Title: Iunctus Liberi
Author: Kation
Written: April 2011
Rated: PG
Keywords: Family/Sci-Fi

Summary: Following the events of I Want to Believe, Scully and Mulder receive some surprising news. Later, Scully's dreams become disturbing and strange and the two are led on a cross-country journey that neither will forget.

Chapter 1

October 17, 2008

It was a few weeks before she even had an inkling that there may be something amiss. She had very little time in her day-to-day schedule for personal issues, in the weeks and months following their little foray back into the world of the X-files.

Mulder had resumed his solitary existence, though he did get out more now that his freedom from the false FBI charges was confirmed. He had began clearing out the yard of its previous owners' abandoned possessions, which included at least two old wooden sheds in the trees filled with old bottles and other antique knickknacks that he'd brought into the house and cleaned, and displayed on shelves and tables all over the house.

He'd also cleaned out the stable and cleared the oppressive brush, and Scully couldn't help but be impressed at his tenacity. He still sat in his office for hours, researching, scouring local news sites and message boards for interesting occurrences and anything that hinted at what the next few years held.

Christian, after successive stem cell treatments, was improving, which was a point of great pride for her. She knew the time she was giving him would be a few years at best, but she hoped that for that boy and his parents, it would be enough.

And so in her life right now, responsible for Christian and the health of dozens of other children, as well as Mulder's mental health and well-being, keeping in contact with her family, listening to her mother describe to her the study habits and eating habits and personalities of all three of Bill and Tara's boys in great detail, and then listening to Bill do the exact same thing and still speaking with derision whenever Mulder's name came up, thinking about her son nearly every day, and living in fear that the FBI would call any day, with another case for Mulder that he would throw himself into, there just wasn't time for her to realize that she just didn't feel that well.

A vague nausea pervaded her day no matter what the time, though it wasn't severe enough to warrant pharmaceutical intervention. This particular symptom had only been plaguing her for a week, but the general malaise and exhaustion that had started nearly a month before showed no signs of slowing down.

It took her until these two symptoms were present to even become conscious of either. And then she accredited them to her workload and stress levels and the fact that she hadn't been eating well.

So she changed her diet, cut out caffeine, sugar and anything fried, gorged on fresh veggies whenever she could and started taking vitamins again. She even tried to get some exercise, which had been lacking in recent months, but found it stirred up the nausea again.

So, after several weeks of this, she finally admitted to herself that something might be wrong. But she kept this to herself. She didn't dare worry Mulder with something that might be nothing.

She didn't set up an appointment with her own doctor, but instead ordered several tests on herself and got Derek, the new guy in the lab who she suspected had a crush on her, to run them.

Her CBC was normal, though; no aberrant blood cell counts. This was comforting, somewhat, though she knew that blood cells never told the whole story about illness.

The possibility flitted around in the back of her mind of the recurrence of that dreaded disease, but she pushed it back. In spite of herself, as she sat poring over the test results, her hand crept up to the back of her neck. There it was, small, metallic and decidedly still implanted under the skin.

Her scientific mind could not deny why it was that she, who had reimplanted this piece of metal, was alive and the others, who had chosen to keep it out of their bodies, were now dead. But still the doubts remained. Maybe the chip had stopped working over time? Maybe it had been damaged.

But no, she told herself, the cancer could not be back. She'd not had a single nosebleed in the eleven years she'd been cancer-free. No, this was completely different. She hadn't felt like this even when her cancer was at its worst.

But, still, she thought, as she changed to go home that day, an MRI would certainly put her mind at rest. So, as she thought of ways to circumvent the normal hospital procedure (she truly did not care for the people here to have any medical knowledge of her whatsoever) she pulled on her clean bra over her still slightly wet skin and realized it didn't fit that well anymore.

It was an old bra, with rigid cloth cups, which was why she suddenly noticed it. The other two soft-cupped ones were in the wash today. She looked down at her breasts, half-ensconced in the cups and noticed they seemed swollen and much more veined than usual. Pulling back the cups, she found her nipples had become particularly dark and swollen as well.

She froze. And then it hit her. But how could she have not noticed?

