Truly Madly Deeply

Title: Truly Madly Deeply
Author: Jenna Tooms
Email: jenna@secretcountry.net
Rating: NC-17
Keywords: MSR, AU, adult content
Spoilers: through season 7, but veering off into its own universe pre-"Requiem"
Disclaimer: CC's. 1013's. Fox Network's. GA's. DD's. Not Jenna's.

Summary: Mulder and Scully face the biggest adventure of all: Parenthood.


I: Runaway

Summary: Where has Scully been, and why did she go there?

December 5, 2000
Leslie, Alabama

The employees of the Blue Moon Diner spent slow periods that morning putting up Christmas decorations: plastic pine boughs with red velvet ribbons, silk poinsettias, a wreath on the front of the cash register. Spike, the day cook, had his radio tuned to a station that played Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, and by four o'clock the station had played three different versions of "The Christmas Song." The little diner was warm and homey, a welcoming shelter against the wet December day.

Scully glanced at the clock, removed the pencil from behind her ear and closed her notepad. "Luana," she called, "it's four, I'm going to go."

"Okay, Katie." The other waitress waved to her from the other end of the diner. "Have a good night."

"Thanks. You too. Good night, Spike. Good night, Emmanuel,"

she called to the cook and the dishwasher, and they waved to her.

"Take care, Katie."

"Good night." Scully made her way to the back of the diner, to the staff's changing room. She'd been there since six-thirty and her entire body ached, particularly her feet. The front of her uniform was stained with egg and syrup and ketchup from the breakfast rush, and she peeled it off gratefully.

Violet, the manager, poked her head into the changing room.

"You okay, honey?"

"Yeah, I'm good."

"I ordered the next size uniform for you and it should be here at the end of the week. Can you manage until then?"

"I'll be fine. It's just a little tight around the bosom right now."

Scully wiped her face and arms with a paper towel and pulled on the plain white shirt she'd worn to work that morning. It was a little tight across the bosom too.

"Katie," Violet said hesitantly, and she crossed her arms.

"Are you sure there's no chance of you heading home before--you know, before."

Scully zipped up her jeans and smoothed her shirt. "No," she said quietly. "No chance."

Violet didn't say anything for a moment, then blurted, "Did he hit you?"

"What?" Scully turned from the mirror where she'd been pulling out the clips from her hair.

"Your husband--your boyfriend--whoever you ran away from. Did you leave because he hit you?" Scully didn't answer, turning instead back to the mirror and brushing out her hair, and Violet said, "You're not the first little thing to show up one morning with no money and nowhere to go. I do try to help you girls but I honestly think it's better to go home and face your problem than to run away from it. If your man's been hitting you, you should go to the police."

"Violet," Scully said softly, "I can't go home. My problem isn't as simple as abuse. I know you mean well--you're a real sweetheart, Violet, you really are--but it's just better for everyone that I hide for a while."

Violet nodded and sighed. "I know you don't want to answer questions, and I honestly don't want to pry, but a woman in your situation needs family around and you're going to need more money than I can pay you to cover your bills."

"I'll be all right, Violet. When the time comes I--well, I'll be all right." Scully sat down to pull on her sandals. She'd discovered after the first day that no matter how cold it was outside her feet needed the air once work was over. "You're a dear, Violet," she said and stood to kiss the other woman's cheek.

Violet nodded again. "Take care, dear," she said, and left the changing room.

Scully stood still for a moment, rubbing her forehead. While she was working it was easy to forget about the loneliness but sometimes--like after a conversation such as this--it came crashing down on her all over again. She hated feeling so far from home.

She lifted her head and straightened her shoulders, picked up her coat and her purse, checked to make sure she had bus fare, and stepped through the changing room door.

She froze when she heard the voices from the diner. Her hand twisted into her coat.

"You sure you haven't seen this woman? She might be going by another name."

"No," Luana said, handing back the photograph to the man across the counter. In the kitchen Spike stood scowling, his arms crossed over his chest. "I've never seen this woman, ever."

"Picture her with brown hair, or even blonde. Please. It's very important that I find her."

"I've never seen her, sir," Luana said, her voice rising in her nervousness.

Violet said quickly, "With the bus terminal so close by we see more people than we can keep track of. She might have passed through."

The man at the counter nodded, putting the photograph away in his wallet. "Could I have a cup of coffee and a slice of blueberry pie?" he said quietly, and sat down on the stool.

Luana hesitated, then put the cup and saucer in front of him.

"Just a moment and I'll get your pie," she said and went back to the kitchen.

Scully leaned back in the changing room doorway and closed her eyes.

Her heart was racing. She heard Luana approach, and when Luana slipped her hand into hers she gripped it tightly.

"Is that him?" Luana whispered. "He's so--he looks like a movie star."

"That's him," Scully whispered. She missed him so much she ached inside.

"He's having some pie, he may be here a while. I'm such a bad liar, I'm sorry, Katie. I don't think he believed me when I said I've never seen you. He had such a pretty picture of you."

Scully thought she knew which picture he was using. He'd taken a roll of her a few months before, when they'd had a Labor Day picnic out in the country. His favorite had her lying with her face against the grass, the green of her dress blending with the green beneath her. "I'll stay here for a few minutes, then try to sneak out the back."

"Is it true?" Luana whispered.

"Is what true?" She opened her eyes to look at Luana's excited, frightened face.

"Did you leave him because he was hitting you?"

"No. No," Scully said, though Luana's expression said she didn't believe her. "Nothing like that, I promise. He's--he's the best man who ever lived." She wanted to look at him again, to drink in his beloved face and even hear his voice one more time.

Luana said, her tone awed, "I have to get his pie."

"Put on a little extra whipped cream for me, will you?"

Scully said softly, and Luana smiled a little and nodded.

"See you." She hurried to the kitchen.

Scully waited a few minutes, pacing around the changing room, and then quietly hurried to the kitchen and out the back door by the garbage bin. On her way out Spike handed her a take-out bag, with a wink and a smile. "Thanks," she whispered, and left.

Her bus came a few minutes later and she sank into the seat, relieved and heartsore all at once. She could have gone into the diner. She could have slid onto the stool beside him and calmly ordered a slice of pie, and he would look at her and gasp, "Scully," and then they would fall into each other's armsOf course, once their joyous reunion was over, leaving him again would be even harder than the first time.

She buttoned up her coat as far as it would and buried her chin in her collar. She missed him, she wanted him, she was more in love with him than ever.

"Mulder," she whispered painfully and leaned her head against the window, which was cold and beaded with rain.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Scully had no TV. Every penny she had saved from selling her car was safely in the bank under her new name. She paid her rent and her groceries from the miniscule amount she made from the diner. She even went to bed early so she wouldn't have to waste money on electricity after sundown.

She did have a small portable stereo, though, and she'd found a classical station that played operas twice a week. She turned on the radio as soon as she got home and smiled at the familiar chords of the overture to The Magic Flute. She put the takeout bag into her tiny refrigerator and hung up her coat, took off her sandals and her jeans, put on her slippers, wrapped herself up in a blanket and settled down on the futon with her feet propped up on the armrest.

Her feet throbbed, and spasms shot through the muscles in her calves. She could hear Mulder's voice scolding her in her head: "Why are you working for minimum wage at a nowhere job? You have an M.D., you're a federal employee, you could do anything. You should be doing anything but this. You have to think about your health."

Well, she thought. I'll sacrifice a few varicose veins for a peaceful life. She stretched out her legs and pulled them up, and began to rotate and stretch her feet in a way that helped the soreness. It would start all over again tomorrow, but that was all right. She'd made this choice and would live with it.

As she stretched her feet she rubbed her stomach beneath the blanket. Her stomach felt firm and round, and incredibly warm to the touch. She hadn't felt any movement yet, but she supposed that would happen soon.

She'd found a doctor here the second day, right after she found her job--a general practitioner who'd delivered all the babies for the last twenty years within fifty miles. She liked him.

He was kind and knowledgeable, and didn't ask too many questions after the first discreet glance at her left hand. She supposed he assumed the same thing everyone else had: that she had left an abusive relationship and was hiding while she waited for her baby to be born.

Her baby. Scully smiled, feeling the familiar tears of amazement and joy and frustration form in her eyes. She was having a baby with the man she adored and had to hide it from everyone she knew, including him.

And now here he was in Leslie. So close. And it had only taken him two months to find her--she'd thought it would take longer.

Apparently her trick of giving post cards to truck drivers to mail from their next stop hadn't worked. She hadn't left a paper trail of any kind, she'd been so careful--but what was a thousand miles compared to a man like Fox Mulder?

Even Frohike didn't know where she was or why she'd gone.

He'd been wonderful, better than she could have prayed for--he told her to sleep and he'd take care of everything. So in a few hours she woke up on the couch to find a new Social Security card and driver's license in her hand, and a note that read, "Don't leave until I get back, I need to give something else to you too." That something else turned out to be cash, and she hugged him and said, "Tell Mulder I'll get in touch with him as soon as I can. Thank you." She emailed him sometimes from one of the computers in the county library, to tell him she was okay, knowing he would give out the news.

That must be it, she thought, and sighed. She'd hoped a new email account at every use and the anonymity of the library would be enough to disguise her, but apparently not. To give Frohike his due, it probably had taken a lot to convince him to reveal her location to Mulder.

She sighed again and her hands stilled, and she turned her head to the side and closed her eyes. Maybe he would give up. Maybe if he were denied enough times, he would decide she wasn't there after all and go on to his next lead.

And maybe the stars would stop in their courses, she thought, and resigned herself to the fact that she couldn't avoid him forever. In the next few days she would have to either leave or face him.

She didn't want to leave Leslie, that was the trouble. She had a job, an apartment, friends, a good doctor, and just that weekend she'd bought a crib. She didn't want to sell the crib and get back on the bus. She didn't want to run anymore.

That left facing him. Explaining herself to him. Hoping he would understand and leave.

"Hopeless," she said out loud. "Perfectly hopeless. He won't leave."

He'd followed her to the ends of the earth before, he'd do it again.

Scully rested a few minutes more, then forced herself to her feet and went to the fridge to see what Spike had given her. A BLT, carrot sticks, fruit salad, and a slice of apple pie. She ate the meal slowly, washing it down with plenty of milk, brushed her teeth and put on her pajamas. She read for a while, sometimes out loud, and when the opera was over she turned off the stereo, unfolded the futon and got down on her knees.

She wasn't sure when she'd begun praying again--recently, but before all this trouble started--but it took on a new urgency to her now. She prayed for her family, her sorely-missed friends, the souls of her departed, her new friends, and last and longest for Mulder.

She shivered beneath the blankets until the bed began to warm from her own body, and fell asleep to the tap of rain on the windows.


The breakfast rush usually ran from seven-thirty until ten o'clock.

Scully had noticed they served more pancakes on Thursdays than any other day, which struck her as an interesting quirk. Her waitressing skills from college had come back to her quickly, though she'd noticed that people were more patient with her now that she was beginning to show. She suspected it had something to do with the gaps between the buttons on her uniform across her breasts, as well.

The constant stream of customers eventually slowed, and Scully and Luana lounged behind the counter. Scully leaned against the counter with her back to the door, holding herself up to take her weight off her feet. Luana drank coffee and told her about her last date.

"So then he said, 'But Lulu, honey, don't you think it's time we move to the next level in our relationship? We've known each other for so long.'" Luana rolled her eyes. "First of all I hate being called Lulu. And then that garbage about the next level--I mean, these things should just happen, don't you think? When it feels right. I hate the idea that you have to sleep with a guy after so many dates. So I said to him, 'Look, honey, I will stay here with you as long as you want and I will neck on this couch with you as long as you want, but these legs are not opening until I am sure you're not going to forget my name the next morning.'"

Scully laughed. "You actually said that?"

"I said it. I had to say it in words he would understand."

She laughed too. "So he pouted a little bit but then we ended up necking on the couch a little more and then I went home. And we're going out again on Saturday and maybe if he's really nice I'll be in the mood."

"More power to you," Scully said, and they bumped fists, laughing. Behind Scully the bell on the door tinkled.

"He is about the nicest boy in Leslie," Luana said, starting to move towards the end of the counter to go out onto the floor, but she paused and her face paled. She made a little whimper and looked despairingly at Scully.

"What?" Scully whispered, and put herself off the counter and turned around, just as Mulder slid onto the stool opposite her.

Her breath caught in her chest and she gripped the edge of the counter tightly. He looked tired and sad, and he smiled at her uncertainly. He opened his jacket and from the inner pocket took out a small stack of postcards. He turned them over so that the writing showed, and fanned them out like a hand of poker. Their corners were bent and they all showed signs of wear and crumpling.

He read off one in a soft whisper, "'Dear Mulder, don't worry about me. I'm safe. T.M.D.'" He turned to the next, "'Dear Mulder, I pray for you every day. T.M.D.' 'Dear Mulder, I miss you so much, but please believe this is for the best. T.M.D.'" He looked up at her and said, "Do I need to mention I'm not convinced?"

Scully exhaled and said, "How did you find me?"

"Frohike said he was getting emails from you, so I had Byers hack into his computer and find out where they were coming from.

You could have emailed me, Scully."

"I wrote you."

"But then I could have emailed you back." He laid his hand on the counter, palm-up. "Will you come home, please?"

"I can't." She wanted to put her hand into his so badly her fingers twitched.

"Why not?"

"I just can't. Please. Tell my mother I'm okay and justplease, go home."

"I'm not leaving without you," he said, his voice low and firm. "I came here to bring you home and if you're not coming home then I'll stay here. I hate being without you."

The door tinkled again and a group of kids came in, chattering loudly. The local high school was a few blocks over and many of them came to the Blue Moon for lunch. Scully glanced at Luana, who had been watching the two of them closely and biting her lip. Her hands were twisted together between her breasts. "I have to go back to work."

"Scully--" He glanced around the diner and Luana gave a muffled gasp.

"I have lunch at one," Scully said. "We can talk then."

"I'll be waiting," he said, standing, and he went to a far booth on the other side of the diner.

Scully looked at him in despair for a moment, and then picked up her order pad and her pencil. "Back to work, Lu."

"Katie?" Luana whispered.

"It's not my real name." She tightened her apron around her waist.

"What is your real name?"

"Dana." She started towards the table full of teenagers, when Luana grabbed her arm and leaned in to whisper.

"Katie, is he--he's your baby's father, isn't he?"

Scully looked at her, nodded quickly, and went to take the orders.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Mulder drank cup after cup of coffee, and eventually ordered pancakes and sausage to stop Spike's evil eye. "Should I spit in the batter?" Spike asked Scully when she brought over the order.

"He's a friend."

"Oh. So he's not the greasebag."

"No. He's the good guy."

Spike grunted, pouring batter onto the griddle. "Do you want to hear my theory? This guy adds a whole new wrinkle."

"What's your theory?" It never failed to amuse her, how much people speculated about her life story.

"My theory is you were married to a jerk. Then you fell in love with this guy, and when you husband found out he scared you so much you left. Am I close?"

"Your theory touches on the truth but doesn't quite cover it, no." She finished pouring the glass of juice and went back to the floor.

Mulder caught her hand when she set down the glass of juice.

"How much longer until your break?"

"Half an hour." Her fingers curled around his hand reflexively. His touch was like a jolt of electricity. "Behave yourself, Mulder," she said softly.

"I'm tempted to pick you up and carry you out of this place,"

he said.

"You'd have to fight Spike on the way out," she said, and gently pulled her hand from his. "We'll talk. I promise."

He nodded, and she felt his eyes on her as she walked away.

Finally the third day-waitress came in and it was one o'clock.

Scully put aside her pad and pencil and folded her apron, got herself a chef's salad for lunch and joined Mulder at his table.

She could feel the hunger in his gaze as he watched her. "You look good," he said softly. "Really good."

"I'm doing all right."

"Do they run you ragged?"

She smiled, still watching her fork move among the components of her salad. "It's a hard job."

"It must have some attraction for you, if you'd chose this over, say, a hospital or law enforcement, some place where you actually have some skill."

"I'm a good waitress," she said, surprised into looking at him. "How do you think I paid for med school?"

"That's not what I meant. I just don't get it, Scully, you've got so much education and this is all you could find?"

"They don't ask questions," Scully said, dropping her eyes again.

His face was so sad she could hardly bear it. She ate a few bites, and put down her fork when Mulder's hand covered hers.

"You didn't even say goodbye," he whispered, and she bowed her head for a moment. "You left and you didn't even say goodbye."

"Please don't make me cry," she whispered, her eyes already smarting.

"You know, at first I thought you'd been abducted again. I was frantic. I was terrified. That first postcard, Scully--I sleep with it. I'd kiss it because your hands touched it. I've missed you so much, Scully." His voice was low, rough, a breath above a whisper and so intense it made her shiver. "Why did you leave?"

"Will you believe me, no matter how strange it sounds?"

"Of course."

She leaned forward, and he leaned closer to her in response.

She whispered, "I'm pregnant."

Any number of expressions crossed his face, finally ending with incredulous joy. "Scully," he whispered, and he lifted her hand to his mouth. He kissed her knuckles and pressed her hand against his face. When he opened his eyes, though, they were troubled. "But I still don't see--"

"I was going to tell you. I was trying to find the right way, the right time. I mean, we'd never talked about it, Mulder, I honestly didn't know what your reaction would be. And then--" She stroked his face and took a deep breath. "Then Alex Krycek came to me."

"Did he hurt you?"

"No, of course not. He told me--he gave me proof--that They want my baby."

Mulder's jaw clenched and she felt a deep shudder of anger go through him. "What did he say?"

"He gave me a tape of C.G.B. Spender and one of the nurses who works at my OB/GYN's office. He was offering her huge sums to give him as much information as she could find about my test results, my due date, everything. He told her he was my estranged father. He said--" She almost choked on this--"he told her he'd give anything to see his grandbaby."

Mulder didn't answer out loud, but his hand gripped hers more tightly.

"Then Krycek told me they were planning to kidnap me and hold me until my baby was born. He said he wasn't sure what they planned after that, whether they'd hold me longer or kill me or convince me my baby had died--or even wipe the pregnancy from my memory altogether. He said he couldn't let them do that to me, and that I didn't have much time but I had to leave as soon as I could."

"Scully," Mulder whispered, and again he kissed her hand.

"Why didn't you tell me? I could have come with you --"

"Krycek made it sound like if they found us together they'd make the consequences worse for you than they would for me." She looked at him miserably.

Mulder slid around the booth until they were thigh-to-thigh.

"Scully," he said softly, right into her ear, and Scully had to close her eyes at the rumble in his voice. "You know I would never, never let anyone hurt you. I'm not afraid for myself--"

"But I am." She leaned her head against his shoulder and spoke against his neck. "I'm afraid for you. Leaving was the only thing I could do."

"Scully, do you really want to do this alone?"

"I have to."

"You're not answering my question. If you tell me right now to get up and go, I will get up and go. But if you have any doubts--if you want me at all--don't make me leave you. If you have any doubts at all I won't go."

Scully couldn't answer. She just leaned her head against his neck again, inhaling the scent of him and trying not to tremble.

He cupped her cheek in his hand. "I know you can do it alone.

I have no doubts about that. But I don't think that you want to."

"I don't want to do it alone," she whispered, and Mulder exhaled and hugged her with one arm.

"Okay, then. Then we need to figure out what to do next."

"I don't know what to do." He was wearing a denim shirt, and she lightly ran her fingers over his chest. He felt warm and solid, and the denim was soft. He smelled like the rain.

"I'll stay with you. We'll figure things out."

Scully reminded herself to breathe again, in and out. "Stay,"

she said, and Mulder hugged her again and kissed her forehead.

"Do you want to go now?"

"I can't just up and leave, Mulder, they're counting on me."

She picked up her fork again, reluctant to leave the circle of his arm. "I should eat. I'll finish my shift and we can talk more at home."

"Okay." He looked back at the counter. "Will it be all right if I wait here?"

"Yes. You're not bored?"

"I brought a book." He smiled at her and she managed a chuckle.

She ate a little more of her salad, then said, "Tell me how you knew to come back here."

"Well . . . I didn't order any whipped cream on my pie yesterday." Scully made a sound between a sob and a chuckle, and he smiled at her again. "It came back from the kitchen covered in the stuff, and that was the best clue I've had all month."

"Whipped cream." Scully shook her head. "I told Luana to give you extra. I could have sworn you asked for some."

"That's because I usually do, I think." He kissed her forehead again. "Eat your lunch."

When Scully was finished she brought her dishes back to the kitchen and put on her apron again. She was about to go back to the floor when Luana pulled her aside again.

"Katie? Or should I call you Dana now?"

"Call me Katie."

"You know, watching you two--" She glanced at the table where Mulder waited. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like that, outside of the movies."

"Like what?" Scully said, genuinely puzzled.

"The way you talked, like there's nobody else in the world but you two. He watched every bite you put in your mouth. He looked at you like you're the air he breathes." There were tears in her eyes and she blinked them away. "I hope someday somebody looks at me like that."

"Luana," Scully said gently, "I'll tell you something. True love is mostly about shared pain."

"You really don't think that, do you?"

"Today I do." She looked at Mulder, who smiled at her again when he sensed her gaze. "If this story has a happy ending, maybe I'll change my mind."


Leslie, Alabama
December 6, 2000

Violet came in at four o'clock, just as Scully was getting ready to leave again. She removed Luana's purse from the other chair as Scully was pulling on her shoes, and said, sitting down, "I'm told that's your fella sitting in number eight."

"Yeah. That's him."

"He's cute," Violet said artlessly, and Scully smiled despite herself. "Well, as I live and breathe," Violet said, "you do smile."

"I have been known to, yes."

"Then I guess you'll be heading home."

"I really don't know. We haven't made any plans. He wants to be with me, and that's about as far as it's gone."

"And you want to be with him?" Violet said carefully, and Scully looked up at her.

"More than anything."

Violet nodded slowly, looking around the cramped room. "I'm going to put the Help Wanted sign back up. You get us your new address when you can and I'll forward your check."

"I'll be in tomorrow."

Violet nodded, obviously not believing her, and Scully decided not to press her point any longer either. She put on her coat and said, "Goodbye, Violet," and the other woman said softly, "Goodbye."

Mulder stood up from the table when she came back to the floor.

"Ready?"

"Yeah."

"I have my car, I'll follow you."

"I take the bus."

"Then we'll drive." He took her hand, and then pulled her into his arms and hugged her tight. It occurred to Scully then that he had yet to kiss her, but she thought, I'd rather be alone when we get to that particular reunion.

The rain had picked up again. Mulder zipped up his jacket and pulled up his collar, and Scully opened her umbrella. It was uncomfortable for-her to hold it high enough to cover them both, and after a few steps Mulder took it from her hand and held it, mostly over her head. They walked close together, and after a few minutes Mulder nudged her lightly with his elbow.

"Sandals, Scully? It's freezing out here."

"My feet are hot after work."

"You'll catch pneumonia or something."

"I am taking care of myself, Mulder."

Mulder shook his head, then said, "Here's the parking lot."

He stood still, frowning.

"What?"

"I can't remember what the car looks like. It's a rentalI've had so many in the past few days I'm not sure which one I drove here."

"Here." Scully held out her hand and Mulder gave her the keys. She checked the license number on the key ring and found the car in minutes, and unlocked the door. "Are you coming?"

"Are you driving?" he said, smiling.

"I know the way, don't I? Get in." Scully got into the car and buckled herself in, and Mulder got into the other side. He shook out his damp hair.

"I have towels at my place," Scully said, wiping some water from her face.

"Sorry. It was dripping."

"Do you want to stop at your hotel?" she said as she started up the car.

"Uh, sure. It's not the best room but we can talk there --"

"I mean to get your things."

He stopped fingering the water from his hair and looked at her. "Do you want me to stay with you?"

"I thought we agreed on that already."

"I didn't want to assume anything."

"I think at this point that's something it's safe to assume."

"Okay," Mulder said, looking happy for the first time that day, and Scully pulled the car out of the parking space.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

When Scully unlocked and opened her front door, she felt embarrassed about her apartment for the first time. It seemed so stark and spare and small. She noticed the stained carpet, the cracked linoleum in the tiny kitchenette, the complete lack of personality the rooms had.

The only spot of brightness was the nook she was putting together for the baby, the crib and the mobile and the blanket and the Beatrix Potter print she hadn't yet hung on the wall. She was tempted to turn around and tell Mulder they should stay at the hotel after all.

But she stepped inside and closed the door behind Mulder.

"I'll turn up the heat," she said, going to the radiator.

Mulder stood where he had stopped, twisting his hand so that his bag twirled in lazy circles, and he said, "You're certainly unencumbered by furniture, I see."

Scully shoved her hands deep in her coat pockets. "I know.

It's awful."

"There's potential. What about the bedroom?"

"You're standing in it."

"You mean this is it?"

Scully pointed around the room. "Kitchen. Living room. Bedroom.

Bathroom. Nursery."

He hitched up his bag and said, "This isn't even a studio.

It's a room. It's one step above squalor, Scully."

"Anything better would require a credit check and since the name I currently live under has no credit history this is the best I could do." She pulled off her sandals and her coat. "Go dry your hair."

"I'll be right back." He went into the tiny bathroom that was just off the kitchenette.

While he was gone Scully hung up her coat, and Mulder's as well, on the coat rack in the corner behind the door. She looked in the refrigerator for something to make for dinner, but the only items in there were milk, cottage cheese, apples and bread. She thought there might be some packages of ramen in the cupboard, and her box of Cream of Wheat was still half-full, but she was embarrassed to offer any of these to him. He wouldn't believe she hadn't had time to go grocery shopping lately. "You're starving yourself," she imagined him saying. "You're starving my child."

We're not starving, she thought, and closed the refrigerator door. We get three squares a day and I eat everything the doctor says I should. She doubted Mulder, coming from a family with both old and new money, would ever understand you could live on nothing and still do all right. She could tell him her memories of some lean times in her childhood that might convince him otherwise.

She sat down at the table and wrapped her arms around her middle. There was no point in getting defensive when he hadn't said anything yet.

When he came out of the bathroom his hair stuck up around his head like prickly hedgehog. He said, running his hands through it and making it stick up even more, "Better?"

"Not really. Come here."

He pulled the other chair so he could sit beside her, and bowed his head so she could calm his hair down. Its softness always surprised her. She smoothed his hair and lifted his face, and she leaned forward to kiss his closed eyelids. He shivered and exhaled, and Scully leaned her forehead against his and moved one hand to stroke his neck as the other rubbed the back of his head.

"I've missed you so much," he whispered.

"I've missed you too." Even just the rain-fresh scent of him catapulted her to a thousand memories, the smells and the tastes and the sounds of him.

"Why did you leave, Scully?"

"I told you why."

He shook his head slowly. "You should have come to me," he said, looking at her, and she could see the pain in his eyes. "Even if we were apart for a little while we could have found a way. Two months, Scully . . ." His hand gently rubbed her thigh. "It's been agony."

"I know."

"You look exhausted," he said after a moment.

"It's been a long day."

"Lie down. I'll make dinner."

"I don't have much to cook with." She amended as he stood and went to her cupboards, "I don't have anything, really. I haven't had a chance to go to the store for over a week. Usually I get something from work when the cupboards get bare."

He looked at her with an unreadable expression and opened a few doors and shut them softly. "I'll get some things. What would you like?"

"Whatever you'd like to eat." His mouth quirked and Scully flushed, and said, "Eggs, maybe some things for a salad, whatever you'd like for breakfast. That sort of thing. Orange juice."

" All right." He spotted his coat and went to put it on. "I won't be gone long." He paused and looked at her again with that blank expression. "You'll still be here, right?"

"Yes."

"Try and rest a little." He let himself out.

For a moment Scully just sat at the table, her hands clasped together, then she pushed herself to her feet and tottered to the bathroom. She wanted a shower, to wash off the sweat and grease of the diner--and she could admit to herself that she wanted to smell nice for him. If this evening led to where she hoped it would she didn't want him to find her smelling sour and tired.

She undressed and started the water, and inspected her reflection in the mirror. She thought, and had always thought this from the first moment she noticed it, that her pregnant belly and fuller breasts were beautiful and lush like a piece of ripening fruit, but she wasn't sure Mulder would feel that way. She looked different, there was no way to deny that.

On the other hand, that he found her sexually attractive at all had always been somewhat of a surprise. The dark, tall, slender women from his past couldn't be more different from her small, round, pale self--yet countless times he had kissed every part of her body and told her how much he loved it and exactly why. "From your rosebud lips to your sugary toes," he would say, and she would laugh, and they would collapse into kisses.

Scully wrinkled her nose at her reflection and got into the shower.

It seemed like an age since they had been so careless and happy.

When she got out of the shower she dried off and wrapped the towel around her, and opened the bathroom door. She hoped that Mulder had come back, but her apartment was empty and still a little cold. She hastily shut the bathroom door and wrapped another towel around her hair. She ventured back into the apartment and got her pajamas and bathrobe from the bureau against the wall. She dressed, shivering, and turned up the radiator some more. She left the towel around her hair and wrapped herself up in a blanket, turned on the radio and settled herself on the futon.

Her body thrummed pleasantly with warmth and relaxation, and she leaned back her head against the back of the futon and closed her eyes. The radio played Eric Satie and she allowed herself to daydream, to remember, and to look forward to Mulder's return.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Scully woke up when someone knocked on her front door, and it took a moment for her to untangle herself from the blanket and get up from the couch. She went to the door and said softly, "Who is it?"

"It's me, Scully. My arms are full."

Scully unlocked the door and opened it, and Mulder came in, juggling four bags of groceries. "Quick, take one," he said and Scully grabbed the most precarious one. Mulder set the bags on the kitchen table and straightened his back.

"What did you get?" Scully opened the bag she held, and took out the carton of ice cream. "Mulder--"

"Just the basics," he said, and started putting the groceries away.

He'd gone overboard, way overboard, and Scully watched him, the pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream cradled in her arms. It was an indulgence she hadn't allowed herself for weeks. She could already taste the marshmallow cream and caramel.

"Mulder, you bought too much."

"I just wanted you to have a choice. Put the ice cream away before it melts, please?" He started rinsing fruit in the sink.

Strawberries. It was December and he'd bought fresh strawberries. "I bought stuff to make waffles."

"I don't have a waffle iron."

"Then I'll make pancakes."

Scully wiped the frost from the lid of the ice cream. She felt near to tears at this very Mulder-like gesture. There was so much food, more than the two of them could eat before it spoiled, surely.

But he had always indulged her this way. Dozens of flowers when she thought she might get a bouquet, silk and lace lingerie when she expected a blouse, Godiva chocolates when she mentioned a craving for M&Ms. Mulder gave love in deluges.

"Or maybe you don't want pancakes?" Mulder said, and she remembered he was waiting for her answer.

"Pancakes are fine. Yours always were the best." She put the ice cream into the freezer, shifting and stacking the four cartons until they all fit. Four cartons, all her favorite flavors. His apology for not finding her sooner.

"I guess I should have known you were okay when the only thing missing from your apartment was the portable stereo and your favorite CDs," Mulder said eventually, when the kitchen was stocked to his approval.

Scully had rewrapped herself in the blanket and watched him from the futon. "I let you know as soon as I could."

He cracked an egg into the pancake batter, and the two of them were silent as he ran the blender. The trick to good pancakes is plenty of air, he'd told her the first time he made her breakfast. Years and years ago--they'd known each other six months, maybe seven, he had talked her into staying late so they could review a case with a promise of breakfast. She'd thought, Cold cereal and instant coffee, and got Mulder's pancakes with fresh strawberries and syrup. It had been a pleasant surprise.

She could count on one hand all the times she'd cooked for him, but it would take the two of them together to count the times he'd cooked for her. In hindsight she thought it was part of his courtship, letting her see his domestic side to counteract the wild'n'wacky Mulder she saw every day. She didn't think he'd consciously decided, Knowing I can cook will drive Scully wild, but it had worked.

She loved his cooking ability the same way she loved his long narrow toes and his often juvenile sense of humor. As she watched him move around her tiny kitchen she sighed, and had to ask herself how she had managed to go two entire months without seeing him. She wanted to just drink him in.

"So," he said when he shut off the blender.

"So."

"Why Alabama? Why this place?"

"Well . . . I wanted a small town, someplace inconspicuous.

Someplace we'd never been on a case, of course. We've never been within fifty miles of Leslie. And I wanted someplace no would guess I'd go."

"It's easier to hide in a big city."

"Maybe, but in a small town people tell you if someone's been asking about you. You saw how it was in the Blue Moon. They've taken me in. They've adopted me. They care about me, and I care about them. I've found a good place to call home."

"I see," Mulder said. He ran his fingers under some tap water and threw a few drops onto the griddle. He nodded in satisfaction to the outcome of this ritual, and poured circles of batter onto the griddle. "But aside from the friendly natives . . . " "And I like my obstetrician."

"Well, that's a good reason right there."

Scully frowned a little, not sure if he was being sarcastic or not, and said, "The bus station is down the block from the Blue Moon. I got off the bus and walked down the street, trying to decide if I wanted to get on the next bus that came through, and I saw the Help Wanted sign . . . I don't know, Mulder, it seemed like all the answers had been handed to me. I felt safe here from the moment I got off the bus, and everyone was so friendly and understanding. I saw no reason to move on. So here I've been."

He nodded, watching the pancakes. "So your main criterion was just a place that felt safe."

"Yes."

He said after a moment, "You know, when that first postcard came I stayed in bed for two days."

"Oh, Mulder," she said softly.

"There didn't seem much point in getting up. You were gone, the work had been going nowhere for a long time, you were gone . . . I said that already, didn't I?"

"You did."

"Well, that's the way it felt. You were gone. You'd left me nothing but a postcard, not even an explanation." He looked at her, his hands braced on the counter. "And now I find out it's because of Krycek . . . I don't know what to think."

"He had a tape recording, Mulder, of the Smoking Man and one of the nurses at my doctor's office. He offered her five hundred thousand dollars for access to my records. She refused but I could hear her wavering about it. Why would he offer so much money to know about my baby? How did he find out? Why does he care, why are they watching me? Doesn't that scare you? It scares me."

"Our baby," Mulder said softly.

"Our baby. Sorry. Habit. Our baby."

"That's another thing, Scully. I'm getting closer to understand the whole leaving thing but not telling me about the baby . . . I don't know what to make of that." Scully bit her lip and buried herself deeper in the blanket wrapped around her. When she didn't answer he sighed and turned back to the griddle. "It feels like you don't trust me," he said, slipping a spatula under a pancake.

"Mulder, it's not that. Never that."

"Then what? Did I ever say anything or do anything to indicate I wouldn't be happy if this happened, that I didn't want children or didn't like them or something to scare you off about it?"

"No--but you didn't say anything to show me that you wanted them, either. I mean, not really. Not recently."

"It never really came up, did it," Mulder said, his voice low. "I never thought it would happen. You didn't either, I think.

I didn't mention it because I thought it would hurt you and you never mentioned it because you didn't see the point."

"So when it did happen," Scully said quietly, "I didn't know what to think or do and . . . and I was scared." She could feel his surprise that she would admit to this, and she looked out the window for a moment before looking back at him. His face was sorrowful, and he put down the spatula and came over to the couch.

He knelt down in front of her and she sat up, and he put his hands on hers and then slipped them around her hands and gripped them tightly.

"You are not alone," he said fiercely. "You are not alone, Scully."

She leaned her head against his, and took her hands back to wrap her arms around his neck. "I know," she said, and shivered deeply at how surely she knew it. She added after a moment, "The pancakes are burning," and he jumped up to tend to them.


Neither Mulder nor Scully had much to say during dinner. He had not unpacked his bag, instead putting it in the corner by the coat rack.

He was not exactly moping but his face was sad, and Scully did not know what to say to make him smile. She praised his cooking but that barely got a glimmer.

He's not going to stay, Scully thought, saddened. He's found me, he's satisfied I'm safe, he'll say goodbye and have a nice life. She sighed heavily and hung the dishtowel on the edge of the sink.

"Mulder," she said, and he stopped stacking the dishes in the rack. "Mulder, I want you to understand something."

"Okay," he said cautiously.

"Everything I've done, I did because it seemed wisest at the time. Maybe I could have thought more and not acted so quickly, but I honestly didn't feel I had time to think."

Mulder leaned against the counter, with his arms crossed over his chest. He said, "But when where you going to tell me? You've had two months to make decisions and settle yourself, and it looks to me like you're no closer to wanting me around than you were two months ago."

"I've wanted you, Mulder, but I've been afraid to send for you.

Krycek said--"

"Krycek said," Mulder scoffed. "Why would you believe a thing he said?"

"Even if parts of it were lies enough was true to frighten me. He knew things. He knew how long you and I had been lovers, what nights we spent at your apartment and what nights we spent at mine, he knew cases we'd been on, he knew where we went in our spare time, he knew movies that we'd seen together--" She stopped, shaking her head. "He frightened me, Mulder. He knew things only you and I should know."

"He knew you were pregnant quickly, didn't he."

"Less than a week after I found out."

Mulder closed his eyes for a moment and exhaled. "It sounds to me like he's been stalking you."

Scully blinked--she had not thought of that. "Maybe--or gathering information about us--I haven't thought about why, really. Just that he knew those personal things . . . He said my leaving would protect you more than anything he could do."

"What do I need protection from? Did he tell you that?"

"He said to study the baby properly they would need all three of us, but they didn't necessarily need us alive."

"Oh, Scully," he whispered.

"At that point he'd told me so many truths he could have told me the most blatant of lies and I would have believed him."

"So you left."

"So I left."

He said quietly, "When were you going to tell me I'm going to be a father?"

"I really hadn't thought that far ahead." She could hardly bear to look at Mulder's angry, sorrowful face. "My only thought has been to wait until it was safe."

"And when would that be, Scully? You and I both know that day would never come, if Krycek is telling the truth."

"I've been living on hope the last two months, Mulder, what else do you want from me?"

"You've had two months to get used to this and I just found out today. I don't know what to think. I don't know what I feel right now. I want to be with you but I'm beginning to think the last thing you want is to have me around."

"It's dangerous," she said softly. "I want to be with you but not if it's safer to be apart."

"Do you really think you're in danger?" Mulder said, sounding like he might possibly believer her.

"I don't know. I don't know anymore. I don't know what to believe."

"I'm tempted to believe that Krycek told you what he did because--" He sighed heavily. "Because he's like that, he likes to play mind games. If he's obsessed with you--which is what it sounds like to me--it wouldn't surprise me that he would try anything to get you into a vulnerable position. And what's more vulnerable than a woman who's pregnant and alone and scared?"

"You think all of this--he did all of this--just to make a move on me?"

"I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me."

"But the tape, Mulder, what about the tape? That was real."

"I don't know what to think about that. That's the part that doesn't fit, and that's enough to make me think there is a threat of some kind to you. I doubt it extends to me, really."

"What do you want to do?" Scully whispered.

"I want to stay with you." Mulder's voice was low and husky.

"I want to protect you. Will you let me do that, Scully? Will you let me take care of you?"

Scully swallowed hard and protested softly, "But if there's a real danger to you--"

"Tell me to go, then. Tell me to go and I will. But you have to tell me to go, Scully, look me in the eye and tell me to go."

Scully stared at him, truly lost for what to say. "I want you to stay . . . but I should tell you to go," she whispered, and Mulder hung his head.

After a moment he lifted his head and said, "I'll stay at the hotel until you make up your mind." He went into the bathroom and shut the door, hard enough to shake the walls.

Scully sank down onto the sofa, worn out. She felt as sore and weary as if she'd been beaten. She wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep for an age or two.

That meant making up the bed. She pushed herself to her feet, groaning a little, and unfolded the futon and started to prepare it for bed.

Mulder came out of the bathroom, tucking his t-shirt into his jeans. He didn't look at her as he said, "I guess I'll come by tomorrow while you're at work-- if you want me to, of course." He picked up his jacket, then caught sight of what she was doing. "You going to bed?"

"I'm tired."

"Do you do this every night?"

"Every night." She spread the sheet and smoothed it out.

"Let me," Mulder said, moving towards her. Scully stepped aside and let him finish making up the bed. She took off her bathrobe and hung it over the side of the futon, and when the bed was made he led her to it and tucked her in.

"Sleep well, Scully," he said, touching her shoulder, and picked up his jacket again and headed towards the door.

"Mulder," she said. "Mulder, don't go."

"I think it's best that I do."

"I want you to stay with me."

He paused, one arm in his jacket, and he said, "You mean just for tonight."

"No." She held out her arms to him. "I mean always." He didn't move and she opened and closed her hands encouragingly.

"Come here, Mulder. Stay with me."

He dropped his jacket and threw himself into the futon, onto her, and buried his face in her neck. His arms and one leg as well wrapped around her, blankets and all. His face was hot and damp, and it took her a moment to realize he was weeping.

Scully stroked his hair tenderly. "Sh, Mulder, sh. It's all right. We'll find a way. I promise. It'll be all right."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

When her alarm clock went off Scully didn't want to move. Her bed had never felt so warm and soft, and Mulder's body felt utterly right in her arms. His head was against her breast and one leg nestled between hers. One hand was spread over the upper curve of her belly.

Their times together like this had been altogether too few, she thought. She'd hardly ever just lain in bed, holding him, awake while he slept and savoring this quiet time together.

Finally she kissed his forehead and moved out of bed. Mulder grumbled in protest and burrowed into the warmth her body left behind. He usually did this when she left him first, and she smiled at how some things never changed.

Since she'd taken a shower the night before, she decided she could skip it now, and just dampened down her hair and washed her face. She clipped her hair up and dressed in her usual jeans and button-down shirt.

As she was making her breakfast by the light over the stove, Mulder mumbled, "I'm awake, you know." He sat up, rubbing his face with the back of his hand.

"Good morning."

"Do you have to go to work today?"

"Yes," she said, smiling at that, too. It was rare that Mulder could convince her to play hooky.

He grumbled, shifting a little, and said, "So what am I supposed to do all day?"

"I don't know . . . just be inconspicuous."

He grumbled again. "I wasn't followed."

"I hope you're right." She came back to the bed and stroked his hair for a moment, and kissed his forehead. "The day will just fly, even if you're being careful."

"Sure it will." He wrapped his arms around her again and pressed his face against her stomach. "I think I shouldn't hang around the diner today."

"No, probably not."

"So I'll pick you up when you're done. And I'll drive you there this morning."

"Thank you, that would be nice. It'll give me a little more time."

"Time to what?" he said softly, and his forefinger brushed the small of her back.

Scully shivered and her fingers tightened for a moment on his shoulder. Sixteen hours together and they had yet to so much as kiss, despite sleeping in each other's arms.

"Time for a leisurely breakfast," she said in a trembling voice. She cleared her throat. "Would you like some Cream of Wheat and toast?"

"I'd love some Cream of Wheat," Mulder said, his voice insinuating more than his words ever could. His arms released her and she went back to the stove, where her cereal bubbled merrily away. She stirred the pot and listened to Mulder as he got out of bed, stretching and groaning.

"Oh, my back, Scully."

"We could always sleep on the floor."

He snorted in response and went into the bathroom. While he was there Scully laid a towel on the table and set the pan on the towel.

Mulder came out as she started the toast, and he set the table with bowls and spoons. He'd taken off his t-shirt and denim shirt to sleep but left on his jeans, and he looked rumpled and sleepy.

She loved how he looked in the morings. She hadn't forgotten this, but seeing him like this reminded her in a way that made her tremble a little and brought heat to her cheeks.

She wished there was enough time to seduce him, that she had the energy and stamina for a seduction. Maybe when things were better settled between them, when she was more certain he would stay. She did not want to seduce him into staying, though it would probably work.

Scully flushed and glanced at him, hoping he couldn't read on her face what she was thinking. That's not worthy of him, she thought. He won't sleep with me if he's not going to stay, no matter how much he might want to.

Maybe that's why he didn't try anything last night, she mused, a bit despondent at the thought, and she watched him sprinkle brown sugar on his cereal and spread butter on his toast.

"Scully? You okay? Do you feel sick?"

"I'm fine." She added at his look, "My morning sickness has tapered off the last week or so. The second trimester is a little easier than the first."

"The second?" He swallowed his toast. "You're in the second trimester already?"

She sipped her juice and said, "Yes."

She watched him eat for a minute or two, then he said, between bites, "When is the baby due, Scully?"

"Early May."

"I have so may questions I want to ask you. I don't know where to start."

"Well," Scully said slowly, "I'm healthy. The baby appears to be healthy. Everything is progressing normally."

"That's good. And, um . . . how, exactly, do you feel? About all of this, I mean."

"Excited. A little scared. Lonely," she added, and Mulder's eyes held her as firmly as any embrace.

"That's easily fixed, if you want it to be."

"I want it to be," she said softly.

Mulder's gaze held her for a moment more, then he cleared his throat and continued eating his breakfast. "What time do you need to be at work?"

"Six-thirty."

"Six-thirty to four? That's inhuman."

"I get an hour for lunch and two fifteen-minute breaks. It's not so bad."

"What does your doctor think of you being on your feet eight hours a day?"

"He thinks I shouldn't but he understand the economic necessity."

"You need to take care of yourself, Scully."

"I also need to eat and pay rent."

Mulder ate a few more bites and said, "Well, we'll work on that."

She set down her spoon. "What does that mean?"

"Just--you know. We'll work on that. That's all." He gestured towards her bowl with his spoon. "Eat, Scully, you don't want to be late."

Scully ate a few bites, thinking over their conversation, then she said, "Don't start making plans for me, Mulder."

"I wouldn't dare," Mulder said, smiling like he would dare and she would enjoy it, too.


Mulder pulled the car to a stop in front of the Blue Moon, and smiled at her ruefully. "Bye, Scully," he said softly. "Have a good day."

"Bye," she said, her eyes focusing on his bottom lip. She wanted to kiss him. Hard. Long. Just one kiss, to say goodbye, to say I'll see you later, to say I'll miss you.

But she could just imagine what the results of that kiss would be: the two of them necking in the car until the windows steamed up and the car rocked with their passion. As pleasant--no, as wonderful as that would be, it wasn't how she wanted to restart their relationship.

"Bye," she said again, ran her hand quickly over his and got out of the car, struggling a little with her new center of gravity.

He waited until she was inside to drive away.

Luana pounced on her the moment Scully entered the changing room.

"Katie! You came back! Are you staying? Is he staying? What happened last night?"

"Relax a little, okay?" She started to change into her uniform. "I'm staying, I think he's staying, nothing happened last night. We talked."

"You only think?"

"I'm not completely sure. He wants to stay. I want him to stay. We're not sure if he should." She sucked in her stomach as much as she could to button the sturdy dress, and exhaled, hoping the buttons would hold. One more week, she thought, at most, and then she would be just too big. The larger-sized uniforms were already claimed by other waitresses and she would just have to wait until the new one Violet had ordered for her came in. She'd seen the maternity uniform in Violet's catalogue: a blouse gathered beneath the breasts and flaring out over the belly, and elasticwaist pants. She was not looking forward to that stage of pregnancy-not the clothes part of it, anyway.

"He's your baby's daddy, doesn't that mean anything?"

"It means something," Scully said, sitting down to put on her shoes. "Of course it means something. We have other considerations, that's all. It's not as simple as wanting to be together."

"I swear, you are the strangest woman I have ever met in my entire life," Luana said. "Most girls I've known in your situation would do anything to make sure their babies had a daddy. But, yeah, before you say it, I know. You're not most girls."

"No, I'm not," Scully said, grinning.

Luana went on changing into her own uniform, then said, "Katie, tell me something."

"All right."

"Yesterday, when he read your postcards. You didn't sign any of them, did you? They just had those initials at the end. T.M.D.

What's that mean?"

"Oh. That. It's--um, it's a shorthand. He came up with it. We used to work together and we didn't want anyone to know we were dating each other. But he likes to tell me he loves me, so he would write 'T.M.D' at the bottom of notes and memos and things."

"But what's it stand for?"

"Truly, madly, deeply, as in 'I truly, madly, deeply love you'--I know, it's silly."

"It's sweet," Luana said. "It's very sweet. I knew it. He worships the ground you walk on."

"Oh, I wouldn't put it that far."

"I would. He does, doesn't he, he followed you all the way from wherever you're from and he sat here all day yesterday waiting for you--it's the kind of thing most people would die for, Katie.

Most people would die for a love like that."

Scully looked at Luana and said, her voice firm, "I would die for him, Luana, don't get me wrong. I know the value of this. I know how precious this is. And I would lay down my life for him. I would. But I'm in no hurry to die." Luana's eyes had grown very wide and Scully said hastily, "Never mind, Lu, I just--it's early.

I'm feeling melodramatic. We should get to work."

Luana bit her lip, her forehead drawn in thought, and followed her out to the floor.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

The morning went like normal. Scully served pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs and halves of grapefruit. She poured endless cups of coffee and glasses of orange juice. She laughed at jokes, responded gently to the sweet flirtations, and gave icy glares to the crass ones. She picked up napkins and wiped up spills, set up booster seats and held a baby while the mother looked through her purse for the car keys. The baby smelled like talcum powder and milk, and looked at Scully with solemn brown eyes.

My baby will have eyes like that, Scully thought, she'll have Mulder's eyes. She restrained herself from kissing the baby's hot forehead and handed her back to the mother's profuse thanks.

When the diner slowed down and they started to prepare for lunch, Scully perched herself on the stool at the end of the counter and swiveled her head on her neck until her spine cracked back into place.

"Oh, I heard that," Sandra, the day manager, said with a grimace. "You've got to have that man of yours give you a good backrub tonight."

"We'll see," Scully murmured.

"What's his name, anyway? You haven't told much by way of details."

Scully hesitated, then said, "Steve." Mulder would make a good Steve.

"Steve?" Luana said. "I would have thought he'd have one of those hero's names like . . . like Thorn or Blade."

Sandra hooted with laughter. "Blade! No mother in her right mind would name her child Blade. You've been watching soaps again, Luey."

"I have a cousin named Blade," said Carrie Ann, one of the teenage girls who worked part-time. "His parents wanted him called something strong."

"Some mothers will name their children anything," Scully said, remembering the revulsion Mulder had to his own name.

"You got a name picked out for your baby yet, Katie?" Carrie Ann said.

"There are a few that I like. I like old-fashioned names for boys, classic names. Like James or Adam or Caleb. His middle name will be William, after my father. If it's a girl I may be a little more daring. Girls can have stranger names than boys, it seems like."

"You like Bible names," Carrie Ann said. "I have a cousin named Shiloh and her sister is named Havilah, and they're both out of the Bible."

"Maybe not that daring," Scully said. "More like Georgia or Roxanne or Bettina." She added when they all were silent, "Or maybe a good Irish name like Molly."

That went over much better with the others, and they all started chatting about the strangest names they'd ever heard and what they wanted to call their children. Scully rubbed her stomach a little, listening to them with her eyes closed.

She'd grown accustomed to the smell of cigarette smoke latelythe Blue Moon was not a smoke-free restaurant--and so thought nothing of it when someone took the stool beside her who smelled strongly of cigarettes. But her eyes flew open and she stopped rubbing her stomach when a soft, familiar voice said, "So you want to name your baby after Mulder's mother. How sweet."

Every muscle in her body tensed to run, but she managed to say calmly, her voice low to avoid alarming her friends, "What are you doing here?"

"I'm just checking up on my friend. How are you, Dana?" He took out a package of cigarettes from his coat and started to take one out, then put it back with a modest expression. "Forgive me. I should be more considerate of your delicate condition."

"I'm fine," Scully said. "I'm just fine. What are you doing here?"

"I told you. I'm checking up on you. It's a pity, you being alone down here in this strange town. A single woman with a baby on the way . . ." He shook his head in a mockery of pity. "Alone.

Friendless. No one to turn to."

"Stop it," Scully whispered. "Just stop it. I heard that phone call you made to my doctor's office. Do you honestly think I wouldn't run away as far as I could if I knew about that?"

"I just want to be sure your baby is healthy. You've had such a hard time of it, Dana."

"Bullshit," Scully hissed, and then glanced at her friends to make sure they didn't hear her. Luana was looking at her, her expression concerned, and Scully decided to end this conversation as quickly as she could. "You listen to me, C.G.B. Spender or whatever the hell your name is. I will do whatever it takes to protect my child from you. I will go anywhere, I will run as far as I can, I will give birth in a cave if that's what it takes. I will kill you if I have to."

"I'm here to help," he protested. "I'm here to give you anything your heart desires, anything you could want for your baby.

The best doctor, a beautiful home, a private hospital where you can relax and let yourself be taken care of--"

"You'd slit my throat as soon as my baby was born."

"Never. I'd never raise a finger to hurt you or your child.

We just want to know how this happened and if we can reproduce it and how it affects your child."

"You wouldn't believe me," Scully said. Luana nudged Sandra and now they both were watching her, trying not to be obvious. "But you can't reproduce it. It's more than science can do. " "Let us try, Dana. Think of the blessing it would be to other women in your situation--"

"All the other women in my situation are dead. Aren't they?"

She glared at him. "Burned by those madmen or eaten away by cancer.

I'm the last one alive."

"There are others."

"Even if I believed you about that I still don't believe your motive is altruistic. I've seen what you people to do children.

She'd be a test subject, an experiment. You don't know the value of a single life."

"Depends on where you buy it," he said, standing, and he said a voice that carried throughout the diner, "You can't keep me away from my grandchild, Dana," and he turned towards the door.

"You are not my father!" Scully said, and put her hand over her mouth before she could say anything more. He just smiled at her over his shoulder and left the diner.

The other women were at her side in a moment. Luana put her arm around Scully's shoulders and Spike came out of the kitchen, a carving knife in his hand. "Should we call the police?" he said.

"No police," Scully exclaimed. "They can't help. I have to go, I can't stay here, I have to go, I have to go now--"

"Who was that?" Sandra said. "Your man's father?"

"No--maybe--I don't know. I'm going to be sick. Lu, help me--"

"Come on." She supported Scully to the ladies' room and stood back as Scully vomited helplessly into the toilet. When she was finished Luana brought her a Dixie cup of water and a paper towel.

She sat down on the floor beside her and stroked her hand.

"It's not safe for me here," Scully said miserably. "I wanted to stay here, I really did, but I can't now that he knows where I am. Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? Oh, God, I thought I'd found a home--"

"Sh, Katie," Luana said, putting her arms around her again.

"Come on, now, is it that bad? Would he really hurt you? Couldn't you get a restraining order or something, to protect you?"

Scully shook her head. "That wouldn't stop him. Nothing will stop him but me being out of his reach. I have to go. I have to go today."

"I'll call your apartment and see if, uh, Steve is there. You stay here, okay? I promise you're safe here." She stroked Scully's face for a moment, and Scully managed to smile a little despite her rising hysteria. "I'll be right back," Luana said, and left the bathroom.

Scully wrapped her arms around her middle and leaned her head against the cool tiled wall. "I'm going to do everything I can to protect you, little baby," she whispered, and wished fervently that she could feel some movement, a flutter, a kick, something to prove that her baby was thriving inside her. "Everything I can," she whispered again, closing her eyes, and she couldn't stop shivering.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

"She's in here," Scully heard Luana say as she opened the changing room door, and Scully looked up from her contemplation as Mulder came into the room. He paused and then knelt at her feet and wrapped her up in his arms. "It's okay," he said. "I promise it's okay. I'll never let him hurt you."

"We have to leave." Her fingers dug into his jacket. "We have to get out of here. Quick as we can. I don't know where to go, Mulder, I don't know where we can go that will be safe."

"Sh, honey, sh. I'll keep you safe. I promise. I'll take you anywhere you want to go. Come on, let's go."

He started to rise and she clutched at his shoulders. "We can't go back to the apartment. He'll follow us. He's probably waiting outside with a--a tranquilizer gun or something--we have to hide somewhere."

"Okay, okay, we'll go to a hotel for a while. On your feet, honey. Your boss said it's okay, she understands. Come on. Let's get out of here." He helped her to her feet, one arm around her shoulders and the other guiding her along as if she were enfeebled.

She leaned her head against his chest and closed her eyes. Even thinking felt like too much effort.

Luana was waiting for them. "Katie? Are you going to be okay?"

"Yeah--um--but I don't think I'll be back tomorrow."

"Oh, Katie."

"Thank you, Lu," she said, and Luana tried to smile.

"Be safe," Luana said. "Send us a picture of the baby."

Scully nodded, too overcome to speak, and Mulder said, "Goodbye, Luana. Thank you."

"Your name's not really Steve, is it," Luana said.

"No. It's Mulder. Goodbye."

He had parked behind the diner, next to the dumpster, and he made sure Scully was safely buckled in before going around to the driver's side. She hadn't stopped shivering, and she took Mulder's hand tightly in both of hers when he was beside her in the car.

"Scully," he said softly, and leaned over and smoothed her hair back behind her ear. "It'll be okay, honey."

"I'm scared," she whispered. "I hate being scared."

"I know. But it's okay to be scared. I'm scared too." He stroked her cheek and said softly, "And I'm sorry I wasn't careful enough. I thought I was. I did everything I could think of. I paid in cash. I changed cars. I doubled back. I used fake names. I did everything--"

"I think he already knew where I was," Scully said dully. "I think he was just biding his time until I felt safe and then pounced. He'll always be able to find us, Mulder."

"No, he won't. I won't let him hound us. We'll think of something, Scully, I promise. But let's go somewhere you can rest.

You look too pale." He put his arm around her shoulders again and she leaned against him as he started the car.


Scully woke up abruptly when Mulder opened the passenger's side door. It was still light out: the sun shone strongly beneath the layer of clouds. Scully raised her hand to shield her eyes as Mulder knelt down to talk to her.

"Where are we?"

"It's called the Sleepy Time Inn. We're about forty miles from Birmingham." Mulder smiled uncertainly. "I just drove, Scully.

I didn't know what else to do."

Scully nodded slowly, looking around the parking lot. A series of low buildings, painted in faded but welcoming colors, enclosed the lot, and there were no other cars.

"Come on," Mulder said. "I've already checked us in."

"What name did you use?"

He gave a tiny smile and said, "Steve, of course. Come on, Katie."

She returned his small smile and unclasped her seat belt.

Mulder helped her out of the car, and locked and shut the door firmly. He held her around the waist and she pressed her face against his side as they walked to the room. At every step Scully expected a shot to sound, to feel the stinging pain rip through her body.

The only sound was the crunch of their feet on the gravel.

Scully exhaled with relief when Mulder closed and locked the door between them and any threat.

She sank down onto the bed and then lay down, huddling into her coat. After a moment Mulder covered her with his jacket and lay down beside her. He wrapped his arms and a leg around her and pulled her close.

"You're shivering."

"I'm cold." She turned towards him and pressed her cheek to his chest.

"Do you want to get under the covers?"

She shook her head. "Hold me for a while?"

"I'm not letting go." His lips grazed her forehead. "What do you think we should do?"

"I don't know. Anywhere we go he'll find us."

"Maybe."

"I don't want to live on the run, Mulder, I can't. Not with a child to think about."

"I know, honey."

"Maybe we should go back. Maybe he was telling the truthmaybe he wants to make up for all the pain he's caused us."

"Scully," Mulder said gently, stroking her cheek with his thumb.

"There's no where to go, Mulder, there's nowhere safe enough." She pressed her face against his chest. She couldn't stop shaking.

"Scully," Mulder whispered, and started kissing her around her face. "We'll figure something out. We will. I promise. I won't let him hurt you. I won't let him near our baby."

She tilted her face up but when he did not kiss her mouth she sighed and pulled away from him. She sat up and started to unbutton her coat. "I'm warm now, I think," she said, sniffling a little.

She shrugged off her coat and set both coats aside, and let her hands fall into her lap when she felt his hand rest lightly on her back. He traced her spine upwards and Scully stifled a whimper.

"Lie down, honey," he said in a voice as tender as his caressing hand, and Scully lay down, cradled in his arm. He kissed her forehead and Scully laid her hand on his chest. "Are you comfortable?" She nodded. "Are you warm enough?" She nodded again.

His heart thumped steadily beneath her ear.

Lulled by his warmth and the slow way his hand stroked her hair, Scully dozed. She thought drowsily, I wish we could be like this forever, and moved her hand over Mulder's chest.

"I think," Mulder began, barely above a whisper. He paused, his fingers still combing lightly through her hair. "I think we should get married," he said, and Scully's eyes flew open.

"Now?" she whispered.

"Yeah. Now would be a good time. Don't you think?"

"I haven't--I mean--I haven't thought about it."

He stroked the back of her hand on his chest. "It might be a good thing. You know, legally."

