Title: Scully's Choices
Author: MystPhile
Written: September 2000
Distribution: Gossamer, Ephemeral, Spooky, Xemplary, yes; others, please notify.
Classification: Quasi-case file. ScullyAngst, MSR, months post-Requiem.
Rating: R, for obscenity and gynecological detail
Disclaimer: Property of 1013.
Spoilers: Anything through Requiem.

Summary: In early December, a very pregnant Scully must choose between finding Mulder and guarding the baby's welfare.

Notes at end.


"You let us take the baby, you can have Mulder back."

Scully stared across the heavy wooden table at Krycek. Although Marita sat by his side, she barely registered on Scully's radar. She looked like an icicle, one which would never melt, glacial eyes focused remorselessly on Scully. Krycek, in contrast, simmered, leaning forward, seeking to persuade her with his eyes, will her to agree. A salesman, he wanted to close the deal.

Which was ludicrous, she told herself. This situation was entirely out of control. It had turned into a surreal nightmare. And the fact that she was sweating, trembling, and nearly bouncing out of her chair didn't help her thought processes.

"What bullshit," she told him, trying to keep her voice steady and her mind focused. "There *is* no baby, you idiot. It's a fetus."

"Which is viable," he shot back. "You're past 33 weeks. We hacked into your O-B-G-Y-N's records. We take it; it lives. We give you Mulder. Just what you've wanted all these months."

Scully stared at him in disbelief. How could he think that she would ever consider giving up her unborn child? That she would give a second's thought to his ridiculous proposition? He was playing for time; that had to be it. And she needed to stop playing his game and assert her control. If only she had the strength.

You have to, she told herself. Everything depends on what you do in the next half hour. Get a grip.

"Fuck off," she told him coldly. "Let us not forget the situation here. The gun on my lap is aimed at your balls. And I am quite willing to blow them through the wall."


What would persuade even a villain like Krycek that she might agree to give up her unborn child? Wouldn't anyone know that was just ...unthinkable? Or had her actions convinced them otherwise?

Looking back, Scully realized that a Series of choices had led her to the present moment. Along the way, she had not always made her decisions consciously; rather, some choices seemed to have been made without the existence of a chooser. They had just happened.

Probably the first one had been the easiest: to sleep with Mulder. When that moment arrived, it had been the most right thing in the world to do, as natural as drawing her next breath. How could that be a source of regret, even if it led her to this moment in an isolated mountain cabin in West Virginia, with the 'bad guys' likely to arrive and overpower her at any second. No, she could not regret the love affair that had blossomed so lushly, after the many years of starvation. Every moment had been beautiful and heartfelt and blissful. Expressing the love she felt for Mulder had been the most natural and joyful of acts. Not so much a choice as a force of nature.

The decision to let him go to Oregon without her had also come and gone without her being really aware of the possible consequences. He had insisted, out of his love and worry for her. So, for him, she had stayed home and sent Skinner in her stead. It hadn't worked, but she hadn't realized his danger until after he'd gone. At the time, it had seemed like the right thing. He'd even been talking of the costs of their work being too great; the possibility existed, he said, that both of them could walk away. Not into a sunset, of course; that was for movies. But to a life together and to a modicum of safety.

She did not see how that could happen now.

The pregnancy, discovered after he was gone. Was there another choice to be made there? Well, if they had known she was fertile, they would have used protection. But who was to know? She had slid, with no thought of possible consequences, into a horrid situation: pregnant, abandoned (unwillingly) by her lover, and desperate to rescue him from untold atrocities.

Then the real problems began.


Krycek looked less than impressed by Scully's threat. He actually smirked, and the frozen-faced one permitted herself a hint of a smile.

"Get real," he chuckled. "I told you we hacked into your medical records. Which means we know your secret, babe. You are taking Brethine. Which means that you have a bunch of side effects. Including tremors. Don't think I didn't notice that when you got here, you could hardly hold the gun in your hand, Scully."

He smiled. It even looked as if he was trying to put some charm into it. "If you'd had two guns, you would have made some castanet sounds we could dance to." He chuckled again. "I don't think you can hit a barn, let alone me."

Scully looked down at the gun in her lap. Jesus, he was right. But, the side effects didn't last all that long, and she'd have better aim as time went by. Therefore, she needed to buy time. But----she couldn't afford to spend time; she needed to see if Mulder was here and get out before reinforcements arrived. This, she thought, is what they call a dilemma. And then she wondered why she was making pompous statements to herself. Calm, she ordered herself. Think. Never have you needed to keep your head more than at this moment. Pompous again, she thought. Maybe pomposity made her feel stronger, more in control. Whatever.

"The gun is resting on my lap," she said with an appearance of calm. Just steadying her voice and sitting still and controlling her facial movements cost her a great deal. She really felt like jumping and screaming and having a hysterical fit. Her heart was pounding like a frenzied drummer, a rapid heart rate being one of the medication's side effects. Between that and the tremors and the anxiety caused by the Brethine she had just taken, she panicked. Why, she wondered, had she, the weakest of vessels at this moment, come here. She told herself she was fucking stupid. But berating herself was equally stupid at this point. She needed to listen to her inner voice and concentrate. Think, she ordered her panicky self.

"It's on my lap, and it's pointed between your legs," she continued. "And you're welcome to take your chances and try to rush me," she said, forcing a small smile. Time to bluff her ass off. "They're your balls."

She turned her eyes to Marita, who continued to study her as though she were a cockroach under a microscope. "You too. One swing of the gun and your gut has a huge hole in it. I can't miss at this range." She paused. "And I'm totally willing to blow both of you away."

She thought about what she'd just said and was a bit startled to find that it was largely true. The Donnie Pfaster aberration aside, she was the most scrupulous of agents, never willing to usurp the role of God in deciding people's fates. But everything in her life was on the line right now. She obviously could not let them take the fetus. Therefore, she was willing to kill them. Without hesitation, feeling fully justified and even righteous. No more Emilys, no more Gibsons, no more abducted Scullys, no more abducted Mulders, no more lab rats, period.

Krycek apparently read the truth in her eyes, and the smile faded from his face. "Mulder," he said. "You want Mulder, don't you?"

"I want it all."


Of course, she'd wanted it all. After Mulder's abduction, she'd suffered so many conflicting emotions. The almost guilty joy of realizing that she could have a child---a healthy one, she'd discovered, as far as any test could determine---when that hope had long been dead and buried. It was only natural that her heart leapt up and she grew to love dearly the entity growing inside her. It filled her with joy. This joy was blighted, however, by her worry about Mulder as she wondered what they were doing to him and who 'they' were. She lived in alternating and even simultaneous states of joy and misery. It was very strange.

