Title: Vulpecula
Author: Jeri
Rating: PG
Category: SRA, S-POV
Keywords: MSR, Scully(&Family)Angst, Babyfic
Spoilers: Requiem

I - Tenancy Tendencies
[[Scully ponders her past and future through her
living arrangements]]

July 9, 2000
9:11 p.m.

I got the call yesterday. I have one week to decide. One week to determine how my life will go on. *If* my life will go on.

I really didn't think I'd have to think about this. I took it for granted that it would always be there. As long as it exists, there's hope.

But now I may have my one bit of hope ripped from me. Evan Walsh, the source of my despair, has informed me that he's stopped receiving checks, and in a week, he's going to start accepting them from someone else.

Oh yeah. Evan Walsh is Mulder's landlord.

So, I stand in Mulder's Apartment now, looking over the organized clutter that defined -- defines -- his life, trying desperately to figure out what fuck I'm supposed to do.

Well, first I should breathe. This isn't Mr. Walsh's fault. It isn't Skinner's fault, and it isn't even our fault, for a change. We both expected him to come home, especially since I sent a babysitter for him. And even when I heard the news, this wasn't the first problem that popped into my head. No, I was a *bit* preoccupied.

The Bureau can be a bureaucratic pain in the ass when it comes to benefits sometimes, but other times it makes more sense than anyone could possibly imagine. There's a program designed especially for single, mobile, Apartment-renting agents like Mulder and me. It allows for monthly rent to be taken directly out of our paychecks, and automatically deposited to our landlords by the due date. This way, we don't have to worry about being caught out of town and away from our bank when the next payment is up.

Well, we get our paychecks every two weeks, and so even though Mulder had been gone for eight days, he still had a paycheck two weeks ago. But now, since he's officially AWOL, and not working, he doesn't get paid. The Bureau notified Mr. Walsh of this development, and he immediately called me, since I'm listed as next of kin.

Apparently, the lease runs out this month.

However, if I can get the next payment and security deposit in to him within a week, he'll extend the lease for another year.

And therein lies the problem. If I send the money, I'm locked in for a whole year, and I don't know if I can afford that.

If everything goes the way has in the past, that won't matter. Mulder will be back soon, and he can pay his own damn rent. But I can't be sure that this is going to turn out like before. They may perform horrible tests on him, and he may, like his sister, seek death as his only escape.

No. That's not going to happen. He knows I'd kill him if he died.

But back to my present predicament. I could handle two rents for a month or two, I know that. After Antarctica, Mulder and I set up a joint account with an online bank. There's about two thousand dollars in it, and that should just about cover the deposit and two months' rent. But after that...there's no way I can do it. And I don't have access to his personal bank account, either.

So, the way I see it, I have two choices: A) I tell Mr. Walsh not to expect the payment and find a storage facility that I can afford to hold as much of Mulder's stuff as possible, or B) give *my* landlord my two month's notice and just move in here.

Plan B isn't as outrageous as it seems. I used to adore my place. It was the one place that was always separate from work, from Mulder. Even after Eugene Tooms and Duane Barry invaded this space, I managed to claim it back. I exorcised those demons, and my Apartment was safe again.

But lately, it's become less of a home, and more of a place to sleep and pick up mail. I hadn't really noticed, though, until Phillip Padgett. I mean, the crazy bastard moved next door to Mulder so he could stalk *me* better! I realized just how much time I'd been spending at Mulder's since the summer. Of course, I found nothing wrong with that, so I did nothing to change it.

When his mother...passed away earlier this year, that was the first night we slept together. As in sleeping in the same bed, at the same time. Since the start of the New Year, I'd staked out his couch several times, and once in a while he'd insist on taking the couch himself. By February, it was almost getting routine: I'd come over right after work on Friday, we'd watch some dopey movie (with beer, if it was an "occasion"), and I'd stay through the weekend. Then I'd leave mid-Sunday, stop for a late afternoon Mass, and see him in the office on Monday.

But once we finished the LaPierre case and closed the case on Samantha, I left his Apartment even less. Even now, I still haven't gotten around to fixing my bedroom's closet door after Donnie Pfaster tore up that Apartment.

I did spend about a week straight at my Apartment after that stupid, Goddamn episode with Spender. I know I made a complete ass of myself, I didn't need two days of Mulder's silence to tell me that. He wasn't mad at me, really; he knew he'd done equally stupid things in the past. But he was still hurt by it. We both realized we needed some space, so I reluctantly went back to Georgetown. Then we had that God-awful stakeout, which in retrospect was good; by the time he was called away to Vermont, we were pretty much back to our latest definition of normal. When he got back, I repacked my most essential possessions and headed back to my home in Alexandria.

My legs are starting to cramp, and I realize I'm still standing in the living room. I take a glance at my watch, noting with a bit of surprise that it's almost eleven. I've been standing here for two hours almost. With a sigh, I move into the bedroom, rolling my neck around to get the kinks out.

The bed looks terribly lonely tonight. Only my side is messed up, unlike the usual disorder we leave it in. It's so strange, sleeping alone again. I've found myself waking up constantly since he left, always with a chill along my back. I feel tears come to my eyes.

It's not like we'd been making love for a really long time or anything. It would have been just over three months, but since he's been gone for almost a month now...
But we'd agreed that first night, after I poured my heart out to him about Daniel, that taking that step would be tantamount to creating an Eleventh Commandment: Thou shall stay as one forever. It was above and beyond the commitment marriage vows held; any betrayal would come at the ultimate cost, and there could be no chance of forgiveness.

His absence now is not a betrayal. Of that I am positive.

I strip off my clothes and sink into bed. I stare up at the ceiling, and I remember that I still must make a decision.

As much as this is home to me now, I can't help but see the equally sensible reasons behind giving this up. What if, God forbid, he doesn't come back? Or what if he comes back changed? If I were to give up my Apartment, where would I go if he didn't want me...us...here with him? I know, if that were to happen, and I just put all this in storage, he'd have no problem finding a new home, far away from this one. Should that happen, I would be devastated, but his rejection would be a betrayal, and I know I'd have to let him go.

And if he were never to return, how could I live here in this constant reminder of him? Surely I'd go mad with heartache and the stress of not knowing. Like I won't have enough of a reminder with me.

My eyes are beginning to droop, and I know I won't be awake much longer. I want to make this decision tonight, so I have plenty of time to get the money.

I roll over on my side, facing away from the window like always. The glowing numbers on the clock taunt me, changing deliberately slowly, dragging out the night.

And then I see it. The way the light catches the tiny imperfections in the wood of the nightstand. I reach out to trace the pattern with my fingertips, fondly remembering the rainy afternoon when he insisted on carving our initials into something. To break in his newest Swiss Army knife, he claimed. I knew for a fact that the knife was at least four years old, but I played along, letting him guide my hand as we cut into the wood:

#11 - M + S = 4ever

Below that is the worst attempt at a heart that ever existed, but we laughed because we knew what we meant.

I sigh. I've been letting myself get carried away with my tendency for what-iffing. As I run my fingers over the message again, I tell myself that he is coming home. I will find him. And we'll pick up where we left off, but not like nothing has happened. No, we can't do that. I smile softly, brushing my hand over my abdomen.

Tomorrow, I'll give the Bureau my new address.

II - Brotherly Love [[Scully realizes her brothers know nothing about Mulder's abduction or the baby]]

August 30, 2000 7:41 p.m.

I am pulled from my catnap by the harsh ringing of the phone. Groaning, I manage to reach for it without rolling to my side. Since I began to show three weeks ago, I find myself become overly paranoid about putting weight on the small mound that is my baby.

"'Lo?" I mumble.

"Oh, Dana, I'm sorry. Did I wake you?" my mother asks, her voice filled with regret and concern.

I blink. "It's okay, Mom. Just a little nap. I had a rough day. What time is it, anyway?"

"It's a quarter to eight. Have you eaten, Dana? Or did you fall asleep when you got home?"

"No, I've only been asleep for a half-hour. Yes, I had dinner, Mom." I smile despite the irritation my voice holds. I know Mom is just being a mother. Ever since Mom heard about the baby, she's been worried enough for the both of us.

"Well," Mom says, relieved, "that's good. I won't be long, but I wanted to make sure you were coming over on Monday. Billy and Charles can both make it this year, so I really hope you are. They've been at sea for months, and they said they hadn't heard from you in ages."

My eyes widen. "Oh my God," I whisper. "Mom, I haven't talked to them, or anyone in their families, since before..." I can't say it. Three months have passed, and I still have a hard time accepting that he isn't around.

I hear Mom's soft gasp. "Oh dear," she agrees. "Well, if you'd rather not come over, Dana, I'll understand."

"No, actually, I think I'd like to go. I really should tell them about the baby, at least."

"All right. I haven't told them about Fox ; I figured that's your choice whether they know or not. And I'll support you no matter what you tell them, you know that, right?"

"I do, Mom. I think I'll wait and see if anyone notices," I muse. In my heart, I know it's a small hope that no one will notice my decidedly round stomach.

September 4, 2000
11:21 a.m.

I walk out the back door, carrying a tray of various snack foods out to the tables that are set up along the back of the garage. I snag a handful of pretzels after I put them down, and I go back into the kitchen to get a drink.

The doors of Mom's refrigerator/freezer are, as usual, covered in drawings created by my niece and nephews. I smile, thinking of my own refrigerator door in the years to come.

I feel a slight flutter and my smile grows. The baby has a remarkable way of knowing when I am thinking about it.

Not it: him. At my appointment with Dr. Williams last Thursday, I decided to finally find out the gender. The decision came after hearing confirmation that Mulder is my baby's father. My gut feeling had always told me that was true, but seeing it on paper eases my worried, scientific mind. And now that the baby has a definite last name, I want to start thinking about a first and middle name. So I gave in to my curiosity and found out that I am having our little boy. Fox Mulder's son, but not Fox Jr. Definitely not that.


I turn around to face my mother. "What's up?"

"Billy just called. He and Tara and Matty are almost here. And Charles and his crew are on their way, too." She looks down, almost afraid to continue. "Dana, what are you going to tell them? I just want to know, so I don't say too much."

I shrug. "I'll tell them the truth, I guess. I was hoping I wouldn't be so noticeably pregnant, but since that's been shot to hell..." I say with a smirk. I all honesty, I love this stage. It's finally feeling real to me. I mean, sure there were ultrasounds before, but those I'd seen before. It almost felt like I was looking at someone else's baby. But now...now there's no way to deny the fact that there is a life inside me.

Mom nods. "And when they ask about the father?"

My happy thoughts come plummeting back to reality. "Hopefully it won't come up. I'm sure someone will figure it out, but maybe they'll know better than to bring it up." I shrug again. "I won't lie about it. And I'll tell them that Mulder's on a classified assignment of undetermined length that started before I found out." I can feel tears start to build up, just like they always do whenever I think about Mulder. Damn hormones. "And I'll tell them how I can't reach him, because, you know, it's classified. And I'll look Billy right in the eye and tell him just how much not knowing scares me and breaks my heart."

Now my tears are flowing freely down my cheeks, and Mom tucks me into her comforting embrace.

I don't know how long I cry, but luckily I stop before the rest of the family arrives.

11:47 a.m.

"Auntie Dee!!!"

The screech from the hallway causes me to pull my head out of the fridge, and I smile brightly when I see my littlest nephew running towards me. Since he has no way of knowing that plowing into me isn't the best idea, I stand up quickly so he crashes into my legs. Then I kneel down and let him hug me.

"Hey, Matty. How are you?" I ask him, preparing myself for a long string of minute details that mean so much to a two-and-a-half year old.

But instead he simply steps away from me and announces, "Auntie Dee, you fat!"

"Matthew!" Tara admonishes from the hall, but still out of sight. "First of all, that's not nice to say, and second of all, Auntie Dee is never faaa--"

Her sentence ends abruptly as she enters the kitchen and notices my girth.

"Dana," she states matter-of-factly, "you're fat."

"But Mommy..." Matty says, obviously confused.

"Dana Katherine Scully," Tara continues, ignoring her child, in a lowered voice, "something very, very weird is going on, I can feel it. Why do you look like you've gained twenty pounds?"

I snicker and rub Matty's head. "Because I have?" I can see a glint begin to form in her eyes, one I haven't seen since the Christmas when Matty was due. Tara had it, Mom had it, even Billy had it.

She knows. She's been there.

I hold a finger to my lips and motion with my head for her to come to my side. She does, and I grab her hand and place it over the spot where my son is kicking up a storm. Her eyes widen more than I thought humanly possible, and the glint reaches a new wattage.

"Dana!" she squeals quietly. "Why haven't you said anything?"

"Well..." I hedge for a moment, trying to find a believable excuse; before I can speak again, though, Billy and Mom walk in. Billy has his arms open for a hug, but he stops short when he sees the position his wife and I are standing in.

"Dana?" he sputters, not exactly sure if he's seeing what he thinks he's seeing.

"Auntie Dee's fat, Daddy," Matty says in his most solemn voice. "Mommy said so."

Billy looks around the room and takes in the faces of his mother, wife, and baby sister. He's no fool. Well, not a complete fool.

"You're not serious," he says, but from his tone I know he knows we are, so I just nod. "Dana, I didn't even know you'd been seeing anyone, much less..." He's speechless for perhaps the third time in his life (the first being when, Tara announced that she was pregnant, the second being when I went into remission), and he gestures wildly with his hands. "Please tell me you didn't elope, that I can still give you away."

I frown deeply at that. I wouldn't say I'm a feminist or anything, but the thought of being anyone's property, especially my brother's... nuh-uh.

"No, Bill, I didn't elope, and if and when I do get married, I'm certainly not going to be given away like a prize herd of cattle!" Billy's wise enough to hold up his hands in surrender.

"Fine, fine. I won't go there. But, seriously, when do I get to meet my possible-future-brother- in-law?"

I flick my eyes to catch Mom's, but she's no help, her expression clearly reading "You're on your own, babe!" I sigh and suck in a breath, wishing very much to suddenly be at home...in a bubble bath... eating grapes...that are being fed to me...by Mulder...

No such luck.

"Is he coming here today? Is he already here?" Billy starts looking out the window into the backyard, searching for someone who won't possibly be there.

Damn, I've got to tell him. "Bill..." I start.

And to my extreme relief, there's a commotion at the door as Charlie and his family arrive, pausing the moment for now.

12:39 p.m.

"So Dana," whispers Charlie's wife Saundra as we stand by ourselves next to the drink table, "you've managed to blow us all off, but I must say I'm really very interested in the identity of your baby's father. Care to share, you know, woman to woman? That is, if you know, I mean."

As much as I love my little brother, and as much as I adore his sons and daughter, Jason, Timothy, and Alexis, I spend much energy trying to tolerate his wife. She comes from a posh little village on the coast of Virginia; she met Charlie when they were in college. She's admitted to finding our Navy-regulated nomadic lifestyle "quaint, in a pathetic sort of way." Okay, she didn't actually say that it was pathetic, but the way she said "quaint" just screamed that insinuation. She didn't approve of Missy's nomadic ways with men, and she's always assumed that since her little sister yearns to imitate her, then I must yearn to imitate Missy.

I literally bite my tongue before I let loose with a nasty comment that couldn't possibly be blamed on hormones. "Actually, San-dra," I say, purposely mispronouncing her name (her biggest pet peeve), "I'd much rather wait and do it on a full stomach. Bill's not going to pleased with my answer."

As soon as I see her face light up, I realize I've said too much. If she doesn't already know about Bill's intolerance of Mulder, she'll find out soon enough and break the news herself, all the while making me look like a teenaged girl who's afraid to tell her daddy that the Rebel's condom broke.

She mumbles something about hitting the bathroom and she runs inside the house. I do a quick head count in the yard, and I'm relieved to see that everyone's present and accounted for. So while she's inside, I'll break the news.

I stroll over to the circle of adults and take seat Saundra recently vacated, right between Billy and Tara. Tara looks over at me and makes a face of disgust, then grins. I giggle, because Tara can't stand Saundra either. Billy can't find fault with her, neither can Mom, and of course Charlie adores her, so it's nice to finally have an ally. I know Mulder will be on my side as well. He can't stand people who think they're better than he is.

"Hey guys," I say to get their attention. Suddenly, all eyes are on me. I take a deep breath and I can hear Mulder's voice tell me just to spit it out, that Billy won't beat him up with Mom there. I take strength from his spirit, and the fluttering of my son spurs me on. "I know you're wondering about who my baby's father is. And I wish he could have been here today. But unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control," the tears are back, but this time I do nothing to hide them. "Dammit," I curse quietly, looking heavenward, praying that a huge alien craft will appear over Mom's house and let Mulder out in a beam of light.

"Come on, Dana," Charlie urges, taking my hand in his. "Just tell us his name. I'm sure there'll be plenty of opportunities for us to meet him."

My tears multiply as the thought that there might not be that opportunity traitorously crosses my mind.

"Or," Billy says, his tone one of suspicion, "have we already met him?"

Okay, Billy's figured it out. "Well, you and Tara have, but not Charlie." As soon as the sentence leaves my mouth, I cringe in anticipation of the explosion.

But, to my complete surprise, Billy just nods. "I suspected as much. It's Mulder, isn't it?" It's really more of a statement than a question. I simply nod. "Well, I guess I can understand why he didn't want to be here for this. But I'm coming back for Thanksgiving, and he better be there. I just want to make sure he knows that he's stuck with me, and that I'll beat the shit outta him if I find out he does anything to hurt you, Dana."

Mom, Charlie and I are all looking rather shell- shocked, but Tara just smiles knowingly; I have a feeling she picked up on a vibe the last time visited her, right after Arcadia. Mulder was reluctant, but I promised him it was just lunch, and that if Billy was even around, it wouldn't be for long. Turned out he was in meetings, so it was a very pleasant occasion. And since Mulder was much more relaxed than he had been that Christmas, I think Tara got a better idea of our relationship, such as it was at the time.

We make eye contact, and I send her a silent thank you and praise for getting through my older brother's thick skull.

"Hey, Dana, that's great," Charlie declares. "I was really hoping he'd be here today, but like I said, there'll be other times, right?"

I start crying again, and this time people get worried and take notice. I hear Saundra return, and I can tell she's annoyed at having her seat taken. Mom stands up and offers her seat to Saundra, while she kneels in front of me and embraces me. Mom's all too aware of the chance that Mulder may never return, though she tries to keep an optimistic outlook for me.

"Oh man, I think I've hit a nerve," says Charlie, and I can tell he's really sorry the subject was ever brought up.

I have to say something. "I'm sorry you guys," I sniffle. "It's just...Mulder was called away on an assignment just before I found out. It's classified, so I have no idea where he is, and there's no way to get a hold of him."

Sympathetic glances are passed around, and I note that even Saundra seems to be genuinely sorry for me. But it's Billy who asks, "How long is the assignment, or don't you know?"

I shake my head. "There's no way to tell. It's undercover, and evidence is very hard to find. I just hope..." I trail off, unable to say it. My tears are finally slowing, and I don't want to start again.

There's a few moments of near-silence, the only sounds being the kids playing on the swingset on the other side of the yard. Finally, Charlie breaks in with, "So, do I finally get a niece for Alexis to hang out with, or is there gonna be another boy in this family?"

I laugh. While Billy and Tara were happy to be finally having a baby at all, Charlie and Saundra wanted them to have a girl, since their youngest child was the only girl so far. However, William Matthew Scully the Third was born.

"I'm so sorry to disappoint you all, but the Mulder name is going to live for another generation. It's a boy."

Charlie throws back his head and groans. "Man! Poor Alexis, she'll be all alone."

Billy frowns at that. "I wouldn't be so sure of that, Charlie. Tara's still got some good child- bearing years in her, and so does Dana."

Both Tara and I glare at Billy warningly. I never told them about my infertility, and now it's a moot point, but I'm not putting any money on having more children. I'll take precautions, just in case, until the baby's not a baby anymore, and then I think I'll let nature take its course again.

As for Tara, I know all the trouble they went through to have Matty, and I'm sure she's not expecting to get pregnant again without medical help. And I get the feeling she doesn't want to go through the ordeal again, or the high risk of miscarriage. I know she had at least two; if I were Tara, I'd close up shop now.

There's a squeal from the monkey bars; Charlie's fifteen-year-old, Jason, is holding Matty as Matty stretches from bar to bar, obviously enjoying himself immensely. Jason's nearly six-foot with his mother's dark hair, so it's easy for me to do a cut-and-paste and see Mulder in a few years with our son. A smile breaks through the remnants of my tears. Everything's going to be okay, I'm sure of that.

And from the thoughtful little smile Billy's sending my way, it seems that one day I might be able to hold the Scully Family Annual Labor Day Picnic in my own backyard, and no one will complain.

III - Conduit to My Heart [[An unexpected call from an 'old flame' brings Scully hope of Mulder's return]]

September 12, 2000
11:14 a.m.

The look on my partner's face is so priceless, I don't think I could ever forget it.

"You're having a meeting with whom?" she says, shock evident in her voice.

"Jose Chung," I reply calmly. "The author."

Veronica Durant shakes her head. "I know who he is, Dana. _The Caligarian Candidate_ is one of my favorite books. You know him?"

"Um, yeah," I answer, unsure if she'll make the connection. "I helped him out with a book, oh, nearly four years ago I guess."

"Get out!" she nearly screeches. "Which one? Oh, wait...Diana Lesky, Reynard Muldrake? That's you?!"

I shrug. "Well, Mulder didn't want to talk to the man at all, but I was a fan, so...I dunno. I didn't think I'd get named, or even pseudo-named. At least _From Outer Space_ attempts to get as close to the truth about the Klass County abductions as possible. And I wasn't misquoted or anything."

She looks at me curiously, and I realize my level of sarcasm was way up on that last sentence. Goddamn Wayne Federman! I'll explain that to her when the movie comes out.

Ronnie furrows her brow. "So, does he want you to help him with a new book?"

