Title: Changes
Author: JadedDana
Rating: PG
Category: S, A
Spoilers: Christmas Carol/Emily
Keywords: M/S friendship, MulderAngst
Archive: ask and ye shall receive.
Disclaimer: They aren't mine. If you haven't figured that out yet, you REALLY haven't been paying attention. Well, Lyddi is mine, so don't borrow her without permission, ok? But the rest are Carter's.

Summary: When Scully makes some changes in her life after CC/E, Mulder isn't sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.

X-Files Office
August 11, 1998

I reach over and pick up the phone with a quick 'hello', not even bothering to take my eyes off the casefile I am reading. Whoever decided to call the X-Files office at lunch couldn't possibly be as interesting as spontaneous human combustion.

"Is Agent Dana Scully there?" asks an unfamiliar voice. I hand the phone to Scully, who looks at me as if to ask, 'who is it?' I just go back to the file, only half listening to Scully's end of the conversation. She makes a lot of um-hums and yes's, but I can't really tell what it is about. Not that I mean to eavesdrop or anything; it's just hard not to listen when her voice regains that spark which I haven't heard in it for a long time. She finally hangs up with the cryptic statement, "Thank you so much. I'd really prefer to be the one to tell her. I'll stop by this afternoon. Thank you so very much."

I can feel her looking at me, even though I keep my eyes immersed in the file which I stopped reading five minutes ago. "Mulder, lets go get some lunch." This surprises me- we almost never go out to lunch. I am even more surprised, however, when I look up at her. The spark in her voice that I noticed earlier is clearly visible in her eyes. It hasn't been there for a long time, not since before Christmas, before the cancer, even before Russia. I hadn't realized how very much I miss it until now. I don't know what caused it, but I'll do anything to keep it there. "Sure Scully. You buying?"

She just grins- yes, grins- at me as she grabs her coat and purse. "Of course, so long as you get the next one." I pick up my jacket, and we leave.

Leoni's Italian Eatery
2:26 p.m.

After we had both given our orders, I sit back and looks at her for a moment. She still had that spark in her eyes; I am dying of curiosity as to what has caused it. "So, what's the occasion?" I ask. I know she'll know what I mean.

Her eyes grow cloudy for just a moment, and I feel a bit apprehensive. "Mulder, there's something I need to tell you." I feel the floor disappear from underneath my chair. Despite the smile in her eyes, those eight words can only bode evil, or at least pain. itsthecanceritsbackiknowitisohnoshesleaving..

"Mulder, its okay. I'm okay." thank God she can read me so well. I am reassured by her words, even though I am quite aware of her 'I'm fine' problem. She takes a deep breath, and I can tell she's searching for a place to begin. "Mulder... I'm adopting a little girl."

Of all the things I am prepared to hear, this is the one I expect least. I am literally speechless. After Emily, I was certain that she wouldn't pursue the adoption route she had begun with her daughter- it would have been too painful. Once again I underestimated Scully. I do that all the time, and time and again I am proven wrong. I'm only thankful that I'm on her side.

"Her name is Lydia Adrianne O'Conner. She turns six next month. Mulder? You okay?" I am still just looking at her. I think she is afraid I'm not taking this very well. Well, how could I take it? I'm overjoyed, because I know it will make her happy, but at the same time I can't help but see the problems. What if something happened to her? I don't think Scully could take losing another daughter. And we are out of town so much- what would happen to the girl? she's too young to stay home alone.

But I don't mention any of these things- I know Scully has thought of them all, and found solutions. So I say the only thing I can in the circumstances. "That's wonderful, Dana."

I can see that she is a little surprised by my use of her given name, but she smiles at it; I've only done it a few times before. But this isn't really an appropriate time to use the impersonal nickname, almost a title, I've given her while working with her all these years. I mean, she's just become a mother. She opens her purse and pulls out a school photograph. "That's last years school photo. She gave it to me last march."

I take the picture and look at it. It's a fairly typical photo; slightly forced smile, pale grey background. But the girl is beautiful. Chestnut hair is pulled into a pigtail, and it flows into thick curls. Her grey eyes, brought out by the background, are open wide with childish innocence and wonder, with a touch of mischief. I think she should remind me of Sam, but there is something different about this girl which doesn't stir up ghosts. Or maybe I have just lain the ghosts to rest. "She's beautiful."

Scully smiles at that. I think I've seen her smile more in the past hour than in the past year. Her smile fades a moment later, though. "Her parents were killed in a car crash about the same time that Em- around Christmastime." I haven't heard her speak Emily's name since the funeral. It hurts me almost as much as it hurts her to think about that time.

She continues, "In February, I started going to the Children's Home in Georgetown, and that's where I met her. She was having a hard time getting adopted because most people want to adopt babies. Also, she is terribly smart, and she has a relatively short attention span. Not quite ADD, but she is rather active and inquisitive." Scully smiles at that. I smile at her.

"That's wonderful. I'd love to meet her." I am afraid I'm already falling in love with this little girl, just because of what she does to Scully. The same thing happened with Emily. Our meals arrived then, and we stop talking for a moment and eat.

"You can meet her, you know. I'm going to see her this afternoon, to tell her about the adoption. I kindof hoped you'd want to come." She grins a bit shyly at me. Scully, shy? This is turning out to be a really surprising day. And she is grinning this time, not smiling. I haven't seen Scully grin since before the files were shut down.