So, once again, without conscious choice, she'd thrown herself into the search for Mulder. She had sometimes traveled day and night. She'd been roughed up several times. She'd spent far less time sleeping than is normal for women in early pregnancy, and her body had protested to her deaf ears. She had hurled herself into the hunt, becoming Mulder-like herself in her almost mindless persistence, until her body had thrown her a curve.

Yes, she had taken care of herself as far as she was able. She had been scrupulous about doctor appointments, pre-natal tests and vitamins, and adhered to a healthful diet. She didn't get the sleep she should, but then, she often woke up with nightmares anyway. Sometimes, it was easier not to sleep, not to visualize the horrors that could be tormenting Mulder.

She cherished the little lump that grew slowly in her abdomen and did careful research through her old texts and more current material so that she'd know every detail about every phase the embryo, then the fetus, would go through. She loved the child- to-be that grew inside her with a passion she'd never known before. Sometimes, her temporary tenant hypnotized her into thinking that just sitting there and letting it grow would be sufficient. That she was doing something so elemental that nothing else was required of her.

But then, a new clue, a tiny wisp would drift to her from the Lone Gunmen, and she would be off again, ignoring Skinner's protests about her well-being and need for rest. Again, it was a contradictory time for her. She felt lulled and productive and lazy; at the same time, she felt driven, desperate, and slightly crazed. It was ... strange.

But for a long time, she kept it up. Through a long, hot summer, she moved, searched, and re-searched. No clue was too small. At the end of September, her activities caught up with her. Her activities---and the fact that she had been, after all, the victim of the mysterious superovulation process.

The uterus, a muscular organ, contracts like any other muscle. Sometimes, a uterus will begin to contract too much, leading to the shortening of the cervix. If these contractions are allowed to continue, the cervix will open, and labor will ensue. When her contractions began, Scully was at a stage of pregnancy where the child, if born, would have about a ten percent chance of survival. Overnight, her active life ceased. She became the guardian of the child's well-being. Once again, a choice had been made. Save the child. Do whatever is necessary. Regardless of all the urgency, all the undone actions, put the child first.

So, why was she here?


"Look," she told Krycek. "I am perfectly willing to kill both of you this instant." She paused. "Even sort of eager," she admitted. "You know and I know that what you've proposed would result in my death too. You think I believe for one minute that I'd lie down for a C-section and actually trust your doctors to put me back together and ensure a recovery? Get real. I'd be left on the table to bleed to death."

Her hand actually was steadying. The problem was, her stomach was also contracting. She could be thrown into premature labor any minute. Shit, she thought. Move this along.

"So, what we have here," she continued with no appearance of hurry, although her left hand felt the hard squeeze in her abdomen, "is a situation where I have nothing to lose. I am so close to losing everything, that you don't factor in my thoughts at all. Except as two people who *may* be able to help me get out of here. Listen," she told them. "You want my baby. No deal. Taking it will kill me. No *fuckin* deal. And," she paused to glare, "I still haven't seen Mulder."

Krycek's eyes flickered. She may have finally convinced him that she wasn't just an overgrown pregnant woman in search of her lover. She could just as easily be *his* cold-blooded killer. Marita remained frozen, in both position and expression. Scully wondered if blood flowed through her veins. Perhaps if it became necessary to shoot her, the question would be settled.

"He's here," Kryeck told her. "Let me bring him out."

He started to move and Scully's weapon jerked up to take a very steady bead on his head. Thank God, she thought. Just when I need it most, I can aim the damned gun. But another contraction reminded her that she was not in great shape...at all.

Mulder, she thought. Mulder. Oh, I hope this bastard's telling the truth. And that I don't start labor. God, I'm going to have to take more pills. I can't afford to have the kid right now. And I can't afford to have a shaking gun either.

Mulder. I need to see that he's really here. But how can I look for him without being jumped by these two? Krycek's probably armed. But I can't pat him down, not with this belly and this shaky hand. He'll knock the gun away. He knows I might kill him anyway, so he's going to be willing to take chances.

Calm down. For God's sake, calm down.

But the name of Mulder, the possibility of his presence, made her break into a Pavlovian sweat and took her breath away.


Once the premature contractions appeared, Scully had turned into a model patient. She had to save the child. That became her mantra.

She may have been a model patient; however, she was a most unhappy one. And despite both Skinner and the Gunmen's determination to do every bit of the legwork that she herself would have done, she continued to chafe.

Her apartment turned into her prison, albeit a very comfortable one with everything she wanted right at hand. She settled down on her couch with everything in the world she needed (save the one she needed most) on her side table and coffee table: books, remotes, phone, laptop, Fax, snacks, pillows, blankets, and gallons and gallons of liquids. She had to drink vast quantities as well as take her meds every four hours. Her primary exercise came to be her constant trips to the bathroom.

She was not on strict bedrest. She did walk around the apartment and prepared her own food most of the time. She took a cab to the office occasionally and always took elevators instead of stairs since she was to limit physical exertion. She strolled around her neighborhood every few days, just to breathe fresh air and avoid going stir crazy. But certain restrictions were necessary. Running, lifting, excessive stairclimbing, prolonged periods on her feet...all of these were prohibited.

How, then, did she bring herself to walk up a West Virginia mountain? What could have possessed her to do something so foolish when she had made saving the child her mantra these last weeks? And would she get away with this, this blatant disregard of doctor's orders which was manifesting itself in contractions? Or would she wind up getting all of them killed...or at least she and Mulder would be dead, while 'they' made off with the child. She couldn't stand that thought at all. It made her ill. It made her want to swing the gun to her own head. What would be the point in living if her error placed her child in the hands of the consortium? None. She might as well die. She might as well die in making this effort, for her life would mean nothing, otherwise. She would bet it all.


"All" included Mulder. Most definitely. He was a very large part of ... everything. Her hunger to see him was palpable. She must keep her head and secure Krycek. This would be the time he expected her emotions to overcome her. She must control herself. And control him. Marita, she reflected, seemed to be the most controlled substance of all time.

Scully dug her handcuffs out of her pocket with her left hand and tossed them onto the table towards Krycek. "Listen," she told him in her coldest tones. "Don't move. Listen. Then move when I tell you. Keep in mind at all times that I am willing to shoot you in your tracks. It'll be a lethal shot. I have no reason at all to let you live. Do you understand?"

