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Better Late Than Never

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Mulder’s plotting something, Scully’s sure of it.  She can just tell, by this point: something about the look on his face gives it away.  What exactly he has in mind, though, is less obvious.  She tried asking him straight out, yesterday afternoon, but all he said was, “It’s a surprise, Scully.  You wouldn’t want to spoil a surprise, would you?”  And when she said that she didn’t know about that, it depended on what kind of surprise it was, he said, “Oh, you’ll like it, Scully.”  And when she tried to follow up on that, he said, “I’m not answering any more questions.  Come on, what do you want to do for dinner?”

She didn’t push it.  Maybe under other circumstances she would, but not right now.  Right now, he can plot any kind of surprise he wants to, no matter how outlandish, and she doesn’t think that she can even pretend to object.  She’s that happy to have him here.

Because she’d been afraid that she’d lost him.  She hadn’t let herself admit it, not at the time; she’d insisted to Skinner and Agent Doggett and anyone who would listen that they were going to find him.  But when she did find him, out there in the desert in Arizona, when she found him and she knew that it was really really him, very weak maybe but still alive, when she held him to her under the stars and watched over him in the hospital—when that happened, she did think to herself, as she sat by his bed holding his hand, that some small part of her had been afraid that she wouldn’t find him alive, or at all.  She didn’t tell him everything she’d been thinking, but she did press her forehead to his when he was awake, whispering, “Mulder, you scared me.”  They weren’t thoughts she wanted to dwell on long, though; it was too hard to even think about what it would have been like if she’d never seen him again, if they hadn’t gotten to sit together like this, if she hadn’t had the chance to tell him her news and to see his reaction.

No, she wouldn’t have wanted to miss seeing that.  He was usually so articulate, but not then.  “Really?” he said, and “Really, Scully?”, and “You’re really…?”, and “You mean…did we really…?”

“Really,” she said.  “I’m going to…”  And then she amended it, when she saw the look on his face.  “We’re going to have a baby.” 

“Oh,” he said, and his voice was so quiet, but she could tell that he shared her joy.  “Oh, Scully.”  His kiss was gentle; his arms held her tightly.  And now that they’re back in DC, he’s thrown himself into the role of expectant father.  With a vengeance.  Which means a lot of fussing over her.

She can’t sit down on the couch without him trying to pile at least five cushions behind her back.  “What are these for, exactly?” she asked him once; he couldn’t answer, but he keeps doing it anyway.  When she was sneezing a lot one day on a case—something in the air, probably, nothing worth worrying about—he wouldn’t stop asking her if she was all right.  “I’m fine,” she said every time.  He always nodded, but then he went ahead and asked her again and again, until she told him that he was making everyone wonder what the hell was going on with them.  And then there’s the way he makes breakfast.  She told him, the first time she came into the kitchen and saw him, that he didn’t have to do that for her and that she was pretty sure that toasting bread and slicing fruit weren’t on any list of prohibited activities for pregnant women.  He said that he knew that, but he wanted to anyway.  So now he does, most mornings. 

Because now he’s at her place most mornings.  It’s not really something they’ve talked about, let alone planned.  In a way, though, it’s just a more extreme version of something that started a couple of months ago, after he got back from England.  Before that, they’d never spent the night at each other’s places when they had work in the morning, but that night, after they made love, she didn’t want to leave.  Then, of course, she had to get out of bed the next morning when he was still half-asleep.  He groaned her name and clutched at her when she was getting up, and she had to whisper, “Go back to sleep.  I have to go home and change,” when what she really wanted was to slide back in next to him and stay there.

They didn’t talk about it during the day, but after work he said, “I was thinking.  You could keep some things at my apartment.  If you like.”  His hand touched hers.

She nodded.  “You could keep some things at my place too.  I’d like that.”

It started out small—just a few of his clothes at her apartment and a few of her clothes at his, tucked neatly into drawers.  You wouldn’t have thought, looking at either place, that anything was different.  They added more things as the weeks went by.  Nothing crazy, still.

