Title: The Emilys
Disclaimer: The X-Files belongs to Chris Carter, Fox, 1013. No fringe intended. The song "Bittersweet Symphony" belongs to The Verve, and "Truthfully" belongs to Lisa Loeb.
Spoiler: Emily, US5
Categories: MSR, XS
Summary: When the Emily project turns into the Eves, things happen.
Fox Mulder watched the car burn in a mad attempt to control something he had lost long ago.
From the instant he was born, he had no doubt that They had been watching him, planning their use for him, conniving ways to screw him over.
And this was their latest.
But worse of all, it involved the innocent, the ones who had nothing to do with his father's work, his sister's abduction, his own problems. It involved children, mothers, women, men, fathers ... anyone the Consortium wanted, they took.
They had taken his family once; they were not doing it again.
And so his trusty grey Ford burned to nothing, its gas ignited in such a way that no one could ever realize it had been set deliberately, burned so that a few pieces of bodies remained, bodies he would never ask where they'd come from, but to whom he was grateful.
He was assured this would yield no information on their whereabouts; he had Scully's definite approval and his own creative genius to thank for it, along with the help of Skinner and the Lone Gunmen.
He turned finally to his family, his new family.
"Let's go," he whispered and turned his back on the horror, the lies, forever.
Four months earlier
"Elizabeth? Elizabeth Shuley?" came the nurse's voice over the intercom.
The older woman with sagging eyes and greying hair pulled herself off of the hard plastic chair and then turned to pull her daughter from play with another little girl -- a girl that could have been her twin.
"Come along, Elizabeth. Time to see the doctor."
Elizabeth went quietly with her mother, although she hated the doctor and the funny things he made her do, like blow very hard into a tube and run for lots of time on an exercise machine, and then answer questions about terrible things that made her feel bad to think of. She wanted to play with her new friend, Erica, who looked so much like her that the nurses called them sisters.
Elizabeth liked the idea of having a sister.
"Scully? You got it?"
"Mulder, hold on. Just let me get one more thing out of here."
"The box is about to fall, Scully!" he yelled, just as the box perched precariously in her arms toppled down the stairs. It landed with a smack into his legs.
She grinned at him. "Good catch."
He gave her a sarcastic nod and pulled the box up with one hand, his other containing a similar box.
"What are you going to do with all this stuff?" he said, trying to be as civil as possible, but still bleary in the early morning.
"I don't know, but I couldn't let all of Emily be destroyed, Mulder."
He handed another box up to her and she pushed it further into her small unit-shared attic.
"Why don't you go through some of it, Scully?" he suggested softly, knowing from long years as a psych major that it was best to keep memories of loved ones that were good, not horrible or remnant of their last times.
"I will. Just later," she said, her face turning away from his just as it did when she'd told him that work was what kept her going after her father's death: the kind of turning away that told him it hurt a lot.
"All right. If you want, I'll be here, okay?"
She looked at him briefly, nodding. "Thanks, Mulder."
"What do you mean?" the doctor said, looking at Elizabeth's mother with surprise and horror.
"I mean, this is wrong, Sir. I don't care what it's for anymore. All I know is that when she comes home, she cries for days and never speaks until weeks have gone by. I know she's not mine, I know that. I'm not stupid nor am I naive, Sir. And I will not allow this to go on."
"Mrs. Shuley, must I remind you that the only reason you have your daughter, whoever's she may be, is because of us?"
Mrs. Shuley lifted her head. "I don't care. You're hurting her. That's wrong."
And Elizabeth watched with growing awe as her mother yanked her up and away from the mean people and back outside to the sun and the love.
In the car, speeding away from the clinic and away even from her house, Mrs. Shuley looked to the little girl she had grown to love as her own.
Elizabeth's huge blue eyes looked right into her and the tears there almost made her sob herself.
"Thank you, Mommy," she said softly, and nothing more.
Mrs. Shuley nodded grimly and looked in her rearview mirror. No one yet.
She had to get away as quickly as possible, find somewhere to hide out, away from her husband and the men and doctors he worked for.
She didn't know precisely what was going on, only that it hurt this little girl, and that made it wrong.
Scully sat in her living room floor, pulling the box closer to her, and looking at Mulder with trepidation. She had an innate fear of finding out what her biological daughter was like, because doing that would make her real.
Emily's death hurt too much already.
"Thanks, Mulder." she murmured, her voice barely ascertainable.
He nodded and stayed perfectly still, letting her take her time.
Scully pulled the flaps down and dived into the mess of things, knowing that as she delved into the boxes, she delved further into the truth.
somewhere in CA
Mrs. Shuley had been writing one of the other mothers for a long time, after discovering the similarities that were too hard to ignore.
Simms, that was the name, right? Yes how could she ever forget?
Elizabeth and Emily had gotten along as angels when they were babies, never gave them a bit of trouble ...
But then, they were sisters ... or twins, or something. Mrs. Schuley didn't understand all that went on and Mrs. Simms had begged her not to try to find out, or else ...
All she knew was, Mrs. Simms had tried to find out, and now, her whole family was dead, even Emily.
She would not let that happen to Elizabeth.
"Oh, no," Scully said, shuddering.
Mulder looked up in surprise, his features masked by the dying of the light.
For the last three hours they had laughed and cried good tears over the photos of Emily as a child, as a healthy baby, on birthdays, at daycare, outside. The Simms had the same natural tendency to take a picture of everything remarkable or unremarkable their first born had done, giving Dana Scully a running slide show on her life, just as Mulder might do for a case.
But now, why the horror in her face, the sorrow?
"What's wrong, Scully?" he said, immediately coming up beside her to see the snapshot in her trembling hands.
Before he even got a good enough look, she was turning to him.
"Why Mulder? Why another one? How many are there?"
The photo fell from her fingers and he picked it up.
The Polaroid was of two little girls, about eighteen months, eyes wide and blue, laughing, and the cutest look of adoration off to the left of the camera.
And written underneath was this:
Emily Simms, Elizabeth Shuley
Mulder felt his heart tremble at the truth behind that.
They were exactly alike, and obviously the photo was meant to point that out because it was focused on their very distinctly alike faces.
All Mulder could do was put his arms around Scully's sobbing body and hold on.
"We'll find her Scully," he said softly.
"What if this is clean-up for them Mulder? What if she's already dead?"
somewhere in CA
"Elizabeth, honey, I need you to try very hard to remember something for me, all right?" Mrs. Schuley asked, her face pinched and worn more than usual, clothes rumpled from sleeping in the car in a parking lot for only four hours.
Elizabeth nodded and drew very close to her mother. She knew things that sometimes others forgot.
"Okay, can you remember when I told you about your friend, Emily?"
Elizabeth nodded in happiness, her steel trap mind recalling every incident, every detail of that conversation.
"Okay, baby, I know I didn't tell you who the woman was that was with her when she went to heaven, but I remember you looking on the sheet I had."
Elizabeth blushed and ducked her head. She wasn't supposed to be reading just yet, and she wasn't allowed at all to look at her Daddy's things, but Mommy had and she thought it all right.
"No, no, baby. You did exactly right. Can you remember the woman's name for me?"
Elizabeth smiled with pleasure. She loved helping her mommy.
"Oh, very, very good darling. Very good. Tell me, please."
"Dana Scully, FBI, MD, Washington DC office." she recited, straight from the sheet where it was logged in her memory.
Her mother pulled her tight against her and kissed her head and then her cheeks and then her eyelids. "Oh, baby, oh baby, I love you. I love you so much. Thank you darling. You just saved Mommy."
Elizabeth's delighted face kissed her mother back and held her hand.
"Are we going to visit Dana Scully, FBI?" she said softly.
It was the longest sentence she'd ever heard Elizabeth speak ever in her life.
"Yes, darling, we are."
One Week Later
"Okay, once again, darling. Tell me what you do if something happens."
Elizabeth's petrified face drew into a pout but she repeated the information. "I go to the building we passed by three times so that I could know it and I go in and ask for Dana Scully, FBI, MD --"
"Okay, okay, darling girl. Only Dana Scully. They'll know."
"What will happen to you Mommy?"
In her fear, Elizabeth talked more than ever before.
"I hope nothing. But if-"
"Is Dana Scully there?"
Mulder looked up to see Scully's eyes lingering on his with askance.
"Yeah she's here," he said into the phone and handed it over to her.
She frowned and said hello, her eyebrows knitting together.
"Yes, this is Dana Scully, who is this sweetie?" she said, curious at finding a little's girl's voice on the phone.
"Mommy said to come here if something happened, Dana Scully, FBI, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do now," was the wail.
"It's all right. I'll come see you there, okay? We can find your mommy then."
"But I-I know where my Mommy is."
"Where, then?" Scully said, her confusion evident to Mulder.
Scully's breath came in sharply and she looked to Mulder. "I'll be right there, okay?"
And then the phone was dropped into the cradle.
"Who was that?" Scully breathed.
"The front desk, why? Who was that on the phone?"
Scully shook her head. "A little girl who said she was told to come here by her mother."
"Where's her mother?"
They walked swiftly through the lobby, anxiously pushing aside a crowded tour and weaving around the other agents until they could finally see the front desk.
Mulder stopped dead cold, Scully running into him.
She pushed herself away from him in annoyance and then stopped as her eyes found the same thing his had.
She trembled as waves of memories overtook her and her mind led her back to the place where her little girl had died.
"Elizabeth Shuley." Mulder whispered and it knocked Scully from her trance.
Elizabeth, of course. She should have realized that.
Mulder went up to the desk, Scully following him weakly.
"Hello?" she said to the little girl.
"Dana Scully, FBI, MD, Washington DC office?" the little girl rattled off.
"Yes, that's me." Scully said, a faint trace of fear in her voice that only Mulder could discern.
"Mommy said that you would remember me, but not me. You'd know Emily."
The frightened little girl sat with them on the couch, her hand clutching Mulder's, whom she had taken an instant liking to.
Scully waited to hear from the police about the body they'd found earlier in the trash cans close to where Elizabeth had run away from.
Mulder kept his hand in Elizabeth's, not wanting her to be any more alone than she already felt.
But he had a feeling that the little girl knew about Scully, knew about Emily, and was too frightened to admit it.
Scully stood when the police officer entered, not wanting to look any less professional in this man's territory.
"What can you tell us, Sir?"
"Well ..." he began but noticed the little girl. "It's best we didn't discuss it in front of her, don't you think?"
Scully turned to Mulder in embarrassment, horrified that she hadn't even thought of it.
Mulder stood. "I'll take her outside. Come on, Libby. Let's go get some Dr. Pepper, huh?"
The little girl's face brightened at the nickname and the idea and she nodded.
Once they were out of sight, Lt. Makra turned to her with slight distaste on his lips. "The woman we discovered was one Nora Shuley, declared Missing and wanted for kidnapping in California. The funny thing is, this woman was killed professionally, Ms. Scully, back of the head, execution style. And also, no one I talked to at the Sacramento PD even knew of this woman or that she was wanted. I think something weird is going on, and I think that I don't want to get involved in it, all right? I'll do whatever to help you, being FBI and all, but please, don't ask me to lie, don't ask me to ignore the facts."
Scully's fear turned up a notch. "What do you mean by that?"
"I mean ... I know this little girl isn't Mrs. Shuley's, and probably isn't even whoever's got the warrant out for her either, but I'm not going to hide any information for you about this. I know someone who did a favor for your friend, Mr. Mulder, and got blown away the next week, Ms. Scully. Whatever's going on, I'm not in it." He turned and walked to the door leading out to the offices.
"Wait. What will you say in your report about the little girl?"
"The truth. She was taken into custody by two FBI agents. However, I happened to forget the names, since I was so busy and well, you know, stuff happens."
His eyes peered with aging blackness into hers and she gulped and nodded.
He left before she could thank him and she had a feeling he wanted it that way. He had a family she knew, had a wife and kids and grandkids that wanted him home every day safe.
So she left and did not come back.
One Week Later
"Libby?" Mulder called through the bathroom door, his voice anxious because she had been in there a long time.
"Almost done." she called back, and he heard the toilet flush and the water run.
Scully pushed him away from the door with a smile, carrying a bowl of macaroni and cheese in one hand and a spoon in the other. "Leave her alone, Mulder. Don't you know that girls go into the bathroom to cry?"
Mulder's shocked face reeled away from her and he looked back at the still closed door.
"Seriously, you're with her all the time, and I'm sure she isn't used to crying around other people or even having to cry. I caught her crying into her pillow the other night. She seemed shocked when I came in to hold her."
Mulder frowned and sighed deeply. "She's so ..." He couldn't finish his thought because all he could think was that she was so Scully, stubborn about feelings just like her mother.
"Like me? Huh? Yeah, I can see it in your face, Mulder."
He smiled and took the dish from her. "Let me set the table before I estrange another one of these Scully women," he said and pulled away to the kitchen.
Scully tried to show she wasn't worried, but she secretly was and it had torn her heart when she'd gone in to comfort her little girl and she had shrunk away from her. To Elizabeth, she'd lost her whole family, and to Scully she'd found her true one.
"Scully? Is the chicken supposed to taste like this?"
Elizabeth seemed to be a happy child at dinner and joked around with them as she usually did, grinning and smiling and bestowing upon Mulder all her affections.
Scully got plenty of the girl's love when Mulder wasn't there to feel it sweet, when the enamored look came across Libby's face when he walked in to see her every day, or the constant questions about whether or not her Mulder would be coming were fired at her.
"Is your Mulder coming?" she'd ask and Scully would shrug because she really didn't understand what it was with him these days; it was almost as if he actually loved Libby as his own.
Could he possibly?
"Dana Scully FBI, can I have some more mashed taters?"
Her eyebrow raised and Libby giggled and looked to Mulder, who had evidently taught her to say taters.
"Sure, Libby. Mulder, would you like some?" she said as she dished some out to the girl.
"Naw. I'm heading for the macaroni and cheese."
She smiled at his bashful look and felt an odd sense welling up in her, one of warmth and comfort and, well, peace. As if this was what life was about, not aliens or mutants or casefiles, but people she loved eating together and being together.
Libby suddenly gave her a sporadic smile, her mouth filled with chicken and mashed potatoes, and Scully's heart crumbled.
This was her family.
One Month Later
Mulder ran into the office, his hair disheveled, his tie missing, one shoe not entirely tied, and his eyes wild.
She stood in surprise and looked at him.
All he could do was stare at her as he tried to catch his breath.
She went over to him and sat him down even as he tried to push her away. "I found ... found them spying ... oh God, please, not Libby."
Her heart constricted and she dropped to her knees beside him.
"What? Mulder ..."
"No, she's okay. But I saw men watching her today. I was going to get her out of the day care for lunch and an ice cream or something short, fifteen minutes, as a special treat because of ... but when I got there, I saw a car and a man watching her and watching like she was his next *meal* and he called someone and then he left and I wanted to chase after, but I was afraid they'd do something while I was gone and this was not going to happen again! so I stayed and it turned out to be a change of shift. I left and came here....but *They know* Scully. They know."
She steadied him with a hand on his leg, eyes piercing into him. "We realized they would," she said. "I mean, after Cancer Man's death they had to regroup, but that was planned and they knew long before that we had her, Mulder. You're the one who told me that they'd be watching, that we'd have to be ready."
"But I thought they wouldn't. I thought they'd leave us alone. I didn't go after her ... I didn't Scully. I wanted to, but she said she'd come to me ..."
"What are you talking about?"
"My sister. They brought her to me, a way to get me to work for them. She didn't want to have anything to do with me. She had kids, a life, something I couldn't ever do because of her, and yet ... I thought it would all end there. I don't care anymore about it. I just want --"
His voice broke off suddenly, sharply as he realized what he'd been about to say. "No. No. I care. Just not so much about the truth. I mean, I want to know the answers now, like you figured out before. I never thought I had the truth. I envied you because you said you knew the truth and that all you wanted were answers. Now, I just want answers. And then for them to leave me alone. For once, stop screwing me over."
His head dropped and she took it in her hands, her thumbs resting against his cheeks where she felt tears.
"Mulder, we have to leave. At least, Elizabeth and I do. But I'm hoping you'll come with us. We have to disappear completely."
His face lifted and she saw the sadness worn there by thousands of things suddenly evaporate as if finally let in the sun.
"You ... you want me ... to ..."
"Mulder. Call the Lone Gunmen. Set something up."
One month later
"Why's it taking them so long, Mulder?" she asked, pulling the little girl's coat off for her so she could go run and play on the swings without it getting in the way.
They sat on a familiar-feeling park bench, Libby's coat stuffed between them, their eyes watching her but their thoughts on their plans.
"It has to be perfect and that takes time."
"I told my mother what's going on ..."
"Mulder, I have to. I cannot let my mother think I'm dead ... I can't. She understood, a mother would ... that it's to protect me and her own grandchild, she understands."
"I'm not telling my mother."
She stopped, feeling the coldness of his statement. "Oh."
"She wouldn't realize the importance of keeping her mouth shut. I called and told her I loved her though, and that I didn't blame her and that I was sorry she never got Sam back."
"What did she say?"
"Nothing. She kind of sighed and asked who I was again."
"Oh, Mulder ..."
"No, it's better this way. Even if she does remember anything important, it won't matter because she's so senile anyway."
"Mulder, don't push it away. It won't help. I --" Scully faltered as a woman came up to them, her face old and wrinkled with sun and work and age.
She smiled politely at them. "I just want to say what a well mannered little girl you folks have. So sweet to my grandson. He kept trying to get in line for the swings and some other boy was pushing him out but she gave him her spot. I think it shows a very fine set of parents, kindness like that coming from a little girl of no more than three or four."
Scully smiled, plainly pleased, and Mulder grinned, his gloominess taken away by the sudden compliment to a little girl he loved.
"Oh, and doesn't she look exactly like her father? Such gorgeous smiles," the woman said and moved back to her own bench.
Dana looked to Mulder with wide eyes, her breath coming rapidly and in short little bursts.
"Her father ..." she murmured.
The same round features, full face, thick lips ...
No one had ever thought to ask who the father might be.
"Oh ... sh--"
"Ah ... sorry."
Scully frowned at him and pulled Libby's books from the top shelf of the bookcase, sneaking a glance to the little girl who was playing cheerfully in the corner of the room and oblivious to the almost- swear word Mulder had said.
"What's wrong, anyway?" she said cradling the picture books in her arms and coming up behind him.
"I lost the button. The top one and this is my favorite shirt," he said, pulling the dress shirt from his shoulders and closer to his face to see better.
Scully could see just fine and it was quite beautiful, but she ignored skin and focused on Libby.
"Libby, ready for bed, sweetie?" she asked and walked closer to where she played with GI Joes and Micro Machines. The little girl looked up at her and wrinkled her nose, unwilling to go to bed so soon. "What about bath?" she said, her eyes sparking at the idea of staying up a little bit longer.
Mulder walked up and took her hand. "Come on you little imp. Off to bath."
"Thanks, Mulder," Scully called as he led the child to the bathroom.
He turned back and winked then said, "Could you fix my shirt?"
"Without the button?"
She sighed and reached out for it, catching it as he tossed the dark blue dress shirt into the air. All she could think was that he looked very distinguished in the blue shirt and she'd try her best to mend it, allowing him to wear it again.
"I owe you one, Scully."
As she sat down in the chair, pulling a basket of thread and needles out from the end table, she realized that this was all a little too homey, too family-like for comfort.
It was like they were married, except that he went home every night, about midnight or one, after she had fallen asleep most times, and that he still didn't talk very much about real life, only cases, only the X-Files.
But she really didn't mind. They talked about Libby all the time, about what to fix for dinner, what clothes she would wear ... so maybe they did talk, but never like that night on the rock, searching for Big Blue.
She missed it being just them.
But she'd never give up Elizabeth, her own daughter ... but maybe even Mulder's ...?
He shifted his weight to the palms of his hands, easing the stress from his knees, where he was crouched next to the bathtub, playing a game with Libby in the water since she hated going to bed at night.
He would make a letter on her back, through all the suds of the bubbles and the soap, and she would try and guess what it was. It made her squirm and laugh sometimes, because it tickled and he liked helping out in the care of Libby.
All he could think about was what the woman had said to them the other day. It astonished him that Libby could be his, his and Scully's and not anyone else's. He was a loser, just as Eddie had said, and what beautiful thing like Libby could come from him? He could see Scully in everything she did, but him? No, it was impossible. He couldn't have a child, maybe even more ... just out there ... without him and maybe dying ... like Emily.
If he was Elizabeth's father, then he was Emily's too, and that was even more unfair somehow.
He returned his mind to the frowning little girl in front of him, the pouty lips looking eerily familiar on this little girl's face.
As his own.
"Aren't you going to play?" she said, her forehead knitting and her eyebrows coming together in a distinct Scully fashion.
"Let's wash your hair first, Libby, then we'll play," he said and reached for the baby shampoo.
She nodded and stopped sliding around in the tub to allow him to lather her head up, her forehead tilted way back to keep it from her eyes.
"Okay, let's rinse baby." Mulder said and grabbed the plastic Cool- Whip dish and filled it with water.
Her head tilted even farther, if possible, and her eyes squeezed shut tightly and he placed his hand on her forehead to keep the water from trickling into her face.
The sudsy water caused the lather to scamper down her hair and slide off into the tub, quickly rinsing all soap from her hair.
He poured the water once more to make sure he'd gotten all the soap and then removed his hand.
"Okay, Libby. All done."
She smiled softly, in her shy and quiet way, and then blinked hard.
"No soap!" she said, her eyes lightning.
"I told you, I'm the best at getting the soap out without getting it in your eyes."
"Can you give me a bath all the time?" she said, taking one of his hands and spreading the fingers.
"Sure, Libby," he said and watched her small baby fingers weaving between his large hand.
"Even if you and Dana FBI fight?"
He smiled at the nickname and nodded. "But don't worry, Dana and I don't stay mad long."
He wondered if maybe he was taking that for granted.
"Good. Mommy and Daddy used to fight and Daddy would leave for a long time. He never gave me a bath, and I wasn't supposed to call him Daddy. Me and Mommy called him Sir. He's a very proper man."
Mulder smiled. "Proper? Where'd you hear that?"
"Oh, from some man who came and talked to Mommy one time. The man sounded rude and like he didn't mean it at all."
"Oh. Was Mommy proper?"
It was the most she'd ever spoken to anyone in a very long time.
Elizabeth was usually very quiet and soft, her words heard only if you listened for them. Mulder had guessed that she wasn't allowed to speak at home very often. That was sad to him. Children had so many delightful things to say.
"Mommy was very good. That's what Daddy said once. Very good. I wish Mommy hadn't been very good. Maybe if she'd been better, she'd be all right."
Mulder did not touch her, only let the little girl go on moving his fingers around, pushing them and manipulating them, her grief being worked out without tears.
"Mommy was trying to make things better."
He had trouble saying this to her, because Scully was her real mother, not Mrs. Shuley.
"I know. I think she did."
"Why do you think that?"
Libby's face grew tight and she looked up at him finally, clutching his hand.
"Well, *you* love me, right?"
"Of course I love you." His words came automatically and only after he said them did he realize how much he wanted her to be his daughter.
"And Dana loves me, too, right?"
"Yes. Very much."
"So it's a lot better. Daddy didn't love me. He told me to get out all the time. Mommy loved me and she made it better. Hey, do you know you have a funny little mark right here?"
His brain took a moment to focus as Libby easily switched topics.
"Yeah, it's called a birth mark," he said, wiggling his finger to show her.
"I got one too!" she pronounced and held her finger right up to his nose to see the tiny brown spot in the exact same spot as his.
His breath stopped for a moment and then he kissed her finger. "You sure do, Libby."
"I guess bath's over?" she said, her face becoming shy again, her lips pressed tight.
"Yes, bath's over. Come on."
Mulder lifted her from the tub and dried her off as she watched the bubbles swirl down the drain and urged them on as if it were a race. She turned back to him as he wrapped the huge blue towel around her tightly.
"My bubble won!" she proclaimed and made him laugh so hard he fell off the edge of the rub and hit his head on the side.
Scully came running in to find him laughing but all right, and Libby laughing and sprawled on top of him, her wet hair in his eyes, and she had to laugh herself.
She picked Libby up, rubbing her back to keep her teeth from chattering and said, "You two are very silly."
After bedtime and a story, Mulder sat in the dark of her room, watching Libby sleep soundly, her little face peaceful.
He felt Scully behind him and turned to see her by the moonlight.
"Scully, I think she is ..," he said softly.
Scully turned to him with confusion so he stood and gently took Libby's arm, showing the mark.
"She has to be."
One Week Later
"It came, Mulder."
"Yeah, today. I have it."
"Did you open it?"
"I -- I couldn't."
"I'll be there in ten minutes ..."
"Mulder, what if --?"
"Yeah, what if?"
"Coming," she yelled and darted to the door to unlock it and then pulled it open, throwing a glance back to Libby, who was in the living room coloring with markers that Scully hoped wouldn't stain her wooden floors.
"Hey, you," he said and then looked over her head to see Libby.
"Hey Libby!" he said and watched the delight spread across her face at his arrival. Elizabeth had been attached to him from the beginning.
"I'm colorin' in the lines," she said and held up her coloring book for him to see.
"Wow, very nice. You should think about being an artist when you grow up," he said, walking further into the living room with Scully right behind him.
"Nope," she answered quite seriously.
"Oh? Then what?"
"An FBI like you and Dana FBI ... okay?"
He smiled at her and sat down beside her. "Sure. Whatever you want to be."
Dana sighed at the nickname and then pulled Mulder into the kitchen where they could talk and not have Libby overhear any of it.
She had an express mail envelope clutched in her hands and a very fearful expression on her face.
"Here," she said and handed it over to him.
He gave her a disarming smile, trying to make it more comfortable for her, and then ripped open the envelope, worried that Libby wasn't his, or was his.
His eyes scanned the paternity test report and Scully watched every line of his face, needing the truth about how he felt towards Libby, towards the whole crazy situation.
Then he glanced up at her and his face was glowing, his eyes the lightest shade of brown she'd ever seen, actually looking content for once in his life.
"Yeah," he said softly and bit his lip at the expression of almost horror on her face. "She's mine."
Scully turned away from him and felt her heart beat wildly out of control, her breath escape like a fleeing prisoner, her very life shatter around her.
"Scully, I don't ... don't want you to feel like you have to do anything, because if this is making you uncomfortable, I'll ... I'll just ... well, I don't know. But please don't take her away from me. Just don't leave ..."
Scully turned back sharply and shook her head with grateful tears that she would not let fall. "No, no. I wouldn't dare. I wouldn't. Not without you Mulder. She loves you. I was just afraid you wouldn't want ... all of this."
"I had it before it was proved to be true, though, didn't I?"
Her head nodded mutely and her eyes shimmered with the beginnings of happy tears.
"The what does this matter?"
"It matters, though. I mean, they did this to both of us, Mulder. Created something, someone, without our permission, when it should have been our decision to ... our act ..."
Scully stopped, everything hitting her at once. She'd been depressed because she'd been barren, unable to give a man a child, and yet, here was Elizabeth, a child of her and a child of Mulder.
Both of them. "How ... how ..." she murmured, unable to get past the idea of Mulder in the little girl sitting in her living room, a piece of him in Libby as she put her to bed.
Suddenly Mulder took her by the arms, his face excited. "I meant to tell you. The Lone Gunmen finally managed to get names and records for us, to live under when we, uh, leave. It'll only take a few weeks to settle everything and then, we just go. On some random day we just leave and we don't tell anyone."
She nodded and looked back to Libby. "Mulder, she's ours ... together. Almost like a living monument to what we are, what we've accomplished."
Mulder stared down at her. She was reading a lot into this; he wasn't sure if it really meant all that much.
She turned to face him. "I'm glad it's you, Mulder. You and not anyone else to be the father of my child."
Words and breath left him as she walked back out to Libby and sat down to color alongside their little girl.
He got it now. He got it.
He was the father of Dana Scully's child.
A rare honor indeed.
He walked over to them and picked up a marker and doodled aimlessly on a white sheet of paper. Patterns took root and he followed them out until they made beautiful roses and flowers that twined around the page and grew like ivy up the sides.
He watched Scully for a moment and then leaned on close to her, one finger touching her leg to get her attention.
She turned and found his face right before hers and his lips mere breaths from touching hers.
His lips moved and he said:
"I wouldn't have any other mother for my child."
And then a soft kiss was left on her neck.
Dana fell asleep before he left, her exhaustion due to eight hours in the forensics lab trying to come up with some conclusive data on their case, but not succeeding until very late.
Mulder put Libby to bed and tucked the sheets around her and kissed her good-night.
"What story do you want tonight, Libby?"
She shook her head, a yawn escaping and a sigh of sleepiness. "Can you sing to me?" she asked.
"I'll try my best. What song?"
"I don't know. Any kind," she said and her eyes seemed intent on drifting shut.
"All right. Let me think." He took her hand in his and played with her fingers, in much the same way she had done to his in the bathtub, and then looked up as he remembered one.
So he began singing something called "May I Call You Father?" to her, his hand holding one of hers and his voice not very good, but low and rhythmic and lulling. He figured the song was appropriate even if it was a church song about God.
Soon she was asleep and Mulder moved away, placing a soft kiss to her brow and removing his hand from hers.
Then he went into the living room where Scully had fallen asleep on the couch and slid his arms around her and picked her up.
Her eyes flickered open and slid shut and he managed not to wake her up entirely, which he could tell because she would have protested to being carried like a child if she was awake.
He laid her on the bed and pulled a blanket around her, tucking her in much the same way he had Libby. Instinct overtook him and he gave her a soft kiss again, in the same spot as before, and he imagined her skin remembered the touch because her neck arched and allowed him closer.
He left quietly, locking the door behind him and sitting out by the stoop for a long time to make sure none of Them were watching that night. Usually they only watched on Saturday and Sunday nights, as if they expected that anything big would happen on the weekend.
He got in his car and went to his apartment, but he could no longer call it going home.
"Dana?" came the soft voice in her ear.
She awoke slowly and turned her face to see Libby in the moonlight, eyes wide and fearful.
"What is it, Libby?" she said softly, pulling the girl closer to her.
"Where's your Mulder?" she said, face pouting, giving her the famed Mulder puppy dog look. How could the child *not* be his?
"Mulder went home to bed."
"Can't he go to bed here?"
"Well, his bed is at his house."
"But I want Mulder to live here with me," she said, her voice trembling as if she would cry.
"Baby, Mulder needs to go to his house too."
"But ... doesn't he get lonely?"
"Oh, well, I don't know."
"Does he have a Libby at his house?"
Scully was startled by that. What did she mean? Did she know there were others exactly like her, or had the comment been simply child thoughts?
"No, he doesn't."
"Does he need to get away from us for a while, Dana?"
"I don't think so. He likes being with us. His house is just not with us."
"Can we let this be his house?"
"And how do we do that?"
Libby's face brightened. "You ask him!"
"Why would I?"
"Don't you love Mulder?" she said, her child simplicity overextending.
"Well, yes. But --"
"So, ask him. I feel better when he's here."
Scully's face fell and she sat up. "You do?"
"Yes. He makes things safe. Mommy told me that boys made things safe for us and that's why you had to have them."
"Well, don't you think we are safe right here?"
Her baby face scrunched up tightly until she had thought about it.
"I think so. But I love Mulder. I want him to go to bed here ... please?"
"I can't make him, Libby. He has to choose to do that."
Libby fell into silence and then sighed. "Can I sleep with you, Dana?" she said softly, shy again.
Dana pulled her into the bed and slid under the sheets, making them both comfortable. "There, feel better?"
"Unh-huh. I love you Dana," she said as her eyes drifted shut.
Scully felt her whole body melt into this little girl's words.
"I love you too, baby."
"Can we pray that Mulder doesn't get lonely?"
"Okay. You do it."
"All right. Dear God, please don't let Mulder be lonely tonight, Amen."
"Amen," Libby echoed but it was far away and fast receding.
Mulder laid stretched out on his couch, mind reeling with the night's events, the wonderful, the horrible truth he'd found out. He was livid that they would take his own life and create something out of him without his knowledge, but he had to say, if he'd known, he wouldn't object to it.
Libby was wonderful, beautiful, lovable.
And Scully was her mother. The mother of his child.
Odd. He had thought of Libby as her child, even when he found out. But Libby was his.
He fell asleep comforted by the image of her soft, loving face as she fell asleep to his lullaby.
The discovery of an Erica Knox placed in foster care with the Knox family at six months made them decide finally what should be done.
Erica died on a Monday after a frightening sequence of events that no one could quite remember correctly. The foster mother said she was sickly from the beginning and had been receiving treatment for a blood disorder since a baby, but couldn't find the disease when asked to point it out in a medical dictionary.
Libby had been allowed to see Erica before she died and remembered the nurses calling them sisters and so she told Mulder everything she remembered about the clinic and the tests and the treatments.
Mulder and Scully discussed for a long time what had to be done until they realized that there were probably many more 'Emilys,' as they'd come to call them, and this made them furious, yet impotent.
They decided that they had to leave then, go underground and find the others, because they were their children, and neither wanted to let them die.
Scully was surprised when he so readily gave up the X-Files. She was certain there was more he wasn't saying that would give him such ease in simply dismissing the problem of his obsession like that.
She accounted it to falling in love his little girl, but knew deep down that wasn't enough for someone like Mulder.
Eventually, it was easier and safer for Mulder to simply spend the night on her couch, both realizing that the Consortium was cleaning house and that they could be on the list of things needing cleaning.
Skinner had backed them into a corner one night after work and sort of forced their hand, so they had told all, and he had been furious. But not at them. In fact, he had promised to help in any way he could.
Libby had taken to calling him Uncle Skinner, since her parents called him by his last name.
But she never realized what was going on, being barely four.
"Okay, Libby, listen to me baby." Scully said, her voice wavering as the plans seemed to fall into place with the silent ease of snipers on the roof.
"Okay." Libby said, putting down her picture book.
"We're going to move someplace so that we can look for more of your sisters, all right?"
"Yes, honey, like Erica."
"Well, we need to make sure they are okay. You remember how you said it was better because Mommy gave you to us? Well, that's what we're trying to do for the others. Make it better."
"Okay, now honey, we need to tell you something else, too."
Libby looked at Mulder with sneaking suspicion. "What?" she said warily.
"Mulder and I are your Daddy and Mommy now, okay, Libby?"
Libby smiled. "Okay." Then her face fell and she turned to Mulder. "Do I have to call you Sir, now?"
Mulder laughed despite the seriousness and shook his head. "You'd better not. Call me whatever you want."
"Can I call you silly?"
He grabbed her and tickled her. "I think you're the one being silly."
She giggled and clutched him, her hands snaking around his neck. "Okay, so we're moving and I have a better Mommy and Daddy and what else?"
Scully laughed. "Well, your new Mommy and Daddy have new names."
Her face grew confused. "Why?"
"Well, we need to be secret when we look for your sisters, so that people won't know us and won't be able to find us."
"What about your Mommy and Daddy? Do you not want them to find us?" she cried, stricken at the thought.
"Oh, I told my Mommy the truth and she'll know us. It's okay baby." Scully stroked her cheek as Mulder held her.
"Are you okay, Libby?" Mulder said softly.
"What will I call you? I can't say your names ... Can I call you Mommy and Daddy now?"
"If you want to, baby."
She buried her face into his chest and sighed softly. "I want to."
Mulder ran his hand along her back, easing her and trying to keep her from getting upset. "Okay. But, you're still Libby, all right?"
This seemed to be comforting and she nodded against him.
Scully motioned to Mulder that Libby was sleepy and they put her to bed. The snipers were in position, waiting for the signal.
Which was all how they ended up on the road, watching the fire chew away the last of their old lives, and their new ones rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
Driving to a little Connecticut town outside New York City took longer than expected, and Elizabeth fell asleep in the back seat before they had even gotten close.
Scully felt exhausted, her mind revolving around in ridiculous circles of thought that served only to worry her even more. All she could think was that she was leaving everything she knew for a life she didn't even know if she wanted. The words of the social worker in charge of Emily came back many times to haunt her.
Yes, devotion was a word for it, but seeing Libby and loving her were two entirely different things: Libby had gradually become her life.
And Mulder had gone along with it too.
But she often peered anxiously into the back seat of their dark blue truck, something Skinner had managed to acquire for them.
Who would think of looking for them in a truck?
It was a beautiful truck, a rich blue that Mulder said teasingly was the color of her eyes when she had gotten angry at him and shot him. It wasn't really, but the image stayed with her and she liked the truck more and more as the miles increased and they went further from their lives.
Libby moved in her sleep and Scully looked back to see her stretched comfortably along the seat, her rounded face slack and innocent.
She clutched the teddy bear Mulder had given her as a moving present, her lips pressed against its curly fur and her eyelashes resting along the top of its head. She had called him Teddy and kissed Mulder on the forehead for the gift.
The delight in Mulder's face was something Dana Scully had never expected to see in him, especially not in connection to his child, to her child.
Mulder had a very strong attachment to the girl even before the full truth was known about her parentage: she had seen their bond in the way Libby responded to him from the very beginning. She adored him, and Mulder adored her.
It made her feel that maybe this was something that could last. If not for her, then for Libby especially.
She shoved aside her own wants and desires for the man at the wheel, the man who had become more than a work partner to her, more than anything she had ever thought to describe his as. She pushed all that away and tried to focus on Libby only.
But the thing was, she saw Mulder in Libby every step of the way, even more now that she knew he was her father.
As she was forced to spend more time with a child than with adults and their real intelligent conversations, Mulder became more and more her lifeline; Scully did not want a lifeline but it was there anyway.
"Scully?" His voice broke through her brooding and she turned to see his profile. He kept his eyes on the road, his cargo more precious than risking a glimpse to let his eyes soak in Scully. But he let them flicker to the rearview mirror to see if Libby was completely asleep.
"Scully, do you know her birthday?"
The question shamed her and she shook her head sorrowfully. She had never even thought of it before. Libby was only three, she supposed, since Emily had been three, and the even more horrible truth was that she didn't even remember when Emily's birthday had been.
"I think we should give her one once we get settled."
"Good idea," she said, relieved he had taken her off the hook. "Maybe we should let her choose?"
"No. Children need stability, not a friend in their parents. We'll simply tell her it's her birthday, and celebrate it."
Scully nodded again. "How do you know so much about stuff like this?"
He shrugged and a shy grin lit up his face, much in the same way Libby smiled when she felt out of place in her new family. The similarity hit Scully hard and she shivered. No doubt in her mind anymore.
"I did major in Psychology, Scully," he said, his eyes darting for a moment when he was tempted to look at her.
"Oh. Yes, but I didn't know that really fell under that. I've never seen you really get involved with the other kids we've been around before."
He was silent for a moment. "Libby's different."
"Because she's yours?"
His brow wrinkled and he tensed his jaw as if the words had hurt him.
"No, because she was yours," he said softly.
Scully remembered his brief conversation with Emily, about Mr. Potatohead and the way he had taken an immediate interest in her. He had done everything in his power to keep her safe from the doctors, the "Them" behind things. Everything in his power and more. She had never thought to thank him for it.
"Ah. Not Mulder anymore."
His words were a slap in the face. Not Mulder anymore. Almost as if they were becoming completely different people, different from the Dana she had always been, Mulder different from the true Mulder he had always been. She could understand now why Libby had been so upset until they'd told her she would be keeping her same name.
"I don't like this at all," she said softly.
Mulder's face broke and he glanced to her, not able to resist.
"No, not all of this. I just hate change. I abhor it because it makes me very afraid," she explained.
"Well, let me tell you Scully. You are definitely changing."
Since when did Dana Scully ever admit to fears?
"Yeah. And sometimes I'm sure it's for the better and other times I'm not so sure. I know that it should be."
"That's okay to think it's not going to be better. It may not be. They may hunt us down anyway and kill us all."
"How miserable you must be," she said glancing to his tense face.
