Title: A Thimble for Peter
Authors: S. Anderson and Cheryl DeLuca
Category: MSR. Serious Angst
Rating: R (maybe for language and adult situations)
Spoilers: TFWID, Leonard Betts (maybe), Memento Mori
Disclaimer: Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, and all things X-File belong to the brilliant Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen Productions, and Fox Broadcasting. Anything else is ours. We have no intention of deriving any material profit from this in part because we don't have the drive or the connections. We use the characters in admiration and for recreational purposes only...LITERARY recreation that is.

Summary: Set in the un-named future. In the wake of an unexpected event, Mulder and Scully must overcome pride and uncertainty before too much time has passed.

Author's Notes: This started as a little experiment in preparation for another story which was promised and has not yet been written. So, as "practice", I started this one. Then Cheryl signed on as co-author and it began breathing a big life of its own.

Anyhow, let me warn that the following deals with a controversial subject. How the characters deal with it is one possibility and not the only one, obviously. It is not intended to be a commentary on the matter.

We've tried to remain true to the characters. However since it involves MSR, it obviously doesn't strictly follow X-File Canon. Either forgive that or move on ;>.

Thanks to Cheryl DeLuca: I've never written with someone before. Thanks for making it a fun experience, despite our occasional disagreements and compromises. It was a lesson in viewing the same characters in different lights. Thanks x Million. You are an excellent writer. Thanks to Debbie Goldstein: What an attentive editor/beta reader you are. I was floored by the effort you put into helping us with the numerous parts of this story which had to be fixed. Thanks x Million.

(Cheryl bypassed on Author's Notes but wanted to say "Hi!" to her Mom....;>)

Sept 25th

His head bobbed back and forth through the long narrow window in the door. Watching. He just needed to see her, make sure all was fine. Shifting from foot to foot, he contemplated his escape before she looked up. If she did, she would see an unwelcome face appear and disappear behind the wooden barricade that separated them. She had told him not to come. He wasn't supposed to be there. But he was. For one small peek.

The woman's hands spun warm, slow circles around Scully's abdomen. Even among the splash of basic colors in the room's decor, Fox Mulder was hypnotized by the lazy rhythm. The motion was all he could focus on. Not the controlled heaving of Scully's chest. Nor the fact that she and her mother were only two of fifteen pairs sprawled on the navy mats dotting the floor. Nor that they were mismatched among the other couples. All he could see was the way Margaret Scully's hand eased the imaginary pain Dana's swollen stomach would soon bring. It should have been his hands. After all, it had been his touch, his caress that had led them down this path. It didn't matter now.

She had told him not to come. He wasn't supposed to be there.

A sharp clap yanked him from the yearning stupor a little too late. The Lamaze instructor clapped again to make sure her students were watching her for a brief review of the evening's exercises. As Scully rose to the best sitting position she and her mother could manage, there was no mistaking the pendulum of brown hair standing in the hall. Hazel locked with unforgiving blue. The pathetic surveillance had been blown to hell. Mulder could already hear the litany of apologies he would have to make. If it were going to happen, might as well make another stand now and get it over with.

Dana Scully watched the clock above their heads tick off the seconds before she would have to face him. Mulder would be there when they left. Now that he had been discovered, she knew he would not run. She began to make a mental list of ways she might get this man out of her sight and mind, and for a few more hours, her heart. She had told him not come.

Mulder saw the class break up and watched as Margaret helped Scully to her feet. Another one of HIS jobs. It could have been his if he had ever had a clue about their marriage, about what they were supposed to be building together. If he had been able to find the courage to choose...

Eight Months Earlier...

"NO SCULLY...NO!" Mulder waved his hand at an invisible foe and turned his back on the smaller yet equally strong figure sitting in front of him. The silence in their small two bedroom apartment rolled around them; feeding off his anger.

A short, decisive breath later Scully replied, " 'NO' you don't want it? or 'NO' you can't believe it? Which is it Mulder?"

Mulder spun to face her in mid pace on the opposite end of the couch from where she was sitting. Defiant to the last, she stared him down as the words rolled out of her husband's mouth. " 'NO' I can't believe it. And..." He was all too aware of the war he was about to wage. The shape of her eyes, wide with emotional terror, told him Scully knew, as always, where he was going and knew it was going to kill some small part of her. " 'NO' we can't HAVE it..."

"We CAN'T HAVE IT!" Scully was off the couch and moving towards him with heavy measured steps. "Are you presuming to withhold some imaginary permission from me? From MY body?" This had become yelling long before she had expected. Watching both of his hands rake through his hair, she remembered the best way to deal with an angry Mulder was not to match him in volume or threats. Her tone made a retreat but her conviction did not. Standing close enough now, she reached out to rest her left hand on his chest. The emotion had turned the cool smooth cotton warm and damp.

He was instantly calmed by the contact. This was still his wife, the only one he had ever considered as his mate and the only one with whom a lifetime was possible. Taking her hand in his, Mulder looked down at the tension in her fingers and briefly considered running his lips across the single, thin gold band there to take it away. His voice was low and sad, crackling just a bit. "Dana, we agreed..."

Scully stepped forward to interrupt, she knew where this was going. Her right hand slipped along the top of his belt and made a slow, tender trail to the small of his back while her body invited and received a fearful embrace. "Yes. Yes, we agreed. But you and I both know that pledge was made at a time when we believed conception wasn't going to be possible for me. It was an academic promise, just in case we were wrong."

The embrace of Dana Scully, Mulder had learned, was not a finite action. It was an experience much like a song. A different musician could reveal a nuance heard only when that artist played the same notes as any other musician might play. With this woman, her musicians were her moods and they played themselves in her body and how it wrapped itself around him. He had heard this version of the song before. He liked it. At times, he craved it. It told of her bonafide need that he understand and support her in this. If not for the terror, disguised as conviction, pounding in his head, she may have succeeded. Removing her arms from him, Mulder turned around to breathe air that didn't contain her smell in hopes he could gather his thoughts and make her see how wrong this was.

"But 'just in case' happened anyway..." was the first thing he could come up with. "How?"

Scully would not be put off, taking another step forward, she touched him again by placing both hands flat on his back and left them still as if she might draw the fear out of him and infuse Mulder with the joy cowering inside her. "Mulder, I was the only woman returned near death...with the kind of branched, genetic waste you found." Her voice was articulate, but meek. It was a painful memory for both of them. "What if it was an attempt to *fix* what 'they' had done to my body?"

Mulder turned to face her. The corners of Scully's mouth were wrinkled in a half smile, half frown that spoke of quite desperation. She continued, "What if the branched material was some attempt at gene therapy targeting the infertility caused by what they did to me?" Scully watched as his face relaxed. He was listening. "Think about it. You have always said that their goal was to create some human hybrid." She cringed inside as she used his explanations to further her very personal cause. "Why would they continue with such a project if it meant the sterilization of human females? The men we've come to fight would never be satisfied with a course of action that could ultimately lead to the end of their own species."

Mulder was rubbing his face furiously with both hands, but it gave her more room to talk...and to stall. "Perhaps I was the first case which gave them some hint of success. Surely, you never believed this 'Cancerman.' No amount of twisted, misplaced affection led to my return. My survival had to offer them something." It suddenly shocked her. She was Scully the scientist in a moment where science had no place. When Mulder stilled himself and stared at her for some deeper answer, she offered what was she really believed at that second. "Mulder, sometimes all the intentions in the world can't protect us from chance."

Mulder's ears were straining to hear her words. Silence returned and he stepped forward to take her once again into his arms. He needed the time to make her understand that they could not do this. They had already risked so much to be together in the open. As much as the worry and caution had been worth it in order to claim her life back and their future, to bring a child into this would be too much he reasoned. He had come to second guess everything they did and everywhere they went. There was no doubt in his mind that a life they created together would become a third target to protect. It would exhaust them if not destroy them should they fail. Mulder swallowed and pushed forward in the lie he was telling himself. He would make her understand...of course he would... "I...Scully..." A cough, his arms tightened. Time to jump. Time to try. "I...would go..." A swallow. "I would go...with you..." The words were hollow with their morbid meaning.

Her flesh became dead weight in his arms. Later, when he looked back on those unfinished words, all he would see was the picture of what he had broken inside her. Without a tear or hint of rage, Dana disengaged herself from the void she felt with the stranger holding her and left without ever making a sound.

Sept 25th
7:02 pm

Dana Scully took her time getting her stuff gathered and her coat on. A feeling of dread washing over her as the instructor, accompanied by the last of the couples left the classroom and drifted out into the hallway. She swallowed down the lump that caught in her throat as their excited and expectant conversations drifted back up to the classroom.

"I'm going natural, no epidural for me. And Jimmy's going to be there every step of the way.. Right Jimmy?"

"Every step honey.." A jovial man's voice replied, as the elevator bell dinged, and silence once again claimed the hallway.

"Come on Dana." Margaret Scully grabbed the bag her daughter had been stuffing with her Lamaze tools: 2 pillows, and her focal point, a giant stuffed fish. Slipping her arm through Dana's, she said, "Waiting isn't going to make this any easier." She looked at her daughter, a deep concern edged her voice and showed on her face.

He could no longer be seen through the doorway but she knew he was there, waiting just out of view. Perhaps ready to inflict more damage on her already painfully shattered spirit. She would not let him see her cry.

Nodding her head slowly Scully picked up her information pamphlets and slowly made her way to the door. She wanted to disappear, to turn invisible and just walk right by Mulder without him even noticing. That way she wouldn't have to talk to him again. She wouldn't have to see his face, or smell his cologne. She could simply leave with what little was left of her emotional control fully intact.

Stepping through the doorway she hurriedly turned towards the elevator without even looking to see if he was there or not. Her mom, walking along side her turned to look over her shoulder, just as his voice broke the still air around them.


She kept walking as her mother slowed. Maybe if she ignored him he would go away.

But he wouldn't. He moved after her. "Dana, please.."

Margaret Scully grabbed her daughter's arm. "Honey please. He's your husband. Talk to him."

Dana shook her head, a firm "No!" spilling out of her as she reached the elevator and pressed the call button.

"We need to talk." He was only a few feet away now, and reached out as if to touch her.

She backed away, and shook her head again. "There's nothing to talk about Mulder. Whatever we had to say has already been said. And if you're here for one last ditch effort to try and get me to terminate this pregnancy, you're much to late." She ran her hand gently over her swollen belly. "Now it would legally be considered murder."

Mulder shoved his hands deep into his jeans pockets, and kicked at some imaginary dirt on the floor. Who was this woman? She wielded *that* word so freely now. Where was the clinical tone that should have accompanied her reference to the act. "That's not what I want, and it's not why I'm here.." He raised his head and looked her straight in the eye, his own deep hazel ones a brooding mixture of dark emotions. "I want to try and make this work between us."

Dana looked away, fighting back a few threatening tears. She would not cry. She shook her head, anger seeping into her psyche. "You told me to kill our baby Mulder. A child you and I created together out of love." Her voice rose to a half yell. "Not just a putative child, a possibility or something that might never be. But something that was already formed and living. Our baby, and you wanted it dead." She closed her eyes against the tears welling up inside them, and sucked in her breath. "It's over Mulder." Her voice dropped to a sad tense whisper. "The time to make it work was 8 months ago." She turned and made her way towards the stairs, at the same time mentally cursing the elevator which had still not arrived.

Margaret Scully followed close behind her daughter, her own tongue kept firmly in check. There were things she herself wanted to say to Fox Mulder but now was neither the time nor the place. Now was about them, not her.

"It's not really over Scully, because I know you and if that was what you really wanted we would be divorced by now." Mulder caught up to his wife and gripped her by the arm.

Scully spun on him. "Wrong Mulder. I've already seen a lawyer. I simply haven't had the time to go back and sign the papers." She brushed at his hand on her arm, as a single tear finally escaped and rolled down her face.

"If you really wanted a divorce Dana you would have made the time." He pulled her closer to him and caught her tear with his thumb. His voice softened and he allowed her to see the pain in his own eyes. "I love you." His hand cupped her face. "I'm going for counseling, and I need you to be there." The decision to seek outside help had left him feeling degraded and exposed. His pride felt the sting again as he confessed his actions.

Dana shook her head and backed away a few feet. His touch set off an almost physical ache inside her. She was going to cry after all. "I can't." Her voice was hoarse, and her tears flooded past her stoicism. If it didn't work out it would hurt even more.

"Please." His eyes were pleading with hers. "We need to try."

Dana swallowed heavily, and shook her head again. She was beyond speaking.

Mrs. Scully moved up to her and put a loving hand on her daughters back. "Dana dear you owe it to yourself to try," she whispered softly, at the same time running her hand through Dana's silky auburn hair. "If not for you then do it for the baby." She hugged her gently, wishing she could take away her little girl's pain. "I'll meet you down stairs." She wiped away the tears staining Dana's face. And then she left.

"I-" Her voice broke. "I can't do this again Mulder." She looked away from him not able to see he pain in his eyes. "It hurt too much the first time.." She swiped at the fresh flood of tears, and buried her face in her hands.

"I never meant to hurt you." Mulder moved up and put his arms around her. "I'm sorry.." She felt good in his arms, and it made him feel complete. A feeling that had abandoned him for far to long. He would make it work he promised himself. He closed his eyes for a moment and just enjoyed her in his embrace. It didn't matter that she was crying. He would do whatever it took to make things right. He kissed the top of her head. "Please come talk to someone with me. Werber recommended the guy. I think he's as close to someone we can trust with this as we're going to get."

She nodded softly against his chest, as Mulder felt a soft push at his abdomen. Dana pulled away, and wiped her eyes with one hand while the other went comfortingly to her belly.

Mulder stood there his mouth slightly agape.

Despite the tenseness of the situation Scully smiled. "You were squishing him or her." Her hand jumped again as the baby delivered another kick.

Mulder just stared at her like she had sprouted ten extra heads. After seconds which lasted much too long, he saw the expectation in her eyes, the need for him to acknowledge the sign of life they had just shared. "You decided not to find out the sex?" Mulder's hands stayed perfectly still by his sides, the tight fists turning his knuckles white. His eyes, however, stroked the area over and around the protruding mystery inside her skin. A sudden, slight twist of his mouth showed a careful amusement.

"No. I settled for a surprise." Scully's words died out. She recognized that half smirk. It read "I know something you don't know" and revealed that he had done some digging. "But it's not a surprise for you. Is it Mulder?"

"Maybe not." The smirk widened and exposed just a hint of teeth. "Wow.," he said after regaining a little more of his composure. "Can I?" She nodded so he hesitantly reached out and placed his hand tenderly on Dana's stomach. Touching her, he thought. I'm touching her again.

He pulled it away almost instantly as the baby kicked him once more. An ache arose in his chest. This shouldn't have been the first time he'd felt it, yet all those uncertainties began to flood his thoughts.

Scully could see it in his eyes too and felt the familiar weight of disappointment shift through her. She backed up a few steps. "Mom's waiting. I have to go." She turned and exited into the stairwell, without even looking back.

October 15th
6:13 pm
FBI Academy, Quantico Va.

Scully's shoulders slumped as the remnants of her small class left the autopsy bay, their voices a mix of awe, excitement and trepidation. Stripping her gloves off, she dropped them into the waste receptacle and then stared at the white sheet draped over her latest 'victim'. Death was morbid and often times gruesome, but interesting nonetheless. She smiled to herself. She'd only lost one student to the queezies this afternoon, which was better than most.

Slipping off her hat and then mask she inhaled deeply, enjoying the fresh air despite it's medicinal smell. Medical masks had never before made her uncomfortable, but with the baby almost to term, and it's tiny feet constantly pressing up on her diaphragm breathing was difficult enough without having her nose and mouth covered. "Mmmmm.." She let out a soft groan of protest as another Brackston-Hicks contraction shook her. They were nothing new to her, since she'd been experiencing them for the past several weeks, but they'd been more frequent and a little stronger through out the day. But then again she'd been on her feet for the full day, as opposed to spending half a day in the classroom so it was probably to be expected.

She gently massaged her belly, waiting for the pain to fade. "Soon little one," she said to her protruding belly. Soon he or she would be born, and she'd get to meet the little person she and Mulder had created, the little person she had been willing to give up the man she loved for. Soon she'd have her body back as well, which at this point in the pregnancy, couldn't be too soon. By Dana's estimation a human female's gestation period was about 2 months too long.

"Time to go home," Dana mumbled to no one in particular and rubbed her tummy again. The pain had subsided to a dull tense ache, so she unbuttoned her lab coat and hung it on her hook.

"Hey Doc." Scully jumped as a tall dark man poked his head in the door and smiled, his deep chocolate eyes squinting slightly at her. "You done with the stiff??"

"I am for today, Tim." She picked up a particularly horrific looking tool off the tray table parked next to her and pressed the it's power button. It sparked to life with a dangerous whir, it's tiny saw quick and lethal. "Tomorrow we open the cranium." She grinned mischievously.

"Aw Doc - what'd you have to go tell me that for?" Tim Dodry moved into the room his step slow and ambling. He was as tall as most professional basketball players Scully'd seen, and she'd heard rumors that he'd once been drafted to the NBA. But that was before he'd collapsed his knee joint, and his speed, and jump had left him. Now he was relegated to the job of a maintenance man in the bowls of Quantico while putting himself through college. "How am I supposed to sleep tonight after you tell me something like that?" he asked peeking under the sheet covering the corpse.

"You're not.." Dana laughed and patted her belly. "Misery loves company."

"Yeah but I'm not the one who got you knocked up Doc..."

"Yeah but it's nice to know that I'm not the only one stuck sitting up late." Scully grinned and grabbed her coat off the rack.

Tim shook his head, and released the wheel locks on the table holding the body. "Yer a heartless woman Dr. Scully." He pushed it over to small refrigerated cubicle it needed to be stored in, and popped open the door.

"No I'm not." Dana held up a jar containing formaldehyde and a human heart. "I've got two." She passed the jar in front of the janitors face teasingly. She suspected he was fairly unfazed by most aspects of death and that much of what he said was in humor. He confirmed this by laughing at her heartily.

"I guess you always have a spare. Eh Doc?"

"Always." Scully placed the container back on the counter, buttoned her trench coat over her greens, and grabbed her briefcase. "Night Tim.."

"Night Doc." Scully heard him call out as the door closed behind her and she stepped out into the hall. It was bright in the sterile white hallways of the forensic pathology department, and for some others would be insanely so. The lack of windows and for the most part decor, left many feeling imprisoned, but for Scully it held all the familiarity, and comfort of home. She had spent a better part of her early adult years here. Following the wedding, she had returned to her old haunt not as a student, but as a professor and permanent part of the faculty. It was funny, she smiled to herself. Somehow she always ended up in the basement.

Pressing the up button she waited for the elevator to ding on B, and let out a startled yelp as a large man with his head buried in a file almost trampled her on his way out. "Sorry." He turned back to apologize, lowering the file he'd been reading and his mouth almost hitting the floor. "Agent Scully..."

Dana smiled at the familiar bald head and glasses. "It's just Dr. cully now, sir. How are you?"

