Title: Not-Quite Daughter
She's not surprised to see Emily bouncing at the foot of her bed, asking if she can have pancakes for breakfast. "Can I, Mommy, please?" Before she can wake enough to say, "stop jumping," she realizes the only thing bouncing is the baby, using her ribcage as a springboard. And she's alone in her mahogany bed. That fateful Christmas at Bill's, when Tara was ready to burst out of her blue dress, she asked Mom whether boys or girls kick harder. Tough little girl, Scully says to this child who, she vows, will never wear pink lace or play with a Barbie doll. And in this long year when anything seems possible--visions in Buddhist temples and miraculous conceptions and lovers coming back from the dead--an apparition of a not-quite daughter is hardly fodder for concern.
It's just her in the office this morning, and she decides the filing cabinets could stand a little organizing before she goes on maternity leave and the next generation does irrevocable damage to what little logic there is. Doggett made a mess of things early that fall while she was too preoccupied with morning sickness and prenatal checkups to guard Mulder's carefully cultivated system, where Donnie Pfaster and the Flukeman exist side by side.
After that bloody, confusing mess of a case that Doggett eventually dubbed "the Butt genie," she looked everywhere for the Pusher file. The parallel, she insisted, was clear: a killer who tricked the eye into believing he was a harmless child and a killer who wrote "pass" on a nametag to gain admittance to the Hoover building. And she knew, with the same certainty that Mulder used to describe "the whammy," where the folder was supposed to be. Or, at least she did BD. Before Doggett. When he finally showed up to work, cocky and sarcastic, she made sure he'd never misplace another file.
Now that Mulder's breathing and walking again, she doesn't hesitate to do what she's wanted to do for so long--impose any amount of order--so when he calls and says, "hey, Scully," and asks her to find something about psychokinesis or black magic or whatever he's into this week, she'll know exactly where to look.
After three hours she has a backache and the beginnings of a database, cases cross-listed and easily obtainable by keyword rather than case number. Fluky and assorted ooky things, ghosts, apparitions, ESP.
"Doesn't nesting ordinarily involve large quantities of baked goods and doll-sized undershirts?" Mulder says, appearing from nowhere and gesturing to the stacks of file folders threatening to tumble from every surface and heaped on the floor at her feet. In her third trimester lethargy, reviewing old reports is much more pleasurable than putting them back.
"What are you doing here, Mulder?"
"Well, seeing as it's lunchtime, I thought I'd take my best girl for a hamburger." He shrugs, the collar of his leather jacket bunching at the ears.
"Partner. Soul mate. One in five billion. You get the drift." He bends over and picks up a file, flips through it absently, then tosses it on the stack on her desk.
"Yeah, give me a minute." She makes a few last notes on the yellow legal pad, too aware of Mulder up against her back. His hands are on her shoulders, kneading gently. She doesn't know whether to be touched or infuriated. One minute he's the sarcastic flirt she was first partnered with and the next he's the doting lover she remembers from the spring. Her own mood swings are bad enough.
"I missed you last night."
He can't keep doing this to her. "Mulder," she chastises, "we had an agreement." She's not sure if she's referring to the rule about no touching in the office or the decision to stay in separate apartments on work nights or both. In this post-resurrection world, none of the old rules seem to apply.
"What do you know about the spirits of dead children haunting their families?" she asks, setting down her heavy glass. This is comfortable and familiar, asking him the wildest question she can think of while they drink milkshakes and wait for their food. She missed this routine more than she missed sex.
Mulder wipes a smear of chocolate from her mouth, and she can't help but smile when he licks his finger. "You mean like that Charlie Holvey case?"
"This for something you and Dogboy are working on?" He stiffens a bit, and she wants to tell him that he shouldn't be threatened. How could a working relationship of less than six months even compare to a partnership of eight years? Only to Kersh, with his doctored statistics, do she and John Doggett make a noteworthy team. There's no number big enough to quantify how much she loves Mulder, how much she grieved for him while he was gone. Why can't he see that?
"No." She says it carefully, letting him hold the weight of that single syllable.
"So it's a personal inquiry then?" His words are measured, and she thinks, not for the first time, how much their conversations resemble chess, every word strategized.
"Yes." Slowly, she exhales. She can't bring herself to look at him right now, so she examines the saltshaker like evidence at a crime scene.
Now she pretends to be transfixed by a catsup smudge. "Yes."
"Wanna fill me in? It's hard to banter when you limit your replies to yes and no."
Scully hears the frustration in his voice. After eight years as partners and several months as lovers, they still aren't good at this type of conversation, when they can't hide behind disciplinary jargon and empty rhetoric. This is her life they are talking about. No, she corrects herself, their life.