"No, I'm being truthful with myself." His eyes grazed hers, soaking in the unhappiness and insecurity that welled up in her eyes. "Scully, look. If you think this is going to end up as a happy-ever- after story, you're incredibly wrong. It's not."
Her eyes were troubled and discouraged and he hated himself for breaking the wonderfully beautiful bubble she had managed to keep around her all her life, even though the tragedy.
"But I want it to be, Mulder. I don't know if this is going to work at all, but I know two things. I have my daughter. I have you. That's enough for a happy ever after."
He saw he had not broken her naiveté and he rejoiced inside. He needed that innocence within her to keep him afloat during the times he knew would come.
"You're so wonderfully innocent, Scully," he said with a little sigh that ached to caress her lips.
She looked at him oddly and then focused on the prime goal of their discussion. "When should her birthday be?"
"Sometime before ours. Mine's in October and yours is in November. Let's space it out a bit more okay?"
"Sure. Like when?"
"How about some time next month? Like May twentieth or something."
She nodded. "When I was little I wished my birthday was in May because it was always too cold to do anything fun."
He smiled, finding her story adorable and thinking himself idiotic to find a childhood story adorable when it was probably something a lot of little girl's did. "Okay, so four on May ... what? I picked the month, you pick the day."
"Wait, what does the birth certificate we had made say for her?"
He shrugged. "Nothing. We fill it in. It's only got the year and physical stuff. The Lone Gunmen didn't even have them put in the name, thinking we would want to change it often."
She sighed and looked disconsolately out the car window.
"That's sad to me. Our little girl has a blank birth certificate, almost as if that could make her not exist."
He did not miss the use of 'our' in the sentence and it gave him another one of the fuzzy feelings he had been getting lately.
"It's not so bad, Scully. You're making me depressed, you know."
She smiled at his unsubtle way of getting her spirits up. "Well, you know. One of us has to be, right?"
He smiled back and continued peering out into the darkness falling and could not help being afraid for the first time. But it wasn't a fear of the people after them, or of the newness of what they were doing, but a fear that Scully would get sick of it all and leave him, leave with his little girl.
He would do anything to keep that from happening.
In Lancet, Connecticut, they found open arms and a healthy suspicion for strangers that they supposed would work to their advantage. Smaller numbers meant immediate visibility to the shadows watching them, and Mulder and Scully wanted to forget about anything previous for a while.
Mulder took a job in the area of school counseling and was able to take Libby to work with him. After the scare with the daycare, Mulder did not want Libby going to a place where he or Scully would not be.
For a switch they called each other by their new last names, too. Well, Scully did and Mulder simply could not bring himself to calling her by the last name they now both possessed.
Jared and Sue Miller were their new names, and Miller was a close enough variant to Mulder that Scully felt reasonably comfortable calling him that. Mulder did not think he even looked like a Jared and so he encouraged this, but it got them odd looks from the xenophobic townspeople.
Mulder called her Sue which was close to Scully he guessed, but it felt strange and he only called her by this name when he had to absolutely get her attention in public. He hated the names and was glad that their identification was also like Libby's birth certificate, blank and changeable. It was only their credit cards that were under those names.
Scully finally found work in New York City's Burn Clinic and commuted an hour to the city every morning and every night, her job requiring many hours in the beginning.
It was not at all as she had imagined it. It was tedious and fearful and it took her entire emotional battery just to deal with the patients she saw every day with horrible burns all over. When she got home, there was Mulder with his uncomfortable comfort, and Libby with her insatiable need for love and attention from her mother.
She was her father's all day long, but at night, Scully often ended up falling asleep before she could even have dinner.
It made Libby sad and Mulder just put up with it because all he could think was that if she was like this, then she still needed him.
He played with Libby at night and carried Scully to bed, tucking her in and kissing her forehead because for some reason, her entire body relaxed when he did.
He gave Libby a bath and played water games with her that he remembered from his own childhood and read to her. She didn't ask for singing anymore.
Then one day, Scully called Mulder at his work, and had him paged over the PA system of the middle school so that she could talk to him right then.
He excused himself from the eighth grade boy he had a counseling session with and went to the nearest phone: they hadn't put one in his office yet.
It was Scully's voice but not his Scully and all he could think was that something horrible had been done to her.
"Mulder, oh God, Mulder."
"Shh ... it's okay, Sue," he said, stressing it because she was saying the wrong name and they phones could be tapped.
"No, no, not right now, please, Mulder. I found ... oh Mulder. Get Libby and come down here, please."
His breath caught and he glanced quickly around him. "All right, all right. Are you okay, Scully?"
She laughed and it sounded false. "You don't know how much I needed to hear my own name for once. Yeah, I'm physically fine. Just get down here and I'll be a lot better."
"I'm coming, Scully."
He wanted to say 'I love you' but he just hung up and went back apologetically to the boy, rescheduling and making the excuse that he had a family emergency.
He picked Libby up from where she was playing nurse to the sick kids with the Room Mother that volunteered for the duty, and then walked her out to his truck. They had bought another car when it became evident that they both needed one. A life without the subway was pretty expensive, they realized.
He firmly attached Libby's seatbelt and then his own, and pulled out of the driveway of the school building as if fire was chasing after him.
Libby looked up in concern at him. "What's wrong Daddy?" she said, clutching the teddy bear she always took with her.
"Mommy called, baby, and she wants us to come visit her where she works."
Libby nodded thoughtfully and then sighed. "Will she be very tired like she is when we see her at home?"
Mulder smiled sadly and shrugged his shoulders. "She might be, but don't let that make you feel bad, baby. Mommy just has to work a lot and it's not very fun work. She is sad because she's away from you and it all makes her very tired and so she falls asleep. She doesn't want to, you know that. She wakes up happy in the morning and plays with you, remember?"
Libby nodded and said softly, "I know. I'm not too sad, I just miss Mommy."
Mulder nodded softly and could feel his insides melt to his heart and stick there like silly putty. "I know baby. I miss her too."
He walked faster with Libby on his hip and found he had reached the clinic doors before he had even time to register he was there.
He searched anxiously for Scully, and was about to have her paged when she came out from behind the double doors that led into the ICU. And ICU in an emergency burn clinic was a very serious thing.
She walked to him as if in a dream and he stood there as she advanced, holding his free arm out to her.
She crashed into his chest and buried her face there as she finally let the tears sob through her. He held her tightly and rested his nose in her hair, as Libby squeezed her mother with the arm that held her teddy bear.
Scully's co-workers looked on with curiosity at the man they'd heard often of, but had never seen, decided he was gorgeous, and so the doctors lost the bet and had to pay the nurses twenty bucks each.
Mulder held her and wondered at the cause of such heart-rending emotion from his stoic Scully and carefully put his hand to her cheek when her face lifted from his shirt, his blue dress shirt.
"I found one, Mulder. One of ours," she whispered, so that only he could possibly hear.
His stomach lurched and his lunch felt decidedly too heavy. He set Libby down and took her hand gently, knowing all the many things a curious girl of his could get in to.
"Do you know ... the name?" he said roughly, feeling his emotions being killed harshly by the defense mechanisms within him.
"Yes. Erin ... Mulder, oh, no. I shouldn't have told you to come here with Libby. The m-mother is inside there, and if she sees her ..."
"Yeah, I see. I see. I'll ... um, I don't want to leave you, Sc--"
He stopped and looked around at their audience, including one very frightened little girl.
"Can we go somewhere private?"
She nodded deafly and led them to the conference room that was being unused at the moment. Once inside she put on a forced smile for Libby and picked her up. "Hey baby. Did you have a good day?"
Libby hugged her hard, her cheek pressing up against her mother's and her eyes squeezed shut with intense concentration. "Don't be sad, Mommy."
Scully held her and closed her own eyes, reveling in the feel of her living child, more than ever realizing the incredible miracle they'd been given in finding Elizabeth alive.
"I'll be all right, Libby. Don't worry."
Mulder sat down with them, across from Scully who had Libby on her lap now, and eyed her with all the force of their unspoken communication.
"Mulder, when she --"
"Mommy!" Libby said forcefully. "You're not supposed to call him that!" Her face was genuinely fearful and Mulder smiled.
"It's all right for now, baby," he said and tapped her nose. She grinned and dragged her teddy to the table, dancing him around with her hands.
"When the mother leaves, I'll let you go in, Mulder. I can't think of a good excuse for you to be in there otherwise. I can because I'm her doctor ... but I can't just say, here's my husband, is it okay?"
Scully's casual manner of calling him her husband, even though it was something they never even talked about, made him shiver and he smiled a bit at her.
Their marriage license was another one of those blank things that could be filled in if the need arose to have to produce them.
So, in effect, their 'marriage' seemed just as farcical.
She seemed flippant about it, but never had she called him her husband. It kind of put a new twist on things.
"All right, I understand. Do you want me to wait in here until then?"
"No. It's not a very good place for Libby. Everything can be heard from here. I'll show you to one of the rec rooms we have close to Erin's room."
They emerged and began walking down the corridor, skirting the rushing gurneys and racing paramedics. Libby's eyes were wide and Mulder made sure to keep a firm hand on her back as they walked. He was holding her again; she liked being in his arms.
Scully pushed the door open and said hello to some friends who were drinking coffee and talking, introducing her husband and her daughter to them. Just as Mulder slid inside, Erin's mother came up to her. Scully slammed the door shut which surprised the hell out of Mulder until he heard voices and then sat down, prying Libby's arms from his neck.
Libby sat on the cold plastic couch and it reminded her frighteningly of the place she'd been before, where she'd met one of her sisters and where her old mother had run from. She looked up with anxiousness at her father and took his hand.
Mulder smiled down at her reassuringly and patted her shoulder, pulling her closer to him, but not into his lap. She had to deal with things eventually.
The nurses who were talking began saying hello to Libby and soon his little girl had let go of his hand and was showing them her bear.
He joined in and had a cup of coffee again, realizing he almost missed the taste of horrible office-made workplace coffee.
He missed his basement and the stacks of files and the muskiness. He missed being eccentric and unreliable, but also, he enjoyed being a father to his little girl, and being a friend, a *something* to Scully.
Scully came back at around one, bearing vending machine food that was as healthy as possible.
They sat at the small table and Libby said grace but ended up taking ten minutes as she prayed for everything they had individually. Mulder could feel the amused smiles of the nurses behind him who were also on lunch break and had been commanded by Libby to bow their heads.
When Libby had gotten around to saying thank you for her family, listing him and Scully along with the teddy bear she had and some of her dolls and even the nurses, who had quickly become 'family' to her, Mulder looked up and saw Libby's roving eye, searching for things to thank God for. He motioned to her and she stopped and got back on track and simply said Amen to end it right in the middle of thanking God for birds.
They ate plastic-wrapped sandwiches that had come from the gift shop and chips from the vending machine. Mulder had lukewarm Iced Tea and Scully had Diet Coke; water was presented for Libby who made a face and made the nurses laugh. For dessert, which Mulder had looked upon as a gift from God truly because Scully did not usually go in for things like candy bars and chocolate, they had Twinkies, a new experience for Libby.
When they were done, Libby said with tremendous satisfaction. "I love Twinkies!"
Her smiling, frosting covered face was cute but Scully groaned and looked to Mulder. "This is your fault. You're the one who eats the junk food," she said and gave him a face.
However, the nurses were laughing and Scully was not really mad and he smiled angelically at her and cleaned Libby up.
They sat down for the remaining ten minutes of her lunch hour, which in truth was forty-five minutes and was thinking about being cut again by the board to thirty.
Scully pulled Libby into her lap and took down the clip from her hair, producing a brush and comb from her lab coat pocket.
Libby made faces as her hair was brushed, solely for the entertainment of the nurses, and then smiled when Scully patted her head and let her go.
All of this Mulder watched with growing content, despite the horribleness lying in wait for him just beyond.
Libby played with the nurses until they had to leave and then returned to where her mother and father sat talking quietly about things she wasn't very sure of -- like burns and degrees and bad things that made her afraid.
She crawled into her mother's lap and immediately received warm hands on her face, traveling along her cheeks and in her hair and soothing her.
She closed her eyes and felt sleep creeping up.
"I have to go back to work now, baby," she heard a few moments later, as the hands stilled and her mother shifted. "Do you want to sleep in Daddy's lap?"
She nodded sleepily and felt her Daddy pick her up carefully and then the warmth of his lap.
Scully leaned over and kissed her forehead and then moved up, by some instinctive impulse, felt her lips brushing Mulder's forehead too.
His surprise was unequal to her own and she left, silently berating herself for doing what had then come naturally.
As she walked from the room she turned suddenly and looked back.
"I'll come get you later," she said, hesitating to say his name. Their real names were powerful things, weapons to use for good or evil.
Speaking his name would undo every wall she had built up around her heart.
His hands were sweating and his heart flopping around in his chest like a piece of meat in a dog's mouth as it played with its food.
He felt cold and far away as he moved down the hallway, Scully walking softly by his side and almost touching his hand, so close he could feel the heat radiating off her body.
The door to Erin's room loomed close and cold, the sterile white reminding him of doors from another life, where Scully had been behind it, frightened and dying. He closed his eyes and took a breath of the antiseptic and hand lotion air, waiting for the trembling to stop.
Scully touched his arm and led him forward.
What she had told him earlier was no preparation for the horror he saw inside.
A little girl lay on the bed, elevated on one side to keep her sensitive skin from the bedsheets, and bandages wrapped around her face. The rest of her body had very bad burns, so bad that bandages would cause irritation and might inhibit the skin from ever healing -- if it did at all.
The angry red blisters covering her arms and legs made Mulder's stomach turn and an acidic taste rise in his mouth. He watched the monitor, needing to avert his eyes from the little girl that was part him and part Scully.
But it didn't hurt soul-deep like he thought it would, like if Libby had been the one on the bed.
That made him feel guilty because the child was his and in pain simply because she was his, but he couldn't manage to feel more than he did for her.
She was a child in pain, an innocent suffering for the sins of others and although that was tragic enough, he could not feel the hurt that would be added if he loved her as he did Libby.
It still caused tears to clog up in his eyes and he put his knuckles to his mouth to block the strangled cry of desperation at who they we're dealing with.
"Did they start the fire?" he whispered.
Scully nodded and looked to him. "Mulder, we're not to blame for this. I can't let you start feeling that we are, because I'm so close to feeling that too. She's ours, yes, but we did not ask for this ..."
"We did not ask for Libby either, but I'm glad we have her."
"You know this is different," she said harshly, all softness gone from her. He knew it was how she dealt with things like this. He saw the harshness when she arrived home from work each night, and saw it slip away with her family, saw it slide into place when she left for work in the morning.
"I know. It doesn't ache like I thought it would. It aches to see something of mine hurt so terribly like this, in fire ..." He shivered and began to feel the flames he had battled all of his life.
"It's okay Mulder," she said softly, knowing exactly what his mind had turned to. "Anyway, I know what you're trying to say. It hurts when I see children burned so badly, and it hurts more that it's a child of mine that I never had the chance to love, but that's the catch. I never had the chance to love her, Mulder."
He drew her against him but she was stiff and tired and she did not sink into him like he wished. Instead she pulled back away and swiped the tears from her eyes.
"It's time you got back to Libby. I don't know how long she'll sleep in here and I'd like her to be able to get some rest."
"Scully why don't you come on home with us? Get away from it for a while."
She shook her head. "I have to be here when she dies, Mulder. I can't -- can't just let her --"
"Scully, her mother is here already," he said softly, guiding her away.
"You won't even be allowed in when it comes to that. Who wants the doctor there as their child dies?"
Scully angrily pushed tears from her face and looked ready to chew him out.
"Scully, come back with us. Be with your daughter tonight."
She looked confused until she realized who he meant and then she felt ashamed. She nodded and let him lead her back to the rec room where Libby was sleeping soundly.
She bent down and picked her up, taking care not to wake her too much.
The girl mumbled in her sleep and clutched at her mother's lab coat, but easily went back to the deep sleep of before.
They walked out of the clinic, dodging screaming sirens and the running doctors shouting loudly to medics. Scully kept her hand over Libby's ear to keep the noise away and rested her cheek against her child's.
She climbed into the angry-eyes blue truck and laid Libby out in the back seat, easing the safety belt over her slack form.
Mulder started up their truck and strapped in his belt, just as Scully did and they looked at each other solemnly.
It seemed as if something very important had changed utterly and drastically. They were not the same as before, not the same two individuals who had committed to keeping their little girl protected and themselves apart.
Scully had only Mulder and Libby now, despite any of the others they might find, and she did not want separation from the only man she could ever have. She knew now there would be no end to this. Forever they would be other people, forever.
She might as well make the best of it.
No ... she would make the best of it because she wanted it. She wanted this.
One Week Later
"Mr. Miller?" came the hesitant voice of a thirteen year old boy he had been counseling for a while. The boy had many things in common with him at that age. Mike's mother had been found dead in the woods outside of town two years ago and his sister still hadn't been found yet. Many people were heartless and said things in front of him that hurt a lot and Mulder had been trying to instill a sense of self- esteem again in the boy.
He had to keep telling him it wasn't his fault.
"Yeah, Mike?" he said, standing to shut the door behind him.
"Well, I don't want to be nosy or anything, you know how much I hate that and everything ..."
"Ask away Mike. Don't worry about it."
He looked really nervous, as if it was a question others had put him up to and he wasn't sure still about the validity.
"Yeah, well. I just want to say first that I don't think it's really anyone else's business what goes on in your family."
"I appreciate that Mike," Mulder said, feeling a wave of bitterness surge around him.
They'd found his family.
"Well, a lot of people are talking, and it disturbs me because I can see how it might be true, but I wasn't going to say anything, 'cause like I said, I really don't see it as my business, but my parents are worried, you know how devout they are and pious and everything ..."
"Go on, Mike."
"Well see, they're the reason I'm even asking. But see, the thing is, some women saw something and heard some things and now they're stirring everyone up. It's a small town and well ..."
"What is it Mike?"
"Well ... Are you gay?"
Mulder's mouth dropped open. "What?!"
"Sorry. I knew you weren't. Shi- Oh, sorry. I knew you weren't. My parents wouldn't listen to me! I told them."
"Mike, why are people saying that?" he said softly, wishing it was just talking bad about the new folks.
"Well, see, some of the women supposedly heard some things from Libby about how you had other names and stuff, but they figured she was being a kid, making stuff up, you know? But then she said her Mommy and Daddy didn't, uh, well, sleep together. And that they never said they loved each other, and that ... well, anyway. I mean, it's all crap, 'cause they believed her and even if it is true that doesn't mean you're gay. But some people don't like you guys so much, you know? Being new and all."
Mulder nodded silently and talked to Mike a bit longer but he could tell the poor kid still wondered about it all because little kids didn't usually make up such crazy stuff about their parents.
Mulder collected Libby and went home with a dreadful feeling. They couldn't be making such a big noise as all this, or else someone would hear the ruckus and come looking.
He shivered and made it home in a daze, Libby watching him anxiously as he took her in the house.
Scully got home at six now, since she had taken to leaving early if she could, despite the other doctors' assertion that she should be there forever like them.
He waited for her and made a limp dinner of dry chicken, peas, and mashed potatoes because Libby liked them, and sat around, not reviewing any of the kids he was assigned to, not even playing with Libby.
Mike's words haunted him.
Not because of what others had said about him being gay -- that was absurd -- but more about Libby saying everything she had said, making them more than just new people to this New England town.
It worried him that Libby felt her family so odd as to need to talk about it. Maybe it had all been acquired quite innocently, but why those specific things?
They didn't tell each other 'I love you,' that was true. They didn't sleep together and they never acted on the physical part of their marriage, that was also true.
But they were married in more than just the physical.
Everything about them was unified, one being, one soul mated for eternity.
He believed that and he knew she did too. They had even talked about it. She told him everything, he told her everything. No restraints, no worries about anyone getting mad and leaving because simply, neither wanted to be without the other, without Libby.
There were no divorces in their made up world.
They moved to New York City three weeks later, the shortest time available because Mulder had to give three weeks' notice.
They moved at night, watching the rain from a late shower slash across the windshield of the truck Scully drove.
Mulder did not know the interstate as well as she did and she enjoyed driving in the rain, being just about the only person who did.
He sat in the front and watched for anything that could give him a clue as to what would happen on this second phase of the rest of their life. He looked over to Scully, noticing that her face was lined and worried, stretched with the tense times their lives had come to be filled with. The moment when a car looked like it was following them lengthened into years, and the instant when a man seemed to be watching Libby a little too much filled up time like it was decades. And they aged with each one.
He reached over and rested his hand on her leg, comforting her if he could. Libby was sleeping on the backseat as she seemed to always do in car trips.
He sighed and said, "Scully, I think we need to decide what to do about Libby."
She nodded. "She's to the age where she knows what's going on." she said softly, the rain almost drowning out her voice.
"Yes. And we have to be as normal as possible for her ... I don't want her growing up on the run. Always moving. You know what that's like. And I know what it's like having a dysfunctional family ..."
"Mulder! We're not dysfunctional," she said stringently.
He nodded. "Not to us, but to a lot of people, we really are. I mean, come on, think about it."
Her cheeks turned a healthy shade of pink. "I have thought about it." she said softly. "And I think we need to make it normal. We can't have that kind of sensation made about us again. And I don't think it's wise to stay in New York. They've already been here, so who's to say they aren't still around?"
He loved the way she could change the subject and think she wasn't at all. She knew exactly what she had said about making things normal would affect him a whole lot and she had blown it off like it was bound to happen.
Maybe it was.
Their apartment had two bedrooms and a kitchen.
That was it.
And in each of the bedrooms was only one bed.
He looked to her in astonishment; she had taken care of finding them an apartment.
She said nothing, only grunted at him to help her unpack and then lamented about losing her wonderful car. They had sold it because they were once again in a city of public transportation. An improvement, Mulder thought. And a smelly thing, Scully thought.
Libby went crawling into bed holding her teddy and not even having the energy to ask for a story.
Mulder found he was exhausted and wanted very badly to sleep, but he didn't know quite what the one bed meant.
He looked like a confused puppy to Scully and she laughed at him and led him to the bedroom.
"Look, Mulder. This isn't hard. You sleep on one side and I sleep on the other. As long as you don't hog the covers, we're okay," she said and laughed at his bewildered face.
He nodded and said, "Okay, but I'm warning you. When I get cold, I curl up with the nearest warm thing."
She seemed thrilled his sexual banter was back and actually smiled at him instead of ignoring him as usual.
"Well, maybe we should get you a dog," she shot back and slipped into the bathroom.
He shook his head and changed into his boxers and T-shirt, deciding that if he were to get cold, now would be the time, while he still had the excuse to touch her.
She came out of the bathroom in a white T-shirt of his that he had wondered where it had gone and blue pajama bottoms. He gave her a leering grin and she merely got in the bed, leaving him standing there, actually getting cold.
He got in the bed and she yelped. "Mulder."
"My feet are cold, Scully," he said with a trace of his old self in his voice.
"No kidding. But my legs are nice and warm and I want them to stay that way."
He chuckled and turned so that he could see her. She turned to face him and sighed.
"Come on, Scully," he said and she seemed to know exactly what he meant. She smiled softly but shook her head.
He nodded and closed his eyes, as if that ended the discussion.
But a few seconds later she was sneaking into his arms and burying her nose in his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and felt warm immediately.
"It's been a long hard trip Mulder," she said by way of an explanation. He shushed her and stroked her hair, feeling just how soft and thick it was. Thicker than Libby's.
"I know exactly what it's been, Scully. Sometimes you just want to be home again."
She nodded into his chest and he realized she was crying.
He held her closer and let his hand trace lazy circles on her back.
She missed home.
Mulder was her home, and she missed him too.
"This can be whatever you want, Scully," he murmured.
She felt her tears hitch and she felt she had too much of him already, for him to be giving her this too.
"I want to be home," she said, looking up at him with her lower lip trembling and her chin wrinkled just as in the many times she had looked up at him when horrible things had happened.
He misinterpreted it and said softly, "Tomorrow I'll get in touch with The Lone Gunmen. I'll get them to send your mother up here somehow."
She laughed out of her sorrow and shook her head. "I appreciate that Mulder, but no. I am home. Now."
He glanced down at her and nodded slowly.
"Sometimes I just need to go home, Mulder," she said, in the same sad voice she had when she'd told him outside Luther Boggs's cell that her father was upsetting her.
The same sadness, the same ache, the same innocence.
And again, his heart broke.
He held her and let her be at home.
"Scully. I got the password," he said softly right into her ear, keeping his voice away from anyone that might be around. She nodded and stood still before the computer, her eyes watching for anything that would signal they'd been caught.
"Okay, it's loading ..." he murmured, his fingers pausing their race across the keyboard for the system to load. He had decided to stop sitting around, waiting for another one of theirs to show up dying. He was going to find his little girl first.
The records came up and he searched for the names Emily Simms, Elizabeth Shuley, Erin Applegate, and Erica Davis, realizing only then that all of theirs had an "E" beginning their name. The system came up with forty-two matches and he quickly scanned them.
Scully watched a man stub out his cigarette and pull open the doors of the Kinko's they were in, his face dark and his eyes rimmed with red.
She carefully shifted her gaze from him and watched him through the windows, keeping her body and Mulder's blocked by the large column they were behind. She couldn't see how the Consortium had possibly found them, but people with cigarettes made her nervous and she had to be sure.
The computer made noises at them and Mulder swore under his breath. He jumped up and pulled her away, yanking her to the door with quick movements that he hid with an easy expression.
She followed and did not ask until they were out on the sidewalk in the drizzling rain again. "What had happened?"
"I got to a master list I think and it detected me. I saw the name of the project at the top, with the names of the girls underneath, and some were in blue and some were in red. I, uh, I looked first at the ones in blue. I think those are the ones already gone, Scully. Emily ... Erica ... they were highlighted in blue."
She bit down on her lip, determined not to think about the ones they'd lost already. "How many were blue, Mulder?"
He sighed. "Most."
She stopped and leaned against a grimy, rain-soaked building, her eyes shutting for a moment. "Most?"
He nodded even though she could not see the action and took her arm.
"But, Scully, there were still some red."
"Out of what? How many of ours, ours, are dead?"
"Scully. I have to tell you this."
She stopped and looked at him, her eyes narrowing as if she could not handle any more bad news.
"Tell me what?" she said, her voice cold and flat.
"There weren't only girls on that list."
"Mommy, will you color with me?" Libby said, her voice wavering because she couldn't understand the tenseness her family had plunged into.
"Maybe later, Libby," she said and walked away, back to their bedroom.
Libby didn't like this anymore. She used to have her Mommy and Daddy all to herself and they would play with her and read to her and give her a bath and they were fun. But now all they did was call places and look at the computer all day and talk in quiet tones about things she thought she should know.
She followed her mother to the bedroom and watched her lean against the dresser and dial a number into her cell phone as Daddy tapped on the monitor screen to get her attention about something.
Libby stood beside her father and tried to ask him to color, but he was so engrossed in his computer that he did not see her and she had to crawl into his lap to make his eyes focus on her.
"Daddy," she said.
Mulder stopped and looked at her with alarm. "Libby. Go play baby."
"I want to play with you."
He shook his head and frowned. "I need you to play quietly by yourself for a while baby."
"But I want to be with you."
Mulder's shoulders sagged and he glanced to Scully, but she was talking quietly on the phone in her deadly voice that meant she was bullying her way past security.
"Oh ... Libby, I --"
"I promise to be very quiet Daddy. I won't say anything."
He nodded and set her in his lap and typed on the keyboard around her head. "All right, Libby. But no questions, okay?"
She simply nodded and watched the letters appear on the screen and then it change into other things until she was so lost she got bored.
"Libby, shh," he said, distracted by the fascinating information online.
Libby was quiet again and then she began studying her father's face, her eyes tracing his cheek and jaw and then her fingers started touching him too.
He glanced at her with clouded eyes then went back to his search while she continued to let her baby fingers glide over his recently shaved chin and his big nose.
She touched his lips and giggled when he kissed her fingers. Then she looked at her mother and then to the computer and was very bored.
"Daddy?" she whispered, looking at the computer, suddenly interested.
"Libby, you really must be quiet."
She nodded but she knew what the words on the screen were and she couldn't help but be excited.
He was too caught up to even hear her and she reached out a finger to touch the screen, jumping back when it sparked at her with static electricity.
"Libby don't touch the screen."
Silence for a few moments from her.
"Daddy I can read that on the screen."
Silence from her father.
"It says my name, Daddy."
Mulder looked at her in shock and then went back to the site he had just left, searching for her name.
"No, it doesn't sweetie."
"Yes is does, see?"
She reached up and pointed to a long number with an "E" on the end.
"No, baby, that's just got an "E" like the first letter of your name. It's good you recognized it though, Libby. That's my smart little girl."
"No, Daddy," she said, getting frustrated. "Mommy had to put that when we went to the doctor's. Mommy told me it was like my name for the doctors."
Mulder paused again and stared at the computer and the name before him, if it was a name. It was simply a code for a drug this drug company was trying to endorse.
He clicked on it anyway.
"Daddy, do you believe me?" she said softly.
Mulder looked down at her and hugged her tightly to his chest. "Yes, baby, I believe you."
She buried herself into his arms and threaded her fingers through his hands.
"Thank you, Daddy."
The site loaded and Mulder jerked in his chair as it appeared frame by frame.
He shot his hand out and yanked hard on Scully's shirt, pulling her almost off-balance, but towards him and he caught her before she could fall.
"Scully ..," he said and tilted her chin to the screen.
Names, addresses, phone numbers and descriptions. Holy ...
"How?" she breathed.
Mulder laughed and hugged Libby closer to him. "Our smart little girl found it all by herself."
Scully looked at Libby's grinning face and kissed her forehead. "Good job, baby. Good job." She stood over them with one hand on Mulder's shoulder and watched as the names scrolled down.
Mulder printed it and then tried to get further into the system but it blocked him. He wondered how they could have gotten this list. Maybe the link had been wrong.
Scully studied it and frowned. "I don't think this is an updated list, Mulder. Emily is still in here and her health is listed here as good. That's not --"
"Yeah. I saw that. But we can search for obituaries on these others and find out that way."
"What if they don't have any obituaries?"
"Well, we'll call and just ask."
She glanced at him. "You're right. There are three little boys on this list."
He nodded softly. "Yeah."
Libby nuzzled further into him, as if able to sense her father's heart hardening to the idea.
"We'll figure this out, Scully. I don't understand why they're doing this, but we'll figure it out."
She nodded and bent down to retrieve Libby. The little girl went with her and stayed in her arms as they drew closer to her own bedroom.
"I love you Mommy." Libby said, her fingers twining through her mother's brown red hair, dyed so that she would not be so easily recognized. It still looked beautiful though.
"I love you too, Libby," she said and tucked her into bed. "You did a very good job today sweetheart. Thank you."
Libby smiled and released her mother to snuggle down into the bed.
"Good-night, baby. Sleep tight."
She clicked off the light and moved to her bedside. "Want to say prayers?"
"Can I say them to myself?"
"Okay." She fell silent and Scully could hear her mumbling under her breath about her sisters and brothers.
Then she reached out for a bedtime kiss and Scully left.
The sheet of paper shaking in her hands, Scully examined the list and felt her heart drop as she read through the names.
He nodded and sat down on the bed next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "I know. Erin and Libby aren't on the list. I don't know what that means. I don't see what they have in common against the others."
Scully's eyes noticed the names of the three boys.
She shuddered thinking about all of that. It seemed almost taunting, naming their children ... when her father was William and Mulder's middle name was William.
She looked to him and felt her body sink back against him even though she had made a solemn promise to herself that their closeness would not go beyond being held in bed at night.
His lips touched her forehead and she unconsciously raised her face to him.
He brushed her mouth and gently took her chin in his hand, letting a strange sense of peace descend on them.
She let him kiss her and she did not find it wrong.
It was simply home.
"Baby, come on. Don't lag behind us."
Scully turned at the sound of Mulder's voice and saw Libby dawdling down the sidewalk, her face long and sad looking, almost as if she had figured out that her favorite teddy bear really wasn't real.
Scully paused until Libby caught up and took her hand, urging her forward. Mulder stopped at the subway station stairs and waited for them, then started down as they drew even with him.
In the subway station, Mulder leaned down and picked Libby up to keep her from getting separated from them. Scully took hold of his jacket and trusted him to lead her in the right direction. Being small and in the subway station on a crowded Tuesday afternoon was not the best of conditions; Scully always managed to get stepped on or tripped over or shoved out of the way. It wasn't that people were purposefully rude; they just wanted to get home, and anyone in their way ought to go at the same pace as them.
New York City was dangerous in rush hour in the subway. More pick- pockets, thieves, homeless, and vagabonds were out then. But it was also the fastest way to get places and Scully actually enjoyed it.
It was soothing sometimes, knowing that you did not have to drive anywhere, that no wrecks would happen, and that you could simply sit back and relax, or at least stand waiting for a seat.
You got shoved, sure, you got annoyed at people's stupidity, sure, but she still enjoyed it.
Mulder led her forward, creating a mini Red Sea for them until he was at the platform and the train was coming in with a rush of hot and cold air and the scurrying of rats as they got out of the way.
They stepped forward, Mulder making a protective shield that she was both annoyed at and grateful for, and managed to get seats in the car. Libby silently studied the signs above the orange seats with curiosity and sat without wiggling in her father's lap. Mulder clasped her lightly, his arms slung around her waist and his eyes watching the other passengers get on.
Scully stayed stiffly in her seat, not because it was uncomfortable, but because she had seen someone looking their way.
Someone she thought she had seen before.
In New York, you never saw the same people twice just by being out on the street with them.
She watched the man with fear, hating that she was afraid, yet unable to feel anything else. She turned once to Mulder and caught his eyes, nodding her head to where the man was standing, one arm raised to hold on to the pole beside him. Mulder nodded to show he knew and watched the man too, with occasional glances around that hid his deep probing of the man's appearance.
When their stop was called, which of course they couldn't hear anyway and just happened to know, they rose and filed off, the people remaining behind grateful for the two seats they left vacant.
The man did not follow them and Mulder was relieved, but he knew how the game worked.
They walked around Ninety-Sixth street, heading into the Bagel Shoppe at one point and then into a dry cleaners, looking out for anybody else that could be following them.
Libby began lagging further and further behind until Mulder would have to pick her up and carry her for a while, then have to set her back down when his arms got tired. It became a sort of cycle, until Mulder was sick of carrying her around, juggling her with the bag he held in his hands and wouldn't let Scully carry.
He set her down at one point, kneeling over to the side of the sidewalk to avoid getting in someone's way, and looked right in her eyes.
"Baby are you tired?" he said, knowing that a four-year old was perfectly capable of walking, well, an almost-four-year old.
She shook her head and squirmed under his gaze.
"What's wrong then?"
She bit her lip. She knew that Mommy and Daddy didn't have much money for extra things because Mommy was the only one working and didn't get much money, and Daddy stayed at home with her searching for things on his computer. So she didn't want to say what was bothering her.
Scully leaned down and took her chin in her hand, stroking it with a finger. "You can tell us, sweetheart. It's okay. We won't get mad."
Libby nodded and looked down at her feet.
"My shoes are too tight."
Scully felt her heart kind of drop right there to the sidewalk and flounder like a dead fish. "Oh, baby. I'm so sorry. We didn't know your feet hurt. And we made you walk all this way." Scully took her in her arms and sighed softly. "We'll go and get you some new sneakers right now. Okay?"
"Do you have enough money, Mommy?"
Scully laughed. "Sure, sweetheart. Come on, I'll carry you."
Mulder spied the nearest shoe store and they entered, he somewhat relieved because they now had an excuse for their excursion should anything happen. This was a good cover.
While Libby looked around at all the new shoes, Mulder leaned over to Scully and said, "I'll slip out while you do this, okay? Meet you back at the Ninety-Sixth street subway."
Scully nodded and Mulder walked out calmly, his eyes ahead and scanning for people.
No one looked familiar.
He went on.
As Mulder set up the laptop, he felt guilty. Here he was in a brand new apartment, using up their precious money on the huge online phone bill and rent, while his little girl walked quietly in pinching shoes.
What kind of a man was he?
But he had to do this, he had to find out what had happened to the others on the list. He spent about six hours at night doing this, coming to the apartment they'd bought and scouring the internet with the equipment the Lone Gunmen had managed to procure for him. This way he could get online and go places without worrying about being traced -- it was Langley's personal invention and worked better than anything the government might have to trace him. He was relieved he didn't have to hop from Kinko's to Kinko's anymore.
He booted up the system, kicking everything on with a click and waited for it to load.
He had been coming to the apartment every night for the past three weeks, trying to find information on the others. Scully would come home as soon as she could and watch Libby while he went to the apartment.
Around three in the morning Mulder would get back, another name crossed off his list, or another dead end followed to the brick wall it came to.
One night he had come home, sneaked into Libby's bedroom and kissed her good-night, then gone out to the kitchen where his pajamas were hung, allowing him to undress without disturbing Scully.
In the light of the street coming in through the small window, he had quietly pulled on his clothes, throwing his grimy jeans and mud- splattered shirt into the clothes hamper. He had turned and found Scully watching him with clouded eyes. Every time he came home with a marked off name, she died inside. She was looking for hope in his eyes, but did not find it.
He had opened his arms and pulled her to him, holding her in the dim and washed-out light, feeling for the first time that there was something to it all, to the life he now lived with her. It was his family and he was just beginning to realize the full responsibility of it.
He had moved away then, hurting her with his distance but needing to breathe freer air. He hadn't gone to bed that night, instead he had sat on the cold linoleum praying that he wouldn't screw everything up, praying that this was more than just an arrangement.
He had gone to bed later as she had left for work, admonishing him not to let Libby eat chocolate cake again for breakfast, an ache of concern on her face.
But they had not spoken of it.
Now the computer light glimmered across his face and made him look sickly to match the revulsion welling within him.
He had a bad feeling that everyone on the list was already gone. He knew that when the heading asked for health and got good, then it meant dead.
Which would be good for the Consortium, of course. And excellent, he had discovered, meant the child was killed so effectively that the death was not even questioned, and hardly even reported except by the obituaries.
Mulder found his job a very depressing one.
He was miserable during the day, thinking on what he had discovered the night before and running on little sleep while dealing with a very curious and sensitive child. Libby probably cried every day, either because she had been getting into something and gotten hurt, or because he had yelled at her for getting into something.
He knew he probably wasn't being too fair to her, but he couldn't get focused during the day until he saw the computer screen mocking him.
He missed Scully too.
She came home and he left for the apartment.
He got home and fell asleep as she inevitably curled around his warmth, then she left in the morning.
It just wasn't working anymore.
As the list grew fainter with the waxing light from the screen, Mulder realized that things needed to change.
Here he thought he could give up the X-Files, the search, and all he had done was find another one.
So maybe he never found another one of theirs, what did it matter? Maybe it hurt for a while that he could not save them, just as he could not save Sam, but then again, what kind of life was it for Libby?
Things would have to change.
"I want these, Momma."
Scully felt the toes again and made her stand up again and walk down the aisle to be sure.
"I want these," she said again, her mouth jutting out into a pout.
Scully laughed and tickled her stomach. "Okay. Okay, sweetheart. You're going to get them, all right?"
"All right! Can I wear them out?"
Scully nodded and then motioned to the salesclerk that they were ready.
The shoes rang up at about forty dollars and Scully paid in cash, avoiding checks and credit cards as much as possible.
She couldn't think too far into the future, especially since money was so tight and they had no idea how to save for things like schools or emergencies.
She pulled Libby away from the mirrors where she had been admiring her new shoes, and out into the street. She wondered if she should go to the subway immediately, or hang around and window shop for a while. She wasn't sure how long Mulder would be, and he had only insisted on going out to the apartment because he had one quick thing to check he'd said.
She saw the signs in him though and wouldn't be too surprised if he forgot them entirely. She considered going home.
Libby skipped along next to her, splashing in all the dwindling puddles along the way, hanging onto her mother's hand so that Scully was dragged down each time she went limp to jump.
