"Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall."
― Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls
She stirs when the car hits the rough gravel drive. He can sense her initial unease and subsequent relief as she shakes off the reminisce of sleep and orients herself. Normally, he would tease her about drooling on the upholstery or complain about his inability to hear the NPR due to her obnoxiously loud snoring, but tonight he says nothing as he eases the mustang up to their front porch. Shutting off the ignition, he reaches for her hand, bringing it to the center console and giving it a light squeeze — a silent request for her to stay put until he comes around to open her door. It's not something that he normally insists on doing, nor is it something that she would regularly allow, but tonight calls for chivalry. Tonight, he knows that she will not object.
Scully has always been fiercely independent. In the early stages of their relationship, she resisted being waited on, fussed over, or coddled, often doing so with a single, pointed glance that required little to no interpretation. All these years later, her eyes still hold the same fire and intensity they did when they first met, but tonight, as he opens her door and takes her hand, all he sees is resignation. She's exhausted. They both are.
No words are exchanged as they make their way into the house. They move in a silent rhythm that comes from years of intimacy: every look, touch, and gesture relaying meaning and underlying conversation. Words come secondary because, after all this time, they are often unnecessary.
They pause briefly in the entryway, unloading their pockets and ridding themselves of their phones, keys, credentials, and weapons. Slowing his movement, Mulder angles himself to watch Scully as he places his keys next to hers. Her tailored coat is still damp from the rain, making it difficult to remove, but her efforts cease and her body relaxes when his hands come to rest on her shoulders. Though he's not surprised by her silence, it does trouble him. The last time he can remember her being this quiet was when they were on the run… a time when she had given up everything to be with him, including their son.
As he turns to hang her coat on the wall, he stops to tinker with the thermostat, bumping the temperature up a few degrees.
He turns to find her standing in a daze in the middle of the living room with her arms crossed over her chest as if she doesn't know where to go or what to do. As he moves to stand directly behind her, he sees a shiver move through her body. Even after two hours in the car with heated seats and all the vents angled in her direction, her clothes still aren't completely dry. While he's not shocked that she stood out in the rain to observe the diving teams, he is surprised that she remained out there as long as she did in her current condition without an umbrella.
After 25 years, one would think that he would have a handle on all things involving and encompassing that which makes Scully, Scully — but he doesn't. She's always been a puzzle. While at times it's aggravating beyond measure, her ability to still surprise him is one of many things that draws him to her.
Looking at her now, Mulder is torn. He wants to talk to her and comfort her, but he's also not sure how. If there is anything that his relationship with her has taught him, it's patience. Scully is a lot like a turtle; she's cautious and moves at her own pace. Any attempt to draw her out before she's ready often results in her closing shop or snapping, which is why even with all of the questions burning in his mind, he has remained silent.
Placing his hands lightly on her shoulders, he angles his head to speak softly in her ear.
"You need to get out of these damp clothes, Scully," he whispers. "Go jump in the shower. I'll make you some soup."
She turns to face him, dropping her hands to her side.
"I'm not hungry Mulder; there's no need to —"
But he doesn't let her finish.
"It's not just for you."
The bomb she dropped on him earlier is far from forgotten. While he's respecting her silence and her need to process everything that has happened, he can't allow her to go to bed without eating. Not now.
He can tell by the look on her face that she wants to protest. Normally what she says goes, but not tonight. She searches his face for a moment, processing his gaze and expression before averting her eyes to stare down at their joined hands.
Squeezing her hands lightly, he silently interrupts her, directing her eyes back up to his. As soon as she raises her head, his lips catch hers, lingering only for a moment before raising them to the tip of her nose, and then her forehead. His fingers weave themselves into her hair and caress her lower back as he pulls her body tightly against his own.
"We don't have to talk about this now, Scully," he whispers into her hair. "Not if you aren't ready."
Surrendering into his embrace, she burrows her head into his chest and breathes deeply.
Despite the day they've had, he can still smell the remnants of the hair products she uses. Taking in her scent as he kisses the top of her head, Mulder is desperate to comfort her. He wants to promise her that it's going to be okay… that he will never again abandon her and that this time will be different. But Mulder says nothing. Instead, he remains silent. Not because he fears commitment but because he knows he's powerless to make such promises. History has taught him that much.
