As a child, she had dreams about dolls. In the northwest corner of their shared room, she and Melissa had a whole family of plastic and cloth children, asleep in a miniature crib. Missy adored playing house--feeding the dolls their fake formula and putting throw pillows under her clothes to pretend she was pregnant--but, even as a tiny girl, Dana knew it was just a game. So while Missy changed imaginary diapers, Dana shot BB guns and got into crab apple fights with the boys. Until she started having the dreams: nightmares of plastic baby dolls wielding knives and hand-puppets trying to strangle her while she slept. Even then, she understood the symbolism. After that, she made sure to play with them every day, even for a few minutes, and the dreams stopped.
They started up again after Mulder disappeared. She dreamed of dolls almost as often as she dreamed of her abduction. She told herself, rationally, it had to do with fear of this new-found domesticity, with this shift that she was making from the boy's club of the FBI to Tupperware parties and diaper bags. When she woke screaming and Mulder held her, she couldn't explain it, feeling as ridiculous as when she'd been on that "case" in Maine with the doll she nuked in the microwave.
Tonight when she woke gasping she left Mulder wrapped in sage-colored down and shuffled into the kitchen. She sat at the table, sipping warm milk and stroking her belly absentmindedly, lulled by the gentle undulations of her child's movement.
"Scully?" Rubbing his eyes, Mulder sat heavily in the chair beside her. "You ok?" She nodded and took another sip of milk. "The guppy awake?"
She nodded again, a soft smile on her lips at "guppy," the nickname she'd given their baby while he'd been gone and she took care of the fish, the Scully fish and the Mulder fish and the tiny guppy swimming in the tank. Their family in miniature. Between the baby kicking and the need to pee, it had gotten hard for her to fall asleep and the nightmares woke her up, while Mulder slept surprisingly well, spooned up behind her with his left hand on her big belly. Six weeks to go. This was her dream life and it was scaring her senseless.
* * *
She didn't know what to do with herself all day while Mulder was at work. Take it easy, the doctor said, high blood pressure, the doctor said, pre-term labor, the doctor said, Dana, you need to relax. What she needed was to get out of the house. She pulled on her biggest trench-coat, grabbed her oldest copy of Moby Dick, and headed for the coffee shop not far from the apartment. She'd always walked past it but never allowed herself the indulgence of whiling away the afternoon with a book and a hot drink. It was filled with students studying for exams and poets diligently writing in their notebooks. She watched people come and go for a while and then settled in to read, turning pages between sips of hot chocolate.
"This seat taken?"
She knew the voice before she looked up. "Daniel... you're looking well."
"And you are positively radiant."
"Vitamins." She smiled softly and cleared her throat. "Please, sit."
"So...how's the FBI?"
"Fine. How's Maggie?"
"Maggie is...Maggie. She's a painter who refuses to commercialize her work so she doesn't make any money and she refuses to accept help from me. She's living in this rat-trap of an apartment that is literally overrun by cats. It's a wonder she hasn't been evicted."
"But she's living her dream. She has spirit, Daniel, and courage."
"And how about you, Dana? Are you living your dream?"
"Yes, Daniel, I am. I finally am."
* * *
Funny how accidental run-ins with an ex-lover seemed to give her a sense of perspective these days. In the bedroom with a basket of clean laundry, Scully wrestled with an obstinate fitted sheet and contemplated her conversation with Daniel, about fate and the paths a person's life can take. He was softer and less intense than he had been that day in the hospital, when he confessed, all too easily, "you're all I live for." Daniel from the coffee shop was the Daniel she fell in love with years ago, talking about the Hippocratic oath in the crisp October air. They'd all changed and somehow they remained the same. Somehow Maggie the girl in paint-splattered t-shirts had become Maggie the struggling artist and cat lady, while she hunted aliens and mutants in every conceivable part of the world, from a spaceship in Antarctica to a sewer system infested with rats. All that was about to change. She felt it in the loosening of her joints, in the weight of her breasts, in the shimmy of her water-bound baby girl.
"Whatever," she murmured, giving up. "Folding sheets is a man's job, anyway." She curled up next to a tangle of sheets and waited for Mulder to come home.
* * *
"So how was your day, dear?" Mulder was leaning over her, smirking in typical his parody of this domestic life. It was like living with Rob Petrie all over again, only this time they shared more than toothpaste. She exhaled slowly. This was all so new, Mulder coming home from work and waking her with a kiss, joining her on the bed with a pile of sheets.
"Mulder, don't be like that."
"Don't get huffy just because I use an adjective you find distasteful."
"I don't find it distasteful, I find it uncommunicative and I thought we were beyond that." He paused. "I don't want to fight with you, Scully, so would you please tell me what I did to piss you off?"
"It's nothing, Mulder. I'm sorry. Just lie down with me for a minute?" He set the basket of laundry on the floor and took his place on the queen-sized bed. Ordinarily they both preferred facing away from each other, his body fitted against her rounded back, but tonight he needed to see her face. Her eyes were bright and wet, the way they got when she tried overly hard not to cry. He ran his thumbs over her cheekbones and kissed her forehead. Then she buried her face in his blue dress shirt and sobbed. "Scully? Sweetheart please talk to me."
A sniffle turned into a snort. "Sweetheart? In almost eight years you've never once used any term of endearment on me or anyone else. Get a girl pregnant and that gives you a right to call her sweetheart, is that how it goes, Agent Mulder?"
