Title: Debrouiller
Author: Tess
E-mail: tnv099@aol.com
Distribution: Please notify me first
Spoilers: General knowledge of eps
Rating: PG-13
Content: MSR
Keywords: S,A,R
Disclaimer: Characters contained herein are the property of Fox and 1013. This story is written for entertainment purposes only

Summary: Coping

~ Prologue ~

She sat quietly, eyes darting nervously around the darkened walls of the small room. Waiting. Across from her, Mulder lay silently, blessedly unconscious - safe from the fears that haunted her every waking moment. And at times like this, when sleep would not come, it seemed to her that every moment of the last three months had been waking moments. She rubbed nervous fingers over the wooden arms of the chair from where she kept watch in the night. Waiting. Endlessly waiting. The nights were the worst. When the shadows lengthened and darkness filled the room; when Mulder abandoned her for the peaceful oblivion that he sought in his sleep - it was in the blackness of the night that her fears threatened to overwhelm her; for it was then that she felt most alone.

A soft whisper of sound floated toward her and she froze, fists tightly clutching the thin blanket she'd placed over her lap to ward off the slight chill in the room. She shrank back into the shadows, trying to hide - holding her breath, willing him not to summon her. Please God. Just one night, she prayed. One night and she might be able gather the tattered remnants of her strength to face another day.

But God was not listening and when she heard the first low call, she obediently rose from her chair. The thin cotton blanket tumbled soundlessly to the floor as she moved into the other room on quivering legs. She had learned that it was worse if she did not respond immediately. She wrapped her hands briefly around the bars that separated them. Silent tears tracked down her cheeks as she lifted trembling fingers to the buttons of her pajama top, shrugging out of it under his unblinking gaze...

~ Chapter One ~

March, 2001

Two months earlier

"Come on, William," she begged. "Don't cry, sweetie." Scully turned away from the counter and plugged the baby's pacifier between his lips again. She double- checked the safety harness to be sure that it was wrapped snuggly over her son's chest and waited until his mouth began to suckle the rubber nipple before returning her attention to the recipe cards spread over the countertop. She had seen the look of distaste that had briefly crossed Mulder's face when they sat down for dinner the other evening. To his credit, he had filled his plate with pasta, spooning over it liberal amounts of the jarred tomato sauce that she had heated in the microwave only minutes before he had arrived home. He had thanked her for the dinner when he was finished eating and quickly cleared the table. But she knew he was tired of pizza and pasta. Hell, she was tired of pizza and pasta. Actually, she was just tired.

But Scully was determined to be a good mother to William and a good... well, a good whatever it was that she and Mulder were to each other. Not spouses, not lovers - at least not for many, many, months. Friends? Companions? Partners? She shook her head and tugged open the refrigerator door, pulling out a package of chicken legs. Mulder had given up the lease on his apartment and had moved in with her and William shortly after they had brought him home from the hospital. If the finer points of their relationship weren't precisely hammered out yet, the fact remained that they were a family - the three of them - and she was going to do her best to make it work.

She wouldn't fail at this, she thought, casting her eyes toward the baby boy who was fussing in the infant seat on the tabletop. She would make this work or die trying.

She spent the next thirty minutes darting back and forth from her fretful child to preparing dinner. She shoved the pan of flour-coated chicken into the oven and checked her watch; wiped her fingers off on a towel and used her hand to bounce the infant seat - all the while keeping up a steady stream of one-sided chatter aimed toward calming her son. When William's whimpering briefly subsided, she jumped up to scrub and prick holes into the potatoes before setting them into the microwave and then hurriedly wiped down the counter and set the table.

My mother did this with four children and a husband who was always out to sea, she chanted to herself in what had become a daily pep talk. You can do this, she reminded herself over and over again. She was pacing the length of the kitchen, the sobbing weight of her baby sagging in her arms when she heard the front door swing open.

"Thank God!" she breathed softly. Mulder swept into the kitchen and dropped his leather jacket over the back of one chair. "Hi." He smiled gently down at her. "Do you want me to take him?" he offered. Scully nodded.

"Hey Bub," he crooned as he lifted William out of his mother's anxious embrace. "What's the matter, huh?" He cradled the baby in one strong arm and ran the tip of his finger over the child's splotchy cheeks. William's tears dried instantly at the sound of his father's voice and he kicked his tiny legs excitedly.

Scully watched for a moment as their son's entire disposition changed from that of a tired, cranky baby into a chortling, gleeful charmer. Her eyes wandered over father and son, noting for the hundredth time the startling similarities between them. While William's hair at birth had contained a touch of red, that newborn hair had fallen out and was now growing in dark and full like Mulder's. His eyes were an odd blue/gray color and she imagined that it was only a matter of a few weeks or a month before they began to turn the same beautiful shade of hazel as his father's. The shape of his mouth, the arch of his brows... even his nose. He was a miniature version of Mulder. She had spent countless hours studying the baby - looking for something of her or the Scullys in his face or in his build. In her heart she had always known who the father of her baby was, but the bitter memory of the nightmares that had sent her lurching upright in bed throughout her pregnancy haunted her still and she took comfort in this obvious confirmation of paternity.

Scully split open the baked potatoes and carried them to the table along with a platter of oven-fried chicken. For the first time since her life had changed from that of federal agent to full-time mother, she felt a surge of satisfaction at having accomplished something when she saw Mulder's eyes light up. He plopped the baby back into his infant seat and they sat down to eat. Scully took a sip of water from the glass near her plate and then lifted a steaming hot piece of chicken to her lips. William chose that particular moment to draw his legs up to his chest and let out a piercing shriek. Instant tears ran down his rounded cheeks and Scully reached over to free him from the harness holding him in his seat, recognizing the sound of his wails as his hungry cry. She cradled him in one arm and unbuttoned her blouse with her free hand, tugging down the cup of her nursing bra and guiding him to the nipple. She jumped, still startled by the ferocious manner in which he latched onto her breast; she sagged against her chair as he began to suckle intently.

Scully glanced down at her plate and pushed it away from her, suddenly too tired to eat. I can do this, she reminded herself. I can do this.

~ Chapter Two ~

Tucking a long-sleeved T-shirt into the waistband of his trousers, Mulder hurried into the kitchen and yanked open the door to the dishwasher. He reached inside and pulled out the travel mug that he had thrown into the machine the night before when he had finished cleaning up after dinner. Shoving the top rack back into the machine, he nudged the door closed with his hip and reached out for the carafe of coffee sitting on the warming plate of the coffeemaker. He poured strong, black coffee into the mug and snapped the spill-proof lid into place.

"I'll be a little late tonight," he said. He set the mug down on the table and grabbed his backpack - he couldn't bring himself to carry a briefcase - from the kitchen chair where he had tossed it the previous night. He unzipped the bag and briefly glanced inside at the contents. Spinning on his heel he raced out of the room, returning a moment later with a thick file folder. He crammed the folder into the backpack and zipped it closed again.

"What time do you think you'll be home?" Scully asked as she shifted William in her arms so that she could switch him from one breast to the other. Mulder leaned over the back of her chair and stroked one hand over the downy hair covering the top of his son's head. The baby grunted softly against his mother's breast as he greedily slurped down his breakfast. Mulder watched Scully's eyes move from her study of his hand against their son's head to the fragrant mug of coffee sitting on the table in front of her.

"Want a sip?" he asked, picking up the mug and holding it out to her. Scully sighed longingly and shook her head.

"Can't," she said, lowering her lips to William's forehead in a gentle kiss. "Caffeine," she reminded him. Mulder slung the backpack over one shoulder and watched Scully's drooping form.

"I don't think one cup of coffee a day is going to hurt the baby," he told her. "And a sip certainly can't do any harm," he reasoned. "Besides, you look like you could use a jolt," he said, concern in his voice as he studied the tired face she turned up to him.

"First, it's just one sip. Then, it's one cup," she said. "You know me, Mulder. It's just going to make me want a second cup and maybe even a third." She pushed the proffered mug toward him. "Besides, William doesn't need any extra stimulation!" she said ruefully. Mulder shrugged and drew the mug away, knowing better than to argue with her when she had already made up her mind on the matter.

"How many times were you up with him?" he asked. Scully blew out a breath and stroked gentle fingers over William's satiny cheek. "Twice," she admitted. "After he nursed the first time, he was restless and fidgety, so I rocked him for an hour or two. He finally fell asleep after he nursed again and I put him back into his crib."

Mulder shook his head wonderingly. He hadn't heard a sound from either of them all night. "What time did you finally get to bed?" he asked. Scully thought about it for a moment before answering.

"Sometime around four o'clock," she admitted softly. Mulder glanced at the clock on the microwave. The digital numbers glowed softly green, telling him that it was just after seven o'clock in the morning.

"Scully," he admonished. "You can't keep getting by on three hours of sleep," he told her. She nodded and lifted William away from her breast and onto her shoulder.

"I know," she said as she rubbed the baby's back with the flat of her hand. "But if I had put him in the crib, he would have screamed and cried and then all three of us would have been awake," she explained. Mulder suppressed an exasperated sigh and ran his hand over the crown of her head.

"I'll see you around eight o'clock," he said. Coffee mug clutched securely in one hand, he lowered his other hand to her shoulder and squeezed it gently. Scully pulled the baby away from her shoulder and waved his tiny hand in the air.

"Say goodbye to Daddy," she said in a soft voice. Mulder smiled as he shrugged into his jacket and let himself out of the apartment. He jogged lightly along the sidewalk, coffee sloshing gently in its thermal container, keys jangling in rhythm with his loping stride. He opened the car door and slid behind the wheel, tossing his backpack onto the passenger seat and securing the coffee mug into the cup holder. He pulled out of the parking spot and drove down the quiet street, slowing as he pulled even with the apartment building. Glancing up, he saw Scully and William watching from the window. Charmed by the image they made framed in the window, Mulder stopped the car and gazed up at his family. Scully lifted her hand and pressed it to the glass in a silent farewell. An impatient honking noise startled him out of his reverie.

