Title: Surreal Thing
Author: Invisivellum
Feedback: Gratefully accepted and acknowledged.
Archive: Yes, freely
Category: V
Keywords: MSR, Mulder POV
Rating: R for language and adult situations
Spoilers: Requiem. Actually, the entire series, up to and including Season 7
Disclaimer The characters depicted in this work of fiction do not belong to me. They are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox, or some combination thereof.

Summary: Mulder returns.

Author's Note: I just couldn't settle on a name for the baby (and believe me, I thought about it). If you like, you can find-and-replace your favorite name over the generic "X." *archivist's note: since we now know the baby's name, that was done in this copy*

To be honest, the first thing I noticed about Scully were her breasts.

Let me amend that. Technically, I suppose the first thing I was aware of was her voice in my ear, low and soft, calling my name.

"Mulder?" I felt warm lips graze my forehead and smelled the scent of her hair. "Good morning."

I cracked open one eye, but couldn't move or speak. Though I could see her, and feel her hand slowly stroking my arm, I thought it might be another dream. I had so many dreams of her. In this one, Scully had evidently undergone breast enhancement surgery.

The next thing I remember is another soft kiss and her voice saying, "Good morning" again.

She wasn't there the next time I opened my eyes, though I heard her voice echoing down the hallway from some other room, mingled with the deeper tones of Skinner and someone else, maybe Frohike. Late afternoon sunlight streamed through a wide, uncurtained window across from where I lay. The light dazzled and exhausted me and I closed my eyes -- for just a moment, to rest. Just before sleep overtook me, I thought I heard a baby crying.

When I was able to open my eyes again, the light was gone from the window, replaced by the soft yellow glow of a dimmed lamp positioned somewhere behind me in the room. She was there, sitting beside me on the edge of the wide bed and all I could see were these plump, beautiful breasts, peeking out of the top of a snug sweater. She was leaning towards me and, I swear, I could see cleavage for miles. I thought to myself, That can't be Scully, and went back to sleep.

Not that Scully doesn't have beautiful breasts. There's a shirt she wears sometimes, a black one, cut low and square across the top. On several occasions, while spouting a theory or arguing a point with her, I have stopped in mid-discourse and abandoned the topic, my words trailing off as I closed my eyes and walked away. Maybe she chalks it up to my latent attention-deficit disorder. The truth is, I just can't think straight when she wears that shirt.

When I opened my eyes the third time, struggling to regain true consciousness, she was still there, still in that sweater, and she was smiling down at me. I saw my own hand, forefinger extended, reach out and gently prod the tops of those breasts. I heard the smile in her voice when she said, "I see you're feeling better." I blinked, stared up at her and thought to myself, God, I hope this is real.

It seemed real enough when, sometime later, I found myself taking sips of water from a plastic cup. I foolishly attempted to breathe and drink at the same time, sending me into a coughing fit and spraying Scully with drops of recycled water. Momentarily revived, I tried to speak. That brought on another round of violent coughing spasms and my vision faded.

"Slow down, Mulder," I heard her say.

No, wait, I thought, I have to ask you a question.

She has told me, since, that I was in and out of consciousness for the better part of three days after my return. In some ways it seems as though I lay in that state for years. The memories I have of those first few days are choppy, fragmented, weird and hazy.

But I remember the first time I saw the baby.

Scully wasn't in the room this time when I awoke. Lying on my left side, facing the bare, dark window, I tried to muster the strength to turn over on to my back. It seemed the only movement I could produce was a feeble plucking of my fingers at the comforter draped over me. The room itself, or what I could see of it, was not familiar at all. It was not a hospital room; I was sure of that. I puzzled over it, for a moment, giving up further attempts to make my body move.

My eyelids fluttered shut and I knew I wouldn't stay awake long enough to see Scully again, so I tried to call out for her. I must have made some sound, even if it wasn't exactly what I was aiming for, because the shadows in the room jumped and suddenly the broad-shouldered silhouette of Walter Skinner was looming over me. His expression was grim, as grim as it always is, and I thought to myself, Now what have I done?

The relentless pull of sleep was dragging at my eyelids when Scully appeared at Skinner's side. Propped on one hip was a baby, eight or nine months old. I squinted, but I couldn't make any sense of that at all, and my world went dark.

I stopped struggling so hard to stay conscious. It must have been sometime on the third day when I woke up and saw Scully on the bed beside me, leaning over the chubby baby and making little noises. She was smiling down at him, nodding her head and carrying on a one-sided conversation as she efficiently cleaned and diapered him. Above the waving fists, I saw the silky shine of reddish-blond hair, and the short, straight nose. It hit me, then, that the baby was hers.

Scully's baby? Grief crashed over me, disappointment so powerful I thought I would stop breathing. Because I thought to myself, Now I know this isn't real. Scully can't have a baby. This is just another fucking dream.

I don't remember much. There are flashes of intense pain. Inhumanly quick movements. White light, of course, glaring down from above. Invasions of various bodily orifices. The usual.

I remember -- or I think I do -- that I kept the pain at bay with memories of Scully. And, I'll be honest, fantasies of her, too. The agony of realizing that these latest visions of her with a baby were merely figments of my imagination sent me spiraling deeper into unconsciousness, where I kept my favorite recollections.

I remember the first time I ever saw her in her bra and panties. Hell, how long had I known her then? Two days? Three? Although I didn't think so at the time, in my memories of her then she was just a kid. Long hair and glasses, smooth-faced, so sincere.

I remember the first time, in my bed. Waking up to the sight of her removing her jacket, while she fixed me with a look of calm determination. Watching her lick her lips to the sound of a zipper coming undone, I remember thinking to myself, Thank you, Sandman, for sending such a fine, fine dream.