"Something like that, yeah."
She wiped the wet skin under her eyes with her fingertips. "I'm sorry. Blame it on hormones or lack of sleep or a conversation with a certain cardio-thoracic surgeon that I really didn't want to have."
"You saw Daniel today?"
"Yeah. It wasn't bad, actually, just unexpected, but it made me think a lot about the path my life has taken. The path our lives have taken."
"You're not happy?"
"Did I say I wasn't happy? I'm ecstatic, Mulder. I mean, my god, we're having a baby and we're not too bad at this cohabitation thing. But it's like I turned my head and someone pressed fast forward on the remote control. I mean, it hasn't even been a year since our first kiss. . . " Suddenly he was kissing her again, tender and passionate all at once. Like him.
"What was that for?" she said huskily, when their mouths separated.
"Just wanted to let you know how happy I am, honey-bunch."
"God I love you, poopy-head."
* * *
They held hands on the way to the restaurant. She detailed her rendezvous with Daniel between his snide comments about bureaucracy and afternoon meetings at the bureau.
"Daniel asked me a question today, Mulder, and the answer was so obvious I didn't need to think about it."
"What did he ask?"
"He asked me if I was living my dream. I know he wanted me to say that I wasn't, that my dream life revolved around him, or even that I was, that murdering psychopathic dolls and moth-men was my lifelong ambition. . . But I said yes, Mulder, because I have you and this baby. It is a dream life because I desired it so deeply and never thought I could have it."
He rubbed his thumb over the thin leather of her gloved hand and waited. If she had more to say, she would say it. She sighed deeply. There it was.
"I guess I'm afraid, Mulder, that I'm going to wake up and this dream life will disappear. What makes this any more substantial than you imagining you lived in a house with Diana and a refrigerator perpetually filled with sunflower seeds?"
"The seeds in the fridge should have been a big tip off, huh?"
"What you found out, though, was that your dream life, living with Samantha in reach, was really a nightmare set in a posh neighborhood."
"You're saying what if what you thought you wanted turns out to be the opposite? What if you can't stand changing diapers and taking the kid to endless ballet recitals and spelling bees and going to McDonald's instead of the Phoenix Dumpling on a Friday night? What if you remember the real reason we never shared hotel rooms on the road and ship me off to the Gunmen as a punishment for leaving the toilet seat up one too many times?"
"No, Mulder, I'm saying what if I'm not good at it. What if I do something wrong and the dream turns into a nightmare?"
Realization hit, the way it did when they were on a case and he was listening under her words, not to them, his ears attentive and his mind somewhere else.
"The dream about the dolls. . . you think that's about you being a bad mother?"
They stood next to the doorway to the restaurant, letting customers enter in their winter coats. He pulled her into his arms, tucking her head under his chin. "The thing is Scully," he whispered into her wind-blown hair, "there was one thing missing in the dream. The dolls didn't have a dad."
* * *
Taking her to dinner was better than any dream. It gave them an excuse to get out of the cramped apartment when she'd been resting most of the day on the couch, and it gave them time to connect with each other in the way they'd just started to when she got pregnant and he got abducted. He loved watching her eyes widen when she saw a pasta dish with artichokes and then linger on the list of desserts-- tiramisu and creme brulee and a rich espresso cheesecake. He'd cherished mealtimes most of all since he'd been back, for it was then that he saw the old Scully, the one he fell in love with over a dribble of barbecue sauce on her chin. And it was then that he fully understood how much she was giving up to give him this child. Every day she craved something new, and he teased her mercilessly about it.
"I don't know how you can even think about eating mushrooms after that run-in with the giant fungal organism." In truth, he wasn't sure he could stomach it.
"Well," she folded her hands and looked up from her menu, "to put it in the simplest terms, I'm perfectly capable of distinguishing between your garden variety mushroom and yellow, hallucinogenic slime. Aren't you?"
"Funny, Scully. I really didn't need to be reminded of that little field trip to North Carolina."
"So, Agent Mulder, are you trying to tell me that you haven't eaten a single *fungal organism* in over a year?"
"Not on a pizza?"
"In hot and sour soup?"
"On a hamburger? Fried and dipped in bleu cheese dressing?"
"No, Scully, would you drop it already? I would not eat them in a bowl, I would not eat them on a roll."
"Why are you talking like Dr. Seuss?"
He reached across the table and took her hand. "You know what, Scully? It's really good to be home."
* * *
Climbing into bed, she wrestled with pillows, tucking one under her head, one between her knees, one under the "maternal bulge"--that's what one of those silly books that Byers kept buying called it--while Mulder stood by and watched. Once she was settled, he slid behind her and pulled the clean top sheet and comforter over them. Nocturnal like her father, Guppy tested her fins in her amniotic sea. "Pipe down in there," Mulder said, running his hand over the length of Scully's abdomen. "The old folks need their sleep."
"How'd you do that? She never listens to me."
Scully grumbled, her face smashed into the pillow.
"Daddy magic. Goodnight, Laura."
For long minutes, Mulder listened to Scully's breathing deepen and slow. Then, like a girl at a slumber party, she started giggling. "I would not eat them with a fox, I would not eat them from a box."
"Or wearing socks."
She stifled a giggle and burrowed into the covers.
"Sweet dreams, sweetheart."