TITLE: A Gauntlet and a Gift
AUTHOR: Leslie Sholly
E-MAIL: PennySyc@aol.com
DISTRIBUTION: Spookys, Ephemeral, Xemplary, and Gossamer, yes. Anywhere else, with my name and address attached. And please let me know so I can visit.
SPOILER WARNING: Through Arcadia is fair game.
RATING: R (language)
CLASSIFICATION: SRA
KEYWORDS: MSR, Mulder-Angst, Character Death (prior to story)
DISCLAIMER: Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox own the X-Files and most of the characters herein. I mean no infringement or disrespect.

SUMMARY: Mulder is managing to keep the promise he made to Scully before her death but only barely. Will a new and unexpected challenge help?

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story is a sequel to And I Rise, originally posted in November 1999. I am very grateful to everyone who took a chance on a character death story. Again, I am attempting to find hope and healing for Mulder in the wake of his loss.

FEEDBACK: I respond to and save every note, no matter how brief. Please write me at PennySyc@aol.com (Leslie)

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Who would have thought my shrivel'd heart could have recovered greenness?
George Herbert
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9 May 2000
Margaret Scully's Residence
Arlington, Virginia

I haven't seen Margaret Scully in eighteen months, since that cold grey day when I looked at her across her daughter's coffin as Father McCue offered his final blessing.

When I looked at her, my eyes full of tears and contrition, she looked away.

I vowed then and there that I would quietly remove myself from the Scullys' lives. I had caused them enough pain.

I sent Margaret white roses on her daughter's 36th birthday and again on the anniversary of her death. But I never expected to see her again.

And now I am on her doorstep, ringing her bell, wondering for perhaps the thousandth time whether I am doing the right thing.

It is early May and Margaret's yard is full of color. Multi-colored irises and other flowers I don't recognize are blooming everywhere--circling trees, climbing trellises, lining the street, flanking the foundation. The air is warm and rife with promise. I fervently hope this is a good omen as the door swings open and Margaret stands there, staring at me.

Given the slightest encouragement, I would embrace her, but none is forthcoming. Instead, she regards me blankly for a moment before speaking.

"Fox--I--you're looking well."

I can't deny it. I look rested, younger, well-fed. I'm even sporting a tan. I know this and I know the reason, but it's bound to look bad to Margaret, who never saw the gaunt, desperate shadow of a man I was only six months ago.

"I--thank you," I say formally. "I'm feeling well."

Maggie herself doesn't look half bad. A little older, maybe, and with a few new lines etched into her face by grief, but the woman has apparently bounced back in her usual amazing way.

"I--I'm sorry," I say. "Maybe I shouldn't have come, but . . ."

"No," she says decisively. "No. I'm glad you did. I've--I've wanted to talk to you, Fox, but I haven't been able to bring myself to call you.

"Will you--can you sit down with me for a moment?" she asks, gesturing toward a bench under a flowering tree of some kind.

"Of course."

We make our way toward the bench. Maggie is petite, like her daughter, and without thinking I place my hand in the usual spot at the small of her back. My heart constricts with pain when I recognize the gesture, but I suppress my tears--I've gotten quite good at that.

When we're seated, she says, "I need to apologize to you, Fox."

I open my mouth to protest but she silences me with a look I know well.

"I was unkind to you in the hospital when Dana was ill. I wasn't at my best. I was upset, and I needed someone to blame. I took the easy way and fell in with the rest of my family in blaming you.

"It wasn't your fault, Fox. Dana didn't blame you and I don't either. I have confessed this sin to my priest, but I need to ask your forgiveness too."

"Mrs. Scully," I say, wiping away the tears that her unexpected apology has prompted, "I'll say I forgive you if it will make you feel better, but I've never held it against you. I blame myself for what happened to Dana and I always will."

Maggie is immediately distressed. "She wouldn't want you to."

"I know that, so I try not to dwell on it."

Maggie looks at me sympathetically and lays a gentle hand on my arm. "I should have called you a long time ago, Fox, and I have to apologize for that too. I haven't been angry at you for a long time, but I was afraid to talk to you. You were so dear to Dana, Fox. I knew that seeing you without her would make me feel her loss all the more."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Scully. I hope that what I have to tell you will help you heal."

"What's that, dear?" she asks, suddenly, comfortably, the Maggie I remember.

"It would be easier to show you," I tell her. "Would you excuse me for a moment?"

"Of course," she answers, a puzzled look on her face.

My heart pounds as I walk the few steps to my car. Will this news cause Maggie pleasure or pain? And what will telling her mean for me? Will it shatter the fragile equilibrium I've built over the past few months, open wounds that are finally beginning to scab over?

I return to Maggie, the object of my conjecture cuddled close in my arms. She wakes just as we reach the bench, yawning hugely before turning to look at her surroundings with interest.

Maggie has gone white in an instant. Wordlessly she takes in the sight before her--the blue eyes, the wisps of red hair, the familiar features. Finally, she manages, "She . . . she really should have socks on."

"She pulls them off," I explain easily. "Would you like to hold her?"

Maggie reaches out and I pass the baby to her. I relish the look on her face, knowing well myself how it feels to have achingly empty arms suddenly filled again.

"Hello, sweetheart," Maggie says softly, in the voice women use to talk to babies. "What's your name?"

Presumably she doesn't expect a response from the baby, so I answer for her. "Her name is Mary, but I call her Molly."

"That's a sweet, old-fashioned nickname for Mary. Did you . . ."

"Yeah, I named her. It was my grandmother's name. I--I thought maybe I should call her Dana, but--" I can't continue but Maggie seems to understand.

"No, I agree. She should have her own name."

"Her middle name is for her mother, though," I offer.

"Mary Dana?"

"No," I say sheepishly. "Mary *Scully.*"

Maggie smiles a tiny smile. "Of course." She turns her attention to the baby again. Molly is too young to fear strangers yet, and I'm grateful that she rewards her grandmother's smiles and caresses with babbling and grins of her own. Eventually, though, she begins to fuss.

"It's her lunchtime," I explain. "Just let me get her bottle from the car."

I return with the insulated carrying case that keeps Molly's meals safe when we're out and about.

"Do you need me to heat that up?" she asks as I take the bottle out of the case.

"No, she doesn't mind drinking it cold."

"Do you mind--may I feed her?"

"Sure," I answer, handing her the bottle, which Molly accepts enthusiastically.

"Am I doing this right?" Maggie asks. "I don't have a lot of experience with bottles--my children were all breast-fed."

"You're doing fine," I assure her. "And you'll be pleased to know that there's breast milk in that bottle, courtesy of the D.C. milk bank."

Maggie looks impressed. I'm batting 1.000 so far. "I didn't realize there was such a thing."

"Yeah, the milk is available by prescription only. Mostly it's for babies who have a severe allergic reaction to formula. In Molly's case, given the circumstances, her doctors and I were concerned about possible immune disorders, and decided we shouldn't take any chances."

Maggie's eyes widen. "Is she all right, Fox? Is she healthy? She's not--not like Emily?"

"No, no," I reassure her. "She's perfectly healthy. She's never been sick a day. All the tests indicate that she's a normal baby." The words sound ridiculous to me as I speak them--a normal baby, except for having been conceived in a test tube three months after her mother died.