"Can I? I'll call Skinner right now and get us both the rest of the day off, if you'd like." I'm certain Skinner will agree, although it may take a little convincing. And it will definitely add to the rumors about Spooky and the Mrs., but right now I don't care. A thought occurs to me. "Scully, does your mom know?"

Scully looks a bit sad for a moment. "I haven't told her yet- I know that Em- that Christmas was very hard on her, and I didn't want to tell her until I was sure. I'll call her now. You call Skinner." She pulls out her cell phone and presses speed dial 3. I get mine out and dial speed 5. Amazing what numbers you will find on our phones.

Skinner is willing to give us the rest of the day off when I mention it's important to 'Dana'. I make sure I to say it too low for her to hear, but I know that will do the trick. Scully doesn't know about Skinner's deal with the devil, and we both intend to keep it that way, but I know that Skinner will understand when we explain, which I promise to do tomorrow, and I know he'll cover for us if the need arises.

Scully and I hang up at the same time, and I look at her and grin. "We are now officially allowed to play hooky for the rest of the day, as long as we are in his office tomorrow at nine o'clock sharp to explain. What'd your mom say?"

Scully gives me a grin of her own. "She's thrilled. She's a bit mad that I didn't tell her earlier, but she understands. Mostly, she's already planning her birthday party to welcome her into the Scully clan. Lyddi is going to be spoiled rotten, I can already tell. And mom even offered to watch her when we're out of town on a case. Which I expect to be doing slightly less of." I'm a bit puzzled at this last statement, but I know she'll explain later.

I pick up my jacket and the check, and grin at her one more time, which she returns, and then say, "Well, come on, you've got to help me pick out a gift for this amazing daughter of yours." I know she savors the sound of the word 'daughter'. I can see it in her eyes.

Georgetown Children's Home
3:17 p.m.

Scully leads me up the walk to the Children's Home. It is obvious that she has been here often. It is a nice building, built of brick and surrounded by a large yard that is scattered with bikes and other kids' toys. There is a swing set in the back, and there are about ten kids playing some sort of tag-like game. We reach the door, and I hold it open for her out of habit. She smiles at me, and I once again realize exactly how happy this is making her. I lost count of the number of smiles she's shown today around fifteen. More than in the past six months at least.

I too am beginning to be caught up in her joy- I can't help but smile back, and I really feel like it's genuine. Not even that fake smile that I try to mean- I really mean this one. I can't help but feel a glimmer of hope, not just about this, but about everything. Maybe we will win. Maybe things will work out. Maybe the good guys will win, just like in the movies.

She says a quick hello to the receptionist, who I can tell she knows pretty well. Then she heads down a hallway, glancing behind to make sure I'm following. I am. No way am I missing Scully's little girl who managed to make my partner this happy. She leads me up a flight of stairs, then stops at a door a short distance down the hall. "You ready?" she asks me. Her eyes are alight again, and I wish I had a camera for the umpteenth time today. I'm afraid this new, happy Scully will vanish and I will only have my somewhat unreliable memory to capture it.

I don't think I'll ever really be ready, but I nod anyway and shift my grip on the shopping bag containing my gift for Lyddi. Scully bought her one of those beanie baby things the whole world went crazy over a while back. I can't understand why. I should open an X-File on it. Scully grins at me one last time, then knocks on the door before opening it.

The room is so similar to the one where Emily stayed that I look at Scully to see if I'm the only one experiencing rather painful deja vu. Her eyes are on a little girl sitting on a bed near the far end of the room. She calls out "Lyddi," and the girl looks up. She is even more like Samantha in person, with her long dark hair and 'princess' air, and even from this far away I can see her face light up when she sees Scully.

"Dana!" she yells as she drops whatever she was doing and runs up to Scully, throwing her arms around Scully in a gigantic hug. I feel something strange happen in the region of my chest generally considered my heart, but I can't really tell if it thumps, skips, or simply constricts. The girl lets go and looks at me. I feel swallowed up by her huge grey eyes. "Who's that?"

Scully looks at me and there's a look in her eyes I've only seen a very few times. Most notably when I watched Emily color a potato. She has a mother's eyes. I jump in before she has a chance to answer. "I'm Fox. I'm a friend of Dana's."

The little girl seems to size me up, almost. She grins at me, that heartbreaking innocent smile that usually fades as adolescence begins. "I'm Lyddi. Pleased to meet you. I bet you're that Mulder guy Dana's always talking about, aren't you?" Scully looks a bit embarrassed by that last, as well as a bit surprised that I identified myself as Fox. I am a bit surprised myself that Lyddi didn't even mention the unusual name. She seems outgoing enough to mention it if it bothers her.

"Oh, so she talks about me? What does she say?" I ask with a grin. I'm genuinely curious as to what my partner says about me to others. I normally don't care what others say about me- if I did, I'm sure I'd hear more Spooky stories than I do now. And that's a lot. Lyddi opens her mouth to answer, but Scully jumps in.

"Mulder, that's classified. Don't you know that all girl talk is top secret? Lyddi, I brought you two things. What do you want first, option A or B?" Scully looks at Lyddi, and I can tell she isn't quite sure how to tell Lyddi about the adoption. Frankly, I haven't a clue what I would do in her position. Not that it's likely to ever occur.

Lyddi seems to consider the question carefully. "I bet that option B is... a beanie baby!" She says it with a familiarity, and I realize this is a regular ritual. Scully grins again and holds up her shopping bag, which Lyddi grabs and opens. "I was right! Thank you Dana!" She pulls out a penguin, of all creatures, and looks at the little tag. Then she looks up at me. "Would you like to see my collection, Fox?"