Once I realized it wasn't a dream, I remember trying -- somewhat feebly, I'll admit -- to slow her down, to give her time to think.

"What would happen," I said, trying to sound reasonable and calm. "if we didn't go through with this?"

"Hm," he said, thoughtfully, letting her panties slip to the floor. "Then I suppose Langly would owe Frohike a lot of money."

I remember Scully laughing, not unkindly, at my fears in the darkness of my room, shaking her head and shrugging out of her blouse. Talking to me about choices, and paths, and peace.

I remember the moment I first touched her, really touched her. My hands were shaking and I didn't know where to start. She was so calm. How could she be so calm? I felt like a tornado on speed, my blood pumping so fast and so hard. I saw spots before my eyes, I swear. Little white spots danced in my vision when she guided my hands to her breasts, and I felt their soft, heavy weight in my palms for the first time.

These are the memories I trotted out when the pain was too much to bear, when I had spent hours screaming like a wounded rabbit, when I was exhausted but couldn't sleep. Lying on the floor, naked, listening to the sounds of others who were experiencing the torment I'd just been through, I would clamp my arms over my ears and think of Scully. This is all I can remember about my time away. I didn't learn anything useful. Except maybe what it is to have a longing for home so strong it makes you cry.

I remember how that first evening progressed. Every aching, sweet moment of it is preserved in my mind for all time. At the critical point, with Scully astride my lap, her thighs locked around my hips and her mouth on my ear, I was overwhelmed. As the head of my cock touched home, I remember saying, "I can't, I can't..."

And I remember -- very distinctly -- the sparkle in her eyes and the quirk of her lips as she tilted her hips and pushed slowly, inexorably downward, saying dryly, "The empirical evidence at....ah....at hand...seems to indicate that you certainly can." We shared a trembling laugh at that, a tender kiss, a deeper kiss, and my eyes rolled back in my head with sheer pleasure. Even a top-of-the-line memory wipe can't erase that.

What I was trying to tell her, what I couldn't quite manage to say out loud, was that it had been too long, and I'd had too many years of fantasies very near to this scenario, to hope for any show of endurance. I was trying to say, "I can't not come to orgasm immediately, Scully. Don't get your hopes up."

I remember the sound of my own voice, over and over, saying, "Oh, God. Oh, God." Even to my own ears, it sounded like I really meant it. Maybe I did. In fact, I think I was praying. Praying to something. Praying that this was not a mistake. That she would not wake up and regret it. That it wouldn't change things between us forever. In the gray light of pre-dawn, when she slipped out of my bed and prepared to leave, I was afraid to open my eyes. I could hear her moving around in the bathroom, running the water. I stayed, like the coward I am, motionless on the bed until I sensed her standing over me. Cracking open one eye, I silently took in the fact that she was nude, gazing at me, and idly brushing one finger over a rapidly-hardening nipple. Both of my eyes popped open at that point. She flashed me an impish, un- Scully-like grin, and crawled back into the bed with me. Half an hour later, I fell into a sated slumber and didn't even hear her leave.

It's all like a dream now. A distant, unreal dream that could not possibly be true. These things don't happen to me. I don't get what I want.

That's why I knew that I was only dreaming, when I saw her there on the bed, with a baby. A wish I would have made, if I hadn't been sure it would backfire horribly, was for Scully to regain her fertility. The desire to give her back all that she has lost has overtaken the need to keep her near me.

That's how I know that I really do love her. I'm not the least selfish person in the world, but in the months before my abduction I came to the realization that I finally loved Scully enough. . .

.. . . to let her go.

The baby woke me up. I sat up abruptly, forgetting I wasn't at home, in my own apartment. The strange, heavy lethargy that weighed me down for so many days was rapidly dissipating. As I sat up in the bed and scrubbed my face with my hands, I could hear the baby crying down the hall. From there I could see a faint blue light, from a television screen or a computer monitor. I saw shadows moving and knew that Scully was there, just a few yards away.

I gazed around the small bedroom. Frohike was asleep in an old blue velour club chair by the door, mouth hanging open, softly snoring. A lamp in the corner gave off a dim yellow glow through a dusty ivory paper shade. The pink roses on the comforter clashed with the boyish vertical stripes of the ancient wallpaper. I rubbed my eyes, still feeling a bit like a dreamer, but much more alert than before.

I decided to stand up.

After Scully and Frohike finished putting me back in the bed, when I was holding her slender body tightly in my arms and gasping over her shoulder like a stranded fish, I saw Langly at the end of the hallway, awkwardly accepting the baby from Byers' hands. As Byers came down the hall towards us, I craned my neck to see past him. I wanted to see the baby again. I was afraid to ask for the details, but somehow I knew it was Scully's child.

Once I was truly awake (a condition precipitated by my tumble from the high bed), I rejected the dream-borne idea that Scully had become magically fertile in my absence. I realized with a jolt that this child must be like Emily. Questions crowded my mind.

I was wondering how she'd found this child, and how long it would live.

in my fantasies, Scully is much more demonstrative than I know her to be. I imagined over and over what it would be like to see her again. She would throw her arms around me, squeeze the life out of me, kiss me repeatedly. We would laugh and cry, and kiss and kiss.

The reality was closer to the fantasies than I ever hoped. When she wrapped her arms around my neck and I heard her husky voice in my ear saying, "Mulder, thank God, thank God," I squeezed my eyes shut and bit the inside of my cheek, trying to assure myself that this time I was actually awake and back among humans.

My ass hurt where I'd hit the floor, and I'd gouged a chunk out of my elbow on the metal bed frame, but it felt like heaven. I couldn't believe it was over, and I was home. Scully was real, and being uncharacteristically affectionate in the company of others.

