Chapter 1: Her
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.
Chapter 2: Him
From a prompt from linlo-eggshellheart: “ I’m obsessed with your Drabbles and Ch 3 of the Tumblr prompts (where Mulder is married when Scully joins the X-Files) has me feeling some kind of way. I’d love to read the same thing from Scully’s perspective. Also, I’d love to know more about how they get from 9 to 10 (since clearly a lot happened 🤣). Thank you for being amazing!! 🥰”
He wore a ring, but never mentioned a wife. Nor should he, she supposed; they’d only just been assigned to each other, they’d only just met.
She considered that perhaps he was a widower, but didn’t feel comfortable asking. She thought maybe he was just a closed off, private man, until she found herself on his hotel bed in her robe, and he was telling her all about his family, his missing sister.
Then they had been three cases in, and there was still that ring. She finally asked him his wife’s name.
“Lauren,” he said.
She’d heard enough men talk about their wife in that tone of voice to know the relationship was not one like her parents, was not one she’d want herself.
She felt something close to pity.
He saved her life in the Twin Cities.
Donnie Pfaster was something more than evil, and when he told her he’d prepared himself for what he was going to see, she’d wished he’d prepared her, too. She was so thrown by the case that in addition to seeking out Karen Kosseff and availing herself of the therapist services supplied by the Bureau, she had plowed right past the fact that her partner had taken on the case for the sole purpose of taking her to the Redskins/Vikings football game.
She’d been with married men. She’d seen what havoc could be wreaked from the pursuit of such a relationship, and she had decided long ago that she would never do it again.
Mulder had become her best friend. Lately, her only friend. Their reassignment had been difficult, but she talked to him more days a week than she didn’t. She tried not to notice that she was number one on his emergency contact list, and Lauren was number two.
She loved him as a friend, loved him as perhaps something more, but wasn’t convinced of his feelings for her until she was sitting atop Skyland Mountain with her hands tied in front of her, bound and gagged, and amongst a confusion of lights and sound, Mulder stumbled onto the scene, appearing as if from a TARDIS, and threw a haymaker so vicious it knocked Duane Barry out cold. He kicked him in the gut for good measure, and then tenderly removed her bindings, scooped her up in his arms and carried her down the mountain despite her shaky protestations that she could walk.
She had met Lauren only once, near the beginning of their partnership.
Lauren had dropped by their office to take Mulder to lunch on his birthday and had arrived 30 minutes early. As Mulder had told Scully he’d planned to meet his wife in the lobby, she concluded that Lauren had shown up early on purpose, most likely with the sole intention of meeting Scully in the flesh.
She’d given Scully an assessing once-over and then smiled at her with barely concealed conceit and distaste. She then turned on her clippy Manolo’s, and purred Mulder’s first name.
He had the look of a man headed to the gallows.
Scully had tried dating. For a while she accepted every offer, let her mother set her up on blind dates, went through the produce section of her local market with a wandering eye.
In the end, she had a few second dates, two one night stands, and a heart that was closed to all but one.
Each night she would soak in the bath until she pruned, cry until the water turned cold and lament her role as Eponine. In the morning, she would meet her partner at the airport, hand him a coffee and a cheerful smile and board the damn plane.
“You’re in love with your partner.” Missy said it as a statement rather than a question.
They were trying an organic tapas restaurant her sister had found and Scully’s appetite disappeared before Melissa had finished the sentence.
“Missy!” she said with horror and embarrassment, which Melissa brushed aside with a flick of her wrist.
When Scully was 12 and 13, she kept a diary. No matter how well she hid it, Missy would always find it, pick the lock, and read it back to her whenever she walked in her room.
Now that they were older, it didn’t matter if Scully’s secrets were at the center of a maze; Missy was forever Theseus, gaining its center and slaying the minotaur. Scully could keep nothing from her--she didn’t even know why she tried.
“I can hardly blame you,” Missy plowed on, popping an olive into her mouth, “he’s a dish.”
Scully slumped in her seat.
“So’s his wife,” she said.
Missy narrowed her eyes at her sister.
“Is she mean?” Missy asked.
Scully wouldn’t answer.
“I knew it,” Missy said, then, “how mean? Like on a scale of Heathers?”