I nod, and she takes my hand and leads me over to her bed. My heart does that funny thing again. I wonder if it will be a frequent occurrence. On the small table beside the bed are beanie babies. Lots of them- there must be like fifty or sixty. I decide I should definitely open a file on beanie babies. Lyddi places her newest addition on the top. I hesitantly pull out my shopping bag.

"I got you something, too." I say it shyly- this is probably the most defining moment of my relationship with Lyddi. At least, it was always that way with me when I was her age.

She takes the bag, murmuring a 'thank you' as she opens it. She pulls out a thin book, and gives me that amazing smile again. "Thank you, Fox! This is cool!" I wasn't sure that the book of Indian fairy tales would be interesting to a six-year-old, but Scully assured me it was perfect, an interesting idea but still something that Lyddi would love. I guess she was right.

"I'm glad you like it." I glance at Scully, who followed us over. She gives me the shy smile that I haven't seen yet today, and I can tell she's a bit nervous about telling Lyddi. I reach out and give her hand a quick squeeze while Lyddi flips through her new book. Scully squeezes back before I drop her hand. She's never been terribly comfortable with physical contact, and I try to respect that. I understand that she needs her space.

Lyddi looks at us again, and I wonder again how she can remind me so much of Samantha and Scully at the same time. That thought surprises me. It didn't occur to me before how much like Scully she is; it's more in her attitude than her appearance or actions. Those are both more like Samantha's, almost just like a princess. I can tell that Lyddi has a great mind already- she really studied me, not just took in another person in the room. And I see that she had been working on a crossword puzzle when we came in, not a coloring book or photo like I assumed.

"Lyddi, option A is some information. You ready?" Scully swallows. I don't think I've ever seen her this nervous. Lyddi, sensing the mood, sits down on the bed and nods solemnly. I take a step back, wondering if there is some way I can disappear; this seems like a moment I shouldn't observe, the first of Scully's mother-daughter talks. I still can't quite wrap my mind around that idea. Dana Scully is a mother. I should have had time to accept it- Emily died six months ago. But that was just a fact. This is a reality.

"Lyddi, do you remember when we talked about the adoption? And I told you that I wasn't sure if it would go through?" Lyddi nods. "Well, it worked. You can come live with me."

Lyddi's eyes open wide, and she jumps up and throws her arms around Scully. "YESSS! Thank you Dana so much I love you Dana this is so amazing!" With a reaction like that, I don't know why Scully was concerned. And then it sinks in. Dana Katherine Scully is a mother. That doesn't just mean packing lunches and picking out birthday gifts. That means staying up all night when she is sick. That means dropping her off at school everyday and picking her up every afternoon. That means unwilling trips to the dentist and being home every night unless she hires a babysitter beforehand. That means that everything in Scully's life will have to be adjusted. Including the X-Files. And me. Oh boy. I hope she has REALLY thought about this first.

Lyddi lets go of my partner, her eyes full of questions. "When? Will I have to change schools? Who will I stay with when you're on cases?" The last makes me wonder, too. I look at Scully to see what she will say.

"Lyddi, one question at a time! You shouldn't have to change schools, unless you REALLY want to. As to when, we'll have to talk with Amy, but I think you should be able to come home within a week. And I'm going to try not to go out into the field as much, but when I do, you can stay with my mom, who is going to spoil you rotten I can tell, or with Ellen or Holly, two of my friends. What do you think of that?"

Scully smiles at Lyddi while somehow giving me a look that said 'we'll talk later'. I glance at the little girl again who has somehow managed to turn Scully's life, and therefore mine, upside down. She is simply adorable; I can see how Scully is willing to change everything for her. I jump as my cell rings, and I mutter an apology as I step a few feet away. I'm almost glad that however it was gives me a chance to step back; this whole thing is surreal. It can't be really happening. Liver-eating mutants, aliens, government conspiracies I can handle. But this? I'm not sure.

"Mulder," I state, just for the record.

"Hey Mulder- wuz up?" I hear Langly's voice on the other end of the phone. He seems excited about something, but that's not really that unusual. I can hear the other two Gunmen in the background, murmuring some of their techno gibberish. I wonder what new fascinating paranoid theory they have for me today.

"Well, a lot, but not a lot for an open line. I have a feeling, though, that you've got something that will change it." I reply in my best Spooky tone. I'm not really in the mood for this. I can't really absorb anything else today.

"You're right there, Spooky. It isn't really appropriate for an open line either, though. Can you come over after work? We've got some really good stuff this time." I should have known. This insane day wouldn't be complete without a visit to those three insane friends of mine. I should just accept it and admit that Fate or God or somebody is REALLY trying to mess with my head today. I hear Frohike's voice on the speakerphone. "And if Agent Scully's there, bring her too. Its kinda important." I'm really in trouble now. If they want Scully there, its not only important, its BIG. And most probably a wild goose chase.

"Hang on a second, guys, I'll ask her." I step back to Scully and Lyddi, who are now discussing a shopping trip, from what I can tell. "Scully, the Lone Gunmen want to have a club meeting. You up for it?" I glance at Lyddi, then say, "I know it's a bad time, but they seem to think it's important. I can cover for you, though, if you want me to." I hope she gets the message that I need her approval before I tell the Lone Gunmen about her new daughter.

