Title: Gifts
Author: Kristel S. Oxley-Johns
Rating: PG-13 for language, adult situations
Classification: SR
Archive: Yes. (Redistribute with permission only)
Spoilers: Roadrunners, and FUTURE SEASON 8 EPISODES AS YET UNAIRED
Keywords: Mulder/Scully Romance
Disclaimer: Never have, never will.

Summary: Mulder has returned, but he and Scully have some issues to resolve before they can move forward.

Note: This can be read as a prequel to my story "In Darkness, Light" but is really not a part of the "Hegira" universe. Does not necessarily follow the timeline I established in that story. Warning: Contains spoilers for episodes that have not yet aired.

"In Darkness, Light", "Hegira" and all my other fanfic can be found at my website, http://www.reocities.com/kristeljohns/

 


It was almost September when I bought my first maternity suit. I had a little more of a grace period than most women my size might have had--I'd been wearing larger jackets and untucked blouses for nearly two years at that time. Dana Scully, riding the cutting edge of fashion, that's me. Fact was, I took to the unkempt style like a fish to water for one very pragmatic reason--it was more difficult to look rumpled if one had never looked *unrumpled* to begin with. Hell, Mulder had been doing it for years. In our line of work, it's the little things that count.

So it wasn't until I was well into my second trimester I had to yield to necessity. My blouses were pulling just a little too tight around my breasts, and my skirts were starting to leave indentations where the fabric bit into my waist. If they got any tighter in the rump, I'd start hearing cat-calls from construction crews. It was definitely time to buy new. The first day I walked into work in one of my new suits, I could feel the eyes upon me. What were they seeing? Could they guess? The elastic waistband of the skirt I wore was hidden by the long jacket and the hem of the blouse, but was there any other detail that could betray my secret?

Agent Doggett wanted to say something, I could tell, but he wisely kept his mouth shut. It wasn't his place to comment on my wardrobe. I accepted his presence as an unfortunate necessity, a concession to reality. As much as I hated to admit it, I *couldn't* do it all alone. Indeed, my ability to function would be steadily hampered as my waistline burgeoned over the next five months. Having been thrown into a wall, attacked by a bat-like creature, and kidnapped by a cult intent on making me a host for their worm-god was causing a reluctant re-evaluation of my priorities. I was already doing more than was good for me, much less my intrauterine passenger. Pre-natal vitamins were no substitute for meals I didn't have the time to eat, evenings spent poring over files and in conference with the world's top-three most paranoid men ran a distant second to the rest and care I should have been giving myself--been giving *us*. I got Doggett a desk because I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to hand over the reins-- and he seemed worthy enough, I suppose. Skinner would have been my first choice, but Skinner had too many eyes upon him; he couldn't do what was necessary. I had to begin grooming Doggett to take over while I was incapacitated.

I believe in God, but never let it be said I don't recognize His sense of humor. He allowed me to have what I wanted most, but only at a time when it would be most inconvenient. If I'd known I was pregnant even a week earlier, the entire course of my life would be different now. Just when I needed most to be able-bodied and to stand on my own feet, I was capable of doing anything but. The day would soon come when I would have to choose between searching for Mulder and the child we had created. Yeah, God was up there and make no mistake, He was laughing His ass off at me.

It was unreal--Mulder and I had tried three times to conceive in-vitro. Three times I lay with my legs in the stirrups while the fertilized ova were inserted into my womb. Three times was I informed, ten days later, that my HCG levels failed to confirm the ova had implanted. Three times the diagnosis was confirmed, not long thereafter, in a wash of blood and my own resultant tears. Three times had I met Mulder's hopeful gaze and watched expectation transform to sorrow as he took in my reddened eyes and tear-stained visage.

To this day, I don't know what I was thinking, why I'd even thought to try to conceive. Practicality screamed that it was the absolutely WORST time for me to consider bringing a child into the world. I don't know what made me consult the fertility doctor to begin with. I didn't even allow myself to think about how I would handle issues such as daycare, much less the irresponsibility of having a child when I could very easily leave him or her orphaned when I was killed in the line of duty--or by something much more nefarious. And Mulder never mentioned it either--it was as though we had made a pact of mutual denial. When I had finally told Mulder about my visits to the fertility doctor, asked him to start a family with me, he had agreed and that was that. It was as though we knew a change was coming, a resolution--the crusade we'd been on together was steadily winding to a close, and in deciding to have a child together, we were making a commitment to remain together in the future. Or so I thought.