He can feel the current of emotion running through her as his hands roam the expanse of her back. After speaking briefly to Skinner and learning of her pregnancy, her words on the dock and behavior over the course of the past several weeks makes more sense. Her words and actions were provoked… guided by a madman, pregnancy hormones, and fear.
Giving her a gentle squeeze, he releases her and turns her towards the base of the stairs.
"Go shower. Your soup will be ready when you get out."
She's halfway up when she stops.
"I want chicken noodle."
"Chicken noodle, it is then."
He waits until she disappears at the top of the stairs before retreating into the kitchen. As he gathers the ingredients for the soup, he can hear her moving around in their bedroom and the sound of the water running in the master bathroom. While he desperately yearns for answers that only she can provide, he is also grateful to have some time to himself. Odds are, she is too.
He and Scully have always known that there was more to William's conception, but knowing something and having it slap you in the face are two entirely different things. Having now seen what William is capable of, the gravity of what has been done to them and to their son hits him with full force.
In the years following William's adoption, all they could do was hope that the magnetite injection had been successful in silencing the alien sequences of William's DNA, rendering him useless to the evil forces who had invested interests in him. Now, Mulder wonders if the opposite were true. Had the magnetite somehow enhanced William's abilities, eliminating all the weaknesses observed in the alien-human hybrids that preceded him? Had Jeffrey Spender actually made William more powerful? And if so, had it been intentional or incidental?
Mulder's faith in anyone carrying the name Spender borders on nonexistent, but after what he witnessed on the docks tonight, he's inclined to believe that his half brother's attempt to save his nephew was genuine, even if it was for all the wrong reasons.
When Mulder appeared behind the Smoking Man, the confusion and shock that crossed his features were genuine, giving rise to something Mulder had not previously considered. Having spent his entire career being lied to, manipulated, and mislead, Mulder had always assumed that the devil holding the candle knew the end game, but perhaps that was the greatest misdirection of all. If tonight has made anything clear, it's that they don't know.
The forces responsible for William's bioengineered DNA have no idea what they have created.
And suddenly, a great deal of what he and Scully have experienced over the course of the past two decades makes sense to him… even William's birth. The super soldiers who gathered to witness his birth left disinterested and disappointed. While he's not sure what they were told or what they were expecting, it's now more clear to him than ever that William has never been what was expected. How much Jeffery and the Smoking Man knew and from who is still unclear, but the more Mulder thinks about it, the more he suspects that even those behind the curtain are at a loss to explain William.
William is powerful. Far more powerful and gifted than his creators anticipated him to be.
He's a train off the tracks, and they don't possess the manpower or the technology to stop him.
With this in mind, Mulder has little doubt that Scully is right. William is alive. After what he witnessed in that hotel room, he doubts very seriously that a single bullet would be capable of stopping him, and that is assuming that the bullet even struck him to begin with. As for the Smoking Man, he should hope to be dead. If he's not, he will be soon enough.
Now that he's had some time to ponder William's actions and replay their conversation, Mulder is left with far more questions than answers. William clearly didn't need his protection and knew Mulder was being followed, so why didn't he just run or hide in plain sight as he had done before? Was he simply curious to meet his father? Or was there something more sinister at play?
In the short time they had together, William had only asked Mulder one question, and Mulder got the distinct impression that he already knew the answer. Mulder and Scully possess the same amount of alien DNA. The markers they each possess have slightly different variations, but the percentages are the same, leading Mulder to believe that William's ability to communicate with Scully and not him has more to do with the chip implanted into the base of Scully's skull than it does their shared alien DNA. The only way to be certain would be to remove the chip, and that's not an option. With this in mind, he's not sure why William asked him about the visions. Was he trying to tell him something? Take a stab at his paternity? Or was it some sort of test to determine how much or how little he knew? If this were any other case or any other person, Mulder would be inclined to dismiss it, but he can't suppress the nagging feeling that William had asked him that question for a reason.
Mulder's interaction with William had also awakened something inside of him that he hadn't anticipated.