A sudden thought gripped her - she had to know, and she had to know right now. Dressing quickly, wincing as the tight brassiere cut into her tender breasts, she grabbed her purse and jacket and slammed her locker door shut, locking it violently.

She bounded from the room, walking very quickly toward the exits. Halfway there, she started a sort of a half-run that got a few curious looks from patrons.

Finally she was in the car, and zipped out of the parking lot, tires squealing as she ripped down the street.

The drugstore was her first stop. She stepped into the interminably bright building, a building she'd been in dozens of times before. But this was different. She felt almost guilty, surreptitious as she made her way over to what she knew was the family planning aisle.

There had been a few scares - well, to call them that would imply that they were not wanted - in the seven years since her son's birth. But she had never tested positive. She scanned the blue and purple and pink boxes on the shelf. There were several types and price ranges - digital displays and blue lines or blue crosses, but Scully, as a scientist knew that they all did the same thing. Searching for that little amount of human chorionic gonadotropin the burrowing little embryo was giving off. She grabbed three unrelated boxes, again her scientific mind knew the chances of false negatives or positives would be lessened that way.

Again as she made her way over to the counter the urge to be furtive returned, and she found herself hiding the three little boxes from the other customers in front her her - a plump, elderly woman and a tall young man who appeared to be some sort of bike messenger. Finally it was her turn, and trying very hard not to make eye contact with the young female cashier, who she was sure was trying to give her some sort of congratulatory smile, or, perhaps a sympathetic grimace.

She paid and left, avoiding all eye contact.

Now, where was she going to take these tests? Home was not an option - Mulder would be there and would undoubtedly ask questions she couldn't bear to answer right now. She scanned the businesses around her - coffee shop, Subway restaurant, gas station. She could go back to the hospital, there were plenty of unoccupied toilets there. But no - someone might see her, ask questions, wonder why she was back again after unceremoniously leaving only minutes before. And she didn't think she could stand to answer questions right now.

She chose the Subway, which she knew had adequate lavatory space. She walked in, her eyes focused on the back of the restaurant, past people she really didn't care to look at right now. The women's washroom was empty - she sighed with relief - but was unfortunately only a single stall, so she'd have to be quick.

A couple minutes later she had managed to urinate on all three sticks, had recapped them and turned them upside down on the back of the toilet. Her breath was shallow now, and the blood was pumping in her ears. The nausea was starting to return, her stomach roiling and aching, her whole body anticipating the reveal of this monumental information. She washed her hands, trying very hard to steady their shaking and dried them on a towel.

She hazarded a glance in the mirror and saw dark circles; a pallor she'd not seen in a long time. Her eyelids drooped lazily and she looked exhausted. There was something wrong with her, she knew it, and found herself almost hoping that this was all it was.

The tests had been done for a few minutes, but she only now slowly stepped over to the toilet and turned the first one over. Two blue lines. Her breath hitched in her throat. Could it - the next one, the store-brand one and: a little blue cross. And the last, the most expensive one with the digital display - one word: "pregnant."

She swayed on her feet, grabbing the metal bar next to the toilet for support. No, this was not real, this could not be. This wasn't supposed to happen - they told her it could never happen. But then - did her perfect little boy not negate that? And who were "they?" The same men who deceived, inveigled and obfuscated for so many years. How could they be sure?

These thoughts cascaded through her head, crashing into each other, coming at warp speed. And now - what was she going to do? She thought of Mulder, of his reaction, of her son, out there, somewhere.

Breathing hard, she grabbed the three plastic sticks and slipped them in her pocket, shoved the three cardboard boxes further into the trash receptacle so as not to be seen by other patrons, and quickly left the restaurant.

The drive home was much slower than usual, for she continued to become distracted and not realize she was driving much under the speed limit. The thoughts had come back to her again, unbidden and she tried to shove them back. She had to talk to Mulder. Her rock, her touchstone, she had to talk to him first before the emotion overcame her.

Finally her car was trundling up the beaten path of their driveway, and she got out quickly, leaving all her things in the vehicle and nearly running up the stairs and into the house.

