Actions

Work Header

Breeding Lilacs Out Of The Dead Land

Work Text:

***

Prologue

***

If I thought my answer was to someone
Who might return to the world,
This flame would move no more;
But since never from this depth
Has anyone returned alive
(If I hear right)
Without fear of infamy I'll answer you

The Inferno, Dante Alighieri


***

I am sitting outside the National Portrait Gallery, surrounded by kids on skateboards and Japanese tourists and old ladies feeding peanuts to squirrels. It feels wrong to slip quietly back into old routines, but I don't know what else to do to stay sane. If I close my eyes for too long, I can hear the dull thud of earth on his coffin and smell the thawing Carolina mud. Sometimes I sleep long enough to dream that he is back and the experience is both sweet and terrible.

I pray for it nightly.

I've been home for two weeks now, and despite Skinner's insistence that I take a leave of absence, I started back at work almost immediately. No one knows what to say to me, so they don't say very much at all. Which is how I prefer it. I take my gloves off to begin the charade of unpacking my lunch when he approaches me, backlit by the sun.

"Agent Scully. Mind if I sit down?"

"Always."

He sits anyway, the aroma of stale smoke hanging like a fog. "I'm sorry for your loss. I was unable to attend the funeral myself, though I'm told it was a very fine service and that you held up admirably.

I ignore him and feign interest in the sandwich I didn't eat yesterday.

"Congratulations, by the way. I hear you're expecting. Your mother's nearby, at least. I suppose that will make single parenthood easier, though I imagine you'll always mourn what might have been. You're a reasonable woman, Dana. So I have to ask myself why you decided to conceive a child during such a tumultuous time in your life."

At least he's done with the insincere obsequies. "It's not any of your business."

"You never even told Mulder there was a chance you might conceive. I imagine you regret that a great deal."

The casual admission of spying makes my skin crawl. "I had no idea I was pregnant until the hospital ran a blood test."

He leans forward and gives me a hard look. "Lie all you want to everyone else. But I would think you'd know better than to lie to me."

His words fall like shards of glass, but I don't give him the satisfaction of reacting. "Why are you here?"

"Because I know how you got pregnant. Not all of your ova were taken, Dana. Mulder just guessed at that. But the remaining ones were too damaged and the cancer treatments caused your amenorrhea. Then you went to Africa and touched that ship. And your body began healing itself. Including those remaining ova."

I stare at him, open-mouthed. "If that's true, then why...? I went to Africa long before..."

He chuckles. "It just healed the damaged tissue. It takes time for a regular menstrual cycle to re-establish itself, particularly as one approaches forty. Age isn't something that can be healed. Though I've always thought you aged beautifully. I imagine Mulder must have agreed." There is a leer in his voice.

I don't even try to mask my disgust. "Why should I believe you?"

"You already do."

I shove my food back into the bag and glare at him. "What do you want?"

"I want the baby, Agent Scully."

It is the last thing I expected him to say and I actually laugh. "You're out of your mind."

"I can protect that child."

I shake my head in disbelief. "You didn't honestly expect me to agree to something so outrageous. What did you really come here to say?"

He appears at once disappointed and charmed by my naiveté.

"You saw the power that existed in that ship. You saw what Mulder had become. Do you know what the potential is for a child created of germ cells exposed to those kinds of forces? That baby is going to be a lightning rod."

I stand up, angry, and for a moment it is a novelty to feel that kind of emotional surge again.

"Stop with your alien technology government conspiracy garbage. There's nothing unusual about this baby. I had an amnio. Everything was normal. I've seen the ultrasounds myself. No big eyes, no bulging forehead."

"That's just it. Your test results all indicate a normal human child. We're intrigued."

A wave of nausea hits me. "Where are you getting this information? How have you seen any of this?"

Another crocodile smile. "Friends in convenient places. Don't you see, Dana? There's nowhere you can go that someone won't find you. I can keep this child safe until the time is right."

"The time is right for what?"

The bastard's eyes are dancing. "You'll find out soon enough. But let me take it somewhere secure. You can have another baby now."

"No I can't," I say in a hollow voice. "He's dead."

He draws out a cigarette and rolls it in his hand. "And he's damned lucky he is. Besides, Mulder wasn't the only man on Earth. There was a time you knew that. Let me know if you change your mind. If that child is what I suspect, you won't get such a benign offer from anyone else, I assure you."

"Stay the hell away from me."

"For now. I understand you're grieving and need some time to fully appreciate what I'm telling you. I can at least assure you that this will be nothing like little Emily, whatever choice you make."

I finally have to sit down. "Don't you dare...don't you say her name," I choke out.

"I know how difficult that was for you, though you were never even supposed to find her. Emily had Turner syndrome, you know. That was where we kept going wrong, though there was little alternative," he muses.

"She had the green blood, the growths. That's got nothing to do with Turner's. And besides, Turner syndrome isn't fatal," I protest. I cannot bear the thought that she died as a result of something treatable.

"Congenital cystic hygromas, Dr. Scully. You saw the back of her neck. In the case of already unstable hybrids like Emily, it set off an irreversible chain reaction throughout her body. Her system simply collapsed."

"Cystic hygromas are filled with cerebrospinal fluid. None of this makes any sense. And what does this have to do with my baby?"

"Everything. And nothing," is the reply. The usual arcane platitudes.

"That's not an answer."

"It's enough of one for now. Emily had Turner syndrome because she was deliberately engineered to have one X chromosome. The child you're carrying has none of Emily's frailties but all of her potential. And so much more. Any number of people will be watching you in anticipation. Waiting."

"I think you'd better go," I say softly.

"Eat your lunch, Dana. You'll need your strength." He smiles again and walks off, leaving me to my misery.

***
Pride can stand a thousand trials
The strong will never fall
But watching stars without you
My soul cried

Kissing You, Des'ree

***

I set his duffel bag on the bedroom floor, pathetically grateful that he gave in and let me carry it. It gave me something to do with my hands.

This simple thing - carrying in his luggage - feels overpowering. It means he is back. That I can wipe the slate clean of the last six months when I found myself somewhere so dark that I had to shut down or I thought I would surely die.

Working cases with Doggett was, in many ways, exactly what I needed. He took the role of skeptic and I was left to continue Mulder's work by slipping into his customary position. It gave me a sense of purpose and I could stay cold and emotionless and pretend I wasn't wracked with grief. Most of the time, at least. Our stoicism bound us in a way; both of our lives shattered by cold bodies in the woods. That I have been granted a reprieve while he has not makes me ache for him.

Skinner too has been a solid anchor, and I've developed a connection to him I never thought possible. He held me on a cold Montana night, watching millions of years of starlight as it finally reached the Earth. We stood together, staring backwards in time, until my tears froze on my face and I couldn't stop shivering. I'd ask him to be the baby's godfather, but he's not Catholic and I think my mother's suffered enough at the hands of her unwed pregnant daughter.

I've been a hot topic of conversation for months; first with my dry, dead eyes and then with the gentle swelling of my waistline. The way people looked at me when I started to show was nearly laughable.

The look on Mulder's face when he saw that I am pregnant was anything but. That beautiful moment when I was sitting next to him and hadn't yet changed in his sight was far too brief. I finally had to give in and head to the bathroom. And so I stood and his eyes got wider and though he looked both incredulous and hurt, he never said a word. And so neither did I.

I want so much to talk to him about this; to pretend that nothing has changed; that we can just move ahead from here. But the man who has come back is darker than the one who left. He's angry and distant. He looks lost. And because I cannot shake myself of the notion that there is nobility in self-sacrifice, I plan to deceive him so he can be free to pursue his own course. 

"Something looks different," Mulder remarks as I come back into the living room.

"It's clean," I say lamely.

"Ah, that's it."

He laughs a little, but the awkwardness is almost unbearable. And I feel strangely shy about admitting that I've been here in his absence. I toy with my keys while Mulder examines the fish tank.

"Missing a molly."

"Yeah. She wasn't as lucky as you."

He perches on his desk and scans it with an air of slight disorientation.

"Mulder..."

He looks up.

"I don't know if you'll ever understand what it was like. First learning of your abduction...and then searching for you and finding you dead. And now to have you back..."

He's turned away while I've been speaking and I trail off, uncertain of what to say next. I'm not sure where I'm even going with this.

"Well, you act like you're surprised." Sarcasm renders the words bitter, but I laugh nervously anyway.

"I prayed a lot. And my prayers have been answered."

Mulder glances at my belly, the proverbial elephant in the room that has gone unmentioned thus far. "In more ways than one."

I gaze down as though looking at it too, but in reality I'm staring at the floor and hoping a hole will open up in it and save me from this crushingly painful moment.

"I'm happy for you," he says in a quiet voice. "I think I know...how much that means to you."

He's happy for me. Not for us. For me. I could tell him now and end this. Tell him, I command myself. But I can't. We're not who we were. I can't ask him to be a father to this baby on top of everything that's happened.

The silence is deafening and he drops his head.

"Mulder..."

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be cold or ungrateful. I just...I have no idea where I fit in." He pauses for a beat to let the meaning sink in and the knife in my side twists a little more.

"Right now. I just, uh... I'm having a little trouble...processing...everything."

He stares ahead while I stand here feeling hateful and out of place.

"Well, um, I'm going to head out and let you get settled." I start walking to the door and he gets up and catches me by the shoulder.

"So I didn't even ask you, Scully. Are you having a boy or a girl?"

Please don't talk about this any more. "I'm not sure. I wanted it to be a surprise."

"You? You want to be surprised? I'd never have guessed it. So how much longer do you have to wait?"

Here we go. "Fourth of July."

"That's very Federal Employee of you, Scully."

Just an easy lie to remember. "Haha. Yeah, I guess so."

"Are you sure? You look like you're having twins already."

My stomach flutters. "I know the day I conceived."

Mulder swallows and looks uncomfortable. "I guess in vitro's pretty precise that way," he says. "I'm glad...I'm glad Dr. Parenti could help you."

I smile weakly and develop a sudden interest in the aquarium. "I had a message from him by the time we got back from Oregon. He was eager to hurry things up. Advanced maternal age and all. He had a short list of sperm and egg donors he thought I'd be interested in."

He eyes me up and I feel little beads of sweat on my forehead. He's going to call me out and, to tell the truth, it'll be a relief. But he continues in a voice entirely free of suspicion.

"Just take it easy. I let you carry my luggage against my better judgment, you know."

I glance at my watch and sigh. "I really do need to leave. Will you be alright? Call if you need anything, okay? I'm not an invalid, remember."

"Stay a while."

I could stay a lifetime. I look up at him and wish I could see a way for it all to be different.

"I'm sorry, Mulder. I have to go."

***
To vanish into oblivion is easy to do
And I try to be but you know me
I come back when you want me to
Do you miss me, Miss Misery
Like you say you do?

Elliott Smith, Miss Misery 

***

MULDER'S APARTMENT
10:35 AM

I wake up feeling completely disoriented. I sit up to look around, wondering when they repainted the hospital, and remember that I am home. It's nice to swing my legs over the side of the bed without hitting a metal rail.

Waking up next to Scully in the hospital was a replay of a hundred memories, though I had no idea what she'd been through when I made my little amnesia joke. The sick wash of fear on her face doused my amusement like ice water.

And then hearing my name in her smoke and honey voice.

I thought about Scully with her skirt pushed up and her fingers in my hair. Her legs around my waist and her back against the wall, hair still soaked from the rain. Tangled in her bedsheets with sun-dappled skin on lazy weekend mornings. Red hair against white cotton; the cool slide of silk on her skin. Playful bitching about coffee grounds in the sink. Her delightful mouth.

All I wanted to do was get the hell out of the hospital, take her to bed, and keep her there until neither of us could walk.

And then she stood up.

Seeing her pregnant without any kind of warning was beyond painful. It was gut-wrenching to the point of feeling like betrayal. She moved with rigid self-consciousness, clearly uncomfortable, and I used her short absence to collect myself.

That was supposed to be my baby and I now feel a kind of jealousy towards whichever sperm donor she granted the honor. But genetically speaking, it's no more her baby than mine, is it? I wonder if that bothers her.

I still wish she hadn't gone. As strange as it is that she's pregnant, it is much stranger to know that she didn't want to stay. I was hurt that she left, but I suppose I understand why she did. It can't be easy for her - having me back in her life like this - and I have questions she won't want to answer. How do you decide on anonymous egg and sperm donors? Maybe they give you a catalogue and you can match up glossy pictures to create a perfect baby. I wonder if she went with redheads for the sake of authenticity. Judging from the pictures of her father back before he was bald, the Scully hair seems to breed true.

I walk to the living room and greet my remaining fish. I imagine that they are pleased by my return.

"Scully doesn't love you," I inform them. "She's only nice to you because I say so." They appear skeptical. She's trained them well. I tap some food into the tank and wander into the kitchen.

My fridge is more desolate than usual, containing only half a bottle of distilled vinegar and an ancient box of baking soda. I could make a science-fair volcano. I finally scare up a dusty box of macaroni and am about to boil some water when I hear a light knock at the door. I open it and Scully and Skinner come in, both looking uneasy.

"You're just in time for brunch. I'll have the chef whip up a few omelets."

Scully smiles faintly and I notice that when Skinner helps her out of her coat, it is with a fluidity borne of practice. She doesn't even seem to notice as he does it.

I settle onto the couch "So what's up? You two look a little tense." Scully sighs and glances towards Skinner. I guess they haven't decided who will be delivering the bad news they've so obviously brought. But good old Scully takes the bullet.

"Mulder, Kersh is taking you off the X-Files. An application for reinstatement was submitted on your behalf and he's denied it."

"Kersh is still around? That guy sure is popular for such an asshole. I imagine my reappearance came as something of a disappointment."