It was expensive, and health insurance would only do so much, but money wasn't the issue. Mulder and I both rather enjoyed the irony of his inheritance--money he'd gotten from his father's participation in genetic experimentation run by the government--paying for a little genetic experiment all our own. I'd been told, of course, but I hadn't realized how hard it would be. I hadn't believed what the hormone treatments would do to me, how exhausted and drained I would feel. I hadn't known how sore or cranky I would be. I suppose I can use that to justify why I missed what was going on with Mulder. I am certain he used it to justify why he never brought what was going on with him to me. In true martyr fashion, he would say he didn't want to add to my troubles. He had borne his burden alone so I could focus on what had become an idea fixe for me, so I could have my heart's desire.

Damn me for not realizing until too late that I already had my heart's desire--I had Mulder. And damn him for not knowing I wouldn't consider his life an acceptable sacrifice for having a child. If he had told me, I might have been able to help him. I was certainly the most qualified doctor for the job. Damn him especially for making a commitment to a future with me knowing full well he'd be unable to keep it. I know how his thoughts work-- he wanted to give me something to make me happy once he was gone, give me something that I had lost because of my work with him. It's just the sort of grand, noble, generous gesture that Mulder manages to surprise me with once in a while. There were moments I would swear he's the most self-centered, self-involved man on the planet--until the moment comes when *I'm* the center of that singular focus, to the exclusion of all else, including his life and safety. I learned to accept it as being Mulder's way--he's flawed, he's human. He *IS* selfish and self-centered at times. But he'd also give his right arm for me when push came to shove.

I hated it--hated that he thought he knew me, knew what I wanted or should have. If I'd had one inkling of a clue that he was dying, I would have abandoned the fertility treatments and all the associated drain of time and energy and dedicated it all to making him well again. I didn't want a child as a replacement for a man I must inevitably lose--I wanted the real thing. I wanted us to have the child *together*. But we saw the as-yet unconceived child completely differently. I saw it as a hope for our future together...and he saw it as his final present to me.

Typical. So *fucking* typical of him. Sometimes, when I was angry, I'd think that under it all, he's such a martyr not from any true sense of nobility or self-sacrifice, but because he wears it so damned well. But it's not true, and in my more rational (read: less hormonal) moments, I knew that. He did what he did because he loved me. He was just too presumptuous in that love, to think he knew what was best for me.

Had things gone according to his plan, I would have been the pregnant widow. But they didn't go according to his plan, and so instead I was the pregnant--what? What was an appropriate term for a woman knocked up by her alien- abducted lover?

The great irony is that the in vitro was a definitive flop. Thirty-thousand dollars worth of nothing. After the third try, I'd decided it wasn't worth what I was going through. It had been a difficult time, the disillusionment and disappointment of our failure weighing heavily on us both. After confirming yet again that I once again had failed to conceive, I jumped at a ridiculous proposition offered to me by our arch-nemesis, hurting and angering Mulder. A few tense weeks later, I'd all but pushed him out the door to go chase crop circles in England while I ran smack-dab into my past.

For a few seductive moments, I allowed myself to consider what my life might have been if I'd chosen a different path--if I hadn't joined the FBI, hadn't been assigned to the X-Files, hadn't fallen in love with Mulder... If I'd been thinking with anything approaching logic, I would have realized that even if all those what-ifs had been reality, it would only have been a matter of time before Daniel found himself a new mid-life crisis. If he'd gotten tired enough of his wife that he could sleep with one of his students, he could have easily wearied of me and found someone else. The white picket fence fantasy I'd allowed myself in indulge in would never have been reality. The frightening thing was, Daniel had fixated on me for ten years for much the same reason Donnie Pfaster had--I was the one who got away. He didn't want me; he wanted what I represented--an escape from the harm he had done to his family, a prize to make his poor choices worthwhile. It was frightening that I'd even, for a moment, allowed myself to consider that things might have been better if I'd stayed with him.

No, for better or for worse, Mulder and I had a destiny to meet together. And we couldn't do that while I was still hanging onto the loss and regrets for what could never be. And so I'd made a decision...

"I'm not doing the in vitro again," I announced once I had awakened, stretching under the blanket Mulder had spread over me while he made his rounds, turning out the lights, preparing to retire for the night. He paused in the middle of bending over to shut off a lamp and straightened slowly, staring at me.

"Are you sure?" he asked, his face inscrutable. I don't know what I had expected to see in his eyes-- disappointment? Relief? If I saw anything, any hint of sadness, I completely misinterpreted its cause.

"It's not worth it," I said softly. "It's time to move on. There's more to life than struggling to have something that perhaps you were never meant to have."

"Is that what will make you happy, Scully?" he asked, squatting down beside where I sat curled up on the sofa. His hand rubbed my ankle and calf through the woolen blanket.

I met his eyes evenly. "I am happy, Mulder. It just took me until now to realize it."

I was rewarded by a smile that can, and has, melted many a lesser woman in her pumps. I was barefoot, so my pumps were safe. I rose and folded the blanket while he finished turning out the lights and followed him into the bedroom.