"Mulder!" she called, trying to keep the desperation out of her voice, but there was no response. She checked his office, their bedroom, but no go. Had he gone out? No - his car was still here. Then she caught a glance of clothing through the back window and moved closer. He was standing in the back yard, looking at the patch of land in an appraising sort of way.

She stepped out the back door curiously, descending the steps slowly until he turned and saw her.

"Hey, you're home! I was just - Scully? What's wrong?" for he had seen the expression on her face - she'd tried quite hard to keep it neutral - and had reacted accordingly.

Without answering him, she stepped forward into his arms, tears coming hard now and sobbed into the front of his sweater.

"Scully? Scully," he pulled away from her a bit and tried to lift up her chin, forcing her to look at him, "what is wrong?"

And now she could see he was scared, and she scolded herself for this, wiping the tears from her eyes and trying to return her breathing to normal.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean - " she looked up into his bright eyes, so filled with affection she almost began to cry again.

"Scully, you're starting to scare me here," he said, with that little nervous laugh she found incredibly endearing.

Her hand slipped into her jacket pocket, where the three little plastic sticks resided and she laughed, too, a quick, incredulous giggle that slipped out unbidden and that seemed to confuse Mulder even more so.

"Mulder, I - I don't even know how to explain it but," she took a ragged, shaking breath, and looked out behind him at a copse of tree swaying in the breeze, "I'm pregnant." Her eyes flicked up to his face after she said it and his reaction was predictable. He stepped back from her like from the force of the blow. He was breathing hard, his mouth slightly open, and he looked back down at her, shock still plain on his face.

"Are - are you sure?" He stepped back up to her, and she slid her hand into her pocket and pulled out the three sticks, dropping them into his hand.

"I took these; they're all positive, Mulder. It's almost impossible for them all to be false positives."

He examined almost tenderly, reading the results of all three. And when he looked back up at her, he was smiling.

"Scully, this - " and now he was smiling even more broadly, and Scully had to look away. He caught her chin and made her look at him once again.

"Mulder, I don't know if - I - what if - " but Mulder had stepped forward and ensconced her in his arms, silencing her and comforting her all at once.

He leaned down, and whispered with a tone that still put shivers down her spine, "It's going to be okay, Scully, I promise."


Chapter 2

She awoke about an hour later on their living room couch, covered in blankets (undoubtedly Mulder's doing) and feeling warm and drowsy. She lay there for a few minutes, getting her bearings.

After her revelation, Mulder had immediately ushered her into the house and insisted she lie down for a nap. She had resisted, of course, but the cushy leather couch was just much too comfortable and she hadn't realized how absolutely exhausted she'd been. She had fallen asleep in minutes.

She propped herself up a little and leant up against the armrest. Now, after the restorative nap, she was able to contemplate her situation a little more calmly. But it still felt as though it was not real.

She sighed, then tried to disentangle herself from the mass of blankets Mulder had laid on her. As she did this she realized something she had failed to notice due to her distraction. That there were cooking smells in her house. And that they actually smelled good. She looked over through the kitchen door but could not see anyone.

Confused, she wrested the last of the blankets from her and started towards the little room. As she got closer, she noticed that the smells got stronger - pasta maybe or lasagna? She walked in to see Mulder pulling a fully-cooked once-frozen lasagne out of the oven.

"Oh, hey, you're up," he said when he saw her standing there. He indicated the food with a flourish, "Voila!"

She stepped closer, gingerly. "Mulder...you cooked?"

He nodded happily, "Well it's just a frozen lasagne. I found it in the back of the freezer. All you have to do is pull back the plastic a little bit and put it in the oven. It's not rocket science."

Scully smiled at him, still dumbfounded, "Well this is...this is very nice Mulder, thank you. I'll set the table," she said, breaking up their moment, and turned to get the dishes.

Dinner was a subdued affair and the food surprisingly good, if not a little over-cooked. Mulder did not broach the subject of the news she'd told him earlier that day, but instead made small talk about her day and his.

"I have to say, Mulder," she said as they were nearly finished, "you surprised me, here."

He laughed, leaning back in his chair. "Well, good, because I burned myself like, ten times."

