Title - Three Wishes

Author - Miranda

E-mail - miranda119@juno.com

Rating - PG

Category - SAR

Spoilers - FTF, most mythology

Keywords - Mulder/Scully romance

Summary - Mulder and Scully face some seemingly tragic circumstances meant for their demise, but a very unexpected event turns their lives on a completely different course.

Disclaimer - These characters belong to Chris Carter. The poetry is mine.

Notes - This is a story I started a couple years ago, I found it recently and decided to rewrite it and submit it. It will probably be submitted in 3 or 4 parts, maybe more. I hope that it will be read and enjoyed. Please let me know what you think about it, I appreciate all comments. The M/S "romance" in this story is very subtle, beginning where they are now with the friendship they have and building on that. I do not believe it is far fetched or out of the realm of possibility for these characters, however, it would be something that would happen near the end of the series. Anyway, enough of my chattering...read on!

THREE WISHES

Every day I've been with you somehow turned to years Seems you were by my side before existence tears.

We've been through all Hell's fury

We've lived to tell the story.

Only by an unseen Hand that guides our way

By two hearts never to know love fray

You are here...safe within my heart.

In the darkest place of fearful night

When death is not so for from sight

When what is wrong seems what is right

I find you...safe within my heart.

Chapter One - Regrets

Alexandria, VA

Friday, 7:04 p.m.

"...So then he said that he could get me UNDENIABLE evidence of the existence of Bigfoot. I should be getting something in the mail..." Fox Mulder was talking from his bedroom where he was packing an overnight bag for the trip the two partners were making to Iowa to look into some strange happenings in a small town on the Northern edge of the state. Dana Scully was reclining on his leather couch, flipping the channels of the television. She stopped on a news program showing the daily activities of a local family that had a set of quintuplets. She smiled as the lively faces of the two year old siblings flashed across the screen.

"...Don't you think, Scully?" Mulder asked as he came into the room. She did not answer, only stared at the screen. He looked up and watched the children with their harried, but happy parents. Mulder looked back at Scully's wistful face. He touched her hand lightly.

"Scully?"

She looked up. "Sorry, Mulder, I wasn't paying attention."

"That's all right. I never say anything important anyway." he sighed, the corners of his mouth slightly turned upward. They watched the program for a few moments in silence.

"Scully, are you..?" his voice trailed off. She nodded, then sighed.

"I'm never going to know what's it's like." she explained. "To raise a child." He watched her regretfully, his eyes full of compassion and understanding.

"It's....it's something I never even gave a second thought to until I came to the point where I realized that gift had been taken from me. Motherhood. Now, suddenly, I want nothing more."

"I'm sorry, Scully." Mulder said quietly and sincerely. She smiled halfheartedly.

"I'm fine. Let's go to Iowa."

"Yeah."

* *

The chapel was filled with the glorious radiance of the morning sunshine. The sun seeped through the stained glass windows, casting a cascade of colors across the aged wooden pews. The seats were about half full of people waiting expectantly for the blessed event to occur. Soft music floated from the organ as a child dressed in purest white and bridesmaids clad in dark pink silk gowns made their way down the white cloth of the aisle runner, it's smoothness laden with pink and white rose petals.

The music swelled. The back doors swung open, and the white skirt of the pearly wedding dress floated onto the carpet of the aisle. The bride made her way on her father's arm down the aisle, toward that place that she longed so to be - with the man she loved. Loved so completely, so purely, so fully that her mind held no common cold feet or second thoughts. There was nothing but anticipation in her heart for this day.

The music ceased, and the bride and her father stopped at the front of the chapel.

"Who gives this woman to be wed to this man?" The voice of the priest was heard. The bride looked expectantly at her father. He was smiling joyfully.

"Her mother and I do." Captain Bill Scully said proudly, then lifted the veil to reveal his daughter's radiant features and soft red tresses. He kissed her cheek, tears swimming in his eyes, then joined his wife, Margaret, in the first pew. The bride turned to her groom. Fox Mulder took in his bride, his eyes skimming the flattering dress but returning quickly to the joyous happiness he found in her eyes.

"You look so beautiful.." he breathed in a whisper. She smiled.

"We are gathered here today to witness the joining of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in holy matrimony....finally." laughter pealed through the audience as the bride and groom smiled knowingly at Father McCue.

A few moments later the vows were said, the rings exchanged. Dana Scully stole a glance to her bridesmaids and flower girl, all smiling their support. She touched her daughter, Emily's blonde hair with a loving hand, then smiled at her sister, Melissa, and behind her, Mulder's sister, Samantha.

Then she looked behind her beloved to see her brothers, Bill and Charles, standing behind him. She glanced out at the audience, and smiled through tears as her eyes caught those of Mulder's father and mother, sitting happily together with entwined hands. Across the aisle, her own mother and father sat together smiling at her, Ahab's arm lovingly wrapped around his wife's shoulders. Such overwhelming joy welled up within the breast of Dana Scully that she felt she might burst of the emotion. She returned her eyes to his. His deep probing eyes. Eyes that allowed her access to his soul, to everything within him. And everything within him brimmed to overflowing with love for her. For her alone. As she had always been, she was everything he needed, everything he wanted, she was all life to him. She made him a whole person. And, she decided with startling realization, that he was all life to her as well. He was the other side of her.

"They have lost everything, and gained everything back. And today is my great honor by the holy estate of priesthood and the state of Maryland, to pronounce that this man and this woman are man and wife. Son, kiss your bride."

Mulder smiled at him and put his hands gently, almost reverently on her neck, his thumbs caressing her cheeks tenderly. He brought his lips slowly to hers, then their mouths met in the most pure and loving kiss either had ever experienced.

When they parted, she stared at him through tears of joy. She saw the tears in his own eyes, and gently reached up to brush them away.

"I love you." he mouthed.

"I love you." she returned quietly.

"Scully?" he suddenly began to shake her. "Scully?"

* *

"Scully?" Mulder was shaking her, and she fought consciousness, trying to hold onto the reality of the dream.

"No..." she murmured sleepily. "I can't...not now..." she pushed his hands away. He stared at her in concern.

"Scully, are you okay?" he shook her gently again. She opened her eyes.

"Mulder..." she sat up as she became fully awake. "Oh...I was dreaming..."

"A nightmare?" he asked curiously. She shook her head.

"No...a good dream." he was surprised to see her smile. "A very good dream. Best I've had in awhile." She pushed the sheet back and headed for the bathroom.

"You going to tell me about it?" he prompted. She chuckled.