"Oh," Scully said. "Legally. Legal reasons are good reasons to get married." She closed her eyes again. It was ridiculous to feel so disappointed.

Mulder stroked her hand for a moment more, then moved from beneath her to sit up. He picked up his jacket and rummaged in the pockets for a moment, and came up with a small black box. He held it out to her.

Scully sat up too and said, "Mulder? What's this?"

"Something I've been carrying around a long time." His face was utterly serious, and he leaned closer to her, still holding out the box. It was cardboard with flocked paper over it and a snap closure. Scully's hand crept towards it and she pulled it back.

"I--" she said, and her hand dropped. "I can't take this, Mulder."

His steady hand faltered a bit. "Why not?"

"We have more important things to talk about. We have to decide what to do about the Smoking Man and where we should go and how we can hide--"

"Our future," Mulder said. "This is part of it, too." He said hesitantly. "Don't you want to be married to me? Because I'd really like to be married to you."

"Why?" she said before she thought, and Mulder had the grace to look amused.

He finally lowered the box and said, "I think part of it is that you're having our child -"

"So you want to marry me just because I'm pregnant."

"No. But if you weren't pregnant I don't think I'd ever be brave enough to ask. Do you want to know how long I've been carrying this around?"

"How long?"

"Ever since your cancer went into remission."

"Mulder," she said softly, and took the little box from his hands. The corners were fuzzy and rounded with wear. The thick paper was scratched in places.

"I've been afraid. I'm still afraid. But you might actually say yes so I'm asking. Will you marry me, Scully?" he whispered, his head low.

"You haven't answered my question," Scully said in the same soft tone. "Why do you want to marry me?"

"Because . . ." He lifted his head and looked at her keenly.

"Because I want to belong to you."

She studied him for a moment, then flicked the snap that held the box closed. She parted the lid and gasped when she saw the ring. Two bands of white gold held filigreed floralets, which were set with white and blue diamonds. It was delicate and elegant. She knew it would look perfectly at home on her finger.

"I had it specially made," Mulder said softly. "I took a picture of you to the jeweler and I said, 'This is what she looks like. Make something that looks like this.'"

"Mulder," she said again, and took the ring out of the box.

She turned it over and over, watching the shine of the metal and the sparkle of the stones. "It's beautiful."

"So? Will you?"

"Mulder," she said in a quivering voice, "I don't know."

"What? What don't you know?"

"Krycek said--"

"Whatever his reasons, I think you did exactly what he wanted you to do. I'm surprised he never showed up to see if his plan worked. He lied to scare you, Scully. He lied."

"The Smoking Man was there, he's in Leslie right now! He told me he wants to study me! He wants to study our child! How can you take this so lightly?"

"I'm not taking this lightly. What's at issue here is our future. I'm not making plans, okay, Scully? This is an option. I just happen to think it's the right one. We get married. We stay together. We take care of each other. We become a family. Can we do that, Scully, can we make something permanent and meaningful?"

The ring felt hot from being clutched in her hand. She slipped it onto her thumb and whispered, "I'm afraid."

"I know you are, honey. So am I." He moved closer to her, supporting himself on his elbow. His head was nearly in her lap.

"But you and I, we've always been better together than apart." He stroked her kneecap. "I'm so miserable without you."

"I know." She eased her hand into his hair and he moved closer still, to rest his head on her knee. "I'm miserable without you, too."

"Then why be apart?" Mulder whispered, and started to rub his open mouth against the denim that covered her knee.

Scully bent over him and wrapped her arms around his head. It was rash--it was foolish--it was asking for trouble and heartacheI want, she thought, touching her lips to the lightly tanned skin at the back of his neck. I want this future he sees for us. I want us. I want him.

In her arms Mulder shivered and laid his cheek against her thigh. She stroked his hair with both hands and kissed his head.

She took the ring from her thumb and placed it in Mulder's hand.

His fingers closed around the ring. He sighed and raised his head, and looked up at her with sad but resigned eyes. She smiled and touched him under his chin, and held out her left hand flat to him.

"Put it on me," she said.

His face solemn, Mulder sat up and took her hand. He caressed it a moment or two, and held her eyes with his as he slid the ring onto her finger.

Scully felt as solemn as he looked, as solemn as if she were in a church before a priest. She wanted to say something but every word seemed inadequate. She touched his cheek and he smiled, and took her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist.

"Soon, Scully," he said. She nodded, closing her fingers around his hand. She hesitated, then lifted his hand to her mouth and rubbed her lips against the back, against his fingers. He flexed his fingers but otherwise didn't move. She thought he hardly dared to breathe.

She went on kissing his hand for a few moments more, breathing against his fingers and cupping his hand to her cheek, until he took his hand from her grasp and cupped her face in both.

He still barely breathed, while she couldn't get enough air to satisfy her lungs.

"I missed you," he whispered.

"I know."

"I've wanted you so much."

"So have I. I wanted you last night."

"Why didn't you say something?"

"We've been apart a long time, Mulder."

"Exactly."

"And you were so unhappy last night. I didn't want you to feel pressured." She added at the disbelieving sound he made, "And I wasn't sure you felt the same way."

"Honestly, Scully . . ."

"Yes, honestly. There have been changes. With me. With my body."

He continued to hold her with his warm friendly hands, with his dark depthless eyes, and he said softly, "So you thought that because you look a little different I wouldn't want to touch you.

Is that it?"

"It's been known to happen. Fathers sometimes have trouble adjusting."

"Mothers too, I think." He let go of her face and picked up one of her feet, running his fingers lightly along her instep.

"Granted, this, for example, looks a little more worn than the last time I saw it. Your poor little feet, working so hard . . ." He rubbed the sole of her foot deeply and Scully inhaled, shuddering.

"And what do you think about it, Scully? What do you think about this different body of yours?"

"I think it's beautiful," she said, and Mulder smiled, still rubbing her foot. "I think I look healthy. I think that sometimes I even look happy. I think my body is doing just what it needs to be doing right now, and I haven't tried to hide that from anybody."

He nodded, looking down at her feet in his hands, and said quietly, "So, can I see you?"


Scully blinked, surprised by his question, and whispered, "What?"

"Can I see you?" His voice was soft and reverent.

"What do you want to see?"

He whispered, "I want to see how your body is different."

Trembling at the familiar tone in his voice, Scully got up from the bed and stood in front of him. Mulder moved to sit on the edge of the bed, watching her closely as she unzipped her jeans and unbuttoned her shirt from just below her breasts to the hem. The two halves of the top fell away, revealing a belly that looked as creamy and round as a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Mulder's eyes widened and his lips parted, and he glanced up at her quickly before placing a warm hand on the upper curve. It looked very dark on her pale skin.

A wave of tenderness swept through her--she closed her eyes and put her hand on his shoulder. The father of my child, she thought, and then, Just as it should be.

"This is right," she whispered, and he glanced up at her again, smiling a tiny bit. His hand smoothed over her belly as if he were petting her.

"Do you feel anything?"

"Not yet. Soon, I expect."

"Will you tell me when you do?" He sounded shy, and she smiled.

"Yes. Though you don't be able to feel her kick or anything for a while yet."

"Her? You think it's a girl?"

"More boys are conceived than girls are, but more girls are born."

"Why is that?"

"You men are just fragile, I guess." She smiled again, moving her fingertips to his hair at the back of his neck. He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, and his breath brushed her skin.

Scully shivered, surprised at how much it affected her. But then her stomach had always been sensitive. Charlie used to render her helpless by tickling her on her stomach, and Mulder had quickly discovered that a zerbert to the stomach would make her laugh.

His hand paused at her shiver, and he frowned. "Are you cold?"

"No. I'm all right."

He nodded, and his hand resumed stroking. She was about to tell him she wanted to lie down again when he leaned forward and kissed her belly, just above her navel. She gasped outright and her fingers tightened on his neck reflexively. In response his lips opened and his tongue dragged over the patch of skin beneath his mouth, and when again she gasped his other hand came up to cup the lower curve of her belly. He stroked and massaged her belly, and kissed it with soft wet sounds that seemed to echo in Scully's ears. She realized dimly he was murmuring something, and at first she thought it was "my baby, my baby" -- no, it wasn't. "My body, my body"? No.

"My beauty. My beauty."

"Mulder." Her head was spinning. "Mulder. Please."

He slid forward, off the bed and onto his knees, still holding her, still kissing her. Her legs trembled and she held onto his shoulders with both hands, her eyes squeezed shut. She rocked back on her heels as his mouth moved ever lower, to the waistband of her panties, and she thought she might cry when he paused.

His voice was hoarse. "Scully?"

"What?" Her lips were dry.

"Do you want me to stop?"

"No," she whispered, then cleared her throat and said, "No.

Don't stop."

He moaned in his throat and settled onto his knees, and slid her jeans and underwear from her waist to her feet. She stepped out of them, holding onto his shoulders for balance, and sighed a long soft "Ohhh . . ." as he set her feet apart and started kissing her thighs, her inner thighs, her knees. He held onto her calves and massaged them with strong, sure fingers. He even bent to the floor and kissed her feet, and Scully looked down at him, puzzled but pleased, splaying her toes.

He rose again, onto his knees, and his hands slid upward to cup her bottom. He kissed her stomach again, and then lowered his head and parted her lower lips with the tip of his tongue.

Scully moaned, bending over him, clutching his shoulders. She ran her hands through his hair, traced the curves of his ears and the lines of his jaw. She wanted to tell him things, everything, things she'd never told another living soul, but when she opened her mouth to speak all that came out was his name.

All the while his tongue lapped at her, dragging moisture forward to her clit, which his tongue circled and teased and stroked. He nipped it with his teeth and soothed it with his tongue, and his hand smoothed back her curls and reached up into her, one slender finger soon joined by two more. And he hummed, moaned, softly growled, telling her without words how delicious she tasted.

"Mulder . . . " She found herself rising up onto the balls of her feet, lowering herself again, anything to bring more stimulation, more sensation, to the orgasm that was coiling inside her. Though his actions were centered on only a small bundle of nerves she felt them throughout her body, tingling in her fingertips and her nipples and the soles of her feet and the top of her head. She felt as though she were burning. "Mulder . . ."

"Anything for you," he paused long enough to say, his fingers circling a spot inside her that would make her combust if he didn't stop it, but oh she'd kill him if he stopped it, she would, she would, she would do anything for him, it was true, he knew it and he'd always known it--

"Mulder," she gasped, clutching at him, and he held her while she shook and cried out and tried not to fall.

His knees cracked when he stood, and they both smiled at the sound, suddenly shy. His jeans did nothing to hide the erection he bore, but as if he were unaffected he lifted her gently and laid her on the bed, where she continued trembling. She held onto him tightly, not allowing him to rise, and he swept back the hair from her forehead and kissed it tenderly.

"Thank you," he whispered, and she almost laughed.

"I should thank you." Why was it that men always had such lovely eyelashes? she thought, and cupped his face to feel his lashes under her thumb. The gesture made him smile, and he returned it, framing her face in his hand.

"You taste like a mango," he whispered, and now she did laugh, a low, pleased sound. "I meant it, you know. I'd do anything for you."

"I know." Her hand looked small on his chest, and she slid it down and tugged at his shirt.

"Scully." He grabbed her wrist. "It's okay."

"It's not."

"I don't want to do anything that might hurt the baby."

She looked up at his face. He meant it, she could see that.

She wanted to laugh. "You've got a lot to learn about pregnant ladies," she said, pushing herself up on her elbows. "First lesson is you can have sex right up until the end, if you're so inclined."

"Really?"

"Really. I don't know if you'll want to, necessarily--"

"Oh," he said, low in his throat, and he moved beside her to start caressing her belly again. "I think we'll want to."

A new erogenous zone, Scully thought, letting her eyes fall closed and herself fall back onto the pillows. She looked at him through her lashes and said, "Mulder. I want you to do something for me."

"Anything," he murmured, exploring the curves and valleys of her body with his nose.

"You haven't kissed me yet. Kiss me."

He paused and looked up to smile at her. "That I know I can do," he said, and moved up to stretch out beside her again. He took her chin between his forefinger and thumb and grazed her lips with his a few times before kissing her, deep, long, tender, warm. He broke it long enough to whisper, "I love you, you know," and then resumed kissing her sweetly, as if they had all of forever and then some to make love.

It's different when you know it's the first of many, she thought.

Almost like a wedding night. Trying to start it right.

And oh, had he started it right.

When his mouth finally left hers it was to travel slowly over her face, her neck. He undid the last few buttons on her shirt and unclasped her bra, and his hand swept over her breasts, testing their weight and heat. Scully grabbed his wrist and watched him as he looked at her, waiting for some sign of distaste at the changes of her body. "Mmmm . . . warm," was all he said before capturing one in his mouth.

Scully's back arched and she thrust her hands into his hair.

In truth lately she'd been too exhausted to even think about sex.

There were rare times when she'd missed him more than usual and sought relief from her own hands, but it had been hopelessly inadequate despite the increased sensitivity of her body. Now, tired as she was, post-orgasmic-lull as she was, at the touch of his mouth to her breast she thought she heard every nerve sing like a chorus of morning birds.

"I've missed you," she managed to say between gasps. "I've missed this."

He released her nipple and gave her breast one more kiss, and he said in a rough voice, "I've missed your body. I've missed your kisses. I've missed your hands in my hair. I've missed everything about you."

Scully cupped Mulder's face in her hands and drew him up to kiss him. "Don't," she said simply, though she wasn't entirely sure what she was asking him.

"I won't," he said, and lowered his head to her breast again.

She touched him as he suckled her, feeling the way that his muscles moved beneath his shirt, her fingers through his soft hair, against his rough cheeks and his blissfully-closed eyes. His heart raced beneath her fingers.

She needed to kiss him and lifted his head from her breast, and pushed him onto his back. Her fingers shook as she tried to unbutton his shirt, and he had to help her with his own shaking hands. Finally she gave up and yanked, and buttons flew everywhere.

"Scully, this is my only clean shirt."

"I didn't notice you fighting," she said, and tore the buttons from his cuffs as well. He began to laugh, raising his arms so she could take the shirt off him, and when she yanked off the white t-shirt beneath it he wrapped her up in his arms and kissed her, still laughing.

"God, I've missed you. I've missed you." He stopped laughing but went on smiling at her, running his fingertips up and down the side of her face.

Scully pushed herself onto her knees and pulled off her shirt and bra. Mulder sat up as well and started to gently pull out the little clips that held up her hair. "I like this look, you know,"

he murmured," but I want to feel it in my hands." She could only nod, and shook out her hair when he had taken out all the clips. He twisted the length of her hair up in his hands and let the curls fall between his fingers. "You're so beautiful." His hands slid down her face to her neck and he traced her collarbones with his thumb. "Sometimes when I couldn't sleep I'd remember one thing about you, one thing that I particularly missed, like this right here." His thumb settled in the hollow between her collarbones.

"I've always loved this, right here." He leaned forward and kissed it. "And this here." He kissed where her jaw curved into her neck.

"And this part here." He stooped and she leaned back against his supporting hands, and he suckled the skin of the underside of her breast.

Scully focused her eyes on the light on the ceiling. Her entire body heaved with the effort to breathe as he kissed and kissed and kissed her, whispering how much he loved this part and that. She wanted to return the attentions, to lavish her tongue on him and tell him how precious, how beloved, he truly was.

But it was hard to concentrate when his mouth was doing such wonderful things to her.

Breathe . . . breathe . . . breathe . . .

Finally he lifted his head from her. His eyes glittered. "How you doin'?"

Scully managed a chuckle and slid down his body a little to rest on his thighs. The front of his jeans bulged tantalizingly.

She licked her lips and tugged on the top button, and Mulder hissed and dug his fingers into the coverlet.

"Scully . . ."

"Gimme." She popped the buttons down his fly and eased her hand along his hip. He grunted, closing his eyes and turning his head away, and Scully pushed on his shoulder until he gave in and lay down.

She tasted his Adams apple, his ears, his forehead. She teased his nipples and ran her hands up and down his sides, snuffling her nose in his chest hair. She eased his jeans down his narrow hips, kissing his stomach, and whispered, "Up," as she lowered his cotton boxers from his waist. He raised his hips to help her and his hand caressed her hair for a moment before she slid out of reach. She sucked his toes and kissed his knobby knees, stroked his long thighs and finally settled herself on her haunches, focusing her attention.

His penis was thick, erect, and hot, the color of dark wine.

Scully used her fingertips first, drawing them over his testicles and lightly up and down his length. The way he moaned made her smile, and she wrapped her hand around him and began to pump him.

"Ohh," he breathed, and she nuzzled her mouth against the plane of his stomach on the journey downward.

"Miss me much?" she whispered, and he grunted something unintelligible and put his hands on top of hers.

"Too good -- please --"

"I haven't even started yet."

He groaned and released her hands, his head flopping against the bed. She could feel his eyes on her, burning with lust, as she licked her lips greedily and took him into her mouth.

He tasted exotic and familiar, salty, warm. Scully felt her eyes roll back in her head and she couldn't stifle the moan that arose, and Mulder moaned in response. His fingers caressed her shoulders.

She polished his hipbone with her palm as she bathed the head of his cock with her tongue, danced her fingers over his thighs. He moaned her name again and again.

Scully wanted all of him at once, the taste and the feel and the heat of him, she wanted to suck on him and fuck him, she wanted his tongue and his fingers and his cock. She was shaking with need for him. She balanced herself on one hand and the other crept between her legs, where she was still slick and slippery. Her fingers passed over her clitoris and she moaned again, and Mulder said warningly, his head tossing, "Scully, don't do that, please don't do that."

She shook her head lightly, taking him deeper. She passed her fingers over his lower ribs, a silent message: Come for me. Be selfish. Let me take care of you.

His hands fell away from her shoulders and he groaned, his voice rough and low. She followed the sound of his voice with her tongue and her lips, the rise and fall of his voice guiding her to where and how he wanted to be touched. He had always been a vocal lover, talking and whispering to her until he couldn't form coherent words anymore.

And now that he'd decided to go along with her preferences his noises were much more encouraging, syrupy with pleasure, from deep within his chest. She felt every moan shiver through him, and they made her moan in response. She closed her eyes as colors danced behind her eyelids, and her hand and her tongue stilled for a moment as she came again, shuddering throughout her body.

It was too much for Mulder. His body arched off the floor, his legs shook, his fingers dug into her scalp and his hips thrust and thrust.

Scully gulped his come, one hand still stroking her clit in slow, languid movements to prolong her own orgasm as long as possible.

His grip on her head eased up and turned to tender stroking, and she lifted her mouth from his cock, giving it a few last laps with her tongue, and stretched herself out beside him, her hand on his heaving chest. Mulder gathered her into his arms and placed a sleepy kiss on her forehead, and said, still gasping, "Is it so terrible that I'd like to make love to you tonight? Just good oldfashioned ordinary fucking?"

"Wasn't that good?" she teased, and he kissed her again.

"You know it was, but that's not the point."

"We have plenty of time."

There was a slight pause, and Mulder said in a hurt tone, "I seem to recall you saying that before."

"Well," Scully said slowly, "we've got that time back now, don't we."

"Yeah. I guess we do." He shifted a little, turning her more to his side, and kissed her over her face for a few minutes.

Scully stroked his hair and returned his kisses, and then said, "I want to clean up a little bit. I'm sticky."

He grinned at her, a wicked gleam in his eye, and took her hand and started to lick her fingers. Scully laughed softly and pulled away from him, picking up her discarded shirt. "I won't be long." She gave him one last kiss and went into the bathroom, buttoning her shirt as she went.

Dreamily she ran a washcloth under the running tap and wiped away their residue from her hands and legs and face. She reached for one of the complimentary toothbrushes but decided, no. Not yet.

She wanted the taste of him to linger.


A streetlight shone in through the curtains when Scully woke up a few hours later. She blinked a few times, letting her eyes adjust, and then embraced the nearest pillow to her chest and snuggled her face against it. It smelled like Mulder.

Mulder! She opened her eyes and looked around the hotel room, and finally saw him at the table. He was staring out the window, his chin in his hand and his legs sprawled. He looked over to the bed at the sound of her stirring.

"Mulder?" She sat up, the sheets falling to her waist. "Can't you sleep?"

"Are you thirsty?" he said in answer, and she saw the heavy glass on the table by his hand. "Do you want something to drink?"

"Yes, please."

He stood and brought the glass to her, and held the rim to her mouth. He'd put his jeans on again, and Scully found that more unsettling than his silence. Ice clinked against her teeth as she drank and she shivered at the coldness of the water as some ran down her chin and onto her chest.

"You got ice," she said when he took the glass away.

"Yes." He wiped up the spilled water with his fingertips, and that made Scully shiver again but with warmth this time. He still smelled of them, a dark base note of sweat and sex in the antiseptic room, and Scully put her hands on his denim-clad hips.

"Come back to bed," she said softly. With his back to the light his face was cast in shadow, and she didn't know how to interpret the sigh he gave and the gentle way he laid his hands on her shoulders.

"I can't sleep, Scully."

"Who said we'd sleep?" She smiled up at him, circling the top button of his jeans with a fingertip.

"You need your rest." His hand moved heavily through her hair.

"I had a good nap this afternoon. Lie down with me, Mulder."

He'd lost weight recently. His jeans gaped a bit at the waist and she slid her hand into the gap, against his warm hip. He made a low noise that was neither protest nor encouragement, and his hand cupped the back of her head. He tilted her face upwards.

"There's still one thing you haven't told me. Something that I just can't figure out."

"What is it?" Soft was the wrong word to describe his skin, though there was something vulnerable and sweet about the skin covering his waist.

"Why you were afraid to tell me about the baby."

"Mulder . . ." She sighed and withdrew her hand from his jeans. He went on holding her head, however, stroking her cheekbone with one thumb. Like a film noir cinematographer, he'd placed them perfectly: his face in shadow and hers in light.

"Did I ever say I didn't want children, or didn't like them?

Did I ever do anything to show you that I didn't?"

"No . . . but it's very easy to want children abstractly.

When you're faced with it in actuality it's terrifying."

"So you faced that terror alone. Like you don't trust me with your fear."

"Mulder. . . ." she said again.

"Or maybe you don't trust me with your joy."

"It's not about trust."

"Everything is about trust. It always has been."

"How could I have told you? 'Pass that file and by the way, I'm pregnant'? Come on."

"Don't get defensive, Scully."

"I'm not defensive," she muttered, and his silence felt like a reproach. She said, "Or maybe I could have left the stick with the little plus sign on your desk. That would have been subtle."

"It has a certain poetry," Mulder said, and she wished she could see his eyes, to tell if he was joking or not. "It was on your mind, though, wasn't it? You suspected for a while."

"The symptoms added up, that's all. I didn't want to believe it."

She felt him sway a little and she said, "I don't mean it like that.

I couldn't believe it. It seemed so . . . impossible. I was afraid to find out if it was true because I didn't want to be disappointed. And I didn't want you to be disappointed either."

"You never have to protect me from yourself, Scully," he said, and his thumb brushed the corner of her eye where maybe a tear or two had escaped. "You know, a large part of your allure is that you're so mysterious and complex but sometimes it gets a little wearing."

"Forgive me for having a personality," she said tartly.

"I love your personality," Mulder said. Scully sighed and leaned her head against his stomach. He stroked her hair and the back of her neck and said, "I love you. I do everything I can to make you believe that. I love you with all of me and I feel like I just wait around for these crumbs . . . I don't want you to change, Scully, I just want you to remember."

"I do remember," she said, her voice trembling. "I live and breathe on it, Mulder. It gets me out of bed in the mornings and it rocks me to sleep at night."

"If that's true," Mulder said in a sad, tender tone that hurt more than a slap in the face, "then why hide this from me?"

Even in the dark his gaze felt scorching. She said, "Because everything is different now and I was afraid of the change. I didn't want you to treat me differently or think of me differently.

I wanted that good time, that wonderful happy careless moment, to last just a little bit longer. I didn't want you to treat me like I'm fragile."

"You are fragile," Mulder said. "You're my tulip."

"I am not! This is just what I'm talking about. I'm not a tulip. Good God. I'm a flesh and blood woman who happens to be pregnant--which is, by the way, a very healthy state of being."

"But you're also everything else that you are to me. My tulip and my little squirrel and my queen of heaven. And now the mother of my child . . . that's powerful stuff. I don't think you've ever really understood the power you have over me--or if you do, you don't want to believe it."

"But I don't want to have power over you, don't you see? I just want to love you."

"And that's power. Right there, that's power." He took her hand and pressed her palm to his chest. "You own this, you know. I just wonder if you really want it."

"I'm wearing your ring, aren't I?"

She thought he might be smiling. "That's a good symbolic gesture, but are you going to back it up?"

Scully straightened her spine and lifted her head. "Name the day and I will. It will be permanent. It will be meaningful. It will be everything you want, because I want it too."

Mulder exhaled and sank down onto his knees. He lifted her hand from his chest to his mouth and kissed it, and when he cupped it to his face she realized he'd been crying -- for a while, from the feel of it.

"Mulder," she said, overwhelmed by the tenderness she felt for him, "lie down with me. I need to hold you."

He snuffled a little and stood, stripped off his jeans and got into bed beside her. She turned to him and took her into his arms, so that his head was against her breast and his body enfolded against hers.

He sighed, rubbing his stubbled cheek against her for a moment, and then his hand shyly crept down her body to gently rest on the outmost curve of her belly.

"I was afraid to want this," he said softly.

"So was I. Now that we have it, now what?"

He was silent a moment, and said, "We do our damnedest to get it right."

"Okay," Scully said. "I can live with that." She could feel him relaxing as she held him, his body easing and smoothing against hers.

His hand slid lightly up and down her side. She whispered, "I do want you around. I need you." She looked up at the shadowed ceiling. "Our baby needs you."

"Our baby," he murmured. "Have you thought about what you want to name her?"

"I have a few ideas."

"Tell."

"If it's a boy his middle name will be William."

"Fair enough."

"For a first name I think something solid and traditional, like Caleb or Benjamin."

"Those are nice."

"If it's a girl I think something less traditional. Roxanne.

Georgia. Bettina," she added, and Mulder's hand paused its gentle teasing.

"Bettina," he repeated and sighed. "No."

"I thought it was a Jewish tradition to name a child after a deceased relative."

"It is, but I don't want to name her Bettina."

"Why not? It's an unusual, pretty name. It's got personal meaning for us. I think it would be a good way to honor your mother."

"After the life my mother led giving a child her name feels more like a curse than an honor."

"You don't mean that."

"Yes, I do, Scully. And what would we call her? I don't especially like Betty and I don't want to call her Teena."

"Then we'll call her Bettina."

He sighed again and was silent a long time. "No," he said finally.

"Any other name you like but not that one. Please, Scully. I can't."

"All right, love, all right. What about as a middle name?"

"Well . . . maybe."

She nodded, satisfied with that for now. She played with the hair on the back of his arm and said, "What about you? Any names you like?"

"Hey, just as long as it's not Fox."

"Or Bettina."

"Or Bettina. Or Samantha."

"Why is my family okay and yours out?"

"Because . . . because it is. William is fine. Margaret is fine. What about Margaret? We could call her Daisy."

"Daisy is pretty . . ."

"Margaret Bettina," Mulder said. "Daisy. That might work." He sang against her belly, "'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, I'm half crazy all for the love of you . . .'"

Scully laughed softly and he looked up at her. He smiled at her and moved up to hover over her body, holding himself up with his hands planted on the mattress by her head. "Or we could name her after you and call her Tulip."

"Mulder," she began, but laughed instead of lecturing him.

"There's a little anonymous poem. 'My love is more beautiful than the Rose of Sharon . . .'"

"Mulder. No flower names, all your romantic notions aside.

Except maybe Daisy."

"That's a good old-fashioned name, isn't it. Sweet."

"Sweet. Very sweet. Kiss me." She pulled his head down to hers and kissed him, nudging open his lips with the tip of her tongue. He parted his mouth and her tongue darted in, to tease and taste his mouth until his tongue chased hers into her mouth where he gave her the same treatment.

They barely paused for breath between kisses, barely let one end before the next began. Still, he held his body away from hers no matter how much she soothed and stroked him. He caught her hand when she slid it down his thigh and held it by her head.

"Don't," he whispered.

"Why not?"

He chuckled slightly against her neck. "Give me a minute. I want this to be good for you, too."

"It's always good for me when I'm with you."

He moaned against her neck, losing the mouthful of skin he'd been working on, and swiftly kissed her mouth before sliding his lips to her soft underarm.

Scully squealed as his tongue tickled her and she tried to free her hand from his. He chortled in triumph and nibbled and kissed his way up her arm to her trapped hand, which he kissed as seriously as if it were her lips. She watched him through halfclosed lids, marveling, as she often did, that he loved her body, loved her, with such focused passion.

She caressed his face until he opened his eyes and looked at her. "I want you," she said simply. "I need you."

"I need you too," he said, his voice growing more husky with every word, "I need you so much, Scully, every day, all the time, I need to see your face and hear your voice and feel your skin . . . need to touch and taste and smell you . . ."

"I know." She arched up towards him, gliding her hands to his hips.

He settled against her carefully, still keeping most of his weight off her body.

"Are you sure this won't hurt the baby?"

"I'm sure."

"'Cause that's the last thing I want to do." He sucked the base of her neck. "I don't want to hurt her . . . I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't hurt us."

"Us," he murmured, and moved down her body to place wonderfilled kisses on her stomach. "This is so beautiful, Scully. It's us. It's you and me. It's something we made . . . something that exists because we made it."

"It is beautiful." She smiled at him and touched his cheek.

Part of her was surprised at how quickly he was ready for her again, but it was only a small part. The rest was pleased that he was as hungry for her as he had always been, as she was at this moment for him. Her legs fell open at his touch and Mulder slid inside her, still gentle, still careful. They both moaned, soft and low, and though Scully wanted to close her eyes at the sheer pleasure of the sensations he produced, she couldn't tear her eyes from his. She could believe anything when he looked at her like that, like she was goddess and lover and friend and companion all at once, keeper of his secrets and guardian of his heart.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. "Deeper," she breathed into his ear, and he groaned and kissed her.

He grasped her thighs and brought her legs higher, making her gasp.

It was hard to respond to him the way she wanted with the unaccustomed weight of the baby, but he seemed willing to make up for it, to maneuver her body to give her the most pleasure he could.

Her hands glided over him, scratching his skin lightly and caressing his face. He turned his head to kiss her hand whenever it passed near his mouth. Sweat began to drip from his hairline, and she gathered it up and sucked it from her fingertips.

He slid his arms under her head and kissed her mouth, and she parted his lips to him, welcoming his tongue. He kissed her luxuriously, his thrusts within her slow and deep. He paused his kiss long enough to whisper, "Doing all right?"

"Mm . . . yeah . . ."

"You don't need to rest or anything?"

"I'm good . . . so good . . ." She brought down his head to kiss him again. "Feels so good . . ."

"Yeah?" He withdrew from her almost entirely and thrust again in one long stroke.

"Ahh . . . yeah . . ." She slid her legs up higher until they were nearly under his arms. "Deeper," she whispered again. "Please, deeper." Her hands moved restlessly over his sides and back. She didn't know how to explain it but when they made love she reached a state of heightened awareness, so that everything--the sheets, the walls, Mulder's skin, the furnishings--took on a new significance, as if she'd never touched them before.

"You okay?"

"I'm wonderful. Don't stop yet."

He chuckled low in his chest and took her breast in his mouth. She could sense his control slipping, that he was trying to keep his movements slow and sexy, but his body had other ideas.

Scully swept the hair from his forehead and whispered, "Just let it go, love. I trust you."

Mulder turned his face away for a moment, pausing. A drop of sweat cascaded down the side of his face and Scully flicked her tongue to lick it off, which made him shudder. He wrapped her hair in his fist and tilted back her head, and his mouth fastened onto her neck as he thrust within her, hard and fast. His grunts came from deep in his chest and she moaned, "Let me hear you. I want to hear you." Her hands fluttered and danced over him. With each contraction of her womb she imagined her baby awash in salty waves like a skiff in a hurricane.

She laughed even as she moaned and Mulder's mouth released her neck. "Scully?"

"I was just thinking--what Daisy thinks of this--who dares disturb Her Majesty's slumber--"

Anxiety creased his forehead. "Should I stop?"

"No! God, no. No. Don't stop. Don't stop until you're done.

Don't stop, Mulder, don't stop," she chanted as he ground against her, until his body shuddered fiercely and his face closed off to her just for a moment.

He collapsed onto her and then like an afterthought he pulled them both onto their sides. "Wouldn't do to crush you," he whispered.

"You're not going to crush me," but she made no move to change their position. She loved to be held like this, wrapped up in him as if there was no end to her body and no beginning to his.

Mulder nuzzled his face against her hair but didn't answer.

His breath was already evening out, and she smiled and worked free one arm to slip her hand into his hair. She lightly scratched the base of his skull, knowing this would send him into sleep, and he sighed in contentment.

"Love you," he whispered.

"Love you." She hauled herself up a little to kiss his forehead and his lips, and then tucked her head under his chin.

She was on the verge of sleep herself when she felt something in her belly--a quiver of movement like a breeze against her cheek.

Her eyes flew open and she held her breath, and after a moment or two she felt it again. It was like a rose petal, like distant music, like a shy first kiss.

Scully took Mulder's hand and pressed it over the flutter, and after a moment he mumbled, "Scully . . ."

"I can feel the baby move. Go back to sleep."

"Mm," he said, and then propped himself up on his arm, his eyes open wide. "Scully? You can feel her?"

"It's very faint. Can you feel anything?"

"I think . . . no. No, not yet." He bent and placed kisses on her stomach, beside where she held his hand.

"I was afraid," Scully said quietly. "My doctor said if I didn't feel movement by the end of the week he wanted to do an ultrasound, to see if she'd--if I'd--"

"If she'd died," Mulder whispered.

"Yes." He looked up at her and she touched his cheek. "But she's moving."

He sighed and kissed her stomach again, and laid his head just above where the rise began. His hand stroked her stomach and she caressed his hair.

"Scully?"

"Yes, love?"

"Did you pray tonight?"

Scully paused. He'd been bemused by her habit before, never ridiculing it but not taking it seriously, either. She said simply, "No, I haven't, thank you for reminding me," and slipped out of bed to kneel beside it. She watched, dumbfounded, as he got out of bed and knelt at her side and put his arm around her.

"I'd like to pray with you." He looked away a moment, and when he looked back his eyes were damp. "I want to thank somebody for this and God seems like a good idea."

Scully put her hands on top of his on the blanket, but it was a few moments before she could speak. When she prayed her voice was steady, and Mulder's hand tightly clasped hers.


Scully awoke abruptly, gasping, both hands flying to her stomach.

She lay tensely for a moment, her breath harsh in her ears. Her wide- open eyes flew about the dim room, barely noting the pale sliver of sunshine coming in beneath the blinds. She felt like someone had been watching her, as if she'd been surrounded by the Grays that had inhabited the dream that woke her. She felt as if the door had just closed behind someone who should not have been there to begin with.

Behind her Mulder mumbled and pulled her closed to him with his arm across her chest. Beneath her hands the baby made her tiny rose-petal movements and settled into sleep again.

Safe. They both were safe. Her love and her child, safe.

Deliberately Scully slowed her breathing to Mulder's pace and willed her heart to slow down as well. Calm, she thought, be calm.

Just a dream like a dozen others you've had. Just breathe, it's behind you now.

After a moment Mulder ran a sleepy hand through her hair.

"Scully? You're awake."

"Yes."

"Are you okay?" He placed his hand just beneath her breasts.

"Your heart is racing."

"Nightmare," she said, and he made a soft sound in his throat and pulled her closer.

"Do you want to tell me about it?"

"I--" She took another deep breath and slowly let it out. "I dreamed that They had you. You and the baby both. I could see what they were doing to you, how much they were hurting you, how much they were hurting my baby. I screamed and my voice made no sound.

There was an invisible wall between us and I hit it, I beat on it as hard as I could, but I couldn't break it down. I could see you both looking at me--your eyes--" Her voice quivered and she turned to Mulder and pressed her cheek to his chest.

"Oh, honey," he murmured. "Sh, sh, now. It's all over."

"You looked at me as if I could save you," she said and began to cry in earnest. Damn damn damn, she thought, but only kept her face hidden against his chest as he stroked her back and hair.

"Do you want analysis or comfort?" he said after a while, and she choked out a laugh.

"Comfort, please."

"Always." He continued to kiss and stroke her, and eventually her tears and trembling slowed and stopped. She lay quietly in his arms for some time longer, though, listening to the steady thump of his heart.

"You know," Mulder began, then paused.

"What do I know?"

"I understand it's common for expectant mothers to have dreams about their babies, but I'm not sure this fits into the usual, uh, paradigm."

"The books say it's common to have dreams about giving birth to a fish or some such creature--or a hamburger--" Mulder laughed and she smiled a little and continued, "but of course I have dreams about giving birth to E.T."

"They're just dreams, honey."

"I know . . . I've never been very good at guiding my dreams, though. Most of the time I don't even realize I'm dreaming until after I've woken up."

He moved off his side onto his back, so that she was partially draped over him, her cheek on his chest. "How much, do you think, this dream was influenced by memory?" he asked softly, and she raised her eyes to look at him.

"Very much."

He sighed and put his hand into her hair to rub the back of her head. "I wish you'd let me take you to a hypnotherapist. You need to get these memories worked out-- "

"Mulder . . ."

"I know, I know. I worry, that's all."

"I know you do." She propped herself up on her elbow. "I'd rather deal with these memories my own way."

He rolled his eyes and flipped aside the blankets to get out of bed.

"What do you want to do for breakfast?"

"I don't know." Scully lay back, pulling up the sheets, and watched him as he stretched and walked to the bathroom.

"I could get something or we could order in."

"I doubt anyplace around here delivers breakfast."

"Or we could go out. How do you feel about that?" He paused in the doorway to the bathroom to look at her.

"I think that would be all right. What time is it?"

"My watch is on the night stand." He went into the bathroom and shut the door.

Scully hauled herself closer to the night stand and picked up Mulder's watch. Ten after nine. We need to get going, she thought, and then flopped back despondently to the pillows, clutching his watch. Get going where?

She slipped the watch onto her wrist and turned it so that it faced inwards. The watch was too big, of course, and slid down her arm nearly to her elbow. She turned it to the inside of her wrist and ran her fingers around the face. Ten after nine, nowhere to go, nothing to do but find another place to hide.

I've already run, she thought, and look what happened. Mulder found me, the smoking man found me without breaking a sweat. I don't want to run . . . but what will happen if we stay still?

She drew the blankets up over her head and curled herself up into the smallest shell she could manage. The panic felt cold and sharp, and she wished for one moment that she could be normal, worrying about nothing more than whether to paint the baby's room pink or blue.

The bathroom door opened and Mulder said, "Scully?" as he sat down beside her on the bed. He stroked her back through the blankets. "What is it?"

"Mulder--" She clawed the blanket away from her face and grabbed his hands, sitting up. "Mulder, where are we going to go, what are we going to do? I can't think--I don't know the answers--"

"There's a Denny's just up the highway," he said cautiously.

"I noticed it last night."

She wanted to hug him and slug him at once, and she said, "After breakfast. Today. Tonight. Tomorrow. What are we going to do?"

"Oh," he said, wrapping her up in his arms. "Is that all."

"It's an important question, or had you forgotten? We have nowhere to go and nothing to live on and a baby to care for, and I need a doctor, Mulder, I need to see a doctor and be monitored and make sure the baby is healthy--I need ultrasounds and tests and vitamins--"

"Scully," Mulder said, "you are beginning to sound hysterical."

"I am not hysterical, I am telling you what's necessary.

Where in the world is a safe place for us? Have you thought about that? I can't stop thinking about that. There is nowhere we can go that he can't find us. He'll hunt us down, Mulder, he'll torture and torment us and we'll never be really safe, Mulder, don't you see? I can't raise my child in a world like that but I have no choice. There's no safe place. No safe places anywhere."

"Scully," he said more firmly, and held her face between his hands.

"Scully, look at me. Look at me. Look into my eyes, okay? Are you looking?" She nodded, her eyes locked onto his. "You're looking?

Okay. Listen to me. I will find you a safe place. I promise.

Somewhere in the world, there is a safe place for us. You want to know where I think it is?" She nodded again and he kissed her forehead. "I think," he said, "we have to go back to Washington. I think that's where we'll be safe."

"Mulder, you're nuts."

"You knew that already." He grinned, easing his hold on her face.

"You're serious," she said in disbelief.

"Yes. Think about it, Scully, we'll be close to our friends, your family. We need our friends. You need your mother." His voice dropped low and he said, "I need you to be in a place where I know people will take care of you if I can't."

"Do you expect something to happen to you?"

"No, honey, no. But we have to be prepared. And think of it, Scully: your own doctor who's attended you for years, and your mother around to pamper you and advise you on what's going on, and the guys around to buy you goofy presents and spoil the baby. How does that sound?"

She sniffled. "Sounds like a daydream, Mulder."

"But a nice daydream. Don't you think?"

"Yes. Very nice." She leaned her face against his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his chest.

"We can make it real, Scully," he said in his softest voice, the one that warmed her like spiced cider. "I want to make it real for you. A home of our own, near the people we love. Will you let me do that?"

"And go back to work at the FBI?"

"I still love my work, Scully. I don't want to leave it unless we have no other choice. Would you want to go back?"

"I don't know. I can't imagine leaving Daisy in daycare. I wouldn't trust anyone enough to take care of her."

"Would you want to stay home, then?"

"I don't know." She lolled her forehead against his shoulder.

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know . . . I told you I don't have any answers. I don't have them. Every option I see seems hopeless."

"Not hopeless, honey, I promise. There's hope for us."

"He could walk into her school and give them a smooth story and take her away. He could take her off the street while she's playing. He's so good at lying she'd believe him no matter what we taught her."

"I'm trying to find the answers for you, Scully."

"I know, I'm not being very helpful." She looked up at him and ran her thumb along the side of his face. "I don't want to live on the run."

"I know."

"But I don't see how we could live a normal life, Mulder. At this point the only thing I can think of is finding some remote hiding place out west somewhere and living in a cabin in the woods." She sighed. "I want to lie down."

He arranged the pillows and got beneath the blankets with her.

"You know, Scully, if you want me to change my name to Bubba and work in a gas station I'll do it. But I really think the best thing to do is go home."

"No one would believe you as a Bubba."

"Well, there goes that plan, I guess."

"I'd go anywhere if I thought it was safe enough. Anywhere in the world. Going home seems like asking for more trouble that we can afford."

"Everything is asking for trouble. That's what we do, Scully.

It follows us around."

"I've noticed," she said dryly.

"I'd rather be where I know you can be safe, you know, secured away by people we trust, than out in the middle of nowhere."

"But the Cancer Man--"

"I know, I know, he could do anything to disrupt our lives and probably will do more, but the thing is, Scully, would you rather let him know we're afraid of him or show him that we're not?"

Scully scowled. He was doing this on purpose, the bastard.

"You said that just to piss me off."

"Or to make you think. You think better when you're angry than when you're scared." He brushed back some hair from her face and smiled at her sadly. "Let's go home, Scully. Come home with me."

She leaned her head against his shoulder again, but not with despair this time. For the first time since she smelled the Cancer Man's cigarette smoke in the Blue Moon, her mind felt clear and smooth. Every option led one place: home. She wasn't sure if it was the home Mulder meant or if there was another one waiting for them somewhere, but it hardly mattered. They would find it.

"Home," she said, looking up at Mulder again, "but first we go back to Leslie and get the things I bought for the baby."

"Are you sure? Do you think it will be safe?"

"I don't want to leave those things behind."

"But they're only things, Scully."

"But they're special things. I found the most beautiful christening gown, Mulder, it's perfect, it's got tatted lace on the collar and the hem and there's a little cap . . ." She stopped, because his expression was entirely too indulgent. "I guess I shouldn't go into why I like the stuffed animals, should I."

"Because they're based on the original drawings from Winnie the Pooh?"

"Yes. That is why. The original Eeyore is much cuter than the Disney one. Am I obsessing?"

"Yes, but you're allowed. If we do go back to Leslie, though, I think I should go the apartment myself. Maybe you could wait in the car or something."

"Mulder, if something happens to you--"

"Nothing will happen, but I'd feel better knowing you wereyou know, elsewhere."

Scully thought it over a moment, then said, "All right. Take me to the Blue Moon. They'll watch over me there."

"All right," Mulder said softly, and there was something in his tender gaze that made her blush and smile.

"What?" she said, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "I know I'm a mess."

"I was just thinking . . . all sorts of mushy things that will embarrass you if I say them out loud, so I won't."

"Oh, I don't know . . . I don't mind mushy things once in a while.

Try me."

He went on smiling at her, and said, "I love way you look in the morning. All tousled and pink. You look like you got some good lovin' last night."

"Must be because I did." She started to stroke his chest and he closed his eyes and chuckled.

"Just call me angel of the morning, baby," he said in a gravely voice, and Scully laughed.

"Actually, what I really want this morning . . ."

"Uh-huh?"

"What I really want is eggs."

"Oh." He looked only slightly disappointed. "Time to get you some breakfast."

"Time to feed the pregnant lady. God, I sound like a zoo attraction. See the amazing expanding woman and her bottomless belly." She sighed.

"It's cute, that bottomless belly of yours." He gave it a kiss and a few loving pats. "Good morning, Daisy Day," he said, giving her stomach another kiss, and he got out of bed.

"Mulder, wait. C'mere. Give me your hands."

He put his hands in hers. "I'm not going to feel anything, it's too soon."

"Try. For me." Scully placed their hands on her stomach, moving them around to follow the baby's movements. "Anything?"

He shook his head. "Not yet."

"You will. It's so wonderful, Mulder, she's moving around."

He touched her cheek, smiling. "Do you want the shower first?"

"I can wait." She watched him go into the bathroom, her hands still on her stomach as she felt the baby swim around like a lithe fish. Little fishie, she thought, little Daisy Day. Be well, my baby, she thought, and took a deep breath and let it out. She imagined the last of her panic slip away like an outgoing tide, and in a few minutes she could feel her body loosen and relax. She thought she might even sleep a little longer.


"Katie!" Luana cried when Scully entered the diner, and she rushed from behind the counter to hug her. "Are you okay?"

Scully rested her head on Luana's shoulder for a moment, hugging her tightly, then lifted her head and said, "We're okay. Did hedid that man come back?"

"I haven't seen him. I don't think anybody here has--but there's been a car out in front sometimes. A big silver car, a Cadillac, I think. You sure you're okay?" She glanced at Mulder, who stood protectively behind Scully with his hand on her shoulder.

"Are you here to stay?"

"No. We're leaving. We're going home."

"Oh," Luana said softly,"I'm going to miss you something awful, Katie."

"I'm going to miss you, too." The two women embraced again.

"You've got me for a few hours more, though."

"Oh? Why's that?"

"We need to ask a favor," Mulder said. "Will you watch over Scully for a couple hours? I'm going to pack up her apartment and then we'll be on our way."

"Of course we will," Luana said. "You're safe here, honey."

"Thanks." She let Luana go and Mulder slipped his hand into her hair and kissed her forehead. "You be careful."

"I will. Love you." He kissed her again.

"Love you too."

He squeezed her hand and left the diner, and Scully stood at the door and watched him through the glass as he got into the car and drove away. Luana hugged her again across her shoulders.

"You've got a good man there."

"The best." She smiled at Luana briefly and said, "Which table is free?"

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Warm, buttery scrambled eggs, orange juice and toast made up her second breakfast of the day, a much more satisfying one than the doughnuts and milk Mulder had bought for them at a convenience store earlier. She ate slowly, trying to pass the time.

Luana had seated her near the back of the diner by a window, and Scully looked up whenever she heard a car pass. None of them were a large silver Cadillac--only the usual hatchbacks and pickup trucks she saw every day in Leslie.

She asked Luana for a pen and some blank paper, and Luana brought her an misprinted order pad and a ballpoint pen. Scully uncapped the pen and hesitated for a few moments, circling the point above the paper, and then started to write.

"Daisy,

I don't know if this name will be yours once you're born but right now it seems to suit. I'll have to paste this letter into the diary later. Of course I don't know if you'll ever read this diary anyway.

I think it's more for me than you.

Everything has changed since I wrote last. Your father is here in Alabama, which I think I knew would happen eventually. I think I wanted it to. He's convinced me to go home, back to Washington, and the truth is I'm relieved and glad to go. I've missed my friends and family terribly. I've missed your father.

Someday when you're in love I'm sure you'll understand though I pray with all my heart you won't have to face what we have faced.

Oh, my baby, my child, I can't stop being afraid."

She paused and wiped her eyes with a paper napkin, and then wrote resolutely, "But I will do whatever I must to protect you.

Love, Mother."

She tore the papers off the pad and laid them on the table.

Barely forty minutes had passed since Mulder had left. She didn't think it would take him much longer to finish packing--and though her mind wanted to fly to all the terrible possibilities that could happen she refused to let it. She wrote on another sheet off the pad, in large block letters, "I WILL NOT PANIC. I WILL BE POSITIVE.

I AM NOT AFRAID."

My daily affirmation, she thought wryly, and tore the paper into shreds. She hated to be idle, though, and here was an entire pad of paper and a pen. She picked up the pen again and wrote "Mulder," and then smiled a little and wrote it again, this time in ornate letters.

She and Melissa had pretended to write in calligraphy this way as children, and in junior high school in the throes of a crush she would write the boy's name in the margins of her papers like this, with the occasional "Mrs." added on. So she now wrote, "Mrs. Fox William Mulder," giving it many ornamentations and swirls. It didn't look right, though: it looked like someone else's name.

"Dana Mulder," she wrote, in her regular handwriting, and it didn't look right either. "Dana Scully-Mulder," she wrote, and that was worst of all.

She scribbled out all the names and put down her pen. They would have to talk about names. They would have to talk about a lot of things. This would take some getting used to, this being married.

Luana slipped into the booth seat opposite her, with a cup of coffee for herself and a glass of orange juice for Scully. "So,"

Luana said, "tell me what happened."

Scully sipped the juice. "Not much, really. We drove for a while and talked a lot, and decided that home is the place we belong." She twisted the ring absently.

Luana grabbed her hand. "Katie, honey, this is news."

"And we're getting married."

"It's beautiful."

"He had it custom made." She twisted the ring again. "He's been waiting a long time."

"And you only just now said yes?"

"He only just now asked."

Luana leaned closer and said, "And did you celebrate?"

"Luana," Scully said, embarrassed.

"Did you?"

"Yes." She could feel herself blushing. "Yes, we did." They leaned their heads together, giggling, and Scully said, "Lu, there has never been anybody in the world like him. Ever. He should be enshrined.

He's legendary. He's like a tall tale. Generations from now people will refuse to believe he was real."

"You've got it so bad for him," Luana said.

"I know."

"It's sweet. You look so happy. I don't think you've ever really looked happy before."

"Thanks," Scully said softly. "I think . . . I think I am."

Luana smiled widely and patted her hand, and got up from the booth.

"Come say goodbye to me before you go, okay?"

"I will." She smiled at Luana as she walked away. They would have to keep in touch. She didn't want to lose a friend like this.

She doodled more on the pad, and soon found herself drawing a head. A small head, with round cheeks and large eyes. Dark eyes, she thought, crosshatching to make them darker. And plump lips, and dimples. It wasn't a very good head--she was not any better at sketching than she was at calligraphy--but it made her smile.

"Daisy," she wrote beneath it, and then tore that sheet off the pad and laid it with her other doodles, fanned out on the table top.

She sipped the orange juice Luana had brought for her and wiped her mouth with her napkin. Bathroom time again, she thought with a grimace, and slid out of the booth.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

"But she is all right, isn't she?" Scully's landlord said as Mulder closed the car's trunk. He eyed the suitcase and folded blankets suspiciously, as if he expected to see severed limbs rolling out. "I'd feel a lot better if she signed out the lease herself."

"She's fine." It was hard to not grow impatient with the man's natterings, but Mulder didn't want him to think he'd see them on the Most Wanted list anytime soon. "I'll have her call you from the diner, if you want."

"No," the man said absently, "I guess the girls will let me know. Don't put that there!" he nearly shouted as Mulder stacked Scully's pillows in the back seat.

"What?"

"Keep them in the front. Car trips are hard on pregnant women, she'll need back support."

"Oh. Thanks." He put the pillows in the front passenger seat and shut the door. "That's everything."

The landlord shook his head sadly. "Tell Katie I'll miss her.

She was a dream of a tenant."

"I will." Mulder decided not to mention his opinion of the man's property. "Thanks. Goodbye." He got into the car and started it up, and pulled away from the curb as the landlord watched him dejectedly from the sidewalk.

It had taken too long to get the place cleared out. He'd taken the food to a homeless shelter, just like Scully wanted, and the head of the shelter had been profuse in her thanks--ten minutes of profusion, when all Mulder wanted was to get back to Scully's apartment. He had to dismantle the crib, which he'd thought wouldn't take long--Scully had put it together without the benefit of tools, right? Half an hour later he found Scully's toolbox under the kitchen sink and finally got the crib apart. He had to fit maternity clothes and her regular clothes into one small suitcase, and then of course the things she'd bought for the baby, which had the advantage of being tiny. Then there were things like her portable stereo and the few toys she'd acquired and the Beatrix Potter print. "Don't forget that," she had told him time and again in the car.

The physical labor gave him time to think, though, and thought he had done, particularly as he held the fragile christening gown. A baby, a real baby. His baby. Their baby. At last he'd found love and was given this amazing miracle in addition.

Of course he was scared shitless, but he figured that was a given. Here he was at the ripe old age of forty, facing fatherhood.

It felt like a cruel gag, the setup to a joke where he would be the punchline.

Except it was real. There was a being, a real person, growing inside Scully, someone who might have his eyes and Scully's nose and her mother's hair. Someone who might like science or history or music, who might be a doctor or an artist or a extreme mountain biker. Someone who would call him Daddy.

That felt like the biggest joke of all.

He was tempted, for a brief moment as he packed the tiny clothes, to leave the car in front of the Blue Moon and take off.

She would be better off without out him, he thought. She would find someone who knew about being a father, someone who wasn't a neurotic mess.

Except he knew that he couldn't let either of them go. Not Scully, never Scully, and not their child. When he first placed his hands on Scully's belly he had felt something utterly foreign to him--a strange, overwhelming tenderness that swept through him and left him shaken and exhilerated. He wondered if that was what paternal love felt like--this need to love and protect and feed and comfort and hold this little alien, this creature called his child.

Not alien, he thought. Very much a creation of this world.

Made the old-fashioned way by two people so in love they can hardly see straight.

Speaking of seeing straight--he eased his foot off the gas, reminding himself that crashing the car at this point would not get him to Scully any sooner.

He finally reached the Blue Moon and slowed the car. There were police cars and a fire truck in front of the restaurant, but he couldn't see any smoke in the air. He pulled the car to the curb and got out, and walked to the nearest officer.

"What's happened?" he said, and the officer stepped away from her partner for a moment.

"There was a small fire in the kitchen. It's under control but we're waiting for the all-clear to let the patrons back inside.

Do you work here, sir?"

"No, my--um--my fiancee was waiting here for me."

She gestured down the street. "They're waiting at the corner."

"Thank you." He went towards the clump of people she'd indicated. He could see Luana, and some of the others looked familiar, but there was no sign of Scully. Maybe they'd sent her into one of the stores to rest her feet.

He tapped Luana on the shoulder and she turned, huddled into her coat. "Steve--Mulder--um--"

"Where's Dana?"

"Oh--um--" She took Mulder's arm and pulled him away from the others. She whispered, "I can't find her."

Mulder felt like he had been kicked in the chest, and he managed to gasp out, "What?"

"I saw her go into the restroom and then the fire started and then it got really confused and there were so many people and thenand then--" Her lips trembled and she looked down at her shoes.

"And then I couldn't find her."

"Luana," he gripped her shoulders, "did you see anybody in the restaurant who looked really, really out of place? Someone who stood out in a weird way? Someone dressed like a B-movie thug or too aware of people watching him? Think, Luana, please."

"I didn't notice anybody. I'm sorry, Steve--Mulder--I'm sorry."

"It's okay, it's okay." He hugged her briefly. "Don't panic.

She's got to be around here somewhere, right? I'll find her."

She nodded, her eyes full, and folded her hands together and twisted them up between her breasts. "I'm going to pray," she whispered.

"Okay," he said and went to find someone in authority. He thought, Whatever God listens to us has a very twisted sense of humor.

He approached the fire chief, who was talking to one of the police officers. They both stopped talking when they saw him. He took out his badge and showed it to them. "Fox Mulder, FBI. There's someone unaccounted for."

"You're Mulder?" the police officer said, and Mulder had to swallow hard before he could speak.

"Yes. What's happened?"

The fire chief glanced at the officer, coughed and stepped away. The officer looked annoyed and said, "My name's Payton. Some items were found inside. Will you come with me, please?"

"What kind of items?" Mulder said as he followed him to the nearest police car.

"A coat, what appears to be a letter, some drawings, and your name written several times over." He handed Mulder an evidence bag with the papers inside.

"Can I open it?"

"Go ahead."

Mulder opened the bag and took out the pages. "This is my fiancee's handwriting," he said quietly, and sank down onto the edge of the car seat. He went on, turning the pages over, "She's, uh, she's expecting. This is a diary to the baby. These--she doodles when she's nervous. This--" He came to the paper with his name written over and over, and his voice broke.

The officer sighed and knelt down to be at Mulder's eye level. "Why would your fiancee be nervous, sir?"

Mulder glanced up at him sharply and said, "As you can see from the diary it wasn't because of me."

"Yes, sir, I read the diary. It wasn't about waiting for your return."

"No. It wasn't. There's--" He stopped, trying to find a way to cast their story so it wouldn't sound insane. "There's someone after her.

Someone she'd run away from before. And I strongly believe that someone is the person who took her."

"Do you have a name, a description?"

"Yes."

"And why is this person pursuing your fiancee?"

Mulder whispered, "Because he wants her child," and closed his eyes.

Payton sighed again and tapped his knuckle against the side of the car. "Mr. Mulder," he said gently, "is he the father of the child?"

"No. He might be mine."

"Might be?"

"It's complicated."

"I understand. Well. If you'll come down to the station and file a report we'll get the investigation started."

"I'll help in any way I can."

"Sir, if you're personally involved--"

"I know, I know, but you've got to understand, she's not justshe's--she's everything to me."

Payton was about to answer when one of the other officers came to the car. "We found another item," she said and placed a small evidence bag in Payton's hand. Payton turned it over and then held it up so Mulder could see.

"Do you recognize this?"

Mulder's throat closed. He said hoarsely, "That's her engagement ring," and leaned his head onto his knees.


II: Lights in the Sky

Summary: The previous summer: Mulder and Scully race to find a missing girl while dealing with becoming a couple. Just another day in the X-Files division.

December 20, 2000

Mrs. Scully had a Christmas wreath on her front door: evergreens and pine cones and poinsettias, artfully arranged.

Mulder wondered if she had made it herself. It seemed like something she would do.

He pressed the doorbell and looked out to the street while he waited for someone to answer. The neighborhood looked so normal, with its holiday lights and Christmas cheer. It was the kind of place Scully should live. There was even enough room for a dog in those picket- fenced yards.

His hand fell away from the doorbell and he took a few shallow breaths. How could he tell Mrs. Scully he'd lost her daughter?

The door opened behind him. He turned and Mrs. Scully said, "Fox?

What's happened? Where's Dana?"

"Mrs. Scully--I--can I come in?"

"Of course." She stepped back and shut the door behind him.

The house smelled of pine and bayberry wax, and from another room Nat King Cole sang about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. "My sons are here with their families," Mrs. Scully said. "Would you like to come into the kitchen? Say hello to everyone? You look like you could use something hot."

"Thanks, um, no."

A dark-haired young man looked out from the kitchen. "Mom?"

Maggie smiled at him briefly. "Charlie, this is Fox Mulder, Dana's partner."

"Oh. So you're Dana's partner." He gave the same quick smile and said, "We've got hot cocoa and fresh cookies, if you don't mind playing Monopoly with my kids."

"Thanks," Mulder said again. "No. I just stopped by to tell Mrs.

Scully the latest news."

"Dana," Mrs. Scully whispered. "You found something, didn't you?"

He watched as Charlie moved closer to his mother and took her hand. "I did. I--I found Dana in Alabama. She's all right--" Mrs.

