Title: Snow
Author: LuvTheBeez
Classification: Angst/MSR/M&S Married/Hopefully a laugh or two. A little song, a little dance - you name it, you got it.
Content Warning: Strong NC-17 for sexual content, extreme violence, and language. Scenes of childbirth.
Obligatory Statement Of Terror: This is big-time MSR, but they never call each other "Fox" and "Dana". I mean, please. I have purposely made it as un- schmoopy as possible to avoid potential nausea. However, you shall be warned that they are married and pregnant, and they seem pretty darned fond of each other. If you don't like MSR, you won't like this story. Oh, maybe you will. I just don't know anymore. . .
Spoilers: Nothing specific, but probably everything through season five if you want to be safe.
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully and Skinner belong to Chris Carter, Fox and 1013 Productions, and have been used without permission. Any other characters you find belong to me, and they can be bought for the right price.
Archive: Go for it, but please let me know. It's only polite.

Summary: Mulder and a very pregnant Scully are caught in a hostage situation.

Saturday, December 21
1:06 a.m.

Dana Scully stood in the middle of her living room, gazing out the big bay window. The falling snow reflected brightly against the blinking white Christmas lights and made the storm look more violent than it actually was. It was, if nothing else, incredibly beautiful. And the beauty of it calmed her, which was exactly why she stood there.


She turned to see her husband leaning against the door frame. He lifted one hand to push away his sleep-tousled hair, a move that always drove her to distraction. She smiled up at him as he came to stand behind her.

"You okay?" He wrapped his arms around her. As big as she felt, he was still able to wrap her up completely, his hands gently rubbing her swollen belly.

She leaned back against him, allowing herself to be comforted by his touch.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"It is," he agreed. "But I wonder why you're standing here looking at it at 1:00 in the morning."

"I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd sneak down and make some tea. Before I got distracted by the snow, that is." She shifted in his arms, turning to face him. "I'm sorry if I woke you."

"It was your absence that woke me, actually. You want me to make you the tea?"

"No, I'll do it. I could use the distraction." She kissed him gently before pulling away and walking into the kitchen. As she filled the teapot, Mulder sat down at the table, rubbing his eyes.

"Mulder, why don't you go back to bed? You don't have to stay up and keep me company."

He gave her a rather pointed look. "Actually, I was just looking forward to drinking a nice cup of tea while I sit with my lovely wife and stare at snow."

"Mulder," Scully smiled. "As much as I love the sentiment, it's not going to be long before being up at 1:00 in the morning becomes commonplace. You, my friend, should get your sleep while you still can."

"How about a fire in the fireplace?"

"You're determined to join me in my misery, aren't you?" Scully pulled open the cupboard, scanning what appeared to be several hundred boxes of different herbal teas. If she had one passion, it was tea, and she felt a complete lack of guilt at pandering to her obsession. "The usual?"

"If it's good enough for Captain Picard, it's good enough for me."

"Well, it lacks a certain imagination, but I appreciate your dependability, Mulder."

"I do what I can." Mulder stood, eyeing the fireplace. If Mulder had one passion, it was his unending attempt to build the world's greatest fire. "I'm off to be Fire Boy, Scully. Join me when the tea is ready?"

"Yeah, okay." Her voice had an odd cadence to it, and Mulder stopped in his tracks, looking over at her.

She stood with her head lowered, one hand grasping the package of Earl Grey while the other, balled into a fist, pressed into the small of her back. Her eyes were closed, her body stiff.

"Scully, what's wrong? Your back still hurting?"

Without hearing him cross the room, she felt his hands press firmly on her shoulders, then travel lightly down her spine to massage the ache in the small of her back. He'd had lots of practice with these impromptu backrubs during recent weeks and was an expert at knowing exactly where the pain was located and how much pressure was necessary to relieve it.

"Too much of a stretch for the Earl Grey, I think, Captain," she sighed. "That feels incredible, Mulder. If there's one reason I look forward to this pregnancy being over, it's to get rid of these blasted backaches." She rubbed her hand over her stomach. "I think Brutus here may outweigh me soon."

"Looking at you sideways, Scully, I think maybe he already does." Much as Scully would have liked to pop him for that remark, she'd caught sight of herself from a sideways vantage point more than once lately and saw his point. "You want me to get the other box down?"

"Yes, thanks. Go, build your fire. I'll be right there."

Handing her the tea, he reached up for two mugs and placed them on the counter.

"I'm off to find my matches," he said gleefully.

Scully paused for a moment at the entrance to the living room, watching as her husband carefully crumpled pieces of newspaper into intricate shapes. Some of the pieces were rolled carefully into long, tight wands, some barely crumpled, all arranged with exquisite care under the equally carefully-arranged pieces of wood. Scully could practically feel the concentration coming off him in waves.

"Mulder, it never really occurred to me before, and I certainly admire the skill with which you construct that masterpiece you've got going there, but I seem to recall a bit of a phobia you used to have about fire." She placed his mug down on the mantle. "How have you gone from fear to Master Fire Builder?"

"It's all about control, Scully." Mulder paused for a moment as he twisted the life out of another geometrically perfect square of newspaper. "This is our house. This fireplace is a perfect little contained area, inside our house, where one can have a controlled fire that *stays* in control. If I build the fire, I have control over it. I am its master. I *am* Fire Boy."

"You've thought about this before."

"I have indeed. I think constantly. I barely sleep for thinking. My mind is like a steel trap."

Laying the final bits of paper into the fireplace, Mulder lit a long match, and, with a dramatic flourish, touched match to paper, watching it smoulder and finally light before closing the fire screen.

"Voila, madame."

"You're truly a wonder, Mulder."

"Glad you recognize it, Scully." He moved to pull pillows off the couch, dropping them onto the floor in front of the fireplace. "Your mug, please."

Scully handed him the steaming mug of tea, which he placed next to his on the mantle.

"You and Brutus, please," he bowed slightly, offering both hands to her. She took them and he lowered her gently to the ground. Covering her with an afghan retrieved from the sofa, he handed her the mugs of steaming tea and sat down behind her, plumping the pillows to support his back so that she could lean into him.

"Okay?" he asked, sipping the Earl Grey.

"Umm . . . more than okay. This is wonderful. I may have to graduate you from Fire Boy to Fire Man pretty soon."

"Don't rush me, Scully. I'm still young and need goals in my life. I have everything else I want - I have to have something to strive for, don't I?"

Scully took a sip of her tea. "Do you, Mulder? Do you really have everything you want?"

Mulder set his mug down on the coffee table and wrapped his arms around her. "Scully, right now, sitting with you like this, I can't imagine wanting anything more than what I've got right here in this room." He stroked her belly. "Except maybe seeing Brutus here make his entrance."

"There are still so many things we don't know. And Samantha . . . "

"We'll find Samantha, Scully. I believe that. And even if we don't, I have so much more than I ever could have hoped for. I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd have all this. This house, a gorgeous woman in my arms, a baby Brutus on the way. And a hell of a great fire in the fireplace."

"You have a strange and frightening fascination with fire, Mulder. Tell me again about the profile of a serial arsonist?"

"Scully, I insist that we refrain from shop talk. Besides, don't ever give in to your obvious temptation to profile me. It will only frighten you, and you'll come to realize what you've done by marrying me."

Scully placed her hand over his larger one. "Check out this belly you've got your hand on, Mulder. I'm well aware of what marrying you has done to me."

"Touche, my darling. You have noted the obvious. My advice to you is not to dig any deeper. I am truly gifted at many things, including procreation. That's all you need to know." Mulder wrapped her a little more tightly in his arms.

Scully smiled and leaned back against her husband. "Are you ever afraid, Mulder? That . . . things are this good?"

He turned his palm up to grasp her hand in his. "What do you mean?"

She sighed. "I don't know. I just . . . sometimes I worry that I'm *too* happy . . . that something's going to happen to change everything. I mean, everything feels so perfect right now. Right this minute. I just don't want anything to change."

Mulder ran his thumb over the back of her hand and lowered his head to her shoulder. He understood her fear and welcomed her expression of it. She so rarely spoke of her concerns, though he knew they were there - the fear for the baby's health after all that she'd been through, the fear of the cancer returning. With all that they'd seen in their years together, there were so many things to be afraid of.

The fear had been tangible for both of them when she had felt ill over a period of several weeks. That fear had been relieved by confirmation of her pregnancy, which in turn had been met with restrained happiness - a miracle they'd never dared to imagine. She'd been afraid in the beginning, and didn't relax until the first sonogram when she saw the baby for herself, saw that it was normal and healthy. Because of her cancer and the uncertainty over exactly what had been done to her during her abduction, she had insisted that the doctors consider her pregnancy high-risk, and she'd been monitored carefully.

After the morning sickness subsided, she lived the pregnancy with joy and wonder, grateful beyond expression that she was able to live this experience she'd believed she'd never have. The pregnancy progressed normally, and she'd felt wonderful, continuing to work though her husband had soon banned her from the field. The extra time allowed her to teach a couple of classes a week, which she loved.

Scully wasn't a complainer, but as tiny as she was, and as huge as this baby had gotten, Mulder knew she had to be uncomfortable. The last couple of weeks had been the worst, and one day, in the middle of the afternoon, he'd walked in to find her lying down on the office couch. She'd been so stoic that the sight terrified him into thinking that something must be terribly wrong with her, until she'd finally admitted to him that her back was bothering her unmercifully. She had gratefully accepted his offer of a backrub, a comfort she'd allowed several times since, and those seemed to bring her some relief.

Now, the baby due in a little over a week, her belly had stretched to a size neither of them thought possible. It was impossible for her to lie comfortably, and her infrequent periods of sleep were interrupted further by Braxton-Hicks contractions and frequent trips to the bathroom. He never thought he'd want to hear her complain, but would have welcomed her letting him in, letting him comfort her a little more.

He put his hands around her as if holding a watermelon.

"Scully, take a look at yourself. I don't think there's any way to avoid some big changes coming our way." Taking her hand, he rubbed it over the huge mound of her stomach.

She smiled. "I know. I don't mean the baby, exactly. I just don't want the way we feel about each other to change."

"Scully," he sighed. "The way I feel about you, the way I've always felt about you, is never going to change. You're my life, Scully. You and Brutus, here. That will never change."

"You can't be sure of that, Mulder. Things happen." She sighed, taking another sip of tea. "I'm sorry. I don't know what's gotten into me. I'm a melancholy mess."

"You're entitled, Scully. Use your raging hormones to full advantage while you still can."

Scully shifted in his arms, moving to a more comfortable position. "It's this whole relationship thing, I think. I've never been good at it. Not at relationships with anybody. I'm not good at getting close to people. Not until you, and look how long that took."

Mulder was amazed. He'd never heard her speak so openly about her feelings before.

"Scully, why *do* you think it took us so long? The first few years, didn't you ever think about us in that way? That maybe we could have something together?"

Scully shook her head. "Honestly, Mulder, I really didn't. I didn't allow myself to think that way. I've felt so closed off for so long, I just didn't think it would ever happen for me."

"Why do you think you let yourself feel so closed off?" He tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear. "I mean, you grew up in one of the closest, most obnoxiously All-American families I've ever seen."

"And probably one of the most competitive. With my father's disapproval of my career, I've been so focused on the work . . . on trying to prove something to him, even after his death," she sighed, taking his hand. "And...I was afraid, I think. Afraid of getting too close. Afraid of getting hurt."

"Dana Scully afraid? Dana Scully, who fearlessly looked the Flukeman in the eye with a clinical detachment?"

"Mulder, the Flukeman is a tangible, though admittedly ooky, thing. It's there. It's something you can touch, something you can deal with in a scientific way. You can leave it in its little Flukeman house and walk away at the end of the day." She sighed. "A relationship on the other hand . . . it's just . . . out there. All the time. It scares the hell out of me."

"It could be worse, Scully. Imagine having a relationship *with* the Flukeman."

"Yikes," she said, nodding. "There's a relationship fraught with problems from the get-go."

Mulder kissed her on the top of her head and pulled the afghan up, covering her shoulders against the chill air.

"I'm glad you picked me over the Flukeman, Scully."

"The slime factor made you a winner by a wide margin, Mulder."

"Well, you're doing just fine with me, Scully. You do our relationship very well. You're kind and thoughtful. You nurse me back to health when I'm under the influence of hypnotic substances. You shoot me when I need to be shot. You give great neck rubs. You make a great pot of chili AND you're incredibly gorgeous."

"Mulder, I'm gigantic."

"Scully, I don't deny that, but I have come to admire your girth. It's become quite impressive."

Scully shook her head, smiling. "You really know how to hurt a girl, Mulder."

Mulder turned his head to look out the window. The snow was falling more heavily now, coming down in a curtain of white. A heavy curtain of white.

He frowned. "Just how bad was this storm supposed to get, anyway? I missed the news tonight."

"I missed it too. I'm sure it'll stop by morning. I'd love it if we had a White Christmas this year." She ran her hand along the length of his leg. "Tomorrow's Saturday - maybe we should get our tree. Have it all set up in case the baby comes before Christmas."

Mulder yawned. Her hand rubbing his leg was rhythmic and comforting, and his eyes were starting to feel heavy. Trees? Why was she talking about trees?

"Whatever you want, Scully."