"I don't know; he didn't say." I wrack my brain, trying to think of any cases in the last year that are worth writing a book about. Nothing's coming up. "Do you object if he asks about a case we worked on?"

Ronnie shakes her head. "He can give me a call if he needs to. I'm happy to oblige."

I nod and stand up. "Well, I'm gonna get going. I'm meeting him at a cafe near my Apartment, so if it runs late I can get home quick."

She helps me gather my stuff. We've only been working together since July, but I'm already pretty sure everything will work out okay. I had been surprised when Skinner brought her down the first day; I felt like a teacher getting a new student.

Ronnie Durant is only an inch taller than me, so I don't think of her as "tall" really. But she is a brunette. I momentarily feared that she would end up being another Diana Fowley -- another of Mulder's mysterious ex-chickadees. The Gunmen assured me, however, that they'd never heard of her, and she's too young to have been at the Academy with him. I don't exactly trust her yet -- it's not immediate like it was with Mulder -- but I don't feel threatened. I just hope she doesn't think this assignment is permanent. Mulder is coming back.

11:58 a.m.

I sip my milk and keep an eye on the door. I'm shocked at how fast I got here. Traffic was almost non-existent.

For a moment I wonder if he'll recognize me. I've changed a bit since our last meeting: my hair's shorter and the color's a bit more enhanced (not that Mulder can tell the difference); and of course, I've got my beloved paunch. He kicks right on cue, and I look down and smile.

Hearing the tinkle of the bells over the door, I raise my eyes to see Mr. Jose Chung enter, notebook in hand. I wave to him; he sees me and hurries over.

"Hello, Agent Scully," he says, his voice as cheerful and charming as I remember. I stand up to shake his hand, but he stops short, no doubt surprised by what he sees. "Agent Scully!" His smile is wide, broadcasting his surprise and pleasure. "Congratulations! Do you know what it is?"

I grin wryly. "Human," I say matter-of-factly. He laughs hesitantly; that's not what he meant, but he knows why I might have misunderstood him. "A boy," I assure him, and he looks relieved.

"That's wonderful. I wish you the best."

I thank him sincerely, and he suggests that we sit down. A waiter stops by and takes his order for a decaf black coffee, and then we get to business.

"Psychic ability, Agent Scully. The 'non-fiction science fiction' genre is in huge demand, and I've decided to write about people who can read minds. Do you have any experience with that?"

I briefly think of Mulder's ordeal last year, but I dare not mention it. Chung will want to talk to Mulder, and I don't feel like explaining his whereabouts.

"Well, there was a case about two years ago. A little boy how displayed such extreme abilities that even I'm forced to admit that he's special."

I launch into a slightly watered-down version of the Gibson Praise case. I explain that he's dis- appeared, but I don't say why. Chung theorizes that it was done to protect some government secrets. I tell him to run with it.

Once he gets his information, I share some other select cases with him. He loves the one about Jen the Jinniyah. I briefly wonder what he would wish for. A Pulitzer, perhaps?

It gets late and he has another appointment, so we say goodbye; I promise to let him know if anything interesting comes up. After he leaves, I decide just to go home and take a bath.

September 18, 2000
3:46 p.m.

I can't remember the last time I was this mad. I spent two hours over that body last Friday, and it's getting damn hard to do that. Autopsies and pregnancy don't really mix. Luckily, formaldehyde doesn't trigger morning sickness for me.

But now, as I look over the transcript I had an intern type up, I realize that all of my significant findings have been omitted. Like the part where I say, "Cause of death is officially cardiac arrest, induced by over-exertion." Or something to that extent.

The woman died after having, according to her husband, ten above-average orgasms in a fifteen- minute period. Poor guy -- if she'd lived he'd be the biggest stud ever.

I'm grumbling quietly to myself, trying to remain calm for the baby's sake, when the phone interrupts a string of curses that even my sailor father and brother would be shocked by.

"Scully," I growl into the receiver. Ronnie looks up from her work, surprised to hear me answer so rudely.

"Oh, you must have that Caller ID," quips a vaguely familiar voice that's full of sarcasm and a British accent.

"Forgive me; I hate interns," I apologize, stalling for time so I can figure out who I'm talking to. "And no, we don't have Caller ID, so may I ask..."

"Your friend from the Yard, Agent Scully!"

I feel my lip curl in disgust. "Ah, Inspector Phoebe Green. I knew I recognized your voice. How are you?" I ask, straining to sound cheerful and tolerant.

"I'm actually in a bit of a quandary," she admits, and I suddenly wonder if she's looking for Mulder's help.

"Um, how can I help you, Inspector Green?"

There's a moment of silence, then: "I've heard about Mulder's mysterious disappearance, Agent Scully. I do hope that you get some good leads soon."

Her voice sounds sincere enough, so I mumble a thank you, then prompt her again about her reason for calling.

"Well, there's been a recent string of murders over here. We think it might be serial, but so far we've only found one connection between the four victims. They had all, at one time in the past year, taken in a young boy for a few months. Rather like a foster child, I'd say."

I nod, but I don't understand why she called me. "I'm sorry, Inspector, but I don't really understand how I can help. Mulder is the profiler, as you well know. I have to experience with that sort of thing."

"Actually, I'm not calling about a profile. You see, this boy -- Gregory Prescott? -- he claims to know you and Mulder, and he's begging to see you."

I start to deny her suggestion, say that I've never met a Gregory Prescott, when it occurs to me that that may not be his real name. GP? "Um, could you describe the boy for me?"

"Sure. Hang on." There's a sound of papers shuffling, and then she gets back on the line. "He's fourteen, Caucasian, brown hair in a kind of buzz cut, blue eyes. He wears glasses."

I stare at my computer screen, not really seeing much except my reflection, which shows my jaw dropped in shock. "Phoebe," I gasp, using her first name to show how important this question is, "are there any identifying marks on him? Like scars or something?" I don't want to lead her in her answer.

"Hold on...yes. He's got some rather nasty scars on his head in a 'v' shape."

"Gibson," I whisper.


September 19, 2000
12:29 p.m.

I hate airlines. I don't understand how hard it is to arrive on time at a destination. I mean, if it always takes longer than you think, why not just set a later arrival time?

Use logic? Nah.

I glance at the screens again, and to my extreme annoyance, it announces that British Airways Flight 294 from London is now running forty minutes behind schedule.

"Of all the..." I mutter. I really, really want the plane to get here.

After speaking to the mysterious boy in question, I am convinced that he is Gibson Praise. The problem is that he has no memory of his life until a year ago. Except for two names: mine and Mulder's. He's not even able to read minds anymore.

I want to find out what they did to him. But at the same time I'm afraid to -- I'm afraid to think that Mulder might end up the same.

I try to avoid looking at the arrival screen, but I fail. Much to my surprise, the flight is now only twenty-five minutes behind schedule. That means it should be arriving any minute.

Phoebe was a bit wary to fly Gibson here at first, thinking that flight might be a bit traumatic for him. However, I assured her that I was in no condition to fly (though I didn't say why -- won't she be surprised!).

A half-hour later, I spy the tall British Inspector striding out of the corridor. A boy trails after her; he's not as tall as she is, but he's definitely taller than he was when I last saw him. But it is Gibson. Of that I am certain.

"Phoebe!" I call out, waving my hand in the air. She sees me and turns, propelling herself and Gibson my way.

His eyes seem suspicious of everything around him; they flick around the terminal, not settling on anyone or anything. Until they land on me.

"Dana!" he shouts. "I remember you. And Fox and Diana. Where are they?" As he says this, he reaches my side and takes my hand. His eyes haven't left mine.

I realize that the airport is no place for this conversation. I look up to catch Phoebe's eye, and I feel a bit smug as I take in her shocked expression. There's only one thing to say.

"Told you I couldn't fly."

2:01 p.m.

Once we're back in the office, and I've introduced Ronnie to my two companions, I explain to both Phoebe and Gibson what's happened to Mulder. I briefly mention Diana's demise, but neither really cares.

"So, Fox was taken by the Bounty Hunter? Well, then it should be okay."

I look at him, curiosity in my eyes. "What do you mean?"

He nods. "I remember him. The Bounty Hunter, I mean. He's only looking for help."

"Help." I don't mean to sound so skeptical, but old habits die hard, I guess.

"Yes. The Project has failed, as I'm sure you know." I do, but I didn't think he did. "So, he's looking for another place to colonize. They've given up hope for us."

"Gibson?" I quietly interrupt, "I thought you couldn't remember any of this. Or read minds anymore."

He just shrugs. "I guess it's all coming back to me. But I know everything's going to be okay. Fox is just helping. So are the rest of them."

I'm not sure whether or not he really knows what's going on. While I've always been sure of Mulder's fate -- he'll come back, he'll come back -- I've never tried to think about what kind of condition he might return in. He could be comatose like me, or perhaps not even with a scratch. But I don't think about that.

"Gibson, I'm going to call your parents."

I do get a hold of Mr. and Mrs. Praise, finally; Gibson returns to his home in the Philippines two days later, leaving me with these parting words:

"It's just a beginning, Dana. Just a beginning."

IV - May 22 [[May 22, a date with several ramifications.]]

May 22, 2001
5:48 a.m.

I wake up like I have for the past five months. As I check my watch, I realize it's five months to the day. Happy Birthday, sweetheart.

And with this same realization, I know it's also been one year to the day. One year since he went missing.

His cries pull me to my feet, and I walk to the bassinet at the foot of the bed. Despite the sadness I feel, I manage to put a smile on my face for him to see when he finally opens his eyes. His cries slow to a halt as he realizes that food has arrived. I pick him up and carry him back into bed. As I rest against the headboard, I open the front of my pajamas, and he latches on to my breast eagerly.

"You're a hungry little man, aren't you?" I coo. This last year could have easily been a living hell, but my son has been my saving grace. He's forced me to stay focused and grounded. If I hadn't been obsessive over keeping my health up for him, I know I would have nearly withered away like I did when I had cancer.

I stroke the fluffy blonde hair on his head. I have no idea where the blonde came from, and I can only guess it will darken with age, or maybe even get red highlights. He looks up at me with big eyes that have definitely lost their initial blue; now they shine with his father's murky hazel. If it weren't for the eyes, no one could tell who his father is.

And I do mean 'is.' Mulder is still alive out there, I know it. I can feel it deep in my heart, and I know that if he were dead, I'd know that, too.

My baby makes his noises, and I know that he would know if his father were never coming back, as well.

I start humming a song. I have no idea what song it is, but I've been humming it to him since he was born. I don't even think I know the whole thing, but I keep repeating the parts I do know. I do this for the next ten minutes, until I feel drained. I pull him up to my shoulder, and after a few moments of rubbing he lets loose a burp that would make his father insanely proud.

"Nice one, Adam," I say, holding him up in the air. He loks down at me with an adorable baby smile, the one that never fails to remind me of Mulder. "You're getting pretty big, my boy. Five months old. You'll be shutting Dad and me away in a home before we know it!" Adam just gurgles in response.

I've been talking about his father to him since day one. I pinned a picture of Mulder inside the bassinet so Adam will know his face when he comes home. So, in case it's years before that happens, Adam won't be completely in the dark.

I carefully get out of bed and walk into the kitchen. I place Adam in his highchair so I can get our breakfasts: Gerber for him, Eggo for me. I usually grab a donut at the office. There's a knock at the door; I notice the clock on the microwave reads 6:02, and I call out an "It's open!" to the person standing outside the Apartment.

A few seconds later, I hear my mother call out "Good morning!" and I smile around my mouthful of waffle while feeding Adam another spoonful of his breakfast.

"Morning, Mom," I say after swallowing. "I'm coming home a bit early today."

She smiles sadly. "Okay, sweetie." I sigh in relief. She knows what day today is all on her own. I don't need to say it. "How's my handsome grandson today?" she asks in her grandmother voice. She walks over to him and drops a kiss on his blonde head.

"You want to finish up, Mom?" I ask, knowing what her answer will be.

"Oh, sure. You go get ready for work, Dana." She quickly takes my seat after I stand and proceeds to continue feeding him.

As I go back into the bedroom to change, I can't help but feel a sense of serenity fall over me. I'm surprised by this feeling; I haven't felt so at ease since...wow, since the night Mulder made me watch "Caddyshack". Suddenly, everything feels right again.

From the kitchen I hear my mother giggle with Adam, and I suppose that's why everything feels good.

2:22 p.m.

"Dana, I've got the results of that autopsy, if you'd like to go over them."

I look up at the woman who's just walked into the office. Special Agent Veronica Durant, my temporary partner since last July. At first I was unsure about allowing anyone else to claim to be my partner, but Ronnie's been very understanding. She's been with the Bureau for four years now, and never once since joining me has she suggested that this is her last position. In fact, she often talks about other field offices she'd like to work in when Mulder comes back. She took Skinner's account of events seriously, and she knows about my abductions; she truly believes that he'll be back someday.

"Thanks, Ronnie. I think I many just take these home, if you don't mind me busting out early?" I take the packet from her hands.

Ronnie grins at me. "Adam's five months today, isn't he?" I nod, pleased that she would know that reason for the date's significance. "I don't think there's anything to do here that can't be done at home. I'll hold down the fort."

I smile gratefully. "Thanks, Ronnie. I owe you one," I say this as I stand up and start packing my briefcase.

"No you don't Dana," Ronnie grins, "but I'll hold you to that, anyway."

Chuckling, I leave the office. The same feeling of serenity falls over me again. I shake my head, trying not to read too much into it. As I close the door, I look at the nameplates that have recently been screwed into place.

'Special Agent Fox Mulder' the top one reads.

Below it: 'Special Agent Dana Scully'.

And below that: 'Special Agent Veronica Durant'.

I remember Skinner's surprise two months ago when I requested that Ronnie get her name on the door as well. I told him that I didn't want Ronnie to feel like an unwanted child; she'd been a great asset, I admitted. In fact, I've recently begun thinking about letting her stay on when Mulder returns.

I may suggest that she take my place.

3:12 p.m.

I suddenly realize that I should be home by now. And as I look around while I sit at a red light, I discover that I'm nowhere near home. I recognize the area, though. I'm on my way to Dulles.

I pick up my cell phone, even though I have avoided using it while driving since I almost got run over by that semi-truck. But my fingers find the buttons to call Skinner's office.

"AD Skinner's office," Kimberly parrots.

"Kim, it's Agent Scully. Can I speak to him?" I have no idea why I need to talk to Skinner.

"Sure, one sec." There's a pause, and then I hear Skinner's concerned greeting.

"Sir, I wish I knew why I'm calling you. I...well, I've left for the day, and I intended to go straight home, but right now I'm heading for Dulles, and I don't know why."

He's silent for a moment. "Okay, Scully. Let me do some checking, and I'll call you back if I find anything worthwhile." Without saying goodbye, he hangs up.

I continue driving. There's no word from Skinner until I turn into the short-term parking lot at the airport.

"Scully, go to Gate 8A. There's a flight coming in from Chicago, which was a layover stop from Portland. I haven't gotten a passenger list from the Portland airport, but it's possible..."

I suck in a breath. "I'm afraid to hope, sir," I confess. "I want to believe, but I'm afraid."

"That's perfectly understandable, Scully. But, like I said, Gate 8A. Flight 384 is due at 4:05. That gives you a bit of time to prepare yourself. For either scenario. Do you want me to come out there?"

I shake my head vehemently. "No, sir. I'll call you if I need you, but I...I have a feeling about this. I've had this feeling all day. I think everything's going to end up okay."

Something tells me to get inside, so I mutter a quick goodbye and shut off my phone. Then I get out of the car and start walking toward Gate 8A. I flash my badge to the security guard at the metal detectors, assuring him that my gun and I won't be getting on a plane.

The flight screens tell me that Flight 384 from Chicago is indeed due at Gate 8A at 4:05, and it's on time. I follow the signs to the appropriate wing of the building and arrive at the gate with ten minutes to spare.

I can't sit still, so I pace back and forth in front of the huge, floor-to-ceiling windows. I'm careful to avoid looking at my watch or the clock on the wall, but I guess it's about six minutes later when I see a plane appear over the horizon. While I've seen other planes come in, this one gets my attention. The serene feeling deepens, and I suddenly know that he's on that plane.

Mulder's back.

4:17 p.m.

Finally, finally, the gate doors open and passengers begin filing out. I strain to see over the sudden wave of people who have stepped between me and the door. Move, I think to myself, move Dammit!

And then, he's there. His head bobs lightly with his familiar gait, and his eyes seem to be searching for something. For someone?

I start walking toward him, and he turns away from me, still looking. I begin running, and I hear my voice calling out his name. He spins around, his eyes wide with surprise, and then our eyes lock. His face splits into an enormous smile, and he starts running towards me with, I'm sure, the same desperation that I'm feeling.

The moment is a complete cliche, the two of us running into each other's arms, but there's no other way for us to reunite. And suddenly, I'm in his arms, my legs wrapped around his waist, our mouths joined in an intense kiss as he spins us around. I bring my hands up to feel his face, to feel that he's real, that he's really here. I can sense the other travelers watching us with curiosity, no doubt wondering how long we'd been separated.

He pulls away first, and I gratefully take in a lung-full of fresh oxygen. I lean my forehead against his and look into his eyes. Tears are leaking out of them, and I realize that I've been crying as well.

"You're back. I knew you'd come back, Mulder, I knew it. I always knew it." My voice trembles with emotion.

"Oh, Scully," he sobs, "I'm so sorry. So, so sorry. I never meant to...I had no idea...can you ever forgive me? Please, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to ditch you."

My heart breaks hearing his desperate apologies. "Of course, Mulder, of course I forgive you. I know it wasn't your fault." I kiss him again, to convince him that I feel no malice towards him. "Everything's fine now. It's all going to be okay."

This time he kisses me, and I know he's relieved that I don't hate him. As if I ever could.

"Scully," he asks tentatively, "how did you know I'd be on this flight?"

"Gut feeling," I confess. "An instinct I didn't even know I had. I was driving home and next thing I knew, I was here. I called Skinner, and he told me about the flight. I've been feeling...I don't know, content all day long. As soon as I saw your plane, I just knew. I can't explain it; I just knew."

He smiles brightly. "So, my skeptic's open to extreme possibilities now?"

I smile back. Oh, he has NO idea...

"You might say that, Mulder. Let's go home, okay? There's an extreme possibility you need to see."

4:30 p.m.

I'm driving one-handed, which is dangerous, I know, but there's no way I'm letting go of his hand. It's like if I stop touching him, he'll disappear. And I can't risk losing him.

We slow to a halt at a red light, and I turn to meet his gaze. He's been staring at me since we got in the car. By the look on his face, I can tell that he thinks something is different about me. I start talking before he can start questioning me.

"So, why didn't you call before the flight? Or at the layover?" I keep my voice light so he won't think I'm reprimanding him.

He looks away. "Green," he observes, motioning to the streetlight. I focus back on the road and continue driving toward Alexandria. "I didn't get on the plane at the airport," he finally says. "Remember when Max Fenig disappeared from a plane? I was put on the plane."

I just nod. There's nothing for me to say to that. I believe him, and I think he knows that.

"That's why it was so surprising to see you. When I found out where the plane was going, I started imagining that you would meet me. And when I got off the plane, I got this weird feeling. Next think I knew, you were calling my name." He squeezes my hand, and I return the gesture.

"What do you remember?" I ask. Hopefully he'll tell me enough to last the rest of the ride.

"Not all that much," he admits. "They didn't do physical test on us; mostly they studied our brains. We could read each other's minds, Scully. It was like last fall...or, two falls ago, I guess."

"Can you still read minds?" I ask, a bit worried that he already knows everything.

"No, not since I left the ship." He lapses into silence, which is probably best right now. We keep driving for another ten minutes, when I suddenly remember Skinner.

Reluctantly, I pull my hand from his and I grab my phone. I hit 'REDIAL' and I quickly tell Kim to patch me through.

"Agent Scully?" His voice is tense; he's been hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

"Sir, I think you should meet me at home. You'll probably beat me, but just let Mom think it's a normal visit."

He takes in a deep breath. "Okay Scully. Should I have Agent Durant come as well?"

"No," I say immediately. I don't want to share this reunion with her yet. I'll tell her tomorrow.

"Fine. I'll meet you there."

I hang up. Mulder's staring at me again. I smile enigmatically. No doubt there are a zillion scenarios running through his head right now, but I'm sure he's far from the truth...

5:03 p.m.

He's surprised as we drive into his neighborhood. "I thought..."

I shake my head. "My Apartment's lease ran out last October. I'd barely been there since...well, since..."

He nods and smiles, knowing the night I'm talking about. The night after Daniel, after he returned from England. The night we first made love. The night Adam was conceived. Of course, he doesn't know that last part yet.

"Anyway, I let the lease run out. I brought a few things over to make it a bit more 'me,' but the rest is in storage." I don't mention the fact that we'll need a bigger place really soon. Adam's really getting too big for the bassinet, but there's no room for a crib.

I see his block coming up. Good ol' Hegal Place. Skinner's car is indeed already there, parked next to Mom's. I pull into my usual spot, which happens to be the spot Mulder always used. We get out of the car, and I grab my briefcase. This feels familiar, I think to myself. We've made this trek many times during our partnership. But I've never been as eager to get inside as I am today.

Before I know it, we're standing outside Apartment 42. I can hear soft murmurs; Mom and Skinner must be talking. I think of Adam, who's probably swinging away as he waits for his dinner. My beautiful, blonde baby boy...

Oh crap! I suddenly realize that Mulder seems relatively the same, which means his tendency for self-doubt is more than likely still in tact. He's going to see a blonde boy and assume all the wrong things. Damage control.

"Mulder, before we go in there, I want to remind you how much I love you. You know that I'll always be faithful to you, don't you? I'd never--"

He places his index finger on my lips. "Shhh. I know, Scully. I always knew. I never even thought that you'd be unfaithful."

I smile and kiss his finger. I'm sure I've confused him beyond belief, but he should understand in a minute...

