I remember."

"And Mrs. Hendershot's baby in the back of the van?"

She nodded.

"Dead," he said.

"Who? Mrs. Hendershot's son?"

"All of them."

She squared around to him. "What do you mean all?"

"Parenti. His associates. All the fetuses from Parenti's that were transplanted into the wombs of barren women. Those children died a month or two after birth."

"From what? What killed them?"

He shrugged. "SIDS. Pneumonia. Encephalitis. The point is, they were experiments. Failed experiments."

"Whose? Parenti?"

Mulder shook his head as though to clear it. "He was one of the government scientists trying to perfect -- well, that's the wrong word --come up with a satisfactory human/alien crossbreed."

She thought her heart would explode from the effort of keeping her blood moving through her body. It seemed too much trouble. "Did Krycek tell you this?"

"Krycek only knows half of it." Mulder moved a little closer to her on the couch. "Scully, he and Billy Miles believe you carry the successful crossbreed. "

"But Parenti's IVF failed!"

"I know that. They don't. This child is not a failed experiment."

Scully's eyes flitted around the room, buying time to process this information, these things she had tried so hard not to think about for so many months. She drew air from far away and filled her lungs with it before she asked, "How do you know?"

Mulder took her hand. It lay cold,lifeless, clasped tightly in his. "I missed you. Sometimes I came to you. They didn't understand, of course. Nor would I, a year ago. But I couldn't touch you, couldn't let you know I was there. It was almost worse than not seeing you at all."

"Sometimes, in the beginning, I would sense you with me, calling. . .. Always in pain," she said. She closed her eyes against the memory and felt his arm go around her.

"Did you believe me when I told you I loved you?"

She nodded.

"When I told you I hadn't intended..."

"It was not your purpose. . ." She remembered every minute of that morning and for no reason she could pinpoint she began to chill.

He put his forehead against the side of her face and inhaled her scent softly through his nose. "The child is ours. And he is perfect. The first of many." He felt her stiffen in his arms. He held on for dear life. "My orders were to impregnate you. Instead, I --."

She made a noise: it may have been his name or just a cry of dismay.

"We have tried with others, other women. I didn't know what made it possible this time. Maybe it's your exposure to the virus, your immune system, your physiology." Her struggles became more violent. Releasing her, Mulder slipped away before she could move and stood in front of the window. "Put the gun in your hand. Feel safe, in control."

Behind his body the setting sun made the ridges of his body seem transparent as it had that morning so many months ago. His face began to turn darker, to melt and re-form, to stretch and reshape, until at last Mulder shifted into an alien rebel --its eyes and mouth sewn shut as protection against the black oil infection of the alien colonists.

Scully sprang to her feet, feeling the swell of her belly follow her a millisecond later. For a moment she feared the nausea of terror would defeat her. Then experience and training took over. She assumed the shooter's stance and watched in horror as the alien rebel took a step toward her. "Stop!"

The alien stood and seemed to draw itself up taller in the reddish glow from the window. Instead of advancing, the creature held out a misshapen hand. In the middle lay a narrow silver band, a mate to the double helix rings looped in a yellow receiving blanket in her bedroom.

Scully dropped the gun to her side and approached slowly, her mouth open just enough to grab the air she needed. As she drew closer the alien extended the ring. Alert for any sign of danger, Scully picked up the single silver band. The alien flesh was dry as parchment to her touch. She held ring in her palm for a moment, feeling its strange weight and warmth. The creature had not moved. Impulsively she slipped the ring over the top of her thumb. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears.

Out in the hall, two by-passers laughed out loud.

"I'm not afraid," Scully said. "But I can't talk to you like this." She stepped back and watched the transformation reverse itself. The Mulder in front of her flexed his hands and raised his eyes to hers.

"Where is Mulder?"

"Probably at the bureau."

"And if I called him there?"

"You know you don't need to," The alien rebel walked behind the couch, keeping furniture and distance between them. He laced his fingers together, balanced himself on his toes and waited. "You never believed your eyes until he was taken. Maybe that's why it was so easy."

"To mislead me? To use me? To make me believe you were Mulder?" She ashamed of how easily it was done.

