Title: Terra Firma III. Per Ardua
Author: Malibu Sunset
E-mail: malibusunset88@gmail.com
Category: MSR, married, family fic., angst, references to a case (not an X-file)
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: Through Season 8

This is Part Three in the Terra Firma Series. This should be read after Terra Firma and then Spondeo.

Summary: Per Ardua picks up four months after Spondeo left off. Mulder and Scully navigate trials together while continuing to raise William. There are references to a case that Mulder consults on, but it is not an X-File. This is a story about living life and dealing with the highs and, in this particular story, some pretty low lows. In Terra Firma and Spondeo, everything was told from Mulder's point of view. In Per Ardua, you will hear from both Mulder and Scully.

**CONTENT WARNING: This story contains material that may upset some readers. The case that Mulder consults on makes references to rape. It is not described in much detail, nor does it happen within the "real time" of the story. It does NOT happen to Scully or any known character. The way it is referenced, I would consider it fairly low on the angst scale, but I am not a survivor of rape and I do not wish to make assumptions for others. Additionally, Mulder and Scully deal with some other highly emotional circumstances that may be bothersome to some readers. There is NO character death or abuse of any kind. And you have my personal guarantee that all my stories have happy endings. If you would like to know what it is specifically that Mulder and Scully go through, please e-mail me at malibusunset88@gmail.com and I will be happy to tell you before you read. There is a spoiler at the very end of the story in the author's notes, please be aware that if you scroll to the end, you will know the content of the story.

The title, Per Ardua, translates to Through Trials.

Disclaimer: I don't own them. They're just fun to play with.

April 17, 2003

Scully scraped more cut-up meatball onto William's high chair tray and tried not to notice as he mushed the pieces of meat into his bowl of applesauce with his fingers before navigating the whole mess into his waiting mouth. She fastened the velcro of his bib around his neck again for the eleventh time since they started eating. William reached for the terrycloth again and yanked it free.

"William, leave your bib on, please." She fastened it yet again. Mulder suppressed a smile from across the table and twisted more pasta onto his fork.

"What?" she asked, an annoyed edge to her voice.

"I didn't say anything," he replied, still not exactly smiling and not exactly not.

"Well I wish you would. Instead of sitting there and smirking."

"He's not going to leave it on, Scully. He hates it. So it seems to me you have two choices. You can either let him eat in his diaper and just hose him off afterward. Or you can do a heck of a lot of laundry."

She sighed. "There is something deeply Karmic about me having the messiest child in the world."

William hummed loudly and added some chopped tomatoes to the applesauce and meatball concoction and smiled back at his mother, spaghetti sauce covering the better seventy percent of his exposed skin. The offending bib was now lying face down on the tile floor and Scully left it there, having raised her white flag for the evening.

"You're quiet tonight," said Mulder. "Is something on your mind?"

Scully placed her salad fork down and wiped her mouth with the napkin on her lap. "I had an interesting lunch meeting today. Paul Hanover from Georgetown University Hospital. He's the Director of the Residency Training program in Pathology. He's um... looking for an assistant director. And he wants me to apply for the position."

Mulder stopped eating and looked at her curiously. "Wow. That's um...wow. How do you know him again?"

"We've actually sat on a couple of panels together at conferences over the years. He was an attending when I was doing my residency. He thinks I'd be a good fit for the position."

"Are you going to apply for it?"

She breathed deeply and exhaled. "I don't know yet. It's a lot to think about. It would probably be more hours, initially. But the salary is attractive-"

"Scully, you know the money isn't an issue."

"I know that, Mulder. Please let me finish. There's more."

Mulder nodded and waited for her to continue.

"Dr. Hanover has been awarded a grant. It's for a four-year clinical trial doing cutting edge research in genetics. The Assistant Directorship would also include co-chairing the research."

"With Dr. Hanover?"

Scully nodded. "Well, a whole team of medical professionals will eventually be on the project, but yes, if I were offered the position, I would co-chair the project with Dr. Hanover and I would also have input in the selection of the research team."

"What are we talking in terms of time frame? When would the job start?" asked Mulder, going back to his dinner.

Scully took his cue and relaxed a little, forking another bite of romaine and a grape tomato into her mouth. "They're looking to have someone on board by late summer. The selection process for the research team will take four to six months and then there are procedures to be followed before clinical trials would begin. Dr. Hanover anticipates that the project will start the following summer or fall."

Mulder continued nodding, but was quiet and she could tell he was processing all the information carefully.

"It's quite a commitment," he said.

"Yes. It is. But it's also an amazing opportunity. This research holds incredible potential opportunities for advancement in the treatment of genetic diseases, Mulder. I couldn't even predict what the possible long-term ramifications to the project could be."

"Is this something you want, Scully?"

She took another drink of her water, fingering the sides of the glass where condensation had formed and bit her bottom lip nodding slowly. "I think so," she said quietly.

Mulder shrugged. "Then you should apply for it. If this is what you want, Scully, then I think you should go for it."

Scully smiled. "Really?"

He nodded. "I think you've been ready to move on for awhile...to get back into a medical setting. This sounds like it might be too good to pass up. But don't be surprised if the FBI doesn't want to let you go. I don't think Skinner is above begging."

Scully offered an amused smile. "He isn't my superior any longer, Mulder."

"I realize that. But you'll always be his favorite minion."

"I doubt this will come as a surprise to Walter," Scully said. "I have a feeling he's seen this coming slowly ever since you left."

William, whose overall involvement in dinner conversation was directly related to how much food he had in his mouth, had emptied his tray and decided to join in. "Ahh done, down," he said, trying to stand in his high chair.

"Are you finished?" Scully asked. "Did you drink your milk?" She gave his sippy cup a gentle shake. "There's still half a cup here, William. Do you want the rest?"

He shook his head and pushed the plastic cup with Elmo on it away. "Ah done, down."

Mulder looked at his son, who was wearing half his dinner and smiling. "What would you give it on the Disaster Recovery Scale, Scully?"

She crinkled her nose and surveyed the damage. Spaghetti noodles and bits of meatball were scattered on the tile in a three foot perimeter of the high chair. Gobs of applesauce were dripping from the tray and smeared onto the cloth, thankfully machine washable, seat cover. "Code red, I'd say."

"Really? Wow." Mulder arched his eyebrows, impressed. "You haven't given him a code red since the beef stew fiasco."

"Maybe not as bad as the beef stew. But worse than the chicken burritos."

"So maybe code orange then?"

"Yeah, I guess I could go with orange."

"I got him," Mulder said as he got up and headed for the kitchen sink, carrying his dishes.

The phone rang as Scully was transporting the rest of the dinner dishes to the counter and Mulder was attempting to decontaminate William with a warm, wet washcloth.

"It might be easier if we just mummify him in Saran Wrap before he eats anything with spaghetti sauce next time, Scully."

Mulder pulled William from his high chair, set him down on the kitchen floor, and began stripping off his shirt and pants, obviously having decided that the clothing was a lost cause. Scully reached for the cordless phone.


"Hello. Yes, I'm trying to reach Fox Mulder."

It was a man's voice. One that Scully didn't recognize.

"Just a moment, please."

She handed the phone to Mulder. "Who is it?" he mouthed silently.

She shrugged and raised her brows questioningly. In the nearly two years since they had been living together, ten months of which they had been married, she had not taken to inquiring as to who was calling Mulder on the phone unless she was taking a message. She refused to be *that* wife.

Since his book had been published, it wasn't unusual for him to receive calls on their private home number, despite the fact that he had a separate business line in his office. There were calls for interviews, requests for public speaking engagements, and even the occasional calls from overly enthusiastic readers who were quite certain that Mulder could help them with everything from identifying strange noises in their homes to initiating contact with their recently deceased pets. So far, there hadn't been anything that had really creeped Scully out, but she was beginning to think that an unlisted number might not be a bad idea after all.

"Hello," Mulder answered.

"Yes, speaking."

Scully took over hosing down Will and removing the rest of his clothing for his bath.

"Good evening, Agent. Yes, I do remember you. What can I do for you?" Mulder made eye contact with Scully. She creased her forehead questioningly and he pointed down the hallway to indicate he was going to take the call in his office.

Scully reached her hand down to grasp her son's. "Come on sweetheart. Time for your bath." She led him up the stairs and into the hall bathroom where she turned on the taps and put the plug in the bottom of the tub.

"Ducky," William said, pointing to the yellow plastic toy on the edge of the tub.

"Go ahead. Throw him in," said Scully and he did, laughing at the splash the toy made. "Come to Mommy's room while I change my clothes, okay?"

William followed Scully to the master bedroom while she changed out of her work slacks and blouse and slipped into a pair of cotton lounge pants and a fitted T shirt. Then they returned to William's bathroom and Scully pulled his diaper off and pointed at the toilet.

"William, do you want to try and go on the potty before you get into the tub?" She gave him her best wide-eyed, excited look, but he scrunched his face back at her, clearly not buying whatever she was selling.

Scully placed a plastic potty training seat with handles onto the toilet and then scooped William up and plopped him down onto it. "Just sit for a minute, okay?" She tossed two bath books and some boldly colored plastic cups into the tub to float around with the rubber duck. Then she retrieved a green fluffy towel with an alligator head from the bathroom closet and placed it on the chair next to the tub. She turned to assess William, who was sitting on the toilet, his face resting on his elbows, looking about as excited as she had been the last time Mulder made her watch Celebrity Ghost Stories on the Biography channel.

"Ahh done," he said, sniffling.

"Did you go?"

"Yes." He hopped off.

Scully looked into the toilet. Nothing. She sighed. William would turn two next month. She knew it was still very early. Many children were not ready for toilet training by their second birthday and for boys, the average age was really more like three, but still. Even a tiny bit of interest would make her feel better.

She helped William into the bath and knelt beside the tub, squeezing warm water over him with a washcloth mitt shaped like Cookie Monster.

Mulder walked into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet. "You'll never guess who that was," he said, nonchalantly.

"I'm sure I won't, so why don't you tell me."

"Does Moe Bocks ring a bell?"

Her head spun to look at him, her arm steadying herself on the side of the tub.

"Yes. Yes, it does." Moe Bocks had been a field agent on a case they had worked together in Minneapolis over six years ago. It had been her first run-in with serial killer, Donny Pfaster. She had nearly lost her life and the entire case had taken an enormous emotional toll on her. It had been the first time she'd ever broken down in front of Mulder. No, she'd never forget it, although she wished she could. Agent Bocks had worked with them to capture Pfaster.

"Is it a case?" she nearly whispered.

Mulder nodded. "Serial rapist and murderer. Seven victims in four months and they're chasing their tails."

"What do they want from you?"

"A profile. They're coming up empty. Bocks thought maybe I'd see something his guys have been missing. It's a chance, but he sounds like he's grasping at straws."

"Does the FBI know he contacted you?"

"It doesn't sound like it, no. If I agree to help, it would be pro bono. They did offer to pay my flight and hotel."

"How did he even find you, Mulder?"

"It's not exactly like I've been keeping a low profile lately."

She realized he was right. His book was all over stores and the book jacket listed a brief biography, along with the fact that he lived near the suburban D.C. area with his wife and son. A simple call to Directory Assistance or an internet search would've yielded the desired information. Damn. How did she think she could marry Mulder and live a low profile life? She was calling first thing tomorrow morning and changing their number to unlisted. Or at least changing it to her last name instead of his.

"Bocks is faxing me the case file right now," Mulder said.

"You said you'd do it?" she asked curtly, frowning at him. William repeatedly submerged his yellow duck and then allowed it to spring to the surface, each time erupting into giggles at the splashing water. The front of Scully's T shirt was already soaked.

"I'd said we'd discuss it." He looked at her pleadingly.

She had no doubt where this was headed. She sighed and began pouring cups of water over William's head, carefully shielding his eyes with her hand, then grabbed the bottle of baby shampoo. "I need to get William to bed. Can we talk after?"

"Okay." He bent and kissed the top of her hair, then walked out of the bathroom.

"Bye bye, Daddy," William said, his hair standing up into soapy little peaks.

Scully sighed. She had the distinct feeling that William's sentiment was more precognitive than the child realized.

After tucking William in for the night, she made her way back downstairs to find Mulder lying on the rug in front of the fireplace, sheets of paper fanned out in piles around him. He was wearing his glasses and she knew right then she would be at a disadvantage for their upcoming conversation. She had always found him to be disarmingly hot when he wore his glasses. It brought back memories of reading case files in one of their hotel rooms. Sometimes they would do their reading side by side on one of the beds wearing sweats and drinking sodas, making notes in the margins and passing papers back and forth without talking for hours. On nights when he would wear his glasses, she would find herself rereading entire paragraphs four and five times, trying not to count the minutes from the last time she had looked over and noticed how his grey T shirt hugged his toned chest.

Scully crossed to where Mulder lay. He had built a fire and the room was warm. She no longer noticed the chill from having a wet T shirt courtesy of William's bathtub escapades. Mulder was lying on his stomach, propped up on his elbows, reading. Scully lowered herself to straddle his hips, her muscular legs on either side of him, and began kneading his shoulders firmly.

Mulder groaned and collapsed his elbows, his head lying on his folded hands, face turned to the side. "That feels...really good."

Scully couldn't help but glance around at the papers and crime scene photos scattered about. Phrases jumped out at her. Third victim, Melanie Watts, age 23. Ligature marks...significant vaginal trauma...Fourth victim, Jessica Tuttle, age 27. Anal fissures and tearing. Wooded areas...knife punctures on torsos, foreign object inserted into body cavities postmortem...no weapons found...bodies in advanced stages of decomposition... The words swam in front of her eyes. Black and white computer scanned images of bodies twisted into unnatural contortions, pooling of blood under faces with open, glassy-eyes stares. Scully forced herself to look away. Her hands slowed on his shoulders.

"I'm going to make some tea," she said quietly, rubbing his upper arms. "Do you want some?"

Mulder shook his head no.

She pushed off of him with her hands and stood. "I'll be right back."

When she returned a few minutes later, he was stoking the fire. The photos and papers had been cleaned up and stacked into a manilla folder on an end table. Scully folded herself into one corner of the sofa, her legs tucked up under her. Mulder sat down next to her and stretched his socked feet out and crossed them on the coffee table.

"Do you think you can help them?" she asked.

He sighed, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Possibly. I haven't gone over the evidence on all of the victims yet, but I can already tell you that they're running down the wrong rabbit trail as far as motive goes."

She looked at him curiously. Even after all these years, his profiling skills astounded her. She could examine crime scenes and bodies with precision and accuracy, draw conclusions based on empirical evidence and hard science. And she was good at it, one of the best in her field. But that was amateur stuff compared to what Mulder saw. He was able to get beneath what was evident on the surface, figure out what made a monster like this tick, make predictions with uncanny precision and clarity.

"All of these women were abducted from the same area, so the investigative team is assuming that the killer is choosing his victims based on the convenience of geography. He's not. That's a decoy. He's choosing them based on specific physical attributes, and not obvious ones. They're all Caucasian, but hair and eye colors differ. They're all tall, very thin, most likely underweight, long hair, similar facial shapes. They remind him of someone, someone he knows and thinks he loves, but who doesn't return his affections. The rapes themselves are particularly violent. There is major physical trauma, all performed while the victim is still alive. But then, there is no evidence of ejaculation whatsoever-"

"He uses condoms," interrupted Scully.

"No. No evidence of latex in the tissue samples taken from any of the victims. And you know as well as I do that latex leaves traces. And there's no spilled semen anywhere on either the victims' bodies or around the crime scenes."

"Not all rapists ejaculate," she added.

"True, but in this case, I don't think it's by choice. The killer penetrates, but doesn't finish the act. I believe that he's not able, either physically or emotionally, so he takes out his rage on his victims and kills them. It's likely that the real object of his affection, the woman who refuses him, is aware of his problem and has drawn attention to it, possibly berated him. He feels humiliated, emasculated. All of the bodies have been desecrated postmortem - knife punctures and lacerations, objects inserted into the bodies, burn marks on the skin from lit cigarettes. The rape and murder is only part of how he expresses his rage and it's not enough. He has to violate them, dehumanize them, make them feel how he feels."

Scully winced and closed her eyes. "What about trophies? Does he take anything from them?"

"Jewelry was taken from victims one, four and seven, undergarments from victims three and five, we think because they weren't wearing jewelry. We're not aware of anything taken from victims two and six. He took something; we just don't know what yet."

Scully couldn't help but notice his use of the word "we." He had already assumed a sense of ownership over this investigation. Fuck.

"When do you leave?" she asked.

Mulder hesitated before answering. "Um, the sooner, the better, I'd guess. The killings have escalated. He was taking victims every three to four weeks. The last two were taken nine days apart."

She was quiet and sipped her tea, staring into the flickering fire.

"Scully, I don't have to go-"

"Yes, you do," she whispered.

They were both quiet for a few minutes. "How long will you be gone?" she asked.

"It's just a profile. Three days, tops. If I leave tomorrow, I can be home by the weekend."

"What about William?"

"Uh, I hadn't thought that far ahead," he admitted.

"I'll call my mother. If not, then I have some time coming. I could take a couple of days off. We'll figure it out."

Mulder nodded and wrapped his arm around her shoulders to pull her closer. "Hey," he stroked her cheek with his thumb. "I love you."

She offered a resigned smile and a gentle quirk of her eyebrows. "I know," she said, teasingly. "Tell Bocks he owes me."

Mulder chuckled. "I'm going to call him back and then book a flight to Minneapolis. Then let's go to bed." He kissed her lips tenderly.

She nodded. "I'll phone my mom and see if she can cover Will."

Scully lay in bed, the covers pulled up under her arms, hands folded on top, eyes open and staring at the ceiling. She listened to the sound of running water from behind the partially closed bathroom door, a toilet flushing.

Mulder walked out barechested in his pajama pants, toothbrush dangling from his mouth. He carried his travel toiletry bag in one hand and went to the closet, pulling a black medium-sized suitcase out and hoisting it onto his side of the bed. Then he went back into the bathroom and finished brushing his teeth.

"I was able to get onto a 9:40 a.m. flight," he said, walking back into the bedroom and pulling two suits from the closet. "Can you drop me on your way to work or will that mess up your schedule?"

"I have a lecture at 9:00. If you don't mind getting to the airport a little early-"

"No, that's fine. What did your mom say?"

"She can take him Tuesday through Thursday. She has appointments Friday, so I'm going to take the day off. I only have two labs on Friday. I can get a TA to cover them."

She watched him toss a couple of white dress shirts and three ties into his suitcase, followed by underwear and socks, a pair of sweats, jeans, two T shirts and his running gear. Then he went and pulled a lock box down from the top of the closet and spun the combination lock, opening it. He pulled out a Beretta 92FS and two clips and placed them on top of his dresser. He no longer had an FBI-issued weapon, but he still owned a personal firearm and had a legal carry permit - not at all unusual for former members of law enforcement. Still, she couldn't remember him pulling it down from the lockbox in the two years since they had lived together.

Scully propped herself up on her elbows in the bed. "Mulder, you said this was just a profile. You're taking your gun?"

He didn't respond right away, but opened the top drawer of his dresser and dug down underneath some clothing to pull out two holsters, an ankle one and a belt one. He bent to the floor beside the bed and reached underneath to pull out a black carrying case and tucked the gun, ammo, and holsters inside. He placed the entire thing in his luggage. Then he came and sat down on his side of the bed.

He sighed. "I'm not planning to be in the field, Scully. But I think... given the nature of the crime, I'd rather be packing than not."

She looked at him, her forehead creased, lips pursed, and reluctantly nodded.

He swung his legs onto the bed and under the covers, then turned off the bedside lamp. He rolled toward her until his upper body was leaning over hers, then reached for her in the dark, running a warm hand up her arm, over her shoulder and along the curve of her neck to eventually cup her face. She could feel his breath on her, warm and sweet. He kissed her tenderly at first and she wrapped both arms around his neck, sealing her mouth tightly to his, letting him know what she wanted, what she needed.

His bare chest was warm against her and one of her arms drifted lower to caress his smooth back, feeling the rippling of muscles. Her nipples hardened into peaks in response to her arousal and she felt a rush of warmth between her thighs as he kissed her, his tongue tangling with hers now. She tugged at the waistband of his pajama pants and he pulled back from her mouth to take them off, pulling them out from under the covers and tossing them onto the floor. She shimmied her silk bottoms off and then sat up so he could lift her top up and over her head in one swift motion.

She lay back down on her back, pulling Mulder over her, opening her thighs so he could settle his hips down in the valley between them. His palms skated over her naked sides barely touching her, but causing her to jump and writhe in anticipation. He tongued her breasts and she arched toward him, her fingers sifting through his hair and twisting gently.

She felt his fingers trace tiny circles around her labia before he sunk one finger into her depths, testing her readiness for him. She gasped quietly and nipped at his earlobe, her pelvis moving against his hand.

Mulder pushed his weight up onto one arm while reaching between them to rub his length against her slickness, up and down her opening several times. The feel of his hardness sliding back and forth over her sensitive clitoris caused her hips to jump and she cried out and dug her fingers into his shoulders.

"Now," she whispered. She was desperate to feel him inside her, filling her, stretching her, his weight covering her. And then he was there all at once, sinking into her in one smooth glide. His lips met hers as he started to move, establishing a rhythm, slow at first. She watched him as he moved above her, his eyes open and looking into hers, his jaw clenched in control. He was amazingly beautiful, his skin, all smooth expanses stretched over planes of muscle, rippling and shifting as he exerted himself. She lifted one leg to wrap around his hip and his thrusting sped up, his eyes fluttering shut as he tried to pace himself.

She was close, so close. Her hips undulated beneath him and he must have sensed that she was chasing her release because he slid one hand between their bodies to where they were joined together and began rubbing her steadily. She buried her face in the dampness of his neck and rocked against his hand until her eyes slammed shut and she felt her entire body begin to unravel in intense pleasure, clenching and trembling over and over and then eventually relaxing under him. When he sensed that she had finished, he sped up, thrusting erratically in quick staccato movements until his entire body stilled. She felt the flood of warmth rushing into her and then he collapsed, sliding out of her and to the side, his one hand still tucked beneath her body.

He reached for her, gathering her to him tightly, bending his head to kiss her bare shoulder, then her neck and finally her lips. She molded herself to him, tucking her head under his and resting her arm on his chest, feeling it rise and fall with his deepening breaths until she drifted off.

April 18, 2003

Scully pulled the car up in front of the drop off for United and put it in park, popping the trunk release.

"Friday?" she asked.

"Friday," he confirmed.

"What time?"

"My flight gets in around 4:30, I think. The itinerary is saved to the travel folder on my desktop computer, if you need it. The number for the hotel is there as well, but I'll be reachable on my cell."

She nodded. He leaned in and kissed her, then opened his car door and stepped out, taking his laptop with him and walking to the open trunk to pull his suitcase out. Then he opened the back door of the car and bent to kiss the top of William's head.

"Bye, Buddy. I'll see you in a few days, okay? Take care of Mommy. And be good for Grandma too. Ask her to make the animal sounds for you when she reads Brown Bear, Brown Bear. But don't do that thing where you hold your breath until you start to turn blue, okay? I don't think she'll find that funny. I love you."

"Bye Bye, Daddy. Can have juice?"

Mulder shook his head and reached into the diaper bag on the floor for the sippy cup. "Sorry, Dude. Just water. You already had apple juice with breakfast. One cup in the morning, one in the afternoon."

William wrinkled his nose and reluctantly shoved the sippy cup in his mouth. "Don't complain to me. Tell it to the sugar police in the front seat." Scully smiled back in the rearview mirror.

Mulder shut William's door and then leaned into the open window in the front passenger side. "Bye. I'll call you tonight, okay?"

Scully nodded and smiled. Mulder turned to go, pulling the handle up on his rolling suitcase.

"Mulder," she called out. He turned back.

"Catch this guy."

He gave her a quick, but firm nod. "Love you."

"I love you too," she said, then rolled up the window as the car pulled away.

Mulder finally checked into his hotel at 8:50 p.m. following a long day. After his plane arrived, he had rented a car and gone directly to the Minneapolis field office to meet Bocks. He locked his weapon in the car, knowing that as a civilian, regardless of the fact that he had a legal permit to carry, he would not be allowed to take his gun into a government building. When he checked through the security desk and showed his driver's license as ID, he couldn't help but be aware of the looks and whispers permeating the air around him. Apparently, his reputation preceded him.

It had been a tedious day of sitting around a conference table and reviewing case records with Bocks and the rest of the investigative team, absorbing as much information as possible so that he could, hopefully, come up with some kind of working profile within the next day or two. He had felt a little rusty at first, not having used his profiling skills in awhile, but like most ingrained behaviors, it didn't take more than a few hours before it started coming back to him like a bad habit.

He kicked off his shoes at the door of his hotel room, which he noticed by the looks of the decor and the distinct absence of the smell of stale cigarette smoke and mildew, was a slice above the flea bags he and Scully used to crash in while on assignment. This one had towels that were bigger than postage stamps and furniture that wasn't drilled into the walls. She would have liked this one.

Mulder stripped the rest of his suit off and tossed it over a chair, heading for the shower. Under the hot spray of the water, he mentally reviewed what he had seen that day in the victims' case files, trying to make connections and find something to hang his hat on. Seven victims in four months, all under the age of thirty, white, abducted from the same general area, but for some reason, he didn't believe that piece of information would lead them to their unsub. He thought that the killer was using it to mislead investigators into focusing on geography as a link when Mulder believed the connection was something else, something about the appearances of the women. Not something obvious, though, and he was struggling to put his finger on it.