Our lovemaking was slow and sweet and exquisite, and it had been so long...Between the general course of our lives and the fertility treatments, sex just hadn't been a priority, and in fact had been prohibited by the doctors. I realized how pathetic it was that in our desire to become parents, we'd forgotten we were still lovers. A soul-shaking climax later, I curled in his arms to sleep.

I'm sure there's a moral in here somewhere, that love had succeeded in creating a child for us when science had failed. It doesn't matter. All that mattered was that, within a couple months, I was facing the realities I hadn't confronted during the months I had spent trying to get pregnant. The day was soon going to come when I would have to choose between looking for Mulder and carrying on our work, and the wellbeing of our child. What would be left for me, then? Could I work a desk for a while and emerge from the experience with anything other than a debilitating case of carpal-tunnel and a terminal case of boredom? Maternity suits today, maternity leave tomorrow. And then what?

It's a question I am still asking myself now, three and a half months later. Now, there's no question in anyone's mind that I am pregnant--it's apparent to anyone who cares to look. Rumors are flying around the bullpen like wild, including whether or not my condition has anything to do with Mulder's disappearance. The taxpayers would be amused to know how many federal employees are able to count with the aid of their fingers.

He wouldn't be the first low-life to take a powder in the face of impending paternity, some have said. He wouldn't be the first to ditch a woman for getting some on the side, others have replied. Speculative eyes have been narrowed at every male I've been seen with, from A.D. Skinner to Agent Doggett to a couple of my favorite techs down in the lab. I couldn't draw more furtive stares and sneers if I walked through the Hoover building with a scarlet "A" on my chest.

Now, in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve, I am standing here in a hospital corridor about to walk into the room in which lies a man who has come back from the great unknown. He's been here for almost two weeks, comatose as I was when I returned. Somehow he slipped in under our radar, so I didn't know until yesterday, when he came out of his coma and the doctors learned his name, that he had returned.

The bastard. The *fucking* bastard didn't even call me when he awoke. He called Skinner. Lucky for me, Skinner had enough sense to disregard his wishes and tell me Mulder was here anyway, and of course I was on the first plane out. And now here I am, with my heart pounding madly in my chest, pacing in the hallway until I can work up the nerve to haul myself and this elephant of a child I'm carrying into his room and face what has happened to both of us in our time apart.

Fuck this, I thought angrily. If there's anyone with a reason to be nervous, it's Mulder. He's ditched me before, but this--this is just going too far. I storm into the private room he was moved into from the ICU just this morning, and I freeze at the sight of him.

He looks like hell--pale, haggard, stubbly, atrophied. Even in the dim light I see all this. All my anger leaves me in a rush.

"Mulder." It's all I can say, and even that takes a monumental effort, to coordinate the movements of my lips and tongue and vocal chords with the frantic churning of my thoughts.

His mouth hangs open as he stares at me, his eyes fixated on my very pregnant belly. Suddenly a pleased smile breaks out on his face.

"You finally did it," he says, his expression sublimely happy. "It finally worked for you."

It takes me a moment to process what he's saying, and then I see red.

"You. Son. Of. A. BITCH!"

His mouth drops open in shock and confusion, but all of a sudden I'm on a roll. I don't give him a chance to interrupt.

"Is that what you think I've been doing for the past five months, Mulder? You think the day after you left, I went back to the fertility clinic and began treatments again? Found some other donor? *Moved on*?" My words flow in a rapid-fire stream. I'd pace angrily if my feet weren't so damned sore.

"That's what you honestly expected of me, isn't it? What you hoped for? That I'd just get on with my life and forget about you? That's--that's what you wanted all along. That's why you agreed to the in vitro attempts in the first place, right? Because you were dying, because you thought I'd be *better off*," I spit the words scornfully, "just picking up and moving on after you were gone, and you thought it would be easier if I had a child to care for, right?"

"That's not--"

"Shut up, Mulder. It's my turn now. I've had more than enough of what you think and what you hope for. Seven years, Mulder, and did you ever both to truly *know* me? Seven fucking years and did you ever stop to ask me what *I* thought and what *I* hoped for? Because it sure as hell wasn't some grand, noble final sacrifice on your part. I wanted a family, Mulder. With you. I didn't want some last goddamned *gift*."

He swallows hard. "I was dying, Scully. I thought--"

"I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THOUGHT! You thought *wrong*!"

"I wanted to make it easier on you, wanted to give you something to hold on to."

"Did you ever think that I didn't want to be pregnant by an man who would never be around to be a father?"

"I'm sorry, Scully."