"Uh... Fine..." Walter Skinner took in her rounded shape, and then the hallway he'd stepped into. "I think I missed my floor."

"Were you just arriving?" Scully smacked at the elevator button hoping to catch it before it closed but found herself a moment too late. It was on its way up again.

"No actually I was leaving." He looked up at the number bar on top of the door. The elevator was back up on eight. "Today is the first day for our newest batch of recruits and I lost the draw at the last poker game I attended. So I got stuck doing the welcome speech." Skinner caught Scully's smirk and silent nod.

"So how are you doing?" He pointed to her belly. "You look uh... good."

"More like big. And I feel ready to explode." Scully shifted her weight uncomfortably as the beginning of another Brackston-Hicks slowly settled in.

Skinner stared silently, as the half smile on Scully's face faded, only to be replaced by something akin to a cringe. A look of concern flickered across his face as he grabbed her right arm. "Are you okay?"

Dana's jaw clenched against the pain in her abdomen, and she dropped the brief case she was carrying. This one was a hell of a lot more forceful than the last, and it made her slightly light- headed. She nodded biting down on the cry building up in her throat. Instead she let out something of an unintelligible moan. Then her knees gave out.

"Woah..." Skinner slipped his arm around her and, moved to support her from behind as he realized she was going down. She was trembling slightly, a soft gasp of disbelief escaping her throat, as Skinner felt something wet and warm run down his left leg.

"Oh my God.." Dana pitched forward, her hand going instinctively to her the bulk of her belly. It was rock hard, and the contraction was still building. Somewhere beyond the pain she heard Skinner yelling for help, for a doctor. Somewhere beyond the pain she also realized that the warm stickiness saturating her underwear and pooling on the floor was amniotic fluid, and that it was her water that had broken. She shook her head. "We're the only ones here," she gasped. Breaking free of her former boss' grasp, she and reached out for the wall. It felt like her insides were about to split apart. "Focus," she said aloud, remembering rule number one from her Lamaze class.

"What??" A pasty white Walter Skinner bent in to where Dana had her head up against the wall and waited for her to repeat herself.

"Breathe." Step two, Scully stated aloud.

"I am." Completely flustered he looked at her like she'd lost her mind. "It's you who has to breathe!" he told her, thinking back to the limited emergency training he'd received at the academy. She shot him a look that made his balls want to shrivel up and retract up into the safety of his body.

"Focus." She gritted her teeth and grabbed him by the tie. For a moment Skinner thought that she was going to take her misery out on him. But she didn't hit him. Instead she stared at the brightly colored diamond pattern on his tie, sinking all of her attention on it, and away from the pain.

"This isn't early labor." Dana Scully told herself. The contraction was far too strong. It felt like her baby was ready to push it's way out and slide down her pant leg.

Skinner grabbed for his cell phone and pressed the power on. "Shit!" He let out a cry of dismay; there was no signal available.

"Breathe," she repeated, and began the rhythmed breathing for the first stage of labor, her eyes never leaving his tie.

Skinner, picking up the pattern, breathed with her. "I've got to get you out of here," he told her. One of his hands instinctively moved to her back. He massaged gently as she let out another soft moan and closed her eyes against the contraction as it peaked.

Then the elevator dinged open, and Skinner didn't think twice. Immediately he scooped Scully and her brief case up into his arms and carried her onto the elevator. Despite her size she felt light in his arms. She and the baby combined, couldn't have weighed more that 135 pounds. Banging his elbow against the control panel he finally hit the M button, and the doors closed with a whoosh. "We can call an ambulance, once we get up to the main floor," he told her noting that the tension in her body was easing. And for one terrifying second he thought that she had passed out.

"No.." It sounded like a pained sigh, but it was certain in it's meaning. Scully shook the residual ache out of her head, and wiggled to get down. She looked Skinner in straight in the eye, and smiled faintly at the mixture of confusion and sheer terror she saw. "Thank you, sir but you can let me down now." Her cool professional facade slid back into place, though it seemed kind of bizarre considering she had just saturated his leg from the knee down.

Skinner shook his head. "What do you mean, no??" He lowered her back onto her feet, as the elevator jolted to a stop. His arm was wet as well from the fluid that had soaked through her coat, and he thought for sure she was losing her mind.

Scully stepped shakily off the elevator, her hand still holding her belly. "I don't want an ambulance. It's stopped now." She massaged her tummy unconsciously.

A.D. Skinner gripped her by the elbow. "For now, yes, but a woman never has just one contraction. At least not that I have ever heard of."

"I'm okay Sir," she said in a tone that was far to calm for Skinner's liking. "I'm going to get my bag from my car and change and then I'll call a taxi to take me to the hospital." She figured that she had maybe ten minutes before the next one hit, so she started to walk towards the exit to the parking lot, her low heels making a dull click on the marble as she made her way towards the exit.

Skinner looked at her like she was deranged, and then followed her. "I think an ambulance would be more appropriate." He moved along side her, trying to reason with her. "And I don't think a taxi will take you anyway..At least not in this condition."

"In what condition? I'm in labor. Women in every country, during every second of the day are going through the same thing that I am. It's not usually fatal sir." She kept passing glances at him as they made their way across the lobby.

"Good night, George." She seemed almost cheerful as she waved at the security guard on her way by.

"Wait a minute." Skinner grabbed her by the arm, and then turned to the guard. "Please call an ambulance. Dr. Scully here needs to get to the hospital; she's in labor."

The young guard blanched and picked up the phone, but didn't have the opportunity to dial before Dana stuck her hand over his desk, and dropped her finger on the disconnect button. "It's okay George. I'm going to take a taxi." She shot Skinner a deadly look. "Babies just don't drop out after one contraction; it's a long arduous process. I'm fine, sir. Really!"

"You are now - But I'd be willing to bet that in about five minutes you won't be." He gripped her again this time with both of his hands on her upper arms. "Listen." He had to make her see some sense. She was obviously wasn't thinking clearly. "You need medical attention. And I don't think a cabby can provide that. Let the man call an ambulance."

"Oh..." Scully let out soft moan, her mind going blank as another contraction began. A secondary and smaller gush of fluid followed as she doubled over leaning heavily up against the desk.

"Call an ambulance, now." Skinner ordered the guard, and began rubbing her back again.

"NO!" Scully slammed her hand down hard on the receiver before George even had a chance to pick it up, and glared at him ferociously. He backed up knowing that she was probably armed, and therefore dangerous. He was smart. He knew it was better NOT do disagree with a pregnant woman. After all, his having a family someday relied greatly on him having the two things that most laboring women would most like to shoot off a man during the heat of a contraction. NOPE- he wasn't about to cross her.. NO way..

"I want to go to Georgetown Memorial," she told them through clenched teeth. "If you call an ambulance from here they'll take me to Mercy. Oh Jesus...." It came out almost as a whimper. "Please.. just call me a taxi.." Her hand shot out and she grabbed Skinners tie again, pulling him down to meet her. "Focus," she repeated and then she started her rhythmic breathing again.

George looked at the bald man in front of him with a 'what should I do' look on his face.

"Call Georgetown Memorial and tell them that I am bringing in Dr. Dana Scully by car. The ETA will be about 30 minutes." He was definitely nuts to be doing this, he told himself as he scooped her up into his arms again.

Maintaining a tight grip on his tie, Dana never said a word; she was too busy concentrating on its funky pattern and her breathing.

Silently Skinner prayed to whatever available god that she didn't deliver in his car, and swiftly made his way through the sliding doors and into the parking lot. He'd passed out when they'd shown the birthing video during his Quantico training, and during an up close and personal demo in real life he didn't think he'd fair any better.

"Oh God..." Scully bent forward and clawed at the dash board. This was all happening too fast. She had this incredible urge to push, but it was too soon. Labor usually took hours - days. There was no way she would get off with simply a few hours intense pain. Not after her mother had already cursed her for putting her through 48 hours of labor. She stared at the tie that Skinner had gladly given up the moment they'd reached the car back at Quantico. That was over an hour and a half ago, and they'd been stuck in traffic ever since.

"Oh God." Skinner's eyes seemed to bug out as he repeated after his passenger. A hand immediately went out to soothe Scully's back, and he started to breathe the all too familiar pattern, but found that she'd changed it. "What's the matter?" he asked, knowing full well he wouldn't like the reply.

Scully grunted slightly, and let out a heavily moaned reply. "I feel like pushing."

"No!" Walter Skinner ordered. "Please don't do that.." He gripped her hand trying to get her attention. "Don't push!"

"Mmmm." Scully shook her head and squeezed Skinner's free hand. "I have to," she gasped.

"No.. "

There was absolute terror in his voice. If she hadn't been in so much pain Dana would have laughed at him.

"Look the exit is there, we're only minutes away from the hospital. DON'T PUSH!"

"I have to.."

"Breathe." He began the new breathing she'd started, hoping to divert her attention as he exited the highway.

"I am." Dana growled, sucking in a deep breath. She could feel the baby's head pressing down between her legs. She could feel herself trying to stretch to accommodate the child. It was excruciating. She let out a soft whimper. "Hurry..."

Skinner didn't need any prompting. As soon as the car in front had eased it's way forward enough for him to safely exit, he did.

Scully's pulling had ceased, and she sat back a bit and rested her head against the cool glass of the window beside her. That had been a tough one.

Skinner squeezed her hand, at the same time cursing Mulder where ever he was. He should be the one going through this with his wife, not Skinner himself. "Are you okay? Is it gone?"

The tension in Dana's face had faded, leaving her flushed and sweating from exertion but none the worse for wear. Exhausted she simply nodded and fought back the tears brought on by the pain. Somewhere inside her a small part of her wished Mulder were with her, but she quickly shoved that thought aside and focused on the comfort of Skinner's hand on hers. It was almost as if he had read her mind.


She opened her eyes at the use of her first name.

"When we get to the hospital would you like me to call Mulder? He should be here with you."

Scully shook her head and swallowed hard. She knew that Skinner was aware of their difficulties, but she didn't think he knew what had caused them. Her mother had been called in between contractions once they'd gotten onto the highway and she would be waiting for them at the hospital. That was all she needed. Mulder hadn't wanted their child to be born at all. He didn't deserve to be there. "No," she reiterated, the emotional pain in her voice more than slightly evident.

Skinner was about to ask Dana if she was sure, when he felt her grip tighten on his hand once again.

"Mmmm." A soft moan escaped her lips. She could feel it building in her, and it was completely beyond her control. Her fundus was beginning to contract downwards, while the rest of her uterus followed suit. Her body was now under the influence of some powerful hormones that forced her body to push without even consulting her brain. "I can't stop it," she mumbled bending forward again to stare at the tie.

"Breathe." Skinner panicked. They were stopped at a light now only moments away. They would make it. They simply had to. "We're here. See?" He pointed ahead to the new steel and glass structure. "Just hold on."

Scully nodded her head and breathed, her mind trying unsuccessfully to will her body to stop pushing. The pain was a release for her now. Her body took almost an insurmountable pleasure in bearing down. Over come by the sensation, she gave in an let out a soft grunt.

Skinner heard it and turned an even pastier shade of white. "Don't push," he ordered. 'As if you have any real control over the matter,' his mind replied. "Just wait," he added, swinging the car into the left lane as the light turned green. All he needed was one more minute he told himself racing through the intersection and squealing the car across three lanes into the Emergency Entrance driveway.

"That's easy for you to say," Scully half mumbled and half groaned as she through all of her force behind a push.

"Jesus." Skinner slammed on the brakes outside of the sliding doors and blared on the horn. "We're here." He unstraped his and Scully's belts, and threw the car door open as 3 men and a gurney raced towards the car.

"What's the matter?" the taller and darker of the three asked as one of the men practically ripped open the passenger door.

"Dana Scully. We called in. She's pushing," Skinner yelled but no one was listening. Two of the men had moved a moaning Scully onto the stretcher, and one already had a stethoscope placed on her belly. While the other one was doing something down near her bottom half.

"Foetal heart rate is good," the older of the three called out.

The gurney started to move and Dana, only semi-aware of what was going on, reached out and grabbed Skinner by the hand. "Don't leave," she pleaded, gripping him so hard he had no choice but to follow along.

"Baby's crowning," the other Doctor informed them, as they swiftly moved into the hospital where two women joined them. "We don't have time to get her upstairs."

"Trauma room 3 is open," one of the women yelled. The stretcher made a sharp turn to the left.

"Your mother's here. She's been waiting for over an hour," the other woman informed Scully, at the same time placing a cool cloth on her head and wiping away the sweat soaked hair from her brow. One of the doctors wrapped a BP cuff around the arm Scully was holding onto Skinner with.

"BP's 140 over 85, Heart Rate 95. Respiration 30." He rattled off her vitals one by one. Then reaching down he flipped on a canister of O2 and strapped a nasal cannula into place.

"Mom," Scully yelled around another push, and yanked the cannula off with a fierce "Get this out of my way."

"Shhh.. She's coming. She's just getting changed." The comforting nurse slipped a protective hand around Scully's back as she sat up to push.

"Dana, Honey...." The petite brunette that was Margaret Scully, ran up from behind in a pair of oversized hospital greens, and slipped in next to Skinner. "It's okay Sweetheart." She kissed her daughters cheek as they made another tight left and backed into a trauma room.

"Ohhhh... " Scully moaned and pressed herself in toward her drawn up legs. "Cut the rest of her pants off." Skinner heard someone yell as Scully relinquished her hold on him in favor of the stretcher handle bars, and he made to leave the room.

"One more push. Hard this time," the doctor covering Scully's bottom half ordered as Skinner slipped out the door and turned to look at the scene unfolding before him through the large glass windows.

A moment later, Scully let out an intense groan of pain and a lush infant's cry was heard as another Scully and another Mulder joined the world, harbored in the same new soul.

October 15th
8:30 pm
Georgetown Memorial

Mulder's mind was swimming. Dana had delivered. Katherine Ann had been born at 7:40 pm on a cold October evening. And no sooner had her mother been admitted to the Georgetown hospital, then the flurry of computer entries for Scully's arrival had triggered a flag at the Lone Gunmen's office. Frohike had worried the hospital staff to frustration with calls for information on Scully's condition and the condition of her child. Finally, against policy and out of selfish need to be rid of the man, a nurses aid had given in and relinquished the basic information. Katherine Ann weighed in at 8 lbs. 4 oz., measured 19 3/4 inches, and was as far as anyone could tell, perfect. What Frohike knew, Mulder knew and from there on in he had been in turmoil emotionally, a mish mash of feelings colliding painfully inside his head. He was a father. He had a daughter. The very word alone terrified him, overjoyed him, worried him, and compelled him. He now had a daughter with the woman who was and wasn't his wife. He was a wreck and that's why his hands were shaking as he reached to press the elevator button that would take him to the sixth floor of Georgetown Memorial.

"Oh he's perfect..." a elderly woman gushed as the door slid open and she and her companion stepped in as Mulder stepped out. It seemed unusually silent as he glanced up and down the pink and blue saturated walls. A short distance away in the center of the corridor he spotted the nursing station and made a bee line for it, all at once anxious to see his child.

"I'm looking for Dana Scully," he informed the woman behind the counter, who seemed more than a little miffed at being interrupted from her report.

"I don't have one on the ward," she told him, and turned back to her paperwork.

"You have to," he stated, grabbing her pen out of her hand in an attempt to gain her full attention. "She's in the hospital computer."

"Maybe so but the systems down, and I don't have a Dana Scully on the ward. See.." Flashing an angry look at him, she pointed to the call board behind her and reached to get her pen back, but Mulder slipped it out of her reach.

"I was told she just delivered, maybe an hour ago. Where would she be."

The nurse held her hand out expectantly and smiled evilly. "First my pen."

Mulder considered wrestling her for the information, but she was big and brutal so he passed her back the pen and smiled at her disarmingly.

"Try recovery two floors down," she told him and then thumped away to the back of the station, report file in hand.

"Wonderful customer service," he muttered and headed back towards the elevator as a mother with a screaming infant hobbled sleepily out of her room.

"She's a heartbreaker Dana." Walter Skinner stared at the small sleeping life form wrapped in Margaret Scully's arms. Her face was almost as pink as the blanket she was swaddled in and she was so incredibly tiny. He was amazed and awed at the sight of such a little thing. He and Sharon had never been able to have children, and it was completely his fault. He knew going into the marriage that he was sterile and had made sure that Sharon knew and accepted it too. But that didn't stop him from wondering what it would be like to have a child of his own, or from feeling and seeing the regret on his wife's face every time she had encountered an infant. Mulder was a damn lucky man. Too bad he was too dumb to realize it.

"Here." Margaret held out the sleeping child as Skinner backed away.

"Ah No.." He shook his head. "I'd better not."

"Hold her sir. I trust you with her." Dana Scully looked somewhat groggily at her former boss. "After all you helped make her arrival possible." She smiled slightly, and contentedly. The pain reliever they'd given her in the ER had just kicked in dulling the pain down below considerably, which was good. However, it had a blurring effect on her reality state and she was suddenly scared. "Mom please don't leave her alone for even a minute," Dana implored quietly as she felt the drug pull her under, and her eyes involuntarily closed.

"I won't honey.." Mrs. Scully grinned at her sleeping daughter, and held out the child once again to AD Skinner. "It's simple." She slipped her grand-daughter into his reluctant arms. "See." She ran a finger along Katherine's rosebud mouth and smiled lovingly. "Nothing to it."

The baby made small suckling actions in her sleep, and Walter Skinner watched thinking it was the cutest thing he had ever seen. Then all of a sudden her eyes squeezed together so tightly in intense concentration that little lines formed around the corners of the lids. Her face turned bright red and she grunted. "I .. I think she's choking." Terror ran through him as he tried to pass the baby back, and Margaret Scully refused laughingly.

"More like filling her first diaper." She ran a hand gentle hand over her delicate peach fuzz of her grand-daughters head. "It always seems like it is such a large effort for such a tiny being."

A tiny hand sneaked out from between the folds and gripped Skinner's finger, as its owner let out another small grunt, and Skinner laughed softly.

"Dana Scully?" Mulder eyed the recovery room nurse as she attached two tiny wrist and ankle bands to a patient's file.

"Ahh.." Nurse Hedricks turned her attention to the call board. "Recovery room five."

"Thanks." Mulder turned to go find the room.

"But you can't go in there." She stopped him before he'd even managed a step.

He turned back to her and uttered a frustrated "Why not?"

"She's only allowed two visitors at a time, and there are already two people in there."


"Umm.." She picked up the sign in sheet. "A Mrs. Margaret Scully, her mother I believe, and the gentleman who helped deliver the baby, a Mr. Walter Skinner. I think he's the dad. They both accompanied her up from emerge."

Mulder nodded silently, and headed off towards RR5.

"And your name is, sir?" Nurse Hedricks called to him as he made his way down the hall.

"Mulder and I just want to look in the window if it's okay." He turned almost running into the nurse who had followed him down the hall, clipboard in hand.

"Your relationship to the patient?"