"Not on your life." she replied, slamming the bathroom door in his face.

"Was I in it?" he called through the door. The only answer he got was the shower being turned on.

* *

Grandville, Iowa

Saturday, 9:34 a.m.

"Scully, are you going to tell me about that dream?" Mulder asked as they drove down the country road to the small town.

"No." she replied flatly as she surveyed the contents of the X-File in her hand. "So what you think about this case is that the missing persons reports are all tied to the sightings of UFOs in the area." her voice was doubtful. He nodded. She sighed and closed the file.

"Mulder, do you ever regret the choices you've made to lead you where you are?" she looked out the window and ventured thoughtfully. He stole a glance at her.

"I guess so. Sometimes. Do you?"

She didn't reply for a long moment. "Some things. Yes."

"What do you wish was different? The last eight years?" he only partly joked, glancing at her again. She gave him a slightly amused glance, then looked back at the road ahead of them.

"I don't regret meeting you, Mulder. I do regret letting my life dwindle away to nothing, sometimes. I know a life doesn't fit with our quite unusual set of circumstances, but sometimes a girl just needs to have a good time. I can't remember the last time I had a good time."

"I'm sorry, Scully." Mulder sighed, staring at the road. She reached over and brushed his hand.

"Not your fault. It was my decision."

"What else do you regret?" Mulder asked solemnly. She thought about his question, a look of concentration on her features.

"Leaving the house that night when I got off the phone with Melissa. When I knew she was on her way over. Getting in the car with Skinner and leaving her to die in my place." her voice wavered with the obvious regret from the painful memory. He pressed his lips together and shook his head.

"You can't blame yourself." he insisted. She nodded.

"I know. But I can't help wishing I hadn't made the choices I did that night."

They were quiet again for a long moment.

"I regret letting Emily go so soon."

Mulder looked at her again, this time tears in his eyes. He hated to see her in pain. He hated knowing that she lived each day with the regrets of the past. Regrets he should bear alone. For in reality, every regret she had could somehow originally be linked to him.

"You do?" he replied softly. "I thought-"

"I know it was the only right thing to do. I couldn't let them use her and kill her for the purpose she was born. And we couldn't have done anything except prolong the inevitable. But I would give anything to have known her - really known her - before she left me."

His hand reached for hers, and she held it tightly.

"What do you regret, Mulder?" she asked suddenly as the town came into view.

"I have two regrets." he spoke carefully. "Not being able to save Samantha that night, and causing the most important person in the world to me so much pain." he looked at her. She didn't catch his meaning at first.

"You." he breathed, then returned his eyes to the road. She sighed and squeezed his hands.

"Three wishes." she leaned against the back of her seat and mused.

"What?" he asked as he let go of her hand to turn into the small parking lot of the Grandville Police station. One lone police car was parked by the building.

"Three wishes. The same old question. If you could have three wishes, what would they be?" She unbuckled her seat belt and opened the door. Mulder followed suit.

"I'd wish for Samantha to be alive and safe and in my life. I'd wish my father back to life. And I'd wish all the pain and confusion I brought to your life erased." his voice was soft and sincere as they walked to the door. "What about you? Melissa and Emily?"

She nodded.

"What about the third wish?" Mulder prompted. She smiled as he opened the door for him.

"Can't tell you that." she shook her head.

"Why not?" His curiosity was perked.

"Because that one could still come true."

* *

Mulder and Scully found themselves in a field later that day investigating the three large crop circles that had burned the corn away to nothing but dried leaves and ash.

"Jiffy Pop." Mulder smiled at her, reminding her of the joke they had shared in another cornfield a couple years before. She chuckled and continued her measuring and recording.

"Watch out for the bees." she replied.

Mulder noticed a flash of light in the woods beyond the cornfield.

"What was that?" he motioned toward it.

"What?" she stood up and looked in the direction he was pointing.

"I saw something." he twisted his mouth and cocked his head.

"I'll check it out." she offered, throwing her pad and pen down and headed for the woods.

"Be careful." he warned before returning to studying the ash with a magnifying glass.

Minutes later, he stood up, looking toward the woods.

"Scully?" he called, not seeing her anywhere in sight. No answer. He started to panic, running toward the trees.

"Scully? Scully, where are you? Answer me, Scully!" he searched the area desperately. She was nowhere. He ran through the woods, frantically calling her name, his eyes searching every crevasse for some sign of her. There was nothing. She had vanished. Vanished into thin air.

"Oh, God!" he fell to his knees in some semblance of prayer. "No! No, God, please no!"

* *

"Scully? Scully where are you? Answer me, Scully!" he searched the area desperately. She was nowhere. He ran through the woods, frantically calling her name, his eyes searching every crevasse for some sign of her.

There was nothing. She had vanished. Vanished into thin air.

"Oh, God!" he fell to his knees in some semblance of prayer. "No! No, God, please no!"

* *

Sense when void of reason

Tender care in cruelest pain

Light in furthest darkness

Friend in Foe's domain.

Love in all life's hatred

Peace in war's cold grip

Truth in the tangled web of lies

And desert's moisture drip.

* *

Chapter 2 - Gone

FBI Building, Washington D.C.

Monday, 7:13 a.m.

Assistant Director Skinner was sitting at his desk in his quiet office as Mulder burst open the door and slammed it behind him.

"Agent Mulder? Why are you not in Iowa?" he said after nearly jumping out of his seat from the startling entrance of the agent.

"She's gone!" Mulder shouted as he walked to the desk. "She's gone...they took her again!"

"Agent Scully?" Skinner stood up.

"She's gone." Mulder repeated in a quieter voice. His eyes were red with tears he blinked back as he clenched his jaw.

"When?" Skinner asked.

"Saturday." Mulder answered, his voice now completely void of strength. He fell back into the chair and stared ahead of him blankly. "I searched for her...I looked everywhere, I...I have nowhere else to look."

"You have nothing to go on?" Skinner questioned. Mulder shook his head, then turned to exit the room.

"Where are you going?" Skinner was picking up the phone to arrange an investigation.

"I have to tell her mother." Mulder replied dully without turning around, and left the office.

* *

"Hi, Fox!" Mrs. Scully said with a smile as she opened the door and saw him standing before her. "Where's Dana?" She looked behind him, expecting to see her daughter following. "I've been trying to call her...Bill and Tara and the baby are here for a visit..." her voice trailed off as she realized her daughter was not with him.

"Mrs. Scully," he breathed, his eyes moist as he stared at her, begging her to read his mind and save him the pain of having to voice it. She saw the familiar look and her hand went to her forehead.