She looks at me thoughtfully for a minute, then at the little girl beside her. "Mulder, I guess that I could come over around eight or so. I think I'll be busy until then." Message received, her eyes say. I don't know why she puts up with all this; me, the X-Files, Them, my paranoid friends, me, disappearing evidence, me, Skinner, CSM, Them, have I mentioned me yet? But really, I don't understand it, but I thank a God that I'm not sure I believe in for her. I can honestly say I know what I'd do without her-- stare at the ceiling of my coffin as I rot. Okay, I know I've had too much of either caffeine or disturbing cases for the day- I'm not usually this morbid.

I bring the phone back to my ear. "We'll drop by around eight. That soon enough?" I listen to a short discussion on their end that I can't really hear, then Byers states in his calm voice, "Sure, Mulder. See you then." I hang up.

Lyddi is now describing something she did in school today, apparently some sort of science experiment, and I feel like an intruder. I really hope that this out-of- placeness is a temporary thing, because I DO NOT like feeling like an intruder in Dana Scully's life. I have only recently come to realize that she IS my life, and I have recently begun to wonder if I am becoming hers'. She managed to shoot that theory out of the sky without even raising that eyebrow of hers once. I suddenly feel very jealous of Lyddi. I decide that I must be needed elsewhere; this does not include me- Scully should have some time with her daughter alone. "Hey Scully, I've kinda got a few errands I need to run. If you don't mind, I'll go ahead and take off, and pick you up here later."

Scully glances up from Lyddi's now- gestured explanation, and gives me that smile again, the one that melts me into a puddle at her feet. "Okay Mulder, but you don't have to leave if you're just using that as an excuse," her eyes say. Her voice only says, "Sure, Mulder. Would you pick me up around seven?"

"Of course," I reply, and look at Lyddi. "Well, it was wonderful to meet you, Lyddi. I hope I'll see you soon." I hold out my hand. She shakes it gravely.

"You better see me soon, Fox. I want you to read me some of those stories that you got me." she says it so seriously that its all I can do not to laugh. She really is an amazing, wonderful kid. A lot like her mom. I smile at her, then murmur a quick, 'bye' and leave the way I came. I smile at the receptionist on my way out.

In reality, I have no errands at all, so I have practically nothing to do for three hours. I decide to go to a flower store and pick up a bouquet for her. I go to her apartment and use my key to get in. I don't want to invade her privacy or anything, but I think it will be a nice surprise for her to see some new flowers sitting on her coffee table. I don't linger, feeling a bit guilty about being here without her knowledge, so I just put the flowers in a vase and leave a short note so she doesn't think some psycho is stalking her.

I pause to look at the photos on her mantle. One of her whole family, obviously from when she was in college, taken before her father died. One of Bill's family, with Matthew. One frame held three photos, of Dana with each of her siblings. I still think that she had the Gunmen retouch her photos so she could have a second brother Charles- I've never seen him, even when Scully was dying. She said he was overseas and couldn't be contacted, but I think the Scullys made him up. Not really- I just like to tease Scully about it. Another photo, this one smaller, of Emily. I don't know why she keeps it here; it's so painful for her. But that's Scully- painful or not, she cherishes it. I know this. On the end, almost hidden, is a photo of us, at a crime scene in some unknown town on a forgotten case. I'm obviously about to tell her yet another amazing theory, and she is preparing to shoot it down; that is the story written on our faces. It looks to be about our fourth year together, judging from our hairstyles. I will never let Scully know that I use our hairstyles as I guideline, but they are a wonderful guide for things like this. I'm very honored that she would put a photo of us up here with her family. I wonder how long it will be until Lyddi's spot up here is filled. Probably under a week.

My cell phone rings yet again, and I hope it's not the Three Stooges again. They're my friends and all, but they do tend to wear on one's nerves after a while. Especially when you've had a day like mine. "Mulder."

"Agent Mulder?" great. Its Skinner. I bet he wants an explanation. And I don't have any errands to run. Um... Somehow I can't think fast enough today.

"Yes, sir?"

"I was wondering if you would like to provide some of those answers I was promised tonight instead of tomorrow. Without Agent Scully." He pauses. I wonder what he REALLY wants. He never says what he means, and he's hard to read normally, but over the phone it's near impossible.

"Well, sir..." I'm still looking for the excuse that I have a sinking feeling isn't coming.

"Mulder, this will be off the record. I just want to know what the hell is going on. Dinner, that Chinese place you like so much? I have a feeling Scully'll be busy." Okay, where did that come from. How the hell does he know about the China Palace anyways? If I didn't already believe in government conspiracies, I would now. He must sense my hesitation. "I'll even buy. Can you be there in fifteen minutes?" Well, what else can I do? This has been one screwed up day. My barren partner invites me to meet her new daughter, three paranoid computer geeks tell me they have something BIG that I HAVE to see, and now my boss wants me have an off- the-record dinner and explain just what exactly is going on.

"Yes sir. See you then." It's not like I have a choice.

China Palace
5:57 p.m.

I walk into to the building, scanning the crowd for the familiar figure of my boss. I see Skinner in a corner booth, and I can't help but notice the perfect position he chose- good view of the entire room and the doors, even the kitchen. He didn't choose that booth on accident. I wander over, trying to look relaxed, and take a seat across from him. I wonder, not for the first time, who this man sitting across from me really is. I know he's put his life and his job on the line for us, I know he was a Marine, I even know where he lives and his ex-wife, but I have no clue who Walter Skinner is.

"So you came. You ready to tell me what's up?" I don't know how he knows what he knows. He has always had access to some kind of inside information that I don't understand, and I'm getting sick of not knowing whether he's with us or Them. His eyes, hidden behind glasses, are always full off double meanings, but the meanings always have more than one interpretation. I think he's on our side, but I can never be entirely sure.