Scully touched a napkin delicately to her lip. “Shannon Doherty” she said, with all the dignity she could muster.
Missy leaned back in her chair. “You and I are going shopping,” she said.
On an airplane over the arid West, Mulder told her, in no uncertain terms, that he was in love with her.
When their plane landed, she called Skinner and requested a week of PTO and an immediate transfer. She would not be a homewrecker again. She would not.
After three days next to a pool in Key Largo, Skinner called with an offer: Salt Lake City, take it or leave it.
Three days later, drained of tears and out of sunscreen, she called him back: leave it.
She returned to work on Monday. She pretended she never heard.
Two months later, Mulder stood in the doorway of their office and told her he was on his way to divorce court.
Scully sat at her desk, dazed, thrilled, scared out of her mind. A laugh bubbled up from inside her and burst into the dusty air at the bottom of the Hoover building.
Six weeks after the paperwork went through, Mulder showed up at her door at 9:00pm on a Friday and kissed her soundly on the mouth.
Five minutes later they were completely undressed, each het up to the point of frenzy. When she sunk down on him, took him all the way inside of her, she felt something pass between them, something heady and true. From that moment on she would always be a little less of a skeptic.
Later, when he was tracing lazy patterns over her skin with his fingers, their heads just touching on the pillow, he asked thoughtfully, “Is this what forever feels like?”
She took a moment to just look at him. Then, “Yes,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“I never knew,” he said, his voice full of wonder.
Two years later, in a bed in Bellefleur, Oregon, in the place where it all started, he looked up from in between her legs and licked his lips thoughtfully.
“You taste different,” he said.
She did some quick math in her head, then reached down and ran her fingers lightly through his hair.
“I think we should go back to DC,” she said with a tremulous smile.
Thanks to admiralty for the beta.
“But… lately, when I think of having a baby, it only ever looks like you.”
He had watched her face closely as he’d said it, knowing it was the biggest, worst, best thing that could have come from his mouth. He’d been a coward for almost a decade, stuck in a loveless marriage because he hadn’t had the guts to end it. It had taken him too damn long to realize that Scully was the one for him, that he was the one for her.
Her blue eyes went wide and color shot to her cheeks.
“Mulder,” she said in a tremulous voice, her face wearing a small smile, tears brimming in her eyes, her gaze on her hands.
“Scully, I--” right then, the captain came over the loudspeaker, announcing that they were beginning their descent, went on to announce the local time and weather, then passed it off to a flight attendant, who announced a long list of connecting gate information. The cabin lights brightened and the passengers around them started raising seat backs, lifting and locking their tray tables. The moment, the spell, such as it was, was broken.
When he looked at her again, her face was set, she would not look at him.
He saw her eyes dart to the wedding ring still on his finger.
She avoided him during the case, staying in the morgue, the lab. They were seated in different rows on their return flight and when he got into the office the next day, he was informed--by Skinner of all people--that she’d taken a week off.
On day two of a Scully-less office, he had decided that come hell or high water, he was asking Lauren for a divorce.
When he finally worked up the nerve, Lauren threw things. A decorative bowl they used to keep keys and loose change, a baseball signed by Sparky Anderson, an antique brass compass Scully had gotten him for Christmas after the third year of their partnership.
The first, which had just been handy, shattered as it hit the wall behind him. The second, which she’d chosen because it meant something to him, and which she’d pulled from a bookshelf next to her, hit the mantle on the fireplace and dropped to the floor -- the signature half scuffed off. The third, which she’d thrown with a victorious glint in her eye, hit a wingback chair, bounced onto the floor and slid under the couch.
He ignored the first, winced at the second, and with the third, he casually walked to the couch, slid an arm under it until he found it, and stood, pocketed the compass, then marched directly out the door.
He didn’t stop to examine the compass until he’d gotten in the elevator--he didn’t want to give Lauren the satisfaction--and found that it was perfectly intact.
Relieved, he thunked his head against the elevator wall and called the Gunmen, asked if he could crash with them.
Two weeks later, while Lauren was at work, they helped him move his things into a storage unit out on Fort Hunt Road.