Skinner looks like he's got a headache coming on. "Mulder, you still have a job waiting for you in Behavioral Sciences. Come back, let Kersh feel like he's got the upper hand, and play nice for a while. Let him have his way for now if you ever want any hope of getting back on the X-Files."

"Kersh wants to put me behind a desk? That is not what Kersh wants," I scoff.

"No," says Scully. "I think Kersh wants you to quit, Mulder." She slowly eases down next to me.

Skinner shakes his head. "It's more than that. He wants to punish you, to hurt you."

Like that's something new. "And you, by putting you in this position. And Agent Scully, for not giving up on me. Truth is, this is a bullet that was fired about eight years ago. It's a magic bullet that's been going round and round and right now it seems poised to hit me right in the back of the head."

"Well, I think the question is, Mulder, are we going to sit here and let this happen?"

What a trooper. "Scully, you're going to give birth in a couple months. You can talk as tough as you like but you know and I know and they know that in a little while you're going to have more important things than whether or not the X-Files remains open."

She shifts uncomfortably but doesn't argue.

"They're not closing the X-Files. Kersh aims to keep them open with Agent Doggett running them," Skinner tells me.

"Agent who?"

Scully's trying to avoid looking directly at me. "I've had a partner for the last several months. He was assigned to help me find you."

Well, well. Does this account for some of her standoffishness? Scully, did you think I wouldn't find out?

"Mission accomplished. Does he know what he's doing at all, this guy?"

Skinner looks down. "About the paranormal? Not much."

Scully's eyes are so determinedly forward that I doubt she can even detect me in her peripheral vision.

"I see. Then maybe the question is not who fired this magic bullet, but whether or not it was a lone gunman." I don't mean to smirk, but I can't help finding this all somewhat validating.

Scully, however, doesn't share my grim amusement. "Agent Doggett is above reproach, Mulder. He's being maneuvered just like you."

"Well, good. At least he's maneuverable." I get up quickly and head to the bedroom.

"Where are you going?" Skinner sounds tired. I suspect I'm somewhat responsible for that.

"I'm going to get dressed. For the first time I feel like getting back to work."

***

FBI EVIDENCE ROOM
9:48 PM


Okay, I probably shouldn't have been quite so flippant back in the office. Scully appeared properly horrified to find my size 12s propped up on the blotter and Skinner looked like he was about to swig directly from a bottle of Pepto.

But I needed to get back in there. No one else was going to make the Absalom-Salt connection because no one else was even looking. The reality is that no one wants to find out about Howard Salt and what he wanted the President to see so badly. Scully's priorities have understandably realigned and, despite her faith in his honor, I doubt this Agent Doggett is going to stick his neck out for a dead man everyone wishes would disappear.

Scully and Skinner are quite the dynamic duo, aren't they? Maybe he's decided to make Scully his pet project; salvage her now that she's going to be a mother. Maybe she'll be back to saying, "Mulder, you're crazy!" and scribbling her little notes in no time.

But something is weird with Scully these days, and it's not just pregnancy. There's an air of melancholy that she wears like rare perfume. She keeps herself at a distance and that frosty veneer she used to reserve for everyone else seems to have been shined up especially for me.

And it's starting to piss me off.

Not seven months ago she was wickedly amused by wasting taxpayer dollars on a trip to Oregon. And now I have to practically beg her to come to some dusty evidence storage locker. I wish she didn't look at me like a cat in room full of rocking chairs. I want to reassure her that things are going to be okay, but she's retreated behind the safety of her detachment.

Scully is undeniably stoic, but she is not inhuman. I'm getting a picture of what the preceding months have been like for the Widow Spooky and none of it's pretty. There are flashes of razor blade pain in her eyes and I catch her watching me with this expression that is somewhere between reverence and fear. Scully has been brought to the brink of her coping skills with all of this and I can tell she's not sure how to revert after so long.

But she has to let it go. Her watchfulness is making me anxious.

She halts in the doorway while I take a look around. "Mulder, I know you know this, but if anything leaves this room you could be in violation of the law."

"Really? When I was dead I was hoping maybe they changed the rules." I can imagine the exasperated expression on her face right now.

"Mulder, just being here could be used by Kersh as cause for dismissal."

"Then why don't you shut the door so he doesn't find out." Shit or get off the pot, Scully.

She shuts the door.

I hack through the plastic covering that enshrouds the stacks of cardboard boxes while Scully stands next to me; complicit even as she points out the fruitlessness of my endeavor. It'd be just like old times if her voice weren't so flat and empty.

"I just don't know what you're hoping to find in Howard Salt's personal effects."

"Neither do I, really. But maybe it's like Howard Salt's picture. I'll know it when I see it." I hope.

"So you'll risk the consequences even though there may be nothing here?"

"You don't get it, do you, Scully? The man shot at the White House, the prison escapee. There's something bubbling to the surface here. I want to know what it is."

I rummage through a box. Diploma, award, picture of an ugly dog...

"Mulder, you've been through an ordeal that defies all logical explanation."

And...here we go. Laptop. Computers are always so promising. People trust them like diaries.

"How can you think that these two men have the answers when they defy all standard of credibility?" Some of the old fire is creeping back into her voice. That's right, Scully. Tell me how nuts I am. It always perks you up.

"Since when has an X-File not defied a certain standard of credibility? At least that's the way it used to work."

I give her a sharp look and she meets it now. The cowed Scully of earlier is in retreat. She's not the same woman I left in Bellefleur, but this is at least a version I've met before. I can deal with her when she's irritated. "Look, Scully, I need to make sense of what happened to me. So that I can stop it. Because if I can't stop it, it could happen to anyone. It could happen to you. And who's to say it's going to stop there?"

I search through the hard drive, not certain what I'm even trying to find. I doubt there's going to be a nice big file labeled Conspiracy.doc.

She tries again. "Mulder, if you go down the X-Files will go down, too. I mean, theoretically, they could put you in prison for what you're doing here."

You get an A for effort, Scully. "Yeah, well, compared to where I just was prison would be a Princess cruise."

She sighs and heads for the door, her hand already on the latch. Ditching me now? Maybe this *isn't* a version I've met before. Whatever.

Suddenly the screen fills with endless rows of scrolling green text. "Ho. Hey. What the hell is this? The entire hard drive is taken up with this. Ten gigabytes of memory."

And she heads back. Like a magnet.

"It's been encrypted."

"Mm." I close the computer and flip it over to remove the hard drive.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going to book myself on that Princess cruise."

She grabs the drive from my hands. "I'll book it for you."

Attagirl, Scully. I knew you were hiding in there somewhere.

***

Having met the irreproachable Agent Doggett and made a memorable first impression, I head to Scully's to see what's turned up on the drive we...liberated. Frohike answers the door like a post-apocalyptic butler.

"You know, it's really not fair. You've been dead for six months and you still look better than me. But not by much."

I must admit that it feels good to see him again. He gives me a hug and I'm surprised anew by how short he is. Even Scully can look down her haughty nose at him. I hug him back. "Ah, Melvin. I'd be a whole lot happier to see you if you'd just take your hands off my ass." His hands aren't actually on my ass, but it gets him to let go.

"Sorry."

Byers and Langly mosey over and there's this fine rush of nostalgia. Here we are again, with our motley assortment of badges and guns and geek wizardry; all set to take on...whatever.

"I think it goes without saying that we're all, uh, tremendously relieved," says Byers. Dapper Byers. You could almost take him out in public.

Langly chimes in. "And not just because we got big questions about your involvement in a certain...blessed event."

He gives Scully a surreptitious glance in case I don't know what he's referring to. Which, actually, is pretty much the case.

"So much for playing a hunch, Mulder," Scully says. She's got some kind of black belt in Subject Changing.

I'm still processing Langly's remark and know the blank expression on my face makes me look stupid. Frohike sidles up and gives me a significant look. What the hell is this?

Scully continues in her silky voice like no one's said a thing. "The, uh, Gunmen were able to decrypt the data that you found on Howard Salt's hard drive. It was a series of file directories that were downloaded the day that he died."

I'll see what I can weasel out of Frohike about my alleged paternity later. Right now, there's a nefarious conspiracy calling my name like an abusive lover.

"Downloaded from where?"

"The FSC, the Federal Statistics Center."

"A government information bank used by the U.S. Census Bureau where your Mr. H. Salt worked," explains Byers.

"All right. What are you waiting for, boys? Get cracking."

Frohike looks up at me."Lest you think we're all idiots, it's only Langly who's the idiot."

We'll have to see about that.

Langly is defensive. "Don't make like it's my hacking skills. I've never seen such a radical counterdefensive."

"Fifteen minutes after Howard Salt was shot at the White House, firewalls went up on every data bank at that very facility," Scully offers.

"Well, why do that?"

She and Frohike exchange weary looks and I feel a small tingle of victory.

"Because I'm right. Because they would kill to protect what's in those files."

Scully looks down as Byers speaks.

"Unless you've got a password, we don't see any way short of that of getting a hold of this data."

"And the thing is, even if you have a pass code you still have to break into the FSC just to use it. We all agree, you're going to have to let this one go," adds Langly.

I look from one to the next and suddenly realize that this little performance was rehearsed before I showed up. Well played, Scully.

I tap my finger against my lip. "Oh. I see."

The Gunmen look uneasy and I turn my attention to Her Ladyship. "Somebody's been doing a little campaigning for her cause."

She has the decency not to meet my eyes and I address the Gunmen. "Well, just remember, boys; this is America. Just because you get more votes doesn't mean you win."

I give Scully a pointed look and I can tell she's biting back something sarcastic. Let's not fight in front of the children, dear.

She checks her watch. "I have a doctor's appointment. You guys can stay here if you want. Don't get pizza on my couch." She glides past me with her chin up, staring straight ahead, and walks into the foyer for her coat while Frohike gazes at her from the table.

She is a study in contrasts. Angular face pale against the black sweater; slender back emphasizing the fullness of her belly. I must admit that pregnancy suits her.

As soon as the door closes behind her, I turn to Langly. "What the hell was that all about?"

He shifts uncomfortably. "I'm sorry man, but she's right. There's no way we..."

I cut him off with an impatient shake of my head. "No, forget that for a minute. I mean the blessed event crap."

Langly rolls his eyes. "Come on, Mulder. We're not OPC here. The cat's out of the bag on this one."

I briefly consider squeezing his ostrich neck like a stress ball. "She told me her baby's due the first week in July. Cat or no cat, that means she got pregnant in October. I was otherwise engaged in October, as you may recall."

The three of them exchange a look that sets my teeth on edge.

Frohike steps forward and puts a hand on my shoulder. "She's due the last week in May, Mulder."

I can actually feel my jaw drop open. "What? How do you know that?"

"We, uh, we wanted to make sure that she was safe at the hospital when she went into labor. We were planning to do some tag team surveillance, just to keep an eye on her because you were gone, you know? Anyway, we checked around some local hospitals and she pre-registered at Washington Medical Center with an estimated due date of May 27th."

My brain is scrambling.

"Well, maybe she lied to them in case anyone was doing what you guys did. Checking her records, I mean."

I sit down at the table and pull the laptop to me. "She was seeing a fertility guy, Dr. Parenti, and she said something to me once about using donors. Before I...left. She's implied that she went that route. Can you check and see if she did that?"

Frohike sits down next to me. "Mulder, maybe she's not telling you something for a reason. You've been gone a long time, amigo, and something could have happened. Do you really want to do this?"

"She'll eviscerate you if she finds out," warns Byers.

"She'll eviscerate us if she finds out," Langly predicts with nasal certainty.

I rest my head in my hands, elbows on the table. "Just do it, okay?" I keep my head down and listen to the rapid scurry of Frohike's fingers on the keyboard.

"Okay. There's no record of any kind of in vitro procedure with Parenti other than something last year. She apparently called about using donors but never followed up. According to her hospital information, she saw Parenti for most of her pregnancy. But then she switched to a Dr. Natalie Speake, who specializes in high risk pregnancies."

He runs his finger down the screen, scanning the entries. "Scully's been receiving regular prenatal care since September. Her pregnancy was confirmed by a beta-HCG test right after Skinner got back from Oregon."

Which means she deliberately lied about her due date.

Which means she was already pregnant when she asked me about the egg donor.

Which means I'm going to kill her.

"Maybe she used someone other than Parenti. Can you run a search of fertility clinics in the area?"

"I'm doing it right now. But you know Scully. She'd want the cream of the crop. Parenti's apparently the best guy around, but I'm checking the other nine from The Washingtonian's top ten list, plus anyone within a fifteen mile radius of her apartment."

The computer hums for a minute and I'm trying to decide if I'd rather she lied about me being the father or rather that she lied to me in Bellefleur about wanting me to be the father. Either way, it looks like Scully and I will be having an interesting chat.

"Done!" crows Frohike.

"And?" My heart is in my stomach.

He turns to me with a Rumplestiltskin grin. "Looks like the bun in Scully's oven got there the old fashioned way. Boys, let's go get Agent Mulder a cigar."

***

We're drinking bad beer and eating what are, surprisingly, very good mahi-mahi tacos at the Gunmen's lair. Frohike's a deft hand with a skillet.

"You had no idea?" Byers says in a sympathetic voice.

"Why the hell would I? She lied about her due date and I knew she'd gotten it into her head she wanted a baby. Scully's a pragmatist. She wouldn't mourn me forever."

The look on Byers's face tells me that this is not widely regarded as gospel.

Frohike pats my shoulder and dishes out some frijoles negros. "So you're finally admitting you two were sharing more than paperwork and crappy cars?"

I glare at him. "To hell with Scully. I'm not going to coax her into telling me something she clearly doesn't want me to know. Right now I just want to find a way into that facility." I stab viciously at my beans.

"You're not at all curious why she's hiding the details from you?" Langly wonders.