He studied her, staring into the depths of her eyes. He nodded.

"You," she tossed at Marita. "Get your hands on this table, flat. Move them and you're gone."

The long, slender fingers spread across the dark, scarred wood. Marita's hands looked far too elegant for their setting. Her face was still uninterested. Scully wondered if she was a clone.

"That heating pipe, behind you," she told Krycek. "There's a joint attaching it to the wall about six feet up. Take my handcuffs, slowly, with your hands in front of you at all times." He moved; she shouted, "Not now! I said listen."

His motion toward the cuffs ceased and his hands hit the table.

"Okay. You can use your prosthesis well enough to maneuver one of the cuffs around your right wrist. With the cuffs on the table, pull at it so hard I can see it dig into your flesh. After you do that, get up...slowly...and attach the other cuff to the pipe above the six-foot joint. And pull it so tight that I can see blood. No tricks. I'll blow your brains out. Clear?"

He nodded.

"Go."

"You know, Scully, you're running out of time. What you really need ... "

"Shut up," she barked. "One more word and you've had it."

He followed her instructions to the letter. She watched carefully as he tugged at both cuffs to make sure they were indeed locked and his only good hand was attached to the pipe. She hoped like hell that his prosthetic hand wasn't agile enough to locate his weapon and use it on her. Rather than search him, she'd have to keep an eye on him. She was too fearful to take her precious cargo within range of his arm, prosthetic or not. Marita's hands, in the meantime, had not moved an inch.

"Okay," Scully relented, absentmindedly rubbing her back where the contraction made it ache, "what'd you want to say?"

"That you need me. You want to get out of here and you want to take Mulder with you. He's not capable of walking. You can hardly carry yourself, let alone him. You need me alive and mobile for this."

As usual, Krycek was pretty persuasive. Perhaps his greatest asset was to be somewhat plausible no matter what he said. But, she thought, first things first. Mulder. Where the hell is he? And can I even stand up at this point to find him? And what do I do with Marita? Oh, shit. I'm so tired, and the contractions *are* continuing. I'm going to have to take a pill. Damn.

For the hundredth time, Scully wondered what she was doing here, Scully the housebound who had promised not to exert herself. Even stronger than all her regrets, however, was her desperation to see if Mulder was here. If this had *all* been a gigantic bluff, she and the baby were probably finished. Her energy was gone, and she needed a pill; in fact, from the strength of the contractions, she needed it urgently. Then, her pulse would race, her hands and body would shake, anxiety would cloud her mind, and she would be nearly helpless. Even worse, if what Krycek said was true...that Mulder too was helpless...that meant she had another inert body to try to transport. And time, if there was any leeway at all, had to be running out. Any minute, the people scheduled to do the surgery could arrive. And god knew who else.

Things were looking awfully bleak. She deliberately chose 'bleak,' thinking it really was not as bad as 'hopeless.'


She had been a virtuous patient. An impatient one, but obedient. Earlier that day, she had been taking a gentle stroll down the street to the corner store to buy some ice cream. What a cliche, she was thinking at the time. Ice cream, and on a day I can see my breath.

A kid had approached her on the street. He looked harmless, and besides, she wasn't even carrying a handbag. He must have been 12 or so. He handed her an envelope, which confused her. Why would a kid give her this? Did he think she'd dropped it? No. He said, "Some guy gave me ten bucks to deliver this to you." He swiveled and ran, leaving her to peer around the charming Georgetown street, noticing no one lurking behind the naked branches of the trees or in any storefront. All the cars looked normal. But then, they would.

She stepped inside a store and tore the envelope open. Her eyes widened as she read: "You want Mulder? You come alone. Next instruction, tobacco shop at corner of Huntington and Duggan. Now."

Even with such tempting bait, Scully had still kept her head. She had not leaped into her car and begun skidding around corners. Instead, she had walked at a prudent speed back to her apartment and called Skinner, reading him the note. A lengthy discussion had ensued, and eventually even Skinner agreed that since she did ride in cars sometimes, it would not hurt her to go to the tobacco shop in question. He would meet her there and they would discuss any moves after that.

Still the good patient, Scully did not go barreling out of her apartment. She made sure she was dressed warmly, in thick black wool leggings and warm hiking boots with a blue cashmere tunic stretching over her tummy. On top of this, she wore a down jacket, with hood, scarf, and gloves. In its large pockets, she stowed her weapon, her cellphone, her medications and a water bottle, a small flashlight, a slim wallet, and her handcuffs and badge. She even sat down to rest for a few minutes before leaving the apartment, laying her hand on her stomach to check for contractions. So far, so good. She took her twelfth pee of the day, then walked at a leisurely pace to her car.

At the tobacco shop, she continued to be a good mother-to-be. She extracted herself slowly from the car, knowing that this was exactly the kind of exertion to be avoided, especially with the added effort of keeping her stomach from bumping the steering wheel. Skinner had already arrived, but the instructions had been to turn over the letter only to a pregnant redhead.

She ripped it open and they read it together. "Didn't I say to come alone? You really don't want Mulder back, do you? Thought you did, but, hey, that's your problem, ain't it. Last chance to see him alive. Without the bald one, drive to the Seven Eleven at Hutchins and Roberts. Someone will be watching. If Baldy's anywhere around, you don't get the instructions. We'll just kill your man and dump him. We're done."

This discussion was more heated. Eventually, Scully persuaded Skinner that there was still nothing more involved than a car ride and that they could maintain cellphone contact the entire time. After questioning her about the contents of her pockets, Skinner appeared satisfied that she was well supplied. Off she went.

And in she went, or was drawn. Into the labyrinth set up by the writer of the instructions. She was drawn step by step, each a little less prudent, but still requiring nothing more than driving, something she was in fact permitted to do. Until she levered herself out of her car at a country crossroads in West Virginia to find another set of instructions, taped to the back of a road sign, this time ending: "Cellphones don't work here."

Being of an empirical nature, she of course tested the statement. The writer was correct, and she had a decision to make.


Sitting at the table pondering her dilemma, Scully decided to delay taking the pill until she found Mulder. Her eye fell on Marita, hands still spread on the table, looking for all the world as if she were waiting for her manicurist. "Where's Mulder?" she asked Marita.

Silence.