Once he was back, though, once he’d been taken and returned, things shifted.  She doesn’t want him away from her, and he doesn’t seem to want to be away.  It isn’t just a few of his things at her place, now.  It’s a lot of his things.  And it’s almost always him.  Even her mom knows what’s going on, more or less: the last time she came over, unexpectedly on a Saturday morning, Mulder was sitting on the couch without a shirt on, and Scully was sitting next to him, wearing the shirt.  Her mom didn’t seem too fazed.  “You make sure Dana’s taking care of herself,” she told him when she was leaving.

“Oh, I do,” he said.

“Mom, don’t encourage him,” Scully said. 

The thing is, though, she doesn’t mind too much.  Yes, all the fussing can be annoying, and she does tell him when he takes it too far, when he acts like she doesn’t know how to keep herself and the baby safe and healthy or like she’s going to shatter any minute if he doesn’t step in to protect her.  But he does things that she likes too.  Brings her tea when she’s feeling queasy.  Rubs her back.  Holds her so close at night.  He’s here.   She’s got him back (something that she thought might not happen), and they’re going to have a baby together (something that she thought would never happen). 

So let him plot whatever he’s plotting.  Maybe it’ll be something irritating.  Maybe it’ll be something sweet.  It’ll be something he came up with, at any rate, and right now, that alone seems like a wonderful thing.

 

Scully gets tired more easily now, not that she likes to admit it.  The first thing she does when they get back to her apartment is usually to sit down.  And then to tell Mulder that she doesn’t need all those cushions.  It’s the same at the office, minus the cushions.  That’s what gave Mulder the idea.

Well, it was actually Scully’s own idea, of course, about three and a half years ago.  He should have done it then.  The only thing he can say—and it’s not an excuse—is that the whole thing quickly became a symbol of more than it was, one of the rare times their arguments got more ugly and personal than professional.  Maybe they would have talked about it again at some point, but after that, some pretty serious things started happening.  But pretty serious things are always happening to them.  That part’s definitely not an excuse.

He wants to do it now, anyway.  Partly because he wants her to be comfortable, but that’s not the only reason.  Right now, he wants to show her how he feels about her: to show her that, as far as he’s concerned, they’re partners in every sense.

There’s a part of him that still can’t believe the way things have worked out.  Back when they tried the IVF and it didn’t take, he told her not to give up; he meant it, of course, but still he never expected something like what’s happened now.   Neither of them even thought it was a possibility, and yet here they are.  She’s pregnant with their baby, and practically every time he looks at her he wants to hold her close and tell her how beautiful she is.  He can’t do that all the time—Skinner’s office, for example, wouldn’t be a good place for it—but he does get to do it pretty often when they’re…maybe he can’t say at home just yet.  But they’re getting there.  He hasn’t slept at his own apartment in two weeks.  He has a designated shelf in her bathroom.  Just this Saturday, he bought the groceries.  He can’t believe this part either—that he gets all this time with Scully, that he gets to fall asleep next to her every night, that when he wakes up she’s still there and she’ll smile at him and say, “Good morning,” like it’s…like it’s the way things are supposed to be.  And maybe it is.  Maybe for once in his life he’s that lucky.

They’re not always the luckiest people, of course, and so Mulder still worries.  He gets on Scully’s nerves sometimes, he knows, with all the questions about how she’s feeling.  He’s not trying to annoy her, really.  He just wants Scully and the baby to be safe, whatever happens.  And he wants her to know that he’s in this with her: now and when the baby is born and for many, many, many years after that.  “I know what I’m supposed to be eating, Mulder.  I’m not an idiot,” she told him the other day, and he apologized, because he doesn’t mean to make her feel like he thinks she’s an idiot.  He means to make her feel like he cares about her (because he does, so much) and like he wants it to be the two of them, side by side like they’ve always been, facing down their old obstacles, taking on this new adventure.

So he wants to do this for her, as a surprise.  It wasn’t that difficult to arrange, really, and it’s supposed to be there today.  He wants to check first, though; he thinks it’ll probably work better if he’s not also surprised.  He gets up early, while she’s still asleep, and dresses quietly.  He leaves her a note on the bedside table.  Hey Scully, I just went into the office.  I wanted to take a look at some paperwork.  See you there later.  Love, Mulder.  She’ll never buy it, of course—she’ll know that going in early, in a slow week, without her, to take a look at some paperwork is not something he would do.  He didn’t see the need to think of a plausible excuse.  He’s already told her there’s a surprise, after all, and she’ll probably connect this with that, but he still doesn’t think she’s going to guess what it is.