Scully leaned back against his chest, listening as his breathing became more regular, his body more relaxed. She closed her eyes, the flames from the fireplace dancing through the lids, and she slept.

Saturday, December 21
1:45 p.m.

Mulder spent the next morning running secret Christmas errands which he insisted had to be performed alone. Christmas tree shopping had been planned for the afternoon. Her few free hours passed quickly - a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce simmered on the stove, a loaf of rosemary bread had just gone into the oven, and the new baby clothes had finally found their way into the washer and dryer. Scully sat folding them at the kitchen table, marveling at how tiny they were, how excited she was to dress the baby in them. Brutus, seemingly aware of her constant motion, had been especially active all day, kicking and squirming as she moved around the house. The timer went off, and she removed the bread from the oven, reminded of her childhood and snowy days when she and Melissa made chocolate chip cookies with their mother.

The snow had continued to fall throughout the day, the house remaining in dusk as the morning wore on. The bread turned out to cool, Scully finally moved to the table and sat. God, she was tired.

Throughout the pregnancy, she'd made a valiant attempt to keep the pace of her life. Only in the last few weeks, as the baby had grown to enormous proportions, had the doctors insisted that she slow down, and she was almost grateful for the excuse to do so. She was small, this baby was huge, and the continuous ache in the small of her back was becoming more excruciating each day.

Mulder appeared in the kitchen. "Scully! That smell! You've been baking bread!"

"Not only do we have bread, we've got homemade spaghetti sauce for dinner." She looked at him seriously. "Where's my present?"

Mulder sat beside her. "Check the calendar, Scully. Does it say December 25th? No, I don't believe it does. Patience, woman."

Scully glared at him.

"How's the back, Scully?"

She shifted in her chair. "It's fine."

"Umm hmm," he nodded. "That's why you're sitting all bent up like that, right?"

"I am not bent up, Mulder," she protested, then decided to save time by giving up. "Okay, it's hurting a little, but it's just from sitting at this table too long. I got my autopsy notes almost finished."

Mulder shook his head. "And made spaghetti, and did laundry, and baked bread. Scully, you overdid it."

Scully stood. "Mulder, I did not overdo it. Before we go tree shopping, I'm going to take a shower and change into something a little less covered with tomato sauce." She put her hand on his shoulder. "This would be a good opportunity for you to hide any large Christmas gifts you may have purchased recently."


"Yes?" she answered, smiling sweetly.

"Go take a shower."


Saturday, December 21
2:05 p.m.

Scully stood under the warm spray, her forehead propped against the tiles as she allowed the water to ease the sore muscles in her lower back. It felt heavenly, and she attempted to calculate just how much hot water might be stored in their water heater. The baby was suddenly quiet too, as if sensing his mother's relaxation.

The shower door opened to reveal her stark naked but smiling husband. "Room for one more?"

She smiled. "Barely. Enter at your own risk."

Mulder climbed into the shower, leaning under the spray to douse himself completely and then brushing the wet hair out of his eyes. He took a good look at his wife. "I thought you were never coming out. I got lonely."

"Sorry about that," she laughed. "It just feels so great."

"Turn around," Mulder ordered as he poured a dollop of shampoo into his hands. He began to wash her hair, massaging the shampoo into her scalp, rubbing slowly and tenderly.

"That feels wonderful, Mulder," she sighed.

"Yeah, well, that's nothing." Removing the hand-held shower head, he rinsed the shampoo from her hair, running his fingers through the strands to gently remove the tangles. Replacing the shower head, he plucked a washcloth from its hook and drenched it with Scully's fragrant liquid soap, working it up into a frothy lather.

Starting with her shoulders, he ran the cloth across her neck, moving ever so slowly down her arms and the back of her legs. Hanging the towel over his shoulder for a moment, he rubbed his fingers down her spine, moving his thumbs in slow circles, moving out toward her hips as he reached her waist.

"Tell me where," he said.

His thumbs dug into the tight muscles in her lower back, moving away from her spine until he felt her tense slightly.

"Oh," she groaned. "Right there, Mulder."

Balling his hands into fists, he massaged the muscles hard, digging his fists into her back.

"Too hard?" he asked.

"No," she sighed. "I don't think it can be too hard." She moved her head a little lower, allowing him better access to the knotted muscles. "Mulder, you have no idea how much this helps."

When, finally, she let out a breath of relief, he took her by the shoulders and turned her to face him. Taking up the cloth again, he continued his ministrations across the top of her chest, over and around each swollen breast, down around her belly. She moaned as the rough cloth moved between her legs, down the top of her thighs. He dropped the cloth on the floor, his hand moving back to massage her breasts, his thumbs rubbing across the incredibly sensitive nipples. She felt the arousal building from deep inside herself.

"Oh, Mulder . . . you're not trying to start something here, are you?"

"Shh . . . " His left hand remained on her breast, teasing the nipple as his right hand moved down her tingling skin to the huge mound of her belly, caressing it gently for a moment, finally moving lower, cupping her between her legs, caressing ever so slightly. She moaned with the exquisite torture of it as his hand gently massaged her. He kissed her as he moved a finger inside her, instantly finding the swollen clit and pressing down on it.

"Oh, my God," she gasped. "Mulder."

His finger moved, massaging her slowly, then faster, pulling back to tease her before pressing down again. His mouth left soft kisses down her neck and chest, moving to her breast, sucking for a moment, then pulling back to roll the sensitive nipple around his tongue. She moaned, her hands moving through his hair as she pulled him tight against her.

Grasping her hips, he knelt down, his tongue moving to take the place of his finger. She nearly couldn't breathe with the ecstasy of it. Unable to control herself, she moaned, grasping him hard by the shoulders. His tongue continued its gentle movements, rolling around her until finally, mercifully, she came, shuddering uncontrollably. Her knees were weak as the world melted around her. Mulder stood and she fell into his arms, completely spent, her head resting on his chest, the hugeness of her belly tight between them.

"Jesus, Mulder," she gasped. "That was unbelievable."

He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her on the top of her wet head.

She pulled back from him, raising her head to look into his eyes. "I love you." Her hands moved up from his waist, caressing his chest, running down his arms to grasp his hands in hers. "I love you so much," she repeated.

Leaning down, he found her mouth with his and kissed her passionately. He pulled away, breathless. "God, Scully, you're so beautiful."

Scully laughed. "You're a sick man, Mulder." She rubbed her tight belly up against his straining erection, grinding into him and smiling as he moaned with pleasure. "A sick man with a big problem."

"Scully," he gasped. "You're the one starting something now. I don't think we should . . . "

She smiled and reached down to take his penis in her hand. "Oh, Mulder, there's more than one way to resolve this situation. You know I'm no quitter. I like to finish what I start." She moved her hand gently up and down the swollen shaft, caressing the tip with her thumb. He moaned, his head thrown back, his breath coming faster now. She smiled. She loved to make him feel this way.

Grasping him now with both hands, she ran her fingertips lightly up and down, teasing him with the lightness of her touch. His erection was huge, and he moved slightly to lean into the wall, his arms on either side of her keeping him upright as she touched him. She reached her head up, kissing him as her fingers continued their motion.

"Is that good, Mulder?" She sighed, rubbing her body up against him, up and down, up and down. She kissed him, teasing his tongue with her own.

"Tell me what you want, Mulder. You want it slow? Like this?"

Grasping his penis again, she ran her thumb across the head, then moved to caress his balls, massaging them gently in her fingers.

Mulder gasped. "Yes, like that. God. Just like that, Scully."

She continued her caresses, her hand moving faster, her fingers flicking the tip of his penis.

He touched his forehead to hers as she continued to stroke him. He looked deep into her eyes and leaned closer, plunging his tongue deeply into her mouth until his need for air became too intense.

She continued her movements, stroking him one moment, releasing him to grind her body against his, then clutching him again, with both hands this time, her strokes harder, more urgent, then light again, her fingernails gently raking the length of him. He moaned, his head dropping to rest on her shoulder.

"Jesus, Scully," he gasped. "You're killing me."

She smiled. "We can't have that, can we?" she whispered. She grasped him harder again, her hands running up and down until he was ready to explode. When he came, he was gasping her name.

He stood for a moment to regain his breath, then took her face in his hands and kissed her gently on the lips.

"Christ, Scully, has anybody ever told you that you're really good at that?"

She looked at him and smiled, one eyebrow raised. "Do you really want to know the answer to that question, Mulder?"

He thought for a moment. "No, I guess I really don't." He smiled at her. "Come on. If I can still walk, let's go buy a tree."

Little Sisters of Pine Christmas Tree Lot
Saturday, December 21
4:18 p.m.

The attendant tightened the final knot to lash the huge Christmas tree to the top of the car. Mulder reached into his wallet and handed him $5.00.

"Thank you, sir," the kid said, smiling. "That's nice and snug there, you should be just fine." He waved at Scully through the open door. "You have a Merry Christmas, ma'am!" Pulling his gloves tighter, he ran off to help the next waiting customer.

"Sir and ma'am, Scully. We're officially old." Mulder slid into the car next to his wife and removed his gloves, blowing on his freezing hands. "Okay, we've now got the biggest Christmas tree on the lot. How we're getting this sucker in the front door I'll never know."

Scully smiled. "It's a great tree, Mulder. I know you wanted the little Charlie Brown tree, and I appreciate your admitting that you were wrong and getting the tree *I* wanted."

Mulder feigned horror. "I beg your pardon! I merely gave in to appease you in your delicate condition. I didn't want you to start blubbering all over the place if you didn't get your way."

Scully punched him in the arm. "I'll show you delicate, Mulder." She smiled, pulling the seatbelt all the way out to fit around her swollen middle. "God, Mulder, turn on the car. Let's get some heat going in here. It's freezing."

Mulder inserted the key into the ignition, setting the heater lever to full blast. He turned to look at his wife. "Scully," he said, seriously. "I have a confession to make."

She looked at him curiously.

Mulder took a deep breath and opened his door, stepping out into the falling snow. He disappeared for a moment, the car windows too fogged up for Scully to see anything. Suddenly, in the open doorway, she watched as a tiny, pathetic little Christmas tree appeared, its needles desperately clinging to six spindly branches. Her husband's smiling face appeared a moment later.

Scully shook her head. "Mulder, you are pathetic. I can't believe you've never brought home any stray dogs."

"Don't laugh, Scully," Mulder said, climbing into the car. "You know that big Christmas present in the closet?"

"So that's where all that whimpering was coming from last night."

"No, Scully," Mulder said, placing the little tree on the back seat. "That was me."

Scully laughed and looked back at the small tree. It really was a sad little thing, and truth be told, she was glad that they were taking the poor thing home. She hated to think of it sitting there all alone in an empty lot while the other trees were purchased.

God, she was becoming as bad as he was.

Closing the door, he moved to put the car in gear. "Anyway, I thought we could decorate it and put it in the nursery."

Scully smiled at him, touched. She reached out to take his hand as they moved into the traffic.

Convenience Store
Saturday, December 32
4:32 p.m.

The snow was really starting to come down as they pulled into the drug store parking lot. It didn't usually snow much in D.C., but a wet southern storm had joined a much colder one from the north, and it was dumping a good amount of the white stuff. The city was unprepared for such a large storm, and, if it kept up, the plows would start falling behind soon and the roads would start getting dangerous. Mulder had never liked driving in the snow and he liked it even less with his pregnant wife beside him. He parked the car, leaving the engine running.

"Look, Scully, I'll just be a second. Why don't you stay here and keep warm."

She nodded at him. Her back was aching again and standing in a long line of Christmas shoppers was less than appealing. "Okay. Do me a favor and get some orange juice, okay?"

Mulder nodded and locked her into the car. She watched him as he ran toward the store, taking a breath as he skidded across a patch of ice. She envied him his grace as he righted himself easily and entered the store. She looked down at her stomach, feeling every inch an ungraceful blob.

Another Braxton-Hicks contraction tightened across the top of her belly and she rubbed at the cramping, letting air out between her teeth. "Yikes," she grimaced. "How much more of this are we going to have to put up with, Brutus?" The discomfort lessened quickly, and she leaned her head against the seat to wait.

Twenty minutes passed, and she sighed, using her scarf to polish a clear spot in the car window. She watched the entrance to the store. Nothing. What in the world could be keeping him? She looked around the parking lot. There were surprisingly few cars, people probably putting off their shopping to wait out the storm. She wondered what had distracted him inside the store this time. More diaper or baby food comparisons, probably. He had become something of an expert on virtually all infant paraphernalia available on the free market. From baby furniture to organic whipped peas, Mulder had researched it all.

Scully scowled out at the falling snow. Her bladder was screaming for relief. She was going to have to go in there and get him.

She turned off the car and opened the door. The wind was really starting to howl now, and the coldness of it on her skin was shocking. She pulled up the hood of her jacket and moved slowly toward the store, cautious on the slippery whiteness. As independent as she liked to think herself, she hated walking through the snow and ice without support. She felt unbalanced by the baby's weight and it was difficult to catch herself if she started to slip. Finally, she reached the door and pulled it open, a blast of warm air meeting her as she walked in.

Mulder stood not ten feet away from the front door, staring toward the far end of the store. Holding a carton of orange juice in his hands, he glanced over at the sound of the door opening, his eyes widening at the sight of her. A strange look crossed his face and he shook his head gently, his eyes large.