"Bye," he mouthed as Scully stepped back and allowed her hand to fall away from the window. He pressed down on the gas pedal and accelerated toward the highway and work.

Scully turned away from the window with a sigh and looked around the kitchen. Regretfully she poured the rest of the coffee down the drain and set the empty pot into the sink.

"I'll clean up in here later," she told William. "Right now, we need to get dressed." She carried the baby into the bedroom and laid him on padded surface of the changing table. Keeping one hand on him, she leaned down to gather up a clean diaper and clothes and laid them at one end of the changing table.

"Let's get you out of that wet diaper," she said in a conversational tone. She popped open the leg snaps of his fleecy pajamas and pushed them out of the way before releasing the velcro tabs of the wet diaper with a loud ripping noise. Snapping open the plastic container of baby wipes, she quickly cleaned him up and dusted his little bottom with a sprinkling of baby powder before putting him into a clean diaper.

"There you go," she whispered. Tucking her hair behind her ears, she leaned forward to press a kiss to the baby's rounded belly. "Does that feel better?" she asked as she stripped him the rest of the way out of his pajamas. Scully tugged a tiny T-shirt over William's head and dressed him in a one-piece romper.

"Let's sit down for a minute," she sighed as she lifted the baby from the dressing table. Exhausted from trying to wrestle her kicking, squirming baby boy into his clothes, she collapsed onto the bed, tucking the baby into the curve of her arm as she nestled her cheek into the pillow.

"Getting you dressed in the morning is more exhausting than chasing ten mutants," she told him in exasperation. William blinked at her and kicked his feet in the air gleefully. Scully captured one little foot in her hand and ran her thumb over the soft skin of his instep, tracing the delicate bones of his foot with her fingers.

"How can one little person be so much work?" she whispered. Two months had passed since she had walked out of the X-Files office to begin her maternity leave and in the six weeks since William's birth, she was more tired than she had ever been before. Even the heavy caseload she and Mulder had carried when working the X-Files didn't compare to the utter exhaustion she now felt. She missed working, but knew that staying home with her son was more important.

She and Mulder had discussed their options in the weeks and days leading up to the baby's birth. Stay at home... go to work... full-time... part-time... daycare... they had talked about every possible scenario. But it wasn't until William's harrowing entrance into their lives that the truth became crystal clear. Their baby's life could still very well be in danger. One of them would have to stay at home with him. For Scully there was only one answer. She would stay with him. She was a nursing mother. She had longed for a child; dreamed of being a mother and in the long weeks and months when she had searched for Mulder, she hadn't allowed herself the luxury of contemplating the idea that she would be able to stay at home and watch their child grow. To take care of his every need. To be the most important person in his life.

Surprisingly enough, Mulder found himself to be in demand in the job market. He had taken a position with The Center for Paranormal Studies and Research - a privately funded think tank devoted to the study of extraterrestrial and paranormal phenomena. And it was there, Scully knew, that he had finally found his place in the world. Despite his devotion to the X-Files, he had been an outcast at the FBI. It wasn't until he had begun to work at the Center that she realized how desperately he had longed to be accepted and taken seriously by his peers. Now, surrounded by like-minded people, Mulder was happier than she had ever known him to be.

She only hoped that she and William were equally important factors in his happiness. But she wasn't sure. Despite the fact that he had let go of his apartment and moved in with them, Scully wasn't certain of the extent of Mulder's commitment to her and their baby. She ran her fingers through the wisps of dark hair curling on William's head. "That's not true," she murmured softly. "Your father loves you very much," she assured their son. "He'll always be there for you." She ran her knuckles over the infant's soft cheeks. "I'm just not sure where he and I stand," she admitted. With the exception of a few chaste kisses and hugs, Mulder had not attempted to touch her or take any steps towards reclaiming the intimacy they had shared that had resulted in William's conception. Most of his belongings remained in storage. The Gunmen had adopted the fish and their aquarium. Only his winter clothes hung in one corner of the bedroom closet. His toiletries were kept in a shaving kit under the bathroom sink. No mention was made of their moving into a bigger place - of making that huge, scary commitment to purchasing a home together. Mulder and their son shared a name; but she didn't share it with them.

Scully thought of the messy kitchen and the laundry stacked on top of the washing machine. Shaking off her melancholy, she scooped the baby into her arms. "What we need, William," she said as she nuzzled her cheek against his, "is a plan."

~ Chapter Three ~

The plan was a simple one. Scully decided to set aside Monday and Wednesday mornings to take care of the laundry. On Tuesdays she would take William with her to the supermarket to buy the week's groceries, go to the dry cleaners, the post office and any other errands that needed to be taken care of. Thursdays would be devoted to thoroughly cleaning the apartment, scrubbing the bathroom and changing the bed linens. Fridays were to be set aside as play days where she and William would go out for walks or to the park or to visit her mother. All of the books that she had been reading suggested that new mothers nap when the baby naps and a succession of near sleepless nights made Scully see the wisdom of that advice. She intended to sleep for at least an hour and spend the other hour of quiet time catching up on her reading. Her medical journals were piling up and she wanted to stay current. The rest of the afternoons and early evenings would be spent straightening up the apartment and preparing dinner.

Scully propped her chin on her fist and carefully studied the chart she had created on her computer. "That seems simple enough." She looked down to find William sucking on his fingers. She leaned forward and released the straps holding him in the infant seat.

"Ohh," she murmured, cuddling him against her shoulder. "Now that Momma has a plan she can get organized," she informed the tiny child. "Things are going to run much more smoothly around here," she promised. Scully glanced at her watch and then back at the computer screen. She printed a copy of the chart and shut down the computer.

"Well," she considered. "It's not Tuesday so technically we're not supposed to be going to the grocery store, but I don't have anything in the house to make for dinner," she told William. She bundled William into the snowsuit that her mother had bought for him and carried him back into the bedroom where she pulled her service revolver out of a drawer of the bedside table. After making sure that the safety was engaged, she tucked the revolver against the small of her back. She shrugged into her own coat but left it unbuttoned so that she would be able to grab the gun more easily, if necessary. Finally they were ready to go.

Scully pushed the cart with the built-in infant seat through the supermarket dividing her attention between the baby, her grocery list and keeping an alert eye on her fellow shoppers. She moved rapidly through the store, careful never to walk down an aisle where she and William might become trapped between two other carts, always searching for an escape route, scanning the overhead mirrors mounted near the ends of the aisles and making careful note of the placement of the security cameras. She finally relaxed once she and William were safely locked inside the car. On the short ride home, she let her thoughts drift back to the chart she had worked on in the morning. For the first time, Scully felt a surge of confidence in her ability to handle the whole stay-at-home mom thing. She felt that half the battle was won simply by taking a few minutes to become organized. She believed that she and William would fall into a simple routine in no time now.

She was unpacking the groceries when William began to whimper. Scully threw a quick glance toward the sniffling baby trying to decide whether or not she had time to finish putting the groceries away... but an indignant wail from the infant seat settled the matter for her. She unbuttoned her blouse and sat down at the table with the baby in her arms, arching her back against the uncomfortable wooden kitchen chair. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw beads of condensation rolling down the sides of the tub of strawberry ice cream, creating a pool of moisture on the countertop. She glanced down at William who was contentedly, greedily, suckling and rose to her feet.

Startled by her sudden movement, William's mouth slipped off her nipple. "I'm just going to put the ice cream away," she murmured to the fretful baby as she guided him back to her breast. One-armed, she tugged open the freezer door and put the melting ice cream inside and then turned back to the table to finish nursing the baby in peace when her eyes fell on the rest of the groceries.

"Well, maybe I'll just put the rest of the perishables away," she said in a reasonable tone as she neatly placed the meats and fresh vegetables and fruits that she had purchased into the refrigerator. When she finished with the perishables, it only made sense that she would finish putting the rest of the groceries into the cupboards. After that, she looked around the kitchen and saw the dirty breakfast dishes still sitting in the sink. Peeking downward, she saw the William had fallen asleep, rosebud lips slack around her nipple, a tiny, milky bubble clinging to his full bottom lip.

"Nap time," she whispered as she carried the sleeping babe into the nursery. She lowered her son into the crib and tugged a blanket over his tiny body. She threw a longing glance toward her own bedroom, remembering her vow to rest when William did, but the call of the messy kitchen was loud.

"I'll just start taking a nap with you tomorrow..."

~ Chapter Four ~

Two weeks later

Mulder pushed open the front door and pocketed his keys. He stood at the threshold for a moment basking in the warmth of the room. He listened to the comforting, homey sounds coming from the kitchen - Scully's soft voice as she talked to William, his gurgling answers and the quiet clink of a spoon being set down. The air was fragrant with her cooking and he took an experimental sniff. God! Whatever she was making smelled great.

Mulder pushed the door closed. Shrugging out of his jacket, he hung it on a hook and set his backpack down. He had some notes to go over before bed, but for now he wanted to enjoy being with his family. And, to his surprise, he did enjoy being with them. Their lives were far from what most people would consider normal. Fear for their son's safety was the number one reason that Scully was not going back to work, and his job with the Center... well, both were ample proof of the oddities that made up their everyday lives. Still, he had not known how much his battered psyche had needed the stability of a family. The outward physical wounds sustained during his abduction had faded quickly. But it was William's chubby cheerfulness and sweet, milky scent as well as the home that Scully worked so hard to create for them and her constant presence and support that was healing the wounds to his soul. The nightmares were coming less frequently and at the Center he was able to slowly pick his way through his memories with the help of sympathetic colleagues. Work was giving him a newfound sense of credibility and worth. Home was filling him with a never before known sense of peace and hope for the future.