"How old is she?"

"Six months."

"She's a big girl," Maggie observes, looking approvingly at the several rolls of fat that make up Molly's chunky legs.

"She's in the 90th percentile," I say proudly, imagining how Scully would laugh if she could hear me.

"How long have you had her, Fox?" Maggie asks suddenly, and I brace myself.

"Six months," I say quietly.

"Six months! Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

"I'm sorry. At first, of course, I was kinda overwhelmed, you know? And then I wasn't sure how you'd take it. I didn't think you wanted to see me again. And I was afraid seeing Molly would only remind you of Dana and upset you."

Maggie holds the baby close and glares at me indignantly.

"I see I shouldn't have worried," I say.

Molly has tired of her bottle and holds out her arms to me to be picked up. I take her from her grandmother and she pats me lovingly on the cheek. I kiss her hair and see that Maggie is staring at me speculatively.

"Fox," she begins, "I can see you've taken very good care of the baby. And I know what Dana's will said. But when she explained it to me, I had the impression that she didn't expect you to adopt and care for her children. She expected them all to be sick, dying like Emily."

I was waiting for this, but I still have to try hard to control my rage and hurt. So Maggie thinks Scully thought I'd be fit for easing her dying children out of life, but not for caring for a living one.

"It's a moot point," I say finally.

"Don't be offended, Fox," she begins. "I don't mean to challenge your right to her. I just want to be part of her life--and haven't you thought Dana would have wanted her raised by her family?"

"I agree, Mrs. Scully, that this isn't the situation Dana was envisioning when she gave me custody of her children. In more ways than one. You see, Dana's will wasn't even an issue in Molly's custody."

"What do you mean?"

"She's *mine,* Mrs. Scully, as well as Dana's. I'm Molly's biological father."

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Music I heard with you was more than music And bread I broke with you was more than bread. Now that I am without you, all is desolate; All that was once so beautiful is dead.

--Conrad Aiken

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23 November 1998
The J. Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, D.C.

It was my first day back in the office, just ten days after Scully's funeral. Skinner protested half-heartedly that it was too soon, but I was so persistent that he allowed it in the end.

"Office work only for now, Agent. I don't want you in the field."

I nodded. Both of us avoided the real issue like an elephant in the living room. The FBI frowns on lone agents in the field for obvious safety reasons, and there was no way I was going to accept a new partner.

Someone had cleaned the blood off the floor but the office was otherwise unchanged. Scully's coat hung on its hook; the files she'd been looking at lay open on the table. I sat down at the desk and stared around blankly, trying to take in the enormity of my loss.

Finally I picked up the first file on my desk and began to plow through it, trying my best to ignore the stabs of pain that shot through me each time I came across a notation in Scully's handwriting.

The click of heels in the hallway broke my concentration and caused my breath to catch in my throat. I barely managed to squeak, "Come in," at the soft knock.

Unreasonable disappointment filled me when Skinner's assistant entered.

She smiled at me uncertainly, hesitantly, and approached the desk, holding out a file folder box. "Agent Mulder, I--I thought you might like to have these," she said.

I took the box and lifted the lid and found that it was full of pictures of Scully, camera-shy Scully whose printed image I did not possess. Here was a younger Scully in her badge photo, a serious Scully captured in the periphery of crime scene photos, a smiling Scully in a photo for the Bureau newsletter, even a few of a slightly tipsy and flushed Scully at a long-ago office Christmas party.

Rendered speechless by the gift and the sympathy it implied, I looked up at Kim, and then surprised us both by breaking into a storm of weeping, my head pillowed on a red and white file folder.

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Dear as remember'd kisses after death And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd On lips that are for others; deep as love, Deep as First Love, and wild with all regret, O Death in Life, the days that are no more.
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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20 December 1998
Fox Mulder's Apartment
Alexandria, Virginia

Ever since my sister's disappearance, I had been plagued by insomnia and nightmares. Sleep had never been the refuge for me that it is for most people.

But now that my life was a waking nightmare, things changed. The worst had happened to me and there was nothing to fear in sleep.

And my dreams were finally worthy of the name. Tonight I was dreaming that Scully was missing--in some kind of vague peril. I was sitting in the back seat of a big black Cadillac--on stakeout, I guess. I was looking out the window when Scully just walked up to the car. I threw open the door and pulled her inside.

She fell right across my lap, small and solid and so real. Her hair fell back from her face and she looked up at me in surprise. I felt my face break into an expression I never showed her in real life--a big, happy smile, my eyes tender and full of love. Overcome by gratitude that she was safe, I bent over and kissed her, and felt her kissing back . . .

Then my alarm clock rang and I grabbed it and hurled it across the room with such force that it put a dent in the drywall.

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Short arm needs man to reach to Heaven
So ready is Heaven to stoop to him.

--Francis Thompson
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9 January 1999
Fox Mulder's Apartment
Alexandria, Virginia

My gun lay on the table and I stared at it. "Help me, Scully, help me," I pleaded under my breath.

I had fair days and bad days. This was a bad day.

Most of the time, I felt safe in my apartment. This was my alone place. Scully's ghost didn't haunt its rooms. I could easily pretend she was alive, just elsewhere.

So much so, that just moments before, engrossed in a case file, I had absently picked up my phone and hit speed dial #1. When I heard, "The number you have dialed has been disconnected," it was my cell phone's turn to bite the dust.

Two months since Scully left me. Damn it, how could she have left me? As a psychologist, I understood my unreasonable anger at her, but that didn't make it go away. Scully had left me, and before she left she extracted a promise that I wouldn't immediately follow after her.

In a burst of rage I had whipped out my gun, pointed it at my temple--and stopped. "Put it down, Mulder," I seemed to hear her whispering. "Put the gun down. Put it down."

Slowly, I lowered the gun, and as my anger ebbed, grief took its place. Sobbing, I lay the gun on the table. I was working on the praying thing, but asking Scully for help was still more natural than turning to God. "Help me," I repeated, fingering the cross on its chain around my neck. "If you don't want me to do this, help me."

The telephone rang.

I picked up the receiver. "Mulder."

"Hey, man." It was Frohike. Angel unaware indeed. "Haven't seen you in awhile. I'm coming over with beer and a pizza and I'm not taking no for an answer."

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To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die.

--Thomas Campbell
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23 February 1999
Georgetown
Washington, D.C.

I never could remember Scully's birthday when it mattered, but now that she was gone I couldn't forget. I would have liked to have taken some flowers to her grave but I couldn't bear the thought of running into her family.

Instead I took the day off and went for a run. I ran along the Potomac path, past the first brave daffodils, all the way to Georgetown. And I stood outside Scully's apartment building and mourned for her there. I stood for a long time staring up at the empty window. When an unfamiliar face appeared, I was shocked. No one else should be living in Scully's apartment. The incontrovertible proof that the world continued to move without her was too much for me and I turned and jogged toward the university, ignoring the burning in my lungs and the tears on my cheeks.

I found my way into Dahlgren Chapel and knelt at the back. The chapel was dim and empty. It's hard to find an unlocked church these days and I was grateful for the sanctuary. I buried my head in my arms and tried to catch my breath and regain my composure.