Scully didn't have the heart to tell her not to splash and soon found she was doing the same, needing the childish release of energy into something that wasn't harmful.
Like shooting your partner ...
She splashed and played, letting Libby splash right along with her, their pant legs getting drenched and their faces smiling. Scully loved the grin of complete childlike thrill lighting Libby's face and realized with a degree of sadness that Libby hadn't smiled so joyfully since Mulder had presented her with the moving teddy bear.
Mulder saw his girls from a distance, running through the light drizzle and splashing in every puddle along the way, even going back if they missed one. Scully had Libby's hand laced through hers and they were like sisters almost, both with delighted and sneaky grins of thrill on their face, as if they were getting away with some secret sin.
He had always thought Libby a very serious child and he supposed it came a lot from both her parents, but he'd never seen her have so much fun. Scully either.
He smiled as they ran, yelling and laughing and annoying the people around them who were trying to hurry. Others simply smiled and watched their unbridled joy, feeling as if that child joy had been imparted upon them for simply watching.
Mulder caught her eye as they got closer and laughed at her silly shamed look that suddenly appeared. He could feel the eyes of the people around watching to see what he would do.
He scooped up Libby and tickled her tummy with a tickle kiss and grabbed Scully's hand.
"Having fun, baby?"
"Yup," she said, squirming around in his arms so she could look at her shoes.
"I got my new shoes, Daddy. Do you like them?"
The white, now wet and muddy, shoes peered out from beneath her and she wiggled her foot around. Blue racing stripes went down the sides and a blue logo declared them to be Nike.
"Very nice, baby. Very nice."
"They make my feet faster. I bet I could even jump higher in them, too."
"I'm sure you could, too."
"Are we going home, Daddy?"
Her face fell and she looked over at her mother as if for a second opinion. She seemed just as surprised and depressed at the comment.
"Where are we going Mulder?" she said, thinking that she should have known he'd pull something like this.
"We're going to McDonalds for dinner."
Libby's mouth dropped open and she gave her father a tight squeeze of pure energy. "Thank you, thank you, Daddy!" she said and bounced in his arms with excitement.
Scully rose her eyebrow and followed him down the subway, taking hold of his coat again and wondering what exactly had gotten in him.
Once in the train car, Scully turned to Mulder and leaned in close to whisper in his ear. "Mulder, did you finish whatever you needed to do?"
Mulder turned to see her eyes and shook his head slowly. "I think I'm not going to anymore."
He waited for an explosion from her, a ranting and raving about needing to know where their children were, anger because he was thinking about himself again.
That was her first thought. Her second she thought herself selfish for.
She wanted it like it was at the beginning. When they'd only been settling in to the routine, they'd been much easier with each other, and Libby had been much more happier. They'd been a family instead of an arrangement.
She wanted that kind of love again, because it *had* been love. Love pure and unstained by shadows or searches or sorrows. She needed that. Mulder watched her face relax into softness and he touched her cheek to make her look at him. "Are you okay with that?"
She nodded and said quietly, "I need to talk to you later."
He nodded and figured he was in for it.
She had put Libby to bed with Mulder that night and they were a family again, it seemed. Libby had asked for him to sing again, and Mulder had winked at her and begun singing 'Joy to the World' with a smug grin on his face. So she had joined in and made faces at him.
She sat across from him on their bed now, hating that they had to talk on the bed because it wasn't a very comfortable talking place.
At least not for this.
He shifted to see out the window and watched the moon for a few seconds, deciding that he should talk to her first.
"Scully ... I need to tell you the reasons before you --"
"Mulder, I'm not --"
"No, just wait. Please."
His eyebrows rose and she silenced.
"I can't pretend that this is nothing anymore, because, no matter what I feel, this is a family. And it was never enforced upon me in any way. I need to stop acting like it was. I sat at the computer and all I could see was Libby telling me that her shoes hurt her. Scully, that killed ..."
"I know," she whispered.
"I thought I was so good, playing father, then looking for the others as if it was my duty or something. But really, I had just found something else to keep me preoccupied. Another obsession for my warped little mind. It seems I have to turn everything good into something sinister."
"Mulder, you --"
"Wait. I ... I have something else I need to say."
She stopped opening her mouth to protest and sat very still, feeling something important was about to break.
"I told you that this could be whatever you wanted ... Scully, I meant that."
She cast her eyes away from him, hating that it was awkward between them even now and they *shared a bed.*
"I want us to be real."
She looked at him, looked at the fresh warmth in his eyes, the reviving emotions that had been effectively killed as a child.
"I do too, Mulder. I want this to be real. It ... it is."
He sighed and let out the breath he had been holding. "Scully, I need you and I need Libby. And I don't think it's right to throw away this chance we have because we think we might be able to find others. I want to be here for Libby. She is my biological daughter, but she's also the daughter of my heart. I want to raise her with all the love I can give and more. I want her to be normal and healthy and happy, and far from the shadows my own family is so steeped in."
Scully nodded silently and then cleared the tears from her throat. "We're going to be okay, Mulder. If we find them, then we find them. If we don't, we have Libby. We have each other."
He nodded hesitantly, amazed that she had been so willing to go along.
"I had been thinking, in the shoe store, about all of this. About the fear and the watching behind my back every second and I don't want that. This is my chance, our chance, Mulder, and I'm not throwing it out. I'm not."
He smiled softly and leaned forward, his lips and hands aching to touch her finally, after so long of hating himself for wanting.
She touched his shoulder first, then his lips and it was good.
Her touch was silken, her laugh as he surprised her was sweet cherries and her hair against his fingers was a butterfly's touch.
He laid her down on their bed, the fabric of the sheets cool and welcoming.
He made her his wife.
They were a family.
The Emilys, Book Two
"Scully, look. If you think this is going to end up as a happy-ever-after story, you're incredibly wrong. It's not." --Mulder, The Emilys, Chapter Six
May 13, 1998
Libby ran in from the kitchen, holding her teddy bear in her hands and a smile of rapture on her face.
"Daddy!" she shrieked and catapulted herself into his lap.
He grunted and shifted to keep her knee from digging painfully into his thigh and turned her around to face him.
"Yeah, baby?" he said, his eyes distracted by the glow of the computer screen. He had promised Scully he was going to spend time with the family, but the search drew him, and he was online now.
"Guess what?" she said, moving her face to block his view.
He looked down at her, giving her his full attention. "I don't know. Tell me."
"Mommy said my birthday is in a week!" she said, her eyes as huge as moons.
"That's right. How old will you be?"
She looked down at her fingers and pulled each one up one by one until they numbered four. "This many?" she said, faintly wondering.
"Yup. Good job Libby. How many is that?"
"Four," she said proudly, sure of herself now.
Her body wriggled until she slid off his lap and then ran back out of the room again.
Mulder cast his eyes back to the computer, once again hating himself for allowing it to eat up so much of his time, but needing to know what happened to the children on the list. He had a feeling they were all dead, but he needed to make sure.
Scully had not objected. In fact, Scully had not said a word about anything since the other night. He wondered if she was sorry for what they had done, or wishing they'd never even started the whole thing.
He shivered and pulled a blanket from the bed, encasing his shoulders in it.
He hoped she did not regret it.
May 19, 1998
Dana Scully gave her daughter another egg beater and allowed her to lick the chocolate from its spokes. The pink tongue lashed out greedily and Scully smiled, then poured the brownie batter into a pan. Libby had asked for brownies for her birthday and little blue candles.
Scully glanced to the bedroom, where she knew Mulder was probably working on the computer again. She had asked him not to, simply for Libby's sake: she missed her father. But Scully missed him too. Ever since that night, he hadn't done anything more at all. Nothing. She had a sickening feeling he didn't want it anymore.
She knew he was sneaking around on the computer because he had lost track of time again and hadn't come out from the bedroom in an hour. It didn't take an hour to shower and get dressed - not for Mulder anyway.
Libby's hand snaked up and deposited the beater into the sink and Scully glimpsed chocolate all over it. She turned and found her little girl's face smeared with brownie mix and a silly grin of satisfaction coating the lips.
"Oh, baby. You got it all over you," she said and took a washcloth up from the sink immediately. Libby backed away, thinking her mother was angry and pouted.
"Oh, no. You're not in trouble, Libby. Just let me clean you up."
As Scully was getting the last of it, Mulder walked in from the bedroom, a triumphant look on his face. When he saw her cooking it disappeared. "You haven't started dinner, have you?" he said, ruffling Libby's hair as he drew up to them.
She shook her head. "Just making Libby's brownies."
He nodded with the grin back in place and she melted onto the spot. "Good. I want my girls to go put on their best dresses, all right?"
She gave him a look of confusion. "Why, Mulder?"
He shook his head. "Just do it."
She took Libby's hand and shot another puzzled glance in his direction. "All right. Just get the brownies out when the timer goes off, okay?"
He nodded and she led Libby to her bedroom to get ready.
Scully sighed and closed her bedroom door behind her, letting Libby continue her coloring on the small living room floor. She had finally gotten her into a light purple and blue baby doll dress, with white hose and shiny new Mary Janes that she really didn't want to wear but was being forced to, even though it was her birthday.
Scully crumpled onto the bed and wondered where they were going, and why it was so secret. She glanced at herself in the mirror and wondered if she needed to take a shower, but ignored her reflection and decided to simply was her face.
Water dripping from her chin, eyes squeezed shut, Scully groped around for a hand towel, feeling the soap already start to burn into her eyes. She felt the towel, and then the hand attached and yelped, jumping into the air.
She heard a laugh and felt Mulder's hand reach out to steady her.
Dabbing her face, she looked up to see his amused expression.
She was already peeved with him for being on the computer on his little girl's birthday, and confused and hurt because he had said nothing about what had been happening between them, so she didn't feel all that amused.
"Hey. You look tired."
She shook her head. "No kidding. Work was crazy.....hagarding."
His hand traveled to her neck and his fingers began easing the muscles. She felt her whole body relax involuntarily and she kind of slumped against the counter.
Her eyes eased close and she felt his arm circle around her and gently pull her back to the bed. He laid her down and let his hands work across her skin.
"This feel good?" he said.
"Mmm...." she murmured.
It was luxuriant. Like a million little air bubbles riding across her skin and dipping her nerves into baths of numbness that were intoxicatingly sweet and sensuous. She wondered where this had come from. Weeks of his nothingness, his coldness, and then this. It was almost if he had suddenly made up his mind about her.
She liked the decision.
When he finished, she mumbled something into the comforter and then turned around to face him. "I couldn't possibly get dressed now," she said with a sigh.
His amused grin made her stomach tremble and she looked away from his eyes.
"I'll help you," he said and pulled her up.
He guided her to the closet and opened to door, then slid his hands along her sides to pull her shirt off. Her arms raised and she melted against his chest once her shirt was free. He tossed it on the floor and then kissed her shoulders with tremors that belied his calm.
She wanted to turn to him, but he kept her firmly against him, back against his chest.
He then unbuttoned her jeans from the back, his hands slipped around her waist and his arms warming her cool bare skin.
The jeans were then gone and he rested his hands on her hips, thumbs brushing her upper thighs as he peered into the closet.
It took him eternally long to dress her in a black sheer skirt with tiny white flowers and a black, fitted, short sweater. His hands were demons burning across her and through her and she was sure her own lack of control hadn't helped much.
They walked out of the bedroom and Scully saw Libby bound towards them with eagerness.
"You look pretty, Libby," Mulder said and picked her up. She beamed and looked nothing like the pouting girl who had not wanted to wear her shoes.
"Well, let's go, huh?"
"Where are we going, Daddy?" Libby said, hands resting around her father's neck.
Mulder stepped out of the lobby of their apartment building and gestured for his ladies to go to the waiting horse-drawn carriage. Libby had dreamed of riding in one since they had arrived in New York and had seen the stately and beautiful animals.
"Daddy! Daddy! It's a horse like in Cinderella!" she shouted, climbing up on the step leading to the waiting carriage. The driver smiled with a knowing grandfatherly look and Mulder helped Scully up the steps.
She looked at him in respect because she herself had forgotten Libby's desire to ride in one.
Libby waved to the people walking past as they started but then was too busy watching everything go by to wave anymore. Mulder kept close to Scully, his arm wrapped around her waist as he had done so many times before to keep up pretenses.
He was not merely keeping up pretenses tonight.
"Daddy, is this for my birthday?" Libby said, her eyes still peeled to the streets as they went by in the carriage.
"Yes, baby. It's for your birthday. It's a very important thing, birthdays."
Libby nodded gravely, as if he had made some profound statement on the nature of things, and Scully supposed he had. Birthdays were important: they reminded you that you were loved.
"Thank you very much Daddy, for my birthday," she said, glancing back to him once to let him know with her eyes just how important this birthday present was to her.
"You're very welcome, Libby," he said and threaded his hands down her hair to get out a few tangles.
Scully took his hand back and leaned in close to him.
"This was very nice, Mulder. Something very special for her first birthday with us."
He nodded and then smiled. "Well, she's my little girl. I wanted to do this for her. For you."
Her eyebrow raised. "For me?"
"Yeah. You looked so tired all week, and I didn't help any.....I thought you could use a nice relaxing day. I've been pretty selfish the last few weeks, and pretty insensitive and the funny thing is, I don't even know when I'm being that way. I thought it was something else entirely."
She sighed and sank into him, letting her very tired bones be reheated by his warmth.
"Thank you Mulder."
He just put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her forehead.
They went to a new restaurant that had been getting good reviews in the newspaper as a nice, sit-down place that catered to kids and their families. Because Mulder had called ahead, Libby had 'Happy Birthday' sung to her by the owners and the waiters and then a small piece of any dessert they had. She chose a brownie and afterwards said it was not as good as her mother's.
The place had an open air that was friendly and comforting and Scully found that her headache had disappeared and she got up and danced with Mulder and then Libby when the kid's music came on.
The menu consisted mainly of home-cooked type meals that kids loved and adults would like. They had macaroni, one of Libby's favorites, and a beef and red wine dish that was served in a huge bowl so that they could sort of eat like they did at home, with each helping himself to whatever he wanted.
Libby loved it and she was thrilled by something different constantly. She had huge moon eyes and watched everything and talked about everything until Mulder choked on some beef from laughing at her silliness.
He didn't choke very badly, but it made Libby calm down a bit and she sat in the seat and wriggled around, itching to get up and try all the little educational set-ups that were more like toys placed around the room.
It was like a huge McDonalds playground to Libby but with better food. She fell asleep in the cab on the way home, talking with excitement until the very end.
They spoke in hushed tones as Mulder carried Libby upstairs to their apartment.
"Should we wake her up for her presents?"
Mulder looked at her sleeping limp form and shook his head.
"Nah. Tomorrow morning we'll give them to her."
Scully unlocked the door and let them in to the apartment, closing it behind Mulder as he walked quietly to Libby's room and laid her down.
He came back out with a soft, amused smile on his face.
"She was talking to me in her sleep," he explained. "I talked back, thinking she was coming awake, but she was dreaming."
Scully smiled and warmed with the image, Mulder coming to sit beside her on their futon couch in their very small living room.
He took her jacket off and laid it on the floor beside them, then drew her close to him, arms fully encircling her.
She took in a deep breath of his smell, the faint smell of salt water from the sea that always accompanied anyone she loved, her unconscious mind imprinting her father onto everyone, and the distinctness that was only Mulder. Of harsh sun and rainy wind and sensual cologne.
All of it rushed through her faster than bullets, striking her heart and body like a shot.
"This was very very good. You did a great thing tonight."
He sighed and shifted. "I wanted her to have that. She's my little girl."
"Yes, but it's more than that. I guess I expected certain levels and I got way more than I expected." She paused then took his hand. "I didn't mean that to sound the way it did --"
"Yeah, yeah. Likely story." He grinned and she leaned her head once again on his chest.
"What I meant was that I didn't ever expect to fall in love with you, only with Libby, only with the idea of having a family."
His arm clenched tighter around her and he pressed his lips to her forehead.
"It's not an idea any longer, Scully. We make it real. I want it to be real."
She sighed: not exactly what she'd been looking for, but almost.
"Yes, we are a family. I know that."
When she did not go on, he pulled away to see her eyes and found they were closed.
"Why are your eyes closed?"
She smiled, but her eyes remained closed.
"I'm relaxing. Enjoying being next to you."
This hit him and he realized she was not simply talking when she'd said she had fallen in love with him.
"You really love me," he said, a statement he knew now to be true. Her eyes cracked open and she tossed him a brief smile.
"Well.....well.....that's great.....I....I'm lost," he said finally.
Her face grew soft and she touched his cheek.
"Don't worry. I've found you."
He tilted forward and kissed her lips, soft twin heartbeats that ached with the blood of need, of love.
"Scully, will you be my wife?" he murmured into her hair.
She slid her body across the futon and closer to him.
"I already am."
He claimed his place with his hands across her skin and shuddered with the beauty of what they were.
"Well, then. It's about time we got our happy-ever-after ending, huh?"
"Here baby, hold this."
Libby took the toothpaste from her father and watched as he screwed the cap on with one hand, then plucked it from her fingers and set it back down.
She nodded and rested her chin on the sink, her eyes lifting to the mirror to watch her Daddy as he brushed his teeth with one hand and shaved with the other.
He was late.
Libby's mother scooted in and grabbed a towel, then damp dried her hair and brushed it out, maneuvering with skill in their small single bathroom with Mulder's big bulk taking up most of the room.
Neither one made Libby move.
Checking in the mirror to make certain of her appearance one last time, Scully ran her fingers through her hair and then her eyes strayed to Mulder.
He struggled to focus on not spitting out on his electric razor and to shave his chin as best as possible.
And then Mulder's eyes strayed to the side and found his girls staring at the process intently as he fumbled.
Mulder and Scully's eyes met in the mirror and she smiled shyly.
He turned and deposited his toothbrush back into the holder, then grabbed for his little girl.
Balancing her on the toilet he handed her the razor.
"I'm not doing such a good job, Libby. Wanna help?"
Libby's mouth dropped open and she glanced up at him. "I can't do it."
He chuckled at the roundness of her eyes. "Sure you can."
She made a feeble attempt to let it buzz down his cheek, then she shuddered and pushed it back in his hands. "I don't want to hurt you Daddy."
Mulder brushed a hand through her hair and nodded. "It's okay."
Then he winked at her. "Think Mommy would do it for me?"
Libby cast a sly look to Scully, as if it was just her and Mulder in the little bathroom and her mother had no idea what was about to happen.
She nodded eagerly.
Mulder turned to Scully, and before she could say no, shoved the electric razor into her hands and leaned back against the sink.
She stared at him a moment, then shook her head.
"Mulder, I --"
"Sure you can."
She stopped, glanced at him again and then sighed. "What are you having problems with?"
His eyes seemed to glitter a bit and he turned his head to wink at Libby.
"My chin. I can't get the right angle. I figured since you're so short, you could get it."
She poked his stomach and held the razor mockingly. "I warn you. Don't make short jokes when I'm holding a sharp instrument."
His eyebrows twitching, Mulder nodded solemnly, then put his hands to her hips and moved her in front of him.
She reached out a tentative hand and steadied his head, her fingers wrapping around her neck and her thumb sliding up his throat.
The way his Adam's apple jumped made her feel a small thread of heat ignite in her, and she tried not to look in his eyes.
She had to move in close though, in order to get the right amount of pressure, and soon she was leaning against his chest, with his hands placed solidly on her hips to balance her.
Concentrating intensely on his chin, she managed to push aside the smaller things: like how her body responded being so close, and the way he smelled of toothpaste and clean soap.
She finished and leaned a bit away, still in his arms, still close enough.
He smiled at her suddenly flushed look and dipped his head to kiss her nose.
"Thank you, Mommy," he whispered.
The words sent a spike of hot energy through her and she pushed away, fussing with Libby and the razor and not looking in his eyes.
She was afraid of what she was letting this become.
That night, Libby was put to bed with her moving bear and given a long story about a prince who had a sword battle with the bad guy to save the Princess Dana, and then Scully sat in on the last of it and amended that the princess then had to save the foolish prince from huge dragons all by herself.
Which made Mulder smile all the more.
When Libby nodded off to sleep, they snuck from her bedroom and into the hallway, where he stopped her for a moment.
"Close your eyes."
She stared at him. "What?"
"Close your eyes. I want to show you something."
"I can't see anything if my eyes are closed."
He smiled and pushed his hand over her lids, the contact slow and soothing, sending shocks through her.
When her eyes were closed, he kissed her lips with a brush of his mouth, then led her back to their bedroom.
"Almost there Scully."
She felt an odd sense of panic in her, almost like she didn't quite trust him. It made her stomach sort of flutter and her hands sweat at the realization that she never knew what Mulder was up to.
Then her knees hit the back of the bed and she sank down, face calm as his hands squeezed her shoulders.
"Can I open my eyes now?"
"Not yet," he said and she could tell that his head was turned by the far away sound in his voice.
Then he was kneeling right in front of her, his hands on her thighs, and she could feel his stare as he watched her.
He took one of her hands, her left hand, and pried open her fingers with gentle movements, punctuating each fingertip with a kiss.
It sent a heady rush through her body, claiming parts of her she never thought she'd given over to him.
Then a piece of warm metal was placed in her palm.
"Open your eyes."
She felt her lashes graze her cheeks and she had a wild clutching sort of feeling in her chest.
Her eyes fell to her open hand.
A gold ring lay nestled there.
She jerked up to see Mulder, to understand what he was trying to say with this, to know where he wanted to go.
What were they letting this become?
He smiled and kissed her nose again, leaving her wishing he'd put more faith in himself and aim lower.
As in her mouth.
"Read it," he said, his finger moving around the rim of the ring in her hand.
She held it carefully, tilting it to see the inscription engraved inside.
It made her heart hurt.
Two simple words, etched in elegant cursive, speaking more than any novel or story or planned out speech could ever say.
She couldn't speak, couldn't thank him the way she wanted to, couldn't even breathe with the tightness in her chest.
"Put it on me, Mulder." she whispered.
His anxious expression fell away into tenderness as he carefully took the ring and slid it over her finger, his own hands shaking.
She leaned forward and kissed his mouth with the same gentleness he had shown as he laid his gift in her hand.
His arms slid around her waist and pulled her to his chest with an underlying force that made her dizzy.
His mouth broke from hers. "I wanted to put your name on it, but I couldn't take the risk that someone might find it. So I just said what I needed to say ..."
Speaking it out loud seemed to make it real and he faltered, looking away.
"I know, I know," she murmured, pulling him with her back onto the bed.
"I want to make you my wife," he said and closed his mouth over hers.
The ring on her finger glittered and he could feel it pressed hard into his back.
She lifted his face to look at her, to make him meet her eyes.
"I want to be yours ..."
"Sit still, Libby."
The little girl wrinkled her nose as the brush passed through her light blond hair, snagging on tangles as it went.
She squirmed again and made a face and Scully sighed, clamping her legs around Libby to keep her from moving so much. Her hair only tangled more when she didn't sit still.
"In here, Mulder." Scully turned and saw him appear in the doorway, then approach their bedroom with a gaunt look on his tired face. She sighed and let Libby run to her father.
"Hey baby." Mulder took the brush from her and expertly combed out her hair until there were no tangles and it shone in the bright light. Libby did not squirm once.
He set her down on the bed and gave the brush back to Scully, looking at her with subtle hints in his eyes. She nodded softly to his unasked question and took out the barrettes for Libby's hair.
She sat patiently this time while her mother pulled her hair back and clipped it securely with the animal barrettes. Then she was done and she slid off the bed to go get on her pajamas, dropping the towel in the floor with total abandon.
Mulder gave a little laugh and picked it up as she fled, hanging it on the rack before coming back to sit down next to Scully on the bed.
"Did she just get finished with her bath?"
Scully nodded, too exhausted to really answer and collapsed onto the bed. Mulder's hands found the sore spots on her back and his fingers dug in hard to relax them. She moaned and closed her eyes.
"How was work?" he asked and she knew then that he was upset over something. He didn't ask how work was usually; he knew it was painful to talk about and that she'd come to him.
"Scary." she murmured. "What's wrong?"
He snorted. "Sheesh, you've been around me way too long."
He was only evading the question.
She sighed and fell silent; it was enough that he knew she was ready to listen to him. His hands continued to work their bliss upon her body and soon, she was so relaxed she was numb.
He stopped and gave her a small kiss on her lower back, his lips tantalizing the heated skin.
"I'm going to take a shower," he said and she felt the bed shift as he got up.
"Yeah, baby?" she called back, moving her head so that she could speak without getting a mouthful of the bedspread.
"Can you help me?"
"Sure baby." Scully dragged her weary body off the bed and waved Mulder back to his shower. He'd been prepared to wait and go help Libby instead.
But Libby had called for her.
She would come.
She got to Libby's room and stood in the doorway. "What's wrong, Libby?"
Libby looked up at her with muddied green blue eyes and shook her head with a small smile. "Nothing. I have those papers ..."
Scully mentally slapped herself. Of course, the extra work her preschool teacher had sent home.
"Oh, yeah. Sorry baby, I forgot. Do you want to do them in Mommy's room and wait for Daddy to finish his shower?"
Libby looked at the clean white worksheets, a daunted look coming over her face. "Yes," she said softly.
Scully picked up the pile of clothes from the floor and threw it in the dirty clothes basket, shaking her head because Libby was turning out to be just as messy as Mulder.
"Come on then," she said and led her back to their room, the little girl skipping ahead in her bright blue pajamas.
She settled Libby in the floor with the long wooden board from an old drawer that they used for a makeshift desk and then tapped on the door to the bathroom before going in.
"Scully? Is that you?"
"Any other woman come in here while you shower?" she said lightly, smiling.
His head peeked out from behind the shower curtain and he smiled at her softly, the drops sliding down his back like raindrops on car windows.
"No takers yet," he replied and raised his eyebrow a bit.
She shut the door behind her and the steam stayed inside, giving him back some of the warmth. His eyes took in her worried expression and fatigued face and he leaned forward, placing a kiss on her nose before slipping back into the recesses of the shower.
"Libby's preschool teacher sent her home with extra work. Apparently she's behind the others ..."
Mulder frowned and his eyes glanced to the door that led to the bedroom where Libby was.
"She needs us to help her, Mulder ..." Scully didn't know quite how to ask him for anything, even now. She just had to hope he wanted to do it, otherwise she couldn't force him to.
"I'll be out in a few minutes, Scully. Then we'll help her."
Scully sighed. "Yeah. Okay." She turned to go, but he caught the edge of her shirt, no doubt soaking it, but she didn't care.
"Scully," he said softly.
She looked back at him.
"It'll be okay." His words barely made it to her ears before his lips descended on hers and brought the breath from her into him.
He pulled back silently and was back in the darkness of the shower.
She shivered as she left the warmth of the bathroom and remembered his lips on hers even as the cold swept against them greedily.
"Okay, Libby, what's this one?"
"A," she said dully.
"You know that, huh?"
Libby's eyes sparked and she grinned. "Of course, Daddy. It's the alphabet. Mommy taught me the alphabet Before."
To Libby, time was always divided into Before and Now. Before was all the old things she had seen and done and felt and heard and said. Before was her other Mother, her father, or Sir, and the endless doctors and treatments.
Now was her family -- her new family.
"Okay. What are you supposed to do here?"
Libby proudly spread out the worksheets, the pages already limp and smudged from being handled so much. She pointed to the first one. "Here, I have to trace the 'A' and the little baby 'a' until I can do it without the dots. Ms. Penn said I could use any color I wanted."
"Oh. Wow. What color are you going to use?" Mulder asked, rubbing Scully's back as he spoke. Scully let him control the impromptu interview, knowing he was best as fishing around. Mulder could find out why Libby didn't work as well as the others, why she was falling behind.
"Um ... red. 'A's are always red."
Mulder nodded as if that was a proven fact and he was incredibly remiss in forgetting it.
Libby managed to trace the outlines of the 'A' very well, her hand steady and smooth, the letter taking shape very nicely as Mulder and Scully watched.
And then she stopped.
"Now I have to make them on my own, without the dots." Her face wrinkled up, eyes squinting and nose cutely displayed.
"Wow. Without the dots." Mulder carefully displayed no emotion over the idea of making the letters all on her own. Libby would get her signal from him and if he said they were easy and she had trouble with them, then she would be too frustrated. On the other hand, if he said they were hard, she might not even attempt it.
"But I can do it," she said confidently.
Mulder said nothing.
Her hand began the first leg, shaky with nervousness he supposed, and then it faltered as she went and made the second leg, her hand careening from the lines of the tablet.
Her eyes grew hard and flinty and she dug the crayon into the paper, looking as determined and stubborn as Scully with her face cold like it was.
"Daddy," she said, the word coming in clipped tones.
Scully stared at her.
"I can't do it Daddy. I don't want to do this anymore," she said and flung the crayon across the room.
It left a long angry red dash on the wall.
Mulder looked calmly back to Libby, but the anger was there and his eyes turned pleadingly to Scully.
Scully took Libby's arm firmly and made her look straight into her eyes.
"Libby. Do not throw things. You're having trouble making your letters, but getting mad doesn't help. You will not throw anything else, understand?"
Libby's wide eyes stared back at her mother and wordlessly she nodded.
Mulder shot her a grateful glance, knowing he was too frustrated to handle it properly. Maybe that's where Libby was getting it.
"Now, Libby, we're going to do the rest of this. When we're finished, you will help me clean the wall to get the crayon off."
Libby nodded again, swallowing thickly and her eyes tearing up.
It ripped at Scully's heart. She slowly eased away and then pointed at the red crayon lying on the floor. Libby scampered to pick it up quickly.
"Okay, Libby, let's do this again," Mulder said, carefully toning his voice so that she would not hear any sign of impatience.
Libby began tracing again and finally she made a rather shaky and untrained letter 'A' within only ten minutes.
Scully watched as she struggled to simply make the letter straight and wished she could do it for her, get everything out of the way so she could enjoy the rest of the day.
Libby's tongue peeked out from her lips and she licked them while she tried to concentrate, but her small fingers would not obey properly and the more she tried the more frustrated she grew.
But she would not give up: there was too much stubborn Mulder and Scully blood in her to give up.
And then Scully realized what was probably wrong.
Mulder looked up from his careful watch, his eyes pleading with hers to help his little girl. It hurt him that Libby could not do it.
Scully stood and picked Libby up, taking her to the bathroom counter and setting her there. The mirror greeted them and she saw Mulder approach behind her.
"Okay, Libby. I'm going to hand you some objects, and all I want you to do is take them from me, okay?"
Libby nodded, enjoying the short break even though her mother was acting strangely.
Scully picked up the brush and handed to her, carefully positioning it so that it came at her from the middle, not slanted in any way.
The little girl took it and smiled.
Scully smiled back and handed her a comb.
Left hand again. Left hand.
Scully took the comb back and then grabbed her hands and placed them in her lap, both resting on her legs and positioned equally.
Scully let go and then said, "Libby, raise your hand."
She raised her left hand with a little grin, thinking it very funny all these things her mother was doing.
Scully smiled. "Okay. That's great Libby."
Scully took her down from the counter and looked at Mulder. "Did you notice that?"
Mulder looked to Libby, then back to her. "No."
"Libby is left handed." She placed the girl on the floor again and settled down next to her. "Libby, try doing the letters with your left hand."
Libby picked up the red crayon with her other hand and grasped it tightly, watching it almost.
Then she began tracing the 'A' again, her lines smooth and clean and easy. She laughed with delight and made the letter on her own.
"I did it!" she yelled and jumped up.
Scully smiled widely and hugged her as her beautiful grin became infectious. Libby ran to Mulder and received another huge hug and kiss.
"Way to go, Libby," he said and held her tightly. "Let's finish the others now, all right?"
Libby sat back down again and soon she was completing 'G' and smiling brighter than he thought possible.
Mulder leaned against the bed and pulled Scully to him, thumbs digging into her sore and tense muscles. He let his hands drift and she melted against him, draped over his raised knee like a doll. She moaned once and Libby looked up with a wary expression.
"Did you get hurt, Mommy?"
Scully laughed and felt her ribs get bruised because of Mulder's knee but his fingers felt too good to make her move. "No, honey. My back is just sore and Daddy's making it better."
Libby nodded and returned to her letters, her tongue hanging out as she concentrated on making her 'K' very neat.
Scully turned her head to see Mulder grinning inanely at her and she rolled her eyes.
He leaned in closer and whispered, "You want me to make it a little better?"
She shivered and raised up, eyes locked with his. "Right now?"
"If you want?"
Scully turned to see Libby working diligently. "Libby, do you want to finish that in your room?"
Libby looked up, saw the funny look in her mother's eyes and frowned.
"Are you sleepy Mommy?"
Scully blushed. "Not right now, Libby."
Libby looked again at her mother. She certainly looked sleepy, her eyes heavy and face flushed.
"After I finish can I watch my video?"
Libby had a VCR in her room because her room was the only one with a television plug and cable extension. Libby jumped up with her things and ran for her room, slamming their door behind her.
Scully turned back to Mulder, watching the laughter in him explode.
"So smooth, Scully," he said, grinning.
She shifted in his embrace and turned back to him. "Are you going to finish rubbing my back?"
His hands dug immediately into her back and she moaned again, more to irritate him than anything else. He leaned against her back to push harder and she arched a bit under the pressure.
"Okay, okay. Too hard," she said, twisting.
He eased her back and into his chest, wrapping his arms around her. His nose buried into her hair and she knew that he did not want to make love; he wanted to talk.
She pressed her cheek against him, waiting, listening to his heart as he thought carefully.
"Scully ... I think someone found us."
She stiffened like lead had been jammed into her spine, the easy relaxed nature of her world suddenly spiraling into hell.
"Why? What happened?"
"I found a listening device in my office," he whispered, his mouth next to her ear so that nothing they said could be picked up.
She remained silent.
"It wasn't there yesterday," he added.
She shuddered, her mind replaying all the horrors she thought she had left behind as soon as they had gotten settled in New York City.
She turned her head and put her lips to his ear.
"You're still as paranoid as ever, Mulder. I'm glad though -- I would never have thought they'd come after us. I wish they would just leave us alone."
He nodded. "I know. I can't help being paranoid, you know that. Too many things have happened to us. I don't want to lose this because I was careless."
She shivered again and let him keep her close to him, needing his warmth and comfort just as much as he needed to make sure this was still real.
"I'm going to search the apartment tonight for more bugs. I'll help you debug your work too, as best as we can."
Scully nodded again and closed her eyes.
He hugged her and kissed her, letting her know without words that everything would be all right, letting her know because she needed something to keep her sane.
"Okay," she said softly. "So they know. They know. We can go away again, go to Chicago or Atlanta, or something."
He nodded, realizing that she needed this kind of planning to be secure.
"Or we could move to another part of the city. Keep Libby in school and they won't get very suspicious, too. Won't try to hunt us down or anything."
Mulder nodded again.
She turned to him then, crying silently, pressing her face shamefully into him.
He let her cry and said nothing.
Because they would truly be all right.
Libby called out then.
"I finished my letters!"
Scully let out a little laugh and looked at him.
"We're going to be okay," he said again.
"Cause it's a bittersweet symphony; that's life. Trying to make
ends meet, you're a slave to money then you die."
-- "Bittersweet Symphony," The Verve
The alarm sounded loudly next to her and she slammed it off before even coming fully awake. She stayed very still, listening for the sounds that would tell her that it had woken Mulder too.
She slipped from the bed and into the bathroom, shedding her clothes as she went, shivering and rubbing her chilled hands together.
She fixed the thermostat before stepping into the bathroom and turned on the water, brushing her teeth as the shower warmed up.
She relaxed somewhat under the needles of morning showers and let her mind slip from automatic and into life again. The birds that had settled outside their apartment, making their ledges a convenient home, started in with their warbling, off-key song and she sighed.
The early shock of warm water and soap made her wake and she realized she had to stop staying up late on Saturday nights, or else keep Mulder from her at night.
She wondered if he was doing it on purpose somehow; trying to make her give up on going to church on Sunday mornings.
She dismissed that and shut off the water, shivering in the sudden cold.
She silently pulled on her hose and slip, toweling her hair dry and applying some make-up to her pale face. She turned at one point, her ears picking up a noise and pinpointing it to be coming from him.
He was sound asleep still, and she walked over to the bed and placed a light kiss on his forehead.
She left and creeped down the hall to Libby's room, easing the door open and peering in. Like always, Libby was up and playing with her baby dolls and Legos. She smiled at her mother and stood to receive her clothes.
Dana pulled out a dark green dress and gave it to her. Libby smiled again and said nothing; she knew she had to be quiet for Daddy.
The dress slipped over her head and the socks were put on, then the patent leather shoes and green barrettes and she went bounding out of her room to get breakfast.
Scully went back into her room and finished getting dressed.
Mulder watched her from half closed lids, delighting in the voyeuristic nature of his clandestine watch and sighing a bit that she was so determined to go every Sunday morning.
He wasn't going to stop her though. Church taught his little girl morals and principles, and if it made Scully the woman she was, then he had no qualms about letting it shape his daughter.
But he missed her in the mornings.
So he watched, pretending to be asleep so that he could observe her naturally.
She smiled a lot when she thought she was alone. She turned back and forth in the mirror and made sure her appearance was flawless and she fussed endlessly with her hair.
He thought it was cute, but she no doubt thought it vain since she never did it in front of him.
He listened as she attempted to keep down the noise as Libby ate breakfast and asked her answer-less questions. He strained to hear the door click shut every Sunday and then he stole from the bed and watched them leave from the bedroom window.
Dana smiled to the people who passed them and settled Libby down in the pew with blank paper and a pencil. The other children were given their bags of toys and loud obnoxious things, but her child was creative enough and good enough to make do with paper and a pencil: she did not think church should be play time.
She tried to avoid the weekly stares and the eyes that asked questions. The church wasn't Catholic, but the congregation acted just like they were. It was tense sometimes, and Scully kept reminding herself that she did not have to explain to anyone.
So what if they thought she was a single mother, what did it matter?
Libby started drawing and Dana eased into the seat, relaxing again just as she had in the shower. She needed this, despite the stares and whispers, she needed it.
It gave her peace and comfort and a sense of justice. She had to cling to that, otherwise she had nothing.
Nothing but a pieced together family and a faith in goodness that hung by threads.
Mulder found the church easily enough, and the auditorium, too, based solely on the conversations he'd had with her.
The people looked at him strangely as he walked through the halls, mainly because he had dashed from the apartment in jeans and a cotton shirt. Not too churchy.
But he made it to the services and peered around anxiously for her from the back, eyes scanning every row for red hair and a little girl.
A man appeared at his elbow and motioned him away from the service.
He glared at the man and pulled away. "I need to find my wife ..." he growled in a low voice.
The man smiled. "Tell me her name, sir. I'll help you."
Mulder was at a loss. He didn't know what Scully had told the church her name was. They had taken to using their names for very low key things.
"Uh, she's short, red hair. My little girl too, Libby?"
The man smiled suddenly. "Ah, Libby and Dana. They are yours?" he said, his face smiling and his eyes smiling.
Mulder relaxed. "Yeah. They're mine. Where are they?"
The man pointed to the far right row, about fifteen from the front.
Pretty far up.
He strode down the aisle as if he belonged there and slipped up to her row.
Scully looked up as she felt the towering presence beside her and saw him.
"Mulder," she breathed, stunned.
He slid into the seat next to her and kissed her cheek.
"Daddy!" Libby whispered in a strained, excited voice.
Mulder gathered her up and suddenly, Dana felt the eyes of everyone on her, but in benevolence instead of malice.
What a huge difference his sudden arrival made.
She hated it.
Why did she need Mulder to make everything all right?
"Scully," he breathed, lips darting in close to her ear. "Scully, a man followed you this morning."
She stiffened and shut her eyes briefly.
She didn't want to know this, not now. She could do nothing about it now.
"Scully. Did you hear me?"
"Shut up, Mulder. I don't want to talk about it in church." She shut her mind to his words and concentrated on the tranquility the old church and the minister gave off. She wanted one thing, only one thing, and that was normality.