If he isn't here at all, I am going to blast the shit out of both of them, she thought. She truly had arrived at the end of her tether.

She flicked the gun at Marita's head. "Speak or lose the capacity." Her eyes were as cold as the ones she gazed into. It was as if...despite her excess padding...something in her had worn down to the bone. There was truly nothing left but the overwhelming urge to ensure the survival of her offspring and the one she loved, and if possible, herself. And that was the order for her at this point. Child, Mulder, self.

"That room, in a bed." Marita flicked her head. "He can hardly move; he's been drugged. His body's debilitated from ... the tests."

Scully nodded. She didn't want to know what tests. Her focus had narrowed to a pinhole. "You're going to bring him out."

"I can't lift him." Marita looked affronted.

"If you expect to live, you will manage to get him out here and get him into that chair." Scully nodded toward a ratty looking armchair off to the side of the cabin. She gazed thoughtfully at Marita. Who knew what weapon she might have concealed? There was only one solution.

"Keeping your hands in sight the entire time and moving in slow motion, you are going to remove every article of your outer clothing and walk into that room," Scully told her, enunciating with care. "Any shit from you or any suspicious moves, and a bullet flies through your brain."

Marita's eyes almost held an expression, but not quite. Keeping her hands in front of her, she stood slowly and began to strip. She hadn't dressed for the country; her black pants suit with the jade turtleneck beneath was jarring in this rustic, shabby cabin. She looked as if she'd been beamed here from Fifth Avenue. As each expensive article hit the table, Scully groped it with her left hand to ensure that no weapon was there. The only object in Marita's pocket was a set of keys. Since they looked like car keys, Scully crammed them into her jacket pocket. Eventually, it became obvious that Marita had been unarmed. And because of the transparencies in the lace-patterned black bikini underwear, it was also clear that she was not really a blond. Like I care, Scully thought.

Checking to see that Krycek's cuffs still held him firmly in place and that his left arm was dangling uselessly, Scully followed at a cautious distance as Marita approached the side room. She opened the door, revealing a tiny room with a body on a skinny single bed. The body was not moving. It looked, in the scant light that filtered in from the main room, very thin. It groaned a bit as Marita tried to maneuver it to its feet. With it draped clumsily across Marita's shoulders like a furless bearskin, the entourage lumbered toward the main room, with many fits and starts as Marita's knees collapsed from time to time and she lurched them both upright again.

It was Mulder, and he looked like hell. They had at least clothed him. He was wearing maroon hospital scrubs, and bones were showing through at every point. All muscle had disappeared from his lower arms, and his bare feet looked like skinny, elongated worms. His hair and beard had apparently never been trimmed, giving him the appearance of an unkempt Christ. Underneath all the hair, he was deathly pale.

When Marita dragged him to the chair, he collapsed immediately, eyes closed. His body looked as if the bones had been extracted, despite the fact that it also appeared to have many more bones than it should. Scully's heart turned and she felt like shooting everything in sight. How could they do this to him? And, worst of all, how had she managed to get into the position that they might take her child and perform these inhumane 'tests' on it? She cursed herself repeatedly.

And, of course, she told herself, it was the child they had wanted all along. Some clever person had apparently concluded that Scully had been abducted so many times that they might as well make it easy on themselves for a change and let her drive herself to them. Sort of a drive-by delivery. No pun intended, she told herself bitterly. And she had walked...oh, so stupidly and unforgivably...into their trap. And now she must extract all three of them or die trying.

"Mulder," she said softly. "It's me."

He groaned. With effort, he pried his eyes open, tried to focus, fought the tendency of his lids to droop. "Scully," he grated, his voice weak and rough.

"You look ghastly," slipped from her lips. They were not the first words she would have chosen, but they were the truth. Probably not too cheery, though. Even Marita, standing with folded hands beside Mulder, looked a bit startled.

Mulder looked Scully up and down, focused on the protruding belly that hung between her open jacket flaps, and muttered, as his eyes fell closed again, "You look pregnant."


Choices, large and small, had led Scully to the moment when she found herself in an extremely rural area of West Virginia, with instructions purporting to lead her to Mulder, and an unusable cellphone. Up until that point, she thought, her actions had been reasonable and prudent. What caused her good sense to desert her? All she had to do was turn the car around and drive back to DC, leaving herself unusually tired, but with child intact. It would have been so simple.

Especially, she considered, because this was so obviously a trick, a ploy, a trap, a whatever the hell you wanted to call it. These people could not be trusted, so it made no sense for her and her unborn child to step into the carefully baited snare.

What possessed her? The answer was quite simple: the need to do everything she could to recover Mulder. Knowing he might be dead, suspecting he was probably not there anyway, she went on. It was a biological imperative almost of an equal strength to the conflicting one...save the species in the form of the fetus she carried. She could not, to save her life, turn her back on the remotest possibility of recovering Mulder. What she'd neglected to take into the account was the pain and guilt she would feel if her decision cost her child its life or freedom. That was a penalty of such vastness that she could not face it. She closed her mind and decided to go on.

It wasn't a comfortable decision, and she did not dwell on it. She couldn't stand to think about it. She knew she was acting against all her judgment and was powerless to rein herself in and be prudent. She had grated her way through months of prudence. Now, there was a tiny bit of hope. She would be careful, she promised herself, recognizing it as the sop that it was. And she drove on.

At a dark crossroad, an hour and a half out of cellphone range, Scully found her final instructions taped to the back of a sign. She was far into the wilderness with not a sound around her. The silence was deafening. She was instructed to proceed to a post in the highway, precisely two miles down the road, and turn right onto a hilly, curvy dirt road. She would see lights on in a cabin at the top. If she didn't appear within the hour, Mulder would be removed and she would never see him again. Turning around and driving far enough to use her cellphone was impossible, under those guidelines. She went on.

But, there was no need to follow their every instruction. Perhaps she could sneak up on them in some way, check to see that Mulder was actually there. Maybe capture whoever was on the scene if there weren't too many. Right, she told herself, and was Eliot Ness ever heavily pregnant and suffering from premature labor? She didn't think so. Still, she was willing to try the less direct approach. So she turned out her car lights before they could spot her from above and drove the last mile and a half in near darkness, aided only by the moon.

She did manage to spot the post where she was to turn. She passed it and pulled off behind a thicket of bushes. The driving path had lights up near the top. There was no way she could arrive unnoticed by car. She studied the terrain. As her normal self, she could scale such a hill in ten or fifteen minutes, she judged. As someone who was forbidden exertion, who might go into labor with exertion, and had only...she checked her watch...about fifty minutes to make it up there... . well, she'd better get going. Maybe if she rested every two minutes the contractions wouldn't build.