"Happy Birthday, Scully," I whispered. "One thing I'm sure of, you're in a better place. You're happy, I know that.

"I'm keeping my promises, Scully. I'm working hard, searching for answers, and making progress, finally. I'm trying to take care of myself. And I'm still here, Scully, I'm still here, and I'll keep trying. Please help me to keep that promise."

As I walked out of the chapel and into the sunshine, I saw a young priest walking past the fountain. When he looked up to greet me, recognition was mutual.

"Mr.--Mulder, isn't that right?"

"I'm impressed, Father."

"Bob, please. I'm good with names. How are you?"

"Fine, thanks," I lied cheerfully, eager to be on my way.

"Mr. Mulder--" he began.

"Just Mulder is fine," I said.

"Mulder, I just thought about you the other day."

I looked at him in surprise.

"Yes, I was saying Mass at Holy Trinity and the Mass was being offered for the soul of your friend."

"She's the last person who would need a Mass said for her soul," I said scornfully.

It was Bob Callahan's turn to look surprised.

"Uh, sorry, Father--Bob. It's just--if I believed, I'd put Scully up for sainthood. If there is a Heaven, she got a one-way express ticket, I'm sure of it."

"I'm sure she was a lovely person," he said sympathetically.

"Today is her birthday," I said bleakly.

Bob touched my arm briefly, compassion in his eyes. "How about some lunch, Mulder?" he suggested. "I missed lunch at the Jes Res--sorry, the Jesuit Residence. We could walk down to Booeymongers, get some sandwiches, and you could tell me more about your friend if you want."

I surprised myself by agreeing.


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Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee; Nor untwist--slack they may be--these last strands of man In me or, most weary cry, *I can no more*, I can; Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.

--Gerard Manly Hopkins
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10 October 1999
Fox Mulder's Apartment
Alexandria, Virginia

Within two months of Scully's death, I was back in the field, trying to dull my pain with the pursuit of the phenomena that had once enthralled me. But pursuing paranormal cases without Scully was torture. Without her by my side, I felt as if I had lost a limb. How I missed her cool logic, her calm voice. At times I was sure I heard it when my theories grew too outlandish. But more and more I found myself passing up monster-chasing to concentrate on tracking down the remains of the Consortium. I would not let Scully's sacrifice be in vain.

I refused to work with a steady partner, instead allowing Skinner to assign the occasional backup here and there as needed. I kept the Lone Gunmen hopping. I called on every contact I had made. I threw myself at the problem with everything I had.

For months I slept only when I was dead on my feet, ate only when I felt myself growing faint from lack of sustenance. By filling my time and my thoughts with my quest, I was able, for the most part, to push thoughts of Scully out. When her voice intruded: "Mulder, take care of yourself," I ate a sandwich or took a catnap.

When, eleven months after her death, it was over, the alien threat neutralized, the Consortium disbanded, I was suddenly emptier than ever. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and was shocked at what I saw. There were dark circles around my eyes, grey in my hair, and age and grief lines etched into my skin. I was pale and many pounds thinner. Scully wouldn't have recognized me. I hardly recognized myself.

And the despair I had kept at bay was back to hit me full force.

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God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers, And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face--

A gauntlet with a gift in it.

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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9 November 1999
Fox Mulder's Apartment
Alexandria, Virginia

I was freezing, even though it was unseasonably warm for November. Wrapped in my favorite afghan, an old one crocheted by Scully's grandmother that had somehow made its way to my apartment in days gone by, I shivered. The mug of coffee in my hands did nothing to warm me. This cold came from within.

Scully was always the cold one; in that way alone the Ice Queen moniker did fit. We bickered about the level of air conditioning or heat in our office and in rental cars. I used to tease her about how icy her fingers were. Meanwhile I generated enough heat to warm a room on my own, or so Scully claimed, snuggling up against me in an unguarded moment when we were eating lunch on our bench by the Tidal Basin on a brisk spring morning so that we could admire the cherry blossoms.

In "The Sixth Sense," the little boy always felt the chill when the ghosts came around. Not so for me. The only time I felt warm these days was when I felt Scully's presence near. Truly I felt her at times--I even spoke to her and felt--no, *knew*--she was listening. I could feel her love and the strength of her belief in me, and it had kept me going through many dark days, kept my hands away from that tempting gun.

Yes, feeling Scully's presence was a wonderful gift. But sometimes, I just wanted someone to hold.

I downed the last of my coffee and pulled the afghan more tightly around me and shifted on the couch. Sightlessly, I stared at the blank television set. I never turned it on anymore.

The knock at the door was almost immediately followed by Frohike's voice. "Mulder! Hey, man, it's me. Let me in."

I went to the door with a bit of my former alacrity, pleased by the unexpected interruption of my grim solitude. "What's up, Frohike?" I asked with a trace of enthusiasm, feeling a rush of affection for this man, who since Scully's death had proven himself not just a paranoid techno-geek but a true friend.

"We've had a strange call," he said without preliminaries. "It was too short to trace and we didn't recognize the voice, but the message was for you."

"And it was?"

"Get Agent Mulder, go to Georgetown Medical Center's main information desk immediately, and await further instructions."

I frowned. "Why call you?"

He shrugged. "Maybe under the circumstances they thought you might refuse to go there without prodding from my insatiable curiosity."

Tomorrow was the first anniversary of Scully's death. Georgetown University Medical Center was certainly not on my short list of favorite places to spend the eve of that event.

I looked around my living room, cluttered with belongings and yet empty of all that makes a house a home. Whether I sat here brooding or went to Georgetown, my loss would be uppermost in my mind. I made my decision quickly.

"Anything's better than sitting here," I said. "Just let me change."

It was nine o'clock on a Tuesday night and traffic was minimal as we drove through Georgetown. I tried to put all prior visits to this hospital out of my mind as we parked, entered the lobby, and headed for the information desk. We waited in its vicinity for a few minutes, expecting a shadowy figure to approach. When that didn't happen, I approached the girl behind the counter and said, "Hello. I'm Fox Mulder. Is there a message for me?"

"Mr. Mulder! Yes, just a moment, let me call Mrs. Dellacasa."

A petite, dark-haired woman appeared within moments. "Mr. Mulder, hello. I'm Rosa Dellacasa, the social worker for the hospital. I'm afraid we have a rather delicate situation here."

"Could you tell me what this is all about?"

"Let's go in my office, where we can have privacy," she said, looking pointedly at Frohike.

"Mrs. Dellacasa, I'm confused. Is this a criminal matter?"

"No, no--a personal one."

"In that case, I'd like my friend to stay."

"Very well." She ushered us down the hall to her office and offered us each a seat before sitting down at her desk.

"Early this morning, a young woman in labor checked herself into the hospital. She delivered a baby girl this evening at 6 p.m. Our mothers remain in the same room throughout their stay. At 6:45, the nurse left her and the baby to rest. At 7:30, she heard the baby crying and returned. The mother had disappeared, but she left a note saying that you were the baby's father and would be coming to pick her up soon."

I frowned. This was an unexpected twist. During the past year, I had found 13 children the Consortium had made with Scully's stolen ova. As the last vestiges of the Consortium collapsed, these innocent "experiments" were abandoned, and turned up dying in hospitals across the country.