Mulder looked through the slatted window he'd come to. The scene before him striking painfully at a part of him. Mrs. Scully and his boss were partially turned away from him and completely blocking Dana. All he could see of his child was a lumpy pink blanket, and a tiny pink hand gripping Walter Skinner's finger. He'd delivered Mulder's own child. He'd been there to help Dana when Mulder himself should have been but wasn't. And now he was lucky enough to be one of the first to hold their new baby. Mulder was grateful, but the emotion was quickly over shadowed by incredibly strong feelings of anger, guilt, and jealousy. They were laughing and enjoying his child, someone he hadn't even had the opportunity to meet.

"Sir, I need to know your relationship to the patient."

Mulder looked at nurse Hedricks. It was obvious he wasn't needed here. "No one," he replied stalking past her towards the stairwell. "Just a friend."

Mulder made his way hurriedly down the stairs, his anger quickly abating to leave way for his hurt, and the tears that followed.

Plopping onto a step near the second floor, he dropped his head into his hands. He was running away again. As much as he wanted to see his child, to touch his wife, the reality of it was terrifying. He had to stop running. He had to think about it all, and fight his way past his gut reaction to what was hiding even deeper. Mulder lifted his head up and swiped at the few stray tears that had managed to escape his tightly clasped lids. Resolute, he stood up and followed the white and red placard that pointed to the basement cafeteria.

October 16th 12:20 am

The blanket popped and twisted around the tiny phantom form inside. The world was bright and pink for the newborn life under Mulder's scrutiny. Was this his daughter? Huddled to one side of the viewing bay, he squinted to read the name written so illegibly on the card at the front of the clear, hospital bassinet. It was easy to read the cards closer to the window which separated these vulnerable lives from the outside world and its passersby. But, further back it became more difficult. Still, she had to be there.

Tired of hoping to spot the child out of luck, Mulder gently rapped on the window and caught the nasty glare of a neonatal nurse nearby. Did every nurse in the whole friggin complex have an attitude problem. She approached the wire-mesh glass in a set of scrubs which were a different shade of pink. Pink, pink, and more pink. He wondered what they were already telling this kid. At least they could have wrapped her in yellow. Yellow was neutral. So was green. Shaking the petty argument from his mind and smiling to himself that it was there in the first place, Mulder took a pen and notepad from the pocket of his well-worn black leather jacket. He scribbled for a moment and held the word "MULDER" up to the glass. The thin, older woman looked from the paper to his face and melted a little at the lost look he played so well in his hazel eyes. She was off with his order, checking each card on all of the bassinets before turning back to shrug in defeat.

At first, Mulder shrank in disappointment and not a little relief thinking the baby was upstairs with her mother or that the hospital staff was caring for her elsewhere before making a display out of her. But, eight months of being a spectator to his own family turned the shrinking feeling into a lingering defeat. Mulder motioned for the nurse to come back and then scribbled some more. This time when he held the pad to the window, the word read "SCULLY."

It took the muted helper no time at all before quickly taking hold of the small bed near the far left of the little human herd. The sound of his beating heart was thunder over the bustling of hospital staff. That was his daughter coming this way, a life he had produced in ignorant love. The very concept still dumbfounded him. He was about to see a face that would never leave his thoughts for the rest of his life. He wondered what color these eyes would be that would penetrate and possess him.

The cart came closer and a small fist appeared from beneath the cotton and shook briefly in the air before disappearing again. This was becoming more real by the second. There really was a human in there, one that might have his features. It definitely had his blood, if not his name. Almost instinctually, Mulder took a step back into a quiet presence that had sneaked up behind him as if it had crawled from the walls.


The voice startled him, but he was able to control most of the jerk which had raced through his chest. Turning to Margaret Scully, he saw what looked to be a mixture of relief and knowing in her eyes which were growing steadily brighter. "Mrs. Scully," escaped as broken chuckel to greet her. He'd been busted again. Now Scully would know he had been here. Mulder would never ask Margaret to lie for him.

Margaret joined her son-in-law at the window. The bassinet was in full view and the nurse had returned to her duties. Both turned to see what could be seen of the tiny form. Most of her face was hidden under the blanket and her tiny head was covered by a stocking cap. Both eyes were squeezed tightly shut again as Katherine appeared to be testing both lungs under full power. Mulder surmised that the sound had to be deafening inside the room.

Margaret broke the silence. "I know I'm biased, but she is beautiful."

Mulder nodded for no reason. "I wish I could tell from here. They've got her so covered up." Shifting to look at his companion he asked the obvious question, "How's Scully?"

This was the position she hated. Margaret had worked so hard at removing herself from the canyon which seemed to separate her daughter from the young man who Margaret had welcomed into her family as Dana's husband. The truth was that Dana had been overjoyed at the first sight of Katherine's little face. But, reality would not be appeased and Dana had soon turned to depression over Mulder's overwhelming absence. Measuring the words, Margaret answered him. "She's recovering well..." How was she going to phrase this so as not to point any fingers? On second thought, maybe fingers needed to be pointing at someone. Looking Mulder square in the eyes, "But, she's alone."

He turned away and caught his breathe. The whole situation never seemed to ease. There he stood. Unable to fully look at this new creation and unable to ease the pain of the woman who had given it a chance a thrive. Mulder made the quick decision to overlook the dilemma and hope that Mrs. Scully could concede even more space. He searched for anything to say. "Katherine's a good name. I'm surprised Scully picked it though." He cleared his throat. "I wouldn't think she would have been comfortable naming a child after herself."

Maybe this man was just stupid. Margaret's face flushed with anger and her throat tensed with what was surely words close to hate until it dawned on her that perhaps he truly never considered it. Besides, she had no idea how long he had been here. Perhaps he hadn't spoken to anyone. Quickly calming herself, she raised a pointed finger to the window and tapped at the name card on Katherine's bed. "Can you read what that says?"

Mulder folded both arms and leaned a little closer for a better view. What he saw made it all better and worse at the same time. In thick black lettering, he learned his daughter's name: Catherine Ann Scully. One "C", no "K". The thin line of his lips slowly parted in order that the mouth attached to them could say silently, "my mother." He felt the heat pool in his eyes immediately. Closing them allowed one warm stream to roll free.

Margaret ached with him for his grief. Still, it was well deserved. There was one more thing to offer him before she returned to Dana's room. "Dana wanted her daughter to have *something* from her father. She thought this might be fitting."

Mulder continued to stare at the moving form and caught just a glimpse at the pinkish skin of his little girl's cheek. He was lost in the weight of his helplessness. In surrender to the confusion, he let loose the first coherent thought. "I never saw myself as a father. I never thought I would be."

"Fox..." Margaret struggled to be objective with him. After all, she cared for Fox Mulder deeply. He was the man who had risked everything so that he and Dana could share their lives completely. Yet, he was also the man who had suggested that the world pass on the tiny beating heart right in front of them and so her final words before turning to leave him there alone were those of a disappointed parent. "...you don't have the luxury of thinking anymore."

October 16th
2:40 am

The early morning hours found Fox Mulder about to invade the lives of both women in his life. He had waited until Margaret left for the night before coming up onto the delivery ward. The previous hours had been long and left him still without having seen his daughter face to face. Catherine had been wheeled out of the nursery a couple hours ago. Allowing enough time for feeding and the assorted other motherly things he assumed Scully would need to do, he had arrived at her door in the hopes both she and the baby would be asleep. It was ridiculous; spying on his own family like he might a suspect in the line of duty. But the emotions swirling in his chest since first learning of Catherine's arrival were both delicate and exhausting. They would not allow enough stamina for a litany of pleas or defenses.

Peering through yet another window, Mulder saw that the room was dark, illuminated only by a few small lights around some medical equipment stored in a corner and the fluorescent glow flooding in from the hall. The door handle made several soft mechanical sounds as he opened it and moved inside to find what he had planned for. Scully asleep.

She was smaller than she had been the last time he saw her. But her face was still rounded with the weight she had gained over the past months. Her auburn hair was flat and straight and combed back out of her face which was scrubbed clean and while mostly pale held just a hint of color that peeked out of the shadows. It was her morning face. He knew it well. He missed it incredibly.

The movement from the bassinet by her bed brought him back to the covert mission. The pink blanket he had been stalking all night was moving again and demanding the sort of attention Mulder was suddenly unsure he wanted to give. His heart was pounding again, so hard it might have been a physical pain if he weren't clinging to it for some assurance he was really here. The faint hum of the lights from the corner gave him something to listen to while he argued inside and pushed himself forward. Everything he had ever wanted and hoped for and worked for in his life was about to change again. With every step he made toward that little bed, he became more aware of that fact. It both thrilled and angered him.

And then he was there and he was looking at Catherine Ann Mulder. "Scully", he corrected himself. But the sight of her led to stubbornness. No! "Mulder" was the reply. She was nothing like he had imagined. In what he assumed was stereotypical male self- centeredness, he had always pictured his child with a swatch of plain brown hair, a faint cleft in her chin and a nose one might call "disproportional." Save for the small cleft, Catherine was the opposite. Reddish wisps covered her entire head and curled just slightly at her temples. The nose was decidedly Scully, small and defiant. It was all wrapped in skin which was a bright newborn red and gave Mulder pause to wonder if she might have inherited his darker skin tone. It could all change in a week he thought, but hoped it wouldn't.

The back of his mind fought to put this experience into perspective. This awe he was feeling, was this the first stirring of love for his child? He remembered the first feelings of awe he had possessed for her mother; they were born out of admiration, trust, and physical want. Yes, love was the emotion being born in the middle of Mulder's fear. He couldn't help but recall passages from the Bible he had read once: "We are flesh of His flesh. Bone of His bone." The past 30 seconds of his life had instantly put those words into perspective and made him realize why Christians might find them powerful. All of his life, Mulder had considered himself as a non-religious person looking for a religious experience. He had thought that the moment he knew Scully would receive him as her partner *and* her lover had been the only one he would ever get. He was about to be proven wrong again.

Watching the infant twist and move under the blanket led him to reach for her. It wasn't enough to look at this breathing thing. He needed to touch it to make it real. First casting an eye to make sure Scully was still asleep, Mulder slid his hands under his daughter and held her body and head as he lifted her into his own arms. God, she was so tiny. One arm engulfed her completely.

Whether it was the new position or the presence of human contact, Mulder would never know, but it brought Catherine to life even more. Her head moved back and forth on his elbow. Soft, but staccato whimpers drifted from her lips. The reality of this human being continued to crash through Mulder's heart while the scent of soap and powder drifted up from her miniature body. Regardless of what had happened after her conception, the meaning of the very act was hitting him for the first time. Catherine was victory. Fox Mulder had spent his life losing in one form or another. He had lost Samantha. Had lost the soul of his childhood family. He had lost past lovers and relationships. He had lost battle after battle in his search for "the truth," whatever that was anymore. Men in smoke-filled rooms made Mulder's life a game of move and counter move. Every decision and action he ever made was out of caution of their power. Even when it came to marrying Scully, the fear and uncertainty they fostered in him had taken it's toll before his sacrifice and then the gamble had left he and Scully enough room to take the chance. But, the worry often shadowed the joy and in the end took her from him in yet another defeat.

Still, in the midst of all of that loss, Catherine had been made. The longer Mulder stared at her the more he knew she was victory. She was the essence of both her parents, proof that no matter what was done to Mulder or Scully or herself, what made each of them good and courageous and a threat would live on. Those things could never be silenced. Catherine was proof Mulder was alive, and was worth something to this world.

Her head became still and the lack of movement shook the new father from his reverie. Looking down, he noticed two small dark disks where her closed eyelids had been and his stomach lost touch with gravity. His daughter was looking at him for the first time, a first of many firsts. The darkness of the room shadowed her still and he moved quickly to the window in the door, turning his back to a motionless Scully.

Careful not to overpower her, he held her as close to the harsh stream of light as he dared. And as the fluorescent energy seeped into the color of his baby's irises, the non-religious father had his second religious experience. At first they were hazel, these eyes. Not the blue of her mother or the brown of her grand- mother, but the color of her father. But, before Mulder could smile, the change began. The more he gazed down into them, the more the tiny flecks of gold and streaks of brown faded and dissolved to give way to the pure hue underneath: a deep, abiding, emerald green. Mulder was stunned at the transformation he couldn't be sure he had seen. Nevertheless, the proof was in his arms.

The two little eyes looked directly into his and stole any will to breathe or move or speak. They were not wide-eyed in fright, or heavy with sleep. Later, in the car back to his apartment, Mulder would swear they were filled with recognition, with words of a language she had not yet learned. Words that said "I know you... It's going to be OK." Hypnotized by his disbelief, it was no wonder he didn't see the shifting in the bed. The next audible words startled him into panic.

"What do you think?"

Mulder controlled the spin to face an awake Scully, who was pushing herself up on the bed and smoothing her hair back in a futile attempt to make herself more presentable. It didn't help. She was already beautiful by virtue of the fact that he never saw her. The hospital gown could have been a Versaci, it wouldn't have mattered.

While his mouth stammered for words, his hands remained still in order to protect the cookie-jar he was holding. Reaching out into the ether he came back with, "I think she won't stop staring at me. Have you taught her that already?"

The corner of her mouth upturned tightly for only a flash before Scully realized what he was saying and her curiosity forced her to pass on his attempt at humor. "Really?! I haven't seen her with her eyes open yet." Mulder took an opportunity to be closer to her and walked gingerly over to give their daughter back to her mother who was straining to see the jewels he had already witnessed. After Catherine was situated in Scully's arms, Scully reached to cut on the lights by her bed. The baby's first reaction was to slam her eyelids shut in response to the painful rush of sensation to her sensitive orbs. Cautiously, they flickered open again to reveal the perfect hazel gaze Mulder had first seen. He couldn't understand it. The emerald was gone. He looked away from them both to take it all in and run the fantastical explanations around in his mind.

Scully was dealing with her own astonishment. "I don't understand. They should be blue." Holding Catherine up to the light, Scully studied the round brownish/green windows more intently.

"Looks like the current in the Mulder gene pool is a little stronger than yours." More humor rambled effortlessly out of Mulder as he quickly decided to keep the moment of wonder he had shared with his daughter to himself. Who knew how many he might get in the coming years. Scully would get most of them. He wasn't in the mood to share his stash.

"No I mean, all fair skinned newborns have gray-blue eyes, it's a natural part of the post-natal condition. I can believe she would have..." Scully's voice fell in intensity at the unintentional, if hidden, revelation of one of her hopes for their baby. "...your eyes. It's just, right now they should be blue."

Mulder was chuckling above her and Scully looked up in irritation only to have it melted by the softness around his eyes and the carefree smirk on his face. His next quiet words brought her own smile to the surface. "She's an X-File....." Looking at them both, he was filled with a need to know more about the baby's arrival. "Was it hard? I mean was it...Well, of course it was painful but..." He was stumbling to ask about something Scully might consider private and they both knew it.

Scully was tired and therefore merciful, "There weren't any complications if that's what you're asking. Although, there is a mystery stain in the upholstery of Skinner's car he's embarrassed to ask me to have cleaned." Her joke earned another chuckle from above. They continued to stare at one another while the reality of how impossible their situation was came down around them and the tension of reality settled in. This was not a Rockwell painting, and they both became keenly aware of it at the same time.

Mulder made the decision to leave. Neither Catherine nor Scully needed this right now. He would come back tomorrow and visit his daughter in the nursery. Much less tap dancing involved. Moving away, he fished in his pockets for the car keys. "I'm gonna go now. If you'll tell the nursing staff who I am, I won't have to..."

"You're leaving?" Both the tone and question caught him by surprise. There was an underlying accusation in Scully's voice, but it was soothed by the tinge of disappointment he knew he must be wishing was there.

Looking at her directly, "Yeah. No need to push the issues involved here." He turned to leave.

"Issues." That was a therapy word and it's significance wasn't lost on her. Scully knew he had been going to counseling alone. She had her own sources and she knew he had taken it seriously, making time every week. "What do you talk about?" Regret came immediately after she asked. It required an intimate answer and she both craved and feared an intimate exchange with this man now in the presence of living proof that she had been and continued to be desired by him.

She hadn't had to clarify, he could sense the longing to know. Not just about what he might be revealing to a stranger, but about what he might still be willing to reveal to her. Mulder turned back to give her her answer. "The baby. And you."

"How...what have you said...thought about?"

He was becoming angry at the pitiful sound in her voice. Why ask him now? After all the begging he had done. Why now? Well, if she wanted truth, let her have it. "That maybe it's time to let go," was the plain, nearly automatic response. "That maybe I'm doing more damage than I could ever do good by holding onto you when you have told me repeatedly it's not what you want from me."

"Is that what you really believe?"

She was playing the game again. It was the one where she made him do the confessing before she would risk being vulnerable herself. His first reaction was to be thankful she was interested and that there might be a chance she would be vulnerable. Yet, as more of the honest answer to her question solidified in his mouth, he let go of the hope in favor of finally saying words he wanted desperately to settled on her shoulders. Time for her to feel some of their weight. "I don't know what to believe anymore about us, Scully. Other than the fact that Catherine is mine. And I now know I would do anything to protect her." Mulder shifted from one foot to the other and crossed to the window to finger the blinds absently before he continued, "We discuss what marriage is and that someone should do their best to see their partner for who they really are. We've talked about how I don't think I can say that about you anymore and what it could mean. The woman I saw wasn't so rash or easy to quit on something we nearly gave up everything for. She wasn't as melodramatic or quick to judgement... and she forgave me from time to time...and she would have NEVER accused me of wanting someone dead." Mulder looked quickly to her and then out of the window onto the hospital parking lot. Clearing the mixture of anger and surrender in his throat, "We talk about how I'm not sure I married the wife I thought I married. We talk about how I miss that person deeply. That's what we talk about."

After he finished, the room fell quiet. It wasn't just the quiet of honesty, it was the quiet of stone. Dana processed his words over and over and looked away from him as soon as the real message was clear. He was giving up. She was about to win their sad little game because he was beginning to doubt his need for her and beginning to believe she no longer needed him. She was winning. The prize was a near instantaneous sense of grief the magnitude of death, of her sister's death and perhaps beyond.

Shock bolstered her pride, and Scully was able to maintain her composure, but not before turning away. He had to leave fast if she were to have even a shred of dignity in the wake of his bombardment. Staring at the flimsy hospital sheets and blanket, Scully ran a free hand through hair still sticky from the sweat of labor. What was there to say? If she challenged him then it would encourage him to hold on. And that was not what she wanted. Right?

What a liar I've become to myself, she thought. The irony of it all was cruelly funny. Fox Mulder had become her life because of the trust they had built. It was only because of that trust she had been able to let go and give her private self to him. Now though, she was breaking their entire life together over her ability to deceive not just him, but herself as well. What a funny fucking joke, she thought.

Mulder saw the anguish play on her brows as they crossed and uncrossed and in the way the sides of her perfect lower lip moved in and out with the suction she applied to stifle any reaction a tremble might unveil. She still loved him. It was so plain to him and to her, but no comfort.