Mulder walked toward the warm and fragrant kitchen. He stood quietly in the doorway and took a moment to absorb the controlled chaos before him. Scully was poking at something in one of the pots with a fork. To Mulder, she had never looked so beautiful. She was trim and pretty in a pair of faded jeans, bare feet peeking out from below the frayed hems. Her milk-heavy breasts pressed against the soft cotton of her denim shirt and the hair around her face was curling in the humidity of the room. She was holding William in one arm, her body angled away from the stove to protect the baby from the heat while she cooked.

"Hi." He cleared his throat and moved into the room.

"You're home." Scully looked up from her work and returned his smile. Mulder crossed the tiled floor and began lifting lids from the various pots and pans on the stovetop.

"Mmmm." He licked his lips at the sight of pork chops and quartered potatoes browning in a heavy skillet. The expression on his face was one of near rapture until further explorations led him to discover brussel sprouts and spinach steaming in nearby pots.

"Can you take him?" Scully nodded toward the baby and Mulder lifted William into his arms. She sighed with relief and rolled her head back and forth trying to relieve the ache in her neck and shoulders.

"Why don't you put him in his seat when you're busy?" Mulder asked. He poked his finger into the bowl of applesauce sitting in the center of the table and sucked the tip of his finger thoughtfully. Scully rolled her eyes.

"Because every time I tried to put him down, he started to scream." She spooned the vegetables into serving bowls. "I've been toting him around since he woke up from his nap." She forked the chops and potatoes onto a plate and carried it to the table. Mulder stuck his finger back into the applesauce and held it to William's mouth.

"Want some?" He nudged the baby's lips with his finger. "OW!" He snatched his hand back when Scully slapped at him, quickly licking the sauce from his finger before placing his lips against his stinging palm.

"Mulder! He's too little for applesauce!" Scully stood with her hands planted on her hips and a disapproving frown on her face.

"I know that!" Mulder mumbled in an aggrieved tone. "I was only kidding." His hand had only stung for a second or two from her mild slap, but he continued to hold it to his lips, an exaggerated air of wounded dignity surrounding him.

Scully huffed out a breath. "I'm sorry," she said remorsefully. Mulder smiled and turned back to the table with the baby.

"Okay, Bub." He eased the baby into his seat. "I'm just gonna put you here so your mom and I can eat." Scully watched enviously as William docilely allowed his father to strap him into the infant seat. It wasn't long, however, before he began to fuss and whimper.

"Leave him," Mulder advised when Scully moved to pick him up. She sat back and raised a glass of water to her lips. William's fretful whines began to increase in volume and she shook her head, recognizing the cry.

"He's hungry." She lifted the baby and began undoing the buttons of her shirt. Mulder couldn't remember the last time he had seen her enjoy an uninterrupted meal.

"Maybe we should try the bottle again," he suggested. Scully had tried pumping milk so that Mulder could help with the feedings, but William refused to take to the bottle.

"He doesn't like it." She shifted the baby into a more comfortable position and picked up her fork. "Besides, the books suggest sticking to breastfeeding exclusively for the first few months to avoid nipple confusion." Unable to cut the meat, she speared a brussel sprout onto the tines. Mulder leaned across the table and cut a few bite-sized pieces of pork and she smiled appreciatively.


"You look a little tired." Mulder studied her face under the glow of the overhead lamp. She glanced down at her nursing son.

"It's taking us a little longer to get used to the schedule than I had hoped." Mulder leaned back in his seat, pleasantly full. The changes in both of their lives were massive, but everyday he was amazed by how well Scully seemed to be handling it.

"I know you must miss work," he began. "And if the time comes that you decide that you want to go back... I promise, we'll figure something out." Scully was watching him, a curious expression on her face. "I know that it's probably not very politically correct for me to say this..." He hesitated, conscious of a need to give true voice to his feelings. "But I love knowing that you're doing this." He rushed on. "You're such an incredible mom, Scully." He smiled at the contented sight of their baby, sleepily tugging on her nipple. "Maybe it's because you learned from the best," he suggested. "But right here, right now... what you're doing, being here to take care of his every need the way you do... you're giving him such an incredible foundation on which to grow." Mulder looked down at the table and a sheepish look crossed his face.

"And I know that it's even less politically correct for me to admit this, but... the work I'm doing at the Center? I never thought that I would find something that intrigued me as much as our work on the X-Files, yet I have. But even more than that... I like knowing that I can provide for you and William... that I can make it possible for you to stay here with him." He shrugged helplessly. "It feels good."

He stood and lifted William from her arms. Holding the baby against his shoulder, he rubbed and patted his tiny back. "I know that being a stay-at-home mom doesn't present the same challenges that you were used to as a doctor and agent. But you're creating a warm, safe and happy place for William... for me..." He leaned down and brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "I just wanted to tell you that I still think you're amazing."

~ Chapter Five ~

Babies don't stick to schedules. You would think that in all of the books she had read, that would have been something that would have leapt out at her. Babies don't stick to schedules. And if the baby is Fox Mulder's baby... well, he'd be even less inclined to stick to a schedule. Scully had been hopeful that William would have inherited at least her sense of timing and organization, but it seemed that he was destined to take after his father in all things - looks, disorganization and sleep habits. It was becoming increasingly apparent that William, like Mulder, was easily capable of getting through the day with very little sleep. And by extension, Scully was getting through her day on very little sleep. But not as easily.

On Monday, William wouldn't settle down for his morning nap and so the laundry was pushed off until later in the day. Doing laundry for three people, one of whom spits up on his clothes three times a day, in an apartment-sized washing machine was a daunting and time-consuming task. Scully briefly considered bundling all of the clothes up into a couple of bags and hauling them and the baby to the Laundromat, but she despised going to the Laundromat. When she graduated from college, the very first thing she did was to find an apartment that had its own washer and dryer.

Instead of joining William for an hour's rest when he finally succumbed to an afternoon nap, Scully spent the time folding the laundry. By the time she was finished putting the last of the clean laundry away, William was awake. She glanced at the clock and carried her freshly diapered and fed son into the kitchen to begin the dinner preparations.

And so it went. On Tuesday morning, he was fretful, drawing his tiny legs up and crying, spitting up most of her milk after every feeding. But just as she had made her mind up to call the pediatrician, he seemed to be feeling better. By then it was getting late and she bundled him into the car so that she could take care of her errands. William took his nap in the car and in the supermarket. Scully didn't sleep at all.

Wednesday... Thursday - it was more of the same. Scully was determined not to let scheduling problems interfere with the things that needed to be done. Mulder's words of praise over dinner the previous week had been a balm to her harried soul. She hadn't known how much she needed someone to validate what she was doing, to tell her that she was doing a good job. So often she felt out of her depth, so unsure of herself.

She pushed herself to get everything finished. All of her life, it had been important to Scully to do the job and to do it right. She and Mulder had made a bargain when William was born and she wanted to hold up her end of that bargain. Mulder's admiration of her ability to do this job meant so much. His words to her over dinner said that he valued what she was doing. She felt as though they were still partners - each working toward a common goal, but coming at it from two different places, just as they had always done. She could no more let him down here than she could have when they were still working together in the field. Mulder and William were counting on her. She wouldn't fail them.

Surely, she thought with hope, it wouldn't take much longer for William and her to settle into a routine.

April, 2001

The early spring sun shone through the living room window, spreading its warmth over the playpen and the infant slumbering within. In the kitchen, Scully stretched up onto the tips of her toes, a heavy glass bowl in her hands as she tried to find room for it in the overhead cabinet. She lost her balance and instinctively reached out with one hand to grab onto the cabinet for support. The bowl slipped from her grasp and fell to the tiled floor with a splintering crash.

"Damnit!" Shards of glass glittered all over the kitchen floor. In the living room, William awoke with an ear-piercing shriek. Scully looked down at the minefield of broken glass surrounding her bare feet. William's wails were loud and terrified and Scully, conditioned from the moment she learned she was pregnant to believe that her baby's life was in danger, wasted no time in going to him. A quick glance around the living room told her that there was no threatening presence and she scooped him from the playpen.

"It's okay, William." She cuddled him close, wrapping her arms tightly around his tiny body. "I'm here. I'm sorry I scared you." Her voice was a low, soothing whisper as she bounced him in her arms. William's face was blotchy and huge tears trembled on his eyelashes. Scully sank down onto the sofa and unbuttoned her blouse. William let out one more quivering, hitching sob before he turned to her breast and the nourishment and comfort she offered.

Scully leaned back against the cushions and willed her racing heart to slow. She stroked her hand lightly over the baby's silky hair and continued to talk to him in a soft voice. As she relaxed and William's whimpers turned to hungry sighs and grunts, she became aware of a stinging pain in the soles of her feet. She had been dimly aware of stepping on the shards of glass as she raced from the kitchen, but she had been desperate to get to William. She knew that it was irrational to believe that every cry that escaped his mouth was a warning of danger, but she was helpless to stop the panic that swamped her when she was separated from him.

It took thirty minutes for William to finish nursing and settle down. Another five to change his diaper. Forty more minutes were spent picking slivers of glass from the soles of her feet and to treat the cuts with antibiotic ointment and bandages. Bloodstains had to be cleaned from the carpet and the kitchen floor was littered with sparkling pieces of glass.

When she was finished cleaning everything up, she looked at the clock. "Shit." Scully groaned, realizing that Mulder would be home in less than an hour and she hadn't even started to prepare dinner. She reached for a takeout menu from a drawer and started to dial the pizza shop.

"No." She slammed down the phone in frustration. If she gave in now and ordered takeout, she was afraid that she would do that whenever she fell behind. Scully stalked to the refrigerator and tugged it open, scanning the contents quickly, then yanked open the freezer and did the same thing. Her eyes lit on a container of soup that was leftover from a couple of weeks ago. She could defrost it in the microwave, but there was probably only enough soup left for two bowls. Not enough to make a meal. Soup and sandwiches?