"Mulder," she said. "What are you doing?"

"Scully," he whispered. "Get the hell out of here!"

Suddenly, from the other side of the store, a huge crash sounded as a display of Christmas bulbs was knocked to the floor. As Scully turned to leave, a man with a gun, his face covered with a ski mask, appeared from nowhere, blocking the exit. He grabbed her by the arm and shoved her roughly back into the store. Mulder reached out, grabbing her around the waist to steady her.

The front of the store was now visible to Scully, and she looked around in horror. In addition to the man who had just grabbed her, an identically dressed second man stood in front of the manager's desk, his gun pointed at a female employee. Scully quickly counted eight hostages all together - the manager, two employees and three other customers. The first man moved quickly over to the store manager, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him toward the front door.

"God damn it!" he shouted. "I told you to lock the fucking door!!" The manager, a pudgy man in his middle fifties, looked at him in horror. The masked man gave him a shove. "Do it, you idiot!"

The manager locked the front door with shaking hands, turning the sign to signify that the store was closed.

"All right," shouted the first man, shoving the manager ahead of him. "Everybody move over here, nice and slow." He waved his gun, motioning the hostages toward the desk.

Scully looked up at Mulder. He gazed down at her, a sad smile crossing his face. "You thought things were going too well . . . " he whispered, taking Scully's hand and leading her to the center of the store.

Once everyone was gathered together, they were ordered to sit. An older woman whose nametag identified her as 'Beth' motioned the others aside so that Scully could sit with her back leaning against the desk. Scully smiled at the woman gratefully as Mulder grasped her hands and lowered her gently to the floor, taking his place close against her.

"You okay, honey?" Beth whispered.

Scully nodded as she shifted in an attempt to find a comfortable position on the hard floor.

The second man disappeared for a moment, and suddenly the lights in the store went off. Scully looked up at Mulder. With everyone on the floor blocked by the checkout counters, anyone driving into the parking lot would see the "closed" sign and the lights off, and would assume that the store had closed early because of the weather. His eyes met hers and he gave her a look that just screamed "we're in deep shit." He squeezed her hand.

Satisfied that their hostages weren't going to give them any trouble, the two men ordered the manager to open the safe. Scully watched the man as he turned the numbers with a shaky hand, overshooting one in his nervousness which required him to start over from the beginning.

The first man kicked him hard in the back. "Listen, you asshole. Stop fucking around with us! You've got thirty seconds to get that thing open!"

Scully looked at the terrified manager. He was shaking like a leaf and sweating profusely. She was afraid the poor man might have a heart attack. He gasped as he was shoved hard against the safe.

"Look," Scully said. "You're scaring him. Just give him a minute."

"Scully . . . " Mulder warned in a whisper.

The masked man turned at the sound of Scully's voice. Slowly, he walked over to stand at her feet, his gun pointed at her head.

"Who told you you could speak?" he asked. "Did I tell you it was okay to talk?"

Scully looked up at him, shaking her head. She could feel Mulder tense next to her. She squeezed his hand, afraid that she had unthinkingly put him in more danger than she had herself. If he tried to take this guy on in her defense . . .

"Look, bitch, *I* tell you what to do." He waved the gun closer to her face. "Right now, you sit here and be quiet. When I tell you to do something else, you do that too. You understand now?"

Scully nodded again.

"Smart girl." The man turned at the sound of the safe finally opening. He was back by the manager's side in two long strides and he reached down, patting him on the back. The manager flinched at his touch.

"Now you got it, Jack," the man said, pulling the manager to his feet. "Now you go over and sit down."

The man sat heavily on the floor as the thieves began to fill canvas bags with money. The safe was filled with cash, the store having apparently enjoyed a profitable day and it took several minutes to empty. As the last of the money was removed, the sound of tires crunching over snow came from outside the huge store windows.

"What the fuck . . ." Ducking down, the men ran forward to peer over the check stand. "God damn it!" He turned back to the manager. "You pushed the alarm after I told you not to? You fucking idiot!"

The manager was shaking his head in denial, his hands held in front of him in a defensive posture. "I didn't, I swear!" he pleaded, his voice shaking. "It goes off automatically when the safe is opened at an unscheduled time . . . I can't control it!"

"But you didn't tell me, you idiot!" The man, his gun pointed at the manager's head, kicked him hard in the leg. "We would have been here and gone, but now look what you've done!"

With a deafening explosion, the gun went off, leaving a huge hole where the manager's face used to be.

Convenience Store
Saturday, December 21
5:03 p.m.

A young blonde woman, a customer still clutching tightly to her carry-basket filled with Christmas decorations, screamed as she was covered in blood and brain matter. She began to wail hysterically as she attempted to wipe the gore off her clothing.

Mulder pulled Scully hard against him, his hand instinctively covering her head to protect her.

The agitated gunman began to pace back and forth, waving the gun and muttering to himself. The arrival of the police was clearly not in his plan. He pulled the ski mask off, tossing it to the ground. He appeared to be in his early thirties. A day's growth of beard lined his jaw and his hair was tousled and sweaty from being beneath the knit mask.

The second gunmen stood watching him. "Darryl," he whispered. "What are we going to do now?"

"I don't know what we're gonna do!" Darryl screamed. "We're fucked!!" He turned to the young woman as she continued to cry hysterically.

"Shut up! I can't think!!" he yelled, pulling his gun up and firing once again. The woman stopped screaming, staring down in shock as blood started to run from the bullet wound in her shoulder. The other hostages gasped. Some began to cry quietly.

Darryl continued to pace up and down. "I just need to figure this out."

The manager's phone, on the wall just above Mulder's head, began to ring. Darryl spun toward the sound, his breath coming in short gasps.

Mulder turned to look at the man, his voice calm and quiet. "You should answer it. You'll need to talk to them if you want to get out of here."

Darryl, suddenly calm, turned and stared at Mulder as if he'd suddenly appeared from nowhere.

"You think so?" he asked Mulder. "You think I should get the phone?"

Scully looked up at the man, concerned by his sudden calm. She'd known Mulder would eventually try to deal with the situation, would have the perp's motivations and childhood traumas figured out within the hour, but she was terrified. She clutched at his hand, pulling it tight in her fist.

"This phone? You think I should answer this phone?" he asked again. Mulder nodded.

The man paused for a moment, moving to reach for the phone when he suddenly brought his leg back, hurling it forward again with all his strength. With no time to react or protect himself, Mulder took a direct hit in the pit of his stomach, gasping as the air was knocked out of him.

"Mulder!" Scully cried, clutching his arms as he bent nearly double with the pain. "Mulder," she whispered. She pushed the hair back from his forehead, looking into his face. He grimaced, gasping for air. She stroked his back until he seemed able to catch his breath. He turned to face her.

"Mulder, are you okay?" Her voice trembled. "Are you badly hurt?"

Mulder shook his head. "Just knocked the wind out of me," he whispered, clutching at his stomach. "I'm okay."

Darryl slammed the phone down and began walking toward the back of the store. "I'm getting beer. I need to think. You watch them, Louis. Don't fuck it up."

Louis pulled off his mask, dropping it onto the counter. Tears fell from his eyes and he wiped them away in frustration as he fought to gain control. He was young, much younger than Darryl.

"This wasn't supposed to happen," he said, more to himself than to the assembled hostages. "Nobody was supposed to get hurt. He promised me no one would get hurt!" Louis continued to wipe the tears from his face.

"Louis," Scully said quietly. "I'm a doctor. I'd like to check on that young woman. If it's all right with you."

Louis turned to the injured woman who clutched her shoulder, the blood still running freely down her arm.

"Louis, she might bleed to death," Scully whispered. "It will be better for both of you if no one else dies."

Louis thought for a moment, then nodded his head. "Okay, but be quick. Darryl might get mad at me."

Scully started to rise. Mulder clutched at her arm.

"Scully," he whispered, concern in his voice. "Don't do this."

She smiled at him. "Mulder, I can't let her bleed to death. I'll work as quickly as I can." She grasped his shoulder, using him as leverage to get herself up off the floor.

"Beth, I need towels or something absorbent."

Beth pointed to the register. "There's a roll of paper towels under the counter."

Mulder's heart pounded in his chest as he watched Scully retrieve the paper towels and bend down next to the stricken woman. Tearing off a huge wad of towels, she lifted the woman's shirt, wiping away the blood to examine the wound.

"What's your name?"

"Catherine." The woman stared at Scully, her eyes huge. "Am I going to die?"

"No," Scully answered. "You were lucky. The bullet went clean through. You lost a lot of blood, but you'll be fine." She pressed the wad of towels against the woman's shoulder, then turned to the man seated next to her.

"Sir, what's your name?" she asked.


"Okay, John, I could use your help here, all right? You need to hold this hard against the wound, okay?"

He nodded, reaching out to take the wad of towels.

"Just pull off more paper towels if you need them. Keep applying pressure until the bleeding stops."

"Okay," he whispered, placing his hand where Scully indicated, pressing down hard.

Scully began to rise from her crouch. Louis reached out to help her, pulling her up, his hand on her elbow as she returned to Mulder's side. "You really a doctor?" he asked, his voice a whisper.

"Yes, Louis," she said.

He pointed to her belly. "You're gonna have a baby."

Scully nodded again. "Yes, Louis, I am." Mulder reached up to help her sit back next to him, wrapping his arm around her shoulders to pull her tight against him.

"I like babies." Louis smiled at her.

"Louis," Mulder whispered. "Why are you doing this?"

"I promised," he pleaded. "My brother needs my help."

"Louis." Mulder spoke quietly and deliberately. "Why don't you think about letting some of the hostages go?" Louis stared at him in confusion. "Catherine needs to go to a hospital, Louis."

"It's not for me to decide," said Louis. "I'm not in charge."

He walked back to the check stand, hopping up to sit on the counter.

Mulder turned to his wife, crushing her in his embrace. "Jesus, Scully," he whispered. "You scared the crap out of me. What if Darryl had come back?"

"Mulder," she took his hand. "I had to. I'm sorry."

He looked her hard in the face, and she saw understanding there. He didn't like it much, but he understood.

She rubbed a hand lightly over his stomach. "How are you, Mulder? You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," he whispered. "No broken bones. I'm gonna have a hell of a bruise, though. I'll look terrible in a bathing suit."

Scully smiled. "You're lucky it's 18 degrees outside." She grimaced suddenly, moving her hand to massage her swollen belly.

Mulder looked at her, concerned. "Scully?"

"Just another Braxton-Hicks," she said, her eyes closed against the spasm which passed fairly quickly. "I'm fine. This may be just a bit more excitement than I needed."

"For all of us," whispered Beth.

Scully smiled at the woman, leaning against Mulder in a desperate search for a comfortable position. She was suddenly exhausted. How in the hell did they get themselves into this situation? She thought of the tree strapped to the top of the car outside, the little Charlie Brown tree in the back seat. It was going to be such a wonderful evening - a fire in the fireplace, Christmas carols on the stereo while they decorated the tree. It all sounded so corny now. God, she just wanted to go home. And she could really, really use a trip to the bathroom.

Darryl suddenly returned, tossing a cold beer to his brother. He picked up the telephone, dialing a number he had written on the palm of his hand. It appeared that someone picked up on the first ring.

"Okay," Darryl said into the phone. "But you try fucking me over and more people die, you understand?" He glanced around the room. "I'll let four of the hostages go. The rest stay here until we get our car." He slammed the phone down and walked to stand at the front of the small group.

"Okay," he said. He looked around the room, eyeing each hostage in turn, making his choices. He pointed at John, who still held the wad of paper towels against Catherine's shoulder.

"You. Take her out." He glanced around the room again, eventually pointing to an older black couple who sat huddled together on the floor. "You two. Get going."

They rose to leave, reaching out to help support Catherine.

"Excuse me, Darryl?" Mulder said. Scully clutched at his hand. "My wife - Dana - is pregnant. I'd really appreciate it if you'd let her go too."

Darryl scowled and walked over to face him. "You know, you talk too much." He pointed at Scully. "You think I'm gonna give up a pregnant woman? She's like gold, my friend. She stays."

Mulder slumped back against the desk. He closed his eyes.

Convenience Store
Saturday, December 21
6:05 p.m.

An hour passed, and the store grew increasingly dark as the storm continued unabated. Darryl had calmed considerably and spoke quietly but deliberately to the police each time they phoned. Mulder was unable to hear what was said, but knew from experience that the first goal would be to get the rest of the hostages released. His biggest fear was for Scully. Darryl was convinced that she was his most valuable hostage. Mulder was terrified that he would be released, ordered to leave the store without her. He brushed his arm back to feel the gun tucked securely in its holster, determined that such a scenario would never take place.

Scully leaned heavily against him and he stroked her hair, worried about what the stress might be doing to her. He kissed her gently on the forehead.

"You okay?" he whispered.

She nodded. "Yeah. Mulder, I need to use the bathroom. I *really* need to use the bathroom."

Mulder glanced up as Darryl hung up the phone. "Darryl?"

Darryl looked down at him. There was something about this guy. Something he didn't like. "Now what?"

"Dana needs to use the bathroom," he said quietly. "We've been sitting here for a long time . . . "

Darryl stared at Scully thoughtfully. "Okay," he decided. "I guess there's not much danger of you trying to squeeze through a window. But you go by yourself. And if you're not back here in three minutes, I shoot your big- mouthed husband. You got that?"