Hell, Scully thought, was climbing a hill in the dark, using muscles long unused and which were not supposed to be used. She drank, she peed, she rested. She tried to go very slowly and exert herself the minimum possible. But the hill was steeper than she thought and she found herself lying flat on the ground taking a long Series of relaxing breaths. She would always wonder how she made it up the hill. She felt like Sisyphus. After inhuman effort, it always seemed as if there was so much journey left. And so little time.

At last, incredibly, she stood in darkness on the back side of the cabin. Even more incredibly, she had used up only fifty minutes of the hour. Not at all incredibly, the encroaching contractions had moved around to her back, informing her they were not kidding. She had no choice but to take her medications, even knowing that the immediate response would be a rapid heartbeat, tremors, and a nearly uncontrollable anxiety. Rather ironic, she thought, that the side effects should be so specifically tailored to be the ones most disastrous in this particular situation.

Gulp, swallow, skulk to the dark window on the left. Okay. Her heartbeat was drowning out the sound of anything inside. A band could be playing and all she would hear was the rapid thumping of her heart. Her trembling hands touched the screen. Damned if it didn't fall off when she touched it. She juggled it for a few seconds, not wanting it to clatter to the ground. Was this a trap? Did they expect a pregnant woman to scale a mountain and sneak in at the back? Nah, she answered herself, it was finally a tiny scrap of good luck. She was entitled.

She edged the window up and risked a quick flash of her light. She saw an empty bedroom containing only a double bed and a bureau. Taking a deep breath, she edged her bottom onto the windowsill and maneuvered her whale-like self through the narrow opening. More exertion, she wailed to herself. But, in for a penny, as they say. Once inside, she groped her way to the room's only door and drew her weapon.

With infinite care, she turned the knob. It seemed to take a century. Then, the teeniest of cracks. She peered into a large, shabby room, her gaze first falling on a fireplace with no fire. The place was pretty chilly, she noticed, even to someone who had just exerted herself.

She cracked the door another inch. At the front windows, peering out into the lighted parking area in front of the cabin, stood her welcoming committee. A tall man with dark hair, a smaller blond woman, both looking just too damned familiar. Their heads turned toward each other and she recognized their profiles. Damn, she thought. That bastard Krycek led Mulder right into that trap, with Ms Igloo right beside him.

She tightened her grip on her gun and watched it do the cha cha cha. Shit, she thought. I may have to shoot up the whole damned room because I will be damned if I let a wobbly gun stop me when I've come this far. She eased into the room as their heads turned back toward the windows.

She crept within ten feet of them, her heart still pounding too loudly for her to hear what they were talking about. I better capture them and sit down before I fall down, she thought. Employing her vigorous FBI shout and air of total authority, she did.


"Mulder? Can you wake up?"

Apparently not, was the answer. Marita still stood to the side, reminding Scully of an attentive waiter in a good restaurant, one trained not to intrude. She noticed that Marita's pale flesh was covered in goose bumps and that nipples stood out prominently behind the black lace. Matching sexy underwear. Those were the days, Scully thought. She also noted the trim, lightly muscled body with a pang of envy, given that she felt like a hippo and moved like one as well. On the other hand, she was trying her damnedest to maintain her hippo-like state and even enlarge it before at last parting with the precious cargo within.

"Get dressed," she told Marita, checking that Krycek was still tethered in place. He was so wily that she wouldn't have been surprised if he had some Houdini-like abilities tucked up his quasi-empty sleeve.

"What're you expecting here?" she asked him. "Who's coming? When?"

He rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "Like I'd tell you."

She shrugged. "Better tell me *something* or you'll be minus a knee." She still meant it, she discovered. She was like a mama lion whose offspring was threatened, prepared to make a bloody mess of anyone who might endanger her and hers. This pregnancy stuff was pretty primal, she'd discovered.

"We were supposed to call when you got here," Krycek told her. "But we didn't get the chance."

Scully felt as if she'd had all the breath knocked out of her. If she had a sledge hammer, she'd bash herself over the head with it. A phone. Jesus! All this time, she'd been sitting here, out of contact, and there was a land line. You idiot, she told herself. You could see there was electricity; why didn't you look for a phone? Moron! She answered herself. You weren't fit for this mission. You're just going to get everybody killed. She was so furious with herself it took her a minute to notice that her underpants felt moist.

She hobbled to a chair, watching with unseeing eyes as Marita adjusted her clothing. She tried to calm down and think, something she had been not doing at all well. Her pants were damp, not soaked; therefore her water hadn't broken. There were two possibilities, neither of them good. Either she had developed a leak of amniotic fluid, which could bring on labor, or her sudden vaginal discharge was due to an increased production of prostaglandins, which would make her contractions more frequent. Shit. She groped for her pills and quickly gulped them down, knowing that in a few minutes she would be trembling and ready to jump out of her skin. It couldn't be helped.

She wondered if her hands would obey her sufficiently to dial the phone. Any rescue, she thought, was going to take a long, long time, given their location. Maybe she should take Mulder and run. Well, she thought, running wasn't quite within either of their capacities. Take Mulder and crawl? Once again, she gave herself a mental slap for landing them in this situation.

"You have a car out there?"

Marita nodded. She looked worried, probably because she could foresee that if Mulder was to be transported to the car, she would wind up being the muscle. That perfect manicure might not survive such an ordeal.

"How about we bring it right up to the door," Scully told her. "Then you can push the chair Mulder's in all the way to the door and only have a little ways to move him into the back seat."

The sound of a motor outside ended the discussion.

"Your people?" Scully asked Krycek, who was manacled near a window.

He gave her a seraphic smile. Bastard, she thought.

"Marita," she said. "Pull this table over onto the floor. I'll grab this end."

Since no finesse was required, they were easily able to push the heavy wooden table onto its side, where it served as an immense barricade. Marita, at Scully's order, pushed Mulder's chair across the floor till he was behind the table, then shoved at him until he slid to the floor.