Scully gasped and Charlie squeezed her hand. Mulder had to look away. "She was all right."

"Was!" Charlie exclaimed

"Charles, let him tell it. Go on, Fox."

He focused his eyes on his shoes, noticing absently that they were scuffed and muddy. "She was kidnaped while I was there."

Mrs. Scully closed her eyes and turned her head towards her son for a moment. "No," she said.

"The local police sent me home. They told me they'll let me know when they find anything. I'll let you know as soon as I do."

He couldn't look at her. The pain in her face was too much.

"Who would take her, Fox? Why would they take her? Why would they take my baby girl?"

Mulder grimaced at her choice of words. "She's--she's got something they want." He was certain Mrs. Scully didn't know about Scully's pregnancy, and if Scully hadn't deemed it wise to tell her mother he was not going to tell her either.

"Is it that thing in her neck? Is that what this is about? Do they want it back?"

"No," Mulder said. "I don't think it's about the chip."

"Then what is it about? Tell me! Tell me what they want with my daughter!"

He looked up at her at last and said, "I can't. I can't just yet.

Please trust that it's important, that it was worth running away for, and I will do everything, absolutely everything that I can, to bring her home."

Mrs. Scully nodded, though he knew from her eyes he was not forgiven. "Bring her home, then," she said quietly, "and thank you for letting me know."

"Goodbye, Mrs. Scully," Mulder said, and let himself out. He went to his car, which was still packed with Scully's things. He hadn't stopped at his apartment yet, and he wasn't sure what he would do with her things when he got there. He sat in the car for a few minutes, looking at the warm, brightly-lit house, and then started up the engine.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Bereft of Scully's vibrant presence, his apartment seemed as stark and stale as if no one had lived there for fifty years. There were few of her actual possessions here--a spare toothbrush, a book she'd lent him, a bag of her favorite coffee beans--but still he thought every piece of furniture she had touched, every piece of clothing she had borrowed, every utensil she had used, knew she was gone.

He stacked the boxes and suitcase from the Leslie apartment in his bedroom, along with the pieces of the crib. Part of him wanted to assemble it, give it a place of honor, but this struck him as both morbid and hopelessly pathetic. If anyone saw it, what could he tell them?

Even after two weeks of searching, he and the police had to admit defeat. There wasn't even a cigarette butt's worth of evidence back in Leslie. Too many fingerprints in the restroom, no witnesses, too much commotion from the fire for anyone to properly remember what they had seen and heard. It was as if she had been snatched from this plane of reality, to be found only in his dreams.

Before he left Leslie he had sat with Luana in the diner, turning the ring over and over in his fingers, and she said, "You made her happy, you know. You *make* her happy. She'll stay alive for that."

"Love isn't stronger than death," he said quietly, and she gripped his hand.

"Don't think like that. Don't. It won't help her. If you aren't strong for her what will she rely on?"

"You don't understand what we're up against."

"I understand plenty."

"The man who has her could take her anywhere. It's a big world, Luana, it's easy to get lost. And I have nothing." He stared at the tiny ring. It barely fit past the first knuckle on his smallest finger. "I've never had nothing before. There's always been some clue, someone to give me information, something. Never just this--emptiness."

"You've got to have faith," Luana said earnestly, and he jerked his hand away from hers.

"I had faith! I had faith that we were finally going to be at peace and looked what happened. If there is a God, He laughs mighty hard at my life."

"You know that's not true. You know Katie--Dana--doesn't believe that."

"I don't know what I believe." He closed his hand around the ring, more precious than ever for the brief time it had adorned her finger.

He stood up from their table and said, "You pray if that gives you comfort. I've got to get going."

"I will pray," Luana said. "You let me know when you find her."

"Yeah," Mulder mumbled and left the diner.

For three days he had traveled every highway and side road out of Leslie with a picture of Scully, this time with a better description than his first journey through the area. "She was with an older man," he said to merchants and gas station attendants and hotel clerks. "He smells like cigarettes. She's about four months pregnant. Please, think hard."

Every person shook their head and handed back the picture.

Sorry, mister. Haven't seen her, mister.

Now, alone in his dark apartment, the reality of it hit like a fist to the gut. Gone. Taken. Happiness, love, family, all were within his reach and now--

Mulder leaned against the wall and slid down to his knees, almost retching from the physical pain of missing her. They would take the baby, he was certain of that. They had the technology to bring a child through full gestation without the mother, if they desired. He had a moment of horrible imagination: her child stolen, Scully driven to madness, eternally asking why her love had not come to save her this most important time.

Her child, he thought, our child, my child. Ours. He had placed his hands on her body and felt the warmth and life within her. He had seen the wonder and joy in her eyes when she felt the baby move. He had allowed himself to daydream that this child would somehow be exempt from the curse of the Mulder family, that she would be happy and safe and loved all her life.

It appeared instead that this child would disappear as mysteriously as she came.

He crawled across the floor to where he'd put her suitcase and opened it up. Tucked away were the stuffed animals, the Eeyore Scully liked best on top. He took out the sad-eyed donkey and got onto his bed, lying down with the toy wrapped up in his arms.

I can't just lie here, he thought, but neither could he move.

Helpless to the onslaught of memories, he did not fight them when they came.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

They kissed the first time in a hospital waiting room. It was sweet.

Simple. A kiss between friends, a good way to ring in New Year's Eve.

They kissed the second time just a few days later. He sat in his desk chair as she stood between his legs with her hands on his shoulders. With no preamble or even warning she bent and kissed him. As soon as she lifted her mouth she went on speaking as calmly as she had been before she kissed him, but stood for a few moments more with her hands on his shoulders before she moved away.

They kissed the third time outside her apartment building after he took her suitcase out of the car trunk. She stood on the curb and grasped the back of his head in her hand, captured his lips with her mouth. At first it appeared she meant it to be brief and sudden like the previous kiss, but they ended up standing there, kissing, looking at each other, kissing more, pausing for breath, kissing still more. It wasn't until she took the suitcase from his hand that he realized he hadn't put it down. "Good night, Mulder," she whispered and darted into her building like a will o'

the wisp.

They kissed the fourth time in the Hoover Building parking garage, her body pressed between his and the car, both of them praying no one would come for another minute or two or five. When they parted he stood there panting, trembling, his hands on either side of her head on the car, waiting for her to say what she wanted to happen next.

She wiped her mouth with both hands and slid them down her neck, and said in a low voice, "See you tomorrow, Mulder," and he said simply, "Yeah," and still neither of them moved until she regained her breath and found her keys.

He found she was in his thoughts even more than usual. He found himself window shopping for trinkets she might like, things that would make her lips part in wonder and her eyes sparkle. He found himself obsessing on little things like her shoe size. He found himself showing off in front of her, anything to amuse or entertain her. He found himself carrying around the ring again.

"You know," he said one night in her hotel room, apropos of nothing, "they don't know why whales breech."

"Why they what?" she said absently.

"You know, when they jump out of the water and fall in backwards."

He demonstrated the motion with his hand, making the appropriate splashing noise with his mouth. "Scientists don't know why they do that."

"I bet you have a theory."

"I do. I think it's because it's so cool being a whale, and they know it. I'm a whale! Pssht!" He demonstrated again with accompanying hand gestures. "I love being a whale! Pssht!"

She stole some of his sunflower seeds and said, "They're animals, Mulder. They don't have the cognizance to recognize things like coolness."

"But if you were a whale, wouldn't you jump for joy sometimes, just for the sheer wonder of being a whale?"

"If I were a whale, Mulder?" She cracked a seed and slipped the meat out with her tongue. "If I were a whale . . . maybe I would jump for joy sometimes." She grinned at him, holding the meat of the seed between her teeth, and he grinned back.

He loved it when she played along. He loved it when she slid her fingers between his. He loved it when she answered her phone and her voice warmed because she knew it was him. He loved it when she fell asleep against his shoulder.

They kissed the fifth time on his couch. Kissed and groped and paused to look at each other in amazement before diving back in to kiss some more. Her slender body was lithe and warm above him, her breasts felt soft beneath her sweater, her hands combed through his hair. "I love you," he whispered at one point and she answered him with her eyes squeezed shut, her lips against his cheek, "I love you too."

They were on the road to something grand, something uncommon, something beautiful. They both knew this kind of love did not happen to everyone, every day. They took it step by careful step, making a relationship that was apart from their regular lives. It was a secret nestled between them, new and precious. It was the beginning of something wonderful.

It was taking forever.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

With no one else to talk to about his romantic troubles, Mulder had taken to confiding in Frohike--discreetly, of course. It had amazed him, actually, how simply his friends accepted the fact of his and Scully's togetherness, as if they'd expected it all along or thought it had been going on a while.

"Women," Frohike told him over a bottle of Jack Daniels one evening in June, "are strange and mysterious creatures. That is the extent of my understanding about them."

"And how many times have you been married?"

Frohike held up four fingers and said, "Having come to that realization, that is why I have graced no one else with the name of Mrs. Frohike. I don't get women. Acceptance is half the battle, right?"

"No man gets women." Mulder stared at his drink morosely.

"Women are the true different species. They think differently than we do, they feel differently than we do, their bodies work differently . . . the true aliens aren't Reticulans. They're women."

"Don't tell me you buy that men are from Mars and women are from Venus bullshit."

"It has its valid points. Scully operates on a different frequency than you do. Than I do. Than any of us do. I pity her sometimes, spending all her time with us geeks who find her so confusing and exotic."

"She's not one of the boys," Mulder said. "Yet she is. More than I am, sometimes."

Frohike cocked an eyebrow at him and drank a long gulp of whiskey.

He said, "She's adaptable, up to a point. Women have to be, to get by in a man's world. But still she's very much a woman."

"Very much." Mulder sighed. "So why can't we adapt to them?

It's a mistake to throw up our hands and admit defeat. It's lazy."

"There's the rub, my friend. To have a successful relationship you have to learn to think the way that they do, and that is very difficult, if not to say impossible." He refilled his glass and waved the neck of the bottle at Mulder. "Your problem is doubled in that Scully is not the most open person. She's . . . painfully private, even. Maybe what you need to do is listen to what she's *not* saying."

"What she doesn't say would fill volumes," Mulder said.

"Body language. Silences. Unanswered questions. Avoidance methods."

"I know, I know. All my training and all my education and I still can't get into the most important person in my life . . . sometimes I wish I could crawl inside her brain." They both drank, and Mulder said softly, "She's so unhappy."

"You're not going to fix her, dude."

"I know. It doesn't make me want to stop trying, though."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

~memory: June 2000~

Scully showed up at his apartment one night in June. She'd begun to do this more and more frequently, always with something to show or feed him: tea, a movie, a book. Tonight she bore a grocery bag, complete with a loaf of French bread sticking out of the top.

"Don't argue," she said, "I'm making you dinner tonight."

"I'd never argue with that," Mulder said, standing back from the door to watch her as she set down her grocery bag and took off her shoes. She had changed her clothes since she left the office: she wore linen trousers and a pale blue blouse with a bit of ribbon at the low scooped neck. He liked it--she looked pretty and freshbut he couldn't remember seeing her in this before, or in anything like it for that matter. "What's the occasion?"

"No occasion." She smiled at him as she tied a dishtowel around her waist.

"Oh," Mulder said. He leaned against the doorway with his arms folded over his chest. "It's not Christmas. It's not my birthday.

It's not even summer solstice. What gives, Scully?"

"Nothing. I felt like making you dinner."

"Spur of the moment, you felt like making me dinner?"

"Spur of about two hours ago, yes." She stopped taking fruit out of the grocery bag. "Unless you'd rather I didn't."

"Oh, no, stay. Please. I--uh--this is great. I really appreciate it." Scully nodded and went on preparing to cook, and Mulder said, "So is there anything you'd like me to do?"

"Do you have anything to drink with chicken?"

"I have beer, milk and Yoo-Hoo."

She smiled at him again and said, "Will you get a bottle of white wine, please, or the equivelant? Something that will go with chicken."

"You are the real Scully, right?" he teased gently.

"How would you like me to prove it?" She walked to him, a pear in her hand, and stood up on her toes to kiss him briefly.

"Does the real Scully do things like that?" she said in a low voice.

"Lately she has been. Somewhat infrequently, though."

"Well," Scully said as she went back to the counter--and it seemed to Mulder that her hips were swaying more than usual"she'll just have to do it more often, won't she."

Mulder sighed happily. Fortune, in its mysterious way, had chosen to smile on him this day and he was not going to quibble with it any further. He picked up his carkeys from the desk and said, "I won't be long."

"This will be ready in forty-five minutes."

"I'll be back before then." He started to go, then went back to her and hugged her quickly around her waist. She gasped but he put that to surprise, since she reached back and stroked his face.

"You're perfect," he whispered into her ear, squeezed her again and left.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Scully was nervous. She didn't say so, of course, but Mulder could see it. She ate slowly and wiped her mouth frequently with her napkin, and whenever she caught herself touching him absently she would stiffen and pull away.

Something, Mulder thought, is up. And he thought he knew what it was, too.

When they had finished eating and were cleaning up, Scully slowly the wiped the counter with a paper towel and Mulder watched her face as he put the dishes away. He said, "That was really good chicken.

What was on it?"

"Lemon pepper."

"I liked it. Usually I bake chicken with garlic."

She nodded, balled up the paper towel and tossed it into the garbage.

"But I think you didn't want garlic tonight."

"No, I didn't." She surveyed the kitchen and said, "Well, you're decently fed. I think I'll be on my way."

"Don't go yet," Mulder said. "Stay a while. Let's play."

She rubbed her neck and said, "You want me to kick your ass again at Super Mario Brothers?"

"That wasn't exactly the kind of playing I had in mind, but if that's what you want . . ."

She shook her head, rubbing the back of her neck absently.

"I'm really not in the mood for a video game. How about a movie?"

"What do you want to see?"

"You choose."

"Mmkay," he said, leading her towards his video collection.

"There's my two Disney movies, my testosterone classics--" She chuckled: she'd given those movies that nickname--"my great films, and then the videos that aren't mine. What do you think?"

"I wouldn't mind a testosterone classic. Something with lots of explosions," she said.

"And many love scenes filmed in soft focus," Mulder said, and Scully paused to smile at him a moment before plucking a box off the shelf.

"The first 'Highlander' it is, then."

He grinned at her and put the tape into the machine, and they settled themselves on the couch. Scully leaned her head against his shoulder and Mulder held her loosely around her waist. Before Connor MacLeod won his first duel, however, Mulder noticed Scully was restless, rearranging her legs and squirming her shoulders.

"Aren't you comfortable?"

"You're bony."

Mulder chuckled. "Bony?"

"Right here." She poked his hip.

"You could lie your head down."

"Then I'll fall asleep."

"I have no problem with that."

"I wouldn't be comfortable."

"Scully," he said seriously, "what's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"You're never this fidgety. Tell me what's up."

"Nothing's up, I'm just not comfortable."

"You need a back rub," he decided. "Turn around."

"I'm watching the movie."

"Then sit on the floor."

She sighed but moved to the floor between his feet. He placed his hands on her shoulders and whistled. "You are tense! Did something happen today you didn't tell me about?"

"No." She leaned her head forward. "Will you rub right here?"

she said, indicating the base of her neck, and so Mulder circled his thumbs above, below and over the protruding vertebrae. He moved his hands up and massaged the base of her skull as well, and down to rub her shoulder blades.

Soon she was so relaxed she swayed slightly with the rhythm of his hands. Mulder swept her hair back from her face so he could see her expression, and she murmured, "Mm, don't stop yet, Mulder."

"You look sleepy."

"I'm not," she said softly. "I'm wide awake."

"Oh," Mulder said. He went on rubbing her shoulders for a moment, and then let his hands drop as Scully turned and rose onto her knees.

She supported herself on his thighs and leaned forward, and studied him a moment before softly touching her lips to his.

It was a solemn kiss, and Mulder didn't smile when she moved away.

"You sure you're okay?"

"I'm better now."

"Well, that's good."

She cupped his face in her hands. "Is it all right if I kiss you?"

"Always," he said, so she kissed him again.

"Do you realize," he said when they parted again for breath, "that this is only the sixth time we've kissed?"

"Is that all? Surely it's been more."

"Well, only six separate occasions. I've lost track of actual kisses. It's not much, though." He stroked her cheek with the backs of her fingers. "All things considered, it's not much."

"Oh, Mulder," she said, teasing her lips against his mouth, "you want to get laid, don't you."

"Scully!" he said, not sure if he was only pretending to be shocked.

"It's okay. It's very flattering . . ." She flicked her tongue on his cheek. "Tell me something."

"What?" He closed his eyes, but the kiss he expected didn't come. He opened his eyes again.

Scully said softly, her hands lightly kneading his thighs, "If I need you to go slow, you would, wouldn't you? And if I asked you to stop--if I needed you to stop--would you?"

"Of course." He touched her cheek and she closed her eyes.

"Of course I would, Scully."

"Good. That's good to know," she said, lowering her head for a moment. She kissed him abruptly, wrapping her arms around his neck.

She let him go just as abruptly, got to her feet and held out her hand to him. Her face was nervous and excited.

"Scully," he said cautiously.

"Well, are we or aren't we?"

"I hope we are."

"Come on, then." She opened and closed her hand. "I would like to be comfortable."

"Okay," Mulder whispered. He put his hand in hers and stood, and they walked quietly to his bedroom. He wasn't sure who was trembling harder, Scully or himself.

She sat on the edge of the bed and Mulder sat down beside her. It struck him as she kissed his face, exactly what she said and what it meant. He said softly, "Slow like you borrow my pajamas and sleep over tonight, or slow like we take our own sweet time, kiss a lot, talk some, and make love around dawn?"

"Either," she said, "both. Oh, Mulder, you taste so good right here." She licked him below his ear and kissed his mouth. She was going to make him delirious, he thought, with these sweetly passionate kisses and her warm roving hands.

Mulder pulled himself farther onto the bed and lay back, and Scully smiled and lay down with him, her head on his chest. She stroked his chest and started kissing him through his shirt, and moved back up to his mouth again.

Kissing was easy. Kissing they had done before. Kissing they were pros at. It was the moving farther part that made him nervous, that he had tried before with minimal success.

In high school he had dated a girl named Linda Kessler, a pretty, brunette, pure-minded girl with perfect breasts that taunted him beneath her angora sweaters. Touching her breast as they made out had been tantamount to pitching for the Yankees, and he held no hope his entire junior year of getting any further: not to her skin, which he imagined was palely pink and warm, and not between her knees, which were dimpled and smooth between the top of her socks and the hem of her skirts.

Twenty years later, he thought with a dry chuckle, and he still couldn't get past second base.

"Do your knees have dimples, Scully?" he whispered and she laughed from her throat.

"No, they're just kind of round."

"Sweet little Scully knees," he said, squeezing one affectionately through her trousers. "Sweet little Scully elbows . . ." He kissed the inside of one elbow below the short sleeve of her blouse. "Sweet, sweet Scully . . ." He kissed her mouth again and she cupped his face in her hands. Her legs fell open easily and wrapped around him, and as he kissed her she made soft hungry sounds in her throat.

Ground control to Major Tom, Mulder thought, countdown's started, engines on. Her shirt had ridden up from her waistband and there was a tantalizing patch of skin exposed: her belly button, a little indentation in her smooth stomach. He circled it with his fingertips and then moved down her body to kiss the soft skin.

"You're so sweet, Scully," he murmured as he kissed her belly, which quivered beneath his mouth. "Sweet as strawberry pie . . ." She laughed again and he smiled, glad she was enjoying herself. He began kissing her again, slowly, everywhere. "Sweet tummy . . . sweet thighs . . . sweet little feet . . . sweet lips . . ." They parted beneath his and Scully thrust her hands into his hair to pull him down and kiss him deeply.

"Sweet," she whispered. Her body arched up towards him. "So sweet."

He caught the hand that caressed his face and kissed it, "Sweet hands, Scully . . . your sweet pretty fingers . . ." He kissed these with particular tenderness. He had never told her his thoughts that night in February when he drove to her apartment, the chords to that strange song echoing in his head, hoping beyond hope that all he would find was sleepy Scully. He had thought he might find her fingers--her slender, strong fingers with their perfect oval nails--in Pfaster's box of frozen peas. He had thought Pfaster might mail him her head in a box. He had thought if he found Pfaster and Scully's violated body that nothing would stop him from pounding Pfaster into a pulp.

She stroked his face. "What is it?"

"Nothing." He shook his head. "Thinking too much."

"Stop thinking and kiss me."

"Yes, love." He kissed her. She kissed him back, so of course he had to return it. And she was so generous that she had to give him the kiss again.

This is going well, Mulder thought, this is going very well.

She didn't stop kissing him as he unbuttoned her blouse and slid his hand over her smooth soft skin. She didn't stop kissing him as he cupped her breast in his hand and played with her nipple. She didn't stop kissing him even as he turned her beneath him and his hips thrust against hers. She moaned into his mouth as he humped her through their clothes, her own hips bumping up to meet him.

He broke off the kiss first. "I'm sorry--this isn't--you have no idea how much I want to be inside you--"

Scully's fingers scraped the back of his neck. "Yes, I do."

"I'll try to slow down, honey, but--but oh, God--" He barely stopped kissing her long enough to speak. "You know how much I love you, you know how much I want to please you, you know me, you know how well I know you--you're all I think about--"

He felt her stiffen and she shoved at his shoulders. "Get off!"

"Scully--"

"Get off me!"

Mulder rolled away and Scully sat up, gasping and fumbling with the buttons on her shirt. "Scully? Honey? What is it?"

Her hands dropped from her shirt and she said softly, "It's nothing. I need to catch my breath, that's all."

"Scully, it's not nothing. Not if you push me away."

"I'm sorry. I--really, it's nothing. I'm sorry. Kiss me." She twisted towards him and kissed him sloppily, grabbing his neck.

He hated to do it, but he pulled away, just enough to separate their mouths. "Scully," he whispered. "Talk to me."

She breathed against his lips and then moved away from him, sighing, to lean against his pillows. She did up another button on her blouse and said quietly, "He had me down on the floor and tied my hands behind my back. He said, 'You're the one who got away.

You're all I think about.'"

He didn't need to ask who "he" was. "So when I said it . . . oh, honey." He rubbed the sole of her foot gently. "I'm sorry."

"You didn't know."

"Is there more you haven't told me?"

"Most of it's a blur, Mulder." She had finished buttoning her shirt, and she played with the tails of her shirt before sighing and letting them drop. "It's stupid that I still get like this. I shouldn't get like this. I know it's you."

"It's not stupid. It's understandable."

"You know I still can't take a bath?" She didn't look at him, focusing instead on some distant point beyond his shoulder. Her fist dug into her thigh. "I've tried. I double-check all the locks.

Triple- check them. I run the water and I put in my favorite bath oil . . .

and I still can't do it. It looks like the Black Lagoon. It looks like the undertow will suck me away. And it's just a bathtub."

"Give yourself time, honey."

"I've given myself time!" Her lower lip trembled and she bit down on it. "And now here we are and I--" She got onto her knees and wrapped her arms around him, laying her head on his shoulder.

"I do want you.

I want you so much but I can't stop panicking, Mulder."

"Oh, Scully," he whispered, his hands on her back, "Scully, love.

Psychological healing does not take place on a set schedule."

"I used to love sex, Mulder. I used to enjoy it. I'd do anything to feel that way again."

"You just need more time," Mulder murmured, but it was mostly by reflex because his mind was whirling with the picture of a Scully who loved sex. In his arms, beneath him, over him, her friendly thighs open to receive him.

"I should go." She got off the bed.

"You don't have to go, Scully, stay. I'd feel better if I knew you were sleeping here."

"I really should go, Mulder," she said again, already tucking in her shirt, her back to him. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Scully--"

"Will you walk to me my car?" She paused long enough to look at him, and he nodded and slid off the bed. "Or maybe you shouldn't," she added, glancing briefly below his waist.

He ran his hand through his hair and smiled at her sheepishly.

"Think I'll get arrested for public lewdness?"

"You might." She smiled at him, somewhat regretfully, he thought.

"I'll be fine. I'll call you later."

"Yes, please, do." He walked her to the door instead and she allowed a hug. "I love you," he whispered into her ear, and she squeezed him extra hard.

"I know you do. Good night, Mulder." She gave him a sad smile and walked slowly down the hall to his elevator. Mulder stood in his doorway until the elevator doors slid shut.

He sighed heavily and shut his door, and leaned his head against it for a moment. The leaning turned into a soft banging, which kept up until his head began to ache.

The pain, however, did nothing to cause his erection to subside.

"Fuck," he muttered, rubbing his forehead where he was sure there would be a bruise tomorrow. Try explaining that to Scully. I was so frustrated with our situation I had to bang my head against the wall for a while . . .

"Fuck," he said again with a defeated sigh, and went back into his bedroom. He threw himself onto his bed and stared at the ceiling.

Is it that fine a line, he thought, between love and obsession?

If you nudge me just enough into the shadows, do I become Pfaster?

He felt tears in his eyes and wiped them up with the back of his hand. No, he thought. It was her living body that appealed to him, her responses that excited him. Her hands touching him, her mouth open to him, her throaty moans sounding in his ears . . . Mulder groaned. This train of thought was not going to get him to sleep any faster.

He opened the fly on his jeans and lay still for a few moments more, his hand on his stomach. Just do it, he thought, get it over with, get some sleep.

He stripped off his clothes and lay down again, glad he'd taken down that bizarre mirror. He didn't want to see himself as he did this. He kept his eyes open as he grasped his cock roughly, instead visualizing Scully: her bright head bent over his lap, her neck as fragile as a flower stem, her tongue and then her lips caressing his cock with eagerness and hunger . . . No, he thought again, on top of me. Her head back, her body flushed and sweaty as she raised and lowered herself on his cock, her nails digging into his chest, her hips bucking, and Scully groaning his name, groaning Fuck me, Mulder"Fuck!" he shouted as hot semen covered his hand, stomach and thighs. He fumbled for a tissue, wiping the tears from his face before wiping up the mess. He balled up the tissue and threw it towards the garbage can, turning onto his stomach without bothering to check if the tissue had fallen into the can.

Mulder pulled up all his blankets and cocooned himself into them, even though it had to be eighty in the bedroom already. I just want to sleep, he thought, squeezing his eyes shut. Just a peaceful night's sleep . . .

The dreams were heartbreaking. This time, he and Scully were going slow. Her touch was tender and giving. Her breasts were warm under his palms. His tongue was able to go all the places she was hiding from him. And this time when he cried, he cried for them both.


~memory~

Mulder was on the phone when Scully came into the office the next morning. She looked at him questioningly and he nodded and signaled her to the desk. He scribbled, "Case, New Mexico, we leave today," and handed her the notebook. Again she looked at him, a bit more skeptically than before, and he communicated through a few vague gestures that he would tell her as soon as he had finished on the phone. She waited, looking over his shoulder at his other notes as he took down their flight number and time. "Thank you," he told the booking clerk and hung up the phone.

Scully leaned against the edge of the desk. "Why is there a bruise on your forehead?"

"Oh--I tripped over my shoes this morning. Kiss make better?"

Mulder said hopefully, leaning forward in his chair.

She rolled her eyes and said, "We are at work."

"I know. Kiss me anyway?"

Dutifully she slipped a kiss onto the bruised area, and said briskly, "Does my memory deceive me or did you say something about a case?"

Mulder sighed and said, "A girl named Cristina Reyes and her cousin Reynaldo disappeared yesterday and their family is desperate to have them back. The details of the disappearance are right up our alley."

"Lights in the sky?"

"Lights in the sky," he confirmed, and she nodded.

"Why is the family desperate?" she said, already taking a requisition form out of the top desk drawer.

"Because Cristina was recently diagnosed with juvenile leukemia," Mulder said quietly, "and she was supposed to start chemo today."

"Oh, my," Scully said, visibly stunned by this news. "Does her family think she ran away?"

"No. Yesterday she, a cousin, and family friend went to an Anasazi site near their home, but last night only one of the boys came back."

"Do you think he killed the girl?" Scully said softly.

"I'm not ruling it out."

She nodded again, slowly this time. "All right. When do we leave?"

"I was hoping you'd say that. Eleven-oh-five, and pack hiking boots."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

The Albuquerque precinct lieutenant's name was Carl Reyes, and he had a prominently displayed picture of several children on his desk.

"This is Cristina," he said, turning the picture around to face them and pointing to one of the girls in the photograph, "and this is Rey," pointing to one of the boys.

"May I?" Mulder said, and at Lt. Reyes's nod he looked at the picture more closely. She was a pretty girl, with long black hair and braces on her teeth. "How old is this picture?"

"We took it last year. It's all the grandchildren in the family. The braces are off now. Agents, I know I didn't mention it over the phone but it's an important detail. Rey--Reynaldo--he's my son. We're most concerned about Cristina because she needs to be in a hospital, but I hope," he paused a moment, looking at another photograph on his desk, "I hope wherever Cristina is we'll find Rey there too."

"What do you think happened?" Scully said softly.

"I don't know what to think. Our suspect's name is Justin Black and he's been friends with Cristina since they were children.

He'd be the last person you'd think would hurt anybody. He's always been a good kid, but even good kids have secrets."

"We'd like to talk to him," said Mulder.

The lieutenant nodded. "I'll have him in a examining room in a few minutes. He's going to tell you lights from the sky took her.

Ever heard anything like that?"

"We have," Mulder said.

"Does it ever turn out to be true?"

"Sometimes."

"Right." He ran his finger over the top of the picture frame.

"If he killed her I'm not going to go soft on him, no matter how much I hate it. He's always been a good kid but if he's killed my boy . . . if he's killed Cristina . . . I'm sure you understand how important this is. Not just to the family, to the community too."

"We know," Mulder assured him, and Reyes sighed and pushed his chair back from the desk to stand.

"I'll go make sure Justin's ready for you. Excuse me, Agents." He left the office and shut the door behind him.

Scully said after a moment, "Before you say abduction--"

"I wasn't going to say abduction."

"I find it hard to believe with this entire scenario you're not thinking abduction. Lights in the sky, the Anasazi connection--"

"A terminally ill child," he said, looking at her intently, and she bit her lip.

"Do you think it was because of her cancer?"

"One way or another."

The door opened and an officer leaned in her head. "Agents?

Will you come with me, please?"

Mulder and Scully looked at each other and got up to follow.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

The suspect--or the survivor--sat nervously in the orange county jail jumpsuit, his hands folded together. He rocked slightly as he waited, and looked up sharply when the officer let Mulder and Scully into the tiny examining room. He was just a kid, seventeen, good-looking with short black hair, and his voice cracked a little when he said, "Should I have a lawyer?"

"Do you want one present?" Scully said.

His eyes darted from her face to Mulder's, and he said, "Nah.

Tio Carl's already decided I'm guilty. Nothing I say is going to make a difference anyway."

"Are you guilty, Justin?" said Mulder, and the boy flinched.

"Are you here to entrap me or to hear my story? I know how you Feds treat us."

"Us?" said Mulder. "You mean kids?"

"I mean Native Americans and you know it." He crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at them.

Scully said, "We're here to find Cristina. Right now you're the only one who can help us."

"I don't know where she is. I can tell you what happened but I don't know what it means."

"Tell us what happened, then."

Justin blew out a puff of air. "Crissy's sick. We've known it a long time but she wouldn't go to a hospital. She said the cure would kill her before the cancer did. But all the prayers and the blessings and stuff, they weren't doing anything for her. Finally her family said, You've got to go to a hospital. But I guess you've heard all this from Tio Carl."

"Tell us your version, Justin," Scully said gently.

"Yeah. So yesterday she called me and she said, I want to go out to Pueblo Bonito, I want to ask for a blessing from the ancestors for when I go into the hospital. Rey, he's Tio Carl's son, he'd come out too to help her walk."

"Is Cristina Native American too?"

"No, their family came up from Guatemala. But we have this thing-- Rey, Crissy, and I--we've always felt really at home at Pueblo Bonito, so we kind of figure it's, you know, home, in a way.

That they're, like, family. I mean, nobody knows what happened to the Anasazi, right? So maybe some of them stayed out here and married Navajos and some of them went down to Guatemala and married Mayans. It could happen. So we'd go out there and we'd commune." He dropped his eyes. "That's what we called it. Communing with the ancestors. Looking to them for guidance. Her parents, my parents, Rey's parents--they all thought it's a phase. It helped Crissy, that's all that mattered."

Even as he listened to the story, cataloguing it for truth and lies, Mulder had to watch Scully. They'd fallen into the good cop-bad cop routine without even thinking about it, and she listened to the boy intently, nodding to encourage him. It was hard to lie to her face.

He didn't think Justin was doing it.

"So we went. We drove up. We made the hike. We went to our favorite kiva. Crissy cried a little and told us how scared she was, and we talked and prayed. And then the sky got really dark, so we thought we should go. I don't know if you guys have ever been in the desert during a thunderstorm but they can be fierce, and we didn't want Crissy to get sicker." Tears were in his eyes now and he wiped them impatiently with his forearm.

"We were starting to hike out, and it began to rain and there was thunder and lightening, and then--and then . . ." He stopped, visibly struggling for control, and said, "And then a bolt of lightening came from the sky and took Crissy."

"You mean it struck her?" Scully said quietly.

"No. I mean it took her. It struck where she was and then she wasn't there. It took her. The lightening took her."

"Go on," said Scully.

"Rey screamed 'Crissy!' and started running, and lightening took him too. And I started running and I kept thinking that lightening would hit me too, but it didn't. So I drove home and told everybody what happened and now they think I killed her." He was frowning with the effort to hold back his tears. "Can you believe that? Crissy's been my best friend since I was five and now they think I killed her."

"Did you?" Mulder said bluntly, and Justin glared at him.

"No," he said just as bluntly. "I'd never hurt her. Never.

I'd do anything for her to get better but I'd never hurt her."

"Then tell us how to find her," Mulder said.

"I don't know!" Justin said between clenched teeth. "I wish I could tell you, I wish I could say exactly where she is, but I don't, I don't know anything."

"If we find out you've lied to us, Justin--"

"You'll what? Put me in jail?" he scoffed. "Can I go now? I want to go back to my cell."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Scully was quiet as they drove to their downtown motel. She had turned the air conditioning as high as the little rental car could go and aimed the vents straight onto her, but Mulder didn't think it was only the heat that perturbed her.

He said, "I don't think he was lying to us about what he saw."

"The shock of seeing his friend struck might have convinced him the lightening actually took her instead of killed her," Scully said, her eyes on the passing streets.

"Then the park rangers would have found the bodies."

"True."

They stopped at a light and he took the opportunity to study her.

"Are you okay?"

"Of course."

"Scully--"

"I'm fine, Mulder."

Traffic started up again and he said when a few blocks had passed, "Because if it's too much for you right now-"

"It's not too much for me. We've faced this a hundred times before."

She said after a moment, "We should talk to her family, and Justin's, too. Maybe they'd had an argument, maybe he was scared about her cancer and thought a mercy killing was in order. Maybe Cristina did.

I want to examine her room, maybe she kept a diary."

"We should talk to her parents," Mulder said. "But I don't think euthanasia is the issue here."

"If she killed herself Justin might not tell us."

"But I don't--" He stopped at her look. "I think this is the place."

He pointed to one of the signs on the road ahead. "Scully?"

"Yes?"

"Were you ever--did you ever think about--when you were sick--"

"Suicide?" she said quietly.

"Yeah."

She didn't answer until they pulled into the hotel parking lot, and she said, "I never thought about suicide itself but sometimes I thought--sometimes I wouldn't dread death so much because at least then the pain would stop."

"Oh, Scully," he said softly.

"Oh, don't. It's ancient history."

"You're so brave," Mulder said genuinely. "I don't know if I could handle it."

"It's not about bravery, Mulder," she said, embarrassed, and she unbuckled her seatbelt. "You just endure, that's all. Come on, let's check in, we have work to do."

He got out of the car too and said, as she started to walk towards the front office, "Hey, Scully."

"Hm?" She paused, looking at him over her shoulder.

"I'm glad you could bear it. I'd--I'd really miss you."

"I'd miss you too," she said softly. "Come on."


~memory~

Jim and Salma Reyes lived in a long, low adobe house in the suburbs of Albuquerque. Carl Reyes had picked up Mulder and Scully from their motel and driven them out to the house. He stayed in the background while they talked to Cristina's parents, hovering in the doorway of the girl's room with his arms crossed.

"This Anasazi fascination didn't worry us," Jim said. He, his wife and Scully sat on Cristina's bed, which was white oak with a pink coverlet and a pink canopy overhead. Cristina has a bookcase of the same wood, filled with CDs, books and worn stuffed animals.

There was an old Underwood typewriter on her desk as well as a small CD player.

She had hung postcards and pasted stickers of saints over her bed, along with a small wood and silver crucifix. "We thought, It's good to be interested in history. We thought it was healthy." Jim paused, and Salma quietly took his hand.

"Mr. Reyes," Scully said, "how close are Cristina and Justin?"

"They've been inseparable since they were children. They've been playmates and best friends and-endash " He had to stop again.

Salma said, "They've been talking about getting married after college. Or sooner, if Cristina didn'tendash -if she doesn't get better."

"And you had no objections to that?" Scully said.

"They're very young but Justin has never given us a cause to worry."

"My brother thinks Justin hurt Cristina but I don't believe him," Jim interjected. "Justin has never raised his hand or his voice to her, or to anyone. He's always been a good boy."

"Did you talk to him?" Salma said anxiously. "He told you what happened?"

"We spoke with him earlier today."

Salma nodded slowly. "If you talk to the Navajo people around here they will tell you stories about Pueblo Bonito, about any of the Anasazi sites. They will tell you there is something there that isn't quite right, that is very frightening. Many people in Albuquerque are afraid of the pueblo. They say strange things happen there. But Justin was never afraid. He loved the Pueblo, so Cristina loved it too."

"How does Reynaldo fit into their relationship?" Scully said in her soft voice.

"Carl and Rey had lived with us since my sister-in-law died,"

Jim said. "Cristina has always been a little mama to him, even though they're only a year apart."

"She has a very big heart," said Salma. "She's always been the defender. Justin liked him. The three of them are very strong together."

"Has he been ill recently?" Mulder said, and all three of them looked at him with surprise because he hadn't said much, choosing instead to look around Cristina's room.

"Reynaldo has asthma," Salma said. "He has since he was small."

Mulder nodded and picked up a medallion that hung from Cristina's necklace tree. "Which saint is this?"

Salma took the medallion and smiled tenderly. "This is St.

Peregrine, the patron of cancer patients. This necklace was a gift from Cristina's classmates."

"And who are the others?" He indicated the pictures and stickers Cristina had placed over her bed.

"Most are of the Blessed Virgin, of course," Salma said, pointing.

"This is St. Agnes, she carries a lamb, and St. Catherine, she carries a wheel."

"Protectors of young girls," Mulder said.

"Yes, that's right. What do you think it means, Agent Mulder?"

"I don't know," he said honestly. "What do you think, Scully?"

Scully paused, then said, "I liked St. Agnes when I was a girl, too.

She made me feel safe." Salma smiled at her kindly, and after a moment Scully smiled back. She said, "Does Cristina keep a diary or a journal?"

"Yes, but surely you don't need to read it. We have always respected her privacy."

"It may give us some clues, Mrs. Reyes," Mulder said apologetically.

Salma looked at Jim, who nodded his consent. Salma rose and opened the top drawer of Cristina's desk. She took out a small leather-bound notebook, which was held closed by a strap of leather that wrapped around a large button on the front cover. She gave the notebook to Scully. "I don't want to know my daughter's secrets,"

she said, then added, "unless you think I should."

"We're just looking for clues to find her," Scully assured her.

"My brother doesn't think you'll find her alive," Jim said softly, and Carl shifted uncomfortably in his position in the doorway. "Please prove him wrong, Agents."

"Please," Salma said.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

As he drove them back to their motel, Carl glanced repeatedly at the diary in Scully's hands. "I don't know what you're going to find in there," he said finally. "I don't think anything was going on with Cristina that her family didn't know about. She's perfectly normal. Always has been. Just a good, sweet, giving girl."

"I'm sure that's what we'll find," Scully said.

"But even the best kids have their secrets," Mulder murmured, and Carl glanced back at him in the rearview mirror.

"They do. That's what worries me."

"Lt. Reyes," Mulder said, "were you aware that Justin calls you Uncle?"

Carl glanced at him again. "Yeah. I know. He calls Cristina's parents Tio Jim and Tia Salma too. Do you think that's significant?"

"I think it's interesting, considering."

"Considering? You mean considering that I arrested him for murder, that he still calls me Tio Carl like he has since he was a boy. Yes, that's very interesting. I might call it manipulation."

"Or you might call it hope," Mulder said.

Carl snorted as he pulled off the street into the motel parking lot.

"Agent Mulder, you were recommended to me as an expert in the unexplained but I'm beginning to think the explanation is very simple. Justin killed Cristina. Maybe to end her suffering, maybe they had a quarrel. And because he was there and might betray him, Justin killed my boy too. That is what I believe-endash not this 'lights from the sky' bullshit. We should treat this case as a homicide, nothing more."

"Lt. Reyes," Scully said, "were there thunderstorms in the vicinity of Pueblo Bonito yesterday?"

Carl said reluctantly, "Yes. But that still doesn't mean what Justin says is true."

"No, it doesn't," said Scully, "but there might be a correlation between what he says happened and what actually did. I know you're worried and grieving-endash but Justin is, too."

Carl stared out the windshield, his nostrils flaring, and he said gruffly, "Well, you folks can judge for yourselves tomorrow.

Dress for hiking-endash and heat." He got out to help Scully down from the high SUV, and once both she and Mulder were out of the car he took off quickly.

"I hope I haven't upset him," Scully said.

"Justin's right. He's already made up his mind. Hey," Mulder gestured to the diary, "do you want me to read that?"

"I thought I would. After Samantha's-endash " She paused, biting her lip.

"I'm okay with it, Scully. I'm more worried about you." She'd been the picture of professionalism all day, but he wanted to spare her any pain that he could, especially after the debacle of the night before.

"Let's go inside," Scully said. "I'd rather not discuss this in the parking lot." She took out her keys and unlocked her door.

"Do you trust me in your room, Scully?" Mulder said in a low voice.

She looked at him with her eyebrows raised as if she expected a joke, then said, "You're not serious."

"I-endash "

"You are." She sighed and opened the door. "Come in, Mulder.

We need to talk about more than the diary."

He followed her into the room but stayed by the door as she put down the diary and took of her blazer and holster. She sat on the edge of the bed and patted the coverlet beside her. "Sit," she said. "Please."

Hesitantly Mulder took his place beside her. "Last night was my fault. I pushed you too fast."

"Mulder, I wanted to be there."

"But you also couldn't leave fast enough."

"Well, you didn't want to see me have a complete meltdown, did you?"

Mulder leaned his face in his hands and groaned softly, "Oh, Scully."

She moved closer to him and put her arm over his back. She leaned her cheek against his shoulder. "I didn't mean it like that."

"Then how did you mean it?" He dropped his hands and looked at her.

"Do I frighten you, Scully?"

"No," she said earnestly.

"But the thought of having sex with me does."

She started to answer, then shut her mouth and sighed. "I'm no good at relationships, Mulder. I always do something to muck them up. I want to be with you but I don't know how to make it happen. And now this whole fear thing," she said with some disgust, "I don't know how to move past this."

"You could go back into therapy," Mulder suggested gently, and she rolled her eyes.

"I hate being in therapy."

"But if you need it, Scully-endash "

"I don't know what I need! No, that's not true. What I need, Mulder, what I need is to be able to go to bed with you and sleep with you and feel you with me all night long and to feel *safe*.

That's what I need." She added softly when Mulder didn't answer, "And you need to tell me how you really got that bruise."

"I was a little frustrated after you left last night."

"And?"

"And I hit my head a few times against the wall."

"A few times?"

"Several times."

"Oh, Mulder," Scully said, and lifted his head to kiss the bruise again. Her lips gently touched his temples and his nose, and even as he waited, breathless, touched his lips as well.

When she ended the kiss she smiled at him shyly. "Kiss number seven," Mulder whispered.

"Lucky number seven."

"Can I sleep with you tonight?" Mulder asked abruptly-endash too abruptly, if her expression was any indication. "I'll be good.

I promise."

"I don't think that would be appropriate."

"Inappropriate is for salad forks and white after Labor Day.

I need you. You need me. You can even handcuff me to the bed if that will make you feel better."

"I'm not going to do that, Mulder, but I appreciate the offer."

"So . . . does that mean I can stay with you tonight?"

He thought she wanted to say yes, but she said softly, "No.

It's not the right time."

"Okay," Mulder said, resigned. It was what he expected, really. "You hungry?"

"No. I'm fine."

"Guess I'll go, then. You'll call me if you need anything, right?

Anything at all. I'll be here in a second."

"I don't think-endash thank you. If I need anything I'll call you."

"Anything at all," Mulder said again on his way out the door.

"I know. Good night, Mulder."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Mulder knew he was dreaming. He recognized Scully's front room as he passed through it, his feet floating smoothly over the ground. Her things were strewn everywhere: broken glass all over the floor, books pulled off the shelves, blood on the carpet.

Scully, he called to her in a soundless voice. Scully, where are you?

He heard water dripping and changed course for her bathroom.

The door was partially open and he pushed it the rest of the way.

He could see her in the bathtub, facing away from him.

Scully, he said again. Scully, are you all right?

There was something wrong with the water. It was too dark. He went to the tub, calling her name: Scully, Scully.

He touched her shoulder and her head fell back. Her eyes were open, staring, red with broken capillaries. Rictus had pulled her lips back from her teeth in an obscene parody of her smile. A nylon stocking was knotted around one bruised wrist. Her neck was bruised and her throat was sliced open, crimson with blood that had dripped down her chest and stained the water red.

Mulder stumbled backwards away from the body and caught sight of himself in the mirror. The face was not his own: it was forgettable and evil at once, with blank eyes and a mouth that never smiled. Pfaster's face. Mulder looked down: Pfaster's buttondown shirt and jeans were stained with blood. His hands were gory with it.

He scrubbed his hands furiously on his shirt front. I want to wake up, he chanted, I want to wake up, and the ringing in his ears grew shrill and insistent.

"I want to wake up now!"

He jerked awake, panting, knowing he'd said the words out loud. He sat up, dry-scrubbed his hands over his face and turned on the bedside lamp. His hands were clean.

"Of course they are, stupid," he muttered and picked up the ringing phone. "Scully?"

There was a slight pause, then Carl Reyes said, "I'm sorry, I think I have the wrong room."

"It's all right, Lt. Reyes, you've got me. I was expecting Agent Scully. Has something happened?" He rubbed his eyes. Just a dream.

"I hardly believe it, Agent Mulder. Rey-endash my boyendash he's come home."

Mulder pushed aside the sheets and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Is he all right?"

"He's unhurt. He's shaken up. The park rangers found him earlier tonight and brought him home." It sounded to Mulder like Carl was crying. "He's home. He's home, Agent Mulder."

"Agent Scully and I will be there as soon as we can." He clicked off the line and dialed Scully's room.

She picked up at the first ring. "Scully."

He felt more than his usual relief at the sound of her voice.

"It's me. Did I wake you?"

"No. What's going on?"

"Carl Reyes just called me. Reynaldo has come home."

"Is he alive?"

"Yes. Alive and unhurt. I want to question him right away."

"I'll be ready in a minute."

"Scully-endash you haven't slept at all?"

"It's only one-thirty. I've been reading the diary. I'll tell you about it in the car."

"All right." He hung up the phone and got up to dress.


~memory: June 2000~

Barely five minutes later, Scully knocked briskly on Mulder's hotel room door. He opened it and gestured her inside, saying, "I'll be ready in a second." He sat down on the edge of the bed to finish tying his boots. Scully had changed her suit for jeans, Tshirt and a casual-looking blazer. She had the diary tucked carefully in the crook of her arm.

"Are you okay?" she said as she shut the door. "Your face is pale."

"Yeah." He smoothed down his jeans and stood.

"You know, I can hear you through the wall."

"Oh?"

She watched him as he shrugged into his holster and put on his leather jacket. "Just before the phone rang I thought I heard you say something." She went on when he didn't answer, "It sounded like 'I want to wake up now.'"

He couldn't remember where he'd put the car keys, and hunted through the pile of papers and change on the table. Finally he found them in his pants, which were draped over the back of the chair. "I had a nightmare," he admitted at last, tucking the keys into his jacket pocket.

"Oh, Mulder," Scully said quietly, and crossed the room to put her arms around his waist. She pressed her cheek to his back.

"Tell me what you dreamed, Mulder."

He closed his eyes for a moment and put his hand on top of hers. She was warm. Not feverishly hot, not clammy and cold. Just warm. He said, "I don't want to, Scully. I just want to forget it."

"I promise it will make you feel better." She squeezed his waist.

"Isn't that what you always tell me?"

"Scully, it was a really freaky dream."

There was amusement in her voice. "You think I can't take it?"

"I dreamed that I killed you." He expected her to let him go and step away, but she didn't. She squeezed his waist again and nuzzled her cheek against his back. He said, lowering his head, "I dreamed that I killed you like Pfaster killed those women. I had his face, I wore his clothes, but it was me. It was me inside."

"You're nothing like Pfaster, Mulder," she whispered. "He was evil.

There's nothing evil in you."

"Sometimes I wonder."

"Shh..." She stroked his chest and turned him around. She held his chin in her fingers and smiled at him gently. "You're a hero, Mulder.

Not a devil."

Mulder felt tears in his eyes and blinked, hard. "Thanks," he whispered and bent to hug her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he felt the brush of her breath against his ear as she exhaled.

He kissed her forehead and she smiled up at him.

"It's time to go to work," she said seriously, and he nodded.

"I'm ready now." He kept his arm around her shoulders as they walked out to the car.

"I've been reading the diary," Scully said again when they were in the car and on their way. "She's very articulate for a girl her age."

"And what have you learned about the inner life of Cristina Reyes?"

"She intermixes English and Spanish a lot. Her favorite subject is chemistry. She wants to go to college but is worried about the cost so she's applying for scholarships. She wants Justin to go to college but doesn't think he wants to. She and Justin have been having sex for almost a year--"

"Oh, there it is. "

"endash -but they haven't since she was diagnosed."

"So, reeling with guilt, she joins him in his Anasazi fascination even though she doesn't agree with it?"

"No--reeling with guilt, she thinks her leukemia is punishment for premarital sex."

"Oh, no," Mulder said softly. "Poor kid."

"She's also afraid that Justin will stop loving her if she gets really sick. That's one reason why she didn't want to do chemotherapy: she was afraid she would lose her hair." Scully glanced at Mulder, her fingers twisting the leather band that held the diary closed. "Justin really likes her hair."

"Okay. So . . . no clues about what they were planning for the other day?"

"None. She just wanted to pray."

"Does she believe it, that there are Anasazi spirits hanging around Pueblo Bonito?"

"Well . . ." Scully opened the diary and turned a few pages.

"She says a few times that Pueblo Bonito feels like a church to her. She's got something I like here . . ." She scanned the page and read, "'It doesn't matter who is listening to me there. I only know that I am heard.'"

"That's really nice."

"I thought so. I like her, Mulder. We have to find her."

"If she's there to be found."

Scully glanced at him again. "All right. What theory do you have now?"

"I don't. I have a lot of questions. I hope Rey can answer at least some of them."

Scully watched the street lights go by, then said pensively, "What if his story contradicts Justin's?"

"Then we tell Carl to keep Justin in jail, I suppose."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Reynaldo still had baby fat and round cheeks, and he wore jeans and a bright Santana T-shirt. The rest of the family were in pajamas and bathrobes, sleepy-eyed, but Rey paced around the living room like he'd been slurping espressos all day. He watched with interest as Scully laid Cristina's diary in Salma's hands.

"Did it help you at all?" Salma asked.

"Well . . ." She glanced at Mulder. "We know what she *wasn't* planning."

Salma nodded, looking disappointed, and stroked the leather cover lightly.

"We're sorry to keep you up, Rey," Scully said to him. "We're sure you're tired."

"Nah, I'm fine, I'm great, I feel great. But where's Crissy?

I don't get it. She should be here too."

"The park rangers who found you," Mulder said, "they didn't see any sign of her?"

"I thought maybe she'd come home already."

"So you think she's all right."

"Yeah, of course! I mean, I'm here. I'm great. That's weird, though, I thought maybe since we were taken at the same time they'd return us at the same time. Is Justin still gone too?"

"Justin wasn't taken," Scully said gently, and that stopped Rey's pacing.

"He wasn't? Wow." He sat down on the arm of the couch beside his father. "Tio Jim, I don't know where Crissy is if she's not here."

"It's all right, Rey," Jim said quietly. "That's why the FBI people are here."

"We need you to tell us what happened at Pueblo Bonito, Rey,"

Scully said in a gentle but firm tone.

"What did Justin tell you? Did you talk to Justin?"

"We've talked to Justin."

"Well, whatever he said, that's what happened. We went up there because Crissy wanted to pray and left when it got stormy--or tried to leave. Then the lightning came down . . ." He frowned and scratched his head. "I wasn't afraid. I remember that, but not much else. I'm sorry. There was the lightning . . . and then it was night time." He shook his head. "There's only whiteness in between."

"Not a place, not people?"

"No, ma'am."

"Rey," Mulder interjected, "the park rangers found you at the Pueblo itself?"

"No, I hiked down to the visitor's center."

"How's your asthma?"

Rey blinked, startled by the question, and took a deep breath. He let it out and said, "It's not bothering me at all."

Mulder nodded, and saw that Scully was looking at him with expectation. "Later," he said to her. "Lt. Reyes, I think it's time to release Justin Black."

"Papi?" Rey said. "Justin's in jail?"

"We thought he'd killed you and Cristina," Carl said.

Rey made a scoffing sound and got up from the couch. "Papi, this is Justin. Justin! Justin beat up bullies for me. How could you think that?"

"Because we couldn't find you," Carl said quietly. "Because we thought you were dead."

"Does he know I'm home?"

"No. He's probably asleep."

"Not if I know Justin. We need to tell him that I'm home.

I'll come with you, Papi, and you can let him go. He didn't hurt Cristina."

"Rey, you need to rest-endash "

"Now, Papi, tonight. Justin needs to know we're okay."

"But Cristina's not home yet," Mulder said softly.

"She will be. And soon, too. I'm sure of it," he said in the same absent way he'd told them about the lightning. He gave his head a little shake and said more firmly, "So are we going, Papi?

Or should I ask the FBI people to take me?"

Carl closed his eyes. "We'll go. Let me get dressed." He opened his eyes and stood, then added, "Let me see the agents out first." He went with Mulder and Scully to the tiny atrium of the house, and stopped with them before the door. "Thank you for coming so late," he said. "It was less helpful than I hoped."

"It was very helpful, I thought," Mulder said.

"I think in light of all this, I won't go with you to Chaco Canyon.

Releasing Justin is going to take most of the night, and then the paperwork-endash I can have a ranger meet you--"

"It's all right," Scully said. "We have a good map. We'll find the way."

"It's a strange place, the Pueblo," Carl said absently. "I've only been there a few times. It makes me feel . . . it's so ancient. Not a sense of history, I know what that feels like.

That's entirely different. Pueblo Bonito just feels . . . ancient."

He smiled at them, embarrassed. "Well, you'll see when you go there. Good night. Thank you for coming." He went back into the main part of the house.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

"Are you up for a really early breakfast?" Mulder asked as they drove back to their motel.

"We need to get some sleep if we're going to get to the Pueblo at a decent hour."

"I'm jonesin' for coffee and a Denver omelet."

"Coffee and greasy food are the last things you need at this hour, Mulder." She shifted in her seat and cleared her throat. "If you, um, if you'd like me to, uh, rub your shoulders so you can sleep . . ."

She glanced at him and just as quickly looked away.

He smiled at her. "Thank you. I'd like that."

She cleared her throat again. "Your room, though."

"Okay."

Scully nodded and stared fixedly out the window, her hands folded together in her lap.

Her little hands looked so tight and tense. Mulder reached over and put his hand on top of both of hers, and rubbed them until they loosened and wrapped around his.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

In Mulder's room, Scully waited while he put on his pajamas.

He got into bed, sitting up, and she knelt behind him. She put her hands on his shoulders and began to rub them, deep--penetrating him, he thought, to his muscles and bones. He closed his eyes and sighed, content.

"You know," Scully said after a while, "none of this makes sense to me. It was easier to believe we were looking at a homicide."

"I don't think they were abducted," Mulder murmured, almost too relaxed to speak.

"Oh?"

"It bears none of the earmarks of abduction . . ." He let his head fall to the side and exhaled. She had incredible hands. "I think it's more like spirit possession. . ."

"Possession."

"Something like that. I'm still working out all the kinks in the theory. When Albert Hosteen performed the Healing Way ceremony on me I saw several entities in the . . . spirit plane, I guess you could call it. I only spoke to my father and Deep Throat but there were several shadowy figures there as well."

"Who do you think they were?"

"I don't know. The spirits of my dead, maybe. Maybe they were guardians or guides. Anyway, Pueblo Bonito is a sacred place to a lot of groups around here, and it wouldn't surprise me if the kids tapped into the same kind of spiritual plane."

"But what you saw may have been an hallucination brought on by the ceremony. Weren't medicinal herbs of some kind involved?"

"I don't think it was entirely a creation of my own mind. I think the kids were brought to a healing place, and definitely not one of this world."

"That's why you asked about Rey's asthma."

"Yeah. Most asthmatics that I've known tend to wheeze even when they're not exerting themselves, and Rey was bouncing off the walls without so much as a whistle." He twisted his head to look back at her. "What do you think?"

"He didn't show any symptoms of asthma that I could see. What puzzles me is what you expect to accomplish when we got out there tomorrow. Just seeing the place?"

"That, of course, but also to feel the energies and figure out the attraction."

"Feel the energies," she repeated. "I see."

"You know, whenever you use that tone of voice I always want to check my teeth for spinach."

Scully chuckled, patted his shoulders and got off the bed.

"Good night, Mulder."

"Tuck me in?"

"Mulder . . ."

"Bedtime story? Glass of water? I bet you do a great 'Goodnight Moon.'" He pulled up the sheet and lay his head on the pillow

She smoothed the sheet over his chest and kissed him gently. "Good night. I'll be ready to go by six."

"Hey, Scully," he said as she was on her way out, and she paused and looked at him patiently. "Love you."

That brought a deep and quiet smile, and she said, "Love you.

Good night." She shut the door behind her.

In a few minutes he heard her through the wall, getting into bed and settling herself on the mattress. He brushed his fingers over the wall that separated them.

"Sleep sweet, Scully," he whispered, and closed his eyes.


~memory~

Pueblo Bonito in the morning sun struck Mulder and Scully silent.

The pueblo itself was on a shelf about halfway up the side of the canyon. The colors of its crumbling walls were subtle, baked by the sun of a thousand years, sienna and sepia and burnt umber. The canyon behind the pueblo was the colors of the sunrise, red and pink and gold. Even from the bottom of the trail Mulder could feel how much history this place had witnessed: births, deaths, wars, ceremonies, droughts, harvests. It exuded a strong feeling of great age and greater dignity. Despite its state of ruin and neglect, it was a grand sight.

They had bought a guidebook at the visitors center at the mouth of the canyon, which Scully consulted with a serious expression as they drove to the pueblo. There were only forestry service trucks in the visitors center parking lot, and no other cars were parked at the Pueblo Bonito trail. It appeared they had the canyon to themselves.

The reason was easy to see: even if the murder investigation would not keep tourists away, the thunderheads piling up at the horizon would.

They both had light knapsacks for extra water, sunblock and so on, and when she had looked her fill, Scully slung her knapsack on her back and put on her sunglasses. "Come on." She started up the trail that would take them up to the plateau, her footsteps sure on the hard-packed ground.

Mulder was slow to follow. He took another long look at the whole of the pueblo, and then at Scully, who had paused a few yards ahead and stood waiting for him. He slipped the straps of the knapsack over his shoulders and hurried to catch up.

It was hot and dusty, and the wind blew continuously. They both wore hiking boots, but Mulder still scanned the sides of the trail for rattlesnakes and scorpions. He saw only lizards sunning themselves on rocks and a jackrabbit dart into the brush.

He stumbled a little and Scully caught his elbow. "Careful,"

she murmured, and he smiled at her sheepishly.

"I wasn't looking where I was going."

"Just a little further," she said soothingly, and Mulder chuckled.

"Did I ever tell you I went to Greece?"