Rather than avoiding his pursuers, William had opted to kill them in a violent display of power that was not of this world. Mulder has seen and experienced a lot of weird and terrifying things over the years, but nothing, not even his abduction, death, and subsequent resurrection could compare to what he witnessed in that hotel room.
He was in awe, yet he was terrified.
How could something he and Scully created all those years ago grow to be something so viciously violent?
The conclusion he has come to is one of purpose.
Extinguishing the threat in the manner that he did was a message, not only to Mulder but to all the others who pursue him. It was a warning laced with a promise. William was not to be captured, controlled, or contained.
Monica Reyes had called to warn them.
"Whoever controls your son controls the future."
Twenty-four hours ago, that warning had sent him on a mission to find his son and to be his protector. What a joke that had been.
To those still pursuing William now, all Mulder can say is — good fucking luck.
Sounds associated with a stovetop disaster snap him back into action. He's been so deeply lost in thought that he's nearly let the soup boil over. When he turns off the burner and shifts the pot over to the other side of the stove, the room quiets, drawing attention to the fact that the water upstairs is no longer running. Cursing under his breath, he wonders how long Scully has been out of the shower. Not hearing her hair dryer or any movement coming from upstairs, he begins to wonder if she has already crawled into bed when a chair is pulled out from underneath the table behind him.
Her sudden appearance startles him enough that he lets go of the soup ladle, letting it drop into the depths of the soup as he turns to face her.
A look of apology crosses her face as she sits. The past twenty-four hours have left them both a little on edge.
"The plan was to bring this up to you so that you didn't have to come back down," he says, eyeing her curiously.
She nods her head from side to side, dismissing the sentiment as she begins to unload the tray he had been preparing to take upstairs.
"You need to eat too."
Mulder isn't hungry, but he knows he can't tell her that, so instead of arguing with her, he grabs another bowl, fills it, and places it on the table across from hers and joins her.
He can tell that she recognizes her mother's recipe by the small smile that plays on her lips as she picks up her spoon and stirs. She doesn't vocalize it, but he can tell that she is touched by his gesture.
Taking in her appearance, he's surprised to see that her hair is still damp. She normally dries it immediately after she gets out of the shower, but tonight it possesses the wildness of quick towel dry. Her silk pajama bottoms and fuzzy socks explain her stealthy entry. He's briefly curious as to where she found the socks because he's never seen them before. The long-sleeved Oxford tee she is wearing, however, is familiar — because it's his.
"I owe you an apology, Mulder," she says quietly, breaking their silence.
"I shouldn't have said the things I said earlier. Not without explanation," she says, her eyes retreating into the depths of her soup. "William is our son… a DNA test confirmed that 18 years ago, but we both know it's more complicated than that."
His question earns him a look, but she takes his point, quieting as she stares back down into her soup. He would say more if he didn't sense she was working up to something… something that he suspects has been weighing on her for some time now.
She doesn't finish her statement because she doesn't have to. William was never truly theirs, at least not in the way they wanted him to be.
"To think that I abandoned him all those years ago… dumping him off on an unsuspecting family who couldn't have possibly had any idea of what they were signing up for… I can imagine how they must have felt the first time they saw him move an object across the room with his mind because I certainly remember how I felt." She pauses again, this time making eye contact. "And that was with the added benefit of knowing where it came from."
The hand not stirring is now resting on her forehead, her fingers entangling themselves into her damp hair as she continues.
"The magnetite injection Jeffrey gave him worked, at least initially. He stopped moving his mobile, and Jeffrey assured me that the results were permanent. For years, I convinced myself that giving him up was my only option, but we both know that isn't true. I could have run. The gunmen created false identities for all of us, not just you, but instead of running, I signed our rights away. I abandoned our son."
At this point, Mulder interjects because she knows better, and they've had this discussion before.
"Scully, you did the only thing you could to protect him. Running wouldn't have been the right choice for him, and you know that… you, of all people, know what life on the run entails, and it's no life for a child. The knowledge that he was with you would have always given them a starting point. Putting him up for adoption gave him anonymity. You didn't abandon him, Scully. You saved him."
He can tell she is on the verge of interrupting him, so he raises his hand to silence her because he's not done. He's not even close to being done.