5:18 p.m.

I open the door and step inside; I feel him fall into place behind me, and his hand rests naturally in its spot at the small of my back. I suddenly realize how much I've missed that simple touch, and I almost wish I had Mom take Adam to her house so we could be alone for a bit...

No, we have all the time in the world now. My son needs to meet his father.

"Mom?" I call out. "Can you give me a hand out here?" I hope she comes out alone; she does, and her eyes widen when she sees who's standing behind me.

"Oh my God," she whispers. "Fox ? Is it really you?"

He steps away from me and moves to embrace her. "It's me, Maggie. I'm home."

Mom hugs him fiercely, and I can hear her sobs of joy. "Oh Fox , oh Fox ! I'm so happy to see you! Dana told me you'd be all right, and I wanted her to be right, I did! But, I also knew..." Her sobs deepen with her admission that she didn't have complete faith in him.

"It's okay, Maggie. I'm so sorry this all happened."

"Mulder..." I warn. I don't want him to start on a guilt trip right now. He backs away from Mom and steps to my side.

"Walter's in the kitchen with..." Thankfully she shuts up when she sees my glare.

"Let me give him a hand," I say slowly. As I step away from Mulder's side, I give his arm a reassuring squeeze. "I'll be right back, Mulder." I walk into the kitchen; sure enough, there's AD Skinner holding my baby on his knee. As always, I mentally cut- and-paste so I see Mulder doing the same thing. I smile widely with the knowledge that I can see it for real now.

Skinner looks up at me with hope. "Is it...?"

I nod. "Yes, it's him. Apparently he was deposited on the plane somewhere between Chicago and here."

Skinner nods, much like I did when Mulder told me the same information. "Is he okay? I mean, were there tests or...?"

"He seems fine, physically. He says they were only interested in his unusual mental capabilities." Adam begins to babble in his happy baby talk, and I pick him up to say hello. "Why don't you go out there, sir? I've got a phone call to make, then I'll be out with Adam." Skinner nods and stands to leave the room. "Oh, sir? He doesn't know about Adam yet."

With a nod, Skinner leaves. I listen to the warm welcome Skinner gives him, and I suspect a few more tears are shed. For a moment, I wish Skinner had been with me at the airport; he felt so much guilt for 'losing' Mulder, he really should have been able to 'find' him, too. Oh well.

With Adam gnawing on a teething ring, whose purpose right now is simply to keep the kid quiet, I call the Gunmen. I don't tell them what the big deal is, just that I need them here, now. I hate making them worry, but I think they'll forgive me.

And now it's time. I can't stall any longer. As I gently take the ring from Adam, I call out, "Hey Mulder, remember that extreme possibility I said you had to see?"

He responds with a wary, "Yeah?" and I step out into the dining room/foyer where he and Mom and Skinner are still standing. Mom's trying desperately to hide a grin, and Skinner seems to be doing the same.

Mulder's face, however, is priceless.

I can identify about four emotions that he shows: shock, confusion, sadness, and finally joy. Oh man, is there joy.

We meet each other halfway across the small room. His eyes study the baby in my arms carefully for a good minute. I can see Mom and Skinner go into the living room out of the corner of my eye.

Then Mulder's eyes meet mine. His gaze is questioning, not because he doubts what I assured him of earlier, but because he doesn't understand.

"Mulder, this is Adam," I explain. "Your son. Our son."

He doesn't react, and I first think he didn't hear me, but then I realize he knew it the moment he laid his eyes on Adam. Father's instinct.

"Adam," he repeats. "The first man from a barren Earth. Perfect." His lips stretch into a smile, one so beautiful that it's contagious; I smile back, and when I look at my boy, he's smiling as well.

"You want to hold him?" Silly question, I know, but it has to be asked.

"Sure," he answers, and I hear a small waver of that dammed self-doubt. I don't say a word, though, as I pass the baby into his large, secure hands. I know all about Mulder's hands, and if there's one person who couldn't drop a baby if he tried, it's Mulder.

"How old is he?" Mulder asks as he gently cradles our son.

"Five months today." I wrap my arms around his waist; it feels so good to touch him again.

I can tell he's calculating all sorts of dates. "December 22?" I nod. "He's gonna be spoiled with presents, 'cause I'm not going to diffuse the significance of either day by celebrating them together."

I smile. "Well, I was thinking that his birthday parties with his friends could be over the summer. That way he can make use of the pool out back."

"Pool?" His eyebrows shoot up toward his hairline. "They put a pool in while I was gone?"

I shook my head. "Mulder, count the number of people that live here. Then count the number of bedrooms. Do you sense a problem?"

"Oh," he said, obviously disappointed. I close my eyes as I smack myself mentally. He just got home after a year of being...somewhere unknown, and I immediately tell him we've got to move. Real smooth, Dana.

"Don't worry about that now. Let's go in the living room with the two G's, okay?" I start pulling him in that direction.

"Two G's?" He thinks for a minute, then his face contorts into one of almost pain. "Oh, please tell me it's Grandma and G-man."

I laugh and shake my head. "Nope. Grandma and Godfather." He sighs in relief, while I just laugh harder.

8:30 p.m.

Usually at this time of night I'm watching television or going over a case file or autopsy results. But tonight I'm sitting in Mulder's lap at the foot of the bed, watching Adam sleep. We've been like this for almost an hour now, since we put him to bed.

"Scully?" His voice is soft and full of warmth. Neither of us has spoken yet, content to just watch.


"When did you find out?"

I know what he's talking about, and I'm surprised it never came up over dinner. We talked with Mom, Skinner and the Gunmen about all sorts of things: how the X-Files were doing, who Ronnie was, what Bill's reaction was when I told him who the baby's father was, that sort of stuff. But we didn't talk about Oregon or his disappearance.

"After you left," I assure him. "I'd fainted while going over some medical files, and the guys brought me to the hospital. The doctors did a routine blood test, and it showed that I was pregnant."

He sighs. "That's what I get for listening to you." I snap my head around to look at him. "I mean, at the motel, when you told me you weren't feeling good, my instinct told me to call a doctor. But I listened to you and let you just keep working." I open my mouth to object, but he shakes his head.

"Scully, if I'd known...I never would have gone back. I'd have sent Krycek and Skinner or something, but I wouldn't have left your side. And then I wouldn't have missed everything."

This time I have to interrupt. "Mulder," I say in my softest demanding voice. "You haven't missed everything! Yes, you missed Adam's birth, but I was cursing you so much, you should be glad you weren't there. I may have shot you again," I say this with a smile.

"Adam's only five months old. That's not even half a year. I was praying that you'd be back to teach him how to be the next Patrick Ewing. I'm so glad you're back now, because you haven't missed anything. He hasn't even said his first word yet." I place a soft kiss on his lips. "And the best part is, when Adam grows up, he won't remember you not being here. He'll never have to explain to his friends where his daddy is."

I can feel his smile. "Well, as the divorce rates climb, that won't be such an unusual problem."

I sigh and turn my head to look at the clock. "Mulder, it's almost nine. We've both had pretty crazy days. Let's get to bed, okay?"

I wait for the perfunctory innuendo, but instead he just nods and starts pulling me up toward the pillows. He doesn't bother with his clothes, just spoons up behind me like he did in Oregon last year. Like we did after the few times we made love. I'm glad I changed into a T-shirt and sport shorts before I nursed Adam, 'cause there's no way I'm getting up now.

It's been one year. One year of missing him, but trying not to focus on that while I've cared for my son. Now that he's back, I'm never letting him out of my sight again.

V - Promises, Promises [[Less than a week after Mulder's return, he's forced to face the family]]

May 28, 2001
6:03 a.m.

It is with much pleasure that I ignore my son's cries and roll over in bed. No need to get up yet: Daddy can change that diaper!

Mulder hasn't even been home for a week yet -- it's a week tomorrow -- but he's already turned into a SuperDaddy! whenever Adam requires assistance. He's offered several times to work the breast pump himself so he can share in the 2 a.m. feedings. Since we have yet to be alone, it's the most intimate we've been.

On that topic, Mulder is really torn. I can see in his eyes just how much he wants me, and I know I reflect that desire. But while I'm used to letting Mom take Adam during the day while I work, Mulder is still getting to know his baby boy. He cherishes every moment he gets with Adam, and there's no way I can deny him those moments.

So, I wait it out. I've waited a whole year, and except for our two months before he was abducted, eight whole years before that. I can hold out for another week or two. I hope it's not two.

"Hey buddy! Good morning! You got a stinky diaper? Huh, do ya? I think you... phew! Oh yeah, you do! Let's clean that mess up, whaddya say?"

I smile at Mulder's babbling. The first day or two that was his biggest problem. He just didn't know how to talk to a five-month-old baby. But when I came home from work on Thursday, he had it down pat. When you're all alone with a baby, you quickly learn how to carry a conversation.

"Geeze Adam, what did you eat last night? You sneak out for a 4 a.m. snack? 'Cause that bottle at two- thirty shouldn't have caused that much toxic waste."

I listen to Adam coo in response to his father's gentle voice. I think Adam must already have figured out the difference between Mommy and Daddy, because he never stops crying for me in the morning until he's fed. With Mulder he calms down as soon as his butt's wiped up. And as soon as I sit up, he starts crying for his liquid breakfast.

I feel the bed next to me sag as Mulder settles down behind me, and I know he's put Adam between us. Carefully, I roll over to say good morning.

"Morning baby," I murmur to Adam, placing a kiss on his forehead.

"Morning pookie," Mulder responds. I can hear the smirk in his voice.

"Not you. I was talking to our son." I smile despite myself, leaning over to give him a chaste, but meaningful, kiss on his lips.

"So was I," he retorts. "To you I say, 'Good morning, beautiful.'" He takes the hand that has been stroking Adam's cheeks and raises it to his lips, kissing each knuckle in turn. It's times like this when I wish we'd had a bit more time together before having a baby. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers.

"You won't be saying that when I tell you what we have to do today," I admit, wondering if he remembers.

He groans and throws his head back. "Scully..." Ah. He remembers.

"Mulder, I told you what Billy said when I told them, didn't I?" Mulder frowns and shakes his head. "No? Oh, I thought I did. Well, basically..." I'm cut off by a hungry boy who's suddenly realized that the food mobile is open for business. I gather Adam up in my arms and he attaches himself to my breast. I look back at Mulder and realize that he's jealous of his son. "Mulder, about Billy." He brings his focus from my breast to my face.

"He's gonna kill me," he whines.

"No, he's not. When I told them all about Adam and Adam's father, Billy just accepted it. He said that, the next time he saw you, he was just going to warn you that you better take care of us. I'm pretty sure Tara talked some sense into him."

Mulder scootches closer to me. "I always did like your sister-in-law," he mumbled.

I grimace. "Well, you may like Tara, but I don't think you'll be too fond of Saundra, Charlie's wife. Neither Tara nor I can stand her, but everyone else thinks she's just peachy. She's a stereotypical rich Southern Belle who knows everything about everyone and isn't afraid to talk about any of it."

I can hear the eye-roll in Mulder's voice. "Oh goody. Just my type. Sounds like the kids up at the Vineyard. The kind that avoided me like the plague after Sam was taken."

"Oh yeah, she'll hate you. You're just the kind of guy she used to go for, and the kind who invariably dumped her for someone worthy of their time."

"So, how'd Charlie end up with her?"

I shrug. "Right place, right time of month, I guess." Mulder looks at me oddly, so I explain, "Shotgun wedding. Remember that when she starts whispering about our illegitimate child. Jason was only legitimate by two weeks."

Mulder's eyes look away from me, and I realize that I may have insinuated something that wasn't meant to come up in casual conversation yet.

"Mulder," I sigh. Before I continue, I pull Adam off my breast and switch sides. "Look, you just got back last Tuesday. No one is going to expect us to have even discussed the subject of marriage yet, okay? And even if they do bring it up, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you're here with Adam and me."

He sits up, a smile on his face. "I love you," he declares, and though I've heard it many times these last six days, I still feel a tingle down my spine at the words. "I love you, Scully, and as soon as everything is back to normal between us, I am going to want to marry you. Is that okay?"

I smile. "That's great." I lean forward and kiss him. "I love you, too."

10:31 a.m.

To my surprise, we're not the first group to arrive. I can hear Matty's squeals from the car, and I bet that if the windows were up, I'd still hear him.

"God, he's huge!" Mulder mutters as he watches Matty careen around the corner of the house to greet us. I just nod, realizing that Mulder hasn't seen my nephew since we stopped by their house in San Diego just over two years ago.

"He's three now. I last saw him over Labor Day, and he's even bigger now. Billy's gonna end up with a giant on his hands," I say this as I open the door and step out into the street. I then open the back door to pull out the car seat that doubles as a baby carrier. Mulder grabs the diaper bag that's on the other side, and we slam the doors in unison.

"Auntie Dee, hi hi hi!" He stops abruptly as he sees Mulder step behind me, placing his hand at the small of my back. Or maybe he sees Adam in the carrier. It's probably a combination of them both that causes Matty's wariness.

"Hi Matty," I say with a smile. "How are you?"

"Okay," he says shyly, then points to Mulder. "Who's that?"

"You remember Mulder, don't you? He's my, um, friend." I stumble over my words, trying to find a description of what Mulder is that a three-year- old can understand. I can tell what Matty's next question will be, so I put down the carrier so he can see his cousin better. "And this is your cousin Adam."

Matty's face lights up. "He's a baby," he whispers, his voice full of awe. "Just like Cory next door. Since Cory is a baby, Wendy is his big sister. Does Adam have a big sister?"

The thought of Emily leaps to the front of my mind, but there's no way Matty can understand that. "Nope. Just Adam. Hey, let's go out back and find your Mom and Dad and Grandma, okay?"

"'Kay!" he agrees enthusiastically, running full speed to the backyard, all the while yelling, "Mommy, there's a baby, just like Cory! There's a baby!"

Mulder grins at me as I stand up with Adam again. "Guess we don't get the element of surprise."

I start walking to the back of the house. "It's probably best that Billy gets a head's up. This way he can remember to be nice and not make an ass of himself."

We enter the backyard, met by an excited Tara who gives Mulder a warm hug.

"Oh, I'm so glad you're okay, Mulder," she admits as she steps away. "When Dana told us about your case, I knew there was a chance that..." She trails off sheepishly, then shakes her head. "But here you are, safe and sound with your family." Then she turns to me and takes note of the carrier at my side. "Oh, and there's baby Adam! May I?" she asks, and I give my permission as she reaches down and pulls him into her arms.

"Dana," calls a voice that rumbles in the low frequency. A voice I know all too well. It's time for the Ultimate Test of Billy's Word.

All at once, I'm afraid. By big brother was never great at keeping promises. He was always the first to tattle on any of us if we did something bad. Hell, even if we didn't do something bad, he'd find some way to get us in trouble. He and Missy used to get in awful fights where they'd each dredge up all the dirt they could find on each other and go running to Mom or Dad as soon as their list was complete. Once Billy went off to the Naval Academy, they just stopped talking. They couldn't stand being in the same room together, which was why she didn't show up for Dad's funeral. And why Billy couldn't make it to my side when I returned from my abduction. Missy was friendly with Tara, though. And knowing what a peacemaker Tara is, I can't help but wonder if Missy and Billy might have reconciled if she were still alive.

Billy's walking towards me, opening his arms for a hug, so I put down the carrier and step into his embrace. For a moment we're silent, then he whispers, "I'll be good, Dana. I swear."

I pull back, feeling better about the situation. Billy can't keep promises, but when he swears something, it's as good as gold.

Sure enough, Billy approaches Mulder, and though it isn't with open arms, there is a hint of a smile on his face.

"Glad to see you made it back, Mulder. Adam's gonna need a father, and though you may not be number one on my list, you're in the top ten." He holds out his right hand, and Mulder takes it, shock evident on his face.

"Thanks, Bill. That's all I ask." I knew Mulder could be diplomatic. Now if only he'll apply these skills to the FBI brass...

3:30 p.m.

Today has been such a wonderful day. Right now I watch Mulder playing with Matty and Alexis, who's six. From even our earliest cases I knew that he would be a wonderful father. Granted, for the first year or so I didn't think he'd be the father of my children, but I knew that some woman would end up very lucky.

I am so thankful to be that woman.

I can't wait for Adam to grow up. I want to see him play a game of catch or one-on-one with his dad. Of course, at the same time, I want Adam to stay little forever. Five months and he's already too old.

Sometimes at night, I imagine what our lives will be like five, ten years from now. It sounds so far away, but then I think about where I was just five, ten years ago, and I realize that it's not that far at all. I look at Saundra, and I swear to myself that I will not let my little boy end up with a manipulative woman like her.

But then I look at Billy, and I realize that I've been acting toward Saundra just like Billy used to act toward Mulder. Except I keep it to myself. Just the same, I vow to try and put a positive spin on Saundra, since if she hasn't gone by now, she never will. Well, she is a good mother to their three kids. I could trust her with Adam in the event that neither Mom nor Tara were available.

I hear a familiar cry come from the baby monitor that's sitting on the grass next to my chair. I stand up to get Adam before Mulder's DaddyRadar picks up on the sound and pulls him inside and away from the two youngsters who want his attention right now. As much as I enjoy not being on call every time Adam cries now, I do think Mulder's going a bit overboard, and I want to reassert my right to a quiet moment with my son.

God knows they're the first quiet times I've had in years.

VI - The Immortal [[A voice from beyond brings answers to Mulder and Scully]]

June 17, 2001 10:13 a.m.

He's happy as a clam this morning. Right now he's watching SportsCenter's highlights from last night's Knicks game -- they beat the Lakers to win the Championship in five games. I'm glad I stocked up on baby-sized Knick paraphernalia, since Adam's been clothed in nothing else for the last two weeks. Mulder's assured me that today is the last day.

But the crazy part is, he doesn't even realize that today is so much more than The Day After the Knicks Won the NBA Championship Day. Which really shouldn't surprise me, since he never really had to think about this day before. Not since Samantha was taken, I'm sure.

Today is Father's Day.

And now that I think about it, I barely remembered Mother's Day this year. It only occurred to me when I was in the grocery store and saw all the cards. And I didn't even realize then -- with Adam in the cart even! -- that I would get a card this year. But I did get one for my mother. When I gave it to her, she smiled and just handed me one of her own. That's when it really hit me that I was a mother. Before it had just been that I had a baby now. But Adam can't talk, so he doesn't call me 'mom' or anything, and it's easy to forget what I am to my baby.

So I think Mulder's suffering from the same problem. He knows he's a daddy, but I bet he forgets he's a father. I know, same difference. But I do see a bit of a difference between mother and mommy, so there's got to be a difference between father and daddy. Right?

Adam laughs loudly, and I move from the bedroom doorway where I've been standing to see what the commotion is all about.

Mulder's lying on the floor with a couple pillows to elevate his head so he can see the TV comfortably. His knees are bent, and Adam's propped in the crook of his waist. The Knicks onesie Adam was wearing ten minutes ago is in a pile on the floor, and he's being gently tickled by his daddy. I grin, realizing I've stumbled upon the perfect opportunity.

"Is Daddy tickling you, Adam?" I ask in the happy voice that seemed to appear out of nowhere about five seconds after I gave birth.

"Not at all," Mulder denies, quickly placing his hands under his head. "He's just as thrilled as I am about the game last night."

I chuckle as I sit down Indian-style (is that term PC?) next to my boys, carefully keeping the envelope out of Mulder's sight. "Right. He got woken up at a very late hour because of that game. He got a snack because of that game."

Mulder pulls one of his hands from behind his head and softly ruffles the sparse hair on Adam's head. "You know, this kid's got a pretty good life. I'd forgotten how babies have their every wish granted simply by letting out a good wail. I'm jealous."

"Yeah," I agree, adjusting myself so I'm laying down next to him. "And his wishes aren't even that specific."

His other hand comes out from behind his head and takes mine. "You know, I almost wasted my third wish on you," he says.

My mind tries to figure out what he would have wished for, but it gets tripped up by one of his words. "Wait. 'Wasted'? A wish for me would have been wasted?"

I notice that his hand lightly grips Adam's arm as he turns his eyes away from the baby and meet mine. "Well, sure. If I'm not dreaming right now -- and I don't think I am -- then I've gotten what I would have wished for anyway. So it obviously would have been a waste. And I feel much better knowing there's one more cynical person wandering around the city with a Starbucks cup in her hand."

We laugh, and after a quick tickle Adam joins in, too. I don't know how I ever thought that I could live a fulfilling life without this.

"Mulder," I say, reaching to my side and fumbling around for the card, "you seem to have forgotten a very important date."

His 'panic face' breaks through his smile, and I can tell he's wracking his brain trying to decide what birthday or anniversary he's forgotten. With a smile, I hand him the card.

"Don't worry, you weren't supposed to buy me anything," I tease.

He takes the envelope and studies it, a frown creasing his brow. His curiosity takes over and he opens it and pulls out the card. Mulder's eyes widen as he reads it, and the inside note brings tears to his eyes.

"Thank you, Scully," he whispers, the sincerity and emotion in his voice nearly bringing me to tears as well. He starts to lean over to kiss me, but he stops when he realizes the baby's perilous position.

"You're very welcome, Dad," I respond. I complete his lean and our lips meet for a brief kiss that would have been chaste, had it not been so achingly long since we've been alone together. He groans as I pull away, and I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

"Hey Mom? Can I skip the tie this year? I'd much rather send Adam off with his grandma tonight."

I'm on my feet as quickly as possible while avoiding a head rush and picking up the phone. Before Mulder can even sit up, I've dialed and am anxiously listening to each ring.

Mom finally picks up. "Hello?"

"Mom? Can you baby-sit tonight?"

10:47 p.m.

The *ding* of the elevator doors pulls us from our clench; luckily, there are no neighbors waiting to witness our wild behavior. As we stumble down the hall to the Apartment, it occurs to me that we must look positively wasted. Right. Breast-feeding does not allow for booze, and Mulder has been an absolute gentleman by staying in a dry spell of his own. Actually, we've been having two dry spells, one of which is about to become very, very wet.