"Of course I'm curious. I can demand a test when the baby's born if I really want to. But if she won't even tell me her due date, I can't see her asking me to coach the kid's Little League team, can you?"

They exchange That Look again and then Byers speaks up in his gentle way.

"We'll figure out how to get you in, Mulder. But you've got to talk to her. She's...she's not been great since everything that's happened."

I snort. "Really? Skinner treats her with kid gloves from what I can see. Does Agent Doggett not put up with her as well as I did? I almost feel sorry for the guy."

I drum my fingers on the table for a minute and then push my chair back. "You know, you're right. I really should go talk to her."

Something in my voice seems to trip Frohike's panic button. "Mulder? Don't do anything stupid."

"Stupid? Me? Nah. So long, boys. And thanks for all the fish."

***

I knock on Scully's door and it takes her a moment longer to open it than usual. When she finally does, I start talking before I get a chance to fully consider what a bad idea this probably is.

"I have to hear this from Frohike?"

"What?" Scully shuts the door and sits on the couch, eyebrows drawn together in puzzlement.

"When's that baby due?"

She sighs and drops her head back against the cushions. "Always a pleasure to have you stop in." She reaches forward and flips through the book on her coffee table, presumably to let me know how disinterested she is in having this conversation. Too bad.

"Rumor has it your delicate condition should remedy itself well before July."

"Frohike's spreading rumors?"

"No, just confirming them. That's not really the point though, is it? You never used any donors."

She sits up at this and gives me a hard look. "You had the Gunmen check my medical records? I don't need to tell you what a violation that is."

Her pique is galvanizing.

"I wouldn't overplay that hand if I were you, Scully. I have a feeling you may have engaged in a little covert action yourself."

"Don't barge in here and start making accusations. Besides, after what we found today, I assume this is just about the point in the investigation where you hare off and do something stupid and dangerous. So don't let me keep you."

"Correct me if I'm wrong. We had no luck with the IVF. You told me you wanted to talk to Dr. Parenti about an egg donor. You asked me to participate. I disappeared for six months and returned to find you quite pregnant. Pregnant since late August at least, by what I hear. And you, ever the sphinx, say not a word. So I think I'm entitled to do a little digging on my own."

She glowers but remains inscrutable. I want to shake her, to get up right in her face and do something - anything - to make her talk.

"Independence Day, you told me. So why the hell did you register at Washington Medical with a due date of May 27th? Closer to Memorial Day, Scully. Gotta keep your federal holidays straight."

"I think you'd better go," she says with a voice as smooth and deadly as a copperhead.

"Can I get you anything to drink before I head out? Water? Tea? Sodium pentothal?"

"Are you calling me a liar?"

"No, that would be rude. I'm implying that you're a liar."

"Fuck you."

Now we're getting somewhere. She's at least outwardly furious.

"You can reserve your professional courtesies for Agent Doggett."

"That's about enough. I ha-"

"Agent Doggett is above reproach," I say in a mocking falsetto. "Skinner then? You two seem so close. It's sweet, Scully. He's spent years checking out your ass. His choice in secretaries has made it obvious to the entire Bureau."

Scully stands slowly, one hand at the small of her back, and gives me the cool, appraising look she trots out to let people know they're beneath her contempt. She walks over to the door and opens it for me.

"This doesn't suit you, Mulder."

"Well, I gotta wear what fits. Man comes back from six months away to find his lady friend knocked up and fudging her due date, I'd say he gets to question the depth of her love."

Her chalcedony eyes are cold. "I never said I loved you."

She turns sharply on her heel, stalks out with surprising grace, and slams the door in my face.

I walk over to the window and watch her hail a cab, wondering where she's headed. She's not the type to go to her mother's and bitch about me, but then she's not really the type to leave her own apartment after an argument, so what do I know? Maybe she's headed to Skinner after all. He's had a thing for her for years; I wasn't bluffing.

I stretch out on the couch and page through her book. She uses a thin metal bookmark to hold her place because she doesn't like to bend pages. It has a yin yang engraved on the front and her dead sister's name on the back.

Why do we do this, Scully and I? It's true that she's never said she loves me, but I've never needed her to. She stole a hard drive. Forget "never having to say you're sorry." Love means a pregnant woman committing a major felony for you.

But that's my child she's carrying. I know it, she knows it, and half of the J. Edgar Hoover building is likely engaged in a betting pool on the probability. I keep telling myself she has her reasons for what she's doing, but it still infuriates me that she's lying.

I should head home, but my apartment feels sterile and empty and Scully has nice things to eat in her fridge. I settle at her table to check my e-mail for updates from the Gunmen, but there's nothing in my inbox beyond the usual spam and something entitled "Samantha: Biogenesis." I rest my chin in my hands and stare at the screen for a moment before opening the message. It contains only a passage from the Bible.

"And God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. Genesis 2:21-2:22."

What the hell? The sender's account is hosted by one of the huge anonymous free servers and when I try to reply, Mailer Daemon informs me that no such account exists. Of course not.

I glare at the computer, puzzled and annoyed, and am promising myself I'll leave in fifteen minutes when the front door opens.

She looks like she's walking into church for her first confession. Anxiety is written on her face.

"Scully, what are you doing back? Did something just happen?"

"I'm, um... I'm not exactly sure I should tell you, Mulder."

Well that's a surprise, Scully. Since you've been so forthcoming of late. But she's admitting that she's withholding something, so I guess that counts as progress.

"Scully, if you know something that can get us moving forward again, you need to tell me." I'll let her take that however she wants.

She looks up at me, uncertain and very nearly frightened. And are those *tears?* What the hell just happened to her?

"Agent Doggett just approached me with some information he wanted me to pass on to you. He was reluctant to come up himself."

Ah, yes. The benevolent Agent Doggett. "Why did he come here? That's a little suspect."

"He didn't say. Maybe he checked your place and when you weren't home, he just guessed."

She takes a deep breath and eases herself slowly to the couch. "Point is, he gave me a password."

"A password, Scully? Or the password?"

"I think we can assume."

"Well, what is it?"

She takes her bookmark and taps it across her fingers, not looking at me. "You're going to go to that facility and get yourself killed if I tell you."

"You know I'll go anyway. I'll be much less likely to get killed if you give me the password," I wheedle.

She looks up, knowing me well enough to be concerned. She's so close to telling me.

Come on, Scully.

"Fight the future," she mumbles.

"That's it? That's the password?"

She nods miserably.

I've spent my adult life fighting the past. This is rich.

"I've got to go, Scully."

Her eyes are pleading. "I know what you think of me right now. But don't do this, Mulder."

I give her a long, straight look. "Give me one good reason. Tell me why I shouldn't risk my life for this. Make me stay."

"I shouldn't have to," she says in a voice that's only just managing not to break.

I would have stayed if she'd told me the truth. So help me God, I would have.

Probably.

"Well, that's it then. This is the point in the investigation where I hare off and do something stupid and dangerous. Good night, Scully."

I leave without looking back, because if I look back I will see her cry in that quiet, heartbreaking way and I will be no more able to leave than able to fly.

I shut the door softly.

***

FEDERAL STATISTICS CENTER
CRYSTAL CITY, VIRGINIA
10:36 PM

I wait in the car for what feels like years but is only half an hour. The baby is mostly quiet now; the effects of my adrenaline rush seeming to have tapered off. Finally I see Frohike creep through the bushes and unscrew an exhaust panel from the wall. He reaches inside and then, piece by piece, he removes the large steel fan that they shut off remotely.

Mulder and Doggett emerge from the hole and crawl through the undergrowth. About a hundred feet from the wall, they break into a sprint. Langly pulls up in the battered van and slows down enough for Byers to reach out a hand and pull the three of them in. They tear off and I follow close behind.

We all pull up in front of the Gunmen's building and I lean against the side of the van with Langly, feeling drained. The side door slides open and Byers and Frohike step out first, looking triumphant. Mulder and Doggett follow; the former surly and the latter anxious. Mulder shoves him.

"Are you happy, you motherfucker?"

"I apologized to you once, Agent Mulder. I'm not gonna do it again. I tried to stop you once I realized it was a setup."

Mulder laughs darkly. "Once you realized? *You* did it. *You* gave Scully that password. You knew exactly what would happen."

He shoves him again and this time Doggett pushes him hard in the shoulder.

"I've taken enough crap from you for one day."

I can see Mulder's fingers twitch and realize he's going to hit him. I grab his arm. "Just get in the car."

He shakes himself free of my hand, never taking his eyes off Doggett. "Go home, Scully. Your partner and I have some unfinished business."

I walk between the two of them and stare at him. "We have some unfinished business too, Mulder. Get. In. The car."

Tension settles thickly in the air between us.

Mulder looks down at me and then gets in the driver's seat, sliding it all the way back. "Let's go to your place. You have chicken salad."

***

If I gave up all of my pride for you
And only loved you for now
Would you hide my fears and never say
Tomorrow I must go

Phantasmagoria In Two, Tim Buckley

***

We walk in my door and I'm so nervous my palms are clammy. I sit at the kitchen table while Mulder scavenges in the fridge and begins assembling a sandwich.

"So. Let's hear it," he says without preamble.

I tuck my hair behind my ears. "You have to hear the whole thing, alright? This is not easy for me. So just...don't jump down my throat."

He sits across from me and hands me a glass of water. "Okay."

I find it easier to begin by addressing a placemat. "I found out I was pregnant right after you disappeared. I collapsed at the Gunmen's while you were gone, just like I did in Oregon, and then again at my apartment the day before Skinner got back. I went to the hospital and they did some tests. Blood pregnancy test too, since they were going to do X-rays and nuclear imaging."

I risk looking up and he has a peculiar expression on his face. "You said you knew the exact day you conceived," he says. "It was that last weekend..."

"Yeah." I look away before he sees my tears. "I lied to you. For months and months. That morning you found the meds in my coat? I'd gotten my period that day. That's why I stopped taking them."

"Why didn't you tell me?" His voice is raw and I can hear him trying not to lose his temper.

"I was afraid we'd just be disappointed again. I was afraid to go to the doctor and have more tests and more bad news."

I trace the grain of the wood with my nail. "We had a good thing going, Mulder. I didn't want to ruin it with that. I figured you'd be okay if I got pregnant since you agreed to the IVF."

"I hate that you thought telling me would ruin things."

There's a stinging in my sinuses. Goddamn these hormones. I am not going to cry. "I know. And you were...we found you and it was just, oh God. Some days I thought the regret of not telling you would kill me. But I swear to you, I wasn't lying in Oregon. I really did plan to go with a donor before I found out."

"Why did you lie to me after I came back?"

I start shredding a paper napkin. "You don't understand, Mulder. The way people have been looking at me. You don't know how lonely it's been. There were times when..." I swallow hard and look up. "I almost had an abortion. Twice."

He closes his eyes.

"I really thought I could do it that second time. I had gone to your apartment and I fell asleep on your bed with your goddamned shirt. And I didn't know where your fish food was and it just...how could I have a baby when I didn't know where the fish food was?" I wipe my nose with a crumpled tissue from my pocket.

"Your headstone showed up and I found out you'd been so sick and I couldn't believe how stupid I was, how selfishly stupid, to bring a child into all this craziness. I went to the clinic and I had the IV in and everything and then I just couldn't. I pulled it out of my arm and I just drove and drove and wound up at the Gunmen's. We, uh, went to Arizona. Trying to find things. Gibson. You."

Mulder's head is in his hands. "Scully, I'm sorry."

"There's more. The Cigarette Smoking Man - CGB Spender - whatever his name is. He approached me shortly after I got home from your funeral."

His head jerks up. "What? Scully, what did he say?"

I tell him about our conversation; Turner syndrome and Emily and what he said about our child.

Mulder looks appalled. "He wanted the baby?"

"Wants, as far as I know. Though I haven't heard from him again."

I get up from the chair and stand behind him at the sink, drying the clean things in the dishwasher and putting them away.

"What's Turner syndrome?"

"It's a condition linked to sex chromosomes. Typically females have two X chromosomes but Turner's patients have only one. XO instead of XX. They have a number of abnormalities; namely failure to develop secondary sex characteristics without hormone therapy. They're generally sterile." I examine the scratches on a spoon handle that got stuck in the garbage disposal. "They're also prone to cystic hygromas; fluid-filled cysts at the base of the neck. They're typically seen at birth or before, though sometimes they develop later in life. They're filled with cerebrospinal fluid."

"Is that what Emily had, Scully? On her neck?"

I feel irritated by his questions, his assumptions that I have somehow been able to make sense of it. "I don't know, Mulder. I don't understand any of this. You know what he does, how he is. His mind games. How he likes to screw with you."

Mulder shakes his head. "He thought I was dead when he told you that. I think this is something different, Scully."

I don't want to hear his theory, to be honest. I can accept that whoever this man is, he delights in hurting and frightening us. But I cannot accept that there is any truth in his words because it means, in some way, I will have to make a choice.

I turn to face him again, leaning against the counter. "And so what if it is? What if he's right? That Emily was engineered that way for some specific reason and that there's something unusual about the baby? What can we do? I don't want to try and figure it out right now when we don't even know there's anything *to* figure out. And I see you, Mulder. I see the wheels turning in your head, trying to put the pieces together. This is part of why I didn't want you to know any of it."

There's a questioning look on Mulder's face. "Part of why?"

I press my hands to my eyes for a moment. "It was so hard when you came back. It was the same and different and the way you looked at me when I stood up, when you realized - but I couldn't tell you, Mulder."

"That's what I don't get, Scully. Why? Why couldn't you tell me?"

"Because I didn't want you to feel obligated."

He looks stunned. "You didn't want me to feel obligated to take care of my own child?"

And there it is. His own child. How strange to have it said out loud. I sigh and tamp down the feelings his words stir up.