"No. We don't know what it was like for him or his adoptive family to go through that process blindly, but I think it's safe to say that choice you made bought him time that he otherwise wouldn't have had. When he was born, they didn't take him from us because he wasn't what they were expecting, but that doesn't mean that they weren't watching."
The cameras in their apartments had only been the tip of the iceberg. The syndicate and their associates had been tapping their phones and tracking their vehicles for years, using the intel they gathered to manipulate them further. Instead of shutting them down, the syndicate had used them to their advantage. Mulder knows that Scully knows this just as well as he does, but he continues to press in order to make his point.
"Once they learned of his abilities, they would have taken him from us, and we wouldn't have been able to stop them. But now… Scully… what he was able to do… adoption was the greatest gift you could have given him. It gave him the time in the dark he needed in order to be able to protect himself. The monsters who helped to create him can't touch him now. The power he possesses is beyond their reach."
"Mulder we helped to create him. You and me. We knew… we knew of his abilities… his alien DNA. Doesn't that make us just as culpable as they are?"
"Scully, what happened to you outside of your consent…"
"He didn't force me to get into the car Mulder! I packed a bag. Hell, I drove the car! We may never know exactly what he did or how he did it but —"
"You agreed to accepting the cure for cancer, not to being impregnated with science."
She looks surprised by his choice of words, so Mulder elaborates.
"Skinner told me what he said."
While this gives her pause, she still doesn't let it go.
"It doesn't change anything. The point is still the same, Mulder. We knew —"
"Did we really? You and I both have alien DNA, and neither of us can change what the mind perceives."
"No. Listen to me. We knew that he possessed alien DNA and that he could move his mobile, but we couldn't have possibly foreseen this. They certainly didn't."
"Mulder, what are you —"
"When the Smoking Man shot William, he had no idea he was shooting William. He thought he was shooting me. Don't you see? They don't know, Scully. They have no idea what he is and what he is capable of… so how in the world can you blame yourself for not seeing it? What happened to his adoptive family isn't your fault. There is no way you could have known."
He knows that the guilt Scully carries isn't just about William. She feels responsible for the Van De Kamps' death. Raising and protecting their son had cost them their lives.
Tears are forming in her eyes, but he presses on because he has a point to make, and she needs to let this go.
"What else could you have possibly done? Abort him?"
Her head jerks up. The fire in her eyes a warning that he's hit a nerve.
"No. I would have never —"
"Exactly. The only thing you are guilty of is wanting him and loving him. None of this is your fault. Not a damn bit of it."
A single tear threads down her cheek as she releases her grip on the spoon she's been holding, letting it settle down into the bottom of the bowl.
"Do you think he knows?"
She says it so quietly that he almost doesn't hear her.
"Do you think he has any idea how much we wanted him? Prayed for him?"
"I think… I think it's safe to say that he knows that the circumstances surrounding his adoption weren't typical."
Despite the seriousness of the conversation, she snorts.
"He's bright, Scully. How could he not be? He's an uber-Scully."
And that does it: she smiles.
Her smile calms him. Looking deeply into her eyes, he does everything in his power to portray the calmness and security that he knows she needs. There are a lot of difficult conversations that lie ahead, but they don't all have to come tonight.
Taking his cue, she retorts back.
"Oh, I don't know, Mulder. I think we can both agree that he's a little bit spooky."
"Just a little?"
Her soft laugh fills the kitchen.
There's a pause. It's not awkward, but it is pointed, a sign that she's about to shift the conversation.
"Speaking of spooky uber-Scullies…"
As relieved as Mulder is that she's bringing up the baby, he's not really sure where to start or what to say. Dozens of questions come to mind, but, ultimately, he decides to start with the basics.
"How long have you known?"
Her hesitation confirms what he already suspected. She's known ever since he found her sobbing in the shower last week.
"A little over a week," she says as she takes a weighted breath. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you sooner… that I've kept this from you. I wanted to tell you so badly, but —"
"Were you afraid that I wouldn't want it?" he asks, unable to hide the emotion creeping into his voice.
"No… no… I knew you would never… Mulder, I'm 54 years old. We've never… why now? After all that we've been through and everything that we've tried? Why now? I just… I had to be sure. I already took one child away from you. I couldn't do that to you again. I had to make absolutely sure."