"I woke up about 5:00 this morning and Emily was jumping on my bed asking for pancakes. Now, it's widely reported in medical literature that pregnant women often experience nightmares and strange dreams. Stress, combined with hormones and irregular sleep patterns go along way for accounting for what I saw. . ."
Mulder chuckles and lays his right hand over hers. "Talk to me, Scully."
Deep breath, she tells herself, put those childbirth classes to good use. "I'm just trying to figure this all out, Mulder. Where she fits in. What kind of picture this kid is going to draw in kindergarten when they ask her to draw her family. I mean, does she have a big sister? Is she an only child? What do I tell her about her grandparents, for that matter?" She hears her voice getting louder, more agitated. She realizes, with a glaring certainty, that this was the question she wanted to ask all along.
"Not to mention her father."
"I didn't mean for us to get into that now, but, well, yes."
That first morning home, missing a molly and nearly six months of his life, he said he didn't know where he fit in. She wasn't sure either. During her worst bouts of nausea and melancholy, she believed--in the way that Mulder so often believed, without evidence or reason--that he'd come home and they'd buy a house and raise the baby together. Shivering beside Skinner at Mulder's funeral, she started thinking about what she'd tell her child about her father, how she'd be a good single mother.
"There are support groups, Dana," her mother said, "for women like you."
"Career women whose partners aid in miraculous conceptions and then disappear off the face of the planet?"
"No, groups of single mothers. I know someone from church. You could talk to her."
She hadn't chosen to be single, but that day when Mulder agreed to donate sperm, she knew she was choosing to raise a child alone. How could PTA meetings compete with lights in the sky? By the time they became lovers, almost a year later, she'd given up on the idea of a baby. When Mulder finally reminded her, spooned against her backside in an Oregon motel, he spoke of all that had been taken away from her, not from them. The distinction was crucial. And now that he's back, neither one of them knows what kind of family they will hobble together, a mom, a dad, one controlling grandmother, and a crazy godfather for each day of the work week.
It took almost a full week for them to discuss how she got pregnant in the first place; for once, Langly's tactlessness paid off. After the Gunmen took their laptops and left, they sat wordlessly at her kitchen table. Scully watched as Mulder drew patterns in the condensation on his iced tea glass. When he finally looked up, she saw the same uncertainty as the moment, almost two years before, when she asked him to help her conceive. "Well, Scully, inquiring minds want to know. What was involved in a certain blessed event?"
Keep it light, Dana, she told herself. "To the best of my knowledge, it was either Caddyshack and Shiner Bock or Steel Magnolias and merlot."
"You're saying that we did this." But you're sterile, she heard him say, like the teenager who protested, but Dad, we only did it once.
"Unless Eddie van Blundt escaped from prison and impersonated you again, yes." She knew she was hiding, as he often did, behind the almost impenetrable facade of wisecracks. She just wanted to make it easier for them both.
With that single word, she knew he never really wanted a baby, just got caught up in her hormonal excitement and the risks of the unknown.
"Didn't your dad explain the birds and the bees? Can't you just be happy, Mulder? This is the one thing I'd rather not question." For a man who literally came back from the dead, he was having an awfully hard time confronting the everyday miracle of parenthood. When he opened his eyes for the first time in that hospital bed, she wanted to believe this was something he would accept on simple faith.
"I am happy, Scully. I know how much this baby means to you. I'm just. . ."
"Trying to catch up."
"I see." It's too much too soon. She'd rather they not talk about this than have him destroy every fantasy she created while he was gone.
"Scully, when you asked me to father your child, what were you really asking?"
"Just that. For you to be the father of my child." Why does it matter? That child was supposed to be hers; this child was theirs, created, as her mother once explained to her, out of the love shared between a man and a woman. And for a single heart-wrenching moment, she wondered how much he remembered from last spring.
"In what way? In the way that you were Emily's mother?"
She felt his words like a blow to the head. He was the one who winced.
"When I was a baby, did I live in your tummy too?" Emily's face is pressed against her abdomen, thumb in her rosebud mouth.
"When you were very little."
"Like Thumb-a-blina?" It takes her a moment to get the reference, that nursery school story about little girl who lived in a thimble. She'll need to relearn the logic of a child.
"No, sweetie, even smaller than Thumbalina."
"Why did you let me go?" Emily coils around her belly and squeezes. Pain slices through her like a gunshot.
When she opens her eyes, there's a fetal monitor strapped to her abdomen and a nurse checking an IV. "Get some rest, honey, the doctor will be in to see you soon." She's grateful for the baby's rhythmic kicks. The kid has Mulder's sense of timing, she thinks, that uncanny knack of his for showing up just as Eddie van Blundt leans in to kiss her, just as Donnie Pfaster prepares her last bath, just as her uterus threatens to split in two.