Please, God, just let me be normal for once.
Beside her Mulder was staring at her as if he'd gotten slapped and his eyes closed into the wary mode.
Libby crawled back over to her spot and laid her head in Scully's lap, eyes closing just as they did every Sunday at ten o'clock. Scully's hand went immediately to Libby's forehead and she gently stroked her hair and her skin and her cheek, doodling aimless patterns with her finger. Libby was warm and sleepy and she gave Dana an odd feeling off completeness.
As if Libby was returning back to her.
Mulder leaned against the arm of the pew, knee touching her thigh and sprawled as if he had the highest disdain for anything having to do with church.
She wanted to slap him.
Her left arm was draped along the back of the pew, fingers reaching down to touch Libby's side, right arm caressing her, the picture of contentment.
But she was churning inside.
Dana was tired of having a frail little family that came and went based on Mulder's moods. She was aching for some kind of realness to the whole thing and she felt like she was being used as a rag for his emotional spills. Whenever he hurt, she was there to screw, to take, to abuse ... but when she hurt, he was there to hurt even more.
She wanted something to change, something to become clear as to what was wrong in their life.
Someone to really be her partner in life.
Mulder wasn't even trying anymore. He followed her around, hunted after her, called her all the time, just to make sure she was being careful.
But when she got home ... he ignored her, he talked to Libby and said nothing to her; he acted as if she were invisible.
She couldn't stand it. She needed him ... and he didn't seem to need or even want her.
Church was over, people filed out, but she and Mulder stayed there in the pew, watching.
Libby was still asleep in her lap and keeping her warm with her tiny body's heat.
"Okay, we can probably go now," Mulder said.
"No. I'm going to stay here for a while, Mulder."
Mulder looked at her as if she had another nosebleed.
"It comforts me."
He wanted to ask her what that had to do with anything, but he shut up and sat back down. He knew she had become unhappy lately, so he'd given her space, unaccustomed to dealing with the Scully mood every day.
He watched her run her fingers through Libby's hair, and ached for the things he and Scully had missed. Libby's first steps, first words, first anything.
"Mulder, this isn't working."
"What?" Where was she coming from with this?
"Us. It's not," she said softly, not looking at him.
"It's not real. It's still just you and me and a little girl who needs us to stay together. It's not 'us.' It's not anything."
"You don't think it's real?"
"Stop playing psychologist, Mulder. That's exactly what I mean. This isn't real. It's us running away, running for our lives, dragging along all the pain and nightmare of our other life when that's what we're trying to run from in the first place."
He stayed silent, watching her, tearing up in his spirit because of her words. He had thought they were doing great.
"We're not real."
"How can I make it real? How can I change this?"
She shrugged and looked over at him for a moment, then down to Libby. "Mulder, right here, in church, I feel normal. I feel real."
He smiled. "You look beautiful."
She gave him a smile. "I guess I'm just lonely."
It dug into him. He couldn't make her whole, he couldn't give her meaning, or enough love to get her through.
"I'm sorry, Scully. I don't know what to do."
She looked to him and she was agonized.
"I don't either. I was hoping you would know."
"I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me."
-- "Bittersweet Symphony," The Verve
He didn't want to move.
Her arm was sprawled across his chest, face pressed into the pillow and agonizingly close to him. Rarely did she act so abandoned, so innocently untempered by thought and propriety. He feared he wouldn't see her like this in a long time.
But he had to get up if everything was to go the way he needed it to.
He took her hand in his and kissed her fingers before depositing the carelessly flung arm back on her side. Then he slid out of bed, rippling the sheets as he passed.
He rubbed his face under the sink and dried off with a towel before even allowing a glance in the mirror. Then he grimaced at the sight and went to pull on some jeans. He hadn't slept all night; all he could think about was her agony: the look of utter desolation that had crept into her eyes that Sunday morning.
He woke Libby and she was characteristically quiet, never questioning why her father was taking her to school this morning.
He helped Libby pick out clothes and then hummed a bit of an old song under his breath as he fixed her breakfast.
She heard him and wrapped her arms around his legs, her face lifting to look into his eyes.
"Whatcha singin' Daddy?" she said, her embrace tight and smile wide.
He grinned. "An old song, baby."
"Teach it to me," she said and took the sack lunch he offered her. She placed it with great care into her backpack and Mulder knew that Scully had been exactly the same as a child, meticulously placing things in their proper place. It made him smile.
"Okay, in the truck, I'll teach it to you."
Libby joyfully ran through the house until she made it to the front door, where she called back to him to hurry up.
When he got to her he frowned. "You have to be quiet for Mommy, sweetheart."
Libby nodded and her face got very dramatic. With a staged whisper she raised her eyebrows and said, "Okay, Daddy. I'll be very quiet."
He raised his eyebrow and took her chin in his hand. "Mommy teaching you sarcasm, baby?"
Her face widened into a grin and she shook her head. "Ha, ha. No, I learned it all from you."
"Mommy told you to say that too, didn't she?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," she said and then scampered down the hall out of his reach.
He grinned and they raced down to the street, Libby shrieking so loudly, Mulder was sure Scully had woken up by now.
In the truck, stuck in traffic, Mulder sang her the song he'd been humming. He started out softly, then picked it up a bit when she had caught on to the chorus. Mulder grinned as they drove down 84th singing to the top of their lungs "Another Brick In the Wall" by Pink Floyd. Wouldn't Scully love him for this, when her daughter came home from school belting out -- "Teacher, leave those kids alone."
He sort of laughed and kissed Libby good-bye and drove demonically back to their apartment.
It was silent when he turned his key into the door and opened it. He heard the faint sounds of Friday morning traffic on the street below them and the hum of the air conditioner, on due to a recent wave of El Nino heat.
He stepped out of his sneakers and into their bedroom, eyes adjusting to the dim light, making out her still form under the sheets.
She was curled up on her side, as usual, her face turned to the wall, arms held tightly into her body, legs curled slightly. He lamented the loss of the vulnerable, more free position she'd been in earlier.
He climbed back into bed and wondered if she would uncurl her tiny body again. He crossed the invisible line separating their sides and reached out to touch her.
Just as his fingers connected with her hair, she sighed heavily and turned, landing in his embrace. He smiled into her hair and drew her closer to him, surprised when she snuggled into his chest. Scully was not a snuggler.
Her breath made his skin itch and soon he was twisting his neck oddly to keep her lips away from his throat. Finally he got in a comfortable position, his face nestled under her chin, arm slung loosely around her waist.
And there he fell asleep.
Dana woke to warmth and completeness filling her space. She kept her eyes closed until she jerked with a start.
Mulder woke as she slipped hastily out of bed.
"Scully, come back to bed."
"It's Friday, Mulder. I over --"
"No. No, I took Libby."
"But I have to get to work --"
"No you don't."
She paused and turned back to him, in a state of undress, legs clean and a pinkish peach all the way to her black underwear.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, trust me. You're not working today."
"Did they call?"
"No. I called."
She looked horrified and shook her head. "Mulder, I can't call in sick. They really can't afford it. Neither can we. We need this money."
He smiled lazily and she grew frustrated with his lack of understanding.
"Scully. I'll explain everything, just get back in bed. You're making me cold."
She shivered, realizing how exposed she was and turned her face, then glanced hesitantly at the clock before crawling back in bed.
He gathered her into his arms and closed his eyes, looking for the world like he was going to fall asleep again.
"I arranged for you and me to have today off."
She stiffened. "When?"
She sighed a little, realizing that this was a reaction to her words on Sunday in church.
"Why?" she asked, thinking she might as well get out all the 'W' questions early on.
"Because we need a break. We need to talk. But most of all, we need to figure out what we lost and get it back somehow."
She smiled sadly at his sentiment and closed her eyes.
"But we get to sleep, right now," he said softly.
He felt her skin quiver with silent laughter.
"Okay, then, Mulder. We sleep. Then we talk."
He nodded against her shoulder, causing her skin to catch fire.
"Then we talk."
She watched him as he made the coffee, legs planted firmly on the linoleum as if he was facing down something from the X-Files. His back stretched before her in great plains and sweeps of muscle and tissue, tight under his grey T-shirt. His hair was dark with natural human oils and his jaw rough with shadows.
She was curled up on the kitchen chair, legs pulled under her long white T-shirt to keep out the cold.
He turned and produced a steady hand holding tightly to a mug of steaming brown alertness called coffee.
She took it from him and sipped it immediately, burning her tongue and half her taste buds and making a pained face while he laughed.
"Watch out, Scully. It's hot," he said with exaggerated slowness.
She made a face at him and he laughed. "Libby did that to me this morning, along with a few words that I'm sure she got from you."
"I haven't cursed in front of her!" she protested.
He laughed again. "No, no cursing. Only heavy, Scully-brand sarcasm."
She smiled demurely and sipped her slightly less hot coffee.
He narrowed his eyes and crept close to her, standing tall over her.
She did not shrink back in her chair, merely stared up at him with bright blue eyes that dared him to challenge her.
So he did.
"Mulder!" she yelped, as his hands came sneaking down to touch her.
She spilled the coffee on his bare feet and he howled and jumped back while she attempted to make soothing noises to cover up her laughing.
He gave her a pout. "It's not funny, Scully."
She stifled the laughter and tried to look sorry for it, but her eyes were laughing.
"Sorry, Mulder, but it's pretty funny. You have the best timing, you know?"
He grew very grave and took the mug from her hands and then leaned in very close.
His breath grazed her ear and she tensed to keep from shivering.
"I don't need timing."
She exploded, laughing so hard that her eyes teared up and she had to clutch her stomach and hold onto him to ride out the waves of laughter.
She'd been expecting something very sexy and formidable and then that.
He smiled with her, glad she was so joyful today, so full of carefree spirit. He didn't usually see that with her.
When she had calmed down, sighing and holding her aching stomach muscles, he placed a kiss on her lips, lightly and softly, as if reminding her that he had been the one to make her laugh, to give her relief.
She sobered and drew her arms around him, face pressed into his shoulder.
"Fine now, Scully?"
She smiled and shook her head. "No, but getting better."
"Mmm ... honesty. Refreshing."
She pulled out of his arms and drained the rest of her coffee.
"So, what are we doing today?"
He grinned and his eyebrows twitched.
"Wouldn't you like to know ..."
She walked arm in arm with him, singing and smiling as she noticed the looks of envy from others around them. He was focused totally on her and she could feel his eyes at every step.
She paused, allowing him to pull her to the side so that the mall traffic could flow right around them.
It was a plain light blue dress. Sort of a spring fashion.
She looked at him. "Ok?"
He pointed to it. "You'd look good in that."
She glanced at it. "Mulder, we really don't have the money for that."
He shook his head. "At least go try it on and let me see what it is I'm missing."
She took his hand and led him inside. She had said that about the last hundred things he had showed her, and he said the same in return.
He didn't care. She was having a good time, trying things on and letting him watch her turn and show them off. She felt like a woman again, and that's all that mattered.
"No, I'm starving. I want some lunch," she replied.
He laced his fingers through hers and threaded his way to the food counter, Scully following along behind him.
They ordered burgers and fries even though she grimaced as they were taken out of deep fry and dumped into the waiting paper containers.
He smiled at her willingness to eat whatever they found. There weren't many other choices out there.
She watched the park from the comfort of a bench, the trees masking the angry noise of New York into a faint rushing that sounded like water more than cars and taxis.
He finished faster than her and leaned forward on his knees to watch some kids playing on the swings across from them. He remembered taking Libby out there to play, pushing her until she was so high, she got light headed and yelled down to him that she could touch the clouds.
She smiled at the softness on his face and snaked her arm around his.
He turned and kissed her nose and she withdrew her arm to finish her burger.
He noticed she hadn't touched the fries. He stole one away and smiled at her wrinkled nose, noticing how much Libby took after her.
After a few minutes of silence she leaned back, content to let this pass between them.
She shut her eyes and soaked in the sun, almost wishing she could be a plant, create energy from the light and live naturally and unhindered.
"Hey," he said softly, touching her cheek.
She turned and, for a moment, did not open her eyes. She looked like a peaceful saint that way.
Then she nailed him with a dazzling smile and wide eyes.
He felt his entire soul throb and explode with this.
"Dana," he said softly, fingers rubbing the side of her face.
"Thank you, Mulder. I don't know what one thing did it, but I'm okay now."
He grinned like a child and leaned over to kiss her.
She was still smiling. He never saw her smile.
"What was wrong before?"
She sighed. "I think I was getting homesick ... or soul sick, really."
He took her hand and frowned.
"Everything was a patchwork of lies and half-truths and fear and hurt and I couldn't stand it anymore. I thought that at least."
"Was it not?"
"No, it wasn't. It isn't. I was seeing only the past and I couldn't get away from it. And then, when you told me that someone had followed me, it was as if it had all found me again, the past had run right up and slammed me back into reality."
She studied her fingers, shame spreading along her eyes.
"I thought this was a sham to you, Mulder. I thought that it was only a contrived way to deal with unpleasant things. I let myself believe that so that I couldn't get hurt if you left ... if I left."
"I'd never leave!"
"I know. I know. I told myself you would and convinced myself that because of that, I didn't need you. But I do. I do need you, and I was afraid that I'd start hurting again."
He said nothing and she gave out a little shudder of a sigh, her hand tightening around his.
He let his hand hang limply for a moment and then squeezed back.
She sighed in relief and slumped back in the bench.
"I can accept that Scully," he said. "I don't understand, and that's what kind of hurts, but I do accept it. And it's all right. But just know that I love you and nothing else matters."
She sighed. "Mulder, I know you do. But as what? Good friends, partners, more? That's what I was afraid of, that it wouldn't be how I loved you."
"Does that matter?" he said gently, shaking his head.
She seemed confused again, suddenly plunged back into doubt at his words.
"Does it matter how I love you? What if it's only as good friends, Scully? What would you do then?"
Her eyes were pained and he wondered if this was worth it.
"What do you mean?"
"Would it be a sham to you if I only loved you like that?"
Her heart wouldn't catch up to her breathing, her brain wouldn't catch up to her heart.
"A sham?" she echoed dumbly. "If you didn't?"
"If I didn't, but this was real to me, would it be a sham?"
"I don't know what you mean ..," she said desperately.
He removed his hand from hers. "Scully, I don't love you like ... like that. I do love you. Just ..."
She was standing, rising, pulling her body away and breathing fast so that the tears wouldn't fall.
I thought I knew ... I thought I knew ...
"Scully, come back here, right now."
Anger rose and she turned in hatred, her eyes clouded with pain and loathing.
But something about his face stilled her retort.
He was crying.
"God, no. Scully I didn't want to hurt you ... But it would be a 'sham,' a lie, if I let it go on like this."
Her ribs were collapsing into her body, her heart crushed by blood and air.
"Scully, I do love you. I love you probably more than anyone ever could. But it is not romantic, really. How could it be? We could never let it be -- Scully, stop closing down on me. Listen."
His plea made her slump to the grass and she sat there shivering.
"It's good love, though," he said, trying to lighten it. "I do love you. I do. Don't ever doubt that, Scully. Don't ever."
"Not romantic, but good. What the hell am I supposed to believe now?" she snapped, her eyes once again flaring with anger.
He knew he shouldn't have.
"Scully, you know I'm married to my work, to the X-Files, and that has not changed. Just because we don't have them -- well, I don't stop. I know you know that's what this job is, in basest form. Helping others, finding killers, making people understand, believe. I do love you, just not so ... so ... passionately. Crap, Scully, stop looking at me like that."
She was silent, her hurt more than words.
"I wish with all my heart I could love you like that. What we have is steady and solid and it makes me happy and gives me more joy and life than anything I've ever known. It's better and stronger than anything I've ever had with anyone. It's the closest I've ever gotten to the kind of love you're talking about."
She had turned her face, drawing in breaths that were fast and labored and making her dizzy.
He came and sat down in front of her, reaching his hands out to hold her. She fell into him despite the fear and the anger welling up in her.
"Dana, this is the kind that most married people never attain, that most lovers cannot even dream of. I'd give you my life in an instant. I'd let you take all of me and I'd give it all to you for nothing. You have me, Scully, body, soul, strength ... belief."
"But?" she said softly, her face ashen.
"But it's not the kind where I wake in the middle of the night craving your touch."
Her eyes were storming endless lightning strikes that shimmered gold-green like tornado skies.
"I wake ... " She trailed off then resumed some kind of blind courage. "I wake aching ... " she whispered.
Tears slipped from his eyes and he let her have her silence, her dignity.
Her head came up and she touched his cheek. "Don't cry, Mulder," she said, not sure if she was even allowed to touch him anymore.
He leaned into her hand and kissed it.
"Why do you do this?" she said, agonized.
"Because you need it."
She snatched her hand away, eyes blazing. She didn't need charity.
"Scully. Stop being stupid."
Her mouth dropped open. He had never spoken like that to her.
"Scully, I would give you anything because I love you. And if you want it like this, if that gives you peace, then I freely give it. I give it ... I need to."
"You don't need this," she said, her voice mechanical and tinted with bitterness.
"I need to know you won't let go of me. I need you to remind me that I can be good for something ... for someone. Otherwise, I'm lost."
He was afraid of everything he had said. Afraid she would never understand that she meant more to him than sex and passion, that they were above that kind of love.
"Mulder," she said softly, her own heart tripping her up. "Mulder, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me."
He let her hands trail across his face, down his chest, through his hair. He drew her to him, hoping she understood, hoping he hadn't killed what they did have because of his obsessive need for the truth in all things.
She stirred against him and he kissed her, tongue clashing against her lips.
She pulled away, confused.
"I never said you didn't turn me on," he whispered and pulled her back.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"For turning me on?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Not for that. I hope it's making you very uncomfortable ... I'm sorry that I let this all get in the way. You're right, it doesn't matter."
He smiled slowly and nipped at her mouth. "You're right, too. It's making me very uncomfortable. How about we go home?"
She laughed and stood, pulling him up and into her arms.
"Lead the way, G-man."
"Ah, you forget. No longer G-man."
"Oh, Mulder. You'll always be a G-man to me."
They ambled across the park, smiling.
She bent in close to him, standing on tiptoe to reach his hearing.
"So, I turn you on?"
"This isn't what I like to call flattery, but I know that I
believe that I've found what's true, that I've found what's
you." -- "Truthfully," Lisa Loeb
She was lying in bed, eyes closed against the beginning of another day. Her limbs were heavy and dull and still asleep, and her skin was sensitive from being hot and sweaty.
They needed a new air conditioner.
She did not open her eyes when the alarm went off but slapped it silent and waited for her body to wake up.
Mulder was beside her, face pressed into her side, lips touching as if he'd been about to kiss her when he fell asleep. Her shirt was somewhere on the floor, pulled off hastily last night and then forgotten.
She felt her face flush.
Actually, she had forgotten. She had fallen asleep on him, right as he was trying to seduce her. It was just that she'd been aching all day and had to run around the entire unit trying to compensate for the doctor that had been out that day. She'd been exhausted when she got home ...
Hopefully Mulder wasn't too mad with her. Hopefully, he wouldn't tease her about it either.
She sighed and stayed perfectly still, not able to summon the energy to get up, take a shower, meet the next day.
Mulder woke and stirred beside her, lips brushing her skin in greeting. She moved her sluggish arm down to touch his back and he drew closer, pulling her into him.
She let her head fall to his chest and her eyes close again.
"Scully ..." he murmured softly.
She made no noise, only wished he had surprised her again, called in and got today off for her like last week.
"Are you okay, Scully? You're kind of hot."
She nodded against him and sighed a bit more. "You didn't happen to get me today off, did you?"
He smiled and moved away from her arms, making her shiver with the sudden chill of morning air that replaced the places where his arms and body had been.
"Come on, get up."
"Are you okay, really? I mean, you're never like this. You're usually up and going before I can even remember that the alarm went off."
"Mmm ... maybe not."
"Maybe not what?"
"I don't feel too good."
Her eyes opened and he jerked, startled by the fevered glaze cast over the shocking blue.
"Come here." he commanded and placed a hand to her forehead as she made a decent effort to scoot in closer to him.
"Do we have a thermometer?" he said, her voice tense and worried.
Her eyes flew open again. "What? Why? I was kidding, Mulder. I'm not sick. I can't be sick. Two of our doctors are out already with the flu. I can't get sick!"
She shot up to get out of bed and in the next instant, he was catching her as she fell back, suddenly too dizzy to see straight.
"Oh no," she sighed. "I can't get sick ..."
"Well, I'm pretty sure you are. Stay here, I'll bring you some Tylenol and water."
"No. Stay here."
He stayed beside her until she slumped back in bed, certain that she would not try to get up and prove to him that she was okay. Because she clearly wasn't.
He rummaged around in the cabinet until he found the bottle and took two out, then ran some water. On the way back he made sure Libby was up and set out clothes for her to wear to school. She gave him a morning smile that looked so much like her mother's and a big kiss.
He returned bearing gifts and she graciously accepted, eyes closing as he took back the empty glass. She stayed that way for a long time and he put his hand to her forehead and checked again.
"It doesn't work that fast," she murmured.
"I know. Just checking."
"I'll be fine. Can you get Libby to school this morning?"
"And make sure she has her lunch, and her --"
"I got it covered, babe," he said, laughing a bit.
She sighed and opened her eyes, looking straight at him.
"Sorry, Mulder. I'm not a very good patient."
He sat down on the bed and drew her close to him, running his hand along her forehead. "That's okay, Scully. I won't hold it against you. I don't think I'm a very good patient either, if I remember correctly."
She smiled and could remember: The Arctic, the PaperClip project, many others. "You're not so bad unconscious."
He gave her a wry grin and let his thumb trace her chin. "I don't have to go in to work until ten today, so I can stay with you for a while."
"Okay," she said softly and closed her eyes, letting his hands run down her, forgetting for a while all the things he had told her last Friday. Forgetting that he did not love her like that, to where this meant something instead of it being just a nice thing he was doing for her.
She could feel herself falling asleep, relaxing into his arms and drifting away.
He moved softly out of the room when he was sure she was asleep and went about getting Libby ready for school.
She woke to cold emptiness and the bitterness of lost things.
She found him gone, the truck gone, his warmth gone.
She stayed in the bed and realized that she had been stupid to lead herself down that path again, the one where she comforted the hurt by telling herself that she could make him love her the way she loved him ...
She fought to keep away tears, knowing that he had only gone to drop off Libby, and felt ridiculous for letting herself get hurt again.
After sorting through all of Friday, she had decided that it didn't matter how he felt, because she knew he would not leave, and that was her main fear.
But that one conversation on a bench in Central Park had changed everything. How could she know for sure that when he touched her it was for real? That when his lips found hers, it was not just some alternative to his videos, or his fantasies?
How could she know that he didn't secretly detest touching her, for all the phoniness it implied in the act?
She had resolved herself to dealing with a man that was half alive with her, half himself, and it had worked for a few unhappy minutes.
She wanted all of him, just as he had all of her. Would he ever be able to give up the X-Files, give up their old life and let them live this new one?
She had then decided that she could change him, that she could make him love her in that way, that he would eventually come to understand that he didn't need strange phenomenon to make his life worth something. She had thought last night that maybe he was, and then this morning, being so considerate, so loving and caring and touching her ...
Stupid. It had been stupid to think, stupid to let herself get hurt again. Never again. Never again.
She bit the inside of her lip and kept focus on the pain there, instead of the pain in her heart.
Mulder drove back slowly, wondering what his actions, his words, had all been about that morning. What exactly had he been doing? He was unsure of what he was allowed to do with her anymore -- he had effectively trapped himself into that one. Telling her he didn't want her like that, then telling her he would take her at any time ... what the hell was he thinking? That everything could be okay after that?
It had been the truth. It had.
But now it was changing; knowing that she really did love him kind of warped his view. He had blocked himself off to her now. She'd never believe him if he suddenly said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I must have been mistaken. I do love you like that."
Had he been too hasty? What if he had waited, heard what she had to say first, heard that she loved him truly, would it've changed anything?
Things had changed now.
He wasn't sure he liked it. He didn't know how to act around her, didn't know what was all right for him to do, except she kept letting him, she kept opening her arms and letting him in, every time. Every time.
She hadn't held it against him, she hadn't gotten revenge, or angry or afraid of him or anything. She had accepted it and gone on.
The only evidence he had that she remembered it was the tears he had seen once, staining her face when he had woken early for some reason.
He had woken because she'd been crying.
That had killed him. He hadn't meant for his words to hurt her. He had only felt she ought to know the truth.
What could he do now, now that the truth was changing?
He found home to be silent and welcoming, open and secure.
He walked into their bedroom and sat carefully on the bed, watching her.
She breathed erratically, shallowly, as if her lungs were having a hard time. Her face was still flushed, her hands curled around the empty space where his own body would go.
He felt just as empty. He was aching to hold her and touch her ...
Hadn't he told her that never happened to him?
Maybe things were changing ... maybe he was finding his truth right here, in her arms, in her life, in her love.
Maybe he did love her like that.
He crawled into bed, shoving his shoes off and creeping in close to her. She was hot and her breaths were mini explosions into the air, but she felt soft and alive and good.
He managed to wrap his arms around her and cradle her head to his chest, holding her tightly, securely, letting her know that he was there, he was finally there.
Her eyes opened and found him near her, arms around her, holding her.
She lifted her chin and looked at him.
He was leaning down, kissing her, telling her that he was sorry, that he hadn't wanted to her hurt, telling her to forget everything he had said last Friday on a bench in Central Park.
He didn't say a word.
She closed her eyes again and let her body take back control. She was too tired to try and sort things out at the moment.
"Sleep, Scully. Go to sleep," he murmured.
He was finally there. No longer half alive, but finally there.
"Truthfully, I'm not desperate, I haven't changed my mind since we first met. But the last thing I want to do is to tell you that I'm right for you." -- "Truthfully," Lisa Loeb
The Emilys, Book Three
"Okay, sweetheart, this will sting just a little."
Libby's face screwed up and her eyes squinted shut as the hydrogen peroxide was poured over her knee. She gasped a bit and her eyes flew open, looking at Mulder as if she'd been betrayed.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It'll stop hurting, I promise." Mulder said, stroking her hair briefly, wishing Scully was there to do that kind of thing.
He dabbed at the long gash with a washcloth and dried it as best he could with a Kleenex. The Batman Band-Aid went on and a smile came from Libby's tightly pressed together lips.
"You're okay, sweetheart. You're okay."
Mulder kissed her forehead and picked her up off the bathroom counter, setting her on the floor once more.
Libby ran for the apartment door and was met by her friend from down the hall, and they took off to play outside again.
Mulder watched them from the window, not only to make sure they played safely, but to make sure no one was out there, ready to take his daughter.
The voice came softly and he looked up to see Scully in the doorway, home from work, her hands twisting the corner of her lab coat, eyes troubled.
"I think we're going to have to move."
A shudder went down his spine and he glanced briefly out the window again, eyes searching for the hidden man in the shadows that he knew would be there.
"Someone approached me."
"What? What do you mean?"
She had his full attention now. He was stiff, poised on the balls of his feet as if waiting for the attack.
She walked calmly to him and guided him to the couch, then sat beside him, knowing that he was waiting for an answer, but also knowing that she had to phrase it exactly right.
"It's all so unbelievable," she muttered.
He snorted. "Never thought I'd hear you say that," sarcasm heavy in his voice.
She raised her eyes at him and gave him a look. "Just listen, all right? And don't say anything until I finish."
He shut his mouth quickly, angered by her coldness.
"Someone approached me today, after I got off the subway and was in that one spot I told you about, the one that you were worried about because it was so dark and was a good place for Shadow people to hide, remember?"
He merely nodded, recalling walking past the little alley off the abandoned cleaner's, and the darkness, and the way she never seemed to remember that it was a dangerous place.
"I was standing at the corner, waiting for the light to change so that I could cross and he came up to me. He was in a suit, with navy blue pin stripe and a very conservative tie that screamed WASP, you know?"
He said nothing, only continued his vigil by the window, automatically checking for men in navy blue pin stripe suits, men that might take his little girl.
"So, I sort of looked at him and he said ..."
Mulder's eyes were drawn back to her face and he stared at her, noting the incredible doubt that seared her eyes.
"He said what?" he said softly, somehow realizing that whatever she had heard or seen hadn't been what she'd been expecting.
"He said that I ... I was with child and that we had to flee."
He sat there for a moment, as if her words hadn't made it through yet and he continued to stare out the window.
"What ..." he began.
"He said it exactly like that too, Mulder. 'With child'. No one talks like that anymore. No one acts like he did. The light changed and people began shoving to get across and he simply let them all scramble around him and he kept the same peaceful, radiant look on his face."
He shook his head violently.
"Are you saying some escaped nut came up to you and said some things and now you believe him?"
"He wasn't a nut."
"What the hell else do you think it was?!" she said, jumping to her feet and avoiding his eyes, knowing that if he looked at her, she'd lose her resolve.
"Not an angel."
He was speechless, his mouth open and staring at her as if the real Dana Scully had been taken away by aliens and this was a clone he was talking to.
But also, only that theory could have come from her.
"You believe God has been in contact with you?"
"Stop making it sound so stupid, Mulder. I'm not crazy. The man was there, in front of me, *talking* to me."
"I believe that you believe that!" he shouted, standing up and rushing over to her.
She backed away from him, eyes troubled and turbulent, as if this very idea was killing her to even discuss.
"Mulder ... whoever or whatever he was, he told me we had to get out of here. I heard his voice. I heard it. He was *afraid* for us. He was urgent, insisting; he demanded that we leave."
"He said your names. Libby's, yours."
She slumped to the chair, curling up in a fetal position as if she could hide from this new truth.
"He knew us?"
"I guess so."
"It could be someone from the Shadow men, warning us. Like Deep Throat, or X."
"Oh, Mulder. If you had been there, you would understand. That man could never be a shadow ... "
He turned, eyes searching the window and the yard out back for answers to the sudden upheaval once again in their lives.
"Where's Libby?" she said then.
His eyes were frantic when he turned to her and she jumped out of the chair.
"Outside. Just a second ago she was there. I don't see her ..."
They ran for the stairs and tumbled down to the bottom floor, not even bothering to keep their feet on the steps, simply sliding and stumbling down. They burst from the back door, the heavy wood swinging wide and slamming into the stone bricks with a noise that sounded like a coffin lid closing.
Mulder's calls were hoarse and cracking as he yelled her name, running through the tangles of trees that led to the back edge of Central Park.
After a few minutes he no longer heard Scully behind him and he had the sickening feeling in his gut that the Shadows had caught her too.
He stopped in the middle of the thicket, feeling disgustingly like Snow White, and stood still. His breath was the only sound to mar the utter silence surrounding him.
Scully had quickly lost sight of Mulder due to his urgency and long legs and she gave up trying to keep up with him.
And then there was the man again. Looking oddly out of place in his blue suit and nice shoes among the thorns and limbs of the surrounding trees.
He took her hand in his and it was cool to the touch, as if he had no blood to warm him up inside.
"Come on," he said, but just as last time, the words did not come from his lips or vocal cords, but from inside her head.
She hadn't told Mulder that part because she hadn't been sure, but now ... now she was.
She followed the man -- well she couldn't quite call him that -- deeper into the copse and watched as the branches seemed to untangle before him and the trees sort of bowed to him.
Maybe it was just the brisk, cold wind blowing in from the Sound ...
He led her to a clearing and Scully saw her little girl, sprawled out on the ground, a man bending over her and searching the back of her neck.
Scully's blood froze and she stood petrified until she felt the nudge at her shoulder.
The man was there, watching her, telling her with his dark eyes that everything was going to be all right.
Scully ran out and into the clearing, her hand reaching for a gun that hadn't been there in months.
"Stop!" she screamed and attacked the man before he could defend himself.
He heard the yell, the sounds ahead of him and he began running again.
He burst into the clearing and found Scully getting slammed into the ground next to his unconscious little girl.
All thought deserted him and he pulled out his gun, his police issue revolver that was slower than his Bureau service pistol, but still had the power of death in its barrel.
Death arrived for the man hurting his family with painful slowness and he fell in blood and one low scream.
And in the fallout was a man in a pin stripe suit, suddenly bending over his little girl and handling her gently.
Mulder nodded with grim determination, then crawled next to Scully, afraid to touch her.
She groaned and her eyes flickered open, hands clenching in the stillness.
"She's okay. Your angel has her," he said, a trace of bitterness in his voice.
"Oh ... Mulder ..." she murmured and turned her head to him, eyes blinking and closing and blinking again.
He touched her head. "Can you move your fingers?"
She wiggled her fingers, then her toes, and then reached for his hand. "I'm okay. No broken neck or anything," she said and sat up.
The man in blue gave her Libby's limp body and she cradled her with shaking arms.
"Mommy?" The voice was pitifully weak and Scully noticed the slurred words and sluggish movement with a physician's clarity.
"She's been drugged, Mulder."
He took Libby in his arms and laid her against his chest, nestling her head under his chin.
"How did you get ahead of me?" he said softly, his eyes on the man.
Scully stood and steadied herself by holding on to his arm, waiting for the dizziness to pass.
"He led me here. I followed him because he knew where she was."
He shook his head, inclined to disbelieve, but something in him screaming that this was real, this was truth.
"I thank you, sir, for --"
"That's all right. You see now. You must leave. Your family is in danger."
Mulder looked at her with raised eyes and she frowned at him.
"You are in danger. They want what is not theirs back again. They want her back again. And because they know."
"That she has done what others could not."
"Who? Libby, or Dana?"
A faint smile and then a sort of amused laugh. "Both."
"What's going on? Won't you at least tell me what I have to do to protect them?"
"Leave here. Leave now."
"Besides that! Damn you, I *know* that already!"
The man's face turned cloudy and his eyes were dark and angered.
"Damn nothing, Mr. Mulder, lest you damn yourself."
And then the trees were whispering, and he was gone.
He turned and saw that Scully was shaking.
"Mulder! We have to leave! No matter *what* he said to us, or even if he was real! Someone tried to *kill* Libby. They know."
She was almost pleading with him, knowing that he could be very stubborn, very obstinate when he thought it was a matter of pride, of proving himself.
"If we run, they'll know, Scully."
"They already know. You've seen them following us. I've watched them watch Libby. I've seen your eyes when you don't think I'm watching you. You're afraid!"
"That's right. I am afraid. I'm afraid even more now, because there's a real nut acting like God or something and knowing way too much about what's going on to let me trust him."
"He helped us Mulder."
"It sure looked like it, hunh?"
She sighed and shook her head, keeping the tears of frustration and desperation from her eyes. She bit down on her lip and made up her mind, praying at once for his forgiveness.
"I'm leaving, Mulder."
She wouldn't look at him, only shakingly took out a bag and began throwing things in it, clothes, Libby's favorite book, money, her wedding ring ...
A pause and silence.
She fingered the ring and laid it back down on the dresser.
"You can decide now, Mulder. This is your chance to get out of it. You don't love me like that anyway, and you've been getting pretty sick of not having the X-Files, I know. But we'll be leaving. I can't let anyone get to Libby, I can't stay here knowing that there are Shadows that can so easily get to her."
She turned and walked from their bedroom, trying as hard as she could to block out whatever noises he was making from behind her.
She didn't even get a chance to make it to the hallway.
He grabbed her and yanked her around, a sound like a desperate sob rising in his throat.
"I'm *not* leaving you. I'm not letting you walk away with the only -- the only part of my life that makes it worth living."
She pulled out of his tight grip. "Then stop licking your wounded pride and *help* me."
He took her hand and pressed something into it.
She looked up at him and his eyes begged her.
The ring was light and a shiny soft gold that fit perfectly onto her finger.
It slid on gently and reflected the light from the hall, a mirror image of his eyes appearing in its surface.
She pressed her head into his chest for one brief moment, needing his security.
She had thought he would take his chance and leave.
He hadn't left. He hadn't left.
That night, Libby would not go to her own bedroom and she crawled up between Mulder and Dana and fell asleep, her small body curled around Mulder.
Dana was glad Libby had come because she didn't want to be alone with Mulder tonight; she was afraid they'd fight again, and things were so fragile now.
She twisted the ring on her finger, surprised she had not taken it off before bed, but knowing that if she had, it would have been a kind of death to him.
He did not want to be without her, or Libby, his eyes had made that clear, but what did he want? Did he want an easy life, a happy life? Or the perpetual gloom and despair he seemed to radiate?
She wanted to leave now, and Mulder wanted to wait. He said that their Shadows wouldn't try anything now and it was best to wait.
Scully was too tired to fight about it anymore and she had gone to bed, prompting Libby and Mulder to follow.
She laid there, remembering the encounter with the pin stripe man and his smile, the little bit of peace that seemed to radiate from him in glowing waves. She knew she could trust him. She just had to get Mulder to.
Libby's safety depended on it.
The man said I was with child.
Did he just mean Libby ... or what she thought he meant?
No. It was impossible. Mulder had told her; she had confirmed it. She had lamented it and howled about it and sobbed and grown cold and indifferent to it. It was impossible.
But if he was really an angel ... if he was then it could be a true miracle.
But she couldn't get her hopes up. What if she wasn't? She couldn't be. There was no time for it anymore. And if they did have to leave, then it would be very inconvenient.
But a baby ...
She traced her hand along her stomach and caressed the warmth. Did she imagine a little heart beat?
Mulder stirred and opened his eyes, his senses immediately filling in the night time stillness with the movements and the sounds he knew were there.
He felt the warmth of his little girl's arm flung across his chest and the coolness of the sheets. Then he heard her breathing and the outside noises.
Then he heard something else.
It was what had awakened him.
He reached over and touched Scully softly, squeezing on her arm until she slowly awoke.
She tensed to feel his anxiousness and lifted her head to see over Libby and into his eyes.
He motioned for her to listen and her eyes closed in concentration. She tuned out his breathing, blocked Libby's sleeping sounds, and eliminated the night noises. It was a trick Mulder had taught her once when she had woken afraid.
She heard it.
A sound of a key in the lock and a shuffling, like feet moving from side to side.
She nodded and wet her lips, then rose from the bed and drew Mulder's gun from the little drawer on the dresser. It was cold and heavy and almost uncomfortable after so long without one.
It quickly became familiar and she slipped out of the bedroom.
Mulder came up behind her after he had untangled himself from Libby and she felt his heat at her back.
"Left," he whispered and she detoured left and let him go right. They met at opposite sides of the door and stood off to the side.
Suddenly the door swung open and Mulder was fighting and she didn't have a clear shot and the man was hurting him ...
"Stop!" she yelled.
The man froze at the sound of the cocking of a gun and backed away from Mulder, turning to see her.
It was the pin stripe suit man.
She lowered the gun and Mulder glanced harshly at her, his eyes clearly saying he did not trust the man.
"I have come for you," the man said and held out his hand.
The gun took a life of its own and slumped out of her fingers and into his hand, then was gone.
She gaped at him then realized that he had pocketed it, not made it vanish.
Mulder was quickly at her side, standing slightly in front of her in case the man tried anything.
"Mr. Mulder, I know you are trying to protect your family. But I'm not the enemy. There are dark forces who conspire against you and I have been sent here to make sure you get away before they can do anything."
"Why now? Why sneak into our house like a snake?"
"It is not as a snake," he said, his voice scathing. "It is like a Fox."
Mulder's jaw set and the muscles worked up and down, jumping along his mouth and cheek. "Why are you here? Can't it wait till morning?"
"No, it cannot. They are coming for you now."
Scully came up and stood in front of him, fingering the cross necklace on the chain around her neck. "You will help us?"
"Yes. We must leave now. They want what you have managed to create."
"What's that?" Mulder said, eyes still wary. For all he knew, this was a Shadow man coming to take them.
"Life. Love. You have it and no others of her kind do."
"Your daughters and sons are placed with fathers and mothers and homes and they do not have this. They have no love in them, or they hurt others, or they do not talk, or they do not eat. Every time there is something wrong. Except Libby."