When he got into the office the day after he’d announced his divorce to Scully, she was already there, sitting at her desk. Waiting for him on his, was a still-hot cup of coffee from his favorite coffee shop three blocks from the Hoover and a small rectangular package wrapped in butcher paper.
He cut his eyes to his partner as he sat down and it picked up.
“Steak for dinner?” he said, holding it up.
“They don’t sell ‘Happy Divorce’ wrapping paper at Papyrus,” she said, “sorry.”
He grinned and tore it open. It was an old, first edition copy of The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody .
She leaned back in her chair and gave him a warm smile.
“You’re in good company,” she said.
He laughed, delighted.
“When did you get a cat?” he asked.
He was at her door with a skinny latte and an almond croissant that she always said she didn’t want but inevitably ate anyway.
They had a local case for once, and they were expected at the morgue in 45 minutes.
She stopped what she was doing in the kitchen and leveled a look at him. It was the same unblinking judgmental look the cat was giving him -- sitting on top of her kitchen counter, swishing its tail back and forth.
“About a year ago,” she finally said.
“In Japanese culture, black cats are considered good luck,” he said, hoping to get out of the doghouse.
She finally sighed, smiled.
“I guess she finally worked,” she said.
Of all the scenarios he’d ever dreamt about ridding himself of his wedding ring, none of them felt right. He had a vague daydream where he had it melted down and cast as a bullet that he could fire into his past, in a kind of walk-ten-paces-turn-and-fire scenario, but it felt a little too on the nose, and besides that, it was probably illegal.
Instead, he walked to the National Mall, sat on the bench he and Scully used to meet at back when they’d been reassigned, and sat looking at the reflecting pool.
He took off his ring, set it on the bench next to him, and walked away. He caught a cab on 17th street and rode to Georgetown.
When she opened the door, he did not hesitate. He took her face in both hands and kissed her. Hard.
After a quick inhale of surprise, she kissed him back, and then it was quickly all tongues and teeth, his name from her lips whispered into his ear over and over.
He hoisted her up and carried her--her legs wrapped around his waist--into her bedroom. They wasted no time undressing each other, hot and impatient.
One word ran through his head when he was deep in the bundle of her pelvis: finally, finally, finally .
Scully, in his head always saint-like and virtuous, had seemed immune to sin, but in bed she was downright peccable, giving in to her baser instincts; her skin was a home to lust, her lips to gluttony, her hands to greed.
He pumped into her with the desperation of a thousand nights worth of wanting, of regret. Finally, she shuddered under him, and he followed her home.
He thought it was probably questionable judgement to give her a jewelry box on her birthday when they had only been together for such a short amount of time, but the look on her face was one of intrigue rather than trepidation and when she opened the small box, her face softened.
“Regifting, Mulder?” she said, looking down at the antique compass.
“Turn it over,” he said.
She lifted it out of the box and palmed it, brushing a thumb over the glass of its face before she flipped it over.
To finding our way… the inscription read. She smiled and looked up at him.
“... to each other?” she asked.
He smiled, nodded.
“I told Skinner,” he said, then.
Her eyebrows went up.
“We could have done it together,” she said, reaching up and rubbing her thumb over the rasp of his jaw, “I would have gone with you.”
“Felt like I needed to,” he said.
“And?” she said.
“He said ‘about time,’ and then told me to get my ass back down to the basement and help my partner with the expense report he wanted two days ago.”
Scully laughed and then leaned over, planting a soft, chaste kiss on his waiting lips.
He gave her a small smile when she pulled back.
“World didn’t end,” he said.
She smiled back.
“No, it didn’t.”
They had just gotten back from Bellefleur, Oregon the night before. He had slept at Scully’s, as he did most nights.
He was still in bed, trying to snooze for a few more minutes before the second alarm went off and he had to drag himself into the shower. He had just cracked an eye to look at the time when Scully breezed in from the bathroom, wearing a silk robe over her pajamas and a queer look. She held something in her hand.
“Scully?” he said, only letting a hint of concern into his voice. He pushed up until he was sitting against the headboard and Scully sat down on the edge of the mattress next to him.
In answer, she handed him a small plastic wand.
A pregnancy test. With two blue lines.