Frohike and Byers hovered at the foot of the bed for a moment, but I suppose they decided that their hugs and kisses could wait. They disappeared down the hall when it became apparent that Scully and I would be a while.

I know I must have hurt her, but I couldn't get her close enough, my weakened arms couldn't hold her tight enough to suit me. I wanted to lock my arms around her and throw away the key.

When she kissed me, laughing, and her tears trickled between our lips, the taste was sweeter than anything I've ever known.

"I saw a baby," I said, when I could pull myself far enough away from her to look at her face. It came out sounding like a question. Scully hesitated a beat, then nodded and licked her lips. Suddenly nervous, she shifted in my arms.

"Where did you find him?"

She looked a little shocked. At the time, I thought she was impressed with my deductive skills, or my powers of observation, or the fact that I was thinking clearly at all, after everything I'd been through.

It seemed evident to me that the baby was somehow genetically related to her. Even the few glimpses I'd had thus far told me that much and, knowing what I know, it didn't surprise me that there might be others out there, waiting for us to find them. "I didn't. . ." When she paused, weighing her words carefully, I felt the first chill creep up my spine.

She withdrew from my arms, and took my hands in hers. "I didn't find him, Mulder."

There was a long silence while several unlikely scenarios played through my mind. All of them seemed more plausible than what she said next.

"I conceived him." Her words were stated carefully, her voice soft. Her blue eyes held mine, drilling the words home as gently as she could. "I carried him, and I gave birth to him."

While my mouth worked soundlessly, trying to form a coherent reply, she was pulling away from me, holding up a hand, saying, Wait, wait.

When she brought the baby into the room, I wanted to preempt her.

Just give it to me straight, Scully, I wanted to say. Don't soft soap it. I wanted to know how, when, whose...

Mostly how.

I, of all people, knew that she was completely, irrevocably barren. Incapable of natural conception. I couldn't work it out in my confusion, and it all started to feel like a dream again.

The red hair, the nose. He looked like a Scully. As she seated herself cross-legged on the bed in front of me, with the baby in her lap, I wondered how much time had elapsed. I studied Scully carefully, noting the absence of a wedding ring, and the changes in her appearance. Her hair was a little bit longer and looked fuller, thicker. Years? Had I been gone for years?

Then I remembered Scully telling me -- sometime in the minutes after I'd attempted to escape the bed, when we were both babbling -- that I'd been gone for fifteen months. Fifteen months. I was trying to do the math, trying to figure out what month it was when she spoke.

"This is William," he said quietly, looking from him to me. Her luminous blue eyes were bright. "He's...." her voice broke and she pressed her lips together, gathering her thoughts.

"You gave birth to this child." I re-stated it, just for the record, and met her eyes. She gave me a short nod and shifted him in her lap.

Before she could begin an explanation, fear spurred me hard in the ribs and forced me to speak. I was afraid to know how, or with whom. I babbled for a minute, staving off the explanation; I don't even know what I said. Something about genetics, and boy, you're out of commission for a while and miss all the good stuff.

Scully gave me a long, assessing look. I pressed on, trying to stay in control, feeling everything tilt underneath me."Scully, you can't — you couldn't —" my voice trailed off on a high note. I cleared my throat and tried again.

"How, Scully?" Images came unbidden to my mind, of Scully and some nameless, faceless, Other. "How did you get pregnant?"

I wanted to be happy for her. Hell, I was happy for her. I was overjoyed for her, on one level. On another level, I could feel something under my breastbone crack and break. I was happy she had achieved this thing I would have given her if I could, and filled with soul-searing sorrow that she had done it without me. I doubted then, everything I thought was true between us.

"In the usual way," she replied to my question softly and, I thought, evasively. Her eyes were cast down at the top of his head. She licked her lips and drew a deep, slow breath. "With some help, I believe, from someone with the right science."

The baby was hopping in her lap, waving his fists up and down, reaching for me. Tentatively, I stretched out a finger. He took hold of it firmly and tried to draw it into his mouth.

I studied him carefully, letting Scully's words settle down like rain upon me. I knew that, if I stayed silent for a moment, she would explain. I chewed on my lower lip and focused on the baby. He was still trying with all his might to drag my hand closer to his open mouth.

I looked at his eyes.

I blinked, put my finger under his chin and tilted his face up so I could have a better look. He raised fine reddish brows at me and clamped his mouth down on the knuckle of my thumb. Something about his eyes...

I think I stopped breathing. The room was utterly silent, as if we had all been plunged under water. I stared at William intently, noting his complexion, his mouth. Long-fingered hands, long feet encased in little white socks.

His nose, definitely Scully's. His hair, sort of like Bill's on a good day.

But his eyes... His eyes were all mine.

I blinked rapidly and noticed, winking at me from the sleeve of his white t-shirt, an emblem. Dark blue, bright orange. A little basketball, with the stylized logo of the New York Nicks.

"Scully?" I don't know how I spoke, because there was no air in my lungs.

She waited, looking at me steadily. I saw a tear trickle down her cheek, linger at her jaw, and drop like dew on William's downy head.

"Scully?" I said again, desperation and hope mingled in my strangled voice.

"Mulder, I don't know where to start," he said, running one of her hands carefully over the front of his body, smoothing the soft cotton of his shirt against his belly.

He looked up and rolled his head, craning his neck to see her face. She placed a kiss upon his brow and looked up at me.

Then she told me. How, on the day of my abduction, she fainted. How she found herself in the backseat of a car, with Langly on one side of her and Frohike on the other. How Byers, at the wheel, refused to turn the car around. She was going to the hospital, they told her. Too tired to fight about it, and a little concerned herself, she acquiesced.