He appeared puzzled, almost stricken, then relieved.

"That's pride!"

Now she was furious. "Pride has nothing to do with it!"

"You were willing, eager--Why would your pride..."

"You aren't listening."

"I'm not understanding."

Perhaps it was the way he said it -- that boyish look in his eyes, true amazement on his face, the bewildered eyes.

Scully realized he didn't know. He had no idea why she felt so

stupid and foolish and betrayed. "To love one man and have a

child by another--"

"I am the same man."

"Are you?" She snorted, poised for flight.

"His experiences are mine." He looked chagrined.


"Ah," she said. "That's a good word for all this, isn't it? Practical."

Mulder seemed incredulous. "You aren't talking about emotions and logic in the same sentence are you?"

"People do." Her cheeks burned.

"You don't," he said. "Why are you angry? If it isn't pride -- you are angry, aren't you?"

"Of course!"

"Why? Is it because your beliefs are challenged? Because you cannot run this quickly under a microscope? Don't you have everything you want?"

"I had an illusion."

"And this makes you angry? Many people live lifetimes without the comfort of illusions."

"I hate being used. Being a-a-thing, an experiment, a test tube!"

"Did I ever make you feel that way?"


"Now?" His eyebrows knitted in concentration. "Mulder makes you happy. I saw evidence of all of this." His voice, his expression-- he looked as though he were cataloguing emotions and definitions or making notes for a test at school. "You will be happier still."

And suddenly she was more frightened than she had ever been in her life. She had to lock her knees to remain standing. "What is this baby? Oh God, what is it?"

"The child is more human than alien ... its DNA, appearance... He is.."


"A son." Mulder smiled. "Mulder's son. Do you feel disappointed? Did you want the ultrasound to be wrong? Did you want a female child?"

She shook her head.

He sat on the edge of the sofa. "Sit with me?" Scully hesitated but in the end it was her trembling legs that made the decision. She sank onto the cushion. "Your ankles are swelling again. Gotta stay off your feet, Scully." He put a throw pillow on the coffee table, leaned over, picked up her feet and set them on the pillow.

Scully watched in awe. She couldn't stretch her mind around it all: Mulder who was not Mulder propping up the feet of Scully who was more than Scully.

She started when he pulled off her shoes and clucked in dismay at what he found. "My assignment, of course, was to sire the child cooperatively. Others tried rape, arranged marriages, IVF. Many things. Nothing worked. Maybe it was the hormones and chemicals released during a willing -- we never considered that. That humans produce more when they are ..."

"Oh, God." She rubbed her forehead with one hand and, as an afterthought, jerked her feet away from him.

"Now it is the avenue being explored, anyway." He paused, then added, " Maybe it was dumb luck."

"Dumb luck?"

"Maybe it was our chemistry." She made a noise of disgust, and scrambled away on the couch, putting a sofa cushion between them. His sigh sounded like disappointment or perhaps even dismay. "We need a hybrid to enable human beings to withstand the coming plague. And it is coming, Scully. You know that." He sighed. "We can not stop it forever. With luck it will be termed part of evolution in human history."

"True humanity will be like dinosaurs."

He started to protest, paused, then it dawned on him, "Oh, you're being pedantic. Are humans today anything like the apes they came from?"

After a while she conceded, "I suppose not."

"None of us could tolerate the abominations created by your government scientists. The colonists would permit no mingling of the cultures, races. Our own rebel experiments... it was so useless. Then, we felt we had a window of opportunity. You-you aren't going to cry, are you, Scully?"

"I could shoot you instead," she said, trying to decide in her own mind which would give her the most satisfaction.

Mulder actually smiled. "I am telling you what I was given to understand. I've already told you what become of it."

"Became of it?"

Reaching over slowly he caressed her cheek on one finger. She pulled back. "You know that I came to understand.

Now I am trying to help you do the same. Your intellect is

warring with your human emotions. It's a pretty sight, but not

something we can use right now. The colonists know about your

pregnancy. They believe it to be another failed experiment or

--what would be worse for them --a successful rebel hybrid

instead of a replicant human designed by them and responsible

to them. We succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. You and

I. Think Superman here, Scully."

"What?" She felt a disloyalty then. Worse than the rebel's treachery, or her own need betraying her. She was conceding something about her son that she never meant to acknowledge, never wanted. Feared.

