Title: The Secret Language of Babies
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Spoilers: Requiem, otherwise just general past season mentions.
Classification: MSR, S, Mulder POV
Keywords: Mulder/Scully Romance. Baby.
Summary: Mulder's turn to get up with the baby.
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen, FOX, etc. I mean no infringement, and I am receiving no remuneration for writing this.
Author's notes: This is a stand-alone piece, not a part of my "Another Gray Morning" series. I need him home as much as Scully does!
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The Secret Language of Babies
I may be the savior of the world, but I still have to take my turn getting up with the baby. I hear him on the monitor, knowing his coos will turn to yowls if I don't go tend to his needs soon.
I leave the side of my first bundle of joy, who stretches and murmurs a little before subsiding into sleep again. I drop a kiss on her cheek before I roll out of bed. I know what a lucky man I am.
Will is staring at the doorway as I enter his room. I can see the gleam of his eyes in the nightlight. He stops making noises as I approach and gives me a gummy smile, his few teeth winking here and there as he works his mouth. His face is open and trusting. So far, nothing and no one has given him any reason to believe that the big people he knows would do him harm. Except, of course, for the one in the white coat who sometimes pokes him with sharp things. I hope it may always be so, though I also know that disbelief and distrust can be allies, and will come to him in time. Hard lessons which I will do my best to delay for as long as possible.
I am still amazed at his acceptance of me, especially considering I didn't become a part of his life until he was several months old.
Oh, I was around before that, but between my recovery and quarantine, I wasn't allowed around anyone not wearing a biohazard suit for quite some time. And since Scully hadn't yet given birth, and there were no suits that fit her in that state, I could only see her through the glass of the containment facility. Talk about frustration! I know I'm never a good patient, but I think I set a new standard for myself, once I was conscious and realized where I was. The list of facilities where they'd like to refuse me treatment just grows and grows.
"Da-da-da-da!" Will says happily as I lean over him. In this instance, I translate his words to mean, "Oh boy, Daddy, we're going on the night tour of the house!"
Before we do that, however, I check his diaper and do the changing ritual, with which, for once, he cooperates. I give him a running commentary in a low voice all the while, not really thinking about what I'm saying, knowing that the tone of my voice means more to him that the words I say. He punctuates my comments with a few of his own. I wonder, half seriously, if we might have understood each other better when I was first returned.
See, when they first found me, I wasn't speaking any recognizable language. Scully told me it was a while before anyone thought to record what I was saying. They got fragments of it, and they're working on a translation of what little they captured. Not long after that, I lapsed into a coma and when I finally came out of it, I spoke normally. I'm pretty sure my first words were, "Where's Scully?", followed closely by "Get me the fuck out of here!"
I, of course, can't remember any of it. It's like the secret language of babies. Once they learn human speech, the knowledge of their first language leaves them, never to be regained. The same holds true for me. Whatever I learned of Their language, it left me once I was returned. Who knows, maybe They have some way to re-activate that ability when it suits them. It's just one more thing we don't know, and at present have no way of finding out.
Diaper duty done, I pick my son up and hold him against my shoulder. We head downstairs for the kitchen in search of a midnight snack. Lately, I've been encouraging Scully to pump her breast milk for Will's nighttime feedings so she can get a full night's sleep. She doesn't always agree, but this has been a grueling week for her. Will takes some solids--he started eating some cereal and strained fruits and vegetables a while ago, and sometimes he's satisfied with that or juice at night. But I know that healthwise, giving him breast milk is better for him than formula or dairy milk. Not to mention that both he and Scully take comfort and sustenance in the act of breast feeding, and I certainly wouldn't deny either of them. I am a little envious of the bond between them that I can never hope to match. These night time sojourns are my way of compensating for this in some small way.