She told me about the hospital. How she requested certain tests, and was denied because of her "condition." The confusion that followed. The pregnancy test. The second one. And the third. How she trembled as she stared at the results. How she ordered a reluctant Byers to go to the store and fetch one of every pregnancy test on the shelf and bring them back to her.

How Skinner reacted, with confusion at first, followed by hard questions that she refused to answer. Ultimately, she told me, Skinner came around, and was supportive and helpful.

Somewhere in her narrative, though at the time it hardly registered, she told me The X-Files Division was closed, or at least temporarily suspended. By the time the auditors and accountants cleared the decks, she was nearly five months along, and without a partner. She preferred to spend her time with Frohike, anyway. And, of course, with Byers, Langly, and sometimes Skinner, trying to find me. Quantico was glad to have her, so she was able to pay the bills and continue the search. Skinner declined to reopen the division without us. In her seventh month, she realized she was being followed. She found a listening device in her bedside lamp, near the phone. Another under the coffee table. She realized they didn't care if she knew. On yet another trip to Bellefleur, her motel room was broken into and vandalized. Her laptop, and all the papers she had with her, were taken.

Skinner, although he was no longer in a position to give her orders, demanded she stop the search. In an angry confrontation, he reminded her that the baby she carried was, in essence, a Mulder, and therefore a target. His arguments knocked some sense into her and she accepted the Gunmen's offer of sanctuary.

"Like something out of a science fiction novel," she snorted, bouncing the baby gently on her knee. "Decoys and subterfuge, hi-tech security devices, hideouts, safe houses. You should have been there."

Yes, Scully, I should have been there.

She stopped, lowered her head and took a deep breath.

"Scully." My voice was hoarse.

I cleared my throat to try again, and then said to myself, Fuck it. I put my hand around the back of her head and drew her to me. We were always better at non- verbal communication anyway.

William had a good portion of my crumpled t-shirt crammed in his mouth when we finally parted. It was a welcome distraction, and the few seconds we spent divesting him of his treat were enough for me to catch my breath and start thinking.

As she lifted him up to reposition him, my arms went out of their own accord. She hesitated for a fraction of a second, then wordlessly handed him to me.

There was so much to ask, so much I didn't know. When was he born? Where? Was it a difficult pregnancy? Was your mother with you at the delivery? You weren't alone, were you? Sorrow overcame me, for just a moment. What have I missed?

Some Scullyish part of my brain piped up and reminded me that I was becoming emotionally invested very quickly, without first checking my facts. She still hadn't spelled it out for me, and I guess I was waiting for it. I wanted her to tell me I was the father of her child. I looked from William to Scully, but couldn't make myself ask the question.

"He's almost nine months old," she told me as I settled him more comfortably in my lap. He was heavier than he looked. He gazed up at me curiously and put his fist in his mouth. I just stared at him, uncomprehending, really. Tears blurred my vision and I realized I was silently shaking my head from side to side, hope at war with disbelief. I fingered the logo on the short sleeve of his t-shirt.

"He's mine." I tried to say it definitively, but it came out in a whisper.

When she didn't reply, every cell in my body froze. I couldn't look at her. Suddenly sick with the knowledge that I had jumped to a very wrong conclusion, I was paralyzed. Doubt assailed me as I wondered what other man with hazel eyes (and a high tolerance for being second guessed) had taken my place.

I finally managed to glance at her, prepared to see regret in her eyes, maybe even pity. Instead, she was smiling softly, her eyes fixed on William as he tried valiantly to get a good grasp on the corner of the comforter. Where his short arms failed, he tried to compensate by stretching his body over my supporting arm. His mouth was wide open, drool dangling from his lower lip. Frustrated with his lack of progress, he uttered a string of nonsensical vocalizations, and tried to launch himself out of my arms. I switched my grip and dragged the comforter to where he could get his mouth on it.

"Scully?" I guess this time the doubt sounded in my voice, because she snapped her attention back to me, and her eyes lost their soft focus.

"Mulder!" I think she started to laugh, but she stopped herself and reached a hand out to my face. "Oh, Mulder. Of course he is."

Scully has a few theories. She also has several large manila envelopes full of test results. In the hours after my return to the world of the conscious, she shared some of them with me. I listened as attentively as I could, but I was still disconcerted. And I was fascinated with William.

My son.

The thought made my head swim. I nodded as Scully informed me that we were in Canada, in a house that had belonged to Frohike's great-aunt. I tried to pay attention while she pointed out incomprehensible black smudges on large sheets of plastic film. I waited patiently while she went in search of more envelopes full of carefully collected data. Ninety-five percent of my attention, however, was focused on the wriggling sack of oral fixation in my arms.

Anything within grasping distance went promptly into his mouth. At one point, when I leaned forward to stop Scully's endless dissertation with a kiss, he tried to fasten on the cloth-covered tip of her breast.

I watched, amazed, as Scully unfastened her clothing with one hand and maneuvered him into position with the other. His questing mouth latched on to the dark-rose nipple and his eyes fluttered shut as he concentrated on his work. Scully's eyes met mine and we exchanged some interesting non-verbal dialogue while our son suckled at her breast. It was, quite possibly, the most surreal moment I have experienced in almost two years.

Scully handed William to me in order to fetch a protective cloth for her shoulder so she could burp him. When she returned, Frohike, Byers, and Langly trailed excitedly after her into the room. I guess they'd been as patient as they could.

I sat there, cross-legged on the bed with William in my lap as they gathered around and cracked wise about the baby, and my disappearance. I think I just sat there in a daze throughout most of it. I traded the baby to Langly for a tall glass of orange juice and drank it down in one long swallow.

"Hey, Mulder," Langly said, disentangling his stringy hair from William's mighty grip. "Scully made us his godfathers, did she tell you that?"