Scully whirled away from the refrigerator and limped out of the kitchen. She lifted William out of the playpen again and dressed him in a light jacket in deference to the warming spring days. Snatching her own jacket from the hook by the door, she grabbed her keys and hurried downstairs.

~ Chapter Six ~

Mulder rang the doorbell and waited, listening to the muffled sound of footsteps drawing closer. The door swung open and he smiled.

"Fox!" A startled Margaret Scully stood framed in the doorway. "Is something wrong? Dana? The baby?" Her voice was strained and he shook his head to allay her fears.

"They're at home," he said in a reassuring tone. Margaret stepped away from the door and Mulder walked into the house, brushing his lips over her cheek in a greeting that was becoming more comfortable with the passing of time. "I wanted to talk to you though." He followed her to the kitchen. She waved a hand toward the table and he hooked his jacket over the back of a chair before he sat down.

"Can I get you anything?" Margaret stood with one hand on the refrigerator door.

"Water would be great." A moment later, Mulder thanked her when she set two tall glasses of ice water onto the table.

"You wanted to talk to me about something?" Margaret prompted. Mulder nodded and ran his fingers over the outside of the glass, already slick with condensation.

"It's about Scully," he admitted. "I'm a little worried about her." He looked up at the older woman. "Has she seemed... different?"

Margaret took a sip of water, considering his question carefully. "She seems tired, edgy..." Her voice was hesitant but Mulder nodded in agreement.

"You know about "The Schedule"?" His forefinger slashed through the air as if underlining and placing extreme importance on the words. Margaret nodded and waited for him to continue. "She's so intent on keeping to this damn schedule of hers. When she falls behind for some reason..." He waved his hands around helplessly as he tried to put his concerns into words. "Instead of helping her, this goddamned schedule is making her crazy!" His brow wrinkled in concern and he blew out an aggravated breath.

"Here's a perfect example," he began. "Two weeks ago I came home from The Center and found Scully and the baby in the kitchen. She was rushing around trying to get dinner ready." He looked across the table and found himself staring into Margaret's eyes - blue eyes so like the ones that he looked into every night across the kitchen table in the apartment that he shared with Scully and their son - the same blue eyes that he wanted to look into every night until they began to fade, just a tiny bit, like the ones that were now watching him with compassion.

"That night, Scully apologized to me because dinner was going to be late but... I don't know - she had dropped a glass bowl, breaking it on the kitchen floor and the sound woke William up. She had to comfort him and clean up the broken glass and apparently by the time she was finished all of that, there wasn't enough time to cook what she had planned to make that night so she and the baby ran out to the grocery store..." His voice took on the same frustrated and near-frantic tones that Scully had used to explain what had transpired that afternoon.

"I told her that she should have ordered a pizza and she snapped at me. She said that she was perfectly capable of feeding her family without the help of Little Caesar!" He took a long gulp of water. "It wasn't until we were finished eating that I realized the extent of what had happened before I arrived home."

He told Margaret about her daughter's headlong rush over the broken glass in her bare feet. "She was limping around the apartment, getting ready to give William his bath," he said, running agitated fingers through his hair. "There were several slivers of glass still imbedded in her feet. It took me nearly two hours to convince her to let me take her to the emergency room to have them removed."

"That's why she cancelled our Friday date," Margaret mused softly. Mulder nodded in agreement.

"She could barely walk. I think that maybe this is partially my fault." His voice was low and thoughtful and he took another sip of water. Margaret's face reflected her confusion.

"Almost two months ago, I told her that I thought she was doing an amazing job - staying at home with William." He leaned across the table, his posture urgent, trying to convey to his son's grandmother how he felt. "She is - amazing, that is. She's always been amazing to me... but to come home to her every day - knowing that she's there for William, for me... she's healing all of the broken places inside of me." Margaret's smile was delighted and tears brightened her eyes.

"I tried to tell her, but I'm afraid that hearing it has just put more pressure on her. God! I know that it was hard for her to stop working and I wanted her to know - I just wanted her to know..." His words trailed off and when he spoke again, his voice was hoarse.

"Every morning when I wake up, she and William are already awake and dressed and every night when I come home, she's got dinner on the stove and the apartment is spotless. How can that be?" he wondered. "How does a woman with a two and a half month old baby manage to keep the place in such perfect order? Shouldn't there be blankets and bears and rattles and tiny clothes lying about? Every magazine is in place, there isn't a speck of dust to be found... it doesn't seem normal to me."

Margaret leaned across the table and laid her hands over his agitated fingers. "I've been a bit worried about her too," she admitted. "She's losing weight," Margaret commented. "Have you noticed?"

Mulder hung his head between his shoulders and sighed deeply. "I'm not surprised." His voice was soft and worried. "I can't remember the last time I saw her eat a meal in peace," he admitted. "William seems to have timed his mealtimes to ours." He looked up and grimaced. "Scully is lucky to get a couple of forksful of food before he starts crying."

Margaret nodded. "It's the same way whenever we have lunch together." She sipped her water and mulled things over in her mind for a quick moment. "Dana has always need to maintain a certain amount of control over the every day occurrences of her life," she reflected. "As a child she was always making up lists and organizing her dolls' clothes. Whenever her father was reassigned to a new base, Dana was always the first one packed and ready to go." Margaret's smile reflected the sweetly sad memories of her youngest daughter who had tried to keep a measure of control over her life during a childhood filled with new friends, new schools and new homes every few years.

"I've always thought that Dana studied medicine because the demands of being a doctor required a level of structure and organization that appealed to her." Margaret propped her chin on one hand and kept her other hand over Mulder's now-quiet fingers. "When she decided to accept the FBI's offer of employment, I have to admit, I was stunned. It seemed such an impetuous move for someone with Dana's personality." She fell silent, again caught up in her memories. Mulder waited patiently for her to continue.

"Still... I'm sure Dana expected that a fair amount of structure and regulations would be part and parcel of being a federal agent." She leaned toward him and lowered her voice. "I don't think she ever expected you."

Mulder's eyes were startled at Margaret's frankness and his hands jerked under hers in reaction. She tightened her grip and pressed on.

"You shocked her. Your ideas confounded her." Margaret's lips quirked upward. "Everything about you and your work... it was a challenge she couldn't resist."

Unsure of how to interpret Scully's mother's words, Mulder glanced down at the table and their joined hands and then back up to meet Margaret's soft blue eyes. He was surprised by the intensity of her gaze and the fierceness of her words.

"I believe that Dana has spent most of the last eight years often feeling very much out of her depth - unable to control the events that took place around her. And you... more than anything else in her life, she was unable to rein you in or put you into a box that she could organize or manage. You kept her off balance." Mulder's head dropped over their joined hands guiltily and Margaret put two fingers under his chin to lift his gaze back to hers.

"It was good for her, Fox. You're good for her. She loved working with you; she thrived on it. But now... the baby, the responsibilities of motherhood and sharing her life with you... she's falling back on her old ways. She thinks that if she can make her lists and structure every minute of her day, she can maintain complete control over her life." Mulder grunted in frustration and shared a rueful smile with Scully's mother.

"Dana needs to realize that her life is different now and that a baby simply isn't going to follow a routine to the letter. She needs to loosen the chokehold that she has on this 'schedule'." Margaret crooked two fingers of each hand in the air, mimicking quotation marks.

"You try to convince her of that." Mulder's tone was full of suppressed, agitated frustration. Margaret sent him a chiding look and he sank back against his chair.

"She also needs to learn to relax," Margaret continued. "And this time, I'm the one with a plan..."

Scully looked up, surprised by the sound of someone knocking on the front door. William was sleeping in his playpen and she was sitting on the sofa, an overflowing basket of clean laundry at her feet. She finished folding a tiny blue T-shirt and added it to the stack on the coffee table as Mulder crossed the living room to answer the door.

"Mom?" Scully stood as her mother swept into the room. "I didn't know you were stopping by." She brushed her lips over Margaret's cheek and inhaled the light, flowery perfume that she always associated with her mother.

Margaret Scully set a small tote bag and her purse on the floor and shrugged out of her sweater, handing it to Mulder with a smile. Scully glanced down and she frowned at the sight of a paperback book and two magazines poking out of the tote bag. Confused, she looked up to meet first her mother's smiling face and then Mulder's.

"What's going on?" Her fingers tightened around the little denim overalls that she had pulled out of the laundry basket. Margaret sank down into a chair.

"I'm here to babysit," she announced lightly. She glanced at the gold watch on her wrist. "I thought I would come over a little early to give you time to get ready in peace."

"Babysit?" Scully's face reflected her confusion. "We're not going out..." She looked to Mulder to back her up and saw that he was not in the least bit surprised by her mother's unexpected appearance.

"Did you know about this?" Her eyes darted back and forth from his face to her mother's. Margaret rose and cupped her daughter's cheek in her hand.

"Dana. We just thought it would be good for you to get out of the house for a little while." Her thumb stroked over the soft skin of Scully's cheek. Scully jerked her head away from her mother's hand and took a step back.

"You both thought it would be good..." She blinked once and turned to face Mulder with narrowed eyes. "Didn't you explain to Mom that we couldn't leave William alone?" Mulder heaved out a heavy sigh and shook his head.

"We'll only be gone for a couple of hours and we'll have our phones." His calm and reasonable tone sparked Scully's temper.

"A couple of hours? A couple of..." She spluttered and threw her hands up in the air. "We can't leave him alone for a couple of minutes," she stressed angrily. Margaret wrapped her fingers tightly around Scully's wrist, the mother in her immediately taking note of the delicate bones protruding from beneath the flesh and the thinness of her daughter's face.

