Title: Another Gray Morning
Author: ML
Written: 2000
Distribution: Anywhere you like, as long as you let me know
Spoilers: Requiem, minor others
Rating: PG
Classification: A, MSR
Disclaimer: All the characters named in this story belong to Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions, and FOX. I mean no infringement, and I'm not making any money.

Summary: Don't be put off by the Title. Try it, I think you'll like it.

For Teresa, because I wrote it on her birthday.

There is a moment each morning, between dreams and waking, when everything seems normal. The radio murmurs to itself before the alarm goes off, and she tells herself <time to get up, get ready for work, is it your turn to bring the bagels?>

It's a remembering to a time before everything went to hell. If only she could live in these moments. The anticipation of seeing her partner in an hour or so, the innuendo-laden banter, the thrill of his touch. Even the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not he felt the same way she did, and just hid it well with his flippant comments. If she'd known how things were going to turn out, maybe she would never have given in to her desire.

Mulder was even more right than he knew when he said the personal costs were too high.

They have both paid over and over again, though Scully can no longer say she has nothing to show for it. She hears the baby stirring in his crib and gets up to face another day.

After taking care of the baby, she stands at the window with her herb tea, staring out to nothing, thinking about nothing. It's just another gray morning, a not so good morning.

The weather has been uniformly gray for what seems like months. It suits her mood. She is still recovering from the baby's birth. She spent the last eight weeks of her pregnancy in bed, and eventually had to have a C-section. She is still sore and has some difficulty moving around. She hates feeling so helpless, it makes her want to cry with frustration. That seems to be the only emotion she's capable of these days.

Part of her knows that she is probably suffering from post-partum depression, a normal state of affairs for many new mothers. Certainly she deserves to feel depressed under the circumstances.

She's had her share of anger and grief over the past months. She carried on her own investigation as long as she could, until the doctor told her she was in danger of toxemia if she didn't have complete bed rest. He recommended that anything that was causing her undue stress should be avoided. It was an impossible situation for her. It was bad enough that she could not actively participate in the hunt for Mulder, but that it should be a subject she avoid entirely was impossible. That would surely cause her more stress.

It's the not knowing that causes her the most upset. There's been no news, no word, nothing at all to indicate where Mulder and his fellow abductees have gone. Krycek and Marita had disappeared at about the same time as Mulder, though Scully is pretty sure they were not involved in the actual abduction. CGB Spender had been found dead not long after Mulder's disappearance, and his nurse named Krycek and Marita as the culprits.

Her mother stayed with her the first week after she came home from the hospital. Maggie Scully had tried to convince her that she should come home with her, but Scully wouldn't leave her apartment. "It's the first place he'll come to," she insisted, and Mrs. Scully relented. As comforting as it was to have her mother near, she was relieved when she felt able to care for herself and the baby and her mother could content herself with daily calls instead. Not that she lacked for visitors, even after Maggie Scully went home.

The pattern of visits established themselves that first week. Every day, she can expect one of the Gunmen, or Skinner, or sometimes both. No one stays very long, not wanting to tire her out too much, and she tires so easily still. But they tell her what, if anything, they've found out. Usually there is nothing to report but they all seem anxious to reassure her that they haven't given up.

Unlike the FBI. Skinner came personally to break the news to her that the official investigation was closed. Mulder was now officially an unsolved case. She feels sorry for Skinner, always being the bearer of bad news. She knows he is still making inquiries unofficially, and she discovered not long ago that he has been in regular contact with the Gunmen.

Right on schedule, she hears a knock on the door. She guesses it will be Frohike today; it's his turn. Sure enough, she sees his gnomic face grinning at the peephole.

"Hi, pretty lady," he says as he saunters in. "How're you doing today? How's Junior?"

Scully looks at him with affection. She likes Frohike the best of the three Gunmen, she thinks. He's the one who seems the most affected by Mulder's abduction. She remembers when Mulder went missing and was presumed dead in New Mexico, Frohike was the one who came to see her, knowing she needed the company as much as he did.

"Come see him." She leads him into her bedroom, where the crib is. The baby is asleep already after his breakfast. As always, Scully's heart crinkles up with love and sadness when she looks at him. Already she can see he will have his father's nose and feet, and Mom said his legs were longer than average for a baby. Who knows whether he will attain his father's height, but Scully just hopes that he grows up to be taller than she is. And that he will grow up without the pain and sadness that marked his father's childhood.

"Brought him something," Frohike says, and holds up a tiny tee shirt. It's black, and it has the logo for The Magic Bullet on the front. Scully smiles a little and says thanks.

Frohike now follows her out to the kitchen and she makes him some coffee. What she wouldn't give for a cup, strong and black and laced with cream. But she's given up caffeine until after the baby is weaned. Decaf doesn't appeal to her at all; she'd just rather not have any. Still, she enjoys the smell when others have it.

He sits companionably with her, telling her silly stories. Byers and Langly, when it's their turn, nearly always refuse refreshment, and stay only long enough to see if she needs anything, and to give her the usual no news about Mulder they seem so embarrassed to admit to. She doesn't blame them, doesn't blame Skinner; she doesn't even blame Mulder any more. There was a period of time when she felt very angry toward Mulder, though she knew in her heart it wasn't his fault either. She believes They wanted him, and if he hadn't gone to Oregon, They would have found another way to get him.

The phone rings while they sit at the kitchen table. Scully knows it's probably either Skinner or her mother. No one else calls her any more.

It's Byers. "Scully, is Frohike still there?" Scully hands the phone over to him.

Frohike listens for a moment. "Are you sure?" he asks. He listens a little longer. "Did you call Skinner? Well, call him now!" He hangs up the phone and looks at Scully for a long moment before he says, "A couple of abductees have turned up in Oregon. We're not sure who yet, Byers is finding out what he can." He reaches out to Scully, and takes her hand. It's very unusual for Frohike to touch Scully; unlike the man he reveres, he's always been very respectful about her personal space. "Keep your chin up, Scully. You know he'll find his way back if he can." He pats her hand and says goodbye.

Skinner calls on his way to the airport. "It's not Mulder, Scully. But maybe we'll get some idea of what's going on from the ones who have come back."

For the first time in a long time, Scully thinks that maybe there's still a sun behind those clouds.

The abductees start coming back in a trickle; there are so many more than could be accounted for from the one incident in Oregon. Most seemed to be returned near the place they were taken. All are interviewed upon their return, with Skinner overseeing the whole operation. God knows what the Department of Justice thought of all this, or what favors Skinner called in to make this happen. He establishes returnee centers at any location where returnees are reported. The Gunmen are in charge of informing him of new developments through their contacts with MUFON and other organizations.

Skinner personally takes charge of interviewing the returnees in Oregon. He calls Scully every day to let her know what's happening. So far, no one can tell him anything about Mulder's whereabouts. For most abductees, memories of their time away are vague.

Scully wants to be there in Oregon, interviewing the returnees as well. She trusts Skinner, but what if he overlooks something? She knows she can't go. She won't take the baby anywhere eveb remotely dangerous, and she won't go without him. She's stuck with the same role she's had for some time now, waiting and hoping.

Days, then weeks pass. The number of new returnees diminishes. Not everyone is accounted for yet. Mulder is not the only one still missing. She doesn't want to think about what this might mean, or what the sudden return of so many abductees might mean.

The brief bout of hope has worn her down. Now she gets up in the morning, feeds and changes the baby, holds him and talks to him until he's ready to sleep again, and goes back to bed. She hasn't the energy for anything else. The Gunmen are busier now, so she gets phone calls rather than visits from them, except for the occasional Frohike appearance. Her mother offers to come stay with her again, but she declines her offer. She has no energy for anyone but the baby. She hasn't even energy for herself. She eats and drinks because the baby's health could be affected otherwise.

"Scully," Skinner says. "I have some news for you. I can't tell you over the phone. I'm coming back to DC, but it's likely to be late. Do you mind if I come over tonight?"

"It's fine," she says. She doesn't want to hope. It's hard to believe that what Skinner has to tell her is good news. Wouldn't he tell her right away if it is? She wanders around her apartment, picking things up at random and putting them down again. She calculates the number of hours before she can expect to see Skinner. She tends the baby, feeds him, bathes him. She holds him for a long time, inspecting his tiny hands and feet, looking into his solemn eyes, shaped so much like Mulder's. What will he think when he finally meets his son? What will he say? Eventually the baby falls asleep and she takes him back to his crib.

She crawls into bed herself, still clothed in tee shirt and leggings. She doesn't think she'll be able to sleep until after she hears what Skinner has to say. No point in getting her hopes up again, she tells herself; she's been through this too many times before. She slips into a fitful doze.

Some time later, she is aware of a hand holding hers. Where is she? Is she in the hospital again? Is she ill? Has she been wounded? Is she dreaming? She runs over all the possible scenarios in her mind. There have been so many bedside scenes in her life. The slow return to reality, the sound of beeping monitors, the reassuring clasp of a familiar hand, maybe a thumb softly caressing her knuckles. She's had this dream before. She wants to stay in it a little longer.

Sure enough, as soon as she begins to wake up, the feeling of his hand is gone. But now there's something else, the rustling of sheets behind her, the dip and sag of the mattress on the empty side of the bed, and the gradual warmth and pressure of a body next to hers.

This is too cruel. She feels the tears start in her eyes again and squeeze out from under her eyelids. Why does her mind have to play such tricks on her? A long, shuddering sob wracks her body.

Incredibly, as if in response to her distress, she feels an arm snake over her waist and pull her back. A familiar whisper ruffles the hair on her neck. "Shhh....it's okay, Scully, I'm here, I've got you. Don't cry, it's gonna be okay now."

It's the same voice she's heard in her dreams for months, saying words she's afraid she'll never hear again. This can't be real. It's not really happening...

She's really crying now, deep tearing sobs as she huddles into herself, trying to escape the phantom sensation. But it persists. A hand grasps her shoulder, tries to turn her to face what she cannot face.

"Hey Scully, aren't you going to talk to me ever again? I'm late, I know, I'm really, *really* late, and I'm sorry, but I'm here now." A soft kiss on the back of her neck. It *feels* like him, it sounds so like him, just the sort of nonsense he would indulge in at such a serious moment. It's not logical, it makes no sense at all. So maybe it really *is* him after all. Very slowly, still trying to catch her breath from crying, eyes squeezed shut, she allows the hand to pull her over. She opens eyelids sticky with tears, so afraid, yet so hopeful.

It is him. It is him. It is him.

In the living room, the Gunmen and Skinner sit quietly, not looking at each other. The door to the bedroom is shut. Frohike gets up and makes as if to wander toward it, but Byers grabs his arm.

Skinner stands up. "Gentlemen," he says in his no-nonsense voice, "I think this may take a while."

The other three nod solemnly. None of them make a move.

"What I'm saying is, we should make ourselves scarce," he says with a little more emphasis. "I don't think Mulder is going anywhere any time soon." He walks to the front door and opens it, ushering the others out before going out himself and quietly shutting the door.

He stands outside the door for a moment, wiping his hand over his face. He's beyond tired, but he feels that he has paid a debt long owed by getting Mulder back. He can wait until tomorrow for the answers. Tonight belongs to Scully.


Thanks for reading! So what do you think? I'm thinking there may be more to this story...not sure yet. Do let me know what you think! msnsc21@yahoo.com

Title: Transfigured Night
Author: ML
Written: 2000
Distribution: Just please let me know where so I can visit.
Spoilers: Requiem
Rating: PG-13 to mild R
Classification: MSR
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Ten Thirteen, Chris Carter, FOX. Mulder and Scully most definitely also belong to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. I mean no infringement and I am making no profit from this.

Summary: Mulder returns from Oregon and points unknown. This is a sequel to "Another Gray Morning."

Look, how brightly the universe shines! Splendor falls on everything around, you are voyaging with me on a cold sea, but there is the glow of an inner warmth from you in me, from me in you. ... You have transfused me with splendor, you have made a child of me. -from "Transfigured Night" by Richard Dehmel

One moment he was standing, sticking his hand into a force field, the next: face down in the loamy soil of the forest. And cold. He lay without moving for a moment, catching his breath, assessing his condition.

Okay. All his limbs seemed there, and sound. His mind seemed okay. In fact, he felt better than okay. His mind felt sharp and clear in a way it hadn't for some time.

What an idiot he thought as he lay there. It seemed appropriate, somehow, to have landed on his face in the mud. A fitting end to the X-Files, and symbolic of so many of his ventures.

He sat up and looked around. No light anywhere. The lasers he set up seemed to have disappeared, or he had wandered farther away than he thought. Where did Skinner go? He felt fear lance through him. Had Skinner been taken? No, surely he'd remember something like that... he stood up gingerly.

oh god...

A wave of vertigo hit him so hard he felt like he would fall off the planet.

But I just got back...oh god...

Memories, as diffuse as they were terrifying, washed over him. Then, as quickly as it started, the flood stopped.

Now, he remembered. He knew where he'd been. He looked at his watch, but he couldn't remember what time it was the last time he looked at it. Well, at least I can tell it's still night. But is it the same night? Somehow I don't think so. He began to trudge in the direction of the road.

He hadn't gotten very far when he heard Skinner's voice. "Mulder!" A flashlight signaled through the trees.

"Over here!" Mulder shouted, his voice sounding strange to him. How long have I been gone? How long? HOW LONG?

In a very short time Skinner reached Mulder. "My God, Mulder, I can't believe it. How long have you been here?"

"You tell me," Mulder said to his boss. "How long was I gone?"

"Several months, Mulder. How do you feel? Can you walk? Let's get you out of here." Skinner gestured toward the road.

MONTHS? "I can walk just fine. Is Scully here? How is she?"

Skinner was walking a little ahead and Mulder saw him pause before he said guardedly, "Scully's back in DC. She's been very worried about you," he added.

"HOW IS SHE?" Mulder repeated loudly. When Skinner didn't reply right away, he added, "What aren't you telling me?"

Then all at once, he *knew*. "Scully had a baby, didn't she?" he said slowly, words and images forming in his mind as he spoke. my god, a baby. how do I know that?

Skinner turned and stared at him. "How did you know that?"

Mulder shook his head. "I just know."

"Did you read my mind?" Skinner demanded.

"No, it's not so simple as that. I-I think I knew already, and I just remembered." He wondered how many other secrets his mind was keeping from him. I hope that's the biggest one. my god, a baby. *my* baby?

Skinner stared at him like he'd just crawled out from under a rock or like I've just dropped from the sky. Mulder's humor defense mechanism was still alive and well.

"Let's get you out of here," Skinner said again. He led the way out of the forest.

"How'd you know where to look for me?" Mulder asked as they got to the road.

Skinner looked at him and deadpanned, "I just knew."

It took Mulder a minute to realize that his boss was making a joke. He smiled a little. "No, really. Tell me."

"Abductees started returning a couple of weeks ago. I've been out here since then." He didn't add anything more, just unlocked the car doors.

Mulder prodded him. "Who told you about the abductees?"

"Your friends have been monitoring through MUFON ever since you went missing. They knew to contact me as soon as they heard anything."

Man. My boss, AD of the FBI, working with MUFON. Maybe the world as I know it *has* ended. Aloud, Mulder didn't comment on this bit of information. "So you've been out here every day?"

Skinner shook his head. "Nights, mostly. That's when most of the abductees have been returned."

"Am I the last to be returned?"

"No, you're not the last. Not here, and not in other locales," Skinner watched the road, not Mulder, but Mulder could tell he had a lot of questions for him, too.

Mulder continued to prod Skinner for more information. "What do you mean by other locales?"

"People are being returned all over the country. All over the world, actually." Skinner let that sink in for a minute.

Mulder felt another flash of *something* he was supposed to know, but it wasn't clear this time what it was. He cleared his throat and asked, "How do you know all this?"

"The Gunmen have kept me informed since the beginning, a month or more ago, here in Oregon." They passed a sign indicating Bellefleur was the next turn.

Mulder finally had to say it. "You've been working with Byers, Frohike, and Langly. Man, a guy goes away for a little while and the whole world changes."

"That's what we're worried about," said Skinner, glancing over at Mulder. "That this is the start of something."