"No." she said simply, closing her eyes. "Please, Fox, no..."

"I'm sorry." he said in a shaky voice, then his control dissolved and the tears came rushing down his face. "I'm sorry."

They stood in the doorway for a long moment. Finally she took a deep breath and told him to come in. He longed to run the other way. But this was his duty. His punishment. To face this family and deal them more pain. More pain that was his fault. His responsibility. He was no better than the sub-humans he was trying so desperately to defeat.

As soon as he entered the living room, Bill was there, his hands on his hips.

"Mom? What happened?" he saw the tears in her eyes as she shook her head, as if to will the horror away. Bill was in Mulder's face within the very second.

"What did you do to her now? Is she dead because of you? You killed my sister?" he was shouting, and then he lost control. His fist slammed into Mulder's mouth, sending him sprawling on the floor.

Some minutes later, after Bill had left the house in a blur of rage, Mrs. Scully sat Mulder down on a kitchen chair and quietly got a towel and began to wipe the blood from his lip.

"Do you think she'll come back?" she asked unsurely, as if afraid to hear his answer.

"I don't know." he shook his head, grief evident on his face. "But I have to believe she will."

* *

One week later

Alexandria, VA

11:21 p.m.

Mulder had finally drifted into a restless sleep on his couch. The past week had been filled with his frantic search for his partner. His quest had yielded nothing. Now as he lay in misery and disturbed sleep allowed only by exhaustion, there was suddenly a quiet rap at the door. When he did not respond, the knock grew slightly louder. He opened his eyes quickly, realizing the noise, and leaping to his feet, he raced to the door and threw it open in a fury of hope.

A man stood outside the door. Short, balding, maybe in his early sixties. Glasses rested on the edge of his nose as he nervously looked down the long, empty hall. When the door opened, he hurried inside without an invitation.

"Who are you?" Mulder shut the door and asked cautiously.

"A friend, Agent Mulder." the man assured him. "I've come to discuss your partner." his voice was hushed, almost a whisper.

"You know where she is?" Mulder demanded loudly. "Where?"

"Please keep your voice down!" the man insisted quietly. "I come here at great risk to myself, and in turn your partner. I am involved with the project under which she has been taken. I am one of the doctors performing procedures on her and other women like her."

"Why are you here?" Mulder seethed.

"Unlike my heartless colleagues, I cannot go on with this. I can't stand back and watch - or even perform these atrocities on human beings anymore. There is no way for me to escape the project without being killed. But before I give up my life, I want to help your partner. To achieve some measure of decency for a life I am ashamed to have lived."

There was a long silence.

"Why her? Out of all of them? Why do you want to help her?" Mulder's words were barely audible.

"I knew her father. In the navy. I was on his ship. And I kept in

touch with him through the years. All that man ever talked about was how

proud his little Starbuck made him. He called her Starbuck - like in

that book -"

"I know." Mulder nodded, staring at the floor.

"I want to help her in honor of his memory."

Mulder was quiet as he carefully took in the doctor's words. Wanting to trust him, wanting the hope he was offering. Mulder slowly nodded.

"Can you help her escape?"

"Impossible." the man shook his head with a sigh. "But she is not in any immediate danger, per say. She was taken simply for research, for her body to be used in their evil plans. These tests are to be studied after she is returned to you."

"Tests on her? More pain? What is it? A new form of cancer?" Mulder was becoming angry.

"Tests on her child." the man countered. Mulder stared at him in confusion.

"Scully can't have children. You worthless scum made sure of that the first time you kidnapped her and stole her every hope of motherhood! What is you're going to put inside her? What kind of mutant or diseased little piece of life are you giving her this time? You going to give her another little girl so she can watch her die?" Mulder's face was red with the anger of the injustice. The doctor stepped back, most likely afraid the stricken man would hit him. The thought was not far from Mulder's mind.

"We have her ova, Agent Mulder. We can impregnate her at our will, with

her own ovum-"

"I know. I know the story. I've seen her suffer her way through this before." Mulder shot back. "Do you realize that she has come to want nothing else then to have her little girl back? To have a chance at raising a child of her own, giving a life and a future to her own offspring? Do you know you have taken away her dream? Her right as a woman to produce children - you've stripped it away!" Mulder kicked the table savagely.

The doctor closed his eyes and sighed.

"My job is to fertilize her egg with an extraterrestrial/human hybrid sperm. The project is to perfect a race of hybrids, for a plan and an alliance with something bigger than all of us. Something I don't claim to understand in the least. I'm very low on the pole of knowledge. Which is why I'm expendable, and I will be disposed of." he reminded Mulder. Mulder sighed and waited for the man to continue.

"The child I am to create in your partner would live a very short life of disease and pain. The mothers usually also suffer great health risks and frequent complications...often ending in death."

"What's to stop the women from terminating the pregnancy when they discover the health risks to themselves and the inevitability of the child's death?" Mulder folded his arms across his chest.

"These women are selected carefully. Out of the vast base of women who have previously been abducted. To avoid such 'inconveniences'."

"Scully's Catholic." Mulder caught his meaning.

"Exactly." the man nodded.

"Please don't do this to her." Mulder pleaded. The man sighed.

"It is beyond my control. If I refused, I would be terminated and someone else would do it in my place. And she will not be released until the pregnancy is confirmed and stable. But what I can do - is why I came here tonight."

Mulder nodded and motioned for him to sit down on the couch. His only hope was to trust this person. And everything in his world rested on that hope.

The man sat down and pulled out a small tube, marked with a few numbers and letters.

"This is a vial identical to the vial of infected sperm that I am to use in Agent Scully's pregnancy. I can place normal, healthy sperm in this vial, and I may be able to pull off impregnating a perfectly normal fetus into her uterus."

Mulder took a long moment to comprehend this proposal.

"Whose sperm?" he asked carefully a few seconds later.

"I think there's only one obvious candidate."

* *

The man sat down and pulled out a small tube, marked with a few numbers and letters.

"This is a vial identical to the vial of infected sperm that I am to use in Agent Scully's pregnancy. I can place normal, healthy sperm in this vial, and I may be able to pull off impregnating a perfectly normal fetus into her uterus."

Mulder took a long moment to comprehend this proposal.

"Whose sperm?" he asked carefully a few seconds later.

"I think there's only one obvious candidate."

* *

Chapter 3 - A New Direction

Mulder stared at the doctor apprehensively. He had caught the meaning of his words, and now he closed his eyes and placed his fingers against his forehead, deep in thought. His whole life had just turned into a completely different direction. Thoughts swarmed around his brain, adrenaline surged through his veins. His stomach seemed to jump into his throat.

