He’d never had her picture up on his desk, didn’t even have one in his wallet. If anyone thought it odd—even his new partner—no one ever said anything.
After their third case, Scully finally asked him her name.
“Lauren,” he said, and left it at that.
It amused him how short Scully was, how she’d have to tip her head almost all the way back to look at him when he stepped up into her space. Sometimes he did it just so she’d have to. But she is never flustered by it, never alarmed. Sometimes he thinks she is maybe amused by it, too.
His wedding ring is nicked, scuffed, scratched. Dull and lifeless. He used to take it off when he went to the gym, trying to save the shine from the textured-grip bars of the free weights, but now he doesn’t bother.
Some days he daydreams of flushing it down a toilet at the Hoover, flinging it into the Potomac, but he’d get an earful about it at home even if he claimed it was an accident and he doesn’t want to catch the grief.
It was a hot day, stifling, the kind of brutal DC weather they usually got in July, but it was only early May. Nevertheless, they’d both agreed they needed to get out of the office for lunch. There was a cafe just past Ford’s Theater they both liked and it was her turn to pay.
He was holding down a rare open table, lost in thought, when Scully handed him a styrofoam cup of iced tea with the good, pebbled ice, a lemon wedge she’d already squeezed in. He thought of her fingers touching the skin of the lemon and the lemon touching his tongue.
“Are you okay, Mulder?” she asked. He vaguely wondered when was the last time Lauren had asked him how he was. He couldn’t think of it.
“Never better,” he said, and shot her a grin.
The sun was coming through the window just so, and it slanted on her hair; it shone like a new penny. She reached out and squeezed his shoulder.
“I’ll be right back with the food,” she said.
He could still feel her grip as she walked away.
Lauren was a brunette, leggy, an only child who acted like it. She had pouty lips and full even breasts with nipples the color of sun-drenched brick. She was an executive at a PR firm, had clients that were dick-pic sending senators, cheating congressmen. She was trying out vegetarianism, and liked her martinis dry.
She had gone to Mexico with a bunch of girlfriends for her 30th birthday and she’d called him at 1:00am Pacific time on the night of and slurred “you don’t even know what you have.” When she got home, she told him she wanted to have a baby.
He would have never been into Scully in high school, probably not even college. She was short, smart and a little prickly because of it--she had a beauty mark she tried to hide and soft daylily hair.
She had only started to figure out how best to dress her body in the last year or so, and Mulder found her comportment utterly captivating. Gone were the overlarge blazers from their first year or two together, with the big buttons and the monster shoulder pads. Scully suddenly had a waist, a bust, shapely legs emerging from sharply cut pencil skirts, trim ankles that dipped into three inch pumps.
“Is your partner still shopping at TJ Maxx?” Lauren would ask, about every 4 months.
Mulder would always answer “yeah."
He started taking more cases out of state, and Scully never once complained. She would simply meet him at the airport with a smile, sometimes a coffee, and a light “you ready to go?”
There were times he caught her staring at him, a thoughtful look on her face. She had learned long ago not to ask about Lauren, though sometimes she asked him how he was doing, and he knew it was the same question.
Finally, on an airplane over Utah, he blurts, “Lauren wants a baby.”
Scully, next to him in the window seat, nods once and then reaches out to slowly lower the sun shade, then turns to him.
“Do you want a baby, Mulder?” she asks, and he doesn’t answer right away. He’s thought about it a lot.
“I thought maybe I didn’t,” he says, “but…” with that one word, he notices the way her breathing changes, hitches a little. On her lap, the fingers on her right hand flex. He makes a decision, steels himself. “But… lately when I think of having a baby, it only ever looks like you.”
He doesn’t see her for over a week after his mid-air confession, and her absence has his gut roiling. When she comes back, she has freckles sprinkled across her nose and she acts carefully normal.
He acts carefully normal, too.
Two months after that, he stands up from the desk and shrugs on his suit coat. It’s just after 1pm.
“I gotta get to court,” he says, and Scully half-rises from where she sits, a look of surprise on her face.
“We have to testify?" she asks.
“No,” he says, holding up a hand to stop her, “just me.” She retakes her seat.
“Which case?” she looks puzzled, usually she’s the one who talks with whichever DA, schedules the legal stuff.
He pauses in the doorway, flattening out his collar.
“Mulder vs. Mulder” he says, and leaves before he can see her face.
He races into the hospital, pell mell, not knowing where to go, his thoughts running too fast to articulate what he’s looking for when he grasps at a passing nurse. Finally he gets it out and she points him in the direction of the elevator, says “ninth floor.”
He almost trips over his own feet as he enters her room, the door bouncing off the rubber doorstop.
“Scully,” he says out of breath.
From the bed, her face is wan, but her eyes brighten a bit when she sees him. Her hair has grown out since her short bob days and hangs limply over her shoulders, lightly snarled in places.
“Mulder,” she says, and he walks lightly to the bed, sinks down next to it on his knees.
On her chest rests a small bundle, wrapped in a blue and pink striped blanket.
“You have a son,” she says on a tired smile, and turns the baby so he can see its face.
“He looks like his sister,” he says. He still can’t catch his breath.