He threw on sweatpants and a T shirt after his shower and ordered a burger from room service, then settled onto the bed and spread out the copies of the files in front of him. But first, he picked up his cell phone and made a call.

"Hello." She sounded faint, too far away.

"Hey," he said, smiling at her voice. "What are you doing?"

"Mmm, trying not fall asleep while I plan my lecture for tomorrow. How's the case?"

"Kind of a mess right now. I need to sleep on some of this information and then hopefully we'll make some progress tomorrow. How is he?"

"He's good. We ordered pizza tonight and he ate almost three slices. Not the crust, but all the rest. He ate more than I did."

Mulder laughed. "Did you get pepperoni? He loves pepperoni."

"No, just cheese, mushrooms and tomatoes."

"Geez Scully, live a little. This poor kid is going to be so deprived of junk food by the time I get home, it's going to take me days to get him back on track."

"Maybe not. He asked me for an M&M when he got off the toilet tonight."

"Did he go?"

"Surprisingly yes. Where did he get the M&M idea?"

"I've been giving him one when he goes on the toilet."

"Huh," she said, and he could tell she was slightly impressed by his parental ingenuity. "Food bribery. Not bad, Mulder. Where's the stash?"

"Nuh uh, Scully, no way. The last time I told you where my Kit Kat bars were, you ate half the bag."

She sighed. He knew she didn't have a comeback for that one because it was true. Granted, it had been that time of the month. This past month she had attacked the Ben & Jerry's instead. According to the calendar, he still had another two weeks before he had to worry again. "In the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet in my office," he said. "One M&M for pee, two for poop." Now there's a sentence he never in a million years thought he'd be saying.

He heard rustling on the other end of the phone and he pictured her snuggling down into their bed. "How's the hotel?" she asked.

"Nice, actually. You'd approve. Although they gave me a king sized bed. I don't know what I'm going to do with all this room and I doubt I'll be able to sleep without having to wrestle you several times per night for the blankets."

"I'm sleeping on your side of the bed," she said.

"That's funny because I'm actually lying on the side of the bed you usually sleep on. I didn't even notice it until you said that. We're pathetic, you know that?"

He heard her yawn.

"Am I keeping you up?"

"No," she said. "I don't want to hang up yet."

"Okay. What are you wearing?"

She huffed out a little laugh. "I'm too tired to play that game, Mulder. You'll just have to use your imagination tonight."

"Ah, just like old times, then."

"Tell me about the case. What is the team like? Are you getting anywhere?"

He sighed and absent-mindedly opened one of the files and sifted through photos, laying them out on the bed, overlapping one another. "There's not much of a team. Just Bocks and two other agents, neither of which have ever worked a rape case before. And yours truly. The whole case is just weird, Scully. I'm looking through the victims' histories, through photos of the crime scenes and I feel like there's something I'm seeing but not seeing, you know? Something about their appearances. I can feel it, but I can't quite put my finger on it yet."

"Mmm," she yawned again. "Maybe you need additional photos of the victims, if you can get them from family. Look at other pictures, not just crime scene ones. See if anything jumps out at you."

"Great minds think alike. Bocks and I have appointments to meet with four out of the seven families tomorrow. I'm going to see what I can dig up."

"Mulder, be careful. For an ex-agent who is just providing a profile, it sounds like you're doing an awful lot of field work. You need to keep your distance on this thing. You're considered a civilian now and the FBI does not have your back. If you were forced to discharge your personal weapon for any reason, God forbid, can you imagine the headaches? Jesus, I can't believe Bocks pulled you into this. Are you sure the FBI isn't aware that you're working this case?"

"Um, I have a feeling they might be now. I was recognized by quite a few people when I went through security at the field office today. But it's not like I've tried to hide my involvement or anything. I spent six hours sitting around a table examining evidence today. If anyone really cared, you and I both know I would have been pulled out of there. I think it's more of a case of 'don't ask, don't tell.' I provide the profile and go home; they catch the bad guy and take credit for it and nobody's the wiser. All I care about is stopping this freak before he hits again. Don't worry, Scully - I'm not out to feed my hero complex or anything. I'm staying on the down low. I'll be fine."

There was a knock on his hotel room door.

"Hang on, Scully. My food's here." He let the room service waiter in and signed for the food, then locked the door behind him after he left.

He picked the phone back up. "Dinner. I haven't eaten all day, unless you count three tiny bags of airplane nuts and I had to flirt with the flight attendant to get the second two."

"I don't think you're supposed to tell your wife that kind of stuff, Mulder." Another yawn.

"I tell you everything, Scully."

"Go eat your dinner. I'm going to turn in."

"Sleep well. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Okay. Night."

"Good Night. Love you." But she had hung up before that last part. Mulder sighed and flipped on the TV, eating his burger while channel surfing. Unappetizingly gruesome photos lay scattered about the hotel bedspread like some kind of sick confetti.

April 19, 2003

Mulder woke early and tossed and turned until the sun began to rise. He threw on his workout gear in his shadowy hotel room and went for a long run, pushing himself because it felt good to be moving, exerting himself. He stopped for coffee and a bagel on the way back to his room. He was showered and dressed and at the field office by 8:00, waiting for Agent Bocks.

By 10:30, Mulder had worked up a sketchy, but halfway decent profile and by noon, he and Bocks were eating Taco Bell in the car on their way to meet with Alison Jordan's family. Victim number two, age 21, anthropology major at University of Minnesota Duluth. Mulder knew them all by memory now - all seven of the victims, their ages, occupations, hair and eye color, height and weight. Their faces were branded into his brain. He had forgotten how easy it was to lose yourself in this stuff, to drown in the squalor and stench of it all. He wanted to finish this, put this fucker behind bars before he took another victim. Actually, after having gone through the case files with a fine toothed comb and having seen what had been done to these women, what Mulder really wanted to do if he were being honest, was put a bullet in the guy's brain. It pained him to think that Minnesota did not have a death penalty statute; he'd have to settle for life without parole.

It had been seven days since the last victim had been taken. Nine days since the one before that. It could be any time now. The clock was ticking.

They pulled up in front of a modern house on a quiet cul-de-sac in Woodbury. There was a Lexus SUV in the driveway.

"Upper middle class," said Mulder.

"Does that mean anything?" asked Bocks.

"Not unless there's a $60,000 vehicle parked in front of a $400,000 house when we go to meet with all of the victims' families. What do Mom and Dad do?"

Bocks shuffled the paper in the file. "Dad's an attorney. Mom's a homemaker. David and Nancy Jordan. Two other children, Alison was their oldest. And um...hang on. Looks like Dad is a city councilman." Bocks raised his eyebrows at Mulder.

Mulder returned the look.

"I doubt it's significant, though," said Bocks. "There are no other political affiliations among the other victims' families."

Mulder opened the car door and got out. "Let's go."

By 6:00, they had interviewed four families. Four sets of parents who had experienced the kind of horror and tragedy that no one should have to go through. Mulder had drank tea and Coke and politely refused cookies; he had looked through photo albums and passed boxes of tissues. He had said "I'm very sorry for your loss" too many times to count and he had meant it every time.

He used to be able to do this. It had never been easy, but he used to be able to interview the families of victims without feeling like he was being eviscerated, like his entire body was being turned inside-out. Now, every time he looked at a photo of a young girl wearing a cheerleading uniform or a prom dress, taken years before she was raped and murdered, all he could think of was what it must be like to have this happen to your child.

He wanted to go home and sit on the floor and play Little People with William, read Goodnight Moon to him and have him fall asleep in the middle of it and then carry him to bed. He wanted to watch Scully typing on her laptop in their bed, propped up on a hundred pillows, her glasses on and chewing on her bottom lip like she did when she was deep in thought. He wanted to come up behind her while she stood at the kitchen sink in her bathrobe and those ridiculous fluffy oversized socks she wore when the ceramic tiles got cold in the winter, and pull her hair back to kiss that soft spot on the side of her neck. He wanted to wake up early on a Sunday morning while it was still dark out and make love to her, then fall back asleep tangled in her warmth.

That's what he wanted to do. But what he needed to do was catch a killer. So he went back to his hotel room armed with a stack of photographs and notes that he didn't have the night before, and a foot long turkey and provolone on Italian from Subway, and went back to work, stretched out on his bed in his boxer shorts and T shirt, the TV on mute.

His cell phone rang at 7:30. He looked at the caller ID and recognized their home number.

"Hi. I was just thinking about you. You were wearing that little silky blue thing with the tiny straps and the see-through...well, you know the one."

"Good evening to you too. And yes, I am familiar with it."

"Am I even close?"

"Um, sadly no. More like jeans and my purple running tee that now has remnants of scrambled egg on it, thanks to a certain little person who thinks that food should be both eaten and worn."

"Breakfast for dinner night?"

"His favorite. Eggs and pancakes."

Mulder smiled. "Did you use the syrup to make the smiley faces on the pancakes?"

"Of course. You don't own the franchise on fun food, Mulder. I even cut his toast with the dinosaur cookie cutters this morning."

He sighed. "I miss you guys. When I get home will you make fun food for me, Scully?"

"No, but I'll wear the blue thing for you."

He groaned and lay back on the bed.

"There's somebody who wants to say goodnight. That's why we called so early. Here-" Mulder heard rustling and whispering on the other end, then heavy breathing and Scully's voice in the background. "It's Daddy, William. Say hi."

More heavy breathing. Then "Hi Daddy."

"Hi Buddy, how are you doing?"

"I had eggs."

"I heard. That sounds good. I had a turkey sub. I don't think it was as good as your dinner."

"Saw penguins and Gram said no juice in the car."

Um, okay. "You saw penguins? On TV?"


Carrying on a phone conversation with a twenty-three-month-old was something like playing that game when you were a kid and somebody whispered something in one person's ear and by the time it got all the way around the circle, the message was completely screwed up. A lot gets lost in translation between the toddler brain and the actual verbal delivery.

"I miss you. I'm going to be home in a couple of days and we'll walk to the ice cream place on the corner together and get the chocolate kind you like with the sprinkles, okay?"

"On the ayl-pwane?"

"Right. I'll be flying on an airplane. You and Mommy can come to the airport and pick me up, okay?"

More heavy breathing. A couple of sniffles. Scully whispered in the background again. "Say goodnight, William."


"Goodnight, Will. I love you, Buddy. See you soon."

More scrambling and a muffled "Time for bed" from Scully. Then, "William, where's your blankie? Did you have it in the playroom?" A clunk as the phone fell. "Well, where did you have it last?" A wail from William. Then Scully again, "Shh, don't cry. Let's go look for it."

Scully came back to the phone. "Hey. We have a blankie that's MIA. Can I put out fires here and then tuck him in and call you back?"

"Yup. I'll be here. Check in the toy basket behind the couch in the family room."


"For his blankie. He likes to wrap the stuffed Elmo in it. Check the toy basket downstairs."

"Um, yeah okay." She pulled the phone away from her ear again for a few seconds. "William, please don't take your pajama top off. Leave it on or you'll be cold." She came back to the phone. "Honestly. He won't leave his clothes on. What is this thing he has about nudity lately? It must be hereditary and I'm not talking about me." She sighed. "Okay, I'll call you back in a few."

They hung up and Mulder got up to use the bathroom and brush his teeth. Then he went back to reading over his notes. He laid out dozens of photos in a row across the floor, multiple ones of each victim, and knelt on the carpet over them. Then he grouped them together in various combinations. It was right there. He knew it was. Why wasn't he seeing it?

He flopped back down onto the bed and closed his eyes, hoping that taking a break from staring at the photos would clear his head. He had almost started to drift off to sleep when his cell phone rang again. He picked it up.

"Penguins?" he asked.

"My mom took him to the zoo today," she explained.

"Ah. And no juice in Grandma's new car. Got it now. Did you find the blankie?"

Mulder knew that William would not fall asleep without his favorite blanket. It was yellow and holey and had satin binding that he liked to suck on. They had tried replicating it - had gone to Babies R Us and purchased two identical yellow blankets with satin binding to have for back-up. But William refused them. His son could spot a blanket fraud a mile away.

"Mmm hmm, it was in the toy basket, just like you said."

"How was your day?" he asked.

"Good, actually. I had another conversation with Paul Hanover from Georgetown. I told him I was interested. I e-mailed him my C.V. tonight."

"And that's it?"

"Well, no. It's not completely Paul's decision. I need to meet with a search committee, probably in a few weeks or so. I'm not sure how many others they're considering, but I do know from Paul that there aren't any internal candidates."

"You've got it. Come on, Scully, you're brilliant. They'd be fools not to hire you for this job."

She chuckled. "You might be a little biased."

"I've just sampled the talent, that's all."

"Well, thank you for the vote of confidence. How's the case going?"

"We've got a profile. And that's about all I can say. No, that's not completely true. We did talk to four out of the seven families today and gathered together additional information and photos on the victims. Now I'm sitting here with the whole mess of it staring me in the face and trying to figure out where to go from here."

"Mulder, isn't that their job? You provided them with a profile. You've done what they asked you to do."

"It's not exactly that simple."

"Yes, it is," she replied, an edge to her voice. "It is that simple. You have a family now, Mulder. This isn't your job anymore."

"I realize that. I do. But I'm still scheduled to be here until Friday and I can't help but feel that there's more I can do between now and then." He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "Scully, there's something else here. I don't know what it is yet, but it's somewhere in these case files. I can feel it. The profile is good, but it might not be enough to close this thing."

She was quiet for a moment on the other end of the phone and he almost wondered if she had hung up out of frustration. Then he heard her clear her throat. "What's the profile?" she asked with an exaggerated sigh.

"You sure?"

"If you're going to be stubborn and pig-headed and insist on working this case, then you might as well bounce it off me. At least one of us still legitimately works for the FBI," she said curtly.

He smiled. He couldn't help but feel a tiny surge of excitement. It was like old times. He would throw a bunch of convoluted crap at her, she'd helped him stick it to the wall, and then they'd do their own little dysfunctional version of a two-legged race straight to the finish line. If they were really lucky, they'd make it through without any flesh wounds or totaled rental cars.

"Twenty to thirty-five year old male. Caucasian. Socially awkward, not charming or charismatic, but wants to be. Has never been married and most likely has not been in any long-term relationships. Sexually inexperienced, possibly suffers from some kind of sexual dysfunction, most likely caused by emotional trauma rather than a physical abnormality. He may have sought medical treatment for sexual dysfunction, which could be a place to start. He's not handsome. He's probably the type of guy women would not look twice at unless he had an exceptional personality or sense of humor, which he does not. Therefore, he has suffered his share of rejection. He's in love with someone who does not return his feelings. He looks for women who remind him of her and he takes out his rage on them, punishes them. He works in a job where he has very little face-to-face contact with people. He's comfortable in it, gets along okay with his coworkers, does his job and tries not to draw attention to himself. He has a car because he transported all of the women from the place of abduction to the crime scene, but possibly not a house or apartment of his own. He took them to wooded areas, which suggests that he may not have had a private place of his own to take them to.

That's who he is. What I'm stuck on is why he's choosing these particular women. Granted, they remind him of someone. And although they have some physical features in common, there's something more, something else I'm missing."

He sighed. "That's it. That's where I am so far. Whatcha got, Scully?"

He heard her breathe deeply, then exhale. "You mentioned that all the women were tall. Did they have any masculine features? Is he choosing them out of some kind of transgender issues that he has? Could that be related to his sexual dysfunction at all?"

"I don't think so. All of the women were reasonably attractive, feminine. And the things this guy does to them...they're...bad, Scully. This guy doesn't want to be a woman. He hates women. At least women who look like the one who rejected him."

"And I'm sure you've exhausted the obvious possible numerical and statistical connections among victims - birthdates, names, astrological signs, social security numbers," she offered.

"Yeah, nothing there." He sighed. "No, it's nothing that objective. It's something personal, appearance-related, I'm almost certain. I don't think he knew any of the victims."

"Let me sleep on it. Maybe something will come to me. What's the plan for tomorrow?" she asked.

"We're back at the field office tomorrow morning. I guess we're going to try and contact the other three families. If you come up with anything else, call me on my cell."

"I will. You're still planning on Friday, though, right?" she asked tentatively.

"I am. My flight gets in at 4:20. But I'll call you tomorrow night, okay? Sleep well."

"You too. I'll talk to you tomorrow night."

"Good night, Scully."

April 20, 2003

The phone woke Scully from a sound sleep. It was on the nightstand by her side of the bed and since she was sleeping on Mulder's side, it took four rings, some groaning and an expletive or two to drag herself across the bed to reach it in the dark. The clock radio said 5:15.

"Hello." Her eyes were still closed and she didn't bother turning the light on.

"They've all had plastic surgery."

"Mulder? What are you talking about?"

"The victims, Scully. They've all had plastic surgery. More specifically, facial plastic surgery. I knew it was here in the pictures; I knew I'd see it eventually."

"Mulder, have you been up all night?"

"Um, I'm not...I don't think so, no. Not all night."

She sighed and sat up, switching on the bedside lamp and squinting. "Go on."

"I've been comparing photos that were given to us by the victims' families - photos from when the women were younger to photos from the crime scenes. They're different. They've all had something done to their faces. At least the four that I have 'before' and 'after' photos of. But I'd bet you a pair of Yankees season tickets that the other three have had work done too. It's the link, Scully, I know it."

"The plastic surgeon?" she asked.

"I don't think so. It doesn't fit the profile. This guy has, like, no social skills whatsoever, Scully. He'd have to be able to relate better to people to be the actual surgeon."

"I wouldn't be too sure about that. I've met doctors with bedside manners that would make CG Spender seem like the grandfather in a Norman Rockwell painting." She immediately realized what she'd said the second it left her mouth. It was frighteningly probable that a similar biological link existed between their son and the cigarette smoking bastard. To his credit, Mulder let it go.

"I don't think it's the surgeon. But perhaps someone who works in his office. Hey, can you hang on, Scully? I've got Bocks beeping in."

"So he doesn't sleep either," she said.

"He's calling me back. I left him a message before I called you to see if he could get his hands on the medical records of the victims. Hang on one sec, okay?"

Scully heard the line click off. She rubbed her eyes and stretched her back, trying to wake herself up. She hadn't slept well, having woken up several times in the night, the details of Mulder's case weighing on her mind. But she never slept soundly when Mulder was gone. He had been away to New York several times since Christmas when the first edition of his book had come out. There had been a few book signing events and a couple of meetings with his publisher. He had also flown to San Antonio, Los Angeles, and Phoenix for various public speaking engagements. She was apparently now married to somewhat of a celebrity, at least in the world of paranormal research. She was officially Mrs. Spooky. What did that make William? Baby Spook, Junior Spook, The Spooklet? She realized that something like this would only cross her mind at 5:25 a.m. when she was still half asleep. Jesus, and it was actually an hour earlier in Minneapolis. It was 4:25 Mulder Time.

The phone clicked back over and Mulder was there again. "Bad news. The women used different surgeons. Well, all but two who used the same guy for a nose job. The rest are all different. So it wouldn't be somebody that worked in one particular office. And they're all small, private practices, no large clinics or anything, so not many employees."

Scully sighed. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I don't know what to tell you."

"I know. I'm still sure that the plastic surgery is the connection to the killer, though. It has to be. Bocks is pulling the information on the other three victims. I'm going to grab a shower and head over to the field office. Why don't you go back to sleep."

"My alarm was set to go off at 6:00 anyway. I might as well get on the treadmill. Call me if you think of-"

"Hey, wait a minute, Scully." Right on cue. "You know what's weird? These women were all under thirty years old and having plastic surgery. Isn't that a little strange? And I've seen photos of them pre-surgery. None of them were unattractive or had any glaring deformities or anything. Wouldn't they have had to go through some kind of counseling or mental and emotional screening before a doctor would perform plastic surgery on someone that young? Maybe that's the link. Maybe they all saw the same counselor."

Scully huffed out a sarcastic laugh. "You'd be surprised. Plastic surgery among young women is a multi-billion dollar industry. Some doctors will even perform surgery on teenagers without batting an eye. And as far as counseling goes, competent surgeons will insist on it, especially with patients that young, but unfortunately, that's not always the case. Too often it's not about the best interests of the patient, but about the bottom line. If the waivers get signed and the fees get paid, then the surgery gets done." Scully sighed. "No Mulder, I don't think that's your link. But I do think you're onto something. I agree with you that it's too much of a coincidence that all of these women would have had facial plastic surgery."

"Aaaaaah. Who the fuck is this guy, Scully? He's harder to nail down than jello on a corkboard. I'm close to something. I can feel it."

"Just be careful. Call me later. We're eating dinner at my mom's when I pick Will up, so call my cell or my mother's number if you're looking for us."

"Okay. Give him a hug for me. I'll talk to you later."

Scully hung up, turned off the alarm that was set to go off in fifteen minutes, and dragged herself into a sports bra, running shorts and a T shirt. She checked on William and found him to be sound asleep, so she took the baby monitor with her and went downstairs to run a cool five miles on the treadmill. Make that six since she remembered that she had mainlined the last of the Chunky Monkey straight out of the carton last night while watching the second half of Sleepless in Seattle.

Scully was walking down the hallway from her cytopathology lecture to her office when it hit her. She didn't know why it hadn't dawned on her earlier. Her footsteps quickened down the hallway. She unlocked her office door and pulled the bottom drawer of her desk open to retrieve her cell phone from her purse. She hit speed dial.

His voice mail picked up. "You've reached Fox Mulder. Please leave a message."

"Mulder, it's me. I think I may have something for you. You mentioned that all of the plastic surgeons operated out of small offices instead of large clinics or hospitals. Check and see who their radiology providers are. Virtually all plastic surgery candidates will have X-rays taken. Now, larger clinics and hospitals will have their own radiology labs to develop and read the images in-house, but smaller doctor's offices won't. They'll send their X-rays out to a radiology lab. If all of these doctors are using the same lab, then you might have your link. I'm out of my office until lunchtime. I'll try you again then."

When Scully checked her messages at lunchtime, there was just one.

"Hi Dana, it's Paul Hanover from Georgetown. I got your curriculum vitae and I've passed it along to the other members of the search committee, along with my personal endorsement. I'm optimistic about your fit for this position. I hope you can find time in the next couple of weeks to come in and meet with the committee. You'll hear from me sometime next week."

Nothing from Mulder. She dialed his number and got his voice mail again. She hung up without leaving a message and ate her tuna salad sandwich while doing an internet search on radiology imaging labs in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.

When Scully finally got back to her office again, it was nearly 5:00. She checked her voice mail.

"Hey Scully, have I told you lately how brilliant you are? You were right. You nailed it. All of the plastic surgeons used the same radiology provider - a place called Twin Cities Diagnostics and Imaging. Bocks is out on another lead. I'm going to take a drive over to this imaging place and see what I can find out about staff and so on. It's almost 4:00 now. I'll call you later."

Scully's stomach fluttered a little with unease. She dialed his number and got his recording again. This time she did leave a message. "Mulder, it's me again. Please tell me you're not doing something stupid. Wait for Bocks on this. You're getting in over your head. Call me when you get this message."

She left for her mom's house. In the car on the way over, she tried him two more times.

By the time Scully and William had finished dinner at her mother's house and were getting ready to leave for home, it was 7:30 and Scully had tried to reach Mulder three more times with no luck.

"What's going on, Dana?" her mother asked as she packed up William's bag and put his jacket on.

"What do you mean?"

"You're distracted. And you've been checking your phone all night. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah. It's fine, Mom. It's just...I was expecting a call from Mulder and I haven't heard from him. I'm sure everything's fine. He probably just lost track of time, that's all."

Maggie nodded sympathetically. "I wish I could tell you that you stop worrying, but you don't. Every time your father left, I worried until he walked back through the door, sometimes months later. Go on home and relax. He'll call."

Scully offered a weak smile and a nod. "Thanks for watching William all week. I took tomorrow off. I thought William and I might do some shopping before Mulder's plane gets in around 4:30. I'll call you this weekend."

Scully gave her mom a hug goodbye and took William by the hand to lead him out to the car. She tried Mulder's cell phone three more times before putting William to bed. Then she made another call.

A familiar voice picked up on the first ring. "Skinner."

"Sir, it's Dana Scully. I need your help."

Twenty minutes later, her phone rang.

"I have the information you asked for, Agent Scully. Both home and mobile numbers for Agent Moe Bocks in the Minneapolis field office. Do you have a pen?"

"Yes, Sir. Go ahead."

Skinner rattled off two phone numbers. "Are you going to tell me what's going on, Scully? I know Mulder is out there consulting on a serial case."

"How did you know that, Sir?" Scully sensed some shit about to hit the proverbial fan.

"Give me a little credit, Scully. More agents recognize Mulder's face than Catholics recognize the Pope. I know he went through security at the Minneapolis field office on Tuesday, April 18 at around 1:10 p.m. Central Standard Time. And I know he's still out there."

"Who else knows, Sir?"

"Nobody that you need to be concerned about. At least for now. That is unless he's gone and done something really stupid."


"Scully? Has he gone and done something really stupid?"

She sighed. "I think maybe," she whispered.

Scully reviewed the Reader's Digest version of the entire last forty-eight hours with Skinner and he promised to find out what he could on his end while Scully tried to contact Agent Moe Bocks.

Scully dialed the number in Minneapolis. There was no answer on the home number and she left a desperate message before trying the cellular number and hitting pay dirt.

"Bocks here."

"Agent Bocks, this is Special Agent Dana Scully. I'm Fox Mulder's-"

"I know who you are, Agent Scully. What can I do for you?"

"Do you know where Mulder is?"