Mulder stared back at him, his mouth dropping and his eyes slack and unfocused as he absorbed this. His children, the other Emilys, were somewhere hurting or unloved. And he had not found them. Instead the Shadows had found his little girl.
He looked at Scully and her eyes held the dimness that crept up on them whenever he had come home with another name scratched off the list.
"We must leave now. I have everything ready for you. Money and jobs and papers and passports and marriage certificates. Everything for you to change identities completely about four times."
Mulder looked at the man with shock. "Why are you doing this?"
"It is God's will," the man replied and left them, heading for their bedroom as if he knew Libby would be there.
Scully looked at him with a kind of fever in her eyes. "Mulder, we have to go. We have to get --"
"I know. I know. We're leaving."
He sighed and took one last look out the apartment window, his eyes following the shapes of the trees and bushes and sidewalks in the dark.
The Shadows were coming for them and they had to leave.
He swore it would be the last time the Shadows would find them.
In the truck, her body sprawled along the back seat and bouncing with the uneven road, Scully finally could think.
The man had put them in the truck and handed them some papers and had kissed Libby good-bye as if he knew her as an uncle or brother. Then he had looked at Scully and said something very strange.
"Keep your children away from the Shadows."
Did he mean the Emilys, or did he mean the life that might grow inside her? She still felt a sense of half hope at the idea that she could be pregnant. Things he had said hinted it, but Mulder had not asked or even realized this and she could say nothing now.
"Yeah?" she answered softly, realizing with a bit of sadness that Mulder did not call her Scully any longer.
His eyes glanced in the rear view mirror for her, but saw nothing since she was lying on the seat.
"Did you really think he was an angel?"
"Yes," she said honestly, wishing he would drop it and just forget about it. They were on their way to another life. They did not need fights.
"I think you might be right," he said, his words coming out slowly and softly. "And I want to say I'm sorry for hurting you earlier. I don't want you to think that --"
"I don't think anything Mulder. I was out of line with what I said. You didn't deserve it. I know you do love Libby and you were only trying to do what was right."
"I love Libby very much. I love you very much."
She made a face into the seat, wishing he would drop it. He didn't love her like she wanted, like she needed, and she was tired of it being a sore spot with him. She thought it would be better if she had never had told him.
"I don't ..." She trailed off. It was hard to lie to him, hard to openly say what she needed to in order for him to let it go. "I think I made a mistake, when we talked on that bench. I think I mistook devotion and kindness and dependence and friendship, and maybe a little bit of hero worship, for something more. You do have my love, but not ... not in the way ... well, I think we love each other as friends and that is it."
She bit down hard on her lip to keep the tears away and was glad he could not see her face. He would see her lies.
"Oh," he said and she could hear the disappointment. She supposed it would be kind of disappointing, even though he did not love her that way.
"I ... I understand. It's, ah ... yeah. I understand."
She nodded and turned in the seat to the back, so that even if he turned around while she slept, he would not see the tracks across her face or the pain from telling him lies.
Libby made a noise in her sleep and Mulder glanced over.
He heard a sigh, like when you have cried very hard and finally breathe in after the long ordeal.
It sounded like the sigh of a woman giving up her dreams.
He hoped her words had not been the truth.
It was a long way to San Francisco, that much he had learned. When you couldn't just hop on a flight and go there, it was a very long way.
Libby liked the road trip and she enjoyed running around at the rest stops, or helping Scully buy things at the gas stations, or singing at the top of her lungs in the car.
She sat in the front seat most of the time, letting Mulder and Scully switch off driving and sleeping, so that neither were awake at the same time. Instead of taking five or six days to reach California, that way they made it in four.
When Scully drove, Libby was allowed to pick the radio stations and she got to talk more, but when Mulder drove, she got to sit in his lap and steer sometimes.
Libby wasn't sure which she liked better, driving with Daddy or talking and playing with Mommy.
"Mommy?" she said softly, her voice rising above the radio and into Scully's consciousness.
"Yeah, baby?" Scully answered, checking her mirror and changing lanes so they could take a bathroom break.
"Why did we have to leave everything?"
Dana sighed and glanced over briefly at her, wishing the question had not come. She wasn't sure what to say.
"Because ... do you remember what it was like Before, Libby? When your other Mommy took you away from the doctors and you came to us?"
Libby's tiny face screwed up and she twisted around in her seat. "You're not going to leave me, are you?"
Her quick little mind had already taken those classic Mulder- leaps.
"Oh no, baby. We're not leaving you. We're going someplace where the doctors can't find you anymore," Scully said, reaching out a hand to touch her head and stroke her hair.
"Did they find us before?"
"Well, a man came and told us that they had, and we thought it was best to be careful."
Silence erupted suddenly and Scully took the exit for the rest stop. She pulled into an empty spot and turned the engine off. Libby scrambled out of the truck and up to the vending machines.
Scully called out to her, "Bathroom first, baby."
Libby swerved and went for the restrooms.
It was dark and getting close to eight o'clock, which meant Mulder would drive for the rest of the way.
Scully opened the back door and pulled herself up into the seat, resting on the small space available.
She touched his cheek and ran her fingers along his throat, urging him to wake up.
"Mulder?" she whispered, lips close to his ear, thumb stroking his cheek.
He mumbled and moved a bit, nuzzling her leg with his nose.
"Come on, Mulder. Wake up, it's your watch."
His eyes blinked open and came to focus on her sitting there.
"Wake up, sleepy head."
He sat up, moving away from her touch and upright for the first time in about ten hours.
He glanced at his watch and turned quickly back to her.
"You should have woken me earlier."
"You were tired. You let me sleep in yesterday."
"Just let it go, Mulder." she sighed and slipped out of the truck.
He watched her walk away, into the receding dark illuminated by the lights of the rest stop. She looked exhausted, overworked, almost sick. He hoped she wasn't getting a cold from all of this.
He locked the truck after making sure he had the keys and walked up to the huge map in the lobby. It marked their spot and he saw she had driven them into Oklahoma already.
Libby came running out of the bathroom at top speed, then plowed into his legs.
"Daddy can I have money for the vending machines?" she said, talking through quick breaths.
He pulled out a dollar and handed it to her. "No caffeine, baby."
She nodded while she ran out.
He went to the bathroom, washed his hands and face and then came out. Scully was there, hands in her pockets, eyes on the map and following the roads etched there.
He came up behind her and encircled her with his arms.
She leaned into him and he knew he was forgiven.
The room smelled like cleaner and disinfectant, so he propelled her outside, waiting for Libby to get something from vending under the huge overhang of the rest stop.
Dana breathed in the scent of rain and dust, mixed with a kind of atmosphere that was prevalent in the West. She couldn't quite tell what it was, only that it wasn't present in the Northeast.
He wrapped his arms around her again, nose tucked into her shoulder and neck, breathing in her scent, forgoing the smell of earth and rain for one of Scully.
Even now, even after everything, he thought of her as Scully. He had tried to force his tongue to use Dana, thinking it would make his mind use Dana, but it hadn't worked. He called her Dana, and thought Scully.
Sometimes, Scully would slip out and she got this look on her face he couldn't decipher, so he didn't use it.
He wondered what was meant by her use of Mulder. Maybe just uncomfortable with saying Fox, or maybe she thought he really hated it.
They had new names now. Entirely different ones. Before they were Jared and Sue Miller. He hadn't been able to call her that. She'd managed to take it in stride and called him Miller, as a sort of joke he had first thought. But then, bad things had happened and words got mixed up and they'd gone back to Mulder and Scully, even Dana ...
Now it was Chris and Kate Williams. Very average, run of the mill, names that would not cause anyone to think twice.
He shifted and wondered if he could call her Kate. Or if they would even be able to pull this off. The man that had come to them seemed confident enough, seemed to know what he was doing.
They had jobs already set up in San Francisco. She would work at an Inner City Clinic and he was the manager, ironically enough, of Fox Photos.
Libby came back just then and they got back into the truck. Libby opted for the back seat this time and Scully sat in the front, next to him, her eyes and body too wired to fall asleep just yet.
Mulder got them back on the highway and into the fast lane, thinking far away from his family.
She had been right, earlier. He thrived on the danger and mystery of the X-Files. He needed that in his life to give it direction and ... meaning, almost. But she had one thing wrong.
He needed her too. He needed his family and that love and hope and everything it entailed.
It felt good to be on the road, running again, but it felt even better at home, Libby in his arms and Scully snuggled up beside him as he read to his daughter.
His thoughts began to wander back to the X-Files, to the beasts they'd seen, the monsters and conspiracies and the cancer. All the death there, surrounding them both, yet not ever drowning them.
Scully saw his far away eyes and reached out her hand to touch his.
She grabbed it and held it beside her for a moment before gently pressing her lips to his skin.
He stroked her fingers and held on to her tightly.
She closed her eyes and curled up beside him, head pressed into his thigh. Her jaw and back relaxed and then he felt her fall into sleep.
He put one hand protectively to her forehead and then, in a moment of sudden insight, touched her stomach.
The man had said ...
He sighed. He didn't want to get his hopes up.
Scully refused to let the truck end up like his office had always been.
She tossed the empty cups and McDonalds bag into the trash then searched the rest stop for Libby's small figure.
She was running through the paths, the lights making her suddenly flare into view, then disappear as the darkness claimed her. Dana sighed and went back to their truck, praying that Libby didn't get anymore Coke.
Libby bounded into the truck without any vending treat and handed her mother the money back. Scully, surprised, took it and put it in her pocket just as Mulder came out of the restrooms.
He looked like hell, his face pasty and shadowed by lack of sleep, hair dull and lifeless, just like his eyes, his body slumping forward and sagging. He moved in slowly, then opened the door of the truck for her, sweeping the air with a stiff hand.
"Your coach awaits," he murmured and she got in, watching him climb into the back seat with the grace of a ninety year old woman.
He was far beyond exhausted.
He immediately let his eyes slide shut; Libby was sleeping too.
Dana sighed and backed out of the space, coming to a quick decision right then that she knew Mulder would argue about later.
After twenty minutes on the interstate, Dana found a place that looked reasonably clean and had good rates. A few seedy looking cars outside the office and the pool was closed, but much better than the places she'd been to with Mulder.
She didn't like the way the man looked at her as she signed in, and she especially didn't enjoy his eyes raking her over, but she smiled and ignored his obvious appraisal, and got back in the truck.
She drove around to their motel room, number 147, ironically enough, and parked at the available slot. The truck's engine stopped and all was silent for a moment.
Mulder was still out cold and Libby was breathing heavily and she herself was ready to fall asleep right there.
She tried to wake Libby but every time she tried, Libby would mumble and kick with her feet or wriggle away.
"Come on, Libby. Time for bed."
Libby whined, eyes still closed, mouth open and breath coming slow and heavy. She burrowed farther into the seat and ignored her mother.
All Dana could do was try and carry her to the room.
She unlocked the door, propped it open with the waste bucket, and attempted to haul the four year old into the room and onto the bed.
It was more physically challenging than the stupid obstacle course at Quantico.
She slumped back on the other bed as she finally managed to tuck Libby in, pulling off her shoes and letting her sleep in her clothes.
She closed her eyes and caught her breath, massaging the back of her cramped neck with one hand.
She felt tingling go up her spine and she whirled around, eyes open, heart thudding.
"Why'd we stop? What's going on?" he slurred, eyes still bleary and scratchy. He rubbed a hand over his chin and shut the door.
"We need to stop and get a good night's sleep. This isn't working anymore."
He eyed her. She was slumped and pale, her eyes held no sparks and her body language screamed defeat.
"If you're tired, I can drive for a bit more," he said, sitting down next to her.
She jumped up. "No you can't! Mulder, yesterday, I woke up and saw you practically asleep at the wheel. But I didn't even have the energy to do anything about it!"
She sighed and slumped back on the bed, realizing that yelling at a tired Mulder was like yelling at cows. Neither would be able to listen.
"Libby is exhausted, but she can't sleep. She takes a nap for an hour, then stays up until we change drivers, then she's sleeping for another hour. I don't know when she's gotten a full eight straight hours of sleep."
Mulder's eyes traveled to Libby's face, a bit hot and sweaty with her clothes still on and the blankets over her.
"She doesn't sleep with me at all," he said quietly.
"No. I should've realized. Oh, sh --"
"Stop it, Mulder. We didn't know. At least we do now. She'll be fine."
He collapsed onto the bed, stretching his cramped muscles as far as they would go. "Ah ... I needed that."
She gave him a flash of a smile and stood, moving over to Libby and puling the covers down a bit so that she wouldn't get too hot.
He watched, then reached out and captured her wrists, pulling her down beside him.
"I missed you," he said.
She looked at him strangely, and her eyes told him she didn't understand.
"We never get a chance to be together anymore. You're awake and I'm asleep. You wake up and I fall asleep." He paused, running his fingers along the side of her face. "I never get to see you."
She smiled softly and kissed his fingers, but a part of her shuddered and tried not to attach any emotional significance to his movements. He was tired and he thought he needed her ... he needed to relieve tension, exhaust himself ...
She let out a shaky breath as he traced the lines of her lips, her breath tickling his hand.
She felt the ice melt from around her and she let her defenses down. He had said 'Scully,' not Dana. It was almost as if she had him back -- the real Mulder with the passion for work and for truth and for paranormal. She had him back.
And he was looking at her like that ...
He wasn't dense though; he noticed the change, the way her body relaxed and her limbs loosened.
"You okay?" he asked, sliding a hand through her hair.
She nodded. "I missed that."
He kissed her mouth gently. "What did you miss? I'll be happy to do it more often."
Her lips worked into a smile under him ... she seemed to be silently recanting the words she had spoken in the truck at the beginning.
"My name. I missed it coming from those lips."
He kissed her eyes then, his hands holding her still beside him. "Your name?"
"Scully ..." she whispered, eyes closing as his touch found secret hidden places of pleasure within her.
But then he stopped.
"What? Your name? Why?"
She caught her breath, opening her eyes and trying to keep the vulnerability from her face.
"It's more than just my name. It signals a change in you ... a ... a return. I don't know. Never mind."
She turned and lay on her side, facing away from him. He had a horrible feeling she was trying not to cry.
"Please tell me," he said, knowing that somehow this was very important.
He fell silent, waiting for her.
"When you say it, it seems that this could be real. Like it could have happened if there had never been any Emilys. You say Scully and you kiss me just as you said Scully and we chased after monsters or Eddie Van Blundht or just as we sat alone in an office and tried not to let each know how much we hurt ..."
She stopped again.
"It makes me think ..." she started, then gazed at the wall.
He grew frustrated and propped up on his elbow.
"It makes you think what? That I could love you? You'd better think that. You'd better think I love you, Scully." He emphasized her name with a kind of desperate urgency.
"Why? So that people will believe our cover and the Shadows won't catch us?"
"No!" he cried and it was hoarse with a kind of frustrated rage that she'd never seen in him before. "No. Because I do. Because I love you and I don't know why I ever thought I could hide it from you."
She was silent, unblinking, trying to keep the hope from rising in her chest. "You told me that before. In New York you said the same words and then you denied them a month later on a cold bench in Central Park. And now those words have come again."
"Please don't, Scully."
He knew her that well. Without even being able to see her he knew.
The use of her name was a slap and she withdrew from him.
"I won't let you do this to me, Mulder."
She was too far past anger.
"Do you trust me, Scully?"
Silence from her.
"As long as you still trust me, then we've still got a chance, right?"
It sounded like a woman pleading for her life. He reached out to touch her neck and she shivered.
She was crying.
"Don't cry," he muttered feebly. "Don't cry."
She shook her head and tried to pull away but collapsed against him instead.
"You don't know how much I want to ..."
"Then what keeps you from believing me?"
He smiled. "I've heard that before ..."
She nodded and let him pull her to him.
He kissed her gently, as a sort of apology.
She smiled a bit. "Go to sleep Mulder."
"Yes ma'am," he said and smiled.
She still trusted him.
Libby barely noticed the changes outside the window, how the gentle grass and occasional tree had been supplanted by weeds and rocks and no more trees.
She sat carefully perched on the seat, her baby fingers reviewing everything she had very carefully, touching it and making her mind remember everything.
First her box. It was white and old and had black marker on the side that read "Case#330000-399999" and it had once been her Daddy's. Inside were all her books, from her Baby Bunny Colors to her "Wrinkle In Time" and "Charlotte's Web." She ran her fingers over the spines, then across the covers and remembered reading the stories with Mommy and Daddy. Her box was full and she closed the lid.
Next, her backpack. Mommy had rushed to her in the night, their last night in New York, and given her the bag and told her to put only the things she wanted to take in it. Mommy had said they could not come back to get anything. She unzipped it slowly and peered into the darkness of its recesses. There were her two favorite videos, "The Fox and The Hound," and "Winnie the Pooh," along with her stuffed fox that Mommy had gotten her. Daddy always laughed when he saw it and it somehow made things better when they were mad at each other. So, Libby had brought it. Then her Barbie that she'd gotten at a garage sale. Its hair was still shiny and new smelling and it had all the clothes and things still with it. A Ziploc bag of Barbie clothes was buried next to her videos. Next was her stuffed, old fashioned Pooh, with its light yellow bow and sad eyes that reminded her of Daddy's.
Then the pillow and her faded blue blanket.
It was all she had managed to take.
She frowned and knew there was something missing. Something else her fingers should have touched when she'd done the inventory. The box, the bag, the blanket, the bear --
She knew at once what she had missed. "Mommy!"
The voice came to Dana frightened, panicked. Her eyes immediately went to the rear view mirror to see Libby's wide eyes.
"What's wrong, baby?"
"Where's my bear? Where's my Moving Bear?"
"I don't know baby. Did you look for it?"
But Libby had grown anxious and she peered at Mulder's sleeping form and then crept up to the divider. She slid over the front seat, landing in Mulder's lap and awakening him, her eyes searching for her bear.
"Libby!" Scully said, trying to keep her eyes on the road, yet keep Libby from getting hurt. "Get back in your seat and put your seatbelt on."
"I can't find Teddy!" she wailed and her face scrunched up with tears.
"Did you look in your bag?"
"Oh, Mommy, I looked all over!"
Her voice and expression were so pitiful that Dana took her hand and kissed it.
Mulder was awake now and trying to coax Libby back into her seat. "When we get to the rest stop, we'll open the trunk and look in there, okay Libby?"
"What if he's not there? What if I lost him?" she sniffled, allowing herself to be strapped in.
Mulder twisted back around in his seat. "We'll call the motel, baby. We'll ask them."
Libby was silent, her eyes seeing the scenery now as it slipped by, but not recognizing anything she saw.
Mulder leaned over to Sully, eyebrows knitted together. "Scully, I didn't pack her bear in the trunk," he said.
She shook her head. "I didn't see it either."
Dana's eyes slid back to the little girl sitting forlornly on the back seat, her face mournful and almost comically dramatic. "What will we do?" she said.
"Call that motel. She probably left it in the room."
Scully nodded and glanced once more to their daughter.
Libby tucked her head into her blanket, then laid on her pillow, eyes watching the so-blue sky as it raced by outside. Her bear was gone.
Her bear was gone.
"No luck," Mulder said, returning the thick accumulation of assorted papers back to his wallet.
Scully bit her lip and looked down at Libby's ancient eyes. They begged her to find her bear.
Suddenly inspiration struck. "Mulder! Did you steal the motel pen again?"
He chuckled. "I don't steal them ... but yeah."
"I bet the number's there." She flashed him a victorious smile and he felt a warm tingling grow in his skin.
"I bet you're right," he said, but he was thinking,
He dug through the glove compartment and came up with a fistful of pens, in various shapes and colors.
"Okay, which is it?" he said, glancing to her.
"Travel ... something."
He frowned and rooted around in his hand, poking some back into the glove compartment.
"Oh. Here it is. I remember. Bright ugly pink color. Good job, G-woman."
She smiled again. "As someone once said, that's why they put the 'I' in FBI ..."
His groan cut her off. "Don't remind me."
"Why? It was cute at the time."
"Yeah, right. I was trying to freak you out, make you think I was nutty."
"And you did an excellent job of it. In fact, I still think you're nutty."
"Oh well, thanks Agent Scully. I appreciate your honesty."
He could tell the words were cutting deeper than mere sarcasm. She winced and shot right back.
"Hey, the truth is out there."
"Deny everything," he noted.
"Well," she said softly. "That is a long standing policy of yours."
He looked over, knowing exactly what she meant. The bench in Central Park. He leaned forward and kissed the side of her neck.
"Well, from now on. Apology is policy."
She seemed to almost hum. "Well, if this is how you apologize, I just might forgive you."
He was reaching over to touch her when Libby yelled.
"Rest stop! Rest stop!"
Dana grinned. "Yeah, baby. I see it."
Mulder sighed and thanked the man and then replaced the receiver.
Libby could already tell.
"No bear," she said softly.
"That's right, Libby. They didn't find your bear."
Libby's lip quivered and her chin trembled. The brightness of the rest stop's location did nothing to relieve the growing doom over her.
"No more Moving Bear," she whispered.
Silent tears slipped down her cheeks and she felt Mommy put her arms around her. She tried not to cry, she wasn't supposed to cry.
Mulder had been expecting a huge tantrum. But this was Libby, and she was always like Scully when it came to feelings.
She cried silently and clutched at the bench, obviously trying to hold back tears.
Scully wrapped her deeper in her arms and pulled her up off the bench and into her lap. "Libby, it's okay to cry when you're sad."
A heart breaking sob wrenched from her body, as if it had been stored up her entire little life, waiting for the acceptable time to explode. Dana found herself crying too, as Mulder rubbed Libby's back and stroked her hair.
"I lost him. I lost my bear. I'm sorry Daddy. I didn't mean to lose him."
Mulder's throat caught around the jagged edges of his heart and he leaned down close to her, praying with all his strength that his daughter did not end up like him.
"It's okay, sweetheart. It's okay. Things happen like this and no one means for it to happen. You didn't do anything wrong, Libby. You didn't do anything wrong."
Her face was laying on her Scully's shoulder, cheek pressed into her T-shirt and tear stains on both of them. Dana gently rocked her back and forth.
"Daddy, do you think another little girl got him and picked him up?"
Mulder wondered if the idea would upset her. "Maybe."
"Is that little girl going to love my Moving Bear?"
"Of course, sweetie."
"So, he'll be all right."
"Your bear will be all right. He'll miss you just like you miss him, but he'll be all right."
Libby let out a big sigh, like she had weathered a storm of enormous proportions.
"Libby, on the way, we'll stop and get you another bear, okay?" Scully said softly.
Mulder didn't know if Libby would like that, but once again, Libby turned out to be more Scully than he realized.
"Another bear. But it still won't be the same, will it Daddy?"
Mulder shook his head. "No. This one will be a California Bear."
Libby gave a little smile. "A California bear?"
Her child words mauled California, but it made them smile.
"Yes. And you can name him whatever you want."
It seemed to be settled and they were once again on the highway, heading closer and closer to San Francisco and their new home. Everything was quiet as Libby played in the back seat with her Barbie and Mulder stared idly out the window.
Suddenly he turned to her.
"We did good with that," he said softly, smiling at her.
She felt pride return. "Yes, we did."
"See, Scully? We can be parents. We're good parents."
She smiled and he squeezed her leg, leaving his hand resting across her thigh.
She couldn't help remembering what the pin stripe man had said.
Mulder laid down, stretching out and putting his head next to her leg.
"Yup, we're going to be all right."
They were walking down the toy aisle of Wal-Mart when the nausea hit.
It almost knocked her over and she stood very still, swallowing down the rising waves of bile and acid. Taking a deep breath, Dana forced her legs to move to where Mulder stood, looking at some Teddy Bears Libby had found.
She felt it rise again and closed her mouth tightly, breathing through her nose, trying to keep her control. She glanced around the huge place and found the bathrooms -- all the way on the other side of the store.
"Mulder," she said, leaning close to him. "I'm going to the bathroom. Meet you at the check-out lanes."
She propelled herself forward before he could say anything.
She vomited four times in the toilet before she felt steady enough to try and make it out of the bathroom. On the way to the door, the stinging sensation rose again and she almost didn't make it to the sink.
Washing it out slowly, she felt her entire body shaking as she tried to get the taste of it out of her mouth and the smell of it out of her nose.
She ran back to the stalls before she even had a chance to collect herself.
She lay curled on the cold tile floor for a few minutes, letting its chill shock her back into energy. She tried to calculate how much time it'd been since she'd left Mulder and Libby, but she couldn't even begin to guess.
She stood shakily, taking it much more slowly this time, and shuffled over to the sink to wash her face and rinse her mouth out.
The bathroom door flew open as she was washing her hands and Scully was grateful the woman hadn't come in while she was giving over her breakfast.
The woman looked oddly at her as it was, prompting Dana to look in the mirror at herself.
She looked as miserable as she felt.
She took her make-up compact from her purse and tried to rid herself of the paleness and the sickness.
She steadied herself once more and then strode out the door with false courage.
A brief wave almost sent her back, but she walked on, making it to the registers before Mulder and Libby even got there.
She didn't have long to wait before Libby came bounding up, a huge tan bear in her hands.
"Sorry we took so long," Mulder said, giving her a half smile.
She nodded, not trusting her stomach enough to open her mouth.
"See, Mommy? He's got a tan."
Dana smiled and felt its fur. "Soft, too."
"Daddy said he had the tan," Libby explained proudly. "That's what makes him a California bear."
"Oh, wow. What are you going to name him?" she said, drawing closer to her.
"Teddy," she said, as if everyone should know *that*.
Mulder chuckled and led her to the check-out line, his hand touching the back of her head to lead her along. Scully realized with a twinge that it was almost the same height as where Mulder used to place his hand to guide her.
Her stomach flipped over and she ground her teeth.
They arrived at the outskirts of San Francisco and had to turn off the air conditioner and even pull on sweatshirts, although it was the middle of June. The roads went up and down and then up again and Scully kept her forehead pressed to the window and her eyes closed.
Her stomach threatened horrible things.
They made their way through light traffic, since it was ten at night, and when they got a block away from the addresses they'd been given by the man in the pin stripe suit, Mulder pulled into a parking lot, paid ten dollars and stopped the truck.
"Stay here. I'm going to walk on ahead, check it out."
Scully frowned, wishing she could go with him, but nodded.
He locked the doors and gave her the keys. "If I'm not back in thirty minutes, leave. Drive off and don't ever come back."
"Mulder," she protested, thinking it a bit extreme.
"Scully. If I don't come back, then it means they know. You can't let them have Libby. You can't."
She gulped down her madly churning stomach and nodded again.
He started to get out of the truck but she pulled him back, then with a hesitant start, kissed his cheek.
He gave her an odd, martyr-like smile and vanished.
At twenty-eight minutes, she was sliding across the seat to tuck Libby under her blanket and pull it closer around her.
At thirty minutes she slid behind the wheel.
At thirty-two minutes she tried to estimate in her mind just how far a walk it would be to the address and then how long it would take a paranoid Mulder to check out the place and then come back.
At thirty-four minutes she was biting her lip and telling her stomach that there was nothing to get upset over.
At thirty-six minutes she was wishing she had kissed him on the mouth with a lot more passion.
And at thirty-eight minutes, his head was coming over the ramp, his body's shadow long and lean and food to her hungry eyes.
He approached the truck, glaring in at her.
"I told you to leave after thirty minutes," he said, getting in after she had unlocked the doors.
She gave him a look. "I padded the time."
"Who said you could pad the time?"
"I know you, Mulder. *I* said I could pad the time."
He stared out the window into darkness. "Oh?"
"Yes. You're very careful when you're paranoid. And careful means slow."
He nodded and took the keys from her. "So, do you always pad my time?"
She raised her eyebrows as he started the car.
"Yeah. You do, don't you?" he murmured.
"So, maybe I do. It works, doesn't it?"
He grunted and pulled out of the lot. "The place checked out clean. The landlady even talked with me. She's nice, older, smells heavily like old lady perfume, you know?"
She smiled and glanced back at Libby. "Did you get to look inside?"
"Uh-huh. Already furnished. Stocked too. I let one of her dogs eat a piece of bread and he didn't keel over."
"Mulder ..." she sighed and put a hand to her mouth, forcing her stomach to control itself.
He kind of laughed, but it came out more like a sigh. "I'm tired, Scully. What do you say we forget about unpacking and just put everyone to bed?"
She nodded. "Sounds good."
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "Are you all right, Dana?"
"Seriously. I'm not asking because I think I'm supposed to. I really want to know."
She looked over at him but his face was unreadable.
There was no conviction behind her words but it was their old code for 'leave me alone for now.' He shut his mouth and drove.
Morning was hell. Mulder was upset because they'd been given jobs to report to and his was a low blow as he called it. He would work at Fox Photos, managing the film processing department and the pin stripe man said he'd contact them through that venue. He didn't have to report in till Monday.
Scully was working at an Inner City Clinic and he was scared to death. It'd be easy to stage a random shooting down there, pretend it was drive-by.
She had to go in that day and Mulder had insisted on going with her. Libby was going to stay with the landlady, Mrs. Shawl. Her daycare school didn't start until Monday either.
She had fallen asleep finally at one o'clock and then woken up six hours later to Libby's nightmare and Mulder's franticness.
Libby had been calmed down and Mulder too, and then they'd all gotten up and tried to get ready for the day.
Work was hell too.
Five gunshot wounds in a matter of an hour and one of the nurses remarked that it was a slow lunch hour.
Scully nearly threw up when a homeless man walked in with maggots eating out his arms and eyes. She was grateful Mulder stayed in the back.
Her stomach was already tender, and then an entire day of things that were on living people and she was ready to go home.
Mulder drove while she dozed and he thoughtfully and wisely said nothing about her pallor.
They picked Libby up and went up to their apartment, then made a hasty dinner of green beans and macaroni and cheese. Libby watched television afterward and Scully laid on their bed trying not to moan.
Mulder sat down next to her sprawled form and gently began to rub her face, tracing the delicate lines around her mouth and nose and eyes.
She relaxed into the touch and smiled at him, her eyes closed, letting him know she appreciated it.
His thumb curled around her chin and his fingers brushed her neck softly, soothingly, a low trembling kind of hum coming from the back of his throat.
She placed a little kiss on his thumb and curled around him, tucking her head right against his knee.
He ran his fingers through her tangled hair, massaging her scalp.
She sighed and sank deeper into sleepiness.
"Scully, are you going to be okay?"
His voice was small and gentle, like a child with a question that he's afraid of the answer.
"I will be, Mulder. I will be," she said softly and thought again to the only thing going through her mind.
She could be pregnant.
She could be ...
But it was impossible.
She felt the bed shift and then Mulder was lying down next to her, bringing her head close to him and kissing her forehead. She stayed there, pleasantly surrounded by his warmth, and fell asleep.
She was not telling him everything.
Saturday seemed long and tiring to her, but it could have been because of the nervous fluttering in her stomach and the odd sensation that something was going to happen.
She knew she would have to do something about her suspicions, but she still had a hard time even thinking it could be true.
Mulder was driving her crazy. He wouldn't stop looking at her. Obviously, he realized something was wrong and he was too polite to simply ask her outright. No, she'd have to offer the information.
She sighed. Sometimes, she wished it wasn't like that.
Libby had made a friend of Mrs. Shawl and she was downstairs, in her apartment, hopefully not annoying the poor lady. Mrs. Shawl was going to teach her how to play the piano, Libby had said, and Scully could hear her quiet voice in her head, the excitement uncontainable.
Mulder was trying not to explode at her. She felt like she needed a good explosion. Something big and powerful that would knock them both off their feet.
The kitchen was her retreat and it was a wonderfully big kitchen for an apartment in San Francisco. The roof contained a skylight since they were on the third and topmost floor, and the sun could stretch its lazy fingers right onto table and walk over the floor.
The windows were small and stained glass because of the ample light let in by the skylight, and in the evening when the sun set she liked to go in there and be bathed in amber and turquoise and fuchsia, the colors in riot over her skin and clothes. She would close her eyes and feel the warmth and smell spices and soap and dinner and it would remind her of the goodness that could come of things.
Cooking was first a defense, because Mulder was so lousy at it, but was now a relaxation, a time for her to forget and find herself. Mulder had seen the difference in her and had greedily intruded upon it, asking her to teach him how to cook, to teach him the peace she could find there. She had and had grown frustrated and uptight and it hadn't worked for him either.
So he let her cook and he did the laundry. Fair trade, especially since he actually *liked* doing the laundry. She didn't understand it, but she sure didn't question it.
A hand snaked around her waist as she stood at the counter.
"Guess what?" he said and his voice was strained with excitement and longing.
"Hmm?" she said, putting the last of their plates from lunch into the dishwasher.
"We're going somewhere tonight."
"Where?" she asked looking over her shoulder at him, the light from the stained glass casting his face in blues.
A little grin lit his face. "Right here."
She sighed; he was doing it again. "Mulder, you're not making any sense."
"Mrs. Shawl wants Libby to spend the night and Libby is dying to, and so we have the whole apartment to ourselves." he explained.
"So ... we're going where?"
"Well, it's a surprise."
She didn't really enjoy surprises.
"It's a good surprise, Scully," he remarked, seeing her face.
He shifted and his eyes were cast in triangles of amber, a patch on his cheek was still blue, and the rest was bright yellow.
"All right. Is Libby staying all of today and tonight?"
"Yeah. She's having a great time. Mrs. Shawl is teaching her to play 'Mary Had A Little Lamb'."
Scully nodded thoughtfully. "I'm glad they get along so well. Libby needed a sort of grandmother."
A kind of sadness washed over her face and he recognized the old melancholy settle. He was sure she missed her mother a lot. He knew she talked with her mother about things she couldn't talk about with him, and now she didn't have that anymore.
The room smelled like cookies and he glanced toward the oven, looking for evidence of her baking. He had never pegged her as a closet chef.
She gave him a little smile. "Butter cookies, Mulder. In the cabinet up there."
He grinned ridiculously and reached over her head for the cookie tin, leaning in very close to her so that his breath made waves across her hair.
He popped two into his mouth, chewed a couple of times, and swallowed, giving her an endearing smile. "Good," he mumbled, reaching for more.
She grabbed his hand. "Save some," she warned and he grinned and took out three more.
"This is it," he promised and took her still damp hand and led her to their small living room.
He turned on the radio and jazz tumbled through the small speakers and into the room, washing them in peaceful shades of music and melody.
He ate his cookies hurriedly and dropped to the futon couch, pulling her down with him so that she landed in his lap.
He was smiling so brightly that it was all she could do not to melt into him right there.
"What exactly are you doing Mulder?" she said, raising her eyebrow and feeling the warmth spread through her.
He frowned in mock agitation. "I'm trying to seduce you. Is it working?"
She let him have the satisfaction of a smile and then gave him a classic 'what-am-I-going-to-do-with-you' look that made grin like a fool.
"Yup, it's working," he said and winked at her.
She laughed, feeling at ease and comfortable there, with laughter and jokes and him; all of it taking her back to places she'd forgotten.
"I'd forgotten what it sounded like when you laughed," he murmured as his head bent to kiss her collarbone.
The truth of that made her sad and she pulled his head up to look at him. He was bewildered, eyes wide and asking and lips quivering as if taken from a feast.
"Thank you, Mulder. I'd forgotten how to laugh," she said.
The moment was sort of trapped and she once again felt the oddness of them, the unnaturalness of their union, and she moved to get off his lap.
"Smile for me," he said suddenly and stood up with her.
A grin sort of skirted across her face. "On demand?"
The remark was like a wind that blew back the easiness between them and suddenly she found her body leaning against his, a wonderful-feeling full-fledged smile infusing her.
He replied with the same and wrapped his long arms around her. "Good. You can still do it. I wonder if your muscles ever forget."
Their banter was light and yet it meant something else, some kind of message he needed to be able to tell her and some answer she needed to give.
"I smile," she protested.
"I laugh at you while you're asleep. You do funny things in your sleep, Mulder."
"I do not," he said, eyes wide and mortified.
She was enjoying this.
"Oh yes. Odd things. Revealing things," she said, raising her eyebrow and forgetting that he was practically on top of her. In this conversation, she had all the advantages.
"Oh great. My secret's out then. I hope it wasn't too horrible?"
She wavered, uncertain of whether he was playing with her or serious.
"Yes, it's quite ... well, almost wretched."
His grin was wider than hers and suddenly she realized she was on the couch with a much larger man leaning over her, a man with a wretched, horrible secret.
"Well, maybe if you tell me, I can tell you if that's it," she said smoothly.
"Oh no. If you knew ... well, you'd know."
She felt the double meaning coming back into their conversation, so that it was half banter, half absolute truth. She was suddenly suspicious.
"You're fooling around."
He sighed, martyr-like. "I wish, but I don't have the time to go out and meet women. Oh, and also, I have a wife. She'd be kind of upset."
She smiled again and slapped his arm. "No, I mean you're messing with me."
Mock seriousness tinged his face. Was some of it real seriousness?
"No, I swear I'm not."
"So what is it?"
"I thought you claimed I said revealing things in my sleep."
Her eyebrow arched. "Oh, you do. Some of those idle fantasies of yours are even recurring."
A bit of a panicked look came into his eyes. "Which ones?"
"Oh, I hear my name a lot," she said, more pleased by it than she'd ever admit.
A little growl emerged from his throat. "And you love it. You know you do."
She simply looked at him. "So what's your horrible secret?"
"Oh, just that I'm in love with this woman hopelessly but she doesn't seem to know."
A kind of flutter choked up her throat. "Oh?"
"Yes. Terribly in love. But she's kind of stubborn. Kind of ... I don't know, anal retentive."
Her mouth dropped open, prepared to utter curses in his direction about the use of anal retentive, but he stopped her by kissing her.
"Do you think she knows?" he said softly.
That same underlying seriousness had come back and she thought for a moment, her thumbs playing against his ribs.
"I think she knows," she said softly. "And I think she loves you, too."
His lips were sliding up, meeting her skin.
"That's good." he replied and pushed her back further along the futon couch.
She relaxed and ignored the outside world, ignored all the things that had been bringing her down.
"That's good, 'cause she's been kind of sad lately," he murmured.
She nodded. "But when you tell her you love her, it makes her feel better."
The couch was small but he managed to position them on it. Her head rested just below his chin and he played with her hair.
"We should go dancing, Scully," he murmured.
"Yeah. Ballroom dancing, you would love it."
She fell silent.
"Tonight, okay?" he murmured.
"Sure," she said, suddenly feeling excited. "Someplace nice?"
"Yes. Just you and me. We'll make it a date."
She laughed. "How about not? Just, us going together."
He was confused. "Why?"
She smiled again at him through her eye lashes. "Because when I was in ninth grade, my Dad made me promise not to ever go to bed with a man on the first date."
He laughed. "That's pretty silly."
"A girl I knew had gotten pregnant. My Dad wasn't an idiot," she said smiling at him.
"Okay, not a date. Just us. We're a little old for dating anyway."
She slapped his arm. "Speak for yourself, old man."
He chuckled and shifted against her.
For a few minutes they lay there, thinking of nothing and doing nothing but feeling.
Then she got up to turn on the dishwasher and Mulder got up to fold laundry and things were happening again.
He still had the feeling she was not telling him something.
Her hands were nervously tapping the wheel of the truck, drumming to a beat that existed only in her head.
It was three o'clock in Friday rush hour traffic and it was taking forever to get to her block.
The package from the drug store shifted in the breeze of cold air coming from the vents and reminded her again of why she was getting off work early.
The pregnancy test.
Mulder had confronted her Thursday morning, angry because she'd been throwing up for the past week and hiding it from him. She still had not told him what she suspected because she knew what he would say. It was all in her head, she was probably getting the flu, it wasn't possible. Those were some of the bigger things that plagued her.
Mulder had made her promise to go to the doctor, find out what was wrong. She had promised, quietly telling herself she would have to go to the doctor if it turned out she was pregnant.
Her fingers rapped the steering wheel again and she turned into the parking garage nest to their building, hanging the parking pass from her rear view mirror as she pulled into her space.