She laughed heartily. Then a thought struck her as she looked out at the back door. "Mulder, what were you doing out there today? You had something to tell me before I..." she trailed off, not wanting to actually think about that subject right now.

"Hmm?" he asked, confused, and downed the rest of his water glass. "Oh, right," he realized once he'd put the glass down on the table, "I was thinking," he stopped, smiling sheepishly, "I was thinking we could get some horses."


"Yeah, I mean, I cleaned out the old stable and we could put a fence up in the back yard." At Scully's unbelieving smile, he clarified, "I mean I know you used to ride, and I've always wanted to learn. Plus, it might give me something to do, you know?"

Scully was surprised. This was the first time he had shown initiative in doing something that had no affiliation with the X-Files. She laughed again, "But, Mulder, why now? Why all of a sudden?"

He shrugged, smiling. "I don't know, I just thought it was something that we could do together, you know? It could be a stress-reliever for you."

Scully bit her lip at the tenderness in his voice. It was just too much. That he'd been that thoughtful. Her eyes burned and she tried to will them back but the tears came anyways and she bowed her head.

"Scully?" he asked, now suddenly very concerned, "what's wrong?" He got up off his chair quickly and pulled her chair away from the table, crouching down in front of her.

She tried to wipe the tears away, but they just kept on coming when she saw his concerned face looking up at her. "I'm sorry, Mulder, it's just - I'm just," she wiped the tears away again and shook her head. "It was just a very nice thing of you to think of," she managed to say, clearly, and his expression changed to a very happy smile, so happy, in fact that she leaned forward and kissed him directly on the lips.

It was wet; tears were still streaming down her face, and he pulled away quickly to wipe them away from her face. Then he stood, pulling her up with him and into a warm embrace.

"Scully," he said, "about what you told me today, we don't have to talk about it tonight, okay? You're tired. Go sleep. We've got the whole weekend to talk it over."

She looked back up at him. The weekend? Was it Friday? God, she'd been so wrapped up in everything she hadn't even realized. She nodded, tearfully, and Mulder dropped a tender kiss on her forehead.

"I love you," she said breathlessly, "so much, Mulder."

He smiled again, his eyes a little wet now, too. "I know, Scully." He pulled her into a deep hug, and she was sure her tears would leave wet marks on the front of his t-shirt. She pulled away and he kissed her again on the forehead. "Now go to bed, kay? I'll clean up the dishes and everything and I'll be in there later."

She nodded, brushing the last of the tears from her eyes and finally pulled away from him, heading straight for the bedroom.

Half an hour later, at midnight, when Mulder finally finished the dishes, locked all the doors, turned off all the lights and made his way to bed, Scully was dead asleep, the book she'd been reading lying across her chest and her reading lamp still on. He delicately picked up the book and placed it on her bedside table, then turned off her lamp as quietly as possible.

The room was now awash in darkness, but Mulder, used to it, found his way over to his side of the bed and got in, curling up beside her and placing one of his hands over her abdomen. He was asleep five minutes later.


October 18, 2008

Saturday morning came overcast and dreary, the bluish light casting everything it touched in a dour glow. Scully found herself alone in bed - not a rare occurrence, given Mulder's erratic sleeping habits. She glanced at the digital clock on Mulder's bedside table: 9:07. Jesus, she'd slept for nine straight hours. She couldn't remember the last time that happened. Maybe before they moved in to this place.

She lied there nonetheless, staring out the window that looked out on their back yard and then smiled, remembering Mulder's confession the night before. As a child and a teen, she and her siblings had taken riding lessons at a ranch nearby. It was important to her mother, who had grown up on a farm in upstate New York.

Scully had to agree with Mulder that it could be stress-relieving. In fact, nothing compared to being atop a horse, galloping, the wind in your ears and your eyes watering, your leg muscles holding hard to keep you on.

But as quickly as the thoughts came she had pushed them out of her head and had gotten out of bed, glancing out said window at the low fog that was prevalent this time of year.

She had to pee - she always did. Only now, on discovering the reason for it, did she realize she had been frequenting the bathroom as much as she had in the last few weeks.