Gripped again by a sudden fear, Mulder said, "I gotta call Scully." Scully's a mother. She has a baby. *We* have a baby?

"No, Mulder, you can't. We're going to get on the first flight we can get out of here and get you back to DC."

"Why can't I call her first? We can't just show up on her doorstep." He could imagine the reaming out in store for him. Talk about ditching your partner-and leaving her holding the baby, to boot...

"I think that the fewer people who know you've been returned, the better," Skinner told him. "And I don't know who might be listening over the phone. I'll call Scully to tell her I'm coming back, and that I'll tell her my news when we get there."

"Don't you suppose that if *people* are listening to your phone conversations, they might also be watching the airports and airline manifests?"

"I think we've got that covered," Skinner said. They pulled into a motel parking lot. "I have a room here for you, and we'll spend the night here. We'll leave first thing in the morning."

True to his word, Skinner banged on Mulder's door just before sunrise. Mulder was already up and dressed. He hadn't really slept much anyway. After showering and changing into fresh clothes-his own, in his own overnight bag, brought by Skinner from Washington- he'd flopped onto the bed and channel-surfed the night away, catching up with news. Not that it was much different than when he went away. The only earth- shaking thing that might be happening probably wouldn't be reported by any news agency until it was too late.

So he sat and willed himself not to pick up the phone to call Scully. He thought of her at home, sleeping, not knowing of his return. And of the baby. I should have figured it out before he thought. No wonder she agreed to stay behind in DC when I came to Oregon. She had to have known. But how do I know now?

Except for small blinding moments of memory, he couldn't remember much about his time away. He could remember walking into the circle to the other abductees and their acknowledgment of him. He could remember the Bounty Hunter entering the circle, and his fear, as well as that of everyone around him, in palpable waves. Then bright light and nothingness. Except the memory of pain, and what he did to try and escape the pain.

He had a lot of questions for Skinner, about what he'd found out, how he'd gotten so involved in something so far outside the FBI mainstream, but they can wait until after he's seen Scully, reassured himself that she's okay, talked to her about this new addition to their lives.

He was relieved when Skinner came to the door to call him. Once back in Washington, and once he's seen Scully and the baby, he could start trying to put the pieces together.

It took them the better part of the day to get across the country by the roundabout methods they used. First they took a small commuter plane to Boise, then another to Cheyenne, and so on. They hopscotched across the country, with tickets for each destination in different names. This seemed excessive for Skinner; it had the Gunmen's signature all over it. Mulder wondered how on earth they convinced Skinner to do this.

Skinner was pretty quiet all along the way, making conversation only when necessary. He seemed to want to avoid talking about the activities he'd been involved in, citing security concerns. "Time enough for that when we're back in DC," he said to all of Mulder's questions.

It was just as well, Mulder reflected. He had so much to process, and as yet, so little to tell himself. He spent the long hours in the air and on the ground thinking about Scully, and their impending reunion.

The last airport was in Virginia, rather than the Washington, DC airport. They retrieved a Bureau car in the parking lot and headed for Georgetown. They had been traveling for better than sixteen hours.

Byers, Frohike and Langly met them outside Scully's apartment. Their reunion was typically understated.

"Hey, Mulder, my man," Frohike said, sticking his hand out to shake. Mulder did so, solemnly. "I guess you're not getting my videos just yet, Frohike," Mulder said with a straight face.

"Actually, Scully gave them to me for safekeeping," Frohike smirked. "She had to put a bunch of your stuff n storage, and there just wasn't room for everything."

Byers and Langly in turn shook his hand and muttered something.

"Thanks, guys," Mulder said. A simple word, but they knew.

Skinner knocked on Scully's door. No answer. "She's probably asleep," he said. Frohike produced a key, much to Mulder's surprise.

"Don't get medieval on me, Mulder," Frohike said, grinning, "she gave it to me."

"Well, now you can just give it back," Mulder said, only half-joking.

"Boys..." Byers said warningly.

One lamp was on low in the living room, but no one was there. No Scully dozing on the sofa.

Skinner gestured toward the bedroom door standing ajar. Dim light showed around the edges. "Well, Agent Mulder, you'd better go check it out."

Just what I need, an audience for our reunion. Mulder looked around at the other men. "You guys stay out here. I'll call if I need you."

Frohike snorted and Byers shushed him again.

Mulder walked softly to the door and opened it wider. The light came from a nightlight shaped like a quarter moon, standing on the chest of drawers. Next to the chest was a crib.

He closed the bedroom door softly. He glanced over to Scully, asleep. Then he stepped up to the crib and peered in.

A small form lay sprawled under a blanket. His head was turned to one side, arms thrown out. Scully's child. His child; theirs. Even though he had *known* about the baby already, actually seeing him made him a reality. Mulder was not prepared for the surge of emotion: wonder, protectiveness, and love. The same things he felt for Scully, but different too. Up until that moment, he hadn't known he would love this child. Not just any child, his and Scully's. Unbelievable but true. He gazed for a moment longer and then turned his attention to the bed where Scully lay.

She appeared to be sleeping deeply. He crouched by the bed and took up the hand which lay outside the covers. She was wearing an old shirt of his, and looked engulfed by it. He held her hand, as he had on so many occasions in the past, trying to impart comfort and love to her through his touch. She stirred a tiny bit and sighed. He thought he would just sit there until she woke up, but fatigue was getting the better of him. I think I'm still allowed to be in her bed he thought. It's worth a try, anyway. He gently let go of her hand and crossed to the other side of the bed. He pulled off his shoes and tried to climb in quietly, torn between letting her sleep and wanting to wake her up.

Scully stirred again. Her back was to him, he couldn't see her eyes, but he heard her breathing change a little. He was not mistaken; she was at least a little awake. Her inhalation turned into a sob, and he immediately moved closer to her, trying to hug her. She pulled away and really started to cry, curled into herself. He felt his heart shatter at this, and he began to speak to her, saying anything that popped into his head to try and get her to look at him.

"Hey Scully, aren't you going to talk to me ever again? I'm late, I know, I'm really, *really* late, and I'm sorry, but I'm here now." oh please, Scully, don't turn away. please just look at me He kissed the nape of her neck and gently but firmly pulled on her shoulder to make her turn over and look at him.

She opened her eyes, wet with tears and disbelief. He smiled into her eyes as she tried to catch her breath without sobbing. "See, Scully, it really is me," he said softly, tucking the strand of hair away from her face.

She buried her face in the crook of his shoulder and cried. He held her, stroking her hair and her back, keeping up a flow of soft words that he was sure she didn't hear half of, but at least could feel. He kissed what parts of her he could reach: the top of her head, her temple, her cheek. He rested his cheek on the crown of her head and let her work through the months of emotion she'd stored up. His own eyes stung with unshed tears and he shut them, reveling in the feel of Scully in his arms again, after nothing but dreams and imagination for so long.

Some time later he woke up from a light doze to feel Scully shift in his arms. She gazed at him as if she was still unsure of the reality of his presence. He kissed her mouth softly. "Hi," he said.

She smiled shakily. "Mulder-"

"Shh. You'll wake the baby," he said with a smile, laying his finger against her lips. She started a little.

"Did Skinner tell you?" she asked.

"No, no one told me. I somehow *knew* when I asked Skinner how you were. It just sort of...came to me." He kissed her again. "Scully, did you know before I went to Oregon?"

It was a long minute before she answered. "I wasn't sure. I couldn't believe-and I wanted to, so much. Until I was sure, I couldn't say anything, or even admit it to myself. I knew you had to go to Oregon. Knowing, or suspecting this, wouldn't have helped you."

He was silent, processing this. Trust Scully not to pull punches, not to take refuge in the easy fiction. Maybe *I* suspected something, too. Maybe some remnant of that ability was still active, even then. But she's right. It would have been much, much harder, but I still would have gone to Oregon.

"You know I didn't go willingly. On the ship, I mean," he said, holding her eyes with his.

"I know you had to go," she said softly. "You had no choice, even if you *were* given one."

Her capacity for forgiveness and understanding stunned him. Another fragment of the time away came back to him, the safe place he went to in his head while he was gone, the place where Scully lived.

"You were with me the whole time," he told her. "When it got to be too much, when I didn't think I could take any more. You saved me. Again and again."

She raised her mouth to his and he kissed her again, kissed her in homecoming, kissed her to make up for the months and months when he could only remember and imagine. They were soft, comforting, undemanding kisses at first, lips gliding over lips, moving to caress eyelids, cheeks, temples, throat...

He heard a low noise and thought at first it was Scully. Her reaction told him it was not. She put her hand on his chest and whispered against his mouth, "It's the baby. He's hungry." She sat up.

He sat up too. "Do you want me to go?"

"Why?" she smiled at him, touched his lips. "It's nothing you haven't seen before. Do you want to pick him up and bring him to me?"

The very thought terrified him but he got up anyway and approached the crib. The baby lay there, not really crying, just murmuring to himself. He looked up at his father and waved his fists around, gurgling. Mulder reached down and lifted him carefully out of the crib, holding him against his chest. He was surprisingly heavy. He smelled of sleep and Scully.

Scully sat up in bed, watching them approach, saying nothing. She reached her arms out to take the baby and got him started nursing. Mulder watched in fascination and crawled over to his side of the bed to sit beside Scully, his arm around her.

It was unexpectedly moving to watch them. Also arousing, in a way. He put his arm around Scully's shoulders and nuzzled in her hair. She looked up at him and he kissed her. She kissed him back. He put his fingers under her chin and held her just so as they continued to share kisses. He received sustenance and comfort from this woman as surely as his son did.

Once the baby was fed, Scully hoisted him up to her shoulder to burp him and then started to get out of bed.

"Where are you going?" Mulder asked, laying his hand on her arm.

"He needs changing now. All part of the routine, Mulder," she smiled and continued on her way.

He got up too and followed her over to the changing table and watched.

"This isn't pretty, Mulder," she warned.

"Can't be any worse than alien goo," he said, but he exhaled rather forcefully all the same. "Well, maybe just as bad. But a guy's gotta learn somehow."

"Plan on helping with this, Mulder?" she teased a little, but her eyes were serious.

"With everything," he said, matching her tone and her look. "Except for the feeding part, that is. Don't think I can learn *that*."

Once finished with that little chore, she started to put the baby back down in the crib, though he didn't seem to be very sleepy. He looked from one adult to the other with solemn eyes, clenching and unclenching his tiny fists.

"Bring him back to bed with us for a while," Mulder suggested.

"Do you want to hold him?" Scully asked as they settled themselves. He nodded, and she handed him over, showing him how to support the baby's head. She leaned her head on Mulder's shoulder. "I never expected this," she whispered, letting the baby clutch at her finger.

"You mean, having a baby?" Mulder asked, fascinated by his son's fascination with his mother.

"All of this. Sitting here, as if we led a normal life, just two people-parents-and their child." She looked up at him. "But it's not going to last, is it?"

Mulder felt a chill. What am I supposed to remember? "Nothing lasts, Scully. We'll do what we can."

"We haven't talked about what happened to you yet," she said.

"I guess Junior here has kept us a little busy," he said. you're keeping us from some other stuff, too, aren't you, little boy? "Speaking of Junior, what is his name?"

"I don't know," she said. "I've been waiting for you to come back before giving him a name."

In an evening filled with emotion and revelation, this admission filled him to overflowing. It was a confirmation of her faith that he *would* return, expressed so simply and easily he had trouble catching his breath. "Oh, Scully," he said quietly. "I love you so much."

"I never doubted it," she said, sitting up to kiss him again, catching the tears he hadn't realized were coursing down his cheeks.

He smiled against her mouth and pulled her away a little bit. "But I'm not gonna drive a mini-van, Scully, so you can just put that out of your mind."

The baby finally dropped off to sleep in Mulder's arms and they spoke in whispers over his head. "I've got something to give back to you," he said, "but my hands are kinda full. I didn't lose your cross, it's still around my neck."

She ran her fingers under the neck of his sweater and pulled the chain out. It glowed softly in the dim light. "How did you manage to keep this?" she asked.

"I don't know yet," he replied. "I can't remember very much of my time away. When I landed, or woke up, in the forest, I was wearing the same clothes, had my wallet, my watch, everything. Skinner took the other things to be tested but I wouldn't let him have this."

She touched it again with her fingers and then touched his cheek. "I knew you'd bring it back." Her eyes were shiny with tears again. Mindful of the sleeping baby in his arms, he leaned over to kiss her again.

For all that he'd had no sleep to speak of in the last twenty-four hours, Mulder was reluctant to sleep now. He wanted to put off tomorrow, prolong this magical night for as long as possible before they had to return to their lives again. Finally he felt Scully take the baby from his arms. His eyes fluttered open to see her lay him in the crib, leaning down to kiss him goodnight. Mulder felt it himself like a benediction, as if he were the baby.

He closed his eyes again and felt Scully get back into bed. "Lie down, Mulder," she urged gently. She eased his sweater off, leaving him in his tee shirt. Then she pulled back the covers and coaxed him out of his jeans as well before covering him back up. "You've got to get some sleep," she whispered. "If I know Skinner, he'll be back at the crack of dawn for you."

His eyes flew open again. "I left Skinner and the boys in the living room when I came in here. Do you suppose they're still out there?"

Scully smiled. "Frohike might be, but I bet Skinner persuaded them all to go home and get a good night's sleep. He's going to have them very busy tomorrow. And you, too. I'll bet you haven't been checked out by a doctor yet."

"No, I was waiting to be seen by my own personal physician," he told her, just to see her smile again.

She rewarded him briefly, and added, "Well, for right now, your physician is prescribing bed rest, and plenty of it," she said, trying not to smile further at his reaction to her words.

"Those are some doctor's orders I can take, as long as the doctor is here to enforce them," he grinned, and then yawned mightily.

Scully looked at him very seriously. "Mulder, I know that the future is more uncertain now that it ever has been. But no matter what, at least we've had this time together. I've told myself that ever since you went away, and this night has been more than I could have hoped for, even yesterday. I'm grateful for whatever time we have together."

He traced his fingers down her cheek and over her lips. "Scully, I still don't know what tomorrow will bring myself. There's so much I don't yet remember about my time away. But we will find the answers together, just as we always have. It's more important now than it has ever been. I feel it, and you feel it. But now, tonight, we aren't going to talk or even think about it. Tomorrow will come soon enough."

He held his arms out to her and she sank into them once again. They kissed again for a long moment, and held onto each other fiercely. Mulder tucked Scully against him and felt her relax into sleep. He lay awake in the dimly lit room for some time, feeling time rush forward before sleep finally claimed him as well.


Author's notes: It's me and music again, but this time it's classical. The Title comes from a tone poem, "Verklarte Nacht," by Arnold Schoenberg, which is based on the poem quoted at the beginning of the story. If you want to read the whole poem, the URL is www.uni-giessen.de/~gk1415/night.htm. For those of you who already know this poem, I hasten to add that only *part* of it applies to this story, as I firmly believe that the baby *is* Mulder's. (Although I don't deny the other premise would also make an interesting story! g) === Any feedback you'd care to give me would be greatly appreciated. Many, many thanks to those who responded to the first story, and talked me into writing this one! msnsc21@yahoo.com

Title: Comes the Dawn
Author: ML
Written: 2000
Distribution: I will send to Ephemeral; anyone else, please ask so I can come visit.
Spoilers: through end of Season 7
Rating: PG-13
Classification: MSR
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance

Summary: To paraphrase Dorothy L. Sayers, this is a love story with paranormal interludes. This series is mostly about Mulder and Scully coming to terms with the new turn their lives are taking. But there's a story here, too, somewhere g.

Author's notes: This is the third of what's turning into a series. It started with "Another Gray Morning" and "Transfigured Night." Both are on Ephemeral. You don't absolutely have to read those to get this, but it might help.

The sound of the baby in his crib woke her up. She lay half asleep, listening to him, knowing more or less how much time she has before the coos turn into wails of hunger. Little by little she realizes that the pillow she hugs to herself is breathing, and that her hand clutches not pillowcase but tee shirt. It isn't merely the weight of the bedclothes she feels, but an arm wrapped around her waist. And Mulder's scent, long faded from the tee shirt she wears, surrounds her. As does Mulder. She opens her eyes and reassures herself that this isn't another dream, then carefully extricates herself from his grasp and goes to the baby.