"No, why? Should I? I'm at the field office now and he's not here. I assumed that when I got back here around 6:30 and he wasn't here, he had gone back to his hotel."

Scully quickly explained about the link they had uncovered with the radiology providers and gave Bocks the name of the imaging lab Mulder had claimed he was going to check out.

"I've been trying to reach him on his cell phone for hours and there's no answer. He hasn't returned my calls and frankly, I'm very worried. It's not like him."

"My partner and I will head out right now and see what we can find out. Try not to worry, Agent Scully. I'm sure he's fine. Probably just turned his phone off for a few hours and went to a double feature or something."

Scully knew that wasn't the least bit characteristic of Mulder, but for just a few minutes, she tried to pretend that it was and it almost made her feel better.

"Just do me a favor and find my husband, Agent Bocks. Please."

She hung up and sat by the phone for two more hours and then climbed into bed, still fully clothed, and fell into a restless sleep.

April 21, 2003

The trill of her cell phone on the pillow next to her sent her heart racing immediately and she startled awake, reaching for it desperately.

"Scully." A glance at the clock told her it was 1:40 a.m.

"Hi. They got him. Bocks found him. He's going to be all right." It was Skinner.

"What do you mean 'going to be?' Where the hell is he?"

"Right now, he's at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. As far as I know, they just brought him in."

Scully suppressed a sob. "Walter-"

"Calm down and take a deep breath, Scully. From what I've been told, he does not have any life-threatening injuries. A dislocated shoulder, lacerations on his arms, some facial contusions, and either a sprained or a broken wrist - paramedics couldn't be certain until it's X-rayed."

Scully was quiet for a minute. She absolutely detested crying in front of anyone, except Mulder, and she knew that if she spoke, her overwhelming emotions would betray her.

"It's over, Scully. He got the guy."

"What happened?" she whispered.

"The story I have so far is that Mulder went to the lab and ended up speaking with an employee, a one Alfred Stuart Delaney, who was there closing up the facility. When Mulder questioned the guy, something he saw or heard must have convinced him that this was the man because he tried to detain him. The guy ran and Mulder pursued him through some alleys back behind the facility and then into a brush field. A physical altercation occurred and Delaney ended up pulling a knife on Mulder - messed his arms up pretty badly, dislocated his shoulder and got his wrist pretty good. Mulder drew his weapon and the guy completely attacked him - went after Mulder with the knife again, going for his throat and his torso. Mulder fired his weapon and hit Delaney, taking him down. Mulder tried to call for help, but his phone wasn't in his jacket pocket. Bocks later found it about 200 feet from where he found Mulder. It had fallen out of his pocket during the pursuit. Apparently, Mulder lost consciousness. Bocks and his partner found both Mulder and Alfred Delaney at around 12:30 a.m. and called for paramedics. Delaney died on the way to the hospital."

"My God, Walter. He's not an agent any longer. He shot and killed a man with a civilian weapon. What are they going to do to him?"

"Nothing. Mulder has a legal carry permit for his weapon and this was a clear-cut case of self-defense. And apparently, the evidence found on Delaney's PC would have been enough to put him away for seven life sentences. He had pre and post mortem photos of all seven of the victims on his computer, plus detailed written accounts of the rapes and murders."

She forced herself to calm. "You're sure."

"I'm on my way to the airport now. I'm headed out there to make sure this whole thing goes down the way it should, but you need to trust me, Scully. Mulder almost single-handedly caught the most vicious serial killer the Twin Cites has had in years. From what Bocks told me, he's nothing short of a hero in the Minneapolis field office. There are agents lining up to take him out for happy hour when he gets out of the hospital."

Scully wiped at her wet cheeks and huffed out a breath. "Well, he's not going to be doing any happy hour drinking for awhile. I want him home."

Skinner chuckled. "I kind of figured you'd say that. I don't think he'll be making that Friday afternoon flight back to D.C., but hopefully if he gets released tomorrow, I can bring him back with me on Saturday. I'll call you as soon as I know anything else."

"When can I talk to him?"

"As far as I know, his cell phone has been returned to him, but he's still getting checked out at the hospital and I'm pretty sure he'll be admitted for the night."

Scully nodded, knowingly. "And they'll give him a sedative and painkillers."

"Go back to sleep, Scully. When my flight gets in, I'll head straight to the hospital. If there's anything you need to know, I'll call you immediately. Otherwise, call him in the morning."

"Thank you, Sir. I don't know what to say. This is above and beyond-"

"Yes, it is. But Mulder would do the same for me."

He was right, Scully thought. Mulder would, without a second thought.

"Good night, Sir."

After hanging up, Scully got up and used the bathroom and washed off her makeup, then removed the day clothes she had been sleeping in and opened the drawer to Mulder's dresser to pull out one of his T shirts - a weathered old Knicks one with a stretched out neck that he often wore when he mowed the lawn. It was clean, but she wished it weren't. She wanted to smell him on her skin almost as much as she wanted to hear his voice on the phone.

She climbed back under the covers on his side of the bed and buried her nose in his pillow, breathing deeply until sleep came for her.

The next time she opened her eyes, they focused on the dancing red lights on the baby monitor in front of her face. "Mommy. I get up." William rattled the side of the crib. "Mommy."

She sat up and rubbed her eyes, glancing down at Mulder's T shirt twisted around her middle. The events of last night, or early that morning rather, came flooding back to her and she reached for her cell phone. No missed calls. She used the bathroom and pulled on a pair of drawstring lounge shorts. Mulder's shirt hung so long on her that it completely covered the shorts.

She crossed the hall and pushed open the partially-closed door to William's room. Her son was standing against the side of the crib holding his blanket and smiling that crack-of-dawn smile that could only be understood by people under the age of five. Everyone else realized that it was just not normal to be this happy at 6:30 a.m.

Scully managed to paint on her post-coffee smile, even though she hadn't yet had a drop and desperately needed some stat. "Good morning, how did you sleep?" She slid the side of the crib down and lifted William, carrying him to the changing table. She took off his pajama pants and removed the typical five pound wet morning diaper and deposited it into the diaper pail with a thump, then fitted him with a dry one and pulled his bottoms back on. William gave her a puzzled look. This was usually the time when she dressed him in his clothes for the day and he was confused by the change in routine.

"Mommy's not going to work today. Remember?"

William patted her shirt with one chubby little hand. "Daddy's."

Scully smiled. "That's right. It's Daddy's shirt. Mommy's just borrowing it."

"Daddy's on ayl-pwane."

She pulled him to a sitting position on the terrycloth changing cover and took both of his hands in hers, patting them together affectionately. "Daddy's not on the airplane, Honey. He won't be coming home today after all. Daddy is going to have to stay away a little longer, but hopefully he can come home tomorrow, okay?"

William's forehead scrunched itself into deep thought for a moment. "Can get iyy cream with spinkles today?"

Scully smiled. "Ice cream with sprinkles? Yeah, I think we can handle that."

After she had settled William into his high chair with toast, a sliced banana and a pile of dry cereal, she picked up the cordless phone in the kitchen and dialed.

"Yes, hello," a non-Mulder voice answered.

"Walter? Is that you? I dialed Mulder's phone."

"I know. He's in the bathroom. I thought it might be you, so I picked up his phone."

"How is he?" she asked, relieved to hear that Mulder was up and around.

"He's good. Whatever they gave him knocked him out all night. He just came around about twenty minutes ago."

"Have you been there all night?"

"Yeah, I came right from the airport and stayed. I spoke with his doctor and was told that he did not fracture his wrist. It's only a sprain. Three of his lacerations required stitches and they popped his shoulder back in. Christ, from the sounds of it, that hurts like a son-of-a-bitch."

"It does," she replied. "What did they say about releasing him?"

"Looks like later this afternoon. The doctor is supposed to come in any time now. Once I get a confirmation on discharge, I'll book us on a flight for tomorrow. I need to leave him here and go into the Minneapolis field office to meet with Bocks and the SAC there to make sure all this gets sorted out the way it should. Mulder already gave a statement last night, so I'm not anticipating any complications with that, but if there is, it could delay us. I'll let you know as soon as I know. He just came out of the bathroom. Here he is. He looks a little scared of you, Scully. I'd say 'go easy on him,' but I think he probably deserves whatever you're going to dish out."

Scully heard rustling and a few muffled words from Skinner that she thought may have included "upset" and "lucky bastard." She figured the first was about her and the second about Mulder.

"Hey Scully."

"Mulder. God."

"Yeah, I know. How much trouble am I in? Ballpark. Are we talking the silent treatment for a couple days or exile to the guest bedroom for a week. And would expensive jewelry make any difference? I like to prepare while I'm still a thousand miles away."

She couldn't help but chuff out a tiny laugh. "First of all, you're not lucky enough to get the silent treatment. You have to listen to me chew you out. And second of all, you can't sleep in the guest bedroom because I want you sleeping as close to me as possible. And third of all...well, I don't really have a third of all, but jewelry can't hurt."

He chuckled, then she heard a little gasp. "Ow, don't make me laugh, Scully. It's hurts."

"How do you feel?"

"Kind of like Will ran me over repeatedly with his Big Wheel, and then all four Teletubbies stomped on my head, especially that fat purple one."

She smiled and shook her head. "What are they giving you?"

"I don't know. I think just some Ibuprofen with a kick now. Last night they gave me an IV with something that reminded me of smoking some really good stuff at a Phish concert once."

"Demerol or Vicodin. And you're probably on Tylenol with codeine now. Are you in much pain?"

"Eh. Comes and goes. I just want to get out of here and go home."

"I want that too, but you need to get some more rest first. And besides, Skinner needs to smooth some things over before you leave."

"So I hear. But I don't know, I'm sort of feeling the love here. I received a card signed by all the guys at the field office. Bocks dropped it off before I woke up this morning, along with a box that included a bottle of Jameson, some chocolate, a gift certificate to Omaha Steaks, some playing cards with scantily clad women on them, and a magazine of the adult variety. Got a feeling I know which agent contributed those last two items."

"How would you know that?"

He cleared his throat. "Well, um, that first night I was here? After reviewing case files for about six hours? Agent Gleason suggested we go out for a drink...at a specific establishment that promotes a certain type of entertainment. And then he slapped me on the back and asked if I preferred blondes or brunettes."

"What did you tell him?"

"I said I liked redheads."

"I mean, did you go?"

"Would it bother you?"

"Not if you went back to your hotel room alone."

He was quiet for a few seconds. "I didn't go. And I would hope you're not seriously concerned about that other part, Scully. Jesus."

She sighed. "Of course not, I'm sorry. I just miss you. And dammit, Mulder, you scared the hell out of me. You should know better than to do what you did. You could've gotten killed."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"Don't do it again."

"I won't."

"I can't decide if I want to kiss you or hit you," she said reproachfully.

"Well, can you give some serious consideration to first one because I don't think I can handle getting the shit kicked out of me any more right now." He made a hissing sound through the receiver. "My arm is killing me."

"You're going to be hurting for a while, Mulder. You might have trouble writing. When's your next deadline?"

"I've got the first five chapers due in late July, but I'm more than halfway done. Should be okay. I have another book signing, though, the second week in May."


"Did I forget to mention that? Sorry, I've been a little preoccupied. But the good news is that it was my left arm that got fucked up, so my signing hand should be fine."

"Well, thank God for that," she said sarcastically. "Let's make sure you don't jeopardize your ability to write 'Dear Jane, Thanks for all your support. Sincerely, Fox' the next time you're trying to get yourself killed."

"Don't be silly, Scully. You know I'd never sign my books 'Fox.'"

"This isn't funny, Mulder. Things are different now," she said somberly. She looked over at their son eating his breakfast, blissfully unaware of how his life came close to changing forever in the past twenty-four hours.

He sighed. "I know. I'm sorry, Scully. I don't know how many more times I need to say it before you believe me. I should have thought things through a little more. It was stupid for me not to wait and return with back-up."

"What was it you saw, Mulder?"

"What do you mean?"

"Your statement about what happened. Skinner said you almost left the lab, but then you noticed something - something that caused you to confront Delaney. What was it?"

He was quiet on the other end.

"Mulder, what was it?"

"It was...Jessica Tuttle's necklace...hanging from a hook by Delaney's desk. A cross...silver with a filigree design. Not like yours, but it...it made me think of you. And I just, I don't know, Scully, I couldn't stop myself." He exhaled sharply through the phone and coughed a little. "I've never wanted to hurt somebody that badly before," he whispered. "It's a good thing he attacked me with a knife and gave me an excuse because I'm afraid I might still have-"

"You wouldn't have."

"I don't know that, Scully."

"It's okay, Mulder, it's over. Let's just put it behind us."

"You're right. What's the Sprout doing?"

She smiled. "Chasing gooey banana slices across his tray. He's disappointed you won't be coming home today. He asked me if we could get ice cream."

"Hey, that's my Friday thing to do with him," Mulder pretended to whine.

"Yeah well, he seems amenable to allowing me to stand in for you, just this once. But he made it clear that I'm just keeping your spot warm."

Mulder chuckled. "That's because when you get ice cream with him, you make him get it in a dish instead of a cone. He likes the cones."

"He makes a huge mess and then I need to change his clothes. Every time."

"Yeah, that's what kids do when they get ice cream, Scully. And don't even think you can minimize the disaster by talking him out of the sprinkles. Because then he just whines all the way to the park and takes his repressed frustration out on the other kids in the sandbox. You have to pick your battles, Scully. Say yes to the sprinkles."

"Got it. Sprinkles equals no meltdown."

"I miss you." He sounded sleepy now, his voice hoarse and breathy.

"I miss you too. Get some more rest and call me when you find out about coming home."

"I will. And give my little partner a hug for me."

"I thought I was your partner."

"You got upgraded." She heard him yawn. "I'm going to try and crash out again before the nurse comes back to poke and prod my damaged flesh some more."

"Tell her your wife said that she needs to get one of her own."

He chuckled sleepily. "Believe it or not, I think this one's got her eye on Walter."

"Really? Lucky him."

"Um, not exactly. You know the older couple that lives three houses down to the east of us? The... what's their name - Finkleys or something?"

"Fenley. Your nurse looks like Mrs. Fenley? I think Mrs. Fenley is a very attractive woman."

"No, she looks like Mr. Fenley."

"Oh. Poor Skinner."

"Yeah." He yawned again.

"Well, Mulder. As much as I'd like to discuss which of our neighbors we could fix Skinner up with, I'm going to let you go get some more rest. And I need to go get your son dressed into his pre-ice cream outfit, so I'll talk to you later."

"Okay. I love you, Scully."

She smiled. "Love you too." He said it first, like always, but neither of them seemed to mind. It was just how they did things.

Scully hung up the phone and turned to pull William from his high chair. "So what do you say, Pumpkin? Do you want to get dressed and do some shopping? You need some new clothes. You keep outgrowing everything."

William grunted and toddled off toward the stairs, dragging his yellow blanket in his wake like Linus van Pelt.

April 22, 2003

Mulder walked through the front door of his house at 5:20 p.m. on Saturday after a copacetic flight, thanks to some painkillers and the fortuitous circumstance of having a whole row in coach all to himself. He barely registered seeing the flight attendant demonstrate how to start the flow of oxygen through an air mask before he was sawing logs across three seats.

The first thing he heard when he closed the front door was a screech and the pitter patter of bare feet on hardwoods.

"Daddy! Daddy!" A split second later, all twenty-eight pounds of William hit him head on, nearly knocking the wind out of him. He almost lost his balance from his kneeling position.

Scully rounded the corner from the kitchen and hastened toward them, both relief and concern etched on her beautiful face. She was wearing jeans and his favorite sky blue blouse that was fitted in all the right places. She had worn it for him and he appreciated the gesture. "William! Be careful of Daddy."

Mulder shook his head gently and gave a half-hearted waive with his good hand to let her know it was okay. William stared at his arm sling, his forehead knitted in confusion and lips parted. It was such a Scully look that Mulder had to smile.

"Looks funny, doesn't it?" he said, wrapping his other hand around the back of his son's head and tilting it to kiss the top of his hair.

"You got blanket for your arm, Daddy?"

Mulder chuckled. "I do. Not as good as yours, but I have a blanket for my arm. Just for a little while."

Skinner, who had been standing behind Mulder with his hand resting on the handle of his luggage, shifted his feet uncomfortably and cleared his throat. Mulder moved to the side so William could see the tall man.

"William, do you remember Mr. Skinner?"

William stared and inched a little closer to his father shyly.

"Hello, William," Skinner said.

"Can you say 'hi', Buddy?"

"Hi," the tiny voice said.

Mulder gently peeled a clutching William from his shirt and stood to greet Scully. He wrapped his good arm around her waist and both of hers went to his neck. He kissed her on the lips. It was a greeting kiss, tender, but not enough. He had missed her and felt an urgency in him that needed more to be sated. He would seek it later. She seemed tentative with him, like she was afraid of inadvertently hurting him. He didn't want her to feel that way, so he pulled her tightly to him and pinned her there until she pulled back and quirked her brow questioningly.

"I feel good," he said.

She smiled. "I can see that." She held one palm flat against her chest while her other hand skimmed over his elbow tucked into the sling. Her eyes surveyed what she could see of the damage, performing her own cursory medical evaluation with her physician's eyes.

Scully pulled back, but kept one hand tucked into his. He lifted it to his mouth and kissed her fingers.

"Thank you, Walter," she said. "For everything."

He nodded and shuffled his feet some more. It didn't take much to see he was made uncomfortable by their intimacy. It was understandable considering he had probably spent the better part of the time he'd known them trying to convince himself that there wasn't anything unpartnerly going on between them. Mulder found the whole thing rather humorous. It gave him the sudden urge to wrap his good arm around Scully and go at her like William Hurt in Body Heat, just to be a wiseass, but he figured she wouldn't share the humor.

"Do you want a cup of coffee?" Scully asked, but Walter shook his head and placed his hand on the door knob.

"Oh no, thanks. I better get going. Just wanted to make sure he got home safely."

Mulder extended his free hand and Skinner shook it. "Thank you. You uh...you really..."

"Don't worry about it," Walter said. "As far as I can tell, this whole thing is going to get wrapped up neatly, but just be aware you might get a phone call from IAD for another statement. If you feel you're being baited in any way, you need to call me before you say anything."

Mulder nodded his understanding and Skinner bid farewell and left.

As soon as Mulder turned back around, Scully folded herself into him, leaning her head against his chest and wrapping both of her arms around his waist tightly. He stumbled backwards a step.

"Hey," he chuckled.

"I'm just glad you're here," she said, resting her forehead to the open vee where the top of his button-down shirt ended and his skin began. Her head was warm against him and he felt the puff of her breath as her lungs released air in a sudden gush of relief. He could smell her herbal shampoo and he tilted his mouth down to press his lips to her silky cool hair.

He savored her unusual display of need. She was not an overly demonstrative person, neither verbally nor physically, although he had observed this shifting ever so slightly as their months of marriage progressed. She had spent so many years proving her strength in a male-dominated profession that she had buried her emotion and need so far below the surface it was even difficult for her to find it. Mulder was usually the one to initiate physical contact, to seek out a kiss for no apparent reason, to linger in an embrace, to reach for her while they sat on the sofa together watching a movie or reading.

This was not to be confused with sexual desire, which she displayed without the same reservations. She was an assertive lover, giving and taking with unabated enthusiasm and in equal abundance.

She finally did pull back, running her hand from his shoulder down the length of his injured arm to the bent elbow. "I made dinner," she said. "I didn't know if you'd be hungry."

He smiled and nodded, knowing that his acceptance of her mothering was inexplicably important to her. "I could eat."

Mulder lay spooned up behind Scully, his injured arm and wrist resting at his side. He had removed the restrictive sling for the night against his own personal doctor's approval. But when had he ever followed any set of instructions to the letter. He'd be worried about his integrity if he started now.

He nuzzled the spot behind her ear and nipped teasingly at her lobe. His erection prodded her backside and he knew she couldn't miss it.

She tilted her head back, a curious half smile playing on the corners of her mouth. "Seriously?"

"Mmmm hmmm." He tongued her bare shoulder, moving the tiny strap to her tank top aside with the grip of his teeth. "You're not in the mood?" he asked.

"I could be. I just didn't think you'd be up for it."

He flexed the muscles in his groin and his cock twitched eagerly against her twice. "Oh, I'd say I'm very up for it."

"Mulder, your wrist-"

"is only sprained. As long as I don't put pressure on it, I'll be fine. If you drive, we should be all set," he said, grinding himself against her buttocks persuasively. "Come on Scully, the thing from the hospital said 'activity as tolerated.' Well, this is my favorite activity, and I am feeling especially tolerant."

"I'm a doctor, Mulder. I'm familiar with discharge instructions and 'activity as tolerated' is just another way of saying 'Don't do it if it hurts.'"

He leveraged his good arm underneath her and quickly, almost roughly, rolled himself so she was lying on top of him, her face inches from his, hot breath against smooth skin. A surprised cry escaped her throat.

"And in your expert doctor's opinion, would you say a patient who can do that is hurting...much?" He punctuated his last word with a rising of his hips and a thrusting upward. He was harder than a rock against the flesh of her belly where her tank top had ridden up. She was wearing nothing but her panties on the bottom and he slid his one hand under the elastic of the leg opening to clutch one cheek tightly and press her to his groin.

She gasped quietly and he knew she was startled by his need.

He buried his face in her neck and breathed. "I've seen things this week, Scully...things that I want to forget. Help me forget."

She sifted her fingertips through his hair massaging his scalp and sucked his bottom lip in between hers. He groaned and his tongue snaked out and darted hungrily into her mouth. He wasn't patient. Not tonight. His breathing was harsh and he tugged desperately at the waistband of her panties, trying to figure out how to get rid of them without taking his tongue out of her mouth. It wasn't working. He gave up momentarily and settled for sliding his hand up and over the waistband and down to her mound. She parted her legs further and he sunk a finger up into her. The invasion startled her briefly and she bit down on his tongue with a lustful cry.

"Ow," he mumbled.

"Oh God, shit Mulder, is it your wrist?" she panted, pulling back from his mouth.

"No, no. You just bit...it's okay. I'm fine." He strained his neck upward to try and capture her mouth again. His finger still worked inside her. He added a second one and they moved together, sinking in and out of her and tweaking her clitoris with each pass.

She ground herself against him, her hips moving in a circular motion. She was already soaking wet. He withdrew his hand and she whimpered in frustration.

"Mulder-" her breathing was ragged. "That's not nice."

His hand went back to the elastic on the damned evil panties and he grabbed them, twisting and pulling. "Don't make me rip these, Scully. I need to be in you."

She raised herself up on one arm and tugged them down awkwardly with her other hand, kicking them to the bottom of the bed, lost somewhere inside the sheets. She was still wearing her tank top and her breast jiggled with her movements, her nipples hard pebbles straining against the thin material. The sight of it signaled the last few drops of blood in his body to join the rest already in his cock and he felt like he just might explode right there. He was so horny that if she didn't seriously hurry up, she wouldn't even need to bother with the penetration part because it would be all over for him.

Sensing his helpless desperation, she pulled his boxer shorts down and off quickly, tossing them back over her shoulder onto the floor. Her tank top was next as she crossed her arms in front of her and pulled it over her head flinging it across the room. The wantonness of it all struck her as funny and she let out a loud bark of a laugh, followed by several giggles.

"I knew it - you stripped in med school to pay tuition, didn't you?" he teased.

But he had barely finished the sentence and she was up on her knees, taking him in hand and guiding him inside her. Hot, tight, and wet all around him within a split second.

"Holyyyyyy fuuuck, Scully."

She started up a rhythm immediately and it was steady and purposeful. She sat up straight straddling him, raising herself up and down slowly at first, then with increasing speed. Her breasts bobbed gently above him and he reached his one good hand to cup one of them, thumbing the puffy coral nipple, then moving to the other one. The touch made her toss her head back and move faster. Their bodies made a slapping sound, skin contacting skin. She rode him hard, her lean body rising and falling above him, mouth open, eyes closed, hair falling in a curtain around her shoulders and spilling down her back when she tipped her head skyward. Every once in awhile, she slowed and pitched forward over him, grinding herself hard against him. He would latch his mouth onto her nipple and suck for all he was worth as she whimpered and slid herself back and forth. Then without warning, she would sit back up on him and continue the ride. He knew she had always enjoyed this position and the control it gave her, and he absolutely loved it when she would lose herself in it, like she was now, and he would get treated to a totally uninhibited Scully, a rare creature indeed.

Mulder felt the beginning tingle of his orgasm stirring and he fought it back, closing his eyes and trying to distract himself. He knew when they started that this was going to be tricky. Usually he lasted a bit longer when she was on top, but the stress of the week had been closing in on him and he hadn't realized until he walked in the door earlier and saw her for the first time in five days how much he wanted her.

It was entirely possible that if Skinner hadn't been standing there awkwardly, their child hadn't been clinging to his leg, and he hadn't had a bum wrist, that he would have skipped dinner and hoisted her up on the dining room table like his own personal buffet the second he walked in the door. Instead, he had spent the next five hours salivating over the milky swell of her cleavage through the buttons of her blouse and biding his time until he could get her into their bed. No, this event was going to be anything but slow and sweet tonight. The only saving grace was that by the way she was riding him, it looked like they were on the same page.

He didn't want to leave her hanging, but it was going to happen unless he improvised quickly. His balls were coiled tighter than a spring. He grasped her thigh firmly with his hand to try and slow her movements before it was too late, which he wasn't entirely certain that it wasn't already.

"Scully, we need to...I'm sorry, but I'm getting too close...I don't think I can..." he grimaced, his jaw tense.