She slid out of the truck and quickly made her way down the sidewalk, the grocery sack a reminder of everything that could change.
Libby liked going to Mrs. Shawl's after school and the way her apartment smelled like a grandmother.
When Mrs. Shawl picked her up at twelve, they went to the Ice Cream Shoppe on 87th Street and she got Pink Bubblegum every time while Mrs. Shawl had a sundae.
Then Mrs. Shawl would let her choose. Either the piano or a story.
Libby was torn between the two. Her stories were about the time during World War II when she was only eight years old and how they had to ration things, but the piano made noises that turned into songs and Libby was very good at it.
That day, Libby picked a story. Mrs. Shawl talked about the time she was eight years old and her baby sister was born while her Daddy was over in the war helping heal people who had been shot.
After the story was over, Libby looked up at Mrs. Shawl.
"I have a sister too," she said.
Mrs. Shawl knew that the Williams only had one child. "Oh?" she said, realizing it was probably a pretend friend.
"Yes, she hasn't been born yet. She's in Mommy's stomach just like your sister was in your Mommy's stomach," she said, nodding wisely.
"Oh, isn't that wonderful." she replied, trying to remember if Kate Williams had looked pregnant.
Libby nodded and got off Mrs. Shawl's lap and turned to her school bag, her mind wandering to a completely new topic.
"Look! I made this for you!" she proclaimed and pulled out a huge painting done in hand prints.
"Oh, it's beautiful, Libby. Thank you very much. Let's go hang it on the fridge."
They were standing back and admiring it when Mrs. Shawl's doorbell rang and the tiny dog barked from the living room.
Libby ran ahead and waited patiently for Mrs. Shawl to open the door.
"Mrs. Williams!" Mrs. Shawl exclaimed. "Is everything all right?"
Usually Mr. Williams came and picked Libby up at about five.
Kate looked hassled and anxious. "Oh, yeah. I got off early. I'm sorry, I thought M- ah, Matt told you."
"No, Mr. Williams didn't tell me. Would you like to come in and get some cookies or milk?"
"Oh, no, thank you Mrs. Shawl. I appreciate it though. I think I'm just going to go on upstairs. Come on, Libby."
Libby darted back inside for her book bag and then slipped out to the hallway with her mother, blowing a kiss to Mrs. Shawl.
"Wow, Mommy. You got home early." she heard Libby say as they walked away.
Shutting the door, Mrs. Shawl realized that Kate Williams didn't look pregnant at all.
Libby was watching her videos again, her body sprawled along the couch as the cartoon characters spelled out the alphabet and made up silly songs to go with it.
Scully was shaking.
Five more minutes before she'd know.
Dinner was ready to be made, leftover chicken thawed out in the microwave, dessert already in the fridge, and bread warming in the oven.
She had nothing more to do but wait.
It was driving her crazy.
She began picking up the room, rearranging the way her closet hung, putting up some of the clean clothes left on the bed after laundry had been done.
She was tense, ready to snap. Her nerves were sending a million messages to her brain and none got through.
She twisted the bedspread in her fingers and managed to keep her stomach from revolting. Knots formed in her intestines and in the bed cover.
Finally, finally, the little egg timer went off.
She licked her dry lips and stared at the door to the bathroom. She forced herself to go over and open the door and take the little stick in her hands.
She looked at it.
Mulder got home later than usual and found the living room dark, illuminated only by the television's flickering. The sound was soft like white noise and it had lulled Libby to sleep.
He walked over to her and kissed her forehead but she did not stir. Her arms were curled in tightly at her sides and her left leg hung off the side. He smiled and brushed back her hair, then pulled a blanket over her.
He wondered where Scully was.
The kitchen was empty and a cold dish of last night's chicken was left in the microwave, burned bread was stinking up the oven, and the windows were all shuttered over.
He frowned and moved to their back bedroom, feeling a slight pang of urgency overtake him.
Scully was asleep on the bed, her hair masking her face and head in her arms. Her body was curled up tightly into the fetal position and buried into the pillows.
This room too was dark and in shadows, the only light coming from the half open window blinds. His shoes slipped off and his tie was flung in the general direction of the closet and he sank gratefully into the cool softness of their bed.
Stretching out full length, he closed his eyes.
He felt her shift and he body flowed around his until her burning heat was balled up against his side. He wondered if she had gone to see a doctor; it felt as if she had a fever.
"Scully? Wake up for a minute."
He eyes flickered and he saw they were bloodshot, red rimmed, and glassy.
"Are you okay?" he whispered, his face crinkling in worry.
"What did the doctor say?"
"I didn't, uh, get a chance to get in," she said, smoothing over the rough edges of the truth.
"Oh. You feel feverish."
She nodded and her eyes closed again, as if it took too much energy to try and focus. "I'm going tomorrow, definitely," she murmured.
He pulled out from her and got up, heading for the bathroom, feeling grimy and disgusting after work.
Scully could feel something prick at her but she couldn't remember what was so important, why her brain was rushing around trying to warn her.
And then he exploded.
"Scully! What the hell is this!"
She jerked straight up with a violence that made her head throb and as he came out of the bathroom, she remembered.
Her body slumped to the wall behind the bed and she shook her head. "Nothing. Nothing," she whispered.
"Like hell it's nothing. What's going on?"
He had an idea what it was for, but he didn't know how to read it, and he wasn't sure what it meant.
"I'm going to the doctor, tomorrow, Mulder. I'm sick," she said, eyes closing.
The defeated look was back on her face and he shivered.
Then things came together for him.
Throwing up every morning. Her stomach hurting, the words spoken to them by the pin stripe suit man that she had believed was an angel.
"Scully, are you ..."
"No," she whispered. "No."
His heart at one broke and crumbled for her. She was ravaged by this, destroyed by some kind of hope she had placed in this. It was the reason she'd been acting strangely, and now, the reason for her indifference.
"Oh, God, Scully, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."
He crawled across the bed to her and pulled her tightly to his chest. They both knew she could not have children, but she had always held out on miracles.
She stayed stiff in his arms and would not cry.
"I'm sorry," he said again and kissed her hairline with as much tenderness as he could.
She nodded and turned away from him and closed her eyes.
He felt the world crashing down around him.
"Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost."
-- Book IX of "Paradise Lost," John Milton
"Mulder, really, I'm fine," she said and pushed him out of the way.
Dana finished mixing the ingredients together in the bowl and dumped it into a pan, then coated the chicken with the reddish brown soup.
"I ... I just wanted to know," he said softly.
"The doctor said it was a cold, probably brought on by stress because that lowers your immune systems response."
"Okay," he said and nodded as if this was a very serious matter.
She smiled at him and squeezed his hand. "I'm okay, Mulder. It was just a little thought I had. Nothing important."
He regarded her carefully and noticed the worn look on her face, the hidden lines around her eyes and mouth. Once, they'd been laugh lines, but now, they were age and hard living.
He sighed. He didn't think it was over at all.
Dinner was chicken again and Libby was getting cranky because they had chicken every night.
"Can't we have macaroni and cheese sometime?" she whined.
She saw her mother's jaw work under the skin and she shut up very quickly.
"All right, Libby. But eat your dinner now," her mother said.
Libby nodded and shoved some peas into her mouth, trying not to gag because peas had to be the nastiest vegetable on earth.
"Libby, don't choke yourself, baby. Drink milk and mix your mashed potatoes with your peas." Daddy winked at her and she smiled and tried his suggestion.
Surprise lit her face. "They don't taste bad anymore!" she said.
Scully's face went dark and she dug her nails into her palms to keep from exploding. It wasn't Libby's fault, she knew that. She was just in a depressed and angry mood.
When dinner was finally over, Mulder stood and placed the plates in the sink, telling Libby to go and do her homework, and promising Scully he would do the dishes.
She sighed and kissed him thanks and made her escape.
San Francisco at night was pure energy and relief.
She walked aimlessly down the streets, around blocks, up and down Pine Street and California and Nob Hill, trying to sort through all the emotions raging in her.
The air was stiff and it bit into her but her sweatshirt kept her warm enough to let her walk around and not really notice the wind.
She stopped when she got to Chinatown and ambled through the carts and street shops and vendors, looking at everything they offered yet not seeing any of it.
She had wanted another child.
She realized the futility of this now. She could not have children; she knew that. She had brought the bitter disappointment on herself, thinking, hoping, wishing that for some reason, God had given her a baby.
She believed in miracles. She believed God had saved them in New York. But it was a bad idea to bring another child into their already messed up world. It was cruel to even think ...
She had wanted a little boy. She had even begun imagining Mulder's face when she told him, begun thinking of names that would fit. She had fooled herself into thinking that they could be real if she had a child.
She knew this wasn't right. It wasn't even healthy.
They were real, simply because they wanted it to be real.
But like the Velveteen Rabbit, whose Boy had said he was Real, they were still not *truly* Real. In that story though, a Fairy had made the bunny Real when he had gotten thrown in the trash.
There were no fairies in this story.
Dana sighed and walked through a shop, watching the fan hum overhead, the tourists line up at the cash registers for T-shirts that were selling for five for three dollars and would end up in the rag pile.
She fingered a silk mock-up of a native Chinese dress and then ran her hand down its pale blue front. It shifted and caught the light and seemed to gleam.
A hand caught hers.
She whirled around, panic screaming through her body as she tensed to run.
She relaxed into Mulder and sighed. "What are you doing here, Mulder? How'd you find me?"
"I left Libby with Mrs. Shawl. She's okay. Let's walk."
He took her hand and threaded them through the customers and out into the fading light.
He took a deep breath of the air, smelling the street and the bodies and the distinct aroma of food.
"Let's stop and get some dessert," he said and led her to a small building proclaiming its egg rolls.
As they sat in a booth and got comfortable, she stared at him.
"Did you follow me?"
"No." His reply rang truthfully and she blinked.
"How'd you --"
"I just kind of knew," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"I just started walking and ended up in Chinatown and I remembered how you loved coming here to shop, so ... "
"And you found me anyway?" She shook her head. Chinatown was huge. It had to be near impossible to find someone in such a place.
"I could find you anywhere, Scully."
She could tell he was honest; no jokes this time.
She sighed and took his hand. "Mulder, I appreciate this, but I just need some time to kind of walk around, you know. Be alone for a while."
"You've been wandering for two hours Scully," he said softly.
She raised her eyebrow and glanced at her watch.
"Look," he said. "Let's just shop around. I've got some money on me and we can get Libby a little present. We can buy you something."
She shook her head. "Mulder, we really can't afford --"
"Shh. We can. Just go with it." He gave her a grin that made her insides curl and she realized just how much he meant to her.
It made her feel wonderful that he had come after her.
"Hmm?" His brows raised and he cocked his head, giving her his full attention.
For the first time, she noticed that the passion she had always seen in his eyes when he talked about the X-Files was now focused directly - on - her.
"I'm going to be okay, Mulder."
The relief cascaded down his face like a dam releasing, and his eyes closed briefly.
"I believe you, Scully," he murmured.
The egg rolls came and they ate silently, studying their thoughts and becoming comfortable with their revelations.
When they were finished he paid and took her hand, then led them out to the street again.
A street cart appeared almost before them and hanging from its hard carved wooden pegs were necklaces and coin purses and an assortment of things.
He stopped and pulled her to it, squeezing her hand tightly when she tried to protest.
He rummaged through the things on the bottom under the watchful eye of an old woman with yellow teeth and a heavy wool Indian blanket covering her shoulders. His fingers finally caught on something and he pulled it up, then handed it to Scully.
It was a ring made of fine thin red-gold, its shape molded by hands and fire and matching her intensely.
He watched as she admired it. Small etchings decorated the band and it caught in the dim light of the street vendors. She flashed it and he grabbed it as she smiled.
He slid it on her ring finger; it snuggled up next to her wedding ring and stayed there.
He paid the woman and skirted through the crowds with Scully following behind him. When they reached Fisherman's Wharf, he guided her to the docks and pushed her to the benches.
She eyed him as he sank to his knees on the ground, sitting up a bit as curious looks were tossed their way.
"Dana ... Scully. I want you to truly be my wife. Forever. This ring -- that's what it stands for now. Our real union."
She bit her cheek to keep the ridiculous tears from falling and pulled him up on the bench with her.
"Your making everyone stare at us," she hissed.
He smiled and kissed her suddenly, his mouth urgently taking hers.
"You're so cute, you know that?" he said, smirking.
She squeezed his leg and leaned into him. "You're a good friend, you know that, Mulder?"
"Friend? That it?"
She rolled her eyes. "I would say lover but that would be getting into some grey areas."
"I'm not a good lover?" He looked wounded.
"Oh, well ..." She gave him a teasing look.
"Oh, I am and you know it," he said and poked her.
"Okay, okay. I'll admit it. That too."
"Good, cause you're the only one I would let be my lover, you know."
"Oh really?" she said, her eyebrow arching.
"Really. You wouldn't know by looking at you, but your small little body is pretty incredible."
He laughed as she blushed and kissed her lips again. "So, want to head home?"
She pulled him up. "Nah. Let's just walk around some more. Who knows? I may get some more compliments out here."
"I just better be the one doing the complimenting," he growled and led her back into Chinatown.
So maybe they didn't have fairies to make things Real, but if they believed they were, then that was good enough.
He sighed at her smile.
She was home again.
The city's oppressive August heat wave clung to the sheets and their bodies, making the night seem to be thick with foul air and sweat.
Dana Scully rolled over fitfully as the television droned on, the blue and white and green light flashing over her hot body and illuminating their entire bedroom with a slide show effect.
Mulder was sleeping peacefully next to her, far enough away that his body did not add to the sweat and his breath to the stink.
She wished she could fall asleep; it was just too noisy. There were too many distractions that ran through the room and kept her occupied.
The remote was in between them, perched evilly on the sheets like some guardian of Mulder's sleep, as if it alone could keep her from disturbing him.
Why he slept better and more soundly with the television on was a mystery to her. The harshness of it and the flashing lights like UFO visions raced around the room and fought with her sanity for control.
She snatched up the remote and killed the sound, then the picture itself, with an aggressive little growl brought on more by her exhaustion than the extreme temperature outside.
She turned away from him and closed her eyes, feeling the welcome fresh air of slumber breeze across her and settle deeply within her bones.
Mulder woke screaming and panicked, sweat streaming from him in fountains that showed no signs of slowing, even as he came to.
Scully was clutching his shoulders, attempting to calm him down so that Libby would not hear, and so that he would focus on the waking world again.
He shuddered and glanced around the quiet, black room.
"The television went off?" he said hoarsely.
"I turned it off after you fell asleep," she replied, letting her hands drop away until he was sitting up on his own.
"I sleep better when it's on," he replied, almost numbly. Surely she knew how much he needed the TV to be on; she had slept in the next motel room on countless nights, hearing its sounds through paper thin walls.
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize you needed it," she whispered, as if lowering her voice would drive his demons away.
"I'm okay," he said. Then it seemed to register what she had said earlier.
"Wait, were you still awake?"
She nodded. "I can't really fall asleep when there's noise and lights."
He stared at her. Why had this never been a problem before?
She clicked back on the television, but he grabbed her hand.
"We can turn it off," he said.
"No, I don't want you to have another nightmare," she said and kissed his forehead. "I'll just go sleep on the couch."
He began to protest, but shut his mouth as he realized that would be unfair to ask her to stay and endure the television and sleeplessness, or his nightmares and sleeplessness.
"We'll figure out a way around this," he said with certainty.
She smiled and pulled her pillow from the bed. "We will."
He watched her slip out the door and into the darkened hallway, half expecting her to disappear forever.
Instead, he heard her settle down and sigh once and get comfortable in the stickiness of the heat.
He watched the lights play out along the empty place in the bed where she should have been.
It made his soul sick.
But it also made him sleepy, and soon, he was back in the darkness.
By the fifth night, the couch was getting flattened and hard and the heat made her entire body stick like glue to the back of it.
Thursday night she missed Mulder's breathing and crept back in the room to see if she could possibly fall asleep again, even though his television seemed to scream every word and flash too bright light across her.
She rolled around and watched him sleep and counted by twos and thought of everything she had to do at work and listed the clothes Libby still needed for the fall and remembered her favorite dream and never fell asleep.
She got up before Mulder and ran some water for a cold shower, letting its needlelike jabs wake her up completely.
At work that day four people commented on how tired she seemed and one of her supervisors pulled her aside and calmly talked to her about the dire importance of the doctors getting adequate sleep, citing instances where a life was in danger.
Scully went back to the couch Friday night, a solemn look of doomed despair riding over her features.
She did not want to stay away from him forever.
Saturday morning, Mulder woke her early and settled her in the bed, shutting off the television and closing the blinds and simply holding her.
He had missed her warm body next to his.
Mulder came through the kitchen and halted when he noticed she was making a cake. Scully only made cake when she was upset.
"I figured out a way to solve this problem."
She knew immediately what the problem was; it was the only thing that had been on her mind in the last week.
Her eyes narrowed. "For you or me?"
"Me. I can listen to music or any tape really, and fall asleep just as well."
"What about in the middle of the night when the tape stops?"
He sighed and frowned. "Maybe it'll still be all right."
She made a face at him. "I don't think it's going to work."
"The only other idea I had was to take turns. One night we sleep with the TV off, the next on."
She shook her head. "No. I'll never get any sleep between your nightmares and --"
"Scully. Let's just try the tape idea, okay?"
She nodded and tried to smile, but it ended up halfway and then falling from her face to shatter on the floor.
He placed an arm around her waist, drawing her near him and holding on tightly as if she were about to slip away.
"Scully, if it comes down to it, I'll just learn to sleep without the TV."
"Mulder, I couldn't ask you to give that up just for me --"
He shushed her with a small pinky finger over her lips. "Yes you can, Scully. You can."
She smiled genuinely this time and it burst into him like a bullet and exploded his bones into millions of stinging fragments. He hugged her and kissed the top of her head, relishing in the feel of her under his hands again, after so long a time without.
She could hear the incessant whir of the tape player, the barely audible hum of its battery operated parts working in synchrony to produce a lulling effect upon his ears.
Except it tormented her.
And did nothing for him.
He turned over to see her staring straight at him, such blank sadness in her eyes that it physically hurt him to see her. He ripped off the device and sighed, looking back to her.
She had the wounded look of a trapped dove, one that had never in her life imagined she would come to this kind of fate.
He reached out and drew her into him, disregarding the heat and its leaching laziness and forgetting the oppressiveness of their sleeplessness.
She sighed into him and kissed his chest, her eyes closing and eyelashes butterfly kissing his skin.
"Maybe you won't have any nightmares, Mulder. Maybe I can love them out of you."
He grinned in the darkness, feeling the humor in her body tremble with the very needy truth of her words.
"Sure, anytime G-woman," he whispered, letting his lips tease her ear.
After a few moments, when she said nothing and had gone perfectly still, he realized she was already asleep and that she had probably been exhausted the entire week from sleeping on the couch.
He chuckled. Maybe *he* should go sleep on the couch, take the television in there; it was what he was used to anyway.
He hoped that he wouldn't have to do that.
The silence was suffocating, like a pillow had been placed over his head and held down by some shadowy assailant.
He buried his nose into her hair, wishing that the scent of heavy heat and sweating skin would replace that of dark night and paranoia.
She was breathing little puffs against his chest that caused it to itch, but he did not move because he was afraid to wake her. She really needed a good night's sleep.
He tried to keep himself awake, knowing that if he fell asleep, the nightmares would come without the white noise of the television to stave them off.
But he felt himself go anyway.
When she woke, she lay there a moment trying to remember what small noise or smell or incident had caused her to wake up, her eyes gently closed and waiting for her to understand.
She felt Mulder thrashing beside her and her eyes popped open.
His face was coated in a thin film of perspiration, eyes rolling in his head as his dream made him soar, and his legs were tangled in the sheets, his arms around her.
She wondered if she *could* love his demons away.
Taking his hands firmly, she pulled herself right up next to him, silently urging him to respond to her, to recognize her in his dream and be comforted. His body arched and he moaned and she wondered what exactly was so horrible in his head.
Wrapping her arms around him and tucking her head under his chin, she held on tightly as he shivered and ran from the nightmares chasing him. His body relaxed in one instant, as if an exorcism had taken place. She watched his eyes stop moving and his face slack and she smiled.
She *had* loved it out of him.
His head dipped forward to rest beside hers, as if suddenly a powerful drug had been shot into his blood.
She closed her eyes and listened to the night's sweet stillness, its gratefully quiet streets and sighing buildings. The window was open and it let in a breeze from the bay that drifted languidly across them, spreading its cool fingers down their backs and wiping the gritty sweat away.
The peacefulness touched Mulder and drew a sigh from him.
She kissed his chin and tumbled into sleep.
Tooth Fairies and Santa Claus
"Mommy, my tooth is wiggly."
Scully looked up from the computer to see her little girl's wide smile and white teeth. She grinned back and tickled her exposed stomach, making Libby grin.
"Yup, it keeps moving around in there."
"Well, if you lose your tooth, The Tooth Fairy comes and picks it up and gives you money."
Mulder happened to walk in at that minute, his hands running through his hair as he hung up his black jacket.
"Libby. There's no tooth fairy, okay?"
Scully stared at him. "Mulder!"
"Mommy, you're not supposed to call him that!"
"Scully, that's lying."
"Daddy, you're not suppo --"
"Libby, it's okay," she said, picking her up and drawing her into her lap.
"Scully, I'm not going to lie to her. That's what got my whole family in trouble in the first place."
"Mulder." Her tone was warning and she shot him dagger looks.
He sighed and held up his hands, letting Scully bully him into shutting up.
"Baby, your Daddy doesn't like the tooth fairy very much because he only got nickels when he was a kid. I got a whole dollar for a tooth, so you just wait."
"But Daddy said --"
"Daddy's being silly. Just ignore him when he gets like that."
Mulder raised his eyebrows and huffed, rolling his eyes.
"Daddy won't beat up the tooth fairy, will he?"
Scully laughed. "No, baby, he won't."
"Oh. So it's okay then to pull out my tooth and get a dollar?"
"Well, wait for it to come out all right? Might feel better that way."
"Okay. I'm going to go wiggle my tooth some more."
Libby slid form her mother's lap and skipped out of the bedroom and back to her own room. Scully could hear one of her Disney tapes playing, the soundtrack to Lion King. Her voice rose and began mimicking the voices of Pumba and Timone with accuracy.
Dana sighed and closed her eyes before turning around.
"I can't believe this never came up somehow before." she muttered.
"How can you lie to her? We've spent years trying to --"
"Oh Mulder. This is belief in tooth fairies and Santa Claus, not the truth about government conspiracies and alien invasions."
"But doesn't it all eventually lead back to childhood misconceptions?"
"Did you believe in Santa Claus as a kid?"
"I did. Look how you turned out and look how I turned out. What harm is there?"
"Well, let's see. I ended up with a fabulous woman that nitpicks my every idea, and you ended up with a spooky, paranoid freak. So how's that again?"
"That's right, *Kate.* Let's not forget the fact that we are now on the run."
"Mulder, I am not going to have my child grow up without her childhood. I do not want another cynic on my hands."
He made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a growl and sunk into the bed with a sigh. His feet shoved off his shoes and he sprawled out, his head coming to touch her legs.
She ran a hand through his hair and blew gently into his face, cooling his work weary forehead.
"I know," he said suddenly. "Let her decide."
"Well, okay," she agreed reluctantly. "But it's got to be fair. We just ask if she wants to believe in the tooth fairy. She already believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, so that's taken care of."
"How did you know that?"
"We celebrated Easter, Mulder. You were there."
"I was? When was this?"
"We were still in my apartment. It was rushed because I think that was right before we left."
He frowned and it seemed to upset him greatly that he couldn't remember.
"Did she like it?" he said softly.
Scully passed her hand over his forehead and smoothed the wrinkled lines there. "Yes, she loved it."
Mulder nodded and closed his eyes, lulled by the feel of her hand running across his face and through his hair.
Her tiny fingers made patterns on his cheeks, traced outlines of cool relief down his skin, and made him into liquid drowsiness.
She curled up next to him and pushed away her patient files to get more comfortable. He slipped an arm around her and turned over, nuzzling her side with his nose, sighing.
"I'm glad the tooth fairy can't separate us . . ." she murmured.
He laughed and it tickled her side.
"Yeah, that'd be pretty pathetic."
There was silence and then he reached up and threaded her fingers into his, drawing her comfort.
His chin settled into her hip and his lips explored her soft side, while her fingers made designs in his hair.
Suddenly Libby shrieked.
Scully sat up straight, fumbling to get off the bed, with Mulder falling in behind her.
They met in the hall, almost slamming into Libby as she came running for them.
"Mommy! I'm bloody!" she yelled as Scully scooped her up.
Scully moved her hands away from her mouth and saw that she'd been pulling too hard on her tooth and it still didn't want to come out.
Libby was making her brave face, coached by Mulder, and clinging tightly to Scully's neck as she surveyed the damage.
"You're going to be okay, baby. Let's get you cleaned up."
They trooped into the bathroom and Scully set her on the counter, flicking on the overhead light to see better.
Mulder talked to her and let her know she would be all right while Scully examined her bloody tooth and cleaned off her hands and shirt.
"I'm going to have to pull it, baby. Otherwise, it could get infected."
Libby's face scrunched up and her huge blue eyes filled with watery tears.
"No, it's going to hurt!" she wailed, burying her head into her father's sleeve.
"Okay, Libby. It won't be that bad. Come on, sit up." Mulder wiped the tears off her face and pushed her back. "You're going to be fine. Mommy won't hurt you."
Libby trembled and looked hesitantly at Scully.
Dana's face was soft and smiling. "You'll be fine. Okay? Now open your mouth."
"Wait. Can Daddy hold me?" Libby said suddenly.
Mulder reached around her and pulled her into a tight embrace, bringing her back against his chest to keep her head still.
"That good, baby?"
"Yes. Hurry up and do it, Mommy."
Her eyes squeezed tightly shut and her whole body went rigid.
She felt her mother wiggle her tooth and then nothing.
Her eyes opened slowly.
Dana was holding up a small baby tooth with her fingers. "There you go."
Libby gaped. "That's it?"
"You're all done baby," Mulder said, releasing her.
"Wow. That didn't hurt at all."
She took the tooth from her mother and turned it over in her palm, watching it roll on her skin.
"I put this under my pillow and get money, right?"
Mulder looked at her. "Do you want to do that?"
She raised her eyebrow in a beautiful imitation of her mother.
"I sure do. I better get something for all this hard work."
Scully laughed as Libby took Mulder's hand and led him back to her room, showing him exactly where she would put it that night.
Mulder glanced quickly to her and scowled, making her laugh harder.
"Hey Daddy, you make sure to tell that old fairy that if she gives your little girl a nickel, she better think again, cause you'll beat her up."
Mulder grinned and looked to Scully. "See, Scully. I've got permission to beat you up."
Scully glared at him and put her finger to his lips. "Shh," she muttered.
He grinned like a fool and kissed her finger. "Just don't give my little girl a nickel and you should be all right."
They smiled and were driven apart as Libby came dashing in between their legs.
"Let's wiggle more tooths!"
They had forgotten the others: out of necessity to their sanity, they had forgotten the others.
She had Libby and Mulder had Libby and they all had each other and they tried not to think of anything else. Nothing more about babies or the other Emilys that were still out there. They couldn't: it hurt too much.
But sometimes, little things would come back.
She could remember the look on Erin and Erica's faces as they were dying: this she recalled in the dead of night, trying to forget.
Mulder found himself sweating and startled, awake from nightmares where the names of the boys would be chasing after him: Wesley, William, Wyatt.
They took Libby to the park and had long picnic lunches with cold popsicles on the swings and ice cream on the slides. They ran races and rolled in the grass with laughter and told themselves they had forgotten.
"Oh no, Original One walking right up! What the hell is going on! Get her out of there! Now!Now!Now!"
Chicago was beautiful at times, Scully had to admit.
She had been unwilling to leave San Francisco for the convention taking place here, but she had gone in the end because it was her job.
Libby had been smiling and crying as she left the airport lounge and walked onto the embarking ramp, smiling because her Daddy was making her.
She and Mulder had talked about it for a long time. Was it safe? Could she be followed back? Would she end up trapped out there?
They were divided, but not conquered.
A whole group of inner city doctors got together to discuss treatment and special needs of inner city clinics, and the best place to do that was Chicago.
And so, her own clinic had funded the trip for her and another woman to go.
She was shaking in fear.
Plane jitters, she had passed it off as.
But it truly frightened her now. Being away from Mulder's innate security and not having the knowledge that she knew exactly where Libby was.
Someone honked and she jerked from her daze and kept walking down the sidewalk. She saw a huge group of people standing around for a movie: it looked like a Disney cartoon, one that Libby had wanted to see.
She was about to step into the street and move around them when a huge man barreled right into her and knocked her down.
"Oh no! I'm so sorry! I'm sorry. Are you okay?" he said, pulling her up with a flick of his wrist.
She nodded and he began brushing off her smudged coat.
"Okay. I wasn't watching. I'm sorry. I was looking for the Original and I wasn't paying attention. I'm sorry."
She nodded to indicate it was okay, but the paranoid Mulder voice in her was saying that he sounded afraid of her. Afraid because she had power.
"You're okay. You're okay. Good. I'm sorry. Now, where's little Emma? Did she get lost again?"
Scully stared at the man with evident confusion.
Her first thought was He's nuts.
Then she thought He's dangerous.
His face had gone slack with her look and suddenly his hands clenched tightly around her arm.
She couldn't breathe. This kind of thing wasn't supposed to happen to her anymore.
He jerked her forward and muttered something into a device on his lapel. She shivered with memory and thought of all the sting operations she and Mulder had been in, wearing little mikes like that.
Was this some kind of government set-up she had messed up? If so, someone who looked like her was part of it evidently. Someone looking just like her with a little Emma too.
A woman broke out of the crowd and called out.
The man reacted violently, moving Scully over so he blocked her view and causing her head to whiplash.
But she saw.
Coming out of the crowd with a voice she knew by heart --
Oh God, no, please, I just want this to be over.
No no no.....
She wrenched her arm away and began running. They couldn't do anything to her now, they couldn't. It was a crowded street, there were people and witnesses. She could run and get away and go back to her motel room and call him. Call Mulder.
Oh God, this isn't happening.
"I like it with this better," she murmured, holding the tie up to his suit jacket and squinting.
He laughed and took it from her. The tie consisted of Marvin the Martian playing basketball with his funny looking dog.
"Oh you do, huh? Tell that to your mother some time, okay?"
Libby smiled and watched him thread the tie through his shirt collar and make an expert knot.
"Perfect!" she said and jumped up on the bed.
He grabbed her and swung her back down. "Yes it is. And no jumping on the bed. Just cause Mommy isn't here, doesn't mean we're going to forget all the rules."
"We can still watch TV in here and eat popcorn though, right?"
Mulder took her hand and smiled, guiding her from his room. "Yup. Every night."
Libby skipped on ahead and left him in the hall.
He sighed and realized how utterly empty it seemed without Dana filling up the apartment. She had something in her that made him want to live.
He shuffled to the kitchen and poured two glasses of orange juice.
Libby made a face. "I don't like orange juice, Daddy."
He blinked and looked dumbly at the glass. What was he supposed to do now? Make her drink it, or be soft and not?
What a stupid dilemma, and yet, it was very important.
The phone rang loudly and he gratefully picked it up.
"Hey you. I was just thinking about you. I have a question," he said.
She was twisting the phone cord and squeezing her eyes shut trying to imprint the memory into herself.
"Okay, shoot," she said tensely.
She wanted to scream.
"Do you make Libby drink her orange juice?"
"Of course. It's good for her."
He sighed in relief and motioned for Libby to begin drinking it. She sighed and made a face and picked up the glass.
She felt better with this little bit of domesticity.
"So, why'd you call?"
She smiled sadly and laid down on the bed.
"Jeez, what are you doing?" he said, growing panicked. "Don't say it over the phone --"
"Please, listen. Listen to me for a second."
She could hear his abrupt change in gears, the way his breath got suddenly sharp and cold. He was afraid.
"Are you okay?"
She made a keening noise and closed her eyes again. "No, no I'm not. I've walked into something over here. I've walked right into it."
"What? What's going on?"
His panic was making Libby upset and she crawled into his lap, placing her head against his chest and pulling his free arm off the kitchen table and around her.
"I saw myself."
Now he was just confused.
"I'm serious. I was walking away from the last little session and toward my motel when I saw this huge group of people standing in line in front of a movie theatre. I was stopped and this man came running into me and knocked me down. He started apologizing and apologizing and saying strange things, things he thought I should recognize --"
"Facts, Scully. Tell me facts. Not impressions."
She took a deep breath and focused. His reminder of their old life made her remember her training, her cold unemotional side.
"He apologized and said he was too caught up in looking for the Original and ran into me. He asked me where little Emma was, if she had gotten lost again. He got tense again and started talking into a little mike, like we used in stings."
A silence as she waited for him to make the connection. She hadn't at the time, but his mind made those kind of leaps.
"Emma?" he asked and his voice was sharp, wavering.
He was starting to see.
"And then this woman comes out of the crowd and yells "Mike." He turns to see her and his hands are still on my arms and he's getting suspicious because I haven't said anything. And Mulder, that's a fact, because you can tell when --"
"Okay, okay. Keep going."
"He sees her. I see her. It's . . . she's me. He panics and yanks me around so I can't see her anymore, but I pull away from him and start running. Oh God if it's --"
"We don't know. We don't know. Did you get a good look at her?"
"Not really. She was about a yard away."
"So, maybe it was just mistaken identity."
"No. It wasn't. Think who you're talking to, Mulder. I tried to come up with a thousand things this could be. I wanted it to be something else. It's not. There's a little girl in Chicago named Emma who has someone looking after her that looks and talks exactly like me."
There was silence on her end and she could hear him breathing, trying to remain calm.
"And Mulder? I think I saw you when I was running away."
"If you walk out on me
I'm walking after you."
-- "Walking After You," Foo Fighters
Two Weeks Later
She didn't like this at all.
Pacing the apartment, her hands clutching her cordless, eyes flickering constantly to the mantel clock.
He was supposed to call. Libby at twelve. Her at ten.
When the shrilling of the phone started, she snatched it on and spoke sharply.
"Mulder, what took you so long?"
"Calm down. I couldn't call."
"Why are you whispering?"
"I'm not sure what you've stumbled into down here, but it's huge, Scully. I followed Mike into this safe house. At least I'm assuming it's a safe house."
"What's going on?"
She licked her lips and listened to him describe the house, the way the roof sloped to one side, the surveillance equipment set up around the perimeter, the family inside.
"Is it . . .?"
"Yeah," he said softly. "I think it's us."
Six Days Earlier
When her plane arrived, she fairly ran off the concourse and into his arms, glad she had made it home alive, even happier to be on the ground.
For a woman who hated flying, switching flights every other city was excruciating. She had been on twelve different flights, going so far as Philadelphia and then to Memphis before heading west.
Chicago had been all right.
Until she ran into them . . . whoever they were.
After her panicked, frantic phone call to Mulder, she had calmed down, gone investigating contrary to his admonitions to stay in her motel.
She couldn't stay. She had a whole seminar to attend, and besides that, she had just seen herself.
Herself and Mulder, but not Mulder, not herself.
Strange. Not so strange.
His arms were tight around her, enveloping her with warmth and security. The people on her flight streamed past, pushed her along, generally ignored her.
Grabbing Libby, they made their way to the baggage claim, wishing to get through as quickly as possible.
Libby's face was in a pout.
Scully turned to her, a hand on Mulder's arm to signal for him to look out for her bags.
"You haven't given me a hug!"
Scully's eyes turned dark; Mulder knew she was flustered with herself for forgetting.
"I'm sorry, baby. Come here."
She held out her arms and Libby threw herself into her mother, grabbing tightly and burying her face in Scully's neck.
"I missed you Mommy."
"I missed you lots, baby."
She brushed Libby's hair away from her face and picked her up, letting her burrow into her arms, just as if she were smaller.
Mulder turned with her bags and herded them from the busy claim.
He then took a deep breath and looked straight at her.
"I've booked a flight to Chicago, Scully. Plane leaves in thirty minutes."
Scully blanked, rubbing Libby's back absently as she studied Mulder.
"What? We don't have to time to recheck my bags, and besides, all my clothes are dirty --"
"No Scully. Just me. We don't need to be taking Libby there at all. And she missed you. You stay here, I'll go. I can take a little more risks. I have contacts."
She stared at him in fascination.
The gleam in his eyes could not be dulled by the apologetic manner he spoke in, and the way he seemed to be dancing around on the tips of his toes, dancing to some invisible beat that made him want to run out and see things, do things, made her want to scream.
She had the old Mulder back.
Gone was the daddy, the man who called in and got her a day off, the lover who touched her in the middle of dinner just as he did in the middle of the night.
Gone. Not forgotten though.
"Mulder . . ."
"Scully, I can check this out. I can see what's going on. I'll call every night at ten to tell you what's happening."
He needed this, she could tell by the way his eyes shifted to the terminal and back to her.
She couldn't deny him this. He had sacrificed his whole life to be with her and Libby, to run away with them even though it went against every belief he held.
Now he was being given a chance at the truth again.
"Go." she whispered and turned away, pulling her suitcase from his fingers and wanting to save face.
She didn't want to cry, she wasn't going to let him see that she was on the verge of tears.
But he grabbed her hand, tightening his hold on her suitcase.
She stayed perfectly still.
He came around her and lifted her face to his.
"I'll call, I promise." he whispered and left her a gentle kiss full of apologies.
Back to Now
"Scully, they are so fake looking. I mean the me in there is . . . cold. He doesn't touch Lib- . . . ah Emma . . ."
"Mulder, they are not us. Don't forget that."
"They have all the appearances of a family, Scully. Jobs, school, not too much of a nice car, a smiling little girl. What's going on here?"
"I've been thinking about that Mulder."
She heard his pause, the way his breath came out fast. "I have too."
She took a breath and slumped into the couch, then stood to pace again.
"I think they've cloned us. I think they're trying to set up little families to raise the Emilys."
"Yeah?" she said hesitantly.
"You read my mind. Are we good or what?"
She eased back onto the couch and bit her lip, watching the mantel clock again.
"So . . ."
"Remember," he began softly. "There was that man who came in New York, your angel? Well, he said that we had something they didn't. Love. That's what he said, right? So maybe they're trying to recreate that."
She thought back to New York, to their hasty flight in the middle of the night, the feeling that they were Mary and Joseph fleeing with baby Jesus and away from the evil king.
She shuddered and glanced to the clock again. She still had twenty minutes.
"Recreate love with clones?"
"Is it working?"
A sigh. "Doesn't look to be. They seem to barely tolerate each other."
He sounded defeated.
"Mulder, that's not us. We have what they don't."
A small smile that she could practically see, and knew was there.
"Scully, I know. I know. Believe me, I'm coming home tomorrow. You don't have to worry."
"I wasn't --"
"Yes, you were. I can hear it in your voice. Trust me, Scully. If I'm not on that plane tomorrow, then something's happened to me."
She shivered. "Don't say that."
"Oh wait . . ."
He was whispering. She held her breath, heard noises from his end.
"Mulder?" she said softly, too worried to keep quiet.
A small noise from him that warned her to be quiet and she dropped into silence again.
She watched her minutes with him tick away.
Then: "Scully. It's okay now."
"One of the bodyguards came out here. I had to duck behind the fence."
She nodded even though he could not see it.
She was surprised. "What for?"
"Letting me go. If you had said no, I wouldn't have come. But I needed this. I don't know why, and you probably didn't know why either, but you recognized it and you let me go. Thank you."
She smiled widely for the first time since Chicago had happened.
"You're welcome. I think I do know why you needed it, but it doesn't make much sense to me either."
"Ha ha, funny." he joked and could see her smiling at him. "I'll let you go now."
He always ended the phone call at 10:30.
"I love you."
"I'll be on that plane tomorrow, Scully. Trust me."