I glanced at Scully, who gave me a wry look and shrugged. She took the baby from Langly and hiked him high over her shoulder as she paced in short laps around the bed.

"He's a Knicks fan, buddy," said Frohike, confidentially in my ear. "We made sure of that."

"Yeah, " I gave a short laugh and knuckled at my eyes. "Yeah."

Sometime later, deep night by the look of the lone window, I opened my eyes to an empty room. I had sprawled in my sleep and kicked off the comforter. Moving slowly, carefully, I managed to maneuver to the foot of the bed and retrieve the fluffy bedding from the floor.

Pleased with my newfound ability to walk, I took a few cautious steps toward the door. The muscles of my legs quivered, but held. I tossed the comforter onto the bed, braced my hands on the walls of the hallway, and headed in the direction of the flickering blue light at the end.

The living room was devoid of life. I expected to see the Gunmen sprawled asleep there, or crouching over computer monitors in the darkness. The computer monitors were there — four of them, perched on card tables and end tables around the room — but the chairs in front of them were empty, as were the two sofas and the battered leather recliner in one corner. I peered curiously at my surroundings, taking in the layout.

I continued my cautious exploration of the front rooms, noting a wall-mounted ironing board jutting from a tiny cabinet in the dining room. Its surface was littered with papers and file folders, as was every available surface in the large, old- fashioned kitchen.

I moved quietly through the dark house, feeling strength and energy returning with every step. It felt incredibly good to walk again, to scratch my mundane itches, to breath and blink, stretch and yawn.

The old house had obviously been cobbled together over a span of many years. Another hallway stretched away from the living room opposite of the one I'd emerged from and, following it, I found the bathroom.

I sighed with relief as I expelled what felt like several years' worth of urine into the rust-stained bowl. Using the time to wonder how my bodily functions had been attended to during my long sleep, I winced as I pictured Frohike -- or worse yet, Skinner -- helping Scully with a bedpan or catheter. When I bent at the sink to wash my hands and face, my reflection in the spotted mirror caught my eye.

Aside from a few days' growth of beard, and dark circles under my eyes, I looked pretty normal. I was thinner, perhaps, and my ragged hair was long enough to flop over my forehead, but I was otherwise unchanged.

Unchanged, except for the fact that I was now a father.

Snorting at the absurdity of my life, I fetched a thin white towel from a hook on the back of the bathroom door and made for the old, claw-footed bathtub.

Scully found me there sometime later. When her cool hand touched my shoulder, I started awake and thrashed around for a moment, sloshing water onto the cracked linoleum and soaking the little towel on the floor beside the tub.

"Jesus, Scully," I croaked, struggling to stand in the narrow space. I stood on trembling legs in the high bathtub, staring down at Scully in her nightclothes. She was wearing a little satin short set, with a button-up top. I marveled anew at her enhanced bust line.

"Mulder, you're going to break your neck," she admonished, reaching a hand out to steady me. She helped me step out of the tub, staggering a little as I put most of my weight on her. The air was cool, but the space between our bodies warmed rapidly as I felt her belly pressing against the front of my hips. She held me for a moment, leaning slightly backwards to examine my face. One of her hands came up to swipe at the water dripping from my face.

"You're wet," he said, unnecessarily. "Can you stand here while I get you a towel?"

I didn't answer her, nor did my arms relax their hold around her back. The momentary weakness vanished and I felt invigorated.

"You're warm," I told her, running my hands up and down her spine.

She made me stand in the cold bathroom while she rooted in the hall closet. Re- entering the room, she averted her eyes and handed me a dry towel.

"Your brush with a higher intelligence hasn't improved your habits much, " he said dryly, flushing the toilet I'd neglected earlier. She leaned down and retrieved the towel from the floor and began wringing water from it into the emptying bathtub. "Get some clothes on, Mulder."

"Clothes?" I asked, running the dry towel over my naked body as briskly as I could. To my amusement, Scully was studiously avoiding looking in my direction. I considered making another pass, but the air was too cool for comfort and my teeth were beginning to chatter. "Where are they?"

"In my room," she indicated a door opposite the entrance to the bathroom. "In the suitcase next to the bassinet."

Perplexed by her refusal to meet my eyes, I stopped and waited. She continued to look away from me, swiping at the surface of the sink with the damp towel, as I wrapped the other towel around my hips. Decently covered, I hooked one hand around her upper arm and pulled her to me.

She came, unresisting, into my arms and dropped her forehead on my chest. She was crying, very quietly, her tears mingling with the residual drops of water from my impromptu bath.

"Scully," I murmured into her hair. She smelled warm and faintly sweet, like sleep with a hint of baby shampoo. "Why are you crying?"

Her head shook slowly against my chest and she didn't answer. I held her for a long moment, savoring the warmth of her body against mine, the feathery tickle of her hair on my chest. Her hands gripped my back and I could feel her struggling for control.

After a few moments, where I absently stroked her trembling back with my fingertips, I felt her plant a damp kiss on my breast, just below the collarbone. I squeezed her and kissed her back, right on the ear.

"Scully?" I nuzzled her ear, placed a kiss just beneath it on her neck.

She drew a shaky breath and expelled it. "It's been so hard, Mulder. I'm just...." she swallowed and pulled back to look at me. "I'm just....relieved."

I nodded my understanding. I didn't know all of the details, but I had some inkling of the struggle the past fifteen months must have been for her. I could clearly remember my own state of mind when, early in our partnership, she'd vanished off the face of the earth for three months. I hadn't had a mysterious, miraculous pregnancy to contend with. Nor a baby who might be the target of malicious conspiracies, fantastic dangers no one could prove. I marveled at her ability to remain sane under such pressure.