I've always been something of a night owl, anyway, though not so much as I used to be. Sharing a bed with Scully changed a lot of things, and one unexpected side-benefit was that I am more prone to sleep through the night. In fact, it has always been a source of embarrassment to me (not that I'd ever admit it to Scully) that the first night we made love, Scully left before morning and I didn't even hear her. I mumbled something about jet-lag at work the next morning, I think, and neither of us ever brought it up again. I don't know what her reasons were for leaving that night, but I'm so glad that when I came to her door the next night, she didn't turn me away. And though our relationship went through some very trying times after that--not the least of which was my abduction and all that she went through while I was gone--we seem to be doing okay now. Better than okay, in many respects.
Once in the kitchen, I open the refrigerator door and we stand blinking in its light while we review our options. I don't think it's too early to teach him that this is the proper way to hunt for food. You stand, and stare until something appealing catches your eye. If you don't see anything on the first pass, close the door for a few seconds and re-open. Repeat this process as necessary, or until someone yells at you that you're wasting electricity. You never know what new and exciting delicacies might appear between one opening and the next.
Fortunately, this go-around Will finds what he's looking for right away.
"Mik!" he says, and points a wavering finger. I'm so proud of my boy.
Scully says his development is perfectly normal for his age, but like any parent I want to believe he's exceptional. Certainly one of his parents is exceptional, and I don't mean me. I told Scully once, a long time ago (long before I had hopes of us ever being together), that I thought the Mulder genes passed muster. I now revise my arrogant pronouncement: only in combination with Scully genes are they really worth anything, and I hold the proof in my hands.
Scully certainly seems to understand the secret language of babies better than I do. Maybe it's a mom thing. Her mom says that babies are talking angel talk, which is a very sweet story, but come on. Mom Scully has said that sometimes she hears him talking to someone over the baby monitor when she baby sits and she'll peek into the nursery to see what he's doing. He's staring very earnestly at the ceiling, she says, holding what appears to be a very serious conversation with something she can't see.
My blood ran cold the first time she told that story. What if it's Them? Scully had to calm me down before I went to the Gunmen and had them install infra-red and ultra-sensitive video and sound equipment to put his room under twenty-four hour surveillance.
"It's just a story, Mulder," Scully said soothingly. "She used to say the same thing about us when we were babies. Babies talk to themselves, Mulder. It's one of the ways they explore their world, their boundaries."
Maybe they talk to themselves because it's the only way they get an intelligent answer. I can see the frustration in my son's face sometimes when he's trying to convey something to me and I'm just not getting it.
Not to mention the unutterably stupid baby-talk he is subjected to whenever we take him out for a walk. How would you like it if some stranger stuck his face in yours and said things like, "Oooh, idn't he just a widdle wuv? Whatta cute-ums! Does he wike hid widdle wattle?" Googoogoo!"
It's times like those I'd like to take out my widdle gun and ask the idiot how he wikes it.
The milk is warming and I walk my son up and down the length of the kitchen, jigging him up and down, which he seems to like. Sometimes, if I'm sure Scully is asleep, I sing to him. Not lullabies, since I don't know any, but *good* songs like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." He seems to like that, too.
Scully will only sing to him if she thinks I can't hear. Ever since the one time I got her to sing to me, she's refused to do it again. She says I make her too self-conscious. So I do what anyone in my position would do: I eavesdrop. If she's with the baby, I'll find the baby monitor in the other room, and sit near it so I can hear them. It's actually very soothing, listening to her talk to him and play with him, and hearing his responses. He says things to her, and she answers him like what he's said is the clearest thing in the world. From his delighted responses, I'd say that she's more often right than wrong.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I am in awe of this woman. She not only gave birth to a perfect child (except maybe for his nose, and that's in no way her fault), but she went through hell the whole time she was pregnant. When I emerged from the coma and demanded to see Scully, I couldn't understand why she wasn't already there. It took me a while to realize that I was still in Oregon, and Scully was in DC. Skinner was there, and even Frohike, Langly and Byers, but not the person I most wanted to see.
I railed. I hollered. I demanded Scully all hours of the day and night. They told me she wasn't able to travel, and I was afraid that she'd gotten ill, or wounded in the line of duty again. They wouldn't tell me anything, and wouldn't tell me when *I* would be ready to travel to be with her.