He hung up.
Her watch read 10:30; the mantel clock read 10:30.
Eighteen hours a day of worrying if he would be able to call and then thirty minutes of worrying that he was going to hang up.
She sighed and slipped into the hall, twisting her wedding ring on her finger as she checked on Libby.
Everything was asleep.
She crawled into bed herself, and closed her eyes.
Mulder would be on that plane tomorrow.
Libby was tired and she kept falling asleep in the hard blue chair, only to awaken with a stiff neck and a whining voice.
Scully finally bought her a Sprite to make her stop complaining and held her in her lap to appease her tired body.
The flight wasn't due for another thirty minutes, but sometimes they could get in early, or Mulder could have decided to change his mind right at the last minute and get on a different plane.
He'd be home soon though.
She hated how needy she had gotten to be. So clingy.
He could even see it. Hear it in her voice every day, every ten-thirty when he went to hang up.
Blowing out a breath, she shifted Libby to her other leg and rested her chin to the top of Libby's head.
"Can I have more Sprite and maybe with a cookie?"
"Please? I bet you're thirsty too and you want a Coke. Right? So I'll just go back over there and get us both something to drink and me a cookie."
"I don't think they have cookies."
Her face lit. Her mother's words were a slow sign of weakening.
"I saw them. Chocolate chip and sugar cookies. All in neat rows. I think five of each. I'll be back before Daddy's plane gets in."
"I don't think so baby."
"Please? I'm thirsty . . ."
Scully sighed and pulled up her purse from underneath the seat.
She saw the triumphant look on Libby's face and supposed the little girl ought to be allowed to do things on her own.
Besides, she'd be right there, watching her.
She handed Libby some money and watched her eager face as she turned to dash off.
Her little girl turned back, afraid she'd changed her mind.
"Diet Coke, baby."
Libby grinned and ran.
Her Coke was long gone, only melted ice and remnants of taste.
Libby was sprawled on the chair next to hers, sleep having won the battle even after her sugar cookie.
She fidgeted and tapped her fingernails on the chair and ran a hand over Libby's hair every so often.
It was now . . . eleven thirty at night.
His plane had come and gone. There had been passengers.
There had been no Mulder.
She had asked to check the flight logs, but without FBI credentials, she wasn't allowed to see them.
She had gotten a passenger manifest, one that told her he was supposed to be on the plane, but not if he had actually been accounted for.
The airport was dark now, closed down in most places. The light at McDonalds was out, and the grilled gate pulled down.
She stood and went to the information center again.
"Are there are more planes scheduled to come in from anywhere near Dallas?"
His flight was supposed to be in from Dallas.
The man at the desk called up a list then regretfully shook his head.
"I'm sorry ma'am."
She sighed and went back to Libby.
The drive home was silent as Libby slept and Scully worried.
He had promised to be on that plane.
Had the fervor come back? Or was he in trouble?
The thing was, she couldn't run off after him like before.
He had promised.
He must have found something. He must not have been able to reach her. Maybe his cell phone battery had died. He was always forgetting to charge it.
A painful sigh as she took her exit and realized that he had not come home.
He hadn't come home because he'd forgotten, found something more important and ditched her again.
He was being himself and not thinking about her.
Libby woke on the ride home, right before they turned onto their street, and her eyes grew wide.
"Where's my Daddy?"
"He didn't make his plane baby."
"Oh," she said, praying that she would sound perfectly fine to her little girl. "He missed it. He was late. You know how Daddy's always late."
"But this was important. He wouldn't be late for something important."
"Daddy can be pretty forgetful, baby."
"How could he forget?" she wailed, her sleepiness making her emotional.
Scully sighed. "He just did, Libby."
"But how could he forget to come home? You didn't forget . . . how could he forget me?"
Scully felt her heart constrict and cursed Mulder for doing this to Libby.
Doing this to her.
"He didn't forget you, Libby. He could never forget you. He remembered to call you every day at noon, right?"
She was sniffling, evidently not convinced but wanting to be.
"He'll be coming on another plane, baby. Just not tonight."
That was a good question.
"Don't leave me, Mommy!"
Scully detached herself from Libby's clutching hands and smiled sadly at her.
"You're going to stay with Ms. Shawl baby, while I go get your Daddy."
"Why can't Daddy come get us?"
Scully sank down to meet her eyes. "Baby, you need to be very brave for me and Daddy. I have to go get him because he can't get back."
"What if you can't get back?"
Scully pulled her into a tight hug. "I'm coming back, Elizabeth. I'm coming back."
Libby stiffened with the use of her whole name and frowned through her tears.
"What if you can't? Daddy said that too . . ."
Scully clamped down on her lips to keep from crying.
"Baby, I don't know what to tell you to make you believe me . . ."
Libby glanced over to Ms. Shawl and then back to her mother.
"Call me every day," she said sharply, then pulled out of her mother's arms and ran to Ms. Shawl.
Scully felt awful.
"Libby . . ."
"Leave!" she screamed.
Tears slipped down her cheeks and she rubbed them away furiously.
"Libby, come over here."
"Now, young lady."
Libby reluctantly unburied her head from Ms. Shawl's lap and looked at her mother.
"If you go now, then I won't have to cry, Mommy."
Scully felt her teeth draw blood from her lip. "It's okay if you want to cry."
"No, it's not. If I cry, it means you're not coming back, just like Before."
Scully glanced warily to Ms. Shawl, then sighed.
"Come give me a hug good-bye, baby."
Libby came closer, almost as if she were approaching a spider.
Scully lurched forward and swept her up in her arms, hugging her tightly and kissing her forehead, then her cheeks, then the tears slipping from her eyes.
Libby hugged back, hard.
"I have to go get Daddy, now, Libby."
Libby allowed herself to be set down, then gave her mother a kiss.
"I'll be a good girl," she said softly, before the same words could come from Scully's mouth.
She opened the door for her mother and watched her leave.
Ms. Shawl came up behind her after five minutes of staring at nothing but the exhaust from a car long gone and gently shut the door.
Libby turned around and crawled into her arms.
Then she sobbed.
Scully cried softly on the plane for the horrible pain that had been in Libby's eyes.
Then she wiped away tears and tried to concentrate on finding Mulder.
There was too much light.
He moaned and turned over, fumbling for Scully, wanting to nudge her awake so that she'd get up and close the blinds.
He felt rough concrete instead of smooth skin.
He opened his eyes.
He was lying face down on the floor of a room, his face splitting in pain and his body throbbing.
He winced and tried to recall what had happened.
He had gone to the Chicago airport, had been walking through the parking lot when a few men had jumped him.
He remembered now.
The fists at first, holding his own till they had pulled a gun.
He had been shot.
He fumbled around in the brightness and blinked his eyes.
He bit back a scream as his hand connected with his bleeding shoulder.
Two shots, he had heard two shots.
He attempted to sit and found pain glancing through his entire body, reawakening fire in his nerves when he shifted.
He reached down and felt his leg.
Right leg, right shoulder.
They could have killed him. Why hadn't they? Maybe this would do the job.
Being trapped here.
Bleeding to death.
He moaned. He had promised Scully to be on that plane.
She wouldn't figure out what had happened to him. She would think he had left her. He could hear her fear of that in her voice every time he called.
She would think he had run off. She would think that of him and not even try to find out differently.
He lurched his body up, ignored the pain and vaulted himself to a standing position.
Where he immediately fell onto his butt, jarred his leg and sent such white hot pain through his body that he had to close his eyes whimper.
It stretched on and he let the welcome dark claim him.
Dallas was dark by the time she arrived and the first thing she did was find a pay phone and punch in the numbers for her calling card.
Then she patiently followed the directions until she got the phone to ring on the other side, in a small apartment in San Francisco.
It was a voice filled with awful dejection.
"Hey sweetheart. I promised to call you."
She heard a sort of sob of relief.
"How are you doing, my little one?"
"I wish you were here."
"I know you do, sweetheart. I'm at the airport in Dallas, baby, can you tell Ms. Shawl that?"
She heard Libby repeat her words and then turn back to the phone.
"You're going to be all right. I'm going to be all right. You got that?"
"Yeah." came her soft voice.
"Okay, I have to hang up now, Libby. I'll call tomorrow."
"No! Mommy, don't hang up!"
"Libby, I have to go get my luggage."
"No, please, Mommy. I don't want you to hang up."
"Libby, I have to. I love you."
"Don't say good-bye, don't say good-bye..."
Scully hung up before she would let Libby make her cry too.
She buried her head in her hands and slumped against the phone booth.
Her little baby was hurting because she had to go after Mulder.
She gave a frustrated growl and hurried over to the baggage claim.
He could tell that he was still in the airport by the sounds of the luggage revolving on the carousel just outside his prison.
Once he had awoken, he had crawled to the door, crawled painfully and agonizingly, but he'd made it.
The door was, of course, locked.
He had then collapsed in front of the door and yelled for what he judged to be fifteen minutes.
His throat was raw and his lips bleeding, and his shoulder ached with a deep, painful throb that was steady and constant.
His leg came in waves of pain and grateful numbness. One moment, just his shoulder, then his entire lower body was being burned alive, pierced with sharp pokers, and dragged apart with horses.
But his shoulder, in the long run, hurt worse.
The steady, forever pain soon grated on his nerves and depleted more of his energy than his screaming did at the onset of the pain in his leg.
It would never stop.
Scully would never come looking for him.
No one would ever find him.
After pushing around a timid flight clerk and bluffing her way past security at Dallas with her old FBI credentials, which she had conveniently packed with her, she had managed to ascertain that Mulder had never made it to Dallas.
He hadn't even been on a passenger list for a plane coming in to Dallas.
She tried to remember how Mulder usually worked.
The alias for the flight from Dallas to San Francisco, George Hale, then no reserved flight getting into Dallas because he would need to cover his tracks, not schedule the flight until the last possible second so that he couldn't be followed.
She sat up straighter, trying to dispel the aches in her back.
She pulled on her bra and loosened it a bit more, squirming around in the motel room just outside the airport that she had rented.
All she could think of was Libby though.
She bit her lip and decided to call.
Ms. Shawl was pulling the covers up tighter around Libby, finally able to get her in bed after her long night crying.
The poor thing had sobbed after her mother left, then quietly wept after her mother had hung up.
She shook her head and turned out the light.
"Good night, darling. Sleep --"
The phone rang loudly.
Libby sat up straight. "Maybe that's Mommy."
"She wouldn't call so late, Libby."
Ms. Shawl reached for the nightstand phone and picked it up.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Shawl, but I had to call to tell Libby good-night. Is it too late?"
"No, I just got her in bed. Here you go."
Libby's face lit up and she grabbed for the phone.
"Hey, sweetie. I called to tuck you in bed."
There was a wonderful sigh from Libby and she snuggled deep into the covers.
"Will you talk to me until I fall asleep?"
Scully felt her heart melt. "I sure will, little one. Have you said your prayers?"
"Not yet. I just got to bed."
Ms. Shawl rose and slipped out of the room, determined to let the little girl have some privacy with her mother. She'd come back and hang up the phone when they were done.
"Okay, let's say prayers then."
"All right. Are your eyes closed?"
Libby repeated her softly.
"Thank you for today."
"Thank you for today," Libby said, echoing.
Scully went through and listed things to be grateful for and then ended it.
"My turn." Libby said.
"Dear God . . . you don't have to repeat it Mommy."
Scully chuckled. "All right."
"Dear God, I'm going to skip all the thank yous cause Mommy already did that part. But I am thanking you at the end, I just want to do the most important part first. So you don't forget. God, I want you to take care of my Daddy because Mommy's going to bring him back, but before she gets there, Daddy might get into all kinds of trouble. You know how Daddy is. So I want you to look after him. Listen, don't have angels go do it, that won't work with Daddy. Daddy's trouble is too big for angels, but not too big for you. And look after Mommy too. Have one eye looking at Mommy and the other at Daddy. Okay God?"
"I think you should thank him now, baby."
"I'm getting to that. I just have to make sure he understands first. Okay, God, it's Daddy and Mommy. Their names are . . . well, their names are secret so I can't tell you, but you know who I mean . . . Amen. Oh, wait, thank you for Ms. Shawl and Mommies and Daddies even when they leave you. Amen."
There was silence for a long time and then Libby said, "Are you going to sing for me?"
"How about I just tell you a story?"
"How about both?"
Scully sighed. "Okay. What song, what story?"
"Jeremiah and the one about Moses."
Scully chuckled. "You mean, "Joy to the World." All right. I can do that."
Scully began to sing, her voice pitched low and designed to make Libby fall asleep.
When all the verses were over and she had sung the chorus three times, she stopped, listening.
"Story . . . " Libby said softly, ready to fall asleep.
Scully started talking again.
It was one o'clock in the morning when she finally clicked off the phone, having listened to her daughter's heavy breathing for an hour to make sure she didn't wake and want her again.
She crawled under the covers and remembered Libby's prayer.
She hoped God had been paying attention.
to tell you I love you.
And the night's too long
and cold here without you."
--Sarah McLachlan, "I Love You"
He rested again, counting to sixty with half his mind, breathing hard through bloody, raw lips that refused to allow all the air he needed.
His hand came up again after sixty whistled past, and began the rhythmic pounding once again.
Again and again his hand smashed into the door, the metal remaining resolutely, painfully, solid.
His voice to raw and aching to yell, he had resorted to making as much noise as possible.
His palm tingled with every smash, but the side of his fist, the thickest part, was long past numb, long past feeling. His eyes closed as coughs wracked his body, and he winced with every hot needle of pain that stitched through his arm and leg.
After sixty came again, he let his hand drop down and resumed the count.
Three . . .
And his breath sneezed from him, his hand throbbed, his shoulder throbbed, the muscles in his left arm burned, his leg felt like a piece of meat already. . . and no one was coming for him.
No one was coming.
He started pounding again out of a blind, unknown fury.
She watched the sun come up, the tentative rays spilling over the blinds and into her eyes.
She had been awake for most of the night, her mind thinking of Mulder, her heart aching for Libby.
Pushing aside the covers and sliding from the bed, Scully watched herself in the mirror. Long lines ran down her form, curves met her hips, shading kissed her eyes, and tightness forced into her mouth.
She sighed and stepped into the shower, dragging her tired body into the hot spray of another day.
The plane was a small craft that seemed to enjoy making her feel absolutely awful as it tossed back and forth in the high altitude winds. The chill of knowing she was up there alone, without Mulder without any strength at all, made her want to throw up more than the rough ride.
She curled her fingers around the arms of the seat and closed her eyes, wishing Mulder could be there, wishing she did not have to be running after him.
Was she doing it all for nothing? Was Mulder simply running when he had gotten the chance, running away from all the problems that came from hiding out with a woman who was afraid to love and a little girl that had to be under constant protection . . .?
She had nothing to offer him to make him stay, she had nothing to give to a man like him. He wanted the world and the answers to every question ever posed by man, and all she had was a tired faith in a failing truth, that and a little girl who adored her family more than anything.
He had promised to be on that plane.
She still trusted him.
Despite the lonely ache in her that tried to tell her he was gone forever.
When the phone rang, Libby sprang out of her chair and galloped down the hall to the phone, sliding in her socks on the linoleum floor and thudding to a stop into the doorframe.
She snatched the phone up and eagerly said hello.
Libby's pounding head was forgotten and she sat down on the floor, twisting the cord with one hand.
"Mommy, I had waffles for breakfast with blueberries in them!"
"Wow. Really? Did Ms. Shawl make them for you?"
"No. They came from the freezer, but they were very good and I got to put on as much syrup as I wanted to."
"Sounds like fun, baby. Did you get to watch your cartoon this morning?"
"Unh-huh. Guess what? Today the Bears had to fight this bad guy who came and tried to make them all work for him for free without any money or food or anything. And the Bears all got together and beat him up!"
"They did what?"
"They didn't hurt him, they just made him leave by scaring him really bad so that he was too afraid to stay in the woods with the Bears."
"Oh, good. So the Bears are okay now?"
"Yes. The Bears are okay now."
Scully smiled and sighed with relief. If Libby was watching television again and talking excitedly, then she must be doing all right.
"Okay, baby, I have to go get on my plane now, okay? You be a good girl."
"Okay Mommy. Call later too."
The phone was slammed down hard and Scully chuckled to herself as she dropped the phone easily into the cradle.
The final boarding call was announced and she stood, grabbing her carryon and heading for the concourse.
She was headed to Chicago.
She would have to start at the beginning and follow his trail to wherever it led.
Wherever it led.
He couldn't lift his arm anymore.
Blinding, white, hot, searing, burning, freezing pain that clawed through him like demons wanting to escape from his body.
He couldn't keep his eyes open.
All he wanted to do was bleed to death on the floor and fall asleep in his own, warm, blood.
Something was keeping him awake though.
It wasn't anything he could pinpoint, but it poked at him whenever he started to drift. It dug painfully into his ribs when he tried to close down, and it bit his heart when he got too cold to keep going.
He cursed whatever angel was keeping him alive and let the demons of darkness slip into him.
It was blessed relief.
Chicago O'Hare Airport was huge.
Long columns rose before her in the main walkway and people bustled around like they had a million things to do and a thousand places to be.
She had no clue where to start looking, only a certain feeling that she had to start here.
It was daunting.
Making her way to the information desk for the airline she had been flying with, she flashed her FBI badge at the man and demanded the flight logs for the other day.
She was surprised to realize it had only been two days since he hadn't been on his flight. Only two days.
When the printouts were firmly in hand, she thanked the man and went to collect her luggage.
"Ms. Shawl?" Libby called from the living room.
In the kitchen, making lunch, Ms. Shawl turned and waited until Libby had come into the room.
Libby's face seemed hesitant, as if she was not sure if she was allowed to talk about this.
"Can I pray before bedtime?"
"No, I mean, like right now?"
Ms. Shawl looked at her with a strange sadness. "Of course you can, Libby. You can ask God for anything at any time."
Libby sat down in the chair, her lips quivering as she thought about her Mommy being gone a long ways away.
"Even though it's not dinner time yet?"
"God wants you to talk to him whenever you want to, Libby."
Libby closed her eyes, then opened them slightly, peering through the cracks in her lids.
"I think we need to pray for my Mommy and Daddy right now, Ms. Shawl. Right now."
It was strange, the way she couldn't seem to find her bags, yet the airlines claimed they had been on the flight over.
She gave a frustrated, almost panicked moan and watched the carousel go around for the third time since coming back from the airline desk.
Her bags were not there.
They simply were not.
She gave up a pleading prayer for God to just let her get through the stupid airport without incident, but she had a horrible feeling it fell on deaf ears.
She had to get out of here. Had to get out of the airport to find Mulder. Waiting hours for her bags wasn't going to help any.
She rubbed her eyes and went over to the phone booths, stood in line with little patience for one of the lines to free up.
She would call home and touch base, then search out an employee to help her look for her bags.
Then, then, she would be able to find Mulder.
Find Mulder and get out of this place.
"If all of the strength, all of the courage,
come and lift me from this place
I know I can love you
much better than this,
full of grace, full of grace."
-- Sarah McLachlan, "Full Of Grace"
"Baby, I might be stuck at the airport for a while, so I don't know when I can call you again."
"Okay. Guess what Mommy?"
"Me and Ms. Shawl prayed for you and Daddy in the middle of the day. She said it still works even though it's not bedtime. It still works, right Mommy?"
"Yeah, baby, it still works."
It didn't feel like it worked, but she wouldn't tell Libby that.
"Okay, bye, Mommy."
The phone was slammed back into the cradle and Scully realized that Libby had the same phone manners as Mulder.
It made her heart hurt.
She turned back to the ticket counter and stood in line there too.
She would get someone to help look for her bags, then go after Mulder.
He was jarred awake by a rough shove.
Mulder yelled and blinked and looked around him in the bright room, angered that someone, or something had pulled him from the wonderful oblivion of darkness.
There was nothing there.
He howled and smashed his fist into the door in frustration.
Somebody kept shoving him awake. Every time he was right there, the stupid man shoved him again.
This was not fair.
"Just let me die already!"
No one was coming.
She stopped dead in her tracks and the man behind her ran into her back.
"What are you-"
She was in the back part of the airport, behind the carousel's working parts, watching as men lugged suitcases over to the belt and threw them onto it. Others were taking breaks, and more men were watching her.
It was noisy and the employee shrugged his shoulders.
"There's lots to listen to."
Scully shook her head in frustration, knowing she had heard something.
"Just lead me to the rooms were you said it might have gotten lost."
The clerk took his keys and opened a doorway that wound behind the airport terminals and branched off into various locations throughout the strip.
Walking down the relatively silent corridor, Scully got the overwhelming urge to check every door.
She shook off the creepy feelings and followed the man.
"Do you think one of the employees stole it?"
He could hear her voice, floating in through the venting system.
She had come after him.
He felt awake, he wanted to be awake, he wanted to freaking *live* and her voice was there, he knew it was.
His own throat close down on him and bit off his words, choking them down with raspiness and a dry tongue.
In panic, he began pounding on the door.
She stopped again.
"You've got to be hearing that!"
He turned to her. "Oh, yeah, but that's the machine sorting out the luggage. It's been rattling and pounding for a few days now."
She sighed and followed him down the hall, asking more questions about the layout of the airport, trying to determine where Mulder might have come in at, and what gate he departed from.
She was getting farther away.
He pounded harder, making it a steady beating that shook every bone in him to the core.
She was walking away.
Walking away from him.
"Scully . . ."
"We have to go back."
The man turned around and looked at her like she was crazy.
"I thought you wanted to find your luggage."
She stared at him in helplessness. She had no idea why those words had slipped from her mouth, only that something was pushing her back.
Back to the first few doors they had passed.
"Please. Just go back. And unlock every door as we go by."
"Look, lady, I can't --"
She flashed her badge. "You're going to do this for me, okay? I'm looking for my partner. He never made it back from here. I have to find him."
"So your luggage really didn't get lost?"
She gave a frustrated growl. "It did get lost, but this is something different. Just please, do as I ask."
He shrugged and began walking back, opening every door they came to.
Something slammed into his side and he moaned.
"Uh, ma'am? Something's blocking this door."
Scully ran out of the room she'd been inspecting and over to the door he was shoving against.
She heard the faint sounds of pain.
She sank to her knees beside the crack and stuck her fingers through.
"Go call an ambulance!" she yelled, shoving the man to the back.
He stared as she pushed on the door, then turned and sprinted down the hall.
She breathed in slowly, then slid her fingers along the familiar hair that she could reach from the crack.
She heard a moan and felt her heart jump to her throat.
Another garbled moan and she gently pushed on the door.
"Mulder, you have to move away from the door so I can get in there."
Despite the fear in her that he was hurt very badly, she was overjoyed at finally finding him.
She felt him roll away from her touch and she managed to push the door open far enough to let her slide through. She tripped over his body and fell beside him.
The blood was what she saw first.
Her hands had fallen into a sticky mess of it.
Blood was trailed along the floor, in puddles around him, in pools in the center of the room, soaking his clothes, washing his face.
"Oh God," she whispered and took his face in her hands.
"Mulder? Mulder, look at me, please."
His eyes rolled open and the relief in them was greater than any emotion she had ever seen in his eyes.
"Thought you weren't coming," he mumbled, his voice low and almost unheard, the Arctic frostbite voice.
"You made me a promise. I trust you."
He nodded and closed his eyes.
She checked his fingers, found them cold. "I see that."
One eye came open. "It hurts," he said pitifully.
"I bet so. Lay back down," she chided as he attempted to sit up and see what she was doing.
When she saw the extent of his gunshot wound, the great gaping hole in his kneecap, the blood still pouring from it, she knew he should, by all counts, be dead.
He should be dead.
In fact, she should never have found him. If everything had gone exactly right, she would have been in a motel somewhere, waiting for things to become clear for her.
All because her bags got lost.
She supposed God had been listening all along.
"Scully . . ."
"I'm right here, Mulder."
"Wouldn't let me fall asleep."
"Some man. Kept shoving me awake. Had to pound on the door . . ."
"Okay, Mulder. It's okay. Just rest right now, okay. Help is coming."
She could hear the feet running down the hall now.
She pulled Mulder further from the door and shoved it open more to indicate where they were.
She pushed one hand to his shoulder, blocking the blood flow.
His hands tangled into hers and his blood was making her cold, but she held on.
"I can't believe you came."
"Will mercy be revealed
or blind us where we're standing?
Will we burn in heaven like we do down here?
Will the change come while we're waiting?"
-- Sarah McLachlan, "Witness"
She was curled on the plastic couch, hair pillowed under her arm to offer some kind of comfort, when the doctor opened the door to the ICU waiting room and cleared her throat.
Scully jerked awake and opened her eyes, then sat up.
The woman came over and sat down in a chair in front of her, averting her eyes until Scully had regained her composure.
Then her eyes met Scully's in pure joy.
"He's good," she said.
Her body sagged infinitely and she let out a grateful sob.
"You want to tell me what's going on here?" she said softly.
"He will be. Surgery went great. His knee was tricky. Wasn't a surgery I'd ever done before, really. In fact, I shouldn't have been doing it at all, but I made them let me. I begged the head surgeon and he agreed. I don't know why I felt like I could. Maybe with all the miraculous things going on around here, I got caught in it too."
"What do you mean?"
"I think you know. He shouldn't have been even alive when you found him. Let alone awake and conscious and talking to you. It's a miracle."
"Do you believe in miracles?"
The doctor tilted her head. "Every day, there are miracles happening in this hospital. Ever been to the kid's oncology ward? It's a miracle those kids are as happy, as wonderfully open and honest and loving as they are. Despite what's happening to them, they have the most will to live, the most love and strength I've ever seen."
"So, you want to tell me what's going on?"
"I ran a check on him, on you. Presumed dead. You want to tell me why?"
She shivered and paled. Stupid.
Stupid. She had forgotten for a moment who they were. Getting back into that role of FBI Special Agent, being sucked back into those same feelings, had made her forget that she was no longer Dana Scully, and he was no longer Fox Mulder.
"Look, I haven't told anyone. And I won't. Let them figure it out. I'd like to know though."
"We're hiding," she said softly.
The doctor simply sat, her long face sad and waiting. She looked ancient, in the way that spoke of long years hurting.
"There are some people who'd like to kill us. Tried to kill him just the other day, as you can tell. Mainly though, they want to kill our little girl. We have to hide, have to get away from them. I forgot, called him by his old name."
The doctor nodded. "I don't need to know any more than what you want to tell me."
Scully looked right into her eyes, hating the feeling of helplessness. "I don't want to tell you more. I don't want you getting killed for this. But please for my little girl, please don't say anything to anyone."
The doctor took a deep breath. "I won't."
Scully smiled and stood. "Can I see him now?"
The doctor nodded and walked to the door, letting Scully follow her.
"Wait, I don't know your name."
The doctor gave a soft smile. "Dr. Shuley."
The color drained from Scully's face. "Shuley?"
"Yeah. Elizabeth is my little girl . . . was my little girl."
She sat on the bed, watching his eyes as Nora Shuley told her story.
Mulder looked like was believing her and Scully was inclined to. They had never really come to understand what had happened to Libby's mother, only that it was something awful, something Libby buried deep.
Evidently, they'd been waiting for her, but were unprepared for her to be without Libby. She'd thrown them a curve by sending Libby to the federal building in search of her real mother.
They'd beaten her, roughed her up, threatened her, but it hadn't really mattered to her much. Libby had to remain safe. That was all there was to it. Libby had to be safe.
They had dumped her somewhere, maybe because her husband didn't want her killed outright, or maybe because they didn't want to do it themselves.
A woman had found her, taken her in to her house when her fear of hospitals had manifested with violence, and generally helped her heal. The woman was a doctor and got her a job, got her new papers and degrees.
Evidently, Nora had been a surgeon before her husband forced her to quit to raise Libby, a daughter of the project.
Mulder's hand in Scully's tightened and she looked to his face. He seemed to be totally absorbed in her story, right up to the last detail.
He breathed loudly when Nora stopped.
"What did you tell Libby to tell Scully when she found her?"
"I told her to ask for Dana Scully, and she tacked on all the extra stuff, Dana Scully Special Agent FBI, Doctor --"
"Yeah, that's what she said."
He seemed convinced. Scully didn't know how to feel.
Dr. Shuley shook her head. "I'm not here to take her away, Dana. In fact, as much as it hurts to say this, I think it's a better idea for me not to even see her."
Dana watched the woman sink to the plastic chair that hospitals the world over seemed to have a huge stock of.
"She thinks I'm dead, and she's doing so well without me. Better with you two than me. I have a family here . . . and I don't want to get them in trouble."
"Libby loved you . . ."
Nora smiled tightly. "She probably barely remembers me. She was three. Three year olds tend to forget."
Scully shook her head mutely, somehow understanding the woman's pain with her decision.
Mulder squeezed her hand and she glanced to him.
His body was still weak and he really shouldn't have been awake, but they were rushing his recovery to get him out of there.
"What are we going to do?"
Dr. Shuley took a deep breath, focusing her thoughts again. "I've already misplaced your admittance records, and taken your file from the case management team. There's probably something still floating around, but I can't get to it. You'll be airlifted to San Fran's St. Francis hospital tomorrow under your alias and then, everything should be all right."
Dana nodded and stood as the woman turned to leave.
They walked out of Mulder's room and turned to each other at the last moment.
Nora's eyes were clouded with grief. "I never thought I'd have to think about Liz again. I never wanted to. It hurts. But I want to thank you for risking your life to save my baby. I know she's really yours, I knew all along. But she's part mine, in a way, and I miss her. Thank you."
The woman turned and walked down the hall, her white lab coat hiding a small figure bowed with untapped grief.
Scully slid back into Mulder's room and eased to his bed.
He took her hand and kissed her knuckles.
"I didn't think you'd find me," he said.
She nodded. "I was afraid I wouldn't."
"No, I mean, I didn't trust that you would even be looking for me, Scully."
She shook her head and sighed. "That's my own fault, Mulder, not yours. I was the one who didn't trust that you'd come back. You picked up on that right away."
"You know now, though, don't you?"
She nodded and crawled into his arms, her hands going lightly over his casts and careful not to touch anything that would hurt too much.
"I know now."
He kissed the top of her head and sighed. "I didn't find anything much Scully. Their house was deserted when I went back the next day, before my flight, and everything was taken from me at the airport."
"It's okay Mulder. We know that they're trying to build families. Find love. I guess if we can't have the Emilys, I'd rather they had us. In some form or another."
He laughed. "I suppose."
"It feels like things are going to be normal now. No more flying leaps into conspiracies and paranormal. No more fear."
"That's because I think this is all over. We've accepted that we won't be able to ever really find them all, that they're going to be out there. And I'm content with my family."
She sighed and realized it was late.
He was closing his eyes, softly breathing.
"We forgot to call Libby."
His eyes flew open. "Call now."
She reached for the phone beside his bed, jostling him enough to make him wince.
It rang and rang and finally, someone picked up.
"Oh, dear. Libby was getting so tired that I just finally put her to sleep."
"Oh. Would you mind waking her up so she could talk to her Daddy?"
"You found him? Oh that's wonderful. Sure. Hold on."
There was some rustling and Scully handed the phone to Mulder. His eyes glowed as Libby came on.
"No, baby, it's Daddy."
Scully heard her shriek and laughed as Mulder winced and rubbed his ear.
"Okay, okay, calm down, Libby."
A moment of silence as Mulder listened to her and then he smiled, looking up to Scully with laughter. "Mommy sang the frog song to you, huh?"
Scully ducked her head and laid back down on his chest, listening to his heart beat as Mulder listened to Libby talk endlessly about her days.
She closed her eyes knowing they were all safe.
On the Way Home
I tuck another strand of faded blonde hair behind my ear, then check my mirrors before switching to the right hand lane. My blinker clicks on and then off and I'm smoothly navigating through traffic before I even realize I left the church parking lot.
My skirt is hitched around my knees so that I could climb into the big blue truck, my baby, and it makes for great air conditioning after the interior is baked from sitting out in the sun for three hours.
The day is dazzling, I feel good finally about the things happening in my life, and I maybe know where I'm headed after these three years of college.
I thought I wanted to be a social worker, or maybe a case worker, something where you had to comfort people, be there for them.
It sounded just like the ideal for me.
I sigh and try to forget about it.
Much like Scarlett in "Gone With the Wind," (a movie I personally have never seen and never want to see), I always put off what I don't want to even think about until tomorrow.
It's not that I procrastinate, it's just that I tend to worry over much about everything. I've found the best way not to get an ulcer is not to worry.
Not to think.
Just enjoy that wonderful California sunshine, unmercifully hot though it may be.
Whatever happened to that infamous bay breeze that always used to cool us off?
The green grows stale and switches, and I slow the truck down, coming to a halt at the stoplight.
On the left, I immediately notice the wonderful blue truck coming down the street perpendicular to mine, Hallowel, and the beautiful rugged look it has. I have this thing for trucks.
It's cutting through traffic, in the right lane, a woman at the wheel with a faded look of sadness.
Why's she so sad if she's driving such a wonderful --
Oh my God.
It's an immediate prayer as the truck swerves, fishtails out of the way as an idiot tries turning left in front of the woman in blue.
She swings across the intersection, going remarkably slow for such a thing, my mind giving me simple flashes as I try to process.
I have never seen an accident, not right in front of me like this.
Not heading straight for me.
Running straight, straight, oh God, don't let her hit me --
My body slams hard into the seatbelt, knocking around my insides good and hard.
And then silence.
I hear the roaring of my blood.
The panic of my heart.
The slow trickle of traffic starting up again.
I lift my eyes, feel breath explode from me.
The beautiful truck managed to just skim my front bumper.
She hit the curb, jumped it, and ran smack into an old, concrete wall constructed for privacy.
She's not moving, even I can see that through the windshield.
Shaky legs push me from the truck, sliding to the pavement without collapsing, but only barely.
The car that turned left in front of her is nowhere to be seen.
I take a breath, pressing my fists to my face to steel myself.
She could be bleeding.
She could be dead.
Oh God, let her be okay.
I use the hood of the truck to steady me as I make my way to her door, gulping back hot saliva and the urge to throw-up all on the street.
I hear crying inside the truck and it makes me stop short.
A little girl.
There's a little girl in there.
I don't have any energy or strength, my adrenaline maxed out when I pushed myself from the truck, but somehow, I manage to run to the truck.
I see a tangled mess of hair and blood at first and the vomit rises in me, but I shove it down hard, swallowing acid.
I see a little girl in the front passenger seat, her eyes red from crying, her beautifully blonde hair wet with tears and sweat.
"It's okay, sweetheart. Your Mommy's going to be just fine, okay?"
She looks up at me with such abject fear that I step back, stunned.
I hear a slight moan from the woman, whose head is lolled back in the seat, her mouth parted slightly, and red hair framing her face disheveled.
"Ma'am, please don't try to move. Do you have a cell phone where I can call an ambulance?"
She looks young, older than me, but still maybe thirty or so. Young to have such fear in her eyes looking back at me.
"You're going to be okay-"
"I'm a ... a ... doctor." she murmurs.
"Okay, okay. I need to call the paramedics. Do you have a phone?"
I can't believe that's my ultra-calm voice coming out.
She nods and winces, her face already purple and bruised.
"Okay, let me get it. I don't want your little girl to move around much either."
Her hand raises, fumbles with something.
I run around to the side, pull open the back door of the truck; she's got one of those four door things that have a surprising amount of room.
I see her hands clutching a bag, and gently I take it from her.
She makes a muffled noise that sounds like she's going into shock and I paw through the black bag until I find her phone.
It takes me a moment to figure out how to place the call, but it lights up and I'm connected to the 911 operator and I feel immensely better.
Little hands clutch at me, and I take one, holding to the daughter tightly as I explain what happened.
It's oddly quiet and the little girl reaches out and unstraps her seatbelt.
But she's already slithering down to the floor, then touching her mother, tears sharp and fresh in her eyes.
The woman knows she's not supposed to move, knows her daughter shouldn't be either, and casts panicked eyes to me, seeking help.
"Come here, darling. Let's lie down back here really still, all right?"
The girl buries her head into her mother's lap and stays there, eyeing me.
"Trust her, baby."
I hear her words like soft silk and I reach a hand, palm out, to her daughter's shaking body.
"My name's Ashley. What's yours?"
She shakes a bit and then whispers, making me duck down closer to her to hear.
"Hey, Libby. I bet you're scared right now, huh? That's okay to be afraid. It's a little scary to have an accident. But you're going to be just fine and so's your momma. Okay?"
She doesn't nod or shake her head or even cry, just looks at me, her hands circling her mother's waist and head digging deeper into her stomach.
I look to the woman. "Is there someone I need to call?"
"Mul- ... My husband."
I nod. "Here, I'll call. Explain things. You want to tell me the number?"
She looks hesitant, as if she's spent a lifetime not trusting anyone.
"Look. You're going to need him. But if you don't want to call him, I'll look after Libby."
"No, no. Not that."
She sighs, runs her fingers along her little girl's face.
Then she rattles off the San Francisco number and I punch it in as fast as possible.
I whisper as the phone rings. "What's his name? Yours too?"
She glances to her daughter, then closes her eyes as if thinking.
"Mulder. I'm Dana."
Mulder? Odd name.
The phone is picked up at the other end and a warm voice answers.
"Uh ... hello?"
Man, these guys are nervous as anything.
"Uh, my name's Ashley Wilkes. Are you Mulder?"
He hisses in his breath and I see Dana close her eyes with something akin to regret.
"Sir, your wife was in an accident --"
"What! Where is she? What happened? Is Libby --"
"Sir. They're both right here. We're waiting for the ambulance. I --"
"Give me the location. I'm coming right now."
I sigh and look to the woman, knowing and understanding why she'd been reluctant to call him.
He's a little hyper about their health and safety, to put it mildly.
I give him the address and he sighs. "That's right by the church, right?"
I affirm that and he hangs up.
"Thank you," she whispers, her eyes closing again.
"Yeah. But don't fall asleep, okay? I need for you to stay awake."
I realize she's probably going into shock; I glance around for a blanket.
There's a towel in the floor, and hastily, I shake it out.
I pull it around her, rubbing her arms to keep her warm as she shivers.
"Libby, you want to help me look out for your Daddy and the ambulance?"
Libby looks up to her mother with a solemn face, and receives a nod of encouragement and a brave smile.
The girl reluctantly lets me lead her out of the truck and into the sunlight.
Our emergency lights are both on and I can hear the ambulance rounding the corner even as Libby scuffs her shoe on the sidewalk.
It pulls up and a man comes walking up, official looking, and tired too.
He checks Libby and me out, giving us a thorough once over, then turns to the truck as I explain.
He motions to the driver of the ambulance and it pulls up close to their blue truck.
I hear another siren and this time, the traffic cop shows up and I'm distracted from the ambulance by the woman coming up to me with the first friendly smile I've seen.
It makes me feel a lot more calm.
As I detail the accident and fish out my driver's license, then run back to their truck for Dana's, I miss the details of the ambulance, but soon I realize that the little girl is bawling and getting shoved aside.
I run to her and scoop her up, letting her see over the paramedics' towering forms to the face of her mother.
"Baby ... all right. Daddy will be here."
She mumbles something else and then gets pushed into the back of the ambulance. I see IV's running into her arm, and it kind of scares me.
Libby holds to me tightly, evidently trusting that her mother would only leaver her in good hands, and therefore, I have quickly become her only ally.
I finish filling out the accident report, noticing that it looks oddly like the fliers we handed out at church announcing special events.
Cheap photocopies that are a silent testament to just how often this happens.
The woman sheriff comes up to me again, takes the report and then drills me for any kind of possible clue.
"I think I might have the license number, or part of it."
"Do you know the make?"
"Oh yeah. Crown Victoria. Navy blue, real rich. I always notice blue cars."
I blush and shift Libby around on my hip. "I like blue."
She nods, glances over at my dusky grey truck, then the wonderful blue truck that Dana and Libby were in.
"So that's how come you noticed the truck too, right?"