Scully, in the meantime, had been so distracted by the arrival of the bad guys and her quick foray into defensive logistics that she'd forgotten there were going to be effects from the medications she'd just taken. Her pulse, which usually climbed to about 120, seemed to have shot to Mars. It felt like 160 at least, and she was surprised that her heart wasn't leaping right out of her chest like in an Indiana Jones movie. She could feel her skin flushing as her whole body plunged into involuntary movement. She figured, as far as she was still able to think rationally at all with her whole body twitching and her mind flying off into a panicky fugue, that she'd taken the pills too close to the last dose. And hell, she was under attack. Adrenaline must be pumping, adding to the civil war within her body and mind. Never had anyone been so ill prepared to face the enemy.

She tried to get a grip, in every sense. Mulder was curled into a fetal position, every part of his skinny body safely behind the barricade. Fine. One thing taken care of. She herself was on her knees, her weapon clicking in irregular rhythms against the wood of the table. Krycek had been right. She was emitting castanet sounds. Marita crouched nearby, hunched down almost to floor level, apparently expecting a protracted firefight.

She'd been useful for transport purposes, Scully thought, but she was probably no longer needed. And she was one of 'them,' one who might try to disarm Scully once 'they' arrived and Scully was using all her concentration to keep her weapon steady enough to aim. Scully leaned over and tapped the back of Marita's head with the butt of her gun, causing her to fold like an accordion. That took care of her.

The door opened. Scully's reflexes asserted themselves and she heard the standard FBI bark emerge from her mouth in automatic response. Jesus, she thought, maybe it's on tape. The words, incredibly, emerged with no urging or even any participation on her part, causing a quick thought of the Exorcist to float across her clouded mind. A warning shot...hers...pinged into the wood of the door, again without her volition. Maybe she should just opt out of this situation and let training take over. Thinking had only gotten her into this, after all. The door slammed shut.

She peered over the edge of the table, noting that with two windows, she was a sitting duck. Her hands continued to tremble and sweat poured from her body. All of her was trembling, including her teeth, which were making a distracting clatter. She decided that she was ready to die before letting them take Mulder or the baby. All of them would be better off dead. She vowed that if they swarmed her in sufficient numbers that it was likely she'd be captured, she'd save some bullets for Mulder and herself. It would be her last act of mercy. And the last choice she would ever make.

Krycek was almost wrapped around the pipe, a large guy trying to make himself small for the impending fire fight. "What you gonna do, Scully?" he shouted.

She didn't bother to answer, focused on where the next invasion would come from. Hearing was not her strong point when her heart was thundering and drowning out all the noises around her. It took a while for the additional noises to penetrate her distracted conscious. Gunshots. And, if she was not mistaken, helicopters.

'They' would not need choppers, she reasoned. Therefore, the air power must belong to 'us.'

Outdoors, it sounded as if the Civil War was being re-enacted, with really powerful weapons. Then she was hit by a contraction that nearly threw her to the floor. She had to grip the edge of the table to remain upright. Jesus, she thought. Don't go into labor now.

This time, when the door opened, she saw a most beautiful sight: FBI jackets and kevlar. It suddenly hit her that she was no longer responsible for saving everyone. She promptly and thankfully abdicated responsibility by lying on the floor, curling up with Mulder, and burying her large self in his skinny arms. She closed her eyes and opted out.


In her hospital bed, Scully experienced the dreadful effects of the magnesium sulfate drip meant to keep her from going into labor. At first, her body had been suffused with heat, and she had feared she would burn up. There would be nothing but ash left, she thought, just as she deserved. Then, the worst effects kicked in.

The medicine, she knew, stopped contractions by causing the muscles in the uterus to relax. But it did not work selectively on those muscles. Therefore, every muscle in her body drooped with fatigue. She could barely move. Even worse, she had lost the will to want to move or do anything at all. She was exhausted, disoriented, felt as if she would surely die of thirst within the next five minutes, and couldn't stand any more light than a bat. She was totally miserable.

And, not only was her body a mess, but she was overwhelmed by feelings of guilt for putting her baby in such danger in the first place. She felt she would never forgive herself, for only incredible luck had saved her unborn child from the life of a lab rat. She was in an abysmal mood, wiped out on every level.

Skinner's visit didn't cheer her up. She had been saved by the cavalry in the form of the Lone Gunmen's paranoia. Months before, they had concealed a small tracking device in the lining of her badge's case, preparing for just such an event. Skinner explained that he had approved and that long discussions had ensued about exactly where the device should be installed. They had feared she would be abducted, but they had no way to know what she would have on her at the time. She had been saved by a lucky guess. *Their* choice had saved her and the baby's and Mulder's life. Her own choices had simply endangered them. Her spirits sank even lower.

Skinner also hadn't been successful in finding out exactly who the men were who had come to the cabin to relieve her of her baby, nor would any of them say why they'd wanted the child.

Scully, attached to so many lines that she felt like the fly in the middle of a spider web, found the whole idea impossible to grapple with. A monitor to graph the baby's heartbeat sat at her bedside. On her belly, another monitor relayed the soft, reassuring sound of the baby's heartbeat. Another monitor tracked her contractions. Ultra sound, amniocentesis and every other test known to mankind had indicated that this was going to be a normal, healthy baby. Therefore, why? Why were they willing to go through this elaborate game of cat and mouse to get her to an obscure country cabin to remove the baby? They had even kept Mulder alive to serve as bait when, judging by his condition, his health or survival was of no consequence to them.

"Mulder," she pleaded with Skinner. "How is he? What does he say happened to him? When can I see him?"

"He's going to be fine," Skinner assured her in the falsely hearty tones used to humor a patient. At least, that's how it sounded to Scully. "And he doesn't remember much. Just as you didn't after you were abducted," he reminded her. He droned on, explaining at tedius length why it had taken so long for her rescuers to show up. Something about transporting the Lone Gunmen and their tracking machine close enough to where he had lost contact with her. It made no difference now. Nothing made much of a difference, really. Scully closed her eyes, preferring to escape from the harsh and confusing realities of the world.

Some time later, Scully sensed a non-medical presence in her room. She had, in a relatively short time, become accustomed to being poked, prodded, and jabbed. Exhausted beyond anything she could remember, she chose to sleep through all the medical pests and procedures. Sleep was the best way to get away from that reproachful inner voice that would not let her forget the disaster she had nearly brought about. And while asleep, she would not be aware every minute of the total lack of energy that permeated her entire being.

Her eyes opened, winced at the dim light in the room. She turned her head to see what had awakened her. It was Mulder.