The bedroom the two of them shared was on the first floor of the little house, and it was the only bedroom in the house. But stairs in the living room led up to a very unique attic space; low-slung ceilings and hardwood floors, windows at each end and three little windows on a small dormer that rose out of the roof.

They used it now for storage; what little possessions they had managed to hold onto. After the trial and their death-defying escape, Scully was certain that her apartment had been the first place they'd looked, which Skinner had confirmed later. The place had been ransacked; everything still usable was compromised, likely to contain bugs or tracers, so she had written off ever seeing her things again.

But Mulder, as Agent Doggett had discovered soon after Mulder left, had taken everything he'd owned and stored it anonymously. Once they'd settled down here, he'd went and gotten it all back, the waterbed frame, the couch, shelves and fish tank (which had been quickly been repopulated).

They'd bought some other things to furnish this place and had settled down into their relatively normal life. That was three years ago.

Scully, after going to the bathroom and leaving the bedroom, realized that the smell of cooking food was again beginning to perfuse the house. This time, however, it was the welcoming smell of eggs, bacon and coffee.

Scully hadn't been getting morning sickness, but at times, throughout the day, she was struck with a nausea so powerful she had to jet to the bathroom. It had been this way with William, too, but had ended when she was about ten weeks pregnant, which had allowed her, conveniently, to continue work on the X-files.

So right now, as she sauntered into the kitchen to see the former Special Agent Fox Mulder tending to two sizzling frying pans, and their coffee maker gurgling away, she couldn't help but feel grateful for this. She was starving.

She stood, watching him flip the bacon and, of course, be assaulted by flying hot grease. She couldn't help but smile.

"Wow, Mulder," she started, causing him to flinch, as he had not been aware she'd been standing there.

"Jesus, Scully, I'm working with some pretty volatile stuff here," he said, turning to her.

The hand he had rested in the air over the bacon pan was suddenly hit with a very large, very hot ball of oil. "Ow, god DAMNIT!" he hissed, waving his hand in the air. Scully came over and wiped the hot grease off his hand, looking over the affected area.

"It's just a minor burn, Mulder. Probably not even first-degree." She grabbed it and turned on the cold water tap, forcing his hand under it. "You stay here, I'll finish breakfast."

He didn't protest and she went to the stove, flipping the bacon and removing the eggs and eventually preparing two plates. Mulder was still standing with his affected hand under the stream of water, but he then turned it off and dried it and went over to the fridge as she carried the two plates into the next room where the table was.

"Do you want something to drink, Scully? Orange juice?" he asked from the next room.

"Coffee, please," was her response.

"Okay," he answered, and Scully knew he was not willing to argue with an M.D., much less a pregnant M.D., over what she should be eating or drinking.

"So," she said later, as they ate, "Mulder, to what do I owe the pleasure of you cooking two meals in a row for me?"

He shrugged, picking up his last slice of bacon and taking a crunchy bite of it. "I just thought you'd like a nice breakfast for once. And breakfast, is something I can cook. I used to have to do it all the time when we stayed out on Quonaquatag. My parents would be sleeping and me and Samantha would get up and cook for them. I don't know what the hell they were thinking letting a ten-year-old near a stove, but you know, it was a different time."

Scully smiled at his story, as she'd never heard it before. She liked hearing stories from his childhood, for they were rare and often brief, and he spoke with such reverence that she could tell it had been a happy time for him.

They cleaned up the plates, washing and drying the few dishes.

"So?" he asked her as she dried her hands on a dishtowel, surveying the clean kitchen. "What do you want to do today?"

It was so rare she got asked that question that she had no answer right away. She placed the dishtowel over the handle of the stove and turned to him. "Well, Mulder, we were going to talk," her voice had lowered considerably, her tone becoming more serious.

He looked over at her sharply, scanning her face. "And you're sure you want to do that now?"

She heaved a sigh, closing her eyes for a few seconds. "No, I'm not sure, Mulder, but I don't think we can keep avoiding the subject forever. I'm feeling a lot better than I was yesterday, and I promise you I'm ready." And with her final words her expressive face had become resolute.

Mulder nodded slowly, "Okay, then, Scully, we'll talk."