"It was one thing with the IVF, Mulder. We had that level of distance. But then everything changed between us and I never gave any thought to what I expected if I got pregnant like this."

"What you expected?"

I can't be this near him any longer. I drop the dish towel to the counter and start pacing.

"Yes, Mulder. What I expected. What I thought would happen. I wanted to be a mother but I never fully appreciated what your...involvement would mean."

"My involvement? For Christ's sake, Scully. This isn't some case we're working on. Talk to me here."

Such anger in his words. And it hurts because it's so justified.

My back is starting to ache and I sit on the couch. "You were gone by the time I found out. And then you were dead. I've never planned to do this any way but alone. And when you came back, how could I tell you? You've been so angry and distant. I didn't want something else for you to worry about. I thought it would make it easier for you."

"Easier for me? Or for you?" His voice is stony.

"That's not fair."

"Oh, I think it is. This was easier for you when I was gone, wasn't it? You say people were looking at you, Scully, but I was so conveniently dead. No one could really prove you'd stooped to sleeping with Spooky."

"Come off it, Mulder. You think anyone ever needed any proof? This was considered fait accompli years ago. I'm trying to rise above it. And it doesn't mean that I didn't spend every moment wanting you back."

My voice catches for a second, but I keep it steady and continue. "I don't know what the hell I'm doing, alright? I'm not cut out for this."

"So what, then? I'm just supposed to be Uncle Mulder? Take the kid out for ice cream and basketball when you want to go get your nails done?"

I close my eyes. "I don't know."

He crosses the room and sits next to me. "I get that this is hard for you, but it isn't your decision to make alone."

I look up. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying I'm not going to just let you push me away. Maybe this isn't what we'd planned, but I want to be a part of this child's life."

"And that means what?"

He looks frustrated. "I don't know what it means. You'll recall this is all still new to me. But I want to be involved and we're going to have to find a way to make it work."

A sharp laugh escapes me, though nothing's even remotely funny. "How? How do we make it work? Are you going to ask me to marry you, Mulder?"

"Maybe. Isn't that the gentlemanly thing to do when you get a nice Catholic girl pregnant? I don't know what you want from me, Scully."

I want you to quit being so dutiful.

I want you to stop looking at me as though you don't know me anymore.

I want you to shut up and fuck me silly the way you used to.

But Scully would never tell him any of that and he hardly knows Dana.

Heavy silence hangs between us and I can see a restlessness settling over Mulder. I prayed for a miracle. And I got it. I can do better than this. My hand moves across the no man's land of cushion between us and slips over his. "Maybe you're right. We can make it work somehow. I need some time though. Can we just keep things between us for now until I figure out what we're doing? It's not just personal, Mulder. The X-Files were your division when I was assigned. You were technically my superior and Kersh...well. You know Kersh. A child shouldn't have two unemployed, publicly disgraced parents."

He gives me an appraising look. "Are you asking me to lie?"

"I would never ask you to lie. But I'm hoping you'll willfully participate in a campaign of misinformation."

Mulder chuckles. "I think I can do that for now. Though you know, my mother's estate does not necessitate that either of us work."

"I'd like to think you know me better than that."

He nudges me with his shoulder. "What, you don't want a sugar daddy? The shoes you could buy, Scully...think of it."

I elbow him playfully in the ribs. "You can get me the shoes anyway. But it won't make me beholden to you."

"As long as I get to pick them. So you're not really due on Independence Day then?"
 
I shrug, feeling somewhat foolish. "I was just buying myself some time, I guess. Babies born 5 weeks early usually do fine. The timing worked and it was easy to remember. I'm due the end of May."

That sounds impossibly close all of a sudden. What the hell am I doing? He senses my unease and pulls me gently against his chest. How much I have missed this. I breathe the familiar scent of him, hoping it permeates my hair.

"We'll figure this out, Scully. When you're ready. Until then, we just work together."

I know it's stupid, but it's what I need right now. This is too big for me to handle in one fell swoop. But having told Mulder the truth - as much as some of it hurts - has lifted the suffocating weight from my chest. I feel light. Almost like myself again.

I slip my arms around him, curling against the familiar stability of his body and, even with the changes to my anatomy; I have no trouble finding a comfortable position. We stay like this for a long time before I pull away and get slowly to my feet, stretching my neck and back.

"Sorry, Mulder," I say through a yawn. "It's way past my bedtime."

"Yeah, I'd better get going. The undead need their beauty sleep." He stands and extends an arm, pulling me up with him. "You got heavy Scully. What are you up to now? One-fifteen? One-twenty?"

"A lady never tells."

"That's why I'm asking you." He winks and opens the door.

"I'm so glad to have you back, Mulder." My voice is thick and unfamiliar.

"You say that now," he jokes.

"Mulder, my mom...she, uh, I told her what happened to you." The words come out in a rush, like they're afraid I'll trap them in my mouth if they don’t hustle.

"Oh. Uh, okay." He looks awkward.

"She wanted to see you. I thought maybe for dinner tomorrow. Or not. You know, I don't know how you're feeling. Because if tomorrow's bad, then another day might be...good. Or not. But I thought good because it's Saturday and we'd be...God. I'm babbling. I'm shutting up now."

He's grinning widely. "That would be great, Scully. You still like that Cajun place?"

I'm embarrassingly weak with relief. "How's six?"

"Fine with me. I'll give you a call tomorrow. Good night."

I head to bed and, for the first time in six months, I have no trouble falling asleep.

***

SCULLY'S APARTMENT
12:28 PM

I take one last look at the box before announcing my presence. Not a bad wrapping job, if I say so myself. I hope she likes it. Despite the often esoteric qualities of my gifts, she always seems genuinely appreciative. And her forgiving nature imbues them with unforeseen meaning. I'm hours early, but I've got nothing to do and I'm eager to see what she thinks of my present.

I knock on Scully's door. Shave and a haircut.

"Mulder?" She sounds surprised as she opens the door.

"What?"

"I was just about to jump in the shower but I was waiting for the pizza man."

I give her a stern look. "You got something going on with the pizza man I should know about?"

"The pizza man?" Adorably bewildered.

"Well, correct me if I'm wrong but you just said you were waiting for the pizza man to jump in the shower." I wonder if she'll play.

"No, what I mean was the pizza man's usually late, and so..." She gives up trying to explain and shakes her head, smiling. "You want to come in?"

"Thank you." I assume an air of wounded nobility.

She turns and heads down the hall. "I feel like I'm stuck in an episode of Mad About You."

I close the door and shove her present under a couch cushion. "Well, uh, yeah, but small technicality. Mad About You was about a married couple and we just work together." Not very nice, but I couldn't help myself.

But she's sporting about it. "Yeah, well, you know what I'm talking about."

"I do, I do. What - what I'm trying to say is that, uh, we have no good reliable information on this man. I mean, what I am saying is the pizza man..."

Scully comes back in and I point an accusing finger at her belly. "...is not above suspicion."

"Ah, I see."

She smirks, and I cock my head towards the badly disguised present. She looks over and her face lights up. Scully loves presents. "Is that for me?"

"Yeah."

She reaches past me to pick it up. "Nice package."

Oh, Scully, sometimes you make it too easy. "Thank you."

"What's the occasion?"

"Oh, uh, I was going through some stuff after my mother died and, um, it's just an old family keepsake and I wanted you to have it."

"Well, I'm touched." She turns at the sound of someone knocking on the door.

I go to answer it. "Little Caesar, I presume?" Opening the door reveals a guy in his twenties who would definitely feature in the Mrs. Robinson fantasies of bored housewives. I give Scully an accusing look which she receives with long-suffering amusement.

"Hi. Just, uh, give it to the man with the funny look on his face."

A funny look on my face? The pizza guy is clearly stoned. "Yeah, it's $29.08," he informs me with indifference.

"$29.08? What'd she get on it, a tank of gas?"

I hear a gasp behind me and Scully is doubled over, clutching at her midsection. "Scully?"

She doesn't answer.

"Scully!" I run over to her and she's clearly in intense pain. The idiot pizza guy stands there uselessly. "Call 911!" He finally heads for the phone while I kneel next to her, stroking her back as she clenches her hands in silent agony.

***

WASHINGTON MEDICAL CENTER
1:42 PM

I'm trotting briskly beside the gurney when a hostile nurse materializes. "That Scully? Dana? She's got what? Abdominal pains?"

"Her doctor is Dr. Speake."

"Oh, he's been called," says Nurse Ratched.

"She." Which you'd know if you had actually called, you lying medical scum.

"Who are you? The husband?"

"No."

"Then you wait outside." The gurney and accompanying entourage push through a set of double doors and leave me standing dejectedly in the hall.

On what grounds can I get to her? I promised I'd keep our little secret for now. I'm not her husband. I'm not her boyfriend. I'm not even her partner anymore. I'm just some guy who derailed her life and then knocked her up for good measure.

To top off the stultifying misery, Agent Doggett comes striding down the hall. "Agent Mulder, what happened?"

"How'd you find out?"

"I was dropping something off. The landlord told me." And what the hell were you dropping off, I wonder. My jealousy makes me feel mildly petty, but I encourage it to blossom anyway.

The nurse walks over to us. "Are you the husband?"

"Me? No." Doggett looks confused. I find his incredulity to be disingenuous. You know you're flattered, I think.

My phone rings and I excuse myself, leaving Scully's new partner to find out the details of her latest medical mishap. I don't belong here anymore.

***

Monica Reyes is like the love child of Melissa Scully and me. I am forced into the role of skeptic because she sounds somewhat insane and a conversation between law enforcement personnel must contain only one lunatic. I also find her vicariously irritating because she has made me empathize with Doggett and I vastly prefer to assign him ridiculous and inhuman characteristics that do not mesh with a grieving father persona.

Whatever the hell is between him and Reyes is something dark and old and I don't want to touch it. I know where Reyes is coming from, but I also know there are some things that you just can't force people to face until they're ready. Doggett's not ready.

Our brief interlude in the hallway helped me dislike him again. I know his anger came from having the scab unceremoniously ripped off a deep and poorly-healed wound, but I'll take what I can get.

And now I'm lurking outside of Scully's hospital room at this moronic hour. It's really amazing what can happen when you've been dead for six months. I cannot believe Scully's pregnant. It's almost too much to process. But it's also thrilling. We're having a baby. I am exhilarated.

I am terrified.

I peek into Scully's room and she is sleeping quietly. I hate to wake her, but I need her right now. She always forgives my trespasses.

"You awake?"

She is now. "Yeah."

I check over my shoulder for any of my various nemeses and then shut the door. "What did the doctor say?"

Scully's hands are cupping the mound of blankets that swaddle her abdomen. She looks drained and her voice sounds stuffy through the nasal cannula. "That I had a partial abruption. Which means that my placenta started to tear away from the uterine wall. They're going to need to monitor me for awhile."

"But you're going to be fine?" Come on, Scully. Roll out your favorite chestnut.

She smiles. "Yeah."

I don't know what seems so right about this moment, but I take the chance and finally rest my hand on her belly. I've been longing to do it since she told me the truth. I half expect her to swat me away, but instead she's beaming.

The rage, the loneliness, and the frustration I have been feeling since coming back seem to melt away. My hand on the curve of her needs no context but this. Mulder and Scully and some small person as yet undefined. I am enchanted.

"Where have you been?" Scully wants to know. The spell breaks and I reluctantly withdraw my hand.

"I've actually been out in the field with Agent Doggett and this, um, female agent from New Orleans."

"Agent Reyes."

"Yeah."

"I like her."

I can't help the small laugh that escapes. "You're nothing at all alike."

"Well, then neither are you and I," she observes with some amusement. "So this is a case you're working on?"

"Yeah. Actually, one that involves Agent Doggett's son, the son who died." I wonder if she's told him about Emily.

"Yeah, he's never talked to me about him, but I know something. Are you able to help him at all?"

"You can't help a man who can't help himself."

"He's worth the effort, Mulder." I recall the heat of her skin rising up against my hand and the small life beneath it. He means something to her. And so he means something to me.

"I'll try, Scully. Get some rest."

She's fallen back to sleep by the time I make it to the door.

***

Mulder emerges from the kitchen with plates and silverware. There's been so much adjustment lately. Having him gone, having him back. Having him despise me. But we're settling into our old comfort zones and this time the transition is sweet and easy.

"Mulder, you never fail to surprise me. I just wish I felt like eating it right now."

"That's cool. We can just wait for the cheese to congeal and eat it later." He puts the dishes on the coffee table next to the topping-laden pizza and sits next to me. I'd give anything to feel like eating it, but the stabbing pain in my sciatic nerve has dulled my appetite for the moment.

I must appear wistful because Mulder gives me a disappointed look.

"You miss your regular pizza man, don't you?"

I feign a pout. "Yes. That's okay. He's coming by later."

The expression on his face leaves me a touch guilty. It was probably an unkind joke in light of my recent deception, but it's rare to have the upper hand on Mulder like this.

I smile to reassure him that I really am kidding. He grins back and then reaches behind the couch to pull the present off the table. "I bet you forgot about that, didn't you?"

"No, I didn't, actually. I thought about it a lot while I was lying in my hospital bed wondering what on earth you could have given me." Mulder gives me the strangest gifts imaginable, though they are always heartfelt. I think back to his evening of batting practice.

"You've never hit a baseball, have you, Scully?" Mulder, you idiot. I had two brothers and a BB rifle. You really thought I never hit a baseball? But I saw the look on his face; how much he needed me to be Uptight Scully so that he could be Lighthearted Mulder and force me to have fun. So I lied. Haven't regretted it for a moment.

I tear the paper from his box with Christmas-morning glee, yank the lid open, and reveal a beautiful antique rag doll. I am completely charmed and a lump comes into my throat.

"And?"

