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Truly Madly Deeply – Original Version – by Jenna Tooms
Archivist’s Note: The is the original version of “Truly Madly Deeply”, written December 1997-October 1998. This version was kept on Jenna’s website as the “classic” version even upon completion of the revised version, referred to by Jenna as “TMD Redux”. I felt it was worth including this one on x-libris as well as it’s so vastly different from the story it became. TMD Redux is far richer in detail, action and plot and is definitely the better story, but this one is a good story on its own. You can read both without knowing what will happen, but I’d read the revised version before this one just to prevent any spoilers since the underlying premise is the same.
Jenna’s original statement: I consider this a first draft. It’s going to be rewritten someday, when all the other stories I’m working on are done. I have sequels planned, but it’s anybody’s guess if I’ll ever get to them. I hope so, the ideas are pretty good. (Don’t you hate it when I tease you like that?)
Summary: Mulder and Scully face the biggest adventure of all: parenthood.
This story is rated NC-17 for language, violence and sex. Lots o’ sex. It is ‘shipper friendly and quite sappy in some spots. Marriage!fic. Baby!fic. Every noromo’s worst nightmare. At least they don’t call each other Fox and Dana.
Truly Madly Deeply
— I —
Flight 419, New York to Barcelona
16 December 2000
Dana Scully lifted her carryon bag to put it in the overhead compartment, when a hand reached out and stopped her. She looked up eagerly—*He changed his mind, he’s coming with me*—but was disappointed to see a stranger’s face. One of the flight attendants. “Here,” he said, smiling gently. “Let me, Mrs. King.”
“Thanks,” Scully said, and sank gratefully into her seat. The last few hours had been overwhelming. She was so tired she could hardly think. For the next eight hours she didn’t have to, she could sleep for the first time in days. Well, maybe not days, it only felt that way. A hotel room was waiting to receive her in Barcelona, but that was still eight hours away.
The flight attendant leaned down and asked softly, “Do you need anything, Mrs. King? Something to settle your stomach?”
“No, thank you, I’m okay.”
“All right. Your husband asked that we watch over you.”
“I know. I’m grateful, really, I’m just very tired.”
“Okay. I’ll come check on you later, okay?”
“Thank you.” She leaned back her head and closed her eyes. Her hands rested lightly on the upper curve of her belly.
When he had kissed her goodbye he had wept, silently as he always did, and had watched her board the plane wiping his eyes, his misery plain on his face. Four days until they could see each other again. Four days. And that was only if everything went according to plan.
She chuckled without humor. Plan. What plan? A desperate attempt to get their lives back, thrown together in a few hours, that’s what this was. Dana Scully, according to the computers, was flying from Washington D.C. to San Antonio tonight, and Katherine Mulder (who’d fall for that one? It was much too obvious) was flying from Boston to Seattle. But Anne Marie King—she suspected Frohike had chosen that one, she didn’t know why—was flying to Barcelona, where she would morph into Denise Naylor, who had flown to Barcelona a mere hour before, according to the computers, and who would continue the journey. She would not be Scully again until she reached Rome.
Rome. She smiled. He had a friend who’d agreed to lend them her apartment while they waited to leave the city, and she’d mentioned specifically the large, silk-sheeted bed. “Perfect for honeymooners,” she’d told them.
Honeymoon. What honeymoon? Not what she’d imagined. But then, the wedding hadn’t been what she imagined either, or the courtship, or … any of it. Not that she was complaining, not really.
Beneath her hands, the Fish stirred, protesting this new position already. “Shh, shh,” Scully murmured, rubbing her tummy gently. “It’s okay, don’t be scared. I love you. We love you. Just a few days and it’ll all be okay.” She took the Walkman out of her jacket pocket and pressed play, checked the volume, and placed the headphones over her belly. Have a lullaby, sweetheart, she thought, even if it’s not your daddy’s voice.
The woman in the window seat was matronly, smiling at her with the “aren’t you darling” look Scully was rapidly getting used to. “Your first?” she asked gently.
Scully smiled and nodded. “Yes.”
“How exciting. What are you playing for him?”
“Mozart. I’m trying to counteract my husband’s taste in music.”
“It’s supposed to increase the child’s IQ, I’ve heard.”
“Well, I don’t know if I buy that.”
“How are along are you?”
“It’s a bit dangerous for you to be traveling alone, though, isn’t it?”
“My husband works in diplomatic services.”
“Oh, I see,” though she looked like she didn’t. Don’t ask anymore, Scully thought, and was grateful when the woman smiled and said, “I’m sure he’ll be so excited to see you, dear. Have a good night’s sleep.”
“Thank you. You too.” The Fish had stilled, settling in for a nap, Scully hoped. Sleep, my love, she thought, and her wish was directed to both the Fish and its father, who was flying around the other side of the world to meet her in Rome. Sleep, both my loves. Both my darlings. Sleep.
13 February 2000
To say things had been tense lately in the basement office was like saying the sun is warm. They hadn’t fought, they’d barely argued. A typical conversation would go like this:
“Have you seen the requisition forms I brought down?”
“Last I saw they were on your desk.”
“Well, they’re not on my desk now.”
“I swear I saw them on your desk not half-an-hour ago.”
“Let’s see…Hmm, I’ve looked again and they’re still not there. And you said you saw them there so they must be, because you’re never wrong. I wonder if they’ve disappeared into a space-time vortex.”
“When I saw them, they were on your desk. No need to get snippy.”
“I am not snippy.”
“Well, you’re something …” Incoherent mumbling ends the sentence, not entirely kindly. The partners would exchange glances and then ignore each other for the rest of the day.
It’s no way to live, Scully thought one morning after almost two weeks of this. She had never dreaded coming to work as much as she had in the last few weeks. Maybe it was time for a vacation. Maybe Mulder was restless—it had been a while since they’d had a case he found stimulating. Or maybe she was the restless one.
I need a best friend, she thought wistfully. A blunt girlfriend who tells it like it is. Usually Mulder was all the friend she needed, but when he was being difficult she missed having someone to give her advice about him. There was only so much she could tell her mother.
By this time she’d reached the office door, with its irritating nameplate, “Fox Mulder, Special Division.” He’d granted her a desk but the nameplate had remained the same. As if she were peripheral to the X-Files. She frowned, and then decided not to bring it up until they both were in better moods, and opened the door.
Mulder was already there, bent over his light box. “Good morning,” Scully said, hoping she sounded friendly, and put her briefcase down on her desk.
“‘Morning,” Mulder said absently, barely glancing up.
“What have you got?”
“The latest batch of photos from MUFON. Each one blurrier than the last.”
Scully sighed. His black mood was only going to get darker, she could see that already. There wasn’t even paperwork to use as an excuse, they’d actually caught up. She booted up her computer and sat down at her desk. She couldn’t move back from her desk more than a foot or so, or else she’d be wedged up against the sagging bookshelf. So if she wanted to lean back she’d have to rest her head on an uncomfortably thick copy of “A Skeleton Key to James Joyce.” Why do we have a book about James Joyce in here? she thought, not for the first time, and said out loud, “Why do we have a book about James Joyce?”
“What? Oh. That. I brought it from home once and never took it back.”
“We’ve got a lot of junk in here.”
“Junk?” He sat up straight from the light box and glared at her. “Junk, Scully?”
“No, you said junk. I’d like to hear your definition of junk.”
“I just gave it to you. Unnecessary clutter. We’d actually be able to move in here if you’d take some of this stuff home.”
“Ah. So my stuff is junk. I guess everything you’ve brought in here is vital to our daily lives.”
“Do you want to go over all the stuff I’ve brought in here? My computer. Hmm, can you think of anything else? I don’t even bring a novel to read during lunch.”
Mulder muttered something and turned away.
He’d been doing that so much lately Scully cried out without thinking, “What? What was that? What did you say? What did you call me?”
Mulder stood up. He walked over to her desk slowly, saying, “I called you a cold, insensitive, controlling bitch.” He towered over her. Sometimes she forgot how tall he was. “Okay?” he said softly, raising his eyebrows in a fair imitation of her own arch.
Scully stood up. She said coldly, “Fuck. You.” She grabbed her briefcase, but there was no way to leave the office without pushing past him, and she was not about to give him the satisfaction. “Get out of my way,” she growled.
But Mulder didn’t move. He put one hand on the shelf and the other on her computer monitor, effectively locking her in, and leaned in so close to her she could feel his breath on her mouth. “And what if I don’t?” he said softly. “What are you going to do, little girl?”
Fleeting images of stomping on his foot with her heel or kneeing him in the groin raced through her mind, but she only said, “Get out of my way, Fox Mulder.”
“Or you’ll what?”
“Move your skinny ass before I get mad.”
“Ooo, I’m scared. Little Dana is gonna hurt me.” His voice was so soft that anybody watching them would have thought he was whispering endearments. “Try and hurt me, Dana. Just try.”
Scully raised her chin and said with as much dignity as she could muster, “Get out of my fucking way before I show you exactly how many ways I know how to kill a man.” She added, “Fox.”
His reaction was the last one she expected. He grabbed her face between his hands and kissed her so hard and deep she dropped her briefcase. Fighting him never crossed her mind as she slipped her hands into his jacket, over his chest, around to his back and then down to cup his ass. He put one arm around her neck and the other around her waist, and turned her so that her back was against the bookshelf. They both made desperate, hungry sounds as they kissed, and their hands felt and squeezed and rubbed relentlessly. He lifted her up enough so that she could wrap her legs around his waist, and she could feel him, hard and throbbing, pressing against her stomach. She sighed into his mouth.
As abruptly as he’s kissed her, he let her go. He put her down and stepped back and wiped his mouth with a shaking hand. “You were saying?” he said.
“I—I—I don’t remember,” she said weakly. She was shaking as well. She didn’t even know how much time had passed—a minute, five, twenty? An hour? She pressed her palms against her cheeks. She was burning. And the scent of the rush of moisture between her legs was unmistakable in the small space between them. She thought incoherently, Right now—fuck me right now—
As if he’d read her mind he said in the same soft tone he’d been using all along, “As I recall, fucking was involved.”
“Trust me, Scully. The nearest you’re getting to fucking me is your favorite vibrator fantasy.” He left the office, slamming the door on his way out.
Scully looked around for something to throw. She picked up “The Skeleton Key to James Joyce” and threw it onto his desk, noting with satisfaction that she’d finally broken that stupid lamp. She picked up her briefcase and walked out.
Mulder slammed into the men’s room, which was, thankfully, empty, and went into one of the stalls. There’s only one way to handle this, he thought grimly, and brought out his aching cock. She would wear the red suit today, the one that hugged her curves and made her skin glow like the luster on a pearl. And that red lipstick that deepened her perfect Cupid’s bow of a mouth, that always made him want to see if she tasted like how he imagined, like fresh peaches and cinnamon.
Well, now he knew. She tasted better.
It would have been easy, he thought, to just bend her over the desk, push up her skirt and pull down whatever she wore underneath — Lace panties and thigh-high stockings, his mind supplied, and he figured that was as good as anything — and have her right there, right then. She’d been willing, ready, even. Her cunt would be tiny, just like the rest of her, tiny and tight and oh-so wet —
A few strokes of his hand and he came, sinking his teeth into his arm to keep from crying out. He cleaned himself up methodically and then leaned his flushed face against the cool metal door of the stall. She’d kill him if she ever found out about this. Slowly. Kill him with pleasure, probably. She was more than capable.
There was no better way to die.
He left the stall and washed his hands, and splashed his face with cold water. It was only eight-thirty, but he had no desire to go back to the office and face her for the rest of the day. He’d have to go back to the office to get his car keys, of course.
Oh, damn. He’d have to face her one of these days, anyway.
He went to the office and saw she’d already left. He dropped the broken lamp into the garbage and put the book back on the shelf. Then he stepped back and studied the shelf thoughtfully. He could clear off three or four shelves for her easily, and make room for her reference materials. Right behind her desk so they were within arm’s reach, and he’d have to remember her arms weren’t as long as his. He’d bring boxes tomorrow.
But not today. Today he wanted to relax, think about things. Think about Scully.
He picked up his briefcase and locked up the office, went out to his car and got in. He put the keys in the ignition and leaned his head against the steering wheel, and heaved a big sigh.
There was a very simple reason why he’d stopped kissing her. He would never, never do anything so crude, so crass, as fucking Dana Scully. Taking her, having her, anything that implied she wasn’t involved — he didn’t want to touch her with only anger behind it. If he’d tried to have sex with her in his present mood it would have been borderline rape, no matter how ready she was. Dana Scully should only be touched with tenderness and love. It was no less than she deserved.
He started up the car and drove to his apartment. He wanted to talk to her, try to explain himself. Apologize, maybe. He went up to his apartment and dialed her number, and was not terribly surprised to get her answering machine. He blurted, “Scully, it’s me. Um, we have to talk. If you don’t want to I understand … you know what, actually I don’t understand. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know anything. Look, forget it. Forget I called. I just wanted to talk to you. See you later.” He hung up.
Okay. He only sounded like a complete and utter moron. He dialed her number again.
“Me again. Okay, here’s how I see it. It’s natural, right, for people who’ve been through what we’ve been through to mistake excitement for intimacy … shit. That’s not what I mean. I don’t know what I mean. Call me. On second thought, don’t call me. Bye. No, do call me. I don’t know, do what you want. Bye.” He hung up in embarrassment.
This was worse. If she didn’t think he was an idiot before he would now. He dialed her number once more.
“It’s me. Don’t call. Don’t bother. I know you hate me anyway. I don’t want to hear it. Just don’t … I’m not a complete bastard, you know. I mean, it did mean something to me, to kiss you. I want to do it again.” He sighed heavily. “Forget I called. I’m an idiot. We’ll talk tomorrow. Bye.” He hung up.
How would he ever face her?
He had to get out of there.
He got into his car and drove, aimlessly, for hours, waiting and wondering if he would ever be able to speak to her again.
One thing, though, that he couldn’t get out of his mind. She’d wanted him. She’d wanted him too. She’d wanted him as badly as he wanted her.
It was mind-blowing, the power of that thought.
Dana Scully had wanted him too.
The weather matched her mood: stormy, cold, blustery. She couldn’t take a walk, she was not in the mood to drive around pointlessly, she didn’t want to go home or visit anyone, and she certainly was not going back to the office. It was too early for a matinee or a drink, she didn’t want to go shopping or to a coffee shop, and if she went to the cemetery she’d only get more miserable.
That left her one place. The Smithsonian.
It was crowded with schoolchildren and tourists, and Scully wandered through them, listening to their conversations without really hearing them, looking at the displays and raging to herself. She’d let him kiss her! Not just let him, but encouraged him! His tongue had been down her throat, his hands had been all over her, his erection had been enormous—it was a wonder her lips weren’t black and blue. She’d inspected them in the rearview mirror carefully to make sure. She’d had to clean up her lipstick a little but other than that she looked composed. In control.
I’m not cold, she told herself. I’m as passionate as the next person. I just have to be careful, I’m a woman in a man’s world, I can’t lose control—
Like I just did.
She had to admit it. Her tongue had been as far in his mouth as his had been in hers. She’d felt him up as brazenly as he had touched her. She’d wanted it. She’d wanted him. She’d wanted him for a long time. She wanted him now.
Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it. There’s been chemistry, there’s been affection, there’s been outright lust on both our sides, I’m sure, and we haven’t had anything else lately to channel our energy into. It’s been building for a long time. We have to just … work past it. The worst thing we could do is sleep together out of boredom.
It all seemed terribly logical. Until she remembered the taste of his mouth, the heat and strength of his body, the length and firmness of his cock against her stomach. He’d pulled away from her just in time. A few seconds more and they would have had sex right then and there, up against the bookshelf, in full view of anyone coming into the office. She could still feel his fingers on her nipples.
Here was a strange thing. He had not been rough. Fierce, yes, passionate, certainly, but the only thing she’d been afraid of was someone coming into the office and seeing them. If she had bruises it was only because she bruised easily, always had, and it was not because he had been unnecessarily rough with her.
He’ll be tender, Scully thought, smiling absently as she strolled past the Georgia O’Keefe collection. However else he’ll be, he’ll have an underlying tenderness because that’s Mulder. He’ll be passionate, gentle, loving—
Stop it. It’s not going to happen. She shook her head at her own absurdity. Nothing was going to happen between them. Period. She was as sure of it was she was of her own name.
Now it was just a question of getting him to understand that she understood. Surely he wouldn’t be too difficult—he could be very patient when he tried to be—she would have to temper his disappointment, she would have to make him see it was the worst thing that could happen between them, she would have to keep her resolve—
Oh, dammit. She leaned her forehead into her hand, completely ignoring the display of props from “Happy Days.” She didn’t want to keep her resolve. She wanted Mulder’s mouth on hers as often as is humanly possible. Even though she desperately didn’t want to picture it, it came to her imagination nonetheless: his long elegant body lying next to her more compact self, his lips, his tongue, his big graceful hands on her skin, teasing her with an exquisite torture until she begged him—
When had it stopped being simple? Mulder flirted with her, once in a while she flirted back, but for the most part they ignored what was an inconvenient attraction and just did the work. We need a case, she thought, stepping aside as several Boy Scouts in blue and yellow uniforms ran past her. That’s all this is. Frustrations being released through the wrong outlet. What I wouldn’t give for some nice, ordinary cow mutilations or crop circles. Anything to get us out from on top of each other. And that, of course, brought an entire slew of fevered imaginings, exactly what she’d like to do on top of him and with him on top of her.
I should go back. She sighed. It’s childish to sulk here. And my feet hurt. And who could say, maybe Mulder was waiting …
With a vague feeling of both dread and excitement in the pit of her stomach, Scully left the Smithsonian grounds and drove back to the J. Edgar Hoover building. She sat in her car for some time after parking it, wondering if she really wanted to face him again today.
But when she got up to the office, she saw it didn’t matter.
Mulder was not there.
All that worrying for nothing.
It was probably just as well. She didn’t really know what she’d say to him, anyway. “Next time you want to stick your tongue down my throat, give me a little more warning”? He’d probably kiss her again, just for spite.
And then … ?
And then … who could say.
When she got home the message light was blinking on her answering machine. She pressed the play button and curled up in the corner of her couch. It was Mulder. Of course. “Scully, it’s me. Um, we have to talk. If you don’t want to I understand … you know what, actually I don’t understand. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know anything. Look, forget it. Forget I called. I just wanted to talk to you. See you later.” He hung up.
The second message came on. “Me again. Okay, here’s how I see it. It’s natural, right, for people who’ve been through what we’ve been through to mistake excitement for intimacy … shit. That’s not what I mean. I don’t know what I mean. Call me. On second thought, don’t call me. Bye. No, do call me. I don’t know, do what you want. Bye.”
The third message. “It’s me. Don’t call. Don’t bother. I know you hate me anyway. I don’t want to hear it. Just don’t … I’m not a complete bastard, you know. I mean, it did mean something to me, to kiss you. I want to do it again.” He sighed heavily. “Forget I called. I’m an idiot. We’ll talk tomorrow. Bye.” The machine whirred to a stop.
Scully blinked back the tears that had started to rise and went to the phone. She dialed Mulder’s number and waited through the rings. His answering machine came on: “Hi, you’ve reached Fox Mulder, leave a message, please.” The beep.
She said, “Mulder, it’s me. I don’t hate you. It meant something to me too.” She sighed, trying to think of the right words. “I’d like to do it again. A lot. But I can’t entirely convince myself that it’s the right thing for us. I can’t convince myself it’s wrong, either. You were right about it being natural. Call me when you get in. Or better, come over. We need to talk. I want to see you.” She hung up.
Suppose he tries to kiss me again? she thought, and the response came quickly and unbidden, Suppose he doesn’t?
But the phone didn’t ring.
Mulder was not surprised to see he’d driven to Scully’s neighborhood. He pulled up in front of her building and looked at her window. A song came to mind — “Come to my window, crawl inside, wait by the light of the moon —” and he smiled. He wished he could crawl inside and wait for her. He wondered if she had listened to her answering machine, if she was laughing at his idiocy yet.
Or was she thinking of him, longing for him as he longed for her.
His cell phone rang and he pressed the “Talk” button. “Mulder,” he said wearily.
“Agent Mulder, will you hold for Assistant Director Skinner?” It was Skinner’s secretary Kimberly.
“Sure.” He waited for the click that brought Skinner onto the phone.
“Agent Mulder, I’ve been trying to reach you all morning,” Skinner said testily.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“Are you even in the city?”
“I’m in Bethesda, sir.”
Concern at once colored Skinner’s voice. “Is Agent Scully all right?”
“Yes. Yes, she’s fine.”
“I see. I have a case in Houston I would like the two of you to look into.”
“Agent Scully and I will be right there, sir.” He hung up and, with a sigh, got out of the car.
It would probably be easier this way, he thought as he walked up to Scully’s front door. Get back to normal. Try to, anyway. Forget that he’d kissed her, tasted the sweet warmth of her mouth, heard the sounds she made in her desire.
Yeah, and next he’d be forgetting his name, his birth date and pinch-hitter rule.
He knocked on her door. He heard her walking towards it, peering through the peephole, unlocking the door. She opened it, looking up at him with an expression he’d never seen on her face before. Anticipation, nervousness, maybe even a touch of fear. She’d changed her clothes, her red suit for jeans and a v-neck white t-shirt. She looked about fifteen years old. “Hi,” she said softly.
“Hi. We have a case. Can I drive you the office?”
“Oh. Okay. Give me a few minutes to change. Come in?”
“Sure.” He followed her into her apartment. She went back into her bedroom, and Mulder realized he was listening for a click that didn’t come. She’d left her door open.
His heart rate tripled and his mouth went dry. If he went back there — if he put his hands on her shoulders as she faced away from him — if she gasped, her eyes widening — if he slid his hands forward to cup her breasts — if she pushed back her hips, sighing his name in her warm husky voice — if he brushed the hair from the nape of her neck and kissed her just below her hairline —
He was in the bedroom before he even realized he had moved. She was standing in front of her closet, in her bra and pantyhose, and she looked up and their eyes met in the mirror. Her breasts rose and fell in one deep breath and then she was in his arms.
Hands in each other’s hair, tongues dueling, teeth nipping, lips sucking and smacking. He lifted her up and placed her onto her bed, and lowered himself on top of her. Her breath was coming in sharp gasps, and her hands shook as she tugged off his suit jacket and unknotted his tie. He kissed her neck and sucked her earlobes, reached behind her and unhooked her bra and slid it off her arms. She moaned his name, raking her hands through his hair, and wrapped her legs around him. He pushed her breasts together and his tongue darted from nipple to nipple, and her back arched and she sighed, “Suckle me, Mulder.” He obeyed her, tonguing as much of her left breast into his mouth as he could and sucking from his throat, his cheeks hollowing with the effort. Her head rolled back and forth, she stroked his face and neck with her fingers, and she moaned, “That feels so good, Mulder, please don’t stop.” He stopped long enough to kiss her mouth, and then took her right breast into his mouth and sucked it as hard as he had the other.
She tried to unbutton his shirt but her hands were shaking too hard, so Mulder yanked his shirt open and the buttons popped off, rattling like candy on the floor. She tugged off his shirt and latched her mouth onto his nipples, sucking them as greedily as he had suckled her. He groaned her name and whipped off his belt, and his hand fumbled at the zip on his trousers.
Scully wriggled out of her pantyhose and pressed his hand between her legs, and he moaned and pushed a finger inside her. He stroked her for a moment, then brought her legs up to his shoulders and plunged his tongue into her. She groaned from deep within herself, her hands in his hair. He lapped up her juices and then settled into a slow, maddeningly slow, sucking of her tiny nub. “Oh, god, I’m dying,” Scully moaned, and Mulder sped up his pace, sucking her harder until her legs shook and she cried out, a sound caught between agony and purest bliss.
He lifted his head and smiled at her, wiping his mouth. It took a moment for her eyes to focus on him, and she smiled shakily back. “In me,” she said simply, so Mulder threw off the rest of his clothes and slid into her slowly, groaning, until he was completely inside her. He kissed her mouth, her face and her neck, pumping within her with increasing speed. She kissed him back, nipping his neck with small sharp teeth and licking his face with a darting tongue. Her nails dug into his back and scraped over his scalp. Her body rocked beneath him, pulling him deeper and deeper into her. They came together, crying out each other’s names and holding onto each other as if they would otherwise be swept away.
Stillness descended over the tumbled bed.
Scully said softly, “I made up my mind this morning, that I wasn’t going to sleep with you.”
Mulder chuckled and said, “So did I.”
Scully chuckled as well and ran her hand slowly through his hair. “So now what?”
“We try and make it work, I guess.”
“You sound so enthused.”
“Well, I’ve never had a relationship with someone I worked with before. I don’t know how to go about it.”
She sighed. “We need to go meet Skinner.”
“I think a quick shower is in order.”
“Yeah.” He pulled out of her reluctantly, and she whimpered softly. “Did I hurt you?”
“No. I just feel so … empty now.”
Mulder held her face in his hands and kissed her deeply. “You’re not alone anymore,” he said. “You’re not alone, Scully. I’m with you.”
She nodded and smiled. “I know.”
19 February, 2000
Even as he drove back to the hotel, trying to carry on a normal-sounding conversation, all Mulder could think was I almost lost her. I almost lost her. Turn left here. I almost lost her. “Do you want anything to eat?” I almost lost her.
“No, thanks. I’m not hungry.” Scully’s voice was slurred from the painkillers.
I almost lost her. He couldn’t look at her. He couldn’t bear to look away. That cut is going to scar. I almost lost her. Her little hand in its absurdly heavy plaster cast seemed like a reproach: This is what happens when you leave her behind. Her broke her fingers, he broke her wrist. Your fault. Again.
I almost lost her.
“I changed our flight back for tomorrow night. We’ll get back to D.C. about seven o’clock.”
The acceptance and forgiveness on her face at the hospital had made him want to weep. To throw himself at her feet and beg to be kicked. She wouldn’t, of course, but not because he didn’t deserve it.
“Are you sure you’re not hungry?”
“I’m sure. I just want to sleep.”
Maybe the painkillers would keep the inevitable nightmares away, at least for tonight. If he assigned himself nightmare duty, maybe that could start his penance. He had to do something to make this up to her. My fault. I almost lost you. Scully, I’m so sorry.
He parked the car in front of her motel room and turned off the engine. Scully made no move to get out, and it took Mulder a moment to realize it was because she was asleep. He got out of the car and went around to her side. He opened her door and crouched down, and touched her cheek lightly. “Hey, Sleeping Beauty.” She moved her head a little, and her eyelashes fluttered. “Can you wake up enough to come inside, Scully?”
“I’m awake,” she muttered, and made an effort to move her legs out of the car. It didn’t quite happen, and he had to help her get out and stand, which she did waveringly, one arm around Mulder’s waist. He bumped the car door closed with his hip and they slowly made their way into her hotel room. He sat her carefully on the edge of her bed and went back to the car for their briefcases and coats, and when he came back to the room Scully had taken off her shoes and lain down. Her eyes were closed and her breasts rose and fell in a steady cadence.
Should I stay? Mulder wondered, and knew as soon as he’d thought it that it would take a force of nature to keep him away from her tonight. For all the times she had watched over him, he would stand guard over her tonight.
He shut the door and turned the lamp to its lowest setting, and carefully moved her under the bedspread, taking care not to jar her any more than he could help. He eased himself onto the bed next to her, and she made a soft sound, neither a protest nor a welcome. Just an acknowledgment, Mulder thought, as if to say, You’re here. Okay.
He wished there was some way he could hold her, but he was afraid the slightest movement would end the reprieve the painkillers had begun. She had insisted on leaving the hospital once her hand was attended to, and the doctor had prescribed enough painkillers for the next few days. Still, Mulder thought, no pill could completely numb her — and when she was no longer on them, then she’d really get angry at him. Then she’d let him have it. Yell at him for abandoning her when he knew the killer had singled her out.
I came back, he protested silently to the inner accusations, as soon as I realized it was a trick to get us separated — and I left two plainclothes officers with her, she never was completely alone.
Still. He’d left her. Again. He’d ignored the pleas in her eyes to which she would never give voice, and left her. Again.
“I almost lost you,” he whispered, and she stirred. He touched her hair lightly and she stirred again.
“Here,” she murmured.
“Do you mind? Do you want me to go?”
Her good hand found his and squeezed gently. “Stay,” she said simply, and Mulder thought he would stay with her until the end of time if she wanted him to.
He continued to play with her hair, and she held onto his hand even as sleep claimed her. “No pain tonight, Scully,” he whispered to her. “No monsters. No nightmares. Tonight I’m keeping you safe.” And because her peaceful face gave him courage, he told her, “Sometimes I think the only truth I’ll find is in your eyes, Scully.”
Was it his imagination, or was she smiling?
Mulder woke up to the novel sensation of a warm body beside him. It took a moment to remember what had happened, who he was with, why he was with her. He smiled and opened his eyes, to see Scully looking down at him with a bit of amusement herself.
“Good morning,” she said quietly.
“Hi. How are you feeling?”
“Pretty good, actually, I just took another painkiller and I’m feeling pretty mellow. Thanks for staying with me.”
“Sure. It’s the least I could do.”
She leaned her head on her good hand and said seriously, “We need to talk, Mulder.”
“Not now, Scully.”
“Now, Mulder. Now or we’ll never talk, and we’ve got to. I can’t go on guessing about things.”
Mulder folded his hands on his chest and gazed at her patiently. “Guessing about what things?”
“You — me — us. Which is the trouble. There shouldn’t be an ‘us’ but I want there to be, Mulder, I want there to be an ‘us’ so badly I can taste it.”
“Are you sure you’re up to this, Scully? Your defenses are down.”
“That’s why I want to talk now. Tell me what you want, Mulder. Do you want to be with me or don’t you?”
“I do.” He kissed her softly. “I do, I do.”
“Because I need to know if I can rely on you or not.”
The rebuke in her words, gentle as her voice was, cut him to the core. He said quietly, “I’m kind of new at this, Scully.”
“I know that. But I think it’s a simple question, Mulder. How involved are we going to be? Because I’m not into the whole friends with sexual privileges thing. I can be your lover or your platonic friend, but I can’t do both.”
They looked at each other in silence for a while. Scully leaned down and brushed her lips against Mulder’s experimentally. Her mouth was cool, her touch soft. It was all Mulder could do not to thrust his hands into her hair, to plunge his tongue as far into her as it would go. She kissed his eyelids, the center of his forehead, the mole on his cheek, the tip of his nose. Finally she kissed his mouth again, and the tip of her tongue darted out and pressed against his lower lip for just a moment. She raised her head and smiled at him.
“Is the magic gone?” she asked softly.
Mulder gave a short laugh and carefully sat up, taking her in his arms. “Never, Scully. I’m just thinking.”
“I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”
“Look, Scully.” He sighed. “I do care for you. I worry about you and I fear for you sometimes. And I want to be what you need me to be … I’m just not sure I can.”
She sighed as well and leaned her cheek against his. “And what happens while you figure that out?”
“I guess … we take it slow.”
“And, I think we ought to wait a while before we make love again.”
“Wait until when?”
“When we know.”
“When we know what?”
He hugged her, and whispered, “We’ll know.”
— II —
Flight 1009, Los Angeles to Hong Kong
17 December 2000
The once and future Fox Mulder — Charles McDonald, for the time being — took his seat by the window and wondered when his heart would stop hurting.The flight across the country had been hard enough, three thousand miles between them, and now she waited on the other side of one ocean as he crossed the other.
But at least there was a limit to how far apart they could be. A final, terminal distance, and then they would only be getting closer.
Rome. They would be together again in Rome.
He twisted the wedding ring, still not used to its weight on his finger. After barely two days of wearing it, that was hardly a surprise. He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, remembering. The wedding. The loving. The Fish. The hours spent together making love, sometimes without touching, sometimes without saying a word, sometimes by only a meeting of the eyes. He smiled to himself, imagining their reunion, his lover—wife, he corrected himself, and felt a shiver of excitement at the newness of the word—in his arms, the Fish swimming beneath her heart.
From Rome he would take her to the safest place he could find. It would be a fumbling existence at first, while he found a way to support her as he’d promised to do. Love, honor, and cherish, as the justice of the peace had said. He had friends, more than he’d known, who were already helping them, offering places to stay until they were independent, offering safety, offering time. He had prided himself before on being independent, but for her sake, and the sake of the Fish, he had accepted every offer he could.
The apartment in Rome, for example. The only honeymoon he could give her at this point. Belated, in some ways. But they needed the time, he was convinced of it, to solidify themselves. To make what had been hurried, slow; what had been surreal, solid; what had been overwhelming, normal.
He often thought they had been married in the truest sense of the word for years before they spoke the vows. She was flesh of his flesh. He was bone of her bone. His soul and her soul, her heart and his heart, bound together like twin suns.
Tears arose unexpected, and he pressed his hand over his eyes. He missed her. He missed her so much. In a few days he would hold her again, but until then time would drag, every second an eternity. To him it was no exaggeration.
He turned his face to the window and sighed. He could see nothing but clouds.
You’re a world away, my love, he thought, and unconsciously his hand rested over his heart. The ache continued, nonetheless.
April 15, 2000
The killer had Mulder. It was all Scully could think. The killer had Mulder and was not telling them anything more than he had him. There were traces on the phones and the best minds of the VCS trying to unravel the hints and riddles he gave, but it did not help settle Scully’s fear. The killer had Mulder. The killer took beautiful men and cut them up, cut their faces, cut their bodies, and he had Mulder. It was like the gargoyle case. The one Mulder had nearly lost himself in, and in which Bill Patterson had lost himself. Except this killer made no excuses for his behavior, he did not claim to be controlled by a spirit or a demon.
Scully could hear his voice in her ear, the soft whisper over the telephone: “You want to know why I kill, Agent Scully? ‘Cause I like it.” His voice low and hoarse as if he were saying something obscene. In a very real way, he was. “‘Cause I like it, Agent Scully. I like the smell of blood. I like the look of fear. I like watching the light go out of their eyes, and your partner, Agent Scully, has very … beautiful … eyes.”
Scully shuddered, twisting her hands together. Ring, phone. Ring. Tell me he’s still alive. Tell me they’ve found him. The phone remained silent. The other agents moved about the room, talking quietly, trying to find the patterns, trying to make sense of what they knew. There was a chalkboard scribbled over with theories. There was a map dotted with pins. They had a six-block radius where they thought the killer might be. They had crime scene photographs, possible names, uniformed cops canvassing the area in pairs. There was an ambulance waiting for their call. They had everything but a solution.
The phone rang, and everyone in the room froze. The agent in change, Ben Rogers, signaled Scully to pick up the phone, and the technician started the phone trace. Scully picked up the receiver with a trembling hand, and said quietly, “Hello?”
“Agent Dana.” It was the killer.
“Yes, it’s me.”
“I’d know that sexy voice anywhere. You missed out on a very lucrative career in the phone sex industry, Agent Dana.”
“Tell me if he’s still alive, dickhead.”
“He’s alive. You want to talk to him?” His voice was almost conversational.
“Yes. Please.” She almost whispered it. She hated the power he had over her, because he had Mulder.
There was the muffled sound of movement, and then Mulder’s voice, groggy, filled with pain. “Scully?”
“It’s me, it’s me, Mulder, did he hurt you?”
“I’m hurt pretty bad, Scully.”
“Hang on, Mulder. We’ll find you.” The technician was holding up his hand, counting down with his fingers. Two digits to go.
“Scully. All I can see is your face, Scully.”
She blinked back tears and said softly, “Keep thinking of me, Mulder. Hang on. We’ll find you.”
Movement over the phone again, and then the killer said, “Touching. You two sleeping together?”
“Fuck off,” Scully said.
“You must be. You still going to love him once I’m done with him, Agent Scully? Are you that big of a woman?”
“Please, just don’t hurt him anymore.”
“His nose could use a chop. Maybe I’ll start there.”
“No,” Scully whispered.
“Yes. First the nose. Then the lips. Then the ears. I want him to hear his own screaming. Then, Agent Scully, last of all is the eyes. I want him to see my face, Agent Scully, when I kill him I want him watching me.”