She whimpered a little at the interruption in her agenda, but ceased moving, slid off him and reached to grasp him firmly below the tip of his penis with her thumb and two fingers, stalling is ejaculation. He gradually settled just a little, the calm before the storm.

"C'mere," he said after a few seconds, coaxing her back onto him and pushing her forward. He patted his chest and looked at her with dark eyes and he could tell by the way her breath caught and her tongue wet her bottom lip that she could read his mind.

She gripped the headboard for purchase and lowered herself over his waiting mouth. His tongue sought out her swollen bud immediately. They were beyond teasing now, he needed results. He located her center right away - he had done this so many times that her clit and his tongue were drawn together like magnetic poles. She hissed harshly, pressed her thighs tighter to his ears, and started to move her hips forward and backward against his fluttering tongue. They weren't starting from scratch and judging by the mewling sound coming from somewhere deep inside her throat, he estimated that she was more than halfway there already. His bad wrist wouldn't do him much good, but he used his good hand to palm the spot on her lower back at the base of her tailbone and urge her on.

He drank her like a fine wine, tasting the heady aroma that was indescribably her. It was sugary sweet and musky and drew him like a bee to nectar. He loved it, craved it sometimes, and although it was really crude and he'd never say this to her, he was certain that if he were blindfolded in a room full of vaginas, he could track her like a bloodhound. Her scent was incredibly arousing to him and never failed to elicit his erection like some kind of pavlovian response.

She moved against him more urgently now, her sex glistening wet, pink and swollen.

"Yesss, Oh God, yes," she panted. Her buttocks tensed and her thighs began their own little richter 10 quake around his head. The sound that followed was something like a high-pitched yelp, followed by a long breathy exhale of vowels. Her hips continued to circle, but much more slowly as she rode it out, then eventually stopped. She released her grip on the headboard and melted on top of him, folding forward, her pillowy breasts landing over his face.

Her chest rose and fell dramatically as she tried to find her way back. He pulled one nipple, rock hard and tight from her orgasm, into his mouth, but she cried out and jerked away, giggling like he had found a particularly ticklish spot.

"Too sensitive yet?" he asked.

"Yeah," she panted. "Just give me a sec."

He skimmed her velvety smooth back with his fingertips. "Mmmm, take all the time you need," he said. "I've got a great view from here."

She giggled again in between gradually slowing breaths. She snaked one hand in between their two bodies to grasp his cock, still hard, and he hissed and lifted his hips against her palm.

"I've been hard for you since the moment I walked through that door," he growled.

She shimmied her body down his until they were face to face and kissed him. "Mm, how do you want it?" she whispered against his mouth as he pecked at her lips.

He knew exactly what she was asking. Did he want her to take him in her mouth and finish him that way, which always held its own special magic given her oral talents, or did he want intercourse?

Both, actually. Such an evil joke that men could only have one orgasm within a reasonable time frame. Sadly, he'd have to make a choice and he knew right away what that would be.

He bracketed her hips with both hands, his injured one merely resting on her while his strong one pressed downward, revealing his urgency. "In you. Please," he begged.

She smiled and kissed his chin, his nose, his top lip followed by his bottom, then sat up and guided him into her until she bottomed out. He drew a harsh, ragged breath and moaned. She was still in control, would have to be given his physical condition, so he simply laid back and allowed her to take the lead. He damned the injury that kept him from grabbing her, flipping her onto her back and driving into her with everything he had.

He thrust his hips up desperately under her as if he were trying to jumpstart her movements. She quirked a brow. "Anxious, are we?"

"You have no idea," he panted. "Come on, Scully, please don't tease." He was pretty certain he looked like he was in pain. She smiled and wet her lips, then braced one hand against his stomach muscles as she began a slow and steady stroke up and down on him. She took him deep every time and then raised herself up, almost lifting off him with each upstroke. Leaning back, she arched her back and braced her hands on his thighs for leverage. She was gorgeous, a whispering sheen of perspiration glistening on her chest as she exerted herself.

He wasn't prepared for how fast it snuck up on him. His orgasm overtook him and he came hard, jerking his hips up with each pulse of his ejaculation. He immediately felt every ounce of stress from the past week draining from his body until he was completely spent, nearly dizzy. He was glad she was on top because his entire body felt like rubber. He would have undoubtedly collapsed onto her if he had been holding himself up.

She lay over him like a warm soft blanket, kissing his bare shoulders and chest, nuzzling the sparse hair there. He stayed inside her a little longer, liking the connection it provided. Eventually she rolled off him and settled into the valley between his side and good arm, pulling the sheet up over them both. He played with her hair, twisting it lazily around one finger.

"Thank you," he murmured, kissing her temple.

She lifted her knee over his thigh and draped her arm across his waist. "You don't have to thank me for sex, Mulder. It feels weird."

"Should I just leave a hundred on the dresser then?"

She clicked her tongue loudly and pinched his nipple.

"Ow!" he protested.

"Don't be ridiculous," she said. "You know my fee is two."

"Geez, expensive."

"Julia Roberts got $3,000 in Pretty Woman."

"For a week!"

"She got a whole new wardrobe too," she whined.

"Picky picky. You can check my wallet. I might have fifty bucks on me."

"Well if we're cashing out here, then let's see...we've been married for ten months, have had sex, what would you estimate, maybe two to three times per week. I'll go easy on you and say two. Then we lived together for a year before that, so add that in. All at a rate of...I don't know, what's the going rate on services rendered these days, Mulder?"

"I have no idea."

She gave him a dubious look.

"What? How would I know?"

"So you've never-"

"Paid for sex? Not once. Come on, Scully, we've been over my list before. You know who I've been with."

"Not even a little oral action?"

"Nope. Not even. And I can't believe you asked me that."

She looked him up and down carefully, then nodded. "Yeah, you're right. What was I thinking? You wouldn't have to pay for it. You could've had just about any single woman in the FBI, and some of the married ones too."

He quirked an eyebrow and smiled. "Thanks for the vote of confidence. Trouble was, I only wanted one woman. Still do."

She kissed him on the lips. "You're just buttering me up so you won't have to pay your bill." Her giggles hummed against his lips.

"Mmmm, how about if we take it out in trade?" he said, snaking his good hand down between her thighs and stroking her tentatively.

Her breath hitched. "God, Mulder. For a wounded man, you're insatiable tonight." Her legs parted a little as she opened to his touch.

He found a soft spot of velvety smooth skin on her shoulder blade and sucked on it. She'd have to wear a blouse with a collar to work tomorrow.

"Sadly, I think I might need to sit this next one out, due to an unholy little thing called a refractory period."

"I'm sorry," she moaned, her hips starting to respond on their own to his manual attention.

"Women have all the fun."

May 10, 2003

Mulder's feet hit the pavement at a steady pace and his arms pumped through the misty predawn haze. It had been dark and clear when he left the house, but it had begun to drizzle by the time he hit the second mile. The sun hadn't yet started to rise, but his neighborhood was already showing signs of life. A few lights on in houses here or there, doors opening to let dogs out into fenced-in yards, newspapers being retrieved from front stoops, even a few cars backing out of driveways, headlights cutting the dark.

He had woken up earlier than usual and hadn't been able to fall back asleep, so he threw on his running gear, left a note on his pillow in case Scully woke up or he didn't make it back by the time her alarm went off, and went for a run. He considered it a treat when he found the time to run outdoors these days. Although morning would be the ideal time, getting out of bed at the crack of dawn wasn't as easy as it used to be back when he had piss poor sleeping habits. Since he had been sleeping next to Scully, he slept better than he ever had in his entire life. Could be that they typically went to bed before midnight and got up at the same time everyday. He had read somewhere that a regular sleep schedule was the key to restful sleep. Could be the comfort of sleeping next to someone he loved and felt comforted by. Or it could the regular sex. His money was on the sex.

In any case, he rarely dragged his ass out of bed early enough to get his run in before Scully's alarm went off at 6:00. She usually jumped on the treadmill while he took his shower and then William was typically wide-eyed and bushy tailed by about 6:30. Sometimes he ran on the treadmill while William napped, but it really wasn't his thing. Scully liked the treadmill; he found it monotonous and preferred the great outdoors. A couple of times per week he ran in the evening after Scully got home, but in general, his exercise regimen hadn't been what it used to be. He worried about getting soft. His pants still fit fine, but he figured it was only a matter of time before he could pinch more than an inch. Such was the reality of being a member of the happily married, over forty club. The next thing he knew, he'd start losing his hair.

It had been three weeks since he had returned home from his case in Minneapolis and he had recovered nicely, if not ahead of schedule. His wrist was back to fully functional and his flesh injuries had left only minor scars that would hopefully fade over time. Scully still treated him with kid gloves when they made love, even though he had been able to bear weight on his arms for awhile now. However, he soon realized there were some advantages to that. They had discovered some interesting and creative new positions.

Mulder turned the corner onto their street and slowed down as he neared the house, cooling down a little. He jogged slowly to the front porch and stretched before going inside. The first thing he noticed was that several lights were on upstairs, more than usual for this time of morning. He hadn't even expected Scully to be up quite yet. The second thing he noticed was that he could hear William crying. He kicked off his sneakers and ascended the stairs. When he entered his son's room, Scully had William on the changing table, which was just about too small now for him to stretch out on, and she was pulling his pajamas off. "Mommy..." William's voice sputtered. She was shushing him in a low, comforting voice. "It's okay, honey. It's okay."

"Hey. What's going on?" Mulder asked.

"He's okay. He just threw up, that's all."

Mulder looked in the crib and wished he hadn't. "What do you need me to do?"

"Can you get a laundry basket and strip the crib? I'm going to clean him up in the tub."

When he got back upstairs, he took all the bedding off the crib and tossed it and the soiled pajamas into the basket, then took it downstairs and started a load of wash. Then he went back up to the hall bathroom where he found Scully kneeling by the side of the tub in her pajamas, washing William.

"Hi Daddy. I sick."

"I'm sorry, Buddy." He addressed Scully next. "Should I call the pediatrician?"

She arched her brows at him. She looked tired and the front of her pajama top was wet. He hoped it was from tub water.

"It's just viral gastroenteritis, Mulder."

He stared back at her and nodded blankly. He hated when she acted like he should understand her doctor speak.

"The stomach bug," she clarified. "He doesn't have a fever and there are no other symptoms. He just has an upset tummy. There's nothing the pediatrician can do for him. It just has to run its course."

"I got a bug in my tummy?" William asked, his eyes the size of nickels and his forehead scrunched like he might start screaming any second.

"No honey, it's just a saying," assured Scully, running the blue washcloth down his back. "That's what people call the tummy sickness."

Scully rubbed her eyes with her dry hand. "I can't stay home, Mulder. I have my second meeting today with the search committee at Georgetown. I'm sorry, I know you have a deadline before your trip to New York for the book signing next week. You're probably not going to get much writing done today."

He nodded. "We'll figure it out. Why don't you go get a shower so you're not late."

She stood up and he took over washing Will's hair.

"Oh, and Mulder, you might want to keep a large towel or bucket handy. He's probably not done."

He offered her a weak smile. Greeeaaat.

Mulder figured out what she was talking about when, right after he dried his son off from his bath and dressed him in a clean pair of sweats, Mount St. William erupted all over again.

The house phone rang at 1:30 in the afternoon. Mulder got up off the floor where he been lying and reading books to William. The child looked up at him with glassy, expressionless eyes, but didn't even bother picking his head up.


"Mulder, it's me. How is he?"

"Hi. Um, I think he's blown more chunks today than Phi Beta Kappa during pledge week."

Scully made a sympathetic clicking of the tongue. "Poor baby. Are you giving him the Pedialyte?"

"Trying to, but he's not keep it down."

"He's retaining more than you think he is. Just keep giving him small amounts frequently - two tablespoons every twenty to thirty minutes, if you can get him to take it. If he tolerates that, give him a little more."

"Is he really okay, Scully? He just lays there like a dish rag."

"He's taking the Pedialyte?"


"He communicates and talks to you?"


"He's lifting his head and showing mild interest in watching TV, even if he's not playing?"


"He's fine, Mulder. He just feels like shit. The only real danger is dehydration. The worst case scenario is that he'll need IV fluids, but if he's taking the Pedialyte, that should be enough until he can keep more fluids down. I'll check him when I get home."

"Okay. Did you have your meeting yet?"

"No. It's at 3:00. I'm hoping to head home after that instead of going back to Quantico. How are we set for diapers?"

"Um, half a bag left, I guess."

"I'll pick up more on the way home. The vomiting should stop within about twelve hours from the onset, but then the diarrhea starts and that can last a week."

"Lovely," he sighed.

"Oh and Mulder?"


"Make sure you're washing your hands thoroughly after you clean up after him and it can't hurt to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer on top of that too. This is probably Rotavirus. Virtually all kids get it before age 3. Adults have been exposed to it and usually have a natural immunity. But if it's Norovirus, then all bets are off. It's extremely contagious and you have your book signing trip next week."

"And I say again...lovely."

"I'm sorry. Lots of hand washing and Purell. Kiss him for me. Um, on second though, don't. Tell him I love him. I'll see you in a few hours."

"Bye, Scully. Good luck with your meeting."

By the time he heard Scully's heels clicking on the hardwood floors in the entryway, William was sitting up and eating a graham cracker watching Blues Clues on the couch in the play room.

She dropped her keys, purse, and two packages of diapers on the table and came and sat down next to Will, feeling his forehead.

Mulder stopped clicking on his laptop at the card table in the corner, minimized his document, and got up to kiss her hello.

"We're trying a cracker," he said. "No puking for about four hours and he says he's hungry."

"I all better, Mommy," said William, grabbing his sippy cup and plugging it in.

"He's not crazy about the Pedialyte. I tried Gatorade and he's been mainlining it from the sippy for a couple of hours now and so far, so good. It hasn't made a reappearance."

Scully nodded. "BRAT," she said.

"That's not nice, Scully."

"It's the acronym for the doctor-prescribed upset tummy recovery diet. Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast."

"Ah," he said. "No graham crackers then?"

"They're fine, if that's what he wants. Bland foods for a couple of days, that's all."

She took her suit jacket and shoes off and took him by the hand, leading him to the loveseat across from where William sat. He sat and she flopped down, putting her stocking covered feet in his lap. He took the hint and started rubbing as she closed her eyes and tipped her head back against the cushions.

"How was your meeting?" he asked.

"Good. Really good, I think. I don't know, Mulder, it seems like a good fit. Paul spoke to me afterward and indicated that I was the top contender."

Paul? First name basis. Huh.

"They're hoping to make a decision within a week or so."

"That's great," he said, pressing his thumbs into her instep. She moaned her approval.

William finished his sippy of Gatorade and let out a loud belch. He stared at the TV, watching Steve sing a song about Side Table Drawer. Steve asked the audience if they could spot the third and final pawprint. Will scooted down off the couch and toddled over to the TV, pressing his chubby hand against the screen. "A clue!" he pointed, leaving grubby smudges on the glass. Then he turned toward his father and held out his empty snack bowl.

"Can have nudder cacker, Daddy?"

"Um, why don't you wait and let that one land, Buddy. See if it's a keeper first."

William seemed to accept that answer and plopped down on the floor to play with his Little People Barn. He opened and closed the door over and over again and it made a mooing sound.

Scully opened her eyes and sat up again. "Did you get any writing done in between messes?"

"No, not really. Maybe a little. I'm going to have to put in some time tonight, I'm afraid."

She nodded, then cleared her throat. "You know, Mulder, we haven't revisited the idea of hiring a nanny since last summer. I know how you feel about it, but I think we need to discuss it since you have yet another book signing trip next week. My mom has been graciously helpful about covering for us whenever you travel, but with a second book coming out in another six months, it's likely that your schedule may pick up."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Can we cross that bridge when we come to it?"

She sighed and frowned. "Mulder, if I'm offered this job and I take it, there's a real possibility that I'll be putting in longer hours in the beginning, or at the very least, taking some work home with me. I don't know that there's any way around that. I'm just saying ...we might already be standing at the bridge. It can take months to interview nannies and find the right one. Honestly Mulder, I just don't understand why you're so opposed to hiring some help, at least part-time."

She pulled her feet out of his lap and swung her legs to the floor. "I don't get it, Mulder. I know it's not the money, so what is it?"

He smiled and crossed his arms behind his head, lacing his fingers.

"I had a nanny when I was a kid. Did I ever tell you that, Scully?"

She shook her head. "No, you didn't, Mulder."

"Her name was Loretta. She didn't live with us, but she came every day. I remember her being around from the time I was really young, before school-age. She was an older lady, late fifties, early sixties maybe. I don't think she had a family of her own."

"And...you didn't like her?" Scully asked. "Is that why you don't want a nanny for William? Because you had a bad experience when you were a child?"

He shook his head. "No, not at all, actually. Loretta was great. She used to do things with Sam and me - fun things, like sledding and finger painting and making forts out of blankets and furniture cushions. She made the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ever. You would think that a PB&J is a PB&J, but it's not. There's an art to it. You need to get the perfect balance between the peanut butter and the jelly. Too much peanut butter and your mouth sticks together, too much jelly and-"

"it soaks through the bread," Scully's voice chimed in with his. She smiled.

He nodded and smiled back. "She took us on picnics and fishing in the stream. She taught me to ride my bike without training wheels and to tie my shoes and make a volcano out of paper mache for the fifth grade science fair."

"She sounds wonderful. But I'm still missing something. If it was a good experience, then why are you hesitant to hire someone to help with William?"

Mulder sighed deeply. "Because...those are things I want to do with my son. When I remember the good stuff from when I was a little kid, Scully? Most of them involved Loretta taking care of me. She packed my lunch for school and drove me there. She made cookies for me to take into school for my birthday party. She bandaged me up when I took a header over the handlebars of my bike and bathed me in baking soda when I had the chicken pox. It wasn't my mom who did that stuff. She hosted lunches at the house with her friends and played bridge.

She wasn't a bad mom, Scully. She loved us. She tucked us into bed at night and read us stories, took us shopping when we needed new shoes, and cooked dinners for us. But...it was Loretta who did the fun stuff, the little stuff, and all the stuff in between. She was the one who comforted us and was around after school to ask us how our day went and to quiz us on the spelling words. When Will is our age, I don't want him remembering someone else doing all the cool stuff with him."

She sighed and took his hand, rubbing tiny circles around his knuckles with her thumb affectionately.

"It would never be like that, Mulder. You'd never let that happen. You can still do all that stuff with him, but having a part-time nanny would mean that you'd have dedicated time to work so that the time you did devote to William would be quality time where you could focus on enjoying him without distraction.

And on a more practical level, it would help cover us for when you need to travel. My mother loves to do it, but we need to have some kind of back-up. She's busy too and we can't always count on her being available any time we need her at the drop of a hat. I've covered for you the few times you've had to be away and she couldn't take him, but if I take this new job, getting time off might not be so easy right away."

He nodded, thinking. She had good points; she always did. He was probably being impractical for strictly emotional reasons.

He'd never tell her this, but when he had first found out she was pregnant with his child, he had the overwhelming urge to run. He wanted to get as far away as possible and never look back. Not because he didn't want the responsibility of raising his child. Not because he didn't love her. No, never that.

He wanted to run because he did love her, and despite waking up from the dead and having exactly two months to get used to the idea of being a father, he loved the little interloper that somersaulted inside her too. He wanted to run because he could not imagine what kind of cruel joke God, if He did exist, was playing on this poor kid by giving him Mulder as an old man. Raised by an alcoholic father and a detached mother, what kind of example of parental love could he offer to this human being? He could barely keep fish alive, he ate out of take-out cartons when he ate at all, and he slept on a crappy couch. He was an FBI joke, an insubordinate nightmare to his superiors, and he had cheated death so many times he couldn't even get life insurance anymore.

When it came to the Dad pool, he was the lowest of the low, the bottom of the barrel. This kid had truly rotten luck. And the only thing he could think of to do to change that was to disappear, remove himself from the equation, give this kid a running start. Without him in the picture, the kid had a shot at a normal life. He had Scully as a mom and she had her shit together. If anyone could manage single parenthood, it was her.

But then everything changed in one tiny little instant and he never even saw it coming. It was the day Scully landed herself in the hospital with complications and he had gone to visit her. For the very first time, he laid his hand over her pregnant belly and he felt it. A subtle prodding at first, a tiny foot or a hand pressing into his palm. Then a rolling motion like a wave underneath her skin. He couldn't breathe for a second and he almost felt his knees buckle under him. He looked at Scully and she smiled back at him as if to say "We did that."

When he left the hospital he was trembling all over. He felt dizzy and his heart raced. It was that feeling you get just after you've crested the biggest, tallest hill of a rollercoaster and you start plummeting. Your stomach drops out and you feel airborne for a few seconds. He stopped on the way home from the hospital and bought a bottle of vodka, then went back to his apartment and drank himself into oblivion.

When he awoke the next morning, he dumped the rest of the vodka down the kitchen sink, then cleaned his entire apartment from top to bottom, took a very long shower, and made some decisions about his life.

The woman he loved was carrying his child. He had felt it move inside her and it had transformed absolutely everything he knew to be true, everything he thought about himself and his purpose. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would be who this child needed him to be. He would be a father. And when William was finally born and he held him for the first time, it suddenly felt like the most natural thing in the world.

He knew she was right about the nanny issue. He did need more balance in his life. Most days he probably spent half his time writing while William amused himself. Then the rest of the day he crammed a bunch of activities in so he wouldn't feel guilty about the time he had spent working. He could do better and William deserved it. He just couldn't help feeling like he was giving something up. He realized that she probably felt like that every day when she left for work. He felt guilty for his selfishness. He never realized how many possible things there were to feel guilty about until he became a parent. She stared at him now with her doe eyes and he nodded back at her.

"You said you would find out about the job soon." He sighed. "Let's see what happens and we'll make some decisions, okay?"

May 17, 2003

Scully entered the restaurant and informed the hostess that she was meeting someone for lunch.

"Is he tall, glasses, late forties, sandy brown hair?"

"Yes, that's him."

"Right this way," the hostess said, leading her to the back of the restaurant. "He arrived just a few minutes ago. He told me to watch for a pretty redhead with blue eyes."

The comment made Scully uncomfortable. Why would Paul Hanover describe her in this way to a stranger? It struck her as inappropriate and unprofessional, but she passed it off when she saw him stand and reach out to greet her with a firm handshake. She was being overly sensitive, no doubt from years of having to be hyper vigilant in a male-dominated profession. She had known Paul since med school, had served with him on panels before, and he had always treated her with the utmost respect and professionalism.

"Dana," he smiled, sitting back down. "Thank you for meeting me on such late notice. I hope I didn't throw a wrench in your day or anything."

"Not at all. I actually have an hour and a half before my next lecture."

The waiter came to the table to take their drink order. Paul ordered a Coke while Scully ordered a mineral water.

"Have you been here before?" he asked.

"I have not, but I've been told it's very good."

"The duck soup is wonderful. The angel hair pasta and scallops is my favorite. And they have a very nice greek salad if you're in the mood for something lighter."

She smiled and nodded, perusing her menu.

"So how's life at Quantico?" he asked, drinking from his Coke. "I have to admit that I was taken completely by surprise when I found out you had joined the Bureau instead of pursuing medicine."

Her guard immediately went up. If she had a dime for every time a medical colleague commented on her career choice in a way that insinuated she must be crazy for abandoning medicine for the FBI, she'd be able to pay off the national debt.

"It has been a challenging and rewarding career choice for me and I haven't regretted it," she responded tightly.

"Of course. I didn't mean to imply anything, Dana. On the contrary, I admire your drive and enthusiasm."

He sounded genuine and she relaxed a little.

The waiter returned. "Can I take your order?" He looked at Scully first.

"Um, let's see...the greek salad comes highly recommended. I'll try that," she replied, closing her menu and handing it to the waiter.

He looked at Paul Hanover next. "And I'll have the angel hair with scallops, easy on the butter, please."

"Very good, Sir," the waiter nodded and walked away.

She waited and sipped from her glass of Perrier, not entirely certain what the purpose of the meeting was, nor where the conversation would be headed next.

"Well Dana, I'll tell you why I asked you to lunch." He took another drink and then clasped his hands in front of him. "The search committee is very impressed with your qualifications and background and they have decided to make you a formal offer for the position of Assistant Director of Residency. Of course, as you know, the position will include co-chairing the clinical research trials that have been funded by the Coleman grant. You would be working with me on that project and we would choose the rest of our team together."

He leaned his hand into the briefcase that rested against his chair on the floor, pulled out a large envelope, and handed it across the table to her. "The written offer and all the details are in here. The salary is within the parameters that we discussed. It's somewhat firm as it's determined by the hospital's pay structure and the limits of the research project, but off the record, please don't turn this offer down based on the salary. I'd be willing to go to the mat for you and see what can be done if necessary. I'd like you on this project with me and I don't want salary to keep you from accepting this opportunity."

She took the envelope and held it without opening it. "Thank you for your confidence. I'm sure it's an attractive offer. Of course, I'll need an opportunity to think it over."

"Take all the time you need. Time is on our side in this case. We're not looking to get someone on-board until August."

She breathed deeply and took another drink. Her stomach felt suddenly queasy. It had been coming and going all day and she wondered if she might be coming down with the virus that William had a week ago or if it was just her nerves.

"Would you excuse me for a minute?"

She stood and he did as well. "Of course."

She went to the restroom and leaned over the sink, taking deep breaths to try and calm her stomach. She used the toilet, washed her hands and then took a paper towel, wet it with cool water and ran it over her face. The queasiness passed and she returned to the table to find her salad waiting for her. Paul hadn't started eating yet, politely waiting for her company.