"No, when?"

"A break at university when I was nineteen. The water of the Mediterranean is *amazing,* Scully, it's so blue. But this," he gestured towards the approaching cliffside houses, "this reminds me of this village we stayed in, only in different colors and with less water."

"What was the village's name?" Strands of hair blew into her mouth as soon as she pushed them back, and she shoved her hand through her hair with annoyance.

"I don't remember. But it was like a postcard, you know, or a travel poster. All these houses, sometimes a blue one, sometimes a pink one, but mostly these gorgeous whitewashed stone houses all nestled together on the mountainside. These families who'd lived together for hundreds of years--thousands of years, probably. And they knew everybody's business for generations back, whose grandmother slept with whose great-uncle andendash -and all that kind of thing. Anyway that's what I imagine this place was like when people lived here. Only without all the fishing boats." She didn't answer and Mulder glanced at her: her face was serious but the corner of her mouth was threatening to become a smile. He said, "You know, I'd really love to take you to Europe someday. You'd love England."

"Give me a better reason than crop circles and we'll go." She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her arm.

"Do you ever wonder how all these people came to just pick up and leave?"

"I thought the accepted explanation was they left because of drought."

"That's one theory." He glanced up at the ever-more threatening sky. Their visit might be shorter than they planned if those clouds caught up to them.

"And . . . you think it's because the mother ship came to bring them home."

"I've seen things, Scully," he said in an exaggerated mysterious tone, and Scully rolled her eyes.

"We've all seen *things*, Mulder."

He couldn't tell if she was joking, but she was ahead of him again and it was hard to tell her humor from her retreating back.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

The trail took them around the outer walls of the pueblo, past the rectangular outlines of houses--some complete walls, some no more than a few bricks high--to the circular openings of the kivas.

The marked trail in the guidebook directed them past the Great Kiva, the largest and deepest of them all, but Mulder climbed over the ruined foundations to its edge and knelt down to look into the stone pit.

"See anything?" Scully said from the trail.

"There are steps down into it."

"We're supposed to stay on the trail."

Mulder took his flashlight out of his knapsack and shone it into the opening. "Justin said they went into their favorite kiva, I'm betting this is it. Come on, Scully."

She sighed, but followed him down the steps into the kiva.

There were stone seats built against the walls, and Mulder shone his flashlight all around to check for snakes. Scully took out her flashlight as well and looked at the walls, which were made of irregularly-shaped, tightly-packed bricks of the same reddish stone as the rest of the pueblo.

"What are we doing here, Mulder?" she said quietly.

"Looking for clues, of course."

"Oh, yes, of course," Scully murmured. "What kind of clues are you expecting to find, though? She's not here. We're certain of that."

"I know she's not here. My question is, where was she taken and by whom?"

Scully turned to him, shining the beam of the flashlight onto his chest so she could see his face. "You're not asking why?"

"I think I know why. Reynaldo's asthma was curedendash -"

"It's premature to say it was cured."

"--and I'm confident that when we find Cristina her leukemia will be cured as well."

"Mulder, you're not serious."

"I am serious. They got what they came here for: a cure for Cristina. Just not the way they expected it."

"Then why have we never heard of this before? Don't you think that if people thought they would be cured here it would be overrun like the fountain at Lourdes?"

"Maybe it's never happened before."

"Okay," Scully said, "okay. But, if the children were cured, how?

And by whom?"

"Archaeologists think the Anasazi worshiped thunder." Mulder shrugged. "You never know."

"Thunder gods. Right," Scully murmured, turning away from him to shine her flashlight on the walls again.

"'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy, '" Mulder quoted lightly, and Scully smiled at him for a moment.

"I want to look around some more, melancholy Dane," she said, tucking her flashlight away in her knapsack, and she climbed up the stairs to the top of the kiva. Mulder cast the beam of his flashlight in one more wide arc, then put it away to follow her.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

The designated trail took them past more, smaller kivas and into the denser ruins of houses of the Anasazi. Scully read aloud from the guidebook at each marked stop like a good tourist, peering at the highlighted areas as if she would be tested on them later.

Mulder found himself growing more frustrated as the morning progressed. Sure, it was beautiful, it was ancient and moving, but in the end it was just a pile of rocks where no one had lived for eight hundred years. Nothing about it, despite what Carl Reyes had said, felt especially magical.

So how did it happen? he thought. Why now? Why these kids?

Maybe it was just the kids themselves: Cristina and her St.

Peregrine medallion, Justin and his search for meaning through history.

Something about them, maybe their prayers, maybe their beliefs, maybe just their needs, had spoken to some mysterious Powers That Be. He frowned, unsatisfied with his thoughts, and Scully stopped reading.

"What is it?"

"Do you think that faith alone can bring about a miracle?"

Scully closed the guidebook, keeping her place with her finger, and said, "I think that faith is necessary for a miracle."

"Do you remember the boy with the stigmata?"

"I'm not going to forget him anytime soon, Mulder."

"Do you think he had stigmata because he believed, or he believed because he had stigmata?"

She sighed, considering it. "He'd been raised to believe he was special. I don't think there was moment--or many momentsendash when he *didn't* believe he is what he is."

"Which is?" Mulder prompted, but Scully shook her head.

"A special boy, Mulder, and let's leave it at that."

Mulder couldn't let that pass, though. "Why does your faith make you uncomfortable?"

"Only around you."

"That's not fair."

"Fair, Mulder?" She raised her eyebrows at him. "Does lquote fair' enter into this? It's a simple fact. It's hard for me to express my faith in the face of your disbelief and disrespect."

"I don't disrespect your faith. You believe in God, I accept that."

"Patronizingly."

"Any less patronizingly than you accepted my belief in extraterrestrials for seven years?"

"The difference being that you're looking for proof. You can't find proof about God and therefore you refuse to believe a thing. That's the antithesis of faith, Mulder. Faith is just faith.

No proof required."

"But you don't blindly accept religion."

"I'm a scientist," she said with a shrug. "It's my nature to question things."

"I don't see how it's different. You're looking for proof too."

"I believe that God exists. I've even come to believe in the Devil.

It's the other things that are hard. Miracles. Heaven. Hell.

Redemption," she added softly, rubbing her fingers along the stone wall. There was a petroglyph carved into the stone: two simple figures, one with a narrow waist and stick legs, one with a wide body. She touched that one lightly and let her hand drop.

At the sadness in her voice and face, Mulder wanted to pick her up and cuddle her close. As it was, he put his hand on her back and said, "If there is a God, I don't think he would punish you for killing Pfaster half as much as you've punished yourself." She didn't say anything but her shoulders quivered, and Mulder said, "You've seen an angel, Scully. That's got to mean something."

"Do you believe that I did? Do you believe that's what I saw?"

"Yeah."

"Then believe that I've seen demons, too, Mulder. And knowing that they both exist does not help me sleep at night." She stepped away from his hand and opened the guidebook again, and began to read in her official voice, "At stop eleven you can see an example of the Type III masonry . . ."

Mulder didn't follow her at first. He thought he was seeing her clearly for the first time in months. She was not the same round-cheeked girl who'd come into his life nearly eight years ago.

She was not even the moonlit creature who, one not-so-distant night in April, had stripped down to her underwear, borrowed one of his tshirts, climbed into bed beside him, spooned herself to his back, and fell asleep with her arm around him and her hand on his chest.

She had been brave that night--renewed, he thought, by her realization that her past was a guide, not a curse. She's been trying ever since to overcome the biggest and latest block to happiness, Mulder thought sadly, but she feels like she's failing.

"Scully?"

She stopped reading and looked at him. "Aren't you coming?"

"Have I ever made you happy?"

"Mulder . . ."

"Have I?"

"Mulder, some of the happiest moments of my life have been with you."

"And some of the worst have been because of me," he said gloomily, and Scully sighed.

"If you're going to start flagellating yourself I'd rather not hear it. Your guilt wears me out. You have done nothing to me, Mulder, nothing but love me, and I--" She stopped, gnawing her lip, and Mulder wished she would take off her sunglasses so he could see her eyes. "You tell me something: do I make you happy?"

"Every day."

"When you're not beating yourself up for dragging me into this crazy life." She cupped her forehead in her hand. "I didn't want to get into this now. We have work to do."

"I'm sorry," Mulder whispered, "I'm sorry. I just want you to talk to me and I-endash "

"Mulder," she said, and he shut his mouth. "Hush. When we figure out what's happened to Cristina, when we go home again, you can psychoanalyze me to your heart's content. But not now."

"Right." He joined her up the trail, thinking that even when they did get home it would be more of the same: he would have to batter at her defenses to get even the smallest insight.

It's worth it, though, he thought. It's worth it.

"Tell me a happy moment, Scully," he said after they had walked a while.

She said without hesitation, "Baseball practice."

"Oh, you liked that."

"I liked it. You and me and a sky full of stars. It was nice.

It was very nice. Tell me one of yours."

"Waking up to find you holding me."

"That was a good night," she said after a pause.

"One I hope to experience again."

"You never know. Come on," she said briskly, "I want to see more."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

They had been warned at the ranger station that the weather could change abruptly, and as they neared the end of the trail the clouds had spread out over the sky. Mulder and Scully stopped in a rest area and Scully leaned back her head, her sunglasses pushed to the top of her head and her eyes closed, her face tipped up to absorb the fading sunshine.

Mulder said after watching her a few minutes, "We should head back to Albuquerque. I'm not sure why we came."

"You wanted to feel the energies."

"Well, I didn't feel anything special."

"I did," Scully said softly. "I feel . . . something here.

Haven't you ever been to a place that just spoke to you? Just . . . felt welcoming?"

"Yeah," Mulder said. He kicked his heel against the dirt.

"Oxford felt like home."

She opened her eyes and looked at him. "You really loved it there, didn't you." It was less a question than a statement.

"I'd go back in a heartbeat if I had a good reason. You know, you'd love Ireland. Talk about your green and pleasant land. Your homeland." He winked at her.

"Ancestral homeland. It's a big difference."

"Anyway," Mulder said, "let's go. It looks like rain."

"Just a little longer? I'm not ready to go yet." She shivered as the wind picked up, and Mulder thought the clouds wouldn't wait much longer to let loose. Nonetheless, he leaned back against the stone seat with his legs stretched out, folded his hands behind his head and closed his eyes.

He had just about dozed off when a thunderclap boomed, loud enough to rattle his teeth. His eyes flew open and he jumped to his feet.

"Scully, we should go," he said firmly, though Scully was already pulling on her knapsack.

"We might make the car before the rain hits," she said, when the heavens opened and rain poured down. It was a swift, harsh storm of the high desert, with rain so thick it was hard to see and thunderclaps loud enough to feel. Lightning streaked in forks and branches across the sky.

With no trees and only the crumbling stone walls around them, they were the highest points on this open shelf. Mulder grabbed Scully's hand. "We need to get under cover somewhere-endash " She nodded. "Or into one of the pits."

"We'll get rained on."

"We're going to get rained on anyway. We need to get to a lower place." She tugged on his hand and led him up the trail, back towards the settlement area of the pueblo. They ran at a swift trot, trying not to slip on the suddenly muddy trail.

At the first kiva they came to Mulder went down the stairs first, cringing as thunder crashed overhead. The lightning flash that accompanied it was close enough to blind him momentarily and cause colored spots to dance before his eyes. It must have startled Scully, too, because he felt Scully's hand fly out of his. He rubbed his eyes with his fists then, still blinking and trying to focus his vision, reached out to help Scully down the rough stairs.

Scully wasn't there.


~memory: June 2000~

For a moment Mulder just stood there, his hand hanging in the air.

She'd been right behind him just a second ago, her hand in his, letting him lead her down the steps.

He stood on the top step and scanned the ruins. She hadn't slipped and fallen. There was no reason for her to go into one of the other buildings--roofless, they were no safer than the open chasm of the kiva.

Mulder wiped the rain from his face and rubbed his eyes again. He cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted, "Scully!

Scully!" drawing out the 'Y' until he ran out of breath.

He climbed out of the kiva and looked around desperately.

Where could she have gone? He opened and closed his hand, focusing on the details--had it only been a few seconds ago? Their hands had been wet but held tight, and then the thunder--the lightning--and her hand was yanked from his as if someone had physically torn her away. That flash of lightning had been close enough for him to still feel the electricity in the air.

"No," he whispered. It was too fucking unbelievable. He cupped his hands to his mouth again and shouted, "Scully! Where are you? Scully!"

There was another boom of thunder, and another bolt of lightning struck the ground just in front of him. He scrambled away, gasping.

For several seconds lightning flashed and thunder boomed. Each streak of lightning came dangerously close to wherever Mulder had been a second before as he rolled and struggled back towards the kiva stairs.

As abruptly as the barrage had begun it ended, and Mulder lay in the mud, panting. Red, muddy water ran over the undernourished earth in rivulets. Mulder could hardly dare to raise his head, not sure what he was waiting for. His fingers dug into the mud.

Nothing happened but falling rain.

Anger surged through Mulder and he jumped to his feet. "Is that all you've got!" he shouted, waving his fists at the sky, his feet slipping in the mud. "Is that the best you can do, motherfuckers! You missed me! You missed me! Now give me back Scully, goddammit! Give Scully back! Give Scully ba--"

White heat enveloped him. Jumbled images surrounded him. He was a baby, and his parents played with him on a beach blanket while ocean breezes ruffled their hair. His father lifted him up to see the newborn Samantha, pink and wide-eyed, in her bassinet.

Samantha fell off her trike and scraped her knee, and he gave her gum and she hugged him and stopped crying. He was lost on the Oxford campus, and a pretty girl named Abby helped him find his first class and later kissed him as they watched the rowers on the river. Patterson clapped him on the back in congratulations for bringing another criminal to justice. A serious-faced rookie held out her hand and said she looked forward to working with him. He opened his eyes in an Arctic hospital and saw her smile. She held him on a dark night in a strange forest, and sang to him so he wouldn't be afraid. She fell asleep in his arms, spooned up like baby cats, exhausted from their 'moving day.' He stood in his doorway and she kissed his forehead, traced his lips with her thumbs, and whispered he was her touchstone. She held his hand while he read the record of Samantha's final days. He woke up to find her gathering him to her, and he breathed easier knowing she would hold him all night. She sat companionably beside him, and he paid the movie no attention because he was happy to just bask in her presence. She lay on top of him on his couch and whispered between kisses that she loved him.

Hands touched him: his face, his chest, his head, his legs and arms.

He thought he heard a voice: "Rest now. Just rest."

He exhaled. He rested.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

When Mulder opened his eyes he was lying face down in the mud.

Warm rain pelted him through his already-soaked clothes. He spat, got up onto his knees, and scrubbed his face with the front of his shirt. He felt exhausted, light-headed, like he'd been holding his breath. He thought dizzily that he'd been struck. He could remember-something-- like an hallucination. Scullly had been there. Hadn't she?

He wiped his face and looked around the plateau. Scully sat cross- legged, a few yards away from him, her arms around a darkhaired girl who was crying and kicking against the ground. The girl started screaming: "I want to go back! Let me go back! I want to go back!"

Mulder crawled across the mud and put his hand on Scully's foot. She looked at him and shook her head, the rest of her attention focused on the girl in her arms. "Sh, sh," she soothed her, stroking her hair. "It's all right. We'll take you home. It's all right."

"Cristina Reyes?" Mulder croaked.

"Tell them to take me back!"

Mulder let his head fall into the mud. His hand stayed on Scully's foot, and the rain poured down on them all.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

It was a dirty, wet and quiet trio that finally hiked down the trail to the rented Taurus. Cristina's sobs had subsided into sniffles, and she accepted Mulder's flannel shirt with a barely audible, "Thank you." She crawled into the back seat and curled herself up into the corner.

He started to get into the driver's side when Scully said, "I'd like to drive, Mulder."

"Are you sure you're up to it?"

"I feel fine. I feel better than you look."

He had to admit she looked better than he felt, and went around the car, passing her the keys. When he was in the car, he leaned back his head, closed his eyes, and heard her start the engine and the windshield wipers. They hadn't driven far when he heard humming.

He opened his eyes and looked at Scully in amazement. The humming came from her.

Scully never hummed. He couldn't even get her to sing for him again, even though he'd told her time and again he'd heard it and he liked it anyway. But here she was, humming like they were coming back from a picnic. She smiled at him briefly and went on humming.

"Scully?" he said. "What do you remember?"

The humming stopped abruptly. "I remember . . ." She paused, frowning. "I'm not sure now. Memories--of course I remember memories-- but I don't remember what happened, precisely. I was aware I was someplace else . . . but all I saw, all I heard, were memories. Happy times, mostly, with my family, with my friends."

She glanced at Mulder. "With you."

"That's all I remember too," Mulder said. "Good times. Things I didn't even know I remember."

"Exactly," Scully said, her voice soft with wonder. "Things that happened when I was just a baby. Things I'd forgotten about."

Cristina said from the back seat, "Wouldn't you rather stay there than go anywhere else? Don't you see why I want to go back?"

"But, Cristina," Scully said gently, "what about the rest of you life? What about your family, your studies, your ambitions?

What about Justin?"

"What do you know about my ambitions?" Cristina said, not disguising her hostility.

"I--" Scully glanced at Mulder. "I read your diary. We were looking for clues about what happened to you, Cristina. We wanted to be sure you weren't planning to kill yourself."

Cristina sniffled. "Suicide is a mortal sin, Agent Scully."

She added after a moment, "Snooping should be."

Scully chose to ignore that. "Your family was afraid you'd been murdered."

"Is that why you guys were called in?"

"Your uncle called us. Yes."

"Tio Carl . . ." Cristina sighed. "It's bad enough having one father. It's like I've got three."

"What do you mean?" Scully tilted the mirror to look at Cristina's face.

"Well, Papi, of course, Tio Carl, not only is he my uncle but he's also police. Two authority figures in one. Justin's the worst of all. He's *so* protective."

"Men can be like that." She glanced at Mulder and he raised his eyebrows to protest his innocence.

"Latin men are worse. Men who didn't have fathers are worst of all."

She snuffled quietly for a few minutes, then burst out, "I love Justin. But why wasn't he taken too? What am I supposed to think about that? Is that a message? Is there something about him that I didn't know? I love him but I'm not sure anymore that he's the right person for me."

"Just because he didn't share this experience with you?"

"Yeah . . . I mean . . . Rey was taken, I was taken, you were taken, even Agent Mulder . . . but Justin wasn't."

"Sometimes," Scully said slowly, "the people who want proof the most have to wait the longest."

"Sometimes," Mulder said, "it's really about faith."

Cristina wiped her face again. "I don't know what I believe right now, Agent Mulder."

"I don't think any of us really know, day to day."

"Some help you are," she mumbled.

Scully said, "If you think that was heaven or something like it, the best way to live your life is to live it like you know you're going back."

"Now you sound like my grandmother."

"Does that make me wrong?" She glanced back at Cristina in the rear view mirror.

Cristina sniffled again and said, "Do you have a tissue, Agent Scully?"

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

At the visitors center, they asked the park rangers to contact Cristina's parents and tell them she was on her way home. The rangers were astounded: "We looked everywhere for you! We've searched up and down the canyon!" But Cristina only shrugged and asked if there was a place she could wash her face.

They'd lost a few hours up at the pueblo. It had been early afternoon when the storm hit, and now the clouds were clearing away to reveal a dark and star-filled night, complete with a full moon.

Scully continued humming softly as she drove.

When they reached Cristina's neighborhood her house was ablaze with lights: paper bags with candles set in sand lined the front walk, and small white Christmas lights hung from the front porch. Her parents, Carl, Rey, Justin and many others waited on the front lawn, and there was even a large yellow ribbon tied to the palm tree by the garage.

"Look at all the people," Cristina whispered. She and Mulder had changed seats during the drive, and now she leaned forward to watch their approach through the windshield.

"They've missed you," Scully said gently. "They've been afraid for you."

Cristina blinked her eyes rapidly, still watching the approaching house. "Justin," she breathed and threw open the door as soon as Scully brought the car to a stop.

The boy was the first to reach the car, and he wrapped Cristina up his arms. He lifted her up and spun her around.

"Crissy." He held her face in his hands. "Crissy." She smiled up at him and didn't say anything, burying her head in his chest.

Mulder and Scully were slower to get out of the car, stiff from their strange day. They watched as Jim and Salma satisfied themselves that Cristina was really there, and then the girl's mother came around the car and hugged them both, despite Scully's protests of their muddy state.

"Won't you come inside? We have dinner--the rest of the family is here, Jim's mother and our other children and their families--"

"Thank you," Scully said sincerely, "but we need baths and sleep."

"Then do come by before you leave Albuquerque. We want to thank you somehow."

"It's just our job," Mulder said, smiling.

Salma said hesitantly, "Agents--where was she? The ranger who called us said she was all right, but do we need to take her to a hospital?"

"A doctor's examination couldn't hurt," Scully said, "but it can wait until tomorrow. As you can see--" They all looked to where Cristina was being hugged by brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.

"She's strong."

"She looks like she did before she was diagnosed," Salma said, clasping her hands together. "But where was she? What happened? The ranger couldn't tell us."

Scully eyes met Mulder's. She started to speak then stopped.

Mulder said, "She was safe."

Salma considered that, then smiled. "All right," she said, hugged them both again, and went back to her daughter.

Mulder and Scully were quiet as they got back into the car and started to drive away. Mulder said eventually, "We can probably get a flight back tonight if we call as soon as we get back to the motel."

"They'll charge us for the rooms tonight anyway, Mulder. We may as well stay one more night."

"All right."

She stopped at a red light. The car rumbled reassuringly.

Scully said, "Where were we?"

"Pueblo Bonito, Scully."

"Don't be a smartass. I'm serious. We were elsewhere. Weren't we?"

"Maybe. There are those who believe that the spirit world surrounds the material world, that is just exists on a different plane."

"A spirit plane."

"Maybe."

"With Anasazi thunder gods."

"Would you have an easier time believing this if it were the fountain at Lourdes or some other place purported to perform miracles?"

"No, I would not," Scully said, as the light finally changed and she stepped on the gas. "If we were investigating Lourdes, I'd still want to check the facts. Someone throwing aside their crutches and saying 'I can walk' does not a miracle make."

"But a girl so weakened by cancer that she had to walk with help, now being able to walk on her own, doesn't that tell you something?"

"You're arguing *for* miracles now?" There was a faint smile around her eyes.

"I'm just trying to figure out what happened, same as you.

The facts are simple, really. She was sick. Now she's not."

"I'd wait until she gets a checkup before I'd make that assumption."

"Okay," Mulder said patiently, "she was sick, now she feels better."

"I can live with that." They drove in silence for several blocks, then Scully said, "I feel better too."

"How so?"

She shrugged, keeping her eyes on the road. "Just better.

Better in general. Better than I've felt for weeks. Months."

"Oh," Mulder said softly. "That's . . . that's really good."

"Don't you feel that way? Just peaceful?"

"Serene could accurately describe my state of mind, but I put that more to finding the girl than anything else."

"There is that, of course, but I . . ." She sighed. "I don't know how to describe it. I want to do things. I want to climb on furniture. I want to sing." She glanced at him, still smiling faintly. "I won't, of course."

"You know I love to hear you sing."

"Right." She watched the road, and said in a soft voice that Mulder imagined she used in confession, "I want to take a bubble bath and drink champagne. I want to eat apples until the juice drips down my chin. I want to run until I lose my breath. I want to turn cartwheels until I'm dizzy. I want to dance until my feet leave the ground. I want to jump for joy." She paused and glanced at him, then said in the same soft tone , "I want to fuck. Yes.

Most definitely. I want to fuck."

Mulder opened his mouth and found that he had lost his voice.

Scully smiled at him, a tiny half-smile, and returned her attention to the road. Mulder licked his lips, gulped and cleared his throat.

He said, "Okay. What do you want to do first?"


~memory: June 2003~

They chose a restaurant nearer to the suburbs than downtown.

It was bright and busy, with a noisy, crowded bar. It advertised itself as South American, with items on its menu grouped by country: Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, and so on. The decor was simple, utilitarian even: the cement floor was bare as were most of the walls, except one that was stacked with boxes of Corona beer. More of these boxes also divided the dining area from the bar, four or five boxes high. Pi'f1atas of various shapes and sizes hung from the exposed beams in the roof. The chairs were wellpadded and comfortable, the staff was friendly and the food was perfect: fresh salsa, zucchini and avocado salad, tomato, lime and tortilla soup.

Mulder wondered if any of the other patrons in the restaurant thought he was a hustler taking advantage of a runaway. With no makeup and her hair tucked demurely behind her ears, Scully looked even younger than usual and she ate as if she'd been starving for a week. His own dinner finished, Mulder leaned back in the booth and watched in bemusement as Scully ordered another helping of stuffed tomatoes and a refill of her lime soda.

"You know, there's always breakfast," he said eventually.

Scully shrugged. "I'm hungry."

"I can tell."

On the surface it was just another dinner with Scully, one of thousands they'd eaten together. But beneath that surface ran an implicit promise that had never been there before. After countless half-and-half pizzas, boxes of take-out Thai, barbecued ribs, yogurt cups with bee pollen and bagels with light cream cheeseafter eight years together--after cancer and Antarctica and too many brushes with death, it was finally going to happen.

Mulder smiled to himself. It, like he was a kid again who didn't even dare think the word. Sex, he thought with precision.

Better than just sex. Sex with Scully. He pressed his glass of iced tea to the side of his face and closed his eyes, exhaling slowly.

There were some questions he wanted answered before the evening led to that particular conclusion.

"Do you want to share some dessert?" Scully said.

Mulder opened his eyes. "No, thanks."

"These look good: empanadas de peras."

"Which means?"

"Pear pastries."

"No, thanks, though," Mulder said. "Go ahead and get one if you want one."

"I guess it can wait. I don't want to overdo."

Mulder refrained from smiling. No, honey, he thought, three helpings of stuffed tomatoes was not overdoing, not at all.

"Hey, Mulder."

"Hmm?"

"I just realized what's different about you tonight."

"Oh?"

"The bruise on your forehead." She traced a circle on her own forehead. "It's gone."

"Huh. Must've healed."

"It was there this morning. It looked to me you had another day or two to go before it faded completely. But now it's gone."

"Whaddya know," Mulder said and sipped his tea.

The restaurant's piped-in music centered on pop music with a Latin flavor, but when a new song began Scully's eyes grew wide and she scooted out of the booth. "Patsy Cline! Dance with me, Mulder."

"I thought you didn't like country."

"Patsy Cline transcends country. Dance with me," she commanded, holding out her hand. Mulder took it and slid out of his seat. Scully wrapped her arms around him and pressed her cheek to his chest. He held her loosely and bent his head over hers. They swayed beside their table, not quite in time to the music, and Patsy sang mournfully that she was crazy for tryin', crazy for cryin', crazy for loving you.

Mulder put his hands on her waist. She was wearing a white cotton t- shirt and jeans, and she smelled of a light soap. She was beautiful tonight, in a way he rarely got to see: the unadorned, unguarded Scully, sweet as an empanada de peras, lovely as a summer's day, his for the asking.

If only he could get up the nerve to ask.

Scully gave a happy sigh and rubbed her cheek against his chest. "Why have we never danced together before?"

"It never came up, I guess. We're getting looked at."

"So?" She slid her hands down his sides to cup his ass, and smiled at the patrons at the next table who were openly gawking at them.

"You'd think they've never seen young love before."

"Or relatively young love." He bent her back into a dip, which made her laugh.

"New love," she said when he brought her up straight again.

"Reclaimed love," he said softly, and she smiled as wide as he had ever seen her smile.

"Let's go." Her fingers slid into one of his belt loops and tugged.

"I'm ready to go."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

As they passed through the quiet suburban streets on the way back to the motel, Scully nearly jumped out of the car in excitement. The cause was an elementary school, lit by street lamps that illuminated the playground and surrounding combination soccerbaseball field.

"Let's go on the swings, Mulder!"

He parked the car in the school's lot, next to the playground. Scully threw open her door and pulled off her shoes, abandoning them in the back seat before she ran, laughing like a sprite, across the grass. As Mulder watched she smoothly turned a few cartwheels. "Mulder," she called to him softly when she was upright again. "Mulder, come on."

He locked up the car and joined her at a much slower pace.

The toys on the playground were made primarily of tough molded plastic, in a form meant to stand in for a fort or a ship or a treehouse. There was a net to climb on made of nylon rope, a pole to slide down, and a ladder that led to the highest level of the fort, where one slid down on a spiral slide. There was a swingset, a tall straight slide, and a roundabout in the center of the playground.

By the time he joined her Scully was already on one of the swings, leaning back as her toes pointed to the sky, swinging high above the ground. "Take your shoes off, Mulder! Feel the grass beneath your feet."

"What is it about going barefoot that is automatically a symbol of liberation?" Mulder wondered out loud.

"Going barefoot harkens back to the carefree days of childhood," Scully said as if it was something he should know.

"I always had to wear shoes." He leaned against the pole that supported the swingset.

"All the more reason for you to go barefoot." She slowed her swing, then stopped and stood holding onto the swing's chains. "Why are you so glum, Mulder? You're practically pouting."

"I feel a little ridiculous. But you go ahead and enjoy yourself, don't mind me."

"Oh, don't be like that. I can't enjoy myself if you're not.

Don't you feel like celebrating?"

"What are we celebrating?"

"Everything, Mulder," Scully said with wide, astonished eyes.

"Successful closure to a case with no loss of life or limb. The two of us being here, alone and unscathed, with plenty to look forward to as the evening progresses. The sheer joy of being a whale. Ahoooo," she finished, in what he guessed was supposed to be an imitation of whale song.

"You're going to attract coyotes, caterwauling like that."

Scully started giggling and clapped her hands over her mouth.

"Mulder," she gasped after a few minutes, "Mulder, what are we arguing about? Take your shoes off, play with me. I bet I can swing higher than you can."

"I really don't feel like playing around."

"Why not? It's fun. You can be playful, I've seen it. I love it, too, you know." She sighed and took his hands. "All right, if you don't want to play, let's talk."

"I don't especially want to talk, either."

"Now you're just being stubborn. Come on." She led him to the roundabout in the center of the playground. "I've always loved these.

Lie down, let's look at the stars."

He sighed but followed her, and they lay down on the roundabout, their heads pointed towards the center. Mulder's feet turned them slowly, and eventually Scully took his hand again.

"What did they show you, up on the pueblo? Do you remember?"

"I told you already. Memories."

"Tell me in detail."

"Scully . . ." He sighed. "There were a few things from my childhood. Before Samantha disappeared, mainly. There was a striking absence of memories of Phoebe or Diana. It wasn't too bad, as hallucinations go. We've had worse." Beside him Scully sighed, and he lightly squeezed her hand. "Most of my happy moments were--are with you."

"Me too." She turned her head to smile at him. "That's the kinds of things they showed me, too."

"It's interesting, though, isn't it, that the four of us had different reactions to the same experience. You're ecstatic, Rey was empowered, Cristina didn't want to return--"

"And you're melancholy. I think it's simple, for us at least.

I don't know enough about the children to make a guess."

"Rey saw what other people had been doing for him all his life and learned that he has strength of his own now."

"And Cristina?"

Mulder foot dragged slowly through the blue-gray pebbles and pushed them into another lazy spin. "She didn't want to leave the safety of-- of wherever we were. Maybe she was afraid of going back to the pain she'd been living with. Maybe her memories of Justin weren't as happy as she thought they ought to be and she's worried about their future together. Or maybe they were more so. Knowing you've found your one true love . . . that's not something to take lightly."

"Especially at that age," Scully murmured.

"At any age," Mulder said. "What's your theory about us?"

"Well, like I said, it's simple. Happy memories fill me with joy and you with regret. That's why I feel rejuvenated and blissful, and you're feeling quiet and introspective. I can understand it, really. You've lost almost everything that's ever made you happy."

"Yes," Mulder whispered. "Almost."

Scully turned onto her side and propped her head on her elbow, studying him. "I think I know what this is about."

"Oh, you do."

"You're upset about the whole sex thing."

"No," Mulder protested, and she gave him an impatient look.

"Okay.

Yes. I was thinking all during dinner that afterwards we'd go back to the hotel and we'd--um--"

"Fuck like bunnies?"

"Basically." He licked his lips and plunged onward, "And I keep asking myself if it's a good idea, you see. I'm not sure that it is."

"You're not?" she said, visibly startled. "Why?"

"Because you're--it's like you're on something. You're bouncy and giddy and you're just not the Scully I'm used to."

"That's because you're used to depressed and in-turmoil Scully and I don't feel depressed or in turmoil. I feel peaceful and joyful and quite filled with love, especially towards you, my favorite person in the whole wide world. I'd really like to show you that without you getting hung up on it." She lay back down and folded her hands just beneath her breasts. "I know what you're afraid of, Mulder."

"Is that so."

"Yes. You're afraid that tomorrow I'm going to tell you our making love is a mistake. Am I right?"

He sighed and pushed them into another slow spin.

"Mulder . . ." She turned onto her stomach and kissed his forehead.

"I know you've been hurt by people you loved dearly. I know you don't want to be hurt again. I don't ever want to be the one to hurt you."

"It's not just that."

"What else is it, then?"

"What if you're right, Scully, that this is the real you?

What if this is the Scully you always should have been, instead of depressed and in-turmoil Scully?" She started to answer and he laid his fingers over her lips. "What if we make love and then we go home and it all comes back to you: the worry and the pain and the never-ending battles. How will I live with myself, knowing you're unhappy and it's because you stayed with me?" His throat felt tight, and he whispered, "How can I love you the way you deserve, knowing all it brings you is pain?"

Her eyes searched his. "Do you want me to leave you?"

"No." He wrapped his arm around her and buried his face in her neck. "No, never."

"Do you want to leave?"

"No."

She inhaled and released it slowly. "I've made my choice, Mulder: I want you and I want the work. I refuse to be afraid." She stood up from the roundabout and faced him. "Do you want a life filled with longing and regret, or do you want a safe haven?" She opened up her arms and whispered, "I will be safe, Mulder, I will always be safe."

There was nothing inherently dangerous about this choice, he knew: loving Scully would be sweet and tender and safe, as she said. It was the outside factors that he feared: manipulation, threats, separation, their relationship used against them for control or worse.

But, he thought, how can I live without her any longer?

He took her hands and pulled her to him. She came willingly and he pressed his cheek to her belly. She kissed his hair. "Don't be sad, Mulder," she cajoled him gently. "I want you to be happy too."

"I am happy," he said, and it was mostly true.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

In the corner of the playground, farthest from both the school and the street, grew a grouping of oak trees. Scully took Mulder there, leading him by the hand and then kneeling on the grass. She seemed like a creature not of this world, made of cotton candy and stardust.

She was magic, she was sweet, she was sparkling and delicate, and so beautiful that the purity of her face blinded him like staring into the sun. He couldn't stop touching her for fear she would disappear like a faerie woman in a tale.

She kissed him under the moonlight and tree branches. Her mouth tasted like limes. She touched him like she was afraid to bruise him: the backs of her fingers against his cheekbones, her palm down his chest, her fingertips teasing his stomach. Her hair spread like a silky banner against the grass.

Her fingers combed through the hair at the back of his neck as they kissed. She gently pushed him away with a hand to his cheek. He watched, his eyes wide, as she stood and removed her tshirt and jeans, her plain white bra and her tiny cotton panties.

She smiled at him. "Say something, Mulder."

"You're beautiful." He crawled to her on his knees and held her by the waist. She had a true hourglass figure, he thought, lush breasts and hips with a tiny waist he could nearly span with his hands. She smiled at him still and stroked his hair as he kissed her from her knees to the undercurves of her breasts. He sucked on the curves of her hips and tickled her navel with his tongue.

Scully's skin, he thought, trailing his fingertips over her, Scully's muscles, Scully's bones.

She got down onto her knees and kissed him again, holding his face in her hands. She pulled his t-shirt from his jeans and slid her hands up his body, taking the shirt with them. She kissed his shoulders and chest, his neck, his lips. She lay back, silvery in the moonlight, and pulled him to her. "I want to feel you on top of me."

"I'll crush you."

"Then crush me." Her clever fingers worked open the top button of his jeans and his hips gave a sharp shallow thrust against her belly.

Her smile deepened around her eyes and she unbuttoned him quickly.

She pushed his clothes down to his knees and he kicked them off the rest of the way.

Her fingers were cool on the hot skin of his cock. She arched up towards him, guiding him to her warm moist vulva, and Mulder held himself over her with his arms straight. "Don't you want to wait?"

"For what?" Her fingers slid downward and caressed his balls.

"I'm ready. I'd say you are."

"But--but--" He had some vague notion of extended foreplay, of making her come again and again, of making love to her until the sun came up.

"Babe, in case you haven't noticed, we are somewhat pressed for time." As if to illustrate her point she arched again, driving her hips against his thighs. "I don't want my memories of Albuquerque to include arrest for public nudity."

"Then maybe we should go." He thought, though, that he'd sooner die than leave the warm soft cradle of her thighs.

"I want to stay."

"You little exhibitionist, you."

She laughed softly and then sighed as he slid into her. She was slick and tight, as welcoming as a good morning kiss. Her fingertips swirled over his back.

He kissed her mouth and touched her face. She opened her lips and took his finger into her mouth, and began to suck on it in time to his thrusts. Mulder groaned. He pulled his finger from her mouth and traced the damp tip over her mouth, her eyes and her chin. He kissed her again and again.

Her eyes locked onto his. Even in the dark he could see the flush blooming in her cheeks, how her pupils had all but swallowed the irises. A smile danced over her lips. She closed her eyes and leaned back her head. "Ah," she breathed, and again, "ah. Ah."

One hand left his back and her fingers dug into the grass.

The fingers of the other gripped his neck. The slap of their bellies became faster, louder. He grunted into her ear.

Scully pulled his mouth to hers. "Kiss me." Her tongue darted over his face.

He had a thousand questions: are you going to come? Do you want me to do something else, something more? Are you comfortable?

Are you cold? Do you love me? He only kissed her.

He touched her more firmly, letting his fingertips linger where she seemed to like it most. He tasted her breasts, licked them into firm peaks. She quivered beneath his hands. Her entire body hummed like a plucked guitar string. He thought if he stroked her enough she just might sing.

He chased that elusive moan, tried to catch up to it. He wanted it.

He wanted to hold it in his hand.

He whispered, "Tell me," stroking deeply within her, and that seemed to unleash something in her mind or in her womb or somewhere between. She grabbed his face. The flesh surrounding his cock clenched and pulsed. Her lips moved, then opened and her voice poured out.

"Ahh. Yesss. Ahhh."

Mulder closed his eyes in gratitude and felt his orgasm move through him like a hand down his spine. He shuddered through every second of it as he poured himself into her.

"Yes," he agreed, and let his head fall against her neck. She stroked his hair and kissed his forehead. The wind blew softly through the tree branches above them, where the moon was round and full.


December 21, 2000

When Mulder woke up, it was dark outside. His face was sticky with tear trails, and he scrubbed his face with his sleeve. The Eeyore doll was still tucked in the crook of his arm, and he felt his expression mirror the toy's dejection. "You and me both, buddy," he said, and set the toy on his pillows to guard the room with all its floppy-eared dignity.

Okay, he thought. Time to stop pitying yourself and get back to work. Time to find Scully.

He took a shower first, letting the water pound him while he considered the avenues still open. First, the obvious: a pregnant woman would need a doctor. Assuming she was unharmed--and he had to believe that she was, he had to cling to that hope--some doctor somewhere would attend to her, perform tests on her: ultrasounds, maybe an amniocentesis, he didn't know what else. There would be regular doctor's visits, prescriptions, eventually a birth certificate. It was just a question of finding the records.

Scully had told him of the Smoking Man's offer of a private hospital and a personal doctor. Their records might be harder to find, but surely they could be hacked into as well.

He sighed heavily, soaping up his washcloth. This method of searching would take months, even with the Lone Gunmen's hacking genius. They didn't have months.

First order of business, he decided: call Frohike, to start searching medical records for any traces of Scully. Any pregnant woman fitting Scully's description could be her. He wished that he knew more about her condition; if there had been anything unusual going on with the pregnancy that they could also look for--but if there had been, she would not have been working as hard as she did.

There could be any number of small, red-headed women with normal pregnancies in the country right now.

He didn't think an official missing persons report would be any use, but he would file one anyway. She was still a federal officer: it couldn't hurt to have the field offices aware of her description.

And, he thought, I've got to find Krycek. That bastard's mixed up in this. He's got to know something. He grimaced, scrubbing shampoo into his scalp almost violently. He hated the thought of Krycek spying on them, observing their lives, listening to them talk, maybe even watching them make love.

The mere thought made him gag, and he rinsed his mouth with water from the shower head and spat it out. Please, he thought, don't let it have gone that far. Allow us some privacy.

He was certain, however, that Krycek had at least some of the answers he sought. If not where Scully was, he might know what the Smoking Man planned. Maybe Krycek knew at least that Scully was safe.

Mulder got out of the shower and dried off. He wrapped the towel around his waist and padded back to his bedroom. He did not want to turn to his enemy for help. He didn't want to know what Krycek would ask for in return.

Boxer shorts and t-shirt in hand, Mulder sat down despondently on his bed. What kind of a world is this, to bring a child into? he thought. This dark life, full of deception and danger. No place for an innocent and helpless child.

Nonetheless, a child was coming and somehow he had to find a place where she would be safe and loved, and bring her there. Our child, he thought, and then, fiercely, my child. *My* child.

Again that strange overwhelming feeling arose in his chest, bringing tears to his eyes and strengthening his resolve. He dressed quickly. He would grab some fast food while he drove to the Lone Gunmen's lair. He would sleep when the wheels were in motion.

He would rest, truly rest, only when Scully was safe in his arms, when he could feel the heat of their child beneath his hand.

My child, he thought again, and felt ten feet tall and stronger than John Henry and Paul Bunyan combined. This must be what fatherhood feels like, he thought. He liked the feeling.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

"How could you lose her?" Frohike said in disbelief. "She's not an umbrella you leave in a taxi."

"Don't start with me, Melvin," Mulder said, and Frohike scowled at the 'Melvin.' "Every second we spend bickering is one second more we don't find her."

"You should have called us when she first went missing,"

Byers said gently.

"Well, I'm here now, heart in my hand. I need your help." He exhaled. "There's more. There's . . . a new development."

All three of his friends looked askance at each other, then back at him. At moments like this they reminded him of Macbeth's witches stewing around their cauldron, even in their pajamas. He almost expected them to tell him no man born of woman could help him.

He said, "She's pregnant," and all three of them visibly started.

"Is she all right?" said Byers.

"How?" Langly said.

"You?" said Frohike.

"Yes, the usual way, yes," Mulder said. "It's why she went into hiding in the first place. The threat is to all three of us, but especially to the baby. I'll tell you the whole story, I promise, but can we start work first? I was thinking medical records. The Cancerman said something about a private doctor."

"When did you talk to him?" said Byers, dismayed.

"He talked to Scully. He made threats. The usual vague threats. He told her he wanted to take her away to where he could take care of her."

"Do you believe him?" Frohike growled.

"I don't know. He's made gestures like this before, you know.

He's told me he likes her. I don't trust him at all but I have to believe he doesn't intend to harm her."

"That's assuming," Byers said, hesitating, "that's assuming that it was the Smoking Man who took her."

Mulder closed his eyes. "Don't. Oh, God. Please don't."

"We'll focus on him," Byers said. He patted Mulder's shoulder awkwardly, then the three of them moved away, talking in low voices. Mulder heard things like "fetal tissue" and "genetic therapy" and wanted to plug his ears.

He knew Byers was right, though. Anyone could have her. It might already be too late.

By dawn the search for Scully through the Lone Gunmen's underground connections had begun. Mulder had faith in them: if there was anything to find, they would find it. He, too, had spent the early morning hours making phone calls and describing her over and over, until the words started to run together and lose their shape. Small.

Red-haired. Blue-green eyes. A beauty spot over her mouth. A tattoo on her back. Pregnant.

It seemed strange to him that he knew every scar on her body, that he could list off their exact locations. Like the gunshot wound to her belly that had made him weep, the first time he got a good look at it. And she had quietly soothed his tears, placed his hand over her heart. I'm here, she'd said.

Byers brought him a cup of coffee, which Mulder gratefully took. Byers said, clutching his own cup, "How far along is she? Do you know?"

"Four months. The baby's due in May." Mulder sipped his coffee. It was black, bitter, and it burned his tongue. He welcomed the pain, minor as it was.

Byers said, "If anyone was interested in harvesting the embryo, it's too late."

"That's very comforting," Mulder said dryly.

"Was the ovum provided by a donor?"

"No." Mulder sighed. "We weren't doing any fertility treatments. She wasn't on any medication. We weren't trying to get pregnant, we both just thought she couldn't. We didn't take any precautions."

"I see." They both sipped their coffee. "So, you don't know where the ovum came from."

"I assume from Scully. Which I know we all thought was impossible.

When we were last in New Mexico, in June, something happened to us . . ."

Byers nodded. "You lost a few hours in Chaco Canyon. Scully told us."

"She did?"

"Yes . . ." He suddenly looked like he wished he's stayed silent, and drank more of his coffee in a gulp. "Remember when she was in that fenderbender in August? She came to us afterwards and said there was something she only trusted us with. She--the chip's gone, Mulder."

Mulder's hands clenched around the cup and coffee sloshed over his fingers. "No."

"She wasn't worried," Byers protested, ignoring the splash of coffee on his slippers. "She wasn't surprised. She said she was glad. She said she never felt really safe with it there, especially with what happened with Cassandra Spender--"

"This just gets worse and worse," Mulder said. "So did she ask you to monitor her for cancer symptoms?"

Byers gave a tiny nod. "But she said she had a feeling it was just a precaution, that nothing would come of it. She just didn't want to worry you."

"Goddammit."

"She said she'd felt free of it since New Mexico and the xray to her neck after the accident confirmed it. Maybe even at that point she'd begun to suspect her body was returning to normal. Did she say anything, do anything, that struck you as strange? You know, about--" He broke off, blushing.

"Menstruation? It seemed normal to me. She didn't tell me that it wasn't. Of course, with Scully, it's the things she doesn't say that you have to worry about. I should have known anyway. Even when nothing's going on with her you should suspect something is."

"Anyway," Byers said, looking like the last thing he wanted to discuss was his friend's menstrual cycle with the man currently having sex with her, "she told us your theory about the spirit plane and the healing place. She told us she thought we should watch you both for anything unusual. So we took some blood. We ran some screens. She was perfectly healthy. She wasn't pregnant yet,"

he added. "We didn't know until you told us."

"And what did you watch me for?" Mulder said quietly.

"Headaches. Hypersensitivity to sound. All your symptoms from last year. We couldn't see anything wrong with either of you."

"There hasn't been anything," Mulder said, though it hadn't truly occurred to him before that moment. He hadn't had so much as a runny nose for months. He'd been sleeping soundly, which he'd put to Scully's company. He hadn't had a nightmare until the day Scully disappeared.

Body and soul, he thought. Both of us. We've still got the scars but the wounds are healed.

He said, "The smoking man knows about the baby. He has almost from the first. I assumed he found Scully because the chip led him there, but obviously he found out some other way. What I need to find out is how he knew in the first place and how he found her again."

"I don't know if we can do that."

"Try. Please. It may give us a clue about what he intends.

Try Scully's gynecologist, see if he has some connection to any front organization we know about, Rousch, Prangen, any of them.

I'll get you the name of her doctor in Leslie, too."

"Scully wouldn't choose a doctor with shady connections."

"She may not have known about any shady connections. The doctors themselves may not have been involved, but any of their staff, even their bookkeepers, could have been. Somewhere, there's a paper trail."

"Right. Okay," Byers said. He drained his coffee cup. "I'll get right on it."

"I've got to go. I'll get in touch with you boys later." He got up from the couch and started to leave, then paused at the door. "Thanks for the coffee."

"Anytime," Byers said, and let Mulder out.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Mulder didn't know what shamed him more: his not knowing they were being watched or his not noticing that she was pregnant. I should have seen it, he thought over and over again. But they'd let their usual caution drop and he had been willing to believe her when she said her fatigue and vomiting was due to flu.

He saw it now for what it was, though. He saw as well that Scully-- his Scully who feared nothing, who had a spine of steel, who had kept her head in the face of a madman enough to speak to him in the only language he would listen to, who had delivered a child in a hurricane --had been afraid to tell him she was going to have a baby.

That bothered him more than any of the rest. Maybe in some earlier relationships she and her lover had planned their future together to the point of naming their children, but he and Scully had never had a conversation like that. In fact, they had never really talked about the future at all. Their relationship had been one endless 'now.'

No wonder she'd been so hesitant to accept his ring in Alabama. She wasn't a mind reader: there was no way she could have known he fantasized about their future together as often as he did about the taste of her skin.

All that would change, he vowed. As soon as he found her he would tell her everything: all his hopes and dreams about their family-to- be. And he would find a safe place for her, where they could live those dreams out in peace. At that moment, he could imagine nothing more beautiful than himself and Scully as grandparents, still arguing between kisses.

At that moment, really, he could imagine nothing more beautiful than one kiss from Scully and her gentle hand in his hair.

Meantime, he had driven home. He dreaded returning to his apartment: right now it was so gray and desolate, teeming with memories. The elevator where she had once jumped into his arms and kissed him until they reached his floor; the hall where once she had almost kissed him and instead collapsed, stung by that bee; the door he had once leaned her against and kissed her until her knees went weak; the entryway where more than once they had fallen and had quick, fierce sex because it was too far to the couch--and on and on.

His apartment had once been filled with love and though nothing physical had changed, now it was empty.

Jittery with coffee and lack of sleep, he wondered if it was wise to go into work. He could make the same calls from home, and he didn't want to face Skinner yet. Telling Skinner he had found Scully and lost her again would be second only to telling her mother.

Mulder opened the door to his bedroom, and whipping his gun from its holster, pointed it at Alex Krycek, who stood looking at the CDs stacked next to the TV.

"Oh," Krycek said. "You're finally back."

"What the fuck do you want? Don't touch that," he barked as Krycek moved towards the bed.

Krycek picked up the Eeyore anyway. "When did you start collecting stuffed animals? No, don't tell me: this is Scully's."

"It's for the baby. I hope you're here to tell me what I need to know."

"What do you need to know?" Krycek said, smirking at him.

"Don't fuck with me, Alex." He advanced on Krycek, his gun following the other man's every move.

"Relax, *Fox.*" He grinned at Mulder, sitting down on the bed and leaning back on his elbows. "This is a lot nicer than that other piece of shit you used to have. I bet Scully likes this bed a lot."

Mulder stepped closer, pressing the point of the gun against Krycek's forehead. "Quit fucking around and tell me where Scully is."

"Ever notice that you mix sex and violence a lot? It's a wonder Scully isn't a mass of bruises when you're finished with her."

"Stop it," Mulder whispered. "Stop it or I swear to God I will pull this trigger and I don't care what you know."

"She's safe," Krycek said calmly. "She knows that I know, and she knows I've come to tell you. We have a plan. Want to hear it?

And put that thing away before you hurt somebody."

Mulder hesitated, then holstered his gun. "Talk," he said.

End Part II

TITLE: Truly Madly Deeply

AUTHOR: Jenna Tooms

Truly Madly Deeply III: If the Fates Allow

Summary: Taken far away from home, Scully contemplates the development of her relationship with Mulder as she tries to find a way back to him.

December 8, 2000

After nightfall the car stopped at the end of a gravel road.

The car had rattled and pinged the entire journey, while country music faded in and out between bursts of static from the radio.

Scully was cold, but grateful she had been put in the back seat and not the trunk. Her captor, on seeing her shiver, had draped his fleece-lined denim jacket over her before they went many miles.

Scully's captor had little to say. He smelled like cigarette smoke and motor oil. Once in a while he asked her, gruffly, if she needed a drink or a rest stop, but she could only shake her head in answer.

He had come up behind her in the ladies' room of the Blue Moon, clamped his hand over her mouth and pressed the point of his gun into her belly. She was certain she would find a bruise there later. Despite his small kindness of the jacket, she could not stop thinking about his first threat: *Don't scream or I'll shoot your kid.* The restaurant had been full of confusion and she had smelled smoke in the air. No one had noticed them as he dragged her out the service entrance to his rust-spotted car. He had tied her hands together with thick rope and blindfolded her eyes, but did not gag her. She resigned herself to having her wrists rubbed raw before this was over.

The heavy car door swung open and hands grabbed Scully's arms. Hauling her out of the car, he dragged her by the elbow up the path. He took her through a door that squeaked in both directions and slammed shut behind them. Inside was slightly warmer than outside, and gloomy through her blindfold. Their feet tapped on the linoleum floor.

"Paul!" he bellowed. "Dammit. Paul!" He shoved Scully onto a couch, where a spring dug into her backside. "Paul!"

The squeaky door slammed. "What are you hollering about?"

said a new voice, and two pairs of feet skidded to a stop. "Shit,"

the new man said, and a second man echoed him softly. One of them approached Scully and she felt his hand touch her shoulder. She tried not to cringe.

"I told you!" her captor said gleefully. "We let the right people know we've got her and she's going to make us rich! For life!"

"Us?" said the soft-voiced man at Scully's side.

"Well, yeah, sure," her captor said. "Y'all take care of her while I field the offers and I'll split whatever I make. Three ways. Even. Paulie--" He turned away a bit, appealing, Scully supposed, to the third man, "Paulie, you said you'd help. I can't keep her with me. You know how nosy my landlady is. I have to stay at my place to take the phone calls. Your place is bigger anyway, and way out here, nobody'll see her." Neither of the other men said anything for a moment, and her captor said, "Paulie, tell Sam it's okay."

The soft voice said, "Are you hungry, Ma'am?"

"No, thank you," Scully whispered. She thought she'd vomit if she tried to eat at this point. Maybe later, when she had a better idea of what was going on and how to escape.

Because she would escape. No doubts about that. Even if it meant trekking through the Ozarks or wherever the hell they were, she would find her way back to Mulder.

The third man sighed and said, "Put her in the bedroom, will you, Sam?" He coughed thickly, opened the squeaky door, hawked and spat.

The one he'd called Sam helped Scully to her feet. "This way, Ma'am." He led her down a short hall and into another room.

The air in the room was stale. "You can rest here." She felt a mattress against the backs of her knees and sank down.

"Could you untie me, please?" she said. "Or take off the blindfold? Preferably both."

"Oh--yeah--of course. Sorry, Ma'am." He untied the knot at the back of her head and the blindfold fell from her eyes. It was a blue bandana, frayed at the edges but clean.

Sam went about untying her hands. He was stocky, in his middle twenties, blond with a short mustache and beard. He had dark eyes, and whenever he glanced up at her and saw her watching him, he quickly looked away.

The knots were too tight for him to untie with his fingers, and finally he sighed, took out a Swiss Army knife from his jeans pocket to cut through the ropes. "There. You'll be okay, Ma'am.

We're not here to hurt you or nothin'."

Scully rubbed her wrists, which were pink and tender but not cut. Her fingers were stiff and cold, and she blew on her hands to warm them.

He said, "I'm Sam, by the way. My brother's Paul and the idiot who brung you here, he's Dobson. I'm really sorry, Ma'am.

Every time he swears he's going straight he pulls another stunt like this. Well--I mean--he's never kidnapped somebody before. I don't think he has. Anyway," he looked terribly embarrassed, "you just rest, Ma'am. You'll be fine."

"My name is Dana," Scully said quietly, still keeping her eyes on his. She put her hand on her stomach, not surprised to see his eyes follow the movement, and said, "This is Daisy." It wouldn't hurt, she thought, to let him know there were two lives at stake here.

"Daisy," Sam repeated. "That's real pretty. We had a dog named Daisy when I was a kid--beautiful hunting hound--" He stopped himself. "Sorry. You don't want to connect our old dog to your little girl." He paused again, then said, "Dobson--he said drug companies are after you. He said you've got a genuine alien baby.

That's not true, is it?"

"No," Scully said. "It's not true." Good God, she thought, is *that* what this is about?

"I didn't think so." Now he looked disgusted. "Dobson's such a--he'll believe anything if he thinks he can make some money at it. We'll straighten this out."

The door rattled as Paul banged on it. "Sam!"

"Gotta go," Sam said, standing up. "I promise you're safe with us, Ma'am."

Paul opened the door and leaned it. He was blond like his brother, with a lean, clean-shaven, ruddy face. "You coming?" He paused, glaring at Scully, who returned his look coolly. "You untied her, you fucking moron."

"She was uncomfortable."

"You're a fucking moron," Paul said again but made no move to rectify the situation. "It's your turn to make dinner." He stepped aside to let Sam out of the room, and then stood in the doorway with his hand on the doorknob. He appraised Scully for a long minute, and grinned at her with yellow teeth. "I've seen you before. You on the T.V.?"

"No," Scully said, huddling beneath the denim jacket.

"There's some girl clothes in the dresser, there. You'll be here for a couple days, at least, so make yourself to home." He started to leave again, and then looked at Scully once more and said, pointing at her excitedly, "I know how I know you! I saw you on 'Cops'! You were on 'Cops'!" His face paled and he muttered, "Shit." He pulled the door shut.

Scully's legs trembled as she rose, but still she walked to the door. There was a keyhole in the doorknob but no key. Stiffly, she lowered herself to the floor with her back against the rough wood. Her body wasn't much of a doorstop but it was all she had.

Even wrapped in the denim jacket she was cold and shaking.

Pulling her knees up as best she could, she spread the jacket over herself like a blanket.

Don't scream, she thought. Screaming won't help anything.

Crying won't either. Still, she clamped her hands over her mouth to cover the faint whine that escaped, and a few tears dropped from her eyes.

Mulder, Mulder, I need you, she thought, biting her fingers to keep herself quiet. I'm so frightened. Find me, Mulder. Bring me home.

There was a gentle flutter in her abdomen. Scully felt her heartbeat calm down and her breathing deepen, and she lowered her hands from her mouth. "Okay," she said. She cupped her belly in her hands. "Okay, Daisy. Mommy's better now." She hugged her belly as best she could and said quietly, "I can't wait to hold you." She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the door.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

~Memory--June 2000~

When they reached the motel Mulder was so exhausted he fell into the bed without even taking off his shoes. Scully regarded him, amused, for a moment, then climbed onto the bed to kneel over him. He lay on his stomach so she began to rub his back, using her fingertips and the heels of her hands to dig into his muscles.

Mulder made a low moaning sound. "That's nice," he muttered.

"You've had a long day," Scully said.

"So've you."

"I think I could still go dancing tonight and not be tired."

He chuckled. "Don't quite have your energy."

"I know." She bent low towards him, putting more of her weight into the massage, and Mulder rumbled deep in his chest.

"It's okay. You get some sleep, babe."

He inhaled and exhaled, slow and deep, his eyes closed. She slowed her hands and stopped, and then placed her hands on either side of his head and kissed his hair. His eyelids fluttered but he didn't even smile, and Scully decided he must be asleep.

Good, she thought, and got off the bed. He had been subdued and thoughtful ever since they left the park; overwhelmed, she thought, by their strange and long day--and by its conclusion, she was certain.

Scully felt no less confused--if someone had told her the day before that she would be ready, eager, even, to make love with Mulder today she would have asked them what kind of mickey they planned to slip her--but she had no regrets.

Not a one, she realized as she got ready for bed. Over the past few months she'd been unable to articulate to Mulder exactly why she was so endlessly unhappy, but she could see it now. Regret had been eating her up alive, for every misstep and questionable choice she had made in the past ten years. Every loss had weighed upon her heavily: the normal life, the sister, the child, the friendships, the career, the certainty of her place in the world.

The vision at the pueblo had shown her things she had not considered. Her friends still tried to keep in contact, even though she could rarely get back to them. Her family still loved her even though they didn't always understand her work or her life. Melissa, her caring, funny, smart sister, was still alive in her memory.

She still accomplished good in the world, even if she would never earn accolades and promotions from it. She was still Dana Katherine, beloved daughter, cherished friend. She was still Scully, loyal partner, adored lover.

And she still had Mulder. Oh, yes. Mulder loved her without condition. Mulder never questioned her integrity or motives because he knew them better than he knew his own. Mulder, for all his differences, was her other half--the part of herself she had never known she was missing until he showed her how to be complete.

She had been shown that at the pueblo. She knew she would not soon forget it.