Fifteen minutes later, the two sat facing each other on their porch swing - a new acquisition they'd gotten after the Father Joe case, in celebration of the fact Mulder could now leave the house with impunity.

It was eleven o'clock and the low clouds had begun to diffuse, burned off by the sun, which was beginning to warm the chilly air.

"Scully," Mulder began, turning to look at her, his words and expression so earnest she felt she might start to cry right there, and then promptly cursed her coursing hormones.

"I...can't even begin to know how you're feeling about this, considering everything, but I want you to know that," at this point, Scully had to look away, her eyes burning with unshed tears, "I will be here with you no matter what you decide, you understand?" He put his hand up to her face, forcing her to look at him.

Wet-eyed and sniffling, she nodded, and leaned into his embrace. His fingers rubbed little circles on her back before she pulled away, wiping the last of the tears from her eyes.

She cleared her throat a few times, and took a deep breath. "Mulder," she spoke slowly, but steadily, but she could not bring herself to look at him right now, "I want this baby," out of the corner of her eye she saw Mulder react and she turned to him to see surprise on his face. "I do, but...what you told me six years ago in that cave in New Mexico, with that cigarette-smoking son of a bitch, if that is true, and I hope to God it's not, but..." she faltered and looked up at him and he looked just as confused as she did.

He sighed. "Scully, I have every reason to believe it's the truth, but you know it doesn't mean anything. I've - we've been lied to before. Even this baby is evidence that they lied. They told us you were barren. That William was the result of a program whose sole purpose was to impregnate women with alien babies. Well, that was a lie, and now you are pregnant again, certainly without any external interference."

Scully felt a chill pass over her and she remembered Alex Krycek's words seven years ago. "But, Mulder, Krycek said that the chips, they were using the chips to make women pregnant. What if that's what happened here?" She looked up to see the ghost of a smile on Mulder's face. "What?"

"What if some unseen force...? Some guy somewhere just flipped a switch and got you pregnant?"

Scully sighed, "Mulder, when Pendrell and I looked at that chip, the first one, that they took out of my neck, it...it was complex technology capable of doing things that we probably still don't believe are possible. Receiving signals, sending signals. It brought my memories back, took my cancer away, what if - " "Scully," he said sternly, interrupting her, "for all we know, Krycek was lying, lying as he'd done a hundred times before. As for the chip, I have my own theory on that." He leaned forward, engaging her.

"All those women, Penny Northern, Betsy Hagopian, and the others, they couldn't conceive, am I right? They also took their chips out. I was told all your ova were removed, and I believed that, but, what if that was another lie? What if when the new chip was implanted, your fertility was restored? I mean, you're a doctor, you know how nearly impossible it would be to remove every single ovum from a woman?"

Scully was silent for a few seconds, thinking. It was true - they hadn't come across any abductees who'd kept their chips in. The majority had been killed in the fiery holocausts. And there were abductees who had given birth - Theresa Hoese had seemingly gotten pregnant with ease. She sighed.

"I see what you're saying, Mulder, but...I don't want to be scared of what I'm going to see on the ultrasound, what the tests are going to tell me. You weren't there; you don't know how terrifying it was." At this, Mulder reached for her hand and grasped it firmly.

"Scully," he said with conviction, "I...can't begin to understand what you went through, and if I could do it all again, I would have never even thought about going to Oregon."

She shook her head, "Mulder, I'm not blaming-"

"I know, Scully, but the fact is, I'm here now." She looked up at him and managed a small smile. "I will go with you and I will get the answers you want, okay? And if you don't like them, then we'll go somewhere else. We'll...sneak into the hospital and perform the ultrasound ourselves, okay?" His voice was getting stronger as he spoke, and Scully couldn't help but smile at his tenacity. "I promise you that if anything is wrong with this baby, we'll find out, okay? And I'll be here every step of the way."

She was still ill at ease, but Mulder had managed to convince her. They would try. She nodded at him and her insides did a funny little jump when he beamed back at her.

"Okay," she said.


Chapter 3

She spent the rest of the weekend in a sort of fugue, going through the motions of her tasks, but finding later she remembered little of it.