The progress of the anemia was so swift without the medication that even though the Gunmen had hacked into every major hospital database in the country and had a network in place that alerted us almost instantly to any cases of that type, I never had to exercise my guardianship of Scully's progeny; each of the children had died before I could arrive on the scene. And as part of my cooperation in the unholy alliance of the X-Files division, Krycek, and the Consortium that had recently ended the alien threat, I had been given the records of the hybridization experiments, had been assured there were no others out there.

I gathered my thoughts, and asked Mrs. Dellacasa, "Is the baby healthy?"

"She's fine, as far as we can tell. Is there something we should be worried about?"

"May I step outside and speak to my friend a moment?"

"You're not going to leave, are you?" she asked suspiciously.

"I'm not going anywhere," I assured her. "I'll stand right outside the window here if it'll make you feel any better."

"Well," Frohike said to me outside. "This is an unexpected development."

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the bastards were holding out on us," I sighed.

"Still, it's strange," Frohike mused. "Not their usual M.O. Why notify you? Why name you as the father?"

"Because they know we're not looking anymore."

"I still keep my eyes out, for what it's worth, Mulder. But why would they want to notify you anyway?"

"It doesn't make much sense," I agreed.

"Mulder," Frohike hesitated. "I don't suppose there's any possibility that--that this baby isn't a product of the Consortium at all?"

I turned on him, shaking with barely suppressed rage. "Frohike, nine months ago, if I wasn't working, I was drinking myself into a stupor or trying to keep from blowing my brains out most of the time. Getting laid was not one of my priorities."

"I'm sorry, Mulder." Frohike was immediately contrite. "Grief can make people do funny things."

I thought back to the last time I'd had sex, with the vampire girl when Scully was missing and I'd been half-crazed with guilt and fear. "You're right. It wasn't an off-base question. Forget about it. The real question is what we should do now."

Frohike took charge. "First things first. Let's take a look at the kid and see what shape she's in. I've got some doctors I trust we can call in to do tests--we'll give them the files so they know what to look for."

"And I'll have DNA tests run at the FBI lab."

It was arranged that Frohike would call his doctors while I went to try to explain things to Mrs. Dellacasa. Without further preliminaries, I showed her my badge. "This is a complicated situation," I said. "We have reason to believe that this baby is part of an experiment that I've been investigating. That may be why the . . . mother left you my name. We're going to have to run some tests on the baby-- DNA, naturally, and some others. We're bringing in doctors who will know what to look for. In the meantime, I'll probably need to speak with the pediatrician on call."

"What about custody issues?" she asked, confusion spreading over her classic features.

"What would you normally do in a similar situation?"

"We've never had a baby abandoned so soon after its birth before. Normally, the first thing we do is call in DHS, and they find a foster home for the child. If we know the mother's name, we notify relatives and give them a chance to petition for custody. In this case, the name the mother gave when she was admitted was apparently a false one."

"Well, this baby needs to stay in the hospital for a while. If it's a question of legal custody, if she is who I think she is, I'll be petitioning for custody myself."

"I'll have to go ahead and notify the authorities," she told me.

"Of course." I wasn't concerned. With Scully's will to back me up and my current popularity with Congress, I didn't doubt my ability to get custody. In any case, if this was Scully's baby, chances were she wouldn't be around for long.

I stepped outside Mrs. Dellacasa's office while she made her calls, and placed one myself to Skinner. He said he'd come right away. Although I had confidence in my own clout with the authorities, it couldn't hurt my credibility to bring in the big guy for backup.

Mrs. Dellacasa came out. "I'd like to talk to the pediatrician now if I could," I told her.

"I've had him paged. He'll meet us upstairs."

"Upstairs?"

"In the nursery. You do want to see the baby, don't you?"

I froze. The thought of seeing--of touching--a little living, breathing part of Scully was too much to contemplate. Whether the idea intoxicated me or terrified me was unclear. Either way, it was another thing I had to do for Scully, just as I had laid bouquets on 13 graves across the country.

I followed Mrs. Dellacasa to the elevator like a zombie. I felt cold again all of a sudden as the reality of the situation hit. I started shaking and knew that if Scully had been there she would have said I was shocky and tried to get a blanket for me. But she wasn't there--at least not bodily--so I took a few deep breaths and tried to say a prayer for strength instead.

Only one bed in the nursery was occupied when we entered, and one nurse was in attendance. "Where are all the other babies?" I asked her.

"Honey, we don't keep the babies in the nursery anymore. They're all rooming in with their mommies."

I conquered the urge to cry, knowing that if I fell apart now it would all be over, and walked to the bassinet. The baby was sleeping, blue-veined eyelids fluttering as she dreamed. Her head was covered with a stocking cap, but even without the clues that hair and eyes might have provided, I recognized her as Scully's, and my eyes began to water despite my best intentions.

"You wanna hold her?" the nurse asked kindly.

"I--I never held a baby before," I admitted.

"There's nothing to it. She's not breakable. Just be sure to support her head. Babies have big heads and weak neck muscles. She won't have good head control for a while."

"Shouldn't I wash my hands first?"

The nurse smiled. "Good idea. You can use that sink over there."

I scrubbed as though I were getting ready to perform surgery and then returned and held out my arms. The nurse settled the baby into them. Someone to hold, I thought, feeling the warmth and weight of her. "She's so tiny."

"Tiny!" The nurse snorted. "That baby's a moose. She weighed in at 10 pounds and two ounces."

"That's big?"

"Average is about seven and a half pounds."

"That seems like she's healthy, then," I said, memorizing her features and wishing it could be true.

I was still holding her when the pediatrician arrived. I explained what we needed to do and he frowned. "I've examined this baby already and in my professional opinion she is perfectly healthy."

Though I was thrilled to hear it, I knew I shouldn't rejoice prematurely. "This is an unusual blood disorder that wouldn't appear on the usual tests, Doctor. I'd appreciate it if you'd work with the other doctors on this and continue to keep a close eye on her."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Miracle worker that he is, Frohike managed to have his two doctors at the hospital early the next morning. Incredibly, unbelievably, their tests on the baby's blood were all negative. She was, in fact, exactly as she appeared--a perfectly healthy baby--and as I awaited the results of the DNA tests, I began to doubt she could really be Scully's.

The guys at the FBI lab had run these same tests for me 13 times before--they knew the drill. Check for a match with Scully's DNA, look for the markers that signified alien genetic matter in the mix, run a check on the database to look for a paternal match. Scully's previous children had all had some alien genes. The male genetic material was different for each, and there were no matches in the database.

I was sitting in a rocking chair in the nursery holding the baby when they called me to the phone at the nurses' station. It was Mike at the lab.

"You got those results, Mike?" I asked him, heart hammering in my chest.

"Yeah, but Mulder . . . "

"What? What's wrong?"

"We were just wondering--I mean, is this the same kind of thing you've been investigating before? Because it looks different."

"As far as I know, it's related. Why? Isn't she--you mean she's not Scully's?" Disappointment made me cold inside and out.

"No, no, she's definitely Scully's. But she's missing all those wonky alien markers in her profile. She's 100% human."

"Well, that's great news!" I beamed. "You had me going for a minute."

"There's something else."