There had been something else in the vision, too, that she didn't know what to do with. It was not a memory, not exactly, though it felt familiar like a dream she'd had many times but forgotten each time. It was just an image, really: herself in a garden, a laughing child in her arms. In the context of the vision, though, it felt like a reminder not to discount even the most extreme of possibilities.

Scully rinsed her face and smiled to herself. Children could mean any number of things in dream symbolism. The child, she thought, could be nothing more than a symbol of her--their--new beginning. This new life, where she could love Mulder and allow herself to be loved in return. They could make a happy life in the face of whatever was to come.

"I've earned this," she whispered to her reflection. "I've earned him."

As if on command Mulder stood in the doorway, blinking sleepily and rubbing his eyes. "Sorry, dropped off," he said.

"I'll be there in a minute," Scully said, but put down her toothbrush and went to him. She put her arms around him and hugged him tight. Mulder hugged her back just as tightly.

"Stay with me," she said, pressing her cheek to his chest.

"Yes." He kissed her hair.

They stood for a few moments more, then Scully reluctantly let Mulder go and moved back to the sink. "I'm almost finished."

She squeezed some toothpaste onto her brush and started to clean her teeth.

Mulder stood behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.

Their eyes met in the mirror and he smiled at her. "You're beautiful even with a mouthful of toothpaste," he whispered, and bent to kiss the back of her neck.

Scully laughed, hastily spat out the toothpaste and rinsed her mouth. She turned and put her arms around his neck. "Kiss me,"

she said, and he needed no urging to obey.

She was learning to read his moods through the way that he kissed her. This kiss was passionate--he was almost always passionate--but he was too tired to do much more. She caressed his neck and touched his lips as they kissed until he raised his head.

He whispered, "What?"

"Come on." She took him by the hand and led him to the bed.

She had him sit, and then knelt at his feet to remove his boots. He lay down when she gently pushed on his shoulder, and watched her with sleepy eyes as she undressed him.

"I hate to say it, Scully," he said in a low voice, "but I'm not up to foolin' around any more tonight."

"That's fine, babe." She kissed his forehead and pulled the sheet over him. She felt his gaze on her as she turned out all the lights and got into bed beside him. "Turn over," she said, and he chuckled and rolled into his side, his back to her.

She held him, his broad back to her chest, trying to enfold him into her. It was a hopeless task--he was just too long--but she didn't mind the effort. The scent of sex lingered about them, the way she smelled like the ocean after a day at the beach. She wanted to bottle up this smell and keep it on a chain at her neck, to sniff whenever she wanted to remember.

They lay in silence for a while as she stroked and kissed his shoulders and hair. She wondered if she should say it out loud: Do you feel this, Mulder? It's love. It's real. It's all yours.

This means I love you and I want to make you happy. Instead, she stroked his cheek with the backs of her fingers. She combed her hands through his hair. She lightly scratched her nails through the hair on his chest. She kissed his neck. She wove her fingers through his and clasped their hands to his chest.

"Hey, Scully," he murmured.

"Yes?"

There was a long pause, then he said, "Everything is going to be different now."

She kissed the back of his neck and said, "Yes. It is. Go to sleep, Mulder."

He kissed her hand and pressed it to his chest again. She leaned her head against his back and smiled at the sound of his heartbeat, and held him tightly as she had been longing for months to do.


III. If the Fates Allow

~Memory: June 2000~

Scully was folding her laundry. She always found this activity soothing--the warmth of the clothes, the scent of dryer sheets and detergent, the simple monotony of it. Match socks, fold. Panties, fold. Sheets and pillowcases, fold.

They had been back from New Mexico exactly one day--not even an entire day--and it irked her that she was alone in her apartment, folding t-shirts, when she would much rather be with Mulder. But they had said their goodbyes in the Hoover Building parking garage that afternoon, agreeing that sleep and a few hours apart would be worthwhile pursuits. They had not kissed goodbye but they had hugged, briefly.

Scully had stopped by her dry-cleaners, gotten some fresh food at the corner store, eaten a solitary dinner and done her wash. It was now nearly midnight. She thought she would go to bed soon, though she didn't think she would sleep. She had not slept well the night before, instead waking up at Mulder's every movement as if her subconscious couldn't believe he was still there.

Tonight, she thought, her subconscious wouldn't believe that he was gone--wasn't asleep beside her, snuggled in her arms and stealing the sheets.

Scully sat cross-legged on her bed and sighed. She was lonely for him, and--she could admit this readily--she was horny.

For so many years no other body appealed to her, and it was even worse now that she knew for certain everything from the taste of Mulder's sweat to the timbre of his groans.

She wanted him. It was laughably simple. She wanted him and he wasn't there.

Scully lay back on her bed and stretched out her arms. She flexed her feet and let her legs fall open. She rubbed her palms down her thighs, over the cotton of her pajamas and then underneath her shirt as she slid her hands up her stomach. She cupped her breasts in her hands. Her skin felt warm and incredibly soft. She shifted her hips, remembering the texture of Mulder's hands as he touched her this way.

It wasn't enough, though. Again she sighed, and removed her hands from her body. She eyed her phone. If she called him, would he come?

She lifted her head when someone knocked on her door, and then she bounded off the bed. People she didn't want to see never knocked, they just let themselves in. Even though he'd had a key to her apartment for years, Mulder never used it.

She looked through the peephole in her front door, grinned and unlocked the door. Mulder smiled at her uncomfortably and said, "Would you believe me if I said I can't sleep?"

"Would you believe me if I said you don't need an excuse?"

She took his hands to draw him inside. "You don't even need a reason."

"So it's okay?"

"Of course it is." He wore sweats and a t-shirt under his light jacket, and in some places his hair was flat and in others stood up like an exaggerated cowlick. He hadn't been lying about trying to sleep. "Of course it's okay. I was thinking about calling you. I was just wondering if you'd come, if I did."

"Yes." He put his hands on her waist, and then stooped to press his forehead against her neck. He kissed her collarbone. "Of course I would."

His hands slid down her back and they looked at each other.

She smiled and reached behind him to lock her front door, then, holding his hand, led him back to her bedroom.

"It smells good in here," he murmured.

"Fresh laundry. I just changed the sheets."

He ran an open hand over the bedspread. "Looks comfortable."

"It's very comfortable." She sat down on the edge and tugged his hand for him to join her. He did, smiling more with his eyes than with his mouth, and leaned in to kiss her.

"Mm, Scully," he murmured against her mouth. "You're so soft and sweet."

Scully laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck. They kissed each other slowly as Mulder's hands slid up and down her sides. He scooted further back onto the bed, pulling her with him, and lay down. He smoothed her hair back from her face and tucked a lock behind her ear. She smiled at him, stroking his face with her palms.

"What do you see when you look at me?" she whispered. She'd been wondering this for years.

Mulder smiled like she should know this, and he said, "Somebody who made my life better by being in it."

Scully leaned on her elbows and folded her arms around his head, and kissed him, kissed him for quite some time. His hands continued moving up and down her sides, almost but not quite touching her ass, barely skimming the undersides of her breasts. It felt like a slow delicious tease, and she began to grind her hips against him, following his relaxed rhythm.

He groaned into her mouth, his fingers clenching on her hips. He leaned his head back so that their lips parted, and he smiled at her faintly.

"What does it say about us," he said, "that we couldn't keep our hands off each other for even just twenty-four hours?"

"It says we're passionate about each other." Scully smiled down at him, stroking his lips with her thumbs.

"I've been passionate about you for years but I've managed to behave."

"Yes, but now you know you don't have to behave. You know you're welcome here." She kissed his neck and whispered, "You can come here anytime. And if you're not here, I'll come to you. I want to be with you, Mulder. Even if we don't have the energy for sex, I want to be with you."

He cupped her face in his hands. "Scully," he said seriously, "you know as well as I do that we can't be careless."

"I know. But being careful doesn't equal being lonely." She placed her hands on his chest. His heart was racing beneath her palms, and she bent to kiss his heartbeat. "I want to sleep with you in your bed. I want to watch TV wrapped up in your arms. I want to go grocery shopping with you. I want to make love to you whenever we want to."

Mulder had begun to smile at her words, his hands restless on her hips. "You sure you won't get sick of me, with all this hanging out together?"

"I haven't yet, have I?" She grinned at him and kissed him, catching his lower lip between her teeth. He chuckled and pulled her hard against him.

"Here's what I want," he murmured. "I want to take you to Graceland."

"I knew you'd drag Elvis into this somehow," Scully whispered, kissing him more deeply.

"I want to slow dance with you. I want to take you on a date. I want this to be a simple and normal as we can make it." He paused their kisses. "Though I do want to make love to you as often as humanly possible, too."

"That's pretty simple and normal," Scully teased, "perfectly normal, it sounds like to me."

"Yes," Mulder murmured, kissing her again, "that would be normal to you."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh . . . just that . . . anybody in love with you would want to make love to you as often as they could. I'm sure you're used to it."

She smiled at him, feeling a fierce and protective tenderness towards him, and she kissed him hard. "I love you," she said, then again with emphasis, "I love *you.*"

"I'm not being jealous."

"I never said you were. I'm just reminding you. You're my dear. Remember that, okay?"

The smile that he gave her was quiet and satisfied. "Okay,"

he said, and pulled her to him again with a soft sigh. "Okay."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

It had been a long time--painfully long, Scully thought--since she had touched the skin of another. She couldn't stop marveling at Mulder's textures: his rough stubble, the crisp hair on his legs, his soft lips. At his temperatures: his slightly cold toes, his flushed cock. At his tastes: salt and caramel.

There had been no time to linger the night before so now she did, touching him everywhere while he watched her through halfclosed eyes. His movement was minimal, just caressing her in passing. Mostly he watched.

She did not begrudge him this. She wanted it--she wanted to take care of him. I'm making love to you, she thought, I'm showing you love. She supposed he would want a rougher touch at some point, for her to bite instead of kiss, but she couldn't bear to mark him.

He was so scarred and bruised already.

When he began to touch her in return it was light and hesitant, to places like the pit of her knee, the inside of her elbow, the base of her neck. His kisses were deep and wet. He cupped his hand around her breast and the curves of her hips, squeezing her for a moment before moving on. He kissed the muscles in her arms and the flat of her belly. He rubbed his nose against the tips of her hair and wrapped her hair into ringlets around his fingers.

It was so sweet, to hold each other, to whisper, to sigh, to kiss each other slow and deep. Scully thought, for all the times she'd had sex, this was one of the few times she'd really made love.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

They lay sprawled over the unmade bed, tangled up in limbs and sheets and pillows. She moved her hips slowly, wanting to draw out every moment. She watched his face, her hands planted on his chest.

"Tell me," she whispered. "Tell me how it feels."

He murmured, "It feels like--mm--you want me there."

Scully moaned and kissed his adam's apple. "Yes. Yes." She drew herself up over him, her body straight as a column, and Mulder ran his hands up her torso to cup her breasts. Her flesh squeezed out between his fingers. She gripped his wrists. "Can you feel it?

Can you feel how deep you're fucking me?"

"Oh, yes." His head tossed on the pillow. "Yes. Yes." His hips arched towards her, driving deeper still, and Scully shuddered from head to toe.

"Mulder, Mulder," she said.

"Come for me, Scully," he whispered, rotating his hips as he thrust into her again and again. "I want you to come for me, my beauty. You can do it." His thumbs flicked her nipples.

"I want to. Oh, I want to." Her throat felt rough from her cries and moans.

"Scully," he said. "Scully." He gripped her hips, pulling her onto him even harder, and she could feel his muscles tensing and straining as she ran her hands over him. She closed her eyes, rocking her entire body. He was so beautiful, so good to her, so loving, so sexy--so deep inside her she thought she could feel him everywhere, even her fingertips and her toes.

"Oh, Mulder," she said, her eyes wide with wonder. "Mulder, I'm--you -Mulder!" She couldn't stop--she couldn't stop--if she stopped she would die--"Mulder!" she shouted and abruptly started to cry.

She could feel the effort it cost Mulder to stop thrusting, and he placed shaking hands on her face. "Scully? Honey? Are you okay?"

"Yes--I don't know--" She nuzzled her cheeks into his hands.

"I'm sorry--" Mulder sat up and kissed her mouth. "It's okay, honey. I promise. You're okay."

"I love you so much," Scully choked out and buried her face in his shoulder, wrapping her arms around his chest. He stroked her hair. His entire body shook and his chest heaved with his rapid, shallow breaths.

"I know, shh, shh. I know. I love you too. You're okay.

You're safe with me. I love you." He kissed her again and again, stroking her hair and her face. "My sweet tulip, my little rose. My beauty. You're okay."

"Everything is too much," she sobbed, not sure what she meant.

Mulder sighed heavily and lifted her off his lap. This stopped her tears, and she watched him with confusion as he got off the bed. "Mulder? You're not leaving?"

"I'll be right back," he said in a tone meant to reassure and soothe. It did neither.

"Is something wrong?"

"I won't be long." He ran his hand over her hair and kissed her, and then left the bedroom for the bathroom.

Scully wiped her face with her palms and got out of bed too.

She didn't care if he was having a piss or taking a cold shower--he couldn't just walk away. She opened the bathroom door.

It was as she'd thought. Mulder knelt on the floor by the bathtub, his arm braced against it. His eyes were squeezed shut and he grasped his cock, jerking himself off roughly.

"Mulder!" she said.

He turned his face away from her. "Dammit, Scully," he muttered, his teeth clenched. "You should have said I was hurting you."

"You weren't." She knelt down in front of him and wrapped her hand around his cock, just above his hand. "You weren't hurting me, baby. It felt good. It felt so good." She followed his movements, grasping more tightly at the head and then easing her hand down the shaft. His hand dropped away and he leaned his head against her neck. He rocked against her as she spoke. "It felt good to have you inside me, Mulder. Better than good. Strong . . . powerful . . . fulfilling . . ."

He groaned into her ear. His cock throbbed in her hand and she gripped him harder. "Yes, yes, that's it," she whispered, wrapping her other arm around his shoulders to balance him. "That's it, my love. Don't hold back from me." He groaned again and his teeth scraped the pulse in her throat, causing her to moan as well.

Her knees hurt from the tile and her wrist was beginning to ache and it was going to make mess when he finally came but she didn't care. He was her lover and she couldn't leave him unsatisfied.

"Scully," he groaned, "Scully," drawing it out in that strange way he had. "Scullaaaaaaay . . ."

It did make a mess, semen over the both of them and the cold tile floor. Mulder held onto her, panting, and she stroked his back and his hair.

"Would you like to take a bath?" she whispered, and he nodded without opening his eyes.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Scully put on her bathrobe, cleaned the floor and pinned up her hair while Mulder ran the bath water. He held his long fingers under the stream, his expression thoughtful, and he frequently looked up at her as if he wanted to say something. He remained silent.

When the tub was full Mulder got in with a long sigh. "This was a good idea," he whispered. "This feels really good."

Scully ran an affectionate hand through his hair. "Scoot forward."

"Hm?"

"Move up. I want to sit behind you."

He looked up at her again, his lips parted, then moved forward so she could get into the tub behind him. Scully dropped her robe and eased herself into the water, sighing too at the soothing heat. Mulder hesitated, then leaned carefully against her, his back to her chest. He pulled himself down a little, so that his head rested on her shoulder.

Scully picked up her shower gel and a loofah, squeezed out some gel and worked up a lather. Mulder chuckled when she started moving the loofah over his shoulders. His thumbs plucked at her knees.

"Scully?"

"Hm?"

"You're taking a bath."

"So I am."

He shrugged slightly, as if to say, all right, it's no big deal to me if it's no big deal to you.

She said softly, teasing his nipple with the loofah, "Why did you walk away?"

"I was hurting you."

"You weren't hurting me." She kissed his ear.

"You were crying, Scully. What was I supposed to think?"

She stroked his hair back from his forehead and said slowly, "Sometimes, when my orgasm is very intense, I cry. It doesn't mean anything beyond that. Not that I'm in pain or that I'm scared . . . just that--" She tried to think of a delicate way to put this, and decided to hell with delicacy. "Just that I've come and it was good. Really good."

Mulder sighed heavily. He nuzzled his cheek against her hand. "The last thing that I want is for you to--" He stopped and pressed his face against her arm. "I don't want you to ever be afraid of me," he muttered, his words muffled.

"I won't be." She kissed his hair. "Ever. I promise."

He took another slow breath. "The past couple days I've been thinking a lot about us and you and your . . . troubles . . . " "You've been thinking about Pfaster," Scully said calmly.

"Yeah."

"So have I."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. And you know what I've realized?"

"What?" He sounded like he dreaded the idea.

"He's dead. He's not going to hurt anyone anymore. He's not going to hurt me. I can't let him control me from the grave. As much as I regret being the one to pull the trigger I don't regret his being dead. Maybe in death he's finally found some peace."

Mulder exhaled and stroked her arm. "Do you really want peace for him, Scully?"

"Yes. I think I do. All I can do now is pity him. How terrible it must have been, to find no joy in life except in the taking of it. Yes." She ran her fingers through Mulder's hair. "I hope he's found peace."

Mulder closed his eyes. "Do you want to know what I've been thinking?" he murmured.

"Yes."

"What if he and I aren't that different. When it comes to you, I mean. You are all I think about. You are everything to me.

What if my obsession and his obsession--what if they're the same thing under different names? That dream I had the other night--"

"Mulder." She stroked his chest. He was getting overexcited in all the wrong ways. "Shh, Mulder. You love me. You don't want to own me or destroy me. That's the difference."

"But the dream--"

"Was just a dream. It was on your mind, so you dreamed about it. It wasn't predicting the future or reshaping the past. It was just a dream."

"There's darkness in me, Scully."

"There's darkness in all of us, Mulder." She kissed his hair again. "And you know what? I still love you."

He relaxed in her arms, allowing his full weight to rest against her. "Am I too heavy?"

"No." She smiled. "I can handle you."


~Memory--August 2000~

Mulder was solicitous as he guided Scully into her bedroom.

"Lean on me, Scully--that's my girl--careful of the rug--" Scully had kept her eyes closed ever since they left the hospital. The bright daylight hurt her eyes, and she wanted more than anything to lie down in her darkened bedroom and let the world drift by for a while.

It had been a minor car accident but still Scully came out of it with a concussion, whiplash and cuts on her face and hands.

Mulder had been frantic, positive that someone--one of Them--had caused the accident as a message. Since Scully had actually talked to the other driver, she didn't think so. Mulder had wanted her to stay in the hospital longer than overnight, but Scully only wanted to be home.

Mulder kept his arm around her shoulder as he folded back the blankets on her bed. He eased her onto the mattress. "Do you want anything?"

"Stay with me?" She peered at him. He smiled at her. "Please?"

"Sure, honey. But you don't want some tea or something?"

"Nuh-uh." She held out her arms. He took her hands and kissed them.

"Let's get you comfortable."

"I'm very comfortable."

"Let's make you more comfortable, then." He kissed her hands again and let them go, and moved down to take off her shoes and socks. He kissed the bottoms of her feet.

"Mulder, love, I'm not up for sex."

"I know, honey. I just like your little feet."

Scully laughed but regretted it as it sent the throbbing in her head to new heights. "Oh," she moaned quietly, pressing her hands to her temples.

"Would ice help?"

"Yes." Or morphine, she thought.

Mulder leaned close to her and whispered, "Is it okay to kiss you?"

"Gently," she said, so that was exactly how he kissed her.

"I'll be right back with your ice." She heard him walk away and close the door behind him.

Scully folded her hands on her stomach. She had been given medication at the hospital but its effect was mild, changing the pain from a sharp pounding to a dull ache. Rest, she knew, was the only cure, and she thought she might welcome the opportunity to lie quietly, as long as Mulder was nearby.

The rest of the summer had been sweet, more fun than she had thought it could be, more tender and more passionate. They fell into a routine like a married couple, spending nights at each other's apartments, sharing their bathrooms, cooking, showering and sleeping together.

She had never been in love like this: so completely, so simply and so happily. There had always been something in the way before, ambitions or other relationships or doubt. With Mulder there was no doubt. He had no desires but her happiness. They were each other's world, and sometimes when she stepped out of it she blinked in surprise at the other people around.

She had talked to her mother a few days before the accident.

Her mother had commented, "You seem happy, dear," and Scully had said, "Yes. I am."

There was only one more thing that she could ask for, but since that was impossible she tried not to dwell on it. If Mulder wanted anything more he gave no sign, so Scully tried to be content, too.

Still . . . one night they were spooning in bed and Mulder had been stroking her stomach, and she'd been tempted, terribly tempted, to ask him, "Do you want to have a baby?" But even if his answer was yes--and she wasn't sure it would be--her body's answer was no, forever and always.

Charlie had stopped teasing her with "tick tick tick" in his letters. Bill had stopped asking her if she was seeing anyone.

Melissa, she thought, would be plying her with homeopathic teas and swinging crystals over her belly, telling Scully she had to relax if she wanted to conceive.

It seemed strange to her, this line of thinking, but she couldn't argue against it, either. I am in love, ergo, I want to have a baby with him. It felt as obvious as, I am in love, ergo, I want him in my bed; I am in love, ergo, the rest of my weekends are booked; I am in love, ergo, I am spending far too much money at Victoria's Secret.

Scully sighed, flexed her arms and settled back into a comfortable position. She had Mulder. He was enough.

In a few minutes Mulder came back with a towel filled with ice. He perched on the edge of the bed and laid the towel carefully over her forehead. "Thank you, love," she whispered, cracking her eyes open again to look at him.

He stroked her chin. "Get some sleep."

"Stay with me."

"I'd be afraid I'd hit you in my sleep or something. Jog that precious, lovely head."

Scully managed not to laugh this time. "You know I sleep better when you're here."

"Me too, baby." He continued stroking her chin, and said, "I'll stay but we'll have to settle you in really carefully with pillows and stuff. You need to relax and keep still."

"Yes, dear."

"'Yes, dear,'" he mimicked with a chuckle. "You must be feeling awful."

"That pretty much sums it up."

"Okay. Let me get you some dinner together. Do you think you could eat something?"

"Something simple like soup."

"Soup it is." He kissed her carefully. "I love you."

"Mm, I love you," Scully answered, touching his face without opening her eyes, and he caught her hand and kissed it.

"Sleep. I'll wake you when dinner's ready."

"Yes, dear," she murmured again. Mulder chuckled and kissed her once more before getting up from the bed.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Mulder was a cuddler. He loved to hold her close and stroke his hands over her, even when they agreed they were too tired for sex and it was time for sleep. He would circle her navel with a fingertip or play with her fingers or rub the bottom of her foot with his big toe.

Lying flat on her back, her head nestled in pillows, Scully thought the aching was only secondary to the frustration of wanting him closer. She could feel his warmth and hear him breathe, but it wasn't the same as being wrapped around him or in him.

"Mulder?" she whispered. They had been lying in bed twenty minutes, maybe less. Her medication had not kicked in yet. He was lying on his side, his hand under his face like the reformed thumbsucker he was. "Mulder, are you asleep?"

He grunted in response. She decided not to bother him after all: it heartened her, really, that this former insomniac now fell asleep in seconds, as soon as he was comfortable. Normally she fell asleep quickly too, her head on his chest, her hand over his heart.

Their legs would be intertwined and he would hold her so, so tight . . .

She sighed. She moved her hand slowly under the sheets and touched the smooth skin of his wrist. A vein beat beneath her fingers, slowed by sleep.

There were nights she awoke and searched for his pulse, needing visceral proof that he was here, alive with her, not dead and not a dream. There were nights that she counted the seconds between breaths. There were times, even in the office, when she couldn't stop herself from embracing him--often from behind as he was sitting, wrapping her arms around his neck and rubbing her face against his hair. He would chuckle, reach behind and touch her hip, rub her arm, turn back his head for a kiss.

She was becoming a cuddler, too, it seemed. She hadn't quite acquired his taste for nicknames but he didn't seem to mind that.

She couldn't keep track of all the things he called her--it usually centered around flowers but when he called her Squirrel she had no trouble calling him Moose. "As in, big as a . . ." she would tease, which would make him laugh and kiss her.

She loved that she could make him laugh.

Again Scully sighed, and shifted her legs. Lying still on her back was not as easy as it would seem. Her pelvis ached and there were cramps in her lower belly and calves. She wanted to turn onto her side and curl up her legs. She wanted Mulder to hold her.

But no. She had to lie still. She had to let her brain get settled into place again--not the technical term, she thought with a wry grin, but good enough for her mood now.

The cramp in her side intensified and she clenched her teeth, exhaling. It was a low pain, tight and sharp. It felt . . . familiar.

Scully sat up, grimacing, her hand pressed against her side.

It had been years since she'd felt this but there was no mistaking a menstrual cramp. She tried to move her legs off the side of the bed, to put her feet on the floor, but the room spun like a Tilt-AWhirl and she had to fight down a bout of nausea.

"Scully?" Mulder muttered sleepily, sitting up behind her.

"Do you need something, honey?"

"The bathroom. I need the bathroom."

He was on his feet in a second, around the bed to pick her up. "Are you going to vomit?"

"No, I don't think so--Mulder, put me down, please. I don't need to be carried."

He was halfway to the bathroom with her already, however. He lowered the lid on the toilet and set her down, and brushed her hair back from her face. "Do you just need some water?"

"I need a tampon," Scully said.

He blushed and chuckled. "Oh. Girl stuff."

"Girl stuff," she confirmed. "There's a box under the sink.

And then if you'll leave me for a few minutes, please, I'd rather do this alone."

Mulder got the box from beneath the sink and handed it to her, then paused in the doorway. "If you're going to be resting a while, shouldn't you be wearing a pad?"

She stared at him a moment, then said, "It freaks me out sometimes, remembering that you were married."

"It wasn't so bad." He smiled at her. "Most of the time it was pretty okay." He left the bathroom and shut the door.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Conception, Scully later thought, was mostly a matter of timing.

Exactly twenty-eight days after their experience at Pueblo Bonito, Scully menstruated. She'd been having short, erratic periods since her abduction, so this did not strike her as strange.

Mulder, still learning the rhythms of her body, did not think it strange either. She later thought perhaps she didn't ovulate in July, that her body was in the process of returning to normal, and that was why she didn't conceive that month.

August was easy: the week she ovulated was the week of her car accident and Mulder was considerate enough to not ask for anything while she had a concussion. He was actually quite attentive while she rested and healed, solicitous in a way she never would have imagined before she became his lover. So, no baby in August.

But she felt better in September.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

~December 8, 2000

~ The little room had warmed up a bit as forced hot air blew from the vent by the window. Scully laboriously stood and went to the window, parted the curtains and looked out. There was nothing to see but trees: oaks, pines, birches, more trees than she knew the names of. From this angle she couldn't see the road.

She folded the denim jacket and went the dresser Paul had indicated earlier. Girl clothes, she thought. I wonder who the girl is?

The clothes she found were clean though a few sizes too big for her: two pairs of Levis, several t-shirts, a few sweaters.

Scully chose a pink cableknit cardigan and a pair of slippers lined with lamb's wool that she found beneath a flannel nightgown.

Her feet had gotten entirely too cold from wearing sandals in this weather.

Somewhat warmer, Scully eased open the bedroom door. Her next mission was to find a bathroom, and after that, to see if she could get Sam to tell her more about where they were and what was going on. Their friend Dobson seemed like a petty criminal at best, and she couldn't see how he could have heard about her or any possible rewards offered for herself or the baby. Either the Smoking Man had grown very careless in his old age or there was yet another person, or group of persons, interested in her physiology.

The bathroom was just across the hall, small and recently cleaned, judging by the strong smell of Lysol in the air. Scully used the toilet and washed her hands, and then splashed some cold water on her face. Her reflection in the mirror seemed like another woman: some tiny frightened creature with too-big eyes, wearing an oversized sweater, her freckles popping out in her pale face.

Scully ran her damp hands through her hair and straightened her shoulders. Her gun and her badge were long gone, but she still had her attitude.

"Knock 'em dead," she whispered to her reflection, and touched her belly for luck. Daisy gave an answering bump and Scully opened the bathroom door.

The hallway smelled of frying ham and hot cheese. Scully's stomach growled--she'd been too frightened to eat since her eggs in the diner that morning. Still, she approached the kitchen with caution. Paul would not be happy to see her, and she doubted Sam would be, even if he were willing to talk to her.

She thought, I am Dana Scully, and lifted her chin a little higher as she pushed open the kitchen door.

The TV was blaring a rerun of 'The Simpsons', and Paul lay on the couch watching it while Sam cooked. Scully walked to the stove as if she had every right to be there, and looked into the pots.

"Mac and cheese," Sam said, sounding almost shy. "And ham . . . and broccoli. We don't got any more milk."

"I'll be fine with water." She folded her arms. "Unless one of you wanted to run to the store for some."

"It's not exactly a run, Ma'am--it's a forty minute drive--"

"Sam!" Paul sat up on the couch. "Shut your mouth! And who told you you could be wanderin' around, woman? Go back in the bedroom!"

Sam ducked his head, abashed, but Scully said, "No," quietly and clearly.

"What did you say?"

"I said no. Tie me up if you want me to stay put--if you've got the balls."

Paul started to rise from the couch when Sam said, "There'll be none of that. Nobody's tying up anybody. Ma'am, why don't you have a seat. This is almost done."

Never taking her eyes off Paul, Scully murmured, "Thanks,"

and sat slowly down in one of the kitchen chairs. Her ankles were aching, she had to admit that.

Paul watched her, then snorted and lay down again. "Gonna kill that Dobson," he muttered.

"It would be better for you if you did," Scully said.

"Kidnapping is a federal offense, and the penalties are worse when state lines are crossed."

"But we didn't do it!" Paul exclaimed, jumping to his feet.

"We didn't do nothin'!"

"He brought me here, making you accessories after the fact, which is still a felony."

Paul stared at her and said, "She's making this up. She's bluffing, Sam."

"Do you really want to get your brother into that much trouble?" Scully said in a soft, firm voice.

"Sam, she's lying--"

"You remember what I was on 'Cops'. I wasn't one of the criminals."

Sam said, "What was she on 'Cops'?"

Paul looked from Scully to Sam, and said, turning away to sit on the couch again, "She's with the fuckin' FBI."

"The FBI," Sam repeated, disbelieving. "This little thing?

No offense, ma'am."

"None taken," Scully murmured. "I was a federal agent until two months ago. I left to protect my child--who is not, despite what Dobson may have told you, anything supernatural. If you help me, or even just let me go--"

"That's enough," growled Paul. "You're not going nowhere, not at least until I talk to Dobson. Can we eat yet, Sam? I'm hungry."

"Yeah, it's ready," Sam said quietly, and turned back to the stove to start dishing up the food.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

It was a tense meal. It was difficult, Scully found, to eat while retaining an aura of cool detachment. Sam ate with his head down, barely looking up to pass the salt when asked. Paul ate loudly, glaring at them both.

"So, Federal Agent Lady," Paul said finally. "I always thought aliens was bullshit, but Dobson says he knows somebody who swears they're for reals. Is it true?"

Scully sighed. "You may call me Agent Scully."

"Okay, *Agent.* So? What about it?"

"I honestly don't know. I've seen a lot of unexplainable things."

"That's it? 'Unexplainable things'? Sheesh, lady." He smirked. "*Agent* Scully. Can't expect the government to tell us the truth, anyhow."

Scully almost laughed, but remembered herself and stopped.

Sam stood and started to clear the dishes. Paul said, "Don't suppose you could help with a speeding ticket I got last week, could you?"

"Maybe, if you let me go."

Paul laughed and shook his finger at her. "If Dobson's right we're gonna be millionaires, so you can stop trying."

Scully glanced at Sam, who stood with his back to them at the sink, quietly scraping the dishes. "Do you know what they'll do to me, if they get their hands on me?"

"Study you, of course. Take your blood and stuff."

"They'll take more than my blood. They'll kill me so they can study me. They'll kill my child so they can study her fetal tissue. And whatever they're looking for, they won't find, because it's not there. They think this child is part alien but she's notshe's as human as you or I. You've got to help me. Please. Help me.

I don't even know where I am."

Sam turned around, agony in his eyes. "Ma'am-"

"Dammit!" Paul slammed his hand on the table and got to his feet. "Shut your mouth. Shut it. Sam, she's lying. And of course she'd be lying. I'd be lying too." He thrust his finger in Scully's face. "But you are not to upset him."

Scully lowered her eyes and said nothing. She clenched her hands together under the table.

"I'm calling Dobson," Paul said, starting to leave the kitchen, and then he stopped himself and came back. He grabbed Scully's arm and yanked her to her feet. Sam made a small sound but didn't follow as Paul pushed her down the hall and back into the bedroom. He shoved her onto the bed and picked up the handkerchief that had been tied over her eyes when they arrived. "Not another word to Sam or I am tying you up, got me?"

"I get you," Scully said quietly. "Is this who you are, Paul? A kidnapper and a murderer?"

He glared at her. "I didn't do nothin'." He left the bedroom and after a moment she heard a key turning in the lock.

Scully took a deep breath and slowly let it out. She hadn't learned enough to help her--forty minutes to the nearest store, that was all.

She leaned her head on her hands and rubbed her temples, trying to think. She hadn't seen a phone. There was nothing but the dirt road. No neighbors, only trees.

And no way to reach Mulder.

Daisy nudged her, so she wrapped her arms around her belly and lay down on her side. I only wanted to keep you safe, little baby, she thought, pressing her face against her pillow.


~December 8, 2000

~ Scully's eyes snapped open at the sound of a key in the lock.

She sat up and then stood, her hand protective over her belly, and turned on the small lamp on the bedside table. She was shivering, but she knew it was more in anticipation of another confrontation with Paul than the cooling room.

When the door opened, instead Sam stood there, looking sheepish and shy. He said, "Paul says to let you use the lavoratory and then I have to . . ." He held up a coil of rope, embaressed.

"He says I have to."

Scully swallowed and nodded, not really surprised. "Sam, where are we?" she said quietly.

"I can't," he whispered. "Paul said--"

"Paul is fooling himself," Scully said. "Paul thinks he's not to blame--but helping a crime is also a crime, Sam. Please. Help me. I'm just trying to protect my child."

"Paul said nobody's gonna hurt you. Now, please, ma'am, let's get you ready for bed. Paul's awful mad at you--I don't want him to get madder."

Scully sighed, feeling the weariness of this day down to her bones. She was too tired to fight anymore. "I need a few minutes,"

she murmured, and he stepped aside so she could go into the bathroom.

She used the toilet and washed her hands and face. There was an unused toothbrush on the counter, so she opened the package and cleaned her teeth. She still looked frightened and tired, but she gave herself a grim smile anyway. Sleep could only help. Tomorrow she'd be able to think clearly. Paul would be no help at all, but Sam--she might be able to get Sam on her side.

He knocked timidly on the bathroom door. Scully opened it, to see Sam holding the flannel nightgown she'd found earlier in the dresser. "It's too big for you," he apologized.

"It's better than nothing," she said, taking the nightgown from his hand. "Thank you. Whose is it?"

He hesitated. "Our sister Karen. She moved out last summer."

"Why?" she said, genuinely curious.

Sam glanced down the hall, fidgiting. "I'm not supposed to talk to you so much."

"I'm sure it's okay for you to tell me about your sister.

Why did she move out?"

"She got a better job and didn't want to drive two hours each way. So she moved."

"Do you miss her?"

"Yeah. She's fun. She'll come see us sometimes on Sundays but she's got a boyfriend now, and Paul doesn't like him. Paul's not bad," Sam added hastily. "He loves us. He works hard. When Ihe's always taken care of his family."

"When you what?" Scully whispered, even more curious at the sudden fear in his eyes.

He shook his head. "I don't wanna tell you, ma'am. I did a lot of stupid shit when I was a kid. Please. Let's get you to bed."

He stepped back and closed the bathroom door.

Scully sighed. She put the nightgown on the counter and took off the sweater, shirt, jeans and bra. The nightgown was soft and cleansmelling, though too big for her. She pushed her hair behind her ears, picked up her folded clothes and opened the door.

Sam followed her into the bedroom and waited while Scully got beneath the covers. When she was comfortable he tied her hands together and bound them to the headboard. "If you need anything in the night, just give me a holler. I'm right next to you."

"Thanks," Scully murmured. This wasn't so bad--she'd been in far worse situations. At least she wasn't bound and gagged in a closet or stuffed in a trunk.

"Good night, ma'am. Don't be scared."

"Right," Scully murmured and closed her eyes.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

~December 2000~

Three tense days passed. She saw little of Paul, who worked long hours as a machinist in town. Sam, she discovered on the first day, had a workshop behind the house where he made chainsaw lawn ornaments from pine logs. A cousin who lived closer to the interstate sold these to passing motorists, but only came once a month for new pieces so Scully had no hope for help from him.

The first day, too, Scully tried to find a phone number for the sister, but she couldn't even find a phone much less an address book. They had no computer or fax machine, nothing to communicate with the outside world. It was difficult to hear above the noise of Sam's chainsaw, but she watched and listened all day and no cars passed by.

There wasn't much else for her to do. They had few books, a video collection of martial arts movies, and intermittent reception on the radio. Sam wouldn't lock her in the bedroom but at Paul's insistence her hands were tied most of the day. She couldn't even go for a walk.

She missed Mulder with every breath.

Scully excercised as best she could, sit-ups and crunches, mostly. She meditated to keep herself as calm as possible. She offered to cook but Paul snorted and said, "What, and let you poison us?"

On the evening of the third day, she heard Sam and Paul arguing about her. "He's gotten two calls a day, at least. It's not a scam. For once he's on to something real. She'll be gone in a few days."

"But it's not *right*, Paulie."

"I don't care from right! I just want her out of the house.

She freaks me out. Always *watching*."

"I think she's nice," Sam muttered. "And I think she's right about what they'll do to her and the baby. I don't want anyone to hurt her."

"Think of the money, Sam. Wouldn't it be great to never have money worries again? Dobson says they're offering millions for hermillions, Sam!"

"They're going to kill her, Paul."

Scully heard no answer from Paul for several moments, then he said quickly, "Dobson heard from Arntzen and he swears nobody is going to hurt her. And Arntzen is coming tomorrow to check things out."

She hadn't heard Sam's voice so cold before. "Arntzen's in this?"

"Yeah, I didn't think he was, either. But he's never stiffed us, Sam. If he's in it, it's legit--it's not just some daydream of Dobson's. So will you relax already? Nobody's gonna hurt her. Okay?"

There was another long pause, then Sam said, "Okay. Okay."

Their conversation explained nothing to Scully--it only raised more questions. And she didn't want to reveal that she'd been eavesdropping by asking Sam what was going on. She'd find out soon enough.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Scully was singing quietly to the baby the next morning and trying to decide if a Tom Clancy novel would be worth reading when she heard Sam's chainsaw stop. She started up from the bed, trembling all over. A few moments later she heard the back door slam, footsteps and men's voices.

Familiar men's voices.

"You bastard," she muttered, but managed to keep her face neutral when Sam unlocked the door--he'd been very apologetic that morning when he informed her Paul wanted her to stay locked up all day--to reveal himself, Dobson, and Alex Krycek.

"Dana," Sam said, "This is--uh--Arntzen."

Alex bowed his head to her, smirking. "Stanislav Arntzen,"

he said in a softly accented voice.

"Dana Scully," she said, not taking her eyes off his face.

"See, I told you, comrade," Dobson said, laughing nervously.

"Didn't I? She's real and there's actually a kid and--and it's just like I told you. And--and--and those other folks I was talkin' to, I wasn't gonna accept anything without talking to you, of course. I mean, it's your job. I wouldn't--you know. I wouldn't."

"Have you been harmed?" Krycek said to Scully, ignoring the other men and still affecting the Russian accent. "Are you well?"

She glanced from him to the miserable Sam and the fidgeting Dobson, and Krycek said sharply, "Both of you, leave us. I wish to speak to Miss Scully alone."

"I don't think--" Sam began.

"It's all right, Sam," Scully said, so reluctantly the other men left the room.

Krycek shut the door and listened for several moments, then shook his head and came to her, to start untying the knots that bound her wrists. He said, the accent gone, "I'm so sorry about this, Dana."

"Was this part of your plan? Scare me off and then have Dobson kidnap me?"

"No," he said emphatically. "No. All I asked him to do was find you. Dobson's a two-bit hood. He dabbles in counterfeiting documents and petty theivery. He's nothing. This is way over his head."

"He's had offers," Scully said, rubbing her wrists. "I heard Paul and Sam talking about it yesterday."

"Really? Huh." He sat down on the bed. "They must really want you to be so open about it. Well, I've put the fear of God into Dobson so he's not going to make a move without my approval."

"You mean you're not going to get me out of here? Then why did you come?"

"I came to make sure it was actually you. You wouldn't believe how many reports of small, pregnant redheads I've gotten in the last three days."

She asked quietly, "And Mulder? How many reports of small, pregnant redheads is he getting?"

Krycek made an uncomfortable gesture and said, "We move in slightly different circles, Scully. I'm hearing more than he is."

"How is he? Is he okay?"

"I haven't talked to him. You know how he gets."

"I know why, too."

"Scully, don't hold grudges. You trusted me once."

"Yes, and look where it got me! I want to go home, Krycek. I want Mulder. You told me I'd be safer if I left but both Mulder and the smoking man found me. And now this--I just want to go home. The stress isn't good for the baby." She sat down on the bed too, despondent and so lonely for Mulder she ached.

"Hey," Krycek said after a moment. "I know it's not much comfort, but if you can hold on for just a few more days I swear I will bring Mulder to you and we'll figure something better out.

You'll be safe with the redneck twins. Paul rubs me the wrong way but he's not a bad guy. I think Sam's done really well with you, too--Dobson's says he's really protective of you."

"Done really well? What do you mean?"

Krycek grimaced like he'd said the wrong thing. "Sam . . . okay. He killed a girl when he was seventeen. The finding was manslaughter and they were lenient with him because he tests at slightly lower-than-normal intelligence, and I really think it was an honest accident, but that's one of the reasons why they live so far out here. To keep him away from people."

"And that's why Dobson brought me here," Scully murmured.

"Blackmail. Notifying the police would just get Sam into more trouble."

"That's probably what he thought." He said after a brief pause, "I'll convince Mulder to come with me. I'll tell them that he's a buyer and we'll get you out of here. After that, Scully, honestly, you've got to get out of the country. You've got to find a place you can hide and stay hidden."

"And where would that place be? I'm not going to live in the middle of nowhere." She realized her hand was cupping her belly again, and that Krycek's eyes had followed the movement.

"Are you willing to go underground?" he said, meeting her gaze again.

"I don't know. I can't make that decision without Mulder."

"Right," Krycek said. "Of course. Just a few more days, Scully. Dobson knows what I'll do if he tries anything behind my back, so I swear you'll be safe. Okay?"

She had no choice, as far as she could see. "Bring me Mulder," she said quietly.

"Right," he said again, and stood. "Okay. I'll be back soon.

Oh, and Paul was making some noise about the cost of feeding you so I gave Sam some money, so you can get whatever you're craving. What is it, pickles and ice cream?"

"Potatoes," Scully murmured. "They've been very good about that, actually."

"Okay. Well, if the ice cream comes up before I get back Sam will get it for you. See you soon, Scully." He opened the door and left the bedroom.

Scully waited until she heard them talking down the hall, then exhaled and lay down again. She could do a few more days. She could hang on.

She rubbed her belly with the heel of her hand and whispered, "Would you like to hear a story about your daddy, little baby? Once upon a time, your mommy and daddy had to go to a beautiful place called Pueblo Bonito . . ."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

~Memory--September 2000~

Scully was on the phone with her mother when Mulder leaned over and said, "You're busy Saturday night."

"Hold on," Scully said to her mother. "What?" she said to Mulder.

"You're busy Saturday night. Don't make other plans. Please."

"Apparently I'm busy Saturday night," Scully said into the phone. "I'm not sure what with. Well, that's because he hasn't told me. Chasing mysterious lights in the sky, most likely." Mulder poked her with his toe and she stuck her tongue out at him. "So I'll see you Sunday? Okay. Bye." She hung up the phone and looked with exasperation at Mulder. "What are we doing on Saturday? Please tell me we're not going far away--I still have dry-cleaning to do."

"We're not going away. We're staying here." He resumed typing.

Scully watched him for a moment, then said, "But apparently you're not going to tell me anything more. Like the important detail of what we're doing."

He smiled. He said, still typing and smiling, "You are being swept away by a dark and mysterious stranger for a night of satisfying your desires. How does that sound?"

Scully swung her foot idly. "Are you paying this guy by the hour?"

Mulder chuckled. "Per diem."

"Well, I hope he's cute, anyway."

Mulder took his hands off the keyboard and folded them on his chest. "Scully, tell me one thing. Why is it in the past three months you have yet to let me take you on a simple date?"

"Let you? I don't recall you ever asking. This isn't even asking. This is ordering."

"Scully, I order you to go on a date with me." He grinned at her.

Still, she curled her mouth and said, "Thanks, but I have to wash my hair that night."

"Scully . . ." The annoyed look was replaced with concern, and he leaned forward to put his hand on her knee. "I thought you were feeling better. Is your head still bothering you?"

"No." It was hard to say what was wrong. She felt antsy and ornery, ready to pick a fight, ready to throw Mulder on his back and ride him hard. The Gunmen had said nothing was wrong with her, but that was a month ago . . .

He was still rubbing her knee, watching her, waiting for her to tell him more. She said, "Come over tonight."

"Talk about ordering somebody around . . ."

"Yes. I order you to come over tonight and fuck me. Up against the wall, I would hope."

His fingers slid underneath her knee and tickled her lightly. "Yes, ma'am. And on Saturday night I order you to put on your favorite date outfit and come with me for dinner and a movie.

Perhaps sex afterwards, if you're so inclined."

"Dinner and a movie?"

"I thought a normal date like normal people would be a nice change."

"Mulder, I don't think we could be like normal people even if we tried."

"So, let's try. If we aren't, does it matter? There will still be sex afterwards."

"Ah, yes . . ." Scully said vaguely, drifting a bit from the touch of his fingers on the inside of her knee.

Mulder started to smile. His fingers were warm, the tips smooth. "Or," he began, and his voice was a good octave lower than normal, ". . . or . . ." He plucked futilely at the mesh of her nylons, "Or, we could just lock the door--"

"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you," Scully said, but it had none of the intended effect since her voice had suddenly gone breathless and girlish.

"Cure for what ails ya," Mulder said, rising to his feet, his hand still inside her skirt. "A little good lovin' always puts you in a better mood."

Scully meant to say something that would remove his hand from her skirt, that would remind him they were at work and had to behave like professionals--but instead something like a whimper escaped her throat. He'd been tender and considerate while she recovered from her accident--too tender, it seemed to her now, too considerate. She wanted to pull him down onto her. She wanted to do something quick and dirty, right here on his desk.

He kissed her and she melted into him as his hand slid further up her thigh. She felt him gasp when he found the top of her stocking. "Oh, Scully," he whispered, kissing her neck. "You've got the garters on today . . ."

His phone began to ring, and he moved away from her to answer it. "Mulder," he said, wrapping his hand around hers. He stroked her palm with his thumb as he listened. "All right, sir, we'll be right up." He hung up the phone. "Duty calls."

"Come over tonight," she said again.

"Promise you'll wear the stockings?" He picked up his suit coat and put it on.

"And nothing else," and she laughed as Mulder's eyes grew wide.

"Oh, boy . . . you know what I like."


Two days she could wait, and three--but when fourth day passed and there was no sign of Krycek, Scully told herself she'd been a fool to trust him again. She'd allowed herself to relax a bit, believing she would see Mulder soon, but it became clear to her she would, in fact, have to find her way to him instead of waiting to be rescued.

Well. She'd never been comfortable as a damsel in distress.

Paul was easier on her--no longer insisting that her hands be tied most of the day--but still no happier to have her with them. Sam would talk to her sometimes, but only if Paul wasn't around. She had only herself for company, and the baby of course.

It occured to her one night, when she caught herself talking to Daisy aloud again, how real to her the baby was now--more than a blurry sonogram and a heartbeat, she now had a name, or at least a nickname, and made her presence known with her delicate movements.

It was comforting, or would have been if Scully weren't so afraid.

When she had been with the brothers ten days Dobson visited them again. Sam's chainsaw went silent, and she saw the two of them talking by the workshop with a third man--a squat, bulky man with a shaved head and a black goatee. Baldy started towards the house several times but Sam stopped him each time, until finally Scully could hear their raised voices if not what they said to each other.

She tried to keep out of sight--but all three men turned their heads at one point, catching sight of her through the kitchen window. Both Sam and Dobson frowned, but what chilled her was Baldy's smile, as predatory as a crocodile eying a wounded bird.

Scully raised her chin and opened the back door to join them. Sam shook his head in dismay, but said, "Hey, ma'am."

"Hello," Scully said, crossing her arms to hold her cardigan more tightly closed.

"So this is the little girl," Baldy said, stepping closer to her. He reeked of cigarette smoke. His front teeth were chipped.

"Prettier than I thought."

"This is Agent Scully," Sam said, stepping closer still.

"And who are you?" Scully said coolly.

"John Silver, like the pirate. Different kind a' long, though," he added with a smirk. Scully refrained from rolling her eyes. "You're awful pretty," he said again. "Most nutty chicks are kinda homely. But I wouldn't mind a taste of you myself." He waggled his tongue at her.

Sam's chainsaw roared into life. "Try it!" Sam yelled, wielding the chainsaw to ward Silver off. "I want you to try it!"

There was rage in his face and murder in his eyes.

"The fuck!" Silver cried, jumping back. "What the fuck is wrong with you!"

Dobson's face had turned a dangerous shade of green, and he muttered, "Jesus, Sam, you are fuckin' nuts."

"Get in the house, ma'am," Sam said above the roar of the fucking, which shook him head-to-toe with its force. When Scully didn't move, he screamed at her, "Get inside!" and she didn't wait for him to tell her again. She fled to the house, into the spare bedroom, slammed the door and wrapped her hands around the knob to hold it shut. She didn't relax when she heard the chainsaw shut off again--only breathed deeply when she heard Dobson's car screech and rattle away.

A few minutes later she heard footsteps, and a soft knock on the door. "Ma'am? They're gone."

Slowly Scully opened the door. Sam looked like he was about to cry, and he was still shaking. "I don't care what Paul says," he said and sniffed hard. "This isn't right. When Paul gets home, I'm havin' him drive you to our sister's. You can call your folks from her place. This isn't right. It's not right at all."

He started to cry, brokenly like a little boy, and after a moment of hesitation Scully put her arms around him and lowered his head to her shoulder. She whispered as she patted and rubbed his back, "I'll tell them I got lost."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

The three of them sat around the kitchen table late that night, half-eaten meals on their plates. Sam couldn't meet Scully's eyes, and she wondered what had embarrassed him: his outburst with the chainsaw or his tears afterwards. "So," Paul said at last.

"Silver's involved in this."

"Who is he?" Scully asked.

"Dobson's cell mate for a while . . . was it at Talladega, Sammy?" Sam nodded without looking up. "Sick fuck," Paul continued.

"He done stuff I've never even heard of. He's like a bounty hunter, only he don't hunt escaped criminals. He hunts . . . other folks."

"Not a nice guy," Scully murmured.

"No, ma'am." Paul sighed, drank a pull of his beer, and said, "Sammy's right. We've got to get you out of here. Whatever Dobson planned, that ain't what this is, and we've gotta get you out."

"Thanks," Scully murmured again.

"If Arntzen ever shows up we'll have to tell him we got rid of you already--what?" he said when she sighed.

"Arntzen--I forgot about Arntzen."

"Don't you worry about him. We won't let him find you."

She smiled at him gratefully, but said, "Arntzen isn't quite the person you think he is. I'm not saying he's a good man--but he's not like Mr. Silver." I don't think, she added mentally.

"Well, even if that's so," Paul said, "you're going to Karen's tonight. I don't trust Silver and I don't trust Dobson much now, either. Sammy, will you come too so I stay awake on the drive home?"

Again Sam nodded, and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "You're not mad about the money, Paulie?"

Paul picked at the label on his beer bottle, then said roughly, "You know if Silver's involved we'd never see a penny--if there was any money at all. I'm not mad."

Daisy started kicking abruptly and Scully put her hand on her belly, grimacing. "You okay?" Sam said.

"The baby's kicking. I'm okay."

Paul watched her for a moment, then said, "It's a real kid."

"It's a real kid. A girl. I think it's a girl."

"I bet she's gonna be right pretty," Paul said softly, and Scully smiled despite herself.

After they'd eaten and cleaned up the kitchen, Scully went to the spare bedroom to change back into her own clothes. As kind as Sam had been and as much as Paul was relenting, she was glad to leave this place. She wanted home. She wanted Mulder.

Sam knocked on her door again. "Did you bring a coat, ma'am?

It's awful cold out."

"I didn't, no. Dobson lent me his when we drove here."

"Okay. I'm gonna find you a spare coat. We can't have you driving for hours without one." He shut the door again.

Scully, sitting on the edge of the bed, rested her head on her hands and just laughed for a moment or two, quietly. Soon all these absurdities would be over and she'd be back with Mulder. It would be difficult to find someplace to raise their baby in peace, if such a place existed. But if it did exist, Mulder would find it for them and they would rest there, safe.

Her head snapped up when she heard glass breaking and a popping sound from the front of the house. "No," she whispered, getting to her feet.

Footsteps pounded down the hall and Paul slammed open the door. "We have to go, we have to go now, back door," he said, throwing a denim jacket at her. "Come on!"

Scully struggled into the jacket and followed him through the house to the back door. Paul had turned off all the lights already and she let him lead, her fingers wrapped around his jacket and their footsteps close. "Where's Sam?" she whispered when he paused.

He didn't answer for a moment, only easing the door open, then muttered, "Down."

"Oh, God, Paul--"

"Shush. Looks clear. Let's go."

Keeping close to the wall of the house, they made their way through the backyard to Sam's shed. Paul held Scully's hand, or rather her wrist, to keep her close as they moved past the shed and into the trees. There were no street lights or neighboring houses to light their way, but the moon was out and the night was clear.

"It's Silver, isn't it?" Scully whispered.

"Prob'ly."

"I'm so sorry about Sam."

Paul frowned and said, "Yeah. Me too."

They walked in near-silence for a while, feet sliding on dead, wet leaves. Ideally, Scully thought, Paul would open up about his family, his protectiveness, and Sam's past--but his face was wary and he was listening to anyone who might be following them.

Which was fine, really. She wasn't in the mood to chitchat either.

"Where are we going?" she whispered finally.

"There's an old church about four miles north of here. It should be a good place to hide until morning."

"And then, in the morning?"

"And then I'll have to think of something else."

She nodded. If it was a forty-minute drive to the nearest town it would take all night and most of the next day to walk, and her toes were already stinging with cold. Even if there were neighbors closer, Paul either was unwilling to endanger them or didn't trust them enough to turn to them for help.

And, she thought with a grimace, if by some miracle Krycek showed up, any clue she gave for him to find them would also give their location away to Silver.

Damn you, Dobson, she thought. And damn me for getting complacent.

She would have enjoyed the walk if it weren't so cold and under such circumstances. The forest smelled loamy and cool.

Moonlight shown silver-blue on the leaves. As her eyes adjusted to the dark she could make out trees, stones, and the faint path they were following deeper into the woods.

There was a twinge deep in her middle, and Scully stopped with a gasp. "What is it?" Paul whispered, his hand shaking around hers a little bit.

"I--give me a moment." She pulled her hand from his and bent over her knees, her hands on her thighs, breathing through her teeth until the pain had passed. "It's the walking," she said when she could speak again. "It's making me have contractions."

"We've got a ways to go still. We have an old deer-sighting platform near here but you'd have to climb a tree to get to it.

I've done night huntin'. This is nothin' like it. I don't know what to do."

She took a deep breath through her nose and let it out through her mouth. "We keep walking--we'll just have to stop periodically."

"'Kay." His hand was still shaking when he took hers again, and his pace was much slower as they walked on.

The straps of her sandals were beginning to painfully rub her toes, her fingers felt numb and her nose had begun to drip from the cold when Paul stopped, listening. "I hear him."

Scully listened too, but it was hard to hear anything above her pounding heart.

A branch snapped behind them. Paul pushed her behind him, shielding her against a tree. His body was tense as he watched the path. Abruptly he whispered, "If you follow this trail you'll get to the church. I'll get you--if I don't, follow the--" He stopped, listening again. "Go!"

She didn't stay to ask--she turned and ran, following the trail north. She kept one hand under belly, praying that the exercise wouldn't hurt the baby. She heard shots fired as she ran, but didn't dare to turn or stop.

Abruptly she found herself in a clearing, with a small, white clapboard church in the center beyond a small creek. She crossed a stone footbridge over the creek and climbed the front steps. The door was not boarded or nailed shut, and creaked when she opened it. Her footsteps echoed on the floorboards, but the floor felt solid.

Scully closed the door behind her, scanning the empty pews.

The air smelled comforting, of pine trees and cool water. However, in the dark she couldn't find even an abandoned umbrella to use as a weapon--but she did find, behind the pulpit, a staircase leading up the bell tower. There was no bell, but there was a platform, empty and just a bit dusty, and if she stood or crouched she had a clear view of the surrounding meadow and trees.

Scully took off her jacket and eased herself down in the corner, leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. Hunters, she knew, looked from side to side but never looked up. She had to hope Silver wasn't smart enough to look up. She had nothing to fight him off if he was.

She waited. She watched.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

~Memory--October 2000~

Mulder's hands were sliding up Scully's ribs as he kissed her, and he made happy "mm, mm" noises in his throat. Scully ran her fingers through his hair, marvelling again at its softness and thickness. She loved every bump on his skull.

Mulder stopped kissing her and whispered, his lips hovering above hers, "How's your head today?"

"Fine," she muttered, raising her mouth for more kisses. "It's fine."

His fingertips rubbed circles into her temples. "It's just, you've been so poorly lately. I've wondered if your concussion has come back or something."

She caressed his cheek. "Oh, sweetie . . . concussions don't come back. I've just had a bug the last few days."

"A tummy bug or a head bug?" His hands slid down her body and he rubbed her stomach, looking at her through his eyelashes.

"A tummy bug." She smiled at him, and he bent and kissed her belly, which was pale and slighty round between her bra and the waistband of her trousers. Scully raked her hand through his hair.

He whispered, "No more tummy bug," and laid his cheek on her stomach.

"I love you," Scully said. He looked up at her with a shyly pleased smile. "You're silly and sweet."

"You make me happy," he said simply, and moved up to kiss her mouth.

This is a perfect moment to tell him, Scully thought, but only held his face and returned his kiss. She imagined herself whispering, "I'm pregnant" into his ear--and then he would fumble back into his clothes and make excuses to leave as quickly as he could.

No, that's not fair, she thought, ashamed. Mulder was a better man than that. Still, she couldn't imagine he would be pleased with her news--he'd never said a word about wanting children, not anything she could take seriously.

Mulder raised his head again and rubbed his nose against hers. "Hey," he whispered, "come back to me."

"I'm here. Just thinking."

"Are you sure you wanna do it tonight? You're a million miles away."

"I'm fine," she insisted. "Maybe a little tired. But I want you, Mulder, I need you. We've hardly had time to make love lately, what with--everything." There was no need to reiterate what they both knew: her car accident and the resulting concussion, and only a brief respite before her fatigue and nausea set in. Mulder assumed flu--and so had she until a pregnancy test and her doctor told her otherwise.

I should tell him right now, she thought as he kissed her.

The longer I put it off the worse it will be.

"I'm going to the doctor again tomorrow," she began.

He looked up at her at once, worry creasing his forehead.

"Again? What's going on, Scully?"

Her mouth worked for a moment, but her nerve failed her.

"They just want to make sure everything is okay." She pulled Mulder's mouth down to hers and kissed him hard. I'll wait, she thought. If the baby's fine I'll tell him--if the baby's not--if it's not--

Scully wrapped her arms around Mulder's neck. She wanted to share her worries with him--she wanted to share everything with him-but she didn't know where to begin.

"You'll tell me if everything's okay?" Mulder said seriously. "Even if it's not? You'll tell me whatever they say?"

"I will." She cupped his face in her hands and traced his lips with her thumbs. "I'll tell you everything." More than you ever expected to hear, she thought--but he was kissing her again, and she was tired of worrying.

"Love you," he whispered. "Love you, always . . ."

"Always," she whispered back, and hoped it would always be true.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

In the belltower, Scully crossed her arms over her belly and slept.


~Memory~

Her hand sliding up the wall.