Mulder sat in a wheel chair beside her bed, his body slumped as though he still lacked the energy to hold himself upright. His appearance had improved in that he had been shaven, trimmed, and groomed, and his protruding bones were now hidden by a thick robe. Undoubtedly, his lack of flesh made him subject to chill. Too bad she couldn't lend him some of her excess heat, Scully thought, since she still felt like a radiator. His pale, elongated toes were now concealed by warm slipper/socks, and only his cheek bones, which looked prominent enough to slice a finger on, suggested how emaciated he'd become. Scully, Mrs. Sprat personified, would again have been glad to share.

She was free to take a long, leisurely look at him because, once again, his eyes were closed. So, she thought, after all these months, we're finally together, but we can't even manage to stay awake at the same time. "Mulder?"

"Scully." He stared at her, saying nothing more.

Was he too weak to speak? Too angry with her for her incredibly stupid actions to even express it in words? Or maybe he had no wish for a baby in the first place and didn't know how to convey that, given that she was flat on her back in a hospital and doing everything she could to save the baby. It occurred to her that she had had months and months to become accustomed to the idea of having a child. He had not. He had apparently been enduring the tortures of the damned while she gestated, surrounded by the best in medical care.

He also hadn't attempted to touch her.

"I'm sorry," she said.

"For what?" He still looked dazed. Perhaps this wasn't the best time to attempt a serious conversation, of the type that influences the rest of your life, she thought. Whatever drugs he'd been given, they'd been powerful. And she herself was thoroughly under the influence. Nope, she thought, this is not the time.

"Everything," she said. "You name it, I'm sorry for it." Oh, swell, she thought. Can't you just keep your mouth shut and see how he's doing.

"So, how do you feel?" she asked him, finally obedient to her inner voice.

"The way I look," he said without expression.

Had his personality been excised along with a good percentage of his body weight? Scully attempted a smile. "Then you must feel really awful."

He nodded. "Like shit. You?"

"The same."

Silence descended. Since Scully was exhausted, it didn't bother her. Her own eyes drooped for a while. She really should be happy, she thought. Here they were, all in one room at last. She, the unborn babe, and Mulder. It was the happy ending she had risked all to bring about. So, where was the happiness? Her body thoroughly unbalanced by the stressful experience and by the drugs, she was once again swept off balance by a wave of misery. Tears trickled down her cheeks. She had no idea how long they flowed. At some point, Mulder spoke.

"Are you crying?"

Unable to speak, she nodded.

"Why?"

"Because we're back together, and we can't even talk to each other. Because we're both drugged half out of our minds. Because neither of us can even stand up. Because I missed you so much and now you're back and it still doesn't feel like it's you." The list could have gone on, but she ran out of breath and started to sob in earnest.

She felt his hand grasp hers, the one that didn't have lines sticking into it. His touch soothed her as nothing had in months and months. How she had missed that touch, without even realizing that that had been the major missing element in her life. She wiped her tears away and drew a deep breath. She squeezed his hand and he returned the pressure.

"What're they saying about your recovery?" she asked him.

"It'll take a while, but it'll happen. They don't see any permanent damage." He paused, as if talking were something he'd grown unused to doing. "As soon as I'm a little stronger, they'll start me on exercises. I've lost just about every muscle in my body. I'm gonna need a lot of rehab."

Curiosity crowded out emotion for a moment. "Were you in space? Was that caused by weightlessness?"

"I don't really know. My memory isn't working right." He pulled his hand away and collapsed back into the wheel chair as if his muscles couldn't support him any longer. "I don't want to talk about it. I'm not ready."

Having been abducted herself, Scully could respect that. She nodded. She remembered her own feelings of alienation when she was returned. Cut him a break, she told herself; he's a mess and he doesn't need to be nagged and questioned. Let him get well. He's back. There's no rush to deal with anything. She took another deep relaxing breath and stared at the ceiling.

"Skinner says you were pregnant back when I left," Mulder said, in the neutral tone of someone who comments about the weather.

"Yeah, I discovered it right after you left." Don't say anything else. Let him talk about it or not, she ordered herself.

"Just when I was regretting everything you'd lost."

"Yeah."

"And that it's been a difficult pregnancy."

"Yeah," she said. "I've been pretty much confined to home for a few months."

"Except for climbing a mountain, you mean."

Sounded like the old Mulder was seeping through the exhausted, affectless man who lounged in his chair. She turned her head to look at his face. He did look more awake, more like himself.

She nodded. "Except for that." She refrained from bursting into recriminations. She'd promised herself not to lay a lot of heavy emotional burdens on a man who was a shadow of himself, and besides, she had mentally kicked herself so long and often for that act, she was worn out.

"I was thinking about that," Mulder said. "I mean, after Skinner told me." He leaned forward a little. "I know that if you were willing to stay home and take it easy, it's because you really wanted the child to be born."

Scully could feel the tears gathering again. She nodded.

"Yet you went out and willingly did something more strenuous than you'd done in months."

Scully swallowed and commanded herself to speak instead of sob. "It wasn't a question of 'willing,'" she said in a shaky voice. "I couldn't seem to stop myself. All my ... shit. All my *reason* deserted me and I just had to get up there and see if you were there. All my ... my inclinations were clashing, and I, I ... I just went." Exhausted by the words she'd forced out, she dropped her head back to the pillow to study the ceiling again.

She felt the press of a warm hand on hers. "Thank you."

She fought for control. "There's nothing to thank me for, Mulder. As I said, I couldn't help myself. And I knew it was stupid and dangerous and I ... I'm having trouble forgiving myself. It turned out well, but that's no thanks to me. We could as easily have all ... died up there."

His hand tightened, and he stroked her fingers soothingly. "I know what it's like not to be able to help doing dangerous, foolish things," he said. "And since this one surely saved my life, I'm in no position to do anything but be grateful."

Well, someone could forgive her, Scully thought. But maybe this someone didn't feel much attachment to the child within. He hadn't lived with it all these months, dreamed about it, guarded its welfare with his every breath and with every beat of his heart. Maybe it was only her own maternal feelings that made her so unable to forgive her failure to give priority to the welfare of the unborn child. But Mulder? Had he no paternal feelings? Maybe not. He didn't really owe her, or the child, anything. Actually, in his present stage, he had little to offer. He had weeks of recovery ahead of him.

"Mulder?"

"Hmm?" She turned her head. He was nodding off again. "Never mind."

He hitched himself forward and leaned down to place his forehead on her hand. She stroked his face soothingly. The very feel of him made her high. That is what had sent her up a mountain. His biological claim on her was almost as strong as the unborn child's. She couldn't control either feeling. Rational as she liked to be and tried to be, she was still a creature at the mercy of overpowering waves of emotion. There were times she just couldn't resist their pull.