Rogers took a report from one of the officers, scribbled something on a legal pad and held it up for Scully to see. “We’ve got a location,” it read, “keep him talking, the more he talks the better chance we’ve got.” Scully nodded and said to the killer, struggling to keep her voice under control, “Why do you hurt them, hmm? Can you tell me that? Does it make you feel powerful? Does it make you feel like a big man? When you take their lives do you feel like God?”
“Agent Scully, I am God. Don’t you get it? God kills the same way I do. He lops off pieces of us until there’s nothing left, until we beg to die. I’m just speeding up the process.”
“The God I believe in isn’t like that.”
“The God you believe in is a fairy tale. I am the only true God. The God of Wrath.”
Rogers handed her another notepad. “We’ve got him.”
Scully whispered, “Eat lead, motherfucker,” and heard the police burst in, their shouts of, “Freeze!”, the sound of the phone falling, the protests of the killer.
“Agent Scully? Officer Patzke. We’ve got your partner. He’s hurt pretty bad. We’ve called the ambulance already.”
“Which hospital? I want to be there when he arrives.”
“Good Samaritan on 4th and Evergreen.”
“I’ll be there. Tell him I’ll be there.”
“Yes, ma’am.” There was a pause, and the murmur of voices. The officer said, “He says he’ll only take shots from you.”
Scully laughed and sobbed at once, and said, “Thank you.” She hung up the phone and looked at Agent Rogers.
“Go,” he said. “Take care of Mulder. We’ll clean up here.”
“Couldn’t have done it without you, Agent Scully. Now get out of here.”
She scooped up her coat and briefcase and all but ran out of the office to the rental car.
The ambulance had already arrived when she got there. “I’m looking for a man who was just brought in, an FBI agent named Fox Mulder?” The admitting nurse pointed towards one of the emergency rooms. “Dr. Forrester has him, ma’am. Are you family?”
“I’m the only family he’s got.” She grabbed a surgical mask from a passing laundry cart and dashed into the emergency room. She had to stop when she saw Mulder. He was bloody, bruised, the fingers of one hand swollen and discolored, broken. His eyes had been blackened, his nose was crusted with blood.
“Ma’am, we need to work,” the doctor said to her when she came in.
“I’m a medical doctor, please, let me help.”
“Are you Scully? He keeps asking for Scully.”
Mulder perked up at once at the sound of her voice. “Scully.”
“Scully.” His uninjured hand reached towards her voice. She grasped it in hers and kissed it, not caring who saw. “I had to come back to you, Scully.”
“I’m glad you came back.”
“We caught him.”
“Yes. He’s not going to hurt anyone anymore.”
“Lucky me,” Mulder said, and Scully managed to laugh.
“You’re safe now.”
“Hey, Scully.” He was panting with pain as the nurses stitched up the cuts that covered his chest and arms.
“I’m here, Mulder. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I have to tell you something.”
“I’m listening.” She kissed his hand again.
“I love you.”
Her breath caught. In the two months since they had started their tentative courtship he had said many tender things, but never a word about love. But it was completely like him to chose to tell her here, while he was groggy with pain and surrounded by blood. Classic Mulder. She gently touched his lips and said quietly, pressing his hand to her heart, “I know. I love you, too.”
He smiled, and his grip on her hand tightened. “I just wanted you to know.”
“Dr. Scully, he’s ready to be moved upstairs,” Dr. Forrester told her.
A brief look of panic crossed Mulder’s face. “Don’t leave me, Scully,” he pleaded.
“I’m staying with you. I’m staying.” She held onto his hand and talked to him while they transferred him to another room, and waited with him, holding his hand, until the painkillers set in and he fell asleep.
When she went out of his hospital room to find some coffee, Agent Rogers was waiting for her. “How is he?”
“He’s going to be fine. He’s under sedation right now.”
“And how are you? Holding up?”
“Holding up.” She smiled wearily.
“If you’re up to it, I’d like you to come with me to question the suspect.”
Scully sighed. “Yeah. I want to talk to him.” She left a message with the nurse to tell Mulder she’d be back as soon as she could, and she and Agent Rogers left the hospital for the police station.
His name was John Wayne Stewart. Single, white, twenty-nine years old. His face scarred in a car accident when he was fourteen. His strict fundamentalist upbringing had strongly discouraged his homosexual leanings, to the point where one psychiatrist described him as “repressed and in denial.” He had a severe hatred of beauty in any form. He had been arrested many times for defacement of public property, including slashing paintings in three different museums. Journals found in his house were written in the second person, filled with paranoia-soaked ravings. Magazines and photographs they found in the house had been scribbled over, bled on, defecated on, masturbated on.
He looked sullenly across the table at Scully and Rogers. “Well,” he said. “You must feel pretty proud of yourself, pretty lady.”
“Do you still feel like God?” Scully replied cooly.
“I still am God. Who’s this?” He shrugged one shoulder towards Agent Rogers.
“Special Agent Ben Rogers, agent in charge. I caught your sorry ass, Stewart.”
“You didn’t do anything, you halfwit. Agent Fox found me and this pretty girl here brought me in. You just got lucky. You’re cashing in on their work. You’ll get the reward for me while Agent Fox lies dying in a hospital.”
“Agent Mulder,” Scully said quietly, “is in stable condition and will return home in a few days.”
His eyes narrowed. “He’s going to live. Well, that’s just grand. And then what, Agent Dana? You two going to settle down and grow old together? You’re going to watch him get wrinkled and old and doddering?”
“I look forward to it,” Scully said. “When you love someone you want them to live a long life.”
“Is he good in bed, Agent Dana?”
“Watch your mouth, Stewart,” Rogers said warningly.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” Stewart said, leaning forward and staring at Scully intensely. “He gives really good head.”
Scully’s breath caught and Rogers exclaimed, “That’s it, Stewart, you’ve crossed the line. Get him out of here,” he said to the officers standing guard over Stewart, and they lifted him up and started to escort him out.
“Didn’t you know that, Agent Dana?” Stewart hollered at her, and she closed her eyes and turned her face away. “He begged for his life and I let him live a little longer for sucking my cock! He’s a coward, Dana! A coward and a faggot and he deserves to die! He deserves—” The door slammed shut.
Scully covered her face with her hands and breathed in quietly for a few moments. Rogers said awkwardly, “Look, if he’s telling the truth we’ll add it to the charges. Rape is still rape no matter who the victim is.”
“I know. I hope he’s lying. Mulder’s very … proud.”
“I’m sure he is, Agent Scully.” They both were silent a moment, then Rogers said, “I know it’s probably none of my business, but the question might arise later about how close the two of you actually are. Stewart saw it. He knew he could use it against you.”
“We are best friends,” Scully said quietly. “He … depends on me. And I lean on him.”
Rogers nodded. “All right. I understand. Look. I’m going to question Stewart later. Is there anything specific you want me to ask him?”
“You don’t want me there.”
“He’ll only try to provoke you. I might get something out of him if neither of you are here.”
“All right.” Scully nodded, suddenly achingly tired. “I’m going back to the hospital.”
“Give Agent Mulder my best.”
“I will. Thank you, Agent Rogers.”
“Sure.” He smiled at her reassuringly, and Scully got up to go.
When Mulder opened his eyes and focused them on her, Scully didn’t know what to say. She could only smile, but made no move to touch him yet. He smiled just as shyly and brushed his fingers against her cheek. “Hey.”
“Hey, yourself. How do you feel?”
“Like five miles of bad road. You?”
“I’m just glad you’re okay. They want to keep you overnight for observation but you can come home tomorrow.”
“Oh, good. Do I get any more drugs?” “I think you’re scheduled for some more in half an hour or so. Can you hold out?”
“Yeah. I’m tougher than I look.”
You’re just fragile enough, Scully thought. “Mulder,” she began.
“Okay.” She took a deep breath. “What you said in the emergency room—did you mean it? Or was that the pain talking? Because if you didn’t I understand—I mean, it’s okay—I mean, it’s not okay, but—” She stopped, feeling foolish and fourteen again. She could hardly bring herself to look at him. She finally raised her eyes.
He was looking at her steadily. “The pain made me honest, Scully.”
Scully pressed her hands to her mouth for a moment, and said in a voice barely above a whisper, “Really?”
“Really.” He frowned and said, “You didn’t say it just because I was hurt, did you?”
“No, no, never, I meant it—I mean it—I love you so much it hurts, Mulder.”
He chuckled slightly and said, “Love shouldn’t hurt, Scully. Even I know that.” He took her hand and pressed it to his chest. “You heal me, Scully,” he said, holding her with a gaze she found intense and comforting. “And I am never going to hurt you.”
“I know.” It had never crossed her mind, but still, it was good to hear him say so. She pressed his hand to her mouth again and cupped his palm around her face.
“Mulder,” she said cautiously. “Rogers and I started to question John Stewart.”
“Get anything useful?”
“No. He turned abusive. Rogers thinks he’ll get more if neither of us are there. Mulder, Stewart said some things—terrible things—”
“They’re probably all true.”
Scully closed her eyes for a moment, then said, opening them, “You’re not a coward.”
“I hope not.”
“I love you no matter what, you know that.”
He grinned. “Well, I do now.”
“If you don’t want to tell me what he made you do—”
“Made me do?”
“—or did to you, that’s okay, but it would be better if you told me.”
“Scully.” He caressed her cheek with his thumb. “He hurt me. A lot. He yelled a lot of things. He said a lot of things. And whatever he told you, it’s probably not as bad as you think.”
“He said—” Scully dropped her eyes and whispered, wondering why she was so scared, “He said he made you give him head.”
Mulder was silent for a long time. Finally he said, “He lied.”
“It’s okay to admit it, Mulder, I won’t think any less of you—”
“Scully. He lied. I didn’t beg, I didn’t cry, I sure didn’t take his nasty—anyway. Do you believe me?”
Scully nodded, and finally returned his smile.
“You need to get some rest,” Mulder said after a moment.
“I want to stay with you—”
“Scully. Go to the hotel. Get some sleep. You’ve had a hard time, too, I can see it in your face.”
“Oh, thank you,” Scully said with a touch of sarcasm.
“You just look tired.”
“I am tired. I don’t know if I’ll sleep, even if I try.”
“Try. Come back in the morning. We’ll talk some more then.”
“Are you sure you’ll be all right?”
“I’ll dream of you,” he said, smiling. “I’ll be fine.”
Scully sighed and stood and kissed his cheek. “It’s a good thing you’re so damn charming,” she murmured, “otherwise you’d be intolerable.”
“Thank you, dear. Good night.” But he still was holding onto her hand.
“You have to let me go, Mulder.”
“Kiss me first.”
“Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be, is it?” Scully said, but kissed him anyway. Even semi-stoned and trembling from pain and weariness, he was the best kisser she’d ever known. She wiped the lipstick traces off his mouth and said quietly, “Dream of me, love. Good night.” He released her hand and closed his eyes, smiling.
Scully went back to the hotel. She changed into her nightshirt and washed her face, turned on the TV for company and fell into an exhausted sleep. And when she dreamed, she dreamed of Mulder in her arms.
The hospital released Mulder after two days. He’d given a statement to the police as soon as he was coherent enough, and now wanted only to go home. Scully got them the first flight back to Washington she could find.
Mulder still was on painkillers and so he was groggy and disconnected as they waited to board the plane. He slouched in the plastic seat and rested his head on her shoulder. “Do you think Skinner missed us?” he asked at one point.
“I doubt it.”
“What did he say when you called him?”
“He said, ‘Get well soon.’” She smiled down at him fondly. Their flight was announced and she helped him sit up straight. “Upright time.”
“I can do upright.” He stood waveringly and Scully directed him towards the terminal. He grinned at the flight attendent who greeted them and told her, “See, I’m upright.”
“He’s been ill,” Scully said to the startled woman, who smiled weakly. Scully directed him to their seats and helped him sit and put on his seatbelt, and put their carryon bags into the compartments. He took off his trenchcoat and suit jacket and folded them up, and Scully took the jacket and unfolded it.
“I hardly need the airplane to fly,” Mulder said.
“That’s what worries me.” Just as long as he doesn’t break into the theme from ‘Shaft’ again …
But he didn’t seem inclined to do much of anything. He sat with his eyes closed and his hands folded over his stomach through the preflight speech and takeoff, and answered Scully’s questions with hums.
She let his doze for about an hour, then when he seemed to be waking up, tried again. “Do you need anything? Something to drink? A pillow?”
Mulder smiled without opening his eyes. “I’m set. I just want to sleep.”
“Well, let me know if you need anything,” Scully said, leaning back in her seat.
After a moment she said, “Are you sure you don’t need anything? You’ll let me know when you need another Percodan?”
“Scully,” Mulder said, opening his eyes at last. “If I could put my head on your shoulder I think I’ll sleep pretty well.”
“Okay,” Scully said, relieved she could do something for him. She put back her arm so that he could lay his head on her shoulder and wrapped her arm around his neck. It was a perfect position-she could kiss the top of his head, stroke his cheek, rub his shoulder or back. She did none of these things, however, but just held him. He slipped his arm around her waist, and reached for her other hand and wove his fingers through hers, and both their hands rested in her lap.
In a few slow breaths he was asleep again, and Scully allowed herself to relax. A steward came by and offered a blanket, which Scully accepted and spread over Mulder. He mumbled something and snuggled closer to her, his hand tightening on hers. Scully smiled and traced his ear with her fingertip. It seemed like years since she’d touched him, though it had been only days. She could hardly wait to get him home … put him to bed … join him, maybe?
Apparently his thoughts were traveling the same path, because his hand worked loose from hers and moved up to rest on her stomach. A pleasant wave of heat coursed through her, starting from under his hand. Scully leaned further into him, so that his forehead rested against her neck. He sighed and the arm around her waist pulled her to him even closer. His hand moved upward further, to just beneath her breasts. Scully closed her eyes and bit her lip, trying to get her breath even. Even if this was a late-night flight she didn’t want her neighbors to hear her start panting. Or moaning, she thought when his hand moved up to cup her breast. Her nipple hardened at once, and Scully hastily pulled the blanket up to cover herself as well. Oh, yes, she thought as his thumb began to circle her nipple, getting felt up by my sleeping partner on an airplane—this is very, very nice. He rubbed his forehead against her neck, and Scully moved her hand through his hair and stroked the back of his neck. Her breath sped up despite her best intentions, and she wondered if Mulder would want to take this further when he woke up.
Which, if she knew Percodan, would not be for a while.
Our best opportunity to join the Mile High Club and he’s out like high-button shoes. She sighed. His hand wasn’t out, that was the trouble, it was mobile and warm and finding all the right spots to touch her. Scully put her hand over his, stilling it. Mulder made a complaining sound and tugged his hand from under her grip. She held onto it, though, and brought both their hands down to her lap again. “Later,” she whispered to him. “When I get you home.”
And in his sleep, he smiled.
Mulder blinked up at the apartment building when the car came to a stop and said, “This isn’t my building.”
“Nope, it’s mine. I’m taking care of you for the next while and it’ll be easier on both of us if you’re here.”
“Aw, Scully, you don’t need to do that.”
“If I leave you alone you’ll live on takeout and Yoo-Hoo, and what kind of partner would I be if I let you die of malnutrition?”
“I don’t like Yoo-Hoo,” Mulder said.
“You know what I mean. Can you stand or do you need some help?”
“I can stand.” He opened the door and got carefully to his feet.
Scully got out as well and took the bags from the trunk, and scolded him when he tried to take one, “You know you’re not supposed to lift anything until your ribs heal.”
“What kind of partner would I be if I let you carry all the luggage?” he answered tartly, but let her carry the bags. He unlocked the front door and lay down on the sofa as soon as he was inside. Scully put their bags in her room and came back out to listen to the answering machine. There was the usual message from her mother-“Hi, honey, call me when you get back-” and the usual hang-ups. She was starting for the kitchen when a chillingly familiar voice came from the machine.
“Hi, Agent Dana. I bet you’re wondering how I got your number. I snagged Fox’s phone, you know. You’re zero on the auto-dialer, does that make you feel special? I just wanted you to know, when your partner sleeps-which he hasn’t done much, I’ll tell you that right now-he calls out your name. He goes in his head to someplace with you. I envy that, Agent Dana. I wish I had someplace to go with a beautiful woman when my life gets to be too much. Oh, well. I’d rather talk to you in person than over this thing, anyway. Goodbye.” He hung up and the time signature came on. He’d left the message only a few hours before they’d caught him.
Mulder had sat up on the couch, clutching his injured ribs, his eyes wide. “For a second, I thought-” he began, and then shook his head.
“So did I.” She went to him and kissed him gently. “You’re safe, Mulder.”
“I know, I know. Still … a new scenario for the old nightmare circuit, eh?” he said dryly.
“Not if I can help it,” Scully said seriously, stroking his face with her fingers. “I’m here to keep the nightmares away.”
“Oh … I appreciate the offer, but you don’t have to-”
“I want to.” She held him with a steady gaze. “I’m tired of sleeping alone, Mulder. I’m sure you are, too.”
He swallowed hard and said softly, “Yeah, but I thought we agreed to take it slow.”
“We said slow, not glacial. And I doubt you’re up to any athleticism tonight anyway, or that you will be anytime soon. But you’re sleeping in my bed, with me, and that’s final.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mulder said with a grin, and leaned forward carefully to kiss her.
“I missed you,” he whispered against her mouth.
“I missed you too. Did you really dream about me?”
“Of course. It’s common for someone in a desperate situation to retreat mentally, to go someplace where they have happy memories. So I thought of you.”
Scully leaned her head against his neck and sighed. “I love you so much,” she said quietly. “It scares me, Mulder, it really does. I know it shouldn’t, but it does. All the times I thought I lost you-and this, I was afraid I’d never get a chance to tell you-”
“Shh,” Mulder whispered soothingly, stroking her back. “It’s over. You’re not going to lose me, anymore than I’m going to lose you. I’d move mountains for you, Scully.”
“Now, that I’d like to see.” She looked up, smiling, and kissed him again. “Come on. Let’s go to bed.”
“Ahh, Scully,” Mulder groaned, “six years I’ve waited for you to say that and when you finally do-”
“Stop complaining, love, and just enjoy it. Do you need help up?”
“No — well, a little.” Scully untangled herself from him and helped to his feet. They made their way to the bedroom and she helped him change his clothes and put him to bed, and then got ready for bed herself and climbed in beside him. She spooned herself against his back, trying not to hold him too tightly around his cracked ribs, and he snuggled back against her.
“This is very nice,” he murmured.
“Yep.” She played with his hair and kissed behind his ear.
He yawned and turned his head back for a kiss. “Wake me if I have any nightmares, okay?”
“No nightmares tonight, Mulder. Not if I have anything to do with it.” She kissed the warm, sweet back of his neck, and he hummed appreciatively.
“Hey, Scully,” he murmured eventually, when she’d thought he was asleep.
“I love you.”
She smiled and kissed his cheek. “I love you too,” she whispered into his ear, and he smiled as well.
“Mmm. Now I can sleep.” He put one hand on top of hers, the one that rested over his heart.
They both slept soundly throughout the night.
The first morning as Scully was getting ready to leave, Mulder swore he could amuse himself-he had books to read, movies to watch, he’d be fine-but she hadn’t been twenty minutes out the door when her cell phone rang. She tucked the phone between her head and shoulder and said crisply, “Scully.”
“Hey, it’s me. What are you doing?”
“Driving. What are you doing?”
“Looking for Pop Tarts.”
“I told you there’s a box in the pantry.”
“I’m looking in the pantry and I don’t – oh, here they are. Mm, blueberry. Are you going to stop by the store on the way home?”
“What do we need, Mulder,” Scully said with a small sigh.
“They make these Pop Tarts that are S’mores flavored.”
“Yeah, chocolate and marshmallow in a graham cracker crust with chocolate frosting.”
“S’mores Pop Tarts. Okay, I’ll add it to the list.”
“Thanks. Hey, Scully.”
“I love you.”
She had to smile at that. “I love you too,” she said gently. “See you tonight. Bye.”
“Bye.” He hung up.
At ten-thirty her desk phone rang. She picked it up, turning away from her autopsy notes. “Scully.”
“Hey, it’s me.”
“Did I ask you if you have a copy of ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’?”
“No, you didn’t, and no, I don’t. I don’t think I’ve seen that one.”
“Oh, it’s great, it’s got Alec Guiness as a bank clerk who decides to go crooked and Audrey Hepburn’s in it for about two seconds.”
“Is it a romance?”
“It’s a comedy.”
“If you want Audrey Hepburn I have ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’”
“The book’s better.”
“I have the book, too. How many pills have you taken today, Mulder?”
“Just the two with breakfast. I feel very lucid right now, I’m just looking for a movie to watch.”
“Read me some titles and I’ll give you my recommendations.”
“I’ve seen just about everything you have. Even the Disney movies. I know every word to ‘Be Our Guest.’”
“Now that, Mulder, is truly frightening.”
“Do you agree or disagree with my thesis that ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ is Disney’s unacknowledged masterpiece?”
“I agree, now can I go back to work?”
“To this day I can’t watch ‘Bambi.’”
“It just shows you’re human. Have you decided on a movie yet?” “Maybe I’ll watch ‘Hunchback’ again. I really relate to Quasi’s songs, what are they, ‘Out There’ and ‘Heaven’s Light.’” He sang softly, “‘But suddenly an angel has smiled on me, and kissed my cheek without a trace of fright-’”
“I need to go back to work.”
“Okay,” he said with audible disappointment.
Scully smiled and said, “I’d love for you to sing to me when I get home.”
“Okay,” he said with more enthusiasm.
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Bye, Scully.” He hung up.
At one-forty her desk phone rang again. She answered it with a resigned sigh.
“Hi, it’s me.”
“How come you never told me what a great music collection you have? You’ve got almost everything.”
“That way no one can accuse me of bad taste. Did you take your pills with lunch?”
“Yep, I’m riding the Percodan highway as we speak.”
“Well, that explains it.”
“Just teasing you, love. Are you looking for something to listen to?”
“No, I just wanted to compliment you on your excellent taste. Although …”
“Yes?” She rubbed the bridge of her nose.
“Why have you got three different copies of Beethoven’s Ninth?”
“They’re all different, if you listen to them. Different conductors interpret them their own ways, and the soloists are different, and the one with Leonard Bernstein changes the words a little to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall.” She got no answer and said, “Mulder? Are you still there?”
After a pause he said softly, “You have the sexiest voice I’ve ever heard, Scully.”
“Thank you, Mulder.”
“When are you coming home?”
“I’ll leave at five.”
“That so long.”
“Maybe you should take a nap. You are supposed to be resting, you know.”
“Tell me a story.”
Oh, good lord. “Okay. Once upon a time there was a very busy doctor who was in love with a bored psychologist—”
“Oh, I get the hint. I’ll see you tonight. Scully.”
“Really love me?”
“Really truly love you.”
“Really truly madly love me?”
“Really truly madly deeply love you.” She couldn’t keep the smile out of her voice.
“Really truly madly deeply utterly love me?”
“Really truly madly deeply utterly completely love you.”
“Me, too. Bye.” He hung up.
Scully smiled and shook her head, hanging up the phone. If nothing else, being in love with Mulder was very entertaining.
She was on her way home after stopping at the grocery store when her cel l phone rang again. She pressed the Talk button and drove with one hand while she held the phone to her ear. “Scully.”
“Did you remember the Pop Tarts?”
“S’mores flavored, just like you said.”
“Thank you. Guess what I did.”
Oh, no. “What did you do?”
“Made you dinner. And cleaned up the kitchen. It should be ready by the time you get home.”
“Wow. I’m impressed.”
“I’m not a bad cook, Scully, just a lazy one. So I hope you’re hungry.”
“Famished. I’ll be there in twenty minutes. What did you make?”
“That’s a surprise. But I know you like it. Well-flavored with lots of love.”
Scully laughed. “The best flavoring of all. See you in a few minutes.”
“Bye.” He hung up.
When she reached the apartment it smelled of garlic and tomato sauce, and she could hear Mulder singing loudly from the kitchen to the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ videotape that was playing in the living room. “‘And out there, living in the sun, give me one day out there, all I ask is one, to hold forever-’”
She set down her briefcase in the living room and went to the kitchen. Mulder was standing at the stove, a towel around his waist and a wooden spoon in his hand, his eyes closed and his voice coming from his diaphragm. “‘Out there, where they all live unaware, what I’d give, what I’d dare, just to live one day out there-’” His voice cracked on the high note, which he covered nicely as he bent over the pot simmering on the stove. Scully put down the bag of groceries and plucked a flower from the bouquet she’d bought, and went to stand behind him. He took a deep breath and launched into the bridge, “‘Out there among the millers and the weavers and their wives, through the roofs and gables I can see them’—yah!” He whirled, brandishing the wooden spoon, and Scully grinned at him and twirled the flower she’d drawn across the back of his neck.
“You scared me, Scully.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to. This smells delicious, what is it?”
“Lasagna verde.” He spooned out some of the sauce and held it to her mouth. Scully tasted it.
“Mm. Delicious.” She stood up on her toes to kiss his cheek. “I see you managed to amuse yourself without me.”
“I managed. Two naps, two movies, and all three of your Beethoven’s Ninths.”
“Did you have a good lunch? Something healthy?”
“Peanut butter and banana sandwich.”
She rolled her eyes. “Healthy enough.” They kissed again quickly, and Scully took out a vase to put the flowers in. She couldn’t help but smile at how easily they settled into this routine. “You make a very cute househusband,” she said, slipping an arm around his waist.
“Great, I’m cute.”
“How are you feeling? Are the ribs hurting you?”
“Just a little. My hand has settled into a dull throb,” he wiggled his fingers, “my nose feels extremely sensitive and my left eye is a little blurry, but other than that I’m fine.”
“Blurry? Still? Track my finger.” She held up one finger and his eyes followed it. “Hm. Seems to be okay. If this lasts much longer I want you to go to an optometrist.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He kissed her again. “Hungry? It’s ready.”
“Let me go change my clothes first.”
His mouth raised in the beginnings of a grin and he said from deep in his throat, “Well, if you must,” and kissed her firmly, leaving her no doubts as to what he was hoping for.
“Give me five minutes,” Scully said, a little breathlessly, and went to her bedroom with a smile she couldn’t repress. If he’d up to it, she thought, I’m not going to say no.
She stripped off her suit, and, after a moment’s thought, her utilitarian underwear as well. An emerald-green satin bra and matching panties went on in their place, and then one of her more daring purchases, a necklace that went around her waist with a tiny crystal drop that hung just below her navel. Jeans and a cashmere sweater in a pale shade of green went on top, and she left her feet bare. Mulder could discover her more exciting underwear one piece at a time. She smoothed some lotion on her hands and feet and went back to the kitchen.
The lasagna was on the table and Mulder was spooning the sauce over it. There was also a salad and garlic bread, and he’d opened a bottle of wine and put the vase of flowers on the table. Scully paused in the doorway for a moment, admiring him. He was so handsome, long and elegant and graceful from his hands to his feet. She sighed and he turned around and smiled.
“Hey. Let’s eat.” He pulled out a chair for her and she sat down. He bent over and kissed her firmly, his hand on the back of her chair. For a moment Scully was tempted to suggest they forego dinner and get straight to the lovin’, but he’d worked too hard and it smelled too good and she was too hungry to let it go to waste.
The meal was mostly a silent one, though they found they could hardly bear to look away from each other. They fed each other without prompting, and their feet entwined under the table. And Scully knew what was on his mind when he kissed away some sauce that escaped her mouth, and his mouth stayed on hers for far longer than cleaning up the sauce required. He moved out of his chair and knelt carefully on the floor and continued kissing her gently, framing her face in his hands and then moving his hands down to her thighs. Scully put her arms around his neck and opened her lips to him and flicked her tongue against his teeth until they parted. She swept her tongue around his mouth and he began to suck on it, his hands slowly rubbing up and down her thighs. Scully pulled back after a few minutes of this, holding his face in her hands.
“We can either clean up and the kitchen and then go play, or just go play and clean it up in the morning. And pasta sauce is a bitch to clean up after sitting out overnight.”
“I guess we’re cleaning it up now.” He got to his feet and began to clean the table. Scully watched him for a moment, then got up to help him.
When the kitchen was clean they went to the living room, where “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was still playing. Mulder stopped the tape and rewound it, and they settled onto the sofa. Mulder put his head in Scully’s lap, facing upwards.
Scully stroked his face and played with his hair, smiling at him gently.
“You were saying …” Mulder said from low in his throat.
“What? Oh. Well. I suppose something is going to happen tonight, isn’t it.”
“I’m not opposed to it, no.”
“Are you sure you’re up to it?”
“I’m sure.” He frowned a little and said, “Are you?”
“Oh, yes. I’m sure.”
“Maybe we should move into the bedroom.”
“This is nice, though.”
“Yeah, it’s nice.” His hand snaked into her hair and brought her head down for a kiss. “But we’d be more comfortable lying down,” he whispered.
“I thought you wanted to take it slow,” she teased.
“You’ve put ideas into my head, Scully. If you’ve changed your mind …”
“I haven’t changed my mind. I love you so much, Mulder.”
He sat up and they kissed hungrily. “Come to bed with me, Scully,” he said softly, and she nodded and they stood.
“Let me lock up first,” she said softly. He watched her lock the doors and windows and turn out the lights, and then she held out her hand and he took it. She led him to her bedroom and reached over to turn off the light.
“Don’t,” Mulder said. “I want to see you. I want to watch you.”
Scully shivered at the implication, and then found his hand was trembling in hers. “Nervous?”
“A little. Last time there wasn’t enough time to get nervous. This time I want it to be perfect for you.”
She smiled and kissed him. “I trust you,” she said quietly. “I love you. And right now I need you, Mulder.” She sat on the edge of the bed, cupping his hand to her face. He joined her, touching her face as if in wonder. He kissed her slowly, his fingers on her neck and then moving down her shoulders, her arms, to weave between her fingers and press her hands against his chest. His heart was racing, and there was a pulse throbbing in his throat.
“This is what you do to me,” he whispered. He moved her hand to his flushed face. “And this.” He moved her hand into his lap, cupping it around his hard flesh. “And this, Scully. You do this to me.” She moaned at the feel of him, and pressed his hands to her breasts, where her nipples were already hard and aching.
“This is for you,” she told him, and he groaned and pressed his cheek against her chest. She moved his hand to the gathering dampness between her legs, and he groaned again. He pushed her onto her back and kissed her breasts through her sweater, cupping her mound with one hand and kneading her breast with the other. He unbuttoned her sweater, kissing her chest as he went until he reached the waistband of her jeans. He moved back up to kiss her mouth and slipped the button of her jeans open and slowly lowered the zipper. He eased the jeans from her hips and let them fall to the floor, and teased the crystal drop that hung from the chain around her waist.
“This is cute,” he whispered.
“That wasn’t the look I was going for.”
“And sexy, yeah. Very sexy.” He bent his head and took the crystal into his mouth, and sucked it for a moment. He circled her navel with his tongue and moved up to kiss her mouth again. “But then I’d find you sexy in a burlap bag, Scully.”
“Mm, you smooth talker,” Scully teased and pushed him onto his back. She kissed him deeply, running her hands through his hair, and then sat up and pulled off her sweater. She reached back to undo her bra, and Mulder stopped her.
“Let me,” he said, and Scully dropped her hands. Mulder traced the line of her bra with his fingers, over her breasts to her back. He unhooked her bra and drew it down her arms. His breath deepened and he sat up, wrapping his arms around her. He closed his eyes and kissed between her breasts for a moment, before gently taking one of her nipples into his mouth. Scully groaned at the wet warmth of his mouth, raking her hands through his hair and stroking her hands down his back. She moved her legs so that they wrapped around his waist, and he moved up onto his knees and lowered her onto her back. His mouth moved from breast to breast, teasing her nipples with little licks and nips. Scully’s head tossed back and forth, and she moaned helplessly, her back arching upwards toward him.
“Mulder, please,” her voice was ragged, “too many clothes, please, take off your clothes.”
“Soon,” he murmured, “soon.” He slipped his hands into her panties and pulled them down, dropping them to the floor. He kissed her face and mouth, pushing her legs apart with his knees. Scully thought she hadn’t felt anything so erotic as the soft denim of his jeans against her bare skin, as the texture of his Henley thermal shirt rubbing against her nipples. To be completely naked and vulnerable in his arms, to see the passion in his eyes, to feel her juices flowing in anticipation of his body. He raised his head to kiss her again, and she smiled.
“I want you in me.”
Two of his fingers sank into her before she even finished speaking and she moaned. “Like this, Scully?” he whispered, his thumb grazing her tiny nub with each stroke. “Is this good? Is this what you want?”
“Yes, oh, god, Mulder—” Her hips bucked against his hand.
“Or do you want me completely inside you?” He pulled his hand from her and sucked her juices from his fingers. “You’re delicious, Scully,” he said, and she moaned. “You taste like smoke and honey. Your skin is like cream, like velvet.” He kissed her neck and her face. “I love you. I love how much you trust me.”
“I need you, Mulder.” She tugged on the hem of his shirt. He let her pull it off and wrapped himself around her again, kissing her as she unbuttoned his jeans and pulled them and his boxer shorts down his legs. She kissed the planes of his chest, stroked his thighs, weighed his balls in her hands and rubbed her cheeks against his erection. Mulder groaned and grabbed her, pulled her up to him and turned her onto her back. He pushed into her with one long stroke, moaning her name. Scully’s nails dug into his back, and her back arched up, pushing against him to bring him deeper.
He was rough and smooth and soft and hard all at once, gentle and fierce, passionate and tender. Covering her with kisses, teasing her breasts, filling her with his body so that she thought she might split in half. “Your ribs,” she gasped at one point, and he merely grunted a brusque, “They’re fine.” He fed on her neck, drank from her mouth. She bit and sucked and lapped at him until control fled her and she was lost in him, drowning in him, falling into him. And he flooded her with his seed, her name on his lips. His limbs gave out and he rolled onto his back, bringing her with him. They both were panting for breath, hanging onto each other as if nothing else existed.
“How do you feel?” Scully whispered.
“Loved.” She smiled and lifted her head enough to kiss him, and then cradled her head in the crook of his neck. “Your ribs aren’t hurting you any?”
“Not enough to worry about.”
“What about your hand?”
She began to move over him, tenderly kissing the little cuts still healing on his shoulders and chest. “I love you so much,” she whispered. “I don’t ever want to lose you.”
“You’re never going to, Scully. I promise.”
She raised her head and smiled. “I know.” She brushed his lips with hers and lay her head on his chest.
“I can hear your heart,” she said softly, after a while.
“What’s it saying?” Mulder murmured, running his hand through her hair.
“‘Be gentle with me.’” She kissed the skin over his heart, and whispered, “I will.”
— III —
Flight 0315, Barcelona to Tel Aviv
18 December 2000, 12:23 p.m.
Scully stretched her stiff and aching legs in front of her, too tired to stand.Her back complained of the forced discomfort from sitting for so long. Her neck was stiff as well. She’d managed to grab a few hours’ sleep in Barcelona,butshe’d been too worried about missing her flight to allow herself to relax.Time enough for that when she reached Rome.
Rome. Her toes curled inside her shoes. Sleep, in a bed, in a safe house,with him. She would hold him so tight, and never let go. She would kiss him all over. She would lie wrapped in his strong arms, surrounded by his warmth, his tenderness, his love. She would feel safe. She would be safe. She didn’t care where they went from there, as long as they were together. For all she knew, hewas planning to stay in Rome. She’d have to learn Italian, then. It was a small
price to pay. Minimal.
Scully shifted onto her side a little, trying to ease the aching muscles in her back. The Fish was restless as well, kicking and turning. Scully sighed and rubbed her tummy, trying to soothe it. She rarely thought of the baby in terms of him or her, not wanting to get used to the idea of one gender over the other. Boy or girl, it didn’t matter. The Fish was healthy and alive, and that was all she could ask for. That the Fish existed at all was miracle enough.
Where are you, my love? she thought, staring past her seatmates to the view outside. Somewhere over the Pacific, still? Over Asia? She was not completely sure of the route he was taking, but she only knew he was flying one direction as she flew the other. Are you sleeping? Are you dreaming of me? Have peaceful dreams, my darling. I love you. We love you. She sighed again, hugging her tummy. You, too, my precious. What do babies dream of, I wonder? Warmth, peace, nourishment? Dream of oceans, beloved. Warm and gentle oceans, rocking you to sleep. She leaned back her head, still rubbing her stomach lovingly, and when she slept she dreamed of her love, flying around the world to meet her.