It was time to go, he reasoned, before this became another verbal tug-of-war. Ever ready to follow any desperate lead, Mulder refused to leave without giving her one more key back into his life. A few strides brought him to her bedside where he leaned over to run a finger along Catherine's cheek, and place a hand on Scully's shoulder. Scully looked up into his face and found a resolute smile stretched across his mouth. From his pocket, Mulder produced a pale blue business card and placed it by his wife's side while whispering to her, "If I've hurt you at all by saying what I've said. If there's any doubt inside you. Even if you think it's time you had your say, here's the number and the address. I'll meet you there anytime you want...as long as you're still Dana Mulder." There was a kiss to her temple and he left.

October 30th 9:30 am A Georgetown Office

"There were whole weeks where you couldn't even...speak a whole sentence to me." She knew her eyes were blank as he spoke. Scully tried to find any little place to focus on. As long as it wasn't the pain in his voice. She couldn't begin to feel sorry for him or to think of him as anything other than the enemy. If she did then it would all be over. Scully knew she would have to give up the hatred and disappointment that had become so comfortable. To love Mulder was too confusing. The anger was a safe substitute and far better than feeling nothing for him. That, she would never be able to bear.

Mulder droned on about his frustration and loneliness without her. She continued to hear and not listen while seeking refuge in the decor of the office. Dr. Teddy Tovacek adorned the room in natural tones of brown, tan, and hunter green. Everything was stylish, yet inviting and neutral. There was overstuffed furniture and hanging plants which kept the books and snapshots of his family company. And as hard as she tried, Mulder's words continued to seep in and invade; they were words like "anger" and "trying" and "confusion."

Scully was in her own brand of hell. Her feelings and thoughts were private. The reserved nature she clung to had been erected over years by her professional dedication and the seclusion she found in being a bright driven woman in a man's world. At one time, she thought she had lost the need to wrap it around her for protection. When Fox Mulder, the man who fought the world, turned away from the fray to accept another person into his life, she had let herself go just enough to leave some part of those defenses behind.

Still here she was needing them all over. Except, now in order to reclaim her respite with him she would have to shed them again, becoming vulnerable with a stranger as well. Scully had spent the last two weeks since Catherine's birth convincing herself she could do it. Remembering all the silent promises she made to her daughter, she focused past the distance and tried to listen to the man facing her. After all, whether or not her pride would admit it, that part of her that belonged only to this man longed to listen and understand him again.

He sat facing her in clothes that would always undo her, his weekend wear she had called it: jeans, a t-shirt, and his leather jacket. Simple and unkempt, but they were more Fox Mulder than any G-man suit could ever hope to be. In the early days of touching, these were the clothes that were removed with clumsy hands and a forceful abandon. In fact, she would swear he would drive out of his way to his own apartment in order to change after work because he knew the kind of response he could get from her. Mulder had been right nearly every time...

"It's a fair question Dana." The low, ultra-smooth tone of Dr. Tovacek shook Scully from the thoughts leading her to the frustration playing out in her hips as they shifted restlessly in her chair. She looked first to the man speaking and then to Mulder. The disappointment was evident in the fallen corners of his lips and the crease between his brows. He thought she wasn't listening. And for the most part, Scully was guilty. If he only knew her thoughts had been consumed by past intimacy, she was certain he would have forgiven her. But now was the worst time to broach that subject. The wounds were being laid bear and they demanded to be dealt with. Besides, she reasoned as she shrank from the warmth of those private memories, there was no guarantee they would ever share moments like that again. Why torture them both?

"I'm sorry?" she mumbled and turned to see irritation on the part of the therapist's face.

With a bit of an obvious sigh, Tovacek echoed Mulder's last thought. "What I hear your husband saying is that in the wake of your steadfast refusal to talk to him about your marriage or anything else, he's at a loss as to why you agreed to meet him here today." Raising two fingers to the salt and pepper temples, the original question was repeated. "Why *did* you decide to come?"

This was a moment of real truth. If she was going to make an honest effort, the honesty had to start here. Scully cleared her throat and attempted to smooth imaginary wrinkles from her navy jumper. "It was something Mulder said..."

Tovacek interrupted, "Why don't you speak to your husband? Tell *him*."

Another in a line of impossible tasks, she screamed in her head. tilting her head back, Scully felt Mulder's confused and hopeful eyes calling to her's. While she hated herself for it, she didn't want to deny him and offered him the tiniest access to the depths of what was going inside. "It was something you said...just before Catherine was born." She was talking. Scully could see the realization settle into Mulder's face. It became calm and unimposing. He was trying not to pressure, trying not to expect too much from her. It made her miss him. "It was true, about me not having even contacted a lawyer." Shame crept into Scully's cheeks and she looked away to confess the lie he had known about for weeks. "I used the pregnancy as an excuse to hold on without feeling guilty or weak...when I was really just afraid of closure...of being committed to walking away from you."

There. Done. She was talking. And as she sensed a bit of victory dance over her, Scully saw the color drain from Mulder's face and mixture of sadness and worry fall over him. With his next question, he made it clear he had really only heard one of her words. Slowly, mournfully, Mulder spoke to her, "Scully, do I make you weak?"

Perhaps the road was longer than either had realized.

November 16th
12:04 pm
Mulder s Apartment

Weakness, and anger, and effort. They had all come before this day had been possible. Mulder took the waning seconds before the arrival to throw stray dishes in the dishwasher and underwear in the hamper in the bedroom. They were the only derelicts left from his day long cleaning frenzy. Housekeeping had quickly fallen by the wayside after Scully left. But he had thrown himself into the task to return their home to just a hint of its former self before she saw it again and Catherine came home for the first time.

No, Mulder chided himself. This is not Catherine's home. Expectations can make demands and demands prohibit healing if it's to come. Tovacek's words rang from ear to ear and kept time with Mulder's feet shuffling over the hardwood floors with no real destination.

A month of counseling had brought his little family to this day, their first full day together. It was the latest therapy assignment. The counselor had made a habit of giving Mulder and Scully "assignments" between each of the sessions. At times, the whole damn thing had felt humiliating. The first few sessions had been nothing more than controlled shouting matches with pride- bound tears finding an opening from time to time. As the anger abated and honest talking had begun, so too had time with his wife outside the confines of Tovacek's office. At first it had been lunch with Dana and the baby in a public place. Then dinner at her apartment. Each "date" grew a little longer than the last.

And while Mulder looked forward to each one, they ended in equal parts frustration and joy. Frustration came in the knowledge that they would end. Frustration in that there never seemed to be anytime with Scully alone. There was always Catherine to deal with whether it be feeding or changing or whatever task demanded parental attention, the kind of attention Scully seemed determined to prevent him from giving to their baby. She was always correcting him with Catherine and hovering without touching. Scully rarely left Catherine alone with Mulder. Yet, there had been those rare few seconds when he was able to just stare at his daughter; the use of the word still scared him. There had been seconds when Catherine became quiet in his arms and held her father's eyes as sweet prisoners in the knowing connection they had shared since the first time he held her less than a day old. A knock at the door was the beginning of the day's roller coaster.

7:13 p.m.
Mulder's Apartment

Scully placed Catherine on the bed gently hoping she wouldn't scare her awake. This was going to be the first time that she and Mulder had been together, and alone in what seemed like a very long time. She sighed heavily. 10 months to be exact. She looked down at the tiny miracle sleeping soundly on the bed she and Mulder used to share, and in all likelihood the very bed where she had been conceived. She was so tiny and so fragile. Dana placed a soft kiss on her fingertip and then ran them through the soft down crowning her daughter's head. "Sweet dreams," she whispered softly, and left the room.

"I think she's finally asleep." Scully cast a slight smile in Mulder's direction as she entered the living room. "She gets grumpy when she's tired." She looked away from Mulder who was regarding her carefully from his seat on the couch.

Feeling a slight tension, Scully drifted over to the small window in the apartment that had been their home, rather than going to join Mulder on the couch. Her eyes drifted to the street below; the thoughts, images, and emotions of their "family" day still swirling nauseatingly around in her mind.

Mulder remained sprawled across the couch. He was tired too. "Were you able to fix something on the bed for her?" Shifting in his seat, he felt guilty. "I haven't exactly bought stuff for her... for when she's here or whatever. I.. umm... wasn't sure if it would be... right ...or whatever."

"She's so little she doesn't move much, a few pillows usually stop her from going anywhere. You can buy whatever you want to Mulder. She's your child too. And no matter what happens between us that will never change." Scully continued to stare out the window, an edge of sadness caught in her voice.

"Maybe, you could help me make a list. Or even go with me to pick some things out. Can you see me trying to choose a crib?" It was another of his attempts at humor, looking for a crack in the armor.

"Mulder, If you can buy me a negligee you can buy Catherine a crib." Scully's words were intentionally cold; she wanted him to share the pain she had been feeling for the past ten months.

Mulder raised himself from the couch and edged towards her. He was getting bold and the familiar grin was creeping into view. "But one is practical and the other for pure entertainment. Besides, the negligee didn't come with instructions in four Asian languages."

"But one of them does come with a commitment." She was fighting dirty, and she knew it. But she was exhausted, bone weary, all of the built up frustrations came seeping out into the light from the dark place she'd been storing them for so long.

"Apparently, today's time for pulling punches is over." He stepped back. "And for the record, as far as I'm concerned both of them come with a commitment."

"Underwear is disposable Mulder - something easily abandoned, forgotten about. A child isn't. And if you weren't afraid of this kind of commitment you would already have bought her a bed."

"My not buying her a bed has NOTHING to do with not being committed to her...My not buying her a bed has everything to do with not knowing from day to day if she'll be here long enough to use it." His arms were crossed. He was putting on the armor.

Scully turned to face him. "Do you honestly think I would keep her from you? You can spend as much time with her as you choose. You just don't choose a whole hell of a lot." She ran a hand through her hair and turned back to stare out the window trying to keep her voice calm. "What will happen to her if what we have here doesn't work out? Would you still want to be a part of her life?"

Taking a cue from her efforts to be calm, Mulder paused to regain himself. "No. I don't think you would keep her from me and it's not that I don't want to be with her. It's that I want to be with *you* so badly... I worry about every little thing I do or say. I try not to push you, to demand time. I'm afraid it'll scare you or make you angry." He flung his arms up. "It's just, you know how to take of her. I'm still learning. I'm not sure I can handle her by myself. I know I don't want to. Not without you." He shook his head not sure if he had been able to express what he meant with the words in his head. "And as for 'this not working out,' it isn't a consideration. I'm betting everything on the assumption that it will. I'm not willing to give up as easily..." He caught himself before the accusation went any further.

Scully spun on him catching the unspoken inculpation. "But in order for THIS to work out Mulder, you have to want Catherine too. She is not just a piece of baggage that I lug around with me every where I go. She's a child Mulder, a living breathing human being who, though unaware now, will someday grow up to turn and judge you and I." She could feel her voice rising and fought to keep it calm. "You can't just turn your back on her because what we have doesn't work out. You have to be willing to accept her now for who and what she is, a part of you and I. And leaving our home wasn't easy. It didn't come anywhere as simple to me as you telling me to kill our baby did to you."

Mulder's sharp, deep intake of breath almost echoed in the room. They were about to go through this yet again. "How many times do I get crucified with this Scully? How many times? I never told you to do any such thing."

The denial always stumped her. He had never actually used those words. He had never actually used any words to describe the act. Therefore, her thoughts took a detour in order that she might remain angry and in control of her emotions. "You still don't get it do you Mulder? That little girl sleeping in there is more important to me than life itself. If you can't accept her for herself, and not simply for the fact that she has to be with me, then I don't want to be with you." Scully wiped away a stray tear that managed to escape her tightly held facade. "I don't want her to grow up knowing that the only reason you accepted her was because I forced you to. What do you think that would do to her?"

Mulder had begun shifting from foot to foot, but stopped abruptly and looked directly into her eyes. "I know exactly what that kind of relationship with her father would do to her." His stare penetrated her and let her know how disappointed he was that she could be so forgetful.

Scully blinked, trying to break the ired spell he was weaving. "I know you know, Mulder. That's why I find it so hard to believe that you would put your own child through this." She searched every contour of his face, trying desperately to find some light of understanding. "There's something in you that prevents you from making a complete commitment to me, to us. And it is so utterly overwhelming that I don't know how to fight it." The way her hands fidgeted before her as she said the word "fight" pled for him to understand how much it was hurting.

His voice softened to the tone she could never fight. "Scully," he got closer. "I don't know how to be more committed to our family in the state that it's in. I've given up everything in my life to fight for this. I spent every free moment of your pregnancy sneaking information on your condition, because you wouldn't tell me yourself. I've told a total stranger everything I've ever thought about being married to you in hopes he would help me find some healing in all this. I've begged you to do the same and met you effort for effort. And finally, in the month and a half our daughter has been here, I've given her more time and attention, both physically and emotionally, than any other single person I've ever known. Except for you." His face contorted, the glimmer of anger grew, providing the roots for his frustration. "Jesus Scully, I sacrifice it all everyday for a wife who seems more at peace when she's acting like she doesn't want me than she does when I'm with her! Hell, and you ask why can't I accept Catherine?" He began to pace back and forth. Quick and angry little steps motivated him momentarily until he halted and stared at his wife once again. "I'll tell you the truth. It's easier to accept her every time the three of us are together. At least with her, I know she wants me." His hands found his hips. "How much more committed could I possibly be?"

"But you're not Mulder. That's the whole point. You say you accept her but everything you do and all of your unspoken words contradict that, the things you hide inside, but show on your face." Scully shook her head, a soft sigh of amazement slipping out of her mouth. "Our family is the way it is because you wouldn't commit, couldn't commit. And you know what the sad thing is? I don't even think you realize it. This..." She shook her head, and drew a connection between them with her hand. "This all happened too fast. It was hormones." She began to tremble. "Sexually driven." She shuttered furiously. "Something born out of a need, desperation - I don't know what. But it wasn't love on your part Mulder. You're too focussed on other things." Tears began to flow now. "I don't know what I was thinking. What WE were thinking and now we've gone and involved another life in this. OH GOD..." She turned away, her voice choked with fear and sadness. "This whole mess is so sordid and painful. I've just realized myself why you didn't want Catherine... It wasn't because it was too dangerous for us. It was because if you ever had to leave, if someone or something more important came along you could go with no strings attached."

Mulder was at a loss. This was going far beyond his attitude about their daughter. It was substantially bigger, if that were possible. Moving to place both hands on her shoulders, regardless of how she might have felt about it, he made sure he had her attention. "You spend so much time telling me how I feel. And a year ago I would bet the world that you were right. But in the past five minutes, you've done nothing but prove you may not know me at all." As if he were her father, "You're not angry at me for struggling to be a father." He shook his head and saw her temptation to shake hers with him. "You're just plain frightened. And I need to know... Frightened of what?"

Scully dropped her eyes to the floor below her feet, her conflicting emotions a mass of chaos. She needed to be honest with him, because this is something she would never say to him in front of their counselor, but at the same time to open up to him, to tell him her fears and show him her pain would leave her incredibly vulnerable. She gazed at him for a moment with unshed tears pooling in her eyes. When she finally spoke her voice was soft and tentative. "I'm frightened that this.... " She motioned between them again. "This isn't what you really wanted. That what you did want is dead along with all of the delusional, and tragic romantic notions that go with it." Her statement hit Mulder like a ton of bricks. "And that since you can't have what you really wanted you settled for this, which is about as far from perfect as you can get. Believing that what you were looking for wasn't out there anymore anyway."

Mulder's mind drifted back to a field, an old farm house, and a young woman named Melissa. He closed his eyes for a moment and then shook off the feeling of sorrow the image forced on him. Her doubt was brutal. The more she spoke, the more she assaulted every tender admission he had ever made to her. Scully was not only questioning the strength of his promises and proclamations, but the very honesty of them. Was that even possible? He would find out. "Scully, answer me this...am I a liar?"

"No," she said emphatically. That's one thing that she could never accuse him of. He moved to hold her, but she backed away knowing his touch would hurt.

Taking her by the arms again, he forced their closeness. His chin rested on the top of her head.

"I just think that sometimes people see what they want to see. It's a point of denial Mulder. I remember Tennessee so clearly sometimes. When we were there in Apison, I told Melissa I couldn't understand how she could share her husband with 5 other women." She leaned into him slightly; her body betrayed the feelings he still awakened in her. "Well I can't share mine with a ghost that he believes in. It's colored every element of our relationship from the beginning, because all along it has felt like some sort of rebound. And I can take a backseat to Sam, but not to promises of what might have been from the collective of a delusional and the man I love."

Dropping his head to her ear, "The only thing you share me with is your fear... and every day, a little more with our daughter. Do I wonder what Melissa might be in some unknown future? Of course. But no more so than I wonder what you might be, and now what Catherine might be."

"Mulder, the woman was psychotic at best. And you want so much to believe, that... that you allowed yourself to be drawn in. Did you ever question any of the histories you built in your head? Did you do the math or ever consider other explanations for what you experienced? She moved back from him, still trembling. "And what Catherine is Mulder, is our daughter. Someone who deserves all of your attention and love, not just discards from a ghost. Maybe I could have dealt with that, but I don't want Catherine to have to."

Maintaining his grip on her he pulled Scully closer. "I saw in Melissa the possibility that I wouldn't have to spend the rest of my life, any life alone. I saw the possibility that I wouldn t have to be without passion and a home. I saw in her a reason for some of the emptiness."

"God, Dana. Melissa showed me what could happen if I let this life drift by. That I would have to settle for one brief moment of finding what's right. I couldn't let that be the end all be all of my existence. Seeing her. Experiencing what I experienced with her taught me that. And when I realized I couldn't settle anymore, there you were. The only woman I fathomed being with for as far as I could see." His breath was warm and lulling as he whispered softly into her hair. "I told you once that I might never know what was 'supposed to be' or what 'would be' and that I couldn't give what wasn't mine to control. But Dana Scully what I can control, this life I have right now, I have given to you along with all the things we might be. So, if fate meant me for something different," he paused to make sure she was listening, "then you should know that even if I never did anything else for you, I renounced fate. At some point, you have to forgive me and accept that gift. It's still yours for the taking."

Scully moved reluctantly from his embrace. "You know Mulder, I love you so much that sometimes I want to put aside all of my doubts and believe for you. I can feel the emptiness. I know how strongly you feel that an element of your life is missing. And I know that element is Samantha, nothing more. I also know that believing what you do some how fills that void - But I want to fill that in our lives. I want to use the family we created to do that." Scully swiped at the tear tracks down her face. "I'm so tired of fighting ghosts." She crossed her arms across her chest protectively. "If Sam is out there, I will do everything I can to see that you find her, but I can't live with 'what might be's' hanging over my head, and to me that feels like what I've been doing. I feel like I have been kept at arms length throughout our marriage, and then Catherine was born and is an out for you. Am I wrong?"