I giggle, thinking that I'm already very, very wet. And I don't mean the rain outside.

But as we stand at the door, trying to unlock it quickly, a feeling of unease comes over me. There's an odd smell in the hallway, one that I've smelled before, just never here. Mulder notices my sudden stillness, and he opens his mouth to say something; I cup my hand over it before he utters a word.

I can't figure out what's going on, so I finish unlocking the door and slowly push it open. I flip on the lights, and I'm relieved to see that nothing looks out of the ordinary.

"Whoa!" Mulder cries, grabbing on to my shoulder. I look at him, then follow his eyes downward. He's just slipped on an envelope that lies just inside the door. It must have been pushed underneath.

He reaches down for it. "No," I say, grabbing his hand. "Prints," I add, and he nods and walks to the kitchen for a pair of gloves. I've found latex to be very useful when dealing with baby diarrhea.

He comes back with the gloves on, then bends to pick up the envelope. The other side simply says 'Fox ' in bold, capital letters. Virtually useless to analyze.

I give Mulder a push toward the living room, and we're soon seated on the couch. "Open it," I urge. I still feel uneasy about this, but I don't feel a sense of danger. We won't blow ourselves to kingdom come, but I doubt we'll like what's inside.

Inside is a type-written letter. Courier font, regular margins. Again, analysis will probably be useless. Together, we begin to read:

Fox ,

If you've received this letter, then you should know that I am dead. I am no longer a threat to you. You'll probably never know how or when, but trust me just this once: I am gone forever. Well, almost.
Fox , men like me have simple desires in their lives. We want money, power, and immortality. While the first two are quite easily achieved, the last is rather hard to come by. Many have tried their own techniques to gain immortality. Some have cryogenically frozen all or part of their bodies. Some have made their names well known so that all the world will remember them always. But I have taken a simpler route. A route taken by billions of people over time, many of who do not know that they are becoming immortal.
Yes, the simple act of passing my genes to another generation has sealed my immortality. Of course, this act counts for nothing unless it is continued. Which is where you come in.
As much as it will hurt you to admit, you must know that Bill Mulder was not your biological father. He wasn't Samantha's, either. He was supposed to give your mother a child, but we found out too late that he was sterile. And by that time he was already raising two children who weren't his. We, your mother and I, never told him that I fathered you, but I suppose he figured it all out in the end. That's why you weren't taken as originally planned. It was to be Bill's child who would suffer the tests. And when Samantha proved to be mine as well, then I arranged for her to be taken by different people, my people. She faced different tests, horrible in their own right, but nowhere near as horrible as the other ones. I still mourn her death, though I feel no remorse for pulling you in the wrong direction for so many years.
You see, you were my last chance for immortality. I had hope for many years, but after you and Diana parted company, I began to fear that you would become a virtual hermit, living stubbornly in the basement with your files, scaring off anyone who dared darken your doorstep.
And then Agent Scully came along.
I didn't realize until after the X-Files were first closed how she could help save my plans. My colleagues wanted to abduct her, and I, knowing what procedures went on during the abductions, saw my perfect opportunity. When they induced super- ovulation, I stole one of the vials, much like you did at the research facility. I used alien cloaking technology and hid the ova in one of her ovaries. Don't look so surprised; if they can hide a whole spaceship, they can hide, and hold in place, a few dozen ova.
I waited patiently for the time to be right. When I was confident in the feelings you both held for (and from) each other, I set my trap. I lured with the promise of the ultimate cure. I'm sure you quickly discovered that the disk she ended up with was blank. I must apologize for the deception, but it was essential to my plan. She may have told you about how I drugged her, how she woke up in a strange bed in her pajamas, not knowing how she got into them. I did that, but only so she would be comfortable.
There is, in fact, a disk that can control the implant that sits just under her skin. This implant, which you believe simply put her cancer into remission, actually regulates many of her systems. You may have noticed that she heals remarkably fast form serious wounds. She doesn't catch colds or the flu easily at all. And, when instructed by my disk, the implant removed the cloak from the ova that still reside in her. She wouldn't notice any difference, of course, because the implant also regulates her menstrual cycle.
During that trip, I also planted an idea into her subconscious. I told her she wouldn't allow herself to love you. If you're receiving this letter, then obviously she does now.
This letter was to be delivered to you the first Father's Day after my death, unless otherwise directed. I wasn't sure if I would live to see my grandchild, and obviously I haven't. Had I lived, I'd have delivered this message to you in person. Thank you, Fox , for helping me achieve immortality. Thank your lovely partner for me as well. Or is she your wife now? Congratulations to you both, and Happy Father's Day.


I stare at the paper, my jaw dropped in shock. I'd always suspected that that evil old man had done something to me that day, but I never thought that this was on his agenda.

I try to hate him for what he did, but it's damn near impossible. I can hate him for doing it without my knowledge, but that's about it. I almost feel grateful to the son of a bitch.

"Scully," Mulder whispers, "what have we done?" He drops the letter and reaches over to his desk to pick up a framed picture of Adam taken just days after birth.

I know he wants to hear harsh words come from my mouth; he hopes that I'm appalled by this invasion to my body and our lives. But I'm going to disappoint him.

"Well, we may not have known it, but we created a human being one night when we finally showed each other how much we love one another. Despite the selfish desire for immortality that provided the means, the fact remains that Adam's only here because of love. Doesn't that count for something? I mean, it's not like he took a sample from you and one from me and mixed them together in a Petrie dish. We did have a choice in the matter.

"And no matter what pop psych crap he may have fed me, it wasn't his words that told me it was time. It was the whole Daniel incident. And what Colleen told me. To be honest, I hadn't even remembered that he'd said that to me until just now. As much as I want to hate him for it, I'm finding it very hard to do so."

Still clutching the picture, Mulder falls against the back of the couch. "I know, Scully. I feel the same way. Maybe, if he had told us about what he'd done before we conceived, then maybe I could hate him. Because then I'd think about it every time we'd want to make love, and I'm sure we'd have arguments about whether to try and have a baby, or deny that man his immortality. But now... now it's already happened. I wish I didn't know, but it is a bit reassuring to know how it happened."

"And of course," I add, "we can't be absolutely sure that this is the gospel truth. He's lied before. Maybe he's not even really dead and he's just messing with us one more time."

Mulder is quiet as he absorbs that idea. I get the feeling that this letter won't be spoken of ever again, and eventually he'll go back to believing that Adam was a miracle that came about completely unaided. And I may make a conscious decision to do the same.

But subconsciously, I'll always know different. And I find myself hoping that what the letter says is the gospel truth. Because that means I still have ova, and with ova comes the chance for more children.

Old men with money and power aren't the only ones who entertain the idea of immortality.

VII - Domestication [[It's time for the inevitable: marriage and a townhouse]]

August 4, 2001
8:56 p.m.

Christ, this man's going to be the death of me.

I guess I knew that the first time I dragged my ass after his soon-to-be-very-sorry ass when he ditched me. When was that again? Oh yeah, Idaho. Second case. Go figure.

To be fair, this time he hasn't caused my heart to stop because of some precarious position he's gotten us into. Oh no, this is much more civilized. We've finally been able to leave Adam with Mom every other Saturday while we go out and act like adults. Then we come home and act like adults who are very much in love and attracted to each other. After more than a year of missing him in an intimate way, it's nice to have a routine to stick to.

But tonight...

Mom had spent the day with a friend of hers in McLean, so she offered to pick Adam up on her way home so we wouldn't have to drive all the way up to Baltimore. That was fine with us. We figured we could grab an earlier dinner and maybe even catch a movie or something.

Wrong. Tonight we didn't even make it out the front door. I didn't even make it into my dress. I think the heat got to us; the temperature peaked at 107 in the shade. He'd been walking around the place bare-chested all day long, with old shorts that were down to their last, strategically-placed threads. I suppose I didn't help much, going bra- less with a tight tank and equally tight spandex shorts. So I didn't do much laundry this week. So sue me.

But, in all honesty, it's not even this extreme physical exertion in extreme heat that's stopped my heart tonight. It came close, but not quite.

No, my heart stopped when I laid eyes on the rock nestled in velvet that he's holding out to me.

"Scully?" His voice has a tinge of worry in it, and I realize that I haven't responded yet.

"Mulder...where's all this coming from? I mean, it's out of nowhere, you know?"

He just shrugs. "It just seems like the right time. I'm working full-time again, and I know you want to cut back your hours some. It just makes sense. But if you have a problem..."

Once again, that worry works its way into his voice, and I hold my hand up to stop it. "I don't have a problem. Yes, Mulder, I will marry you. That was never a question in my mind. But like I said, it just seemed to come from left field."

"Well, at least you're surprised," he quips, pulling me close in for a kiss to seal our deal.

We're getting married. Jesus.

August 5, 2001
11:08 a.m.

Mulder screeches the car to a halt along the curb outside Mom's house. I'm surprised how excited he is to see her this morning. He's always glad to pick up Adam after a night of releasing all of our tensions, but today is different. Today, Adam is one step closer to not being a bastard child anymore.

Yes, I realize that since he was born to an unwed mother, he's technically illegitimate, but he'll never have to know. I doubt we'll even remember the date of our anniversary, never mind how many years it's been.

I step calmly out of the car, trying not to notice how he's already *skipping* to the front door. Still calm, I walk behind him up the front steps. He's already inside, calling for Mom and Adam. I hear the baby respond, letting out a shriek to raise the dead.

"Morning, Dana," Mom says from behind me, where she's just come out of the bathroom.

"Hi, Mom," I respond. I give her a hug, and we walk arm-in-arm into the kitchen, where Mulder's found his son and is presently wiping him clean of his breakfast.

"Hello, Fox . Did you sleep well?" She's looking at the table as she says this, but I can still see the smirk on her face. I gently elbow her in the ribs.

Mulder just smiles even wider and picks up Adam. "Like a baby, Ma- Mom."

I smile at his correction. He's always called my mother by her first name, but I guess now he figures he's earned the right to call her Mom. He's a smart man, but he never realized that he's always had that right.

Mom also notes the change, and I can see the wheels turning in her head. I keep my mouth shut though; Mulder insisted on breaking the news himself. Slipping my arm from Mom's, I step over to him, holding my hands out to receive my son. Adam smiles happily, he's a morning person, just like I was as a kid. I hope this trait carries through high school, 'cause I saw Missy and Charlie, and I do not need grumps like them at five-thirty in the morning. Mulder's bad enough.

Wait, did I say high school? I'm sorry, I'm mistaken. My baby boy's never growing up. Ever. So there.

"So, Mom," Mulder says oh-so-casually. "What are you doing next Saturday?"

The gears in her head start cranking at twice the speed. "Saturday? The eleventh?" Mulder just nods. "I don't think I have plans. Why, what's up?"

"Oh, not much." He steps behind me, placing one arm around my waist, and rubbing Adam's head with his free hand. "We were just thinking that you'd like to come with us while we do some chores. You know, odds and ends. Some clothes shopping, pick up a realtor's guide, get married, that sort of thing."

I successfully keep my laughter in as Mom's eyes narrow then widen as she realizes the words that were hidden in plain "sight" in Mulder's little diatribe.

"What?!" she screeches. "You better be serious, Fox Mulder, or I have half a mind to..."

He starts to laugh, and I finally let my own laughter loose. Mom just stares at us, and I think that she really thinks we're just kidding around.

"He's serious, Mom," I reassure her. "We figured it's time to get ourselves settled, you know? We're also going to start looking for a bigger Apartment or a townhouse or something, and I..." I pause, not sure if this is the right time to say this.

Ever since Ronnie was assigned to the X-Files, I've entertained the notion that she could take my place once Mulder was back. Now he's been back for two-and-a-half months, and he's been doing fieldwork full-time for the last month. I've continued going in for my normal full-time desk job, but mostly to act as a buffer while Mulder got used to the idea of actually working with someone who wasn't me. And now, he's said that he's okay with me cutting back my hours, so I think I see the perfect opportunity for me to bow out.

I want to be home with my son, it's as simple as that.

Mom and Mulder are staring at me, waiting for me to finish my sentence. I turn a bit so I can look into Mulder's eyes. "I think it's time for me to leave the Bureau."

Mom gasps, but doesn't argue. I know she's been wanting me to be a stay-at-home mother ever since Adam was born, but she also knew that without Mulder, I had to earn income somehow.

But it's Mulder's reaction that really surprises me. I expect him to put up a fight, claiming that he can't work without me, beg me to at least work part-time. But instead, he just nods.

"I figured that's what you were leaning towards," he admits. "I don't see any reasons for you to stay anymore. We know about Samantha, the Project is defunct now that CGB Spender's dead..."

"We think," I amend. "We hope."

"Yes we do. Anyway, Adam should have his mother with him all the time. Not that his grandmother is an inefficient babysitter," he corrects with a smile, looking at Mom.

She just nods. "It's okay, Fox . I'd much rather baby-sit once every two weeks, if that's all right with you."

I smile and place a kiss on Adam's soft, blonde hair. "That's wonderful."

August 11, 2001
1:24 p.m.

There are five of us sitting outside the magistrate's office this afternoon. One is an eight-month-old baby who's quietly snoozing in his carrier. Mom and Skinner are seated across the hall, chatting softly about God knows what. Probably something to do with the little ceremony we're about to go through.

Mulder is sitting next to me, on the other side of the baby. He's not saying anything, just looking down at his hands, which are folded in his lap. Stupid self-doubt.

"Mulder," I whisper, careful not to wake the baby. "What's wrong?"

He looks up, and his face shows confusion. "Nothing's wrong. Why?"

"Well, you looked..." I make a gesture with my hand, unsure of how to describe his outward appearance. "You looked like something was wrong."

Mulder shakes his head, a smile forming on his lips. "Nope. Sorry if you got the wrong impression. I am quite content, and I will be even more content when we leave this building."

I'm about to second his feelings when the door to our left opens, and an elderly woman steps out. "Fox Mulder and Dana Scully?"

We stand at our names, and she motions for us to follow her into the office. Without my asking, Mom grabs the carrier and joins us. She and Skinner are our witnesses. Mulder was a bit wary about asking Skinner to play the role, but we needed two and there was no way we could split the Gunmen. So Skinner was our only option. Not that we told him that.

Behind the desk sits a kind-looking middle-aged man; the plaque on the desktop identifies him as Mr. James Newman. "Good afternoon, Dana, Fox ." He stands as he says this and holds out his right hand.

"Good afternoon," I return, shaking his hand. Mulder does the same, and doesn't bother correcting Mr. Newman about his name.

"So, you two wan to be married, am I correct?" We nod our heads, and he looks over at the other three people in the room. "And these are your witnesses?"

I nod again, then introduce them. "This is my mother, Maggie Scully, a good friend of ours, Walter Skinner, and, um..." I find myself pausing in embarrassment. Mr. Newman will certainly be wondering why we didn't get married before the baby was born, but I'm not in the mood to explain a thing.

"Our son, Adam," Mulder finishes, without a hint of embarrassment, only pride. To his credit, Mr. Newman doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

"Wonderful. Well, let's get this underway, shall we?"

August 17, 2001
2:22 p.m.

Ronnie sighs as she picks up my nameplate from the desk. "You know, Dana, it's going to be really boring around here with you gone. I was just getting used to hearing you two argue about these cases. There's no way I can recreate that feeling with him."

I grin. "Good. That's what made me fall in love with him, and I don't need you falling in love with my husband!" We laugh together, carefully packing the contents of my desk into the large box on the chair.

Today is my last day. It's kind of sad; I never could imagine being happy without the X-Files or the Bureau. But now, I just look at my son and I know that I'm doing the right thing.

"Speaking of your husband," Ronnie says, placing extra emphasis on the word 'husband,' "where is he?"

"He's up with Skinner. Something about some earned vacation time." I waggle my eyebrows happily. Mulder has insisted that we go on a honeymoon, so he's trying to work out a possible schedule. "But," I add, glancing at my watch, "he better be done soon. We've got an appointment with our realtor in two hours."

"Ooo. Where're you looking?" Ronnie stops packing and perches on the corner of the desk.

"There's a development of townhouses in Ellicott City that we're interested in. It's really close to my mother, which is great for babysitting purposes. I always feel guilty when she drives all the way down from Catonsville."

When I suggested the idea of moving up closer to Baltimore, Mulder wasn't completely thrilled at first. He doesn't relish the thought of commuting down I-95 in rush hour traffic, but he's beginning to see the sense in it. I'm hoping that this place we're looking at will get his approval; I saw it years ago when Mom and I were doing some lazy driving around, and even then I thought that I might like to move there if I were to somehow ever have a family. Luckily, there are a few townhouses for sale right now.

The door behind me opens. I turn to see Mulder stride into the office, and the look on his face... oh dear. He's got something up his sleeve, that's for sure. I just pray he hasn't booked airline tickets without my input.

"Hey!" he greets us. Mulder looks at me and asks, "Ready to get going?"

"Just a few more minutes," I respond, turning back to my packing. The only things that are left to pack are the various knickknacks in my desk. The last few days I moved all of my equipment out of the office, stuff that neither Mulder nor Ronnie will have much use for without me there to work it for them.

"I'm gonna go get a soda," Ronnie says suddenly. She leaves the room, and I realize she's giving us some privacy.

The meaning of this moment abruptly hits me: I will never work with Mulder again. I won't be seeing him 24/7. I won't have to watch another slide show, or dispute one of his theories.

Tears well up in my eyes, and I reach for him. He embraces me while I think of all the times I wanted to do this when we were just partners. Now that I'm allowed to do this whenever I want, we're no longer partners in work. Sure, we'll always be partners in life, but never again Mulder and Scully. Just Mr. and Mrs. Mulder. Just Mom and Dad. Don't get me wrong, those are great names to be known by, but...

I feel his lips press against my cheek, then my earlobe. "You'll always be Scully to me," he whispers in my ear. I smile; he can still read my mind.

"Thank you, Mulder," I reply. I take in a deep breath and step back

"No, Scully, thank you. I may still be the FBI's Most Unwanted, but I'll take that any day, as long as I'm Dana Scully's Most Desperately Wanted."

A breath of laughter escapes me, and I hear myself mumble, "That's not even a top ten list. There's just one spot, and it's all yours."

He grins. "I know," he says arrogantly.

I shake my head at his cockiness, but I know he knows. I look one last time at my desk and see that everything's been placed in the box. With a sigh, I pick up said box and motion to the door. "Come on, Mr. Mulder. Townhouses await."

"I'm right behind you, Mrs. Mulder."

September 28, 2001
12:32 p.m.

"Okay, Dana, if you would just sign this line here..."

I follow Keri's instructions as she points to several places for me to sign. I've gotten pretty good at my new signature in the past month. Dana K. Mulder. The first time I tried it just felt so weird that I called my mother and asked how she got used to signing 'Margaret E. Scully' instead of 'Margaret E. Perry'. We both laughed as she admitted to spending a whole hour just writing her signature over and over on blank pieces of paper. That night, I did the same, and now I don't even think about it anymore.

"Great!" says Keri Leigh as I sign the last line. "Everything's done. Congratulations Mulders, you just bought yourself a house!"

I sit back and sign in victory. The past month I've been hearing tales of closings gone horribly wrong, and for the past week I've been a nervous wreck. Mulder's been very understanding and reassured me that nothing would go wrong, but it didn't really help much. Even Adam's noticed my change in disposition; he's crawling now, and I often find him crawling away from me the minute Mulder gets home. I try not to take offense, but...

But that's water under the bridge. The closing has gone perfectly, and we now own 291A West Chestnut Street in Ellicott City, Maryland. And thanks to an unexpected inheritance Mulder got from an aunt he hadn't see or heard from in at least twenty years, we only have a five-year mortgage.

It took me three days to convince Mulder that the house was perfect. Three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, living room, kitchen, and dining room. Small, yes, but it's bigger than our one bedroom Apartment. We'll make the extra bedroom into a study/guest room. And one small part of me, the part that still believes in fairy tale endings, thinks that maybe one day we'll really need that third bedroom.

But for now, everything's perfect.

VIII - Honeymoon on the AD [[A call from Hollywood means only one thing: Premiere time, baby!]]

November 10, 2001
9:30 a.m.

"Come on, Adam, big step...Good job! Okay, another one...Yea!" With me cheering him on, Adam makes his way from the sofa to the recliner across the room. He's still tightly holding on to my hands, but his steps are becoming more confident each day. It wouldn't surprise me if he's walking by his birthday.

Mulder starts clapping as he enters the room and sees what all the commotion is about. "As proud as I am of him," he says slowly, "are you sure we want him toddling around here so soon? I mean, we can barely catch him when he crawls!"

I guide Adam over to his father. "Yes," I agree, just as slowly. "But, Billy and Tara are coming out here for Christmas this year. And Matty didn't learn to walk until he was nearly a year-and-a- half."

"Da Da Da," Adam warbles as he reaches Mulder's legs. In response, Mulder bends down to pick him up.

"Well, I guess if Adam can beat Matty to that milestone, then I guess I can't complain."

I chuckle at the stuffy pride in Mulder's voice. Although Billy's made it a point to try and get to know Mulder better, he still holds some obvious resentment towards my husband. And when Billy was last here for a visit, he made a few comments about how Adam was a bit behind Matty in the milestone department. Tara assured me later that Billy was completely wrong and that Adam was actually ahead of schedule, but we decided to let my big brother think whatever he wanted to on that subject.

So Mulder relishes everything that Adam does, especially when it happens earlier than it did for Matty.

He kisses Adam's still-blonde hair, then gently places him on the floor. "You packed yet?" he asks me, his eyes giving away his excitement.

"No, not completely. I do have other things to do with my time," I chide, poking him in the chest. He catches my hand and pulls it to his lips. He's about to kiss my palm when our moment is interrupted by a thunk and a wail.