18 August 2000
The victim lay on the autopsy table, still covered with a plastic sheet. Scully came into the autopsy bay in her scrubs and white tennis shoes, her hair pulled back in a scrunchy. Detective Michael Quinn of the Boston P.D. was waiting for her, as well as the department pathologist, a young man named Horner. He said, as soon as Scully had shut the door, “From the decomposition I’d guess our girl has been dead at least a week, maybe longer. I couldn’t find any insect casings or twigs on the body, so I’d say she’s been wrapped up in plastic or kept inside until the suspect decided it was time for us to find her.”
“Have you determined cause of death?” Scully asked.
The men both sighed and exchanged glances. “That’s why we asked for you and your partner, Dr. Scully,” Quinn said. “As far as we can tell, these girls died of heart failure.”
“Teenage girls with healthy hearts and no evidence of drug abuse,” Horner added. “You want to hear my theory? It’s a little out there.”
“Tell me your theory,” Scully said, smiling a little. To think any theory could surprise her now.
“I think these girls were frightened to death. You’ll see it particularly on our Jane Doe, here. Rigor mortis doesn’t explain an expression like this.” He pulled back the plastic to reveal the victim.
Scully looked down at the body, which was in an advanced state of decomposition, and then did a very unprofessional thing: she turned to the nearest sink and threw up.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she muttered in embarrassment, and turned on the faucet to rinse her mouth and clean the sink out.
“Are you not feeling well, Dr. Scully?” Quinn said anxiously. “I know it’s not a pretty sight —”
“I’ve been unwell the past few days. I’ll be all right in a minute. Let me catch my breath.” She took several deep breaths, wondering if she was blushing as furiously as she felt like she was, and looked up, startled, to see the door open and admit Mulder to the morgue.
“I’m afraid your partner’s not doing too good,” Horner said, with an attempt at joviality.
Mulder’s face creased with concern at once, and he went to Scully and said, “Did you throw up again?”
“Yeah. It’s probably just something I ate.”
“All that ice cream last night finally disagreed with you, is that it?” He smiled a little, then said seriously, “Scully, you’ve got to see a doctor about this. Now. Today.”
“I will when we get back to D.C. We’ve got a case to solve first.” She wished she could curl up in Mulder’s arms and let him rock her to sleep. Maybe when they got back to the hotel. She’d been too weary and sick to make love for days, but Mulder held her every night and had even held her hair back the last few mornings.
“Then at least go back to the hotel and rest. I’ll finish up here. You’re more use to me healthy, you know.”
Scully looked up at him and sighed. He was expecting an argument, but the truth was she was much too tired to argue. “Right. Okay. I’ll go.” She noticed with gratitude that Horner had covered over the body again, and she said apologetically, “Some other time, I guess, gentlemen. I’m sorry.”
“Just get better, Dr. Scully,” Quinn said, and Horner nodded.
“We’ll do all right. Get well soon.”
“Thanks.” She made her way slowly to the locker room to change back into her street clothes, pulling the scrunchy from her hair. She heard the three of them talking in low voices, and sighed, hoping they weren’t discussing her.
She sat down on the locker room bench and leaned over, resting her arms on her lap and her head on her arms. She was so tired. Ridiculously so, considering she’d been getting more sleep in the past few days than in the last two months.
Not that she’d trade being Mulder’s lover for an uninterrupted night’s sleep, never that. She smiled to herself. Mulder’s lover. She was Mulder’s lover. It was still new enough to give her an inner thrill, and she hoped it always would be. Waking up in his arms, as she had that morning, gave her a feeling of peace and warmth that she’d never experienced before. She trusted him utterly, all but lived for his touch, gloried in the smile that only she could bring to his face. He was tender and inventive, never demanding and always considerate.
Safe, she thought drowsily. That was it. Mulder made her feel safe.
She forced herself to her feet and changed her scrubs for her suit, easing her feet into her low-heeled shoes. Either her feet had swollen or the shoes had shrunk, because they felt terribly tight. She ran a brush through her hair and packed up her scrubs and shoes, and went back to the morgue.
Mulder, Horner and Quinn were still talking over the corpse, and Mulder looked up at her and smiled gently. “I’ll drive you to the hotel.”
“I can just wait in the car. I’ll nap or something.”
“At the hotel, Scully,” Mulder said firmly. He excused himself from Horner and Quinn, and led Scully out of the police station, carrying her bag. It took all of Scully’s determination not to lean on him as they walked. She was so tired, and he was so sturdy …
She was silent on the drive to the hotel, and Mulder kept looking at her, but said nothing either. She wanted to tell him it was nothing to worry about, she was fine, just tired, but she knew nothing she could say would ease his mind.
In the hotel room she took off her shoes and let them lie where they dropped, and brushed her teeth to get the sour taste out of her mouth. She changed her suit for a t-shirt and pajama shorts and lay down on the bed. Mulder got her a cup of water and the aspirin bottle from her bag, and set them on the night stand beside the bed. He sat down on the edge of the bed and rubbed a soothing hand on her back.
“What do you think it is, Scully?” he asked softly.
“Flu.” He lay the back of his hand against her forehead, then her cheek. “You don’t feel feverish.”
“Maybe something I ate.”
“For a week?”
“I don’t know, Mulder,” she said testily. “Let me just get some rest.”
He went on rubbing her back for a moment, then said softly, “How long since your last period, Scully?”
“Three or four weeks, why?”
“Actually, it’s been six.”
“Oh.” She opened her eyes and studied him for a moment. “Whatever you’re thinking, you know it’s impossible, Mulder.”
“I’m just looking at the facts, Scully. You have morning sickness, you’ve missed a period, you’ve had unprotected sex for almost two months, your breasts are more sensitive than usual—” She raised her eyebrows at this and he smiled self-consciously. “You came just from my sucking your breast, Scully, I notice things like that.”
“You’re forgetting one important thing. I’m barren. My ova were taken.” A pained expression came over his face, and Scully sat up and wrapped her arms around his neck. “As much as I would love to have a child with you,” she said gently, “it’s not going to happen.”
“But look at the facts -”
“I am. I’m looking at all of them. And the facts tell me that I’ve come down with some form of the flu and just need to rest.” She kissed him gently. “I’ll see you later, love. Thank you for taking care of me.”
He kissed her back and leaned his forehead against hers. “Feel better, Scully,“he said, and drew the coverlet over her. With one last kiss he left her, shutting the door softly behind him.
Scully turned onto her side and pillowed her head on her arm. She turned Mulder’s words over and over in her mind. The facts were there, and if her period didn’t come in a week or two that would be even more evidence. And she always considered the evidence.
Unprotected sex. Well, that was easy. They both had clean bills of health, and the chance of pregnancy was not – often – on her mind.
Sensitive breasts. It could just be from all the sex, her body was attuned to all the attention it was getting. It could be a side effect, like her glowing skin and eyes and the new bounce in Mulder’s walk.
Dairy cravings. Women need calcium. Easy.
Missed periods. Stress. She’d been irregular since her abduction, and between stress from the work and cancer treatments and, well, everything, a missed period or two was not that uncommon.
The vomiting. It had to be some sort of summer flu.
But … could I actually be …?
No. It was ridiculous. Impossible. Absurd.
I’m not pregnant, she thought. There’s no way it could be true. She sighed, and her hands rested on her stomach lightly. A part of her longed for it to be true – she would love to present Mulder with a hazel-eyed UberScully – but everything she knew about her own body said it would never be.
A tear escaped her eye and she wiped it away impatiently. Damn Mulder for putting the idea into her head. Damn herself for wanting to believe him. She pulled the sheets over her head. If she wept before she went to sleep, it was just because she was overwrought.
At least, that’s what she told herself.
2 September 2000
Scully looked at her gynecologist skeptically, wondering if the words she was hearing were real or a hallucination. “I don’t know how it’s possible, Dana,” Sherry Grant was saying. “According to everything I know about medicine it should be impossible. But I am looking at a perfectly healthy, pregnant woman.”
“So there’s no mistake.”
“None. I can do one more blood test if you want—”
“No, thanks. I believe you.” She sighed, running her hands through her hair.
Sherry sat down next to her and said quietly, “I take it this isn’t entirely welcome news.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just unexpected, unplanned on -”
“No, no. Wanted. Definitely wanted.”
“Will the father be supportive?”
“Yes, he will. I think he will. I’m sure he will. He wants children. It’s just that the timing is all wrong.”
Sherry laughed lightly, and said, “Dana, if people waited until it was convenient to have children no one would have children at all.”
“I know, I know.” She didn’t feel she could explain it to Sherry. She could barely explain it to herself. “Thank you, Sherry.” She picked up her purse and got up to go.
“Dana. Wait. At your age, having a baby isn’t the easiest process. I’d like to schedule an amniocentesis as soon as possible.”
Scully stopped and turned back. “For what?”
“Well, to check for birth defects, that sort of thing. You can even find out the baby’s sex, if you want. It’s probable that everything’s fine, but it’s best to find out as soon as we can and see what we can correct.”
Her mouth felt wooly and dry. “And if something’s wrong that we can’t correct?”
Sherry said gently, “Then it’s up to you.”
Scully nodded, picked up the brochures Sherry had given her on how to treat herself and what to expect, and left the doctor’s office. But instead of going back to the J. Edgar Hoover building, she went for a long walk along the Washington Mall.
It was entirely possible that something could be wrong with the child. She’d had so much radiation pounding her body in the last few years that it was a wonder she didn’t glow in the dark. And who knew what else they’d done to her, how they’d altered her genes. Even Mulder was not untouched – the black cancer and its cure could have effected him in ways they’d never imagined.
Who knew what kind of creature could be growing inside her. It might not even be human.
The answer was simple. She could abort the pregnancy. Prevent the suffering of a misbegotten child.
Except that every ounce of her being rebelled against the thought – not just the Catholic upbringing that had insisted on the sanctity of life, but her own desire, her yearning for a child of her own making. Even if it was … different. She was strong, she knew the risks and pressures of bringing up a special needs child. She could do it.
And Mulder could do it, too.
“Ma’am?” A tourist in a bright floral shirt leaned over her, offering her his handkerchief. “Are you all right?”
Scully took the handkerchief and wiped her face. She hadn’t realized she had been crying, but she was smiling now. “I’m fine, thank you,” she said. “I just found out I’m going to have a baby.”
He smiled and folded the handkerchief into his pocket. “Well, congratulations, ma’am. I’m sure your husband will be thrilled.”
Ah. Yes. That was another complication. She said, “Yes, I’m sure he will,” thanked him again for the use of his handkerchief, and started towards her car. She still had lots of thinking to do.
There were times when Mulder had to sit back and marvel at the blessing of Scully in his life. That this strong, intelligent woman liked him was amazing enough. That she supported him, listened to him and challenged him, was everything he could wish for in a friend. That she was not only passionate in bed but also mind-bendingly hot, and that she liked making love with him, liked his hands on her body, seemed like sheer good luck. That she loved him—perennial nominee for Doofus of the Year that he was—was downright unbelievable.
And now this.
“What?” he whispered, wanting to hear those delicious words again.
“I’m pregnant, Mulder. We’re having a baby.” There was a hint of a smile on her lips. Just a hint. She looked more worried than anything else.
His own face was nearly split by his grin. She’d chosen the perfect time and place to tell him – her apartment, her bedroom, her bed, when they both were satiated and lazy with love, the golden light from her lamp playing over her milky skin. Her hair tousled, her lips swollen, her little hands slowly stroking his bare chest. She’d been too weary to make love for days, and so this had been hungry, intense. She’d pulled the sheet up to just under her arms, and there was a tantalizing dip over her breasts so that he was sure with a little more movement it would expose one rosy peak. And if it didn’t by itself, he was more than willing to encourage it.
He realized with a start that she was waiting for his response. She had not looked at him since she’d dropped this bombshell, and her hands suddenly stilled. She started to sit up from his embrace, and he pulled her back fiercely. He moved her on top of him and kissed her. “I love you,” he said. “I love you so much. And this is the best news I have ever, ever heard.”
The tension drained from her body almost at once, and she nuzzled her nose against his. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“Thank me? What for?”
“For not running away screaming.”
He laughed and kissed her. “It’s going to take more than a baby to get rid of me, Dana Katherine. Oh, wow. A baby. We’re having a baby.” He kissed all around her face and landed the last one on her mouth.
“Mulder, Mulder, wait a minute. Please. Listen to me. This is really serious.”
“I know, I just want to celebrate.”
“There may not be cause to celebrate.” She sat up, straddling him, and the sheet fell away completely. Mulder moaned softly, wondering how she expected him to think clearly when she was sitting over him, naked. He dragged his eyes to her face. Not much help there, either. She was much too beautiful and he loved her too much, even with her serious face on.
“Tell me why not. I mean, I know the timing’s awful and it’s going to change things a lot, but, my God, Scully, a baby!”
“A baby which might not be entirely normal.” She looked down at his chest and said softly, “Which might not be normal at all.”
He hadn’t considered that. He sighed and rubbed her legs, trying to soothe her. “Then we’ll deal with it, Scully. We’ll manage.” A frown crossed his face, and he said, “You are happy about the baby, aren’t you?”
“I think I’m more in shock than anything else. I mean, this wasn’t supposed to happen, Mulder. We knew that I was barren, we knew what happened to my ova – I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that fact that this baby exists at all.”
“Scully,” he said cautiously, “if you don’t want to, I won’t force you to. I mean -”
She laid her finger over his lips. “But I do want to. That’s another thing that scares me. I know I could give birth to E.T., but I want to have this baby. No matter what.” She leaned down to kiss him, nudging his lips open with the tip of her tongue. “I want this baby,” she whispered, kissing him still. “I want your baby.” She wrapped her arms around his head and kissed him deeply and more deeply, and Mulder began to stroke his hands slowly down her sides and her back. “I want you,” Scully murmured, “I love you,” and that was all it took. Her mouth
left his and moved slowly around his face, down his neck, over his chest. She closed her lips over his nipple and circled it with her tongue, her hands slowly caressing his arms, his thighs, his sides. Mulder watched her through partially-closed eyes. He rarely let her just lavish her attentions on him – he preferred to participate, not just observe – but sometimes it was nice to let her do all the work. And she was so good at it.
She let go of his nipple and looked up at him for a moment, smiling. “Do you like this, Mulder?” she whispered, her voice low and husky. “Do you like it when I kiss you like this?”
“What about like this?” She licked his chest, following the line of his pectoral muscles, using the flat of her tongue, and then swirled her tongue up to his nipple and circled it extravagantly.
“Ohhh, Scully … that’s nice.”
She quirked an eyebrow at him and said, “Nice, Mulder? That’s all?”
“Um, really nice?”
She laughed and continued kissing him, working her way down to his stomach where she tongued his belly button and nibbled his ticklish spots, and then down to his thighs. She looked up at him quizzically for a moment, then smiled and murmured, “Later,” and continued kissing his body – his knees, his calves, the arches and then the soles of his feet. She sucked his toes playfully, then sat up on her knees and stretched her arms over her head for a moment. “Should I go on, Mulder?” she whispered, and he moaned in response. “I think I should go on,” she confirmed, and crawled up his legs, parting them. She knelt between his legs, and without ceremony took his semi-erect member into her mouth.
Hot wet tongue, gently grazing teeth, soft warm lips. Suction, increasing with each pass. Fingers stroking, palms cupping, and in the center of it all was her warm delicious mouth, bringing him to the edge of ecstasy. She made soft humming sounds as she sucked him, a sound he loved almost as much as the moans that signaled her own climax.
He loved that she enjoyed this. Some women didn’t, which he knew well, but his Scully did. It was like a gift to him, giving him pleasure while asking none for herself, even though he did the same for her many times more. And he would before this night was over, if she let him.
He put one hand tenderly in her hair and stroked the nape of her neck. “I love you so much,” he moaned, his chest heaving. “You’re everything to me, Scully.”
He ran his hands through her hair and stroked her face, giving himself over to her entirely. And when he came she drank him down, swallowing every drop that he gave her.
Scully lifted her head and delicately wiped the corners of her mouth, grinning at him. “Doing okay?”
He smiled at her weakly. “Doing fine.”
“Good.” She added softly, “Daddy.”
“Mommy,” he answered, and got a full-wattage ScullySmile in response. “Have you told anyone else?”
“Only my gynecologist. You had to know first.”
“And I’d like to not tell many people yet. Just in case something happens.”
A shiver ran through him, and he reached for her. She came into his arms willingly. “Like what?” he whispered, nuzzling her neck.
“Do you think there’s a possibility?”
“I don’t know.” She looked up at him and whispered, “I’m so scared, Mulder. So much could go wrong. And I want this baby so much.”
“I know, love. And I’ll take the best care of you I can. Both of you,” he added, and bent to kiss her tummy, the soft, smooth, plane that soon would round out with his child … he found that he was shivering again, but with something other than fear this time. Wonder and anticipation and frank lust.
And love. Always love. Love so great it shook him to his core, amazed him with its strength.
“Scully,” he whispered, looking up at her as he slowly stroked her sides, “when should we get married?”
“Married?” she said softly.
“Well,” he said, grinning, “I really ought to make an honest woman out of you, don’t you think?”
She sighed, slowly running her hand through his hair. “Mulder … don’t take this the wrong way …”
He raised his eyebrows and sat back, wondering what this was leading up to.
“I don’t want to marry you just because I’m pregnant.”
“That’s not the only reason, Scully.”
“But it’s the main one, isn’t it? We’ve talked about this before. The same problems exist, they haven’t disappeared. It may make things even more difficult, in fact.”
“I know …” Mulder began in frustration.
“I do love you, you know that, don’t you? And I want to be your wife. Just not yet.”
“Then what are we going to tell people? That we’re a modern couple and don’t believe in marriage? We’re not hippies, Scully, nobody will buy that.”
“We won’t tell anyone anything,” Scully said softly.
Mulder stared at her, then rolled off the bed and began hunting for his clothes. “I don’t believe this,” he said in a low voice, pulling on his pants. “After all we’ve been through, you go and pull this on me -”
“Don’t go,” Scully said softly.
“Why the hell not, Scully? Am I just the sperm donor? Is that what this is? Shit, Scully, it’s my child too.”
“I know.” She pulled up her knees and wrapped her arms around them. “I know, I know.”
“Then what’s going on? Why don’t you want to marry me?”
She shook her head and whispered, “You know why. Because it will just give them more ways to hurt you.”
“They hurt you through me. I refuse to give them any more ammunition than I can help. We won’t tell people it’s your child, not right away. We’ll wait until it’s safe -”
“When will that be, when we’re grandparents?” Mulder said bitterly. “You’re going to make me watch my baby grow up from afar? Is that what you’re thinking?”
“No, no – dammit, Mulder, I don’t know what to do! I’m scared, don’t you understand that? I’m trying to think of what’s best for us and this is the only thing I can come up with! If you have a better idea -”
“Fuck ‘em, Scully, I’ve said that all along. Fuck ‘em. I love you, I want to marry you, fuck the consequences, fuck the people who think they can run our lives, fuck ‘em and the horse they rode in on -” He stopped his rant and sat down on the bed. Scully was crying. She was crying and he hadn’t even realized it, he hadn’t even noticed when she started. “Oh, baby, I’m sorry,” he said tenderly and pulled her into his arms. “I’m sorry, baby.”
“We have to think of the consequences,” she whispered. “I’m not going to give birth to a child only to have it taken away from me. I’m not going to stand up in front of everyone I care about and show them how much I love you only to lose you to the shadows. I’m going to do whatever I have to, to protect us. If there was something else … but there isn’t, Mulder. There isn’t. And even though I want to marry you and live with you and grow old with you …” Her voice deceived her at last and she began to sob, clinging to him.
“Sh, sh,” he whispered, rocking her and kissing her, but it was some time before she calmed down. “We’ll be all right,” he whispered, though he knew she didn’t believe him.
— IV —
Flight 1708, Hong Kong to Rome
It was not the first time he had been to Hong Kong. He saw nothing of the city, staying in it long enough only to change planes. The preflight speech was given in English and Chinese, and he paid no attention to either. All he wanted was Scully. His best friend. His lover. His wife. The mother of his child. His entire world. I shouldn’t have done this, he thought, running his hands relentlessly through his hair. We should have gone together, it would have been safe enough, I shouldn’t have sent her alone, who knows what could happen to her –
“Sir?” The man next to him touched his arm gently. “Are you all right, sir?”
Mulder looked up. The man was older, wearing a suit, with a kind smile and an American accent. “Heading home?”
“No,” Mulder said. “Touring.”
“You don’t seem very enthused, for a tourist.”
Mulder sighed. He leaned over his lap and rested his head on his folded arms. “Please leave me alone,” he whispered. “Please don’t ask me questions. I can’t, right now, I can’t -”
“It’s okay, son.” He rubbed Mulder’s shoulders gently. “You’re a long way from home. You’ll be all right.”
“I just miss her so much.”
“Of course, you do, son.”
“We’ve only been married two days and I need to see her, I need to touch her, she’s five thousand miles away, I just – I just -” He was sobbing. How had this started? Who was this guy? He could be anybody, he could be in the consortium, he could be the Cancer Man’s younger brother. But the man was holding him around his shoulders, murmuring to him in the same way Mulder murmured to the Fish when it was restless, comforting nothings that soothed him even though he knew they were not necessarily true.
“You’ll be all right. You’ll see her again. She’ll be safe. You’ll be all right.”
Mulder wiped his face with his hands, embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to – it’s been a rough couple of days.”
“I take it the wedding was an unexpected event? Perhaps … unwelcome? “
“Unexpected, yes. Shotgun, kind of. But I wanted to. I had wanted to for a long time. So, no, not unwelcome.”
“So, tell me why you’re five thousand miles apart when you’ve only been married for two days.”
Mulder ran the story through his mind. It sounded crazy even to him, and he’d lived through it. So he said, “It’s complicated.”
The man nodded in understanding. “All right. You have no reason to confide in me. But I hope, son, that the reason you’ve done this is worth the effort you’ve made.”
“Her life. Our baby. Yeah, I’d say they’re worth it.”
The man smiled gently, and took his arm away from Mulder’s shoulders. “Yes, I’d say they were too.”
October 20, 2000
Scully turned to give herself a side view in her bedroom mirror. There was no mistaking it. She showed. For the last few weeks it had been just a bit of rounding to her normally flat stomach, as if she’d indulged in fudge sundaes a few times too often in the last few weeks. But this was undeniable, unmistakable pregnancy. Still, if she wore loose enough clothes no one would notice unless they looked closely.
She ran her hands over her belly, smiling absently. Already she could feel a faint breeze of movement from its tiny limbs. Soon she’d be able to feel it kicking and hiccuping and jostling up against her organs. Soon they’d need to decorate a nursery and buy itty bitty clothes and soft, friendly toys and little hats and shoes…
Or she’d need to, anyway. She’d told no one, not even her mother, that she was pregnant, and so of course had told no one that Mulder was the father, something he still chafed against. They had made love only twice since she’d told him about the baby, not daring to steal more time. They had to make do with phone sex the rest of the time, which was, Scully thought, a poor substitute. Mulder was no happier with it, but what could they do? Their out-of-state cases afforded them little time to themselves, and they didn’t want to take chances on their own apartments, so that left sneaking into a local hotel or using the phone.
She was half-expecting it to ring now, in fact. In fact, Mulder’s usual call was late. If he was going to call at all. They’d fought at work again, and Scully, her nerves already hypersensitive, had left in tears. She’d yelled at him, “I’m sick of you! Sick of always being laughed at! Sick of this life!” Picked up her things and gone. And he hadn’t tried to follow her. Not even an “I’m sorry” phone call as she drove home.
Truth was, though, she wasn’t sure if he should apologize or if she should. She couldn’t remember what had started the fight in the first place.
The problem, she reflected as she took another suit off its hanger and tried it on, was that Mulder thought it was easy for her, when it truth she hated it too. She wanted him there. It wasn’t enough to see him at the office or the brief moments they could snatch to be alone. She wanted him every minute of every day, to share each new discovery with him, to read him the sillier passages of the “So you’re having a baby” books, to ask his opinions on names and birth methods. Now that the morning sickness had tapered off – though she still had occasional bouts of it when they were around, of all things, fresh coffee, though decomposing bodies didn’t bother her anymore than they ever had – she wanted him around to marvel with her at the changes in her body. He would probably notice some things she’d missed – sometimes he seemed to know her body better than she did. But there wasn’t time to talk about the baby. It always seemed like someone was listening, and Mulder, with his usual screw ‘em attitude, thought it was better that their eavesdroppers get a thrill than for them to know what was really going on.
The pants on this suit were too tight around the waistband. She could zip it up but couldn’t get the button to close. Scully sighed and took them off, and hung them in the back of the closet. If she could find some serviceable maternity pants to go with two or three outfits, that would be a mercy on her budget. One pair in black would cover most of her wardrobe, until she got too big for her blouses and jackets. The top button of this jacket still closed, and the bottom one strained only a little. She sat down, frowning at how the fabric gaped between the buttons. “Do they even make career maternity clothes?” she muttered, and took off the jacket. The blouse would last a little longer, as long as she had a jacket to cover where it would no longer close. Half her shoes were out of the question as well. There would be enough pressure on her lower back without adding three-inch heels to the equation. That left her flats and the shorter heels, which would, she thought with another sigh, only emphasize that she was little, plus most maternity clothes she’d seen would undoubtedly make her look dumpy …
“Damn it,” she muttered, and scrubbed her hands over her face. There was no point in worrying about her looks. Her clothes had always been a kind of armor against her size and gender, but with this new state of things there was no use in relying on them for their accustomed protection. She was a pregnant woman, and she didn’t need to deny that for the sake of her career.
Easy for you to say, she told the more logical part of her brain, and picked up her shopping list. The only thing written on it so far was “underwear.” Some of her bras were already straining against her new voluptuousness, and most – all, she realized as she went over a mental checklist – of her panties and slips, and, well, everything, wouldn’t do for much longer. She wrote on the list “pants” and “career wear” with a hopeful underscoring. Maybe there were enough women in corporate America to demand that maternity clothes be dignified. No cutesy sailor collars for Dana Scully, thank you.
She got off the bed again and went to her closet. Near the back she still had some clothes from a few years ago, pre-weight loss. She kept them around mainly as comfort clothes – there were few things she liked so much when she was feeling blue as putting on an oversized fleece sweatshirt – but there were still some workaday clothes as well. Vests, a few blouses and skirts … She pulled out one sundress and held it in front of herself, looking at her reflection critically. She hadn’t had much of an opportunity to wear it even when it fit her, and summer was long gone. But she’d always liked the colors, a cheerful pale yellow with splashes of soft pinks and greens. She slipped the dress over her head. It didn’t strain anywhere, was comfortable over her breasts and her stomach, and she had to admit that the colors made her look, well, radiant. Too bad it was sleeveless and totally inappropriate for anything but picnics and barbecues.
Feeling mischievous all of a sudden, Scully picked up her pillow and stuffed it under her dress. She smoothed the dress over the lump and laughed out loud at her reflection. “Portrait of a G-Woman nine months after a small indiscretion,” she said, and laughed again. Someone knocked on her door and she went to answer it. If it was someone she didn’t know, let them think she was about to drop the kid any second. If it was her mother she’d tell her … maybe she’d tell her the truth. Scully stood up on her toes and looked through the peephole. What the hell . . ?
“Mulder?” she said, opening the door.
“Hi,” he said with obvious discomfort. “Are you busy?”
“No, I’m – no, come on in.” She stepped back from the door and let him in. He was in casual clothes as well, jeans and a black t-shirt and his boots, that Scully secretly thought he wore whenever he was afraid he was going to get his ass kicked. No bottle of wine, thank God.
“Uh, Scully? What’s with, um -” He gestured to her stomach.
“That? Oh. I was just playing around.” She pulled out the pillow and set it on the sofa.
Mulder shuffled his feet, his mouth turned down and his hands stuffed in his back pockets. “Are you doing okay?” he said at last.
“No worse than I was two hours ago.” She sat down on the sofa, tucking her feet under her. This position would have to wait soon too, she realized, and smiled a little. Despite everything, being pregnant was fun. Exciting, anyway.
“But not better.”
“No, not better.”
He went to the fireplace and picked up a picture frame, examined it for a moment and put it down. He looked at her as if he were about to speak, then sighed and went on looking at the pictures on the mantel.
“Mulder? Is something wrong?”
“I think we both know the answer to that one.”
Scully sighed and leaned her head on her hand. “I’m not in the mood to fight.”
“I’m not here to fight.” He turned to her, still holding a small frame. Scully recognized it – it held one of the few pictures of the two of them, taken by her mother almost three years ago. Mulder said, still clutching the frame, “I’ve been thinking about what you said.”
“When?” Their last case had been straightforward, for them, he wasn’t still dwelling on that?
“About us, and the baby.”
“Yeah. That.” He turned the frame over and over in his hands, frowning at it. “I know you’re right. About hiding it, I mean. I know that. I also know that you love me – otherwise you wouldn’t have the baby at all, would you?”
“It never would have been conceived, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Close enough. But, Scully, even knowing that, I can’t – I don’t – ” He put the picture frame down and went to her. “Oh, fuck this. I want to be with you. I just want to be with you. However you’re willing to let me be with you. Just let me be here.”
“Are you suggesting we move in together?” Scully asked, trying to hide her smile.
“Something like that. I’m not sure what I’m suggesting. I just think there’s got to be a way for us to be together, for me to be with you. I – I just don’t want to miss this, Scully.”
“I don’t want you to miss it, either,” Scully said softly. “But I’d like you around to watch the baby grow up, too.”
“Okay, okay, yes, I know, that’s what I want, but think about it, Scully, if the Consortium were going to do anything, don’t you think they’d have done it already? They probably know.”
“You know they’ve bugged us before. How long since you’ve checked for bugs?”
“This morning,” she admitted. She was doing it almost daily, just to be sure. She hated the thought of those old men listening to them talk, play, make love. Sometimes she wanted to put the most banal, annoying musical she could find on her stereo and let it repeat for eight hours, just to irritate whoever might be listening.
“Well … you’re doing better than I am. But I think it’s probably safe to say they already know.”
“So we’re waiting for them to strike,” Scully said softly, and shivered.
“Or waiting for something that not’s going to happen. Either way, I’d rather be with you. If it’s just for a day or for the rest of my life … I’d rather be with you.”
Scully swallowed hard. “Mulder,” she said, and to her embarrassment started to cry.
“Oh, baby,” he said miserably and threw himself onto his knees in front of her, burying his head in her lap. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m always doing the wrong thing -”
“No, no,” Scully said, bending her head down to kiss his hair. “It’s the hormones. Two sets, you know, that’s all.” She cradled his head tenderly. “It’s not the wrong thing. It’s a beautiful thing.”
“But you’re still not going to give into this, are you.” His hands were stroking her stomach slowly. “You’re different,” he said softly.
“Would you … stand up? Just for a second.”
Smiling, Scully untucked her feet and stood up, holding onto Mulder’s hands. Still kneeling, Mulder smoothed the dress over her belly so that the roundness showed. He pressed his cheek against her stomach, still stroking her, and she just as slowly stroked his hair, waiting for him to speak.
“When did you notice?” he whispered.
“Not long ago. It shows more and more every day.”
“I could have gone for weeks without noticing. You’ve been dressing to disguise it.”
“I thought it was for the best, Mulder.”
He closed his eyes, still stroking her stomach. “So in March when the baby comes you’ll say she was left on your doorstep?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then what will you say? What will you tell people?” He looked up at her. “That you had a one-night stand and decided to keep the baby? Nobody who knows you will believe it.”
“I’ll tell people the truth.”
“And make me out to be the bad guy.”
“Nobody’s going to be the bad guy.”
“Then marry me, Scully, and we won’t have to explain anything. It’ll just be what happens when people are in love.”
“Oh, Mulder …”
He looked up at her, his face pitiful and miserable. “I just want to be with you. Why does it have to be so hard?”
“Because … I don’t know. It made sense before. I’m not so sure now.” He could shake her resolve so easily. He never knew how much he effected her, how she would do as much for him as he would for her. It seemed to Scully sometimes that he thought he was the only one who suffered.
“Let me be with you,” he pleaded. His hands had never stopped stroking her belly, tenderly and steadily.
“Stay with me tonight,” Scully said, cupping his face. “I need you.”
“What about tomorrow night? And the next night and the next?”
“I don’t know,” she said honestly. “I’ll always need you.”
He sighed heavily and closed his eyes again. “I need you too. I need you so much.”
“Then stay with me tonight.”
He kissed her belly and finally stood, wrapping his arms around her. “I want to see you,” he said softly. “I want to see you like this. I want to see your body.”
Scully stepped away from him and lifted the sundress over her head and tossed it aside. Mulder drew in his breath sharply, and Scully smiled. Seven months as lovers, five months of pregnancy, and the sight of her naked body could still take his breath away. He put his hands on her belly again, reverently, one hand on the upper curve and one hand on the lower. He ran his fingers over the roundness, smiling.
“You’ve gone from an innie to an outie.”
“It’s the price I’ve got to pay.”
“I haven’t even asked you lately how you’re doing. You are okay, aren’t you? Everything’s going well?”
“Yes. Everything’s fine. The amniocentesis said everything is normal. I have my first sonargram in a week.” Suddenly shy, she said, “Would you like to come?”
“Would I!” He kissed her, paused, and then kissed her again, more firmly this time, possessively. His hands moved from her tummy to her back, and splayed over her back, holding her up tight against him. “Making love isn’t going to hurt you, is it? Or the baby?”
“You can make love right up until the water breaks. I don’t know that we’ll want to -”
“I think we will.” He nuzzled her neck. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too. It’s so good to hold you.” She pulled him to her and kissed him deeply. Lucky, lucky baby, she thought, to be conceived in a love such as this.
Something moved. Scully broke off the kiss and smiled up at Mulder. “Did you feel that?”
“Feel what?” he said, going down on his knees again. “Can you really feel her moving?”
She took his hand and guided it to where the flutter had come from. “It’s very small,” she said, “it may be too soon for you to feel it too. Oh! There.” She moved his hand again, to where, maybe, an elbow or a knee was brushing against the wall of her womb. “Did you feel that?” she whispered.
“Holy God,” Mulder said softly. He kissed her belly, next to his hand, and pressed his cheek against her. “Hello, there, you,” he said softly, and Scully felt her knees tremble at the brush of his breath against her skin. “Hello, little UberScully, our little miracle baby.” He looked up at Scully, and his eyes were damp. “It’s a real person in there,” he said. “Amazing, isn’t it.”
He stood up and kissed her. Scully wrapped her arms around his neck, opening her mouth to his tongue gladly. He kissed his way over her face. “What does it feel like to you?” he whispered as he kissed her ear.
“Delicate. Fluttery. Like – like putting your hand in a fishtank and feeling the fish swim by.”
“Great. Our baby’s a fish.”
“Oh, don’t.” Scully shivered and pulled Mulder closer.
“Why? I’m just teasing.”
“I have dreams, sometimes, Mulder, nightmares. I’m told it’s normal, especially for a first-time mother, but they’re still terrifying. I dream of giving birth to the strangest things – fish, kittens, a hamburger, once.”
“Oh, love. It is normal, I promise. The dreams and the baby. You’re both going to be just fine.” He circled her tattoo with one fingertip, then said in a low voice, “You must be cold,” and bent to pick her up.
“You’ll hurt yourself – I’m huge -” “No, you’re not.” He grunted a little as he lifted her, but held her as steadily as he ever had. Scully sighed in contentment and buried her face in his neck. If he said everything was going to be fine, for once she was going to believe him. It was just good to not be worrying alone.
Mulder carried her to her bedroom and lay her carefully on the bed, and stayed back a moment, looking at her. “You’re beautiful,” he said quietly, running his hands over her. “Your body has changed, a little. Your breasts are fuller. Your skin is softer. Not that it wasn’t soft before.” He glanced up at her with a smile, and cupped her belly again. “Then, of course, there’s this.”
“There is that.” Her hand ran lazily through his hair.
“Your eyes are different, too.”
“They are? How so?”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“Brighter, and … more sparkly.”