After she and Mulder spoke, they lay on the swing for hours, looking out at the rolling hills, as the fog and hazy clouds lifted and the bright early-afternoon sun nearly lulled them to sleep.

However, while she lounged in seeming peace with Mulder, her mind would not rest.

She was pregnant. Pregnant. She had not expected this, especially at nearly forty-five and after almost six years of regular unprotected sex.

Birth control while on the road had been difficult to obtain and use regularly, so they had all but given it up after a few months. A year unprotected, and no results. And another. And then - it was one morning in early July, a few weeks after she'd learned, from one of her semi-monthly telephone calls to her mother that Tara had given birth to another boy, Patrick Nathan, their third. He had weighed 9 pounds, 3 ounces and was already the apple of his grandmother's eye. The news had brightened their dour life for a while.

They were in a hotel in San Antonio and it was so hot they had lazed in bed all day, naked and watching terrible television. The next morning she woke up feeling so sick she briefly considering using the wastebasket, but somehow managed to make it to the toilet in time, violently expunging her stomach contents and collapsing with a groan against the cool porcelain of the toilet.

She'd taken a test that day, but it had been negative. She'd felt guilty of the mix of relief and disappointment she'd felt. Relief because this was no life for a child and a baby made them even more vulnerable. But the disappointment was palpable as well, and it restored in her the desire to be a mother.

Almost a week later, still feeling ill, she was about to take the test again when she unceremoniously got her period. It was heavier than usual, and the nausea stopped almost immediately and she knew - she just knew - it had been an early miscarriage.

She didn't tell Mulder, but held on to that little bit of hope. If it had happened once, after less than two years of trying, it could happen again.

Her periods had been irregular since her abduction, and William's birth had made them even more so. It was difficult to predict ovulation periods (if she did, in fact, have ova left) and with missed periods being commonplace, it was difficult to know if fertilization or implantation had taken place.

But then it happened again, a few weeks after her forty-first birthday, and after three mornings of queasiness she took another test. It was negative, and she got her period the next day. This one had disappointed her the most, but she declined to tell Mulder about it, shuffling it away and eventually coming to terms with it on her own.

But that had been the last one. She assumed there would be no more. She was in her early forties now; she anticipated that the sharp decline in fertility women of that age experienced would apply to her as well. Four months later they moved into the house, and she started at the hospital. The work kept her busy and they fell into a domestic rhythm over the next three years, comfortable in their obscurity.

Until the FBI wanted them back. She would admit, later, of course, that being back there, investigating, using deductive reasoning and saving Mulder from mortal peril had been exhilarating. It had also been terrifying. Two agents had died and Mulder nearly had as well. Twelve years ago she wouldn't have batted an eye, but now, it had rocked her to her core.

She'd built a life with Mulder. A safe, albeit monotonous life. It was a point of pride for her, though. It was important. She knew he understood, somewhat, but she also knew his parents had been terrible role models and the loss of his sister had torn their idyllic Massachusetts life asunder. He was comfortable on the run, chasing the bizarre, and she knew he got a thrill out of being in constant danger. She couldn't help but smile lopsidedly at this, but it scared the shit out of her.

Mulder had kept his promise. Just before her birthday, once Christian had been stabilized, he'd booked them on a two-week vacation to Barbados. It had been heaven. The weather had obeyed and they'd spent the entire two weeks in a sun-baked haze, drinking enormous amounts of mid-priced wine and eating way too much crab.

The months following the vacation, though, had been tense. She could sense Mulder's frustration and helplessness, as weeks and months passed by without a call from the FBI. She knew he hoped to go back, perhaps as an independent consultant, helping out on the most puzzling cases. She also knew he would never request it, out of respect for her, and she felt so much love and guilt at that, she almost called Skinner one night herself. But she didn't.

The summer had passed languidly, and Mulder began to venture out more and more, fixing up the house and yard. They'd taken a few weekend trips to Virginia Beach, the last of which was the bustling Labor Day weekend where the beach had been so packed with people they'd stayed in their room all day instead.