Mulder was tempted to smile. Could they possibly be about to agree on something? Instead, he reached across the canyon that was the two feet between them and faintly traced the side of her face. "You're so worried about Melissa. You're so afraid of whatever she might possibly represent to us in an indeterminate future..." His hand drifted back as he ran his fingers through her silky hair. "Even if I could - I wouldn't want to spend this life with Melissa, I want to spend it with you." Mulder kicked himself mentally, damning himself for his own willingness to believe whatever was thrown his way. He stared at his wife, the woman he loved more than he ever thought possible. "I never wanted an out from you, Scully." He paused and looked away. "Catherine.. I think.. I mean.. The thought of her. This tiny life and my responsibility towards it." He shook his head again as expressing himself became more difficult. "At some point she scared me so much that I wanted to run... My family, my father - gave me my own ghosts to fight... and I want to do that. But it has to be with you and no one else.." He leaned in resting his forehead against hers. He closed his eyes, his voice dropping to a painful whisper, "Do you know that the only thing that truly terrifies me is the thought that I won't be able to do that, and more and more the thought of living without this family we've started "

He moved away, the feel of her so close making him ache. The uncertainty of their future focussed it and made the suffering dull and prolonged. He swallowed hard. "I miss you so much." His voice broke, betraying a hidden passion. "I miss the feel of you along side me in bed..." His stomach lurched in panic. This was going way too far. He thought he would surely scare her out of the room. But in all honesty, how much more damage could he do? "I miss the touch of your skin against mine, your smile, your laugh, all that we shared. I love you," he said with an unwavering surety. "And I want you more than anything imaginable. But still, my feelings won't mean a damn if you can't forgive me. It's a choice you have to make before we can go anywhere from here. It's all in your hands Dana." An uncomfortable silence fell over the room, as he looked past her and out through yet another window for some sort of escape. He didn't want to look at her face or see the hurt he'd caused her, marring it.

"I do want to forgive you, Mulder!" Her shoulders shook as her restraint completely dissolved, and tears turned into sudden sobs that rumbled out between her words. Mulder had never seen his Scully like this before. Not in the face of joy or evil. There had been plenty of times this type of agony would have found a place in their journeys, but she had kept it at bay. Only now it seemed impossible under the weight of it all. Trembling hands reached to cover her face, "I honestly do... Sometimes I can't even think, there's been so much said and done. I can't keep it straight in my mind. I don't know where to start." Before the mask of fingers was in place, he had crossed the space and was holding her. Permission had not been asked. And for that, her first reaction was shock. In the end though, she was glad, glad that he had the strength she did not. Pride be damned.

Mulder was careful not to crush her despite the desperate need to do so. The first thing his mind could register was how close her face was to his own buried in the shallow nape of her neck. When he felt he could not hold on any longer without scaring her away, he moved to release her. As their cheeks passed each other, one of the multitude of tears running down her face brushed against the very corner of his mouth. Mulder could have tasted the salt if he dared. Instead, a wonder broke around him as the full drop cooled itself along its run down to his chin before it was absorbed by the skin there. Memories were no longer necessary to re-live the completeness of possessing a part of her, of being a part of her. He was living it right then and it wasn't enough.

Cupping her wet face in his hands, Mulder tilted it toward him and held her mouth a breath's space from his own. "Maybe *we* could start here..." Fear was evident in her eyes, but he was going for broke. It had simply been too long, even if this sent her flying for Never-Never Land.

Their lips met under his direction. While he passed on drinking in the first shared evidence of her grief, it was inescapable now. The tears along her lips lubricated the tiny, delicate movements Mulder coaxed from them. A first kiss of passion, a last kiss of death, neither could compare to this first kiss of forgiveness.

Mulder wasn't surprised when the woman in his arms broke away suddenly. He knew he was pushing things. He was virtually waiting for her defenses to catch up with her body. The rush to gather her things was clumsy. Mulder did not move to help. Chivalry would have to understand, he wasn't going to help her run away from him anymore. Loaded to the point of imbalance, Scully stopped at the front door when she heard his voice. Turning to see his calm, if not darkly joyous face, she heard him say, "I'll see you on Tuesday?" Their next appointment.

If he had been unsure of his decisions this evening, her response dispelled any regret. It was a short, but unbroken "On Tuesday." No smile, but no dread either. She spun back to the door and Mulder caught Catherine's sleepy eyes while her head bobbed with her mother's frantic attempts to open the door and leave. They were wide and deep with the green that fascinated him every time he saw them. And with the knowing expression of wisdom reserved only for her father, Catherine Scully redefined his definition of hope.

November 25th
10:06 am
A Georgetown Office

"...But I just can't get the sound of those words out of my head. Every time I get close to you, feel you near me, I hear them."

"Dana, tell Fox what it is about those words that make them consume you."

"They confirmed what I've been so afraid of for most of our time together...that you really aren't everything...that you're not tragically flawed, but just flawed. It was the final blow. I couldn't see the misled hero anymore. All I could see is the man who wanted to get rid of a baby, my daughter.

"It was so easy just to hate you afterwards. I could hate you for not wanting a child, for dedicating your existence to something far beyond anything I could ever be to you. Once the flood gates were opened for a legitimate reason, it was easier to let them run.

"Now it's not easy anymore. I see you with Catherine. How you look at her as if she's the world's greatest mystery and all you want is to find out her secrets. How your face says you've been captured by her for as long as she'll have you. Knowing that robs me of the simplicity of pushing you totally away which scares and confuses me more than ever.

"Maybe I'm the one who disappointed me. I make it sound as if you are to blame for not living up to my standard. I say it because I know it will hurt you. Before, I saw this unattainable thing. You were this intense being that could fill a room with whatever emotion he wanted. You made the air thick and pungent with your presence. God, there were times I felt like you were seeping into my chest and lungs just because you knew you had the power. I was able to keep everything I ever felt about you in check because you just seemed impossible for me to reach. I assumed you could never want me or feel me inside you that way. But, when you did, it was all I felt I could do to try and keep you from regretting choosing me. Mulder, when you suggested...what you did, it shattered that illusion. And I hated you for not being what I had put all that anxiety into. I hated myself for being that blind, for feeling so intimately inferior for so long. I'm sorry, Mulder. You never asked for me to see you that way. I'm sorry.

"I thought I could handle being wrapped up in your search...my life being about that need to find the truth and to find Sam. But I was wrong. It wasn't enough. I need to be first. When you were willing to give up on our child-the best sign that we were making a path of our very own-I saw your priorities and knew for certain they would never change. At least, that's what I needed to think so I could turn you away, so I wouldn't want you anymore..."

"It was an option Scully. That's how I viewed it then. It's how I still view it. Perhaps I'm a victim of nineties liberalism or I was frightened out of my mind, but I simply saw it as a viable option. Catherine wasn't real to me yet. Obviously, not as real as she was for you. I made a decision in the span of a minute to broach the possibility with you and that minute cost me ten months of my life...my life with you. I...we...worked so hard, we sacrificed so much to build some foundation for ourselves. When we decided that taking a stand for some normalcy, for a home so that we could both experience the peace and excitement of having someone waiting for us at the end of the day, it was one of the biggest victories we had won together...for each other. I couldn't believe one incomplete question could decimate us so utterly. It was as if you wanted it to be over. It was as if you had been lying in wait to be rid of me. It hurt so goddamn much.

"But I had no pride. I begged and followed ten paces behind you hoping you would see what you were slapping away. There were times I felt humiliated at how all I ever seemed to do was grovel. Yet, it didn't matter. You know Scully, if there had ever been a shred of doubt that I loved you or that I wanted to be committed to you, the fact that I would lay myself down to be emotionally spit at should have been proof enough for anyone.

"And now you say there was more to it than my one reaction." Mulder twisted in his chair; clawing at the upholstery as the bitterness grew. Averting his gaze for a second gave him the respite he needed to look directly into those wide, watery blue eyes without remorse and say, "Damn you for that.

"What I want is to blame you the same way you blamed me. Funny thing is, I can't. Not if I want you and Catherine back. Not if we're going to keep moving forward. Besides, I'm too tired anyway. There isn't enough emotional strength left in me to be truly angry about it. Just tired of fighting and begging. Do you know that I don't even remember the last time you smiled when I touched you? Not even the slight twist at the corners of your mouth telling me you knew I was up to something.

"All I get are words, and they don't mean a fucking thing anymore. I find it so damn funny that all we do anymore is talk. Over and over. Yet, I wonder with every sentence if a single thing I say is believed. Because of a few loosely strung together words, you seem to assume that I don't know how I feel anymore about you, or being married, or being Catherine's father. Scully, you have got to get past the idea that I'm not in touch with what's going on inside me or you will never hear what you so desperately need to hear from me...that I DO love Catherine and I am working harder at being a good father to her than anything I've ever done. That I DO want to be married to you REGARDLESS of how it changes my life. That in every thought, action, and breath I do love you..."

December 13th
6:42 pm
Scully's Apartment

Tiny reddish brown hairs swayed and twisted in the warm currents breezing past her head. Mulder watched as several defied gravity and stuck straight up on top of Catherine's tiny, soft scalp despite the fact father and daughter were on the move again. Walking curred hiccups. He was mentally writing that down in his own book of child care tips. Whether they took them away or distracted the kid enough to let them pass, walking worked.

Therefore, they were on their third trip through the apartment. Every few feet, Mulder was careful to step over one of the cardboard boxes which dotted the footpaths in the main hall and out into the living room. Three days ago, Fox Mulder had come home. Not the home he had known previously, that apartment had been abandoned for Scully's more spacious flat in Georgetown. They had yet to agree where his things would go with the exception of two. His couch found a place on the far wall of the living room where Mulder could lay and still see the Knicks games. His queen sized bed had been sold in favor of an extra long twin size which was set up in Catherine's room near the crib.

The usual forty-five minute session with Tovacek had stretched into two hours on the day all three decided it was time for the family to be under one roof. Mulder could still remember the sacrifice of pride written in his wife's face when she agreed to the arrangement. Even though she had let him kiss her weeks ago, the thought of living in an intimate space with them seemed to terrify her; a fact which twisted with barbed precision in his throat and chest. In order to compromise, the three had agreed Mulder would move into Dana's apartment to avoid upsetting Catherine's environment. Further, Mulder would sleep in another room so Scully wouldn't feel as threatened or pressured.

While he was supremely dissatisfied with the distance from Scully, "the arrangement" had afforded him some precious private time with Catherine. Long after Scully was asleep, Mulder would lay awake listening for the slightest sound coming from under the Looney Tunes blanket scarcely three feet away. At the first whimpers of hunger, he was up and ready with a bottle of expressed milk. Together, he and Catherine would lie propped against the head board of his bed. Over the tiny suckling noises she made, which tended to be punctuate with soft grunting breaths, Mulder had taken to reading to her. "Peter and Wendy" was the book of choice. Not the Disney, "Peter Pan" version. He had insisted to himself that she would get the real thing and it had taken weeks to order a hard cover copy he could buy. Reading time had started at least a week before he knew he would be in her life on a day- to-day basis. Scully had become more comfortable with his child rearing skills and twenty minutes here or there could be stolen while she ran an errand or finished some work which had managed to make its way to her front door from Quantico.

The Mulder rational mind knew Catherine had no clue as to what the words painting wild images of lost shadows and ticking alligators meant. It didn't matter. Catherine would remain quiet and still as if mesmerized by her father's voice; a low and slightly rough lullaby poured out of his lips. The writing on the pages was just an excuse to talk. Talking to the baby was still uncomfortable. He had vowed to avoid insipid baby talk, and for the most part had been successful. There were slips though. Even past the silliness, the mind told him she couldn't really understand anything he said and what would he say anyway? Why fill her with images of gore and despair, when there were faeries to meet? So, in order to avoid a vaccuumous silence, Mulder read.

The hiccups banished, Mulder returned to sit on his bed. Catherine was settled on her back atop the faint cradle of his sternum. This way she could face the thick book of gold rimmed pages with wide bulging eyes and brows which crossed spontaneously in wonder at the object which elicited the soothing rumbles from inside the man beneath her. Scully wasn't due back from her shopping excursion with Margaret for another twenty minutes. Plenty of time for more of the story...

"...and she sat with him on the side of the bed. She
also said she would give him a kiss if he liked, but
Peter did not know what she meant, and he held out
his hand expectantly.

'Surely you know what a kiss is?' she asked, aghast.

'I shall know when you give it to me,' he replied
stiffly, and not to hurt his feeling she gave him a

'Now,' said he, 'shall I give you a kiss?' and she
replied with a slight primness, 'If you please.'
She made herself rather cheap by inclining her face
toward him, but he merely dropped an acorn button
into her hand, so she slowly returned her face to
where it had been before, and said nicely that she
would wear his kiss on the chain around her neck. It
was lucky that she did put it on that chain, for it
was afterwards to save her life."

The covers of the volume came to a close as a thought rolled in with the clouds gathering on Mulder's face. Removing his glasses and returning them to his shirt pocket, he peeked at the infant to see if she were sleeping. Reading time never got very far anyway. Babies, young ones at least, could sleep anywhere and at anytime, another entry in the Mulder book of baby tips.

She was wide awake. Perhaps the book needed editing. Hazel jewels jerked toward his face in surprise that the show was over so soon. Picking her up and turning her over, Mulder pulled his knees up on the bed and leaned her against his thighs so she could half sit and face him. The nose was still Scully's, he observed thankfully. Small and slightly pointed, it was presently scrunched in concentration at the sudden appearance of his face. Second by second, Catherine's face relaxed and her eyes made the familiar change from those of shock and bewilderment at a world so bright and loud to those of knowing and connection. The tiny flecks of gold in her irises sank beneath the emerald as it seemed to visibly deepen. The face Mulder looked for every time he caught her eyes was now complete with a gaze that once again said, "I know you. It's going to be OK."

No one else is home, he thought. Why not share? Taking both hands in his, the fierce pressure of her grasp on his long fingers put him in the mood to chat as if with a long lost friend, if there were any for him to have. In a low, warm tone reserved for happy secrets and playful, seductive promises, he forged on. "Is that what you are Catherine Scully? A kiss I didn't recognize until I got it?" Mulder's eyes took on a hint of laughter. "When your Mom told me you were on the way, I know now I didn't fully appreciate what it meant or what you were. And I wonder now, if after you arrived, I just juggled the motions to keep from hurting her feelings...from doing more damage..." Sliding both hands behind her back, Mulder swallowed the building regret and sat his daughter more fully upright. "...to keep her from running away. But your Mom, she is a smart woman. She must have known. And she still took my little acorn button...my dedication fostered in equal parts ignorance and illusion...and hung it around her neck." Picking Catherine up and lifting her into the air, he brought her perfect Scully nose to his and took a moment to feel wisps of baby breath fall on his lips. "I hope her decision to try saves our life together." Another swallow, "I hope *you* save it."

Mulder landed the child on his chest face down and waited. Stranger things had happened than a three month old sitting up by herself to offer an uncertain father words of assurance. Right? Maybe so. But Catherine was on another track at the moment, and rather than spouting wisdom, she spouted dinner.

He felt the thickness spread over his t-shirt before he heard the burp, the whimper, and gurgles of her body as it attempted to restore the status quo. Then the smell arrived. This wasn't dribble or undigested run-off. The small, squirming package on his chest had just heaved forth a splattering pool full of the acrid, bitter smell worthy of a hang-over memory.

Mulder tried not to look. This was going to be bad. Real bad. Holding his breath as much as he could he peered around Catherine's body to see the waste lying there. The spot was growing wet and cold against the skin of his chest where the t- shirt no longer offered protection. Neither wishful thinking, nor a baby-wipe had a chance of cleaning this up and the spill would not be ignored much longer.

Carefully, Catherine was lifted free of her accomplishment. A clean corner of Mulder's shirt was used to remove the clinging remnants around her bowed mouth before laying her down on top of his bed. Now, the panic began to set in as the bottom hem of the shirt was held away from his body in an attempt to contain the accident while a dash was made for the bathroom. It was then, Mulder was able to catch a glimpse of the time. "Shit" was said out loud several times to punctuate the realization that Scully was due back any minute. Margaret was supposed to take the baby for the evening. They had a "date" planned. He could hear the explanation already...

"Yeah, Scully. Cate threw up all over me and herself...Why you ask?...Oh I was just...uh...holding her nearly upside down over my face while eliciting marital advice. Nothing unusual."

To say the road to the point where Dana would leave the kid with him for any length of time had been long was a ridiculous understatement. It had been an emotional death march at times. And while in retrospect the next course of events would appear a bit drastic, at the time it felt as if it was the only sane option. Cover it up and deny everything.

With much talent, Mulder stripped free of the wet stench and deposited the garment in the bathroom sink. The smell was actually growing worse in the confined space. It reeked of bile and let loose a stinging ache in his nostrils which threatened to fill his head. It was inhuman.

Another glance at his watch produced a quick jog back to the nursery to find Catherine hard at stare with the pattern on his blanket. The smell lingered over her and Mulder made quick work of her jumper and socks. Solid pink, that damn color again, was exchanged for pastel seahorses which didn't strike his eyes much better but smelled infinitely more appealing.

Praying for a reprieve from further eruptions, Mulder settled the baby on her stomach in the crib and ran back to the bathroom. Jumper, socks, and t-shirt were wadded together and placed under running water to soak just long enough to allow for a quick change. They were supposed be going out together anyway. Scully would certainly believe he had opted to change before she got home. Sure she would. No problem.

A black v-neck sweater, fresh t-shirt, black jeans, and loafers later, Mulder found a quick change had not been quick enough. Once back to the bathroom, he found water falling freely over the sides of the sink carrying bits of the hazardous material with it. Panic tripped easily into blind fear as the clear tones of women chatting and paper bags rustling could suddenly be heard in the living room. They were back. Falling to his knees, Mulder pulled a towel from the towel rack and mopped furiously at the water on the floor. Once satisfied he had done as much as possible, the clothes were next.

"Mulder?! You here?" Scully's voice was lighter than usual and while that should have given him pause to be thankful, it drove him to the irrational.

Stalling, "Yeah Scully! I'm in the bathroom. Catherine's in the crib. Be out ASAP!" Wadding the mass of material from the sink together, a few strong squeezes produced all the water he was going to get from it at the moment. The decision was now upon him. What to do with it? He couldn't just toss them in the tub or certainly not the trash can. And a trip to the hamper in Scully's room one door down would alert the two to movement as well as leave an odor trail. Looking at his reflection in the mirror over the sink, Fox Mulder, Oxford grad and trained FBI agent caught sight of the air vent just behind the door and made the silliest decision of his life.

Warm and bitter and soaking wet, the bundle of clothing was slopped into the vent before the metal grating came down over Daddy's little secret. Quickly wiping his hands again, Mulder's lingering thought before pasting on the usual grin and walking back out into the living room to greet the returning duo was... "There's no way in hell I'm getting away with this."

9:20 pm
Scully's Apartment

"You're really going to hate yourself in the morning." Dana mused and stopped in front of their door and fished keys out of her pocket. "Those meatballs will probably be as hot coming out as they were going in." She smiled slightly and slipped the appropriate key into the lock.

"Yeah but the forget-me-nots should be enough to survive off of for a week," Mulder retorted.

Mulder continued to grin as his wife let out a hushed, "Damn."

"Stuck again?" he asked softly.

She nodded in frustration. "Third time in two days."

