Title: Ashes Bitter on Her Tongue
Summary: "I'm pregnant" were words bitter on her tongue. Prequel to "The Hard Edges of Things"
Author's Note: For the moment (summer, 2013) you can find The Hard Edges of Things, a wip, here. It'll be on this site too, eventually.
It struck her as almost funny that the thought of a baby was able to quell some of the panic within her. It was a miracle. When the IVF had failed, she had mourned the last gasp of her fertility. But somehow, she and Mulder were able to create life together, naturally. Without the aid of test tubes and petri dishes.
This strange contentment lasted until after Skinner stammered his congratulations and stumbled from the room, and the door opened again. A young nurse walked in and gave her an apologetic glance. "Ms. Scully? I'm so sorry, but there's been a mix up with your test results."
Scully looked up at the worried young nurse, wondering what horrors the woman's next words would bring, because surely one didn't get that expression on their face when about to offer good news.
Was that it? Was this young girl about to tell her that the reason she'd passed out in the woods was because a malevolent mass had once again taken up residence in her skull? Panic began to swirl within her, because she couldn't fight it with chemo this time. Not while pregnant.
Steeled to hear a death sentence, Scully looked up at her with an even stare. "Go on."
"Um... There's a woman named Dana Sully here too. She's pregnant."
Puzzled, Scully continued to stare at the flustered nurse. What made her think another woman's pregnancy would be of interest? Especially if-
The nurse's expression evolved into pity. "I mean, she's pregnant and you...aren't."
The Next Morning
As Scully slowly packed her belongings into the ubiquitous blue plastic bag all hospitals seem to provide recent ex-patients, only one thought filled her head. No baby.
They had only been a baby, or at least the cruel possibility of one, for an hour. During that hour something like hope had been born inside Scully. Mulder would come back. Mulder would come back, because there was going to be a baby, and babies need a father. Mulder would be back, because there was going to be a baby, and babies need their father, and women shouldn't raise babies on their own. Not if they could help it. Not if there was someone like Mulder who could help them raise the baby instead.
This was how she allowed herself to believe that he had to come back. She couldn't believe that he'd have to come back because of her, but a baby, that was a good enough reason to believe that he had to come back.
And there was no baby. There was no miracle.
Maybe that meant Mulder would not come back.
What she wanted to do was to throw herself on the floor, pound her fists, and kick her feet. To scream at the injustice of the world, and vent her grief and fear. Instead she carefully folded the shirt she wore yesterday, and slipped it into the blue plastic bag.
The Day after That
At least she hadn't told her mother. She hadn't been intending to tell Skinner either, but the words had just popped out of her mouth at their own volition. The pity that her mother would have coated her in would be much more thorough than the sad look in Skinner's eyes when she told him that she was not in fact pregnant after all.
If she could time travel, she wished she could go back to two days earlier, and tell herself 'don't believe' so that she might have met the words 'you're pregnant' with hardened cynicism, not the eager acceptance she'd offered them. Of course, could she time travel, she would go back three days and screw Mulder into a coma so he couldn't leave her behind.
The Week after That
Everyone said it was too soon to return to the office, but she couldn't bear the unplanned visits from her mother and the gunmen any longer than that. Her mother would show up at all hours with casseroles, and the gunmen would appear with some sort of new toy, one with wires and batteries, and they all would tell her that they were there if she wanted to talk about it.
She didn't want to talk about it. She wanted to be back in the office, where she had the resources that would allow her to find Mulder. Sitting at home and being an object of sympathy did nothing for Mulder. That wasn't acceptable.
Back at the office she expected to find a new sense of purpose, but the resources she pinned all her hopes on didn't seem to be the right tools after all. At home or in the office, it seemed as though she was no closer to discovering Mulder's whereabouts than the day he disappeared.
The Year after That
It would have been more poetic, more surreal, if the phone call had occurred on the anniversary of Mulder's abduction, but it happened three weeks after that.
She had been poring over charts that the gunmen had produced for her, marked with every UFO sighting in the last thirty days. There were not many. And none of them were anywhere near Bellefleur, Oregon. The ringing phone shattered her concentration, and she snatched it up only thinking about making it stop. Once it was in her hand, she realized she could hear a tinny voice.
"Hello?" she answered impatiently.
The voice on the other end sounded nervous. "Um. Is this Dana Scully?"
"I know this is a sensitive question, but did you give any children up for adoption?"
It was her first instinct to shout at him, and ask who put him up to it, but she decided against being rash. It was remotely possible that the inquiry was not a malevolent taunt. Keeping her voice is even as possible, she asked, "Why do you ask?"