"Yes sir, after I've had that meal you promised me, and after you tell me how you know something's up." I guess I'm in the mood to get myself in trouble. I wouldn't have said that otherwise. Skinner glares at me.

"Agent Mulder, I don't really want to waste my time, or money, on you. I already ordered for you, so it will not be a long wait. And much as I want to tell you what I know, it's impossible at this time. I will tell you; just not right now. Is that good enough?" I can't say I'm surprised. I know he truly intends to tell me someday; the thing is, people in our line of business, especially where They are concerned, tend to have a rather high fatality rate for those who know things. The longer you keep silent, the more likely that knowledge will remain secret. I'm really getting sick of this, the constant looking over my shoulder and taking my gun with me to the grocery store and always looking through closed blinds once I get home to see if They are watching me today or if its simply coffee break for the goons in the van. Paranoia is exhausting.

"That's fine, sir." I think he senses my sudden exhaustion. The hard look in his brown eyes softens a bit, and he says in a much friendlier tone, "I wish I could tell you now. Soon."

The waiter arrives with our food; somehow, he managed to order my favorite dish. This is getting Spooky. We eat, and I'm given a chance to decide what to say, and how. He's bound to find out about Lyddi, probably no later than tomorrow morning. Scully should be the one to tell her surprise, but I don't think it would be terrible if Skinner was warned beforehand. I wish I was. Of course, I'm not going to mention the Gunmen. Skinner bumped into them in the hospital once, so he knows them sortof, but I hope he doesn't know what they really do. I mean, I don't think he'd be nearly as tolerant of me if he knew that I encouraged those three to hack top secret government computers, then used the information in my cases.

When I finish eating, I go ahead and tell him about Lyddi, sortof. I don't mention the demise of her parents. I want to check on that myself. It has to be coincidence that they were killed at the same time that Scully discovered her daughter. Right. I left out the part about where I met her; Skinner doesn't really need to know that. Just explaining why this is so important to Scully took about ten minutes, and I'm sure that Skinner already knew what I was trying to say, and I know that he couldn't have done a better job explaining it than my relatively poor job- its just one of those things which cannot be explained, it must be understood. I don't think anyone, even Scully, understands it completely, but I get it enough, I think. Emily scarred her much deeper than she lets on, even I know that. I wish she had let me in then, helped her bear her silent grief, but I understand her need to be alone. I don't like it, I don't think I would do the same in her position, but I understand.

I glance at my watch; its now about twenty minutes before seven. I have to leave if I don't want to get shot again. And once was more than enough. "Sir, I need to go, if that's okay. Scully really should have been the one to tell you, and not only because she'd do a better job explaining the situation. If fact, let her explain it tomorrow and don't let her know that you know." He almost smiles at that.

"I understand, Mulder. But if you're late tomorrow..." he threatens, but I don't think he really means it. If I had the time, I would stay and try to understand this complex man, but Scully is waiting for me, and I can't let her down. At least not if I can help it. "See you."

I leave, waving at the waitress on my way out. I had better hurry, or Scully will think I ran off to the Arctic again.

Office of the Lone Gunmen
8:07 p.m.

"Hey Mulder, did you see that article in our last issue? About the government-UFO's over Kosovo?" Langly asks me after Scully and I walk in the door. I know he doesn't really care if I read it or not- he knows I did, and that there is nothing remarkable about it. He just wants to delay getting down to business for a few minutes. Byers is sitting at one of the computers, apparently looking at what appears to be a CIA dossier. I try not to look to closely at things like that. Frohike walks over to the small fridge in the area of their clubhouse, for lack of a better word, that is off limits for computer stuff. Even these three somehow manage to leave the work elsewhere for a while. "Anyone want something to drink?" I decline, as do Scully and Byers. Langly asks for a mineral water, of all things. These three aren't what they appear exactly.

We make a twisted version of small talk for a few minutes before getting down to business. It has become almost a ritual for us- the Gunmen try to tell us unbelievably outrageous theories, and Scully and I do our best to sound even more bizarre with our accounts of actual cases. This competition is old, and there is no score, but we keep playing as if we don't know how to stop. I actually don't think we can; just the 'normalcy' of it is something all of us need. Just a few minutes, and we can go on with tracking UFO's or liver-eating mutants or shadow governments or aliens or just your normal serial killer. I know it is a twisted logic, but our lives aren't exactly what you'd call normal. At least I hope not- if anyone thinks this is normal, they need more help than all of us combined. After about five minutes, the mood in the room changes and I can tell we're about to get down to business.

"Have you ever heard of Kristen Morgans?" Frohike asks us. I shake my head. "Well, she's a freelance writer in New York. Twenty-seven. Loves to do investigative reporting, especially when it involves government types. She was also missing for three months last year." He pauses for a moment to let that sink in. All of us understand the implications, but no one says anything about it. "She has no memory of where she was or what happened. In fact, the only thing she remembers is two names. Emily Sims, and Robert Galworth."

Scully gasps slightly and sits down on one of the stools. I turn to her and grip her shoulder gently to show her I'm there. I know that little girl never really leaves my partner's mind, but I also know that she hasn't heard the name in at least four months. And she hasn't uttered it since the funeral. Even when we briefed Skinner on what had happened, she let me do most of the talking, and when she did speak it always avoided the words 'Emily' and 'daughter'. I hope those fears will be banished with Lyddi in her life. It hurts me terribly to know there is such a hole in my partner's soul that I cannot heal, or even touch. Not even Samantha's disappearance hurt me as much as Emily's death hurt Dana Scully.