"We believe now the child is more, better, greater than either of his parents -- and isn't that what you always said-- that parents want their child to be better than they were?"

"That has to do with ethics, morals, intellect ---"

"Ah. And so it does!"

Scully's eyes widened. "But... how?"

"What exactly did they teach you in that medical school?

Or were you absent that day?"

She pursed her lips and waved her hand in dismissal. "I

know how --"

"Your unique exposure to the virus, your genetics, your

knowledge of our work, your barren state, the chip that

prevents your cancer is also.." He paused. "It all played a

part. And you wanted a child. Once we chose you as the mother

for this experiment, it became natural to assume Mulder's

shape. To become him. I am uniquely qualified to create life

with you, with your particular ---"

"Are you a hermaphrodite?" The question sickened her. It would mean the child was not truly hers or Mulder's.

"Like a worm?" His face twisted in disgust. "Ugh. I am...tuned to you. As Mulder is."

He reached out and kissed the ring on her thumb. And she allowed it. "We have no words for love or hate or laughter or sadness. Strong feelings, emotions -- we know nothing of them. That is the essential difference between our cultures. It wasn't until I had to live in a human body for extended periods that emotions began to affect me." Mulder smiled. "Now I can't imagine living without them, without you. Do you want a pillow for your back?"

She shook her head. "God!"

"He will be there for you."


"Mulder." He grimaced. "I can't speak for the Other."

"I have some...Mulder and I will have to start over."


"So much between us is -- a lie."

The alien rebel smiled then bowed his head. "There was another reason you were chosen: so much between you is true. He always will come to you, be with you, if you ask."

"I can't ask. Not now." Her voice was very small and sad.

"He believes in you. He will love this child."

"As an X-File."

"As his son."

"It is not his child."

"It is your son-- and his in all ways that are important to him."

She worried the ring.

Finally, he said, "If you can not do this for yourself or for the child, do it for Mulder. He needs everything you want to give."

The room was still. The alien stood, walked to the

window and glanced out. He became agitated. "Scully! Billy


Scully grabbed for her shoes. "Who is he?"

Mulder raced into the nursery and swooped up the yellow blanket with the rings. "We aren't sure. We have to find out. But he is coming for you. He has not decided."

"Decided? Back stairs."

Mulder nodded. He seemed to be talking to himself. "We aren't strong yet...as strong as the colonists and those who serve them. He may be one of those who search--or one of their destroyers." He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the door. "I will take you to Mulder. They will not kill him."

She meant to ask why. But she never had the opportunity. He bundled her down the back stairs, his hand on her back urging her forward, faster. She had one fleeting thought that he knew just how to touch her as Mulder did-- and realized she believed him. All of it. Even the part she scarcely knew how to believe. Even though she didn't know if she could believe. He held his hand over her head so she wouldn't bump her head as she lowered herself into the passenger side of the car.

"Billy is close," Mulder said as he slid into the driver's seat.

"Are there others like him?" Scully checked the side view mirror. Billy Miles stood on the step glaring at them as they drove away.

Mulder smiled as he glanced into the rearview mirror. "Slaves to the colonists. Human replicants waiting for freedom. Hybrids without enough." He checked the mirror again.


"Enough emotions. And just enough human memory, human DNA..many of them hate what they have become, what they are. Only part human-- Scully!"

He slammed on the brakes, but it was too late. The car careened into a Toyota that had stopped suddenly. Scully had no time to brace herself before she heard the screech of metal against metal, felt the impact, and knew the suspension of time that marked the start of shock. The seatbelt cut into her abdomen. Her head whipped to the side and she felt a sharp edge scrap her forehead. She must have made a noise -- a cry or moan. She heard Mulder wrench open his door and run to her side. More metal being pulled, protesting, screaming. He cooed to comfort her, slid his hands under her and lifted her out of the car. A balding man in a blue sweater appeared by the passenger door. He stared at them, fixing on Scully.

"You could have killed us!" Mulder shouted.