"You aren't leaving him alone," she pointed out quietly. "You're leaving him with his grandmother!" Scully yanked her hand away from her mother and planted her hands on her hips.

"Mother! You don't understand!" In her agitation, her voice rose and William awoke with a whimper." Scully scrubbed her hands over her face. "Perfect," she muttered. "Just perfect." William's whimpers changed to a thin, reedy cry and she held out one hand to stave off Mulder's move toward the baby and stalked to the playpen.

"I've got him." She scooped their son into her arms and threw a condemning glance at Mulder and her mother before whirling toward the bedroom, slamming the door closed behind her.

Mulder dug the heels of his hands against his eyes and ran his fingers through his hair. "That went well," he grunted. "I'm really sorry, Mrs. Scully," he apologized on behalf of her daughter. "I'd better go in there." He moved toward the bedroom and once again was stopped by a Scully woman with the light of battle in her blue eyes.

"No, Fox. I think, maybe it's time for a little mother-daughter chat." She smoothed her sweater over her hips and pushed the bedroom door open with a slap of her hand.

"This should be very interesting," Mulder muttered, torn between escaping the suddenly small apartment and pressing his ear against the bedroom door. Instead he went into the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. Whatever the outcome of the battle gearing up in the bedroom, he knew they wouldn't be going out to dinner tonight.

Scully stopped trying to wrestle her squirming, sobbing son back into his clothes and instead carried the freshly-diapered baby to the bed. She sank down on the edge of the mattress and unfastened her blouse and bra, putting William to her breast. Her eyes flicked up at the sound of her mother pushing her way through the bedroom door and she knew by her mother's rigid stance that the discussion begun in the living room was far from over.

"I'm sorry, Mom." She held up a hand to forestall the reprimand that she simply didn't feel strong enough to cope with at the moment. She looked down at the fussing baby in her arms and tried to guide his mouth to her nipple but he turned his face away with an irritated grunt.

"Come on, William." She tickled the corner of his mouth with her pinkie but he steadfastly refused to latch on to her breast. Scully released a shuddering breath and switched him to her other arm, hoping that he would settle down to nurse at her other breast. Instead he arched his back and his face flushed an angry red.

"Please, Baby." Unbidden tears sprang to her eyes as she pleaded with him to quiet down. She drew in a deep breath and willed the tears away when she felt the mattress give beside her.

"Give him to me." Her mother's voice was calm and authoritative. William showed no inclination toward nursing so Scully held him out to her mother's waiting arms.

"Hey there, little man." Margaret Scully stood and cradled her youngest grandchild in her arms. "What's all the fuss about?" She drew the backs of her knuckles in a line over his tiny chest and rounded belly, dipping gently tickling fingers just beneath the edge of his diaper. "Shh." William sucked on two fingers and solemnly studied his grandmother's face.

Scully hung her head, again fighting back tears, frustrated by the easiness with which William quieted in her mother's embrace.

"You're tired, Dana. He picks up on that." Margaret ran her fingers over the tufts of dark hair covering William's head. "You need to take a break."

Scully's head flew up to meet her mother's sympathetic eyes. "Ahab was away most of the time and you were home alone with us... did Grandma come and bail you out?"

Margaret pursed her lips and shook her head. "No. Both of your grandmothers lived too far away to help. You know that..."

Scully interrupted. "But I'm so inept as a mother that you feel the need to run to the rescue?"

Margaret held back a long-suffering sigh. Stubborn, headstrong... her youngest daughter was all of those things and more. "No. Dana, please. What I think is that you are putting too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. I wished when I was raising you that I had someone to help me. I wished that your father had been around more for me to lean on. Fox is here. Let him help you. I'm here. Let me help you."

Scully folded her lips tightly together and stared blindly at the carpeted floor beneath her feet. Her mother noted the barely perceptible way in which her daughter rocked back and forth and she sank down onto the mattress again.

"Dana." Margaret reached out with one hand to cover the fist curled into the fabric of the bedspread. "Do you remember what happened three weeks ago when we were at the mall with William?" Scully's hand shook and under her mother's. "We were sitting at a table outside of the coffee shop, taking a break. William was in my lap, asleep and a woman stopped to fuss over him. Do you remember how you reacted?" Scully nodded and released the bedspread, wiping sweaty palms against her denim-covered legs.

Scully had been enjoying a decaf cappuccino and the sight of her baby being cuddled in his grandmother's loving arms. So caught up was she in the moment that she had relaxed her guard and the woman had advanced on them before she was aware of her presence...

"I was being cautious," she said defensively.

"Cautious!" Her mother barked out a laugh. "You jumped to your feet, knocked over your chair and spilled your cappuccino all over the table and the floor. You startled that poor woman so badly, she practically ran away from us." Margaret could still see the rounded eyes filled with fear when the woman hurried away as quickly as her legs would carry her. "My God, Dana! I thought for a moment that you were going to pull your gun on her!"

"Mom, she could have..."

"Dana! That woman had to be almost eighty years old! She was no threat to William."

Scully pushed her fist against her mouth, biting back a stinging retort and Margaret took advantage of the silence to press forward with her argument.

"You need to take some time for yourself, Dana. And you need to take some time to spend with Fox - to remember what it means to be a couple, not just a mommy and a daddy. You can't spend every moment of every day with this baby. Let me help you with that. Leave William with me and take a little time to remember who you are."

"Mom. I can't." She jumped to her feet and walked to the bureau. "You don't understand... you can't understand. Our lives are not normal!" She watched her mother's face in the mirror. "My son's life has been in danger from the very moment of his conception and I can't let down my guard. I can't leave him with you because you are too trusting... you haven't seen what I've seen and I thank God for that. But you have to believe me when I tell you that..." Her voice was rising in pitch and William was again fussing. Margaret whispered softly to the baby and shot a fierce look toward her daughter.

Scully lowered her voice. Her hands fumbled with a tube of lipstick and the change that Mulder had dumped onto the bureau top when he had emptied his pockets. "It is my job to protect this child - MY child! You have no idea of the risks I went through to bring him into this world safely. No idea of the people who threatened to rip him away from me before he was born and after. I love you Mom and I wish that our world was the same world in which you raised your family or the same world in which Bill and Tara are raising their family but it's not! It never will be. I don't have the luxury of believing that every person who approaches us wants nothing more than to coo over and admire my child. I can't leave him alone and unprotected. I won't." She paused and sucked in a deep breath, hurrying to finish before her mother could interrupt.

"As for my relationship with Mulder..." She raked her fingers through her hair and sighed heavily. "I'm not sure what's going on there either. Before he disappeared we had only been..." For a moment, Scully indulged herself with the memories of the time she and Mulder had shared before he had been torn away from her. Her eyes were stormy but her voice was cool when she spoke again.

"What's between Mulder and me is private and we'll work it out in our own time." Margaret recognized the expression on her daughter's face well enough to know that she had been told to mind her own business. Well. She had said her piece and she would let it rest. For now.

"Fair enough." Margaret stood and handed William into his mother's waiting arms. "You're worried about William's health and safety. I respect that. I understand that." She cupped her daughter's face between her hands. "Just remember, Dana... you are MY baby girl, and I reserve the right to worry about your health and safety." She kissed Scully on the forehead and then on the tip of her nose in a ritual begun at a time when her daughter was as tiny as the infant nestled safely in her now-adult arms.

"Call me during the week." She pulled open the bedroom door and walked into the living room to gather her things. Scully stood in the tiny hallway and watched Mulder walk her mother to the front door.

"I'll see you on Friday." Scully's voice was hesitant as she sought a way to reconcile with her mother.

Margaret looked over her shoulder and nodded. "Friday," she confirmed. Mulder waited until Margaret had turned the corner of the hallway before closing and locking the door. He turned in time to see Scully and William disappear back into the bedroom. He sighed, knowing that tonight's conversations were not yet over. Not by a long shot.

~ Chapter Seven ~

Mulder was sprawled at one end of the sofa. Remote control in hand, he idly clicked through the seventy or eighty channels provided by their cable company, pausing briefly on every sports channel before moving on to the next. After her mother's departure, Scully had spent most of the evening avoiding him. He had watched her finish folding the laundry, straighten up the living room, mop the kitchen floor... endless tasks to avoid a discussion she didn't want to have. He turned off the television and climbed to his feet. He stood in the doorway to the nursery and watched her lay the baby into his crib. He crossed the room and pulled a light blanket over William's sleeping form and then caught Scully's wrist in his hand.

"Mulder..." She looked up questioningly and he held his forefinger over his lips. Inclining his head toward the door, he tugged her along behind him to their bedroom. Pausing in the hallway, he pulled the door to the nursery closed behind them.

"Mulder, I still have things..." Her eyes widened when he laid his fingers over her lips.

"I just want to talk with you for a couple of minutes," he told her. "You've been avoiding me all evening." Her breath was a warm sigh of agreement against his fingertips and his hand fell away from her mouth. He clasped both of her hands in his and leaned close to meet her gaze.

"We weren't trying to gang up on you," he began and shook his head when she opened her mouth to interrupt. "No, let me finish." He tightened his hands around hers. "Your mother and I are both concerned that you're taking on too much and we want to help you."

Scully's eyes fell away from his and fixed on one of the buttons of his shirt. "A couple of months ago you sat in the kitchen and told me that you thought I was doing an amazing job. That you liked the idea of me being home for William and for you." She looked up in confusion. "What's happened to change all of that?"

"Oh, Scully." He wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her into a warm embrace. "I do love the fact that you are here for us. I just... I don't want you to forget to take care of yourself. I want you to let me help you. I want to take care of you the way you take care of me." He cradled her head between his hands and swept his thumbs over her temples.