He'd noticed it from the very first, the way her hands got restless as they made love. He liked it. He liked to capture her wandering hands and kiss them and then release them again. He liked to watch her hands move over the furniture, his chest, the floor, the tiles, the sheets, whatever was close enough to touch. But it wasn't until just before she disappeared to the wilds of Alabama that he learned why she touched things so much.

They'd been making love a long time, most of the evening, she had come more than once and he was close, so close. Her moans were soft and low, her eyes were closed, a faint smile played around her mouth as she arched and writhed against him. Her hand slid up the wall and her fingers scraped against the paint. "Mm,"

she moaned, "everything feels new . . ."

He loved that. When they made love, everything was new.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

~December 2000~

Mulder awoke with a jerk and stared blankly out the car window. The sun had started to rise while he slept, and they'd left the interstate for a wooded, winding mountain highway. He yawned to make his ears pop.

"Where are we?" he asked Krycek.

"Mountain Ridge, Alabama."

Mulder watched the trees pass for a while. "How much further?"

"Not much. Twenty minutes."

The needle on the spedometer crept closer to ninety, but Mulder didn't remark on it. Considering how wrong his assumptions had been compared to Krycek's information, he didn't feel he had the right to criticize.

*Scully.* His hands clenched together and he willed them to relax. He'd assumed she was in the hands of the black-lunged bastard--she wasn't. He'd assumed she was out of the country--she wasn't. He hoped Krycek was still right about the most important thing: that she was safe and waiting for them. If she wasn't . . . His hands clenched again.

*Not much longer, baby. I'm coming for you. I'm bringing you home.*

Krycek said conversationally, "You two should leave the country as soon as possible."

"Yeah."

"You want me to get in touch with some people? Work on fake passports and funds?"

Mulder said after a moment, "We've got it covered. We've been preparing for this possibility for a while."

"Do you have a place to go?"

"We have a starting point. Beyond that--"

"Don't tell me. It's better if I don't know."

"True," Mulder said, looking out the window again. He worried his lower lip with his thumb. "The guys she's with--are you sure they'll treat her okay?"

"Yes, already. Of the two of them the only one with a record has served his time and wouldn't hurt her now."

"One of them has a record?"

Krycek glanced into the rearview mirror. "Manslaughter. He served twelve years and he's harmless. Don't worry, Mulder. You'll have her back in no time and you can get back to raising your miniMulder."

"Daisy," Mulder murmured, but didn't press it. Krycek was driving fast and the road was narrow--Mulder didn't want to distract him.

Krycek didn't speak until they had pulled up in front of a small frame house deep in the woods, tires crunching on the loose gravel drive. "Do you remember the script? What we're going to tell them?"

"I am a researcher for a major corporation, the top amount I am allowed to bid is three million, I am to call you Mr. Arntzen and I am not to call her by name."

"She'll play along. Don't worry. Let's go." He got out of the car.

Mulder got out as well, and took a briefcase from him when Krycek pulled it from the trunk. He kept his pace deliberate--he had to pass for a man in no hurry, a man who could buy and sell human life without a qualm.

*Act like the smoking man,* he thought grimly.

Krycek paused before they'd gone far. "Something's not right." He picked up the pace, jogging up the front steps, but he stopped abruptly again at the door. The glass in the front window was broken. Krycek took his gun from the waistband of his pants and eased open the door, Mulder close behind.

At once they saw the body on the floor. Krycek holstered his gun, knelt down and turned up the young man's face. "Sam," he said quietly.

"You said she'd be safe." Mulder clutched the handle of the briefcase until it dug into his fingers. Krycek gave him a flinty glance.

"It explains why Dobson didn't answer his phone last night.

Poor Sam." He closed Sam's eyes and stood.

"So now what? Where is she? Who did this?"

"I don't know much more than you do, *Fox*." He stepped over the body and continued cautiously through the house, opening doors before entering rooms, his footfalls silent as a cat's. Mulder put down the useless briefcase--there was nothing in it but paper, cut and bound to imitate stacks of bills--and followed the other man though the empty house.

"Paul's not here," Krycek said when they're gone through every room. "He must have taken Scully somewhere."

"So much for her being safe."

"If she's with Paul, she's a lot safer than she'd be otherwise."

"Would Paul have killed--?"

"No," Krycek said in a soft but firm voice, going to the back door. It had been closed when the passed it, and Krycek quietly turned the knob to peer outside.

"They wouldn't have had time to close it," Mulder said, understanding, he hoped. "So whoever killed Sam--"

"Followed them," Krycek murmured. "But where? The truck's here, and Dobson's car."

"Do they just have the one car?"

"Yeah."

Mulder looked around the small, plain house. There was nothing to suggest that Christmas was coming: no gifts, no lights, no tree. There were shabby, overstuffed chairs; a clean but simple kitchen, treadworn carpet, wood paneling on the walls. There was no denying it was someone's home, but Mulder couldn't imagine Scully being comfortable here.

But he knew she'd been here. He could smell her in the air.

There were several pictures on the paneled walls, of two sunburnt young boys playing in trees, a girl with wildflowers in her hair, their smiling parents in front a white clapboard churchand who were not, Mulder noticed, in the pictures of high school graduation for the boys and college graduation for the girl. Mulder asked, turning away from the pictures, "Do you know what's in the woods?"

"Deer, rabbit and squirrel, but nothing dangerous, I don't think."

"But they don't have an old treehouse out there, maybe?

Someplace where they played when they were kids?"

Krycek stared at him for a moment, then said, "I don't know, but we should find out." He yanked open the back door completely and took off into the woods. Mulder had one last look around and ran after him.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Scully awoke with a gasp, certain Silver would be standing over her--but she was alone in the bell tower. Birds cautiously chirped in the surrounding woods. The winter sunrise was pale and watery but warm on her face. Her legs and back were achy and stiff, and her entire body felt chilled through. She longed to stand and stretch, but didn't dare expose herself so much while she still didn't know if she was alone.

Slipping the jacket back on, she crawled to the trapdoor and carefully opened it. She listened for several mintues before slowly climbing down into the church. The pews were empty, but she gave them a quick explore anyway to see if she could find anything that would help her: a lost phone, a pocketknife, a flagpole. She found only a heavy Bible beneath the pulpit, and another staircase leading into the church basement which held a small office, a lavoratory, and the children's Sunday School room.

Scully tried the dusty phone on the desk, but set it down with a sigh when she heard no dailtone. She used the toilet and washed her hands and face, and drank several handfuls of water. She stretched her arms and legs, twisting her back and rotating her ankles. She wanted a shower--or better, a long, indulgent bath. Or better still, a long, indulgent bath with Mulder sitting behind her to rub her shoulders.

Daisy was doing her morning ablutions too, bumping and turning. Scully smiled and murmured, giving her belly an answering rub, "Are you as tired of this as I am, baby girl? I'm seriously thinking of walking to the highway and taking my chances there. Do you think that's a good idea?" But she shivered, remembering the pains she'd had the night before from their walk in the wooods.

Finding the highway meant walking--and more worrisome, going towards Silver, and she was in no position to do that.

That left waiting--for Paul to come or Silver to find her or the world to end, whichever came first.

Scully climbed back up to the main body of the church and sat in one of the pews. She stared at the simple pulpit, which was undecorated: no crosses, no doves, no saints or angels. Just a country church, abandonded.

God is where you seek Him, she thought, and got awkwardly onto her knees, leaning against the pew. She folded her hands together like she had as a girl and closed her eyes. She whispered, "I'm scared. I want to go home. I'm tired of being scared and I just want to be safe with my love. Tell me what to do. Tell me."

The door banged open at the back of the church and Scully dropped herself flat against the floor. Brown thick workbooks walked slowly down the aisle, and Scully was about to lift her head and say, "Paul," when their wearer called out, "Are you hiding here, little girl?"

Scully crawled under the pews, her mouth dry and her heart racing. Silver. Of course.

"I thought I saw a pretty thing in here . . . I've been looking all night for you . . ." He reached the front of the church and she saw his feet turn to face the entire church again. "No one's coming to help you, little girl. The dummy's dead and so is his brother." He chuckled, pacing slowly up the aisle again.

"Everybody knows about you. Everybody's sayin' you're worth your weight in gold. There are more bounties out on you than I've ever seen. Who knows where that commie Arntzen is--fucking some piece of tail in New Orleans, last I heard. He don't scare me. No one-armed fag is gonna beat me, girlie, so quit playing fucking games!" He overturned the pew in front of Scully and she scooted herself further away, trying to keep her body hidden underneath the pew.

She was certain he could hear her panicked breathing.

But he only muttered, "Fuck," and turned away. In a moment he spotted the doorway to the stairs and hurried to inspect the rest of the church.

Scully didn't wait--she crawled beneath the pews to the door Silver had left open and ran down the steps, across the bridge and into the trees.

Cramps seized her and she stopped, panting and clutching her side. "Hold on, baby," she whispered as she leaned against a tree for support. "Just a little longer for Mommy, okay? Please, baby."

Deliberately she slowed her breathing and waited for the contraction to pass.

All too soon she heard footsteps again, pounding down the path. She ducked behind the tree and crouched low to the ground, prepared to run if she had the chance. If she kept path in sight and followed it back to the house--

Two men--one more dear than life itself--came running towards her, so intent on their journey that she knew neither of them noticed her, hiding here in the leaves. She got to her feet and gasped, "Mulder!"

They stopped with comic abruptness a few yards ahead and turned. Mulder's eyes grew wide and he smiled like he didn't realize he was smiling. "Scully," he whispered and then her face was in his hands and his lips were rough and relieved on hers.

"Scully, Scully," he said, and she was too overjoyed to answer him.

Krycek allowed a few minutes for their reunion then said, "Come on, we have to get going. Paul's dead, Scully."

"I know." She leaned her head against Mulder's chest, her arms around his waist. He ran his hands wonderingly over her hair and back. "Silver--the one who killed them--he's in the church up ahead, and he said he killed them both. Krycek, he'll follow--"

"Don't worry about him," Krycek said, his face going hard and blank. "I'll take care of him. Mulder, take her back to the car.

I'll be along."

"But, Alex--" Mulder said, but Krycek was already stalking away.

"Go!" he said. "Just go already."

Mulder shook his head but didn't try to stop him again. He kissed Scully once more and they began to walk, holding onto each other. "Are you okay? Did he--did anyone hurt you?"

"I'm catching a cold," she said, squeezing him. "I had to sleep in the open last night. I'm not hurt."

"I have been so scared," he confessed quietly. "I thought the black-lunged bastard had you."

"It could have been worse," Scully said. "It could have been a lot worse." She had to stop, biting her lips against the cramping, and Mulder bent over her in concern.

"What is it? Are you hurting? Are you okay? Is it the baby?"

"It's the walking." Breath in, breath out. "It makes me have contractions. I need to go slowly."

"Should I carry you?"

"Mulder, it's four miles. We have to stop sometimes, that's all."

He embraced her, pressing his lips to her hair. "Hey--I've got something for you. You dropped it." He took something from his pocket and slipped it onto her finger.

"My ring! I thought I'd lost it forever." She smiled to see it sparkling on her finger, and she kissed him. They began walking again, Mulder's arms tight around her. It was easier somehow, with him to lean on, and even though their pace was slow she felt she could finally relax again.

When they reached Paul's body she had to stop. His eyes were closed. He almost looked peaceful. Scully knelt at his side and put her hand on his, which someone had folded on his chest, covering most of the bleeding. "They were kind to me, in their way," she told Mulder, and he squeezed her shoulder. "We can't just leave him here."

"We'll call the police when we reach the car--tell them where to find them. Scully . . ." He hesitated. "Krycek tells meand I feel like I should believe him about this--that there are a lot of people looking for you and the baby. We need to get you someplace safe. Someplace far away from here."

"Not without you," she said, and he smiled again.

"No, not without me. Not for long."

"Mulder," she began.

"But if we report this and the police take you in for questioning, that may put you in more danger. I can stay, answer their questions, and Krycek can take you--"

"No."

"Scully, will you not fight me on this, please? Your safety and the baby's safety is the most important thing."

"And we are not safe without you!" She got to her feet again and grapsed Mulder's hands. "I will tell the police anything they want to know. They won't arrest me. They would have no cause."

"Anything official will let the people looking for you know where you are. I can't risk it."

She rubbed his hands and said quietly, "They have a sister.

I'm not sure where she lives, somewhere two hours away. Her name is Karen. I don't want her to spend the rest of her life wondering what happened to her brothers--God knows I couldn't bear it, if it were me."

Mulder bowed his head. "Okay," he said thickly. "Okay. But I am not letting them take you away from me, not for a second. Anyone who shows up could be working against us."

"Okay," she said. She gave one last sorrowful look to Paul and then she and Mulder continued their journey up the path.

~Truly Madly Deeply If the Fates Allow 7~

Mulder said good night to the officers and softly shut the hotel room door. He sat down on the edge of the bed where Scully lay, asleep. She was nude beneath the blankets, her hair still damp from her long shower. Her cheeks and lips looked healthily pink, and her face had a sweet roundness that made him want to rain kisses all over her.

He had her back. He could hardly believe it. Back--but for how long, this time?

Forever, he thought, and moved his fingers through her hair.

I'm never letting go again.

Scully stirred and her eyes blinked open. She smiled when she saw him. "Hey, you."

"Hey." He went on stroking her hair."What a day."

"Yeah." Too much of a day, to his mind--too many questions and too many people who knew their names. Krycek had disappeared into the woods as soon as he heard the police were coming, leaving the car keys in Mulder's hand. "I'll catch up," was all he said, and Mulder didn't know if that meant they should wait for him here in Alabama or he'd show up at their next destination . . . wherever that might be.

She sat up and put her arms around his neck, to kiss him gently and rub her nose against his. "Now what, love?"

He stroked her arm. "Scully . . . we have to leave."

She nodded and laid her head against his chest, sighing. "I know."

"I have some friends overseas who'll help us out."

"All right."

"Scully." He raised her face so he could look into her eyes.

"It might mean being over there for a long time. Years, Scully."

"All right," she said again, nodding. "Will there be enough time for me to say goodbye to my mother?"

"We can make time. And I want to make time, too, for us to get married before we leave the country. It won't be a big wedding--"

"I don't need a big wedding."

"Just us and some family and friends. Will you be okay with a justice of the peace?"

"Of course."

He kissed her forehead. Of course. Scully was nothing if not resilient. "But in the morning," he whispered. "You need some rest."

"Can we trust them?" She nodded towards the window.

"We'll be all right." There was a squad car parked outside their hotel room. Mulder thought the local police were making sure they didn't leave, not protecting them, but he saw no need for her to know that.

Scully lay down again, trustingly, pulling Mulder with her.

She pillowed her head on his arm and he watched her eyes close, her breasts slowly rise and fall as her breathing deepened. With his free hand he traced her cheekbone."Did they hurt you?"

She smiled without opening her eyes. "No."

"You look good."

"So do you, baby."

"You look bigger." She snorted lightly and opened her eyes, and Mulder amended, "I mean, your tummy. The baby. You're, um, bigger."

"I know." She took his hand and pressed it to her belly. "I need a doctor as soon as we're settled somewhere. She moves all the time but I just need to be sure she's okay."

"Okay." He circled his palm on her bulge, which felt as tight and firm as a drum. She put her hand on the back of his neck.

"Mulder," she whispered in a tone that was hardly more than a sigh. "Are you all right with this?"

"It's a pretty comfortable bed."

"No, I mean, leaving. Leaving the X-Files." She gazed at him seriously. "Leaving it all. I don't want you to hate the baby because of all you've had to give up."

"What am I giving up, Scully?" He brought his face closer to hers. "A job where I'm a joke? Lonliness and fear, for comfort and family? The world is open to us, Scully. We can go anywhere and do anything. We can start over, if that's what we want."

"It's not 'can', it's 'must.' How are we going to make a living? That's what really worries me."

"I have a few tricks up my sleeve."

"Mulder . . ."

"You will never be without a roof over your head." He hesitated, feeling her petal-like breath against his lips, and said, "There's some . . . some blood money. It needs to be used for something pure. It needs to be used on you."

"But, Mulder, if it's something we shouldn't touch--"

"My father set is aside for Samantha if she ever came back,"

Mulder said quietly. "We both know she won't. On top of that there are three houses to sell and some money they both left me and things I've been setting aside for the last ten years . . . I've always known this day would come, Scully. What I didn't know is that you'd come with me."

Her smile deepened. "Are you sure you want me? A cranky, pregnant trouble-magnet?"

"Sweet, beautiful and beloved," he answered, kissing her. She sighed against his mouth, and her hand cupped the back of his head to pull him closer."I've missed you," she whispered. "I missed you so much."

He'd missed her too--his body was aching for her--but still, he said, "I don't want to start anything you're too tired to finish."

Scully gave a little "hmph" of disappointment but moved away, to curl up against the pillows and fluff the blankets. "You're right . . . it's late." A mischeivious look came into her eyes. "Do you think you can wait a few days, for our wedding night?"

"Maybe," he said. "Maybe not." He smiled as he kissed her good night.

He got up to take a shower and brush his teeth. Money, really, was not a worry--even if neither of them ever had an income again, they'd be comfortable. What did concern him--what made him lean his forehead against the shower tile and wonder what madness he was leading her into--was if there truly was a place they would be safe. The steppes of Siberia, a farm in Africa, an island in the Aegean? A city full of fellow expatriats, where Americans were as common as loaves of bread?

The pretty ring on her finger stood for a multitude of promises, and the greatest was that she would never be afraid again.

Mulder shoved his hands through his wet hair and turned off the shower. He toweled off quickly and got into bed, making Scully squirm. "You're wet."

"Sorry." He kissed her and she chuckled, looping her arms around his neck.

"You're forgiven." She kissed him back.

"Hey, you know how you're making conversation with strangers and you ask a desert island question, like what book would you take or which five CDs can't you live without?"

"Is this going somewhere?" She smiled, running her fingernails lightly over his chest.

"We're faced with what's a rhetorical question for most people, but for us, it's not. If you could go anywhere in the world, possibly for the rest of your life, where would you go?"

Her brows wrinkled for a moment, and she shook her head. "It's too big of a question, Mulder."

"We can go anywhere."

"I know, and that's why it's too big. I want to stay near my family . . . but that family is you and Daisy now. Where would *you* go?"

"I don't know either. I want us to start with some friends in England but after that . . ."

"Why not stay? You said you were happy there. Except for the incident of She Who Will Not Be Named," Scully added with a teasing grin.

"I was happy there." Thoughtful, he rested his chin on her shoulder. "Do you think you'd like it?"

"Yes. You did."

"But it was college. This will be different--I'll be coming back as a grown man with a family to take of, looking for a job and a quiet place to live."

"Then what better place than among friends," she said gently.

"England," he said. "Oxfordshire. It won't be anything like Miss Marple."

"Will it be like Inspector Morse?" she teased and laughed softly when he snorted. "I don't care, baby. I really don't.

Anywhere we go, as long as we're together, it's home."

Mulder smiled again and exhaled deeply, closing his eyes. "I started the process for us to go before Krycek and I left Washington," he murmured, fighting to keep his eyes open.

"Shh. Tomorrow."

"Scully . . ."

"Shh. It's all right now. Just rest, my love."

He was going to say he wasn't tired, but he was sleeping too deeply to speak.

*~~~~*~~~~~*

"Make it stop," Mulder groaned, pulling a pillow over his head. Scully grumbled and burrowed deeper into the blankets, but the pounding on the door continued nonetheless. Finally Mulder pushed himself to his feet and pulled on his jeans, and said through the closed door, "What is it?"

"Open up, Agent Mulder." There was no mistaking Skinner's stern voice.

"Scully, put some clothes on," Mulder said, and when she'd scrambled into the pajamas and bathrobe he'd brought for her, Mulder undid the deadbolt and the lock.

Skinner looked grim, his gun drawn. Four other agents were with him, weapons also at the ready, and before Mulder could say hello he was grabbed and shoved against the wall with his hands yanked behind his back. In a haze of shock he felt handcuffs click around his wrists and heard Scully crying out, "What are you doing?

What's going on? Walter, stop them!"

"Has he hurt you?" Skinner barked. "Are you all right, Agent Scully?"

"Yes, of course I am, let him go!"

One of the agents grabbed her when she went towards Mulder, and he shouted at the other man, "Don't touch her!"

"He hasn't hurt you?" Skinner said to her. "He didn't kidnap you?"

"No, of course not!"

The room was tense and silent a moment. Skinner nodded to the agent holding Scully so he released her, and a moment later the handcuffs came off Mulder's wrists. Scully rushed to him and at once began inspecting his head for bruises. "What the hell is going on?" she growled at Skinner, stroking Mulder's back as he held her and bent his head over hers.

"Wait for me outside," Skinner told the agents, so they filed out of the room. One of them, the one who had restrained Scully, paused for one more look--but when Scully narrowed her eyes at him he quickly looked away.

"Explain this," Scully said.

Skinner sighed, holstering his gun. "There is some question among my superiors of Agent Mulder's involvement in your disappearance. We were given photographs that indicated he was holding you against your will."

"That's ridiculous," Scully said.

"You know I was searching for her."

"You all but disappeared too," Skinner said. "I don't like my agents just running off into the blue, Agent Mulder--particularly when I get word one of my agents has threatened the other."

"Who says he threatened me?" Scully said. "Who would think that Mulder is a danger to me?"

Mulder sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned his face in his hands. Scully sat beside him, still worriedly stroking his hair. After a moment he lifted his head. "Someone wanted to lay the groundwork with you for framing me for Scully's murder."

"Mulder," Skinner said, incredulous.

"It would get rid of both of us," Mulder said. "Scully dead, me imprisoned--it would discredit our work and make taking our--"

He stopped himself and took Scully's hand.

"Then we have to get you back to Washington right away and prove that she's unharmed. We can put her in a safe house while we investigate who you think wants Scully dead."

"Scully won't be safe in any federal program. She's probably not safe in this hemisphere. I have to get her someplace where we won't be bothered--by anyone. Even you, sir."

Skinner said, "You have my word."

"It's not enough."

Scully whispered, "Does he know?" He shook his head. She told Skinner, "I'm going to have a baby, sir. Someone thinks my baby is of extraterrestrial origin and is willing to pay a lot of money to find out if it's true."

Skinner sagged, suddenly looking like he'd been awake for a week. "Nothing with you two can ever be simple."

"We're coming home long enough to say goodbye and get married," Mulder said. "And then we have to leave. If Scully gives birth in the states we'll never see our child. I'm convinced of it."

"Where will you go?"

Scully touched Mulder's cheek and he smiled up at her briefly.

"I don't know, sir."

Skinner rubbed his jaw a moment. "I could take Scully to meet you somewhere--anywhere."

"No more separations," Scully said. "Anywhere we go, we go together."

"Are you certain it's safe for you to travel together?"

"Safer than it would be apart."

Slowly Skinner nodded. "When do you want to leave?"

"We should leave right away," Mulder said, glancing at Scully, who nodded with resignation. She kissed his cheek, gathered up her clothes and went into the bathroom to change. Mulder picked up his shirt and pulled it over his head.

"Who would want her dead?" Skinner asked him, his voice low.

"Who would think she's a threat to them?"

"It's not really having her dead--it's getting their hands on the baby," Mulder said as he put on his shoes. "So few people know about the baby that they could arrange to take it and no one would know until Scully's body was found. I wouldn't tell anyone that you know about it, either."

"But why? It's just a baby."

"I don't know," Mulder said as the bathroom door opened again and Scully came out. He smiled and stood, held her face in his hands and kissed her. "Ready? Do you have everything?"

"Yes. What were you talking about?"

"Theorizing. About the baby."

"Oh. The impression I got was that they think the baby is a naturally-conceived alien-human hybrid."

"Oh," Skinner said faintly.

"Let's go," Scully said, her arm around Mulder's waist. "I want to go home."


Scully finished patting her face dry and hung the towel on the rack. The Pullman car bathroom was tiny and brightly lit, and no bathtub, of course. There was something soothing about the rumble of the train, though, as it sped down the tracks. She thought she would have no trouble sleeping tonight.

Mulder was certain the airports would be watched, and Scully felt flying was too risky at this stage of her pregnancy now anyway. Driving would have been far too uncomfortable--she couldn't bear the thought of twelve hours in a car at this point--so they settled on the train. They'd driven to Birmingham, where they dropped off three of Skinner's agents at the airport before catching the train. Skinner asked the fourth to stay with them for the journey. Additional protection, he said, was never a bad idea, but thy didn't want to attract attention to themselves, either.

Scully thought they could be wearing t-shirts that said "Fugitives" in blinking red lights and they still wouldn't attract attention--the train was nearly empty of other passengers, and the staff didn't see anything amiss with three men and a woman traveling together. They'd been able to talk without fear of being listened to in the dining car, and dinner had been much more relaxed and friendly than Scully had anticipated. Still, after a day spent with strangers, she was happy to have Mulder to herself.

When she opened the bathroom door she saw that Mulder had pulled out the bed and set up the pillows, and he lay across it, reading a magazine. He was too tall for the bed--his feet were hanging off the edge even though he was mostly sitting up.

"Hey, stranger." She sat on the bed and hauled herself back against the pillows.

"Hey." He tossed the magazine aside. "Are you ready to sleep?"

"Not quite." She leaned her head against his shoulder and tilted back her head so she could inhale the scent of his neck.

She'd been too exhausted the night before to really enjoy being back with Mulder, but she felt much better now.

Mulder shifted so he could hold her with one arm. He kissed the top of her head. "How's Daisy?"

"Just fine. She moves a lot." She took his hand and laid it on her belly, moving it a few times before saying, "There--do you feel that?"

He waited a moment, then shook his head. "No--just you."

He slowly rubbed her tummy. "Hey--tomorrow's Christmas Eve."

"I know."

"Anything special Santa should bring you?"

"If Santa is handing out sanctuaries, I'll take one."

Scully put her hand on his cheek and gently kissed his neck a few times. Mulder made a surprised sound and his hand stopped moving.

She glanced up at his face--his eyes were closed, his lips parted.

"Are you tired?"

Mulder grunted. "Um . . . I could sleep . . . I guess . . ."

"Baby . . ." Tenderly she slipped her fingers into his hair and brought his mouth down to hers.

It was a good, long kiss--he pulled her close and kissed her deeply, his arm under her back and his other hand on her waist.

She sucked and stroked his eager tongue, combing her fingers through his hair.

He pulled back from her much too soon. "Scully . . ." He kissed her lips. "Scully, if you need to rest--"

"I need to make love to you." She ran her hands over his shirt, feeling out the muscles of his chest. "I've missed you so much, Mulder. I need you." She kissed his chest and teased his nipples with her fingertips.

"Scully," he whispered but didn't go on, only stroking the back of her neck and breathing deeply as she continued kissing him.

She pulled his shirt from his jeans and kissed his stomach, kissed his chest and his neck while she pulled off his shirt. He caught her shoulders and kissed her mouth, then slid his hands down her body to gently squeeze her breasts and start unbuttoning her pajama top. Scully got onto her knees and closed her eyes, biting her lip, as Mulder started kissing her breasts. She moaned out loud when he sucked her nipple. Her fingers clutched into his hair.

"Lie down," he said gently, moving her from her knees to her back. "You'll be more comfortable."

Scully smiled, rubbing her palm against his cheek as he resumed kissing her body, but still she said, "You're not going to start treating me like I'm breakable, are you? Because you know how that annoys me."

"You are breakable," he whispered. "My delicate, fragile girl and I have to take care of you."

"Mulder." She took his face in both her hands, lifting his head so she could look into his eyes. "Stop thinking that way right now. I'm not fragile. I'm healthy. We have to be careful about a few things but I'm not breakable. Okay? Stop thinking you're going to hurt me."

Mulder sighed and laid his head against her breasts. "I've never been with a pregnant woman before," he said quietly.

"I know."

"I don't want to do anything that'll endanger the baby or hurt you, you know, inadvertently--"

"You won't, Mulder."

Again he sighed, and then slowly started kissing her, just beneath her breasts. "I'm just fumbling my way through this, Scully."

She chuckled. "Sweetheart, you're doing fine."

"I love you so much--I don't want anything more to go wrong."

Scully didn't know how to answer that one. She hoped nothing more would go wrong too, but she couldn't promise him nothing would.

Mulder lifted his head and she stroked his cheek with her fingertips. "Scully?"

"Kiss me," she whispered.

He kissed her, holding the back of her head in his hand, pausing now and again to whisper that he loved her, he'd always take care of her, he'd never let anything or anyone hurt her again.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Ice cream. Any kind of ice cream, but preferably mintchocolate chip. And--oh--hot fudge sauce, and almondsScully sighed and lifted Mulder's arm from her side. She sat up slowly, trying not to jostle him. Mulder slept on, dead to the world--which was, she thought, a good thing right now. He needed some peace. She went into the bathroom where she'd left her clothes and got dressed again. Just a quick exploration to see if the dining car was still open, and if it was, if they had any ice cream. Twenty mintues, she thought. Maybe I could even bring it back here.

She took the keycard from the dresser where Mulder had left it, and slipped out of the berth. There were small lights up and down the corrider, but still she had to pause a moment and regain her bearings. Was the dining car to the left or to the right? She shrugged--she'd know for certain if she came to the end of the train, either direction she chose--and started walking, to her right.

She passed a porter or two on the way, and hardly paid attention to another figure by one of the doors until he spoke in a soft, deep voice. "You shouldn't be walking around alone, Agent Scully."

"Agent--" What was his name again? "Doggett? What are you doing out here?"

He stepped out of the alcove and leaned against the corridor wall. "Couldn't sleep. Are you all right? Is Agent Mulder okay?"

"He's asleep. I had a--a craving. I'm looking for the dining car."

"It's the other direction. I'll come with you."

"It's not necessary."

"Anything could happen to you and we wouldn't know until the train stopped in the morning."

She wanted to argue that if anyone was following them it stood to reason they would have made their move already, but Doggett's face had a determined look and she decided it wasn't worth arguing about. So, she had company.

The dining car turned out to be closed but the bar was still open, and the bartender, with a wink, said he'd try to find some ice cream for her--"I can't promise hot fudge, though."

Doggett's order of black coffee was much easier to fill, and they sat in a booth while the bartender went into the train's food stores.

Doggett looked out the window while they waited, sipping his coffee, and Scully studied him. Skinner, she thought, wouldn't trust just anyone to picking up Mulder, and if he'd felt there was truly a danger he would have brought a larger number of agents with him. No, he wanted this to be a quiet operation--they might not even have official clearance. And he'd only bring men he trusted to keep it quiet.

She said, "How do you know A.D. Skinner?"

Doggett looked surprised that she'd want to talk. "We've run into each other a time or two."

"So why did he bring you along?"

"I don't know. Wanted the muscle, I guess." He looked out the window again.

"And you didn't mind being away from your family at Christmas?"

He didn't answer for a moment. "My wife is Bureau too.

She's very understanding."

"Oh--another marriage come from partners," Scully said, unable to keep the pleased tone out of her voice. "I'm always glad to hear Mulder and I aren't the only ones."

"We were never partners. We met through an investigation."

"Oh," Scully said again. "What did Skinner tell you about why you were here?"

"Agent Scully. It's the middle of the night and I have insomnia. I really don't want to be interrogated."

"I'm just trying to figure out your story, Agent Doggett."

"No story," he said, sipping his coffee again. "Just a guy doing a job."

"I'm guessing you were told you'd be rescuing one of your own and arresting the other. And you don't have any opinion on how circumstances have changed?"

He shrugged. "I don't enough of the facts to have an opinion. You're having a baby, right?"

"Yes."

"And you didn't run away to keep it from Agent Mulder--or whoever the father is?"

"Not from Mulder, no."

He swirled his coffee cup and said, "I'm sure you know there are rumors--about the two of you, about Mulder. That he's not . . . stable. After you disappeared last fall, people said all kinds of things that he was capable of doing. Skinner said none of it was true, but then he got these pictures, and . . . he stopped defending Mulder."

"What kinds of pictures?"

"You, restrained. All . . ." He shifted uncomfortably.

"Bound up."

"Bound up? How?" He looked pained at the prospect of having to explain it further, and suddenly she understood. "Oh."

"Whoever sent 'em must have downloaded 'em from some fetish site and Photoshopped your face over the girl. Some sick shstuff. Skinner was saying he wanted a team to look into where the pictures came from, because somebody had to have posed for 'em and if they were real . . . sick shit." He grimaced. "Sorry."

"It's okay," she murmured. "These pictures were sent to Skinner to make it appear Mulder had kidnapped me and was torturing me, right? Mulder thinks someone wanted to frame him for my murder.

But I was taken before whoever sent the pictures could get ahold of me . . . were the pictures part of their plan, or in reaction to it being mucked up?"

"Who do you think is trying to kill you?"

"I'm not sure. I have an idea but nothing to prove it."

She leaned her elbows on the table and rubbed her temples.

"Excuse me?" The bartender cleared his throat. "Ma'am? I found some ice cream for you--no hot fudge, but it is mintchocolate chip."

"Thank you," Scully said, lifting her head. "I really appreciate this."

He smiled at her, put down the bowl and spoon, and went back to the bar. Scully picked up her spoon. The baby, quiet since she'd woken up, gave her a tentative prod, and Scully put her hand on her belly in response.

"Are you okay?"

"The baby's kicking me."

He watched her for a moment, then said, "I'm sorry about the hotel earlier. Skinner said you'd try to protect him, no matter what he'd done to you. My job was to keep you from endangering yourself further."

"It's okay," Scully said quietly. "You were doing your best with the information you had."

"I think I get it. It's about the kid, isn't it?" Doggett said, keeping his voice low. "That's why you went into hiding, that's why they're looking for you. They want the kid. But they didn't use a pregnant woman in the pictures, so they must not have wanted it to be common knowledge that you're pregnant. But if they had, it would have reinforced to Skinner the danger you were supposedly in. Why would they keep it from him? Why wouldn't they want him to know about the baby?"

"They knew I was keeping my pregnancy a secret. My own mother doesn't know. Mulder didn't know until two weeks ago. Mulder thinks, and I'm inclined to agree with him, that if no one knew about the baby they wouldn't look for it when I was found."

"They'd know as soon as you were autopsied." He noticed the bartender watching them, and said, pitching his voice even lower, "We should drop it."

Scully nodded and went on eating. She hadn't figured out the theory to her satisfaction yet, but she liked bouncing her ideas off him. Mulder had just looked pained, grabbed her and kissed her a few times when she'd tried to discuss it with him earlier. It was too raw for him right now.

Agent Doggett said, after a moment more, "My wife and I haven't been married for very long, just a little over a year. I was married before, and we had a son. He was murdered."

"Oh my God. I'm sorry."

Doggett nodded in acceptance, and said, "My wife--my wife now--she's starting to drop hints about having a baby of our own.

We'd talked about it before we got married, of course, and I thought I was okay with it. But now that it's starting to get real, I'm not so sure. It's a big ugly world, and they're so little." His eyes brimmed suddenly and he looked out the window again. Scully reached across the table and laid her hand gently on his. His hand twitched, and then he said, "If I had another child I'd move heaven and earth to keep him safe," with a ferocity that made Scully realize what his wife saw in him. "So I get all of this. The running away and everything. I get it."

"Yes," Scully said, because she didn't know what else to say.

He was silent a moment more, then took back his hand and wiped his eyes. "When you're done I'll walk you back to your berth."

"I'm almost done," she said, and in a few bites she was.

They paid the bartender and walked back to their car in silence.

Scully slid the keycard through the lock and opened the door.

"Thank you, Agent Doggett."

"Sure. No more walking around alone."

"I won't. Good night."

"Good night." He walked away, his hands in his pockets and his head high.

Scully closed the door behind her and turned on the light in the bathroom. Mulder made a sleepy sound and turned over, muttering. Scully undressed and slipped back beneath the covers, fitting herself against his body. As she knew he would, Mulder turned again to spoon her in his sleep, throwing his arm over her side. "Heaven and earth," she whispered to him, and fell asleep holding his hand.

~Truly Madly Deeply If the Fates Allow 9~

"I'm back," Mulder said, lightly rapping his knuckles on the bathroom door.

"Come in," Scully said, so he opened the door and entered the small room, which was heavy with steam and the scent of soap.

Her hair was still wrapped up in a towel, and she leaned awkwardly over the counter to brush mascara into her eyelashes. A knit dress in winter-white hung from a hanger on a hook on the door. It was borrowed from her sister-in-law, who was also expecting though further along, because Scully had nothing appropriate and there was no time to shop.

"I found the shoes you wanted." He set them on the counter.

"And I brought a suit."

"Thanks." She blinked her eyes at herself and moved onto a small bottle of foundation, shaking the liquid onto a sponge and dabbing it onto her skin.

Mulder knew he should leave her to these feminine preparations, but he made no move to go--instead folding his arms and leaning against the counter to watch. He loved the way she looked without makeup, but this ritual fascinated him too. "Don't cover the freckles," he murmured, and she glanced at him and smiled.

"Do you want to take a shower or shave?"

He rubbed his jaw. He *had* shaved that morning, but maybe he should be smooth anyway. "Do you want me to shave?"

"I don't mind the five o'clock shadow. It's up to you."

"I'd have to borrow a razor from one of your brothers."

"Maybe not, then." She sighed. "Mulder, where are we going to sleep tonight? There's no room here and if neither of our apartments are safe--"

"Skinner offered his place. I wanted to talk to you before accepting. I'm not sure it would be any safer than your apartment or mine."

Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Do you think he's being watched too?"

"I think everyplace we've ever been is being watched. But I think we should accept. It's better than a hotel, and I don't know how much luck we'd have finding a hotel room on Christmas Eve."

Scully nodded, put down the bottle of base and picked up an eyeliner pencil. Mulder tilted his head, watching her try to lean closer to the mirror over her tummy, and said quietly, "You deserve better than this."

"Better than what?" she said absently.

"Better than a ramshackle wedding in a borrowed dress.

It's not exactly the wedding of your girlhood dreams."

She smiled and looked at him straight on, reached for his hand and squeezed it tightly when he gave it. "I have the thing that matters most."

He couldn't help himself: "Watered-down punch?"

"No, that would be the thing you need most for a cheap high school prom." She let go of his hand but stepped close to him, her round belly peeping between the edges of the towel wrapped around her body, and gave him a quick kiss. "Do you want the shower?"

"I don't think so."

"Then let me prepare in peace, please. I'd like to give you one surprise today."

"You mean aside from agreeing to this madness?" Mulder said, but left the bathroom anyway and closed the door behind him.

He ran his hand through his hair, wondering how to pass the next hour until the justice of the peace arrived. He was no one's favorite person right now. Mrs. Scully was furious at him for keeping the pregnancy from her, and taking away her daughter and grandchild in one fell swoop, Charlie was following his mother's lead, and Bill--well, Bill had never liked him and Mulder had no hope of him starting now. If he knew someone had gotten Samantha pregnant and kidnapped, he'd be looking to crack some heads too.

Her sisters-in-law were slightly more sympathetic, at least. Maybe he'd go talk to one of them for a while.

He started down the hall and heard Matthew's piping voice through an open door: "Why pretty dress, Mommy?"

"Because Auntie Dana is getting married, honey."

"Marr-weed," Matthew said.

"Married," Tara said gently. "That's right."

"Why?"

"That's what I'd like to know," Bill rumbled. "He's taking her off to who-knows-where for who-knows-how-long to have this kid, and for what? Why all the secrecy and the hiding?

Something's not right about this."

"Why?" said Matthew again. "Why?"

"Because she loves him," Tara said. "She finds him worthwhile."

"Dana has never dated a guy who deserved her."

"All brothers think that."

"Why?" Matthew insisted. "Why why why?"

"Because because because because!" Bill said, and Mulder heard the boy screech with laughter. When Matthew had calmed down a bit Bill said, "What do you mean, all brothers think that?"

"I mean, my brothers didn't like you, either. They didn't want you dragging me off to who-knows-where for who-knows-how-long, even if it is part of being a military wife."

"That's different. Besides, how can we be sure he's marrying her for the right reasons, not just because he knockedyou know."

Tara sighed and said, "Just look at them, Billy. Look at the way his eyes follow her. You have nothing to worry about."

"I don't like all this secrecy."

"They say they have a reason."

"Uh-huh."

"Zip me?" Tara said, and their conversation moved on to other things.

Mulder exhaled and closed his eyes, and continued downstairs. He needed a drink--and maybe a jog around the block.

In the kitchen, Mrs. Scully was frosting the wedding cake.

When he'd left to get extra clothes from their apartments, Scully had been telling her mother they didn't need a cake, but obviously she'd lost that argument. It was just a round chocolate cake made from a boxed mix, but Mrs. Scully had made cream cheese frosting from scratch and had a bottle of red, green and white jimmies out to finish decorating.

"You can use my bedroom to change, if you like," she said.

"And I've sent Charlie for some champagne."

"Thanks, Mrs. Scully." He got a glass from the cupboard and poured some water from a pitcher in the refrigerator. He drank a few gulps, leaning against the sink. "Thank you for everything.

Putting all of this together so quickly--"

Mrs. Scully put down her spatula and said, not looking at him, "I am doing this for my daughter. Not because it's right or even necessary. You've done enough to her. But she wants this and I'm tired of arguing with her." She resumed frosting the cake, her hand trembling.

Mulder inhaled and put down the glass. "Mrs. Scully," he said hoarsely, and cleared his throat. "Mrs. Scully--"

"Someday you're going to come to me to tell me that she's dead. I know it in my heart."

"I'd die first," Mulder whispered. "I'd die before I let anything--anyone--hurt her again."

"You keep saying that, and she keeps getting hurt! How much is a mother supposed to take! And now my grandchild--" She stopped speaking, getting control of herself with visible effort. After a moment she said calmly, "Mr. Mulder. She'll always be my baby girl.

Someday you'll understand."

"I already understand," Mulder said quietly and left the kitchen.

He stopped himself at the front hall closet, pressing his palms against the door. He took deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. He wanted to run--run fast and run far, as far away from Scully as he could get. He loved her--with all his heart he loved her--but he'd told Mrs. Scully the truth. He did understand.

He'd move heaven and earth to keep his child safe, even if that meant leaving.

After a moment he realized Skinner, Doggett and Charlie were talking in the next room--or had been talking until he interupted them. "Mulder," Skinner said, standing. "Shouldn't you be getting ready for the wedding? The justice should be here soon."

"I need a minute," he muttered. If he left, even if she understood, Scully would never forgive him. Promising to protect her meant protecing her from all pain, even pain he could cause himself. He wanted this--he wanted to give a name to the bond between them. He wanted to hold the child, to feel her little beating heart and squirming limbs. He wanted the dream. He wanted the promise. He wanted to wake up next to Scully every day for the rest of his life.

He couldn't leave.

He couldn't stay.

"I have to talk to Scully," he said to Skinner, who was standing beside him, looking worried. He bounded up the stairs to the bathroom where Scully was still primping. He banged on the door with his palm, and Scully opened it. She was still wearing just a towel, and her hair was dry and curling around her face.

"Mulder? Love, what is it? Is something wrong?"

"Do you love me?"

"Of course I do." She stroked his face with her hands, pushing back his hair and smoothing the worry lines. "I love you so much, sweetheart. What's happened?"

"What if they're all right--even Krycek--what if we're really safer apart? What if they can find you too easily because of me?"

Her face grew serious. "They're not," she said simply.

"They don't understand, Mulder. They don't understand *us.* They don't understand who we are when we're together--and how empty we are when we're apart." She slipped her arms around his neck and whispered to him as he bent over her, "You're more than my love.

You're my soul."

Mulder was crying and he knew it, but he only pressed his face against her neck and held her tight. She kissed him and wiped his face. "Don't doubt me," she whispered. "Don't doubt yourself."

"Okay," he whispered. "Maybe this is just cold feet."

She chuckled, kissed him again and stepped back. "Go get ready," she said gently. "I want to marry you today."

"I want to marry you today too," he said with another kiss, and then went to change his clothes.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

There was no processional, no organ playing Bach, no parade of old roommates and cousins in formalwear, no tiny child carefully dropping rose petals to guide the way. No white satin and lace, no tuxedos, no veil, no orange blossoms, no pearls. There would be no reception afterwards, no elaborate meal, no Dollar Dance or Funky Chicken.

A few minutes before the ceremony was to begin, Scully tugged off her engagement ring and gave it to Mulder to use for her wedding band. She had no ring for him, but they had already decided they would buy formal bands later. Just as they were taking their places before the judge, Skinner pressed something into Scully's hand. "My old ring," he whispered. "Use it with my blessing."

So they were married, quietly and simply, in a ceremony that took less than ten minutes but still brought tears to Scully's eyes and made Mulder's voice break as he repeated the vows. You, he thought as she stroked his hand. Only you.

Cake was eaten and champagne drunk, the justice paid and kisses given to friends and family alike as they said goodbye. "You won't be here for Christmas?" Mrs. Scully said, faint disapproval returning to her eyes.

"I think we need to be alone tomorrow," Scully said, and her mother sighed in acceptance.

Skinner was their rescuer yet again: he took them to his apartment, told them to help themselves to anything, and he would be home from his sister's on the twenty-sixth.

When the door had closed behind Skinner, Mulder put down the suitcase that had all their earthly possessions and loosened his tie. He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Do you, uh, need a few minutes?"

Scully eased herself onto the sofa and toed off her shoes.

"No." She smiled at him mischieviously. "Do you?"

"Maybe a minute or two," he muttered, slowly drawing his tie from the collar.

"Do you want to tell me what happened earlier?" She leaned back into the soft sofa and held out her hands to him.

He sighed and came over to kneel in front of her. Scully cupped his face in her hands. "I . . . I just get so scared." He laid his head on her knees, exhaling slowly as she stroked his hair and face. "I love you so much. I love this baby. I have to do the right thing--I just don't know what it is. I thought I did . . ."

"We've done the right thing, baby. We're doing what's right."

He raised his head and smiled at her. "Yeah. I hope so."

"Mulder . . . let's go to bed. Okay?"

Mulder got ot his feet and helped her stand. "Okay."

She walked a few paces ahead of him, removing her earrings, quiet in her stocking feet. She led him to Skinner's bedroom and drew down the shades to block out the lowering midwinter sun.

It was silly to be awed, Mulder thought--they had made love dozens of times, he was as familiar with her body as he was with his own. But when he unzipped her dress, the skin on her back felt like velvet--her hair smelled peachy and sweet--she made tiny sounds in her throat as he stroked her that caused the blood to pound in his ears.

When she turned to him, her skin pearly in the semigloom, he had to close her eyes and lean his forehead against her a moment. She was too much--too beautiful, too trusting, so delicious he wanted to swoop his finger through her and lick off the cream.

He chuckled at the mental image and she whispered, "What?"

"Oh--just, me being me. Nothin'. Do you need anything, some water, anything?"

She kissed him, rubbing her hands up and down his face.

"Just you," she whispered and stepped back, drawing her hand tantalizingly down his arm until they lost touch, and shrugged her shoulders to let the straps of her slip fall. A twitch of her hips and a flick of her hand and she stood before him in bra and panties, round and tempting. Her eyes looked huge and deep. "Take off your clothes, Mulder."

Mulder hastily began unbuttoning his shirt. Okay, he thought. Okay. Self-doubt had its place, but when a beautiful woman who is your brand-spankin'-new wife tells you to take off your clothes with *that* look in her eyes? You do it. There's plenty of time for doubting later.

Meantime she had pulled back the sheets and peeled off her underwear. She crawled onto the bed and made herself comfortable against the pillows, smiling as she watched him fumble out of his clothes. "I know," Mulder muttered. "More physical comedy than 'A Night At the Opera.'"

"I love you because you make me laugh," she said sweetly, and Mulder did laugh as he slid, naked at last, across the sheets to join her. They kissed as if their last kiss was much more than a few minutes ago, a kiss that left them both breathless and trembling.

"You've lost weight," Scully reproved, gently scratching her fingernails over his stomach.

"Too busy to eat." He traced the lines of her ear with his tongue and suckled her earlobe.

"Put some weight on you, love . . . mm . . . keep my company when I'm nine months along and big as a house."

"I will get roly-poly if that's what you want." He put his hand between her legs. "Daily helpings of this will help."

Scully laughed and pushed her hips against his hand. "Yes, please," she said simply, raising her knees and opening her legs, but she grabbed him by the neck and brought him in for one more good, long kiss before letting him move down her body.

She'd been right, Mulder thought, to wait a few days before having sex again--a little denial went a long way. She was already wet for him, her thigh muscles tensing beneath his hands. Her breath slowed in anticipation as Mulder softly blew aside her heavy curls, and her hand thrust into his hair.

Gods above and below, he loved the taste of her. She was tang and sweetness and smoke, dark as a secret, hot and slick. He played with her, avoiding her clitoris in favor of the creases of her thighs, her damp labia--circling her little opening and then plunging in to fuck her with his tongue. The response from Scully was exactly what he wanted: a startled shout and then a soft, happy, "Oh, oh, that's . . . oh . . ." Mulder looked up at her: her eyes were closed, her neck was arched, a pulse was beating in her throat as she waited for him to continue. Her hands clutched at the sheets. Her feet rubbed against his sides.

He pushed her legs further apart, opening her to him entirely. Her clitoris was plump and wet, just begging to be tongued and sucked. Mulder lowered his head and blew a long breath of hot air, getting a low moan in return. He breathed in her scents of arousal and perspiration and hot, wet skin, burying his nose in her, and then opened his mouth to give her clit a deep, long stroke with his tongue. Scully groaned, her fingernails digging into his scalp. He answered with more long licks, coating his tongue with her juices. The rhythm of her hips increased from languid to insistent, nails of both hands now scraping over his head. Her head tossed back and forth on the pillows. She was enjoying it entirely, and he loved it--he loved pleasing her, loved to make her moan and writhe and gasp his name.

When her happy sighs had eased into deep breaths again, Mulder lay his side, propping his head on his hand. She smiled at him, her eyes half-closed. "Pretty nice, mister," she murmured.

"Think so? It's my first time." He grinned at her. She laughed, laid her hand on his cheek, and rolled onto her side to look him in the eyes. She kissed him, cleaning his mouth thoroughly with her tongue. Her hand glided down his body, touching the pulse in his neck, above his pounding heart, his trembling stomach and finally wrapping around his cock.

"I seem to recall this . . . seems like a lifetime ago,"

she murmured. She stroked his length and he groaned. "Instead of just two weeks, give or take . . ."

Mulder wrapped his hand around hers, stilling it. "What's the best way to do this? How will you be most comfortable?"

"Like this--this will work." She hooked a leg over his hip and wrapped her arms around his chest. "Gently."

"Gently," he repeated in a whisper, "gently, gently . . ."

He guided his cock into her, where she was wet and tight and welcoming. She always felt so *good*, just *good*--not just pleasurable but like something right.

He cupped her face in his hand. "Look at me." Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled. "Oh, God, Scully, you're so beautiful . . ." Her smile deepened and she rubbed her cheek against his hand. "I love you--do you believe me? Do you know?"

"I know. I believe you. I know." She kissed his hand. "I love you, I love you too."

He brought her mouth to his and kissed her deeply. He thought, I'm going to miss you.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Mulder left her sleeping, curled like a kitten in the center of the big bed. He picked up his pants and shoes, and brought them out to the living room to get dressed there. He took a piece of paper and a pen from Skinner's desk, and sat down. Dear Scully, he thought. No, Beloved Scully. Darling Scully? Dearest Dana? He grimaced and just wrote, "Scully," but couldn't find any words to follow it. He thought, Scully, I'm leaving you because this is the best thing for you and the baby. No. Scully, please don't hate me.

No, no. Scully, try to understand. No.

His gaze wandered over the desk: books, a framed reproduction of an old map, a photograph of a young Skinner in his Marine dress uniform, a photograph of Skinner and his wife on their wedding day. Mulder stood so he could take the picture from its shelf. He knew that by the time this was taken Skinner had seen not only action but death in Vietnam--that he had already been deeply scarred by the horrors of that war.

But still, he had taken this woman and promised her his love, his heart and his future. It had not ended well--Mulder knew little of the details except that she had died--but Skinner had kept the picture. And Skinner had kept the ring.

Mulder set the picture down and twisted the ring on his finger. No. No. He could not do this. He could *not* do this. He had sought the truth all of his life--he could not leave her with a lie. He could not make a lie of everything he'd told her since he first admitted his love.

He crumpled the paper and dropped it in the trash, and rubbed his shaking hand over his face. He went into the kitchen and poured two glasses of water, and brought them both back to the bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed. "Hey, Scully."

"Hm?" She stretched her arms and smiled at him sleepily.

"Can't sleep?"

"I wanted some water. Are you thirsty?" He handed her a glass and she drank gratefully. He drank too, settling back on the mattress beside her. He touched her free hand with his finger.

"Hey."

"Hey." She studied his face a moment, then said, "This is the right thing, Mulder. It is."

He kissed her. Her mouth was cool the water but warmed up from his tongue. She gasped and moaned softly, wrapping his arms around her neck. He ended the kiss and laid his head on her shoulder. As she stroked his face and hair and kissed his forehead, he closed his eyes and whispered, "I know."


IV. Heaven and Earth

Summary: The search for home brings Mulder and Scully to a new country and some familiar faces.

Scully couldn't sleep--she was too excited. Mulder, about three cities ago, had adopted the attitude of a jaded worldtraveler, but Scully couldn't stop drinking in the sights and sounds and smells and faces and voices of each new country. This was their first night in London, so while Mulder slept Scully wrapped herself in his bathrobe, knelt in the windowseat and opened the latch, to watch the lights of the city and listen to the movement in the streets below.

London smelled like history. Mulder said it was just the dampness and cigarette smoke, but to Scully the air was heady with all the despairs and joys of the many millions of lives that had passed here.

She had never traveled much outside of the States: aside from a few years in Japan when she was a baby, her father's assignments had been stateside. There had been the odd journey to Norway or Antarctica with Mulder, but that had been strictly business.

This was different. This was a honeymoon. Mulder called it their Grand Tour, as if they were nineteenth-century gentlemen of leisure.

Their getaway had been simple. The day after Christmas Frohike picked them up at Skinner's apartment and drove them to a train station. From there they took a train to New York City, where they boarded a cruise ship bound for Norway. They kept to themselves on the voyage, eating in their stateroom and avoiding the shipboard activities, emerging only for the occasional walk on the top deck. So no one noticed for a few days that when Mr. and Mrs. Mulder got off the ship in Calais, they did not get back on.

For the last six weeks they had wandered over Europe. They rang in the New Year with champagne and caviar in Paris, ate gourmet sorbet in Nice, saw Michelanglo's David in Florence and Mozart's Don Giovanni in Vienna.

"This city is ours now," Mulder had whispered to her in Rome, her breasts cupped in his hands and his cock buried deep inside her. In front of her, the lights of the Eternal City had twinkled through their hotel room window. "All of these cities--they belong to us now."

The only thing they had not done, it seemed, was to indulge Mulder's wish to stay in a hotel in Finland he'd read about, that was built entirely out of ice and operated only in the winter. The waiting list was too long for them to go this year, but Mulder had put down their names anyway. "We'll bring Daisy," he said.

That, Scully thought, was the issue. In every new city they had found a doctor to examine her, and the results were always the same: she was having a perfectly normal pregnancy. Daisy was thriving and often made her presence known with little bumps and nudges. But Scully tired easily, she couldn't walk for long distances, she had trouble keeping down unfamiliar food, and there is only so long a body could sanely live out of a suitcase.

It was time to stop wandering. It was time to find a place to call home.

In the bed Mulder shifted restlessly, then lifted his head, looking for her. He propped himself up on his elbows. "Scully, what are you doing? It's twenty degrees out. Come back to bed."

She took one more look at the city and shut the window and curtains. She got up from the window seat and came to the bed, slowly stripping off her robe and draping it over a chair. She climbed into bed and gave Mulder a sound kiss.

"Your hands are cold," he reproached gently, and took her hands in his to rub them warm. "What were you doing?"

"Looking at the city. It's beautiful, don't you think?"

"Uh-huh." He blew on her fingers, and she caressed his cheek.

"What's your plan for us while we're here?"

"Whatever you like." Mulder wrapped her in his arms, holding her as close as he could, and kissed the top of her head. Their legs entangled comfortably and Scully rested her head on his chest.

"Can we tour the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace?"

"Sure."

"Can we watch the debates in the House of Commons?"

"I'm not sure if they're in session right now, but if they are, sure." He yawned, his sleepy hand stroking her bare back.

Scully gave his chest a kiss and said quietly, "Can we find a place to settle down?"

Mulder smiled without opening his eyes. "I've had an estate agent compiling a list of places since we got to Europe. We can start looking them over as soon as you're ready."

She smiled too. "You've been planning ahead."

"Fatherhood is giving me a new inner balance and maturity,"

he said in perfect seriousness, and smiled again when she laughed.

He added, "I told her to focus on but not limit to the Oxford area.

I'm not sure how set you still are on your small-town theory.

Oxford isn't a small town. If you want remote we can try further north, in the Orkney islands, maybe."

"I'm willing to look at other places. Remote may not be the best idea, really."

"What do you think of staying here?"

"In the hotel? It's so expensive."

"Not the hotel, just in London. Would you like to live in Notting Hill or Chelsea? Still in London but with its own vibe?"

Scully traced his chest with her fingertips. "Would we be safe here?"

"As safe as we'll be anywhere."

"That is not reassuring." She sighed and arranged her pillows so she could lie down. Mulder rolled onto his side and spread his hand over her tummy.

"Hey. Don't think like that." He rubbed her tummy in a comforting circle.

"I can't help it." She caressed his hair and said, "I know you're doing everything you can think of--don't think I haven't noticed all of our hotels have been close to police stations."

"We could still go underground," Mulder said seriously.

"Change our names and our looks and start over entirely. It might be easier to do over here--no one knows us anyway."

Slowly Scully shook her head. "That's a last resort, Mulder."

"You've done it before."

"And it worked so well that time."

Mulder ran his hand over her hip and said, "Okay, no name changes. But what do you think about staying in London?"

"If we find a good place to live . . . a nice neighborhood, a good school . . ." She sighed and turned over, fitting her back against his body, and pulled his arm over her like a blanket. He kissed the back of her neck and pulled the covers over them. "Good night, love."

"Good night, Scully."

After a moment or two, she felt his hand creep lower on her belly to give the baby a good-night rub. "Good night, baby girl,"

he whispered.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Mulder disdained tourist-oriented restaurants, and would prefer to find someplace small and tucked away--the more loved by locals it was, the more Mulder wanted to eat there.

Normally this worked well for them, but something--maybe a bad bit of chicken or a too-strong pepper--disagreed with Scully on their fourth day in London. She spent a miserable morning in their hotel bathroom, then when her stomach seemed settled enough she crawled back into bed.

Mulder, when he was sure she wasn't dying of food poisoning, went out for half an hour or so and came back with a small paper bag. "I popped 'round to the chemist's." He put the bag on the nightstand and knelt down to look into her eyes.

"That's the worst British accent I've ever heard," Scully mumbled.

"I know. I've got your vitamins and a bottle of water. Yogurt and ginger ale for when you think you can handle it. They didn't have any Saltines, though."

"Thank you." She sat up and took the water and bottle of vitamins from the bag. Mulder watched her, frowning a little.

"Are you sure this is okay? It won't hurt the baby?"

"It's what's recommended." She broke the small pill in half and unscrewed the bottle of water, taking a drink first before trying to wash down the pill. "This is the not-so fun part," she said with a sigh.

"I guess your morning sickness isn't quite over yet."

"It can last until the end of the pregnancy." She scooted back down against the pillows and pulled the blanket up to her chin. Mulder joined her and gestured for her to turn over so he could rub her back.

"Poor honey," he cooed gently. "But why the Saltines?"

"They help with the nausea. No other cracker will do. I don't know why . . ."

"I'll keep looking for them for you."

"Thank you," she murmured, resting her head back against his shoulder.

He rubbed her back for a few moments longer, then said, "I was going to meet with the estate agent today, but if you're too sick it can wait. We were planning to just narrow down the list, look at the pictures and decide what's not worth seeing."

"Go ahead and go." She took his hand, weaving her fingers through his. "I'll just eat my yogurt and sleep."

"Good girl." He said after another pause, "We need to get cell phones soon. I miss being able to talk to you anytime I want to."

"I've been right with you."

"And now you're not going to be. And what if you need me?"

"To get me crackers?" She smiled and kissed the back of his hand.