An idea first proposed by Scully, one I'd begun to seriously consider before my abduction, resurfaced. I looked down at her, studying the fine lines at the corners of her eyes, the faint trace of tears on her face, and felt my resolve harden.

We are getting out.

I could make arrangements. We could liquidate my assets and disappear. With glib disregard for the details, I spun a fantasy of the two of us -- make that three of us -- turning tail and running for the hills. We would go to Switzerland, I thought. The Gunmen would help us. I would take Scully and William — I would take my family, I thought with some amazement -- and drop off the face of the earth.

Fuck the aliens, fuck the Consortium, fuck it all. We would just go somewhere and be normal.

Scully interrupted my thoughts with a kiss on my chin. "Go get dressed," he said quietly.

Drawn back to reality, I recovered my wit. "That doesn't fit in with my plans, Scully. " I nudged her suggestively with my towel-clad hips.

She snorted and shook her head, pushing away from my chest with the palms of her hands. "Mulder, you can barely stand."

I ignored her, choosing instead to suck gently on the hollow of her neck below her ear. "I wasn't thinking of standing all the way through, though we could try..."

"Mulder, I have to pee," she whispered, clutching at my shoulders with her fingers while I nibbled my way down her neck.

"So, pee," I told her, going for her earlobe again. "I am not leaving your sight."

She inserted the flat of her hand between my mouth and her ear.

"You are leaving my sight long enough to let me pee in private," he said firmly, pushing me towards the doorway."Go."

in the shadowy bedroom, with only the flimsy towel around my hips, I stopped and stared at the bassinet. Scully's bedroom was larger than the one I'd been sleeping in, but furnished in the same simple fashion. Aside from the old iron bed, there was only a bedside table with a lamp and alarm clock on it, and a wooden rocking chair next to the lone window. It was much warmer in here.

The bassinet was close to the bed, on the side away from the door. A large suitcase sat, wide open, on the floor beside it, along with a few other bags and backpacks. I made my way around the bed and peered into the small crib.

William was sleeping soundly on his back with his head turned to one side. One plump fist was curled at the ready, millimeters away from his mouth. His tiny chest rose and fell steadily with every breath. Forgetting about warm clothing, I sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over the bassinet to watch him.

"So, you're a Knicks fan, huh?" I asked him softly. The sound of my strange voice made him stir and kick his chubby legs, but he soon settled back into slumber. Unable to resist, I reached out and touched his sock-clad foot with a finger tip. He drew his legs up in reflex and smacked his lips.

My son.

"I'll be a good father to you," I whispered, thinking of all the ways in which I could improve upon my own father's performance. "I'll protect you." In the darkness, I saw his eyes flutter. He made a small noise, a grunt. His eyes fluttered again, opened, and fixed upon me. At the sight of my strange visage peering over the edge of the bassinet at him, his face screwed up and he emitted a cry.

The first feeble whimpers turned insistent and I looked anxiously over my shoulder at the doorway, wishing Scully would appear and take over. William was drawing another breath when I heard the toilet flush. I shushed him ineffectively and looked at the doorway again.

C'mon Scully. I scared the baby and woke him up. C'mon, c'mon.

I heard the squeak of the bathtub taps and the rush of water into the tub and realized with a sinking feeling that Scully, no doubt prompted by my amorous attentions, was following my lead and taking a midnight bath. The thought occurred to me that she must really, really, really trust me if she felt confident enough to leave me alone with a crying baby.

For a moment, I considered leaving him in his crib to cry while I fetched Scully. Instead, I found myself reaching into the bassinet, pulling back the little knit blanket that covered him, and lifting him in my arms.

"C'mon, buddy," I coaxed him. "I'm not that bad." I paced the bedroom floor, repeatedly glancing at the doorway.

I had a revelation as I gave his bottom an awkward pat and a strange, unpleasant scent assailed my nose.

William and I stood outside the bathroom door, listening to the swish of water from within. "Uh, Scully?" I called, trying the handle.

It was locked. I knocked, exasperated that she continued to be so modest with me. Granted, we hadn't had much time before my disappearance to grow nonchalant about certain intimacies, but I seemed to recall several occasions upon which I was able to count every freckle God had given her, some of which she didn't even know she had.

The thought occurred to me that perhaps it wasn't modesty provoking her to lock the door, but the desire to hide her tears.

"Mulder, I'm bathing."

"Yeah, Scully, I know, but the baby is awake." I pressed one ear against the door.

Instead of sniffles, I heard the smile in her voice when she said,"He probably just needs a fresh diaper, Mulder. They're in the bedroom, in the bag by the suitcase."

William was still wailing, emitting quite a lot of noise about two inches from my left ear. I winced and shifted him so he faced the bathroom door. I held him forward of my body, close to the door, so Scully would be sure to hear his angry cries. I stood there like that for a few moments, at a loss. From within came the placid sound of water lapping at the sides of the tub. My arms, not at the peak of their strength, began to tremble. I settled William in the crook of one elbow and ran a hand through my hair.

"Come on, Scully," I whined unbecomingly. I didn't want to admit I'd never changed a diaper before. She probably knew that anyway.

"Mulder," she was trying to sound firm, commanding, but I could hear the laughter that lurked underneath. "Just change his diaper and hold him. Rock him. He likes to be rocked. I'll be out in a minute."

Jeez, I thought, stomping back into the bedroom with the hiccupping William under one arm. He didn't like being carried like that, but I really didn't want to have intimate contact with the contents of his diaper. The whole scenario made me tremendously anxious.

I flicked on the bedside lamp, put him down on his back on the bed and went in search of the diaper bag. The sudden cessation of his angry cries alerted me to the fact that William was capable of both rolling over and crawling, just in time for me to catch him at the edge of the bed.