He whipped his eyes up to Scully who was wearing a shaky smile.
“Is this…?” he said, and she nodded at him, bit her lip.
“Holy shit!” he practically laughed, and grabbed her face in both hands. He kissed her for dear life.
Later, when he was stepping out of the shower, Scully stood in the doorway of the bathroom holding the phone to her ear, a look of concern on her face.
What is it? He mouthed at her.
She lowered the phone.
“It’s Skinner. He has Covarubias with him,” she said, and her expression became more grave, “and Krycek. He wants us to come in.”
Mulder felt his stomach drop and then a sense of resolve wash over him.
“Tell Skinner that he can handle it. That I trust his judgement. But we’re not coming in.”
Scully nodded slowly then raised the phone to her ear.
Mulder could hear a dull barking from the receiver. After a moment, Scully ended the call and walked into his embrace.
He looked at their reflection in the dewy mirror, the air thick with the scent of lavender and Scully’s expensive shampoo. He knew it was too early to see, but there was a gravid lushness about her, a softness that had settled onto the bones of her face. She was a mother, now.
He tightened his grip on her and called his soul home.
Thanks to admiralty for the beta!
He was 26 when she met him, rarefied New England stock. She could smell the old money on him, but what grabbed her at first were his eyes. Mossy green with flecks of brown one minute, straight hazel the next. His jaw was just on this side of square, his brown locks thick and he was cut with the harmony of a Canova sculpture.
She had just graduated from Georgetown and was out celebrating with friends. He was on a rare evening off with other cadets from the academy and she played just hard enough to get.
The months flew by. She sparred with him over politics and art history, gave him his space and fucked him like a port wench.
With his lost baby sister and broken home, he was putty in her hands; addicted to her drama, which she knew when to rein in. Both of his parents loved her--she was the daughter they’d barely had. He asked her to marry him the week he graduated.
The carats were sufficient, her mother was thrilled. Another box checked by 24.
Their first year or two of marriage had been good, she thought. She was hired on at Schuster & McClure and started bringing home a decent salary. He was mostly a peon at the FBI, and was home every night by 6, the weekends were theirs.
He took her antiquing, apple picking, because that’s what she thought you were supposed to do.
Thanksgiving with her parents, Christmas with his mom, New Years with his dad.
It wasn’t until he started with the Behavioral Sciences Unit that things started to glitch. He’d work cases where he didn’t come home until after 10:00pm and worked through the weekends. His mood was dark, he frequently didn’t want sex. When brunch with their friends was on the schedule, she went alone.
She didn’t handle it well. She knew she didn’t. She should have been supportive but was frequently petulant. He started staying at work late even when he didn’t have a case.
She got promoted twice, started taking out clients. She got nicer clothes, nicer shoes, better haircuts. He barely noticed. She’d stay out later, he didn’t care. He seemed perpetually in a dark place.
She started doing things she knew would piss him off just to get his attention. Nothing worked.
A week after she cheated on him for the first time, he came home early, said he wanted to talk to her about something. Her gut roiled and she poured herself a drink, then a second. She was certain he knew.
Then he smiled at her, told her about files he had found in the basement of the Hoover Building, unsolved cases, weird cases, cases with no earthly explanation. His excitement was contagious. She asked questions, told him he should go for it, see if he could get the assignment.
They made love that night for the first time in six weeks.
She swore to herself she’d never cheat on him again.
It started to feel like the X-Files was the other woman. He was obsessed with his work, and she felt lonely. Her oath to fidelity did not take.
One night he came home, upset, and once again, she thought she’d been caught.
This time, however, it was because his unit had been assigned another agent.
“That’s great!” she said, feeling guilty and overcompensating with enthusiasm, “that means they’re taking you and your work seriously!”
He gave her a pitying look. She hated his pity. It made her feel stupid.
“No,” he said, “it means they’re sending someone down to spy on me.” He was directing his foul mood at her and talking down to her in the process.
“Don’t do that,” she said, “I hate when you do that.”
“Condescend. You’re pissed off and you’re taking it out on me.”
He rubbed a hand over his face.
“You’re right, I’m sorry.”
She wasn’t expecting him to relent, it made her feel off balance.