Now, in practice instead of in theory, she recognized instinct as a driving force. To protect her unborn young, she would have killed anyone, performed any act. She would do little less to protect the man she loved. Lying in a hospital surrounded by the rapid skitter of her baby's heartbeat and the warmth of Mulder's face, she felt like a creature of nature, rather than reason. Perhaps her choices had always been fewer than she'd thought.

Mulder raised his head. "Can I touch it?" His eyes held a look of awe. Scully's heart melted.

"It's yours," she said, the tears flowing again.

His hand groped its way to her large mound. Reverently, it explored. He slid his hand under the sheet and her hospital gown so he could feel her stretched flesh. His hand soothed all it touched. She watched his face. She'd been wrong to doubt his connection to the child. Her heart unclenched for the first time in months. Her world was beginning to balance again, the Mulder- shaped hole in it now closing.

"Was that a kick or a contraction?"

"A kick," she told him. "Keep your hand there, down lower, yes, there, and you'll feel the hardening when there's a contraction."

"They say the baby will be all right," he said, now leaning forward so that much of the upper part of his body was next to her stomach. He moved a bit of the sheet aside and kissed the taut flesh.

"It will," she said with confidence. "But I can never forgive myself for almost letting them take it. Walking into their clutches like that. Delivering a new lab rat." She shook her head in disgust.

Mulder's head lifted and so, apparently, had much of his drug haze. His mind was functioning again although his body lagged far behind. "I'm no stranger to guilt, Scully. You know that better than anyone. And you did all this to save me, so I'm hardly one to lecture you. I'd likely be dead if you hadn't acted as you did. But the point I'm trying to get to, and I'm sorry if I seem long-winded...chalk it up to captivity and needing to learn to talk again. My point is that in the past they, whoever the hell they are, have never had any trouble obtaining us if they want us. So, if you hadn't taken the bait, in a week or so they would have grabbed you off the street in Georgetown. Or entered your apartment at 4 a.m., drugged you, and carted you off. They just decided to be fancier this time, and you and Skinner and the guys outsmarted them, to my great good fortune. But they can have you when they want you. That is a sad fact of life."

She pondered what he said. Sad, but true. And it did make her feel better to know that had they taken her in the night, she would have been without a badge and her whereabouts would have been unknown. It was her would-be captors' stupidity that caused their scheme to fail. They had become too clever for their own good, possibly influenced by Krycek's tendency to be devious. Sometimes the obvious way was the best.

"I felt it," Mulder said, flashing his first smile. "I could even see it. A big kick."

"The kid feels strong?"

"It's a future soccer player." He paused. "Do we know the gender?"

"That's about the only thing we don't know. Or that *I* don't know. Undoubtedly, all the medical people know the gender, but I prefer to wait for the premiere."

Mulder smiled again and ran his hand up past her belly, stroking her breasts, her neck, her face. "You need more mystery in your life?"

"Just that one, for some reason. I can't explain, but after all the medical testing, I just wanted something left to ... to discover. Some little bit of surprise."

Scully felt so much better, she couldn't believe it. Mulder's returning awareness, his return of self. His touches, so soothing and so loving. His interest in the child. So much that had been taken or had been a source of fear and worry was now erased from her mind. One worry, however, continued to loom.

"Unfortunately, I didn't know that 'they' had any interest in the child. Or why they wanted it. That worries me a lot," she told him, clasping his hand to hold it against her cheek.

He met her eyes with a serious glance. "All the tests are normal."

She nodded. "So why do they want it?"

"I don't know. But we're going to have to find out." Mulder laid his head across the mound of her belly and spoke from there. "For the moment, you're here and you're safe. You have guards, and Skinner is keeping them here."

"From what they're telling me," Scully said, "I'm going to be here until the delivery."

He nodded. "I, in the meantime, will be eating like mad and fighting to regain some weight, strength, and muscle tone. After the birth, we'll stay together, and we'll arrange 24-hour protection for the baby. And as soon as we're both strong enough, we'll find out who these bastards are."

Once again, Scully was overwhelmed with exhaustion. The very thought of launching an investigation while nourishing a newborn...and seeing to its protection...made her cringe. Would there never be an end, a resting place, in sight? As Mulder had said months ago in a motel room in Oregon, the costs could get too high. Well, they were now astronomical, and compounded by the fact that there would soon be three of them to be endangered, with the two protectors still debilitated. Back in Oregon, a choice had still existed. The FBI was tired of them and their division and its monetary costs. They themselves had paid and paid and paid. At that point, they could have chosen to cut their losses and walk. But that point was long gone, all choice removed.

Mulder, studying her face, saw the darkness of depression descend. "Scully?"

She sighed. "Yes?"

"We'll get through it. It'll be okay." With great effort, he moved his weak body so that his head lingered over hers. He kissed her, twice, then lowered himself into the wheel chair, where he leaned back in a semi-collapse. His eyes remained alert, however, as though his spirit was much stronger than his depleted body. "Your meds are affecting you, dragging you down. They told me that's a big side effect. Things are going to start looking better."

Scully knew he was speaking the truth. She'd just had an excruciating two days and felt that her well had run dry. She would need time. She had nothing but time, lying there as she was and as she would be. She should try to be more optimistic, she knew, especially since all was as it should be: the child safe, with her and Mulder fighting for what they believed was right. For the victims, as always, her reason for joining the Bureau. She knew that, but at the moment, she was just too tired. Every muscle drooped and cried for rest.

He took her hand again, and a little more spirit flowed into her. "I love you," he told her. "And I love the baby. And we'll keep each other going until the danger passes. We can do this, Scully."

She nodded and drifted away again, to dream of the day when the danger would be gone, and they could try to live a normal life. But that's just a dream, she thought, as sleep swept her away.

END


Thanks for reading.

Special thanks to my Party of Five group, especially to Jamie, who came up with this question: What cost would there be to Scully should her loyalty to the baby interfere with her search for Mulder? And thanks to her for gifting me with the concept for fanfic purposes, providing me with details of her own experiences, and to both her and Rachel for spending a whole night kicking around possible plot points and complications. And thanks to Sandy and Marie as well for general support of the 'just write it' variety. Okay, I did. But with much help.

Medical information courtesy of Jamie, Rachel, and the WebMD site.

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