"This looks good," she said, and it did, but she didn't seem to have much of an appetite anymore. She watched him cut into his scallops while she pushed pieces of lettuce and kalamata olives around on her plate. She usually loved seafood of all kinds, but for some reason, the slippery translucent flesh of the scallops on Paul's plate were turning her stomach. She tried to stare down at her plate and not look, but she felt rude, so she smiled and replied to his attempts to make polite conversation. They discussed a few current medical journal articles, the weather, and the whereabouts and relevant work of some colleagues that they knew in common. Time passed quickly.

When the waiter came to clear their plates, Paul had just about finished his entire portion while Scully's sat nearly untouched. The waiter asked if she wished to have it wrapped to go and she shook her head no.

"I'm sorry, you didn't care for it?" Paul asked.

She smiled. "It's not that. It tasted very good. I've been fighting something off all day. My son was ill last week and I'm afraid I may be coming down with whatever he had."

Paul nodded and she saw a look of slight surprise on his face. "I didn't know you had children."

"Yes, just one."

He smiled warmly. "Kids are great. How old?"

"He'll be two in a couple of days."

"I miss those days. Mine are twelve and fifteen. Girls."

Scully nodded politely and smiled. She couldn't help but spot his eyes drift to the large ring on her left hand. She's certain he must have noticed it before now. Mulder's mother's two plus carat diamond was impossible to miss.

"What does your husband do?"

"He's um, a writer."

"Anything I'd know?"

"Probably not. He writes non-fiction...in a very specific genre."

Please don't ask, please don't ask, please don't ask, please don't ask, please don't ask. She didn't think she was feeling up to discussing the paranormal mysteries of the flukeman and liver eating mutants.

He didn't ask. Instead he glanced at his watch. "Well, I'd say you're due back in class in about twenty minutes, so I suppose we should head out."

"Yes." She stood and fought off another unexpected wave of nausea.

"Call me if you have any questions about the details of the offer. I look forward to hearing from you soon, Dana."

She smiled and nodded.

"Oh, and feel better."

Scully got back to Quantico in record time and just made it into the restroom near her office when she lost what little bit of lunch she had consumed.

When she walked through the door of the house, the smell of spices and spaghetti sauce accosted her olfactory senses. She grimaced and kicked her shoes off, holding her hand over her nose and mouth.

"Hey," Mulder called out from the kitchen. "I hope you're in the mood for baked lasagna with wild mushrooms."

She ran to the powder room off the first floor hallway, knelt by the toilet and wretched. When she finally caught her breath and looked up, he was standing in the hallway looking at her.

"Or maybe not," he said.

She flushed and stood at the sink, splashing cool water on her face.

"The bug?" he asked.

"I think so. It's been on and off all day, although this is only the second time I actually lost it. Somehow I made it through two lectures, two labs, and office hours." She rinsed her mouth with water and spit it out. "Oh, and I met with Paul Hanover over lunch. He offered me the job."

"Wow. That's cool. It is cool, right?"

"Yes, I think so. I haven't had a chance to review the written offer yet."

"What did you tell him?"

"That I'd think about it."

He nodded. "Could it be something you ate for lunch?"

"I didn't actually eat much of anything for lunch. I was already feeling ill by then."

"That must have been a fun meeting."

He rubbed her back tenderly and swept her hair from her neck. "Why don't you go upstairs and lie down for awhile."

She nodded. "I think I will. I'm sorry you made dinner. I'd like to say it smells good, but-"

"S'okay. The Sprout and I will make a dent in it, I'm sure."

"Speaking of, where is he?" she asked.

"Kitchen table. I got out the Play-Doh and cookie cutters."


She walked to the kitchen and peeked around the corner at William. He knelt on one wooden chair humming to himself and pressing his palm onto a flat slab of blue. She came up behind him and ran her hand sweetly through his wispy hair.

"Hi, Mommy. I got doh."

"I see that. What are you making?"

"Cookies. Ohmeal rain ones."

"They look delicious." She kissed the top of his head, then went upstairs, changed into grey heather drawstring lounge pants and an oversized FBI Academy T shirt that she fished from the laundry basket of clean and folded items waiting to be put away. She wasn't too sure if it was hers or Mulder's until she slipped it on and it covered her ass. His. She smiled. He was always accusing her of stealing his shirts to which she was guilty as charged. They were so comfy and cozy, although she preferred them the day after he'd worn them because they still smelled like him.

She brushed her teeth to get the tangy, acidic taste of vomit out of her mouth and then snuggled down under the down comforter and fell asleep.

When she woke up again, it was dark and Mulder's slumbering form breathed deeply and evenly next to her. She glanced at the bedside clock. 1:38 a.m. She had slept six hours. How had she possibly slept six whole hours? She got up and used the bathroom, then snuck downstairs and into the kitchen. She turned on the small light above the stove, opened the fridge and pulled out the tray of lasagna. Only a third had been eaten. She cut a large piece of it onto a plate and ate it cold at the kitchen table, along with a tall glass of milk. It tasted divine. She was absolutely starved. Must be the bug was gone, thank God.

Afterward, she went back up to bed and despite wondering if she'd possibly be able to sleep again, she fell back into a deep, dreamless sleep.

May 19, 2003

Mulder divided leftover cake into plastic containers and put them in the fridge while Scully filled garbage bags full of paper plates, napkins, and plastic silverware with remnants of green and blue frosting still clinging to them.

William came running into the kitchen at warp speed, screaming and trailing an enormous stuffed Snuffleupagus after him. He ran two laps around the kitchen table and started to head back toward the family room when Mulder scooped him up with one arm around his waist and swung him around. William erupted into hysterical giggles and kicked his legs.

"Are there any two-year-old boys around here? Cuz I don't see any. Do you?" Mulder swung him again and tickled his sides.

"I'm two! I'm two!" screamed William, roaring with belly laughs.

Scully smiled wide.

William screeched at the top of his lungs again.

"Hey, hey, calm down a little, honey, okay?" said Scully. "What'd you do with Grandma?"

"Sees in the living woom." Then he screeched again and swung the stuffed Snuffy in a circle, whacking it into the cupboard.

"Whoa Dude. You have to dial down the crazy just a little, okay?" said Mulder, ruffling his hair affectionately.

William bounded back out of the kitchen.

"Whose idea was it to give him that second piece of birthday cake?" asked Scully.

"Langly, I think. He has issues with portion control. He says it's fascist."

"Well, let Langly try and put William to bed in another hour and see how warm and fuzzy he feels about sugar then. That poor baby's higher than a kite, Mulder."

Mulder chuckled. "Eh. His birthday only comes once a year, Scully. Let him stay up a little later."

He wrapped one arm around her waist and kissed her, then took the half-full garbage bag from her hand. "I got the rest of the clean up. Why don't you go relax with your mom. You haven't felt good all day."

She nodded slowly. "Honestly, I thought I was done with this nasty bug, but it keeps holding on. Yesterday I felt fine, just tired. Today, my stomach's queasy again and I'm absolutely exhausted. It's only 7:00 and I feel like I can barely keep my eyes open."

"It's okay. I got this. Go lie down on the couch and watch TV or something."

Mulder finished cleaning up the kitchen, then started in on the family room, tossing boxes and wrapping paper and stacking new toys in the corner. Maggie eventually got up to leave, looking about as exhausted as her daughter.

"Is she okay?" his mother-in-law asked, pulling him aside at the front door.

He nodded. "She came down with William's stomach bug a couple of days ago and it's just been sticking around. Yesterday she seemed like she had it licked, but I think she overdid it at work. She woke up feeling nauseous this morning and she hasn't felt good all day. She took a nap before the party, but it wasn't enough."

Maggie looked concerned. "While you were in the kitchen scooping ice cream earlier, she had to sit down because she got dizzy. Then it happened again when she came in to lie down just a little while ago. If she's not feeling better soon, will you try and get her to go see her doctor?"

He nodded, putting his arm on her elbow reassuringly. He knew what she worried about. The cancer. Coming back. He wouldn't say that it didn't cross his mind once in awhile. But it had been over eight years and she had been completely healthy. More so, actually, than she had been before she got sick. Her doctors had told her that since her cancer had been in remission for over five years, she had no more increased chance of it returning than someone who had never had the disease. No, he didn't think it was that. But if this lingered much longer, he would insist that she get herself checked out.

He finally got William to bed around 9:00 and changed into some sweats. When he got back downstairs, Scully was fast asleep on the couch. He pulled a folded blanket down from the back of the couch and draped it over her, then kissed her forehead.

Then he settled into a chair, put his feet up and channel surfed until he nodded off himself.

When he woke back up, Scully wasn't on the couch where he'd left her. The clock on the VCR read 12:15. He heard noises coming from the kitchen. Humming and shuffling, some water running.

When he rounded the corner into the kitchen, he saw Scully standing at the counter rustling some aluminum foil. She had a slice of cold leftover pizza in her hand.

"Hey," she said, through a mouthful. "I'm sho hungee." She chewed and swallowed, then offered him the aluminum foil packet. "Want some? There's something so awesome about leftover cold pizza."

He smiled and took it from her, opened the foil, extracted a pepperoni slice, and took a bite.

They chewed in companionable silence.

"You're feeling better."

She nodded, claiming a second slice. "And I feel like I could eat a horse."

May 24, 2003

Scully got to her office almost an hour later than normal. She had had a hard time getting out of bed that morning, had all week in fact. Despite going to bed earlier than usual, she was still tired when the alarm went off. She never usually hit her snooze button. This week the snooze had been her best friend. She had only made it onto the treadmill for her daily morning workout once in at least seven days or more.

She checked her e-mail on her desktop computer while she munched on a granola bar she had grabbed and tossed into her purse on her way out the door. It tasted funny to her, though. Just kind of different - off. Maybe it was outdated. She hadn't thought to check the expiration on the box. She tossed the bar into her garbage can. No big deal. She wasn't really hungry anyway. She'd grab some yogurt from the cafeteria in between her first lecture and lab if she was hungry later.

There were five e-mails waiting in her inbox. Two were spam messages - one offering her the chance to win a sweepstakes for a trip to Hawaii and another informing her that there were hot young studs in her area that were interested in meeting her. Hawaii sounded great right about now, she smiled to herself. But she'd have to pass on the studs. She had her very own at home that she could barely keep up with as it was. They had only made love once in over a week. Between being sick and feeling completely exhausted, she hadn't been much in the mood lately. Mulder was understanding, but she knew he missed it. He had taken an extra long shower that morning.

She sorted through the other messages. There was one from her mother reminding her that they had plans to go shopping next weekend and that she should plan to bring William and "give Fox some time to himself." Scully shuddered to think of how Mulder might spend an entire Saturday left to his own devices. No doubt it would involve the Gunmen, an overdose of conspiracy theory, some disturbing video games, and a dash of heavy metal music. And that was a conservative guess.

There was an e-mail from Tara. Some random joke that she felt the overwhelming need to forward to everyone in her address book. Scully hit delete without guilt. She didn't know a tactful way to tell her sister-in-law that she didn't appreciate receiving mass forwards of impersonal messages. It was just easier to delete them.

The final message in her inbox was from Paul Hanover. She clicked to open it.

Dear Dana,
It has been a week since our luncheon meeting. I hope you have had the opportunity to review the job offer and give it serious consideration. I'd really love to have you join me on this project and I think you'd make an invaluable addition to the medical team at Georgetown. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding our offer. I look forward to your response.

Paul Hanover

She had reviewed it. It was an attractive offer. She discussed it with Mulder and he seemed supportive of whatever decision she made. She knew she had to give Paul an answer soon. She'd make a final decision by the end of the week and call him.

Her cell phone rang. Their home number appeared on the caller ID.

"Hi, what's up?" she answered.

"Hi Scully. Sorry to bother you. I just wanted to let you know that your dentist's office called yesterday to remind you that you have an appointment this afternoon over lunch. I completely forgot to tell you yesterday when you got home from work."

"Today?" She looked at her schedule. "Yes, that will work, I guess. Thanks for the call, Mulder."

"No problem. See you tonight," he said and hung up.

By 12:30, Scully was settled into the dentist's chair waiting for her hygienist to begin her semi-annual cleaning. The young woman breezed into the room, greeted her, and began washing her hands.

"So it looks like you're due for an entire set of X-rays this time, Dana. Will that be okay?"

"Sure, that's fine. It won't take long, will it? I need to be back to work by 1:45."

"That shouldn't be a problem." The hygienist opened Scully's chart and began writing. "So let's see here...any medical changes since your last appointment? Changes in medication?"

"No. Everything's the same."

"And before we start the X-rays, is there any chance you could be pregnant?"

"No, none."

"Okay then. Just relax here for a few minutes while I go prepare the X-rays."

Scully sat back and crossed her legs at the ankle, leaning her head on the head rest and closing her eyes. She never minded going to the dentist's office. She couldn't really understand what the big deal was. So many people hated it and felt anxious about-

Suddenly she bolted upright and her eyes flew open. Her breathing quickened and one of her hands went to cover her mouth.

It couldn't be, could it? It wasn't possible.

She got up and reached for her purse on the hook on the wall and rooted around for her pocket calendar. Her mouth felt dry and her stomach fluttered nervously. She tried to remember, but her mind went blank.

Focus, Dana. When? She flipped through her calendar. There were no dates marked off in the month of May. But maybe she just hadn't remembered to mark the days. With the job interviews and Wiliam's birthday, she had been preoccupied. She had just forgotten, that's all. She turned to April.

The dates of Mulder's trip to Minneapolis were noted, as was her brother Charlie's birthday. She had sent a card and a gift certificate to his favorite steakhouse.

Then she saw it staring back at her, plain as day. Tiny X's marked in ink on the first two days of April. She flipped back one month to March. Three more X's on the last few days of March. Five X's in a row, denoting her last menstrual period. At the end of March and the first two days of April.

Nothing marked down in May. She stared at the first week in May and the empty spaces. Tried to remember what had been happening then, what she been doing, and if she could recall having her period.

How could this be possible? Maybe there was another explanation. But what? Her stomach fluttered again and a mild wave of nausea hit her. Holy shit. She was almost three weeks late.

The hygienist came back into the room, smiling. "Okay Dana. We're all set up."

Scully calmly returned her pocket calendar to her purse, hung it back up and turned to the hygienist.

"We're going to have to wait on those X-rays after all," she said. Then she excused herself, went into the bathroom, and threw up her lunch.

When Scully got home from work, she kissed her men hello and went upstairs to change out of her work clothes. Mulder and William were too busy coloring new works of art for the refrigerator that they didn't bother to notice the plastic store bag she carried up the stairs with her.

She slipped out of her suit, down to just her panties and bra, but before she pulled anything else on, she went into the bathroom off the master bedroom and locked the door. Then she opened a small rectangular box and removed the test kit. She clicked the top off of the stick, sat down on the toilet and held it into her stream of urine. Then she put the top back on, wiped, flushed and very calmly set the test stick on the bathroom counter.

She didn't look at it while she washed her hands. Her face was expressionless. She examined herself in the bathroom mirror and rubbed at the tiny bit of smudged mascara under her eyes. Tired. She looked tired. She opened her mouth and looked at her teeth. They felt clean. She always loved the way they felt after she got them professionally cleaned. Slick and pearly under her tongue. She didn't remember the experience of getting them cleaned today. It was like it never even happened. She had just sat there dumbly in the dentist's chair, staring up at a bright light in both shock and anxiety, considering all the possible implications of what might be happening within her body. Trying not to get excited if she was. Trying not to be disappointed if she wasn't.

A shade of light blue moved across a window on the test stick next to her on the counter, indicating that the test was working.

This was ridiculous. She wasn't going to stand there waiting for it. Whatever it said, she couldn't do anything about it now. She went back into the bedroom and put her favorite worn jeans and a cotton shirt on. She tossed her blouse into the laundry hamper and hung her suit up in the closet.

Then she went back into the bathroom, walked to the counter, and stared down at an unmistakable dark pink plus sign. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, fighting yet another wave of nausea. It couldn't be positive. It just wasn't possible. She opened her eyes again, half expecting it to be gone this time. Her eyes had just been playing tricks on her. That was the only explanation.

But there it was. Even darker and pinker than the last time she looked.

The walls seemed to close in around her and she felt suddenly dizzy. She stumbled backwards, still holding the test stick in her hand until she landed on the closed seat of the toilet. She felt like she was going to pass out.

"Scully?" She heard his voice and could tell that he was coming up the stairs. She quickly wrapped the test stick in toilet paper, tucked it into the garbage, and stood, the dizzy spell passing as rapidly as it had come.

"In here," she called.

He rounded the corner into their room just as she was exiting the bathroom.

"You okay?"

She smiled. "Yeah. Just changing my clothes."

He encircled her in his arms and kissed her, rubbing her back. "So the Sprout and I were thinking Chinese maybe?"

"That sounds fine." She was distracted. Couldn't think about food. Couldn't think about anything at all.

"Hey, I learned something new today." Me too. Just you wait until you hear this one, she thought.

"What's that?" she asked, absently.

"WD-40 gets crayon off painted walls."

"You're kidding," she said. "Where?"

"Dining room. I was on a call with Pamela at Random House and when I got off, he had sketched a wall mural of our family portraits in Crayola."

Scully winced.

"In his defense, the color he chose for your hair was a really pretty red. Nicer than the forest green he made mine."

She offered a weak smile. "Christmas hair," she said.

He kissed her again on the lips tenderly. "Are you sure you're okay?"

She nodded, noncommitally. "Yeah, of course." She didn't meet his eyes. "Let's go order the food."

Scully picked up a piece of chicken with chopsticks and guided it carefully to her mouth. The food tasted fine, but this time her lack of appetite had nothing to do with feeling nauseous. Her stomach flip flopped nervously and she felt fidgety and anxious. She helped William scoop steamed rice onto his spoon.

Mulder was talking about something that she knew she should be listening to, but she hardly heard a word he said. Something about a call from University of Chicago for a public speaking engagement in July and how he was two chapters ahead of schedule on the second book. Or maybe it was University of North Carolina. There was a C in the name.

"So I thought I might have a little time in the next couple of weeks to tackle painting the shed in the backyard. I know you think it's an eyesore. Do you want to stick with white to match the house or pick something else?"

She stared down at her food and pushed some broccoli around.


She looked up blankly. "What?"

He smiled, but his face showed concern. "The shed? Do you want me to paint it white or something else?"

"Oh. Um, white is fine. Or whatever you think."

Mulder put his chopsticks down and looked at her calmly. "Where were you?"

Now she looked straight at him, eyes sharp. She'd been caught. He knew something was up and the profiler in him wouldn't be able to leave it alone.

"What do you mean?" she asked. "I said white was fine."

He nodded. "I heard you. But you haven't heard a word I've said for the past half hour. Where were you? Because you're certainly not here."

She retreated from his gaze and got up from the table, took her plate to the sink and ran some water over it. She brought a wet paper towel to William's tray and began wiping his face and hands. Then she got him down from his high chair.

She took William's hand and led him toward the play room. "Honey, let's find your blanket and mommy will put a video in for you to watch."

When she got back to the kitchen, Mulder had all the dishes cleared and the table cleaned. He lifted himself up to sit on the granite counter top, clasped his hands in his lap, and watched her carefully.

"Is this about the Georgetown position? Have you made a decision? Because the more I think about it, the more I feel like you should go for it. I mean, sure the hours might be a little heavy at first, but you'll be getting yourself back into medicine, which you've said you really want to do. And opportunities to do that kind of research don't come along-"

"I'm pregnant."

He stopped abruptly mid-sentence and at first his lips still moved trying to form words, but failed. Then he just closed his mouth and sat completely motionless, staring at her. At least several minutes passed.

"You're sure?" he whispered.

"I took a home test today. It fits all the symptoms."

"But how?" He ran his fingers through his hair.

Her eyebrows went to her hairline. She didn't bother smiling.

"You know what I mean," he said.

"I don't have a medical explanation. We always knew this was a possibility, Mulder."

"I just thought that after almost two years with...no precautions-"

"I have no idea how or why. I didn't with William either and yet there he sits. In the next room watching Jungle Book."

"So the um, nausea-"

"Wasn't a stomach bug."

"And you coming home tired every day and falling asleep at 8:00?"

"Classic first trimester fatigue."

He gave her a puzzled look for a second and she realized that he had missed the first seven months of her pregnancy with William. He had no idea what to expect.

"Do you know how far along-"

"Only about seven weeks. I had morning sickness with William this early too."

Mulder's eyes traveled around the kitchen slowly. He looked like he was trying to sort through a million different things in his head all at once.

Then he cleared his throat. "What um, what are we going to do?" he asked.

Her head shot up. "What do you mean?"

Mulder took a breath to say something, but she jumped back in, cutting him off. Her arms were crossed in front of her defensively.

"What do you mean what are we going to do, Mulder? We're going to have a baby."

Her words were laced with something even she couldn't identify. Anger maybe. And her eyes were liquid with emotion. He couldn't really want that. Could he?

"I hope you're not thinking...you're not suggesting that we should consider..." Her head shook slowly from side to side.

Understanding spread over his face and he sighed, sliding down off the counter top. "Jesus, Scully. Of course not. Come here."

He reached and pulled her in to him, wrapping both arms around her tightly and resting his chin on her silky crown.

"I just meant what are we going to do about... everything - your new job, my books, the travel, global warming, world peace..."

The air lightened ever so slightly and she chuffed out a tiny laugh. "Don't mess with world peace, Mulder. You've made that mistake before."

He chuckled and held her tighter, stroking her back.

"It's going to be okay," he said quietly. "We'll work it all out. This is a good thing, Scully."

She pulled back and looked up at him, wiping at the moisture on her cheeks. "So you're actually...happy about it then?"

The edges of his mouth tugged slowly upward and he put his lips to her forehead. "Yes. I am. I just needed a few minutes to catch my breath, but yeah, I'm happy about it. How do you feel?"

"Honestly, I don't know yet. Is that awful to say?"

He shook his head. "No. It's not. We weren't expecting this and I think I'd be concerned if you didn't find it a bit overwhelming at first."

She released a shuddering sigh against him. "It's just a lot...emotionally, you know? I had given up on having another child. And I was okay with it. I had gotten used to the idea of the three of us. And now there's my job transition and this new research project and...I don't know how I feel."

He nodded understandingly and smoothed her hair. "I know. I just want to say one thing, though, okay? We have an amazing kid in the other room. And when you were pregnant with him, it took me a little while to warm up to that too. And now...I can't imagine not having him. I love him so much it hurts sometimes. So I think...there's a pretty good chance that we've got another amazing kid cooking."

He smiled at her reassuringly and she couldn't help returning one.

He brushed the back of his hand against her abdomen lightly in a gesture of affection. She smiled and stretched on her tip toes for a real kiss.

Then he took her by the hand and led her out of the kitchen. "Come on, let's go watch Jungle Book. I don't think we even missed The Bare Necessities yet."

She looked up at him as he moved over her, his jaw clenched and the muscles in his neck straining. His face was inches from hers and she felt the soft puffs of his breath against her lips. His muscular arms, elbows bent, bracketed her head. She loved it this way. Being able to feel every inch of skin, feel the weight of him blanketing her. Each time he would ask her if he was hurting her with his weight and each time she would assure him he wasn't. He could be so tender sometimes with their lovemaking. Other times he could be primal, animalistic, almost rough. She liked it both ways, but what she loved the most was how he always knew which she needed.

He kissed her repeatedly as he stroked into her. She was close, so close, had been for awhile. Her body sang with pleasure and her mind floated. She chased her release, but it eluded her as it often did in this position no matter how much she loved it. She could have reached her hand between them and finished within a matter of seconds, but that would require his body to break contact with hers and she didn't want that. She just needed-

He must have picked up on it because he kissed her softly, then reached down and pulled one of her knees up and held it there tightly, changing the angle of his thrust, making contact at the precise point where she needed him to with each stroke. She hissed in a sharp breath and pressed her fingertips into his lower back.

He kissed her again and again. "I love you so much," he whispered in stagnated breaths. "Come for me."

And that was all it took. She cried out and then arched under him, her body tensing and releasing repeatedly. She felt him speed up and push into her harder and faster for a few seconds, then he stopped moving altogether and she felt the familiar flood of warmth filling her.

He relaxed over her, his body going limp and heavy before he slid to the side, sparing her his weight. Both of their chests still heaved. He cupped her cheek tenderly with his palm and rubbed his thumb along her jawline, kissing her.

Her bare breasts rose and fell and he reached a hand to cover one tenderly, as if it were his lifeline. She smiled in the dark shadows of the room. It amused her how much he was drawn to her breasts. Not as much when she was fully clothed, but more when they were exposed or nearly exposed for whatever reason. She didn't think he realized it, but he touched them a lot when they were in bed together, resting his hand absently over one as they cuddled or spooned after making love. Strumming her nipple with his fingers as they talked, side by side. Sometimes she woke in the morning to find him cupping her breast through the fabric of her silk pajama top, sound asleep next to her.

She and Missy used to joke that there were breast men and ass men. Sometimes they would categorize their past boyfriends into one camp or the other. At first glance, she would have pegged Mulder as a breast man. But upon closer examination, she would have to say that he was actually both. Very often when he kissed her in their home, he would wrap both his arms around her and rest his hands at the top of her ass. If the kiss was particularly hot, he'd cup her bottom and squeeze or knead with his hands. She liked that he enjoyed her body since she had never been particularly confident about it. It was okay. She had always thought her legs were too short and her thighs were too big. But whenever his shoulders were wedged down between them and his tongue was inching its way up her tender skin toward the center of the world, she almost thought she could learn to worship her body as much as he did.