"Nurse," she calls with someone else's voice, "my partner?" but the door is already closed. She watches her baby's heart rate rise and fall, and she reminds herself that she loves this man who brings her a family keepsake but can't bring himself to tell the nurse that he's her family. "Partner" is such a perfect and inadequate word to describe him.
She blinks a few times to clear the sleep from her eyes. "Mulder?" she says into the shadows by the window. "What are you doing?"
He's shifting restlessly from foot to foot, arms pretzeled across his chest. He's on edge, and she can't be the strong one right now. "Sorry," he says softly. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"What time is it?" Her head feels thick from the medication, and it's hard to breathe, even with the nasal canula.
"Just after three."
"Mulder?" she asks again. "What are you still doing here?"
He doesn't answer, but moves across the room and sits on the edge of her bed. "When they first brought you in here, the nurse wouldn't let me stay with you." He pauses and smoothes back her hair. "Because I'm not your husband." He touches one finger to the center of her chest. "You're my everything, Scully. You're all I have."
She hears the catch in his voice and holds her breath.
"But I don't know how to be a family."
Well, there it is. She pictures a white crib collapsing and a baby falling to the ground. "A family isn't something you are, Mulder, it's something you work towards, become a part of."
For only the second time, he spreads his fingers across her belly like a basketball. In the light coming from under the door, she wants to see the same wonder in his eyes as she did earlier that day, when she told him she was going to be okay. Instead, she sees something more apprehensive than his panic face.
"This baby needs a father, Scully."
"Yes, she does."
"But I don't know if I can be the kind of father she needs." She hates when he gets this way, self-pitying and morose, but it's nice to know the old Mulder is in there, behind all his insecure jokes about the Pizza Man.
"You're the father she has."
She puts her blue pajamas back on and lets him tuck her into bed, on her left side with more pillows than she knew she owned. He rubs the satiny material at her shoulder, and she almost stops breathing when he slips a finger into the open collar to caress her shoulder blade. The last time he touched her like this they were standing in his doorway, Skinner waiting for a taxi out front. Don't worry, Scully, he said, just a quick trip to the forest.
"I'll be in the other room," he says softly and drops a kiss just above her right eyebrow. "You'll call me if you need anything?" This is the man she loves, with the list from her doctor in his pocket, what to do in case of bleeding or cramps. He missed out on sonograms in 3-D and the thrill of a first kick, but he's back to play the hero when everything threatens to fall apart. Yes, he assured the doctor, I'll stay with her. Yes, I'll make sure she rests.
They still have living quarters, his funeral, and a birth plan to discuss. And she's not sure she'll ever know what to say about Emily. Somehow, though, she feels more secure than she has in months.
"Mulder," she says in this new, sleepy half-voice, "stay."
She sees the scene clearly. She's sitting on the couch with the little girl pressed up against her. A thick photo album rests on her belly, and she swears the baby is trying to kick it off.
"Do you know who this is?" she asks the little girl, pointing at the pre-schooler in a party dress.
"Me!" the girl shrieks.
"No," she says and points to a different girl in a different party dress, blowing out candles on a birthday cake. "This is you. This girl's name is Emily. She was your big sister. And this," she places the child's hand against the baby's roving foot, "is your little sister."
She puts the doll back in its box. She imagines the woman who will never be her mother-in-law rolling over in her grave. Only to her son, the sentimental bachelor, do family heirlooms and greasy pizza belong on the same table.
"There's a file folder in my top dresser drawer. Will you get it?"
He looks at her quizzically. "You ran out of room at the office so you started the X-Files annex in your underwear drawer?"
She laughs softly and puts both hands on her belly. She'll keep them there permanently if it means she can hold this baby in her body for another seven weeks.
"Save me some pizza, will you?" She can tell he's learning to enjoy this part of her pregnancy already. It's an X-File, Scully. A man comes back from the dead and his tofu-eating partner remembers how to appreciate red meat. He didn't say it, but she saw sheer joy in his face when she said she'd die if she didn't have a cheeseburger NOW, Mulder.
He hands her the folder and tucks an afghan around her--she's never quite warmed up from the chill of early pregnancy and autumn in Oregon--before he sits back down on the couch.
"This," she says in the most official voice she can muster, "is the result of an amniocentesis. My second, actually." She hasn't told him yet about the first, running for her life and that of a laboring woman, and she knows it will be a while before she can admit that mistake. "We'll need to do some more tests when the baby is born, of course, but every indication is that this child is perfectly normal." He lets out a long breath.
"And this," she pulls out the fuzzy gray and white image from her sonogram, taken a day after Mulder's funeral, "is our daughter, Mulder."
Acknowledgments: This is for J, due two weeks ago. And for anyone confused by Mulder's recent behavior. Heartfelt thanks to alanna, for brilliant beta, even under the influence of drugs. <g>