Frohike looks apologetic at having mentioned the forbidden name, but he continues anyway. He softens his voice a bit though. This had better be VERY important, and VERY urgent. This is not exactly what Dana needs to be hearing today. She needs to be at home, with her daughter.

"Um... I tracked down the name Robert Galworth, and he's actually very similar to us; he helps run a magazine out of New York that... lets just say that it is our biggest competitor in the area. He doesn't print everything, though; there was a rumor about a year ago that he had his hands on the biggest story of the millennia, and the evidence, but didn't print for some unknown reason. Most of us think he may be involved with Them, working with them to divert attention. Obviously, he's not to be trusted." He pauses. "Kristen said she'd never heard of his magazine or anything, but she definitely recognizes the name."

Byers takes over. I'm glad that they've apparently decided to drop Emily, but then why mention it in the first place? They know it wouldn't be the first time I'd held back painful and irrelevant information. "So, we looked around to see if there's an X-File- like circumstance that you could investigate, if you chose to pursue this matter." Ah. Now I get it. They know there's no way I'm going to let an opportunity to possibly find out what happened to Scully when she was missing, or to her daughter, and any other children she may have, pass me by. I wish they had left they part about Emily until Scully was gone, though. She doesn't really need to hear this.

"You know, I didn't think we'd find anything but we did. You'll love this one. Two years ago, Galworth was involved in a D&D group. One night, apparently they managed to 'conjure' up the troll they banished. It wasn't sent to the X-Files or anything, but one month ago, another group did the same thing, with a dragon. Twice is enough that you could get it approved as an X-File, and it would be the prefect chance to interview Galworth. What do you think?" Trust Langly to find an X-File involving D&D.

I look at Scully. Her eyes are a curious mixture of emotions. The joy is still there, but so is the sorrow at Emily's name. She honestly seems curious about this lead on the conspiracy, and almost as amused as I do by the proposed X-File. She also seems a bit tired- today has been amazing, but emotionally exhausting. There's something else in her eyes, too, something I can't quite read, but which I've learned means there's something she's not telling me, but that she will eventually. This scares me again; there was something similar there a week before she told me about the cancer. But this doesn't seem as dark- its more like she's just going to ditch me for a week or something.

Come to think of it, that doesn't seem like that bad a theory, I mean, she's got a daughter to adopt, and I bet they spend a week just shopping. I never would have guessed Special Agent Dr. Dana Scully is a mallaholic, but she is. Window-shopping is one of her favorite activities. One time she invited me along, and after that I swore I'd rather face a liver-eating mutant than shop with her again. Not that she's a pain- its just that I can't keep up with her. And that I never mastered the art of NOT buying everything I like. It took me weeks to recover from that shopping spree.

"Well, it's certainly a valid idea, and I plan to pursue it, but some things have come up and I don't think we'll be investigating for a few weeks. Think the dragon can wait until next month?" I glance at Scully again. It's entirely up to her whether or not to tell these guys about her daughter. She smiles shyly, and I brush her hand for support. Then she tells her story of a little girl without parents and a woman without a daughter. The guys are overjoyed, but I can see Frohike already making a mental checklist to run background checks on the adoption agency, the girl, the parents, and who knows what else. I don't blame him; the death seems like a coincidence, but coincidences ceased to exist a long time ago. In fact, I was going to ask them to check into it, without telling them why.

From somewhere in here Byers digs up a bottle of wine, and we have a glass to congratulate Dana. Finally, at about 11 o'clock, I realize that it's been a long day and we have a meeting with Skinner tomorrow morning, so we leave the Gunmen's office. They have a deadline coming soon anyways, so it's best that we leave.

Dana Scully's apartment
11:23 p.m.

I drive Scully to her place, and since she left her car at the office, I ask when to pick her up tomorrow. "Seven thirty okay?" I ask. She nods, but just sits there. I don't know what to say. It's been a long day, and she's obviously exhausted. Just as I'm about to ask if she wants me to help her to her apartment, she looks at me with tired, happy eyes and asks, "Would you like to have a cup of coffee?"

"Well, not really- I do want to sleep some- but I'd love to come up for a while." I don't think she's ready to be alone quite yet, and I'm not quite ready to leave her here by herself yet either. She smiles and opens the car door. I get out and usher her into her building, my hand on the small of her back. I've always done that, for some reason. I didn't even notice at first. For some reason, tonight she seems to lean into me a bit, as if for support. I don't know why, exactly- I mean, she got what she wanted most in the world today- but I'm more than willing to be there for her. She opens the door to her apartment and switches on the light. She stops just inside the door, and I bump into her. Just as I'm about to ask, I remember. The flowers. She moves over to look at them, reads the note, and smiles at me again. I'm really getting used to this smile. I close the door, which I had left open because I was busy waiting for her reaction and slump down on her couch. She whispers, "Thank you," then collapses down beside me. I look at her, then realize her eyes are shining with tears. I begin to panic. What's wrong? Dana Scully never cries. Even when she does, she tries very hard not to let me see. I can easily count the number of times I've seen her cry on one hand. She senses my panic and places her hand over mine on the couch.