"Oh, my God. Oh, Mulder." I pull the doll from the wrappings and examine her soft calico dress and the rich colors of her embroidered face.

Mulder looks at once hopeful and anxious. "Is it what you imagined?"

"Not even close." I chuckle and look up at him. He's clearly pleased by my reaction.

"Oh, my, that's the wrong doll, actually."

I pretend like I'm going to hit him with it, and we laugh again.  I'm overflowing with emotions right now, all of them good. I want to lock this time in amber. "But then that's the other gift that you gave me, Mulder."

The words hang in the air for a moment as we both wonder what I'm going to say next.

"Courage... to believe. And I hope that's a gift I can pass on."

He nods, smiling self-consciously, and I stroke the doll's soft hair again.

"I've got something else for you too." He pulls a manila envelope out from under the pizza box.

"What's this?"

He shrugs. "I hoped you could tell me. It's from the hospital."

I rest the doll gently in the box, setting it back on the table behind us, and start flipping through the sheaf of papers. "They did a bunch of genetic testing with some of your tissue samples. These are just the results."

"So? Am I a mutant?"

I roll my eyes. "The hope was that this would give some insight into your recovery, but there's very little here; certainly nothing that accounts for your condition."

He peers at the page I'm reading.

"You're saying I'm not going to be developing any superpowers then? I thought it would be cool to turn into a liquid metal. Maybe fly."

"Sorry," I say consolingly. "Seems you're stuck with immortality. Oh, here. You've got an extra Y chromosome. Does that cheer you up?"

He looks surprised and takes the page from me, scanning it. "Is that good? Bad?

"It's not anything, really. 47-XYY syndrome. Though there's argument as to whether it should even be called a syndrome, since there are only a handful of symptoms and they're all extremely mild. Not even conclusively related. There's some propensity for learning disabilities, which you don't seem to have. Though I'd argue you display the slight tendency towards behavioral problems. And definitely the above-average height."

Mulder turns a few more pages. "So that's it? It just makes you disobedient and lanky?"

I can't help but laugh again. Disobedient and lanky. That's Mulder all over.

"'Fraid so. No liquid metal. And you're stuck flying coach like the rest of us mere mortals. Most people who have it don't even know. It's not dangerous in any way."

He points at my belly. "Is it inherited? You're short and this kid may have no other shot at the NBA."

Something electric runs down my spine. It still feels strange to be discussing this with him. "The jury's still out on that. There's some indication that XYY fathers are more likely to have XYY sons, but nothing concrete. Besides, this could be a girl, Mulder."

"There's always soccer," he says sagely. "And it's driving me crazy that you won't find out the sex."

"I know. But I think it's more exciting in the long run. You'll find out soon enough." The scent of the pizza is still wafting towards me and I am suddenly ravenous. I begin eating a slice without a plate, toppings falling onto my shirt.

I polish off the crust and lick my fingers, then pluck a mushroom off the shelf of my abdomen. Mulder watches in admiration.

"That's nifty. Can you do crossword puzzles on there? Set a cup of coffee on it? I think I might like to have one installed."

"Immishookud," I respond through an enormous bite of my second piece.

"Come again?"

I clear my throat. "I wish you could. My sciatic nerve is pinched, my favorite shoes don't fit right, and I've been having Braxton-Hicks contractions like crazy. And the, uh, the milk thing." I glance at my chest, which hasn't expanded to quite the degree of my midsection but is still considerably larger. I have to keep these stupid nursing pads in my purse already.

"What...? Oh!" He's looking at me like I might explode. "Yeah, I guess that's probably a little weird."

"You have no idea. I obviously know humans are mammals, but it's just...disconcerting."

He scoots over and lifts up my shirt, poking my bellybutton.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"I thought I'd see if you had an orange juice setting. Or maybe beer. Isn't that what this thing does?"

I flick his nose. "You're hilarious."

He's got his hand at what passes for my waist when the baby kicks hard. The look on Mulder's face is the same one that small children get when they walk into Disneyworld.

"Wow."

I've long since lost the feeling of wonder at this, especially since the baby is very strong and jams its appendages into my bladder or my ribs and just generally makes me uncomfortable and cranky. But watching Mulder's face makes me excited again, just like before in the hospital.

"That's amazing," he says. "What does it feel like? Weird? Is it like Alien?" He's talking fast and is quite excited.

I'm grinning like an idiot and then have an idea.

"Mulder, in the back of my closet there's a big Rubbermaid bin. About halfway down in it is my stethoscope. Bring it out, would you?"

He gets up and I rearrange myself on the couch, folding my shirt up neatly and then stretching out on my back. The baby moves again and the symmetry changes slightly. He's right. It is amazing. And also a little like Alien.

Mulder comes back, my trusty old Littmann draped around his neck. "Let's play doctor," he says, settling next to me and draping my legs over his lap.

I feel shy. "Okay. It's not as easy to hear with a regular stethoscope, but maybe we'll get lucky."

He wiggles his eyebrows and I blush.

I begin to palpate my belly, feeling for the hard curve of the baby's head near my pelvic bones.  Mulder looks fascinated. "May I?"

I take his hand and push it down firmly. "That's the top of the head." I rest his other hand a few inches from the first. "Then the back, kind of broad and flat." I wish I had a camera so he could see how he looks right now.

"So the heart should be near here then, right?"

"Right about, yes. It should be really fast. Like twice as fast as a regular heartbeat." I jump a little when he puts the cold metal against my skin.

He slides the instrument around a little and then his face lights up. "I hear it! It's really faint, but I hear it. Wow, that is fast."

Mulder leans forward a little, listening intently, and I am struck by the strange, unforeseen magic of this moment. Then the baby kicks again and he looks delighted.

"I can't hear it anymore," he says with some regret.

"I'm surprised you heard it all."

His eyes are wide and serious and he reaches forward, gently pulling my shirt back down, then resting his hand on top. "Thanks."

I nod and then scoot back up against the corner of the couch, worrying my lower lip between my teeth. "Stay the night."

Mulder looks surprised. "What?"

I play with the drawstring of my sweater. "I don't want you to go, Mulder."

"We just work together," he says in a robot voice.

I kick at him lightly. "I mean it. Stay here tonight."

He doesn't say anything and it makes me edgy. I stand and reach a hand out to him. He takes it, but doesn't move otherwise. "A few days ago you didn't want me to know I was the father and now you want me to spend the night?"

"I'm really trying here, Mulder."

"I know." He gets up and follows me down the hall to my bedroom, sitting on the bed while I strip down to a camisole and underwear. This kind of intimacy has never come easily to me, but I want him to know how much I need him back in my life.

I feel completely naked. Every neuron is screaming for a bathrobe, a blanket, something. But I stand in front of him for a moment longer, though the compulsion to duck my head is overwhelming.

Mulder rises and walks to me, putting his hands on my shoulders and holding me at arm's length. "You look beautiful, Scully. You're all, well...glowing."

"Thank you."

"I wish I'd been here," he says quietly.

I shake my head. "Forget it, Mulder. I don't want to talk about it anymore. It's done."

"Okay." He licks his lips. Jesus Christ, he's *nervous.* I have to fight the urge to laugh.

"It's still me," I tell him.

His cheeks color. "Am I that obvious?"

"It's endearing."

"I'm going to take that as a compliment."

I step forward to close the distance between us, but the baby immediately fills it and I bump against Mulder's shirt. I'm not used to standing this close to anyone anymore. "I'm ungainly."

Okay, I'm nervous too.

He smiles and leans down to kiss me.  I was afraid that grief and nostalgia had elevated my memories to unattainable perfection, but I'm exhilarated to find I've been as objective as ever. I rise slightly on my toes as his fingers wind through my hair.

The heat of his mouth and his body flow into me and start erasing the terrible chill that has lingered in my bones since I saw him lying broken in the woods.

One of his hands moves down my back and I try to pull him closer without success. I want to stay wrapped up in him, pressed against him. To sleep in his arms - which I have never done.

"You're too damned short without shoes," he complains.

"And here I thought it was just a fetish of yours."

He laughs. "That too."

I crawl into bed and Mulder tosses his jeans and shirt onto the floor, and then joins me under the covers. He slides his arms around me and tucks his chin against the sensitive spot just above my collarbone. "I missed you, Scully. And I don't just mean while I was gone."

I've missed me too.

I turn out the light and burrow into the bedclothes. Mulder rests his arm across my waist, hand against bare skin where the shirt has risen up.

"I love you," I breathe against the pillow, wondering if I could ever get used to saying it. Wondering what difference saying it could possibly make to either one of us.   

I feel his tears on the back of my neck and I don't know if it's because he heard me or because he didn't.

***

And the circuits are blown
My woman is cold
Our children are stoned and worthless
All waiting for you
To tell them the truth
The truth is a line
That you'll never use

A Light On A Hill, Margot & The Nuclear So And So's

***

OAK HILL CEMETERY
WASHINGTON DC
6:37 PM

We sit on a bench near Melissa's grave; feeding crumbs to a cadre of fat pigeons, and watching the sun sink behind the Renwick Chapel. My hands still smell a bit like the lilies Scully and I set by the grave. I toss a big chunk of bread out and the flock bustles closer. "I'm having a Hitchcock moment. Nice birdies. Now back the hell up."

Scully starts to shoo them when a shadow falls over us.

I turn to see who it is and then jump to my feet, hand at my gun. "You have a lot of nerve coming here."

"You're looking well, Mulder. Congratulations to you too, of course. And I didn't mean to interrupt," he replies in his oily way. "Just wanted to drop off a gift. I didn't think I'd be invited to the shower. How are you feeling, Dana?"

"I'm trying to cut back on my secondhand smoke," Scully says dryly. She tosses another handful of crumbs across the grass. "And you've done enough, thanks."

He clucks his tongue. "Dana, Dana. This isn't for you. It's for my grandchild."

"You son of a bitch..."

She brushes my elbow with her fingertips. "Don't, Mulder. It's what he wants. He's just trying to get a rise out of you."

Our visitor produces a bag of the famous Tiffany blue and hands it to her before sitting at the bench across from us. I sit warily.

"Open it," he instructs her.

She pulls out a square box and lifts the lid, revealing a sterling silver bank shaped like an airplane. "It's lovely. How many lives did it cost?"

"You had one just like it as a boy, Mulder. Do you recall?"

Yes, I do. But I ignore him and Scully sets the box on the bench.

"You could have had this delivered," she points out. "Just tell us what you have to say and then leave."

"I've come to give you a second chance. Surely you haven't disregarded all I said to you a few months ago. You're due very soon and I imagine you're starting to be concerned about what I told you."

"Why don't you shut the fuck up?" I hiss.

I'm gripping Scully's shoulder too hard, but she doesn't seem to notice.

"Anger won't make it go away. What I told Scully is true. That baby is something special and I'm giving you both the chance to keep it safe."

I laugh incredulously. "Just like you protected Samantha? If this child needs protecting, it's from people like you."

"I never made any promises about Samantha. But you'll note I've done my best for you. And one might say that by protecting you, I've protected Samantha as well."

"You're a liar," Scully says harshly. "You've lied to us from the beginning. If you've protected Mulder as you claim, it's only to further your own ends. And whatever protection you offer us now is equally self-serving."

There is no sound for a moment but our breathing and a cluster of squabbling pigeons.

"Altruism is a myth. I don't deny that this serves my ends as well as your own. I have no way of proving my sincerity, but I can assure you I am being completely truthful. I sent Mulder a token of my good faith."

I am so fucking tired of these endless riddles. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

He smirks. "Didn't you get my e-mail?"

Scully's head snaps up. "What?"

"That was you?" I shake my head in annoyance before turning to Scully. "Someone sent me an e-mail with a passage from Genesis in it. The creation of Eve from Adam's rib. The title was Samantha: Biogenesis. And it told me nothing, of course. Which is exactly what he's telling us now."

The sharp scratch of a match being lit and then, finally, a miasmic haze of smoke floats upwards.

"On the contrary. I'm telling you everything. I'm telling you all you ever wanted to know about what happened to your sister. About why you're still alive. Think what you will of me, Mulder, but I made a promise to your mother. And I've kept it."

Scully's face is dark. "Even the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. Tell him or don't, but stop doling out bits of your cryptic shibboleth."

He takes a long drag and blows three rings before giving me a long, level stare. "Are you sure you want the truth, Mulder? You can never un-hear it. And Samantha's dead. Does it still matter?"

Scully slips her hand into mine and squeezes my fingers.

Samantha's dead. Does it still matter?

"Tell me," I say.

He leans back; a fond, reminiscent look on his face. "The funny thing is, Mulder, how much of this has to do with you. You were supposed to be the one all along. Your father was involved in the government's agenda to work with the alien colonists from the very beginning. And, like all families in the Project, they had genetic workups done for themselves and for their children. Bill and Teena were supposed to turn you over to us before you could really remember them. Your unusual XYY genotype made you a valuable candidate for study. But as the time got closer, your mother balked. She said she couldn't give up her only child and had thus far been unable to conceive another."

I remember that file that had originally been mine and had become Samantha's instead. "But she did. She had Samantha. Is that why they took her instead of me? Something even more unusual in her genes?"

He watches me carefully. "She never got pregnant again," he says quietly. "So they made a clone."

Something awful is coming. My mouth is parched and my voice seems to cling to the inside of my throat. Scully's nails are digging into the back of my hand.

"A clone?"

"They cloned you. And made a female version. Your mother agreed to it as long as they took the clone - Samantha - and she got to keep you."

Adam's rib.

Samantha wasn't real. She was me. Or was she? I have no real grasp of this; I just know the world has completely tilted on its axis. There's a roaring in my ears as he continues speaking as smoothly as if he were giving me the weather report.