"Here." Mulder bent in and dropped his hand over hers jiggling the knob a bit. The lock clicked quietly as it's mechanisms slid out of place and the knob turned readily, but it took a moment for either to notice. The spark of electricity that had passed between them as Mulder had inadvertently pressed himself against Scully, had suddenly derailed them both.

"You are a talented man Fox Mulder." Dana snatched her hand away and grinned, trying to hide her body's betrayal. It had been so long since they'd touched in a way that was anything more than chaste. She entered the apartment and flicked the lights on. Hastily making her way over to the coat rack, she was completely oblivious to the hurt in her husband's eyes. She wasn't anywhere near ready for what she was feeling.

Mulder just nodded sullenly, his wife's nervousness placing a damper on what had been their first casual and relaxed evening since before their separation. Tonight they had felt like a couple again, not two people clinging desperately to something that was failing miserably, but a real couple. A familiar dull ache groaned it's way into Mulder's chest, and he fought it down. She had a right to be nervous. If they took it slowly no one would get hurt. He forced a smile and nodded. "Yeah - I can hear it now - Spooky the Locksmith - at your service. It would make a great alternate career if the Martians ever invade earth and blow up the Hoover building." He made his way over to where she stood at the entrance to the living room. Coming up behind her, his familiar arms found their way around her shoulders.

Ignoring the fact that she had stiffened slightly under his touch, he kissed her lightly on the cheek. "I love you..", he whispered softly into her ear.

"Me too." She leaned back into him, compelling herself to relax in his arms. It felt so good, but was equally as terrifying.

"Coffee?" he asked, reluctantly letting her go. He could almost smell her fear, and he didn't want their first time alone in what felt like forever to be marred by his forcing the issue too much. He also didn't want her to rush off to her bedroom for the rest of night, as she had been doing since he'd moved in. Tonight they had to progress in some way. Even if it just meant the two of them sharing the couch and watching TV.

"Sure..." Part of her wanted to run and lock herself in her bedroom for the night. Knowing very much what her body was craving. And on some basic and instinctive level what her sorry psyche was also wanting. 'Weakling,' one part of her chastised the other part. In the back of her mind, there was a nagging little person who desperately hated the fact that she needed him so badly. "Ummm.. I'm going to have a quick shower. I can smell the garlic in my hair and clothes." She headed for her room. "I'll be out in a few minutes."

"'kay." Fox Mulder nodded and watched his wife until she'd disappeared through the doorway.

She peeked her head back out of the room, catching him staring in her direction, lost in his own thoughts. "It's kind of cold in here. Can you turn the heat on??"

"Sure." he mumbled distractedly and hit the thermostat beside him. Then he moved into the kitchen to make some coffee and sort out his own set of swirling emotions.

The warm water felt good softly pummeling her body. It was a relaxing ending to one of the first enjoyable evenings she'd had in a long time. They'd hit a few rough snags, some tight silences and a bit of forced conversation in the car and at the restaurant, but over all it had felt good to just spend the evening with her husband. For the first time in the past year, Scully felt some measure of hope and contentment.

Sticking her hand beyond the shower curtain, she felt for the towel, noting at the same time that the room had heated up substantially since she'd stepped under the running water. "Hey!" She let out a soft cry as her hand hit the cold surface of the wall. Her head followed her hand out from behind the curtain, and it was then that she noticed the towel was missing. Now that was odd, she told herself. She'd definitely replaced the soiled one she'd used earlier.

Mulder must have used it, she reminded herself. He was living with them now, not just visiting for dinner, or dropping in to spend a few minutes on the way home from work. They were finally playing family, and the thought was horrifying as well as satisfying. So much hinged on them and their ability to move past the stumbling blocks of the last few months. Not the least of which was their little girl's happiness.

Sometimes she doubted her decision. It wasn't something she wanted to admit. It sounded too much like a wish, and wishes sometimes had a way of coming true. But, there were times that she wondered if forcing an already conceived child on Mulder had been more than a little unfair. What had she expected him to do? She knew from the beginning that he definitely didn't want children. In fact she'd agreed with him. But once she knew she was pregnant, everything had changed. The thought of carrying a child inside her had filled her, making her some how complete. How could she have destroyed that? She rubbed her still slightly out of shape belly, remembering the feel of the tiny kicks and nudges. Only a few short months ago her little baby girl had been merely a dream within a possible future. Now she was a wonderful reality. How could she regret that? And did Mulder still resent it?

Stepping out onto the bath mat, Scully smiled. Catherine had grown on Mulder. She'd left them alone several times now, and had come back to find him reading to her, rocking her, playing with her... He'd looked every bit the attentive and loving father, and not someone who had been forced into parenting. It was a big step in a wonderful direction.

Grabbing her thick terry robe off it's hook, Scully was nearly knocked over by the pungent and definitely rotten smell that suddenly filled the room. Frantically, she searched the pockets of her robe, wondering if she hadn't left something noxious in it after one of her late night feedings, but they were empty. She held it to her face sniffing it. It wasn't the robe. Although, the bottom of it held more of the smell than the top did. The bottom? She looked at where the robe had been hanging. It was over the heating vent. Dana's stomach roiled. The smell was becoming nauseating. It had to be some poor dead animal stuck in the ducts.

Pinching her nose, she snatched a nail file from one of the drawers and popped the vent out of place. A gasp of surprise and dismay escaped her mouth as her eyes fell on the bulk of the soaking, balled up missing towel.

She didn't even have to wonder how it had gotten in there.

Mulder was halfway through his first cup of coffee when his still damp wife appeared in the doorway of her bedroom. Normally the sight of her in little more than a terry robe would initiate an immediate mental response that would have ultimately ended up in his groin, but the wad of towel and clothing she held in her hand stopped the chain reaction immediately.

"Let me guess.." Dana waved the offensive bundle in his direction, sending more than a sniff of the aroma in his direction. She covered her mouth and nose to keep from gagging.

"Let's not and say we did..." Mulder replied making a beeline for the kitchen, and the garbage bags. Scully followed him in, dropping the ruined mess into the bag he'd proffered, and watching him in amusement as he tied it tightly several times over.

He kept his attention on the bag as he waited for the impending, and no doubt angry verbal assault. When it didn't come, he looked up at his wife to see something that was almost a smile plastered on her face. "Sorry," he told her sheepishly.

Scully shook her head. "What were you thinking, Mulder?"

He grinned almost sadly. "I just got my 365 in fathering Scully, I can't afford to lose any demerit points before I actually get my license." He ran his hand through his hair nervously.

"What did you do to her?"

"Nothing." His hands came up defensively. "I mean we were playing and then... well I mean she just spewed out this stuff, kinda like in the exorcist." He shook his head. "I know I shouldn't have held her like that, but we were playing and I just didn't realize...."

"But the vent?" Scully smiled fully, no longer able to contain it.

"I was going to wash it. I just didn't want you to think I was a bad father. Or that I had been hurting her in anyway." He looked at her seriously for a moment. "I would never do anything to intentionally hurt her Dana. I need you to know that and because of it I sort of panicked."

Dana sobered, tears coming to her eyes. "I know Mulder.." She looked down at her hands, and fumbled nervously with them. "And I'm sorry, too. I .. I forced you into this role, and it wasn't fair. I knew it was something you didn't want and I was selfish enough to make you do it." She brought her eyes up to meet his. "You know it's okay to hate me for what I've done to you."

One of her tears broke loose and Mulder caught it with his thumb as it ran down her cheek. His own tears were forming, as he brought his face to hers. "I could never hate you Dana. Never.. You are a part of me and I feel so incredibly lost without you." He rested his forehead on hers, and then brought his mouth down to cover her lips.

The kiss was tentative, hopeful, and passionate all in one, and Dana responded in kind, her arms coming up around her husband's neck. Mulder let out a soft moan and pulled her closer to him, his body craving her nearness. Instinctively, his hands slipped between the folds of her robe seeking out the softness beneath it.

Dana began to stiffen, wanting to deny her body what it was seeking with Mulder's. She knew this moment would happen sooner or later. She would have to decide to open herself to him again in order to welcome back the long lost lover who had waited so patiently. Squeezing her eyes together even tighter, Scully began to coach herself through the motions, to convince herself she could claim what she missed almost like air.

At first, it was too easy. Mulder's hands were still warm and moist from holding the coffee. There was no shock when they first whispered against the rounded skin of her hips and smoothed the excited twitches dancing just under the surface. Straining to fall even further into the moment, Scully would have sworn to heaven she could hear the rasp of his fingers and palms as they made nearly nonexistent, lazy swirls up to rumble over her ribs and come to rest near each of her breasts. It was so hard to be sure as she fought to divide her attention between his hands and his mouth. Mulder had taken a tiny step closer and his tongue begged timidly for permission to fill her mouth with a taste she couldn't have possibly forgotten. The robe hung open between them now and air rushed over the tips of her vulnerable flesh just above his hands. If he had wanted to touch her there, a simple movement of his thumbs would have allowed him the access. It was this knowledge which led to panic. Anymore, she thought, and her body would betray her completely. The attention he might give would leave no question that the last of her defenses was beginning to crumble. She wasn't ready...and it was this revelation which instantly became her one and only obsessive thought. This had to stop and it had to stop now.

Mulder was fighting his own war of guilt and need. Therefore, it was no surprise when he felt the change run through Scully like a freight train. He wanted her, there was no doubt. But not until she was sure. If she wasn't sure, the act of sex would be for her an act of surrender. There had been far too much surrender between them. When they made love again, he decided, it had to be a triumph. And Mulder pulled away instantly.

As his hands emerged from the robe, they grabbed Scully's own when she attempted to cover herself in embarrassment. She slowly looked into eyes she was certain would be full of disappointment and frustration, but found only understanding and a hint of what couldn't have been joy. Could it?

Placing both of her hands by her side, Mulder made no move to look at her exposed body nor to cover it. Instead he moved to cup her face with both hands. Scully fought for words. "I'm ..." A long finger fell across her lips and she saw his throat tighten as he began to speak.

"You trust me with your life." He waited to see the phantom nod rustle the locks falling forward into her eyes. "Now trust me with your dignity." Mulder didn't wait for her to acknowledge. Taking both of her hands again, he led her back to her bedroom. He could see the fear rising in her face. The thought that she might be frightened of him made him grieve for the barest second. She would understand soon enough. If Fox Mulder wasn't going to make love to his wife tonight, he would at least make a point.

Mulder allowed the bedroom to remain dark and drew Dana to face the mirror over her dresser along one of the walls. When she was looking at herself in the glass and seeing him standing behind her, he reached in front of them to open the top drawer. While most of her was bathed in the shadows of nightime, the moon from the one window allowed enough light to charge her pale skin with a glow they could both barely make out in the dark. His eyes never left the reflection of hers though as he took out the most familiar piece of Dana's sleepwear. Had it not been for the royal blue silk material, the pyjama top may have been consider boring by any standard, but in the creative hands of this man it was causing Scully's pulse to thunder in her ears. And for yet another time that night, the mood of the moment changed radically.

His heavy, determined eyes closed, breaking the contact with hers. Lowering his nose into her hair, he hestitated for a heartbeat before reaching for the robe at her shoulders. Scully watched in breatheless awe as he drew the material down her arms and to her waist; waiting until she took an unspoken cue to gather it around her hips and hold it there. She was naked from the waste up now and terrified. But nothing could tear her eyes from what Mulder was doing. It was as if he were performing some foreign dance with her. The beauty of it could be revealed at any second, all she had to do was watch.

Holding the top behinde her, Mulder lowered it to her waist and opened the simple arms to each of her hands as one at a time she took two more silent cues to slip them through. The silk made cool trails back up her arms in order for him to bring them to rest on her shoulders. It was only then that his head moved during the entire ritual. Scully could only see the top of his head as it dipped to her left shoulder. She knew what was coming next and closed her own eyes to feel it, every bit of it. Warm lips made firm, sure contact before his fingers settled the blue garment into place. She felt the tip of Mulder's nose trace an even more confident line across her shoulder blades and back, accompanied by the rub of his silk hair against the nape of her neck until another equally firm kiss was placed on her right shoulder which was covered as well. Then, his mouth was gone.

Silence reigned in the room as oxygen began to seep back into her lungs. Scully's eyes snapped open when she heard the faint noises of the buttons being settled into place. Mulder's eyes were once again on hers and the green was overtaking the gold in them much like the eyes of another Mulder could do. The robe was taken from around her hands at her waist. He replaced it as he had found it out in the living room. Moving to leave, Mulder gathered Scully into his arms from behind once more. She could feel him press himself into her on purpose. The unforgiving stare she couldn't avoid told her it was important for him that she know he wanted her right then. His breath condensed on her ear with the final offering of "Goodnight, Scully," just before both his embrace and the proof of his desire were out the door already closing in his wake.

January 21st
4:49 p.m.
A Georgetown Office

Dana Scully looked down at her hands. "With Mulder I've never really had a problem with intimacy. We've known each other for so long, and so well that when it finally did happen, making love - the physical intimacy felt so very natural." Every word of the day's session had stuck in the throats of the painfully hesitant pair. Tovacek, out of no small act of mercy, had allowed them to speak to him instead of each other. "At no time in my life has it ever come so easily. In the few relationships that I did have before Mulder, I kept an emotional distance. Not to say that I wasn't sexually active, I was, but nothing I was involved in was anywhere near as deep and caring as what we've had. I guess that's why this is all so scary.

"To me, intimacy means not only the the mere physicality of it, but openness, and the sharing of everything: emotions, thoughts, all elements of ones self. Intimacy means vulnerability, and after what we we've gone through recently, I just.. I feel so very exposed.

"Until recently, even talking to my husband had been so painful over the past months, that it makes me afraid of what might happen if we move any further beyond the superficiality of what we've been sharing and back into what used to be common place to us.

"When I left our apartment...left him, I felt like a part of myself died, and I feel like it's something that I will never get back. And I don't want that to happen again. I don't want the ache that I felt for months after we split. I don't want to feel the need to have my husband hold me in his arms, or the desire to feel his mouth pressed against my skin. I don't want to be open to the emptiness I felt when he wasn't there to talk to when I came home, or the horror I felt when he told me...no, suggested that he wanted me to abort our child. I never want to be so emotionally naked ever again, and that's what will happen if we work this out. It has to happen if we're to have a full marriage. And I find more and more I have to fight that instinctive part of me which keeps saying not to do this to myself again. Not to leave myself open because if this doesn't workout, I don't know what part of who I am will be left to survive. What we had was so incredibly encompassing, it was too easy to hurt the other. And I don't want to hurt anymore, but right now that's what intimacy means to me. Pain.. "

"I don't know...is it wrong for me to say I've thought about it...acted on it? Wanted us to be sexual with each other again?" Mulder straightened his shirt so he could look away from Scully. The afternoon light flooding the window behind him fell over her in a deep orange glow. Interlacing his own fingers he went on. "I keep thinking of the first time. It may have been natural for her, but for me it was part terror, part joy.

"At the time, I don't think either of us was sure what was going to happen in the morning. There were no "spoken" commitments at the time we...did...made love...although I think we understood were this was going. Anyway, I remember my thinking was frozen on the fact: 'This is Scully. This is S-C-U-L-L-Y!' But we had made the decision for the night at least. That much I was sure of. And it shocked me then how spontaneous the whole thing seemed which made it more exciting and terrifying since it involved the two of *us*. We knew what was at stake, but being together so intimately was more important. In the middle of my own bewilderment and arousal I couldn't believe it was Scully who was touching me where I showed her. Or that I was touching her where she wanted me to. God, I remember looking down into her face and watching her eyes roll back as her eyelids fell. It just wasn't the woman I knew or had fallen in love with. But better. More somehow. And I wanted to see that sight over and over for the rest of my life. Stranger or no.

"It wasn't until after sex became a ... a ...not-so-uncommon occurence that I realized what was really happening inside of her when we were together." Mulder shifted some more, began to study the diplomas on the walls again for the thousandth time. "As we...became...I guess...more familiar with each other. We...we were not as...Jesus!..."

"Fox," Tovacek interupted and placed the gold Cross pen down on his desk to address Mulder's obvious discomfort. "Forgive me but look, I've seen hundreds of couples and heard enough of the sordid details of their lives together to assure you. Whatever you need to say isn't going to be anything new. If it is, we'll discuss the book rights on a 50-50 split. OK?" Tovacek's smile was slight but firm.

Mulder forged on while every one of his cells vibrated with humiliation. "We were not as inhibited. It happens to all couples. I understood that. But, it was still something to experience it with Scully. It...Ok not 'it', but 'love making' got to be fun and agressive, even angry at times. The biggest revelation I ever had about Scully was the discovery that she was Scully no matter what we did in public or private. Only, when we were intimate, trust allowed her to be what she couldn't be any other time; this free, vulnerable, individual lover. All because she trusted me.

"I want it back. Not so much the touching...well the touching if it's possible, but what the touching meant. Even if I could only have her hand on my chest while I was sleeping or even an honest kiss in front of a movie. What the hell-ever she could give as long as the contact came with an ounce of the trust it once contained. Maybe with some hope as well."

February 15th
1:02 am
Scully-Mulder Apartment

The clicking of the lock lasted for imaginary hours and only real seconds. When the door swung open, Fox Mulder was relieved to release every item in his hands and across his shoulders even though they fell to the floor at his feet. Stepping in he caught her form in the darkness. Harsh light from the hall might wake her from sleep so he was quick to shut the door behind him in order to bathe her again in the navy blue blanket of early morning. A pause in the short foyer gave him time to take a quick auditory surveillance of the apartment. All was quiet. It was a quiet of home and rest. He couldn't even hear Catherine stirring in her crib. The ability to sense her movements and voice had developed to his surprise and joy. It was as close as he ever dreamed he would get to a supernatural power of his own.

The decision to leave his bags where they lay until morning was instantaneous. Moving through the den in slow motion, Mulder made his way into his room. There, in all her still wonder, Catherine slept. The serenity around her body was interrupted only briefly by the quick breaths that sounded like bursts of a fine spring rain. He suppressed the urge to pick her up and settled for tucking a blanket up around her just a little more.

Mulder removed his shoes as to limit echoes from walking on the hardwood floors. Two days in Phoenix on a ghost chase had left him ragged and lonely for his piece-mill family. The tie and dress shirt were thrown to his bed before he went in search of another peek at his wife.

In the first pass, the fact that she had fallen asleep on HIS couch had been lost on a weary investigator. But now, as he approached her, the implications were palpable in his mind. Since the move, the battered leather haven had been Mulder's alone. Scully's furniture matched the decor, sensible but inviting. His monstrosity, however, stuck out as his territory and she had been more than content to observe the boundary. "The Couch" was a place to enjoy a game or late night action flick, or to pour over case reports. It smelled of pizza and scotch as much as it did of leather. It was an inanimate Mulder. From time to time though, little Catherine Mulder received special invitations to join him there for a bottle, and even a game.