"What?"

"Are you sitting down?"

"Mike, what is it?"

"We found a paternal match, Mulder."

This was an unwelcome development. I was already becoming attached to the baby. Although I planned to give her to her grandmother, I had hoped to play some small part in her life. If she had a living father, this would present complications. I tried to keep my voice light. "So, who's the lucky guy?"

"You are."

"What?" My knees gave way and I had to grip the counter for support.

"I said, you are."

"Are you sure?"

"95% match."

"Is that a definite match?"

"Mulder, that O.J. Simpson stuff was bullshit. If the DNA test says you're the father, you're the father."

I hung up in a daze and on unsteady legs staggered back to the nursery. The baby was in a nurse's arms now, just finishing a bottle of breast milk. The nurse handed her to me and I sat back in the rocker I had recently vacated. The baby startled in her sleep and I wrapped her blanket more tightly around her. Gently I ran one finger across her satin cheek. You're mine, I thought, looking down at her in all her tiny perfection. Oh, Scully, I thought, I wish you were here to see this. But for the very first time since Scully's death, my sorrow was tempered by joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An emergency hearing was held to settle the issue of the baby's custody. Between Scully's will, the DNA evidence, and my rather impressive cadre of supporters, the judge was easily persuaded to grant me physical custody of the baby. All our doctors having granted her a clean bill of health, nothing stood in the way of my taking her home.

"Nothing," I said to Frohike, "except the fact that I have absolutely nothing that a baby needs."

"Let me take care of it," he offered, "Take her on home, and I'll be by in a couple of hours with everything that you need for the time being."

"There's no denying you're a man of many talents, Frohike, but I wouldn't have counted shopping for a layette among them."

"O ye of little faith! You just take her home. One thing, though--what kind of diapers do you want me to get?"

"How many kinds are there?"

"Mulder, I mean do you want cloth or disposables?"

"Cloth?" I asked him in horror. "Do people still use those?"

"Cloth diapers are cheaper and better for the environment," he informed me.

"Cloth?" I said again in disbelief.

"Some people say they are better at preventing diaper rash, too."

As much as I hated the thought of anything marring the pink perfection of the baby's bottom, I shook my head at Frohike regretfully. "I'm still trying to get used to the idea of changing diapers at all, Frohike. Gotta go with disposables."

"All right, man. Whatever you say."

"Wait a sec, Frohike. I want--thanks." I looked him in the eye and reached out to squeeze his arm. "You've been here for me to hell and back over the past year--all you guys have, but especially you--and I want you to know how much I appreciate it."

Frohike's eyes were suspiciously moist behind his glasses. "Just keeping a promise, my friend." I looked at him questioningly. He cleared his throat. "Um--when I was with Scully--when she was saying good-bye to everyone . . ." I nodded, remembering how bravely, how gracefully she had faced her death. "The last thing that Scully said to me was, 'Please take care of Mulder for me.'"


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is strong shadow where there is much light.

--Goethe
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

14 November 1999
Fox Mulder's Apartment
Alexandria, Virginia

Fumbling, I managed to unlock my apartment door while holding both the swaddled baby and the overstuffed diaper bag and dropping neither. With a sigh I dropped the bag inside the door and headed for the couch.

My heart almost stopped when I heard the voice from the corner of the room. "Good evening, Agent Mulder."

Inanely, I stammered, "You--you're not smoking."

"Second-hand smoke is bad for babies," C.G.B. Spender said reasonably.

I had not seen my former nemesis since our joint statement to Congress. I had never expected to see him again. Recovering my equilibrium and remembering all the reasons I had to be angry at him, I raised my voice. "What are you doing here? What the fuck do you want?"

"Such language, Agent Mulder!" he chided me. "Little ears are listening."

I did lower my voice, terrified the baby would wake. "Cut the crap, Spender."

"I wanted to see her--to admire the results of my final project."

"Why? Why did you do it?"

He smiled. "Because I could."

I glared at him, waiting.

"Just consider her a gift."

"God damn it! She's a baby, Spender! A human being, not a thing! You can't just create human beings and give them out as gifts!"

Spender shook his head. "You are so predictable, Agent Mulder. Must we continue this song and dance? Next you will call me a black-lunged son of a bitch, I believe. Then you'll likely hold your gun to my head. But we both know you won't pull the trigger. You're an honorable man, and murder in cold blood is beneath you."

"Are you finished yet?"

"This will be our last meeting, Agent Mulder. So indulge me for a moment."

I shifted the baby into a more comfortable position in my arms.

"I had this baby made for you because I could. I had the means, and I lack your conscience. I am aware that you have some of Agent Scully's eggs in your possession and access, of course, to the other raw material necessary. You could have had this done yourself."

"I would never, ever have considered such a thing. I would have had no right, and neither did you."

"Shall I take her back then?"

"*NO!*" I felt a wave of terror pass over me and I realized then that I already loved this baby with everything I had.

"I thought as much." Spender paused to cough into a handkerchief. "I know what it is like to spend a life alone, Agent Mulder. I was always glad you had Agent Scully. I told you before I was sorry about what had happened to her. Let's just call this my attempt at righting that wrong."

"You can't replace people as though they were pets."

"Perhaps not. Anyway, that was not my intention. Had Agent Scully not been damaged by our experiments, in time you and she might have had a child. Giving you this baby is my effort to bring about what might have been."

"You're not God, to play games with people's lives this way."

"No?"

"This isn't right. It isn't moral. It's not the way it's meant to happen," I protested, all the while rubbing my cheek against the soft fuzz of the baby's hair.

"Waxing philosophical, are you? Perhaps being friends with that Jesuit is having an effect on you."

"Is there nothing you don't see or know?"

"I've been your guardian angel for years now, but I'm afraid I'll be hanging up my halo shortly. I'm dying, Agent Mulder. I've got terminal lung cancer- -it's in the final stages." As if to punctuate his words, Spender began to cough again. Finished, he smiled slightly and said, "I agree there's a certain poetic justice at work here. But I'm thankful that I made it long enough to see the alien threat ended, and to see this baby safely born."

As he stepped from the shadows to make his way to the door--bent, I saw now, and frailer than I remembered him from our Congressional appearance--I asked, "Why do you care?"

"I've always cared, Fox." He smiled at me, the most genuine smile I'd ever seen on his face. "We won't speak again. Take care of the baby. Neither Bill Mulder nor myself would ever have won any parenting awards. But something tells me you'll be good at it." He lit a cigarette and walked out of my life.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.

--Proverbs 24:32
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

14 November 1999
Fox Mulder's Apartment
Alexandria, Virginia

Most people have nine months, give or take, to get used to the idea of becoming parents, to learn about baby care and to make plans for their future. I, on the other hand, had five days from the time I found Molly at the hospital until I brought her home to a bachelor apartment that was sorely equipped to welcome her.

True to his word, Frohike brought me the necessities--diapers, wipes, bottles, blankets, and sleepers. Every single one of the latter was pink. Frohike beamed at me sheepishly when I commented on this.

We'd been in the apartment just over an hour and the baby chose this moment to open her sky-blue eyes and begin to fuss. Frohike must have noticed the panic-stricken look on my face because he took charge, rummaging through the diaper bag until he came up with an insulated bottle of milk the hospital had sent with me. He handed it to me and I clumsily stuck it in the baby's mouth.