"It would save her life?" Mulder spoke.

"There's a very good chance of that." the man agreed.

"And she would have the chance to be mother to a healthy baby - the only chance she'll ever have." Mulder was talking more to himself then the doctor now, and the man sensed it, waiting silently for Mulder to make his decision.

Mulder inhaled deeply and stared at the floor.

"Then I guess there's nothing I can do but to agree to this."

* *

Dana Scully tried desperately to fight the fog surrounding her brain. She tried to remember where she was. The last memory she had was being with Mulder - in the field. How she had ended up in this cold, sterile white room on a metal table she had no idea.

"We're ready to proceed."

"Very well."

There was a soft whirring noise, and she tried to lift her head to see what they were doing to her. She could not get her neck muscles to move. She tried to protest, but her voice would not work. Her frightened, powerless eyes met those of the doctor standing over her. He stared at her with a barely readable expression.

"Go to sleep," he instructed. All she could do was squeeze from her eyes the tears that had gathered. Then she fell into merciful blackness.

* *

Scully fought to lift herself off the ground. She looked around her, her eyes heavy from the anesthesia. She was laying on wet cement. It was raining. By some miracle, she pulled herself into somewhat of a standing position. Her abdomen seared with pain.

*What have they done to me?* her mind raced. She was sure she was going to die. Then, like an oasis in the middle of the desert, she looked up and saw that she was standing outside Mulder's apartment building.

* *

"She'll come back." Mulder said again to break the depressive silence of the room as he sat on his leather couch next to Mrs. Scully. She had stopped by that evening to see if he had heard anything. But all he could do was offer his own faith that his partner would return. He longed to tell her of the events that were transpiring, but somehow he couldn't. He couldn't tell anyone until he talked to Scully.

"I remember when I had your power of belief." she smiled. "When my husband...before he was even my husband...went off to war so many years ago..I believed he would come back. Even when his ship was reported missing, and everyone tried to tell me he was dead, I knew he wasn't. There's something about love that can sense the other's thoughts and feelings. It gives me peace of mind to know you can still sense her presence."

"I can." Mulder whispered with a nod. "She'll be all right." he paused and looked at the older woman seated across from him. "How did you know? About your husband, I mean...how did you know that you were meant to spend your lives together?"

"I didn't for a long time. We were close friends growing up. I thought of him almost like a brother. We would spend hours just talking. He always knew just what to say. He always had an ear to listen. Somehow, in those moments we spent growing together, we began to care about each other in ways we didn't even realize. But when he went to war I felt like part of me had been ripped away. I spend entire nights on my knees beside my bed sobbing and praying that he would come home safely. Even after he was reported dead. Then when that day came that he came back..he marched off that ship and into my arms and asked me to marry him. Only then did I know. Only then I realized that there was no way I could have ever lived my life without him beside me."

"I must have been hard when he died so unexpectedly." Mulder shook his head.

"It was devastating. But those are the risks we take in life. We choose to give ourselves to someone else, trusting them completely, knowing that one day we will be parted and we must make every day count. But to know a true, pure, lasting love holds such powerful meaning that you take the risk of being left alone for the wealth of memories you will always hold dear."

Mulder nodded silently, staring at her thoughtfully.

Mrs. Scully looked out into the night as the rain started to tap against the window.

"Starting to rain." she commented. Mulder looked up with vague interest, then suddenly his head cocked to the side.

"Did you hear something?" he asked. She gave him a blank stare.

"Probably just the rain." she answered, but he was already out of the apartment.

* *

Scully opened her eyes to see her mother and Mulder standing over her.

"Hey, you." Mulder squeezed her hand.

"Hey." she answered in a tired voice.

"Good news. You're going to be all right, Dana." Her mother smiled.

Dana nodded with a smile and looked at Mulder.

"How did you find me?" she asked weakly.

"I came out and found you on the street outside of my building." Mulder replied simply. Mrs. Scully smiled.

"He sensed you were there, Dana. He ran out of the apartment and down to the street because he thought he heard a little noise." she smiled as her daughter looked at Mulder gratefully.

"I prayed you would find me...before I blacked out.." she nodded. She sensed his hesitation.

"What is it?" she questioned him. He was reluctant to respond.

"Mom, would you give us a minute?" Scully asked her mother.

"Sure." Mrs. Scully kissed her cheek and left the hospital room. Scully looked at him expectantly.

"I missed you." he said softly, running his thumb along her hand.

"What happened to your mouth?" she touched his lip with her free hand.

He chuckled.

"Your brother didn't take the news too well." he explained.

"Oh, Mulder," she smiled, but concern and apology were evident on her face. "He always did act before he thought about it."

"He hates me." Mulder informed her honestly. She started to protest, but she didn't have much of an argument.

"Well, he can dislike you all you want, it's not going to change a thing." she patted his cheek affectionately. "He doesn't see the whole picture."

"Scully, a man came to my apartment while you were gone. He told me something of what was done to you when you were taken this time." he stopped short when he saw the fear and dread in her eyes.

"Mulder.. I remember some of it." she whispered, grasping his hand like it was a lifeline.

"It's okay...It's okay." he comforted, smoothing her hair and smiling encouragingly. "What could have been a very bad situation has been upgraded to something which is just going to take a little time to sort out and get used to."

"What?" she asked him unsurely.

"I'm not going to tell you just yet. You wouldn't believe me now if I did. We'll just give it some time."

"Mulder, don't try to protect me-" she began, but he shook his head with a smile on his face. He squeezed her hand.

"So, Scully, how about that dream of yours?" he suggested, trying to change the subject.

"Mulder," she gave him a puzzled look. "Tell me what's going on."

"You'll know, in time. Trust me?" he touched her hair again. She sighed.

"Of course I trust you." she replied softly. "But I wish you'd tell me the truth."

"Don't worry, Scully. It's not something bad this time. In fact, I would venture to guess we won this battle."

* *

Two months later

Annapolis, MD

Thursday, 5:43 p.m.

"Are you going to tell me now?" Scully looked up from pushing her dinner around on her plate as they sat in her apartment, waiting for the phone to ring. She had been feeling under the weather lately, and had spent the past four days throwing up everything she tried to eat. She passed it off as the flu, but Mulder had firmly informed her he was taking her to the doctor.

"Time for secrets to be revealed." he said, then told her to make an appointment.

Now they were waiting for the blood test results that had been taken the day before. The nurse had promised to call her at home tonight. Noticing Mulder's silence, she had begun to get very nervous.