"It's okay, nothings wrong. Its just been such an emotional day-its so cliche, but I'm so happy that I can't stop from crying." She grins a bit, and I can see in her eyes that she really is alright. I smile back, and turn my hand over to grasp hers. Her hands are so tiny. I don't notice it much- they are strong, beautiful surgeon's hands, but it's times like this that I notice how little she is. I never notice because she never seems frail or delicate like some women. Her strength is a shield, a funhouse mirror that makes her seem so much bigger than she really is. Dana Scully is only human, and she's seen and done so much that most people, myself included, would have collapsed long ago. I forget that she sometimes needs a shoulder too. She never asks. Well, today I'm not going to let her take this alone like everything else. I gently tug on her hand and pull her into a gentle embrace. I don't want to scare her or hurt her; I just want her to know I'm there if she needs me. She returns the hug, and we stay that way for several minutes.

When she finally pulls away, she smiles again, and says that we have an long day tomorrow and that she needs to sleep. I understand, and her eyes thank me. She walks me to the door, and I kiss her forehead and whisper, "You are going to be a wonderful mother, Dana." I leave for my apartment and let her rest. I doubt I will, though. There is way too much to think about.

FBI Headquarters
August 12, 1998
8:57 a.m.

"Good morning, agents." Skinner's voice startles me a bit- he usually has Kim call us to his office. I wonder why we are so special today. And then I remember- Lyddi. I really hope Skinner is a good actor- otherwise I'm dead. Scully doesn't like the whole world to know her business- she hardly even wants me to know it. I stand up from the couch, and Scully does the same. She looks great today, as always; there isn't a sign that she cried herself to sleep last night, or the worry she must feel about how this is going to change everything.

Instead, she looks just as fresh and free as she did five years ago when she walked into my office- older, and more experienced, but no sign of the sorrows that have plagued her recently show. If I didn't know better, I'd think she slept very well last night, and all the nights before that I know she spent worrying or working or just keeping me sane and out of trouble. I wonder, not for the first time, if Skinner can see through her mask. He sees through everything else.

"Good morning, sir." Scully seems alert and awake without being too perky. I wonder where she learned that. We enter Skinner's office and sit down in the two chairs facing his desk. We always sit in the same seats, for some reason. I wonder why. He looks at us questioningly, and I glance at Scully. This is her meeting. I'm just here.

She takes a deep breath, and then begins. But it's not what I expected to hear. "Sir, the adoption agency agreed. Lyddi is going to live with me, starting this weekend. I'd like the rest of this week off, as well as part of next week, if possible." What the hell is going on? How does she know that Skinner knows? It sounds almost as if she told him before... Dammit! She did tell him before. Dana Scully probably went over all the possible outcomes with him a week before she turned in the application for adoption. She has to be prepared, always precise and exact. Its not that I resent that- I resent the fact that I, her partner, was the last to know. And I have the feeling I still don't know it all.

I say none of this, just watch Skinner's reaction. He shows no surprise, but glances at me briefly as if to apologize. "Congratulations, Dana. Take all this and next week off. You'll need it, I'm sure." I don't say anything, but his use of her given name is noted. And wondered upon, not a bit resentfully. I realize I am very territorial when it comes to Scully, and that I have no right to act this way. But I don't really have anyone else, and I don't want her to get hurt. At least, that's what I tell myself...

She smiles, and then goes on to shock me again. "What happened with Jeff and Willmore? Are they in?" What in the world is going on? Why am I even here- its quickly becoming apparent that I'm a third wheel.

"Well... yes. But not for a week. And there are a few conditions." Okay, am I invisible here? Skinner and Scully don't even know I'm here.

"Um, excuse me, I think I was dozing during that section of the lecture. Who, why, what's going on?" It sounds stupid, but when I'm annoyed, like now, I don't really care if he's my boss. They both look at me, and Skinner speaks first.

"The X-Files division is in need of restructuring. There are two agents, Jeff Spender and Craig Willmore, who are going to join your division under you. The X-Files has proven its worth, but you need more help. It has proven valuable to have one of you here for research in the past, so the plan is that one set of agents goes into the field while the other stays here until needed, where they can work other cases, as well as provide assistance with research and such. I'll let you know more next week. But I can say they're both good agents. I'll send you their files later." So. At least she's not leaving me. Instead I have to share her. But he's right; we could use a bit more help. And it sounds like these two WANT to jump on board. I'll have the guys check them out, but it could be a good thing. And a way to make it easier on Scully to care for her daughter. It all works out in the end.

"Sir? Thank you. It means a lot to me." Scully is glowing, almost. This excessive happiness should be exhausting her, but she's almost radiating energy. Freaky. I sense that the meeting is over. That's all, Folks- Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion, when I get to meet these two new geeks. They have to be geeks to want in on this. Even Scully didn't VOLUNTEER to baby-sit me. Or, they could be plants. I'll make sure that the guys do a THOROUGH check on them... Another Krychek is NOT my idea of a good plan.

We all stand, and Skinner once again congratulates her. He also tells her to take the rest of the day off, and I can't help but glare at him. I don't know whether or not he saw it. I suspect he did. So we leave, and Scully smiles at me. I tell her to go shopping with her daughter. I know they have to get a whole lot of essential things which I have never figured out the need for. Oh well. I need a bit of time to process all this, and to start the background check.

Mulder's apartment
August 24, 1998
6:41 a.m.

I close the fridge door and notice again the picture held on with a magnet. Its not really any great masterpiece- I jungle-type environment with a couple of stick figures. Lyddi drew it for me, and it surprises me every time I see it how much I like it. It's supposed to be a scene from one of the stories in that book I bought her. She gave it to me last Friday when we went out for pizza. It's almost become a tradition already. Scully, Lyddi, and I go out for pizza on Friday night. No case files, no work, just me, and Dana, and her adorable daughter.