Scully nodded, moving in an awkward attempt to stand. With help from Mulder and Beth, she got to her feet and began to move toward the back of the store.

"No funny business!" Darryl shouted after her. "I'm timing you!"

Darryl waited for seven minutes before moving to point the gun at Mulder's head.

"Where the hell is she?"

Mulder was worried. Scully would never purposely put his life in danger. Something had happened. He stared up at Darryl. "Please," he said. "Something may be wrong. Let me go see if she's okay."

Darryl shook his head. "No, not you." He pointed to Beth. "You go and bring her back. You bring her back now or I swear I'll kill him."

Beth got to her feet, giving Mulder a reassuring smile as she moved away.

Beth practically ran to the bathroom, terrified that she'd hear a gunshot before she made it back to the front of the store. She knocked frantically on the closed door.

"Dana!" she said. "Open the door." There was no answer and Beth reached down, the knob turning easily in her hand. She walked into the large bathroom to see Scully standing in front of one of the sinks. The water was running full force, and Scully stood with her head down, one hand clutching the porcelain for all it was worth. The other hand was balled into a fist which she rubbed desperately at the small of her back.

"Dana?" Beth moved into the room, placing her hand on Scully's back when she realized what was happening. "Oh, God, Dana. You're having a contraction?"

Scully nodded, breathless.

"Not Braxton-Hicks?" Beth asked hopefully.

Scully continued to pant as she shook her head. The contraction ebbing, she stood straighter, one hand still clutching her back. "My water just broke, Beth."

Beth sighed. "Oh, honey . . . "

Scully took a deep breath and looked at Beth, fear in her eyes. "How long have I been gone? Is Mulder okay?"

"He's okay," she assured her. "They sent me to get you. We've got to hurry. Can you walk?"

Scully nodded as Beth grabbed her around the waist, escorting her from the room. Scully grabbed her arm. "Listen, Beth, we can't let them know that I'm in labor. Things have calmed down out there, and I don't want anybody to get excited."

Beth looked at her, horrified. "Dana, are you sure? You need to get to a hospital." She was amazed at how quickly the young woman's composure had returned.

Scully took Beth's hand. "This was my first real contraction. This is my first baby. It could be hours and hours before there's cause for concern. Please, Beth, trust me on this."

Beth shook her head. "All right. I think you're crazy, but I'll do what you ask."

As they reappeared at the front of the store, Darryl grabbed Scully roughly by the arm. "Where the hell have you been? Did you not hear what I said? You're lucky you didn't get your husband killed with that little performance."

"I'm sorry," Scully said. "I just got a little dizzy for a minute. I'm fine now." She returned to her place next to Mulder, who searched her face frantically.

Darryl and Louis moved back over to the checkout counter, talking quietly.

Mulder cupped Scully's cheek. "Hey, you all right? Why are you feeling dizzy?"

"I'm fine, Mulder," she said. "I'm not dizzy, I just - needed an excuse." She glanced over at Beth, who was shaking her head.

"Dana, I promised not to say anything to those two idiots, but," she turned to face Mulder. "Mulder, is it?"

He nodded.

She looked at Scully, her face serious. "You need to tell your husband what's going on."

Now Mulder was really worried. "Scully, what is it? What's going on?"

"Mulder," she said calmly. "There's nothing to get excited about yet, but when I was in the bathroom . . . before Beth came looking for me . . . I . . ."

"Oh, for Pete's sake," Beth whispered. "Her water broke. She's in labor."

Mulder leaned his head back against the desk, his eyes closing as he let out a long sigh. He turned a worried eye on Scully, brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. "Are you okay?"

She smiled. "I'm really fine, Mulder. Honestly."

He looked at her silently for a moment. "Scully, you've got to try to hide it from them. Right now, you're extremely valuable to them. I don't think we should do anything to make them feel differently. As long as they don't consider you a hindrance, they won't hurt you." He rubbed his hand up and down the length of her arm.

Beth shook her head. "You two are cracked. How do you know so much about this stuff, anyway?"

"Jesus Christ," shouted Darryl, moving back to them. "What's with all the chit-chat over here? You people just don't listen, do you?" He grabbed Scully's arm, pulling her roughly to her feet. "I can't think with all this damned yapping going on. It's liable to get somebody killed in a minute."

Darryl placed the gun against her temple, pushing hard. Scully gasped, instantly regretting the involuntary sound as she saw Mulder jump to his feet. "No! Mulder, it's all right . . . "

It was too late. Mulder, his face a mask of pure rage as he watched this animal touch Scully, catapulted up from the floor, reaching back for his gun as he lunged at Darryl. It was far too easy for Darryl to raise his own gun and fire at the man charging toward him. Mulder crumpled to the floor.

"My God," shouted Scully. "Mulder!" She rushed to him, dropping to her knees and pushing the hair back from the bloody wound in his forehead.

Darryl was breathing heavily as he reached down to pick up Mulder's Sig. "What the fuck is this? Who the hell is this guy?" He shoved Scully aside as he began to search through Mulder's pockets, pulling out his i.d. and flipping it open. A look of horror crossed his face.

"FBI?" He stared at Mulder's i.d. in disbelief. "He's fucking FBI? Jesus Christ, what else can go wrong?" He moved over to the aisle, knocking down a display of glass juice bottles, broken glass and liquid exploding over the floor.

He returned to Scully, pointing the gun in her face. "Get the fuck up. I'm locking you in the storeroom back there until I decide whether or not to kill you all." Scully stared at Mulder's pale face. She was having a hard time catching her breath.

"Now!!" screamed Darryl.

Beth moved quickly to Scully, pulling her up by the arm. "Come on, Dana." She looked up at Darryl. "We're going to need some help with him."

Darryl gestured to a shell-shocked Louis, who moved over to help drag Mulder back to the storeroom. Beth and Scully were unceremoniously shoved in after him, the door slammed and locked behind them.

Scully rushed to Mulder, laying his head gently in her lap to examine the head wound more closely. Beth knelt beside her.

"Is it bad?" she asked.

Scully let out a long, shaky sigh. "No. It just grazed him. He's out cold, though." She glanced around the room. Supplies for the store were stacked everywhere. "Beth, do you think you could try to find something to help stop the bleeding? Maybe something to clean the wound?"

"Sure," said Beth, jumping up to rifle through the boxes.

Scully continued to stroke Mulder's forehead, closing her eyes in relief. He'd be okay. A tear slipped down her cheek.

Beth returned moments later with a package of napkins and a bottle of drinking water. Scully cleaned the wound as best she could, holding the wad of paper against the wound to staunch the bleeding. Mulder slowly began to stir, his hand reaching up to his forehead as he came around. He groaned.

"Mulder," Scully said gently. "Are you okay?"

Mulder turned his head toward the sound of her voice, his head resting against the bulge of her belly. He looked up at her. "I was dreaming about basketball," he said. He reached up to stroke her stomach.

"Very funny," she said. "Can you sit up?"

"Since childhood." He sat up slowly. He was a little dizzy, but managed to stay upright. "Wow. Major headache."

Scully smiled sympathetically at him. "I'll bet." Her face turned serious. "God, Mulder. I was so scared."

He cupped her cheek in his hand. "I'm fine, Scully. How are you? Did he hurt you?"

"No, I'm perfectly fine," she assured him. "Mulder, I need to check you out. I think the bullet just glanced off that hard head of yours, but I want to make sure you're not concussed." She watched carefully as he tracked her finger. His pupils appeared equal in the dim light, and a cursory exam of the wound seemed to rule out any skull fracture. Scully sighed with relief.

"Any nausea, Mulder?"

"No. I'm okay."

"You were lucky, Mulder. It could have been a lot worse."

"Scully, if I were really lucky . . . "

"We'd be at home drinking hot chocolate and trimming our Christmas tree right about now. I know."

Beth reached over Mulder's shoulder, a bottle of ibuprofen in her outstretched hand. "Maybe these will help."

Mulder took the bottle gratefully. "Beth," he said, smiling up at her. "Thank you. How are you doing?"

Beth nodded. "I'm fine." She sat down on the floor beside Mulder and looked at him seriously. "You're FBI, so I assume you know something about how these things are handled."

Mulder nodded.

"So," she said. "What do you think's going to happen now?"

Mulder sighed. "The police will continue to negotiate with Darryl for our release. Failing that, they'll send the swat team in, hopefully before he . . . "

"Kills us," finished Beth.

Mulder nodded, taking in his surroundings for the first time. "Where are we?"

"Storage room," answered Scully. "Mulder, what time is it?"

Mulder glanced at his watch. "It's 6:30. What difference does that make?"

Scully took a deep breath. "Oh, it might make a big difference. Six-thirty, Mulder. Remember that." She grimaced as a contraction pulled tight across her back.

Mulder moved over to her, stroking her head. "Okay, Scully, you're okay. Relax into it." He put his hand on her shoulder, his face close to hers as he tried to get her attention. "You want to try the breathing, Scully?"

She shook her head, her face relaxing. "It's okay, it's going away already. It's okay."

Mulder rubbed her shoulder. "Scully, how long ago was the first one?"

Beth looked at her watch. "Twenty minutes. I thought I should keep track."

"Okay," Mulder tried to sound confident. "That's still a long time between contractions, Scully. We've got lots of time."

Scully looked up at Mulder for a long moment. She reached out to touch his face as a single tear pooled, then fell slowly down her cheek.

"I thought they'd killed you," she whispered. She leaned into him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck as she buried her face in his shoulder.

Pulling her against him, he wrapped her safely in his embrace. "It's okay," Mulder whispered, stroking her back gently.

The Front of the Store
Saturday, December 21
8:15 p.m.

Louis looked over at his brother, watching him as he lit his fifth cigarette in as many minutes. Louis was worried. Darryl was crazed, pacing frantically as he lit cigarette after cigarette, taking only three or four drags before angrily stamping the thing out and reaching for another. He murmured to himself endlessly, arguing with unseen enemies, seemingly lost in his own world - a world he couldn't quite figure out how to escape.

Louis ran a hand over his face. It was freezing in here, and he found it strange that he could see his breath even while he sweated profusely. When they were home tomorrow, he'd ask Darryl how that could be. He had absolutely no idea what to do, saw no way for this to end, but was convinced that his older brother would eventually figure a way out. Darryl had always been the strong one, fifteen years older and the unquestioned leader. Louis had always looked up to his older brother and Darryl had always been there to take care of him, to protect him. He'd been only 10 years old when their parents had died, and Darryl had raised him as well as he could, sent him to school every day until he lost his job and they had to start moving around. Louis hadn't minded, had never really liked school anyway. It was hard, and he knew he wasn't very smart. The teachers called him 'slow', but he wasn't too slow to know that they meant 'stupid'. Darryl told him that he shouldn't think of himself that way, told him that he'd get low self-esteem if he kept thinking that way.

Louis looked up as Darryl reached up to ruffle his hair. "You okay, Darryl?"

Darryl smiled. "Yeah." He stamped out another cigarette, and Louis watched as he squished it, his foot making a black mark on the tile floor.

"What are we going to do next, Darryl? Can we go home now?"

"Not yet, Louis." Darryl glanced nervously out the window. "We're waiting for our car. Then we'll go home, okay?"

"Okay," agreed Louis. "Hey, Darryl? Do you think I could take those people something to eat? That lady - she's gonna have a baby. She might need something to eat."

Darryl turned to his brother. "She doesn't need anything to eat, Louis. Don't worry about those people. That husband of hers? He's a cop. He'd put you in jail first chance he got. We'd never see each other again." He looked Louis hard in the face. "Is that what you want? For us to be apart forever?"

Louis shook his head emphatically. "No, Darryl."

"Okay then," Darryl said. "You sit there and keep quiet for a while, okay? I need to think."

Louis nodded, reaching into the display next to him and handing his brother another pack of cigarettes.

Saturday, December 21
8:27 p.m.

Mulder's chin nearly hit his chest, the movement startling him into wakefulness. He groaned as his headache protested the sudden, violent movement. Scully, who leaned heavily against him, sat back to eye him with a concerned look.

"It's okay," he said. "I just dozed off for a second."

"How's your head?" she asked.

"Pounding, but still on my shoulders," he replied. "How are you doing?"

"I'd be better if it wasn't so damned cold in here," she admitted.

"The heat went off when they cut the power," Beth said. "Those aren't the brightest boys in the world."

"It's awfully quiet out there," Scully said. "What do you think is going on?"

"Darryl gave them until 8:30 to get him his transportation, so I have a feeling we'll be hearing something soon. Hopefully this will all be over and we'll be snug in our beds before midnight."

Scully took a deep breath, and Mulder looked over at her, recognizing the beginnings of another contraction. They were coming about 15 minutes apart at this point and she'd been weathering them well, which came as no real surprise to him. She took them on with her typical businesslike authority, as though they were simply another of life's challenges to be met and overcome.

He'd been concerned at her tears earlier, until he realized that they were caused more by her distress over his injury than concern for herself or her own discomfort. He'd felt guilty then - guilty at acting so impetuously and guilty for frightening her so badly, causing her worry when she should be thinking about herself.