As he approached, every sound seemed to be magnified a hundred fold in his attempt to remain quiet enough not to wake her. Watching Dana Scully sleep was an old luxury. In the past, it had given him enough time to fully inhale the presence of her in his life and in his bed. What an overwhelming experience it had first been to see her entire face smooth in the innocent suspension of slumber, no matter how decidedly sinful she had been minutes or hours before. He knelt down near her head and watched. Puffs of her breath fell on his right hand where it rested on his knee. A survey noted all of the familiar but distant features he loved: frim set chin, small, brimming mouth, nose dusted with freckles she hid with make-up, and her eyes closed from view. It was the area around and above them that brought his moment of adoration to a halt. Lines. There were lines around her eyes not from age but from tension. He could see it in the tightness of the lids and the strain seemed to reach from their corners back to her ears. Some tiny and some more pronounced creased out from under and over. They spoke of fitful sleep and bad dreams.

Mulder's right arm found the back of the couch while his left sought the cushion by her face. Another survey of her entire body noted how it was drawn up in a ball as if she were a child waiting for...waiting for him, he reasoned with disbelief. "Could that be it?" he asked inwardly. Taking his left finger, Mulder barely graced the area between her drawn brows with a touch. The lines melted under his attention, confirming his guilty hope. Scully had missed him. Missed his presence in this place. Feeling a little arogant, he let his stream of consciousness flow. She missed him enough in her waiting to find solace in the only place here that was uniquely him. A silent satisfaction washed over Mulder in this moment. After all this time, he knew for sure she needed him again. She needed to be close to him, to smell him, to be touched by him. This vision of her before him was a fantastic treasure to hold inside for any dark times to come.

She needed him again. Well, he thought, she can have me. And, he continued, in the process if she will let me have her, I'll accept that as well. Standing as not to disturb her further, Mulder moved away and to bed, all the while entertaining plots and wonderings that asked how much longer the warm February weather might last before winter reappeared.

February 15th
6:02 pm
Georgetown Urgent Care Center

The Hospital... Scully's mind was whirling as she ran through the trauma room doors. A neighbor had called to tell her that her husband had been taken to the hospital but other than the most basic details, the message left on her voice mail had revealed essentially nothing.

Trauma rooms were all too common places to meet for the two of them. Secretly, Scully had hoped this pattern would have stopped after they had decided to live as a married couple as opposed to FBI partners. But no such luck, she silently told herself as she hastily made her way over to the nurses' station.

"Fox Mulder.." Scully raised her voice a few octaves hoping to be heard above the din of the crowded ER. A nurse sporting the name tag "Davies" huffed slightly and flipped a quick look at the board behind her. "Examining Room A.." She mumbled unconcerned and threw a thumb over her shoulder before dropping her head back into her file.


She could hear her husband whine before she could see him. She didn't need to read the signs to find him; she merely had to follow the angry complaints until they simply couldn't get any louder. And there she stood outside the examination room with Mulder inside, looking petulant and whiney.

"Dammit that hurts.." He let out another grunt as a young student nurse, being instructed by an older nurse, wrapped his left hand.

"And I thought Doctor's were supposed to make the worst patients," Scully said as she observed her husband acting as if he were twelve and had just fallen off his skate board. Making her way into the room, Scully's first observation was that something was missing. A voice was missing. "Where's Catherine, Mulder?!"

"Easy...easy Scully. She's.. ughh.. She's with your mother, again. Did I ever mention that I *love* your mother?"

The student placed another strip of sterile tape across the bandage and Mulder winced again, turning his attention back to the current source of irritation. He wasn't looking forward to the explanation he was going to have to throw out any second. Scully's foot was beginning to tap. She wanted the whole story. Of course, that would mean his plans were shot all to hell.

"My mother??" Scully looked at him quizzically. "I thought you were going to pick her up on your way home from work?" Scully asked, a slight smirk creeping across her face as she realized what the student nurse had in store for him next.

"Well - I.. " He looked guiltily at his feet. "She was asleep when I arrived, your mom told me to leave her. So I didn't argue." His grin made Scully immediately suspicious. "I thought we could have a nice quiet night alone, if it's okay with youuuuu YOUCH!" Mulder jumped about a foot off the gurney as the student poked him with the rather large looking needle in her hand.

"It's a tetnus shot Mr Mulder," the teacher informed him as she helped the girl clean up. "No," he replied. "That was medically sanctioned torture.." He mumbled to himself all the while rubbing his newest tender spot.

So how did you hurt your hand?" Scully asked as she bent in to take a look at the gauze wrapped appendage.

"Assault with a lasagna." The answer was short, to the point, and utterly stupid.

"Excuse me?"

"I burned my hand on a pan of vegetable lasagna I was taking out of the oven. See, the towel was in the other hand with the tomatoes and..."

"Never mind. I think I get it." The facts, while silly and a bit confusing, were not lost on Scully. Mulder had left their child in the care of her grandmother, for presumably the night. Then, he had attempted to make them dinner. Well, dinner in the since that he had probably picked up the pasta from Rizzoli's on the way home. But, he had turned on the stove. So technically, for Mulder, he was making dinner. He had done all of this with the intent of spending the entire night alone with her. The butterflies began their dance in her stomach. The pospect of being alone, of being trully intimate, still gave her moments of panic. Although the thought no longer terrified her. In fact... On more than one level it aroused her. Another ocean of words had flowed between them on this topic. They had been candid both with the counselor and themselves. More so than at any time since the healing had begun, Scully was ready to stop talking. Now, all she needed was the courage to put the last foot forward. She was ready.

Biting her bottom lip, Scully smiled almost shyly at him. "So what's the special occasion, Mulder?" She'd mentally thumbed through all of the important dates in her memory but none matched today's date. "You don't actually COOK unless it's an important date."

His deep hazel eyes glittered with a tease she sensed from the lower part of her abdomen. "That's for me to know and you to guess..." He grinned, slipping off the gurney and leaned in to kiss his wife. "What do you say we go home and..." The kiss was quick, but neither loud nor simple. Soft and yielding, but clear in its purpose. It pronounced a seduction in the making. Mulder's eyes never broke from hers. His face softened further into a dangerous half smile as he spoke in an even tone that held no care if it were overheard by the medical personnel in the room. "Clues are clues Agent Scully. What do you say we go home and you can give our little mystery your best shot."

Was the nurse blushing? She might as well have been. Scully, herself was in full bloom and yet she couldn't turn away. All she could do was hand him his jacket.

Pressing his lips to her forhead as he passed, Mulder allowed the back of one finger to trail from her forhead to her collarbone in one long stroke. "Bring your decoder ring."

Scully smiled a full smile now, knowing that despite her nervousness, tonight would be a night to remember..

7:15 pm
Scully-Mulder Apartment

"Hey what's this?" Scully bent over and scooped up the small string of photo's that fell out of Mulder's wallet as he dropped it on the table by the entrance to their home.

"Me and Cate," he mumbled faintly, pulling the thin slip from her fingers, and gently thumbing his baby daughter's face. "She was in a good mood Monday when I... Um.. Stopped at the mall." He looked at his wife, a small thoughtful smile gracing his face. "She's changing so fast, I just wanted to capture something of her now." There was a far away look in his eyes as he recounted the day's events. "She even smiled.. See?" He pointed to the last photograph of the duo where she was sporting a big gummy smile.

"YOU were in the mall, Mulder?...Your own brand of hell." Taking the photos back, in her hands it was Mulder's face which received the attention of her fingers. His face was a bit taut, as if he knew he was a fish out of water. Returning his possession, she pushed the issue a little further. "Can I have one?"

"Sure.. I was going to make a wallpaper for the computer out of this one." He pointed to the bottom shot again. If you want, you can keep one for your wallet." He looked to find Scully's head tilted slightly to one side, watching him as he spoke words which she most certainly felt were foreign in his mouth. Yet, there was an air of belief in her features now. One which had been born out of Herculean effort. Mulder grabbed her hand with his good one and pulled it to his lips kissing it softly, thinking he might take advantage of the moment. "I know this is going to sound trite, but I want to thank you. I mean... I've been meaning to for the past few days but I... Well it just never seemed the right time."

Scully's chest tightened a bit at the contact. Why was she so surprised? Physical contact between them had become more common place in recent weeks. A hug during quiet times. A lingering kiss goodnight. All had found a place in their new version of life together. But tonight was different. It was time, she knew, to repair the last big wound. That knowledge made her entire body electric with awareness of every move he made. Clearing her throat as silently as she could, she asked, "What for?"

He looked away slightly trying to mask the tension shifting through his body. He didn't want to ruin the strides that they'd made by forcing the issue. But at the same time, he needed her to trust him with that final part of herself again. Fox Mulder couldn't remember not needing it.

"I know how badly I hurt you when you told me about Catherine." He brought his eyes back to meet hers. "I know that for most married couples the addition of a child is an overwhelmingly happy occasion. And when you came to me with what should have been good news all I did was hurt you. She's a gift Dana and I thank you for her."

"Mulder, we've been over this so much. It's...."

He gripped her slender fingers tighter. "I know. I just wanted to thank you."

She wanted to talk him out of this. Out of the endless cycle of guilt, but the more she looked up into his face, the more it dawned on her that this wasn't guilt talking. Hope smoothed the lines around his eyes and mouth. A faint smile faded in and out of his lips. This was the gratitude he never got the chance to sincerely express to her. The "issues" of blame and anger were fading more quickly than ever. She wondered briefly if all that had needed to be said between them had in fact finally made it's way out. It shook her a bit to realize it hadn't. The knowledge translated into a gooseflesh along her arms. But, before she burdened him with anything, she offered him a tender "You're welcome." Withdrawing her hand, she moved towards the kitchen.

"Like I said, it was going to be umm... lasagna..." He followed her in and peaked in the oven at the dried and scorched slab inside. "But, I don't think it's anywhere close to being edible." He viewed the food and then his wife, a goofy smile plastered on his face. "Want to order in?" he asked hopefully.

"Sure. Wong's?"

"Great." He looked at her long and hard for a moment. Turning to the phone, a quick order was placed all the while contemplating the forthrightness of his next words and willing her with telepathy to remain where she was. She did which made Mulder's devotion to forge ahead less awkward, but no less enchanting and terrifying at the same time. "I .." He started tentatively. "Wait." His eyes lit up as he took off into the bedroom he shared with Cate, returning a few moments later with a small garment box. It was wrapped elegantlty and bore the tag of a local and very exclusive women's shop.

"I bought this for you yesterday." The small package was offered over with an obvious wavering hand. "I saw it in the window and I.." He peered at her for a moment as she fiddled with the tag. "I just wanted to see it on you."

The blush was immediate and deep. Scully felt it redden her skin and hated herself for it. Of all the facets to Fox Mulder she had unmasked, this dangerously romantic side of him, the one that bought underwear for her and pulled her suddenly into private, hungry kisses still un-nerved her. It was hard to reconcile the cool smirk of the tireless FBI Mulder with the faltering, but torrid lover and then husband he had become before things had fallen apart. He had been working his way back to that a day at a time. Both of them had been rebuilding themselves in each other's hearts. It was inevitable this side of him would return in full force. And it was time again to decide if she would welcome it home.

Running her hand over the paper, she fought the ever present hesitation in her voice. "Mulder...".

He waited, his emotions unguarded. He wanted to share his passion with her, it had never been a secret. He wanted her to see his desire, his need for her to share herself with him again. The starkness of the moment scared him. He'd only wanted one other thing so badly before in his life.

It wasn't so much sexual as it was a matter of trust, of his reclaiming what had become a part of him. Frustrated by the wavering, he slid one finger under the wrapping. "Listen to me Dana. We both know why I did all this." He tore a piece of the cream and rose paper off and watched silently as it fell to the floor. He gazed at her again, taking in her cool blue eyes. "This is the final step in healing for us. I need to take it. I think we both do. But if you're not ready, there's nothing I can do right?" Consciously, he controled all outward exspression and bowed his head not wanting her to see the possible disappointment in his eyes.

Slipping her own two fingers inside the wrapping, Scully felt the cool, barely textured surface of the box underneath. Her stomach was heavy. Her hands shaking, she couldn't look at him if she were going to ride this out. Timid blue eyes fluttered away for a second, but not before Mulder's hand found her chin with an insistent nudge.

She appeared almost scared to him. Wanting to expel any more fear or uncertainty, he brought his face in and kissed her lightly. And then pulling away, he ran the thumb of his burned extremity across her lips as he had nearly a thousand times, wincing as the pleasure-pain of it. "I'm going to die here if you don't open that.." He dropped his eyes back to the box, a nervous twitch tweaked the grin perched on his lips.

She removed another piece. A demure smile revealed just a hint of teeth while she tried all along to remain open to what was going on here. But as she waited for him to take his turn in their little game, she was overwhelmed by the need to confess something. "Mulder," her eyes widened as she sucked in a sharp, quiet breath and moistened her lips, "I believe I want this. And yet...I'm still scared."

He grabbed a larger piece and stripped it from the box, his eyes never leaving hers. He leaned in and kissed her once more, this time a little more forcefully. "I love you Dana.." he murmurred in her ear, his breath sending a warm tingle up her spine. He could feel her tense slighty under his touch so he moved away, willing her to make the next move.

The words "I love you." It had often surprised her about him, the fact that he could say them so much more freely than she could. They were vulnerable words. Words which led to promises and expectations, both of which had been broken. Tonight, however, she was reminded of the strength they held to heal what they could break.

A slow but sure feminine hand made a final rip and the remaining paper fell to the floor. The room was quiet except for the sounds of their home settling in for the night. There was little to overshadow her voice. "I love you too."

Mulder reached out and slowly lifted the lid from the box. Inside lay a sheath of green silk delicately trimmed with matching lace. The gown was devastating in its classic allure, expensive, and practically non-existent. "Happy Anniversary." He grinned and took the box from her hands to rest it on the table beside them.

She was stunned. The thought that he walked into a store, presumably with their child in tow, picked this out and purchased it was at once both endearing and comical. The temptation to smile was dashed by the unwavering weight of the need flowing between them. Even as the possibilities of the immediate future turned over and over in her head, she was left with a question. "I don't understand. What anniversary?"

"That's for you too figure out..." He grinned slyly, and bravely reached for the top button of her blouse. With a quick flick of his finger he had it undone despite the burn. His other hand came up to stop hers as she reached up to help him. He shook his head slowly. "I want to do this." A masculine finger drew along the small triangle of her he'd just exposed, a flash of desire rippling through him as he felt her breath shudder beneath her chest The chaste fondling of her newly bare skin awoke the perfume there. The spicy clean scent floated up and into his lungs before difusing through his blood. Mulder concentrated hard so he might be able to taste the way she smelled in that instant.

Scully's eyes fluttered close, her ears burned for every sound they could collect. Her mind, though occupied with her husband's ministrations, whirled with dates. "It's not our wedding." A brief vision of the backyard affair flashed from her memory. Tree lights. Luminaries. A few family and friends. It vanished in mental mist as she felt another kiss fall frimly on her mouth.

"You're correct. It's not. Try again." Another button fell free. The cloth of her shirt shifted as it became a little more free around her shoulders.

"It's not our first date..." That had been a bit of a shock to them both. It was in the summer, late summer, and it hadn't even started out as a date despite the fact it had ended up as one.

With a quick tug of impatience Mulder stripped away the remaining buttons; the buttons making a hollow, clacking noises as they scattered across the wood floor. He watched raptly as the blouse fell free and slid the rest of the way down her arms and landed on the floor almost silently. "Guess I'll have to go out shopping again," he whispered, closing the distance between them, his mouth claiming the sensitive area below her ear as his hands pressed greedily against her back. Scully's pulse beat hard under Mulder's toungue and lips,

Scully's eyes remained closed as his mouth greeted her skin. A soft moan escaping her lips, his tongue working small circles down the base of her neck. And then all of a sudden it stopped. She felt him move around behind her, his hands slipping under the strap of her pale ivory bra on either side of the back clasp to massage the muscles there with strong, sure strokes. Another flash intruded into her thoughts. It was of months ago when he dared to touch her this way. Only then, the delicious insanity had ended with her alone. Tonight, that would not be the case. Tonight, she understood would end with her husband's body craddled between her thighs and her name being called into her mouth leaving the taste of his breath behind. Fighting past her memory, Scully sought another guess, operating under the assumption it was required if this was going to continue. There was no longer any doubt that she wanted it to continue.

"Our first case? No, that's...ummmm...." Speech flew away when a small snap rang in the room and she felt her breasts fall free, exposed to the air around them. Drunk with what was happening, determination begged her to finish the observation. "...that was March... I think." The feelings were familiar, being nearly naked and unsure. She had been this way on their first case, exposed and needy, feeling thrilled and guilty.

The backs of his hands trailed down her spine to the button of her skirt. They were barely there, but she was certain she could count all ten fingers. "You know, for a bad guesser, you come up with great options. But again, that would be incorrect."

Mulder's teasing billowed down on her right shoulder just before a lingering kiss was left there to be followed by another on the left. He paused again. Just long enough to ponder the wisdom of his next move, but threw the doubts away in favor of an obvious and dramatic clue.

The zipper shook slightly betraying the tension gripping his body. But, slowly the barrier was lowered. What followed was the soft scratching of nylon on nylon rubbing against their ears. With one quick motion, Mulder helped the skirt and stockings over the gentle curve of her hips and smoothly rounded buttocks.

Bereft of all but her lower undergarments Scully delighted when she felt the moistness of his lips land whisper soft just above the top of her underwear sending her hips bucking forward. A soft but mature giggle escaped, the tail end of which turned into something of a moan as she felt his teeth grip the elastic holding them in place. "The first time we made love...." Dana's voice was throaty and thick with the memory of their first night of passion. The plain silky underwear fell to the floor only to be scooped up and held to Mulder's face without shame, drinking in the deep, complex scent he'd come to know as specifically his wife's. "I love the way you smell when you're waiting for me," he breathed.

The sight of his Dana standing naked before him, her eyes closed and head thrown back, ground into him all of the emotions of the last year. His overpowering and unsatiated need, at only being able to see her, hold her, and touch her in his dreams. Tossing the scrap to the pile of paper and silk nearby, his good hand returned to her waist and spun her to face him.

The movement was a shock to Scully that soon turned into pleasure when she was pulled in tight against his chest. "I remember being shocked at how," she wavered, "...creative...you were with your teeth." She was tempted to laugh, but thought better of it as his eyes continued to rake over her.

Pressed against him. There were more visions in her mind of that night. No matter how long she lived, it would always be hard to believe they had waited as long as they had before sharing a night together. When it happened, it had been as all things between them: a conscious decision to move forward. Still, once the decision had been made they had let go and made the act unreal and magical, over and over. It had been in her old apartment and the essence of them had lingered in the air for days.

"You, Agent Scully, are one HELL of an investigator." He bent to kiss her again in one quick, devouring motion, his tongue gracing the very inside of her bottom lip. "I would be impressed if...."

Scully's chest was heaving at the force of his insistence. But she was able to play this game too. Rocking forward onto her toes, her hips made the slightest circle against his groin in attempt to gather more evidence. "...if you're *attentions* weren't elsewhere, you mean."

"Ahh--no...no..." He moved her away slightly, choking on his resolve. "I may be desperate for you. But, I'm not easy."