It is there, when he gets in.  He spends some time arranging things, although not too much; she’ll probably want to do that herself, he thinks.  When he hears the elevator, he hurries out of the office, closing the door behind him, standing in front of it to smile at her as she comes down the hall.

She smiles back.  “Hi,” she says.

“Hi,” he says.

“How’s your paperwork coming?”  Just as he expected, her tone of voice implies that she doesn’t have a lot of faith in the existence of this paperwork.

“Excellently,” he says.  “If you’ll just step into the office, Agent Scully, I think you’ll be surprised at what you see.”

“Surprised?” she says.  “This doesn’t happen to have anything to do with what you’ve been plotting this week, does it?”

“It might,” he says.  “It might have something to do with it.  Why don’t you come in and see for yourself?”

“I guess I’ll have to,” she says.  She follows him into their office.  She stops.  And she stares.

She stares for so long that Mulder begins to think he’s miscalculated badly.  It’s not as though she needs to look very long to figure out what it is.  It’s a plain wooden desk.  The surface is mostly bare, but he’s moved her things to it, and a nameplate sits on the edge: DANA SCULLY.  The chair’s a little fancier—it’s supposed to support your back well—but it’s still a chair.  It’s all pretty simple, but she’s just staring, her face blank.

He meant it to make her more comfortable.  He wanted to show her that he cares about what she wants and needs and that he wants the two of them to go into this new stage of things on an equal footing.  But as she keeps staring, not saying anything, he starts to realize that he could be sending all sorts of messages that he didn’t intend.  Maybe she thinks he doesn’t want to share his own space with her anymore.  Maybe she thinks he has a lot of nerve presenting this as a special surprise now when it’s something she asked for years ago.  Maybe she thinks he only cares whether or not she’s comfortable because she’s pregnant.  Maybe she thinks he’s being overprotective again.

“Scully,” he says, tentatively.  “I just thought…well, you did ask about it once…the chair’s supposed to have good back support.”  As if that’s the most important part. 

“Mulder,” she says at last.  “You got me a desk.”

He nods.  “Yeah,” he says.  “Look, I know you should have had one before.  I shouldn’t have dismissed it when you brought it up.”

She nods too, acknowledging his words.  “So why now?” 

“I wanted you to have it,” he says.  “You deserve it, Scully.  We’re partners, and if I have a desk, well, you should have one too.”  He looks at her.  He watches her face as, slowly, finally, she smiles.

“Thank you,” she says.  Her voice is calm, not effusive, and maybe that’s how it should be, he thinks.  After all, like he just told her, she deserves this; it should have been a given.  “Thank you for thinking of it.” 

“It’s not…I just wanted you to have it,” he says.  “I wanted you to have a comfortable place…”

“Mulder,” she says.  “That’s very sweet.  But I really am getting worried that you’re going to drive yourself crazy in the next five months.”  She takes his hand.  “I’m okay, you know.  It’s sometimes…I have a hard time believing all this too.  But we’re all okay.”  He’d wonder how she knew just what to say if this weren’t Scully, who knows him better than anyone.  She wraps her arms around him then, and he reaches out to hold her as well, pulling her close.  “I want to try my new desk,” she says, when they move apart, and now she’s really grinning as she walks to the chair and sits down.  She leans back experimentally.  “It is comfortable.”

“You like it?” he asks.

“I do,” she says.  “I do.”

When he looks up at her from his own desk in the course of the morning, he sees her arranging her things, putting papers into the drawers, lining up her pens on the desktop, looking pleased and absorbed.  After they come back from a meeting with Skinner, he watches her sink into her chair with a contented little sigh.  When she has some paperwork she wants him to sign, she comes over to his desk, leaning in and touching his arm; when he wants to get her opinion on a news story he’s read, which he thinks could legitimately be about vampires, he comes over to hers, hovering behind her as he shows her the paper.  She dismisses his theory.  He leans in to kiss her cheek.  She turns her head, deliberately, and their lips meet.