"So you would have —"
"NO. I'm not saying that… I just… Crystal had a close friend of hers run some tests … off the books. And then I ran them again myself. I wanted answers. I wanted to understand. If this was something other than a miracle, I had to know. I couldn't give you hope only to take it away."
Reaching his hand across the table, he places it on top of hers, encouraging her to hold his gaze.
"No matter what you've found, I want it, and I want to know everything. No more secrets. Not anymore."
Scully's eyes start to water, and her voice cracks as she struggles to control her emotions.
"The last time we went through this, I never got to tell you. By the time I figured it out, you were gone, and when you came back, I was already so far along that I didn't have to tell you."
Her tears are falling freely now, and he can't stand it. Within seconds he has her in his arms, cradling her as she sobs.
"I'm scared, Mulder. I'm so scared."
She doesn't have to say what she is scared of because her fears match his own.
"What if —"
But he interrupts her because he doesn't want her to go there. He doesn't want her thinking about the long list of medical complications, chip activation, or alien DNA.
"Scully, you can't go there. You'll drive yourself crazy if you do. And unless there is something else you haven't told me, neither of us has taken any field trips with members of the underworld lately, which can only mean…"
She snorts, lightly smacking at his chest.
"I just don't understand it, Mulder. Why now? After all of this time… we never exactly —"
They had never used any form of birth control. Not even after William. Each of them secretly hoping for a second miracle, never dreaming in a million years that it would come nearly two decades later.
Although Scully's tears have subsided, neither of them moves.
Mulder hates to break the moment, but he also doesn't want her to overthink anything. It's late, and she really needs to eat something. Neither of them has eaten in over 12 hours. Dissecting the mystery of miracle baby number two can wait until tomorrow. Right now, his primary concern is feeding her and putting her to bed.
"You're letting your soup get cold."
The feel of her mouth curling up into a smile against his shirt warms him more than a hot bowl of soup ever could.
"Oh, and yours is staying warm?" she asks, pulling away just enough to look up into his face.
"My soup — is special," he tells her.
To this, she smiles and shakes her head, her expression turning more serious as she stills.
Gazing up into his eyes, she whispers, "I love you."
The intensity of her gaze puts butterflies in his stomach and makes his hands shake. The fact that she can still do this to him twenty-five years later never fails to amaze him.
He knows that she loves him. He can see it in her eyes every time she looks at him, but hearing her say it has always stirred something deep inside of him. Something that he doesn't have the words to describe.
Unable to respond with words, he lowers his head to hers, capturing her lips and running his hands through her hair and along her side. Halting his hand to stop just under the swell of her breast, he kisses her with everything he has, and she kisses him back without hesitation, pulling his body more tightly against her own as she encourages him to deepen the kiss.
With all of the storms that lie between them, this aspect of their relationship has never been a source of contention.
As much as Mulder would love for this to continue and progress into something far more intimate, he knows that now is not the appropriate time. Breaking the kiss, he places smaller kisses along the sides of her face and forehead before gazing into her eyes.
"Let's eat," he tells her softly.
Nodding, she runs her hands down his chest and raises up onto the tips of her toes to place a soft kiss on his lips before returning to the table.
After they finish eating, he encourages her to head upstairs while he cleans up the kitchen and turns off the lights.
When he enters their bedroom, he finds her in the bathroom, drying her hair. Taking a moment to appreciate her, he stands and watches her until their eyes meet in the mirror. Moving to stand behind her, he rests his hands on her hips and kisses the top of her head before turning and stripping to get in the shower.
Of all of the things currently unknown, there is one truth that he does know with absolute certainty. She is his everything, and he's going to spend the rest of his life making sure that she never regrets coming home.
When he gets out of the shower, the lights in their bedroom are off. It's dark, but he can still make out the silhouette of her small frame curled up in the center of their queen-sized bed. As he pulls back the covers, Scully relaxes and shifts her weight to encourage him to pull her into his embrace.
Burrowing his nose in her hair, Mulder says the words that were caught in his throat earlier.
"I love you too, Scully. More than anything."
"I know," she replies, her voice thick with emotion.
Bringing his hand up to her lips, she kisses his fingers softly before lowering them to rest protectively across the life currently growing inside of her — a life they had created together.