"I miss us," he admitted sheepishly. "I know everything is different now and things will never be the way they were before. But I don't know who we are to each other anymore. I want to find out." His attention was riveted by the sight of her tongue nervously darting out to wet suddenly dry lips. He lowered his head and let his tongue trace along the moist path left behind by hers. He felt a shiver ripple through her body and he pulled her close, pressing the proof of his arousal into her belly.

"Scully," he whispered. "Kiss me."

Her stomach clenched into a knot at his words. He was right. Everything was different. What if this was different as well? What if he undressed her and found her body different? Lacking? Unappealing? She forced herself to look at him and in his eyes she saw so many things. Pleading. Hope. Love. Fear. He was letting her take the step, to say yes or no. She had never rejected him before. She wouldn't start now.

Mulder's heart pounded as she slid her hands up his chest to link around his neck. She stretched up on her toes raising her lips to his. Their lips brushed against each other, clung for a moment and then they broke apart. She was trembling... or maybe he was the one trembling - he couldn't tell. He bent forward again and their second kiss was frantic. Mouths clashed and tongues dueled for supremacy. His hand slipped down and grabbed onto her thigh as she wrapped one leg around his hips. They lost their balance and tumbled onto the bed. Frenzied hands tore the clothing away from their bodies and he settled into the cradle of her hips. In the darkness of the bedroom, he mapped the changes of her body with his lips and hands. He spread his hands over the heavy fullness of her breasts and lowered his lips to one nipple. Fingers lightly squeezing and lips suckling at the ripe tip, he pulled back, startled when her milk let down with a rush.

"Oh God!" She struggled beneath him. "I'm so sorry." Her voice was tight with embarrassment. She could feel the warm milk trickling between her breasts, soaking into the sheets beneath her body. She shifted miserably against him.

"It's okay," he whispered soothingly. Surprised, entranced and curious, he lowered his mouth to her breast again but halted when he felt her stiffen beneath him.

"Okay." His mouth changed direction and he feathered his lips over her hairline. "Okay," he murmured again. "We won't do that," he promised. He continued to whisper kisses over her forehead and cheek. When he felt the rigidity leave her body, he sought out her mouth for a long, lingering kiss.

Scully's hands slid over his shoulders and settled into the hollow at the base of his spine. She could feel his erection prodding insistently against her and she arched her hips up to meet his.

"Scully!" He hissed her name and ground his pelvis against her. "I want to be inside of you," he rumbled into her hair. She shivered and wrapped her legs around his waist, opening herself to him. She gasped as he entered her the first, tiny bit, burying her lips against his throat to stifle the cry that swelled in her throat as he pushed into her. She had thought she was ready and was unprepared for the burning pain of his body thrusting into hers.

"Oh God! Are you alright?" He lifted his face from the tangled nest of her hair and held himself still within her. She nodded and forced herself to relax. He held back, waiting for her to tell him that it was okay to continue.

Scully slid her hands from the small of his back to the firm swells of his behind, pulling him toward her, pushing him deeper inside. "It's okay, Mulder," she reassured him. He watched her face for another second or two, looking for signs of continued discomfort. Finding none, he began to move.

Scully clung to him with legs and arms. She whispered in his ear, urging him on and he lost himself in the sound of her voice and the soft, sweet feel of her body moving beneath him. He gritted his teeth, holding back, trying to wait for her. Scully opened her eyes and saw the grimace etched on his face and the tendons standing out in his neck. She felt the shudders racing up and down his spine and saw the way his arms trembled on either side of her head. She knew that he was waiting for her, just as she knew that it wasn't going to happen for her. Not tonight.

She moaned softly and his eyes popped open. "Scully..." He said her name through clenched teeth. "Are you close?" She nodded and tightened her arms and legs around him. She arched her back and bore down on him with her inner muscles and she groaned out his name. And God help her... she faked her orgasm.

Mulder gasped as her body clenched around him and he buried his face in her hair again. He thrust his hips against her, pushing himself deeper and deeper, emptying his heart and soul and seed into her waiting body, collapsing against her as he spent himself.

Scully ran soothing hands over his back and into the sweaty hair at the nape of his neck. Her lips trailed over his jaw and neck in a series of tiny kisses and she let her body relax into the tangled sheets of the bed.

Mulder stirred and pushed himself onto his elbows. He ran his hand over her cheek, pushing damp strands of hair behind her ear. His eyes roved over her face before meeting her gaze. In his eyes, Scully realized that he knew the truth of her lie. His mouth drooped with disappointment and she read the sadness in the hazel depths of his gaze. She winced slightly as he withdrew from her body and she bit back a sob when he rolled onto his side without pulling her into his arms.

"Goodnight, Scully," he whispered into the darkness. She laid one hand on the satiny skin of his back, repentance heavy in her voice.

"Goodnight, Mulder."

Scully left her hand on him, desperate to maintain some kind of contact with him so that he would know that she hadn't rejected him. She felt his muscles relax as sleep claimed him and when his torso rose and fell beneath her hand in a steady rhythm, she slid out of the bed. She picked their clothes up from the floor and drew his shirt over her nakedness. She stood at the foot of the bed and watched him sleep and she relived that moment when she had lied to him with her body. Another failure to add to what was an ever- growing list.

Scully walked around the bed, tugging the sheet over his hips and pressed her lips to his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she mouthed against his warm flesh. Straightening, she turned away from him and left their bedroom. She pushed open the nursery door and crept into the room lit only by the tiny nightlight in the corner. She took up her nightly position in the rocker near the crib and she waited.

~ Chapter Eight ~

Scully shouldered her way through the apartment door. She had one hand wrapped around the handle of William's carrier seat, her purse, the diaper bag and her keys in the other hand. She kicked a foot out at the door and it swung shut behind her with a satisfying bang. William's face screwed up and Scully's lips moved in a soundless prayer. She sagged with relief when he settled back into a restless sleep, grateful that she hadn't awakened him. The baby had been crying almost constantly for two days and they had just returned home from a wasted trip to the pediatrician's office.

Scully dropped her bags and keys onto the floor and set William's carrier seat onto the coffee table. Bending down, she unsnapped the safety harness and carefully lifted him into her arms. William snuffled and rubbed tiny fists against his blotchy cheeks as Scully carried him into the nursery. She eased him into the crib and crept quietly from the room. Her poor baby.

Scully was exhausted. The trip to the pediatrician's office had been a disaster and she bristled at the memory of Dr. Graffin's patronizing voice. "William is perfectly healthy, Mrs. Mulder," the young pediatrician said. Scully ground her teeth and shook her head.

"Well, something is wrong," she said. "He's been fussy and crying almost non-stop for two days." She was exasperated by the young doctor's callous disregard for her child's distress. "Colic?"

"William is three months old," Dr. Graffin said. "Colic is usually at its worst when the child is around six to eight weeks old and generally ends when the baby is three months old," he said. "He doesn't have colic."

Scully closed her eyes at the doctor's condescending tone. "Surely it isn't unheard of for a three month old to suffer from colic," she said reasonably. Dr. Graffin tugged William's tiny T-shirt down and lifted the baby into his arms.

"No. It's not unheard of. But in my experience, I've never seen a three month old develop a sudden case of colic."

'That would be what? In the three whole weeks that you've been practicing since you graduated from medical school?' Scully thought snidely. She took William into her arms as the doctor held the baby out to her.

"Listen, Mrs. Mulder. I don't know what else to tell you. William is a perfectly healthy baby. The best thing you can do is to just go home and relax. Leave him with a sitter and get out of the house for a little while. If you want him to be calm, you need to be calm." Scully snatched up her purse and the diaper bag, checking quickly to be sure that William's sweater was tucked into the bag.

"Fine. I'll figure it out myself," she muttered. She grabbed the door by the handle and yanked it open. "Oh. And it's not Mrs. Mulder," she told him tersely. "It's Doctor Scully." She pulled the door closed behind her and stalked through the waiting room filled with anxious parents and fussing children.

Scully rubbed her hands over her face and glanced around the apartment. It was just about noon and she still had a mountain of laundry and dirty dishes that needed to be washed. If she hurried...

An hour later she had finished the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. One load of laundry was tumbling in the dryer and a second load was dizzily spinning in the washing machine. Scully sat down at the desk and booted up her computer. She spent the next several hours shuttling between loads of wash, feeding and comforting William and studying everything she could find on the Internet about colicky babies and crying babies.

For the next two days Scully tried every suggested "cure" for a crying baby that she had discovered while surfing the 'Net. Her arms ached from carrying him everywhere. She rocked. She walked. She swayed and danced. She threw a soft towel into the dryer for a few minutes, then swaddled his tiny body into the warm terrycloth folds. She carried him in a sling against her chest. She tried holding him in different positions. High over her shoulder so his tummy was pressed against her shoulder bone. Facedown over her forearm as she rubbed his back. She wrapped a hot water bottle in a towel and tucked it into his crib sheets. She let him nurse as often as he wanted. She stripped them both out of their clothes and climbed into a warm shower. Skin-to-skin contact, the website recommended. She massaged his tiny body with baby oil. She stroked gentle fingers over his eyebrows, around his teensy earlobes and along his sweet, button nose. She whispered soft words of comfort.

And inside she felt like screaming.

She tried every suggestion offered by the various websites and she remembered one in particular reminding the parents that they were not to blame for a colicky or crying baby... but Scully knew that wasn't true. It had to be her fault. Something was wrong with her baby and she was helpless to do anything about it. Nothing that she tried, none of the suggested remedies helped.

William responded to one thing and one thing only.

His father.

Mulder had only to walk into the apartment and say hello and his son's tears would dry up and a cheerful smile would spread over his tiny features. Listening to William's happy gurgles as he kicked and squirmed under his father's playful fingers, Scully knew that she was failing as a parent. Each day, she struggled to finish all of her housework while carrying a sobbing baby around the apartment so that Mulder wouldn't suspect that she was as inept at keeping a comfortable home as she was at being a good mother.