She glances back to the bed where Mulder has shifted onto his back, sprawled over most of the bed. Her heart catches in her throat, remembering another time and place when she saw him lying just like that, a half-smile playing about his lips. They hadn't been lovers very long then. In fact, that night had been the first time they'd made love in weeks. He'd been so angry about her adventure with Smoking Man, and she had gone through her own period of questioning whether or not they should continue to pursue a deeper relationship or resist succumbing again.

Perhaps that had been the night, the night she finally realized that all roads in her life led to Mulder, the night their child had been conceived. She still didn't know how she'd been able to, or if the child in her arms now was vouchsafed them for some dark purpose. Now that Mulder was back, together they could pursue the answers.

She carries their child out to the living room and lowers herself carefully onto the couch, settling the baby in her lap to nurse as she looks out the window at the first glimmerings of dawn.

As precious as the night before had been, Scully senses it is probably the only moment of normalcy they will have for some time, possibly the last moment of normalcy they will ever have. They don't do normal well. No matter what she claims to want, she can't see that having a baby suddenly making a normal life possible or any easier to obtain. Mulder had seemed entranced last night, but in the cold light of day what was fair to expect of him? He'd been gone for the better part of a year, and has known about the baby for less than twenty-four hours.

In theory, she thinks he'd make a good father. In practice, the idea of either of them as parents is incredible. Their world is full of such danger, and with the possibility of the world changing-not just *their* world, but *the* world, if invasion fears become reality-the future is unimaginable.

She'd tried to express her fears to her mother. Maggie Scully in turn had tried to put those fears to rest.

"Dana, there has always been fear of the future. It gets worse when you're a parent. When you were growing up, it was the threat of nuclear war. When I was a child, first there was World War II, then the Korean War. You may fear such things when you have only yourself to consider, but when someone else-especially a child-enters the picture, you start to feel overwhelmed and even less equal to face the future." Maggie took her youngest by the shoulders and gave her a little shake. "God will give you the strength when you need it, Dana. Remember that."

Scully knows that her mother is at least partly right, though of course Mom couldn't know what *she* fears for the future. It would be too easy to be paralyzed by fear, however. She will just have to learn how to face it. It had seemed harder when she thought she'd have to face it alone. Still, she wants to be sure that Mulder really wants this responsibility and what changes it meant for him and for them. Last night neither of them had wanted to get too deeply into such a discussion. It had been enough to hold and be held, to kiss and be kissed. But they would have to talk about this.

Unlike they way they'd finally become lovers, with almost no discussion at all. Mulder had kissed her on New Year's and neither of them had said anything about it. It was like the time they'd almost kissed in his hallway; he'd never once referred to it again, and neither had she. Then, not long after New Year's, Mulder started showing up on her doorstep with microwave popcorn and videos instead of a casefiles, and even invited her over to his place once in a while.

Little by little on those nights, they'd edge closer to each other on the couch. Sometimes he'd make the first move, sometimes she did. They'd hold hands tentatively. Eventually they were leaning into each other, shoulder to shoulder. Sometimes Scully would end up dozing on Mulder, and wake up to find his arm around her.

Mulder started giving her a good night kiss when he left. Somewhere along the way one or the other of them offered up a kiss during a video, and after that more than one movie ended unnoticed as they kissed.

It was inevitable that one night Mulder would ask her to stay. Up until that point, Scully had still felt conflicting emotions about their changing relationship, and though she had welcomed Mulder's overtures and had even made a few herself, she felt unable to take that final step. It seemed to her that Mulder had waited until one of the rare nights at his place to ask her, giving her an out if she wanted it.

She smiles at the memory of that night. It had been awkward at first, but in the end, both satisfying and somehow rather sweet. Considering who they were and what they'd been through, sweet would be that last word she could have imagined using to describe their union. That night, she'd seen a side of Mulder only hinted at before. She knew he could be tender; he'd shown her tenderness on several occasions in the past. But that night he'd made love to her in a way that revealed to her the depth of his feelings and desires. He'd made it all about her, about what she liked, what she wanted and needed. He seemed to take the most pleasure in pleasing her. Maybe he thought he'd only get one chance, so he gave it everything he had. As single-minded as he'd seemed to be about his quest over the years, he'd obviously spared more than a few hours of thought for her.

It enabled her to finally admit to herself the depth of the feelings she had for Mulder. That first night had been a time out of time for them, a respite from the cares and troubles which plagued them and would continue to plague them. Soon enough, the real world intruded again.

Though they were as professional as always with each other on the job, their personal relationship did add an edge to their discussions sometimes. Scully felt more protective of Mulder than ever. She was a little less patient with both the physical and emotional risks he took. Yet she also enjoyed the new dimension this change added to their daily lives. Their banter seemed filled with secret meaning, encoded in a way only they could understand.

She was pretty sure Skinner began to suspect at about the time the Amber Lynn LaPierre case started, and by the time they'd returned from California, he knew for sure. He kept it to himself, though, letting on only by the occasional sharp look or pointed comment. He never said anything that actually needed to be answered, but he made it clear that he knew. The unspoken agreement seemed to be that as long as they were discreet, nothing would be said.

The one time Mulder almost went off the deep end was when she went away with Smoking Man. Once she'd returned, he seemed barely able to stand looking at her, but allowed her to coax him into bed anyway. It had been a joyless coupling. He would not look at her, but drove himself to posses her, as though to win back her soul from the devil. Likewise she pulled him to her, gripping him like a last handhold on sanity. They exhausted each other that night, and passed out rather than slept, backs to each other. The next morning Mulder reached out for her and held her close, once again letting his actions speak rather than words. They clung to each other in fear and relief and then never spoke of the incident again.

And so, until Oregon, life had gone on. If they weren't actively involved in a case, Mulder showed up on her doorstep Friday night. Next morning, they would part ways for a while and later in the day one would call the other and they would decide where to spend Saturday evening. The pretense that either had any kind of life other than the one they shared was pretty much over. They never spoke of the future or made any plans. Scully had felt reasonably content with the arrangement. They'd taken so long to get to this place, she was in no hurry to move it along any faster, or change their status. She'd told Mulder one night that she was reasonably happy, and as she said it, realized that it was true. They had won through some very difficult times, both personally and professionally, and certainly the challenges would not cease in either arena, but for the moment, they were where they wanted to be.

Just before Mulder was taken, they finally told each other what each meant to the other. It occurred in the usual roundabout way, and in fact at first Scully thought that Mulder was actually trying to end their intimacy. In hindsight, there had been a sense of impending doom over the whole case. Maybe it was only because the X Files division itself was once again under siege. Or because she was feeling ill and didn't yet know the cause. Whatever the reason, when Mulder first suggested she go home without him, she'd feared he was having second thoughts about their relationship. "There's so much more for you to do" sounded like goodbye to her, like he felt he was holding her back in some way. In fact, until he declared back in Washington that he didn't want to lose her, that fear stayed with her.

They'd had so little time to say goodbye before Mulder went back to Bellefleur. A few heartfelt words, an exchange of tokens, while Skinner waited in the other room. She'd wanted to go with him so badly, but was afraid of compromising his investigation through her illness. For once, she had given in to his pleas.

Then Mulder was gone, and she found out about the baby, and people had to be told. Skinner. The Gunmen. Her mother. The sleepless nights, keeping vigil in Mulder's apartment, hoping against hope he would just show up. The endless searching for any clue at all as to his whereabouts. The growing fear that he would never return, that she would have to live her life without him, that something would happen to her or to the baby, or both of them. The long, agonizing weeks of inaction before and after the baby's birth.

The baby has long since satisfied his appetite and is now asleep at her breast. She can see that the sun is above the horizon now. Skinner will no doubt be here before very long. She remains where she is on the couch, not wanting to take the chance of disturbing Mulder before he is ready to wake up.

His surroundings seem familiar, but in a distant way, an old memory. Gradually he realizes he is in a bed, not his own. The earliest light of dawn shows around the edges of the blind. He reaches his hand out, meeting nothing but slightly warm sheets and another pillow, still indented with the impression of another head. Scully's head. Her bed, her apartment. His home, he thinks. He hopes.

It's the only home he has for now. He's pretty sure his apartment is long gone. Scully has his power of attorney, so it's possible she withdrew enough funds to pay the rent. Just one more mundane detail they still need to discuss. Whether he still has an apartment or not, they need to discuss living arrangements anyway. He won't presume that she wants him that thoroughly in her life, or that she even needs him. He was gone when she needed him most, and that is a guilt he will have to add to his collection.

He can count on his fingers the number of times he'd stayed the night at her place after they became lovers, and there were even fewer at his, though he had the honor of hosting their first night together. He grinned at the memory. They'd been making out like teenagers on his sofa, and he'd whispered in her ear that he wanted her to stay. Then he panicked, wondering if there were clean sheets on the bed. Nothing like planning ahead. He'd been waiting for Scully to give him some sort of sign, or to ask *him* to stay. That night he decided he didn't want to wait any longer. All she could do is say no, and go home. And break his heart, destroy his peace of mind, and any hope of ever picking up the pieces of his life again. He was sure his expression showed all that. She did say yes, however, and while she was in the bathroom, he did the fastest bed making he'd done since he was a kid and he and Samantha raced each other. The removed sheets got stuffed into his closet, along with some stray articles of clothing that somehow had ended up on his bedroom floor.

Other than the initial panic, it had been a wonderful night. He'd made love to Scully in his imagination so many times, planned what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it, that at first it seemed a continuation of a really good dream. Not that his imagination, as inventive as it could be, compared in any way to the reality of Scully in his arms and in his bed.

After that night, it did not magically get easier for them in either their public or private lives. The year leading up to his abduction, in fact, had been one of the worst for him. How Dickensian, he thinks. It was the best and worst of times. I lost Mom, but found Samantha. I lost a part of my brain matter, but the Yankees won the pennant. I got bitten by snakes and the undead. Tobacco beetles tried to turn me into an incubator. I fell through a ceiling. I kissed Scully. She kissed me back, a lot. And more. I guess except for that abduction thing, I came out ahead. He grins a little ruefully. If they can survive a year like that, can't they survive whatever lies ahead?

Scully did not press him at all last night. Except for one slightly challenging comment about caring for the baby, she did not make assumptions about how they would go forward. The only thing he knows for sure was that she had always believed in his return. In fact, her faith in his return had moved him more than he could express to her last night, though he'd certainly tried.

He reminds himself that while only a couple of days have passed for him since his abduction, Scully has lived almost another year of her life. A year without him, that, even though she will tell him about it, he did not experience at her side. It's like the weekend he went to England, only much, much worse. He feels like he will never catch up.

He hears voices from the other room. Unless Junior has grown up in a hurry, Scully has a visitor. He gets up, finds his jeans, and decides to go find out what's going on.

Skinner is sitting in the armchair, his arms full of baby, who doesn't seem to mind at all. Mulder feels very odd, and identifies the feeling as jealousy. Why is that man holding my child? Whoa there, it's Skinner, who's probably his godfather for all I know.

Skinner gives him an inscrutable look and says good morning. Scully reappears from the kitchen with a tray. Belatedly, Mulder realizes it would make sense if he took the baby from Skinner, since Scully is still holding the tray. She smiles her approval as Mulder somewhat gingerly accepts his son and sits with him on the couch.

"Why don't you sit in the rocker, Mulder, he likes that better," Scully suggests, and returns to the kitchen. She comes back with another mug of coffee, which she places on a low table next to the rocker. After a few moments of rocking, Mulder looks down to see that the baby has in fact fallen asleep. He looks up at Scully and over to Skinner. The tension in the air is palpable. It all seems so surreal. He's sitting in a rocking chair in Scully's living room with Skinner, holding a baby. *His* baby. He's had some pretty weird dreams, but none of them compares to this.

Skinner is staring moodily into his coffee mug. Finally, Mulder says, "Did you camp out on the doorstep last night?"

Skinner gives Mulder his best AD stare. On most agents, it produces the desired result. It doesn't have much effect on Mulder, though, who just stares back, face in the expressionless mode which means that his brain is at its busiest.

Skinner says tightly, "I don't think it's a good idea to broadcast Agent Mulder's presence."

Mulder thinks for a moment maybe he's disappeared again. Skinner is looking at Scully. She has that defiant lift to her chin he knows so well. Without her eyes leaving Skinner's, she says, "Mulder, Mom called this morning. I told her you were back." To Skinner she says, "It's my mother. She deserves to know."

Mulder interrupts. "I don't think telling Scully's mom represents any kind of a threat. I sure wouldn't call telling her 'broadcasting.' I suppose the boys have done their usual electronic checking?"

"Of course they have." Skinner heaves off the armchair and paces away and then back to face Mulder. "But we still don't know who we're up against. Krycek has disappeared again, as has Marita Covarrubias. Since Smoking Man's -Spender's- death, they've been out of contact."

"Understandable, if they did really kill him," Mulder says. When Skinner first gave him the news of the old man's death, he hadn't believed it. Smoking Man has a way of reappearing at the most inopportune time. "You're sure he's really dead?"

"His nurse called 911 when he was attacked," Skinner says. "His body was still in situ when the police arrived."

"But did anyone perform an autopsy?" Mulder persists.

Skinner shook his head. "Scully was in the hospital, and I was in Oregon. By the time I got back, someone had claimed the body."

"So, no autopsy, no body." Mulder grins. "I'd be inclined to say even if an autopsy *had* been performed, that it's no proof, unless Scully did it. But even Scully's had bodies disappear on her."

"Yeah, both living and dead." Scully reaches down to take the sleeping baby from Mulder and takes him back to his crib.

Mulder gets up from the rocker and goes to sit on the couch, hoping Scully will come back in and sit next to him. She does just as he hopes, close enough for her leg to brush against his. He feels a surge of protectiveness. He reaches out and meets her fingers searching for his, and they weave together. Wow, he thinks. Practically a public display of affection, coming from Scully.

Skinner flicks his eyes to their hands and then away. He says to Mulder, "I want you to go see the Gunmen with me this afternoon. We have a lot to go over with you."

Scully objects, "I want Mulder to be checked out by a doctor first."

Both Mulder and Skinner object back, though for different reasons.

"I don't think it's a good idea for Mulder to go out in public yet," Skinner says. "You can do at least a preliminary examination, can't you?"

Mulder simply cannot resist responding to this. "Ooh, Scully, will you play doctor with me?"

"Are you sure you want that, Mulder?" she says sweetly. "Remember I cut up dead people for a living." She turns to Skinner and says, "I think he needs a full battery of tests, and I can't do all that. There's got to be some way."

Mulder protests, "Scully, I'm okay. I don't need no stinkin' tests." It's already starting, that headlong rush into the future. He used to relish it, used to worry he might be missing something. Now he wants to slow time down, try to figure things out by taking a long look at them for a change. He wants more time alone with Scully, to try and figure out how to talk to her, how to say what he needs to say, and to find out what she will say to him. Once again, they'll be lucky to grab a few moments here, a few there. And no time to talk, to think, to savor.

Both Skinner and Scully ignore his words and Skinner tells Scully, "I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, do what you can. I'll give you until one o'clock. Mulder, be ready to go by then."

After Skinner leaves, Mulder throws himself back on the couch and leans back, hands behind his head. "Well, dear," he says, grinning at Scully, "what shall we name the baby?"


Thanks for reading! Any comments, questions, etc. received with delight (and answered) at msnsc21@yahoo.com

Title: Beloved Protector
Author: ML
Email: msnsc21@aol.com
Feedback: Yes, please to above email
Anywhere you like, as long as you let me know
Spoilers: Requiem, minor others
Rating: PG
Classification: A, MSR

Summary: Don't be put off by the title. Try it, I think you'll like it.

Author's notes: This is part of the "Another Gray Morning" series. You don't have to read the other stories to get this, but I hope you do anyway! Additional disclaimer: I chose the baby's names for their meaning, and no other reason. Really. Go to Babynames.com and see for yourself!