“Sparkly,” Scully said teasingly. “Come here and kiss me. That’s probably what’s making them sparkle,” she whispered as she took his mouth. She ran her hands under his t-shirt, pulling it from the waistband of his jeans. Nothing hasty, nothing frantic. Two lovers savoring their love, she thought, and watched him as he sat up to pull his t-shirt off. She traced the play of his muscles with her fingers, smiling. When his bicep was flexed she couldn’t even get her hand around his arm. “My man,” she said softly, and was delighted to see him smile. He caught her hand and kissed it, and held it to his chest, over his heart.
“How do we do this without me crushing you?”
“I’m more worried about crushing you.”
“Stop it, you’re not that big. You’re still a few bites short of a mouthful.” He kissed her hand again. “Delicate, pretty little Dana,” he said softly, and bent his head to her breast. “Pretty little Dana who’s stronger than me.” Her nipple hardened at the brush of his breath, and she wound her hands into his hair and pulled his head closer to her breast. His mouth opened and his teeth grazed her nipple, sending a shiver through her.
“You’ve missed me,” he said smugly, and took her nipple into his mouth. Scully closed her eyes and moaned, feeling almost overloaded by the sensations.
“More than missed you. Wanted you. Needed you. Wanted to share everything with you, everything that’s happening to me.”
He lifted his head and said, kneading her breast with his hand, “Tell me, then. Tell me what’s happening to you.”
“Things smell different. Stronger. Everything seems stronger, like I’m experiencing it for the first time. The wind is fresher and the stars are brighter and – oh, everything is more. Even when you kiss me, it’s more.”
“Like it’s both of you experiencing it,” Mulder said softly, his face thoughtful.
“Well, that’s a little mystical -”
“But don’t you think it could be true? You’re not just carrying a new life. You’re having a new life.”
“Mulder …” She reached for him and kissed him deeply. “No metaphysics. Make love to me.”
“Gladly,” he whispered against her lips. “Happily.” His hands moved down her sides and he carefully adjusted their bodies so that he was supporting more of her weight than she was of his – not quite side-by-side but layered over each other, cradled against each other. And his hands touched her with more wonder, more tenderness, than she had thought possible – when he made love sometimes it was like an act of worship, she thought, and both the god and the sanctuary was her body – and his kisses were endless, deep, slowly bringing her higher and higher in a spiral of joy.
That’s it, Mulder, she thought as she watched his face tense with his climax, that’s why I miss you when we’re apart. You bring me joy.
As usual, Scully had beaten him to sleep, and Mulder lay holding her and watching her sleep and thinking. He didn’t want to think but his mind disagreed. He pictured his thoughts as the tornado from “The Wizard of Oz”, dirty and whirling and filled with scenes from nightmares.
He had been determined from the start not to regret any of this relationship. He wanted only to make her happy, and since loving him made her happy he was more than willing to be loved. The baby was a bonus he’d never expected – hoped for, dreamed of, but never expected – but it scared him, too. He knew, in his heart, that no one went into parenthood totally prepared, but he still felt he knew less about being a good father than most people.
All I want, he thought, is to not screw up. To love this child with everything that’s in me, as much as I love Dana. To keep them both safe. He kissed her forehead and smoothed back her hair, and sighed at the sight of her peaceful face, not sure what emotion it brought to him. He smoothed his hand over her tummy, and the faint – oh-so faint – movement within made him smile. He pulled his arm carefully from under Scully’s head and moved down so he could rest his cheek against the baby.
“Hey, you in there,” he whispered, kissing the soft pink skin. “I’ll make a deal with you. You show up as normal as you can be, as healthy as you can be, and I’ll do whatever I can to make you happy. If you need a special school we’ll find the best there is. If you need operations we’ll find the best doctors. Even if you’re not with us long we’ll love you forever … ” He found tears were welling up in his eyes, and he wiped them away. “I’d rather you stayed with us a long time,” he whispered, and kissed the tummy again.
He felt Scully’s hand in his hair, but didn’t look up. Her nails scraped lightly over his scalp, and her cool fingers rubbed over the back of his neck. Neither of them said anything for a long time.
Finally Scully said, “We need to tell Skinner. I need to make out the application for maternity leave.”
“But I want to tell my mother first. I’m not telling my mother after I tell my boss, she’d kill me.” Her hand stopped its gentle movement for a moment, and she said firmly, “And you need to tell your mother, too.”
“Soon, Mulder. Maybe we should take them both out to dinner this weekend and tell them together.”
“I’ll call her tomorrow.”
“Then we’ll tell Skinner on Monday.”
Mulder sighed. Those three people were the most necessary. He’d tell the Gunmen, too, after their mothers but before Skinner. His friends deserved to find out soon. “Do you think,” he said softly, “that your mother will be upset that we’re not married?”
“Well … not upset. Not terribly. What about yours?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. She’ll want to know when the wedding is, and since I don’t have an answer … “
Scully said nothing for a while, still stroking the back of his neck. Sometimes Mulder thought she liked that part of him best, which struck him as oddly sweet.
Finally Scully said, “We’ll tell them that the wedding will be after the baby’s born. I refuse to be pregnant in my wedding pictures.”
“It’s a fine old tradition, you know. Ever since people learned how to count backwards on their fingers.” Mulder couldn’t keep the teasing tone out of his voice. He wanted to laugh out loud, but he wasn’t sure how serious she was being. Time enough for celebration later, when she decided she meant it.
“Unless we got married next week – which is too soon for regular people like us, don’t be getting any ideas – I’m going to be enormous. So we’ll wait. A month or so after the baby is born.”
Mulder got out of bed and went to her desk. Scully raised herself up on her elbows and watched him as he came back with her date book. “I’m holding you to this,” he said. “I’m writing this in pen. April … April 8th, you and I are getting married. The baby will be just over a month old, if she arrives on time.”
Scully’s eyes were wide, and she said hesitantly, “Actually, they say six weeks is the minimum you should wait before you have sex again after giving birth.”
“April 20th, then. And that’s as much time as I’m giving you. April 20th or I fly you to Vegas tonight.”
“What if the baby’s late?”
“April 20th or Vegas, Scully, and that’s my final offer.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you.”
“Of course I am. So what’ll it be? April 20th or the Little Chapel O’ Elvis?”
“Actually, I could live with being married by Elvis.” When he started to reach for the phone Scully cried, “No, I’m kidding, April, April, I’ll marry you in April.”
“Okay. April. I’m writing this in pen.” In large block letters he wrote MARRY MULDER on the 20th of April. “No backing out.”
“No backing out,” Scully agreed.
“And tomorrow we’re buying you an engagement ring.”
“We don’t need to -”
“Fine. An engagement ring. You have the weirdest sense of the romantic, Fox Mulder.”
“Only because I have to threaten you to get you to marry me. You’d think I was an ogre or the frog prince.”
Mulder jumped onto the bed again and Scully shrieked with laughter as he tickled her. “If you wanted hearts and flowers you should have said yes the first time I asked you,” he said, purposely rubbing his stubble against the more sensitive parts of her neck.
“Over the phone? As you may recall, I was trying to get rid of you that weekend.”
“But do you see how much trouble we could have avoided if you’d said yes then?”
“Avoided, or caused?”
“You are going to be the death of me, Dana Katherine.”
“At least you’ll die smiling.” She blew a big wet zerbert on his stomach.
“I can do better than that.” He blew an even wetter zerbert on her tummy,and it seemed to him the baby jostled with surprise. “You want to play, too, little fishie?” Mulder said.
“I hope you’re nicer to the baby than you are to me.”
“I am the nicest of guys, Scully.” She snorted, and he protested, “Have you ever seen me lose patience with a child?”
“I’ve seen you with, what, five children? Two of which were trying to kill us, as you may recall.”
“But other than that I’m very good with them.”
“Yes. You’re very gentle. I’ll give you that.” She smiled fondly, playing with his hair. “You are going to be a great dad, Mulder.”
“I hope so,” Mulder said quietly. He moved up to kiss her again. “And you are going to be the perfect mom.”
“Probably not perfect. I’ll settle for good.”
“Good. Great. Wonderful. We’ll figure it out together, I promise.”
She smiled again and pulled him down to her. “The first thing we need to figure out,” she said, planting kisses on his jawline, “is what to call the kid.”
“I vote for Fish.”
“I’m serious, Mulder. No joke names, no silly names, no made-up names. I want a perfect, beautiful, unique but not weird, name. Just one. Well, two, I guess. Four. Middle names, too.”
Mulder kissed her lightly, and said, “Fox is out.”
“I wasn’t going to ask. But even for a middle name?”
“No. If you want to follow tradition, the firstborn son is named after the mother’s maiden name -”
“I am not naming my child Scully.”
“So you see the problem.”
“Is that how you got Fox?”
“Yep. My mother was Christina Elizabeth Fox.”
“Christina Margaret. We could call her Chrissy.”
“No,” Mulder said, more firmly. “I detest cutesy nicknames.”
“Don’t you like Maggie?”
“I like Maggie a lot, but that’s got tradition behind it. If we named her Margaret there are tons of lovely nicknames. Meg, Meggie, Daisy -”
“Daisy?” Scully was smirking.
“It’s a legitimate nickname for Margaret.”
“Why don’t you want to name her after your mother?”
Mulder sighed. “Because I don’t. I don’t have an explanation. I just don’t. In fact, I don’t want to use any family names unless you really insist, and then you’d really have to convince me.”
“So, William’s out too?”
“Why would you want to use William?”
“Only because it’s the name of both the baby’s grandfathers, one of his uncles and his father. We could call him Will.”
“Maybe as a middle name,” Mulder said reluctantly.
Scully went on kissing him, as she had been doing, and then she stopped and looked into his eyes seriously. “This really means a lot to you, doesn’t it.”
“You try going through life with a weird first name. I can’t tell you how many times I just want to be ordinary Dave or Mike or even Bill. You’re right, I want a beautiful name for the baby too, something that says, you know, how seriously we considered it. You’re right, no jokes, nothing silly or trendy. Just something … real.”
“A real name,” Scully said softly, smiling, her eyes dreamy.
“Yeah. A real name.”
They held each other in silence for a while, then Scully said, “We’ll find one.”
“Or four,” Mulder added. “And as for the engagement ring -”
“No backing out. It’s going to be real too. I’ll tell you a secret.”
“I can hardly wait.”
“I bought you one once.”
Her eyebrows crawled halfway up her forehead. “An engagement ring?”
“Yep. Out of a gumball machine. When you got out of the hospital after Antarctica I was going to propose.”
“With an aluminum engagement ring.”
“Actually, I think it was plastic. I mean, I was going to replace it with a real one, but I thought you’d appreciate the sentiment. But then I lost my courage, and well, you know …”
“I don’t think I’d mind a plastic engagement ring.”
“No, my dear, I am getting you the real thing. Gold and a diamond.”
“I’d rather have silver and a pearl.”
“Platinum and an emerald.”
“Plastic and a red gumball.” They both were laughing now.
“We’ll find a perfect one,” Mulder said. “It’ll probably surprise us both.”
“I like being surprised,” Scully said, and lay his hand over her tummy again.
“She’s a gymnast.”
“She’s awfully restless for nighttime.”
“Babies are often restless when the mother is relaxing. It’s in all the books.”
“I wonder if a lullaby would help.”
“You get to sing.”
Mulder just smiled at her, and kissing her tummy gently, sang the baby lullabies until Scully was asleep and the baby had stopped its restless turning.
Mulder, however, did not sleep. His mind was still awhirl, but it was a better kind of whirl, one of excitement and plans and hopes for the future. If nothing else, he decided, he would not be afraid anymore.
— V —
“What do you mean, there’s a delay?” Scully demanded of the beleaguered ticket agent, who had already explained many times about the delay and who looked resigned to explaining it many times more.
He sighed. “There was a bomb threat in Rome, ma’am. No airplanes are taking off or landing in Rome and will not be for many hours still. If ma’am would like to sit down we have a lounge … ?”
Scully bit back the urge to yell – she didn’t want to lie down, she wanted to get to Rome, her husband was waiting for her – and took a deep breath. “Yes, thank you,” she said quietly.
“We will let you know as soon as we have news, ma’am.” He spoke to another clerk, who smiled and gestured for Scully to follow her. Scully picked up her bag and followed the clerk to the lounge, where businessmen were reading newspapers or tapping on laptops. Scully glanced around and sank into the corner of one of the sofas. A few of the travelers looked at her curiously as she rubbed her swollen feet and stretched her neck, and then settled back into the sofa, rubbing the restless baby.
Another woman came in, with a toddler and an infant. She took the last empty chair with an exhausted sigh and spoke to the toddler in a musical, lilting language. The toddler replied lispingly, and the woman took out some small toys from her bag and give them to the child. Scully smiled despite herself, and the woman noticed and smiled back. That’s what I want, Scully thought. Domesticity. My baby playing at my feet. A toy or two, a few quiet moments just between the two of us before the world intrudes. And my beloved to complete the circle. She sighed. Her arms were hungry to hold him, to touch the rough stubble on his face and the smooth skin on the back of his neck. She’d never told him that was her favorite place on his body, that warm, soft spot just under his hairline and just above his collar.
She had a book or two but couldn’t concentrate enough to read. He’d be so worried, wherever he was, waiting to get into Rome and delayed, just as she was. Or maybe he was already in Rome, waiting for her.
I don’t care how much of the city I see, she thought. I don’t care if we’re in Rome or Warsaw or Paris or Prague. I just want to be with him. She rubbed the back of her neck, listening to the ligaments pop back into place.
How long could this delay last? A day? Two? How long until she saw her love again?
Oh, God. What if – what if – what if this was their doing? What if – despite all their precautions – they’d been found?
She fumbled in her bag for her cell phone, though she and Mulder had agreed on strict silence unless there was an emergency. Bomb threats were emergencies. She dialed the first preprogrammed number.
It rang. And rang. And rang.
Scully pressed her lips together, trying to not start sobbing. Please pick up. Please pick up. Please pick up.
“Thank God! Langly, it’s Scully. Turn off the tape recorder.”
There was a pause, then he said, “It’s off. Are you okay? Where are you?”
“Tel Aviv. Listen, there’s a bomb threat in Rome. I don’t know any details, can you find out what’s going on?”
“Yeah, it’s all over the news. Some leftist terrorist group is claiming responsibility.”
“Do you know where Mulder is?”
“He should be in Rome by now. He was supposed to arrive this morning – well, seven a.m. Roman time. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine. Thanks.”
“And the baby’s okay?”
“The baby’s fine. Thanks, Langly. My love to you all.” She clicked off the phone and tapped it against her chin. Okay. He was already there. He’d know about the bomb threat. He’d be waiting. Now, if only she could get there sooner rather than later.
Hold on, baby. Hold on. Not much longer now.
October 24, 2000
Mulder finished tying his tie and smoothed it over his chest. “Hey, Scully, are you sure these colors go?”
Scully stepped up behind him, putting one arm around his neck, and inspected his reflection. She smiled in approval and kissed his cheek. “You look very handsome.”
“Thank you, love. What are you wearing?” She was still just in her slip and pantyhose.
“I don’t know … help me choose. All my clothes are too tight. I need to go shopping for maternity clothes.”
“But in the meantime … what are you going to wear?”
“Something that won’t make it obvious, I hope, something that won’t give my mother cardiac arrest.” She walked back to the closet. The bed was already piled with rejected dresses. Mulder picked up one of his favorites – the pale green suit with white trim – and held it out to her.
“I like this one.”
“The jacket won’t close and the skirt is too tight.”
“But you look so pretty in it.”
Scully made a face. “I hate being called ‘pretty’. It’s almost as bad as being called ‘cute.’”
“You’re cute, too, you know. Cute little toes and cute little fingers …”
“Stop talking, Mulder, before I hurt you.” She picked up another dress and held it in front of her. “If I put on a cardigan with this one it’ll work.” She slipped it over her head and smoothed it down. It was a navy blue sleeveless dress of a soft knit, and Scully put a navy cardigan on over it. “Do you think it’s formal enough?”
“It’s fine. You look great.”
She turned to the mirror, inspecting herself. “I also look pregnant.”
“Yes. Yes, you do. And you’re positively adorable.” He hugged her from behind and kissed her cheek. “Pretty and cute, too.”
“That’s it, Mulder – when we get home I am going to torture you until you beg for mercy.” She slapped his hands playfully and stepped out of his embrace. “Let me get my shoes on and I’ll be ready. Where is your mother staying tonight?” she asked as she searched through her closet for the shoes she wanted.
Scully stopped her search and turned to look at him. “Mulder. You did call your mother, didn’t you?”
“Um … not exactly.”
“Then what exactly did you do?”
“I … I didn’t call her. Look, I didn’t want to ask her to drive all the way from Connecticut for just one night, even staying in a hotel – she can’t really travel alone -”
“Mulder.” Scully sighed and got laboriously to her feet, holding her shoes. Mulder had sat down miserably on the edge of the bed, and she sat down beside him and took his hand. “She deserves to know she’s going to be a grandmother. And we agreed to do this together. What is she going to think if she finds out we told my mother first?”
“I can’t ask her to drive here.”
“Then we’ll call. We’ll call her right now, and talk to her together. I’ll get on the portable and you get on the one in the kitchen.”
“Scully -” He stopped his protest at her expression. “Right. Okay. We’ll call her.”
She took his hand and led him into the kitchen, picking up the portable phone as they went. Mulder dialed the number and waited through the first ring. “What if she’s not home?”
“We’ll call tomorrow. And if she’s not home then, we’ll call the next day.” She rubbed his neck gently.
Mulder closed his eyes and reached for her hand. Her left hand, where the new engagement ring rested on her fourth finger. In the end they’d decided not to go with jewels or precious metals. Scully had fallen in love with a silver Irish wedding band, and they’d bought a matching pair for his wedding band and her engagement ring, and a plain silver band for her wedding ring. The other two rings waited in their boxes on top of Scully’s bureau, to be put to their proper use in April.
The phone went on ringing. “She’s not home,” Mulder said, when the line picked up and he heard his mother’s soft, patrician voice.
She sounded so frail. “Hi, Mom. It’s Fox.”
“Are everything all right, Fox?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m great.” Scully squeezed his hand. “I have some news for you.”
“Good news?” Her voice trembled a little.
It’s not what she wants to hear, Mulder thought. She wants to know that Samantha is coming home. “Great news. You remember my partner, Dana Scully?”
“The pretty red-haired woman? I remember her.”
“Well, we’re getting married.” Scully squeezed his hand again.
There was a very long pause. “Well. That’s good, dear.”
Mulder sighed. No, he’d expected this. It was why he didn’t want to talk to her in the first place. Scully’s face, smiling and expectant a moment before, had gone somber and still. She took the phone away from her ear and leaned against Mulder, putting her arms around his waist.
He said quietly, “There’s more. We’re – we’re having a baby in March.”
This time the pause was even longer. “My. That’s – that’s wonderful. Congratulations, dear.”
She did sound a little more enthused. Few women could resist a grandchild, could they?
“Thanks, Mom. Sc – Dana is here, if you’d like to talk to her.” Scully’s arms tightened around his waist but she didn’t look up.
“Oh, no. Tell her I’m happy for you both. Good night, Fox.” She hung up before he could answer.
Mulder hung up the phone more slowly, and put his arms around Scully, laying his head on her shoulder. “I know it would be pointless,” he said. “I knew it wouldn’t matter to her. She’s just waiting to die.”
“Oh, Mulder, that’s not true. Surely it’s not true. I refuse to believe she doesn’t care about you at all.”
“Well, she did say she’s happy for us. I assume she meant about the baby. Maybe she does care about that.”
Scully began to rock him, gently and slowly. “Come on. We’ll miss our reservation.”
“It’s terrible, isn’t it,” Mulder said, not moving his head from her shoulder. “Skinner will show more enthusiasm than my own mother.”
“I wouldn’t call what Skinner’s going to show ‘enthusiasm.’ Do you still want to go? I can meet my mother alone.”
“I’ll come … I don’t want to say home and mope.” He lifted his head from her shoulder and kissed her. “I love you,” he said seriously.
“I love you too.” She stroked his face, smoothing the worry lines. “Smile for me, Mulder. You’re going to be a daddy.”
He did smile, and held her hand to his mouth and kissed it. “I’ll remember that. Let’s go.”
When they got to the restaurant, the maitre d’ informed them he had already seated Mrs. Scully, and led them to the table where she was waiting. She smiled when she saw them, and stood up to hug Mulder and kiss Scully’s cheek. “I was beginning to think I’d been stood up,” Maggie said as they sat down.
“We had a delay,” Mulder said, and Scully took his hand under the table.
“So,” Maggie said, folding her hands together on the tabletop. “To what do I owe this pleasure? I can’t remember the last time I saw the two of you together.”
Scully and Mulder exchanged glances, and Scully said, “Well, it’s kind of exciting, Mom. We think it is, anyway. We’re getting married.”
Maggie’s eyes widened and she said, “Oh, my. Dana – Fox – this is wonderful! When did you decide this?”
“Just a few days ago. We bought the ring yesterday.” Scully held her hand out for Maggie to see the ring.
“It’s lovely. You know what this means, don’t you?”
“You wear it with the point facing inward it means you’re taken,” Mulder said.
Maggie laughed. “There’s more to it than that. It means, ‘With my two hands I give you my heart and crown it with my love.’”
Scully glanced at Mulder. “I like it.” He squeezed her hand.
“There’s more,” he said to Maggie.
“Oh?” She had the same uplifted eyebrow as Scully. It never failed to unnerve him, when either of them did it. He looked to Scully for support, and she nodded encouragingly.
“We’re pregnant,” Mulder said, and realized how ridiculous it sounded.
Maggie put down her water glass and said, “How? Dana, honey, how?”
“The usual way, Mom. Mulder thinks the chip cured the infertility.”
“Beyond that,” Mulder said, “we don’t want to question it too closely.”
“Oh, honey,” Maggie said, and there were tears in her eyes. “I’m so glad. So happy. Tell me everything – when are you due? Do you know the baby’s sex yet? What have you thought about for names?”
“March,” Scully said, “no, we want to be surprised, and we have a list going but nothing definite yet.”
“And you’re doing all right, aren’t you?”
“I’m doing great. Every test we’ve had so far says the baby is healthy.”
“So when are you planning to get married, then?”
“April 20th,” Mulder said.
“Either that or Las Vegas,” Scully added, and they grinned at each other.
“After the baby’s born? Are you sure you want to wait that long?”
“Yes,” said Scully.
“No,” said Mulder, and Scully looked at him with surprise.
“I thought you said it was all right.”
“I’m not complaining, Scully, I’m just glad you’re marrying me at all. But I still think you should have said yes the first time I asked you.”
“If I thought you meant it, I might have.”
“He asked you before?” Maggie asked.
“Two years ago, over the phone – I thought he was joking.”
“I wasn’t,” Mulder said.
“Well, I said yes last time. Ask me again and I’ll probably still say yes.”
Mulder took her hand in both of his and said, with complete seriousness, “Dana Scully, will you marry me?”
She smiled. “Yes, Mulder.”
“Okay. You’ve said yes twice now, so there’s no backing out.”
“I’m not going to back out, Mulder.”
“You’d better not.”
“Have a little faith in me, love.”
“You’re the only thing I have faith in. I just don’t want you to get scared and changed your mind.”
“Look. Let me prove it to you. Fox Mulder, will you marry me?” she asked, just as seriously as he had said it a moment before.
Mulder grinned widely, and said, “Yes, Scully.”
“There. You can’t back out, either.”
“You know,” Maggie said, “it’s a good thing you two love each other – otherwise you would have killed each other long ago.”
Mulder and Scully both paused. They’d forgotten they weren’t alone-a circumstance, Mulder thought, they found themselves in all too often.
“Sorry, Mom,” Scully said. “I guess we forgot ourselves.”
“Don’t apologize,” Maggie said. “It’s a relief in a way, to see you finally together. Which raises my next question: why you waited so long to tell me.”
They both laughed uncomfortably at that, and Mulder let Scully explain it, content to watch the happiness in both women’s faces.
They were halfway through dessert when Scully stood up and said softly, “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.”
“Are you okay?” Mulder asked quickly.
“Yes, it’s just, um-ask Mom.” She smiled at him and pushed in her chair.
He watched her go for a moment, then said to Maggie, “Internal pressure.”
“Exactly.” She toyed with her glass, then said, “Fox, she’s doing all right, isn’t she?”
“As far as she lets me know. You know how she is about her health.”
“I know. She looks wonderful. Radiant.”
“Yes, she does.”
“But I’m more worried about her emotions. After Emily …”
Mulder looked down at his plate for a moment. That exquisitely beautiful little girl whom Scully had loved for such a short time. “She hasn’t talked about Emily. She doesn’t. Not to me, anyway.”
“She doesn’t to me, either.”
“She is happy about this. I know she is. You can tell when she feels the baby move, her face just lights up. I’ve never seen her so happy.”
Maggie nodded slowly. “I know. I know my daughter. Fox, Dana probably never told you about her younger sister, did she.”
Mulder raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
“Charlie was barely a year old when I became pregnant again. I was glad, of course, I always wanted a big family. All my other pregnancies had been easy and I expected this one to be, too. Well, it wasn’t. I was bedridden for months, threatening to miscarry and sick with toxemia. Bill couldn’t come home, so both my mother and one of my sisters stayed with us to take care of the children. But,” she sighed, “the baby was premature. Born at only thirty weeks. She only lived a few hours. Dana remembers the funeral, in bits and pieces. She remembers going to the casket and saying, Baby sleeping, baby sleeping.”
“What was her name?” Mulder asked softly.
“Noelle Joy. It was December.”
“That’s a lovely name.”
“When Bill came back he was … he was so angry at God, for letting our little girl die. And my doctor told us having another child would endanger my health, so we didn’t try again. It was difficult for a long time, Fox. To look at our beautiful children and wonder why God had allowed one to die. When Melissa died, when Dana was sick, I had to ask again. Why let a child die who would be loved and cared for? Why let someone who is needed die?” She smiled hesitantly. “I still don’t have the answers.”
“Only the dead know anything for sure,” Mulder said.
Maggie smiled again. “You’re probably right. You are right. Will you talk to her about it soon, Fox? Get her to talk about Emily. I think it would help her. I think it would help you.”
“You grieved for her as much as the rest of us, Fox.”
He had to admit it was true. “I’ll talk to her.”
“Thank you. That kind of pain … it doesn’t end easily.”
He caught sight of Dana coming back to them, and their eyes met. He smiled despite himself. He did sometimes wonder if it was shallow of him to be proud of her beauty, but he was proud of her. He was proud to be seen with her. He loved that she smiled when she saw him and automatically reached for his hand when they stood beside each other.
“I’ll make it the goal of the rest of my life that nothing hurts her again,” he said to Maggie in a low voice, and Maggie shook her head slightly but didn’t answer, because Scully had reached the table and was taking her seat.
“What terrible things was my mother telling you about me, Mulder?”
“Just the usual-bedwetting problems, mainly.”
“Just kidding.” He kissed Scully’s cheek. “Are you okay? Getting tired?”
“I’m all right.” She touched the side of his face gently, and he could see the question in her eyes. Tell me later?
He kissed her again. Tell you later. “Do you want the rest of your dessert?”
Scully was quiet when Mulder finished recounting the conversation. She stroked her stomach slowly, her face pensive. She was sitting in bed, pillows stacked up behind her back, and Mulder lay on his side beside her, watching her carefully.
He put his hand on her belly gently. “Are you okay?”
“Oh … yes. Yes. Just remembering. I do remember the funeral, a little. I haven’t thought about it in a long time. I really was too young to understand.”
She sighed and turned to him, curling up against him as best she could. “What you said, the other night … the promises you made to her … Mulder, I don’t want to lose another child.”
“I know, love, I know.” He rubbed her back and kissed her hair. “I’ll do everything I can to make sure you don’t.”
“Do you honestly thing there’s anything we can do?”
Mulder was silent a long time, rubbing her back, and Scully raised her head from his chest to study him. “I can’t make you any promises,” he said quietly. “I can only tell you what I know, which you know too. And on Wednesday we’ll know for sure. Don’t you think? We’ll see our baby for the first time.” He tubbed her tummy gently, smiling as he felt the baby moving. “Every test has said everything is fine. We have to trust in that, love. Hey, you two even have the same blood type, that’s got to mean something.”
Reluctantly she nodded, and moved back against him, slipping her arms around his neck. “It doesn’t stop the nightmares, though.”
“Hm. Well, as for those … I’ll just have to make them go away, won’t I.” He kissed her unhappy eyes. “And some day, when the baby is old enough to understand, we’ll tell her about her older sister.”
Scully swallowed hard and said quietly, “All right. We will.”
In the end, Scully decided it would be easiest to tell Skinner directly. They had a meeting with him Monday morning; she would bring the forms for maternity leave and have him sign them. Simple, right?
She found, however, as they waited to go into Skinner’s office, that she felt more nervous than she had for a long time. She wanted to reach for Mulder’s hand, but she only looked over the form again. Every i dotted, every t crossed.
Kimberly was studying them with undisguised interest. The secretary who had given Scully the form had worn the same expression: You let a man get close enough to you to get pregnant? Amazing. Only Kimberly hadn’t yet figured out what was different.
The intercom in her desk buzzed and Kimberly told them, “Assistant Director Skinner will see you now.”
They got up and went into his office. As Scully passed Kimberly’s desk, she said softly, “Yes. It is maternity clothes.” Kimberly’s eyes grew wide and she grinned, and Scully wondered if there was an office pool payoff waiting for her when she spread this news around.
Skinner glanced up at them and said, “Sit, please. I’ve got a case I want you to look into-”
“Sir,” Scully said, and he looked up with surprise from the papers on his desk. “We can’t go anywhere until after Wednesday.”
“I believe this will explain everything.” She handed him the form.
He scanned it, and for a moment Scully could swear he was smiling. She glanced at Mulder-he was smiling, and he winked at her.
“Well, Agent Scully. Congratulations. I assume, since everything seems to be all right with you, that this is … um, normal?”
“Yes, sir. Everything is normal. At any rate, Wednesday we’re scheduled for an ultrasound and I can’t miss it.”
“We?” He looked at Mulder.
“We’ll have formal invitations later, sir, but we’d like to invite you to the wedding on April 20th,” Mulder said.
“Wedding,” Skinner repeated. He studied them for a moment, then nodded and signed the bottom of the form with a quick snap of the wrist. “I’ll add that to my appointment calender. As for this case… “
As he spoke, Scully sneaked another look at Mulder, who was grinning at her blatantly. He winked at her again, and reached over to slide his fingers between hers.
“Agent Mulder. May I ask that you keep the public displays of affection for somewhere other than my office?”
Mulder jerked guiltily and took his hand away. “Of course, sir. Excuse me. I forgot myself for a moment.”
“Understandable, Agent Mulder, but you are a professional. I’ll tell the local sheriff to expect you Wednesday night, is that all right, Agent Scully?”
“That should be fine, sir. Thank you for being so understanding.”
“Of course. Though I do have to ask: why did you wait so long to tell me?”
They laughed uncomfortably and Scully began, “Well, sir, it’s kind of a long story …”
“What’s taking the doctor so long?” Mulder said, opening the door for the tenth time in five minutes.
“She has other patients, Mulder. Calm down.” Scully felt oddly serene, even in a hospital gown with her belly exposed—though for the past few nights she’d had nightmares about what this day would bring. But now a sense of the inevitable had settled over her. Whatever they were about to learn, it would be all right. They could deal with it.
Mulder had not stopped pacing and muttering, and she held out her hand. “Come here, love. Sit down. She’ll get here when she can.”
Mulder sat down on the chair beside her and took her hand in both of his. “I hate this ‘hurry up and wait.’ It’s terrible if we can’t be right on time for when we’re scheduled but who knows when the doctor will deign to-”
“Hush. You’re just nervous, and it’s making me nervous.”
“Sorry, baby.” He kissed her hands and rubbed them between his. “I am nervous. I want to know what’s going on with you.” He placed a warm, large hand over her belly and placed a gentle kiss beside it. “And you, little fishie,” he said softly.
Scully smiled at the stirring within her. She knew babies learned their mothers’ voices-could the baby be learning Mulder’s voice as well? He was around so much and talked so much … She ran her hand through Mulder’s hair, and he looked up at her and smiled.
“You’re so calm. You know something I don’t?”
“No. I just … I feel fine. I feel like it’s going to be all right.”
“I hope this is another occurrence of your psychic ability.”
He rubbed her belly lightly with his fingertips. “You’re getting goose-pimpled-should I put my jacket over you until the doctor gets here?”
“I’m all right.”
The door opened then and Sherry came in, along with a technician. “Hello, Dana. And you must be Mulder.”
“Hi.” They shook hands and Sherry sat down opposite Mulder.
“Are you ready to see your baby?”
“Very,” Scully said, and Mulder’s hand tightened on hers.
The gel was cold on her skin, and she gasped when Sherry put the camera on her belly. “Does it hurt?” Mulder said anxiously, and she squeezed his hand.
“It’s perfectly safe, I promise, for both mommy and baby,” Sherry said. She adjusted some switches on the monitor. “Hear that?”
“The heartbeat,” Scully whispered.
“It’s so fast,” Mulder said, his eyes wide with wonder as he looked at the monitor.
“One hundred twenty beats per minute.” She pointed to the light shape on the monitor screen. “There’s the head … that’s a hand … there’s a foot … do you want to know the baby’s sex?”
The looked at each other, and Mulder nodded. “Yes,” Scully said.
“It’s a girl.”
“A girl,” Mulder whispered, and kissed Scully gently.
“Well, Dana, it appears that everything is progressing normally. She’s got fingers and toes, the umbilical cord is in a good position, her features are developing, she’s in a good position. Looks like you’ve got yourself a healthy baby.”
“Thank you,” Scully said softly.
“We’ll print out a picture of this, unless you’d rather have the video.”
“I’d like the video,” Mulder said.
“Video it is, then. Congratulations, you two.” She cleaned the gel off Scully’s belly, gave some instructions to the technician, smiled at them once more and left.
Mulder let out a pent-up breath. “You knew it was a girl.”
“I thought it might be.” She smiled thanks to the technician as he handed Mulder the video tape, and waited for the technician to leave. “It wasn’t a strong feeling or anything.”
“I’m glad. Of course I’d be glad either way, but oh, Scully … a little girl for you.”
“She’s not going to take Emily’s place,” Scully said softly.
“I know. Still.”
“Yeah. Still.” She looked down at her belly with what she knew was the goofiest of grins. “It will help with the name selection now.”
When they got back from the case-run of the mill, for them, and Mulder came away with only a slight flesh wound-there was a package waiting at Scully’s apartment. “Mulder,” she said as she looked it over, “who’s CFM?”
“My mother.” He came in from the bedroom where he’d put down the suitcases.
“I wonder what this could be.” It was a small box, maybe a foot square, and very light, wrapped neatly in string and brown paper.
“Best way to find out is to open it.”
“Thank you, O fount of wisdom,” Scully said dryly, and got some scissors to cut the string.
Inside the box was a layer of tissue paper, and beneath that, the most delicate, exquisite christening gown Scully had ever seen. It was ivory silk, long enough to fall to the floor when she held it up, trimmed with lace and tiny buttons. There was a little cap as well, just as lacy, and a note written in spidery handwriting.
Mulder took the note as Scully looked over the gown in awe, and read, “Dear Dana and Fox, I’ve been holding this a long time, waiting for someone to put it to good use. Thank you for this wonderful gift of a grandchild. Love, Mother.” He put down the note and looked up at Scully with damp eyes. “I remember when Samantha wore this. Dad was so proud, held her with the biggest grin I’d ever seen on him.”
“It’s so beautiful. Did you wear it too?’
He blushed slightly and said, “Yeah, and if you ever ask to see the pictures I’ll never forgive you.”
“Oh, sweetie, don’t be silly. Of course I want to see the pictures.” He groaned at her wicked grin, and she couldn’t help but laugh. “Look, Mulder. Your names are embroidered here at the hem.” She traced her nail over the tiny stitches. Fox William. Samantha Ann. “Did she do these herself, do you think?”
“I think so. She used to sew a lot. Before.”
“I’ll have to ask her to teach me how. Mulder, let’s call her.”