"Samantha had two identical X chromosomes; both from you. We'd been unsuccessful with our attempts to create a functional female hybrid, but Samantha's genotype eliminated a huge number of variables. As for you, well, your mother said they could have blood work and fluids and checkups all they wanted as long as you stayed with her. That she'd kill you herself before she'd let them take you."

I'm gaping. I remember that high-tech icepick in Quonochontaug. I guess that would be handy to keep around if one were concerned that one's son might be turned into an alien hybrid against one's wishes. Just tuck him into bed one night and then stab him in the back of the neck.

I look up blankly and see a strange light in his eyes. I am sickened by how much he's enjoying this.

Scully's voice filters in from a million miles away. "Mulder?"

I'm sorry, Fox Mulder isn't home right now. He's recovering from a shattering epiphany. Leave a message and he'll get back to you as soon as he can speak again.

"It's not true," I say stupidly, though I know that of course it is. "My mother wouldn't...they didn't..."

"I promised your mother I'd protect you. It's the only reason you're alive." He crushes his cigarette against the sole of his shoe.

"Mulder," Scully says again.

I take a deep breath through my nose. "Why? Why did you need her? What did you mean about the two X chromosomes eliminating variables?"

He stands up to go and Scully and I rise as well.

"I think I've told you enough. You know why she was taken now, Mulder. It's all you ever wanted."

Scully steps forward, her arms crossed. "This has something to do with Emily, doesn't it? The X chromosomes? You said Samantha having two identical ones made a difference and that Emily was engineered to have one. Tell me why."

She gets a condescending smile in return. "Very good; I'm impressed. Speaking of which, you may want to have a look at your own X chromosomes sometime, Dana. I'd take a peek at the CT genes if I were you." He touches her hair gently and she jerks her head away.

He lights another cigarette. "Now you know the truth, Mulder. What else do you have to look for?"

"Go away," says Scully. "Just go away."

***

Scully is silent and white for the drive back to her apartment while I grip the steering wheel so hard my hands ache. Once inside, we sit on the couch, staring into space. She turns to me after a long silence. "You don't know that any of this is true."

"It makes sense and you know it. And she's gone. Why make up something new at this point in the game?"

Scully's fingers are cool on my neck. "Mulder, I'm so sorry."

"They lied to me," I say flatly. "They lied to me for years and years. They had Samantha created to be taken away and never told me."

"I know they did, Mulder. But I think they were just trying to protect you."

My laugh is an angry bark. "Protect me, Scully? This has consumed me for most of my life. They could have ended it. My mother could have ended it after he died. But she just let me keep looking and I was chasing myself all along. How goddamned Freudian is that?"

She sighs. "They should have told you. I don't know what to say."

I shake my head, trying to clear the cotton-wool haze. "It doesn't matter anyway. She's dead and they're dead and it's just a footnote now." I slip my hand under Scully's shirt, her skin warm and soft and pliant over the restless sea beneath it. She lays her hand on mine.

"What about the baby, Mulder?"

"What about the baby?" As though stalling will keep us from having this talk.

"The things he said. That there's something unusual and that people are watching us. What if someone is waiting to take this baby? It wouldn't surprise me. I don't think he's playing with us, Mulder. You said you thought this was something different when I told you about it before."

I did say that and I could kick myself for it. I pull her head against my shoulder and she settles in. Strands of her hair fall softly on my neck and I close my eyes, willing time to reverse itself so that we can start over. But even Scully in her youthful optimism believed that each universe can produce only one outcome. Destiny or quantum physics; maybe it's all the same.

"I don't know. Why would he want to help us? You said yourself there was nothing unusual in the ultrasounds or genetic workups."

She shrugs listlessly. "Who knows if what I've seen is real anymore anyway? I should have had the courage to go through with an abortion when I had the chance. Now I have nothing to do but wait."

She speaks in an eerie monotone that makes the back of my neck prickle.

"Scully..."

She sits up some and shakes her head. "Don't. Just don't. There's nothing to do but wait."

I can tell she's done with this and won't discuss it further. "What did he mean about CD genes, Scully?"

"CT. And I don't know. I mean, I know what they are. They're a family of genes that are thought to play some role in cancer. That's what the C is for. They're typically only expressed in germ cells in the testes - that's the T - but also appear in malignant tumors."

I'm puzzled. "If I recall, you haven't got any testes."

Her laugh is hollow.

"No, I haven't. But about 10% of the X chromosome is made up of genes from the CT family. They're not generally expressed and the subject is still in its infancy, but it's been theorized that they play some role in tumorigenesis when turned on. The whole thing is a huge area of research in oncology."

"Does it have anything to do with Turner syndrome?"

"No." She starts peeling at the edge of her thumbnail.

The Gunmen have one of those 3D posters hanging up; the kind where you have to refocus your eyes just right and a picture of a sailboat pops out at you. I feel like I'm staring at it right now; desperately straining my eyes but no sailboat is appearing.

What did he mean about Emily? That they kept going wrong? Hybrids and clones and X chromosomes and cancer. It makes me dizzy.

I get up and pace the room, wishing for my basketball. I can't think properly without it. I settle for tossing and catching an orange.

"Cryptic son of a bitch. Why can't he just say what he means? My mysterious father."

She presses her hands to her face, the words muffled as she speaks. "I wish I knew. And he's not your father, Mulder."

"Who the hell knows? He could be."

"He isn't."

No sense in arguing with her. "You did a DNA analysis of yourself to bring to that panel after I killed Scott Osselhoff. Did you find anything wrong with those genes then?"

She shakes her head. "I was only looking for a match for the alien DNA. That's a totally different procedure."

She's curled up on the couch, eyes dry but red-rimmed. I sit down, reaching forward to massage her shoulders, and freeze.

I see the sailboat.

"Scully, your neck."

Her head snaps up. "What about it? Is something wrong?" She's running her hands over her neck, feeling for something unusual. "Mulder, what is it?"

I bend down and touch the tiny scar. "The chip. Jesus Christ, what if that's how it works?"

"What are you talking about?" She sounds shrill; panicked.

I close my eyes to think. "The alien DNA. What if whatever they did to you - to those other women - what if it somehow activated those genes?"

Her fingers are digging into my arm, eyes wide. "And the chip counteracts that somehow," she says slowly. "That's why it cured me."

I'm still turning this all over in my head. "But why do that? What purpose does it serve?"

Scully's thinking aloud. "Why put a chip in someone's neck with a suicide function if it's removed? Why do they need the..." she stops, her mouth an O of shock.

"The bridge."

"What?"

"The truth is in me, Mulder. That's what you said when I went to that bridge and couldn't remember getting there. You were right about the chip, that it's a tracking or summoning system of some kind. He said there was nowhere I could go that I couldn't be found. Take out the chip and you wind up in the hospital with an engineered cancer. They can find you that way, Mulder. They can watch how you die. That's what Dr. Scanlon was doing."

It makes a certain horrible sense. But then something else occurs to me.

"But what about that spacecraft in Africa, Scully? You told me the Cigarette Man said your cells were repaired when you touched it."

The implications of what this could mean settle in. "Then I can take it out," she says in a whisper. "Take it out, Mulder. Take it out right now."

She's trembling and I run a finger down her cheek.

She's going to hate me.

"No."

"Why the hell not? I want this thing out of my goddamned neck!" She pushes me away and goes to the kitchen, rummaging through drawers for a suitably sharp implement. I grab her arm.

"Scully, you can't risk it. This is all just conjecture. We don't know what will happen if you do this. And if you get...sick again, we don't know if the chip will work twice."

She stares at me, gripping a paring knife, and tears begin sliding down her face. She sinks to the floor, crying softly. "I can't live like this anymore."

I sit next to her.

"They're going to follow me for the rest of my life, aren't they? I could leave tomorrow and they'd just follow me or kill me or take me away. If I take the chip out, I risk dying of cancer. I'm living on borrowed time."

What can I say? She's probably right. I take her hand, gently prying the knife from her fingers, and she doesn't resist. "I don't know what to do," she says dully.

I don't either. "We'll figure it out, Scully. Let's just get this baby born and we'll figure it out."

She rests her head on my shoulder. "This was a mistake," she says. "A disaster waiting to happen. But I wanted it so much. I can't be sorry for wanting it."

"It wasn't a mistake, Scully. Just a surprise. There's nothing to be sorry about."

I don't know if she believes it, but she doesn't say anything else. I stand and am helping her up when there's a knock at the door. By the time I reach it, an envelope has been slid under the door. I don't even bother checking to see if anyone's still outside.

"What is it?" Scully asks as I open it.

"An address. In Rockville. I'm supposed to meet someone there tonight about our little visit this afternoon. 11:30."

She sighs. "Just be careful."

"I will. Scully, you haven't been getting much sleep lately. Go to bed and I promise I'll come back."

"Okay."

She heads to bed and I kill the next few hours watching reruns of Dr. Who. It's nice to see someone with a life that's weirder than mine.

***

SIP 'N' BITE
ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND
11:41 PM

"I'm sorry I'm running behind," the man says, sitting across from me and examining the menu. He looks to be in his mid-seventies, though quite a fit septuagenarian. "I had a few loose ends to tie up at work."

"Kind of late for a lunch break. And who the hell are you, anyway? Why are you here?" I think Emily Post will forgive the rudeness.

"My name is Francis McClintock, but that doesn't matter. I'm here because the work I've been doing has taken turns I never anticipated and someone close to me is now in danger. The same danger you're in." He pulls out a picture of a young man in his early teens. "That's my grandson."

I give it a perfunctory glance and look up again. "What danger? What do you mean?"

"Belgian waffles and coffee," he informs the waitress, turning his attention back to me as she walks off. "What do you know about the human genome?"

"Why don't you tell me what you know about it," I say with open irritation. "You ask me to come here in the middle of the night with this cloak and dagger bullshit and I doubt it was so I can recite high school biology to you."

"Humor me."

I sigh and begin speaking in Scully's usual didactic tone.

"I know that humans have twenty-four distinct chromosomes; twenty-two autosomal and two sex-linked. X and Y.  The cells in our bodies have a total of forty-six chromosomes; one pair each of the twenty-two autosomals and then either two X chromosomes in females or an X and a Y in males. "

He looks pleased.

"What I'm about to tell you involves those two sex-linked chromosomes. Each one has its own peculiar properties. The Y chromosome, is the determinant for being male. You can have one or more X chromosomes, but the presence of a Y, with some rare exceptions I'll address shortly, will always make you male. It contains relatively few genes, and is 95% non-recombinant."

"Non-recombinant?"

"It can't recombine its genes with the genes on other chromosomes. Other chromosomes can and it keeps the genome from getting stale, like shuffling a deck of cards. X chromosomes can recombine with one another. But not the Y. It doesn't need to recombine with anything anyway. Most males only have one Y chromosome. But not you."

"Yeah, I know. What's your point?"

"My point is that in terms of the project I've been working on, you're a genetic ideal. You're an XYY male with above-average intelligence and no behavioral instabilities."

I can feel my fingers twitch and I long to reach down his throat and yank out the information. I hate being toyed with.

"I'm sure my superiors would beg to differ on that last bit. Now tell me about this project of yours. I know about my parents and Samantha."

"Ah, yes. You spoke with Mr. Spender earlier today. He was a sort of colleague of mine. But you don't know everything. Just pieces of the whole. I've come to put them together for you in hopes that you can help me stop it somehow."

"So no pressure."

He gives me a tight smile before continuing.

"In the beginning, our alien-human hybrids were a complete disaster. Our technique was crude and the fragile human cells simply couldn't withstand the undiluted alien DNA. Because of the recombination of genes, the human DNA and alien DNA shuffled together and disseminated throughout the body in irregular patches. It was...unpleasant."

The waitress thumps a plate and a coffee mug in front of him. He drowns the waffles in syrup and takes a bite before continuing.

"We tried confining the alien genes to the X chromosome because only one is active in both males and females. Females have two X's but early in development, one is deactivated so that the body cells of a female have only one active X, just like in males. But we had no way to control which would be deactivated. And because the X chromosomes can recombine, we were back where we started with the women. Spontaneous recombination of alien and human genes with disastrous effect."

I'm beginning to see where this is headed.

"He said they had trouble creating viable females. Y chromosomes then. You said they're mostly non-recombinant."

He looks rather proud that I've caught on. Oh, these avuncular mad scientists.

"Exactly. We figured out that we could keep the material contained that way. But the problem was that we only had males. And you know what that means for the continuation of a species."

And it clicks into place. "The ova?"

"It's why we had to take the women. We needed compatible egg donors."

Donors. Like it was voluntary.

He cleans his glasses on his shirt. "Though the testing and methods had some unintended consequences."

"The procedures you did on them activated those CT genes and the chips counteracted it. But why do it? Why give them cancer?"

He shrugs regretfully. "In part because it was easier to eliminate as much evidence as possible and no one ever suspects that cancer is the result of some kind of foul play. But mostly because we could. Once we recognized the damage for what it was, we wanted to see what would happen. Just another experiment. Like all the others."

"You son of a bitch."

I feel queasy thinking of Scully, thin and tired in the oncology ward with her nosebleeds and her brain cancer and her friends dying around her. I want to hit him, but then he'd probably stop talking.

“She touched the ship. Can she take it out?”

“I don’t know. Scully’s situation is completely unique. I have no inkling of what would happen. I can’t imagine anyone does. She could develop another tumor immediately or it could take a decade. Or never come at all. And I don't know if the chip would work again."

Scully was right. She's in limbo. With a chip in her neck and a baby growing in her womb.

I take a few deep breaths.

He looks sympathetic, which infuriates me, but I swallow hard. "Go on."

"We decided to eliminate one of the X chromosomes from our females and put the alien DNA on the lone X chromosome, figuring that would fix both the recombination and deactivation issues."

"Turner syndrome," I say. "Emily."