I spin around, pulling back my hand, to see Adam sitting up about a step from the couch. I begin walking over to him to calm him down, when I realize what must have happened.

"Mulder, he was trying to do it all by himself!" I say in amazement. I only began helping him walk five days ago. This kid is amazing.

"Does Mom know?" he asks, disappearing into the kitchen. "'Cause if she doesn't, she's in for one helluva surprise!"

"I haven't spoken to her all week," I admit. Adam stops crying and crawls into my lap, eager for comfort. "She's doing this fundraiser at church tomorrow, and she's really preoccupied."

He comes back into the living room with a glass of orange juice in his hand. "Well, maybe she shouldn't baby-sit then. I mean..."

I shake my head. "No, she'll be fine with Adam. The fundraiser is a children's concert. And she's already told the other members of the group that she'd be babysitting. All she has to do tomorrow is show up." I realize we've strayed a bit from the original line of discussion. "What about you, have you packed?"

He nods proudly as he flops down on the couch, placing his legs on either side of me. "Yep. I did it yesterday while you were in the office."

A month after I left my job, I realized that even with Adam keeping me busy, I missed doing real work terribly. I called the Baltimore Field Office and asked them if they wanted any help with autopsies or other forensic work that I could do. Now I go into the city once every two weeks and they usually find something for me to do. It feels good to keep up with Bureau happenings. Mulder never figured out how much I enjoy good gossip, so he doesn't pay attention for me; working in Baltimore lets me keep in touch with the sixteen-year-old in me.

"Actually, I just need to pick up my tux. The tailor said it should be done by noon today, so we can just pick up on our way to BWI."

The image of Mulder in a tux comes to the front of my mind, and I'm momentarily distracted, missing everything he says. I'm sure it's something I agree with, so I just nod.

Adam crawls out of my lap and latches on to Mulder's leg. His fists curled around the denim of his father's blue jeans, he pulls himself to a standing position much to his delight. Bravely, he lets go with hand, reaching out towards Mulder, and saying in his BabyTalk, "Da Da Da."

With a grin, Mulder heaves Adam into his lap. "It's like living with that Volkswagen commercial." I laugh with him, and Adam joins in.

4:39 p.m.

I sigh and roll my neck to relieve the cramps that have settled in. The view of clouds outside my window catches my eye; it's been a long time since I've flown anywhere.

There's a break in the clouds, and I can see huge patches of green, varying shades, of course. I can make out large barns and silos. Must be the Midwest.

A flight attendant is making his way down our aisle, offering blankets and pillows for the third time since take-off. First class can get really annoying. Besides, I already have the most comfortable pillow I could ever ask for: Mulder. Of course, right now Mulder's using my shoulder as his pillow.

I glance across the aisle to Skinner, who's engrossed in an issue of "Producer's Monthly". I roll my eyes; he's really gone over the edge about the whole Associate Producer bit. Hopefully, this movie won't do so hot, and our esteemed AD will realize he's much better suited for law enforcement.

Yes, the movie. Wayne Federman called about three months ago announcing the official release date, as well as inviting us to the premiere that would occur earlier in the week. Mulder and I figured that would be the best time for our delayed honey- moon, so we accepted.

The premiere is tomorrow night, and we're staying tonight and tomorrow in a hotel that Wayne has generously paid for. Separate rooms, though. Apparently Skinner failed to mention that we're married now. Oh well. Not my money. But I have big plans for that bubble bath this time.

November 11, 2001
5:20 p.m.


I look up from trying to fasten my bracelet to see the stunned and pleased gape of my husband. I smile in return, and I lower my gaze to take in his outfit for the evening. Delectable as always.

"You're pretty 'wow' yourself," I tell him sincerely. He picks up his jaw and grins, then walks towards me and takes the bracelet in his hand.

"Where'd you get this?" he asks in his 'I'm up to something' voice.

"It was a graduation present after med school," is what I say. I don't mention that it's from Daniel. When I left Daniel, I almost threw it out, but for some reason I kept it. I found it last year when I cleaned out my Apartment; I can wear it now that there are no emotions attached to it anymore, now that's it's just a pretty bracelet.

"Hmm." He steps away from me, taking the bracelet. I'm about to protest, but I can tell that if I'm good, I'll get something even better. Something that does have feelings with it.

"Well, since we are here on our honeymoon, and since I never got you a suitable wedding present," I bite my lip to refrain from saying anything, "I thought it would be appropriate if I got you a little something for tonight."

He pulls a long jewelry box from the inner pocket of his tux jacket and hands it to me. It's wrapped in silver paper with gold ribbon, but I really don't take time to admire the wrapping job. With the excitement of a six-year-old at Christmas, I tear it open and lift off the top.

Inside lie two chains of gold. One is a necklace, the other a bracelet. They're obviously a set, and they each hold a single stone in their centers. It's a light blue, and I look at Mulder questioningly and ask, "Turquoise?"

He nods. "That's December's birthstone. I figured tonight would be a good night for a subtle reminder, since Skinner asked us..." He trails off, throwing his hands up in annoyance.

Skinner came to our room (well, technically my room) earlier today and asked us if we wouldn't mind not 'acting married' tonight. Apparently there's a part that Skinner just found out about, and our being married might cause his friend a great deal of embarrassment. We agreed, reluctantly, though God knows I'm going to have a hard time keeping my hands off Mulder tonight.

"They're beautiful, Mulder. Thank you," I say, craning my neck back and rising on my toes to kiss him. I wish I'd put my shoes on.

He pulls back much too soon and takes the box from my hand. "Need help with the necklace?"

I turn around and look in the mirror. I'm wearing a high-necked dress, and I think even my cross might be a bit much for the outfit. "Actually," I say, hating to disappoint him, "I think I'll forego the necklace tonight." His eyes give away his regret, and I hurry to make it go away. "But," I add in my sexy voice I know will get his attention, "maybe it's all I'll wear the rest of our... honeymoon."

I see him gulp and I grin. No more disappointment; all I can see in his stormy-hazel eyes is desire. A little voice deep in my brain reminds me that we're supposed to keep our hands *off* each other tonight, but I do my best to ignore it.

A pounding on the door brings us out of our bubble. Mulder leaves the bathroom to go answer it, and I use the few extra seconds to make sure my hair is straight and my lipstick is on just my lips. I then follow Mulder's footsteps, heading to the safe that the hotel provides with each room.

"Good evening, Scully," says Skinner in a slightly choked voice that I'm going to take as a compliment.

"Hello, Skinner." Despite the level of closeness we developed last year as we searched for Mulder, I've never felt comfortable addressing him by his first name. Apparently the feeling is mutual.

"Mulder, have you used the safe yet?" I ask as I gather the few expensive items that I plan to tuck away. He answers negatively, so I quickly think of a six-digit number to use as my personal code. Easy: 100212. I carefully place the necklace and my old bracelet inside, keep Mulder's in my hand so he can help me with it on the way to the theater. With great remorse I slip off my rings; I haven't taken them off once since they went on. I remind Mulder to do the same, and I can see the pain in his eyes as he hands his wedding ring to me. I doubt his has come off, either.

With a sigh I lock everything up, then sit on the edge of the bed to put on my shoes. Task completed, and with Skinner nervously looking at his watch, I take Mulder's offered arm (much to Skinner's annoyance) and we head out the door.

Hollywood, here we come.

1:15 a.m.

It's been a very long time since I was up this late without even a nap somewhere along the way. But I've been having too much fun to think about the time.

Mulder's asking our driver a question, and from the pleased look on his face as he settles back next to me, I'm guessing he got the answer he was looking for.

"What's up?"

He shook his head. "Nothing, really. I just asked Jerome up there if he wouldn't mind waiting for us to gather our things so he can take us to the B&B tonight."

"But, we don't start renting it until tomorrow," I point out. Before he can say anything, though, I realize what he's done. "You called them, didn't you?"

"After I left the movie," he nods. "They'll let us take it tonight, but we have to pay an extra fee to cover the lateness of their notification."

I bite my lip, concerned as always about matters of money. Mulder's still grinning, though, so it can't be all bad...

"Luckily," he says, reaching into his tux jacket, "we don't have to pay..." He pulls out the Bureau card, and I know my face lights up with the smile that spreads over my face.

"Thank you, AD Skinner!" I giggle, and I find myself wishing we hadn't paid for the rest of the week already. Oh well. Our one night on the Bureau won't be wasted, that's for sure!

IX - Bullfrog [[Family and friends converge in Ellicott City on Christmas Eve]]

December 24, 2001
12:05 p.m.

Happiness is a birthday three days before Christmas. It's close enough to just write one HUGE list of wished-for presents, but far enough to guarantee two celebrations.

Luckily, my son is not old enough to realize this quite yet. His father, on the other hand, knows this quite well, and it took considerable effort on my part to assure him that having the family over for one big celebration on Christmas Eve just this once wouldn't scar Adam for life.

I, however, am never holding a huge get-together ever again. As the grandfather clock in the living room chimes each hour, I know that I'm that much closer to having all hell break loose in my small- but-comfortable home. Of course, the sooner they get here, the sooner they leave...

I know, I'm horrible. But let's just say I have a new appreciation for my mother right now.

Everyone's due over in an hour, and, fortunately, Mulder's need to one-up Billy and to show up Saundra has turned him in to a LeanMeanCleaningMachine. I guess a bit of rivalry in a family is always good for something.

I'm desperately trying to keep Adam asleep, which is difficult since he's not used to a nap this early. But I know sleeping will impossible once the Scullys arrive; we've always prided ourselves on being a loud family.

Of course, it's not just Scullys who will be cramming into the house this afternoon. I also invited Skinner and Ronnie and the Gunmen. I figure since they were all at Adam's birth, they've earned the right to come to his birthday parties.

I pause outside Adam's room, and I'm very glad not to hear him fussing. He's been asleep for an hour straight, so he should be good for another forty- five minutes.

Moving along, I walk downstairs and begin flipping through my mental checklist. The Christmas decorations have been up for nearly a month. I picked up a large sheet cake from BJ's yesterday. My fridge is full of Cokes and Heinekens. I've got enough pretzels and chips to feed the Navy. I've wrapped all the presents for my niece and nephews.

Sounds like this might actually be a success.

5:17 p.m.

Loud doesn't begin to describe a large family in a small house.

Especially when the sixteen-year-old and the thirteen-year-old begin taunting their seven-year- old sister, thereby ignoring their almost four-year-old cousin and making him very upset.

It doesn't help that Frohike and Langly are helping the two older boys.

Precisely twelve minutes ago, Jason and Tim found out exactly what the Gunmen do for a living, and now they're teasing Lexi by telling her stories that would freak out anyone her age. Matty's chasing after his cousins because he thinks they are just so cool. Other than his babysitter, they're the only teenagers he knows. But he knows a few babies, so Adam isn't a novelty.

Fortunately for the baby's ego (well, my ego, really), the adults are quite happy playing Pass the Baby. I look over at the circle and see that Adam's bouncing happily on Tara's knee.

Saundra and Ronnie are standing by the tree, chatting while they fondle the ornaments. Charlie's seems deep in a conversation with Mulder and Byers, and knowing my little brother's love of conspiracy movies, I'm not the least bit surprised. Billy's talking with Mom about planning a trip for her out West. Skinner's sort of just sitting in the middle of it all, sometimes making a comment with Tara, but mostly just soaking it all in.

"Dana! What's this?" I turn my head, trying to find the voice, and I see Ronnie pointing to something on the tree. I hope she's not looking at one of Mulder's ornaments, which he bought at Spencer's.

Thankfully, she's holding onto a wooden ornament that's shaped like a frog. "Oh, that's Bullfrog." Ronnie and Saundra stare at me, and I realize they need a bit more information to go on. "To start off Adam's collection of ornaments to take in case I ever let him get married."

Saundra, who's four inches taller than me, looks down in what can only be called disdain. "A frog? Not very in tune with the season, is it?"

One. Two. Three. Fourfivesixseveneightnineten! "It's kind of a joke, Saundra. About Adam's middle name."

Ronnie snorts gracefully, and I'm glad to see that she gets the joke. Saundra keeps staring at me, so either she doesn't make the connection, or there's a piece of the equation missing.

"You do know Adam's middle name, right?" I ask in my, 'give-the-benefit-of-the-doubt' voice.

"I, um, I'm afraid not," she sputters.

I flip the ornament over to show where I've printed 'AJM 2001' in gold ink. "Adam Jeremiah Mulder," I explain.

"Jeremiah?" Saundra still doesn't get it, but there's no damn way I'm singing the damn song. Only Mulder and Adam are privy to that bit of dissonance.

Ronnie, on the other hand, has no qualms about singing (nor should she, she has a beautiful voice), and so she gives Saundra a hint by crooning, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog..."

To my astonishment, Saundra just shakes her head. "Sorry, don't know it. Must not be old enough," she mutters, but from the look on her face I don't need to remind her that I'm only two years older than her, and Ronnie's just about the same age, too. I just shrug and move along, searching for a better conversation to jump into.

Everyone's attention is focused on Adam right now as he crosses the living room to attach himself to Mulder's leg. Unfortunately, Mulder is in the process of walking into the kitchen with some empty cans and bottles, which naturally crash to the ground as Mulder loses his balance. Did I mention Adam's got a future as a football tackler?

"AJ," Mulder groans as he bends to pick up his son. "Listen buddy. Can ya at least squeal a bit so I know you're coming? Can we make that deal?" Mulder nods hopefully, and Adam bobs his head, too, happily mimicking his father.

I love watching those two interact. The silent communication I've had with Mulder is just as prevalent between father and son, and it wouldn't surprise me to hear a loud squeal the next time Adam tackles his dad.

And it's interesting to watch their relationship develop. Mulder just recently started calling Adam 'AJ', mainly because he just found out Adam's middle name. I guess I can't fault Saundra too much, since it took until about a month ago for the subject to even come up in our house...

November 21, 2001
8:49 p.m.

I was finishing up with the dishes when Mulder approached me from behind, sliding his arms around my waist and resting his chin on my shoulder.

"Adam asleep?" I asked, pressing a kiss to his cheek.

"Mmm hmm." His left hand moved to trace my arm, down to the bracelet on my wrist. He moved it around my wrist so the oval of turquoise could be seen. "Scully?" he asked.

"What?" I responded.

"What's Adam's middle name?"

I turned my head quickly, surprised by the question. "You don't know? I'm sure I told you at some point..."

He shook his head. "Nope. I never thought about it, actually, until tonight. I was rocking him, and telling him about Thanksgiving and all. And I remembered something my parents did with Sam and me for a couple of years."

I shut off the water and turned to face him, wiping my soapy, wet hands on his butt. He protested mildly, but I urged him to tell me about the Thanksgivings he remembered.

"Well, the first year we did it was the year I went to kindergarten. Our class made hand- turkeys -- you know what I mean, right?" I nodded. "Well, Sam thought it was the neatest thing. We did our turkeys a bit different. On the three feathers closest to the head, we'd spell out our names going down, one name per feather. And then, using the letters as the first in a word, we'd write the things we were thankful for."

I thought to myself what a clever idea that was, since it couldn't have been an easy task.

As if reading my mind, Mulder added, "I liked it, but I always ended up being thankful for xylophones." We laughed, and I could tell by his eyes that it was a special memory for him.

"Well, then. I guess you'll have to start being thankful for them again, won't you?" The smile on his face was beautiful, and I was glad that he felt comfortable telling me all this.

"So we can do that? With Adam when he's older?"

I smiled. "We can do that now. I'm sure we can think of the sorts of things an eleven-month-old is thankful for." I thought of Adam's tiny, little hands, and his long middle name, and I added, "But I think he'll need a hand-stand-in for a year or two."

"What's his middle name?" Mulder asked again, sounding almost scared now.

"Well...When he was born, I was a bit hesitant to pick both names. I really felt that you should get a say in it. But Mom told me it was no big deal to change a middle name; apparently, Melissa was born right in the middle of one of Ahab's cruises, and he couldn't get to shore for three weeks. Mom was pretty sure they were going with Melissa Erin, which is what Billy was going to be if he was a girl. But when Ahab got back, he insisted on calling her Melissa Lynn. So Mom called up county records, and for a small fee, they changed the name."

"So, what did you put down?" he asked, forever impatient.

I chuckled. "I tried to think of something that would always remind me of you, just in case." I dropped my gaze, ashamed as always to admit that every so often the possibility that he wouldn't return crossed my mind. "Well, Adam was born in the middle of the night, and it was sooo cold... and one of the nurses had commented earlier that it was a 'three dog night'. She's Australian," I clarified.

Mulder's eyes widened as he realized where I was going. "So...you thought of the group..."

"And the song I butchered," I added, smirking, "and I put down Jeremiah."

Mulder laughed and hugged me close. "I love it. My little Bullfrog, AJ."

We stood there in silence for a while, when a thought occurred to me.

"You know, Mulder. There's more to that song than drunken bullfrogs."


"Mmm hmm."

"Could you sing it to me?"

"If I were, the queen of the world..."

December 24, 2001
5:27 p.m.

"Dana? Dana?"

My brother's voice pulls me out of my daydream. "Huh? Oh, sorry Charlie. What's up?"

"I'm hungry," my thirty-six-year-old brother whines. Yes, whines.

I put my hands on my hips. "And you expect me to do what? Magically produce a feast for Your Royal Whineness?" When my little brother's around, I end up more sarcastic than I am with Mulder. It's an amazing thing to see.

"That'd be nice," he shrugs. I smack him on his arm, and he pouts and goes back to talking to Byers.

I glance at my watch, surprised to see that it's five-thirty. I guess I should start getting dinner ready. I go into the kitchen to grab a pen and a piece of paper.

I make my way upstairs, not at all surprised to find Jason, Tim, Lexi, Matty, Frohike and Langly on Mulder's computer.

"Please say you aren't teaching these innocent children how to hack into government agencies," I say sternly, but with a smile on my face.

"Of course not, Scully," Frohike assures. "I was giving Jason here a virtual tour of our offices."

Jason looks back at me, nodding. "They said I can go with them after Christmas, if Mom and Dad let me.

I think of Charlie, listening to the third stooge as though Byers were a priest preaching the Good Book. Hmm, I guess to Byers, that stuff IS the Good Book.

"I'm sure they'll be okay with that, Jason. I came up here to get your orders for dinner. I'm calling for pizza, so what toppings to you like?"

I return to the living room in a daze, having heard the weirdest combination of foods on one pizza in my entire life. Judging by the way Langly was salivating, I'll have to order two 'Gunmen Specials.'

In the end, I order three pepperoni pizzas, two cheese, one mushroom, one half-cheese/half- pineapple, one with everything, and two...I'm surprised the person taking my order doesn't burst out laughing when I describe what the Gunmen like to eat.

8:02 p.m.

Everyone is pleasantly stuffed, and the women decide it's a good time for presents. We'd all agreed earlier just to get the kids presents, otherwise we'd all end up broke, or more broke than usual.

Mulder and I did get things for the Gunmen and Skinner and Ronnie, but we'll do an exchange with them later on in the week, since they got us stuff, but not the rest of my family. We all agreed to meet at the Gunmen's on Friday.

Scully tradition dictates that since the youngest is most impatient, they get presents first, all at once. Adam doesn't really get what's going on, so Mulder helps him tear into the paper while I videotape the whole thing with the DigiCam I gave Mulder for his fortieth birthday this year.

From Charlie's group, Adam gets a collection of Spot the Dog videos. I thank Charlie profusely for NOT getting Barney or the Teletubbies.

From Billy and Tara and Matty is a San Diego Padres' hat and T-shirt. Mulder just makes general comments about how Adam loves baseball, but I know that shirt and hat will never be worn. The Knicks and Yankees are kings in the Mulder home. On an off day, the Giants or Rangers will do, and, in a real pinch, Mulder will suffer with the Mets or Islanders. I'm just glad it wasn't Orioles stuff -- not even Mulder could fake a smile over that.

Mom gives a stuffed fox, a really gorgeous one. Adam latches on to it, and I get the feeling that we won't be going anywhere without it for a while. Lexi suggests the name Sly, and we all agree, Billy especially. Sly Fox Mulder.

Matty's up next, and he gleefully tears into each gift. We got him a Tonka truck, and when I saw it last month, I made sure with Tara that he didn't already have it.

Lexi gets a starter set of _American Girl_ books. Along with the set came a free trial of the magazine to go with it. Lexi's thrilled; she'd read a couple in the library, but didn't think of them when she wrote up her list. I'm secretly thrilled that Aunt Dana and Uncle Fox (yes, he's Uncle Fox to Lexi and Matty, but just Mulder to the older boys) got her exactly what she didn't know she wanted.

We bought Tim a couple of video games that Charlie had confessed Saundra didn't really approve of. Oops! Oh well, that's what aunts are for, right? And hey, Tara got him the other games that Saundra didn't like. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Tara?

Jason has kept in touch with us since Memorial Day, so we knew exactly what to get him. Mulder knows a guy who profiled in the BSU around the same time he did. The guy, Thomas Greensey, retired about five years ago and wrote a novel, a fictionalized version of one of cases he worked on. Mulder not only bought a hardcover edition, but he contacted Greensey and got him to sign it to Jason. Jason loves true crime stories, and as he gushes over the present, Mulder adds that once he's done reading, Mulder can set up a meeting with Greensey.

I get the feeling that Jason may come out for a visit sometime next year. I'll make a special effort to be nice to Saundra so she'll let him do it.

The living room is pretty much covered in wrapping paper now, and people begin making 'going home' noises. Actually, Charlie and his crew are going back to Mom's, and Billy and Tara and Matty are staying here. We've got some comfy cots, so Billy and Tara will be set up in the office, and Matty will room with Adam tonight.

Skinner and Ronnie carpooled together, so they get into his car and they're off with a wave and a promise to see us on Friday. The Gunmen take their leave as well, piling into the old VW Bus, and I can see Billy's look of wariness as the Bus makes its way to the main streets.