And then suddenly the summer was over. As she thought back over the previous month she remembered several obvious signs of her pregnancy that she'd missed. The third week of September, she'd woken up vaguely nauseated almost every single day, and it had waxed and waned throughout the day. But could not blame herself for missing it - Christian had taken his worst downturn since the treatments had begun, and had to be rehospitalized. It took nearly an entire week for him to recover and be sent home. And then, days later, she'd gotten word from the hospital attorneys that there was a possibility she was going to be sued for malpractice.

The family of an seventy-three-year-old diabetic man who had come in with a severely gangrenous foot, already evident sepsis, and then died the next day, seemed to think their decision to amputate and treat with high doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics had been inadequate, though the man had clearly been ill for days, if not weeks, and had not been cared for properly.

A week of talks with the lawyers and she and the two doctors who had assisted were in the clear.

By that time, it was October, and the vague malaise had become more vague but more omnipresent, waking her up at nights and making her mornings miserable. She'd chalked it up to the stress and lack of sleep, which was also what she used to explain the fact she hadn't had a period in three months.

The thought even flitted in her mind that she was menopausal. It wasn't uncommon in a woman her age, though she was a little young; she'd treated many women who'd had full-blown menopause at forty-four.

At no point did the possibility of pregnancy enter her mind. She was too old, she was too infertile, she ovulated (if, at all) too irregularly and she'd had at least two early miscarriages in the past five years. The odds were against her.

So this was why she lay, covered in a wool blanket on her front porch listening to Mulder's heartbeat, her fingers flitting over that area below her navel, unable to believe that a new life flickered within.

Nonetheless, later that day, they ventured into town, and Scully found herself at the druggist's counter requesting prenatal vitamins and completely thrown by the young pharmacist's broad smile of genuine congratulations. She did her best to smile back, though she felt as though an actor in some bizarre play.

They stopped at the grocery store as well, stocking up on fresh fruit and fresh veggies and whole grains and everything a developing fetus needs. It was still surreal, buying these things. It was as though she were buying them for someone else. A friend or a patient who wasn't able to do it themselves, maybe?

But, no, she realized that evening as they unloaded their purchases from the car and put them away in their cupboards and fridge. Mulder placed the bottle of vitamins on the kitchen table next to the salt and pepper and almost laughed at the ridiculousness of prenatal vitamins sitting on her kitchen table.

Mulder, who had been regarding her all day with a sort of bemused concern, caught her staring.

"You okay, Scully?" he asked, gently touching her arm.

She started, slightly, at his intrusion, and looked up into his concerned green eyes. His question had its intended effect, pulling her out of her trance. She shook her head a little, and tried very hard to give him a reassuring smile.

"Yeah, I'm okay, Mulder," she said, feeling a little discomfited, "this is all just a little overwhelming."

"C'mere," he mumbled, and she felt him pull her into his arms before she could even protest. She could hear his heartbeat again and instantly felt calmed by it. It always took her back to that day, more than seven years ago, when she had laid her head on his chest for hours, hoping and willing him to wake up. She'd thought he'd been lost forever, but then he was alive, breathing and living and their son was awake, too, kicking and moving so vigorously inside her she could've sworn he knew, too. It had been one of the happiest moments of her life.

At the thought of her son, though, she felt an unexpected pang in her gut, but she pushed the thought away. She couldn't think of him right now.

"It'll get easier, Scully," Mulder whispered. She smiled against his chest before she looked up at him.

"Yeah," she said slowly, because she knew he was right, "I know."

"And you know what? No one has said it yet."

"Said what?" she asked, looking up at him.

"Congratulations," he said, before bending over to kiss her firmly on the lips. When he pulled away, Scully tried desperately to wipe away the tears that had come to her eyes.

He pulled her back into his arms. "Thank you, Mulder," she whispered, "for everything."

"Any time," he replied, as she extracted herself from his arms, eliciting a smile from her.

And suddenly she realized how incredibly exhausted she was. It was nearly eleven and it had been a long day.

"I'm going to head to bed," she told him, and he nodded appreciably, "I'm tired as hell." She headed off toward their bedroom, knowing he was watching her, and hoping he would be right.

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