“What if you asked for a reassignment? Did something different?”
He narrowed his eyes at her.
“Do you even know what I do? Why I do it?”
It felt like a trap. She generally tuned out when he talked about work. He sounded ridiculous and it made her look ridiculous, too. Every time one of their friends — of which there were fewer and fewer these days —asked about his job, she changed the subject, steered the conversation to something-anything else.
When she didn’t answer right away, he leaned back.
“Of course you don’t,” he said.
She felt the poison of anger tip into her bloodstream.
“What do you want me say? ‘I’m sorry you’re being spied on at work?’ Do you know how crazy and paranoid that sounds? Are you listening to yourself?”
“Am I listening, Lauren?” he said, his voice low and dark, “I’m the only one in this house that does.”
With that, he grabbed his wallet and keys, slammed the door behind him.
She called Peter and told him to come over. They had only ever met at hotels before.
In some ways, Fox wasn’t paranoid enough, she thought with satisfaction, with disgust.
She had been operating on the assumption that Special Agent Scully was a man for the better part of 5 months when Fox finally dropped a pronoun.
“Wait, she?” Lauren said. “What do you mean she?”
“For fuck’s sake,” he said, “you could give a shit about my career. Why take an interest now?”
They picked fights now, that’s all they did.
“Are you fucking her?”
She knew she said the wrong thing the second the words were out of her mouth. She’d only wanted to hurt him.
He ground his teeth, closed his eyes. The veins on his temples throbbed visibly beneath his skin. He took a deep breath.
“No, Lauren,” he said, his voice as cold as ice, “I’m not you.”
She dropped by the Hoover building early on his birthday to take him to lunch. She pretended she’d misremembered the time she was supposed to meet him and took the elevator down to his office. She’d only been there one other time.
This woman, this ‘Scully’, didn’t seem like a threat, for which she was grateful. The woman was short, had a pretty face, but a bit of baby fat through her cheeks. Apparently she was a doctor, but dressed like a stand-in on Murphy Brown .
While at lunch she’d ordered a glass of champagne. She felt like celebrating.
Something happened at the FBI. He was reassigned. He wouldn’t tell her much. She tried to make it up to him--introduced him to one of her clients, Senator Matheson, who had shown interest in her husband’s work.
He came home at normal hours for a while, but was distant. Closed off.
He flew to Puerto Rico for a long weekend without even fucking telling her.
Then she got a call from him--his former partner, the Scully woman, had been kidnapped from her apartment. He wasn’t sure when he’d be home, but he was working the case and would call her. She heard nothing.
She saw him briefly on the news, called him over and over, but he never picked up his phone.
He walked through the door after being gone for days with his hand in a cast. She asked him what happened, but he didn’t talk, just stripped to his boxers and went to bed.
In the morning, she made him her famous waffles and gave him his space. He kissed her before he left for work that day, but only on the forehead. They had not spoken a word.
They found a new normal that lasted a couple years. He had the job he wanted back, working with his partner, Scully. She loved her job, thrived on it, started spending most of her time at the office or out with clients. They didn’t see each other much and found that if they didn’t see each other, they didn’t fight.
He was gone more often than he wasn’t.
Her mother got sick with cancer, fought for months. Fox was supportive, attentive, but still a bit distant. She took whatever she could get. When her mother died, Fox picked her up at the hospital, called her father, made all the arrangements.
She needed to get away, so she asked him to take her to Mexico for her 30th birthday. He couldn’t make it work, but suggested she take a few friends with her and really do it up right.
Everyone but Amy made it -- she was eight months pregnant. They got absolutely bombed on their first night at the resort--someone had thought it a good idea to mix Dos Equis with Tequila (“beergaritas, Lauren!”) and they only found out April was pregnant when she was walking around getting everyone water, her drink sitting untouched on the balcony.
They talked about their jobs, their husbands, and everyone seemed so blissfully happy. Lauren felt like she was missing something. At 1:00am she slunk into one of the bedrooms and called Fox. She didn’t remember exactly what she said.
When April’s husband met them at the airport when they landed at Dulles, he had eyes only for his wife and caressed her stomach before he even kissed her. He carried her bags and treated her like fine china.