"Shouldn't I heat it up or something?"

"I'll let you in on a secret that'll save you a lot of time, Mulder. She doesn't know the difference. She'll drink it cold if you don't get her used to drinking it warm."

He began removing the rest of the purchases from the bags and stacking them neatly on one end of the couch. "The boys and I will be over in the morning to straighten this place up for you. We can figure out what else you need then."

"Thanks, Frohike."

"My pleasure. The bottles I bought are much better than the ones from the hospital. I got the kind with the bend in them to keep air from getting in her stomach. And I got the nipples that are more like the real thing, y'know?"

"The extent of your knowledge continues to amaze me," I told him. "How do you know so much about babies?"

"I had a kid once," he admitted quietly, continuing to unearth purchases from his shopping bag.

"Frohike I--I had no idea."

"There's a lot you don't know about me, Mulder. It was all a long time ago--some time I'll tell you about it. Tommy was just five months old when he died--crib death, what they call SIDS these days."

"I'm sorry."

His voice was thick. "Even in just five months, you can really get attached, y'know? I can still see his cute little face, remember his smile and his laugh. He'd just gotten his first tooth." He removed his glasses and wiped his eyes on his sleeve.

"It gets better, though, eventually, doesn't it?"

"Of course it does, Mulder. You know that yourself. Didn't you tell me you were catatonic after Samantha went missing? But you got over it, you survived, you went on. After awhile, you start enjoying life again. And there's nothing wrong with that."

"Hasn't happened yet," I said, setting the bottle down. "She feels wet."

"Next time, you should change her before you feed her. Then you don't have to wake her afterwards. You want help with that?" he asked as I laid the baby on the couch and began fumbling with the diaper.

"No, thanks. Now's as good a time as any for me to start learning how to do this stuff."

"I brought you some research material." Frohike rummaged through the bag again and came up with several books. "Had to get you Dr. Spock for the basic info. Then here's "What to Expect in the First Year." That's the bible for today's parents, or at least that's what it said on the 'Net. And the alternative types swear by this one," he said, brandishing a volume entitled "Attachment Parenting."

"I appreciate all you've done, Frohike. But who are we trying to kid here? I'm not fit to take care of a newborn baby. Shit, I've barely taken care of myself for the past year. Best thing I could do for her, probably, is to turn her over to Mrs. Scully right now."

He looked at me seriously. "Is that what you want to do, Mulder?"

"No! No, I want her. I want to take care of her. I just don't know if I can."

"Look at it this way, Mulder. This baby is a gift from God. He must think you're capable."

I laughed harshly. "Oh, come on, Frohike. We both know that God had nothing to do with making this baby."

"I don't believe that, Mulder. God's ways are not ours. Who are we to question His methods? He's used stranger instruments before."

"I'm new to all this God stuff, Frohike, but you now me well enough by now to realize that I question everything."

"So you do. But look, you've been floundering here. Your quest has been your lifeline. You've devoted your life to it. If Scully had been here when it ended, I think you would have been O.K. But without her, you've had no direction. They never talk about what happens to the Seekers when the *find* the Holy Grail."

The baby whimpered and I stood and began walking around the room with her.

"This baby can be your new reason to go on, Mulder. You've got to get back on track, you've got to take care of yourself, so you can take care of her. Remember that it's what Scully wanted."

"She didn't mean this, Frohike. You know she didn't expect this."

"If she'd wanted to, she could have written joint custody with her mom into the will, Mulder. She didn't. She trusted you. If you give this baby to the Scullys now, they'll take her over and you won't be a big part of her life. I *know* that's not what Scully would have wanted. I know it's not what *you* want."

I yawned suddenly and Frohike rose to leave. "I'll be back with Byers and Langly in the morning, my friend. You know you'll have our help on this. Byers comes from a big family--he knows all about kids. And we'll just have to educate Langly."

At the thought of this unlikely trio of nursemaids,

I grinned genuinely for the first time in months.

Frohike grinned back. "See you in the morning, Dad."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So I accepted the challenge and became a Daddy in name as well as in biology. I took a six-month leave from the Bureau--not difficult considering my current VIP status--and devoted myself heart and soul to this new endeavor, as I had to anything else I'd ever undertaken.

I never did have time to read any of Frohike's parenting books. Molly absorbed my attention night and day. My empty arms were literally full now; I never put her down and she slept with me at night.

In some ways I missed Scully now more than ever because I was constantly thinking of how wonderful it would have been to stare the adventure of parenting Molly with her: to marvel together over her beauty, to show her off to friends and family, to argue over whose features she had inherited. But I didn't have the time to mourn that I once had. Molly liked to keep moving, so I bought a sling and a jogging stroller. My underused muscles reasserted themselves and my unhealthy pallor disappeared. All that exercise made me hungry again and I regained the pounds I had lost.

Normally it's the parents who coax smiles and laughter from the baby, but in my case it was Molly's sunny disposition, her coos and squeals and open-mouthed smiles that got me smiling and laughing again.

Scully and I talked once about the love of God how I couldn't feel that love or believe in its existence because I had known so little unconditional love in my life. Scully's love had led me closer to a belief in a Higher Power, a God of Love. Molly's helped me to complete that journey. When she smiled in delight at the sight of me, when she planted wet kisses on my nose or my cheek, it was easy to see that she loved me. And as her love brought healing to my lacerated heart, it was easy to see the hand of a loving God at work.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joy is not the absence of pain. Peace is not the absence of turmoil. Love is not the absence of anger and hurt.

--Matthew Kelly
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

20 May 2000
Margaret Scully's Residence
Arlington, Virginia

"What the *fuck* is *he* doing here?"

It's my reunion with Bill Scully, whom I have not seen since his sister's funeral. Now I remember why I loathe the bastard. But I'm not here to pick a fight, so I say nothing and enjoy watching Maggie light into Junior.

"Billy, I know you're a sailor, but you're supposed to be an officer and a gentleman. I will not tolerate that kind of language in my home."

Charlie lays a hand on his big brother's arm. "Hey, buddy, cut him some slack, O.K.? Dana did ask you to lay off him, remember?" I think I like this guy after all.

"Of course I remember." All of a sudden the big bully is close to tears and I can find it in my heart to feel for him. But only for a minute. "Do you think I could ever forget what Dana said to me when she was dying?" Bill's voice grows louder. " Do you think I could ever forget that she wasted her last words to me talking about this bastard?"

"Bill!" Maggie is getting upset now and I feel the need to intervene.

"Look, I didn't come here to start a problem," I begin.

"Why did you come here, then?" Bill demands, glaring at me truculently with bulging blue eyes.

"For one thing," I say patiently, willing myself to keep my voice calm and slow, "I hoped it might give the family some closure to know that the man who was primarily responsible for what happened to your sister is dead."

"How can that be, when he's standing here in front of me?"

That's it. I've had enough. I thought this was a bad idea to begin with, bringing everyone together to meet Molly without any warning, but Maggie insisted. She didn't say so, but I'm sure she was afraid Bill would never agree to occupy the same space as me voluntarily. I'm trying to stay cool here but Bill is obviously not going to meet me half-way.