She was jealous of Mulder's easy relationship with William and the baby's obvious preference for his father's embrace.

She hated the sound of her baby's cry.

And she hated herself.

On Friday, Mulder left the Center early. It was Memorial Day weekend and he had booked a hotel room in Annapolis. He wanted to get Scully out of the apartment and away from the routine that he believed she had become mired in. He hoped that a weekend away - just the three of them - eating in restaurants and letting someone else do the cooking and cleaning, relaxing in Adirondack chairs near the docks, watching the boats slip in and out of the harbor, would give her the break he felt she needed.

He strode down the hallway toward their apartment and quickly went through a mental checklist of things that needed to be done before they could leave. He had factored in an hour of arguing with and cajoling Scully into agreeing to go away, but he was hoping that it would take less time. He wanted to beat the worst of the holiday weekend traffic.

Mulder pushed his key into the lock and shoved the door open. Immediately, his ears were assaulted by the high-pitched wails coming from the baby's room. He threw his backpack onto the floor and hurried into the nursery. William was lying in his crib, sobbing uncontrollably. His entire body was shaking with the force of his sobs and tears raced down his chubby cheeks.

"Hey there." Mulder pitched his voice over his son's angry shrieks. "Hey, there little guy. What's wrong?" Mulder looked around the room. "Where's your Mommy?" He scooped the baby out of the crib and held him against his shoulder. He smoothed his hand over the infant's trembling back and closed his eyes as William burrowed his face into his father's neck.

Bouncing the baby soothingly in his arms, Mulder walked out of the nursery. "Scully?" He glanced quickly around the living room and poked his head into the kitchen.

"Scully?" Fear sharpened his voice as he pushed open the door to their empty bedroom. A noise from the bathroom caught his attention and he hurried to investigate. At first glance the room appeared to be as empty as all of the others, but he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. Mulder reached out and tugged back the shower curtain. Scully was sitting in the empty tub, her knees drawn up to her chest. She had her face buried in the denim covering her legs and her hands were clamped over her ears.

"Scully!" Mulder reached out with one hand and tugged her hand away from her ear. "What the hell is going on?"

Scully lifted a tear-stained face to find Mulder looming over her, a now whimpering William held safely in his arms. She was struck once again by the stunning resemblance between father and son, never more evident to her than at that moment, when they stared at her with identical accusatory looks in their hazel eyes. She scrambled to her feet and stumbled out of the tub.

"I..." Scully lifted a hand towards William but the little boy pressed his cheek against Mulder's chest and her hand fell limply to her side.

"I can't. I ca..." Her voice broke on a sob and she pushed her way past Mulder. He watched in stunned confusion from the bathroom as she barreled through the living room, ripping the front door open and disappearing from sight.

"Scully!" He followed her into the hallway in time to see the elevator doors closing behind her.

"SCULLY!" William flinched at the raised sound of his father's voice and fresh tears trembled on his lashes, spilling down his cheeks. Mulder took two steps down the hallway, intent on following Scully. He looked down into his son's distraught face. The baby was hiccupping and trembling in his arms. William was dressed only in a T-shirt and clean diaper. The day was pleasantly warm, but Mulder couldn't take him outside half-dressed and sobbing so piteously. He cuddled the child against his chest and murmured to him gently. Mulder calmed the baby with the familiar, soothing sound of his voice while fear for Scully was tying his own stomach into knots.

~ Chapter Nine ~

Scully ran out of the apartment building and stumbled down the steps. She stood on the sidewalk and glanced wildly about her, squinting against the late afternoon sunshine. And then she began to walk - unmindful of the direction she took. She just put one foot in front of the other and with every step, she moved faster and faster until finally, she was running. Her sneaker- clad feet slapped against the cement as she raced through the streets, oblivious to the startled glances thrown her way by the people that she passed.

She didn't get far before exhaustion claimed her. She had never gotten back into the peak physical shape she had been in before her pregnancy. Her days were so chaotic - she'd had no time to really exercise. Mulder had suggested that they invest in a jogging stroller, but Scully had rejected the idea. She didn't like the thought of running with William, unprotected. She preferred the relative safety of the glass and metal walls of the car.

Wheezing, Scully staggered to halt. Sweat poured down her neck and back, soaking her shirt. Her milk-heavy breasts - clad only in a nursing bra, not a sports bra - ached. Her limbs were leaden and her heart was pounding wildly. Pressing the flat of her hand between her breasts and gasping for air, she looked up and saw that her headlong race from her home had brought her to the steps of her parish church. Her fingers slid to her throat in search of the gold cross she always wore and found only overheated, damp skin. She remembered that she had taken the cross off a few weeks ago to protect it from William's curious fingers.

On fatigued legs, Scully climbed the stone steps that led to the church. She released an unconscious sigh of relief when the doors yielded to her tugging fingers and swung open. Scully stepped into the dimly lit sanctuary. She automatically dipped her fingers into the holy water font near the doors and made a quick sign of the cross. The church was empty and her sneakers squeaked as she made her way up the freshly polished aisle. Scully was drawn to the left of the main altar. She braced her hands on the altar rail and looked up. The Madonna's white-marbled face was tranquil and in her arms, a small babe slept trustingly against her shoulder.

There had been many times in the past eight years when Scully had felt her faith failing her... when she had feared that God had turned His back on her. Yet each time she found herself holding vigil by Mulder's hospital bed, or while searching for him when he was missing, or even while cradling him in her arms when stranded on a polar icecap, she found the prayers of her childhood escaping her lips.

"Hail Mary, full of grace..."

Now, she sank onto the padded kneeler and lowered her face onto her clasped hands.

"Blessed is the fruit of thy womb..."

Scully lifted a tear-stained face upward. "Help me," she whispered plaintively. Her gaze was locked onto the gentle visage of the marble statue and she felt a connection to this woman who had lived thousands of years ago and yet who had grappled with so many of the same fears which Scully now faced. Both women - pregnant when everything in science and nature told them that it was not possible.

"I'm so afraid," she whispered. "Every minute of every day." Scully raised a shaking hand to her forehead and tried to rub away the headache that lingered there. "Afraid that I'm not enough... that I'm not taking care of him the right way. That I'm not loving him enough; protecting him enough. I'm afraid that he'll know what I know... that I can't do the job." She dashed away the tears that trickled down her face.

Scully closed her eyes. William was a normal, human baby. Her baby. Mulder's baby. That's what science told her. But she couldn't wipe the memories of Krycek's ominous warnings from her mind. . Every night when she lay William in his crib and took up watch in the rocking chair in his room, she remembered those words. They tortured her through the nights and lingered in the back of her mind during the days. There was little she could do to protect her child, except to never let him out of her sight and to try to provide a perfect home for him, be a perfect mother to him. And she felt that she was failing miserably on all counts.

"How did you do it?" she whispered, turning her gaze upward again. "How did you live with the thought that you child might be meant for greater things? How did you help Him grow? How did you let Him go when the time came?" she asked. "How... please. How did you cope with the fear?"

Once again, Scully's head bowed forward to rest on her hands. Weariness swept over her and her eyes fluttered shut. Rest, came a voice from deep inside of her. Rest now.

Mulder glanced up into the rearview mirror. "We'll find her soon, buddy," he promised the fussy baby strapped into the car seat. He had hurried back into the apartment and when William's sobs had trailed off to the occasional shiver, had finished dressing the boy.

Stay calm, Mulder admonished himself. She couldn't have gone very far. She had left her wallet and car keys on the table behind the sofa. He and William had been driving around the neighborhood for about twenty- five minutes, searching for any sign of Scully. Mulder had no idea what direction she had taken but she hadn't been gone more than an hour. She was on foot and he knew he would find her soon. He and William had already searched one end of the neighborhood. Now they were searching the other.

Mulder made a right hand turn and his eyes swept the street for her beloved petite figure. He drove slowly down the street and started to make another turn when the distant spire of a church steeple caught his attention.

Minutes later he was carrying William up the stone steps of the old church. He tugged open the heavy wooden doors and looked into the dim interior. Sighing, he stepped back outside, pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed.

"I found her," he told an anxious Margaret Scully.

Scully lifted her head blearily from her arms. She had actually dozed off for a few minutes. She blinked and scrubbed her hands over hr face. Her breasts ached... William must be hungry, she thought. She looked up again into the gentle face carved out of marble and felt a tiny stirring of courage.

While she dozed, she had seen Mulder and William. Father and son - so alike in looks and manner. Their faces had not been accusing, but rather, gentle and loving.

"They are everything I ever wanted," she whispered. "They are my miracles... mine to care for, mine to protect." Scully slipped her hand into the pocket of her jeans, dug out several crumpled dollar bills and stuffed them into the offertory box attached to the stand of votive candles placed at the base of the altar. She lifted a taper out of the bucket of sand and touched it to the flame of a lit candle. Her hand was trembling as she lit three small votives and she looked up to find Mulder and William watching silently from several feet away. Mulder walked closer and held out one hand to her. Scully placed her free hand into his and allowed him to pull her to her feet. The flickering flames from the rack of candles lighted their faces.

"Don't leave us," Mulder whispered. "Whatever is wrong, Scully, we'll find a way to fix it. Together." His hand tightened around hers. "We're no good apart," he reminded her.

Scully looked into Mulder's eyes and then turned her attention to William. The baby was sucking on his fingers and studying his mother's face with the same solemn intensity as his father.

"Don't leave us," Mulder whispered again. Scully stroked her free hand over the dark tufts of hair on the baby's head and stepped closer. Still clasping her other hand in his, Mulder wrapped their arms around her waist.

"Okay," Scully said on a shaky sigh. "Okay," she nodded. Mulder pressed his lips to her temple.

"Let's go home."

