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Practice Nights

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“Scully?” Mulder whispers into the darkness. The sheets rustle as he turns towards her.

“Hmm?” She’s on her back, staring at the ceiling, her hands on her slightly protruded stomach.

“What’s the matter?”

“Why do you think anything is the matter?” Whenever Scully doesn’t want to talk about something, she answers his question with another. He scoots closer and puts one hand on her stomach, right next to hers.

“You aren’t sleeping,” he says softly, leaning his head against her arm.

“Neither are you.”

“I’m not pregnant.” Scully huffs. “And you told me earlier how tired you were. So, what’s keeping you up?” He nuzzles her elbow with his nose. She doesn’t even giggle and that’s how he knows it’s serious.

“It’s silly.”

“Nothing that concerns you is silly. Please tell me?”

Scully sighs. “It’s- uhm, the baby, I… I’m indigested.”

“Oh honey,” he says, kissing the inside of her elbow. “Why didn’t you say something? Let me help.” Mulder rolls away from her and out of the bed. He turns on a small light and grins at her.

“Mulder, how?” Scully, now sitting up, asks him.

He holds up his finger like a professor with a brilliant idea. “I am prepared, Scully. I read the books.”

“What books?” But he doesn’t have time to answer. He rushes down the stairs to make tea. Peppermint. It wasn’t in the books but Scully loves peppermint tea. So peppermint it is. While the water boils, he returns upstairs to get the Tums he bought a couple of weeks ago. He checks on Scully and sees she’s still in bed, half sitting, half horizontal. It breaks his heart to see her in any kind of pain. She throws him a look, a combination of help me and I’m fine. Only Scully would be capable of that.

“Take this.” One pill in his palm, a glass of water in the other hand, he looks at Scully. She stares up at him with skeptical eyes.

“They’re safe for expectant mothers,” he assures her.

“I know,” she mumbles, putting the pill in her mouth and drinking the water.

“I’ll be right back,” Mulder promises, taking the glass from her. He runs downstairs again, prepares a cup with hot water and drops the tea bag in. The cup is hot in his hand and he reminds himself to walk slowly. Scully needs him. If he burns his hand now, or other, more vital body parts, he will be useless to her.

“Tea for my lady,” he announces as he steps back into the bedroom. By now Scully is sideways in bed, half on her stomach. “It’s peppermint,” he adds, putting it on the bedside table.

“Thank you, Mulder,” she says and her voice sounds hoarse.

“What else can I do?” As tired as he might have been earlier, he is restless now. He wishes he could help her. Take some of the burdens off of her. Looking at her, at the hand on her stomach, he knows he can’t. She has to endure the pain; all of it. He can only sit by her side, hold her hand, ease it as much as possible. His eyes are pleading with her. What did the damn books say?

“A back rub might be nice,” Scully says, giving him half a smile. That he can do. He gets the vanilla lotion from the bathroom. They haven’t done this in a while. These days, they use joint pain relief on each other much more often. Not tonight.

“Just relax,” Mulder says, helping her into a comfortable position. She moans as soon as his hands start working on her back, massaging gently. “Feel good?” He asks, unable to hide his smile.

“Shut up, Mulder,” she laughs. The relief of hearing her laugh, of giving her a moment of happiness, makes him relax, too. “You’re so good at this. I forgot how good.”

“I’m at your service whenever you need me.”

“I will keep that in mind.” Another chuckle follows before they both fall silent. Her back, her neck and shoulders, are tense. His hands hurt trying to work out the kinks.

“I’m sorry,” she says, and it’s so quiet that it takes him a moment to fully comprehend.

“Sorry for what?”

“I should have told you. I’ve not been feeling well for some days. I thought it would get better. It was the same with William. But…”

“Do you want to go see a doctor, Scully? I’ll take you in a heartbeat if you think that’s what we should do.” At her last doctor’s appointment last week, everything was fine. The baby was healthy and thriving. A lot off things can change in a week. In a simple heartbeat. No one knows that better than Mulder and Scully.

“No, I- not yet. I feel fine. I don’t think that it’s the baby… I just,” she sighs. Emotional confessions have never come easy to Scully. These days Mulder knows how to wait. He’s become Scully-patient. His hands resume their work.

“Aren’t you scared, Mulder? Scared we’re just too old to do this? Any of this?” He takes a moment to answer her.

“I’m not scared,” he starts, choosing the words carefully. “Look at what we’ve already overcome. We’re still here. A tiny baby human that’s half you and half me? That sounds pretty perfect to me.” He leans forward to kiss her shoulder. “You’re thinking about Jackson, aren’t you?”

“He’s out there, Mulder.” She doesn’t say it, what he knows she’s thinking. They already screwed it up once. But back then there were leading another life. One that was over now. Things are different now; he can feel it. A sense of peace has settled inside him. It’s quieter in his mind these days. Sometimes he thinks he can sense Jackson, their son, up there, teasing him. One day, and both he and Scully know it, he will find his way back to them.

“He’s our kid, Scully. He knows how to get by and when he needs us… he will be here. Things will be different with this one, Scully.”

“But what if we… taking care of a baby isn’t easy. What if I don’t remember anything? It’s been 16 years.” Now it’s his turn to chuckle.

“You will be fine. We both will be. I trust you, Scully. I know you and I know you can do this. We’ve got this. You and me.” She falls silent and Mulder moves his hand over her back, massaging her muscles thoroughly. He dimly remembers a fight, a confrontation, where Scully said those words - you and me - that she was fighting for that, for them. The memory is dark, has no angles, nothing tangible. It slips from his mind again just when Scully turns rigid for a short moment and then, lets out a huge burp. His hands still. Scully seems frozen for a moment before she lets out a relieved sigh.

“That sounded satisfying,” Mulder says with a smile.

“It was.” Scully turns to him, her face relaxed and free from pain. She’s smiling as if she’s high. “Thank you, Mulder. Can I kiss you?”

“Since when do you need to ask?”

“I just burped,” she reminds him.

“Permission granted.” Scully plants a quick, loving kiss on his lips. “Feel better now?” She nods. “Think we can sleep now?” She nods again. As Mulder turns off the light, he realizes they’ve both forgotten the tea. They never even took out the tea bag. So what? They screwed up this one tiny thing. He knows it will happen again. A million tiny things will go wrong. But the big picture? They’ve got that covered.

Scully cuddles close to him and puts her hand on his chest. “You’re good at this, too.”

“Lying in bed? Well, thank you.”

“No, at taking care of someone you love.”

“I’ve had two decades of practice.”

“We’re really doing this, aren’t we?”

“We are.”

“I’m glad you’re here, Mulder. I’m so glad it’s you.” Before he can reply, she is asleep in his arms.