Holding her at arms length he managed to grip his tenuous control and quell his arousal for a moment. "Don't move," he told her. Then with his unbandaged hand he reached out and retrieved the tiny piece of lengiere from it's box. Helping it on over her head, he revelled in the feel of the sheer material as it ran over her pale smooth skin, now flush with the dance they were enjoying. A slight gasp of pleasure escaped his throat as it fell into place, its hemline ending mid-thigh. "You are truly beautiful," he told her, cupping her face as she shyly looked away. "Look at me." He held her face in such a way that she had no choice.

"Mulder...you have to know..with the baby and all...I may not be..."

Both of his thumbs moved to cover her mouth. "No. No excuses. No reasons why this won't be what we want it to be. No more."

She shook her head with his; her eyes beginning to glitter at his words. The spell, however, was broken with the sharp shrill ring of the door bell. The food had arrived. All too aware of her state of undress, Scully's arms flew to cover what she could.

Looking towards the door and then back at his wife's failing display of modesty, Mulder grabbed a suit coat from the kitchen chair and covered her, at the same time grabbing his wallet. Half way across the room, he turned back in fear that Scully was getting enough time to have second thoughts. A few strides brought him back to her. His good hand behind her neck offered her mouth to him for a lingering kiss, his tongue finding entrance just before he pulled away again.

Back to the door, he fumbled with cash for the food and closed the door without ever noticing the delivery boy. There were cartons to balance and once they were settled on the table he found Scully still somewhat entranced by his last show of passion.

A teasing smile spread across his face making Scully more than slightly suspicious. "Close your eyes..." he told her, and waited until she's obeyed.

"More surprises Mulder?" Her voice was light and hopeful.

"Shh.. " He silenced her again with a brief, loud kiss. A moment later Scully felt something soft cover her eyes. Mulder fumbled for a second trying to tie the only thing he'd found that would double as a blindfold: his pink and green saturated Marvin the Martian neck tie.

Scully stifled a laugh but smiled brightly. "What are you doing?"

"You'll see." He whispered his hands momentarily stroking her full breasts which had grown tender beneath the frail fabric in their little dance.

Dana's breath caught at his touch. The sense of possession as seductive as the contact itself.

Desired response achieved Mulder then grabbed her tightly by the elbow and maneuvered her towards the door, ackwardly grabbing at the chinese food as he steered her past the table.

Arriving at the kitchen window, Mulder had to pause. Changing direction he led her over to the front door, and opened it. Poking his head out, he took a quick peek out into the hall. They lived on the top level of an older building in Georgetown and had the entire floor to themselves, but it never hurt to check. The coast was clear. He led his prisoner out into the hall until he felt her pull back.

"MULDER! I can't go outside in this." The protest earned her another deep, pulse stopping kiss and another whisper. "Trust me Scully. This is all about trust." Two more kisses were small and tender on her lips. "No more talking 'til we arrive."

Soon, there were stairs and the musty smell of aged wood. They were headed to the roof. She couldn't resist the broad smile spreading over her face. Metallic sounds of a lock echoed in the stairwell and then they were assaulted with the sensations of the city: traffic hummed below, the smell of exhaust and someone's dinner floated by, and there were kids somewhere screaming in glee.

Her guide led her to step out into the night air. She could hear Mulder walk away, his steps creaking along the wood paths of their building's roof top garden. The winter had done its work and left the pots and flower beds barren to send the smell of earth to mix with the air. Still blind she started momentarily when she felt him grip her arm again. Silently he scooped her up; there was a brush of cotton across one of her cheeks and merely moments later settled her on someting soft and giving.

"No wait.." He stopped her as she reached for the blind fold. She heard the unmistakable scrape of silver on China. "Open up.." Dana Scully smiled and did what she was told, looking every bit like a small bird poised and waiting for it's supper. A second later a luscious spicey shrimp was placed in her mouth.

"Mmmm.. " She let out a luxurious moan, letting more of her hesitation drain away.

"Mmmm." Mulder mimicked as he leaned in and licked away some of the sauce still left on her full bottom lip; the area was an obession with him. Fox Mulder's hand came came up suddenly releasing the blindfold, and Scully gasped at the sight before her.

Allowing her eyes to travel the scene, Scully took a minute to try and absorb it all. They were sitting on a blanket covering cushions from "The Couch." The food had been moved from the cartons to some of her fine dinner ware. Candles flickered from each of the four corners of the make-shift dinning area. But, encircling it all was the latticed ivy arbor standing small and proud amidst the taller buildings of the modern world around it. Along each of the four sides, one of her good sheets was pinned as a make-shift wall, ruffling slightly in an occasional evening breeze. The candles charged the cloth with a private glow.

Her eyes drifted back to her husband full of a huge, cryptic question. "This is us?"

Mulder's eyes glistened. "This is what I want to make our life, Scully." He reached for her hand and gripped it lightly. "I want our life to be beautiful. I want to share with you everything I can give you. I want you to be happy and for what we build around us to be loving." His dark hazel eyes bored into her glimmering blue ones. Then he looked away, an embarassed little boy quality creeping over him. "My home was cold Scully. My parents, at least for the most part as I can recall, lived their lives sharing a barely concealed contempt for each other. Everything there was so repressed, so sterile, so.. so unemotional." He reached up and ran a hesitant finger along her jaw, a tender habit. "I don't want my life to be like that. I want to be able to hug you and touch you when I want to. I want to be able to tell you how I feel, and do these silly, stupid, romantic things for you. This can be us, or at least an element of us, if you want to.." He bit his lower lip pensively. "I mean if you don't mind it." He shook his head. "I know some people think it's a waste of time, mere sentimentality. But I want to built these kinds of memories with you if that's okay." It was almost like he was asking her permission..

"Mulder," Her eyes darted to the buttons on his shirt. "You know me as much as anyone. You know I'm not...free with the intimate part of me or our life." She stalled. She sounded as if she were admonishing his request. "And yet here I am." She motioned to the scene around them. "Sitting here, in....in this!" In a brief moment of silliness she flashed the lapels of Mulder's jacket open to reveal his gift before quickly wrapping herself again. "So, maybe there is room for these things you need." Her voice lowered to that of a child confessing to a parent. "Maybe I need them." Looking directly into his eyes, "You've taught me to need them."

Mulder smiled at this and brought his face in to kiss her softly. His fingers seductively tracing the exposed area above his jacket. "I want you to be free with me." He looked away for a moment. "There should be no inhibitions in a marriage. Ideally we should be free to express ourselves without fear of reproach. That's what sharing and trust is all about Dana." His dark hazel eyes took hold of her own shimmering blue ones. "I know we've been through alot." His fingers slipped down as he began to play with the buttons on his jacket. "I was just... You do still trust me don't you?"

"Mulder. Even when I was certain I hated you, there had to be some part of me that I trusted you." Reaching for his hands with hers, she guided him to the lapels and helped him to open them tentatively. Watching the material separate over her breasts, she wanted to show him, to offer evidence of "the truth" they were once again discovering between them. Mulder gripped his bottom lip between his teeth, his eyes glinting like a young child's on Christmas morning. Slowly he ran a hands up the front of her, lightly grazing the nipple of a breast as it made its way up to the curve of her neck. With a slow push. he liberated one pale shoulder, and felt a jolt of arousal at the tremulousness in her moan when he brought his lips down to taste her flesh. A moment later they were both laughing hysterically as the stomach beneath the silk let out a soft growl of hunger, thwarting any further advancement of their intimacy.

"Sorry.." Dana stifled an giggle as her face flushed a deep red.

"FEED woman.." Mulder intoned in a thick gravelly voice. Grabbing a plate he spooned out a variety from the dishes they'd ordered and passed it to his wife. "Then," he smiled evilly. "take advantage of her."

They sat facing each other and munched quietly on their dinner. Stolen looks sufficed for conversation. The longer they fed, the more Scully became more uneasy. Was this sublimation? A safer route than what they seemed to have committed themselves to? Swallowing a satifying bite, Scully put it to her husband directly. "Mulder, are we stalling?"

Startled by her frankness, Mulder choked back a bite of his own. Putting his silverware and napkin in his plate, he set the distraction aside. "No. I don't think so." He placed a hand on each of her bare knees and noted the chill on her skin. Rubbing with a lanquid motion along the tops of her thighs, he offered, "One minute at a time. A year ago, we couldn't count on a minute. I like having the luxury again." The plate before her was as empty as a Scully plate got and he moved it away to join his own.

Scully looked at him, shyly enjoying the warmth of his touch against her skin. "Me too.." She brought her hand up to caress his face, her thumb tracing the outline of his full lips. "I missed *us* so much sometimes. When we were apart. It was a physical ache, Fox." Brushing a lock of his hair away from his eyes she then dropped her fingers to the front of his shirt there they played nervously with his collar. "I guess that's why I've been so afriad of *this*.. " She looked around them indicating the next step in the journey they were about to embark on. "It's quite a paradox actually, I mean wanting something so badly that it hurts, but not wanting it for the same reason."

"Is this going to hurt?" He had to ask. It was the ultimate question, the one that had to be answered. He remembered thinking, those months ago, that he couldn't make love to her if it meant she was surrendering to him. Whether their return to complete physical intimacy was an act of passion or forgiveness or healing, it didn't matter. But it couldn't be defeat or worse yet, compromise. Mulder felt this time it wasn't. Still, he wanted to hear it from her own mouth, the same one he wanted nothing in the world more than to explore, and have explore him. Again.

In her mind, Scully knew they were at the moment of truth. She had been leading herself through the evening on pure anticipation, a fact in and of itself hopeful. Yet, she knew herself, a forthright decision was required from both her head and heart before throwing everything else into the fire they wanted to create up there on an open roof. "No." The word was short and even from her lips.

Rising to her knees, she inched close enough to crawl into Mulder's lap. Stradled before him, she took his face in her hands and said it again. "No." Then, she kissed him sensuously, throwing the full force of her desire and new found certainty behind it. "Well..." she said slyly, separating the fold of his shirt one button at a time. "It may hurt you ..." Her eyes glittered devilishly. "Just a little."

"Me?" Mulder let out a feathery laugh as he covered her mouth with his again. "How so Agent Scully?" he mumbled softly between playful pecks, the vibrations of the words sung along her nerves to every part of her body designed for sensation.

"Well you may have just a little trouble walking tomorrow, Agent Mulder.." Dana's hands, having finished with the last button, lightly tugged his shirt loose from his pants and removed it completely from his body. A moment later he found himself on his back pinned under the demure form of his wife. The stunning smile on her face made his heart skip a beat, as the press of her body above him caused the hot tension he'd been nursing to build two fold.

The fit hand found a zealous path way up inside the jacket covering Scully, and the silky edging of the barely there item she wore under it. A soft almost feral groan escaped her mouth as his touch burned its way up her thigh to skim along the most private part of her, knowing it to be waiting for him. "The same could be said for you Agent Scully." Her eyes drifted shut so her mind might process his touch, their setting, her reaction.

The city sounds around them were muted by her ears straining to hear every breath shared between them, the rasp of material moving against material and skin. There was more to be had though and Scully was determined to seize it. Her hands fumbled to remove the jacket from around her. Without her frame to hold it, the coat fell down onto Mulder's hips and groin, the pressure of its landing sending a hiss of air through his teeth.

Dana's hands were far from finished. Finding her husband's hand still caressing her covered thigh, she guided it further up through the slick material of her new garment until it rested completely around one of her breasts. Her eyes were open again, peering down into his face framed by the dark blanket he had thrown over the cushions.

His own eyes closed, Mulder's head seemed to nod ever so slightly with the sensations she was offering. The sudden stillness above him and on him, woke him only to find Scully staring at him. Not needing to break the contact, she reached tenderly for his bandaged hand and brought up between them as his other began a slow but sure seduction of the flesh she had offered it. As she carressed the wrist and forearm connected to his injury, Scully posed the question, "What do we do with this?"

"Ah..." Mulder grinned knowingly. "This," he waved his wrapped apendage at her. "gives you the edge, and as such, considering my serious incapacitation, you might just be able to take advantage of me."

Scully smiled fiendishly, again. "I think I like the sound of that." She bent in to kiss him, capturing the deep sigh that escaped his mouth with her own as her hips moved back intentionally grazing the thick bulge in his pants. Scully stopped for a moment and stared at her husband seriously, her gentle slender fingers finding his face again. Small clouds drifted across the emotions displayed on her face, and her eyes brimmed, a single tear escaping before she managed to blink it away.

"Hey.." Mulder caught the deceptive escapee with a kiss of his own. "What's the matter?"

"Us," Scully replied. Mulder's heart sank, a mixture of confusion and hurt coming to surface in his eyes.

"No ... " Scully shook her head. Clasping either side of his head, "I was just thinking about what we almost lost." Another tear broke free as Mulder recognized the fear and the hurt she had tried to hide from him for so long.

"Sshh." His bandaged hand covered her mouth, as he urged her into a tight embrace. Her legs straightened beneath her and Scully lay fully on top of the man holding her. The texture of the sparse hair in the middle of his chest beckoned her to rub small circles there with her cheek. Long, slow strokes of both of his palms against her back lulled her fears further. "One minute at a time," he murmured. "Let each one take us forward. One second at a time if we have to."

Before she felt the shift, Mulder had rolled them onto her back. He covered her, an erotic blanket alive with his heartbeat, the movement of his arms and legs, and the presence of his arousal pressing between them. He leaned forward to take another kiss. It was the first of its kind since the separation, full and long, and deep. His tongue was velvet inside her mouth and Scully leaned into it matching every movement. Withdrawing, he could be nothing but honest, "I want you, Dana. I want to make love to my wife again. Let me hear her say she wants me as well."

Reclaiming his mouth, the thought that her lips were cooling in it's absence was too much for Scully to bear. Between their bodies, she reached for the waste band of his pants and answered his question with actions and words. "She does." A moment was taken to correct herself. "I do."

Wriggling out of his pants with Dana's help, Mulder pressed himself into her hands, the heat between them keeping out the biting coolnessof a deepening night. Drawing the tip of his nose down her shoulder, he used it to slide the rich green material of her gown aside, exposing one startlingly pale pink areola. His mouth found it, extracting a shuddering breath from Dana as he slowly teased it with his lips and tongue.

A spike of passion thick with need drove into him as he felt her fondle him softly through his satin boxers. "Mmm.. no.." He moaned, gripping her by her upper arms. "Sweetheart...I have no control here." His head dipped into her, eyes closed against the buiding ache in his groin. His fingers wandered down her arms, his thumb suddenly catching a small firm nub under her skin, just inside her forearm. A moment of panic shot through him as he felt around it with his thumb.

It was long and thin and conjured imagesof faceless men in surgical scrubs, sterile white light, and whirring metal. Mulder's heart pounded in his chest, his arousal replaced with fear. They'd been through so much: the other implant, the tests, the cancer. His voice caught in his throat, as Dana stared at him confused by the sudden rigidness in his body and fear in his eyes.


"There's something here." He pressed his thumb into the object lightly not wanting to hurt her.

Dana nodded silently and looked to the area of his attention. "It's called Norplant." She looked away, momentarily studying he clear sky above.

Mulder exhaled sharply in relief.

"I .. I figured it would be the most effective form of birth control," she told him. Then she caught the expression on his face. The anxiety, bordering on horror that was slowly receding. "I asked for it right after you moved back in." She wondered if this were the time to get into this. Had the moment been ruined?

"God, Dana. For a second, it felt...it was just...I thought it was another implant."

"Sorry. I should have told you." She ran her fingers lightly up his arm making the hair rise on the back of his neck.

He shook his head, shoving away any remaining fear. "I don't like the idea of you having anything like that embedded in your body. Can't you just use the pill?"

"That's how I got pregnant last time." She reminded him lightly but insistently. Obviously this was the time. It was only fair to confront the issue head on. "I was afraid it might happen again without a more drastic measure. Are you ready to risk being a father again? Do you want another child Mulder?"

Mulder was shocked to realize his first reaction was to lie to her. There was a time he couldn't fathom the kind of untruth we wanted to be able to poor from his lips. The question conjured images of his broken family and tempted him to say "Yes." Despite his insistence that they move forward, he was himself tempted to linger on the past. It was this notion that convinced him he had to be honest. "No. I don't think we should look to have another." Brushing phantom tendrils of hair from her face, he saw the subtle look of sadness in Scully's expression. "But, if it happened, he or she would be apart of our family no less than Catherine. No less than you. No less than me. I would love it and want it. I never want to throw away anything we create together." A whispering kiss was placed on her lips. "Can you live with that answer?"

A bright smile crossed Dana's face, all of the sadness of her earlier facade gone. "Yes I can..." She pulled his head in to suckle at his lower lip. "If you can."

An intense seriousness slipped across Mulder handsome features. "I love you, Dana Scully."

"The show me, Fox Mulder." She nipped at his chin. "Make love to me."

March 22nd
Personal Journal of Fox Mulder

In my minds eye, I can see how much I've changed. Don't get me wrong. I'm still terrified. In fact even more so now than before. However, it is a burden I will gladly shoulder if it means that I can continue to have the life that I have now.

Though no life is truly perfect, I have to say that mine has drifted into the upper realm of "as close to perfect as you can get". I imagine that sounds profoundly delusional, coming from someone who was once so adamant about not wanting to purchase the whole family package. But despite the fact that I may have slipped into some sort of banality, I have not gulled myself into believing this. I truly do want it. And it's a want that penetrates the very element of who I am.

As I slowly watch my child grow, I can see our future. And by comparison, the one I had previously built in my head seems terribly prosaic and sad. Someday soon there will begin a never ending path of firsts for both Dana and I. Together we will watch our child take her first steps, form her first words, grow, and change, and become even more of a human being than she already is. And to think I once wanted to extinguish this small life before it had a chance to begin... now that all seems so unfathomable. I now know the horror my wife felt when faced with my demands. It is a demonic version of the feeling I get when I try to imagine life without Catherine or Scully.

Not to say that I was wrong in what I wanted. I think that for all concerned, and with Dana and I in the business we are in, prevention would have been the best medicine. However, I also believe fate, in whatever form it takes, has dealt us this hand which in retrospect was meant to press us into fulfilling some unknown destiny. Perhaps Catherine will grow up to be President or the person to bring peace to this unstable rock we call home. Whatever it is, it will be significant and it will hopefully be in the company of both her parents.

For me, both my daughter and my wife have filled a void in my life that I had turned blindly away from for so long. I hid it along with my fears and insecurities, and yet used it as a shield to protect myself from so much of the emotion in my life. I deadened myself, not wanting to believe I could have what I have now with out destroying it. And as such, I created a self-fulfilling prophecy that almost did shatter me. I know now that I do not have to be my father, and that not all love hurts. I know now that not all trust turns into betrayal, and that I can care without it turning to loss. I can feel again, and I feel alive.

The End

All comments welcomed and even wished for.

Next: A Thimble For Peter II: Tiny Arrow


X-Files Quote 'O The Week: Mulder: "Did you really think you could call up The Devil, and then ask him to behave?" -from Die Hand Die Verletzt

"I made this!"

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