"Wait until we get the results." he answered, returning his attention to the food he was hungrily partaking of. She sighed, and looked out the window.

"You can be so stubborn." she said after a moment.

Mulder smiled at her, but inside his own nerves were on alert. This phone call they were waiting for would forever change their priorities, their relationship, and their entire future. Scully studied her nervous partner curiously. What news could they possibly receive that was making him so jumpy and edgy? Since he had entered her apartment, he had tripped on the carpet, dropped a pitcher of iced tea on the kitchen floor, and knocked over a plant. Every time she spoke his head would jerk up, as if she'd startled him by her voice. His actions tempted her to fear, but he had said this was a victory, that this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Yet she had never seen him so completely out of sorts.

He looked over at her, catching her curious gaze. She was about to learn of what he had allowed to happen to her. What HE had done TO her. Would she agree with the decision he had made for both of them? Would her feelings for him be changed in any way when she found out about their child? Would she be angry? His thoughts were also on his responsibility as the father of the child she was about to learn the existence of. Would she marry him if he asked her? Could he ask her without her thinking it was only because of the baby that he asked? He had known for a long time - years even - that he loved this woman that had become a part of him. He knew that she understood this love, and he knew she returned it, but their job, their work had always taken priority over their relationship. In those few short moments they had dared to look in on this side of their hearts - the side that wanted what they were about to get, in those times he had known joy. He had known peace, something his heart had not known it was capable of.

"Scully?" he spoke in a wavering voice, reaching for her hand. She took it, staring nervously, yet with all her trust, into his eyes.

"Scully, you remember that night in my hallway...the first time I...we..."

"Yes." she nodded, knowing what he couldn't say.

"You remember what I told you that night?"

"Remind me." she encouraged, not because she didn't remember, but because she needed to hear it once again.

"You've saved me. A thousand times over. You make me an honest man. You make me a whole person. I can't do anything without you."

Then the phone rang.

She rose and went to pick up the phone and answered in an unsteady voice.

He watched her closely.

"Yes....yes...."

Then she was silent. Her knees almost buckled, and she practically fell into the chair behind her.

"But...but that's impossible!" she disagreed, shaking her head. Mulder closed his eyes, afraid to see whatever he might see if he kept them open.

"All right, I understand. Yes, thank you. No, that won't be necessary."

She hung up the phone, and silence engulfed the room.

* *

"But..but that's impossible!" she disagreed, shaking her head. Mulder closed his eyes, afraid to see whatever he might see if he kept them open.

"All right, I understand....yes..thank you.......No, that won't be necessary."

She hung up the phone, and silence engulfed the room.

* *

Chapter 4 - Realizations

"What did they do to me?" her voice was terrified when she finally spoke.

"Mulder, what have they done?"

"What did she say?" Mulder asked noncommittally. She sighed.

"Whatever you were expecting, I'm sure it wasn't this." she pressed her lips together, willing herself not to let the tears take control.

"Try me."

"Mulder, she said I was pregnant!"

He was there then, his hands on her shoulders, his eyes gazing at hers.

"What kind of deformed or infected life have they created in me?" she covered her face with her hands.

"Scully, remember I said you needed to trust me?" he smiled at her, trying to let her know it was going to be all right. She nodded, and took a deep breath.

"How can you say that, Mulder? What do you know about this?"

"Scully, I want you to listen to me. I'm going to tell you some things, and they may be difficult for you to hear. Okay?"

They sat down on the couch, and he inhaled slowly.

"The project you were to be a victim of meant to produce 'test' children using extraterrestrial and human hybrid sperm. The life would have only been born to die, like Emily. and you would have died as well, most likely, with complications of this experiment. But you have a guardian angel, who has most likely already died for saving you. He was the scientist with the responsibility of fertilizing one of your ova with the infected sperm."

"But how could they do this? The position I'm in would do nothing but

draw attention to this plan. The X-Files-"

"I don't think you were taken this time because of the X-Files. Because of me. I don't think this had anything to do with trying to destroy our work. The women they chose were selected out of all past abductees on the basis of which ones would not attempt to abort. Somehow who you are was overlooked."

"So this man saved me how? And why?"

"He knew your father from the military. He couldn't do it to you."

She studied him carefully. "But, Mulder, I'm pregnant." she reminded him.

"He came to me. He offered me a proposition, and I had to make the decision for you. But I couldn't see any other way to save your life."

"What?" Scully prompted when he hesitated.

"The child living inside you now..." he suddenly reached over and placed his hand gently on her abdomen. "...is our child."

She stared at him in disbelief, unable to answer.

"Scully, he used my sperm...instead."

She gasped, her hands going to her stomach. "Our...baby?"

"Ours." he affirmed. They were both quiet for a long moment of realization. She stared at her hands that covered this child, this baby that was part of both of them..growing in her. He watched her carefully, trying to deduce her reaction.

"Are you angry?" he finally asked, needing to know. She shook her head.

"You did that...for me?' she lifted her eyes to meet his, and he saw her clear blue eyes full of unshed tears. "Mulder, I'm in shock. I'm not sure what to say. I am glad you did what you did, but I'm scared as well. I mean, first I find out that I will never be able to bear children. When I am trying to accept that, I discover that I am indeed a mother, to an indeterminate number of children who are treated as lab rats that will only live a couple years.....before...they die for some evil cause. Now, you are telling me that I'm going to give birth..." her voice faltered and the tears started to fall. "...to a healthy, normal child?"

He only nodded, the emotion of the conversation causing his own tears to brim over.

"Are we ready for this responsibility? This is....this is the rest of our lives we are talking about..." she stumbled over the words.

"I've been thinking about this a lot, Scully. It may not be the best time for this to happen...but if it were left in our hands, would there ever be a time? Maybe this is some Higher Power's way of showing us that there are more important things in life than finding some elusive truth."

"Okay," she nodded and took a deep breath. "So where do we go from here?"

Mulder slowly and purposefully took her hand. "Scully, I know this is a subject we have avoided since the day we met. For the sake of our job, our duty, our friendship. But while you were gone this time...I realized..."

"Mulder?" she encouraged him to continue.

"Scully, I don't have the words to tell you what you mean to me. But you are not the only one who thought that the idea of a real family would never be reality for you. I figured I would never know that joy, either, because I ...I knew I could not ever care for or trust someone else the way....the way I do you. Do you know what I'm trying to say here?"