It seems so... domestic, this picture on my fridge. Never in a million years did I expect to join the ranks of all those agents whose offices are adorned with first grade artwork, but I'm discovering that I like it. I like Lyddi, and I think she likes me. She always smiles a brilliant smile when I come by Scully's place to pick them up for pizza.

Last Friday, she gave me an excited tour of the new-and-improved apartment. They did a good job with it. Scully converted her guestroom into Lyddi's, with a small bed and dresser that look amazingly like what Sam's were. I guess little girls are a lot alike, even 20 years apart. The bedspread is a pale blue-purple, girly without being mushy. I think Scully picked that out. The desk is just slightly cluttered, a few books and homework assignments covering the surface. The bed has a few stuffed animals on it, with more on the bench by the window. The beanie babies take up two full shelves on her bookcase. I definitely am opening a file on them. It's a very nice room.

At first, I was afraid that this would only wreck havoc on my life, but things have turned out differently then I expected. Going out of town on cases won't be as difficult as I thought it would be. Maggie is more than willing to take Lyddi for a week if she has to, and Scully has a couple of friends who she still manages to keep in touch with, Ellen and Holly, who'll watch her. And if all else fails, SKINNER said he'd be willing to watch her. Now that's something I'd never imagined possible, but lots of things I've never imagined have happened. And it WILL help to have someone here for research and stuff.

All the background checks came up clean; a little to clean when considering the whole picture, but nothing unusual when looked at as pieces. Lyddi's parents owned a small art shop before their wreck, which was caused by a drunk driver. Both had been only children, and both sets of grandparents had died, of cancer and one of a heart attack. And the agents are fine too. Agent Willmore just transferred in from the Seattle field office. He has a stellar record and a background in organized crime and anti-terrorism... both useful when dealing with THEM. Apparently, he heard about some of the weird stuff and got curious, and all that he found out only made him more curious. I like curious people.

And Agent Spender has been with VCU here in Washington. He's gotten wind of some of the strange stuff that goes on and wants to know more. His mother believes she's an abductee, and Spender spent most of his childhood hearing stories about aliens. I think he'll be more like Scully, always wanting to disprove their existence, but that type of background would be great for the X-Files. And he seems more willing to play the political game than I am, which could become useful. I'm fairly pleased with them.

As far as I'm aware, Scully hasn't met either of them, and so it's still possible that one or both is a plant, but I don't think so. I'll just kinda be aware for a while of the possibility. And the guys are keeping close tabs on them for a while to. They'll let me know if anything suspicious occurs.

Today's the day that the X-Files get restructured. I'm looking forward to meeting the two fools willing to jump into the middle of this. I think that everything will work out though, for once.

9:34 am
Skinner's office

Kim smiles at us and says that Skinner's ready for us now. I'm a little worried-- apparently, the new agents are having a quick meeting with Skinner BEFORE meeting with us... I don't know what he's doing. Probably warning them about us. But I don't have time to worry about that right now. I follow Scully to the door and open it for her out of habit.

Sitting in the two chairs that Scully and I usually occupy are the new agents. The one on the left I recognize as Willmore from his file. He seems a little nervous, but that could just be me projecting. I KNOW I'm nervous. On the right is Spender. For some reason, I take an instant dislike to him. It could be that he seems slightly overconfident to me, or simply that he's moving into my territory, the X-Files. But I don't have that same reaction to Willmore. I guess its just one of those things...but I still don't really like him.

They stand up as we walk in, and we shake hands all around. My reaction to Spender is slowly fading, and hopefully it was just a momentary thing; I have to work with him, trust him. At least for a while.

"Well, agents, I'm glad that this section is finally expanding. You'll probably need more room down there, so I've arranged for you to have the next office as well...If you want to do any remodeling, you can do it on the weekend. You have three days to get any changes set up, and then I expect you to begin working on cases again. Is that clear?" Skinner is acting especially brisk today. I wonder why he's doing that. He usually gets like this when he wants to say something friendly but doesn't think it would be a good idea, I think. We all nod. "All right, then. I think you're all fairly aware of how I want things to work. I don't care who does what on most cases, but I want at least one of you here in Washington during most cases. I want you to discuss it with me first if all four of you are going into the field. ok?" More nods. "All right. Any questions?"

I'm tempted to make a smartass remark like asking about our budget or something, but I don't think it would create the best first impression. I mean, I DO have to work with these two. I wonder if Scully's as worried about working peacefully with them as I am. Probably not. No one else asks anything, and so Skinner nods and quickly says, "Well, dismissed. Welcome to the X- Files, Agents. Good Luck." I can't help but feel as if we'll all need it, even though things are looking great.

The End.

Author's notes: Yes, I know this idea isn't original. I've read a lot of the others like this one. But they all seem to turn into romances, and that bothered me. I wanted to read one where that didn't happen, and so I wrote one. And the whole Christmas Carol/Emily thing has bothered me for a while, too. So why Spender and Willmore, you ask? (Willmore's from the game, but I'm only using his background, and pretending he's never met Mulder and Scully. I'm also pretending that anything after Emily never happens, except perhaps Bad Blood.) Well, I like Spender; he's a good character. I was FURIOUS after 2F/1S. He's not a hero, but we've already got enough hero-types. And enough villain- types. We need some people-types. And I just started the XF game and I like Willmore too, so I figured, lets throw him in too? It's already pretty far from the real show, so I can do whatever, right? In case it wasn't obvious, I deliberately left the story set up for a sequel. I haven't decided whether or not to actually write one.

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