They were being extra-cautious, as they had no way of knowing what toxins I might be carrying. All the returnees were in the same containment facility, and they had some doing to figure out a way to transport me safely to Washington. It took more than a week after I emerged from the coma for transport to be arranged. It was hell for me, and I made sure it was hell for everyone else, too.
They finally had to sedate me for the flight, and when I woke up, I was in another identical looking quarantine room. I thought they'd pulled some kind of trick, and then I saw Scully, standing at the window. And as glad as I was to see her, the shock of seeing her nearly nine months pregnant was almost too much.
It was hell not to be able to touch her. I could tell she felt the same way, from the way she pressed her palms against the glass. I couldn't even reach out to her to press my hand against hers, and I got so upset they had to sedate me again. They told me later that Scully stayed right there the whole time I was out. She was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes again.
Almost worse than not being able to touch, we couldn't have a private conversation. Everything had to be said through a two-way speaker into my room. We had to rely on looks and gestures a lot. It's a good thing we had a lot of practice with those kinds of conversations. Scully came to be with me every day, right up until the day she gave birth.
I couldn't even be with her during the delivery. Not that I think I'd have been much help anyway. If autopsies make me queasy, imagine what a live birth would do! But I wanted to be there for her. The best I could do was an audio monitor from the delivery room.
Mom Scully acted as Scully's Lamaze partner. The Gunmen tried to get into the delivery room to take videos, but I was grateful to learn they were not allowed to set foot inside. Skinner was the one who arranged for the microphone. He threatened to have it removed if I got too agitated, so I lay in my isolation chamber, concentrating on breathing slowly, clenching handfuls of bedding as I listened to Scully's own breathing, her gasps and cries. When I heard her scream, I almost passed out. The doctor told me later that sympathetic labor pains are not unusual. If I closed my eyes, I felt as though I was in the delivery room with her. Scully told me that she could feel my presence--at one time, she swore it was my hand gripping hers, and not her mom's--and that it helped her. I hope so. I haven't felt so helpless since her cancer. One way or another, I am responsible for some of the worst experiences she's had in her life. She insists that giving birth wasn't that bad, but I know what I heard. And if I felt the pain, I can't begin to imagine how much more she felt.
When I heard Will's squall for the first time, I cried. In front of Skinner and everything. I think he was crying, too. He took his glasses off and polished them vigorously, turning away from me as he did so.
When they finally brought Scully and the baby to see me, I cried again. But that was in front of Scully, and she's seen me cry before. I wanted to touch them both so badly I would have broken the thick glass separating us with my own hands. But at the time, I could barely lift my head from the pillow.
The timer going off alerts me to the warming milk. I test it on the inside of my wrist, just the way Scully showed me, and hand it over to Will, who has been letting me know that he wants his snack *now*, for several minutes. Once I've got him settled in the crook of my arm, I assume the refrigerator stance again and hope something interesting has appeared in the interim.
I settle for juice. There's just enough left in the carton for a couple of swallows. It's worth my life to drink out of the carton and put it back--Scully seems to have radar for that.
Maybe part of what I like about this is the sheer joy of having control over my own body again. My muscles simply wouldn't obey me when I was first returned, and it took several weeks of intense work, both mental and physical, before I could walk across a room without collapsing. Scully said that there wasn't anything wrong with my muscles; some mind-body connection had atrophied somehow. Thinking of the possible reasons for that gave me nightmares. You know the nightmare where something terrible is approaching and you're paralyzed, you can't do anything to get away? Try having that nightmare and waking up to find out that it's reality.
I was alone in that damned isolation chamber for a month. My only companions were biohazard-suited orderlies and doctors. My own personal physician wasn't even allowed in. I understood that; when she was still pregnant, there wouldn't have been a suit big enough to fit her, and no matter what, I wouldn't put her in any danger by exposing her or the baby to anything I might be carrying.
At least I could see her. Scully visited me every day, and brought the baby when she could, though he mostly ate and slept. It was a great relief to us all that he seemed normal in every aspect. I didn't need the confirmation, but she told me the DNA checked out, too. It didn't matter to me, really. If the baby's father had been (God forbid!) Cancerman, I still would have loved him for being Scully's. She sat with her hand on the glass and we talked a little, but mostly I was happy to have her where I could gaze upon her. I once denied I did that, but now I couldn't get my fill.