She understood the meaning he could not dare voice. She caressed his cheek and smiled. Then, slowly and gently, he leaned over and kissed her tenderly on the lips. She closed her eyes and responded with her own kiss, barely touching her mouth to his. He leaned back and gazed at her inquisitively, silently questioning.

"We'll get it figured out, Mulder."

* *

The next couple of months were filled with trying to seek out the other women that had been taken, to try and make some sense of the plot that they had almost become victims to. In the end, they found nothing, and Skinner advised them to let it go. Gradually, Scully's womb began to bulge, and the reality of the baby's arrival began to dawn on them. Out of town cases and dangerous quests for the truth became less and less, and their thoughts began to turn to their family. It was during this time that Skinner summoned them to his office.

When they arrived, there was another agent sitting in the office with Skinner. He motioned for them to sit down, then cleared his throat.

"This is Special Agent Dowell. He approached me with some interest in the X-Files, and I think you'll want to hear him out."

Agent Dowell turned out to be a thirty year old single man who had a military background. He had come to learn of certain troubling secrets within the military, and since he had become part of the FBI he had been watching Mulder and Scully and the X-Files. And he had caught their fervor, their need to know. He wanted to help.

"I don't know if you have discussed your plans for the ... future.." Skinner alluded to the quite noticeable protrusion under Scully's suit jacket. "But I'm guessing things are going to have to change. I also know that there is no way you can give up what you've started, Agent Mulder. My suggestion to you is that you allow Agent Dowell to take over the X-Files, and while he will report to both of us and will consult you on every case, he will assume the dangerous part of the job. He'll do the work that you two cannot anymore for what you will have at stake. This is his own idea, I have not assigned him to this."

In the end, it was decided that Agent Dowell would come onto the X-Files project, and, assuming he was able to win their trust, would begin to gradually take over the investigations from them.

"I think I like this one." Scully held up a soft blue baby blanket. Gifts had been sent by Mulder's mother and they were looking them over after dinner at Mrs. Scully's house. Scully was in her seventh month of pregnancy.

"I think this one's better." Mulder touched a pink comforter. Scully eyed him curiously.

"You think it's a girl?" she asked. He shrugged sheepishly, then nodded.

"Yeah, I guess I do."

"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mulder, but I'm the mother and my intuition tells me that my child is a boy."

"If you say so." he shrugged again. "Who am I to argue? ONLY the father."

She gave him a small smile and looked through the rest of the package. Mrs. Scully watched them thoughtfully from her position in the kitchen as she washed the dishes. Soon she was finished and joined them in the living room.

"So what are you going to name this boy of yours?" Mulder continued the conversation.

"Oh, I was thinking maybe Garfield." she teased, then smiled at his scrunched up nose. "Actually, I thought maybe I would like to name him Fox William Mulder, Jr., and call him William in honor of our fathers."

"That's really nice, Scully." he smiled. "Now I wish it WAS going to be a boy."

"And what do you want to call this daughter you're so sure you have?"

"Katherine Samantha." he answered immediately. "After the two people who have meant the most to me in my life." She caught his hand and nodded.

"That's beautiful."

"Do you two know what you're going to do...when this baby comes?" Mrs. Scully interrupted the conversation. They both looked over at her from their position on the couch.

"What exactly do you mean, mom?"

"I mean, what's going to happen? Are you going to live separately, are you going to get married, what?" Have you two talked about this?"

"Mom-" Scully began to protest.

"It's all right, Mrs. Scully, it's a fair question." Mulder acknowledged. "And it's one that we do need to discuss."

"We didn't exactly ask for this to happen." Scully reminded her mother.

"Give us some time to work it out."

"You're right." she nodded, smiling at them. "I'm sorry. Now show me these things."

* *

"Agent Mulder!" Mulder was walking down the hall as he heard the shouting behind him. He turned to see Agent Dowell running after him. He stopped.

"What is it?"

"Mulder, sorry to catch you going home, but I have a message for you and got the feeling that it was important. The man said to tell you he would be working late tonight and he wished to speak with you."

"Who was he?" Mulder asked suspiciously.

"Don't know. He didn't say...he said you'd know what it was all about."

"Was he smoking?"

"Well, yeah, actually..." Dowell thought about the question and answered.

"Do you know who it is?"

"Yeah, I do. Thanks, Dowell, keep up the good work."

Mulder walked away abruptly before the man could pry further. He took the elevator up to their office floor, walking to and unlocking their office door. Sure enough, the Cigarette Smoking Man leaned against his desk, taking a long drag of his cigarette.

"What do you want?" Mulder practically spat, hatred evident in his eyes.

"To offer my congratulations, of course. I hear you are to be a father."

the sarcastic voice replied in mock sincerity. "Nice you could get your

mind off work and focus on 'other' things. And I always thought the two

of you would end up-"

"What do you want?" Mulder repeated in an angry voice.

"To warn you, Agent Mulder. I feel it is my duty. To tell you what you are getting yourself into. I've watched you for a long time now. You've ruined some of my plans, you've seen far into things that no one was ever supposed to know about. And now you are about to throw away everything you are and you could be for the sake of a child. A child you didn't have any choice but to create. Dowell will never be able to accomplish what you have done. Don't give up, Agent Mulder."

"I'm not like you." Mulder shook his head stubbornly. "I'm not going to give you the satisfaction of losing my life to this cause. I have discovered what is really important. And it's not to follow the trail of breadcrumbs to some ever-evading truth that you keep hidden away. I want to raise my child and love her mother."

"I was you once. I thought it were possible to give it all up and be a regular person. Love a regular person, and raise my children to be good and honest people. But it's not that simple. What we've seen, what we've become involved in has taken possession of our soul."

"Speak for yourself, old man." Mulder turned in disgust to leave.

"Run away from it if you must, Mulder, but you'll see in time. You'll see I'm right. I'm just trying to save you and your loved ones the pain of finding it out later. My advice to you is simple...leave yourself out of their lives. For their sakes. After all, look what I did to you. And your mother. And your sister. Do you think that was my intention to begin with? If you do, you're wrong. I never wanted to hurt any of you. It's inevitable."

Mulder closed his eyes, hesitating, his back to the older man. He shook his head, then kept walking toward the door.

"Step away, Mulder. Step away."

* *

"Scully," Mulder sat at his desk, staring out the window into the darkness of the night. He didn't even look up as she entered the room.

"Mulder." she replied, walking the short distance from the door to her desk that faced opposite his. She eased her cumbersome body behind her own desk. Their office they had shared since the fire in 1998 had never seemed crowded before, though it was small. She chuckled and ran her hands lovingly over the baby within her body.