They are having a rare moment of quiet. Skinner dropped them off and declined to come in, Scully's mom has gone home again, and wonder of wonders, the baby is asleep.

Mulder fiddles around in the kitchen, making tea. Scully is in the living room, looking at the day's mail. It's all so strange, yet somehow so...right. He can't think of a better word right now. Domesticity was never something he'd craved, at least not since he reached adulthood, but he's finding it soothing.

Granted, it's only been a few days since he's returned from wherever he was, but for now it's nice.

He and Scully are feeling their way, slowly but surely, back into a sort of partnership.

Their initial reunion had been all about feeling and emotion, but by the next day, both were back in an assessing mode.

They both stood back a little, taking a long hard look at each other, figuring out what to do next, taking refuge in their respective personae.

He can't seem to stop cracking dumb jokes, and Scully, when not in mother-mode, is back to being her enigmatic self, and hell-bent on getting some answers.

She has a right to some answers; she's the one who got left behind while Mulder got his all-expense-paid trip to Reticulan.

Or wherever.

He's still having trouble wrapping his mind around the idea of so much missing time.

It's a phrase he'd thrown around almost casually ever since discovering the X-Files, but he feels differently about it now that he's experienced it.

Almost a whole year gone, justlikethat.

One minute he's sticking his hand where he shouldn't, the next minute Skinner finds him spitting leaves and mud, and tells him he's been gone for *ten months.*

It's one thing to investigate an X-File.

It's quite another to *be* an X-File.

He's not sure he likes it.

He takes the tea into the living room, clutching the mug handles in one large hand while he grasps the honey bottle and spoons in the other.

Scully is sitting on the couch, intent on a small paperback book.

"What's that you got there, Scully?"

he asks, setting the hot mugs down carefully and shaking his hand to cool his fingers off.

"It's a book, Mulder.

You could have used a tray, you know,"

she says, without looking up from the page she's scanning.

"I know, I know, but we manly men don't like to mess with all that fussy stuff," he says, and sits beside her, looking over her shoulder.

It's lists of names with short definitions after them.

He flips the cover up.

"1,001 Baby Names," he reads.

"Need some ideas, Scully?"

She looks up at him.

"Mom left this.

I think it's a hint.

He's almost two months old, Mulder.

Don't you think he should have a name by now?"

"How `bout we just call him Baby until he's old enough to object, then Kid until he's old enough to be called Mr. Mulder."

Scully doesn't say anything, but her eyebrow raises.

"Mr. Scully?"

He smiles winningly.


She doesn't have to say anything more.

He knows that look and that tone.

He takes the book out of her hand.

"You could've named him if you wanted, Scully.

I mean, it's nice that you waited, but I'm pretty sure I would have forgiven you, as long as you hadn't named him Fox Mulder, Junior."

"Well, what's your choice, Mulder?

What name would you give him?"

She looks at him with that same expression, which tells him he won't get out of this any longer.

He'd started this himself earlier today, so he has only himself to blame.

He'd been trying to tease Scully out of a somber mood after Skinner had been here, spreading his own brand of dour charm.

Scully recognized it for the ruse it was, and refused to be drawn into his game at the time.

"As long as it's not Fox, I'm not picky," he says now.

"What do *you* want to name him, Scully?"

She says matter-of-factly, "I thought William would be nice."


His father's name.

He rolled it over in his mind.

Does he like the idea of his son named after his own father?

The man who allowed his sister to be abducted, who'd lied to him most of his life, who may or may not have been one of the authors of the invasion he fears may now be imminent?

He shakes his head to himself.

"Mulder, what?

Don't you like that idea?"

She is plainly puzzled by his hesitation.

"It seems an unfair burden to lay on a kid, to name him after someone like my dad," he says.

"I don't want him named after my father."

He can see the hurt in her eyes, and realizes even before she speaks that he's made a mistake.

"It's my father's name, too," she reminds him softly.

Then she adds,

"and it's your middle name."

He makes a little grimace.

"I know, I'm sorry, Scully.

I just know sometimes a name can be a burden."

"I guess you would know," she says, and touches his hand in understanding.

"But you said your father tried to atone, in the end."

He sighs.

"Yeah, I know.

Let's just not make it his first name, okay?"

Scully nods.

"I can accept that," she says.

"But now it's your turn.

You have to come up with an acceptable first name."

He starts to say something, to protest that he doesn't want that job alone, when she gets this listening look in her eyes.

"It's the baby," she says, shifting gears into mother mode.

"It's time to feed him."

She squeezes Mulder's hand and leaves him alone with the one thousand and one baby names.

It seems an impossible task.

He's already rejected the traditional means of naming, but doesn't really have an alternative that either of them would find acceptable.

He knows from his own personal experience that an unusual name can be a curse.

Giving a child a name to live up to, or one with unpleasant associations, is just as bad by his reckoning.

He turns the book over in his hands.

He starts to leaf through the pages methodically.

Start at the beginning, see where it takes you.


Abbott .

Abe, 'father of a multitude' .



He skips to the Bs.

Baba, 'born on Thursday.'


how about Ba-ba Booey?

Don't think the committee will pass it.

Or Baby, means 'baby.'

Bahari, 'Sea Man.'

It's hard, just as hard as he thought it would be.

Sometimes a name interests him, but its meaning puts him off.

He wants to find a name that has some meaning, but that will not place an undue burden of expectation, or cause ridicule.

, he thinks.

Then we'd just be arguing over which name was first, Samantha or Melissa.

He looks up their names.

Melissa, a honeybee.

Samantha, the listener.

This gives him pause for a moment.

His memory plays back Samantha, her eyes wide and dark, listening to their parents argue from the top of the stairs.

He shakes his head to rid himself of the unwelcome picture.

He looks up Dana and Katherine.

Katherine, pure and virginal.

Dana, mother of gods .

Dana Katherine, the pure and virginal mother of gods.

He likes the sound of that, but doubts that Scully would.

He looks up Fox.

A fox, is all the book lists.

Finally, he looks up William.

'Desire to protect' is the definition.

Well, according to some, his father did what he did to *protect* his family, not destroy it.

At a guess, from what Scully has told him of her own father, it fits William Scully to a T.

Likewise Bill Scully Junior, he supposes.

That overbearing attitude does stem from a desire to protect his baby sister from her partner.

Mulder knows the desire to protect is strong within him.

Desire isn't enough, though.

He wanted to protect Samantha and he couldn't.

Once he met Scully, protecting her became a priority, though he knows he hasn't done a very good job of *that*, either.

Will he be able to protect her any better now?

Will he be able to protect their son?

He begins to have a glimmering of understanding.

His father probably did want to protect him and Samantha, and maybe he really thought he was doing the right thing.

Desire isn't enough.

He shakes his head again.

It will do him no good to go down that road right now.

*He* will do his best.

He will do better than he's done in the past, he vows.

He will do better than his father did.

He turns back to his task.

I'm going about this backward, he thinks.

The book is no help with this; there is no cross-reference for meaning and he's starting to feel impatient.

He goes over to Scully's computer and logs on.

After a few false starts and a few distractions, he finds a baby names website.

He starts plugging in words and reads the names connected with them.


Can't believe Scully's not listed here, even though it's mostly female names.

What does *that* mean?

The only masculine name on the list is Emmett.


Moriba or Zita are my choices here.

I don't think so.

He sits back and rubs his eyes.

Investing so much meaning in a name is placing a large burden on both the name and the bearer of it.

What he really wants is a name which can somehow convey how he feels about this child, a child he never thought he wanted, the child neither he nor Scully thought she'd ever have.

He hears Scully with the baby in the next room.

She's singing, he thinks.

He can barely hear, so he gets up quietly and goes to the bedroom door to see what's going on.

Evidently she's just changed him, and she's leaning over him on the changing table, playing with his hands and feet, making him laugh.

She *is* singing, very softly under her breath:

"Baby love, my baby love..."

Another, more recent memory invades him.

Scully, holding the baby in Oregon, smiling and playing with him.

He remembers how sad it made him, thinking she would never have this for herself.

He surprised himself by realizing that not only did he wish he could give Scully what she wanted so badly, but that he wanted it, too.

Not just for her.

He'd never

thought much beyond the next case, hadn't processed the changes in their personal relationship or what the future might hold.

He worried about Scully, and wanted her to go back to DC where he thought she'd be safer.

He wanted to protect her.

He tried to express this to her, tried to couch it in less personal terms so she wouldn't feel crowded or threatened by what he said.

Maybe he should have been more personal, expressed his own fears and desires as well.

He didn't even tell her how afraid he was of losing her until the eleventh hour.

Maybe it's not too late to let her know this, to let her know how he feels not just about her, but about their son.

Not his, not hers, but theirs.

Their son.

He goes back to the computer and types another word in.

After a moment, a name appears.

This is a good name.

I could live with this name.

No unpleasant associations, doesn't belong to anyone in my family I can think of, and there's nothing weird or unusual about it.

Scully appears in the doorway, holding the baby, still humming under her breath.

"Hey Scully, what do you think of this one?" He gestures her over to the computer.

She looks at the name and its meaning, and smiles.

She looks at Mulder and smiles, and he shrugs and grins a little.

"I like it, Mulder," she says.

"Did you name him for you, or for me?"

"I named him for both of us," he tells her.

"I think it's how we both feel."

She smiles again, and he sees the baby's resemblance to her.

Already he smiles like his mom.

He hopes he'll get to see both smiles a lot more.

"So is it official?"

he asks.

"Do we have a name?"

"Let's ask him,"

Scully says whimsically.

She holds the baby up and looks him in the eye.

"Well, David William, what do you think of your name?"

she asks.

The baby smiles- he thinks-and blows gooey looking bubbles as he tries to grab for Scully's nose or hair or anything else within reach.

"I think that's a yes," Scully says judiciously.

She sits with him on the couch, cradling him in her arms again.

Mulder comes and sits down beside her.

"And how about you?"

he asks a trifle anxiously.

"Do you like it?"

"You did good, Mulder," she reassures him.

"I was afraid you might pick Melvin or Walter."

"I'm sure they'd both be touched," he said, "but though I'm grateful to them, I'm not *that* grateful."

He looks down at little David William, and holds a finger out for him to grasp.

The baby takes it in his tiny fist.

His grip is surprisingly strong.

He waves his other fist around and smiles his toothless smile at the two faces staring down at him.

"It's not too late-I could change my name," Mulder offers.

Scully shakes her head.

"You'd never let me call you by your first name, anyway.

Besides, I like Mulder."

"But what does it mean?"

he persists.

"I don't think we'll find it in the database."

"What do you want it to mean?

I can tell you what it means to *me*."

Scully smiles her little half-secret smile.

"Tell me, Scully.

What does my name mean to you?"

Asking this question also makes him anxious, more than he wants to admit.

She brushes her lips against his cheek.


Loyal friend. A brave and good man."

She gives him little kisses between each phrase, the last one square on his lips.

He feels like grinning and waving his fists around, just like David William, but he settles for kissing her back, and asking hopefully, "How about 'great lover'?"

"We'll just add new definitions as we go," she promises, and kisses him again.


I hope you liked this little bit o'fluff.

I used Babynames.com to research the names, pretty much the way you see them in the story here.

Title: Domestic Disturbances
Author: ML
Email: msnsc21@aol.com
Feedback: Yes, please to above email
Anywhere you like, as long as you let me know
Spoilers: Requiem, minor others
Rating: PG
Classification: A, MSR
Disclaimer: All the characters named in this story belong to Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions, and FOX. I mean no infringement, and I'm not making any money.

Summary: Don't be put off by the title. Try it, I think you'll like it.

Author's notes: This is part of the "Another Gray Morning" series of stories, dealing with Mulder's return. This story takes place between "Comes the Dawn" and "Beloved Protector." You don't have to read the others to get this story, but if you haven't, treat yourself ! BTW, I have tried very hard to avoid knowing spoilers for the coming season and therefore any which show up in the story are inadvertent. However, there are a few things which I think are common knowledge and which may be part of the story. A few more notes at end.


He hasn't been back even a full day, and already they're arguing. This wasn't an unusual state of affairs, and under normal circumstances he'd even find it reassuring. But everything seemed turned sideways now. It started innocently enough.

Scully had gotten out her medical kit to give Mulder a preliminary examination before Skinner returned to take him to see the Gunmen.

Mulder was, to say the least, resistant to the idea.

He sat on a chair in the kitchen, clothed only in his boxers, fresh from his shower.

He'd certainly been in this position before-half naked in front of a fully-dressed Scully-but this was different.

He really did feel perfectly well, and he was pretty sure that even more extensive tests would reveal nothing unusual.

If They implanted anything, or changed him in any way, it won't be detectable by human technology.

He didn't know why he was so sure about this, but he was.

Her scrutiny of him was a little unnerving.

Looking at him with desire, with concern, with anger-all these things he understood, even welcomed.

But this clinical, professional examination made him feel less like a person and more like a-a-test subject.

Not a position he wanted to find himself in again, ever.

At least he wasn't strapped to a table, and Scully's hands were much more gentle than the vague memories he shied away from.

"Scully, seriously, you don't really need to do this," he complained as she poked and prodded and tapped.

"Yes, I do.

For my peace of mind, if for no other reason," she said, unfazed by his protests.

"But I'm fine," he insisted.

"I would *know* if there was anything wrong."

"How could you possibly know that, Mulder?"

She was holding his wrist lightly in her fingers, counting his pulse.

"I just would," he said lamely.

It was going to be hard to explain why he seemed to know certain things.

He didn't really understand it himself.

He concentrated instead on the feel of her fingertips on his wrist, wishing for more, wishing he could touch her back.

But when she was Dr. Scully, he knew better than to try and divert her from her purpose.

He sighed and resigned himself to it.

However, he did add,

"Scully, I want you to know I draw the line at the 'turn your head and cough' part of the physical exam.

If you want to fondle me, I don't want it to be for medical purposes."

He grinned at her.

Scully didn't grin back.

Instead, she sighed a little.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, Mulder."

A sudden fear gripped him.

"Are you okay, Scully?"

She did try to smile reassuringly at that, but told him, "well, other than the fact I had what amounts to major surgery to have the baby, I'm fine.

But recovery from something like that takes a while."


He wasn't sure what he was feeling at this news.

Anxiety for Scully, certainly.

Shame that he hadn't realized before what an ordeal she'd been through, and not just because of his abduction.

The shame was increased slightly by a feeling of disappointment. What a selfish bastard he was.

"Don't beat yourself up about it, Mulder.

It's not your fault, you know,"

she said gently.

"Well, I think I have *some* part of the blame, if that's what you want to call it," he said.

Scully raised her eyes to his.

"Mulder, no matter what you might think, I am *not* sorry about this baby.

I don't expect you to feel the same right now.

Maybe you never will.

I've had a long time to think about it, and to accept it.

You don't know what I've been through in the past eleven months.

If you want to know, I'll do my best to tell you, but..."

"What do you mean, IF I want to know?"

Mulder could just barely keep from shouting.

"OF COURSE I want to know!

I'd rather know what *you* went through than what *I* went through, and I'd give anything to have been here with you, instead of where I was.

How can you doubt that?"

"I don't doubt it, Mulder.

I told you that last night."

He voice was measured and calm.

She busied herself with her kit, digging out the pressure cuff, wrapping it around his biceps and pumping it up.

"Now try to breathe normally while I do this."

He thought a change of subject might be in order.

"Guess I'll have to go shopping for some new clothes," he said, approaching a subject he was reluctant to address head-on.

"Scully, do you have any more of my things here?"

This morning, she had surprised him with a suitcase containing some of his favorite clothes, as well as socks and underwear.

It tickled him to imagine Scully digging through his dresser to pack his case.

But the image of her up to her elbows in his boxers was a little more than he wanted to think about.

"A few things," she said.

"Most are in storage."

He imagined Scully packing the contents of his apartment in boxes, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.

He suspected that she got rid of very little.

But he still asked.

"I guess you had to get rid of the furniture and stuff, though, huh?"

He couldn't come right out and ask about the apartment itself.

"I already know what happened to my videos.

Frohike couldn't wait to tell me."

Scully smiled faintly at that but was clearly uncomfortable with the conversation.