Epilogue November, 2001

Scully leaned comfortably against the soft cushions of the sofa and took a sip of tea from her cup.

"Tell me, Dana. Do you have big plans for the holiday?" Dr. Virginia Monroe smiled and sipped her own tea.

"No, Ginny." Scully crossed one leg over the other. "Mulder and I discussed it and we decided to enjoy a quiet family dinner, just the three of us. It's William's first Thanksgiving."

Ginny Monroe nodded approvingly. "And your mother?"

Scully smiled. "She's flying out to California to spend the holiday with my brother and his family. We'll see all of them at her house on Christmas Day."

"So, tell me about your plans," the doctor encouraged. Scully smoothed one hand over her pants and smiled.

"Mulder suggested that we go out to a restaurant for dinner, but I'd rather spend the day at home."

"Sounds like Mulder just wants to make the day easy on you," Ginny pointed out.

"I know. And I appreciate it," Scully said. "But I told him that it's time that we began our own family traditions. I'd like to start that by making Thanksgiving dinner." She laughed. "A small dinner, mind you."

Ginny laughed with her. "I think that's a lovely idea."

"I'm looking forward to it," Scully admitted.

"Dana, do you remember what we talked about at our first session?" Ginny switched gears abruptly. Scully cradled her teacup between her hands, enjoying the warmth seeping through the fragile porcelain.

"I told you that I thought I was a complete failure as a mother... and as a mate to Mulder." Scully looked at the therapist with calm eyes.

"You were afraid - all of the time." Ginny prompted. Scully nodded again.

"Yes. I was... overwhelmed by the enormity of the work of being a full-time mother, of protecting William from threats, both real and imagined. Being a stay-at-home mom was more difficult than anything I had done before. I worked three times harder at it than I did anything else I had ever done in my life and I still believed that I was failing miserably."

"And now?" Dr. Monroe asked. "What do you think now?"

Scully glanced around the room before returning her gaze to the therapist's face. "Now I think that I was unprepared for the realities of what being a mother entailed. I thought that I had to do all of it alone and I was putting enormous pressure on myself to be perfect. I was shutting Mulder out, making myself crazy and miserable and transferring that misery onto the two people I love the most in the world."

The therapist remained silent and Scully leaned forward to set her teacup into the saucer on the coffee table. "I've always been a perfectionist. Organized, detail- oriented. Hard on myself. I never allowed for the thought that there might be something hormonally wrong with me... physically wrong. I didn't recognize the warning signs and I ended up putting even more pressure on myself to be perfect when everything started to fall apart."

Ginny looked down at the file in her hands. "How do you feel now?" she asked. "What's different now?"

Scully bit her lip and thought back over the last six months. She and Mulder had spent that Memorial Day weekend talking and crying and trying desperately to sort things out. Scully knew that something was wrong - that her reactions were distorted - and had agreed to begin seeing a therapist. With the help of her OB/GYN, she had begun weekly appointments with Ginny. Two months ago the visits had been cut back to every other week.

"Now I know that Mulder and William don't expect perfection from me. Our home isn't perfect. Sometimes the laundry piles up. Sometimes I fall behind and I have to order a pizza for dinner. And now I know that it's okay to do that on occasion. I've learned how to take the pressure off myself."

"And how does that feel?" Dr. Monroe asked.

"Freeing." Scully replied promptly. "It's not a picture perfect life," she admitted. "But it's working well for us."

Ginny smiled and made a couple of notes in the file. "That's good," she said as she closed the file. "Because I'm ready to cut you loose." She smiled at Scully's started expression.

"How do you feel about that?" The therapist watched her patient's face closely. She saw a moment's panic flare in the blue eyes staring at her. But then the tension that had suddenly gripped her, fled. Her shoulders loosened and her expression grew calm.

"I feel... ready."

Ginny smiled and stood. Scully followed suit and also rose to her feet.

"Good." The therapist held out her hand and Scully clasped it between both of hers. "You know, of course, Dana, that you should feel free to call me at anytime."

Scully nodded and hitched the strap of her purse onto her shoulder. "Ginny... I can never thank you enough." Though tears stood in her eyes, her smile was bright.

Ginny followed her now-former patient to the outer office. "You take good care of that family of yours," she said as Scully shrugged into her coat.

"I will," Scully promised. She tugged the door open and stepped into the hallway. Ginny Monroe leaned against the doorjamb. The bell chimed, announcing the arrival of the elevator.

"And don't forget to let your family take care of you," she admonished gently. Scully held the elevator doors open and turned back to face the other woman.

"I promise, Doctor." She stepped into the elevator and the doors slid shut behind her. Ginny pushed away from the door and walked back into her office with a satisfied sigh.

Mulder was asleep on the sofa when Scully arrived home. She shed her coat and hung it on the rack near the door. She picked her way through the maze of half- packed moving boxes and stifled a sigh at the thought of all of the packing that still remained. If all went well, they would be in the new house a week before Thanksgiving.

Scully plucked the remote control from Mulder's limp fingers and turned the volume of the college football game down. Mulder stirred and peered at her sleepily.

"Hey," he whispered hoarsely. "I'm packing," he promised. "I was just taking a break." Scully ruffled her fingers through his hair.

"It's okay," she replied. "Go back to sleep for a little while." Mulder nodded and buried his face in the sofa cushions. Scully set her purse down on the table behind the sofa and continued across the room.

"Hi, Baby," she said. William was sitting in his playpen, surrounded by a small army of stuffed animals and plastic blocks. Scully stooped down and picked up the toys that littered the floor around the small enclosure. She dumped them into one corner of the playpen.

"Have you been throwing your toys again?" she asked in mock-stern voice. William smiled a gummy grin and proudly displayed two tiny white teeth. Scully planted her hands on her hips and shook her head at her incorrigible offspring.

"Do you think you can get around me with a smile?" she asked. William wrapped tiny fingers into the mesh walls of the playpen and he pulled himself to his feet.

"Mum-mum-mum-MUM!" William shrieked. He let go and waved his hands in the air. The little boy swayed unsteadily and plopped down onto his diapered behind. His little mouth turned down in a pout so like his father's that Scully couldn't help but laugh. Leaning forward, she scooped him into her arms and cuddled him close.

The baby snuggled his face into the crook of her neck and released a huge yawn.

"Naptime," Scully announced. She carried him into the nursery and laid him into his crib. She pulled the blankets up from the bottom of the crib and covered him. Scully picked up the soft yellow giraffe that was William's favorite sleeping companion and tapped it lightly against his forehead. William's eyes widened, his brows arching in surprise before he giggled sleepily. And for the first time since his birth, Scully saw a little something of herself in her child.

She smiled broadly and lowered the rail of the crib. "Sleep well, sweetie," she whispered as she brushed her lips over his forehead. She snapped the rail back into place and twisted the dial on the musical mobile that danced over the baby's crib before leaving the room.

Scully went into her bedroom and began pulling clothing from the closet. She was folding sweaters and putting them into a box when she heard the door open behind her.

"Is he asleep?" Mulder asked as he crossed the threshold. Scully nodded and turned back to the sweaters. Mulder sat on the edge of the mattress.

"How did your appointment go?" he asked, as he did each time she returned from Ginny's office. Scully placed the sweater she had just folded into the box and curled her fingers around the edge of the cardboard rim.

"It went well," she said. "As a matter-of-fact, it turns out it was my last appointment." Mulder's eyes widened and he whistled softly.

"Wow, that's... what do you think of that?" he asked cautiously. He reached out and grabbed Scully by the wrist, pulling her between his legs.

Scully set one hand onto his shoulder and brushed a stray lock of hair from his forehead with the other. "I think that I still have a lot of hard work ahead of me," she said slowly. "But, I also think that I'm ready to try it on my own."

Mulder wrapped his arms around her waist. "Not alone," he reminded her. Scully tilted her head to one side and smiled softly.

"No. Not alone," she agreed. Mulder tightened his arms around her and tugged her down onto the mattress beside him.

He loomed over her. "So," he asked as his fingers moved to the buttons of her sweater. "How long do you think he'll sleep?" His hands slid under the sweater to flirt with the lacy edges of her bra.

Scully thought of all the packing that still had to be done before the moving van arrived in three days.

"Muulllddder," she protested.

"Sccculllyy," he whined against her lips. Scully placed her hands firmly on his shoulders and pushed him away. She sat up and looked around at the boxes stacked in the corner of the room. She sighed and felt Mulder sit up next to her. Scully moved quickly, pushing him onto his back on top of the mattress and climbing on top of him.

"He should sleep for at least an hour." She leaned down and her hair fell in a shimmering curtain around them as their lips met again. Mulder moaned loudly as her tongue flirted with the corner of his mouth.

"Shh," Scully admonished. "He may sleep longer if we're quiet," she told him.

Mulder grinned against her mouth. "Yeah?" He rolled her onto her back and nudged her thighs apart with his knee.

Scully wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled his body flush against her own. She parted her lips beneath his. "Yeah," she breathed into his mouth.

The packing, she decided, would wait.

The End.

Author's Notes:

A few months ago I was complaining to Char that I couldn't come up with a story idea that I found interesting enough to write. She told me that she would like to see me try my hand at writing a story where Scully struggles with post-partum depression and how that might affect this new family.

*I* struggled to find a way to write a story where they find themselves in this strange, new and oftentimes frightening world, and yet still keep the characters recognizable to me and to the readers. I hope I've done so.

And so, my gratitude goes to Char, not only for the idea, but for her very dear friendship and good counsel throughout the writing process. To David for listening to me kvetch about this story for months and for constantly supporting the idea when I thought I had run astray. And, of course, to Aly. Thank you for all that you do.

I would love to hear what you thought of this story at tnv099@aol.com

This and all of my other stories can be found at http://tessfiles.envy.nu

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