"What's so funny?" he asked solemnly, turning his gaze to meet hers.

"Nothing, really. Just thinking about how this office never seemed so small until I tried to fit a baby behind my desk."

Mulder allowed a small smile at her words. "I better lay off the Twinkies or we're going to be bursting through the walls." he joked halfheartedly. She sensed his melancholy and watched him carefully.

"Mulder, what is it?"

"Scully, I can't do this." he said abruptly, shaking his head with determination in his voice.

"Can't do what?" she asked softly, fearful of the answer.

"I can't pretend to be okay with this anymore. I just can't step back and decide that I'm going to be a husband and a father and have a boring 9-5 job that I hate and go to Disneyland every year. It's not who I am."

His words hurt her, and he saw it. Immediately her walls of defense rose around her.

"I never asked you to give anything up." she looked away from him, raising her eyebrow.

"Scully, I don't mean it in a selfish way. I don't mean it because I don't want those things, I just don't think I could ever realistically promise you that."

"I never expected you to." she insisted, avoiding his piercing gaze. Her hands went protectively to her stomach.

"Scully, I'm scared to death of what this kid would turn out like if I had anything to do with raising her. I want her to be just like her mom. I don't want to disappoint her all her life and hurt her like I've done to you."

"Mulder, when are you going to accept that YOU never did anything to hurt me! That you've saved me time and time again, that you are the only person I have ever let this close to me! I never knew the meaning of love until I walked into that basement office and looked into your eyes eight years ago!"

Mulder considered her words. Then he closed his eyes, and shook his head.

"Scully, I can't....I just can't. I'll send you money, I'll get you and the baby whatever you need, but I..."

"You won't love us." she finished for him. "Mulder, I don't want or need your money. I'm insulted that you would even suggest that could take your place. If you don't love me, if you don't want to share your life with me, that's fine. But this," she motioned to the bulge of her abdomen. "...this is YOUR child. A chid that I don't want to have to explain to in seven or eight years why he never had a daddy. I've always admired you..respected you. But for you to walk away from this little child would erase it all."

Mulder felt the tears stinging his eyes, and his heart broke at her words. If only she understood.

"I'm sorry, Scully. I can't do it to you. Either of you."

With those words, he left the office.

* *

Mulder felt the tears stinging his eyes, and his heart broke at her words. If only she understood.

"I'm sorry, Scully. I can't do it to you. Either of you."

With those words, he left the office.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

>What if God were to grant you

>Three Wishes of your choice

>Would you ask Him for wealth or gain

>Or power and respect?

>Would you ask Him for things that fleeting last

>And then are forever gone?

>Or might you realize in that moment that there are

>things that can last a lifetime

>That can bring you joy until the end, and teach you

>a wealth of wisdom?

>Seek after those things that take time to build, then

>Take everything within you to maintain.

>Seek that which will never go out of style

>Will age with grace

>Will multiply and prosper until the end of time.

>Seek faith, seek hope, seek love

>And your three wishes He will freely give.

* *

Chapter 5 - Safe Within My Heart

Scully breathed heavily as she loaded the cart of groceries into the car. She glared at the teenage employees who were standing at the cart corral talking. Kids. She started to push her cart toward the corral, then stopped and looked at the long distance between her and her destination. She stared again at the rude employees, and left her cart right there for them to come after. It gave her some satisfaction as she eased her large abdomen behind the steering wheel of her car. She was having some difficulty driving. She realized she would not be able to do it much longer. As it was now, she had to have the seat back so far that her feet could barely reach the pedals. But how she loathed being dependent on anyone.

She pulled her car out onto the road and drove the short distance to the highway. She was driving down the interstate when the car appeared out of nowhere. She did not notice it at first, her thoughts consumed with Mulder. She wondered where he was. She wondered even if she would ever hear from him again. A song came on the radio, the artist singing something about being "tangled in a blanket of clowns...life just won't do without you...if you walk out on me, I'm walking after you..."

She switched the radio off before she had the chance to start crying. She refused to let herself become a basket case. She had a child to think about. It was then that she noticed the car...a black car with darkened windows. She felt the surge of adrenaline as she realized the car was matching her speed, and moving closer still until it scraped the side of her car. She managed to regain control several times before she was completely pushed off the road and careened into the ditch at 65 miles an hour. Then, blackness.

* *

He ran through the rain, slipping on the steps, sopping wet as he entered the ER, already yelling before he had even reached the desk.

"Dana Scully! Where is she? Scully - Dana Scully! Someone please help me here!" Mulder shouted until a nurse came over and tried to calm him down.

"Okay, take it easy and SLOWLY tell me what happened." she took a towel and handed it to him to dry off.

"My...I got a call...Scully...her car was run off the road..." Mulder became overcome, and fell against the desk, breathing hard.

"Take it easy, sir," the nurse led him to a chair. "You catch your breath, I'll find Dana Scully." she assured him.

"There's something else.." he said through labored breaths.

"She's...she's pregnant...with our baby..."

The nurse looked at him sadly. She had seen the outcome to these situations one too many times. She sighed and went to find where her mother - and her dead child - were.

"Okay, folks, she's completely dialated and effaced. It's now or never. This baby's coming." The ER doctor spoke, shaking his head. He didn't like the looks of this. This baby was going to need supernatural help to live through his birth. He glanced at the mother - first time, he guessed, and very much wanting her baby to survive. She gritted her teeth, baring the unbelievable pain of childbirth, as well as the concussion, bleeding nose, and other bruises and scrapes covering her body as a result of the car accident that had brought on this untimely labor. He had heard the report - witnesses said she was run off the road by an unidentified vehicle which fled the scene. Now, here she was, her life, and her baby's life both on the line. He narrowed his eyes, angry at the injustice. He wished the perpetrator would be forced to watch the events that were about to unfold.

"Mulder!" the mother cried, thrashing around on the bed. The nurses tried to calm her as she called out his name again and again.

"Has the father been contacted?" he spoke as he prepare to deliver the baby. Everyone gave him a blank stare. Suddenly, the door flew open, and a nurse led an anxious man, whom the doctor assumed to be the father, into the room.

"Scully!" the man cried and ran to her side. "Are you okay? Please tell me you're okay!"

"I'm fine..." she managed, and he grimaced through tears of worry.

Inside joke, the doctor presumed.

"Okay, Momma, you ready to work with me?" the doctor spoke. She nodded. He looked at Mulder. "Dad, you're going to need to hold her hand, and there's a good chance you may lose all feeling in it for a minute or two." he joked. They rewarded him with small worried smiles, and Mulder held her hand, placing his other arm around her back.