"I don't have to be here. I could just take--I could just leave right now. But I think Dana would want this."

Bill opens his mouth to spew some more invective at me but Maggie has her own ideas. Smoothly she interrupts, and her eyes plead with me as she says aloud, "Why don't you go get Molly, Fox? She's just playing in the crib."

I go along with Maggie's suggestion. Maybe the sight of his niece will be enough to defuse Bill's temper. I know he likes kids and that for all his gruffness Scully thought he was a good Dad to Matthew. And who could resist Molly's charm anyway? So I scoop her out of the crib that all the Scully kids once slept in and head back down to the living room, where ominous silence awaits me.

It doesn't last long. Bill gets one quick look at Molly and says in a soft voice that is almost more menacing than a yell, "You sick fuck. What the hell have you done? How did you--how dare you do this?"

"Fox didn't *do* anything," Maggie protests, going up to bat for me once more. I appreciate it, but I know that her patronage only damns me further in Bill's eyes. "Molly just appeared at Georgetown six months ago."

"And she's Dana's." It's not really a question, but Maggie responds anyway.

"You know she is, Billy. She looks just like her mother. And Fox has had all the tests run."

"You've had her six months and haven't turned her over to her rightful family in all that time?" Bill challenges me.

I know I shouldn't be sarcastic, but it's such a natural response when dealing with Bill. "I can't imagine why I was putting off this joyful reunion."

Bill's voice rises again. "I intend to start legal proceedings immediately, Mulder. Don't even think you'll get away with keeping her. That provision in Dana's will wasn't meant for this kind of situation and you know it. And when we tell the court about you they'll laugh at the very idea of a psycho like you raising a child."

"You'll have to do better than that, *Billy*," I tell him, white-hot rage burning inside me. "It would take evidence of physical abuse or severe neglect to convince the court to take a motherless child away from her devoted father."

"Her *father?*"

"Her father." I try not to look smug and I think I mostly succeed.

"Jesus." Bill is vanquished. He's related to Fox Mulder for life now and it's hard to take in.

"Look, I know how utterly crazy this all is." I tell him." I can barely understand it myself. I didn't plan this, or ask for it, and it hasn't been easy. But this is the hand I've been dealt and I intend to play it. I love this child more than you can possibly comprehend, and I'm going to be the best god-damned father there ever was. I thought part of doing that was giving Molly the benefit of an extended family, helping her to form a connection with her mother. Maybe I was wrong."

Molly has never heard voices raised in anger before, and she's frightened. Her mouth quivers and she buries her little face in my shoulder. "This is upsetting the baby, Bill, not to mention what it's doing to your mother," I say, looking pointedly at Maggie, who has tears in her eyes. "Maybe I need to leave and give you all some time alone. I know this has been a shock."

"Please don't go," Tara says, casting a pleading look at Bill. "We've come all the way from San Diego, and Matthew hasn't even gotten to meet his cousin yet."

"Our kids will want to see her too," Kristin agrees. "At least come out in the back yard and see them."

"Please stay, Fox," Maggie says quietly, wiping her eyes. "Have some spaghetti with us, at least."

"I'd like to stay, Mrs. Scully, but I won't have Molly frightened." I look at Bill. The fight seems to have gone out of him for the time being, and he only looks sad.

"It'll be all right, Mulder," Charlie assures me. "We all want to get to know Molly. I'll keep the big guy in line." Bill grimaces but says nothing, so I allow myself to be led out into the back yard.

The place is swarming with children of all sizes, from a ten-year-old girl who looks like a young Melissa to the baby younger than Molly in her arms. Scullys all, with freckles and blonde or red hair, they pause in their play to look me over.

"Jesus, Charlie, how many kids do you have?"

"Six," he announces proudly. "And with Matthew and now Molly, it's quite a crew of cousins. This is Meghan," he says, pointing at the oldest girl, "and she's a big help with the baby--that's Daniel; he's three months old. Patrick's eight and Will is six," he says, indicating two grubby boys who had been wrestling in the grass when we came out. "Katie's four, and Chris is two." Those two--Katie looks disconcertingly like Emily--are in the sandbox, along with a boy with a head full of blonde ringlets. "That's Matthew--you've met him before, I think?"

"Well, he's grown quite a bit since then," I direct this remark towards Tara, who smiles encouragingly.

"He's three and a half now," she responds. "And he's so excited to be here with his cousins."

Kristin smiles at me too. "We all love kids, obviously. I can't tell you how happy we are about Molly."

"I think she's happy too," I say, somewhat surprised. Molly's never been around other children, and she's looking around with interest and kicking her chunky legs energetically. Meghan chooses this moment to approach and hand off her own squalling baby brother to their mother.

"Oh, she's so sweet! Can I hold her?" Soon Molly is being paraded around the back yard, being entertained by the antics of her cousins, while I sit in an Adirondack chair with a glass of iced tea next to Bill and Charlie Scully, wondering how this ever came to pass.

Watching the kids play in the warm evening air, I can't help but reflect that this is that elusive normal life that Scully and I discussed once upon a time, the life I never thought of wanting and that death cheated her out of experiencing. And here I am, in the midst of it all. It's what I wanted for Molly, it's why I took the chance and embraced the pain of contacting Maggie in the first place. But Scully should be here too. I should have told her I loved her years ago. We should have had a wedding and a honeymoon and made a baby the regular way. We should be sitting here watching the kids together and making plans for our future. She should be alive, and I shouldn't be alone.

These are pointless thoughts and I banish them from my mind successfully most of the time. Tonight, though, with her family around me, I am keenly aware of Scully's absence from my side. And even though I feel Bill's hostile gaze upon me, I cannot stop the tears from rolling down my face.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The infinite Goodness has such wide arms that it takes whatever turns to it.

Dante

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

25 May 2000
Holy Trinity Catholic Church
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Since our chance meeting on Scully's birthday last year, a friendship of sorts has sprung up between Bob Callahan, the young Jesuit I met in the hospital chapel, and me. We shoot hoops occasionally and go out afterwards for a beer or two. I've met him for lunch a few times--I even went to one of his masses at Holy Trinity when he told me he thought the homily would interest me.

Still, this is the first time I've sought his counsel on a spiritual matter, the first time I've set foot in his small office.

I sit down in a comfortable, if battered, leather chair and set Molly at my feet with some toys. My eyes alight on a green marble Celtic cross near me on the desk, and I pick it up to examine it, grateful for something to occupy my eyes and my hands.

I told Bob on the phone I needed to talk, so he doesn't screw around with the pleasantries. "What's bugging you, Mulder?"

"I feel guilty," I say.

"Guilty? Mulder, we'll make a Catholic of you yet!" Bob smiles, but seeing that his quip has failed to lighten my mood, he grows serious again. "What are you feeling guilty about?"

"For being alive when Scully's not," I blurt quickly, before I can lose my nerve. A good listener, Bob waits for me to tell him more. "For months after she died, I didn't consider being alive such a prize. I was on the cusp of suicide for a long time. I told you that before. And if Scully hadn't made me promise not to, I would have killed myself the night she died.

"I've always felt responsible for what happened to Scully. In a way, staying alive has seemed like a punishment, a penance for what I did to her, because life meant separation from her."