The man reached up on Scully's forehead. He could have been taking her temperature or examining her wound. Instead, Scully felt him make a circle on her head with her blood.

Scully felt relief in the way the taut muscles in Mulder's arms eased.

"Put me down," she said.

"Is she the one or must we look for another," the man said.

Scully tried to wiggle away, to burrow further into Mulder's embrace, away from the man's blank, penetrating stare. Mulder said, "This baby will be born."

"This way," said the man. He directed them across the street to an apartment building. As they hurried toward the building, the man handed Mulder a key. He opened the front door, paused to gaze at Scully and, without a word, returned to the car crash.

"108, 109," Mulder carried Scully down the front hall.


"I can walk."

He set her down carefully and shoved the key in the door. The lights flicked to reveal a small apartment furnished with contemporary art and Danish modern furniture.

Mulder groaned. "These are the most uncomfortable chairs and sofas. How could anybody buy this stuff?"

"Who is he?" She held one hand on her side. It had begun to throb.

"A seeker. He looks for truth and destroys the rest. Like me. Like Mulder. Like you. Here... " He pushed a chair up and when she sat down he shoved a table under her feet. "Are you bruised or broken? Shall I boil water?" He scoffed at the chair. "Look at this construction! No back support."

She gawked at him. "Actually I could use some warm water. I think the accident bruised a rib." She began to unbutton her shirt. "Heat. Something warm to hold against it." Mulder jumped up, vanished, and was gone only a short time before returning with a hot compress. He opened her shirt carefully to reveal a discoloration forming over a rib. It surprised her to see a bruise popping up so soon after the accident. Or was it a long time after the accident. She held back the shirt and he eased the compress on it.

"Once he is born.." Mulder began.

"Is this what my life is to be -- running, hiding, being afraid for my son?"

He said nothing.

Scully licked her lips. Tears stood in her eyes. "I don't know if I can do this --or if it's really worth doing."

Mulder walked away from her. "I was not always certain.

I began to doubt the wisdom of the rebel cause, this course.

As Mulder I had seen so much of the world -- your world -- and I

began to question if all our efforts to save it had

significance. That it was worthwhile. Or possible. I had spent

so much time in his body, his mind, you see --"

"--you became him in essence as well as form."

Mulder grinned. "I stood in the chamber as he was examined. He has more of our genome than any other human we've studied -- did you know that? More than any other human. It was all the others could think about. That's one of the reasons they will not kill him. I heard him scream for you until his voice was gone, and even then his lips formed your name. They dismissed it. They had heard others call out so -- but that's all I could think about." His smile was sad. "I was reborn a rebel in that chamber. Another of Mulder's sons, you might say."

He put his hand over hers and together they kept the compress in place. He stared at her side, finally moving his fingers off hers and around her stomach until he spread them across her womb. They remained silent until he said, "Scully, childbirth--it seems to be an agony. Will you suffer?"

"Some," she said at last.

"Are you frightened?"

"My God --after all this . . ." She looked at his worried expression. "It is forgotten when the child is born.. so my mother tells me. She went through it four times."

They went quiet again, an easy peace between them. Mulder reached beside the chair and handed her phone receiver shaped like a cow horn. He stared at it, his lips curling in distaste. "This man should not be given money to spend."

Scully almost laughed. "An ally, nonetheless."

"You must call Mulder. He will be worried. We are...allies?"

"Allies?" Now she could not suppress a chuckle. "I think you could say we are."

"You love the man you believe I am," he said and her heart clenched to realize it was just so. For her, that was the truth of it.

He reached into his pocket and took out a pen. In the white space of an ad on the back of a magazine on the coffee table he drew a crude fish. "Know what this is?"

"The early church used it as a code, a secret identification -- a way to recognize a safe house or a fellow believer during times of persecution," she said.

" We will know your son by the rings and, when he is older, by the work he does."

He got up.

"Mulder..." She stopped. "That isn't your name. What do they call you?"

He paused. "Who?"

"At home."

He shook his head, but his eyes sparkled. "Would you like to know what they call you... at home?" He hesitated, then he put her name into the air like a blessing. "Eve."

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