"On the count of three, I want you to push. One...two......three!"

Scully pushed with all her strength, leaning against Mulder, squeezing his hand as her lifeline.

Ten minutes later, the cry of a newborn touched the ears of two very relieved parents. The doctor held the child up for them to see, tears in his own eyes as he gave them the wonderful news.

"I have to tell you, I didn't think this one was going to make it. But you have a little girl who seems very intent on living her life."

"Oh!" Scully fell back against the pillow. "Oh, Mulder, you were right!"

The tiny little girl was cleaned up and placed on her mother's breast, and the new little family was left alone for a few moments together. Scully drank in the sight of her daughter, reveling in this blessed moment she had been sure she would never know.

She wept then, the tears flowing unashamedly. Mulder could only stare at the baby in awe.

"Oh, Scully," he breathed, daring to touch the tiny hand resting against Scully's arm. "She's so...little.."

"She's a miracle." he said after a moment. "Scully?"

"Yeah?" she answered in a teary voice.

"I never truly believed in God until this moment."

"Now?" she smiled.

"There HAS to be. She is living proof that there has to be."

They watched her for a long peaceful moment.

"Welcome to the world, little Katherine Samantha Mulder." Dana spoke softly to the baby. "I'm your Mommy, and this is your Daddy."

"Hi," Mulder smiled at the tiny girl, who was at the present moment engaged in a big yawn. "Must be hard work getting born, huh?" his voice was barely above a whisper. "Oh, Scully, she looks like you!"

"Hold her." Scully moved to hand the baby to him. He started to protest, but before he could get the words out, he was holding the tiny bit of life in his arms. Never had such a rush of emotion gripped him as in that moment. Everything he had ever been sure of in the past did not compare to the surety of the love he had for this little bit of life. This little miracle. She was their evidence. Their evidence of victory. That in the midst of a cavalcade of lies and horror and evil they could create such a beautiful little life, made from nothing but their commitment and their ever-enduring, always deepening love and respect for each other.

"Scully, I was so wrong." he shook his head. "My place is with you. And-"

"Katie." she smiled, smoothing his wayward strand of hair from his face.

"Katie."

* *

Much later, as Scully rested, Mulder was in the nursery, protectively holding his daughter as she slept. He watched her softly breathe in and out, deep in thought.

>My precious child, I sit here and hold you in my arms and wonder at

your creation.

>Life does not simply resign to be predictable and routine

>What made you exist was not something to be desired, something I would

have chosen in any other circumstance

>But the goodness and the purity you've brought to me is overwhelming.

>You have made me realize what life really is, and He who has authored

it.

>You've shown me what my heart has longed for, the dream that laid so

out of reach I never dared to imagine I could grasp hold of it.

>You have made me look at the partner that has together with me given

you life

>And caused me to realize that she is the only one I will ever be

>devoted to, the only one that will ever love me in the selfless and

>wonderful way that she does care for me...wholly...completely.

>I cannot ever live without her, and without you, our creation.

* *

TWO MONTHS LATER

Baltimore, Maryland

"I can't believe it's autumn already." Scully commented as the two of them walked along the sidewalk in the early evening. They had been at her mother's house for dinner, and Mulder had asked Mrs. Scully if it might be all right for them to take a walk.

"Go! Katie and I have plenty to talk about!" she waved them off, eagerly lifting the two month old from her carrier, obviously excited about some time to have her little granddaughter all to herself.

Now Mulder only nodded at her observation. She knew there was something on his mind, and she fell into silence, letting him take the time he needed before he said what it was he needed to say. She felt him slip his hand into hers.

"Scully, you know I care about you more than anything in this life?" he stated slowly, stopping and turning her to him. She didn't answer aloud, but her smile informed him that she was aware of the fact.

"I..." he stared at her, the cool wind blowing her hair around her face, it's auburn hues corresponding in brilliant sympatico with the color of the leaves surrounding them. "Oh, Scully, you are beautiful." his hands went to her cheeks. Still she was silent.

He knew. Somehow, he knew that this was right. This was what he had always dreamed of, never daring to go as far as to hope for. Yet deep within him, the believer had always maintained that it would be possible..someday. And here they were. Victims, powerless at the hands of the evil that had forever changed their lives, and who they were, yet victorious. Victory proven in the little life back at the house, cooing and smiling and crying and sleeping and eating...that little miracle. Victory proven right here, in the loyalty and commitment burning as bright as ever in their hearts...these were their victories. He must tell her now. The moment was here, and he finally had no doubts in his mind as he reached again for her hands.

"Scully, I can't be without you. I don't want to be without you. I know

I'm not the easiest person to get along with, that I can be a pain in

the-"

"Yes, you most certainly can." she agreed with a smile, tears forming as she realized the words he was trying to voice.

"Do you think you could put up with me anyway?" he smiled back.

"How do you mean?" she stared at him solemnly. He sighed with a grin and dug in his pocket.

"I know it's not much. You deserve a lot better. But it has my heart wrapped around it. Take that for what it's worth, and tell me whether you'll be my wife."

He pulled from his pocket a small jewelry box, and opened it to reveal a very simple diamond ring. She stared at it for a very long and agonizing moment for her partner. He tried to read her expression.

"You hate it." he decided with an embarrassed shake of his head. But as he started to snap the box shut, she reached out and lifted the ring from the cushion.

"I want to marry you." she whispered, a single tear spilling over and running down her cheek. He hugged her tightly with a relieved sigh and helped her slip the ring on her finger.

"It's perfect." she told him sincerely, and tilted her face upward to receive his waiting kiss.

"There's only one thing," he said after they shared a long, fervent kiss and another lengthy embrace. She pulled back to look at him, worry in her eyes.

"What?"

"Will you protect me when we give the news to Bill?" he jested, his arms wrapped around her waist, almost lifting her off the ground. She threw back her head and laughed. He could not remember ever hearing such a joyful and exuberant sound coming from his partner.

"I love you." he said simply and suddenly, and immediately won her attention again.

"I love you too." she replied. "I always have."

* *

>In deepest strain of dreadful flight

>When danger shades the Guiding Light

>And Innocence gives up her right

>Don't fear, you're safe within my heart.

>Where death can never play it's chord

>Of bassest note or minor tone

>No thunder roll or lightning strike

>No deepest shade of darkest night

>Where life is sweet, and pure, and true

>In that place, my heart holds you.

* *

THE END

let me know what you thought of it.... miranda119@juno.com




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