"Actually, your furniture is all still there.

I have your PC here, and your files, and a few other things in the second bedroom.

I sublet your apartment."

Mulder's jaw dropped.

"How did you talk the landlord into it?"

"Skinner was helpful there," was all Scully would say.

"Anyway, I put most of your things in storage, but the big furniture stayed in your apartment.

Frohike's been keeping an eye on things for you."

"You sublet my apartment to FROHIKE?"

"Calm down, Mulder, or I'll have to do this all over again.

We shouldn't be discussing this while I'm trying to take your blood pressure."

He slumped back in the chair.

"A guy goes missing for a couple of days, and look what happens."

Scully merely raised her eyebrows and he continued, but endeavored to speak calmly.

"Who'd you rent it to, someone at work ?"

"A friend of Byers', actually.

I met him, he seems okay."

"But, Scully, why?

You could have just let it go, or you could have used the power of attorney to get the money to pay the rent-"

"It just seemed safer somehow to have someone living there.

Someone we could trust, who would keep an eye out for your things."

Just one more little sign of Scully's faith in him.

Was it any wonder that he loved her?

He will never, *never* be able to adequately repay her.

He wasn't sure whether to be glad or disappointed to know he still had his own place.

Glad in the sense that here was more evidence of Scully's faith in his return.

Concerned because he couldn't just assume that his home was with Scully .

He took a deep breath.

It doesn't mean she doesn't want you here> he told himself.

She's just doing what she thinks you'd want.

"You can go over there whenever you like," she added.

"Calvin knew when he moved in that he might not get much notice to move out again."

She watched him for his reaction and he forced a smile, trying to make what he said next a joke.

"Are you throwing me out?"

The remark was dead in the water even to his ears.

Scully frowned and said,

"I just don't want you to feel an obligation.

I don't want you to feel compelled to do something before you've given it some thought."

"Scully, you don't have to handle me with kid gloves.

I've bounced back from worse than this before."

And as he said it, he realized he could have chosen his words better.

"You know what I mean, don't you?"

"Let's talk about all this later, okay?" was all she would contribute to the conversation, but he caught the sound of her sighing as she turned away from him.


Maggie Scully came to watch the baby, arriving before Skinner.

Mulder wasn't sure what kind of reception he would get from Scully's mom, considering the fact that for all intents and purposes, he knocked up her daughter, and then deserted her.

No matter how unwillingly he did so, that was the reality.

He didn't even want to think about Bill Scully's reaction when *he* found out.

But Maggie greeted him with open arms, tears of joy in her eyes.

It took him aback.

The sight of anyone glad to see him took him aback.

Even after seven years of witnessing Scully's joy at his various returns, he couldn't quite believe it.

Yet not just Scully, but his whole little circle seemed very glad to see him.

Even Skinner was obviously relieved, though Mulder suspected that it was more on Scully's behalf than his.

Skinner had been acting almost paternal since Mulder's return, which was weird.

He wasn't *that* much older.

Still, it was more acceptable than any other kind of non-professional interest.

Especially where Scully was concerned.

In the past, Mulder had sometimes suspected that Skinner harbored a little crush on Scully.

Not that this was so surprising.

Any man with half a brain and decent eyesight wouldn't be able to help himself.


Skinner found a moment to speak to Mulder privately while Scully was in the bedroom with her mother.

"How is Scully?"

he asked.

"She's doing okay," Mulder assured him.

No need to air their differences to him.

"You just be aware of what she's been through for you," Skinner warned him.

"You have no idea what these last months have been like, and Scully will never tell you."

Skinner playing the heavy parent again made him angry, and the fact that Scully had just finished saying almost the same thing to him made him even angrier.

"I realize that and I don't need you to tell me.

I don't even know what *I've* been through in the past months, but I'm more concerned for Scully."

Skinner favored him with an intense glare.

"Just make sure you keep it in mind," he hissed.

"No one has been more concerned with finding you than Agent Scully.

If it hadn't been for her efforts, you would be just another unsolved case."

"Trust me, I know what I owe Scully," Mulder hissed back.

Skinner's demeanor toward him almost since their first meeting had been that of a permanently pissed-off parent, but it's gotten to be too much under the present circumstances.

Fortunately for both of them, the subject of their discussion appeared and ended it.

Scully had changed into street clothes and carried her coat over her arm.

"I'm going with you," she informed Skinner.

Skinner looked at Mulder, who simply looked back.

He'd already had that argument with her and lost.

To his credit, Skinner didn't even try to dissuade her.

Not that he could, Mulder thought.

She had that fierce look in her eyes, and it was worth a man's life to cross her when she looked like that.

"I don't have a line yet on where we could go for Mulder's tests," he said as they drove along.

"But I have a place

where we can send blood samples anonymously for analysis."

"Is that strictly necessary?"

Mulder asked again.

"In fact, is all this subterfuge strictly necessary?

I want to get myself reinstated, get back to work.

Shoot, I'd just like to go for a run."

There was a long, loaded pause before anyone answered.

Finally Skinner said, "I'm working on it, Mulder. All in good time."

It was pretty obvious to Mulder that he wasn't being told everything.

He tilted the visor mirror to look back at Scully and made a face at her reflection.

She smiled back very faintly but her eyes were still troubled.


The Gunmen's place looked pretty much the same as always.

Piles of junk covered every available surface, electronic equipment in varying stages of usefulness, several computer screens running programs hacking into who knew what.

There was, however, an indefinable difference in the air.

Mulder looked around, trying to place it.

The equipment the Gunmen had was always as state of the art as they could make it, but now it even looked it.

He noted several new looking racks and towers amongst the junky stuff.

He looked into the back room and saw not one, but three very new-looking Barcaloungers.

He raised his eyebrows.

"You guys sell out, or what?"

Byers said, "You remember that place in LA, the virtual game company?"

"Yeah, 'First Person Shooter.'

How could I forget?

Getting my ass kicked by a computer construct is a highlight of my life," Mulder grimaced.

"But I thought the game got destroyed."

Scully rolled her eyes.

"It did, Mulder.

In a manner of speaking.

They created another one."

"Another Matreya?"

he winced.

"Not a good idea, I think."

"Think again, G-Man," Frohike growled as he emerged from the kitchen, a plate of what looked like Rice Krispie Treats in his gloved hands.

"It's not Matreya anymore, but the luscious Agent Scully."

Scully looked extremely uncomfortable.

"That's not what they're calling it.

And I don't think it looks anything like me."

"Enough like you to get you a share in the profits," Frohike corrected her.

"Thanks to me, mostly," he added modestly.

Mulder looked from one to another of his friends.

"What are you talking about?"

Byers came to his rescue.

"Another game was developed to take the place of First Person Shooter.

They're calling it 'Red Avenger,' and Scully is the model for the heroine, Red Dawn."

Mulder stared at Scully.

"When did you model for THAT, and why wasn't I there?"

"I didn't model, Mulder," she explained with a touch of exasperation.

"Somehow they mapped me during our time in the game.

Without my knowledge or consent, I might add."

"Well, it got you a start on a college fund for Junior," Frohike pointed out.

"And you gotta admit it, it's a hot game."

"Knock it off, Frohike," Mulder warned him.

"So you guys are millionaires now, is that it?"

"Not exactly," Byers said.

"But we *are* getting royalty checks fairly regularly."

"Scully, too?"

Mulder wondered why she hadn't said anything before, but realized once again that they've had very little time alone together.

"Not exactly, Mulder," she said.

"I got a consulting fee, I think they called it."

"You might have, too, Mulder, except you got your ass whipped,"

Frohike teased him.

"And guy action figures are a dime a dozen anyway."

"Thanks, Frohike.

You really know how to hurt a guy."

Mulder grabbed one of the bars off the plate and ate half of it in a bite.

"Hey, where's Langly?"

It was strange not to see the trio together.

"He's got the duty today, Mulder," Frohike explained.

Mulder was already tired of the oblique references to things he had no part in.

"What duty?"

he asked impatiently.

Skinner broke in.

"It's his turn to watch Scully's apartment," he clarified for Mulder.

"We all take turns.

Even-" he broke off, looking at Scully.

Mulder looked at Scully too. "Even who, Scully?" he asked quietly.

She met his eyes squarely. "Even my new partner, Mulder," she said evenly.




notes: Don't worry, I have another installment started already! But I wouldn't mind a little encouragement...hint, hint. msnsc21@aol.com

Thanks for reading!

Title: Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Author: ML
Email: msnsc21@aol.com
Feedback: Yes, please to above email
Anywhere you like, as long as you let me know
Spoilers: Requiem, minor others
Rating: PG
Classification: A, MSR

Summary: Don't be put off by the title. Try it, I think you'll like it.

Author's notes: This story is part of the "Another Gray Morning" series. All can be found at Ephemeral. Titles at end of story. And by the way, the title may make it *sound* like a songfic, but it isn't.


It was better now that it had turned dark outside. He didn't bother with turning on the lamp. He let his eyes adjust slowly to the familiar shapes around him, lit only by the faint gleam of the street light through the slats of the blinds.

He thought it would help to come here, to the place most familiar to him. He wanted, he needed, to be alone. He hadn't been alone, truly alone, since before his abduction. Since his return, so many people seemed to have claims on him. Except the one person who had the most claim seemed reluctant to admit it.

Scully had a new partner. Mulder didn't know how to feel about that. Well, yes, he did, really. Scully was on the X-Files, and he wasn't. It was weirder than missing time.

Scully had finally confessed to him at the Gunmen the day before, after Skinner let something slip. Scully just blurted it out. He thought he handled it pretty well. He listened to her talk about him, staying carefully neutral, all the while trying to assess how she felt about this guy. Doggett, his name was. Mulder vaguely remembered the name. Ex-cop, very by-the-book. Scully should love that. Except for the fact he was Kersh's golden boy. Which meant Scully reported to Kersh, too. Just a few little details Skinner forgot to fill him in on.

He'd stayed calm while they were at the Gunmen's, though overall it had not been a very successful visit. No news, good or otherwise, about Krycek or Marita; no new information from the abduction returnee centers; no reports of UFOs crashing anywhere or hovering over the White House. And he still couldn't remember more than vague, fleeting images of his own experience.

Skinner eventually took them back to Scully's. Mulder had been quiet all the way there, as was Scully. Once home, there was the distraction of the baby and other little chores to attend to. He decided he would wait until Scully was ready to talk to him about it. He wouldn't ask questions, he wouldn't accuse, he wouldn't blame. he told himself.

Well, any conclusions he'd jumped to he kept to himself. And he hadn't run off until the next day, so perhaps it *was* an improvement.

He'd waited for Scully to broach the subject, to tell him more about her new partner, what she thought of him, what ideas she had for getting rid of Doggett and getting *him*, Mulder, back as her partner. But she didn't say another word about it.

He fell asleep on the couch while Scully put the baby--put David-- to bed. She'd come back out to the living room, and he was vaguely aware of her presence, hovering near. When she didn't say anything, he'd pretended to still be asleep. He felt her place a blanket over him before she left the room.

The morning had been no better. Mulder woke up early, and lay listening for any sounds from the bedroom. He couldn't hear anything, then realized the door was shut. He went into the kitchen to make coffee and to think about what to do.

Skinner told him he still needed to lie low, and that he'd be in touch about his status with the FBI. Apparently Skinner also answered to Kersh. Mulder reflected that Skinner probably had done some damage to his own reputation, aligning himself with the Bureau's Monster Boy. Mulder thought sourly.

He was on his second cup of coffee when Scully appeared. She put her hand on his shoulder as she busied herself at the stove, boiling water for her own herbal tea. He waited until she was sitting at the table too before saying anything.

"I want to go to my place today," he told her without preamble.

Scully looked at him over her mug. After a moment she nodded. "I'm not supposed to drive yet, but I can call Frohike, or maybe Skinner--"

"No." He cut her off. "I'll take a cab. I just...I just need to be alone for a while, someplace where I'm not a visitor, you know?"

She nodded again, but he could see that she was hurt. He so wanted to be at home with Scully, but for the moment at least it wasn't possible.

He hung around until lunch time, helping change David, keeping an eye on him while Scully showered. After they pretended to eat lunch, he called for a taxi and went down to the front of the building to wait for it. He resolutely refused to look back at Scully's window, to see if she was watching him or not.

He let himself in to his apartment. It looked about the same as when he'd come back from any trip, except the fish were still alive. There was his couch, the coffee table, the prints on the wall.

He looked through all the rooms. Except for looking somewhat cleaner than when he last saw it, it looked normal to him. He could hardly tell that anyone had been living here in his absence. A look in his bedroom revealed a rolled up futon in the corner. His closet was nearly empty except for some boxes sealed up with tape, his name scrawled on them in black marker. Bureau drawers, empty.

The bathroom contained nothing but a toothbrush and toothpaste, not his usual brand. The medicine cabinet was empty. Fresh towels hung on the rack.

In the kitchen, his sparse collection of cutlery and dishes were still there, more or less where he'd left them. The refrigerator was close to empty.

Scully must've called the guy to clear out while I was showering this morning he thought. He *had* to be living out of suitcases. He felt sorry for the guy--what was his name? Calvin?--who obviously never made himself at home here. Nonetheless, Mulder was also pleased by this. He hadn't been sure he liked the idea of someone else living in his apartment, though Scully's explanation made sense.

It felt incredibly lonely, but he was used to that. He missed Scully, but even that was a familiar feeling. All the time they were partners, even before they'd become lovers, the times away from her were lonely. Weekends were excruciating, especially at the end of a case. He'd use any excuse to call her, to lure her into the office, or invite himself over.

He drifted around his apartment, picking up things at random, turning them over in his hands. Most things were both familiar and unfamiliar, artifacts of another life.

This place was his past. So much of it was bittersweet. He remembered returning after a night at Scully's bedside, certain that he'd seen her alive for the last time--then getting the call that told him she would live, which meant so would he. He'd had that bond with her, even then. Maybe that was when he first realized it.

He remembered *his* return from the dead, finding Scully and Skinner holding each other at gunpoint. He would never forget the look of joy in Scully's eyes, though at the time he refused to act on it--or to let her act on it, either. He wondered what might have happened if he'd let her speak, or if he'd said what was in his heart.

All water under the bridge now. After so many false starts and years of yearning they were together. Sort of. He'd at least gotten a start on showing Scully what she meant to him, then his draft number came up and he was called to the mother ship. Now it looked as though they were back at Square One.

He sat on his couch and closed his eyes. He both wanted and didn't want to remember what had happened to him. Somewhere in his subconscious, he was sure that some of the answers he'd sought for so long must be hiding.

Some sort of self-hypnosis might do the trick, he thought. He remembered explaining to Scully his method of indirect thinking and started looking around for his tape of "Plan 9 from Outer Space." There were no videos to be found, anywhere. Evidently Frohike wasn't kidding when he said he had them. Though they might be in one of the boxes somewhere...

He just didn't have the energy to look for anything. He found the remote, which was neatly placed on top of the TV, and began his other favored method of self-hypnosis, channel-surfing.

He couldn't be so lucky as to find "Plan 9," but anything sufficiently familiar would probably do. He paused at an old movie. "Casablanca." Well, mindless it wasn't, but he knew the dialogue nearly as well as "Plan 9."

The scene playing was after hours at the cafe, Rick reminiscing about the woman he loved and lost, remembering Paris...Mulder closed his eyes, not needing to see, letting his mind drift where it would.

Funny how it always drifted back to Scully. The one clear memory he had of his time away was how Scully had always been with him, how the sense of her nearness was what kept him anchored, kept him sane. <*You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going...* but so much more than that.> He let his mind drift through some of his favorite Scully moments. Most of them seemed to involve seeing her smile as he woke up in a hospital bed. There were some more recent ones, however, seeing her smile in her sleep next to him, and other expressions even more delightful.

he thought.

When he was aware of his surroundings again, it was dusk. He shut off the television and sat in the gathering dark. He sat for a long time, not really thinking of much, not feeling anything. If his trance, or doze, had triggered anything, it wasn't manifesting itself. He leaned back again, eyes shut, wondering if he should just go back to Scully's and somehow make her talk. Make *himself* talk. He was as reluctant as she seemed to be to open a subject that might end up being painful for both of them.