Tara and I go upstairs to put our boys to bed, and we share a good laugh over Saundra's reaction to our gifts to Tim. I also confess my beliefs about the fate of their gift to Adam. She shrugs it off and promises to steer Billy away from team-affiliated gifts in the future. Once the kids are asleep, we sneak back downstairs and are shocked to find our husbands, Fox Mulder and Bill Scully, having a normal, mature, adult conversation about -- of all things -- holiday traditions.

Will wonders never cease?

X - Ides [[A routine lunch hour is interrupted by old problems]]

March 15, 2002 7:38 a.m.

I can hear the sound of _Blue's Clues_ filtering upstairs. As I fight my way through the muddy waters of sleep, it occurs to me that I'm actually hearing the downstairs noise from the baby monitor, not through the door.

The Friday Ritual strikes again.

For the last three weeks, Mulder has made it his habit to get up before Adam, thus catching the baby awake before he can get fussy enough to wake me. The boys journey to the kitchen, where my husband creates a gourmet breakfast for us. I'm usually awakened by the baby monitor; he takes the other end with him and turns it on about ten minutes before he's finished cooking.

All my suspicions are confirmed as I hear a second voice join Steve's in singing the "Mail Song". Adam makes his presence known at the end by yelling "Mail!" -- or rather, his 14-month-old version: "Mays!"

Chuckling, I rise from the bed and trek into the bathroom. Mulder's wet towel hangs over the edge of the sink; I pick it up and wipe my face with it, inhaling his scent as a guilty pleasure. I quickly gargle a capful of Scope, knowing that Mulder doesn't really appreciate my morning breath.

I then begin my newest tradition, barely a month old. Actually, I began it twenty-three days ago. I flip open the circular case, push out a small green pill, then turn the dial one click! to the right. I swallow the pill dry, then grimace as I recognize the tell-tale symptoms that Mulder hates to hear about.

In a way, I'm relieved to start my period. Mulder had convinced himself, even after the mysterious letter from CGB Spender, that Adam's conception was a true miracle, and that the likelihood of us conceiving a second child is next to nothing. I, however, don't want to take the chance that the letter was the truth and not use protection. So I convinced Mulder to use a condom, which worked for a few months -- but neither of us are getting any younger, and time is getting to be an issue. So I went to my OBGYN, who understood that Viagra wasn't a possibility, and for the first time in my life, I'm on the Pill. In a year or two I may bring up the topic of going au natural again.

Bathroom business complete, I head into the kitchen. There stands Mulder in his fibbie uniform and an apron. Adam's picking at his scrambled eggs, then sees me and squeals his hello.

"Morning, baby boy," I murmur into his hair as I plant a kiss there. I notice he isn't as blonde as he was a few months ago; I think it's heading towards brown.

His egg-filled hand grabs my shoulder, and I lower my head to receive a wet, eggy kiss on my cheek.

"Morning, Scully," Mulder tosses over his shoulder.

"Morning," I return, rising on my toes to lightly nip at the nape of his neck. We're all quiet as Steve sits in his Thinking Chair, trying to decide what today's clues could possibly mean.

Every so often, I find myself doubting this life I've unexpectedly, yet joyfully, found myself thrust into. I fear that this is all a dream; I fear I'll awaken in a hospital bed nearly two years ago and remember that Mulder has just disappeared, but hear the doctor tell me that my dizziness was only brought on by dehydration -- or, worse, the return of cancer.

Luckily, I'm quickly pulled from those thoughts by the touch of my son or my husband, and when it's the latter, I break into gales of laughter at the thought of a Truly Domesticated Mulder.

This morning I feel those doubts -- brought on by a rush of hormones, I'm sure -- but they're short- lived as always.

Mulder pushes a plate filled with an omelet and sausage patties into my stomach, and I reflexively take it in my hands.

"You coming in today?" he asks, releasing the plate and turning to fill his own.

Another Friday Ritual has developed over the past few months: Adam and I schlep our way down to DC and have a lunch date with Mulder, Ronnie, and Skinner. We've yet to miss a Friday since the idea began last October, on the day before Mulder's fortieth birthday, yet every week Mulder asks to make sure we're coming.

"Barring the Apocalypse," I respond, as I've responded since that second Friday.

"Great. I was thinking of playing hooky after lunch. Skinner's been dropping hints about a case the last couple of days, and I'd like to go get Jason's present while I'm still in town."

Our nephew Jason turns seventeen next week, and for his birthday we're surprising him with a round- trip ticket to visit us over his Spring Break. It would be easy enough to book the tickets by phone or the Internet, but Mulder wants to pick them up so we can send them personally.

"Sounds like a plan, G-man."

"Great!" he exclaims around a mouthful of artery- clogging sausage. Then he looks at his watch and frowns. "Crap, late." He swallows and puts he plate on the counter. "Gotta run," he laments, kissing me and removing his apron all at once. Last week he was halfway to work when he realized he was still wearing it.

Adam reaches out for a hug from Daddy, who grants his son's wish without hesitation. "See ya later, AJ," he promises, sealing it with an Eskimo-kiss.

As he all but runs out the door, a feeling of unease comes over me, and I stand in the doorway watching him leave, struggling to hold back the urge to call out, "Beware the Ides of March."

11:42 a.m.

The worst part about living up by Baltimore now is the commute. Not that it's really bad -- just jump on Route 29 and go south -- but parking is a real nuisance. Mulder can use the Bureau's garage, of course, but on Fridays at noon-ish, the tour lines are beyond massive, and my best hope at parking is at least three blocks away. Even that's not always so bad.

Today I find myself enjoying the walk. Adam's a big fan of his stroller, and he's saying hello to everyone who passes us. It's not quite the lunch hour yet, so most of the people on the sidewalk are tourists who have the time to respond to a little boy.

The monstrosity called the Hoover Building comes into sight. I feel the jealous glares of the tourists who have at least another hour to wait as I step through the door that's for employees only. No one's told me not to use it yet, and I do work for the Baltimore Office occasionally, so I suppose technically I'm still an employee.

"Right on time, Agent Scully," says a teasing, gentle voice. I look up and smile at its source: Arlen "Dogman" Harrison. Arlen has guarded the metal detector for as long as I've been coming to this building, probably even longer. Although I officially retired seven months ago, nine years of calling me Agent doesn't dissolve overnight.

"Well, that's good. How's Amy doing?" I ask as Arlen does a perfunctory sweep of the stroller with his wand.

I can see his grimace in response to my question. "She's tired. Doctor says that's normal, but sometimes she's asleep for twelve hours or so."

Amy Harrison was recently diagnosed with fibro myalgia syndrome. I know a few people who've suffered from it, and I know it's an annoying way to live. It comes out of nowhere, probably triggered by stress, and doesn't really get better or worse. Muscle aches and sleep disorders are characteristic, but there's not much in the way of medication that can help.

"Has your doctor suggested a mild anti-depressant?"

Arlen escorts me around the metal detector and says, "No. He doesn't really think anything could help."

I shrug, bending down to take off Adam's jacket. It's warm in the building, and I think we'll be staying in today. "You might want to try anyway," I say, continuing my conversation with Arlen. "Couldn't hurt."

"Guess not," he agrees, handing me my Visitor's ID. "Thanks Agent Scully. You have a nice lunch."

"My best to Amy." I push the stroller toward the elevator, a bit thankful that I don't bump into anyone I know on the way. The car jolts as it begins its downward drop; Adam gurgles his delight. I smile and tickle his chin, and I realize that he's going to end up being a fan of amusement parks when he gets older. I know Mulder is always ready for a roller coaster, and while I haven't been on one in ages, I remember the joy of the carousel and the teacups.

With a beep, the doors slide open, revealing the intensely familiar setting of the basement hallway. The first time I came back for a visit was hard; I never realized how much I'd missed the clutter.

I can hear voices, low and muffled, coming from my old office. As always, I park the stroller outside the door and lift Adam out. He gives the door a shove and it opens, revealing his beloved father to him.

"Dada!" he calls happily.

"Hey AJ. How you doin' buddy?"

"Mama Ayday ta Dada," Adam explains. Mommy and AJ to Daddy.

"So I see," Mulder answers, deciphering the gobbledygook perfectly. When Adam first began to say things that actually resembled sentences, Mulder freaked, afraid that he wasn't fluent in Baby as he should be and he wouldn't understand. He soon came to realize that parents can always understand their own child perfectly, and that the child understands them just as well. "You hungry, AJ?"

"Macseezy!" Adam's latest word is his pronunciation of his favorite food, macaroni and cheese. Mulder explains this to Ronnie.

I decide it's time to enter the scene as Ronnie says with a chuckle, "I think that's the special of the day, Adam."

"I hope so," I pray. "Adam's been looking forward to the congealed mass of pasta for a whole week."

"Well, let's not keep him waiting, huh?" Mulder stands, pulling Adam into his arms in the same motion. "Skinner asked us to stop by before we go to the cafeteria. He called a few minutes ago," he explains.

I lead the way out of the office. "Case?" I ask, remembering that Mulder mentioned something at our aborted breakfast chat.

He shrugs as we enter the car. "Dunno. He didn't say."

Ronnie brings up the rear, and authoritatively punches the correct button for Skinner's floor.

"How's everything with you, Ronnie?" My temporary partner of just over a year and I have become good friends. We don't have much time to see each other socially, as she's often out on a case with Mulder, and when they return I like to let him get reacquainted with Adam and me. These Friday lunches have been a great way to stay current.

"Mom officially put Amelia in control of the B&B. Her arthritis has gotten pretty bad the last few months."

"Any other news from that side of your family?" Amelia, Ronnie's sister, and her husband Alan have recently begun trying to have a baby, and Ronnie's eager to gain a niece or nephew to accompany her brother's son.

"Not yet." Her voice isn't sad, but wistful. I know there's a story about where that tone came from, but I suspect it's painful, and she hasn't offered me any clues yet.

We continue to chat as the elevator continues its upward climb.

A few minutes later we're standing in Skinner's office, shocked into complete silence, and Adam too picks up on the tension in the room.

Sitting on the couch are Alex Krycek and Marita Covarrubias.

Instinctively, I take Adam from Mulder's arms and step behind him, using his body as a shield to protect my baby.

Since the moment I fully believed that I was pregnant, I've known that our child could be useful for the slim remnants of the Project. I had no idea if the vaccine can be passed on like genes, but if they didn't know either, then the baby would be, to them, the perfect guinea pig.

Over my dead body.

Mulder straightens up fully, and I can sense that he realizes the possible threat to Adam, and I know he will give his life to save our son as well.

"Relax, Papa Mulder," Krycek sneers. "We don't want the kid. The Project is long dead. Died the night you disappeared, when I threw the smoking bastard down the stairs of his Apartment complex."

I find myself listening intently. Krycek killed CGB? He's really dead? A flush of warmth flows through me, hope that one part of that letter was true bringing hope that all of it was true.

"What do you want?" Mulder asks. Everyone can hear the self-control in his voice. I see Skinner and Ronnie glance at each other; she's confused, I'm sure, but still on the alert.

"We bring news of the colonization plans," says Marita smoothly. "More specifically, the end of those plans."

Everyone is quiet, wondering whether or not to believe these people. Mulder and I never figured out their true motivations, who they really sided with.

"What happened?" Skinner finally asks.

In her even tone, Marita explains: "The Rebel aliens have won. The faceless creatures responsible for the mass burnings at places like the Ruskin Dam and El Rico defeated the colonizing shape- shifters. Though he didn't know it, the Bounty Hunter was the last of his kind to be free in the universe. He abducted the men and women from Bellefleur -- and you, Agent Mulder -- because of their abilities."

She shifted slightly on the couch, then continued. "He hoped to use your combined ESP to locate the rebel base. When he got there, it was too late. The rebels learned his plan, and he was taken as their prisoner. Then the rebels took his abductees and returned them to Earth."

As much as I have opened my mind to extreme possibilities, I feel my skeptical side hitting a single wall that must be overcome.

"Mulder was only gone a year," I point out. "If the rebels were so far away that the Bounty Hunter needed to use ESP to find them, how did it only take a year?"

"Wormholes," prompts Krycek, and as soon as he says it, I realize I've know that all along. I did get my undergrad degree in Physics.

"How did you find all this out?" Mulder asks, turning the interrogation in a new direction.

Krycek shakes his head. "I'm afraid I cannot reveal my sources, Agent Mulder. Not yet, anyway. We just stopped by to give you that information. You can rest easy, Scully. Your son is in no danger; the vaccine couldn't be transferred through DNA anyway." Somehow, I'm not reassured by this man's words.

"Why stop by? Why come to tell us in person?" Mulder sounds a bit more relaxed, but I can tell from the tension in his body that his guard hasn't fallen a bit.

Krycek smiles smugly. "I wanted to meet my cousin. Hi Adam. I'm your cousin Alex." His smile grows at our reactions, but before we can question him further, he and Marita stand and walk out the back door of Skinner's office.

For a long time all I can think about is how I always noticed a certain resemblance between Mulder and that double-crossing ratboy asshole. Now I wish I'd never noticed it at all.

XI - 29 Hours [[An escaped prisoner returns to reclaim the one victim who didn't die]]

November 16, 2002 2:32 a.m.

The trilling of the phone wakes me, though it only rings once as Mulder grabs it quickly. I have to wonder if he's slept at all tonight. A quick glance at the clock tells me that I must have fallen asleep an hour and a half ago. We had quite a busy night; Mulder just got back from an exhausting eighteen- day case in Denver, and we both had huge reservoirs of sexual tension built up, seeing as it's been nearly a month, our longest gap since we reinstated our sexual relationship when he was returned.

A month of no sex, a teething twenty-two-month-old, and no husband for two weeks seems to make me a very cranky human being.

He came back from Colorado on Thursday, and while he was too tired that night to do anything but sleep, we made plans with my mother to get Adam out of the house tonight. So since 6:42 this evening, when Mom closed the door behind her, we've releasing our tension.

And boy, did it feel good!

A shocked gasp from Mulder brings my attention to the unexpected phone call.

"...sure about that? Okay, slow down, Ronnie. Everything's going to be fine. I'll give Skinner a call, he's closer to you....No, it's okay, don't worry about it. I'll call you when I'm done with Skinner....No, it's best to stay outside for now....'Bye."

He hangs up the phone and immediately begins dialing Skinner's number, and at the same time he tells me to hang on so he can explain to both of us.

"Sir? It's Mulder. I...Yes, I do realize what time it is, and I have a very good reason for calling you. I just received a call from Agent Durant, and she believes that there is an escaped convict waiting for her in her Apartment.... Yes, I know, sir. I was wondering if you could get some locals together and go check it out for her....Yeah, that's what I'm thinking, but I doubt he'd come way down here....Okay, thanks, sir."

Once again he hangs up and redials, this time for Ronnie's cell phone, presumably. I still have no clue what's up as he assures her that Skinner and Co. are on their way. Finally, his calls are done.

To my annoyance, he starts to get out of bed, but I place my hand on his thigh before he can move too much.

"What's going on?"

He sighs. "Apparently, Ronnie thinks there's an escaped serial killer waiting for her in her Apartment. You heard about that guy that somehow got out of Shawshank?"

"In Maine?" I hadn't heard about any escape. "And he's made it here? When did he escape?"

Mulder wiggles out of my grip, standing to pull on some clothes. Resigned to yet another sleepless night, I sit up and turn on the lamp beside the bed.

"We got a memo while we were in Denver. Ronnie seemed spooked at the time, but I don't know if that was general bad-guy-on-the-loose spooked or he's-coming-for-me spooked." He pauses to slip on a sweatshirt, then: "I guess it was the latter."

"You're going down there." I know the answer, though it's not really a question. Of course he's going to go check on his partner. While thankfully he and Ronnie don't have the exact same relationship that Mulder and I did as partners, he does show the same signs of worry and loyalty that we had right from the beginning. I'd bet that if Ronnie were a Ronald, Mulder would react exactly the same way.

Socks and shoes go on. "Well, Skinner'll beat me there, and he's wrangling up a couple of nearby agents, just in case. But I'm sure everything's fine." He opens the nightstand drawer and removes his gun and badge, pausing to lean over and give me a kiss before stepping to the door. "I'll call you when I get there, so you know she's okay."

"Thanks. See you in a few hours?"

"Definitely. I plan to make the most of this weekend," he adds with his characteristic leer, and I grin in return. He's gone a second late, and I sigh in resignation. After a quick search for the remote, I get reacquainted with Ginsu Knives and the AeroBed.

3:45 a.m.

Once again, the phone startles me awake. The TV is still blaring, an infomercial about learning magic failing miserably to keep my attention. I smack the power button of the remote and catch the phone as it finishes its third ring.

"Scully, we've got a problem."

Oh, I hate conversations that start like this. "What's the problem, Mulder? Is Ronnie okay?"

There's a little hesitation, then he reveals, "Well, we're not sure. She's not here."

I blink. "Where did she go?" I'm afraid of the answer.

"We think she was abducted by whoever was in her Apartment. And from the note that was left on her refrigerator, it seems she was taken by one Arthur Buckley, the escapee from Shawshank."

"Oh my God," I breathe. Why? Why did this have to happen? "Was he related to the X-Files?" I'd hate to see my friend go through the same crap I did when Donnie Pfaster escaped.

"No. He was arrested in '98 for the murders of four people in New York's Adirondack Park, if my information is correct. He was sentenced to four life terms, absolutely no shot at parole. Death penalty was avoided through a plea bargain."

"Plea bargain? That's odd. Why would a lawyer plea bargain for four life sentences?"

He waits a beat, then replies, "Well, there was the suspicion that Buckley murdered thirteen more people in '92 and '93. If the prosecution were able to use that evidence in court, he certainly would have gotten the death penalty. Confessing to four saved his life."

I just nodded. "How'd Ronnie get involved?"

"This is the fun part," Mulder admitted, though his voice made it clear that the facts were anything but. "She was on the team that eventually brought him in. In fact, he shot her. Twice."

"Shit," I find myself muttering. No wonder she was spooked when she heard he was out.

Mulder reads my mind. "Really. I wish I'd known. Fact is, he swore she'd be the last. Christ, Scully, if I'd known what was going on...Jesus, I'd have sent her camping with Frohike for a couple of weeks. No, probably Byers is a better choice...."

Despite the seriousness of the situation, I smile of the thought of Frohike the Gnome out in the middle of nowhere with a gorgeous woman he's supposed protect. Mulder's right: Byers is the better choice.

"Dammit, why can't I ever get things right," Mulder rants, his words a flow of self-deprecation the likes of which I haven't seen since he found out I'd been pregnant in Oregon. Still he continues: "I mean, when Pfaster escapes, and I *know* what he did to *you*, I still back off and let you go home by yourself, listening to your 'I'm fines' and telling myself that if you want to talk, you know where I live...."

Time to stop this pity party. "Mulder, shut up!" I command. He's shocked into silence, not having heard my command voice in years. I figure it's good to keep the voice in shape for when Adam gets into trouble when he's older.

"Mulder, there's no way in Hell that I'm letting you blame yourself for this. If she didn't want to talk about it, then you were right to let it go. And she knew the danger, too. She's a grown woman, very capable of filing for some much needed vacation time. She's also a federal agent, much like I was when Pfaster escaped. If this Buckley guy does have her, I'm sure she's capable of handling herself."

I can tell by the tone of silence that Mulder is accepting my words. Thank God. I don't need him moping around while we try to find her. But then the tone changes, and I realize the situation is much worse than I originally thought.

"How long?" I ask, instinctively knowing what the problem is.

"Twenty-nine hours. Well, twenty-eight hours and fifteen minutes. He says he'll give us until eight o'clock tomorrow morning before he kills her."

5:41 a.m. (26hrs 19mins remaining)

I have to wonder if somehow we knew something was going to go wrong his weekend, because it's pretty convenient that Adam just happens to be visiting Grandma for the first time in ages.

Somehow, Mulder has arranged for me to be admitted onto the team that will work to find Ronnie. I don't really want to know what favors he called in for that to happen, I'm just glad he did.

The first thing we've planned on doing is reviewing the old files on Buckley. There are the four files on each of his victims, the daily reports from all the members of the '98 task force that eventually brought him in, as well as profiles and random notes that served to get inside Buckley's head.

Arthur Buckley. The Hunter, the press dubbed him back in 1992. He's thirty-seven now, born just a year after me. In fact, born just a few days before Charlie was born. He idolized his father, who taught him how to hunt. Not people, but regular animals. Todd Buckley was a stickler for the rules of hunting. Licenses had to be obtained, even when they only hunted on their own private land.

His childhood home had been happy. Stacey, his mother, and JoAnn, his older sister, were both intelligent women who knew their way around the woods of the Adirondack Park.

But all that fell apart when one of Todd's hunting trips had gone horribly wrong.

Todd and some of his friends went out for bear season in 1977. It had been a long day, and none of the four men had shot anything. As the day wore on, they grew tired, and night began to fall. The other three men met back at the designated site at the designated time, but Todd never showed. The men grabbed flashlights from their trucks and went off to look for him. The woods became quiet suddenly as a bear lumbered into their area of the woods. One man, John Hamilton, took a shot at the bear and felled it.

But it wasn't a bear. No, it had been Todd, carrying the carcass of a deer over his shoulder.

Despite the best efforts of the doctors of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Utica, Todd was pronounced dead just after seven that evening.

Arthur had never been the same since. Hamilton had never been charged with anything, as the statements from the other two men confirmed that they truly thought they'd seen a bear. But in twelve-year-old Arthur's brain, Hamilton had murdered his beloved father.

Years later, Arthur Buckley began exacting his revenge. He started hunting again, but this time he hunted people. The four deaths he'd confessed to were exactly the same. He'd shot a person who was alone in the woods, whether they were hiking, or hunting, or just taking a piss. Then he very carefully removed their heads. When Buckley's cabin had been searched, the agents found four heads, all in various stages of being stuffed. Buckley had learned taxidermy somewhere along the line.

The other thirteen unsolved murders fit Buckley's MO, but no heads were ever found to definitively link them to him.