He hesitated, then nodded. “She’ll want to know it arrived safely.”
“And I want to say thank you. She’ll want to know, I’m sure, that we’re putting it to good use.”
“If you want the baby baptized it’s up to you.”
“I do. Finding godparents is going to be the hard part.”
“Well, I can think of four people we could ask to be godfathers, finding the godmother is going to be the hard part.”
Scully smiled, folding the little dress back up to put into the box. “I’m not so sure about entrusting the spiritual education of my baby to three paranoiacs and an ex-Marine, even if they are our best friends.”
“Well, you know they’ll have her best interests at heart. Frohike is in love with her already.” The Lone Gunmen’s reaction to the news had been a mix of surprise and delight, and they’d brought out the good beer to celebrate-with fresh orange juice for Scully, of course. “When it’s born we’ll spring for the champagne and cigars,” Langley had said, and Scully had replied with a straight face, “Not for the baby, I hope.”
“I know. They’re so sweet when they’re … not so paranoid.”
“Yeah. Do you want to call my mother now or wait until morning?”
Scully glanced at the clock and sighed. “Morning. It’s almost midnight, I’d hate to wake her up.”
“Bedtime for you, too, little mama.”
“Okay, big daddy.” They grinned at each other and went to bed, arms around each other’s waists.
— VI —
Mulder hung up the phone, remembering at the last second not to slam it even though he could barely contain his frustration. His friend Fiona, whose apartment he was staying in and whose husband was supposed to have left for Paris six hours before, raised her eyebrows at him and waited for the latest news.
“Nothing,” he said. “No change. They’re not letting a flight in or out until the entire airport has been checked.”
“It’s good that they’re being cautious,” she said gently.
Her husband Amadeo asked her a question in Italian and she answered him, then told Mulder, “Deo says he’s tempted to take Eurorail if this keeps up. His boss needs him.”
“Well, that solves your problem. It doesn’t help Dana any.”
“Maybe,” Amadeo said, “maybe we tell the police is American agent on the plane.”
“I don’t think that would speed it up.” Mulder leaned his head on his arms on the counter top. The apartment was large and modern, but that didn’t help Scully any until she actually got there. “If they divert the flight I don’t want her to take the train here. She shouldn’t be traveling so much anyway and now this on top of it …
“Is very bad for expectant women, yes?”
“Well, it’s not good.” Fiona watched Mulder as he abruptly stood up and began to pace around the shining kitchen. “Mulder. Please. Worrying isn’t going to help her. Maybe she’s not in the air, maybe she’s waiting at the other end of this flight.”
“Tel Aviv,” Mulder said, “where she doesn’t have a visa and doesn’t speak the language. She can’t leave the airport and who knows if they’ll have a place for her to lie down.”
“If she’s as resourceful as you’ve said-and I’m sure she is,” she added hastily at Mulder’s look, “she’ll find a way to make herself comfortable. I’m sure she’s taking care of herself.”
“When she comes,” Amadeo said, “we will pamper her like a queen, yes?”
Mulder smiled despite himself. No wonder Fiona had married this guy.
“Yes,” he said, “we’ll pamper her like a queen.” She deserved nothing less.
December 15, 2000
“It is small,” Scully said as she and Maggie drove back to her apartment from looking at cribs, “but it’s got everything we need—living room, kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms. Mulder wants to paint the nursery so it looks like a sky-you know, sky blue with fluffy clouds, and he wants to put glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the ceiling. And it’s in a nice neighborhood and there are two elementary schools nearby. Personally I’m leaning towards the Montessori school but Mulder isn’t sure he likes their philosophy-” She caught her mother’s smile. “What?”
“It’s nice to hear you talking about choosing schools and painting the nursery. You so rarely tell me about everyday things.”
“My life is hardly an everyday life.”
“No. I don’t think it ever will be, entirely. Speaking of choosing, you haven’t told me what names you’re thinking of lately.”
“Oh. Yes. Well, we have a list going. Traditional types of names, mostly. Elizabeth, Charlotte, Caroline, that sort of thing.”
“Caroline is pretty.”
“But I don’t want to shorten it to Carrie and I know people will try to. I tried out Gabrielle last night and Mulder almost gagged. He wants something ordinary like Tricia or Karen, but I don’t know … I want to threaten him with something like Sequoia or Fifi just to get him to look at my real choices more seriously.”
When Maggie had stopped laughing over Fifi she said, “Tara and Billy chose Matthew because it’s familiar.”
“But I don’t want to use a name that every other child has, too. Like Jennifer, it seems like there are legions of those.”
“You could try something that you don’t hear very often anymore. Josephine.”
Scully looked at her mother with amazement and shook her head. “No. That’s almost as cruel as Bambi.”
“You could call her Josie. Or Joey.”
“Mulder doesn’t like cutesy nicknames.”
“You two … you’ll probably end up naming her Tammy. With an ‘i’.”
“Maybe Tamara.” She sighed. “I’m just glad we have two more months to decide. It’ll probably be one of those last minute things anyway, we’ll decide because it’s the last day to fill out the birth certificate. You’ll be introducing her as Baby Girl Mulder for the first year of her life, Mom.”
“If you’re that desperate, write down the names and choose one out of a hat.”
“It’s not desperation. We just want something perfect.”
“Wait until she’s born, then. You were going to be Alicia until I saw you, and then Dana seemed to fit much better.”
“Alicia. Dana. Hm. I do like Dana much more.” They were coming to a stoplight, and Scully slowed the car. “How did you choose Melissa, then?”
“The same way. We had a list and Melissa seemed to suit her best.”
The light changed to green and Scully took her foot off the brake. “Was it the style or the-”
There was a screech of brakes and the sound of smashing glass and metal.
The other car kept going.
Mulder accosted the first nurse he saw. “I’m looking for a Dana and Margaret Scully, do you know where they are?”
She shook her head. “The front desk will know.”
“Thank you.” He went to the admitting desk. “My name is Fox Mulder, I’m looking for Dana and Margaret Scully. They were in a car accident.”
“Just a moment,” the clerk said, and tapped for a few moments on his computer. “They’re both in ER … looks like they sustained minor injuries …”
“ER, right, thank you.” He strode off in the direction pointed out by the signs towards the ER.
The call had caught him off guard-not like anyone ever expects a call like that. He’d been in the new apartment putting up shelves and listening to football, when an emergency room nurse had called him to say his fiancee and her mother had been in an accident, he needed to come right away. He hadn’t even stayed on the phone long enough to hear their conditions.
He was wishing he had. His imagination was gleefully offering him all sorts of nightmarish scenarios: Maggie dead, Scully dead, the baby miscarried. He’d driven over much too fast-it was a wonder he hadn’t caused another accident on the way.
He saw Maggie in the waiting room. “Mrs. Scully,” he said, and touched her arm. She smiled in relief to see him, and hugged him with one arm. There was a bandage on her face and her wrist was in a brace, but she looked all right. “What happened? How’s Dana?”
“It was hit-and-run,” she said, “and I don’t know, they haven’t let me see her. It hit her side of the car.”
No, Mulder thought, closing his eyes. No, I refuse to believe it. She’s okay, she has to be.
“Maybe the nurse will tell you something,” Maggie said.
“Whether they want to or not. I’ll be right back.” He kissed her cheek and stood up from the plastic chair. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m all right. Dana got the brunt of it.”
Mulder nodded grimly and went to the nurse’s station. “Excuse me.”
“Just a moment, hon.” She barely glanced up from her paperwork.
“Look, I know you’re busy but the mother of my child is here and if I don’t find out in the next five minutes what’s happening to her I’m going to have a four-alarm meltdown and that is never a pretty sight. Okay?”
She glanced up at him and closed the file she was working on. “Her name, sir?”
“Scully. Dana Scully.”
“Okay … Scully, Dana Scully, is in stable condition with a minor concussion, some glass removed from her hands and arms and three broken fingers. And it looks like … it looks like the baby is fine too. I’d say you’re a very lucky guy.” She gave him a once-over look and added, “She’s pretty lucky too.”
“Thanks,” Mulder said, decided to ignore her last comment, “where is she?”
“Room 121. Just down that hall.”
“Thanks.” He went back to Maggie, and she stood up when she saw him.
“Oh, thank God.”
“Let’s go see her.”
“Will they let us?”
“They don’t have much say in the matter,” Mulder said, and guided Maggie to room 121.
Scully was sitting on an examination table in a hospital gown, wearing a stethoscope, the bell of which was pressed to her tummy. “Mom,” she said when they opened the door, and she put down the stethoscope. “Mulder, oh, good, I’m glad they got a hold of you.”
“Hi, sweetie.” Maggie kissed Scully’s cheek and inspected her face carefully. “It was like pulling teeth to get them to tell us anything.”
Mulder just went to Scully’s side and put his hand in hers. She smiled at him and said to her mother, “They’re busy.”
“That’s no excuse. It only takes a minute to say, ‘She’s okay.’ I was beginning to wonder if they weren’t saying anything because they didn’t want to upset me. What were you listening for?”
“Oh, the baby’s heartbeat. They tell me she’s fine but I wanted to hear it for myself. Here.” She took off the stethoscope and offered it to Maggie.
“That’s okay, honey. If you know it’s enough for me.”
“I want to hear it,” Mulder said quietly, and Scully gave it to him. He moved the bell carefully over her belly. He could hear her own slow, steady beat, and beneath it the more rapid beating of the baby’s heart. He smiled and kissed her tummy, and Scully ran her hand gently over his hair. He caught her injured hand and kissed the splints on her fingers. “I’m so glad,” he said quietly.
“So am I.”
“Maggie says it was hit-and-run.”
“Yeah, the other driver didn’t even slow down. The light was green, I know it was, I was about to stop but it changed so I kept going. He had enough time to stop.”
“He hit you head-on?”
“Yes. Hit us, backed up enough to go around, and kept on going.”
“He had to be going at least sixty,” Maggie supplied, and Mulder’s frown deepened.
“Well, I just want to go home,” Scully said.
“Do they want to keep you overnight?”
“I hope not. The doctor is supposed to be coming back soon to tell me what they want me to do.” She slipped an arm around Mulder’s waist. “The baby’s okay,” she said softly, her eyes searching his face. “I can feel her moving.”
“I know. Maybe you ought to stay overnight, just to be sure everything is okay.”
“I want to go home, Mulder. I want to sleep in my own bed.”
“Let’s wait and see what the doctor says, okay, baby?”
She sighed, and nodded. “All right.” She leaned her head against Mulder’s shoulder and he kissed the top of her head.
“You’re okay, baby,” he whispered. “I’ll stay here with you, as long you need me to.”
December 16, 2000
Home alone, for the night, Mulder wandered through the new apartment. He’d put one of Scully’s favorite CDs on the stereo to keep himself company, and he lay on the couch wrapped around her pillow. They’d moved in over Thanksgiving weekend and he really liked the place, but it still had a EVERYTHING’S NEW feeling to it. He hardly dared to drink coffee in the living room-he didn’t want to spill anything on the new couch. He’d even started using coasters. He’d never used coasters.
The ER doctor had said everything was fine, but he still wanted to keep Scully overnight for observation, just to be sure. Scully had Mulder take Maggie home, and told him to go home and get some sleep. He was trying, he really was, but it was so hard to sleep without her he’d finally given up and come out to the living room.
What worried him was the accident itself. He knew it was probably just a random hit and run, but he couldn’t help but wonder if, maybe, it wasn’t so random. She and Maggie had been shopping all day, someone could have followed them, known they were on the way home, known what street to intercept them on.
Maybe they’d been premature in thinking the consortium was disbanded. Maybe it was an old suspect trying to get revenge.
Or maybe it was some random jerk who didn’t care who he hurt.
Scully had reminded him the police had their report. “Let them handle it,” she’d said. He knew she was right-but still, damn it, he couldn’t just sit by and wait.
The phone rang, and he reached over the arm of the sofa and picked it up. “Mulder.”
There was only silence, and he sat up. “Scully? Is that you? Are you okay?”
“Damn it!” He slammed down the phone and got his gun from the bedroom. He turned out all the lights and knelt down by the window.
He knew it wasn’t random. Someone was out to destroy them yet again. First they tried to kill Scully-now they’d kill him-
Bring it on, he thought, and peered out at the dark street. Another building where they were the most talked-about tenants-it could be worse-the shootings and the kidnapings and the loud sex—
A knock came at the door, and he grit his teeth and went to the door. “Who is it?” he said roughly.
“Open the door, Mulder.”
Krycek. Son of a bitch. Mulder opened the door and yanked Krycek inside, shoved him against the wall and pressed the muzzle of the gun against his face. “Was it you? Were you driving the car this afternoon? She’s pregnant, you bastard, did you know that? You could have killed her and our baby and her mother!”
“It wasn’t me, Mulder!”
“It wasn’t-but I know who it was. You’ve got to believe me, Mulder.” He raised his remaining hand and gently lowered Mulder’s gun. “I’m here to help you.”
“You expect me to believe you?”
“You don’t have to believe me. But if I’m right and you do nothing, there’s nothing you’ll be able to do to save her this time.”
That got his attention. Krycek smiled a little and said quietly, “Will you ease up a little, please? I’m here to help you. I’ve got a story to tell you.”
When Krycek stopped talking Mulder sat immobile on the couch for a long time. “You’re sure about this?” he said finally.
“I’m sure. I learn things. I tell people who benefit most.”
“Don’t paint yourself as altruistic, Krycek, I know you. How much do you expect us to pay you? ‘Cause we don’t have much money to spare.”
“I’m not doing this for pay. God! I try to help you and this is the response I get!”
“So what do you gain, then?”
Krycek glared at him and stood up. “Maybe the knowledge that I did something right,” he said over his shoulder.
Mulder raised his gun and cocked it, and Krycek froze. “How do I know,” Mulder said, “that this isn’t another trap?”
“Because,” Krycek turned around, “they killed the woman I love. They left me to die more times than I care to remember. They tried to sell us out-the entire fucking world, Mulder-and when that failed they thought they still had something to fight for. Idiots. Short-sighted morons. Maybe I see the big picture.”
“So you got religion.”
“Enlightenment. Or maybe I didn’t. You don’t know for sure, do you, and it drives you crazy. What’s the truth and what’re the lies?”
Mulder stared at him for a moment, then uncocked his gun and brought down his arm. “Get out of here. If you’re lying we’ll find out soon enough.”
“If I’m telling the truth you have to act fast.”
“Get out before I change my mind about letting you go, Krycek.”
“Goodbye, Mulder. My best to Scully.” He let himself out.
Mulder sat in the dark apartment for a long time, thinking. If it were true …
Damn. Why couldn’t they be left alone? To raise their family in peace?
He sighed, knowing the futility of that question, and dialed.
“Hey, Byers, it’s me. Turn off the tape recorder.”
“It’s off. What’s up?”
“Something big has come up. I need your help. You’re not going to believe this-” he remembered who he was talking to, and said, “Well, you might believe it. Just listen.”
December 16, 2000
Scully smiled brightly at Mulder when he came into the hospital room. She was already dressed, and she got up to kiss him. “Hi, love. I checked out just fine, the Fish is thriving, and I want to go home.”
“Are you discharged?”
“Yes. We just need to go pay the bill.” She stepped back from him, still holding him, and inspected his face carefully. “You didn’t sleep last night.”
“No-Scully, something happened last night-”
“Sh. Just listen to me. Well, let’s get out of here first.”
“Tell me, Mulder.”
“In the car. We’ve got a lot to do today.” He kept his arm around her waist as they walked to the admittance desk and out to the car.
“Okay,” Scully said once they were in the car, “so tell me what happened.”
“Krycek came over last night.” He started the engine.
She stared at him as he pulled out of the parking lot. “Alex Krycek,” she said at last.
“The one and only.”
“I thought he was dead.”
Scully looked down at her hands for a moment, then asked softly, “So, what did he say?”
“The consortium isn’t over. The Cancer Man is still alive, and he’s found lots of replacements for the ones who died. And they’re not through with you.”
“Damn it,” she whispered, and pressed her hand to her mouth.
“You’re more valuable to them than ever, Scully, because of the pregnancy. They seem to think the Fish is some sort of superhuman, because they can’t figure out how she was conceived.”
“Basic biology is too much for them?”
He smiled in appreciation for her attempt at a joke. “You know what I mean. You aren’t supposed to be able to have children. You aren’t even supposed to be alive. They want to study you,” he said, and his voice broke. He cleared his throat and said, “They want to study you and the Fish. They want to see if the ‘improvements’ they made with your DNA came through to her.”
“Natural immunity,” she said softly. “To the retrovirus.”
“That’s Krycek’s theory. I’m inclined to agree with him. Maybe she is naturally immune-if she is, great. But I’m not about to let them get their hands on you again.”
“But what would you believe him, Mulder? He’s lied to you so many times.”
“I can’t afford to not believe him.” He said this staring at the road, his jaw tense.
She nodded slowly, and put her hand on top of his. “Okay. He might be telling the truth. So what do we do?”
“Krycek said we have twelve hours to get you out of the country. I’ve been on the phone all night, trying to figure out where we could go. I think I’ve found a place.” He attempted to smile at her. “Have you ever wanted to go to Rome?”
“Rome, Mulder? Why Rome?”
“I have a friend there. She and her husband are going to be in Paris over Christmas and she said we could have the apartment. For our honeymoon,” he added, looking back at the road.
“I sense more to this story.”
“I want us to get married before we go,” Mulder said seriously. “There’s a justice of the peace waiting at your mother’s. I know it’s not the wedding you wanted-but Skinner and the guys are on their way, and we can do the big one later, if you really want to. Right now, I just want to be married to you.”
Scully didn’t answer him for some time, and he said anxiously, “I know it’s not a church wedding with a priest, but under the circumstances-”
“What about a rabbi and a canopy? My mother isn’t the only one we’d make happy.”
Mulder was quiet for a moment. “My mother’s on her way too,” he said.
“Here.” He shifted and took the small velvet box out of the pocket of his jacket lying in the back seat. “The rings. That’s all I took. We’ll have to pack later, and fast. The guys are bringing some stuff for us too.”
She took the ring box and opened it, and gently stroked them with her fingertip. “Not quite the little chapel of Elvis,” she said softly.
“Not quite the big deal we were planning, either.”
“We’ll have to leave everything behind.”
“Just about, yeah. Maybe we can have the guys sell everything for us and send us the money.”
“Mulder …” She looked up at him and there were tears in her eyes. “We have to start over completely, don’t we?”
“Yeah. We do. But I’ll take care of you. I promise you that.”
“I know. I know you will.” Scully gasped abruptly.
“What? What is it?”
“The Fish is awake.” She took Mulder’s hand and placed it over where the baby was kicking.
“Wow,” Mulder said softly. “Soccer player.”
“Yeah. When do we leave?”
He sighed. “That’s the hard part, Scully.”
“I’m not going to like this, am I.”
“We’ll be traveling separately. I’ll fly west while you fly east, and we’ll meet in Rome on Sunday.”
“Four whole days, Mulder.”
“I thought it would be safer. We’ll both be changing names and planes a lot-I’ll do it more than you, of course, and I’ve arranged for you to stay overnight in Barcelona tomorrow while I catch up to you, so you can rest. But we’ll arrive in Rome the same day.”
She took in a long breath and let it out. “All right. We go. But after Rome, what then? We come back here?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought ahead that far. We’ll figure it out after we’re sure you’re safe.”
“It’s going to be interesting explaining to her why she was born in Rome. Or wherever. ‘Honey, we were afraid you were going to be come a lab experiment so we had to go as far away as we could.’”
“It’s going to be interesting explaining everything to her. Like why we got married two months before she was born. How we met in the first place.”
“Yeah.” Scully smiled and put her hand on his leg. “Mulder. Wherever we go, I don’t care, as long as we’re together.”
He smiled back. They’d be together.
No, Scully thought, it was not the big wedding they’d been planning. No satin gown, no huge cake, no flowers, no organ playing Bach.
But there was still her mother, tears in her eyes, standing by her side. There was Skinner, smiling proudly. There were the guys, looking shy and pleased, even Frohike. There was Mrs. Mulder, her back ramrod straight and a smile hovering around her lips.
And there was Mulder.
The way his voice broke when he spoke the vows. The look in his eyes as she replied to them. His gentleness as he placed the ring on her finger. The tenderness with which he kissed her.
A church wedding wouldn’t be any better than this, she thought as she rested her cheek briefly against his chest. It would be a blur, overly stressful, full of last-minute headaches. This is what a wedding should be like, even if it is no-frills.
Once everyone had kissed her and congratulations were given, they had to turn to business. “Okay,” said Frohike, spreading a briefcase full of papers on the kitchen table. “We’ve got passports, visas and drivers’ licences. A different one for each country. We’ve also booked you some fake flights under your real names, so with any luck they’ll be looking for you in Seattle when you’re actually in Barcelona.”
“But when will you be coming home?” Maggie asked Scully, and she could see how hard she was fighting against breaking down.
“I don’t know. When it’s safe. I promise, Mom, you will see you grandbaby.”
Maggie nodded and embraced Scully tightly.
It was hard to pay attention to the plan as the guys lay it before them. She wanted to just hold her mother, stay in this warm, safe place, not worry about who might be conspiring against them now. Not worry about what tomorrow would bring.
Mrs. Mulder took Mulder aside, to the front hall of Maggie’s house. “My wedding gift to you,” she said softly, handing him an envelope. “I stopped at the bank.”
“Mom, you didn’t have to.” He opened the envelope. Traveler’s checks. Five thousand dollars’ worth. He looked up at her.
“It’s the least I can do. You’ll be starting over-you need cash.” She smiled uncomfortably and patted Mulder’s arm. “Send me pictures of the baby, and let me know if you need more money.”
“Mom … wherever we settle you know you’ll always be welcome.”
She smiled again, still uncomfortably, and glanced over at where Scully was talking to her mother and Skinner. “You’re a very lucky man, Fox. And she’s lucky to have you.”
“I hope so.”
She hugged him briefly and picked up her coat. “Let me know where you settle, Fox. I’ll be thinking of you.”
“Goodbye, Mom.” He opened the door for her and watched her make her way to her car. He waited until she had pulled out of the driveway and started down the road, to go back inside.
He went to Scully and hugged her briefly, and she looked up at him and touched the side of his face. “We need to go,” he said. “We need to pack up the apartment.”
“All your nice things,” Maggie said softly.
“We’re just going to take clothes and the bare necessities,” Scully told her. “Put the personal things into storage and sell the rest.”
“Your new couch, the new crib?”
“Everything, Mom. Everything.”
Mulder rubbed Scully’s shoulder gently, and she smiled at him tremulously and put her arms around him. They held onto each other for a few moments, gathering strength from each other, and then said their goodbyes and went out to the car.
December 16, 2000
Skinner drove them to the airport. They said little on the drive, nor when they got to the airport and checked in. He said goodbye to them once they were at the gate, and told them, “I’ll do whatever I can to help you here. We’ll find out who’s doing this.”
“Thank you,” Scully said, and Mulder’s hand tightened on hers.
It was hard to watch him go. “I feel like the last of our old life just walked away,” she told Mulder.
Scully sighed and put her head on his shoulder. “I’m scared, Mulder.”
“We’ll be okay, love. I promise.” He took her hand and placed it over his heart.
“I’m afraid that no matter how far we go, it won’t be far enough.” She felt his lips against her hair, and she smiled slightly.
“If we have to move into the Australian outback and become dingo ranchers, we will,” he said softly.
“I don’t think you can make a living raising dingos,” Scully said.
“Well, whatever people do in the Australian outback. Wherever we have to go, we’ll go there. Big city or remote outback. Wherever.”
Scully sighed and snuggled further against him. Four days. She could hardly imagine what that would be like. Certainly they’d been apart for longer amounts of time, but not voluntarily, or not without a way to reach each other. They were both carrying cell phones but those were only for absolute emergencies. Wanting to hear his voice would not count as an emergency.
Her flight was called first.
He held her face in his hands and kissed her firmly, and she could taste his tears on her lips. “I love you,” he said seriously, looking into her eyes. “I’ll be thinking of you every second.”
“Try to get some sleep, too.”
“I will. And I’ll be dreaming of you when I sleep.” He kissed her again, and again.
“I have to board the plane, baby,” she said finally, not wanting to leave the warmth of his arms.
“I know. I know. I love you. You know that, don’t you?”
“I know. I love you too.” She buried her face in his chest, and then resolutely stepped out of his arms. “I’ll see you soon.”
He nodded and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Okay. See you soon.” He picked up her bag for her and walked her to the concourse entrance. “I love you,” he said softly, giving her the bag.
“I love you too.” They kissed one more time, and she handed the clerk her driver’s license and entered the concourse.
At the last curve before she lost sight of the waiting area, Scully turned and looked at him one last time. He was still standing there, looking miserable and wiping his eyes. She waved to him and tried to smile, then turned and went into the plane.
— VII —
December 21, 2000
He arrived at the airport an hour before the flight was due to arrive, and stalked around the waiting area of the gate with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. If she wasn’t on this flight … how soon could he get to Tel Aviv?
Finally he watched the plane land and taxi up to the gate. He stood by the window and watched the crew do their thing, and finally passengers began to disembark. Businessmen, tourists, pilgrims coming to Rome for Christmas …
Looking as rumpled and tired as he had felt when he arrived the day before, she walked stiffly down the concourse, scanning the crowd. She smiled when she saw him.
He pushed his way through the people to her, and she put down her bag and wrapped him up in her arms. They held each other tightly, and Mulder noticed people smiling at them as they walked past.
“Hello, my wife,” he whispered. It felt good to say it.
“Hello, my husband. I missed you so much,” Scully said softly. “I was worried and scared the whole time. What if something happened, what if something went wrong. When I heard about the bomb threat I thought it was Them, they were onto us.”
“We’re safe here. I promise.”
“I know.” She only hugged him tighter.
“Come on, baby, let’s get you to the apartment. You can sleep and have a bath and Giovanna has a big meal ready whenever you want it. There’s nothing like homemade Italian food.”
“I thought her name was Fiona.”
“My friend is Fiona. Their housekeeper is Giovanna.”
“Oh.” She lifted her head from his chest at last, and smiled wearily at him. “Okay. I think I can walk now.”
“Got your passport? The visa?”
“Okay. Let’s get you here officially, and then I’ll take you home.”
When Mulder had said “apartment” Scully had pictured a little place like Gregory Peck’s out of “Roman Holiday.” What she saw, though, was a palace. Palazzo, she corrected herself, and wondered if they hadn’t come here by mistake. Surely this wasn’t …
“Here we are,” Mulder said, opening the limousine door.
“Holy cow,” Scully said softly. “This is it?”
“Yeah. Fiona’s husband is the accountant for a shoe designer.”
“A very successful shoe designer.”
“Yeah. Come on, love.” He got out of the limo and swung Scully’s bag over his shoulder. As she maneuvered herself out of the back she heard him say “grazie, grazie” in response to whatever the driver was saying. “Bella signora,” was all Scully caught, and she smiled, deciding everything they said about Italian men was true. Even six months pregnant she got compliments. Amazing.
Mulder laced his arm over her shoulders and helped her up the front steps. “It’s an old place,” he said, “it belonged to some doge back in the Renaissance. It does have a working elevator.”
“Oh, good,” Scully said faintly. Her legs felt like they would collapse under her any second now.
“One more-” He shouldered open the front door. The lobby of the building was vast, big enough to hold her apartment back in Maryland, and carpeted in something plush and deep red. The elevator had a grill instead of a door, and it gave a lurch before ascending to the fourth floor. Scully allowed herself to sag against Mulder’s chest, and she heard him chuckle.
“Don’t start,” she muttered. “I’m exhausted. Pregnant women should not spend five days sitting in uncomfortable airplane seats.”
“I promise I’ll never make you do it again.”
“You better not.” He smelled good. Scully wrinkled her nose, wondering if she smelled as funky as she felt. As soon as she had a shower-but first, a nap. I’m so tired I’m incoherent, she thought, and chuckled a little. Mulder’s hands were warm and heavy on her back, supporting her, holding her against him. All of him was warm. Warm and reassuring. “At least you’ve had a chance to shower.”
“You’re going to love the bathtub they’ve got, Scully. It’s huge. You could move in there, if you wanted.”
“Have some respect for the mother of your child, will you?” she said into his shirt.
“Yes, dear,” he replied in a henpecked tone, and they both laughed softly. “You need a backrub,” he observed, running his hands over her shoulders.
“I need a full-body Swedish massage complete with baby oil.”
“And so you shall get one. Not only am I at your every beck and call, but Fiona’s housekeeper has already decided she adores you. I think it’s the pregnancy angle.”
“Pregnancy makes everyone nicer to me,” Scully murmured.
“She’s got a whole regime set up for you from the moment you step into the apartment. You’re not even going to dress yourself.”
“So this is how the other half live,” Scully said, and the elevator groaned to a stop. Still supporting her, Mulder led her out of the elevator and down the short hall, and rang the bell.
The door opened and a tall, blonde woman stood there, a cellular phone tucked between her shoulder and ear. “They’ve just arrived, I’ll call you back,” she said into the phone, stepping out of their way, and she quickly snapped the phone shut and took Scully’s other arm, kissed Mulder’s cheek and Scully’s too, called, “Giovanna!” and shut the door. “You look exhausted, poor dear,” she said to Scully. “I’m Fiona. Amadeo! Our guests are here! Where do you want to go first, Dana? Bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Mulder, this whole plot is so insane, it’s a wonder Dana agreed to it.”
“For better or for worse, Fiona darling.”
“I know, I know, I remember that part.”
They were joined by a dark Italian man, who was several inches shorter than Fiona, and who kissed Scully and said in fractured English something she hoped was “welcome to our home;” as well as a plump, matronly woman who took Scully’s bag and began lecturing them at once. Giovanna, Scully knew it without anyone having to tell her, and she also knew she ran the household no matter what anyone else thought.
“The little mama should not be walking so much.”
Fiona assured her, “Mrs. Mulder is not stirring a step until she’s good and ready.”
Giovanna remained unconvinced. “Signor,” she said to Mulder, “you have to take better care of you wife, she is so fragile-”
“I’m tired of getting scolded,” Mulder said and picked up Scully in his arms. She yelped slightly and then let him carry her into the waiting bedroom.
“Careful not to drop-”
“I’ve got her. And if the rest of you don’t mind, I’d really like to be alone with my wife.”
Fiona tugged Amadeo’s arm and started to draw him back towards the front of the apartment. “You must let the little mama rest,” Giovanna said uncertainly, still hovering at Mulder’s elbow.
“Yes, yes, I will. Now, please. Let me do the worrying.” He set Scully gently down on the bed and kissed her forehead before sitting down at her feet and taking off her shoes. Scully moaned with contentment as he began to massage her feet.
“You must-you should-” Giovanna fretted.
“Giovanna, please. Let them along. Come on,” Fiona said, and shut the bedroom door firmly.
Scully listened for a moment to the unaccustomed peace, and said softly, “I feel like I’ve arrived in the middle of a whirlwind.”
“Welcome to Rome, love. It’s been like this since yesterday.” He took off her jacket and began to unbutton her simple cotton shirt. “I’ve’ been back and forth to the airport five or six times, Fiona and Amadeo were supposed to leave for Paris yesterday but they decided to wait until you got here, so his people have been calling every hour to make sure he was still coming, plus Giovanna lecturing me on letting a pregnant woman travel alone. All in all, it’s been very entertaining.” His big hands rubbed soothingly against her shoulder blades.
“I thought you were supposed to let me rest,” Scully murmured teasingly.
“First things first,” he murmured back. He drew off the shirt and put her onto her side, and began to massage her in earnest. Scully sighed in contentment.
“Sh, Scully, later. Everything will be settled later. Just rest now.” He unbuttoned her slacks and eased them off her legs, and followed that with her underwear and her bra. He ran his hands slowly over her back and then her front, rubbed her legs, and curled himself around her, embracing her belly. “How is the Fish doing?”
“She wants her lullaby, I think. She’s missed that.” She stroked his arms slowly with her fingertips.
“I’ve actually missed it, too.” He moved from her back to in front of her, and kissed her belly gently. “Hey, little fishie, did you miss your daddy?” he whispered.
“I think she recognizes your voice.” Scully put his hands over the baby’s movement, and he looked up and smiled.
“That alone deserves a song.” He rested his cheek against her belly and sang nonsense to her, stroking her lovingly. Scully ran her hands through his hair, smiling, and drifted into a doze.
Someone knocked softly on the door, and Mulder drew the sheets over Scully, got up from the bed and went to answer it.
“Is she asleep?” Fiona whispered when he opened the door.
“I think so.”
“We’re leaving now. Giovanna and Gino will be here to take care of you, but Giovanna will be at her home Christmas Eve and Day. We’ll be back around the sixth.” The chauffeur appeared, carrying the suitcases Scully had brought, and Fiona stepped aside to let him into the bedroom. He smiled shyly at Mulder as he set the suitcases down and ducked out of the bedroom again. “Okay,” Fiona said, “we’re off. Merry Christmas, Mulder.”
“Merry Christmas. Thank you so much for this.”
She smiled and kissed his cheek, and softly shut the bedroom door.
Mulder ran his hand through his hair and put one of the suitcases on a chair to unpack it. She’d want clean clothes when she woke up, something comfortable. He pulled out leggings and a t-shirt and sweater, and folded them neatly on top of the suitcase.
As he was poking around he found the christening gown his mother had given them, folded carefully inside one of Scully’s nightshirts. He smiled-of course she’d brought that. They’d left behind photographs and diplomas and booties, but she’d been sure to bring the christening gown.
It made him wonder what else she’d brought, and he went to her carry-on bag and opened it up. A collection of essays on quantum theory-Scully’s light reading. Eyedrops. Breath mints. A notepad and pen, and written in the notepad were notes from one of the other items in the bag, a baby-name book: Mary, Mary Kate, Mary Colleen, Mary Anne, Anna, Anne Marie, Rose Marie, Maria, Mariah, Molly, Marilla, Mollia. And so it went for several pages.
So that’s what she’d done to pass the time.
Mulder sat down on the edge of the bed and started flipping through the notebook. Laura, Elizabeth, Lisa, Beth, Mary Beth; Margaret, Maggie, Meg, Megan, Daisy (with a smile drawn next to it), Mary Margaret; Anna, Beatrice, Charlotte, Dinah, Elizabeth, Frances, Mary Frances (Again with the Mary, Mulder thought), Gabrielle, Hannah, Iris, Justine, Kylie, Lucy, Madeleine, Mary Madeleine, Nora, Ophelia, Polly, Regan, Sarah, Theresa, Victoria, Abigail, Bridget …
And then on a page all by itself, Lucy.
Lucy, Mulder thought. Lucy Mulder. He liked the way it sounded. Natural.
He felt a hand on his back and turned to see Scully smiling at him. “I was snooping,” he confessed, showing her the notebook.
“I was bored a lot, and it seemed like the best thing to do to keep my mind occupied.” She sat up laboriously, bunching pillows behind her back. “What do you think?”
“You’ve got a lot of pretty ones here. I like Lucy.”
“I can’t get that one out of my head.”
He smiled at her slowly. “I think … I think we’ve found it.”
“Lucy?” She stroked her stomach over the sheet, smiling down at the baby. “Lucy. Maybe we have. Now all we need is a middle name.”
Mulder groaned and flopped down on the bed. “Not another one.”
“Relax-we’ll only use it on official documents and when we’re angry at her. There’s not so much pressure.”
“You think? There’s a difference between calling ‘Lucy Griselda’ and ‘Lucy Anne’ when she’s late for dinner.”
“I sure hope so. That’s almost cruel. Griselda.”
“Mulder,” she said threateningly.
“Stop now, Mulder. We’re not using Ethel.”
“But it’s such a fine tribute to a great television series. Lucy Ethel.”
“I’m not that big of a fan.”
“You don’t love Lucy?”
“I love the name. I never liked the show much. It was too broad.”
“That’s right, I forgot. You’re more of the ‘Frasier’ school of comedy.”
“I’m starting to change my mind about Lucy, if it’s going to bring the show to mind every time we say it.”
“It won’t. It’s a sweet, pretty name, and I like it.” He kissed her and kissed her tummy. “I like it a lot.”