"Oh, the joys of being the sperm donor." He turned her face up for a kiss and got up from the bed. "All right. I shouldn't be more than a couple hours. I'll take a cab, I'll call you when I get there, I'll call you when I leave, and . . . I don't know what else. You know where the cash is?"

"You're only going for a few hours, Mulder. I'll be fine."

"Anything could happen, Scully."

"Do you think something is going to happen?" She sat up, suddenly feeling cold and tight in her chest. She hadn't noticed anyone following them, and they had examined every hotel room for listening devices. But, she thought, it was entirely possible that she'd been so absorbed in honeymoon happiness that she could have missed the detonation of a nuclear bomb. "Is there something you're not telling me?"

He kissed her tenderly, holding her face in his hands. "No, honey, no. I don't want you to be penniless in a foreign country in case something does. I'm still Mr. Paranoia, 1961."

"All right, Mr. Paranoia." She pulled him back for another kiss and let him go. "Find our home. Hurry back."

"I love you," he said.

"Love you," she replied, and locked the door behind him.

She'd just lain down and closed her eyes when there was knocking at the door. She shook her head, but still got up, smiling despite her exasperation. "Did you forget your keys?" she said, standing up on her toes to look through the peephole--but Mulder wasn't there. She shrugged and decided she must have heard someone knocking on a neighbor's door. She got back into bed, and ignored the knocking when she heard it again for all of thirty seconds.

Scully got out of bed, quietly cursed the room for having nothing she could use as a weapon, and said, standing by the door, "Who is it?"

There was no answer, not even a "Housekeeping." Scully took a deep breath, quietly drew back the bolt, and opened the door.

There was no one in the hall. All the other doors were closed. On the floor was a blue crystal bud vase, holding a dark red rose.

Scully scanned the hall again, confused. This was not Mulder's style, as much as he loved surprises. Still, she picked up the vase--there was no card or tag. Someone could have left it here by mistake, but given that determined knocking she didn't think that was so.

Well, maybe Mulder was changing style now that they were a stodgy married couple. She sniffed the rose and smiled at its fragrance, and went back into the room to lie down.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Mulder called when he arrived at the estate agent's office, as he'd promised. "Hey, sweetheart. I'm here. Nothing happened on the way over."

"Good." She rolled over in bed, onto her more comfortable left side. "It's quiet here, too."

"Good. I was thinking on the way over, why the insistence that we get out of the country? Krycek didn't say anything about us needing to go deep underground or change our names--maybe he knew just getting out of the States was enough. I wonder if the Consortium's infrastructure has been destroyed over here. Maybe they didn't rebuild after the burn--after the fires."

"Maybe." She yawned.

"I woke you up, didn't I?" he said with a smile in his voice.

"Mm-mm. Thank you for the rose, by the way."

"What rose?"

That got Scully to open her eyes. "The rose you left in front of the door."

"I didn't leave a rose in front of the door--and besides, you don't like roses, you like those big bright daises, what are they called. Gerbana daisies."

"I like roses," Scully murmured, then said, "If it wasn't you, who gave it to me?" She got out of bed to pick up the vase, but unless someone had invented a bug to resemble a thorn or be invisible under water, it looked harmless.

"Maybe one of the hotel staff is sweet on you," Mulder said, but the warmth was gone from his voice.

"Or maybe we're not as safe as we thought."

He sighed heavily and was silent a moment. "Do you want me to come back?"

"No. The door's bolted and locked, no one's getting in here unless they can crash through a window." Their hotel was U-shaped, and Scully doubted anyone could get across the courtyard from the other side without the ability to fly. "I'll be all right until you get here."

Again he sighed. "Scully. If there's a fire alarm or anything unusual, I want you to go across the street to Scotland Yard and ask for Phoebe Green."

"I am not going to ask for help from that woman."

"She's law enforcement, Scully, she's on our side even if she doesn't want to be."

"I am not going to ask her for help. Period."

"Scully. Scully. Are you crying?"

"No," she said and wiped her face with the back of her hand.

"Listen to me. We're not entirely without friends, okay, sweetheart? Trust me. Please. Hang up the phone and get dressed.

I'm going to call somebody to come get you, and we'll leave London tonight."

"No," she said. "I'm not going anywhere without you. And nothing has actually happened, Mulder--someone left me a flower.

It's no reason to panic."

"Will you at least go down into the restaurant where people can see you? Or into the coffeeshop where we had breakfast yesterday?"

"I'll wait for you in the restaurant," Scully said quietly.

"Okay. Okay. I'll be back as quick as I can. I love you."

"I love you," she answered and hung up the phone. She took the innocent rose from its vase and crushed its head in her fist.


Mulder paid the cabby and hurried through the courtyard towards the entrance. Preoccupied, he automatically stopped and turned when a woman's voice called from across the street, "Mulder?

Mulder!"

She hadn't changed much in the seven years since he'd last seen her--same short, light brown hair; same wide green eyes, same angular face and chic clothing. Phoebe Green looked the same at forty that she had at thirty-three--a look, Mulder thought wearily, maintained by a personal trainer, Botox and her hair stylist.

That's not nice, his inner Scully said, but he thought on this occasion she'd let not-niceness pass.

"Phoebe," he said, buttoning his overcoat. "Long time."

"God, *ages*, Mulder." She had crossed the street briskly, confident the cars would stop for her, and with the same assurance she caught his arm and kissed his cheek. "What are you doing here?

I haven't heard of any UFO sightings lately--is it crop circles?

The wrong time of the year, darling."

Mulder winced at her casual "darling"--Scully rarely used endearments and that made them all the more precious. "We're looking for a house."

Her smile faltered for a moment. "We?"

"My wife and I. You met her when you came to the States.

Scully."

"Oh. Yes. Your little partner."

"It's our honeymoon--and we're having a baby," he added.

Phoebe's smile got a malicious edge to it at his words. "I see--what's the term? A shotgun marriage?"

"You could call it that," Mulder said. "She wouldn't marry me until I knocked her up. Good to see you, Phoebe." He turned to go.

"Mulder, wait." Her smile was gone but she didn't look angry.

"It can't just be coincidence that I saw you today."

Acceptable risk, he thought. "I've always wanted to stay in this hotel--the Yard being right there is a bonus."

"It's our good fortune, then. I've been wanting to get in touch with you again--I have a proposition for you."

"I bet you do."

She inhaled and said, "Since you're eager to rejoin your bride, I'll be brief. My superiors have been following your career since you helped us in Boston . If you ever want to leave the FBI, we'll be pleased to have you here."

Mulder glanced at the gray, square building and sighed.

"Scully and I weren't planning to back into law enforcement."

"Do think about it. Talent like yours shouldn't be wasted on being a country gentleman--or whatever you're planning to do here."

"I'm planning to take care of my family. Thanks but no thanks. Good to see you, Phoebe."

"I'm not giving up, Mulder!" she called after him as he walked away. He waved his hand back towards her and entered the hotel.

In the hotel lobbey, Mulder paused at the restaurant doors, and went back to the concierge desk. He gave the young clerk his warmest smile and a quick glance at her nametag. "Hello, Katrina."

"Good afternoon, sir, how can I help you?"

"I would like to buy some flowers for my wife. Is there a place close by that delivers?"

Her pretty face scrunched up for a moment as she thought about it, then she said brightly, "I don't know if they deliver, but there is a flower shop up the street, past the green-grocer's.

Would you like me to call them for you?"

"No, thank you, I'll just stop by. Thanks." He smiled again, and went to the hotel restaurant to find Scully. "I'll just be joining my wife," he told the maitre d'.

He could see her at the opposite end of the room, sitting at a small round table by one of the tall, heavily-curtained windows.

There was an open book and a half-eaten bowl of soup in front of her--he would have teased her about bringing books on her honeymoon if he hadn't brought a few himself--but she was neither eating nor reading. She was instead staring out the window, her hand absently playing in her hair and a thoughtful expression on her face. She looked pensive and calm and very beautiful.

Mulder wished someone would ask him, "Who's that gorgeous woman?" so he could say, "That's my wife." He wished he could hole up in the room with her until their worries had passed. He wished he could put a protective barrier around her--a forcefield that would throw anyone who tried to harm her fifty feet into the air.

He wished she felt well enough to make love--not just out of lust but because he wanted her to feel good, safe, loved.

Scully only noticed him when he slid into the chair opposite, but her happiness to see him plain was in her eyes. "Hi."

"Hey. How are you feeling?"

She smiled and took his hand, holding it loosely on top of the table. "Better now," she said softly.

"Nothing else strange has happened?" He stroked her knuckles with his thumb.

"It's been quiet. Maybe we panicked over nothing--maybe it was delivered to us by mistake. And it was only a flower."

He nodded, but still said, "Do you want to change hotels?"

"No," Scully said softly. "I don't want to leave until we find a place to live--or unless we absolutely must."

Again Mulder nodded, and said to the waitress who had silently approached their table, "I'll have what she's having." She poured him a glass of lemon-flavored water and just as silently slipped away. He said to Scully, "I didn't take the time to look at any houses, but we can go back tomorrow if you're feeling up to it."

"All right," she said softly. "Who were you going to call?"

"Hm?" He sipped his water.

"You said on the phone you were going to call somebody to get me, and I was just wondering who. You did say there were people over here you wanted me to meet, but we haven't really sought anyone out. And Phoebe Green doesn't count."

"An old classmate. He teaches law at City University. We haven't really kept in touch, but I think he'd be happy to hear from me. I haven't really kept in touch with anybody," he added after a moment. "I mean, there's no one here who'd want to tar and feather me, but I'm not really close with anyone."

"Particularly anyone you'd want to call on to pick up your pregnant wife because you're afraid she's begin stalked."

Mulder waited until the waitress had placed the bowl of tomato soup in front of him and grated on some fresh parmesan cheese, and then said quietly, "There are some people here that I would trust with you. But I don't want to just spring it on them, if I can help it. You should meet them first. At the very least I should say hello. I can't ask anyone into this insanity without them knowing what's in store. Speaking of Phoebe Green, guess who I ran into just now."

Scully made a noncommittal sound. "How is she?"

"Fine. Just fine. She asked if we'd be interested in joining Scotland Yard."

"What did you tell her?"

"I told her no."

"Good." Scully ate a spoonful of soup, and said, "I love this city. It's beautiful and exciting and I want to explore it more, but I don't want to live here. I want someplace less . . . urban.

Someplace with more trees than people."

"But if you are being stalked, Scully--"

"I don't think I am. I think it was an honest mistake. We're both on edge--we've both been looking over our shoulders and starting at every noise. But that's over. I can," she smiled wryly, "feel it."

Mulder smiled too. "I am not going to argue with your instincts, honey. More trees than people. Okay. So meantime, for tonight, what would you like to do? Something undemanding like a movie?"

"I'd like to go back to the room for a while."

"Ah," Mulder said in understanding. "Time for an afternoon nap."

"Well, an afternoon *something*."

He raised an eyebrow. "I thought you weren't feeling well."

"Maybe I feel better." She smiled at him innocently, and Mulder was suddenly very glad he'd only ordered soup.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

The bathtub was narrow but deep--room enough for two if they didn't get too vigorous. Scully rested against Mulder's chest, her head tucked under his chin, and Mulder drew up scoops of raspberryscented bubbles to watch them slide off her belly.

"I'm glad you found a new plaything," Scully murmured.

"It's fascinating. Our little Daisy . . . Hey, do you think she notices when we're having sex?"

"Yes, but she doesn't know what it means and she won't remember it anyway. She doesn't have cognitive thought yet--she's all instinct right now."

He cupped her belly in his hands beneath the water. "Should we stop? Is it really okay to do--especially so much?"

"Mulder," Scully said gently, "exposure to the father's semen helps the mother's body accept the baby instead of rejecting it as as unfamiliar organism, and sex works the muscles that will be used in labor. It's okay."

"Oh." He kissed her hair and leaned his cheek against her head. "Okay, then." He rubbed her tummy and kissed her a few more times, then said, "Should we think about boys' names?"

"We could get it confirmed by an ultrasound. Unless you want to be surprised. Do you?" She turned back her head to look at him.

"I think I do. It would be fun to find out the old-fashioned way. I mean, do you want to know everything beforehand?"

"We don't know everything," Scully murmured sleepily. "We don't know the color of her eyes . . . or how tall she'll be . . . I hope she looks like you."

Mulder snorted, shifting his legs. "I don't. I hope she looks like you--especially in the nasal region."

"I love your nose," Scully said, more sleepily still. "I love your pretty eyes and your big hands . . ." She picked up his hands and held them under her own, pressed beneath her breasts. She gave a long, satisfied sigh.

Mulder sighed too, closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the tiled wall. Maybe it's selfish, he thought, to put happiness over safety, but hell. I'll be selfish. I'll be gloriously and completely selfish. I want her. I want her here, wherever 'here' is. Anywhere that 'here' is.

He moved his hand so that it rested over her heartbeat, and the other on the uppermost curve of her tummy. "Move for Daddy," he whispered, and Scully chuckled. "I want to feel her move."

"You will. I promise." She cracked open her eye a moment.

"Boys' names. Adam."

"Bart."

She laughed. "Christopher."

"Dudley."

She nudged him with her shoulder. "Mulder, be serious."

"So Dudley's a no go?"

"No Dudley. And for that matter, nothing ugly or bizarre or jokey. It's a child, not a walking testament to your sense of humor."

"So . . . Elvis is out, too, then."

"Yes. Family names are fine--and I know you don't have an uncle Elvis--and I like classic or Biblical names, too."

He said, just to hear her reaction, really, "Jehosephat, then."

"Mulder . . ." she said in her be-glad-you're-cute voice, then said, "Noah. David. James. Benjamin. Joseph. Names like that."

"James is my grandfather's name. My paternal grandfather."

"So, is that a yes or a definitely not?"

Mulder rubbed his chin on her hair. "It's a maybe," he said softly. "He died when I was about six. He used to hold me on his lap and let me play with the things in his pockets, his pens and his money clip and his watch . . . I never saw him in anything but a suit, and he wore a hat whenever he went outside. He wasn't a stuffy, strict Grandpa, though. He would sing to Samantha when she was tiny, and dance with her standing on his feet when she could walk. We'd play Railroad with his books."

"Railroad?"

"We'd lay his books on the floor to make the track, and use . . . well, various things to be the train. Toy cars or Samantha's dolls or things made out of blocks . . ."

"It sounds like you miss him." She stroked the back of his hand with her fingertips.

"I do." He pressed his lips to her hair again.

"We could call him Jimmy."

"I don't like Jimmy . . . I do like Jamie."

"For a boy? Jamie," she repeated, and smiled. "I like it too.

Okay. If it's a girl she's Margaret Bettina, probably Daisy; and if it's a boy he's James William, probably Jamie."

"James William?"

"It covers so many male relatives--my father, your father, my grandfather, you."

"Okay. James William." Mulder squeezed her tummy gently. "We should get out--we're pruning."

"Just a few minutes more," Scully said. She ran her toes up his leg. "Just a few minutes . . ."

"A few more minutes," Mulder agreed, and closed his eyes again.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

In the movie theater Scully fed Mulder some popcorn and said, "We have so much we need to do for the baby still. A crib and clothes and bottles and I need to decide on a doctor or a midwifeand I miss that little Beatrix Potter print I bought. I liked it."

"Toss me some, I'll catch it."

"I'm not going to toss you popcorn. All right, maybe one."

She tossed a piece of popcorn towards his mouth and he missed it completely. She said, picking the piece off his shoulder, "Do you think my mother could send us the crib I bought? It's still in your apartment, isn't it?"

"It would probably be cheaper just to buy a new one. Toss me another." She tossed, he missed, and he said, brushing the popcorn from his chest, "I couldn't leave the Eeyore behind but we can replace everything else. But if you really, really want it, we can figure out a way to get it here. Though there is Harrod's and it has everything. Seriously everything, Scully." She fed him another handful of popcorn and he licked her salty palm as the house lights went down. "Do you want to go shopping, baby?" he whispered.

"Soon. As soon as we have a house." She laid her head on his shoulder and slipped her hand into his.


January became February. Scully received no more mysterious gifts--or if she did, Mulder's gleeful reactions gave him away. It made Scully wonder how he'd ever managed to keep anything from her, particularly as long as he'd held onto some of his secrets. He hid nothing now.

They passed the weeks by looking at houses for lease and meeting up with friends of Mulder's from Oxford. None of the houses were right: they were too cramped or too plain or too unloved. None of them, for reasons she couldn't quite articulate, felt like home.

"Am I being too choosy?" she asked Mulder. "Am I nitpicking the wrong things? Do I expect too much?"

"I don't think so," Mulder said. It was Sunday afternoon, cool and windy, and they walked slowly through Hyde Park--not holding hands, but close enough so that their elbows touched. "It's a big decision--and God knows we've got reasons to be cautious.

There's no rush."

"I don't want to be moving in at my ninth month. There is a rush--or at least a deadline."

"Scully, you make decisions slowly. That's okay. After all,"

he nudged her gently, "it only took you seven years to decide to spend the rest of your life with me."

Scully continued walking, then said, "Five."

"Hm?"

She gave him her most enigmatic smile. "It only took me five."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

As for Mulder's friends, Scully liked them better than the houses. She loved hearing stories about Mulder's college years--the professors, the trips, the parties, the pranks--and to see picture of him at twenty, with bleached hair and an earring. It didn't surprise her at all to learn that Mulder had been awkward as a student, a little shy, that he hadn't made friends easily but that the friends he'd made had been a close and tight-knit bunch.

"Until Phoebe came along," Liam said, making Ned and Mulder both groan.

"Phoebe?" said Liam's girlfriend Maxine, who was quite a bit younger than the rest of the group. "Who was Phoebe?"

"Oh, God, not the Phoebe story," said Fiona, hauling herself from the floor to go into the kitchen for another round of lagers.

"I saw her at the market the other day and practically ran the other direction. I don't want even to pretend we ever knew each other. She was terrible to Mulder, terrible to her friends and terrible to us. And I'm glad she's out of your life, Mulder. Good riddance to bad rubbish."

Mulder sighed and shifted uncomfortably. "I appreciate your support," he said dryly and Scully, lounging on the sofa behind him, reached down to ruffle his hair. "Now, why you didn't tell me this twenty years ago--"

The rest of his words were lost in the shouted protests of his friends, and he turned back his head to grin at Scully. She smiled too, still stroking his hair.

"Oh, tell me what happened," said Maxine. "Obviously it turned out all right in the end."

"Okay," Mulder said. "Here's the quick version. Phoebe and I dated while I was getting my post-grad. I, being young and stubborn, didn't listen to the advice of my friends that she was bad news--until the proof was staring me in the face. I thought my life was over, heart was broken, all the cliches--but I got a happy ending." He took Scully's hand and kissed her palm.

"Oh," Maxine said in understanding. "Have you met her, Dana?"

"Years ago, when she came to the U.S. She didn't like me much." She left her hand cupping his face so she could stroke his cheek.

"Phoebe doesn't like other women in general," Fiona said decidedly.

"Poor girl," muttered Ned as he shuffled the cards. "I feel sorry for her." He ducked the popcorn Fiona and Liam threw at him, and said, "No, really! You can be sure that wherever she is tonight, she's not laughing it up and drinking with friends. I realize it's her own damn fault, but one can't help feeling sorry for her. Well, let's play. Are you sure you don't want to be dealt in, Dana?"

"I'm sure, thank you. I'm no good at poker."

"All the more reason to play," Liam said with a grin, and Maxine giggled.

"You'll be my good-luck charm," Mulder said, and Scully tickled his ear in response.

"How is the house-hunting going, by the way?" Fiona asked as Ned dealt the cards. "Any luck yet?"

"No," Scully said. "We can't find anything that's right."

"I thought you liked the place in Chelsea."

"It didn't please m'lady and I have to go with what she says," Mulder said. "She decides how to spend the money--I just write the checks."

That got a laugh from the other men, but Scully couldn't bring herself to smile. She just said, "We'll know when we find the right one. Fiona, is there a place where I can lie down for a while?"

"Of course, Dana, are you tired? It *is* getting late."

"I just want to rest my head a little."

"Come on--you can have Simon's room. He won't be home until the weekend." Fiona got to her feet to lead Scully to her son's room. Muler got up too and stopped Scully at the foot of the stairs.

"Are you okay?" he whispered, slipping his hand into her hair. "Do we need to go back to the hotel?"

"I'm fine," she said, and his eyes narrowed a little bit. She sighed. "I'm six months pregnant. I'm hungry all the time, I'm tired all the time, I just want to lie down for a little bit. Go back to your game. Don't lose the house."

Mulder's eyes searched hers for a moment then he leaned down to kiss her forehead. "Love you," he whispered, his breath warm against her cheek.

"Love you," she replied, then followed Fiona upstairs.

"The sheets are clean," Fiona said when she opened the door to the bedroom, "and the room's not bad. Going to University has made Simon neat, which is a wonderful side effect."

"Thank you," Scully said. It was a boy's room much like her brothers' room when they were older teens: posters and banners for Manchester United on the wall, comic books on the shelves, worn-out sneakers in the clost. Scully sat down in the desk chair to take off her shoes, thinking with a sigh that it was time to give up high heels.

"Dana," Fiona said, sitting on the bed. "Do you and Mulder want to stay in London, or are you willing to go outside the city?"

"I'm willing to go wherever we find the right place," Scully said.

"I think I might have something for you. It's a good distance from London, though. Ned's parents live near a little village named Carterhaugh, in Northumbria. They have a manor house there on a bit of land, and they've been looking for someone to rent the gatehouse. They haven't had much luck because it's so remote, but it might be just what you're looking for."

"Remote?" Scully said. "I am actually interested in remote.

Will you mention it to Mulder?"

"Of course. Have a good rest." She smiled at Scully and left the bedroom.

Scully took off her sweater, folded it an placed it on the chair. She pulled down the sheets and turned off the light, lay down in the bed and closed her eyes. Daisy shifted around too, making herself comfortable.

Daisy-or-Jamie, Scully thought with a smile. She rubbed her belly with her palm. "There, there, Baby," she whispered. "We'll find a place to rest soon." The baby settled under her touch, and soon Scully was dozing, her face nestled against the thick pillow.

Some time later--she wasn't sure how long--she heard voices in the hall. "Of course I worry," Mulder was saying. "But whenever we go to the obstetrician we're told the same thing: she's fine, the baby's fine, take your vitamins and we'll see you in a few weeks. So maybe there's really nothing to worry about. She seems to be having a normal pregnancy."

"Well, a little melanchology probably is normal," said Ned soothingly. "When Fee was expecting Simon there were times when she would just cry for hours. There was nothing to do but feed her chocolate and say I loved her."

"Did that help?"

"It didn't hurt. Good night, Mulder."

"G'night." Mulder opened the door and came into the bedroom.

Without turning on the light he took off his shoes and stripped down to his boxers and t-shirt. Scully watched him through halfopen eyes, her vision adjusted to the darkness enough to see his shape as he undressed.

It was good, she supposed, that it still gave her physical thrill to look at him; that she still appreciated his body after all these years of denial and the last few weeks of indulgence.

His body was long and lean, gaining back some of the musculature he'd lost under the stress of losing her. Walking and good food emphasized his broad shoulders, deep chest and heavy, endless legs.

She was proud of him, she could admit that. He was beauty and brilliance in one complex, infuriatingly desirable package. Even moments like now, when she didn't feel as fond of him as she normally did, she felt the deep pull to him that had only grown stronger over the last seven years.

It was just a joke, she thought, but still had to press her lips together and turn her face away.

He slid into bed beside her, laid his arm over her body and kissed the back of her neck.

"They're nice to let us stay," she murmured.

"Oh, you are awake," Mulder said with amusement in his voice.

"Should we go back to the hotel after all?"

"No, this is fine."

"Mm," he agreed. "Very friendly." They lay in silence a moment, then he said, "We're invited to Ned's parents' next weekend. Simon will be there too."

"Okay. Did Fiona tell you about the house?"

"She did. It sounds great. I'm hopeful." His hand moved from her hip to her belly. "Are you sure you're okay, though? " "Yes," she said, then, "No. Mulder." She sat up and turned over to face him. "Am I a kept woman?"

"A what?" He looked like he wasn't sure whether to laugh or be offended.

"Do I just spend your money in exchange for sex?"

"I--I don't even understand what you're asking. You're my wife. You're my--my Scully. We don't have an arrangment, we have a marriage. We have a partnership. Don't we?" He sat up too, kissed her gently and pushed her hair back from her face. "What's bothering you?"

"You don't think you just write the checks, do you?"

"Scully . . . That was a joke. Not even one of my better ones."

Scully leaned her head against his shoulder with a frustrated sigh--directed more at herself than at him. Of course they were partners--their relationship was on equal footing, their love was rooted in friendship and trust. She knew all this. She'd known this for years.

And he meant nothing but love in all his worry. She knew that, too.

He was still kissing her and stroking her hair, calm, gentle, her beloved, her love. She kissed his neck. "Don't mind me," she whispered. "Hormones."

"Would chocolate help?"

Scully smiled at him helplessly. He really was sweet. He really was trying. And as soon as she felt like herself again, she'd reward him for his patience and his tenderness and for being her Mulder.

She kissed him and said, "No. But tell me you love me. It couldn't hurt."

He chuckled and helped her lie down again, spooned together.

After a few minutes he began to rub her back, pressing his fingertips into the knobs of her spine. Scully exhaled and let her eyes close. This was Mulder's way of love: he protected, he cherished, he took care. He gave and gave--and if you gave back, joy radiated from him like warmth from the sun.

She remembered her words to him on their wedding day: Don't doubt yourself. Don't doubt us.

No doubts, she thought. None.

She was almost asleep again, lulled by his massaging fingers, when she heard his voice in a near-whisper by her ear. It took a moment to realize he was singing--but when she recognized the words, she smiled and relaxed against him even further.

"'But of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares with you," he sang. "'And these memories lose their meaning when I think of love as something new. I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before. I know I'll often stop and think about them. In my life, I love you more.'"

~"In My Life" is by the Beatles.~


A few days before they were to leave for Northumbria, Fiona decided it was silly for them to stay in a hotel any longer and installed Mulder and Scully in their guest bedroom. This pleased Scully enormously: as nice as a hotel could be, there comes a point when a body needs to be in a house, even as a guest. She loved the Lynns, liked their quiet neighborhood and cozy house, and particularly loved the slow pace of life they adopted now that the novelty of touring had worn off.

And if Scully was happy, Mulder was happy, and she seemed very happy. He'd never thought about it while they were partners, but it became clear to him that she'd missed having people to interact with every day. He knew she loved talking to him, but she loved talking to other people too, who were as intelligent, informed and original as she was. Not that she'd say that about herself, he thought with a smile: she just said, "I like Fiona and Ned a lot," and he said, "I knew you would."

The night before they were to leave, Simon Lynn arrived home from school. He was seventeen; tall like Ned, with big brown eyes like Fiona; and like neither of them, his hair was blue and both ears were ringed with silver hoops.

When he arrived he had little to say to the visitors, but when Mulder came downstairs to make breakfast in the morning, Simon was hanging around Fiona's shoulders like an overgrown feather boa while she started some toast and tea.

"Little Mummy," he said, "sweet little Mum, please don't make me spend the whole week at Gram's. Please please please please. I will love you forever and ever. Don't make me go."

"You already love me forever, and you're going," Fiona said comfortably, despite six feet of teenage boy hanging onto her.

"Your grandparents see you four times a year at most, less as you get older, and they love you. It's a week. I said you could invite a friend or two of you wanted, didn't you ask anyone?"

"I couldn't convince anyone to join me for a week in glamorous Northumbria. I even offed to pay." He let go of his mother, grabbed all the toast off the plate and ambled upstairs, mumbling, "Rotten Northumbria."

Fiona looked at Mulder and said, "You're in for that.

Excited?"

"It'll be different. We're having a girl."

"Oh--then it'll be worse." She smiled at him and poured him a cup of tea. "I'll make some more toast."

"Sit, I'll do it."

"Gladly." She sat at the table and put her feet up on a chair, while he put four slices of bread into the toaster. "How is Dana this morning? She's not ill, is she?"

"She's sleeping. She's not a morning person." He took a pan from the rack and started one of the gas burners. "Thank you for finding the house for us. Scully needs a place of her own--she hates wandering."

"I hope she likes it."

He hesitated. "Fiona . . . I have a--a difficult question for you."

"That sounds serious."

"It is serious. I wanted to talk to you about this with Ned here but also when Scully's not around--"

Fiona smiled at him indulgently. "Just tell me."

"If anything ever happens to me, I want to arrange it so Scully disappears. And the baby, of course. I have some friends in the States who can help with the papers but--"

"Mulder!" Fiona took her feet off the chair, holding up her hands to block his words. "What could happen to you that she would need to disappear? And how would that help? I don't understand."

He sighed, and started when the toast popped up from the toaster. "We--I, really, I have't been entirely honest with you about why we left the States. " He took out the toast and stacked them on the plate.

"What did you do, Mulder?" she whispered.

"Nothing illegal," he said seriously. "I asked the wrong questions. I noticed things people would rather have stayed hidden.

And I fell in love with Scully."

"Oh, God, don't tell me she's not what she appears to be. " "No--no--absolutely not. She's the best thing that's ever happened to me." He drank a swallow of tea, put some butter in the now-hot pan , and while he cooked some eggs and cheese began to talk. Everything important from the past seven years, a few not-so important things, skimming over a moonlit night in a New Mexico schoolyard, everything that led to Scully asleep upstairs.

When he was done, Fiona didn't say anything for a long time.

She ate a few bites of the scrambled eggs he put before her, washed it down with some tea, and said, "I always knew you believed some strange things."

"Not just believe, Fee. Know."

"They want the baby because they think it's alien?"

"An alien-human hybrid, naturally conceived due to the experiments that were performed on Scully during her abduction--and on me, at various points in my life. Yeah."

"But it's just a baby."

"Well, *we* know that."

Fiona shook her head slowly, but said, "All right. You were saying about her needing to disappear?"

He could have kissed her, but only said, "If you don't want to I'll understand, but here's what I'm planning."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Before the morning got much older, they all boarded a northbound train. It would be three hours to Newcastle, and another half hour to Carterhaugh village itself. "It's not far to Linford Hall," Ned said. "You can walk it in twenty minutes. The gatehouse is about ten minutes from the house in the other direction, but it seems a lot further than it is because of all the trees. The family has always been very proud of the grounds--there's a maze and gardens, and the trees that line the drive are over three hundred years old."

"It sounds wonderful," Scully said, squeezing Mulder's hand.

She was trembling a little, and Mulder hoped it was only nerves. He put his arms around her shoulders and she leaned her head against his chest.

"We don't have to say yes," Mulder whispered to her. "If you don't like it, we don't have to take it."

"I'm not going to hate it."

He smiled down at her. "You know that already?"

"I have a feeling . . . And even if I don't love it, it'll be great to not be in a hotel."

"That is true."

Scully stroked his hand lightly, watching the city pass by through the window. She said, "I hope it has ivy. And leaded windows." She settled herself more comfortably against his side, and Mulder closed his eyes, happy just to listen to her voice. "And wood floors . . . and exposed beams in the ceiling . . ."

I hope it's your dream house, Scully, Mulder thought. I hope you're happy there.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Ned's parents met them at the Carterhaugh train station, where even Simon couldn't help smiling at their kisses and hugs. "You remember we mentioned bringing some friends?" Ned said before introducing Mulder and Scully to them. Mulder had expected Mrs.

Lynn to be like his mother, patrician, beautiful and cold; but she had kind brown eyes and a pixie-like face, and shook his hand with both of hers.

"Welcome, welcome," she said. "Welcome to Carterhaugh.

Welcome to Linford Hall."

His father was quiet--often asking people to repeat themselves after speaking, but mostly letting Mrs. Lynn handle everything from telling about the house to driving.

After Scully had rested a bit and they all had lunch, the Lynns took them on a walk through the grounds. Mr. Lynn offered Scully his arm since they walked at the same pace. He was a laconic tour guide: "That tree will bear peaches in summer. That tree house was built in 1897. Don't go into the maze without a guide, you'll get lost."

"There's so much history here," Scully said. "There must be a ghost or two."

Mr. and Mrs. Lynn exchanged glances, but Ned said, "The woods are haunted."

"Oh, Ned, that's not true at all," said Mrs. Lynn.

"Oh, no? I remember the lights in the woods at night, and the hoofbeats we'd hear with no prints in the morning, and the tales the old men tell at the pub. The woods are haunted and have been for hundreds of years."

"You never told me that, Dad," Simon said.

"I didn't want to scare you when you were a child."

Mulder couldn't help himself: his pulse quickened at the thought of mysterious lights and noises. "So who's supposed to be haunting the woods?" he said eagerly.

Fiona said with an indulgent laugh, "The little people--the fairy folk. The pub in town is named the May Queen for them. But it's nonsense, Mulder, like will o' the wisps and leprechauns.

Folktales, nothing more."

"Oh." He couldn't hide his disappointment, either.

"But if you want the house, there's the blue lady," said Ned.

"Who no one's seen for thirty years," said Simon. "She's supposed to have died for love of an unfaithful knight, but *I* think she's just one of Gram's tales for the American tourists who want quaint, haunted Britain. No offense."

"None taken," Scully murmured.

"The Blue Lady's true," Ned said, "I've seen her. And I have seen lights in the woods. Call it tales all you like, but I know what I saw."

"You were very young," said Mrs. Lynn. "Mr. Lynn's father loved the old tales, and the children used to listen to him every night for hours while they were growing up. Mr. Lynn wrote them down a few years ago, as best as we could remember. But they are just tales, Ned dear. There's no such thing as fairies."

Behind her, Ned caught Mulder's eye and shook his head, mouthing, "Ghosts." Mulder grinned back.

"''Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe,'" Mr. Lynn quoted, then stopped with a puzzled expression. "That's not the right poem. What's the poem I'm thinking of, Janet?"

"Mr. Lynn loves Lewis Carroll," Mrs. Lynn told Scully. "'"You are old, Father William, the young man said, "and your hair has become very white; and yet you incessantly stand on your head--do you think at your age it is right?"'"

Simon started laughing, and Mr. Lynn continued the poem with a puckish grin, "'"In my youth," Father William replied to his son, "I feared it might injure the brain--but now that I'm perfectly sure I have none, why, I do it again and again!"'"

They all laughed at the bit of nonsense verse, but Mr. Lynn said, "That's not the right one either, Janet."

"Well, I'm sure I don't know, Tom. You've got more poems in your head than I can keep up with. The gatehouse is just a bit further, shall we continue? Can you bear the walk, Mrs. Mulder?"

"Yes, I'm fine," Sculy said, and reached for Mulder's hand.

They had passed the gatehouse on the way in but Mulder had only caught a glimpse of it through the trees. "The original manor burned down in 1684," Mrs. Lynn said as she unlatched the garden gate. "This house is actually older than the Hall. It was last renovated in the fifties, but we've had a contractor look it over since we wanted to lease it. It's got good plumbing and a solid foundation, and the roof is in fine condition."

"And it has ivy," Scully whispered. She squeezed Mulder's hand and he squeezed back.

"And leaded glass."

"Yes, yes, it's from the Tudor era," Mrs. Lynn said. "Come along, Mrs. Mulder. Let's get inside before it starts rainingthose clouds look ominous."

"Mum, can I go back to the Hall?" Simon said, and Fiona nodded to him.

"Would you bring the car round in about an hour, so we don't have to walk back in the rain?"

"Sure," he said, and took off at a lope back to the main house.

Scully was biting her lip, her hand tight and warm around Mulder's. It was three floors with a wood shingled roof, and brick and white plaster between dark wood beams. The narrow windows had diamond-shaped panes set in lead, with empty window boxes in front of every window. One door led to the bottom floor, and a staircase led to the second.

Mrs. Lynn led them up the stairs and opened the door with a flourish. "This is the main room of the house," she said. The room ran the entire length of the house, with a heavy fireplace at one end and another narrow staircase to the first and third floors. The floors were solid timber beneath their feet. A modern kitchen had been put in by the fireplace: a gas range, a heavy granite sink, counters and an island with a pot rack above it.

They climbed the stairs to the third floor, where there were three bedrooms, one opening into the next. The central room had another inglenook fireplace and a narrow bathroom, with a deep clawfoot tub that made Scully clutch at Mulder's hand again. One of the bedrooms had been used as a nursery in the past: it had been painted cream with narrow blue stripes, and a cartoonish cow jumped over a jolly moon, while a dish and spoon ran away hand-in-hand on a hill painted below.

"What do you think?" she said, but Scully was too busy looking to answer.

"I think she loves it," Mulder said, and Scully nodded, still looking around. "It's beautiful, Mrs. Lynn."

"It is unfurnished," Mrs. Lynn said. "All it has is the stove and counters. The last tenants used the downstairs for storage, but they cleared it--and what they left we've taken out--so you can use it for whatever you like. I'm sure you can find something. So. It is small and there's no central heat or air, but as I said it's in good condition. Would you like to see the garden?"

"Yes, please," Scully said quietly, then hung back while the Lynns led the way downstairs again. "Mulder," she whispered. "I love this house."

He grinned at her. "Then we'll take it."

"Can we honestly afford this, though? They've got to be expecting a huge rent--can we afford a thousand pounds a month? Or more?"

"Yes. We can afford it." He took her chin in his hand. "Hey.

Don't look so worried. If you want this place, we have get it. The only thing that concerns me is the stairs."

"They make gates to block off stairs when toddlers start walking."

"I mean for you, in about three months. They're very steep.

We'll be sleeping up here and doing most of our living downstairs, do you think you can handle it when you're at your ninth month?"

Scully nodded, her eyes wide. "I'm sure I can."

"Okay, then."

"Okay." She grabbed both his hands, laughing. "Mulder, we found our house. We have a house!"

He laughed too and spun her around. "Come on, let's look at the garden before we say yes."

~"Jabberwocky" and "Father William" are by Lewis Carroll.~ **

Mulder climbed up the stairs for what he hoped was the last time that day, and paused at the top of the landing. They had spent the day moving in, with help from Fiona, Ned and Simon--just the basics of furniture, chairs around the island, dishes, a bookcase Scully hoped to fill soon, a wardrobe and a bed.

But they had said goodbye and thank-you to their friends, and it was finally just the two of them in the little house.

Scully was standing on her tiptoes at the island, hanging pots on the rack. She had complained to Mulder before how she loathed maternity clothes because of the cute factor, but he loved how cute she looked in her overalls, with her hair pulled back and her arms bare. He had to stop and watch.

Finally she noticed him staring and said, blowing back a lock of errant hair, "What?"

"You're a pretty girl," he said in a low voice.

Scully laughed. "Come here and help me."

He crossed the room and took the pans from her to finish hanging them up. She wrapped her arms around his waist.

"Do you hear that?" she said.

Mulder and listened to the quiet house. "Hear what?"

"There's nobody here but us. No staff, no other guests, no hosts. It's just us. Our house."

"Yeah," Mulder said. "So we can be as noisy as we want to be."

"Or as quiet." She added at his look, "Or as noisy. Bu there's so much still to do, Mulder."

"I know. Not tonight, though. " He pulled the band from her hair and ran his fingers through it so it fell in curls around her face.

"I want to put a rug under the dining room table, when we have one. And I want to plant bulbs in the fall. I think I'll be too busy with the baby for any spring planting. And we need to decide what to do with this room. It's a great room, I love it, but I'm not sure how to get the best use out of it."

Mulder sighed and rested his chin on he top of her head.

"Here's my vision. " He turned her towards the fireplace. "Sofa in front of that. Maybe an armchair or two. TV to the side. Computer under the windows. "

"I've missed my computer," Scully murmured. "Can we get the internet out here?"

"I think so, Tom and Janet have it." He turned her to the other end of the room. "Dining room table and chairs, and a play space for the baby."

"I like your vision. " She wrapped her hands around his fingers.

"Tomorrow," he said. "We have plenty of time."

"Our house," she said again, then turned back her head to look at him. "This is what you want, isn't it?"

"Of course it is."

She nodded and leaned her head back against his chest. "It's just . . . Sometimes I think you're not sure about all this. Like you're indulging me."

"Scully." He turned her around and held her face in his hands. "Honestly, honey? I am a little scared."

"Mulder," she began.

"Listen. You could have anyone you wanted. Anyone. You could have a guy who'd give you the moon."

"What would I do with the moon?" she said gently.

"You know what I mean. And you have to admit, not a lot of people get us."

"You were so upset on our wedding day. Did someone say something to you?"

He sighed and leaned her forehead against hers. "Your brother said something I overheard--and your mother wasn't happy--and Charlie probably would have objected if we'd talked long enough."

She said, cupping his cheek in her hand, "The fact that I love you has nothing to do with it, of course."

"And that's the thing, isn't it? That's why we make sense.

Despite everything that says it shouldn't be, there's love."

"Yes, there is," Scully murmured. "Let's go to bed, Mulder."

"Are you tired, honey?"

She smiled. "No. Not at all."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Life, Mulder thought, could be highly satisfying. It could be unexpectedly delightful. It could be strangely beautiful, full of wonder and sweetness.

Scully had chosen a heavy sleigh bed with a wide, firm mattress, and Mulder leaned back on his elbows while he watched Scully undress, letting the comfort of the bed surround him. She was a little shy to let him see her nude at this point of her pregnancy, but he didn't know why. He loved her heavier breasts and taut, creamy belly. He couldn't get enough of her. He hoped he never would.

"Look at you," he said softly, taking her hands. "Look at how sweet you are. "

"I just feel big," she said.

"You're round," he said. "I want to just sink into you."

Scully chuckled, blushing a little, and he said, "Okay, that's not quite what I meant."

"I think I know what you mean, and the sentiment is greatly appreciated, my love." She let go of his hand to hold his face and kiss him. He tilted back his head, smiling as her lips moved tenderly around his face.

"It's going to be a while, isn't it, before we're fucking frantically against the wall again," he murmured.

"Do you miss it?"

"Not really--it's probably better for my back."

She laughed and kissed him, pushing her tongue into his mouth. He liked her gentle just fine--but he loved when she was fierce.

"Hello, second-trimester libido," he said when they came up for air.

"Enjoy it while you can," she said, and kissed him again. "I can't promise how good my mood will stay for the next three months."

"I will bring you offerings of chocolate and Saltines." He pulled her onto the bed and helped her lie beside him, stretched out on the soft cotton sheets. "I will bow down and worship at the altar of your tummy." He kissed the belly in question and Scully touched his hair.

"You will lay me good and proper," she said with a fallen angel's smile.

"That too." He loved the way her hands moved through his hair as he kissed her body. He loved every one of her freckles, loved to trace a path from one to the next with his tongue.

Scully scooted herself further onto the bed and grabbed a pillow to put under her hips. "This really is the best way to break in a bed," she said breathlessly, and Mulder hummed in agreement, his lips closing around her tight pink nipple.

He loved the little noises she made--and it occurred to him that she'd always made *little* noises. They'd always made love in places where they had to worry about people hearing them, from the park to their own apartments to various hotels--but now, they didn't.

As they kissed and touched he waited to see if Scully would notice this too, but even when he was deep inside her, her teeth were clamped onto her lip, muffling her cries.

"Hey," he whispered and ran his fingertips over her mouth.

"Our nearest neighbor is a mile away. Let me hear you. I want to hear you. Let me hear you, Scully."

Her teeth released her lip and she breathed deeply, tilting back her head. She moaned, "Oh," and he whispered, "Yes, that's it, give me more, baby," and she almost shouted, "Oh, yes," her body arching.

Mulder held himself high above her so he could watch her face. He could never get enough of this, either, of her sweet body, of the sheer pleasure of making love to someone he adored. He felt her trembling and the clumsy counterthrusts of her hips, her nails digging into his neck. She shouted his name as tremors coursed through her body, and he groaned as oblivion ran through his.

At the last moment Mulder remembered to roll them onto their sides so he wouldn't crush her. Scully put a sleepy hand on his cheek and kissed him without opening her eyes. "Welcome home," she whispered.

Mulder chuckled. "It's nice to be home." He stroked his hand down her side, stopping at her belly. "I missed so much," he murmured.

"You'll get it on the next one."

Next one? "What do you mean, next one?"

"I mean," she said innocently, "the next one, if there one, which I hope there is. But we need to get through the first one. I know."

"Next one?" he said again.

Scully said, "Possibly. In a year or two. Because I'm not getting any younger. Do you realize the statistics of birth defects that are possible just because a woman turns thirty-eight?"

"Next one," Mulder said again, turning onto his back, pulling up the blankets and putting his arm around her.

For a few minutes they lay quietly, her hand on his chest, and then she said, "Would you like another child, Mulder?

He stroked her shoulder. "Yes. I think I would. But let's get you through this one first, because I'm already scared about how much labor is going hurt--"

"Don't say that. I know that already."

"Does it scare you, honey?"

"A little. I've been reading about alternative birth methodsmaybe we should try something untraditional. I don't want to be screaming and crying and ripping--"

Mulder shuddered and held her closer. "Just one."

She chuckled and kissed his chest. "Birth is pain, Mulder.

That's the way it always has been. At least we're not living a thousand years ago, when most women were dead at twenty-five from infections from childbirth."

"God. How has the human race survived."

"Biological imperitives." She smiled at him.

He smiled back and kissed her. "You want me there?"

"I do."

"Then I will be there."

She yawned, settling herself more comfortably against him, and said, "I fully expect you to see this through, boyo."

"I will," he promised, certain he could keep it.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

"I've done something," Fiona said a few days later over the phone. "I hope you'll forgive me, Mulder, but I'm not sure you will."

"What'd you do?" He looked out the window at Scully, who was outside with a notepad and a book on plants, planning to restore the neglected garden. In her yellow sweater she looked like an early-blooming flower among the hibernating plants. Tulip, he thought and smiled.

"--and so I gave her your phone number. I knew she'd find you eventually. She's persistent like that when she wants something.

Forgive me?"

"Wait a second--what do you do?"

She said slowly, "I gave Phoebe Green your phone number. She wants you to work for the Yard."

"Oh, no."

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have."

"It's okay, Fee--I told her no already, but I guess it's going to take a few reiteration before she gets the hint." He sighed and looked out the window again. Scully had shut her book and turned her face up to the mild sunshine, her eyes closed. What am I doing in here? he thought. "Thanks for the warning. I'll talk to you soon."

"You're not mad?"

"I'm not mad. See you, Fiona."

He barely heard Fiona say goodbye as he hung up the phone. He hurried down the stairs and out to the garden, and placed her coat over her shoulders as he joined Scully on the wrought iron bench.

"Hey."

"Hey. Who was that on the phone?"

"Fiona."

"You know, as soon as we have a guest bed I want her and Ned to visit us."

"I'm sure they'd love it. She had some news for us."

"Is she all right?"

"Yes, she's fine. She called to say we may be hearing from Phoebe soon. I just want you to be prepared."

Scully pursed her lips and doodled a figure eight on the notepad. "What does she want?"

"She wants to convince us to work for Scotland Yard. I'm going to tell her no, Scully."

The eight became a pair of eyes, looking to the left through thick, black lashes. Mulder pushed his hand through her hair, watching her face. "I hate feeling this way," Scully said abruptly.

"Feeling what way?" He resisted the urge to take the pen from her nervous fingers.

"Threatened." She scowled at herself.

"Dana Scully," he said. "Look at me." She raised her eyes, her cheeks bright pink. "You know I love you."

"Yes. I know."

"So why feel threatened?"

"I remember the way you looked at her. I was jealous--I don't even know why, I hardly knew you then--but I could see it. You wanted her back and she wanted you."

"She wanted me because I was there to reclaim."

"Exactly. She was your first love--your *first.* Imagine how you'd feel if you'd ever met Daniel. I loved him."

"And you don't anymore."

"Yes, but--"

"And I don't love Phoebe anymore. She has nothing that I wantand you have everything."

Scully looked at him a moment, and then leaned over and hugged him close, letting her books fall to the grass. "I love you," she murmured into his neck.

"Love you too, honey. I'm going to tell her no."

"Maybe you shouldn't."

"Excuse me?"

"It wouldn't hurt to have a paycheck coming in."

"Scully, we're fine."

"I'd feel better if we had an income."

"As soon as I get Quicken installed on the computer you can see exactly how it all breaks down. You'd probably better handle the money anyway, you're better at it. I bet you never forgot to deposit a paycheck, ever."

"No, I haven't," she admitted, leaning her head against his shoulder.

"Do you want to go inside? It's getting chilly."

"Just a few minutes more. I love it here."

"Okay. Are you warm enough?"

"Yes, dear," she teased gently. She laid her head against his shoulder to watch the sun go down behind the trees.


". . . And this was his *first* hit, a remake of an old blues tune. A lot of early rock'n'roll is based on the blues, if not outright stolen from it. But the reason that Elvis is important isn't just cleaning up the blues for white teenagers to dance to at the sock hop--"

"Mulder," Scully said, lowering her book. "That's enough history."

"Okay, okay," Mulder said, mostly to the belly. "Plenty of time for history later." He gave the belly a kiss and turned on the stereo.

His birthday gift to Scully had been a stereo and a decent collection of classical and jazz CDs. Music more to his taste started turning up at once, of course, but Scully thought it was just as important to have the Rolling Stones and Tom Waits in a home as to have Debussey and John Coltrane.

And she loved to see Mulder imitating Elvis's hip swivel while he sang along, though she kept that to herself. She'd hate for him to feel self-conscious and stop.

When the song was over Mulder choose other CD and flopped down on the floor between Scully and the stereo again. "Elvis," he told the baby. "Elvis is important, so remember that."

"Bach next," Scully said.

"Beatles next," Mulder replied. "'Sgt. Pepper.' More on how music borrows and builds on itself."

"I need some Bach," she said, batting her eyelashes at him, and he grinned and got back up to choose another CD.

"The lady wants Bach, the lady gets Bach." He started the new CD and Scully smiled her thanks. He lay down again, rubbing her tummy, and said, "This is Bach. Supposedly it'll make you smarter, but honestly, Baby Girl, from a purely genetic standpoint, I think you've got that covered."

"If she turns out to be a he, do you think he'll be traumatized by you calling him 'baby girl' all the time?" She grinned at him.

"I wouldn't call her that if you weren't so sure she is a girl," Mulder said mildly, still rubbing her stomach. "If you said, 'Mulder, we're having a boy,' I woudl call him Baby Boy. Or if you said you have no idea I'd call her something else, like--I don't know--Guppy."

"Guppy," Scully repeated and turned a page of her book. "And I was starting to think Daisy was an indulgent nickname."

Mulder laughed, laid his head on his arm and continued stroking her belly.

Two weeks more and the waiting was over. They had prepared the house and themselves the best that they could: the nursery was cleaned and furnished, they had clothes and diapers and toys and burp rags, and what Mulder insisted on calling a pram even though Scully could only think of it as a stroller. They had a midwife at the local birthing center, and Scully had practiced breathing slow and deep to the point that she was doing it every night to help herself fall asleep.

She'd known all along that she would get very large at the end of her pregancy, but she still found herself awed and a little troubled by the size of her belly. Mulder said she was beautiful and she knew he meant it, but it was hard to believe sometimesparticularly when Phoebe Green kept popping up.

Phoebe. Scully scowled and turned another page of her book, even though between Mulder's hand and her own thoughts she hadn't absorbed a word. Mulder had accepted the job at Scotland Yard and Scully didn't regret it, but somehow Phoebe interpreted Mulder's position as a consultant to mean she had free access to their lives. Phone calls and emails on a daily basis, and Scully thought the only thing that was keeping Phoebe from popping in was the three-hour drive from London. Scully couldn't imagine it would get better once the paperwork had cleared and Mulder was an actual member of Her Majesty's police force.

Scully shut the book and started stroking Mulder's hair. He hummed--no, it was more like a purr. She smiled, feeling a little soothed.

It wasn't just Phoebe, though. It was the smug smile on her superior's face when he said, "Unfortunately, Mrs. Mulder, we have very talented pathologists on staff already--and we can't hire a foreign national when our own countrymen do thejob perfectly well.

Besides," smiling like he had to use smaller words for her to understand, "you'll be occupied with your little one, you won't want to work."

Not want to work? She couldn't think of a time that she hadn't wanted to work. Even when she and Mulder were pulled from the X-Files and were doing manure checks in the heartland, she'd wanted to do a job--her job, her contribution to the world.

She'd give it a year, maybe two. By then the baby would be old enough for a nanny, and maybe once they had their residency established it would be easier to convince someone to hire her, like the Carterhaugh morgue.

"You want to get back to slicin' and dicin'?" Mulder had said after they left the meeting with the Yard. "I thought you were preoccupied with daffodils and didies right now."

"I'm not," she had said, but he'd laughed and kissed her and said, "That'll change."

Assumptions irked her. They always had.

On the other hand, maybe he was right, maybe once the baby was here she would feel differently. Maybe once she as devoting her energy to her child she wouldn't have anything left for an outside job.

Scully sighed. She would deal with this later--much later.

Next year later. "Have you ever considered the Goldberg Variations to be makeout music?" she said, tugging on Mulder's hair.

"No, but I'm willing to give it a whirl." He moved up to kiss her, and she eagerly opened her mouth to his tongue. This made everything better. Everything.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Scully picked up their mail--it usually came when she was out for her morning walk. Lately most of their mail was official documents for Mulder, but she got a few letters a month from friends they'd made during their honeymoon.

She also got, about once a month, a typed letter postmarked from various cities around Europe and with no return address.

She did not tell Mulder about these.

One rainy morning in late April Mulder got the mail and the paper, telling Scully to stay warm by the fire. He came back, thumbing through the envelopes and putting hers aside from his.

"Something from the birthing center, probably about your appointment next week . . . " His voice trailed off. He held up one plain letter between his thumb and forefinger "Scully? Who is this letter from?"

"Who does it say?"

"There's no return address. It's postmarked Prauge. Do we know somebody in Prague?"

"I think the Howards are in Prague."

Mulder held up another envelope. "Callie Howard. Postmarked Venice." He gave her the letters and sat down at the island, looking at her expectantly. "Who is it from? Do you think it's your stalker?"

"I don't have a stalker, Mulder."

"No, you just have guys who send you roses anonymously."

"One rose, one time."

"Please just tell me if we need to take that to the police, to have it traced."

She slipped her finger under the flap and tore the envelope open. Inside there was just one sheet of paper, typed. "Dear Dana,"

it read, "I followed him here and took care of things. Don't be afraid. You're never alone. A."

"It's fine," she said to Mulder. "It's nothing."

Mulder studied her for a moment, then opened the paper and started to read. "Okay. Nothing."

He was angry, she could see it in the twitching muscle in his neck. But telling him the truth would only upset him more. She knew what his reaction would be--they'd be out of their perfect house and wandering again before the sun went down.

And she couldn't wander anymore. It took most of her energy to walk the drive to Linford Hall. More than that, the thought of leaving this little house, of running again, wrenched at her heart.

This was home. This was where they belonged. She was not going to cower in fear.

And it really was nothing. Krycek was looking out for them.

Minutes passed. She read the letter from Callie Howard, which was frothy and and silly like all of her letters. She looked up when Mulder tossed the newspaper aside and stalked around the island to stand in front of her. He took a deep breath. She waited for him to speak, but she almost wished he'd yell--yelling had to be better than all this repression.

Mulder grabbed her face and kissed her, hard as if he wanted to suck her teeth into his mouth. She inhaled, startled at his ferocity, and thrust her hands into his hair. His tongue was hot in her mouth. "Oh, God," she breathed against his lips, and he let up a little. "Mulder . . ."

With one sweep of the arm he cleared the breakfast dishes from the island, and then lifted her from the chair and onto the top of the butcherblock. He kissed her again, just as hard, the muscles of his shoulders tight as rocks beneath her fingers. The kiss went on and on, so hungry and demanding Scully whimpered.

Mulder pulled away and leaned his head against her neck, panting. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry . . ."

"It's okay," she whispered, stroking his head with a shaking hand. "It's okay. You're angry. Talk to me."

"Don't keep secrets from me." He kissed her neck. "I can't stand it."

"You'll just get upset." He chuckled drily, and she said, "Okay, more upset. And I can't take any more changes, Mulder." She lifted his head and held his chin so she could look into his eyes.

"This is our home and I'm staying here."

"Okay. Whatever you say, we'll stay here. Just tell me."

"All right." She swallowed and said, "The letter is from Krycek. He's been writing to me, to tell me about people who've been looking for us--and what he's done to them. Not in detail, but enough that I'm not worried."

"Krycek," Mulder repeated. "Wonderful."

"He's helped us before. He's helping us now, I believe that."

"He killed your sister!"

"And he killed your father, and he's probably killed a lot of other people, and some of them have been for us. I'm not going to tell him to stop--and I couldn't anyway. He's never given me an address. I only know where he is from the postmarks."

Emotions battled across Mulder's face, and he said, "So why is he writing just to you?"

"Maybe he knows I'll actually listen to him instead of throw him around and call him names."

"I don't call him names . . ." Scully smiled, stroking his cheek, and he slowly nodded. "Okay. I'm not nice to him--but I can't be, Scully. I just can't."

"You don't have to be, but being grateful sometimes wouldn't hurt. God only knows what would have happened to us if he hadn't interferred, Mulder."

"I know."

"So am I forgiven?"

"Of course you are. But no more secrets, Scully. We're beyond that."

"Agreed. No secrets." He looked rather miserably at the mess on the floor. "And I guess I ought to clean this up."

"Help me down and I'll help you."

"Deal." He lifted her off the island and kissed her when her feet were firmly on the floor. "This fighting thing, it's not so bad."

"We'll get better at it."

He added in a hopeful tone, "Makeup sex later?"

"Oh," Scully said. "Definately."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

"All right," Mulder said into the phone. "I'll need to get back to you on that. I understand, Jacob, I really do, but I have to talk to my wife first. Talk to you soon." He hung up the phone, frowning.

This look worried Scully. "Sit," she said, putting down the eggplant she was slicing for dinner. He sat in one of the kitchen chairs with a sigh. She stared rubbing his shoulders. "Who was that?"

"The family lawyer back in Boston. It's good news and it's bad news."

"Tell me."

"Someone's made an offer on the house in Quonacatogue."

"That's wonderful."

"Yeah--but I have to sign some papers, make some other arrangements, before the sale can be final."

Her hands stopped kneading his shoulders a moment. "So . . . You're saying you have to go back to the States?"

"The buyer isn't willing to wait long, so I'd have to leave right away." He looked at her over his shoulder. "I can take care of some other things while I'm there, pick up a few more of our personal items, and make sure if the other houses get offers they can sell without my presence. Three days, tops. Selling the house will bring in a healthy chunk of change, Scully."

"I know. I understand." She resumed rubbing his shoulders, though she was starting to feel a little tense herself.

"Three days?"

"Two to travel, one to take care of business. And you're not due for another week, and first babies are often late--and if you don't want to be alone, maybe you could ask Fiona to stay with you while I'm gone, or you could ask Mrs. Lynn for one of their guest rooms for a while." He looked back at her again. "I won't miss it, Scully. I won't miss a thing."

Scully nodded again, biting her lip. She said, "I think I'll be all right. The Lynns are so close, I can call them if I need any help."

"Okay." He tilted back his head and requested, "Kiss me."

She kissed him, chuckling at the odd angle. "Do you want help packing?"

"I can do it. Is there anything you want me to bring you?

Saltines?" he added with a grin.

She bopped his nose but said, "You'd better."


The first night without Mulder wasn't so bad. She saw him off to the train station in Carterhaugh's lone taxi, ate a little dinner, and read, both aloud and to herself, before going to bed.

Mulder called from the airport and they talked a little, saying I love you and I'll miss you, and she held the phone to her belly so Mulder could sing a lullaby. It was hard to say goodbye when his flight was called.

She slept cuddling his pillow. it smelled like him.

In the morning Fiona called. "Mulder asked me to check up on you. How are you doing?"

"All right," Scully said with a sigh. "Managing. I think I've started having false labor. My midwife said to just wait them out, but it's a little scary."

"Do you want me to come up? I can be there by noon."

It was tempting, but still Scully said, "Thank you, but I'll be okay. It's just false alarms, and Mulder will be home soon."

"All right," Fiona said, still sounding worried. "Call me you need anything."

"I will."

Mulder called soon afterwards. "I'm here. I'm with the guys right now. They miss you." There was murmuring in the background, and Mulder added, "Frohike says if you ever need a bodyguard he's up for the job."

Scully smiled into the phone. "Tell him thanks, I'll keep that in mind."