"Precisely. But females with Turner's have a host of problems even without alien genes spliced in. About 95% of them spontaneously abort. Our numbers were even higher. And the ones that made it had huge problems. Particularly troublesome was the tendency of Turner's patients to have the congenital cystic hygromas."

Yes, how troublesome of those children to develop horrible medical conditions. The nerve.

"It's how the stiletto you've seen works. The hybrids have toxic green blood and puncturing the base of the neck allows the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid come together and create a caustic agent. Like bleach and ammonia. In the case of Emily and other girls like her, the hygromas are filled with cerebrospinal fluid and when they rupture, it sets off a chain reaction throughout the body. "

Emily, dying through the glass while we watched her. Poisoned by her own blood.

"We were able to detect the severe hygromas before birth and...act accordingly, but those with extremely small ones were allowed to come to term so we could observe the effects. Sometimes the condition didn't even develop until later on, as in Emily's case. Hybrid males, of course, were far less problematic. No hygromas. You can still kill them the same way though. As you know."

I'm so angry and sickened right now that I feel numb. There's nothing anyone can do to redeem themselves for this kind of horror. I have to take slow breaths through my nose while he continues.

"The whole thing backfired anyway. Girls with Turner's are sterile without major hormone treatments. They made good drones though. Average intelligence. Some language problems due to the propensity for hearing loss, but good workers."

I close my eyes, remembering that farm where dozens of childlike Samanthas worked in silence. "What about Cassandra Spender? She had a son. She wasn't sterile. You figured out how to do it. That's why she was so valuable."

"Cassandra was a fluke. Tetragametic chimera. Extremely rare. They generally occur in utero when one fraternal twin dies and the remaining twin absorbs some of the tissue and incorporates it into their own. Cassandra's twin was male. She had Y chromosomes present in 99% percent of her tissue, but had normal reproductive function. We were able to get her Y chromosomes to carry the alien DNA without affecting anything else. One in a few billion, if even that common. We could never duplicate her."

"I hope you're not going to try and tell me this was the end of everything," I say.

His face is sad. "We've still never been able to successfully create a female hybrid that can function as human and can reproduce without hormone therapies."

"But...?"

He sips at his coffee, wincing at the taste. "But we finally figured out how to do it with males. Men with a 47-XYY genotype can carry a set of functioning alien DNA on one Y chromosome and a set of functioning human DNA on another. With no risk of recombination splitting up the genes. They carry the desired alien DNA while displaying a fully functional human physiology."

I stare at him. "Are you telling me I'm a hybrid?"

He laughs. "No, not at all. The plan was that we'd create these hybrid males and they'd be able to reproduce with genetically suitable full human females. We started testing males for XYY and then checked to see that their sperm were viable."

"Checked their sperm?" I know what's coming, but I still don't want to hear it.

"Well, in your case, we had no need to check your genetic makeup. You were popular with the ladies. And without spermicidal condoms, well..." he trails off.

Diana's face flashes in my mind. Did she know? Was she doing their dirty work - so to speak - all along? I push the thought away.

"Just like Scully. How many doomed children have the two of us produced?"

"Well, actually, none in your case. That's just the thing. None of our attempts ever worked with your sperm. It's why they never took you before. And it's likely why your in vitro attempt with Scully never worked. If she'd had a different donor, who knows?"

"She did have some of her eggs left, then."

He nods. "We knew she was pregnant before you went back to Oregon with Skinner. We knew you weren't sterile."

What have I done to her?

"That's why they took me when we went back."

He shakes his head again, looking somewhat frustrated. "No, Mr. Mulder. You don't understand at all. Unfortunately, the Rebel faction found out about our success. They're opposed to the creation of such hybrids, but were also intrigued by the potential applications of our work. They realized that the stability provided by two Y chromosomes suited their needs perfectly, but their technology is light years ahead of ours."

He taps his spoon against his hand and looks down. "They have found a way to make perfect human replicants, both male and female. They're nearly indestructible and have regenerative properties. And by piggybacking onto our work with 47-XYY, they're creating them to destroy our hybrids. They don't care if their so-called super soldiers can reproduce, because they don't need to."

It's the end of the world as we know it. I'm not feeling fine.

"They tried to make you into a super soldier just like Billy Miles. He's also XYY, of course. But that obviously failed. They're going to come after you again."

"What about the baby?"

"Ah, yes. The baby. Scully had an amnio, you know." He pours more milk into his coffee.

"Tell me. What. You know."

"I thought she wanted you both to be surprised about the gender. I'd hate to spoil it."

I'm about two seconds from pulling my gun. "Tell me, goddamn you."

"Boy. XYY."

I feel like I've been dipped in liquid nitrogen. Everything terrible in the universe seems to have coalesced around me.

He sighs. "They won't have any interest in him until he reaches physical maturity. The metallic infrastructure does not allow for proper growth and development. And the matter of your germ cells; yours and Scully's. They want to see what he will grow into. Nothing like this child has ever existed and, through sheer chance, he is the embodiment of everything we've all worked for. The scientists, the Colonists, the Rebels. Everyone. But because no one is sure what will become of him, I doubt he's in any immediate danger. Unlike you. Once you've fully healed, they're going to come for you. You must leave."

Whatever else he is to these men and their dark purposes, he is also my son. "I can't leave. Not right now, anyway. I have to at least see him."

"You're a fool if you do."

"You don't care about me. You want me to save your grandson. He's XYY I assume."

"Yes, he is. Just like you. And just like Gibson Praise."

Gibson Praise.

He isn't a little boy anymore, is he? He's a young man now too. Probably nearing physical maturity.

"What is Gibson?"

"You can consider him a sort of missing link between the old and new hybrids. You're familiar with the mind-scan abductees tell of? Gibson's the only hybrid who has successfully displayed that trait. But they want to finish what they started. Gibson's nearly as intriguing as your son."

I toss a twenty on the table and take one last look at my companion. "There's no way to save them, is there?"

He looks me in the eye.

"I hope you find out the answer to that question, Mr. Mulder. And soon."

***

I barely remember the 45 minute drive back to Scully’s. I move through her apartment on autopilot and stand in the entrance of her bedroom, watching her sleep under shafts of moonlight. Her lips are slightly parted, her breathing steady.

She will never be this innocent again and I hate to ruin it. I made her a promise, though I'd break it in a heartbeat if I thought it would do any good.

I sit at the edge of the bed and run my index finger down her nose and over her mouth. She shifts and sighs, then comes slowly awake.

“So what happened?”

I tell her everything.

***

“I’m coming with you,” I say.

“Scully, you can’t. We can’t be on the run with a newborn. And there’s the chip.”

“I’ve already decided to take it out. I’m coming with you.”

He looks weary, though I know he’s expected this.

“Be realistic. You take it out and get sick again. So I’m in hiding with a baby and a woman with brain cancer? Bringing the chip along as a cure would lead them to us as surely as if it were in your neck. You think I can just waltz into a hospital with you and leave no one the wiser? What if you die, Scully? What do I do with him?”

I know he's being harsh on purpose, but it still hurts.

I'm so frustrated.

"I'll leave him with my mother and go with you." Even as I say it I know it isn't true.

"Scully, this isn't permanent. I don't mean to leave forever."

You never do, Mulder. But you keep coming closer and closer to doing it just the same.

"I just...you only just came back," I whisper, staring at the wall.

He hangs his head. "I know."

He flops back across the bed and I'm cross-legged next to him. I want to take his head in my lap, but I haven't really got a lap anymore. I settle for twirling my fingers through his hair, which he tells me massages his brain.

"This isn't just about me, Scully. I have to stop this or it happens to our son."

Game, set, match: Mulder. I'd resigned myself to losing this battle before it started, and his coup is merely a formality. "When are you planning to go?"

He props himself up on one elbow and slides the other hand under my pajama top. The baby has been restless since I woke and Mulder smiles with a hint of sadness as he feels the kicks and tumbles. "I'm waiting until you're home from the hospital. Then I guess right afterwards."

Figured as much. I build a mental box and put this information in it for use at a later time. I'll pretend it away until it happens. I live very much in the present these days.

"About that. I'm ready to be open about this, Mulder. And I want you there when he's born." Better late than never, right?

"Really?" The expression on his face is so poignant that I have to look away.

I stretch out on my side, resting my head on his chest with my eyes closed. "Really."

"So does this mean I get to walk into the Hoover building and officially close the betting pool, or what?" The touch of his fingers on my eyelids is a featherweight. He traces the hollow above my jugular notch and it sends shivers down my spine.

I kiss his neck. "Why? Do you get a cut?"

"Could be."

I unbutton his shirt and begin moving my hands over his chest. He stiffens for the briefest second and then relaxes again.

"Mmm. You'll be a rich man. I guess it means I can be honest if anyone asks. I'm not advertising it or anything."

"I'd better not risk it then, seeing as I'm a rich man already. I don't want to mess up your protocol. I'll direct all queries to you."

I unbuckle his belt and he gently covers my hand with his own.

"Scully..."

I look up at him. "Does this make you uncomfortable because I'm pregnant?"

"I feel like our lives have been cut up in segments and spliced back together wrong."

"I can understand that. But is it really all?"

He looks over at me. "Okay. Because you're pregnant too."

I whisper seductively into his ear. "You know Mulder, there's research that indicates seminal prostaglandins can help soften the cervix and that the release of endorphins at orgasm can stimulate contractions."

I manage to keep a straight face while Mulder gives me a deer-in-headlights look.

"Well," he says at last, "I guess we don't have to worry about birth control."

I laugh softly. "No, I guess not." I sit back up, propped against the headboard. Mulder shifts over and I run my hand over his cheek as he listens to the baby's tidal noises.

"I wish you didn't have to go."

"I'll leave you my shirt," he says lightly.

"Don't be mean."

I trace his lips with my finger.

"Mmm," he says, pressing his face against my thigh. "I couldn't take you with me anyway, Scully. You and your pajamas. I couldn't keep you in silk on the run."

I hesitate for only a second before pulling the top off. "I don't require pajamas."

Go for the gold, honey. Your life's falling apart anyway.

Mulder sits up and cups my jaw in his hand, running his thumb over my cheek. I get up on my knees and he pulls me against him, his mouth brushing mine. "Scully..." he says in a voice so rich I can nearly taste my name on his lips.

His hands, long and lean and efficient, are burning their way over my body. I imagine them leaving afterimages, like traces of light.

My face is pressed against the top of his head as I push his shirt off of his shoulders, and I'm amused by his impatience as he hurries to free his arms from the sleeves.

It's been the better part of nine months, but my fingers are alive with sense memory; skimming his hard runner's body in all the familiar places. I bend down to kiss the scar I left on his shoulder and then slide my teeth over the seashell curve of his ear.

He moans softly against my neck and his thumb traces the outline of my tattoo without needing to look - knowing it by heart - and the dull ache along the insides of my thighs blooms into fire. I tip my head backwards until my hair brushes my shoulder blades.

His mouth bleeds heat against the angles of my neck and he moves lower, trailing kisses just below my collarbones; cupping my breasts and testing the new weight of them in his hands. Pregnancy has made them hypersensitive and the firm press of his fingers leaves me gasping.

Mulder's dark head slips down and he takes my nipple in his mouth suddenly, his teeth hard against the achingly sensitive skin. My back arches sharply, and he holds me against his mouth.

"Mulder..." I hiss, wanting him to stop and to never stop and -

Oh.

His right hand has slipped inside the waistband of my pants, brushing against the insides of my thighs and pushing them further apart. He holds me smoothly in his palm, teasing, and laughs slightly at the frustrated noise that I make. My nipple slips from his mouth, the air shockingly cold against the wet flesh.

He leans back slightly, watching my face as he slides one finger deep inside of me, then another. His thumb flicks upwards against my clitoris, and the coolness of his fingers against the heat of my skin draws a low moan from my lips. I drop my head, murmuring his name into his neck as I rock against him. How have I lived without this?

I'm gripping his arms, feeling the right one move with every twitch of his fingers.

"Miss me?" he asks.

I make a low affirmative noise and his fingers become fast and insistent as my nails dig into his biceps. I'm whispering nonsense against his earlobe when he pulls his hand away and sits back on his heels.

I feel drunk and dizzy and look questioningly up at him.

He says nothing, but wraps his arms around me, kissing me softly as he lowers me to the bed. He slides the pajama bottoms off, crumpling them in his hand before dropping them to the floor. My breath is thick in the back of my throat.

Mulder's mouth navigates the changed landscape of my body, tasting the places where I have curved and shifted; tracing the high hill of my belly with his tongue. I sigh dreamily as his hands move down my legs, kneading the tired muscles there. He's kissing the ridge of bone at my hip, his hair tickling softly where it falls against me.

His cheeks are rough against my thighs, breath warm and moist as sea air. I feel him nibbling the tender skin that covers the muscles of my inner leg; clenched and taut with anticipation. My arm is just long enough for my fingers to graze his head.

And then his mouth is moving over me, firm over the petal-folds of skin while his tongue darts inside, licking and twisting as his hands hold my hips to the mattress.

I'm panting, my eyelids fluttering and fingers grasping uselessly at the sheets while my left heel digs into the wing of his scapula. I offer a silent prayer of thanks for his oral fixation and every last sunflower seed his nimble tongue has unshelled.

He makes a humming noise against me and there's nothing left but his lips and tongue and teeth as I use my shoulders as leverage to finally get my hips off the bed.

"Oh, yes...please..." I'm nearly incoherent.

lipsandtongueandteethlipsandtongueandteethlipsand...

He stops.

The groan that escapes me seems to resonate from every cell. "Mulder," I plead. "Don't..."

I can practically see the canary feathers hanging from his mouth, and I toss my head against the pillow in frustration. "I hate you."