A movement by the door startled him. A shadow moved, then spoke. One word, his name.

Oh god, it's Krycek. Knew he'd show up eventually. "I guess I'm not surprised to see you," he said calmly, sitting up and trying to assess the danger.

"I've known of your return, but I didn't want to approach you with Skinner hanging around. I had to wait until your baby sitters were out of sight." Krycek moved a little closer to the couch, but still out of arm's reach.

"Changing sides again, Krycek?"

"There are no sides, Mulder. There is no right or wrong. There is only survival or destruction."

"That's pretty dramatic, isn't it?" Mulder forced himself to speak calmly, like he was discussing box scores. His stomach churned. Maybe Krycek knew something. "Why should I help you?"

"You don't have a choice, Mulder. I have leverage against you now." "What do you want?" he asked, tensing for attack.

"What do you think I want? Same as you. Answers. Information. To win." Krycek stayed where he was, though he had to know Mulder had no gun. He seemed to know everything else.

"I don't have anything for you," Mulder said. "Unless you want some old magazines or a cup of coffee."

"Be serious for once in your life, Mulder," Krycek snarled. "I need what you have."

"What do you think I have? *I* don't even know what I have." Mulder stood up slowly, and watched Krycek tense in expectation of an attack. Mulder thought. He stayed where he was, however, and waited for Krycek to elaborate.

"Access, *Agent* Mulder. I need your access."

"Access to what? The alien ship? Sorry, I think they took my key card back when they dropped me off." Mulder walked past Krycek into the kitchen and was faintly amused to feel the other man draw back just slightly.

"Don't be stupid. Access to the FBI, to its resources. To *your* resources," Krycek followed him into the kitchen, his good hand curled into a loose fist, and leaned against the counter, watching Mulder. "In case you haven't noticed, I don't have any access to the FBI just now," Mulder told him. "I thought Skinner was your fair-haired boy. Why can't he help you?"

"I can't make him cooperate with me," Krycek said. "He blames me somehow for your disappearance."

"Maybe he had good reason to," Mulder said. "At a guess, I'd say you're probably also wanted for murder. Unless of course Smoking Man has returned from the dead." He rummaged around in various cupboards, keeping one eye on Krycek. He found only a few packets of some herbal tea.

"Would it surprise you if he had?" Krycek countered.

"Not particularly. It wouldn't be the first time," Mulder said. He filled the kettle with water and set it on the stove. "I'm afraid I'll have to take back my offer of coffee. How about a cup of tea?"

"I'm not bluffing, Mulder," Krycek said ominously. "You know I'm not."

Mulder resisted the urge to slam Krycek up against the refrigerator, just for old times' sake. "Alex, listen. If I knew anything, I would tell you. Right now, I *really* don't care if you're working for a consortium consisting of the Ayatollah Khomeni and Saddam Hussein. *I don't remember anything.* Whatever little mind wipe They performed, They did a real good job."

"What if I told you I had a way for you to recapture your memories?" Krycek asked him.

"What if I told you you're full of shit?" Mulder countered. "If you have that, what's keeping you from running off to Oregon or somewhere, and using it on someone else?"

"Because no one has what you've got, Mulder," Krycek continued. "You are the one with the key."

"Well, I'm really flattered, but I don't think so," Mulder said. "Why don't you go peddle your lies somewhere else?"

Krycek moved toward Mulder as if to grab him or hit him, and seemed to catch himself just in time. He stood where he was, seething, just out of Mulder's reach. "This conversation isn't over," he said through gritted teeth.

"Okay," Mulder said reasonably. "I *might* even think about what you told me." He continued to speak in a calm, measured voice, letting his words and his eyes convey his message. "But let me tell you something. If *anything* happens to anyone I care about, if Skinner gets so much as a cold, or if Scully or the baby are harmed in any way, I will track you down and believe me, you'll wish the aliens had taken you."

Krycek turned away, but not before Mulder could see the fear and frustration in his eyes. This was new. Krycek seemed somehow afraid of him. Why? And what possible advantage could this mean for Mulder and the good guys?

He wondered briefly where Marita Covarrubias was. He hadn't thought to ask Krycek. He knew they were uneasy allies at best. So were they all. He walked out of the kitchen to see if Krycek was still there but he had disappeared as quietly as he'd appeared.

His front door was slightly ajar. He pushed it closed.

He finished making the tea and returned to the living room. What if what Krycek said was true? Where would he get such knowledge?

He'd barely sat down again when someone knocked at the door. His instant thought was

He jumped up and opened the door to find Marita Covarrubias.

She simply stood there and looked at him. His smile faded to indifference and he turned away, leaving her at the door. "Unless you've got a pizza, I'm not buyin,'" he said, going back to the sofa.

Marita came in and shut the door. "You haven't even heard what I'm offering," she said.

"Doesn't matter. Your partner was already here to give me the sales pitch, and I told him the same thing."

"My partner." Marita stood next to the sofa. "You mean Krycek. He's not my partner. I don't trust him."

"That doesn't give you any special status," Mulder replied. "No one who knows him trusts him."

"Whatever he offered you, it's a lie," Marita continued. "He doesn't have anything. He just *thinks* he does."

"I'm so glad you cleared that up for me," Mulder said. "I suppose you *do* have something?"

"I just want to make sure you end up on the right side of this," Marita said. "The winning side."

"Would that be the side with the flame-throwing aliens, or the side with the shape-shifting aliens?" Mulder asked. "I don't see much to choose from, either way." He sipped his tea. "Get to the point, Marita. You're not saying anything."

She knelt beside him and put her hand on his arm. "You've *got* to help us. Time is running out. We *have* to know what's going to happen, what's being planned."

Mulder laughed and gently moved away from Marita. "You think I know? That They told me everything, and then turned me loose to warn the human race?"

"Mulder, please. For old times' sake?" She smiled, but where once he saw an attractive woman, he now only saw skin stretched too tight over her bones, and a stark terror in her eyes.

"I wouldn't bring up the past if I were you," he told her. "It's poor salesmanship. There was never anything between us, not even friendship. You used me, same as Smoking Man and his cronies did."

Marita stared at him. "Doesn't the future mean anything to you?"

"Yes, it does. It means more to me now than it ever did before," Mulder said, and realized that it was true. Not for the reasons Marita might think, but for his own reasons. Two reasons, primarily, upon which he pinned all his hopes for the future, any future.

"Then you'll help us?" Marita looked relieved and calculating at the same time. Mulder wondered.

Mulder stood up and offered his hand to help Marita to her feet, and led her to the door. "I'm not saying yes, and I'm not saying no. You can tell that to your associates. When I'm ready to listen to your sales pitch, I'll be in touch."

"*We'll* be in touch," Marita corrected him, and slipped out the front door.

"Well, it seems that as long as everyone thinks I have secret alien stuff, I'll never be lonely," he murmured to himself, and took his cold tea back into the kitchen. Other than his unwelcome visitors, no one had tried to contact him all day. The phone was working; he picked it up for the hundredth time to hear the dial tone. He started to dial Scully's number but stopped halfway and sat down on the sofa again. He knew she was well-protected. Obviously she had been while he was gone. He wasn't needed.

Everyone wants a piece of me--except maybe Scully. He could feel himself slipping into self-pity. He lay back on the sofa, television on but muted. He shut his eyes and felt the flash of changing pictures against his eyelids...

...and he was back on the ship. He could not feel his body but knew They were doing something to him. Shadowy figures circled around him. The whir of equipment was loud in his ears but no louder than his frantic voice, yelling with all his might:



He woke himself up, bathed in sweat, panting. He could still hear a ringing in his ears, then realized it was the phone. He lunged for it and started saying, "Hello? Scully?" before he got the handset to his ear.

There were a couple of hollow clicks and he thought wildly of phone taps. Then a hollow voice came on the line.

"Am I speaking to Mr. Mulder?"

"Who wants to know?" he asked cautiously.

"I'm calling from Mike's Auto Glass, and we are going to be in your vicin--"

"NO!" shouted Mulder, and slammed the phone down.

He went to the kitchen sink and bathed his face, leaning down to drink from the faucet. his mind supplied automatically. He grinned to himself.

But first he had to find out if Scully even still wanted him around. She *seemed* happy to see him, his first night back. Now he wasn't so sure. She seemed to be standing back from him, assessing him, perhaps trying to figure out what possible harm he might bring to her and the baby.

He would go away before he'd let any harm come to her or their child through him.

He hated feeling so needy, but the truth was, he needed reassurance that he still had a place in her life. She had been forced to do without him, to move on. Would he have done so well without her? He already knew that answer, having experienced it.

When Scully was taken from him, he fell apart. He'd felt helpless and useless all the time she was gone, and when she came back, and he could do nothing for her, he felt worse. The same thing happened when she was diagnosed with cancer. He ran around, acting like he knew what he was doing, but in the end nothing he did made any difference. Miracle or not, Scully recovered. He may have been the go-between who supplied the remedy, but all he could do was stand by and watch it work or not. If it hadn't been the answer, he'd have had nothing else to try.

Enough of this. Enough of this lying around, feeling sorry for himself. If he was going to have a place in Scully's life, he would damn well have to do something about it. She wasn't going to come to him and beg him. He called for a taxi and bounded out of the apartment.

He stood at the elevator door, bouncing on the balls of his feet, just about ready to dash down the stairs. He could run to Scully's faster than the elevator would get to his floor. He could probably be halfway there before the taxi even got here. He turned away as he heard the elevator bell ding. The door slid open. He heard footsteps on the hall floor.


He turned back.


Feedback would be a great accompaniment to the Thanksgiving turkey. It would certainly make me thankful! msnsc21@aol.com

Title: Homecoming
Author: ML
Email: msnsc21@aol.com
Feedback: Yes, please to above email
Anywhere you like, as long as you let me know
Spoilers: Requiem, minor others
Rating: PG
Classification: A, MSR

Summary: Don't be put off by the title. Try it, I think you'll like it.

Author's Notes: Part of the "Gray Morning" series. Picks up right where "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" leaves off. If you haven't read that one, you may want to read it first. A few notes, and a listing of all titles in this series at the end.

For about a minute, Mulder just gazed at Scully in the hallway. The spell was broken when the elevator door snicked shut.

Scully had an overnight bag in one hand and a take-out food bag in the other.

She's brought me food and clothing. I guess she means for me to stay away.

He gestured for her to lead the way to his door. He was afraid at first that she would hand over the bags and leave again, but she walked ahead of him and waited for him to unlock the door.

"I brought dinner," she said, holding the bag up. She set the overnight bag down by the door.

"You can stay awhile?" Mulder asked, trying not to sound too eager. "Who's with the baby?"

"Mom's staying with David," Scully said. "Skinner's there, too."

"I'm almost afraid to ask what Skinner said about me not being there," Mulder said.

"Well, he wasn't happy, but he's okay with it now," Scully said, smiling the barest bit. Mulder wished he could have seen *that* conversation.

They were still standing awkwardly at the door. Mulder reached behind her and closed it, and took the food bag out of her hands. She followed him into the kitchen.

Mulder wanted to touch her so badly his hands ached. He turned to the sink to dump the water out of the kettle and started fresh water boiling. Scully leaned against the counter, watching him. Neither of them said anything. He could feel Scully's eyes on him. Okay, you wanted to talk. So why aren't you? Ask her about anything. Ask about Doggett--no, maybe we should work up to that later. *So what do I say to her?* You need to tell her what you've been thinking about. And you need to tell her *everything*.

He was concentrating so hard on his own internal argument that he almost missed Scully's question.

"Mulder, were you on your way out when I came up?" Scully's eyes were puzzled and a little worried looking.

Every time he looked at her, he realized all over again that the defining emotion of his time away was missing Scully. Sure, he knew that there had been pain, both physical and mental, but it was the loneliness that he remembered most now. He had always heard that the memory of pain faded with time, and he'd been injured enough through the years to know that this is true. Whatever pain They inflicted on him, the memories were now vague and distant. The memory of her absence was not fading. Being alone all day made him remember lots of things, but what he remembered most was his anguish over Scully, his fear that he'd never see her again. He'd come to himself that afternoon screaming her name, just as he had so many times before when he was in the grip of a nightmare. Just as he must have done while They had him.

"Mulder?" Scully prompted. He realized that he was still looking at her and she was waiting for an answer. Her worried frown deepened.

"It's okay, Scully. I was just remembering something." How do I talk to Scully?

"Something about..?" Now she looked scared as well as worried.

"My abduction, yes. Nothing of any use to anyone, I'm afraid. Mostly remembering a feeling." He shook his head slightly. He was afraid that any talk about his experience would be even more difficult for Scully, in light of her own abduction. He didn't want to give her a fresh reminder of that terror. "Do you want to talk about it?" She was trying to display a brave and determined air, but he could see her lip trembling ever so slightly. "I'd like to, at some point. But I don't think I can right now."

"Okay." With a shamefaced air of relief, she changed the subject briskly, back to interrogating her partner on more earthly matters. "You didn't answer my question. Were you going somewhere?"

"You gonna report me to Skinner?" he teased a little. "Still being sent to spy on me, Agent Scully?" He grinned to show he was joking, and Scully looked a little pained at this, but smiled briefly back. He took her hand, wanting at least a little contact with her. "Actually, I was on my way to grab a taxi back to your place."

This bit of information really made her smile, though she tried not to show it. "Why did you want to do that?" she asked.

He shrugged a little. "I dunno. I wanted to see you, see how you were doing." He took her hand in both of his, playing with her fingers a little. "I missed you."

"I missed you, too," she said softly. She squeezed his hand and smiled a little more warmly. He moved closer, thinking maybe he could kiss her now, and the kettle started to hiss and whistle. With a muttered word he let her hand go and turned back to the stove.

Scully got out dishes and cutlery while Mulder steeped the tea. They sit at the kitchen table. Mulder noticed that instead of the usual spicy chicken, Scully helped herself only to steamed vegetables and rice. She took one sesame chicken skewer and left the spicy dishes for Mulder. He made no comment, though he looked a question at her. She gazed back steadily, calmly, declining to answer the unasked question. They ate in silence for a while. Mulder let his mind wander a bit, between shoveling in the food and watching Scully pick at hers. He'd always loved watching her eat. She was so intent on her food. Sometimes she stabbed at her salad like it was a living thing, intent on doing her harm. She almost always finished before him, and then looked longingly at whatever he had that she denied herself. Many times in the past he ended up letting her snatch half his French fries. Not that he begrudged her a bite. He would have fed them to her himself, if she would have let him.

As he sat daydreaming of memorable meals past, he missed Scully asking him another question. He shook his head a bit and looked at her. "What?"

"Mulder, are you okay?" Scully's concerned look was back again, and she reached a cool hand to his forehead. He leaned into it, closing his eyes, savoring her touch.

"I'm okay, just woolgathering, I guess." He banned the image of Scully, her lovely red mouth open like a baby bird's, accepting a French fry from his fingers. "What did you ask me?"

"I asked what you did all day," Scully repeated, letting her hand trail along his temple and through his hair before removing it.

"Oh, you know," he said. "Watched a little TV, snooped around in the cupboards, sat around and stuff." He caught his breath. God, how could he have forgotten this? He told Scully with some urgency, "We'd better call Skinner. Or maybe we should go back to your place. Krycek came by here this afternoon, making threats."

Whatever reaction he expected from Scully, her calm concern wasn't it. "Threats against whom? Against you?"

He took a deep breath. "No, against you. And the baby. To make me cooperate."

"Mulder, it's okay. Doggett picked up Krycek not long after he left here."

He expelled his breath in a snort of surprise. "You *knew* he'd been here?"

"The Gunmen have been monitoring your building since you were taken," Scully explained. "They alerted Skinner and Doggett as soon as they saw him."

"And Marita?" he asked. "Did they get her, too?"

Scully looked a little shamefaced. "No, she got away. They, uh, we, kind of weren't paying attention after we got Krycek. We weren't expecting anyone else." She looked down at her plate, gathering her thoughts, then looked up at Mulder again. "That's why Skinner was upset that you'd come over here without telling him first. He knew Krycek would surface when he found out you were back and he wanted to set up a trap for him."