I can't imagine what it must have been like to track this man down. I've seen Mulder when he's profiling, and it scares me. Why anyone would want to get into a psychopath's head is beyond me.

But the problem now is finding Ronnie. As Mulder had told me over the phone, Ronnie was indeed on the task force that captured Buckley. What he hadn't told me was that she'd all but demanded that she be put on the team; apparently she grew up in the Adirondacks, and she remembered clearly the first series of murders that began in 1992. She'd been appalled by the lack of evidence the FBI could pull together back then; there were three victims that hadn't even been identified, the decomposition had been so bad. With no head for teeth and dental records, they'd had to rely on fingerprints, which were impossible to match.

So she joined the FBI, wanting to make a difference. And most likely to catch The Hunter when he came out of hiding.

When the team had eventually found him, he had another victim in his possession. Ronnie willfully traded herself for that person's life. In the end, she was shot twice in the abdomen, an injury that kept her out of the field for just over a year. Her assignment to the X-Files was her first one since the Buckley case.

I find myself empathizing with her, understanding completely how scared she must have been when she got the memo that he'd escaped. Killers don't like to leave their work unfinished. My second battle with Pfaster showed me that.

We simply have to find her.

6:19 a.m. (25hrs 41mins remaining)

"Listen up!"

Everyone listens as Mulder begins barking out orders. I smile faintly, remembering times when snickers and whispers would follow his commands; now, the agents know that he's brilliant and that listening the first time would serve everyone better. Especially the victims.

He turns on the overhead projector, and a topo- graphical map of somewhere is shown on the screen. "As you know, Arthur Buckley is known for killing in the woods. He takes his victims' heads as trophies, and stuffs them at home. Of course, his previous home is unavailable to him now, having been burned after his confession and sentencing.

"However, I suspect that he's always planned for this and has other options available to him. I've been in contact with his remaining family, and his sister owns a cabin in West Virginia. This topo map is of the area immediately surrounding her cabin. The red dot" he pointed with his pen "is the cabin. It's secluded, ten miles from the nearest town.

"I've contacted the West Virginia State Police and they're putting out an APB on Buckley. In case you don't know, he's thirty-seven, 6'2" and 228 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes, but wears contacts, so be aware that the eye color may change. There is a long scar by his left ear that traces across his cheek.

"You should also know that his prisoner is Special Agent Veronica Durant. She is thirty-six, 5'5", 123 pounds. She has brown hair, blue eyes. No distinguishing characteristics. I've provided pictures of both Buckley and Durant for reference. Any other questions?"

There's silence for a moment, then an agent in the middle of the room stands up. "Agent Mulder, my colleagues and I have heard rumors about a deadline. Is there any truth to that?"

I frown. I can tell by Mulder's face that he didn't want to talk about this, that he hoped everything could happen way before Buckley's deadline became an issue. But of course, he tells the truth.

"Arthur Buckley has stated that we have until eight o'clock tomorrow morning to find him. If I'm right about him using his sister's cabin, we should have Agent Durant back safely before mid- night. If I'm wrong..."

Mulder sighs. "If I'm wrong, we'll have a very loud clock ticking in our ears."

11:32 a.m. (19hrs 28mins remaining)

Mulder is not as powerful as we thought he was, and I've been forced to hold at Headquarters and man the phone lines. I suppose Skinner knows what he's doing, and I guess it's best to ensure that Adam keeps at least one of his parents, though I know that Mulder will think twice before jumping into trouble.

Besides, Skinner has made Mulder stay in the van when it arrives at the cabin, and he's only to get out once Buckley's in cuffs.

Skinner really loves his godson.

So I'm bored to tears, sitting next to one of four hotline phones that we hope won't ring. If they do ring, it's because Buckley's been spotted, and that means he's not in West Virginia, and that means that Mulder was wrong, and...

No. I won't allow myself to think that. Mulder's right, he's always right. Always been right, always will be right. Boy, would he kill to hear me now.

A ringing phone cuts through the thick silence of the "war room", and my heart begins to pound. It rings again, however, and I realize that it's my cell phone, and not the hotline.

With relief, I answer, "Hello?"

"Dana? Where are you?" My mother sounds terribly confused, and I suddenly remember that I forgot to call her before I left so early this morning.

"Oh, Mom, I'm sorry. I'm in DC at Headquarters; Ronnie's been kidnapped." Her gasp of surprise is the response I'd expected, and I quickly fill her in on the non-classified details.

"Fox will be okay, won't he? I mean, he won't do anything stupid, right?"

Despite the seriousness of Mom's question, I chuckle softly. "I think he'll look before he leaps. He's got many good reasons not to end up in the hospital now."

"Dana," my mother says, her voice unsure, "he's always had good reasons not to end up in the hospital, and it never stopped him before!"

I laugh even harder. "Well, back then, he knew I'd be okay if he was in traction. He didn't have anyone else to answer to. But now..." My laughter stops abruptly so I can speak with the seriousness this next part deserves. "He's so afraid of missing Adam's life, Mom. I had to assure him that Adam won't really remember those five months his daddy wasn't there. He's rarely out of town for longer than one night anymore. The two weeks he was just in Denver nearly killed him! And after last night..." I pause again, realizing that since the first phone call woke us up early this morning, I haven't thought about our discussion at all.

"Dana? Dana, what happened last night?"

I bite my lip, not sure if I want to let my mother in on our plans. I know she'll approve, but God knows if it doesn't work out, she'll be devastated. Mulder and I will be upset enough; do we really need Mom bummed out, too?

"Honey, is everything all right? Please talk to me..."

I've been quiet far to long to let this go now; I'll have to tell her. But I'll do my best to keep her looking at this whole thing realistically.

"Mom...uh, Mulder and I had a talk last night and...well, we decided we're going to try to have another baby." Mom's second shocked gasp of the morning rings in my ear, and I start talking again. "But keep in mind, Mom, that we have no idea if I'm even capable of having more children. I'm still not a hundred percent sure how I was able to conceive Adam, and if that was just a miracle then..."

"Sweetheart, I know not to get my hopes up," Mom cuts in. "I appreciate you telling me anyway. You'll have nothing but support from me, and if you want to try and see what a clinic can do for you, I'd be glad to help pay..."

Now I interrupt her. "No! No, Mom, we're just going to let nature take its course. Fate has ruled Mulder and me since the beginning, and I don't think she's going to let go now."

"You're probably right, Dana. I wish you luck, and if you need me to baby-sit more often so you can try this..." Now she chuckles, and I feel my cheeks burning.

"That's quite all right, Mother. I think we'll stick to our regular schedule, thank you very much. Just please don't tell anyone else? I don't need Tara calling me once a week to get a progress report."

"You got it. Mom's the word. Ha! I guess it will be if it works, huh?"

I roll my eyes. My mother has the oddest sense of humor, and it breaks out into the open at the oddest times.

"Mom, I've gotta go, I'm supposed to be manning the phones here."

"Okay, dear. Don't worry about Adam, he's having a blast being spoiled to death. You just take your time, because I can keep him all weekend if need be."

"Great. This whole mess her will be over soon, I hope. I'll call you when Ronnie's safe, okay?"

"Okay. 'Bye Dana."

"'Bye Mom." I flip off my phone and throw my head back and sigh. My eyes find the upside-down form of Walter Skinner. It occurs to me that I just had that phone call here in FBI Headquarters, where people are walking in and out of my room all the time. I slowly raise my head and stand up, ready to apologize for the personal call in the middle of a crisis.

But Skinner doesn't look like he's in his Reprimanding Mode; he actually looks...pleased?

Oh shit. He heard *that*. Who else is in the room?

I guess my shock and fear is seen on face as I spin around to take attendance, because Skinner just says, "Don't worry. I'm the only one who heard it." I face my former boss again and smile gratefully. "I won't tell Mulder I heard, so long as I get to be at the next one's birth, too."

My smile widens at the confidence in that statement. "Thank you, Skinner. You've got yourself a deal. I just hope you won't be my Lamaze partner again."

When SACs Colton and Doggett enter two minutes later, Skinner and I are still in the grips of laughter.

"Um, AD Skinner? We just got a call from Agent Mulder." Skinner and I shut up instantly and stare at Doggett until he continues. "They found the cabin, and it appears that Buckley's in there."

I breathe a sigh of relief. The hard part's over; now we just need to get Ronnie out of there alive.

3:57 p.m. (16hrs 3mins remaining)

It feels like half the Bureau has stuffed itself into this tiny room, listening to the radio that is detailing every move the team makes.

Right now, snipers are trying for a third time to get a clear shot at Buckley. There are five windows, all covered in blinds, but the blinds are open. We're assuming that this is so Buckley can see out, not so we can see in.

Despite Bureau policy not to negotiate for an agent's life, Mulder is doing his damnedest to talk around it. He's been promising Buckley everything if he'll give himself up, from dropping the escape charges to extra movies every week. He's told Ronnie's life story, as much as he knows anyway, to try and make Buckley emotional. He's tried sympathy, empathy, and a zillion other tricks, but Buckley hasn't budged from his original terms.

He wants his father's killer in jail.

But there's a problem with that. John Hamilton died three years ago. We haven't told Buckley that yet, since the knowledge could cause him to go into a rage and kill Ronnie.

Of course, he might be satisfied and give up.

It's our last-minute plan, saved literally for the last minute. If, at 7:59 a.m. we haven't gotten Ronnie back, Mulder will make that announcement. If Buckley makes any hostile movement, noise, whatever, the SWAT team will come at the small cabin with full power. We can only hope that Ronnie knows this and can get out of harm's way.

"Arthur, even if Hamilton's in jail, you won't get your father back." Everyone here sighs as Mulder reverts to his first and most-used tactic. "And there's no way he'll be held for more than involuntary manslaughter, which is minimal jail- time, and he can get off for good behavior."

Colton groans in my ear. The ladder-climbing asshole's been sniffing my hair all day. "Jesus, why doesn't he just tell the guy that we've got Hamilton in custody? Then everyone's happy and no one gets hurt."

Every thirteen minutes and ten seconds, Colton suggests that inane tactic. I'm finding it very hard not to swing around and smack him.

But this time, he adds a new zinger: "Guess you lose the gift when you've been taken by little green men!"

I can't hold it in anymore. I stand up so fast my chair falls back and before I know what I'm doing my fist has connected with Colton's piggish head and he falls to the floor with a grunt.

"They're gray!" I correct him, my tone of voice clearly stating my authority to know that particular piece of trivia.

Everyone just flicks their eyes from Colton to me until I finally turn away from him and put my attention back on the radio. I think I hear someone call for an ice pack, but I hear Colton dismiss it and leave the room. Then the room breaks out into laughter.

SAC Doggett plops down in the seat next to me and gives me a respectful pat on the back.

"You know, Scully, I've wanted to do that since I first met that stupid bastard! Glad to know there's someone in the world who can put him in his place."

The only response I can think of is "I told him I'd one day watch him fall on his ass."

Doggett just laughs harder and pats my back again. He notices my concentration on the radio, and he makes a high pitch whistle that gets everyone's attention. "Come on agents, we're not out of the woods yet."

There are a few snickers at his choice of words, but otherwise they're all quiet and refocus on the radio.

Another hour goes by, and I can tell that Mulder's getting quite tired and frustrated. Skinner's getting ready to insist that Mulder take a break and have someone else keep Buckley talking, but a phone call stops those plans.

I grab the hotline phone and ask what information the person has.

"Ma'am, my name is Jessica Davies. I, uh, had a relationship with Arthur Buckley six years ago."

Great. An old girlfriend. "Ms. Davies, do you have any information for us?"

"Yes, ma'am. Uh, when Artie and I broke up, I was pregnant. He didn't know, and I never got the chance to tell him. He's got a son, ma'am."

"Why do you believe that this will help us?" I can't wait for her explanation.

"Well, when we were going out, Artie was always talking about how he was gonna get revenge for his father's death. How he was gonna make the guy who shot his daddy pay. So, when I heard that Artie was convicted for those killings, I figured that's why he did it."

"And?" I still wasn't getting the point.

"My...our son is named for his father. Todd Andrew Buckley, II. I don't know why, but I just felt that maybe if Artie knew that his father wasn't gone f'ever, he wouldn't be out for revenge."

I finally got it, and for some reason it made sense to me, too. "Thank you very much, Ms. Davies. I'm going to hand you over to Agent Doggett right now, and he's going to get some more information from you. You've been a big help."

Before she can say another word, I give the phone to Doggett and I smack the speed-dial to connect me to Mulder's phone.


"Mulder, it's me. Listen, we just got some really good information. Buckley's got a son. He's about six years old, but Buckley doesn't know about him. Mulder, the kid's mom named him for Buckley's father.

Mulder sucks in a breath, and I get the feeling I done good. "Scully, I love you! That might do it!" Before I can return the sentiment (not that he needs to hear it), he's disconnected and talking to Buckley.

"Arthur, your father is still alive." I hear murmured questions filter around the room. "He's alive in you, Arthur. Every child holds a bit of their parents in them. And, Arthur, I've been informed that you have a son. A six-year-old boy who is also part of your father. He's even named for your father. Todd Andrew Buckley...the Second."

My eyes fill with tears as I listen to the passion in my husband's voice. I know he's thinking about that letter we received, and if he's thinking about the immortality part, then he's gotta be thinking that there's a chance at having a second baby.

All we can hear in the next few seconds is the rustle of movement and a relieved shout of "She's alive!"

Everyone in the room lets out a sigh of relief, but until we hear the official word from Mulder, no one dares celebrate.

Finally, he gets on the radio. "Agents, Arthur Buckley is in federal custody, and Agent Durant is back among the free. She's perfectly fine, just a couple of scratches. Well done, everyone!"

Now a cheer rises from the crowded room, and all I can do start counting the minutes until my husband and my best girlfriend are back in my arms.

XII - Begin Again [["It's just a beginning, Dana. Just a beginning."]]

September 5, 2003 12:11 p.m.

Adam is skipping down the sidewalk, eager to reach the front doors of the sacred building.

"Adam!" I call, just before he bounds around the corner and out of my sight. "Stay with Mommy, Adam!"

His dusty blonde head droops and he begins to slowly plod back to me. He knows a scolding when he hears it and reacts in a way I know he didn't get from his father: he listens to me.

In a moment I feel his little hand curl around mine and I give it a little squeeze, just so he knows I'm not mad at him.

"Soon as we're in, little buddy, you can have free reign, okay?" I stop for a moment to kneel down and look into my baby boy's eyes. Adam has Mulder's eyes, a fact that I'm deeply grateful for. I find it so easy to read them, as they speak the same language that I began to learn eleven years ago.

He smiled his adorable apology smile, one thing he definitely learned from dear ol' Dad. "Yes, Mommy." I smiled back and leaned in to give him an Eskimo kiss, then stood up and resumed our walk to the Bureau.

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, tourists are no longer clogging the streets. Children are back in school, and adults are back at their jobs. So there is not quite as long a line as there has been the past few months at the tour door, not quite as many jealous glares at Adam and me as we enter the employee door.

True to my word, I release Adam as soon as the door shuts behind us. He quickly makes his way to the metal detector, shouting a joyous hello to Arlen.

"Well, hello there Adam," Arlen responds, rubbing a hand fondly over Adam's head. "You here to see your daddy?"

"Uh-huh," Adam affirms with a nod, then squeals, "An' bay-ball 'morrow!"

Arlen looks to me for confirmation. "Baseball tomorrow?"

I chuckle. "Yeah, Mulder got tickets to the Yankee game in Baltimore tomorrow. We're going with my brother and his wife and son. They're visiting from San Diego." Indeed, Billy, Tara and Matty have been in Maryland for a week now, staying first at Mom's but they came over yesterday and will stay until they leave on Tuesday to visit Tara's side of the family.

"Sounds like fun," Arlen agrees. He motions for Adam to step through the gate, and I have to hold back my laughter as Adam slowly tiptoes his way to the other side. He set it off a few weeks ago (he'd found some loose change and put it in his pocket) and now he's almost afraid of the detector.

I glide through after Adam, relieved as always when the chip in my neck goes undetected. I never told Arlen about what set it off that day so many years ago, and he's never asked for details, and I'd very much like to keep it a family secret.

I bid Arlen a fond farewell, but he pulls me aside and quickly whispers, "Amy's pregnant!" in my ear. So a few more minutes are wasted as I congratulate him and ask for all the details he knows so far. I'm genuinely happy for Arlen and Amy; they've been married nine years now and have had all sorts of trouble conceiving. Eventually they turned to science, though Arlen doesn't want to say which procedure worked.

Suddenly, I find myself thinking about all the people that I know who have had troubles with conception. Myself not included, of course, since any troubles I would have -- should have -- had were not natural at all. But Bill and Tara eventually went to fertility drugs; now Amy and Arlen, and I know of at least five other couples who have had to turn to science when nature has failed them. I have to wonder if nature isn't trying to send a message: Six billion is just about maximum capacity, folks! Yet the human desire and need to procreate is far too strong, and with today's technology, issues that prevented gross over-population in the past are becoming non-issues.

A tug on my hand pulls me from my philosophical thinking. Adam wants his daddy.

We descend into the basement's depths, and Adam bursts from the elevator as its doors open into the hallway, running to Mulder's office and shoving the door open with a gleeful "Daddeeee!" as his greeting.

"AJ, my man!" Mulder coos, happily receiving his son's hug. He looks up and catches my eye. "Hey, Scully. Where've you been?"

I glance at my watch; true, we are about ten minutes later than usual. "Life," I say with a shrug. "You weren't worried, were you?"

Mulder shakes his head, releasing Adam so he could run around the office and inspect all the interesting tidbits. "Nah, not yet. I figured that there was a traffic holdup, or that you ran into someone upstairs. Did you see Ronnie at all?"

"No." I look around and realize that Mulder's partner is nowhere to be seen. "Where is she? Did she show up today?"

Mulder nods and holds up a hand to reassure me. "Yeah, she left about fifteen minutes ago. She's got a *real* date for lunch today," he reveals, in a low, conspiratorial whisper.

My face brightens with my grin. "A *real* date? You mean, with a guy? A possible suitor?"

My darling husband chuckles. "Yep. Some guy she met at a party a few weeks ago. They've kept in touch over the phone and the Internet, and they decided to see each other again." Mulder laughs again, though this time I swear it's more of a cackle. I barely hold in a cackle of my own; I've encouraged Ronnie for months, years to break the mold that Mulder and I created and get herself a life. I don't want her to end up an old spinster like I would have if Mulder wasn't so damn irresistible -- and available.

Adam has finished his rounds and runs back to Mulder, begging for some lunch. I sigh. Our boy has an enormous appetite, and God knows where he gets it. As Mulder constantly points out, I eat like a bird, and I never fail to retort that while he will put away a fair amount of food in one sitting, he'd forget that food existed unless Ronnie or I remind him.

Mulder announces that we're going as he saves his work on the computer and five minutes later, we're outside in the bright early autumn sunshine, trying to decide where the best place for a picnic is.

1:01 p.m.

"So Bill and Tara had other things to do today?" Mulder asks around a mouthful of chili dog.

"They took Matty out to Annapolis," I say, wiping some excess ketchup from the corner of Mulder's mouth. "Bill's got a meeting with some Navy brass, which is why they came out here in the first place, and I guess he's gonna check out some of Dad's old stomping grounds."

With a sudden shiver I realize that this Christmas will mark ten years since Ahab passed away. Who knew ten years could go by so fast, with so much important stuff happening in those years? I look back at Mulder, who's trying to clean Adam up -- not very successfully, however -- and I can't help but remember that I've only known Mulder ten of my nearly forty years -- only 25% of my life! And in that short time span, I've lived through more heartache, tragedy, sadness, joy, and fulfillment than most people have in their full life span.

I lean over and embrace Mulder, which impedes his task of cleaning his son, but he doesn't complain, returning my hug even though I know he's terribly confused. I release him and together we take on the task of getting chocolate pudding out of Adam's ears.

Mulder sighs. "AJ...what will we do with you?" he asks rhetorically, reaching for a new napkin.

Adam's only response is a giggle and a squirm as I hit a spot behind his ear where he's quite ticklish. In a few minutes he's squeaky clean and raring to go; he spies a group of college- aged kids playing baseball on a make-shift field a few blocks from us on the Mall.

"Bay-ball, Daddy! P'ay bay-ball!" he insists, tugging on Mulder's shirt.

"We're going to see baseball tomorrow, Li'l Bullfrog," he gently reminds his son.

Adam is not deterred. "Bay-ball now! Kid, Daddy, bay-ball!" Now he's jumping up and down, pointing towards the kids to whom Mulder's back is turned.

Sighing again, Mulder turns and sees what Adam's all excited about. From the look on his face, I can tell that Mulder wants to do nothing more than take Adam and go join the pick-up game, but then he frowns with a glance towards his watch.

"AJ, I've got to get back to work soon. I don't have time..." As he says these words, which Adam knows all too well, Adam stops jumping and his face falls. I hold back the urge to pull my baby into my arms and scold Mulder for disappointing his son. I know it breaks Mulder's heart when he's suddenly called out of town for a case and can't follow through on his plans with Adam; Skinner and Ronnie both tell me that Mulder will do as much of the job over the Internet as he can, leaving home only as a last resort.

I look at my watch, too, and see that it's pretty close to one-fifteen: Mulder's due back at the office by one-thirty, so we'll have to get moving pretty soon.

But, then again...

"Mulder, what's waiting for you down there?" I ask in all seriousness. "Ronnie's probably going to be late, which I'm sure you had already realized. Skinner knows where you are; he'd be here himself if he didn't have that one o'clock conference call. I think you can play hooky for a little bit."

Mulder just stares across the field, and for a moment I don't think he heard me, until he nods. "Yeah, I think I can justify hanging out here for a while...Scully, look at that boy," he instructs, pointing at one of the shorter kids.

"The one on third?" I ask for verification.

"Yeah. Does he look familiar to you?"