"You're only sorry because you never thought you'd live to see the consequences of your actions," I said bitterly. Suddenly my rage leaves me, drained and heart-sore. I don't want to do this, don't want to fight with him or rake him over the coals. I've gotten what I've prayed for; Mulder's back. I should just be happy, but instead I'm simply unutterably weary. I sink into a chair to ease my aching back and stare morosely out the window. I can't meet his eyes. If I do, I'll burst into tears. I've managed to keep up a fairly good front since the first few days after he disappeared when I searched for him in the Arizona desert, but no one realizes what a struggle it has been, every moment of every day.

"Well," I say finally, trying to keep an emotional quaver out of my voice. "I guess none of that matters anymore, does it? You're here, I'm pregnant, and according to the MRI from this morning, the encephalitic trauma has been mysteriously eradicated. I guess the question is what the hell we're going to do now."

"What you do want, Scully?"

I give a humorless huff of a chuckle. Now he asks.

"I'd like you to be honest with me, for starters. If you can't manage that, we have nothing to discuss."

When I cast a glance at him in the twilit room, I can see him nodding, his eyes suspiciously glittery in the dusk. My own throat tightens in response.

Don't do this, Mulder. If you start, I'm going to fall apart.

"Whatever you may think," he says softly, "I was just trying to spare you pain. I wanted us to be happy together for as long as we could be before I had to tell you I was dying."

"Did you return to Oregon planning to be taken?" I ask, my voice choked with emotion.

"I'd say 'plan' is too decisive a word. I took a leap, thought maybe it was a possibility. My reasoning was maybe if they took me, you'd never have to watch me die. I've walked that road, Scully--I didn't want you to have to go through that. So when I looked through the files Theresa Hoese gave us and recognized the symptoms of the illness she described in her notes, I took a chance. I never dared hope they'd heal me, or return me to you. I knew eventually you'd uncover what I'd been doing in Raleigh and learn the truth, and that you'd see the headstone and understand I was gone. I thought you'd accept that I was dead and get on with your life." I hear him swallow noisily and realize he is crying silent tears even as he speaks. My own eyes begin to water. "I was a coward. That's why I called Skinner. I didn't know if I was still dying and I thought if I was, you didn't need to know I'd ever come back at all. I didn't--I didn't know how to say good-bye, Scully. I still don't."

"I needed that good-bye, Mulder," I say after a long moment, the tears spilling from my eyes. "I would think you of all people would realize not knowing is worse. Even if it meant watching you die, I needed that closure."

He falls silent, but I know he sees my words as a condemnation of him. Maybe they are. I sure as hell resent what I've gone through these last five months.

In that moment the nurse enters and turns on the overhead light. Two pairs of wet eyes blink owlishly, and then I turn back to the window to hide the tears ravaging my bloated face while she takes his vitals, talking to him with quiet concern at his obvious distress. I hear him reassure her, and then she leaves with an admonition that if he's going to get worked up, I'll have to leave.

I turn around slowly, seeing him for the first time in the now fully lit room. He's beautiful, so heartbreakingly beautiful with his shaggy hair and gaunt face and deep, soulful eyes that hint at a world of turmoil inside. I don't know what he's seen or done or had done to him, but I know he's hurting. I know that soul-deep ache, knowing a part of you is missing like an amputee feeling the pain of a phantom limb. I rise, planning to go to him, and instead find myself sinking to the floor, sobbing as I huddle there pathetically on my knees.

"Scully!" I hear him yell, alarmed, and the rustling that signifies him fighting to get out of the bed and staggering his way across the room to me. He crouches beside me, pulling me to him and rocking me as I cry, his tears falling into my hair. He murmurs reassurance and love, and despite everything, I believe him.

At long last, my tears abate. My chest and head ache with crying, and our baby inside me is now spinning cartwheels in agitation at my violent sobbing. He's still holding me, pressing soft kisses to my temple. Out of sheer coincidence, in the course of stroking me soothingly, his hand brushes my swollen belly at the same moment our child heaves a particularly powerful kick. He gasps in shock and suddenly both of his hands are upon me, feeling the movements of the life we created together.

"How?" The question comes out strangled with emotion as his eyes meet mine, filled with wonderment.

I give a watery chuckle, shaking my head. "The old- fashioned way, Mulder. Just you and me."

"My God," he whispers. "I never thought--never dreamed I'd live to see this day."

I can hear the unspoken thought as though it had been said aloud.

*It's a miracle.*

I've been telling myself that every day since I found out I was pregnant, but tonight, on Christmas Eve in his arms, is the first time I've ever truly believed it.

We had made a miracle.

I reach up to stroke his cheek and before I know it, his head is lowering and mine is rising until we meet, lip to lip, somewhere in the middle. This is not a kiss of passion, but one of homecoming. It goes on forever, our arms slowly twining around one another and bringing each other closer. My hands stroke his skin through the open back of his hospital gown, starved for the feel of him.

Mulder is home.

The End

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