“Good. So do I.” She kissed him and ran her fingers lightly down the side of his face. “I need a bath.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to say …” She smacked him with a pillow and he rolled away, laughing. “I’m sorry, baby, I’m just so glad you’re here I have to tease you.”
“Be glad I’m not more agile, Mulder, or you’d be in for it.”
“I know, my kick-boxing mama.”
She held out her hands. “Help me up, would you?”
He eased her to her feet and wrapped her bathrobe around her. “Put your arm around my shoulders-that’s my girl-ready to walk?”
“Ready. This is only going to get worse, you know. Three months to go.”
“We’ll manage.” He kissed the top of her head. “When you can’t walk I’ll carry you.”
She snorted. “Like you’ll be able to lift me at that point.”
“Well, you’ve gained, what, ten pounds?”
“Ha! Fifteen at least.”
“I’ll start working out more.”
They made their way from the bedroom to the vast bathroom. Mulder watched Scully’s face as they stepped into the room, and grinned as her eyes widened and she said softly, “Ohh …”
It had to be the black marble bathtub, big enough to hold a small party and the caterers, as well as the band. He sat her down on the edge and started the water running, dumping in a prodigious amount of bubble bath. She put her hand under the running water and sighed deeply.
“No, it’s perfect. I feel like I haven’t taken a bath in a year.”
“Well, you smell as good as you did the day I met you.”
She laughed. “Thank you, darling.” She stood up and took off the bathrobe, and eased herself into the tub. Mulder tried not to watch-surely she was too tired to fool around-and busied himself with poking through Fiona’s collection of shampoos.
“Do you want your own or do you want to try something else? She’s got brands I’ve never heard of-”
“I’d like my own. Would you mind getting it?”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.” He went to their bedroom and filled his hands with her toiletries. Back in the bathroom, he lined them up on the edge of the bathtub within her arm’s reach, and leaned over to kiss the tip of her nose. She’d already found the bath pillow and was dozing again, up to her chin in bubbles. Her eyes opened when he kissed her.
“I’m not sure I can lift my arms just yet,” she said apologetically. “Would you mind . . ?”
“Ask and it shall be done.” He brought water up to her hair to wet it down, squeezed some shampoo into his palm and worked up a lather in her hair. Again she sighed, her eyes closed. “Are you feeling better?” Mulder whispered.
“Much … my whole body is unwinding …”
“Good. You can have a good long sleep when we get you out of here.”
“Mulder …” Her voice was low and husky. “Something just occurred to me.”
“Our marriage is still unconsummated.” She smiled up at him.
“Oh … Scully, you are a wicked, wicked woman.”
“I’m supposed to let you rest.”
“After. Get in here.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He stood up and shucked his clothes, and eased into the bathtub with her. She held onto him tightly as they kissed, twisting one hand into his hair.
“Missed you. Missed you so much.” She lapped at his face.
“Missed you too.” She tasted so sweet, and smelled so fresh, and the water was so warm and soothing. “Wanna see how long I can hold my breath?” He grinned at her and started sliding down her body.
“Mulder-” She started laughing. “Don’t you dare-”
“Going down,” he crooned and took a deep breath, and plunged under the water. He kissed her round tight belly and her slim thighs, and she hauled him back up to air.
“Don’t do that, Mulder! How would I explain it if you stayed under to long?”
“Oh, baby, I’m just trying to show you the lengths I’ll go to for your pleasure.”
“Just make love to me, Mulder. Don’t be a hero.” She kissed his face, and he had to admit that nice, ordinary sex sounded like a very good idea. He brushed some bubbles from her breasts and kissed them tenderly.
“I liked your breasts before, Scully, but I have to admit I like them now too.”
“I bet you do,” she said breathlessly.
“The only pair of perfect breasts in the entire world and they’re all mine …”
“You’re going to have to learn to share, Mulder, I am planning to breast-feed.”
“I know. I’ll share. But for now …” He closed his lips around her nipple and she moaned. He sucked, he tugged, he licked, he nibbled, and was rewarded by his favorite sounds from Scully’s lips.
She raised his face from her breast and kissed his mouth, and guided one of his hands to her belly so he could feel the baby. “She’s dancing,” he whispered.
He kissed her belly again and rested his head on her shoulder. “Maybe we should move this to the bed.”
“Maybe. But this is so nice.”
“The bed will be warm. And softer.”
“Except that we’re soaked and we’ll get everything all wet.”
“Fussy, fussy …”
Her exquisite mouth was already moving over his chest, and she whispered, “And you should never assume that you’re going to be on top.”
“Oh, I never do. I’m a fast learner.”
“Good to know …” He wasn’t quite sure how it had happened but he was beneath her and she was smiling down at him, her skin flushed and rosy, her body at once tiny and monumental. He smiled back at her and ran a dripping hand over her, from the base of her neck, down between her breasts and over the curve of her tummy.
“So beautiful,” he whispered.
“And all yours.”
“Oh, Scully …” He sat up further and kissed her. “I promise, baby, no matter what happens to us we’ll be safe and together and I’ll take such good care of you-both of you—”
“I know, baby, I know. Wherever you go, I’m coming with you.” She held his jaw in her hand so he had to look in her eyes. “We’re a family, Mulder. We stay together.”
“You’ll have to teach me how,” he said seriously.
“Well, you are a fast learner.” Her mouth trailed over his face, and he closed his eyes.
“I’ll learn anything you care to teach,” he whispered, and he felt her smile.
December 25, 2000
It was a strange kind of honeymoon, but a honeymoon nonetheless. They explored the city, toured ruins, went to museums, visited shrines. They took a day to go to the Vatican, which was overflowing with other pilgrims, but Mulder decided the hassle was worth the look on Scully’s face as she looked on La Pieta or contemplated the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He had been to Rome before, years ago as a student, but he found the ancient city wondrous when he looked at it through her eyes.
“I should go to confession,” she said softly one day as they walked through an ancient church.
“What have you got to confess?” he asked, grinning.
She returned his smile. “Aside from the unsatiable lust for my husband, not much, actually.”
She brought him to a midnight mass on Christmas Eve, even though neither of them understood a word of the service. “It’s a fine old tradition,” she’d said when he pointed this out. “For centuries it was in Latin, which nobody spoke and even the clergy barely understood.” So they went, and the ancient story was familiar enough for the language barrier not to matter.
The Venzettis had left Christmas decorations for them all over the apartment, but they’d had to leave their presents behind and didn’t dare spend of their limited reserve, the money from his mother notwithstanding. So Christmas morning they lay in bed and told each other what they’d gotten for each other and left behind.
“… and the new REM album … and that Orson Welles movie you mentioned you like, um … ” Scully tapped her fingers on Mulder’s chest, trying to remember.
“‘The Third Man.’ Oh, Scully, you’re killing me.”
“Mom will hang onto that one. And a sweater-”
“Dark green. To match your eyes. And some more dress shirts. White, of course. And a book of Kafka short stories in translation.”
“Thank you. I wouldn’t be able to read the German.”
“And I don’t know if I could translate it or not. And that’s all I’d gotten so far.”
“That’s some good stuff, Scully, maybe we should have brought it with us.”
“Maybe, but do you really want to pay the excess baggage charge?”
“I guess you’re right.”
“So, what did you get me?”
“Okay. A pregnancy-sized coat.”
“Oh, Mulder …”
“You needed a new coat, Scully, and I thought I’d surprise you.”
“Maybe we should have brought our presents.”
“Some stuff for the apartment.”
“Mulder, you bought dishes? We would have had matching dishes?”
“A four-person service, yeah. I’m glad I didn’t get the eight. I’ll have the guys return that one.”
“Matching dishes.” She sighed heavily. “Were they pretty?”
“White with a thin blue rim and little blue flowers. The colors of the kitchen.”
“Oh … it’s breaking my heart.”
“But I did bring the baby dishes. They’re painted with Peter Rabbit scenes.”
“Oh, good. What else did you get?”
“That was, actually, it. I was planning to do all my shopping after the 20th. But I was thinking about getting us an upright piano.”
“Mulder, we can’t afford that.”
“Well, I was just thinking about it. A small one is only six hundred or so, and I’ve missed having a piano. I hardly get to play and I don’t want to forget how.”
“I don’t think you’d ever really forget how.”
“And I’d like the Fish to learn to play too. Music is good for you. That reminds me, I also got you some CDs. Yo-yo Ma plays Bach, I think one of them was.”
“Just what I like, too.”
“I know.” He kissed her neck gently. “I know all your tastes, all your likes, all your dislikes, all your favorite things.”
“I hope not all. A girl’s got to have a few secrets.”
“More like ninety-eight.”
“Just enough to keep me guessing,” Mulder said, and pulled her on top of him.
December 31, 2000
Mulder wandered into the kitchen in his bathrobe, sniffing the air with enthusiasm. “I smell marinara sauce.”
“Giovanna is teaching me,” Scully said, and kissed him good morning. Giovanna smiled at him, and offered him a spoonful of sauce. He shook his head and kissed Scully again.
“It’s too early for pasta just yet, thanks, though.”
“The little mama needs more color,” Giovanna said. “She is too pale, she needs more flesh.”
“I like the flesh she’s got,” Mulder said and pinched Scully’s bottom gently. She laughed and hit his arm.
“It will be a stronger baby if the mama eats more meat.”
“I drink lots of milk,” Scully said, “to make nice, strong bones.”
“I feel like making eggs,” Mulder said. “Does that sound good for breakfast?”
“I’ll make breakfast,” Giovanna said.
“I’ll do it. No problem. Tell her what a good cook I am, Scully.”
“He’s a very good cook. As long as the recipe isn’t too complicated.” For that she got another pinch and Scully pinched him back. “Behave yourself, mister.”
He stuck his tongue out at her and got a handful of eggs from the refrigerator. “How do you like your eggs, Giovanna? Scrambled? Omelette? Over easy?”
“Omelette, with cheese.”
“Of course. Do we have mushrooms?”
Scully stepped back from the stove, letting them cook. She had to smile at the way Mulder flirted with Giovanna, and how she flirted right back, how he teased and she scolded and finally turned and said, “Signora, I don’t know how you endure him, he is like a little boy.”
“That’s how I endure him,” Scully said. “I let him be a little boy.”
To thank her for coming to his defense Mulder gave her a forkfull of cheese-filled egg. “Is it good?”
“Delicious.” He grinned from her compliment and kissed the tip of her nose.
It was good to see Mulder … happy. Just happy. To see the man he might have been if life had been more kind.
But then, she thought, as she always did, if his life had been more kind, it never would have intersected with hers-and he wouldn’t be cooking breakfast for her in a friend’s kitchen in Rome on New Year’s Eve, pausing every now and again to rub her belly and kiss her tenderly.
“Have I ever told you,” she said softly, “how much I love the sight of men cooking?”
He grinned. “Yes. Yes, you have.”
After breakfast Giovanna cleaned up, and Mulder and Scully sat at the table, drinking juice and holding hands. “Lucy Gabrielle,” Scully said.
“You really like that Gabrielle, don’t you.”
“I do. It makes a good bridge between Lucy and Mulder.”
“What about Mary? You have that in the notebook over and over.”
“I was thinking about a Mary-plus but I’m not crazy about the idea. I mean, naming her Mary-something and calling her Mary-something.”
“Mary Something. I like that.”
“Very funny. But Mary Lucy or Lucy Mary doesn’t quite work.”
“Is there a St. Lucy?”
“There is, she is the patron of sight, and blindness, too, I think. Isn’t that right, Giovanna?”
“Si, Santa Lucia is the saint of blindness and vision.”
“And the name means light.” She looked at Mulder expectantly.
“Light in the darkness, huh?”
“That’s the idea.”
“That’s beautiful.” He leaned over and kissed her. “What about Lucy Margaret?”
“What about Lucy Christine?” she countered, and he rolled his eyes. “Sorry, I forgot. No family names unless they’re my family.”
“What about Lucy Katherine?”
“No … and no Lucy Melissa and no Lucy Samantha, either.”
“Just a thought. Lucy Gabrielle is growing on me.”
“Well, there’s plenty of time to decide still.”
“A slightly more pressing question is what do we want to do tonight. You know,” he added, “the guys are having a Millennium party tonight.”
“They wanted to cover all the bases.”
“Mulder,” she said cautiously, “you are glad to be here, aren’t you? You don’t want to go back?”
“Of course not. Anywhere with you is home, Scully, you know that. Even if we are missing the biggest party Washington DC has ever seen.”
Scully decided not to mention that the Lone Gunmen’s idea of a big party was connecting all their computers into a makeshift LAN and playing Diablo for the title of Ultimate King of the Universe. It was fun last year, but …
“I know what we can do,” she said, and whispered it into his ear in such detail that the tips of his ears turned pink.
— VIII —
January 5, 2001
He could deal with the moodiness, Mulder thought, he could deal with the headaches and the backaches and the food cravings, the nausea and the crying jags and the nightmares-but this restlessness was new and he didn’t know what to make of it. Watching Scully pace around the apartment with her hands on her back, scowling at nothing-it made him nervous. She rejected his every suggestion of going out, she didn’t want to lie down, she wasn’t hungry, and when he asked if she hurt anywhere she glared at him and said, “Everywhere.”
Plus she’d started making lists again, lists of names. He asked, “Don’t you like Lucy anymore?” and she said bluntly, “No. I want something else.” All right. Even the name she loved wasn’t right anymore. This was bad.
He decided it was wisest to treat this the same way he treated her PMS, and retreated to the bedroom with a book and earplugs. When she wanted to talk, she’d talk.
She wanted to talk much sooner than he expected, and showed this by ripping the book from his hands. “Mulder! I’ve been calling you!”
“Sorry.” He took out the earplugs and showed them to her. She snorted and tossed the book aside.
“I’ve been thinking and I need you to explain something to me.”
“Okay,” he said cautiously.
“Fiona and Amadeo come back tomorrow, right?”
“So, what happens to us? Do we stay here? Are we going somewhere else? Do you have another friend willing to put us up? And what about money, Mulder? Because if you weren’t yet aware, we have some huge bills coming up-babies are expensive, and we have no steady source of income. And I really don’t want to ask your mother to pay for the birth of our child.”
“Scully, sit down.”
She continued glaring at him, then her lips trembled and she said softly, “It hurts to sit down. I think I pinched a nerve in my back.”
“Then lie down. I’ll rub your back. C’mere.”
Scully eased herself onto the bed and lay down, her back to Mulder. “All I want to know is,” she said softly, “what happens next. Are we settling here?”
“That depends. Do you want to settle here?” He started rubbing her back gently, up by her shoulders and working his way down to her hips.
“There are other considerations, like where we find jobs.”
“No, not really.”
“Mulder … as nice as it would be to live like characters from a Hemingway story we have to think about practicalities.”
“So we settle where we find a doctor you like.”
“But what about money? We have no income, limited resources, and I refuse to ask for anything more from your mother.”
“We have an income.” He kissed the side of her face.
He could hear the impatience in her voice. He sighed and said, “I get a yearly income of seventy-five thousand. It’s interest, basically, of course we can’t touch the capital. As soon as it’s safe enough I’ll call Jacob and tell him where to transfer my account.”
Scully sat up and turned around to look him in the face. “Who is Jacob, and where is the money coming from?”
“Jacob is the family lawyer, and the money comes from ten generations of Bostonian Mulders.” He kissed her gently. “You married old money, love.”
“Then how come you lived … well, you know. So hand-to-mouth.”
“Just because I have money doesn’t mean I spend it. I lived off my salary. The income went into the bank. I’ve been hanging onto it for something important.” He rubbed her tummy gently. “Like us. Our little Fishie is never going to have to worry about college or schools or having enough to eat. I promise.”
She smiled at last. “So we could’ve afforded the piano.”
“Yeah. The hard part would have been finding a place to put it.” He rubbed her shoulder gently. “So? You feel better?”
“A little. But it still doesn’t tell me where we’re going next.”
“Wherever’s safe. I think settling down is not really option at the moment.”
“I haven’t seen a doctor for two weeks, Mulder. I need to see one.”
“We’ll find your doctor here, if you want.”
Scully didn’t answer for a few minutes, and just played her fingers through Mulder’s hair. She said finally, “Your mother … weren’t her parents immigrants? Didn’t you tell me that once?”
“Yeah, they were Russian Jews. Why?”
“It must have been hard for her. Marrying into that family.”
Mulder kissed her gently. “I never thought of that. It must have been.”
She sighed. “So, now what, Mulder? We wander?”
“We have seven thousand dollars right now.”
“Yeah. There’s more anytime we need it.”
“When it’s safe.”
“And we don’t know when that’s going to be. Or where. Or if.”
Scully turned this over in her mind for a while, and Mulder grimaced as tears started to pool in her eyes. “I don’t want to live on the run, Mulder,” she said quietly, and her voice shook. “I need a home. I need an obstetrician. I can’t-I can’t live a portable life. A child can’t live a portable life.”
“I know. I know.” He held her chin in his fingers and kissed the tear streaks from her face. “We will find a place. Anywhere you want to go-the world is open to you, Scully. Where do you want to go? Where have you dreamed of going?”
She smiled and touched his cheek. “Out of the whole world?”
“Out of the whole world. This whole, entire, big beautiful globe. Do you want an island in the South Pacific? Do you want to go to Greece, or Israel? Japan? I know it’ll be hard living where we don’t speak the language but we can learn. I’ve also heard Prague is still considered the center for with-it American expats.”
“God, are we expats? Is that what we are? We are characters from a Hemingway story.” She was laughing and crying at once, and he went on kissing her. “I don’t know where I want to go. Anywhere. The world is open, it seems like too many choices.”
“Paris or Vienna or Berlin?” He was still kissing her. Carefully unbuttoning her sweater. Mapping Europe on her skin.
“Someplace safe, and peaceful. If there is such a place.”
“We’ll find it. We’ll find the place for us.” He kissed her left breast. “Das Madchen.” He kissed her right breast. “The Matterhorn.” He spread his hands over her belly, and whispered, “Hagia Sophia.”
“Mulder,” she said in That Voice.
“Or maybe the Dome of the Rock.”
“… mm … it’s the middle of the afternoon.”
“And there’s nobody here but us.” He put his hand between her thighs and grinned at her. “The Danube.”
She grinned just as wickedly and put her hand between his. “The lighthouse of Alexandria,” she said.
Mulder smiled at the bare supple back before his eyes, and ran his hand lightly down Scully’s spine. Sometimes he wanted to just marvel at her skin, its softness and smoothness, explore its every pore, kiss her every freckle. But sometimes he wanted to just sink his teeth into her, eat her up. His one bite short of a mouthful.
White chocolate, he thought, and chuckled. Godiva white chocolate, if there is such a thing.
He moved closer to her, buried his nose in the back of her neck, and inhaled deeply. He loved the way she smelled, too. Her tastes and her smells and her sounds and her looks. It reminded him of something, and he moved up onto his elbow and sang softly into her ear, “‘You fill up my senses, like a night in a forest, like a mountain in springtime, like a walk in the rain …’”
She swatted him with a sleepy hand. “Shut up. I’m sleeping.”
“No, you’re not. You’re awake now.”
She mumbled something and turned over onto her stomach awkwardly, pulling the sheets close around her.
“Scully. You know how I love a challenge.”
“I’m not giving up until you open those lovely eyes, dear heart.”
“Go ‘way.” She pulled a pillow over her head.
Mulder licked his lips and thought for a moment. He eased the sheet down her back and kissed the base of her spine. No response. He backed up and thought some more, then grinned. He knew what would do it.
He placed his fingers lightly on her back and walked them up her spine. He sang, “‘The itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout.’” He brushed his hands down her back. “‘Down came the rain and washed the spider out.’” He brushed his hands slowly up her back. “‘Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.’” He walked his fingers up her back again. “‘And the itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.’”
Scully sighed and turned over and blinked at him sleepily. “I’m awake. Happy?”
“Good morning, love of my life.”
That brought a smile, and she said, “Good morning. So, what’s so important that you had to wake me out of a perfectly good dream?”
“I missed you and I want to play.”
“You missed me …” She shook her head and pulled him down to her. “You’re so ridiculous sometimes.”
“You love it.”
“Yes, I love it.”
He kissed her face gently, holding her face between his hands so that his fingers were in her hair. “What were you dreaming?”
“I dreamed we had a home. The most beautiful little house, with a garden.”
“We’ll find you a home with a garden. A safe, pretty place for our baby to play.”
“In my dream we were growing roses and berries, and the baby was playing while I worked in the garden. It was so beautiful. And the house was so bright and cheerful, just like a home should be.”
“It sounds wonderful. I wonder if it really exists.”
She smiled. “No. It was just a dream.”
“Still. It gives us something to look for, doesn’t it. If we see that house anywhere, that’s where we’ll settle.”
“The whole world over and we’ll be looking for one little house … you are ridiculous.”
“It will be our home. We’ll know it.”
There was a soft knock at the door, and Mulder hastily pulled the sheets over them. “Come in.”
The door opened and Fiona peeked in. “Good morning-oh, dear, I’m sorry. I thought you would be up. I just wanted to tell you that we’re back, and we’ll tell you about Paris later. Do forgive me, Dana.”
“Not a problem,” Scully said quietly, smiling. She gave Mulder a sidelong glance, and when Fiona closed the door they both started giggling. “Oh, dear,” Scully said.
“We’re still honeymooners, she shouldn’t be terribly surprised.”
“It does bring the question home, though, doesn’t it, of where do we go next. I’m sure they don’t want us here for long. House guests do get tiresome.” The frown was coming back between her eyes, and he kissed them gently.
“We’ll leave as soon as you decide where to go.”
“Oh …” She made a frustrated sound. “You decide. I don’t know. You’ve been to Europe before.”
“Maybe we should go to England. London.”
“Why? For the socialized medicine?”
“No language barrier, silly girl. You want to understand your doctor, don’t you?”
“Do you think England would be safe?”
“We can make it safe. I’ll make it safe for you.” He lay his head down on her sheet-covered breast and her hand pushed slowly through his hair.
“We should get up soon,” Scully said.
“Soon.” He yawned. “Eventually.”
She went on slowly stroking his hair, then said softly, “Do you ever think about what would have been lost?”
“You know. If we’d failed. Everything that would have been lost. All of human achievement, all our discoveries.”
“And all our crimes and all our perversities, too.”
“I doubt that. It wouldn’t surprise me if no matter where life is, emotions are the same. Love and hatred and … everything.”
“Mm.” He kissed her hand and played with her fingers. “I like the part about love, especially.”
“But things that are unique to Earth … that would have been lost. Mozart. Bach. Da Vinci. Picasso. Hagia Sophia. The pyramids. Things like that.”
“Marlon Brando. ‘Star Trek.’ Disney World.”
She punched his arm. “I’m serious.”
“So am I. Do you think, anywhere in the galaxy, that they have achieved anything so wonderful as Disney World?”
“No, I don’t think anyone has even tried to achieve anything like Disney World.” She sighed and started to haul herself out of bed.
“You think I’m not taking you seriously.”
“That’s because you’re not taking me seriously.”
“Sure I am. I understand exactly what you mean. And yes, I do think about it. Did you ever read ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Mulder.” She picked up her bathrobe and struggled into it.
“Have you? I have a good point here.”
“Yes. Years ago.”
“Remember the part where Arthur is trying to comprehend that the Earth is destroyed? He tries to imagine New York is gone and that doesn’t do anything for him, but when he realizes there are no more Humphrey Bogart movies he passes out.”
“So, what you’re saying is …”
“What I’m saying is, it really wouldn’t matter much to me if the pyramids were destroyed. I’ve never seen them and they really don’t make much of a difference in my day-to-day existence. Yes, they’re cool, and yes, I do wonder sometimes how they were created and what their exact purpose was-but it wouldn’t change my life if they never existed. But, if the things that do matter to me were destroyed, I’d never be the same.”
“Like Bach.” He smiled at her. “Like the James Bond series. Like the Knicks. Like you.”
She sighed again, and cupped his chin in her hand. “Every time I think you’re a terribly selfish boor who can’t take anything seriously, you go and say something like this. And people wonder why I love you.”
“I find myself asking that sometimes. Care to tell me?”
“Must be the sex.” She ducked the pillow he threw at her, laughing, and went down to the bathroom.
Finally dressed and respectable, Mulder and Scully went out to the sitting room of the apartment to find Fiona, Amadeo, and another man that Scully didn’t know. “Dana, this is my brother Ned Gardiner,” Fiona said, and the man held his hand out to Scully. He was tall and blonde, like Fiona, but Scully thought there was something unsettling about him. He lacked the warmth in his eyes that made Fiona so friendly.
“Mrs. Mulder,” he said softly, and his handshake was clammy.
“Hello.” She pulled her hand away as quickly as she could and not look impolite.
“Ned.” Mulder shook his hand too. “It’s been a while.”
“You seem to have done well for yourself. Congratulations on the impending arrival.”
Scully smiled tightly and glanced at Mulder, who seemed perfectly comfortable with this odd man. “Thanks,” Mulder said, and helped her sit down.
“Ned happened to be in Paris for Christmas too,” Fiona said. “It was a pleasant surprise.”
“He is a good brother,” Amadeo added, and Ned smiled as if the praise embarrassed him.
“Fiona tells me you both have a housing problem,” he said to Mulder. “As it happens, I do as well, that I think could solve yours. There’s a house on the family property that I’ve been leasing, but the tenant had to leave abruptly. I hate for the place to be empty-it’s a dear little cottage-and it would be perfect for a young family.”
“Oh,” Scully said, gripping Mulder’s hand. “We were thinking about going to England-”
“You’ll be in the heart of the English countryside. We’re about seventy miles north of London,” Ned said. “Plenty of fresh air for the little one. The house is three miles from the manor and three miles from the nearest town-I’m usually in London, myself, business and all, but I do rent the manor to film companies on occasion. It’s been in two TV series in the last few years. It’s peaceful, and not terribly remote. I’d love for the two of you to come and give it a look.”
“Scully?” Mulder looked at her with raised eyebrows. “What do you think?”
She didn’t want to say what she was thinking. She didn’t like this man, and this offer seemed to convenient, as if someone had arranged it knowing they would need a house. On the other hand, Mulder didn’t seem to suspect anything. Maybe she was overreacting. After all these years she was the paranoid one.
“Let’s go look,” she said, and Mulder smiled.
“You’re going to love England.”
“We’ll go together,” said Ned, taking out a cigarette from a brightly polished case, then he started and put it away again. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Mulder. In regards of your condition.”
“Thank you.” It would be terribly embarrassing to have to run out to throw up, if he’d actually lit the thing.
“I’ll be heading back home at the end of the week. You’ll stay with me at the manor until you decide. Didn’t Fiona bring you there once, Mulder? As part of a house party?”
“Years and years ago,” Mulder said. “You were just getting ready to start Oxford.”
“I was in awe of you all-Oxford students, exactly what I wanted to be. Whatever happened to that woman you were with, Mulder? Phoebe?”
“I’m really not sure,” Mulder said. “We haven’t kept in touch.” His hand tightened on Scully’s, and he gave her a look that said he didn’t regret losing touch with Phoebe Green at all.
“Well, you’ve got something far better, I’m sure.” Ned stood, as did Fiona. “I’d like to take you up on that sightseeing offer, if you don’t mind.”
“I’d love to. It’s been far too long since you’ve visited me. Dana? Mulder? Would you like to join us on a tour?”
“Scully really shouldn’t be walking much,” said Mulder.
“We’ll be driving, and there will be minimal walking. Tempting yet?”
“Scully? A driving tour?”
“Yes. It sounds great. Just promise there won’t be much walking.” She would talk to Mulder later about her misgivings about Ned Gardiner.
The opportunity didn’t arise until after dinner. She told everyone she needed to lie down, and soon Mulder came into their bedroom to keep her company. He lay down beside her and gently ran his hand down her side.
“No. I’ve been thinking.”
“Oh?” He kissed her forehead. “About Ned’s offer?”
“Mulder, there’s something about him … he’s kind of … he makes me nervous.”
“Nervous, Scully? Why?” He cupped her face in his hands.
“I don’t know. I can’t explain it. I feel like … I know it doesn’t make any sense.”
“There’s just something not right about him. I don’t know how else to explain it. He gives me chills.”
“Well, he is kind of odd, I know. But I think he has a good heart, I really do. And we won’t see him much anyway-he did say he spends most of the time in London. If you really don’t like him we don’t have to take the house.”
“But you want to see it anyway.”
“Yeah. I do.”
“Okay. We’ll see the house. If we don’t like it, we don’t have to take it. And if we do like it, Ned won’t be around much. I can live with that.”
“Knew you could.” He kissed her again. “You hungry? Need anything rubbed?” His tender look changed to a leer. “Or licked?”
Scully laughed and pulled him closer. “I can think of some things I wouldn’t mind having licked a few times.”
She loved kissing him. To run her hands over him and watch how his expression changed, the tenderness, the passion, the desire. He’d made jokes, when he first starting reading those “so you’re having a baby” books, about the possible increase in her libido, but sometimes she thought he was a little stunned by it. Even when her back hurt and her feet were tired, all it took was the right look and she was all over him.
“Mulder,” she whispered as she nuzzled his neck, “tell me something.”
“You still find me sexy, don’t you?”
“Oh, honey …” he said softly, “of course I do.” He toyed with her breasts gently. “You’re the sexiest, sweetest, prettiest little thing ever.”
“Even though I’m as big as a house?”
He laughed. “You’re not that big. And you’re only going to get bigger.”
“Ug, don’t remind me.”
“I want to remind you. I like thinking about it. My little bit of a wife. Could there be anything more beautiful than you carrying our baby?” He kissed her stomach and looked up at her.
Scully ran her fingers through his hair, smiling. “Score ten for you, Mulder. Once again you know exactly what to say.”
“That’s true love for you.”
Scully felt tears come into her eyes, and blinked them away. “It is true love, isn’t it,” she said seriously. “This is it. This is forever.”
“I should hope so. In light of everything that’s happened-that is going to happen,” he added with a significant look. He nuzzled her belly with his nose, and started to gently kiss up her body. “Mother of my baby. Flesh of my flesh. Love of my life. All those things I thought I would never have.” He kissed her lips gently. “I never thought anyone would love me this much. I never thought I’d love anyone like this.”
“Neither did I.”
“Sometimes I look at you and wonder when I’m going to wake up. This is too good to be true. Dana loves me. We’re having a baby.”
“Aside from a few inconveniences, it is pretty amazing.” She touched his face gently. “I love you. Home is wherever you are.”
“Love you too,” Mulder answered and bent to kiss her again.
— IX —
Linton Hall, Lincoln, England
January 11, 2001
It took Scully a moment to remember where she was when she woke up. They had arrived at the Gardiners’ house late the night before, and she had gone straight to bed, Mulder following soon after. It had been too dark for her to take in the big house properly, but she’d gotten the impression that it was vast, and old, and very regal.
Ned had promised to show them the house after breakfast, but Scully felt no urge to move other than to curl closer around Mulder. She had never slept in a feather bed, and with the curtains drawn the bed seemed like their own little world. A rather cold world, but their own nonetheless.
She felt Mulder back up, and he sneezed. “Bless you,” she said sleepily.
“Didn’t mean to wake you.”
“I was awake already.” She took his hand and pressed it to her stomach, where the baby was turning and stretching. She looked up at him, and he was smiling tenderly at her.
“What does it feel like?” he whispered.
“Like she’s kickboxing my liver, frankly. Tell me there’s a bathroom close by.”
He sat up and opened the bed curtains. “Just through that door. It used to be a dressing room.”
“‘Kay.” She yawned and sat up, sleepily rubbing her neck.
Mulder’s face at once got its concerned expression, and he said, “It’s not hurting you, is it?”
“Oh, no. Nothing of the sort. My neck is stiff.”
“Okay.” He relaxed. “I was worried, for a second. I thought you might wander off to another mass abduction site.”
“I don’t even know where one is in this country.” She took a deep breath and shoved herself to her feet. Mulder lay back on his side, propping his head on his arm.
“You’re bigger,” he announced.
“Thank you, Mr. Observant.”
“Oh, honey, it’s cute.”
“I need to pee,” Scully said with as much dignity as she could muster, and went into the bathroom. Cute. He would think it was cute. He wasn’t the one carrying twenty extra restless pounds on some of his more vital organs.
She pulled off her nightgown to take a shower-even if the house didn’t have central heating, at least it had decent plumbing-and then paused, and looked at herself in the mirror. She was bigger. They both were. She could see the movement of the baby beneath her skin.
It wasn’t that long ago, she thought, when Mulder could nearly span her waist with his hands. Granted, he had big hands, but it had been a very small waist. She couldn’t even tell where her waist was anymore.
Scully sighed and got into the shower. At least he could still put his arms around her. She still wasn’t too big for that.
She heard a knock at the bathroom door, and called, “Come in.” The shower curtain fluttered with the cold air that came in with Mulder.
“Hey, it’s me.”
“You’re not mad at me, are you?”
“No. Of course not.”
“I know you’re tired,” he said softly, and she saw the shadow of his hand on the shower curtain. She touched her hand to his through the curtain and smiled.
“Tired and uncomfortable and ready for this baby to be born,” she said. “But there are two more months to go, and I’d rather she be healthy than here now.”
“Yeah.” She could picture his bowed head, his closed eyes.
“I’m doing okay, Mulder. Really.”
“You know how I worry.”
“I know. And I love you for it.”
That perked him up, and he said, “Hey, can I come in with you?”
“I’m not up to anything.”
“I wouldn’t try it anyway. I’ll wash your hair.”
The magic words. She smiled and opened the shower curtain. “Get in here, you.”
It was rainy and windy and cold, and hard to see out the car windows. Scully breathed on the window and wiped the fog away. What a cold and miserable day to see their maybe-house. Mulder had bundled her up warmly in boots and scarf and mittens as well as her coat, and he was bouncing the umbrella between his hands as they drove.
“If the weather were finer,” Ned said over his shoulder from the front seat, “and if Mrs. Mulder were up to it, of course, we’d walk down. It’s a brisk fifteen minutes through the orchard.” He smiled and added, “It’s why it’s called Orchard House, of course.”
“Of course,” Scully said softly. He was always so respectful of her. He always called her Mrs. Mulder. He opened doors and pulled out chairs. So why did he make her skin crawl? There was just something so … different about him.
The car came to a stop and Ned sang out, “Here we are!” He opened the door and got out.
Mulder looked at Scully. “You don’t have to love it. If you don’t like it, say so.”
He smiled at her and got out of the car, came around to her side and opened her door, holding the umbrella over her head. She hauled herself out of the car, holding onto his hand, and stood beside him, looking up at the house.
“Come on inside,” Ned said, opening the gate and walking up the front path, “don’t stand out here in the rain.”
“This can’t be it,” Scully whispered. “It looks like a film set.”
“He did say they film movies here sometimes. Maybe you’ve seen it in a movie.” He tugged her hand, grinning. “Let’s check out the inside.”
It was a small house, as such places go: two floors and an attic, with a shingled roof and diamond-paned windows. There was a rose trellis against the wall of the house, bare now except from branches, and a low briar fence around the garden, which had more bare bushes and trees. The door was dark, thick wood with black iron hinges and doorknob. Mulder pushed the door open and Scully stepped inside, where Ned was waiting for them, grinning and bouncing on the balls of his feet.
The front hall was narrow and branched into a front parlor and the kitchen, and led to the stairs and out to the back garden. Mulder and Ned both went up the stairs, talking about drains and insulation and improvements, and Scully drifted slowly through the lower rooms as the rain beat against the windowpanes.
The walls were thick, the windows were deeply set into them. She peered out one of the front windows, and wondered if she could see the big house on a clear day. There were empty curtain rods above the windows.
Blue curtains, she thought. This room needs blue curtains.
She went into the kitchen. The stove, refrigerator and dishwasher were fairly new, within the last five years, she supposed, in the same off-white as the walls. She opened the refrigerator and looked inside. Clean. She looked into the pantry, and opened the door to the cellar.
She could see her baby playing on this kitchen floor. Learning to crawl in this hallway. Taking these steps one at a time.
She opened the back door and went out into the garden, pulling the hood of her coat over her head. She walked slowly around the garden. Rose bushes. Berry bushes. Fruit trees. A box for strawberries and another for vegetables, empty and muddy from the rain. A shed near the back, and a stack of cut firewood beneath a canvas tent. And a swing hanging from one of the oak trees. She eased herself into the swing. The ropes creaked a little, but the swing held.