"Well, it sounds like it worked out okay after all," Mulder observed, a bit stung that all this was going on that day without his knowledge, while he sat in his apartment, brooding.

"Don't be upset, Mulder. I didn't want to stop you from coming over here, if that's what you needed to do, but I had to tell Skinner. And I guess it's good that I did." She looked at him warily, as if afraid he'd lose his temper over this.

He was upset about it, sure, but also relieved that for now, Krycek was not a threat. He realized that he couldn't afford to be so indulgent with his temper as he once was. There was more at stake than his wishes now, and he felt a grudging gratitude that Skinner and the others have been looking out for Scully while he was unable to. Hadn't he told himself earlier today that he'd have to make a place for himself in Scully's life again? This seemed a good place to start. He said, "Scully, I realize that I've been gone for some time, and I have a lot of catching up to do before I know what you've been through. All I'm asking is, don't shut me out of what's going on. I want, I *need* to be a part of this, not as a liability or something that needs guarding."

"Oh Mulder, we--I--didn't mean for you to feel this way. I never intended to keep anything from you. But I didn't want to dump everything on you at once." She looked distressed. "It's bad enough that you didn't know about the baby, that you had to learn about him after the fact. I wanted to be the one to tell you about the other things that happened while you were gone."

"Well, there's no time like the present, if you have the time." He knew he still sounded a little petulant, but he couldn't seem to help himself.

She nodded, but didn't say anything for a long time, just pushed her remaining food around on her plate. Finally, she said, "That's why I came over here, Mulder. So we could talk about things. Mom says she can stay overnight with David. We can talk all night if we have to."

Mulder was elated to realize that the overnight bag was for *Scully,* not him. He didn't let this show, but nodded very seriously. "I'll talk, I'll listen, whatever it takes," he said. "But there's something I have to do first." He took her hand and pulled her to stand up. He cupped her face in his hands and brushed his lips against hers. He ran his thumbs along her jaw line, and let his hands slide down to her shoulders and along her arms until he reached her hands, twining his fingers with hers.

"Oh, Mulder," she whispered against his mouth, "you don't know how much I've missed this." She pressed her mouth against his again, encouraging him to deepen the kiss. It wasn't until they lost balance and staggered against the counter that they broke the joining of their mouths. Mulder's hip jarred against the edge of the sink and he flinched.

"Ow," he said, smiling down at her. "Love hurts."

"Smartass," Scully teased. "Hey, I asked you what you did today, why don't you ask me what I did?"

"Well, I thought I knew. Catching the bad guys? Keeping me safe?"

"Well, besides that," she smiled mysteriously. It was so unlike Scully not to get directly to the point that it took him a minute to realize she was teasing him.

"Okay, I'll play along. What did you do with your day, Scully?" he asked.

"Well, I had a doctor's appointment this afternoon," Scully told him.

"Are you okay?" As usual, Mulder couldn't help the feeling of panic when he heard about Scully and visits to doctors.

"Mulder, I'm fine." They both grimaced at her choice of words. "Really. The doctor said I could resume all normal activities, as long as I don't try to lift anything too heavy or over exert myself." She brushed her hand up and down his arm as she spoke, a little gleam of mischief in her eyes.

Her touch sparked a reaction in nerve endings all up and down Mulder's body. He made an effort to marshal his brain to answer her in the way he thought she expected. "How 'bout if I do the heavy lifting, Scully?" He gave her a seductive look and raised his eyebrows. He locked his arms around her waist and pulled her tight against his chest, lifting her slightly off the floor for emphasis. He let her slide down his body until her feet touched the ground again. Then he raised his hands to her face and leaned in to kiss her once more. She opened her lips to him and pressed close, her hands wrapping around his middle in a fierce hug.

His lips left hers to kiss all along her jaw line and behind her ear, a place he knew was particularly tender on her. Her reaction was gratifying. She murmured against his ear, "Do you have clean sheets on the bed, Mulder, or should I go hide in the bathroom and give you a chance to check?"

He grinned at her reference to the first time she stayed here with him. "Why don't we go check together?" He twined his fingers with hers and led her into his bedroom.

They stood next to the bed for several long moments, continuing the kisses they started in the kitchen. Mulder eventually broke away to turn down the bed. It was made much more neatly than he'd ever do it, with hospital corners and all.

"I don't think it's been touched since I made it up," Scully whispered at his side. He turned to look at her. "I kept the old sheets on it for a long time," she confessed. "I would come over to feed the fish, and sometimes I took a nap on your bed." Her voice fell even lower. "It made me feel closer to you. When we decided to sublet your apartment, I cleaned everything and packed up what I could to keep at my place."

Mulder turned and pulled Scully close to him again. His lips found hers and he kissed her softly, tenderly, as he felt her sob against him.

"I never cried, the whole time you were gone," she sobbed. "Now I can't seem to stop. I'm sorry."

He kissed the tears tracking down her cheeks and tilted her head back to look into her eyes. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Scully. You kept the faith, you kept me alive."

She was shaking in his arms, a deep trembling that had nothing to do with her tears. Was she cold? Was she scared? He guided her to the bed and made her lie down, pulling the covers over her. He climbed onto the bed next to her, intent only on giving her comfort, nothing more. He hugged her close against his body and rubbed her arm, laying his head just behind her so he could whisper in her ear. It felt comforting and familiar to him. He did the same thing in Oregon, and again on the night he returned to her. It seemed to calm her. "It's okay, Scully," he told her, his breath stirring her hair. "Just relax, get warm. "I'm not goin' anywhere, and neither are you."

Gradually her trembling stopped and her breathing became slow and regular. He kissed her cheek softly. "Are you feeling better?"

She nodded against him and he could feel the tickle of her hair against his cheek. "I'm okay now. I'm sorry. I don't know why I suddenly reacted that way."

"You've been holding things in a long time, haven't you?" he asked. She nodded again. "You had to be strong, to show Skinner you could handle it, to prove yourself to your new partner, is that it?"

She started to speak again, but the words came out as a sob.

"Shhh," he soothed her, stroking her arm. "Just relax, don't try to talk. Just be here with me. We can talk about this later. I think you need some rest now." He kissed her cheek again. "Close your eyes and try to get some sleep. I'll be right here." He pulled her against him in a hug, then relaxed his grip a little, continuing to trail his hand up and down her arm in a soothing motion.

He could tell when she fell asleep finally, from one breath to the next. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep as well. Between the little sleep he got the night before and his broken rest that afternoon, he felt pretty exhausted too.

He wasn't sure how much later it was when he woke to feel her stirring next to him. She turned toward him.

"I'm sorry," she said before he could say anything.

"Scully, I said it before, and I'll say it now. You have nothing to be sorry for."

He kissed her forehead. "You feeling better?"

"Yes, thanks. I think that's the longest I've slept since I don't know when. Since the baby was born, anyway."

"Really? This can't have been more than a couple of hours, Scully." He squinted at his watch. "It's a little past one. What time did you come over?"

"A little after seven, I think." Her voice still sounded drowsy. "David gets me up about every three hours, like clockwork. He likes regular meals."

"So how long is that going to go on?"

"It varies. The doctor says he could start sleeping through the night any time, or maybe he never will. Some babies are more restless than others." She kissed his chin. "Like father, like son, I guess."

"Humph." Mulder looked down his nose at her. "I'll have to have a talk with him about that. He can't be waking you up all hours of the night. That's my job."

"Depends on what you're waking me up for," she said. "If it's alien chasing, forget it."

"I can think of other, better reasons for waking you up in the night." He loomed over her and brushed her hair away from her face, angling his lips over hers and pressing his body against her in such a way as to leave no doubt of his meaning.

She turned toward him and ran her hands over his shoulders. "You're still dressed."

"So are you," he observed. "You got to see me naked yesterday. Don't you think it's time you returned the favor?" ** Scully seemed a little hesitant. He had to remind himself that while his mind believed that only a few days have passed since he was last with Scully, for her it had been almost a year. She had been a little shy around him in the past few days, and only now did he realize why. She turned her back to him and pulled her clothes off, sliding back under the covers quickly.

He had done the same while her back was turned, and now he pulled the covers back and turned her so that they were face to face once more.

"God, you're beautiful," he said softly, surveying her from head to toe. She had changed--even before being granted this privileged view, he could see it in her face and the way her body moved. He was entranced by the fullness of her breasts, her darkened and enlarged aureoles. Her hips seemed to flare a little more, her torso was not so lean--she just seemed softer, somehow. He could see the new scar low on her abdomen from the C-section, a pink crescent below her belly button.

He reached a tentative hand out to touch her and she put her hand over his, guiding his fingers to the scar.

"Your latest badge of courage," he murmured tenderly. He traced its length with his index finger, then drew his hand up her body to caress her breasts. She gazed at him hungrily, her eyes wide and dark. She closed them slowly as he leaned in to kiss her again. He took his time over this, allowing his tongue to explore fully, to reacquaint himself with her mouth, and the contours of her face.

She reached for him in return and allowed her hand to drift down over his muscled chest and his flat stomach, lower still to run her fingers along his erection. He gasped against her mouth. He wanted her so badly, but he didn't want to rush this. It had been too long for both of them.

He tried to remember that physiologically at least, it has been the same amount of time for him as for Scully. His brain didn't know the difference, however, and after a few moments it didn't matter either way. Here was something else he hadn't forgotten--how wonderful it felt to be with Scully. Two days or twelve months, it made no difference. For the first time, he felt well and truly home again. He kissed every inch of her flesh, whispering his love against her skin as he touched and teased his way the length of her body.

He was pleased to note that Scully obviously felt the same way. She was as eager as he was. She showed it in her reactions to his touch, in the way she touched him. Then there was no longer any conscious thought, or need for it. There was only sensation and emotion as they kissed and clung to each other, their bodies joined in mutual joy and completion.

"Mulder, why is it so hard for us to talk to each other?" Scully's voice drifted up to him from where she lay against his chest.

He thought for a moment. "Well, before, we were trying to ignore the inevitable, and now that the inevitable has happened, we have better things to do. Sound about right to you?"

"Mulder. Be serious for a moment."

"You think I'm not?" He tried to see her face without moving them from their comfortable position. She accommodated by tilting her head up to look at him. "Sometimes I think we do our best communicating without words."

"Much as you'd like to believe it, Mulder, sex isn't going to solve our problems or answer our questions."

"It won't?" He turned an innocent face to her, and gave her a deep, thorough kiss. "But I love this," he said. "I love *you.*" He even loved saying the words, which surprised him somewhat. After so many years of not being able to say it, each time he did, he felt his heart expand a little more.

"My express purpose for coming over here was so we could talk," she said in an admonitory tone, which was spoiled when he made her giggle.

"I don't think anyone would begrudge us this," he countered. "Certainly not your mom. You can't deny she's had her eye on me for years. Why would she keep inviting me to family gatherings all this time if she didn't expect this to happen?"

"I'll concede that point. But we still have to talk."

Mulder pulled the pillows up against the headboard and shifted them both to a sitting position. "Okay, so talk. I'm listening. What has Skinner got going on in his shiny head? I know he's planning something. Let me in on it."

Scully sighed. "Skinner wants us to consider going to a safe house."

This was not so big a surprise. Standard FBI thinking, that. Even if Skinner believed, he still relied on the old methods. "Just you and David, or all three of us?"

"Would you want to go with us?" Scully asked.

"Do you think I wouldn't?" He was a little surprised she would question it.

"Mulder," she said, not looking at him. "I never asked if you wanted a child. We certainly didn't anticipate it, when we got--involved. It just wasn't a possibility. It's been sprung on you all of a sudden, an accomplished fact. I don't want you to feel obligated--"

He was incredulous at this. "Scully, maybe I never asked for this, but that doesn't mean I haven't wanted it. Maybe I never said anything because I knew the only woman I would consider as the mother of my children couldn't have any. What's the point of expressing a want that you know can't be fulfilled?"

She couldn't seem to speak. She looked at him, her eyes filled to overflowing. He kept talking, to give her time to compose herself. "I'm sorry if you ever doubted that, Scully. I'm sorry I didn't make it clear sooner. I love you, I love our child. I want to be a part of your lives, if you'll let me." It was still hard for him to comprehend that she couldn't know that. He thought that maybe she hadn't wanted him to be a part of her life. He supposed she was right--they *did* need to talk more. Non-verbal communication notwithstanding, sometimes the words had to be said.

He didn't need her words to see how she felt about what he said. She smiled her special smile at him, and twined her fingers around his. "I love you," she said softly.

He kissed her again, cupping her face with one hand as he clutched at her fingers with the other. Finally he pulled gently away. "Now. About this safe house. Just you and the baby, or all of us?"

"All of us, I think. He started talking about it as soon as the abductees started returning."

"What makes him think we can be safe--any of us--if They decide to start the invasion, or if They want to take me again?" He held Scully a little closer to his side. "I finally understand, Scully. I understand the terror the abductees must feel all the time--that they'll be taken again, that who knows what could happen to them at any time. I've tried to understand in the past--what happened to Duane Barry, to you--but there's no understanding like experience."

"You remember more about it now, don't you?" she asked softly, holding one hand over his heart, and the other grasping his free hand.

"I don't think I want to remember, Scully. I'm not sure They want me to remember fully. This is what I think: They are blocking the purpose of my abduction somehow. The only memories They are allowing to filter through are the ones I don't want to think about, and that I don't really want to tell you about."

"Was it bad, Mulder?" She asked gently.

He said carefully, "You remember what Theresa Hoese said about her husband's experiences compared to hers?"

Scully nodded, biting her bottom lip a little.

"I think the same applies to me. I think They really did a number on me, Scully."

Scully said nothing but laid her head against his chest. He held her close, saying nothing more, knowing that what he said was painful to her, wishing he could take it back. He felt the trickle of her tears on his bare skin. "Hey, Scully, it's okay. I'm back, and seemingly none the worse for wear. I guess Their surgical techniques have improved over the years, huh?" He put his fingers under her chin and raised her head to look at him.

"Is that why can't I find any physical evidence of it, Mulder? I'm not doubting you, not at all, but I don't understand. I saw the pictures of Theresa's husband. I saw the scars, I saw his medical records. You have no new scars that I can see. Until we do an MRI, I can't know about internal changes."

"I truly believe, Scully, that even then you won't find anything. But I'm willing to be tested all the same. I don't want you to be afraid of me, or to think some harm might come to you or David through me, or because of what was done to me."

"I could never be afraid of you," she assured him. "But I was told things, when you were gone, about your medical condition--"

"What things?" Something in her voice scared him.

"They showed me your charts. They said--" she took a breath that sounded suspiciously like a sob-- "they said you were dying. That the brain surgery you had caused a decline."

"Not to my knowledge, Scully. Before I was taken, I was as healthy as you would expect a forty-year-old man who'd been reamed by tobacco beetles, chewed on by zombies, and bitten by snakes could be. Not the specimen I was at twenty, certainly, but I think *you* can attest to the fact that I'm in pretty good shape." He grinned and raised his eyebrows at her.

"I wanted to believe those charts were lies, Mulder, I did," she said, her eyes still wet with unshed tears. "I didn't know what to think, who to believe." She paused, considering her next words, then went on. "I have something of yours I took from the desk in your apartment a while ago," she told him. You made a tape at Arecibo where you said that you only trusted me, and I had been taken away from you. I only trusted you, Mulder, and you had been taken away from me."

"They *were* lies, Scully. I don't know to what purpose, but you would know if anything was wrong with me. You're my doctor." He put both arms around her, hugged her close. "And I'm back, and I'm whole." He wiped the tears away from her cheeks and kissed her eyes. "I would never withhold something like that from you, Scully. You of all people should know that."

"I-I guess I thought--especially after..." her voice trailed away.

"After what? Did you think that after we'd become lovers I'd lie to you?"

"No, Mulder, but if it was true, and you told me, maybe it would have changed things."

"We would have found a way to fight it together. I've always needed your help, Scully, and if I were in a fight for my life, there's no one I would want beside me more than you." He kissed her again, a long gentle caress that sealed his words to her.