Mulder inched closer to her, if that was even possible. He slid one arm under the pillow she was laying on to cradle her and his other hand drifted south from her overly sensitive breast to her lower abdomen, still flat but not for long. The warmth of his palm radiated through her skin.

She smiled, amused. "You're not going to be like this for the next seven months are you?"

"Hmm?" His face was burrowing into his favorite spot between her neck and shoulder.

"With your hand on my stomach all the time, like you're staking your claim."

"I might. I have magic sperm, Scully. I have successfully impregnated an infertile woman. Twice. I'm feeling pretty good about myself."

She chuckled quietly and laid her hand over his. "It's strange. It doesn't feel real to me yet," she said.

"I know it wasn't something we were planning on, but I can't help it, I'm happy about it, Scully."

"So we're back to 'what are we going to do?'"

"What's the time frame on Mulder Junior?"

"Well, I haven't seen my doctor yet, but I think somewhere around mid-January."

"The deadline on my second book is December, so that actually works well for me. Except that there will be book signings and travel involved afterward, probably in the spring. And I've had three calls for public speaking engagements this week alone, so that's picking up, but I can be selective about what I accept."

"I thought it was just the University of North Carolina one."

"University of Chicago. And no, that's just the one I agreed to so far. That one is in July. I have a couple more on the table. And your alma mater wants me to do a six week guest lecture series in the fall. But there's no travel involved for that."

"UMD called? You didn't tell me that."

"Yeah, I did. It was earlier...at dinner. But I think you were a bit preoccupied."

"I'm sorry. I was. Unplanned pregnancies do that to me."

He kissed her shoulder comfortingly. "What about your new job? Can you still accept it?"

She sighed deeply. "I can. I'm not sure how thrilled they'll be to have me out on maternity leave for six weeks during the preclinical trial preparations. I might need to cut it down to four weeks."

"Is there a chance they'd retract the offer?"

"You and I both know that wouldn't be legal. But it does create a curious dilemma for me. I'm not required to divulge the information about the pregnancy before I accept the offer. But ethically, I sort of feel like I should, to Paul at least. I'd feel badly springing it on him in another month or two. I'm not even expected to start until the end of the summer. There's a good chance I'll be starting to show by then."

"So you're going to take the job?"

She nodded. "I'm pretty sure I want to. I have conflicted feelings about leaving the FBI, but I don't think I can pass this up, nor do I want to. God, Mulder, this is going to be really hard. A new baby and a new job. I'm trying to be thrilled about the news, but right now I'm feeling overwhelmed."

"I know. Shh, it's going to be okay. We'll figure it out," he said. His hand brushed the hair from her face and then gently cupped her cheek.

"I realize how you feel about this and the last thing I want to do is start an argument right now, but Mulder, we need to revisit the nanny issue. You're not going to be able to juggle two kids and your career and it makes sense to hire someone now so William can get used to them before the baby comes."

"I know. You're right. I was already coming around to the idea before, but geez Scully. Getting knocked up to win an argument? I don't think that's playing fair."

She pinched his side in mock anger and he laughed, reaching down to squeeze her bottom teasingly. She silenced him with a kiss and they both relaxed again.

"This is what it's all about, you know," he whispered into her ear, his upper body leaning over hers and holding her tight.

"What?" she asked.

"Getting out of the car. Life. Three years ago I didn't really understand what you were talking about. But now? It's crazy and insane, but I can't imagine things any other way. I love you and William. And I'll love whoever else comes along."

Scully wasn't usually much of a sentimentalist, but she might have felt her heart melt just a little at his admission. She kissed him hard before coming back to her senses.

"Yeah, about that 'whoever else comes along' part? After your latest spawn is finished incubating, one of us is getting fixed. To hell with this infertility garbage. It obviously doesn't work as a reliable form of birth control."

He chuckled and once again, his hand traveled down to rest protectively over the flat of her abdomen. They drifted off and both slept soundly until something roused Scully in the early predawn light. She had to struggle to disentangle herself from Mulder, who had one knee sandwiched between her thighs and a heavy arm draped over her waist. She sprinted for the bathroom, making it not a moment too soon.

By the time she had recovered and was brushing the sour taste out of her mouth, Mulder was leaning sleepily against the bathroom door frame, rubbing his eyes. His boxers hung low on his hips and he had Woody Woodpecker hair.

"You all right?" he mumbled, squinting at her.

She tossed him a disdainful look as she brushed past him out of the bathroom. "This is all your fault."

June 8, 2003

It didn't take long for Mulder to figure out that first trimester Scully wasn't exactly a walk in the park. He felt mildly guilty for being thankful about missing out on the first trimester the last time around.

Her appetite vacillated between not being able to stand the smell of food and having to lock herself in their bedroom during mealtimes, to eating everything that wasn't nailed down. More than once he had awakened in the wee hours of the morning to find her side of the bed empty and her standing at the kitchen counter, forking in the dinner leftovers. She didn't even bother to reheat.

She was exhausted all the time and snapped at him over trivial things, like whether he put the new toilet paper roll on going the wrong way or loaded a glass on the bottom rack of the dishwasher instead of the top.

When they made love, she swatted his hands away from her breasts because they were too sore. He remembered how awesome they had looked toward the end of her pregnancy with Will and took solace in looking forward to that. In the meantime, she got on top of him or he entered her from behind so he didn't accidentally put too much pressure on them. She was more emotional than usual and sometimes she cried when she came. She had never done that before. It startled him a little even though she assured him that it was normal for her during pregnancy. And when he actually stopped to think about that statement, it made him feel even worse. They had not had sex during her last pregnancy. Not one bit. The image of her bringing herself to climax and crying, thinking he was dead, her body swollen with his child, made his heart ache so much it was unbearable.

Today they were going to buy a bed for William. At just two years old, he could have easily have stayed in his crib a little longer, but since he had taken to climbing out of it on a regular basis now, they didn't see the need to keep him in it any longer. With the new baby coming, it made sense to get William used to a bed now. They planned to keep him in his current bedroom and just redecorate it with new furniture. The crib and changing table would be moved to the spare bedroom and that would become the nursery. All of William's outgrown baby clothes already sat in boxes in the spare room closet anyway.

It was agreed that William would be allowed to choose his new bedding set in hopes that his enthusiasm for new things would make the transition to the bed easier for him. Within reason. The other day William had expressed overwhelming interest in a My Little Pony commercial on TV. They would not be getting him a My Little Pony comforter if Mulder had anything to say about it. Usually he rolled with the punches when it came to gender stereotypes. He believed that most parents, in general, made way too big a deal out of it at this age. When Scully had wanted to dress the child in khaki pants and a sweater vest at Easter that she described as "salmon" colored, but for all intents and purposes was really just pink, Mulder didn't say anything. But he had to draw the line somewhere. Pink and purple ponies and rainbows was where he drew the line.

Their first stop was to a furniture store where they chose a twin mattress and box springs, as well as a solid oak headboard and footboard, a matching dresser, nightstand and book shelf. The second stop was to a Babies R Us where they picked up a safety railing that attached to the side of the bed and two waterproof mattress pads because the potty training phase was really just getting started. Last week, Mulder had been all gung ho about skipping the Pull-Ups and putting him straight into underwear since he had read in a magazine in the pediatrician's office that children needed to feel wet in order to have a vested interest in staying dry. It made sense to the psychologist side of Mulder, so they tried it.

By noon that day, William was on his sixth pair of pants, Mulder was on the third load of laundry and the Pull-Ups were back on.

The final stop was at a bedding and linen store where Scully showed William all of his options like one of those showcase models on The Price is Right. He seemed virtually unimpressed until he spotted an entire Blues Clues comforter and sheet set, complete with an enormous stuffed Blue dog to go on top. Mulder forked over the credit card and William walked out of the store clutching a giant stuffed dog.

They stopped at a TGI Fridays on the way home for dinner and when the waitress equipped William with a children's coloring page and crayons, Mulder strategically placed his son away from the freshly painted walls.

Scully ordered chicken fajitas and ate them all and it dawned on Mulder that she hadn't gotten sick in at least three days. He hadn't expected her to turn the corner on morning sickness as early as nine weeks, but he was glad to see her feeling much better.

June 10, 2003

Scully arrived at work thirty minutes before her first morning lab. It was a beautiful, sunny early summer morning and she had gotten up and gone running outside after her alarm went off. It was the first time she had worked out since finding out she was pregnant two weeks ago. She had just been so incredibly exhausted that it had been impossible to drag herself out of bed to exercise these past weeks. However, she had noticed her energy level picking up the last couple of days and she was starting to feel like herself again. She remembered it had taken longer when she had been pregnant with William, morning sickness and lethargy lasting until at least the twelfth week, but she suspected that had to do with her depression over Mulder's disappearance. She was thankful for the early reprieve.

She was finally starting to get used the idea of being pregnant. She saw how comfortable Mulder was with it and she couldn't help but feel that no matter how crazy it was going to make their lives this next year, they would manage it together. It was cute to see him this excited about it. The other day she came home from work to find that during William's nap, he had unpacked all her old pregnancy books. Her copy of What To Expect was sitting, overturned where he left off in chapter three, Eating Healthy During Pregnancy, on the floor by the recliner in the family room. When he set the table for dinner that night, he placed her prenatal vitamins on the placemat next to her glass of water and he had thrown away all the luncheon meat. What had ensued had been their first of what she anticipated as many disagreements about how she would be caring for her body during pregnancy.

After noticing the discarded items in the trash can, she had turned to him, brow furrowed. "Mulder, why did you throw away the sliced turkey I bought for my lunch? There's nothing wrong with it. I just picked it up yesterday."

"Deli meat isn't the healthiest choice during pregnancy, Scully. There are high concentrations of nitrates in a lot of luncheon meat and it's far too high in sodium. There are better choices."

She had scowled at him in response. "Since when did you become the diet police?"

He had smiled and kissed her, resting that damned hand on her abdomen that she wanted to swat away. "You won't be doing it alone. I'm giving up anything you do. Seven months will go fast, you'll see."

Yeah, right. She gave it a week before he was back on Frosted Pop Tarts.

Right now she unwrapped her Mulder-approved breakfast-on- the-go, a whole grain bagel with organic peanut butter, and took a bite. She washed it down with decaf coffee - another concession.

On the way to her lab, she used the restroom and discovered that she was spotting just a little. Although always a bit startling, she knew that it was not uncommon during pregnancy, so she didn't think it warranted concern. She dug a pantiliner out from her purse and tried to refocus her thoughts on the day's schedule. After all, when she had seen her obstetrician for her first appointment of the pregnancy, just last week, everything had been just fine. Given her age and the fact that she had had a high risk pregnancy in the past, they performed a transvaginal ultrasound and found everything to be normal. She had even seen the blink of the baby's heartbeat on the screen, steady and promising.

She hurried off to her lab about five minutes late.

Mid-morning she was still spotting and by lunchtime, it might have been her imagination, but it seemed a little worse and she was feeling crampy. Still not a reason to panic. Cramps in first trimester were also common. She went to her lecture and tried to keep her mind focused on explaining the differences between accurately identifying pre-mortem versus post-mortem injuries in autopsy patients.

By the time she left for home, the spotting and cramping were still there, but no worse than they had been at lunchtime. She vowed to phone her doctor if it didn't let up by tomorrow morning.

At home, she ate tacos for dinner with Mulder and William and took a long hot bath to try and relieve the cramping. She flipped through her pregnancy books looking for information on cramping and spotting to make herself feel better, even though she was a doctor and knew all the possible implications. She also knew what it meant to blow things out of proportion and that it was a classic behavior of pregnant women. She was not normally an alarmist when it came to her health. She would not start now. She didn't mention anything to Mulder because he would surely worry and there was no reason to.


June 11, 2003

When Scully used the bathroom the next morning, she found that her discharge had soaked through her pantiliner, underwear, and pajama bottoms during the night. She quietly cleaned herself up and got dressed without mentioning anything to Mulder. Thankfully blood had not soiled the bedsheets, so he would not be alarmed.

She was not hungry for breakfast, but managed to finish a few bites of a banana and some yogurt while half listening to Mulder tell her about his plans for the day. Something about picking up paint for the shed and getting the oil changed on the car and did she want to swap vehicles with him later this week and he'd get hers done too?

She nodded her head absently. Sure. To all of it. No problem. Her gut tightened and twinged with cramps and she uncrossed her legs and breathed deeply to lessen the pain.

In the car on the way to work, she phoned her doctor. She was hoping to hear someone tell her that "it's nothing to be concerned about, it happens all the time, and there's no reason to bother coming in right away." Instead, the receptionist immediately forwarded her call to a nurse who told her to "come in as soon as she could and they'd take a look."

Scully phoned her supervisor and made arrangements for a TA to cover her morning lecture and lab and headed to her doctor's office. She was sure she would feel better after an ultrasound confirmed that everything was fine and this was just some random spotting or implantation bleeding. There was no reason to phone Mulder and worry him. Later on, it might warrant a mention over dinner, but maybe not even that.

Scully lay on the exam table with her skirt pushed down below her pelvic bone and her blouse unbuttoned starting below her bra and going all the way down. The technician squeezed cool blue gel onto her belly and she startled at the contact of the metal ultrasound transponder against her skin.

"When did the spotting start?" asked the technician.

"Yesterday morning. It has escalated a bit since then and changed color from brown to red."

The technician nodded. "And you were here last time...when?"

"Eight days ago."

"Were they able to confirm a heartbeat then?"

"Yes," replied Scully, trying not to let her anxiety infiltrate her voice. The technician had the monitor turned away from her and Scully couldn't see anything. She wasn't a trained ultrasound technician, but as a medical doctor, she would have a pretty good idea what she was looking for on the screen.

The technician smiled and put down the transponder. "Excuse me for just a minute, Dr. Scully." She walked out of the room.

Shit. Fuck. Shit. No.

A few minutes later, Dr. Walters walked into the exam room and greeted her a little too sympathetically.

"Let's see what we've got, Dana," she said, picking up where the technician had left off.

Minutes passed in agonizing quiet. The only noise was the hum of the ultrasound monitor and the muffled sounds of people walking and talking in the hallway outside the room.

Surprising herself, it was Scully who spoke first. She couldn't stand the silence any longer. "You can just say it."

Dr. Walters put the transponder down and just looked at her. She shook her head slightly and sighed. "I'm sorry, Dana. I'm not getting a heartbeat. There's no movement either."

"It was there eight days ago," Scully said, as if that would make a difference.

The doctor nodded. "I know. It's more unusual for miscarriages to occur after a heartbeat has been confirmed through ultrasound, but it does happen. I'm very sorry. Miscarriage occurs in at least one out of four confirmed pregnancies and, in unconfirmed pregnancies, that number could be as high as one in two. Most of the time we have no idea what causes it, but typically it's some kind of chromosomal defect or-"

"Stop. Please. I know you mean well, I do. But I'm a doctor. I already know all of this. You don't have to explain it," Scully said, staring at the ceiling instead of looking at the doctor.

"I know you know it, Dana. I'm not condescending. It's just that...it's different when it happens to you. I know first-hand."

Scully just nodded, then reached for the paper towels and began cleaning the gel off of her abdomen. Then she sat up on the table and began buttoning her blouse.

"You have a couple of choices," the doctor said, gently. "You can simply go home and wait it out. You're only at nine weeks, so there should be no complications by letting it happen naturally."

All Scully could think was that there was nothing natural about this.

"Or we can do a D&C today. You can take your time and think it over. Is there anyone I can call for you?"

Scully breathed deeply, but her face remained emotionless. "I want the D&C as soon as possible. Please call my husband for me."

Dr. Walters nodded, then stood and left the room, pulling the door closed behind her.

When Mulder got to the doctor's office, Scully was sitting in a chair in an exam room wearing a hospital gown and leafing through a magazine. She didn't look up when he walked in.


"Hi," she said, her eyes making a split second connection with his before going right back down to the glossy pages of the journal.

He pulled another chair closer to her and sat watching her for a minute. He had absolutely no idea what to say or do and she was giving him no clues. His stomach felt acidic, his mouth was dry, and his hands had taken on an uncharacteristic tremble. He didn't need to look at himself in the mirror to know that his eyes were red. After he had gotten the call from the doctor, he dropped William off at his mother-in-law's, explained what happened to her, and then almost made it all the way back to his car before he fell apart.

He said her name again and reached for her hand. He couldn't be certain, but he thought he felt her flinch a little. She still did not meet his eyes, but she did stop turning the pages of the magazine and instead stared down at his hand covering hers. He felt like he was invading her space, but that she was tolerating his touch.

"It's okay. I'm fine, really. These things happen all the time. Dr. Walters will do a D&C as soon as a room is available and we can put this behind us."

She made it sound so simple, like they had just gotten into a minor fender bender or ate a bad meal in a restaurant.

"Are they sure, Scully? Tests can be wrong. I mean, how do they know for sure? You said yourself that sometimes the heartbeat can be hard to find this early."

This time she did look at him, but her eyes were cold, vacant. She shook her head with finality.

"But there was...we saw a heartbeat. Everything was okay just last week. How could...everything was okay," he stammered.

She nodded. "And now it's not. There's really no conclusive medical explanation, Mulder. These things happen all the time."

"You said that already."

"Well, I don't know what else you want me to say."

He looked down at the floor. His eyes stung and he felt like he couldn't breathe. Honestly, he would have been able to deal with it better if she had been crying hysterically. It was what he felt like doing. It seemed like somebody should be.

"Where's William?" she asked.

"Your mother's. She'll keep him as long as we need her to."

"What did you tell her?"

Maggie was the one person besides the two of them who knew about the pregnancy. She had been beyond thrilled and today's news had hit her hard. Unlike her stoic daughter who seemed to find the whole situation mildly inconvenient. Do you have somewhere more important to be, Scully? Is the death of our unborn child keeping you from a lunch date or from getting your nails done?

He looked at her confused. "The truth. I told her what happened. Isn't that what I should have done?"

She shrugged noncommitally. "That's fine."

It was fine. She was fine. Everything was fine. Except that he wasn't. He very much was not fine. And what he really wanted to do more than anything else was put his fist through the wall and throw some shit around the room. And worst of all, she was making him angry and he didn't want to feel that way toward her.

"So what now?" he asked, sniffing.

"Like I said, Dr. Walters will be performing a D&C today to remove the..." she hesitated. He held his breath. Call it something, Scully. You need to call it something because this is really happening. "remaining tissue."

Fuck. Not that. Why did she have to be so goddamned clinical?

"Will you be able to go home today?"

"Yes. I'll need you to drive me, though. We can pick up the car tomorrow. I already called work and said I won't be in today."

"Should I go in with you? For the..."

She shook her head. "No. It's not something you need to...I don't think you'll want to...it's only about a twenty minute procedure. I'll be heavily sedated. I won't know you're there."

Kind of like right now, he thought.

She began flipping through the magazine again and he had the sudden urge to grab it from her and hurl it across the room.

"In fact, you can leave and come back if you want. I can have someone call you when I'm ready to go home," she said evenly.

He frowned at her. "I'm not going anywhere, Scully." Jesus, what the fuck was wrong with her?

Mulder was sloped across two torturously uncomfortable, vinyl covered chairs in the waiting room when Dr. Walters came looking for him. It had been an hour since Scully had been taken away for the D&C. He had spent the time staring blankly at an ugly yellow painted wall.

"Mr. Mulder?"

Mulder pulled himself up to a seated position and ran his hands through his hair. "Yeah."

Dr. Walters was a tall woman in her forties with short dark hair and kind eyes. She had been Scully's gynecologist since after William was born, but this was only the second time Mulder had ever seen her, the first being eight days ago when he had accompanied Scully to her appointment for the first ultrasound. She stood before him now wearing light blue scrubs and white sneakers.

"Dana is recovering. She's still heavily sedated, but you can see her whenever you'd like. I wondered if you'd like to step into my office and talk for a few minutes first?"

He nodded and followed her into a small, but private office with a large wooden desk and two chairs that looked far more comfortable than what he just spent the last hour or so on. He sat down.

"Mr. Mulder, let me just start by saying that I'm very sorry. The loss of a pregnancy at any stage is a very difficult thing to go through."

He couldn't help it; he chuffed out a sarcastic breath.

"I'm sorry, did I say something-"

"Maybe you should tell my wife that. The part about it being difficult to go through because she seems to be treating this like it's no worse than getting a cavity filled."

Dr. Walters leaned forward and gave him a sympathetic smile. Her hands were clasped in front of her on the desk. "Her reaction is not unusual. Many women need time to process the loss before they're able to feel it. The first reaction is often detachment. And I can tell you that this is especially common among women who work in medical professions themselves. One of the first things we learn to do, one of the strategies we use to successfully do our jobs, is to separate our emotions from our work. We get to be very good at it. Unfortunately, this defense mechanism often permeates other areas of our personal lives and when we are faced with our own trials, detachment is often our first response."

Dr. Walters continued. "Mr. Mulder, your wife has a tough few weeks ahead of her. The hormone levels in her body will go through rapid changes as they return to her normal, pre- pregnancy state. All women experience it differently, but it isn't unusual for them to go through bouts of depression, and extreme emotional highs and lows. It may help her to talk with other women who have experienced pregnancy loss. In no way do I intend to minimize your grief, but it's important for you to realize that miscarriage is a devastatingly frequent occurrence. Sometimes women take comfort in knowing they're not alone in their experience. I can give you some information about support groups if you'd like."

"What can I do for her?" Mulder asked.

"Just be there for her. Let her feel what she's feeling, but don't push her to express her grief before she's ready to. She will do it eventually. Trust me on that. Do you have any other questions that I can answer for you?"

"Um, I just wondered if you could tell what happened? Because everything was fine last week. Is there any way to tell why-"

Dr. Walters shook her head slowly when she spoke. "Unfortunately, there really isn't. The vast majority of the time, it's a chromosomal anomaly or some kind of unnaturally occurring defect in the fetus that causes it to spontaneously abort. A fetal autopsy can be ordered, but it usually isn't done unless a woman has lost three or more pregnancies. And even when an autopsy is performed, the results are typically inconclusive.

Which bring me to the subject of conceiving again. Some women aren't ready to consider it for awhile, while others are anxious to try and get pregnant again as soon as possible. There's no medical reason why you can't try again as soon as Dana has had at least one normal menstrual cycle."

Mulder shook his head. "Things are different for us. Dana has been told that she is unable to conceive, so I don't think it's really an option."

Dr. Walters smiled. "I'm familiar with her file. And I'll admit that her case is remarkable. But I have to tell you Mr. Mulder, Dana's hormone levels are normal, her cycles are regular, indicating that she is ovulating, and no abnormalities have been detected through the ultrasounds. I'm not saying that she wouldn't have a difficult time conceiving. But she has managed to get pregnant twice, completely unexpectedly. If you both decide that it's something you want, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be optimistic about her chances to conceive. And there are things that can be done, medically, to improve her chances."

Mulder's head spun. He was experiencing information overload. He never expected to be a father even once, but he accepted that miracle and tried not wonder about the hows and the whys. It was altogether too much to even think about right now. All he wanted was to see Scully. He wanted to see her and to lay down with her and feel her curled up in that space between his shoulder and his side and concentrate on her breathing against him until he woke up and discovered this was all a bad dream.

Two weeks went by. They didn't talk about it. At all. Not even a tiny mention of what happened. It was as if Mulder had imagined the whole thing.

William's new bedroom furniture got delivered two days after the miscarriage. Thankfully, she had been at work when it came and Mulder set everything up and moved the crib and changing table into the spare bedroom, what would have been the nursery. That evening when she got home, she went upstairs to change out of her work clothes, as usual. She didn't mention the transformation at all, but when he went up to bed later that night, he noticed that the door to the spare room had been closed tightly.

She got up and ran in the mornings, then showered, kissed them both goodbye and left for work each day. She came home, ate dinner, played with William, bathed him and put him to bed, then lost herself in a book or a movie, or did research on her laptop. She purposely lounged in the bathtub a little too long so that he was asleep when she finally came to bed. Other times, she went to bed early and either fell asleep before he got there or pretended to. They didn't make love, but he didn't expect it, not this soon. Still, it would've been nice if she didn't stiffen when he touched her.

She accepted the job at Georgetown Hospital and gave her notice to the FBI. She would teach classes through the end of July, then take two weeks off and start the new job in mid-August. Skinner wasn't surprised, but still expressed his regret. They invited him to dinner one night and he came and to everyone's surprise, probably even Walter's, he brought a friend with him. Her name was Elise and she was divorced with two teenaged boys. She taught English Lit. at American University and she was a vegetarian, which seemed to be both confusing and intriguing to Walter. They both used the same running path near the Hoover building and found themselves stretching on the same expanse of green grass several times in a row. Then she locked her keys in her car by accident and Walter gave her a ride home to get her spare set. The next night, they had dinner together. She had warm brown eyes and a gentle laugh and when she excused herself to the rest room after dinner, Mulder warned Walter not to screw it up.

"I seem to remember having given you the same advice a couple of years ago," Skinner had joked.

Mulder had draped his arm around Scully's shoulder at the table and said, "Well, she hasn't kicked me out yet."

Mulder wrote and wrote. And wrote some more. His second book was running ahead of schedule, so he took a few days and painted the shed, like he promised he would. He paid the fifteen-year-old neighbor girl, who had just finished her final exams, eight bucks an hour to come over and play with William in the yard while he painted.