When Lauren got home, she told Fox she wanted to have a baby. She felt something like hope when he told her they could talk about it. “Not right now,” he’d said, “but we can talk about it.”
When he asked her for a divorce a couple weeks later, she was so taken aback, she asked him to repeat himself.
“I can’t do this anymore, Lauren,” he’d said, “I want a divorce.”
His eyes were full of sympathy and she hated him for it.
She threw words at him, objects, anything she thought might hurt him like he was hurting her. That fucking baseball--she hated baseball--the antique compass from his fucking partner--the one that got put on the shelf next to their wedding picture. Slurs, tears, things--she threw them all.
He took it, he took her words, he absorbed her tears. And then he picked up the compass and he walked away.
His things were gone from the condo two weeks later.
After court, she didn’t see him for almost two years. He was with his partner, Scully.
She’d been leaving a restaurant in Old Town Alexandria, had met a few friends for lunch on a Saturday, when she saw them walking by.
She’d been about to raise her hand in greeting and say hello when Fox reached for Scully’s hand and brought it to his lips for a kiss. Lauren froze in her tracks.
He had a lightness about him she hadn’t seen in years, and the way he was looking at Scully--who had learned how to dress since Lauren saw her last and looked nothing short of stunning--he had never looked at her like that. He practically glowed from within. Scully returned his look with an easy affection.
They continued walking, now hand-in-hand, and Lauren felt something that wasn’t quite jealousy. She thought she could be glad for him. Someday.
One year later, she finally sought him out.
He agreed to meet her by the carousel on the National Mall on a bright Saturday morning in summer.
He was there when she arrived, sitting on a bench, gently pushing a navy blue stroller back and forth in a rocking motion.
She approached him.
“Fox,” she said, her voice low and quiet in deference to the maybe-sleeping child.
He looked up in surprise and she gave him a small, expectant smile.
“It’s okay,” he said to her in normal voice, smiling back, “she’s out.”
Lauren felt a genuine smile break out on her face.
“You’re a dad,” she said sweetly.
“Yeah,” Fox replied, appearing almost as surprised as she was. “She’s four months old, now.”
“What’s her name?” Lauren asked, sitting down next to him.
“Lily,” he said.
She nodded, tried to peek at the baby, who was mostly covered in a light blanket.
She leaned back and looked at him.
“How are you, Fox?”
“I’m good,” he said, “really good.”
“I’m glad,” she said, and found she was.
“And you?” he asked.
“I’m good,” she answered. “How are your parents?”
“Same as always,” he said. “How’s your dad?”
“Dad’s good,” she said on a laugh, “he moved to Arizona, and is quite the hot ticket at the retirement community.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” he said.
There was a comfortable silence for a few moments. The carousel music filled the air, punctuated by the occasional laugh of a child. A group of Chinese tourists walked past them, cameras out.
She reached in her pocket, pulled out a small pouch.
“Here,” she said, “this is yours.”
He opened the pouch, shook it out into his hand. His grandmother’s three-diamond ring fell onto his palm, 2.5 carats of antique beauty.
He looked at it, flipped it over in his hand.
“Lauren,” he finally said, moving his hand toward her, to give it back, “I gave this to you.”
She reached out and closed his hand around the ring.
“And I’m giving it back,” she said.
He opened his mouth to protest and she nodded at the stroller.
“Give it to Scully,” she said gently, “or save it for Lily,” his eyes rose to meet hers and she knew she was making the right decision, “it never really belonged to me.” She tapped her finger gently on his chest above his heart, “And neither did this.”
After a moment he nodded gently, opened up his hand to look again at the ring.
Then the baby started making noises and the moment was over. He gathered up the small child and brought her up to rest against his shoulder.
“Almost time to find Mom for lunch,” he said.
Lauren rose from the bench and bent forward to look fondly at the baby. She had bright blue intelligent eyes and wispy apricot hair.
She reached out and touched a finger to the baby’s hand.
“Nice to meet you, Lily,” she said, then ran a finger one last time down his raspy jaw. “Be well, Fox.”
He hoisted the baby up and nodded at her.
“Be well, Lauren.”
Lauren turned from them both and slowly made her way home.
Many thanks to admiralty for the beta!