She could almost hear the unseen man becoming more disconcerted by her question. "I'm a private investigator hired by an estate. The heirs of the estate, two young children, were orphaned after a car accident. I was left instructions to access DNA databases for area hospitals, because it was thought that the children had an uncle who was a bone marrow donor. We didn't find him, but we found you."
Scully frowned to herself. PIs didn't generally have unobstructed access to hospital databases that contained the results of DNA testing, so it seemed likely that he'd had someone hack into them for him...and she didn't dare speculate why that be. "And?" she asked, lacking a better response.
"Well, their DNA matches yours, and more closely than an aunt's would, which is why I assumed you might have given them up for adoption. Look, I'll be frank – the estate wants to find a blood relative to keep them from being put into foster care, and maybe split up. So, did you give them up for adoption, or not?"
She almost hung up on him. Not because she wished to discontinue the conversation, but because she was suddenly so overwhelmed. What could she possibly tell this man to explain things? After a torturously long pause, she said, "I had frozen embryos stolen." It was the closest thing to the truth that would sound remotely plausible. "From a fertility clinic."
"Oh." There was an almost equally long pause as the man tried to think of how to reply. "Then you must not have been expecting this phone call. Not about children who have been born, anyway."
"No." She most certainly had not been expecting a phone call about another child out there who had her DNA. Mulder had tried to tell her months after her doomed little daughter's funeral that it was possible, but she had dismissed the idea, assuming that if there had been any other children created from her ova besides Emily, they too would've gone to early graves whether she knew it or not.
"How old are they? Boys? Girls?" Are they sick? Do they have green blood? she added mentally.
"Oh!" The man suddenly sounded more enthusiastic. "The little boy, Tommy, is three. His little sister Grace is a year old."
"And their health? My husband and I had embryos made so we could try to avoid genetic disorder in his family, but we never found out the results before... the theft," she improvised. It seemed unlikely to her that either of these children had actually sprung from embryos that she and Mulder had made in the months prior to his abduction, but her ova had been stolen from her. That part wasn't a lie. Obviously the boy was too old to be one of the embryos she'd voluntarily commissioned, at the very least.
"They seem healthy to me," the man said softly. "Just very alone in the world."
Scully made the fastest important decision she ever had in her adult life. "When can I take them home?" There was a pause at the other end, and she began to wonder if she had misunderstood the purpose of his phone call. "I assume that is what you were getting around to."
"Yes, of course. I just thought that you would need more convincing," he admitted. "Especially once I realized that these were not children you had given up for adoption."
"I wouldn't have," Scully found herself saying without realizing why. "My husband and I wanted children very much." Wanted. The word startled her. Was she really thinking about Mulder in the past tense now?
If the PI picked up on her use of the past tense, he didn't comment on it. "Is tomorrow good?"
Tomorrow? she found herself wondering. Why not today? Why not this very moment? But she found herself agreeing, "Tomorrow."
"Great. Let me give you the address..."
The Day after That
They didn't look like Mulder.
She didn't realize that she would be so disappointed until she set eyes on them, and realized that she could only see herself in them. They were clearly related to each other and to her: both had her red hair and blue eyes, and fair skin that would have her slathering them with sunscreen for the next decade. But they didn't have his smile, or his nose, and neither of them was chewing on sunflower seeds when she arrived to take them home.
Until she was disappointed, she didn't realize how very much she had been hoping that they were his. It been a year. Mulder might never be back. Or if he was found, some day she might get a phone call asking her to identify remains. It hurt to think of his bones hidden in woody underbrush, but it didn't seem far-fetched.
The PI, whose name turned out to be Jordan, smiled when she arrived. He was accompanied by a lawyer named Spencer who clutched the paperwork that would turn the children over to her. Her feelings of loss must have been clearly telegraphed upon her face, because the PI's smile faded when he studied her expression. This forced her to assume a happier mask, if not for his sake then the children's.
"Are they ready to go home?" she asked brightly.
"As ready as they'll ever be."
She thought he might be right. Grace was too small to be anything but oblivious, but Tommy gave her a wary look. It had been a rough week for the three-year-old. Not only had he lost both parents, he and his sister had been shipped to a foster family, and now for the second time in a week he'd be sleeping in a strange bed.
Scully crouched down, so she could look the boy directly in the eyes. "Hi. My name is Dana. I am going to be taking you and Grace home to live with me. Do you understand?"
He nodded, but it was clear that he did not.
"Forever," she elaborated. "You won't have to go with anybody else after this. Okay?"
Tommy looked contemplative for a moment, and then held out a small hand to her. She took it as a yes.
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