She grimaced, rocking forward a little as the contraction peaked. Her hands reached back and she pressed her knuckles hard into the small of her back as Mulder stroked her shoulder, counting softly through the contraction. His voice was soothing, helping her to focus.

"Okay, Scully," he said softly. "That's the worst of it. Keep breathing, you're doing great."

Beth smiled. These two were amazing together. She'd never seen two people so in sync, so attuned to each other's every move. Their conversation was almost fluid, and seemed almost unnecessary. It was almost as if they spoke without using words. Despite the horrendous situation, she envied them. She'd never been a religious woman, but took the opportunity to offer up a silent prayer to keep these two and their baby safe from harm.

Scully let out a deep cleansing breath. "Okay," she said, her eyes closed as she came back to herself. "I'd like to take this opportunity to curse the maternity gods for allowing me to experience back labor."

Beth smiled sympathetically. "You poor thing. I know how painful that can be."

Scully sighed. "Could someone please haul me up off this floor? I'd like to stand for a while. If I can get this kid to shift a little it might help some."

Mulder stood, taking her hands and lifting her easily to her feet. She began to pace slowly around the small space, her hands clasped under her belly to support the extra weight.

"You have kids, Beth?" she asked.

Beth nodded. "Two great boys, both grown. I've got my first grandchild on the way, too. A little girl due on my birthday in February."

"What about your husband?" Mulder asked.

"He died in a car accident five years ago," she said. "Drunk driver broadsided him, killed him instantly. He was on his way home from work. He had two weeks to go before retirement - we'd already booked tickets on a Caribbean cruise. It was a trip we'd always dreamed of taking." She paused for a moment, lost in her memories. "Funny how things happen sometimes."

Mulder put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, Beth."

She smiled at him. "We had a good life together. We were happy, too, but - we didn't have what you two have. You two were meant to be together. I mean, I don't even really know you, but it's just so clear."

Mulder looked up at Scully.

"Don't ever take it for granted," Beth continued. "Most people never get what you have."

Saturday, December 21
8:40 p.m.

Scully was still pacing, Mulder and Beth joining her in an attempt to keep warm. Mulder stopped as he met Scully head-on during one of her circuits, and he smiled down at her for a moment before taking her into his arms.

"Admit it, Mulder," she said, her voice muffled as she spoke into his sweater. "You only want me for my body heat."

Placing one hand on each side of her head, he gently pulled her head up to look into his eyes. He leaned down and kissed her firmly on the forehead. "I want you for that, and a lot more, Scully."

She smiled tenderly at him, clutching his arms suddenly as a huge crash came from outside the door. The sudden change from the relative silence made the sound all the more terrifying, and all three jumped, looking toward the locked door.

"Oh, no," whispered Mulder.

The door slammed open hard and Darryl stood in the entrance to the small room, waving his gun at them. Mulder moved his body protectively in front of his wife, shielding her as best he could.

"They've screwed with me long enough!" shouted Darryl. He pointed his gun at Beth. "You. Old woman! You come with me!" He grabbed Beth roughly by the arm, pulling her out into the store.

"What are you doing?" shouted Mulder. "What are you doing with her? What's going on?"

"They're gonna see what happens when they fuck with me!" shouted Darryl. "They're gonna see . . . "

The door slammed hard, plunging them back into darkness.

Scully gripped Mulder's arm tightly. "Mulder . . . Oh, God . . . "

They stood frozen in the middle of the room. From what seemed miles away, they heard shouting. First Darryl's voice, the shouted words unintelligible, his fury clear. Then another, slightly mechanical - the police speaking to him through a loudspeaker. Though they couldn't understand the words, the tone, the cadence of the officer's voice was an attempt to calm the angry man.

There was silence for a moment, and Scully held her breath, allowing a moment's hope.

And then she heard the gunshot.

Scully hadn't said a word when they heard the gun go off, she merely slid slowly down Mulder's body, his hands reaching out to support her as she sat heavily on the floor. He knelt down beside her, taking her into his arms as she cried, his own tears spilling over, glistening in her hair.

They sat like that for a moment when the next contraction hit her with a renewed ferocity. She clutched at her back, moaning softly as her earlier control abandoned her. Mulder's hand reached up to stroke her hair.

"Okay, Scully," he murmured soothingly. "Breathe through it."

She shook her head against his chest. "God, Mulder," she gasped. "Oh, please . . . I need to stand up."

He got to his feet quickly, pulling her up gently. She began to walk, stopping to lean over a pile of boxes as the pain reached its peak. Mulder stood watching her helplessly. She groaned, attempting to relieve the discomfort as her hands rubbed at the small of her back. When he attempted to take over for her, she pushed him away, resuming her pacing as the spasm slowly began to let up.

She took deep breaths as the contraction abated, wiping furiously at the tears still soaking her face. Mulder was desperate to help her, but didn't know how. She was panicked, and he didn't have the first clue what to do.

Slowly, she began to calm, her breathing becoming more even. Unsure of her reaction and nearly frozen by his fear of her rejection, he tentatively stepped up close to her, reaching out to wipe a tear away with his thumb. She allowed his touch, and, without looking at him, took a step forward and leaned into him, her arms tight against her chest. Relieved, he wrapped himself around her.

"I'm sorry, Mulder," she whispered.

"Shh . . . " Mulder stroked her hair. "Scully -"

"I'm sorry." She pulled back to look into his eyes. "I *don't* want to die. I *don't* want anything to happen to you and I *don't* want to have my baby here." She looked at him, desperate for him to understand the magnitude of her fear, the hopeless desperation of it. "I'm scared, Mulder."

He cupped her cheek. "I know you're afraid, Scully. You're always so strong, so in control. And now you've lost control of everything, including what's happening inside your own body." She embraced him, her arms wrapping tightly around his waist. "We're gonna get out of this, Scully. I promise."

She smiled sadly at him. "Don't make promises you can't -"

Once again, they started in surprise as the door to the storeroom slammed open. Darryl and Louis stood there, Darryl's clothing splattered with blood. He smiled as he took in their embrace.

"Isn't that sweet. Aren't you two just the cutest couple?" he snickered.

"What happened to Beth?" Scully asked softly.

"You mean the old woman? I had to make an example of her. It wasn't my fault - if the fucking police had listened to me in the first place, it never would have happened!!" He raised his gun to point at Mulder's head. "Let's go. Both of you."

Scully's heart skipped a beat. He was going to kill them.

"Where are we going?" Mulder asked, his voice calm.

"The cops finally figured out who's running things," said Darryl. "Our transportation's here. We're taking a little trip together."

Darryl grabbed Mulder by the arm, pulling him away from Scully and shoving him toward Louis. "Louis, take him."

He turned to Scully, taking her arm. He looked at her for a moment. "You don't look so great, honey. I think you need some fresh air."

Grabbing her arm, he shoved her out of the room. She walked in front of him, his gun occasionally poking her in the back as though he was afraid she'd forget he had it.

"Darryl," Mulder said quietly. "Please, she's not feeling well. Let her go now. I'll go with you. I won't make any trouble. You don't need her anymore."

Darryl snickered. "That's where you're wrong, Mr. FBI. She's the one that's going to make sure we get out of here safely. They'll think twice before shooting at a poor defenseless pregnant woman. Right, Louis?"

Louis nodded, his eyes lowered. "Right, Darryl."

They reached the front of the store, and Darryl picked up the manager's phone.

"We're coming out now. Remember what I said. Any shit and I shoot these last two hostages." Darryl laughed quietly. "Actually, I guess you could say three hostages." He put his arm around Scully's neck, leaning down to look into her face. Mulder saw her cringe a little as she got a big whiff of Darryl's breath. "I've got two for the price of one, here." He slammed down the phone.

"Okay, listen up," he said, seriously. "There's a van parked right outside the front door. Little Miss Dana here is going to walk right in front of me. She's going to climb in through the driver's side, and then scoot over to the passenger seat." He unzipped Scully's jacket, pulling it open so that her swollen belly was more obvious. "That's better. Let's make sure they see what they're risking by taking stupid chances, okay Dana?"

He turned to Mulder. "While your wife and I get into the front, you and Louis are going to get in the back. You try anything stupid, you even look like you're thinking about anything stupid . . . " He moved the gun down, pressing it hard into Scully's distended abdomen until she gasped. "I'll shoot her without a second thought. You got that, Mr. FBI?"

Mulder nodded. "You have my word. We'll do whatever you ask. Just, please, don't hurt her."

Darryl took a deep breath. "Let's go."

Scully could barely see through the falling snow as she moved slowly out the door. Darryl was tight behind her, his gun still held hard against her belly. His hot breath wafted over her face and he reeked of blood. The smell made her more than a little nauseous. Her eyes moved desperately around the parking lot.

Several dozen snow-covered police cars sat in the parking lot, and she could see blinking lights indicating that more cars were parked in the street. A dozen police officers, guns drawn, crouched sheltered behind car doors. It was very, very quiet, as if the world were holding its breath, waiting to see what would happen next. A bullhorn hanging uselessly from his fingers, the detective in charge watched them walk out of the store. As they stepped slowly toward the van, Scully continued to scan the faces of the officers, comforted somewhat by the sight of all these people here to help them. And then she saw a familiar face.

Walter Skinner quietly opened the door of one of the police cars, climbing out to stand beside it. His eyes never left her face, and even from a distance she could feel his strength. He smiled at her, and she felt strangely comforted.

They continued their slow walk to the van, their feet crunching on the fresh snow. They were nearly to the car when she slipped.

If Darryl's grip had been less that it was, the fall would have been worse. Her feet, hitting a patch of ice, slid out from underneath her, the weight of the baby pitching her forward so that she crashed heavily to her knees. She clutched her belly in an effort to protect the baby and was calmly amazed that she hadn't fallen face first into the snow.

She could feel the already-thick tension increase tenfold, and she was terrified that the police would make a move of some kind, but Darryl was next to her instantly, crouching down so that she was still an effective shield. She felt the gun press into her temple, and she took a deep breath.

"I'm okay," she whispered. She turned her head slightly to look at her husband, who stood several paces behind them with Louis's gun pressing into his back. He looked at her with grave concern, his eyes large. She knew it was taking every molecule of control he had to keep from lunging at Darryl.

"I'm okay," she repeated, to him this time.

Mulder closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them she saw unshed tears there.

Darryl pushed the gun hard against her forehead. "Get the fuck up off the ground. Now."

Scully nodded. "Okay," she said, a little breathless. "Okay."

Darryl grabbed her by the arm and hauled her roughly to her feet. Her knees were aching a bit, but the fall to the soft snow didn't seem to have done any serious damage. Mulder was somewhat relieved as he watched her continue to walk to the van. She seemed all right.

Slowly reaching out, Scully opened the door of the van. The step up was high, and she struggled to pull herself up to sit on the bench seat. She paused for a second to catch her breath, then slid over to the passenger side. Darryl climbed quickly in beside her, the gun again pressed to her head. She heard the side door open, and felt the car shift as Mulder and Louis got into the back seat, slamming the sliding door hard.

She would have given anything at that moment to be able to turn and look at Mulder.

Darryl turned the key and the van moved slowly toward the exit. As they started to pass the police, Darryl rolled down his window.

"I see anybody behind us," he shouted, "anybody - and we kill them both."

As they left the parking lot, Scully once again met Skinner's eyes, and he locked onto her as they drove out into the blinding snowstorm.

In the Van
Saturday, December 21
9:15 p.m.

For the next thirty minutes, Mulder watched Darryl's side mirror for any sign of pursuit, but he saw none. The snow was intense, the road in front of them covered in white, visibility seemingly only a few feet in front of the car. He had no idea how Darryl could see where he was going, but he seemed to be familiar with their route, having taken several sharp turns upon leaving the parking lot. Mulder held out little hope that anyone would have kept up with them. Helicopter pursuit, a nearly guaranteed method of catching fleeing criminals, was impossible in this weather.

He watched the back of Scully's head. He would have given anything to have been able to touch her, or to see her face. To know that she was okay. She moved then, pressing her forehead hard against the window, and in the reflection he could see that her eyes were screwed tightly shut, her forehead creased. He recognized that she was suffering through another contraction, and she was trying like hell to hide it. He ached not to be able to help her, comfort her.

"Where are we going, Darryl?" he asked, his eyes not moving from Scully. "There's been nobody following us, just like they promised. Why don't you pull over and let us out?"

Darryl shook his head. "Would you shut up for two minutes? Don't talk. Just sit there."

Mulder sat back as he watched Scully shift, sitting up to lean forward, one hand up against the dashboard as the other covered her mouth.

"I'm going to be sick," she said, her voice shaky. "Please. Pull the car over."

Darryl looked at her, amazed that she would ask such a thing.

"Look,"she whispered. "Either you pull over and let me out for a minute, or I throw up in here."

Darryl hit the brakes, the car sliding a little before coming to a stop. Scully jumped out and walked a few feet before she dropped to her knees and vomited into the snow.

Mulder was frantic. "Let me help her, please!"

Darryl turned, pointing the gun at him. "Shut up. You sit there and don't move, or I'll put a bullet through her. You got that?"

Mulder watched Scully as she continued to empty her stomach, then sit back on her legs. She picked up a small handful of snow and held it to her lips. Darryl turned to Louis.

"Go get her."