"She says thanks," Mulder told Frohike. She heard rustling as he moved away from the sound of voices, and he said in a more intimate tone, "I really miss you."

"I miss you too. How was the flight?"

"Fine. Nothing happened. I slept most of the way. How are you doing?"

"Just fine. I think I'm having Braxton-Hicks contractions, but that's nothing to worry about."

"Are you sure, honey?"

"Yes. Don't worry. When do you see your lawyer?"

"In the morning. I've got a commuter flight to Boston at seven. It's going to be a long day tomorrow."

"Oh, sweetheart."

"I'll sleep a little more tonight. Don't worry, honey. I can go for days, you know."

"No, you can't, Mulder. You need to be rested to handle important things properly."

"Like real estate and wills," Mulder said. "I know."

"Your will?"

"I'm a father now. It's time."

"You're becoming such a grownup."

"I told you I was."

"Fiona called, by the way. Thank you for asking her to look in on me."

"She's good people. That reminds me: will you have her call Simon about ghost-hunting this weekend? I forgot about it when we talked."

"Ghost-hunting," Scully said with a chuckle. "You two."

"Live long and propser, Scully. I love you."

"I love you too. Get some sleep. Call me soon."

"I will. Love you." He hung up.

Scully stayed where she was on the couch for a few minutes, holding the phone. She could feel Mulder's voice on her skin as if she were immersed in it.

The baby gave her a prod, and Scully rubbed her tummy in response. "It's okay, baby," she said. "I miss Daddy too."

She hauled herself to her feet and decided to work in the garden for a while, to keep herself occupied.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Even though Scully relayed the message to Fiona to remind Simon that Mulder was away, Simon still showed up that night, eager to track down the Carterhaugh ghosts. It had been his and Mulder's project all spring, and Fiona encouraged it because it meant his grandparents saw him more.

Simon pouted a moment when Scully told him Mulder was in the States, then said, "D'you mind if I hang with you a while?"

"I'm not doing anything interesting--I'm just going through the list of things we need for the baby one more time."

"I can help," he said. "I can--lift things, move things around."

"All right," Scully said, grinning despite herself. For a blue-haired, multi-pierced boy in a "Sid Vicious is dead" t-shirt, he could be very sweet.

They talked for a while about Simon's favorite subjectsgirls, ghosts, and England's chances in the World Cup--and Scully told him a little about the X-Files. His eyes grew very wide when she said she'd met an actual werewolf and real vampies.

"There's a girl at school who says she's a vampire," he said.

"I think she just spends too much time inside. She is really spooky, though. Hey! Have you down much with the bottom floor yet?"

"No, not yet. We haven't decided what to do with it."

"Have you noticed that tapestry against the back wall? Have you seen what's beneath it?"

"I haven't looked behind it." She was folding onsies, her mind elsewhere than their bottom floor.

"Come on, I want to show you. Can you do the stairs? It's my favorite part of this house."

"All right," she said, and he helped her to her feet so they could go downstairs.

They turned on the overhead light and Simon pushed his way behind the empty boxes from the pram and crib. He moved the heavy tapestry aside, grunting a little--it was a heavy piece of fabric, woven several inches thick. "There," he said proudly.

In the wall was a door. It was made of heavy oak beams with sturdy iron hinges and an ornate handle. A horseshoe had been nailed over the top, and more nails had been hammered in all around the doorframe to seal it shut.

"It's a door," Scully said.

"It's a door that doesn't open. It's been plastered over on the other side--there's ivy growing over it now. Spooky, isn't it?"

"How do you mean?"

"Why would somebody plaster over one door and cut another in the same room? This room has always been one big room--look at the beams, they've never been cut. And that door--" he pointed to the functioning door across the room, "is a lot newer than this door."

"You're right. That is spooky."

"It's like there was something that could only get inside by this door. It faces north--I don't know if that means anything."

"I don't know either."

"And then this horseshoe--good luck, right?"

"And protection against evil," Scully murmured.

"And then this stuff." He pulled down some dry leaves and twigs from the top of the jamb, which crumbled in his fingers.

"Some kind of plant at the top."

"Mistletoe," Scully said.

"From Christmas?"

"Mistletoe was thought to be a medicinal herb," Scully said, stooping to examine the heavy lock. The keyhole had been filled in.

She scraped at the substance with her fingernail and sniffed it.

Beeswax.

"This is why I believe Dad when he says there are ghosts here. People don't do things like this unless they're afraid. Are you all right?" Simon said, looking worried. "Should I not have shown you this?"

"No--I'm glad to know it's here."

He pulled the tapestry back in front of the door and smoothed it out. "Of course, I'm probably wrong--probably someone decided just to have the door on the second floor at some point, for safety's sake."

"Maybe."

"I've upset you. I'm sorry. Mum is always telling me not to upset you because of the baby."

"I'm not upset," Scully said, though the door unsettled her.

She suspected Simon was right, at least in the motivation of the people who had closed this door. They weren't trying to keep something in--they were trying to keep something out.

She shook her head and said, "What do you say we ask your grandparents down here for dinner?"

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

The evening brought mild rain and company. Simon and Mr. Lynn built up a fire for Scully before dinner, so after they'd left Scully read on the sofa, listening to the raindrops hiss on the flames. She'd never noticed how much this old house creaked before.

Scully shut her book with an annoyed snap. She was listening for that door to open, which was patently absurd. "It's ridiculous," she told the baby. "That door is locked, nailed and plastered shut. No one is getting in here who's not invited."

She felt another warning contraction, and leaned back he head, cupping her belly and breathing deeply as her midwife had taught her. Considering all the madness that had surrounded her pregnancy, her stress level and blood pressure had been normal, but still her midwife had told her she must rest more on their last visit. "Stress can bring on early labor," she'd warned.

I don't feel stressed, she thought. Mulder will be home tomorrow. I'm going have a healthy, normal baby. I have a beautiful house and good neighbors, and a husband who loves meloves me so much--

The contraction passed and Scully opened her eyes, exhaling slowly. "I don't suppose you want to try an alternative method, do you, Daisy?" she muttered as she pushed herself her feet. She'd always known intellectually how a baby leaves its mother's bodyshe'd even helped a woman give birth once--but it was not academic anymore.

She poured herself a glass of water and drank. She closed her eyes and rolled the cold glass over her face. She wished Mulder was here, to rub her belly and tell her things would be fine, she was strong enough to do this.

Speak of the devil, she thought when the phone rang.

"Scully," she said when she picked up the receiver.

"I never want to do this again," Mulder said. "Sleeping without you sucks."

"As soon as you come home you never have to," Scully said, getting herself comfortable on the couch again. She pulled a knit throw over her legs.

"Never, ever, ever, Scully. I keep expecting you to come out of the bathroom and tell me I've squeezed the toothpaste wrong. But the house is sold, and that's good news, at least." He named a figure so high Scully thought he had to be joking, and then said, "We're buying a car when I get back. There's no reason for you to be walking around with the baby when you don't need to. We can look into getting our licenses when I get home."

"All right," Scully said, still a little dazed. "Mulder--how?

It's a tiny house--"

"It's a beach house. That view is worth a lot. " "Are you all right with selling it, really?"

"Really. I'm glad to be rid of it. Nothing but bad memories there." They both were silent a moment, remembering. He sighed and said, "And how are my girls? You haven't said."

"We're fine. The Braxton-Hicks contractions are still coming, but that's to be expected. She's kicking a lot. I can see one of her feet under my ribs."

"Oh, my baby girl," Mulder murmured. "So you're okay?"

"We're fine, love. We're just fine. Everyone has been checking in on me all day. Simon kept me company for a while tonight. What did you tell him about the door on the bottom floor?"

"What would I tell him? Anybody can see the door, Scully, it's right there in the garden."

"I mean the door behind the tapestry--the one that's been sealed shut."

"We have a sealed door?"

She smiled at the familiar note his voice--the excitement of a little boy who has found a treasure map. "We have a sealed door.

It's been nailed shut and beeswax was melted into the keyhole, and it's been plastered over on the outside. There's even a horseshoe over the top."

"Down on the bottom floor? I'll have a look at it as soon as I get home. Have you asked Ned or Tom about the history of the house? They might know if there were some unexplained deaths or a haunting. Will you ask, the next time you see them?"

"We talked about it a little at dinner tonight, but Mr. Lynn didn't know anything specific. Mrs. Lynn said she'd look through the family annals for me."

Mulder laughed suddenly and said, "I've missed this too, Scully."

"So have I."

"Why haven't they called my flight already? I want to come home. I miss you so damn much, Scully."

"I miss you too, sweetheart."

"Is it about your bedtime?"

"Just about. It's getting late."

"My body clock is thoroughly messed up. I only know what time it is by what's on TV." He heaved a sigh. "There they go, finally. Time to go. Love you, baby."

"Love you too. See you soon." Scully hung up the phone and leaned her head against the sofa back with a sigh.

She bit her lip, then got to her feet, determined to dosomething. She made her way downstairs , one hand under her belly and the other tight around the banister. She flipped on the overhead light and studied the tapestry from across the room.

The house, she knew, had been built about five hundred years ago--a time when common people were still ruled by superstiton and folk magic. It had not been lost on her earlier that the nails, hinges, and doorknob were made of iron.

And Simon had mentioned it faced north. Towards the mountains-towards the dense Carterhaugh forest.

In the months they'd lived here, Scully had already heard plenty of stories about what went on in the forest--Ned Lynn was not the only one who'd hear hoofbeats on quiet nights, or seen lights flickering between the trees.

At some point, Scully thought, after the house was built but long enough ago that it had been forgotten, something had come from the woods to this house.

Or so its owners had perceived.

A thunderclap sounded so loudly the glass in the windows rattled, and and with a flash of lightning the overhead light went out. Scully grabbed for the banister, and waited for her eyes to adjust to the dark. Her breath sounded harsh and quick to her ears.

Another contraction gripped her pelvis and Scully gasped, whimpering aloud. This was terribly soon for warning labor. She sank down onto the bottom step, holding her belly and breathing through her teeth. Slow and low, she thought, slow and low--but it was hard keep steady when the pain was so intense.

Finally it passed, and Scully leaned her head against the wall of the stairwell, trying to slow her breathing. She yelped when someone pounded on the door--not the hidden one, thank God, the functioning door in the garden. Scully crossed the room carefully, and wrapped her hand around the knob. "Who's there?" she shouted though the thick wood.

"It's Mrs. Lynn, Mrs. Mulder."

Scully yanked open the door, to let in Mrs. Lynn, who was wearing wellingtons, and a yellow rain slicker and hat against the weather. "Mrs. Lynn, you startled me."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Mulder, I didn't mean to worry you." She removed the hat and shook out her damp hair.

"You didn't walk down, did you? In this weather?"

"Oh, nonsense, Mrs. Mulder," she said briskly and started digging around in her pockets. "There's nothing in those woods that can hurt me. Besides, Tom and I have always been night people. The lights have been flickering at the Hall, and I didn't think you had candles. It appears my instinct was correct."

"Thank you," Scully said, taking the tapers that Mrs. Lynn gave her from the deep raincoat pockets. She smiled a little at the honey scent of beeswax.

"And candlesticks--here we are--and matches. I know how one can forget the little things when you're still getting your household together. Are you all right, Mrs. Mulder? Is the baby giving you trouble?"

"Can you stay a few minutes? I'd like to ask you something."

"Of course, dear." She hung her raincoat and hat over the doorknob and took back the candles. "Let's get these lit. Is the fire still going upstairs?"

"Yes," Scully said, and followed Mrs. Lynn to the second floor, not even glancing over her shoulder at the sealed door.

The main room seemed much cozier and more homey when lit by candles and firelight. Mrs. Lynn told Scully to rest her feet and refilled her glass of water.

"There, have a drink. Have you heard from Mr. Mulder tonight?"

"He called a little bit ago. He's on his way home." Finally, she added mentally. "Mrs. Lynn, if you don't mind my asking, how many children do you have?"

"Five--Barbara, Harry, Peter, Anna, and Ned is the baby. Are you in need of some mother's wisdom, Mrs. Mulder?"

"I could use a little wisdom," Scully said gratefully. "I feel silly, having so many questions--"

"It's no easy thing, having your first child, especially so far from home. Ask me anything you like--I'll do my best to remember."

"I keep having warning contractions--I know it's normal at this point, but they seem to be awfully close together."

"How many have you had today?"

"Five. The last two were about an hour apart."

"Well . . . It sounds to me like the beginning stages of labor. I expect you'll be giving birth in the next few days."

"But I'm not due for another week."

"Babies come when they're ready," Mrs. Lynn said kindly.

Scully contemplated this for a moment, resting her hands on the uppermost curves of her belly, then said quietly, "I just don't want her to come before Mulder gets back."

"When is he due back? Tomorrow?"

"His plane lands around two. He should be here tomorrow night."

"I'm sure he'll get home in plenty of time." Scully nodded slowly, a little more comforted. Mrs. Lynn said, "If you're worried about being alone tonight you're welcome to one of our guest rooms."

"Thank you--you've done so much already. I think I'll be all right, though. Can I call you if anything comes up?"

"Certainly. Well, I'll leave you to rest, then. Enjoy sleep while you can, Mrs. Mulder." She got to her feet and blew out all but the candles closest to Scully. "Don't forget to blow these out before you fall asleep, though."

"I'll remember. Let me see you out."

"No, no, sit, Mrs. Mulder. I'll just get my things and go out through this door. No sense in you climbing those stairs again today," Mrs. Lynn said as she descended the stairs.

Scully listened to the creaking stairs and closed her eyes, waiting for Mrs. Lynn to come back up again. She's right, Scully thought sleepily. Soon, but not yet. "Are you ready to come out, my baby?" she whispered, rubbbing her hands over her belly.

More minutes passed, and Scully thought it was taking Mrs.

Lynn a long time to get her slicker back on. "Mrs. Lynn?" she called. "Are you okay?"

There was no answer.

Scully paused a moment, then pushed herself off the couch.

She picked up a candlestick and started carefully down the stairs.

"Mrs. Lynn?"

At the bottom of the stairs Scully held the candle high above her head and had a good look around, particularly at the tapestry on the wall. Nothing seemed out of place, but Mrs. Lynn's slicker and hat were gone.

Puzzled, Scully went to the door to lock up for the night.

Strange that Mrs. Lynn would leave without saying goodbye, she thought, when again there was a knock at the door.

"Mrs. Lynn?" she said, opening it, and gasped at who was standing there, dark against the lashing rain.

"Hello, darlin'," John Silver said, and blew her candle out.


Mulder wasn't surprised that Scully didn't answer the phone when he called from Gatwick. She could be in the garden or showering or at the Hall with the Lynns. He said to the answering machine, "I'm home, I miss you like crazy, and I'm treating myself to a commuter flight home. Don't worry about meeting me at the train station. I love you. See you soon."

His leg kept bouncing with nerves during the hop from London to Newcastle. Anticipation, he thought. Homesickness.

Before boarding the Carterhaugh train he called home again, and again got the machine. "It's me. I--well, I kinda wanted to hear your voice, Scully. Okay. See you soon."

*That*, he thought, is strange. Of course she could be spending the day with the Lynns--but--what if she'd gone into labor without him?

She would have changed the message on the answering machine, he realized, and breathed deeply again. She would say something to let him know he needed to be home--for she was Scully the Logical, Maker of Plans, She Who Is Always Prepared.

He found himself grinning as he watched the countryside roll past, changing from mild green hills to rocky coastline. He could hardly wait to tell her her new nickname.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

All calm feeling vanished when Mulder stepped out of the cab in front of the Gatehouse. Police cars were parked along the road that led up to the Hall, and there were uniformed police officers in the garden, holding umbrellas against the misty rain.

He paid the cabbie and picked up his suitcase, and approached the nearest officer. "This is my house. What's going on?"

"Are you Mr. Mulder?" he said, more kindly than Mulder expected.

"Yes. Did something happen? Where's my wife?"

"Please come with me--you'll want to speak with the deputy chief inspector."

"The inspector?" Mulder repeated, but the constable was already headed towards the house.

The constable led him to the first floor and Phoebe Green, whose face was surprisingly tense when they approached her.

"Mulder," she began, closing her notebook, then she took his suitcase from his hand. "Thank you, Dale. I'll take him from here."

"What's going on? Where's Scully?"

Phoebe bit her lip, then said, "I tried calling this morning, and got worried when there wasn't an answer. When I arrived the local police were already here--the inspector thinks, and he may be right, that this is some kind of retaliation--"

He stepped closer to her, his eyes boring into hers, and repeated in a low voice, "Where. Is My. Wife."

"We don't know, Mulder. She's missing."

He was going to puke--right on her Italian shoes. He bent over, wanting to scream, and breathed deeply, trying to regain control.

"Please come with me, Mulder. DCI Maddox will tell you everything we know."

He felt her hand on the back of his neck and shook it off.

"Don't touch me." He straightened up again and glared at Phoebe.

"I bet you just love this."

"Don't be absurd. I don't wish her ill, Mulder. I don't. Come along. "

Mulder followed her upstairs, trying not to stare at the constables taking photographs of the scene. The crime scene, he thought. My house is a crime scene.

"Mr. Mulder," the DCI said when they reached him, and stepped away from the other officers he'd been conferring with. "I'm Deputy Cheif Inspector Maddox, Northumbria police. There's very little to go on--I'm afraid I haven't much to offer you."

"What's happened to my wife?" Mulder said quietly.

"Janet Lynn was attacked here last night--chloroformed and left out in the rain. Her grandson discovered her: he'd gone looking for her when she didn't come back to the Hall by midnight.

She's in hospital now and has told us everything she could. She didn't see her attacker's face, but did hear his voice. She said he's American, not tall but very strong."

"One arm or two?" Mulder murmured.

"I'm sorry?" the inspector said, but shrugged and went on when Mulder didn't elaborate. "It's safe to assume, I'd say, that the man who attacked Mrs. Lynn kidnapped your wife, but beyond that, we haven't so much as a tire track. The rain has washed away any external evidence. We're combing the inside of the house now.

Is there anything you can tell us, Mr. Mulder? Do you have any ideas of who would want to kidnap your wife?"

"We left the States because of threats my wife's safety,"

Mulder said. He rubbed his eyes, trying to comprehend this. "We thought we'd be safe here."

"We'll be sending any fingerprints we find to Interpol, of course, but if you can narrow down our search--if there's anyone who might have a vendetta against you, who'd follow you from the States and who'd want to take revenge on your wife--"

"I don't know. The people who were threatening her, they don't leave fingerprints. Sometimes they don't even have names. I'd like to sit down."

"Here, Mulder," Phoebe said, and pulled out one of the kitchen chairs for him. Mulder all but fell into it. This was too much on top of the last few days--he couldn't *think*.

"The only messages on the machine are from you," Maddox said.

"We're in the process of setting it up for tracing, for when the ransom demand comes."

"They don't want money," Mulder said, raising his head. "They want *her*--more than that, they want our baby. She's due to give birth any day now--when I talked to her last night she thought she was having the beginning stages of labor."

"Well," Maddox said grimly. "Then we've got a deadline. Now, explain to me how you know who these people are and what they want but can't give me any real information about them."

"That's the way these men operate," Mulder said. "They live in shadows--they give up their names, their families, everything that makes them human, in exchange for power."

"I see," Maddox said with an air of skepticism.

"I know how that sounds."

"I'm sure you do--particularly since you were out of the country at the time. You have a very good alibi."

"Alibi?" Mulder repeated blankly.

"Inspector Green tells me your marriage was both sudden and recent. Would you care to tell me more about that?"

"DCI Maddox," Phoebe protested. "I hardly think Mr. Mulder would arrange the kidnapping of his own wife--"

"I think a man would do anything if he were desperate enough,"

Maddox said. "If, for example, he were coerced into a marriage with a child he didn't want--"

It took all of Mulder's self-control not to lunge at him--but when he got to his feet Maddox took a small step back. "My *wife*" Mulder said, "my *child*--are out there somewhere. Are you going to help me find them or aren't you?"

The two men glared at each other until Phoebe interjected, "DCI Maddox, Mr. Mulder has been traveling since last night.

Perhaps he ought to rest a bit before you continue this."

Maddox said tersely, "I'll have more questions for you," and hurried down the stairs.

Phoebe was apologetic: "Mulder, I never imagined--"

"'Sudden and recent'?" Mulder snapped. "What the hell were you thinking? Do you want to frame me? Do you honestly think I arranged this?"

"No. Of course not. He asked how long you'd been married and I said since Christmas. I don't know why he'd think that you'd hurt her."

"Because husbands kill wives all the time," Mulder said. "You know that. It's an easy answer. It would make more sense if I'd married her for her money, though, or if my family disapproved or there was another woman--if there was a history of tension." He scrubbed his hand through his hair, feeling every ounce of exhaustion brought on by the last three days.

"Why don't you lie down for a while," Phoebe said. "You've had such a long trip."

"Yeah," Mulder muttered. He picked up his suitcase and trudged up the stairs to their bedroom.

In the doorway he stopped, and took in the neatly-made bed, the framed photographs, the already-overflowing bookcase. Every inch of their bedroom bore Scully's mark, her personality, her taste.

Mulder sat on the edge of the bed and buried his face in his hands.

A few minutes passed, and he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Phoebe knoocked lightly on the bedroom door. "Aren't you going to rest?"

"I will."

"Charming nursery," she said, and joined him on the edge of the bed. "Very sweet. Was she excited to be a mother?"

"She is. Very," Mulder said.

"She is," Phoebe murmured. "Of course. We will find them, Mulder."

"How? You heard Maddox. We've got nothing. The rain has washed any clues away--and Scully has been taken away from me before without a trace. These people could take her anywhere in the world and do anything to her. They're above the law. Oh, God," he moaned, turning onto his side. "Scully. My little girl."

"Sh," Phoebe soothed, stroking his hair. "Don't despair, Mulder." He couldn't answer, instead burying his face in his pillow. The mattress shifted as Phoebe lay down behind him, and he glanced back at her, confused. "Oh, Mulder . . . The things I remember. The nightmares yoo used to have . . . How I used to comfort you . . . Would you like some comfort, Mulder?" she whispered. Her fingernails flicked along his chest. "Just a little?" She dropped a cautious kiss on his neck.

Infuriated by her audacity, he flipped over and grabbed her shoulders."What do you think you're doing?" He shook her roughly and she cried out. "What the hell, Phoebe! Do you think you could come in here and--and *fuck* me? In the bed I share with my wife?

What the hell are you thinking!"

Her eyes were huge and startled. "Mulder--you're hurting me."

"Get out of here," Mulder said, releasing her--all but shoving her off the bed. "Get away from me."

Phoebe got to her feet and straightened her skirt. "I'm sorry."

"I don't know who the hell you think you are. Good God."

"I thought I was your friend. I forgot the rules have changed."

"Damn right they have. Get out of here."

She started to leave, then stopped in the door. "I don't wish her ill," she said without turning around. "I don't. I just wonder, whgn we finp her . . . if she'll want to come home."

"You know nothing of our relationship," Mulder growled.

"I won't for long," she answered, and shut the door.

Mulder closed his eyes and let himself fall back on the bed.

He could remember things too--and his memories weren't pleasant.

Smiles and excuses and tear-stained apologies, promises to do better, whispered "I love you"s as her hands slid over his body and he tried not to think about who she'd been touching just hours before--no. Nothing he wanted to dwell on.

But there were better memories, more recent, more sweet.

Waking up to Scully's kisses, for example. Her hand over his heart as they slept. Her soft laugh as they played together. Knowing that Scully was as faithful as she was loving.

Of course she'd want to come home. Of course she would.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

He didn't think he'd sleep but he must have, because he awoke to someone pounding on the door. "Mr. Mulder! The phone! Quickly!"

Mulder jumped to his feet, grabbing the shirt he'd taken off, and yanked open the door to follow the officer to the main floor.

The phone was ringing insistently, and all around inspectors and officers were waiting with their equipment, tense. DCI Maddox nodded curtly to Mulder, and Mulder picked up the phone, trying not to shake.

"Mulder."

"I am fucking busting my ass trying to keep the two of you safe and you run off to the States at the first kibble they throw you. You're supposed to be so fucking brilliant--didn't you see it was a trap?"

Mulder looked at Maddox, who was staring at him as if he couldn't believe this. He said, even though he knew the answer, "Who is this?"

"What, are cops there? Fuck. Fucking fuck, Mulder. They've got her, Mulder, do you understand that? They've got her."

"I know," Mulder said. "Please tell me you know where she is.

Please."

"Are cops there? Are they listening?"

He looked at Maddox again, wondering if Krycek would withold his information if he told the truth. Hell. "Yes."

Krycek let out a long, frustrated sigh and said again, "Fuck you, Mulder. Be glad I'm the forgiving type. At least the locals will know how to get here. Follow the Tweed into the Cheviot Hills, to the Jolyon farm. Hurry." There was a click and the dial tone.

"The Jolyon farm," Mulder said to Maddox. "Do you know where that is?"

"It's at least an hour by car--I can see about getting a helicopter. Inspector," Maddox added. "I want your opinion. If you say go, we'll go."

"Do you trust him?" Phoebe said to Mulder.

"No," he said. "But I believe him."


He was lost. That was the only thing that could explain itthe map, the swearing, the swerving and doubling-back. Scully doubted they were being followed--who would follow them? Who could have seen them?

The truck rattled and banged up the narrow, winding road. The surrounding country was stark and cold, rain-soaked and nearly uninhabited. The only light came from the headlights, and their beams seemed to be swallowed by the dark.

"Fucking country," Silver burst out. "Out in the middle of fucking nowhere."

Scully couldn't have answered this even if she'd wanted tohe had slapped a piece of silver duct tape over her mouth as soon as he'd wrestled her into the truck--but not before taking a kiss that made Scully want to scrub her mouth with antibacterial soapand bound her wrists together with another. She could glare at him through narrowed eyes, but he was squinting at the road and didn't notice.

They had passed the last farmhouse miles ago, and she had no idea where they could be, except they were going upward and the truck's engine was struggling to make the climb. The rain had not abated. Scully had to abandon every half-formed plan for escape--it was too dark, too remote, too cold.

Not to mention she'd had three more contractions while they were driving. She hoped wherever they were going had a doctor, or at least a place she could lie down.

Silver said in a mocking tone, "Oh, no, John, you'll be able to find it just fine, just follow the river." He snorted. "Didn't mention nothing about it being midnight in the fucking rain. Oh, no-wait until she's alone, John, wait untill the right moment, we don't want to give anything anyway." He snorted again.

Scully twisted her hands together and looked out the window.

If she made a break for it now, and just ran down the hill--if she found a light to go towards--

"Fucking Spender," Silver muttered, shifting gears with a horrendous grind.

Scully stopped twisting her hands and stared at him a moment.

Spender? The Smoking Man--he'd followed them here?

Without thinking Scully yanked the door handle and threw herself out onto the damp grass. She tried to tuck-and-roll, but still landed hard on her knees. She moaned behind the tape but didn't let herself rest--she pushed herself up and took off at a run, her bare feet sliding on the slippery grass.

She heard the truck screech to a halt, gears screaming, and follow her off the road. The headlights captured her and the truck trailed her as she tried to dodge away. She stumbled on the uneven ground and fell onto her elbows and knees. The truck swerved to a stop in front of her. Scully crouched on the wet grass, panting, as Silver swung down from the truck. He grabbed her hair and hauled her up so that they were face to face.

"Don't even think it!" he snarled. "You are worth too much, little girl." He dragged her back to the truck and threw her inside. He slammed the door shut, went around the truck and climbed back into the driver's side. "Don't get any smart ideas, darlin',"

he said. "I have plans for you."

I can hardly wait, Scully thought and closed her eyes.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

When the truck came to a stop Scully didn't move, sure Silver only wanted to check his map again. She caught sight, however, of a small light that was gradually growing bigger--until it became a lantern, held by a red-haired man who stood by her window and looked into the truck impassively. In a moment she realized where she'd seen him before--it was Kurt Crawford, or one of his many clones that Mulder claimed existed. She tried to catch his eye, but there was no recognition in his expression as he studied her.

Silver leaned towards him. "You Spender?"

"No," Kurt said.

Silver waited a moment, and when Kurt didn't continue he said, "I'm looking for Spender. There's some farm--the Juliet farm?"

"Jolyon," Kurt said. "You're at the gate. Follow me." One more long, thoughtful look, then he turned and led them up a narrow lane to a stone farmhouse.

Silver threw the truck into the gear again. "I'm not going to tell you anything because I'm a fucking asshole," he mocked under his breath. "Hi, I'm Spender's toadie and I like walking around in the rain. "

Silver parked the truck in front of the farmhouse, and Kurt helped Scully down from the cab. "She's muddy," he said to Silver.

"She tried to get away. Bitch threw herself outta the truck--"

"Mr. Silver," Kurt said mildly. "Show some respect." With an arm around Scully's shoulders, he led her across the muddy yard.

"Show some respect," Silver muttered, trailing along behind them. "I'll show *you* what respect is, ya flaming--" Kurt glanced back at him and Silver fell silent.

The first thing Scully saw inside the farmhouse was a roaring fire within a massive fireplace, and she stepped towards it longingly. Kurt tightened his fingers around her arm to stop her, and nodded to the other side of the dim room. "Mr. Spender. She's arrived."

She'd know that voice anywhere. "Dana. How good to see you again." He approached her with a smile, a cigarette between his fingers. "Kurt, help make her comfortable. That's a good boy."

Kurt took a Swiss army knife from his pocket and cut the tape that bound her wrists. When that was done he grasped the corner of the tape over her mouth. "Ready?" She nodded, and he yanked the tape from her mouth. She managed not to whimper and rubbed her face to get rid of the sting.

"What is this about?" she said to Spender in a low voice.

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to look after you," the smoking man said. He turned a rocking chair towards her and set it close to the fire. "Here.

Have a seat. You look terrible."

Scully hesitated--but she was exhausted, dirty and soaked, and the fire looked so inviting. She crossed the room and eased herself into the chair. "I don't know what you want," she said quietly, putting her hands over her belly. "The X-Files are closed.

Mulder has abandoned his quest for the Truth. We're just an ordinary family now. You've won."

"I know, Dana," he said, his voice slick with something like compassion. "May I introduce you to Dr. Archer? He'll be looking after you." A nervous-looking man came out of the dark, and she shook his sweaty hand.

"My p-p-pleasure, Miss Scully."

She wondered what the Smoking Man had on him to force his help, and said quietly, "It's Mrs. Mulder, and I wish to be returned to my home. My husband will be wondering where I am."

"That's simply not possible," the Smoking Man said gently.

"This is too important, Dana. This is the future, here in your womb," he said and put his hand on her belly.

Scully flinched at his too-personal touch. "I want to go home," she said, turning her face to the fire.

Silver was still standing by the front door. "I brought you the girl, Spender. When do I get my money?"

"Mr. Silver. A pleasure to meet in person at last. I trust the journey went smoothly?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thanks for getting me out of jail. You've got the girl, you've got the kid--when do I get paid?"

"The merchandise is not completely delivered," the Smoking Man said, a look in his eye like paternal fondness as he gazed at Scully. "You'll be paid in full once the child comes."

"That could be days!"

"No," Dr. Archer said, then cleared his throat and said more strongly, "It's going to be hours. Look at her." All four men stared at her, and Scully scowled. "I can see you're in pain," the doctor said. "How far apart are they?"

She would have preferred to keep a stony silence--but, she supposed, it was better that they knew. "About half an hour."

"Splendid!" the Smoking Man cried. "This is so much better than I expected. The bedroom is prepared for you. Kurt, please look after Dana--Mr. Silver, I expect you to assist the doctor with whatever he requires. How wonderful. Tonight."

"Wait," Kurt said.

"Yeah, what's all this about helping? I just want my money,"

interjected Silver. "I don't want to watch some kid be born."

"Shut up, you," Kurt said to him. "Mr. Spender. How are you sure this is the right woman? The right child?"

"She's the last," Spender said. "There's no one else it could be. And a barren woman, giving birth? It's the oldest miracle there is."

"What are you talking about?" Scully said, tired of his doublespeak. She wanted her own bed, her midwife, her mother--and Mulder. Mulder would make everything all right.

"Dana." The Smoking Man knelt so he could look into her face.

"You remember the ship in Africa? You remember the words taken into the Bible, about the end of the world? 'The lion shall lie down with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them'?"

"I remember."

"This child is a blending of humanity and our new masters.

The date was set eons ago, when they would come, and this childyour son--will be our liaison. Who knows--he may even be our king."

Scully stared at him, wondering if that was firelight or madness in his eyes. "No. You're wrong."

"Dana, I know how much you wish this child was Mulder's. And it was highly chivalrous of Mulder to give the child his name. But you know in your heart that I'm right. Haven't you wondered how you were able to conceive? The chip in your neck activated the dormant child inside you, planted there years ago during our--experiments."

Silver started laughing. "Y'all are fucking nuts. You most of all, Spender."

"The chip is gone. This child is Mulder's--we were in New Mexico--we had a--an experience at Pueblo Bonito--" She stopped, thinking that her explanation was even stranger than his. "And besides, I'm having a girl."

It threw him, but just for a moment. "No matter. That the child exists is enough, boy or girl," the Smoking Man said, standing. "Doctor, it's time to see to your patient. Make her comfortable, please, Kurt." He lit up another cigarette.

Kurt came to Scully's side, to help her stand again. She wanted to appeal to him--he'd tried to help her before, hadn't he?

But another pain gripped her and all she could do was dig her fingers into his arm and lean on him for support.

"Mr. Spender," Archer said behind them as Kurt led her to the next room. "We need to discuss this--I'm not sure--"

"There's nothing to discuss," the Smoking Man said. "You were sure enough when I gave you the cash."

"You paid him in advance?" Silver exclaimed, but Kurt closed the door before she could hear more.

"This is for you," he said, picking up a thick, purple, fluffy bathrobe. "Mr. Spender expected you to be with us for much longer."

"I wouldn't let him keep me here for longer." He didn't look up from the robe, and she said, "Have we met before? Are you the one I met with my partner four years ago, at Betsy Hagopian's home?"

"No. The man you met is dead. But I knew of you before this."

"Knew of me," Scully repeated. "Because of the experimentsbecause of the project."

"Because of those, and other things. Dana Scully," he said with a sudden intensity, "my loyalties are with you, not with him.

He trusts me more than he should. I won't let him hurt you."

It would have been a relief to believe him, but her nerves were already stretched thin and she couldn't take more mystery.

"Why should I trust you? God! All I wanted was to raise my child in peace!"

"I know," he said gently. He was still holding the robe, and he laid it on the bed. "You can clean up in here." He opened the door to a small bathroom and turned on the light. "Rest while you can--I'm sure tomorrow's going to be a long day."

"Right," Scully muttered. She waited until he'd left the room to move--not to the bathroom, even though her aching body longed for hot water, but to the small square window. It was no use, however: the window had been nailed shut, years prior to this to judge from the rust on the nails. Frustrated, Scully slapped her palm on the thick, wavy glass.

Stuck, she thought. It was not the peaceful home birth she'd been hoping for, with Mulder by her side and her twinkly-eyed midwife to attend her--but she was in no position to make a fuss now. The baby was coming no matter where she was.

As for afterwards . . . She realized she was clenching her hands, her fingernails digging into her palms. Maybe Kurt--or whatever his name was--would be a man of his word. If he wasn'tShe put a hand on her belly, willing herself to calm down.

"Don't be afraid," she told the baby. "I won't let them take you away."

Lifting her head, Scully went into the bathroom to clean up and make her plans.

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

Rest, Kurt had said, which was good in theory but impossible in practice. Scully tried to sleep , wrapped in the fluffy robethe wind was howling around the corners of the house and rattling the windows, and she could hear the men talking.

She could rarely hear the words, mostly just their voices.

Silver was not happy to be stuck there, he made this clear. Archer was upset about something but didn't raise his voice enough for Scully to hear what. Kurt slipped in and out of her room, bringing water and making sure she was comfortable and warm enough. He helped to clean her when her water broke, and when she needed to walk through the contractions Kurt offered himself as her support.

He smelled odd to her--not bad, not like body odor or decay, but as if he had no scent at all.

Once an hour Archer came in to examine her. "You're progressing very well," he said when the window was beginning to turn golden from sunrise. "You're at six centimeters already."

"What's your story?" she asked him.

"My story?"

How did you get mixed up in this? Where are you from? Your accent says Wisconsin."

"Minneapolis, actually," he said quietly. He wrapped a blood pressure cuff around her upper arm and started to pump the bulb.

After a moment, he said, "Five years ago, a man asked me I'd like to ensure no babies were ever born with defects ever again. I thought he worked for the human genome project." There was a long pause, while he watched her blood pressure and then deflated the cuff. "He didn't."

Scully rubbed her arm and said nothing.

"And you?" he said. "How does your baby fit into this?"

"It's a very long story."

"And we haven't exactly got time," he observed.

"I could tell you later. Once all the shouting's over."

Talking helped with the pain. Listening helped , a little.

However Archer didn't smile, only quietly finished rolling up the blood pressure cuff and put it in his bag. "Dr. Archer?" she said.

"Later." He started to rise, then sat down again and said, "Miss Scully, I have no illusions. There's not going to be a laternot for me, and not for you. The only promise he intends to keep is to raise your child to be this leader he thinks it's going to be."

Scully put her hands on her stomach. Yes. It made sense, of course it did, this was the way he operated. He'd take what he wanted and have Silver kill her, kill Archer, probably kill Kurt, and once Silver had done this killing for him he'd kill Silver, too.

"I'm sorry," Archer said quietly. "I've been trying to think of something--anything--to get you out safely, but I don't see a way. I'm in this country illegally. I have no money, I don't know anybody in England--" He stopped and scrubbed his fingers over the top of his head. He was a small, bespectacled man with a fringe of red-grey hair, and he looked exhausted and overwhelmed. "I don't see any way out of this," he said. "I'm sorry."

She wished she felt brave enough to swagger--to say she'd been closer to death than this and had survived--but she didn't feel brave. Mostly what she felt was hopeless.

Labor was harder than she'd ever imagined. It hurt more than she'd thought, differently than cancer or a bullet wound. Focus on your baby, her midwife had told her, focus on the end result and that will help you through the pain.

If Mulder were here, Scully thought, he would hold my hand and sing to me; he'd rub my back and tell me I'm strong; he'd count the seconds and help me hold up my knees, he'd tell me stories to distract me--he would be perfect.

But instead she had Archer, who was trembling in fear for his own life too much to be of any comfort; Kurt, who was interested in the process and the outcome but detached from the participant; and the Smoking Man, whose eyes took on a discomfortingly fanatical gleam as her contractions grew longer and closer together.

"You're witnessing history, gentlemen," he said. "History, quite literally, being born."

"Get him out of here," Scully growled. "I can't do this with him here. Make him go."

Time dwindled down to seconds, ten seconds and a breath, ten seconds and breath. She felt her body opening, the baby working its way out to the light. "Mulder," she whispered sometimes, even when Archer told her it was okay to yell.

"Wow," Kurt said softly as he leaned forward to watch. "It really works this way."

"Your baby's almost here--give me one more, Dana! You're doing wonderfully--almost there--deep breath and one big big pushhere she is! Here's your daughter." Archer laid the baby on Scully's chest and started to scrub her roughly with a towel.

Scully laid her hands on the baby, feeling her heat, her lungs, her heartbeat, her wet mouth as she sucked in a breath and wailed. "Margaret," she said to Kurt, who was watching in silent amazement. "Her name . . . it's Margaret."

"She's real," Kurt said in a stunned voice. "She's complete."

"Perfect," Scully whispered, kissing one of the baby's tiny hands with five miniature fingers. "She's perfect."

Archer had said nothing while he cleaned up the afterbirth, but after a few minutes he said to Kurt, "Will you tell Mr. Spender there's an issue?"

Kurt left the room at once. Scully just breathed, exhausted and amazed and completely in love. She hardly noticed when Archer covered her with a sheet and went to talk in a hushed voice to the Smoking Man.

But her eyes opened when she heard "hemorrhaging" and "hospital"

and "transfusion." Her head felt too heavy to lift. "Dr. Archer?

Tell me what's wrong."

"Nothing, nothing," he assured her. "just a little--issueyou'll be fine--"

"There isn't time," the Smoking Man said. "There are cars coming up the mountain. "

"Mulder," Scully whispered.

"Quite possibly." He picked up the baby, still wrapped in a towel, and pushed Scully's hands away when she clutched at him.

"Mr. Silver, please see to the doctor. Kurt, come with me." He left the bedroom and Silver stepped into his place. Kurt hesitated, gave her a long look, and followed after him.

"See to me?" Archer said, and Scully braced herself when Silver took out his gun. She didn't flinch at the gunshot, or when she heard the body fall to the floor.

When she opened her eyes, Silver was staring at her, licking his lips. "So, darlin'," he drawled. "What would you like to do now?"


It was the longest hour of his life, that ride up the mountains.

It would take longer to authorize a helicopter than it would to drive out to the farm, so Maddox ordered his constables into their cars. Phoebe and Mulder were to ride with him, and he radioed in a request for medics and an armed response team as well.

"We don't know what we'll find," he said simply. "I'm sure she's fine," he added after a moment, glancing at Mulder over his shoulder. "I'm sure your--acquaintance--is taking good care of her."

"I hope so," Mulder murmured. In a perfect world they would find only an annoyed Scully and smirking Krycek, but he'd learned long ago this was a far from perfect world.

Mulder rubbed his temples with his fingertips. Be okay, Scully, he thought, be safe, be healthy. Know that I love you.

Maddox was saying, "The farm has been abandoned about fifteen years. The local heritage society is trying to get it named a landmark--the house itself is almost four hundred years old--but there's a question of ownership. There's still some family around, they just don't want to live there." He shook his head. "An interesting place to hold a hostage."

"Is it remote enough that they wouldn't be noticed?" Phoebe asked.

"That, and time is on their side. It's too cold still for hikers, and the house itself is far back from the main roads but high enough to have a wide view."

Mulder continued running his hands through his hair. Scully had told him once she knew she'd feel it if he died--he wondered if he would have the same premonition. Would he feel pain, numbness, or just her sudden absence from the world?

Thinking this way made him want to scream.

There was no sign of life around the farmhouse--just an old stone house surrounded by crumbling stone fences, shutters closed over the windows, a stone barn behind it and a yard still muddy from the previous night's rain. Maddox brought the car to a stop, followed by the second police car and the ambulance. Maddox got out of the car first, and one of his constables gave him a bullhorn from the trunk.

"If you had a name it would be very helpful right now," he said to Mulder.

"Try 'Spender'."

Maddox nodded and clicked on the bullhorn. "Occupants of the house, this is the Northumbria police department! Come out with your hands up!"

There wasn't so much as a creak from the stone house. Maddox signaled to his men to circle the house and go down to the barn, and asked Mulder, "Your wife's name is Dana?" At Mulder's nod he clicked on the bullhorn again. "Mr. Spender! We know you have Dana, and we know you don't want to harm her! We have a medical team to attend her. Come out before anyone else gets hurt!"

Still nothing. Mulder gripped the seat in front of him, forcing himself to stay in the car and not burst inside to find her. A sargeant signaled there were no other exits, and Maddox scowled.

"All right," Maddox said. "Enter the house--with caution," he ordered, and the black-clad response team began to carefully move forward. "I hope to God your friend didn't send us on a wild goose chase."

They could be on their way to Norway by now if he had, Mulder thought, but couldn't bring himself to say it.

There was the sound of shattering glass and a gunshot zipped across the yard. "Everyone down!" Maddox ordered, though the response team had already dropped to the mud. "This day just gets better and better," Maddox muttered, crouching behind the car. "If we get our hands on these people I'm going to break their necks myself." He pointed at Mulder. "You are not to move. You're still a civilian. Understand?"

Mulder nodded, his heart racing.

The front door opened. A man with a shaved head and a goatee stood in the doorway. His gun was pressed against Scully's face, his meaty hand wrapped around her throat.

And Scully--Mulder wanted to fall to his knees--her face was so pale she looked green, and the bathrobe she wore was dark with blood. She could barely stand--it seemed to Mulder she was upright only because her captor was holding her that way. It took all Mulder's strength not to run to her and snatch her up in his arms.

"Do you know him?" Maddox muttered. "Do you know who he is?"

"His name is John Silver--he was arrested in December for attempted kidnaping and double murder--he was in jail in Alabama--"

"Isn't this a party!" Silver gloated, his fingers digging into Scully's neck. "You want the girl? Get me out of this fucking country. Then we'll talk."

"Silver!" Maddox said through the bullhorn. "You're not in a position to make demands."

"But I've got the girl, now, don't I? And we've got the kid.

You want either of them to survive? Give me a clear way out of here. Police escort to the Newcastle docks. You can have her back when I'm done." He leered, his forearm rubbing the side of Scully's breast. She looked like she was about to faint but she still had enough strength to glare.

"I'm going to kill him," Mulder muttered.

Phoebe gestured for the bullhorn. "Mr. Silver, we can discuss this," she said in her most soothing tone. "Dana needs a doctor.

She's gravely ill. You don't want her to die, do you?"

Mulder could see his hand tighten around Scully's neck. "How do I know you won't stop me, without her as insurance?" He shook Scully and she moaned in pain. "She stays with me."

"Mr. Silver," Phoebe pleaded. "She's just given birth. Show some mercy."

"Turn yourself in, Silver," Maddox called across the yard.

"Kidnaping, murder, and assault? You won't get far. You'll be on Interpol before sundown, and you don't have enough bullets for all of us."

"Besides, I won't let you take her."

It only gave them a moment, but it was enough. Silver loosened his grip to turn on the newcomer behind, and Scully thrust up her elbow into his face. There was a crunch and blood started gushing from his nose. He howled and grabbed his face. The gun went off again when he dropped it, making everyone duck. Scully seemed to fall in slow motion, and Mulder ignored the response team and Maddox's shouts to run to her.

"Stupid bitch!" Silver howled, his hands cupped over his nose.

"What did I tell you about showing respect?" Kurt Crawford said to him mildly. There was blood on his shirt and a bundle in his arms.

Mulder scooped Scully into his arms, grimacing when she moaned. "Scully, Scully," he whispered, kissing her. "Scully."

"He took the baby," Scully said, her fingers wrapping themselves into his shirt. "The Smoking Man--Spender--he took the baby--"

"No, no," Kurt Crawford said. He knelt beside Scully and showed her the pink face of the baby. "I told you," he whispered, as Scully reached weakly to touch her cheek. "Here she is, safe and sound."

"How did you--?" Scully whispered.

"My powers of persuasion," he said, and smiled a tiny bit.

"Mulder, look. She's okay, she's here."

"I see her," Mulder murmured. Beside them Maddox was handcuffing Silver and the medical team was hurrying over to see to Scully. But Mulder could only watch in amazement as the little pink being, that had only been a heartbeat and occasional prod in Scully's belly when he left, blinked her sleepy eyes and opened and closed her rosebud lips.

"Here, hold her," Kurt said, and Mulder took the baby into his arms. She was warm--hot, really, and surprisingly heavy. Her eyes were blue like Scully's, framed by fine dark brows.

"Hey," Mulder said, and had to wipe his eyes with the back of his hand. "Hey, baby girl. Remember me? I'm the old man. I'm sorry I wasn't here for your big entrance, honey. I promise that's the last important thing I'll miss."

"Dana Scully said her name is Margaret," Kurt said.

"Yeah . . . Daisy. We were planning to call her Daisy." He looked up to tell Scully of the wonder of this little girl, but there was an oxygen mask over her face and the medics were preparing to lift her out on a stretcher. "Scully?" Mulder said, getting to his feet, careful not to jostle the baby. "What's happening? How is she?"

The medic closest to him said in a low voice, "She's lost a great deal of blood and there's been some tearing. She needs a transfusion as soon as possible."

"Yes, of course," Mulder said, and followed them as they rolled the stretcher to the ambulance. He looked back into the house to see another stretcher come out, this time with a body bagfollowed by the Smoking Man, in handcuffs. He gasped and started towards him, not knowing what he'd say--but then the baby made a little mewl and Mulder stopped walking. "You're right," he said to her. "There are so many more important things--like Mommy. Let's go be with her."

He climbed into the back of the ambulance and the medic put the baby into a car seat, close enough so that Scully could brush her cheek with a fingertip if she wanted. Her eyes flickered open a moment, and Mulder kissed her forehead. "Rest now, love," he whispered. "We're all here."

Her eyes blinked once in acceptance, and she turned her face towards the baby.

Just before the ambulance door swung shut, Mulder saw Kurt Crawford by the cars, watching them. Thank you for taking good care of your sister, Mulder thought, and raised one hand in gratitude.

Kurt smiled and turned away, and the door closed.


summer solstice, 2001

Two sights made Mulder's life perfect, and he was looking at them both right now. He had jogged upstairs from his morning run with the paper and their mail, to find Scully making breakfast and talking to the baby. He stopped below the top step, looking at his girls. Scully was at the sink, her back to him, and the baby was in her bouncy chair on the granite counter top.

". . . then you put on a dollop of plain yogurt on top and sprinkle on some dill, and that's it. It's very tasty. I have yet to figure out the appeal of cucumber sandwiches, though your daddy says they're pretty good. But cucumbers and butter? Doesn't sound good to me at all."

The baby punched her hands into the air and burbled.

"Exactly. Anyway, we will have fresh cucumbers from our very own garden in about three weeks. This breakfast, however, does not involve cucumbers, although the cherry tomatoes in the omelette are going to be pretty tasty. Your daddy needs to eat more veggies."

"Hey now," Mulder said, coming up the stairs, and Scully smiled at him over her shoulder. "I eat my veggies." He put his hands on her waist and kissed her. "I provide a good example for our Daisy."

"Yes, you do," she said, still stirring eggs into a preomelette mess. "But I like to tease when I know you're eavesdropping."

Mulder laughed, gave her another gentle squeeze, and picked the baby out of her seat. He nuzzled her soft neck and she squeaked, wiggling. "Hey, you," he said softly. "How's my girl?"

"Mulder . . . I've been thinking about Daisy."

"Mm-mm?" Scully had given her a bath while he was out--she smelled like soap and powder and diaper rash cream.

"I find that I have difficulty calling her Daisy. She doesn't *look* like a Daisy."

Mulder studied his daughter a moment. "Well, there is that distinct lack of petals."

"Mulder," Scully said in her exasperated tone.

"Do you want to rename her? You don't like Margaret anymore?"

"Of course I like Margaret, I just . . ." She sighed and put down the bowl and spoon to take the baby. "I don't want to call her Margaret. It feels too big for her right now. But Daisy doesn't suit her either. I was so sure we had a name and now I'm not."

"Well . . ." He stroked the baby's head. At the hospital the nurses had said her dark hair would fall out, but so far it had only become darker and thicker, and her eyes were turning from babyblue to hazel. He could see the stamp of his genes on her face, mostly in the eyes. "There's Peggy, or Maggie, or Meg . . . I'm sure there are a lot of others I'm just not thinking of."

"Mrs. Lynn suggested Madge when I mentioned this to her yesterday."

"Madge?" He shook his head. "Nope. Don't see it."

"I like Meg . . . Megan? Meggie?"

"Meggie," Mulder repeated, and smiled as the baby squeaked again. "It's little and sweet, just like her."

"I think I can live with Meggie," Scully said, and rubbed her nose against the baby's. "What do you think, sweet Meg?" The baby grabbed at her face and Scully laughed. "I think it'll work."

"Was this going to become omelettes?" Mulder said, picking up the bowl.

"With cheese and tomatoes, but I can't find the mushrooms.

Did we finish them?"

"I think so." He tested the pan warming on the stove, and dropped in a slice of butter Scully had already cut. It sizzled and popped. "What spices?"

"I was thinking the red pepper."

"Yum," Mulder said, and unscrewed the jar of pepper flakes to shake in a teaspoon or two. "Do we have bacon? Bacon would go with this."

"No bacon, we're out." She eased herself carefully into one of the kitchen chairs, and Mulder tried not to notice. "It feels like a market day."

"Things are a bit busy in the village," Mulder said as he poured eggs into the hot pan. "Some Wiccan group is banging drums in the town square for solstice, and they're setting up for a bonfire tonight in the fields by the Hall."

"A bonfire?"

"You jump over a bonfire for luck in the coming year."

"As long as they're not planning to burn the Wiccans," Scully murmured, patting the baby's back. "Do you want to go? After the year we've had, we could use a little luck."

Mulder hesitated, then sighed and spoke his mind. "You're in no condition to be jumping over bonfires, Scully."

"I'm getting better," she said, which he knew was true--but he also knew she had a long way to go still before she was back to her normal, healthy self. She was still pale and bruised, tiring easily, often dozing off when she sat still long enough. It was only in the last week that she'd started getting dressed every day.

She took vitamins and iron supplements, ate carbohydrates and dark green vegetables, but still her skin reminded Mulder of a glass of milk, tranquil and smooth but easily broken.

"Still," he said. "If you want to watch, let's go watch. But no bonfire-jumping. Please? For me?"

"I suppose," she said, and nuzzled the baby again.

"Hey." He left the stove to kneel in front of her. "Maybe next year--we can practice jumping beforehand."

"It doesn't matter--it's okay." She smiled and kissed him, and put the baby into his arms. "Do you want toast? I think I'd like toast."

He watched her, chewing his lip. This was hard on both of them--he knew his protective streak annoyed her, but he couldn't bear to be away from her for long. A run into the village was as far as he dared to go, for half an hour at most. He'd convinced Phoebe any consulting he needed to do for the Yard could be done over emails and faxes, so that he didn't have to go to London whenever they required him.

Meantime Scully, who had always guarded her privacy like a precious jewel, had to deal with him constantly underfoot and a baby who hated to be out of her arms. He knew he should give her space and let her have some time alone, but he couldn't bring himself to do it quite yet. She hated to be coddled or treated like she was weak--while he wanted to carry her up and down the stairs and put bars on the windows, and maybe even stand guard at his door with cannons and boiling oil.

Two things kept him sane. One, John Silver was awaiting extradition back to the States; and two, C.G.B Spender had yet to explain how he'd gotten into the country and so was not yet allowed out. As long as they were behind bars, Mulder reasoned, his family didn't need to be.

He supposed Alex Krycek was still lurking in the shadows somewhere, watching over them for whatever his reasons, and the thought gave him a little peace. He'd never imagined trusting a man like Krycek with his family's safety, but he was not going to argue with the fate Krycek had chosen.

And Kurt Crawford, their other guardian--he didn't seem to exist at all. Somewhere between Jolyon farm and the police station, Kurt Crawford had vanished. Mulder wished him well, and hoped at some time he'd chose to show himself again.

In any fight, Mulder thought, even fights you've chosen to leave behind, someone will watch your back.

It was their time to rest, he reasoned, their time to raise Miss Daisy--oops, Miss Meggie--to grow together, to prepare for what the future held. He was as worried about what would come as he'd ever been over the last ten years--more so, now, with this little one to protect. But he could face it now. He had to.

Scully had told him the Smoking Man's theories about their baby's future, and he didn't believe it for a second. It was too wacky, too fantastic, not the Smoking Man's style at all. He couldn't figure out what had driven him, though--except a desire for control.

The toaster popped and Mulder looked up, then got up to stack the toast and put it on the table. Scully closed the omelettes and slid them onto plates. "Honey?" she said.

"Poopyhead?" he answered, and she smirked at him.

"Honey for your toast, beloved," she said, and put the jar on the table. He brought over the bouncy chair and set it on the table, and put the baby into it. She squeaked again and started working her fist into her mouth, as her parents sat down to eat.

"Tell me something," Mulder said as he spread butter on the toast.

"What?" She was watching the baby, not really paying attention to him.

"You don't really buy it, do you? The whole thing he said about her being some kind of global leader? You don't believe that, do you?"

"Thank you," she said as she took the toast and bit into it.

"No, I don't believe it at all. I don't think he did either. I think it was a lie he spun to convince people to help him, because he couldn't tell them all he really wanted was to see a child he thinks is his granddaughter." She ate a few bites of her omelette.

"I'm sure he's always thinking about the future, but I think his scope has narrowed a bit. Fixated, even."

Mulder sighed and reached over to palm the baby's head. "I hadn't thought of it that way."

"Blood means a lot."

"Maybe . . . but even if I am his son, he's not my father, not in a way that means anything."

"I know," she said gently. "But think about it. If I'd given birth in Alabama and you showed up twenty years from now, you would mean the same thing to Meggie, no matter how much you loved her.

Fortunately," she wiped some spittle from the baby's mouth with her napkin, "that's not an issue. She loves you and she knows you love her."

"Yeah," Mulder muttered and cleared his throat.

"Daddy never knows what to say when I get mushy," Scully told the baby, who kicked her heels in response. "I think that means I need to do it more often."

*~~~~~*~~~~~*

They could see the bonfire ten minutes before they arrived at the Hall. There were crowds and firecrackers and laughter, and Scully hung back a little, worried that the noise would upset the baby. She was relieved to see Mrs. Lynn when the family came over to say hello.

"I'm glad you came--have you ever seen a solstice bonfire before?" Mrs. Lynn waggled her fingers at the baby, who was watching with wide eyes, her fingers in her mouth.

"Never. What does it mean?"

"Well, it goes back centuries, to the Celts, I think. It has something to do with sun gods. I don't really know. But there's always been a bonfire and there always will be, even when we've completely forgotten why." She looked at the fire, wrapping her arms around herself. "Some things we can't afford to forget."

Scully looked at her a moment, puzzled, then nodded and kissed the top of Meggie's head. She watched Mulder and Ned talking, and let Fiona speak nonsense to the baby. She saw Simon wandering past, his arm around the shoulders of a local girl, and kissed Meggie again, glad it would be another fourteen or fifteen years before things would reach that stage.

The bonfire was high and snapping when the first jumper took his chance. He was young and athletic, and cleared the top of the fire easily. His friends cheered loudly on his landing, pounding on him on the back.

"Jimmy McKenzie," Mrs. Lynn murmured. "Local layabout. He could use a bit of luck."

"I see," Scully said.

A few more jumpers tried, some with more luck than others, and there was much cheering and laughter at singed toes and bad landings. Then, much to Scully's surprise, the first jumper got in line to jump again, this time holding the hand of a girl.

"That's another side to it," Mrs. Lynn explained. "Jumping over the bonfire together is supposed to solidify your love."

"Have you ever done this, Mrs. Lynn?"

"Oh, yes, years ago. When Tom and I first met. Can't say it's the reason why we've had forty-nine happy years together, but I think it may have helped, in a way."

"Really," Scully murmured, and looked at Mulder again. He had found a comfortable place to sit, and looked like he was ready to call it a night. She excused herself from Mrs. Lynn and went to sit beside him, and he smiled and put his arm around her.

"I'm not sure what the point of all this is," he said, pitching his voice low to carry under the noise.

"Good fortune," Scully said slowly. "You make a sacrifice and get a boon in return."

Mulder just laid his head on her shoulder and yawned. "I'm surprised Meggie's taking all of this so calmly."

"She's a mellow little bug." Scully hesitated, then blurted out, "Let's do it. Let's jump the fire, Mulder."

His head jerked up. "Scully--"

"Please. I don't want to wait until next year. I know you're worried but--I can't explain it. Just . . . please. I need to do this. I need . . . to feel strong again."

His face was serious. "Does it mean that much to you, Scully?" She nodded, and he sighed. "Okay. Let's do it. Where's Fiona? She'll be willing to watch Meggie, I'm sure."

"Thank you." She leaned over and kissed him, then got up to find Fiona.

Fiona took the baby, but her expression said she wasn't sure about the whole thing. "You ought to wait until the fire's gone down a bit," she said, swaying a little to soothe the baby.

"No, I'm ready now. We'll be back in a few minutes."

"Be careful!" Fiona called after them, as they went to get in the line to jump.

Her hand felt sweaty in Mulder's, and his shook a little.

Other couples had lined up too, many of them kissing each other while they waited. Scully found herself ganging the distance they should run, trying to factor in the length of Mulder's stride against her own.

Then it was their turn. She looked up at Mulder and he looked down at her, and smiled the smile she knew so well--the one that double-dog-dared the universe to interfere. She kissed him, to hoots and cheers, and they began to run.

She closed her eyes, and jumped.

*~*End*~*

Superhuge thanks to zara hemla, bugs, and SLS, who dotted my i's and crossed my t's; and Marasmus, who told me how they do things on the other side of the pond. Ladies, you are my sun, my moon, my starlit sky, and I salute you.

Begun April 19, 2000

Completed July 5, 2003

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