After a time, he returned to his questioning. "What about your new partner? Couldn't you trust him?" He was ready to think the worst of Doggett.

"He's the one who showed me the charts. He tried to make me believe that you confided in others at the Bureau, but not in me. We didn't get off to a good start."

"So you didn't trust Doggett. Why is he involved in this now? I suppose, if Doggett knows I'm back, Kersh probably knows, too?" He had to grit his teeth to say either name.

"I didn't trust him at first, Mulder. I still don't trust him the way I do you. But I respect him, and he respects me. He's come a long way since our first meeting. So no, I don't think John Doggett will tell Kersh. He's his own man. Don't you know him? Did you ever work with him?"

"No, never did. He wasn't in Behavioral much, and I never worked on any of his cases. I'm sure I've met him in passing at a meeting or some function or other." He reviewed his memory and could call up a face, but not much else.

Scully nodded to herself at his answer, as if confirming something she'd suspected.

"So you're okay with him being your partner now?" Mulder pressed for more information.

"He saved me a time or two, when I got in a little too deep, trying to be you." She smiled. "I could never be you, Mulder, no matter how hard I tried."

"I'm guessing these won't be stories that you'll want to tell David one day?"

"Maybe when he's thirty or forty."

"You wanna whisper one to me now?" He spoke in his most seductive tone. He felt rested, Scully seemed rested, so maybe they could...

"They're not exactly bedtime stories, Mulder." She turned toward him with half-closed eyes. He knew and loved that look. "Besides, I can think of something I'd rather do."

He grinned at her. "Agent Scully, are you coming on to me?"

"Why, yes, I believe I am, Agent Mulder," she replied, and pulled his head down to kiss him.

Later, with Scully asleep in his arms, he thought about the safe house idea. It had some appeal, but he wasn't sure that hiding would be any safer than living out in the open, doing what they could to find out what they could. To forestall the invasion, if possible, and if not, to try and warn people of it. It will be a thankless task--the past several years have already taught him that. But he still had to try, regardless of the outcome.

He looked down at Scully, as peaceful as he'd ever seen her. It made him feel at peace, too. Whatever was done to him, whatever the future held for them all, he was home now. Home was not a place, he realized. Home was wherever Scully was, and now where his son was, too. He had known that for some time, and maybe now Scully knew it too. He would gladly spend the rest of his life telling her and showing her just that.


Title: Falling Through Time
Author: ML
Email: msnsc21@aol.com
Feedback: Yes, please to above email
Distribution: Anywhere you like, as long as you let me know
Spoilers: Requiem, minor others
Rating: PG
Classification: A, MSR
Summary: Don't be put off by the title. Try it, I think you'll like it.

Author's notes: This vignette is part of the "Another Gray Morning" series. It takes place somewhere during the events described in "Homecoming." You could read it as a stand-alone, but heck, why not go for broke and read the whole series while you're at it; you won't be sorry! . They can be found at Xemplary, Gossamer and at http://angelfire.com/ak3/kimpa/mlfic.html

I love the feel of you next to me, Mulder. The rise and fall of your chest under my cheek. I know you're not asleep. You may think I am, I can tell by the slow caresses you give me, the gentle kiss on the top of my head. But I can't sleep. I've missed you for so long, I don't want to squander this precious time. I never thought our time was unlimited before, but I also never thought you'd be taken from me in the way that you were, so very soon.

In my darkest moments, I thought perhaps that was why it happened--that our coming together as we did somehow sent the cosmos out of balance, and the only way to restore it was to take you away from me. That's certainly a theory worthy of you, isn't it? But I could not, would not, see God's hand, or any divine intervention in your abduction, truly. I wasn't always sure it was alien hands, either. Perhaps aliens in concert with humans. I still don't know what to think for sure.

I thought I was dreaming when I first felt your arms around me, the night you came back to me. After dreaming of you for so long, I couldn't let myself believe. Until I heard your voice, felt the whisper of your words in my ear, that unmistakable tone.

Neither of us wanted to sleep that night, which seems like forever ago, though it's only been a matter of days. I was unguarded that night, emotionally. Having you back did that to me. I said things that I'd kept secret in my heart for a long time.

The next morning, in the cold light of day, I wondered if I'd been fair to say such things. I felt I'd made assumptions I'd no right to make. My old reticence had returned. I was unsure again of you, of what you wanted. Fatherhood had been presented to you as a fait accompli. Above all, I didn't want you to feel burdened or obligated by it.

If I'd been thinking more clearly, maybe I would have remembered the look on your face when you held our son for the first time. Or the words you said to me, unprompted by any such declaration on my part.

But my old habits of diffidence and insecurity are hard to break. Even though we'd finally broken the last of the physical barriers between us, the mental ones are harder to overcome.

Mulder, I am so glad you've come back to me. The words are inadequate to express what I feel. I know I haven't been able to say them to you the way I'd like to, but I will try to convey them in other ways, as best I can. Neither of us have ever been very good at words. Oh, we're very articulate. As long as it's about flukemen, and unexplained lights in the sky, and other phenomena of the natural (and unnatural) world. But talk to each other about ourselves? Express our feelings? Much easier to talk about cattle mutilations and little gray men.

I should have said so much more that first night. I should have said it earlier this evening. As usual, we've been at cross-purposes, each of us trying to second-guess the other, interpreting silences and reading between the lines when it would be so much better to come right out and ask what needs asking. We are still working on that.

So much has happened since you've been gone, and I know part of you is worried about what you've missed. Not just in my life, but on the X-Files. I will tell you what I can, I will bring home casefiles and whatever else you want. But you have to ask me what you want to know, too. I see the questions in your eyes, but you haven't yet found a way to ask what you really want to know.

Our trip to see the Gunmen didn't help at all, I know. You were presented with too much information at once, and I could tell that it really bothered you that so much had happened while you were gone.

I would not have chosen for you to find out about Agent Doggett in the way that you did. I wanted to be the one to tell you, to smooth the way somehow, and to let you know in my own way and time. Not because I had anything to hide, but because I knew what your reaction would be when you found out I'd been partnered with someone else. In this, you did not disappoint. I could see the pout forming almost before the words were said. You didn't say anything, but I could tell you felt betrayed.

Last night you were distant from me. I didn't know if you were angry or just hurt. I didn't know what to say to you, how to talk to you. You'd gone silent at the Gunmen's lair, and you stayed that way when we got back home. I tried to give you some space and time to sort through things, and hoped that you would start to verbalize some of those unspoken questions.

Questions like, what was Agent Doggett to me? How could I allow myself to be partnered with someone else? What did he do with the X-Files? I expected this; the one other time someone else was assigned to our work, it was a fiasco. I could have reassured you that though Doggett is a skeptic and not likely to ever believe in most of the stuff we accept as our daily lot, he did not dismiss the work. The methods sometimes, yes, but not the work.

Instead, you pretended to fall asleep on the couch, and I went to bed alone.

Then, when you told me this morning that you wanted to go to your place, I was afraid you were withdrawing entirely from me. That you were too overwhelmed with what had happened while you were gone, with what you didn't yet know, and what you couldn't remember.

I had to let you go. There was nothing I could say to make you stay if you didn't want to. I had hoped that things could be different for us, that what we had together could overcome the obstacles before us. And still I couldn't say the words that might have made you stay. I was too afraid that they would not work.

I was equally afraid that if I didn't lose you to your own fears, that something would happen to you while you were out of my sight.

After you left, I called Skinner. He was apoplectic, as you might imagine, but he was also prepared. Your place has been surveiled from the night you went missing. If you like, you can view hours of shots of me entering and leaving your apartment, Skinner or Doggett entering or leaving your apartment, and your sub-let tenant, Calvin Packard, entering and leaving your apartment. But never anyone else. Until today, of course. Today we finally got pictures of you entering your apartment. I wanted them to shut it off, give you some privacy, but I was afraid, and when Skinner forbade it, I didn't protest. Fortunately, as it turns out, because now we have Krycek.

I had to leave for an appointment, and so I missed the excitement of hours of no one entering or leaving your apartment. At least you stayed put. You didn't try to ditch me, go off who knows where to find your answers. You seemed instead to need to look for them within for a change.

And while you looked for your answers, I went to the doctor.

This was an appointment I wanted your company for, Mulder. I was pretty sure the doctor was going to give me news that you would have an interest in, but when you left me, I was no longer so sure of that. As I expected, the doctor gave me a clean bill of health, and permission to do pretty much anything I wanted with my body, short of perhaps hang-gliding. I thought it was something you'd want to know. I wanted you to want to know.

Instead of going back to the Gunmen's right away, I went back to my place, where Mom was with David. She's so thrilled to have him named at last, Mulder, though I think she was secretly holding out for William. She's already calling him Davy, though. I think we will have to put a stop to that.

Mom knew right away that something was wrong, just from the fact that you weren't with me. She asked me why, and I broke down.

This is the thing I forget about Mom. She knows how to cut to the heart of the matter. She is the one who told me I should go to you, not sit at home and worry and wait and stew over what was unsaid. She couldn't give me the courage to say the things I need to say, but she could make me go to the place where I had to say them. I know you think I'm brave, but my mom is braver. She's the one who gave me the courage to continue while you were gone.

I feel your hand against my belly, almost flat again. At least as flat as it's likely to become, now. You seem to have accepted this new part of me--of us--almost without question. You seemed to know by instinct that the baby is yours too, though you knew long before I did that I was supposedly incapable of conceiving a child. You saw the evidence of what They did to me. You tried to shield me from the knowledge with your usual knight-errantry. I can appreciate the reasoning behind it, at this distance and in these changed circumstances. I could not appreciate or understand it at the time. And yet, when presented with a child, your child, carried and delivered while you were away, you still found the faith to believe.

This is what I tried, and failed to achieve, in your absence. I could not make that leap of faith you make so often, so effortlessly. I couldn't even see how to get to the place where you started.

I was so afraid, Mulder. I didn't even want to go to the doctor for fear of what would be found. I wanted to believe that the baby was yours, ours alone, but I lacked the kind of faith you've always had. I feared--so many things, so much. That Smoking Man had somehow done something to cause this. That something in the chip in my neck activated some of the long-dormant alien "junk DNA" in my system. I had nightmares. Not just of your abduction and torture, but of giving birth to some creature I could not bear to acknowledge and raise. Or, the flip side, that the baby was fine, but would be taken from me. Worst of all was having no one to share these fears with. I couldn't tell my mother. She was only somewhat pleased as it is. How could she be entirely pleased that her single daughter was suddenly pregnant, apparently without even a boyfriend, and the only man she'd shown any interest in for years gone missing? How much worse would it be, if I had to explain to her that the baby was not entirely human? Sometimes I wish I'd shared more with her over the years. Mom has taken as many blows as I have, with even less warning than I've had, in some cases. You can't imagine how hard it was to break the news to her. And yet, when I really needed her to understand, she put aside her misgivings and did what needed to be done. She offered to go to Lamaze classes with me. She took me shopping for a layette. She nagged me to make sure I was eating properly. In short, all the things one would expect a mother to do under normal circumstances. And never once did she, in my hearing, breathe a word of blame on me, or you. Not to mention she shielded me from Bill's wrath, once he knew.

It was because of my mom that I finally went in for the tests. I couldn't possibly have told her if there was any chance that there was something...unusual about this baby. When I finally had the courage to get the analyses done, I was beyond relieved. Still not happy, but relieved.

If you had been here, we could have gone through all of that together. You never got to feel the baby move inside me, never got to feel the joy of impending fatherhood. Maybe that affects me more than it does you, but at each little milestone it drove home the truth: you were not here, and I had no way of knowing when you would return. My own joy was tempered by this truth.

I have to admit, Mulder, sometimes I was angry at you, though I know you had little choice in the matter. I didn't know who else to be angry with, though lots of people bore the brunt of it at one time or another. John Doggett took quite a lot of it, and some of it was deserved. I don't think you would ever have stooped to the low tricks he played on me when he first started to investigate your disappearance. He seemed to think I knew more about it than I was saying. Truth to tell, I was not as open as I could have been. I had too much to protect. I told everyone who asked that you were taken against your will, by persons (or things) unknown, but I did not elaborate. I asked Skinner, who was willing to tell anyone who would listen what he saw in the Oregon forest, to soft pedal it as well. I feared for his reputation, for his job. I feared for mine, to be frank. And I needed both my job and Skinner to be able to find you.

Earlier this evening you tentatively asked some questions about John Doggett. I don't want to attribute jealousy to you, Mulder, but I wonder if that's part of your reluctance to ask questions. I tried to reassure you that Agent Doggett is not you, that neither he nor I could ever replace you. I tried to be you, to the best of my ability, and some day I will tell you about some of the attempts. I began to understand you better after you were gone than I could when you were right in front of me. But I'd rather spend the rest of my life trying to figure you out than to pay that kind of price again.

I should have added more to what I said about Doggett, and working without you, Mulder. I should have said not just that I trust you more than anyone, but that I want you back as my partner. In every way. Professionally, and personally. That no one could take your place, not by my side, not in my heart. I think I got a start on demonstrating the "personal" part tonight. I think you know how I feel about you now. But I will continue to give you proof undeniable.

So please forgive me, Mulder, for not doing as you might have done under the same circumstances--as I heard you did when I was abducted. I tried to keep my temper, and keep my own counsel. I never lied, but I did not volunteer information. I let the facts speak for themselves as much as possible. I played well with others--though it got harder and harder to do so.

People may have thought I was cold and unfeeling, as I said so little about your disappearance. I probably added more to my legendary "Ice Queen" persona. But I didn't feel the need to share my grief with the world. These were people who dismissed you when you were here. Any concern they showed now that you were gone was suspect in my eyes. So I kept to myself, and when I went home, I cried. I indulged in little pity parties whenever I was alone at home, or when I went to your place. And I never stopped looking for you. Never. On every case, whatever I did, I looked for clues. Skinner, too. He spent all of his free time, and who knows what personal resources and what favors he called in, looking for you, for any kind of lead, however improbable. He was no more successful than I was. He told me not long after you were taken about a talk he'd had with you while I was gone. That he was afraid to look any further than the few unexplained things that happened to him in his youth. That he admired your ability to do so, and that you were needed. I would bet that he didn't say it in so many words. Skinner has always been more a man of action than of words. But I was comforted by what he told me, and it made me realize that he was as committed to finding you as I was.

In the end, my commitment and Skinner's amounted to nothing. We did not find you. You came back the same way you left--in a flash of blinding light, wholly unexpected. And this time, unobserved, except for the reports of lights in the sky. We have the Gunmen's network of MUFON people to thank for that. There were plenty of false alarms before we hit paydirt, and believe me, we checked them all out.

Maybe we would never have found you. Maybe we only got you back because They were ready to release you. You haven't been able to answer any of my questions yet. I cannot accept that it was random. To believe that is to believe that you are under daily threat that They will take you back again, just as They have with many, many other abductees.

Which brings me back to the most important questions I haven't yet found the courage to ask: why did They take you in the first place? What did They do to you? Are They coming back for you again?

I think you want the answers to those questions, too.

I want us to find them together.

You once said that the truth would save me--that it would save both of us. I still believe that, Mulder. You taught me that.

You remembered something today, I know you did. You didn't want to share it with me, maybe because of my own experiences. But I think we have to face this together if we are to face it at all. I didn't want you to go to Oregon alone, and I don't want you to face this alone. Together we will find the truth, Mulder. Always together.

Tomorrow we will start. This night is our time out of time. I am beginning to give in to sleep in spite of myself, and I feel you beginning to relax your hold on me as your breathing softens and you fall asleep as well. I turn to you and see your familiar, much loved face. The long lashes against your cheeks, the curve of your lower lip, and of course your nose, proud and prominent in between. I cannot resist placing a soft kiss on it, and I see you smile slightly as you feel it. I could see you in our son every time I looked at him while you were gone. Now I see him in you, and I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude that I have you back.

I want to make love with you again before morning, Mulder, and then I will do my best to put into words what I've thought and felt, and tried to show you tonight. I almost wish you could still read my thoughts and know that they are all of you.

Sweet dreams, Mulder.


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