Mulder watched as Louis, concern etched in his face, gently helped Scully to her feet. She smiled gratefully at him, leaning on him as they returned to the car.

Scully stopped before moving back into the van. "Darryl, I think it would help if I could lie down." She searched his face for some modicum of humanity. "Please."

He shook his head in disgust. "All right, fine. Louis, you switch places with her, let her get in the back."

Louis helped Scully to slide into the back seat next to Mulder, then climbed into the front as they drove away. Mulder pushed the hair back from Scully's forehead, taking in the perspiration and the pallor of her skin. She gave him a weak smile, then scooted down on her side, laying her head on his lap. Mulder stroked her forehead, running his hand over her hair in a feeble attempt to provide comfort. She closed her eyes.

Darryl made another turn - they appeared to be out of the city now, on a road that was becoming more and more treacherous. Mulder tried frantically to gauge their location, but there were no street signs, no buildings visible for the last several miles. Then, a sign by the side of the road, nearly unreadable because of the snow plastered across it.

They were headed into the mountains.

Inside the Van
Saturday, December 21
9:35 p.m.

Lulled by the gentle stroking of Mulder's hands, Scully had fallen asleep. Mulder was terrified by her listlessness, her obvious exhaustion. Even in her sleep, one arm wrapped tightly around her belly in an attempt to keep their child safe from outside harm. He placed his hand there as well, gently rubbing the thin covering that lay between him and his son.

Darryl and Louis were quiet in the front seat. Darryl had calmed considerably, and was concentrating hard on the road in front of them. They were out in the middle of the forest now, and though the road had been cleared earlier, there was no chance of these roads seeing another snowplow for a long while. The van was four-wheel drive and equipped with snow tires, but he didn't think they'd get much further before the road became completely impassible.

Scully stirred suddenly, looking up into his face as another contraction took its hold. Mulder glanced quickly at his watch. Seven minutes since the last one. They were getting closer together, and if Scully's reaction to this one was any indication, stronger. Under his hand, her felt her belly grow tight, amazed at the feeling under his fingertips. This was happening, and there was no way in hell to stop it. Scully buried her face in his leg as she attempted to endure the contraction as silently as possible. The back labor continued with a vengeance, and her hand reached back to clutch at the ache there. She felt Mulder push her hand aside as he dug his fist in to massage her lower back, and she pressed back hard against it, increasing the pressure and the excruciating relief it gave. Silently, he counted off the seconds, and could feel her tension lessen and then leave her body as he reached 60 seconds. This one was long. She lay heavily against him and he continued the massage while her breathing slowed.

Turning awkwardly onto her back, her head still in his lap, she looked up at him and smiled. Her face glistened with perspiration, and he wiped it from her forehead, smoothing her hair back.

"I need to sit up," she whispered. He helped her up, and she leaned into him, her head tucked under his chin. He continued his caresses - stroking her forehead, her hair, down her arm, up her back to her shoulder, only to start the process over. He leaned his head down so that his mouth was against her ear.

"I love you," he whispered, and she moved her arms around him to hold him more tightly.

The car hit a patch of ice and skidded sickeningly before Darryl was able to get control back. Scully sat up to look out the window as the car slowed. She reached down to tighten her seat belt, and glanced over to be sure that Mulder was wearing his. Darryl reached forward to wipe the condensation from the windshield. At this point, it was nearly impossible to see more than a few feet in front of the car.

"Are we almost there, Darryl?" Louis asked his brother.

Darryl nodded. "It's just another couple of miles, I think. The signs are all - Shit!" The car suddenly went into another, wider skid, and he had nearly regained control when they hit another patch of ice. The back of the van swung out wildly, and they began to fishtail across the road.

"Darryl!" Louis screamed.

Darryl continued to attempt corrections and Mulder watched him, impressed at the skill of his driving as he attempted to bring the vehicle back under his control. He turned into the skid, but the van was out of control and headed straight for a stand of trees. Mulder pushed Scully down on the seat, throwing himself over her as they careened across the highway. It was eerily quiet as they skidded across the snow, and he felt Scully grasp his arm tightly as the van flipped over.

For a moment, the only sound came from the high wine of the still-spinning tires. Mulder was dazed, shocked to still be alive, when he felt movement beneath him.

"Scully!" he said. He pulled himself up, pushing the hair out of her face. She looked up at him, reaching a hand up to touch his cheek. "Are you all right?" he asked.

She nodded. "I think so. Are you okay?"

He did a mental check of body parts for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine."

Mulder looked up to see Darryl and Louis moving in the front seat. They, too, had apparently escaped unhurt, and were attempting to extricate themselves from the car.

Mulder reached down to undo his seat belt. The van lay on its side, and he eased himself down to help Scully out of her belt. Standing on the side window, he reached up over his head to open the van door. Snow began to fall into the interior.

"Okay, Scully," he said. "You're sure you're okay? Don't try to get up unless you're sure."

"I'm fine, Mulder," she nodded. "Really." She reached for his hand and he pulled her to a standing position.

He pointed up toward the open door. "I'm gonna boost you up, and you put your foot on the headrest there. Then pull yourself out, okay?"

Scully let out a breath. This scenario seemed unlikely. "Sure, Mulder. Sounds like a cinch to me."

He smiled at her. "Good thing you kept going to those aerobics classes, huh? Come on. You can do it." He reached down, and she put a foot into his linked hands. "Ready?"

She nodded uncertainly, and he began to lift her gently up toward the open doorway. She reached up to grasp the door handle.

"Gee, Scully," gasped Mulder. "You put on a little weight lately?"

"Yuk it up, Mulder," Scully said as she neatly moved her foot over to stand on the headrest. Pulling one leg through the doorway, she awkwardly clambered onto the side of the car, then sat gasping from the physical exertion.

A second later, Mulder was beside her, his hand grasping her shoulder. "You okay?" he asked.

"Fine," she said. "What happened to Darryl and Louis?"

Mulder glanced around and spotted them several yards away, staring at the wreckage. They seemed to be in the middle of a heated argument. "They're watching us. Come on, let's get down."

Scully looked to the ground. "How?"

Mulder let himself slide slowly, then jumped down to the ground, landing neatly on his feet.

"Scully? Okay, you let yourself slide down as far as you can, then I'll reach up and grab you."

"Mulder -"

"It's okay, Scully, I promise I won't let you fall."

Scully sat perched on the edge of the vehicle. It really wasn't that far a drop, but her body was so awkward and she had so little strength left she was afraid that she'd be unable to catch herself if she started to slip. Slowly, she eased herself over the side, clutching at the bottom of the doorway to lower herself down. Just when she felt she could no longer support her weight, she felt Mulder's hands on her legs, and he supported her as she slid down. She stood there in his embrace for a moment while she caught her breath.

"They're still watching. Let's sit down for a minute, Scully." He brushed the snow off a large rock and they sat down close to each other. She zipped her jacket up to her chin and flipped the hood up to keep off the falling snow. She watched as Mulder did the same.

"What do you think they're arguing about?" she asked.

"Us," said Mulder.

Mulder and Scully watched as Louis turned and walked away from his brother. It was the first time Scully had seen Louis actually stand up to his brother, and it appeared to be one of the first times Darryl had experienced it as well. He was livid - his face bright red as he walked after Louis, grabbing him by the collar of his jacket as he pulled him toward the two agents. Scully felt her stomach clench as they approached.

"This is where we say goodbye," said Darryl.

Louis stood silently, his head hanging.

"Look," said Scully. "You can just let us go. By the time we reach anybody, you'll be long gone. They'll never find you."

"Darryl," Louis whispered. "Let them go. Please, Darryl."

"Damn it, Louis!" Darryl screamed. "We don't have a choice, don't you see? He's a cop! They're not gonna stop until they find us!"

"If you kill a cop, it'll be worse for you," said Mulder calmly. "Besides, Dana's not a cop. Let her go. Please. Do anything you want with me, but please don't hurt her."

"Stop trying to confuse me," spat Darryl. He raised his gun, and Mulder took a step in front of Scully.

Scully searched frantically for something to say, something to convince this man to let them go. She thought back over the years of training - the psychology courses, the hostage negotiation guidelines. There was nothing - her mind was a black void. There was nothing but the terror. She grasped Mulder's hand and held tightly. He squeezed back, his eyes never leaving Darryl's face.

"It's not too late, Darryl." Mulder's voice was so calm. Scully moved closer until she stood tight against him. "It's not too late to avoid making a terrible mistake. We'll testify on your behalf, tell them that you had the chance to kill us and didn't do it. Please, Darryl. Let us go."

Darryl smiled. A trickle of blood dripped from a tiny cut on his forehead, and he reached up to wipe it away. "No deal." He cocked the trigger and Scully grasped Mulder's hand more tightly, feeling him as he moved aside to more fully block her from the impending gunshot.

'Oh, Mulder,' she thought sadly. 'He'll just kill me with the next one.' She closed her eyes.

The gunshot sounded huge as it echoed off the surrounding mountains. Scully reached out, grabbing Mulder around the waist, her head pressed into his back as she waited for him to fall. His hand came up and grasped her arm. He was still standing. Why was he still standing?

Scully opened her eyes, pulling away from her husband and moving around to see his face

"Mulder," she gasped. "Oh, God." His face and the front of his jacket were covered with blood.

He grasped her by the arms. "It's all right, Scully. It's not my blood."

"What-" she whirled around, taking in the scene in front of her. "Oh, God."

Darryl lay face down in the snow, the back of his head blown away to expose what was left of his brain. His blood soaked into the snow and Scully, in shock at the gruesome sight, thought vaguely how it looked like a cherry snowcone. She stared at him for a moment before looking up to see Louis, who still grasped tightly to the gun that had killed his brother. He was in shock, unable to take his eyes off the gory sight.

Mulder moved then, using his scarf to wipe the blood from his face as he took a cautious step toward Louis. "Louis? Why don't you give me the gun now, okay?" He reached his hand out.

"I killed him," whispered Louis. "I killed my brother."

"You had to, Louis," said Mulder. "You didn't have any choice. It was the right thing to do."

"No," said Louis. "It's not right to kill my brother. He takes care of me. He loves me."

Scully reached her hand out to him. "Louis, it's okay. Give me the gun, Louis."

Her voice seemed to bring him out of his reverie, and he looked over at her. "He was going to kill the baby."

Scully nodded, smiling. "I know, Louis." She put a hand on her stomach. "You saved the baby." She reached out again, and he placed the gun in her hand. She handed it to Mulder.

Louis began to sob quietly, falling to his knees, hands covering his face. Scully walked over to him and placed a hand on his head.

"It's okay," she whispered.

"We've got to get out of here," said Mulder, gathering the few supplies he could find in the back of the van. "Louis, your brother said you weren't far from where you were going."

Louis, still dazed, looked up to stare at Mulder in confusion.

"Louis. Where were you going? Is there a house near here where you were going to stay?"

Louis nodded. "A cabin."

"Where, Louis?" Scully asked gently. "Which way is it?"

"I think - it's about two miles up the road. There's a red mailbox. You have to walk up the driveway and then you're there."

"Okay," said Mulder. "We need to go now. The snow's getting deeper and it's going to be a difficult walk as it is." He turned to Scully. "You gonna be okay?"

"I'm fine," she said. "Let's go. It's freezing out here."

Flipping on a flashlight, Mulder wrapped an arm around her waist as they started to trudge up the road. Louis walked in front of them, silently leading the way as his flashlight reflected off the snow. The walk was a difficult one - the snow was already quite deep and Scully was quickly exhausted, even with Mulder's help.

"How about if I walk in front of you," he suggested. "You can walk in my footprints, the snow won't be so deep."

"Okay," she said, her breath coming heavily.

Mulder moved in front of her and she walked directly behind him, one hand grasping the back of his jacket. He craned his neck around to look at her. He was concerned - she was already so tired. They still had a good mile and a half to go, and that was assuming that Louis had correctly gauged the distance. He didn't have much faith that was the case.

"Is that a little better?" he asked.


"The doctor did say that walking was good while you're in labor, right?"

Scully smiled. "I don't know if this is exactly what he had in mind. I think he meant a nice little stroll around the hospital corridor. I don't think he meant a forced march through deep snow."

"Yeah, well, he's used to those wimpy pregnant women," Mulder turned to grin at her. "If nothing else, Scully, Brutus is going to love the story of his birth. He'll have all the other kids beat by a mile."

He looked down at Scully as a big smile crossed her face. "Hey, Mulder," she said pointing ahead. "Look!"

In the circle of Louis's flashlight, Mulder spotted the single most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

Barely peeking out through the drifted snow stood a bright red mailbox.

A few yards from the cabin, Scully sagged as another contraction hit. Mulder scooped her up in her arms, carrying her up the steps to the wooden porch. Louis struggled with the doorknob, then turned in frustration. He stared at Scully, her arms tight around Mulder's neck, her head buried in his shoulder.

"I don't have the key. It's in Darryl's pocket."

"Break the window," said Mulder. "Now, Louis. You go inside and open the door."

Louis did as he was told, and Mulder walked quickly inside the freezing cabin, setting Scully down gently on the sofa. He knelt in front of her, pulling the snow-covered hood away from her head. "You want to try the breathing now, Scully?" She nodded and began to pant her way through the contraction, grasping his shoulders tightly, focused on his face. As the pain started to ebb, Mulder turned to Louis.