"Alright," I said grimly, placing him firmly back in the middle of the bed. He glared at me and kicked his feet in the air. The pungent odor assailed my nostrils again and I pointed a finger at him. "Stay. There."

Keeping one eye on him, I retrieved the diaper bag and rummaged around, finally withdrawing a diaper.

"Okay, buddy," I said, kneeling on the bed and swiveling him by his legs to face me. "This is probably going to hurt me more than it hurts you."

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the little adhesive tabs at his hips, but I did have the satisfaction of testing my reflexes when he began to urinate again as soon as the diaper was out of the way. I slapped the front of it back down and waited to the count of ten. With my other hand, I rummaged around in the diaper bag and triumphantly produced a box of wet towelettes.

The whole business took longer than it should have, but in the end William was clean, dry, and sporting a snug new diaper. He had long ago stopped crying and was merely glaring at me from under furrowed russet eyebrows, looking remarkably like his mother.

His mother.

Shaking my head, I hefted William onto my left shoulder and eyed the tall heap of soiled Wet Ones and ruined diapers I'd tossed on the floor. My beleaguered towel came loose and slithered to my feet. I kicked it out of the way and walked over to the window.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" I asked him, seating myself carefully in the tall-backed rocking chair. I rocked slowly, marveling at the feeling of his soft weight on my chest. His head tossed back and forth restlessly on my shoulder for a moment, then he settled down and seemed to enjoy the rocking motion. I kept a steady rhythm going, pushing slightly with the balls of my bare feet against the braided-cloth rug on the floor.

My son.

It was too overwhelming, and more than a little surreal. I've had elaborate hallucinations, I told myself, more elaborate even than this one. This could still turn out to be a dream. Surely, if I were to close my eyes and relax, I would wake up in another place. A flash of remembrance — bright lights and thin, misshapen shadows --- snapped my eyes back open and I drew a shaky breath.

Any reality was better than that, even one in which I was cast in the dubious role of "Dad" to a child who should have been impossible to conceive. Absently, I stroked his narrow back with my hand. He snuggled closer against my chest and tossed his head again. I touched the back of his skull, in wonder and amazement. Slowly, I traced his entire body with my hand, gripping first one foot, then the other in my hands and feeling his squirming response.

My son.

A sound from the doorway drew my eyes there to see a damp and tousled Scully, dressed again in the little blue shorts and top, eying me speculatively. As I had suspected, her eyes were faintly rimmed with red.

I offered her a satisfied smirk and gestured at William with my eyebrow.

"Mission accomplished," I said smugly. "But you get to do the breast feeding."

I saw a faint smile before she turned and pushed the bedroom door shut. She gave an exasperated huff when she spied the mess we'd made, and made a few trips back to the bathroom cleaning it up. I watched her, pondering the bizarre circumstances that always seemed to ensnare us, and how we would cope with this one.

Finally, she crossed the room to stand beside my chair. As she looked down at us, an expression of sadness and wonder flickered behind her eyes. A question lurked there. With my free hand, I reached out and laced my fingers through hers.

Silently, she leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on my forehead. I grunted my dissatisfaction and lifted my chin for a taste of her mouth. She complied quietly, letting my tongue touch the tip of hers before she withdrew and gestured for the baby.

"Is he hungry?" she asked softly, taking him from my arms. Then, glancing down at me, she gave a surprised laugh."Mulder, couldn't you find your clothes?"

"I was too busy getting Junior dressed," I responded.

She snorted, mouthed the word "Junior" and rolled her eyes.

Somewhat more seriously, I added, "And I can't tell 'I'm hungry' crying from 'I've got a nasty surprise in my pants' crying."

Scully gave me an amused glance and indicated that she wanted the rocking chair. I vacated it and turned to watch her settle in. William, sensing a tasty treat, was rooting for the nipple before she could get her top unbuttoned. I watched, bemused and amazed, as he locked his mouth around the tip of her breast and began to suck in earnest.

"Is that why your breasts are so large?" I asked, finally giving in to curiosity. "Breast feeding?"

"Mm," he said, closing her eyes as she rocked the nursing baby. "Well, yes. You know that a natural result of pregnancy in mammals is lactation, for which purpose the breasts necessarily become larger. As long as breast feeding is ongoing, the mother's body will continue to manufacture ----" She stopped abruptly, opened her eyyes and fixed me with a strange look. "Why?"

Looking away, I wandered over to the suitcase and began rummaging for something to put on. "Just wondering," I muttered.

I found a pair of boxers and a t-shirt and clothed myself, keeping my back to Scully and the baby. Throughout the evening, I had been assailed by moments of utter discombobulation. Experiencing one such moment during the brief discussion of breast-feeding, I kept my face turned away until it passed.

Once clothed and feeling calmer, I switched off the bedside lamp and sprawled sideways at the foot of the bed. The faint gray light of the rising moon limned Scully's profile in silver, touching the soft down of William's cheek against the curve of her plump breast. I could see the outline of Scully's hand as she lifted it repeatedly to stroke his face with her fingertip.

After several hours of emotional roller-coaster riding, I wasn't really surprised to feel tears trickling down my face. I wiped them away impatiently with a fist and thought about everything I had missed.

As I lay there, the fantasy of absconding with Scully and William to the hills of Switzerland replayed in my head. I pondered how to accomplish it unnoticed. Recognizing that I was too mentally exhausted to make a good job of planning, I made a promise to myself to talk to Scully about it when I woke up.

Sleep came while I watched my son take sustenance and love from his mother's arms.

in my dreams, Scully came to me in the darkness and placed my hand on her flat, bare stomach.

"Watch," he said.