Then one day Scully didn't come at her usual time. Instead, I got a visit from another white-suit. This one was different, though. Before she was closer than ten feet, before she could say, "Mulder, it's me," I knew it was Scully. She wanted to be the first to tell me that they couldn't find anything harmful, and that I would soon be released from isolation. That was the day my recovery truly began.
I still couldn't touch her, but she could touch me, and that made all the difference in the world to me.
While I took my little stroll down memory lane, Will has finished his snack. I take the bottle away and prop him over my shoulder for a satisfying belch right in my ear. I belch back at him, which seems to amuse him. I wipe his drooly mouth and we begin our tour of our domain.
Will and I leave the kitchen and peek into the laundry room, checking the back door and peering out into the yard. Scully and I have talked about getting a dog, but I want to wait until Will is older. I think Scully might have been thinking about a watchdog, but I think we have enough watchdogs of the electronic variety. I want Will's first dog to be a pal first, protector second.
We moved into this house--or, I should say, Scully moved into this house--shortly before Will was born. It's not far from her mother's, in a quiet neighborhood. My ever-practical Scully had to make sure that someone was nearby who could lend a hand with the baby, in case I wasn't around to do so. She confessed all of this to me with a combination of defiance and shame, which I found adorable. I guess she thought I'd take her actions as a lack of faith, but what could I say? She might have been able to stay in her place, but she no longer felt safe there. Frankly, I'm surprised she stayed there as long as she did. And I couldn't imagine her living in my apartment, though I'd have asked her in a heartbeat, baby or no. I think I would have worked up to it in time, if the Reticulans hadn't interfered with my plans.
It's a nice house, not too big, and not too small. The Gunmen checked it out and fitted it up with a state-of-the-art security system as a housewarming present, and periodically sweep it for electronic intruders. I guess we're as safe here as we can be anywhere.
Skinner had this idea that we should go underground when I was returned. I don't know why he thought we'd be any safer hidden away. My guess is that he's grasping at straws, and what he knows is FBI procedure and protocol. Protect the witness; send him to a safe-house. I don't think there is a house safe enough from the aliens, if They want you. Besides, I'd rather try and do what we have to do in the open. Secrets are for the other guys, the bad ones. The ones who tried to hide it all from us, and from everyone else, for so many years. Ultimately, their secrecy got them turned into so much ash and bone on a hangar floor.
I shake off that image, and a dozen others like it, and we move on to the living room. This room reminds me a lot of Scully's apartment. It's mostly her furniture in here, and it has a cozy, if feminine, feel to it. She told me that I can help pick out new furniture if I want, but it's okay the way it is. It's not my favorite room in the house. Besides, reminders of Scully's old place aren't unpleasant. I spent a lot of happy hours there, though not that many of them in the living room.
Dining room--kind of boring. Will yawns at my shoulder. He hardly ever lasts through the tour, anyway. That's the point. On to the den. This is perhaps my second favorite room in the house. Here is *my* old couch, and the TV, and various other comforts.
When I left the hospital at last, I figured I'd be moving back to my old place. Even though I knew I was the baby's father, I wasn't sure how much Scully wanted me in their lives. Whenever one of us tried to initiate a serious conversation about it, it was time for another damn test, or Scully would get a call.
Turns out she had the same doubts about what I wanted to do. All those theoretical conversations about settling down, or...what did she call it? Metaphorically, I mean. Oh yeah, "stopping the car." I should have realized at the time that she was probing for information from me about my preferences.
But all those conversations seemed to take place before we got involved on a personal level, and after, we always seemed to have better things to do. I'm a guy, I don't do metaphorical all that well, at least as far as my own wants and feelings are concerned. It took me a while to figure out that she took the opinions I expressed before as immutable. She couldn't know that my ideas and opinions changed in a lot of different ways, sometimes from day to day. Mainly because I never told her. Also a guy-trait, or so I'm told. When I saw her holding that baby in Bellefleur, I wanted so desperately to be able to give her a baby of her own. At that time, we didn't know that I already had.