"Why don't you try to find a piece of wood or something to cover the broken window, okay Louis?"

Louis nodded and moved into the kitchen. Mulder turned back to Scully. Her eyes were closed.

"Okay?" he asked her.

She opened her eyes. "Yeah. They're getting stronger, Mulder."

"Yeah," he smiled sadly. "I can tell. I'm going to get a fire going. You just lie here and rest for a minute, okay?"

Mulder moved over to the fireplace and started throwing newspaper and kindling in, lighting it as he added several good-sized logs. The cabin was only one room - a nice size living area, comfortably furnished with a big couch and a couple of armchairs arranged around the stone fireplace. A kitchenette was tucked into the corner, and a small bathroom, apparently added recently, was located near the front door. There was no television or stereo, and naturally, no telephone.

Louis stood at the window, hammering a piece of wood over the broken window pane. He hadn't spoken a word since they'd started walking.

Mulder watched him for a moment. "Thanks, Louis, you're doing a great job."

Getting no response, Mulder opened a closet door and found several sleeping bags, blankets and pillows. He pulled a pillow and two of the blankets down and returned to Scully, who lay dozing on the sofa. Her eyes opened as he knelt down next to her.

"Let's get you out of that jacket," he said, reaching to help her sit up.

"That fire feels great, Mulder," she said. "Although it looks a little asymmetrical. You feeling okay?"

Mulder smiled. "Yeah, well, I was in a hurry." He unzipped her jacket and she shrugged out of it. He placed the pillow down next to her. "Okay, make yourself comfortable, madame."

"Bathroom, Mulder?"

He pointed to the door. "You need some help?"

She ruffled his hair and smiled. "I think I can still manage to pee alone." She touched his face. "Don't worry, Mulder, I feel better already. Really. I feel safe now."

He smiled at her, helping her off the couch and watching her as she moved slowly to the bathroom, closing the door.

Louis finished with the window and stood looking at Mulder, not sure what he should do next. Mulder smiled at him.

"Great job, Louis. Why don't you come sit over here by the fire and warm up, okay?"

Louis put the hammer down and walked over to the fireplace where he slumped down in a chair, staring into the flames. Mulder looked at him, not sure what to say.

Scully came out of the bathroom carrying the few medical supplies she could scrounge from the tiny medicine cabinet. As she moved back into the room, she locked eyes with Mulder. He looked at Louis sympathetically, then back to her.

Louis had been unresponsive since the shooting, and Scully felt for him. As certain as she was that Darryl would have eventually gotten him killed, without his brother he was now truly alone in the world. Scully suspected that, with their statements on his behalf, Louis would be spared any jail time, but would probably end up in a hospital or some sort of group home. She paused on her way back to the couch, placing a hand on his shoulder. Mulder watched her as she leaned down to look into Louis's face.

"How you doing, Louis?" she asked.

He looked into her eyes then, nodding. "I'm fine."

"You did a great job fixing the window, Louis," she said.

"It wasn't hard. I know how to nail things. Darryl showed me."

Wishing there was something she could say to comfort him, Scully patted him on the shoulder and moved to her husband.

"Come sit down, Mulder," she said. "I want to check your head."

"Scully, it's fine," he protested. "You don't need to worry about it now."

She took his hand and led him to the sofa. She plopped down on the coffee table in front of him and began to remove the makeshift bandage she'd applied in the store.

"Ow!" he groaned as she pulled the bandage off.

"I'm sorry, Mulder." She pushed the hair back from his forehead to get a better look. "It looks pretty good, actually. I'm just going to put a little of this antibiotic cream on it and change the bandage." She put a little of the cream on her finger and applied it gently to the wound. "How's your headache?"

"Better," he lied. "It's okay."

"Yeah, right." She finished applying the fresh bandage. "Mulder, when you have a bad headache you get this little line between your eyes. Ironically similar to this one that's right here now." She smoothed his hair back and he closed his eyes. Her hands moved across his forehead, then down to his temples to massage them gently. His head really was pounding, and her hands on him felt wonderful.

"I found some ibuprofen, too. That should help."

He opened his eyes and smiled at her. "Thanks."

She smiled back at him, her hand cupping his cheek, and he watched her for a moment, reading her eyes instinctively as he saw her focus leave him and turn inward. He put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You want to walk through it?" he asked.

She nodded, and he helped her up, putting an arm around her waist as they paced the floor. She breathed through the contraction fairly easily, leaning against him slightly when it was over.

"You're getting good at this," Mulder said, helping her to sit back on the couch.

"Yeah," she grimaced. "It's a cinch." She lay down on her side, pulling the blanket up over her shoulder. God, it felt wonderful to lie down.

Mulder sat next to her. "Scully, how long do you think? I mean, how much time do you think we have before the baby comes?"

"I have no idea, Mulder. The baby still feels high to me, so it could be hours. Or things could move along quickly." She sighed. "I'm no expert at this, Mulder."

"I think I should go for help."

"No!" She sat up on one elbow. "No, Mulder. Please." Tears threatened to spill over. "I need you here, Mulder. I can't do this by myself." She grasped his arm. "Promise me, Mulder. Promise me you won't leave."

Mulder leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "Scully, I'm sorry. I won't leave, I promise. I promise." He pushed the hair back from her forehead, stroking her hair as she calmed.

Scully took a deep breath, trying to pull herself together. "Did you see Skinner back in the parking lot?"

Mulder nodded. "Yeah. They must have run the plates on my car. I was assuming they'd put a tracking device on the van, but they would have been here by now."

"Yeah, well with our luck, the damned thing probably fell off."

"Well," he smiled. "I do have some good news. This place comes equipped with a teapot and tea."

Scully smiled. "All the comforts of home."

"Not quite. They only have Earl Grey, Scully. These people have taste."

"I can make tea," said Louis. "I can make you some tea."

Scully smiled at him. "Yeah, Louis? That would be great. I'd love it if you'd make us all some tea."

Louis nodded, standing to shrug out of his coat. He moved into the kitchen, filling the teakettle with water.

Mulder put his hand on Scully's forehead. "Anything I can do for you?"

"You can stop worrying, Mulder. You don't need to fuss, really. Just let me be and I'll let you know if I need anything, okay?"

He smiled. "Deal. While Louis is making tea, I'm going to get more firewood." He looked up at Louis as the kettle started to whistle. "How's it going there, Louis?"

"Good," said Louis. "It's almost ready."

Mulder put his jacket on, grabbing Scully's scarf to wrap around his neck. "I'll be right back." He opened the door and was nearly pushed back inside by the force of the wind. Blowing snow flew through the room and made little sizzling noises as it hit the fire.

"Nice night!" Mulder shouted over the wind as he closed the door.

Louis carefully walked over to Scully, a steaming mug of tea in his hands. "I didn't spill any," he said proudly as she sat up to take it from him.

"Louis, it looks great!" She took a careful sip. "It's wonderful! Aren't you having any?"

"No," he said. "I don't like tea. I like cocoa."

Scully sat sipping the tea, rubbing slow circles on her abdomen. Louis was quiet for a moment, watching her.

"When will the baby come out, Dana?"

"I don't know, Louis," she answered. "Pretty soon, maybe."

"It hurts, doesn't it?" he asked. "Why does it hurt?"

Dana sighed. She didn't feel up to a long explanation about the process of childbirth, and she didn't think that was what Louis was looking for anyway.

"It hurts some, Louis. That's just the way it works. That's how the baby gets pushed out."

Louis nodded. "Oh. You should have a doctor."

Scully smiled. "Well, that would be best, but since there's no doctor here, we'll have to do without. It'll be okay."

She felt the familiar pull as another contraction started. She put the mug down on the coffee table and stood, hoping that the walking would help move the baby down a little.

Louis stood too. "Does it hurt now, Dana?"

Scully nodded as she began pacing. "Yeah, it does, Louis. Don't ask any more questions, okay?" She moved over to the small kitchen table, leaning over it in an attempt to ease her back. She could feel Louis staring at her, and it was making her more than a little uncomfortable. "Louis, why don't you see if Mulder needs some help with the wood, okay?"

"Okay," he agreed, putting his coat on and hurrying out into the storm.

The Cabin
Saturday, December 21
11:17 p.m.

By the time Mulder returned, Scully was curled up on the sofa, sipping at her tea.

"Hey," he said. "Took me forever to find the woodpile. The tarp was covered with snow. It's freezing out there." He dropped the wood and moved over next to her, warming his hands in front of the fire. "How's the tea?"

"Great. You want some?"

"Sure, I'll make it." Mulder looked around the small room. "Where's Louis?"

She frowned. "What do you mean? I sent him out to help you. Didn't you see him?"

Mulder shook his head, moving to put his coat back on. He went back outside and she moved to the window, watching him as he walked into the blowing snow. He quickly disappeared from sight, but she could faintly hear him over the howling wind as he called out for Louis.

Ten minutes, later, a nearly frozen Mulder returned. She helped him out of his jacket and sat him down in front of the fire, shoving a steaming mug of tea into his hands. "No luck?" she said.

"He's nowhere out there, Scully."

She sat heavily on the sofa. "Shit, Mulder, it's my fault. He went to get me a doctor."

"What do you mean?"

"He was asking me about labor, about the pain. I think he was concerned about me. He said I should have a doctor."

"Yeah, well let's hope he finds one."

"Mulder, he'll never survive out in that storm. He'll die out there."

"What do you expect me to do, Scully? You want me to go out and look some more?"

"No," she said. "Of course not. Dammit, Mulder, that's not what I meant."

Mulder was trying not to be angry at her, and he took another sip of tea, looking into the fire to try to calm himself.

"I'm sorry, Mulder," she whispered.

He shook his head and smiled at her. "Don't apologize, Scully. We're both a little stressed out."

"Look, Mulder, I need to tell you about something that has me a little concerned, okay? It doesn't mean it's going to happen, but based on the way I'm feeling and some educated guessing . . . "

"Okay, Scully," he said, concerned. "Tell me."

"I'm having really strong contractions that are only about three or four minutes apart. I'm concerned that Brutus here hasn't moved down enough." She rubbed her hand across her stomach. "Usually, standing and walking help, the gravity helping to move the baby down with each contraction. That doesn't seem to be happening."

"Why not?"

"I'm not sure. It could be several things. It could be that he's just not ready to move yet."

Mulder frowned. "But that's not what you think."

"What I'm worried about is that there may be a problem because he's so big. Too big for me. From what I can tell, he's positioned correctly, with his head down, but he may be stuck." She frowned. "I mean, my God, Mulder, look at me. How the hell am I going to push this baby out?"

"Scully . . . " Mulder took her hand.

"I'm sorry," she said. "Really, everything could be just fine, and I'll just pop this kid right out."

Mulder smiled at her. "Is there anything we can do to help things along? Anything I can do?"

"Walking and standing through the contractions may still help," she sighed. "It's getting hard because I'm getting so tired. We can try pressing down with the next contraction, see if we can encourage him a little. Getting him to shift around might help with my back, too."

"Okay," Mulder nodded. "Scully, what happens if he doesn't move down?"

"There's not much else we can do, but let's not worry about that yet, okay?"

"Just let me know what you need, Scully."

"Okay," she said, taking a deep breath. She reached her hand out to him. "Let's walk through this one."

They paced around the room as the contraction built, and Scully placed Mulder's hand atop her abdomen, showing him where to push down.

"Push," she gasped, clutching at her back. "You won't hurt me."

He pushed with what he felt was great pressure, but the baby refused to budge. The contraction ended, and Scully looked up to see his frustration. She patted his arm.

"It's okay. We'll try again with the next one." She grabbed the edge of the sofa, leaning over to rest her head on the cushions as she sought to catch her breath.

"You want me to rub your back?" Mulder asked.

"Oh, God, yes," she sighed.

He dug his thumbs into the small of her back and she groaned, pressing hard against him. He made small circles, moving slowly back and forth between her spine and hips, gratified when she moaned with relief. It was only moments later when he felt the muscles tighten as another spasm took hold.

"Damn," she cried. "God, Mulder, it hurts." She leaned forward over the couch, and Mulder reached out to pull her upright, her back against his chest.

"Gravity, Scully," he said. "Come on, let's try this again."

Placing his hand on the top of her belly, he pushed down again, and this time he felt something shift. The feeling was startling, and he stopped pushing. Scully reached up to place her hand atop his and they both gasped as the baby suddenly slipped down on his own. Scully let out a great whoosh of air.

"Oh, my God," she gasped. "I think that worked, Mulder. Jesus."

"That felt so weird," said Mulder, his hand still on her stomach.

She smiled, her eyes huge. "God, he really dropped down. That may have just saved me from a few extra hours of labor." She pulled away from him. "I need to lie down."

She moved back to the couch, pulling the blankets up to her chin and closing her eyes.

The contractions were now coming very close together. It felt as though one started to build as the last abated, and she was increasingly exhausted. She'd hoped that the back labor would abate when the baby moved, but it continued without mercy, and after several more contractions, she finally asked Mulder for his help, groaning with relief as he massaged the sore muscles.

"Mulder," she moaned. "I'm going to owe you several hundred neckrubs for this."

Mulder smiled. "I'll hold you to that, Scully."