And I watched in amazement as her abdomen stretched and swelled under my hand and the miraculous life grew within her. She gave me a happy grin and ran her hand over the smooth, taut skin of her rounded belly.

"My God," I breathed, stroking the nearly spherical surface."Oh, my God."

The sound of the bedside lamp being switched on made my eyes snap open. I was disoriented for a moment, staring at the dark window and the empty, motionless rocking chair.

"Mulder?" I heard Scully moving around to the foot of the bed and saw her crouch in front of me. "Are you okay?"

I blinked, squinted and tried to rise.

"No, no, just move up there," Scully whispered, indicating the head of the bed. I was still stretched out along the foot of it. Sleepily, I crawled up to the top and slipped under the covers. Scully followed suit, flicked off the lamp and smoothed the quilt across my chest.

"You were talking in your sleep," she told me.

"What was I saying?" I asked, staring up at the ceiling.

"I couldn't understand you." In the darkness, I heard her yawn. "I thought you were having a nightmare."

I grunted, and scrubbed at my eyes with two fingers. "No."

I thought about what I could remember of the dream, and sorrow welled up in my throat. I swallowed.

"But in my dream I realized that I would never see you pregnant."

Scully was silent for a long moment. In the stillness of the room, I could hear her breathing over the distant rattle of the heating unit kicking in. From the bassinet came the soft smacking sounds of William dreaming his own dreams.

I was wide awake now, letting tears trickle silently from the corners of my eyes, knowing that this emotional phase would pass away soon enough, and too tired to do anything other than let it take its course.

The bedding rustled as Scully turned onto her side and moved towards me. I turned wordlessly and wrapped her in my arms, feeling anew the wonder of holding her slender body against mine.

I realized with chagrin that, though I would never enjoy the experience of being an expectant father, Scully had endured the entire pregnancy alone, with no help from me. I held her tightly and let the tears dry on my face.

What I thought at first was simple comfort turned even more interesting when I felt her mouth, open and soft, slide warmly across mine, and the tickle of her nimble hand as it crawled slowly south of my navel. I responded with alacrity, sliding my hand up the back of her silky top.

"You've had a long day," she whispered, momentarily stilling the movement of her fingers. "Aren't you tired?"

"Scully, if I'm ever too tired for this, call the Gunmen and hold a wake."

She laughed quietly, and her hand resumed its downward motion.

My fingers made quick work of the satin buttons of her top and I breathed in awe over the sight of her swollen, rose-tipped breasts in the moonlight. Reverently, I planted a kiss on each one.

My body responded to the promises her hands and mouth were making, bringing me to full, throbbing erection in a matter of seconds. I groaned and shifted until I was leaning over her, enjoying the faintly-soapy taste of her skin under my tongue and the friction of her hand through the cloth of my boxers.

"Scully,"I rasped, reveling in the act of saying her name in this position, shaking with need, and the sudden, overwhelming desire to sob like a forsaken child. I buried my face for a moment in the pillow beside her head. When the hammering of my heart slowed to a heavy thumping, I started inching my way down her neck again, sucking and nipping at her sweet skin.

Pausing with my mouth over one soft breast, I glanced up at her. In the moonlight, I saw an eyebrow arch, preparing for my question. "These aren't going anywhere anytime soon, are they?" I asked, nuzzling one soft mound with my nose.

She snorted and drew me up to kiss my mouth. "Actually, once William is weaned you'll be forced to make do with the old model."

"I've got no problems with the old model," I mumbled, cupping a hand around one full breast. "But these are fascinating."

She gave me a wry smile and watched me kiss my way back down her chest.

"You know, Mulder," he said, as I indulged my fascination, "it stands to reason..."

She paused when my lips grazed one swollen nipple, "...and the appropriate tests confirm..."

I turned my attention to the other breast.

"...that what can happen once..." she groaned as my tongue curled around the rigid nipple.

Honestly, I was only half-listening.

"...can happen again."

My head jerked out from under the draping bedclothes. I sat back on my heels, staring at her in the pale gray light that filtered past me from the window, and tried to read her expression.

'What do you mean?"

Scully blinked at me lazily, sat up, and pushed at the waistband of my boxers with both hands. "Of course, I'll have to wean William first," he said evenly.

"Scully." This time, her name was a command and, though she recognized it, she chose to ignore it. A slow grin crept across her face, transforming her completely. She continued to calmly divest me of my clothing and I cooperated distractedly, staring numbly at her profile as she leaned over to toss my t-shirt and boxers to the floor.

"Are you sure?" I finally managed to croak. "This — this ---"

"Yes." She shrugged her top off her shoulders and dropped it beside the bed. "I appear to have been restored to a normal state of fertility for a woman of my age," she affirmed, wriggling out of her own boxers and skimming off her panties."That is, I have viable ova and an accommodating uterus." She smirked at my expression.

"The rest," she breathed, drawing me back down on top of her, "is up to you."

The End


Author's notes: I've met hundreds of people via the 'net over the past few years, but Barbara D. has to be one of my all-time favorites ever. You can thank her for the fact That this story wasn't swamped with adverbs (and the word "that"). Barbara, thank you for your time and your patience. Because of your efforts, this story is so much better than it would have been. (Not to mention, it wouldn't even have a title!)

Aside from being deluged with story ideas after viewing"Requiem," I was also put in the mood to write by a brief, barely-noticed discussion on atxc that referenced a song called "Throw Your Arms Around Me" by a band called Hunters and Collectors. I threw that (great!) song into the mix. Bonus points if you can find it. (It's pretty muddled by now, but I think I managed to make M kiss S in at least four places.)

I realize the timing of Mulder's return will probably turn out to be quite different in Season 8. But that's why God made fan fiction!

Feedback welcomed at: mailto:Invisivellum@hotmail.com.

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