When it was done, Scully seemed genuinely surprised at his handiwork. The Saturday after, she donned her cut-off denim shorts and gardening gloves and planted geraniums and snapdragons around the perimeter of the shed while Mulder set up a sprinkler for William to run through. When the flower planting was done and Scully was sufficiently dirt-covered, Mulder picked her up, slung her over his shoulder, and dragged her into the center of the sprinkler. William jumped up and down and erupted into peels of laughter. Scully screamed her weak protests at first and kicked her feet against Mulder's waist, but then dissolved into her own giggles as the water washed the smudges of dirt from her face.

To those who didn't know her, nothing would seem amiss. But he knew her better. Sometimes she'd wander off to do something and he'd find her an hour later, sitting on top of the washing machine in the laundry room, staring blankly ahead, or out on the porch swing, holding her knees to her chest and humming something to herself.

More than once, he awoke during the middle of the night to find her side of the bed empty and her lying with William, spooned around him in his small twin bed.

She never used to close their bathroom door in the morning when she showered. Oftentimes, they'd even carry on entire conversations while she got ready for work, him brushing his teeth or shaving while she stood at the mirror applying her makeup or blow drying her hair. He used to love watching her put her eyeliner on - how her mouth would form a silent O as she bent over the vanity wearing only her bra and panties. It was a wonder he didn't cut himself more while shaving. These days, she locked the door while she got ready for work and he had taken to shaving in the hall bathroom. One morning, she was in there so long he had to knock and ask if she was all right.

She'd opened the door a few minutes later and brushed past him, saying she was fine, but he couldn't help noticing her puffy, red- rimmed eyes.

Once, he had overheard a conversation between Scully and her mom when she had been over at their house. They were in the kitchen and he had just come back from a trip to the supermarket. Clearly, they thought he was still out of the house and he felt guilty for eavesdropping for a split second, but got over it.

"Dana, you need to talk to somebody."

"Mom, I'm fine. Please stop worrying."

"You don't seem fine. Honey, you've suffered a loss and I know you probably think you're past it, but-"

"It's over, Mom. I really am okay. I've been busy finishing up classes and getting ready to transition to a new job and maybe I've been a little distracted, but that's all. I'm fine."

"How does Fox feel?"

Mulder couldn't hear a response from Scully, but he also couldn't see her to know if there was any nonverbal communication going on.

"Dana, this was his baby too. Don't make the mistake of thinking that this isn't affecting him. You two need to help each other through this. You need to talk about it."

"Mulder and I are fine. I appreciate your concern, Mom, but it's not necessary."

Mulder held his breath on the other side of the wall. He thought that if he heard Scully use the word 'fine' one more time, he might start smashing things. The plates on the dining room hutch that he could see from where he stood would be a good place to start.

He turned around quietly and left again, getting back into his car and driving. He stopped and bought a bag of sunflower seeds when what he really wanted to buy was a bottle of something eighty proof.

June 28, 2003

Scully stepped out of the shower and towel-dried herself, then slathered lotion on and slipped into her robe. It was their anniversary and Mulder had informed her just yesterday that he had made reservations for dinner and bought tickets to a theatre show she had wanted to see for months. She had only mentioned her interest in the show once in passing, so she was impressed that he remembered and appreciated the gesture. She looked forward to an evening out, just the two of them. It had been awhile since they'd had an actual date. It had been almost as long since they had been intimate together and she felt like she was ready to give it a try again.

She knew that he wanted her; she saw the longing in his eyes sometimes when he didn't think she was paying attention, like when he was reading in bed and she would undress quickly and slip into her pajamas. Or when they kissed hello or goodbye and he would linger as she pulled away. She saw unmistakable desire there, but she had known she wasn't ready for it.

She had taken to closing the door when she showered and got ready for work in the morning, something she never used to bother with. She just didn't want to give him the wrong impression, that she was ready for more before she was certain of it. It was unclear to her why she felt the way she did - guarded and uncertain, almost fearful. She had moved past what had happened with the pregnancy. It felt distant and surreal, like it had never really happened at all. But still, she couldn't quite bring herself to make love to Mulder, even though she felt attracted to him still, always.

At times, the desire for him would be overwhelming, disabling. She would pull away from his touch with her body tingling, her nipples hardened, her vagina aroused and wet. On two occasions she had locked herself in the bathroom and masturbated to climax, tears spilling from her eyes as her body found release. She didn't want it to be that way, but she hadn't been ready for it to be any other way.

But the last few days had been good. She had been feeling lighter, happier, less anxious. They had been relating well to each other, having fun, at times even acting like kids. When he had thrown her over his shoulder and carried her into the water sprinkler, she had shrieked and laughed and played like she was a teenager and it had felt so good. The two of them had rolled around on the wet grass together with William until they were soaked to the bone. The look on William's face had been tentative and hopeful. It had been awhile since he had seen his mother act so silly and have so much fun and he wasn't sure what to make of it.

It felt like it was time to get back to the way things were before all this happened. She had a child whom she loved with all her heart. She had never planned to have another. Things in her life were in transition now with leaving the FBI and starting a new challenging job. She would be co-chairing a research project that was funded by a prestigious grant - the results of which could potentially alter the field of genetics. Perhaps most importantly, she had a husband who loved her very much and whom she couldn't imagine ever being without. They had had a happy new marriage before all this happened and she was anxious to get back to it. No, having another child simply did not fit into her life and she saw that clearly now. What had happened had been for the best in the long run. She knew Mulder didn't feel that way, but he would come to understand over time.

Mulder had left to drive William to her mother's house where he would spend the night. Her mom insisted on keeping her grandson overnight for their anniversary, even though Scully had assured her that they wouldn't be terribly late and she was welcome to watch William at their house and go home afterward. Her mom meant well, but she had been far too pushy and overly concerned these past couple of weeks. Why couldn't her mother understand that she really was fine? She didn't need to talk to anyone else about what happened. She and Mulder were working through it and things were already much better.

While Mulder was gone, she took her time getting dressed and ready. She wanted to feel attractive tonight and she wanted him to look at her in that unmistakable way he did when he wanted her. She was ready to be with him and she wanted her wardrobe choice to convey that.

She pulled three dresses out of her closet and tried them all on. She didn't have many dresses that she would classify as sexy or daring. In general, her style was more conservative and in her line of work, she didn't often have the need for something other than professional suits. She had three dresses that might work, however.

The first was a champagne colored dress that she had worn to her cousin's bridal shower a few years ago. Her mother had helped her pick it out and although the material was very nice and the color made her skin look warm and healthy, the overall cut of the dress didn't scream "take me now." She returned it to the back of the closet.

She was down to either her black cocktail dress or the blue one with the spaghetti straps. She slipped the black one on. It fell nicely just below the knee and when she zipped up the back, it showcased her curves. Simple and elegant, not too much, but still sexy. Not much cleavage, but hey, with black you didn't need to go overboard. The color held its own allure. Definitely a strong contender.

Next came the little blue dress she had worn for a company Christmas banquet she and Mulder had been forced to attend several years ago. She couldn't recall if she had worn it since, but as she eased up the side zipper, it dawned on her that this was the dress Mulder had specifically requested she bring with her on their honeymoon. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you looked at it, they had been so preoccupied with activities requiring far less clothing that she never even had the opportunity to wear it on their honeymoon.

As soon as the dress fell into place, she knew it was the one. It fell just a couple of inches above the knee with a tiny slit up one side, making the overall length more daring than anything else in her closet. The material skimmed her hips and waist perfectly, accentuating her curves and the cut of the low neckline gave her some dangerous cleavage. To top it all off, the tiny spaghetti straps accentuated her bare shoulders and she knew how much Mulder loved seeing her shoulders. She smiled and dug through her lingerie drawer for a strapless bra and matching lace panties. Slingback black pumps with four inch heels finished the ensemble. Satisfied, she returned to the bathroom to do her hair and makeup.

When Mulder got home from dropping Will off, he called to her from the bottom of the stairs.

"Scully, almost ready to go?"

"Coming," she called back.

"Oh, and can you please bring my suit coat down when you come? I think I left it on the chair in the bedroom."

"Got it." She came around the corner and started down the stairs to where Mulder stood waiting at the bottom.

His expression was even better than she had anticipated. His hazel green eyes visually caressed over every inch of her from top to bottom as she carefully made her way down the staircase in her heels, holding the banister. She had an almost absurdly funny image dance through her brain of her losing her balance on the stairs and tumbling head over heels to the bottom. Okay, maybe not so funny at all. She was not an especially clumsy person, but she often wondered herself how she had managed to traipse her way through life in killer heels without any major mishaps, bodily injuries or broken bones thus far. About as bad as it got was a few corns and calluses from time to time. A reasonable price to pay for an extra few inches on a five foot three frame in a male- dominated profession.

She reached the bottom of the stairs and handed him his jacket. He took it from her without removing his eyes from her.

"You look incredible, Scully."

"Thank you."

"You're wearing my favorite dress."

"I know," she smiled, almost shyly. She shifted nervously from foot to foot as they stood there. He still stared.

"Um, should we go?" she asked.


"To dinner? Shouldn't we go if we're going to make our reservation?"

"Oh, right. Dinner."

He followed her out the door. It was a warm early summer evening and she didn't even bother pulling her shawl around her; she just draped it over her arm. She could feel the weight of his gaze on her body and the anticipation excited her.

Dinner was at a quiet terrace table at a seafood restaurant Scully had never been to before. She knew Mulder had chosen it because of her love for fresh seafood. The conversation was easygoing and light and Scully found herself smiling a lot. He ordered a bottle of one of her favorite wines and they clinked glasses and toasted their first year of marriage.

Scully felt good. The wine made her feel warm and flushed and sensual. He rested his hand casually on the table and she placed her smaller one over it, the pads of her fingertips tracing delicate circles on his skin. As he watched her do it, he took short breaths through his mouth. When she wet her lips, she couldn't miss the change in his eyes. The color became intensely darker and his lids grew heavy. Her body was well-acquainted with that look and it responded entirely on its own, dampness pooling between her thighs, her nipples puckering. The snug blue dress didn't hide much, so she pulled her shawl around her shoulders to mask the transformation, but it was too late. He had caught it and his gaze hovered a few inches below her neckline, which was, ironically, exactly where she wished his hands were. No matter how much she had been looking forward to seeing the show they were going to, she couldn't help but mourn the fact that it would be several more hours before he could peel her dress from her body.

During the show he rested his hand on her leg, right where the hemline of her dress rode up to expose her bare leg when she sat. She wasn't wearing stockings and the warmth of his hand made her entire body feel like it was on fire. Twice he told her how beautiful she looked. She did her best to concentrate on what was happening on stage and for the most part, she succeeded. The show was good, better than she had anticipated and even Mulder, who much preferred the relaxed atmosphere of the cinema to the formality of live theatre, seemed to enjoy himself.

When they left, he asked her if she wanted to stop somewhere for a drink or dessert as he unlocked her car door for her. But she shook her head no and pulled him into a kiss right there in the parking lot outside the car. There was a slight chill in the summer night air and she tucked her bare arms inside the suit jacket he was wearing and wrapped them around his waist as his mouth moved over hers. Her hands drifted up and down his back. His rested at her slender waist, almost chastely, and she had the sudden urge to take one of them and place it over her breast. She couldn't recall the last time she was so desperate to feel his hands on her body.

He pulled back from their kiss first and leaned in toward her ear. "We might be putting on our own show, Scully," he whispered with a slight chuckle.

There were people getting into their vehicles all around them in the parking lot. Car doors slammed shut and engines roared to life. Two young twenty-something couples passed by them and one of the guys said, "Get a room." The others in his party laughed loudly.

Mulder smiled down at her. "Maybe we should find someplace else to this."

Her brow quirked teasingly. "Take me home, Mulder." Speed limits were broken.

Scully walked backwards inside the front door because Mulder was walking forward, his tongue against the roof of her mouth and both his palms holding her ass cheeks. If he lifted even a little, she would have been able to hitch a ride on his hands and not bother walking at all. The visual made her giggle into his mouth.

"What's so funny?" he panted.

"Nothing. I'm just so horny." She grabbed a fistful of his tie and yanked his mouth back to hers, where it belonged. Her other hand frantically went after the buttons on his dress shirt. She tugged a little too hard and she heard one pop free and skitter across the hardwood floor.

"Take it easy, Scully. We've got all night."

"Sorry. I'll sew it back on," she said, tonguing his earlobe. "Oh, who the hell am I kidding? I don't sew."

"Damn. Now you tell me. I specifically requested a wench who could plow the fields, slaughter the chickens, and darn my socks. I'll need to request an extra cow with your dowry."

She giggled again. "I have other talents. Take me upstairs and I'll show you."

With that, she kicked off both pumps and wrapped her legs around his waist and he carried her up the stairs and into their bedroom. He didn't bother turning a light on, just backed her up to the bed and tried to gracefully lower her down. He briefly lost his balance, though, and she squealed as he let go of her and she fell backwards, bouncing on the pillow top mattress. He bent over her and they both grabbed and tugged at each other's clothing. After a few minutes, she had managed to divest him of all but his boxer shorts. He, however, had made concentrated attempts at finding the zipper on her dress, but to no avail. She was about to show him that it was located on the side of the garment when he gave up with a frustrated groan and began pushing the dress up until it was bunched around her waist. He tugged her panties down her legs hungrily. She could see his massive erection tenting his shorts.

He pushed the spaghetti straps of the dress bodice down, then reached in and lifted her breasts up and over her strapless bra and the top of the dress. The result was that her breasts were pushed up and together into voluptuous mounds, making her look like something out of one of his long-forgotten magazines. She found it amusing until he leaned over her and sucked one hard nipple into his mouth and tongued it for all he was worth. Then she could no longer remember what was so funny, let alone what her name was.

Somewhere along the way he must have skillfully lost the boxer shorts because the next thing she knew, she felt his hardness pressing urgently into her wet folds. He had just started to enter her when something shifted in her and she tensed up completely. Her mouth retreated from his and she pushed at his chest with the palm of her hand.

He pulled out of her and leaned back, panting, a look of confusion in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Scully. Did I hurt you?"

"No. Um, I don't know... can we just slow down a little?"

He rolled off her until he was lying at her side. His erection pressed into her hip, but he ignored it.

"I'm rushing you. I didn't mean to rush you. I just thought...downstairs you were all over me and it felt like you wanted...I'm sorry," he stammered.

"I do. I want this. I don't know why I stopped. Let me just, um, take this off," she said, drawing the zipper on her dress down and peeling it off. Then she unsnapped the strapless bra and let that fall away too.

She saw him swallow hard at the sight of her. "Let's try it again," she whispered.

He rolled back onto her and began kissing her passionately. It felt good and she kissed him back, feeling the desire ignite again inside her.

She was wet, very wet. She knew her body was ready for him. She mentally willed herself to calm down and relax. She scraped her nails down his back and he groaned, then reached between them and guided himself back inside her, slowly.

Without warning, her heart started to race and she felt like she couldn't breathe. And then suddenly she was screaming and crying out and slapping at his chest hard with her hands, then clawing at his skin with her nails. She shook uncontrollably and tears began spilling from her eyes and down her cheeks. The entire room was filled with wailing and sobbing, followed by the sound of short stagnated pants as someone tried to catch their breath and she realized it was her making the terrible sounds. And she knew she had to get a grip on herself. This wasn't like her. She didn't fall apart like this.

Mulder stood at the side of the bed next to her, a look of pure shock on his face. She barely registered him saying her name over and over again. His arms were reaching for her, but she slapped them away.

And then as quickly as it started, it stopped. She swept at her cheeks trying to erase the tears and took deep breaths to regulate her breathing. She felt numb all over and she had the desperate need to feel something, anything. She reached for Mulder's hand and pulled him back down to the bed. He tried to reach and gently smooth her hair while shushing and trying to calm her. But she resisted his coddling. She needed something more. She needed the numbness to go away. She needed the pain to stop.

She tugged at his forearms, trying to pull him down over her body again, but he resisted and was too strong for her. When that failed, she reached for his cock and wrapped her hand around it, stroking him roughly.

He shook his head no and gently removed her hand from him. Then he reached to cup her cheek, but she flinched away from his tender touch. That wasn't what she wanted. He didn't understand.

She kissed his mouth hard, grinding her lips against his and forcing her tongue between his teeth. He tried to pull back from her and that angered her even more. She felt black inside, empty. He could fill her. She needed to feel him inside her, pumping into her, his weight on her, pushing her down, driving out the pain.

She laid on her back and spread her thighs open to him. She grasped at his arms again. "Come on, Mulder. I'm okay now. I need to do this," she whimpered.

"Scully, no. Not like this. I can't."

"Yes, you can. Please. I need you to." She felt anger and despair welling up inside her again, ready to erupt like a volcano. She was powerless to control it. She raised her voice at him. "Fuck me, Mulder," she nearly screamed at him. "Do it now, please. Just fuck me!"

She grabbed at his cock. It was still hard and stood out from his body.

"Scully, stop. Please stop, Honey. Not like this."

Her hands still reached for him, but he tried to grab her wrists. This made her angrier and she began to kick her legs and slap at him. And suddenly he was all around her body and behind her and holding her down, trying to calm her. And she pulled her knees to her chest and folded in on herself, sobbing uncontrollably, unable to catch her breath. Her whole body shook and Mulder held onto her and buried his face in her hair, whispering to her, telling her he loved her and that it would be okay.

"I didn't want it," she sobbed. "At first... I didn't want it, Mulder." Her cries wracked her body. "Oh God, how could I have felt that way." She rocked under his embrace, sobbing in long painful wails, her entire body quaking.

"I'm so sorry, Mulder. I didn't want it at first. Our child. It's my fault. I'm so sorry, so sorry," she sobbed.

"Shhh, it's not your fault, Scully. Listen to me, it's not your fault. There's nothing you could have done. It just happened."

She turned her face to the side so her cheek was against his and she felt his wetness too. His tears mingled with hers.

"And after it happened, I tried to convince myself it was for the best because, Oh God, it hurt so much. But it wasn't for the best. I wanted that baby, but it was too late. I wanted our child, Mulder."

"I know. Shhhh, I know you did. We both did. It's going to be okay, Scully. We'll get through this."

And he kept whispering to her and shushing her in a mantra of love while repeatedly smoothing her hair back and holding her tightly against him. Eventually her sobs became cries as she drifted on the pain, let herself be carried away by it until it no longer threatened to drown her. As she rocked against him, feeling his love completely surround her, something angry and bitter uncoiled itself from deep inside her and let go.

When Mulder awoke, there was moonlight filtering in through the blinds. She was naked and warm against him and his arm had fallen asleep under her head. At some point during last night's catharsis, they had managed to get under the covers. Her breathing was deep and regular. She looked so tiny curled up next to him, sleeping peacefully. He extracted his arm very carefully without waking her and got up to use the bathroom. He splashed cool water on his face and brushed his teeth. His bones ached, like he had just run a marathon and his head felt fuzzy. He saw that despite being totally naked, he still wore his wristwatch. A glance at it told him it was 2:15 a.m. He removed it and left it by the sink, then returned to the bed and slipped in next to her.

"Hi," she whispered.

"I'm sorry I woke you. I tried to be quiet," he said.

"It's okay."

He kissed her forehead tenderly. "How do you feel?"

She drew a deep breath, then released it. "Drained. But...okay." Her voice trembled a little. "I can feel the pain now, Mulder. I can feel it finally."

He slipped an arm under her, pulled her to his chest and just held her because he didn't know what else to do.

"I'm sorry for what I've put you through these past weeks, Mulder. I never meant to-"

"Hey, shhhhh, it's okay."

"I knew you were hurting too, but I withdrew from you. I thought that if I got too close to you, I'd have to feel your pain when I couldn't even acknowledge my own. "

"It's not your fault, Scully. None of this is." He sighed. "But I'm pretty sure that with these things, you can't go around the pain, you have to go through it."

She nodded again and leaned her forehead against his. "I think we got a pretty good start at it last night," she said.

Then she closed her eyes again and started to drift. He followed her. A few minutes later, she opened them again.



"I want to have another baby."

His eyes fluttered open and he looked at her, searching for the uncertainty, but finding none.

He swallowed and cupped her cheek tenderly. "Scully, I-"

"I know," she interrupted. "You think it's too soon to decide. We should talk about it more."

His eyes connected with hers and he nodded, tentatively.

"We should talk about it, you're right. But I'm so sure, Mulder. I'm just so sure now. I think it took losing something to make me realize how much I wanted it." A tiny sob escaped her throat.

"I want it too," he said, smiling. "But maybe we should get some sleep first."

"You're right," she said. "But what if it doesn't work, Mulder? It might not be easy for us to conceive again?"

This time his smile grew a little wider. "Since when have you and I backed down from a challenge? I don't think 'easy' has ever been in the plan for us."

A small huff left her. He could see the shine of her eyes in the dim light of their room. "I love you, Mulder."

He kissed her eyelids. "Right back at ya, Kid."

August, 2003

Scully left the FBI on a Friday at 4:00, after her last class let out and the summer session ended. There was no big going away party or fanfare. Skinner took her to lunch earlier in the week and she received a few kind cards from agents she had worked with peripherally through the years, but for the most part, Dana Scully slipped out the back door.

The best part, however, was that she had an entire glorious two weeks off before her new position at Georgetown Hospital started and Mulder intended for her to spend every second of it having fun.

The day after she left the FBI, the three of them flew to Martha's Vineyard for a much-needed vacation. Well, Scully was on vacation. Mulder was doing eighty percent vacation and twenty percent writing to meet a fall deadline, but the balance was manageable. And since he needed less sleep than either she or William did, he wrote mostly at night after they went to bed or during afternoon naptimes.

They had not been back to the lighthouse since their honeymoon over a year ago, but it had been well cared for and looked after by their friends, the Reardons, who lived on the adjoining property. It was the first time that Todd and his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughters, Tate and Mally, met William. They were completely taken with his charms, especially the girls who insisted on entertaining him for hours on end doing things like making sandcastles, collecting seashells, and playing hide and seek with the Reardon's German Shepherd, Genevieve. William also learned some important new skills, like how to burp the alphabet, which was pretty amazing since Mulder didn't even think he knew how to say the entire thing yet. And by their third day there, he also knew all the words to Gettin' Jiggy With it.

The upside of the free babysitting was that Mulder and Scully were afforded a great deal of alone time together, which they were very careful not to waste.

About a month before their trip to the Vineyard, Scully had been given the official "go ahead" from her doctor to try and get pregnant again, along with a complete battery of tests that showed, quite miraculously and with no medical explanation, that there was no reason other than her age to suspect she might have difficulty conceiving. At thirty-nine, there were slightly elevated risks involved and conception may take longer, but the odds were overwhelmingly in their favor.

Scully had welcomed this news by purchasing a new lingerie set from Victoria's Secret and an ovulation predictor kit from her local pharmacy. Mulder embraced the challenge by installing a lock on their bedroom door to deflect two-year-olds who were in the habit of wandering into Mommy and Daddy's bed at night.

The first time Scully tested positive for ovulation, she had called Mulder home from his Thursday night basketball game at the YMCA. He suspected she hadn't wanted to take the chance on falling asleep before he got home. By the time he came through the front door, she already had William in bed and the candles lit in their bedroom.

"Scully, do you have any idea what kind of grief I got from getting called home by the wife in the middle of a game?" he teased, his smile clearly showing his amusement.

"You just tell the guys that there are more important ways to score," she had said, turning around and getting up on her hands and knees, tossing him a come hither look over her shoulder.

Mulder learned that there was more than one definition of full court press.

Despite their best efforts, egg did not meet sperm that first month and Scully got her period right on schedule. They took it in stride, knowing that it could take many months, possibly even a year to conceive and besides, it wasn't like trying wasn't fun anyway.

As nature would have it, Scully's next ovulation took place during their second week of vacation. Once again, they were overachievers - making full use of William's naptime, bedtime, and babysitting offers from the Reardon girls. Since Scully explained to him that the best chances to conceive were the two days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself, Mulder figured the best approach would be to go at it much like those ring toss games at the carnival. Toss as many in as you could before the bell went off and you were bound to win something. After having sex eight times in three days, Scully finally told Mulder that, although she wanted to bear his child, if he came at her without his clothes on even one more time, she would handcuff him to the refrigerator and make him sleep in the kitchen.

Who knew making a baby could be so complicated. Back in high school health class they made it sound like you could knock up a girl by looking at her. Not so. Still, he had magic sperm and it was just a matter of time. He thought it was cute how Scully would lay in bed for awhile afterward with her hips propped up on a pillow so gravity could help his little swimmers along.

September 20, 2003

"Mommy, you go to work now?

"No, Pumpkin, it's Saturday, remember? Mommy doesn't have to work on Saturday. We're picking up Daddy at the airport soon. Eat your lunch so we're not late, okay?"

William took another bite of his turkey and cheese sandwich in the shape of a turtle. He loved it when Scully cut his bread into shapes with cookie cutters. He pushed around tiny chunks of pineapple on his plastic plate with his stubby finger and made a face.

"What's wrong with the pineapple? You don't like it?" Scully asked.

William shook his head vehemently, his wispy hair flying from side to side. He needed a haircut, she thought. It hadn't been cut yet at all. She liked it long. There was something she resisted about cutting his baby hair for the first time. Once it was done, he would forever look like a little boy instead of her baby. Mulder argued that it was time, though. A lady in the bank had mistaken him for a girl last week and Mulder had been mortified. She should have gotten it done before he got back from his meeting with his publisher in New York this week, but she hadn't had time. The new job kept her busy, working past seven o'clock some nights.