She could see her baby toddling across the lawn, her lips stained red from berries. She could see Mulder and the baby rolling on the grass, or sitting back here on the swing. Maybe if they lived here long enough Mulder would build a treehouse-she had to smile at the thought of Mulder building something. Maybe, though, he would.
Yes. This was their home.
“I’m out here.” She made her way back to the back door, and met Mulder as she stepped inside.
“Come look upstairs, Scully. I think you’ll like the master bedroom.”
“This is the house, Mulder.”
“What do you mean?”
“This is the house I saw in my dream. This is the place for us.” She smiled up at him as he blinked in surprise.
“Oh. You don’t want to see the upstairs first?”
“So … we tell Ned we’ll take it?”
“Yes. We’ll take it.”
“Okay.” He nodded, then hugged her close. “We’ll tell Ned.”
Linton, Lincoln, England
January 20, 2001
Scully grabbed hold of the curtain rod and turned carefully to look at Mulder, who was already across the room and holding up his hands as if he thought to catch her. “What the hell are you doing?” he demanded. “Standing on a chair like that! What if you fell?”
“I wasn’t going to fall until you startled me,” she said firmly, but decided not to protest when he lifted her down from the chair. “I was measuring the windows. For curtains.”
“You let me do that. You shouldn’t be-Jesus, Scully, what if you fell, what if you hurt yourself?”
“I was all right, Mulder,” she said, and handed him the measuring tape anyway. She’d been measuring the house all day, doors, windows, walls, while she pictured what furniture they could find to fit into it. Mulder had been in London, setting up their bank account. It was their first day apart in nearly a month, and Scully had thought it was best to keep herself busy to keep from missing him too much. It had worked, apparently, it was nearly six and she’d lost complete track of time. “How was the big bad city?”
“Big and bad. Our banker’s name is Silverman. He kept asking me about Swiss accounts, like he didn’t quite believe I don’t have one.”
“Should we have one?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t see the point. Fifty-six inches.”
“Okay.” She wrote it down on her notepad. “Now the height, please.”
“I also did some shopping.”
“It’ll be delivered on Saturday. You’re going to like it.”
“I hope you didn’t spend too much.”
“I spent just enough. Sixty inches.”
“I’m thinking blue for this room. Nothing too frilly.”
“Blue’s good.” He got down from the chair and put his hands on Scully’s shoulders. “Did you miss me?”
“Only when I had to lift things.” She laughed as he swatted her, and swatted him back. “Did you miss me?”
“Yes. Yes, I did. One of these days we’re going to spend some time poking around London, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Crown Jewels.”
“It won’t be for a while.”
“I know. We’ll bring the Fish.” He bent down and said to her belly, “You hear that, kiddo? You’re going to be cultured. I hope you like it.” He stood up straight again and kissed Scully gently. “What do you want for dinner? I’ll cook.”
“Let’s have the salmon. I picked up some bread while I was buying the measuring tape, I’ll heat that up and make a salad.”
“You didn’t walk, did you?”
“I borrowed a car from Ned. He said we were free to use it whenever we wanted, I took him up on it.”
“Are you getting more comfortable with him?”
“Well …” She finished rolling up the measuring tape. “He drove me today. We had a brief conversation.”
“About . . ?”
“Fairy tales. Of all things. He asked me if I’d ever read the original Brothers Grimm, and I told him I had. He told me his favorites and I told him mine. He said he had a beautiful copy he’d like to give us for the baby.” She shrugged. “It was all right.”
“I promise you, he’s harmless.”
“Fiona told me something that may explain him some. When he was about seven he witnessed a friend drowning in the pond on the property.”
“Yeah. Fiona said he was never really the same afterwards. He went missing for a day or so and when he came back he was … different.”
“That kind of trauma, I’m not surprised. Mulder, he did ask me a strange question-he asked me if I believed in changelings.”
Mulder smiled a little as he unwrapped the fish. “Fiona said he believed he was one for years.”
“I think he still does. It was not a reassuring question, Mulder.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it. Besides, he’s moving to London for the rest of winter soon.”
“Still …” She sank into one of the kitchen chairs. The only furniture they’d bought so far was a kitchen table and chairs, and bed for themselves. They’d bought pots and pans, dishes, silverware, and so forth, and the house was starting to feel like a home.
“How’s your back?”
“Poor girl. I’ll rub it later.”
“I applied for a TV and radio permit.”
“You have to have a permit for a TV and a radio. It’s only twelve pounds per year.”
“Oh. All right.”
“I’d like to get a DVD player too, and start rebuilding our collection.”
“Eventually.” She sighed and lay her head on her arms on the tabletop.
“Don’t you miss your Disney collection?”
“A little. I’d rather reserve the money for more important things.”
“Scully,” he chided her gently, “we’re not poor.”
“We’re not rich, either.”
“Well, I don’t know about that.”
“Meaning we can afford to have the baby, buy a car, splurge on movies and still have enough left over to go to the south of France for the summer.” He grinned at her. “So you want to buy a car?”
“Not yet. Not until we know for sure where we’re going to live. Mulder.” She sat up in the chair. “Do you think it will ever be safe enough to go home?”
“I don’t know. I hope so.” He knelt down beside her and put his hands on her knees. “Are you okay?”
“Tired. That’s all.”
“And homesick, I think.”
She nodded. “And homesick. I want my mother here.”
“There’s so much to worry about.”
“It’s nice to have her around to tell me that it’s normal. That I’m normal.”
“Of course you’re normal. Dr. Bailey said you’re doing fine.”
“No, no, I mean-not the development. The feelings. The worries. All I want to do is raise one happy child and I don’t even know if I can.” Tears welled up despite her resolve and she put her arms around Mulder’s neck and lay her head on his shoulder.
“Oh, baby, come on. You’re going to be a great mom. Don’t cry, honey.” He raised her head and kissed her face. “You’re going to be such a sweet mommy. I promise you. You’re so good with kids. You’re so patient. And you have such a great example to follow too. You’re going to be a great mommy.”
“I’m sorry.” She pressed her damp face against his neck and inhaled his scent. “I don’t know what’s gotten into me.”
“It’s okay. It’s okay. I’ve got you.” He kissed her repeatedly and brushed her hair back from her face. “You’re allowed to fall apart when you need to.”
Scully laughed and sniffled, sitting up straight again. “I need a tissue.”
“I’ll get it.” He kissed her again and stood up to go into the bathroom for some tissues.
“Mulder,” she said softly.
“For being here.”
He smiled at her gently. “Where else would I be, sweetheart?” he said quietly, and kissed her once more.
“Brody,” Scully said.
“Brody? For a girl?”
“I just like the sound.”
“Brody. Um …”
“You don’t like it.”
“Ew. You’re right. Okay. Not Brody.”
“Tell me again why Lucy is out.”
“It’s not 100 percent out. It’s not 100 percent in, either. Doesn’t the Mulder family have a history of odd first names?”
“Not that I know of, only that one instance.”
“Oh, yeah, that one.” She stretched beneath his hands luxuriously. “That feels so good.”
He went on rubbing her back, then said, “Mary.”
“No. It’s too … I don’t know. Mary Mulder. It sounds like we couldn’t think of anything better.” She flipped to the front of the baby book again. “Abigail, Agatha, Aidan, Amber-”
“You remember ‘Forever Amber’?”
“Amy, Angelica, Anna, April, Ariana, Ashley, Astrid-”
“I knew a really awful Astrid in high school. And a really nice one. What are the odds?”
“Maybe we should just flip open the book and pick one at random.”
“No, we’ll end up with something really awful. Like Rhoda or Phyllis.”
She flipped through a few pages and put down her finger. “Maya. Latin, meaning great one.”
“Hm. Put it in the maybe pile.”
Scully shut the book and put it aside. “Lucy. Maya Lucy. Lucy Maya. Rub a little higher, would you?”
“A little higher.”
“Must be the right place,” Mulder said with a chuckle. “We could go with something really unusual, like Euphemia.”
“I don’t even know how to spell that one.”
“I actually like Martha.”
“I like that one too.”
“Hannah,” Mulder said, running his hands up Scully’s back. “Hannah Lucy.”
“We keep going back to Lucy.”
“If you don’t want to use it we certainly don’t have to.”
“It’s not that. I’m not sure. Maybe we should wait until she’s actually born to decide. Maybe she’ll look like a Lucy.”
“Most newborns, from what I’ve seen-”
“Which isn’t much.”
“-look kind of like Uncle Fester.”
Scully snorted with laughter. “Meet my daughter, Uncle Fester,” she managed to gasp, and Mulder collapsed with laughter beside her.
“All swollen and red-”
“My mother said I looked like I’d just gotten out of a boxing match.”
“I coulda been a contender-” They held onto each other, giggling. “Rocky.”
“A girl named Rocky?” Scully started laughing again. “I’d sooner name her Fester.”
“Tyson. Or Hollyfeld.”
Scully looked at him for a moment, then gave up and started laughing again. “De La Hoya.”
“I’d love explaining that one when she’d going through an identity crisis. ‘Honey, we named you after a really cute boxer-’”
“We could just tell her we wanted a name to make her strong.” She looked at him, her lips twitching. “Like Steel.”
This time Mulder snorted. “We could just forget the philosophy and name her John.”
That started the giggles all over again and Scully leaned against Mulder’s chest, laughing until she hurt. “Okay. Okay. Let’s make a list of serious choices.”
“Lucy,” said Mulder. “Hannah. Maya. Jasmin. Laurel. Alison. Madeline.”
“Right. And Tyson.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am serious. I like it. Tyson Mulder. It sounds strong.”
“But don’t you think it’s awfully Yuppie?”
“Are we not Yuppies?”
“I thought we were expats.”
“Okay, Mulder. We’re naming her Phillipa Georgina Diana Ruth and that’s it.”
Mulder just laughed.
“And she’s Pippy, for short.”
Mulder continued laughing for quite some time.
Linton, Lincoln, England
January 24, 2001
Mulder’s presents turned out to be furniture, some of the most beautiful furniture Scully had ever seen. A crib, of solid craftsmanship and with soothing curved lines. A matching high chair. An upright piano. A cozy sofa and loveseat, with matching armchairs. And his special surprise, a rocking chair with soft overstuffed cushions.
He wouldn’t let her see the furniture for the nursery until it was arranged, and then he led her upstairs with his hand over her eyes. “Am I going to like this?” Scully asked worriedly.
“You are. I know you are. Ta-dah!” He removed his hand.
“Oh …” she said softly, looking around the room. He’d even put stuffed animals in the crib, and hung a blanket over the back of the rocking chair. “Mulder, it’s beautiful.”
“You sound surprised.”
“I am never going to make fun of your tastes again.”
“Try the chair,” he said, grinning, and Scully eased herself into it. “You like it?”
“I love it. It’s perfect.” She rocked slowly, stroking her stomach. “I think the Fish likes her room too.” She had already put up curtains and wallpaper, and with the new furniture it looked nearly ready. They still needed a changing table and more clothes and toys, but otherwise they were ready. Diapers, bottles, towels, receiving blankets. Mulder had commented as they took inventory of everything they needed, “And I thought babies were small and had simple needs.”
“I’m going to tip the delivery men, I’ll be right back.” He kissed the top of her head and went downstairs.
Scully pressed her hands to her stomach gently. “Your daddy,” she whispered, “is the sweetest man. He loves you so much. He bought you all these pretty things.” She grinned and added, “Little Tyson Eugenia Dakota Dune.” It was their latest game, to think of the most baroque, ridiculous names they could. She’d have to remember that one, to tell Mulder.
The baby jostled slightly, then jostled again. Hiccups. Scully smiled, closed her eyes and leaned back her head, and rocked, rubbing her belly.
Mulder was longer coming back than she expected, and she finally stood up and went downstairs to see what was keeping him. She heard his voice, and then it was answered by a woman’s. She paused, then continued down the stairs to the parlor.
Mulder was sitting in one of their new armchairs, and in the other, looking polished and stylish and very thin, was Phoebe Green.
“Sweetheart,” Mulder said when he saw her, and he stood up and went to her and took her hand. “You remember Phoebe, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course,” Scully said, and tried to smile as Phoebe held out a slim and regal hand.
“Dana,” she said. Scully decided, however, to not walk across the room to shake her hand, and let Mulder guide her to the sofa, where she sat down in relief.
Phoebe let her hand drop. “Well, I was telling Mulder I saw Ned Gardiner yesterday, and he mentioned that the two of you had moved here. I thought I’d come and see it for myself. He found it hard to believe I hadn’t heard you were married. But I guess you didn’t let many of your old friends know, did you.”
“It was kind of sudden,” Mulder said, sitting down at Scully’s side.
“Oh,” Phoebe said, “shotgun?”
“No,” Mulder said, holding Scully back from rising by putting his arm around her shoulders, “nothing like that. Just sudden. Spur of the moment.”
“So,” said Phoebe. “When is the baby due?”
“The beginning of March.”
Mulder had lit a fire earlier that day, and it crackled away merrily and loudly in the uncomfortable silence. Scully studied Phoebe thoughtfully.
“Well,” Phoebe said, “I never expected you to go the domestic route. Marriage, fatherhood, the house in the country. It’s very charming. What are you planning to do while you live here?”
“Raise our daughter, mainly.”
“Live the easy life, is that it?”
“We think it’s for the best.”
“Well, I do want to make you this proposal. If you ever find yourself bored, we could use your talents at the Yard.”
“I’m not planning to get bored.” His hand slid up from Scully’s shoulder and he began to gently rub the base of her neck. Scully glanced at him sidelong and he smiled at her. “Thanks for the offer, though.”
“And you know you’re having a girl. Isn’t that sweet. A little red-haired girl who looks exactly like you.”
“Yes, we’re having a girl.”
“And at your age, Dana.”
Scully smiled tightly and said, “Well, I didn’t want to wait too long, you know. A woman does get too old, eventually.”
Phoebe’s eyes widened and she smiled just as tightly. “Does Mulder still squeak when he comes?”
“Okay,” Mulder said quickly, rising to his feet, “that’s it. Phoebe, just don’t, okay? Don’t. Goodbye.” He took her arm and all but lifted her out of the chair.
“I can’t believe what you’ve given up for this,” Phoebe said.
“Oh, yes, terror and fear for security and bliss. I’m sure you don’t envy me at all. Goodbye, Phoebe.” He shut the door behind her.
“What the hell was that about?” Scully said.
“I don’t know. I didn’t invite her. Are you okay?”
“Of course. I’m fine. I just … she’s a very pretty woman.” She looked up at him miserably across the room.
“Why, Scully,” Mulder said, and he came to her and knelt down on the floor. “You’re not jealous of the Wicked Witch of the West, are you?”
“Did you see her waist? She’s got a tiny, tiny waist.”
“And a tiny, tiny heart. And a manipulative, shallow personality.” He looked up at her through his lashes as he bent his head to kiss her hands. “If you think for one second I would prefer her to you … “
“I’m as big as a barn.”
He sighed and rested his head against her leg. She played her fingers through his hair.
“I do love you, you know,” she said softly.
“I know. I love you too. More than anybody I’ve ever known. More than anybody ever.” He leaned in close and kissed her belly. “And I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than you. Or than this.”
She smiled gratefully. “This is right, isn’t it? All of this?”
“Yeah. You know it is.”
“Come on, sweetheart. Let’s have some tea.” He helped her stand and they went to the kitchen.
— X —
Linton, Lincoln, England
February 8, 2001
One of Mulder’s new toys was a digital camera, and he took pictures of the house and garden to send back to their friends in the States. Scully had threatened serious bodily harm if he tried to take a picture of her, but he felt if he caught her in the right mood he could convince her. Her mother wanted to see her, and he wanted some kind of record of how she looked at this stage of her pregnancy. He was entranced with her body, its curves and fullness and the sheer wonder of their child inside her.
Getting her into the right mood was the problem. Her moods shifted constantly, which worried Mulder: one day Scully was content and placid, the next she was weepy and upset at nothing and everything. She was ugly, she was fat, she was boring, she was bored, and he, of course, couldn’t say anything right. Their new obstetrician, Dr. Bailey, assured him it was normal and that his patience was the only thing she needed, but Mulder didn’t find her advice terribly helpful.
He studied Scully thoughtfully as she lay in bed one right, idly flipping through the TV channels. One hand stroked her stomach in a slow, absent rhythm, and her skin looked soft and golden in the dim light. I have to have this picture, he thought, and reached for the camera he’d stashed in his bedside table.
Her voice stopped him short. “Don’t you dare.”
“Aw, Scully, just one.”
“No. No, no, no. It’s bad enough you have to see me this way.”
“But you’re beautiful this way.”
“Stop making fun of me, Mulder.”
“I’m not making fun of you. You’re so beautiful. Your skin has this sheen to it-”
“You’ve always looked like some kind of pagan goddess-and now even more so. You’re a fertility goddess,” he said softly, running his hand over her belly. “Like one of those Celtic burial mounds … those are supposed to be symbolic of a pregnant belly, you know. Rebirth and all that.”
“Stop trying to butter me up with your brilliance,” she said, with a smile playing around the corner of her lips.
“Let me take a few pictures. Just to send to your mother.”
She sighed. “All right. Just a few.”
He leaned forward and kissed her, and moved to the foot of the bed. “Smile, Scully.” She smiled uncertainly, smoothing her nightgown over her tummy so its size would show. “Come on, Scully, show some enthusiasm.”
“I don’t like having my picture taken under normal circumstances, Mulder, what more do you want?”
“I want you to look like this is a magical time. I want everyone to see how radiant you are.”
“I’ll give you radiant, bucko,” she said. She shook out her hair, licking her lips and widening her eyes, and moved up onto her knees. She looked flushed and wanton and sexy.
Mulder had to just stare for a second, then he lifted the camera and snapped the shutter. “Okay, baby, give it to me. Lick those pouty lips, give ‘em some shine.” She licked her lips and batted her eyelashes at him, and he took picture after picture as unobtrusively as possible. “Pout, baby, pout. Oh, that’s it! That’s my pretty girl.” He moved around to get her from different angles, and she tossed her hair in front of her face and even lowered the shoulder of her nightgown, giving him a smoldering look. He took pictures until the camera’s memory was full, and finally lowered it with a satisfied sigh.
“Those aren’t exactly pictures I’d send my mother,” Scully said, running her hands through her hair to settle it.
“I’ll post the rest on a website and charge admission.”
“I’m kidding. Those are just for me. And don’t you think the Fish would like to see what she looked like before she was born?”
“No. Promise me you’re not bringing that thing into the delivery room.”
“I’ll be too busy telling you to breathe to take pictures. Afterwards it’s no holds barred.”
“Only if you want pictures of me giving you the finger.”
“Dana Katherine, your mother would be shocked.”
“No, she wouldn’t, she’s the one who explained to me what the finger was.”
“I’m taking pictures of you in the hospital, Scully. I’m taking pictures of the baby even before she’s cleaned off. I’m taking pictures of you exhausted and sweaty with IVs in your arms.” He lay down beside her, propping his head on his arm. “None of our family is going to be here but they’ll want to witness it, and this is the only way.”
She touched his face with her fingertips. “You are some piece of work, Fox Mulder,” she said softly.
“I want everyone to see how beautiful you are.” He took her hand and kissed it. “How beautiful you are like this.”
“Compliments’ll get you everywhere, you know.”
“That, my beloved, is only an added bonus.” He added seriously, “I wish you would see yourself like I see you.”
“Oh? And how is that?”
“Beautiful. Miraculous. Divine.”
“Divine? Come on.”
“Divine. The goddess Dana. You know who Dana was, don’t you, in Irish mythology? The king of the gods. The head honcho. The big cheese. The name suits you, you know, it’s got that regal feeling to it.”
“I’m not regal.”
“Yes, you are. You’re dignified. You’re graceful.”
“It’s only temporary.”
She sighed, playing with his hand, comparing it to her little one. “I feel lost right now,” she said quietly. “Suddenly my job is gone and my family is miles away, I’m living in a foreign country where I probably won’t ever be able to work and I’m expected to give birth to this child …”
“You’re not alone, Scully. And we’re hardly the idle rich.”
“No, we’re not, but … it’s just so strange. I have to find things to do during the day.” She laughed abruptly. “I’m sure I’ll miss it after the baby’s born.”
“You’ve been very industrious. The Fish has the prettiest room I’ve ever seen.”
“Yes, you’ve spent so much time in baby girls’ rooms.”
“I’ve seen enough. So it’s not quite the blue-sky paint job I was picturing, but it’s so pretty. Even with all that pink.”
“I never thought I’d buy into that pink for girls, blue for boys thing.”
“I like it. And I like this little house. I like how you’ve made it ours. I like our little bit of a garden and I like the plans you have for it. I like how we spend the day and I really like how we spend the night.”
She chuckled. “You’re insatiable.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He kissed the top of her head, and whispered into her ear, “And I really, really like my little mouthful of a wife.”
Again she sighed, but the melancholy edge was gone from it. “Yeah,” she said quietly. “I like this place. There’s nowhere else I want to be but here. And I’d be saying that if we were in Damascus or Tuscany or Timbuktu.”
“I can picture you in Timbuktu,” Mulder said.
“Shut up and kiss me,” Scully answered, so he did.
Linton, Lincoln, England
February 14, 2001
For years Mulder’s Valentine tradition to Scully had been a bouquet of yellow tulips, white daisies, and red roses. She usually gave him something chocolate-based, like holiday-wrapped Hershey’s Kisses in a plastic alien head. It was their way of commiserating with each other on being alone. Their gifts were personal enough to be meaningful, but unromantic enough to be from one friend to another believably.
Even last year, when they had been uncertain lovers of a day and away on a case, he’d remembered, having searched all of Houston for a florist that would make a bouquet to his specifications on short notice. And she-he had to smile at the memory-somehow she’d gotten hold of a bowl of chocolate mousse, and they had made a mess of her hotel room bed, eating the mousse using their tongues as spoons and each other as plates. The look the maid had given them the next day …
Mulder spent a few minutes watching Scully sleep, then kissed her gently and got out of bed. The florist would deliver the flowers later on that day. He had a few other things to do before Scully got up.
French toast, fresh strawberries and syrup. Fresh orange juice mixed with club soda for virgin mimosas. He put the whole breakfast together on a tray and brought it upstairs, and put the tray on the night table. Scully was still asleep, so he leaned over and gently blew in her ear. “Scully,” he whispered. “Wake up, sweetheart. Wake up, it’s morning.”
He traced the swirl of her ear with his tongue. “I have something for you.”
She swatted him sleepily. “Mm.”
“Do you remember what we did a year ago today, Scully? We were in that awful hotel room, but I hardly noticed how awful it was. You were there, and that made it beautiful. And you seduced me with chocolate, which was the last thing I expected. Oh, Scully, the way we made love …”
Scully opened her eyes and smiled. “It was so hard to wait until we were alone.”
“Could’ve fooled me.”
“I wanted you so badly.” Her little hand threaded into his hair and gently smoothed down his cowlicks. “But I was so unsure of what you’d do.”
“You had me from day one, you know.”
“I did not,” she said, pleased.
“You did. And last year if you’d just told me to drop trou and fuck you I wouldn’t have even blinked. I would have just done it. I did appreciate the seduction, though.”
“Anytime. I smell French toast.”
“Yes. I made you breakfast. Hungry?”
“Starving.” She pushed herself into a sitting position and he stacked the pillows up behind her. He set the breakfast tray over what remained of her lap. “Mulder, this looks delicious.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day.” He kissed her gently.
“Sit with me, Mulder, eat.”
“I’ll feed you.” He picked up the knife and fork and began to slice up the pieces of toast. “Scully.”
“Hm?” she said with her mouth full.
He wiped some syrup from her chin and sucked it off his finger. “You’re such a sloppy eater. Were you trying to tell me something all those years, when you’d give me Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses?”
She laughed and took the fork from him. “Maybe. Subconsciously, maybe.” She fed him a forkfull of toast.
He chewed and swallowed. “Hugs and kisses you wouldn’t allow yourself to give me. Aw, Scully.”
“I wouldn’t allow myself? I remember a certain occasion when I tried to get something started and you couldn’t get out of my presence fast enough.”
“Florida. The moth men. Ring a bell?”
“Oh. Oh yeah. That.” She fed him another bite, and he said around it, “Were you really trying to get something started that night?”
“I would not have been opposed.” Scully smiled fondly and cupped his face in her hand. “I would not have been at all opposed.”
“What would you have done?” Mulder said, his voice lowering.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe something like this.” She combed her hands slowly through his hair.
“Mm. That would start something.”
“Or maybe this.” Her fingers danced over his face and down his neck.
“Mm.” He picked up the breakfast tray and set it aside. “Show me more.”
“Something like this, I think you mean.” She pulled him closer and butterfly-kissed his face with her thick lashes. Mulder moaned from low in his throat. “Or like this,” Scully whispered, and kissed him deeply.
“But where would it have stopped, Scully?” Mulder whispered, lifting his mouth as little as possible.
“It never would have stopped, Mulder.” She was already tugging on his t-shirt, and he raised his arms so she could pull it off.
“Are you sure you’re up to this?”
“I’m sure.” She stopped kissing him, and looked at him with very wide eyes. “Unless you don’t want to.”
“Oh, I want to. I want to.” He parted the buttons on her nightgown and kissed her collarbone tenderly. “So it never would have stopped, huh?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Think of all the children we’d have. A baby every year.”
She laughed out loud. “Not in this day and age, buster.”
“It’s kind of fun to think about, though, isn’t it. All that passion.”
“I don’t want to think about the passion. I just want to act on it.”
She looked like an angel against their fluffy pillows, her hair spread out and the white lace of her nightgown against her fair skin. “You’re so beautiful,” he whispered, and she smiled and wove her fingers between his.
“Come here, Mulder,” she whispered, and he was happy to obey.
She was so cute, he thought as he watched her move around the kitchen. She was wearing denim overalls and a black t-shirt, and one of his flannel shirts over it with the sleeves rolled up, and thick raglan wool socks. She had a folded-up bandana holding back her hair, and a smudge of flour across her nose. He’d discovered, early on in their relationship, that when Scully was happy she baked. And she was now baking bread. From scratch. Thick hearty wheat bread that she would later feed him with butter and honey, hot and straight from the oven.
He’d set up their new computer in the corner of the kitchen-it was their favorite room in the house and they decided it would make the best office. He was trying to write an article but the sight of Scully baking was far too entrancing. And distracting.
He leaned back in the ergonomic chair and said, “Scully, tell me something.”
She looked up from the dough she was kneading. “What is it?” she asked, brushing a stray lock of hair from her face with the back of her hand.
“Are you happy?”
She smiled down at her hands, deep in dark brown dough. “Very. Why?”
“I’m trying to figure out how to keep you happy. Good lovin’ seems to do it,” he added, and she laughed.
“Good lovin’ doesn’t hurt. Enjoy it while you can, it’s going to be harder after the baby’s born.”
“I know. So what else can I do? To keep you happy, I mean.”
“Mulder …” She sighed and came over to him, and he pulled her into his lap, flour and doughy hands and all. She wound her arms around his neck, taking care not to touch his hair or the chair back. “You just keep on being your sweet self and I’ll be the happiest woman on the face of the earth.”
“Promise.” She kissed him gently. “Oops. Got flour on your face.”
“‘Sokay, there’s flour on your face too.”
“So tell me, G-man, are you happy?”
“Yes. Very much so.”
“You don’t get bored?”
“Nah. I’m having too much fun.”
“Oh, yes, rearranging furniture is so much fun.” She started to rise from his lap, but he held onto her.
“Don’t go yet.”
“I need to get the dough into the pans so they can rise.”
“In a minute. Rearranging furniture is fun. Cooking for you is fun. Washing clothes is fun. This peaceful domesticity is a lot of fun. And you, my dear girl, are more fun than the fourth of July.”
“They don’t celebrate the fourth of July around here.”
“You know what I mean. And you know what else?”
“You are so cute pregnant.”
She gave him one of her more skeptical looks and kissed the tip of his nose. “I am not cute,” she said, getting out of his lap, “I am huge. I am ill-tempered and swollen everywhere. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for about two weeks, I have to pee every half an hour and I’ve got this tummy—”
“You are as cute as a button on a teddy bear’s nose.”
“Say one more thing like that and I’ll hurt you, Fox Mulder.”
He said softly, “I love you, Scully.”
She sighed in mock frustration and said, “I forgive you this time. And I love you too. You have work to do.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He turned back to the computer, but someone rang the front doorbell before he could start typing again. “Oops! I’ll get that.”
Scully made an absent-minded sound, already up to her wrists in bread dough.
Mulder went to the front door, tipped the delivery boy, and called, “Scully, have you got a secret lover you’re not telling me about?”
He came back into the kitchen, holding the bouquet behind his back. “Some yahoo brought a Valentine’s gift for you.”
“Damn that Pedro, I told him we had to stay a secret.”
“He’s got good taste, that Pedro.” He whipped out the bouquet, and Scully gasped with delight.
“Mulder, they’re beautiful! You didn’t forget.”
“How could I? I’ll put these in water.”
“We don’t have any vases yet.”
“I’ll improvise.” They did have an empty pitcher, and he filled it with water and put in the flowers, spreading the fern and baby’s breath to give the flowers lift, the way he’d seen Scully do it. He put the pitcher in the center of their dinner table. “Pretty?”
“Pretty. Exactly what I wanted today.” She smiled at him and continued working on her bread. “Mulder,” she said conversationally, after a moment.
“Yes?” He went to the computer again. It was really time to get to work.
“What would you like for dessert tonight? I was thinking … chocolate mousse.”
He shut off the computer. He couldn’t concentrate, anyway.
Mommy and Me
Linton, Lincoln, England
March 6, 2001
“Scully, what about this one?” Mulder held up a large, fluffy pink teddy bear with a blue nose and a yellow ribbon tied around its neck.
“It’s kind of big, don’t you think? There’s got to be room in the crib for the baby.”
“But it’s so cute,” Mulder said, putting it back on the shelf reluctantly.
“Maybe when she has a bigger bed.”
“We could put it on the floor, for now.”
“Could we please just find the baby monitor and go? My feet hurt,” Scully said, trying not to whine anymore than she could help. They had been in the store for far too long, but it was just too easy for Mulder to find distractions.
The baby was overdue. Even though she had dropped and relieved some of the pressure on Scully’s back, she was enormous and Scully felt like a ripe pear, that if someone rubbed her skin the right way it would just peel off. Dr. Bailey had given them until the 9th, and then she wanted to induce labor, to which Scully was not opposed. She’d had a few preliminary contractions, but they hadn’t led to anything. Her suitcase for the hospital was packed and ready by the front door, and they’d already installed the tiny car seat in the car Ned had lent to them. And Mulder hated to leave her alone in the house at this point, so now they were going just about everywhere together. It had been, on the whole, an easy pregnancy, but she was ready for it to be over.
Mulder looked with some disappointment at her and said softly, “Okay, sorry. I guess it would be in the gadgets aisle.” He took her hand and she held onto his arm with her other hand.
“We’ve got enough toys,” she said quietly as they walked.
“Yeah, we probably do.” He added, “Does your back hurt too?”
“No more than usual.”
“We’ll get you home in a few minutes. Here we go, electronics.” There was a startlingly wide variety of monitors and mobiles, musical night lights to help the baby sleep, things that sang and things that glowed, things that snored and things that laughed. That ecstatic look came over Mulder’s face, and Scully squeezed him arm.
“Just the monitor, dear.”
“But Scully, it’s Tickle Me Cookie Monster! How come they didn’t have toys this cool when we were growing up?”
“Are you telling me you don’t think Slinkies were cool?”
“Slinkies had a limited appeal. To me, anyway.” He picked up a box and turned it over to read the back. “This one says it’s guaranteed private. Does that mean it’s only one-way?”
“And that it won’t pick up other people’s cell phones. They’re all one-way.”
“This one looks good. Unless you have a preference.”
“I’m sure one is as good as the other.”
Mulder tucked the box under his arm. “Okay. Let’s get you home, pretty woman.”
She smiled and stood up on her toes to kiss his cheek. He squeezed her hand and they went to the cash register to pay.
It was raining again, so Mulder brought the car around to the front of the store while Scully waited just inside, then brought her the umbrella and helped her out to the car. It was such a production to get her in and out, she thought grumpily, she almost wished she had stayed home.
“Hey, Scully,” Mulder said as they started the drive home. “Maybe we should name the baby Lulu.”
“Um … no.”
There were times, Scully reflected as they drove back home, when Mulder was infuriating, when she wanted to drug him with Valium so she could have a moment’s peace, when she wished he wasn’t so affectionate and physical. But they were rare times. Very rare. Usually she found his mental gymnastics fascinating, when she loved to hear him talk just to listen to his voice, when the touch of his hand was all she needed to know that all was right with the world.
She reached over and put her hand on his knee, shuffling the shopping bag to the other side of her lap. “You okay?” Mulder asked, glancing to her from the road.
“You know I love you, don’t you?”
He smiled at her tenderly. “Yeah. I know.”
“Just checking.” She scratched his knee lightly with her fingernails, then decided to leave her hand there.
“I would like to get her some more toys,” Mulder added, after a moment.
“She’s not going to be a baby for long. Save some of that for when she’s five and wants Barbie dolls of all shapes and sizes.”
“Barbie dolls? Do girls still play with those?”
“They’re practically a rite of passage. I had four or five of my own.”
“I didn’t think you went in for girly stuff like that.”
“Well … I did have them fight with GI Joe a lot. And I’d cut their hair to make them more practical. Nobody made a Kung Fu Barbie at the time.”
“You didn’t have one that said, ‘Math is hard’?”
“Missed that one.”
“Barbies,” he muttered, shaking his head. “I would like to teach her to play baseball.”
“Yes. And to fish.”
“I will. Maybe even to shoot, like her mom. Dead-Eye Dana.” He grinned at her.
“Maybe I should teach her to shoot.” Her smile faded, and she said, “And we’ll need to teach her to defend herself. We can’t be too cautious.”
“Yeah. To defend herself and call for help and be careful around strangers.” They both sighed. “Just the necessity depresses me.”
“I know. Me too. But it’s too far from a perfect world and I don’t want to take any chances with our child.”
“I know.” He put his hand on top of hers. “No chances. Maybe we should even home school.”
“Home school?” Her voice squeaked a little bit. “I don’t know … I know it has its advocates but I’m not sure …”
“Just a thought. We could put her in Girl Scouts or something to make friends. Or sports teams.”
“Well, I want her to do sports anyway. Soccer or swimming. Or horses.”
Mulder’s grin came back. “Still the little girl wanting a pony, huh?”
“I don’t know what kids do around here, if they even have children’s soccer teams.”
“That’s assuming we still live here. If we’re in, say, Tuscany, I don’t know how common show horses will be. And even if we are here, do we teach her English riding or American? Is she going to be a cowgirl or one of those hunting types?”
Scully said after a moment, “And she’ll probably have an English accent, if we stay here.”
“She probably will.” They had reached home, and Mulder pulled the car into the carport. “If we live somewhere else, she’ll pick up the language faster than we will.”
“That’s an advantage I don’t mind at all.”
“Are you ready to get out?”
Mulder got out of his side of the car, and came around to her side and opened the door. Scully eased her feet out of the car and gave him her hands, and he helped her out of the car. She leaned her back against it to get her breath.
“I don’t know how much longer I can take this.”
“You’re doing fine. It won’t be much longer, anyway.” He bent down and said to her belly, “You hear that, little Fish? We’re giving you three more days to come on your own accord, after that we’ll have to force ya.”
Scully grimaced as the baby kicked vigorously. “Oo. She heard you, and she doesn’t like it.”
“Poor Fishie.” He rubbed her belly, then leaned past her to get the shopping bag. “She’ll like it, once she gets here.” He shut the car door and gave her his arm to bring her inside.
The only problem they had with the house was the uncovered carport, which was a good twenty yards from the house itself. It was an obvious afterthought, not even in the same style as the rest of the house, and Scully worried about bringing the baby in and out of bad weather with no protection.
“Scully,” Mulder said softly, “didn’t we lock the door?”
“Yes, of course.” She looked up from the path and saw why his hand was tightening on hers. The back door was open. Not wide open, just open enough for her heart to leap into her throat.