"What's changed?"

"I--I'm happy," I admit miserably. "I never thought I'd be happy again, but I am."

"Because of Molly."

"Yeah. I still miss Scully," I say swiftly. "Every single day. And it still hurts. But I'm not drowning in despair every second like I was. I smile--I laugh-- I enjoy my life. To be completely honest, when I'm not thinking about Scully, I'm *happier* now than I used to be."

"And that's a bad thing?"

"It's not right, Bob! It sounds so trite to ask why bad things happen to good people, but I can't help it. Here's Scully--and she was a good person, Bob, a really good person--and she's dead, before her time. She'll never know Molly--"

"Hold on, Mulder. That's not what Scully believed. Or what I believe. Or even what I thought *you* believed."

"O.K., O.K., you're right. I've come to believe in an afterlife. I do believe we'll all be together again eventually. But I'm talking about the here and now.

"And there's more. I've explained to you about how Molly was conceived. The man who made her- -he did it *because* Scully was dead. If Scully hadn't died, Molly wouldn't be here at all. I want to believe that Molly's a child of God, not just an advanced science experiment. But I don't want to believe God planned it to be this way."

Bob leans back in his chair and nods thoughtfully. "So you're wondering about the degree of control God exercises in our lives, what kind of influence He has over events?"

"Yeah."

"You don't ever ask *small* questions, do you, Mulder? What did Scully think about that?"

"I don't know. It wasn't the sort of thing we discussed."

"Come on, Mulder. Put that famous memory of yours to good use."

I thought hard, remembering conversations I'd had with Scully, chance remarks I'd heard her make. "Well, I know she prayed, so she must have thought God answers prayers. And she told me once that she believed God was involved in our lives. But she didn't believe in destiny. She said we choose our own path in life. When she was dying she told me it wasn't my fault--that she'd made her own choices and she wouldn't change them."

Bob leans forward, pinning me with his gaze. "What about you, Mulder? What do you believe?"

"I've always made a lot of noise about Fate with a capital F. I know I talked a lot about destiny and events being set in a preordained way. On the other hand, I've always been big on blaming myself for everything that happened to anyone I cared about. Maybe all my talk of Fate was a cop out--because if I could believe that all the things that happened around me were fated, I could escape the guilt, and I could believe it would all work itself out in the end. I don't think that kind of Fate is compatible with a belief in a loving and personal God. But none of this answers any of the questions I'm having."

"Free Will is my answer, Mulder, the only one I have to offer. And from what I know of Scully, it sounds like it was her answer as well. What happened to her had to do to a degree with free choices you made and that she made, but more than that with the free choices of other people--people who exercised their gift of freedom poorly."

"So you're saying that there is no overriding plan for the universe, and that God doesn't intervene?"

"No, I'm not. I think God inspires us to make the right choices, to exercise our freedom responsibly. I believe He gives us strength when we ask Him for it. And I believe He helps us to find the good that can arise from the ashes of evil. I think, for example, that He gave you the strength to take Molly and love her instead of passing her on to Scully's family. You could have rejected the responsibility but you chose to accept that gift and you're reaping the benefits now."

"I don't know--"

"I don't *know* either, Mulder. God's ways are largely mysterious, you know."

"People keep telling me that," I say ruefully, "But that's not something that's easy for me to accept."

"Oh, Mulder. You and your search for the ultimate Truth. You want things to be black and white. You've been given a gift of great understanding and I think that in some ways it's spoiled you. You understand so many things that you think you should be able to understand everything. Well, God is my Truth, and that He is unknowable mystery is part of that Truth. My Faith is my Truth."

"Once, I told Scully that the Truth is my faith."

"I'm sorry I never met Scully, but I do feel like I know her through what you've shared with me. I may not know the answer to every mystery, but there are some things I'm absolutely sure of, and one of them is that she would be happy that you are happy. She would not blame you or want you to feel guilty for going on with your life. And she would be thrilled that you are trying to put a face on God.

"You can't be a good father to Molly if you're eaten up with guilt. Scully knows you'll always love her. She knows you'll never forget her. It's all right not to suffer constantly anymore."

Molly has been playing placidly on the threadbare carpet all this time, but her patience has worn thin. "Da-da, Da-da," she calls, and I look down to see her gazing up at me with Scully's blue eyes, extending dimpled arms to be picked up. She smiles at me, and it's almost as if Scully is smiling at me, encouraging me to embrace happiness.

As I reach for the baby, I feel love for both her and her mother, and I promise God silently to try to be worthy of this second chance at joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Knowledge by suffering entereth, and life is perfected by Death.

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

29 May 2000
Calvary Catholic Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

On a sunny morning late in May, I stand by Scully's grave, our daughter in my arms.

A warm breeze caresses us, blowing the skirts of Molly's elaborate christening gown in swirls around her ankles.

In less than an hour, we are to meet the Scully clan at the church they attend to have Molly baptized. Frohike and Scully's friend Ellen have agreed to serve as godparents, and Bob will perform the ceremony. All the Scullys will be present--even Bill, who seems to have decided that playing a part in his niece's life is worth being courteous to her father.

Molly's never been to the cemetery before--and I haven't been here since Scully was buried. I don't really need to come here to feel close to her. I know it's only her body that's here in the ground. I carry her in my heart and always will.

But I'm looking on this special day as a new beginning for Molly and me. And just as Molly is undergoing a ceremony of rebirth today, I feel the need for a ceremony of my own.

Gently, I lay a large bouquet of blush roses on the grave. Molly has a rose of her own to put down, but it takes some work to convince her that she should release it instead of chewing on it. Finally, she trades it for a new teething toy I bought to keep her quiet during the baptism.

Her family purchased a simple headstone marked with Scully's full name and the dates of her birth and death. It's probably just as well I wasn't consulted. I would have wanted to erect an enormous monument. Now with the perspective a year and a half brings I can realize that the mark Scully left on the hearts of those who loved her is all the monument she needs.

Her living legacy warm in my arms, I sit on the stone bench beside the headstone. "This is where your mommy is buried," I tell Molly. "She was beautiful and smart and loving, just like you are. She's watching over you all the time, and I know that she thinks you're wonderful."

Molly waves her new toy in the air and babbles enthusiastically. "Scully," I say softly. "I wanted to tell you that Molly is being baptized today. It's what you would have wanted, I know, but it's also what I want for her. Your family will be there. We're all getting along--well, Bill's Bill, but he's trying. And I'll make sure they're an important part of Molly's life."

Molly is struggling to get down and I realize I'm going to have to hurry things up. No way can I let her get grass stains on this christening gown.

"Scully, I've kept the promise I made to you. And now I want to say thank you for asking me to make it. I'm glad I'm here, and I'm happy, and I wanted you to know that I think I've decided it's O.K. to be happy.

"I will always love you, Scully. And I'll make sure Molly knows all about you. I will always remember you."

I rise to leave, but turn to whisper one last "Good-bye" towards the grave. My heart stops as a gentle breeze ruffles the roses I have placed there as if in a silent response. The sun shining brightly on us is like a blessing, and my daughter and I head for the church and the waters of rebirth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Remember
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:

Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

--Christina Rossetti


THE END



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