As the next contraction ebbed, she felt a wonderful coolness on her face as Mulder bathed her face with a wet washcloth. He ran the cloth down over the top of her chest, up across her face and forehead to brush her sweat-soaked hair back. She smiled at him.

"Scully, you want some water?" She nodded, sitting up on her elbow to swallow a few sips of the cool liquid.

She handed the glass back to him as she grimaced again. She continued to amaze Mulder. Her pain threshold was higher than anyone he'd ever known, and she rode through these contractions with barely a sound. He knew that the back labor must be excruciating - the skin on her lower back was red and raw with the constant rubbing. She didn't seem to notice, just begged him to massage as hard as he could while the endless contractions continued. He tried to imagine himself in her position, and knew that he would have been screaming bloody murder by now.

He hoped her agony would end soon, but dreaded the moment when she was ready to push the baby out. He tried to be rational about the situation - Scully was a doctor, and as long as everything went smoothly, his biggest responsibility would be to catch the baby without dropping him on his head. He was, however, terribly, terribly afraid of what might happen if things *didn't* go smoothly. If anything happened to Scully or the baby . . .

He'd found clean towels and had a pot of water on the stove to boil. At her instruction, he'd put in a pair of scissors and a length of twine, letting them sit in the boiling water to sterilize them. He'd been to the Lamaze classes and seen the birthing videos, and Scully'd had him talk through what he needed to do when the baby came out. He was as ready as he'd ever be.

She sighed, exhausted. "God, Mulder, I want this over. I'm so tired."

He ran his fingers over her hair. "I know you are. You're doing great. It can't be much longer now, do you think?"

"I don't know." She closed her eyes.

"You want to try and walk some more? See if that will speed things up?"

She seemed reluctant, but nodded. "Yeah, okay. Anything to get this over with."

He pulled her up slowly and she leaned heavily against him, her energy completely spent. "Okay," she whispered. "Walk. I remember how to do that."

His arm tight around her waist, Mulder led her halfway around the room as he sang softly. She was touched for a moment until she caught the lyrics. As he began to go into the second chorus of the theme from 'Rawhide', she pinched him hard on the arm. "You're a funny, funny man, Mulder."

He rubbed at his arm. "And you're a cruel woman when you're in pain. I was just trying to entertain."

She stopped mid-stride and looked at him. "Mulder, I'm gonna be sick . . . "

"Come on, Scully," he smiled. "It wasn't that bad."

"Mulder -" she rushed to the sink, making it there just in time to empty what little was left in her stomach.

"Scully, I'm sorry -" he rubbed her shoulder sympathetically. "I thought you were kidding."

She glanced at him. "Who says it's not your singing that's making me nauseous?" She groaned, leaning back to let him support her weight. "And who the hell said that giving birth was a beautiful thing? I'd like to shoot them right between the eyes."

"Please, Agent Scully. Try to control the violent thoughts. I'm trapped alone in this room with you, ya know. Don't scare me."

On their return trip to the couch, they made it nearly halfway before Scully stopped short, her eyes wide. "Mulder!" she gasped. "Something's happening."

Mulder blanched. He moved her quickly to the sofa, but she grabbed his arm.

"No, it's too narrow. The floor." She grimaced. "Oh, God, hurry Mulder. I want to push."

Mulder threw the blankets and pillows down in front of the fireplace, lowering Scully gently to the floor.

"Mulder, I need you to check and see if you can see the baby's head, okay? I can fell it pressing."

Mulder helped her to remove her clothing, including her sweater, so that all she was wearing was a pair of wool socks and her T-shirt.

When he finally got her settled on the floor, he moved to check her progress. He'd been a little skittish during the birthing videos they'd seen, and Scully was concerned that he'd be queasy, but her fears disappeared when he saw the look in his eyes. "I can see the top of his head, Scully. Oh my God. He's got tons of dark hair."

Scully smiled. "Yeah? He's gonna take after his father's side of the family, huh?" She closed her eyes. "Okay, Mulder, I need to push through this one."

Grabbing her knees, she pressed hard against the couch, a long guttural moan escaping from her lips. Mulder watched as the baby's head started to move toward him, then back up again as the contraction ended. Scully lay back, gasping for air.

He rubbed her bare leg. "It's okay Scully, we'll get there next time."

A couple of minutes passed and she was ready to push again. He watched her face as she struggled to push the baby out. Her concentration was complete. There was nobody else in her world right now - nothing else to be done in the universe but push this baby out of her body. He looked down again to watch the baby's head move out a bit before once again moving back up.

Scully lay back, frustrated. For the first time, he saw tears form in her eyes and spill down her cheeks. He moved to the sink to soak the washcloth in cool water, returning to bathe her face and neck. She was fighting hard but couldn't seem to stop the tears.


"Mulder, I don't think I can do this," she gasped. "I'm so tired. He's too big - I can't push him out."

He took her hand in his, squeezing tight. "Scully, I hate to tell you this, but you don't have a choice. Dana, just one good push and Brutus will be in your arms.



"We're not really going to name this poor child Brutus, are we?"

"God, Scully," he said. "I certainly hope not."

"Okay, Mulder, here we go." She moaned, her face screwed up tight as she pushed with all her strength.

Mulder smiled as the baby's head came out with a little popping noise. He reached out to support the tiny head. "Scully - his head's out. He's beautiful. He's gorgeous."

Another couple of contractions passed, and she was still working to get the shoulders through. She was becoming more and more exhausted, and there was some blood now. Mulder was starting to get frightened.

"Scully, what should I do?"

"Try to turn the baby just a little bit, very gently." Her words were slurred with exhaustion. "Just turn him, Mulder - don't pull. See if you can ease one of the shoulders out."

Mulder manipulated the baby a little, and, with the next contraction, a tiny shoulder popped through, followed soon thereafter by the other shoulder and then, with one more massive effort from Scully, the rest of the baby. He let out a hearty cry, and Mulder laid him on Scully's stomach. She was crying softly as she ran her hands over the baby. Mulder retrieved the implements from the pan of hot water, cut the cord and wrapped the baby in a small blanket which had been warming by the fire. He handed the baby to Scully, using the washcloth again to wipe her face. One final contraction and the placenta was easily delivered.

Soon afterward Scully and the baby were wrapped in blankets in front of the fire. Having done everything he could think of to do, Mulder finally lay down next to his wife. Tears continued to flow from her eyes, and he brushed them away. "Scully, what's wrong? Are you still in pain?"

She smiled warmly at him. "No, Mulder. I've just never been so tired in my life. Or so happy. I can't seem to get control over the tears." She pulled the blanket back to get a better look at the baby's face. "I can't believe it's over. Our baby is finally here." She leaned over to Mulder, kissing him gently. "Thank you. You were amazing."

"You were pretty amazing yourself, you know." He leaned down to look at the baby, sleeping peacefully between them. "He's gorgeous, isn't he, Scully? I think he may be part conehead, but he's still beautiful."

Scully smiled. "Yeah, well he had a pretty tight squeeze on his way out. He's got a big head, which is obviously a Mulder trait. I bet you looked just as pointed when you came out."

"Never. I was perfect, Scully." He pushed the hair off her forehead. "Hey, you need anything? Something to drink? I think you've earned some refreshment."

"Just some water. Thanks."

Mulder moved into the kitchen to retrieve a glass of water. When he returned, Scully was fast asleep. He smiled down at his family and lay down next to them, his arm reaching around them both to keep them safe.

The Cabin
Sunday, December 22
8:43 a.m.

An hour later, Scully awoke feeling much refreshed. Mulder lay beside her with the baby on a big pillow between them. He couldn't seem to take his eyes off his son and she watched him for a moment as he ran his fingers gently over the baby's head. Feeling her eyes watching him, he looked over and smiled.

"Hey," he whispered. "How you feeling?"

"Good," she said. "I feel good. Actually, I feel like a shower."

Mulder looked concerned. "Are you sure, Scully? Maybe you should just rest for a while."

"I'll just take a quick one," she whispered. "I promise I'll call if I need you, okay?"

He nodded.

She looked down at the baby. "We should try to find something to diaper him in, or we're going to be sorry."

Mulder pulled down the baby's blanket, revealing a rather enormous diaper made of intricately folded paper towels and held together with scotch tape. Scully laughed.

"Brilliant work, MacGyver. Think you can build us a car out of paper clips and rubber bands so we can go home?"

"Go take a shower, Scully."

She sat up slowly in an attempt to gauge how sore she was going to be. Mulder watched her.

"How goes it? You okay?"

"Well, I feel like I've been hit by a truck, actually, but other than that -"

He stood up to help her to her feet, pausing for a moment while she got her balance. "Sure you can stay upright by yourself?"

"Mulder, I feel light as a feather now." She looked down at her still very pregnant-looking body. "Well, like a very large, bulging feather." She kissed him on the nose. "I'll be fine," she said, and floated off to the bathroom.

Fifteen minutes later, Scully felt wonderfully clean and warm. Wrapped in a big terry cloth robe they'd found in the closet, she was making a first, fairly unsuccessful attempt to get the sleepy baby interested in her breast. Mulder watched with fascination.

"This is the most relaxed baby I've ever seen in my life," she said. "Let's hope he stays that way."

"Yeah, well, he's had a big day," said Mulder, smiling.

"Haven't we all . . . " she said. The baby finally took a tentative mouthful of nipple. "Yow," she grimaced. The baby quickly lost interest and went back to sleep.

"Guess he's not hungry, huh?" asked Mulder.

Scully covered herself and leaned against her husband, her eyes closed. She was still so tired. He wrapped her up, kissing her on the top of her still damp head.

"There's still one thing left to do, Scully."

"I know. I can't believe we haven't come up with a name for this poor child. We really can't keep calling him Brutus. Although with the size of him, it's fitting."

"Well," said Mulder. "Maybe we should name him something symbolic. Like the Indians do, you know? Name him after the first thing he saw."

Scully smiled. "You were the first thing he saw, Fox."

Mulder frowned. "Oh, yeah. I can't do that to the poor kid. The Fox thing ends right here." He looked around the room, watching as the snow continued to fall outside the window. "Snowflake?"

"Snowflake Mulder? I don't think so."



"Do you think he'll like us? Do you think he'll become a teenager and not want to be caught dead in the same room with us?"

Scully pondered for a moment. "Probably. But he'll like us at first." She patted Mulder's leg. "We'll have a few good years before he learns to despise us, Mulder. And then...we'll have our memories."

Mulder sighed, turning his head toward the window. "Did you just hear something?"

"Hear what, Mulder? It's just the storm."

"No, I -"

The front door of the cabin swung open to reveal a very tense, very snow- covered Walter Skinner.

"Oh, sure, now you show up," said Mulder.

The troops had finally arrived - several police officers were milling around outside while the paramedics checked the baby. Pronouncing him perfect in every way, they handed him to Mulder while they turned their attentions to Scully.

"You deliver this baby, Mulder?" Skinner was smiling at him as he nodded. "He's beautiful. Congratulations."

"Thank you sir, but I think Scully deserves most of the credit." He looked at the paramedic. "How is she?"

"She looks fine." The paramedic looked down at Scully. "You tore a little, but a couple of stitches and you'll be as good as new. I'd recommend you come with us to the hospital - they might want you to stay overnight, just as a precaution, but you should all be home for Christmas." She covered Scully with a blanket and they left to retrieve the stretcher from the ambulance.

Skinner moved to sit on the coffee table, taking Scully's hand in his. "The baby's beautiful, Scully. How are you feeling?"

She smiled at him. "I'm fine, sir. Just a little tired. What took you so long?"

"We had a tracking device on the van, but it malfunctioned."

Scully turned to look at her husband. "Told you."

"Louis made it to a house a few miles up the road. He kept repeating over and over that they 'needed to get a doctor for Dana'. They called the police, who finally got him calmed down enough to tell them where you were."

"He's okay?" asked Scully.

"He's fine."

The paramedics returned and tucked Scully in for the long ride to the hospital. Mulder stood holding the baby and she smiled wearily at him as they wheeled her out. She was asleep again before they loaded her into the ambulance.

Skinner clapped a hand on Mulder's shoulder, looking down into the baby's sleeping face. "So, Mulder, I haven't heard the baby's name yet. What's it going to be?"

Mulder handed the baby to the paramedic as he stepped up into the back of the ambulance.

"Well, sir, we've been toying with the idea of 'Snowflake', actually."

Skinner nodded at him, a tight smile crossing his features. "Mulder? That bump on the head? You might want to have that checked when you get to the hospital."

Mulder nodded. "I'll do that, sir."

"And Mulder?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Don't fill out any forms - any birth certificates or anything - until Scully's awake, okay?"

Mulder was thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. "Okay, sir."

The door to the ambulance slammed shut and Skinner stood quietly, watching as it pulled away.


Author's Notes:
This was a story unlike anything I've written before and, surprisingly, one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had. It started out as a little experiment - a short little M&S married story to see if I could do it, and then I just couldn't seem to keep them out of trouble. The little five page story turned into this monster.

I'm one of those strange people who does not, under any circumstances, want to see romance on the show, but doesn't mind reading a well-written MSR if the characters stay as true as possible to the characters on the show. That's not easy to find, and I tried very hard to do that here. I hope I was successful. I'd love to hear what you thought, including suggestions to correct any inaccurate medical information.

Thanks again for reading - I hope you enjoyed!!

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