If I'd known it was possible, I would have given a lot more thought to the whens and the hows, and I would have made damn sure that Scully knew I would be there for the long haul. But because nothing can ever work out for us in any way approaching normal, we almost had to fight before she realized that what I really wanted was to go home with her and the baby. Once she realized that, it was easy for her to admit that it was what she hoped for, too. Scully is usually much more straightforward about things than I am, and all that held her back was worry that I wouldn't feel the same.
I'm still learning that the best way to get what you want is to ask for it, instead of secretly yearning for it and hoping that it's noticeable. And then, of course, pouting if you don't get it. That's a behavior I learned in childhood, and it's taken me a long time unlearn some of the things I learned then.
Anyway, now the den is my lair. I do a lot of work here, since I'm still working only half-time at the Bureau. I'm hoping by the time Scully's ready to go back to work full time I will be, too, and I can be her partner again. In the meantime, I'm working on saving the world.
I know, the "savior of the world" crap sounds like so much hyperbole, and maybe it is. I have Frohike's sardonic humor to thank for that moniker. But the jury is still out, and the aliens haven't yet landed. And even if my purpose in life is to raise my son to be the best man he can be--a better man than his dad, and his dad's dad before him--I'd say that's saving a small, but important, part of the world.
When I was first returned, everyone thought that it signaled something, and there was a lot of panic in our little circle. Everyone started looking for swarms of bees, for strange craft hovering over the White House. None of it has happened--yet. Doesn't mean that it won't. Scully and I both think we'll know when it's imminent, as will any surviving abductees. If anyone else will listen, they'll have a chance at surviving.
What we are doing is trying to prepare those we love for the possibility. It's easier than it once was. Skinner is one of the converted, and as for the Gunmen...well, they'd never say "I told you so," but they'd be mighty tempted.
Scully's mom and the rest of her family will be harder to convince. Bill Scully still can't stand the sight of me, and while there is no love lost between us, I don't want his blood, or his family's, on my soul.
Will stirs again at my shoulder, giving me a welcome distraction from my dark thoughts. His drool has made a damp patch on my shirt. Before this, I never knew how messy babies could be. Not that it bothers me. I have a long acquaintance with slimy substances, and I've never hesitated to investigate them, much to Scully's disgust. But the upside is that a little baby goo doesn't faze me at all.
We trudge back up the stairs to Will's room. I check his diaper again, find it miraculously dry, give him a kiss, tuck him in, and head back to my favorite room in the house.
Actually, any room where Scully is could qualify as my favorite room, but the bedroom is the hands-down winner. As much as I enjoy my nocturnal jaunts with my son, my favorite part is coming back to bed. I strip off my damp tee shirt and pull back the covers.
"You were gone a long time. Everything okay?" Scully asks drowsily as I slip under the covers.
"Will and I had a lot to talk about," I tell her in a low voice, my lips just brushing her ear. "You know, guy stuff. Male bonding."
She turns toward me and looks me in the eye. "You're not already teaching him to drink from the carton, are you?"
"I wouldn't do that, Scully." I take her hand and press it to my heart.
"Since you weren't actually a Scout, Mulder, that doesn't cut any ice with me." She leans forward and kisses me anyway.
"You're a very difficult woman, Scully." She runs her hand over my chest and I pull her closer to me.
"You were doing the midnight house tour, weren't you?" Scully murmurs between kisses.
How does she know about that? I thought it was our little secret, mine and Will's.
"Will tells me everything, Mulder," Scully says, correctly interpreting my silence. "We speak the same language."
I know all about secret languages. Scully and I have had our own for years. I'm not jealous of the one she shares with Will because he and I have our own, too, and its vocabulary increases every day.
I'd still like to crack the code to his baby-speak, though. I wonder if I could get a tape to the guys to analyze? Maybe it's not too late to learn a new language.
Right now, though, Scully is doing things to me that speak a language all their own, and I am ready to communicate in kind.
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