He leans over to kiss me, steadying himself against the headboard, and I can taste myself on his lips. I pull myself to a sitting position as he opens his jeans with his free hand. They slide down his hips and he tosses them aside before winding his fingers through my hair.

"Scully," he says in a voice like unpolished marble.

I shake my head free and push him back. He lays down diagonally, his head at the foot of my bed, feet on the pillows. I straddle his hips and look down appreciatively at his body.

If I have been transformed to arabesques and French curves, Mulder is as much angles and planes as ever; his lean torso tangent to my round one.

He's watching me with quicksilver eyes.

I rise up on my knees and shift forward against the hot satin of his erection, sliding him inside of me with a fluid motion that leaves us both drawing ragged breaths.

Mulder says something incomprehensible in a hoarse voice that makes my throat tighten. I am so wet and so keenly aroused right now that all I can think about is making myself last.

He reaches for my hands, lacing his fingers through mine. "It's been a while, Scully. I make no promises."

I match the languid grind of his hips, pushing my weight against his arms and savoring the gorgeous, slow torture of him beneath me.

I tighten myself around him, loving the way it makes his eyes roll back. "Don't go," I breathe, drawing his hand to my mouth and circling his forefinger with the tip of my tongue.

He groans softly and thrusts harder, touching a finger to my lower lip. "You're not fighting fair."

"Mmm. We'll find a way to make it work. If I get cancer again, you can leave me."

"That's not much of a deal," he says. He's let go of my hands and is gripping my hips the way I like. I wonder if the finger marks will be there when he goes away again, like lingering shadows.

"What would you do if I stayed?" He presses a finger against my clitoris, stroking me inside and out with every movement.

"Jesus," I gasp. "Mulder."

"Would you marry me, Scully? We could get a nice house in Baileys Crossroads. I'm flush with cash now." He's teasing but there's something else there too. He wants me to think this through carefully and tell him what I really want. I wish I knew what that was.

I want to say yes. I want to scream it, actually, but for other reasons. It's hard to string together coherent phrases as the blood gathers to the pleasure centers of my brain. "You know I can't," I manage. "Not like this."

"I know," he says.

The thrumming sound in my ears is getting louder and I move faster against him. I don't know what I want beyond wanting him to stay. I can't even let myself imagine the yawning hole his absence will leave in my life.

I have given him my dreams to keep with his own.

He has my trust.

My name.

My body.

I want him to stay.

"Oh, there...Christ, Mulder. If you stay, we can get a place. We can raise him together. I want to."

I'm sweat-slick and breathless, and when he pulls me down hard against him, it sends me crashing over the edge; my thighs trembling around his and my nails raking over his tight abdomen.

I don’t know if I call his name or not, but one of his hands is on my ass and the other is clenching my thigh and every thought in my shell-shocked brain is of him. My head is thrown back, the tendons of my neck tight and throbbing, and Mulder's voice wafts through the loud pounding of my pulse.

"I love to watch you," he says huskily, and I'm twitching like a landed fish as he still rocks beneath me.

I open my eyes to watch the steady flexion of his abdominal muscles and can tell he's getting close. I reach around behind my back and stroke him as he enters me; satiny and wet under my fingers and the touch makes him jerk hard. I start to move my hand away, but he grabs my other wrist.

"Don't stop. My mom left me the summer house, Scully. We'll take him to the beach sometime when he's big enough."

"He could take his first steps in the sand," I whisper. "Like you."

"Take pictures," he says. "Promise me you will."

I struggle to keep my composure and nod, watching as Mulder edges closer to release.

His fingers are hard against my lower back as he keeps our bodies tightly joined. His eyes squeeze shut as he thrusts upwards into me and my fingers slip away to steady myself against him.

Sweet honey out of the rock.

"Oh, Scully..." he moans and the raw purr of my name as he comes is enough to make me shiver.

In times past, I'd collapse on him after this. He'd hold my head against his chest while I listened to his heart rate come down. My damp hair on his hot neck, the taste of his salt and copper skin against my mouth.

I curl next to him instead, my head tucked against his shoulder. "We could be happy."

"Scully..."

"I know. I know you can't. I know you're leaving because you have to."

He pulls me closer and kisses me. "And I know if I really tried to stay, you'd make me go."

I sigh and draw the blankets up, feeling myself beginning to drift back to sleep in the bronze haze of an afterglow. "Am I really that transparent?"

"Only to me," he says reassuringly.

"That's okay then."

I dream of the gray-green Atlantic and the faithful pull of the tide.

***

SCULLY'S APARTMENT
8:38 PM

On some level, I knew this was coming ever since I found Lizzie Gill in my bathroom. Analysis of the pills she had given me revealed that they were nothing more than prenatal vitamins with a little ferrous-ferric oxide as a coloring agent. Why she felt the need to swap my pills is beyond me, but I'm relieved that no harm was done.

While Mulder's distracted by the phone, I tuck the tracking device into my bra and roll the receiver up in a pair of socks and stuff it in my pocket. It's a risk to do it, but I feel the risk of not doing it is greater.

"Leave the suitcase," he says.

Panic is closing my throat and I'm having to remind myself to take regular breaths as we make it to the car, leaving Billy Miles to do whatever the hell he plans to do in my apartment.

Except, of course, that he isn't in my apartment anymore. He's coming towards us and we're trapped in this car. A cold flame ignites in the pit of my stomach and radiates outwards.

Everything slows down and I watch the world frame by frame.

A car hits Billy.

He goes down and the car drives on.

Krycek, of all people is the driver.

Alex Fucking Krycek just saved our lives. Are you kidding me with this?

But there is no time to process it because Billy is rising from the street like something out of a Stephen King movie. We climb into Krycek's car, leaping from the frying pan and possibly into the fire.

***

J. EDGAR HOOVER FBI BUILDING
3:50 PM

I turned her over to Krycek and, for the life of me, I can't tell you exactly why. And I don't know which of them looked more stunned. But there was an earnestness to him and if he'd wanted her dead, she would be. Billy Miles had us in his grasp.

I know she will be safer wherever Reyes has taken her, but I feel cheated. I'm going to have to leave soon and I was looking forward to attending the baby's birth. I wonder if she'll handle it with her usual stoicism, biting a rag so Reyes doesn't hear her screaming. Trying to deliver the baby herself. I wouldn't put it past her.

Monica Reyes is going to deliver my son. And I'm not going to see it.

I think of Scully's mention of his first steps; of pudgy, uncertain baby feet staggering through sand to my open arms. "Come to Daddy," sings Scully's delighted voice.

Stop it, Mulder. Keep thinking of him as Scully's baby or else you'll never leave.

I'm on Skinner's couch, festering with irritation as Krycek plays his smug little mind games.

I'm relieved when Crane pulls Doggett from the room. He doesn't know the history here and has not yet realized that you can't take anything Krycek does personally. It was such a nice little reunion of People Krycek Has Tried To Kill and then Doggett had to go and get all huffy about it. At the moment though, Krycek's got this beatific expression on his face and it's annoying the piss out of me.

When I finally leave the building, it's not because I have anywhere to go. But the air is heavy with memories and I'm too tired for the weight right now.

***

SCULLY'S APARTMENT
8:13 PM

I cannot believe that Skinner shot him. Is there really such a thing as cold blood? I have killed a man before. There is an awful, sanctifying power in it; proof that we can mete out final, irrevocable justice. The experience leaves you at once drained and transcendent. Cain and God.

I recall Scully firing point-blank into Donnie Pfaster's chest after the immediate danger had passed; the way she was haunted by how easily she had done it. That her guilt came from a lack of guilt. And if Scully can kill without real remorse, what hope is there for the rest of us?

I want to know who this Rohrer character is. How he's tied in with both Krycek and Doggett. Whatever else I feel towards him, I must accept the veracity of Scully's character assessment. Doggett, though possessed of an uninspired worldview, is indeed honorable.

His words on the phone were rushed, his concern for Scully genuine and intense. Thanks to him, I know where she is right now. Roughly.

I toss a few things into a bag - Scully's suture kit, some medical supplies, clean clothes for her - and head to the door when I collide with Skinner.

"Sir," I say awkwardly.

"I found something in my office, Mulder. Stuffed between the couch cushions. And I think it was meant for you."

He hands me a rough lump about the size of my palm. It is a pair of women's athletic socks wrapped around something flat, which I remove before tossing the socks to the floor.

The something flat turns out to be a small black device with a screen. When I turn it on, it makes a beeping noise and then the screen blinks to life. There's a map of the southeastern US with a tiny green dot. I zoom in again and again until I'm at street level and stare at Skinner.

"It's Scully. She took some kind of tracking device with her." I can't decide if she's brilliant or insane.

"There's a helicopter waiting for you, Mulder. Bring her home."

I nod, afraid my voice won't hold if I speak, and sprint past him to the stairs. I clutch the screen like a talisman and set out to follow the light.

***

Pray God you can cope
I stand outside this woman's work,
This woman's world
Oh, it's hard on the man,
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft of the father

This Woman's Work, Kate Bush

***

DEMOCRAT HOT SPRINGS, GEORGIA
1:52 AM

Monica Reyes stands in the doorway like the eye of a hurricane, surrounded by dust and chaos.

"Mulder!" she calls over the whirl of cars and people and the steady beat of the helicopter.

I run to her. "How is she?"

"She's inside. She needs to get to the hospital."

I study her face for a second; she looks concerned, but not panicked. One day I can thank her for this as she deserves, but my time is already slipping away.

***

Scully's reclining on an iron daybed, her hair tumbled and curling in lovelocks around her pale face. Her eyes are deeply shadowed, lips cracked and dry. There is blood on the sheets and on the floor, and a bundle of blankets is cradled against her chest. She opens her eyes drowsily and smiles. "You found us."

She sounds exhausted.

"Reyes says you need to get to the hospital," I parrot, taking a few steps towards the bed.

"Come see him," she says softly, pulling her shirt around her breast. She's radiant in the candlelight. The whole picture is so vivid - so overwhelmingly beautiful - that I freeze like a nervous prom date.

Scully smiles again and reaches a hand out to me, wiggling her fingers as though she is summoning a cat.

I walk over and sit next to her, peering down at the puzzled red face and flailing, useless fists of our child. Scully strokes his nose, murmuring quietly. A lump rises in my throat. This is real, I think. This is happening.

And I'm going to walk away.

He scrunches his lips and makes a gurgling sound, batting at his small, bare chest. "You Tarzan," I tell him.

Scully laughs. "I'm not letting you sign the birth certificate without me."

I take his hand, marveling at the way his miniscule fingers curl around my thumb. I stroke the back of his fist with my forefinger. "Have you settled on a name yet?"

She shakes her head. "Nothing feels right."

I watch the tiny lips blow a spit bubble, his breath milky and sweet. I need for him to have a name before I go. "Scully, just pick something. It doesn't matter."

"That's funny coming from you, Fox."

Tarzan opens his eyes - blue and round - and gives me his mother's blank stare. "Fair point," I concede.

Scully tries to sit up straighter and winces. "Do I hear a helicopter?"

"Chicks dig a cool ride," I tell my son conspiratorially, smoothing the cowlick on his velveteen head. He is impossibly soft.

I see Reyes hovering in the doorway, looking uncertain. "Monica!" calls Scully. "Come in."

She does and smiles shyly at me. "Congratulations."

"Thank you," I say thickly. "Thank you for everything." I hold her gaze with my own for a moment and then turn back to the bed.

"Scully, come on. We gotta go. That looks like an awful lot of blood and you need a doctor." I actually have no idea if it's a lot of blood or not, but it seems like it to me and Scully is small.

"She tore quite a bit," Reyes informs me. "She needs stitches." Scully holds the baby up and Reyes takes him, crooning softly as he fusses. She shifts him over her shoulder and pats at his back. He belches prodigiously and Scully looks tickled.

"That's my boy," I say, trying out the sound of it.

I turn to Scully, sliding one arm under her knees and the other around her back. "Up you get."

"Mulder..."

"You're not walking," I chide with impatience.

"You're damned right I'm not. I was going to remind you to keep the sheet wrapped around me." She drapes an arm around my neck as I lift her carefully. "So where's your shining armor?"

"Scully, shut up," I say, loving her so much that my chest aches with it. Suddenly, a rush of blood pours from the sheet and down my shirt. "Jesus Christ!" I shout, staggering backwards a step.

"I'm okay," she mumbles into my jacket. Of course you are, Scully. You're always okay. Now just stop bleeding so I can believe you.

I jog towards the helicopter, Reyes at my heels. *Now* she looks panicked, clutching the baby close as he starts to cry.

"I've already contacted the nearest hospital," the pilot shouts. "They're waiting."

I climb in, trying not to jostle Scully too much, and then reach a hand out to Reyes. She clambers over my legs and sits across from us, humming quietly and bouncing the swaddled bundle on her knees.

Scully's eyelids flutter as the chopper lurches upwards. "Muller," she slurs, then coughs a little. "Mulder."

I kiss her tangled hair, running my fingers through it. "Hmmm?"

"Sing something," she murmurs.

I shake my head and laugh. "You're pushing your luck here."

She chuckles and curls closer. "Please."

I sigh and kiss the top of her head again. "Jeremiah was a bullfrog," I begin brokenly. "Was a good friend of mine..."

I glance nervously at Reyes, who has begun making a kind of guttural hooting noise that has the baby captivated.

Scully slips her arm around my waist. "Go on."

"Never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine." I brush my thumb over Scully's lips and she smiles, pressing her cheek to my palm.

"And he always had some mighty fine wine," sings Reyes.

I tap Scully's knee in time. "Joy to the world. To aaaaaall the boys and girls. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea..."

"Joy to you and me," Scully joins in, her hand warm as she grips my back.

The helicopter banks sharply and skims like a dragonfly through the sultry Georgia night.

***