I study the boy as he takes a lead off the base, prepared to dash home at any moment. At first I think that Mulder's crazy, seeing things that aren't there, until the boy turns around...and looks right back at us.

I blush and look away, embarrassed at being caught staring, and mumble, "Looks like an ordinary kid, Mulder."

"Well, this ordinary kid has just left his ball game and is quickly approaching us," Mulder reports, grabbing Adam's hand to make sure he doesn't run off.

"Fox ? Dana?" the kid calls, and I suddenly recognize him as Gibson Praise.

"Gibson?" Mulder and I say together.

Next thing I know, Gibson's taking a seat in front of us, wiping beads of sweat off his forehead. "I told you he was okay," he says to me with pride.

"You did?" Mulder looks at me in confusion, and it occurs to me that I never told him about the run-in with Gibson and Phoebe three years ago.

"Um, yeah," I confirm sheepishly. "Three years ago, while you were gone," I explain, "I got a call from our favorite Scotland Yard Inspector, saying she had found a boy who was asking for us. Turned out to be Gibson, who was suffering from a bit of amnesia. Called himself Gregory Prescott."

"Really?" Mulder asks, turning to Gibson.

"Yes. As soon as I saw Dana, though, I began remembering everything. And I remembered you with that man you called the Bounty Hunter. I knew you'd be all right. He'd never meant to harm any of you."

"Gibson, what are you doing here?" I ask curiously.

"Oh, I'm visiting GWU; I'm starting there next year."

Indeed, Gibson does appear to be the right age to be a senior in high school, but something doesn't jibe...

"How do you know so early?" Mulder asks, picking up on the detail that eluded me. "Not even students going Early Decision know this early."

Gibson smiles enigmatically, and I suddenly feel that Gibson's about to share a secret with us.

"Well, in the last few years I've discovered that along with reading minds, I can also see the future. Actually, I...oh!" His startled noise is directed at Adam, as he sees our son for the first time. "This is Adam? I wondered if it would be a boy or a girl."

Gibson introduces himself to Adam, who's delighted to get a new friend. "So, Fox , do you like working with Ronnie?"

Mulder's taken aback momentarily; he's forgotten how easily Gibson can pry into our heads. "Oh, well, it's good enough. I mean, she's a good agent and all, and I wouldn't give up Adam to get Scully back..."

Gibson just nods. I find myself curious about his claim that he can predict the future, but before I can say anything, Gibson says, "She's going to be adorable, Dana. And perfectly healthy, too, despite it all."

I just stare at him as he plays patty-cake with my son. "What do you mean, Gibson?"

He doesn't respond, choosing to finish the game, then finally meets my eyes. "I told you it was just a beginning, Dana." This time I don't have time to react as a boy from the ball field calls his name, and Gibson jumps up and runs back to his friends, a farewell casually tossed over his shoulder.

8:07 p.m.

Mulder stands behind me, his arms possessively wrapping around my waist. We haven't moved in the last five minutes; I think we've set a new world record for breath-holding and staring at one spot.

The rest of the family is downstairs. I can vaguely hear Tara trying to wear Matty down, who's having the best time ever with his cousin. Matty is used to being the baby, and now finally he's got a cousin who he can romp with and boss around. Adam thoroughly enjoys the extra attention he's getting, too, from all three San Diego Scullys.

Billy has earned some serious points tonight by insisting to take the check at dinner, and he even consented to stopping off at the nearest CVS on the way home. Not like he had much of a choice, considering Mulder was driving, but he didn't give any grief as I quickly ran in, Tara in tow. Billy was definitely curious about my one small purchase, but Tara agreed not to say a word, leaving Billy angry that he was obviously out of the loop.

He'd complained, "It's not like it's a girl thing! Mulder knows what's up! Why can't you tell me?"

Tara calmed him with the simple assurance that "It is a girl thing, Bill. And Mulder knows because they're *married*." I truly love my sister-in-law.

A beeping noise alerts us that our time is up. Mulder silences his watch, and together we suck in a breath. I hold up my purchase, and a grin splits my face.

Looks like we're having another baby.

XIII - Holy Smoke! [[From the ashes comes life -- and didja hear about the church that caught on fire?]]

April 4, 2004 9:43 a.m.

It's times like this that I'm glad I convinced Mulder to buy the minivan.

Last night we were all up late partying at Mom's house, celebrating Billy's birthday and Charlie's big promotion. It was nice of them to drag their families out here, especially Charlie since Jason and Tim began their Easter breaks three days early, but they know I'm in no condition to fly.

Today we forced ourselves up so we could all go to church. Mulder's become quite the little parishioner the last few months, and I think it's because he wants to thank somebody--anybody--other than Cancerman for allowing him a second shot to play over-protective father-to-be. I never held Mulder's lack of religion against him, for his beliefs in Little Green Men were as strong as mine in God, but I admit that it's nice to have him next to Adam and me in the pew.

"How do you feel this morning, Dana?" asks my concerned sister-in-law.

"I feel fine, Tara. She's pretty mellow right now. I suspect I won't feel any huge movements until the most inconvenient moment possible," I hypothesize with a grin.

Tara smirks. "You know it."

"Mommy, is Father Avery doing the Mass today?"

Tara turns around and gently smiles at six-year- old Matthew. It amazes me how much he's grown since I saw him last, just seven months ago.

"No, sweetie. Father Avery's back in San Diego. But I'm sure you'll like Aunt Dana's priest, right?" She looks to me for confirmation.

"Oh sure," I agree. "Adam really likes Father McPherson, right Adam?"

My three-year-old nods his head. "Fa-duh Mac is cool," he assures his older cousin. Matt just bites his lip, looking a tad worried, but goes back to quietly playing with his Game Boy.

"Father McPherson?" asks a concerned voice from the front seat. "What happened to Father McCue?"

Now I bite my lip, wondering how to explain to Billy why we don't go to Father McCue's church anymore. "Well, Father McPherson's church is right in town, which is easier to get to most of the time." Luckily, Billy accepts that without another word. I catch Mulder's eye in the rear view mirror, and I know he's thinking 'close call' much like I am.

In reality, Father McCue was a bit displeased with the order I built my family. I know Mom tried to explain it to him many times, but even Mom is missing some facts, and I could never tell him the whole story. Then, to top it all off, he found out about our quickie marriage at the courthouse, and was insulted enough to tell Mom to ask me to find another church to attend.

Everyone falls into silence as we close the final miles between home and the church.

9:53 a.m.

Our clan neatly covers an entire pew. Adam's standing in the aisle, talking excitedly to another little boy, Robbie, whose family is a regular at the Sunday, 10 o'clock, High Mass.

Billy's looking around with a critical eye; he's trying very hard not to mention how different the church is from Father McCue's. It's not different like another sect or denomination is different, it just looks different. It's in another town and stuff, and Billy's not a big fan of change, so he sees every minute difference.

Matt's trying to find excuses to leave, but Tara's a smart cookie, and she's not buying any of it.

Mulder's sitting oh-so quietly next to me, staring up at the altar. He's in some sort of daze, and if it weren't for the gentle rubbings of his fingers on my belly I'd think he was hypnotized.

Speaking of that belly....Right now little Anna is quite happy to be in church. Great, that makes one of us.

And yes, her first name will be Anna. It's such a classic name, and it was Samantha's middle name, so it's a nice tribute without being too obvious. Billy thinks having an Adam and an Anna will get confusing, but I don't plan on giving them the same initials. So Jessica, Janis/Janice, Jamie, Janelle, and all other J's are out. Unfortunately, that leaves 25 letters that are very in.

The bells of the church chime out the hour, and I pull Adam back to the pew. He sits between Mulder and Matt, folding his hands in his lap like an angel. I see Matt give Adam a look that suggests that Adam is a kiss-up. That's when I realize that Billy really did contribute his genes to Matt's DNA. Who knew?

Mass begins, following the same rituals that the Scullys have known for years. Out of the corner of my eye I see Billy finally start to relax as he finally finds his comfort zone.

About five minutes into the service, I notice Adam getting antsy in his seat. I have to wonder why; he's always been quiet and patient for the service.

Father Mac rambles on, quoting from the Old Testament, breaking out into spontaneous prose, grabbing the kids' attention with a few carefully chosen analogies or magic tricks. Usually his tactics work perfectly, but this morning is different.

All the kids are fussy, from the spic-and-span altar boys to womb-bound Anna. Something is not right. My sixth (or seventh?) sense kicks in, dragging my Agent persona out from the dark, dusty corner of my mind.

I nudge Mulder with my elbow, and when our eyes meet, I see that he's noticed the unrest, too. I reach across him and lightly tap Adam's arm. He looks at me, and his face is one of confusion and worry.

"What's wrong?" I whisper as quietly as possible. He just shakes his head and scoots a little closer to his father. Frowning, I turn my attention to Matt, who's trying to get his mother's attention.

"Stop it, William Matthew," Billy hisses out of the corner of his mouth. Matt instantly calms, but his feelings still show brightly in his eyes. He's scared.

I hesitate only a moment before I overrule Billy's decree and ask Matt what's wrong.

He looks at his dad, who's none too pleased, but answers, "I smell something weird. Like someone left a hot dog on the stove too long."

I sit back and sniff the air. I can't detect any smell of burning or food, nothing other than the normal candle-scent. Glancing around discreetly, I note that other children are wrinkling their noses; it must be a very faint smell, since no one over fifteen seems to notice.

There's really nothing to do for now, so I sit back and try to figure out what the heck Father Mac is talking about.

Another ten minutes pass.

And then all Hell breaks loose.

10:18 a.m.

It starts so far away that only those with the best nostrils notice. But little by little, it grows and becomes more obvious.

Within three minutes after I first realized that Matt was right, the flames were flicking their way into the large hall. The church was on fire.

Mulder and I immediately begin to take charge. Almost everyone who regularly attends this Mass knows who we are, so no one gives us crap for barking out orders. The older children grab the hands of the young ones and begin to file out towards the door. Mulder tells me to get the heck out because of the baby, but I'm hesitant to do so. It feels wrong to run away now after years of being in control of crises.

Slowly but surely, we make our way to the large doors that lead out to the street. Mulder's already on his cell phone with 9-1-1, calmly instructing them to send a few trucks our way. And an ambulance, just in case.

The first wave of kids make it to the door, opening it as far as their little arms could.

Then I hear a loud crack, and four huge beams from the ceiling come crashing down, effectively trapping everyone inside the smoldering church.

And still I remain calm.

Mulder updates the 9-1-1 operator on the newest developments, requesting a couple more ambulances, in case we end up inhaling a lot of smoke. The operator then informs him that due to an overturned tractor-trailer that caused a pile-up on Route 40, the emergency vehicles are being torn in two directions, and others can't get past it to make it into town. She says she'll request some vehicles from cities to the East, like Catonsville, but it will probably take a while.

With that in mind, I send Billy with Father Mac to find a reasonably cool and smoke-free area of the church that the group can get into for now. They're off, heading for some offices in the basement.

Mulder instructs everyone to sit in the pews; the fire isn't really around us yet, so we're safe for now. Long moments pass by, and I begin to worry as Anna becomes agitated. I rub my belly, begging her to relax, murmuring that everything will be okay, don't worry. Yes, I do realize that I'm reassuring myself as well.

"Scully? How are you doing?"

I try to smile for Mulder, just so he can put his attention to more important things and people who need his help. "I'm..." Before the next word can even begin to form in my mouth, Mulder's face hardens in disapproval. "Sorry. How about, I'm doing as well as can be expected for a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy?"

He sighs and relaxes a bit. "That's okay. Just be careful, right? I want you to sit right here unless it's safe for you to move somewhere else. I'll come get you."

I decide to indulge Mulder's paternal side. "All right. Go find out who left and whose families are split up." A thought occurs to me. "Did Adam and Matt get out?"

Mulder shakes his head. "No, they weren't very close to the door when the rafters fell. They're okay, just a little scared. Wendy Flath is watching over all the little kids."

I nod, glad to know my baby boy's in good hands. Wendy's a regular babysitter in the local neighborhoods. Mulder and I don't use her often, since Mom's always insisting that we call her for Adam. Not that Mulder and I have gone out lately...

But that's not important right now. We need to find a way out of here. We need to...

"Shit," Mulder mumbles.


"I lost the 9-1-1 connection. The fire's starting to cause problems, I think."

I sigh. "Well, at least they're on their way. We shouldn't need any more help--"

And that's when I feel it. The warm dripping of a liquid down my leg.


10:42 a.m.

Well, pant, I'm officially in, huff, labor. For the last--what? ten minutes?--I've been suffering through steadily increasing contractions, without an epidural. Yes, I chickened out with Adam, taking comfort over efficiency. This time, however, I'm forced by circumstance to go completely natural. I'd planned to do that anyway, since Mulder would be present this time; last time I already hurt so much due to his absence, any more pain may have killed me.

My children need to learn the meaning of "good timing." Adam was born during a hellish sleet- storm; Anna's being born during a fire in my church. I wonder if their personalities will be as opposite as the temperatures they're born into. And if they are, I wonder if that will be a good thing.

Yeeeaaaaaoooowwww!!! No time to think...must... get...creature...out...now!!!

Okay, that's it for now...I hope. Mulder's got his cell phone working (I swear, Nokia should sign him as their spokesperson; the damn thing can work anywhere!) and is getting instructions from Aly, my OB, on how to safely deliver his baby in case the fire department and ambulance don't arrive in time.

Aly and I have agreed that my inhaling the smoke is what started labor. From the regular ultrasounds I had done every two months, we know that Anna will be perfectly healthy being born now, just a little small, but after a day or two in the hospital, I'll be able to take her home.

Oooooohhhhhhh dear! That wasn't my regular 3-and- a-half minutes between contractions! Shit, Anna, you have to be difficult, don't you? Can't just be born on--oowww!--your predicted birthday, could you?

"Mulder!" I screech with the realization that our daughter is quite ready to meet her daddy and brother. Not me, though. She obviously doesn't care about my feelings. God, I'm giving birth to a teenager.

"Aly says breathe, Scully. Just breathe. The firemen are here, Scully. They're hacking their way in as we speak. You're gonna be fine."

Like shit I'm gonna be fine.

(Have you noticed how I become a salty sailor like Ahab and Billy when I'm giving birth?)

Enough of this, I want my daughter! When the next contraction ends, I ask Mulder to measure my cervix. Once the shock leaves his face, he gulps and does so, using his fingers--hee-hee, that tickles!--to gauge how dilated I am.

"You look about ten centimeters, Scully. I mean, I don't have my ruler with me, but..."

That's all I need to hear. "Great! Next I'm gonna push, okay?!" He nods nervously, then glances over his shoulder.

"Tara! Can you take over with Aly? I gotta play Posada."

Tara snickers at the eye-roll that Billy doesn't think I see, then takes the phone from Mulder's hand. "Do want Adam to see this, guys?"

I'm not really thinking clearly right now, so I let Mulder answer for me. Luckily, we've been discussing this forever, and a few nights we finally came to a decision.

"Tara, bring AJ over here, but him up by Scully's head. He can hold her hand and help her push."

Tara smiles. "Got it." She calls out to Adam, who comes running over.

"Whassup?" he asks, looking a little confused.

"AJ, my li'l bullfrog, Mommy's having the baby," Mulder gently explains. "Remember how we told you that you could help Mommy? Can you do that now?"

Adam nods excitedly and runs over to my side, placing a kiss on my sweaty cheek. "Time, Mommy?"

"Oh yeah," I gasp. "You're about to meet your sister, kiddo." Aw poop, here it comes...."Help me out here, Adam," I instruct between painfully- clenched teeth.

With a little bit of help from my firstborn, the second one is out in this fiery inferno within minutes. Oh, my little Anna...

Mulder strips to his waist, using his non-sooty undershirt to wrap up our daughter. Before we can get acquainted with her, the firemen break through the barriers, looking quickly around to help out those most in need. Like me.

Within minutes, I'm on a stretcher in the cool April morning air.

3:57 p.m.

I wake up to a goopy kiss from my older child. Christ, he's the older one now; that means there's a younger one!

"How's Anna doing, kiddo?" I ask softly, not sure if she's in my room asleep or not.

"Annie's good," Adam announces proudly. I smile at the nickname he's already bestowed on his sister. Mulder once told me that the moment Samantha was born he started calling her Sammie. Must be genetic.

"Where is she?" I think she may be hungry. God, my boobs ache.

"They're gonna bring her in as soon as I tell them you're awake. Want me to get her?" Mulder informs me from the doorway.

I nod, and Mulder steps back into the hall and nods to someone, presumably the nurse in charge of the nursery. He comes fully inside my room--a private room, how'd he manage that?--and perches on the corner of my bed.

"The church is pretty much gone, Scully," he admits. "Most everything was reduced to ashes."

"Ashes," I repeat dejectedly. I really liked that church. "Are they going to build over it?" He shrugs and asks why. "Well, that's where Anna was born. It'd be nice to continue to worship there."

Mulder nods in understanding. "You know, it's kind of ironic. One extra body came out of a fire that usually destroys."

A sudden vision pops into my brain. "She's a Phoenix. Born from the ashes."

There's a moment of quiet, then, so softly, Mulder says, "Anna Phoenix. That'll work."

XIV - Soror Altera [[Someone is watching...]]

June 13, 2009

I sit on the park bench, not fifty yards from them, and they continue on with their picnic, no clue that I'm watching them.

For a Friday in June, it's a beautiful day. The temperature is cool, reminding me of mid-April. The sky is clear, save a few wisps of condensation that hover at the horizon.

The park is crowded today; school let out a few days ago here in Ellicott City. I know Adam is happy about that, he told me on the last day.

I know little Adam Mulder quite well, as I should. He's been my student for a whole year, rising well above the other second graders. I hope I get his sister, darling baby Anna, when she reaches that age. She's five now, so I guess she's not a baby any longer. But I'm sure Dana will always call Anna her baby girl.

Dana is one of those mothers that teachers pray will be involved in their children's classes. Dana is a great organizer; as Homeroom Mom she produced the best Christmas and Valentine's Day parties I'd ever been to. She chaperones all the field trips that Adam goes on, though I suspect she'll back off once he hits Middle School. Though by that time, Anna will be needing a Homeroom Mom of her own.

And Fox . Fox Mulder is a blessing to children everywhere. Though he works for the FBI, he still finds time to coach basketball and baseball leagues at the school. He even sets up mini-tournaments with other schools in the district. And I know a few of my fellow women teachers like to stay after on the days of practice, just to witness the sight of Coach Mulder in mesh shorts and a tank top.

And while I'd like to ogle with them...well, being related basically takes all the fun out of it.

Not that he knows that I'm related.

No, Fox William Mulder has no idea that charming Ms. Reed is, actually, his twin sister.

I was born on October 13, 1961 to Bill and Teena Mulder, though our real father was not determined until years later. Teena named me Alexandria, which hasn't changed. When I was taken by our real father, however, he legally changed my name from Mulder to Reed.

I was seven months old when he took me from my mother. Barely weaned off the breast and too young to remember anything about my family.

But I found out anyway. When Sam joined us in 1973, I learned that she was my sister. From that, I figured out that I had a twin brother as well. Sammy had a habit of talking in her sleep, and even though she swore she couldn't remember her life with Mom and Fox and Bill Mulder, she would have conversations with Fox in her sleep.

Dad didn't bother keeping it from me then. I was twelve, so he felt it was all right for me to know.

Besides, although I didn't know it at the time, I was a mother. One of the earliest experiments they did on me was to take a sample of my ova to see if it would be viable to create another human while I was still pre-pubescent.

It was. I was ten when my son was born.

I didn't get to help raise him, considering my age, but I was allowed to name him. Michael Leigh Reed. I don't know why, really. My favorite nurse was Annabelle Michaels, and my best friend was Leigh Jackson.

Not that it mattered that much. He just grew up and changed his name. Last time I heard it was some Russian name...

I left when I was 18. Just up and left. Sam had gone the month before, and since they hadn't dragged her back, I figured she made it okay.

I got into college remarkably; it was the greatest experience of my life. I majored in elementary education, as I'd always wanted to teach second or third grade. I never considered dating or getting married. I found college boys to be terribly asinine, and things never really improved.

So life went on for me. I became a teacher in Illinois for a few years, contentedly teaching 10-year-olds their multiplication tables and the basics of English grammar.

Then three years ago, I was approached by a man who claimed to be my son. He wanted me to keep an eye on Fox for a few years, and he figured the best way to get close would be through his children.

I moved to Ellicott City for selfish reasons. The pay was a bit of an increase, for one. And I wanted to see my brother and his family.

As planned, Adam Mulder was in my second grade class. As expected, his parents became involved. I've grown fond of them this past year. It's been hard not to tell them who I really am, but part of the agreement with my son was that I remain Alexandria Reed, harmless teacher.

Right now, Adam stands and drags his father towards the basketball court. The annual Father-Son 2v2 is going to start in a few minutes. Dana and Anna clean up the family's mess; Dana's fastidiousness has obviously been inherited by *someone*.

I stand up and begin to walk away. I still have years to keep in touch with my family. I hope one day to tell Fox who I really am.

I am the other sister.


Author'S RAMBLING Notes: Wow. When I started this whole thing, I never expected it to get to 14 parts! In fact, this whole series started with two stand- alones (Tenancy Tendencies and May 22) that I thought could be fit into a series. Little did I know...I've enjoyed writing these stories, and I've met some great people through the feedback I've received. Special thanks go to: Laurel, my #1 fan, thanks for your consistent words of praise; Maeve, thanks for helping me out when I was supremely *stuck*; the gals at Touchstone for making me put my homework aside to work on the last part for them; and hey, Smurf? ASININE!!! J/K, I love you all, and I hope to be back soon with other wonderful tales of MSR and Babyfic!

4 out of 5 doctors say expressing your enjoyment of a fanfic to its author increases your life expectancy 23-23.8 years. The other doctor was killed by Cancerman before we could ask him.

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