“Go back to the car, Scully.”
“I’m not letting you go in there alone.”
He looked down at her and said quietly, “Then stay behind me until I figure out what’s going on.” He handed her the umbrella and the shopping bag, and went to the front door. He pushed it open cautiously, and Scully sincerely missed the familiar weight of her gun at her back. He stepped into the house.
“Mulder?” she whispered. “What is it?”
He turned around, his face unreadable. “Company,” he said, and stepped aside to let her in.
She entered the house and gasped when she saw what he meant. Lying on their kitchen table, bleeding onto their tablecloth, was Alex Krycek.
— XI —
Linton, Lincoln, England
March 6, 2001
Krycek looked up at them and smiled weakly, “Hey. Hope you don’t mind me dropping in, but I couldn’t think of another place to go.”
“What the hell are you doing here?” Mulder demanded.
“Oh, I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d see the new place. Hey, Scully.”
“Hi,” she said softly, and clung to Mulder’s arm. She knew, in some weird cosmic sense, they owed Krycek their safety, but that did not change her dread at seeing him. Murderer. Hired thug. Who knew what else he was, what else he’d done.
“Sweetie, why don’t you sit down,” Mulder said, and pulled out one of the kitchen chairs. “What happened to you?” he asked Krycek brusquely, as Scully sank into the chair.
“Um … I ran into an old friend. He wasn’t too happy to see me. It is so hard to bring guns into this country, have you ever noticed?”
“You need medical attention,” Scully said quietly.
“I know, but if I go to a hospital they’ll have to report me and I’m not quite legally here.”
“Not quite or not at all?” Her voice didn’t rise. Even she had to admire her control.
“Okay. Not at all. Would you, um, mind giving me a hand?”
“Mulder, please get my first aid kit.”
She silenced him with a look, and he nodded. “Right. Okay.” He leaned his face into Krycek’s and said, “If you even look at her in a way she doesn’t like I will kill you with my bare hands, you understand?”
“Yeah,” Krycek said, and closed his eyes.
As Mulder was upstairs, Scully forced herself to her feet and started a pot of water to boil. “Care to tell me why you chose the table?”
“I didn’t want to get blood anywhere else. Blood is a bitch to get out of upholstery.”
“I bet you’d know.”
He didn’t answer.
“Do you need help getting your shirt and jacket off?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. I don’t have much to help you with the pain, and I don’t have anything to knock you out.”
“I could do it,” Mulder said darkly, coming back into the kitchen with the cardboard box that held Scully’s medical supplies. She took it from him.
“I need scissors, too. “
“Where are they?”
“I think they’re in the nursery.”
He glared once more at Krycek and left the kitchen again. “He doesn’t like me much, does he,” Krycek observed.
“Neither do I.” Scully helped him sit up and eased off his leather jacket. Touching him was strange, like touching a ghost. His face was narrow and blank, his eyes flat, lined by impossibly thick lashes. And after a moment she realized why his left arm was so stiff. Prosthetic. “How did this happen?”
He gave a one-shouldered shrug. “More old friends.”
“Don’t worry about it, okay? It’s long in the past.”
Mulder came back with the scissors, and watched her cut off Krycek’s grey t-shirt with his hands crossed over his chest and a scowl on his face. She helped Krycek undo the straps of his prosthetic arm and eased it off as well. The bullet had entered his left shoulder just below the bone, and had passed through cleanly.
“You’re lucky,” she told him. “I won’t be digging around in your shoulder for the bullet.”
“Oh, good,” he said faintly, and his fist clenched and unclenched. “Hey. How far along are you?”
“What?” Scully said absently, as she sponged hot water around the wound.
“How far-” He drew in his breath in a hiss. “Please talk to me. It hurts.”
“I know it hurts. I’m overdue. The baby was due the first.”
“Pregnancy really-” He squeezed his eyes shut. “Really suits you.”
Scully raised her eyebrows at him, and chuckled slightly. “Thanks.”
Mulder said, “So did you come to England to check on us?”
“Kind of. The thought had occurred to me. And to show you some stuff. I have pictures-Polaroids-of what they did to your apartment in the States. They weren’t happy to find you gone.”
“I bet,” Mulder said.
“Mulder,” Scully said, “will you please get a glass of water so Alex can take some pain reliever?
“Oh, so it’s Alex now.”
“Mulder,” she said again, calmly. He got a glass from the cupboard and poured some water into it from a pitcher in the refrigerator. He handed it to Krycek and shook out two pills from the bottle, and held them out to Krycek absently before they all realized he couldn’t take them. Krycek put down the glass and took the pills, threw them into his mouth and swallowed half the glass of water, grimacing.
“Thanks,” he said quietly. He wouldn’t look either of them in the eye.
“I need you to lie down again, “Scully told him. “I’m going to have Mulder hold you down while I clean the wound,” she added as he carefully lay down on his back, and his eyes flicked up to her face.
“Mulder, come here. Hold him down by the arms. And Alex, feel free to yell.”
Mulder’s face was grim, but his hands were gentle on Krycek’s shoulders. Krycek glanced up at him, then squeezed his eyes shut again. He had gone very pale beneath his tan. And though he did swear and groan and grip the tablecloth tightly with his hand, he did not yell.
With the tablecloth thumping steadily in the washing machine and Krycek asleep in their guestroom, Mulder came out to the living room to find Scully sitting in one of the armchairs and staring contemplatively out the window. “I don’t know if the blood is going to come out,” he said, sitting down at her feet, and he leaned his head against her knee.
“Did you put it in cold?”
“If it doesn’t come out the first time we’ll wash it again.” Her fingers combed lightly through his hair.
“So,” Mulder said after a moment, “what are we going to do with him?”
She sighed. “Let him recover and send him home, I suppose.”
“What if the guy who shot him decides to finish the job?”
“That’s assuming he’s still alive.”
“Did Krycek say-”
“No. He didn’t tell me much of anything.”
“He’s dangerous. Keeping him here is dangerous.” He laughed without humor. “Why are we even having this conversation? We should turn him over to the police. Who knows how many countries he’s wanted in.”
“We’re not turning him in.”
“He came to us for help. I’m not going to violate the trust he’s placed in us.”
“We don’t owe him anything, you know.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
He jumped to his feet. “How can you say that! You know what kind of man he is-you know what he’s done!”
“I know. I know all of that.” She held out her hands to him pleadingly. “But listen to me. He came to us because he trusts us. He knew that we would help him, and as little as we liked it, we did. We can’t turn on him now.”
“Scully, you know as well as I do that if our situations were reversed he’d turn on us in a second.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. You’ve said it yourself, Mulder. Part of what we are is how people treat us.”
“This isn’t like taking in a stray dog and feeding it so that it’s nice to us-this Alex Krycek. Alex Krycek, Scully.”
“I know who he is.”
“I’m beginning to wonder if you do.”
She stared at him for a moment, her eyebrows furrowing. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Why do you care about what happens to him? I could make one phone call and he’d be out of our lives for good.”
“I took an oath, Mulder, to do no harm.”
“Okay, so you patched him up, now we give him to the police.”
“It’s not that simple, Mulder.”
His anger was almost tangible. He said softly, “Who is he to you? What is this about, really?”
“Who is he to me?” she repeated, stunned. “Mulder … he’s just a man in trouble. And I can’t in good conscience turn him away. I’m not that cold-hearted.”
Mulder studied her, then said softly, “You’ve slept with him.”
“That’s what this is about. That’s why he’s helped us, that’s why he came here. You’ve slept with him and he’s in love with you.”
Scully stared at him, and said in a low, rapid voice, “I have not ever, in my life, touched Alex Krycek until today. I swear on the life of my child, Mulder. I don’t know what he feels or what his motivations are. If you want to know the truth I’ve always thought he had more than a healthy attraction to you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Out of the two of us, who’s the one he kissed?”
“You’re not the only one who can make unfounded accusations, Mulder.”
“I’m just trying to understand why you want to shelter a murderer in our house.”
“Because no matter what personal feelings I have about him, he’s still a human being. And he helped us, Mulder. He didn’t have to. He probably put himself in more danger than he’s been in for years, but he helped us. And now we have this beautiful house and friends and we’re going to have a healthy child and we’re together. Instead of-instead of who knows what. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?” She put her hand on his shoulders. “Mulder. We do owe him something. We owe him everything. And we’ll take care of him.”
Mulder put his hands on her shoulders and leaned his forehead against hers. “Okay,” he whispered. “Okay. I’m sorry. You’re right. We owe him everything. We’ll take care of him. But we have to be extra cautious too, until we know exactly what’s going on.”
“We will. We’ll be careful.” She kissed his forehead and ran her hand through his hair. “Are you hungry? We need dinner.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled slightly. “You need to eat. I’ll cook. I need to do something physical. And I guess we need to feed him, too.”
“Right.” He sighed and kissed her. “I’m sorry about-about what I said. That was wrong. I just hate the thought of other people-other men-”
“I don’t know why I get so jealous.”
“I get jealous, too, I understand. It’s okay. You were angry. We both said things.”
“Yeah, but I-”
“Sh.” She kissed his mouth, his forehead and his eyes. “Sh. As far as our fights go, that actually wasn’t that bad.”
He smiled at her and cupped her face in his hands. “You know what? You’re pretty amazing, Dana Katherine.”
She smiled back and said smugly, “I know.”
Linton, Lincoln, England
March 7, 2001
There had been a time, and it wasn’t long ago, either, when Scully slept the right through and Mulder was the restless one. Pregnancy had ended that, and few nights went by without her waking up four or five times from the baby’s movement or the pressure on her bladder. Mulder would hum when she got out of bed, if he woke up at all, and burrow into the warm space her body had left. She often came back to bed to find him lying diagonal across it, and she’d have to push him over to make space for herself.
She decided, while she was up, to check on Krycek. Even if he needed help he might not ask for it, she thought, and went to the door of the guest room, which they had left slightly ajar. Krycek’s breathing was deep and even, which was a good sign. She entered the bedroom quietly and reached out to lay her hand on his forehead.
He gasped awake and grabbed her wrist, and she said quickly, “Alex, it’s me.”
He released her wrist and twisted away from her. “Oh. Oh. Sorry. You startled me.” He eased back slowly onto the pillows.
“I was checking on you.”
“Are you feeling all right?” She lay her hand on his forehead, then on his cheek. His skin was cool and dry. No fever, which, she hoped, meant no infection.
“Yeah. I’m okay.”
“Well, as long as you’re awake I’d like to check your bandages.”
“Um …” He eased himself into a sitting position. “Okay.”
She reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. He was watching closely her every move, his strangely-colored eyes glittering in the soft light. They were like a shark’s eyes, she realized, no variations in their depth or color. She shivered despite herself.
“No central heating.” You’re being ridiculous, she scolded herself, he’s just a man, and she began to unwrap the bandage from his shoulder.
Krycek said quietly, “I heard you two fighting earlier. I’ll leave in the morning.”
“You’re not strong enough to travel.”
“Mulder doesn’t want me here.”
“He’s getting used to the idea.”
He said, his gaze holding her face steadily, “You don’t want me here, either.”
“I’m getting used to the idea, too.”
“I can make one phone call and be out of here in an hour. I have a friend with a private plane, I can be out of the country with no problem. You aren’t obligated to take care of me.”
“It’s not an obligation.” There was only a light patch of blood on the bandage, and the wound itself looked a healthy pink. “I think we can wait to change these until morning.”
She began to rewrap him, and finally blurted, “So why did you come here? Were you checking up on us?”
“You were very hard to find. The only other person who know where you are that shouldn’t is dead.”
“The man who shot you?”
“Yeah. You guys are safe.”
“But you didn’t answer my question.”
He sighed and gave another of those strange one-shoulder shrugs. “I wanted to see if you could be found. You can, but only by someone extremely persistent. I’ve been looking for you since Christmas.”
“The man you killed was persistent, too.”
“He’s only been following me a few days. I don’t think anyone else is going to find you anytime soon, unless you want to be found.”
“We have family and friends who know where we are.”
“Well, they’re not talking. I found the house because I’ve been in the neighborhood a few days. I probably put you in more danger than anything you’ve done.”
“But how did you know to find the neighborhood?”
“Your ISP. I noticed your mother was getting large emails from a foreign ISP and traced it here.”
“Our ISP bounces to four different countries.”
“Like I said, I’m persistent. What were you sending her, anyway, home movies?”
“Just pictures. The house, and us, and things we’ve gotten for the baby.”
“Mm.” His shoulder was completely wrapped, but Scully made no move from where she was perched on the edge of his bed. Krycek said abruptly, “Would you-could I-would it be all right if I touched you? I mean, if I touched the baby?”
She smiled. “Give me your hand.” He leaned over to reach her, and she held his hand to where she could feel the baby move. “Do you feel that?”
“Wow,” he said softly. He looked up from his hand on her belly to her face. “Does it hurt?”
“It’s a little uncomfortable sometimes, but it doesn’t hurt, no.”
He took his hand away and leaned gingerly against the headboard. “I have a little boy,” he said, and Scully raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“I didn’t know you’re married.”
“I’m not. We were going to, but … life interfered. He’s almost five. His name is Misha.”
“Misha. That’s lovely. That’s a nickname for . . Mikhail?”
“Yeah. Mikhail Alexandrovich Ivanov is his full name. His mother’s name was Zhenya.”
“She died. She was killed. Three years ago. Her parents are raising Misha and they don’t want me around. I haven’t seen him since before she was killed. They live in the Ukraine.”
“Is that why you’re helping us, Alex?” she asked softly. “Because of Misha?”
The corner of his mouth lifted and he said, “Sure, why not? Go to bed, Scully, you need your sleep.”
She decided not to argue with him, and carefully stood. “Good night, Alex.” She turned off the bedside lamp.
“G’night.” She could hear him nestle down beneath the covers.
At the door she paused and said, “You’re welcome here as long as you need to stay, you know.”
He chuckled and said, “I don’t want to take advantage of Mulder’s good graces for very long.”
“Mulder will relax about it if I ask him to.” He didn’t say anything, so she said, “Well, good night.”
“Scully?” His voice was very small.
“If anything happens to Mulder, you’re always going to be taken care of, you know. You and the baby. You’ll always be safe.”
She didn’t know what to say to that. “Thanks,” she said softly, and went to her own bed.
Mulder had, for once, barely moved, and she snuggled up against his back and embraced him around the chest. She kissed the back of his neck gently. He murmured something incoherent, and settled into sleep again.
“Tawny,” Mulder said.
They were at breakfast, hot cereal and tea, and juice for Scully. It was still raining, but it was a friendly sound against their windows. Krycek was not yet awake, and Scully had decided to let him sleep. It would be less tense if he ate while Mulder was otherwise occupied.
“Tawny? It’s like sentencing her to the life of rock groupie.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ Brett?”
“For a girl?”
“There was Lady Brett in ‘The Sun Also Rises.’”
“I refer you to my previous question: for a girl?”
“Okay. Not Brett. Chloe.”
“Nobody knows how to spell it.”
“Scully, we’re approaching the deadline, here.”
“I’m aware of that. The pressure is not helping. What about a Hebrew name, like Tahlia or Chava?”
“Tahlia’s pretty. But there’s not much point in giving her a Hebrew name if she’s not going to know much about being Jewish.”
“She may know a lot about being Jewish.”
“Well … maybe.”
“I still really like Tyson.”
“But if we have another child and it’s a boy, what will we name him? Butch?”
“Another child?” Scully said faintly, and looked down at her lap in dismay.
“You have to admit it’s a possibility.”
“A very remote one.” She sipped her juice. “Let me get through one child before we start thinking about another.”
“I’m not crazy about having a daughter named Tyson. What will we call her?”
“Tyson, I would hope. As opposed to Bubbles or something?”
“I like nicknames.”
“What about Roxanne?”
Mulder thought about it, then said, “Then we run the risk of her being serenaded by bad Sting imitations for the rest of her life.”
“That’s a very small risk.” She sighed, rubbing her face. “This is hopeless. Maybe we should name her Spot.”
“I wouldn’t even name a dog Spot.”
“Did you ever have a dog?”
“Nope. Only fish.”
“What did you name them?”
“Oh, the usual. Elvis I, Elvis II, Elvis III …”
“You have no imagination.”
“One word, Scully: Queequeg.”
“It was meaningful, Mulder. And the only woman mentioned by name in ‘Moby Dick’ is a ship, the ‘Rachel.’”
“It’s not one of my favorites. It always sounds to me like a mouthful of marbles.”
When he had finished laughing, Mulder moved into the chair beside her and rubbed her back gently. “Face it, Scully. Every name is going to have some association or flaw or something that makes it less than perfect. Maybe we should stop looking for the perfect name and just find one we like. Odds are she’ll find a reason to hate it anyway, when she’s about fourteen or so.”
“It’s a wonder we aren’t all named ‘Hey you.’” Scully sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder. “Maybe she’ll name herself. Maybe we’ll know when we see her.”
“Or we will name her Hey You. Should I see if the patient is up?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He stood and kissed her, leaning over her chair, and left the kitchen.
Scully smiled, watching him go, and turned back to their names list. Instead of narrowing it was just getting longer and longer, as they considered names and rejected them, only to turn to them again later. She didn’t know why it was so important to her, to find the right one, but it was as much a drive as her dairy cravings, her ultra-sensitive sense of smell and the need to just bake some days.
She heard Mulder come rapidly down the stairs, and he burst into the kitchen. “He’s gone.”
“Gone, Scully. He was asleep when you looked last, wasn’t he?”
“I saw his face, it was him, how could he sneak out like that? And where would he go?”
“He left you this.” He handed her a folded sheet of paper, on which “Scully” was written in a large scrawling hand.
She opened it, and read, “Dear Dana, Thanks. Again and again you surprise me by being my angel. Don’t worry about me. I promise no harm will come to you or your baby as long as I’m alive. Right now I’m going to see my son. AMK.”
She looked up at Mulder and said, “He’s gone to Russia.”
She folded the paper again and didn’t answer for a few moments. She said quietly, “He has a son. A five year old boy named Misha. He’s going to see him for the first time in years. I think … I think he wouldn’t have ever gone if he hadn’t come here.”
Mulder sat down at the table and put his hand over hers. “Well,” he said quietly. “That does change things.”
“I think there are a lot of ways we can help him, Mulder. If he ever comes back, he’ll be welcome here.”
“I don’t know about welcome … but we won’t turn him away.”
She squeezed his hands and sighed. “Excuse me. Nature calls.”
“I’ll clean up the kitchen.”
“Thanks.” He had to help her stand, and she made her way to the bathroom.
He was rinsing the dishes when he heard her call, “Mulder?”
“Do you need help standing?”
“Um, no. I think-Mulder, I think my water just broke. What was that crash?”
He looked down at his feet and said, “I dropped a plate. Are you sure?”
“No. I’m not-oh … yes. Yes. I’m sure. Oh my. Mulder? We need to go.” She appeared in the kitchen doorway, one arm under her belly. “Mulder? Are you okay?”
For a moment he could only stare at her, but her voice brought him back to the situation. “Okay. Yes. We need the suitcase-we need to call the hospital-are you feeling all right? Do you need to sit down?”
“Calm down. Take a few deep breaths. I need you to be calm for me, Mulder, only one of us gets to be hysterical at a time.”
“Okay. Okay. I’m calm. Deeping breathly.” He caught her smile, and said defensively, “What?”
“Deeping breathly. Yeah, you’re calm.” She went to him and kissed him, standing up on her toes to reach his mouth. “Relax, okay? People have babies every day. We’re going to be just fine.”
“Right,” he whispered, and kissed her firmly. “Okay. Let’s go have this baby.”
— XII —
The Birthing Center
St. Anne’s Hospital
Linton, Lincoln, England
March 7-8, 2001
He wasn’t sure how she could stand it, but somehow she was. When the pain came she closed her eyes and gripped his hand or his arm, not groaning, not screaming, just white-lipped endurance.
He wished she would scream. He wished she would hit him and tell him it was his fault, or threaten that he would never touch her again. He wished the baby would come.
He lay down beside her and smoothed her hair back from her sweaty face. She’d been letting it grow, and when it was down it curled around her shoulders. It was pulled back in a ponytail now, but strands kept working loose.
He kissed her face and whispered, “If I could bear it for you, I would.”
She smiled sleepily. “Sure you would. You’d be screaming for morphine in five minutes, wimp boy.”
He chuckled and kissed her again. “Yeah, but I felt I had to make the offer.”
She turned her face to his chest and gripped his upper arm. A low moan escaped her. He whispered to her soothingly and rubbed her back, and when the contraction was over he kissed her again.
“You’re doing so good, baby. You’re so strong.”
She wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of an epidural. “I want to feel it all,” she said. “At the end it’ll fade and I’ll be left on the edge of the pain. I’d rather get used to it as it comes.” He thought she should have one. Anything to help her.
He’d brought the cell phone to the hospital and called her mother and his to let them know she was in labor. Her mother wanted to come, and he said, “If you get on the plane now you may beat the baby.” He wasn’t sure if she was actually going to come. He hoped she would.
Every few minutes a nurse would come in and check on her, and tell her she was doing just fine. Everything was fine. The baby was fine. She was progressing just fine. He wished they would stop with the fines and tell him it wasn’t normal for a woman to take this so calmly.
But then, this was Scully. Hardly a normal woman in any circumstance.
He’d remembered the camera, and taken a few pictures of her. Smiling awkwardly when they first arrived. In her hospital gown, pulling it back to show how low and big the baby was. Giving a thumbs-up as serious labor began.
He fed her ice and wiped her face, rubbed her back when the pain was bad, counted off the seconds. He caught Scully smiling whenever the nurses called him Dad.
Dr. Bailey came in periodically, snapped on a pair of latex gloves and had a look. “You’re doing wonderfully, Dana,” she said each time.
“If I wasn’t doing wonderfully, do you think they’d make this go faster?” Scully asked him, and he had to admit he’d wondered that himself.
Finally she gave in, had the epidural. The pain was too much, she admitted with tears in her eyes. “I can’t do it, Mulder. It hurts. I know I said-”
“It’s okay, baby. I’ll tell them you want one. You ask for whatever you need, you’re the one doing all the hard work.” He kissed her and went off in search of the nurse.
She fell asleep once the epidural set in. He dozed off in the rocking chair in the room, jerking awake every time Scully moved.
“Mulder?” Her voice was sleepy and soft, and tinged with pain. He was on his feet at once.
“What is it, baby?”
“Get the doctor. Something’s happening.”
Dr. Bailey confirmed it when she examined her. “You’re fully dilated, Dana, we can start to push.” The nurse helped Scully get into position, her back against the head of the bed, her legs apart and her knees up. Mulder wished he could hold her.
They had him count to ten as she held her breath and pushed. He held her hand when she let him. He whispered to her that she was beautiful, she was doing so good, he loved her so much, and wiped the sweat off her face. She smiled at him wearily and pulled her legs up for another contraction.
“Almost there, Dana!”
There was movement and voices back by the door, and the nurse said, “Dana, your mother is here.”
“Mom?” Scully whispered with surprise, and Maggie, looking travel-weary and very excited, peeked around the slight corridor they had for privacy.
“Hi, sweetie.” She stayed at the foot of the bed, but Scully smiled at her gratefully. Mulder did, too.
“How long have we been here?” Scully whispered as she rested.
Mulder glanced up at the clock, then looked at it, squinting. “Almost twenty hours.”
“Wow. Oh … “
She was so tired. How could she bear it? How had Maggie done this five times, his own mother twice? She was sagging against him with weariness.
“Dana, you’re almost finished, I promise, I can see the baby’s head.”
“Can’t do anymore…”
“Just a little further. Can you give me one more big push? That’s it! Push push push! Good girl! Take a deep breath and push for me, push push push push! Oh, here we are! It’s a girl!”
There she was. Bloody and gooey and red and mashed up, her head blunted from its journey through the birth canal. He kissed Scully as they lay the baby on her chest and rubbed off the muck, and Scully was weeping as well, weeping and laughing, as the baby screeched in frustration at being in this strange, cold, bright place. He put his hand on the baby’s chest and felt her heart beating, her little lungs expand with each breath, her heat and aliveness.
“Wow,” he whispered, and several people laughed.
“Yeah,” Scully answered, and kissed the baby’s head. “Hello, darling. Hello.”
Mulder had to leave the room for a while, as Maggie exclaimed over the baby and Scully was stitched up where she had been torn. Too many people, he thought as he went into the hall, and ran abruptly into a solid, broad-shouldered form.
“What are you doing here?”
Skinner shrugged, looking slightly embarrassed. “I brought Mag—Mrs. Scully. I wasn’t sure she should make this trip alone, so I came with her. Is everything all right?”
“It’s a girl. They’re fine. They’re both fine. She’s beautiful. My daughter is beautiful. Oh, God.” He sagged against the wall, realizing he hadn’t slept in over twenty-four hours, that he had a daughter and she was alive and perfect and finally here.
“You look like you could use some sleep.”
“I’m okay. I have to make sure Scully is settled before I go home. She’ll be staying here at least a day. Thank you for coming, sir.”
“You don’t work for me anymore, Mulder. ‘Skinner’ is just fine.” He inclined his head towards the door. “Do you think it would be all right if I went in to say hello?”
“Scully will be glad to see you.” He watched Skinner go into the delivery room, then leaned his head against the wall and let the tears come.
His daughter. Their daughter. With baby-blue eyes and a head of dark hair. Ten fingers and toes. All six pounds and twenty inches of her. Despite everything, she was finally here.
When he had recovered he went back into the delivery room. Scully was asleep, the baby was in her grandmother’s arms. “We have to turn her over to the nursery soon,” Maggie said. “Come here and hold your daughter, Fox.”
“I’ll break her,” Mulder said, but took the baby carefully in his arms. She regarded him with some hesitation, he thought, but he smiled at her. “Hi there. I’m the old man. I promise not to be too overprotective if you promise not to date any musicians.”
“What are you going to name her?” said Maggie.
“I have no idea. We’ve been trying to figure that out for the past four months.” He looked up at them. “I need to call my mother-would you get my cell phone out of the bag?”
Maggie got the phone and traded it for the baby, and Mulder dialed his mother and went out into the hall again to talk to her.
Her voice was sleepy. He couldn’t even think of what time it was in the States. “Hello?”
“Hi, Mom, it’s me. You have a granddaughter.”
“Oh, Fox. I’m so happy. That’s so wonderful. Tell me everything.”
“Well, there was the twenty-four hour labor, I don’t think you want to hear about that. She weighs six pounds and two ounces and she’s twenty inches long, and we don’t know what we’re going to name her. She’s beautiful. She’s perfect. She looks like her mother.”
“You sound exhausted.”
“I am exhausted. But happy.”
“Yes,” she said with more tenderness than he’d heard from her in years. “I know you are. Give Dana and the baby my love, darling, and go get some sleep.”
“Okay.” He was so tired. “Bye.” He listened to her hang up, and turned off his phone. He hoped Skinner and Maggie had taken a cab, so they could drive him home.
He watched a nurse come with a bassinet, and then Skinner, Maggie, and the nurse came back out. The baby was swaddled up tightly with a cap on her head, and her eyes were wide as the nurse took her to the nursery. Maggie put her arm around him and hugged him.
“We took a cab from the train station,” she said. “Mind if we shack up with you for a while?”
“Please do. Is Scully still asleep?”
“No, she’s awake. She asked for you.”
“Okay. I’m going to say goodnight to her and then we’ll go.” Impulsively he kissed her cheek, and she smiled in appreciation. He went back into Scully’s room once more.
It was strangely quiet without the fetal monitor. She smiled at him wearily. “Did you get all of the pictures you wanted?”
“Yeah. I called my mom, too.”
He pulled a chair to the side of her bed and kissed her forehead. “I’m going to take Maggie and Skinner home. I’ll come back after I’ve slept a little, okay?”
“Okay. I love you.”
“Love you too, baby.” He cradled her face in his hand and kissed her. “Thank you.”
“For everything. For loving me. For having a baby with me.”
She held onto his wrist and stroked it with her thumb. “I think it was inevitable, Mulder. From the first day we met.”
“Or something.” She sighed. “I’m very tired.”
“Okay. I’ll be back in a few hours. I love you.” He kissed her once more and tucked the blankets around her the way she liked, and left to take Maggie and Skinner home.
She was perfect. Her skin was soft and smooth and sweet-smelling. Her ears were faintly pointed at the tops, like Mulder’s, giving her a elfish look. Her nose was a button, her thighs were plump and dimpled, her eyes alert and curious. She regarded Scully with what Scully felt was slight, and mutual, trepidation.
“You and me, kiddo,” she said softly. “I promise I’ll make a conscious effort not to screw up too much.”
The baby blinked and gnawed her fist.
Scully looked at the ID band on the baby’s wrist. Baby Girl Mulder. “You need a name,” she said, “and I’ll tell you, we’ve struggled mightily to find one for you. Do you have any suggestions?”
The baby yawned.
“I didn’t think so. That’s okay. We’ve looked at everything from Anna to Zenith and nothing has really worked.”
“There is no name perfect enough,” Mulder said sleepily, from where he was lying on the couch. It had turned out he couldn’t stay away. He’d stayed home long enough only to take a shower, and then Skinner had driven him back to the hospital. He and her mother would return later, after they’d rested some from the trip. Meantime the hospital had transferred Scully to a regular room on the maternity level, and at her request the baby would be sleeping in her room with her. She didn’t want to take any more chances than she could help.
“What he said.” She smiled down at the baby gently. So there was such a thing as love at first sight. Who would’ve guessed.
Reluctantly Scully wrapped the receiving blanket back around her, and put the cap back on her head. “We can’t have you getting too cold,” she said softly, and from the couch Mulder mumbled his agreement. She leaned back, grimacing, against the raised head of her bed, and lifted the baby to cradle her against her chest. The baby squirmed a little in her tight swaddling, but didn’t fuss.
“The trouble is, Mulder, she doesn’t look like anything. She just looks like a baby.”
Mulder forced himself up from the couch and came over the bed, and peered at the baby’s peaceful face. “She kind of looks like a chipmunk,” he said. “With those plump cheeks.”
“We’re not naming her Chipmunk.”
“Well, you did ask.”
“I meant, what name she looks like.”
“She also looks like a tulip.”
Scully raised her eyebrows at this, and he smiled bashfully. “I always thought you had a face like a flower.” He added hastily, “Maybe we should name her Tulip.”
“No. That’s a little too hippie-esque, I think.” She studied the baby’s face. “Daisy? Or Rose?”
“Chris for short.” They grinned at each other.
“Amaryllis,” Mulder said.
“Jasmin,” Scully repeated, liking it. “Jasmin Mulder.”
“Jasmin,” Mulder said again, softly, and he touched the baby’s cheek.
“I can live with Jasmin.” She ran their list of names through her head, and said softly, “Jasmin Grace.”
“Yeah.” He continued stroking the baby’s dark hair. “Hey there, Jasmin Grace. What do you think of things so far? I know it’s been quite a day for you.”
“Jasmin,” Scully said again, and the baby opened her eyes and gurgled. “I think she likes it.”
“High time, too. I guess this means we have to do the birth announcement now.”
“You get to do the birth announcement. But let’s get a better picture of her first.”
“We’ll do one when we get her home.” A shiver ran through him, and he leaned over and kissed Scully’s forehead. “I’ll miss you tonight.”
“It’s your last peaceful night of sleep for a long time, enjoy it.”
“I’ll try.” He sighed. His hand looked enormous as he cradled the baby’s tiny head. “Little Jasmin. Sweet pretty Jasmin.”
“Do you want to hold her? I don’t know when she’s going to get hungry.”
“I’d love to hold her.” He took Jasmin from Scully’s arms, and father and daughter studied each other. Mulder touched her pink cheeks and her little nose, her round belly and her tiny active hands. Her fingers closed around his one. “She needs to have her fingernails cut.”
“I’ll call Mom and ask her to bring a trimmer later.” She couldn’t remember ever seeing Mulder holding a baby before. He looked more comfortable than most new fathers that she’d seen. And the baby-Jasmin, she reminded herself, Jasmin-showed no signs of discomfort or nervousness. Of course, she was barely four hours old, she might not know she should be nervous about anything. “You look good,” she said softly. “You look like you know what you’re doing.”
“I’m a quick study.” He smiled at her, and went back to gazing at Jasmin. With adoration, Scully realized. She wasn’t the only one who had fallen in love at first sight today.
She reached out and slipped her fingers into Mulder’s nearest hand, and he looked up at her again and smiled. “You know,” he said softly, “this whole family thing, I’m really new at it.”
“I know. We’ll figure it out as we go.”
“Do you think-” He stopped and bit his lip.
“What?” she said gently.
“Do you really think we’ll do okay? I get so scared sometimes, Scully, what if I turn into my father?”
“You’re not going to. You’re you, Mulder, with all the compassion and the goodness and kindness and gentleness you’ve always had. It’s your life. Not his. Plus,” she said, smiling, “if you ever try anything that I don’t like I’ll kick your ass.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” He leaned over and kissed her, and between them the baby cooed.
Linton, Lincoln, England
March 16, 2001
Having Jasmin at home was vastly different after Maggie and Skinner had left. With their visitors there was always a willing pair of hands or an extra lap, and Jasmin was constantly cuddled and played with. Skinner had been surprisingly skilled with her, and when Scully asked he said, “I had one younger brother. Twelve years younger.”
“Surprise,” Scully said, and he nodded.
“You learn a lot whether you want to or not. I never had much practical use for it, but …”
“You’re a great godfather.”
“I’ll do my best.”
His best included endless games of peekaboo, helping Mulder install the jumper in a doorway, and Beach Boys songs for lullabies. Mulder wanted to record him singing “Surfer Girl” and use it later when other methods failed, but Scully didn’t see their other methods failing anytime soon. Jasmin would close her eyes when Mulder drew his finger down her nose, and be asleep within minutes. If she was dry, fed and warm, she was a contented baby. All that would change, Maggie warned her, when she was no longer a newborn, but Scully decided they would worry about that when the time came.
When they returned from taking Maggie and Skinner to the airport, Scully carried Jasmin into the quiet house and to Mulder, “Listen.”
He froze. “What is it?” he whispered.
“We’re on our own now.”
He grinned and relaxed. “Oh, is that all. Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Aren’t we, Jazz?”
Jasmin would neither confirm nor deny it, being nearly asleep again. Her eyelids twitched, but that was all. “We’re okay,” Scully said.
Mulder put the diaper bag on the kitchen table and parked the stroller in the front closet, as Scully hung her coat and got Jasmin down to her house-clothes level. She was reluctant to put her in her crib just yet, wanting to preserve this moment, on their own for the first time, and Jasmin was not wailing or turning strange colors or emitting strange smells.
They had brought down the rocking chair from the nursery a few days before, and Scully eased herself into it. Sitting was still not an enjoyable activity, but she managed it. Jasmin curled against her chest, breathing swiftly and deeply, a thin stream of drool on her lips. Scully rocked the chair slowly, her arm under Jasmin’s bottom and her other hand supporting her head. She closed her eyes and leaned her cheek against Jasmin’s sweet-smelling head.
She heard a click and opened her eyes. Mulder lowered the digital camera and smiled at her. “There’s a thousand words, right there,” he said softly.
“At the very least.”
“Do you think that 50 meg of pictures is overkill?”
“She’s our first, I think people will forgive us. And it’s not like we’re cornering strangers and forcing them to admire the pictures.”
“No, only our wired friends and family.” He came to her and sat down on the floor at her feet, and leaned his head against her knee.
In Scully’s arms Jasmin stirred and made a soft sound, moved her wobbly head to a more comfortable position and went back to sleep like she’d never left. Her body was a warm trusting weight, and Scully pressed her lips together to keep them from trembling. She grew inside my body, she thought, the wonder not tempered by familiarity. We made this person. She’s us and she’s her own self.
“Do you ever think about what we’d be doing if we hadn’t kissed that day?”
She smiled. “Still annoying each other as subtly as possible, I suppose.”
He chuckled. “Here’s to the happy accident, then.”
“The happiest of accidents,” Scully said, and combed her fingers through his hair.
The End. For now.
“Come to My Window” belongs to Melissa Etheridge and is used without permission.
“Heaven’s Light” and “Out There” belong to Disney and are used without permission.
“Annie’s Song” is by John Denver.
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