Mulder had been in New York since Wednesday. Her mother had taken William for two of the days, but had been unable to do the third. Taking a day off this soon after starting wasn't an option for Scully, so desperation had caused her to suspend all good judgment and send Will to stay with the Gunmen for the day. Before leaving, she had checked and double-checked that Byers would be there for the entire day. He was the one she deemed most likely to keep her son out of an emergency room for the next ten hours.

William had been thrilled. He loved going over there with Mulder and knew his way around like he owned the place. He barely noticed when she left because he was already curled up on the futon with Frohike, watching Scooby Doo and munching on handfuls of dry sugary cereal that Scully didn't allow at home. When she picked him up after work, he was wearing Langly's Meat Puppets T shirt because his had gotten drenched in the water balloon fight. She didn't ask. He was also eating peanut butter directly out of the jar with a spoon, but appeared otherwise unscathed.

Scully cleaned William's hands and face and got him down from his booster seat at the table. He toddled off toward the play room.

"Just a few minutes, Will. Then we have to leave for the airport, okay?"

Scully straightened up the kitchen and loaded the lunch dishes into the dishwasher. Then as an afterthought, she dug through her purse for her lipstick and applied some using the mirror in the entryway. She finger combed her hair a little and slipped on her wedge-heeled sandals.

She called for William and he came out carrying the sheep from his Little People farm with him.

"Sheep," he proclaimed, holding it out.

"That is a sheep. What does the sheep say, Will?"

"Baaaah," he replied.

"That's right. The sheep says 'baaah.'"

"Take sheep?" asked William.

"You can bring the sheep in the car, just don't lose him."

"Chicken gone."

The past two weeks he had insisted on taking the Little People chicken with him whenever they went anywhere. Must be it was the sheep's turn now.

"The chicken's gone? Where'd the chicken go, William?"

He pointed across the hallway to the bathroom.

"You left him in the bathroom?"

He shook his head no. "In the potty."

Scully looked at him with her brows raised. "You put the chicken in the potty?"

William nodded and smiled.

Scully walked to the bathroom with William trailing close behind her. She lifted the lid on the toilet and peered inside, but saw nothing but water.

"William?" she asked hesitantly. "Did you flush the chicken down the toilet?"

He smiled again and bobbed his head.

"Honey, no. You can't flush your toys down the toilet. We've been through this before. Remember when you flushed the Happy Meal toy and Daddy had to plunge it?"

No response from Will.

Scully gave the toilet a test flush and it gurgled in protest. "Damn," she said. "Don't say that word, William." She sighed and closed the lid. "We'll have to deal with it later or we'll be late." She grabbed him by his pudgy hand and steered him down the hall and out the front door.

William saw him first and released Scully's hand to take off running.

"William! Don't run ahead."

"Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" he screeched. Mulder released the handle on his carry-on bag and scooped William up in his arms, spinning him once around, then holding him against his chest.

Scully caught up to them and he gave her a kiss on the lips.

"How was your flight?"

"Good. I played poker with a kid that looked just like the one from Jerry Maguire. I lost a dollar seventy-five."

"I visit Uncle Melvin and get all wet with bayoons and Uncle Langly let me play his guitar and eat peanut butter on the couch, not at table and watch cowtoons," said William, all in one breath.

Mulder looked inquisitively at Scully, who just shrugged. "Babysitting conundrum," she replied. "He made it out alive."

"Hey, I brought you something, Buddy," Mulder said, putting the child down and unzipping the front compartment of his bag. He pulled out a New York Knicks t-shirt and tugged it on over William's head. It fell almost to his knees.

"He'll grow into it," Mulder said.

William looked down at himself. "I yike it. It's cool."

"It is cool," said Mulder. "I brought you one too so you'll stop stealing mine," he said to Scully with a smile. Then he leaned in toward her ear. "I thought maybe you could model it for me during naptime today. Just the shirt."

She smiled and quirked her brows. "We might be able to arrange something."

"How's our timing?" he asked. She knew he was referring to the babymaking calendar.

"Yesterday would have been better, but today's still a possibility."

"Then we best not delay. Home on the double," he said, tilting his bag again and pulling it behind him as they walked.

"I help, Daddy." William reached for the handle too and Mulder moved his hand over to make room for it next to his.

"Okay, you help."

Scully lay across the foot of their bed wearing the Knicks shirt Mulder gave her and nothing else. The shirt was pushed up to expose her breasts and Mulder's head was buried between her thighs. He sounded like he was enjoying a four course Thanksgiving meal down there. Scully reached her hands up to fondle her own breasts, shut her eyes tight and bit down on her lower lip.

There were two things Scully had learned about Mulder's infrequent business trips. First, no matter how long he had been gone, he always returned home completely sex-starved. He told her once that he didn't usually engage in any solo extracurricular activities while away from home and she believed it to be true, although why he abstained she had no idea. She didn't always. Perhaps he thought it was chivalrous to save it for her. When he got home, he always came at her like a Rottweiler after a T-bone.

There was that one time back in July when he had been in Chicago for a public speaking engagement and she had coaxed him into phone sex without much trouble at all. It had been her first time doing that ever and she surprised herself by how much she got into it. There was something so wanton and naughty about getting someone off on the phone. And she had. Gotten him off. There was no mistaking that sound he made upon release. But other than that, he was a self-imposed monk while away from home.

The second thing she learned about his traveling was that when they were intimate after a trip, he always began their lovemaking by going down on her. It was quite obvious to her that it was his defense mechanism against not lasting long during the actual intercourse. He made sure she was satisfied before entering her and she had absolutely no complaints whatsoever about that strategy.

Right now she had to stop thinking, though. There was simply no room in her head for coherent thought because her brain had turned into Cheez Whiz several minutes ago. Mulder had two fingers pumping in and out of her while his tongue strummed a concerto on her clitoris. She cried out while pinching her own nipples and took a swan dive off the high board.

Before she had fully found her way back to him, Mulder was kissing his way up her body and positioning himself over her. He wiped his mouth, slick with her juices, on his forearm and panted harshly, trying to catch his breath. His hair stuck up all over because she had been clutching handfuls of it at some point. He looked like a rock star.

"Tell me when." he said, supporting his weight on both arms. He looked so hungry for her.

"Now," she said, and he sunk in with one deep push.

"Oh God," he groaned before he even started moving. His mouth pressed into her shoulder and he left a wet spot of saliva on her new T shirt, which she probably should have taken off at some point, but it was too late now.

He started stroking into her hard and fast right from the start. There was no build-up this time; it was zero to sixty in seconds flat. He locked eyes with hers and his pupils were dark and big. So it was going to be that kind of sex, she thought. She wrapped her legs around his lower back, braced herself, and held on for the ride.

They must have dozed off afterward because the next thing she knew, Scully could hear William talking to himself in the baby monitor. They had about three minutes, give or take, before he got up out of bed and went looking for them. She rolled over, still wearing nothing but her new Knicks T-shirt. Mulder was already standing next to the bed, pulling his jeans on and zipping them.

"I got him," he said, bending over to plant a sweet kiss on her messed up hair. "You're too pretty to get up."

She smiled at him and stretched, then began looking for her underwear, which could be anywhere.

When she got downstairs, Mulder and William were in the kitchen raiding the refrigerator for an afternoon snack. That was another thing about Mulder. Sex made him hungry. They had grapes, sticks of string cheese, Goldfish crackers, and a bag of mini marshmallows strewn across the counter like a smorgasbord. As soon as Scully walked in, William grabbed the bag of marshmallows and shoved it under the counter.

She smiled and got a plastic cup from the cupboard. "How about if we put a handful of them in a cup instead of eating from the bag, William," she said. He handed it over reluctantly and she poured a reasonable amount into the cup, then put the bag away, but not before Mulder snuck two handfuls for himself.

"I don't even want to know what you guys eat all day when I'm not around," she said, shaking her head.

Mulder looked at William and put a finger to his lips and William giggled.

"Mommy's the thugar police."

"Well, somebody around here has to be," she smiled, sneaking a marshmallow from the cup and popping it into her mouth.

A few minutes later, William wiggled down from the chair at the counter. "I got go potty," he announced.

Both Mulder and Scully jumped up at once. This was the first time William had actually initiated using the potty. Any other time he'd had success, it was because they had physically placed him on the toilet and probably by pure chance, he went. This was truly a momentous event and they both stood there proudly staring at their child until it dawned on Scully that someone had better get a move on or the opportunity would be over. She held out her hand to William.

"No, Scully. I'll take him. Guy bonding," he smiled.

So she relinquished control and watched William toddle off behind Mulder.

Not long after, she heard Mulder call out from down the hall. "What happened to the toilet down here?"

Oops. She chuckled to herself. "Your son flushed a chicken," she yelled back. Let him figure it out.

October 31, 2003

"Repeat after me," Mulder said, slowly. "Luke, I am your father."

"Yuke, I am your fahder," William parroted.

"Good enough. Now practice the heavy breathing again."

Scully walked into the kitchen carrying a large bowl full of individual boxes of raisins and set it on the counter.

"What's that for?" asked Mulder.

"Trick or treaters."

"Oh no you don't, Scully. No way. We are not going to be known as the house in the neighborhood that gave out raisins on Halloween. What, do you want to find toilet paper in our trees and eggs on our cars in the morning?"

Mulder walked into the pantry and came back out with four large bags of chocolate bars.

"Where'd you get that?" Scully asked, forehead furrowed.

"I suspected you might impose nutrition on our innocent neighborhood children, so William and I took it upon ourselves to stock up on supplies."

"Kids like raisins," she argued in a slightly whiny tone. "William likes raisins."

Mulder turned to his son who was standing in front of him in a black cape and mask. "William, would you rather have a box of raisins or chocolate?"

"Chocolate," he said.

"I rest my case," Mulder smiled smugly, dumping the raisins out onto the counter and pouring Hershey bars and Nestle Crunch in instead.

Scully was appraising William's costume choice. "Whatever happened to Yoda? He already has the mask. Yoda *is* the Jedi Master, you know."

Mulder raised his eyebrows in surprise at her. "I'm impressed with your knowledge of all things geek. I tried, but when he saw the Darth Vader costume in Target today, it was all over. He's gone to the Dark Side, Scully."

"Yuke, I am your fahder," William said in the most ominous tone his little two-year-old voice could muster.

"Yeah well, I am your mother and I say you need to eat your dinner before you can have any Halloween candy."

William stuck his bottom lip out and shoved another chicken nugget into his mouth.

"Aren't you dressing up, Scully?"

"No, thanks. I have traumatic memories of Halloween. I was too short to wear the cool costumes, so my mother made me wear this stupid pumpkin costume every year. I looked like a fat orange barrel. I'm still not over it. Why? What did you have in mind?"

"Oh, I don't know. We've got a pretty good Star Wars theme going. There are stale bagels in the bread box. You could put one on each side of your head and go as Princess Leah."

"Cute, but I don't have the white robe she wears."

"Just wear that white lacy thing with thigh highs. You could be naughty Leah."

She tossed him a disapproving look.

"Nobody would have any idea who I was supposed to be and I'd probably get arrested."

"Yeah, but you'd get a lot of candy."

"Who would you be?" she asked, playing along.

"Not sure. But if you went as Leah, then definitely not Luke Skywalker because that would make me your brother and even I'm not that kinky."

"I was thinking I'd stay here and hand out candy first while you take him around for a little while, then we'll switch," she suggested.

"That's fine, but you better not stick the raisins back in when we leave," he teased. "If I see kids with raisins, I'm going to ask them which house they got them from."

Scully made a face at him and stuck out her tongue.

William finished his dinner and Mulder helped him on with his sneakers and grabbed the light saber and his candy collection bag.

Scully tipped William's black mask back to kiss him goodbye. "Have fun, Pumpkin. And Mulder, my mom wants us to bring him by later so she can see his costume."

"So do the Guys."

"Good grief. It's scary enough over there when it's not Halloween," said Scully.

It was William's first Halloween trick-or-treating and it didn't take him long to figure out the routine - knock, say a few things, or not, look cute and collect free candy. Be sure to say thank you. Repeat for the next five blocks.

Mulder took him home after two blocks for a bathroom break and so they could both refuel with some Reese's Peanut Butter cups, then Scully took over for another block. The kid was cresting his sugar high when they loaded him into the car and drove him over to Scully's mom's house for photos and even more candy.

It was already a half hour past William's bedtime when they finally knocked at the Gunmen's lair.

"We have to make this quick, Mulder. He's tired," Scully said.

William swept his light saber from side to side and jumped up and down in place.

"I'm having serious doubts about your diagnostic skills, Doc."

Frohike answered the door dressed as a pirate. William looked hesitantly at the patch over his eye until he recognized his Uncle Melvin and then grinned widely.

"Trick or treat," he said.

"Ahoy Mateys! Shiver me Timbers, who do we have here?" Frohike leaned down with a bowl full of candy bars.

"It's me, Uncle Melvin. It's William."

"So it is! Avast me hearties! We have guests," Frohike called over his shoulder. He ushered them inside.

Frohike still held the bowl of candy out to William and the child looked up at Scully for permission.

"Just one," she said.

"Now, now, let him take a handful. We haven't gotten any trick- or-treaters since...well, we haven't gotten any trick-or- treaters," said Frohike.

"Thank you, but really, one is plenty." She pulled back the edge of William's candy bag to show Frohike.

"Look at all that booty! You're quite the lucky landlubber!"

Langly wandered in dressed as a hippie in a tie dye shirt and headband, followed by Byers in his usual suit, along with a dark haired mask.

"Who's Byers supposed to be?" asked Mulder.

"Ronald Reagan," said Langly. "We only let him dress up as a Republican once a year."

Langly held his palm out to William. "Righteous costume there, Little M." William slapped him five. Mulder chuckled at Langly's nickname for William. Little M stood for Little Mulder. He sounded like a rapper.

The Monster Mash played on the stereo and orange blinking lights were strung all around the room. Mulder reached for a Baby Ruth in the candy bowl, but Frohike swatted his hand.

"You didn't dress up! No candy for you two," he frowned reproachfully at Mulder and Scully.

"I tried to get her to do the Leah thing, but she suffers from Post Traumatic Halloween Syndrome," explained Mulder.

Frohike looked at Scully sympathetically. "What'd they make you be? Raggedy Ann?"

"A fat pumpkin," she said. "You?"

"Bam Bam. Three years in a row. My brother got to be Spiderman because he was tall and skinny."

Frohike pushed the bowl of candy toward Scully and she grabbed a Snickers, unwrapped it, and took a large bite.

Mulder didn't risk admonishment again. He had cool costumes as a kid - expensive, store bought ones. Scully deserved the candy.

"It's 9:00," Langly said, glancing at his watch. "I don't think we're getting any more trick-or-treaters. You bought too much candy again, Dickweed."

"Dude. Little ears," said Mulder. William repeated everything he heard these days. The last time Scully had used the Gunmen for babysitting duty for a day while he was gone, it had taken him a week to deprogram "This sucks" out of his vocabulary. Thankfully, Scully never heard it.

"Sorry," said Langly. But William was too busy to be listening. He and Byers were playing a rousing game of slap jack at the coffee table.

"I can't figure why we never get any trick-or-treaters. I put orange blinking lights outside this year," whined Frohike.

"It was your Freddy Kruger and Jason jack-o-lanterns," said Langly. "It scared them all away. I told you to go with Scooby instead." Then he called over to William, "Hey Little M, you like Scooby?"

"I yike Scooby. Can we watch Scooby now?"

"See? We're doing a Scooby theme next year. We'll have rugrats swarming this place, mark my words."

Frohike shrugged. "More candy for us." He reached for a chocolate bar and offered the bowl again to Scully. She shook her head no thanks.

Frohike cleared his throat nervously. "So Mulder, you remember Langly's mate, Roach? From the band?"

Mulder nodded, not sure where this was heading.

"His name is Roach?" Scully asked.

"It's really Leon," said Langly. "He just goes by Roach because, um...well...it's sort of like..."

Scully shook her head and put her hand up. "Forget I asked."

"Well, the dude's getting hitched next month and we're having a little, um, thing for him. Sort of a nostalgic celebration of independence before he embarks on his journey into marital bliss," said Frohike.

"You mean a bachelor party?" asked Mulder.

"Well, that would be another way of describing it, yeah."

"I didn't even know Roach had a girlfriend," said Mulder.

Langly nodded. "For over a year now. It's sort of a, uh, shotgun wedding, if you know what I mean. Theresa's Catholic."

Mulder nodded, as if that explained everything. Scully was Catholic too and their little "surprise" was a year old before they finally took the plunge. But okay, he supposed it was possible for a guy who was named after drug paraphernalia to be traditional.

Frohike cleared his throat again. "Scully, do you need to use the ladies room? It's right through the kitchen."

She looked at him curiously. "I know where it is, Frohike. I'm fine."

"Anyway," Frohike continued. "Roach lives right in the District and we were planning to take him around to some uh, establishments that offer a certain flavor of, um, entertainment...but, the guys and I, we don't really know where the good places are out that way, so we thought maybe you might...not that you would have frequented them for personal reasons or anything..."

"We need to know where the good strip clubs are," said Langly, getting straight to the point. "We figured who better to ask than former Feds. You guys must have busted up plenty of stuff in places like that."

Mulder smiled. "Well, Scully and I didn't really deal with that kind of-"

"Try Utopia on Commonwealth," said Scully, matter-of-factly.

All three heads spun to look at her.

"What?" she smiled, innocently. "There's a side for men and a side for women."

Mulder's mouth opened and Frohike's eyes glazed over slightly.

"Oh grow up. There are such things as bachelorette parties too, you know. I'm thirty-nine years old. Do you think I haven't been to a few by now?"

Mulder just raised his brows and smiled. He loved this side of her. How do you know somebody for ten years and still find out things about them that knock you on your ass? He hoped the next five decades with her would be as interesting as the last.

"Utopia, it is," said Frohike.

"We need to get going, Mulder," she said. "It's way past William's bedtime."

Mulder nodded and walked over to William. "Time to go, Darth. The Dark Side needs to call it a day."

"Bye, William. May the force be with you," said Byers, handing William his light saber.

"Later, Little M. You gonna come listen to my band practice again soon?" asked Langly.

William bobbed his head, enthusiastically.

"Awesome. Peace out." Langly held his two fingers up and William copied him.

"Thanks for coming by, Buddy," said Frohike. He grabbed another candy bar in his hand and looked at Scully. "You sure he can't take another, Mom? If we don't get rid of it, Langly will eat it all. It's won't be pretty."

"He's right, it won't be," agreed Langly.

Scully sighed and nodded in surrender. Frohike tossed one more into William's candy bag.

"What do you say, William?" asked Scully.

"Thank you, Uncle Melvin."

"Anytime. Always ready to hook a brother up with sugar."

Five minutes later, they were in the car on their way home and two minutes after that the bottom dropped out from William's sugar high and he crashed. Mulder glanced in his rearview mirror to see him slumped to the side in his car seat like all the air had been let out of him. Scully smiled and leaned back to take his Darth Vader mask off. Then she rested her hand on Mulder's knee while he drove and left it there all the way home.

Mulder carried William to his bed and Scully very carefully took his sneakers, cape, and pants off and tucked him into his bed in his shirt and Pull-up. Then they went downstairs and dumped William's candy bag out onto the dining room table to sort and check it.

"He's never going to eat all this, Mulder."

"Well, I figure at least ten percent goes to the house," he said, popping a Tootsie Roll into his mouth and smiling. "What do you want? We've got Junior Mints, Twizzlers, Whoppers, Nerds, and just about any variety of chocolate your heart desires."

She shook her head and wrinkled her nose. "No thanks. I'm not hungry. My stomach feels a little off. I think I'm going to go make some tea."

She got as far as the archway leading into the kitchen before stopping and turning back to look at him. He was already staring at her.

"Today is the thirty-first," he said, quietly. "You should have started around-"

"The twenty-seventh," she finished. "It completely slipped my mind. I've been so busy at the hospital this week."

"Do you have a test?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Should we?"

She shrugged. "We can, but we shouldn't get our hopes up. I'm probably just a few days late."

"You're never late, Scully."

She went upstairs and he followed right at her heels. At the door to their bathroom, he just stood there. She had her hand on the doorknob.

"I can handle this part," she smiled.

"Right. I'll just, um, stay out here then. Call me if you need anything."

He busied himself by changing into sweatpants and a T-shirt. A few minutes later, he heard the toilet flush and the water running.

The door to the bathroom opened and she walked out, unbuttoning her blouse as she crossed to the walk-in closet. She didn't say anything or even look at him.

When she came out of the closet, she was wearing just her bra and panties. She went to the dresser and opened the drawer with her folded pajamas in it.

"What now?" he asked.

"We wait. Five minutes."

He nodded. Five minutes wasn't very long at all. Except that it was when you were waiting to see whether or not your life was about to change forever.

Two minutes went by according to the alarm clock. She came and sat on the bed next to him wearing her blue silk pajamas. He heard her breathe in deeply, then release it. He reached over and took her hand and she laced her fingers through his.

Another minute.

"So I called around for a couple of quotes on getting the roof above the garage reshingled," he said. "It's going to need it before spring."

"That's good. That's a good idea," she said, absently.

"Do you want me to discuss it with you first, or just go ahead and- "

"No, you go ahead and handle it. That's fine." She sniffed a couple of times and pulled her legs up underneath her on the bed.

Mulder nodded and cleared his throat. "Oh, and your mom asked me the other day what our plans are for Thanksgiving."

She shrugged. "I hadn't really thought about it yet."

"Because she wants to have us there."

"I don't really care. Do you?" she asked.

"No, that's fine. Or we could offer to do it here, if you want."

"We could. Whatever you think."

"I thought the Christmas turkey turned out okay," he said.

"How long has it been?" she nearly whispered.

"Five minutes."

"You go look. I can't."

He lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it, then got up from the bed and went into the bathroom.

He crossed hesitantly to the bathroom counter and looked down at the test stick sitting there neatly with its smug little know-it-all blue screen. He picked it up and held it directly under the light above the vanity. Then he carried it with him back out to their bedroom.

She was standing now by the bed in her pajamas. Her arms were crossed in front of her and she bit her bottom lip nervously. She was looking down at her little bare toes scrunching into the plush carpet. Her eyes darted up quickly to meet his.

He smiled.

Scully lay on her back with Mulder's head resting on her soft bare shoulder. She felt like hot melted wax, like she always did after they made love. She knew he was still awake because his palm moved in large circles against her lower abdomen.

"What are you thinking?" he asked.

"That you really are going to be doing that for the next seven and a half months, aren't you?"

His hand stopped. "No. Sometimes I'll kiss your stomach, like this." He shimmied himself down so his face was inches above her pubic line. His lips were warm and velvety butter against her skin. It tickled a little and she giggled, her stomach muscles tightening.

"And other times, I'll probably even talk to your stomach, like this: 'Hello in there. What's new? Still floating around in the dark, huh?'"

She laughed again and ran her fingers through his hair. He rested his ear against her tummy. "Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle. That's all I'm hearing back."

"He's the size of a blueberry right now, Mulder. He doesn't have much to say yet."

"It's never too early to start teaching the basics, Scully." He turned toward her stomach again and when he talked, his lips reverberated. "Hey, it's me again. Don't eat yellow snow, say no to drugs, and Whitey Ford was the greatest starting pitcher in Yankees history."

"Life's greatest lessons, according to Fox Mulder," Scully snorted.

"Some of them. We've got a lot of ground to cover in the next seven months. I'll be talking to your stomach a lot, Scully."

"Just keep it down so I can sleep," she said, yawning. Then she thought of something else.

"Are you taking my caffeinated coffee and luncheon meat away starting tomorrow?" she asked, propping herself on her elbows.


"Jesus Mulder. Why can't you carry the baby?" She slid out from underneath him and got out of bed, pulling on a robe.

"Don't be silly, Scully. I'd look ridiculous wearing your maternity clothes. Where are you going?"

"To make a ham and cheese sandwich. I'm starving and you're going to confiscate my ham tomorrow."

He pulled on his flannel pajama pants and followed her down to the kitchen.

She was already pulling meat, cheese, mustard, lettuce and tomato out of the fridge. He got the rye bread from the bread box and some plates and knives.

"Let me make it for you," he said, pulling two slices of bread from the wrapper and negotiating the bottle of mustard from her.

"You're going to make my midnight snack for me?"

"Enjoy it. It's one of the perks."

"What will you say in a few months when I wake you at 2:00 a.m. and ask you to go get me a McDonalds milkshake?"

"I'll say, 'what flavor.'"

"Good answer."

They ate sandwiches together and it quite possibly might have been the best time she'd ever had raiding the kitchen after midnight. And the food wasn't bad either. Afterward, they left the kitchen a mess and went back to bed. They settled with him spooned behind her and his hand resting protectively on her stomach. She smiled as she allowed her own hand to come up and cover his before drifting off into dreams of pink and blue.

The End.

Author's Note: I won't leave you hanging! There will be a Part Four. Stay tuned. Thank you for reading. I enjoy and appreciate your comments and feedback. Malibusunset88@gmail.com.

**Regarding content: I struggled with whether or not to reveal in the content warning that this story dealt with pregnancy loss. Ultimately, I felt that there was really no way to be specific about it without spoiling the story. I hope I made the right choice and that no one has been unintentionally hurt. I have experienced two miscarriages myself, so I am familiar with the grief and pain it causes. I hope that my writing treated this delicate topic with dignity and respect.

Archive Of Our Own: http://archiveofourown.org/users/Malibusunset/pseuds/Malibusunset

Read More Like This Write One Like This
Toddler William
Pregnant Scully
Married With Children
Keeping William
Tell Mulder, Tell Mulder challenge
William's Alternative Outcome Challenge
Picture It Challenge
Take Two Challenge