"Yeah. The license for that car was something like QXJ. I'm definitely sure it had those letters, I'm just fuzzy on the order."
She nods, writes it down, then looks up again.
"When the husband gets here, you'll be able to go."
I shrug. "I think I might go down to the hospital, see how she's doing. Do you know what hospital?"
"St. Francis. It's closest."
I wonder how long it will take for the man to get here.
"Libby, what kind of car does your Daddy drive so we can look out for it?"
"He doesn't have a car."
I raise an eyebrow and look to the officer. "I guess I might be giving them a ride there."
She shrugs. "If that's what it takes."
The woman leaves, walks to her patrol car, and begins writing up her report.
I sink to the curb, tired from holding Libby, but not wanting to let her go either.
She begins to cry again, soft little tears that dig into me.
"It's okay darlin', it's okay. Your momma's all right and your Daddy will be here as soon as he can."
She sits back in my arms, head tucked under my chin.
Her hair is soft and blonde like corn silk, her eyes large and an almost grey, almost blue color that ricochets off my heart.
"It'll be okay."
The man comes running, his mouth open and wide for breath, jogging pants and a grey tight T-shirt on that shows off his chest and biceps very well.
Libby's asleep in my truck, her head resting on the door.
I know it's Mulder, simply by the shake in him as he slows.
"My wife? Is she here?"
"She's gone on to the hospital. I have Libby here with me and the sheriff is still here too. I can give you a ride, sir."
He glances to me, stiffening.
I want to scream at them that I'm freaking all right; I'm not out to get them.
"Look, trust me. Your wife did. I'll give you a ride. Libby's asleep in my truck."
He glances up, pants a bit, then leans over and puts his hands on his knees. His face goes pale and he turns from me, running to the lawn we stand in front of and vomiting hard.
I see him wipe his mouth on his soaked shirt, and I realize he ran the entire way here. Hard, non-stop.
Or blind fear.
He's got to be ready to drop.
I walk over to him, take his arm as he raises up.
He glances at me with confusion.
"Look, I want to help."
After a moment, he follows me to the truck, getting in and placing Libby in his lap.
I want to tell him that's a dangerous place for her to be, but I shut up and start to drive.
I hate hospitals.
With an intense passion that makes me wonder what exactly happened to me as a child that makes me detest them so much.
It could have been the time I ran into the doorframe at the age of three and had to wait in the emergency room for an hour while my head continued to bleed and my mother panicked and my father swore nervously.
It could be that.
Or maybe even the time my mom got cancer when I was six, and we had to come up every day, every long hard day, and watch as she smiled thin ghost smiles and pretended she'd be all right, when all she really did was end up dying.
I bet it was more of that.
But being here now, it doesn't hold the same kind of hatred.
More of a fear.
I like these people. As odd and crazy and paranoid as they are, they're fun.
Libby is a doll, her father is gorgeous, and her mother is calmly reassuring.
It's been three hours since the accident, three hours since Mulder came running up, shaking, throwing up into the yard, and then asking nothing as we squealed into the parking lot of St. Francis.
Libby stays in his lap, and he stays right there in the chair.
Me ... well, I'm going crazy with worry.
Doesn't he even care? He's sitting there, not drawing any attention to himself, not even looking at people, not letting Libby even whine or complain at all, and it's like he wants it that way.
Like he's hiding from something.
Well, I'm going to see how she is, even if he doesn't care.
Which is unfair, because I can clearly see how much he does care.
The doctor is just inside those doors; I bet I could sneak in and ask her.
It's a cinch. Mulder's eyes widen as he watches me and he emphatically shakes his head, but I shrug him off and slip inside.
The doctor glances up at me immediately, frowning.
"Hold on. I've been out there waiting for two hours. I'd like someone to tell me something about her."
"Dana ... uh, Mulder?"
The doctor frowns, looks at me strangely.
"There are no patients by that name here."
I gape at her. "You're her doctor!"
"I'm sorry miss. I don't have --"
She's cut off as Mulder barrels through the doors, knocking into me and grabbing my arm with a fierceness that makes me wince.
Mulder shakes his head. "I'm sorry Dr. Whitfield. This won't happen again."
"It's all right. I can tell she's worried about her mother."
Mulder says nothing, lets the woman think he's my father, and yanks me back outside.
"Do not ask for her by name! Do not call her by name. Understand me?"
I glare at him. "No."
It's sass and he's not used to it from a college kid, but I don't really care at this point.
He guides me to the chair where he left Libby, then sits me down forcefully.
"She told you her name ... I guess she wasn't thinking, or maybe she wanted to get my attention. Let me know it was for real."
"What was for real? Why can't I ask for her by name?"
He shakes his head, runs long fingers through thick, sleepy looking hair.
"You better tell me a good reason why you hauled me out of there like I was a child!"
"Because that's not our names anymore."
I stare at him with an open mouth, shock filtering into my features.
"Oh my gosh. What are you telling me? Are you running from the law?"
He shakes his head, eyes darting around quickly. "We're, ah, in the witness protection program."
The look on his face, combined with the way his eyes seem to not be able to follow mine, makes me think not.
"Yeah right. What'd you really do? Hold up a bank, firebomb a building in the sixties?"
He glares at me. "We were born in the sixties, child."
I blush. "Sorry."
He shakes his head. "I hope I don't look that old."
I look once again to his nicely fit body. No ... not so old at all.
"We really are in hiding for protection, Ashley. That's not a joke. It's life and death. There are people who want us dead, want us dead if only because of what we have."
His eyes slide to Libby then back, clearly indicating what it is they have that will cause them their deaths if caught.
Only he can't very well say it around her.
"So what's your names? Names I can use?"
"Kate and Chris Williams."
He nods, a small smile coming to his face. "Yeah. Look. It's evident I have to trust you. She kind of forced me into it, telling you our names. But let me tell you this, if something happens, if we're even recognized over here, followed or --"
I stare at him, my anger rising.
"Are you threatening me? Is that what you're doing? That's ridiculous. This is America, you idiot. If you so much as touch me, I'll have you thrown in jail."
Libby's eyes are huge, her face shocked and horrified. I grimace and lower my voice.
"You've got to be kidding me, thinking that kind of cloak and dagger stuff can be used here. You're nuts."
He shakes his head. "No. If you've seen what we've seen, you wouldn't think so. It happens every day, all the time. And they keep getting away with it."
I want to not believe him; I want to forget what he's telling me, go back to my safe world where the only thing of immediate fear is what I'm going to major in this semester.
But I can't.
His words have forever plunged me into something else. I decide to go another way with him.
"I swear. Whatever happens. I won't say a word. Even if it turns out that you've actually murdered someone."
He slumps in relief.
"Mind you, not because I like you or anything. Only because I like your little girl and your wife."
He grins at me, sees the humor I'm trying to rally myself with.
I shake his hand.
"Let's go see D ... ah, Kate, okay?"
She looks pretty good to me, smiling and laughing and holding her little girl tightly.
Just a sprain in her neck, no broken bones thank goodness.
She'll have to stay for the night, to make sure, but she's looking good and acting impatient to get out of this place.
I wonder if she's got the same bad memories, of cancer and blood and waiting too long.
I should leave now.
I look back from the doorway, where I had tried to make a hasty exit.
"Do you baby-sit?"
I smile. "No. But I will if you need me to."
She smiles. "Maybe sometime. Thanks for everything."
I want to say that I'll see them again, that I'll keep in touch, look out for Libby sometime.
But I have college in a few weeks, and they really look like they don't need anything else to hang over their heads.
"If you get a note from me later, blackmailing you, it means I've flunked out of college and I'm broke, so just ignore my quiet desperation."
Mulder chuckles softly, looking over to his wife again.
Then his face turns serious and he glances to me. "I really appreciate your understanding."
I can't stand this. Too much emotion, too much potency here.
"I still don't understand. But if I see on television where you're actually on the run for murder, I'll be pretty pissed."
His face sort of pales. "I wouldn't be surprised if they did try something like that."
The way he says it, I just know.
He's no murderer, no ex-con out to get revenge or something. He's a guy with a family, with a little girl who's in trouble and he's trying to keep her safe.
I shake my head. "Whatever. Don't attract too much attention to yourself."
Saying this, I leave.
Walking from the door, back into the smells of Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion and bedsores, mixed with Clorox Bleach and antiseptic, I feel somehow chained up.
It's a hellish smell, and it's poignant, and I'm in a hurry to get out of here.
Out of the memories, and out of their little dangerous world.
I'm amazed they're still sane, still able to laugh at all.
I sincerely hope I never run into them again.
"For nothing is impossible through God." -- Luke 1:37
Scully watched the line inch forward at McDonalds' drive-thru, hating the city crowds and prices that the fast food attracted.
But today she took Libby to McDonalds, sort of like treating her for all the times she had been gone.
She'd been gone a lot. Working nine at night to five in the morning was agony on her system, and on her family.
She got home, slept for another two hours until Mulder got Libby up, said good-bye to them all, then fell back into bed until about four in the afternoon. Most times five.
Today she took Libby to McDonalds for supper, then she'd have to get ready for work.
Creeping forward to the order window, Scully rattled off the various meals her family wanted, making sure the woman got it right before accepting the total price.
McDonalds was making a fortune.
"So, did you get the apple pies?"
Scully dropped the bags onto the table and sighed. "Forgot."
"S'okay." Mulder replied and moved to grab his dinner. "Just glad I got food."
It was a joke, but it hurt. She just didn't have the energy to make dinner with the hours she worked. And Mulder tried, but he was no chef.
They moved into the living room, spreading the wrappers on the floor as placemats and using the television stand as a coaster.
The TV flicked on and Mulder began flipping through the channels, stopping for mere seconds at each until they got to Libby's favorite show on Nickelodeon, Kablam.
It was fairly amusing and they didn't mind watching it all together, so they sat down to enjoy the antics of the cynical Superheroes and everyone else.
Mulder finished his two cheeseburgers and got up to throw the paper away, grabbing everyone else's trash as he went.
Scully leaned back into the futon and closed her eyes, surprised to feel even more tired than usual.
Mulder came back in the room and reclaimed his spot, then slid closer to her and wrapped his arms around her.
Sighing, she let her head fall into his lap and close her eyes.
A noise startled her and she woke suddenly.
Mulder was still holding her and she found he was saying her name.
"You've got to get ready for work in a few minutes."
"What time is it?"
She nodded and yawned loudly, glancing around at the darkened apartment.
"In her room, playing with GI Joes."
Scully laughed and shook her head. "What's she really playing with?"
"What else? Madeline."
Scully pulled herself up from his arms and kissed his cheek. "Libby's not at all a tomboy. Quit trying to make her one."
"Weren't you a tomboy?"
She wrinkled her nose. "Yes, but I had two brothers and a sister that never had any interest in girly things."
"Aw, poor baby. What a sad story."
She poked his side and stood up. "Help me change?"
"You only have a few minutes ..." he warned, raising his eyes suggestively.
"That's all we need."
When she crawled into bed that morning, her stomach was fluttering anxiously and she wanted to simply fall asleep next to the toilet, she felt so bad.
Mulder moved and opened an eye.
"You okay?" he whispered, pulling her into his arms.
She shivered. "I think I'm getting sick."
He nodded and kissed her hot forehead with his cool lips, then ran his fingers down her arms.
She sighed and closed her eyes, letting her body respond to his touch.
He chuckled and brought his lips to hers.
"You still awake?"
"Sleepy at all?"
She smiled in the dark. "Nope."
"Me neither. Are you all that sick?"
She wound her fingers through his. "Not that much."
In the darkness, with the early morning birds just starting to sing, Mulder reached for her, drawing her body up into him.
Libby bounded into the living room, holding up her artwork and running to the fridge in a blur.
A crash sounded and everything stopped dead.
Scully looked up from the dishes she was washing and glanced to Libby.
The little girl was open mouthed.
A broken glass and vase laid in the floor, in shambles of glittering pieces.
Scully sighed and dried her hands off. "Baby, I told you not to run when you got in after school, didn't I?"
"Yes," she whispered, looking to the ground.
"So why were you running?"
"I ... I wanted to show you this."
Libby made a move to step closer.
Libby began to cry and Scully gingerly stepped over the broken glass and picked her up.
"Sorry, Libby. You have on bare feet. I didn't want you to cut yourself. Show me your picture now, okay?"
Libby nodded and wiped at her eyes, holding up her finger painting.
Scully saw the paint and felt the blood drain from her body.
"What is this?" she said softly, fingering the paper.
"I saw him today."
Scully swallowed her rising panic and set Libby down in the floor, holding the picture carefully.
"Where did you see him?"
"I saw him all day. He walked home with me. Well not with me, just on the other side of the street. He waved."
Libby bounded off to her room and left Scully standing there, the little girl's rendition of a man in a suit, with angel wings on his back and a smile on his face painted onto plain white paper.
Scully felt sick and she ran to the bathroom, vomiting her lunch.
Leaning against the sink, she washed her mouth out and remembered the broken glass.
The tiny shards were the hardest to get up, and only after sweeping three times did she think she had gotten it all.
She walked back over to the dishes, and heard a crunch as she stepped on a piece she missed.
Sighing, Scully dropped to her knees and searched the floor.
Not thinking, she scooped up the glass in her hand, and dumped it in the trash.
Her mind sort of closed down when she saw the blood, like she wasn't a doctor and didn't see it all the time.
It was only a little cut, but it gushed blood like Old Faithful until her mind kicked back in and she clamped her hand over her thumb and finger.
It was then she felt the glass. It was still in her thumb.
She turned to the sink and ran water over the wound, cleaning off the blood so she could see the cut. She pushed on the open slit and dug around in her skin to get the piece of glass.
Libby came into the kitchen and peered over the side of the sink.
"It's okay, Libby."
"Yeah, baby, I cut myself on some of the glass."
Her face teared up again and Scully wondered why her child had to be cursed with Mulder's sense of guilt and responsibility, warped as it was.
"I'm sorry, Mommy. I shouldn't have run. I --"
"Libby this is not your fault. This was Mommy's fault. I was sleepy and I was being stupid. Mommy did this to herself."
Libby still cried, pushing the tears out of the way though and reaching out to her mother's bleeding fingers.
"Should we put a Band-Aid on it?"
"In a little bit. I have to get the glass out first."
Her face looked awed. "There's glass in your finger?"
"Unh-huh." Scully nodded and showed her the little sliver. Libby reached over and touched it carefully.
She giggled. "That's cool."
Scully rolled her eyes. "I'm glad you think so."
"Can I watch you take it out?"
"If you really want to."
Scully bent over her fingers and began working at the glass, intensely concentrating on working it out, Libby peering at her blood anxiously.
Mulder slipped inside the apartment and noticed it was too quiet. He went around to the kitchen and found his girls standing over the sink, working intently at something.
"So, what's the secret?"
Scully jerked and Libby ran to her father.
"Mommy has glass in her fingers!"
Mulder frowned and picked Libby up, walking over to where Scully stood by the sink.
He took her finger in his hand and turned it over, peering intently at it.
A grin flashed across his face.
"Can I watch too?"
Scully rolled her eyes at him and nodded, then went back to her work, using a sewing needle she had sterilized in peroxide to peel back the skin.
After another fifteen minutes, both pieces were out.
"Okay, show's over, go on back to your drawing, Libby."
Libby wriggled down from Mulder's arms and darted off at full speed to her room.
Scully stared at her until the girl seemed to sense her mother's eyes. Then she paused and tiptoed the rest of the way, not pausing to look back.
Mulder smiled. "What was that about?"
"She was running in here and knocked over a vase and a glass and I picked up the broken pieces and got a cut."
He looked carefully at her again. "So what else is going on?"
She sighed and picked up Libby's drawing.
Mulder took in the drawing and then shook his head, sitting down on the countertop.
"He's back. The pin striped suit man. Your angel."
She turned her head and popped the leftover soap suds, idly starting to wash the dishes again.
"I don't think we need to do anything yet," she said.
He reached over and grabbed the towel to dry off the plate she handed him, then threw it back and grabbed a clean one.
She glanced at him.
"Had blood on it."
She shook her head. "I didn't use that towel."
"You must have."
She remained silent and finished the dishes, then grabbed the towel he had discarded and looked it over.
A bright red stain was in the very center.
She frowned. She could have sworn she hadn't used the towel. In fact, she remembered thinking about specifically not using it.
His words interrupted her thinking.
"I think you're right. We just won't do anything. If something happens, we'll deal with it then."
He leaned forward and kissed her lips. She relaxed against him and then brightened.
"Oh yeah. Good news."
He pulled back and put away the last dish.
"I don't have to work the graveyard anymore. I get regular shift now."
"Dr. Pratt volunteered to take over. It turns out his baby daughter is allergic to sunlight. Isn't that so random? He figured since his whole life will be spent in the night, he might as well find a job that fits that. I was more than willing to give it up."
He grinned. "If that's not a miracle for us, I don't know what is."
Her own smile faltered and he shook his head.
"Come on, don't worry about it."
She shook her head. "No, that's not it. I feel sick."
He watched as she ran to bathroom, covering her mouth and looking white.
Taking his time to let her regain some dignity, he walked into their bedroom and then into the bathroom.
She let out a shaky breath. "No."
He knelt down next to her. "Maybe we should take you to the hospital?"
She shook her head. "It's that flu I got before, remember? It's the same symptoms. I'll be okay."
He twitched and pulled her back into his arms, taking the washcloth from her hand and wiping her face with it softly.
"What if it's not? People have died from having pneumonia and letting it go unchecked."
"That's a bit extreme."
"What if you gave it to Libby?" he said suddenly.
Remembered Emily. Sickness and the way her fever licked fire into every skin cell.
"I think maybe you're right. I'll go."
"Tonight. Right now."
She tried to think of a reason to protest, but couldn't.
Scully nodded and looked dully out the window of the semi-private emergency room.
"She didn't like going to Ms. Shawl's in the middle of the afternoon too well, did she?"
Mulder sighed. "What else could we do? An emergency room is no place for her. I wish she hadn't been here after the wreck. I tried to keep her away from everyone and I guess she hasn't gotten sick yet."
"I really didn't even think about it." Scully whispered. "I never even thought that what happened with Emily ... could happen to Libby."
"I think we have to treat her health like it's fragile."
"Not like that really. Just be careful."
He nodded and glanced out of the room to the main emergency waiting room and the countless people still waiting.
"How long have we been here?" Mulder groaned.
"Long enough. I think three hours. It's nine o'clock, right?"
He nodded and sat back in the chair.
Suddenly the doctor came in, a rushed harried look on his face.
"Hi there, Ms. Williams. I see you've been admitted here before."
Scully frowned. "No, I don't -- Oh yeah. The accident."
"Right. Do you think this is related to the pain you've had?"
Scully shook her head, hesitantly.
"I didn't think of that. I mean, my stomach aches, but it makes me throw up. There's no blood."
The man nodded. "Well, we're going to do a ultrasound just in case. Make sure nothing inside is bleeding out. We've also taken culture samples and we should be able to determine if you have an infection."
He shook both their hands and scampered out again.
Mulder was staring at her.
She tilted her head. "Yes."
"Isn't that ... isn't that what they do for pregnant women?"
Scully bit down on her lip. "Yes. But also it's routinely used to make sure there aren't any bleeding problems, like he said."
Mulder nodded and sat back in the chair, but kept his eyes on her, a strange sort of look on his face.
The tech came in then, hooked up the machine and prepared everything.
It felt very strange to her, to have such a thing being done when, like Mulder pointed out, it was used for pregnant women.
The tech made a noise, stopped the tape and ejected it, then wheeled the ultrasound equipment to the corner, hurrying out.
Scully raised her eyebrow and felt a kind of panic start in her.
Mulder came to sit next to her, reminding her that she needed to stay calm.
His warmth made her relax a bit and she sank back into the bed, letting his hand run over her forehead and his fingers trace tracks down her cheeks.
The doctor came back in with a funny look.
"Well, we don't need to worry about bleeding out, Ms. Williams. It looks like you're going to have a baby."
There were no more words.
She stared at the man.
Mulder shifted next to her, glanced down at her with a small look, then back at the doctor.
"We ... we were told that wasn't possible."
The doctor shrugged. "Let me tell you something I heard once. It's a verse I had quoted at me one time when I said the same thing. For, with God, nothing is impossible."
The man turned then paused at the door. "I'll send someone in to set up everything, let you get a good picture."
Scully sat there, stunned.
Mulder turned to her, a cocky smile on his face, placed his lips to her ear.
"It'd better be a boy."
Scully turned around again in the seat, checking the kids as they slept in the truck, as far away from each other as they could possibly get.
Mulder smiled at her sigh and switched lanes, easing into the fast lane and putting pressure on the gas pedal.
"They hate each other," Scully said resignedly.
Mulder laughed. "You had a younger brother, Scully. You have to remember hating him at one point."
"Yes, I do. But not like this."
Mulder reached over and took her hand, squeezing it lightly. "She's just mad cause she's not the baby anymore. She'll get over it. Besides I think they grow out of this."
Scully watched the countryside flash by them, the last leg of their cross country trip almost over.
"I'm afraid Mulder," she said suddenly, her eyes cast far out into the night, hand clenching his tightly.
He knew what she felt, he understood the gnawing fear that grew in the back of her stomach.
"Me too. I have no idea how they'll react. I want to say your mother will forgive us, but I can't say that. I don't know what she's done to close herself off to your death."
Scully struggled not to cry, but tears escaped her eyes and streamed down her cheeks. "I can't believe I did that to my mother."
"We had to. We had no choice. Your mother had to believe so they'd believe it."
Scully suddenly looked over to him, her brows knitting in concern.
"Are you going to call your mother, or do you want to drive over there once we see my mom?"
"I'll call. If I showed up, she'd have a stroke."
Mulder wasn't joking around either.
Scully unbuckled her seatbelt and came to sit close to him in their truck, sliding her arm loosely around his waist and kissing his shoulder.
"It'll be okay, Mulder. We can do this."
He nodded grimly.
In the backseat, their two-year old son Benjamin yawned and shifted his pillow, then fell back into sleep. Libby remained oblivious.
Scully hoped they would sleep for the rest of the drive; she couldn't take another screaming/crying match between the two. She kept having to remind Libby that Ben was only two, and she a big six year old, but that didn't seem to make much difference.
They were still too far apart in ages to get along all the time.
The road was flashing with the white lines, the stationary stars made it seem like they weren't moving at all, and Mulder's touch along her arm was making her relax. She didn't want to fall asleep; this was the only tome they got to themselves anymore.
"Did you ever dream this could happen?"
Mulder glanced quickly to her, then tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.
"No. Not like this. But, us, yeah I dreamed that a lot. During your cancer I dreamed it quite a bit."
She grew silent, playing with the cuff of his shirt. "I dreamed this after Emily died. Something like this anyway. That you'd somehow find a way to make her better, like you did for me, and take us away to a place they'd never find us."
She fell silent and then took in a deep breath. "At first, I was angry that you hadn't come up with some magic cure for her. That you hadn't been able to save her like you had saved me. But then I realized I was being unfair, that I was projecting my own anger at myself for not helping Emily, and the guilt had slid inside me."
Mulder kissed her finger softly, and she smiled.
"But this wasn't ever something I really thought would happen. I knew in my heart that it was Emily's time to die. I can't tell myself she wasn't meant to live, but I can tell myself it was better for her not to."
Mulder made a muffled noise with his mouth, like he was struggling to hold back his own guilt, his own tears.
"What brought all this up?" he said suddenly.
"I was thinking what I'd do if Emily suddenly came back alive, just as I'm doing to my mother now."
"And what would you do?"
Scully's eyes were wide, lonely. "I don't know."
Margaret Scully was secretly dreading the Christmas holiday, especially if it was anything like Thanksgiving.
She only had her boys now, and Tara and Bill were so sweet to her, but they quickly got tired of her sadness, and her lack of energy, and would try and coax her into doing something she didn't want to.
It wasn't like she was in some horrible black depression over Dana's death three years ago, but it was just too soon to be thinking about 'getting on' with her life. Her children were her life. There was no getting on.
But Charlie was here this year too, with his wife of four years and she almost blessed him for still being childless. She didn't feel up to handling any more grandkids, not when half her children were gone.
Maybe if William had been there, things would look brighter, but she didn't think so. Her husband's world was his navy and his family, especially the look on his daughters' faces when he came home.
He would be disappointed in her, she knew that.
Charlie came into the kitchen and sat down with her, holding out a peaceful air that seemed to envelope her and almost, almost make her forget.
"Momma, you okay?"
"I'm fine, Charlie. Just thinking about my girls."
Charlie nodded, shaking his head to rid himself of tears. The death of his younger older sister, as he jokingly called her, had left him bereft for a long time. Dana had been his hero for a long time.
"I bet Missy and Dane are watching us right now."
Mrs. Scully smiled at the name. When Dana was in third or fourth grade, Bill had taken to calling his littlest sister Great Dane, teasing her and being uncommonly mean. Charlie had taken it up simply to prove to his older brother that he was not a sissy, that he was not a girl.
But then, he called her Dane in such a reverent tone, with such admiration, that Dane stuck for him. Dana had been Dane ever since he was three.
And he missed her achingly.
"Momma, I don't know why I'm telling you this. Bill always reminds me that we have to get on with our lives. But I had a dream about Dane a few weeks ago, right after Thanksgiving. I can't remember what the dream was about, but it was a good one."
Margaret smiled and felt a little bit of peace settle into her.
"Maybe she's letting us know she's okay."
Charlie nodded and stood back up. "Well, Mom, I got to go help Bill with the tree. When I get back in there, he'll probably yell at me for shirking my responsibility."
Margaret reached out and stopped her youngest with a quivering hand.
"As long as you're shirking, let me tell you something."
Charlie nodded and waited for her words.
"Of my two sons, Charlie, I am most proud of you," she whispered and kissed his cheek softly.
Charles reared back, his face flushed and pleased, despite the tears in his mother's eyes.
He knew what it took for her to recognize this, to compare him against Bill. To give him this small gift even when it really didn't need to be said.
It made him think maybe he was doing all right, maybe it didn't matter that he didn't have kids and that, before Dane died, he hadn't seen her in three years.
He quickly left the kitchen, brushing by his wife who was on her way in.
Caroline, that was his wife. Margaret loved her completely.
She smiled warmly and pushed the chair out that Charlie had just vacated.
"Sit down, Carrie."
Carrie smiled back and sank into the seat. "Hey, Momma."
"You and Charlie with this 'momma.' Do you know that's what he and Dana both called me when they were babies?"
Carrie smiled at her, and Margaret smiled back, pleased that Carrie hadn't frowned at her mention of Dana. Tara always frowned when she mentioned Dana.
Carrie's smile faltered and then she glanced to the door.
"Momma, do you think you could tell me what Dana was like? Charlie talks about her all the time, but he doesn't give me specific things about . . . about her as an adult. He didn't get to see her."
Margaret's face must have paled because Carrie reached out and touched her hand, squeezing it. "I'm sorry, Momma. You don't have to."
Mrs. Scully shook her head. "No, no. You ought to know about her. Since it's the reason I'm so out of it around the holidays."
Carrie shook her head. "You don't have to explain that to me. My mother died the day before Christmas when I was thirteen. I know how it is around the holidays."
Mrs. Scully took her other hand and shook her head softly.
"I'll tell you whatever you'd like to know, Carrie. You're like a daughter to me, you know?"
Carrie's eyes shone and she smiled softly. "Really?"
Mrs. Scully laughed softly. "Really."
Just then the doorbell rang, causing Margaret's heart to jump and flip around in her chest.
Carrie saw the look on her face and helped her to her feet, guiding her to the door, going fast enough to beat Charlie and Bill and Tara from the living room.
The door knob was stuck slightly from years of neglect, but Mrs. Scully tugged it and the door slid open and the moonlight from the dark night pierced into the hall.
Pierced into her soul.
Illuminated the face of an angel.
Mrs. Scully stared, then turned to Carrie.
"You wanted to know about my baby girl, well there she is."
Standing outside the truck, lifting Ben into her arms, Scully felt a tingling sense of joy and fear escalating in her. She shifted under her son's weight and locked the doors once Mulder had Libby firmly in his grasp.
Libby blinked sleepily and opened her eyes, brushing the hair from her face and yawning.
"Where are we Daddy?" she whispered.
Mulder kissed her cheek and smiled. "Good sleep, baby?"
"Yes. I'm still tired. Where are we?"
"We're at your momma's mother's house."
"Oh. Is she mean?"
Mulder looked to Scully and then answered her question. "No, Libby, she's very, very loving."
"Have I seen her before?"
"Once, before we left for New York. Do you remember that?"
Libby shook her head and lowered it to her Daddy's shoulder.
Scully glanced back to Mulder once more and drew strength from his eyes. She started down the path to the front door, clutching Ben tightly.
She was still standing there when Mulder got to her, and he reached forward and rung the bell, drawing her from the trance she was in.
There was a moment, then the door rattled and there was her mother.
Mrs. Scully stared for a moment, then turned to the woman beside her.
"You wanted to know about my baby girl, well there she is."
And her mother turned back around and faced her.
Ben was like a shield, keeping Scully from the worst of her mother's loveless stare.
Mulder stayed behind her, one hand on the small of her back and giving her a strength she desperately needed as she watched her mother.
Just as she was ready to flee, to run back to the truck and never come home again, her mother stepped outside, into the light from the moon, and touched her cheek.
"My baby," she whispered.
Dana bit her lip and felt her chin quiver. "I'm sorry, Momma."
Mrs. Scully threw her arms around her youngest daughter, giving her a crushing embrace, oblivious to the little boy getting caught between.
Scully closed her eyes and felt the tears trickle through as she hugged her mother. After the lonely nights spent wondering if living with Mulder was the right thing, after the frustrating mornings needing her mother to reassure her that she was being a good person, a good mother, here she was, holding her.
"I missed you so much, Momma," she whispered, sobbing now, her arms weakening and Ben waking as he felt the bodies pressing around him.
Mulder slipped in and took Ben in one arm, cradling him so that he might fall back asleep.
Free of her son, Scully let both her arms encircle her mother, burying her nose into her mother's neck, smelling the kitchen and the soap and the old perfume that made up her mother's scent.
Margaret Scully pulled back, taking her child's face in her hands and gazing, as if she'd been granted only a few minutes and was memorizing her face for the lonely, sorrowful times ahead.
"I'm back, Momma."
Suddenly, Mrs. Scully laughed. She gave up a bitter, sorrowful noise that healed her soul of the gaping hole and finally helped her move on past it.
"Come, come inside. Before we all get colds."
Scully let her mother release her, even though she felt like curling up in her mother's arms, and turned back to Mulder.
She took Ben from his arm and turned the boy around, letting his face catch the moonlight.
Mrs. Scully was looking at her with something akin to dread and hope.
"This is Ben, Momma," she said, and smoothed his cheek with her palm.
Margaret looked to Libby, remembering this child, then back to Ben.
"There were more?" she whispered.
Scully smiled brightly and let her mother usher her inside.
"Yes, but Ben's. . . natural."
She glanced back to Mulder and grinned at the blush creeping up his neck, reaching back to take his hand.
They were herded into the living room, Mulder having to run the gauntlet of her entire family as they came in, dodging stares of accusation from Bill and shock from Charlie.
As she reached the tree, the lights splayed haphazardly in Charlie's special style, she felt the tears slip again.
A crushing hug from behind her caught her off guard and she turned around.
"Dane, Dane, I missed you."
She smiled and rubbed Charlie's head affectionately. "Sure you did, Charlie. I bet you had fun without me bossing you around."
He kissed her cheek and whispered tightly into her ear. "Bill's been doing your job for you."
She laughed, feeling good again to laugh with her family, her old family, the feeling being somehow different than laughing with her new family, with Mulder.
Mulder sat on the couch, pulling Libby into his lap and straightening her tangled hair with his fingers, knowing that Scully would want her to look presentable for her mother.
Had it not been for Scully slowly building his self-confidence in the last three years, he would have felt awkward.
But now he recognized the facts of their situation. It had been unfortunate, a tragic thing that had come about, but for him, had turned into the best thing of his life. He knew Scully felt the same and he had no qualms about facing her family with this.
He knew she did though. And he wondered how he'd face his mother too.
Mrs. Scully pushed everyone into chairs or on the floor, in Carrie's case, and then took a large look around at her family.
"Fox," she said softly, and Mulder glanced up in surprise.
"Yes, Mrs. Scully?"
"Call me Momma, Fox. Momma."
Mulder grinned and glanced to Scully, letting Libby squirm in his lap as he untangled her hair.
"All right," he said and leaned into the couch as Scully came and sat next to him.
There was a long moment where everyone sort of looked at each other, too shocked or overwhelmed to say anything.
Mulder nudged her and threw her a look.
She licked her lips. "So, how do I explain this?"
Mulder listened to her finish her long explanation, the words tumbling from her mouth like honey and sugar, mixed to sweeten the romantic idea of them spiriting Libby off like heroes to some unknown locale so that she would be safe. She didn't leave anything out.
She spoke about their marriage, about how it'd been a sheet of paper first and then, slowly, very real.
She explained everything they'd found, all the other Emilys they had watched die. She had no tears, only smiles, and glossed over the rough parts with soothing words and a genuinely happy contentment that leached into everyone surrounding her.
She paused only once, before she told her family about the angel, as if asking him permission, and he nodded slightly and rubbed Libby's back as she grew sleepy again.
There was an angel, she said, and there was a miracle, and then there was Benjamin. Named aptly because Benjamin means 'son of my right hand' or beloved son.
When she stopped, Mrs. Scully held out her arms and took Ben into her soft grandmotherly hug, as if welcoming a grandchild she had just seen a few days ago.
Ben woke and looked around from the new lap, screwed up his face as he yawned then mumbled something.
Scully smiled as she watched her family watch her little boy, and turned to Libby not forgetting her other miracle.
"Momma, this is Elizabeth. I know you met her once, but what I didn't get a chance to tell you is. . .she's Mulder's and mine. We call her Libby."
Margaret looked up from her grandson to the little girl asleep in her father's arms.
"I knew then, Dana. I knew then."
Scully looked quickly at Mulder, read his face, and took Libby from him softly.
"Momma, is it okay if he uses the phone?"
Mrs. Scully seemed surprised that he would have anyone to call; she always assumed that Dana was his family, and now, her mother and brothers.
"Sure. Of course. Right through there."
Scully left Libby on the couch, curled into a cushion, and walked with Mulder into the kitchen, letting her family have time to talk to themselves, and look over Ben and Libby.
Mulder glanced once to her, kissed her mouth soundly, then picked up the phone before he could change his mind.
She watched his face as he placed the call, slipped her hand into his back jean pocket, pushed her body in close to his. When he spoke to his mother, he needed to have all of her support, physical as well as emotional.
She heard him say hello, heard the silence, heard the weary explanation cut short, the resounding slam of the phone.
She closed her eyes, tears coming again, pressing her face into his side, not wanting to have him go through this.
But when she looked up at him, he seemed to be taking it all right. His face was a little pale and she could feel his hands shaking, but he took her chin in his hands and softly brushed her lips with his.
She had never kissed Mulder in her mother's kitchen before; it made things a little more real, a little more definite.
"She didn't believe me. Didn't want to have to deal with it."
Scully nodded and then cast around for something to say. "We can try later, when she's absorbed the shock-"
"No. We won't try later. I love my mother, but I don't want her influencing my children."
He said it with such finality, such calm, that she knew he was being noble about this, knew it was killing him inside.
She closed her eyes and leaned into him, listening to the sounds of her family in the other room.
"I'm glad your mother welcomed us," he said softly.
"I feel safer, more loved here anyway."
She glanced up at him. "I hope you always feel like that."
He gave her a forced smile, then let out a long breath. "Let's go make sure your family's not spoiling our kids."
Libby proceeded to tell Carrie, and the entire room, about the most horrible thing that had happened to her, namely the car wreck Scully had gotten into years ago.
She then told all about her school, without bothering to finish her first story so that everyone looked wide-eyed to Scully when they walked in from the kitchen.
They had to stop Libby and explain the accident, then let her finish her own story because she had started to pout, and after that, Libby decided that she was too sleepy to finish that and she crawled up into her father's lap and closed her eyes.
Mulder laughed and gently shook her awake. "Baby, you won't be able to sleep tonight if you sleep now."
He smiled and tapped her nose. "No, baby, it's not. You have to stay awake for now. I'll let you go to bed in an hour. Don't you want to talk to all these new people?"
Libby opened her eyes and popped her head up.
"Gramma, do you have a dog?"
Scully was about to reply, when she realized she didn't even know anymore. The stricken look on her face told Mulder what she was thinking and he gently rubbed her back with one hand.
"Actually, yes. He's outside."
"Can I play with him?"
"Sure, Libby. Come with me. We can let him inside."
Just then a boy about Libby's age came running into the room, hollering at the top of his lungs as he swung a helicopter in the air and dangled GI Joes from his fingers.
Bill caught him and held him still, then turned him around to face his sister.
"This is Matthew. Matthew this is your Aunt Dana and her husband Mulder, and then these are your cousins, Ben and Libby."
"Libby?" the boy sneered.
Scully felt her heart sort of jump and she almost jerked Libby back to herself, feeling sort of panicked about letting her daughter run off with her brother's son.
"Matthew?" Libby sneered back.
Scully felt pride spiral through her and she knew Libby would be tougher than her, able to resist Bill's kind of torment.
Matthew followed Libby and his grandmother out to the patio and Scully glanced to Mulder with an amused look.
Carrie spoke up then. "Dana? I don't think I ever got the chance to meet you. I'm Carrie, Charlie's wife."
Dana reached out and embraced her sister-in-law, something Bill and Tara were surprised to see. Dana had always been so cold when someone touched, never the one to let a stranger initiate anything.
Bill had to admit grudgingly that maybe this had been good for his super cold sister.
Ben was peering under the tree when he shrieked and laughed, running back to Mulder with joy on his face.
"Big cat!" he yelled and pointed over to where a fat black cat sat staring owlishly at them.
Scully smiled as Mulder looked impressed and squatted down next to his son.
"Really? Let's go pet it, Ben."
Ben nodded with extreme seriousness and walked solemnly over to the cat, then squatted down on his haunches to examine the dark feline.
"Fat," he said suddenly and reached out to pat its head.
"What's the cat's name?" Scully asked Carrie.
"That's our cat, Moses."
Scully stood and went over to her son. "Ben, that's Moses. Can you say hi?"
"Yes, but he won't say hi back," Ben said, his voice pitched low so as to not disturb the cat.
Carrie laughed and Charlie smiled.
"Hi, Moses," Ben continued and held out his hand as if waiting for the cat to shake.
He petted it some more then turned and ambled back to the couch, where Matthew had left some of his toys. Ben picked them up, making noises for the cars as he pushed them along the cushion.
Scully sat in the floor near the tree with Mulder, watching Ben play happily, watching her family talk and relax.
"It feels good to come here, Mulder," she said softly.
He turned to her, brushed the hair from her eyes. "But?"
She leaned forward and quickly kissed him. "But it's not home."
He shook his head and left his lips on her skin, hidden from the rest of the family by the back of the chair.
"Anywhere is home if my family's there."
She smiled and turned her cheek into his lips. "That reminds me. We need to go Christmas shopping for this family."
He groaned. "Aren't you enough of a present for them?"
She laughed and twined her fingers through his. "My brothers will be pretty ticked if this is their present."
"Let them be ticked. They just don't know how great you are."
He pulled her into his arms tightly and closed his eyes.
"I feel like we've finally stopped running," he said suddenly.
She stilled, inhaled the wonderful combination of Mulder and her mother's home.
"The day I had Ben I thought it would always, always feel like that. But it's stopped feeling so tense all the time. We really have stopped running."
Ben let out a growl as he made one car crash into another and then glanced up at his audience with a Mulder smile placed to charm his family.
Scully laughed and shook her head. "They're both like you."
"Is that such a bad thing?"
"Not at all. Not one little bit."
END BOOK FOUR